The Jewish Approach to God by Neil Gillman

952018Nonfiction — print. Jewish Lights, 2003. 164 pgs. Library copy.

The book bills itself as “A Brief Introduction for Christians”, but Gillman doesn’t make a point of writing for just a Christian audience — at all. There are a smattering of references to the Christian religion, but there nearly as many references and comparisons to Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Buddhaism as Christianity. And as I was reading this book I kept thinking “tell me something I don’t know” because other than a few tidbits I really didn’t feel like there was a difference between (my own perception of) Christianity and Judaism (as presented by Rabbi Gillman).

Maybe that’s because I’ve spent large amount of time with members of the Jewish student organization at my university taking about Judaism and Christianity or maybe it’s because my Sunday school teacher growing up spent large amounts of time covering the Old rather than New Testament, but the books discussion of “God is Nice (sometimes)”, God is not so Nice (sometimes), “God creates”, “God redeems”, and “God can Change” seemed really in tune with my own perceptions.

One of the most interesting aspect of the book was when Gillman delves into the book of Job, which tells the story of Job being “punished” at the hands of God because, for Jews, God is composed of and represents both evil and good. The Jewish approach to sin and punishment was one section that really delineated the difference between Christianity and Judaism (other than Jesus, of course), and it explained more than the typical ‘Jews don’t believe in hell’.

I had hoped the book would explain a bit more about difference liberal and traditional factions of Judaism, but the section of this just wasn’t enough to quench my thirst. It does, though, explain how these differing Judaic viewpoints relates to Christians, but obviously this does not apply to all factions of Christianity.

Gillmann’s book serves as nice introduction to the Jewish faith for someone who knows very little about Judaism or, for Christians, is not that knowledgeable about the Old Testament.

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