24 April 1906 Amsterdam Conference on Jewish Evangelism debates Messianic Judaism #otdimjh

download (32)

The International Jewish Missionary Conference of 1906

“In April of 1906, an International Jewish Missionary Conference (IJMC) was held in Amsterdam. This event would not only impact the Jews of Holland, but would have an effect upon all those countries where missionary work among the Jewish people was being carried out. The International Jewish Missionary Conferences, of which this was the seventh, were conceived by Franz Delitzsch and Hermann Strack along with other [405] Christian leaders who felt that there needed to be greater cooperation among the missions to the Jews.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 06.50.28

Mitch Glaser gives a report of the conference in his PhD thesis, “A Survey of Missions to the Jews” (404-408):

“The IJMC developed regular triennial meetings. The first and second conferences were held in Berlin, the third at Barmen, the fourth at Leipzig; the fifth at Cologne, the sixth at London, and the seventh on April 24 and 25, 1906 in Amsterdam, Holland. Most of the major Jewish missionary societies of Europe and America were represented at this conference. There were thirty delegates in all. The conference was interdenominational and included representatives of the Church of England, the Lutheran Church of Germany, the Presbyterian Church of Ireland and England, the UFCS, the Church of Scotland, the Reformed Church of Holland, the Lutheran Churches of Sweden, Norway and Denmark, the German Baptist Church, the American Reformed Presbyterian Church and others.

Hermann Strack

Hermann Strack

Some of those who attended were Hermann Strack, Otto von Harling, James Nicol of the Jewish Committee of the Church of Scotland, and Milne Rae of the United Free Church.

The Jewish Christian historian, Louis Meyer, mentioned in particular Strack’s paper on the Essentials of Judaism. Richard Biehling of Germany presented a paper on Jewish controversy and Christian apology, and O. von Harling spoke on the issue of training workers in Jewish missions.

Otto von Harling

Otto von Harling

Meyer was critical of the paper, saying that von Harling should have spent more time discussing the needs of “the rapidly increasing number of Jews who are escaping the bondage of Talmudism.” The Missionary Review of the World (MRW) reported Meyer’s view of the Institute:

We believe, however, that the Institutum Judaicum Delitzschianum in whose behalf Pastor von Harling pleaded, put an unnecessary emphasis upon training in Talmudic knowledge. The modern Jew needs a knowledge of sin more than the knowledge of the lack of logic and religious feeling in the tradition of the fathers and in the training of Jewish workers, as in fact of all missionary workers. Much attention should be paid to a prayerful and deep study of the Word of God so that it can be used like the hammer that breaketh the rocks in pieces. We hope that the training school for missionary workers among the Jews which will soon be opened in New York will pay special attention to this point (MRW 1906a:527- 29).

[406] The meeting was held on April 24th in a church dedicated to the memory of Israel DaCosta, who was held in high esteem by the Dutch Christians. Meyer spoke on the subject, “What Shall We Do With our Jews?” and A. C. Adler of the LJS and Arnold Frank of Hamburg of the Irish Presbyterian Society spoke on the subject of how Jewish immigration impacted Jewish missions.


On April 25, Samuel Wilkinson of the MMJ and C. Wagner of Cologne, the West German Society for Israel, discussed the moral defensibility of some of the methods employed in Jewish missions. According to Meyer, it would have been a better paper if it was more practical, instead of dealing with abstract principles it should have dealt with definitive methods.

The discussion, according to the MRW, revolved around the issues of finances and proper reporting:

The speakers condemned the giving of money in any missionary meeting (sewing school, Bible class, preaching service, etc.) whether this giving is defended by the workers with work done or time lost by the recipients of the bounty or with a plea of such dire distress that immediate relief is necessary. It was also brought out in discussion that possibly the cause of these questionable methods in missionary work is that the public and sometimes committees demand regular and encouraging reports from the workers, else interest will lag and contributions will decrease (MRW 1906a:527-29).

[407] Two striking and effective papers were given by W. T. Gidney, the secretary of the LJS, and J. Nicol, the convener of the Jewish Committee of the Church of Scotland, on the subject of the importance of mission schools.

Two other papers addressing the spiritual needs and ministry among Jewish women were given by C. T. Lipschytz of the BM and Isaac Levinson of the BJS. Both dealt with the importance of reaching women. Lipschytz spoke against certain of the methods now used by some of the missionaries to draw the women to the meetings of the mission, and called attention to the fact that the seed sown in the heart of a Jewish woman frequently bears fruit in the lives of her children only (MRW 1906a:527-29).

The themes perceived as important at this conference would also dominate the many other conferences throughout the century. Issues of training missionaries, ethics especially in regards to institutional missions, the best way to reach Jewish women and the role of the mission schools were all topics that would be addressed in ensuing deliberations.

The paper by von Harling and Meyer’s response reflected the growing generation gap at the turn of the century, not only between younger and older missionaries, but also of the changes in the Jewish community. The question of how to adapt their methods to keep up with the secularization of the Jewish population of Europe would be a burning issue and would especially come to the fore in discussions about literature. Yiddish, it would be argued, was old fashioned and in order to reach the younger generation of more secular Jews, the national languages would have to be used. In general, these issues would resurface many times over.

[408] According to a comment by Meyer, it was decided to publish all the papers read at the conference, together with an article by Meyer as a Yearbook of Jewish Missions 1906-1907.2”

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 06.51.02

Raymon Lillevik summarises “The Struggle for a New Mission Strategy” in his book Apostates, Hybrids, or True Jews?Jewish Christians and Jewish Identity (p137-9)

In the decades before WWI, the ideas of contextualization of the Christian message and national churches gained influence among Protestant churches and mission societies in general, and it is only to [137] be expected that similar discussions took place in the Jewish missions. When they did, it seems that it often was Rabinowitz’s work or Lucky’s ideas and criticism that came into focus; these also set the agenda for discussions at several international conferences on Jewish mission between 1890 and 1911.382 During the 1880s there had been a serious debate about the work of Joseph Rabinowitz and his congregation in Kishinev, and at the conference in Barmen in 1890, Rev. Bernstein from Frankfurt and London agitated for the view that mission societies should work to establish Jewish-Christian congregations. [138]

Generally, the participants in these discussions were more inclined to accept, or at least listen to, criticism against missionary methods than to consider Jewish-Christian congregations.384 What caused more tension were Lucky’s ideas about Jewish-Christian congregations and Torah observance for Jewish Christians. Lucky’s opponents feared that this was a new version of the old Ebionitism, or at least some sort of religious syncretism. Lucky’s ideas were particularly debated at the conference in Leipzig in 1895 and in 1911 in Stockholm.385 Here Wiegand and others claimed that not only should one seek to establish Jewish-Christian congregations, but also that Jewish Christians have the right to voluntarily observe the law or not observe it. While this idea was received with some sympathy among a minority of missionaries, most of the Jewish Christians present disagreed with almost all of it. Still, it was the main missions’ unwillingness to change strategy that Wiegand and Lucky’s other supporters found most provoking.386 Löwen claims that Lucky modified his views in the last years of his life, at least when it came to [139] working for the missions. During their last meeting in 1913, Lucky acknowledged Löwen’s position, while regretting his own stubbornness.387

The Messianic Jewish option proposed by Wiegand on behalf of Lucky was not without its opponents, as the opinions of Meyer evidence. Paul Rood describes how:

At the Amsterdam Conference in 1906, Meyer was critical of efforts to become knowledgeable in Talmudic teachings, even for apologetic and missiological utility. He questioned the emphasis placed on it at the Institutum Judaicum Delitschianum, by stating: “The modern Jew needs a knowledge of sin more than the knowledge of the lack of logic and religious feeling in the tradition of the fathers … much [more] attention should be paid to a prayerful and deep study of the Word of God so that it can be used like the hammer that breaketh the rocks in pieces.”25 Meyer called for the development of a “true evangelical consciousness” not the “national consciousness of rabbinic Judaism that rejects Christ.”

Reflection and Prayer:

History repeats itself.

Has to.

No-one listens. (Steve Turner).

The missionaries and messianics in 1906 needed to face the challenges of the pogroms in Russia, the first wave of aliyah, and the growth of anti-Semitism in Germany, in addition to discussion of methods, personnel, training, etc. Not much has changed, and the forthcoming International Conference of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism will in all likelihood go over much of the same ground. “It is not upon you to complete the task, but you are not free to desist from it” (Pirkei Avot). As Nehemiah prayed (Neh. 6:9) – ‘They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”’ In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.

  1. The international conferences for Jewish mission societies between 1871 to 1911 were as follows: the 1st conference was in Berlin in 1871; the 2nd was in 1883 in the same place; the 3rd was in Barmen in 1890; the 4th was in Leipzig, June 6–8, 1895; the 5th was in Cologne, October 6–9, 1900; the 6th was in London, October 21–22, 1903; and the 7th was in Amsterdam, April 24–25, 1906. See Strack, Yearbook (1906), 5.

The 8th conference was held in Stockholm, June 7–9, 1911; see Strack, Yearbook, (1913), 6.

  1. Strack, Yearbook (1906), 6. As far as I know, Lucky never participated on any of the international conferences himself. Instead, his non-Jewish sympathizers were willing to represent his ideas, particularly Wiegand.

Gidney adds (574-5):

A Conference on Missions to Jews was held in the same place on January 15th, 1902, at which many friends of the Society and experts on the subject spoke. An International Jewish Missionary Conference was held in the Church House on October 21st and 22nd, 1903, and opened by the Bishop of Salisbury (Wordsworth) at which representatives of various Jewish missionary societies contributed papers or speeches of abiding usefulness.

Three years later the Conference assembled at Amsterdam, on April 24th and 25th, 1906, and was also a most profitable occasion.

On St. Andrew’s Day, 1906, a special meeting for prayer was held in the Society’s House in consequence of the persecutions of the Jews in Russia during that year. This was followed by a great Protest Meeting in the Queen’s Hall, Langham Place, on January 8th, 1906, under the presidency of Lord Rothschild, and addressed by the Bishop of Ripon (Boyd Carpenter) Sir Edward Clarke, K.C., the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Viscount Milner, Lord Kinnaird and others. The magnificent speech of the Bishop of Ripon aroused the utmost enthusiasm. The Society raised a special Relief Fund which amounted to”^oo, That year (1906) was one of the saddest in Jewish annals.

Sources: Lillevik p137, 8, 9

Yearbook of the Evangelical Missions to the Jews, edited by Hermann L. Strack, 93–115. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1906.

Louis Meyer: A Jewish Evangelist in the Church Paul W. Rood, Lecturer, Politics & Economics, Biola University


About richardsh

Messianic Jewish teacher in UK
This entry was posted in otdimjh and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to 24 April 1906 Amsterdam Conference on Jewish Evangelism debates Messianic Judaism #otdimjh

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.