I just finished reading Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg. The premise was to explain the first century Jewish context of Jesus with the goal being to “change the way you read Scipture and deepen your understanding of the life of Jesus”. The authors explained many different facets of Jewish life at the time of Jesus. They then connected what was happening on the larger scale with the specific ministry of Jesus. The book emphasized the fact that Jesus was thoroughly Jewish. He brought new insight and understanding to many of the ideas that were circulating and being debated during his lifetime.
Here is an example of something from the book:
The importance of the Old Testament. Jesus and other rabbis of the time would often hint at Scripture references. They would quote only part of an OT passage expecting their audience to be well versed enough in the Scriptures to pick up on it and understand the full context. An example that was provided was Matthew 18:22. Peter asks, ” Lord how many times shall I forgive someone who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus responds with not seven times but “seventy-seven times”. I have heard different interpretations of what that means. But the authors suggest he was quoting from the story of Lamech in Genesis 4:24: If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times. If seven represents completeness then seventy-seven shows that “Lamech lusted for a vengeance that went far beyond completeness. Once you catch Jesus’ reference, you understand the contrast he is making.” (page 39)
This book was very interesting and insightful. Many of the things I read have forced me to rethink how I read the Scriptures. I think as Christians we acknowledge that Jesus and his disciples were Jewish. However, after reading this book, I think we have neglected attempting to really understand Jesus’ Jewishness and we miss out on some of the richness and depth of the NT Scriptures. I think that this book was completely compatible with the Orthodox understanding of Christianity even as it urged Christians to remember their faith is inherently a Jewish faith.