The Enduring Paradox: Exploratory Essays In Messianic Judaism, compiled by Dr. John Fisher
I have mixed feelings about this book, as is common from books of this type that seek to combine the efforts of a lot of writers together in various treatises, many of which have their own particular agendas and areas of research and axes to grind. As a whole, my own thoughts of messianic Judaism are rather mixed. For one, I find my own place as a member of the Church of God to be similar to that of many messianic Jews who seek to recover the faith of the early apostolic Church before the spread of Hellenism that led to a great and hostile divide between followers of Yeshua and those who followed the post-70AD proto-Orthodox Jews. So there is a sense of being kindred in many cases with Messianic Jews, despite the fact that my own view of the Talmud, especially the Mishnaic approach, is far less positive than that of the writers, here, though to the extent that the writers are more fond of the midrashic approach that was done during the time of the Great Assembly, we will find more to agree with, without a doubt.
This particular book is a short one and it is divided into three sections and numerous papers from a distinguished group of panelists that includes a few writers that I am familiar with (like Dr. David Stern) who are among the messianic community. The book begins with a look at messianic Jewish theology, which includes papers on Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures, Jewish practice and identity in the book of Acts, covenant, fulfillment, and Judaism in Hebrews, and a look at the supposed tri-unity of God, about which I am in full disagreement with the author of that paper. The second section examines the contentious relationship between Messianic Jews and the state of Israel, including the law of return, the people and promises of God and the land of Israel, the significance of Judaism for Messianic Jews, and the role of Israel in prophecy. In general I find myself in a great deal of empathy with their concerns about their ambivalent place with regards to Judaism given that they are not recognized as Jews by contemporary Israeli courts. Finally, the book concludes with some discussions on practical matters for Messianic Jews and non-Jews, with papers on the problem of assimilation in America, the place of rabbinic tradition in the lifestyle of Messianic Jews, something which I am ambivalent to hostile about personally, and a closing discussion about modern-day Godfearers.
By and large this book only slightly informed me about messianic Judaism given my general familiarity with it. I would say, speaking for myself, that the only papers I found problematic were the one on the Trinity that espoused a nonbiblical view of the nature of God as a way of defending a fallacious view of progressive revelation as well as a vain attempt to be seen as mainstream Christians, and the one on the traditions of the rabbis that sought to appeal in vain to the Jews as a way of being viewed within the Jewish mainstream. To the extent that the papers focused on the Bible and on the complexities and awkwardness of the identity of messianic Judaism, I found a great deal to appreciate and indeed to agree with as far as my own background is concerned. It is striking, though, that the only times when this particular book is less than successful is when the author of a particular paper is trying to be seen as either a mainstream Jew or a mainstream Christian rather than a follower of the whole biblical scriptures, and an acceptance that doing so will make one out of the mainstream both as far as Jews and Christians are concerned.