Apostle Paul's Missionary Journey

Jesus Acted as a Pharisee

Abridged from Revolution in Judea: Jesus and the Jewish Resistance by Hyam Maccoby

There are certain advantages in being Jewish when attempting to understand the Gospels, especially if one has been brought up in close contact with the Jewish liturgy, the ceremonials of the Jewish religious year, the rabbinical literature, and the general Jewish moral and cultural outlook. Many aspects of the Gospels...are for the Jew as familiar as the air he breathes.

When Jesus drank wine and broke bread at the Last Supper, he was doing what a Jew does every time he performs the Kiddush ceremony before a Festival or Sabbath meal. When Jesus began his prayer with "Our Father that art in heaven..." he was following the pattern of Pharisee prayers which still form part of the Jewish Daily Prayer Book. When he spoke in parables and used startling phrases (such as "swallow a camel" or "the beam in thine own eye") he was using methods of expression familiar to any student of the Talmudic writings.

At the same time, a Jew reading the Gospels is immediately aware of aspects which do not seem authentic; for example, the accounts of Pharisees wanting to kill Jesus because he healed on the Sabbath. The Pharisees never included healing in their list of activities forbidden on the Sabbath; and Jesus's methods of healing did not involve any of the activities that were forbidden.

It is unlikely that they would have disapproved, even mildly, of Jesus's Sabbath-healing. Moreover, the picture of bloodthirsty, murderous Pharisees given in the Gospels contradicts everything known about them from Josephus, from their own writings, and from the Judaism, still living today, which they created.

So here we have a contradiction in the Gospels between those passages which seem authentic and those which do not. To a Jew studying the Gospels the contradiction is manifest, and ... the issue widens as he considers the religion based upon the Gospels, Christianity itself, with its mixture of Jewish, non-Jewish, and anti-Jewish elements.

How does it come about that a religion which borrows so heavily from Judaism has, for the major part of its history, regarded the Jews as pariahs and outcasts? In a civilization based on the Hebrew Scriptures, a civilization whose languages are permeated with Hebrew idioms, the Jews have been treated with extraordinary hate, culminating in the Holocaust of 6,000,000 European Jews during the Second World War.



 



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