So a few days ago I bought a book called Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg. I started reading it today and am only 40 pages in, but already I have learned so much! The authors show how while modern day Christianity is beautiful, it is missing such a huge portion of God's heritage; the culture and faith that shaped the way Jesus taught. That's why the parables we read from the Bible confuse us, because we read them from the 2009 American/European perspective and not an ancient Jewish one.
There are techniques and styles of teaching within the New Testament that made sense to its original audience; something that has been heavily lost through time. For instance, many rabbis of Jesus' time would quote the Torah and or make references to a certain scripture throughout the day- whether it be for teaching, making a quick and sharp retort, or subtly making a point known without coming out and saying it.
The authors show this in a situation (a tradition used throughout the centuries) between a modern rabbi and his student. The student had betrayed him and the rabbi said to him "Banim gidalti veromumti" which in English means "I have raised children and brought them up." The student had no idea what he meant by this remark, but he knew it was taken from Isaiah, so he went home and found the passage. The full piece reads "I have raised children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me." To a Jew in ancient times, if someone had said such a thing, the full message would have been understood. All Jews, whether rich or poor, man or woman, child or adult, studied Torah HEAVILY. (I was surprised to read even women were encouraged to sit in on discussions and many were educated enough to debate the rabbis and spiritual elite!) It's like today if someone says "Up yours." we don't have to ask 'up what of mine?' we know where and what they mean; it's just part of our ways.
So the authors proceed to show how this is relevant in the Bible. At one point in Matthew, Jesus had been healing and teaching in the temple and crowds were gathered cheering. The children shouted "Hosanna to the son of David" and this p*ssed off the priests. They confronted him and asked if he realized what these children were insinuating. And Jesus says "Have you never read, 'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'?" Matthew 21:16 Yeshua is quoting Psalm 8:2 here. "From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies to silence the foe and the avenger." This psalm means God's glory is so immense that even the innocents of the world, the children, innately praise and worship him; which thus shames those who hate the Lord.
There is also one other chapter I wanted to share from this book. Peter asks Yeshua in Matthew 18 how many times he should forgive someone who wrongs him; should he forgive him seven times? In Judaism, the number 7 represents completeness: a point many Christians miss. Peter is asking if he should completely forgive those who sin and wrong him. Yeshua responds "seventy seven times" Now hmmm, what is he saying? I should forgive someone 77 times and then at 78 it's done! I will get my revenge! No, he is quoting Genesis 4:24 where Lamech says "I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me; If Cain is avenged 7 times, then Lamech 77 times." This essentially means, cross Lamech and you will not only receive the COMPLETE payback you deserve, but 77 times more. He will rip you to shreds. Yeshua uses this scripture to teach us as Christians to be as Lamech, but only in FORGIVENESS! When you are sinned against, you should not only be quick to forgive the sinner completely, but to be eager to douse them in your mercy. Put as much passion behind your forgiveness as Lamech put behind his vengeance.
Wow. How amazing! I never read that scripture that way before, I never knew exactly what Yeshua was getting at, but I knew it was good. However, I much prefer having the knowledge of the Jewish culture and tradition equipped to me when I read my Bible than reading it as a 21st century westerner. "Good" does not compare to the magic you get from Torah. I wish I had the knowledge of a Jew from this time; having the Torah written in my heart, mind, and soul. I wish I could read Yeshua's teachings and small hints and go "Aha! I know exactly what you are quoting from and the meaning it has in this situation!"
All this in the first 40 pages! Needless to say I am itching to read the rest! I highly recommend you buy this book!