Q and A with the President: 2-8-13

Do You Consider Yourselves Followers of Jesus Even Though He Came for the Jews?


Hello, came to your site by accident. You talked of Jesus and his teachings.

Do you consider yourselves as followers of Jesus even though he came for the Jews, the lost sheep of Israel, and not to the Gentile dogs?

I read James for instance in the knowledge he wrote to the twelve tribes of Judah. For me not to me.

Sorry to quiz you straight up but I am interested in your viewpoint.





Thanks for writing. I am not certain I understand all of your questions but first let me answer the ones I think I understand. Yes we believe that Jesus was born a Jew and died a Jew, crucified by the Romans for his actions, like thousands of others accused of any form of rebellion. Although tribalism was rampant in those days, (and still is in my opinion) it is understandable that Jews must have been even more angry than most because their homeland had been invaded again and most Jew had their land and lost the right to live normal lives. It must have seemed like the world of others was against them. Little changed over the centuries.

It appears to me and other scholars that Jesus transcended this mentality, however. Certainly this was the view of the earliest followers of Jesus who were like him Jewish. Thus we find in their stories and their memories of a Jesus who ate and built community with all kinds of people who were not Jewish, including the despised Samaritans. Many scholars point to the story where Jesus healed the daughter of a Syrophyncian woman after calling her a dog, as an example of a shift in Jesus’ own perspective.

New Testament scholars like John Dominic Crossan suggest that one of the great gifts of his life and wisdom teaching was his practice radical egalitarianism without tribal conditions or hierarchies. I have written extensively about my own belief that Jesus was trying to teach us how to live and experience a life without boundaries that we humans have created-boundaries between races, genders, sexual orientation, and boundaries between what we call human and God.

Frankly it makes little difference to me where Jesus actually stood on these issues. His message, like that of all great wisdom teachers, transcends his time and place in history. The real question seems to me to be, do following his teachings help you live a more healthy, fulfilling, joyful, and wholesome life?

I am not certain I understand your reference to James, who may have been the brother of Jesus. After Jesus’ death, James was clearly upset with the actions of Paul who he believed was corrupting the path of Jesus. Ironically more gentiles are upset with Paul these days than most Jews and frequently refer to the Letter of James to support their belief that Jesus’ path had to be more than “faith and faith” alone but must result in some positive action or “works.” Interesting twist to the great story.

I hope this helps you understand our position.

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