Monday, August 23, 2010

Book Review: Jesus Was A Jew

book cover

Jesus Was A Jew
by Arnold Fruchtenbaum

Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Broadman Press
First Released: 1974

Source: Bought through

Book Description, my take:
Before Jesus was born, what did the Jewish teachers believe the Messiah would be like and, based on their Scripture, what did they expect him to do when he came?

What do their own writings reveal? Mainly, the expectation of two separate Messiahs: one the suffering servant, the Son of Joseph (in reference to the Genesis Joseph) and the other a conquering king, the Son of David. This view was still held by many Jews even after Jesus, but then rejection of Jesus as the Messiah led to some Rabbis reinterpreting certain Hebrew Scriptures in new ways that were no longer Messianic. But these reinterpretations don't fit the plain reading and traditional views of the passages.

In Jesus Was A Jew, Arnold Fruchtenbaum explores what Jews currently think about Jesus, examines the Scripture and old writings to see what the tradition view of the Messiah was, shows how Jesus fulfilled these prophecies (as the suffering servant), explains why Jesus had to die, answers Jewish objections to Jesus, and explores the definitions of a Jew, Gentile, and Christian.

Jesus Was A Jew explored what the traditional Jewish view was of what the Messiah would be like and what he was coming to do, then it examined how well Jesus matched these expectations. The target audience seemed to be Jews, but Christians will find this information very interesting as well, especially if you wish to discuss Jesus with non-Messianic-Jews.

The author examined what the Hebrew scriptures said about the Messiah with a focus on those passages that modern Jews are usually taught have nothing to do with the Messiah. He quoted the Talmud, Midrash, Targums, Septuagint, and more to show what pre-Jesus Jewish teachers taught about the Messiah (especially in reference to these passages).

The author also explained why Jesus had to die, answered Jewish objections to Jesus, and explored the definitions of what it means to be a Jew, Gentile, and Christian.

The book was well-written, interesting, and easy to understand. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those who want to know how to respond to Jewish objections to Jesus as the Messiah or who want to know a little more about the pre-Jesus view of the Messiah.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter Two
Anyone who sets himself to the task of seeking to know what the Old Testament has to say about the coming of the Messiah soon finds himself involved with a seeming paradox. At times one even seems to be faced with a outright contradiction. For the Jewish prophets gave a two-fold picture of the Messiah who was to come.

On the one hand, the inquirer will find numerous predictions regarding the Messiah which portray him as one who is going to suffer humiliation, physical harm, and finally death in a violent manner. This death was stated by the Jewish prophets to be a substitutionary death for the sins for the Jewish people. On the other hand, he will find that the Jewish prophets also spoke of the Messiah coming as a conquering king who will destroy the enemies of Israel and set up the messianic kingdom of peace and prosperity.

This is the two-fold picture the Jewish prophets gave of the Messiah. For centuries past, during the formulation of the Talmud, our rabbis made serious studies of messianic prophecies. They came up with this conclusion: The prophets spoke of two different Messiahs.

The Messiah who was to come, suffer and die was termed Messiah, the Son of Joseph (Mashiach ben Yoseph). The second Messiah who would then come following the first was termed Messiah, the Son of David (Mashiach ben David). This one would raise the first Messiah back to life and establish the Messianic kingdom of peace on earth.

.... For centuries Orthodox Judaism held the concept of two Messiahs. Since the Talmudic period, however, in the history of the Jewish people the Son of David alone was played up in the imaginations of Jewish hearts and minds. The other messianic figure, Messiah, Son of Joseph, the suffering one was ignored.

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