To the Jew First

Anyone interested in the relationship between Jew and Gentile in the Kingdom of God will be interested in this book. Authors include Walter Kaiser, Darrell Bock, Mitch Glaser, David Turner, and Craig Blaising. Most of the authors are from a modified, or progressive dispensational perspective, with one covenantalist (Richard Pratt) more than holding his own, and also one regular dispenstionalist. Walter Kaiser, Jr. wrote the forward, which makes this helpful point: “A church cut off from Israel is a church that merely floats in the air with no past, no grounding, and no promises on which to build her present or her future” (p. 7). Indeed. Of course, one could say that such a sentiment accords better with covenantal thinking than with dispensational thinking, since the classic view of dispensationalism (which is not really the perspective of this book) does precisely what Kaiser wants us to avoid, whereas the covenantal position argues that Jew and Gentile are one in Christ. By the way, a progressive dispensationalist position still argues for a national Israel being important. However, they will not call such a people a parallel salvific reality. There is only one olive tree for progressives. So, they are half-way between classic dispensationalists and covenantal thinking (my impression is that they are somewhat closer to covenantal thinking than to dispensational thinking).  

The book is a good reminder that certain formulations of supersessionism are not helpful (Pratt deals with this in an extremely helpful way, discarding dispensationalism and the more rigid forms of supersessionism, in order to advocate what he calls the “unity theology” (p. 173). He notes that many dispensationalists mistake the Reformed position for a raw supersessionist position that advocates no place for Jews in the people of God at all. This mistake is sometimes understandable, given the rhetoric of Reformed people against the dispensationalist position (see pp. 172-173). The unity theology position that Pratt advocates is that Jew and Gentile can again become one in Christ. There is no salvation outside of Christ. However, Jew and Gentile both belong in the people of God when they are in Christ. There is one olive tree in Romans 11.