Monday, December 31, 2012

"A Prayer to Our Father" by Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson

As someone who appreciates Hebrew roots and is trying to learn Hebrew, I was excited to read this book.  I figured it would be advanced enough so I could practice my meager translation skills (book provides full Hebrew spelling with vowel marks, transliteration, and English of the Our Father prayer) yet simple enough that I could keep up (many are familiar with the Our Father prayer).  

I'm not going to lie.  As I read the beginning of the book, I got the background info for how the two authors began to work together.  After that, I realized I was going to read multiple chapters on how the duo found the site where Yeshua gave His infamous speech.  At first I thought it'd be a boring waste of pages. (Did I tell you I am impetuous?)  However, I was pleasantly surprised at how well-written that section was.  Instead of drudging through those pages to get to the "good stuff," I found myself transplanted to Israel with the authors.  I saw the land, I felt the weather, I heard the sounds, etc.  I felt like a child again when a book would take me on an adventure--an archaeological adventure this time.

After that part of the book was over, I got to the "good stuff."  Chapters were short and to the point.  They dissected each chunk of the infamous Our Father prayer.  While they were concise, they were packed with facts.  I felt as if I were learning a lot but not overwhelmed--a difficult skill to master in the genre of non-fiction.  Additionally, I was impressed at how well researched this book was.  The citations were excellent.  Instead of a huge bibliography at the end of the book, there were citations at the bottom of pages when things were quoted.  So, if I was ever confused about a particular Scripture passage or scholarly quote, all the information I needed to look stuff up on my own was right there on the page.  Now, I admit that I did not look up all of the references in this book.  However, those that I did were accurate, and I do not think any detail was "fudged."

Readers should be noted that this book implements the Tetragrammaton.  The book clearly states that the pronunciation Yehovah is preferred by the authors and that the way we pronounce YHWH is not nearly as important as our intentions.    

Overall, I really liked this book.  It's really well researched and has fun little stories in it that readers will enjoy.  It's simple enough yet advanced enough so that anyone can learn something new while not feeling as if everything is going "over their head."  Doing some research on this book, I was a bit alarmed at some comments on the internet.  Some Jews said Gordon promoted Christianity by co-writing about the New Testament with a Christian.  Meanwhile, some Christians said Johnson was promoting Karaite Judaism by co-writing with a Jew.  So, both sides were angry.  Hilarious consternation aside, I feel both Jews and Christians can benefit from this book.  It is written with a very scholarly perspective that does not seem "preachy" in any way.  As a Messianic Jew, if you asked me whether I thought this book felt "Jewish" or "Christian," I honestly would not be able to give you a straight answer.  I did not feel like Yeshua was promoted as the Messiah, and I also did not feel like Yeshua was demoted from being the Messiah.  Yes, it was that objectively written.  Jew, Christian, or whatever, everyone can learn something from this book without feeling like they are being swayed towards one faith or the other. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"The Live | Dead Journal"

This book is a tough one to read.  It shares stories from countless missionaries who have risked their lives to share the Good News with unreached people groups.  This book particularly focuses on unreached people in Africa, most of whom are Muslim.  For 30 days, there are short passages from missionaries, which are often followed by descriptions of particular people groups.  This includes a photo of an indigenous person and a brief synopsis of the culture of that particular people group.  Interspersed throughout the book are several full-color photos and artwork.  There is even space in the book to journal each of the 30 days about your thoughts and responses to what you are reading.  This book will definitely give you a good dose of humility.  As you read each page, you will feel like you are in Africa, feeling the pain of the missionaries.