A Very Challenging Task: Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus

Introduction

Out of all the people I have encountered over the years, I find Jewish people to probably be the most difficult to reach for the Messiah. We seem to be living in a day when SOME Christians are being stumbled by objections by Jewish people. And for the record I also see atheists appealing to Jewish objections to Christianity. So I think this is a worthwhile topic. I know it is easy for many Christians to forget that the Gospel is still “To the Jew First” (Romans 1:16).  Grammatically, the entire verse is in the present tense. There are three verbs: unashamed, is and believes. All are in the present tense. The gospel is, not was, but is the power of God, it is to all who believe, and it is to the Jew first. (1) Also, as Trevor Wax notes in his article, “Why Did Jesus Say He Came Only For Israel,”

“The Gospels reveal a Jesus focused on Israel. In fact, his ministry appears to be focused so relentlessly on the Jewish people that many scholars have debated whether Jesus was concerned with outsiders at all. When taking into consideration the nations-focused mission of the early church as directed by the risen Jesus that was so prominent in Christian thinking, it is striking to discover that this global impulse appears to be absent from Jesus’ earthly ministry.”

I want to go over some of the objections that I have heard and still hear from Jewish people. I will provide some tips and resource that may help:

The Incarnation and Trinity Issue:

Over the years I have heard several objections from Jewish people. Keep in mind, there are many Jewish people who are not overly religious. Hence, they are not Orthodox in practice and belief. But for the ones who are Orthodox, they have spent some time learning from counter-missionary organizations like Jews for Judaism and Outreach Judaism.  Hence, they know our arguments and tend to be ready to give their own apologetic as to why we are wrong about our claims about Jesus being the Jewish Messiah.. In other words, the entire belief in Jesus’ deity is a Christian invention that developed much later in church history. Therefore, Christian theological concepts like the incarnation, the virgin birth, the Trinity, etc. are totally foreign to both Judaism and the Jewish Scriptures (The Old Testament). I would like to give some tips in how to handle these objections. I speak from personal experience:

The study of the Godhead is an enormous task. A study of the Trinity or the divinity of Jesus/ making a case for a divine Messiah go hand in hand with each other. My advice is to take the time and do a long study of the topic. If you want to do this superficially, you will pay the price. One of the best resources on this topic is my friend John Metzger’s  Discovering the Mystery of the Unity of God (over 900 pages).  For Orthodox Jewish and some conservative Jewish people as well, the idea of God becoming a man is just an impossibility and it goes against their strict monotheism. Hence, God is noncorporeal and that settles it!  Therefore,  the entire belief in Jesus’ deity is a Christian invention that developed much later in church history.  For Jewish people, Christian theological concepts like the incarnation, the virgin birth, the Trinity, etc. are totally foreign to both Judaism and the Jewish Scriptures (The Old Testament).

I always cite evidence  that the early Jesus community’s adhered to monotheism, resisted  idolatry and was not corrupted by Hellenism. And we can give extensive answers to the charge that Christians  are not committing Idolatry and Violating the 2nd commandment.  But we have to remember that we are trying to provide a response to paradigms that have been long established in Jewish thought. The paradigm that the Messiah is not God and that the Trinity is something that is a pagan idea is firmly entrenched in Jewish people’s mindsets.

In the end, you may need to just stick with the Tanakh (the Old Testament) and show there is a case for the plurality in the Godhead. But in order to do this you will need some linguistic/hermeneutical skills or rely on those who have done the hard work to provide resources to the Church (see the Metzger book or other resources). And remember, both the incarnation and the Trinity are revealed truths. What was implicit in the Old Testament becomes more explicit in the New Testament. But you may say “But the Jewish Scriptures was what Paul and Apostles appealed to when they witnessed to Jews.” True! However, what text were they using? The Greek Septuagint ( “LXX”, or “Greek Old Testament”) is an ancient translation of the Hebrew Bible, or The Masoretic Text which is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible?  Most Jewish people don’t have a high regard for the Septuagint. So now you need to explain why the Septuagint is valid translation. For more study on this topic, see:
Dr. Michael Heiser: The Jewish Trinity

Jewish concept of the ‘Word’ being a Divine Person

Messianic Expectations and Maimonides

Another problem in discussing messianism with Jewish people is that the most dominant messianic expectation is one put forth byMoses Maimonides (1138- 1204), who was a medieval Jewish philosopher. His writings are considered to be foundational to Jewish thought and study. Maimonides asserted that since God is incorporeal, this means that God assumes no physical form. Therefore, God is Eternal, above time, Infinite, and beyond space. Maimonides also stated that God cannot be born, and cannot die. For Maimonides, the Messiah will be born of human parents, nor be a demi-god who possess supernatural qualities. Furthermore, for Maimonides, it is clear he was writing in response to Christianity. Here are some of the things he said about the Messiah are still at the forefront of the minds of Jewish people:

  • Restore  the throne of David
  • Rebuild  the Temple (He will rebuild the Templee and re-establish its worship (Jeremiah 33:18).
  • Gather  the exiles (He will bring about the  political and spiritual redemption of the Jewish people by bringing us back to Israel and  restoring Jerusalem
  • Be a descendent of David
  • He  does not have to perform signs or wonders

Let’s look at a couple of these:

#1 The Temple Issue and the Gathering the Exiles

Now don’t get me wrong. I have a lot of respect for Maimonides. But I don’t think he is inspired by God and I am not going to look to him as the sole authority for the messianic credentials. But the reality is for Jewish people that are convinced the messianic task is all a one act play, they generally appeal the following:

  1. The Jewish people are regathered to their land both before and after the Exile: Isa. 11:10-16; Jer. 3:11-20; 12: 14-17; 16: 10-18;  23:1-8; 24:5-7; 30:1-3, 10-11; 31:2-14-23; 32:36-44; Ezek.11:14-20;20:33-44; 28:25-26; 34:11-16; 23-31;36:16-36;37:1-28;39:21-29.
  2. The Jewish people are ruled by their Messiah with Jeresulem as its capital: Jer. 23: 5-6; 33:17; Ezek. 37:22, 24; Zech 9: 10; 14:9.
  3. Israel is recognized by the nations as being blessed: Isa. 62:2; 66:18; Ezek. 36: 23; 36; 37:28; Mal. 3:12.
  4. The nations go to Jerusalem to worship God: Isa. 2: 2-4; 56: 2-8; 62: 9-11; Jer 16: 19; Zeph. 3:9; Zech 9:16; Zech 14:16-18.
  5. The Temple is rebuilt with the presence of God in it: Isa. 2:2; 56:6; Ezek 37: 26-28; 40-48; 43:1-7; 48:35.

In response, Christians generally appeal to the Second Coming of Messiah to fulfill those things. Some Christians see no fulfillment at all and spiritualize these texts. In the end, the entire issue leads to the next point :

Is There One Messianic Expectation?

The problem with talking to many Orthodox  or other Jewish people is that the only messianic expectation is the one put forth byRabbinic Judaism which came into being after the Temple was destroyed in 70 a.d. So the problem with this is that we don’ get a broader understanding of what the messianic expectations were pre-70 ad/before the time of Jesus. Before 70 CE, messianic figures could go by a variety of names such as Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, the Prophet, Elect One, Prince, Branch, Root, Scepter, Star, Chosen One, Coming One, and so forth.  It is when we study the entire history of messianism that we get a much broader understanding of the topic. To see more on this, see our posts:

Six Messianic Expectations and One Messiah

THE MESSIAH AND THE HEBREW BIBLE: JOHN H. SAILHAMER

Messianic Hopes and   Messianic Figures   In Late Antiquity/Craig Evans

The Concept of the Messiah in the Old Testament by Randall Price

Three Reasons Why Jesus is Qualified to be called the “Messiah”

Messianic Prophecy

When I was a new Christian I was exposed to popular apologetic works. Messianic prophecy has always been one of the main ways Christian use to show Jesus is the Messiah. The problem is that many of these works treat the topic in an overly superficial fashion.  The more I have taught on this topic, the more I realize that one of the first steps is to learn the hermeneutics of prophecy. To simply say some prophecies are about the first coming of the Messiah and others are about the return of the Messiah takes greater clarification. Some of the pertinent questions are the following: Are we sure that when the prophets spoke, they knew for sure about the timetable?  Did they know or not know that centuries would come and go between their initial prediction and its actual fulfillment?  Are some of the messianic promises  gradually being fulfilled or are partially fulfilled and will be completely full filled one day? What about typology?   These things are important since we see that BOTH Christianity and Judaism have had to make adjustments in their thinking about messianism. Even in the time of Jesus we see that the disciples were confused about what the role of Jesus was. And after he rose from the dead, they still thought he would establish the Davidic Kingdom. Jesus says that ” If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.”- John 5: 46. Can you show exegetically where Moses wrote about Jesus?

See more here:

Are There Over 300 Messianic Prophecies?

Did Moses Really Write About Jesus? A Look at Messianic Prophecy in the Torah

Resources for the study of Messianic Prophecy

What About an Atoning Messiah?

For the disciple of Jesus, His death is a “ransom” (Mark 10:45), “reconciliation” (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18–20; Col. 1:22), and “redemption” (Rom. 3:24; 8:23; Eph. 1:7, 14; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:12–15). Jesus is also called the “Suffering Servant” (Acts 3:13; 8:32ff), and the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32; 1 Peter 1:19). While the Christian community takes these truths for granted, the majority of the Jewish community asserts that Jesus’ death automatically annulled the possibility of Him being the promised Messiah of Israel. Christians tend to cite Isaiah 52:13-53 and Psalm 22 as a slam dunk for a suffering/atoning Messiah. But Rabbinic Judaism sees the Isaiah texts (and for that matter most of the Servant Songs) as being about Israel. Also,  no man can atone for anyone else! The gist is that the Suffering Messiah concept eventually made its way into Judaism. I have written more about this here Atonement and the Suffering Messiah in Judaism

But speaking from experience, in order for Christians to cite Isaiah 52-53 correctly, they will need some knowledge of Hebrew.  A more recent resource on this topic is The Gospel According to Isaiah 53: Encountering the Suffering Servant in Jewish and Christian Theology [Darrell Bock, Mitch Glaser. Another good online resource is The Atonement in Isaiah’s Fourth Servant Song (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) by Peter J. Gentry (just scroll down to the bottom)

Also, SOME Jewish people are unaware of the Jewish literature about the Suffering Messiah concept. And even if we do cite some of it (see our link above),they will say it is not referring to Jesus. I respond by saying I agree that while this may be true, it is incorrect to say there is NO mention of a person who can atone for the sins of Israel. Hence, to say it is a Christian concept that has no basis in Judaism is just patently false.

Furthermore, an established tenet in Talmudic times is that there is a splitting of the Messiah in two:  Messiah ben Yossef who is also referred to as Mashiach ben Ephrayim, the descendant of Ephrayim will serve as a precursor to Messiah ben David. His role is political in nature since he will wage war against the forces that oppose Israel. In other words, Messiah ben Yossef is supposed to prepare Israel for its final redemption. The prophecy of Zech. 12:10 is applied to Messiah ben Yossef in that he is killed and that it will be followed by a time of great calamities and tests for Israel. Shortly after these tribulations upon Israel, Messiah ben David will come and avenge the death of Messiah ben Yossef, resurrect him, and inaugurate the Messianic era of everlasting peace.(19)

What is interesting is that R. Saadiah Gaon elaborated on the role of Messiah ben Yossef by starting that this sequence of events is contingent. In other words, Messiah ben Yossef will not have to appear before Messiah be David if the spiritual condition of Israel is up to par.(20)

This is why it says in the Talmud, “If they [the people of Israel] are worthy of [the Messiah] he will come ‘with the clouds of heaven’ [Dan 7:13] ;if they are not worthy, ‘lowly and riding upon a donkey’ [Zech. 9:9]” (b. Sanhedrin 98a). (2)

Note: See Can We Reconcile The Messiah Ben David and The Messiah Ben Joseph Tradition in Judaism?

Supersessionism

You may say what is Supersessionism? In this article, Michael Vlach says two points that stand out about Supersessionism are the following: (1) national Israel has somehow completed or forfeited its status as the people of God and will never again possess a unique role or function apart from the church; and (2) the church is now the true Israel that has permanently replaced or superseded national Israel as the people of God. Supersessionism, then, in the context of Israel and the church, is the view that the New Testament church is the new Israel that has forever superseded national Israel as the people of God.

Does this matter? Well, I know some Christians don’t know much about this. But others are aware of it and do hold to this position. Just think if you were trying to tell a Jewish person about why Jesus is their Messiah (the Jewish Messiah) and you said, “By the way, I do think national Israel has no future in the plan of God. Your people and land have no future as well.” This will probably cause your discussion with Jewish people to end very quickly.

Conclusion:

Believe it or not, I have barely scratched the surface on all the Jewish objections to the Christian faith. You can see our page here called A LOOK AT JEWISH OBJECTIONS TO JESUS. Also, the most well-known Messianic apologist at the present time is Dr.Michael Brown.  Dr. Brown has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He has debated many rabbis on shows such as Phil Donahue, and Faith Under Fire. Dr. Brown is a Jewish believer in Jesus and is visiting professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Fuller Theological Seminary. His website is at http://askdrbrown.org. You can watch Dr. Brown on the streets of New York talking with Jewish people about the Messiahship of Jesus here:

http://www.inspiration.net/thinkitthru/index.cfm/page/2/video/1395583369

To see a more simplified version to some of the objections in each section of Dr. Brown’s books, click here:

http://www.jewishvoice.org/site/PageServer?

General Objections/Historical Objections

Theological Objections

Messianic Prophecy Objections

New Testament Objections

Traditional Jewish Objections

The Apostle Paul showed he had a tremendous burden for the Jewish people (Rom. 9:1-5), (Rom. 10:1), and calls upon the Church to provoke Israel to jealousy (Rom. 11:11). The best thing to do with any Jewish person is to build relationships of trust. Never assume anything. Always follow the example of our Lord by asking questions. And always remember that all Jewish people come to faith just like anyone else. They must be open to the truth and God’s Spirit must open their eyes (2 Cor.4:4-6).

Sources:

1. This section was taken from JEWISH EVANGELISM AND DISCIPLESHIP, Article 3 of 13: GOD’S UNCHANGEABLE PLAN by Sam Nadler at http://messianicassociation.org/ezine14-sam.God%27sUnchangeable%20Plan.htm?vm=r&s=1

2. Jacob Immanuel Schochet. Mashiach: The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition. New York: S.I.E. 1992, 93-101.

A LOOK AT MESSIANIC PROPHECY: THE MESSIAH AS “THE BRANCH”

Introduction

The word Messiah”-“Anointed One” (Heb. messiah),(Gk. Christos) is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.”

The Hebrew Bible records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod. 29:1-9 ), kings (1 Sam 10:1;2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34), and sometimes prophets (1 Kings 19:16b) as a sign of their special function in the Jewish community. Also, when God anointed or authorized for leadership, in many cases he provided the empowering of the Holy Spirit to do complete the task (1 Sam. 16:13; Isa. 61:1). However, just because someone was anointed in the Old Testament to perform a specific task doesn’t mean they are “the Messiah.” The messianic concept also has a wider dimension than the royal, priestly, and/or prophetic person. Included in this wider view are some of the characteristics, tasks, goals, means, and consequences of the messianic person.

Other names were used to describe the messianic person other than the “Messiah.” Some of the names include Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, Prophet, Elect One, Servant, Prince, Branch, Root, Scepter, Star, Chosen One, and Coming One. Therefore, to say Jesus is the Messiah is like asking whether he is the Son of Man, Prophet, Branch, etc.

The Branch

Let’s look at a name for the Messiah which is “Branch.” “Branch” or “Sprout” comes from Hebrew word “tzemach” or “netser.”  I offer some comments after each Branch passage.

The Branch in Zechariah

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.  And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”  Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by. And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua,  “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.  Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day.  In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.” (Zech 3: 1-10)

  1. Here the branch is given a traditional royal Davidic title “my servant”
  2. There seems to be a distinction between Joshua and the figure who is the branch.
  3. Joshua is cleansed and commissioned.
  4. Zech 3:1-10; Jer. 33:14-26 anticipated a royal branch to arrive shortly after the people would return from the exile and the priesthood was reconsecrated.
  5. Many commentators (both Jewish and Christian) have attempted to see the Branch as Zerubbabel. However, this would conflict with the other “Branch” passages (see below). Also, Zerubbabel only came as  governor, not a king. While we can note that Zerubbabel built the second temple in 516 B.C. the Messiah will build the Temple in the new age (Isa. 2: 2-4; Eze. 40-42; Mic:4:1-5; Hag 2:7-9).

“And say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord. It is he who shall build the temple of the Lord and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’  And the crown shall be in the temple of the Lord as a reminder to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah. “And those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the Lord. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.”  (Zech. 6: 12-15)

Here we see the following:

  1. Zechariah unites two offices that were forbidden to be held by a priest or a king (2 Chron.26:16-23).
  2. Crowns symbolize a king and priest.
  3. Zechariah reveals that the priestly and kingly functions can be combined in one person.
  4. Who is the referent?  The royal branch did not arrive on the scene (read Zech 9-14). To no priest has ever such an event happened.
  5. The referent here will sit on the throne of David and rule, not Joshua.
  6.  If it is referring to Jesus,  in the first coming he becomes the Temple (John 2: 18-22).  But then he will be part of the Millenial Temple:(Isa. 2: 2-4; Eze. 40-42; Mic:4:1-5; Hag 2:7-9).

Theodore Laetsch states the following:

Joshua was not to pronounced king of Jerusalem. Such a transference of the royal crown from the tribe of Judah and the house of David to the tribe of Levi would  have been not  only obnoxious to the Jews,  but also have voided all the promises of the Lord to the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:0ff) and to the house of David (2 Sam. 7:12ff). The Lord will not contradict Himself, or the prophet the high priest, and the governor would have been guilty of a despicable, blasphemous deception. (1)

Regarding this text, Walter Kaiser also points out the following:

So He shall be called a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both (v.13d, e). This is the greatest Old Testament passage on the fact that the coming Messiah will be both a Davidic King a Priest (cf. Heb 7). So amazing is this prediction that it has troubled many a commentator. Was it likely that a “priest” would “sit upon His throne?” The Greek Septuagint attempts to soften this prediction by substituting “in His right hand” for “on His throne.” But as we know from the royal Psalms (e.g.,Ps. 110:4), the Annointed One would exercise as everlasting priesthood in addition to His royal and prophetic offices. Thus Zechariah daringly combines the priestly and kingly offices into one person, “the Branch.” (2)

Given that Kaiser mentions Psalm 110:1-4, I will mention he following about ts text:  While David did perform priestly functions,  he could not be a priest forever because he died (and remained dead, so far as his physical existence is concerned).  So if the Messiah is to be David’s son, then how can he also be a priest, unless he is of a different line of priests, one that was before and in some capacity greater than the line of Levitical priesthood? And how could he be a priest forever? He would have to not die.

We need a descendant of David that is greater than David, and he must also serve as priest in some way outside of the qualification of being a Levite, and must do so forever. But then the Psalmist answers the his own riddle: The priest would be of the order (not the line) of Melchizedek – a king of Righteousness and of Peace. And the very way that he would be of the order of Melchizedek is by virtue of being a priest forever – without end. Melchizedek was, as you recall, greater than Abraham – having been before Abraham.

Finally, regarding both of the Branch texts in Zechariah, John B. Metzger offers some helpful comments:

God uses words that should not be missed or counted as insignificant. When He calls the BRANCH a servant when speaking to Joshua, He is referring to the basic ministry of the priest. The priest was a servant of the Lord who mediated between the people and their God. These two passages in Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12-13 are extremely important in understanding the full ministry of the BRANCH, as understood from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and now Zechariah. (3)

The Branch in Jeremiah

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’  “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he[ahad driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.” (Jer. 23: 5-7)

The context is that Israel is dwelling safely in the land. Hence, the text could be considered part of what it is called Prophetic Telescoping. Prophetic Telescoping  is prophecy that bridges the First and Second Comings of the Messiah. In this way, prophecy telescopes forward to a time. The prophets saw future events as distant “peaks” (i.e., events) without an awareness of the large time gaps between them. Also, the prophets understood that history had two major periods—the present age and the age to come–although they did not always make a hard distinction between the two. Prophetic Telescoping stresses progressive revelation which means that God does not reveal everything at once. There are  texts that are  fulfilled in the first appearance of Jesus. But there is another part that will be fulfilled in the future. In this sense, the Messiah will build the Temple in the new age (Isa. 2: 2-4; Eze. 40-42; Mic:4:1-5; Hag 2:7-9). In other words, one day the Messiah will be King over His people (Matt. 19:28).

The Branch in Isaiah

“In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel. And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.” (Isa.4: 2-6)

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.  The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—  the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,  the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,  or decide by what he hears with his ears  but with righteousness he will judge the needy,   with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;  with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt  and faithfulness the sash around his waist.  The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together;  The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den,   and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.  They will neither harm nor destroy  on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord  as the waters cover the sea.-Isa. 11: 1-9

Here we see no mention of the word “Messiah.” However, we do see the impact of the rule of Messiah in that the world is a different place.  It looks as if there is some sort of utopian order.  Christians can try to apply vs 1-5 to the first appearance of Jesus . But now we go to read the rest of the chapter:

In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia,from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. He will raise a banner for the nations  and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah  from the four quarters of the earth.  Ephraim’s jealousy will vanish, and Judah’s enemies will be destroyed; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,   nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim.  They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia to the west;   together they will plunder the people to the east. They will subdue Edom and Moab,   and the Ammonites will be subject to them.  The Lord will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian sea; with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand  over the Euphrates River. He will break it up into seven streams so that anyone can cross over in sandals.  There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria, as there was for Israel   when they came up from Egypt.” –Isa. 11: 6-16.

It could not be more evident that vs 10-16 have not come to pass yet.

Isaiah 53:

Isa 53:2:“ For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.”

A canonical reading shows how Isaiah connects between the servant of Isaiah 53 and the coming King of Isaiah 11:1-16. In verse one it says, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” This indicates the Servant is a royal figure who is a Davidic King. Also, as Daniel I. Block notes, when the messiah is both characterized as a servant with a specific name, that name is always “David” or a person with a Davidic connection:

And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken. (Ezek. 34: 23-24)

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ (Jer. 23: 5-6)

Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. (Zech. 3:8) (4)

Note: To see how the Suffering/Atoning Messiah is treated in the Jewish literature, see here:

Conclusion

The Messiah was to be both Priest and King. In other words, the Messiah has a dual role- as a priest he would provide atonement and make intercession for the people. As a King, he would rule and reign! As the Jewish Messiah, Jesus is the ideal sufferer for the nation the representative King, the one greater than David.

Sources:

  1. Theodore Laetsch, The Minor Prophets (St. Louis:Concordia, 1956) 439.
  2. Walter Kaiser, The Commincator’s Commentary: Micah—Malachi. 21 vols. (Waco, TX: Word Books. 1992).
  3. John B. Metzger, Discovering The Mystery of the Unity of God (San Antonio, Ariel Ministries;  2010), 610.
  4. Daniel I. Block, “My Servant David: Ancient Israel’s Visions of the Messiah” in Richard S. Hess and M. Daniel Carroll R, Israel’s Messiah In The Bible and The Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), 48

A Look At Questioning Evangelism: Responding To Five Common Objections On A College Campus

Ohio State University Faces Outbreak Of Mumps Cases

 

Over the years I have heard hundreds of objections to the Christian faith on a major college campus. In this post, I want to give the top five objections that I have heard on a regular basis. I also want to show how I generally respond to these objections. I employ what is called “Questioning Evangelism?” which happens to be the title of a book. I don’t necessarily respond to people by using the guidelines in the book. But I do ask a lot of questions. Here are five examples:

  1. “There is no evidence or proof for God”:In this case, I always ask what the individual means by ‘proof’ or ‘evidence.’ I also ask them what would convince them God exists. In most cases, they will generally respond three ways. They will say “I have never thought of that before?” Or, they will say they want scientific evidence. We will look at the science issue in point

    They also may say that they think God should show them some sort of sign he is real.

    You can see our post here called “The First Question in Approaching the Existence of God.”

    2. Religious Pluralism: “How do we know which religion is true?” When a student asks me this question, they generally assume it is impossible to navigate through all the different world religions and we simply can’t know if any of them are true. My response to this question is “How would we know any of them are true?” In other words, “What method would we use?” Furthermore, I always ask “If God exists, does it make sense he would speak somewhere within the course of human history?” This last question creates a plausibility condition. If the person says they do think it is plausible that God can reveal his plans and purpose for humanity within the context of human history,  we can go forward and examine the evidence for each religious claim.

    3.Science: I am never surprised to hear students tell me they want scientific evidence for God. In other words, they want what they call ‘observable’ or something they consider to be ‘testable.’ In response to this issue, I simply ask “What is science” and whether modern science is even set up to provide evidence for the existence of God. Science the attempted objective study of the natural world/natural phenomena whose theories and explanations do not normally depart from the natural realm.”(Del Ratzsch,Philosophy of Science (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 15.If we are going by this definition, the nest question is,Is God natural or non natural?”  How would science ‘prove’ or provide evidence against the non-existence of God? For example, if God created the universe from nothing (think, Big Bang), then all naturalistic attempts to explain the universe’s beginning are going to run into problems! Now having said this, I think there there is traces of God’s fingerprints in the natural world.  Can we observe God directly? No!But since science is a search or causes, we can observe the effects in the world and make rational inferences (i.e, is the cause of what we observe the result of natural causation or intelligent causation?) If the person is open to look a the evidence, then we can discuss issues such as biological information, molecular machines, or the universe. But here’s the kicker: even if we do have strong evidence for intelligent causation, that would only allow us to arrive at a deistic God or general theism.

    4. “But there is no evidence Jesus never existed.” Sadly, many college students hear this objection and it still gets thrown around the university. I used to respond to this objection by providing several tests for the historicity of the New Testament. But now I simply ask the individual the following: “If there is good evidence that Jesus existed and rose from the dead, would you follow Him?” In many cases skeptics respond by saying “No!” Hence, I am under no obligation to spend an hour going over the basics  of how we approach history and investigate someone in antiquity such as Jesus.

    5.Pragmatism: The most popular view today seems to be a pragmatic view of truth. I see it everywhere! Many people tell me that all that matters is the benefit of a religious belief. In other words, if it makes a difference and helps someone is the test of truth. So what does this mean for us? Realistically speaking, I suppose Mormons can testify as to why Mormonism helps them have strong families. Black Muslims can testify in prison that Islam has helped them be more responsible. I could go on with more examples. Hence, many people are not asking whether it is objectively true. Comments like “I don’t see what difference Jesus would make in my life” and “I don’t think it is relevant whether God exists or Jesus is the Son of God” are somewhat common.This shouldn’t be surprising given our entire culture is built on pragmatism. After all, people go to college to get a job that will work for them and help them get a good job.

    Furthermore, the Church has been embracing pragmatism for a long time. Not much has changed.  If I see students are lapsing into a pragmatic or subjective view of truth, I simply say “So the first question is whether the Christian story is actually true.” In other words, I just bring the person back around to the issue of objective truth. Believe it or not, many people say tell me that once they think about what I am saying it is clear that it does matter if Christianity is objectively true. How they feel about whether God exists or the resurrection of Jesus won’t change the fact as to whether it is objectively true and corresponds to reality. So I think it is incumbent upon me to explain what objective truth is and how the person can’t avoid it!

    There are many other objections on a college campus. You can see our resource page here. Learning to ask the right questions can be a huge asset in your conversations with people. Press on!

 

Ehrman–Licona Dialogue on the Historical Reliability of the New Testament

Bart D. Ehrman and Michael R. Licona

If you want to see an online written debate on the reliability of the New Testament, this is an excellent resource.  According to Greg Monette, he says this may be the first time I can say definitively that Bart Ehrman has lost a debate. Why? Because he never defines anywhere what he means when he says the New Testament Gospels are “unreliable.” It’s as though he thinks all he needs to do is point out a few contradictions in these writings and their credibility vaporizes and that somehow proves that the Gospels are unreliable (whatever that means…he never explains)

In contrast, Licona explains what he means by “reliable” and shows that even though the Gospels are not historically reliable in a modern sense of 21st century history writing (they sometimes move events around chronologically; put the words of one person in the mouth of another; compress the narrative; and add elements to the story to make it more dramatic) their historical reliability is not in jeopardy when we understand how ancient authors composed their biographies.

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Responding to Critics, Seekers, and Doubters

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