A Look at Cancel Culture: Are Christians Too Judgmental and Not Much Different From Cancel Culture?

As you probably know, cancel culture is all around us. If you don’t affirm someone else’s belief or disagree, or say the wrong thing, you can be permanently canceled. You can lose your job, your reputation, or a relationship. We have seen the division and people canceled for their views over politics, sexuality, racial issues, and of course, Covid policies. There is no forgiveness, no restoration, and no resolution except that you are condemned or canceled. Yes, this is happening all around us. But perhaps many of us are not that different from cancel culture and don’t know it. We discuss that in this clip.

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Reviewing the Resurrection Creed in 1 Cor 15:3-8

As historians evaluate the sources available for the resurrection of Jesus, a critical question is the dating of the sources. In relation to early testimony, historian David Hacket Fisher says, “An historian must not merely provide good relevant evidence but the best relevant evidence. And the best relevant evidence, all things being equal, is evidence which is most nearly immediate to the event itself.” (1) One key in examining the early sources for the life of Christ is to take into account the Jewish culture in which they were birthed. As Paul Barnett notes, “The milieu of early Christianity in which Paul’s letters and the Gospels were written was ‘rabbinic.’” (2)

Given the emphasis on education in the synagogue, the home, and the elementary school, it is not surprising that it was possible for the Jewish people to recount large quantities of material that was even far greater than the Gospels themselves.

Jesus was a called a “Rabbi” (Matt. 8:19; 9:11; 12:38; Mk. 4:38; 5:35; 9:17; 10:17, 20; 12:14, 19, 32; Lk. 19:39; Jn. 1:38; 3:2), which means “master” or “teacher.” There are several terms that can be seen that as part of the rabbinic terminology of that day. His disciples had “come” to him, “followed after” him, “learned from” him, “taken his yoke upon” them (Mt. 11:28-30; Mk 1). (3)

Therefore, it appears that the Gospel was first spread in the form of oral creeds and hymns (Luke 24:34; Acts 2:22-24, 30-32; 3:13-15; 4:10-12; 5:29-32; 10:39-41; 13:37-39; Rom. 1:3-4; 4:25; 10:9; 1 Cor. 11:23ff.;15:3-8; Phil. 26-11; 1 Tim.2:6; 3:16; 6:13; 2 Tim. 2:8;1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 4:2).

There was tremendous care in ‘delivering’ the traditions that had been received. Jesus’ use of parallelism, rhythm and rhyme, alliterations, and assonance enabled Jesus’ words not only ‘memorizable’ but easy to preserve. (4) Even Paul, a very competent rabbi was trained at the rabbinic academy called the House of Hillel by ‘Gamaliel,’ a key rabbinic leader and member of the Sanhedrin. It can be observed that the New Testament authors employ oral tradition terminology such as “delivering,” “receiving,” “passing on” “learning,” “guarding,” the traditional teaching. Just look at the following passages:

Romans 16: 17: “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.”

1 Corinthians 11:23: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread.”

Philippians 4:9: “The things you have learned and received and heardand seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

2 Thessalonians 2:15: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.”

1 Corinthians 15: 3-7: The Earliest Account

Paul applies this terminology in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-7 which is one of the earliest records for the historical content of the Gospel – the death and resurrection of Jesus. The late Orthodox Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide was so impressed by the creed of 1 Cor. 15, that he concluded that this “formula of faith may be considered as a statement of eyewitnesses.” (5)

Paul’s usage of the rabbinic terminology “passed on” and “received” is seen in the creed of 1 Cor. 15:3-8:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

Rainer Riesner says the following about the creed:To the troubled church of Corinth, Paul, around 54 CE, wrote: I would remind you, brothers [including sisters], of the gospel [euangelion] that I proclaimed to you, which you received [parelabete], in which you also stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold to the wording [tini logō] in which I proclaimed it to you. . . . For I handed down [paredōka] to you under the first things what also I have received [parelabon]. (1 Cor. 15:1–3) Then the apostle cites a series of statements, a technique he knew from his rabbinical training, indicating certain traditions about Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection appearances (1 Cor. 15:3–7). There are some important things to be noted. Paul could call a summary of the last part of Jesus’s life euangelion. The apostle reminds the Corinthians that at the foundation of the community (around 50 CE), he taught them some Jesus traditions as part of “the first things.” This is confirmed by 1 Corinthians 11:23–24: “I received [parelabon] from the Lord what I also handed down [paredōka] to you”; then Paul cites the eucharistic words of Jesus in a form independent from, but very near to, the Lukan version (Luke 22:19–20). The formulation “from the Lord” (apo tou kyriou) points back to Jesus as the originator of the tradition (1 Cor. 11:23). Paul is silent concerning those functioning as intermediaries from whom he received the eucharistic words; but 1 Corinthians 15:5–7 shows that the Jesus tradition was connected with known persons such as Peter, James, and the Twelve. Obviously it was not an anonymous tradition. The nearest philological parallel to the Greek words paralambanō (to receive) and paradidōmi (to hand down) are the Hebrew technical terms qibbel and masar, denoting a cultivated oral tradition (m. Abot 1:1). This is in agreement with Paul’s insistence on the “wording” (1 Cor. 15:2) of the catechetical formula in 1 Corinthians 15:3–5. In addition, the strong verbal agreements between the Pauline and the Lukan forms of the eucharistic words point to a cultivated tradition. (6)

There is an interesting parallel to Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 15:3-8 in the works of Josephus. Josephus says the following about the Pharisees.

“I want to explain here that the Pharisees passed on to the people certain ordinances from a succession of fathers, which are not written down in the law of Moses. For this reason the party of the Sadducees dismisses these ordinances, averaging that one need only recognize the written ordinances, whereas those from the tradition of the fathers need not be observed.” (7)

As Richard Bauckham notes, “the important point for our purposes is that Josephus uses the language of “passing on” tradition for the transmission from one teacher to another and also for the transmission from the Pharisees to the people.”(8)

Bauckham notes in his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony that the Greek word for “eyewitness” (autoptai), does not have forensic meaning, and in that sense the English word “eyewitnesses” with its suggestion of a metaphor from the law courts, is a little misleading. The autoptai are simply firsthand observers of those events. Bauckham has followed the work of Samuel Byrskog in arguing that while the Gospels though in some ways are a very distinctive form of historiography, they share broadly in the attitude to eyewitness testimony that was common among historians in the Greco-Roman period. These historians valued above all reports of firsthand experience of the events they recounted.

Best of all was for the historian to have been himself a participant in the events (direct autopsy). Failing that (and no historian was present at all the events he need to recount, not least because some would be simultaneous), they sought informants who could speak from firsthand knowledge and whom they could interview (indirect autopsy).” In other words, Byrskog defines “autopsy,” as a visual means of gathering data about a certain object and can include means that are either direct (being an eyewitness) or indirect (access to eyewitnesses).

Byrskog also claims that such autopsy is arguably used by Paul (1 Cor.9:1; 15:5–8; Gal. 1:16), Luke (Acts 1:21–22; 10:39–41) and John (19:35; 21:24; 1 John 1:1–4).

As just mentioned, the word “received” παραλαμβάνω (a rabbinical term) means to receive something transmitted from someone else, which could be by an oral transmission or from others from whom the tradition proceeds. This entails that Paul received this information from someone else at an even an earlier date.

As Gary Habermas notes, “Even critical scholars usually agree that it has an exceptionally early origin.” Ulrich Wilckens declares that this creed “indubitably goes back to the oldest phase of all in the history of primitive Christianity.” (9) Joachim Jeremias calls it “the earliest tradition of all.” (10) Even the non-Christian scholar Gerd Ludemann says that “I do insist that the discovery of pre-Pauline confessional foundations is one of the great achievements in the New Testament scholarship.” (11)

The majority of scholars who comment think that Paul probably received this information about three years after his conversion, which probably occurred from one to four years after the crucifixion.  While we can’t be dogmatic about this, we do know at that time, Paul visited Jerusalem to speak with Peter and James, each of whom are included in the list of Jesus’ appearances (1 Cor. 15:5, 7; Gal. 1:18–19). This places it at roughly A.D. 32–38. Even the co-founder Jesus Seminar member John Dominic Crossan, writes:

“Paul wrote to the Corinthians from Ephesus in the early 50s C.E. But he says in 1 Corinthians 15:3 that “I handed on to you as of first importance which I in turn received.” The most likely source and time for his reception of that tradition would have been Jerusalem in the early 30s when, according to Galatians 1:18, he “went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas [Peter] and stayed with him fifteen days” (12).

E.P. Sanders also says:

Paul’s letters were written earlier than the gospels, and so his reference to the Twelve is the earliest evidence. It comes in a passage that he repeats as ‘tradition’, and is thus to be traced back to the earliest days of the movement. In 1 Corinthians 15 he gives the list of resurrection appearances that had been handed down to him. (13)

And Crossan’s partner Robert Funk says:

The conviction that Jesus had risen from the dead had already taken root by the time Paul was converted about 33 C.E. On the assumption that Jesus died about 30 C.E., the time for development was thus two or three years at most.” — Robert Funk co-founder of the Jesus Seminar.(14)

This means that Paul received this information from someone else at an even earlier date. How can we know where he received it?  There are three possibilities:

  1. In Damascus from Ananias about AD 34 
  2. In Jerusalem about AD 36/37 
  3. In Antioch about AD 47

One of the clues as to where Paul got his information, is that, within the creed, he calls Peter by his Aramaic name, Cephas.  Hence, it seems likely that he received this information in either Galilee or Judea, one of the two places where people spoke Aramaic. Therefore, Paul possibly received the oral history of 1 Cor. 15:3-7 during his visit to Jerusalem.

 In Galatians 1:18 Paul says, Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. Here, “acquainted” happens to derive from a Greek word (historesai) that means “inquire into” or “become acquainted.” (15) Interestingly enough, the word “history” also derives from the Greek word “historesai.” So, the work of the historian is to find sources of information, to evaluate their reliability, to make disciplined “inquiry” into their meaning and with imagination to reconstruct what happened. (16) Paul’s first trip to Jerusalem is usually dated about AD 35 or 36.

Why does this matter?

I was once talking to a Muslim about the dating of the Qur’an and the New Testament. Islam states Jesus was never crucified, and therefore, never risen. The Qur’an was written some six hundred years after the life of Jesus which makes it a much later source of information than the New Testament. It seems the evidence that has just been discussed tells us that the historical content of the Gospel (Jesus’ death and resurrection) was circulating very early among the Christian community. As I just said, historians look for the records that are closest to the date of event. Given the early date of 1 Cor. 15: 3-8, it is quite evident that this document is a more reliable resource than the Qur’an. Furthermore, to say the story of Jesus was something that was “made up” much later contradicts the evidence just presented.

Note: Here is a resource that responds to some Jesus Mythers (e.g., the usual list that includes Robert Price), who attempt to say 1 Cor 15: 3-11 is an interpolation.

Sources:

1. Hacket Fisher, D.H., Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought (New York: Harper Torchbooks. 1970),  62.

2. Barnett, P.W., Jesus and the Logic of History (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1997),  138.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Lapide, P.E., The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis: Ausburg 1983), 98-99.

6. Porter, S.E., and Dyer, B.R., The Synoptic Problem, Four Views (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016), Kindle Locations, 2052-2062

7. Bauckham, R. Jesus and the Gospels: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company) 2006.

8. Ibid.

9. Wilckens, U., Resurrection, trans. A. M. Stewart (Edinburgh: St. Andrew. 1977), 2

10. Jeremias, J. New Testament Theology: The Proclamation of Jesus, trans. John Bowden (New York: Scribner’s. 1971), 306.

11. Ludemann, G, The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: A Historical Inquiry (Amherst, NY: Promethus, 2004), 37.

12. Crossan, J.D. & Jonathan L. Reed. Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts (New York: Harper. 2001), 254.

13.  Sanders,  E.P.,The Historical Figure of Jesus (New York: Penguin Books), 1993

14.  Hoover,  R.W., and the Jesus Seminar, The Acts of Jesus,What Did Jesus Really Do? ( Farmington, Minnesota: Polebridge Press, 1996),

466.

15. Jones, T.P., Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 2007), 89-94.

16. Ibid.

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A Very Challenging Task: Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus

Introduction

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

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

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

The Incarnation and Trinity Issue:

Over the years I have heard several objections from Jewish people. Keep in mind, there are many Jewish people who are not overly religious. Hence, they are not Orthodox in practice and belief. But for the ones who are Orthodox, they have spent some time learning from counter-missionary organizations like Jews for Judaism and Outreach Judaism.  Hence, they know our arguments and tend to be ready to give their own apologetic as to why we are wrong about our claims about Jesus being the Jewish Messiah.

In other words, the entire belief in Jesus’ deity is a Christian invention that developed much later in church history. Therefore, Christian theological concepts like the incarnation, the virgin birth, the Trinity, etc. are totally foreign to both Judaism and the Jewish Scriptures (The Old Testament). I would like to give some tips in how to handle these objections. I speak from personal experience:

The study of the Godhead is an enormous task. A study of the Trinity or the divinity of Jesus/ making a case for a divine Messiah go hand in hand with each other.  My advice is to take the time and do a long study of the topic. If you want to do this superficially, you will pay the price. One of the best resources on this topic is my friend John Metzger’s  Discovering the Mystery of the Unity of God (over 900 pages).  For Orthodox Jewish and some conservative Jewish people as well, the idea of God becoming a man is just an impossibility and it goes against their strict monotheism. Hence, God is noncorporeal and that settles it!

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

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

Jewish concept of the ‘Word’ being a Divine Person

Messianic Expectations and Maimonides

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

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

Let’s look at a couple of these:

#1 The Temple Issue and the Gathering the Exiles

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

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

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

Is There One Messianic Expectation?

The problem with talking to many Orthodox  or other Jewish people is that the only messianic expectation is the one put forth by Rabbinic Judaism which came into being after the Temple was destroyed in 70 a.d. So the problem with this is that we don’t get a broader understanding of what the messianic expectations were pre-70 ad/before the time of Jesus. Before 70 CE, messianic figures could go by a variety of names such as Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, the Prophet, Elect One, Prince, Branch, Root, Scepter, Star, Chosen One, Coming One, and so forth.  It is when we study the entire history of messianism that we get a much broader understanding of the topic. To see more on this, see our posts:

Six Messianic Expectations and One Messiah

THE MESSIAH AND THE HEBREW BIBLE: JOHN H. SAILHAMER

Messianic Hopes and   Messianic Figures   In Late Antiquity/Craig Evans

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

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

Messianic Prophecy

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

See more here:

Are There Over 300 Messianic Prophecies?

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

Resources for the study of Messianic Prophecy

Answering the Objection: Jesus Fulfilled None of the Messianic Prophecies! 

What About an Atoning Messiah?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supersessionism

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

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

Conclusion:

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

General Objections/Historical Objections

Theological Objections

Messianic Prophecy Objections

New Testament Objections

Traditional Jewish Objections

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

Sources:

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

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

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Book Review: Five Things Biblical Scholars Wish Theologians Knew,  Scot McKnight and Hans Boersma

Five Things Biblical Scholars Wish Theologians Knew by [Scot McKnight, Hans Boersma]

Most recently I reviewed Five Things Theologians Wish Biblical Scholars Knew, by Scot McKnight and Hans Boersma. I read that book and this book back-to-back. Given I have read several of McKnight’s books, I was eager to read this one. As I said before, I have always been interested in the relationship between biblical scholars and theologians. Having read my share of systematic theology books and having studied under a professor who had written his own four volumes on systematic theology (he has passed away), I have found myself analyzing the pros and cons of systematic theology. I get frustrated with those defending a specific “system” and then offering up various proof texts in Scripture to back up their system. And since we know the Bible isn’t a systematic theology, starting with a system such as Calvinism, covenant theology, dispensational theology, or a ecclesiastical tradition and attempting reading it back into the Bible is a risky endeavor.

As McKinght notes in the introduction, “People in my discipline, New Testament, sometimes don’t like to be called theologians, and at times we (or they) dismiss anything smacking of systematics. Systematic theology is a complete, coherent account of the Christian faith, broken into parts but unified and driven by the system at work. Biblical theology sticks to the Bible and to its categories, terms and limits.”- pg 1. Having said this, McKnight isn’t interested in bashing systematic theology at all. He does want biblical scholars and systematicians to be able to work together. McKnight wants systematicians to keep five topics in front of them: 1) a constant return to Scripture, 2), theology needs to know its impact on biblical studies, 3) theology needs historically shaped biblical studies, 4) theology needs more narrative, 5) theology needs to be lived theology- pg 13.

I will give a some highlights from some of these chapters. In the chapter “Theology Needs A Constant Return To Scripture (Ch 1), McKnight mentions the issues of biblicism which is a focus on the Bible and the Bible alone. The biblicist methodologically and intentionally brackets off the categories of the theologian. -pg. 39.

He notes some biblical scholars are perceived as not caring about theology, especially shaped by creeds and confessions.” -pg. 41. McKnight rightly mentions the work of sociologist Christian Smith who has offered some solutions for the charge of biblicism. Biblicism is criticized as leading to pervasive interpretive pluralism. Smith’s solution to the problem is a Christocentric or Christotelic reading of the Bible in which all things lead to Jesus and the other details fall by the waste side.- pg. 44. McKnight also mentions John Frame’s criticism’s of Smith’s work. As he notes Frame (and others) tend to read the Bible through confessions or creeds. For Frame, he reads the Bible through the Westminster Confession.

 I personally think reding the Bible this way is a mistake. N.T. Wright discusses some of these issues in his book How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels.

In the chapter “Theology Needs More Narrative” (Ch 4), McKnight notes that “Christians have a biblicist, prooftext-ish approach to Christian theology and so want theology organized by topics with Bible references and summaries that put into shape “what the Bible teaches about such-and-such.”- pg. 94.  This is what many systematic theology textbooks attempt to do. McKnight notes Wayne Grudhem’s Systematic Theology which provides such a service. McKnight notes that when reading a systematic theology work, he asks questions such as “Where’s Israel, Abraham, David, Solomon, the exodus, exile, the land, etc.? He notes that in many cases, these works only have an emphasis on a “salvation plot.” They lack an emphasis on narrative. As he notes “God did not reveal a systematics, but instead spoke into history over time and in a diversity of ways through a myriad of persons and a myriad of locations and contexts.”- pg. 100.

In the chapter “Theology Needs to Be Lived Theology,” McKnight says that “IT IS NOT AN OVERSTATEMENT TO SAY one will be judged not by one’s theology, but by one’s life.”- pg. 116. He also says, “What one believes matters. But believing the right things isn’t good enough.” -pg. 116.

 There’s no doubt that one could memorize and repeat creeds but have display little transformation in one’s practice.

I’ve seen that in recent years there has been a lot of discussion about the connection between orthodoxy (what Christians believe/right belief), and orthopraxis (how Christians are to live). These two orthos are intended to work in harmony with one another. Sadly, however, there seems to continually be a great tension between some Christians that tend to emphasize one side of this equation over the other. Some say those who that have solely focuses on orthodoxy (correct belief/doctrine), lack love and their witness isn’t what it needs to be. After all, if people have true beliefs, shouldn’t it match up with our living?  The problem is no Christian will ever totally reflect the character of Jesus and they will fail at times to live out their faith. We aren’t in the glorified state yet. We are all in the process of sanctification (becoming like Jesus), in this present life.

After reading this chapter, I doubt any systematic theologian wants to write books without the hope that their work won’t lead to life transformation. I don’t think McKnight is accusing them of that. But I agree that trying to attain perfect beliefs through a deep study of systematic theology with the hope of perfectly nailing down every doctrine and neglecting how it leads to radical discipleship is problematic. Hopefully we teach and exhort people to make a sharp divide over orthodoxy/orthopraxy.

In the conclusion of the book McKnight says that, “if biblical scholars want to operate as doctors of the church, they will need to respect historical theological foundations found in creeds, but respect requires engagement and even challenging some points. If systematic theologians want to operate as doctors of the church, they will need to engage paradigm shifting contributions of biblical scholars.” – pg. 150.

I do agree with this conclusion and have seen many systematicians don’t welcome paradigm shifting approaches to the study of the Bible. It is true that paradigms can be so strong they act as psychological filters – we quite literally see the world through our paradigms. Any data that exists in the real world (or even in the Bible) that does not fit our paradigm will have a difficult time getting through our filters.

In the end, I appreciated resonated with this book a little more with this book than Five Things Theologians Wish Biblical Scholars Knew. But they are both worth your time.

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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 here.

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The Work of the Holy Spirit in Christianity, Mormonism, and Islam

For those that are interested in discussing truth claims with Mormons, and Muslims, this is helpful:

“If we are to perceive and approve the divine character of Scripture, nothing less than the work of the Holy Spirit is required. The work of the Spirit in enabling us to hear Scripture as God’s word can be seen in two parts: illumination and demonstration. First, the Holy Spirit illumines or opens our mind to behold the divine excellence that is contained in Scripture. He regenerates our noetic faculties such that we are able to hear the words of Scripture as God’s personal message to us. In essence, the Spirit as the divine author of the text opens the text to us. Second, the Holy Spirit demonstrates or testifies to the truth of Scripture. In 1 Corinthians 2:4-14 and 1 Thessalonians 1:5, Paul attributes the persuasive and convicting power of the gospel to the testimony of the Holy Spirit. The testimony of the Spirit then provides us with the certainty that Scripture is indeed the word of God. Calvin remarks, If we desire to provide in the best way for our consciences — that they may not be perpetually beset by the instability of doubt or vacillation, and that they may not also boggle at the smallest quibbles — we ought to seek our conviction in a higher place than human reasons, judgments, or conjectures, that is, in the secret testimony of the Spirit.59 The certainty afforded by the Holy Spirit is not a formal certainty; it is not self-evident or incorrigible in the sense that 1 + 1 = 2. Rather, it is a moral certainty that gives one cognitive rest or peace regarding the divine authority of Scripture.

The testimony of the Holy Spirit also plays a vital part in affirming the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Moroni exhorts his followers “that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moro 10:4-5). When honest truth seekers cry out in their hearts to God concerning the truth of the things recorded in the Book of Mormon, he will “speak peace to [their minds] concerning the matter” (D&C 6:23). Despite the similar function, the content of the testimony of the Holy Spirit in Mormonism differs from evangelical Christianity. Evangelical Christians believe that the Spirit does not add to, modify, or contradict Scripture; the Spirit witnesses to the Word, not against it or in addition to it. Mormons, however, hold that the ultimate source of knowledge “is linked not to written words, not even to the writings of Moses or Isaiah or Malachi, not to the four Gospels or the epistles of Paul, but rather to the spirit of prophecy and revelation.” Consequently, the Spirit does not so much testify to the Bible, or the Book of Mormon, as to its ongoing revelation. But this creates the problem of a continuous circular argument. If new revelation is needed to attest to the revelation in the Book of Mormon, then further revelation is needed to attest to this new revelation. Islam has no notion of the Holy Spirit. It nevertheless does have some form of…cry, recognizing that what they heard was the clear truth of God’s word (5:83; 17:107-9; 32:15; 84:21). Another passage speaks of a tingling sensation in the skin and the softening of the heart (39:23). The sacrality of the qurʾanic recitation is incipient in the Qurʾan. Later Islamic thought, however, developed and embellished stories of spontaneous conversion, stories in which unbelievers and even those hostile to the prophet responded positively upon hearing the recitation of the Qurʾan. Regardless of how Muslims epistemologists interpret this religious experience, we should note that the Christian appeal to the testimony of the Spirit is not an appeal to a person’s experience, emotions, intellect, or inner consciousness — it is an appeal directly to God. This witness is not a witness borne by our consciousness, but a witness to our consciousness by the Spirit. The witness of the Spirit does provide a feeling or experience of cognitive rest, but the existence of this experience is not the premise of an argument, but the occasion, for the formation of our belief that Scripture is indeed the word of God.”—Knowing the Bible Is the Word of God Despite Competing Claims Te-Li Lau. Featured in The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures by D. A. Carson

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