Messianic Jewish Classics, by various authors
Various titles. David Baron, Adolph Saphir, A. Bernstein. Jerusalem: Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1999-2000.
Jewish believers in Jesus share a common history and destiny. It’s easy to find books that address that destiny in the context of God’s future plans for Israel and the Church. But until now, not much has been available concerning our shared messianic past. It’s therefore a great joy to take note of the recent books coming off the presses of Keren Ahvah Meshihit in Israel. Long-forgotten classics of Jewish evangelism and inspiring stories of messianic Jews of past generations are now springing back to life in print form. Yeshua’s followers in the third millennium will be grateful for the encouragement and edification they provide.
Four re-issued titles by David Baron — Hebrew-Christian statesman and co-founder of the Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel — are back in print (published in conjunction with The Messianic Testimony in the U.K.) They are: “Rays of Messiah’s Glory,” “The Ancient Scriptures for the Modern Jew,” “Types, Psalms and Prophecies,” and “The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah.” Adolph Saphir’s “Christ and Israel” has also been reprinted.
What I found most fascinating, however, was the reprint of A. Bernstein’s “Some Jewish Witnesses for Christ,” originally published in 1909. Arranged by chronological time period (and alphabetically within each period), Bernstein presents testimonies of hundreds of messianic Jews down through the ages. Some read like short notices one would find in a newspaper column:
“ROSENBOHM, a Jewish convert in Sweden, was tutor of Hebrew at the University of Upsala, in 1720. At the Coronation of King Friedrich, he delivered a rabbinic oration, and likewise at the conclusion of peace between the Kings of England, Denmark, and Prussia.”
Other testimonies are more extensive and colorful, and remind us that the concerns of 21st-century Jewish believers in the 21st century are often not much different from those of their 19th-century counterparts. The story of Maurice Ruben is an example. Born in Prussia in 1856, he immigrated to the U.S. and became a believer in Jesus in 1895 at age 39.
“On a Sunday evening in August, subsequent to his conversion, he was awakened from his slumber by the ringing of the door-bell. Responding thereto he found himself face to face with two policemen. He was placed under arrest and taken to the police station without warrant of law.
“He was given no explanation as to the charge which had been preferred against him, and neither on Sunday nor Monday did a magistrate appear to give him a hearing. He was, however, visited twice by two physicians, who conversed with him in a mysterious manner. They introduced themselves as insanity experts. . . . He was visited on the second day by his wealthy brother, who kindly informed him that he had been crazed by religion and was to be sent for treatment to a sanatorium. He was taken that evening by officers of the law to an asylum for the insane.”
The story did however have a happy ending. Ruben’s release was secured by legal means, the judge declaring that “the alleged demented man was saner than those who had pronounced him insane.” Ruben went on to found the New Covenant Mission in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was instrumental in the establishment of the Hebrew Christian Alliance of America. Contemporary Jewish believers who have experienced family misunderstandings, meetings with the rabbi, or even attempts at deprogramming will find that Maurice Ruben’s hundred-year-old story still resonates today.
Beautifully illustrated covers adorn all the volumes, and the printing is cleanly done, though the older plates are used rather than the book being re-set in modern type. Almost all titles are under $20 US including postage from Israel (contact Keren Ahvah Meshihit, P.O. Box 10382, 91103 Jerusalem, Israel. Alternately, here in the States many of these titles can be ordered from Jews for Jesus’ Store.
While a few titles by Saphir and Baron have also been available here in the States, they appear now to be out of print. Only a few books by Alfred Edersheim continue in general circulation. Additionally, a few “messianic classics” can be found in the catalog of Good Books (2456 Devonshire Road, Springfield, IL 62703). Their Scholarly Reprints division provides the Bernstein title as well as Joseph Frey’s “A Course of Lectures on the Messiahship of Christ” from 1844. However, their reprints are little more than photocopies bound between heavy black covers, at a price of $25-30. Reproduced two pages to a sheet, the Good Books reprints are oversized and not nearly as convenient to carry around as the Keren titles.
Jewish believers in Jesus have nearly two thousand years of often-neglected history behind us. We look forward to seeing many more treasures from the past unearthed through Keren’s ongoing reprint program.
Scholar in Residence, Missionary
Rich Robinson is a veteran missionary and senior researcher at the San Francisco headquarters of Jews for Jesus. Rich has written several books on Jewishness and Jesus, and he received his Ph.D. in biblical studies and hermeneutics from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1993.