Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser, ed. Messiah in the Passover. Kregel, 2017. See here to purchase the book.
Messiah in the Passover contains contributions by people who
are associated with Chosen People Ministries, a group of Jewish
Christians who seek to evangelize to the Jewish people. A number of the
contributors have Messianic Jewish backgrounds: they are Jews who
believe in Jesus, while continuing to practice Jewish customs. Many of
them have advanced degrees from evangelical or conservative Christian
institutions of higher learning, such as Dallas Theological Seminary,
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Moody, and others.
This book discusses the Passover in the Hebrew Bible, the Gospels of
Luke and John, and some of the Pauline (and, for liberal scholars,
Deutero-Pauline) writings. It also covers the treatment of the Passover
within church history, which includes the Quartodeciman controversy
over whether to observe the Passover or Easter Sunday, the phenomena of
Jewish Christianity and Christian anti-Judaism, and Christian
accusations that Jews murdered children in their Passover ritual. There
is a chapter about the Passover in rabbinic literature, and one on the
Afikoman, which, in seders, has long been a matzo that is broken, hidden
(half of it is), found by a child, and eaten at the end of the seder.
Then there are specific chapters that are devoted to the contention that
the Passover alludes to Christian themes, particularly Christ’s work of
atonement and redemption, and two of those chapters are sermons. The
following section includes a sample Messianic haggadah, suggestions on
how to explain the Passover to children and to involve them in the
celebration, and recipes for the Passover. The book also contains a
glossary, maps of the Exodus and Jesus’ final days, a list of the Jewish
months and the months to which they correspond, and other helpful
The book has its advantages. The authors take seriously scholarly
concerns. They are sensitive not to assume that Jesus’ last supper was a
seder, for they recognize that the seder contains a number of rabbinic
aspects. Many argue that the last supper was a rudimentary form of the
seder, appealing to overlaps between the Gospels’ depictions of the last
supper and seders, and statements in writings by Philo and Josephus
about Passover meals. The chapters about the atonement realize that the
Hebrew Bible never explicitly states that the Passover sacrifice atones
for sin, though one of the chapters strenuously labors to connect the
Passover sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible with atonement for sin.
Although the book’s approach to the Bible is largely harmonizing, as
when it addresses apparent contradictions in the Passover rituals and
the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, it does well to reject certain
proposals, and also to highlight the apparent tensions. One apparent
tension that was new to me was that between Deuteronomy 16:3, which
seems to command the Israelites to eat the Passover sacrifice with
unleavened bread for seven days, and Exodus 12:10 and Deuteronomy 16:4,
which command that none of the Passover sacrifice remain the morning
after the Passover evening.
Another interesting argument made by more than one author is that the
Christian Melito of Sardis in the second century C.E. referred to the
Afikoman, and one even contends that rabbinic statements about it (e.g.,
that it is an after-dinner meal, which is forbidden) are a response to
Brian Crawford’s engagement with Colossians 2:16 intrigued me, as one
with a seventh-day Sabbatarian background. Many Christians interpret
Colossians 2:16-17 to mean that Christians need not observe the Sabbath
and Jewish holy days, since they have been fulfilled in Christ. Some
Sabbatarians counter that the Sabbath has not been completely fulfilled,
as it has a future eschatological fulfillment, and thus it is still
obligatory for Christians to observe. Crawford argues that the Passover
will have a future fulfillment, yet he also holds that Gentiles are not
required to observe the Jewish festivals.
The personal anecdotes from people about growing up in Messianic Jewish households added a tone of nostalgia.
In terms of possible weaknesses, the book was rather repetitive, in
that there were cases in which the same ground was covered over and
over. Moreover, one essay suggested that Messianic Jews invite
non-Christian Jews to their Messianic seders, without much recognition
that many Jews might deem such seders to be illegitimate, or see them as
proselytizing tools. Another essay was a little more sensitive to this
issue, as it suggested that Messianic Jews ask Jewish children’s
parents before inviting them to a Messianic seder. More than one author
said that the stripes in the matzo can remind one of Jesus’ stripes,
but were stripes characteristic of ancient matzah, or mainly modern
mass-produced Manischewitz ones?
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.
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