Jewish Christians (Hebrew: יהודים נוצרים) were the followers of a Jewish religious sect that emerged in Judea during the late Second Temple period (first-century). Modern scholarship is engaged in an ongoing debate as to the proper designation for Jesus' first followers. Many see the term Jewish Christians as anachronistic given that there is no consensus on the date of the birth of Christianity. Some modern scholars have suggested the designations "Jewish believers in Jesus" or "Jewish followers of Jesus" as better reflecting the original context. The sect integrated the belief of Jesus as the prophesied Messiah and his teachings into the Jewish faith, including the observance of the Jewish law. Jewish Christianity is the foundation of Early Christianity, which later developed into Christianity. Christianity started with Jewish eschatological expectations, and it developed into the worship of a deified Jesus after his earthly ministry, his crucifixion, and the post-crucifixion experiences of his followers.
The inclusion of gentiles led to a growing split between Jewish Christians (i.e. the Jewish followers of Jesus) and gentile Christianity. From the latter, "orthodox" Christianity eventually arose, while mainstream Judaism developed into Rabbinic Judaism. Jewish Christians drifted apart from mainstream Judaism, eventually becoming a minority strand which had mostly disappeared by the fifth century. Jewish–Christian gospels have been lost except for fragments, so there is considerable uncertainty as to the scriptures used by this group.
The split of Christianity and Judaism took place during the first centuries CE. While the First Jewish–Roman War and the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE were main events, the separation was a long-term process, in which the boundaries were not clear-cut.
Members of these communities still call themselves Rûm whi
Members of these communities still call themselves Rûm which literally means "Eastern Roman", "Byzantine" or "Asian Greek" in Turkish, Persian and Arabic. The term "Rûm" is used in preference to "Ionani" or "Yāvāni" which means "European Greek" or "Ionian" in Classical Arabic and Ancient Hebrew.
Most Most Middle-Eastern "Melkites" or "Rûms", can trace their ethnocultural heritage to the Southern Anatolian ('Cilician') and Syrian Hellenized Greek-speaking Jewish communities of the past and Greek and Macedonian settlers ('Greco-Syrians'), founders of the original "Antiochian Greek" communities of Cilicia, Northwestern Syria and Lebanon. Counting members of the surviving minorities in the Hatay Province of Turkey, in Syria, Lebanon, Northern Israel and their relatives in the diaspora, there are more than 1.8 million Greco-Melkite Christians residing in the Northern-MENA, the US, Canada and Latin America today, i.e., Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic Christians under the ancient jurisdictional authority of the patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem ("Orthodox" in the narrow sense) or their Uniat offshoots ("Catholic" or "united" with Rome).
Today, certain families are associated with descent from the early Jewish Christians of Antioch, Damascus, Judea, and Galilee. Some of those families carry surnames such as Youhanna (John), Hanania (Ananias), Sahyoun (Zion), Eliyya/Elias (Elijah), Chamoun/Shamoun (Simeon/Simon), Semaan/Simaan (Simeon/Simon), Menassa (Manasseh), Salamoun/Suleiman (Solomon), Youwakim (Joachim), Zakariya (Zacharias) and others.
In modern days, the term "Jewish Christian" generally refers to ethnic Jews who have converted to or have been raised in Christianity. They are mostly members of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christian congregations, and are generally assimilated into the Christian mainstream, although they retain a strong sense of their Jewish identity. Some Jewish Christians also refer to themselves as "Hebrew Christians".
The Hebrew Christian movement of the 19th century was a largely Anglican-led and largely integrated initiative, led by figures such as Hebrew Christian movement of the 19th century was a largely Anglican-led and largely integrated initiative, led by figures such as Michael Solomon Alexander, Bishop of Jerusalem 1842–1845; some figures, such as Joseph Frey, founder of the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews, were more assertive of Jewish identity and independence.
The 19th century saw at least 250,000 Jews convert to Christianity according to existing records of various societies. Data from the Pew Research Center has it that, as of 2013, about 1.6 million adult American Jews identify themselves as Christians, most as Protestants. According to the same data, most of the Jews who identify themselves as some sort of Christian (1.6 million) were raised as Jews or are Jews by ancestry. According to a 2012 study, 17% of Jews in Russia identify themselves as Christians.
Messianic Judaism is a religious movement that incorporates elements of Judaism with the tenets of Christianity. Adherents, many of whom are ethnically Jewish, worship in congregations that include Hebrew prayers. They baptize messianic believers who are of the age of accountability (able to accept Jesus as the Messiah), often observe kosher dietary laws and Saturday as the Sabbath. Although they do recognize the Christian New Testament as holy scripture, most do not use the label "Christian" to describe themselves.
The two groups are not completely distinct; some adherents, for example, favor Messianic congregations but freely live in both worlds, such as theologian Arnold Fruchtenbaum, the founder of Ariel Ministries.