Who Were The First Apologists? A Look At The Apostles

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Introduction

Over the years I have had plenty of people ask me how to go about sharing their faith with others. They always ask whether they should just go ahead and share their personal testimony. I agree that using a personal testimony can be effective in that it shows the difference that Jesus makes in the reality of life. There is nothing wrong with this. But allow me to offer a few suggestions:

Pragmatism has been one of the most prominent philosophies within American culture over the first quarter of the twentieth century. John Dewey was at the forefront of pragmatism within the educational system. For the pragmatist, an idea is said to be true if it “works” or brings desired results. Pragmatism is not as interested if the idea is objectively true, but simply if an idea leads to expedient or practical results.

God can and does use our testimony in a powerful way. In other words, by sharing our testimony, we want to show that faith in Jesus works; He is responsible for transforming the human heart. While it is true that Jesus changes lives, let me share some examples of personal conversations I have had with several people. I will go ahead and refer to Barry  as a common person I encounter on a regular basis.

Eric: “Barry, I want to share with you what Jesus has done in my life. He has transformed my life.”

Barry: “Well that is great, I am happy for you. As long as you are happy, that is fine. But that Jesus thing is not for me.”

Eric: ‘But Barry, he can change your life as well!”

Barry: “Like I said, I am happy the way I am. Furthermore, I don’t see what difference belief in Jesus will really make in my life.”

In a post-modern culture, responses like we see from Barry are becoming more common. But what is interesting is that the  transformed life approach is not the primary way the early apostles reached their audience for the Gospel.

First, we should note that the apostles approach to spreading the message of the Gospel is characterized by such terms as “apologeomai/apologia”which means “to give reasons, make a legal defense” (Acts 26:2; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet 3:15); “dialegomai” which means “to reason, speak boldly” (Acts 17:2; 17; 18:4; 19:8), “peíthō” which means to persuade, argue persuasively” (Acts 18:4; 19:8), and “bebaioō ” which means “to confirm, establish,” (Phil 1:7; Heb. 2:3). [1]

According to the late F.F. Bruce, the primary way that the apostles established the fact that Jesus was the fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament Messianic Promises was their appeal to prophecy and miracles [2] (see more below).

Apologetics in the New Testament

I would like to go ahead and expand on some of the apologetics in the New Testament. Let’s start with the Book of Acts. By the way, to see the post called 84 places, events, people confirmed in The Book of Acts, click here:  Anyway, let’s move forward:

Peter said, Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. For David says of Him, I saw the Lord always in my presence; for he is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken. ‘Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will live in hope; because you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow your holy one to undergo decay. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: the Lord said to my Lord, “sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet. Therefore let all the houses of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah-this Jesus whom you crucified. Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.-Acts 2: 22-36

We see in this text that the primary apologetic methodology that Peter utilizes is the following: Peter appeals to miracles which have a distinctive purpose: they are used for three reasons:

1. To glorify the nature of God
2. To accredit certain persons as the spokesmen for God
3. To provide evidence for belief in God  [3]

Peter also appeals to:

1. The crucifixion of Jesus

2.Fulfilled prophecy (Jesus had been raised from the dead according to  Ps. 16: 8-11 and ascended to heaven in the fulfillment of Ps.110:1).

Let’s look at Acts 3: 11-26:

“While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s.  And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,  and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.  And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

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.  You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

We see here that again Peter appeals to:

1.The death and resurrection of Jesus

2.Fulfilled prophecy (in this case, the messianic prophecy of Deut.18: 15-18).

3. Eyewitness Testimony

Acts 4: 8-12

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders,if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed,let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among me by which we must be saved.”

Peter appeals to:

  1. The death and resurrection of Jesus
  2. Fulfilled prophecy (Ps. 118:22)

Acts 7-Stephen’s Speech

Stephen appeals to fulfilled prophecy when he says.

“Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”-Acts 7:52

Acts 8

When Phillip is witnessing to the Ethiopian Eunuch, he appeals to fulfilled prophecy. In this case he cites Isa. 53 (see Acts 8:26-40).

Acts 13

In his sermon at Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13: 16-41), Paul says Jesus is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant.

Paul also says Jesus is the fulfillment of Ps. 2:7 and 16:10 (see Acts 13:33-37).

Let me mention some other Pauline passages:

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also” (1 Corinthians 15:1-17).

We see here:

1.The Messiah died according to the Jewish Scriptures (most likely Isa. 53:1-2; Ps. 22).

2.He was raised according to the Scriptures (Isa. 53; Ps.16:8-11).

Let’s look at Romans 1:1-7:

 “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 that:

1  Paul says that the information about the coming Messiah was written about beforehand in the Jewish Scriptures.

2. 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).

3. 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?

Acts 17:1-4:

“Paul went into the synagogue reasoning and giving evidence that the Messiah had to suffer and rise again from the dead.”

In this passage, Paul appeals to fulfilled prophecy which is probably a reference to Isa. 53:1-12; Ps. 22:1-16;16.

If we go on to read about how Paul dealt with his audience at Mars Hill we see the following. As he is speaking to his audience towards the end of the chapter he says the following:

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31).

What stands out here:
(1) Paul is urgent in his appeal for repentance
(2) According to Acts 14: 26, Paul states there was “a time in which God allowed the nations to walk in their own ways,” but now Paul states in Acts 17: 30, “The times of ignorance is over” – God has given man more revelation in the person of Jesus the Messiah
(3) Paul uses the same language as is used in the Jewish Scriptures about judgment (Psalm 9:9)
(4) The judgment will be conducted by an agent, a man who God has appointed
(5) Paul treats the resurrection as an historical fact and he uses it as a proof of God’s appointment as Jesus as the judge of the living and the dead! [4]

Finally, let me finish with 1 Peter 1:10-12

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,  inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.  It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”

We see here that  the prophets were aware of five facts:

1. The Messiah would come

2. The Messiah would need to suffer

3. The Messiah would be glorified

4. This message had been revealed to the prophets not only for their own day, but also for a future generation such as  the community of Peter’s audience.

5. Although they knew they wrote about the Messiah, they  wish they had knowledge of the time of these things.

In conclusion, E.H. Dewart summarized the apostles’ use of Messianic prophecy :

“In all this there was an appeal…to the things that had been foretold by the prophets and fulfilled by the events of the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. It is evident that Peter and Paul had strong confidence in the evidential value of fulfilled prediction.”[5]

So to summarize  “The Kerygma” of the early Christian community:

1. The promises by God made in the Hebrew Bible/The Old Testament have now been revealed with the coming of Jesus the Messiah (Acts 2:30;3;19;24,10:43; 26:6-7;22).

2. Jesus was anointed by God at his baptism (Acts 10:38).

3. Jesus began his ministry at Galilee after his baptism (Acts 10:37).

4. Jesus conducted a beneficent ministry, doing good and performing mighty works by the power of God ( Acts 2:22; 10:38).

5. The Messiah was crucified according to the plan of God (Acts 2:23).

6. He was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples (Acts 2:24; 31-32; 3:15-26;10:40-41;17:31;26:23).

7. Jesus was exalted and given the name “Lord” (Acts 2:25-29;33-36;3:13;10:36).

8. He gave the Holy Spirit to form the new community of God (Acts 1:8;2;14-18;33,38-39;10:44-47).

9. He will come again for judgment and the restoration of all things (Acts 3:20-21;10:42; 17:31).

10. All who hear the message should repent and be baptized because of the finished work of Jesus (Acts 2:21;38;3:19;10:43, 17-48; 17:30, 26:20).

As Bruce says again:

The apostolic preaching was obliged to include an apologetic element if the stumbling-block of the cross was   to be overcome; the kerygma . . . must in some degree be apologia [cf. 1 Cor. 1:17-25; 2:1-5].  And the apologia  was not the invention of the apostles; they had “received” it–received it from the Lord [Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:8].  To begin with, the cross had been a stumbling-block to themselves, until He appeared to them in resurrection and   asked the question: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?”  (Luke 24:26). Necessary indeed, because thus it was written; and so, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets,  He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).  And Paul, who had “received” this account of the death of Christ among the things “of first importance” [1 Cor. 15:1-11], was able ac cordingly in later days to tell a Jewish king that in his apostolic ministry he said “nothing but what the prophets  and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead,  He would proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:23). (6)

I will admit that anyone who tries to understand how the apostles used messianic prophecy will also need to understand the hermeneutical methods of that period. I have not gone over that in great detail in this post. One helpful resource on this topic is Michael Rydelnick’s The Messianic Hope: Is The Hebrew Bible Really Messianic?

However, my hope and prayer is that that Christians will  see that one of the main apologetic approaches the Holy Spirit used  to grow and expand the early Church was an evidential method.  And remember the role of prayer in The Book of Acts.

Perhaps we can conclude with the words of J.P. Moreland:

“Today, we share the gospel as a means of addressing felt needs. We give testimonies of changed lives and say to people if they want to become better parents or overcome depression or loneliness, that the Jesus is their answer. This approach to evangelism is inadequate for two reasons. First, it does not reach people who may be out of touch with their feelings. Second, it invites the response, “Sorry, I do not have a need.” Have you noticed how no one responded to Paul in this manner? In Acts 17-20, he based his preaching on the fact that the gospel is true and reasonable to believe. He reasoned and tried to persuade people to intelligently accept Jesus.” [7]

[1] Garrett J. Deweese, Doing Philosophy as a Christian (Downers Grove, ILL: IVP Publishers, 2012), 78-79.

[2] F.F. Bruce, A Defense of the Gospel in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988), 74-75.

[3] Norman Geisler,  Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics ( Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 45

[4] I. Howard Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Grand Rapids: MI: Intervarsity Press. 1980),  288-290.

[5] E.H. Dewart, Jesus the Messiah in Prophecy and Fulfillment: A Review and Refutation of the Negative Theory of Messianic Prophecy (Cincinnati” Cranston and Stowe; New York: Hunt and Eaton, 1891), 217-218;cited in Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser, To The Jew First: The Case For Jewish Evangelism In Scripture And History (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregal Publications, 2008), 269.

[6] Bruce. 18-19.

 [7] J.P Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress. 1997, pg 30

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“What Do Christians Mean When They Say Jesus is ‘The Son of God?’”

It couldn’t be more evident that many Christians assume Jesus is the Son of God. But in many cases, Christians aren’t sure about the biblical background of  the title “Son of God.” What Christians tend to forget is that when Jewish people thought of the Davidic King as the Son of God, it had very little to do with thinking the King was the Second person of the Trinity. Even though divine sonship appears in the Jewish Scriptures 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 Son of God issue 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 emphasizes that the king is elected to a specific task. Furthermore, there is also a special intimacy between God and 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).

While God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17: 6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15), he also promised David that one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever (2 Sam.7:12-17; 1 Chr.17:7-15). In other words, David’s line would eventually culminate in the birth of a specific person who will guarantee David’s dynasty, kingdom, and throne forever.  Royal messianism is seen in the Psalms. For example, in Psalm 2  which is a coronation hymn, (similar to 2 Kings 11:12) is  the  moment of the king’s crowning. 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). While David did have conquest of all the nations at that time, (Edom, Moab, Ammon, Philistia, Amalek, which is described as the conquest “of all the nations”  1 Chron. 14:17; 18:11) in Psalm 2, one day God will subjugate all the nations to the rule of the Davidic throne.[1]

In Psalm 89, the Davidic King will be elevated over the rivers and seas (v.24- 25) and  is the most exalted ruler on earth (v. 27). He also  will be the “firstborn” and enjoy the highest rank among all earthly kings. Furthermore, David’s throne continues his dynasty from one generation to the next for perpetuity (vv.28-29). In Psalm 110, the Davidic King is invited to sit at the royal throne at God’s “right hand” (vs.1) and his called “lord” (vs.1) and called a “priest” after the pattern of Melchizedek.[2] As Israel went into the Babylonian captivity, the prophet  Hosea says that Israel will be without a Davidic king for many days (Hosea 3:4).However, in the last days, God kept his promise of the Davidic covenant by rebuilding Israel which includes the re-establishment of the Davidic kingdom (Isa.11:1–2; Hosea 3:5; Amos 9:11–12).  The Davidic King will be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2) and would be unlike any past Davidic king (Is.7:14-17; 9:6-7;11:1-10), even though he is not spoken of specifically  as “The Messiah.” Ezekiel also spoke of a new David who would be a shepherd as well as a “prince” and a “king” to Israel (Ezek: 34:23-24; 37:24-25). There are other texts that speak of the Davidic King as the “Branch” who will reign and rebuild the temple and be a king-priest on His throne (Zech. 3:8; 6:12–15; Jer. 33:1–8, 21–22).

One of the most valuable 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 about the messianic expectations 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 G-d. 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)

John Collins, who is a specialist on this topic says the following about the Davidic Messiah:

This concept of the Davidic Messiah as the warrior king who would destroy the enemies of Israel and institute an era of unending peace constitutes the common core of Jewish messianism around the turn of the era. There was a dominant notion of a Davidic Messiah, as the king who would restore the kingdom of Israel, which was part of the common Judaism around the turn of the era.[3]

Even though Luke calls Jesus the “Son of the Most High,” a similar theme was written about in the Qumran literature which predates the New Testament:

He will be called the Son of God, and they will call him the son of the Most High…His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom…The earth will be in truth and all will make peace. The sword will cease in the earth, and all the cities will pay him homage. He is a great god among the gods… His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom (4QAramaic Apocalypse (4Q246), col. II:

Collins says the following about 4Q246:

The notion of a messiah who was in some sense divine had its roots in  Judaism, in the interpretation of such passages as Psalm 2 and Daniel 7 in an apocalyptic context. This is not to deny the great difference between a text like 4Q246 and the later Christian understanding of the divinity of Christ. But the notion that the messiah was Son of God in a special sense was rooted in Judaism, and so there was continuity between Judaism and Christianity in this respect, even though Christian belief eventually diverged quite radically from its Jewish sources.[4]

Collins goes on to concede that even if the dominant Messianic expectation was mostly centered around a Davidic warrior, there is hardly any evidence in the Gospels that accords with the Jewish expectation of a militant messiah. [5]

Typology and the Davidic King

How do Christians make the leap to Jesus being not only the Davidic King, but divine as well? There are several ways to answer this. But one way to answer this question is to discuss what is called typology. Some of the features of typology are the following:

  1. The prophets did not so much make singular predictions but gave themes or patterns and that these themes have several manifestations or fulfillments in the course of human history.
  2. The type and the antitype have a natural correspondence or resemblance. The initial one is called the type (e.g., person, thing, event) and the fulfillment is designated the antitype.
  3. The type has historical reality.
  4. The type is a prefiguring or foreshadowing of the antitype. It is predictive/prophetic; it looks ahead and points to the antitype. [6]

Keeping these principles in mind, 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.”

In this text, 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’ essence. As N.T. Wright says, “The appointment is not in terms of his nature but in terms of his work as the Davidic king—the messianic age has dawned. Jesus is the anti-type of the previous “sons” in the Old Testament (Adam, David, Israel).”

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, as already said, 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?

As Murray Harris says,

There is a loose parallel in the case of a royal family where a child is ‘born’ a king but subsequently ‘becomes’ king at his coronation. From this standpoint, the resurrection was the coronation or installation of Jesus as the Son of God.”  [7]

Also, In Psalm 2:11 and Psalm 100:2, the rulers and the people are supposed to worship and serve the Lord, while in Psalm 18:44 and Psalm 72:11 it says it is the Davidic king whom they must worship and serve.  This theme makes perfect sense in the New Testament passage, John 5:22-23, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.”

Sources:

[1] Herbert W. Bateman IV, Darrell L. Bock, and Gordon H. Johnston, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing The Promises, Expectations, And Coming of Israel’s King ( Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2012),  80.

[2] Ibid, 97.

[3] John J. Collins, The Scepter and the Star: The Messiah of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2007), 68, 209.

[4]Ibid, pp. 168-169.

[5] Ibid, pp.13, 204.

[6] H.Wayne House and Randall Price, Charts of Bible Prophecy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 35.

[7] Harris, M. Raised Immortal: Resurrection and Immortality in the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1983, 74-75.

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Why Fideism isn’t an Option for Christians

If you have never heard of the word fideism, it it quite common in Christian circles. It is true that many Christians and churches don’t use the word “fideism.” But the impact of fideism is all around us. Here is a short definition of fideism from the Stanford Encyclopedia online:

“Fideism” is the name given to that school of thought—to which Tertullian himself is frequently said to have subscribed—which answers that faith is in some sense independent of, if not outright adversarial toward, reason. In contrast to the more rationalistic tradition of natural theology, with its arguments for the existence of God, fideism holds—or at any rate appears to hold (more on this caveat shortly)—that reason is unnecessary and inappropriate for the exercise and justification of religious belief. The term itself derives from fides, the Latin word for faith, and can be rendered literally as faith-ism. “Fideism” is thus to be understood not as a synonym for “religious belief,” but as denoting a particular philosophical account of faith’s appropriate jurisdiction vis-a-vis that of reason.

As we have mentioned before, Jesus and the Apostles both engaged in reasons for the claims they made in the public square.  As Peter Williams points out,

” Jesus said: ‘believe on the evidence of the miracles’ (John 14:11)

•  When John the Baptist questioned if Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus likewise appealed to the evidence of his works (cf. Matthew 11:4–6)

•  Paul wrote of ‘defending and confirming the gospel’ (Philippians 1:7) •  Paul ‘reasoned . . . explaining and proving’ (Acts 17:2–3)

•  ‘Every Sabbath [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks . . . Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus’ (Acts 18:4; 19:8–9)

•  Paul urges Christians to ‘stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults’ (1 Corinthians 14:20)

•  Paul advises Christians: ‘Choose your words carefully and be ready to give answers to anyone who asks questions’ (Colossians 4:6 CEV)

•  Peter commands Christians to ‘always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have . . . with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15) The Greek translated as ‘give an answer’ in 1 Peter 3:15 is apologia – from which we get the word ‘apologetics.’

Apologetics isn’t apologizing in the sense of saying sorry! An apologia is literally ‘a word back’, but the term means a ‘defense’ or ‘vindication. (See A Faithful Guide To Philosophy by Peter Williams).

Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King by [Bates, Matthew W.]

In his book, Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King, Matthew Bates says the following: 

Several years ago some zealous young missionaries happened to knock on the door of my sister’s apartment where I was visiting. These two young women, the radiance of their faces only surpassed by the gleam of their tracts, were eager to do God’s work. As they began to tell us the reason for their mission and the source of their joy, I asked a few probing questions about a sacred text known as The Book of Abraham. The Book of Abraham is a text that Joseph Smith Jr., the leading figure of the Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) tradition, claimed to have discovered when a traveling mummy exhibit came through Kirtland, Ohio, where Smith was living at the time. Smith asserted that the manuscript was an ancient document called The Book of Abraham, and, after purchasing it, Smith eventually offered his own interpretative translation. Smith claimed it told the story of Abraham’s departure from Chaldea, and that it included nonbiblical traditions, such as Abraham’s being bound to an altar to be sacrificed by a pagan priest.

According to Smith, it also contained speculation about Kolob, a creation alleged to be near to God’s celestial residence. Both the pictographs and Smith’s translations are easily available online. But there are large discrepancies between Smith’s claims and subsequent scholarly findings. For example, Smith takes the first image as a representation of a pagan priest seeking to sacrifice Abraham on an altar, translating: “And it came to pass that the priests laid
violence upon me [Abraham], that they might slay me also, as they did those virgins upon this altar; and that you may have a knowledge of this altar, I will refer you to the representation at the commencement of this record.” So Smith asserts that an image in the manuscript and the words associated with the image describe a pagan attempt to sacrifice Abraham. But scholars of the ancient world have determined The Book of Abraham to be from a class of Egyptian funerary documents known from elsewhere as “Books of Breathings,” and that this particular document was “copied for a Theban priest named Hor.” As to the alleged near-sacrifice of Abraham, it is actually a representation of “the resurrection of the Osiris Hor on the customary lion-headed funerary couch.” Meanwhile, an authoritative translation of the words associated with the image reads: “[Osiris, the god’s father], prophet of Amon-Re, King of the Gods, prophet of Min who slaughters his enemies, prophet of Khonsu” (and so forth). So there is significant publicly available evidence that Smith’s The Book of Abraham has nothing to do with Abraham at all if ordinary methods of scholarship and translation are applied. These young women were unflappable when presented with these evidence-based questions, simply stating, “We believe that we can only know the truth by faith,” and inviting us all to consider through prayer whether or not we might have a warm sensation in our hearts as we considered the truth of their presentation. I tell this story not to nitpick the Mormon tradition.

However, this private, experiential, anti-evidential notion of faith (often called fideism in scholarly circles) is not unique to groups such as the Mormons. It also sneaks into the mainstream church in more subtle modes. For instance, we find belief or faith being defined in this basic manner when an inquirer asks a tough question about evolution and creation (on the basis of data available in the public arena) and receives a curt anti-evolutionary response simplistically affirming, “The Bible says it, and I personally have found the Bible to be true, so I believe it,” a response that does not attempt to deal seriously with all the available data (including complexities in the Bible itself). Regardless of precisely how one comes down on the complex creation or evolution (or both!) debate, we should all agree that the “faith” God requires of us has nothing to do with ignoring relevant evidence that is easily available when adjudicating truth claims. And is it not largely due to this abusive use of “faith” and “belief” that so many, past and present, are quick to dismiss Christianity and religion in general, seeing it as purely “faith” based, while taking “faith” to mean the opposite of evidence-based truth? True Christian faith is not fideism.

To see more about this issue, see our post “Why Christians Don’t Think” 

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How Did Paul Receive the Gospel? A Look at a Possible Contradiction?

Paul’s letters are dated between AD 40 and 65. These are the earliest records we have for the life of Jesus. Therefore, to jump to the Gospels as the earliest records to the life of Jesus is a tactical mistake. While he did not follow Jesus from the beginning, Paul is still considered an apostle, though “abnormally born” and “the least of the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9). His turning to Jesus happened though a dramatic revelatory encounter (Acts 9: 1-7). His first years as a follower of Jesus in Arabia remain a mystery. Three years later he went to Jerusalem to visit; this is where he saw Peter and James. Paul’s account of his calling in Galatians 1:15-16 is similar to what Jeremiah’s says about his own calling:

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. (Gal 1:15-17)

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,  before you were born I set you apart;  I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. (Jer.1: 4-5).

A Possible Contradiction in Paul’s Conversion?

Even though it is clear that there is an early record about the creed of 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, we now must ask if this implies a contradiction with Galatians 1: 11-12. When we come to Galatians 1:11-12, Paul defends his ministry by discussing the manner of how he received the Gospel. We can compare the two texts here:

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal 1:11-12).

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Cor. 15:3-8).

So what is the truth here?  Paul says in Galatians:1-11-12 that there is absolutely no human mediation or tradition involved— he received the Gospel by divine revelation. But  what about the creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 which seems to indicate that there is an element of human mediation or tradition? How do we respond to this?  First, in both 1 Cor. 15:3 and Galatians 1:12, the word “received” “παραλαμβάνω” means to receive something transmitted from someone else, which could be by an oral transmission or from others from whom the tradition proceeds. Carson, Moo, and Morris provide a possible solution:

The word used here, [παραλαμβάνω (parelabon) ] I passed on [paralamano, “receive”], corresponds or language that the rabbis used to describe their transmission of traditions. When Paul seems to be asserting is that the elements of his gospel teaching, such as the truth of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3-5), were handed down to him by other people. Some have found a contradiction in these claims of Paul, but a resolution is not hard to find. We need to distinguish between essence and form.  The essence of the gospel, that Jesus of Nazareth was truly the Son of God, was revealed to Paul  in one life changing moment on the Damascus road. The form of the gospel, however, including the historical undergirding of the gospel events, certain phraseology used to express the new truth, and doubtless many other things, were passed on to Paul by those before him.[1]

[1]D. A. Carson, D. J. Moo, and Leon Morris, An Introduction To The New Testament; First Edition  (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2002), 220.

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A Look at the Objection: “Why Jews Don’t Believe in Jesus!”

Anyone who has talked to people from groups from Jews for Judaism or anti-missionary groups will generally encounter the objection, “Jesus didn’t fulfill any of the messianic prophecies.” Unfortunately, this is a gross oversimplification. Also, there is some overlap with this post and my other post called “Are There Over 300 Messianic Prophecies? After all, if we can’t even define messianic prophecy correctly and provide some tips on approaching the subject, we will never make any progress.

Here is a common internet post by Jewish organizations called Why Jews Don’t Believe In Jesus.

To summarize some of the messianic expectations in this article, we see:

1. The Messiah is not divine. Thus, he is an earthly figure “anointed” to carry out a specific task.

2. The Messiah will enable the Jewish people to dwell securely in the land of Israel (Is.11:11-12; 43:5-6; Jer.23: 5-8; Mic.5:4-6), and usher in a period of worldwide peace.

3.  The Messiah is supposed to put an end to all oppression, suffering and disease (Is.2:1-22; 25:8; 65:25; Mic.4:1-4) and create a pathway for universal worship to the God of Israel (Zeph.3:9; Zech.9:16; 14:9).

4. The Messiah will spread the knowledge of the God of Israel to the surrounding nations (Isa.11:9; 40:5; 52:8).

 5. The Maimonides view of Messiah: Maimonides was a medieval Jewish philosopher whose writings are considered to be foundational to Jewish thought and study. Here are some of his messianic expectations:

1.  The Messiah will be a king who arises from the house of David

2.  He helps Israel follow Torah

3.  He builds the Temple in its place

4. He gathers the dispersed of Israel

Sadly, this doesn’t represent the entire scope of messianic thought. And it always lead to the “heads, I win, tails you lose approach.” In other words,“Jesus doesn’t fulfill any of the messianic prophecies so we have that all settled and we can move on and wait for the true Messiah to come.”  Let me offer some responses to the  assumption that Jesus can’t be the Messiah.

Problem #1: The Conditional Nature of Prophecy 

We need to remember  there is a contingent element to prophecy. In other words, the covenants that were made between God and Israel (i.e., the Abrahamic, the  stipulations of the Torah, and Davidic covenants) both have conditional and an unconditional elements to them. Because of the conditional nature of the covenant God made with Israel through the Torah, Israel was judged and sent into exile. Thus, there is a delay in the blessings. But even Israel’s failure to obey God’s commands doesn’t negate the promise. Therefore, the prophecy of restoration follows every message about the prophecy of judgment and doom. Hence, there are several passages that speak to the issue of a restoration of Jewish people back to the land. I am well aware Christians differ on how to interpret these texts. This is important because many of the messianic expectations mentioned in the article are seen in relationship with Israel dwelling in the land. But for any of the messianic expectations mentioned above, Israel would have to fulfill their role in the covenants. But they didn’t and that’s why there is a delay in the blessings. Of course, Paul discusses this in Romans 9-11.

Remember: The Messiah’s Role is to Help the Gentile Nations come to know the one true God

The passages mentioned above also can tend to overlook the role of the Messiah to the nations. Our view of the covenants plays a large role in how we interpret the messianic texts and whether we view Jesus as the Messiah or not.  For example, we see in the Abrahamic Covenant God’s plan to bless the nations (Gen. 12:2–3; cf. 22:18; 26:4; 28:14).  All peoples of all the earth would be beneficiaries of the promise. So it could not be clearer that God intended to use Abraham in such a way that he would be a channel of blessing to the entire worldIsrael was chosen as light to draw the nations to salvation, which is confirmed by Isaiah:

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isa. 2: 2-4).

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising (Isa. 60:2-3).

The Jewish Scriptures unmistakably reveal that Gentiles will be restored to God as a result of Israel’s end-time restoration and become united to them (Ps 87:4-6; Is 11:9-10; 14:1-2; 19:18-25; 25:6-10; 42:1-9; 49:6; 51:4-6; 60:1-16; Jer 3:17; Zeph. 3:9-10; Zech. 2:11). Even Jewish anti-missionaries agree that the Jewish Messiah will open the door for the nations to have a relationship with God. For example:

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. (1)

Why does this matter? Though Israel has had many messianic figures, Jesus is the only one that has opened the door for non-Jewish people 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.” Regarding Jesus, though a remnant of Israel believed in Him, it is significant that the church is now predominately Gentile. We need to ask: Has there ever been any Jewish person who has founded a world religion of Gentiles? With the backdrop of Genesis 12:1-3 in mind, we see in Isaiah 49:6 that the enlarged mission to the Gentiles climaxes the Servant’s commission from God—“I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” An expected Messiah who wasn’t viewed favorably by his own nation and who was reliably reported to have been executed as a criminal would not seem to be an ideal candidate.

Yet, because of the finished work of Jesus, polytheistic idolatrous Gentiles are now enabled to have a relationship with the one true God.  Gentiles across the world have come to know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!

Problem #2: Forgetting the  Variety of Messianic Expectations

Articles such as this one assume that withing the history of Jewish thought, there has only been one messianic expectation. But this is false. The article says Jesus fails the prophetic role of the Messiah. Even Jewish scholar Amy Jill Levine (who is not a follower of Jesus but specializes in New Testament studies) sheds light on the first-century Jewish mindset. When asked if the Jews rejected Jesus because he wasn’t the Messiah they were expecting, her response is enlightening:

“That claim that Jews rejected Jesus because he counseled peace and all Jews were looking for some warrior Messiah whose job it would be to get the Romans out of the country misses the variety of messianic ideas that were floating around in the first century. The majority of Jews did not accept Jesus as a Messiah because most Jews thought that the Messiah and the messianic age came together. The messianic age meant peace on earth and the end of war, death, disease, and poverty, the ingathering of the exiles, a general resurrection of the dead. When that didn’t happen, I suspect quite a number of Jews who were highly attracted to Jesus’ message of the kingdom of heaven thought: That’s a good message, but we have to keep waiting.” (2)

Remember, Jewish 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 Jewish Scriptures records the history of those who were anointed  for a specific purpose such as  priests (Exod 28:41; 29:7, 29; 30:30; Lev. 7:36; 8:12; 16:32;), kings (Jdg 9:8; 9:15; 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 15:1, 17; 16:3, 12, 13; 2 Sam 2:4, 7; 3:39; 5:3; 1 Chron. 11:3; 5:17; 127; 2 Sam 19:11; 1 Kgs 1:34, 39, 45; 5:15;19:15,16; 2 Kgs 9:3, 6,12;11:12; 23:30; 2 Chron. 22:7; 23:11; 29:22; Ps 89:21), and even prophets  (1 Kings 19:16; 1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 105:15).

But notice these figures were all in the present. Hence, none of these texts speak of a future figure. What we  do see is that  in many cases, the word anointed one, then, was not originally predictive, but descriptive. There are only a few cases where we see the possibility of one who will be a future eschatological figure.  One is in  Daniel 9:25-26 where it speaks of “anointed one” who will ‘finish transgression, put and end to sin, bring everlasting righteousness, seal up vision and prophecy, and anoint the Most Holy Place” (Dan. 9:24). Another is seen in Isa. 45:1 where God “anoints”  the pagan king Cyrus for the task at hand (Is 41:2-4, 45). Yes, even the pagan  king Cyrus was used to restore Israel while the nation was under attack (Is 44:28;45:13). Another text about a messianic figure  is seen in Psalm 2, which speaks of a day in which God will subjugate all the nations to the rule of the Davidic throne. We will discuss this more as we move forward.

Also, there are hardly any texts in the Jewish Scriptures that say “When the Messiah  comes, he will do x, y,  and z. However, most Jewish people think there is going to be a messianic age. Let me give an example. Remember, other names were used to describe the messianic person other than the “Messiah.” Some of the names include Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, Prophet, Elect One, Servant, Prince, Branch, Root, Scepter, Star, Chosen One, and Coming One. Therefore, to say Jesus is the Messiah is like asking whether he is the Son of Man, Prophet, Branch, etc.

Problem #3: Jesus doesn’t fulfill the Davidic King Expectation? 

The article assume Jesus doesn’t qualify as the Davidic King. But the reasons it offers is far too simplistic. While God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17: 6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15), he also promised David that one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever (2 Sam.7:12-17; 1 Chr.17:7-15). In other words, David’s line would eventually culminate in the birth of a specific person who will guarantee David’s dynasty, kingdom, and throne forever.  Royal messianism is seen in the Psalms. For example, in Psalm 2  which is a coronation hymn, (similar to 2 Kings 11:12) is  the  moment of the king’s crowning. 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). While David did have conquest of all the nations at that time, (Edom, Moab, Ammon, Philistia, Amalek, which is described as the conquest “of all the nations”  1 Chron. 14:17; 18:11) in Psalm 2, one day God will subjugate all the nations to the rule of the Davidic throne.

In Psalm 89, the Davidic King will be elevated over the rivers and seas (v.24- 25) and  is the most exalted ruler on earth (v. 27). He also  will be the “firstborn” and enjoy the highest rank among all earthly kings. As Israel went into the Babylonian captivity, the prophet  Hosea says that Israel will be without a Davidic king for many days (Hosea 3:4).However, in the last days, God kept his promise of the Davidic covenant by rebuilding Israel which includes the re-establishment of the Davidic kingdom (Isa.11:1–2; Hosea 3:5; Amos 9:11–12).  The Davidic King will be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2) and would be unlike any past Davidic king (Is.7:14-17; 9:6-7;11:1-10), even though he is not spoken of specifically  as “The Messiah.” Ezekiel also spoke of a new David who would be a shepherd as well as a “prince” and a “king” to Israel (Ezek: 34:23-24; 37:24-25). There are other texts that speak of the Davidic King as the “Branch” who will reign and rebuild the temple and be a king-priest on His throne (Zech. 3:8; 6:12–15; Jer. 33:1–8, 21–22).

One of the most valuable 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 about the messianic expectations 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)

Even though this is one expectation in the Second Temple Period, it is one of several other expectations. Also, I  am aware of the argument that Jesus isn’t entitled to the Davidic throne because of his genealogy. But see here for more on that topic. 

Problem #4: The Messiah will not be a demi-god

The article says the Messiah will not by divine. This is a common objection. But once again, it fails to acknowledge the variety of messianic expectations in the first century. Daniel Boyarin’s book The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ  discusses this in great lengthThe article assumes rabbinic Judaism is the correct starting point.

Remember, 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. 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)

Also, even though miracles are often overlooked in the traditional messianic expectation (as in the article I posted),  it is evident that Jewish people at the time of Jesus did look for signs/miracles to accompany the Messiah’s work. In the New Testament, the Greek word for kingdom is “basileia,” which denotes “sovereignty,” “royal power,” and “dominion.” The references to the word “kingdom” can be seen in two classes: First, it is viewed as a present reality and involves suffering for those who enter into it (2 Thess 1:5). Second, the kingdom is futuristic and involves reward (Matt 25:34), as well as glory (Matt 13:43). In observing the ministry of Jesus, He demonstrated one of the visible signs of His inauguration of the kingdom of God would not only be the dispensing of the Holy Spirit (John 7: 39), but also the ability to perform miracles. But if the kingdom is breaking into human history, then the King has come. If the Messianic age has arrived, then the Messiah must be present.

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.  And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,  because he has anointed me  to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives  and recovering of sight to the blind,  to set at liberty those who are oppressed,  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”- Luke 4: 18-19

Even in the Messiah Apocalypse, which is dated between 100 and 80 B.C.E mentions a similar theme as seen in the Luke 4 text:

“He [God] frees the captives, makes the blind see, and makes the bent over stand straight…for he will heal the sick, revive the dead, and give good news to the humble and the poor he will satisfy, the abandoned he will lead, and the hungry he will make rich.” (4)

Also,  Paul says:

“ For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

Paul notes here about how Jews demand signs. While actions by other prophets such as Ezekiel and Jeremiah etc. show some significant parallels to Jesus, Jesus is closer to the actions of the Jewish sign prophets such as Moses. “Signs” have a specific apologetic function in that they are used to provide evidence for people to believe the message of God through a prophet of God.

“Sign” (sēmeion) is used seventy-seven times (forty-eight times in the Gospels). As far as the “signs’ Jesus does,  29:18-19; 35:5-6; 42:18; 61:1). In John’s Gospel, Jesus performs three “signs,” at the beginning of his ministry; the water turned into wine at Cana at Galilee (2:1-12), the healing of the son of the royal official at Capernaum (4:46-64), and catching of the fish in the sea of Galilee (21:1-14). The link between the first two signs in Jn 2:12 while the link between the last two are seen in Jn 7:1, 3-4, 6, 9. Jesus follows the pattern of Moses in that he reveals himself as the new Moses because Moses also had to perform three “signs” so that he could be recognized by his brothers as truly being sent by God (Exod. 4: 1-9). In the exchange between Nicodemus said to Jesus, Nicodemus said, We know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2). Also, the signs of Jesus are part of the apostolic preaching:

Problem #5: Jesus fails as the role of the prophet like Moses!

The article assumes Jesus failed to fulfill the role as the prophet like Moses (Deut 18: 15-18). But this is an oversimplification.  It is also evident at the time of Jesus, that Jewish people were looking for a prophet like Moses. 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

Peter is referring to the Deut.18: 15-18 text which mentions “And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” The prophet only respeaks the words of God (cf. Jer 1:9: Isa. 59: 21). God said to Moses “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (Exod. 4:12).

 We see  in the context of Numbers 16, Moses faced his opposition in that they challenged his headship and authority.  Hence, they challenge the idea that Moses has a special mission and that he was sent  from God.  In response, Moses  defends his mission in that he has never “acted on his own,” i.e., claiming for himself an authority which he did not have.  Moses says, ” Hereby you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord”  (Num.16:28).  As far as Jesus being like Moses, we see a similar pattern in that Jesus doesn’t claim to speak or act on his own authority:

 So Jesus answered them and said, My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him”  (John 7: 16-18)

So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.And he who sent me is with me.He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world. (John 8:26)

For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what tospeak.I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me” (John 12: 49-50).

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works(John 14:10).

Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sentme (John 14:24).

For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me (John 17:8).

Also,  while actions by other prophets such as Ezekiel and Jeremiah etc. show some significant parallels to Jesus, Jesus is closer to the actions of the Jewish sign prophets such as Moses. “Signs” have a specific apologetic function in that they are used to provide evidence for people to believe the message of God through a prophet of God. Hence, the signs Moses does proves he is truly sent from God.  Moses had struggled with his prophetic call when he said “ But they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’ (Exod. 4:1). God assures Moses that  the “signs”  will confirm his call:  

 God says, “I will be with you. And this will be אוֹת “the sign”  to you that it is I who have sent you” (Exod. 3:12).

“If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.” (Exod 4: 8-9).

We see the signs are used to help people believe.

 Moses “performed the “signs” before the people, and they believed; … they bowed down and worshiped” (Exod. 4:30–31)

“Works” are directly related to the miracles of Jesus (Jn. 5:20; 36;10:25; 32-28; 14:10-12; 15:24) and is synonymous with “signs.” Interestingly enough, when Jesus speaks of miracles and he calls them “works” he doesn’t refer to  Exod. 4:1-9, but to Num. 16:28, “Hereby you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord.” For example:

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me” (John 10:25).

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me;  but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believethe works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:37-38).

But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very worksthat I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me (John 5: 36)

Problem #6: Jesus Doesn’t Fulfill Isaiah 53

The article assumes Jesus doesn’t fulfill the prophecy of Isa. 53. Their response is overly simplistic. But I will defer to this resource  on Isa. 52-53 here. 

Problem #7: Judaism is solely based on national revelation 

The article says only Judaism bases its belief on national revelation – i.e. God speaking to the entire nation. But this problematic because this argument confuses direct and circumstantial evidence. The giving of the Torah to Moses is the central event in Jewish history, is said to be observed by thousands of witnesses. It is supported by written documents and by a chain of oral tradition that can be traced back to the event itself. Likewise, the resurrection of Jesus is the pivotal event in Christianity (including Messianic Judaism). Both Christians and Messianic Jews can produce witnesses to the resurrection per the New Testament. The only supposed
“private” witness is possibly Paul. But he wasn’t alone when he saw the risen Jesus.  Not to mention the resurrection of Jesus is observed by  groups of people.

Historians have at their disposal written documents, oral tradition eyewitness testimony, and archaeological evidence which support the people, places, and events in the Jesus narrative.When it comes to discussing the historical evidence for Jesus or the giving of the Torah,we must differentiate between direct and circumstantial evidence. Nobody directly observed the giving of the Torah.  The claim to have direct evidence is misguided from the start, because when it comes to antiquity, no one can interview or cross-examine eyewitnesses. Keep in mind that this happens all the time with cold-case investigations. Jurors may accept both direct and circumstantial evidence, and many criminals are convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence.  Both Judaism and Christianity/Messianic Judaism are supported by circumstantial evidence.

Conclusion

I am well aware this article is a general overview of the Messiah topic. But it simply doesn’t provide any solid reasons for rejecting Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.

Sources:

  1. Kaplan, The Real Messiah: A Jewish Response to Missionaries (New York, NY: National Conference of Synagogue Youth, 2000), 26-35.
  2. A. J. Levine, A Jewish take on Jesus: Amy-Jill Levine talks the gospels” at http://www.uscatholic.org/church/2012/09/jewish-take-jesus-amy-jill-levine-talks-gospels.
  3. See The Concept of the Messiah in the Old Testament athttp://www.worldofthebible.com/Bible%20Studies/The%20Concept%20…;
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“If Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, Shouldn’t all Jewish People Believe in Him?”

Most recently, I got an email from someone who had some questions about our faith.  One particular question she had was the following:

‘Why have the Jews rejected Jesus?” Looking at the statistics, almost all of them have missed their Messiah. I can not wrap my head around this. I was told by a Jewish Christian that the majority doesn’t mean truth. That doesn’t answer the question. I look up to many prominent, intelligent, orthodox Jews in politics. They say they have really looked into their faith. The main case I have heard them give for Judaism is that the law brings about a good society. The Jewish people do appear to have a much better life structure. They seem to really flourish. I’m not convinced Jesus was the messiah based on prophecy. The Jewish people don’t look at God the same. How can you find truth when Christians say the Old Testament means one thing and Jews say another thing? I believe the case for the New Testament and Resurrection is very strong, but I just don’t understand how they could have missed it? It just doesn’t make sense. I don’t even know where to start on this journey. I just want to know truth and I’m afraid of missing it.

I have seen this objection more than once. Here was my response:

I have been dealing with this topic for about 25 years and grew up in a Jewish community. I came to faith hearing the Gospel from a Jewish believer. I am not Jewish. But anyway:

The scriptural answer to your question is that when you read the Jewish Scriptures/The O.T., we see in many cases, Israel was in unbelief. Their entire history was about God giving them covenants, and they obviously would break the Law/the Torah and God judged them every time. They were exiled outside the land on a number of occasions. The prophets always were sent to them to call them to repentance. So it is not as if Israel was always faithful. They had a long history of rejection. Even after the giving of the Torah, they fell right back into idolatry.

Also, there is no specific text/texts in the O.T. where it says they all would understand and embrace the Messiah when he comes.

Thus, as I say again, there are no text/texts that say, “When the Messiah comes, all will believe and know him.” Paul talks about this in Romans 9-11. Only a remnant (a small number) has believed. 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.”

As far as prophecy, 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. True Israel are 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. God allowed for a large portion of Israel to reject the Messiah, so that 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). Paul talks about this mystery in Romans 11. 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. So Jesus is the only Jew that has helped over 1 billion non-Jews come to know the one true God. No, large numbers don’t make something true. But given the prophetic nature of the Abrahamic covenant, this is something that should not be discarded.

Remember, the Bible speaks of a suffering/atoning, rejected Messiah: (Psalm 22; 118: 22; Isaiah 52:13-53.12, Daniel 9:25-26, Zechariah 12:10) and well as a the ruling/kingly Messiah: (2 Sam 7:10–14; Pss. 2:7; 72:1 Pss. 89:4, 26, 35–37; 132:11–12, 17–18; Dan 7:13).

As far as Jewish people not accepting their Messiah, remember, a large majority of them have never looked into it. Most of my Jewish friends couldn’t give me one reason as to why they reject Jesus. It is more of a cultural identity issue. Rejection of Jesus and  is now part of their identity. Remember, most of Judaism today is also a reaction to Christianity. Granted, there was no Christianity when Jesus and Paul were here and the Christianity  many Jewish people e are reacting too is a “dejudaized” Christianity. It  is a much later version. The Judaism of today is Rabbinic Judaism which is an outgrowth of Pharisaical Judaism. Also, many Jewish people don’t even think God exists. Trust me, I know because I have done campus ministry for 15 years. You don’t have to believe in God to be Jewish. So if there is no God, why care about a messiah?

Now, what about someone what says “Well, there are some really good scriptural reasons to reject Jesus as the Messiah.” I discuss these here in the post called “A Look at the Objection: “Why Jews Don’t Believe in Jesus!”

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Where Does it Say the Messiah Would Rise On the Third Day in the Jewish Scriptures?

Something that can tend to be overlooked is something Paul says in his well-known resurrection text in 1 Cor. 15:

“ For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”- 1 Cor 15: 1-4

Obviously, we believe Jesus rose on the third day. I have noted elsewhere that the Tanakh does teach the importance of the Messiah rising from the dead. But a common question is where does it say in the Jewish Scriptures in that the Messiah would rise on the third day? The short answer is there is no text that specifically says the Messiah will rise on the third day. So did Paul lie? Is he employing some kind of  special Jewish hermeneutics here? In Michael Brown’s Answering Jewish Objections, Vol 3, he notes that there are several places in the Jewish Scriptures where God does something very special on the third day. For example:

Hosea 6:1–2 states, “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.”

This is a word given to Israel as a whole, but the sequence is there: full restoration on the third day!

2. According to Genesis 22:4, it was on the third day that Abraham arrived at Mount Moriah and prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.

3. God told the children of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai to be ready for the third day“because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people” (Exod. 19:10)

4. On the third day after Joseph interpreted the dreams of two of his fellow prisoners—both of whose dreams included a symbolic “three”—one of the men was hung and the other man restored to his former position (Gen. 40:1–23).

The list goes on. The point is it is on the third day that God does something significant in Israel’s history. It could be a restoration, and event that reaches a climax, or it could be something  signifying God’s  divine activity.

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