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Messianic Judaism: A Rabbi's Journey Through

A book by Carol Harris-Shapiro Rabbi/Assistant Professor

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Messianic Judaism 101: A Good Start

  • Aug 8, 2010

This book was a smooth read, and perhaps a different source of insight than the usual sources on Messianic Judaism (i.e. practioners and supporters)...  There's nothing like an outside perspective to really shed light on things as people tend to be oblivious to the basic components of their own cultural existence.

If you're interested in finding out more about this (seemingly) new religious movement, then take a peek at this work.  Here's the story: a reconstructionist (far-left/liberal) woman rabbi, takes the time to investigate what she sees as a multi-faith fusion (Christianity-Judaism) of Messianic Judaism.  This, of course, is not an ecumenicism, as any practioner will find, but at least as seen by its participants, is a restoration of original scriptural foundations which were supersets of the modern divergent sects.  She doesn't seem to recognize this, even by the end of the book, where she makes the (ridiculous*) proposition that in the future we may see crossovers between other religious traditions, such as Orthodox Judaism and Catholicism.

The Rabbi discovers (contrary to one's assumptions as a Christian might be) that Messianic Judaism was a lot stricter compared to "liberal Judaism" which many experiened from her viewpoint.  Anyways, her dive into this culture-faith-religious mix, leads her to some interesting insights, and a lot of encounters that stretch her belief system.  She clearly has some leanings towards an inclusivist or even syncretic understanding, definitely interested in tolerance, and unlike many in the "tolerance" movement, she does not hold the hypocritical standard of being tolerant of all but the intolerant. 

Told in an easy-to-read almost-conversational style, the author gives us blow-by-blow accounts of some of her interactions with Messianic Jews, and offers some interesting thoughts on what her feelings where.  It was interesting to note, that when she referred to Jews become believers in Yeshua (Jesus), she used terminology like "coming to Know the Lord" without introducing her own quotation marks to place those concepts in the subjective category.

Very good historical research is also included to give (at least a Jewish perspective on) information about the origins of Messianic Judaism.

*The Christian and Jewish convergence in Messianic Judaism, is not due to an ecumenical impulse towards inclusivistic belief, but rather occurs in spite of it.  The resulting theology is one akin to evangelical Christianity, which is highly exclusive.  The transition occurs in the lives of Christians and Jews because of embracing certain absolute standards (whether correct or not) which are not (at least perceived to be) based on human traditions which can be mixed and matched at will, but rather on divine directives.

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Quick Tip by . August 08, 2010
A very sympathetic introduction to the world of Messianic Judaism, to those ultimately familiar only with the (salient) categories of "Christians" and "Jews"...though the author herself is a non-Messianic reconstructionist Rabbi, the telling is not antagonistic, and in some places, uses words that are almost overly-embracing! Nevertheless, a very good book for those at the edges of the Messianic movement and considering joining, at least as far as getting a better understanding.
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About this book


In this ethnography, Harris-Shapiro (Temple Univ.) describes her research into Messianic JudaismAsomething she shows that both Protestantism and Judaism view as taboo. Messianic Judaism wants Jews to complete their faith by accepting Yeshua (Jesus) and for Christianity to return to its Jewish roots. The movement works for people who want to practice both Judaism and ChristianityAsay, intermarried couplesAbut leaves little room for Gentiles. Though the responses to Harris-Shapiro's questions sometimes lack substance, her cogent and lucid writing allows her to present an unbiased academic study of a community's theology. The main value of this book, though, is its explanation of why and how both Christianity and Judaism reject Messianic Judaism. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries where collections support programs in religion, Judaica, or Christian traditions.ANaomi Hafter, Broward Cty. Lib., Fort Lauderdale, FL
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to theHardcoveredition.
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ISBN-10: 0807010413
ISBN-13: 978-0807010419
Author: Carol Harris-Shapiro Rabbi/Assistant Professor
Genre: Religion & Spirituality
Publisher: Beacon Press
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