Is Jesus Jewish? That is an interesting question. To what extent is Jesus Jewish? Do those who follow Him need to understand Hebrew and/or do they need to become Jewish? I believe, from the written Word of God, we can answer these questions.
Jesus Christ is God and therefore is self-existent. He said of Himself “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). Jesus is the Great I AM (Exodus 3:14).
And God said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.Exodus 3:14
Here God is simply saying “I AM”. He means He has always existed; He is uncreated. The Hebrew word הָיָה (meaning ‘to exist’) used in the verse is transliterated as hayah (pronounced haw-yaw). God is saying He has always existed.
Jesus repeats this many times in the New Testament. (See list here)
Jesus Christ is the “… beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14). This means not that He was created by God the Father but that He was the Source or Originator of the creation at the beginning of time. Colossians 1:15-17 makes this very clear when speaking of Jesus.
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: 17 And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.Colossians 1:15-17
Ok, so we have established that Jesus pre-existed the whole creation. Therefore He is not the product of anything before Him. He walked in the Garden with Adam (Genesis 3:8). He is not the offspring of any man or creature. In fact, He created Adam, the first man (Genesis 2:7).
In the genealogy in book of Matthew Jesus is listed as the son of Mary a virgin whose husband was Joseph (Matthew 1:16,23,25) and not that He was the son of a man. Jewish tradition at that time listed only the son of the father for the lineage of their generations, and not of the mother.
Jesus was born of an earthly virgin but He had no earthly father. So does that qualify Him as being Jewish? It does not really matter. Christ was born of the lineage of Adam. He was born as a human, to take on the sins of the world (John 1:29), of all those who trust in Him.
So the main point here is that He was born as a human, fully man. It is only secondary that He was born into a Jewish family. But even that was not technically true as His father is not/was never a Jew or an Israeli.
God chose Abraham and by extension Isaac and Jacob who fathered the tribes of Israel. From that lineage Christ was born and God used the children of Israel to carry His law and ordinances that He might teach the world what salvation means.
But never was the salvation message always exclusively for the tribes of Israel. Many proselytes followed also. God even used Ruth, of Moab and not of Israel, to produce offspring in the lineage of Christ (Matthew 1:5).
Finally Jesus Christ chose and sent the Apostle Paul to the Gentile nations to reach all who God has chosen. So is the message Jewish? Definitely not!
When some among the Jewish brethren sought to have Gentile believers follow the Laws of Moses and be circumcised (Acts 15) God sent the Apostle Paul to quickly put a stop to that. The Gentiles were never under the Mosaic law and did not need to be put under such bondage. Christ came to set the captives free.
Mosaic traditions and ordinances include the keeping of the Sabbaths, and following all the ceremonial rules, feast days, and many other rules for living (Leviticus 23 for example). So it is not so difficult to believe that issues arose in the early church because of different peoples backgrounds. Some were converted from Judaism and others from pagan religions.
Some had been following certain dietary laws. For example Jews only ate according to kosher laws. Others may have eaten foods offered to idols.
In Acts 15 we read about how they resolved that the Gentiles only needed to abide by a couple of rules which included not eating foods offered to idols, or strangled, or with blood, and to avoid fornication. That seems reasonable but the main point is that nothing you do or eat can advantage you in salvation through Christ.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.Romans 10:4
Another issue that arose was in regards to the day of the week to worship. History tells us that the early church worshipped on both days, Saturday (the Sabbath) and Sunday (the Lord’s day).
These are the issues that Paul addressed in Romans 14:1-10.
Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations. 2 For one believes that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eats herbs. 3 Let not him that eats despise him that eats not; and let not him which eats not judge him that eats: for God has received him. 4 Who are you that judges another man’s servant? to his own master he stands or falls. Yea, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand. 5 One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6 He that regards the day, regards it to the Lord; and he that regards not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it. He that eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he that eats not, to the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and no man dies to himself. 8 For whether we live, we live to the Lord; and whether we die, we die to the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living. 10 But why do you judge your brother? or why do you set at nothing your brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.Romans 14:1-10
So it does not matter which day you worship, nor what you eat. You could be a vegan, a vegetarian or a carnivore. You can worship any day or every day. Just be fully persuaded in your own mind. And do not judge another for his/her choices.
Then there are those who criticised the early Colossian disciples because they weren’t following the Jewish feast days, or keeping track on the new moons, or worshipping on the Sabbath (Saturday).
To them Paul wrote:
As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in Him: 7 Rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And you are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power: 11 In whom also you are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised Him from the dead.Colossians 2:6-12
We are warned against man’s philosophies and traditions, which are in opposition to Christ. That is precisely the problem with the laws and ordinances from Moses. They have no power to save. Only in Christ is salvation. No keeping of any laws or traditions are needed. The only circumcision required is of the heart, not the flesh as the Mosaic law requires.
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 16 Let no man therefore judge you in [food], or in drink, or in respect of an holyday [feast day], or of the new moon [timing of certain special days like the Passover], or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.Colossians 2:14-17
As Gentiles we are not subject to any ordinances and statutes of the old Mosaic Law. Christ fulfilled the law, now we are dead to the law and are married to another, that is Christ. Jesus wiped out all ordinances on the cross. Those ordinances were just a childlike illustration of what was coming in Christ. We are free, totally free of that. Besides the Judaizers (in Acts 15) put people back under the law, which cannot save.
So the danger is going back to the childish trappings seeking some sort of spiritual answers.
Wherefore if you be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you subject to ordinances,Colossians 2:20
Keeping of ordinances here means following feast days, sabbaths etc. Colossians were largely Gentiles, who were never under the Mosaic law, and they, like all Gentiles, have no need to learn Hebrew and study the law (Torah) and the prophets to understand how and where the feast days fit in. They can worship God on any day.
But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn you again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereto you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days, and months, and times, and years.Galatians 4:9,10
As followers of Christ we are not subject to any ordinances. That is works. Christ alone has saved us. He will not share His glory with another.
The problems of followers returning to the weak and beggarly (infantile) elements is expressed here. It seems to be a big problem. Today I see it among believers now as a gradual creep back into Mosaic bondage. Using Hebrew words when writing and speaking English is a giveaway. Following Jewish culture when not Jewish or living in Israel.
Some say that understanding the feast days gives you more love for God. I remember once attending a meeting in Adelaide where the speaker said that after he discovered that he was Jewish his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures took off. In fact, he said if you are not Jewish you can’t understand what he understands.
Of course this is so contrary to the whole plan of salvation and the Word of God. Christ is all we need. Many know and love Him without any knowledge of Hebrew language or traditions and ordinances. There is no difference between Jews and Greeks or any other racial group as far as the gospel message goes.
And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do you. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also you are called in one body; and be you thankful.Colossians 3:10-15
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.Galatians 3:28
I must call this gradual infiltration into the body of believers for what it is. It is doctrinal creep that is in opposition to the revealed Word of God, as quoted here. Clearly it is the same spirit as the Judaizers had in Act 15. It seems to be a form of bondage, but Christ died and shed His blood to set us free.
Jesus left us with only two laws.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.Matthew 22:37-40
That means all requirements in the Old Testament, of the books of Moses and all the other books including the prophets, are fulfilled with these two laws. Nothing else is needed. Thus, no Sabbath keeping, no eating special foods, no following any feast days, and certainly no astronomical observations are needed.
Jesus Christ is not Jewish. He never was. The grace He freely gives is universal. It has always been universal. “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8) That was before the great flood and long before Moses. Jesus is and was always part of the Godhead. He is not a recent addition. His earthly birth of a Jewish mother does not make Him an Israeli because He predates the existence of Israel.
Let me finish with one more thought.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.Galatians 2:20,21
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