Updated: Jul 11
I had a Christian friend describe Jesus as a very enigmatic character. In other words, Jesus is mysterious, puzzling and often hard to understand.
It depends on the lens through which you look at Jesus.
Most of us look at Jesus through a Greco-Roman (i.e., Greek or sometimes referred to as Western) lens, so many of His teachings, parables and sayings are mysterious, puzzling and hard to understand. After all, Jesus was a 1st Century, Torah faithful and observant Jewish Rabbi. Take this reality about Jesus and think about how it applies to these verses written by the Apostle Paul:
I urge you, then, be imitators of me (1 Corinthians 4:16, ESV).
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, ESV).
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us (Philippians 3:17, ESV).
What can easily be forgotten, nearly 2,000 years after these words were written, is that Jesus, Paul, Mary, Jospeh and the disciples were all Jews. Second Temple Judaism was their way of life. So, why do so few Christians see Jesus through a Jewish lens?
Around 1800 years ago, there was a historical shift from understanding the Scriptures from a Hebrew/Jewish mindset to a Greek/Roman mindset. Jewish rebellion against Roman oppression led to a forced separation between Jewish and Gentile (non-Jewish) followers of Jesus in the 1st-2nd centuries AD/CE. Early Gentile church leader’s attempts to interpret the existing (Older Testament) and emerging (Newer Testament) Scriptures, detached from their Jewish roots, led to an over allegorization of the sacred texts regarding the nation, land and people of Israel. Faith in Jesus, and the person of Jesus, were de-Judaized.
Remember, Jesus was a Torah faithful and observant Jewish Rabbi when He walked the earth. His name was Yeshua, and He was throughly Jewish. The Bible understood allegorically, through a Greek lens, is largely Christianity as we know and experience it today. Christian holidays, traditions and practices are largely rooted in the 4th Century when Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of Rome and merged the sacred and secular in an attempt to unite the empire.
Christian faith became focused and centered on Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. In other words, faith became focused on what Jesus did instead of who Jesus was or what Jesus taught.
Although it’s certainly true Jesus died for the sins of the world and rose from the dead, Jesus taught and said things which go far beyond what He did. The things Jesus taught and said make Him an enigmatic character in many people’s minds because Jesus is being looked at through a lens which blurs His words. However, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the rebirth of the modern state of Israel are bringing the biblical text into focus, including the character, teachings and sayings of Jesus. Christians are starting to read, study and understand the Bible through a Hebraic lens, realizing Jesus spoke to Jews from within Judaism. He didn’t come to start a new religion called Christianity. Rather, Jesus came to fulfill (i,e., bring more fullness to and correctly interpret) an old one.
The more you know about Jesus’ character, the less of an enigma He becomes. This is challenging because then you have to wrestle with the ideas of following and imitating Him. You also have to wrestle with the ideas of being a disciple and being Christlike. Some of the questions you might ask include:
Jesus observed Torah, celebrating the Biblical Feasts (Leviticus 23) and eating Kosher. Should I consider doing the same?
Jesus is coming back as the Jewish King, to rule and region from Jerusalem. What does that mean about the country I live in?
Jesus was a nationalistic Israeli Jew. Should the land, even the physical dirt, of Israel matter to me?
Wrestling with these ideas doesn’t change the simple fact Jesus is our Lord and Savior. Nonetheless, Christians talk a lot about having a personal relationship with Jesus. Isn’t part of having a personal relationship with Jesus knowing more and more about Jesus as a person? Your belief in who He is doesn’t change, but the way you worship and walk might change significantly.
We are living in a time when the Jewishness of Jesus, the Jewish roots of Christianity and the importance of Israel to the gospel are being realized and restored. Jew and Gentile are slowly moving toward becoming the one new man (humanity) God wants us to be.
The Greek Jesus is coming into focus as the Hebrew Yeshua.