In discipling new believers and reading with them through the New Testament, it is crucial to point out the Jewish roots of our faith. This background greatly impacts the interpretation of the text. Chad Holland, raised in a Jewish family, shares five examples of interpreting the New Testament from a Jewish perspective
They took the cup
Let’s go to one of the high points of Christianity, the inauguration of the New Covenant age. How and when did it start? The prophet Jeremiah tells in chapter 31 that the New Covenant is coming: “I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel”. So we know that something is coming. He says that it is not like the former. When and where is that? Well, in the New Testament. Most Christians around the world see the Last Supper as communion, we don’t see as this as communion in the same way, because of our Jewish roots. When Yeshua gave the wine and the bread, He was in the middle of a Passover holiday, a God appointed time. In the Jewish tradition, there are four cups of wine that you drink throughout the meal. The first one is called the cup of praise. The second one is the cup of sanctification. Then you stop and eat your meal. After the meal you continue with the third cup, which is called the cup of redemption. When you read the Gospel, and it says “after the meal they took the cup”, to a Christian, who does not know any better, that means nothing. They just pick up the cup. To a Jewish person, they know exactly which cup you are talking about and where it stood for. It is the cup of redemption! He lifts up the cup of redemption and says: “This is the blood of my covenant, today I am inaugurating the New Covenant Jeremiah prophesied about. I have become the Redeemer, during the cup of redemption”. A Jewish person gets that automatically, because it is so obvious to the Jewish person what is going on.
Who dips with me
Another example is when the Bible says “the one who dips with me, is the one who will betray me”. For most readers, they don’t get the point: why are two people dipping at the same time? That is really weird! Get your hand out of my bowl, is what you would be thinking. A Jewish person knows that during the Passover meal you chop up apples, honey and nuts. You make a mixture that is brown and looks like mortar that you put between the bricks. They know that you talk about being a slave in Egypt while you eat this. It is all in one big bowl that you dip together. When the Bible says “and the one who dips with me”, the Jewish mind knows exactly the food where they are dipping in and why they are doing it. However, the Christian mind does not understand why they put two hands in one bowl.
If your country is on a different timeline or lifecycle than the Jewish roots of the faith, you might miss all the holidays and how each holiday points to the Messiah. You might miss that the significant prophetic actions of Yeshua all happened on a Jewish documented holiday. He died as the Passover Lamb on Passover, something God had commanded a thousand of years ago. He was in the grave for three days, taking away the sins of the world. That was during the holiday of Unleavened Bread. When Yeshua said: “be aware of the yeast of the pharisees”, he refers to sin. So, on the feast of taking away sin, He is actually in the grave, taking away sin. And then He rises three days later, on the next appointed festival of First Fruits. He becomes the first fruits of the resurrection. That is why it was so easy for the apostle Paul to say that Yeshua is the first fruits of the dead. He understood that the resurrection happened not on Resurrection Sunday, not on Easter Sunday -there was no such thing-, it happened on the First Fruits commanded Jewish holiday. To a Jewish person, it is so crystal clear and easy to see the Messiah in all these things. What is the next holiday? You count fifty days and you come to the Feast of Weeks. Yeshua said: “Wait in Jerusalem”. What happened? On the Feast of Weeks, the Holy Spirit falls on the people. When you live according to the lifecycle of the Bible you start to see more significant Messianic and prophetic things happen on those Jewish days and festivals.
The stronger and the weaker
When Paul talks about food and offending the weaker brother, there is a Jewish background going on there. That is that Jews only believe in one God. There is no such thing as an idol to a Jewish person, it is fake! But a Greek or Roman follower of Yeshua, who previously believed in multiple gods, would have trouble eating a piece of meat what has been sacrificed to an idol. A Jewish person would not have any problems with that, the Jew does not even believe in it. According to Paul, the stronger person is the Jew, because he is not impacted by the idol. The weaker person is the one who believes in the idols. So Paul is saying to the stronger one that it is better not to eat this meat in front of them.
Clean and unclean
In the book of Acts, in chapter 10, is Peter praying on the roof. Of course, he is saying the prayers. Well, to a Christian, that is going right over his head. But a Jew knows that we pray three times a day at certain hours. We know what kind of prayers Peter is praying. It is just something what we all are doing. He is on the roof, praying at the right time, so it is a very Jewish setting. The sheet drops down, and God says: “Eat!”. Peter looks at it and says: “That is unclean, I am not eating that”. God tells him three times: “Eat it!”. Peter rejects three times. A Christian interpretation would be: “God declared all foods clean”. Not to Peter! The eyewitness did not receive that as the word. Later in the same chapter, he is called to go to Cornelius’s house, a gentile, who was Godfearing. When the Holy Spirit was falling on them, Peter says: “Ah, that was the dream about! The Lord told me today to not call any person unclean”. The dream wasn’t about food, but about people. Peter knew that, because as a Jewish person he got the context.
The content of this article is based on the webinar “Communitybuilding from Jerusalem” with Chad Holland, church planter and pastor of King of Kings Jerusalem.