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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The Essenes, whose name may come from an Arabaic word meaning "pious," had already withdrawn from Jerusalem and Temple participation by the time of Jesus.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.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous
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To: wimpycat
Gentiles were a non-issue during His ministry.

Not exactly. Remember the Centurion.

And of course the Samarian women at the well.

41 posted on 11/06/2001 11:39:39 AM PST by AmericaUnited
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To: backhoe
The next year she convinced her choir ( I was a member, naturally ) that singing for the High Holy Days would be a challenging & interesting thing to do, and the St. Mark's Choir has done so every year since. This will be the first year she misses, I'm not sure what, if anything, the choir will do in her absence.

It sounds interesting, and a source fo spiritual grace. I'm sorry to hear of her having to miss such a special event.

Her resignation last week was a source of considerable grief; we've enjoyed a long & very congenial relationship with the Temple, indeed last year the Sisterhood inducted her as a member, much to her delight.

Friendship is a good thing. I have a little prayer you might pass on there her concerning grief. It is short:

In this sadness that weighs me down and for which I can find no human support, I turn to you Jesus, to be my friend and protector and intercede for me on behalf of the Father in Heaven. Ask I may welcome whatever God may send for love of Him who makes all things a means of holiness.

42 posted on 11/06/2001 11:41:14 AM PST by JMJ333
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To: RightWhale
Circumstantial evidence indicates he might not have been Jewish

Don't make me laugh. Matthew starts out with the precise, detailed geneology of Jesus. Are you going to believe hundrends of scriptures or some wack-job, nutcase, modern liberal theologian?

43 posted on 11/06/2001 11:42:06 AM PST by AmericaUnited
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To: hopespringseternal
The article is garbage. The writer treats Jesus rather flippantly and seriously downplays His conflict with the Pharisees.

I didn't see anything flippant. Jesus did argue with the Pharisees but that doesn't mean that He Himself didn't take the style of the Pharisees. His use of parable is directly from the Pharisaic tradition. Jesus' issue with the Pharisees was where they were leading the people, not their approach or technique.

This wasn't a debating society squabble. Calling Jesus a Pharisee is just downright goofy.

Well, it's pretty well historically documented. But that's not saying that Jesus was hypocritical, like the Pharisees He chastised. It's just saying that he followed that sect of Judaism.

While Jesus praised some individual Pharisees, He rejected their form of Judaism.

He rejected honoring the Law for the Law's sake instead of honoring G-d through obedience to the Law. He made it clear that it was the hypocricy, not the form, that He objected to.

In addition, Christians owe nothing to Jews but the truth.

Read Romans 11-13.

In rejecting Christ, they are cut off.

No more so than any other person on earth.

No real Christian can possibly maintain that someone who rejects Christ nevertheless retains the favor of God.

Well, I know some real Christians who do. Then again, neither you nor I are judges of who is the real Christian. I believe that Jews need to receive Christ to come to the Father by Him, but I know real Christians who disagree.


44 posted on 11/06/2001 11:42:32 AM PST by ArGee
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To: backhoe brain has quit workin.. on there her = on to her
45 posted on 11/06/2001 11:43:22 AM PST by JMJ333
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To: Hila
And likewise the only way for Jesus to have served as the perfect sacrifice was for Him to fulfill the Jewish law. If you follow the jewish law you are a Jew. Only a perfect Jew would be good enough to be the perfect sacrifice

(I can defend this in scripture but haven't the time at the moment)

God Save America (Please)

46 posted on 11/06/2001 11:43:47 AM PST by John O
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To: JMJ333
Hey..Jesus would have fit in well here at FR! lol

Yeah, except that Jesus never debated just for the fun of it. I do that a lot, but not Him.


47 posted on 11/06/2001 11:44:00 AM PST by ArGee
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To: AmericaUnited
For the record:

Matthew1:1 The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:

1:2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.

1:3 Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram.

1:4 Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon.

1:5 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse.

1:6 Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.

1:7 Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa.

1:8 Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah.

1:9 Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.

1:10 Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah.

1:11 Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

1:12 After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel.

1:13 Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor.

1:14 Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud.

1:15 Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob.

1:16 Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

1:17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

48 posted on 11/06/2001 11:46:50 AM PST by AmericaUnited
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To: Lurking Libertarian
Hillel replied, "what is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: this is the essence of the Torah; all the rest is commentary.

I have heard this story. It does suggest that Yeshua bar Yosef would have liked Hillel, but it also demonstrates one of the chief differences between the Nazarene sect and today's Judaism.

Hillel said, Don't do to your neighbor anything you don't want done to you (negative phrasing).
Yeshua said, Do to your neighbor the things you would like done to you (positive phrasing).

That is, to be a good Jew it is only necessary to avoid doing evil. To be a good Christian it is necessary to try to do good - even to those who persecute you.


49 posted on 11/06/2001 11:47:45 AM PST by ArGee
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To: FreeTally
What did the teacher think JC was, Chinese? Hang-ups about jews must be one of the most bizarre aspects of humanity's long recorded history. We still can't laugh about these hang-ups because they are still prevalent today.

Here's more proof Jesus was Jewish: 1. He lived at home until he was thirty, 2. He thought his mother was a virgin, 3. His mother treated him like God.

;) old joke, I know....

50 posted on 11/06/2001 11:47:53 AM PST by Shermy
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To: JMJ333
to suggest that Jesus wasn't Jewish is to invalidate the New Testament

Not at all. There might be more to the story.

51 posted on 11/06/2001 11:48:03 AM PST by RightWhale
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To: hopespringseternal
You are eternally wrong hopesprinseternal! Christians owe their very faith and existence to the Jews, through them came the Word by which you must live, not only hear. Through them came Messiah Yeshua, whom you must get acquainted with. Jesus was not born of a church canon, He does not proceed from the "fathers of the faith". And He is coming back to Israel, not to New Hampshire, San Francisco, Europe, Asia or any Arab state. If you are truly a Christian, you need to repent of your anti-semitism and look into the Word to discover your personal Hebraic roots. The Bible which you may have read states: Paul speaking:

"I say then, has God cast away His people (the Jews)? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He forenew.....I say, have they stumbled that they sould fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles (Christians among them)......For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?...If some of the branches (the Jews) were broken off, and you (Christians) being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches (the Jews). But if you boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you....their hardening in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles(people like you hopespringseternal) has come in. And all ISRAEL will be saved. Read Romans 11.

You need to know that Your God says about Israel, repentance is available to you for judging them as discarded, praying for the peace of Jerusalem and for God's plans to be established Israel is wisdom and obedience to the One who saved your soul.

52 posted on 11/06/2001 11:48:10 AM PST by Hila
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To: Eternal_Bear
He'd speak that way to many Jews, Christians and Muslims.
53 posted on 11/06/2001 11:55:01 AM PST by gone_to_heck_back_soon
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To: AmericaUnited
Are you going to believe hundrends of scriptures or some wack-job, nutcase, modern liberal theologian?

Let me guess. No, wait, I'd like to buy a vowel.

54 posted on 11/06/2001 11:56:38 AM PST by RightWhale
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To: JMJ333
Appreciate the kins words; I'll pass that on to her-
55 posted on 11/06/2001 11:57:43 AM PST by backhoe
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To: RightWhale
OH, just come out with it for crying out loud! Your mysterious hints are starting to make me think that that you think the Jewish Jesus was some sort of cover up for something else.

JESUS WAS A JEW!!!!! I can't believe that you'd believe (assuming you are a Christian) that Jesus is the Son of the Living God, the Messiah, that He raised Lazarus from the dead, that He cast out demons, that He walked on water, that He multiplied the loaves and fishes, that He cured the blind man, that He was tempted by the Devil for forty days, that He was crucified and rose from the dead, but you NEED MORE PROOF to convince you Jesus was Jewish!

Oh, for heaven's sake! I feel like I'm down the rabbit hole with Alice!

56 posted on 11/06/2001 12:01:06 PM PST by wimpycat
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To: backhoe
>"My Boss is a Jewish carpenter...."

It's a cute saying, but IMHO is way overdone. There is nothing to indicate that Jesus remained a carpenter after his youth. There is far more reason to believe he was doing other things in other places.

57 posted on 11/06/2001 12:01:56 PM PST by skraeling
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To: RightWhale
Circumstantial evidence indicates he might not have been Jewish. Who would know?

It works like this:

History says Jesus was a Jew.
A disgruntled liberal or two dispute that.
The burden of proof is on the new idea.
Therefore the burden of proof is on the disgrunteled liberals.

Of course Jesus was a Jew. His lineage is listed in front of the Synoptics. He preached in Synagogues (let a gentile try that!), he called the temple HIS Father's house, he was tried by the Jews and executed by the Romans at the insistence of the Jews (they were not allowed to execute). Jesus observed the Jewish Passover, was reprimanded by the Jews for working on the Sabbath (did Jews worry about Romans working on the Sabbath?) and amazed the teachers of the law with his knowledge of it when he was only 12!

Now where is the evidence that he was not a Jew?

58 posted on 11/06/2001 12:04:49 PM PST by Dataman
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To: JMJ333
I wanted to show that Judaism is indeed a religion of love and that Christians do have an obligation toward Jews and Israel.

Actually, Jews were one tribe of the (Christian) House of Israel, anticipating Christ's arrival. When He, the Messiah arrived, they rejected Him, splintering from the (Christian) House of Israel. Then, they conducted the first holocaust against their own people for accepting Christ as the Messiah. Later, their descendants were to be saved from another holocaust by the nation founded by men seeking to worship Christ freely, America, 2,000 years later. America has no obligation other than brotherly love toward Israel and Her lost, reorganized (Christian) House of Israel, tribe of Judah brothers and sisters.

Christianity is the oldest religion, with Judaism being the oldest Christian splinter group, followed by Islam the modern pagan religion that remains as a thorn to keep Christians humble.

59 posted on 11/06/2001 12:06:49 PM PST by Nephi
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To: Hila
I said Jesus was not a Pharisee, not that He wasn't a Jew.

And I have read Romans 11, enough to know that it doesn't contradict the rest of the bible with regards to apostate Jews. The old covenant was fulfilled in Christ who established a new covenant with His blood. The old covenant no longer exists.

Those who maintain there is a way to please God outside the blood of Christ are not Christians, no matter what they call themselves.

60 posted on 11/06/2001 12:07:08 PM PST by hopespringseternal
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