To begin understanding your Bible, within the context of First Century Judaism

The following is a recommended reading list compiled by Rabbi Stan of Beth T’filah of blessed memory. The list is reproduced here for your benefit.
See below . . .
Each book builds upon the next in understanding, knowledge, etc, please read each in sequential order. Take your time, and be patient … there is a lot of material to cover …

Section 1: This first book is the absolute best start.

It is required if you really want to begin to understand:

  • Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith Wilson, Marvin R. William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, MI. ©1999. 395p. ISBN: 0802804233. Trade paperback.Click here to purchase this book at Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith Pursue a more authentically biblical lifestyle by learning about — and celebrating — your Hebrew roots! In this delightful, groundbreaking book (inspiration for the PBS documentary Jews and Christians: A Journey of Faith) Dr. Wilson shares his life’s work and demonstrates that understanding Jewish history, culture, and thought is crucial to understanding the New Testament.A PIECE OF ADVICE: Please ignore the questions at the end of each chapter the first time you read through. Please, pretend they are not there. The second time you read through, go ahead and take the time to address the questions. If you take the time to answer the questions the first time you read through, you will never finish the book! They are very engaging and can take up a lot of time.

2: read any of these three in any order.

  • The Jewish New Testament Commentary Stern, David H. Lederer Messianic Jewish Publishers. Baltimore, MD. ©1992. 1,000p. ISBN: 9653590081. Hardcover. Click here to purchase this book at Jewish New Testament Commentary Rediscover the Jewish roots of your faith! A “consciousness-raising” resource for understanding the New Testament. Using historical, linguistic, and exegetical notes; Hebrew literary parallels; First Century rabbinic writings; and discussions of modern Jewish issues, David Stern’s Jewish New Testament Commentary offers an exciting way for Christians to understand the New Testament from a Jewish perspective. Stern, a messianic Jew living in Jerusalem, seeks to bridge the spiritual and cultural gap between Christians and Jews by relating the New Testament text to the Tanakh (Old Testament) in the historical setting of the First Century. This scholarly work promotes a messianic approach to the Scriptures and creates a forum for Christians, Jews, and Messianic Jews to discuss the essential Jewishness of the New Testament. This book is the companion volume to The Jewish New Testament, below, by the same author and from the same publisher.
  • The Jewish New Testament Stern, David H. Lederer Messianic Jewish Publishers. Baltimore, MD. ©1992. 400p. ISBN: 9653590081 – Trade paperback. ISBN: 9653590065 – Hardcover. Click here to purchase this book at

    The Jewish New Testament – Trade paperback The Jewish New Testament – Hardcover

    This book is the companion volume to The Jewish New Testament Commentary, above, by the same author and from the same publisher.

    By expressing the original and essential Jewishness of the New Testament, this modern English translation expands your understanding of Scripture and accentuates the oneness of Jews with Christians. It is handy to get this book, too, since in his Commentary, Stern has used the actual First Century Hebrew names, Ya‘akov instead of James and proper Hebrew words and terms for many things, such as miqveh for baptism, talmidim for disciples, koheinim for priests, etc. Having the Jewish New Testament handy saves having to try to figure out what is being said in the Commentary.

  • Everyman’s Talmud: The major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages.
      • Cohen, Abraham. Schocken Books. New York. ©1949. 405p. ISBN: 0805210326. Trade paperback.

    Click here to purchase this book at Everyman’s Talmud The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages This book is an elegant introduction to the definitive teachings of Biblical Judaism, the Judaism Yeshua practiced and taught. It will surprise non-Jewish readers who have never actually taken the time to investigate for themselves what Biblical Judaism really taught but rather have only relied on what others have told them First Century Judaism taught.

    By quoting directly from what the Talmud teaches, Everyman’s Talmud will let you see Yeshua was teaching First Century Judaism to His talmidim (disciples) who then taught others. Everyman’s Talmud makes the wisdom of the rabbinic sages accessible to scholars, students, and laypeople. Cohen offers a lucid distillation of dominant talmudic themes, including God and the universe; prayer and Torah study; the soul and its destiny; prophecy and revelation; choosing to live a righteous life; and the Messiah and the world to come.

Section 3: Next, get these three and read them in any order.

  • God’s Appointed Times Kasden, Barney. Lederer Messianic Jewish Publishers. Baltimore, MD. ©1993. 155p. ISBN: 1880226545 Click here to purchase this book at God’s Appointed Times The biblical holy days are not just for Jews. They are for anyone who says they believe in the Bible. Christians, too, can receive the blessing of these glorious days, the greatest object lessons in the Bible. In this book, Barney Kasdan, leader of Kehilat Ariel in San Diego, one of the largest messianic congregations in the world, explains every holy day described in Scripture. He teaches about the major and minor holy days, ever mindful that he is writing to both Jews and Christians. Beginning with the Sabbath, he writes about Passover, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, Hanukkah – the Festival of Dedication, and Purim. Each chapter features historical background, traditional Jewish observance, relevance to the New Testament, prophetic significance, and a practical guide for believers, including recipes, songs, and crafts.
  • Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. Moseley, Dr. Ron. Lederer Messianic Jewish Publishers. Baltimore, MD. ©1996. ISBN: 1880226685. Click here to purchase this book at Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church This refreshing book by Dr. Ron Moseley opens up the history of the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. Yeshua (Jesus) used numerous Jewish idioms in his teachings. Learn many interesting facts about Yeshua. Learn what He meant by what He taught.
  • Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus: New Insights from a Hebraic Perspective. Bivin, David and Blizzard, Roy, Jr. Destiny Image Publishers. Shippensberg, PA. ©1994. ISBN: 156043550X. 144 pages, paper. Click here to purchase this book at Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus You’ll be surprised at how the puzzling sayings of Yeshua suddenly make sense when retranslated into Hebrew. Bivin and Blizzard powerfully demonstrate how Yeshua’s teachings in the Gospels originated in Hebrew, not Aramaic. You’ll gain a greater appreciation for Yeshua’s Jewishness.

Section 4: Fourthly, get these four books and read them in any order.

  • Paul and Palestinian Judaism. Sanders, E. P. Fortress Press. Minneapolis, MN. ©1977. 627p. ISBN: 0800618998. Click here to purchase this book at Paul & Palestinian Judaism This book corrects centuries of misunderstanding First Century Judaism. It is written directly out of encyclopedic Ancient sources of Yeshua’s time: Josephus, Philo, the Mishnah, Talmud, Tosefta, Mekilta, Dead Sea Scrolls, Apocrypha, and Pseudepigrapha.
  • Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era: The Age of the Tannaim, 2 volumes. Moore, George Foote. Hendrickson Publishers. ©1977. 1266p. All three volumes in two hardcovers. ISBN: 1565632869. Click here to purchase this book at Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era: The Age of Tannaim, 2 Volumes For the first time in 25 years, you can get Moore’s classic in its entirety! Drawing on his remarkable familiarity with the primary sources (Talmud, Mishnah, Midrash, and other writings), he examines the Jewish world of the New Testament: history, theology, religious observances, views toward morality and piety, and reflections on the hereafter. This is one of the most unbiased works on First Century Judaism ever written. It does not carry forward any of the false teachings about what Judaism taught which are so commonly put forward as truth by those who call themsleves experts but have never taken the time to look at the actual First Century documents of the rabbis. Unlike these “teachers” who quote commentators who are quoting commentators who are quoting commentators, etc., etc., etc., none of whom ever quotes an actual primary source, Moore cites primary sources for everything he writes about First Century Judaism.
  • From Sabbath to Sunday: A Historical Investigation of the Rise of Sunday Observance in Early Christianity. Bacchiocchi, Samuele. The Pontifical Gregorian university Press. Rome. ©1977. Click here to go to Dr. Bacciocchi’s website book store page for this book: From Sabbath to Sunday. This book is not offered by Christian Book Distributors. Note: this book has far more information about the early body of Believers than just the discussion of how, contrary to the common teaching, Sunday worship did not arise in the first century, but not until the mid-Second century. Bacchiocchi shows from primary source documents Sunday worship arose in the Gentile side of the body of Messiah about the middle of the second century as the Gentile side of the Body of Messiah in Rome sought to lessen the persecution on itself. Being both “Christians” and worshipping on Shabbat in the synagogues, the Gentile side of the body of Messiah was being persecuted as both “Christians” and as Jews (who were being newly and cruelly persecuted because of the Bar Kokhba rebellion around 135 C.E.) Bacchiocchi documents how the Gentile side of the body of Believers in Rome, chose to look more like all the rest of the Romans by worshiping on Sunday like all good Romans, choosing to stop all that “Jewish stuff” by distancing itself from its Messianic Jewish brethren who continued to worship on Shabbat. The book covers Rav Sha‘ul’s (the Apostle Paul) position on the place of Torah in the life of the Believer in Yeshua; The Resurrection – Appearances and the Origin of Sunday Observance; Rome and the Origin of Sunday worship; Anti-Judaism and the Origin of Sunday worship; Sun-Worship and the Origin of Sunday worship. To find an answer to the question, “How did the change come about from Saturday to Sunday in early Christianity?” Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi spent five years at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, examining the most ancient documents available. The investigation establishes that the change from Saturday to Sunday began approximately one century after the death of Christ, as a result of an interplay of political, social, pagan and Christian factors. The change in the day of rest and worship was not merely a change of names or of numbers, but rather a change of meaning, authority and experience. Essentially it was a change from a Holy Day into a holiday.
  • Messianic Jewish Manifesto. Stern, David H. Lederer Messianic Jewish Publishers. Baltimore, MD. ©1989 by David H. Stern. ISBN: 9653590022. Trade paperback. Click here to purchase this book at Messianic Jewish Manifesto A challenge to both Jews who honor Yeshua as Yis’ra’eil’s Messiah and others involved with the movement to catch the vision for its destiny, which is to heal the split between the Church and the Jewish people. Simultaneously 100% messianic and 100% Jewish, we reject the “either-or” demanded by many Christians and Jews. Messianic Judaism is right, a radical solution, an idea whose time has come. A call to action for Messianic Jews and a source of information for others whether in favor, opposed, or just curious.

Section 5: Fifth, get these two.

  • Jesus: The Jewish Theologian. Young, Brad H. Hendrickson. Peabody, MA. ©1995. 320p. ISBN: 1575730602. Trade paperback. Click here to purchase this book at Jesus the Jewish Theologian Prophet, madman, Messiah — Yeshua was all these things to the people around him. But most importantly, he was a Jew, just like them. Drawing insights and facts from First Century Jewish literature, archaeology, and tradition, Young shows you why understanding Yeshua’s Jewishness is crucial for interpreting the New Testament and for understanding the nature of Messianic faith. from Hendrickson.
  • Paul: The Jewish Theologian. Young, Brad H. Hendrickson. Peabody, MA. ©1997. ISBN: 1565632486. Trade paperback. Click here to purchase this book at Paul the Jewish Theologian Paul: the Jewish Theologian reveals Sha‘ul of Tarsus as a man who, all the way to the end of his life, was highly respected by the elders of the synagogues (Acts 28:17) and never left Judaism (Acts 28:18). Young disagrees with long held notions that Hellenism was the context which most influenced Paul’s communication of the Gospel. Only in rightly aligning Paul as rooted in his Jewishness and training as a Pharisee can he be correctly interpreted. Young asserts that Paul’s view of the Torah was always positive, and separates Yeshua’s mission among the Jews from Paul’s call to the Gentiles.

Section 6: Finally, draw any and all in any order from the rest of this page (except as noted):

Note: these next three books give you theological, historical and prophetic apologia from actual first century Jewish sources.
  • Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume One: General and Historical Objections. Brown, Michael L. Baker Books. Grand Rapids, MI. ©2000. ISBN: 080106063X. 272p. Trade paperback. Click here to purchase this book at Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus When it comes to Jewish Christian apologetics, the best answers are those that respond to actual objections. Incisive and direct, this book provides an honest, fair, and thorough discussion of 35 common objections on general and historical themes. Believers and seekers alike will appreciate Brown’s spiritually focused answers, which are thoroughly documented and footnoted.
  • Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. Volume Two: Theological Objections. Brown, Michael L. Baker Books. Grand Rapids, MI. ©2000. ISBN: 0801063345. 352p. Trade paperback. Click here to purchase this book at Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections When Christians share their faith with Jewish friends and family, difficult questions arise. Michael Brown provides defensible answers in this second volume of a 3-volume series. An expert in Christian Jewish apologetics, he grapples with 28 weighty objections, showing how New Testament teachings on atonement, God’s nature, and the Messiah’s divinity are in harmony with Jewish beliefs.
  • Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts. Holtz, Barry W., ed. A Touchstone Book Published by Simon and Schuster. New York. ©1986. ISBN: 0671605968. Trade paperback. Click here to purchase this book at Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts How does the modern reader go about finding out what the basic natures of the great texts of Judaism are? Many people have read the Torah, perhaps the entire Tanakh. But, few people could accurately tell you what the Talmud or the Midrashim are. Perhaps even fewer know enough about the medieval commentators such as RaMBaM, Rashi or Ibn Ezra, to understand why they are important. Then, there is Kabbalah — most folks know what they know about Kabbalah from the internet. Feh! New Age nonsense! What about our liturgy, the Siddur — how many people are truly filled in on what that is actually all about? Barry Holtz has had nine Jewish scholars create an overview “survey class” of Judaism’s classic texts for the modern reader. By bringing in the cultural and historical contexts of the times they were written, this book brings understanding to the classic Jewish texts. Holtz has explained, “We have tried to ask: ‘How might they speak to a modern reader?’ Our goal is to fascinate, to illuminate, and in a modest sense, to inspire, by revealing something of the marvelous edifice of the Jewish textual tradition.”
  • History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ. Schrer, Emil. (edited by Geza Vermes, Fergus Millar, Martin Goodman, and Matthew Black). T. & T. Clark. ©1987. ISBN: 567054901. Click here to purchase this four-volume set at History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ Note: this is a four-volume set. Be advised, it costs about $225.00, but it is worth it. For more than 100 years, Schrer’s critical presentation of the whole evidence concerning Jewish history, institutions, and literature from 175 B.C. to A.D. 135 had been invaluable. However, it had grown increasingly out of date. This edition by Geza Vermes, Fergus Millar, Martin Goodman, and Matthew Black offers a fresh English text and a full revision. Much new archaeological, epigraphical, numismatic, and literary evidence is included, and the bibliographies are updated. Four hardcovers, from T. & T. Clark. HOWEVER, DO NOT BUY: The History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ 5 Volumes. Emil Schrer. Hendrickson Publishers. 1994. ISBN: 1565630491. Do not be fooled into thinking this is a great $50 alternative to the revised, 1987 version just above this 5 volume set. It is not. This set of 5 books, just above, is 100 years out of date, hideously anti-Judaic and anti-Torah, and full of falsehoods about Judaism. The one listed just above it has been updated and much corrected. Although the 4-volume set still has some anti-Judaism left in it, the discerning reader who has read the majority of the books in this list above should, by this time, be able to cull the grain from the chaff. ALSO, DO NOT BUY: The Jews in the Time of Jesus: An Introduction. Stephen M. Wylen. Paulist Press. Mahwah, NJ. This book is decidedly anti-Judaic and anti-nomian (anti-Law). It perpetuates many centuries-old misconceptions and down-right lies and has very few, if any, actual insights into First Century Israel. DO BUY THESE NEXT FOUR by Alfred Edersheim . Edersheim was a 19th-century minister, biblical scholar, and leading authority on the practices of Judaism preceding and during the early Christian era. Although these last four books by Edersheim are anti-Judaic and anti-nomian (anti-Law, anti-Torah), they are chock full of valuable cultural, historical, linguistic and religious contextual material. Again, the discerning reader who has read the majority of the books in the list above should, by this time, be able to cull the grain from the chaff. The printed books have been proofed and edited. However, you can also find the full OLDER, public domain texts from the late 1800s of these four books on the ’net. A Google search on “Edersheim” will net about 18,000 sites where you can get the older text of these books. For instance, all four of the 1800s texts can be found at:             Philologos Online Three of the four (Bible History: Old Testament is missing) can be found at:            Christian Classics Ethereal Library If you want the printed texts, you can get the whole set of four books, Bible History: Old Testament; The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah; Sketches of Jewish Social Life; and The Temple: Its Ministry and Services; four hardcovers, from Hendrickson for about $50.00 at Christian Book Distributors (you save about $10.00 by buying them as a set). Click here to purchase all four of these books in a set at (about $50.00): Edersheim Four Book Pack If you want to read a little about each, or you want to purchase them individually, you can continue, below:
  • Bible History: Old Testament, Updated Edition. Edersheim, Alfred. Hendrickson. Peabody, MA. ©1995. ISBN: 15653165X. 1040p. Hardcover. Click here to purchase this book at Old Testament Bible History, Updated Edition Get a look at “the big picture” of God’s story in the Tanakh; Complete and unabridged, Edersheim’s 1890 classic draws on criticism, biblical geography, and archaeology to examine the time from creation to the captivity of Israel and Judah. Newly updated, this edition features additional maps and easy-to-read Arabic numbers instead of Roman numerals.
  • The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Edersheim, Alfred. Hendrickson. Peabody, MA. ©1993. ISBN: 0943575834. 1264p. Hardcover. Click here to purchase this book at Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah This is a well-known reference on the life of Messiah and is now available in one unabridged volume. This storehouse of New Testament background information features text reset in modern print and several new maps and illustrations. In addition, Roman numerals have been changed to Arabic numbers, Greek and Hebrew words transliterated, and the indexes corrected and updated.
  • The Temple: Its Ministry and Services. Edersheim, Alfred. Hendrickson. Peabody, MA. ©1994. ISBN: 156531366. 332 p. Hardcover. Click here to purchase this book at The Temple, Its Ministry and Services Y’rushalayim’s temple represented the glory of Yis’ra’eil’s past and the splendor of its future when the Messiah would reign. Edersheim captures the significance of the temple for both the Jews and early Christians. You’ll see the grandeur of Herod’s temple and feel the anguish of its destruction. This edition portrays Edersheim’s knowledge of the temple with more than 75 illustrations and photos.
  • Sketches of Jewish Social Life. Edersheim, Alfred. Hendrickson. Peabody, MA. ©1994. ISBN: 156531382. 274p. Hardcover. Click here to purchase this book at Sketches of Jewish Social Life Now Edersheim’s classic work on the cultural world of Yeshua and the apostles is available in an easy-to-read edition that makes studying more enjoyable and rewarding. This invaluable resource reflects Edersheim’s encyclopedic familiarity with ancient Jewish sources, and helpful black & white photos and maps of Yisrael enhance the text.

Additional Reading Materials:

  • Jewish Literacy Revised Ed: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 17, 2008,  Hardcover: 800 pages, Publisher: William Morrow; Revised edition (June 17, 2008), Language: English, ISBN-10: 0061374989,ISBN-13: 978-0061374982, What does it mean to be a Jew? How does one begin to answer so extensive a question? In this insightful and completely updated tome, esteemed rabbi and bestselling author Joseph Telushkin helps answer the question of what it means to be a Jew, in the largest sense. Widely recognized as one of the most respected and indispensable reference books on Jewish life, culture, tradition, and religion, Jewish Literacy covers every essential aspect of the Jewish people and Judaism. In 352 short and engaging chapters, Rabbi Telushkin discusses everything from the Jewish Bible and Talmud to Jewish notions of ethics to antisemitism and the Holocaust; from the history of Jews around the world to Zionism and the politics of a Jewish state; from the significance of religious traditions and holidays to how they are practiced in daily life. Whether you want to know more about Judaism in general or have specific questions you’d like answered, Jewish Literacy is sure to contain the information you need. Rabbi Telushkin’s expert knowledge of Judaism makes the updated and revised edition of Jewish Literacy an invaluable reference. A comprehensive yet thoroughly accessible resource for anyone interested in learning the fundamentals of Judaism, Jewish Literacy is a must for every Jewish home.
  • Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews, Paperback – August 19, 1998, by Joseph Telushkin (Author), Paperback: 240 pages, Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; 1st edition (August 19, 1998), Language: English, ISBN-10: 0688163513, ISBN-13: 978-0688163518, Here are more than 100 of the best Jewish jokes you’ll ever hear, interspersed with perceptive and persuasive insight into what they can tell us about how Jews see themselves, their families, and their friends, and what they think about money, sex, and success. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin is as celebrated for his wit as for his scholarship, and in this immensely entertaining book, he displays both in equal measure. Stimulating, something stinging, and always very, very funny, Jewish Humor offers a classic portrait of the Jewish collective unconscious.
  • Any additional books on Joseph Telushkin
  • Anything by Alfred Kolatch, author of the “Jewish Book of Why” series