Although most people acknowledge that Jesus was a first-century Jew, interpreters of the Gospels often present him as opposed to Jewish law and customs—especially when considering his numerous encounters with the ritually impure.
In Jesus and the Forces of Death: The Gospels’ Portrayal of Ritual Impurity within First-Century Judaism (Baker Academic), Matthew Thiessen corrects this popular misconception by placing Jesus within the Judaism of his day. Thiessen demonstrates that the Gospel writers depict Jesus opposing ritual impurity itself, not the Jewish ritual purity system or the Jewish law.
This fresh interpretation of significant passages from the Gospels shows that throughout his life, Jesus destroys forces of death and impurity while upholding the Jewish law.5
Dr. Matthew Thiessen (PhD, Duke University) is associate professor of religious studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He is the author of Contesting Conversion: Genealogy, Circumcision, and Identity in Ancient Judaism and Christianity, and Paul and the Gentile Problem. He is also the coeditor of several volumes.
Jonathan Wright is a PhD student in New Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds an MDiv from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a ThM from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and can be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @jonrichwright, or jonathanrichardwright.com.