Author: Rabbi Itzhak Shapira
Publisher: Lederer Books
Reading Level: Very High
“According to the p’shat, the Messiah will come in the “clouds of heaven.” Based upon the fact that no human ever came on “clouds of heaven,” it is hard to see how the Messiah is to be merely human.” (109)
The Return of the Kosher Pig (hence referred to as The Kosher Pig) is the magnum opus of Rabbi Itzhak Shapira on the Divinity of the Jewish Messiah. Although the Divinity of Jesus Christ has not always been accepted in the Christian church, it has been universally accepted by Orthodox Christianity since the early 4th century. In The Kosher Pig, Rabbi Shapira takes nothing for granted on the subject of the Messiah. Approaching the subject from the framework of historical Jewish teaching and interpretation, Rabbi Shapira argues for the Divine nature of Israel’s Messiah and the fulfillment of that Messiah in the historical Jesus of Nazareth.
In The Kosher Pig, Rabbi Shapira writes primarily to reconcile his Jewish brethren to their Divine Messiah. Given this intent it is appropriate that The Kosher Pig is filled with quotes from the Talmud, Targums and historical Rabbis. For the sake of the argument their inclusion is necessary. Though Rabbi Shapira introduces many of these works and people (chapter 2), Christians unfamiliar with them can get lost easily. Similarly, many of Rabbi Shapira’s crucial arguments are built off the Jewish Rabbis and Sages. This can be confusing, intimidating, and occasionally non-persuasive for Christian readers.
At the same time and with the same material, The Kosher Pig presents an outstanding look at the Jewish mindset both before and after Jesus Christ. The Old Testament Scriptures are presented and communicated in a new and fresh way for many Christians. Rabbi Shapira has done a great job of presenting a Jewish monograph for his brethren that is at the same time educational for Orthodox Christians.
As overwhelming as the communication style of The Kosher Pig can be, the valuable arguments from Rabbi Shapira more than make up for it. The earliest chapters introduce many important elements to the overall argument (chapters 1 and 2). The real wealth of The Kosher Pig lies in the third, and largest, chapter. In this chapter the primary evidence for a Divine Messiah is presented in the form of five specific remez (in Hebrew hermeneutics a “hint” of typology or allegory). These five remez make up the bulk of the book and demonstrate that the Old Testament teaches the truth of a Divine Messiah.
Rabbi Shapira’s exposition of Ecclesiastes 12:1 & Genesis 1:1 (65-70), Zechariah 4 (87-91), and Daniel 7 (108-120) are impressive. His explanations and links to topics such as the generations of Perez (140-142), “truth” (158-161), the greater Torah (154-156) and living water (212-214) are both insightful and powerful examples of Jewish interpretation.
In the fourth chapter, Rabbi Shapira provides some remaining arguments for the Divine Messiah at a higher level. Though these arguments are meant to be more “digestible” (227) some prove more confusing than enlightening. One of His arguments results in a strange assertion that the Divine Messiah was in fact Enoch (240-244). This seems mystifying given that Enoch was the father of Methuselah (Gen 5:21). His explanation of the variant forms of the Hebrew letter mem (one of in a word and one for at the end of a word) and the significance of the prophets breaking the Hebrew syntax was enlightening (259-263).
The Kosher Pig is a fascinating book. Those interested in pursuing different defenses of Jesus Christ’s Divinity will benefit greatly from the materials compiled by Rabbi Shapira. Those wanting to use the Divinity of Jesus as a case study into Jewish hermeneutics should be able to read with much delight. Though in the end Rabbi Shapira denies fundamental elements of Orthodox Christianity (6-9, 274-276), The Kosher Pig remains a valuable book for laymen and pastors alike looking to increase their knowledge of Jewish thought, history, tradition, and theology.
Ultimately, The Kosher Pig presents a stunning and beautiful set of arguments for the Divine Nature of Israel’s Messiah. God did not leave His people in the dark but promised the greatest of His blessings in the Scriptures of the Jews and in the minds of their greatest teachers. In writing, Rabbi Shapira has made these truths even more evident.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”