Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus Intro; Can We Find a More Jewish Jesus?

UPDATE: MARCH 28, 09 (Lois Tverberg chimes in)
Hi Kurt -

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)

Blessings -

Lois Tverberg

ORIGINAL POST
____________________________

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.

Today, I want to simply cover the introduction and over the course of the next several weeks, I will post my thoughts on each individual chapter.

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?

  • http://www.davewainscott.blogspot.com/ Dave Wainscott

    Hey, i just found your blog linked to a post on my friend Derek Abbott’s blog. I must say your blog is amazing, I have linked it on mine. I had actually read your Ooze article earlier, and loved it, I am an Ooze select blogger,

    Are you in Fresno? Maybe we have met ; I’m not sure. I am a pastor (and adjunct Bible teacher) here in Fresno, which is how I know Derek/… and to address this particular post: We have found it invaluable for our congregation ti share space with a Messianic Jewish congregation . Everyone needs to hang with a rabbi.

    Anyway, I will be back often, keep up the good work

  • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

    Dave! Welcome to the blog. I am good friends with Derrick and yes I do live in the Fresno area. I am not sure that we have met, but I feel like I have heard of you or have been to your blog or something in the past. I will look forward to our web conversations and maybe we will cross paths sometime! Thanks for your kind words and many blessings!

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    Kurt,
    I look forward to reading this book soon, myself!

    I think N.T. Wright has helped me more than anyone, to get back into the thought world of Jesus’ and Paul’s time, when reading the New Testament. I do look forward to your own thoughts on this. I really appreciate your perspective here on this first post.

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com/ Dan Martin

    Fresno??? I thought you were back east for some reason, Kurt. I’m in San Jose. We’re going to have to arrange for a meeting of the minds. . .there’s a small fellowship that meets a couple times a month in my house (most but not all from our evangelical church) who would love to connect with a broader world of people who think about these things.

    Looking forward to your further posts. Truthfully I have not thought a whole lot about Jesus’ Jewish context until Wright and one of my local friends in particular, but I agree that the tidbits I have heard piqued my interest. I will be watching!

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      By no means am I an expert on this area either. I am excited to learn a grow with you and others on this blog. And yes, I am in Fresno! I didn’t realize that we were only 3 hours apart. Someday, perhaps in the summer it would be great to touch base in person! Lets keep this in mind for the future :-)

  • http://newwaystheology.blogspot.com/ Mason

    Yes placing Jesus correctly within his Jewish and Greco-Roman context is difficult (though incredibly vital), but it being difficult is not an excuse to abandon the quest and resort to ‘what does this verse mean to you’ readings of the Bible.
    If it is hard to pin down some details of 2nd Temple Judaism and requires careful study and debate, how much more should we be wary of the millions of subjective answers that can be given by every reader taking the text as they want?

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      wow…mason, good way to put this in perspective! nothing more to add…

      Ted, NT Wright originally turned me on to this quest as well :-) I look forward to what you will have to say as you work through the book in the coming weeks. I anticipate that the dialogue between us will be quite fun.

      Blessings to you both

  • http://paulikonen.blogspot.com/ Paul

    Found your blog through Lois Tverberg’s blog and am happy to follow the conversation over her book as it is currently one of the books I’m reading. I’m in agreement with Ted, N.T. Wright has been extremely helpful in this area, as has Ray Vander Laan and a handful of other authors (Wilson, Bivin, Flusser…). Reading the words of Jesus with a first century Hebraic mind (as best I can, always learning more) has been the most thrilling ride I have ever been on. It’s impossible to read it now the way I did before.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Paul…glad to have you join in the conversation! RVL has been a big influence, and i recently began to read Wilson (and hope to get on to Bivin, Flusser, and others in the near future). Look forward to hearing your thoughts as you read the book with me. And yes, this is a “thrilling ride!”

  • http://www.ourrabbijesus.com/index.php/blog Lois Tverberg

    Hi Kurt -

    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)

    Blessings -

    Lois Tverberg

  • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

    Lois, thanks for coming by! I truly agree with the need to pursue this issue of Jesus’ Jewishness, because otherwise we would be even further from the real Jesus. We must not give up!

  • http://www.LighthousePrayerLine.org Mark Seay

    Hi Kurt,

    Thanks for sharing that with us! Very insightful! Praise Him!!

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  • http://jasonsthoughtsonstuff.blogspot.com/ Jason

    Like others… my connection to this world is mainly through N.T. Wright but more specifically Ray Van Der Laan… I agree with Mason.

    This conversation needs to happen. We need to try to understand the context of Jesus more. At the same time, recognize that we will never know it completely. I find the criticism stated above (i.e.”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”), is short-sighted. It is like saying…

    I will never fully understand my wife so I will not even try. Rather, I will live my life believing what I want about her.

    We have to understand that we will never fully understand the past but that does not mean we should not try. Truth (from our perspectives as humans) is not a destination but a journey…

  • http://www.eloquentbooks.com/WildernessRefuge.html Cheryl Toliver

    In my own study of 1st century Judaism, I have found my faith and understanding of the NT deepened. Not all layers of time and my own cultural context can be stripped away, but Jesus as a person, the words he spoke, and the whole of his life, death, and resurrection mean so much more to me than before.

  • http://euneirophrenia.wordpress.com euneirophrenia

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