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Surprised by Christ: My Journey From Judaism to Orthodox Christianity Paperback – May 15, 2008

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Surprised by Christ: My Journey From Judaism to Orthodox Christianity + Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith + The Orthodox Study Bible: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Today's World
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 335 pages
  • Publisher: Conciliar Press Ministries; 1st edition (May 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1888212950
  • ISBN-13: 978-1888212952
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Fascinating. It reminds us again of the sovereignty of God, and his desire to reach every one of his beloved children, no matter where they are. --Frederica Mathewes-Green, Beliefnet columnist and author of "Facing East: A Pilgrim s Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy"

In sharing his "surprise" with us, Fr. James Bernstein shows that he is a Hebrew prophet in the definition of prophecy provided by that other "Hebrew born of Hebrews" who knew the same "surprise." In sharing his story and convictions, Fr James "speaks to people for their edification and encouragement and comfort" (1 Cor 14.3). The grace and spirit of His words match the grace and truth of their content. We thank God for this prophetic gift. --Fr. Thomas Hopko, Dean Emeritus, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary

In life you meet a handful of people whose stories crash through the usual categories of human experience and form a new kind of stand-alone narrative. Enter: Fr. James Bernstein. Son of a Jewish rabbi, national chess champion, leader with Jews for Jesus in Berkeley, Orthodox Christian priest -- whew! You will love and be greatly encouraged by his unusual story of life in Christ. --Fr. Peter E. Gillquist, author of "Becoming Orthodox"

About the Author

Father Arnold James Bernstein lives with his wife Bonnie outside of Seattle, Washington, where he serves as pastor of St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church.

Customer Reviews

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See all 21 customer reviews
Sustains my Faith!
Amazon Customer
This book is extremely well written and answers questions we should all have to understand our Orthodox Christian Faith.
mathew kakis
In this sense, I think this is a good first book for non-Orthodox Christians to read.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By K. Allen on May 23, 2008
Format: Paperback
Surprised By Christ: My Journey from Judaism to Orthodox Christianity succeeds on several levels. The first is as an engaging and fascinating conversion story of a first-generation religious Jewish boy (Conservative Jew) in Queens, New York, raised as he puts it, "in the shadow of the Holocaust", whose "road to Damascus" encounter of Christ after reading the New Testament under his covers with his flashlight, compels him to become a founding member of "Jews For Jesus", a participant in the sixties "Jesus Movement" in California, a pastor in what became the Evangelical Orthodox Church, a convert to Orthodox Christianity, seminarian and eventually an ordained Orthodox priest. Interspersed throughout is a well-written narrative of the many phases of his spiritual experience, study and discovery as he journies from independent Protestantism (he is thankful and generous about his Protestant experience) to re-discovery of his Jewish roots in the Eastern Orthodox Church. If you want to understand how the first Jewish converts to the Christian faith saw Christ as the prophesied Messiah of Israel through the Hebrew Scriptures and rabbinic sources, this is the book! You will also get an excellent overview of Orthodox Christian theology and praxis in the book. There is a fascinating chapter that shows a historical connection between the "Nazarene" Jewish Christians of Jerusalem, who fled the destruction of the Temple (A.D. 70) to Aleppo in modern-day Syria, with the Antiochian Orthodox Church. This is an excellent and entertaining primer on Orthodoxy - and its differences from western Christianity - for the Jew, Gentile or spiritual seeker alike.

If you are interested in hearing an interview with the author about the book, the link follows:

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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Volkert Volkersz on August 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
"Surprised By Christ," by Fr. James Bernstein, is best described as a theological autobiography. It is the long-awaited companion volume to the best-selling "Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith," by Peter E. Gillquist, which tells the story of approximately 2,000 Evangelicals who, in the 1970s and 80s, went on a search for the New Testament Church and found themselves being received into the Orthodox Christian Church 1987.

While most of that group was led by former staff members of Campus Crusade for Christ, Fr. James, then known as Arnold, joined forces with them after being raised as a devout Jew in Queens, and becoming a Christian while secretly reading a Jehovah's Witness translation of the New Testament under his bedcovers at night. He became active in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in New York before being selected by Moishe Rosen to help start Jews for Jesus in San Francisco.

While in the Bay area, Arnold (now Fr. James) became involved with the Christian World Liberation Front in Berkeley, which was led by Jack Sparks, a former Crusade staffer, and he became part of their quest for the New Testament Church while participating in evangelistic street theater.

I like to say that "Surprised by Christ" was written in three speeds, or rhythms. The autobiographical portions of this book, his childhood in Queens, his days in college, his year in Israel during the time of the "Six Day War," and in street ministry, are all a fascinating quick read, and are memorable reflections of those turbulent times.

Then Fr.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By N on April 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
Surprised by Christ is more than an autobiography. It is a great introduction into the Orthodox Church. In fact I would wager that more of the book is doctrinal than biographical. However the doctrine is described anecdotally which I found to be an excellent aid in understanding. What I mean by anecdotal is that Fr. Bernstein introduces concepts as they related to his journey from Judaism to Christianity. So the book does not suffer from the dryness that a proper Orthodox introduction might. Also, the book does a good job in comparing Salvation doctrines of different Christian churches. Also, the fullfilment Old Testament prophecy is described succintly.

Another plus, is that Fr. Bernstein is not overly critical and hostile of Protestants and Catholics. In fact he admits that some non-Orthodox friends of his are spiritually and morally ahead of him. He does however compare doctrines and makes a Biblical and historical case for the Orthodox viewpoint. In this sense, I think this is a good first book for non-Orthodox Christians to read.

Overall, a good read. Also, the writing style is very simple, clear, and succint. The reading is easy and therefore fast.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By mathew kakis on April 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
I grew up in a similar neighborhood in Queens New York not far from where Father James grew up. I'm a few years older than he but our circumstances were similar. Our hangout was the neighboring candy store where I would buy cigarets for my dad, the Daily News, egg creams, yo-yos, school supplies and of course our pink Spauldings for stick-ball, handball, stoop ball, box ball and other games that only a NYC youngster would conjure up. Every, and I mean every candy store was owned by a Jewish family just as every diner in the New York Area was owned by an immigrant Greek as rail-road car diner that eventually evolved into grand family restaurant. In our day we were pushed by our parents to emulate the Jewish students as they were the ones who excelled in their grades and became respectable professionals. If there was anti-Semitism in my school years, and I'm sure there must have been, I was not exposed to it. My friends were almost all Greeks and Jews. I recall the Jewish Holy Days during my elementary and high-school days. At that time the schools stayed open and the Jewish children would stay home in order to celebrate Rosh Hossanah, Yom Kippor and Passover. Passover usually fell during the Easter Break, but the other two meant that 75% of the students and faculty would be absent and 5-6 of the classes would be combined to do absolutely nothing. Fortunately, some wisdom prevailed and several years later, the Jewish Holy Days were made legal holidays for everyone.

As I grew to understand the Orthodox Faith in its fullness, I came to learn of many Evangelicals who came to the Orthodox Church. This group had made many tracts available and the one that caught my eye was titled, "Jewish and Orthodox too" by A James Bernstein.
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