Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review of The Gospel According to Isaiah 53

Isaiah 53 is a phenomenal passage.  As I read through it I wonder how anyone could possibly not see Jesus in this passage.  Actually it is a passage that God has used “more than any other portion of Scripture…to lead Jewish people to himself.” (22)

Yet even though Isaiah 53 has been so instrumental in bringing Jewish people to faith in Jesus the Messiah, “there has never been an evangelistic campaign that used this text as the focal point in bringing the gospel to Jewish people”.  (22)  The Gospel According to Isaiah 53, edited by Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser hopes to pioneer such a movement. 

The overarching goal of the book is to be accessible to those that regularly preach and teach with an emphasis on helping those that desire to engage in the task of Jewish evangelism.  It is written by faithful biblical scholars but is not meant to be relegated to academia.  It is meant to help faithful pastors use this time-tested passage of Scripture to present the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. 

The book is divided into three parts.  The first part concerns itself with the Christian and Jewish interpretations of Isaiah 53.  The second part considers Isaiah 53 in light of biblical theology.  Here the various scholars attempt to show Isaiah 53 in its own canonical context as well as how it relates to other passages of Scripture.  The final section makes Isaiah 53 practical.  An essay by John Feinberg shows how it relates to Postmodern Themes, Glaser shows how to use Isaiah 53 for Jewish evangelism, and the book closes with an essay on Preaching Isaiah. 

I should also mention that there are two sermons attached to the book on Isaiah 53.  One sermon is expositional and the other is a dramatic-narrative.  The inclusion of these sermons is meant to assist the pastor or lay-leader in presenting the beauty of Isaiah 53 for the purpose of evangelism.

My Take

Though I do not believe they intended it to be the book is still pretty scholarly.  In some of the essays they dip into Hebrew language, there are places were they use words like “scanta”, and they also frequently interact with modern scholarship. 

If I were reviewing this as a seminary student wanting more information on Isaiah 53 and how it relates to its Jewish context then this would be one of the first books that I would look.  It is very faithful and beneficial in scholarship.  You can tell that the authors are faithful biblical scholars.

As a pastor preaching through Isaiah 53, and even more so if I were doing so in a Jewish context, then I would also find this book very helpful.  I would want a couple of months to really pore through the book as I did sermon preparation.  It’s not a book for a pastor to merely skim and then when he gets to Isaiah 53 pull it out and try to use it as a resource.  But it would benefit any pastor that had the time to use it.

What if I were a lay-leader that feels called to minister to the Jewish people?  I personally have never had the opportunity to share the gospel with a Jewish person.  My perspective is limited. I do not know if one would need to be very scholarly to engage with a Jewish person on Isaiah 53.  So, I’m not certain that the entire first part of the book would be helpful for your everyday Christian speaking to your everyday Jew.  But perhaps it is better fitted for Christian scholars/pastors speaking to Jewish scholars/rabbis. 

Yet at the same time Mitch Glaser’s chapter on using Isaiah 53 for Jewish evangelism is phenomenal and accessible to anyone.  So, I’m left a little confused.  If you are more the scholarly type then by all means get the book and use it as a resource.  As a pastor I would also suggest this book.  If you are a lay-leader then Glaser’s essay is worth the price of the book and you might benefit from the other chapters as well. 

I completely support the effort of the contributors in this book to use Isaiah 53 as a centerpiece for Jewish evangelism.  I am glad that this book is on the shelves and in libraries to assist those that desire to use Isaiah 53 to share the gospel with the Jewish people.  I am grateful for this book.  If it is something that seems interesting to you then you will not be disappointed. 

I received the book free from Kregel, in exchange for a review.  But you can Buy it today.

1 comment:

  1. Oddly enough I met a Jewish teenager in the airport on my way back from a mission trip back in '03 or '04 and got a chance to talk a little bit about Jesus with her. She had never heard anything about the Messiah and Isaiah 53, so I left her with the challenge to look it up.



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