Jesus the Israelite?

As a response to some of my responders to my last post - My concern about the discussion is exactly the implication of Elliott's title: "Jesus the Israelite was neither a Jew nor a Christian." I don't want to see the distinction between Judaism in Galilee and Judaism in Judea move in the same direction as we saw when the feminist biblical scholars began arguing that Jesus supported women while the rest of the Jews of his time did not. Eventually Jesus was revolting against Judaism, a problem that Fiorenza had to deal with in her book In Memory of Her. I don't want to see the same mistake made here - that Jesus was a "good" Israelite from the north revolting against the "bad" Jews of the south.

The Galilean-Judean distinction that is being used by some scholars is not necessarily an emic enterprise as Deane suggests in her comments on my last entry. My observations suggest that it is etic. It appears to me to be a contemporary way for some scholars to call Jesus something other than "Jew" and to soften or deny the anti-semitism that was part of the Christian movement and is found in first-century Christian texts. If Jesus was only against Judeans in the south, then that lessens the anti-semitic nature of the gospels, especially John. Yes, I continue to have major concerns that scholarship on Jesus is largely about how unlike other Jews Jesus was. This is not an ad hominem argument! It is an actual observation, and it begs us to become introspective, to come to terms with our biases, Christian or otherwise.

I also have concerns that this enterprise is connected to Q and the now popular opinion among many North American scholars that it represents a lost Galilean form of Christianity that was in opposition to Jerusalem. The evidence for this is slim. Not only is this idea based on a minimally reconstructed hypothetical document, but its foundational argument lies in the cities named in the Q material. Honestly, what does this mean that Q names Galilean cities? Could it have to do with the fact that Jesus was from Nazareth and his mission was around this area until he went south bringing his message to Jerusalem? All his disciples ended up in Jerusalem - like Jesus they took a Galilean movement to Jerusalem.

Does Jesus' orientation as a Galilean make him opposed to the Judeans in the south? Was his brand of religion different from that in the south? Was he inclusive of Samaritans? Not if we take Matthew 10:5-6 seriously. He appears to me to have understood "Israel" to mean all Jews, northern and southern, but not Samaritans or Gentiles. His movement appears to me to have been about reconstituting the twelve tribes of Israel. The use of the word "Israel" is not a designation for the north, but the designation of the ideal nation of God's reconstituted people gathered together at the end times. So Jesus took his movement and twelve disciples south to Jerusalem, where he taught and probably got arrested because of a riot he caused at the Temple. Over what we can only guess. He may have had concerns like the Jews at Qumran that the Temple had been defiled. But if we take seriously his saying in Matthew 5:23-24 about taking your offering to the altar after you have been reconciled to the person you sinned against, it doesn't look like he was anti-Temple. His disciples certainly weren't. After Jesus' death, we hear from Luke that they taught regularly at the Temple and attended daily the prayers. James, the leader, was said to be so regular a temple-goer that he developed calluses on his knees because of his prayer posture.

As for "ethnic" Judaism, this is also an etic concept now in vogue. It is a taxonomy that is confusing at best. Ethnic Judaism is largely the consequence of secularism and WWII when agnosticism and atheism became real options for Jews. In the ancient world, to be Jewish involved the religious dimension: to be devotee of Yahweh, to be part of his covenant, to be recipients of his promises, to be observers of his law. So to use "ethnic" Judaism as a descriptor of the Second Temple Period runs amok because of its association with secularism.