Edited by Torleif Elgvin. Jerusalem: Caspari Center for Biblical and Jewish Studies, 1993. 167 pages. $15.00, paper.
For one brilliant nineteenth-century Jewish rationalist and disciple of Moses Mendelsohn and Immanuel Kant, proof of the historical reliability of the New Testament came in a most surprising way. When Carl Paul Caspari read the Book of Acts for the first time, he recognized how accurate was the portrayal of his own Jewish people.
A half dozen such gems are found in From Jewish Enlightenment to Lutheran Pietism,” Oskar Skarsaune’s eight-page biography of Caspari, a Jewish Christian scholar. For this essay, Skarsaune went to primary sources in German and Norwegian, including Caspari’s own letters to his mentor, E. W. Hengstenberg. Also included with the article is a fascinating source list of Old Testament studies Caspari co-published with Franz Delitzsch to counter proponents of rationalistic Bible criticism.
This essay is just one of sixteen found in Israel and Yeshua, a festschrift compiled for the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Caspari Center for Biblical and Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.
The volume was edited by Torleif Elgvin, biblical scholar and former director of the Center, with the aim of providing “an encounter with biblical roots, which come to life here in the country [Israel], and with the situation of Jewish Christians through the centuries, in the land of Israel and in the Diaspora” (Preface).
Elgvin’s wide-ranging compilation is on target most of the time, though the essays vary in quality and theological acumen. The article by Carmelite friar and “Hebrew Catholic” Daniel Rufeisen presents an unfortunate call to refrain from evangelism. Though most contributions are by believers in Jesus, two rabbis, Chaim Pearl and David Rosen, also give their thoughts on Jews, evangelicals and Jewish-Christian dialogue. Not surprisingly, they are unsympathetic to the cause of Jewish evangelism. Nevertheless, their essays might be helpful to those not acquainted firsthand with traditional Jewish responses to the gospel.
Readers interested in missions will be partial to the historical essays included because they have so much relevance and application for today’s missionaries. One high point is Ray Pritz’s fascinating look at the encounters of Bible colporteurs working among Jewish people from 1844 to1939 in what was then called Palestine. (Colporteurs were those who traveled about distributing or selling Bibles and other gospel literature.) The direct quotes, selected from the annual journal of the British and Foreign Bible Society, provide admirable missionary models of godly courage and dogged persistence in the face of sometimes violent opposition.
Other profitable essays include that by Ole Kvarme on the compatibility of the gospel and Jewish identity, Kai Kjaer-Hansen’s look at the cost of discipleship for Jewish believers in the first century in the context of suffering and Ray Gannon’s examination of Augustine’s theology of Israel.
Gershon Nerel, Walter Riggans, Mitri Raheb (a Palestinian Christian), Baruch Maoz, Avner Boskey, Torleif Elgvin, Joseph Shulam and David Miller also make contributions to the festschrift.
Israel and Yeshua offers a variety of thinking in the field of Jewish missions, particularly in shaping the movement within Israel. Readers should keep in mind that for Jewish missions and Jesus-believing Jews outside of Israel (where 8.7 million Jews live as compared to 4 million in Israel) other questions and problems might be more appropriate to address.
Israel and Yeshua can be ordered directly from the Caspari Center, P.O. Box 71099, Jerusalem 91710, Israel.
Susan Perlman is First Assistant to the Executive Director of Jews for Jesus and serves as a member of the International Coordinating Committee of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism.