Marv Rosenthal: Unfathomable Grace and Kindness

Posted on January 8, 2022

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By David Ettinger

Renowned Bible teacher Marv Rosenthal, founder of Zion’s Hope, graduated to Heaven on January 8, 2022, at the age of 86. He served the Lord for almost 6 decades, and had a profound impact on my life.

The Confounding Question
Hmm, I wondered silently, am I still Jewish?

You see, I had been born Jewish in New York City, and was educated for 11 years in a Yeshiva (Hebrew for a Jewish educational institution). However, just two years later, I had rejected my Jewish upbringing and became an atheist. I later moved to southern New Mexico, and it was there I eventually gave my life to Jesus Christ.

That was in October of 1986, when I was age 28. And though I had a firm grasp of Christianity, I was still uncertain as to my “religion.” I knew I was a Christian by faith, but “religiously” speaking, was I still Jewish? It was this question that led me to my three-decade-plus relationship with Marv Rosenthal.

Introduction to Marv
I was very fortunate to have neighbors who attended a Bible-believing church, and they invited me to go with them. And it was there – at Bethel Bible Fellowship in Las Cruces – where I met a gentleman who had the answer I was looking for.

Marv and Marbeth Rosenthal: Married for 60 years

His name was Fred, and when I asked him if I was still Jewish, he said, “Yes, you are. No matter what you believe, Judaism will always be your heritage.” I was grateful for the clarification, and wanted to know more.

Fred seemed to read my mind. He asked me, “Have you ever heard of Marv Rosenthal?”

“No,” I replied.

Fred then led me to his extensive collection of teaching cassettes (remember those?), and pulled out a few. “Here,” he said, handing them to me, “listen to these.”

Those cassettes changed the course of my life.

Oh What Teaching!
The drive to my job at the El Paso (Texas) Herald-Post was about 50 minutes (I lived in New Mexico but worked in Texas), which afforded me plenty of time to listen to Marv’s teaching. And oh what blessed teaching it was! Marv, gifted in so many aspects of God’s Holy Word, was especially so when connecting the New Testament with its Jewish roots.

I learned early – specifically because of Marv’s tapes – that the Jews are God’s chosen people and that though as a whole they have rejected Jesus Christ as their Lord, Savior, and Messiah, God is by no means through with them. Rather, I learned through Marv that God would indeed fulfill His Old Testament promises to the Jewish people, and that the remnant of Israel would come to accept their Messiah.

I also learned through Marv that not only was I still Jewish, but – and I heard these terms from him first – that I was a “completed” or “Messianic” Jew, that is, a Jewish individual who has come to “full faith” by accepting the Lordship of Yeshua HaMashiach – Hebrew for “Jesus, the Christ.”

Inviting Marv
By late 1989, I had listened multiple times to every Marv Rosenthal teaching tape I could get my hands on, and had read all of his articles from the magazine he edited at his former ministry. Then, while driving to work in the darkness of the early morning, I said out loud: “I bet Marv would love to come to our church for a conference.”

Of course, I had it backwards, and I laughed at my gaffe. It was our church that would love to have Marv come lead a conference. Gaffe or no gaffe, I was serious about it. I proposed a Marv Rosenthal Conference to our elders, and one of them said to me, “All he can do is say no. You have our permission to contact him.”

By this time, I knew that Marv had already been out of his former ministry for a year, but I had no idea where he had gone. I called his former ministry, and in God’s sovereignty, the receptionist was friendly, gracious, and ever so helpful. She told me that Marv had moved down to Orlando, Florida (from the Philadelphia, PA area) and, happily, she provided me with his phone number.

I called the number and spoke to Marv’s receptionist. I told her I was interested in having Marv come out to New Mexico for a few days to lead a teaching conference. She told me that Marv wasn’t in at the moment, but that I could call back. Or, she said, “You can write to him.”

Meeting Marv
I liked that idea, and did just that. In the letter, I told Marv I was a Jewish believer from New York City, that my church very much admired him, and that we would love to have him lead a conference. I had no idea how he would respond.

Then one day when I returned from work at about 1 p.m. (I worked the 4 a.m. to noon shift), there was residing in my mailbox a letter from the newly formed Zion’s Hope, Inc. I snagged the precious envelope, bolted to my front door, went inside, threw my wallet and keys on the table, parked myself on the couch, and tore open the letter.

It began: “Dear Son of Abraham saved by the Grace of God.” Only Marv could start a letter that way!

Marv, in his usual graciousness and kindness, went on to say that he was thrilled to meet a fellow Jewish believer, that he would love to come to our church, and that I should call him at my convenience. As it turned out, calling Marv was convenient AT THAT SECOND, and so I did!

I remember my heart racing with anticipation as I called the man whose teaching had penetrated deep into my heart and mind, and wondered how the call would go. After a few rings, Marv’s receptionist answered, and as we were chatting, I heard Marv in bellow in the background, “Is that David Ettinger from New Mexico. Give me the phone!”

Wow, I marveled, he was actually awaiting my call. Ain’t that a kick in the head!

He took the phone and, rather than the usual small-talk introduction, blurted: “Tell me something, what’s a Jewish kid from New York doing in New Mexico?” These are the very first words he ever spoke to me. No “hello” or anything!

I explained to Marv why I moved to the great Southwest and how the Lord had brought me to faith in Christ there. Marv then asked what I did for a living, and when I told him I was a journalist, he right there and then – just three minutes into the call – offered me a job!

I was flabbergasted, and when I hemmed and hawed my negative reply to him, he said, “You can’t? Where else am I going to find someone like you?” He didn’t mean that I was this mega-talent his ministry couldn’t do without. He did mean that I was a Jewish believer with a similar theology as him and was a writer; I would be an ideal fit for his fledgling ministry.

I explained to Marv that I was divorced and that my ex-wife and I shared custody of our then 6-year-old son Aaron. Marv then said, “Well, how long do you think it will be before you can join me here in Orlando?

“Um,” I treaded lightly, “I suppose about 12 years, when my son graduates high school.”

Marv never flinched. He said, “No problem. I’m starting a new magazine. Write your testimony in article form, I’ll publish it in my magazine, and give you $300 for it. You can continue writing for the magazine for the next 12 years until you’re free to move here.”

My head was spinning! I had simply called Marv to invite him to our church for a conference; I had no idea he would offer me a job with his new ministry! (By the way, Marv came out to New Mexico one year later, and the conference was a whopping success!)

The Aftermath
From that day on, my life was never the same. My testimony appeared in the second issue of Zion’s Fire – February 1990 – and 135 articles later, I am still writing for Zion’s Fire.

Marv was true to his word. In 1989 he promised he would hire me when the time came. The time indeed came 12 years later in 2001. Shedding a tear or two as I bid farewell to New Mexico, my son and I set out on the 1,700-mile drive to Orlando, where I have lived ever since.

Looking back, Florida was never even a “glitch on my radar.” I never gave it a thought until Marv extended the invitation. I was 31 back then and my son was 6. I am now 64 and Aaron is 38, and both our lives have been drastically changed.

Aaron met a wonderful wife here, Kati, and several years ago they gave me my beloved grandson, Zac, now 5. Not long ago, as Marv’s health began speedily deteriorating, my son and I reflected upon how it was Marv who totally changed both of our lives. In God’s sovereignty, Marv promised a job – and the hope of a new life – to an absolute nobody living out in the New Mexico desert and stuck to his word for well more than a decade.

As he had done for thousands of others, Marv’s insightful and powerful teaching nourished and increased my understanding of the Holy Scriptures and helped me become an effective writer and teacher of God’s Word. But for me personally, the Lord used Marv to mold and shape my life in ways I could never have imagined.

As Marv now revels in the heavenly glories we on Earth cannot possibly imagine, I’ll always think of him with unyielding gratitude for the unfathomable and unmerited grace and kindness he poured so freely upon me.

So with that, Marv, I bid you a fond farewell – for now at least, until we meet again!

David Ettinger is a writer/editor at Zion’s Hope, Inc., and has written for Zion’s Fire magazine since its inception in 1990.