Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus (Thoughts & Reflections) Introduction

Let me begin by thanking Lois Tverberg (co-author of "Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus") for being gracious enough to send me a copy of the book (especially when I'm in Malaysia, that is a considerable great distance from the States!) and giving me the opportunity to blog about it! A special shout out to Kurt as well over at Groans From Within who was thoughtful enough to recommend my blog as a possible reviewer of the book. Do follow his discussion of the book over at his blog:

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus Intro; Can we find a more Jewish Jesus?
Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus 1; Do You have the 'anointin'?

Today I will start to do a blow by blow reflection as well as some thoughts on each chapter of the book. So if you have the time, join in the conversation. Your comments will be greeted with open arms. If you haven't been following, I have already done a review of the book here on my blog which you can see here.

Thoughts and Reflection

One of the things that has bothered me whenever I read the gospels before was the puzzling effect that it had on my mind. This has been a lifelong (well maybe not lifelong, i just tend to exaggerate sometimes) struggle for me from time to time. I had a hard time reading the Sermon on the Mount because it seemed to run counter with Paul's gospel. At some points Jesus seemed a far more striker Lord then some might want him to be; 'meek and mild'.

At points I simply get frustrated with Jesus' parables and sayings, simply foreign. Foreign might be an understatement but, foreign might be a better description for labeling Jesus' words. Why foreign? Because Jesus lived in a time when our values did not exist. He lived in a cultural background that had different thought patterns than what we might have now. Another factor to the foreignness of Jesus is, his nationality; he was a Jew.

In the introduction page, the authors says that,“The goal of this book is not so much to help you understand Judaism as to help you hear Christ’s life-changing words with greater clarity and force.” (8) With this, one could come to the conclusion that studying Jesus' Jewishness brings together clarity and force to words that would have been lifeless or sounded clueless to our ears. But some people might cringe to this proposal. Take these quotes from Piper in his book "The Future of Justification" on sources bearing in mind Jesus' cultural context,

"...the interpreter may misunderstand the first-century idea." (34)

"...while it may accurately reflect certain first-century documents, nevertheless it may reflect only one among many first-century views." (35)

"...while the New Testament writer may embrace the external idea in general, a scholar might misapply it to the biblical text." (36)

The overall view is that it is simply impossible to reach a consensus on what is true of Jesus' first-century context and therefore the probability of distorting the text is considered high. Though I am aware of the difficulty of this should navigating our way to clearly understand God's words in the context of his chosen people deter us from taking the plunge? Lois and Ann continue on to say that,

We have also been careful to place Jesus within his first century Jewish context rather than that of later ages. We hope the end result will be of help to pastors, students, and lay people who find their reading of the bible all the more fascinating and life transforming as they come to appreciate and understand the Jewish context that shaped it.” (8)

For me, based on Lois and Ann's findings which they have projected in the book, their take on Jesus' first-century background is refreshing breath of fresh air. Although those who might be curious to find out where they got their sources could look up the page on the books that they researched through. I would not go as far as saying that they have covered all the bases on first century issues because i'm not an expert in this field yet (hopefully someday) but there is a degree of humility resonating all throughout the book.

To conclude this post, Jesus' Jewish context might be a new field of study, but non the less a minefield you might want to look at seriously simply for the fact that clarity abides there. This calls for a restructuring in how we used to view Jesus. For me personally, understanding Jesus in his Jewishness makes things more clearer.

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Hopeful Theo

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OIL TOWN, SWK, Malaysia
I'm a student of Theology (currently and will always be one). I'm a student of culture and a student of music as well. I guess you could say life is a never ending journey of learning. Because of that we never stop being students. Just a little something about this blog: Deconstructing The Monkey is all about being a safe space for emerging conversations