Ministry Launched as a Jewish Prophet (continued from Part 1)

Twelve “Apostles” Appointed in Accord with Jewish Tradition

DURING HIS APPOINTMENT of the Twelve Apostles—of course, all of them being Jews (Gospel of John 1:47, 49; Gospel of Matthew 20:25-26), Jesus followed the Jewish tradition as Moses and other prophets had done: taking one person from each tribe of the Bani Israel/ Israelite twelve tribes (Gospel of Matthew 19:28; Gospel of Luke 22:28-30; Exodus 24:4, 28:2; Numbers 1:44, 17:2, 17:6; Deuteronomy 1:23; Joshua 3:12, 4:2; 1 Kings 4:7, 18:31).

Jesus’ apostles and the people of that time called him ‘Rabbi’ (Gospel of John 1:38, 4:31; Gospel of Matthew 26:25, Gospel of Mark 9:5). Mary called him ‘Rabboni’ (Gospel of John 20:16). ‘Rabbi’ and ‘Rabboni’ are titles appropriate for a Jewish religious teacher. His teaching was respected by those who attended [Jewish] synagogue (Gospel of Luke 4:15; 24:19).

Entered Jerusalem as an Authoritative Jewish ‘King’

During the period, at the end of his life, when Jesus entered the Temple courts and saw [Jewish] people wrongly doing business there, he became angry and reminded them of the scriptural commandment, “My house will be a house of prayer.”  Then he began to drive out the traders and accused them of making it “a den of robbers” (Gospel of  Luke 19:46; Gospel of Mark 11:15-17).

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During his entrance into Jerusalem, people welcomed him shouting, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” (Gospel of Mark 11:9-10).

Arrested as a Jew

When Jesus was arrested by [Jewish] officials, he was delivered into the custody of the Jewish priests, elders, and scribes (Gospel of Mark 14:53). Later, he was brought to the Jewish council (Gospel of Luke 22:66). He was charged with an offense against Jewish Law (Gospel of Matthew 26:65-66; Gospel of John 19:7).

The Roman government official Pilate wanted to have him judged in accordance with the Torah because of his Jewish identity (Gospel of John 18:31).

Took Leave of his People as a Jew

Marked During his Trial as ‘King of the Jews’

During the mock trial of Jesus, he assented to the suggestion on the part of Pilate that he was ‘king of the Jews’ (Gospel of Matthew 27:11). The Jewish crowd also called him ‘King of the Jews’ (Gospel of Mark 15:12). He was mocked, spat on and beaten by the Roman soldiers as ‘King of the Jews’ (Gospel of Mark. 15:16-20), and when they supposedly crucified him, their charge against him was his aspiring to be ‘King of the Jews’ (Gospel of  Matthew 27:37).

The place of judgment had a Hebrew place-name that indicates his Jewish identity (Gospel of  John 19:13) and the place of crucifixion had also a Hebrew place-name (Gospel of Mark 15:22). Above his head they displayed the charge written against him: “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Gospel of Matthew 27:37).

After the Crucifixion Event, Circulated as a Jew, Strictly in a Jewish Context

According to the New Testament Gospel narratives, Jesus was buried in a Jewish tomb that had been dug out of rock by a Jew named Joseph from Arimathea (Gospel of Matthew 27:57-60). After Jesus’ supposed death, the people expressed their hope that Jesus would have freed Israel [from Roman oppression] (Gospel of Luke 24:21). After his supposed resurrection, Jesus confirmed with his apostles that what had been “written in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” had indeed been fulfilled by what had just happened to him (Gospel of Luke 24:25-26, 44). Before ascending to heaven, he gave them the instruction, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for…” (Acts of the Apostles 1:4).

He also commanded them, “Take care of … feed my sheep” (Gospel of John 21:16-17). Here, the word ‘sheep’ meant only the people of Bani Israel. The Bible documents that Jesus used to employ this imagery with his apostles, meaning the Jews. (Gospel of Matthew 9:36; 10:6, 16, 15:24; Gospel of Mark 6:34) even as the previous Jewish prophets used to employ the same imagery for the Jews. (Psalms 44:11, 22; 74:1; 78:52; 79:13; Isaiah 53:6; Jeremiah 12:3; 13:20; Ezekiel 34:6, 15; 36:37)

In obedience to Jesus’ instructions, even in the face of severe persecution, the apostles refused to leave Jerusalem for Gentile territory (Acts of the Apostles 8.1). However, being afraid of persecution after the martyrdom of Stephen, most believers scattered north and south from Jerusalem (Acts of the Apostles 8:1), even as far as Phoenicia [Lebanon], Cyprus and Antioch [Syria], but their gospel preaching was to Jews alone (Acts of the Apostles 11:19). During this time, some believers from Cyprus and Cyrene [Libya] reached Antioch and shared the message with Greek-speaking Jews living in Gentile lands (Acts of the Apostles 11:20).

The Torah and Books of the Prophets Declared as Valid Religious Books

Like other Jews, Jesus believed in the supremacy of the Torah and the books of the Jewish Prophets, affirming that they would remain in effect until the last day:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Gospel of Matthew 5:17-18)

Accordingly, he gave the command [for Jews] to obey these religious scriptures and warned that in the hereafter God’s Judgment of them would be in the light of their Law. Hence he emphasized the need for them to follow their scriptures, saying:

Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Gospel of Matthew 5:19)

His summation of the Law and the Prophets is collected in the Gospel of Matthew 5:21-7:12.

Jesus` ministry and message of salvation was based on the [Jewish] Torah. So, the people used to question him in the light of the Torah, and he replied accordingly. When asked by an expert in the [Jewish] Law, he directed him to follow the Torah so as to be successful (Gospel of Luke 10:2; Gospel of Matthew 22:40). Questioned by a certain ruler, he told him to follow the Ten Commandments in the Torah (Gospel of Luke 18:20-21, 10:28).

He used to remind his Jewish interlocutors  that God’s Judgment in the hereafter would be according to the Books of Moses and the way of Abraham (Gospel of Luke 16:29). After healing people, Jesus used to order those healed to offer the sacrifices that Moses had prescribed (Gospel of Mark 1:44, Gospel of Matthew 8:4).

Jesus never denigrated the Torah and the books of the Prophets, but always directed his people to follow the literal requirements of Law and to keep those requirements in their intended spirit. In some cases the Jewish establishment had made certain laws burdensome for their people by a strict interpretation of them. In other cases they made their own laws and presented them as divinely given ones.

Jesus often gave an alternative interpretation to the commandments of Moses’ Law, confronting the leaders of his day. For example,

  • To illuminate what was actually allowed on the Sabbath day–as opposed to a legalistic interpretation–Jesus referred to the acts of David and the priests–for Jesus and his disciples had violated the strict interpretation of the letter of the Sabbath law while preserving its intent (Gospel of Matthew 12:3-6).
  • He challenged the Jewish leaders’ understanding of the law of divorce by a reference to Genesis, one of the books of the Torah (Gospel of Matthew 19:4-5).
  • He even used to call out the then Jewish teachers for their hypocritical and manipulative use of the Torah (Gospel of Matthew 15:3-9).

To be continued, inshâ’Allah, in Part 3…

Originally posted 2015-12-04 10:09:24.


  • Imam Muhammad Amin Abdulrahman

    December 4, 2015 - 10:44 am

    This is awesome piece.

  • Reed

    February 3, 2016 - 4:44 pm

    You quoted, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Gospel of Matthew 5:17-18)”

    So you seem to accept this verse as accurately representing the words of Jesus. Does this mean that you believe that the nothing in the Law has been corrupted?

  • Reed

    February 4, 2016 - 7:15 am

    You wrote, “Here the word ‘sheep’ meant only the people of Bani Israel.” So, what does it mean where the same author (10:16) wrote, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” What are the two different groups of sheep?

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