Book: Rediscovering Passover: A Complete Guide for Christians
Joseph Stallings. San Jose, CA: Resource Publications, 1988,352 pp.,$11.95
As a Jewish believer in the Messiah, I am always interested in reading about how the church can "rediscover" its Jewish roots. Thus it was with anticipation that I read this book, written by a Catholic parish theologian, on a Christian understanding of Passover.
The author's intention is to provide the reader with a thorough historical and cultural background to this Jewish holiday. He accomplishes his goal by tracing the development of Passover (using biblical, rabbinic, and other historical sources) from the exodus to its modern-day practice in Judaism. Joseph Stallings seems well-qualified to write this book. He holds a graduate degree in theology, has spent years researching Passover, and is quite active in the "food business" (you would know why this was important if you had ever attended a Passover seder).
The first chapter is essentially the foundation for the remainder of the book. Stallings gives us a history of Israel in miniature, always describing how Passover was celebrated at a particular point in Jewish history, but sometimes expounding at length on topics that do not seem particularly relevant. The rest of the book describes in detail the practice of Passover during the time of Jesus as well as the historical and theological development of the Lord's Supper from a Jewish-Christian holiday into a Gentile-Christian tradition with definite pagan overtones. The section on what really happened at the Last Supper is especially interesting and informative.
Rediscovering Passover is for the most part well written, although the author sometimes repeats himself or extends a discussion too far (which explains the book's length). There are some footnotes (mostly to scholarly research or primary sources), but Stallings occasionally makes inaccurate and undocumented statements or assertions, which makes me think that some of his ideas are simply speculation. I was uncomfortable with the author's dependence on the JEPD four-source theory of the authorship of the Pentateuch, although this does not affect the bulk of the book. The bibliography is short but adequate; an index is unfortunately not included.
Biblical scholars from the Reformed tradition will be happy to know that this work offers an abundance of valuable redemptive-historical applications, focusing on Christ as the center and fulfillment of Passover. This, along with its description of the Jewish origins of the Lord's Supper, is the book's greatest strength. Christ in the Passover by Ceil and Moishe Rosen (Moody Press, 1982) is a more concise (and in some ways more readable) presentation of the messianic themes in Passover. But Rediscovering Passover will be helpful to those who wish to gain a greater appreciation of the Lord's Supper and the concept of Jesus as our Passover Lamb.