Craig A. Evans and David Mishkin, eds. A Handbook on the Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2019. 375 pages. $24.95 (paperback).
Depending on the century in which one finds oneself, the statement “Jesus was a Jew” might invoke laughter, dismissal, or outright anger. As recently as 1941, Walter Grundmann, in his work Jesus der Galiläer und das Judentum, boldly claimed that Jesus “was no Jew” (165–75). Yet from the mid-twentieth century onward, scholars have increasingly realized not only the importance of placing Jesus in his Jewish context but the necessity of doing so if his aims and teachings are to be rightly understood.
Edited by Craig Evans (the John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins at Houston Baptist University) and David Mishkin (who serves on faculty at Israel College of the Bible), A Handbook on the Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith seeks to be a “comprehensive yet concise primer on the Jewish roots of the Christian faith” (p. 4). Including 52 essays by 24 scholars, this book highlights and introduces important topics that should be considered for further study while providing an update on current scholarship.
The book is organized into four parts that follow an agricultural metaphor. Part 1, “The Soil,” contains 21 essays on Jesus’s Bible, the Tanakh (i.e. the Old Testament, organized according to the threefold structure of Law, Prophets, and Writings). This section covers the main themes and concepts of the Old Testament such as God’s plan for Israel and the nations, messianic prophecies, and various Jewish institutions. Part 2, “The Roots,” contains 14 essays on Jesus’s life, his teachings, and the Jewish world of the first century. Part 3, “The Trunk,” contains 12 essays on “the immediate aftermath of the life of Jesus” (p. 3). This section covers the Jewish disciples of Jesus (including the apostle Paul) and how resurrection was understood in the OT, the Second Temple period, and Paul’s theology. Part 4, “The Branches,” contains 5 essays on the time period following the early church. This section explains how the Jewish roots of Christianity began to fade away as the “gentile movement became dominant” and as Jews were “dispersed from Israel” (p. 4). In addition, part 4 speaks on the importance of the fact that, for the first time since the century following Jesus’s death and resurrection, there are currently Jewish disciples of Jesus living in the land of Israel.
This book is a useful introduction to those wishing to understand the Jewish context of Jesus and the early church. It is accessible while at the same time covering a vast amount of topics. Notably, many of the scholars involved are messianic Jews and Israeli citizens. Anyone interested in biblical studies, the interconnectedness of Judaism and Christianity, the historical Jesus, Jewish festivals and institutions, the early church, and redemptive-historical development from the Old to the New Testament will benefit from this resource.
CBS book notices provide brief descriptive summaries and assessments of new publications in biblical studies and biblical theology. CBS book notices are not full academic book reviews. The present book notice was written by Quinn R. Mosier, an M.Div. student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and research assistant for the Center for Biblical Studies and the Spurgeon Library.