The Teacher Who Was Different
IT IS difficult to look back on a specific time period in history and capture its “spirit”—the feelings and attitudes of the people then living. To help us to understand how different Jesus was from the other teachers of his day, we can look at the views of the rabbis. Many held an extremely lofty view of Israel, teaching that ‘Israel had been in God’s thoughts before the creation of the Universe.’ They also put great stress on knowledge of custom and had great pride in their descent from Abraham. Bible scholar Edersheim notes: “The abhorrence, not unmingled with contempt, of all Gentile ways, thoughts and associations; the worship of the letter of the Law; the self-righteousness, and pride of descent, and still more of knowledge” all contributed to “absolute antagonism to the claims of a Messiah, so unlike themselves and their own ideal.”
This helps us to appreciate how even the uneducated could discern the differences between the teachings of Jesus and those of the rabbis. As Matthew notes: “The crowds were astounded at [Jesus’] way of teaching; for he was teaching . . . not as their scribes.”—Matt. 7:28, 29.