WARNING: Reading Messianic Jewish Musings could cause you to spend money on books and to replace some TV time with book reading time. If you wish to avoid such a calamity, I’d suggest giving up all interest in the mysteries of the world to come and the nature of God.
MAPPING MESSIANIC JEWISH THEOLOGY: A CONSTRUCTIVE APPROACH
Richard Harvey, Paternoster, 2009
There are a handful of books that everyone must have who is serious about knowing the history and theology of Messianic Judaism. Harvey’s Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology (MMJT) joins the ranks of such books as David Stern’s Messianic Judaism, Mark Kiner’s Postmissionary Messianic Judaism, and Dan Juster’s Jewish Roots.
To put it quite simply, MMJT will help you understand Messianic Judaism in one fairly easy read.
We’ll be working chapter by chapter through some of Harvey’s ideas and material here on Messianic Jewish Musings.
As I give a few highlights from each chapter, know that:
(2) I am presenting a little bit of material and food for thought so we can have discussion about it all here.
(3) Note the tab on the top of the blog home page called “Ethics of Discussion.” I hope you and I will keep these ethical points in mind, since Harvey’s book will give us some ideas that we could argue about or we could dialogue about in a more constructive manner.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Harvey begins with a simple and very inclusive definition of Messianic Judaism: “Messianic Judaism is the religion of Jewish people who believe in Jesus (Yeshua) as the promised Messiah.”
This definition allows him to discuss what we might call Hebrew Christianity as well as Messianic Judaism. Harvey’s idea is to keep things broad and allow many voices in the conversation.
One of the greatest benefits of Harvey’s book is that he lays out the variations and theological side-paths of the broad movement of Jewish faith in Yeshua. The book could have the benefit of broadening and opening new possibilities for many in the greater Messianic Jewish movement who only know their little corner of the world and who look on all other ideas but those of their favorite teachers as outside the pale.
The introduction of MMJT goes on to discuss the some background to the formation of Messianic Judaism, with a little history (there will be more in chapter 2). This historical summary is valuable information. Let me outline a few broad points:
–The early MJ movement in the days of the apostles and the generations soon after.
–Some very limited identifications of Jewish faith in Jesus during the long interim of the Middle Ages and into modernity.
–The birth of the Christian Mission to the Jews movements, starting with Joseph Samuel Christian Frey in 1809 (The London Society for the Promotion of Christianity Among the Jews). These movements resulted in such figures as Alfred Edersheim, Adolph Saphir, Augustus Neander, and Samuel Schereschewsky identifying as both Jews and Christians.
–The Jesus movements of the 1970’s, the emergence of Israel, and the rise of Jewish faith in Jesus. From this many in Christian missions to Jewish people and pioneers of Messianic Judaism emerged.
–The formation of Messianic Jewish groups such as the Messianic Jewish Alliance, the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, Jews for Jesus, and more.
Harvey goes on to discuss his constructive approach to mapping Messianic Jewish theology, some of the differing definitions of Messianic Judaism, some questions that are central, and a preview of chapters to come.
His first chapter leaves me with a few ideas for discussion here in the comments:
How would you define the segment of Messianic Judaism you are part of, or alternately the segment of Christianity or Judaism you are part of?
What are some elements of your sect within the broader movements that defines you and makes you unique?
Are these elements negotiable or worth separating over?