Centuries of Christian readers have pondered the meaning of the Greek term Ναζωραῖος (Nazōraios), usually rendered Nazarene, and which Old Testament passages Matthew had in mind when he interpreted the relocation to Nazareth as a fulfillment of Scripture (Matt. 2:23). Where in the Hebrew Scriptures is it expected that the Redeemer will be called a Nazarene or come from Nazareth?
Helpless pawn or ruthless villain? The Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate, is famous because of his role in the New Testament Gospels. Pilate’s name is even mentioned in ancient Christian creeds. Yet in many Christian retellings of the story of Jesus’ crucifixion Pilate’s role is often portrayed incorrectly. In this video Marc Turnage reexamines Pilate’s character based on ancient literary sources, including the New Testament, and archaeological finds. In doing so, Turnage offers a new take on a familiar character.
The high priest Joseph Caiaphas is known not only from the New Testament Gospels as the high priest who opposed Jesus and his early followers, but also from Josephus the Jewish historian who lived in the first century C.E. In this video Marc Turnage provides an historical sketch of this pivotal character.
In Widow’s Son in Nain, David Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton ask “Which Nain was the town where Jesus raised the widow’s son?” and “What is the meaning of the people’s exclamation that a prophet had arisen among them?” The possibility of a Judean ministry early in Jesus’ career and of the messianic connotations of the Widow’s Son in Nain story are discussed in detail in this segment of the Life of Yeshua commentary.
The Pharisee Gamaliel is mentioned twice in the New Testament (Acts 5:34; 22:3). In Acts 5:34 he appears as an advocate of the nascent congregation of Jesus’ disciples in Jerusalem and is called “a Pharisee, a teacher of the Law, held in honor by all the people.” Then, in Acts 22:3, Paul says that he was “brought up in this city [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel.” Indeed, Gamaliel was an important spiritual leader of the Pharisees and a Jewish scholar. He also is well known from Jewish sources.
A “Hebraism” is a typical feature of the Hebrew language found in another language. The majority of today’s New Testament authorities assume that Aramaic is behind the Semitisms of the New Testament, and that Jesus spoke Aramaic as his primary language. So much so, in fact, that the student who checks standard reference works is informed that the Greek words for “Hebrew” and for “in the Hebrew language” (not only in the New Testament, but in Josephus and other texts) refer to the Aramaic language.
I heard an all too familiar theme surface in an otherwise good sermon with regard to the recognition and acceptance of Jesus as Messiah: “The Jews just missed it!” Sadly, this affront by categorization also shows a total lack of recognition of the role of Jews in the early church and in their making the message of salvation through Yeshua (Jesus) available to non-Jews. It is as if Yeshua appears on the scene, is rejected by the Jews, but is welcomed with open arms by the non-Jews.
Most English translations consistently translate the Greek word Ioudaioi as “Jews.” But this inflexible translation has often contributed to an anti-Semitic interpretation of the New Testament.
Rabbinic literature in general, both early and late, has little good to say about tax collectors, and considers them to be blatant sinners. The tax collectors spoken of in the gospels served a foreign government that did not have the manpower to execute the enormous task of gathering taxes in all the provinces of their far-flung empire. Their fellow Jews in the province of Judea saw tax collectors as collaborators who enabled the Romans to continue to impose their conquest over the land of Israel.
A careful reading of the New Testament suggests that Jesus was a scholar learned in the Scriptures and religious literature of the period, which was vast and varied. Yet the popular Christian view of Jesus is that he was a simple, uneducated character from the provinces. This misunderstanding is due in part to a number of disparaging statements made about Nazareth and the Galilee such as, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46), and “Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?’” (Acts 2:7).