By Dr. Richard Booker
Modern scholars have greater access to documents and research developments relating to first-century Judaism than at any other time in history. Many scholars, who only a few years ago were trying to disprove the Bible, are now working together to gain a better understanding of the ancient culture in which Jesus lived. Archaeological finds have become so plentiful that some have hailed these times as the beginning of a golden age of biblical archaeology.
All of these discoveries have not only given us further proof of the veracity of the Bible, but have given us a greater understanding of the period in which Jesus lived out His life on the earth and further evidence of the Jewishness of His teaching. He was Jewish and His teachings reflect His Jewishness.
The church at Rome was admonished by Paul that the Christian faith was never intended to be a repudiation of its Jewish roots, but rather, the engrafted Gentile Church was actually a branch that grew out of these roots (Rom. 11:18). The essence of these teachings is that without Judaism there would be no Christianity.
Perhaps the most convincing evidence of the thorough-going Jewishness of Jesus is His method of teaching. Over the past fifty years, studies of the Jewish nature of the early Church have brought to light many new insights into the first century documents, especially concerning the idioms and Galilean teaching methods of Jesus. In these articles we will study some of the more common idioms in the life of Jesus and His disciples.
An interesting Jewish concept can be seen in the illustration of the True Vine in John 15:1.
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.”
At the time of Jesus, a golden grapevine was draped across the four columns at the entrance to the Temple. Josephus records that its beauty was such that it was known as a marvel of size and artistry to all who saw with what costliness of material it had been constructed.
The Mishnah says that people would sometimes make a freewill offering by purchasing a golden leaf, berry, or cluster which the priests would then attach to this vine.
Often those who gave generously to the Temple had their names inscribed on the golden leaves. This was a custom that all were familiar with in Jerusalem.
When Jesus depicted Himself as the True Vine, He was undoubtedly contrasting Himself with this artificial vine, suggesting that if the disciples would offer themselves to Him to the degree that people offered their substance to this golden symbol, the result would be abundant spiritual fruit.
As modern believers, we can sometimes focus on the religious symbol represented by the golden vine and miss the true vine of Messiah’s life. May we always seek the Lord Himself rather than religious activities that might make us feel good but do not help us walk with God.