Why Should a Christian Care About Hanukkah?

What does Hanukkah have to do with the average Christian? Besides the Feast if Dedication is the background of John 10, every Jewish person who celebrates Hanukkah is familiar with the stories of the Maccabean martyrs. The books of 2 and 4 Maccabees record that God judged the Jewish through Antiochus Epiphanes IV because of the nation’s religious apostasy (cf. 1 Maccabees 1; 2 Macc 7:32).2 Maccabees 7 details Antiochus Epiphanes’ graphic torture and execution of seven Jewish brothers and their mother for their refusal to eat pork.

Over the years 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 so 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.  However, 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).

But some might ask how could any Jewish person believe in an atoning Messiah such as Jesus.

The story of the Maccabean martyrs can help shed some light in this issue. 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). If you read about the Maccabean martyrs, while there is some difference between their deaths and Jesus, some of the features of their deaths sound similar to what Jesus did:

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?

  1. 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).
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.”
  6. 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.”
  7. 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.
  8. 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.”
  9. 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).

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The Jewish Background of the Incarnation in The Gospel of John

In the introduction of his book called The Case For The Real Jesus, author and apologist Lee Strobel comments that a basic search for Jesus at Amazon.com will produce 175, 986 books on the most controversial figure in human history.1 Opinions about Jesus can range from him being a social revolutionary, an eschatological prophet, a social reformer, a source of a higher power, or even an enlightened being.2 For the Orthodox Christian, Jesus is God incarnate. For the unbelieving Jewish person, Jesus is simply another failed Messiah in the history of Judaism. And for the Muslim, Jesus is regarded as a prophet, but is certainly not God in human flesh.

Furthermore, for some in the Jewish community as well as liberal theologians, the Orthodox Christian claim of Jesus as the incarnate Word of God is the product of the Hellenization or the “Gentilization of Christianity.”3 As church historian Adolph von Harnack said, “The Christological dogma is a product of the spirit of Hellenism on the soil of the Gospel.” 4

So who is Jesus? For the Christian, the doctrine of the incarnation affords its founder (Jesus), to stand apart from any other founder of a world religion.

The following questions need to be asked: (1) Is the doctrine of the incarnation the result of the Hellenization or the Gentilization of Christianity? (2) How can the apologist utilize one of the most Christological passages in the New Testament (John 1:1-3) to demonstrate that Jesus is the incarnate Word of God? (3) What role does Jewish categories such as “Wisdom,” “Word,” and “Shechinah,” play in communicating Jesus as the incarnate Word of God?

A Divine Messiah?

Moses Maimonides (1138- 1204), was a medival Jewish philosopher whose 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.5 Therefore, God is Eternal, above time, Infinite, and beyond space. Maimonides also stated that God cannot be born, and cannot die.6 For Maimonides, the Messiah will be born of human parents, nor be a demi-god who possess supernatural qualities.7 In his famous apologetic work Dialogue with Trypho, Justin Matyr is given a response to whether there is even a Messiah-confession that relates to faith in the incarnation. Trypho the Jew says the following about this issue:

Those who affirm Him [Jesus] to have been a man, and to have been anointed by election, and then to have become Christ, appear to speak more plausibly than you [Christians] who hold to those opinions which you express. For we [Jews] all except that Christ will be a man [born] of men, and that Elijah, when he comes, will anoint him. But if this man appears to be Christ, he must certainly be known as man [born] of men (Dial. 49:1,emp. added). 8

Wisdom Christology

Within Judaism, the description of divine attributes as personified beings is a feature of ancient Jewish language. In relation to descriptions of these divine attributes, Wisdom is the most prominent example.9 First century Jews were strongly monotheistic, so to them, the figure of Wisdom was not a second God. Wisdom is described not only as a personification of God, but as a separate person from God.10

One passage in the New Testament that plays a pivotal role to the deity of Jesus is John 1: 1-3, “In the beginning wasthe Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” The theme of incarnate Word of God is displayed in other New Testament Scriptures such as 1 Cor. 8:6; Col.1:15-17; Heb.1:2-3; Rev.3:14). The point of these Christological passages is that God created the world through Jesus and by Jesus.11 Scholars who specialize in Christology have labored to find an explanation for pre-existence in Judaism that can form the background for Christology.

Therefore, the question becomes which thing or person-which X-is playing an imperative role in Judaism in statements such as “God created the world through X,” then the answer can be explained by glancing at the Jewish writings of the Second Temple period; the only explanation for such an X is the Wisdom of God.12 For example, some of the Scriptures speaking of the Wisdom of God are seen in Prov. 3:19, “The LORD by wisdom founded the earth, By understanding He established the heavens,” as well as in Prov. 8:29-30, “When He set for the sea its boundary so that the water would not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth; then I was beside Him, as a master workman.” 13

During the Intertestamental period, a Jewish person who was trying to keep the commandments that had been prescribed within the Torah would be considered somewhat odd.14 Therefore, the concept of Wisdom became increasingly important because of the challenge of Hellenism. This was one of the tensions that were on the hearts of the authors who penned The Book of Sirach, The Wisdom of Solomon, and The Book of Wisdom.15 Written during the period between the Old and New Testaments, they provide a valuable background for the importance of Wisdom in the New Testament. As just stated, Prov.3:19; 8:29-30 stress the importance of the Wisdom of God in the mediatorship in creation. There are several passages in the Johannine prologue that demonstrate the author was familiar with the Wisdom literature:

John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Wisdom of Solomon 9:9: With you (God) is Wisdom, who knows your works and was present when you made the world.

John 1:4: In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

Proverbs 8:35: For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD.

John 1:11: He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

1 Enoch 42:2: Wisdom went forth to make her dwelling among the children of men, and found no dwelling place.16

Wisdom and Torah

The role of Wisdom and Torah plays an imperative role in the ongoing Jewish-Christian dialogue. But is there any possibility that Christianity and Judaism can find common ground? According to the immanent Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner, there is an irreconcilable division between both faiths. As Neusner says:

Judaisms and Christianities never meet anywhere. That is because at no point to Judaism, defined by Torah, and Christianity defined by the Bible, intersect. The Torah and the Bible from two utterly distinct statements of the knowledge of God. The Torah defines Judaism-all Judaism’s- and the Bible defines Christianities- all Christianities. The difference between Torah and the Bible cannot be negotiated, and those shaped by the one can never know God as do those educated by the other. That is why faithful Judaism can never concede to the truth of Christianity; at its foundations it rests on a basis other than the Torah of Sinai. 17

Given Neusner’s credibility in both Jewish and Christian scholarship, his comments should not be discarded. However, just as there are passages in the Intertestamental literature and the book of Proverbs about the personification of wisdom as an associate in the creation process, there are also passages that speak about the identification of Wisdom and the Torah. The Torah being seen as preexistent is also seen as an agent of creation. In Midrash Rabbah on Genesis 1:1, it says:

The Torah declares: “I was the working tool of the Holy One blessed be He” [cf. Prov. 8:29 “I was with him as a master worker” (Hebrew, amon)]. In human practice when a mortal king builds a place, he builds it not with his own skill but with the skill of an architect. The architect moreover does not build it out of his head, but employs plans and diagrams to know how to arrange the chambers and the wicket doors. Thus God consulted the Torah and created the world, while the Torah declares, “By ‘The Beginning’ God created” [Gen 1:1], “The Beginning” referring to the Torah, as in the verse, “The Lord made me The Beginning of His way” [Prov. 8:22]. 18

In relation to the Torah and Jesus, it is also significant to note the following comment by New Testament scholar Oskar Skarsaune:

The Word became flesh and tabernacles among us” (John1;14, authors translation). In the Wisdom poem of Sirach 24, Wisdom becomes incarnate as the Torah given at Sinai-and at the very center of the Torah is the sacrificial service of the tabernacle temple). That is probably the meaning when Wisdom is said to make priestly service in the holy tent on Zion (Sirach 24:10). If Jesus was incarnate, this could make us understand that he not only taught the way of life, but that he had to be the true high priest, bringing the final sacrifice doing the final priestly service in “the holy tent.” At the very center of the Mosaic Torah are atoning sacrifices. Jesus, the Torah in person, atoned with his own blood. We see this in the Holy of Holies imagery in Romans 3;25. Hebrews also links the Wisdom Christology to the theme of Jesus as the high priest in chapters 5-11.19

The Word/The Memra

In the Hebrew Bible, the “Word” is discussed in a manner that takes on an independent existence of its own. As seen in John 1:1-2, the “Word” has a unique relationship with God; all things were made through Him. In this passage, John is emphasizing that the Word is with God and yet God at the same time. Paul taught a similar theme in 1 Cor. 8:6 when he says “For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.”

There are other New Testament passages that communicate that the Word is Messiah Himself (Eph.3:17 and Col. 3:16; 1 Pet.1:3; John.8:31; 15:17). Furthermore, there are also other passages in the Hebrew Bible that speak of the significance of the Word such as Ps. 33:6,“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,” while in Ps.107:20 the divine word is sent on a mission: “He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.” But why is the Christological title “Word” so significant in relation to Jewish monotheism in the first century?

In Judaism, one of the most common themes was that God was “untouchable,” or totally transcendent. Therefore, there had to be a way to describe a connection between God and his creation.20 Within Rabbinic thought, the way to provide the connection or link between God and his creation was what was called “The Word” or in Aramaic, the “Memra.” 21 The Targums, which were paraphrases of the Hebrew Scriptures play a significant role in how to understand the Memra. Since some Jewish people no longer spoke and understood Hebrew but grew up speaking Aramaic, they could only follow along in a public reading if they read from a Targum.

The Aramic Targums employed the term “Memra” that translates into Greek as “Logos.”22 While John’s concept of the Logos is of a personal being (Christ), the Greeks thought of it as an impersonal rational principle. A good way to try to understand the term “Memra,” is to see what a passage in Genesis would have sounded like to a Jewish person hearing the public reading of a Targum. In Gen.3:8, most people who would have heard the Hebrew would have understood it as “And they heard the sound of the Word of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden.”23 Therefore, it was not the Lord who was walking in the garden, it was the Memra’ (Word) of the Lord. The Word was not just an “it”; this Word was a him.”24

The Shechinah Glory

In the Bible, the Shechinah is the visible manifestation of the presence of God in which He descends to dwell among men. While the Hebrew form of the glory of the Lord isKvod Adonai, the Greek title is Doxa Kurion.25 The Hebrew form Schechinah, from the root “shachan,” means “dwelling” while the Greek word “Skeinei” means to tabernacle.26 The Shechinah glory is seen in a variety of visible manifestations such as light, fire, a cloud, the Angel of the Lord, or a combination of all of these.

For the Jewish people, the ultimate manifestation of the Shechinah was seen in the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai (Ex.19:16-20). Therefore, in relation to the incarnation, the Shechinah takes on greater significance in John 1: 1-14. As John says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” “Dwelt” ( σκήνωμα), means to “live or camp in a tent” or figuratively in the NT to”dwell, take up one’s residence, come to reside (among).”   As already stated, the Greek word “Skeinei” means to tabernacle. John 1:14 literally says,” the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.”

Conclusion

The identity of Jesus  continues to be a stumbling block for people for people who come from a variety of religious and spiritual backgrounds. However, Jewish categories such as “Word,” and “Wisdom,” and “Shechinah” lend credence to the truth of an incarnate Messiah who came into the world to redeem mankind. In a televised interview, the late Orthodox Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide said the following:

“I used to think the becoming incarnate was impossible for God. But recently I have come to the conclusion that it is un-Jewish to say that this is something that the God of the Bible cannot do, that he cannot come that close I have second thoughts about the incarnation.”27

Hopefully, Lapide came to realize that Jesus  was and is the incarnate Word of God. And for that matter, may the Christian community provoke Israel to jealousy (Rom 11.11), by demonstrating the fact that the Jewish Messiah is not the product of the Hellenization of Christianity.


1 Lee Srobel. The Case For The Real Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2007), 10-11.

2 Ibid.

3 The first followers of Jesus were exclusively Jews. The book of Acts gives a reference to the early followers of Jesus as “the sect of Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5). However, it is asserted that as the Christian faith spread, it became a predominately Gentile based religion. By the time of Jesus, Jews had encountered the impact of Hellenistic culture for three hundred years. The word “Hellenistic” was given to describe the period of history that started with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. and ended when Rome conquered Alexander’s empire in 30 B.C .It is also safe to say that several forms of Jewish culture during the Roman period were somewhat Hellenized. This is why it is often argued that the incarnation grew out of Hellenistic presuppositions. For more on this issue, see Ronald Nash. The Gospel and the Greeks (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.1992) and Adam H.Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed. The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Minneapolis, MINN: Fortress Press. 2007).

4 Oskar Skarsaune. In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity.(Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 322.

5 Rabbi Shraga Simmons.“Jesus as the Messiah,”http://judaism.about.com/library/3_askrabbi_o/bl_simmons_messiah3.htm/1999{accessed March 10, 2009}.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Oscar Skarsaune. Incarnation: Myth or Fact? (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House 1991), 14. Justin Matyr (100-165) was a Platonist but later converted to a Christian as an adult. Justin was turned over to the authorities and killed with some of his friends about A.D. 165 because of his outspoken Christian faith. Matyr, as an early Christian apologist wrote one of his most famous works called: Dialogue with Trypho (ca A.D 160) which was a recapitulation of a conversation which no doubt took place. Trypho, a Jew discusses with Justin whether Jesus is the Messiah and the continuing obligation of the Law.

9 Richard Burridge and Graham Gould. Jesus: Then And Now (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing House. 2004), 71-72.

10 Ibid.

11 Oskar Skarsaune. In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity.(Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 320-337.

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid.

14 Oscar Skarsaune, Incarnation: Myth or Fact? (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House 1991), 31. The intertestamental period is term that Protestant Christians use to refer to a period of prophetic “silence” between the Old and New Testaments.

15 The Book of Wisdom or Wisdom of Solomon or simply Wisdom is part of the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha are the seven books (Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus [also called ben Sira or Wisdom of Ben Sirach], Baruch, and 1 and 2 Maccabees) are included in the Septuagint (Greek) and Vulgate (Latin) versions of the Bible but are not found in the Hebrew or Protestant canons.

16 1 Enoch is part of the Pseudepigrapha which is written 200 BC to 200 AD. These works are not in the Hebrew or Protestant Bibles. Enoch is quoted in Jude 1:14-15 and by many of the early Church Fathers.

17 Paul Copan and Craig A.Evans, Who was Jesus? A Jewish-Christian Dialogue.

(Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 2001), 125.

18 Oskar Skarsaune. In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity.(Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 329. Midrash comes form the Hebrew root ‘darash’, meaning to search or investigate. Midrash attempts, through minute examination and interpretation of the Tanach, to bring out the deeper or ethical meaning of the text. There are many different collections of Midrash. The largest collection is called Midrash Rabbah (The Great Midrash), which consists of a number of volumes. Midrash Rabbah contains volumes on the Chumash (Five Books of Moses) and the Hamesh Megillot (Five Scrolls, from Ketuvim). The Hebrew word for “law” is Torah. Torah means “direction, guidance, instruction.” There are 613 of the commandments in the Torah, which were decreed for the Jewish people.

19 Ibid, 337.

20 Michael Brown, Theological Objections, vol 2 of Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus(Grand Rapids MI: Baker Books, 2000), 18.

21 Ibid, 17-23.

22 Ibid.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid.

25 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah: A Study of Prophetic Events(Tustin CA: Ariel Press, 1977), 409-432.

26 Ibid.

27 Oscar Skarsaune, In The Shadow of the Te

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Dr. Michael Strauss Lecture: Do Scientific Discoveries Point to the Existence of God?

On Nov 8th, 2017, our Ratio Christi Student Apologetics Alliance chapter at The Ohio State University had the privilege of hosting physicist Dr. Michael Strauss from The University of Oklahoma speak on the relationship between scientific discoveries and the existence of God. Dr. Strauss also addresses some of the contemporary objections to arguments such as the fine tuning argument and Big Bang cosmology. Enjoy!

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Suggested Reading and Resources for the Study of Messianic Prophecy

“The prophecies are the strongest proof of Jesus Christ.
It is for them also that God has made most provision….”
~ Blaise Pascal (1660) in Pensees, XI: 706
“The main point of contention between Judaism and Christianity on the issue of the Messiah is whether Jesus satisfies the criteria accepted by the rabbinic tradition. From the Christian point of view, Jesus fulfills the predictions about the Messiah in the prophetic writings. From the Jewish point of view, the Christians misread the prophecies, some of which refer to past events while others describe the future in metaphorical terms. The major Jewish objection to Christianity is that Judaism regards the Messiah as a human being, and the Christian deification of a person constitutes idolatry. Moreover, since none of the events predicted for the messianic era have come true, Jews cannot accept the Christian claim that the world has been redeemed or that the Messiah has come”-What Do Jews Believe?: The Spiritual Foundations of Judaism by David S. Ariel

INTRODUCTORY ONLINE VIDEOS

  1. “16 Prophecies That Prove Jesus Is The Messiah” (8-Part series on the John Ankerberg Show featuring Dr. Walter Kaiser and Dr. Darrel Bock): “Is Jesus the Messiah?” *

    This is a great series for someone who really wants to get an in-depth understanding of the most important prophecies. I highly recommend it. It is hard to imagine a better team of scholars for this subject. FREE!

  2. “My Search For Messiah” (2-Part Series produced by Day of Discovery). Dr. Michael Rydelnik shares his story of how he grew up as a Jew and came to know that Jesus is the Messiah prophesied in the Torah, by looking closely at several key messianic prophecies. *Part I (26 min);  *Part II (26 min) FREE!
  3. “In Search of Messiah” (22 min). Dr. Michael Brown discusses individuals whom the Jews have claimed to be the Messiah and compare them with Jesus. FREE!
  4. “Isaiah 53: Who Is the Servant?” (5 min). A roundtable discussoin with Dr. Michael Rydelnik, Dr. Michael Brown, Dr. Walter Kaiser, and Dr. Darrell Bock. FREE!

ARTICLES

  1. Cooper, Brad. “Messianic Prophecy: An Overview” FREE!
  2. Cooper, Brad. “Did The Early Church Invent The Prophecies That Show That Jesus Is The Messiah?” FREE!


BOOKS

  1. Ankerberg, John, Walter Kaiser and John Weldon. The Case for Jesus the Messiah. ATRI Publishing, 2014. 
  2. Baylis, Albert H. From Creation to the Cross. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996. Previously published by Multnomah Press (1986) under the title On the Way to Jesus.
  3. Beale, G.K. Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012. 
  4. Brown, Michael L. Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus (Volume 1). San Francisco: Purple Pomegranate Productions, 2010.
  5. Eastman, Mark and Chuck Smith. The Search for Messiah. Costa Mesa, California: The Word For Today, 1996.Available to read FREE online. 
  6. Fruchtenbaum, A.G. Messianic Christology: A Study of Old Testament Prophecy Concerning the First Coming of the Messiah. Tustin CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998.
  7. Frydland, R. What the Rabbis Know About the Messiah: A Study of Genealogy and Prophecy. Cincinnati: Messianic Jewish Resources International, 2002.
  8. Kaiser, Jr., Walter C. Mission in the Old Testament: Israel as a Light to the Nations. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2000.
  9. Lockyer, Herbert. All the Messianic Prophecies of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973.
  10. Newman, Robert C., ed. The Evidence of Prophecy. Hatfield, Pennsylvania: Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, 1990. Chapters 9-11 deal with Messianic prophecy. Chapter 9 gives an overview of messianic expectation in ancient Judaism and then compares the New Testament model of messianic interpretation with other ancient Jewish interpretations. Chapter 10 looks at the timing of Messiah’s coming as given in Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy “sevens” (9:24-27). The “sevens” are interpreted as Sabbath-year cycles. I found this treatment to be much more satisfying than the “prophetic year” approach. And chapter 11 examines Isaiah 53. An excellent synopsis of the passage is given and then it is shown that neither Israel nor other proposals fit this prophecy but Jesus does. (Chapter 2 compares Biblical prophecy with pagan prophecy. Chapters 3-5 focus on the prophecies of the destruction of Tyre, the conquest of Palestine, and the fall of Ninevah. And chapters 6-8 deal with prophecies related to the history of Israel.)
  11. Strobel, Lee. The Case for the Real Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007. Challenge #5 (p.189ff) of Strobel’s book includes an excellent interview with Dr. Michael Brown. This would be a good place for anyone to start in their investigation of Messianic prophecy, and there is plenty of insight here for even someone who is more advanced in their understanding of Messianic prophecy.
  12. Walvoord, John F. The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1990. The main benefit of this book is that the Appendices list every prophecy of the Bible, including the reference of the prediction and the reference/info of its fulfillment. (These appendices are 122 pages of 3-column format. And as a bonus for our purposes, all of the messianic prophecies are noted with an asterisk.) This book was re-published by David C. Cook in 2011 under the title Every Prophecy in the Bible.
  13. Webster, William. Behold Your King: Prophetic Proofs That Jesus Is The Messiah. Battle Ground, WA: Christian Resources, 2003.
  14. Wright, Christopher. The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

INTERMEDIATEONLINE COURSES
Goldberg, Louis. “Messianic Prophecy” (nearly 12 hours) FREE!


BOOKS
(You would also benefit from a knowledge of Biblical Hebrew/Greek.)

  1. Beale, Gregory K. and Donald A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007.
  2. Berding, K. Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008. FREE pdf download of the first section.
  3. Boyrian, D. The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ. New York, NY: New Press, 2012. 
  4. Briggs, Charles Augustus. Messianic Prophecy: The Prediction of the Fulfillment of Redemption through the Messiah. New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1902. FREE download.
  5. Brown, Michael L. Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus (Volumes 2-5). San Francisco: Purple Pomegranate Productions, 2010.
  6. Browne, Edward Harold. The Fulfilment of the Old Testament Prophecies Relating to the Messiah, in the Person, Character, and Actions of Jesus of Nazareth. A Dissertation which Obtained the Norrisian Medal for the Year 1835, in the University of Cambridge. Cambridge, 1836. FREE download.
  7. Collins, John J., Adela Yarbro Collins, Karin Hedner-Zetterholm and Jan-Eric Steppa. The Messiah In Early Judaism and Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007. 
  8. Collins, John J. The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs Of The Dead Sea Scrolls And Other Ancient Literature. New York: Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, 1995.
  9. Delitzsch, Franz. Messianic Prophecies in Historical Succession. Edingburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1891. Translated by Samuel Ives Curtiss. FREE download.
  10. ——————. Messianic Prophecies: Lectures. Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1880. Translated by Samuel Ives Curtiss.FREE download.
  11. Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (2 volumes). New York: Longmans, Green, and Co.: 1900. Only part of this work is dedicated to Messianic Prophecy. Of special note is Chapter V: “What Messiah Did the Jews Expect?” (Vol. 1: p.160-179), Appendix VIII: “Rabbinic Traditions About Elijah, The Forerunner of the Messiah,” and Appendix IX: “List of Old Testament Passages Messianically Applied in Ancient Rabbinic Writings.” FREE download.
  12. —————–. Prophecy and History in Relation to the Messiah. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co.: 1901. Reprinted by Baker Book House in 1980. The Warburton Lectures for 1880-1884. FREE download.
  13. France, R.T. Jesus and the Old Testament. Regent College Publishing, 1992. Not strictly about messianic prophecy but part of the book does deal with how Jesus interpreted the Old Testament prophecies about himself.
  14. Groningen, Gerard Van. Messianic Revelation in the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990.
  15. Hoehner, Harold W. Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977, 2010. Chapter VI: Daniel’s Seventy Weeks and New Testament Chronology
  16. Juel, Donald. Messianic Exegesis. Philadelphia: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2009.
  17. Justin Martyr. Dialogue With Trypho, A Jew. (c.160 A.D.) Justin was a Christian philosopher and apologist of the mid-second century A.D. “…the Dialogue with Trypho, is the first elaborate exposition of the reasons for regarding Christ as the Messiah of the Old Testament, and the first systematic attempt to exhibit the false position of the Jews in regard to Christianity.” (1:297, Coxe, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Sage Software Edition, 1996). The first 8 chapters of this work describes Justin’s pursuit of philosophy and his conversion. Then he begins answering Jewish objections about Christians not keeping the Old Testament laws. In chapter 31, he begins giving detailed responses related to messianic prophecy. (Chapters 55-63 deal with Jewish objections to the Incarnation–and Justin’s view seems to be quite Arian!) FREE download as  part of the Ante-Nicene Fathers….or here.…or you can find a document that contains only the Dialogue here.
  18. Justin Martyr. First Apology. (c.150 A.D.) Chapters 31-42, 45, 48-53. FREE download.
  19. Kaiser, Jr., Walter C. The Messiah in the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.
  20. —————– . Recovering the Unity of the Bible: One Continuous Story, Plan, and Purpose. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.
  21. —————–. Uses of the Old Testament in the New. Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2001. Not strictly about messianic prophecy but about how New Testament writers interpreted the Old Testament, including messianic prophecies. A good study in hermeneutics.
  22. Leathes, Stanley. Old Testament Prophecy: Its Witness as a Record of Divine Foreknowledge. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1880.These were the Warburton Lectures for 1876-80. FREE download.
  23. ——————. The Witness of the Old Testament to Christ. London: Rivingtons, 1868. These were the Boyle Lectures for 1868. FREEdownload.
  24. Longenecker. Richard N. Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999.
  25. Pascal, Blaise. Pensees. (1660). This is a classic work of apologetics. Pascal died before he could finish it; but his friends gathered his notes together and published them. In the edition found at CCEL (link below), the following sections relate to messianic prophecy: X: Typology, XI: The Prophecies, and XII: Proofs of Jesus Christ. Read for FREE online here…or FREEdownload of text and/or audio here.
  26. Payne, J. Barton. Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy. Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1980. Covers all predictive prophecy in the Bible–all 8,352 verses! (approximately 27% of the Bible). Also, there is a complete list of messianic p
    rophecies in “Summary C” (pages 665-670).
  27. Porter, Stanley. The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments (McMaster New Testament Studies). Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2007.
  28. Riehm, Eduard. Messianic Prophecy: Its Origin, Historical Growth, and Relation to New Testament Fulfillment. Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1876. FREE download.
  29. Rydelnik, Michael. The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? (NAC Studies in Bible & Theology). Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010.
  30. Skarsaune, O. In The Shadow Of The Temple: Jewish Influences On Early Christianity. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2002.
  31. Stearns, Oakman Sprague. A Syllabus of the Messianic Passages in the Old Testament. Boston: Press of Percival T. Bartlett, 1884.FREE download.

ADVANCED BOOKS
(You would also benefit from a knowledge of Biblical Hebrew/Greek.)

  1. Bauckham, R. Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing House, 2008.
  2. Beale, G.K. A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011. Two scholars on this subject for which I have deep respect both independently pointed me to Beale’s work as their number one choice. The long list of praise for this book by evangelical scholars on Amazon is quite impressive. I definitely hope to get a copy of one of Beale’s books soon. This massive volume contains 1072 pages.
  3. Bird, Michael. Are You the One Who Is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009. 
  4. Bock, Darrell L. and Mitch Glaser. The Gospel According to Isaiah 53: Encountering the Suffering Servant in Jewish and Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2012. 
  5. Bock, Darrell L., Herbert W. Bateman and Gordon H. Johnston. Jesus the Messiah: Tracing The Promises, Expectations, And Coming Of Israel’s King. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2012. Synopsis of book from Amazon: “Few books have sought to exhaustively trace the theme of Messiah through all of Scripture, but this book does so with the expert analysis of three leading evangelical scholars. For the Bible student and pastor, Jesus the Messiah presents a comprehensive picture of both scriptural and cultural expectations surrounding the Messiah, from an examination of the Old Testament promises to their unique and perfect fulfillment in Jesus life.” Eric Chabot says this is the best book on messianic prophecy yet.
  6. Doukhan, J. On The Way To Emmaus: Five Major Messianic Prophecies Explained. Clarksville, MD: Lederer Books, 2012.
  7. Driver, S.R. and A. Neubauer. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. Oxford: James Parker & Co.: 1877FREE download.
  8. Patai, Raphael. The Messiah Texts. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1986. I have not read this book, but it was recommended to me and all ten Amazon reviewers give this book a raving 5 stars. Based on those reviews, this book seems to be a great resource for researching the diversity of concepts of Messiah that were held by the ancient Jews.
Uncategorized

A Look at Six Christological Titles of Jesus

Christology is the study of the person and work of Jesus. In this post, I discuss six Christological titles pertaining to Jesus:

1. The Son of God

What does it mean when Christians say “Jesus is the Son of God?” Even though divine sonship appears in the Hebrew Bible with regards to persons or people groups such as angels (Gen 6:2; Job 1:6; Dan 3:25), and Israel (Ex. 4:22-23; Hos 11;1; Mal. 2:10), the category that has special importance to the Messiah is the king. When the divine sonship is used in the context of the relationship between Israel and the king (2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7;89:26-27), the sonship theme places a large emphasis on the fact that the king has a special relationship to God and is called or elected to a specific task as well. While God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17: 6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15), he also promised King David that one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever (2 Sam.7:12-17; 1 Chr.17:7-15; Ps.89:28-37). In other words, David’s line would eventually culminate in the birth of a person whose eternality will guarantee David’s dynasty, kingdom and throne forever.

The existence of Israel is directly related to God’s covenant with Israel and Israel’s relationship to God as the King. The Davidic covenant established David as the king over all of Israel. Under David’s rule, there was the defeat of Israel’s enemies, the Philistines. David also captured Jerusalem and established his capital there (2 Sam. 1-6).

As seen in 2 Sam. 7:1-4, David wanted to build a “house” (or Temple) for the Lord in Jerusalem. God’s response to David was one of rejection. However, as just mentioned, God did make an unconditional promise to raise up a line of descendants from the house of David that would rule forever as the kings of Israel (2 Sam. 7:5-16; 1 Chr.17:7-15; Ps.89:28-370. The desire for the restoration of the Davidic dynasty became even more fervent after the united kingdom of the Israelites split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, at the time of King Rehoboam.

The late Geza Vermes, a Jewish scholar, thought that one of the best resources that speak to the messianic expectation of the time of Jesus is found in The Psalms of Solomon. The Psalms of Solomon is a group of eighteen psalms that are part of the Pseudepigrapha which is written 200 BC to 200 A.D. Even though these works are not part of the Protestant Canon, they are dated just before or around the time of Jesus. Therefore, they help provide the historian with valuable information into the Jewish religious life and thinking patterns at the time of Jesus. In it, there are two passages about a righteous, ruling Messiah:

“Taught by God, the Messiah will be a righteous king over the gentile nations. There will be no unrighteousness among them in his days, for all shall be holy and their king shall be the Lord Messiah. He will not rely on horse and rider and bow, nor will he collect gold and silver for war. Nor will he build up hope in a multitude for a day of war. The Lord himself is his king, the hope of the one who has a strong hope in God. He shall be compassionate to all the nations, who reverently stand before him. He will strike the earth with the word of his mouth forever; he will bless the Lord’s people with wisdom and happiness. And he himself will be free from sin, in order to rule a great people. He will expose officials and drive out sinners by the strength of his word.” (Psalms of Solomon 17.32-36)

 

” Lord, you chose David to be king over Israel, and swore to him about his descendants forever, that his kingdom should not fail before you. Undergird him with the strength to destroy the unrighteous rulers, to purge Jerusalem from the gentiles…..to destroy the unlawful nations with the word of his mouth…He will gather a holy people who he will lead in righteousness; and he will judge the tribes of his people…He will not tolerate unrighteousness (even) to pause among them, and any person who knows wickedness shall not live with them… And he will purge Jerusalem (and make it) holy as it was from the beginning.”(Psalms of Solomon 18:4,22,26,27,30). (1)

The New Testament authors unanimously declare Jesus as the one who is from the “seed of David,” sent by God to restore God’s kingship over mankind (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; 2 Tim:2:8; Rev. 22:16). As seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come. God promised David that his “seed” would establish the kingdom. There were two ways for this prophecy to come to pass. Either God could continually raise up a new heir or he could have someone come who would never die. Does this sound like the need for a resurrection? That is exactly how Paul understood Jesus’ Messiahship in Romans 1:1-5:

“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

2. Son of Man/Elect One

“Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite title for Himself throughout His ministry. First of all, “Son of Man ” is employed to Jesus’ earthly ministry (Mk. 2:10,28; 10:45; Matt. 13:37); Second, the Son of Man was to suffer and die and rise from the dead (Mk. 8:31;9:31;10:33). Third, the Son of Man would serve an eschatological function (Mk. 8:38;13:26;14:62; Matt.10:23;13:41;19:28:24:39;25:31). In other words, there is a correlation between the returning Son of Man and the judgment of God.

The term “Son of Man” in the time of Jesus was a most emphatic reference to the Messiah (Dan. 7:13-14). The title reveals divine authority. In the trial scene in Matthew 26:63-64, Jesus provoked the indignation of his opponents because of His application of Dan. 7:13 and Ps. 110:1 to Himself. Jesus’ claim that he would not simply be entering into God’s presence, but that he would actually be sitting at God’s right side was the equivalent to claiming equality with God. By Jesus asserting He is the Son of Man, he was exercising the authority of God.

The Pseudepigrapha commonly refers to numerous works of Jewish religious literature written from about 200 BC to 200 AD. Even though these works are not part of the Protestant Canon they are dated just before or around the time of Jesus. Therefore, they help provide the historian with valuable information into the Jewish religious life and thinking patterns at the time of Jesus. The following examples were taken from The Messiah Texts by Raphel Patai.

“And there I saw him who is the Head of Days, and His head was white like wool, and with him was another one whose countenance had the appearance of a man And his face was full of graciousness, like one of holy angels. And I asked the angel who went with me and showed me all the hidden things about the Son of Man: Who is he and whence is he and why did he go with the Head of Days? And he answered and said to me: This is the Son of Man who has righteousness, With whom dwells righteousness, And who reveals all the treasures of the crowns, For the Lord of Spirits chose him.” (1 Enoch 46:1-3)

“He shall be a staff for the righteous. Whereon to lean, to stand and not to fall,And he shall be a light to the nations, And hope for the troubled of heart. And all the earth dwellers before him shall fall down, And worship and praise and bless and sing to the Lord of Spirits. It is for this that he has been chosen and hidden before Him, even before The creation of the world and evermore.”(1 Enoch 48: 4-6)

I Enoch 51.3: “The Elect One will sit on [God’s] throne”

I Enoch 52.4: “And he said to me, ‘All these things which you have seen happen by the authority of his Messiah so that he may give orders and be praised upon the earth’”

I Enoch 62.5: “…and pain shall seize them when they see that Son of Man sitting on the throne of his glory”

I Enoch 62.7: “For the Son of Man was concealed from the beginning, and the Most High One preserved him in the presence of his power; then he revealed him to the holy and elect ones.”

I Enoch 62.14: “The Lord of the Spirits will abide over them; they shall eat and rest and rise with that Son of Man forever and ever…”

I Enoch 69.29: “Thenceforth nothing that is corruptible shall be found; for that Son of Man has appeared and has seated himself upon the throne of his glory; and all evil shall disappear from before his face; he shall go and tell to that Son of Man, and he shall be strong before the Lord of the Spirits.”

3. Prophet

One of the most pivotal texts that speak about the first coming of the Messiah is Deuteronomy 18: 15-18:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18: 15-18).

What is the purpose of a prophet?

A prophet (Heb. nabi) was an individual who received a call from God to be God’s spokesperson, often connected with some crisis that was about to occur, and then announced God’s message of judgment and/or deliverance to Israel and the nations. The word “prophet” occurs over 300 times in the Hebrew Bible and almost 125 times in the New Testament. The term “prophetess” appears 6 times in the Hebrew Bible and 2 times in the New Testament. (2)

In Deuteronomy 18:15-22 and Deuteronomy 13:1-5 , God listed five certifying signs by which a true prophet of God could be recognized:

  1. A prophet must be an Israelite, “from among [his] own brothers“ ( Deut. 18:15 ) (Balaam is the exception that proves this rule). 2. He must speak in the name of the Lord, “If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name” (Deut. 18:19). 3. He must be able to predict the near as well as the distant future -”If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken” ( Deut. 18:22 ). 4. He must be able to predict signs and wonders (Deut. 13:2). 5. His words must conform to the previous revelation that God has given (Duet .13:2-3).(3)

The Context of the Passage (Deut. 18:15-22)

God, through Moses, warns Israel to remain separate from the evil practices of the surrounding nations (Deut. 18:9-12) and instructs Israel how to tell the difference between a “true prophet” and a “false prophet.” After God had warned Israel about attempting to get supernatural information from bogus pagan sources ( Deut. 18:9-14 ), he announced that he would “raise up for them a prophet like Moses from among their own brothers” (v. 15). Any prophet who speaks in the name of the Lord and his words do not come true is a “false prophet.” God has not spoken through him.

In the same context God tells Israel He will send prophets who will truthfully speak for Him. What’s more, Israel can someday expect a prophet who will be “like Moses,” that God will specially raise up. The word “prophet” is in the singular, so it must refer to some individual prophet in the future. God would “put his words in the prophet’s mouth and the prophet will tell the people everything God commanded him” (v. 18). The wider context (Deut. Ch. 16-18) describes the offices of king and priest. Therefore, this would support the text (Deut. 18: 15-19) being about the Messiah because He is the head of both those offices.

Some critics like to point out that Deut. 34: 10-12 which says that “No prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” Does this prophecy mean the end of prophecy had come? Certainly by the time of the final completion of the Book of Deuteronomy and the Pentateuch as a whole, there had been no prophet who had arisen in Israel like Moses. But this does not mean there is not someone who will come in the future to fulfill the prophecy. After all, if prophecy had ended than why is it in the time of Jesus many Jewish people seem to be looking for the prophet of Deut. 18:15-22? For example:

The people said, “When they heard these words, some of the crowd began to say, “This really is the Prophet!” (John 7:40)

Now when the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus performed, they began to say to one another, “This is certainly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” (John 6:14)

John the Baptist began to preach, he was asked, “Are you the Prophet?” (John 1:19-23).

Also, Peter refers to Jesus as the prophet of Deut. 18:15-18:

And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.—Acts 3: 17-24

To see Part Two, Click Here:

To see Part Three, Click Here:  

4. Lord (Gk. Kyrios)

One of the most common Christological title that Luke uses in the book of Acts in regards to Jesus is “Lord.” In Acts 1:24, the disciples address Jesus as “Lord” and acknowledge that he knows the hearts of all people. Hence, the willingness to do this place Jesus in a role attributed to God in Jewish expectation.” For a Jewish person, when the title “Lord” (Heb. Adonai) was used in place of the divine name YHWH, this was the highest designation a Jewish person could use for deity.

As Baker”s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology notes:

“While kyrios was common as a polite, even honorific title for “sir” or “master, “calling Jesus “Lord” to imply divine associations or identity was by no means a convention readily adopted from the Roman world. In Jesus’ more Eastern but militantly monotheistic Jewish milieu, where the title’s application to humans to connote divinity was not only absent but anathema, the title is an eloquent tribute to the astonishing impression he made. It also points to the prerogatives he holds. Since Jesus is Lord, he shares with the Father qualities like deity ( Rom 9:5 ), preexistence ( John 8:58 ), holiness ( Heb. 4:15 ), and compassion ( 1 John 4:9 ), to name just a few. He is co-creator ( Col 1:16 ) and co-regent, presiding in power at the Father’s right hand ( Acts 2:33 ; Eph. 1:20 ; Heb. 1:3 ), where he intercedes for God’s people ( Rom 8:34 ) and from whence, as the Creed states, he will return to judge the living and dead ( 2 Thess. 1:7-8 ).” (4)

5. Jesus is given “The Name”

What is even more significant is the statement in Acts 4:12: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other NAME under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” How could Jesus be declared as the only one whom God’s salvation is effected? In the ancient world, a name was not merely what someone was called, but rather the identification of the being and essence of its bearer. James R. Edwards summarizes the importance of this issue:

“In the ancient world, a name was not merely what someone was called, but rather the identifi cation of the being and essence of its bearer. To the Jewish people, an idol could not properly have a “name” because it has no being represented by the name (Is. 44:9-21). The “name” to which the apostles refer does not signify an event, but a person, in whom the authority and power of God was active in salvation. The saving activity of God was and is expressed in the name of Jesus Christ. The name of Jesus is thereby linked in the closest possible way to the name of God. “No other name” does not refer to a second name of God, but to the unity of God with Jesus, signifying one name, one nature, one saving activity. The shared nature of God and Jesus is signaled in the most striking way by the custom of the early church to pray to God in the name of Jesus.” (5)

So just as in the Hebrew Bible where the name of God represents the person of God and all that he is, so in the New Testament “the Name” represents all who Jesus is as Lord and Savior.

6. Messiah

The word “messiah” means “anointed one” and 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. Hence, they could be viewed as “a messiah.” However, this does not mean they are “the Messiah.” Also, just as a king could be viewed as “a son of God,” it does not mean the king is “the son of God.” The term “messiah,” meaning “anointed one,” is taken from the Hebrew word “masiah” which appears thirty-nine times in the Hebrew Bible. In the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the term Messiah is translated as “christos” which was one of the official titles for Jesus within the New Testament. The “one who is anointed” was commissioned for a specific task.

In looking at the Messianic task of Jesus, His work is broken up into a series of stages:

  1. The Messianic King was presented at John’s baptism (Matt. 3:1-17). In other words, this is when He was consecrated for the messianic task.
  2. The Messianic King presented His miracles as evidence of His messiahship: (Matt. 11:4–6; see also Lk. 7:22). The prophet Isaiah spoke of a time where miraculous deeds would be the sign of both the spiritual and physical deliverance of Israel (Is.26: 19; 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 42:18; 61:1).
  3. The Messianic King was crucified (Isaiah 52: 13-53: 1-12). He then rose from the dead and ascended to the Father (1 Cor.15:1-17; Acts 1: 9-11).
  4. Jesus’ current messianic work is a priest-advocate (1Jn. 2:2; Hebrews 7:1-27).
  5. One day, Jesus  will return and establish the earthly, national aspect of the kingdom of God. (Is. 9:6; Amos 9:11; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14; 27; Is. 11:11-12; 24:23; Mic. 4:1-4; Zech.14:1-9; Matt. 26:63-64; Acts 1:6-11; 3:19-26). In other words, one day the Messiah will be King over His people (Matt. 19:28).

 Sources:

  1. G. Vermes, Jesus the Jew: A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels (New York. Macmillan Publishing Co. 1980), 251.
  2. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. “Prophet, Prophetess, Prophecy,” featured in Walter Elwell, Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1996), 641.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Robert W. Yarbrough, “Jesus Christ, Name and Titles of” featured in Walter Elwell, Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1996), 410.
  5. These issues were pointed out in Edwards, J.R., Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Group, 2005.
Uncategorized

Jesus: Reformer of Judaism or Founder of Christianity?

I have found “The Third Quest” for the historical Jesus, a quest that has been characterized as “the Jewish reclamation of Jesus” to be rather refreshing. Granted, all the quests may be coming to an end.

Anyway, rather then saying Jesus broke away from Judaism and started Christianity, Jewish scholars studying the New Testament have sought to re-incorporate Jesus within the fold of Judaism.(1) In this study, scholars have placed a great deal of emphasis on the social world of first- century Palestine. The scholars of the Third Quest have rejected the idea that the Jesus of the New Testament was influenced by Hellenic Savior Cults. (2)

Some of the non-Jewish scholars that have been active in the Third Quest are Craig A. Evans, I. Howard Marshall, James H. Charlesworth, N.T. Wright, and James D.G. Dunn. In his book Jesus and the Victory of God,Christian Origins and the Question of God, Volume 2, author N.T.Wright says that the historical Jesus is very much the Jesus of the gospels: a first century Palestinian Jew who announced and inaugurated the kingdom of God, performed “mighty works” and believed himself to be Israel’s Messiah who would save his people through his death and resurrection. “He believed himself called,” in other words says Wright, “to do and be what, in the Scriptures, only Israel’s God did and was.” (3)

As Philip Yancey says,

“Is it possible to read the Gospels without blinders on? Jews read with suspicion, preparing to be scandalized. Christians read through the refracted lenses of church history. Both groups, I believe would do well to pause and reflect on Matthew’s first words, “a record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham.” The son of David speaks of Jesus’ messianic line, which Jews should not ignore; a title without significance for him.” Notes C.H. Dodd,”The son of Abraham speaks of Jesus’ Jewish line, which Christians dare not ignore either.” (4)

Jaroslav Pelikan also makes a signifcant comment:

“Would there have been such anti-Semitism, would there have been so many pogroms, would there have been as Auschwitz, if every Christian church and every Christian home had focused its devotion and icons of Mary not only as Mother of God and Queen of Heaven but as the Jewish maiden and the new Miriam, and on icons of Christ not only as Pantocrator but as Rabbi Jeshua bar-Joseph, Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth?”(5)

New Testament scholar Scot McKnight has made a great contribution to the continuity of Jesus’ relationship with Israel. He says:

“Scholarship is now recognizing that Jesus’ mission was directed toward the nation of Israel. This means that his understanding of God himself must be oriented toward an understanding of God that emerges from the covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David, which guided the history of the nation to the time of Jesus. The God of Jesus, accordingly, is the God of Israel, who is now restoring the nation and renewing its people as he had promised long ago.” (6)

Two areas where a Jewish framework helps:

#1 Jesus and the Name of God

As McKnight says:

“At no place have Christians been more insensitive to Judaism that when it comes to what Jesus believes and teaches about God. In particular, the concept that Jesus was the first to teach about God as Abba and that this innovation revealed that Jesus thought of God in terms of love while Jews thought of God in terms of holiness, wrath, and distance are intolerably inaccurate in the realm of historical study and, to be quite frank, simple pieces of bad polemics. The God of Jesus was the God of Israel, and there is nothing in Jesus’ vision of God that is not formed in the Bible he inherited from his ancestors and learned from his father and mother” (7) “Countless Christians repeat the Lord’s Prayer. When Jesus urged His followers to “hallow” or “sanctify” the Name of God (Matt 6:9), many are unaware of what that may have meant in Jesus’ day- in part, because Christianity has lost sight of God’s awesome splendorous holiness. A good reading of Amos 2:6-8 discusses this issue. “Reverencing the Name of God” is not just how Israel speaks of God-that it does not take the Name of God in vain when it utters oaths or when someone stubs a toe or hits a finger with an instrument -but that God’s Name is profaned when Israel lives outside the covenant and by defiling the name of God in it’s behavior” (Jer 34:15-46; Ezek. 20:39; Mal 1:6-14).
God’s Name is attached to the covenant people, and when the covenant people lives in sin, God’s Name is dragged into that sin along with His people. So, when Jesus urges his followers to “reverence,” or “sanctify” the Name of God, he is thinking of how his disciples are to live in the context of the covenant: they are to live obediently as Israelites.” (8)

#2 Righteousness: As McKnight says:

“When most Christians think of this term, they are faced with two problems: First, that the apostle Paul used this term so much in the sense of “imputed” righteousness and did so in an innovative, however, effective, manner; and second, that is what the cognate in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek is not so in English. Fundamentally, the term “righteousness” along with its cognates, describes an Israelites relationship to God and his Torah, and that relationship is conceived in its behavioral categories: the righteous Israelite is one who does Torah as a covenant member (Deut 6:25; Job 22:6-93; Ps 1:4-6; Ezek.45:9) Jesus teaches about such righteousness as did his Jewish ancestors, as well as John (Luke 3:7-14; Matt 21:28-32), to describe those Jewish followers of his who wholeheartedly conformed their obedience to Torah, as taught by him (Matt 5:17-48), in the context of renewal of the covenant taking place though his offer of the kingdom.” (9)

Some other aspects of Jesus’ Jewish life:

Jesus participated in Mikvah: (Matt. 3:13-16)
Circumcision (Lk. 2:21): Jesus’ parents are obedient to Mosaic Law by having him circumcised on 8th day
Mary’s Purification (Lk. 2:22-24): Mary follows purification law (Lev. 12)
Jesus’ family went to Jerusalem every year at Passover: (Lk. 2:41)
Jesus’ model prayer bears resemblance to typical Jewish prayers:(Matt. 6:8-13)
Jesus wore “tzit-tzit” or fringes: (Matt. 9:20)
Jesus revered the Temple and ceremonial worship:(Jn. 2:16)
Much of Jesus’ teaching is done in context of Jewish Holy Days: Sabbath (Matt. 12); Feast of Tabernacles (Jn. 7); Feast of Passover (Matt. 26); Hanukkah (Jn. 10)
Jesus taught in the synagogue: (Lk.4:14-20; Jn. 18:20)
Jesus gathered disciples:(Matt. 8:23)
Paul says Jesus became a servant to the Jewish people: (Rom. 15:8)
Jesus settled disputes: (Mk. 9:33-37)
Jesus debated other rabbis:(Matt. 12:1-14)
Jesus viewed His mission to the lost sheep of Israel: (Matt. 15:24)
Jesus commissioned the seventy to go to the lost sheep of Israel: (Matt. 10:5-6)
Jesus viewed himself as being revealed in the Torah, the Prophets and the Psalms, (Lk. 24:44); (Jn. 5:39)
Jesus taught Scripture was authoritative: Jesus quotes passages from the Torah in the temptation in the wilderness: (Matt. 4:1-11)
Jesus discussed how Scripture (The Tanakh) is imperishable in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:2-48)
Jesus also discussed how Scripture is infallible: (Jn. 10:35)

Jesus: Reformer of Judaism or Founder of Christianity?

It is important to note that there was no Christianity at the time of Jesus. Jesus certainly didn’t see himself as a Christian nor called his followers Christians. Even most Jews acknowledge that Jesus is not the founder of Christianity. They tend to think Paul is. Granted, this is mistaken as well and has been talked about elsewhere. Anyway, given the Messiah is the ideal representaive of his people, he is called to help Israel fulfill her calling. Hence, we should see Jesus’ messianic mission as to Israel on behalf of the nations. As we see here:

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers,[c] cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics[d] or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”- Matthew 10: 5-15

And here:

“And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” – Matthew 15: 21-24.

However, we see at the end of Matthew that Jesus commands his followers to bring the nations into God’s redemptive plan (Matt 28:19).

As Richard Baukham says:

“Matthew frames the whole story of Jesus between the identification of him as the descendant of Abraham in the opening verse of the Gospel and, in the closing words of Jesus at the end of the Gospels, the commissions of the disciples of Jesus to the make disciples of all nations. Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus begins with Abraham (1:1-2) not with Adam, as Luke’s does (3:38) nor with David, which would have been sufficient to portray Jesus the Messiah the son of David, which certainly is an important theme here in Matthew’s Gospel. However, for Matthew, Jesus is the Messiah not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles. He is the descendant of Abraham through whom God’s blessing will reach the nations.”(10)

Did Jesus succeed in reforming Israel?

The answer is yes and no. There is no doubt that a large part of national/ethnic Israel rejected him. One passage that is misunderstood is the following: “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits”-Matthew 21:43. Some have said that this teaches God divorced and judged unfaithful Israel (who had murdered the Messiah) and married a faithful bride: His Church. However, a more careful reading shows that the “you” of Matt 21:43 is identified in Matt 21:45 not as Israel or the Jewish people but as ‘the chief priests and the Pharisees,”—the temple authorities who confronted Jesus in Matt 21:23-27. The “people” referred to in Matt 21:43 is not the church in contrast to to the Jewish people, but the new leadership group that will replace the old.

Furthermore, Craig Keener notes that “nation” here probably recalls Ex 19:6 and strict Jewish groups that characterized themselves as “righteous remnants” within Israel (e.g.,Qumran) could also view themselves as heirs of the biblical covenant community. In this period “ethnos” applies to guilds, associations, social classes or other groups oe even orders of priests: urban Greeks used the term for rural Greeks, the LXX for Gentiles, and Greeks for non Greeks. Matthew implies not rejection of Israel but of dependence on any specific group membership, be it synagogue or church (The Gospel f Matthew: A Social Rhetorical Commentary), pgs,515, 516

There has always been a faithful remnant who did believe and went on to carry out what Israel had always been called to do which is to be a “light to the nations.” The Abrahamic Covenant was prophetic. In this sense, there are several aspects of the covenant such as land promises, etc. But as far as Gentiles, they are supposed to receive spiritual blessings, but ultimately these were fulfilled though one specific “seed” of Abraham—the Messiah. Also, the true Israel is those that are circumcised in heart (see the rest of Romans as well). However, Romans 11: 12 indicates a staged progression in blessing the Gentiles. The “riches” Gentiles are experiencing now during the state of Israel’s “stumbling” will escalate with the “full number” of national Israel’s salvation (see Rom. 11:26). The 10 references to “Israel” in Romans 9-11 refer to ethnic/national Israel so the Israel who will be saved in Rom 11:26 must refer to ethnic/national Israel. Israel will experience a national restoration and salvation at some point in the future.There is no reason to think that “Israel” in Rom 9-11 is referring to “spiritual Israel” which is composed of Jews and Gentiles. Also, there is no use of “Israel” in the Gospels/Acts which does not refer to the Jewish people/nation, the Israel of the Jewish Scriptures. Israel will be grafted back in when the fullness of the Gentiles leads it to respond (Rom 11:11-12; 15, 30-32).

Also, given Israel’s calling it should be no shock that in Ephesians 2: 11-3:6, the Gentiles recipients are addressed as those who were formally without the Messiah. They were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise\, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2: 12). So Israel was already near (Eph. 2:17), but the good news is that now along with Gentiles they even brought closer to God (Eph. 2:18). So through a believing Jewish remnant, we now have over 1 billion non-Jews that have come to know the one true God. With that said, I say act one of the messianic task is a success!

 

Sources:
1. Craig, W L. Christian Reasonable Faith, Wheaten, ILL: Crossway Books. 1984, 240-241.
2. Ibid.
3. Sheller, J. L., Is The Bible True? How Modern Debates and Discoveries Affirm the Essence of the Scriptures, New York. Harper Collins Publishers. 1999, 191.

4. Yancey, P. The Jesus I Never Knew. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1995, 55).

5. Ibid.

6. McKnight, S, A New Vision For Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1999, 19.

7. Paul Copan and Craig A. Evans. Who Was Jesus? A Jewish-Christian Dialogue. Lousiville: KY.Westminster John Knox Press. 2001, 84-85.

8. Ibid, 84-85.

9. Ibid.

10. Richard Bauckham, Bible and Mission: Christian in a Postmodern World (Carlisle: Paternoster; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 33

Uncategorized

A Look at Messianic Prophecy: A Look at the Timing of the Messiah’s Coming: Genesis 49:8-12: The Universal Rule of the Messiah

Introduction

Anyone who has studied evidential apologetics will see that many apologists have laid a great emphasis on messianic prophecy as one of the keys to demonstrating Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. One thing that is left out of these discussions is that when it comes to prophecy, it is not always predictive. The Greek word for fulfill is πληρόω (pleroo) – which has a much broader usage than “the prediction of an event.”

For example, in Matthew 5:17- Jesus says he came to “fulfill” the Law and the Prophets. In this passage “fulfillment” has a sense of embodying, bringing to completion, or perfecting. Fulfillment is one of the main themes of the New Testament, which sees Jesus and his work bringing to fruition the significance of the Hebrew Bible. However, let’s look at a case of predictive prophecy.For a prophecy to be predictive it must meet the following criteria.

1. A biblical text clearly envisions the sort of event alleged to be the fulfillment.

2. The prophecy was made well in advance of the event that was predicted.

3. The prediction actually came true.

4. The event predicted could not have been staged but anyone but God.

5. Clear Prediction: Is the prophecy publicly available with a reliable text and evident interpretation?

6. Documented Outcome: Is the prophecy documented by publicly available facts?

7. Is there evidence for it in world history?

8. Proper Chronology: Is there empirical evidence that is available presently and publicly to document that indeed the prophecy does predate its fulfillment? [1]

It must be remembered that the strength of this evidence is greatly enhanced if the event is so unusual that the apparent fulfillment cannot plausibly explained as a good guess.

One of the most pivotal texts that speak to a time frame about the first coming of the Messiah is Gen. 49:8-12:

“Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (Gen 49:8-12)-KJV: NOTE: I chose the KJV here because most other translations replace “Shiloh” with “until he comes to whom [obedience] belongs.” Please read on:

In the previous context (Gen. 49: 1-7) we see the following issues:

1. Jacob, prophesied various details as to the fortunes and fates of the descendants of these men.

2. God is revealing to Jacob the future history of his descendants.

3. The older brothers are disqualified from the birth-right (i.e., Reuben, Simon, Levi).

4. Jacob foretold a future for the tribe of Judah that pictures him as the preeminent son – the prominent tribe.

5. Judah: is the name of the son of Jacob/or the name of the southern kingdom of the divided nation of Israel.[2]

We see the following about this passage:

1. The Messiah has already been declared to be a man, descended from Abraham (Gen. 22:18)

2. His descent is now limited to being a son of Judah

3. He is going to be a King

4. The rule of Judah is envisioned by Jacob as extending beyond the borders of Israel to include the entire world.

5. The nations of the earth shall benefit (i.e., on the idea of a beneficial rule see comments on v. 11, 12) is in keeping with the author’s view of God’s covenant promises to Abraham in Genesis 12:3: “in you all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”

Let’s take Genesis 49:8-12 and see what outside Jewish literature says (i.e.,The Apocrypha, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Philo, The Talmud, Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Rashi, and the Targumim). This is a similar approach that Michael Brown has taken in his book Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Volume Three: Messianic Prophecy Objections.

First of all, let me introduce what is called a Targum:

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. [3]

Let’s see how a couple of Targums read Genesis 49:8-12:

Targum Onkelos

The transmission of dominion shall not cease from the house of Judah, nor the scribe from the children’s children, forever, until the Messiah comes, to whom the Kingdom belongs, and whom the nations obey. He binds the foal to the vine, his colt to the choice vine; he washes his garment in wine, and his robe in the blood of grapes. He shall enclose Israel in his city, the people shall build his Temple, the righteous shall surround him, and those who serve the Torah shall be with him. His raiment shall be of goodly purple, and his garment of the finest brightly -dyed wool. His fountains shall be red with his vineyards, his vats shall drip with wine; his valleys shall be white with corn and with flocks of sheep.”

Targum Psuedo Jonathan

Kings and rulers shall not cease from the house of Judah, not scribes teaching the Torah from his seed, until the time when the youngest of this sons, the Messiah, shall come and because of him the peoples shall flow together. How lovely is the king Messiah, who is to rise from the house of Judah.”[5]

Also, Midrash Rabbah 97 says the following about the prophecy:

Furthermore, the royal Messiah will be descended from the tribe of Judah as it says [quoting Isaiah 11:10]. Thus the tribe of Judah were descended from Solomon who built the first Temple Zerubbabel who built the second Temple and from him will be descended the royal Messiah who will rebuild the Temple. Now of the Messiah it is written [quoting Psalm 89:37]. [6]

Even Rashi who was a leading Tanakh and Talmudic exegete of the Middle Ages says about Genesis 49:10:

The Scepter shall not depart from Judah from David and thereafter. These (who bear the scepter after the termination of the kingdom) are the exlilarchs (princes) in Babylon, who ruled over the people with a scepter, who were appointed by royal mandate…nor the student of the law between his feet. Students: these are the princes of the land of Israel…until Shilo comes the king Messiah , to whom the Kingdom belongs. [7]

David Baron (1857 – 1926) a Jewish believer and scholar was author of “The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah”, “ Types Psalms and Prophecies,” and “The Servant of Jehovah” says the following about Gen. 49:8-12:

With regard to this prophecy, the first thing I want to point out is that all antiquity agrees in interpreting it of a personal Messiah. This is the view of the LXX Version [Septuagint—KB]; the Targumim of Onkelos, Yonathan, and Jerusalem; the Talmud; the Sohar; the ancient book of “Bereshith Rabba;” and among modern Jewish commentators, even Rashi, who says, “Until Shiloh comes,that is King Messiah, Whose is the kingdom.”[8]

It is also worth noting that The Dead Sea Scrolls help shed some light on this text as well: In 4Q Patriarchal Blessings, the interpretation of the Genesis text reads:

A ruler shall not depart from the tribe of Judah while Israel has dominion. There will not be cut off a king in it belonging to David. For the staff is the covenant of the kingship; the thousands of Israel are the feet, until the coming of the Messiah of Righteousness, the branch of David, for to him and his seed has been given the covenant of kingship over his people for everlasting generations.” [9]

A Closer Look at the word “Scepter” and “Shiloh”

The precise meaning of “Shiloh” is challenging. It is either a reference to a place, as it is elsewhere in the Old Testament (e.g. Joshua 18:1,8,9; 19;51; I Samuel 1:13, etc.), or, it may refer to q proper name for the Messiah. This is seen in the Talmud in Sanhedrian 98b which answers the question of what the Messiah’s name is by saying, “Shiloh is his name, as it is said, “Until Shiloh Come.”[10]  In Judaism, Names describe the nature of the Messiah’s mission.

The NIV may have the best translation which says NIV: “until he comes to whom it belongs.” In this case, “Shiloh” is taken as a possessive pronoun. This translation favors the LXX (Greek Septuagint) reading. Furthermore, in Ezekiel 21: 25-27,  Ezekiel uses the Shiloh text as part of a judgment oracle directed against Zedekiah to declare the Lord’s intention not to put a ruler on David’s throne ‘until he comes to whom it belongs.’ Since both Genesis 40:10 and Ezekiel 21:27 deal with Judah and the government or ownership of that tribe, the argument becomes quite compelling.[11]

We see in the prophecy that “Scepter” is a “symbol of kingly authority” and will remain in Judah’s hand until “Shiloh comes.” In the minds of the Jewish people, “Scepter” was linked with their right to apply and enforce the law of Moses upon the people, including the right to adjudicate capital cases and administer capital punishment. The prophecy declares that Judah will finally lose his tribal independence, and promises a supremacy over at least some of the other tribes until the advent of the Messiah.

When did Judah lose their tribal independence?

Judah did have possession of the scepter and staff until Herod obtained kingship over Israel in 38 B.C. While Judah ceased to be an independent tribe, they did still continue to be a self-governing nation within the Roman Empire. They did lose the right to administer capital punishment. This is seen at the trial of Jesus in that it was the Romans who enforced the death sentence. This transfer of power is even mentioned in the Talmud: “A little more than forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the power of pronouncing capital sentences was taken away from the Jews.“–Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin, filoi 24.[12]

What Are the Strengths of Prophecy?

1. This verse indicates that He (The Messiah) will have to come before the Tribe of Judah loses its identity.

2. The rabbis passed laws which would preserve the identity of the tribe of Levi, but Jews from other tribes lost their identity.

4. Therefore, the Messiah will have to come before 70 A.D.

5. The “Scepter” did depart in the sense that at the coming of Jesus we see the Jewish people lost their power to adjudicate capital cases and administer capital punishment.[13]

 But let’s look at another aspect of the prophecy:

Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you. “Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (Gen 49:8-12)-NASB

We have been discussing the temporal element of this prophecy. Remember, “Until” in vs 10 is inclusive in the sense that the dominion of the tribe of Judah would not end with Shiloh’s  coming, but would continue on after the arrival of this divine world ruler. In other words, Shiloh himself must belong to the tribe of Judah.

But there is another aspect of this prophecy that remains partially unfulfilled. Apparently, an individual from Judah’s seed came who will rule over both his own nation Israel and the “peoples” of not just Israel but the rest of the world (also see Gen 17:6; Exod. 15:16; Deut. 32:8).  In other words, the Gentile nations will come to him in submissive obedience! We should note that part of this prophecy has not been fulfilled. While there are many Gentiles who have submitted to the rule of Messiah (Jesus) in their lives, all the nations are not under the universal rule of the Messiah. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean that Jesus is not the King right now. He most certainly is but there is more to his future rule than the present.

Thematic Correlation

Numbers 24:17-19:

Let’s now look at Numbers 24:17-19 where we see a similar theme is seen in that a ruler shall arise out of Israel and how a descendant of Jacob will have universal dominion:

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob,  A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab,  And tear down all the sons of Sheth. “Edom shall be a possession, Seir, its enemies, also will be a possession, While Israel performs valiantly.“One from Jacob shall have dominion, And will destroy the remnant from the city.-NASB

The Messianic Interpretation of this prophecy is the following:

1. The context is about Balaam’s oracle. In vs 7 we see that there shall come forth a man who shall be Lord over many nations and his kingdom shall be exalted in Gog.

2. Balaam references two important points: First, “a star shall come from Jacob” and “a scepter comes forth from Israel.”

3. The figure is visible in the term” scepter” who is an earthly king who will use his earthly power to subdue the earth.

4. “Star” may refer to his heavenly origin. (see John Metzger, Discovering the Mystery of the Unity, 385-386).

What does the Outside/Extra-Biblical Literature Say About This Prophecy?

Targum Onkelos:” When a king shall rise out of Jacob, and out of Israel Messiah shall be anointed.”

Targum Jonathan: “When a valiant King shall rise out of the house of Jacob and out of Israel, Messiah, and a strong Scepter shall be anointed.”

John Sailhamer notes that there is a thematic correlation between Gen 49:8-12 and other passages in the Tanakh. He says:

The plural word “nations” rather than singular suggests that Jacob had a view of Kingship that extended beyond the boundaries of the Israelites to include other nations as well. In any case, later biblical writers were apparently guided by texts in formulating their view of the universal reign of the future of the Davidic king. For example, “Psalm 2:8 “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance”; Daniel 7:13-14, “There was one like a son of man…he was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him.” (see John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch As Narrative A Biblical-Theological Commentary (Grand Zondervan, 1995), 235.

It should be noted that “Son of Man” is a messianic title. As we see in Daniel 7: 13-14:

I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him.  “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

Once again, we see that the nations will come under the universal rule of the Son of Man. Note: To see more on the Son of Man and the issue of messianic prophecy, click here:

Psalm 2

Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’” Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!  (NASB)

After reading this, a few things stand out:

1. The figure in the Psalm is called “The Lord’s Anointed” (v 2), his King (v 6) and his Son (vv. 7, 12).

2. Psalm 2 should be read as a coronation hymn, (similar to 2 Kings 11:12) and today marks the moment of the king’s crowning.

3. Is this passage referring to King David? God tells the person to whom he is speaking that He is turning over the dominion and the authority of the entire world to Him (v 8).

How does Jesus fulfill this text?

Let’s look at Romans 1:1-5

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints :Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 We see the following:

Paul says through the resurrection, Jesus is installed (by God) as the Son of God (Rom. 1:4). Paul is not saying Jesus is being appointed as The Son of God is a change in Jesus’ essense. The appointment is not in terms of his nature but in terms of his work as a mediator—the messianic age has dawned. Jesus is the Lord—the anti-type of the previous “sons” in the Old Testament (Adam, David, Israel).

Remember, the New Testament authors unanimously declare Jesus as the one who is from the “seed of David,” sent by God to restore God’s kingship over mankind (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; 2 Tim:2:8; Rev. 22:16). As seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come. God promised David that his “seed” would establish the kingdom. There were two ways for this prophecy to come to pass. Either God could continually raise up a new heir or he could have someone come who would never die. Does this sound like the need for a resurrection?

But once again, in relation to Psalm 2, we can ask if this figure has been given universal rule over the entire world, has this taken place yet? In one sense, yes. Many people have bowed their knee to the Messiah. And even if all the nations don’t acknowledge it, Jesus participates in God’s sole rule over all things:

Phil: 3:20-21: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”

Eph. 1:21-22: Paul speaks of Jesus being ”far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet…”

But after reading Genesis 49:8-10, Psalm 2 and Daniel 7:13-14, we need to remember what is called “prophetic telescoping.” These texts are part of several texts in the Hebrew Bible where part of the text is fulfilled in the first appearance of Jesus. But there is another part that will be fulfilled in the future. In this sense, Jesus will return and establish the earthly, national aspect of the kingdom of God (Is. 9:6; Amos 9:11; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14; 27; Is. 11:11-12; 24:23; Mic. 4:1-4; Zech.14:1-9; Matt. 26:63-64; Acts 1:6-11; 3:19-26). In other words, one day the Messiah will be King over His people (Matt. 19:28).

Conclusion: 
We should be thankful for God’s actions within human history. If God has brought to pass the first coming of His Son, He will surely bring to pass His glorious return. May we all wait with eager anticipation.

Sources:


[1] Points 1-8 are pointed out in  R. D. Geivett and G.R. Habermas, In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case For God’s Actions in Human History (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. 1997), 221-223.

[2] Michael Rydelnick, The Messianic Hope: Is The Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010),  47-48.

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

[4] See Samson L. Levy , The Messiah: An Aramaic Interpretation,(New York: Hebrew Union College, 1974). Targum Onkelos covers the Pentateuch and probably has many authors. Along with Targum Jonathan, they are both considered as an “official” Targums in the sense that  they both represent rabbinical Judaism after C.E. 70. For more on this topic, see Rolling, The Jewish Targums and John’s Logos Theology, 10-11.

 [5] Ibid. Targum Jonathan consists of the Former and Latter Prophets. Targum Jonathan has traditionally been subscribed to Jonathan Ben Uzziel who lived in first century C.E. However, many scholars think that it may have been a product of more than one author and may have continued to modified into the fourth century. For more on this topic, see Rolling, The Jewish Targums and John’s Logos Theology, 10-11.

 [6] Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998), 21-23. Midrash comes form the Hebrew root ‘darash’, meaning to search or investigate. Midrash attempts, through minute examination and interpretation of the Tanach, to bring out the deeper or ethical meaning of the text. There are many different collections of Midrash. The largest collection is called Midrash Rabbah (The Great Midrash), which consists of a number of volumes. Midrash Rabbah contains volumes on the Chumash (Five Books of Moses) and the Hamesh Megillot (Five Scrolls, from Ketuvim). The Hebrew word for “law” is Torah. Torah means “direction, guidance, instruction.” There are 613 of the commandments in the Torah,which were decreed for the Jewish people.

 [7] Douglas Pyle, What The Rabbonim Say About Moshiach (United States: Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data, Third Edition, 2010), 17-18.

 [8] David Baron, Rays of Messiah’s Glory (Barking, Essex, U.K: The Messianic Testimony, Second Edition, 2000), 258.

 [9] Various translations of 4QPBless are found in Millar Burrows, More Light on the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Viking, 1958), 401; Geza Vermes, Scripture and Tradition(Leiden: Brill, 1961), 53; cited in Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 18-50 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 660.

 [10] Rydelnick, The Messianic Hope: Is The Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? , 48.

 [11] Ibid, 49-51.

 [12] The appendix of Michael Brown’s Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus Vol 2 (Grand RapidsMI: Baker Books, 2000), defines the Babylonian Talmud as the foundational text for Jewish religious study. It consists of 2,500,000 words of Hebrew and Aramaic commentary and expansion of the Mishnah. The Jerusalem or Palestinian Talmud is similar to the Babylonian Talmud but a bit shorter and less authoritative in the Jewish community. It reached its final form about 400 C.E.

 [13] Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology, 21-23.

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

Over the years I have been asked why Jewish people don’t think Jesus is the Messiah. From my own experience, when I have talked to Jewish people about the possibility of Jesus being the Messiah, there is a wide range of thought. For some Jewish people a personal Messiah is irrelevant. For others, it is said that in every generation there is a potential messiah or a time when there will be a Messianic Age. One thing for sure: To assert that the Jewish community has always held to one view of the Messiah is total nonsense.

However, this is a common objection:

“The state of the world must prove that the Messiah has come; not a tract. Don’t you think that when the Messiah arrives, it should not be necessary for his identity to be subject to debate – for the world should be so drastically changed for the better that it should be absolutely incontestable! Why should it be necessary to prove him at all? If the Messiah has come, why should anyone have any doubt?” (Rabbi Chaim Richman, available at http://www.ldolphin.org/messiah.html).

For starters, in handling this objection, let me offer some words of advice: Words and concepts are separate entities. “Word-bound” approaches to what really are concept studies can lead us astray. Messianism is a concept study. The word “messiah” means “anointed one” and 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. Hence, they could be viewed as “a messiah.” However, this does not mean they are “the Messiah.”

Also, just as a king could be viewed as “a son of God,” it does not mean the king is “The Son of God.” The term “messiah,” meaning “anointed one,” is taken from the Hebrew word “masiah” which appears thirty-nine times in the Hebrew Bible. In the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the term Messiah is translated as “christos” which was one of the official titles for Jesus within the New Testament. The “one who is anointed” was commissioned for a specific task.

Interestingly enough, the Qumran community which predated the time of Jesus thought there were possibly two Messiahs, one priestly and one royal (1QS 9.11; CD 12.22-23; 13. 20-22; 14. 18-19; 19.34-20.1; CD-B 1.10-11; 2.1; 1Q Sa 2. 17-22). In the words of Michael Bird:

“The role of the Messiah is multifarious. There was no single and uniform description of the messianic task.” Furthermore, 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.” (1)

Let me offer some reasons why I think Jesus has started to complete the messianic task:

#1: Gentile Inclusion

In Aryeh Kaplan’s The Real Messiah: A Jewish Response to Missionaries, we see a list of some of the common expectations for the Messiah:

In the Messianic age, the Jewish people will dwell freely in their land. There will be an “ingathering of the exiles” when all the Jews return to Israel. This will eventually bring all the nations to acknowledge the God of Israel and acknowledge the truth of his teachings. The Messiah will be king over Israel, but in a sense, rule rover the nations. The Jewish concept of the Messiah is that which is clearly taught in the prophets of the Bible. He is a leader of the Jews , strong in wisdom and power and spirit. It is he who will bring complete redemption to the Jewish people both spiritually and physically. Along with this, he will bring eternal love, prosperity and moral perfection to the world.

The Jewish Messiah will bring all peoples to God. This is expressed in the Alenu prayer, which concludes all three daily services:

May the world be perfected under the kingdom of the Almighty. Let all the humans call upon Your Name and turn all the world’s evildoers to You. Let everyone on earth know that every knee must bow to you….and let them all accept the yoke of Your Kingdom

Jesus is the only messianic figure that has opened a door for non-Jews to come to know the one true God. Just as Israel is called to be a light to the entire world (Gen 12:3), the Messiah’s mission is also to be a “light to the nations” . In relation to Jesus’ Messiahship, while a remnant believed in Him, what is more significant is that the church is now the home of 1.4 billion adherents which are predominately Gentiles. Sure, large numbers don’t make a faith true. But another traditional view is that the Messiah will spread the knowledge of the God of Israel to the surrounding nations (Isa.11:9; 40:5; 52:8).

As Richard Baukham says:

“Matthew frames the whole story of Jesus between the identification of him as the descendant of Abraham in the opening verse of the Gospel and, in the closing words of Jesus at the end of the Gospels, the commissions of the disciples of Jesus to the make disciples of all nations. Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus begins with Abraham (1:1-2) not with Adam, as Luke’s does (3:38) nor with David, which would have been sufficient to portray Jesus the Messiah the son of David, which certainly is an important theme here in Matthew’s Gospel. However, for Matthew, Jesus is the Messiah not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles. He is the descendant of Abraham through whom God’s blessing will reach the nations.”(2)

#2 The Son of Man

“Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite title for Himself throughout His ministry. First of all, “Son of Man ” is employed to Jesus’ earthly ministry (Mk. 2:10,28; 10:45; Matt. 13:37); Second, the Son of Man was to suffer and die and rise from the dead (Mk. 8:31;9:31;10:33). Third, the Son of Man would serve an eschatological function (Mk. 8:38;13:26;14:62; Matt.10:23;13:41;19:28:24:39;25:31). In other words, there is a correlation between the returning Son of Man and the judgment of God.

The term “Son of Man” in the time of Jesus was a most emphatic reference to the Messiah (Dan. 7:13-14). The title reveals divine authority. In the trial scene in Matthew 26:63-64, Jesus provoked the indignation of his opponents because of His application of Dan. 7:13 and Ps. 110:1 to Himself. Jesus’ claim that he would not simply be entering into God’s presence, but that he would actually be sitting at God’s right side was the equivalent to claiming equality with God. By Jesus asserting He is the Son of Man, he was exercising the authority of God.

As Randall Price notes:

“ The concept of the Messiah as a “son of man” after the figure in Daniel 7:13 is expressed in a section of the apocryphal book of 1 Enoch known as Similitudes, which has been argued to have a date as early as 40 B.C. While we will deal more with this messianic title in the next chapter, it should be noted that scholars have found in Similitudes four features for this figure: (1) it refers to an individual and is not a collective symbol, (2) it is clearly identified as the Messiah, (3) the Messiah is preexistent and associated with prerogatives traditionally reserved for God, and (4) the Messiah takes an active role in the defeat of the ungodly. New Testament parallels with Similitudes (e.g., Matt. 19:28 with 1 Enoch 45:3 and Jn. 5:22 with 1 Enoch 61:8) may further attest to a mutual dependence on a common Jewish messianic interpretation (or tradition) based on Daniel’s vision.” (3)

#3:The New Covenant

In Ezekiel and Jeremiah, we see the Promises of the New Covenant:

1. God promises regeneration (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26).
2. God promises the forgiveness of sin (Jeremiah 31:34; Ezekiel 36:25)
3. God pledged the indwelling Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:27).
4. God promises the knowledge of God (Jeremiah 31:34).
5. God promises His people would obey Him (Ezekiel 36:27; 37:23-24; Jeremiah 32:39-40).
6. The fulfilling of this covenant was tied to Israel’s future restoration to the land (Jer. 32:36-41; Ezek. 36:24-25; 37:11-14).

Before Jesus rose from the dead, he made a promise that was related to the New Covenant passages:

Just like the giving of the Torah (with Moses), the New Covenant needs someone to inaugurate it. As Jesus says:

“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, so that He may be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not see Him nor know Him. But you know Him, for He dwells with you and shall be in you.” John 14:16,17

So we can conclude with following syllogism:

1. If Jesus rose from the dead, He can send the Spirit and inaugurate the New Covenant.
2. Jesus rose from the dead
3. Therefore, Jesus is the inaugurator of the New Covenant.

To see evidence that Jesus rose from the dead, see here:

To see more on the New Covenant, see here:

Conclusion

There are many other reasons why I think Jesus is the only one who has truly begun to fulfill the messsianic task. I also know Rabbinic Judaism has a criteria for what they think the Messiah will do. I have discussed that in greater length here. In our next post, we will list some more reasons why Jesus is the Messiah.

Sources:
1.M.F. Bird, Are You The One To Come? The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 35. Qumran is the site of the ruin about nine miles south of Jericho on the west side of the Dead Sea where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in nearby caves. The Dead Sea Scrolls contains some 800 scrolls with parts or the entirety of every book of the Old Testament except Esther, discovered in the caves near Qumran.
2. Richard Bauckham, Bible and Mission: Christian in a Postmodern World (Carlisle: Paternoster; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 33
3.See The Concept of the Messiah in the Old Testament athttp://www.worldofthebible.com/Bible%20Studies/The%20Concept%20…

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“Who Do you Say I Am?”: Cultural Confusion and the Identity of Jesus

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-17).

As of today, people are still trying to answer the same question that Jesus asked Peter 2,000 years ago. In his book The Case For The Real Jesus, Lee Strobel says if you search for Jesus at Amazon.com, you will find 175, 986 books on the most controversial figure in human history.

Here are some of the current views of Jesus in the surrounding culture:

Yes, there is a group called Ask a Muslim who actually spends time and money telling others Jesus was Muslim.

 

To see more about The Black Hebrew Israelite Movement, see here: 

To see one of many responses to the Aslan book, see here:

To see a response to the Smuley book, see Michael Brown’s book here.

As see here, there is plenty of confusion about who Jesus is. For over 100 years, there has been a quest to identify the historical Jesus and differentiate between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith. Here are some of the aspects of these quests.

Books That Deal With These Issues

I quickly want to mention two books. I advise reading The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition: By: Paul Rhodes Eddy, Gregory A. Boyd and Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony: by Richard Bauckham. Bauckham’s book is very significant in that he lays out some of the differences between ancient and modern historiography. After all, this issue plays a tremendous role in understanding the Gospels/New Testament (see more below). And by the way, The Jesus Legend is critical reponse to legend theorists. For those that want to see how silly it is to propose the theory that Jesus didn’t exist- click here to read Did Jesus Really Exist? By Paul L. Maier, The Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History, Western Michigan University

Let’s Look at the Quests

The First Quest Period-1778-1906:

The First Quest was marked by works such as David Strauss’s, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined. Under the influence of David Hume, Strauss dismissed the reliability of historical and supernatural elements in the Gospels as “outrageous” and “myths” Another important work of this period was Albert Schweitzer’s The Quest of the Historical Jesus. (1)

The No Quest Period-1906-1953:

Rudolf Bultmann regarded Schweitzer’s work as methodologically impossible and theologically illegitimate. (2) Schweitzer’s thesis marked the end of the Old Quest and the beginning of the No Quest period. Through the first half of the twentieth century, the pursuit of the historical Jesus seemed to some scholars to be futile and irrelevant. The failure of the Old Quest, as N.T. Wright has said, had left a “deep ditch” separating the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith. During the period of the No Quest, critical scholars became more interested in examining the New Testament for what it revealed about the early church and its evolving message. Rudolph Bultmann was a primary leader in what is called form criticism during this period. Form criticism sought to draw distinction between various literary forms within the gospels- parables, pronouncements, proverbs and so on- and to identify the stages of development of the texts and the traditions behind them as they passed from oral to written form. (3)

The New Quest Period- 1953-1970:

Ernst Kasemann, a student of Bultmann began the “new quest” in a 1953 lecture. While he rejected some of Bultmann’s views, he was concerned with the person of Jesus as the preached word of God and his relation to history. The major work of the new quest is Gunther Bornkamm’s Jesus of Nazareth (1960). (4) Among the New Questers were German scholar Joachim Jeremias whose works in the 1950’s and the 1960’s focused heavily on the message of Jesus rather than on reconstructing a full-blooded biography. In the United States, the groundwork for the New Quest was laid by the eminent New Testament scholar James Robinson of the Claremont School of Theology, whose 1959 book called A New Quest of the Historical Jesus defined many of the issues that would come to dominate the scholarly community for decades.(5)

Weaknesses of The First Quest, The No Quest and The New Quest:

Naturalism: The naturalistic worldview came to be more prominent during the Enlightenment period. In this worldview, miracle accounts and any references to the non-natural realm are generally rejected. This is unjustified. For theists, miracles (which are paramount to the Christian faith) are non-natural but not anti-natural. A miracle, of course, is a special act of God in the natural world, something nature would not have done on its own. (6) It is beyond the scope of this article to defend the philosophical basis for miracles. For an excellent treament of this topic, feel free to read Norman L. Geisler. Miracles And The Modern Mind: A Defense of Biblical Miracles (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992).

Therefore, the entire starting point in studying the life of Jesus is about one’s presuppositions. Metaphysics is the study of being or reality. It is used interchangeably with ontology (Gk. ontos, “being,” and logos, “word about”). Without metaphysics, a person would be incapable of constructing a worldview. A worldview must explain all of the pieces of the puzzle we call reality.

These issues demonstrate that in investigating the evidence for the life of Jesus, every historian interprets the past in direct relationship to his own Weltanschauung (the German word for worldview). Hence, a worldview will always impact one’s historical method/philosophy of history. Philosophical or metaphysical naturalism refers to the view that nature is the “whole show.” If one has a commitment to philosophical or metaphysical naturalism, several aspects of the life of Jesus will be interpreted in a naturalistic way. Remember, naturalism is not a discovery of science. It must always be viewed as a presupposition of science as presently practiced.

To read more about this issue- see the Boyd/Eddy book or The New Testament and the People of God by N.T. Wright. There is also new book by Mike Licona called The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. A false separation: These quests fail to show that there needs to be a dichotomy between the Jesus of faith and the Jesus of history. They assume the Gospels are non-historical. (7) In relation to the resurrection, Ben Witherington III says:

“Any position in which claims about Jesus or the resurrection are removed from the realm of historical reality and placed in a subjective realm of personal belief or some realm that is immune to human scrutiny does Jesus and the resurrection no service and no justice. It is a ploy of desperation to suggest that the Christian faith would be little affected if Jesus was not actually raised from the dead in space and time. A person who gives up on the historical foundations of our faith has in fact given up on the possibility of any real continuity between his or her own faith and that of a Peter, Paul, James, John, Mary Magdalene, or Priscilla. The first Christian community had a strong interest in historical reality, especially the historical reality of Jesus and his resurrection, because they believed their faith, for better or for worse, was grounded in it.” (8)

A non-Jewish Jesus: Many Jewish scholars view the “New Quest” period as just another attempt to “de-Judaize Jesus” or deny his Jewishness.

The Third Quest Period-1970 and on:

As of today, biblical scholars have embarked on what is called “The Third Quest” for the historical Jesus, a quest that has been characterized as “the Jewish reclamation of Jesus.” Rather then saying Jesus broke away from Judaism and started Christianity, Jewish scholars studying the New Testament have sought to re-incorporate Jesus within the fold of Judaism.(9) In this study, scholars have placed a great deal of emphasis on the social world of first- century Palestine. The scholars of the Third Quest have rejected the idea that the Jesus of the New Testament was influenced by Hellenic Savior Cults. (10) Some of the resources that deal with this issue are the following:

The Players in the Third Quest

1. E.P Sanders

Sanders is noted for asserting in 1985 the historical authenticity of eight activities of The Historical Jesus:

1. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist 2. Jesus was a Galilean who preached and healed. 3. Jesus called disciples and spoke of their being twelve 4. Jesus confined his activity to Israel 5. Jesus engaged in controversy about the temple 6. Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem by Roman authorities 7. After his death Jesus’ followers continued as an identifiable movement 8. At least some Jews persecuted at least parts of the new movement

In 1993, in a more popular work, Sanders added six more facts to his list:

1. Jesus was born circa 4 B.C., at the approximate time of Herod the Great. 2. Jesus grew up in Nazareth of Galilee 3. Jesus taught in small villages and towns and seemed to avoid cities 4. Jesus ate a final meal with his disciples 5. Jesus was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities, apparatnly at the orders of the High Priest 6. Although they abandoned Jesus after his arrest, the disciples later “saw” him after his death. This led the disciples to believe that Jesus would return and found the kingdom.

Both E.P. Sanders and James Charlesworth say “the dominate view today seems to be that we can know pretty well what Jesus was out to accomplish, that we can know a lot about what he said, and that those two things make sense within the world of first- century Judaism.” (11)

2. N.T. Wright

Wright has been another major player in the Third Quest. Wright agrees with Sanders list but still adds some of the following items about what we can know about Jesus:

1. Jesus spoke Aramaic and Hebrew, and probably some Greek 2. Jesus summoned the people to repent 3. Jesus made use of the parables to announce the kingdom of God 4. Jesus effected remarkable cures, including exorcisms, as demonstrated the truth of his proclamation of the kingdom 5. Jesus shared table fellowship with a socially and diverse group, including whom many Torah observant Jews would regard as “sinners.’

In his book Jesus and the Victory of God,Christian Origins and the Question of God, Volume 2, author Wright says that the historical Jesus is very much the Jesus of the gospels: a first century Palestinian Jew who announced and inaugurated the kingdom of God, performed “mighty works” and believed himself to be Israel’s Messiah who would save his people through his death and resurrection. “He believed himself called,” in other words says Wright, “to do and be what, in the Scriptures, only Israel’s God did and was.”

3. Craig Evans

One of the active scholars in the Third Quest is Craig Evans. One of his recent books is Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels. I had the privilege of sitting under Dr. Evans this past May. His knowledge of the Dead Sea Scrolls, early Judaica, and the cognate languages is unsurpassed.

Evans adds a few items to the lists of Sanders and Wright: 1.The public viewed Jesus as a prophet 2. The Romans crucified him as “King of the Jews.” 3.That following Easter his followers regarded him as Israel’s Messiah.

The Core Facts

Gary Habermas makes an important point when he says, “Certainly one of the strongest methodological indications of historicity occurs when a case can be built on accepted data that are recognized as well established by a wide range of otherwise diverse historians.”Historian Christopher Blake refers to this as the “very considerable part of history which is acceptable to the community of professional historians.” (12)

Here are five well-evidenced facts granted by virtually all scholars who study the historical Jesus: (see See Habermas. G.R. and Licona, M. L. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus):

1. Jesus’ death by crucifixion 2. Jesus’ followers sincerely believed Jesus rose from the dead 3. Early eyewitness testimony to belief in Jesus’ resurrection 4. The conversion of Jesus’ skeptical brother, James 5. Paul, once an enemy of the early faith, became a commited follower of Jesus the Messiah

Who are some of these critical scholars that Habermas mentions? To read more about this see: http://preventingtruthdecay.org/jesusresurrection.shtml

It is important to understand that I don’t want to say that just because I offer a list of core facts that are universally agreed on by historians and Biblical scholars makes it true. If so, that would be what is called a “consensus gentium fallacy” which is the fallacy of arguing that an idea is true because most people believe it. Habermas completed an overview of more than 1,400 critical scholarly works on the resurrection from 1975 to 2003. He studied and catalogued about 650 of the texts in English, German and French. Habermas reports that all the scholars who were from across the ideological spectrum agreed on the five facts that are mentioned. Therefore, the scholars and historians that Habermas researched were not all from a conservative or traditional perspective. So there was some impartiality in the study.

The Jesus Seminar

It is important to mention that another group of scholars who are involved in the Third Quest are the Jesus Seminar. The Jesus Seminar come from various academic, professional, and  religious backgrounds.  Among the seventy scholars and laypersons that comprise the group, the  individuals that are regularly in the public eye include Robert W. Funk  (co-chair), John Dominic Crossan (co-chair), and Marcus Borg (Oregon State   University). For most of those in the Seminar, there is a dichotomy  between the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith.” The “Christ of faith”  is seen as a figure of the early church who was elevated to a divine status by  the use of early Christian creeds and through the mythological embellishment  accounts of the Gospels that were written later. (13) In  a debate with John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar, William Lane  Craig exposed Crossan’s naturalistic presuppositions. Craig asked Crossan if  there was anything that would convince Crossan that Jesus rose from the dead as  an historical fact. Crossan responded by saying a person has the right to say,”I by faith believe that God has intervened in the resurrection event.” However,  Crossan then goes on to say, “It’s a theological presupposition of mine that  God does not operate in that way that they.” (14)  To see some critques of Crossan and the Seminar’s views see here:

Conclusion:

The good news is that the quest for The Historical Jesus may be shifting to what is called “The Interdisciplinary Quest.” This means that there are many people from a variety of academic backgrounds such as philosophy, sociology, anthropology, etc., that are all weighing in on this topic. It should be interesting to see what happens in the future. I can only speak for myself in that I see no dichotomy between the Christ of Faith and the Jesus of History. You can decide for yourself.

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Sources:

1.Geisler N. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999, pgs 385-386. 2.Ibid. 3. Sheller, Jeffrey L. Is The Bible True? How Modern Debates and Discoveries Affirm the Essence of the Scriptures, New York. Harper Collins Publishers. 1999, 176-182. 4.Ibid. 5.Ibid. 6.Geisler, pgs 385-386. 7.Ibid. 8.B. Witherington III. New Testament History. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2001, pg 167. 9.Craig, W L. Christian Reasonable Faith, Wheaten, ILL: Crossway Books. 1984, 240-241. 10. Ibid. 11. Ibid. 12. Geisler, N.L., and Paul K. Hoffman, Why I Am A Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe. Grand Rapids: MI: Baker Books. 2001, 152.

13. House. W.H.,and Joseph M. Holden, Charts of Apologetics and  Christian Evidences.Grand Rapids,   MI: Zondervan Publishing House,  2006, Chart 51.

14. Copan, P. Will The Real Jesus Stand Up? A Debate between William  Lane Craig and John Dominic CrossanGrand  Rapids, MI: Baker  Books. 1998. 61-62.

 

 

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