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Ronen Ben-Shalom
Papa's Last Words
This legacy instruction from a father to his children elaborates on the identity of God according to the Protestant canonical Bible. This religious study of theology, comparative religion, apologetics, and Christian wisdom balances both the Old and New Testament. It explores the identity of God through His Name and the Jewishness of Jesus while removing external cultural biases and historical politics. The instruction challenges mainstream doctrines but defends the divinity of Jesus the Christ. It concludes that God is somewhere between the theology of Jews and the theology of Christians, favoring the perspective of Messianic Judaism. The goal of the book is to make God known. It targets Christians who are unsatisfied with and find something missing in current mainstream Christianity.
A legacy, an impassioned treatise, and a prompt for further questioning, Ben-Shalom’s Papa's Last Words sets down a father’s thinking—his “testimony” —for his children on the topic of his relationship with God, all from a singular perspective that draws deeply from varied religious traditions and never settles for received wisdom. Ben-Shalom credits his relationship with helping him “through the valleys of sexual abuse, physical abuse, attempted suicide, isolation, loneliness, betrayal” and more. In searching, polished prose, he urges his audience to study the history of Christian denominations and draw from each what is good; to accept that “God’s people are God’s people, no matter how you examine it,” whether Christians or Jews; and to challenge orthodoxies like the concept of the trinity (“He is—simply—YHVH, and blessed be His Name”), distinguishing what is truly of God from “the perverted things of humanity.”

This is a heady, original book, alive with fresh thinking, persuasive argument, and thorough, well-documented research. Ben-Shalom shows his work, leaves space for challenges, and above all calls for his readers to approach belief and history with a similar spirit of thoughtful questioning. While his prose is approachable, often even warm, the material can get dense, especially as he works through questions of translation and interpretation that likely feel more pressing to him than they do to readers.

That said, that work is the point, as Ben-Shalom’s mission, throughout, is to pare away the human to expose what he finds divine in scriptural, Kabbalahistic, and other ancient sources. In them he finds evidence that a messiah has come, that God can take human form, and that knowing this history in depth can help bolster one against the “seductive deceptions” of those eager to instill doubt. Christian readers interested in a gently challenging dive into the history and interpretation of the heart of their faith will find much here that resonates.

Takeaway: This impassioned treatise, from a father to his children, digs deeply into the roots of Christianity, emphasizing the divine.

Great for fans of: Brian D. McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy, Rob Bell’s What Is the Bible?

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A