by Rich Robinson and Naomi Rose Rothstein, eds.
“So, what’s your view on the Messianic movement?” This loaded question is likely to elicit answers as varied as the respondents.
Purple Pomegranate Productions, 60 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94102, 2005, 198 pages, $10.00.
—Reviewed by Wes Taber, international executive director, AMF International, Lansing, Illinois.
“So, what’s your view on the Messianic movement?” This loaded question is likely to elicit answers as varied as the respondents. The turbulence seen in today’s Messianic movement is understandable when one pictures the roiling confluence of mighty rivers. As Jewish customs and religious tradition merge with Gentile culture and expression of faith in Jesus, muddy waters often result.
Rich Robinson, Jews for Jesus’ senior staff member and trained researcher, offers a helpful resource in gaining clarity. More a digest than an encyclopedia, the aptly named Field Guide provides a survey of the diverse world of Jewish ministries. The first section sketches out mission boards, messianic congregations and related organizations. In part two, Robinson tackles some tough issues that add heat to discussions within and about “the movement,” including the “Jewishness” of Christian theology, “Torah observance” and what may be termed “splinter groups.”
Robinson’s tone throughout is more descriptive than prescriptive, but he does call them like he sees them where he detects error. One example of this is when he points out that not everyone who identifies as part of the Messianic movement is evangelical, for some deny the Incarnation or the Trinity. (The reverse is also true. Israeli scholar Pinchas Lapide has had “second thoughts about the incarnation” and even affirms Jesus’ resurrection. However, he would in no way identify himself as a Messianic believer.)
Non-Jewish readers will gain insights into one of the core issues for Yeshua-believing Jews, namely, their Jewish identity. According to Robinson, “not every expression of Jewishness is a bid for acceptance. Some Jewish believers feel that they will always be a part of the Jewish community—accepted or not—and seek to live out a Jewish expression of their faith.”
The choice of the primary community of attachment is not uniquely a Messianic Jewish issue. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and others who live in religion-infused cultures face the same tensions. But since Messianic Judaism is often cited as an example of cross-cultural contextualization, we do well to know which expression of “Messianic faith” is being modeled.
The Field Guide will not provide easy answers even if these could be found. Robinson shines as a researcher, and supplies us with footnotes, annotated bibliographies and websites for further study. A glossary and overview of the branches of Judaism make this a useful primer for “newbies” and mining Robinson’s suggested reading will advance the scholar’s understanding.
Check these titles:
Gundry, Stanley and Louis Goldberg, eds. 2003. How Jewish is Christianity: Two Views on the Messianic Movement. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.
Maoz, Baruch. 2003. Judaism is Not Jewish: A Friendly Critique of the Messianic Movement. UK: Mentor: Christian Focus Publishing and Christian Witness to Israel.
Kinzer, Mark. 2003. The Nature of Messianic Judaism: Judaism as Genus, Messianic as Species. West Hartford, Conn: Hashivenu Archives.
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