Don’t say Jesus never taught you nothing

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Rev. Walter Klockers

First, I hope that you can excuse my poor grammar in the above title. Quite honestly, it was used to gain your attention so that you might read further. 

You’ve heard my hope. Now, what is your decision? Will you follow?

Much of what I now write has been outsourced from “Apostolic Writings of Luqa,” under the authorship of an Orthodox Jewish man named Yaakov Yosef Herman (1880–1967). 

Why this book? It is because Jesus was a Jew trained to be a rabbi, and Herman was an authority on first-century rabbinic teaching. 

When Jesus was growing up, there were seven “colleges” for the rabbi-in-training. At the opposite ends of the spectrum were the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai. The other five were found somewhere in between these two in their thinking. 

It is likely that Jesus had been a student of the Hillel School, which carried on after Hillel’s death in 10 CE. It was prominent in the region of Galilee, and most of Jesus’ teaching echoes Hillel’s (but often took it further). 

One of Hillel’s key teaching was this: “That which is hateful for you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”

Jesus reportedly spoke the following, which paraphrases Hillel, but emphasizes the positive: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum was the School of Shammi, that became dominant in places like Jerusalem with the Pharisees and Sanhedrin (“Judges”) after Hillel had died.

Jesus (like Hillel) gave a broad interpretation of the law and was open to ministering to the Gentiles (non-Jews). The Pharisees and Sanhedrin, who were heavily influenced by Shammai, held a stricter view of the law and negativity toward outsiders.

Speaking of outsiders, the dominant language in that time and place was Aramaic, with seven local dialects. So Jesus was raised in the outback of Galilee, and talked like “some hick from the sticks” compared to the city-dwelling Jerusalem upper crust.

This added fuel to the fire for people who demanded Jesus’ execution. Also, Jesus’ Hillel-influenced in-your-face public teaching was especially infuriating to them.

Jesus taught using Rabbinic method. There were two parts: the “Mashal” (story), followed by the “Nimshal” (meaning). 

The thing is that Jesus would often only give the story to the general public and not explain its meaning to them. He would leave them hanging. It was like a joke without the punchline. Why would he do this?

It was Jesus’ method of invitation and it had some degree of success, to the dismay of the ruling class in Jerusalem.

There would be those who would want to follow Jesus to discover the meaning. In the process, they would learn more about Jesus (and themselves). 

Oh, that reminds me: Jesus always teaches you something. 

Follow for the lesson to be revealed.

Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 30 years.

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