August 18, 2017

Book Review: Through Jewish Eyes

I just finished reading one of the recent additions to our theological library: Through Jewish Eyes, by Craig Hartman. This book presents an overview of Jewish feasts and traditions, and focuses on a few key passages of the New Testament as they relate to Israel. Hartman is uniquely qualified to write this text, as he is both Jewish by physical birth and Christian by spiritual birth. He considers his work a “primer” for Gentiles on the major practices and beliefs of Judaism, intertwining the historical culture with the spiritual needs of Jewish people today. Although his book is written primarily to aid his Jewish brothers and sisters in their search for the Messiah, he directs certain points towards Gentile readers (assuming they are already believers) and implores them to share the Gospel with the Jewish community.

Hartman begins his book with a preface, explaining his qualifications for writing such a work. He describes his journey from an unbeliever to a believer, through the world of Judaism, and his efforts to reach Jewish people with the gospel. He then begins the book with a chapter defining the term “Christian,” giving both historical background as well as scriptural application. He ends this chapter (and all others) with a series of questions, meant to remind the reader of a few key points from the chapter and provide guidance for some practical application. Each chapter thereafter focuses on some major aspect of the Jewish religion, whether a historically-based tradition or a theologically-based need, covering topics such as the Great Shema, the seven feasts observed by Israel, the practice of Chanukkah, and the Olivet Discourse. He also includes a Suggested Reading list at the end of the book.

When I first began reading Through Jewish Eyes, I was expecting each chapter to focus on a key verse or passage from Scripture, providing understanding from a Jewish perspective and making applications with Judaism in mind. It was a bit of a surprise, then, to find so much of the book devoted to explaining the customs of the Jewish religion. It is, at Hartman calls it, more of a “primer” than a detailed commentary on Jewish traditions. However, it proved informational and, although he sometimes offered interpretations that might be “new” to the average Gentile believer, it seemed theologically accurate and sound. His writing style is interesting as well; he was able to intertwine historical facts with applications for today, combining an instructive book with a fair amount of devotional-type thoughts. His wording sometimes is a little confusing (he writes how he speaks), but overall it is fairly easy to understand. I would consider the book a good resource for learning about the Jewish religion and being able to converse more deeply with both believing and unbelieving Jews alike.