How balanced has the Church been?
Are we sure about the origins of Jesus?
Was Jesus goy? Mmmmmmm!! (goy is yiddish/hebrew for “gentile”).
Do we really need to ask this? Sadly … yes. Not that you need it, but that you may tell others who need to know the basic facts about Jesus, our Messiah.
To be absolutely clear on the matter, here’s what I wrote in my book, Jesus, Man of Many Names (no harm in a bit of self-plagiarising!)
Picture the scene. It’s two thousand years ago, in a small village called Nazareth, in the Galilee region of what is now the Land of Israel. You see a little boy playing in the backyard among the wood piles and shavings. His father, Yosef, is in the workshop next to the yard and his mother, Miriam, is busy cooking. His name is Yeshua ben Yosef. You know him better as Jesus, son of Joseph.
It is time for lunch and his mother calls him. If Miriam had called him by the name 'Jesus', two things would have happened. Firstly he would have carried on playing, not recognising the command and secondly the neighbours would have been astonished at Miriam's bad attempt at Greek, a feat which was about as likely as your average cockney walking up to a pub landlord and asking for a pint of beer in his best classical Latin. If she'd added the epithet 'Christ', the situation would have been even more dramatic. Because not only would he have continued to ignore her and the neighbours been astonished at her Greek, but she would also have been stoned to death for assigning a forbidden and blasphemous title to her son. That is because 'Christ', is the English translation of 'Christos', the Greek translation for the Hebrew word 'Mashiach', which means Messiah, or 'anointed one’. And no Jew would dare to make a claim to that title. Well, not until this particular boy became a man and embarked on his life’s mission.
Yeshua (Jesus) was a nice Jewish boy, who any mother would be proud of. He was born in Bethlehem, as the Christmas cards show us, in very humble surroundings. After birth he had been circumcised and consecrated at the Temple and, by all accounts, had the typical childhood of one from a poor family in a Galileean village. And how do we know they were poor? “No room at the inn” was certainly a clue but the clincher was the “pair of doves or two young pigeons” that they sacrificed to the Lord after the birth. This was the ‘pidyon ha-Ben’, the redemption of a boy. It’s an acknowledgement that every first-born boy belongs to God and all parents must “buy him back” by making a sacrifice. This rule dated right back to the time of Moses, when the first-born boys of the Israelites were spared from the Angel of Death on Passover night. Joseph and Mary were too poor to offer a lamb sacrifice and so were permitted to offer up the birds as a cheaper alternative.
So Jesus was Jewish. The clincher has to be in the last Chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22:
"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star." (Revelation 22:16)
Jesus was, is and will still be the offspring of David, the Jewish king, which makes him, most definitely, Jewish too.
This is obviously not an issue to every serious Christian who reads their Bible and can check out the facts for themselves. Obviously in the past, Christians had no such luxury and had to rely on the established Church for their religious input, so we can excuse them for not understanding this basic truth (though of course we can’t excuse their teachers). But there are some folk these days who still choose to believe a lie.
There are Palestinian historians who assert that, at the time of Jesus, Jews only lived in the southern parts, Judea and Samaria and that the Galilee area in the north, where Jesus came from, was 90% Syrian and 10% Greek. For that reason they declare that Jesus was a “Palestinian” and not Jewish at all and, as a convenient side-issue, that Jews have absolutely no rights to Jerusalem, their capital. This view is shared by some far-right Christians, who stretch the truth even further by adding that modern Jews aren’t Jews either, but imposter descendants of the 8th Century Khazars from Asia!
So, why bring this up? What have we learnt? Probably nothing much really, but just the need to ask a single question.
Which we will ask in the next article …
For the previous article in this series, click here.
To find out what is my favourite book of the Bible, click here.
You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.