Monday, May 26, 2008


Randall Ingermanson has written a trilogy of "messianic Jewish" novels that are set in the first century. The first, which won a Christy award for best Christian futuristic fiction, is entitled Transgression, and was published by Harvest House in 2000.

A summary: Rivka Meyers is an American Messianic Jewish archaeology student. Ari Kazan is an Israeli scientist and somewhat anti-religious. Both travel back in time and meet various characters from the 1st century, including the Apostle Paul.

Throughout the book, Ari and Rivka have extended conversations about Judaism and Christianity. ""Yeshua!" Ari's face darkened. "That is a fraud. Why not call him by his true name, which is Jesus? You put a Jewish veneer on a Gentile concept. Perhaps you can sell it to American Jews who know nothing of thier heritage, but not to Israeli Jews."" Ari later says, "It is a lie to call a church a synagogue. It is a lie to call a Christian a Jew. Messianic Jews are an oxymoron."

Another interaction: Ari exclaims, ""You have heard of Constantine and his forced conversions? You have heard of the slaughter of Jews during the Crusades? You have heard of the torture of Jews during the Spanish Inquisition? You have heard of the strange love for Jews displayed by Martin Luther? You know about Chmielnicki and his pogroms? You think the Holocaust was an aberration?""

"Rivka ... had studied the history of Christian dealings with Jews, and it was ugly. Unforgivably ugly. And yes, there was reason to think that the Holocaust was the natural fruit of that history. But it had been sixteen centuries of persecution, not twenty, and long stretches in the middle had been marked by peace between Jew and Christian. Anyway, it was over now, wasn't it? Mostly over. The pope had even declared back in the sixties that Jews weren't responsible for the crucifixion. Evangelicals had gotten interested in the Jewish roots of their faith . The mainline Protestant churches were increasingly tolerant. Only fringe right-wing groups still called Jews Christ-killers. Things had changed. Mostly."

It all boils down to this: Rivka states: ""I'm a Jew who believes that the Messiah has come, and His name is --" "Wrong!" Ari shouted. "If you believe in That Man, then you are not a Jew.""

The novel is well written and believable (well, if you can believe in time travel). But there are a few minor inconsistencies. For example, Ari hates the Haredim but he prays to God and calls him "Hashem." Why would a secular Israeli pray to God and call him Hashem? And Wandering Jude has some questions about language too. Yes, Ari is an Israeli who speaks fluent modern Hebrew. And yes, Rifka knows some Hebrew and Aramaic from her academic studies. But will they really be able to communicate in ancient Aramaic with their newfound friends in 1st century Palestine? Doubtful. But, after all, this is science fiction, so we'll cut Ingermanson some slack in this area.

By the end of the novel, Ari has become more open to Christianity, but he has not yet converted. Oh, and not to give away the plot or anything, but both Ari and Rivka are now stuck in the 1st century without any way to travel forward in time to get back to the 21st century.

To be continued....

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