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Jesus, the Jew from Nazareth

Updated on July 24, 2011

Jesus the Jew

Jesus was Jewish, first and foremost. He was from the Galilee, considered to be the "backwater" of Judea by the Jewish middle class and elite. He spoke Aramaic, the Eastern Mediterranean tongue in his part of the world at that time, with a drawling "twang", and some Hebrew, possibly some Greek. Jesus was a devout adherent to Jewish law and custom. Some Jewish scholars consider him to have been a Pharisee. Jesus' name in Hebrew is pronounced as Yeshua. Why is this historical figure still so hotly debated and deeply admired some two thousand years after his death?

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Jesus' Society

Jesus' Times

The territory where Jesus lived from about 3 BCE(Before the Common Era) to 30 CE(the Common Era) was occupied by the Roman Empire and was called Palestine by them. Augustus Caesar, Julius Caesar's nephew, was emperor at this time. He was a fair ruler to his people, but was determined to keep the Jewish People under control, a task easier said than done. Much turmoil was witnessed during this time period in world history and in this place. The Jewish population basically wanted no part of the Roman Empire, so Rome imposed what they considered to be Jewish oversight in the guise of Herod the Great, and later, his son, Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea. Both men were puppets of the Roman colonizers, and along with the Romans, taxed the people exorbitantly while treating them harshly. It is supposed that the Herods were not Jewish.

Jewish life was such that there thrived a body of artisans, merchants and other well connected people, while common laborers and certain undesirable types struggled for existence. The times were rife with the threat of everyday violence in the air, but also with the fragrant aroma for cosmopolitan life with the Greek influences in Philosophy, Athletics and Literature. There dwelled the stench of poverty along beside the hopeful promise of unabashed wealth. Within this powderkeg lay the undying desire of the Jewish People for a Deliverer, a Messiah descended from King David to bring about change, and to once and for all, rid the Land from oppressors and bring the People Israel back to former Glory!

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Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, and Zealots

The Sanhedrin

There existed in Jesus' lifetime groups of various outlooks on Judaism which displayed their own unique beliefs on what the Jewish People should and ought to do to bring fulfillment of Scripture, to placate the Romans and/or to violently overthrow the occupiers in order to restore a Jewish State. The four major factions of Judaism at that time were the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes and Zealots:

1. Sadducees - wealthy, aristocratic "politicos" sympathetic to Roman rule.

2. Pharisees - theologians concerned with religious practices and unsympathetic to Roman rule.

3. Essenes - religious adherents who withdrew to monasticism in response to Roman rule.

4. Zealots - advocates for the violent overthrow of Roman rule through militarism.

The Sanhedrin was the Jewish social, political and judicial body that oversaw the everyday law keeping, maintenance and governance of Jewish practices and laws. It was comprised mainly of Sadducees and Pharisees, wealthy citizens and teachers(rabbis), respectively. The Sanhedrin had the power to condemn a person to death for what it considered to be an affront or threat to the Jewish Way of Life. Its main obligations were to keep the Jewish People aware of their heritage, instruct them on how to act in a Jewish manner in public and to not upset the Romans too much. It was a separate entity from the Temple and its Priests, although it held sway over them.

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Jesus from Nazareth Gets Noticed

Jesus is Put to Death

In the turmoil of First Century Palestine, there were more than one claimant to messianic and/or messianic/militaristic professions. Jesus from Nazareth took the final step,however, by not trying to escape in the end, although he had eluded authority before because the time was not right for his purpose. The other messiahs either ran from trouble coming their way or conveniently changed their stories upon capture. Jesus did neither. Once arrested, according to the Christian Gospels, he fully offered that he was "The Son of the Living God" and that "His Kingdom would have no end." It was just in a matter of a few days that the top officials, Jewish and Roman had ever noticed him, because he had finally come to Jerusalem, and from what they heard then, became suspicious and alarmed about his message and following. It was that spontaneous!

Jesus had been brought before the Sanhedrin, Herod Antipas, and then, the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, to whom it was relegated by the others to condemn Jesus to death by crucifixtion, the Roman method of execution, a form of state terror to discourage rebellion against Roman authority. Jesus died a horrible death nailed to a cross. Above his head was inscribed on a sign in three languages, "The King of the Jews". Jesus was without a doubt, a Jew. Two thousand years later, this obscure historical figure is believed to be by millions of Christians the Son of God.

The Historical Jesus - Jesus, the Jew from Nazareth

Jesus was definitely Jewish. Critics and supporters alike still discuss at length his rather historically obscure life. Why is this?

Christians believe Jesus to be the Son of God. Judaism disagrees, stating that the Messiah is yet to come. What do you think?

Jesus, the Jew from Nazareth - Was Jesus the Messiah?

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    • William Celano profile image
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      William Celano 6 years ago

      @dc64 lm: Thank you.

    • dc64 lm profile image

      dc64 lm 6 years ago

      Yes, I wholeheartedly believe Jesus was the Son of God. I loved the history and culture in your lens.

    • William Celano profile image
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      William Celano 6 years ago

      @LizMac60: Thank you!

    • William Celano profile image
      Author

      William Celano 6 years ago

      @SusanDeppner: Me, too! I can't wait for His return!

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Well presented lens. Blessed by a squid angel.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 6 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I believe Jesus was the Messiah.