by Knut H. Hoyland and Jakob W. Nielsen, eds.
Caspari Center for Biblical and Jewish Studies, P.O. Box 46, Jerusalem 91000, Israel, 244 pages, 2013, $25.00.
—Reviewed by Jennifer Rosner, an adjunct professor of theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, whose scholarship focuses on contemporary trends in Jewish-Christian relations.
Chosen to Follow: Jewish Believers Through History and Today was published on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the Caspari Center for Biblical and Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, Israel. The primary goal of the Caspari Center is to strengthen and equip the Messianic Jewish movement (particularly in Israel), and this book provides an outstanding resource in this regard.
Studies on the Jewishness of Jesus, Paul, and the New Testament have abounded in recent years, and the theological and ecclesiological implications of this body of scholarship are far-reaching. The impact is particularly relevant for Messianic Jews, whose very identity both straddles and bridges the gap between two religious traditions that have long since parted ways.
Chosen to Follow provides the reader with a window into the contours and fault lines of this new vein of studies while highlighting the way in which the actual life of the Messianic Jewish community embodies and reflects these theological discussions. This book draws together the voices of significant theologians, historians, and biblical scholars from both the Christian and Messianic Jewish worlds. The editors have done an excellent job weaving together this wide-ranging and eclectic collection that is both comprehensive and thorough. Its contents are organized into three main sections: exploring the early history of Jewish believers in Jesus, focusing on modern Jewish believers in Jesus, and addressing the main theological questions and complexities facing the Messianic Jewish movement today.
One of the book’s most significant contributions is its decided emphasis on Israeli Messianic Judaism. Chapters on the legal and civil rights of Messianic Jews in Israel (a historically-marginalized minority group) and reconciliation between Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians reflect the book’s uniquely Israeli perspective. This is the kind of book that both gives voice to and encourages the development of the Israeli Messianic Jewish movement. Likewise, the high quality of its contents speaks to the Caspari Center’s ongoing dedication to fostering the communal and intellectual life of Messianic Judaism in the Land. The way in which Chosen to Follow brings together the diverse perspectives of key Messianic Jewish leaders in Israel offers a promising sign that the long-anticipated cultivation of a uniquely Israeli Messianic Jewish expression is beginning to take shape.
In terms of scope, emphasis, and intention, Chosen to Follow can be seen as a smaller scale Israeli companion volume to Zondervan’s recently published Introduction to Messianic Judaism (Rudolph and Willitts 2013). Viewed together, these two works offer a promising step in the direction of theological and social understanding between the Messianic Jewish communities in Israel and in the diaspora.
Overall, Chosen to Follow (and the ongoing work of the Caspari Center) represents the finest effort to further develop and articulate a mature Messianic Jewish theology that rightfully focuses on life in the land where it all began.
EMQ, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp. 134-135. Copyright © 2014 Billy Graham Center. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.