if Jesus was a jew, how come i’m not?

I’m listening to a wonderful lecture right now from the teaching company. Part of the discussion is on the Jewishness of Jesus – basically that he was one and a very big one at that. If you take away all the stuff I struggle with: Jesus being the son of God and the messiah and all that, I do believe he was a very influential Jewish prophet who managed to change the way a lot of people thought. You might even say that because such a small, radical sect of Judaism became the dominant religion of today speaks volumes as to how really influential Jesus was – maybe this was supposed to be? But I try not to get bogged down in supposed to be’s.

But if he was this great Jewish teacher, prophet, whatever you want to call him, that had no intention of starting a new and separate and certainly anti-Jewish religion then why are all Christians Christian and not Jewish? Because his followers and disciples became convinced that he was the messiah and spread the word about HIM rather than his teachings. Ok, but then we have a religion based on one person (albeit divine in nature) as opposed to the one God. That particular notion makes me uncomfortable. It’s great and all that God sent his only son to die for our sins but why still does that mean I don’t follow the religion that His son did? The separation of these two once so closely related religions doesn’t seem to mesh with the concept of forgiveness and unity. If every time we have a difference of opinion we split off and form a new sect of something without bothering to stay and work it out we’re quitters.

I’m not saying we all have to agree and practice one unchanging religion. On the contrary there should be debate and differences – that’s the only thing that helps us grow. Maybe it doesn’t matter that we call ourselves Jewish or Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or whatever because deep down we’re all the same? Good thought, but the devil’s in the details and that’s still where a lot of folks are focused. It doesn’t matter that we all agree we shouldn’t kill another human being if we’re worried about whether Mary was actually a virgin or Jesus was really fathered by God. There are too many people out there who still think they are the one that got it “right”.

Ok, so there is no right answer and we will continue to splinter and differ, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for us to get along. Great – where does that leave me personally? I have no clue. Christianity is what I know, it’s comfortable to me and I’ve come a long way with it. I can’t just walk away. At the same time, I can’t ignore the questions of faith and belief, as a matte of fact, I think I should embrace them. I’ve always said I wouldn’t convert to any particular religion. But then maybe I can’t claim to be any either. I consider myself a Christian now. I would like to believe that Jesus was the son of God but I admit I’m not there yet. How do I reconcile a man who lived thousands of years ago in a completely different time and place with what I know and feel today? Is this even possible?

Maybe I’m focusing to much on the man. Maybe there’s a more general, or spiritual way of approaching it. But then I have to separate the physical, historical realities from the spiritual beliefs. How do I do that? Faith is a great answer in theory, but much harder in practice. I’m a historian by training, it’s what I know and love – looking past historical realities is like deciding not to see the truth for me. I do have a desire to get it right. I guess that’s the first thing I have to set aside. All I really need to do is get it right for me.


13 thoughts on “if Jesus was a jew, how come i’m not?

  1. T Baker says:

    It’s a great question . . . I mean how did a Jewish Messiah (or prophet, if that makes you feel more comfortable) preaching about the kingdom of God (a uniquely Jewish theme), to a Jewish following become the Savior of people everywhere?

    That being said, Jesus was a radical Jew. He challenged Jewish traditions (Luke 7:36-50), called Jewish leaders names (Matthew 6:5) and openly rebuked the teachers of the Law (Luke 20:45-46). On top of that, he made claims that were preposterous at best and blasphemous at worst. Most notably of course was his claim to be the Son of God (John 5:17-18).

    As between Jesus and the Jewish authorities, the question was not about what the scriptures said. About that, there was agreement. Consider Mark 12:28-34. Rather, the issue was about what those scriptures meant (Matthew 19:16-22). If Jesus was all he claimed to be, then the standard interpretation of what we call the Old Testament had to be revised, and in some cases scrapped entirely.

    Jesus’ message was two-fold. First, he told the Jews they were doing it wrong (that’s a gross paraphrase). But second, he taught that all of the Jewish scriptures pointed to him. In deed, he reminded the teacher “do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17).

    The problem was, his teachings were hard and it was difficult to accept (not unlike for us today). The result was that a number of Jews turned away from him precisely because of his teachings (Joh 6:60). Jesus’ followers continued those teachings, insisting that the institutions of Jewish life, the Law and the temple, were temporary; that God intended those things to point beyond themselves to the coming Messiah, who would fulfill all righteousness for all people. Jesus’ teachings were simply incompatible with those of the Jewish leaders. On a crude level, both Judeaism and Christianity claim to be the true decendants of the Jews, Judeaism just got the name. Don’t let Jesus’ religious affiliation sway you, test his teachings and decide on that. After all, what choice did he have? Judeaism was the only monothesitic religion of its day.

    On final note, I don’t agree with your characterization of Christianity as an “anti-Jewish religion”. While much anti-semitism has been condoned by, if not born out of, Christianity in the name of Christ, it is not of Christ. God redeemed his world through the Jews and the Jewish history (to a point) is the Christian history. In deed, the canonization of the Bible is itself a specific rejection of anti-semetic teachings. Anti-semitism is not your questions, but try looking a Christianty differently to see if that makes a difference.

  2. Jodi says:

    Wow, great comment. Thanks for the food for thought. The more research I do into early Christianity, the more it makes sense as well.

  3. Katrina says:

    I think you may have just answered a 42 yr old question. Years now I have been asking ‘if Jesus was a Jew why am I a Catholic?’
    I have asked preiests, catechists and anyone else who would listen.
    I still havent got to the Catholic side of things yet, but the Jewish v christianity is a massive step closer…thank you!

  4. Rhiannon says:

    Im confused! Still trying to fathom it out. Im 63 years old, and getting nearer every day to meet my maker. I wonder what i will find, (if anything)! I believe in a God, i think, but wars seem to be in the name of religion, and for me, makes me turn off religion in a big way. Why cant we all get along together, black white yellow, christians, jews, muslims, whatever. We are all Gods people arnt we??????

  5. Lindsay Williams says:

    This is what I was told by my Pastor. Being Jewish is more of a “race”, if you will, than a religion. If you werent born Jewish then you just arent. He also said to me that the Bible teaches that it DOESNT matter who or what you are as long as you have accepted Jesus into your heart and you believe. You can be Catholic, Baptist, Jewish… whatever. As long as you have invited Jesus into your heart youre good. 🙂 Hope that helps!

  6. Jodi says:

    Thanks Lindsay, that makes sense. It just seems odd to me that many christians look at jews as something soooo different, when Jesus himself was Jewish. Appreciate the comment!

  7. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in publishing this article. I am going for the same best work from you in the future as well. In fact your imaginative writing abilities has inspired me to start my own blog now. Really the blogging is distributing its wings rapidly. Your write up is a fine representative of it.

    • Jodi says:

      Thank you for your kind words. It’s comments like this that make it all worth while. Good luck in your own blog and I hope you continue to find meaning in these writings.


  8. Leena James says:

    I believe the only reason we (Christians) are not “Jews” is because, as followers of Christ, we agitated others in the synagogue and were kicked out.
    See, Jesus was a Jew and early Christians also considered themselves Jew. So, they continued to go to the synagogues after His resurrection to worship.
    Conflict arose between the Jews who did not reverence Jesus as Messiah and the followers of Jesus and the early Christians were kicked out of the synagogue. This is how they came to start meeting in each others homes. The “church” developed eventually, but after time, because for a while early Christians were persecuted, so they had to keep meeting secretly in each others homes.
    Basically, we were forced to separate from each other (Jews and Christ followers)

  9. Bruce Y. says:

    I have just discovered this blog-site, so please excuse the seeming belatedness of this response. But I was fascinated by the question “If Jesus Was a Jew, How Come I’m Not?” I think I never heard that question put so pointedly, even though it forces us to get to the heart of what Christianity was in the past and is today.

    It think it is really two questions:
    (1) Why did the early Jewish Christians break off from Judaism?
    (2) Why do I today prefer to worship as a Christian rather than a Jew?

    The first question — about Christian origins — demands that we get beneath the label “Messiah.” For many Jews in Jesus’s time, the coming of the Messiah meant that those Old Testament hopes for a world of peace and justice would come to pass. At the very least, the Romans would be thrown out! But neither of those things had happened.

    And so, the early Jewish Christians who declared Jesus to be “the Messiah” had to really re-define what that meant. (We see evidence of that in such places as Mark 8:29-31 and John 18:33-37.)

    In response to the second question — about myself today — I might quite truthfully answer that I worship as a Christian because I was born into a family that already did so. (When we grow up in a particular religion, it grows on us, with its layers resonating within us more expressively over time.)

    But I would do well to explore more deeply what it is in Christianity that I hold onto. To say that I believe that Jesus is the “Son of God” just begs the question unless I uncover what that phrase means.

    For me, the matter was best expressed by the theologian John Macquarrie when he wrote that the earliest Christians found it increasingly difficult to talk of God without talking about Jesus, and increasingly difficult to talk about Jesus without talking about God. I worship and study and practice as a Christian because I find that I have to keep coming back to that matter of Jesus.

    More than one respondent to this blog has lamented (with good reason) that Christianity has sometimes caused strife between faith-traditions, particularly causing anti-Semitism. I think we could guard against that danger if we emphasized that Jesus is a distillation of some of the very best thought and ethics of the Jewish tradition. And if we emphasized that the God Christians have experienced in Jesus is the Creator who makes possible the existence of all that is, and is also the unseen Spirit that is the Source of all healing and all renewal of life.

    This universality of the God Christians experienced through Jesus is expressed in such passages as 1 John 4:7, which puts it so beautifully that: “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”

  10. mionsiog says:

    Very interesting blog. Even more interesting comments. I am glad someone is talking about it rather than fighting over who is more right… more correct.
    Thank you for stopping by my blog so that I could get to know your blog.

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