Recovering the Jewishness of Jesus

Cover art for “The Forgotten Jesus” by Robby Gallaty, 2017.

Jesus was a Jewish man who was raised in a Jewish culture, reared by exceptionally devout Jewish parents, and lived according to the Jewish laws. He was circumcised on the eighth day of his life and was dedicated to the Lord. As he grew up, he regularly attended the synagogue on the Sabbath, participated in every biblical feast, studied and memorized the scriptures, learned a trade from his father, and started his rabbinic ministry at age thirty—all of this according to Jewish customs at the time (i). At the age of thirty, he selected twelve Jewish men to forsake everything, learn his teachings, and carry on his mission. Consequently, prior to Jesus’s death, most of his followers were Jews who professed faith in Jesus as Messiah but still kept the festivals, worshiped in the temple, and observed the Sabbath.

If we look at Christianity today and compare it to how it began, we might notice that the “Jewishness” of both its founder and its original followers has been lost.

Recovering the Jewishness of Jesus brings familiar passages to life by viewing them through a Middle Eastern lens. For example, you may have heard that at the beginning of the book of Acts the disciples were huddled in a room fearfully waiting for the filling of the Holy Spirit. But a careful reading of the text proves that this teaching is inaccurate—they were hardly in hiding, and they had already received the Holy Spirit. “After worshiping Him,” Luke writes, “they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they were continually in the temple praising God” (Luke 24:52–53 CSB).

This doesn’t sound like fearful disciples huddling in terror. The disciples had no reason to fear, for the first filling of the Holy Spirit they had received came in John 20 when Jesus breathed the Spirit into his followers: “After saying this, he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (20:22–23 CSB). Acts 2 is not the first time the disciples received the Holy Spirit, nor were they huddled together in one room. Very few upper rooms in Israel are large enough to accommodate 120 people (ii).

So what is the most likely explanation? When the disciples received the Holy Spirit as “tongues of fire” in Acts 2, they were in a house, but probably not the same upper room they had previously met in for Passover. The temple is commonly referred to in scripture as the “house of God,” (iii) and the rushing wind accompanied with tongues of fire most likely appeared in front of thousands of worshipers in the temple complex, the same area where the early believers would worship for years to come.

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SOURCE: The Christian Post
This is an excerpt from “The Forgotten Jesus” by Robby Gallaty. You can pick up a copy here.

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