I did not know that Jesus was Jewish until Bible College. As a child, an adolescent, and young adult, I attended various church services, Vacation Bible school, youth group meetings, and Sunday services—but neither preacher or teacher talked about a Jewish Jesus.
How did I miss Biblical and historical facts? Jesus was born Jewish. His earthly parents, Mary and Joseph were Jewish. Jesus was raised in a Jewish village. To me, Jesus was a Christian. However, Jesus’ followers were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26)—only after his death and resurrection.
Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age (Publisher: Viking, 2014) by James Carroll surmises that Christians have forgotten Jesus’ Jewishness.
According to Carroll, members of the Christian church must do three things to recover the Jewishness of Jesus:
1. Christians must learn to read their sacred texts critically. Above all, the texts must be understood as reflecting a conflict that unfolded not between Jesus and “the Jews” in the year 30 or so, but a conflict between two groups of Jews–rabbis and Jesus people.
2. Christians must measure everything they say and believe about Jesus against the fact of his full, permanent character as an Orthodox Jew. This would make anti-Jewish stereotyping impossible.
3. Christians should read and hear the anti-Jewish texts of the New Testament as if they themselves are Jews.
Jesus was born in Israel (Bethlehem) among a Hebrew-speaking people. His name in Hebrew is “Yeshua” and that name means “salvation” or “God saves.”
“It is unfortunate that nearly two thousand years after He came, we have a Jesus who is nearly devoid of any Jewish identity and a Church that is almost completely severed from its Jewish roots.” www.jewishvoice.org/.
Pro-Israel in the USA
In 2006, a Pew survey found that evangelical Christians were more favorable toward Israel than the average American. Another survey showed evangelical Christians back Israeli control of Jerusalem, endorse Israeli settlements on the West Bank, and take Israel’s side in Middle Eastern disputes.
Jews for Jesus is a global nonprofit made up primarily of Jewish people from different backgrounds who believe that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. Jews who embrace Jesus call themselves Nazarenes, Hebrew-Christians, Jewish-Christians, Jewish believers, or Messianic Jews. www.jewsforjesus.org.
Hebrew Roots is a teaching ministry dedicated to Christianity. “Much of the teaching taking place in the Christian Community today ignores the fact that Y’shua is not only our promised Savior, He was also a first century Jew. He was reared in the Jewish lifestyle of that day, as were nearly all of those with whom He came in contact.” www.hebrewroots.net/.
Anti-Semitism in USA
Anti-semitic incidents surged 60 percent in 2017, according to a report by The Anti-Defamation League (ADL). “There were 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents reported across the United States in 2017, including physical assaults, vandalism, and attacks on Jewish institutions.”—bomb threats, cemetery desecrations, white supremacists marching in Charlottesville. www.adl.org/.
Do white supremacist organizations not know that Jesus was Jewish? Are members of hate groups Bible illiterate? Being lead astray by megalomaniacs, hate-mongers, psychopaths.
According to a 2018 article on the Religion News website, Robert Bowers, the man accused of gunning down 11 congregants in Pennsylvania “was known to hate Jews” and he “wanted all Jews to die.”
Gentiles and Jews
There is no superiority in being born Jewish or Gentile. “And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed–all because you have obeyed me.” Genesis 22:18
As a believer, I benefit from studying the archaeology, geography, sociology, religion, and customs of the ancient biblical world. Seeking to explore the Jewish culture enriches my understanding of the Scriptures, adding depth to passages, parables and idioms. Why? Because Jesus was Jewish.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!
Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.