Does Jesus Meet the Messianic Requirements? A Look at a Rabbi’s Messianic Expectations: Part Two

This is part two of our series on Does Jesus Meet the Messianic Requirements? To see Part One, click here.

If we look here at the article, it says:

Mashiach is a human being, born in normal fashion of human parents.The only qualification about his origins is that he is a descendant of King David,4 through the lineage of his son Solomon. From his birth onwards his righteousness will increase continually, and by virtue of his deeds he will merit sublime levels of spiritual perfection”

Response: We can agree the Messiah will be human being. And we can agree that he will be a descendant of King David. But as far as the Messiah will be a descendant of King David through his son Solomon, that is questionable.

I can say from experience that this issue comes up quite regularly in discussions with Jewish people. Given the complexity of the topic, I don’t have any desire to oversimplify it. So I will put mostly to a response that has been put forward by Dr. Michael Brown in his excellent series, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. In his Vol, 4, New Testament Objections, he says:

 “The fact is, Solomon’s throne was not established forever, David’s throne was! And while it is true that descendants of Solomon continued to sit on David’s throne—it was only logical that the son of a king would be the next king—this was because of the unconditional promises given to David (in contrast with Saul), not the conditional promises given to Solomon, which he violated. And, following the exile of the Davidic monarchy in 586 B.C.E., there was not a hint that future kings would have to trace their lineage through Solomon. He flagrantly sinned against the requirements of the Lord! The Hebrew Scriptures are absolutely clear on this. Thus, there is not one single reference in the Bible to “the throne of Solomon” but many references to “the throne of David.” See 2 Samuel 3:10; 1 Kings 2:12, 24, 45; Isaiah 9:7[6], in a decidedly Messianic context; Jeremiah 17:25; 22:2, 30; 29:16; 36:30. Why? Because Solomon’s throne was not established forever, David’s was! All subsequent Judean kings sat on David’s throne, not Solomon’s. Similarly, there is not a single biblical reference to a future king who will be from the line of Solomon or will be called a son of Solomon or come from the seed of Solomon. –See Michael Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 4, pgs 83-97

He goes onto say:

It is therefore highly significant for a traditional Jew that Moses Maimonides, one of the leading voices in Rabbinic Judaism, omitted any reference to the Messiah’s supposed need to be of Solomonic descent in his authoritative law code called the Mishneh Torah, speaking of it in his Book of Commandments, which is less authoritative than his Mishneh Torah.207 In his oft-quoted section dealing with the Messiah, he simply stated, “If a king will arise from the House of David . . .” (Hilchot Melachim 11:4). As one ultra-Orthodox rabbi pointed out to me, “The fact that he did not mention Solomonic descent in his law code meant that it was not that important a concept to him.” This statement, which is in keeping with the scriptural evidence (which is really enough in itself), is reinforced by the fact that the Talmud refers to the Messiah as the son of David but never the son of Solomon, while not a single authoritative statement in traditional Judaism makes the claim that the Messiah must be a descendant of Solomon. – See Michael Brown, Answering Jewish Objections, Vol 4, pgs 83-97.

Also, the Jewish objection that comes up quite regularly is the following: “There is no Biblical basis for the idea of a father passing on his tribal line by adoption.” Before, I pass on what Brown says about the issue of a divine Messiah and a virgin birth, I wanted to clarify the following:

Rabbinic Judaism doesn’t view original sin the same way that both Christians and Messianic believers do. While they do believe in a good and evil inclination, that is a far cry from being identified in Adam. When Adam fell into sin, the result was every one of his descendants also being “infected” with sin. Therefore, for Christians and Messianic believers, no earthly Messiah can reverse the curse of the sin of Adam.

But as Brown says:

In Sanhedrin 98a, the Talmud asks an important question: Will the Messiah, the son of David, come with the clouds of heaven, as indicated in Daniel 7:13–14, or will he come riding on a donkey, as written in Zechariah 9:9? The Talmud says if we are worthy, he will come in the clouds, but if we are unworthy, he will come riding on a donkey. The problem is that the Hebrew Scriptures do not present these two events as either-or options. Rather, they are both explicit prophecies that must be fulfilled (see also the discussion in vol. 1, 2.1). How then can these two opposing statements be reconciled? The New Covenant Scriptures provide us with the solution. The virgin birth is the key! The Gospels make two things perfectly clear: The Messiah is the son of David and the Messiah is greater than David, both earthly and heavenly. These facts are also seen through a careful reading of the Tanakh. First, there are prophecies that are universally recognized as Messianic which indicate that the Messiah was to be “the son of David” (see, e.g., Isa. 11:1–16; sometimes the Messiah is actually called “David”; cf. Ezek. 34:23). Second, the Tanakh indicates that the Messiah would be highly exalted and greater than David, as recognized also by certain Rabbinic traditions (see vol. 2, 3.22). Daniel 7:13–14, cited above by the Talmud, teaches that the Messiah will be a heavenly figure who will be served and worshiped words, “YHWH said to my lord, ‘Sit at My right hand . . .’ ” (NJPSV). Although some Rabbinic commentaries dispute that David wrote this about the Messiah, other Rabbinic sources (e.g., Midrash Tehillim 2:9; 18:29) follow the Messianic interpretation, indicating that they had no trouble with David calling the Messiah “lord” or “master” (this interpretation was so common that it is presupposed by the New Testament; see further vol. 3, 4.29). There are also Rabbinic traditions that speak of the Messiah’s preexistence and his heavenly dialogues with God, indicating that he was not your everyday, run-of-the-mill, physical descendant of David (see vol. 2, 3.22).184 Note also the midrash to Isaiah 52:13, which states that the Messiah, who will come forth out of David, will be higher than Abraham, lifted up above Moses, and loftier than the ministering angels (see Yalqut Shim‘oni 2:571). How then could the Messiah be David’s son and yet in some sense be preexistent and greater than David? It is only through his virgin birth. His earthly father Joseph was a descendant of David and in the royal line, while it appears from the New Testament record that his mother, Miriam (Mary), was also a descendant of David.

As Keener observes, There is little doubt that Jesus’ family historically stemmed from Davidic lineage: all clear early Christian sources attest it (e.g., Rom 1:3); Hegesippus reports a Palestinian tradition in which Roman authorities interrogated Jesus’ brother’s grandsons for Davidic descent (Euseb. H.E. 3.20); Julius Africanus attests Jesus’ relatives claiming Davidic descent (Letter to Aristides); and, probably more significantly, non-Christian Jewish polemicists never bothered to try to refute it (Jeremias 1969: 291). The same authors who speak clearly of the virgin birth of Yeshua speak just as clearly of his being a son of David (cf., e.g., Matt. 1:1, 17–25; 9:27, 21:9, etc.; note that Matthew breaks his genealogy down to three groups of fourteen, which is also the numeric equivalent of the name David in Hebrew). They found no contradiction here. And this leads to an important question for consideration: Given the unique nature of the Messiah—the son of David and yet greater than David—could you present a more scriptural scenario than the one offered in the Gospels? His mother’s husband—they were espoused before Jesus was conceived—and the man who in all respects outside of literal begetting functioned as his earthly father, was in the line of legal heirs to the throne, going back to David. His mother Miriam, whose bloodline he continued, was a descendant of David. Once you see God’s hand in all this, it becomes awe-inspiring, the kind of thing the human mind would never invent. The Messiah is David’s son and David’s lord, descended from the earthly king and yet descended from the heavenly throne, earthly and yet transcendent, able to fully identify with us in our humanity and weakness yet bearing the divine nature and able to save us fully from our sins.-See Michael Brown, Answering Jewish Objections, Vol 4, pgs 83-97.

Brown goes onto say:

Of course, the Jews for Judaism has an answer for this as well: “Even if Mary can trace herself back to David, that doesn’t help Jesus, since tribal affiliation goes only through the father, not mother. Cf. Num. 1:18; Ezra 2:59. Once more, this statement only tells part of the story, since the Hebrew Bible actually provides us with two examples that offer relevant parallels to the Messiah’s bloodline being traced through his mother. First, in terms of inheritance, the Torah teaches that if a man dies, leaving no sons but only daughters, the inheritance is passed on through the daughters and their husbands, provided that they marry within the tribe (see Num. 27:1–11; 36:1–12).192 Thus, the daughter’s inheritance is joined with her husband’s. While this does not deal with genealogy, it does deal with the passing on of family inheritance through a daughter. This is further confirmed by Ezra 2:61 (= Neh. 7:63), which makes reference to “Barzillai (a man who had married a daughter of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by that name).” In the case of Jesus, Miriam also married within the same tribal family, since Joseph was a Judahite and, more specifically, a descendant of David. In fact, according to U. Holzmeister, this is how Luke’s genealogy should actually be understood as that of Miriam, but in connection with Joseph. As explained by John Nolland, who favors this proposal, Holzmeister argues that Mary was an heiress (i.e., had no brothers) whose father Eli, in line with a biblical tradition concerned with the maintenance of the family line in cases where there was no male heir (Ezra 2:61 = Neh 7:63; Num 32:41 cf. 1 Chr 2:21–22, 34–35; Num 27:3–8), on the marriage of his daughter to Joseph, adopted Joseph as his own son. Matthew gives Joseph’s ancestry by birth, Luke that by adoption. – See Michael Brown, Answering Jewish Objections, Vol 4, pgs 83-97.

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