Saturday, December 20, 2014

Roots and Renewal

Exploring Our Hebraic Heritage, a  Christian Theology of Roots and Renewal is by Marvin R. Wilson, who is Ockenga Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Gordon College in Massachusetts. This actually is his second book on the subject as in 1989 he wrote Our Father Abraham, Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith.  Both books are from Eerdmans, at www.eerdmans.com. I have often wondered why Jews and Christians are so against each other when they share the same God and the same Scriptures. It was definitely a mystery to me, but not so much now that I am reading Wilson's books.

Wilson lays this book out in five parts: Theological Sources and Methods; People of God: An Abrahamic  Family; God and His Ways; An Approaching God; and Moving into the Future. Each part has several chapters, broken down to explain Jewish history and opinion for their 4,000 years, as well as our 2,000 years of Christian history and opinion since the birth of Christ. Wilson claims that Christians need Jewish texts and stories of their culture, to learn what happened when. He offers a "call to explore and to learn more of the richness and depth of the roots of Christian faith."

Wilson believes and teaches that in order to "know and understand the Jewish origins of Christianity we must not limit ourselves to only Christian sources. We need the benefit of engaging Jewish commentaries of Scripture as well."

As the church began to grow in the early first and second centuries after Christ, differences occurred until there began to be "an adversarial relationship between church and synagogue." If we look back through history, we will see the results of that, even down to the Holocaust and on. Wilson urges us to remember that "despite our long and painful adversarial relationship from the close of the biblical era through most of the twentieth century...the areas we share in common are far greater than those teachings, beliefs, and practices that divide us." Christians and Jews do share much common ground, as Wilson points out, but both groups have been uninformed or unwilling to explore and consider these facts. Perhaps the times are changing, on both sides of this divide.

Wish I had more room but here are a few quotes from Wilson: "God owns the book." "There is a pattern throughout the Scriptures: "God initiates; man responds." And "it might be surprising to many Christians, to discover that the first five books of the Bible, the Law of Moses, is the place where Christians and Jews often find considerable common ground. Themes such as creation, covenant, redemption, revelation, worship, holiness, love, compassion, moral law, ethics, and social justice are central to the teaching of the Torah and are correspondingly foundational  to Christian biblical thought." Marvin Wilson, with his books and teachings for those who are listening, may continue to turn the tide and bring Christians and Jews together, as we should be.

---Lois Sibley,
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