When Jesus’ twelve emissaries to Israel returned from their mission, thrilled by their success at exorcising demons, Jesus described to them a vision of the expulsion of Satan from heaven. The vision’s message was double-edged: on the one hand, the downfall of the angelic prince meant that the way was opened for the redemption of Israel; on the other hand, having fallen to earth, Satan was about to unleash his fury against God’s chosen people.
In the past, some scholars have relied on the evidence of Jesus’ use of the word “Abba” to draw far-reaching conclusions about Jesus, the language he spoke, and his relationship to Judaism. As part of their ongoing research for the LOY project, David Bivin and Joshua Tilton revisited the evidence for Jesus’ use of “Abba” as an address to God. Tilton summarizes their findings here.
Today we usually think of Jesus as the one who appointed apostles, and to hear of Jesus himself being referred to as an apostle can sound jarring. But while referring to Jesus as an apostle might seem strange to Christians in the twenty-first century, this designation for Jesus would not have sounded strange to early believers.
The Apostle and Sender saying (Matt. 10:40; Luke 10:16) not only gave assurance to Jesus’ emissaries as he sent them out on their first healing and teaching mission, it also offers us an extraordinary glimpse into Jesus’ high self-awareness as the shāliaḥ, or official representative, of Israel’s God. In this segment of the Life of Yeshua commentary, David N. Bivin, JP’s editor-in-chief, and Joshua N. Tilton envision how Jesus’ Apostle and Sender saying may have been worded in Hebrew and explore the Jewish backgrounds of this profound saying.
David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton suggest a Hebrew reconstruction of Jesus’ instructions about how the twelve apostles were to behave when they entered a town. In this pericope we learn about the giving and receiving of hospitality among Jesus’ earliest followers. We also learn what may be wrong about the popular view that shaking the dust from the apostles’ feet was a symbolic action meant to signal to Jews who rejected Jesus that they were henceforth to be considered as Gentiles.
The standard interpretation of the apostles’ dust-shaking action proposes that Jesus turned the concept of the impurity of Gentile lands against the Jewish inhabitants of cities within the (ritually pure) land of Israel. This interpretation concludes that shaking the dust from their feet dramatically symbolized that Jesus’ apostles would henceforth regard the Jewish inhabitants of a city that had rejected their message as though they were cut off from Israel. It is time for this mistaken interpretation to finally be put to rest.
In our recent attempt to propose a Hebrew reconstruction of Jesus’ instructions to his twelve apostles (see Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road), David Bivin and I were confronted with a racially sensitive issue. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told the apostles not to enter any city of the Samaritans (Matt. 10:5). Reconstructing Jesus’ words in Hebrew raised an uncomfortable question that, as far as we are aware, has never before been considered by New Testament scholars. The question is: What Hebrew word did Jesus use to refer to the Samaritans? This is a sensitive question because, of the two Hebrew alternatives, the more common term in ancient Jewish sources is a racial slur.
The parable of the Good Samaritan came as a response to the lawyer’s question, “And who is my neighbor?” The lawyer wanted Jesus to draw a circle defining who is inside, and therefore the neighbor I must love, and who is outside. Jesus, by using Leviticus 19:34, ingeniously turned the lawyer’s question on its head.
This article is a sample chapter of Marc Turnage’s, Windows into the Bible: Cultural and Historical Insights into the Bible for Modern Readers (Springfield, Mo.: Logion, 2016), which will be released at the end of March 2016.
Jerusalem Perspective is excited to announce that in the coming months Dr. R. Steven Notley will be sharing a series of blogs on Jesus’ parables with our readers. In anticipation of these blogs, and as a preview of what we might expect from Dr. Notley, we are sharing two sermons on the parables that Dr. Notley delivered to the Narkis Street Congregation in Jerusalem. Enjoy!
On the occasion of what would have been Prof. David Flusser’s 98th birthday (Sept. 15), we are pleased to share footage of an interview with Flusser on the historical Jesus that has recently come to light. The interview was conducted by Dr. Roy Blizzard as part of a television series entitled The Quest: In Search of the Jewish Jesus. In the interview Flusser discusses the language of Jesus, the importance of studying ancient Judaism of the Second Temple period for the understanding of Jesus’ message, and Jesus’ high self-awareness.