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Historical Jesus Class - Discussion 2

Based on this week's reading, describe three ways in which Jesus acted in the expected role of a rabbi.


Three ways Jesus fit the bill as a rabbi would include the following:

1)    Jesus was called a rabbi in his lifetime, and his reported actions fit the definition. As the book points out on page 354 Jesus had the title applied to him in much of the early texts, and the use of the title was left in the texts post-Easter. The fact the text was not altered to say that Jesus had always been referred to as the Messiah or Christ indicates the probable accuracy of the use of the rabbi title within his lifetime. Also, a rabbi is defined on page 355 as being the Aramaic word for teacher. Regardless of what one believes about the divinity of Jesus, the historical life of the man is certainly focused on teaching. The entire ethic of the historical man was traveling and talking to people about life and a promised afterlife, and how to have a better one of both. And despite the fact the book explains that there was no particular test to pass to be considered a rabbi; that you were one if you were called one – it also points out the role of rabbis as advice-givers (pg 355 still). If that is not the perfect definition of the historical Jesus, I don’t know what is. Both asked for, and unsolicited advice, seem to be the focus of his every waking moment.

2)    Jesus clearly had the education of a rabbi. On pages 355 and 356 it discusses how Jesus would have had some religious education in the home as a young child, learning stories and memorizing them. And whether he attended an elementary school or simply his local synagogue he most certainly would have had some access to learning to read and write. The middle of page 356 contains a list full of hints/statements from the texts indicating Jesus was literate. Perhaps the most significant of these examples is the indication that Jesus regularly taught in synagogues, and a key feature would have been someone reading out scripture while the gathered listened. The book makes the solid point that Jesus probably wouldn’t have agreed to teach in such an environment if he were not also equipped to do the reading out, if invited to do so.

3)    Jesus was just trying to talk about a better way to live, not running a political revolution. He didn’t ask his followers to fight the power structure or refuse to pay taxes. He simply took the long-standing ethical instruction scattered throughout contemporary Judaism, stripped away the focus on rituals and distilled it into its clearest form possible – then shared it with anyone who would listen. As the book puts it on page 353, Jesus was “the concentration of the ethical message” which had gotten “dispersed and mixed in with ritualistic and other elements” by other rabbis. In this way he drilled down and focused on message and principle over ritual and law. His focus was on extrapolating the moral of a particular story or scriptural concept into real life (the role of a rabbi) not overthrowing the government (the role of a revolutionary).


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