During his lifetime he would have gone by the name
The Christian Perspective
One of the problems that we run into, when studying the customs of Yeshua (Jesus), is that we don’t always end up with the picture we would expect to find. In the Forward to Dr. Brad Young’s book Jesus, the Jewish Theologian, Marvin Wilson writes:
Among many Christians, Jesus as a historic figure remains largely removed from Judaism and the first-century Jewish culture.
This point was ever so starkly brought to my attention several years ago through a piece of Sunday school literature, which came across my desk. It was written for grade school children and produced by a leading denominational publishing house. The part which caught my eye was a full-page drawing of Jesus. He was depicted as a boy and shown going up steps leading into a building. Underneath the drawing was this caption: “Jesus was a good Christian boy who went to church every Sunday.”
There is a major problem in trying to educate children about being a good Christian. The historical facts do not support our world-view of what Christianity is all about. Therefore, in order to continue supporting a perspective that has gone a little astray, it becomes necessary to alter history by changing a few items and just plain not telling the truth about others.
After all ... if you were to have printed the caption “Jesus was a good Jewish boy who went to Synagogue every Saturday,” it certainly would not really fit in our 21st century view of Christianity.
What Would Jesus Do?
Have you seen the bracelets that say “WWJD?” It is an acronym for: “What Would Jesus Do?” Would it surprise you to know that Yeshua (Jesus), himself wore his own kind of “What Would Jesus Do” bracelet?
We find a reference to this in the book of Matthew:
20 And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:
21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.
And then again, in Matthew 14:35
35 And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased;
36 And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.
What was going on here? The Greek word used here as “hem” is kraspedon, which literally means fringe or tassel.
|Strong’s ..... || |
2899. kraspedon, kras'-ped-on; of uncert. der.; a margin, i.e. (spec.) a fringe or tassel:-- border, hem.
In the Septuagint, kraspedon is the Greek used for the Hebrew word tzit-tzit. Why would Yeshua
(Jesus) be wearing tassels or fringes on his clothes? And why was everyone
reaching out to touch them to be healed? We find the answer to these questions written in the Prophets. First, let’s look at a messianic prophecy.
1 For behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
Malachi is one of the last prophetic books written before the time of
Yeshua (Jesus). One of the interesting things in this passage is the prophecy of the Messiah coming with “healing in his wings.” What is that talking about? The Hebrew word used here for “wings” is: kanaph. The word literally means: “an edge or extremity of a bird or army, or a garment.”
|Strong’s ..... || |
3671. kanaph, kaw-nawf'; from H3670; an edge or extremity; spec. (of a bird or army) a wing, (of a garment or bed-clothing) a flap.
The people living in first century Israel, seem to have understood this prophecy to mean that the Messiah would have healing powers for those who touched the wings or fringes (or tzit-tzit) of his garment.
Another prophecy about the Messianic Age (or millennium) says:
23 Thus says the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass,
that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.
The word translated here as skirt is the same Hebrew word: kanaph. This is where the fringes or tzit-tzit were to be. So what were these fringes and why do I say they are like Yeshua’s “What Would Jesus Do” bracelet? There are two places in the Torah that give the commandment for wearing “fringe:” in Numbers and in Deuteronomy.
12 You shall make yourself fringes on the four quarters of your vesture, wherewith you cover yourself.
We have a bit more information given in Numbers 15:38.
38 Speak to the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put on the fringe of the borders a ribbon of blue:
39 And it shall be to you for a fringe, that you may look on it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that you seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you use to go a whoring:
40 That you may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God.
You see the reason that God gives for wearing the fringe is to be a reminder to do what is right, like the WWJD
bracelet’s worn by many young people today. God said it was to remind you to
“do all His commandments,” to be, if you will, Torah observant. Yeshua, therefore, looked like a Torah observant Jew of his day.
What would Jesus Say?
So, we have an idea of what Yeshua
looked like; but what did he sound like? As we have already discovered Yeshua spoke Hebrew.
Although saying “Peace be unto you” sounds very spiritual, it is actually a common Hebrew greeting. The Hebrew words “Shalom Aleichem” mean “Peace be unto you.”
36 And as they spoke Yeshua himself stood in the mist of them, and said to them, “Peace be unto you.”
The proper response would be to say: “Aleichem Shalom” or “Unto you be Peace.”
Did Yeshua use liturgy? Some will point to Matthew 6:7 to say that, since Yeshua talks against “vain repetition,” he is speaking about the reciting of prayers and liturgy. But let us examine what is actually being said.
7 But when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
The word used in the Greek for “vain repetition” means to repeat something
over and over or to babble. This was NOT referring to blessings or prayers.
Rather, it was referring to a mantra like the pagans (or heathens) would utter, or unintelligible speech. Notice that he did not say “Don’t pray as your fellow Jews do.” So did Yeshua recite liturgy and prayers? Yes, he did. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
The Shema is considered to be the “Jewish profession of faith.” It is a prayer that consists of three passages in the Torah (Deut.6:4-9, Deut.11:13-21, and Num.15:37-41). This prayer is said two to four times a day. Some speculate that this was the prayer being recited by Daniel, for which he was thrown into the lion’s den. It is so important that the Mishna allows it to be uttered in any language (not just Hebrew). (M Sot 7:1) It is also the prayer that many Jews have said as they faced death at the hands of persecutors including many who went into the gas chambers of Nazi Germany in WW2. Rabbi Akiva, the second-century sage tortured to death by the Romans for his support of the Bar-Kokhba rebellion, was the most famous martyr to die with the Shema on his lips.
The Talmud records:
“When Akiva was being tortured, the hour for saying the [morning] Shema arrived. He said it and smiled. The Roman officer called out, ‘Old man, are you a sorcerer [because Akiva seemed oblivious to the torture] that you smile in the middle of your pains?’ ‘No,’ replied Akiva, ‘but all my life, when I said the words, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your means,” I was saddened, for I thought, when shall I be able to fulfill this command? I have loved God with all my heart, and with all my means [possessions], but to love him with all my soul [life itself] I did not know if I could carry it out. Now that I am giving my life, and the hour for reciting the Shema has come and my resolution remains firm, should I not smile?’ As he spoke, his soul departed”
These scriptures were an embedded part of Jewish life in the first century, as they still are today. They basically describe the Torah observant Jew and what is expected of him. To make reference to this group of scriptures, you need only say the first word,
שמע (shema), and it is understood what you are referencing.
When Yeshua was asked what the greatest commandment was, however, he went much further than to give the first word. He left no doubt as to what he was saying.
28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
29 And Yeshua answered him, The first of all the commandments is,
שמע ישראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד
(Shema Yisrael ADONAI elohenu ADONAI echad.)
Hear, O Israel; the LORD our God, the LORD is One:
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Here Yeshua is quoting two passages from the Torah;
Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19:18. By doing so he expresses the major profession of Jewish faith and emphasizes monotheism as the first priority of belief. He also supports the most basic passage in Jewish liturgy.
In the Gospel accounts we also see Yeshua saying various blessings especially over bread and wine. Do we know what Jesus would have said? Yes, we do. We have no reason to believe that Yeshua would have given a “new” or “different” blessing. Rather, his pattern was to follow the standard customs of the Jewish faith.
30 And it came to pass, as he sat and ate with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke and gave it to them.
The blessing for the bread is:
Baruch ata Adonai Eloheynu Melech Ha olam
Ha Motzi Lechem min haAretz
Blessed are you, Adonai our God, king of the universe
Who brings forth bread from the earth.
The blessing for the wine is similar:
Baruch ata Adonai Eloheynu Melech Ha olam
Boree peri haga fen
Blessed are you, Adonai our God, king of the universe
Who creates the fruit of the vine.
So we have seen what Yeshua looked like and what he sounded like. But what were his actions? How did he live his life? Let’s begin by looking at his birth and childhood.
... As Was His Custom
21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Yeshua, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your seed after you; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
11 And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant between me and you.
We continue reading in Luke 2:22.
22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the LORD;
23 (As it is written in the law of the LORD, Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD;)
24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the LORD, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
We find this commandment in Leviticus 12:6.
6 And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to the priest:
7 Who shall offer it before the LORD, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that has born a male or a female.
8 And if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean.
From this passage most people believe that Yeshua’s parents could not afford the larger offering and, instead, gave the less expensive offering we read about in Lev.12:8 (but again strictly following the Torah). Again, let’s go to the book of Luke.
39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the LORD, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
We see that Yeshua’s
parents were very careful at the time of his birth to do “all things according
to the (Torah) law.” Let’s
continue on in the book of Luke and see a small bit of his childhood.
41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.
42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
4 These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their seasons.
5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord's Passover.
6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread to the LORD: seven days you must eat unleavened bread.
16 Three times in a year shall all your males appear before the LORD your God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty.
Again, here Yeshua’s parents follow the teachings in the Torah, making a pilgrimage to keep the Feast of Matzah (Unleavened Bread) in Jerusalem.
In addition to these holidays, Yeshua also observed a winter festival.
22 And it was at
Jerusalem the feast of dedication, and it was winter.
23 And Yeshua walked in the Temple in Solomon's porch.
The Hebrew word for
dedication is Hannukah.
Yeshua did NOT observe
Christmas, although it was observed (by a different name) by the pagans of his
time. We'll talk more about that in a later chapter.
Let’s take a look at one more scripture concerning Yeshua’s customs before moving on.
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.
So we see that through his childhood and up until at least his ministry he was brought up to be Torah observant. But what was his attitude about the law of God?