What if you studied the Scriptures in its original Jewish context? Would it help or hinder your Christianity?
I was studying the Scriptures today as per my routine and I was reminded yet again of the fascinating way that the writers of the New Testament appeal to the Jewish reader of the time.
There are parallels drawn between Jesus and Moses, Jesus and David, Jesus and Adam and so on. There is a keen awareness of the prevailing mentalities or groups in Israel at the time of Jesus, both of where these groups get it right about the Messiah and where they get it wrong. And there is even an appeal to the Hebrew mind in that, not only do the New Testament authors quote the Old Testament, but they do so in a way that was unique in many respects to Jewish exegesis and commentary in first century Israel. In other words, not only was the substance of the New Testament Jewish but the style and form, the method and approach was largely Jewish as well.
And why should you care?
Not only was the substance of the New Testament Jewish but the style and form, the method and approach was largely Jewish as well.
Reading the New Testament through ancient Jewish lenses deepens our understanding and in some cases, it actually changes how we read the Bible.
Consider for example that ‘Barabbas’ means ‘son of the father’ whose first name is ‘Jesus.’ (Matthew 27:17). Or consider that the Essene community (those who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls) both adopted children and had ‘prepare the way of the Lord’ as their battle cry. Hmmm…could this have any connection with John the Baptist?
Finally, what about those prophecies where the evangelists don’t quite seem to get things right. Like when Matthew tells us that ‘he (Jesus) will be called a nazarene’ (Matthew 2:23) even though this line is nowhere present in the Old Testament. Even these ‘mistakes’ can be easily understood when we begin to see the sacred scriptures in their Jewish and historical contexts.
So here is a thought.
Study the Bible. Read it every day if you can. And when you are feeling up to it, go ancient and deeper. You will be more than glad that you did.