People, the Land and the Future of IsraelThe debate over the future of Israel will last until its future has come. With all of the ink spilled on both sides of the debate it tends to entrench supports further into their positions than it does convince the other side. There are few books that really make advancements in the discussion and too many of them rehash the same thoughts under a different book cover.

Meeting to address issues surrounding the future of Israel, a group of pastors, theologians and biblical scholars met at Calvary Baptist Church in 2013 to host a conference on the future of Israel. With an impressive line up of contributors such as Darrell L. Bock, Craig Evans, John S. Feinberg, Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Eugene Merrill, this was an great opportunity for the leaders of Dispensationalism to advance the discussion. Since the conference, the addresses were put in book form named after the conference title, The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel: Israel and the Jewish People in the Plan of God with Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser as editors.

What Is Good

For Dispensationalist’s there is much to like about the book. There is an impressive line up of contributors who have contributed to the discussion elsewhere as well. There is also diversity in the streams of Dispensational thought as seen by more classically minded theologians such as Eugene Merrill and John Feinberg and more progressive types like Darrell Bock and Craig Blaising. There are also chapters by some pastors. The book is fairly comprehensive (as touted on the top of the back of the book) in that it addresses both testaments, hermeneutical issues, theology, church history and practical considerations. Despite the shorter length of the chapters many of them are good and the Old and New Testament sections have a fair amount of continuity.

What really stood out to me was the emphasis, especially in the Old Testament, on the covenants as the driving interpretive grid rather than the dispensations. In fact, there was little to no mention of dispensations. This will bother some but it encouraged me. The emphasis on the dispensations over the covenants has been, in my mind, one of the biggest problems for Dispensationalism.

On the Old Testament, Walter Kaiser Jr. has the best chapter with “Israel According to the Writings” and does a great job addressing the Davidic covenant, Daniel and Esther. For the New Testament Michael Wilkins has the best chapter with Israel According to the Gospels” in which he primarily works with Matthew. While he does see Jesus as the fulfillment of the “OT hopes, prophecies, and promises” he does not see this as Jesus replacing the content of the Jewish covenant promises (i.e. land) or the church replacing Israel as God’s people (see whole chapter). For instance he states

The twelve disciples/apostles symbolize the continuity of salvation-history in God’s program, as Jesus sends them out to proclaim to the lost sheep of the house of Israel that the kingdom of heaven has arrived. But there is a form of discontinuity as well, because the Twelve will sit on twelve thrones judging the house of Israel. The twelve disciples/apostles have continuity with the twelve tribes of Israel, yet they do not replace Israel. But they will form the foundation of a new community of faith, the church that Jesus will build. (92)

Craig Blaisings’ chapter on hermeneutics is the best of the third and fourth sections. While I think his fourfold evaluation (comprehensive, congruent, consistent and coherent) of supersessionist theology (borrowed from David Wolf) can cut both ways, he manages to get himself beyond the standard classic dispensational accusation against it of spiritualizing the text (see Renald Showers There Really Is a Difference for an example of simplistic critique) and is able to present a more reasoned and accurate of the hermeneutical principles of covenant theology.

What Could Have Been Better

When I first saw this book was coming out I was looking forward to it. Given the list of contributors I had high expectations for the book. Specifically, I was hoping the book could advance the discussion over the future of Israel. While there were several shining chapters in the book, in large part, I think it failed to do what it could have done.

First, while you cannot judge a book by its cover, the cover does not help the book with images that are reminiscent of a sensationalist Dispensational eschatology. To go with the cover, the Foreward by Joel Rosenberg was out of place with its alarmist and over-realized eschatology against the back drop of a book full of scholars.

Second, while there are a number of good contributions much of the content moves too fast and is a shortened rehashing of the same stuff you find in most books about Israel. Simplicity can be good depending on the audience but I think a big opportunity was missed with this book. The authors were not afforded enough time in their chapters to expand on some of the ideas which could have made the book much more productive. The book gives good interpretation of the biblical texts but it could be better.

Conclusion

The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel seeks to address a wide range of issues related to the future of Israel. Given the structure of the book I would say this would be a good entry level book into Dispensational theology for college students and as a secondary source book for graduate level studies. Biblically literate laymen and women will benefit from it as well.

I received this book for free from Kregel for this review. 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.”

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