Book Review | Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus
I am on vacation this week and finally had the time to sit down and finish Lois Tverberg and Ann Spangler’s Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith. The book is described on Amazon as:
A rare chance to know Jesus as his first disciples knew him. What would it be like to journey back to the first century and sit at the feet of Rabbi Jesus as one of his Jewish disciples? How would your understanding of the gospel have been shaped by the customs, beliefs, and traditions of the Jewish culture in which you lived? Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus takes you on a fascinating tour of the Jewish world of Jesus, offering inspirational insights that can transform your faith…
You can read the rest of the book description on your own if you would like, but the gist is that this is a book that was written with the goal of getting modern Christians to see just how deeply rooted in the Jewish culture Jesus and the Bible really are. Tverberg and Spangler are certainly not the first to write about this concept (I remember reading Philip Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew years ago, for instance, and you can find a lot of Hebrew influence in some older sermons from Rob Bell* and other pastors), but they do manage to bring some fresh insights to the table.
Throughout the book we are treated to a journey through the Holy Land both today and yesterday, and we get to see a lot of items behind the scenes that modern Christians can miss out on, and some that this individual (who felt as though he had a solid grasp on just how Jewish Jesus was) has managed to gloss over completely. Items such as just how the Rabbis of Jesus’ time taught (loved the chapter on stringing pearls), or how ingrained the idea of blessing God was carried out every day. Cultural examples such as the tassels on a robe and just what it meant for a woman with chronic bleeding to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. I especially enjoyed exploring the role that the Jewish feasts had in God’s story of redemption and how we often misunderstand just what Jesus meant when He spoke of fulfilling the Law. (And for that matter, the fact that often our English translations miss the boat and should be translating “law” as “teaching.” It definitely makes it appear much more enjoyable to meditate on teaching rather than law, doesn’t it?)
Now, one thing to remember is that no matter how well researched the material is (and these ladies did their due diligence, it seems) we do need to be students ourselves. This is one of the things about this book that impressed me the most. Tverberg and Spangler are very humble in how they communicate the information, sharing their experiences and how they learned what they present. They eve go so far as to caution that readers should be good students when researching the Jewish roots of Christianity because there are tomes out there that will take the student down a bad road. I admire that in an author, and was pleased to see that this book was not just a “here is how it was and you don’t have to look any further.” The thought behind this book is to get people thinking about what they could be missing and then instill a desire in them to look harder on their own.
While Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus is not an exhaustive resource on just how Jewish Jesus and the Bible really are/were, it is fantastic starting point to build on for anyone who would like to know and understand Jesus and their Bible better. I look forward to reading the follow-up book, Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewish Words of Jesus Can Change Your Life.
*Not an endorsement of Bell or any of his positions through the years. Just a comment that he was someone I heard injecting Jewish perspectives into his messages that others were missing at times. You may put your rotten vegetables and eggs back in your shopping bags now.