This review appeared in the Apr-Jun 2010 vol. 167 no. 2 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
To the Jew FirstKregel Academic & Professional, Grand Rapids March 27, 2008
In fourteen chapters theologians and missions practitioners present a strong polemic for reaching Jews with the gospel of Jesus Christ. These essays were originally presented in 2000 in two conferences sponsored by Chosen People Ministries, one in New York City and one in West Palm Beach, Florida. The conferences and the book were “designed to help the church develop a sound biblical and theological basis for Jewish evangelism” (p. 11).
Seven of the fourteen authors are Dallas Seminary graduates and serve as faculty members in seminaries or colleges: Richard Averbeck, Darrell Bock, Craig Blaising, J. Lanier Burns, Barry Leventhal, Michael Rydelnik, and David Turner. Other authors are Arthur Glasser (Fuller Seminary), Arnold Fruchtenbaum (Ariel Ministries), Mitch Glaser (Chosen People Ministries), Walter Kaiser Jr. (Gordon-Conwell Seminary), Kai Kjaer-Hansen (Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism), Richard Pratt (Reformed Seminary), and Mark Seifrid (Southern Baptist Seminary).
Articles discuss Jewish evangelism in Acts (Bock), the prophets and Jewish evangelism (Averbeck), the eschatological future of Israel (Blaising), the Holocaust (Leventhal), lessons in Jewish evangelism from the past century (Glaser), messianic prophecy and Jewish evangelism (Rydelnik). Of interest is the fact that a chapter is included on the Reformed perspective on Jewish evangelism (Pratt). Pratt suggests that replacement theology (in which many Reformed theologians say the church replaces and assumes the blessings of ethnic Israel in the present age) should be abandoned for what he calls “unity theology” (p. 173). He writes, “Gentile believers are made a part of Israel, and thus they, alongside Jewish believers from both Testaments, inherit the promises given to Abraham” (ibid.). Typical of covenant theologians he says that “the NT church is a continuation of OT Israel” (p. 175). And “Reformed theology finds all Mosaic laws valuable for Christian living” (p. 181). Also “Reformed theology has looked to the eschatological new heavens and new earth as the fulfillment of Israel’s hopes of a land” (p. 183; cf. 185). Pratt correctly notes that “Gentiles must carry out evangelism of Jews with a strong sense of indebtedness” (p. 176).
Fruchtenbaum, whose chapter is on Jewish evangelism from a dispensational perspective, discusses whether “to the Jew first” means an ongoing priority of witness to Jews or a historical situation that was true only in the Book of Acts. He argues for the first view, based on Paul’s practice as recorded in Acts 11, 13, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 28. True, the Jews must be reached with the gospel. But does Paul’s experience mean that missionaries and other Christian workers in a given locale (city, village, or neighborhood) must present the gospel to Jews before they present the gospel to Gentiles? Fruchtenbaum’s answer and the viewpoint of the book is yes. However, for the other view see Wayne A. Brindle, “ ‘To the Jew First’: Rhetoric, Strategy, History, or Theology,” Bibliotheca Sacra 159 (April–June 2002): 221–33.
—Roy B. Zuck