The rediscovery of the Jewishness of Jesus, and of the early Church, has been a major theme in recent biblical scholarship. The 2,000-year gap since these events occurred means we often read the biblical text without appreciating the cultural and historic context. 

The aim of Paul Luckcraft’s book is to help the reader listen to the Jewish Jesus, in a similar way to what has been achieved with the hit TV show The Chosen. Jesus was a rabbi and, therefore, appreciating the rabbi-disciple relationship is vital in better understanding what it means to follow him. In 25 short, accessible chapters, he dissects Jesus’ teaching and actions, shedding light on the Jewish cultural background in which they happened.

Jesus sounds harsh when he appears to disapprove of someone grieving instead of following him. But once we appreciate what the idiom “bury my father” meant, it completely changes how we read this passage. Similarly, when Jesus says that his disciples must “hate” their immediate family or “life itself”, Luckcraft explains: “Jesus is not telling us to engage in self-loathing or to count our lives as worthless, rather to put ourselves and our own self-interests second to the demands of discipleship.”

I would have appreciated more on how these insights help us with contemporary challenges. But the book’s strength is in unveiling the context of the gospel narratives. It will be of great help to preachers and small-group leaders to better appreciate the Jewish context of the Gospels.

3 stars