The Gospels authors and editors have twisted Jesus’ words to make him seem more rebellious against Judaism than he actually is. No wonder – in the climate following the Great Revolt of 70 CE, they had to make Christianity seem as independent of Judaism as possible.
There are many examples of this phenomenon of the Gospel’s editors asserting their own agenda. One such example is where Jesus criticizes the law regarding ritual hand washing before eating bread: “When soem Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!’ Jesus replied, ‘ And why do you break the command of G-d for the sake of your tradition?”
The New Testament editors mean for us to think Jesus is defying a commandment from the Torah. But rabbis introduced this law during Jesus’ own lifetime. At that time, there was still widespread debate as to its precise application and meaning. Jesus had every right to challenge it, as did other Pharisaic rabbis of his time. His participation in such a debate doesn’t paint him as a rebel against his own religion. In fact, it shows just how actively involved he was in the theology of his time.
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