Modern Westerners live in a very different culture than Jesus did. We approach life as individualists living in an industrialized, technology-saturated world. We often frame our ideas in terms of Greek philosophy.
Jesus, however, saw the world through Middle Eastern eyes, and his words and teaching style fit much better into the traditions of early Judaism.
What difference does this make? Sometimes a lot. We often miss nuances if we aren’t aware of the way things were said in his first-century Jewish context.
Below are articles and links that explore how Jesus’ Jewish setting might cast light on his words to us today.
Learning from Our Rabbi Jesus – Much of our difficulty in understanding the words of Jesus comes from not seeing the nuances of their Jewish style and context.
What Did Jesus Mean by “Do Not Judge”? – Other Jewish sayings on judging unlock Jesus’ words and yield practical ways to apply them to our lives.
Measure for Measure – Jesus used a classic rabbinic form of reasoning called midah keneged midah, meaning, “measure corresponding to measure.”
How to Love the Lord – The greatest commandment is “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and strength.” This is part of the Shema, the prayer that is said by Jews every morning and evening.
Loving Your Neighbor, Who is Like You – Jewish interpreters in Jesus’ day emphasized a slightly different message in the commandment to “love your neighbor” than we do today.
Jesus’ Most Radical Teaching – The command to “love your enemies” went beyond any other teaching of his time, yet characterized his life and Messianic Kingdom.
Jesus’ Messianic Surprise: A Kingdom of Mercy – The Jews of Jesus’ time were longing for a messiah, but Jesus didn’t fit their expectations. What were they looking for? A look at Jesus’ radical message in light of his Eastern culture.
The Kingdom of Heaven is Good News! – Why did Jesus say that “I must preach the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven, because it was for this reason I was sent?”
Jesus’ Strange Teaching About a “Single Eye'”– Jesus’ words are much more clear when we understand the cultural idioms that he was using.
Jesus’ Surprising Answer – When a man discussed with Jesus how he could have eternal life, why did Jesus accept what seems to be a wrong answer?
Links for further study: