Jesus’ Words In Context

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 7.38.12 PMModern 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.

Brief Articles

Imitating Our Father How Not to Pray
God’s Servant Heart Consider the Ravens
Knowing His Voice A Strong House
Why All the Woes? Together Again
Yes Should Mean Yes Sons of Hell
Fulfilling the Law Love is the Fulfillment of the Law
The Logic of Sabbath Aiming for Perfection
What’s Mine is Mine Eager to Please
Irony in the Extreme Searching Shepherd
Learning from God’s Creatures Atoning for the Nation
Having a Single Eye Jesus’ Yoke
Doing Our Duty Truth Before and After Jesus
Who Were the Wicked Tenants? The Weightiest Law
Honoring Others Anger Unleashed
Motivation Not to Sin The Joy of Repentance
The Urgent Harvest Laying Up Treasure in Heaven
Before Coming to the Altar Which Type Are You?
Working with What You’ve Got The Other Cheek
Dying to Have Life


rabbi's conversing


Longer Essays

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 MercyThe 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:

Our Rabbi Jesus: His Jewish Life and Teaching

Jerusalem Perspective

Center for Judaic-Christian Studies



(See En-Gedi’s bookstore and reading list for several books on the subject.)