[241] 2-Jesus as Rabbi-Jewish Roots

The Jewish Roots of Christianity
Course 241

Lesson II

Jesus as Rabbi

It is important that you read Lesson I first. It provides information that is crucial in the understanding of this course.


Throughout the Old Testament (the Hebrew Tanakh), there are over 300 prophesies of the Messiah to come. For Jesus to truly be the long-awaited prophesied Messiah, as described throughout the Tanakh, He would have had to fulfill every Messianic prophecy. Those prophecies range from His lineage, where He was born, His Godly attributes, His life, death, and resurrection, and many others. The probabilities of this happening are nearly impossible.

The odds of Jesus fulfilling even eight of the Messianic prophecies are 1 out of 10 to the 17th power. In terms that we can understand, it is equivalent to covering the entire state of Texas with silver dollars two feet deep, marking one of them, and blindfolded, dig down and pick it up.
Josh McDowell

The Targums

While the Hebrew Tanakh contains the Words of the Lord through the writings of the prophets, the Targums became Aramaic interpretations from various scribes and ancient sages following the return of the exiles. Those explanatory interpretations and reinterpretations were filled with multiple errors. Part of their interpretations sought messianic salvation as a national autonomy from the Roman Empire, believing the Messiah would come as a king and conqueror, rescuing them from foreign oppression. [1] Jesus, however, came as a humble carpenter’s son to set the hearts of men free through spiritual renewal. The political freedom they sought would be reserved for His second coming. As such, most of the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah when He came.

Since Aramaic was the dominant language of the Jews at the time of Christ, the Targums were followed more closely than the Tanakh. To fully understand this, it is important that you read Lesson I of this course. It gives detailed information on the forming of the Tanakh to the Targum writings that were prevalent before and during the time of Christ.

The Silent Years of Jesus’ Life

The Scriptures are quite silent about the life of Jesus shortly after His birth until the time of His public ministry at the age of 30. While there is one scriptural incidence written of Him at the age of 12, we lack scriptural evidence of the rest of His childhood. We do, however, have historical documentation regarding the language, customs, and daily life of the Jewish population, including Judaism, during the 1st century A.D. This information can give us a lot of clues and probabilities of what Jesus’ life would have been like during those silent years. A good indication of what a young Jewish boy and man’s life in the 1st century A.D. would have been like can be found in the Jewish Mishnah.

The Mishnah is the rabbinical interpretation of Scripture written sometime between 70 – 200 A.D. Jewish scholars believe it contains the oral traditions that were present from the 1st century B.C. to 1st century A.D. It also contains historical documentation, ethical, social, and legal considerations, as well as rabbinical literature. In the Mishnah, it reflected what happened during Jesus’ lifetime , including the educational process for a young Jewish boy.

The Education of a Hebrew Child

Education in Judaism was a very important element for “observant, practicing” Jews. Its goal was to transmit knowledge and skills from generation to generation. Historical evidence has shown the hill country of Galilee (where Jesus was raised) to have had the strongest educational system in Judaism, surpassing that in all of Judea. Even though the temple and the Sanhedrin council resided in Jerusalem of Judea, with its high priest, priests, and Levites, its influence on the daily practice of Judaism was not as dominant as it was in the area of Galilee.

The standard of education and religious training in Galilee, along with their reverence for Scripture, placed Galilee at the top for religious conservatives in the 1st century, yet socially all Jewish Galileans were considered simple people who spoke a backward dialect. Even though all Jews were bound by the Torah to travel to the temple in Jerusalem at least for three festivals each year, a large majority of them did not reside in the temple city. There in the hill country of Galilee, the Jews were hardworking simple people committed to God, who lived comfortable lives in plain, but well-built home of cobblestone floors. The only public buildings were the synagogues, or possibly places of learning, which were used as community centers, schools, and worship centers. [2]

From birth until 5 years of age

Religious training in Judaism began for Jewish children at the time of birth. As described in Deuteronomy 5-7, the children first began their education in Judaism at home as a way of life. It was spoken of on a regular basis in connection with everything they did. As instructed in the Torah, the teachings of the way of the Lord went like this:

Deut 6:6-9 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. KJV

Beit-Safar

From ages 5-10 years

Women and girls were considered 2nd class citizens, similar to that of slaves during the 1st century A.D.; furthermore, young girls could not received any formal education - they had to stay at home to learn household functions from their mothers and other women. Little boys, however, began their formal education at the age of five.

The first stage of education for a Jewish boy, called Beit-Safar (meaning House of the Book) was either in the local synagogue or another building close by, where scribes and rabbis were the teachers to these young boys. During the next five years, they were required to completely memorize the Torah. Yes, they memorized what we know of as the first five books of the Old Testament – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. To begin the process, on the first day of school, the rabbi asked each student to lift up his slate. Then the rabbi covered each slate with honey, which signified God’s favor. He then asked the boys to lick off the honey from their slate. While they did, the rabbi quoted from the Book of Ezekiel, saying: “My pupil, lick off the honey. May you never forget the Word of God is like honey - taste and see that the Word of God is good.” This left a powerful impression on the children, linking Scripture with pleasure.

Study was done seven days a week, memorizing large portions of material; however, on the Sabbath, no new material was given – it was simply a time of repeating what was learned. Little by little, over the course of five years, the boys learned the Torah from rote memory. The rabbi or scribe read from the Torah in Hebrew, and an interpreter, known as the meturganim – one skilled in languages, then shouted the scripture back in Aramaic so the children could then repeat it in their spoken tongue. [3] There was no thinking or analysis, but simply repeating and putting to memory what they heard. They had no written materials to follow except what could be put on their little slate. Over the course of five years, the whole Torah was memorized.

In addition to their formal education, the young boys were taught at home the trade of their father. If the father was a tent-maker, the son learned how to make tents. If the father was a carpenter, the son became an expert in carpentry. Again, the girls were only taught the household duties of a woman. All of this was meant to prepare a child for life as a Jew.

Beit-Talmud

From ages of 10-14 years

The next stage of Jewish education was called Beit-Talmud. Meaning the House of Learning, this process in Jewish education was for the boys ages 10-14. It was during this time when they memorized all of the rest of the Tanakh (Joshua - Malachi) That included the writings of the prophets and the Hagiographa. By the time the boys reached the age of 14, they had the whole Tanakh memorized, or least knew it very well.

These five years were a very important time of learning for a Jewish boy. It was during this time that they learned the art of rhetorical debating of questions and answers. This is different than what Western education teaches, even in elementary education of today. Western education concentrates more on retaining knowledge rather than the art of critical thinking. Instead of giving a rote answer that was simply learned as knowledge, the young Hebrew boy had to give thought to the question and then answered the question with another question. This type of learning gives evidence that the information has being processed in the mind of the child, and the child knows what the answer means.

By the completion of this study, the fate of the Jewish boy could pretty well be determined. If he was brilliant in his studies, and his parents had the means to let him go, he could then go on in his education. If he was of average intelligence or did not apply himself diligently to his studies, he then stopped his education and joined his father in the trade in which he was taught. Most of the boys ended their education at this point. The next stage of Hebrew education was only given to the best of the best.

The Bar Mitzvah - a formal ceremony where a Jewish boy, at the age of 13, transforms from a boy into a man, having full rites of an adult male, did not come into practice until sometime after the 1st century A.D.

Beit-Midrash

From ages 14 on..

If the Jewish boy was a brilliant young man and had studied very hard at the Beth-Talmud, he was allowed to go to the next educational step - that of the Beit-Midrash, meaning House of Study. Having to be at least 14 years of age, his purpose and goal in life was to become a scribe or a rabbi – a scribe being a copier and translator of Scripture and a rabbi, meaning a teacher of the Word of God and the Oral Law. A rabbi was the highest position that any good Jewish boy could attain. They were the teachers at the local Beit-Midrash, which we would consider it like a seminary today.

The brilliant, determined young man, who was well trained in the Scriptures and the Oral Traditions, and desired to continue with his education needed to go out to find a local rabbi that he respected. His hopes were to become the rabbi’s “talmid” (student or disciple). Rabbis did not go seek out their own “talmidim” (plural for talmid); they were few in numbers and their prestige and honor was such that people came to them. It was important that the talmid follow the teachings of that particular rabbi because each rabbi carried different interpretations of the Scriptures. (We find the same today in seminaries or Bible schools where each denomination carries a slightly different interpretation of Scripture.) If a rabbi thought that the prospective talmid was worthy of consideration, he would quiz him to see how well he knew the Torah and the rest of the Scriptures (Tanakh) and was able to put it to debate. It, of course, had to line up with the interpretation of that particular rabbi. The testing was grueling. Critical thinking and the art of questions with questions were heavily engaged.

If the young man passed, and the rabbi thought he had it in him to become a scribe or rabbi like himself, he was then told to “take his yoke upon him.” Those were the words that every young Jewish boy desiring to enter into the Beth-Midrash desired to hear. He was now accepted. By taking his rabbi’s yoke meant the talmid was willing to take on that rabbis interpretation of the Torah as his own, become his disciple, and do all the work that was required ahead of him. The young boy was then required to leave his father, mother, synagogue, community, and family business to devote his life to following his rabbi – everywhere. Each rabbi demanded honors of first rank, even surpassing those bestowed on parents.

In the Beit-Midrash, the eager young talmidim were ready to study the oral and written laws more intensely. It was, of course, all according to the interpretation of their rabbi. This begun another memorization process of learning what their rabbi taught on his interpretation of Scripture. This brought intense studying. They also learned of the ancient sages and their years and years of commentaries of scriptures. They entered into passionate discussions about what other rabbis were teaching as their interpretation of Scripture, which brought heated debates. They didn’t just come to listen to a rabbi, but they had to be prepared to have lengthy discussions on their teachings. Passionately they asked questions back and forth, often in heated debates. In Judaism, this kind of studying was considered the highest form of worship. [4]

If the rabbi traveled, the talmadim traveled with him. Every detail of the rabbi’s life was copied, including his walk, talk, and mannerisms. The rabbi’s job was to teach his students along the way, testing them continuously to be just like him.

There is a prayer that comes from the Mishnah that says: “May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi,” meaning you followed your rabbi so closely that you get covered with his dust, which was considered a great honor.

This was also when the young talmidim learned new languages. Knowing the Hebrew language was critical to studying the Scriptures, and since the non-Jews of Israel spoke Greek, they had to learn Hebrew and Koine’ (meaning “common”) Greek of that day as well, which involved years of study.

The Age for Ministry

As was noted, according to Jewish tradition, a young boy could not enter the Beit Midrash until he was at least 14 years of age and had brilliantly completed his education up to that point. We could look at it today as the beginning of the Jewish boy’s higher education in college. From the age of 14 or older, the young talmid learned under his rabbi. By the time he turned 18, he was considered ready for marriage. This was a time when the division between the brilliant and dedicated and those who may not make it were told to go back home or stay on to continue their studies. If the talmid couldn’t make the grade, the rabbi sadly had to tell him to go back to his family and he was destined to spend his life in the trade of his father. The words “go ply your trade” was something that every dedicated talmid dreaded to hear.

It was only a rare few who continued their education at the Beit Midrash under their rabbi. By this time, the student and the rabbi had a very close relationship. According to Jewish tradition, one could not enter into public ministry until the age of 30, which meant years of continued study for the talmidim under the close supervision of their rabbi. Everywhere the master rabbi went, the talmidim followed. Their goal was to become just like him. If a talmid, however, chose to become a scribe, he not only studied the Law like all of the talmidim, he also learned the art of being a copier of the Scriptures. Most scribes also became lawyers because they knew the law and could serve the Jewish people in legal matters. If one chose to become a rabbi, he began his public ministry as a Torah rabbi, teaching at the synagogues and/or schools to the children at Beth Safer or Beit Talmud. While being a rabbi meant a lifetime in the study of Judaism, there were a rare few who continued on to become a master rabbis. Master rabbis were the only rabbis who had their own talmidim.

The goal of Jewish education was two fold: Transmit and increase knowledge and skills from generation to generation, and to bring cultural conduct into an accepted traditional behavior. To do this, Jews needed to be properly educated, trained in occupational skills, and do it while maintaining the fear of the Lord.

Becoming a Scribe or Rabbi

The Houses of Hillel and Schammai

The rabbis of the 1st century may have followed the pattern of receiving tuition from their talmidim. In addition, they probably received remuneration when they traveled to speak at various synagogues or schools. [5] Most of them, however, had to supplement their income by practicing their trade.

There were two prestigious rabbinical schools during the time of Jesus, each having rabbis who taught from the famous doctrines of Hillel or Schammai. Hillel, the grandfather of Gamaliel, held that tradition was superior to the Law. He developed many rabbinical schools during the early reign of King Herod and right before the time of Christ. Schammai, on the other hand, was his competitor, who despised traditionalists, meaning those who practiced the Oral Traditions. [6]

The Jewish Talmud (developed after the time of Christ) records over 300 differences of opinion between each of the schools over various interpretations of Scripture. Generally, Hillel’s view prevailed. [7]

When a talmid completed the necessary course of study, he was given a written document known as a “semikhah” (similar to that of a doctorate degree in theology today), which confirmed his authority to make decisions. [8] These rabbinical doctors became more distinguished than the scribes.

Scribes

Scribes (or royal secretaries) were trained men who had become experts in the laws of God. They date back to Kings David and Solomon and were ranked with the high priests of that time. They became more prevalent with the return of the Jews from captivity in the 5th century B.C. when the Hebrew Canon was compiled under Ezra the prophet. To prepare, Ezra set up the School of the Scribes for learned men, often priests, to learn the ways of the scribe. They usually lived pious, disciplined lives. People began to follow their teachings and allowed them to interpret the Law of God. They were considered the guardian of the Law of Moses and highly respected. During the time of Jesus, all Pharisees were considered scribes, but not all scribes were Pharisees.

During the 1st century A.D., scribes were considered scholars and teachers who were also professional writers, having the responsibility of copying, translating, and interpreting the Torah. Everywhere they appeared, they were considered the mouthpiece of God. The crowds eagerly hung on their utterances as the recognized authority. [9] Their dress was similar to that of the nobility, which gave them marks of the upper class. They were, however, not allowed to accept pay for their work so they had to earn their living by other means. Since many scribes were also lawyers, having knowledge of the Law, much of their time was occupied in teaching and in judicial functions, such as producing legal documents, recording deeds and copying scriptures, which brought them gratuities to support their positions.

Rabbis

The word rabbi was derived from the Hebrew root word רַב , rav, which in biblical Hebrew means ‘great’ or ‘distinguished (in knowledge). [10] The name also became associated with the words ‘teacher,’ ‘master,’ or ‘my lord.’ It was a title of great honor. A rabbi, then, in the 1st century A.D., was one who knew the Law, the Tanakh, the Oral Traditions, and the latest accepted interpretations of the Law. They spent their life teaching the Jewish people what the Scriptures said, with the more aged master rabbis, giving their own interpretation of what it meant.

Most rabbis began their ministry as Torah rabbis, teaching at the synagogues and schools to the young children. Only a rare few continued on with their education to become master rabbis. It wasn’t until the age 40 where they would be considered one who had understanding in the Law, and when they finally turned the age of 50, they would be given the honor to counsel others, meaning having their own talmidim. That meant they were able to give their own interpretation of the Law. It was at this point when a rabbi could become a master rabbi. By this time, he would be considered a wise, aged man.

Knowing Jesus as a Jew

Jesus came into a very complex world of Judaism, which all played a part in how He affected the populace of the Jews, and ultimately that of the world. Sadly, many Christians of today believe their faith has no relationship to Judaism; however, that certainly is not the case. It must be understood that Jesus came into the world as a Jew, reared by His earthly parents as a Jew, thought like a Jew, trained under the Jewish tradition, worship His Heavenly Father as a Jew, and very simply, He was a Jew in all respects. When He went into ministry, His teaching methods were that of a Jew. If we then, as Christians in the 21st century, want to know Jesus more intimately, we need to have an understanding of Jewish roots of the 1st century A.D. to appreciate His Eastern ways.

The birth of Jesus

According to the New Testament Gospels, and the prophesies of the Tanakh, the Hebrew boy, Yeshua, or the English name Jesus, was born by the power of Holy Spirit to a virgin Jewish girl named Mary sometime around 4 B.C. An angel of the Lord spoke to her betrothed, Joseph, of the virgin miracle, and as a result, He took on the responsibility of being the earthly father to the Son of God.

Yeshua = Aramaic/Hebrew (meaning Salvation)
Yesous = Greek (no particular meaning)
Jesus = English (no particular meaning)

Around the time of His birth, His parents, by Roman decree, were required to travel to their birth town of Bethlehem to give census. There in that small town, just four miles from the temple city of Jerusalem, Jesus was born. As listed in the Gospel of Luke, and the law for Hebrew infant boys, Jesus was circumcised when He was eight days old. Since He was in the temple city, Jesus was circumcised at the temple in Jerusalem instead of the synagogue in his village. He was brought to the temple by His earthly father Joseph. Mary, His mother, was not allowed to attend the temple until the completion of her purification, meaning the stopping of the bleeding following childbirth. When the circumcision was complete, Joseph named His Son Yeshua, as instructed by an angel of the Lord. Joseph and Mary then stayed in Jerusalem for a short period of time. We know this to be true because the time of purification lasted approximately 45 days, and according to the Law of Moses, the first-born male was to be presented to the Lord. Being they were in the temple city, Jesus was presented to the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem by both His mother and father.

Luke 2:23(As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) KJV

As the first-born son was presented, an offering was required. Joseph and Mary, being poor peasants, gave a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. There appeared a righteous and devout man named Simeon who was given a word from the Holy Spirit that he would see the Christ before he died. This elderly man received Jesus into his arms, blessed God and said: “Now you are releasing your servant, Master, according to your word, in peace; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all peoples; a light for revelation to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel." As Joseph and Mary were amazed over what was said, Simeon blessed them and then prophesied to Mary. “Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which is spoken against. Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." Then an 84-year old prophetess named Anna who lived at the temple and had been in fasting and prayer night and day came to them. She thanked the Lord and spoke of Him to whom all were looking for redemption in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:21-40).

Instead of returning home to their village of Nazareth, Joseph, out of fear that King Herod would have His Son killed, fled with his family to Egypt for a period of time. After Herod died, he and his family returned back home to Nazareth.

The Village of Nazareth

In the 1st century A.D., the backward hill country of Galilee, was an area of Palestine known for its strong Hebrew religious education in Judaism. It was filled with Jews who held great reverence for the Scriptures and a passionate desire to be faithful to God. This translated into vibrant religious communities of Jewish people devoted to family, synagogue, and the keeping of the Torah. The agricultural village of Nazareth was one of those communities. Agriculture included growing grapes, olives, wheat and other grains. Its residents were hardworking simple peasant people committed to God, who lived simply, and in well-built homes. The village had no paved streets or bathhouses, no fortification and the water supply was limited to one well at the end of the village (now referred to as Mary’s Well). To augment its supply, the residents had to collect rainwater. The only public building was a synagogue that was used as a community center, schools, and place of worship.

The religious sect of Jesus

There is nothing stated in Scripture or historical documents that would designate which Judaism sect Jesus and His parents belonged, or even whether they belonged to any of them. It can be suggested that Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, who was a Nazarite (not a sect, but a vow) from birth, carried strong influence on the belief system of Jesus and His family. The probability is that Joseph and Mary were devout Jews having no connection with any sect.

The life of a carpenter in Nazareth

Jesus’ father was a carpenter by trade, so Jesus would have learned the art of carpentry, as that was the Jewish way. The village of Nazareth was very small, so it is unlikely that Joseph could have made a profitable living in His small village. The Gentile city of Sepphoris, however, having a population up to 12,000 inhabitants during the time of Jesus’ upbringing was within four miles of Nazareth. Although not mentioned in the Gospels, Sepphoris served as the region’s administrative capital of Galilee in the 1st century A.D. It is within the realms of possibility that Joseph, Jesus, and His brothers did carpentry work for many of the people within that larger city. [11]

The training of a child

As devout Jews, Joseph and Mary would have trained Jesus in the manner accustomed with any “observant” Jew in the area of Galilee. Luke 2:39 tells us that … Mary and Joseph did everything according to the Law of Moses. In John 15:10, Jesus Himself affirmed that He had kept all of His Father’s commandments, the essence of the Jewish faith. Up to the age of five, Jesus would have been trained in the ways of the Lord at home by His parents, as recorded in the book of Deuteronomy.

Deut 6:6-9 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. KJV

At the age of five, Jesus would have attended the local synagogue in Nazareth to begin His formal education in Judaism, just like all of the other Jewish boys throughout Galilee. Called the Beit-Safar (House of the Book), He would have been taught by a scribe or rabbi the memorization of the Torah. The rabbi would have read from the Torah in Hebrew while an interpreter, called the meturganim, spoke it forth in Aramaic, which was the common language of the 1st century Jewish people throughout Palestine. We know that Jesus mother tongue was Aramaic.

Over the next five years, Jesus, along with all of the other young Jewish boys memorized all of the Torah, meaning the books of Genesis through Deuteronomy. At the age of 10 Jesus would have entered the Beit-Talmud to memorize the rest of the Tanakh (Old Testament).

Luke 2:40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Each year, as was their custom, Jesus’ parents, along with other Jewish families from Nazareth, traveled to Jerusalem to attend the Passover. Because of safety issues, they often traveled in caravans which took up to 3-4 days to travel each way. The year that Jesus was 12 years old, he, his brothers and sisters, along with his parents traveled to Jerusalem, as was their custom for the Passover. On the way home, as Joseph and Mary were leaving the temple city, they realize that Jesus is not in the group. After a worried search back to Jerusalem, they found Him in the temple discoursing with the rabbis. When discovered by His parents, Jesus told them that He was “about His Father’s business.” Perplexed by His great knowledge and wisdom, the teachers of the Law, meaning the learned scribes and rabbis, were in great wonder over all He knew.

By the time Jesus reached the age of 14, He would have, according to the Hebrew educational custom, put to memory all of the Tanakh (Old Testament). He would have also learned the art of rhetorical debating of questions with questions (refer to Lesson I of this course). Having the anointing and favor of God upon Him, Jesus would have been among the top in His class.

Knowing Jesus as Rabbi

Jesus was referred to as rabbi or teacher many times throughout the Gospels in His ministry because of His vast wisdom and knowledge. It is very possible that Jesus continued His education at the Beit-Midrash under a master rabbi. Jesus knew the Oral Traditions, the Targums, and the interpretations of the rabbis of that day very well; however, He was not indoctrinated in them, as was all of the other talmadim. Jesus was well informed regarding Judaism, and could debate with the best of the rabbis. This raises a lot of questions – the main one – was Jesus a Pharisee? To answer that question, we need to go back to the last lesson on what was a Pharisee.

Was Jesus a Pharisee?

The origin of the Pharisees began with men who wanted to live holy lives unto God without the involvement of war. The time was during the Maccabean period of 165 B.C. when Judas Maccabeus led troops against Roman power to maintain religious freedom in Israel. As time continued, what started out as pure in heart, the Pharisees began to divide within. By the time of Christ, the Pharisees had split themselves seven times over various doctrines. While some were very liberal, others were conservatives. Some were rigid toward the Law while others were the progressives of their day. Jesus, however, was friends to some of the Pharisees who were more in compliance with His beliefs and teachings. He was often a dinner guest in many of their homes. On one occasion, the Pharisees even tried to rescue Jesus from Herod (Luke 13:31).

Jesus’ anger was shown when certain Pharisees elevated tradition above the Scriptures. Jesus, we know, held the Word of God above the traditions of men. He did not allow Jewish tradition to be elevated to the same level as Scripture. He was quick to discard any traditions that contradicted the Word of God. He placed compassion above the stringencies of tradition, and He rebuked hypocrisy and pretense whenever He saw it. But He did all of this from within traditional Judaism.

While Jesus was friends to some Pharisees, He was also scorned by others, calling them hypocrites. They in turn were critical of Him. Obviously, not all Pharisees were hypocrites. It must be noted that Jesus’ theology, hermeneutics, parables, argumentation, and conclusions were of Pharisaical origin. Many of the parables that Jesus spoke were actually old Pharisaic stories; He, however, spoke different endings.

Much of Jesus' thoughts on issues were in line with the teachings of Rabbi Hillel – a well-respected Pharisaic master rabbi who established rabbinical schools sometime before the turn of the century – before the time of Christ. While we can’t say for positive, Jesus was in all practicality, like His brother James and the Apostle Paul, a Pharisee. [12] One thing is certain: Jesus was a brilliant rabbi, but was foremost educated by His heavenly father because his wisdom and knowledge came from above and exceeded that of any Pharisee or master rabbi. [13]

According to Jewish Law (Num 4:1-4) a man trained in Judaism for the priesthood could not enter into public ministry until the age of 30. That same held true for other public ministry as well. Jesus followed that same law by waiting until He was 30 years of age to begin His ministry. When He did enter, His wisdom and knowledge was so profound that even the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and other Jewish leaders were astounded. The following gives some of the scriptures that show that Jesus was respected as a rabbi:

Luke 7:40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he (Simon Peter) said, “Rabbi, what is it?”

Matt 22:35-36 A lawyer(scribe) asked him a question to test him: “Rabbi, what is the greatest commandment in the Torah?”

Matt 19:16 And behold, a [rich] man came up to him and said, “Rabbi, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?”

Luke 12:13 And someone in the crowd said to him, “Rabbi, order my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

Luke 19:39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Rabbi, rebuke your disciples.”

Luke 20:27-28 Some of the Sadducees came up to him…and they asked him, saying, “Rabbi….”[14]

Every word that came out of Jesus’ mouth indicated that He had spent a lifetime being educated as a teacher or rabbi. His words and actions, as well as teaching methods, displayed that of a master Jewish rabbi who had spent a lifetime in study. In actuality, His knowledge and wisdom far exceeded that of any master rabbi.

Many Christians have claimed that Jesus was uneducated, having no schooling, based on the scripture verse in Acts 4:13, which refers to Peter and John having no education.

Acts 4:13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. NIV

Peter and John were probably Jewish boys who were educated until the age of 14 and told to go back to their father and continue on in their fathers' trade. This has nothing to do with Jesus. He was called as the Son of God to minister as a Jew to His people from birth. Mary and Jesus both knew His calling.

As we proceed into the last lesson of this course, we need to take what was learned in these past two lessons and apply it to how Jesus ministered and taught as a rabbi. We must continue to remember that Jesus was a Jew, He was reared and educated as a Jew, and taught as a Jew. He knew the art of rhetorical debate, and He knew it well. We will see in future courses how Jesus debated with the leaders of Judaism and taught the people as a Jewish rabbi.

Other than the book of Luke, all writers of the Gospels were Jewish and wrote from a Jewish mindset. The teachings of Jesus, along with the parables will be examined. Jesus’ teaching to the Jews of that day and His debates with Jewish leaders will also be examined. Everything will come from a Jewish perspective.

In closing this lesson, it is important to know that Jesus came to fulfill the Law and we need to walk in the liberty of that fulfillment. We also need to follow Him as our Rabbi, so we can develop a more intimate relationship Him and better understand the Gospels in a much deeper way.

To continue on to Lesson III of this course, click here.

End Notes


[1] http://www.onelittleangel.com/wisdom/quotes/judaism.asp?level=4
[2] http://www.faqs.org/faqs/judaism/FAQ/03-Torah-Halacha/section-16.html
[3] http://www.restorationfoundation.org/volume_3/32_6.htm
[4] http://mcdonaldroad.org/sermons/03/0125kc.htm
[5] http://www.answers.com/topic/hillel
[6] http://www.realtime.net/~wdoud/topics/paul.html
[7] http://www.jewfaq.org/sages.htm
[8] http://www.jewfaq.org/rabbi.htm
[9] The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. 1988.
[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbi
[11] http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/Myth_Gentile_Galilee.htm
[12] http://www.boundlessline.org/2007/06/jesus_the_phari.html
[13] Morgan, Dr. Howard. Personal interview. 11-7-07 Howard Morgan Ministries.
[14] http://www.jerusalemperspective.com/Default.aspx?tabid=27&ArticleID=1499