The Olive Tree Connection

Written by John Fischer Reviewed By W. J. van der Merwe

The author, who introduces himself as a messianic Jew on p. 89 of his book, deals with the best ways of sharing the Messiah with Israel. He stresses the divine charge to communicate the message of Jesus (Yeshua) to the Jewish people as well as to the whole world at the strategic time when the prophecies of Luke 21:24 and Genesis 13:14–18 are being fulfilled. He points out that God is dealing with Israel today and that he can today ‘join those broken-off branches to their own tree again’ (Rom. 11:24). These views I fully endorse, but I do not consider his statement on p. 46 that all the Jews will ultimately ‘be restored to God’, with reference to Romans 11:26, to be in agreement with the trend of Romans 11 just as ‘the fulness of the Gentiles’ does not refer to all the Gentiles but to those who have been redeemed in Christ. There is no further reference to this statement in the rest of the book.

Illuminating information is furnished on the Jewish world view. The author mentions (among other things): appreciation of learning, emphasis on the family, involvement in ‘Jewish causes’ (p. 35), concern about assimilation, the equating of Zionism with racism, and anti-Semitism. A survey of church-synagogue relations reveals anti-Jewish sentiments in the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church as well as in the Protestant churches over many centuries up to the present time. This is a sad story, but it should be told.

The present war situation in the Middle East is referred to. The press coverage is described as one-sided (p. 71). The impracticability of the solution of a secular democratic state is exposed. The military victory of Israel in 1967 when she was largely isolated and the significant fashion in which God subsequently worked spiritually amongst the Jews, is highlighted. Increasing numbers of Jews are accepting Jesus as Messiah. Some rabbis estimate the number from two to three thousand every year (p. 83). But there is also increased opposition in Jewish circles to evangelism and assimilation. Simultaneously there is a strong trend to ‘be thoroughly biblical as well as authentically Jewish’ in commitment to Jesus Christ (p. 84). In the USA congregations or synagogues are formed in Jewish communities. This helps to ‘resolve the tension between Jewish openness to Jesus’ message and Jewish resistance to evangelism and assimilation’ (p. 85). It is estimated that ‘being Jewish is important’ for 89% of the Jewish people (p. 88). This does not imply ‘exclusiveness’. In messianic synagogues ‘gentile Christians are completely welcome’ (p. 90). It is accepted that ‘observing the Jewish customs and ceremonies will never result in salvation, blessing, spirituality or merit’ (p. 90) and that salvation is ‘only by grace through faith in Jesus’ (p. 92).

The author makes valuable practical suggestions regarding the sensitive communication of the Christian message to Jews. Some of these are: ‘the truth must be accurately communicated’, ‘friendship, trust and good will must come first’ (p. 105), ‘study the Bible together, … talk about life in all its fullness’ (p. 109). Two extensive appendices on ‘using the Jewish Bible’ and ‘Responding to questions and objectives’ are a valuable addition. This book points the way to a well-balanced, vital approach in sharing the precious message of Jesus Christ with Jewish friends.

W. J. van der Merwe

Stellenbosch, S. Africa