Culture

Why Jesus Was Not a Christian

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Does it seem odd to you that the hottest debate within the early Church was whether or not a Gentile could become a Christian without a complete conversion to Judaism?

This week’s reading of David H. Stern’s Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel A Message for Christians has brought to mind the obvious, yet seldom acknowledged as important: Christianity is Jewish at its very core.

Stern reminds us that the atonement of sin, the need for a sacrifice to God, is rooted in the Jewish sacrificial system. He goes on to point out how other aspects we typically consider uniquely Christian are rooted in Judaism. For example, the Lord’s Supper is rooted in the Jewish Passover.

Did you know that baptism is a Jewish practice? When it comes down to it the entire New Testament is built on the Hebrew Bible’s prophecies and promises of a New Covenant.

None of this may be new or shocking revelations to most Christians. We understand on a cursory level that these are our roots in general but we have little interest in understanding the culture and heritage of the one we call our Savior.

It has cost us.

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Stern points out that much of what is written in the New Testament is incomprehensible apart from Judaism.

He gives the example of the Sermon on the Mount,

If thine eye be evil, the whole body shall be full of darkness.

Do you know what an “evil eye” in Jewish tradition means? Apparently, it’s not actually about evil, but rather about something considered evil. How many sermons have you heard about evil, darkness and sinful wickedness that was based around this scripture?

The author has a different take on it:

…in Hebrew, having an ‘agin ra’ah, an “evil eye,” means being stingy, while having an ‘agin tovah, a “good eye,” means being generous. Yeshua is warning against lack of generosity and nothing else. Moreover, this fits the context perfectly: ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also… you cannot serve both God and money.

Huh. Who knew? That sure does make a lot of sermons I’ve heard over the years seem embarrassingly off. The sermons were still good, don’t get me wrong, and a lot of truth packed in them, but based completely off a misinterpretation of the culture.

Imagine if Jesus came today, and used the expression, “As a rule of thumb….” One could only guess how many doctrines about thumbs would result if no one cared to understand our culture.

I find it very interesting, and refreshing after reading Kosher Jesusto see the gospel through Jewish eyes. Both authors agree that Yeshua, was completely Jewish–and never renounced his faith, and his disconnection from the Jewish people has been a tragic mistake for both faiths.

It was Jews that brought Gentiles their Gospel of Good News. God gave His route to salvation through the people of Israel those He calls His children–we were adopted.

Christ came, not on his own as the founder of his own religion, but rather as a fulfilled promise–for the Jew first and then the Gentile. We are about to celebrate, this Christmas, the answer to Jewish prayers.

If we want to emulate the early church, do we not have to first understand it? 

Join the conversation: Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel A Message for Christians by David H. Stern

RestoringJewishnessBook

Jewish New Testament Commentary Companion

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Photo Credits Shutterstock: Oksana BratanovaEugene Ivanov