Truth itself has appeared among humankind in the very thick of their flurrying metaphors

Paul Celan

Two millennia of Christian ascendancy have indelibly etched the figure of Jesus Christ onto the world’s symbolic lining. Yet, we must ask, by making him cosmic, divine, and messiah, have the children of the world formed from his legacy robbed Jesus of his own world? Jesus, Rabbi Jeshua bar-Joseph as he was known in his community, had his formation in early Judaism and, by all accounts, lived as a part of and engaged in this culture. However, he is also the mytho-poetic core of a new faith - Christianity. For our consideration, then, is a truth that history has turned into a paradox - Christianity was born of the words of a Jewish rabbi.
Truth itself has appeared among humankind in the very thick of their flurrying metaphors

Paul Celan

Two millennia of Christian ascendancy have indelibly etched the figure of Jesus Christ onto the world’s symbolic lining. Yet, we must ask, by making him cosmic, divine, and messiah, have the children of the world formed from his legacy robbed Jesus of his own world? Jesus, Rabbi Jeshua bar-Joseph as he was known in his community, had his formation in early Judaism and, by all accounts, lived as a part of and engaged in this culture. However, he is also the mytho-poetic core of a new faith - Christianity. For our consideration, then, is a truth that history has turned into a paradox - Christianity was born of the words of a Jewish rabbi.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Yellow Crucifixion

The Jewishness of Jesus is made plain in Chagall's Yellow Crucifixion. Jesus wears the phylacteries of a devout Jew on his head and arm, and he holds the Torah scroll in his right hand.

Marc Chagall (1887-1985).
Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou
c. 1943
PMA:J98.28.
© Succession Marc Chagall/ADAGP (Paris)/SODRAC (Montreal) 1999.


Torah

Christians find spiritual sustenance in the words and deeds of Christ in the New Testament, but Jesus himself took inspiration from the Jewish Torah.

unknown
1984
Parchment and wood
PMA: J99.1984.
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta.


"Hillel says: ’Be among the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them closer to the Torah’."

Pirkei Avot, 1:12

The Gospel accounts tell us that Jesus was a novel interpreter of the Hebrew Bible and offered a fresh approach to religious truth. Far from placing Jesus outside the Jewish community, we must see these facts as seeding him within the religious culture of the time. It was a period of widely divergent opinion and intense debate among groups of rabbis. Jesus engaged in these discussions through the rabbinical style of rhetorical question and parable (mashal). Indeed, in the Gospels we find an observant Jew and a skilled rabbi in the person of Jesus. These truths in mind, we begin to see that Jesus lived in his world as a rabbi but lives in the world’s Christian memory as divine.
"Hillel says: ’Be among the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them closer to the Torah’."

Pirkei Avot, 1:12

The Gospel accounts tell us that Jesus was a novel interpreter of the Hebrew Bible and offered a fresh approach to religious truth. Far from placing Jesus outside the Jewish community, we must see these facts as seeding him within the religious culture of the time. It was a period of widely divergent opinion and intense debate among groups of rabbis. Jesus engaged in these discussions through the rabbinical style of rhetorical question and parable (mashal). Indeed, in the Gospels we find an observant Jew and a skilled rabbi in the person of Jesus. These truths in mind, we begin to see that Jesus lived in his world as a rabbi but lives in the world’s Christian memory as divine.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Jesus at the Temple among the Teachers

The rabbis are astonished by the twelve-year-old Jesus' remarkable understanding of the Jewish tradition.

Herman Clementz
Collection Musée de la civilisation
c. 1922
Oil painting
PMA: J99.1519
© Musée de la civilisation.


For I desire steadfast love (hesed), not sacrifice; and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Hosea 6:6

When Jesus condemned the empty legalism he saw practiced by some fellow Jews, he must have heard the words of Hosea resonate in his mind. Jesus’ concern for social justice and reform, his claim to divine authority, his call to harmony and love, his use of miracles - all of these aspects of Jesus embedded him in the brilliant Hebrew prophetic tradition. His disciples say that he carried a message - a divine message - crucial to the fate of his people. In this way he had a profound impact on the world. Yet it was as a Jew that he engaged his audience and as Jews that they listened. So it was with Hosea.
For I desire steadfast love (hesed), not sacrifice; and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Hosea 6:6

When Jesus condemned the empty legalism he saw practiced by some fellow Jews, he must have heard the words of Hosea resonate in his mind. Jesus’ concern for social justice and reform, his claim to divine authority, his call to harmony and love, his use of miracles - all of these aspects of Jesus embedded him in the brilliant Hebrew prophetic tradition. His disciples say that he carried a message - a divine message - crucial to the fate of his people. In this way he had a profound impact on the world. Yet it was as a Jew that he engaged his audience and as Jews that they listened. So it was with Hosea.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Fill the silver goblet;
Make open the door-way;
Let there be no sob; let
Elijah come our way.

And let him come singing,
Announcing as nigh a
Redemption, and drinking
The health of Messiah!

A.M. Klein, "Song"

The Jews of Jesus’ time projected an eschatological hope for the transformation of this world at the hands of a messiah. Most did not view Jesus as that figure. Yet as the fulcrum between Jewish tradition and Christian innovation, it is only through the connecting hinge of his Jewi Read More
Fill the silver goblet;
Make open the door-way;
Let there be no sob; let
Elijah come our way.

And let him come singing,
Announcing as nigh a
Redemption, and drinking
The health of Messiah!

A.M. Klein, "Song"

The Jews of Jesus’ time projected an eschatological hope for the transformation of this world at the hands of a messiah. Most did not view Jesus as that figure. Yet as the fulcrum between Jewish tradition and Christian innovation, it is only through the connecting hinge of his Jewishness that God’s covenant could be seen to extend to the Christian people. Drawing upon the messianic tradition established in the Hebrew Bible, the early Christian community came to fix their hopes for redemption on the figure who also came to represent the drawing together of the principle motifs of Judaism. In this way Jesus the Rabbi, the prophet, the Jew, became the Christian messiah.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Raising of Lazarus

Jesus' raising of Lazarus speaks of his healing ministry and call to liberate all human beings from the bondage of death.

Jean-Paul Lemieux (1904-1990).
c. 1941
Oil on masonite.
Acc. no. 2574. PMA:J99.1076.
© Art Gallery of Ontario


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Understand the origins of Jesus;
  • Relate the origins of Jesus to Judaism.

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