Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Premeditated Resentments........

My wife and I went to this church a few Sundays ago and the lady who gave the sermon talked about expectations and how they tend to make us unhappy. She referred to her own expectations as "premeditated resentments".

I thought that was special.

It called Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, GA.



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jim Wallace Sojourners..........

Dear Jim,
 I'm a huge fan of yours and have always pointed to you as one the the Christians that's a model of a "good Christian". So many people think the idea of a "good Christian" is little more than a bad joke these days. I used to be mad at Bill Maher cause he never had Christian's like you on his show, just super right wing ones. You like Rachel Maddow have really let me down recently though. You can attack the Tea Party all day long but when you then try to say that Libertarian philosophy is anti Christian then I feel you've gone way over the line. I'll go point by point through your recent blog.

You said:

"Libertarian abandonment of the the most vunerable, whether its unborn lives or the poor." 
I am a Libertarian and a Christian and as a Christian I am against abortion. I am also against heroin but that doesn't mean I think its the government's right to tell people whether they can have it not. If we got to keep more of our tax money caring citizens like myself could fund places that would take the unwanted babies and raise them with love and care, giving the parents an alternative to abortion. How dare you say that we Libertarians don't care. All of our money is taken for war and Wall Street so I have scant left to give. And by the way Jim, you say Libertarians aren't holding the Government accountable for their fraud and theft of citizens property, money and their very lives for unjust causes. Have you never seen Ron Paul in the last thirty years? That's all he's ever done!

"An anti-government ideology just isn't biblical."
If that's true then why were all the the Apostles, according to tradition, put to death by the state? Why was Paul and all the other Apostles sentenced to capital punishment if they were so pro government? Government is fallen just like the rest of humanity so why should I have such faith in it when its doing such a crappy job? I am not against the existence of Government, merely its size. Canada's health care bill was 8 pages long. That's a good size for a health care bill, not what we got. Also, Libertarians can't be pro constitution and be anti government. We just want the government to be for the people and not for central bankers and corporate elites.

"The Libertarians' supreme confidence in the market is not consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin."
Libertarians don't think that the Market is the solution to sin. That's what the courts are for. We also are not stupid enough to think that the Government is the answer to sin either. Everything the Government touches goes bad. Medicare will be bankrupt soon. Social security will follow soon after. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac did a great job with the real estate sector. The Federal Reserve has been such a force for good in battling sin and injustice. Listen to yourself man! Like Ron Paul said, the states can take care of BP in the courts. Its no different than if you dump a bunch of pollutants in my yard. I then sue you for destruction of my property. True Libertarians don't think there's no need for a meat inspector but the more the regulatory system grows the more of a monster it becomes. Big Corps. pay off or even install their own in the regulators position. Watch "The Warning" on Frontline. They gave Brooksley Born's job as Wall Street watchdog to a guy from the Fed! Obama did that. When will you realize that its the size of, and corruption of, and not the existence of the regulatory machine that we disagree with. We don't say "no" government, we say "small" government. Elizabeth Warren doesn't need a newly created position, they just need to listen to someone like Brooksley Born when she sounds the alarm in the first place.

"The Libertarian preference for the strong over the weak is decidedly un-Christian."
When Jesus helped people was that the strong helping the weak or vice versa? Who in the hell else is supposed to help the weak but the strong? Again, the more of my tax money that the Government takes from me, the less I have to give to the needy. Jesus said what Caesar does is dealing with a totally different Kingdom than His. For example, while there was slavery in society at that time, slaves were sometimes over their masters within the church hierarchy because what happened outside the church was Caesar's business. but what happened inside the church was God's. Jesus never tried to make the government take care of the poor. He inspired those inside the church to do it. If these modern churches weren't so full of crap then the three the biggest ones in any city in America could get together and end homelessness and hunger in their towns. Do they do it? NO. And they don't even have to pay taxes. Now you're saying the government should take my money do it because you think they can do a better job of it than me. I say, you're crazy.


Inside Job

INSIDE JOB is a 2010 movie narrated by Matt Damon and Produced and Directed by Charles Ferguson. EVERY AMERICAN who cares about this country and their freedom should watch this movie. I just saw this at a theater in New York while we are up here rehearsing for the next ABB run. If you are not infuriated after watching this movie then you should pick out a casket and occupy it. Apathy is the enemy of freedom. Here's how it describes itself.

"A comprehensive analysis of the 2008 global financial crisis, which at a cost over $20 trillion, caused millions of people to lose their jobs and homes in the worst recession since the Great Depression, and nearly caused global financial collapse. It traces the rise of a rogue industry which has corrupted politics, regulation, and academia."

Every administration from Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr. and Obama all share the blame in what has happened and what's about to happen.

Here's some reviews.

Boston Globe, Wesley Morris
"The movie succeeds at upsetting you not by losing its cool, the way so many similar films do, but by slow-cooking its argument." A

Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert
" angry, well-argued documentary about how the American financial industry set out deliberately to defraud the ordinary American investor." A, Chris Cabin
"Like No End in Sight, the key to Inside Job's power is how clearly Ferguson maps out each step towards disaster." B

New York Times, A. O. Scott
"...meticulous and infuriating," A-

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Its a great day to be American, I hope you go and vote today.

Some say that we don't have a choice. That's not what I found on my ballot this morning.

This is the form the revolution needs to take!



Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fuji Rock Festival in Japan

When you find out that you're flying all the way to Japan from Atlanta, GA to do one gig and come right back home its easy to not be quite as excited as one normally would be. Fortunately I was asleep for the majority of the flight there and they arranged for us to have one day off before the day of the show so we could see a little of Tokyo before heading up to the mountains. Derek knew some cool places to eat and shop from being there with Clapton and with his own band, and we took advantage.

One place they loved to hang was a bar called the Red Shoes. I had been hearing a lot about this liquor that they have with either a snake or a lizard at the bottom of the bottle. Apparently Derek ate the snake last time he was there, according to custom. I told them that would not be happening in my case. Well after having a few shots of whatever that was I ended up eating a small portion of the lizard that was at the bottom of this bottle. It was nasty but I didn't wimp out and just swallow it, I chewed it up. Yuck! Its one of those really weird things that bonds a band together sometimes.

Japan is so different from anywhere else I've been. I've never seen a rude cashier or waitress for instance. Its like its not culturally allowed. The people are so polite and cordial. Fortunately I love sushi so I knew the food wouldn't be a problem for the most part. Although I have to say, their idea of breakfast is a lot different than mine. Hell, I live in Georgia! We truly had some great food, and I developed a new appreciation for how good the Japanese are at making different kinds of dipping sauces. (You gotta try Shabu Shabu sometime if you get the chance.)

The drive up through the mountains to the festival was amazing too because for the most part the Japanese didn't build on the mountains, only in the valleys, so the mountains looked untouched. It was a lush, dense, green panorama. I wanted to be on a motorcycle so bad I could cry. Our interpreters and guides, Wakaba, Aki, and Yoshi were amazing too. They took such good care of us and I really feel like I made three new friends. Beautiful, sweet people.

We had such a blast playing the festival too. When you come that far for one show you really want to make it count! I have to say that my brother Kofi was especially on that night. I can't think of a better clavinet player. Susan was ripping guitar on That Did It Baby that night too. Derek, as usual was transcendent.

You know he would never say it but I think Derek is the greatest rock guitarist of all time. Mostly he wouldn't say it because he's too humble, and because until recently he never considered himself a "rock" musician any more than he considered himself a "blues" musician. So this is my opinion only. But think about it, if you compare Clapton, Hendrix, and Duane's playing at the age of sixteen to Derek's at that same age I think it would be obvious who was the most advanced. Hendrix was always my personal favorite as far as rock guitar goes but it was the combination of his writing, singing and his personal style on guitar as well as his mastery of the instrument itself that did it for me. I'm talking here purely about the mastery of the instrument. Its only because Derek doesn't sing that he doesn't get the same status as Clapton and Hendrix, but make no mistake about it, he's the best. I'm saying it because he won't. If you need more proof, consider the fact that Derek has been asked to jam AND record with some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time as well. People like Herbie Hancock, Dave Brubeck, McCoy Tyner, Wynton and Branford Marsalis.......

Anyway, once again, I digress. The show was inspired, the crowd was the best you could ask for, and the trip was certainly well worth the long flights. I'm pretty sure it will be out on DVD too. I sure hope so. Its such a privilege to work with such great people.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The First Of Many Tributes To My Bass Guitar Heroes

Every generation has its living superheroes, certain humans that prove that all men are not created with equal abilities. When I was coming up, it was Jaco Pastorius who went completely beyond my previously conceived sense of the boundaries of the bass guitar. He inspired me and many other bassists to aim higher and farther. Well, I have been privileged to know personally a human of my generation such as this. I call him The Great Bruce Lee of the Bass. His name, as you probably already know, is Victor Wooten. There's nothing that I can say that hasn't been already said before so all I can do is tell you about my personal experience with Vic.

I was 19 years old when I was turned on to Victor and his brothers by a great New York jazz drummer named Billy Drummond. I had moved to Virginia Beach and Billy and the Wootens lived in neighboring cities and were already friends. He said, "I think its time for the Burbridge brothers to meet the Wooten brothers". He told us that there were five of them and that they all played. He also told us how much our minds were gonna be blown when we saw how far out they were. If you've seen Future Man with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones then you know what I mean. Needless to say I was speechless. It was like a magic trick was being played on me. Vic had already mastered things that had never even been conceived of at that time. I was already committed to going in a different direction than fretless bass because of Jaco and then here comes Vic out of the blue totally revolutionizing the instrument again. At nineteen years old no less. I realized that if there were guys like this walking around then I'd really need to come up with something new. I have to give him the credit for really spurring me out of my comfort zone at that period in my life. 

Vic is also one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. I guess "gracious and humble" is the recurring theme of these music blogs, and that's exactly what Vic is. Even though he would have solid grounds to be on a huge ego trip if he liked, lots of musicians and quite a few fans know him as the exact opposite. He gives back much more than we give for the ticket price. His outreach and education with his Bass/Nature Camp at Wooten Woods Retreat is an invaluable resource for many things that exist alongside music including spiritual renewal. An experience at the Retreat is one of the best battery recharges I've ever personally had. I really wish that my schedule allowed me to do more teaching there.

Vic has helped me out a lot in my career too. He helped me to get my first string endorsement, he spread my name around at his solo gigs, in the bass community and in the music industry in general. He invited me to play on his records, sit in on live shows and invited me to tour with him for a multi-city run in Japan with just me, him and a drummer! I learned a crucial lesson playing with Vic over the years but especially in Japan. It can be pretty rough on the ego to watch Victor do a bass solo and literally peel the paint off the walls, and then its your turn, you know? No pressure or anything. I was like, "Hey, can I go first???" If you try to compete with Vic, you're gonna lose. All I could do, all I had to do, all he wanted me to do in the first place, was to be myself. He brought me to Japan to make music, to play those chords I had been working on for so many years. It was some of the most fun I ever had, I'll never forget it. 

Thank you Vic for being so committed to the bass guitar, to music, to your humanity and for being so gracious, Thanks for all you've done for me personally, for lighting a fire under my ass, for the joy and hope you inspire when people see the amazing things you do. Thanks for being The Great Bruce Lee of the Bass Guitar.

Footnote: At this writing Vic has faced some recent challenges including the damage of his Wooten Woods Retreat by the Nashville floods and the death of his brother Rudy, the sax player of the Wooten clan. Much love to you Vic, Regi, Roy, Joe and family during this time and always.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Crossroads 2010 in Movie Theaters!

Check out Oteil with the Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band when Eric Clapton's 2010 Crossroads Festival movie comes to theaters across the nation on Tuesday, July 27th!

For Tix, go to:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fur Peace Ranch

Hey guys! Oteil has signed on to teach at Jorma Kaukonen's Fur Peace Ranch this September! For more info go to:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Crossroads Guitar Festival

When I was younger I spent a lot of time feeling like I missed everything. From Hendrix and Duane, to Charlie Christian and Django, I missed it all. :( Poor pitiful me. Then, every once in a while you get a day like last Saturday. I've met a few famous people and a few of my real heroes over the years but last Saturday had a magical quality about it for me personally. I was already excited about doing Crossroads Guitar Festival but I didn't realize just how much fun it was going to be.

From the start the person who I wanted to meet the most was Mr. B.B. King, our Great Grandfather. If you were to ask every single guitar player on that festival who their guitar heroes are, BB would be in the top five. I had already met the legendary Eric Clapton when he joined us for the Allman Brothers Band's 40th anniversary at the Beacon Theatre in NYC last year. Its always such a surprise to me when people who are that iconic are simultaneously that genuinely gracious and humble. The way people react to Clapton is truly scary sometimes. Its a true test for a man to consistently rise above it and retain the best parts of his soul. And, the man still plays his ass off.

So.. back to Crossroads. Well, we got off to a rough start. Gregg was on a waiting list for a new liver and he got the call a few days before the Festival. It seemed like I might not being going at all. Then Derek called me and said that they had offered him and Susan the slot to do a couple of our songs and jam with all the folks that were going to play with the ABB, if we could get it together in time. Obviously, we got it together! Are you kidding? Now I was going to get to play Crossroads with my brother Kofi??? Talk about making lemonade! Fortunately Gregg is doing well and I'm sure he's happy about getting a new lease on life itself. Speedy recovery bro'!

The night before there was a party for all of the cast and crew at the House of Blues. Los Lobos played that night and I have to say, I felt some real voodoo hanging like a mist in the air. I knew that we were going to get to jam with them during our set the next day so seeing them do their thing full on got us all fired up. I went to get some food and there were two people with their backs to me that I realized was Susan and Chris Layton. I had seen Chris with Stevie Ray many years ago and was psyched to get to talk to him. Susan introduced us and that's how it all started. Chris Layton, aside from being legendary is a really gracious and humble person too. From that point on it seemed like I met one hero after another that was so genuinely glad to be there and glad to take the time to talk with you.

The next day I got up early and went straight to the venue. My friend Doug Belote (a drummer from New Orleans) was playing with the first band, Anders Osborne. Doug was also playing with us on our set because one of our two drummers (JJ Johnson) was out with Boz Scaggs. I guess the drummer vibe was in the air because the first person I met that day that blew me away was drummer Steve Gadd. Although many of you may not have ever heard of him, I can guarantee that there is not one of you that hasn't heard him. He's recorded with Eric Clapton, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, Michael McDonald, George Benson, The Bee Gees, Carly Simon, Peter Gabriel, Joe Cocker, Natalie Cole, Rickie Lee Jones, and Peter, Paul & Mary among many others. I bet you all remember the drum beat on Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover! There's an even longer list of jazz guys that I could include, which is how I heard him in the first place. I've played drums since I was five. Bass didn't come along until I was fourteen. This guy was a hero of mine long before I even thought about playing the bass!

Then it was one after another. I ran into bass guitar legend Willie Weeks. He's another person that you've heard whether you knew it or not. He has always been a favorite of mine and one of the nicest men you'll ever meet. David Hidalgo and Cesar Rojas from Los Lobos came down to rehearse with us for our set. All I can say is, the word "cool" is particularly well defined and embodied by these two men. I ran into Chris Layton again but had a camera this time! I met another of my bass heroes, Pino Palladino who was with John Mayer. At one point I turned around and Bill Murray was standing right in front of me! I'm old enough to have seen the original SNL cast so this was pretty monumental for me. I pretty much spent the day having my turn at being the annoying fan with a camera. I have a lot more sympathy for those people now. Who knows if you'll ever get the chance again? Right after our set was over I walked offstage and there was Ron Wood standing next to Sheryl Crow. I had met Sheryl before at the ABB 40th anniversary and she was so easy going. I didn't want to just walk up to Ron Wood but he beat me to the punch! I didn't realize that he was originally a bass player. He had been watching from me and Kofi's side the whole time and really got off on it. What a trip. I was really happy when at one point I saw Clapton walking backstage with a group of people and he actually broke away from them to walk over and shake my hand and welcome me to the festival. I thought, "Hey, he remembered me!" He is ever gracious.

After we had cooled down for a while after our set, I finally broke and asked Susan if she could help me out with meeting BB. She had helped me out with meeting Wille Nelson, who I think is the first person I ever met that had so much grace that he is actually a real Saint. We went to BB's bus and when they opened the door, on the front face of each of the steps has the name of one of BB's hit songs written in blue neon lights! That's when you know you're a star. We got on and waited inside for a while for him to get done with his guests in the back lounge. When they finally came out it was Ron Wood and Jimmy Vaughn. Oh well, if you're going to be kept waiting, you can't really get mad if its those guys. Then it was our turn! Finally the day had come. I didn't miss everything after all. In fact, I got to shake hands, sit with and talk to the man who everyone wanted to pay homage to. Like Willie Nelson, he is the embodiment, the personification of grace and humility. Some of these young stars might take a lesson. BB would have sat there and entertained us for hours if his road manager didn't come get him to go to work. It couldn't have been any better. He is truly a living Saint.

There was a sweet spirit that flowed through that whole event. Maybe its because Mr. Clapton brought all these people together to make all this great music, make a ton of money, and then give it all away to reach down and help pull people out of the bottom of the pit. That's the meaning of grace right there. Thank you Mr. Clapton for inviting us to be a part of it. Thank you for being such a good example as a human. And thanks for making it possible for me to meet St. BB King!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Space Captain: Herbie Hancock, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Oteil and Kofi Burbridge, Mike Mattison

Check it out!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

New Music........

This new project with Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi is really out of this world. Getting to play in a band with my brother Kofi after over ten years is better than I can explain with mere words. This week we have TWO sets of brothers in the band. Kofi and his little brother (me), and Derek and his little brother Duane. Too cool. I don't think I've ever done that before!

Sometimes the best things in your life come much later than you would think. we've been rehearsing and writing a ton. Its been really cool because we are pooling resources from friends old and new. Our list of composers includes myself, Kofi, Derek, Susan, Mike Mattison, Tyler Greenwell, Eric Krasno, Adam Deitch, Nigel Hall, Oliver Wood, Doyle Bramhall,............ It goes on and on. How can you go wrong with so many cool people pitching in? The live shows are so much fun (if you haven't caught one yet) and the music keeps getting better and better the more we play. I hear it evolving just in rehearsal. Usually more of that happens live because of the energy from the audience but somehow we're getting that energy even without the crowd!

I have a great sense of anticipation about heading out to California to spread the word on the Left Coast. I'm also excited to see what the fans of the various bands will think of the new stuff. We haven't really preconceived as much of it as you might think. In fact, it has turned out a lot different than what I pictured. But, now that I look back on it, it makes total sense. When you consider all of our influences it all fits perfectly. If you're looking for a rehash of the Allman Brothers Band you're might be a little let down. Every song does not have two long guitar solos in it. I'm really excited that Susan is getting equal time for her guitar solos too. She rips it. If you're expecting all the songs to be short for the radio then you might be a little let down too. We do some jamming! Hey we're all lovers of jazz so that's gonna come out too. If you come to it with no preconceptions though, you're gonna be blown away because you'll get what you want plus a lot more.

What a great group of people to work with and for. Like I said before, sometimes the best things in life come later than you think. How sweet to know that your best days are definitely NOT behind you!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More Irony Than I Can Stomach

My friend Tyler, who plays drums in a band with me, took a cab with me at about 4am one morning to catch a really early flight back home to Atlanta. Our cab driver was a black man from the Bahamas. An earthquake had just devastated Haiti and in our casual conversation we brought it up. He proceeded to tell us that islanders were used to hurricanes but not really earthquakes and he thought it was strange. At one point Tyler mentioned what a bonehead he thought Pat Robertson was for saying that God caused the earthquake to punish Haiti for something that they supposedly did over a hundred years ago.

The driver then stated that he agreed with Pat Robertson and that he had always admired him for having the courage to speak his mind. Tyler and I were in shock. A black cab driver from the Islands siding with Pat Robertson? He said that Haitians did worship the devil back then, and that God was in fact punishing them. I was wide awake all of a sudden. The next exchange went something like this.

Me: Was New Orleans was punished by God too?

Him: Absolutely.

Me: Then explain to me why the strip clubs and whore houses in the French Quarter were spared and so many churches in New Orleans were destroyed.

Him: Many times God kills non-believers in the Bible. I think we should do the same. We should go to Afghanistan and offer them Christianity and whoever doesn't accept Christ should be immediately executed. I'm tired of the US wasting so much time and energy on it.

Me: Where did Jesus say that??? He said "Thou shalt not kill" and "Forgive your enemies"!

Him: The bible says you shall not shed "innocent blood".

Me: Jesus said no one is innocent. Remember "He who is without sin cast the first stone."?

Him: You are a good debater.

Me: I'm just trying to figure out what Bible you're reading! I thought you said you followed Jesus for Christ's sake!

Isn't it ironic that Jesus' own words are the strongest argument against so many Christian's beliefs? I guess I really need to cut Bill Maher and Christopher Hitchens some slack, as much as I am loathe to.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Divine Parent

After 45 years one thing that I have figured out is that I have a very Jewish view of God. I've checked out other religions and they are just fine but what helps me connect, pulls me out of despair, inspires, and lifts my spirit, is this Jewish idea of God as a divine parent. A good parent of course. Most questions that I had about God I answered by putting myself in God's place as a good parent.

Why would God create us knowing that we have this frightening power to do evil?
Would I decide not to have children because they might turn out to be murderers?

Doesn't that make it His fault that evil continues?
Does that make it my fault if I have children and they do evil?

Why doesn't he stop us?
Why don't we stop our children?

Should I be afraid of God?
Should my kids be afraid of me?

How about if I put myself in the place of the child? Does my parent really forgive me? Can I really trust my parent? Does my parent really love me? Should I feel guilty about asking my parent for what I need or want? Should I really be pissed off if my parent refuses to give it to me? Am I grateful for what my parent has already given me? Do I let my parent know that I am grateful?

God seems to talk to us in the Tanakh and the Message (New Testament) exactly the way our parents talked to us; "Why do you do exactly what I told you not to? Didn't I tell you it was going to turn out badly if you did that? You can't understand why yet, you just have to trust me. I know you really want that, but believe me, I'm doing you a favor by not giving it to you. This is really gonna hurt for a while but its the only way. Its ok I forgive you, but for my sake, yours, and everyone else's, please don't do it again. Don't make me have to spank you! You'll be back."

One of the few questions that can't be answered this way is, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Personally, I believe the answer is twofold. If it is a result of nature, then its just random and is just one of the things about earth that is a drag. The Bible says this pretty explicitly in Ecclesiastes 9:11-12:" I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift 
or the battle to the strong, 
nor does food come to the wise 
or wealth to the brilliant 
or favor to the learned; 
but time and chance happen to them all. Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: 
As fish are caught in a cruel net, 
or birds are taken in a snare, 
so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them."

If its a result of one human's actions against another then maybe it is allowed so it can teach us about the nature of Love and the cost and consequences of our freedom. Even though we tell our children not to stick their hand in the flame, we've got to let them do it to really learn. And certainly we can admit that Love is not true unless it is freely given. If God made us robots then its not real love is it? He has to give us the freedom to reject him. (And I use the term "him" out of convenience.)

I often hear what a bad thing anthropomorphism is in the Bible, and it certainly has had some very bad consequences in history when certain groups of people have taken the imagery so literally. But I think image of the Divine Parent can also be a great idea that can help us understand the nature of Love. And I believe that God is Love.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


The Hunger Site and its sister sites provide a way for you to give to charity by simply clicking on an icon. It costs you nothing. When you click on the icon a corporation that is partnered with the website has agreed to donate the money. You can only do it once a day but I try to start my day by clicking on each of the sites. Its an easy way to give everyday and it costs you nothing but the time it took to do it. One site gives provides food for the hungry, another medical treatment for children, another is buying up rainforest, another provides books for underprivileged kids, etc.

It couldn't be easier.



Saturday, May 22, 2010

Out of the frying pan and into the fire!

I have a strong suspicion that Jesus was a disciple of a Rabbi named Hillel. A man approached Hillel and challenged him to sum up the Torah while standing on one foot. He balanced himself on one foot and said,"What is hateful to you, do not do to your brother, all the rest is commentary. Now go and study." Then he returned his foot to the floor. One day while researching Hillel in more depth, I came across a Jewish tradition that says "when a person repents, all his sins are forgiven and he becomes like a newborn child." Sound familiar? Hillel was born about 80 years before Jesus' commonly accepted birthday. This was my first clue that Jesus might have been in his academy at one time.

The interesting part is that Hillel was a Pharisee. Not only that, he was the leader of the Pharisees. Him and his opponent. You see the other really interesting part is that Hillel, as with Jewish leaders before him, always had a theological opponent with whom he sparred throughout his tenure. There were always TWO leaders. Hillel's opponent was Shammai. (Before Hillel and Shammai were Avtalyon and Shemaya and after them, Akiva and Ishmael.) Hillel was known as the one to judge mercifully and Shammai was said to be stricter, more harsh and less forgiving. I guess you could say that Hillel was the liberal and Shammai was the conservative. Hillel was said to have prevailed on most counts. Imagine that, respectful disagreement was not only allowed in Judaism, it was and is a cornerstone of the faith tradition. Wow! Can we get some of that over here on the Christian side? The Talmud is actually a record of these debates, disagreements, agreements, and interpretations over hundreds of years.

The point is that Jesus' debate with the Pharisees was a debate that they were already having with themselves. This makes me think that there's a chance Jesus could have even been one of the Pharisees, like the Apostle Paul! Now wouldn't that change the way we see things? If you read the Tanakh (I don't like to call it the Old Testament because it is disrespectful to my Jewish brothers) and the Talmud (The Jewish commentary on the Tanakh) you will find the context out of which Jesus' thinking and teaching came. I really think most Christians believe that by 6 years old Jesus already knew everything and developed this "new" teaching all on his own.

Amy Jill Levine, a practicing Jew who is a professor of New Testament at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN has written an amazing book called, Jesus The Misunderstood Jew. Fortunately I have some basic knowledge of Judaism thanks to Abraham Joshua Heschel and William Barclay. However, her book is written for those who don't. Her thorough knowledge of Judaism helps her understand the New Testament in ways unknown to most of us. There are things in the Bible that seem to mean one thing to us (non-Jews) on the face of it, but actually mean something quite different. That, coupled with her sense of humor and irony make for a fascinating, funny, and very enlightening book. Abraham Joshua Heschel has a great book called, God In Search Of Man for a Jewish perspective of the Tanakh. If you're really nuts like I am then try his other book, Heavenly Torah As Refracted Through The Generations for a walk through the Talmud. Any of William Barclay's commentaries will give you a great background in 1st century Jewish, Greek and Roman history and customs.

I think there's more to the story than what we're commonly told.