Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology. By Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum. Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries Press, 1993. 1,052 pp. Cloth, $30.00.
The purpose of this book is to fill a conspicuous gap in the historical development of the systematic theology of Protestant Christianity. The author’s legitimate claim is that, of the twelve accepted categories of systematic theology, the important division of Israelology has been unjustifiably left out.
This book is the fruit of Fruchtenbaum’s 13 years of postseminary study, for which he earned a Ph.D. from New York University in 1989. Not only does the author carefully build a comprehensive and convincing case to prove that Israelology has been neglected in theological study, he goes on to write a complete Israelology based on the interpretational principles of Dispensationalism.
The first part of the book (pp. 14–317) is a comprehensive demonstration that Covenant Theology has largely formulated its decidedly non-dispensational approach precisely because of its failure to formulate accurate distinctions between Israel and the Church.
The next section (pp. 318–565) shows that Dispensationalism has, to date, developed the most adequate hermeneutic for understanding the theological significance of Israel. Here Fruchtenbaum demonstrates how Dispensationalism has been aided in its correct formulation of prophetic doctrine due to its sensitivity to Israelology. He also shows how it needs to improve and consistently apply this sensitivity to doctrinal concerns pertaining to the status of Israel in present and past history.
The third section (pp. 566–856) is Fruchtenbaum’s main achievement and constitutes the great contribution this book makes to Dispensational Theology. It is a comprehensive and well-balanced, well organized, fully dispensational Israelology. It shores up Dispensationalism’s weaknesses with respect to the doctrine of Israel past and present, and it also provides extremely valuable new theological proposals and insights in the area of dispensational prophecy.
The final portion of the book (pp. 857–1012) deals with controversies in contemporary Hebrew Christian/Messianic Jewish understanding and practice. Also included are brief commentaries on the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Epistles of James, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude.
Readers of JOTGES will appreciate Fruchtenbaum’s strong commitment to the grace of God, salvation by faith alone in Christ alone, and the eternal security of the believer. For Fruchtenbaum the defining verse for becoming a Christian is John 1:12. He quotes the verse, and then says that in order to become a Christian one must “trust the Messiah and His work for one’s salvation” (p. 753). With regards to faith versus works, he says, “No one, not even the Jew, can make any claim on God, but God will save men only by grace through faith, both among the Jews and among the Gentiles. Insofar as the basis of salvation is concerned, law and grace, works and faith, are mutually exclusive” (p. 741).
Although this reviewer thinks Fruchtenbaum’s brief commentaries on the above mentioned epistles could be improved (Hebrews 6 and James 2 in particular), it must be kept in mind that his goals and purposes are systematic and theological in making proper distinctions with regard to Israel, rather than writing exegetical commentaries.
The main strengths of the book are its organization and comprehensiveness, its wide references to other theological writers as well as its accurate and well-documented substantiation of their viewpoints, and its well-founded development of a complete Israelology from the biblical text. Fruchtenbaum is definitely a heavyweight. This book is a “must have,” “must read,” and “must reference.”
Glenn W. Campbell
Graduate Student for Ph.D. in Philosophy
The Institute of Philosophic Studies
The University of Dallas