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Lauren F. Winner


To the Jews First

Jewish evangelization from the heyday of dispensationalism to the rise of Messianic Judaism.

This is the final installment in a five-part series.

Part 1 [November/December 2000], "Living by Law, Looking for Intimacy," explored what Christians can learn from the debates that divide American Jews, taking as a point of departure Samuel G. Freedman's book, Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry.

Part 2 [January/February 2001], "God of Abraham—and Saint Paul," focused on the pathbreaking "Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity" published last fall in the New York Times and the book of essays it occasioned, Christianity in Jewish Terms, edited by Tikva Frymer-Kensky, David Novak, Peter Ochs, David Fox Sandmel, and Michael A. Signer.

Part 3 considered medieval anti-Semitism and the Eucharist (via Miri Rubin's Gentile Tales).

Part 4 discussed German Jews, Edith Stein in particular.

Evangelizing the Chosen People:
Missions to the Jews in America, 1880-2000

by Yaakov Ariel
Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2000
367 pp.; $19.95

The evangelization of Jews was back in the headlines last May, when moderate Baptist pastor Steve Jones and the congregation of Southside Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, opened their sanctuary to the Jews of Temple Emanu-El, a Reform synagogue whose building will be unusable during a 14-month renovation. In an article in the Birmingham News, Jones commented on Baptist-Jewish relations. "My approach to mission is not to save people," he said. "I don't like this 'win-them-at-all-costs' attitude. … The whole mindset—that Jews are lost and we need to convert them—it's a very condescending relationship." More conservative Baptists were shocked and outraged. Was Jones a universalist? If his mission wasn't to save people, what exactly was it?

Every few years, reporters turn their attention to Christian efforts to spread the gospel to Jews. Usually, though, we don't find Baptists sparring with Baptists; we find Jews sparring with evangelicals or fundamentalists over some denominational ...

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