Jesus' Disagreements With Jewish Laws

As described in the Bible, Jesus often interpreted Judaic laws differently.
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Although Jesus Christ is the central figure of Christianity, the world’s largest religion, he was also Jewish and practiced the faith and its social customs accordingly. He was raised in a Jewish home, attended synagogue and followed Jewish traditions. However, as the Bible’s New Testament describes, it is also clear that Jesus had ongoing disputes with the Pharisees – a Jewish, religious party that existed during Jesus’ time – and is often perceived as having rebelled against several Judaic laws and customs.

1 Breaking with Sabbath

One of the more frequently cited examples of Jesus breaking with Jewish custom was violating the traditional practices of Sabbath, which has traditionally been a time of rest for practicing Jews. However, as described in the New Testament, Jesus broke with this period of rest. For example, as reiterated in Matthew 12:1-2: “At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, ‘Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.’”

2 Breaking with Elders

During a meal, the Pharisees accuse Jesus for allowing his disciples to eat before they wash their hands, which, according to the Pharisees, was doing away with a tradition long practiced by their elders; this was a sign of disrespect: “Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, ‘Why do your discipline break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!’” (Matthew 15:1-2). Jesus goes on to rebuke the Pharisees, calling them “hypocrites."

3 Adultery

The New Testament also describes an instance when Jesus chooses not to stone a woman who has committed adultery, although traditional Judaic law states that adultery must be punished by death: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women,’” (John. 8:3-5). Jesus replies by stating that only the sinless has the right to “cast the first stone.” As a result, everyone walks away, and the woman is not harmed.

4 Socializing with Samaritans

As was custom during Jesus’ time, Jews did not interact or associate with Samaritans, who were scorned by Jews who had returned to Palestine (now Israel) following the Babylonian Exile. However, as described in the New Testament, Jesus broke with this tradition: “The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans). Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water,’” (John 4: 7-10).

Jason Cristiano Ramon holds a doctorate in political science and a master's degree in philosophy. He has taught political science in China.