Friday, September 21, 2012

Introduction Part 2: Jesus was a Jew, his name was Yeshua, and he was a poor person of color.

Jesus was a Jew, and his name was really Yehoshua in Hebrew, and his everyday name in Aramaic was Yeshua!  Aramaic was the language closely related to Hebrew that the Jews came back from the Babylonian captivity speaking.  Therefore, Hebrew/Aramaic proper nouns will be used in this Gospel. First off, to respect and understand Yeshua we have to know him for who he was, and his whole identity was that of being a Jew.  Everything he understood about God was as a Jew.  He did not pull his good news out of thin air.  It was from his heritage as a Jew, from reading the Torah, the Prophets, the Psalms and Proverbs, which, all combined, is what the Jews call the Tanakh (pronounced Ta-nax).  [We should call it the Hebrew Bible, not the Old Testament which infers that they need an upgrade.  And we should call the New Testament, the Christian Scripture.] Yeshua’s concepts of the Kingdom of Heaven were particularly formed by the prophet Isaiah.

A second reason to acknowledge him as a Jew and to use Hebrew/Aramaic names is to help reverse the unwarranted two thousand years of Christian anti-Semitism that have caused untold suffering for the Jews.  Along these lines Judas of Iscariot will not be portrayed as Yeshua’s betrayer since he is most likely a fictional Jewish scapegoat.  His name, Judas, literally means Judean or Jew.  So he symbolizes for the early Christians the Jewish rejection of Yeshua, even to the point of betrayal, and personifies anti-Semitism.

A third reason is for proper understanding of meaning in the Gospels.  When going to root words, we should, whenever possible, go to Hebrew/Aramaic--NOT Greek! (I will post a Hebrew/Aramaic-English glossary.)

If he was a Galilean Semite, then Yeshua was a person of color, olive to swarthy brown in skin color. So he was brown and poor, joining most of the human race then and today, rather than of white Anglo-European lineage.  Below is an illustration from the BBC Photo Library.  It is a forensic anthropology portrait of a 1st century C.E. Galilean Semite.  Yeshua probably looked similar to this.  This portrait was produced by Richard Neave, a renowned medical artist, retired from The University of Manchester in England.  Using CT scans of skulls from the locale and era, forensic techniques to reconstruct facial features, art and historical descriptions from the time period, he was able to render what the average peasant would have looked like then.  The portrait is shown below.

Here is the link to an artcle about the process of producing the above portrait: The Real Face of Jesus - What Did Jesus Look Like?

For a more in depth, but very layperson readable treatment of this topic, I highly recommend the article "Jesus the Jew" by William Loader, Emeritus Professor of New Testament at Murdoch University, Australia and a Minister of the Uniting Church in Australia. Link to article: "Jesus the Jew" by William Loader

Next post is Introduction Part 3.

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