Friday, August 7, 2009

Was Jesus a Christian? Part 4

A fourth difference can be observed in the Jewish dress as worn by Jesus. Jesus was a Torah observant Jewish rabbi and dressed as one. One of the most important aspects of His dress was His tallit with its tzitzit. How do we know that Jesus dressed as a Jew? He was recognized by the woman at the well of Samaria by His outward appearance. The outer garment was called himation in Greek, pallium in Latin, and in Hebrew it was first termed adderet or me’il. At some later time, it came to be called tallit. While the tallit was not unique to Israel, the fringes on the borders, known as tzitzit, were. These were worn in obedience to Numbers 15:38: "Speak to the people of Israel, and bid them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put upon the tassel of each corner a cord of blue….” (RSV) In addition, in order to fulfill the law, Jesus would have worn tefillin. Tefillin were two leather pouches which contained the Word of God and were bound to the arm and forehead in obedience to Exodus 13:9, 16 and Deuteronomy 6:6-8 and 11:18. Another indication of Jesus’ Hebraic dress is that it was a requirement of the Torah. Jews were commanded to wear tzitzit and tefillin. Torah observance required a certain dress to set Israel apart from the nations so that God might use them to reach the world.

It is of interest to note that some Bible translations arguably seek to conceal the Jewish dress of Jesus. In Matthew 9, the story is told of the woman with the issue of blood that sought to touch the hem of his garment. The Greek word for “hem” is kraspedon and the Greek word for “garment” is himation. When referring to Jesus, the translators of the NIV used the phrase, “touch his cloak.” However, in Matthew 23:5 when Jesus is pronouncing seven woes on the Pharisees, the same Greek words are translated: “the tassels on their garments.” Is there a valid reason for the translators to interpret the phrases differently? It would seem that the translators did not have any difficulty identifying the Jewish dress when it applied to the Pharisees but sought to conceal the true dress of Jesus.
The point to be remembered is that the modern Christian church does not adhere to the dress commandments contained in the Torah as referenced above. What would be the reaction in the church today, if it was suggested that members honor the Exodus and Deuteronomy passages? The response would most likely be that we are not required to do so because those commands were for the Jews and we are not Jewish. Essentially that would be my point; Jesus was Jewish and the church has departed from its Jewish roots and represents an institution that does not follow its purported leader.

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