Jesus and His Jewish Influences

JesusandHisJewishInfluencesJesus and His Jewish Influences
Jodi Magness, Ph.D.
The Great Courses
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This was a thoroughly enjoyable course. Jodi Magness is an engaging lecturer and the information she presents is fascinating. She discusses various aspects of Jewish history and religion and how they tie to Jesus. Some of the ties are somewhat tenuous while others are very direct, but the information is always fascinating. Magness starts in the period before the first temple was built and goes all the way to the early rabbinic period.

I learned a number of things I didn’t know before. For example, I learned why the people of Jesus’s region of Galilee were Jewish. The Hasmoneans, you will recall, wrested Judah and Jerusalem away from the Seleucids. They also did a fair amount of conquering of their own, including the area of Galilee. They forced conversion on the peoples they conquered, which is why the line of the various kings Herod was Jewish and why the common people, including Mary and Joseph, were as well.

I’ve often heard that the rabbis were the successors of the Pharisees after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. Magness insists, however, that not all rabbis followed in the Pharisaic tradition and not all Pharisees adopted the rabbinic approach.

Drawing from her own research, Magness provides some interesting theories about Jesus. Judaism, you will recall, was very interested in ritual purity. This was true both of mainstream Jews and of the various sects, such as the Essenes. She states that Jesus believed in ritual purity, citing the passage in which Jesus healed the leper and told him to go show himself to the priest. While the Essenes in one their documents, part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, list all the kinds of people who will not be allowed in the coming kingdom (essentially everyone who was not physically whole and without blemish), Jesus healed people, so Magness proposes, so they could participate in the Kingdom of  God. She points out that the aliments that Jesus healed (leprosy, hemorrhage, blindness, etc.) match pretty much exactly the list of the ailments that would exclude someone from the Essene version of the kingdom to come.

This is a great series. If this a topic that interests you, I can highly recommend it.

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