Programming Note: Friday night, I graduate from seminary, so I’ll be quiet until then. I could not resist tackling this review, though, and it’s got a due date.
Where does one begin when a book is titled The Return of the Kosher Pig? For most Gentiles, the one thing we know clearly about “kosher” is that pigs, well, aren’t. Haven’t ever been, and generally we think they never will be.
Then we turn to the subtitle: The Divine Messiah in Jewish Thought. Now we start to see where Rabbi Itzhak Shapira is headed. His goal is to develop an explanation of how Jewish Rabbinic teachings (the Midrash and Talmud, especially) explain the Messiah. From there, he goes on to connect their teaching back to Jesus of Nazareth, who Christians have long claimed is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament and explained in the New Testament.
Here is where this book gets dicey for me to review: I am not well-versed in the Rabbinic literature. Not at all. Shapira’s quotations are noted (and joyously, we celebrate the FOOTNOTES!) throughout, and his quotations are accurate as far as I can research. However, there are questions of context that are hard to answer. In this, I think it is worth noting that he is often quoting rabbinical sources written since the time of Jesus, and therefore who rejected Jesus as the Messiah. To reach a conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah will require reframing those quotes.
Overall, The Return of the Kosher Pig is definitely an academic book and not a light-reading book. There is a tremendous amount of information and theology to wrestle with, as well as some basic history to know. Shapira’s style is a little more familiar than some academic works, as he is attempting to write persuasively. The material was easy to get through, even though it took some effort to digest.
The particular value I found in reading Shapira’s work is better understanding why those in the Jewish faith have not reached the same conclusion about Jesus of Nazareth (or YeShua, as He is called in the book). While that was not the intention, seeing the mass of writing and reflection on the identity of the Messiah explains why one might not see what I see, especially since I was raised to see it.
I would find that this text would be valuable for someone researching the claims of Jesus and Christianity, or seeking to better grasp the common roots of these two belief systems.
Oh, and the “Kosher Pig” idea is drawn from Shapira’s understanding of some of the rabbinical teachings regarding the end of time, when the pig will be seen as acceptable. He connects this to the end-time reconciliation of YeShua and the Jewish people, that they will embrace who they had rejected.
This is definitely one of those books that falls in the “you’ll like this book if you like this sort of book” category. If you’re just a casual reader with no interest in theology, Judaism, or Christianity, then skip it. But if you’d like to know more—grab a copy. See what you can learn.
Book provided by the publisher in exchange for the review. My opinion is my own and not hired, and do not represent that I have fact-checked all aspects of any work.
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