Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review of McKee's "Are Non-Jewish Believers Really a Part of Israel?"

In the opening of McKee's book, he identifies a viewpoint regarding G-d's elect that has been causing severe problems in the Messianic movement, a viewpoint that sends the following message to Non-Jewish Believers:

"...just stay put inside [church] and [don't] make any significant lifestyle changes," (pg. 47).

As a consequence, the Non-Jewish Believers who have been trying to respond to G-d's calling for them to join His People and live a sanctified lifestyle, are instead becoming very confused regarding how they should identify and what they should practice (pg. 22). Some of them, struggling to find a place of solace and comfort, have even resorted to attending non-Messianic synagogues which, in certain cases, has led to an outright rejection of Yeshua.

Challenging the notion that the Body is composed of two sub-communities known as "Israel and the Church", McKee contends that the Body is really an enlarged realm of Israel in which both Jews and Non-Jews are equal citizens:

"...the ekklesia...[is] an enlarged Kingdom realm of Israel, which welcomes in the redeemed from the nations as equals," (pg. 48).

McKee proposes that this view, which can be termed "Grafted-In Ecclesiology", will ultimately result in, "...a better understanding of and commitment to...the commandments of God via His Holy Spirit...and participation in the restoration of His Kingdom on Earth, which is to culminate in the Messiah's return," (pg. 301).

Methodologically, McKee divides the book into two sections:

(1) a study of Scripture (and classic literature) to demonstrate that the Apostolic writers specifically chose the term "Ekklesia" to describe the Assembly of Believers because it directly corresponds to the Hebrew term "Kahal", a term used in Hebrew Scripture to refer to the Assembly of Israel at Sinai; 
(2) a study of Scripture relevant to answering the Book's title question: "Are Non-Jewish Believers Really a Part of Israel?"

Some of the more advanced readers may be initially confused by McKee's use of the term "Commonwealth of Israel" which is discussed in the section on Ephesians 2. However, McKee gradually unpacks the idea that there are two different models for understanding "Commonwealth of Israel."

The two models seem to break down as follows:

(1) The Bilateral Model of Commonwealth: consisting of multiple states, one central state for Jews and various satellite states for the "Church" of Non-Jews. In this model, there are different levels of citizenship and therefore different levels of Torah obligation; 
(2) The Grafted-In Model of Commonwealth: consisting of a single-state Kingdom realm of Israel. In this model, "...[non-Jews]...have citizenship in the Kingdom of Israel the same as any Jew," (pg. 234).

For reasons of practicality, this review will not cover all of the Scripture portions covered in the book. Rather, this reviewer will provide an example of one such Scripture portion: the section of Scripture known as "Paul's Rule" given in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24.

"Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the [assemblies]. Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called. Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Messiah's slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called," (1 Corinthians 7:17-24, NASU).

Quoting from authors such as Thiselton, F.F. Bruce, Sampley, and Gordon D. Fee, McKee ultimately concludes that, "...Paul's not that people are to remain stagnant and unchanged in a particular station in life that they perpetually occupy; Paul's rule is that people are to be abiding in the calling of God to salvation and holiness, who will then direct any changes to one's status as appropriate..." (pg. 296).

At the risk of over-simplifying McKee's Scriptural exegesis, he seems to offer the following interpretation of Paul's message regarding circumcision:

One should not de-value circumcision ("...he is not to become uncircumcised..." and "...circumcision has value...") and one should not over-value circumcision (" have been alienated from Christ you who attempt to be justified by the law...") but focus on living a sanctified lifestyle ("...what matters is keeping the commandments...") befitting of one who has been made into a new creation ("Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation").

McKee notes that since modern Messianics understand that circumcision is not how one receives salvation, "...[circumcision] something that can be practiced by today's non-Jewish Messianic men..." (pg. 284).

In conclusion, the timing for this book could not be better. McKee has carefully, thoroughly, and diplomatically engaged some of the most heated issues in contemporary Messianic Judaism. Are Non-Jewish Believers Really a Part of Israel? is a book that will help Jews and Non-Jews be more respectful of each other and, if nothing else, clarify the issues that have recently caused so much hostility and division within Messianic Judaism. However, it is the opinion of this review that this book will ultimate contribute to a grand reconciliation in the Messianic movement. Many thanks to McKee for his painstaking work!


1 comment:

  1. I was working on a review of this myself. Looks like you beat me to it! I'll repost this to the Messianic Publications page this evening. Thanks!