Tag Archives: Jewish

Thoughts About 2017’s Jewish Philosophical Theology Workshop in Jerusalem

As I mentioned before on this blog, I recently spent some time in Jerusalem for a Jewish philosophical theology workshop. In light of my time there, I decided to write a few blog posts for Fuller Seminary’s Analytic Theology Blog.  Below you will find the links to various blogs, including a blog where I interact with Billy Abraham and a blog where I try to draw some connections between Yoram Hazony’s account of “Truth” and Wolfhart Pannenberg’s account. ENJOY!YSS







The Herzl Institute – Young Scholars Workshop

Today I got word that I was accepted to be a participant at the Herzel Institute (Jerusalem) Young Scholar’s Workshop and Conference on Revelation at Mt. Sinai:

It is with great pleasure that I am writing to inform you that we are able to offer you a place at our Young Scholars Workshop which will take place in Jerusalem on June 12-22, 2017. The workshop will involve a week of classroom seminars and discussions, visits to key sites in Jerusalem, as well as an international conference at which leading scholars in Jewish Philosophical Theology from around the world will present. Our program includes lunches and informal meetings, and plenty of time to engage others in conversation.

During the workshop, participants will present a 15-20 minute symposium paper in response to reading materials that will be sent out prior to the workshop. The paper will be presented in a classroom seminar for discussion by workshop participants and scholars.

We will be discussing topics such as: “The Bible as Philosophy?” “The Metaphysics of Hebrew Scripture”; “Is the Biblical God Perfect Being?”; “What Does It Mean for God to Speak?”; “Bible as a Tradition of Inquiry”; “Approaching God Through Metaphor”; “God’s Plans, Failures and Alliances”; “Should God Be Our King?”; “Discovering a Name of God”; “Who Makes Things Happen in the Bible?”

I would never have imagined I would be going to Israel for a theological conference, let alone have the expenses covered by a scholarship. This is such an amazing opportunity. If you are wondering what the Herzl Institute is, here is some info:


The Herzl Institute will serve as a hub of collaboration, research and joint learning for Jewish scholars, clergy, lay leadership and students who seek better answers to the challenges ahead through a more rigorous engagement with the riches of Hebrew Scripture and rabbinic sources.

The Herzl Institute welcomes the participation of Christian and other non-Jewish scholars and students who see the sources of Judaism as offering an opportunity for foundational renewal within the context of their own nations and faith traditions. The Herzl Institute will conduct an array of intensive outreach activities, including public events, publications, and new media platforms aimed at bringing the fruits of its work to a broad public in Israel and abroad.

The Challenge of Jesus

N.T. Wright has written a plethora of books that span the spectrum between devotional and intense academic tomes. The Challenge of Jesus seeks to place itself somewhere in the middle of this spectrum.

The Challenge of Jesus

In the preface to this book Wright last out three goals that he has in writing this book. The first goal is to maintain historical integrity when talking about Jesus. The second goal is to help Christian disciples to follow the Jesus of Scriptures. The third goal is to help the next generation of Christ followers to love on mission in this postmodern world we find ourselves in. The majority of this book focuses on the first goal, and ends with two chapters that address the last two goals. This makes a lot of sense because if we are going to be able to live as disciples of Christ we need to now who Christ really was.

Wright accomplishes these goals by asking five important questions (p. 33):

1-Where does Jesus belong within the Jewish world of his day?

2-What, in particular, was his preaching of the Kingdom all about? i.e. what was he aiming to do?

3-Why did Jesus die? In particular what was his own intention in going to Jerusalem that last fateful time?

4-Why did the early church begin, and why did it take the shape it did?

5-How does all this relate to the Christian task and vocation today?

He answers each one of those questions in a separate chapter. Regarding question 1 Wright argues that Jesus was leading a messianic movement, not completely unlike other messianic movements of his time (yet also with a radically different twist.) In other words Jesus was announcing the Kingdom of God. Regarding the 2nd question, Jesus was creating new symbols of the Kingdom, the cross and the temple. By doing this he was reconstituting the people of God around himself. All of this pointed to an end of exile which was being accomplished by God in Christ. Why did Jesus die (question 3)? He died because it he believed it was his vocation to for Israel what Israel could not do and he believed that he would undergo the sufferings that Israel deserved for its unfaithfulness in other words, Jesus himself would go into exile and suffer at the hands of the enemy. This answer is related to the 4th question. The early church began because Christ was bodily resurrected, this meant that God was vindicating all that Christ has done. The exile is over and a new creation has begun. Finally the 5th question, how does all this relate to the Christian task and vocation today? Quite simply, Christians are to live as a part of new creation, as a part of this story that has climaxed in Jesus, and they are to live out the truth that Jesus really is the King and Messiah not only of Israel but of the whole world.

Like most books written by N.T. Wright this book excels in its historical portrayal of the facts. Wright certainly has done his research (this book is essentially a condensed version of Jesus and the Victory of God) and his research almost always leads him to surprising, yet orthodox, conclusions. There is no doubt in my mind that Wright gets the historical picture of Jesus right in this book. However what Wright gets wrong, in this book and may other books where he addresses the church in out postmodern setting is in the application of those historical realities. That isn’t to say he doesn’t get the overall contours right – he says “our task is to implement his unique achievement.” (182). That is absolutely right, however the ways he calls the church to implement Christ’s achievement is a little bit off. This has been said of Wright before so I won’t belabor it. Even though he warns against those who emphasize the discontinuity between the present world and the next and throw up their hands in resignation and those who emphasize the continuity between the present world and the next and imagine we can build the kingdom of God by our own hard work he definitely tends to fall a little too much on the continuity side of things. At times he sounds like he has an overemphasized eschatology. Of course he denies this, but its clearly in his writings. However if it comes down to it, I would rather someone work hard for the Kingdom of God than throw up their hands and wait for heaven to come one day. Despite this one small downside in this book I highly recommend it.

In my opinion this short book is the best introduction to Wright’s thought on who Jesus is.

Note: I received this book from IVP in exchange for an impartial review.

There is no Judeo-Christian Ethic…

In Kingdom Conspiracy Scot Mcknight makes an argument that the church in American has bought into the temptation of Constantinianism. This is especially evident in the form of civil religion that has emerged as Roman Catholics, Jews, Mormons, and Evangelicals  have become more and more involved in furthering a particular political agenda.

Here is what he says about this civil religion which is based upon a “Judeo-Christian” Ethic.

There is no such thing as an ethic that is both “Judeo” and “Christian,” for one simple reason: the “Christian” part of the ethical question adds Jesus as Messiah, the cross as the paradigm, the resurrection as the power, the Holy Spirit as the transforming agent, the necessity of new birth, and the church as the place where God is at work. Hence, a “Judeo-Christian ethic” either strips the Christian elements or turns the “Judeo” part into a Christian ethic.

That is a pretty powerful claim. What do you make of it?

Book Review – From Jesus to the Church by Craig Evans

Craig Evans was my first ever professor at Fuller Seminary – he was teaching a summer course on the gospels. That was my first ever exposure to historical Jesus studies, and I have been hooked ever since. So when I was presented with an opportunity to review Evans’ book From Jesus to the Church: The First Christian Generation I jumped on it.

When the Jesus movement started it was almost entirely Jewish – essentially it was focused on the redemption and restoration of Israel. Evans points out that during the first forty years of this movement, Jesus and his followers competed with the religious leaders and the temple establishment for the hearts of the Jewish people. So in its earliest days, Christianity was understood as a Jewish restoration movement. However, Evans points out, when James died, Jerusalem was captured, and the temple was destroyed, the relationship between the Jewish Christians and the non-Christian Jews rapidly deteriorated. This book chronicles the process of that deterioration and it does so through the lens of conflict. Evans understands the major conflict as lying between the “family” of the high priest Annas and the “family” of Jesus of Nazareth. This conflict culminates with the clash of a Christian also named Jesus, who takes a prophetic action against the temple right after James’ death and before the destruction of the temple, and the temple establishment.

As Evans develops the theme of conflict, he asks several questions which lead up to his understanding of the root causes of the Christian-Jewish split. First Evans asks: Did Jesus intend to Found a church? Evans concludes that the answer is yes and no. He did not intend to do so in the way we think of “church” today, however he did intend to assemble a community of disciples who would have embraced his teaching. In addition to these question, he asks about the relationship between the Kingdom of God and the Church of Christ. He asks, what was James’ role within the Christian community? Are James and Paul in conflict when it comes to faith and works? What role does the temple play in the conflicts between the ruling priests and the leaders of the Christian movement? Finally, what does the relationship between Jews and Gentiles look like in the letters of Paul and in the works of Ignatius?

As he concludes this short book, Evans explains that the Temple and competing understandings of the role of the temple was a primary cause of division between Jewish Christians and Jewish non-Christians. Yet there are also other reasons why this division developed. Among these reasons are:

  • Christianity’s aggressive Gentile mission and lenient requirements for entry into the Church
  • The divinity of Jesus
  • Gentiles’ failures to observe Jewish food law, purity laws, and Sabbath observance
  • The Bar Kokhba rebellion
  • Jewish nationalist interests
  • The fact that by definition a Messiah could not be crucified This final reason was the decisive factor for why Jews could not accept Jesus as Messiah.


Evans presents the reader with a very fascinating (and underutilized) lens for interpreting the series of conflicts between Jesus followers and Jewish Religious leaders – namely the Temple. Others, namely Nicholas Perrin, have written extensively regarding the role of the Temple in early Christianity’s self-understanding. Perrin has also made an argument that Jesus and the early church saw themselves as a counter-temple and/or temple restoration movement. This book makes a similar argument, but instead uses that argument to show why Judaism and Christianity ended up splitting.

One interesting chapter in Evans’ book was the chapter on “Phinean Zeal and the Works of the Law.” The role of Phineas and his actions in the Old Testament as well as in 2nd temple Judaism has been an under-explored topic when talking about early Christianity. In fact, even James Dunn only devotes a small section to this topic in his massive theology of Paul. This section will be a valuable resource for those interested in the topic of “Zeal” in Qumran literature and zeal for doing good works in Paul and James.

Also, there are a lot of cool side-bars and pictures of important locations for early Christianity.


This book is a very important resource for understanding the parting of ways between Judaism and Christianity – the very fact that he presents readers with a new lens for understanding that parting of ways makes purchasing this book a must. However the book does suffer from a few flaws. For instance, its not always clear how some of his topics fit into his over all thesis. I mean to say that although these topics are relevant to the parting of ways between Judaism and Christianity, they stray from his “temple” theme.

Another issue that I have with this book is that at times Evans tends to over-Judaize the early church in Asia and Europe. For instance, in a discussion of the seven letters Revelation, Evans says:

Given the Judaic orientation of much of the polemic in the letters to the seven churches, we should assume that the people whom make up those congregations are mostly Jewish. Their opponents are not Gnostics or Hellenizers: they are Jewish skeptics and members of synagogues, who reject the claims that Christian Jews make about Jesus. (132)

I grant the fact that the seven letters are steeped in Jewish categories and language – but one cannot infer from that the fact that the congregations are mostly Jewish. All one can infer for certain is that the author of those letters has a Jewish worldview steeped in the Hebrew Scriptures and other Jewish traditions.


It has been a long time since I have been as excited for a book on the history of early Christianity as I have been for this one. Evans thesis is original, and it makes a lot of sense of the facts. For that reason I believe that Evans’ argument is not only plausible, its is likely correct. Jewish leaders and Christian leaders clashed over the role of the Temple. This clash eventually became separation once the temple was destroyed, and this separation became animosity during the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

(Note: I received this book free of charge from WJK in exchange for an impartial review.)