[notice]UK-based South African-born journalist Charles Gardner reports from the UK at the Crossroads conference in Manchester.[/notice]
“If we don’t understand Jesus in his Jewish context, we will fail to see him fully as he really is.”
So said Rev David Pileggi, an expert on the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith and rector of Christ Church in Jerusalem, in addressing a Manchester conference aimed at building bridges between Middle Eastern believers.
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“Jesus is a Jew who still keeps his identity. He is described in Revelation (the last book of the Bible) as the ‘Root of David’ and the ‘Lion of the tribe of Judah’ and still identifies with the Jewish people. While it’s perfectly possible to be a Christian and not know about the Jewishness of Jesus, such knowledge brings added blessing and helps us to be better disciples. It gives us a better understanding of his sayings, which in turn will help us develop a more intimate relationship with him.”
He said that Judaism is often mischaracterised as legalism, and pointed out that the New Testament has over 1 000 commandments.
“God is first of all the God of Israel who has revealed himself first to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And the New Covenant is given to the people of Israel and Judah. The Jewish people are called to be priests in order to serve the nations. They have done great things (such as producing Nobel prize-winners out of all proportion to their numbers) because God is great. We worship the God of the Jews. The Apostle Paul recognised the great spiritual debt we owe the Jews by his concern for their poor. But we’re not talking about approving everything the state of Israel does.”
A tidal wave of secular culture has swept over the West, he added, but Jews had preserved the culture of the Bible – singing, praying and even eating it, as it were, referring to their many feasts based on biblical events.
“Their faith is their culture – the sanctity of the Sabbath, for example, and the religious holidays (holy-days). And all of us should stand up against anti-Semitism, praying for Israel to live out God’s calling.”
· Christ Church is the headquarters in Israel of the international Anglican society CMJ (the Church’s Ministry among Jewish people), whose UK staff hosted this conference.