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Book Review: To the Jew First

To the Jew First, which takes the Apostle Paul’s proclamation in Romans 1:16 as its organizing principle, is a collection of papers that were offered at a series of conferences of the same title in New York City and Florida in 2000 and 2001. Contributors from a variety of learning institutions and theological perspectives considered the mandate for Jewish evangelism from three viewpoints: biblical, theological and missiological.

In the first section, the scholars wrestle with the meaning and application of the Bible itself with regard to Israel and Jewish evangelism. It includes “For the Jew First: Paul’s Nota Bene for His Gentile Readers” by Mark A. Seifrid, “Jewish Evangelism in the New Millennium in Light of Israel’s Future (Romans 9-11)” by Walter C. Kaiser, “The Book of Acts and Jewish Evangelism: Three Approaches and One Common Thread” by Darrell L. Bock, “Jesus’ Denunciation of the Jewish Leaders in Matthew 23 and Witness to Religious Jews Today” by David L. Turner and “The Message of the Prophets and Jewish Evangelism” by Richard E. Averbeck.

The second section takes up the task of the theologian, which is to unpack the revealed truth of the Scriptures and to explore how it addresses the world and the body of Messiah. The articles in this section engage the issues regarding Israel’s future and Jewish evangelism from a variety of theological perspectives. It includes, “The Future of Israel as a Theological Question” by Craig A. Blaising, “The Holocaust and the Sacred Romance: A Return to the Divine Reality (Implications for Jewish Evangelism)” by Barry R. Leventhal, “The Chosen People and Jewish Evangelism” by Lanier Burns, “To the Jew First: A Reformed Perspective” by Richard Pratt and “To the Jew First in the New Millennium: A Dispensational Perspective” by Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum.

The last set of papers tackles the question of how sound biblical teaching and theological reflection Inform the mission of the Church’s mission to the Jewish people and the challenge of making the gospel intelligible the broad spectrum of the Jewish community. This is no small task, for it involves overcoming the many obstacles that have so damaged the church’s credibility in the eyes of Jewish people throughout the centuries.

This section includes, “Lessons in Jewish Evangelism from the Past Century” by Mitch Glaser, “Jewish Evangelism in the New Millennium: The Missiological Dimension” by Arthur Glasser, “The Ongoing Importance of Messianic Prophecy for Jewish Evangelism in the New Millennium” by Michael Rydelnik and “One Way for Jews and Gentiles in the New Millennium” by Kai Kjær-Hansen.

Each of the authors writes from an evangelical slant. Although some differences may be discerned, for example, between the view of the dispensationalist Fruchtenbaum and the Reformed perspective of Richard Pratt, the principle that unites them all is the understanding that the Jewish people are important not merely because of the context of the Gospel, but because of role of the Jewish people in God’s unfolding will. Each paper, in its own way, seeks to undo the errors of a “Replacement Theology” that dismisses as obsolete the promises of God to the Jewish people.

The authors included in this collection represent some of the best-respected voices in the evangelical world. The layperson may have to work a bit harder than usual to overcome the challenge of some of the scholarly language presented here, but the effort will be rewarded.

Written by Alan Shore

Darrell L. Bock and Mitchell Glaser, General Editors. To the Jew First, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2008.

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