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Book Reviews BOOK REVIEWS 135 A Guest in the House of Israel, by Clark M. Williamson. Louisville: Westminster,.John Knox Press, 1993. 352 pp. $19.99. Clark Williamson has given us the best single-volume overview of the theology of the Christian-Jewish relationship now in print. There is no more direct and accurate way of putting it. While other authors' studies may be more extensive (e.g., Paul van Buren's three volumes) or more comprehensive in terms of a particular aspect of the subject (e.g., early Christianity or Shoah), no other writer has managed to compress so much into a single volume with such clarity and skill. The extensive, up-to-date bibliography at the end of the volume provides additional resource material for the interested reader. While the volume will no doubt prove most useful for Christian teachers and students, an interested Jewish reader can pick up this work and grasp Williamson's principal arguments and conclusions because of the clear style that avoids excessive use of theological jargon. Williamson begins his narrative with a briefsummary ofChristian antiJewish theology and the many concrete anti-Jewish practices and laws it fostered. He sees post-Shoah Christian theology as a liberating theology which will free the Church once and for all from its inherited "Adversus Judaeos" theology, which sanctioned oppression of Jews for centuries, through the establishment of a new solidarity with the Jewish people. For Williamson there is little hope of creating a genuine post-Shoah theology except through ongoing dialogue between Christians and Jews. In Chapter Two Williamson further prepares for the core of his theological perspective by providing a succinct account of recent Church statements about the relationship with the Jewish people. While he obviously feels these statements have not spoken the final word about the Christian-Jewish relationship, he nonetheless regards them as nothing less than revolutionary in light of the almost two thousand years of totally negative presentations of the relationship within Christianity. If there is a common thread running through these many new documents, it is "that Jews and Christians both await the coming of God's rule...." Williamson describes Christians and Jews as "partners in waiting" (p. 45). Let me interject a critical note at this point. In my judgment"partners in waiting" would have served Williamson much better as a title for this 136 SHOFAR Winter 1996 Vol. 14, No.2 volume. A Guest in the House of Israel is a very misleading, even theologically inaccurate, title from my perspective. It implies that Christians are merely "secondary actors" in the ongoing covenant with Israel, which is something few Christians, including myself, can accept. Nor does it seem to be the overall message of Williamson's book. Apart from this misleading title there are many strong points in Williamson's analysis. I would cite in particular his critique of the criterion of dissimilarity so frequently employed by Christian scholars in comparing Jesus and Judaism, his treatment of Paul, his discussion of the Patristic period, and his critique of the Calvinist tradition (which is not often included in such analyses) and of the modern theological traditions, the writings of Schleiermacher and Harnack in particular. The one point where I would take exception to Williamson's perspective is his treatment of the "God as Abba" question. Certain Christian theologians have built their Christology on the premise that Jesus had a unique sense of God as Abba. Williamson is excellent in showing us how pervasive the notion of Abba was in the Judaism ofJesus' time. But there is more to the issue than that in my view. The argument about Jesus' special sense ofan intimate personal relationship with the Father does not rise and fall solely on the basis of his use of the term"Abba." It depends rather on the total portrayal of his relationship to the Father by the gospel writers. Williamson's analysis thus short-circuits the discussion, in my judgment on this point. In the final section ofthe book Williamson turns his attention to some of the contemporary efforts to construct a post-Shoah Christology. He relies heavily on the work of Paul van Buren after a brief excursus on...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 135-137
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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