Why Are There So Many Skeptics on College Campuses?

For the last several years I have done plenty of outreach on a major college campus. I have also been the director  of an apologetics ministry as well. On the college campus where I am located at, there are a fair amount of atheists. Hence, I talk to at least four to five atheists a week.  I have also spoken to plenty of agnostics and people from other religious backgrounds. But over the years I have seen several patterns emerge. In other words, when I probe deeper and ask students why they are atheists or how they define their atheism, I see the same things. So here is what I continue to see:

1. Students don’t know how to think about God 

How do we know God exists?  Over the years, when I have been asked this question, I used to just jump to an argument for God. I would sit down and try to explain it in detail to the individual. I have now decided to take a different approach and back up: I am convinced more than ever that the first question in the discussion is “How should we approach the existence of God?” or, ” What method should we use?” I find 90% of the people I talk to have never taken the time to think about this question. Granted, it is not as if churches or the local university (unless it is a philosophy of religion class) teaches on a topic such as this.

Now I know that when  you ask a Christian, Jewish person, Muslim, or Mormon as well how they know what they believe is true, they might just say, “I have faith.” This should cause us to stop and ask if that is an adequate answer. It probably won’t go very far in a skeptical and pluralistic culture. To see more on this, see our post called The Most Common Objection on a College Campus. 
Or, see Seven Approaches to God’s Existence 

In this case, students define truth as what is practical, or what ‘works.’ It is no secret that many apologists have written books on the truth question. In other words, the statement “we are living in postmodern times” has almost become cliche in today’s society. Hence, because of the impact of post-modernism, many seem to assume that college students are not interested in objective truth. So the fallout is that people are not asking whether Christianity is true.  See our post called  Do College Students Care About Truth?

3. Students don’t have all the information

This is what bothers me the most. When I say they don’t have all the information, I am not saying anyone needs to have an exhaustive background in history, philosophy, theology, science, or other subjects to find a relationship with God. When I have shown students there are resources on the existence of God, they look bewildered. After all, they aren’t hearing or getting this information on the campus. Or, if they were raised in a church and now they are agnostic, they sometimes say “I never heard any of this in the church I grew up in!” So for some of them, it is almost a settled issue that there is no God. Any resource or evidence showing the opposite can tend to be met with resistance. See our reading list here: 

4.  Bad epistemology 

This is a huge issue. Granted, many students don’t have a background in this area.

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with questions about knowledge and belief and related issues such as justification, truth, types of certainty.

I have lost count of the number of times that I have encountered the following comments by students:

“There is not one shred of proof or evidence for the existence of God”

“There is absolutely no evidence for Jesus or your God”

“Science has shown that there is no God”

“Unless you can perfectly demonstrate that God exists or Jesus is the Son of God, you need to admit all you have is faith”

It is statements like the ones here that demonstrate to me that there is not even a basic understanding of epistemology. Keep in mind that I am not asking everyone to get a philosophy degree and to be an expert on such a heady topic. While in seminary I was blessed to take some classes in philosophy. However, I am by no means an expert! But the people making these types of claims just overstate their case and sound very naive. A more nuanced approach would be to say, “ I have looked at the evidence in this area and I don’t find it to be sufficient.” Or, “I don’t think there are good reasons to think God exists or that Jesus is the Son of God.”

Evangelism in a Skeptical World: How to Make the Unbelievable News about Jesus More Believable by [Chan, Sam]

There is a new book out that mentions something of great relevance. The author says the following:

“Why do we believe some things but not others? For example, once upon a time, we believed that the earth was flat. But now we believe it’s round. Yet most of us have not been in a spaceship orbiting the earth to see for ourselves that the earth is round. Yet we believe that it is. What is the mechanism for our belief? Why do we believe some things and not others? This field of study is called epistemology. But when we apply it to religious beliefs—why do some people believe in the existence of God, but others don’t?—it is called religious epistemology.”-Evangelism in a Skeptical World: How to Make the Unbelievable News about Jesus More Believable
Sam Chan and D. A. Carson

If you are not familiar  with religious epistemology, see our clip here. 

 The Issue of Certainty

There is some overlap here between this issue and what I just mentioned about bad epistemology.  I don’t have any need for absolute or exhaustive knowledge. As Paul Copan says here:

“We do not need 100 percent certainty to truly know. After all, we cannot show with 100 percent certainty that our knowledge must have 100 percent certainty. We believe lots of things with confidence even though we do not have absolute certainty. In fact, if most people followed the “100 percent rule” for knowledge, we would know precious little. But no one really believes that.

Now, if our only options were either 100 percent certainty orskepticism, then we would not be able to differentiate between views that are highly plausible, on the one hand, and completely ridiculous, on the other. They would both fall short of the 100 percent certainty standard and so both should be readily dismissed. But that is clearly silly. We know the difference. And what about those who seem to know with 100 percent certainty that we cannot know with 100 percent certainty. Interestingly, skeptics about knowledge typically seem quite convinced — absolutely convinced — that we cannot know.”- see the entire article here:

A similar approach to this issue is seen in Mortimer J. Adler’s Six Great Ideas where he has a chapter called The Realm of Doubt. The problem we meet is when we attempt to decide which of our judgments belong in the realm of certitude. In order for a judgment to belong in the realm of certitude, it must meet the following criteria: (1) it cannot be challenged by the consideration of new evidence that results from improved observation, nor can it be criticized by improved reasoning or the detection of inadequacies or errors in the reasoning we have done. Beyond such challenge or criticism, such judgments are indubitable, or beyond doubt.

A judgment is subject to doubt if there is any possibility at all (1) of its being challenged in the light of additional or more acute observations or (2) of its being criticized by more cogent or more comprehensive reasoning.

The point is that in order to believe in God demands will never be based on absolute certainity.

Conclusion

Campus ministry isn’t easy. But Jesus calls us to be salt and light in the dark places. We also don’t always get to resist the places where the soil is hard.

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Three Possible Models for Cultural Engagement

Given the current cultural climate, I have noticed  that Christians are still struggling to figure out how to exactly engage the culture around them. In other words, should a Christian care about governmental laws? Should they be involved with politics? Should they be trying to impact legislation? Should Christians just pray and let God fight the battles around them? As for myself,  I have invested plenty of time trying to engage the university. Allow me to go ahead and expand on this topic with three models for cultural engagement:

1. The Withdrawal Model: In this model, many Christians are just so disgusted with the evil in the culture that they have decided to separate from it completely. When I say ‘separate’  I mean that these Christians only socialize with other Christians and generally won’t engage the dangerous places like universities. Thus, they tend to always expect non Christians to behave like Christians and  are convinced America will eventually return to its Christian foundations.

Let me tell a quick story: I once participated in an Interfaith panel on a university campus (e.g, we had a Muslim, a Jewish rabbi, a Buddhist, along with myself). Sadly, one of my Christian friends rebuked me for participating in such as event. Hence, he said I should never sit on a panel with people who were from different faiths. When I challenged him on being salt and light (Matt. 5: 13-14) and that we need to engage the dark areas of our culture, he only got more defensive.  In many cases people who adhere to the withdrawal model forget that judgment comes to the household of God first (1 Pet. 4: 16-17). We can’t keep expecting non Christians to adhere to our values and beliefs. This ends up making the Gospel into the moral Gospel rather than a supernatural message. I often think of a statement made by well-known Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias. Ravi says, “Jesus did not come to make bad people good, but dead people alive.”

2. The Culture Changes Us: In this model, Christians desperately want to be popular and relevant. So in response, they end up becoming so much like the culture  that there is very little difference between them and the people they surround themselves with. This model won’t work because it it can’t be justified by the Bible. Jesus calls his disciples to be “salt and light” (Matt 5:13-14). Also, as Paul says,

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”- Romans 12: 1-2

I see the biggest drawback of this model is that Christians tend to forget they don’t answer to the culture. Instead, they answer to the Lord for what they say and teach in the public square (1 Cor 3: 10-15).

3. The Counter-Cultural Model:  This is the model that matches up with the Bible. In this model, Christians don’t withdrawal nor are they  absorbed by the culture. Instead, they aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and are willing to go into the dark places. For myself, even though I do think the state of the world will get darker and perhaps wickedness may abound, I will work hard to be an agent of truth, light, justice, and love.

Golgotha

 

“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. “- Luke 9: 23

The cross may be viewed as a symbol of love. But when we look at the first century context, it is clear that to a Jewish person the cross was not a badge of honor but instead a sign of rejection and embarrassment. When the disciples heard Jesus talk about the cross and self denial here, they knew to make Jesus the Lord of their lives was going to be a life of  commitment and abandonment of autonomy.

To live counter-culturally means to be willing to be open to shame, embarrassment, and misunderstanding. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,  ‘Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.’  While it is true that Christians can’t demand that secular culture reflect biblical principles, we as followers of our Lord are called to speak up against evil.

I hope these models provoke some  further thought.

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“How Do Jewish People Atone For Sin When They Have No Temple And Sacrificial System?”

Introduction

Over the years, I have had the chance to talk to several Jewish people about spiritual issues. A common Jewish objection that I continue to hear is that Jewish people don’t believe that a human can be sacrificed for sins. In other words, a human can’t atone for the sins of the Jewish people. Furthermore, Christians often ask me given the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. and their is no sacrificial system, how do Jewish people receive atonement?

First, let me give some background to the idea of atonement in Judaism. For Jewish people Yom Kippur (which is this time of the year) which is also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. As I just said, when the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D, the religious and social life changed forever for the Jewish people. The Jewish people no longer had a sacrificial system in the Temple. Therefore, the atonement structure was changed to repentance which entails prayer, fasting, and doing mitzvah (good deeds). Remember that there were other times when the Jewish people had no functioning Temple (read Daniel). They would pray directly to God and he would hear their prayers. But the reality is that even if God did hear their prayers and accept them, the real issue today is whether Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.  Dr. Michael Brown says:

“According to b. Yoma 39b, God did not accept the sacrifices that were offered on the Day of Atonement for the last forty years before the destruction of the [Second] Temple. (This was known to the people by means of a series of special signs, all of which turned up negative for those forty years; see b. Yoma 39a).

The Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, so from 30-70 CE, a period of fort years, the annual atonement sacrifices were not a accepted. What great event happened in the year 30?

Yeshua was rejected and nailed to a cross. Is it possible that God no longer accepted the atonement sacrifices because the Messiah had offered himself as the perfect, final sacrifice, making himself as a “guilt offering,” as it is written in Isaiah 53:10?”
– The Real Kosher Jesus pg. 176

The Importance of Atonement

One of the  Bible’s central messages is atonement. Hence, God has provision for humankind to come back into harmonious relation with him is one of the central themes in Scripture. The Hebrew word called “Shalom” which means peace, completeness, can refer to either peace between two entities (especially between man and God) or peace between two countries. Why do we lack this wholeness? Sadly, sin causes us to be fragmented. The Hebrew verb ‘to atone’ (kaphar) means ‘cover.’ In other words, we need a covering for our sins.

The Servant of the Lord

Keeping this in mind, one of the titles for the Messiah is “The Servant of the Lord.” Within the book of Isaiah there are several Servant of the Lord passages. Some of the passages about the Servant of the Lord are about the nation of Israel (Is.41:8-9; 42:19; 43:10; 44:21; 45:4; 48:20), while there are other passages where the Servant of the Lord is seen as a righteous individual (Is.42:1-4;50:10; 52:13-53:12).

In relation to the Servant of the Lord being a Servant-King, we see the one of the clearest representations of this in the following passage:

Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 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. He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:1-12).

Many Christians can’t understand why Jewish people can’t see that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah 53. It would be nice if it was that simple. One of the most common questions is whether the New Testament authors were familiar with Isaiah 53 or any other texts in the Tanakh (the Old Testament) that pointed to a suffering messianic figure. After all, they were Jewish and had read the Scriptures all their lives. But there is no doubt that the early followers of Jesus had a hard time accepting the fact that Jesus was going to suffer and die: A couple of passages prove my point:

“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you! (Matt 16:21).”

He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise. But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. (Mark 9:31). “

Also, with the exception of 1 Peter 2: 24-25, the New Testament passages that quote Isa. 53 don’t address the atoning significance of the Servant’s suffering. There is no doubt that the authors of the Gospel stress the death of Jesus. Paul’s citation of Isaiah 53:1 (Rom 10:16) with John’s (John 12:38) make the same point: the Jewish people have rejected the Gospel. We do see Jesus is a Passover sacrifice (e.g, Jn. 19:14;1 Cor. 5:7-8); an unblemished sacrifice (1 Pet.1:19; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 7: 26-28; 9:14; 1 Pet. 2:21-25); a sin offering (Rom 8:3; 2 Cor. 5:21) and a covenant sacrifice (e.g., Mk. 14:24; 1 Cor. 11:25).

Peter uses Old Testament prophecy in Acts 3:18, where he declares: “But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled.” Where in the prophets are we told that God’s “Christ (or Messiah) should suffer”? Isaiah 53 is possibly what Peter is alluding to. Or, he may be referring to the overall redemptive plan of the Jewish Scriptures.  Probably the most explicit case for Isaiah 53 being used is in Acts 8: 32-34 in the exchange between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.  Where anti-missionaries and some Christian apologists can go wayward is not heeding the advice of  Richard N. Longenecker:

So-called ‘proof from prophecy’ of a direct nature has always been a factor in both a Jewish and a Christian understanding of fulfillment. Sadly, however, some see this as the only factor, and so lay out prophecy-fulfillment relations in a manner approximating mathematical precision. Starting from such basic theological axioms as that there is a God in charge of human affairs and that historical events happen according to his will, they point to a few obvious instances where explicit predictions have been literally fulfilled (as Mi. 5:2, quoted with variation in Mt. 2:5-6) and move on from there to construct an often elaborate and ingenious ‘biblical’ apologetic that is usually more ‘gnostic’ than biblical.

To read on, click here:

Many scholars have asked what might of led to the acceptance of a Suffering Messiah. Let’s see if we can trace the history here:

The Binding of Isaac Story and the Maccabean Martyrs

The Binding of Isaac or the “Akedah” tells the account of when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Because of Abraham’s faith God would be able to resurrect the slain Isaac. The sacrifice of Isaac corresponds to “that of Christ in the following respects: (1) They both involve the sacrifice by a father of his only son. (2) They both symbolize a complete dedication on the part of the offerer.

Mark Kinzer notes in the post- Biblical tradition, the Akedah story took on a new significance: it becomes the model for martyrdom: This is first seen in texts dealing with the martyrs of the Maccabean period:

 I, like my brothers, give up body and life for the laws of our ancestors, appealing to God to show mercy soon to our nation and by trials and plagues to make you confess that he alone is God, 38 and through me and my brothers to bring to an end the wrath of the Almighty that has justly fallen on our whole nation.” (2 Maccabees 7:37-38, NRSV)

[Eleazar prays] “You know, O God, that though I might be saved myself, I am dying in burning torments for the sake of the law. Be merciful to your people, and let our punishment suffice for them. Make my blood their purification, and take my life in exchange for theirs (4 Maccabees 6:27-29, NRSV).

And through the blood of those devout ones and their death as an atoning sacrifice, divine Providence preserved Israel that previously had been mistreated (4 Maccabees 17:22, NRSV).

Because of them the nation gained peace, and by reviving observance of the law in the homeland they ravaged the enemy (4 Maccabees 18:4, NRSV).

Kinzer goes onto say:

At a later date, the Akedah story is associated with the martyrs who suffered Roman persecution (as seen in Gen Rab 56:3 who compares Isaac’s carrying the wood for the sacrifice of the one who carries the execution stake). Israel’s martyrs, . . . show the same commitment to God and the same self-serving love of Abraham and Isaac. In this way the Akedah links martyrdom with the temple sacrifices, and makes it possible to see martyrdom as likewise having an atoning efficacy (4 Maccabees 17:21-22).

One can observe atoning features about the Maccabean martyrs. Note: this info is adapted from J. J. William’s book, Maccabean Martyr Traditions in Paul’s Theology of Atonement: Did Martyr Theology Shape Paul’s Conception of Jesus’s Death?



  • The books of 2 and 4 Maccabees record that God judged the Jews through Antiochus Epiphanes IV because of the nation’s religious apostasy (cf. 1 Maccabees 1; 2 Macc 7:32).
  • God poured out his wrath against Israel through the invasion of Antiochus because of its disobedience to the Torah prior to 4 Macc 17:21–22 (1 Macc 1:1–63; 2 Macc 5:1–7:38; 4 Macc 4:15–6:29).
  • 4 Macc 6:28–29 states that Eleazar offers his “blood” to be a “ransom” so that God would “be satisfied.” A passage in 4 Macc 17:21–22 states that the Jewish martyrs die a propitiatory death for the nation.
  • The martyrs die as penal sacrifices of atonement for the nation’s sins because the fundamental reason behind their deaths was Israel’s disobedience to Torah, and they died to end God’s judgment against the nation’s sin and to save the nation from his wrath (2 Macc 7:32–38; 4 Macc 6:28–29; 17:21–22).
  • 2 Maccabees 7:37-38: “I [the youngest of the seven sons martyred one by one in front of their mother], like my brothers, give up body and life for the laws of our ancestors, appealing to God to show mercy soon to our nation and by trials and plagues to make you confess that he alone is God, and through me and my brothers to bring to an end the wrath of the Almighty that has justly fallen on our whole nation.”
  • 4 Maccabees 6:27-29: [Eleazar prays] “You know, O God, that though I might be saved myself, I am dying in burning torments for the sake of the law. Be merciful to your people, and let our punishment suffice for them. Make my blood their purification, and take my life in exchange for theirs.”
  • 4 Macc. 6:27–29: Eleazar (one of the Jewish martyrs who died for the nation) asked God to use his blood to be a ransom so that he would be the means by which he purified, provided mercy for, and to be the means by which he would satisfy his wrath against the nation. The author interprets the significance of the martyrs’ deaths in 4 Macc. 17:21–22 by stating that they purified the homeland, that they served as a ransom for the nation, and that their propitiatory deaths saved the nation.
  • 4 Maccabees 17:22: “And through the blood of those devout ones and their deaths an atoning sacrifice divine Providence preserved Israel that previously had been mistreated.”
  • 4 Maccabees 18:4: “Because of them [those who gave their bodies in suffering for the sake of religion; 18:3] the nation gained peace.”

To summarize: 

1.The martyrs suffered and died because of sin (2 Macc 7:18, 32; 12:39–42; 4 Macc 4:21; 17:21–22; cf. Lev 1:1–7:6; 8:18–21; 16:3–24).

2. The martyrs’ blood was the required price for the nation’s salvation (2 Macc 7:32–38; 4 Macc 6:28–29; 7:8; 17:21–22).

3.The martyrs’ deaths ended God’s wrath against the nation (1 Macc. 1:1–64; 2 Macc. 7:32–38; 8:5; 4 Macc. 17:21–22).

4. The martyrs’ deaths provided purification and cleansing for the nation (4 Macc 6:28–29; 17:22; cf. Lev 16:16, 30; Isa 53:10).

5. The martyrs’ deaths spared the nation from suffering the penalty for their own sin in the eschaton (2 Macc 5:1–8:5; cf. 2 Macc 7:1–14).

6. The martyrs died  vicariously for the nation (2 Macc. 7:18, 32; 4 Macc. 4:21; 17:21–22).

John C. Collins talks about the case for of a pre-existing suffering Messiah:

“In the late-first century CE apocalypses of 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch the messiah dies. His death, however, does not involve suffering and has no atoning significance. In 4 Ezra 7:29-30, the death of the messiah marks the end of a four-hundred-year reign and is the prelude to seven days of primeval silence, followed by the resurrection. In 2 Bar 30:1, “when the time of the appearance of the messiah has been fulfilled” he returns in glory, and then all who sleep in hope of him rise.” Neither scenario bears any similarity to Isaiah 53.” (2)

But Collins also says the following:

“The Christian belief (in a suffering Messiah) in such a figure, and the discovery of prophecies relating to him, surely arose in retrospect after the passion and death of Jesus of Nazareth. There is no evidence that any first century Judaism expected such a figure, either in fulfillment of Isaiah 53 or on any other basis. The notion of a suffering and dying messiah eventually found a place in Judaism.” (3)

It was after the resurrection that Jesus said:

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Unfortunately, Jesus does not list any specific texts that say the Messiah will suffer and die. Also, Paul says the following: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15: 3-4). Once again, the problem with this passage is that Paul does not list what texts he is referring to in the Tanakh (the Old Testament). He is probably referring to the entire redemptive plan of the plan of the Old Testament. Or, given his use of Jesus as a sacrificial atonement (see Romans 3:25-26), he may be alluding to Isaiah 53. But if we just jump to Isaiah 53, that brings up the issue of whether Paul is using the LXX (THE Greek Septuagint).

The Targum and Isaiah 53

Remember the following:

  1. Targums are the Aramaic Translations of the Jewish Scriptures (The Tanakh), that were read in the synagogues on the Sabbath and on feast or fast days.
  2. Scholars usually assume the Targums were needed because the loss of Hebrew fluency by Jewish people growing up during the exile
  3. Targums are supposed to represent rabbinic Judaism after C.E. 70. Targums originated in Palestinian Judaism but later editions were done in Babylon.
  4. All of the extant Targums seem to date from 2nd century C.E. and later, yet a number of the translations would preserve readings that were current in the first century. (4)

Part of the passage reads this way (with italics indicating departures from the Hebrew): ( The translation is based on Bruce D. Chilton, The Isaiah Targum (ArBib 11;Wilmington: Glazier, 1987), 103–5. For Aramaic text and English translation, which at points differs somewhat, see John F. Stenning, The Targum of Isaiah (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1949), 178–81).

Behold, my servant, the Messiah, shall prosper, he shall be exalted and increase, and shall be very strong. Just as the house of Israel hoped for him many days—their appearances were so dark among the peoples, and their aspect beyond that of the sons of men—So he shall scatter many peoples . . . Who has believed this our good news? . . . And the righteous shall be exalted before him . . . his appearance is not a common appearance and his fearfulness is not an ordinary fearfulness, and his brilliance will be holy brilliance, that everyone who looks at him will consider him. Then the glory of all the kingdoms will be for contempt and cease; they will be faint and mournful, behold, as a man of sorrows and appointed for sicknesses . . . Then he will beseech concerning our sins and our iniquities for his sake will be forgiven; yet we were esteemed wounded, smitten before the Lord and afflicted. 5And he will build the sanctuary . . . (if) we attach ourselves to his words our sins will be forgiven to us. He beseeches, and he is answered, and before he opens his mouth he is accepted . . . 8From bonds and retribution he will bring our exiles near . . . for he will take away the rule of the Gentiles from the land of Israel; the sins which my people sinned he will cast on to them. 9And he will hand over the wicked to Gehenna and those rich in possessions which they robbed to the death of the corruption . . .53: 10Yet before the Lord it was a pleasure to refine and to cleanse the remnant of his people, in order to purify their soul from sins; they shall see the kingdom of their Messiah . . . .

Now let’s go back to this point: If the Targum was read this way, Craig Evans notes that this is what we should see if the Messiah has come and Israel is restored. 1. The exiles are brought home. 2. Atonement is made for the sin of the people.3.The oppressive nations are put in their place. 4. Israel is exalted and those who obey the Law will prosper, etc. (5)

But let’s get back to Collins and his comments about how a suffering Messiah shows up later in Jewish literature. The Shottenstein Talmud, a comprehensive Orthodox Jewish commentary states the following about Isaiah 53:

They [namely, those sitting with Messiah] were afflicted with tzaraas- as disease whose symptoms include discolored patches on the skin (see Leviticus ch. 13). The Messiah himself is likewise afflicted, as stated in Isaiah (53:4). Indeed, it was our diseases that he bore and our pains that he endured, whereas we considered him plagued (i.e. suffering tzaraas [see 98b, note 39], smitten by God and afflicted. This verse teaches that the diseases that the people ought to have suffered because of their sins are borne instead by the Messiah [with reference to the leading Rabbinic commentaries]. (6)

In the Zohar, which is the foundational book of Jewish mysticism, we see a text about the relationship between Isaiah 53 and atonement:

The children of the world are members of one another, and when the Holy One desires to give healing to the world, He smites one just man amongst them, and for his sakes heals the rest of the rest. Whence do we learn this? For the saying, ‘He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities’ [Isa. 53:5].i.e., by letting of his blood- as when a man bleeds his arm- there was healing for us-for all the members of the body. In general a just person is only smitten in order to procure healing and atonement for a whole generation.” (7)

Some anti- missionaries have complained about the use of the Zohar here. In the end, I think the critique only strengthens the case for what the Zohar says about the Suffering Messiah issue.

Solomon Schechter apeaks about the issue of a righteous person atoning for sin his book Aspects of Rabbinic Theology:

Atonement of suffering and death is not limited to the suffering person. The atoning death extends to all the generation. This is especially the case with such sufferers as cannot either by reason of their righteous life or by their youth possibly have merited the afflictions which have come upon them. The death of the righteous atones just as well as certain sacrifices [with reference to b.Mo’ed Qatan 28a].‘They are caught (suffer) for their sins of the generation.’ [b Shabbat 32b]. There are also applied to Moses the Scriptural words, ‘And he bore the sins of many’ (Isaiah 53), because of his offering himself as the atonement for Israel’s sin with the golden calf, being ready to sacrifice his very soul for Israel when he said. ‘And if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of my book (that is, from the Book of the Living), which thou hast written’ (Ex. 32) [b. Sotah 14a; b Berakhoth 32a). This readiness to sacrifice oneself for Israel is characteristic of all the great men of Israel, the patriarchs, and the Prophets citing in the same way, whilst also some Rabbis would, on certain occasions, exclaim, ‘Behold I am the atonement for Israel’ [Mekhilta 2a;m. Negaim 2:1]. (8)

And Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Berel Wein says regarding the sufferings of the Jews being a means of atonement:

“Another consideration tinged the Jewish response to the slaughter of its people. It was an old Jewish tradition dating back to Biblical times that the death of the righteous and innocent served as expiation for the sins the nation or the world. The stories of Isaac and of Nadav and Avihu, the prophetic description of Israel as the long-suffering servant of the Lord, the sacrificial service in the Temple – all served to reinforce this basic concept of the death of the righteous as an atonement for the sins of other men. Jews nurtured this classic idea of the death as an atonement, and this attitude towards their own tragedies was their constant companion throughout their turbulent exile. Therefore, the wholly bleak picture of unreasoning slaughter was somewhat relieved by the fact that the innocent did not die in vain and that the betterment of Israel and humankind somehow was advanced by their “stretching their neck to be slaughtered.” What is amazing is that this abstract, sophisticated, theological thought should have become so ingrained in the psyche of the people that even the least educated and most simplistic of Jews understood the lesson and acted upon it, giving up precious life in a soaring act of belief and affirmation of the better tomorrow. This spirit of the Jews is truly reflected in the historical chronicle of the time: “Would the Holy One, Blessed is he, dispense judgment without justice? But we may say that he whom God loves will be chastised. For since the day the Holy Temple was destroyed, the righteous are seized by death for the iniquities of the generation”–Berel Wein, The Triumph of Survival: The Story of the Jews in the Modern Era 1650-1990 (Brooklyn:Shaar, 1990), 14.

We also see a case for an atoning Messiah in the Prayer Book For Day of Atonement-The Musaf Prayer:

“Messiah our righteousness is departed from us: horror hath seized us, and we have no one to justify us. He hath borne the yoke of our iniquities and our transgression, and is wounded because of our transgressions. He beareth our sins on his shoulder, that He may find pardon for our iniquities. We shall be healed by his wounds, at the time the Eternal will create him (the Messiah) as a new creature. O bring up from the circle of the earth. Raise him up from Seir, to assemble us the second time on Mount Lebanon, By the hand of Yinnon.” -Written by Rabbi Eliezer Kalir around 7th century A.D (9)

Here are some more rabbinical sources:

Messiah of Justice [Meshiah Tsidenu], though we are Thy forebears. Thou are greater than we because Thou didst bear the burden of our children’s sins and our great opresssions have fallen upon Thee….Among the peoples of the world Thou didst bring only derision and mockery to Israel…Thy skin did shrink, and thy body did become dry as wood; Thine eyes were hollowed by fasting, and thy strength became like fragmented pottery –all that came to pass because of the sins of the children-Pesiqta Rabbati, Pisqa 37 (10)

The Messiah King …will offer is heart to implore mercy and longsuffering for Israel, weeping and suffering for Israel, weeping and suffering as it is written in Isaiah 53:5 “He was wounded for our transgressions,” etc: when the Israelites sin, he invokes upon them mercy,as it is written: “Upon him was that chastisement that made us whole, and likewise the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And this is what the Holy One—let him be blessed forever!—decreed in order to save Israel and rejoice with Israel on the day of the resurrection. (Bereshit Rabbati on Genesis 24:67) (11)

“Who are you, O great mountain?”…..This refers to the King Messiah. And why is He called “great mountain” Because He is greater than the patriarchs, as it is written in Isaiah 52:13 “Behold my Servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.” He will be more “exalted” than Abraham, more “extolled” than Moses and more “high” than the ministering angels. (Tanhuma on Genesis 27:30). (12)

Also, “The Rabbis said: His name is “the leper scholar,” as it is written, Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of God, and afflicted. [Isaiah 53:4].” – Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98b.

We must not forget Moses Maimonides;(1135-1204 A.D.) His systematic compilation of the Jewish law is known as the Mishne Torah, and is the standard legal text for Judaism to this day. Note: He didn’t think for one bit that Jesus was the Messiah. He says:

What is to be the manner of Messiah’s advent, and where will be the place of his appearance? . . . And Isaiah speaks similarly of the time when he will appear, without his father or mother of family being known, He came up as a sucker before him, and as a root out of the dry earth, etc. But the unique phenomenon attending his manifestation is, that all the kings of the earth will be thrown into terror at the fame of him — their kingdoms will be in consternation, and they themselves will be devising whether to oppose him with arms, or to adopt some different course, confessing, in fact, their inability to contend with him or ignore his presence, and so confounded at the wonders which they will see him work, that they will lay their hands upon their mouth; in the words of Isaiah, when describing the manner in which the kings will hearken to him, At him kings will shut their mouth; for that which had not been told them have they seen, and that which they had not heard they have perceived.” (13)

Messiah Ben Joseph and Messiah ben David

Much of modern Judaism knows the the traditional view of Messiah ben David who is a descendant of David and of the tribe of Judah. But there is another messianic view in Judaism that speaks of Messiah ben Yossef who is also referred to as Mashiach ben Ephrayim, the descendant of Ephrayim. This figure 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 it’s 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. (14)

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 ben David if the spiritual condition of Israel is up to par. 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). (15)

The Rejection of a Dying Messiah

Despite the fact that there is a case for a suffering Messiah in some of the Jewish literature that post dates the New Testament, I should note that the apologetic work called Dialogue with Trypho the Jew demonstrates the challenge of a dying Messiah. Justin Martyr, the Palestinian Christian who in his mature years taught and wrote in Rome, tries to make the case that Jesus’ Spirit empowered ministry fulfills Scripture at many points and offers proof that he really is Israel’s Messiah to Trypho the Jew. But Trypho is not persuaded by this argument. In one part of this work, He replies:

It has indeed been proved sufficiently by your Scriptural quotations that it was predicted in the Scriptures that Christ should suffer…But what we want you to prove to us is that he was to be crucified and be subjected to so disgraceful and shameful death…. We find it impossible to think this could be so. (16)

Furthermore, let’s look at some other quotes about the failure of Jesus to meet the messianic credentials. This is seen in the following statements by the following rabbis:

Jesus mistake was that he thought he would be the Messiah, but when he was hanged his thought was annulled.” (R. Shimon ben Tzemah Duran (1361-1444).

We are obligated to believe that a Jewish man will come who will begin to save Israel and will complete the salvation of Israel in that generation. One who completes the task is the one, while the one who does not complete it in that generation but dies or is broken or is taken captive (Exod 22:9) is not the one and was not sent by God.” (R. Phinehas Elijah Hurwtiz of Vilna (1765-1821), Sefer haberit hashalem (Jerusalem, 1990), 521. (17)

Why the rejection of a dying Messiah?

The New Testament writers expanded on the theme in Deuteronomy 21:22-23 to include persons who had been crucified. A quick glance at Paul’s statement in Gal 3:13 confirm this: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE.” Therefore, to say that crucifixion was portrayed in a negative light within Judaism within the first century is an understatement. In other words, anyone who was crucified was assumed not be the Anointed One of God. In the context of the covenant of Israel, the Near Eastern pattern was of both blessing and curse.

The blessing is for those who obey the stipulations of the covenant while the curse is upon those who violate the stipulations. Deuteronomy 27:6 says “ Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.” We see this in the following passage: If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all the commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God. (Deut. 28:1-2) For a Jewish person to be blessed was to being the presence of God and enjoy his presence and all the benefits that this entailed. The blessing was to experience God’s shalom in one’s life. In contrast to blessing, to be cursed was to be outside the presence of God. To be declared “unclean” or defiled meant was an offense to the Jewish people.

Note: To see our series on Isaiah 52-53, see here:

Sources:

1.Mark S. Kinzer, A Vision for Messianic Jewish Covenant Fidelity (Eugene,OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers), 108-109.

2. John Collins, Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature, (New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 2007), 124.

3. Ibid, 126.

4. John Rolling, The Jewish Targums and John’s Logos Theology (Peabody Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010), 9-10

5. Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser, The Gospel According to Isaiah 53: Encounering The Suffering Servant in Jewish and Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Kregal Publications, 2012), 145-170.

6. Michael Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 2. (Grand Rapids MI: Baker Books. 2000),157.

7. Driver and Neubauer, Zohar, Numbers, Pinchus 2181 (English Translation), 15.

8. Prayer Book for the Day of Atonement (New York; Hebrew Publishing Company, 1931), 239.

9. Solomon Schechter, Aspects of Rabbinic Theology. London: 1909. Reprint. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 1994, 310-311.

10. Jacques Doukham, One The Way to Emmaus: Five Major Messiainc Prophecies Explained (Clarksville, MD: Lederer Books, 2012), 136-137.

11.Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. The Fifty Third Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreters (New York: Ktav Publishing House, In. 1969), 5.

14. 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.

15. Ibid.

16. Saint Justin Martyr, The Fathers of the Church, trans. Thomas B. Falls (New York: Christian Heritage, Inc., 1949) pg, 208, 291.

17. David Berger, The Rebbe, The Messiah And The Scandal Of Orthodox Difference,(Portland: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. 2001), 21.

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“Why Do People Matter?”

As you probably have noticed, human beings spend their entire lives fighting for what they consider to be inequality, justice and human rights. But, why do humans matter so much if all of reality is reducible to matter, chance, and the laws of nature? Biological reductionism, metaphysical materialism, and psychological behaviorism say that impersonal, physical, and valueless processes cause valuable, rights-bearing persons to be.

Humans, therefore, can assign value to fellow humans by sheer choice. However, this assignment of value to human life is subjective, not objective. Assigning value to people based on personal choice leads us to ask, “What if someone doesn’t think a group of people are valuable?” Rights, it seems, are linked to personhood. The Bible, for example, says that humans are made in the likeness and image of God, and that they are therefore intrinsically valuable. Rights come by virtue of who human beings are by nature, as opposed to function, productivity, or ‘usefulness. One thing is for sure: the concern over such a topic demonstrates that people live as if they care about justice, equality, and human rights. But to atheist and skeptics, why do humans matter so much and why would they be outraged over all the mistreatment of their fellow humans? Why fight so hard for humans?

There are five options other than grounding human value in anything other than a view that  humans are made in the likeness and image of God, and that they are therefore intrinsically valuable. Rights come by virtue of who human beings are by nature, as opposed to function, productivity, or ‘usefulness. Here they are:

First option: Peter Singer and others describe any attempt to see humans as more significant than any other part of the animal world as arrogant speciesism (the view that one’s own species is the superior one).

A second option is some form of rationalist autonomy, in which one of the properties that make humans significant is the use of reason—specifically people’s capacity to set ends for themselves.

A third option is to see human significance as somehow grounded in an evolutionary framework through adaptability and survival, though humans’ place at the top of the evolutionary ladder could well be temporary. This outlook opens the door to a view that is the subject of transhumanism (the view that it might be possible for human beings to surpass their humanity and become something different than merely human).

A fourth option is a type of naturalistic Platonism, which recognizes that some necessary things about human beings are built into the structure of the world but does not necessarily acknowledge that there is a designer who placed them there.

A final option, which moves toward the discussion of postmodern individualism addressed in the previous chapter, would be to see the grounding for human significance collapse into some form of subjectivism. In this outlook, significance is a matter of personal preference or is conferred by some external authority such as the state.

See Why People Matter: A Christian Engagement with Rival Views of Human Significance, John F. Kilner, Russell DiSilvestro, David Gushee, Amy Hall, John Kilner, Gilbert Meilaender, and Patrick Smith.

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A Look at Messianic Prophecy: Four Ways the New Testament Authors Use the Jewish Scriptures

Note: Some of this was adopted from the recommended readings here:

1.Fruchtenbaum, A.G, Messianic Christology: A Study of Old Testament Prophecy Concerning the First Coming of the Messiah (Tustin CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998), 146-152.

2. Cooper, David L. Messiah: His Historical Appearance (Los Angeles; Biblical Research Society, 1933), 174-177.

Other recommeded readings:

1.G. K. Beale, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation

2. Craig Evans, Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature

Introduction

When I was a new Christian I remember reading books on Christian Apologetics. In many cases these books would say there are over 300 so- called prophecies in the Hebrew Bible which were all fulfilled by Jesus. The problem was that the majority of these books explained very little about the hermeneutical methods of the New Testament authors. Much has been written on this topic. Richard Longenecker’s Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period is one source that covers this topic. The Messianic Hope. Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? is a more current resource.

Starting Points:

We need to understand the context of first century Judaism. Remember, the Holy Spirit superintended the biblical writers while not violating the writer’s personality, style of writing, or vocabulary. Hence, the Holy Spirit’s practice of not overwhelming the writer’s background explains why the New Testament authors used several ways of quoting the Hebrew Bible that were similar to the rabbinical methods of the Second Temple period.

Four Ways the New Testament Authors Used The Old Testament In Regards to Messianic Prophecy

Direct Fulfillment/Predictive Prophecy/Literal Prophecy Plus Literal fulfillment:

In this case, the NT author wants to show something happened in the life of Jesus or in the lives of his followers is a fulfillment of a direct verbal prophecy from an OT passage. Sometimes there is an introductory fulfillment of various types (e.g., ‘that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled” or “it is written”). In other cases we don’t see any introductory formula.

Examples:

Matthew 2:5-6: Matthew quotes Micah 5:2 about Jesus being born in Bethlehem. We see that in the original context of Micah 5:2, the prophet is speaking prophetically and says that whenever the Messiah is born, He will be born in Bethlehem of Judah. Thus the literal meaning of Micah is that the Messiah will be born in the Bethlehem of Judah and not the Bethlehem of Galilee.

Other examples: Other prophecies that fall into this category include:

o Psalm 22 (describing the death of the Messiah).
o Psalm 110:1 (the Messiah will be seated; on the right hand of God).
o Isaiah 7:14 (the virgin birth); 40:3 (the forerunner of the Messiah); 52:13-53:12 (the rejection, atoning death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah). 61:1-2a (the prophetic ministry of the Messiah).
o Zechariah 9:9 (the ride into Jerusalem on a donkey); Zechariah 11:4-14 (Messiah will be sold out for thirty pieces of silver).
o Malachi 3:1 (the forerunner of the Messiah); etc.
o Remember: some of the direct prophecies used in the New Testament only refer to the first appearance of the Messiah.

Literal Plus Typical (Typology):

1. Passages which interpret their present experience in terms of a person, event, place, rite, etc, from the historical past. These events that were ‘set up’ typologically in an earlier, predictive passage, and interpreted so after the predicted event occurred.

An Example: Matthew 2:15 which quotes Hosea 11

The context of the Hosea passage is not even a prophecy but refers to an historical event, that of Exodus 4:22-23 which refers to Israel as the national son of God. Thus, according to Hosea, when God brought Israel out of Egypt, He divinely called His son out of Egypt. Pro-Judaic hermeneutics. The literal meaning of the Hosea passage refers to the Exodus under Moses. There is nothing in the New Testament that can change or reinterpret the meaning of the Hosea passage nor does the New Testament deny that a literal exodus of Israel out of Egypt actually occurred. The literal event in the Tanakh becomes a type of a New Testament event. In Matthew, an individual Son of God, the Messiah, is also divinely called out of Egypt. Remember, the passage is not quoted as a fulfillment of prophecy since it was not a prophecy to begin with. Rather, it is quoted as a type.

Other Examples Include:

Isaiah 29:13 (Israel has become religious only in the outward sense, obeying man-made commandments while ignoring the divine commandments) quoted in Matthew 15:7-9. Israel becomes a type of the Pharisees and their traditions which made them very religious. They were religious based upon man-made traditions while actively disobeying divine law such as honoring father and mother). Isaiah 6:10 (speaks of Isaiah’s ministry that will be largely rejected) quoted in John 12:39-40 (Isaiah’s ministry becomes a type of Messiah’s ministry which was also largely rejected). Psalm 118:22-23 (the rejected stone) quoted in Matthew 21:42 (a type of the rejection of the Messianic stone that becomes a stone of stumbling). Exodus 12:46 (prohibition against breaking any bone of the Passover lamb) quoted in John 19:36 (that prohibition is now a type for not breaking the bones of the Passover Lamb of God).

Literal Plus Application:

An Example: Matthew 2:17-18 which quotes Jeremiah 31:15.

In the original context, Jeremiah was not prophesying of an event in the far future, as was the case with Micah, or dealing with an event that was long history as was the case with Hosea.

Jeremiah was prophesying about a current event happening in his own time, the beginnings of the Babylonian Captivity. As the Jewish young men were being taken into captivity, they went by the town of Ramah, a town not far from where Rachel was buried. Rachel had become the symbol of Jewish motherhood. As the young men were marched toward Babylon, the Jewish mothers of Ramah came out weeping for sons they would never see again. Jeremiah pictured the scene as Rachel weeping for her children. This is the literal meaning of the Jeremiah passage.

The event is quoted as an application. The one point of similarity here is that once again there are Jewish mothers weeping for sons they will never see again. The Jeremiah event happened in Ramah, north of Jerusalem; the Matthew event happened in Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem. In the Matthew passage, the sons are killed; in the Jeremiah passage, the sons are not killed but taken into captivity.

The literal meaning of the Jeremiah passage is dealing with the Babylonian Captivity. But by means of drash, (Matthew investigates and finds, the meaning deduced by investigation), the verse is quoted as an application because of one point of similarity. Another example: Acts 2:16-21: Joel 2:28-32: Just as Israel’s national salvation will be when The Holy Spirit will be poured out on all Israel, there is one point of similarity in that there was an outpouring of the Spirit in Peter’s day.

Perhaps an English expression will help explain this: “He met his Waterloo.” The expression points to an historical event which had to do with Napoleon’s imperial ambitions which collapsed at Waterloo. Because of one point of similarity, we use this story as one point of similarity when we express the ambitions of someone whose ambitions were suddenly destroyed by some climatic event in their life.

Other Examples of Literal Plus Application:

An example is Isaiah 53:4 (where Isaiah is speaking of the spiritual healing of Israel as a nation from their sins by means of the blood atonement of the Messiah) in Matthew 8:17 (applied to the physical healing of Jewish individuals by Jesus). The point of similarity is the healing by the Messiah. Isaiah deals with the spiritual healing of the Jewish nation resulting from Messiah’s atonement; Matthew describes the physical healing of Jewish individuals at a point of time when Jesus had not yet died and therefore no atonement had yet been made. Isaiah 6:9-10: (which describes the nature of Isaiah’s ministry) quoted in Matthew 13:14-15 (which applies to the ministry of Jesus). The point of similarity is that both speak in a way the unbelieving Jewish audience will not be able to understand.

Summation

Summation is not based on a single passage of Scripture nor a quotation of any specific scripture. It tended to summarize what the Scriptures said on a subject. Example: Matthew 2:23: “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophets, that he should be called a Nazarene.” There is no such actual statement anywhere in the Hebrew Bible. While many try to make a reference to Isaiah 11:1, the only point of similarity is the sound of netzer, but that passage is not dealing with a town called Nazareth. Matthew is not quoting a specific statement but is summarizing what the Hebrew Bible said. The Prophets did teach that the Messiah would be a despised and rejected individual (Isaiah 49:1-13; 52:13-53:12), and this was well summarized by the term Nazarene.

What was a Nazarene? In the first century, Nazarenes were despised and rejected people (see John 1:45-46). Nathaniel’s question “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” reflects the people’s low opinion of Nazarenes. Nazareth was viewed as a poor, despised village. Another example is Luke 18:31-33: Jesus said he must fulfill all the things written in the prophets (plural). That includes the following: going to Jerusalem, the Jews turning him over to the gentiles who will mock him, spit on him, scourge him, and kill him, and also rising again on the third day. Here again, no one prophet ever said all this. However, putting the prophets together, they did say all this. Therefore, this is a summation of what the prophets said about the Messiah but not a direct quotation. Ezra 9:10-12 is an example of same thing: In this passage, his quotation can’t be found anywhere in the Hebrew Bible. Rather, he is summarizing the teachings found in Deut. 11:8-9; Isa. 1:19; Ezek. 37:25.

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