a messianic is jesus a - .understand yeshua (jesus) in the context of first-century judaism. if you

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a messianicjewish perspective Volume 21-9

a messianicjewish perspective Volume 21-8

a messianicjewish perspective Volume 21-8

a messianicjewish perspective Volume 21-8

Volu

me

22-7

JESUS

RABBI?ais

ISSN 0741-0352 PRINTED IN THE U.S.A. 2018EDITOR IN CHIEF: SUSAN PERLMAN EDITOR: MATT SIEGERDESIGN / ILLUSTRATION: PAIGE SAUNDERSJOIN US AT FACEBOOK.COM/ISSUESMAG

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a messianicjewish perspective

a messianicjewish perspective

a messianicjewish perspective

a messianicjewish perspective

In 1960, Norman Cousins, former editor of the Saturday Review wrote, There is every reason for Judaism to lose its reluctance toward Jesus. His own towering spiritual presence is a projection of Judaism, not a repudiation of it.1 But decades later, Jesus still remains an enigma to many Jewish peoplewas he a rabbi, a rebel, a false prophet?

FIRST-CENTURY JUDAISMTo help answer this question, we need to

understand Yeshua (Jesus) in the context of first-century Judaism. If you think modern Judaism is complicated, during the Second Temple period Judaism took on a variety of forms, many of which are not comparable to todays expressions, culturally or otherwise. Several of the first-century Jewish sects

are spoken of in the New Testament, as well as in other historical sources. There were the Essenes, Zealots, Sadducees and Pharisees. According to the New Testament, the sect with which Jesus interacted the most was the Pharisees.

THE PHARISEESThe Pharisees were the guardians of the oral

law and traditions of Israel. Although generally depicted as extremists who insisted on dotting all the is and crossing all the ts of Judaism, many

were the moderates of their day, attempting to create a middle path that all of Israel could follow. Author Alan F. Segal refers to the Pharisees as loose constructionists of the Torah, contrasting them with the Sadducees, who he terms strict constructionists.2

Jesus had many conversations with the Pharisees (e.g., Matthew 19:39, Mark 12:2834, Luke 19:39), answering their questions, often pointedly, to challenge their thinking. But he was included as a relevant voice worthy of their engagement. The Pharisees themselves acknowledge him as a peer, calling him Rabbi (Luke 19:39). The Talmud is full of conversations between rabbis much like those Yeshua is recorded as having had with them in the New Testament.

In the first century, only teachers among the Pharisaical sect were called rabbi (though rabbinical ordination as we know it did not begin until later). Until that time, there had been no such special distinction in Judaism.3 Jesus status among the Pharisees is most poignant in John 3:2, where a leading Pharisee (Nicodemus) calls him Rabbi.

Here is part of that fascinating conversation:

Now there was a man of the Pharisees namedNicodemus,a ruler of the Jews.This man came to Jesusby night and said to him,Rabbi,we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you dounless God is with him.Jesus answered him,Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one isbornagain he cannotsee the kingdom of God.Nicodemus said to him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mothers womb and be born? (John 3:14)

IS JESUS A RABBI? by Stephanie R. SanHamel

He was of us; he is of us. We quote the rabbis of the Talmud; shall we then, not also quote the rabbi of Bethlehem?

Rabbi Emil Hirsch (18511923), influential proponent of Reform Judaism

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After a bit more back and forth, Jesus makes this rather audacious statement:

Nicodemus said to him,How can these things be?Jesus answered him,Are you the teacher of Israeland yet you do not understand these things? (John 3:910)

JESUS AS A RABBI So, Jesus was considered a rabbi in his day by the

only sect that used the term. But exactly what kind of rabbi was he? Where did he agree and differ with the theology of other rabbis?4

FREE WILLThe tension between the sovereignty of God and

human freedom is still highly debated today. On this point, the Pharisees were middle-of-the-road. Rabbi Akiva, one of the most important religious leaders of the second century a.d., said, All is foreseen but freedom of choice is given5 (Avot 3:16). Israels Outside Literature, known today as the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, also took this position: For man . . . cannot add to, so as to enlarge, what has been prescribed by Thee (Psalms of Solomon 5:6).6

Yeshua agreed, as shown by his statement:

But behold, the hand of him who betrays me iswith me on the table.For the Son of Man goesas it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed! (Luke 22:2122)

The phrase, as it has been determined, regarding the death of Yeshua, indicates that God had decreed it from the beginning. At the same time, we see woe to the person (Judas Iscariot) who betrays the Messiah.

The Pharisees did not try to solve the problem of the seemingly mutually exclusive free will of man versus Gods pre-ordained decrees. Instead, they put them side by side as factors to be considered in many of lifes situations. Jesus did the same.

RESURRECTIONYeshua and the Pharisees also agreed

about resurrection. The Sadducees accused the Pharisees of inventing this doctrine, claiming it could not be proven from Torah. The Pharisees said it could be. Rabbi Jacob stated: This world is like a vestibule before the world to come: prepare thyself in the vestibule that thou mayest enter into the banquet hall (Avot 4:16).7

Yeshua also engaged with the Sadducees regarding the resurrection. They tried to ensnare him with a hypothetical question about a woman who is widowed and marries the brother of her late husband. When they asked Jesus who her husband would be in the world to come, he replied:

For when they rise from the dead, they neithermarry norare given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.And as for the dead being raised,have you not read inthe book of Moses, inthe passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying,I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong. (Mark 12:2527)

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ISSUES is a forum of several Messianic Jewish viewpoints. The author alone, where the authors name is given, is responsible for the statements expressed. Those wishing to take exception or wishing to enter into dialogue with one of these authors may write the publishers and letters will be forwarded. Email: editor@issuesmag.org | jewsforjesus.org

UNITED STATES: P.O. BOX 424885, SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94142-4885 | CANADA: 10 HUNTINGDALE BLVD, TORONTO, ON M1W 2S5, CANADA | UNITED KINGDOM: 6 CENTRAL CIRCUS, HENDON CENTRAL, LONDON NW4 3JS | SOUTH AFRICA: SUITE 36, PRIVATE BAG X14, PINEGOWRIE 2123 | AUSTRALIA: P.O. BOX 925, SYDNEY NSW 2001

(continued on page 4)

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CORE OF THE TORAHRegarding the essential teachings of the Torah,

the Pharisees and Jesus were on the same page. The Talmud records Hillel, the foremost teacher in Judaism in the first century b.c., as saying, That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation (Shabbat 31a). Or, in Yeshuas words, Sowhatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this isthe Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12).

The New Testament contains a remarkable conversation between a scribe (scribes were of the sect of the Pharisees) that happened immediately after Jesus and the Sadducees had been debating the doctrine of resurrection:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, Which commandment is the most important

of all?Jesus answered,The most important is,Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God,the Lord is one.And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your

soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.The

second is this:You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandmentgreater than these.And the scribe said to him, You are right, Teacher. You have truly said thathe is one, andthere is no other besides him.And to love him with all the heart and with allthe understanding and with all the strength, and to love ones neighbor as oneself,is much more than allwhole burnt offerings and sacrifices.And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him,You are not far from the kingdom of God. (Mark 12:2834)

Jesus saw eye-to-eye with the scribe about the greatest commandments.

MATERIAL WEALTHNeither the Pharisees nor Jesus were interested

in amassing material goods. Hillel, who presided over the Sanhedrin from 30 b.c. to a.d. 10, once said: The more flesh the more worms; the more possessions the more care (Avot 2:7).8

The Pharisees taught unselfishness: What is mine is thine, and what is thine is thine own (Avot 5:10).9 So did Yeshua:

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God andmoney (Matthew 6:24).

(continued from page 3)

Neither Christian protest nor Jewish lamentation can annul the fact that Jesus was a Jew, an Hebrew of the Hebrews.

Rabbi Stephen S. Wise (18741949), American Reform Rabbi

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He said that true spirituality is found in serving others. He taught his disciples to live simply and care for the poor.

THE BALANCED LIFEThe Pharisees could enjoy both eating and

dancing, and yet gave themselves to fasting and somberness when a

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