Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology

At last year’s Borough Park Symposium, Dr. Richard Harvey handed me a copy of his new book, Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology: A Constructive Approach. I promised him that I would review it on my blog.  With every intent to do so I set it down on a “to be read” pile of books … and there it sat until recently.

A year later I am now just getting around to reading it, primarily due to the fact that it is a required textbook for a graduate class in Theology I am taking through MJTI.  However, I wish I would have read this book earlier …

Dr. Harvey has made an important and much needed contribution to Messianic Jewish scholarship, especially since a detailed work like this has not previously been available in one volume.  As our Movement is still relatively new, and up until recently, has had very few truly qualified scholars who could address such matters, not much has been credibly published dealing with the issue of Messianic Jewish theology on an academic level.  However, please don’t think that this book is only for academics.  Harvey’s Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology is an accessible book, and easily readable for educated lay-persons as well as scholars.

Despite the book’s scholarly subject matter, Harvey is an excellent writer who presents the material in an easy to read and understand format.  The book explores various approaches to several theological subjects pertinent to Messianic Judaism, and does a great job of attempting to give a fair and accurate depiction of various perspectives.  I was very glad to see such a balanced approach (although not necessarily surprised, considering it is an academic text).

Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology is a survey of Messianic scholarship on such important topics as: Torah, the Doctrine of G-d, and understanding Yeshua.  He also introduces his work with an introductory overview.

Contents of the Book:

  1. Introduction: Approaching Messianic Jewish Theology
  2. Previous Studies: Anthropology, Social Psychology and Historical Theology
  3. Previous Studies: Theological Studies by Practitioners
  4. The Doctrine of God in Messianic Jewish Theology
  5. Yeshua the Messiah: The Shaping of a Messianic Jewish Christology
  6. Torah in Theory
  7. Torah in Practice
  8. The Future of Israel
  9. Conclusion: The Future of Messianic Jewish Theology

As previously mentioned, Harvey does a great job on the list of topics, a survey of the material, and objectively representing the different perspectives.  My only critique is on his handling of Israel.  Harvey devotes two chapters a piece on the previous studies,  God, and Torah.  However, the weakness is in his handling of Israel.  Harvey combines a theological look at the People and State of Israel into one chapter along with a discussion of eschatology.  This is a big weakness in my opinion as Jewish thought places great weight on the threefold understandings of the G-d of Israel, the People of Israel, and the Land of Israel.  To combine them all into one chapter with eschatology, in my opinion, may either betray some of his own theological positions, and/or maybe the lack of breadth of thought within the Messianic Jewish movement on the theological importance of the People of Israel and on the Land of Israel.  Each of these topics should have been their own chapter – reflecting more of a Jewish approach.  However, this weakness does not detract from the overall value and strengths of the book itself.

There are only a small handful of books that I believe should be an absolute requirement for the bookshelf of any Messianic Jew.  This is one of them.  Every serious student of theology, and every mature member of a Messianic congregation who cares deeply about the future of Messianic Judaism should take this book seriously. My friend Richard Harvey has done a great job surveying the various perspectives within the Movement on important theological matters, and his book has already been a significant contribution to Messianic Jewish scholarship.  I am looking forward to more from him in the future!

About Rabbi Joshua

I'm a Rabbi, writer, thinker, mountain biker, father and husband ... not necessarily in that order. According to my wife, however, I'm just a big nerd. I have degrees in dead languages and ancient stuff. I have studied in various Jewish institutions, including an Orthodox yeshiva in Europe. I get in trouble for making friends with perfect strangers, and for standing on chairs to sing during Shabbos dinner. In addition to being the Senior Rabbi of Beth Emunah Messianic Synagogue in Agoura Hills, CA, I write regularly for several publications and speak widely in congregations and conferences. My wife is a Southern-fried Jewish Beltway bandit and a smokin' hot human rights attorney... and please don’t take offense if I dump Tabasco sauce on your cooking.
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5 Responses to Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology

  1. I started reading this book a couple of weeks/months ago, and so far i’m really impressed and loving it. in between i read “The Return of the Remnant” by Rabbi Schiffman, and started “Postmissionary Messianic Judaism”, but i’ll continue this one as well. i think it’s a great and valuable read for anyone interested in messianic judaism, and to really see that there is not just “one messianic judaism” like there isn’t “one judaism” either.

  2. James says:

    I know it goes. I have more books to read and review than I know what to do with. My days are just packed. 😀

  3. VirginiaMary says:

    Dear Rabbi Joshua;
    Is MJTI promoting a new religion or is the MJTI through study and careful living setting themselves apart to be a holy people as Our Creator is holy.
    Is living a life set apart as holy as our Creator is holy by loving one another the whole of Torah? If yes!
    Then is not our search to see our Creator in all people as our Creator has written through the hand of Moses? If yes!
    Then any direction any one takes that is in agreement with the whole of Torah, Talmud, Zohar as their direction then those who chose to participate will not need a map it already exits in the whole of Torah?
    Shalom

    • Rabbi Joshua says:

      Virginia,

      I’m not sure I understand your question.

      MJTI is not “starting a new religion.” It is a respected MESSIANIC JEWISH educational institution. As an academic institution MJTI teaches subjects that are important – in both Biblical Studies and in the texts and traditions of our people.

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