I've been a pastor for several years. I'm seminary trained and I understand the history of the Bible. It wasn't a shock to see "A Jew Named Jesus" asI've been a pastor for several years. I'm seminary trained and I understand the history of the Bible. It wasn't a shock to see "A Jew Named Jesus" as a book title. But for this pastor, who has never been immersed in Jewish culture, this book was a phenomenally eye-opening experience. Rebekah Simon-Peter offers a distinct flavor that has been missing from much of the Christian culture and provides an entry point for the open-minded Christian to peer over the shoulder of a Jewish woman who has been found by Jesus.
Like Simon-Peter, I have found the Jesus of the Christian Church to be almost devoid of Jewishness, or, as she puts is, "stripped of his Jewishness, divorced from his context, and turned into a Christian." She goes on to note that he was "a very nice Christian, but a non-Jew nonetheless."
Her task is to rejoin these two cultures insofar as this may be done, by renewing the context, explaining the culture, and sharing her experiences of both Judaism and Christianity and the Jewish Christ.
The author provides a detailed story of her journey from Reformed Judaism to Orthodoxy to Christianity to answering a call to preach the Gospel. By following Simon-Peter's journey of discovery and revelation, we are able to overhear a conversation between her found Christianity and the Jewishness she carries within her. And the conversation isn't always easy.
How does one come to worship the Christ who, for her people, has always represented the reason for their persecution at the hands of Christians?
How does one depart the teachings and the teachers of one's childhood?
How does one experience the Christian Church without the often disjointed, preconceived notions of cultural Christians?
The answer this book provided is this: With careful and precise deliberation, and with the loving support of those within both Jewish and Christian communities who understand that the mysteries of our religious beliefs outnumber the facts of our theological understanding.
Along the way she discovers the absence of Jewishness from the Christian images and perspectives on the central figure of our faith: Jesus of Nazareth. Simon-Peter offers us a clear reinterpretation of Jesus through the lens of Judaism and Jewish culture.
As I mentioned before, I have always tried to present Jesus as he existed within his culture of Jewish thinking and behavior. But I found some places where I may have missed the mark. Simon-Peter points out the debates between Jesus and the teachers of the Torah, the scribes, and others. I was taught that these encounters were intended to test and to trap Jesus, but I focused on the trap. Simon-Peter notes that
The Pharisees are the subject of many of these compare and contrast sermons. They have been so often preached as shortsighted, small-With minded, religious frauds who cared only about control that the term has become synonymous with "hypocrite." Just look it up in the Dictionary. To be sure, some of the Pharisees were hypocrites. Even rabbinic writings acknowledge that. Some of the them tried to entrap Jesus and some wanted him dead. Jesus rightly called them on it. But other Pharisees sincerely sought him out, warned him of danger, appreciated his teaching, extended hospitality even when being attacked by him, and argued for open-mindedness.
How did I miss this? No, how did I see this and acknowledge it, and yet fail to incorporate it into the Lenten/Easter dialogue?
But this isn't just a corrective lens for theology and discourse. Simon-Peter points to the rich heritage of Judaism that flowed from the sons and daughters of Abraham to become the followers of Jesus. She notes that the followers of Jesus from the Gospels and the Book of Acts all come from his Jewish family, friends, and neighbors. Even Matthew, who works for the Gentiles, is a Jew -- and hated by his people for collaborating. The Pentecost congregation is made up of believing Jews from many, many countries. The Gospel message delivered by Peter and John is framed in language that points back to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
More importantly, Simon-Peter orchestrates the syncopated melodies of Christian culture together with the harmonies of the Judaism's ancient traditions to provide a rich and varied symphony. I won't ever again be able to hear one without realizing the absence of the other.
If you are a pastor with a seminary education, this book is for you. If you are leading a congregation, and you are unaware of the connections between Judaism and Christianity, this book is for you. The average Christian on the street who thinks of Judaism and Christianity as two separate, unrelated religions -- oh my word, this book is for YOU.
Disclosure: I was asked to review this book by Rebekah Simon-Peter and her publisher. They provided a digital edition through Netgalley. I am grateful for both the copy of the book and the opportunity to read and review it....more
Scot McKnight has covered some new ground here. Naturally, there are several points to be made about fasting as a spiritual exercise. But McKnight hasScot McKnight has covered some new ground here. Naturally, there are several points to be made about fasting as a spiritual exercise. But McKnight has deftly woven the spiritual impact of fasting with the responses of the flesh, reuniting the body and spirit to more closely approach the concept of the soul.
Most fascinating was his simple explanation of fasting as RESPONSE, and not TRIGGER. The idea of fasting to accomplish a goal is practically ubiguitous. But the clear notion that fasting is a response to a grievous and sacred moment turned the idea on its ear.
McKnight's thorough explantion also includes some much needed medical insights to the dangers of irresponsible fasting, and some very simple explanations for those new to the practice....more
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Placing Jesus within the contexts of his own history is the only fair way to accomplish the task of actually coming nearer to the real Jesus of Nazereth. Yancey accomplishes this without dumbing down the details, yet avoiding the trap of overanalysis.
This book carries the same load as NT Wright's book "The Challenge of Jesus," but in a more conversational tone. While NT Wright is a master of concise scholarship, Yancey's journalism background allows for a more pedestrian approach. ...more
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This book describes the efforts of great men and women of the Church to delve into their own prayer life with fervor and authenticity. Inspired by theThis book describes the efforts of great men and women of the Church to delve into their own prayer life with fervor and authenticity. Inspired by their example, one's own prayer life becomes a project in need of attention.
This book should be read carefully, though. There are very few practical applications that are offered; when they crop up, they should be highlighted, memorized, and treasured! ...more
A fantastic book about the life of Thomas Merton. The major impact is the search for a valid connection with the Divine. Merton finds it, and points oA fantastic book about the life of Thomas Merton. The major impact is the search for a valid connection with the Divine. Merton finds it, and points others in a similar direction.
Modern searchers can learn from Merton's desire, if not his methods....more