Restoring The Jewishness Of The Gospel, by David Stern
David Stern is one of the most notable Messianic Jews of the last generation or so, and this book gives his thoughts with regards to how Christians need to better understand the Gospel and its Jewish context and then evangelize Jews with sensitivity and attention paid to this context. In contrast to a great many people, the author does not appear to be under illusions that the only problem that Jews have with the Gospel message is the lack of graciousness with which it has often been associated, though this is a subject that the author spends considerable time and effort on nonetheless. By and large the author attempts to argue, in the main successfully, that most ideas of the Gospel message are themselves anti-Semitic and unbiblical in that they ignore the pro-law attitude of the Bible and seek to induce Jews to violate the law to prove that they are Christians. If there is anything that can be said as a criticism of the author’s view of Judaism is that it appears to be far more positive towards the Talmud and various traditions of the Jews than the Bible itself is, given that the Bible makes a firm distinction between its support of biblical law, properly interpreted, and its criticism of the way in which Pharisees claimed the authority to bind both Jews and Gentiles according to human traditions.
This book is a short one at less than 100 pages and it is divided into a few chapters. The author starts with the assumption that the reader already believes or is open to the idea of the Jewishness of the Gospel and of the veracity of the Gospel message as a whole. The author then presents a discussion of elements of the Gospel that have a clear Jewish context that is often not understood by others as well as a discussion of different missionary approaches and how they would apply to a Christian who wish to evangelize to Jews but first needs to understand the truth of the Gospel before seeking to re-translate an originally Jewish Gospel into a Jewish tradition that has sadly departed from biblical ways (although the author does not appear to acknowledge this problem) but maintains a Jewish tradition that is not always respected by Christians. The author also spends a lot of time trying to defend the Jewishness of Paul (and Jesus) and making the sensible interpretation that just as Paul was confident in his obedience to the various biblical laws that so too Jewish converts can avoid having to eat ham sandwiches to prove that they are Christian. And with that this reader at least can wholeheartedly concur.
What does one mean by the Jewishness of the Gospel? If one means the received biblical law and prophets and writings, and the proper interpretation of the New Testament that emphasizes the continuity between the two testaments, then there is little to disagree about. If one means the rabbinical tradition that marked a compromise between the Bible and the Hellenism that led to the rabbinical tradition, then a great many people who would be favorable to the biblical law would be hostile to the Talmud, which has some very unflattering things to say about Jesus Christ and Christians, it should be remembered, and would need to be repented of by any believer who would seek the legitimacy of Jewishness. The author also appears to fail to recognize the pro-law tradition within Christianity that has lasted throughout the centuries, going straight from the Hellenistic Christianity of the third and fourth centuries to the author’s view of the founding of Messianic Christianity in 1988 or so, not recognizing the role or importance of Sabbatarian Christianity that was frequently devoted to an obedience of the biblical food laws and other folkways of Jewishness that the author would otherwise view highly.