Comparative Literature

When I was in high school, I came across a book titled The Metamorphosis, by the German writer Franz Kafka. I was disgusted by the main character’s description of waking up one morning and finding himself in the form of an insect that, in my imagination, seemed to be a cockroach. The character felt rejected and he could not leave his room because he was afraid he would be killed because of his repulsive looks. Later, in college, I took a class on comparative literature, and my professor had us learn the background and life of Franz Kafka. She assigned The Metamorphosis for that term’s reading. After learning that the author was actually born into a middle-class, German-speaking Jewish family from Prague, I read the book with completely different eyes. I had a window into what he must have faced as a young man during the early 1900’s when there was a wave of anti-semitism across Europe, and how that influenced his work.

I understood Kafka’s writing even more after understanding more of his cultural and social background, and what was happening in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, today part of the Czech Republic.  I believe a similar experience has been happening for me as I study more about who Jesus was, and his cultural background. I grew up attending a traditional Catholic school and all the pictures of Jesus hanging around my school depicted him as a very pale, blond, Caucasian man. Later, I came to learn that was not the truth.

In my late teen years, my mom brought us to a bible study, and later I had a salvation experience in a worship service that changed my life forever. All of the choices I was going to make in my adult life were based on this salvation experience. More and more, I came to love Jesus, who I learned, in fact, was a Middle-Eastern Jew. He was raised in a Jewish culture by Jewish parents, he observed the Sabbath and all the Biblical Feasts and he attended the synagogue. The more I learn and study, the more I love who he is. I am amazed that because of God’s love for me, a Gentile, I am grafted into the root of God’s promises to Abraham and that I am included in His covenant of love. God became my Father because Jesus opened this door for me.  “Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” John 20:17

Just like my experience in my comparative literature class, I can say the more I learn about Jesus (Yeshua = ישוע‎) and his culture, the more I realize that I have become part of something that is so much greater than this secular world I live in. There is a deeper understanding of the scriptures and the promises I am part of. My husband often talks about a class he took at Shiloh University titled, “Jewish Roots of Christianity.” As a pastor, he has been bringing several messages on understanding Jesus as a Rabbi (or teacher). He has also been bringing a new light to the meaning of the parables and the New Testament as a whole, because he is teaching us to understand the Old Testament on a deeper level.

I love Yeshuah, and I love to learn about God’s people, God’s language and God’s promises that I have been grafted into as a Christian. I am grateful for having my eyes opened to the truth of who Jesus is and my respect and love for the Jewish people increases more and more each day as I learn about their faith.

I encourage you to learn and keep seeking to understand all the blessings our wonderful Father has for us through Christ Jesus, all things pertaining to life and godliness.

God bless you!

Further Reading:

Romans 3:23-25

Matthew 5:17

Romans 11: 1-36

Isaiah 7:14-16




Debbie Oliveira

Debbie Oliveira

Mother of two beautiful girls, Debbie works hand-in-hand with Daniel to pastor and care for Hale O Nā Kāula church.