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Mark Kinzer: Searching Her Own Mystery

Secondly, Chapter Five suggests that the mystery of the Church’s identity in the Jewish people requires redefining the significance of the sacrament of baptism, especially for Jewish disciples of Jesus. Substituting an Adam-Christology for Israel-Christology, Kinzer interprets Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism as signifying that Jesus is first and foremost representative of and eschatologically in solidarity with Jewish people before being the Savior of the world. Therefore, this chapter’s conclusion seems to inject Kinzer’s idea of ‘unrecognized mediation’ into the theological mix. As a result of Jesus’ proposed solidarity with the Jewish people and as Israel’s corporate representative through baptism unto death, all faithful Jews who anticipate the redemption of Israel are asserted to live in anticipation of the Messiah Jesus even though not yet confessing Jesus as Messiah (104).

There is plainly antagonism towards evangelicals for having a “naïve biblicism that denigrates all practices and perspectives which lack explicit scriptural sanction.”

Emphasis on ‘mystery’ and ‘hidden meaning’ are metaphysical themes that weave in and out of various theological arguments. For the evangelical mindset this will likely raise concerns, particularly as there is plainly antagonism towards evangelicals for having a “naïve biblicism that denigrates all practices and perspectives which lack explicit scriptural sanction” (184). Going beyond evangelicalism as only one possible framework for interpreting the life and work of Jesus, Kinzer utilizes formal Roman Catholic and Jewish writings to demonstrate inherent linkage of various Catholic ecclesiastical practices with those of Judaism. The result is an implicit call to end lingering supersessionist beliefs by recognizing the Church’s identity as being of Abraham’s stock.

For Kinzer, genealogic-Israel and the Ecclesia (of uncircumcision) continue in an “intense struggle” over superiority issues rather than seeking peaceful unity (176). However, his proposed ‘covenant of peace’ will likely not be embraced by evangelicals while he also espouses “Jews do not receive salvation in Christ in the same way as gentiles” (180), or that the Church needs to recognize there is a “difference between the baptism of a Jew and the baptism of a gentile” (181). Further, in promoting the distinctiveness of religious practices among Jewish followers of Jesus, Gentile believers are mildly denigrated for “transgressing a boundary” that supposedly separates them from Jewish believers (178). Expressing boundary language such as this will only serve as a catalyst for evangelical counter arguments that a wall of separation is being re-erected.

Understandably, Kinzer’s attempt to involve Catholics in Jewish-Christian relations is a stumbling block for both Evangelicals and Messianic Jews. Evangelicals generally have no affection for Roman Catholicism and Messianic Jews are very conscious of how Jewish people have suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church. SHOM is a robust, but highly philosophical work; thus, the readership will most likely be the minority academic and serious scholar rather than the majority general Christian audience. Whilst pervading emphasis on the need for greater philo-Semitic attitudes will reasonably be a point of agreement, Evangelicals will struggle with many of the ontological arguments that raise corporate Israel to a place of mysterious, metaphysical solidarity in and with Jesus without requiring a conscious recognition of Him as Messiah. Consequently, evangelical perspective is marginalized in favor of one that is broadly philosophic. Whilst evidence of evangelical mentoring is in the background, it is overshadowed by a plethora of metaphysical and ontological argumentation that will keep those holding to a “naive biblicism” on their theological toes.

In consideration of The Pneuma Review being the recipient of this review, as a journal of ministry resources and theology for Pentecostal and Charismatic ministries and leaders, it is critical to keep in mind that the purpose has been to assess how well SHOM may or may not be received by a generally evangelical audience.

Reviewed by Brian Brewer


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Category: Fall 2017, In Depth

About the Author: Brian N. Brewer holds an M.A. in Theology (University of Chester, England) and is currently engaged in pre-doctoral research regarding Gentile involvement in the Messianic Jewish Movement.

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