The Jews rejected Jesus (True or False?)

Art by Elhanan ben-Avraham

The average reader or student might reply: True. But that would beg the question: Then who accepted Jesus? The 1st century AD events described in the New Testament gospels depict events occurring in the Jewish state of the Land of Israel. It is not “Palestine,” which appear s nowhere in the NT texts, but the angelic message to Joseph and Mary describes the land as, “The Land of Israel” (Matthew 2:20, 21).

The average reader or student would well recognize those characters of Mary and Joseph, but not their original Hebrew names Miriam and Yoseph, nor for that matter the name Yeshua. These people commonly known around the planet were Middle Eastern Jews in every respect, but by their name-changes through translation they might instead be identified as western blonde and blue-eyed folks educated at Oxford. Yeshua became Jesus, Shimon Kaifa, Shaul, and Miriam became Peter, Paul and Mary. Yohanan, Matatyahu, Yaakov became John, Mathew and James. These Jews were the disciples of Yeshua the Messiah, and the apostles who later brought the Gospel to the Gentiles. It is these Jewish people who adorn the churches around the world to this day in paintings and sculpture.

It might be argued that the gospel of John (Yohanan) seems to differentiate between “the Jews” and the followers of Jesus (Yeshua), thus creating enmity between the “Christians” and the “Jews”. But this is a false reading of the texts, as reference to the Jews in every case is to the Judean leadership in Jerusalem of Judah, not to the Jewish people as a whole. We see in John 19:38-40 where Nicodemus, a Jewish leader who is a secret disciple “for fear of the Jews,” bringing spices for the body of Yeshua “as is the burial custom of the Jews.” Also in John 10:22 we see Jesus in the temple at the “Feast of Dedication,” which in the original Hebrew is the Jewish festival of Hanukah, which means dedication. A lack of understanding these facts by the Church has led to much suffering for the Jews.

In the Book of Acts we read of myriads (tens of thousands) of Jews coming to faith in the Messiah, and many of them being of the Pharisees and the priests and scribes (Acts 21:20), including Nakdimon (Nicodemus) and Yoseph of Ramataim (Joseph of Aramathea). At Pentecost (the festival of Shavuot) we see thousands of Jews going into the mikveh pools (baptismal fonts), the ancient Jewish tradition of purification, not converting them to another religion. Later we see Shaul (Paul) and Silas entering such Gentile cities as Philippi where the locals point out that “these men are Jews” (Acts 16:20), with no mention of “Christians”. Yes, they were all Jews living as Jews, keeping the seventh day Sabbath according to the eternal covenant (Exodus 31:16), the festivals of Israel  (Passover, Shavuot/Pentecost, Succot/Tabernacles, etc.), and worshipping in the synagogues and the Temple in Jerusalem. There is no mention of Christmas or Easter. As many other Jews, they gathered in homes at the end of the Sabbath at sundown, which is the beginning of the first day of the week (as days are ordered by the Genesis account, “It was evening and it was morning,” the days beginning at sundown). Unfortunately, “the first day of the week” became distorted by translation to mean Sunday, a tradition that was codified by the Catholic Church, and remains engrained in Protestant tradition to this day.  Biblically, Sunday was a workday, as “six days you shall work” (Exodus 34:21).

The changing of the Jewish names goes back even to the time of Daniel the prophet, when the Babylonians destroyed the Jewish nation and took the Jews captive. The young Jewish men such as Daniel, Hananyah, Mishael, and Azaryah were changed to Balteshazzer, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, after the names of the Babylonian gods, to bring forgetfulness of their Jewish heritage, and the one God of Israel, YHVH.

Though Christmas is a joyous holiday and its tree a pretty and stimulating symbol of the birth of the Messiah, there is no evidence that December is the time of his birth. It is more likely that his birth was at the time of the biblical festival of Succot/ Tabernacles. And it is to the olive tree that the scriptures point as the root of the faith (Romans 11:16-24), and to which followers of the Messiah are to be grafted in.  It is from the fruit of the olive tree that the oil is brought for the anointing, and the light for the Menorah (the candlestick in the temple). It is the Hebrew word for anointing (meshicha) that the wordmashiach (messiah) is derived, and translated to Greek as christos, from which comes Christ and Christian. Perhaps the historical time and opportunity has come for those who follow the Messiah to come forth from the Christmas tree and graft back into the olive tree, to turn from Rome and return to Jerusalem, “the city of the Great King,” where the Messiah rose, and will return.

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Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published five illustrated books of poetry, painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, and most recently produced THE JERUSALEM ILLUSTRATED BIBLE, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.