A Guide to Judaism for Evangelicals Corrects Misconceptions, and Confronts Ugly Truths

Feb. 16 2021

In Separated Siblings, John E. Phelan, Jr., an evangelical pastor and scholar, attempts to explain to his coreligionists the basic facts of Judaism, its relationship with Christianity, and Jewish history. Gerald McDermott notes a few “gaps,” especially pertaining to Zionism and Israel, but overall finds the book both informative and effective:

Christian readers will find resonance in Jewish texts they might otherwise overlook. The kaddish, for example, is a daily Jewish prayer that begins with words nearly identical to the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer: “May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified.” Phelan observes that while the Talmud . .  . might appear, to outsiders, as obsessed with “minor matters” of religious law, faithful Jews regard it as a divine guide to everyday holiness that puts reason to work “in service of love and obedience.”

This book should also surprise readers who have been led to believe that God rejected the Jews as His chosen people when most 1st-century Jews rejected Jesus as their messiah. Phelan argues that while God’s covenant with Moses was conditional on Israel’s obedience, His covenant with Abraham was unconditional. Moses warned that God’s people would lose control of the land if they turned to idolatry (Deuteronomy 28:36), but they would remain God’s chosen.

If the surprises Phelan documents are intriguing, they are also painful. He highlights many moments in the last two millennia when Christian leaders taught hatred for and persecution of Jews. Erasmus, for instance, refused a trip to Spain because it was too “full of Jews.” Martin Luther preached that if Jews would not convert, “We [Christians] should neither tolerate nor endure them among us.”

Of particular interest is Phelan’s treatment of the great mid-century European Protestant religious thinkers: the Swiss theologian Karl Barth (cited frequently by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik) and the German pastors Dietrich Bonhoeffer (who founded the Confessing Church as an alternative to the Nazis’ official racialized Christianity) and Martin Niemöller (best known for his saying, “First they came for the socialists, . . . then they came for the Jews. . . .”).

As Phelan explains, even Barth, Bonhoeffer, and Niemöller, who “spoke out against the Nazis and anti-Semitism” before and during World War II, nevertheless in their “records reveal anti-Jewish stances and equivocal support for Germany’s Jews until it was once again too late.” The Barmen Declaration (1934) famously declared that Jesus Christ was Germany’s only leader (Führer), but it said nothing about the persecution of Jews because “the Confessing Church would not have accepted it.”

Read more at Christianity Today

More about: Anti-Semitism, Jewish-Christian relations, New Testament


Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Mossad, U.S. Foreign policy