Early on when I started this blog, I became aquanted with Lois Tverberg. Her written thoughts on Jesus reminded me of her good friend Ray VanderLaan who continues to have an influence on my theology (for those who are skeptical of the Jewish roots of Jesus scholarship because of what Ben Witherington said about Rob Bell, see this article). We fail to appropriately study Jesus when we extract him from his first century Jewish context.
This is why I have appreciated Lois’ books. Her first book (co-authored with Ann Spangler), Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, is full of insights on Jesus, Paul, and the whole of the New Testament in its Jewish/Roman context. That book was the first free book I ever received to promote on my then, very unknown blog. When it came in the mail I was giddy that an author would be so kind… yep, a bit of a nerd, but you already knew that!
Lois published a second book in the same strand of thought this year called Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewish Words of Jesus can Change Your Life. In this book she combines scholarly insights, passion, and devotional application that are all guaranteed to help readers come to know their rabbi more intimately. Now, if the title trips you up because you have heard that the idea of the “dust of the rabbi” is a mere myth not applying to Jesus’ own day, well Lois has written on that too. As for me, I want to become as dusty as possible as I learn to follow Jesus!
Well, rather than analyzing every part of this book, I’m going allow Lois to speak to you about her intentions in writing this project:
What would it look like to peel back the layers of time and to see the real Jesus? Obviously, it would be a mistake to project on him Jewish realities of later centuries. If we picture him with a bagel in one hand and a dreidel in the other, we’d be guilty of distorting his reality too, because both things are from later centuries and practices. But Jesus did eat matzah (unleavened bread) and celebrate Hanukkah, traditions that go back to before his time…. You might be surprised to learn that some of Judaism’s most influential thinkers, including Hillel and Shammai (30 BC to AD 10), lived in the decades right around Jesus’ time. Hillel’s grandson, Gamliel, was Paul’s teacher who came to the defense of the early church in Acts 5:33-39. The words of these and other early rabbis allow us to reconstruct the conversations going on around Jesus. They used the same kind of logic to answer questions, interpret Scriptures, and weave parables, which yields fascinating clues to Jesus’ words (25).
Lois goes on to add:
But as a Christian, I grew up without knowing the most basic details of Jesus’ Jewish world, aspects of his reality that have persisted in Judaism from the first century until today. What I’ve chosen to share in this book are a few core concepts that Christians have hardly known about, yet shed light on Jesus’s teachings. Often this Hebraic perspective unlocks biblical wisdom that our culture has forgotten over time (26).
If you are interested in reading this book, I have a couple copies on my shelf that I would love to give away! Share this post on Facebook (or Twitter) and then leave a comment with an email address to contact you and I will pick two winners at random!
***Unfortunately, I can only afford to ship within the US.