A friend recently shared an article with me, written by a correspondent of one of the major US news agencies, that “Jews Are Reclaiming Jesus as One of their Own.” Turns out that there are several new books and much serious research afoot, and it’s entirely generated from within the Jewish community. A refreshing Jewish re-examination which seeks to understand Yeshua’s 1st-century lifestyle, practices and faith—and wonderfully discovering it to be entirely Jewish. Undertaken by Jewish religious scholars and historians, all theologians, rabbis and professors at the University level, their conclusions have begun to reframe the modern Jew’s understanding of Yeshua. And, to re-examine Christianity’s claims. They are discovering that Jesus and Paul were not Christians, but pious religious Jews—and one of their own. This is very good news for those of us who are Jewish and hold that Yeshua is Messiah. But the best part about this trend is that they are doing this on their own.
For centuries, Anti-Semitism notwithstanding, Jews have been continuously force-fed a ‘Jesus’ as the Jew who discarded Judaism, and Paul who preached conversion to a new religion. For me, even the meager exploration of Yeshua by His own is encouraging. And in no little part, thanks to people like Bob Gorelik, messianic congregations like ours (in Sonora, CA) and people who have a sincere heart to understand the truth, share it in love without ‘strings’ and let G-d do the rest. There is still a very, very long way to go, but I find this a step in a positive direction. Jews still terribly misunderstand Paul and what’s so ironic is that they understand Paul the way mainstream Christianity does! Particularly the issue of Messiah’s divine nature. I found one statement made by one of the researchers in the article of great value, not to mention a “ginormous” understatement: "Many Christian ministers and educators have no training in what early Judaism was like," she said. "Not to take seriously first-century Judaism seems to dismiss part of the message of the New Testament." Boy, no kidding!
I recently purchased the Bible named in the article Jewish Annotated New Testament by Amy Levine. It’s fascinating, great in places, all except for what they read in Paul—not good, but it’s a good start! There are fascinating new books written by “non- believing” Jews that are beginning to take another look at Paul. One I recently purchased, ‘Paul was Not a Christian’ by Pamela Eisenbaum, who is a Jewish professor of New Testament study at Iliff School of Theology, is quite good and hits the proverbial “nail” on the head on several critical points. In fact I was astonished to see some of her statements were so very much like those made often by Bob, such as; “The letters [Paul’s] represent pieces of a larger conversation between Paul and his followers or, in some cases, his opponents. Modern readers can never be privy to the entirety of this larger conversation. In other words, reading Paul’s letters is like reading other people’s mail...” (pg. Kindle Loc 489).
All of this renewed interest comes from a very natural sense of curiosity from within the Jewish community itself. In my opinion, this is the work of the Spirit in people’s lives. G-d does not require my badgering or salesmanship to quicken the heart. The gospel would go a lot further in the Jewish community if we could only give them the grace to explore it without threat and condemnation. Baruch HaShem there are those who are finding the way to do that.