Book Notes, Feb 5, 2010

I’m reading so many books right now I feel I could run four or five blogs. I’ll only mention a few of them here. I’m interested to know if other Messianic Jewish Musings readers have read any of these or if there are ant great books burning on your soul right now.

The Last of the Just, by Andre Schwarz-Bart
Okay, I should be done with this one by now, but I tend to read fiction slowly, a little each day, unless I am reading a page-burner.

This is difficult though brief fiction. I am considering it as a selection in the upcoming Jewish Book of the Month Club here on MJM. I want to get a whole lot of you reading books together and discussing them (it may fail as an experiment, though I’ve already been told by one person they intend to get a group at their synagogue all participating). We’ll launch sometime around Passover.

The problem with Schwarz-Bart’s book is that sometimes the prose is unclear. Did that really happen or was the character imagining it? What exactly happened in that part? Sometimes I’ll read a paragraph five times and not understand it. Other times I’ll read a dozen pages with no problem. He needed a better editor, IMO. But the powerful parts are unforgettable.

Maybe it will be a selection a little further down the road in the book club, after people have had time to get into reading the great Jewish books and will not be put off easily by a little difficult prose.

The Last of the Just is a different kind of Holocaust story, tracing a family back a thousand years in a line of Lamed-Vovniks (the thirty-six righteous sufferers in Israel whose righteous suffering keeps God from judging the world — an idea that is not too distant from the vicarious suffering of Yeshua).

Holy Subversion, by Trevin Wax
A Baptist pastor from Tennessee writes a simple but effective book explaining the gospel in holistic terms. I am delighted with the idea of an Ephesians Road, a variation and subversion of the Romans Road which for a previous generation made the gospel a weak message of life after death, all but irrelevant to living now. This is a great book to give to those who need to see a bigger idea than “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” God has a wonderful plan for the cosmos, and if you’re smart and humble, you’ll lay down everything to join in the Tikkun Olam.

I will review it next week here on MJM.

Divine Reversal: The Transforming Ethics of Jesus, by Russ Resnik
This is a major book for the MJ movement. I hope entire synagogues will read it.

Russ Resnik, longtime Messianic pioneer and Executive Director of the UMJC, shares with Jewish wisdom the ethics of Yeshua. Ethics is an area we need a great deal more of in our movement. Russ blogs about this and gives you a taste of what the book is about at

The New Moses: A Matthean Typology, by Dale Allison Jr.
My podcast yesterday and the one next week are about this book.

Dale Allison is a top-shelf New Testament scholar. He develops the theory that Matthew emphasizes the Moses theme in order to protest a movement in his time to remove the Way of Yeshua from Judaism. Matthew, he says, sees Yeshua in completely Jewish terms.

How about you? What are you reading? Have you read any of these? What books do you recommend for the book of the month club?


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Christian, Judaism, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Book Notes, Feb 5, 2010

  1. tiqun says:

    Russ Resnik’s book is one of the many i want to read; however, do you have any idea on how to get it when you a) don’t live in the US and b) don’t have a credit card?

  2. tiqun says:

    i have quite a long reading list, once i get back to full health–

    Man is not alone by A. Heschel
    The World to come by D. Leman
    The Misunderstood Jew by A-J Levine
    God in your body by Jay Michaelson
    Jewish Living by M. Washofsky
    Un Juif nommé Jésus by Marie Vidal
    Jésus et le Shabbat by Marie Vidal
    Jüdische Wurzeln christlicher Theologie by H. Franckemölle
    Jewish Believers in Jesus by O. Skarsaune

    so my participation in the book club will not simply depend on my time and health, but also on whether i can get the book in one of the university libraries over here. buying english books can be quite tricky. i’ve trying for example to lay my hands on Daniel Boyarin’s Borderlines for a couple of months now, without avail.

  3. wordmachine says:

    I’m reading “Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus” by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg right now. The book is helping me to understand why Messianic Judaism is set up the way that it is, and is helping me to understand Yeshua as a Rabbi.

    I’m also reading “The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank”. It’s kind of intense for me, which is why I only read a little bit of it at a time. After I read that I’ll read “Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary”.

  4. judeoxian says:

    What I’m reading right now:

    The Shepherd of Hermas
    The Confessions of St. Augustine
    “Putting Jesus in His Place” by Bowman and Komoszewski
    “Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism” by Kinzer

    I have not read “The New Moses,” but I have read similar things on Matthew regarding midrashic legends about Moses and how Matthew may have used them. Interesting stuff.

    As for recommendations for a book of the month, I think ancient authors should be in the mix as well. How about the Didache, 1 Clement, or the Martyrdom of Polycarp?

    Also, we must be sure that people are reading their Bibles regularly too. Biblical literacy is at such a low level in America, and Messianics are no exception. We seem to be doing better with the Torah and the Gospels, but let’s not forget the Prophets, the Writings, and the Epistles.

  5. christian4moses says:

    Among other things Im reading From Jesus to Christ by Paula Fredriksen, which is quite a critical book and not really for the light-hearted and The Resurrection of Jesus by Pinchas Lapide.

    Not knowing exactly what your intentions are for the book of the month club but I’d suggest Shaye Cohen’s From the Maccabbees to the Mishnah. Also what might be of interest, though I havent been able to read it myself is: Daniel Lasker’s Jewish Philosophical Polemics against Christianity in the Middle Ages.

  6. warland52 says:

    Well I am now re-reading my favorite parts of (after my comments on previous post):
    Sanity and Theology by Frank Sheed.

    My “to do” list includes:
    Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews
    and Judaism ” by Paula Fredriksen

    The Crucified Rabbi (by Taylor Marshall).

  7. judeoxian your point about reading our Bibles is a good one. As someone who loves to read unfortunately on many occasion I have neglected the Bible and not read it as much as I should. Thanks.

  8. masmid says:

    Lasker’s book is excellent. I used it extensively for source material in my thesis on Medieval Jewish Views of Jesus.

    I will also state the following without apology. Any serious study of the vast academic literature out there on the New Testament and Early Christianity (literature that employs critical approaches from the perspectives of history, anthropology, comparative religion, philosophy, psychology/psychoanalysis, sociology, anthropology,or race/gender theory) will lead one to seriously challenge the claims made by mainstream Christianity, especially concerning the Trinity, the belief in Yeshua as God-Man, and the character of Paul of Tarsus, whose teachings are at variance with those of the Messiah at many points in his Epistles (a genre which Judaism never viewed as having the status of Torah, but as a source of spiritual instruction, advice, and Mussar, such as the Iggeret Ha Gra). One will come to the conclusion, rather rapidly in their analysis, that the faith OF Yeshua is not the faith created ABOUT Yeshua, by Paul. We know that the first Jewish believers in Yeshua did not accept the Pauline writings, and that their lifestyle and beliefs differed dramatically in many ways with those of Paul and his followers.

    My views on this matter are informed by the literature that exists, especially from the Jesus Seminar’s scholars and others concerned with the Historical Jesus.

    I recommend anything by Crossan and Marcus Borg, in addition to Barrie Wilson’s “When Jesus Became Christian.” Another emerging work that I appreciate is Scott Nelson’s book on the topic of how the conflict between Judaism and Christianity is embodied in the differing examples and statements of Yeshua and Paul.

  9. masmid:

    Your comments are really becoming a problem and I may start deleting you. Here is why:

    (1) Your views are internally contradictory in the extreme. You want us to consider the most skeptical critical views of the New Testament but you hold to the most traditional, uncritical views of Torah and Hebrew Bible. Why don’t you read Israel Finkelstein, T.L. Thompson, and Keith Whitelam on the Hebrew Bible?

    (2) You come on here to preach, not participate.

    (3) You don’t speak as one in a conversation, but as a self-appointed expert telling us how it “is.” You could say, “I’ve been influenced by so and so and I lean toward x, y, and z. What do you think of this idea?” Instead, you come on here with things like, “Any serious study of the vast academic literature…blah, blah, blah.” [pursing my lips and speaking with pontifical voice]

    Choosing to be part of the conversation is a choice you can make. But as long as you are preaching like this, please write about it on your own blog.

    Derek Leman

  10. masmid says:

    I am a Torah Jew, and I accept academic views on the Tanach which are not incompatable with Traditional Judaism and its understanding of Torah Mi Sinai. However, I reject Wellhausen and the Documentary Hypothesis and what would be considered “Higher Criticism.” As a Jew,I obviously embrace the Torah, the redaction of which does not carry the same, obviously political overtones that the redaction of the NT carries (as it was Constantine and the subsequent ecumenical councils that decided which books would be included in the NT and which ones would be discarded, rendering it a fundamentally Pauline work.)

  11. masmid:

    Okay, that was fine, clarifying your position. But if you ask us to reject Paul and believe skeptical views of the NT and yet you reject the documentary hypothesis, I’d ask you to consider the selective application of historical criticism you are making. In one case you let your faith shield a text from scrutiny and in the other you let your distaste for a text open you to mostly rejected NT scholarship (Crossan and Borg are at the extreme and not mainstream NT scholarship).

    Derek Leman

    • masmid says:

      You also ask whyI do not accept the writings of Finkelstein and Walton. Walton studies the comparative nature between ANcient Near Eastern religion and civilizaiton and the Bible. I agree with this school of thought 100% and I have written many papers comparing Genesis with Atrahasis and the Enuma Elish, and have explored the issue of lex talionis by incorporating insights from Hammurabi. Finkelstein is an archaeologist whose excavations admittedly do not always comport with the Bible’s chronology. Exploring these discrepancies need not take away from a belief in an inerrant Torah Mi Sinai. There are many Orthodox scholars of Tanach who incorporate academic insights into their study, and I am one of them. Milgrom, the Anchor Bible, the T&T Clark Critical Bible, Soncino (which explores many critical positions in its Orthodox commentary), and the findings of Christian, academic, secular, and Karaite exegetesall take a place on my seforim shelf besides my traditional meforshim, such as the Mikraos Gedolos.

  12. masmid says:

    I do not have a distaste for the NT, although there are portions of it that I do not think are completely authoritative. On the other hand, it is my desire to know more about it and to have a fuller understanding of the text that I employ critical thought in its interpretation, just as I employ critical thought in understanding the Torah. The DH, by the way, is not accepted any longer by the academic community as being the “be all end all” critical approach to the Torah. What do you consider to be mainstream NT scholarship?

  13. masmid says:

    Those who believe in the inerrancy of the Tanach do not cast a blind eye to the insights of academia which may challenge our belief. THat is what makes individuals such as myself and mlkmeister open-minded. On the issue of the NT, however, I do believe that there are many irreconciable differences between Moshiach’s words and Paul’s words. I do not see discrepancies of this sort in the Torah. In fact, the test of a prophet in the Tanach was whether or not what they said comported to the words of the Torah. Paul was never held to such a standard, and as such, his writings comprise much of the NT beyond the Gospels, which are the words of our Messiah, and which, to me, at least have inerrancy and a greater weight behind them than the opinions and interpretations of Paul, which nonetheless, have midrashic, academic, and historical/comparative interest for me.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s