What religion was Jesus?Question: "What religion was Jesus?"
Answer: Jesus was born into a Jewish family who followed Jewish law (Luke 2:27). Jesus’ lineage is from the tribe of Judah, one of the twelve tribes of Israel. He was born in the Jewish town of Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth. Jesus was fully immersed in Jewish culture, nationality, and religion.
Jesus practiced the religion of first-century Judaism. He was “born under the law” (Galatians 4:4) and grew up learning the Torah and following its precepts. He perfectly obeyed the Mosaic Law—all the commandments, ordinances, and feasts (Hebrews 4:14–16). He not only obeyed the Law; He fulfilled it and brought its requirements to a close (Matthew 5:17–18; Romans 10:4).
Jesus and His disciples observed the Passover (John 2:13, 23; Luke 22:7–8) and the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2, 10). He kept an unnamed Jewish feast in John 5:1. He attended worship services and taught in synagogues (Mark 1:21; 3:1; John 6:59; 18:20). He advised others to observe the Law of Moses and offer sacrifices (Mark 1:44). He promoted respect for the Law as it was being taught by the scribes and Pharisees of His day (Matthew 23:1–3). He quoted the Tanakh often (e.g., Mark 12:28–31; Luke 4:4, 8, 12). In all of this, Jesus showed that His religion was Judaism.
As Jesus spoke to a group of Jews, He issued a bold challenge to them: “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46). If Jesus had in any way departed from the religious observances of Judaism, His enemies would have immediately seized this opportunity to condemn Him. As it was, Jesus had a knack for silencing His critics (Matthew 22:46).
Jesus had many harsh words for the leaders within His own religion. It’s important to remember that Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees (Matthew 23) was not a condemnation of the Law or of the Judaism of the day. Jesus’ denunciations of hypocrites, corrupt officials, and the self-righteous were in sharp contrast to His commendation of those who were devout before God and lived out their faith honestly (see Luke 21:1–4). Jesus spoke out against certain religious leaders because “they teach man-made ideas as commands from God” (Matthew 15:9, NLT). On two occasions, Jesus cleared the temple of thieving, rapacious sinners (John 2:14–17; Matthew 21:12–13). These actions were not designed to destroy Judaism but to purify it.
Jesus was an observant Jew who perfectly followed the Law. His death brought an end to the Old Covenant God had made with Israel—shown in the tearing of the temple veil (Mark 15:38)—and established the New Covenant (Luke 22:20). The early church was rooted in Judaism and Jewish messianism, and the earliest believers in Christ were mostly Jews. But as the believers proclaimed the risen Jesus as the Messiah, the unbelieving Jews rejected them, and they were forced to make a clean break from Judaism (see Acts 13:45–47).
Jesus was the Messiah that the Jews had been anticipating. He was born into the religion of Judaism, fulfilled the Jewish religion, and, when His own rejected Him, He gave His life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. His blood ratified the New Covenant, and, soon after His death, Judaism lost its temple, its priesthood, and its sacrifices.
Recommended Resource: The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Updated Edition by Alfred Edersheim
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