Converging Destinies

Jews, Christians, and the Mission of God

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Stuart Dauermann
  • Eugene, OR: 
    Cascade Books
    , March
     2017.
     326 pages.
     $38.00.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9781625646149.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

In Converging Destinies: Jews, Christians, and the Mission of God, Stuart Dauermann examination’s of the pivotal role of the Jewish followers of Jesus in defending Jewish revelation and practice—at the dawn of nascent Christianity, and those in effect today—is distinguished in three respects. First, Dauermann, the founder of the Messianic think tank Hashivenu and director of Interfaithfulness, offers biblical textual readings along with commentary of key passages in the Testaments that engage Jewish concepts as a system of revealed legislation, affirming the Torah as a covenantal religion. Second, Dauermann affirms the role of scriptures, theology, and religion in his view that historical consciousness, not blind faith, proclaims the pivotal role of Yeshua (Jesus) as the promised redeemer of Israel and the Gentiles (Goy-im). Third, Dauermann presents the diversity in post-Enlightenment Jewish messianic movement. He elucidates the historical evolution and religio-philosophical differences between a variety of Jewish messianic missions to the Jews, including, their Yeshua-bounded view of Sinai revelation, rabbinic halachah (Jewish Law), Church-Synagogue engagement, and others. Dauermann argues that divine revelation—Triune God, divine providence, earthly resurrection, immortality of the soul—as well as commanded behavior are key to understanding ecclesiology and missiology, the rudders of the Fisherman’s craft, and used for effecting the changes in an unredeemed world on way to the (territorial, eschatological) Promise Land.

The intent of Converging Destinies is to seek the best way forward for both Jews and Christians to understand their scriptural beginnings and calling, conflate honestly their conflicted history to self and other, and converge to best serve the mission of God. But there is a serious identity question if the “Jews” in book title as well as their intent are mainstream, and not marginal. Jewish personhood—more than religion—unites denominational and secular Jews of all persuasions. However, in the broader Jewish community, serious questions of identity and loyalty prevail when related to adverse groups from exclusionist Charedi Orthodox anti-Zionist Satmar Chassidim to assimilationist Jews for Jesus. Messianic Jews across the spectrum affirm the infallible, unerring Word of God is Holy Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, and believe in the Creator of heaven and earth, who is eternally existent in the plural unity revealed in the Shema: “Hear O Israel, the LORD (Yahweh) is our God (Elohim), the LORD (Yahweh) is one” (Deut 6:4). The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are united in God (Elohim). In rabbinic halakha, reading the Trinity into the Shema is unprecedented; further, divine unity is sufficiently expressed, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One.” Hence, the Shema verse in the context of Israelite monolatry asserts the First and Second Commandments of bein ‘adam la-Makom (“man/one’s duties towards God”) noted in the Decalogue: recognition of the sovereignty, unity, and spirituality of God (“I am Yahweh your Elohim [God] who brought you out of the land of Egypt ... you shall have no other Elohim [gods] before Me … nor bow down nor serve them”) (Exod 20:2, 3-6; Deut 5:6, 7-10). And eisegesis of the exaggerated `ayin in  ש מ ע (“hear”) and dalet in א ח ד (“one”) spell `ed (“witness”) to the absolute unity of God; hence Yeshua, worshipped as truly God and Man (and other Messianic belief articles) is totally unacceptable and incompatible to (Rabbinic) Judaism.

The volume is divided into three parts and multiple subunits. Dauemann approaches his subject matter in a novel way, combining intricacies of Jewish belief and practice derived from the Hebrew Bible—referenced as Older Testament (not Tanakh)—set and taught in a traditional Judeo-Christian belief pattern. His analysis reflects an evolving and complex portrait of Jewish believers created through generational levels of interpretation. The Christian missions to the Jews, Hebrew Christians/Jews for Jesus who affiliated (and sponsored) with “Bible-believing churches,” as well as Messianic Jews, who choose not to lose their cultural identity in Gentile Christianity. His scholarly approach daubed in pastoral caring and down to earth empathy demonstrates knowledge of the cultural differences, the faults of Christian supersessionism, and no-nonsense apologetics. His thesis, to return “Jewish-style” believers from the wider Christian community to Jewish life aligned to faith in Yeshua, and related sociological and theological issues (Hashivenu paradigm) well serve the Messianic Jewish perspective on the destiny of Israel and Gentile together in Yeshua HaMashiah for the redemption of Israel and the world.

This work suggests rejection of Jewish stereotypes and a proper depiction of Torah Judaism in the molding of the scriptural Jesus. Pivotal discussion points include purifying nineteenth- and early twentieth-century stereotypes of Jews depicted in New Testament Kerygma; showing that Christianity is not anti-Semitic at its core; distancing Christ seekers from complicity in the Shoah; applying a more positive, post-1967 Christian attitude towards Israel and Judaism; and the evolving post-Shoah theology. Additional points include joyful commitment to the Land of Israel, Jewish Unity, Spiritual Renewal, Yeshua the Messiah, Rabbinic Teachings and Torah Living. Nonetheless, Messianic Judaism core Gospel belief, missiology, and eschatology embrace marginality, separation, exclusion from the religionhood of mainstream Judaism, self-imposed not other-designed.

The Messianic Jewish agenda distinctly emphasizes the glorious news to humanity—salvation and victory over sin and death—that God offers to all people through the person and accomplished work of Jesus Christ on the cross as proven by his resurrection, ascension, and position at the right hand of God. Gospel derived soteriology and eschatology are eons removed from Judaism’s centrifugal teaching of tikkun `olam (repairing the world). That is to say, sensing the presence of God in the world ’asher bara` (Creation); sensing the divine presence in the words, events, encounters in the Tanakh; and sensing the Holy Presence in doing the mitzvoth (obligatory and voluntary commandments or sacred acts). Theology draws from biblical, rabbinic, and mystical tradition that sprout forth the message that the earth is full of God’s glory and that every place conceivably is a gateway to Heaven’s door. His Creation-Bible-Deeds interplay parallels the inalienable importance of the Torah (Teaching) to Israel, transmitted by written and oral tradition and sustained by the Mosaic rallying cry, Na`aseh ve-Nishma’ (“We shall do and we shall hear [reason]” [Exod 24:7], in this world. Christological death and resurrection are yenner welt.

In sum, Messianic and Rabbanite Jews are united by God, the Torah, Israel—both the people and the land. They differ in biblical exegesis, understanding and application of halakha, fulfillment of prophecy, role of the Messiah, the messianic age, resurrection of the dead, and life immortal. Christology and/or Jesuolatry testify to the conflicting not converging forms of Judaism. And Christians are extra sunagōgē.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Zev Garber is professor emeritus and chair of Jewish studies and philosophy at Los Angeles Valley College.

Date of Review: 
July 21, 2017
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Stuart Dauermann is Director of Interfaithfulness. He specializes in developing new paradigms and tools to assist those navigating the intersection of the Christian and Jewish worlds, with special attention to the intermarried. Having participated in both the missions and congregational worlds, he is now engaged in serving a network of havurot, especially for Jews and intermarrieds.

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