Book Review: To the Jew First

Bock, Darrell L. and Mitch Glaser, eds. To the Jew First: The Case for Jewish Evangelism in Scripture and History. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2008. 347 pp. Softcover. $16.99.

(Review copy courtesy of Kregel Publications.)

To the Jew FirstPurchase: Kregel | Amazon | CBD

ISBNs: 0825436583 / 9780825436581

Contributors: Richard A. Averbeck, Craig A. Blaising, Darrell L. Bock, J. Lanier Burns, Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Mitch Glaser, Arthur F. Glasser, Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Kai Kjaer-Hansen, Barry R. Leventhal, Richard L. Pratt Jr., Michael Rydelnik, Mark A. Seifrid, and David L. Turner

Darrell L. Bock (Ph.D., University of Aberdeen) is research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. A former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, he is the author of numerous works in New Testament studies, including notable commentaries on Luke BECNT (vol. 1 & vol. 2) and Acts BECNT.

Mitch Glaser (Ph.D., Fuller Seminary) is the president of Chosen People Ministries. Mitch studied with the esteemed Charles Feinberg at Talbot School of Theology. A messianic Jew, he has labored for more than thirty years in ministry among the Jewish people. His doctorate is in intercultural studies.

Introduction

To the Jew First: The Case for Jewish Evangelism in Scripture and History is a collection of fourteen essays written by evangelical scholars under the auspices of Chosen People Ministries. This book is important because of the need for local churches to grapple with Jewish evangelism and because it can provide perspective for evaluating the Berlin Declaration of 2008.

The goal of these essays is “to help the church develop a sound biblical and theological basis for Jewish evangelism.” To this end, they are divided between sections that focus on biblical studies, theology, and mission. Each section includes a short summary of the essays that will enable readers to select according to their interests.

The layout of the book is not technical or intimidating. The nature of these essays will provide most pastors and laymen with material that will be challenging but not so technical that it will be inaccessible. The notes are provided as endnotes, giving the pages an open look. Most of the Hebrew and Greek words are transliterated into English.

Contents

In the section on biblical studies, Mark Seifrid’s essay establishes the essential relationship between the gospel and God’s plan of salvation for the nation of Israel. This helpful essay establishes the church as being in continuity and discontinuity with Israel without falling into the errors of Reformed replacement theology and dispensational parenthesis theology.  Walter Kaiser Jr.’s essay on Romans 9-11 presents a clear argument against the traditional Reformed amillenial view.  Darrell Bock’s essay survey’s Jewish evangelism in the book of Acts and presents three approaches used by the early church. Lastly, Richard Averbeck’s essay looks at the close relationship between the Holy Spirit and the institution of prophecy in the Old Testament.

In the section on theological studies, Craig Blaising’s essay deals with the problem of Israel and replacement theology from a theological stance. Barry Leventhal’s chapter integrates theological reflection on the Holocaust with wisdom for engaging in Jewish missions. J. Lanier Burn’s chapter explains the varieties of Judaism today and provides four key areas to address in intentional Jewish evangelism. Richard Pratt Jr.’s essay is one of the more intriguing chapters and seeks to present a Reformed perspective on Jewish evangelism that avoids the problems of replacement theology. The last essay in this section by Arnold Fruchtenbaum presents a defensive of reading Romans as supporting the procedural priority view of Jewish evangelism.

In the section on missiological studies, there is no recognition of the common distinction between “missions” and “evangelism.” The first essay by Mitch Glaser presents historical data that helps to frame how Jewish missions strategies developed in modern times. The essay by Arthur Glasser examines Jewish missions as an interdisciplinary quest that engages in study of ancestry, environment, history and culture. Michael Rydelnik’s chapter provides data from Medieval sources that are rarely heard about in most local churches and even church history courses. Kai Kjaer-Hansen concludes the book with an essay on the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus.

Conclusion

This collection of essays raises serious and practical questions for the local church and beyond. Four specific questions came to my mind as I thought about the book in its entirety. First, can Reformed theology and its inherent use of amillennialism seriously offer a biblical engagement and “thick” description of Jewish evangelism? Despite Richard Pratt Jr.’s attempt, the stress on continuity between the nation of Israel and the church presents the same problems as Replacement theology. Second, does the local church really understand how to contextualize the gospel? The issue of messianic Jews puts this issue under the spotlight because of how different messianic congregations operate. Third, the legitimacy of the difference between “missions” versus “evangelism” is raised. According to Fruchtenbaum’s essay they are the same, and he does not even support the notion that there is a difference between home and foreign missions. This third question provides a segue into the last but more important issue: is Jewish missions (Jewish evangelism) a historical priority or a procedural priority? A strong case can be made for the latter. An answer in the affirmative for procedural priority would require a major restructuring of mission boards, mission committees, evangelist itineraries, and personal evangelism programs. If you want to develop your understanding of the book of Romans or of Jewish evangelism, pick this up.

David WenkelDavid H. Wenkel graduated from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School with an M.A. in Christian Thought: Systematic Theology (2004) and from Bob Jones University with an M.A. in Bible (2006). He returned to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (2008) to do a Th.M. with a focus in New Testament.


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