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Why is Luke so Jewish?





Most scholars have thought until recently that Luke was not Jewish, and they claim that his Gospel was written specifically to Gentiles. The problem with that idea is that Luke goes out of his way to present his Jesus narrative in a very Jewish way. His intimate knowledge of Judaism (see below) is causing modern scholars to think that maybe he was a Greek-speaking Jew.[1] Luke goes to great lengths to present the central characters surrounding the incarnation (Yeshua, Miriam, Joseph, Elizabeth, John, Zechariah, the Jewish shepherds) as God-fearing, Torah-observant Jews.[2] Consider these facts.


· John the Baptist's father, Zechariah, is presented as a Jewish priest, a Cohen. (1:5)

· Luke emphasizes that Zechariah and Elizabeth are Torah observant. “Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.” (1:6)

· The shepherds in Bethlehem were Jewish priestly shepherds raising lambs for Passover. This is why they were chosen to be the first to witness the ultimate Passover Lamb.

· John and Jesus are both circumcised on the 8th day (1:59, 2:21) according to the Abrahamic covenant.

· Miriam (Mary) and Joseph go to the Temple for purification “according to the Torah of Moses.” (2:22)

· They offer a sacrifice “as it is stated in the Torah of the Lord” (2:24).

· They do everything that is “required by the law of the Lord.” (2:39)

· Luke tells us that Joseph took his family up to Jerusalem for the feasts every year. "They went up to the festival, according to the custom." (2:42)

· Luke portrays the 12-year-old Yeshua as engaged with rabbis at the Temple (2:46). Only one who is living as a Torah-honoring Jewish boy would have such access at a young age (or any age!)."

· "Luke repeatedly demonstrates his belief that the law of Moses (2:22) is the law of Israel’s God (2:23, 24, 39)."[3]

· Luke begins his testimony with Zechariah in the temple, and ends with the disciples worshiping in the temple. “And [the disciples] stayed continually at the temple, praising God. This is a literary device called an inclusio, where you create “a frame by placing similar material at the beginning and end of a section.”[4]


Luke is Intentional

You have to understand that Luke only has a certain number of words he can use. Writers “were limited in length by the amount of material that could be fitted on a single scroll (typically not more than about 20,000 words).”[5] Luke comes in at 19,482. He wants us to know that these people are God-fearing, faithful Jews[6] and offers up precious literary real estate to make his case. He wants the Gentiles who read his testimony to know that this Jesus did not appear in the middle of history in a vacuum. He is the central figure in the story of the Jewish people.


Luke is Not Finished

Luke has a Part II, the book of Acts. The purpose of the Book of Acts is to show us how the first believers lived. It is our template. And once again, Luke goes to great lengths to make sure his readers understand The Way, as it is called in Acts (9:2, 19:9, 23, 24:14, 22) comes from the Jews. Consider these facts.

· The Spirit of God is poured out in Jerusalem on the Jewish feast of Shavuot, known to many as Pentecost. (2:1-4)

· A great many Jewish priests became followers of Yeshua. (6:7)

· The Jewish disciple Ananias who prayed for Saul was called “a devout observer of the Torah.” (Acts 22:9)

· Paul takes a Nazarite vow and goes to the temple for purification. (Acts 18:18, 21:26)

· Paul identifies as a Pharisee. (23:6) He tells the soldier and his Jewish persecutors, “I am a Jew.” (21:39, 22:3)

· Luke calls Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos “Jews” (Acts 18:2), not Christians. This is interesting because some had already begun to use the term Christianos for believers in Antioch. Luke wants his readers to know that these disciples are Jewish.

· The new Jewish believers that are presented by the elders to Paul in Jerusalem are zealous for the Torah. (21:20).

· There are believing Pharisees (not former Pharisees) at the Acts 15 Council.

· In Paul’s defense before Felix, he states he “was ceremonially clean” while “in the Temple” (24:18). If God is finished with the Torah, why would Paul even care?

· Before Festus, he makes a similar defense that he’s done nothing against Jewish law or the temple (25:8). Unless he is lying, purity laws are still important to him.

· It is for“the hope of Israel” that he is in chains (28:20).

· Paul’s custom was to always go first to the synagogue in every new city to try and reach his own people.


Why is this important?

After the apostles died, Church history takes a hard turn against the Jewish people. They are blamed for the death of Jesus (He laid down his life—John 10:17-18). They are told that God hates them, and they have been replaced by the Church. Christianity is presented as a new religion that needs no connection to Judaism.


In a 2018 sermon, American megachurch pastor Andy Stanley stirred up controversy when he suggested that leaders in the early Jesus movement sought “to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures.” He then asserted to his congregation that “we must as well.”[7]


There has been a concerted demonic effort to malign the God of Israel by those who claim to follow his Messiah. Can you imagine Paul going into a synagogue and explaining that his “good news message” is that God is finished with Israel, he has replaced her with the Church, the Jewish people are cursed, and the Torah has been voided? It's unthinkable. Simeon, the prophet, sees baby Yeshua as “Israel’s glory” (Lk. 2:32) as well as a light to the nations, while the Church has presented him as hating his own people.


Acts 15, what was that about?

Church councils are assembled to deal with controversies. In Acts 15, the apostles and elders gathered together to decide if Gentiles would have to convert to Judaism and be circumcised to join The Way. The issue that they never discussed, and never even entered their minds, was whether they would continue to live as Jews. This was assumed.


When Paul comes to Jerusalem in Acts 21, the elders are concerned because they have heard rumors that Paul was teaching Jewish people to forsake Torah. They were concerned that the Jewish believers in Jerusalem, who were “zealous for the Torah” (v. 20), would be suspicious of Paul. So Paul goes to the temple according to Torah, at the urging of the Jewish apostles, and is purified. Why? Luke says, “Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law” (v. 24).


Luke wants his readers to understand that Paul and all the apostles live according to the law of Moses as born-again followers of Yeshua (not for salvation, but as part of being part of the nation of Israel [Rom. 11:29]). But despite all this, it has only been since the Holocaust that scholars have begun to appreciate afresh the Jewishness of Jesus in the New Testament. From the end of the first century until recently, the Christian Church looked down upon the elder brother.


But we can’t blame Luke, he did the best he could to present the gospel and its proper Hebraic context.


P.S. A word for my dear Gentile readers: I write about these things, not in any way to make it appear that Jews are better than non-Jews. I write about it because these truths were lost for so long. The revelation that God gave Simon Peter, also recorded by Luke, is that God does not show favoritism between Jews and Gentiles but will receive anyone who calls upon the name of Yeshua.

 

[1] Matthew Thiessen, Jesus and the Forces of Death. (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2020) 41.

[2] Thiessen, 24.


[3] Thiessen, 26.

[4] “Inclusio” Wikipedia, accessed July 16, 2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclusio.

[5] John Drane, Introducing the New Testament (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2019) 244-245.

[6] Thiessen, 25.

[7] Thiessen, 1.


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I applaud you sir for telling like it is! "YOU SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH and the truth shall SET YOU FREE! i am not yelling, just making a strong point, when I was a child I was raised as a Roman Catholic, later on, in teen, I started asking questions that no Catholic could answer, I then decided to buy myself a Bible, I wanted the truth, G-d's truth, no man's truth, and after reading it, Started at Bereshet (the beginning) I had no guidance in my quest, still, I continued, after few years, I met a true Christian Lady, who guided me in reading the Words of Adonai, she was a Messianic Worshipper and a Israeli supporter, G-d in…

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Joseph Bautista
Joseph Bautista
Jul 17, 2023

When Churches cannot get the right lteaching in regards to a Jewish roots of Christianity, then, it is most likely to be a lukewarm Church, they will forget that first and foremost loving YESHUA means, loving the people whom HE represents, so there is a stern warning for Ephesian Church in Revelations about which Apostle Paul already prophesied in Acts 20 :25-38! For the last 2000 years, we have seen the devastating effect of Christianity as institution breaking from Jewish heritage,( Pogroms, Crusade, Holocaust...)will it recover from this false assumption that The Church is the new Israel, GOD help us! Thanks Ron for this truth and continues reminder of GOD'S love for all people, either Jews or Gentile!

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Edward Prah
Edward Prah
Jul 17, 2023

I really appreciate integrity when it comes to God. I know none of us are perfect, but I appreciate the truth. Thank you Sir.

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