Regardless of one’s personal faith, the spiritual influence for good originating in the Scriptures and people of Israel only merit gratitude and respect. Anti-Semitism, especially in people of Christian religion, is a big mistake. Consider the Jewishness of Jesus and the faith that he lived and taught
His name in his Hebrew language was Yeshua, the same name as the one now known as Joshua. Yeshua was from a small village in Israel. He had four brothers and some sisters and grew up to became a carpenter, helping his Dad in the carpentry business. He went to synagogue regularly and learned a lot about the Hebrew Scriptures. From the writings of Moses he learned the great commandments that people should love God completely (Deuteronomy 6:5) and love their neighbours as they loved themselves (Leviticus 19:18 ).
Yeshua really liked the Hebrew prophets—like Amos who said God loved all people regardless of nationality (Amos 9:7),--like Micah who said doing justice, being kind and walking humbly with God was what God wanted (Micah 6:8)—like Hosea who said God preferred mercy more than sacrifice (Hosea 6:6) – like Joel who said God would pour out the Spirit on all people (Joel 4:28). Being a practical carpenter himself, Yeshua liked the practical wisdom of the Proverbs and Wisdom of Solomon in his Scriptures and he himself became a teacher of wisdom. He also liked the poems of David who compared God to a shepherd (Psalm 23).
When Yeshua was about thirty he heard his cousin was preaching and baptising people in the Jordan River so he went to hear his message. He agreed with it and was himself baptised. As that happened, Yeshua felt that the Spirit of God was coming to him and, as he told his neighbours later, quoting from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1,2)), the Spirit was choosing him to be a teacher and helper of people in need. He began to go around local towns, teaching and healing .
In his teaching, Yeshua was focused on the possibility of God becoming the main influence in peoples‘ lives. He called it the Reigning of God and he said it would come if people returned to keep the great laws of God, loving God above all else and loving neighbours .Yeshua reminded people of the story of Jonah who went to Ninevah where the people repented and returned to God. Yeshua told stories that challenged people and made them change their minds, stories like the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son.
Unfortunately, when Yeshua became famous the ruling Roman authorities thought he would cause a revolt so they killed him.
His followers, who were mostly Jewish people, were devastated at first but then experienced his Spirit with them, still teaching and helping them. Yeshua’s teaching and Spirit spread widely beyond Israel so that his name was translated into Greek and Latin and other versions and he was declared to be the Christ, a translation of the Hebrew word Messiah which meant different things to different people.
In the history that followed, many followers of Yeshua wrongly blamed his fellow Jews for his death at the hands of the Romans. Many horrible things have been said and done against Jews by Christians and others. These terrible crimes are still being said and done. It is a tragic mistake, especially when done so often in the name of Jesus (Yeshua). He was a good Jewish man, raised and completely devoted to his Scriptures and the God who inspired them and has inspired his fellow Jews and many others through the centuries.
Paul Newman is Professor Emeritus in Theology at St. Andrew’s College, Saskatoon. He is author of 'A Spirit Christology, Recovering the Biblical Paradigm of Christian Faith.'
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This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, May 4th 2019