What does the Jewishness of Jesus mean and why is it important? David Mishkin and Craig A. Evans facilitate the conversation around this question in the book that they co-edited: A Handbook on the Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith. Serving as a comprehensive yet concise primer on the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, through thirteen chapters—most of which are divided into four or five articles—this handbook addresses Old Testament background, Second Temple Judaism, the life of Jesus, the New Testament, the early Jewish followers of Jesus, the historical interaction between Judaism and Christianity, and the contemporary period. In the following Q&A with David Mishkin, enjoy some more background information on the book!
1. As you mention in the introduction, the Jewish roots of Christianity is quite a popular topic right now. How do you hope this book will add to the ongoing conversation?
We hope it will bring balance and specifically a biblical perspective. This book covers more issues on the topic than other books, and the articles are in depth yet concise. The acknowledgement that Jesus was a Jew affects much more than how we look at Jesus (as important as that is), it also raises other questions ranging from Old Testament prophecy to eschatology.
2. How can knowing about Christianity’s roots benefit modern-day Christians?
First, it will add to their understanding of what the Bible actually says. Knowing the original worldview of the Biblical authors is essential to a more in depth reading of scripture. Second, understanding the context will help guard against the anti-Semitism which is running rampant around the world today and can unfortunately be found within Christendom (for example, many Christians still maintain that “The Jews” alone are responsible for killing Jesus). Third, an understanding of God’s plan for the Jewish people will also be helpful in understanding the events in the modern Middle East – distinguishing between the Jewish people in the land of Israel (with whom God is still specifically working) and a secular and less-than-perfect government in Israel.
3. What are some common misconceptions people have about the Jewish roots of Christianity that you tried to combat in this book?
The Jewish roots are not an end in themselves, they are important to help understand what the Bible actually says and to see how history has unfolded since. Also, some advocates of “Jewish roots” place too much emphasis on political agendas in the Middle East. This book affirms God’s ongoing plan for the Jewish people in Israel, but stays away from political issues.
4. The book covers the relationship between Judaism and Christianity throughout history, so of course it was necessary to discuss the Christian persecution of Jews. What do you hope modern-day Christians and Jews will take away from this difficult history?
Modern Christian should understand this long and painful history to better understand their Jewish neighbors, and specifically to understand the common Jewish aversion to “Christianity.” The main obstacle for the Jewish people to understand and embrace Jesus is not theological, it is this history.
5. The final article in the book is focused on Israel College of the Bible’s pastoral ministry program, which Messianic Jewish and Evangelical Arab pastors complete together. Can you explain how the program relates to the wider topic of Jewish roots?
As was mentioned at various places throughout the book, God’s plan always included the people of Israel and the land of Israel. But, the whole purpose of God’s calling the Jewish people was to be a light to the nations. Whereas many evangelicals only consider political agendas, Israel College of the Bible recognizes the primacy of this calling to be a witness. When Jewish and Arab believers learn together, grow together, and do outreach around the world together, it is a testimony to God’s plan.
David Mishkin serves on the faculty of Israel College of the Bible in Netanya, Israel. He is the author of The Wisdom of Alfred Edersheim and Jewish Scholarship on the Resurrection of Jesus.
For more information about A Handbook on the Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith, visit our website.