Dr. Michael Brown on the pro’s and con’s of the Hebrew Roots Movement

Advertisements
Uncategorized

J.P. Moreland on the Current Culture and the Challenges in the Church

This past weekend, I had the privilege of seeing J. P. Moreland speak at the Ratio Christi Symposium. He is distinguished professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. He has a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Southen California, and a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary. Published works include Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, with W. L. Craig (2003), Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult, with G. DeWeese (2005), Christianity and the Nature of Science (1989), Love God with All Your Mind (1997), Scaling the Secular City (1987), Universals (2001), Naturalism: A Critical Analysis, with W. L. Craig (2000), The Creation Hypothesis (1994), and Jesus Under Fire, with M. Wilkins (1995).

He mentioned some very important points in his talk:

Here were a few highlights: 

1. Christians need to start using cognitive language and not just faith language.
Christians need to use terms relating to knowledge, evidence, reason, learning and thought, in addition to language about a tender heart and about faith. The Bible uses the word “knowledge” more than it does the word “faith”. Christians must become comfortable with the idea of ourselves as a community of thoughtful and learned people. A Christian can be learned without being snooty or arrogant. If knowledge “puffs up”, the solution is not IGNORANCE. The solution is HUMILITY.

2. Christians are obsessed with compassion. Unfortunately, they aren’t doing a great job of integrating both compassion and truth. What sets people free? Truth or compassion? Or both?

3. Christian pastors and leaders very rarely address the top issues of the day from the pulpit. Thus, we rarely hear a message about worldview integration. One example might be the integration between politics and faith.

4. While Moreland has addressed the issues of scientific naturalism elsewhere, he mentioned another worldview that seems to be gaining ground is Cultural Marxism/Postmodernism. Within this worldview, many people who yell the loudest and use powerful rhetoric assume they can end up winning the arguments. So much for actual truth and substance!

If you want to see more about Dr. Moreland, go to his website here. 

Uncategorized

So You Want To Be An Apologist?

481812_4627956772804_777054397_n

Introduction

A ways back I remember reading an article by William Lane Craig about advice for people who want be an apologist. In all honesty, Craig probably knows many people who have come to him asking for advice. I think he would admit that many of them want to live the life he has and is living (e.g., lots of speaking gigs/debates, lots of fans, lots of attention, etc).  As I have said before, given the overload of reality TV shows and celebrity worship, the last thing we need are apologists who have a narcissism problem.  If you are craving attention and affirmation, than that can’t be motivation for being a player in apologetics. I am not saying that it is a bad thing to be encouraged and noted at all for contributions in the field of apologetics. However, we need to check ourselves in this area. However, let me state the following:  Given where we are at as a culture and in the local congregation,  we need apologetics more than ever!

The more I have thought about this issue, these are the kinds of questions that come up in my discussions with others on a regular basis:

#1: Can you do it full time?

When I mean “full time,” I mean being an apologist is how you make a living. In other words, if you have a family, being an apologist is how you support your family. How many apologists actually do this? Not many! Ravi Zacharias is one. Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason is another. James Warner Wallace, author of Cold Case Christianity was a homicide detective and has started to derive an income from speaking on his book. Frank Turek, co author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist has his own ministry called Cross Examined. He also has a job consulting business on the side. Others like William Lane Craig, Norman Geisler and  J.P. Moreland, have all taught on an academic level. They write books, speak, debate, etc.

What’s my point? To do it full time, you have to be a good fundraiser. Do you like getting in front of people and asking them for money? Do you like communicating your vision in a public or private setting? Do you want to be dependent on others to give to you and the apologetic ministry you are involved with?  Or, you can always work a job and do some apologetics on the side. That’s what the majority of us do. Given that many in the church are still incredibly uneducated about the nature and role of apologetics, there will always be need to educate the local church on the topic. I have written more on the issue of why opposition mostly comes from the church here.

#2: Traveling

Something else to think about is the issue of traveling. Let’s say you write an apologetics book and people want to book you to speak at a conference or somewhere else. Are you open to traveling? Do you have a young family? Or, are you starting a family? Many apologists such as Frank Turek and James Wallace are empty nesters. Same with Michael Licona. This means they have some flexibility. Remember, your first ministry is your family. The last thing a wife wants is a husband that is away every week while she stays home and tries to raise the kids. And no, it won’t matter when you say “But I am called to do this!” Your kids need a parent  that is engaged with them. Now having said that, I am not opposed to some travel. But it is a weekly thing or once or twice a month?  Just remember that it won’t matter how well you can do apologetics if you can’t minister to your own family! Think it through and plan well. Perhaps you can just do some apologetics ministry at a local level. Get involved with a Ratio Christi chapter or start an apologetics ministry at your church. Brian Auten at Apologetics 315 has given us many tips about these issues here and here.

#3: Apologetic Degrees

I have some personal experience with this one. When I enrolled at Southern Evangelical Seminary to get a degree I thought getting an advanced degree in apologetics was perfect. But as I began to tell people about the degree I was working on, it became apparent the word ‘apologetics’ caused mass confusion. I also realized that a Masters in Apologetics might not open many doors to teach on an academic level. So I opted for an M.A. in Religious Studies. Granted, I had already been reading and studying apologetics for several years before I even got a degree. Also, in my degree program  I did take some apologetics and philosophy classes (epistemology, metaphysics, etc). Now that I look back on it, I am not opposed to getting an advanced degree in apologetics. But you have to think about where that degree will take you. Do you want to teach? Do you want to be a lay apologist in your church? Is your church have a favorable view of apologetics? Many ministry leaders are still in the dark about this field.  Do you want to write? Do you plan on doing more graduate work? Do you want a degree to help you be a more effective evangelist?   Do you want to direct a Ratio Christi chapter? Remember that most churches aren’t hiring apologists.

 #4: You Can’t Learn Everything!

Remember, when it comes to apologetics, you can’t learn everything. In other words, you can’t be an expert on every single topic (e.g., philosophy, ethics,  history, science, cultural apologetics). I think we should have a general understanding of these topics but then specialize in a few areas. For example, I tend to specialize in early Christology, Messianic Prophecy, cultural objections, the resurrection, worldviews, Jewish objections to Jesus, etc. Now I do love to dip into the science stuff as well. But most of us don’t have time to master every topic. And remember that there will always be questions!

#5: Get Out and Do Apologetics

The best way to learn apologetics is by doing it. You can read books and learn the material. But if you aren’t engaging people, you won’t see how well apologetics works in practice. Granted, I have been on a campus for many years and had many discussions with students about these topics. But all of us should be committed to sharing our faith and engaging people on a one on one level. That’s where the rubber meets the road. In my personal experience, many Christians aren’t motivated to defend their faith in the public square because they aren’t sharing their faith and they are not getting challenged.

I hope these tips are helpful. God bless!

Uncategorized

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

Should Christians try to share the message of the Jesus the Messiah with their Jewish neighbors? This has always been a thorny topic. Anyone who has studied Church history knows that our relationship with the Jewish people hasn’t always worked out for the best. One comment is helpful here:

But despite the past and present issues of anti-Semitism and bad theology, I am saddened to see many Christians being duped into what is called Dual Covenant Theology. I do think it is abundantly clear that if Christians decided that Jewish people don’t need Jesus, they would have to ignore many passages in the Bible itself.

Christians need to remember that the purpose of Israel was not to be a blessing to herself. Therefore, through her witness, the world will either be attracted or repelled towards the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The entire promise to Abraham in Gen 12:3 exhibit’s God’s plan to bless the nations. It should be no surprise that in Matthew’s opening chapter, he says, “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham “(Matt. 1:1). The Messiah is not only of Davidic descent, but will bring fulfillment to the Abrahamic Covenant. Also, Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ mission to help Israel fulfill it’s calling (Matt. 10:5-6;15:24), as well as Jesus’ command to bring the nations into God’s redemptive plan (Matt 28:19).

In relation to the work of  Jesus, while a remnant believed in Him, what is more significant is that Christianity is now the home of 1.4 billion adherents. 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). Are there any other messianic candidates that have enabled the world to come to the knowledge of the one true God other than Jesus? As a Gentile Christian, I and others have benefited from the Abrahamic Covenant.

We see in the Book of Acts that the apostles preached that everyone needs to believe explicitly in Jesus, both Jews and Gentiles. Even Peter said to God-fearing Cornelius, that it is “through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (10:43). Paul also made an appeal to the Jewish audience at Pisidian Antioch to believe in Jesus because it is “through Jesus [that] the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified” (13:38–39, NIV).

Also, Christians need to follow Paul’s example in that he showed he had a tremendous burden for the Jewish people (Rom. 9:1-5;10:1), and calls upon the Church to provoke Israel to jealousy (Rom. 11:11). For Paul, the resurrection was God’s stamp of approval on Jesus as the promised Messiah of Israel (Rom. 1:3-4). Paul also understood that since the Gentiles have received the blessing of knowing the Messiah, they now have the responsibility to take the message of salvation back to Israel. Therefore, Christians of all denominational backgrounds should show interest in sharing the Good News of the Messiah with the Jewish people.

Don’t assume Jewish people believe in a personal Messiah. Many of them have never thought about it. Furthermore, if there is a Messiah, he is not divine. For the most part all Jewish people  know  that Jesus is not for them.

Remember, regarding the Messiah issue:

  • 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; prophets (1 Kings 19:16; 1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 105:15).
  • Notice these figures were all in the present.
  • None of these texts speak of a future figure.  Of course, there are texts that speak of a future figure. For example, Daniel 9:25-26 where it speaks of an “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) .
  • There were 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.
  • A Look at Daniel 7:13-14
  • God is bringing a figure with a status over angelic millions in a heavenly court scene.
  • The figure will be given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and men of every language will serve him.
  • He is given a kingdom by the Ancient of days, so he must be interpreted as an individual, namely a king.
  • Clouds-as well as riding on or with clouds- are a common attribute of biblical divine appearances, called theophanies (“God appearances”).
  • Rabbi Akiba (2nd century AD) proposed that one of the thrones in Dan 7:9 should be for God and another for David (a name for the Messiah).

The Suffering/Lowly and Rejected Messiah

After the time of Jesus, the rabbis tried to reconcile the passages about the suffering and rejected Messiah with the ruling, kingly Messiah. For example, we just looked at Daniel 7:13-14. But let’s look at the following:

Zechariah 9: 9

Exult greatly, O daughter Zion!  Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! Behold: your king  is coming to you,  a just savior is he, Humble, and riding on a donkey,  on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim,  and the horse from Jerusalem; The warrior’s bow will be banished, and he will proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the River[ to the ends of the earth.

Here is a comment by a rabbi on this topic:

“The Bible hints that two different figures will play important roles in Israel’s redemption. During the Second Temple period, the prophet Zechariah offered an oracle about the people of Jerusalem “lamenting to [God] about those who are slain … showing bitter grief as over a firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10). The book of Daniel also contains a cryptic reference to “an anointed one [who] will disappear and vanish” (Daniel 9:26). These fallen would-be heroes came to be identified with the Messiah ben Joseph.” -Rabbi Elaine Rose Glickman, The Messiah and the Jews: Three Thousand Years of Tradition, Belief and Hope

Messiah Ben Joseph and Messiah Ben David

There is an established tenet in Talmudic times is that there is a splitting of the Messiah in two. 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).

 

“It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son; …[b. Sukkah 52a]

Who is  Messiah Ben Joseph?

  • He is descended from our patriarch and matriarch Jacob and Rachel’s son Joseph—makes early appearances in the Talmud and midrash literature.
  • He is a successor of Messiah Ben David who will rise up during the birth pangs of the Messiah (the last days).
  • He will command the hosts of Israel in combat, overseeing incredible victories, killing the king of Rome, restoring to Jewish hands the precious Temple vessels stolen by the Romans, before perishing in battle.
  • For forty days the Messiah ben Joseph’s body will lie in the streets of Jerusalem, untouched—until the Messiah ben David arrives, sees to his resurrection, and ushers in Israel’s triumphant redemption.Now keep in mind the Messiah Ben Joseph is legendary. There are not really two different messianic figures in the Bible who are two separate figures. Instead, in contrast to this rabbinic model, the New Testament applies both the suffering and ruling predictions to one person, Jesus of Nazareth.
  • Sources
  1. Rabbi Elaine Rose Glickman, The Messiah and the Jews: Three Thousand Years of Tradition, Belief and Hope, Jewish Lights Publishing.
Uncategorized

Are there over 300 Messianic Prophecies?

Here is my updated version of this topic. Hope it helps.

Introduction

When I was a new Christian, I read several Christian apologetic books that stated there are over 300 Messianic prophecies that are all fulfilled in Jesus.  At the time I thought this was a convincing evidential apologetic for the truth claims of our  faith. But as the years have gone by, I have realized this approach to Messianic prophecy is not as effective as one might think. Now please let me clarify: I do think there is Messianic  prophecy.  Prophecy was one of the primary ways the apostles spread the faith in the first century. However, I think we need to tweak our approach. I have taught on this subject on several occasions.  In my opinion, here are some helpful tips:

 #1:  Messianic prophecy does matter for the following reasons:

1. The Bible is considered to be God’s revelation to mankind. However, The Quran, The Book of Mormon, and other holy books are considered to be God’s word.  Messianic prophecy has apologetic value in that it confirms the Bible as a true revelation.

2. Historical Verification: Has God revealed Himself in the course of human history? If so, when and where has He done this?

3.  While prophecy does not prove the existence of God, it does show that unusual events predicted in his Name that come to pass are evidence of his special activity.

4. Fulfilled prophecy is a distinctively accessible and a testable kind of miracle. The prophecy was made and its accuracy cannot be explained either causally (for example, on the ground that it brought about its own fulfillment) or as accidental, and hence that it was probably miraculous (see J.L. Mackie in Swinburne, Miracles, 90).

5. Prophecy is used when God wants to demonstrate his true omniscience by demonstrating he is the one talking. He uses prophecy by declaring in advance what the course of future history will hold. This provides a verification test as to who the true God is and that such a writing is from him.

5. The majority of the Jewish community thinks the Messiah has not come. Is this correct?

#2: How do we define prophecy?

1. Prophecy is the foretelling or prediction of what is to come. People generally think of only prediction—-fulfillment. Not everything called “prophecy” in the Bible is predictive. Prophets forthtold God’s Word as well as foretold the future.

2. A prophet (Heb. nabi) is an authorized spokesperson for God with a message that originated with God and was communicated through a number of means. When God spoke to these spokespersons, they had no choice but to deliver that word to those to whom God directed it.

#3: What does the word “Messianic” mean?

1.“Messianic” has a much wider range of meaning than “Messiah.” “Messianic” usually refers to everything in the Hebrew Bible when it refers to the hope of a glorious future.

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

3. The Hebrew Bible records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod 29:1-9 ),kings (1 Sam 10:1;2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34), and sometimes prophets (1 Kings 19:16b) as a sign of their special function in the Jewish community. Also, when God anointed or authorized for leadership, in many cases he provided the empowering of the Holy Spirit to do complete the task (1 Sam. 16:13; Isa. 61:1). However, just because someone was anointed in the Old Testament to perform a specific task doesn’t mean they are “the Messiah.”

4.The messianic concept also has a wider dimension than the royal, priestly, and/or prophetic person. Included in this wider view are some of the characteristics, tasks, goals, means, and consequences of the messianic person.

5. To understand messianism, we need to first start by reading the Bible but also read extra-biblical Jewish literature including the Apocrypha, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, The Targumim, etc, (see Craig A Evans: “Introduction” to Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature).

6. 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.

7. Remember:  the Jewish Scriptures don’t reveal an explicit, fully disclosed, monolithic “messianic concept.”  To build on the comments stated here, Stanley Porter says:

Intertestamental and New Testament literature suggests that the expectation was all over the map. Some Jewish people did not expect a Messiah. Others thought that the Messiah would be a priestly figure, still others a royal deliverer. Some scholars interpret the evidence to suggest that at least one group of Jewish thinkers believed there would be two messiahs, one priestly and one royal. From what we know we can be certain that the New Testament did not create the idea of the Messiah. But we can also be sure that there was nothing like a commonly agreed delineation of what the Messiah would be like. The latter point means that modern-day Christians who shake their heads about why the Jewish people did not universally recognize the Messiah, considering all the fulfilled prophecy, really do not understand Old Testament literature.-Porter, The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments (McMaster New Testament Studies), 29.

#4: View the Messianic Task as a Promise

Messianic prophecy is not a series of independent prognostications, but a series of promises. There is one Messianic promise, which is revealed and expanded on throughout the Hebrew Bible (see Walter Kaiser’s The Messiah in the Old Testament).

 Each passage in the Hebrew Bible must be examined in its own context and on its own terms.  So Messianic prophecy is one promise developed in a progressive series of revelations rather than several disjointed predictions.

Also, we need to heed the advice of Richard N. Longenecker:

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

To read on, click here:

#5:  Remember the Hebrew Bible doesn’t use phrases like “First Coming” or “Second Coming”

There are hardly any texts in the Jewish Scriptures that say “When the Messiah comes, he will do x, y, and z. However, as I just said, 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.

One text that is cited about a peaceable kingdom where we see the end of violence in both human society and the world of animals is Isaiah 11: 1-9:

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

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

“In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia,from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. He will raise a banner for the nations  and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah  from the four quarters of the earth.  Ephraim’s jealousy will vanish, and Judah’s enemies will be destroyed; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,   nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim.  They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia to the west;   together they will plunder the people to the east. They will subdue Edom and Moab,   and the Ammonites will be subject to them.  The Lord will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian sea; with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand  over the Euphrates River. He will break it up into seven streams so that anyone can cross over in sandals.  There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria, as there was for Israel   when they came up from Egypt.” –Isa. 11: 10-16.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize none of this has taken place yet. Another passage that uses the name “Branch” is Jer. 23:5-8:

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

In these texts, it is clear Israel will dwell securely in the land. Has this happened yet? No!

So the lesson here is interpreting some of the prophecies in the Hebrew Bible will largely depend on one’s view of the Abrahamic Covenant and God’s relationship with the Jewish people.

In other words, what are we to do with the several texts in the Jewish Scriptures that speak of 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 Jerusalem 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.

While this is a complex topic and is heavily debated,  for supersessionists , these texts have no future fulfillment.  One’s theology can determine one’s hermeneutic and that will determine the conclusion here. I think it is wise to not start with a system and fit the Bible into a system (e.g., systematic theology).

Let’s look at another text:

The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 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.  He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation,  neither shall they learn war anymore.  O house of Jacob, come, let us walk  in the light of the Lord.- Isa 2: 1-4

Here we see again there is no mention of the word “Messiah. ” But again, there is mention of a figure that will judge between the nations and there will be a time of peace.

Another similar text that mentions the nations going to Jerusalem to worship a messianic figure is in Zechariah 14. I won’t copy the text. But you can read it here.

So what’s the point? We can’t afford to read these texts out of context. This leads me to my next point:

#6: Remember Prophetic Telescoping: These Prophecies Bridge the First and Second Coming of the Messiah

Prophetic Telescoping is prophecy that bridges the First and Second Comings of the Messiah. In this way, prophecy telescopes forward to a time. The prophets saw future events as distant “peaks” (i.e., events) without an awareness of the large time gaps between them. Also, the prophets understood that history had two major periods—the present age and the age to come–although they did not always make a hard distinction between the two. Prophetic Telescoping stresses progressive revelation which means that God does not reveal everything at once.

There are  texts that are  fulfilled in the first appearance of Jesus. But there is another part that will be fulfilled in the future. In this sense, Jesus will return and establish the earthly, national aspect of the kingdom of God (Is. 9:6; Amos 9:11; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14; 27; Is. 11:11-12; 24:23; Mic. 4:1-4; Zech.14:1-9; Matt. 26:63-64; Acts 1:6-11; 3:19-26). In other words, one day the Messiah will be King over His people (Matt. 19:28).

#7: Some Prophecy has Typological Fulfillment

1. The word “fulfill”- the Greek word for fulfill is “pleroo” which can  mean “render full,” “fill up” or “complete”- it means something broader than the “completion of a  prediction.”  An example of this is seen in Matt 5:17- fulfillment is seen in embodying, bringing to completion, or perfecting.

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 (e.g., Paul declares that Adam “is a figure (a type) of him that was to come”, i.e., the Messiah).

4. The type is a prefiguring or foreshadowing of the antitype. It is predictive/prophetic; it looks ahead and points to the antitype.

Let me give some examples of typological prophecies which fall under three headings:

Institutions

1.The Passover, for instance, with its spotless lamb (Exodus 12:5) which was slain without any bones being broken (12:46).  In this case, the Passover Lamb in the Jewish Scriptures is the type while the antitype is the Messiah (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7), who was without spot or blemish (1 Peter 1:19) and who was slain  and also had none of his bones broken (John 19:33ff).

2.The feast of the firstfruits (Leviticus 23:10), i.e., Shavuot was a celebration in which the initial produce of the harvest was offered to God as a token of the full crop to follow. In this case, the type (the Feast of first fruits) is fulfilled in the antitype which is the resurrection of the Messiah who is the “first fruits” offered to God (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23).

3.The Tabernacle and Temple were both central features of the Jewish sacrificial system. They both were initiated by God and were a means where the Jewish people could approach God. In the Bible, the Shechinah is the visible manifestation of the presence of God in which He descends to dwell among men. The Shechinah glory is seen in a variety of visible manifestations such as light, fire, a cloud, the Angel of the Lord, or a combination of all of these. The glory of God would descend in both the Tabernacle and Temple as well.

Therefore, in relation to the coming of the Messiah, the Shechinah takes on greater significance in John 1: 1-14. As John says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” “Dwelt” ( σκήνωμα), means to “live or camp in a tent” or figuratively in the New Testament to”dwell, take up one’s residence, come to reside (among).” So i John 1:14 literally says,” the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. Therefore, both the Tabernacle and the Temple were types in the Jewish Scriptures that are fulfilled in the anti-type which is the person of Jesus.

Persons

The Binding of Isaac Story

The Binding of Isaac or the “Akedah” tells the account of when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Because of Abraham’s faith God would be able to resurrect the slain Isaac. The sacrifice of Isaac is the type in that the Messiah is the antitype in the following respects: (1) They both involve the sacrifice by a father of his only son; (2) They both symbolize a complete dedication on the part of the offerer; (3) It speaks of both a death and resurrection.

King David

Even though we have already mentioned this King David was was type of the Messiah in that he was a son of God in the sense of being a Davidic King who was a ruler and who had an intimate relationship with God. But the role of King David pointed towards a greater king who is the antitype- the Messiah.

Let’s look at Romans 1:1-5

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

We see the following:

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

Melchizedek

Melchizedek was both king of Salem and a priest of God—at the same time (Genesis 14:18-20)and a a type of  Messiah.  Jesus as the anti-type  began to reign on David’s throne and to simultaneously function as our high priest (cf. Psalm 110:4; Zechariah 6:12, 13; Hebrews 5:5-10; 6:20; 7:1-17).

One small piece of advice: Christians can abuse typology by looking for types all over the Hebrew Bible and saying they point to Jesus. So we need to exercise some caution in  this area.

#8: Corporate Solidarity:

The idea of Corporate Solidarity  states that one person can represent a whole group. In other words, Jesus, as the Messiah is the culmination of the characteristics within the positions.  Thus,  while Israel is seen as a son and God is their Father, Jesus is the ideal “Son of God/The Davidic King” This can be seen elsewhere where Jesus is the ideal prophet and priest as well.

#9:  Remember the role of presuppositions

1. A presupposition is something assumed or supposed in advance

2. Whether or not certain passages are clearly Messianic depend upon what the preconceived idea of the reader.  

I say this because in Rabbinic Judaism, they generally say the following:

1. The Messiah is not divine-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.

#10: Interpretive Issues with Messianic Prophecy?

1.In many cases prophecy may only be understandable by true believers under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (e.g.Luke 24:45;John 12:16).

2. Also, see our reading list here:

3. The Contingent Element to Prophecy: One thing that can’t be forgotten is that there is a contingent element to prophecy. In other words, the covenants that we made between God and Israel (i.e., the Abrahamic and Davidic) both have a conditional and unconditional element to them. While I believe God made unconditional promises to Israel in both of these covenants, Israel has to do their part to obtain the fullest blessings of the covenant.  Obviously when we read the Jewish Scriptures it is evident that this didn’t happen. Thus, Israel was judged and sent into exile. Therefore, there is a delay in the blessings.  Despite Israel’s unbelief in Yeshua, “God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew” (Romans 11:2). Israel remains God’s beloved chosen people “on account of the patriarchs” (Rom. 11:28). Paul also says God’s gifts and callings to Israel are irrevocable (Rom 11:29). Also, in Romans 11, the “riches” Gentiles are experiencing now during the state of Israel’s “stumbling” will escalate with the “full number” of national Israel’s salvation ( Rom. 11:26).

But since Israel’s role is to be a light to the nations and bring the Jewish Messiah into the world for the benefit of humanity, God’s plan still has gone forward. When it comes to messianic expectations, if we are willing to probe deeper and examine the evidence, we may come to a different conclusion. Finally, we should note that many people are undoubtedly going to ask the question, “What difference does this make?” In other words, “Does it really matter whether Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah?” In response, if is true that Yeshua is the Messiah, of course this does mean there is a God and he can be known. It also means Yeshua offers shalom (i,e, peace, wholeness) to both Jew and Gentile. Hence, if Yeshua became our atonement and He rose from the dead, we can be redeemed and have a covenantal relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Every person owes it to themselves slow down and examine this pressing issue.

#11: Themes That Help in Interpreting Messianic Prophecy:

1. Promise Theme:  The NT uses the word “promise” to refer to the message of the Hebrew Bible, but the Hebrew Bible itself does not have a consistent term to refer to this concept. A cluster of words is used, such as oath, word, blessing, promise, and others (See Kaiser’s Messiah in the Old Testament).

2.  Mission in the Bible Theme:   There was a universal purpose in God’s election of Abraham and of the people of Israel. They were called and brought into existence because of God’s missionary purpose for the blessing of the nations. Indeed, God’s commitment to Israel is predicated on his commitment to humanity as a whole.

3.The Reign of God theme is very helpful as well. I have touched on that here:

#12: Study How the New Testament Authors Used the Old Testament

There has always been plenty of misunderstanding about this issue.

  1. See here and here for some reading resources.

To see more on this topic and individual posts on messianic prophecy, see here:

The Warrior Messiah  in Scripture and Intertestamental Writings: By Sook-Young Kim

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

THE MESSIAH AND THE HEBREW BIBLE: JOHN H. SAILHAMER

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

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

Answering an Objection: Jewish People Don’t Believe in a Suffering/Atoning Messiah!

Was Matthew a False Prophet? Ron Canter

A Look at Messianic Prophecy and The Son of Man Saying in the Ministry of Jesus

Sung Jin Park: Melchizedek as a Covenantal Figure: The Biblical Theology of The Eschatological Royal Priesthood

Richard N. Longenecker: ‘Who is the Prophet Talking About?’ Some Reflections on the New Testament’s Use of the Old

A Look At Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity

Jesus as Co-Creator – Michael Heiser

A Look at Psalm 22 as  Messianic Prophecy

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

Six Messianic Expectations and One Messiah

Handling a Rabbi’s Objection About The Resurrection of Jesus

A Closer Look at Isaiah 52:13- 53: 12: Who is the Servant of the Lord?

THE INTERPRETATION OF OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECY by J. Randolph Jaeggli*

Does the NT contradict the Hebrew Bible in its discussions of the ‘passing away’ of the Mosaic Law? by Glen Miller

Are Christians committing Idolatry and Violating the 2nd Commandant in the worship of Jesus? by Glenn Miller

Handling a Rabbi’s Objection: The Messianic Mission and the Inclusion of the Gentiles into God’s Redemptive Plan

The Dividing Point Between Judaism and Christianity: The Messiahship of Jesus

Is the Gospel Still “To the Jew First?”

Why Jesus is Qualified to be the “Messiah”: A Look at “The Reign of God” in the Bible

Isaiah 53: Who is the servant?

Why Would God Become a Jewish Man? A Look at the Jewish Background of the Incarnation

Psalm 110:1 and the New Testament: Herbert W. Bateman IV

The Messianic Hope by Julian Kinkaid

A Look at Messianic Prophecy: Four Ways the New Testament Authors Use the Hebrew Bible

Is Jesus the Messiah? Part Two: The Resurrection of The Davidic King

A Look at Messianic Prophecy: Hints and Signs of the Coming King in the Old Testament

The Divinity of Jesus in Early Judaism

Hosea’s Prophecy and The Return of the King

Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet: Isaiah 53 is about the Jewish Messiah

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

A Look at Messianic Prophecy: Who is the Prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15-18?”

Why Jesus is Qualified to be called the “Messiah.” A Look at the Miracles of Jesus

Why Jesus is the Jewish Messiah: A Look at the Names for the Messiah

The Crucified Jew: Why Jesus Continues to be a Stumbling Block to the Jewish People

A Look at Jewish Messianism: A Crucified Messiah:What An Embarrassment!

Miller, Glenn: Did the Messianic Jewish Believers Use the OT Deceitfully or Ignorantly in the New Testament?

Miller, Glenn: Messianic Expectations in 1st Century Judaism: Documentation from Non-Christian Sources

What is Messianic Apologetics?

A Look at Messianic Prophecy and the Promise of The New Covenant

The Messiah in Light of Rabbinical Writings: Risto Santala

Marshall, I. Howard: The Messiah in the First Century: A Review Article

Skarsaune, Oskar:The Cultural Dimension: Judaism and Hellenism”, Chapter 1 of In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity

Craig Evans: Prophet, Sage, Healer, Messiah, and Martyr: Types and Identities of Jesus – in Stanley E. Porter and Tom Holmén (eds.), Handbook for Study of the Historical Jesus (4 vols., Leiden: Brill, 2010) 2:1217-43.

Craig Evans: Messianic Hopes and Messianic Figures in Late Antiquity – Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 3 (2006) 9-40.

Uncategorized

A Look at Jesus and His Contemporaries: The Miracles of Jesus

Introduction

Over the years, I have had my share of discussions with people about Jesus. I can say without hesitation that one of the most common objections I hear is the following: “I think Jesus was a good teacher, but I don’t take those miracle accounts in the Gospels as literal events.”

It is evident that this objection to the miracles of Jesus is mostly philosophical in nature. Many skeptics attempt to claim that it was during the Enlightenment period that any so called miracle claim was cast into the domain of superstition and pre-modernism. After all, modern people can’t believe such silliness. Unfortunately, this is an oversimplification.

As N.T Wright says,

“The natural/supernatural distinction itself, and the near-equation of ‘supernatural’with ‘superstition’, are scarecrows that Enlightenment thought has erected in its fields to frighten away anyone following the historical argument where it leads. It is high time the birds learned to take no notice.” (1)

In this post, I won’t be dealing with the philosophical objection to miracles. You can read more about that here and here.

But far as the miraculous, I think a more balanced approach is seen here in the comments by Gary Habermas and Mike Licona:

“Our knowledge of the world around us is gained by gathering information. When we cast our net into the sea of experience, certain data turn up. If we cast our net into a small lake, we won’t be sampling much of the ocean’s richness. If we make a worldwide cast, we have a more accurate basis for what exists. Here is the crunch. If we cast into our own little lakes, it is not surprising if we do not obtain an accurate sampling of experience. However, a worldwide cast will reveal many reports of unusual occurrences that might be investigated and determined to be miracles. Surely most of the supernatural claims would be found to be untrustworthy. But before making the absolute observation that no miracles have ever happened, someone would have to investigate each report. It only takes a single justified example to show that there is more to reality than a physical world. We must examine an impossibly large mountain of data to justify the naturalistic conclusion assumed in this objection.” (Habermas & Licona 2004:144)

I am in full agreement with James Sire that Jesus is the best apologetic that the Christian can offer to a dark and needy world. Therefore, I would like to examine the miracles of Jesus.

1. The Context of Jesus’ Miracles-God’s Relationship With the Nation of Israel

The historical and religious context for the miracles of Jesus is God’s interaction with the nation of Israel. Even during thousands of years of Bible history miracles were clustered in three very limited periods:

(1) The Mosaic period: from the exodus through the taking of the promised land (with a few occurrences in the period of the judges)
(2) The prophetic period: from the late kingdom of Israel and Judah during the ministries of Elijah, Elisha, and to a lesser extent Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah spoke of a time where miraculous deeds would be the sign of both the spiritual and physical deliverance of Israel (Is.26: 19; 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 42:18; 61:1).
(3) The apostolic period: from the first-century ministries of Christ and the apostles. Occurrences of miracles were neither continuous nor without purpose. (2)

2. Jesus as the Inaugurator of the Kingdom of God: The Actions of the King

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.

Within the context of first-century Jewish miracle workers, how much weight should be given to Jesus’ miracles?

As Ben Witherington III says,

“The miracles themselves raise the question but do not fully provide the answer of who Jesus was; what is important from an historical point of view is not the miracle themselves, which were not unprecedented, but Jesus’ unique interpretation of the miracles as signs of the dominion’s inbreaking, and also the signs of who he was: the fulfiller of the Old Testament promises about the blind seeing, the lame walking and the like.” (3)

Wolfgang Trilling, a German New Testament scholar argues for a consensus in New Testament scholarship that Jesus performed some sort of miraculous acts ascribed to him in the Gospels. Jesus’ authority is evident as His role as an exorcist. He said, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, than the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).

This is significant for 3 reasons:
(1) It shows that Jesus claimed divine authority over evil
(2) It shows Jesus believed the kingdom of God had arrived; in Judaism, the kingdom would come at the end of history
(3) Jesus was in effect saying that in Himself, God had drawn near, therefore He was putting Himself in God’s place. (4)

In Matthew 11:13, John the Baptist, who in prison after challenging Herod, sent messengers to ask Jesus the question: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus’ responded by appealing to the evidence of his miracles. As Jesus said, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me” (Matt. 11:4-6).

Jesus’ evidential claim can be seen in the following syllogism:
1.If one does certain kinds of actions (the acts cited above), then one is the Messiah.
2. I am doing those kinds of actions.
3.Therefore, I am the Messiah. (5)

Even in the Messiah Apocalypse, which is dated between 100 and 80 B.C.E mentions a similar theme as seen in Matt.11: 4-6: “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.” (6)

3. Jesus and His Contemporaries

During the time of Jesus, there were other “holy men” are what are called “Hasidim.” A Jewish Hasid was someone who had a close relationship with God and had the ability to call upon God for power over the natural realm. Two examples of Hasid’s are Honi, “the Circle Drawer” and Hanina ben Dosa. In comparing the miracles of Jesus and Honi the Circle Drawer, the records of Honi’s miracles are from are the Mishnah (c. A.D. 200) and from Josephus (c. A.D. 90):

In comparing these healers with Jesus, we also see some other glaring differences. First, the earliest portions of the Misnah date no earlier than roughly a.d. 200, becoming part of the Talmud even later. Josephus relates other cases of Jewish holy men, but his account was written perhaps a.d. 93–94, at the very end of the New Testament period. Also, Honi had no control over the forces of nature, but he could ask God for rain. Other Jewish exorcists resorted to power other then themselves through prayer to send away demons. They even invoked “powerful” names such as those of God and Solomon. Jesus was quite different because when He did a healing He did not “receive” power before he drove out the spirits; He did it with a simple, powerful word that was His own. Rather than invoking the name of Solomon, he said “Behold, something greater than the wisdom of Solomon is here” (Matt. 12:42). Furthermore, Jesus did not ask God to quiet the storm or calm the waves; He did with His own word. (7)

4. Hellenistic Divine Men?

There have been other comparisons between Jesus and Hellenistic divine men such as Apollonius of Tyana. Philostratus, his biographer, tells that Apollonius cast out a demon from a young man and ordered it to provide a sign that it had left. A nearby statue promptly fell down. This example sounds like the account of Jesus expelling the demon from the Gadarene man (Mark 5:1–20). Did this account influence the Jesus story?

Gary Habermas points out four problems with the Hellenistic Divine Men theory:

The first problem is that Jesus was obviously Jewish and was probably even widely considered by some to be a Jewish holy man. We are told that he was sometimes addressed as Rabbi (John 1:38, 49; 3:2; 6:25), as was John the Baptist (3:26). Still, we have no clear signs of mimicry. The ancient definition of magician, one who was involved in such practices as incantations, sorceries, spells, and trickeries, hardly seems to have applied any influence on the Gospel depiction of Jesus.

Secondly, there are few parallels between the magicians, divine men, and Jesus. Clearly, the Gospels are much more closely aligned with the Old Testament, Palestinian Judaism, and rabbinic literature. But given this, it becomes very difficult to establish the influence of pagan ideas on the Gospels. As Habermas notes, historian Michael Grant has shown that Judaism strongly opposed pagan beliefs, helping us understand why these ideas never gained much of a foothold in first-century Palestine.

Thirdly, the evidence for Apollonius is rather scant. While the miracles of Jesus pass the test of multiple attestation, the single account of Apollonius was recorded by Philostratus nearly 2-300 years later. This means it may have borrowed from the Jesus story, not the other way around.

Fourthly, Christianity centers on the death and resurrection of Jesus, and this message is not borrowed from the beliefs of others. Habermas also notes that the late Martin Hengel asserted, “The Christian message fundamentally broke apart the customary conceptions of atonement in the ancient world and did so at many points.” (8) .

Scholar Werner Kahl provides some insights about three characteristics of miracle workers: First, the person who has inherent healing power is called a “bearer of numinous power” (BNP). Kahl uses the term “petitioner of numinous power” (PNP) for those who ask God to perform the miracle. Between both (BNP) and (PNP) is what Kahl calls the category of a “mediator of numinous power” (MNP), which can apply to an individual who mediates the numinous power of a BNP in order to produce a miracle. Kahl concludes being a MNP or PNP clearly is not the evidence of deity, whereas being a BNP could possibly be evidence of a deity. (9)

Eric Eve makes another valuable contribution to this topic in his published dissertation The Jewish Context of Jesus’ Miracles. Eve observes that only the God of Israel is the only BNP while Moses is an example of an MNP and Elijah is an example of a PNP. After studying the miracle accounts in Josephus, Philo, the wisdom and the apocalyptic literature of the period, as well the Qumran texts and Jewish literature such as Tobit, Eve concluded that it can be demonstrated that the God of Israel is the only BNP. Hence, Eve contends that the Gospels display Jesus’ miracles as departing from Jewish tradition since Jesus is shown to be a BNP and his miracles point to him as being the incarnation of the God of Israel.

The Gospels provide valuable insight into the relationship between prayer and the miracles of Jesus. Jesus has no need to pray before performing any miracle, and the exceptions are prayers of only thanks or blessing, not prayers asking God to effect the miracle (Mark 14:9; 15:36; Mark 6:41; 8:6; Luke 9:16; John 6:11; 11:41-43). Eve concludes that the Gospels show no hint of Jesus being a “petitioner of numinous power” (PNP). (10)

It must not be forgotten that Jesus did not perform any of his miracles independently of the Father; instead Jesus did all his miracles in union with the Father (John 5:36; 10:38; 14:10-11) so that His audience would see the unique relationship between the Father and the Son.

5. Conclusion

It is evident that Jesus’ miracles are best understood within the context of God’s covenant relationship with Israel. Most importantly, God took the initiative by revealing to mankind a fuller part His kingdom program through the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus’ miraculous deeds, healings, and power over nature as well as His role as a Suffering Servant was another stage of inaugurating the kingdom of God. Jesus, being the divine Messiah exhibits the same attributes as the God of Israel. One day, Jesus will return to fulfill the promise of completing the earthly aspect of His kingdom work. May all of us as wait with eager anticipation.

As the Apostle Peter said,

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat” (2 Peter 3:10-12).

Sources:
1. Wright, N.T. The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress, Minneapolis.
2003), 707 n63.
2. Geisler N.L., Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999, 468-469.
3. Ben Witherington III. New Testament History. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2001, 12.
4. Craig, W. L. Christian Truth and Apologetics. Wheaten, ILL : Crossway Books.1984, 233-54.
5. Douglas Grotthuis, “Jesus: Philosopher and Apologist,” http://www.theapologiaproject.org/JesusPhil.pdf/2002{accessed January 10, 2011}.
6. See Evans, C.A., and P. W. Flint, Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1997). 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.
7. Skarsaune, O. Incarnation: Myth or Fact? (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House: 1991), 35-36.
8. Geisler, N.L., and Paul K. Hoffman Why I Am A Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books. 2001), 112-113.
9. Kahl, W, New Testament Miracle Stories in Their Religious- Historical Setting: A Religionsgeschichtliche Comparison from a Structural Perspective (FRLANT 163. Gottingen: Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994), 76; cited in Eric Eve, The Jewish Context of Jesus’ Miracles, JSNTSSup 231 (London and New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), 15; cited in R. M. Bowman and J.E. Komoszewski, Putting Jesus Back In His Place: The Case For The Deity of Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007), 195-206.
10. See Eve, E, The Jewish Context of Jesus’ Miracles, JSNTSSup 231 (London and New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), 15; cited in R. M. Bowman and J.E. Komoszewski, Putting Jesus Back In His Place: The Case For The Deity of Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007), 195-206.

Uncategorized

Why Jesus Is the Most Likely Candidate to Rise From the Dead

Some people think the resurrection of Jesus is impossible to believe or they think the entire story just doesn’t make sense. I think if there is anyone who would rise from the dead, it would be Jesus. In other words, when I look at the entire ministry of Jesus, he is perfect candidate to be raised from the dead. Here are five reasons that help explain what I am saying about this topic:

First, Jesus viewed Himself as the Son of Man/The Elect One

The “Son of Man” (bar nash, or bar nasha) expression is employed to Jesus’ earthly ministry (Mk. 2:10,28; 10:45; Matt. 13:37). Second, the expression was used to describe the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus (Mk. 8:31;9:31;10:33). Thirdly, the Son of Man has a future function as an eschatological judge (Matt. 25:31-36; Mark 14:60-65). Jesus spoke of this function in the following texts:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations , and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father , inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels….’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matt. 25: 31-36).

“You, who have persevered with me in my tribulations, when the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne will also sit upon thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (cf. Matt. 19: 28; Luke 22: 2830).

One of the most pertinent issues is Jesus’ use of Son of Man in the trial scene in Mark 14.

And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows (Mark 14: 60-65).

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.” (1)

Secondly, Jesus viewed Himself as The Son of God

One of the most important Christological titles for Jesus is “Son of God.” There are numerous passages in the New Testament that attest to Jesus and His authority as the Son of God. The first is seen in John 5:22-23: “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” In Psalm. 2:2-7 we see the relationship between the term “Son of God” and the King of Israel. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed [that’s the word for Messiah]. . . . Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.”

Therefore, when the Jewish people heard the term “Son of God” they mostly associated it with a king. The God of Israel is identified as King: (1 Sam. 12:12; Ps 24:10; Is. 33:22; Zeph. 3:15; Zech. 14:16-17), as ruler over Israel (Ex. 15:18; Num. 23;21; Deut. 33:5; Is. 43:15), and ruler over the entire creation, his reign is ongoing (Ps.10:16; 146:10; Is. 24:23), and rule and kingship belong to Him (Ps. 22:28). The Son of God was to be a descendant of King David who will rule Israel during the age of perfection: (Isaiah 11:1-9; Jeremiah 23:5-6, 30:7-10, 33:14-16; Ezekiel 34:11-31, 37:21-28; Hosea 3:4-5).

Dead Sea Scroll specialists such as Craig A. Evans and Peter W. Flint have shown that the writings that were found at Qumran show that divine sonship was clearly a part of the Royal- Christian rhetoric of pre-Christian Judaism. In relation to the “Son of God” term, these passages that were read during this period were referring to the Davidic King. The “Son of God” term is seen in the fragment known as (4Q246), Plate 4, columns one and two. In relation to this issue, within the Psalms, we see that God and His anointed king are described in ways that are equal in status and they are both qualified to be worthy of the same worship and reverence. (2)

Thirdly, Jesus was a Prophet like Moses

There is no doubt that Moses spoke of a prophet that would come who would be like him (see Deut. 18:1518). Moses was a sign prophet. We see this is an important feature with Moses: God says, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you” (Exod. 3:12).

When Moses asks God, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” the Lord gives Moses two “signs”: his rod turns into a snake (Exod. 4:3) and his hand becomes leprous (Exod. 4:1–7).

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

Jesus was a sign prophet as well in that He gave his prediction of his resurrection when he was asked for a sign (Matt. 16:1, 4). Not only was the resurrection a miracle, but it was a miracle that Jesus predicted (Matt. 12:40; 16:21; 20:19; John 2:19). Nicodemus said of Jesus “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). “Jesus the Nazarene was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22)

A very important messianic text is seen here:

“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

A published scroll from Qumran has helped confirm this theme: According to 4Q521,

“Heaven and earth will obey his Messiah and all that is in them will not turn away from the commandments of the holy ones … for (the Lord) will honor the pious upon the throne of the eternal Kingdom, setting prisoners free, opening the eyes of the blind, raising up those who are bowed down…. For he will heal the wounded, revive the dead, proclaim good news to the poor.” (3)

Fourth, Jesus is the Shechinah

In the Bible, the Shechinah is the visible manifestation of the presence of God in which He descends to dwell among men. While the Hebrew form of the glory of the Lord is Kvod Adonai, the Greek title is Doxa Kurion. The Hebrew form Schechinah, from the root “shachan,” means “dwelling” while the Greek word “Skeinei” means to tabernacle.

The Shechinah glory is seen in the Tankah in places such as Gen.3:8; 23-24; Ex.3;1-5; 13:21-22; 14;19-20; 24; 16:6-12; 33:17-23; 34:5-9. In these Scriptures, the Shechinah is seen in a variety of visible manifestations such as light, fire, cloud, the Angel of the Lord, or a combination of all of these. The ultimate manifestation of the Shechinah was seen in the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai (Ex.19:16-20).

The story of Jesus has tremendous parallels to the Shechinah story in the Hebrew Bible. In the Hebrew Bible, the Shechinah would appear and disappear at certain times while eventually making a permanent home in the tabernacle and the temple; the Shechinah also departed from the Mount of Olives. Likewise, in the New Testament, Jesus as the visible manifestation of the Shechinah, also appeared and disappeared; He also departed from Israel from the Mount of Olives. (4)

Remember, the rabbis could speak of taking upon oneself the yoke of Torah or the yoke of the kingdom; Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” (Mt 11:29). Also, the rabbis could say that if two or three men sat together, having the words of Torah among them, the shekhina (God’s own presence) would dwell on them (M Avot 3:2) ; Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I will be among them.” (5)

Fifth, Jesus had the authority to forgive sins and became the Temple in person

According to Mark 14:62, Jesus affirmed the chief priests question that He is the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Coming Son of Man who would judge the world. This was considered a claim for deity since the eschatological authority of judgment was for God alone. Jesus provoked the indignation of his opponents because of His application of Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1 to himself.

Also, many parables, which are universally acknowledged by critical scholars to be authentic to the historical Jesus, show that Jesus believed himself to be able to forgive sins against God (Matt. 9:2; Mark 2: 1-12). Forgiving sins was something that was designated for God alone (Exod. 34: 6-7; Neh.9:17; Dan. 9:9) and it was something that was done only in the Temple along with the proper sacrifice. So it can be seen that Jesus acts as if He is the Temple in person. In Mark 14:58, it says, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.’ The Jewish leadership knew that God was the one who was responsible for building the temple (Ex. 15:17; 1 En. 90:28-29).(6).

Sixth, Jesus is Wisdom Incarnate

Another way of looking at Jesus’ deity draws on Israel’s Wisdom literature. Israel’s Wisdom literature includes books such as Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, and the Wisdom of Solomon. Protestants do not accept Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon as part of their canon. In examining the following texts, it can be observed there are amazing similarities. Hence, it would be hard to deny that the “high” Christology of the New Testament was not greatly influenced by Wisdom Christology. First century Jews were strongly monotheistic, so to them, the figure of Wisdom was not a second God. Wisdom is described not only as a personification of God, but as a separate person from God. Here are some of the Wisdom texts:

1.Wisdom: is seen with God at creation (Prov. 8: 27-30; Wis. 9:9; Sir. 1:1). Jesus: is seen with God at creation (John 1: 8).
2.Wisdom: God created the world by Wisdom (Wis. 7:22; 9:1-2; Prov. 8:27). Jesus: God created the world by the Word (Jesus) (John 1:3).
3.Wisdom: Is the “pure emanation of the glory of God” (Wis. 7:25-26). Jesus: is the “Reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:15).
4.Wisdom: Invitation to draw near, bear Wisdom’s yoke and learn (Sir. 51:23). Jesus: Invitation to draw near and take “my yoke….and learn from me (Matt 11: 28).
5.Wisdom: Whoever finds wisdom finds life (Prov. 8: 35; Bar. 4:1). Jesus: Is the giver of life (John 6: 33-35; 10:10).
6.Wisdom: People reject Wisdom and find ruin (Prov. 1: 24-31; 8:36; Sir 15:7). Jesus: People who reject Wisdom are lost (John 3:16-21).
7.Wisdom: Has its dwelling place in Israel (Sir. 34:8; Wis. 9:10; Prov. 8:31). Jesus: Has come from God into the world (John 1:1; 9-11). (6)

As Oskar Skarsaune says:

Jesus appears in roles and functions that burst all previously known categories in Judaism. He was a prophet, but more than a prophet. He was a teacher but taught with a power and authority completely unknown to the rabbis. He could set his authority alongside of, yes, even “over” God’s authority in the Law. He could utter words with creative power. In a Jewish environment zealous for the law, only one category was “large enough” to contain the description of Jesus: the category of Wisdom. (7)

Many Jewish scholars believe that it is not the content of Jesus’ preaching in and of itself that sets Him apart and differentiates Him from other rabbis of his own time. What distinguished Him is the manner in which His own person, His own “I” manifests itself.

The Swedish rabbi Marcus Eherenpreis says,

“A difference appears immediately that from the very beginning constituted an unbridgeable wall of separation between Jesus and the Pharisees. Jesus spoke in His own name. Judaism on the other hand, knew the one I, the divine Anochi (the Hebrew word for I) who gave us the eternal commandments at Sinai. No other superhuman has existed in Judaism other than God. Jesus sermons began, “I say to you.” Here is a clash between that goes to the inner core of religion. Jesus’ voice had an alien sound that that Jewish ears had never heard before. For Judaism, the only revealed teaching of God was important, not the teacher’s personal ego. Moses and the prophets were human beings encumbered with shortcomings. Hillel and his successors sat where Moses sat.” (8)

In their book Putting Jesus Back In His Place: The Case For The Deity of Christ, authors R.M. Bowman and J.E. Komoszewski note again that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus cites not one single rabbi or religious authority. Instead, he says “I say to you,” thirteen times in this one sermon (Matt. 5:18,20,22,28,32,34,39,44;6:2,5,16,25,29). He even challenged his hearers to base their own lives on his words (Matt. 7:24,26). Within the Tanakh, the prophets would introduce God’s message with a formula such “thus says the Lord” (over 400 times) or “the word of the Lord came” to such and such a prophet (about 100 times). As just stated, Jesus introduced his comments by saying “I say to you” (about 145 times).

What is even more significant is that seventy four or seventy-five times, Jesus used the introductory locution that appears to be unparalleled: “Amen I say to you” (often translated “Truly I say to you”). Scholars have found no precedent in the Tanakh, nor have scholars found any precedent in the rest of ancient Jewish literature.

Conclusion

These are just a few reasons why I think Jesus is the most likely candidate to rise from the dead.

Sources:

1. See Randall Price, See The Concept of the Messiah in the Old Testament at http://www.worldofthebible.com/Bible%20Studies/The%20Concept%20…

2. See Craig Evans and P. W. Flint. Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls ( Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1997).

3. Ibid.

4.These points were laid out systematically in Fruchtenbaum, A.G, The Footsteps of Messiah: A Study of Prophetic Events (Tustin CA: Ariel Press, 1977), 409-432.

5. Skarsaune,O, In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity (Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 331.

6. Holmgren, F.C., The Old Testament: The Significance of Jesus-Embracing Change-Maintaining Christian Identity. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1999, 157.

7. Skarsaune, O. Incarnation: Myth or Fact? St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House: 1991, 37.

8. Skarsaune, O. Incarnation: Myth or Fact?, 33-34.

Uncategorized

Was Jesus Crucified? A Look at the Death of Jesus

Here is a show that was recently taped for ABN Apologetics Marathon. In this show, myself along with some others in the apologetic field discuss the death of Jesus. You will see about halfway through the show, a Muslim apologist gives his reasons for rejecting our reasons for the historicity of the death of Jesus.

As I note in my reponse to him, the Greek word for “eyewitness” (autoptai) refers to those that would have participated in the events (direct autopsy). If the authors didn’t participate in the events they were writing about, they sought informants who could speak from firsthand knowledge and whom they could interview (indirect autopsy). For example, since it is obvious that Mark relies on Peter as a direct eyewitness, Mark’s Gospel is a form of indirect autopsy.

We see in Luke 1:1-4 that while Luke was not a direct eyewitness of Jesus’s ministry, and the information was given to him by those who “from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word,” he also is a form of indirect autopsy. Space prohibits a robust defense of John and Matthew’s Gospels, but since John claims to be a direct eyewitness (John 21:20-24) he is form of direct autopsy. Matthew’s frequent references to money remind us that he had been a tax collector. It is likely that this role is an example of a direct eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus as well.

As far as Paul, once again, for the historian to have been himself a participant in the events is a form of 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,  “autopsy,” is 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). Indirect  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).

In the end, Muslims seem to think a book written 600-650 years later is a much more reliable resource for what we can know about the death of Jesus than the New Testament itself. 

 

Uncategorized

Teaching Series on Why the Resurrection of Jesus Matters

For anyone that has the time to dive into the importance of the resurrection, here is a series we did called “Why The Resurrection of Jesus Matters.” In it, we discuss everything from why we should care about the resurrection of Jesus,  theology,  the burial of Jesus, the resurrection and Jewish messianism,  how to define resurrection correctly, as well as the different apologetic issues that come up with this topic. Lots of material.

 

 

Uncategorized