The Jew Named Jesus

September 27th, 2013

We have come a long way in Jewish-Christian relations. Thanks to the work of the Roman Catholic Church during Vatican II in the 1960s as well as interfaith dialogues that have taken root in communities large and small since then, anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism have greatly declined in American churches.

Unfortunately, these advances in understanding haven’t lapped up on every shore nor are they reflected in every Sunday sermon or Good Friday service. There are still vestiges of anti-Judaism in church services today. Stereotypical portrayals of Pharisees abound as do skewed understandings of Jewish life in Jesus’ time. Even what we say about Paul and his relationship to the Law needs updating as do the theologies that arise from these misunderstandings. Still, our progress is worthy of celebration.

It’s time now to say it loud and proud: Jesus was a Jew. He was born a Jew, raised a Jew, lived a Jew, died a Jew, and was even resurrected a Jew. He was no backsliding Jew or a Jew in name only. He was Jewish through and through. In naming him this way, there is a great message of hope and unity for a divided world in the Christian community, between Jews and Christians, and maybe even in the larger religious landscape.

Recovering this message of unity will require seeing the Gospels and the entire New Testament in a whole new light. Empowering you to try on this new set of lenses—which I call “reading the Bible with Jewish eyes”—is what I set out to do in [my] book so that we can discover anew the man and his message.

In Chapter 1, What’s a Nice Jewish Girl Like Me Doing in a Place Like This? I share my own story of how I personally came to this perspective of Jesus. In Chapter 2, Was Jesus a Christian? I discuss the biblical evidence that points to an unmistakably Jewish Jesus. At the same time, I’ll explore Jesus’ relationship to Christianity. In Chapter 3, Did the Jews Reject Jesus? I look at Jesus’ earliest followers and the religious nature of the early church. In Chapter 4, Did the Jews Kill Jesus? I raise the nagging question that has prompted so much pain and suffering in the world—who killed Jesus and why? In Chapter 5, Has God Rejected the Jews? I look at the biblical relationship between Jews and Christians. In Chapter 6, A New Heaven and a New Earth, I look at the message of unity contained in Jesus’ life and teaching that brings hope to a divided world.

My hope in writing [my] book is that new generations of Christians and Jews will work together for a kingdom of God that is truly inclusive— based in love of God and love of neighbor—without losing the essential distinctions of their respective spiritual traditions. At the same time, I hold out for a stronger acceptance of spiritual hybrids who, like me, have a foot in both worlds. My vision is a vision of hope that is as old as the Bible and as new as the fragmented world we live in. May it be so! Amen.

Excerpted from: The Jew Named Jesus: Discover the Man and His Message by Rebekah Simon-Peter. Copyright © 2013 by Abingdon Press. Used with permission.

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