Sample Essay on The Jewishness of Jesus


This work describes the major themes of chapter two and chapter three of the book “The Galilean Jewishness of Jesus: Retrieving the Jewish Origins of Christianity (Conversation on the Road Not Taken, Vol. 1) by Bernard J. Lee. In the second chapter of the book, the writer describes the background and the origin of Jesus. Precisely, he talks about Galilee and the Jews who lived and interacted with Jesus. In the third chapter, the author focused on the Pharisees, addressing their religious conduct, belief and their lifestyles. The writer also discusses the significance of the synagogue to religion, addresses the audience about the activities that were meant to be carried out within the premises. The book also describes the life of Jesus as a great teacher and the technique used in preaching the gospel. The author gets into details and provides a clear picture of Jesus through his interaction with Jewish and the outcome of his teachings.

Key Discussions of the Two Chapters
The Pharisees

The Pharisees belongs to the Jewish sect and lived from the 2nd century BC to 2nd era AD. The sources of Pharisaic were established during Babylonian Captivity. They were defined as a party during Maccabees rebellion against the rulers of Syria (the Palestine). The name Pharisees is still undefined because people across nations assign it differing meaning. One of the meanings is that it represents separation from impurity as well as defilement. This name was first heard during the rule of John Hyrcanus. He was opposed by the Pharisees due to his assumption of equality among the royal and high – religious titles, and secularism in the court administration.

One of the religious cultures of Judaism that was widely practiced in the New Testament includes that of the Pharisees. These religious leaders were the most vocal and influential people in the community. However, Pharisees culture remains undefined. Their association is thought to have developed from the Assideans who originated in the period of Maccabean Revolt about 165 B.C. The birth of Jesus preceded the rise of the Ancient Empire that influenced the idolatrous Greek. The only sources of Pharisee document available includes documents and information provided by the Jewish and Roman history teller by the name Flavius Josephus. He described the three groups, or departments, to which the Jews were classified into in 145 B.C.

The name Pharisee in Hebrew means rebels. These people were also known as Chasidim which means faithful to God or precious of God. Ironically, they understood God rules but they opposed and challenged Jesus with his miracle. They also challenged and doubted the lessons taught by Jesus. They were determined to discourage Jesus from work of compassionate and helping the poor. Thus, they used all means at the disposal to bring down the messiah. Some of the ways through which the Pharisees opposed Jesus is through temptation. These temptations would act as allegations that would make people less interested with what the messiah had to offer.


Jesus came from Nazareth. His disciples also came from the same place but from the northern Sea of Galilee. They worked and lived in villages, towns, and countryside of Lower Galilee. The region that is between Capernaum and Nazareth has undergone through significant changes from the second temple age. Most pilgrims and visitors followed the footsteps of Jesus and his Apostles. They did this to preach the gospel and experience the same tribulations and trials that Jesus did. The origin of Jesus is a route that constitutes a strand that connects the pilgrim sites which are sacred to Christianity. Besides cultural and natural sites, he left a legacy in the sceneries and the local communities. Some sites like Nazareth and Kafar Kana developed to modern cities whereas others become ruins like Capernaum and Sepheris. The ministry of Jesus and his Apostles within Nazareth and Tiberias represent the historic connotation of the cradle of Christianity. The cultural sceneries of Mount of Beatitude, Mount Tabor, the Sea of Galilee and Arbel provide a reliable backcloth to the significant events on that route.

Jesus the Teacher

Jesus is recognized as a master teacher. The prime reason that made him populous and able to manage and attract huge crowd of people was his teaching techniques. Throughout history, there have existed individuals who have abridged Jesus as only a teacher. That means that they consider him as a moral assistance who could offer good and terse advice. The author refers to the famous ruling that Jesus was not who He said he was. That is, savior of the cosmos, a ruler in the kingdom of God, the resurrection and life. This insinuates that he could not have been a good teacher as He was perceived to be.

The Synagogue

The synagogues were revolutionary institutions at their inception. They symbolized the dramatic social and religious changes in the community. Traditionally, Synagogues were used for all manners of activities such as business and trade. Synagogue is a Greek word that refers to a place of assembly. It therefore attests their functions as the community center, which housed the activities of court, education Centre, charity fund, hostel, and meeting place for the native Jewish communities. The word synagogue however stands for flock. The initial synagogues in Galilee were the primary buildings that signified monotheistic space, a place where people worshipped with no idols. They were as well the preliminary exemplars where Jesus went to pray. Fifty diverse synagogues were recognized as the most concentrated places/synagogues in the entire ecosphere in Galilee. Some of the synagogues comprised of Bar Am Meron, Navorin Gush Halav, Bet Alfa and Korazim.

My Interpretation from the Book

Origin of the Pharisees

The Pharisees were part of the Jewish religious and political parties in the second commonwealth. Sadducees were their rivals. As a matter of fact, the Sadducees referred to the Pharisees as perushim. They began their religious activities during the revolt of hasmonean. The Pharisees conformed to Judaism that expressed resistance to the holy Temple trendy. They expressed faith in God and heavenly revelation of the written and oral law handed over to them by Moses. These laws were written by Joshua, elders and prophets to the Pharisees. In addition, they considered eternal life and resurrection for only those who keep the law. They insisted on the firm observance of the Jewish law. Being in the agreement with the broad outlines of the Jewish law, the Pharisees were encouraged to debate on the fine points. They lived according to the law which emphasized on the observation of zoggot custom. The synagogue was established as an alternate place of worship other than the Temple, with religious ceremony that involved biblical and visionary readings. It was used for the recitation of sham which was a basic creed of the Judaism. They also supported the wholly separation of the worldly wise and the spiritual domains, abandoning the earlier to the earthly rulers. Though there were some who supported the rebellion against the Rome in A.D. 70, most of them obeyed these rules. Yohanan ben Zakkai one of the pharisee, fled to Jamnia where he became an influential person by developing a post-Temple of the Judaism. By separating between Judaism and Temple trendy, the Pharisees emphasized on a direct relationship between the people and their God. Later, the Pharisees placed the groundwork on behalf of normative rabbinic Judaism. Their effect on Christianity remained substantial regardless of effort to make religious wholly. Their action and behavior label the Pharisees as hypocrites and descendants of the beasts.

Significances of the Synagogues

The synagogues were erected as symbols of religion. They represented the central institution for worship in the Jewish world. Between fourth and seventh centuries, the synagogues were being built all over the globe. At some point, the archaeological remains ratify the printed sources. Majority of synagogue are based in Galilee which is the homeland of Jews.  It was the focus of life in Jewish community beginning in the Late Byzantine period to the commencement of the Arabic period. The courting of such remains of the most antique synagogues has contributed to the revolution of Christianity. Thus, the presence of synagogue symbolized the presence of God in the community and people used the premises for worship. A noticeable instance of such security position includes the colossal synagogue in the Capernaum which was commissioned in the 5th century. It overshadows the modest churches from the Byzantine era located to it adjacent.

The initial Galilean synagogues often signify a lavishly ornamented monumental facade, opposite Jerusalem comprising of three entries. The three rows of column isolating the inner space and bleachers, symbolizes the trinity. To my opinion, such a physical appearance of the Palestinian synagogues symbolized the influence of Hellenistic cultures on the Greek and Aramaic which spread to the Close East at the time. This resulted to the discovery of major synagogues captions in the region. The Roman inspiration can as well be perceived in their architecture. Most buildings were designed in such a manner that they represented the local cultures that were practiced in the region. Churches that came after the synagogue also carried with them the symbolic features that were previously included in the traditional buildings. At the same time, the community was influenced by other cultures that they came across.

Personal Interpretation

My interpretation of the two chapters is that they talk about Judaism culture against other culture. The Pharisees and the Sadducees conformed to Judaism and they ensured that the laws were applied to the letter. The culture was portrayed through the life of individuals in the community.  Religion was at the centre of the changes in the building industry where some structures carried some religious meaning. In every gathering, leaders take precision and directs the public where they would like them to be. In religion, people believe and worship the deities who are invisible. This insinuates that only faith helps them connect to their deities because of lack of physical manifestation.  The Pharisees were religious leaders who stressed on the observation of natural laws that guided the community. This is why they agreed and differed with some sections of the law. However, these laws were contradictory in nature.

  • Pharisees the major group of the Jewish sect
  • Jesus, preceding the rise of the Ancient Empire that influenced the idolatrous Greek
  • Jesus origin in Nazareth and Lower Galilee.
  • Jesus as a master teacher.
  • The development of synagogues
  • The synagogues as the central institution throughout the Jewish world.
  • The synagogues symbolism for the dramatic social and religious changes