Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for May 23rd, 2014

Return of the Kosher Pig , by Tzahi Shapira

 
Pick up your copy of “Return of the Kosher Pig” over at Amazon

This is a book written by a Jewish Rabbi name Itzhak Shapira who spent years studying rabbinic Jewish texts and came to the conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah.  The main thesis of the book is that within the traditions of Judaism, the Messiah is understood as someone who is more than a mere man; some sources even suggest that the Messiah possesses divine authority.  Throughout the book the author reminds his readers that he is not arguing that everyone within Judaism accepts the idea that the Messiah is more than a man; instead he argues that the belief in the supernatural origin and character of the Messiah has historically been within the bounds of orthodox Judaism and should not be dismissed as a heretical belief.  Along the way the author also argues that the fulfillment of these characteristics of the Messiah has been fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth.

Before we look at the strength and weaknesses of the book, it is important to make a comment about the controversial title of the book.  My initial reaction to the title was whether or not this was design to provoke and offend.  The author makes it clear in the introduction that he’s not out to offend other Jews unnecessarily, and the tone of the rest of the book affirms that.  What Shapira is trying to do is to play on the Hebrew word “return” and “pig,” which share the same Hebrew consonantal roots.  The title of the book also play on the Rabbinic concept that some held that the Messiah will be rejected like a pig as unkoshered, but one day will return and acknowledged as the Messiah.

STRENGTH

This book will help Christians become familiar with the development of rabbinic traditions from the time of Jesus onwards.  Throughout the book the author regularly footnotes what certain Hebrew phrases mean and the glossary in the back of 300 Hebrew phrases will prove to be helpful for the Gentile readers.  I also appreciate that in the beginning of the book the author defines and discusses essential facets of rabbinic Judaism over the last two thousand years.

Whether or not you agree with the author, one can appreciate that in the beginning of the book he makes it clear what his theological methods are.  Since Shapira desire for his Jewish audience to come to know Jesus as their Messiah he adopts the Jewish hermeneutical system call PARDES which is the Hebrew acronym for P’Shat, Remez, Drash and SodP’Shat refer to the literal reading of the Scriptures, with the other three moving on from the literal and direct level of the text.  These four interpretative methods are explained in the book and the author makes it known that he will adopt this Rabbinic framework in approaching the question of the Messiah.  Non-Jews will no doubt find it fascinating to learn of the hermeneutical approach of Rabbinic Judaism.  I appreciated also that the author stresses the literal interpretation of the Bible comes first before employing the other three methods.

The book is well documented, with hundreds of footnotes.  I am amazed at how many Jewish sources the author cited.  As a result of reading this book, I was able to do some further research including looking up the portion of the Talmud that talks about the Messiah in Sanhedrin 98a.  It is a plus any time a book helps points the reader to the primary sources for further study.

The best part of the book are the moments the author deal with the literal interpretation of the Jewish Scripture and draw out from it what it teaches concerning the Messiah.  In addition I appreciated the discussion of the evidence for Jesus Christ involving the Stone Messianic references that I first learned about from Gregory Harris’ book The Stone and the Glory.  There are some excellent literal prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus—and that should move us to worship if we know Him!

WEAKNESS

At times the book was too speculative in its argumentation.  For instance, the author uses the PARDES method beyond the literal interpretation yielded some strange fruits. Take for example how the author allegorizes the donkey in Zechariah 9:9.  Contextually the Messiah is to ride on according to this passage.  The author took “donkey” to mean “the world” since the Hebrew word for donkey and “substance” share the same root (199).  This commits the exegetical word study fallacy by appealing to etymology.  Then on page 205 the author tells us that bread represents a spark of heaven and is referring to resurrected spirit even though he doesn’t establish his case from the Hebrew Scripture.  This is followed by page 206 that tells us “that the feminine manifestation of God represents the part of that God that we can see and remain alive” (206).  The Bible never indicates God’s revelation to us is His feminine manifestation.  I also wasn’t too thrill about the counting of the numerical value of certain Hebrew words to show the value was equal to another Hebrew word; we never see this kind of hermeneutical ploy used by anyone in the Bible to make sense of the Jewish Scripture.  Again, as I said earlier it is way too speculative.  A book full of these interpretative gymnastic is distracting; I think it would have served the cause better and have the case stronger if the authors just stuck to the literal interpretation and the collobration of those interpretation from Jewish rabbinic sources.

At times the author could have done a better job explaining what he was quoting or who it was he was quoting from and why is it that it is important (note, he certainly does this at times but could do it more).  The list of Jewish Rabbis in the back of the book wasn’t helpful when you are reading through the book and wondering who this or that Rabbi was since the Rabbis were not listed in alphabetical order but according to their time period.

NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher Messianic Jewish Publishers through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest opinion. The thoughts and words are my own and I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

Read Full Post »