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 and we live in an industrialized, technology-saturated world.

Jesus, however, looked at 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’ 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 The King Who Forgave Debt
Jesus’ Rabbinic Teaching Style Aleinu: The Prayer for God’s Kingdom
The Rabbi and the Exceedingly 
Ugly Man
What is the Kingdom of Heaven?
Jesus’ Habit of Hinting Hearing Jesus’ Hidden Messages
How to be a Disciple 


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.

Raise Up Many Disciples! – Jesus’ Great Commission was to “make disciples of all the nations.” Understanding Jesus’ ancient, Hebraic model of raising up disciples can give us fresh insight into how to carry out His command.

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?”

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.

First-century Discipleship – The call to be a sage’s disciple in first-century Israel often meant leaving relatives and friends and traveling the country under austere conditions. It also meant total commitment.

The Logic of Measure-for-Measure – Jesus used a classic rabbinic form of reasoning called midah keneged midah, meaning, “measure corresponding to measure.”

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.

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.

Living Out Jesus’ Words on Judging – More thoughts about how life-changing Jesus’ words about judging can be in their rabbinic context.

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’ message in light of his Eastern culture.

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.

New Light on Jesus’ Last Week – A few pieces of historical data, such as understanding who was accusing Jesus, can shed a lot of light on the Passion story.

Jesus’ View of Pacifism – Understood in their context, Jesus’ words about “not resisting evil” more likely meant to not seek revenge rather than to not defend one’s self.

Reflecting on the First Advent – Why were Simeon and Zechariah longing for a great redeemer? Some historical data sheds new light on the world that Jesus entered two thousand years ago.

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.)