Light for the Last Days

Was Jesus a Christian or a Torah-observant Jew?

Jesus observed Torah. He went regularly to synagogue. See Luke 4:

16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 So all bore witness to Him, and marvelled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

Luke 4.16-22

Note this says it was his custom to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath and was well known enough to be handed the scroll to read from the prophet (Haftorah reading).

He kept Jewish festivals, Passover, Succoth etc. In John 7 we see him present at Succoth in the Temple and teaching in the Temple courts, connecting his promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit with the outpouring of water in the Hoshana Rabbah: 

37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

John 7.37-38
Hoshana Rabbah

By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.  John 7.38-39, a direct allusion to Isaiah 12.3

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

Isaiah 12.3

Salvation = Yeshua

As the High Priest pours out the water libation in the high point of the last day of the feast, Jesus promises that he is going to give inner spiritual renewal by the Holy Spirit, which will be like living water coming from within the life of the true believer.

He also affirmed the Law and the Prophets.  He said

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil.

Matthew 5.17

He affirmed the authority of Torah and even the right of scribes and Pharisees to teach it. But he disputed their works:

Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

Matthew 23.3-4

His main area of dispute / the burden referred to in this verse, was the added laws / ‘fence laws’ which the Pharisees had added. These became known as the Oral Torah and led to the Talmudic teaching which now dominates rabbinic Judaism. 

forward.com

In Matthew 15 he rebukes the scribes and Pharisees saying 

“Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?”

Matthew 15.3

Jesus goes on to quote Isaiah 29:

‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

Isaiah 29.13

We can understand the ‘doctrines’ taught as commandments of men as the Oral Torah teaching. 

This is not divine scripture, but has become as binding and authoritative as scripture in Judaism through Talmudic teaching. This is the main barrier to Jewish people understanding the message of the new covenant (Jeremiah 31.31-34) which is fulfilled in Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Jeremiah 31.31-34

The message of the good news of salvation has now extended to the Gentiles through the Jewish disciples of Jesus and the writing of the New Testament / Brith hadashah by Jews who believed in Yeshua / Jesus. 

Brit-Hadashah Ministries

The multitude of things taught by the professing church, which are equally commandments of men taught as doctrines from God, is the other major barrier. Especially the terrible anti-Semitism which has stained the name of Jesus in the eyes of Jewish people.  But that is not what Jesus taught.  He is thoroughly Jewish and loves the Jewish people and those who follow Jesus should do so also.  You can find some articles about this on my Messiah Factor website. Shalom.

As far as being a Christian is concerned, the word was not used during the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth. It was first used several years after his departure at Antioch among Gentiles who had become Jesus’ followers. 

So, for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

Acts 11.26

Christian = Messiah’s one

So, it is a reasonable name to give to those who follow Jesus. Unfortunately, as history developed it simply became a title for people who were born in a church environment and were not Jews or Muslims. Most of them were not true followers of Jesus and brought the name of Jesus into disrepute by their behaviour – like Medieval Christians and Crusades and Russian Orthodox leading pogroms against the Jews. 

A true Christian is someone who has been born again of the Holy Spirit and entered into the eternal kingdom of God by faith in Jesus Christ / Yeshua ha Mashiach. A true believer should be someone who tries to do what Jesus taught us to do – love God and love our neighbour as ourself. Based on the teaching of the Torah reinterpreted in the new covenant.

Check out the messianic prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.  https://messiahfactor.com/messianic-prophecies/

Tony Pearce

2 comments

    • Thanks! Looking into it. In the meantime, I’ve just sent you (you email address) the PDF file I downloaded from the website. I didn’t have any problems with the functionality though.
      I hope this helps.