20 Aug 2022

Finding Messiah: A Journey into the Jewishness of the Gospel (Jennifer M. Rosner)

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Books, Church, Jesus, Journey
Jennifer Rosner has gifted us in this wonderful book.

James is a Jew. Peter is a Jew. John is a Jew. Jude is a Jew. Matthew is a Jew. Mark is a Jew. Paul is a Jew. And according to a good number of New Testament scholars, Luke is either a Jew or likely a proselyte. The New Testament writings are Jewish writings. Jennifer Rosner is a Jew. Like all the Jews just named, she also believes in Jesus, who is also a Jew. Jennifer is a scholar with a PhD in the history of Jewish and Christian relations. But she has a gift for communicating in writing.

In today’s world, most Christians however are not Jewish and most Jews are not followers of the Jew from Nazareth. Jennifer has given us a wonderful blessing in her book Finding Messiah: A Journey into the Jewishness of the Gospel. She blends her personal story of discovery and finding faith in the Messiah with unique windows on the very Jewish character of the writings of the New Testament and the of the Way itself. Having grown up in what might be called a secular Jewish home, Jennifer rediscovers he own Jewishness through finding the Messiah.

There is a problem. Gentile believers in the Messiah tend to forget that Jesus is a Jew and overlook the Jewish character of the New Testament. And for many who remember these are treated as irrelevant to understanding Jesus and the Way. But in thirteen chapters, we are eased into a journey of discovery for ourselves. We too are “finding Messiah” along with Rosner. What we find is that Jesus was as Jewish as any other rabbi in Galilee and Judea.

We Gentile believers often miss quite a bit for several reasons. First, we do not know our Hebrew Bibles (which most call the Old Testament). Second, we do not know Second Temple Judaism. And third, we do not know any Jews. Even though Christians claim the Old Testament as Scripture many embrace the worst of caricatures of it and seek to divorce Jesus and the New Testament from the Hebrew Bible. Rosner mentions Andy Stanley in this regard but he is by no means alone. These three shortcomings are the opposite of the historical realities of the first century. The NT writings themselves are as saturated with Jewish scripture as any other Jewish document (say for example from the Dead Sea Scrolls). Thirty-three percent of the actual words of the NT are taken out of the “Old Testament.” And the Book of Acts clearly shows that even Paul’s converts were typically (but not exclusively) from among Gentiles that had already attached themselves to Jewish synagogues. But as the faith grew more and more Gentiles entered the Way who knew nothing of the Hebrew Scriptures and knew Jews only from the prevalent stereotypes in the Greco-Roman world. By the end of the second century (perhaps earlier) there we more Gentiles than Jewish followers. And knowledge that was assumed by the writers of the New Testament was lost and frequently replaced with sheer prejudice.

Our journey to the Messiah takes us through eye opening discussions of ritual purity, human bodies, the land, Sabbath and a look at Paul. Many things are lost in translation. Much in fact. We forget that Jesus is actually Joshua, Mary is actually Miriam, James is actually Jacob, the family of the Messiah is simply typically Jewish. Lost in translation is Joshua the Messiah dresses like a Jewish man with prayer tassels just like any Pharisee. Speaking of Pharisees, a Pharisee wrote the Epistles to the Galatians and Romans!

Finding Messiah is a warm book. Rosner pulls us into the her journey so that we too will find the Messiah. the real one. For those in the Stone-Campbell tradition her book should be widely read for it is an invitation to return to the Bible itself. What did Jesus/Joshua actually set out to do? What did Paul the Pharisee who happens to be an apostle to the Gentiles actually teach regarding both Jews and Gentiles. Discovering our Jewish Messiah does not mean, Rosner says correctly, that Gentiles become Jews themselves. But we do become citizens of God’s renewed Israel which is made up of Jews and Gentiles. What it does mean is that some of our doctrine may have to be emended in light of the real Jesus and the real teachings of the very Jewish New Testament.

I could not put Finding Messiah down. I had it read in a single day. Then I read it again. I have already given out four copies to friends. The book comes with a very helpful glossary and questions for each chapter making it ideal for use in small groups and book clubs too. It comes with the usual caveat that I do not agree with every iota but what I might have said slightly different is so insignificant as not worth mentioning.

Be gracious to yourself. Buy a copy of this book. Read it. Buy a copy for your minister and shepherds. Insist that they read it too. Click on the title above to find it online.

Disclaimer: I get no money from reviewing or recommending this book. I have written out of my own feeling this is an extremely important and needed work for Christians to ruminate upon.

Related Links:

Picturing Jesus the Jew: Images Project and Shape Theology

Jesus, Jewish Big Brother: Gospel Truths about Jesus’s Family Hidden in Plain View

Jesus of Nazareth: Does it Matter that the Messiah is a Jew?

The Aryan Jesus: Part 1, Give Me the Hebrew Bible

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