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Fellow Heirs and The Mystery of the Gospel
Fellow Heirs, by Tim Hegg (3/5)
The Mystery of the Gospel, by D. Thomas Lancaster (5/5)
It’s not unheard of to do two book reviews simultaneously, especially when the two books have overlapping subjects and/or themes. In this case, it was inevitable: Fellow Heirs by Tim Hegg and The Mystery of the Gospel by D. Thomas Lancaster were originally intended to be one book, not two! As Lancaster explains in the introduction of his book,
We originally intended to publish Mystery of the Gospel together with Tim Hegg’s Fellowheirs in one volume. The authors developed their respective projects in cooperation with each other, and their works share many similarities. What’s more, Mystery of the Gospel builds primarily upon the careful Bible scholarship of Fellowheirs, but develops the material in a different direction. From the reader’s perspective, the two books should be regarded as parts one and two of the same project. Both works, however, are strong enough to stand on their own, and ultimately we decided to publish them separately.
Fellow Heirs is Hegg’s contribution to the ongoing debate over the place of Gentile believers within Messianic Judaism. In refutation of those who say, “The Gentile Christians have their churches; let us have our synagogues,” Hegg argues masterfully for full participation of Gentile believers in Messianic congregations. His argument is that the issue the Apostles were dealing with was salvation and inclusion by ethnicity vs. salvation and inclusion by faith, not Torah-observance vs. a new kind of “faith” in the Messiah. That being the case, on what basis can any congregation, whether we call ourselves a church or a synagogue, reject a person from full membership on the basis of their Jewish lineage or lack thereof?
Though he recognizes that much of the rejection of Gentile members in Messianic Jewish synagogues arises out of a desire to have “a viable and living relationship with the unbelieving Jewish community,” Hegg nevertheless points out the error in believing that “Gentiles should find other communities of worship and leave Messianic Judaism to the Jews.”
On the other hand, those who come into the Messianic Synagogue as “converts” to Judaism (whether in Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform settings) are welcomed and accepted. The logic in this is astounding! Theoretically, if a Gentile believer desired to be fully accepted in this form of Messianic Judaism, he could go to the non-believing Synagogue, convert, and then return to the Messianic congregation with paper in hand and be accepted as a Jew.
Hegg’s book walks a fine line, avoiding replacement theology on the one hand and dividing the Body of the Messiah in half on the other. This reviewer would consider this book to be foundational reading for all new Messianics; however, many will probably find it to be too dry, and it also bears the burden of being eclipsed by Hegg’s earlier work The Letter Writer. For most readers, then, I would recommend Lancaster’s half of this duology instead.
Where Fellow Heirs is a focused examination of a difficult theological point, Lancaster’s Mystery of the Gospel reads more like a series of essays with a common theme. Where Hegg dives right in to the meat of his argument, Lancaster writes with an almost narrative style (a style that continues through his later work King of the Jews, though it is not so distinctive in Restoration). He begins with the calling out of Abraham and builds on the themes in the patriarch Joseph’s life before turning his eye on the Apostolic Scriptures, in each section and chapter showing how the Eternal One’s plan has ever been to bring together all the nations in worship, not to create substrates along ethnic lines, but to create “one new man.” Just like Hegg, he navigates the narrow road well, neither falling into the trap of ignoring the promises made specifically to Abraham’s natural seed, nor allowing for division between Jew and Gentile believers on the basis of that promise.
Perhaps Lancaster’s most poignant illustration of this reality of adoption is in his retelling of the adoption of Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh by his father Jacob as Israel’s own sons. Just as Jacob adopted these two young men, raised Egyptian rather than Hebrew, outwardly and inwardly Gentile in every way, Lancaster looks forward to the day when Israel will accept us “poser” Messianic Gentiles with the same love. To which this reviewer has only one thing to say: Maranatha!
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