The Jewishness of Jesus

When we read the story of Jesus in the Gospels, we often tend to view Him through the lens of our own culture. For example, in America, we tend to view Him as a 21st century American. We often do this without realizing it. However, this way of viewing Jesus can only hurt our understanding Him. Jesus is not a 21st century American. He was a first-century Jew. When we realize this, we realize what many of us refer to as the “Jewishness of Jesus”.

Jesus was a first-century Jewish man, and His life, death, and resurrection should be understood in that context. Robby Gallaty, in his book “Rediscovering Discipleship,” makes this point very clear. He writes, “Jesus was a Jewish man, born to a Jewish mother, raised according to Jewish customs, speaking to a Jewish audience, and surrounded by Jewish disciples. The Bible is a Jewish book written by Jewish people, for a mostly Jewish audience, and is about a Jewish Savior who came to redeem both Jews and Gentiles” (Gallaty, 28). So if Jesus was Jewish, why do we try to understand Him apart from that context. I would suggest that it is partly due to the fact that many people have not yet realized the Jewishness of Jesus.

What does it mean for us to understand Jesus in His Jewish context? It means that we must take the extra time and energy to understand Jewish society in the first century before we can fully appreciate the words of Jesus. When we separate the words and deeds of Jesus from their first-century Jewish context, we are left with only a surface-level understanding of Who He was and what He said. If we want to go beyond the surface, we must invest our time and energy into understanding the culture, customs, law, and society of first-century Judaism. Part of this can be accomplished by familiarizing ourselves with the Jewish Bible (the Christian Old Testament). Much of it requires us to read more than just the Old Testament. It requires us to put on our reading glasses and do some research. In the end, we will come to a deeper understanding of who Christ is and what His words mean. I would challenge each and every one of you to remember the Jewishness of Jesus as you study His life.
Gallaty, Robby. “Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus’ Final Words Our First Work”.


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