Covenantal Conversations: Christians in Dialogue with Jews & Judaism, edited by Darrell Jodock. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008. 218 pp. $22.00.
The Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations of the ELCA has provided a substantive invitation for Jewish-Christian dialogue in their new book Covenantal Conversations: Christians in Dialogue with Jews & Judaism. Its eight chapters, case study, and eight corresponding talking points (with additional resources and discussion guides) provide substantive grist for individuals and groups to explore and build better understandings between Christians and Jews, Judaism and Christianity. With chapters developed by individual members of the consultative panel, they vary in strength. Some reflect years of struggle to comprehend the issue focused in the talking point under consideration. Some reflect less depth even though the matters at stake remain thoughtfully focused. Still, each offering provides an occasion for serious wrestling with the key issues identified by the discussants.
Developed by eight veterans of the dialogue, the contributors offer perspectives on past and present configurations of Judaism; discuss how the covenants of Judaism and Christianity relate to each other; explore ways of viewing classic categories of differentiation like Law and Gospel, Promise and Fulfillment; ponder the difficulties posed by problematic sacred texts, religious pluralism, and the place of land and#hope in the two traditions; and explore the distinctive approaches each tradition offers for healing a troubled world. In addition, a distinctive case study ventures into the tangled terrain of the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The strength of these offerings is that they provide a thoughtful and substantive articulation of the issues at stake in the identified talking points. The responses to each offering, with the exception of Krister Stendahl's response to Esther Menn, are more polite than significant. They generally affirm the gesture being made by their conversation partners without entering into the give and take of more serious dialogue. The best that emerges are questions that point out areas for further reflection. In this regard, one would hope that subsequent conversation would build on these points and develop others, trusting the quality of such dialogue to be instructive and helpful.
The hope manifest in a volume like this one is best realized when local communities read the book in study groups utilizing the talking points and corresponding essays to initiate conversation with their own dialogue partners. …