Shema, Kaddish, Jesus, and a New Religion?

Jacob Neusner in ‘Jewish Christian Debates: God, Kingdom, Messiah’ in the chapter titled ‘a Judaic response to a Christians Community With God‘ mentions how Judaism follows some very central themes in it’s devotion to God.

1. Shema (Creed)

2. Scriptural Passages to Shema (texts/teaching)

2. Kaddish (Liturgical Prayer)

What’s amazing is that Jesus followed this same template in the gospels – he is found either saying exactly these things, doing these things, or has a version close to it.

1. Shema: “Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” (Deut 6:4) – also found in Mark 12:29; Neusner says the creed covers 3 things: (a) creation – of all (b) revelation – Torah to Israel (c) redemption – Redeemer of Israel

2. Shema Scriptural Texts: Deut 6: 5-9, Deut 11:13-21, and Num 15:37-41 – these outline:

  • Blessed be God’s Kingdom forever, Love God with all your heart/soul/might, teach your children, bind to your hands, frontlets to your eyes, and put them on your house gates
  • Follow the commandments, love God with your heart and soul, this will cause rain and abundance, do not follow other gods, this will lead to loss of the land, bind to your hands, frontlets to your eyes, and put them on your house gates
  • Fringes as reminders to keep God’s commandment

3. Kaddish: Liturgical prayer that resembles the Lord’s Prayer

These teachings are the key aspects of the liturgical portion of Torah.

Did Jesus follow these ideas? Did he teach them?

The Shema was clearly something he recited. When we get to those scriptural texts Jesus summarizes the greatest 2 commandments from those passages and even throws in Matt 5:17-18 for good measure. In fact, much of the sermon on the mount relates directly to those passages. Jesus wore fringes – Mark 6:56. Jesus taught a prayer to his disciples that took ideas from the Kaddish.

Now Neusner only relates the Jewish aspects of these liturgical ideas, Amy Jill-Levine in ‘The Misunderstood Jew‘ drives these points home (as does Geza Vermes in ‘Jesus the Jew‘).

It is clear that Jesus is Jewish and follows Judaic concepts. He follows the core components of the Jewish liturgy – can’t really be more a follower of Judaism than that.

None of this is a new religion. This can all be found in the most basic study of Judaism.

I do not believe Jesus was making a new faith system, he was different than his contemporaries the Pharisee’s, Sadducee’s, and Essenes but not so different it constituted a new faith lineage. Yet, this is what happened.


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