I’ve read several books over the years which make a “case for Jesus” and often, while educational, the books tend to be challenging reads. Not so with Brant Pitre’s new book, The Case for Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ. Don’t get me wrong the book had plenty of scholarly muscle, but it was written in an engaging way which read more like a quest for hidden biblical treasures.
I say hidden treasures because Mr. Pitre, as a Christian scholar, looked below the surface of the New Testament’s biblical texts which speak of Jesus and he showed how these passages must be understood within their 1st century Jewish context.
Many scholars today try and paint Jesus, his actions, and the history of the early church in shades of secular gray. Mr. Pitre’s Case for Jesus, on the other hand, by looking at the Jewish roots of the early church, gives his readers a rare, vibrant, and colorful glimpse of how 1st century believers understood Jesus as the Hebrew Messiah.
Along the way in this thrilling adventure, Mr. Pitre answered some of modern scholars most contentious debates about Jesus:
- Were the Gospels Anonymous?
- Are the Gospels Biographies?
- Did Jesus Think He Was God?
- What did the early church fathers think?
- Was the Resurrection for real?
Personally, I believe Mr. Pitre answered these and other questions about Jesus in a compelling way which was accessible to me as a blue-collar layman. I found several parts of this book especially thrilling:
- Mr. Pitre showed how Jesus used the prophecies of Daniel to tell his followers exactly who He was and the Divine/Messianic nature of his ministry. This was especially thrilling to me because I have long had an interest in the prophecies of Daniel, especially Daniel 9.
- Another fantastic insight provided by Mr. Pitre was his explanation of the sign of Jonah and how the fulfillment of this sign was in part about bringing the salvation of YHWH (Yeshua) to the gentiles.
- Finally, I really enjoyed how Mr. Pitre explained the importance of seeing the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus within the Jewish context of Passover and Unleavened Bread. Mr. Pitre really brought out the importance of seeing Jesus’ words and actions during those momentous days within the sacrificial redemptive context of the Torah.
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This redemptive symbolism of the Old Testament’s sacrificial system and its fulfillment in Jesus made me think of another, often overlooked, aspect of the subject which shows the disciples and early church had a much more nuanced understanding of who Jesus was and His redemptive purpose for mankind.
In the Torah, the Jewish people were commanded to keep the Biblical holidays like Passover according to a reckoning of time which synchronized the lunar and solar cycles. Each month the lunar side of this calendar (which drives the Bible’s holidays) was regulated by two cycles of waxing and waning light of 13 or 14 days each. Interestingly the sacrifices offered during these festivals often included 13 or 14 sacrifices.
For instance in Numbers 29:13 the Feast of Tabernacles starts with a burnt offering of 13 bullocks, 2 rams, and 14 lambs. Six months later during the first day of Unleavened Bread 13 burnt offering sacrifices are commanded to be offered but 14 consumed. (The Passover lamb is eaten after sundown.) You’ll find a similar offering of 13 sacrifices in nearly each of the other biblical festivals including Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Shavu’ot.
This brings us to the apostle Matthew and Yeshua’s lineage, one of the great enigmas of the New Testament. Many scholars have discounted this lineage as erroneous based upon its arrangement, its missing names, and other perceived errors. But take a moment to arrange the list as Matthew describes it, keeping in mind that the book of Matthew was written to a Jewish audience and this lineage is the opening salvo in Matthew’s case for Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.
If you lay the list out in its three 14 generational groupings as Matthew describes, you quickly see something fascinating.
- First, all the missing kings are in the 2nd generational grouping. Three of the missing kings are between the 6th & 7th generations and the final missing king is between the 13th & 14th generation.
- Second, the list purports to be 14+14+14 generations, but when you count the listed names you’ll find only 41 or 14+14+13. This arrangement then makes Jesus the 13th generation in the 3rd generational grouping. By implication His death and resurrection then making Him the 14th as well. A Jewish audience would not have missed Matthew’s “mistake” nor the symbolism implied.
Finally, the apostle Paul wades into this symbolism with his famous passage in Ephesians 2:13-14 where he describes Jesus’ death as removing that “middle wall of partition” which had separated the gentiles from the presence of YHWH. According to Josephus and the Talmud the middle wall of partition during Jesus’ day was accessed by 14 steps and entry to the house of YHWH was granted through one of 13 gates.
A Jewish context indeed!
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In closing, if you love to explore the treasures found in the Biblical record, then I encourage you to pick up a copy of, The Case for Jesus and join the author, Brant Pitre on a thrilling quest in search of Jesus (Yeshua), the Jewish Messiah.
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Author: Brant Pitre
Book Title: The Case for Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ
Author Website: www.brantpitre.com/
Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn
Book Reviewed by: William Struse