Book Review: What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Jewishness of Jesus by Rabbi Evan Moffic


It is easy for many Christians to forget the fact that Jesus was born to Jewish parents, and he himself was actually Jewish. This tendency to forget becomes even more apparent when we live in a culture where the importance of Jesus is often times overlooked in mass consumerism.

The question comes to mind, wondering if Jesus really had the intention of an entire new religion being created out of the movement that he set into motion. It is reminiscent of Martin Luther’s hopes to reform the Roman Catholic Church, not to actually see the church break apart and the creation of Lutheranism.

Jesus growing up Jewish and practicing the faith had a great impact on his actions throughout the gospels. Jesus is not only the Savior, but he is also a prophet that comes bearing a message of good news for all to hear, while also emphasizing points from the prophets that have come before him. Rabbi Moffic does a wonderful job of bringing this all to the forefront for people that want to dig a little deeper into the Jewishness of Jesus. Jesus comes to us through the gospels in a sense of a prophetic Judaism which “is the voice in the Bible that critiques ritual and emphasizes justice and spirit.” This prophetic Judaism that Rabbi Moffic refers to can relate the teachings and ministry of Jesus in his time.

Rabbi Moffic’s explanation for many of Jesus’ actions may seem foreign to many Christians that are new to the concept of Jesus truly being Jewish. Jesus being raised in the school of Jewish thought, learned the Torah and how to debate so that he may defend his faith. Moffic’s point is that “Jesus’s teachings display all the hallmarks of rabbinic Judaism. Jesus interprets the biblical texts, he asks questions more than he answers, and he uses stories to illustrate deeper truths.”

Jesus would most likely have been part of the school of Hillel thought. This can be seen because, “debates rarely end with absolute victory by one point of view over another. Life is more complicated than black and white divisions. Within Judaism the school of Hillel generally won the day not because its arguments were always the most logical or cohesive. They won because they value the real person over the legal principle.” Jesus sought out relationships with people, especially those that could not defend themselves.

There are points within the book that I don’t necessarily support. At times, the arguments made seem to counter that of our basic Christian beliefs which are stated in our creeds. We must realize though that we do view Jesus in different lights as both Jewish and Christians. This does not negate the fact though that Jesus was Jewish himself. Overall, this book provides some great background to Jesus’ actions in his ministry and where the foundation was laid.

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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