Jews and Christians
Linda’s point of view may seem quite radical, but is understandable. The Pharisees were hostile to Christ as they even planned for his death. They constantly accused Jesus of breaking the law and committing blasphemous acts.
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Even after crucifying Christ, mainstream Jews continued to excommunicate early Christians because they branded them as enemies of Judaism.
While these goings-on occurred during Jesus’ time and a few years later, Christians who adopt a similar stance today would be doing the same thing that the Jews did to them. Anti-Semitic sentiments in Christian circles do not reflect Christ’s teaching of love and acceptance of others.
If Linda leaves these sentiments unchecked, then they could lead to dangerous consequences among Jews. The Crusaders murdered and oppressed the Jews in 1096. This was a Christian group of missionaries who declared war against God’s chosen people. A
dditionally, the 4th Lutheran Council of 1215 was a Roman Church that shunned and marginalized Jews. Even Martin Luther, founder of the Protestant Movement, spoke radically against the Jews and branded them liars.
While Pharisees and Jews treated Jesus in a cruel way, Christians today must be careful about replicating the same behavior. Uncontrolled resentment against Judaism could lead to oppressive or even violent situations.
Linda’s perceptions of Judaism and Jews are slightly unbalanced. She needs to consider the fact that, through the Old Testament, Christians can learn about God. In the book of Isaiah 46:9 as well as the first chapter of Genesis, God reveals his nature as the creator of everything.
The Old Testament should not be disregarded by modern-day Christians because it is a perfect depiction of God’s love. In Psalms 8:4-8, God expresses his wish to share all he can with humanity. Therefore, Judaism is a gateway to understanding the loving nature of God.
The Old Testament establishes the image of God as one who uses laws to define his relationship with mankind. This concept is not entirely alien to Christians as shown by the two laws summarized in Mark 12:29-31. Here, Christians must love their neighbors as they do themselves.
More importantly, God commands them to love him with all their heart. These two commandments were extensions of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament, which are in Deuteronomy 6:5. Therefore, the New Testament enables the continuity of God’s commandments. It is a guide on how to enjoy God’s love.
Ignoring the Old Testament would cause most Christians to downplay the consequences of sin. Judaism teaches Christ’s followers that sin causes suffering. The Jews often suffered because they sinned (Deuteronomy 28:15-30). They also had to suffer because there was no eternal salvation for their sin.
They often endured atonement for their sins in order to mend their relationship with God. If Christians understand the difficulties of using the law to earn their salvation as the Jews did, then they will appreciate Christ’s death and resurrection even more.
The Old Testament proves that sin has consequences and that it was necessary to bring a Messiah to save God’s people from these penalties.
Without the Old Testament, the New Testament would not have any basis or foundation. Several passages of the old Testament talk about a Messiah who will come and pay the price for man’s sins and restore his relationship with God (Isaiah 53, Ezekiel 37 and Daniel 7:27).
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Therefore, Christians can have confidence in their beliefs about Jesus since he fulfilled Old Testament prophesies. Additionally, it shows that God had a plan for mankind. The New Testament rests on the foundation established in the Old Testament.
Christians should not disregard it because they think that it is old-fashioned and outdated. Instead, they need to think of it as one half of the complete Bible. Through the unification of the Old and the New Testament, Christians can learn about God’s real nature as well his relationship and intentions for humanity.
Christians ought to respect the Jews as they have a unique relationship with God. In the book of Genesis 12:1-3, God made a covenant with Abraham that he would be the father of nations and bring blessings to the world.
God said that he could condemn (curse) those who condemn the Jews and bless those who do the same (Zechariah 2: 4-9). In essence, God loved the Jews and was willing to do so much to build a relationship with them.
Consequently, Christians should recognize this unusual privilege accorded to the Jews and respect it. Condemning them or marginalizing them does not change the fact that they are still God’s chosen people.
God made several promises to the Jews about the future (Zephaniah 3:2), (Isaiah 11:16). Christians cannot be certain about the moment in history when these promises will come to pass. God is yet to do much for the Jews, so instead of being vindictive, Christians should be grateful about what God has done and will continue to do for them.
The Gospel as a Historical Document
Some scholars believe that the Gospels are books of faith rather than historical documents. However, several facts have come forth to prove that the Gospels are historical documents with theological underpinnings, as well.
When Luke talks about why he wrote the book, he starts by affirming that it is a narrative of what eyewitnesses who lived during Jesus’ time told him (Luke 1:1). He also adds that he placed the account in order of occurrence of the events so that Theophilus would know about the truth of the Gospel.
Luke thus proclaims that he was writing a historical document. He then refers to the same aspect in the book of Acts 1:1-2. Luke tells Theophilus that the first book (Luke) was a description of all that Jesus had done during his life and before he ascended into heaven.
The same phenomenon can be witnessed in the book of John 21:21-24. Here, Peter asks about St. John just before Christ ascends into heaven, and Jesus responds that John bore witness to all things and would write about them. Furthermore, Peter declares his testimony as true. Therefore, one can deduce that his writings were historical because Jesus affirmed that they were true.
The Gospels have names that coincided with those of the chief apostles of Christianity, such as Apostle Matthew, Mark, Luke – Paul’s companion and Disciple John. History shows that these were eye witness accounts of Jesus’ works.
Peter deeply impressed his listeners by his teachings. Many of them wanted a written account of the message, so the followers selected a devout follower of Peter called Mark to write down this account. It was his authorship of the book that led to the renaming of one Gospel after him. When Peter heard about the writing, its existence pleased him. He even gave the book authority as a description of his teachings.
On the other hand, Matthew wrote his account in order to compensate for departure from his people. His writings were mirror replications of what he had been preaching to them. Therefore, an oral account corroborated the written account.
Luke, on the other hand, had a lot of contact with Paul, who knew about Jesus’ life accurately. Prominent individuals who had contact with others who had witnessed Christ’s teaching wrote the Gospels. Peter and Paul were the main source of information for the Gospels, and they had interacted with Jesus greatly.
John, on the other hand, was a direct eye-witness of Jesus’ works because he was an Apostle and keen follower of Christ. Consequently, all these authors’ work should be given a historical status.
One should note that it is rather difficult for a historian to write anything about the past without carrying some bias with him. Writers of the Gospel had the burden of deciding which aspects to record or leave out. Furthermore, they all had their own interpretations of the same.
A historian must decide on procedures for selecting certain events. They must know the periods of history that will be the main focus of their book. Some personages may be deemed more salient than others by certain historians.
In essence, whenever a writer makes a selection, then he or she expresses a bias towards it. Subjectivity in writing about the past is always part of the process. Therefore, one should not denounce the historical accounts of the Gospel on the basis of their lack of objectivity.
Faith also plays a pivotal role because although the Gospels recorded accurate accounts of Jesus’ life, they still refer to supernatural events that characterized the savior’s existence.
The presence of the supernatural does not neutralize the understanding of the Apostles regarding those experiences. Spirituality thus comes into the picture when considering the substance of the narrative. History plays a role in the actual recording of the events.
Why First Century Jews Would Not Believe Jesus
Prior to Jesus’ official entry into the ministry, several prophets had existed and condemned the errant ways of the Jews. One such individual was John the Baptist. He hailed from Galilee, where he went about preaching about the emergence of a new Israel.
However, Jerusalem’s inhabitants often disregarded people from Galilee as rebellious against Rome. They felt their ideas were too erratic and unworthy of respect. John the Baptist had started baptizing people with water as an act of ritual cleansing.
A series of disciples started following John, and they even lived communally. Many of them believed that The Messiah would come amongst them, spiritually, when eating together.
John often denounced the wicked ways of King Herod. He talked ill of the marriage between Herod and a close relation because it opposed Jewish laws. As a result, Herod’s wife asked for his head using her daughter as a go-between (Mark 6:26-29), (Matthew 14).
The Jewish leaders took John and killed him during Herod’s birthday. The sudden death and undignified manner in which John the Baptist died probably contributed to further disregard for persons from Galilee.
Additionally, John’s claim that the spirit of the Messiah was amongst his group, may have led to further skepticism about any future leader who emerged from that region and claimed to have any Messianic qualities. This probably proves that Bob was right about mistrusting Jesus, who also came from Galilee.
Jesus started his ministry after the imprisonment of John the Baptist, and this may also have created a lot of doubt in the minds of potential followers. Even his family members, as well as his neighbors, rejected him for trying to fill John the Baptist’s void.
It is likely that several other people held the same opinion as his followers. Some of them may also have taken Jesus’ message out of context in Mathew 11:11. When Jesus commented about John the Baptist, he claimed that, among the people born of women, there was none that had been greater than John.
Other Jews took this comment out of context by assuming that Jesus felt inferior to John. They may not have considered the fact that a woman did not conceive Christ, so he did not fit into the same category as the others.
When Jesus started preaching, his message was incredibly familiar to listeners. It echoed what a cult group called the Essenes had preached. Jesus talked about the need to let go of all forms of spiritual corruption. He also criticized the wealthy and even spoke against tradesmen.
In the book of Luke 6:25, Jesus spoke against them by stating that “woe to you who are well fed for you shall be hungry”. Jesus’ teachings were quite similar to the Essenes’ teachings, as well as John the Baptist’s; consequently, it is understandable if many of these followers doubted the authenticity of his affirmations.
Some of the things that Jesus spoke against seemed blasphemous to conservative Jews. Since the rest of society looked up to the Pharisees, then chances are that people who heard about Jesus would have compared his teachings with what their Jewish leaders said.
For instance, Jesus stated that he was the son of God and had come to fulfill the prophecies. He also condemned the Pharisees’ legalistic ways and challenged the way they fussed over every little ritual (Luke 13:15).
These Jewish leaders called Jesus a traitor, and thus urged other Jews to refrain from following him. It is likely that Jesus’ bold opposition to the rulers of the day may have created opposition and doubt among the populace.
Witnesses of Christ’s arrest would also have doubted his authenticity because he did not perform supernatural acts to save himself. Furthermore, he went into custody like a common criminal. Even his most devout followers ran away from him (Matthew 26:56). It is likely that some people may have doubted his messianic powers based on this event.
Early Christians in the first century also had varied reports on the date of Jesus’ birth as well as other notable dates in his life. In the book of Luke, estimates indicate that Jesus birth date was in 6CE.
However, in the book of Matthew, Jesus birth date came before Herod’s death, which was in 4 BCE. Therefore, these differing accounts of such a pivotal event in the Christian faith may have created a lot of skepticism among first century Jews.