The Return of the Kosher Pig: The Divine Messiah in Jewish Thought by Rabbi Itzhak Shapira
This book represents the personal journey of the author in investigating the identity of the Messiah according to the Scriptures and traditions within Judaism. The author was born in Israel, raised in a Mesorati Jewish household, and lived in Israel most of his life. It is his position that it is possible to cut through fiction, bias and misconceptions mostly aimed in a reactionary manner toward Jesus of Nazareth rather than based on beliefs in the rabbinical teachings, reason, and the Scriptures of the Hebrew Bible. For that reason, all the material presented in this volume is the study of the Deity of the Messiah as seen through Jewish eyes.
“The entire book is structured like a legal case, with evidence, argument and counterargument. Unlike most discussions of this topic through history, this one doesn’t seek to nullify traditional Judaism and its conclusions about the Messiah. Rather the author…repeatedly expresses his respect and appreciation for the Jewish sources and emphasizes the many points of agreement with them (‘shared premises’). His argument about the Kosher Pig draws from these shared premises and from the rabbinic writings themselves, to build the case that the Jewish Messiah is portrayed as more than human. Readers unfamiliar with rabbinic writings will discover a whole new area of thought–an approach to Scripture, sometimes from a different perspective, that is well worth exploring.” [Forward: Rabbi Russel Resnik]
“May this book help all of us put on ‘Jewish glasses’ as we look upon the Jewish Messiah.” Itzhak Shapira
There are five parts to this book to allow the reader to weigh the evidence.
Part 1: The framework of Judaism. It includes an introduction to the parameters of Jewish apologetics and Jewish understanding of the Scriptures.
Part 2: Identification. What are the charges made against Yeshua of Natzeret (Jesus)? Are the charges valid?
Part 3: Evidence supporting the case of a Divine Messiah.
Part 4: Exploration of external resources related to the identity of the Messiah.
Part 5: Reconciliation. A proposal of reconciliation between traditional Judaism and a Divine Messiah.
What does this book mean by a Kosher Pig? The pig represents the symbol of uncleanness to the Jew. In their eyes, Christians and even Messianic Jews are unkosher in their faith. It is considered idolatry to believe that God would take the form of a man. So in the eyes of modern Jewish thought and Orthodoxy, the idea that a Divine Messiah would share honor with HaShem (God) and the authority to forgive sins cannot be tolerated. Challenging this view is what could make the “pig” kosher. The goal of this book is to bring the “pig” back to the people of Israel through reconciliation.
If you are like me and are unfamiliar with most Hebrew and Aramaic terminology, there are extensive footnotes and a glossary in the back that can be printed to aid in reading the book. In addition, expect a thorough treatment with plenty of examples of the belief systems and thought processes of the many writings available. It is not light reading. Be prepared for a worthwhile challenge.
I do not have theological training to do any analysis of the content on my own. However, I was impressed with the organization of the content, the clarity of thought and the reasonableness and logic behind the author’s conclusions. I can see how this research would be a valuable resource for Christians and Jews alike. For those who would like to gain a broader perspective of Judaism’s teachings about their Messiah, this is a must read.
Purely from a layman’s point of view, two observations struck home for me while reading these arguments. The first is that our English culture misses out on the complexity of the Aramaic and Hebrew languages because they seem to possess a visual aspect over and above the basic alphabet. I get the impression that these visual elements add layers of depth and a certain mystique to the messages implied in the writings. I found that fascinating. It makes me appreciate the Word of God that much more. This visual aspect seems to add to the literal understanding of the written words, while at the same time hiding underlying depths of the message in a cloud of mystery.
The second observation I made is related to the first. Because of the dual nature of hidden factors and revealed truths, I am not surprised that in the Western culture we tend to over simplify the written Word of God while Judaic culture tends to overcompensate and add to the layers through debate, speculation and hypothesis. When a harmony does exist between the two poles of thought, it becomes all the more obvious that it is the hand of God working a miracle.
Overall, this is a thought provoking work of research worth our attention. It has the potential to bridge many chasms, should the Lord God Almighty be willing to use this book for the purpose of reconciliation. My prayer is that it will help to open the eyes of its readers, provide more appreciation for God’s Scriptures, and challenge our hearts to break out of our comfortable way of thinking to embrace God’s work of reconciliation wherever He leads us.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC)on behalf of Lederer Books: A division of Messianic Jewish Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”