Summary: The Bible was written by Jews for Jews thousands of years ago, in ancient languages and cultures that are vastly different from ours today. Making it all the more important to understand as much of those cultures as we can.
“I am more than ever certain that a great place belongs to him in Israel's history of faith and that this place cannot be described by any of the usual categories.” -Martin Buber, leading Jewish writer, thinker, philosopher, and theologian (1878-1965).
“No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word.” -Albert Einstein (Quote taken from “What Life Means to Einstein,” The Saturday Evening Post, October 26, 1929)
“Christianity is completed Judaism... Christianity is incomprehensible without Judaism, as Judaism is incomplete without Christianity." -Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister of England
“When asked why he had "given up the synagogue for the church," Zolli replied, "I have not given it up. Christianity is the completion of the synagogue, for the synagogue was a promise, and Christianity is the fulfillment of that promise." - Israel Zolli, Chief Rabbi of Rome
"I am poor and feeble, persecuted and vulnerable, Yeshua conquered me, and with the New Man he honored me, He delivered me from the poverty-stricken self with his great love, he cherishes me." -Daniel Zion, Chief Rabbi of Bulgarian Jews
The Bible was written thousands of years ago, in ancient languages and cultures that are vastly different from ours today. Even our English translations are translation of translations.
Therefore it is important to understand as much as we can about the original languages and cultures of the Bible.
For instance, consider how Paul was a tentmaker in Acts 18 and Lydia (Acts 16) was a seller of purple. Paul was a tentmaker (little tent); the prayer shawl was consider to be everyman’s little tabernacle (tent). Paul made Prayer shawls.
The writers of the Old Testament were Jews; the writers of the New Testament were Jews. They had a Jewish culture. It behooves us to learn more about it.
“unto us [Jews] a son is given”
For Isaiah was a Jewish Prophet writing to Jews and wrote in Hebrew.
This then brings us to ask 3 primary questions:
1) Ethnically, was Jesus a Jew?
2) Was Jesus a Torah observant Jew?
3) If the answer to questions 1 & 2 are yes (Jesus was a Torah observant Jew) then why wouldn’t Christians follow Judaism?
Let’s dive right in:
ONE) Ethnically, was Jesus a Jew?
First off from reading the New Testament we clearly see that Jesus identified with the Jews of His day.
“He came to His own [Judah], and His own [Judah] did not receive Him. But as many [Jews] as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name...” -John 1:11-12 NKJV
Jesus said, "You [Gentiles] worship what you do not know; we [Jews] know what we [Jews] worship, for salvation is of the Jews.” (John 4:22).
Hebrews 7:14 says, “For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of [the tribe of] Judah…”
Judah is the name from which we derive the name “Jew” from.
The first verse of Matthew clearly proclaims the Jewish ethnicity of Jesus. “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” -Matthew 1:1.
Mary, the mother of Jesus as found in the genealogy of Luke chapter 3, is also clearly identified as a direct descendant of King David, giving Jesus the legal right to ascend the Jewish throne as well as further establishing Jesus as a Jew ethnically.
So without any doubt Jesus was ethnically a Jew by birth and birthright.
TWO) Was Jesus a Torah observant Jew?
The parents of Jesus (Joseph & Mary) had “done everything required by the Law for their child, Jesus.
“And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.” -Luke 2:39.
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7), Jesus said, “Ye have heard” and “it hath been said” several times.
When/Where had they heard… from their oral Torah (Talmud) not from the written Torah (the first 5 books of the Old Testament).
Jesus was correcting them with the written Word (Torah). That is why Jesus would say things like, “You have heard” & “it hath been said”, as compared to other places where He would say, “It is written”.
For example, Jesus said:
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” - Matthew 5:43-44
Was Jesus teaching something new? No.
God's law says, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour” -Leviticus 19:18;
However, God's law does not say, “hate thine enemy.”
Jesus continually confirmed/affirmed the authority of the Torah and the Prophets.