It occurs to me that we cannot truly understand what Jesus was trying to teach without first understanding the environment in which he taught. Before embarking on any serious study of Jesus, the man, we should first learn all we can about Israel and Palestine in the early part of the first century. Knowing all the important contemporary events, customs, teachings, beliefs, influences, mores, hopes, fears, conflicts, governments and even social strata are absolutely essential to having a sufficient insight into the mind of any person of that time period. In other words, before we can know where Jesus is coming from we must know where he came from.
At least as important as the things Jesus taught are the things Jesus did not teach. Jesus’ failure to address any major issues of that time can only be seen as his tacit approval of the status quo. This is not to say that he completely agreed with every iota of existing scripture and Jewish law which he did not address.* But that he was comparatively comfortable with their contemporary emphasis, interpretation and observance. To understand what Jesus likely believed about a significant topic on which he never spoke we need only understand the common beliefs of his audience. It would be a mistake to assume that merely because something was written in scripture or the law that it was as important or relevant in Jesus’ time as it was in the era it was written. People rarely speak out against archaic or obsolete rules which are no longer enforced or even observed by their contemporaries. But because the general consensus changes over time it is absolutely imperative that we know the particular mood of that particular place and time for a more complete understanding of Jesus’ true ideology.
(*Jesus said that He came to “fulfill” the scriptures. I confess, I am not entirely sure what He meant by that)