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Yeshua in Context » Background to Gospels

Pharisees

The Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” -Mark 2:24 You may have heard, wrongly, that the Pharisees were the rabbis and that they basically ran the show in Yeshua’s time. You may have heard that the Pharisees . . . were all hypocrites made up 613 rules which were oppressive led the synagogues and governed the way Jews lived for God. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Beginners, Josephus, Law, Torah, Pharisees

PODCAST: Lamb of God #2

Sometimes we understand a story best only after we have read to the end. Like a detective story, the Gospel of John has some revelation that waits until 21:24. And when we read a second time, once we understand, there are some connections between Messiah, Passover, Temple sacrifices, and the eyewitness experience of the Beloved Disciple that add new layers of meaning to Yeshua as our Passover. Lamb of God #2 … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Cross, Detailed Commentary, Eyewitnesses, Hebrew Bible as Testimony, Literary Features, Passover, Podcasts, Sacrificial System, Yeshua as

REVIEW: The Jewish Gospels by Daniel Boyarin

Daniel Boyarin is Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture and rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley. In the foreword by Jack Miles, he is called “one of two or three greatest rabbinic scholars in the world.” I’m not qualified to assign numbers to who is or isn’t the world’s greatest Talmud scholar, but it is easy to say that Boyarin knows his Talmud better than any but maybe a few dozen people in the world. So, it might surprise you to know that Boyarin thinks Judaism and Christianity are compatible. His goal, stated on pages 6-7 is to help Christians and Jews to stop vilifying each other. He doesn’t follow Jesus and isn’t asking fellow Jews to do so. But he demolishes all ideas that Christian devotion to Jesus is contrary … Read entire article »

Filed under: Answering Objections, Background to Gospels, Book Reviews, Divinity of Yeshua, Identity of Yeshua, Judaism Today & Yeshua, Messiah, Paradox, Spectacular Commentary

PODCAST: Divinity1

To some people, the idea of Yeshua’s divinity was probably something developed late. It must have involved a departure from Jewish thought. It must have been the result of syncretism, mixing pagan notions with the original understanding of Yeshua as a Jewish teacher or as Messiah. But what is the real explanation for the origin the idea of Yeshua’s divinity? Divinity1 … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Divinity of Yeshua, Formation of the Gospels, Greco-Roman Background, Identity of Yeshua, Judaism Today & Yeshua, Podcasts

“My Son” as Midrash

It’s a famous example of what seems to be the unusual, perhaps questionable, use of the Jewish scriptures by the apostles. It occurs in a very noticeable location — the birth narrative of Yeshua in Matthew. Some parts of the Bible get very little traffic, but the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are pretty much highways and not little goat trails. So people are bound to notice some odd things about Matthew’s “this happened in order to fulfill” sayings. One of the two weirdest (there is one that is even weirder) is Matthew 2:15. Is Matthew able to read and understand the Hebrew Bible? Is he guilty of a strange and arbitrary reading simply to justify his belief in Yeshua of Nazareth? Of course the author of Matthew knows what … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Detailed Commentary, Formation of the Gospels, Gospel Genres, Hebrew Bible as Testimony, Ideal Israel Theme, Intertextuality in the Gospels, Literary Features

Q Theory

If you’ve not read much about “the synoptic problem” (theories about where Matthew, Mark, and Luke came from), this post may not be for you. These are simply some quick notes about Q Theory and Mark Goodacre’s case against Q — and I am persuaded by Goodacre that Q is a myth. Q is an imagined document which scholars think they see in the background of Yeshua-sayings that are shared only by Matthew and Luke (they don’t occur in Mark). The Q theory is that Matthew and Luke each independently used Mark and this lost source of sayings which scholars call Q. Let me break that down. The theory is that Matthew did not know Luke and Luke did not know Matthew. The sources they had included Mark and Q (and both … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Formation of the Gospels, Synoptic Relationships

The Invisible Jews, Until the Sixth Century CE

People often think that Judaism was led by the Pharisees in an unbroken chain from before the time of Yeshua to the present day. In this mistaken notion of history, the Pharisees of Yeshua’s time were the influential leaders of world Jewry who morphed into the rabbis of renown. The truth, well-documented in such books as E.P. Sanders’s Judaism: Practice and Belief and J.D. Shaye Cohen’s From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, is that the Pharisees and the early rabbinic movement were not that influential until at least the sixth century CE. Contributing to the faulty view of rabbinic dominance in early Jewish history is the Mishnah and Talmud and Midrashic literature. This, taken together, is called rabbinic literature. And in the rabbinic literature, the dominance of the rabbinic movement is … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Pharisees, Sadducees

Video at the Musings Blog: What Was New for Jews in Yeshua?

At the Musings blog, and as a third video for my class on Introduction to the Apostolic Writings (New Testament), I discuss the significance of what Yeshua did in a Jewish context. What was so revolutionary? See “What Was New in Yeshua for First Century Jewish People?”. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Applying the Gospels, Background to Gospels, Kingdom Future, Kingdom Present, Resurrection of Yeshua, Video

Video at the Musings Blog: Why the New Testament?

The question has more to it than might appear at first. When the 27 different documents that are now collected into what we call “the New Testament” (or what could be called “the Apostolic Writings”), none of the writers knew they were writing for a collection or that they were writing scripture. What was happening in the Yeshua movement that gave birth to these documents? The gospels in particular have an interesting purpose and origin. The generation of eyewitnesses and apostles were passing away. See more and the video “Why the New Testament?” here at the Musings blog. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Eyewitnesses, Greco-Roman Background, Video

Birth of Messiah, Video

Isn’t it curious that the oldest gospel, Mark, doesn’t include the birth of Messiah stories? Have you considered that the gospels may have been written “backwards”? All of this might help us understand the infancy narratives of the gospels (Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2) all the more. They really have an inspiring purpose and seeing evidence of their purpose makes them all the more important. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Birth of Messiah, Divinity of Yeshua, Formation of the Gospels, Video, Virginal Conception

Magi’s Gifts, Video

Matthew sometimes shows the scriptures behind the story of Messiah’s birth and sometimes he expects us to see them in the hints he leaves in the story. What is the Jewish background to the gifts of the Magi in Matthew 2? Click “Read entire article…” to see the video. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Birth of Messiah, Detailed Commentary, Ideal Israel Theme, Intertextuality in the Gospels, Video

Bethlehem Star, Video

When the very Jewish gospel of Matthew tells us the story of Messiah’s birth, you can bet it will be filled with Jewish themes. In fact, there are little known Jewish themes in the Matthew 2 story of the magi from the east and the star that reveals the place of Messiah’s birth. What was the star of Bethlehem? What is the Jewish background of the star and the magi? … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Birth of Messiah, Detailed Commentary, Intertextuality in the Gospels, Preachable Points, Video

Bethlehem Shepherds, Video

This week’s Yeshua in Context Video is timely, as many are starting to think about the birth narratives of Yeshua in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 at this time of year. For the next few weeks, I will explore facets of the birth narratives. Next week: Bethlehem’s Star. Who were the shepherds of Bethlehem? Why do they figure so prominently in Luke’s birth narrative? What do we learn about Yeshua and his context? … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Detailed Commentary, Geography, Luke's Gospel, Messiah, Preachable Points, Video

Repost: The Mountain in the Sermon

On Sunday, I’m speaking to a small class in North Georgia about the Beatitudes. As you progress into Matthew 5-7, this is a vital piece of information about the context. The following information is derived from a paper by Eric Ottenheijm of the University of Utrecht presented at the 2010 Society of Biblical Literature in the Matthew section. In Matthew 5:1, Yeshua went up on “the mountain.” No one knows which mountain, although there is a lovely hill which is the traditional spot. More important than a physical location, though, is understanding the allusion of “the mountain.” There are a number of mountains of great significance in the Hebrew Bible. The echoes of Exodus and Isaiah in particular add depth and meaning to the Sermon on the Mount. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Beatitudes, Besorah/Gospel/Good News, Identity of Yeshua, New Moses Theme, Sermon on the Mount, Spectacular Commentary

Mary’s Psalm (PODCAST Transcript)

I’m reading Scot McKnight’s new book, The King Jesus Gospel, a vital contribution for Christians and Messianic Jews. What’s so great about McKnight’s book is that he plainly and clearly explains why the main message of churches for the past hundred years has been so limpid and produced such a disappointing Christian culture. He doesn’t pretend that a little theological correction will put an end to human failure in religion, but it can’t hurt to have people follow a message that the apostles would at least recognize as the gospel. The main point of McKnight’s book is that the word “gospel” to the apostles meant the story of Yeshua giving meaning to life and eternity. Gospel was not simply a message of personal salvation. Personal salvation is one of the things … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Besorah/Gospel/Good News, DHE (Delitzsch Gospels), Luke's Gospel, Salvation and Covenant

The Purpose of Parables

As part of a presentation I gave on September 18 at a “Studying the Jewish Gospels” event here in Atlanta, I developed an outline of “20 Ways to Read the Life of Yeshua.” Among my twenty pointers were things like, “Forget that you know the end of the story,” followed by examples in which onlookers and disciples can only be understood within the story as confused, as people who don’t know for a second that Yeshua is to be the dying savior and rising lord. And another of my pointers, which forms the basis for this post: “Understand the genre of parables in rabbinic literature.” And the golden text for learning about this subject: David Stern, Parables in Midrash (note: this is not the David Stern who is famous in the … Read entire article »

Filed under: Applying the Gospels, Background to Gospels, Beginners, Community in Yeshua, Discipleship - Formation, Erasing Anti-Judaism, General, Gospel Genres, Literary Features, Parables, Study Tips, Teaching of Yeshua

Demons in Galilee

What sort of theology of unclean spirits existed in Yeshua’s time? We have a few hints and texts that can give us a picture. Pagan notions of demonic spirits were no doubt an influence on some, but devout Galileans like Yeshua would have looked to other sources for their beliefs. A few centuries before Yeshua, some unknown circles of apocalyptic scribes wrote some texts that are now known as part of 1 Enoch (which is really five books written at different times). The early part of 1 Enoch is the Book of the Watchers. Who are the watchers? The answer is found in Daniel 4:10 (4:13 in Christian Bibles; see also 4:14, 20 (4:17, 23)) : In the vision of my mind in bed, I looked and saw a holy Watcher coming … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Besorah/Gospel/Good News, Enactments and Symbolic Actions, Miracles

How They Read “Messiah” #1

It’s important to neither exaggerate nor diminish the importance of messianic hope in the times of Yeshua and the disciples. Exaggeration looks like this: Rome and the Herodians continually had to quell messianic pretenders and uprisings. Diminishing looks like this: there was virtually no messianic hope in Yeshua’s time and no one was looking for a king to lead a revoution. Both claims have been made. In Michael Bird’s Are You the One Who Is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question, there is a helpful chart of some major messianic scriptures and references to the thought of the time about these texts. What kinds of things were people saying about Isaiah 11 in Second Temple Judaism? That will be our theme in this first installment. To help those who … Read entire article »

Filed under: Apocalyptic Literature, Background to Gospels, Hebrew Bible as Testimony, Messiah

Greece, Rome, Israel #3

And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and sought a way to destroy him; for they feared him, because all the multitude was astonished at his teaching. –Mark 11:18 The gospel did not just happen. The events which marked the onset of a new stage in the world’s redemption happened in a time and place with three main cultural backdrops. Parts 1 and 2 introduced Greek and Roman influences on these events, both in Yeshua’s time and the later time the gospels were written. What about conditions and social structures in Israel itself? What are some basics readers need to know about conditions and groups in Israel? What about Jewish concerns in the times of the evangelists? … Read entire article »

Filed under: Aims of Yeshua, Background to Gospels, Beginners, Formation of the Gospels, Gentiles, Ideal Israel Theme, Identity of Yeshua, Judaism Today & Yeshua, Law, Torah

Greece, Rome, Israel #2

“Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a coin, and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesars.” Yeshua said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at him. –Mark 12:14-17 What has the gospel to do with Rome? As in the first installment about Greece and Hellenism, we’re considering Roman background in the life and message of Yeshua as well as in the time of the evangelists who wrote the gospels … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Formation of the Gospels, Gentiles, Greco-Roman Background, Son of God

Greece, Rome, Israel #1

Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth. . . . He said to her, “Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” -Mark 7:26, 27. Our reading of the gospels should take into account three streams of culture. In particular we can says that the times of Yeshua were affected by: (1) the reaction against Hellenism or Greek culture in Israel that had come to the fore in the days of the Maccabees from 165 BCE on, (2) the influence of Rome both for good and bad in the life of Israel, and (3) the struggles of Israelite groups and cultures to define themselves in a changing world. The three cultural streams of the gospels should … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Formation of the Gospels, Gentiles, Greco-Roman Background

Yeshua the Galilean

Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? -Acts 2:7 The miracle of that special Shavuot (Pentecost) at the Temple was something very human: the appearance of the Spirit of God in individual theophanies on the disciples. Many onlookers seem to have missed the tongues of fire that Luke says rested on the disciples. What they noticed was the strange speech. Humble Israelites were speaking languages from far away lands. And it occurred to the onlookers as more than strange that these powerfully endued speakers were Galilean. It was the Judeans, not the Galileans, who emphasized scribal education. If anyone might be expected to have such learning of languages, and possibly if anyone were to be chosen as a prophet, most would expect this to happen to Judeans and not Galileans. What is … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Beginners, Galilee, General, Preachable Points, Temple and Torah

The Symbolic Use of Abraham

I asked my congregation a test question. I said, “What does Abraham represent in the gospels?” The answer I got was, “Faith.” It’s not a bad answer considering that this was before we had read a few Abraham texts in the gospels. Yet, before we would jump to Paul’s explanation of Abraham (Rom 4:3; Gal 3:7), it is good to consider a step earlier than the realization that Abraham represents faith. It is eye-opening to re-read some of the Abraham texts in the gospels with an eye for first century Jewish ideas about election, covenant, and afterlife. Let’s begin with three texts: Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones … Read entire article »

Filed under: Abraham, Afterlife, Background to Gospels, General, Kingdom Future, Kingdom Present, Teaching of Yeshua

Moses-Like Prophet in John

In the fourth gospel, Deuteronomy 18:15-22 is a key passage. It’s language (from the Septuagint or Greek version) is echoed throughout the gospel of John. Much of the Father-Son language in John comes from concepts and phrases in Deuteronomy 18:15-22, the Torah passage about the Prophet who is to come. Of course, the Deuteronomy passage is in one sense talking about the office of a prophet (and so, in that sense, all prophets like Samuel, Elijah, Hosea, Amos, Isaiah, and Jeremiah fit the meaning of the Deuteronomy passage). Yet the Prophet in Deuteronomy was also interpreted in another sense (as evidenced in the gospels) as a singular Prophet who would be greater than Moses. One could argue that this is not what the Deuteronomy passage intended, but there are two … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, General, Identity of Yeshua, Judaism Today & Yeshua, New Moses Theme, Yeshua as

Sadducean Scribblings #3

This series is about pointing accurately to some historical sources and contemporary historical scholars for insight into the Sadducees and chief priests. Understanding the characters in the gospels goes a long way to reading them accurately. E.P. Sanders (Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 BCE – 66 CE) gives us some helpful and thoroughly researched pointers to the identity and character of the Sadducees. Here is my summary from pg. 318: (1) There is a “high degree of correspondence” between the aristocracy in Judea/Jerusalem and the Sadducean party. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, General, Sadducees