Did Jesus Call God “Abba”?

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Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane as depicted in a mosaic from the Church of All Nations in Jerusalem. Photograph courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

In the past, some scholars have relied on the evidence of Jesus’ use of the word “Abba” to draw far-reaching conclusions about Jesus, the language he spoke, and his relationship to Judaism. As part of their ongoing research for the LOY project, David Bivin and Joshua Tilton revisited the evidence for Jesus’ use of “Abba” as an address to God. Tilton summarizes their findings here.

Jesus the Apostle

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Early Christian depiction of Jesus and his disciples in the catacombs of Domitilla in Rome. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today we usually think of Jesus as the one who appointed apostles, and to hear of Jesus himself being referred to as an apostle can sound jarring. But while referring to Jesus as an apostle might seem strange to Christians in the twenty-first century, this designation for Jesus would not have sounded strange to early believers.

Sending the Twelve: Apostle and Sender

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Byzantine illustration of a man sending someone on a journey. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Apostle and Sender saying (Matt. 10:40; Luke 10:16) not only gave assurance to Jesus’ emissaries as he sent them out on their first healing and teaching mission, it also offers us an extraordinary glimpse into Jesus’ high self-awareness as the shāliaḥ, or official representative, of Israel’s God. In this segment of the Life of Yeshua commentary, David N. Bivin, JP’s editor-in-chief, and Joshua N. Tilton envision how Jesus’ Apostle and Sender saying may have been worded in Hebrew and explore the Jewish backgrounds of this profound saying.

The Programmatic Opening of Jesus’ Biography as a Reflection of Contemporaneous Jewish Messianic Ideas

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Fresco by Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel depicting the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In this study Professor Ruzer suggests that there was a broader first-century Jewish context behind the narrative strategies employed in Mark’s prologue to Jesus’ messianic biography. On the other hand, he also demonstrates that Mark 1:9-11 can be used to recover an early phase of a pattern of messianic belief, seemingly shared by wider Judaism, that continued into the rabbinic period. In other words, New Testament evidence can be an important witness to broader trajectories in early Jewish messianic beliefs.