A Closer Look at the “Good News”

Introduction

The current disarray in our culture has lead to confusion, anxiety, misunderstanding, and division. What is the cure to this issue? Preach the Good News!  It is a message of reconciliation. Over the years I have spoken to many people about the claims of the Christian faith, I have continually asked myself if I am getting the Gospel right when I share it with others. There have been a slew of books questioning “What is the Gospel?” After looking at the Bible (where else might we get our understanding of this topic from?), I have concluded the Gospel is presented in a variety of contexts. Let’s take a look:

The Gospel Before Jesus

In the Tanakh (the Old Testament), Good news is proclaimed widely ( 1 Sam 31:9 ; Psalm 96:2-3 ; Isa 40:9 ; 52:7 ), spread rapidly ( 2 Sam 18:19-31 ; 2 Kings 7:9 ; Psalm 68:11 ), and declared and received joyfully ( 2 Sam 1:20 ; Psalm 96:11-12 ; Isa 52:7-9 ; Jer 20:15 ). Anytime the message of the gospel is for the Jewish people and based on God’s deliverance, the news is in every case but one ( Jer 20:15 ) related to God the Savior. (1)

The Gospel and Jesus: Pre-Resurrection

#1 Jesus and Isaiah

In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus reads from Isaiah 61: “the Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” ( Luke 4:18-19 ). So according to Jesus, the prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus’ own ministry ( 4:21 ) since He has come to free the physically infirm, such as the blind ( 4:18 ) and the leprous ( 4:27 ; cf. 7:21 ; 9:6 ). (2)

Therefore, Jesus helps the materially poor, like the widow in Elijah’s day ( 4:25-26 ; cf. Luke 6:20-25 Luke 6:30-38 ). Yet the spiritually poor are primarily in view people broken and grieved by misery and poverty, oppression and injustice, suffering and death, national apostasy and personal sin, who in their extremity cry out to God to bring forth justice, bestow his mercy, and establish his kingdom ( Matt 5:3-10 ). Jesus has come to usher in the kingdom, to rescue the lost, to liberate the enslaved, to cure the afflicted, and to forgive the guilty ( Mark 2:5 Mark 2:10 Mark 2:17 ; 10:45 ; Luke 7:48-49 ; 19:10 ). (3)

#2: Jesus and the Kingdom of God Gospel

We just touched on the reign of God theme. One of the most prominent themes throughout the Bible is the kingdom of God. The framework of Israel’s existence and self-understanding was formulated from God’s covenant with Israel and Israel’s servant to God the King. Israel is the people of the king, and the Holy land is the land of the king’s rule. Biblical scholar J. Julius Scott Jr. has noted that in the ancient world, “kingdom” referred to “lordship,” “rule,” “reign,” or “sovereignty,” rather than simply a geographical location. Scott asserts “sovereignty (or rule) of God” would be a better translation than “kingdom of God,” since such a translation denotes God’s sphere or influence or control and includes any person or group who, regardless of their location, acknowledge His sovereignty. (4)

On point that is generally agreed on by all scholars is that the central message of Jesus was about the kingdom of God. He preached the arrival of the messianic age and its activity of deliverance, contrasting the greatness of the kingdom era with the era of John the Baptist, which had now seemingly passed (Luke 4:16-30; 7:22-23). 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).

#3: The Gospel after the Resurrection: A Look at Paul

For Paul, Jesus’ death and resurrection are central ( 1 Cor 15:1-4 ), with the cross at the very center ( 1 Col 1:17-2:5 ; Rom 3:21-26 ; 2 Col 5:14-21 ). Paul declares ( Rom 1:16 ; 1 Col 1:17-18 ) the gospel to be “the power of God “not merely a witness to, but an expression of his power. The gospel is no bare word but is laden with the power of the Holy Spirit ( 1 Col 2:1-5 ; 1 Thess 1:5-6 ). Thus it cannot be fettered ( 2 Tim 2:8-9 ). The gospel effects the salvation it announces and imparts the life it promises. (5)

#4: Romans

For Paul, in offering his Son as a sacrifice for sins ( Rom 3:25a ), God demonstrates his righteousness ( Romans 3:25 Romans 3:26 ). In Jesus’ death sins formerly “passed over” ( 3:25c ) become the object of divine wrath ( 1:18 ). Yet in the place where God deals justly with sins, he shows grace to sinners. For the judgment is focused not upon the sinners themselves but upon the One who stands in their place ( 4:25 ; 5:6-11 ; 2 Cor 5:21 ; Gal 3:13 ). (6) Sinners are therefore freely pardoned ( Rom 3:24 ). The gospel is a channel of God’s grace. “A righteousness from God is revealed” in the gospel ( Rom 1:17 )not merely expounded but unleashed, so that the gospel becomes “the power of God for salvation” ( 1:16 ). God activates his righteousness by bestowing it freely upon sinners ( 5:17 ). They are acquitted, justified, “declared righteous, ” by God the Judge by virtue of their righteousness ( 1 Col 1:30 ; 2 Col 5:21 ; Php 3:9 ). (7)

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.”

So for Paul, the Gospel is first and foremost a message about Jesus. Six things stand out:

1. In Jesus of Nazareth, specifically in the cross, the decisive victory has been won over all the powers of evil, including sin and death themselves.

2. In Jesus’ resurrection, a new age has dawned, inaugurating the long-awaited time when the prophecies would be fulfilled, when Israel’s exile would be over, and the whole world would be addressed by the one creator God.

3. The crucified and risen Jesus, was, all along Israel’s Messiah, her representative king:

Paul lays great emphasis on Jesus’ resurrection in other places in the NT. Through Jesus’ resurrection, He installed as Son of God (Rom. 1:4), as universal Lord (Rom. 14:9; Eph.1:20-21; Phi.2:9-11), and judge of the living and the dead (Acts 17:31).

4. Jesus was therefore, also the Lord, the true king of the world, the one whose very knee must bow:

In the Roman Empire, pagans would have seen Caesar as their “Lord.” But for Paul there is a different “Lord” and his name is Jesus. Hence, the willingness to do call Jesus “Lord” is to place Jesus in a role attributed to God in Jewish expectation. For a Jewish person, when the title “Lord” (Heb. Adonai) was used in place of the divine name YHWH, this was the highest designation a Jewish person could use for deity.

5. The God of Israel is the one true God, and pagan deities are mere idols:

This sounds alot like 1 Corinthians 8: 5-6: “For though there are things that are called gods, whether in the heavens or on earth; as there are many gods and many lords; yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we live through him.”

Here is a distinct echo of the Shema, a creed that every Jew would have memorized from a very early age. When we read Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which says, “Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is our God, the Lord is one,” Paul ends up doing something extremely significant in the history of Judaism.

If we look at the entire context of the passage in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6, according to Paul’s inspired understanding, Jesus receives the “name above all names,” the name God revealed as his own, the name of the Lord.

In giving a reformulation of the Shema, Paul still affirms the existence of the one God, but what is unique is that somehow this one God now includes the one Lord, Jesus the Messiah. Therefore, Paul’s understanding of this passage begets no indication of abandoning Jewish monotheism in place of paganism.

6. The God of Israel is now made known in and through Jesus himself. (8)

#5: The “Kerygma” in the Book of Acts

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).

Conclusion:

One way or the other, if we look at the variety of ways the Gospel is presented in the Bible, there is no basis for a pragmatic Gospel or a message that says “Come to Jesus and He will fix all your problems.” Furthermore, if we follow the examples of Paul and the Apostles after the resurrection, there is no Gospel apart from the resurrection. To go and tell people that the Gospel is “Jesus died for your sins” is incorrect. Without the mention of the resurrection, it is an incomplete Gospel. Hence, either give people the whole Gospel or don’t mention it at all. But one thing for sure: Let’s be sharing the Good News so we can see heart’s changed and true reconciliation occur!

Sources:
1. J. Knox Chamblin “Gospel” featured in Walter Elwell, Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1996), 305-308.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. J. J. Scott Jr, Customs and Controversies: Intertestamental Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995), 297.
5. Chamblin, “Gospel” featured in Walter Elwell, Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1996), 305-308.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. These six points were made in N.T Wright’s What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Group, 1997), 60. I have added some of my own thoughts.

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The Right and Wrong Reasons to Pursue Apologetics

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). The more I have thought about this issue, I can list some of the right and wrong reasons to pursue a career in apologetics. Or, perhaps here are some of the right and wrong reasons for being very active in the field of apologetics.

Wrong Reasons

#1: The Need for Attention

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.

#2: The need to tear people down with knowledge

Sean McDowell gives us some tips on this one:

“Youth Specialties president Mark Matlock wrote a compelling essay about apologetics and emotional development.3 In it, he argued that apologetics often attracts people who have been emotionally hurt, and in turn, who use apologetics to hurt other people. He’s absolutely right. As the saying famously goes, “Hurt people hurt people.” There is power in knowledge. And many people seek power by gaining more information so they can control and even humiliate other people. If you are an apologist, I encourage you to ask yourself some deep questions: Why (honestly) are you an apologist? Is your heart genuinely broken for non-Christians? Do you pray for humility and guidance in your research and conversations with both Christians and non-Christians? I hope so.”

To read on, click here.

#3: The Need to Look Really Smart

Don’t get me wrong. I know we have an anti-intellectualism problem in the Church. I also know we have a fideism problem as well. But if you want to be an apologist to show people how smart you really are (and boast about your degrees), that is probably not a good thing. If anything, this only reveals that there is some sort of insecurity here. We need to check ourselves in this area.

Right Reasons:

#1: We want the Church strengthened and confident in their faith

Apologists work hard! They have to answer a lot of objections and have to be very knowledgeable about a variety of disciplines. We want Christians confident so that they will in turn want to obey the commands of Jesus (e.g., preach the Gospel and make disciples).

#2: Apologists know their ultimate reward is with Christ

A mature apologist doesn’t always look for affirmation from others because they know their real reward is with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:10). They have been called to be faithful and obedient to him. Now that doesn’t mean there is no need for any encouragement. But ultimately the apologist will answer to the Lord for the work they did to edify and strengthen his Church. After all, it was the Lord who has laid down his life for his Church (1 John 3:16). It belongs to Him!

#3: The Apologist knows false ideas are a hindrance to the Gospel

“False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation to be controlled by ideas […] which prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion.” – J. Gresham Machen, “Christianity and Culture,” Princeton Theological Review 11 (1913):

The apologist knows one of the main motives he does apologetics is to expose the idea structures that are causing a hindrance to the Gospel. Paul speaks about this here:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5 NIV).

#4 Apologists know that critics must be answered

As I have mentioned before, in Introducing Apologetics: Cultivating Christian Commitment by James Taylor, he lists three kinds of people who we will encounter when doing evangelism. If anything, if we do evangelism and encounter people in these categories, we should see why we need apologetics in the Church. Taylor says when dealing with people, many people may fall into various categories such as:

1. Critics: those with criticisms of the Christian faith who are not open to the possibility of its truth. Critics need to be answered to neutralize the effects of their criticisms on seekers and doubters.

2. Seekers: people who are open to our faith but are prevented from making a commitment primarily because of honest questions about the Christian claims.

3. Doubters: are Christians who find it difficult to believe one or more tenants of the Christian faith with complete confidence. Doubters need to be restored to full Christian conviction by giving them the tools to remove their doubts.

Once again, apologists work hard at answering #1 because they know the critics are the ones that impact the seekers and doubters.

 Conclusion

There are many more  motives that need to be examined if we are to be effective in the field of apologetics. To read more on this, see Apologetics 315’s article here called The Pitfalls of the Apologist.

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Paul Barnett on the Genre of the Gospels

Finding the Historical Christ (After Jesus) by [Barnett, Paul]
Over the years, I have had my share of discussions about the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). There is still an overall skepticism towards them that permeates the culture and college campuses. I have found that many skeptics have never stopped and asked the question, “What Are The Gospels?” Historian and theologian Paul Barnett has made some helpful comments here on this topic.
He says:

” In attempting to identify the gospels in terms of existing literary genres, it is not always recognized, as it should be, that Mark alone calls his book by that name. Furthermore, the four canonical gospels differ from each other in both character and intention. Mark wrote his text to be read aloud in church meetings (Mark 13:14) to demonstrate that Jesus was the awesome Son of Man who disappeared as mysteriously as he had appeared. Luke wrote his two-volume “narrative” to confirm catechumens like Theophilus in the truth in which he had been instructed (Luke 1:1-4). Matthew wrote his gospel as a manual for the instruction of disciples, based on the collected teachings of the Christ (Matt 28:19). John wrote his book with special interest in Jesus’ miracle signs and lengthy pastoral and polemical discourse. The character and intention of each gospel are different. Luke and Matthew felt that Mark’s gospel was inadequate, so they adapted it and added other material to suit their purposes. John wrote his “book” to reassure his Christian hearers that Jesus was truly the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31). Clearly each gospel is biographical in character and bears some similarities to the Greco-Roman bioi of that general era, e.g., Suetonius’s Twelve Caesars or Plutarch’s Parallel Lives.56 Nonetheless, the gospels are unusual if not unique because their intended readership and purpose are so exclusively defined. Whereas the contemporary biographers and historians wrote to inform everyone in general and no one in particular, the gospelers wrote their texts narrowly and specifically for Christians for “in-house” use. Accordingly, attempts to classify the gospels according to this genre or that should be regarded as secondary.

The primary observation should be to recognize their unique intended audience as church-directed and their function as ecclesial-liturgical (Mark), polemical-apologetic (John), and instructional (Matthew, Luke-Acts).s’ Mark is a special case. The writer’s explicit direction to the lector to explain the meaning of an obscure text (Mark 13:14) and the many implied side comments to those present (e.g., 7:11,19;13:37; 15:21) identify this text as designed to be read aloud in a church meeting. Mark must be classified alongside the letters of Paul and the Apocalypse as a text the author specifically wrote for an aural purpose in a liturgical, ecclesial setting.58 That was also likely true of Matthew, Luke-Acts, and John. The gospels claim another dimension as well, the supranatural. That is to say, the gospels are existentially the word of the risen and ascended Kyrios that are read aloud to his assembled people (cf. Mark 13:14 – “Let the lector explain”). Mark’s opening words indicate that what follows is “the gospel of (i.e., from) Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” that is to say, his word to his hearers in the churches.

The man Mark is merely the human cipher through whom the words of the risen Lord come to his people. Using different language, John asserts that the “book” he writes is a “true … witness” to Christ’s “signs” for his hearers to safely “believe” for immediate entry to “eternal life” (John 20:30-31; 19:35; cf. 21:24). Does the supranatural character of Mark suggest that his gospel is a historical, in fact mythical in character? No. Mark roots his narrative in the soil of geography (e.g., Nazareth, Capernaum, Gennesaret, Bethsaida, Tyre, Sidon, the Decapolis, Caesarea Philippi, Jerusalem) and (as noted) in the context of John the Baptist and of known political leaders (Herod the king [actually, tetrarch], the high priest, Pontius Pilate). Jesus’ movements as fugitive from the ruler of Galilee (chapters 6-9) are consistent with one avoiding the borders of Herod Antipas’s jurisdiction. Mark’s gospel is the word of the living Christ to the churches and a work that is both historical and geographical. We offer two observations about the genre of the gospels. First, their special readership (church groups) and purpose liturgical/polemical/apologetic/instructional) make it difficult to classify them alongside other contemporary texts. Second, insofar as they are able to be classified, they belong to the broad group of biographies (bioi). In short, they are ecclesial documents that are biographical and historical in character. For both Mark and John their words are supranaturally true. Yet at the same time they must also be historically true. If they are not historically true, they cannot be supranaturally true.”- Finding the Historical Christ (After Jesus) by Paul Barnett

For more on this topic, see our post A Closer Look at the Genre of the Gospels: Ancient and Modern Historiography: What are the Gospels?

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Five Options For Approaching the Deity of Messiah in the Old Testament

Is the deity of Jesus implicit or explicit in the Jewish Scriptures? In this post, I will lay out five options to talk about this topic.

Option #1: Talk about the Nature of the Godhead

In this option, we can discuss whether God is plurality within a unity: For example,  Dr. Arnold  Fruchtenbaum says:

“It is generally agreed that Elohim is a plural noun having the masculine plural ending “im.” The very word Elohim used of the true God in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” is also used in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods (Elohim) before Me,” and in Deuteronomy 13:2, “Let us go after other gods (Elohim)… .” While the use of the plural Elohim does not prove a Tri-unity, it certainly opens the door to a doctrine of plurality in the Godhead since it is the word that is used for the one true God as well as for the many false gods.”

See the entire article here: 

or The Divine Unity and the Deity of Messiah by Noam Hendren

 Option #2: Discuss Messianic Names in the Old Testament

In this case, in the words of Michael Bird:

“The role of the Messiah is multifarious. There was no single and uniform description of the messianic task.” Furthermore, before 70 CE, messianic figures could go by a variety of names such as Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, the Prophet, Elect One, Prince, Branch, Root, Scepter, Star, Chosen One, Coming One, and so forth.” – Bird, M.F. Are You The One To Come? The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 35

So if we take Bird’s advice, we can discuss some of these names. Some of them like “Son of Man” (see Daniel 7: 13-14) and our article here, and “Scepter” (from Gen 49:8-12 –see more in our article here) speak of a figure that will have a worldwide dominion. The same theme is also seen in Psalm 2 when it speaks of a Davidic King who will inherit the nations. See more on that here:

Option #3: Discuss Theophanies in the Old Testament

This is a popular approach. We need to remember that the Bible says we can’t see God (Exodus 33:20; John 1:18). Jesus said that no one has ever seen the Father (John 6:46). The Father nor the Holy Spirit has never appeared in bodily form.

Theophany is not a biblical term. It is a theological term used to refer to visible or auditory manifestations of God. Theophanies could appear to men in one of four forms so that God could magnify and authenticate His revelation of Himself to His servants.

For example:

1. He appeared in human form to Abraham (Gen 18). For example, in Gen. 18, the three “men” are later identified as angels (compare Genesis 18:22 & 19:1). But the third one that ate (v.8), spoke (v.10) and walked (v.16, 22) with Abraham is identified as the LORD, Himself. In 18:13, the text states “And the LORD said to Abraham….” The word translated ‘LORD’ throughout this portion is the Tetragrammaton, the four Hebrew letters that make up the sacred Name of God: yood, hey, vav, hey, (pronounced by some as Yahweh, or Jehovah). 2. He appeared in a non-human form in Exodus 3.
3. He appeared as an angel in Exodus 23:2-23.
4. He spoke audibly in Gen 3:8; 1 Kings 19:12; Matt 3:17.

The Angel of Jehovah

1.Is not to be taken as a title, but, following Hebrew grammar, it always functions as a proper name.
2. The individual is considered distinct from all other angels and is unique.
3. Read Gen 16:7-14;22:9-16;31:11-13;32:24-30; Exod. 3:1-5; Judges 2:1:6;11-24.
4. Read Judges13:2-24: We see nine times in this passage, He is referred to as the Angel of Jehovah: but in verse 22, He is said to be God Himself. Also, notice verse 18, the Angel’s name is “Wonderful.” In Isaiah 9:6, “pele” the Hebrew word for “wonderful” is only used of God, never of man, and never of an angel.
5.The Angel of Jehovah no longer appears after the incarnation- see Fruchtenbaum, A.G, Messianic Christology: A Study of Old Testament Prophecy Concerning the First Coming of the Messiah (Tustin CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998), 109-110.

While this approach has some merit, it also poses some challenges. I think this excellent article is helpful. .

Option #4: Discuss Jewish Categories in the Old Testament such as Shechinah, Word, Wisdom , etc.

I have taken that approach here.

Option #5: An Unavoidable Issue: The Issue of Progressive Revelation

One of the most important themes of the Bible is that since God is free and personal, that he acts on behalf of those whom he loves, and that his actions includes already within history, a partial disclosure of his nature, attributes, and intensions. The God of Israel is a God who is relational and wants people to come to know Him. The principle of progressive revelation means that God does not reveal everything at once. In progressive revelation, there are many cases where the New Testament declares explicitly what was only implicit in the Hebrew Bible. This is why the deity of Jesus becomes more clearer in the New Testament. See Robert Bowman’s outline here. Also, there is no evidence the New Testament authors departed from monotheism in their worship of Jesus. I have written about that here.

For a deeper study on the topic, see here: Dr. Michael Heiser: The Jewish Trinity

 

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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: Some Prophecies are Unconditional Prophecies, Conditional Prophecies, and Sequentially Fulfilled Prophecies

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 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).

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)

 

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 to speak.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 sent me (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 Michael Brown’s pdf 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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Eight Views on the Atonement of Jesus

If you have kept up on the atonement, here are some of the different views on the topic. Please note, I have substituted the name Yeshua which is the Jewish name for Jesus. This was for a class I taught a ways back on the topic.

Substitutionary Atonement

 

 

 

 

 

Penal Substitution

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Representation view of atonement

 

 

 

 

 

ATONEMENT THEORIES: FEATURES

1.When the Messiah died bearing our sins or guilt or punishment, he did so in our place and instead of us. When the Messiah was bearing our sins, that meant that we were not bearing our sins and do not have to do so.

2. The Messiah took our accusation and condemnation and punishment, in his suffering in our place and for us.” He did something, underwent something, so we did not—and never will—have to.

The Messiah died instead of us (substitution); he died a death that was the consequence of sin (penal/the penalty). This view has come under some attack because it is viewed as “divine child abuse” (i.e., a Father Punishing a Son). Some say this view places too much focus on God’s wrath, fits a Western sense of justice, is attractive to individualism, and turns the death of the Messiah into something done for us rather than something to emulate. Those who hold to the penal substitution view say its critics misunderstand the Trinitarian context of the atonement. Thus, is isn’t the Father being ticked off at humans and then venting all his rage on His Son. Instead, the substitution view is prompted by the loving grace of the Father.[1]

 

The Messiah “represents” us the way a priest represents the people before God (Hebrews 2).  The Messiah completely identifies with us in order to lift us from our fallen condition, to restore us as cracked image bearers, by incorporating us into Himself.  Representation assumes the notion of being identified with and incorporated into a person who is able to stand for them, with them, and instead of them!

 

 

 

 

Passover and Atonement The Last Supper: Mark 14: 24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” Yeshua interprets the bread (not lamb) and wine as his body and blood. Paul also said the Messiah’s death is described as a Passover sacrifice (1 Cor 5:7).

Three key elements are involved in Passover ritual and theology:

1. Protection from wrath and destruction. Though the vocabulary of atonement is not present, the sacrifice of a lamb is the central element. The blood ritual is emphasized in protecting the Jewish families from the wrath of the destroyer of the firstborn throughout the land. The effect of blood sacrifice in the averting of judgment is clear.

2.  Liberation from oppression: Every celebration of the Passover focuses on the deliverance of the Israel out of slavery in Egypt.

3.  Consecration to God: Those whom God had redeemed from death were to regard themselves as now wholly consecrated to him. In the exodus, God was not so much liberating slaves from Pharaoh as reclaiming his own worshipers. The sacrifice of all firstborn animals and the redemption of firstborn sons was explicitly to remind the Israelites that every future generation belonged to God in perpetuity (Exod. 13:1 – 16). This is then carried forward into the demand that Israel should live in practical ethical holiness. So the Passover speaks not only of God’s redemptive commitment to Israel, as demonstrated in history, but also of Israel’s ethical commitment to God, to be demonstrated in life (cf. Exod. 19:6).[2]

 

Ransom View of Atonement   “I am the LORD, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem (lytroomai) you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD. (Ex 6:6-8).

It is important for our understanding of the Messiah’s words that we notice that God ransoms Israel not by “paying someone off” but by delivering the people from slavery in Egypt”  (e.g., Ex 6:6, 13).

The Messiah gives his life as a “ransom for many” (Matt 20:28/Mark 10:45).  The Messiah’s death and blood possessing redemptive significance (see Mark 10:45; Rom 3:24; 8:23; Gal 3:13–14; 1 Cor 1:30; 6:20; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; Titus 2:14; Heb 9:12; 1 Pet 1:1). A ransom was the price paid for redemption from captivity or slavery. In the Jewish Scriptures, the image is related to freeing slaves (Lev 19:20; 25:51–52) and redeeming land (Lev 25:26). The meaning of “for” (anti) in the ransom is “a ransom in substitution for many.” Just like the Servant of Isaiah 53, the Son of Man gives his life as a ransom in place of others and so achieves the redemption of the new Isaianic exodus. The substance of the ransom view is reinforced by the words of institution at the Last Supper: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:24). The saying connects with Isaiah 53:12 about the vicarious nature of the Servant’s death. Yet the language also recalls the language of the sacrifices (Lev 4).

 

The Messiah and the Victory of Atonement The Jewish Scriptures depicts a warrior God who is constantly fighting against the cosmic forces of the universe (e.g., Psalm 29:10; 74:10-14; Job 26:12-13).  God and his angels are truly at war with the demonic.  John writes that the “whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), and Yeshua calls Satan the “prince of this world” (John 14:30.  In Ephesians 2:2 Paul refers to Satan as the “ruler of the kingdom of the air.” A third important part of the human environment related to sin is the presence and influence of the “powers,” evil spiritual beings. Paul uses a variety of terms to refer to these beings: “angels” ( Rom. 8:38); “authorities” ( 1 Cor. 15:24; Eph. 1:21; 2:2; 3:10; 6:12; Col. 1:16; 2:10, 15); “ruler/s” (1 Cor. 15:24; Eph. 3:10; 6:12; Col. 1:18; 2:10, 15); “powers” ( Rom. 8:38; 1 Cor. 15:24; Eph. 1:21;  “thrones” ( Col. 1:16). The victory model recognizes that the Messiah’s victory over the devil’s dominion has had cosmological significance. Disciples of Yeshua are rendered “irreproachable” or “free from accusation” (Colossians 1:21-22). Since our sins are atoned for, “the accuser” has no more claim on us, and hence we are set free (Romans 8:1, 31, 33; Colossians 2:13-15).
Atonement brings union with God The Messiah identifies with us and we gain access to everything he is by being incorporated into him.

To be united to Messiah is to have the Spirit of Messiah within you. The Spirit is the real, living bond between Yeshua and us. If you do not have the Spirit, then you do not have the Messiah (Rom. 8:9).  “Having the Spirit,” Sinclair Ferguson wrote, “is the equivalent, indeed the very mode, of having the incarnate, obedient, crucified, resurrected and exalted Messiah indwelling us so that we are united to him as he is united to the Father.[3]

Sacrifice and Atonement “Sacrifice” has no monolithic meaning in ancient Israel. One must not only think of the various types of regular and special sacrifices (e.g., the burnt offering, the cereal offering, the guilt offering, the Passover sacrifice), but one must also keep in mind the development of the “sacrifice of obedience”-that is, the preference in some prophetic literature for obedience over sacrifice (e.g., Is 1:10-17; Amos 5:21-25; Mic 6:6-8). Yeshua’s death is interpreted as a covenant sacrifice (e.g., Mk 14:24; 1 Cor 11:25; Heb 7:22; 8:6; 9:15), a Passover sacrifice (e.g., Jn 19:14; 1 Cor 5:7-8), the sin offering (Rom 8:3; 2 Cor 5:21), the offering of firstfruits (1 Cor 15:20, 23), the ritual of the Day of Atonement (Heb 9-10), and an offering like that of Isaac by Abraham (e.g., Rom 8:32). As the writer of Ephesians affirms, “Messiah loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2). [4]

 

[1] Scot McKnight, A Community Called Atonement (Nashville: Abington Press. 2007), 41.

[2] Christopher J.H. Wright, “The Old Testament,” in  D. Tidball, D. Hilborn, and J. Thacker, The Atonement Debate: Papers from the London Symposium on the Theology of Atonement (Grand Rapids, Zondervan. 2008), 69-82.

[3]. S.Ferguson, The Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996), 71

[4]. Mark D. Baker, Joel B. Green, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament and Contemporary Contexts (Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2011), 129.

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How To Handle a Steamroller in Apologetic Discussions

 

On more than one occasion, I have seen more than one angry aggressive atheist come up to our outreach table on college campuses. I would classify some of these atheists as what is called a ‘steamroller.’  It just so happens on Wintery Knight’s blog, he has a post on this topic. In the post, he says:

Let’s start with the question “what is a steamroller?”:

The defining characteristic of a “steamroller” is that he constantly interrupts, rolling over you with the force of his personality. Steamrollers are not usually interested in answers. They are interested in winning through intimidation.

I find this to be a good definition. In my conversation with steamrollers, I found them to be constantly interrupting me, and every time I would give an answer  they dismiss it and ask another question. The anger and emotional hostility shows me their atheism isn’t coming from an intellectual or factual basis. So because of this, they don’t  listen to me and pretty much dismiss anything I say before I can ever finish my response.  So how do we handle such a person?

Wintery mentions three tips from Greg Koukl:

Greg breaks down the techniques for handling steamrollers in 3 steps.

Step 1: Stop Him.

Your first move when you find yourself in a conversation with a steamroller is a genial request for courtesy. Momentarily put the discussion on “pause.” Ask to continue making your point uninterrupted.

One of the ways you can do that is using body language. You can raise your hand in the stop motion to emphasize your verbal attempt to pause the conversation so that you can finish responding. Ask for a specific amount of time to make your point, and make sure that you him to agree that you will get that time to respond! But the most important thing is to not lose your temper.

Be careful not to let annoyance or hostility creep into your voice. That would be a mistake, especially with this kind of person. Don’t let a steamroller get under your skin. Being defensive and belligerent always looks weak. Instead, stay focused on the issues, not on the attitude. Talk calmly and try to look confident.

…don’t take unfair advantage of the time you buy with this little negotiation. Make your point, then ask, “Does that make sense to you?” This invites him back into the conversation. Give him the courtesy of offering you a reply without interruption.

I hear J.P. Moreland saying “Does that make sense to you?” all the time in his lectures, and now I’ve started doing it too! And so should you! But what if “stopping him” doesn’t work? Then we go on to step 2.

Step 2: Shame Him.

Suppose the steamroller interrupts you again during your negotiation response time. You want to gently draw attention to the fact that he is being rude and intimidating in the conversation. Again, the goal is not to show the slightest discomfort, but always to act with confidence.

Phase two of the Steamroller tactic is to shame him for his bad manners while maintaining your integrity. Stay on topic and don’t follow any “rabbit trails” he may voice.

That point about not taking on any new questions until you finish answering the first one is vital. You see this all the time on the Richard Dawkins forum. Every time you make a point about theprogress of science, they start complaining about how cruel God is. (Note that atheists can’t even judge God without assuming an absolute moral standard, which only a designer of the universe can ground!)

Below is example of how to do step 2:

“Can I ask you a quick question? Do you really want a response from me? At first I thought you did, but when you continue to interrupt I get the impression all you want is an audience. If so, just let me know and I’ll listen. But if you want an answer, you’ll have to give me time to respond. Tell me what you want. I need to know before I can continue.” Wait for an answer.

Part of becoming a good ambassador is knowing how to guage your opponent, and how much force you should use. Practice, practice! But suppose even step 2 doesn’t work. What should we do now?

Step 3: Leave Him.

The most difficult thing to do is to break off a defense, especially when there are people around listening in or even participating. Usually you do this when the person is moving the wrong way on the aggression scale. Greg cites a number of Bible verses to show that the Bible does support this kind of strategic withdrawal from an engagement that is going the wrong way.

In my conversation with this atheist, I reached #3 and told him our conversation wasn’t productive. We needed to part ways. Ironically, as the atheist waled away from our table, he said “I meant no offense.”

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