Thanks so much for this discussion of our book! I’m enjoying listening in. Just to reiterate what you’ve said, the critics are right in saying that the task of understanding Jesus’ context is fraught with difficulties. We knew as we were writing that our knowledge is approximate, and our misstatments will be corrected later on. We may not be perfect, but we’re a lot closer to understanding Jesus than if we just gave up. It takes faith to believe that the Jesus you find when you dig deeper will be worth finding.
As Rabbi Tarfon said, “The task is not yours to complete, but neither are you free to desist from it.” (Pirke Avot 2:21)
Today is the first of several posts in which I will be offering my observations and insights on a book titled, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith. I owe a debt of gratitude to Lois Tverberg who co-authored this book with Ann Spangler. She not only has been extremely helpful in giving me a better understanding of Messiah Jesus, but she was gracious enough to send me a copy of the book so that I could interact with the content on this site… I am truly honored for such an invitation.
Here is a quote that I think sums up the introduction pretty well:
“As we tried to place ourselves in Jesus’ Jewish world, layer after layer of history seemed to peel away until we could almost imagine that, for a while we, too, had joined the disciples and were sitting at Jesus’ feet (7).”
This is a book that is the result of two women who have been intrigued with the thought world of Jesus’ time. Some people will be tempted to have critics of this for several reasons. One would be the belief that you simply cannot reconstruct the past enough, and so what the text “says to me” is more than sufficient and the closest access to meaning possible. Others may be weary of searching for the Judaism of Jesus and the Apostles because of the idea that it is almost impossible to designate any kind of monolithic Jewish thought in the first century, so reading observations into the New Testament from particular stands of Judaism is a lost cause. Still others would continue and claim that the Mishnah and other post-Temple sources are represent a radically different form of Judaic thought and practice from that of the first century. (For more on this I commend to you an article written by Lois called, “Dating Jesus’ Jewishness.”) With these and many other perspectives in mind, the authors state: “We have also been careful to place Jesus within his first-century context rather than that of later ages (8).” I tend to think that they attempted to use proper historical methods with all integrity.
What are your thoughts as we approach first-century history and attempt to find a more Jewish Jesus than many Christians have understood? Do any of the above descriptions describe you? Has a new found understanding of a Jewish Jesus transformed your understanding of the New Testament and the whole of the story of God?