JK McKee’s ‘Are Non-Jewish Believers Really A Part Of Israel?

I knew when I wrote the review of Tent of David that it was going to spark some discussion…  I had no idea how much.  Frankly, in the midst of a spirited exchange, I have been encouraged by the grace and love between those who do not currently see eye to eye.

A Part Of IsraelIn writing the review, I mentioned that I had gone back to J.K.McKee‘s A Part of Israel? as a resource for scholarly exposition of Scripture related to the place of non-Jews who come to Messiah.  You’ll remember I lamented not having reviewed the book…  Well, I started reading it again and couldn’t put it down!  ‘Nuff said?

Actually, I have a few pages left on this second reading, but for the last couple days have been itching to write.

Wisely, McKee recognized some time ago that there are a number of issue in the Messianic (Messy-antic, as one friend calls it…) realm.  Thus, he began to author a series called confronting issues.  With more than a dozen books now in the series, and titles/topics such as the divinity of Messiah, One Law for All, Polygamy, Urban Myths, Gnosticism, etc, he has assembled an extremely useful collection of articulate books dealing with some of the major areas of contention within the Messianic movement.  Among those is his 2013 release of Are Non-Jewish Believers Really A Part of Israel? to counter bilateral ecclesiology’s assertion that non-Jewish believers really are apart of Israel.  I suspect McKee’s play on words is intentional, but either way,  the title makes me smile.

I have found that I really like McKee’s works for several very important reasons, and this one is no different.  First and foremost, he does NOT skimp on scholastic digging.  His gifts as a language scholar are so helpful in Greek and Hebrew exposition.  Add to that the depth and breadth of his reading that lead to wrestling with the good and the bad from a wide swath of commentators, authors and theologians, which leads to the second reason I really like his works.  He is very readable!!  The combination of the two make his works so much more pleasant than many of the scholarly theology books on my shelf!!

In addition to those strengths, McKee, having been raised in the Messianic is well acclimated to and intimately familiar with many of the issues we currently face as we mature.  In spite of his broad knowledge base, he is very graceful in his discussion and humble in well-founded opinions and assertions.

A Part of Israel is 328 pages of deep exposition and discussion of multiple passages, primarily from the New Testament, that relate to exactly where the non-Jewish believer fits.  After some introductory and foundational information, McKee, in roughly sequential fashion, takes passage after passage and discusses them with an eye toward citing/quoting other Messianic teachers in particular and pointing out what is right and what is not.  He is gracious in doing so, but is clear to demonstrate where there is error in various understandings of what the Kingdom of Israel looks like and who is in it!  Example passages would be 30 pages dedicated to the predictably selected Ephesians 2:11-13 passage.  He specifically addresses politeia, a Greek word we have looked at before, however, he understandably takes a much more coy approach as to whether non-Jews will have an inheritance in the land.  (Elsewhere in this book he muses that Ezekiel 47:21-22 aside, he’s not expecting anything, but may be surprised.)  I’d love to probe him more on that topic, but understand his caution due to the divisiveness of the subject and the breadth of his audience.

He discusses a number of interesting verses that I had not previously considered in the context of being grafted in.  Among the great related Romans passages, I had overlooked 16:4…  Others include thoughts on Revelation 1:6; 5:10 and 20:6.  Neat details in those verses that fill gaps and provide support for his thesis.  (Get the book! 😉 )

While he constantly connects NT passages with corresponding prophecies and passages in the Tanak, he only deals directly with one passage from the Tanak: Zechariah 8:20-23.  Interestingly, he uses this passage to begin his concluding remarks with discussing the difference between ‘taking hold versus making proselytes.’

Of great help is the 70-odd page closing section titled ‘Associated FAQs on Messianic Believers and Ecclesiology.’  Like other TNN Press books I have with various appendices, this one is helpful in addressing in detail some specific common questions and, in the case of I Corinthians 7:17-24, common misinterpretation/application.

There are a couple gripes I have with most of McKee’s works, but they are format related, as opposed to content.  I would LOVE to have Scripture indices at the end of each book.  Yes, TNN will have to hire a full-time staff member just to compile them, but what an excellent resource catalogue to have as my collection of their books grows!!  The second gripe, less dramatic or time consuming, would be that not all books have bibliographies, though the footnotes are always extensive and much appreciated.  Personally, I am just looking for ways to better utilize the TNN knowledge base, particularly once I have another half dozen books added to my collection.

Part of the reason cross-referencing is so necessary with these books is their depth and usefulness.  Honestly, if Messiah tarries and McKee stays the course, we may be looking at one of those names that is long remembered and referred to that appears at critical junctures in theological history….

Those two minor gripes aside, I certainly believe this book should be read by every believer in Messiah, both Jew and non-Jew.  Further, those who would promote a bilateral ecclesiology must refute this book’s thesis and exegesis, or they have no case.

As a final note, there are some readers here who wrestle with ‘one Body’ and some of the (false) implications that they have been told, such as loss of Jewish distinctives, or ‘covert’ replacement theology.  I would challenge you to take the time to actually read A Part of Israel?, a coherent study of Scripture.  JK McKee has done his homework and powerfully, but graciously, brings correction and clarity in confronting the issue of ecclesiology!  In this reading, you will be challenged and blessed!

Shalom!

About Pete Rambo

Details in 'About' page @ natsab.wordpress.com Basically, husband of one, father of four. Pastor x 11 years, former business and military background. Micro-farmer. Messianic believer in Yeshua haMashiach!
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13 Responses to JK McKee’s ‘Are Non-Jewish Believers Really A Part Of Israel?

  1. tnnonline says:

    Thank you for this kind and gracious review. We have just referenced this on our ministry Facebook page.

    Please do consider posting reviews of any TNN Press publications you may write to Amazon.com. This will give our books greater exposure in the Messianic-Jewish-Christian world of ideas!

    Like

  2. K. Gallagher says:

    I agree Pete; if Messiah tarries, JK McKee will definitely be one of the names remembered and referenced in theological circles for his scholarship and keen insight. I haven’t read this book you have reviewed, but it’s now at the top of my “to-read” list!

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  3. Glenn says:

    Sounds like this book is a must-buy. Thanks for reviewing, Pete.

    Feel free to post this elsewhere Pete as it concerns a different book by this same author.

    Having only read J.K. McGee’s book, the New Testament Validates Torah as well as some of his online material, I agree, his work is exceptional and a great reference for Messianics. The scholarship of his work makes this an amazing resource to also hand to the apologetic-enthused antinomian Christian to mull over.

    The only area I couldn’t quite “swallow”, as it were, in McKee’s New Testament Validates Torah, was his take on 1 Corinthians 10:27, in which J.K, albeit most graciously, seems to suggest that Paul was telling Corinthian believers that, when invited to a pagans home, they are to eat whatever was set before them – kosher or not. (Pages 134-135 of New Testament Validates Torah). I agree with his take on “meat sacrificed to idols” but McKee seems to extend this principle suggest that suspending a kosher diet is OK as well, for the sake of the guest and sharing Yeshua: “Temporarily suspending things like kosher eating, for the needs of the moment, may be necessary.” (p135)
    Part of the problem may be that McKee does not seem to make it clear whether the Corinthian believer would actually *know* the food was unclean. If the Believer did know, does he stop eating?

    Anyways, I’m no scholar so my reasons for disagreeing that 1 Corinthians 10 can be extended to one forgoing a kosher diet when a guest at the house of a pagan, are me more *thinking* that I might disagree, than actually disagreeing. 🙂

    These reasons are 4 fold:
    1) The context of this passage is meat offered to idols, not clean and unclean by Leviticus 11 standards.

    2) The dish set before the believing guest is considered “meat to eat”. Thus, it’s food. As we know, unclean flesh is not even categorized as “food”.

    3) The slippery slope.
    McKee states “At the very most, would any Corinthians be served unclean things, the worst thing they would really experience could be indigestion” (p135). That the “worst thing” at the “very most”, for eating unclean, would be indigestion, seems incompatible with the Scriptures. Sin is still sin, whether it is or is “capital offence” (idolatry), or not (eating unclean). Logically, if one were invited to a party with, say, drunkenness or some other non-capital offence, would Paul recommend that the Corinthian believers participate in that as well for the sake of “sharing Yeshua”? It may be straining a gnats here but what if the host repeatedly filled the glass “set before” the guest, with alcohol – especially since the guest is instructed by Paul to “eat what is set before them”. How far does one take this principle of forgoing the Law to share the Gospel?

    4) The precedent set.
    Setting aside one’s kosher diet (“don’t ask don’t tell”) for a dinner with a pagan neighbour in order to share Yeshua, may cause a troublesome precedent. Later on, might the guest, after further receiving a greater understanding of the Gospel, not be somewhat perplexed by the Believers prior behaviour at their dinner table – that the Believer didn’t ask what was being served in order to consume “nothing defiled or unclean”? What would be the implications of the pagan host sharing the Believers somewhat contrary message around the market?
    Is the Believers excuse of “I didn’t know it was lobster”, a legitimate response?

    It also begs a couple of questions that McKee didn’t seem to address in his book:
    What should be the Believers response if they did find out mid-chew that they were eating swine? Would this reaction not be more detrimental to the message of Yeshua than a pre-dinner-date inquiry?
    If one were invited to a ham dinner by a pagan neighbour does the Believer go, full-well-knowing that they will be consuming unclean meat?
    Does sharing Yeshua but, between words, eating a mouthful of bacon, not give contrary messages?

    I may be completely misunderstanding McKee on this topic, which would not be unusual for me.

    blessings,
    Glenn

    Liked by 1 person

    • tnnonline says:

      Our ministry is going to be releasing a massive resource called the Messianic Kosher Helper late this Fall. Many of the issues regarding kashrut in the Messianic community, and Bible passages and contemporary application, will be addressed in detail:

      http://tnnonline.net/tnnpress/future-projects/index.html

      Liked by 1 person

      • Pete Rambo says:

        Looking forward to it! Please let us know when it is released.

        Like

      • tnnonline says:

        Follow us on Facebook. We post regular updates per the progress of forthcoming publications:

        http://facebook.com/outreachisraelministries

        Like

      • Jack Jackson says:

        Great points! I hope that we can also agree that “eating kosher” is not the same as “eating clean”; as the first are expanded rules of men, and the later comes directly from Scripture alone. I am not saying “eating kosher” is wrong, only that when men get involved they can tend to add to and taken away from Scripture. Our home does not eat genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) because we believe that when God’s creation (created by the speaking of His words) is manipulated by men in a laboratory, changing it from what is possible naturally (like adding a gene from a fish to corn) that this too is adding to the word of God.

        Kosher does not ensure no GMO’s. Kosher also does not ensure the meat was not raised on GMO feeds or feeds grown with pesticides and herbicides, or that the meat is free of steroids and other growth hormones.

        We eat meats we raise without these GMO and pesticides and hormones. We then process our own meats by following the Scriptures to kill the animals and drain their blood to the ground, exactly as the Scriptures tell us. Sadly when I discussed this with Boaz M. I was told that I could never process the meat properly without specific training and certification from “Rabbis”. I simply find that crazy thinking. There are no provisions for all the steps taken to “kosher”, things that would take too long for any Passover to take place inside the “time constrainst” for a Passover. It would also require a Rabbi to certify everyone’s lamb/goat, which was not, nor is currently logistically feasible.

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      • Pete Rambo says:

        Jack,

        Good to ‘see’ you!

        I do agree with your points and mention that as a family we eat ‘clean’ and try our best to avoid GMOs for Biblical, health and scientific reasons. We do not, however, feel constrained to Rabbinic standards in many areas, kosher being one.

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  4. Pingback: When Christians Aren’t Israel | Morning Meditations

  5. James says:

    I suppose I could have chosen a more sensitive title for my blog post written in response to this one than When Christians Aren’t Israel, but it was the one that seemed to best fit the content I created. As I said in my emails Pete, I’m not trying stir the pot let alone a hornet’s nest, but in this case (although I’ve not read McKee’s book as yet), I believe there are two sides (at least) to this discussion.

    Let me know what you think about my perspectives. Peace.

    -James

    Like

  6. Pingback: One Law for All? Reviewing JK McKee Pt. 1 | natsab

  7. Pingback: Tales from the Bus. Wilfredo. | natsab

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