FAQ’s – Frequently Asked Questions
What is ‘The Way’
‘The Way’ was the original name of our movement (see Acts 9:2, 19:9, 19:23, 22:4, 24:14 and 24:22). It was NOT the earliest name of Christianity, but the name of the party of the first Jewish followers of Yeshua` (‘Jesus’) of Nazareth. In all likelihood, the name was styled after the original name of the Israelite faith – the Way of YHVH (see Gen 18:19, Jdgs 2:22, Jer 5:4-5, Prov 10:29). Modern Followers believe it was called this to emphasize that Yeshua’s teaching was a return to the original ideals and principles of the Israelite faith – the faith given at Sinai.
Are you anything to do with ‘The Way International’?
Most definitely NOT! It’s core beliefs are questionable, as was it’s tyrannical founder, Victor Paul Wierville. The organisation was founded in 1942 in Ohio, USA, and is nothing to do with The World Fellowship of Followers of the Way.
In fact, many New Age groups also usurp the name of the Way, but they have no historical or theological connection with us.
What is a ‘Follower of the Way’
Members of the movement were known in ancient times as disciples or Followers of the Way (b’ney orha in Aramaic, and b’ney ha-derekh in Hebrew). It is the collective name of members of the whole community (much like ‘Christian’ is the collective name of Baptists, Catholics and Anglicans). There are however a number of sects (e.g. Ebionites, Massorites, Yeshuinists, Liberal Talmidis etc). Some members of the moderate sects also use the term Talmidi to describe themselves (as a synonym for Follower of the Way).
Questions Christians ask us
Are you a Christian sect?
No. To us, a Christian sect would have to believe in the trinity (that God is made up of Father, Son and Holy Spirit); that Jesus was an incarnation or person of this trinity; that Jesus died to save us from our sins; that Jesus was born of a virgin; and that Paul of Tarsus was an Apostle of Jesus. We accept NONE of these beliefs. We are therefore not a Christian sect. We consider ourselves to be an Israelite or ‘Yahwist’ sect.
Do you accept the authority of the New Testament?
No. The New Testament is a Christian holy book. While we respect that Christians revere it and use it to help them towards a moral way of life, we do not accept its authority. Our only scriptural authority is The Torah and the Prophets (the Hebrew Bible). We have our own spiritual writings, which are a harmonisation of the Jewish sayings of Jesus, extracted from the Gospels.
Do you believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God?
No. To believe that ANY human being can also be a god is a purely pagan belief (no matter what anyone tries to say otherwise), and has never, ever been part of Israelite religion. We believe that Yeshua` was the human son of Yosef (‘Joseph’) and Miryam (‘Mary’), and was called by God to be a prophet.
Do you believe in the Trinity?
No. Belief in the trinity is a gentile pagan belief that was adopted by Christianity at the end of the 1st century CE, from the teachings of pagan mystery religions. We believe that God is ONE, and indivisible; and that God cannot take ANY physical form, let alone that of a human being. We never make any representation of God in pictures or images, as that is a transgression of the second commandment.
Do you believe that Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins?
No. We feel that it is a cruel (and if we may say so, a heartless and sadistic god) who requires someone to suffer a bloody and gory death before it will forgive humanity its sins. As Yahwists, to us such a teaching is like the sacrifice of the pagan god Molekh, whose followers believed that the actual deaths of their firstborn or only child brought about the forgiveness of their sins (Micah 6:7b). YHVH was horrified at this – such a thing never entered His mind (Jer 32:35). If it never entered the mind of YHVH in Jeremiah’s time, why should it centuries later?
Instead, we believe that heartfelt prayer and sincere repentance is what God requires for the forgiveness of sin – forgiveness comes immediately with repentance. The human soul is then cleansed and made whole (‘atoned’) by the glory (the ‘kavodh’ or ‘divine radiance’) of YHVH. Christian doctrine confuses forgiveness with atonement (which in Yahwist terms is the cleansing of the stain of sin, and the restoration of the wholeness of the soul).
But blood needs to be shed in order for sin to be forgiven!
No it doesn’t. Here are some examples: The half-shekel offering atoned for the souls of the Israelites (Ex 30:11-16); the offering of coarse flour could atone for sin (Lev 5:13 – and if it didn’t, poor people would never be forgiven their sins); the Scapegoat on the Day of the Atonements was supposed to be sent away alive into the wilderness (Lev 16:21-22); Aaron’s incense atoned for the people, and halted the plague (Numbers 17:2); the practice of mercy atones for sins (Proverbs 16:6); obedience to YHVH’s teaching is preferable to sacrifices (1Sam 15:22); and prayer is an acceptable substitute for the blood sacrifice (Hos 14:3).
Do you believe that Jesus was born of a virgin?
No. This again was carried over from pagan religions, whose major gods were all born of virgins (e.g. Mithras, Dionysos etc). Paul of Tarsus felt that his salvation-figure had to keep up with, and have Jesus at least make the same and equal claims as pagan gods did, in order to win over converts from among the pagans. We believe that Yeshua`’s birth by Miryam was perfectly natural and normal.
Do you believe that Jesus is the ‘Suffering Servant’ of Isaiah 53?
No. Jesus cannot be the suffering servant, because there are several things in it that do not apply to him. Now, be careful reading a Christian version of these passages, since they have been heavily doctored to make them agree with Christian beliefs. If you can, get a good Hebrew-English lexicon, and read the Hebrew yourself; it is quite different from what most Christian bibles pretend it says.
Verse 8 says: “mipesha ami nega lamo” (as-a-result-of-sin-of my-people stricken-were they). In other words, the Servant is a “they”, not a “he”; a group of people, not a single person. This is a brilliant example of where the text is deliberately corrupted in Christian versions.
Next take 53:10. Firstly, the verse says that ‘veYHVH hafetz dakeo heheli’ (and YHVH desires to oppress him with disease). Jesus was never stricken by any oppressive disease (verse 9 portrays the Servant as being someone “familiar with disease” (yedua holi). Secondly, the same verse says that “he will see his descendants”, and Yeshua` never had any descendants. Lastly, it says, “he will live a long life”, and as far as we know, Yeshua` was crucified and died in his mid-thirties.
So who is the suffering servant, if it is not Jesus? Well, we believe that the passage refers to the House of Israel – to Jews in general. If you read a real translation of the passage (Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12), you will see that it covers all the sufferings of Israel – how Israel has been persecuted, exiled, reviled, and looked down upon. The chapter is part of a larger set of chapters (Isaiah 41-55) which begins by telling us who the servant is – Israel / Jacob (eg 41:8, 44:21, 48:20). Isaiah 53 should not be taken out of context.
Do you accept that Jesus was the Messiah?
No. He cannot have been the Messiah, since he did not fulfil the accepted Jewish expectations of the Messiah – someone who would free Israel from her oppressors and call back the exiles to the land of Israel (Isa 11:16). Among the moderate sects of the Way, Followers do not accept the idea of a personal messiah at all – that a messiah will save us. We believe rather God will save and redeem us, and that a messiah will be merely a sign that God is acting in human affairs. We also are against putting off decisions “until messiah comes”, when we ourselves have the power to make those decisions ourselves. All of us have the power and the duty to play our part in the fulfilment of God’s Kingdom – not wait for someone else to do it for us.
Jesus founded Christianity, didn’t he?
No. We do not believe that Jesus was the founder of Christianity. If you examine the core beliefs and teachings of Christianity (the biggest one being the atoning death of Jesus), then you will realise that Paul of Tarsus was the true founder and architect of the religion we know today as Christianity.
Do you accept the New Testament, the Gospels, the letters of Paul etc.?
No. We do not accept the authority of the New Testament. Even though it contains the teachings of Yeshua`, we read the gospels with a critical mind, because we feel that the New Testament is flawed. Many Christians present us with passages from the NT to prove that it is true, but from our standpoint a flawed document cannot prove itself. We currently have our own version of Yeshua`’s sayings (the Sefer Yeshua` ha-N’vi, the ‘Book of the Prophet Yeshua`’). In ancient times, Followers had what is now known as the Q-document, and also various versions of the Gospel, such as the Gospel of the Ebionites, and the Gospel of the Hebrews. Modern Followers have a collection of writings called The Exhortations (see the individual books under ‘Talmidi Religious Writings’).
Why don’t you accept Paul as an Apostle of Christ?
The quintessential quality of an apostle, in the Israelite tradition, is that he teaches the words of his master verbatim; Paul NEVER quotes the words of Yeshua`. He cannot therefore describe himself as an apostle. In addition, ancient Followers believed that he basically lied about his background to Gentiles in order to raise his standing among them, and encourage them to believe what he taught them. He taught them HIS gospel, not Yeshua`’s.
Just like ancient Followers, we believe that he was a gentile convert to Judaism, and that, having failed to gain entry into one of the Pharisaic houses of study, he actually became a member of the High Priest’s police, and it was in this capacity that he persecuted Greek-speaking Followers of the Way (after all, a Pharisee would not have taken orders from the High Priest – it would be like Billy Graham taking orders from the Pope)!
As to why he founded Christianity, in all likelihood he had what pscyhologists today call Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He had been a failure at being a Jew, and his new religious philosophy brought him respect and status. He moulded the Jewish faith to suit his own ends, lied about his own biography, and had a barely concealed disdain towards those who had known Yeshua in life. People with NPD crave self-importance, and manipulate facts to suit their own ends.
I even think he realised that there was something wrong with him, and his new philosophy allowed him to continue being who he was without having to change. He was obsessed by sin – it may even have been that someone in the Jewish community pointed out this unpleasant aspect of his nature, and put his NPD down to ‘sin’. He came to the conclusion that he couldn’t change, and developed this new philosophy that allowed him to be forgiven of his nature without actually having to do anything about it – hence his central tenet of ‘faith, not works’.
What about the New Covenant?
A covenant cannot be replaced, therefore you cannot have a new covenant replacing a former one. Jeremiah 31:31 refers instead to a renewed, revitalised covenant. This clearly has not happened yet, because it says that no one will have to teach anyone about the God’s law, because it will be written on people’s hearts and minds (Jer 31:33-34).
If you follow the Torah, then you are slaves to the Torah
No! We follow the Torah because we have freely chosen to. We feel in our hearts it is a path that brings us closer to God, gives us a realisation of the supreme holiness of God, and brings reason and logic in an age of superstition and mystery religion. Yeshua` did not teach us to abandon Torah, but to fulfil and support it. To us, Torah is a liberaton.
What Yeshua` spoke against were the Pharisaic additions to the Torah – the Oral Law, not the Torah itself.
Aren’t you just trying to be Jews?
Those of us who were born Jewish or have converted, aren’t just trying to be Jews, we ARE Jews (LOL). See next question below.
Questions Jews ask us
Are you Jews or Gentiles?
Those of us who were born as Jews, or converted to Judaism, consider ourselves fully Jews – or more preferably, Israelites. Our community also has associated ‘Godfearers’, (Gentiles who worship the God of Israel, and follow Jewish cultuyre, but have not fully converted). Together we make up part of Q’hal Yisra’eil – the Assembly of Israel. We identify culturally with the customs and traditions of Israel, we ally our fate and future with the House of Israel, we believe in the mission of Israel to be a light to the nations, and we believe in the eternal Covenant that YHVH made with Abraham and his descendants.
If you follow Jesus, then you cannot be Jews.
We believe in the holy covenants which YHVH made with our people; the male children of Israelites in our community are circumcised as a sign of the covenant with Abraham; we uphold the Torah, and do our best to follow as much of it as possible; we follow the one true God – YHVH, who is One and indivisible; we direct our prayer to YHVH, and Him alone (i.e. we do not pray in the name of Jesus/Yeshua); and we believe that Moses was the greatest prophet of all prophets. That is as much as was required of ancient Israel to qualify as Israelites, so we consider ourselves Israelites. It does not matter to us if rabbinical Jews say we are not Jews. We are Israelites (a term that Rabbinic Jews do not have sole property rights to – the Samaritans, for example, are Israelites, but not Jews).
Do you practice circumcision?
Yes. Those within our community who identify as Israelites and connect with the Land, follow the practice as a mitzvah from God, as is written in Torah, as a sign of the Covenant with Abraham. Godfearers are not circumcised, unless they come to a point where they wish to be considered fully Israelite. Uncircumcised Godfearers are welcome to participate fully in our community (just as in ancient times), and are as equally loved and blessed by God as Israelites are.
Who is the greater prophet for you – Moses or Jesus?
For us, there is no doubt or debate; Moses was the greatest of all Jewish prophets. Yeshua` was also a prophet, but in the long line of traditional Jewish prophets. In ancient times, it was common practice that prophets gathered followers around them, to explain their teachings to them and so pass them on (Isaiah and Jeremiah are very good examples of this). In modern Chasidic Judaism, Chasidic Jews view their Rebbes in much the same way as we see Yeshua` – a great and wise teacher, and an enlightened human being.
Do you accept the Talmud?
No. We do not accept the authority of the Talmud, or any rabbinical commentary or decision. We see it rather as a collection of human opinions. It is useful only in the respect that it gives an insight into early rabbinical Judaism, and the customs prevalent at that time. Sometimes it may also help to resolve inconsistencies in the Written Torah. However, our sole authority is the Miqra (Hebrew Bible) – that is, the Torah and the Prophets & Writings.
Why don’t you accept the Talmud?
The opinions of the Talmud are human opinions, and as such are equal to those of any other learned Jew. Rabbinical Judaism teaches that their words are in fact the words of God; this we cannot in any way accept.
Do you believe that one day the Messiah will come?
If one is referring to an anointed descendent of David as a sign of God’s active power in the world, then yes; if one is referring to a personal messiah who will save us, then no. Many Jews relinquish responsibility for matters of faith to a personal messiah. We feel that belief in a personal messiah is a show of despair, that one has lost faith in the power of God to act in the world and save us Himself; if you believe that a messiah will save you, then you have abandoned hope in the power of God to save you.
Messianism is a belief that entered Judaism after the Babylonian exile from the Zoroastrian religion of Persia (which held the belief that a saviour will come down from heaven to save us). The belief is found nowhere in the Torah or the Prophets (if you read the Book of Kings, there are many bad messiahs – ‘anointed kings’ – as well as good messiahs). It is YHVH who will save us, not a messiah. After all, no one from Abraham to David believed in the idea that a messiah would save us – only God.
Why don’t you follow the Jewish calendar like every other Jew does?
We follow the biblical Israelite calendar, not the rabbinical one. We start our months on the evening of the sighting of the New Moon (chodesh); New Year (Rosh ha-Chadashim) is on the 1st of Nisan (the first month), not on the 1st of Teshri (the seventh month); Passover starts at the end of the 14th of Nisan, the Festival of First Fruits (or Shavu`ot) is always on a Sunday, and the 1st of Teshri is not New Year but Yom Tru`ah, the Day of Shout & Trumpet.
Why do you insist on putting blue cords on your tallit fringes?
Because that’s what Torah commands us (Num 15:37-41, Deut 22:12). Rabbinic Jews do not wear cords of blue on their tallitot, because they say we no longer have the snail to make the correct dye from. But it is nowhere commanded in Torah that we have to make the dye from a specific species of snail. Any suitable, deep blue dye will suffice. Israelites during the Exodus wore blue cords, and if they had been made from sea-snails, it would have taken literally many tonnes of these snails to make the cords for everyone – where would they have gotten such snails in the middle of the desert?!
Do you wear tefillin?
No. This is a literal misreading of Deut 6:8 (‘bind them like a sign upon your hand, and wear them like frontlets between your eyes’). It is in fact a Hebrew idiom which means to remember something always and never forget it – a constant and indelible sign – and consider it as something precious, a reminder in plain sight.
Do you put mezuzot on your door posts?
In general, most Talmidis do not put rabbinic style mezuzot on their doorposts. However, some people do physically write the Shema` in Hebrew lettering on their actual doorposts and gateposts (or on a plaque and hang it near the door). If one cannot see any wording, then it becomes something similar to a pagan fetish (an object with supposed supernatural powers, used to bring good luck and ward off evil). Samaritans have a carved stone panel above their door with a selection of various biblical passages, and Karaites have a small panel with the 10 Commandments on them. The common feature is that the wording has to be visible. One can therefore have the Shema at minimum, or if you have large lintels, you can have the Shema, the Golden Rule (Lev 19:18), and the 10 Commandments.
Do you eat meat and milk together?
Yes (unless of course, the individual is lactose intolerant or vegan)! Again, this is a Pharisaic misreading of certain passages in the Torah (Ex 23:19, Ex 34:26, Deut 14:21).
The passages actually refer to a pagan harvest sacrifice; the Canaanites had a festival for their first fruits, where as part of the sacrifice, they literally boiled a kid-goat in its mother’s milk. God said that the Israelites were not to do this, rather bring the first fruits themselves as an offering to God.
Do you accept patrilineal Jews?
Yes. The law that only a child born of a Jewish mother can be Jewish, is of rabbinical invention, and has no basis whatsoever in the Torah – in ancient times, you took your tribe from your father, not your mother. The Rabbinic rule was probably promulgated because you could always be sure who the mother was, but you could not always be sure who the father was.
If the father is Jewish, and the mother is not, then as long as the child is raised as a Jew (and if a boy, is circumcised), then the child is Jewish. The question of ‘Jew or not?’ depends on how you are raised, and what you believe, not on who your father and mother are. In addition, anyone who is descended from Jacob ben Isaac has the right to claim Israelite descent. They will be accepted by us as Israelite if they worship YHVH alone, and follow the Torah lifestyle.
Do you support animal sacrifice?
No. Ancient Followers held the same position. We believe it is an unnecessary leftover from primitive religion that is no longer necessary. It would not serve any purpose, since the death or blood of an animal is not needed for forgiveness of sin (see above).
In the ancient world of the first Israelites, animal sacrifice was a common thing. When God first gave us the Torah, if God had told the Israeite, ‘Look, I don’t actually need the blood of dead animals’, then the Isrelites would have gone off to offer sacrifices to other gods. So Go permitted sacrifices, but on God’s terms. Leviticus in particular, prescribes and limits how sacrifices are to be made.
The sacrifices are also imbued with a certain synbolism. The fire of the altar represent the fire of God’s glory (‘Divine radiance’). The burnt offerings are symbolic of how the human body cannot withstand the glory of God, and the blood that is dashed on the altar represents how the soul is purified of sin by the fire of God’s glory.
How do you view Messianics?
Jews who believe in the trinity, and believe that Yeshua was a god, are still Jews, but they are like those of the ancient Israelites who went after foreign gods, or worshipped the golden calf. Just as those Israelites believed that they could worship the golden calf as if it were the God of Israel, so too Messianics worship Yeshua as if he were the God of Israel. As Isa 43:11 says, “I – and I alone – am YHVH, and besides me, there is no other saviour.” Isaiah 45:5 says, I am YHVH – there is no one else” [i.e. no one else who is YHVH]. YHVH is YHVH, and no one and nothing else is YHVH.