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Jesus the Jew
March issue, 1995 pages 1-6 [I typed it in.] | Arthur Zamboni----Catholic Digest--condensed from Catholic Update

Posted on 11/06/2001 10:13:10 AM PST by JMJ333

*I know this is an extremely old article [I dug it out of the back of my closet} but it is well worth the read.

Jesus was a committed Jew of his day. And to truly understand Jesus, we need a solid background in Jewish religious, social, and political history.

Jesus, a rural Jew, lived in Galilee, in the northern part of Palestine. And in Jesus day, Galilee was divided into an upper and lower region. The lower region, where Jesus lived was a rich valley that stretched from the Mediterranean to the sea of Galilee, a distance of about 25 miles.

As far as we know, in Jesus' time there were four principle Jewish sects: The Essenes, the Zealots, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees.

The Essenes, whose name may come from an Arabaic word meaning "pious," had already withdrawn from Jerusalem and Temple participation by the time of Jesus. In isolated monastic communities established in the Judean wilderness, they studied scriptures and developed a rule of life. Essenes were known for their piety--daily prayer, prayer before and after meals, strict observation of the Sabbath, daily ritual bathing, emphasis on chastity and celibacy, wearing white robes as a symbol of spiritual purity, and sharing communal meals and property. Nowhere in the Gospels, however, is Jesus presented as adhering to the Essenes way of life.

Jesus was not a zealot either. Zealots were Jews who vehemently opposed the Roman occupation of Palestine. But there is no evidence in any of Jesus' teachings that he encouraged revolt against Rome.

Jesus also was clearly set apart from the Sadducees, whose name in Hebrew means "Righteous ones." These Jews believed in a strict interpretation of the Torah and did not believe in life after death. Jesus, of course believed in bodily resurrection (Mark 12:18-27)

Contrary to common understanding, Jesus may well have been close to the Pharisees, even if he did debate them vigorously. Many of Jesus' teachings and much of his style was similar to theirs. To understand this, we need to compare the central teachings of the Pharisees to Jesus' teachings.

The Pharisees were a lay reform group within Judaism. The name Pharisee itself means "separate ones" in Hebrew, which refers to a ritual observance of purity and tithing; the word Pharisee can also be translated as "The interpreter," referring to this group's unique interpretation of Hebrew scripture.

As reformers, the Pharisees did not oppose Roman occupation; rather their focus was on reforming the temple, especially with respect to its liturgical practices and priests. And the Pharisees turned their attention toward strengthening Jewish devotion to the Torah, which, they said, had to be continually readjusted within the framework of the contemporary Jewish community. While the Pharisees insisted that the 613 commandments found in the written Torah remained in effect, the commandments had to be carefully rethought in light of new human needs.

The temple priests, though, looked upon the precepts of the Torah more literally and primarily in terms of sacrificial observances at the Temple. The Pharisees, on the other hand, taught that every ordinary human action could become sacred--an act of worship. Doing a "good deed" for another human, a "mitzvah" in Hebrew, was accorded a status that in some ways, surpassed Temple worship. This was truly a revolution in religious thinking.

In addition, a new religious figure in Judaism--the teacher--or Rabbi--emerged within the Pharisaic movement. For their part, rabbis fulfilled a twofold role in the community: They served as interpreters of the Torah and, more importantly, they helped make its teachings relevant. Their principle task was instructional, not liturgical.

From the Pharisaic reform emerged what was later called the synagogue ("assembly of people"). The synagogue became the center of this movement, which quickly spread throughout Palestine and the cities of Jewish Diaspora. Unlike the Jerusalem Temple, the synagogues were not places where priests presided and sacrifices were offered; rather they were places where the Torah was studied, rabbis offered interpretations, and prayers were said. Thus, synagogues became not merely "houses of God" but far more "houses of the people of God."

The Pharisee also emphasized table fellowship--a way of strengthening relationships within a community. In the eyes of the Pharisees, the Temple altar in Jerusalem could be replicated at every table in the household of Israel. A quiet but far reaching reform was at hand. There was no longer any basis for assigning to the priestly class a unique level of authority.

The Pharisees saw God not only as creator, giver of the Covenant, and much more, but in a special way, as the Parent of each individual. Everyone had the right to address God in a direct and personal way, not simply through the temple sacrifices offered by the priests.

The Pharisees also believed in resurrection. Those whose lives were marked by justice would rise once the Messiah had come. Then they would enjoy perpetual union with God.

There is little doubt, then, that Jesus and the Pharisees shared many central convictions. The first was their basic approach to God as a parent figure. In story after story in the Gospels, Jesus addresses God in this way. And Jesus' central prayer begins by invoking God as "Our Father" (Matt. 6: 9-13). The effect of this emphasis was fundamentally the same for Jesus as for the Pharisees (although Jesus had a unique position as God's "Only begotten Son"). More than anything, this approach led to both an enhanced appreciation of the dignity of every person and ultimately to the notion of resurrection--and perpetual union with God.

Jesus' own public stance closely paralleled the evolving role of the Pharisaic teacher. Jesus on a number of occasions in the Gospels are filled with examples of Jesus teaching in synagogues.

Jesus clearly picked up on another central feature of Pharisaism as well, that of the oral Torah, which refers to interpretations given by the Pharisees to various Torah texts. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus offers interpretations of Scripture quite similar to those of the Pharisees.

Finally, Jesus also embraced the table fellowship notion of Pharisaism. The meal narratives in the New Testament are an example of this. In the end, He selected table fellowship for a critical of his ministry, the celebration of the first Eucharist.

Then why, in the Gospels, do the Pharisees appear as the archenemies of Jesus? Here is gets complicated. For one thing, some Pharisees were praised by Jesus (for example the scribe of Mark 12:32). And we know that Jesus ate with Pharisees (Luke 7:36; 14:1).

But there was still conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus, nevertheless. And here scholarship offers three possible explanations.

The first sees Jesus and his teachings as quite similar to the Pharisees. The animosity in the Gospel results from subsequent interpretations of Jesus' action. For example, Jesus' practicing healing on the Sabbath or his disciples picking grain in the holy day were actions clearly not supported by the Pharisees.

Another possible explanation results from our enhanced understanding of the Talmud, the collected teachings of the Pharisees and their rabbinic heirs. In the Talmud are references to some seven categories of Pharisees, which clearly shows that the Pharisaical movement encompassed a wide range of viewpoints and, more important, that internal disputes, often of the heated variety, were quite common. The Gospel portraits of Jesus disputing with the "Pharisees" were examples of "hot debates" that were common in the Pharisaic circles rather than examples of Jesus condemning the Pharisees.

A third scholarly approach stresses positive connection between Jesus' central teachings and those of the Pharisees. In light of these, one becomes suspicious about the so-called texts of conflict. Surely Jesus would not denounce a movement with which he had so much in common.

Hence, either Jesus was speaking in a very limited context, or what are commonly called "the conflict stories" represent religious tensions existing in the latter part of the first century when the gospels were written. The Christian community--now formally expelled from the synagogues--was engaged in intense competition for Jewish converts. The New Testament statements about conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees may reflect that competition.

Regardless, one fact remains. Jesus' own Bible was the Hebrew Scriptures. His attitude toward the sacred writings is summed up in the assertion "Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish the Law but fulfill (Matt. 5:17).

On the whole, Jesus' teachings were wither literally biblical or filtered through the Pharisaic use of the scripture, or both.

The way the Pharisee and Jesus used the Hebrew Scriptures becomes more clear when Jesus argues his position by using so-called "proof-texts." Here, Jesus quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures to prove a point or refute a critic (See the Sermon on the Mount Matt 5, 6, & 7). In such instances, Jesus was drawing on a technique used by the Pharisees in trying to make a point.

The "Proof-Texting" that Jesus used did, at times, pit him against the Pharisees--such as when He challenged certain claims they made about the unwritten law and called them hypocrites for placing higher value on teachings of humans than of God (Matt. 23: 1-36).; such as when He used scripture to refute the Pharisaic teachings about plucking grain on the Sabbath (Matt 12: 1-8). or unwashed hands (Matt. 15:20).

At other times though, Jesus' "proof-texting" placed him on the side of the Pharisees. Once in an impressive debate with the Saduccees, He used Hebrew scripture to reinforce his belief, and that oft he Pharisees, in an afterlife. Jesus was so impressive he won the Pharisees' applause (Matt. 22: 23-33).

Possibly the best example we have of Jesus' use of Hebrew Scriptures is his teaching on love. "Teacher," one Pharisee asked, "which commandment is greatest?" And Jesus responded by quoting Deuteronamy 6:5, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment" (Matt. 22: 36-39). Them Jesus went on quoting Leviticus 19:18, "The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." In brief, Jesus was proof-texting his answer.

Jesus' use of the Hebrew Scriptures, therefore, was unabashedly Jewish. And it was similar to that of his contemporaries, particularly the philosophy of the Pharisees.

Knowing and appreciating the Jewish origins has at least three advantages: First, it helps us revise negative understandings of the Pharisees. It also helps us to avoid anti-Semitism. Finally, it allows us to better appreciate the Jewish roots of Christianity. Ultimately, understanding Jesus as a Jew will help us to better understand both our own faith and that of the contemporary Jews.

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To: Nephi
>Geez, talk about revisionist history...Name the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel without naming Judah.

The Tribe of Judah was not part of the Northern Kingdom thus was not one of the 10 Lost Tribes.

All 12 Tribes were ISRAELITES, but only the 10 "Lost Tribes" were designated House of Israel

>Not true. The tribe of Judah might not have been lost, but it was part of the House of Israel and was scattered.

Different diaspora. Gotta get your history right, first.

> I'd love to see the contortions you'll need to master in order to disregard David's many references to the House of Israel in Samuel, let alone the many references in Exodus, Leviticus, etc.

You will never understand the Old Testament until you separate the peoples both by tribe and by time. After the Northern Kingdom was gone the OT frequently uses Israel to mean the SOUTHERN Kingdom since they were all that were left. Doesn't change the meaning of the earlier references.

>Lastly, you'll have a hard time convincing people that Jews would worship from a book that clearly shows G_d's preference for the House of Israel over the "House of Judah" (sic).

BOTH HOUSES WERE BAD AND BOTH WERE PUNISHED, but in different ways. You gotta get the promises straight or will never understand this. The House of Israel (Northern Kingdom, Lost Tribes, The Celts, todays Europeans and Americans) received different promises than the House of Judah. It's a whole big additional story, but begins with The House of Israel getting the Inheritance, the Name, and the promise of becoming a nation larger than the "stars of the sky and sand of the sea", and more. The House of Judah did not receive that promise. It received the "right to rule and reign", among others. There is much more...

The book "Missing Links Discovered In Assyrian Tablets" found in my Profile is an excellent and authoritative primer, in addition to your Bible.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were not Jews, nor were even the 12 sons including Judah, but they were Hebrews. Some Jews are Hebrews, but not all Hebrews are Jews.


301 posted on 12/13/2001 6:16:40 PM PST by LostTribe
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To: LostTribe
CORRECTION: ALL Jews are Hebrews, but not all Hebrews are Jews.
302 posted on 12/14/2001 8:56:44 PM PST by LostTribe
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To: JMJ333
Dear JMJ

Does anyone, even you or the Gospels know the truth and whole truth? I think not. The historical Jesus and the Mythical Jesus have become so convoluted, the truth is no one knows all the facts for sure for insufficient evidence, or information heard from others, or in modern times known as hearsay, generally not admissible for evidence.

Those going with blind faith and unwilling to look at the limited facts that can or have been documented often run ignorant of many factual events.

The Christian God is the Jewish God.
Both religions are based on monotheistic beliefs.
Some pray directly to God. Some to or through Jesus.
And your comments Jews are cut off; From what?
Do you really believe that those who worship God the same way Jesus did will be cut off from anything? Or that God only loves people who believe Jesus is Christ?

By saying Christians owe "nothing" to the Jews but the truth; The truth is there is much debate about the whole truth.
And Chistians,if truly Christian in the name of Jesus, owe Judaism respect. Not the disrespect propagated through much of the new testament. Else they disrespect Jesus as he was a Jew. And that would be disrespecting your own God and his people.
I feel lucky to have grown up in a "neighborhood" that was primarily Jewish and Roman Catholic and near a city hosting many of our world's religions. I despise bigotry. It is one of the largest roots of evil, terror and war in our international society. In general, I judge people by their respect for others, ethical beliefs and morals, and firmly believe it is wrong for any one group to impose their beliefs on other groups and even more so, those who become intolerant of different people by interfering in their lives through evangelizing.

What is sad is that many Christians are taught to "believe what they are told" rather than to "think for themselves". Anyone who is open minded and can think and not a bigot can see there are many different religions in our world and that that within specific religions there are many different conflicting beliefs. And many of those beliefs are mutually exclusive. So do you really believe God will "cut off"
According to respected sources as the World Christian Encyclopedia as well as national self reported surveys as collected by major census organizations, approximately two thirds of the world population do not follow the Christian religion. Yet many have led fulfilling ethical lives contributing to society. Will all those people be cut off too?

The main points are living an ethically moral life and accepting people no matter where they come from or what their religious beliefs are.

It is unfortunate that religions have been used by political leaders to divide and conquer nations. Much by the propagation of misleading information. If you want to believe such things as "In rejecting Christ, they are cut off", then you are free to. Keep in mind there are many who believe in Jesus in the Christian sense yet they violate the ten commandments and subsequent bodies of law designed to promote morals and good will and yet ask for forgiveness rather than accepting responsibility for their own behaviors.

Just think of this too:
Jews are of the same blood as Jesus.
Many Christians are not.
Jews mainly practice their religion as did Jesus.
Many of the practices within Christianity are taken directly from Judaic practices, although many of those practices have been disguised as Christian practices with the attempt to rewrite the bible as separate from Judaism.

Most historical sources indicate:
Jesus worshiped as Jew, not as a Christian.
In other words, Jesus worshiped as a Jew studying the law of Moses and Torah and more.

He used the Jewish bible and also preached the same.

Many Christian houses of worship do not teach the Judaic roots of Christianity and as such I see many Christians who don't have a clue to the historical roots or their own religion or the real basis for many rituals in the Christian religion.

The Christian bible is full of conflicting verses and can be misleading as it omits many issues which have led to Christians blaming the Jews rather than the Romans for many of the events that took place under Roman Rule and Roman Law.

In fact, I find your two following comments contradictory in itself: "No real Christian can possibly maintain that someone who rejects Christ nevertheless retains the favor of God." In other words, people who see Jesus as a Rabbi/Teacher and Prophet but not God reincarnated do not retain the favor of God, followed by your citing the commandment Love your neighbor as yourself.

All people on this earth are God's children and if you wish to believe that God discriminates against his children for having different beliefs than you've subscribed to the same bigotry that leaders have propagated to divide and conquer nations by the misuse of religion.

I would recommend that all Christians read some books on Christianity and its Judaic roots, of course from respected and validated sources, as it will help you better understand the Christian religion and also lessen the perceived gap between Christianity and other non-Christian Monotheistic religions.
303 posted on 03/29/2005 11:34:09 AM PST by schweitzer (God does not Discriminate - Monotheism is One God.)
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