What do I think of Marvin Wilson’s book published by Eerdmans? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
It is always a temptation for some to look for Christianity outside of the Jewish heritage. It’s easy to jump straight to the Greeks. This was much more common before the holocaust took place and then we decided we needed to recover the Jewishness of Jesus. One such book looking at this is Wilson’s book which is not about just the Jewishness of Jesus, but the Jewishness of Christianity.
Wilson’s contention is that the early church did move away from the Jewishness of Christianity early on and to an extent, this would be true. After all, just a few centuries later you have a number of statements of hostility against the Jewish people being made by even church fathers. It is not long before we see the charge of Christ-killers being applied. I do consider it problematic that as far as I know, all the church fathers were non-Jews.
We do damage to ourselves when we do this and we fail to do evangelism to the Jewish people. Wilson’s goal in this book is to return us to how the Jews looked at life. This is not just about theology as theology, but it is also about how Jews looked at every area of life because all of life was about their walk with YHWH. This includes work, marriage, and education.
To begin with, Wilson gives us the history of the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. This involves the way the Jews saw the world and then what happened when the Christians came along. Naturally, this includes questions about who Jesus is and His deity and what it would mean for Him to be the Messiah.
From there, he goes on to look at where the church went wrong. This includes ideas coming up that he considers foreign to a Jewish mindset, such as the idea that someone who is a priest could never marry. In this area also, the way Jews and Christians have approached marriage is quite different. Even in a musical that Wilson recommends, Fiddler on the Roof, tradition is still at the heart of everything and the idea is that the daughters of the main character will have their husbands picked for them and they will be Jewish as well.
One other difference is we tend to think rationally about our faith while Jews think more experientially. We will have hot debates in Christianity about the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Jews thought in block logic where both were to be embraced and somehow it all worked out in the end.
I particularly appreciated the section on learning. Learning is seen as an act of worship. Some Jews might be in situations where their stomachs are empty, but their minds are to be full of the heritage that they were raised in and what we call the Old Testament and the teaching of their rabbis.
Jewish and Christian relations are something that need some more attention in the apologetics and Christian community. I only know of two apologists right off that are doing work in the area of Jewish apologetics. We disagree with Jews on many matters, but we do share a common heritage and we need to be able to use that to reach out to them.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)