The Jewishness of Jesus: Some Religious Implications For Gentile Christians By Jewish Christian


The Jewishness of Jesus: Some Religious Implications For Gentile Christians By Jewish Christian

The one whom Christians cliam is the foundation, the cornerstone of their religion is Jesus or Yeshua, as he was really called, which was a popular variant of Joshua – meaning “the L-rd is salvation.” It is interesting to note that Jesus was himself not a Christian. He in fact was a Jew. He did not go to Mass, or indeed any worship service, on Sunday morning. He went to services on the Sabbath. He did not go to church. He went to synagogue. He did not speak Greek, Latin, Church Slavonic, German, or English. He spoke Hebrew and Aramaic – two semitic languages. He had a Jewish mother, which means he probably looked a lot like other Jews, i.e., dark hair and complexion, perhaps with a so-called Roman nose, not too large in stature. No one addressed him as Father, Paster, Reverend, or Minister. But he was addressed as Rabbi. He did not read the New Testament, nor did he think it the inspired word of G-d. He did read the Hebrew Bible and thought it the Holy Scriptures. He never recited the Rosary, chanted Hospodi pomilui at a litany, nor sang a Wesleyan hymn. Rather, he recited the psalms; he died with one on his lips: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani?” (My G-d, my G-d, why have you abandoned me?) He did not celebrate Christmas and Easter. He celebrated Shavout and Passover – not communion, but a Seder. To repeat, Jesus was not a Christian. He was a Jew. He was Rabbi Yeshua. 

Rabbi Yeshua was not a mediocre, run-of-the-mill, secularized Jew. He was a very observant Jew. He wore tzitzit (the dancing fringes seen on observant Jew today) – recall the story of the woman with the twelve-year flow of blood who but touched the fringe of his clothes. What is really important to remember is that, whatever Luther or any other Protestant interpreter of Paul – or Paul himself – said, Rabbi Yeshua did not ocme to dispense with or do away with the Torah, the Law. He came to carry it out. One Orthodox Israeli scholar, Pinchas Lapide, said of Yeshua:

“never and nowhere broke the Law of Moses, the Torah of Moses, nor did he in any way provoke its infringement – it is entirely false to say that he did… This Jesus was a faithful to the Law as I would hope to be. I even suspect that Jesus was more faithful to the Law than I am – and I am an Orthodox Jew.” – (Pinchas Lapid and Hans Kung, “Is Jesus a Bond or Barrier? A Jewish-Christian dialogue,” [summer, 1977] 473)

Jesus, Yeshua himself makes the claim about keeping the Law, the Torah – until the end of the world. There is no notion whasover of the abolishment of the Law in his words – and it should be remembered that they are recorded by Matthew: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the prophets; I came not to destroy but to carry out” (plerosai, literally, to implement; Mt.5:17-19). Another Israeli Orthodox Jewish scholar put it this way: “Yeshua was “a Torah-true Jew” (David Flusser, Jesus in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten (Reinbeck, 1968), p.43). A Jewish professor of Rabbinics at Cambridge University stated the same idea thus: “Nor can I accept that Jesus’ purpose was to do away with Judaism as he found it. He had his criticisms, to be sure, but he wanted to perfect the Law of Moses, not annul it. The Christian hostility to this law strikes me as a betrayal of Jesus’ teaching” (Nicholas de Lange, “Who is Jesus?” Sidic, vol.12, no.3 [1979], p.12). The scholar of Judaistics, Johann Maier, made the same point: “There is no evidence that Jesus had intended a suspension of the Torah. Rather, he was perceived as so devout that the Pharisees displayed an even positive interest in him and viewed him as worthy or travelling around with. Likewise, the Jewish-Christian community saw no reason to give up the Torah either in theory or practice… In no individual concrete case – neither in relation to the Sabbath healing, nor in ritual practice, nor in the question of divorce – is there a fundamental conflict with “the Law” (Johann Maier, “Jesus von Nazareth und sein Verhaltnis zum Judentum aus der Sicht eines Judaisten,” 1980, pg.95). 

It should be clear upon the briefest reflection that those Christians who attempt to set up some sort of dichotomy between the Law and grace, as if Judaism were a religion only of Law and Christianity were a religion only of grace – whaever they might be – in this regard are not followers of Jesus, of Rabbi Yeshua. He at any rate was committed to the keeping of the Law, the Torah, “as long as heaven and earth last!” and “whoever breaks even the smallest of the commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be the least in the Reign of Heaven.”