Book Review: The Return of the Kosher Pig

 

 

 

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This is one of the most difficult book reviews I have written thus far. Because this is; I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with The Return of The Kosher Pig.” Hate is probably too strong of a word, but I do find many aspects of this work troubling and potentially dangerous. At the same time, I think the book is an excellent resource for scholars and Historical theologians who would like to investigate Rabbinic thought more thoroughly. The benefits of this book are numerous. First off, It is very well researched. The shear scope of rabbinic material this work compiles makes it worth the price of the book. The first section of the book that deals with the historical and theological framework of Jewish thought was very helpful. However, the average reader will have a very difficult time following the writing style of this work. The non-scholar will most likely find this book hard to follow as well as very dry.

I do believe this book will be helpful for Christian and Jewish Theologians. I personally believe that this is a work that should be on the shelf of very theologian who delights in understanding not only various theological systems, but also who likes to study the Historical development of Judeo-Christian thought. I hold to this opinion not primarily because I agree with everything the book teaches (I certainly do not) but because I believe it provides helpful insight into the Jewish offshoot of Christianity known as Messianic Judaism. To be clear, I am sure there are many Messianic Jews who are faithful Followers of Jesus/Yeshua. However, Messianic Judaism has many dangers that I think are represented well in this work. The potential dangers of Messianic Judaism are where I find most of the weaknesses in this book. To begin with, the title of the book is very off putting. Though I understand the logic behind why it was used, it still sounds almost if not completely blasphemous. The author and publishers should have definitely considered a more appealing name for this work. But what can you expect, controversy sales. I believe there are a few exegetical issues as well, but my chief concern is the framework of Messianic Judaism itself. I am happy that Rabbi Shapira affirmed that there was a distinction between Messianic Judaism and Christianity early in the book. Many well-meaning Christians have assumed that Messianic Judaism are just simply Jews who are Christians. However, this is not the case at all. Messianic Judaism has very close ties to the Judaizers whom Paul rebuked in his day. Though not as radical they do share many of the same trends. If you Notice, Shapira rejects the idea of a “Pastor” and continues to refer to himself as a Rabbi. His congregation is not referred to as a church but as a synagogue. He still continues to practice Judaism as well as all of its festivals (presumably), he just also happens to believe in the messiah as well. There is nothing wrong with wanting to hold on to tradition, but many times within Messianic Judaism, there can also be a form of Jewish elitism that was also accustom in the first century church. Several times in this work, Shapira reemphasizes again and again that he does not consider himself Christian. Yet, first century Jews who followed Christ had no problem the title. It appears that Shapira believes he has more in common with unbelieving Jews than he does with Christian Gentiles. This is not only incorrect but it is a misunderstanding of the nature of the Gospel. In short, Messianic Jews can place much more authority in tradition and heritage than what the Bible calls for from Jewish converts. The greater glory of the New Covenant that is spoken of in Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36, Romans, and Hebrews can sometimes appear to be missed by Messianic Jewish brethren. You can see this specifically in this book by the simple reality that the author spends so much time giving commentary on older Rabbis and extra-biblical works that are not revelation. I definitely believe there is a place for this, but the book often left me pondering on how much the author invests in extra biblical writings. Even when engaging with Jews, is not the Gospel the power of God unto salvation? Is it not the Word of God that is sharper than any two-edged sword?

For the very reasons why I think this book is helpful for scholars, I think it is unhelpful for lay Christians. I would go as far as to say I think it could be a stumbling block for many gentile Christians. I think this book lacks faith in the sufficiency of Scripture in Jewish evangelism. With that being said, I still think this book is an excellent contribution to academia as well as to those desiring deeper theological discussions about Judaism.

I do want to be clear, I am addressing these things as potential dangers and I am not asserting that they are present within the hearts or minds of even most Messianic Jews. I do not believe Rabbi Shapira holds to any Jewish elitism. I do, however, believe that the methodology presented in this book has the potential danger. Due to that issue, this book is a mixed bag for any readers who are not scholars or who do not recognize the nuances between Messianic Judaism and Christianity.

In once sense I recommend this book. However, in another sense I would discourage many from reading it.

 

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Reformation Heritage Books and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

About Kyle James Howard

My name is Kyle, I am married to my “high-school sweetheart” and we have 3 children. I have a 7 year-old daughter (Hadassah), a 2 year-old son (Jonah), and 1 year old (Kesed). I am 32 years old and I am currently a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I have an Associates degree in Biblical & Theological Studies, A B.S. in Biblical Counseling, and I am finishing up an Advanced M. Div in Historical Theology. Click on the "About Me" link at the top of my home page to read my full testimony.

2 Responses to “Book Review: The Return of the Kosher Pig”

  1. Kyle,

    Thank you for contributing to the Return of the Kosher Pig Blog tour.

    In Christ Alone,

    Dave Jenkins
    Book Promotions Specialist, Cross Focused Reviews

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  1. The Return of the Kosher Pig: The Divine Messiah in Jewish Thought Blog Tour | Cross Focused Reviews - May 26, 2014

    […] as well as to those desiring deeper theological discussions about Judaism.” Reviewer: Kyle Howard (Coram Sanctum) Rating: 3 […]

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