Son of David: Was Jesus a Jew?

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”  Matt. 1:1

Was Jesus a Jew?  Do I need any more evidence than the verse above? The apostles and early followers claimed his physical lineage to David in Scripture many times; Romans 1:3, 2 Timothy 2:8, for example. While the term “Son of David” carries with it a messianic connotation , it is also used to identify him as a direct descendant of both David and Abraham. Thus even if one doesn’t believe that he is the Jewish Messiah, you are forced to recognize him as a Jew.

What other evidence do we have of Jesus’s Jewishness and that places him as a Jew of the first century in and around Roman occupied Israel? Well, far more than I’m willing to put into this little blog, that’s for sure. Whole scholarly volumes have been written on the subject by Jew and Gentile alike. I will however try to point to at least some of the evidence, if for no other reason than Jewish/Gentile relations, which haven’t always gone so well, in case you hadn’t noticed. Pay attention. If you are a Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Protestant or any self professing Christian in between, you are the servant of a Jewish carpenter.

One of the difficult to avoid evidences of the Jewishness of the New Testament Messiah is the many parallels between his teaching and that of first century Rabbis. For example David Bivens of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Studies said, “(the) pattern of answering questions with questions was so common that in the Hebrew of Jesus’ day the word for “question” came to be a synonym for “answer.”  Just one example of many is found in Luke 2: 46, where Jesus is found in the temple listening to Rabbis and asking them questions. The gospel writer than says, ” And all those listening to him were amazed at his wise answers.”

Another common rabbinical teaching device of the first century was the use of “how much more” while instructing. As in ” Silence becomes a scholar, how much more a fool?” Tosefta Pesachim, 9:2. Or also in,”If the Scripture has thus spoken,’I agonized over the blood of the wicked’,how much more over the blood of the righteous that is shed?”  Mishnah Sanhedrin 6.5.

Compare with the New Testament verse, “If you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your father which is in heaven give good gifts to those that ask Him?” Matt. 7: 9-11. This literary device is used often in Jesus’ teachings as any student of His sayings knows.

Compare the following parallels between the N. T. and  Jewish writings;

“And by your standard of measure it shall be measured to you.” Matt. 7:2

To, “With the measure that one measures it will be measured unto him.” Siphre 28b (and many others)

Or, “Therefore what ever you want others to do unto you, do unto them for this is the whole Law and the Prophets,” Matt.7:12 (Luke also)

To, “What is hateful to thee, do not unto thy neighbor. This is the whole law and the interpretation thereof.”  Hillel b. Sab 31 a.

I’m just giving a few of many examples of these types of parallels. Others can be found in Jesus’ use of parables. More than 4000 similar parables can be found in Jewish writings from that period of history. Another whole list could be drawn up from Jesus’ use of Jewish rabbinical hyperbole.

More evidence can be found in the cultural elements read in the descriptions of Jesus’ surroundings and activities. Speaking of the last supper Jewish Scholar Pinche Lapide notes, “Jesus as a Jew, faithful to the Scriptures, celebrated the seder in the passover night in Jerusalem, spoke the prescribed blessing over the bread of affliction vicariously for all table companions…”

The evidence goes on, in the use of Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek. In the place names and archeology and in common allegory and word pictures of Jewish history. Jesus was a Jew of the first century, of the lineage of Abraham, a Son of David. Whether of not you receive him as ” The Son of David” is your business. But that he was a son of David and Abraham, a Jew, is a incontestable historic fact.   When the star of the Magi stood over a small rock barn in Bethlehem, it watched over the son of a poor Jewish carpenter, whose name would change the course of gentile history.

“And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign for the Gentiles (goyim); to it shall the nations seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” Isaiah 

Good Passover or Easter/Resurrection day to you.


About notmanynoble

woodcutter from Washington State
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