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Exploring Our Hebraic Heritage: A Christian Theology of Roots and Renewal.

Exploring Our Hebraic Heritage: A Christian Theology of Roots and Renewal. By Marvin R. Wilson. Grand Rapids, Ml: Eerdmans, 2014. Pp. xxviii + 304. $22.

Twenty-five years after publishing Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith, Wilson offers here a sequel to that work. While in that prior work, he set out an overview of Jewish-Christian relations and an accounting of multiple points of resonance between the two traditions, in this volume he argues for the necessity of a deep Christian engagement with the Jewish tradition for the sake of ecclesial vitality and renewal. W. writes, "If the withered or rotted roots of today's church are to become revived through a new understanding of the church's Hebraic beginnings, the church must nourish itself from the sources, those central documents vital to Hebraic thought and life that have shaped Judaism over the centuries" (38). Underlying this thesis is the assumption that Christianity is most authentic when it is in dialogue with its Jewish roots. As a corollary, a healthy Christianity is one that treats Jews and the Jewish tradition with respect and mutuality. For W., "Christianity is not a total annulling of Judaism but an expansion and reinterpretation of it" (42). Ideally, Jews and Christians are to collaborate with and not rival each other.

Wilson divides his book into five sections. The first, on the Hebrew Scriptures, argues for always maintaining the Hebrew Scriptures as central to Christian ethics. Moreover, W. argues that Christians ought to learn more about later rabbinic literature, since it offers insights into how Jews historically interpreted Scripture and provides a context for understanding Jesus as a Jewish teacher. In the second section on the shared patriarch Abraham, W. takes a strong anti-supersessionist stance. Rather than claiming the Abrahamic promises to the exclusion of Jews, Christians must understand that "Israel is the people we join" (66). The work of Jesus fulfilled the Abrahamic promises so that the church comes to belong to Israel without displacing the Jewish people as the primary group identified as Israel. The third and fourth sections concern God and the worship of God, with the fifth, and final, section turning to the future of Jewish-Christian relations. In this section, W. again rejects the long tradition of Christian supersessionism. Using the work of the Jewish theologian Michael Wyschogrod, Wilson believes that Christians should understand themselves as adopted members of Israel--grafted into the olive tree--but not core members of it.

In theological terms, W.'s efforts to have his Christian readers identify spiritually as partners with Judaism while resisting supersessionist thought is the most stimulating part of this book. While often referencing the importance of engaging with rabbinic literature, W. mostly focuses on the Hebrew Scriptures with rarer expeditions into rabbinic texts (with the exclusion of Pirkei Avot) and a stronger engagement with Abraham Joshua Heschel's thought. The book as a whole has a strongly Protestant evangelical flavor and will likely find its strongest reception among readers from that tradition. Although the evangelical perspective on Jewish-Christian relations is welcome, a deeper engagement with scholars from this Christian tradition, such as Kendall Soulen, or with Peter Ochs's assessment of Christian postliberal theologians, would have provided a more sustained theological discussion. W.'s biblically grounded argument for a nonsupersessionist identification of the church with the mission of the Jewish people, both carrying the mantle of Israel with differing valences to that title, is a helpful contribution that provides a foundation for future investigation and development.

DOI: 10.1177/0040563915593486

Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski

Seminary of the Southwest, Austin
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Author:Joslyn-Siemiatkoski, Daniel
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2015
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