Messianic Judaism

By Anderson, Gerald H. | International Bulletin of Missionary Research, July 2002 | Go to article overview
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Messianic Judaism

Anderson, Gerald H., International Bulletin of Missionary Research

Messianic Judaism.

By Dan Cohn-Sherbok. New York: Cassell, 2000. Pp. xii, 234. $85; paperback $29.95.

Voices of Messianic Judaism: Confronting Critical Issues Facing a Maturing Movement.

Edited by Dan Cohn-Sherbok. Baltimore: Lederer Books/Messianic Jewish Publishers, 2001. Pp. xx, 236. Paperback $17.99.

Gradually some Jewish scholars are giving serious academic attention to Messianic Judaism. Perhaps this is because the Messianic Jewish movement is growing and gaining recognition-once again-as a significant religious community that cannotbe ignored, despite opposition from the Jewish religious establishment.

These are two important volumes from Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok, a wellknown American scholar who is professor of Judaism at the University of Wales in Lampeter. They are groundbreaking studies that deserve attention and appreciation by missiologists for the author's willingness to treat this controversial movement in an open, fair, balanced, informed, even sympathetic, fashion.

In Messianic Judaism Cohn-Sherbok seeks to provide "an objective account of this important development in modern Jewish life," first by tracing the development of Messianic Judaism from its origins in ancient times, then by assessing the movement's claim to represent an authentic interpretation of the Jewish faith, and finally by describing three alternative models of viewing the relationship between Messianic Judaism and the Jewish community (p. xii).

The first model is Orthodox exclusivism. Orthodox Judaism rejects not only Messianic Judaism but all nonOrthodox Jewish movements in the world, since it believes there is only one legitimate form of the faith: Orthodox Judaism.

The second model is non-Orthodox exclusivism. Despite their own rejection by the Orthodox, all other branches of modern Judaism "are united in their rejection of Messianic Judaism as an authentic expression of the Jewish faith" (p. 208).

Third is the pluralist model. Here the author offers "a more tolerant view of the Messianic movement" but does not mention the names of any proponents of this model. Since modern Jewry is no longer united by belief and practice, "pluralists maintain that the exclusion of Messianic Judaism from the circle of legitimate expressions of the Jewish heritage is totally inconsistent" (p.

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