A Handbook On The Jewish Roots Of The Christian Faith, edited by Craig A. Evans and David Mishkin
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Hendrickson Publishers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
It is very hard to have a perfect book when one has a large number of contributors dealing with a contentious matter like the connection between Christianity and the world of late Second Temple Judaism, but this book does a very good job in the vast majority of its articles by a diverse set of readers from various perspectives, and if it is not a perfect book it is certainly good enough to wholeheartedly recommend for those who like reading about early Christianity and the relationship between Apostolic Christianity and the Judaism of its time as well as Hellenistic Christianity. As these happen to be interests of mine, I was happy to read this book and as I know that other readers have these interests, I wholeheartedly recommend this book as a worthwhile handbook on the beginnings of Christianity and the world from which it sprang. For those who wish to follow the example of early Christianity, this book is especially valuable in the way that it connects the Hebrew scriptures to the New Testament in a thoughtful way and examines some of the implications for Apostolic/Jewish Christianity.
This particular book of about 300 pages is divided into four parts, thirteen chapters, and numerous smaller treatises written by a wide variety of authors, most of whom are unfamiliar to me. There are five chapters in the first part of the book, which looks at the soil from which Christianity sprang (I). There are five papers that deal with God’s plan for Israel in various covenants (1), three that deal with God’s plan for the nations in the law, prophet, and writings (2), four papers that look at Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures as well as the use of the Hebrew Scriptures in the New Testament, six papers that look at various appointed times in both the Hebrew scriptures and New Testament (including Purim and Hanukkah, the former of which is revealed to have a lot of pagan customs attached to it) (4), and three papers that discuss the tabernacle and temple and its importance (5). The second part of the book contains three chapters that look at the roots of Christianity in second temple Judaism, with five papers in a chapter on the Jewish world of Jesus (6), five papers on Jewish life and how it affects Jesus’ identity (7), and four papers on the Jewish teachings of Jesus (8). The third part of the book examines the trunk of Christian doctrine, including four papers in a chapter on the Jewish disciples of Christ (9), four papers on the Jewish Paul (10), and four papers on the Jewish message of resurrection that one finds in the whole Bible (11). The fourth and final part of the book looks at various branches, with three treatises that look at the parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity through the Middle Ages (12) as well as two papers that looks at how there can be a mending of the ways between Judaism and Christianity (13), after which there is an index of modern and ancient authors discussed in the book as well as various figures.
This particular book should be appreciated as a reference book that has a wide variety of areas of interest. While some of the writers are Trinitarian and do not have a high view of the Sabbath laws or kashrut laws of clean and unclean meats, a great many of the writers, by far a majority, have a praise of Christianity that honors its biblical origins and has at least some critical comments for the Hellenism that strongly influenced Judaism as well as Christianity. While I firmly believe that the return of Jesus Christ will lead to a reconciliation between Judaism and Christianity and a drastic change in the worship practices of both, I am not sure what will happen short of that which will make Apostolic Christians less of outsiders in either the worlds of mainstream Judaism or Christianity. The authors are clear that Jesus’ teachings did spring from the culture of His time, and some even concede that Paul’s hostility to the law has been exaggerated because there were those in his time who believed that they could earn salvation through good works (as is still believed in Orthodox Judaism and numerous other heathen sects), and there is a lot of worthwhile reference material to be found here that connects Christianity to its whole biblical heritage, something we should treasure highly.