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Book review: An introduction to Messianic Judaism

To love Jesus is to love him in the fullness of his divinity and humanity, and being a Jew is fundamental to his humanity. As Paul said, "Remember Yeshua the Messiah, raised from the dead, descend from David. This is my gospel."  

According to the authors, Introduction to Messianic Judaism is written primarily for rabbis and pastors, informed laity, undergraduate students, and seminarians in the messianic Jewish, mainstream Jewish, and gentile Christian world.

I am part of the Christian gentile world interested in the Messianic Jewish community, because after all, Christianity arose from a Messianic Jewish milieu. An understanding of Messianic Judaism can only help a gentile Christian understand their own faith better. 

This book comprises of a series of essays from a Messianic Jewish standpoint with the aim of bridging the gap between the Jewish people and the church, so that the church can better understand its origin and identity; and also that the Jewish people can embrace their messiah without forsaking their lives and calling as a Jew and continue their national duty before God.

Messianic Judaism is defined as a movement of Jewish congregations and congregation-like groupings committed to Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah that embrace the covenantal responsibility of Jewish life and identity rooted in Torah, expressed in tradition, renewed and applied in the context of the New covenant. This definition is different from the popular view that believes that a Messianic Jew refers to any Jewish believer in Yeshua.

What difference does this definition make for a gentile Christian? It makes all the difference because instead of encouraging Jews who embrace Jesus to discard their old Jewish practice, we are to encourage them because, ‘it is God’s desire for Jewish people not to assimilate, but to continue to be Jewish,’ p47. This does not mean that there are two churches because the faith that unites the Messianic Jewish community and gentile Christian Church is the faith in Yeshua. Therefore, 'together the Messianic Jewish community and the Christian Church constitute the ekklesia, the one Body of Messiah, a community of Jews and Gentiles who in their ongoing distinction and mutual blessing anticipate the shalom of the world to come.' p34

For further understanding on this relationship between Messianic Jews and the Gentile Christian world, one can turn to chapter 12,  where Daniel C. Juster, the executive director of Tikkun International, an international network of Messianic Jewish synagogues and emissaries describes the Messianic Jewish community’s relationship with their Gentile Christian Family. Dan Juster takes issue with the view of Christian supersessionism, the view that the church replaces Israel as God’s people. This view creates tension for Messianic Jews as they relate to the Gentile Christian world, therefore the best way to understand the Jewish Messianic movement’s perspective on their relationship with their Gentile Christian family is by the terms of interdependence and mutual blessing. This view is more acceptable to Jews today and more biblical, because it maintains God’s irrevocable covenant relationship with the Jewish people. Although there is one ekklesia, yet it exists in two distinguishable expressions.

There are other chapters of interest such as Messianic Jews and the Jewish world, and Messianic Jews and the land of Israel. Chapter 8 titled, Messianic Judaism and women presents Rachel Wolf’s first person perspective on women in the messianic Jewish community. Chapters 14 to 27 deals specifically with the Church and Messianic Judaism. 

Overall this book is a magnificent starting course that introduces the reader to the world of Messianic Judaism, highlighting what the main discussions are, and presenting sound biblical reasons why Messianic Jews should embrace their Jewish heritage.  

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