I am the son of a rabbi/pastor of a Messianic Jewish congregation. I preface this review to say that I have been raised with a love for Israel and the people, as well as an expectation that someday, hopefully soon, Israel will submit to the lordship of her Messiah, Yeshua HaMashiach. But that is not to say that this issue is without difficulties, as it will force the Christian to have a better understanding of nature of covenants and will expose hermeneutical weaknesses. Do the Jewish people have a future in God’s redemptive plan? What role does the land of Israel/Palestine play, if any? Are the covenant promises of God towards Israel fulfilled in Christ through the believing church? These are massive topics, with answers that carry massive ramifications.
A new book, edited by Professor Darrell Bock and Dr. Mitch Glaser, The People, The Land, and The Future of Israel, is a much needed, detailed, systematic work that addresses many of the questions and issues centered around God’s redemptive plan of Israel and if/how it applies to the land. The book works systematically through the Scriptures with essays being written by learned scholars that specialize in their respective topics. From the first section, dealing with the Hebrew Scriptures, I found Dr. Chisholm’s essay to be spot on and the most helpful. From the New Testament section, Dr. Vanlanignham’s treatment of Romans is worth highlighting. In it, he takes NT Wright to task for poor exegesis of Romans 9-11 and what, specifically, Paul means by “Israel” in that critical passage. However, I was disappointed that he didn’t specifically address how Romans 11:28 (“as regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake”) should be understood by today’s Christian trying to deal with ethnic Israel. Finally, Dr. Blaising’s essay on Israel and Hermeneutics has helpful, though I know that other, larger works by Dr. Blaising have provided the reader with a more detailed justification for his position. I could have done without Pastor Epstein’s essay on “Israel and the Local Pastor” as his was the essay that introduced some political issues, but failed, in my estimation, to keep the Gospel of Christ front and center. It is my opinion, that God, and God alone, is the keeper of Israel; not the US military, not Prime Minister Netanyahu, not the United Nations.
I happen to subscribe to the Progressive Dispensational camp, but spend most of my time reading Reformed Theology and philosophy. What a joy it was for me to read such solid, biblical exegesis of key passages, knowing that I am not alone in my positions. But whether one holds to the same theological positions as the editors and contributors, this is a valuable read for a very relevant conversation.
Allow me to make some critical observations regarding this book. Mr. Rosenberg, in his forward, compliments the editors and authors of this book for creating a book “that is the first of a kind, and one that is immensely practical for anyone trying both to understand these issues – not through the lens of politics, but through the lens of Scripture – and to communicate these biblical truths to others.” I agree, without reservation, that Scriptures should form our political views and not vice-versa and this book does a solid job, for the most part, of placing Scripture ahead of politics. However, it would have been nice to work out the political ramifications of these theological truths with the existential issues of our day. For example: how can a Christian “support” Israel without offering unqualified support for the Israeli government? What is the Christian response to Israel when Israeli commandos boarded a flotilla headed to Gaza with needed supplies? Does the Gospel allow for the military support (from the United States et al) of Israel? Should the occupiers of the land been compensated when the State of Israel came back into existence in 1948? Unless the stated point of this book was merely to provide the Scriptural and theological justification for the positions held by the author, then I understand the silence on the questions I have proposed. But then, there would need to be no inclusion of the other political issues raised by this book. Why did they address some and not others? Why did they only address political issues that would view Israel in a favorable light? In dealing with the Scriptures, why did the authors fail to address Paul’s statement that, “as regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.” (Romans 11:28). How can Rosenberg and others refer to Israel as their brothers when they remain in a state of unbelief? Are Christians called to offer Israel unqualified support even while they remain spiritually isolated from their Messiah? It greatly agitates me that this book would walk right up to the edge then leave all of these issues unresolved.
For the record, I am convinced that Joel Rosenberg’s name should not be anywhere near this book for reasons that go beyond this review.
Having said that, I do recommend this book. It is needed and does an outstanding job of addressing the relevant biblical passages.
By way of disclosure, a copy of this book was provided to me by Kregel in return for an honest evaluation, which I have provided.