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.
In 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!