Your audiobook is waiting…

Surprised by Christ

My Journey from Judaism to Orthodox Christianity
Narrated by: A. James Bernstein
Length: 16 hrs and 3 mins
5 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)
Regular price: $24.95
$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Publisher's Summary

Raised in Queens, New York, by formerly Orthodox Jewish parents whose faith had been undermined by the Holocaust, Arnold Bernstein went on his own personal quest for spiritual meaning. He was ready to accept God in whatever form he chose to reveal himself and that form turned out to be Christ. But Bernstein soon perceived discrepancies in the various forms of Protestant belief that surrounded him, and so his quest continued - this time for the true Church. 

Surprised by Christ combines an engrossing memoir of one man's life in historic times and situations from the Six-Day War to the Civil Rights Movement to the Jesus Movement in Berkeley with an examination of the distinctives of Orthodox theology that make the Orthodox Church the true home not only for Christian Jews, but for all who seek to know God as fully as he may be known.

©2008 Ancient Faith Publishing (P)2018 Ancient Faith Publishing

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    5
  • 4 Stars
    1
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    3
  • 4 Stars
    2
  • 3 Stars
    1
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Story

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    5
  • 4 Stars
    1
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Sort by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A Wonderful Story and a Great Lecture

Every once in a while I’ll choose a book simply because it’s available. I was recently offered the chance to listen to Surprised By Christ in exchange for an honest review. Though I knew nothing about the book aside from the title, I jumped at the opportunity. Once I had an audio code, I quickly read the blurb about the book, which piqued my interest - I thought it would be fascinating to hear the author’s tale, and I looked forward to hearing him read the tale himself. I also noticed that it would be 16 hours of listening - that seemed daunting, but I jumped in and started listening.

There are a few parts to the book, but my mind has since divided the book into two sections - the story and the lesson. I LOVED the story. Reverend Bernstein shared his autobiography - from childhood in New York, to his conversion to Christianity, then his time in college and experiences in Berkeley and beyond. Each moment of the tale I felt I was sitting with a grandfather who had a wealth of tales to tell. It never got tiring. He laced his tale with details about popular culture and major historical events and figures. I loved every minute of it.

The “second half” of the book, the lesson, was equally fascinating, though it required a different level of attention. While I could listen to the leisurely story, I found that I needed to speed up the audio in order to be attentive to the lecture. Reverend Bernstein provided a comparative breakdown of many aspects of faith in the Orthodox Church, especially as compared to Protestantism. What I found even more interesting was that he also paired it with Judaism and showed how the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but how Orthodoxy is the fulfillment of the Jewish faith, showing how Christ fulfilled the law as well as prophecy, and how Christianity is still tied to its Jewish roots.

Having listened to the book in its entirety, I would listen to it again. I am also planning to purchase a hard copy of the book so that I can spend more time in the second half of the book and study the information presented. Whether you listen only for the story, or whether you follow through with the whole book, it is worth listening to. Whether you agree with the author or not, the information he presents is well thought out, reasonable, and full of scriptural references. I highly recommend this book to anyone with the time to listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Will Change Your Understanding of Christianity

Since the book "Surprised By Christ" is an intensely personal account, I'll start my review on a personal level, and disclose that I am an Orthodox Christian convert from Roman Catholicism, into which I was baptized and raised from infancy. Because of this, I have always felt somewhat handicapped at understanding both Judaism and the Old Testament. I'm very aware that I can only view either through the lens of the Western Christianity I've inherited. I don't even know the right questions to ask. I was so attracted to Judaism that in my 20s I nearly converted, myself, and that journey caused me to approach Christianity differently. Christianity views itself as a descendant from Judaism, but as modern Christians, in a culture that has claimed Christianity for so long, how much do we really understand about the relationship between our faith (Christianity) and its mother faith, Judaism? (Not much, as it turns out, which is why this book is so illuminating.)

This is what I appreciated so much about Fr James Bernstein's approach to describing his transformation from a cradle Orthodox Jew into, ultimately, an Orthodox Christian priest (via a long trek through Evangelical protestantism). Recounted in first-person autobiography, throughout the story he shares the assumptions he inherited as an Orthodox Jew and the questions they generated as he approached Christianity. It's extremely revealing to hear his reactions as he learns about his new faith after converting. For instance, much of Western Christian salvation theology finds its basis in the idea of sacrifice, which we assume directly descends from Old Testament concepts of sacrifice. But do we have the remotest understanding of what sacrifice meant to an Old Testament-era Jew? Modern Jews have retained a sense of the significance - modern Christians clearly have not. And yet, it's integral to our understanding of our life in Christ and the identity of Christ, Himself. This is just one example in which Fr James brilliantly clarifies Christian theology through the light of his Jewish background.

Do not, however, assume that this book is any kind of dry theological treatise. Important as the concepts presented are (and richly supported through scriptural references and quotes from early Christian fathers), listening to the audiobook was more like sitting down to coffee in the company of a friend, and hearing a long, lovely and fascinating story. Fr James artfully weaves together his personal thoughts and questions, experiences of spiritual growth, and encounters with significant history (a front-row seat in Israel's 6-Day War, a narrow escape from Vietnam conscription, participation in the lively Berkeley culture of the 60s and 70s). The author reads the book at a leisurely pace, which enriches the story and also makes it easier to follow when he delves into rich theology and scripture.

This book is so multi-layered it will bear repeated listening. I am very grateful to Fr James Bernstein for having written it, because it presented answers to questions I didn't know I had, but that prove critical to my understanding of my faith. If you are already a Christian, this book will enrich your understanding of Christianity in unexpected ways: be prepared to let go of what you think you know. And if you aren't a Christian, enjoy a great story that will still enlighten you about parts of our cultural history that are, in general, meagerly understood. Fr James Bernstein brings an invaluable voice to the conversation of culture, history and faith.

Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Howell M. Williams
  • 02-20-19

Insightful and interesting

i thoroughly enjoyed the book although initially I took a while to get used to Fr Bernstein’s slow and deliberate delivery. However as the book got deeper in talking about Orthodox Theology I appreciated the pace of the reading as it gave me time to digest what was being said. As someone interested in what the Orthodox Church believes I found it very interesting and insightful and would throughly recommend it to anyone seeking to learn more. At the same time I discovered so much about Judaism and have a much better appreciation of it than before.