Restoration: Returning the Torah of Moses to the Disciples of Jesus by D. Thomas Lancaster is a great book that gives a pretty comprehensive overview of Messianic Judiaism. Messianic Judiaism is the view that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, and he died and rose again to erase the penalty of our sin so that we have eternal life; however, there are some significant differences. First, we hold that the Sabbath is on Saturday and still must be observed, and we also hold that the Old Testament Laws are still in effect (although most of them cannot currently be followed because there isn’t a theocracy in Israel and there isn’t a Temple). We also observe the Festivals. Like Protestant Christian denominations, we believe in justification by faith alone and we do not believe that the law has any power unto salvation.
Lancaster makes a compelling argument that Jesus Christ commanded us to continue to follow the Torah in Matthew 5. He gives other arguments in addition to this one, but this argument is perhaps the most clear one of them all.
Lancaster points out that the Apostles continued to observe the Old Testament Laws and the Jewish festivals even after Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection. He tells us how we can know which of the Old Testament Laws we are able to follow today and which laws we can’t follow. He also gives a brief overview of all of the Jewish festivals.
Lancaster also argues that the Church’s separation from following the laws of the Torah greatly damages their testimony to the Jews. I too, have observed this, not with just Jews, but also with Muslims. He answers some of the typical atheist objections (for instance Dr. Laura Schlessinger received a letter from an atheist who mocked her for not observing the Old Testament Laws such as those regarding slavery, sacrificing, and other issues that some people in Western culture might have trouble reconciling) to the Old Testament Laws. Lancaster shows us the consequence of the typical answer that involves saying that the civil and ceremonial laws no longer have to be followed whereas we must still follow the moral law, and then gives his own answers (which honestly make more sense) to this infamous letter. His answer also points out misunderstandings that unbelievers typically have concerning slavery in the Bible.
There is a glaring flaw in the book, however. Despite all of the great things in this book, Lancaster argues that the Jews must observe all of the laws of the Torah whereas Gentiles only have to observe the Noahic laws. Now, this really isn’t an unusual view for a Messianic believer to hold, but I strongly disagree with this particular view. Even so, I’d still recommend this book.
Another interesting thing that is covered in this book is that the Bible affirms the authority of the Mishnah (the oral Torah that also contains interpretations of Old Testament laws and Jewish Traditions). This is something that I plan to learn more about. I don’t think I ever have heard of the Mishnah, and if I did, I probably didn’t think to ask what it was. Such a notion is very intriguing for someone like myself who is heavily influenced by the Presbyterian philosopher Gordon H. Clark.
I recommend this book for anyone who is curious about Messianic Judaism. I had made my decision concerning changing my views from Presbyterianism to Messianic Judaism prior to finishing this book (by looking at the Bible and hashing out these issues for myself), but I have found the book to be very informative. It also assumes that the reader has no knowledge of Messianic Judaism and because of this, it is very simple and easy to understand.