5 Things That Impact Discussions About The Existence of God

Over the years  I have talked to many people about the existence of God. In many cases, both theists and skeptics can grow frustrated with one another on the lack of agreement. I have come to the conclusion that when people attempt to discuss the evidence for the existence of God we must remember these five issues:

1. Proofs are person-relative.  While I have discussed elsewhere the definition of proof and evidence, it is evident that while one proof may be a home run for one person it may result in little more than contempt  for someone else. Whenever an individual evaluates the evidence for the existence of God, it must be acknowledged that a person’s response to an argument will always be influenced by his/her past and present personal history.

2. An individual’s presuppositions play a large role in how they evaluate the evidence for God. A presupposition is something assumed or supposed in advance. If someone presupposes that God must not exist or that miracles are not possible, in many cases they will seek out evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and dismiss evidence that might challenge or overturn their position.  Likewise, if someone presupposes that God does exist, they will seek evidence to support such a claim as well. This does not mean there is no objectivity involved here. But in many cases, we can’t avoid presuppositions. They aren’t going away! I have also discussed the factors that are involved with how people change their beliefs. 

3. Humans are not only intellectual beings, but emotional and volitional (involving the will) creatures as well.  Hence, it is folly to divorce the objective and subjective nature of evaluating the evidence for God’s existence.

4. If the God of the Bible does exist (and I am not dealing with evidence and arguments here), we can’t overlook the fact that sin and a hardened heart can dampen a person’s receptivity to the evidence that is already available to them.

5. Some people have not had the time to develop their intellectual virtues to the place where they are in a position to understand and evaluate the evidence for the existence of God.  This does not mean some people are stupid and some people are just really smart! The reality is that many people don’t have the time or resources that is needed to evaluate the arguments for and against the existence of God.  I am not advocating laziness! But in reality, does someone need to  master philosophy, theology, history, science, or linguistics to find a relationship with God? No!

Following Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, Thomas Aquinas set forth five reasons why we must first believe what we may later be able to provide good evidence for (Maimonides, 1.34):

1. The object of spiritual understanding is deep and subtle, far removed from sense perception.

2. Human understanding is weak as it fights through these issues.

3.  A number of things are needed for conclusive spiritual proof. It takes time to discern them.

4. Some people are disinclined to rigorous philosophical investigation.

5.  It is necessary to engage in other occupations besides philosophy and science to provide the necessities of life (On Truth, 14.10, reply).

Aquinas said it is clear that, “if it were necessary to use a strict demonstration as the only way to reach a knowledge of the things which we must know about God, very few could ever construct such a demonstration and even these could do it only after a long time.” Elsewhere, Aquinas lists three basic reasons why divine revelation is needed.

1.   Few possess the knowledge of God, some do not have the disposition for philosophical study, and others do not have the time or are indolent.

2.  Time is required to find the truth. This truth is very profound, and there are many things that must be presupposed. During youth the soul is distracted by “the various movements of the passions.”

3.   It is difficult to sort out what is false in the intellect. Our judgment is weak in sorting true from false concepts. Even in demonstrated propositions there is a mingling of false. (1)

Sources:

1.  Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books, 1999, 242.

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Moving Beyond a Privatized Faith to Viewing Your Faith as a Worldview

Over the years, I have attempted to educate youth, college students, and adults about the need to move from a privatized faith to a public faith. In other words, when we present the Gospel, almost all of us talk about how people can have a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus the Messiah. While our faith is certainly about our relationship with Jesus the Messiah,  unfortunately, many Christians stop there. Thus, they don’t see their faith as a worldview. We will talk about how we move beyond having a “private”, “personal” relationship with the Lord” to viewing our faith as a gateway to an entire restructuring of one’s worldview (the way we view reality). We discuss this topic here.



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“Just What Exactly Is Salvation and Why Do Christians Seem to Misunderstand It?”

 

Actual moment of the soul leaving the body of dead humans by using Bioelectrographic photography

Many years ago when I was seeking God and asking questions about the Gospel, I had two zealous Christians walk up to me and say “Are you saved?” Now at the time I had no idea what they meant. But later on, someone told me these two Christians were concerned about the salvation of my soul. Since then, I have done more exegetical work on the topic of salvation in the Bible. Thus, I have concluded salvation is much more extensive than the fire insurance Gospel that Christians are trained to pitch to people. You can see a introduction on the topic here by Bakers Online Dictionary of Theology.

This past summer I was approached by some young teenagers who were our evangelizing in the downtown area where I live. They asked me “What is salvation?” I honestly think they were trying to quiz me to see if I was really a Christian. I responded by saying salvation is to enter into the rule, or realm of God. Thus,  Jesus is the King who allows you to do this. Now I could of responded in a number of ways to their question. But after this response, they look puzzled. They assumed I was going to say salvation is to be ‘saved’ from  hell. But I think the discussion of the kingship or kingdom of God is important.Most recently I have been reading Joel B. Green’s Salvation: Reframing New Testament Theology.

Here is what Green says;

“To speak of “God’s kingdom” is immediately to raise questions of language.  In recent decades, some have objected to the use of the word “kingdom” because it possesses inherently masculine connotations; for this reason, some have chosen to translate the Greek word βασιλεία (basileia) with the English term “reign” instead. This is both helpful and unfortunate. It is helpful insofar as it underscores the important insight that βασιλεία (basileia) often refers to God’s powerful rule, God’s activity in the world.  However, it overlooks the key observation that in the Gospels, God’s kingdom has an inescapably spatial sense. In fact, the single most frequent action that happens with respect to God’s kingdom is that it is “entered” (Matt 5: 20; 7: 21; 8: 11; 19: 23, 24; 21: 31; 25: 34; Mark 9: 47; 10: 23, 24, 25; Luke 18: 17, 24, 25; John 3: 5), with the corollary that people can be “in” (Matt 5: 19; 11: 11; 13: 43; 18: 1, 4; 20: 21; 26: 29; Mark 14: 25; Luke 7: 28; 13: 28, 29; 14: 15; 22: 16; 22: 30) or “out” (Matt 23: 13) or “not far from” (Mark 12: 34) the kingdom; additionally, when the kingdom appears as the subject of verbs, the kingdom is said to “come,” “draw near,” and so on. Accordingly, “kingdom” is more than “reign,” for it also includes the notion of “realm.” Also problematic is the ease with which the translation of βασιλεία (basileia) as “reign” allows us to reduce God’s work to the “life of the spirit” or to God’s activity in people’s hearts or to restrict the reach of God’s activity as though God’s rule were present and active only among those people who have submitted to God’s reign. Moreover, although it is true that βασιλεία (basileia) possessed hierarchical and masculine connotations in Roman antiquity, this did not keep Jesus from using the term in ways that actually subverted those connotations. If “masculinity” was correlated in the Roman world with the exercise of power and self-control, for example, then Jesus’ claim that “God’s kingdom” belongs to little children must surely have been shocking.”

Green goes onto say:

“How might Jesus’ contemporaries have understood “God’s kingdom”? Granted that, as in most other areas, Second Temple Judaism had room for a variety of views concerning the kingdom,  we can nonetheless summarize four central features. First, to speak of God’s kingdom is to speak of God’s activity— creating, providing, leading, sending, calling, liberating, judging, conquering, caring— and God’s domain, inclusive of the whole cosmos, though centered on Israel. If God’s kingdom was understood as a reality of present existence, then eschatological hope would center on the future, cosmological revelation of God’s already-present reign. Second, God’s kingdom entailed a vision of God’s universal, peaceable rule. God’s rule spells justice, the triumph of righteousness and establishment of peace in the world, shalom. Accordingly, many would have heard in references to God’s kingdom an eschatological hope focused on God’s coming in power to restore and vindicate God’s people. Third, the disclosure of God’s kingdom necessarily evokes response from God’s subjects, responses cast either as allegiance or rebellion, responses that provide the basis for royal judgment. Fourth, and finally, the Gospels situate Jesus within those currents of Second Temple Judaism that tied the actualization of God’s kingdom to a hope in God’s raising up an anointed king, the Messiah. What is the relationship of these expectations to Jesus’ ministry? Are these hopes actualized in Jesus’ coming? The only possible answer is equivocal: Yes and No. We must say yes because this is precisely what the Gospels broadcast, that Jesus not only shares these expectations but actually regards them as being actualized in his ministry. Christ, anointed king, who announces and enacts the kingdom. Wherever Jesus is engaged in ministry, there God’s kingdom is on display. We must answer no because Jesus did not perform in the expected way.

According to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, even John the Baptist was baffled by the direction of Jesus’ mission: Where is the anticipated fiery judgment on Israel’s enemies (Matt 3: 11-12; 11: 2-3; Luke 3: 16-17; 7: 18-20)? If we follow the Gospels, then, we realize that Jesus interpreted his mission from within Israel’s story against the backdrop of the Roman Empire. Jesus’ advent as God’s anointed king, then, marks the decisive disclosure of God’s royal rule, together with the consequent unmasking of all rules, all authorities, all powers that would compete with God’s sovereignty. The time of restoration was at hand, evil was being exposed and rolled back, peace with justice was being established throughout the world, and God was present to rule: all in Jesus’ ministry.”-Green, Joel B. Why Salvation? (Reframing New Testament Theology, Abingdon Press.

Over the years, I have noticed that about 8 out of 10 Christians think salvation is only about the afterlife. When I ask them how they view the resurrection, they seem a bit puzzled. This is because they tend to think ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’ is final destination. A few things to remember:

The resurrection of Jesus  teaches that the restoration of the whole man in bodily existence is the destiny of the Lord’s people. Also, Jesus did not appear as a ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ apart from a body to people.Contrary to what many people think, salvation in the Bible is not the deliverance from the body, which is the prison of the soul. The believer’s final destination is not heaven, but it is the new heavens and new earth- complete with a resurrection body. Eternal life is a quality of life that does not start when we die, but right now in the present (John 17:2).While heaven is part of our salvation experience, in the final state, heaven including the New Jerusalem portrayed as a bride breaks into history and comes to the renewed, physical, earthly, existence (see Rev 21). This shows that God is interested in the renewal of creation- God cares about the physical realm.

 

 

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How Busyness Distracts Us From the Big Questions

In his book Apatheism: How We Share When They Don’t Care, author Kyle Beshers says that technology isn’t the only thing distracting people from asking the big questions. He says the following:

“Alan Noble woke me up to this crisis of distraction in our secular age. In Disruptive Witness, he argued that the persistent distraction of our culture prevents us from asking the deepest, most important questions about existence and truth. The things that prick our souls for the sake of the gospel (e.g., death, beauty, anxiety, etc.) can be numbed quickly by an eight-hour dose of binge-watching The Office. We effortlessly avoid asking the biggest, most difficult questions of life because we are so busy. This is especially true in America, where we find personal value in what we produce. The more things we can do in a day, the more valuable we feel. Technology gives us thousands of tasks to accomplish, from replying to emails to playing mobile games. With every click of the send button and point earned toward the next level, we feel like we’re making real progress toward some actual goal.

But technology alone is not driving our busyness. There is something hidden deep in my response of “busy” to the question “How are you?” I am doing more than I should because I want to feel like I am valuable. Our culture promotes a relentless drive to achieve the American dream by making improvements that lead to accomplishments. The best of us are always killing it at work because we equate who we are with what we do. We are busy being, not merely doing.

To be busy communicates importance. To be accomplished means we are needed. And we think that to be important and needed brings us happiness, so happiness is ultimately found in what we do. Happiness, like truth, is manufactured. Our whole identities become wrapped up in what we do. This is why the first question we ask strangers at parties is, “What do you do for a living?” We’re gauging one another’s value and worth, whether we know it or not. If God cannot help us rank up in our careers or social statuses, then he is irrelevant to our pursuit of fullness through doing. In this distracted world, God isn’t merely unneeded, he’s unnoticed. There simply isn’t time to think about something that we doubt exists, is too diverse in options, and doesn’t seem necessary.”- pg 37-38.

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

Introduction

Over the years I have been asked why Jewish people don’t think Jesus is the Messiah. From my own experience, when I have talked to Jewish people about the possibility of Jesus being the Messiah, there is a wide range of thought. For some Jewish people a personal Messiah is irrelevant. For others, it is said that in every generation there is a potential messiah or a time when there will be a Messianic Age. One thing for sure:  To assert that the Jewish community has always held to one view of the Messiah is total nonsense.

However, this is a common objection:

“The state of the world must prove that the Messiah has come; not a tract. Don’t you think that when the Messiah arrives, it should not be necessary for his identity to be subject to debate – for the world should be so drastically changed for the better that it should be absolutely incontestable! Why should it be necessary to prove him at all? If the Messiah has come, why should anyone have any doubt?” (Rabbi Chaim Richman, available at http://www.ldolphin.org/messiah.html).

For starters, in handling this objection, let me offer some words of advice: Words and concepts are separate entities. “Word-bound” approaches to what really are concept studies can lead us astray. Messianism is a concept study.

The word “messiah” means “anointed one” and is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.” The Hebrew Bible records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod 29:1-9 ), kings (1 Sam 10:1;2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34), and sometimes prophets (1 Kings 19:16b) as a sign of their special function in the Jewish community. Hence, they could be viewed as “a messiah.” However, this does not mean they are “the Messiah.” Also, just as a king could be viewed as “a son of God,” it does not mean the king is “The Son of God.” The term “messiah,” meaning “anointed one,” is taken from the Hebrew word “masiah” which appears thirty-nine times in the Hebrew Bible. In the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the term Messiah is translated as “christos” which was one of the official titles for Jesus within the New Testament. The “one who is anointed” was commissioned for a specific task.

One of the Jewish expectations is that 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. 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 G-d of Israel (Zeph.3:9; Zech.9:16; 14:9). 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).

Interestingly enough, the Qumran community which predated the time of Jesus thought there were possibly two Messiahs, one priestly and one royal (1QS 9.11; CD 12.22-23; 13. 20-22; 14. 18-19; 19.34-20.1; CD-B 1.10-11; 2.1; 1Q Sa 2. 17-22). In the words of Michael Bird:

“The role of the Messiah is multifarious. There was no single and uniform description of the messianic task.” Furthermore, before 70 CE, messianic figures could go by a variety of names such as Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, the Prophet, Elect One, Prince, Branch, Root, Scepter, Star, Chosen One, Coming One, and so forth.” (1)

So let’s take Bird’s comment and look how some of the names for Messiah fit into Jesus’ messianic task:

1. The Son of God/Son of David/The Davidic Messiah

What does it mean when Christians say “Jesus is the Son of God?” Even though divine sonship appears in the Jewish Scriptures with regards to persons or people groups such as angels (Gen 6:2; Job 1:6; Dan 3:25), and Israel (Ex. 4:22-23; Hos 11;1; Mal. 2:10), the category that has special importance to the Messiah is the king. When the divine sonship is used in the context of the relationship between Israel and the king (2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7;89:26-27), the sonship theme places a large emphasis on the fact that the king has a special relationship to God and is called or elected to a specific task as well. Furthermore, there is also a special intimacy between God and the king. The true king was the means by which the Lord related to his people as a nation. The kings were anointed for specific tasks (1 Sam.24:6; 10; 26:9).

While God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17: 6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15), he also promised King David that one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever (2 Sam.7:12-17; 1 Chr.17:7-15; Ps.89:28-37). In other words, David’s line would eventually culminate in the birth of a person whose eternality will guarantee David’s dynasty, kingdom and throne forever.

The existence of Israel is directly related to God’s covenant with Israel and Israel’s relationship to God as the King. The Davidic covenant established David as the king over all of Israel. Under David’s rule, there was the defeat of Israel’s enemies, the Philistines. David also captured Jerusalem and established his capital there (2 Sam. 1-6).

As seen in 2 Sam. 7:1-4, David wanted to build a “house” (or Temple) for the Lord in Jerusalem. God’s response to David was one of rejection. However, as just mentioned, God did make an unconditional promise to raise up a line of descendants from the house of David that would rule forever as the kings of Israel (2 Sam. 7:5-16; 1 Chr.17:7-15; Ps.89:28-370. The desire for the restoration of the Davidic dynasty became even more fervent after the united kingdom of the Israelites split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, at the time of King Rehoboam.

The prophets even spoke of a Davidic Messiah who would be unlike any past Davidic king (Is. 9:6-7; 11:1-5; Jer 23:5-6; Mic. 5:2-5). Both Hosea and Ezekiel spoke of the Davidic aspect of the Messiah. While Hosea spoke of a time when the northern tribes of Israel would seek out David, Israel’s king (Hos. 3:5), Ezekiel 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). This king’s function would help restore the Davidic dynasty after the exile.

The late Geza Vermes, a Jewish scholar, thought that one of the best resources that speak to the messianic expectation of the time of Jesus is found in The Psalms of Solomon. The Psalms of Solomon is a group of eighteen psalms that are part of the Pseudepigrapha which is written 200 BC to 200 A.D. Even though these works are not part of the Protestant Canon, they are dated just before or around the time of Jesus. Therefore, they help provide the historian with valuable information into the Jewish religious life and thinking patterns at the time of Jesus. In it, there are two passages about a righteous, ruling Messiah:

“Taught by God, the Messiah will be a righteous king over the gentile nations. There will be no unrighteousness among them in his days, for all shall be holy and their king shall be the Lord Messiah. He will not rely on horse and rider and bow, nor will he collect gold and silver for war. Nor will he build up hope in a multitude for a day of war. The Lord himself is his king, the hope of the one who has a strong hope in God. He shall be compassionate to all the nations, who reverently stand before him. He will strike the earth with the word of his mouth forever; he will bless the Lord’s people with wisdom and happiness. And he himself will be free from sin, in order to rule a great people. He will expose officials and drive out sinners by the strength of his word.” (Psalms of Solomon 17.32-36)

” Lord, you chose David to be king over Israel, and swore to him about his descendants forever, that his kingdom should not fail before you. Undergird him with the strength to destroy the unrighteous rulers, to purge Jerusalem from the gentiles…..to destroy the unlawful nations with the word of his mouth…He will gather a holy people who he will lead in righteousness; and he will judge the tribes of his people…He will not tolerate unrighteousness (even) to pause among them, and any person who knows wickedness shall not live with them… And he will purge Jerusalem (and make it) holy as it was from the beginning.”(Psalms of Solomon 18:4,22,26,27,30). (2)

The New Testament authors unanimously declare Jesus as the one who is from the “seed of David,” sent by God to restore God’s kingship over mankind (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; 2 Tim:2:8; Rev. 22:16). As seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come. God promised David that his “seed” would establish the kingdom. There were two ways for this prophecy to come to pass. Either God could continually raise up a new heir or he could have someone come who would never die. Does this sound like the need for a resurrection? That is exactly how Paul understood Jesus’ Messiahship in 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.”

This also means the Messiah must come prior to 70 A.D, since in that year all Israel’s genealogical records were destroyed along with the Temple. Within a few decades of 70 A.D., it was impossible to prove who was a son of David and who was not.

Therefore, the fulfillment reached its completion in the Messiah, both son of David and the one greater than David (Psalm 110:1-4). As it says in Luke 1:32-33, “He shall be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end.” But in this sense, Jesus is not simply a son of David, but instead, Jesus is the Son of David.

2. Branch

All four Gospels present Jesus as pictures of the “Branch” or “shoot/sprout of the Lord”-a description of the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible: The passages that are usually used to support the gathering of the Jewish people back to the land are Is.11:11-12; 43:5-6; Jer.23: 5-8. Two of them (Isa 11:11-12 and Jer. 23:5-8) use a name for the Messiah which is ‘Branch.’ Jer. 23:5-8 mentions the “righteous Branch” (semah saddiq) promised by Jeremiah was already promised by Isaiah 4:2 as the “Branch of the LORD” (semah YHVH) a genitive source or origin that declares divine roots.We see the following:

1. The Branch of David: In Jer. 23:5-6 (this is seen in Matthew’s description of Jesus as the Davidic Messiah (Mt. 1:1).

2. My servant, the Branch: Zech. 3:8 (seen in Mark’s description of Jesus as the Servant (Mk. 10:45).

3. The man whose name is Branch: Zech. 6:12 (seen in Luke’s description of Jesus in his human aspects (Lk. 23:47).

4.The Branch of the Lord: Isa. 4:2 (seen in John’s description of Jesus as from God (Jn. 20:31). (3)

3. Scepter

The Messianic title “Scepter” is related to the timing of Messiah’s coming in Gen. 49:8-10:

“Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you. “Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (Gen 49:8-12)-NASB

We see the following about this passage:

1. The Messiah has already been declared to be a man, descended from Abraham (Gen. 22:18)

2. His decent is now limited to being a son of Judah

3. He is going to be a King

4. The Scepter and Rulers staff indicate royalty

Although the eleven brothers did not fall down before Judah himself, their descendants did prostate themselves before David the first member of the tribe of Judah to reign as king. Genetically, the descendants of the brothers in the brothers did not bow before both Judah and his posterity including his greater son, Jesus Christ. The word “Shiloh” means “to whom it is.” According to Jacob, the scepter, or symbol of self-government concept ended with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans (A.D. 70). “Shiloh” had to come before that event. (4)

We see in the prophecy that “Scepter” is a “symbol of kingly authority” and will remain in Judah’s hand until “Shiloh comes.” In the minds of the Jewish people, “Scepter” was linked with their right to apply and enforce the law of Moses upon the people, including the right to adjudicate capital cases and administer capital punishment. The prophecy declares that Judah will finally lose his tribal independence, and promises a supremacy over at least some of the other tribes until the advent of the Messiah.

4. Son of Man/Elect One

“Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite title for Himself throughout His ministry. First of all, “Son of Man ” is employed to Jesus’ earthly ministry (Mk. 2:10,28; 10:45; Matt. 13:37); Second, the Son of Man was to suffer and die and rise from the dead (Mk. 8:31;9:31;10:33). Third, the Son of Man would serve an eschatological function (Mk. 8:38;13:26;14:62; Matt.10:23;13:41;19:28:24:39;25:31). In other words, there is a correlation between the returning Son of Man and the judgment of God.

The term “Son of Man” in the time of Jesus was a most emphatic reference to the Messiah (Dan. 7:13-14). The title reveals divine authority. In the trial scene in Matthew 26:63-64, Jesus provoked the indignation of his opponents because of His application of Dan. 7:13 and Ps. 110:1 to Himself. Jesus’ claim that he would not simply be entering into God’s presence, but that he would actually be sitting at God’s right side was the equivalent to claiming equality with God. By Jesus asserting He is the Son of Man, he was exercising the authority of God.

The Pseudepigrapha commonly refers to numerous works of Jewish religious literature written from about 200 BC to 200 AD. Even though these works are not part of the Protestant Canon they are dated just before or around the time of Jesus. Therefore, they help provide the historian with valuable information into the Jewish religious life and thinking patterns at the time of Jesus.The following examples were taken from The Messiah Texts by Raphel Patai.

“And there I saw him who is the Head of Days, and His head was white like wool, and with him was another one whose countenance had the appearance of a man And his face was full of graciousness, like one of holy angels. And I asked the angel who went with me and showed me all the hidden things about the Son of Man: Who is he and whence is he and why did he go with the Head of Days? And he answered and said to me: This is the Son of Man who has righteousness, With whom dwells righteousness, And who reveals all the treasures of the crowns, For the Lord of Spirits chose him.” (1 Enoch 46:1-3)

“He shall be a staff for the righteous. Whereon to lean, to stand and not to fall,And he shall be a light to the nations, And hope for the troubled of heart. And all the earth dwellers before him shall fall down, And worship and praise and bless and sing to the Lord of Spirits. It is for this that he has been chosen and hidden before Him, even before The creation of the world and evermore.”(1 Enoch 48: 4-6)

I Enoch 51.3: “The Elect One will sit on [God’s] throne”

I Enoch 52.4: “And he said to me, ‘All these things which you have seen happen by the authority of his Messiah so that he may give orders and be praised upon the earth’”

I Enoch 62.5: “…and pain shall seize them when they see that Son of Man sitting on the throne of his glory”

I Enoch 62.7: “For the Son of Man was concealed from the beginning, and the Most High One preserved him in the presence of his power; then he revealed him to the holy and elect ones.”

I Enoch 62.14: “The Lord of the Spirits will abide over them; they shall eat and rest and rise with that Son of Man forever and ever…”

I Enoch 69.29: “Thenceforth nothing that is corruptible shall be found; for that Son of Man has appeared and has seated himself upon the throne of his glory; and all evil shall disappear from before his face; he shall go and tell to that Son of Man, and he shall be strong before the Lord of the Spirits.”

As I just said, Jesus made it clear that part of his ministry as the Son of Man was to suffer and die and rise from the dead (Mk. 8:31;9:31;10:33). This demonstrates that one of the most important aspects of Jesus’ messianic task was one of atonement. Jesus’ death is seen as a “ransom” (Mark 10:45), and “redemption” (Rom. 3:24; 8:23; Eph. 1:7, 14; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:12–15). Jesus is also called the “Suffering Servant” (Acts 3:13; 8:32), and “The Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32; 1 Peter 1:19).

There are figures in the Bible that were anointed for a specific purpose such as priests and prophets. There are implicit passages in the Hebrew Bible that discuss a priestly aspect of the Messiah (Hag: 1:12-14; 2:2-4; 20-23; Zech: 3:6-10; 4:2-5, 11-14).3 The priest was anointed in his role as a mediator between G-d and the Jewish people because of his ability make to make atonement (Lev.4:26; 31, 35; 5:6, 10; 14:31).

However, Jesus’ role as a priest goes beyond the function of the priest in the tabernacle. Even though the high priest was consecrated, he was by no means sinless and could not offer up himself for the whole congregation.

Given that Israel was called to be a kingdom of priests (Exod. 19:6), it is no surprise to see Jesus’ current messianic work is a priest-advocate (1 Jn. 2:2; Rom. 8:34). The Christian community affirms the position that Jesus’ death put an end for further sacrifice (Heb. 7:27-28; 9:23-26). During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He displayed a priestly element in His authority to forgive sins (Mk. 2:7). Forgiving sins was a prerogative of God alone (Exod. 34: 6-7; Neh.9:17; Dan. 9:9), and was something that was to be done only in the Temple. So it is significant 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.’

Conclusion:

It is rather futile to ask whether Jesus is qualified by the Messiah by looking at a few texts in the Hebrew Bible and then saying “See, this has come to pass, or that is not come to pass.” We need to examine the titles for Messiah so we can have a much more extensive understanding the messianic mission. When we do this I think Jesus is the one who deserves to be called the “Messiah.”

Sources:

1. Bird, M.F. Are You The One To Come? The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 35. Qumran is the site of the ruin about nine miles south of Jericho on the west side of the Dead Sea where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in nearby caves. The Dead Sea Scrolls contains some 800 scrolls with parts or the entirety of every book of the Old Testament except Esther, discovered in the caves near Qumran.

2. Vermes, G. Jesus the Jew: A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels (New York. Macmillan Publishing Co. 1980), 251.

3. Kaiser, W.The Messiah in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing. 1995), 156-157.

4. Gromacki, R.The Virgin Birth (The Woodlands, Texas: Kregal Publications. 2002), 164.

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Book Review: How Do We Know? An Introduction to Epistemology, Second Edition, James K. Dew and Mark W. Foreman, 2020

I love epistemology! I remember how excited I was to take an epistemology class when I was in seminary. Questions about knowledge, truth, and types of certainty were on my mind. It was also during this period when I was in the midst of doing campus ministry. Hence, the majority of my discussions with students are always centered around questions or comments like:

1.“I don’t think we can know God exists”
2.“I don’t think we can be certain about the claim that Jesus rose from the dead”
3.“As a Christian, you can’t make any knowledge claims about what you believe.”

Therefore, I do think a book like How Do We Know? An Introduction to Epistemology, Second Edition, by James K. Dew and Mark W. Foreman is an extremely helpful introduction for the Christian.

In the Introduction of the book, the authors say that the reason we need epistemology is that we as humans long for knowledge and depend on it in all aspects of life. So by not asking epistemological questions, we deprive ourselves of natural and intellectual growth.

The authors give some simple illustrations such as when a child asks us some hard questions as “How did God make us” or “What happens when we die” all entail we will need to know how our beliefs are true and what kind of steps we need to take to respond with knowledge claims. Likewise, when we enforce he legal system, we rely on epistemological assumptions, such as whether we can trust eyewitness testimony, circumstantial evidence, etc.

Chapter 2 and 3 discuss the nature of knowledge and where it comes from. Knowledge entails belief: a person must have a particular belief about something; Justification: Because beliefs can be wrong, we should want to know if a given belief is true before we can claim to have knowledge of it. The authors note that justification can come in a variety of forms, depending on the object under consideration when making a claim to knowledge. Most importantly, the presence of justification doesn’t make a belief true. Therefore, to say we have knowledge, we must not only have belief and justification, but truth as well. The authors then tackle the challenges with the entire JTB (Justified True Belief) model and the Gettier problem. While the authors discuss the defeasibility condition and the challenge it presents, they note that the Gettier problem does not destroy a JTB understanding of knowledge. In the end, the challenge may lie in the quest for absolute certainty in our quest for knowledge.

As far as where knowledge comes from, the authors discuss the various options at our disposal to gain knowledge such as reason, experience, testimony, revelation, and faith. Thinkers such as Decarte , Hume, Locke, Kant are mentioned. Epicureanism is discussed as well. Testimony is a part of the bedrock of our existence. We rely on it every day. The authors do provide a needed correction in the church in how Christians define faith. They say “For many religious people, especially Christians, faith is often spoken of as a source of knowledge. For example, when asked how they know God exists, believers might say “by faith.” Or, when believers are asked how we know Jesus is the Son of God, we might respond by saying “I know by faith.” The authors note that this is a misunderstanding about what faith is. When we understand faith, it is not a source of knowledge. It doesn’t convey any new additional information or knowledge. Rather, faith is a response to the knowledge or information we receive from God via divine revelation.

Chapter 4 discusses the various definitions of truth-pragmatism, coherentism, and the correspondence theory of truth. Both coherentism and pragmatism are necessary but not sufficient conditions for the truth. This is an area I have thought about quite a bit. Almost all college students are pragmatic in their thinking. The question becomes whether false beliefs can actually yield fruitful results. The authors give an example of this: Peter believes in an imaginary big brother who sleeps in his room every night. This helps Peter deal with his fear of darkness. Hence, we have a fictional figure that helps Peter cope with reality. By a pragmatic definition of truth, this would count as a true belief. The authors also point out that some aspects of science need to have pragmatic results. When predictions come true (such as Newton’s theories on the laws of motion), we make progress- we can develop weapons, make aircrafts, etc.

Chapters 5 and 6 discuss the use of inferences and perception. An intro to the use of deductive and inductive inferences is given. Humans make inferences all the time. Furthermore, inferences are used by scientists and historians. I have lost track of the number of times college students say to me “science proves things” and it leads to some kind of absolute certainty.  I generally respond with “no, science makes inferences.” Science relies on inferential reasoning. Inferential reasoning is drawing a conclusion or making a logical judgment based on indirect observation rather than based on direct observation. No scientist observed the start of the universe, or the beginnings of planet earth or how the first cell started. Much of history and science is based making inductive or abductive inferences. The goal is not absolute certainty. Induction is only based on probabilities and is always open to revision. The authors do point out that the inferences we make can be tainted by education, background, biases, friends, and upbringing.

Regarding perception, an overview is given of direct and indirect realism or representationalism. In the end, the authors mentioning of critical realism aligns with where I am at on this topic. Critical realism has gained he respect of philosophers, theologians, sociologists, and scientists. This method allows for knowledge of the external world but also allows for perceptual and cognitive error. In other words, we can apprehend the external world itself (following the intuitions of direct realism) but can also be misled by both internal and external factors (indirect realism).

Chapters 7 and 8 discuss whether we need justification for our beliefs. An overview of externalism and internalism is given. The authors rightfully ask if it’s possible to find a balance between both positions. This is something I have given some thought to as well. Having good reasons and evidence (internalism) may not be necessary at the start of the outset of one’s beliefs But they will play factor as one moves forward in spiritual maturity.

Chapter 9 discusses Virtue Epistemology which is something that allows us to form intellectual virtues. In turn, these virtues will play a role in helping us to have courage and humility in the belief forming process. We can be wrong and we need to have the courage and humility to admit this. This goes for everyone! The intellectual virtues are offered by different virtue epistemologists, but the list includes Virtues such as studiousness, humility, honesty, autonomy, courage, firmness, generosity, and prudence.

Chapter 8 is the new addition to the book. This chapter called “Can We Be Objective in Our View of the World?” is a relevant topic. The authors define “objectivity” and “subjectivity.” By objectivity, they refer to “the assumption that we apprehend the world as it really is without any interference from our own biases, experiences, assumptions, or the kinds of epistemic distortions. By contrast, subjectivity refers to the assumption that we never apprehend the world without lenses that result from our biases, experiences, assumptions, and other epistemic distortions, such that we never apprehend reality as it really is.”- pg 118-119. The authors trace the history of the quest for objectivity and the post modern responses. The authors conclude with the following comments: “Should the observations of later modernity about the way people think and formulate theory give rise to some epistemic humility? Yes. Is having epistemic humility the same as being “radically subjective”? No. The truth is we are widely successful as human knowers in understanding our world. We do get it wrong sometimes, but we often get it right too. Therefore, we need epistemic humility, not postmodern epistemic despair.”- pg 104.

Chapter 9 discusses the role of religious revelation. This is a topic that is extremely important. The authors summarize the difference between general and special revelation. If God has revealed something of Himself to man, we can have knowledge of God. While general and special revelation don’t give us absolute certainty, we can have good reasons for thinking God has given us a revelation.

Chapter 10 discusses the role of certainty in our beliefs. Most importantly, the nature of the object determines how we come to know it and how well it can be known. Since God can’t be verified with our five senses, we should rely on something different here. Hence, I think the point is we should expect a revelation from Him to humanity. Also, the highest level of certainty is logical or absolute certainty. The next level is probabilistic certainty. The third level is sufficient certainty. This is where we have very good evidence for a belief and know of no significant defeaters for the belief .

Overall, I think this is an excellent introduction to epistemology. I highly recommend it!

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Book Review: Does God Exist?: A History of Answers to the Question by W. David Beck

Does God Exist?: A History of Answers to the Question by W. David Beck. IVP Academic, 2021,  328 pp.

There is no doubt that these are difficult times.  The question of God’s existence is one of the most heavily debated topics of all time. The God question impacts every area of reality (i.e., morality, destiny, origins, human rights, human value, history, the list goes on).  Dr. David Beck has taught on this topic for several decades at Liberty University. Now he has compiled this material all into one volume. This book is not another apologetics book. Instead, it is a careful study of arguments for God’s existence as they have developed in the history of philosophy.

What motivated Beck to write this book? In the Introduction, he says:
 
“ I can think of no topic that demands greater attention in this global culture than the existence and reality of God. Our world is divided and divisive. I am convinced that this is a result of the fact that our global culture has given up on finding any truth that would unite us—any truth at all. Many people even think that to be a virtue. But the relativistic skepticism that is in danger of engulfing us cannot provide a unifying factor.”

Before Beck discusses specific arguments, In the first chapter, he lays out the history of the starting points of the arguments. Beck clarifies his goal by covering the history of thought behind each argument. He says:

“ Using the word argument is also meant to avoid the idea that any one of these stands by itself as a once‑and‑for‑all clinching proof for a fully defined God. What we will see is that each argument has a very narrow focus, in terms of both the evidence used in the premises and the scope and the strength or probability of the conclusion. And so each of these arguments, along with others I will only mention in passing, functions best as part of a cumulative case.” – pg. 3.

Thus, as Beck notes, a cumulative case is similar to a court case as presented by the attorneys. As he notes, “There is not simply a single argument given for guilt or innocence. Rather, there is a whole story that is woven together from many pieces of evidence, eyewitnesses, character witnesses, elimination of alternatives, and so on. The same is true here. We need to look at multiple arguments of different types, based on different sorts of evidence, with each giving us a different part of a larger conclusion. Of course, each piece of the case needs to be a sound argument in order to give us, overall, the best explanation.” -pg. 3.

Chapter Two discusses the history of cosmological arguments. Beck righty includes the contingency argument, the kalam argument, and sufficient- reason arguments. When I say he covers the history of philosophical thought on this topic, he discusses Aristotle, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and John Locke, as well as Hindu and Buddhist arguments. He does this with kalam as well. He never starts with a contemporary defender (i.e., William Lane Craig). He always starts at the beginning and then mentions contemporary philosophers, or scholars who have provided their own versions of the argument or criticisms of the argument (i.e., Craig, Andrew Loke, and Paul Draper). He does provide some responses to criticisms and then wraps up each chapter with a section called “Where We Are Now.”

Chapter Three speaks about the history of the teleological argument. Beck starts with Socrates, Zeno, Epictetus, Aristides, and others and then works his way through the Medieval period.

He discusses some of the objections by Hume to Paley’s work. The main design argument (there are others) he spends the most time on is the fine-tuning argument. Since this is a more contemporary argument, he mentions the work of Fred Hoyle, Chandra Wickramasinghe, Francis Collins, Richard Swinburne and Robin Collins. He then discusses the objections by Dawkins, Antony Flew (before he became a general theist), and Elliot Sober. One of Sober’s objections is that “ FTA (Fine Tuning Argument)  fails as a claim about likelihoods. We have no way to calculate probabilities here—Hume, he thinks, was right— because we are embedded in the only universe context we know of. We can only estimate likelihoods but without any basis on which to distinguish chance and design.”-pg 176.

So for Sober, “We are embedded participants in the only universe there is. We therefore have no neutral way of observing multiple universes in such a way that we could form any kind of objective judgments as to the relative degree of design that is or was needed for our universe. We suffer from “observational selection effect,” or OSE.”- pgs. 173-174.

This seems to be one of the most common defeaters to the fine- tuning argument. But Beck mentions the work of Michael Rota (see his book, Taking Pascal’s Wager: Faith, Evidence and the Abundant Life (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016). As Rota notes, “The short version . . . is that the anthropic objection asks us to focus on an irrelevant probability; the probability that the universe is life permitting given that the universe is the result of a blind physical process and we’re here to observe it. True, if we’re here to observe it, it must be life permitting. But we might very well have never been here to observe anything! Without a Fine‑Tuner in the picture, what is likely is that we would never have been here at all. Since we are here, we have evidence for a universe designer.”- pg 111.

Beck also mentions the multiverse objections and provides responses. Here he includes popularizers Lawrence Krauss and Victor Stenger and recent responses to them. In the concluding section on teleological arguments, Beck rightly notes the recent book by Thomas Nagel called Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo‑Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. As Beck notes, Nagel, an evolutionary atheist, “gives us teleology in a form that demands explanation but that defies mechanistic, physicalistic explanation. And that is all we need to argue for a creative intelligence that ultimately, without remainder, explains the universe in which we live. If nature is such as to give rise to minds that can comprehend it, and comprehend themselves in the act of comprehending it, then “the intelligibility of the world is no accident.”- pg 201.

Chapter Four focuses on the history of moral arguments. Beck starts with the moral design arguments of Zeno, Aurelius, Felix, and Aquinas’ Fourth Way. He then traces the Nineteenth Century arguments of Newman, Rashdall, Sorley, and Trueblood. He then discusses more contemporary versions by thinkers such as Lewis, Robert Adams, Sessions, Eleonore Stump, Rachels, Sam Harris, and Erik Wielenberg. Weilenberg says that “The foundation of morality is a set of axiomatic necessary eternal truths. No being, natural or supernatural, is responsible for the truth of, or has control over, these ethical truths.”Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe, pg 66. Wielenberg goes on to say, “Why be moral? The answer now is quite obvious. “Grown‑ups recognize that the fact that a given action is morally obligatory is itself an overriding reason for performing that action. A morally obligatory action is an action that one has to do whether one wants to do it or not.”- Value and Virtue, pg. 80.        

Beck notes that there have been responses to Weilenberg in the work of David Baggett and Jerry Walls, Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality as well as their book God and Cosmos. Bagget and Walls have formulated an abductive case for the moral argument.

Chapter Five hammers out the history of ontological arguments. I will not spend the time giving the overview of this argument. Once again, Beck does a thorough job in discussing the history of this argument.

The concluding chapter is called “The End of the Story- For Now.” In this chapter, Beck discusses the importance of cumulative case arguments, the recent work on miracles (see Craig Keener’s double volume set), the work on the resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas, religious experience (see William Alston in his Perceiving God and William Wainwright in Mysticism) and transcendental arguments.

As Beck says in this conclusion,

If we then take all these arguments, together with the classic four, there is an exceedingly strong case for God’s existence. And I certainly grant that the ontological argument is not highly persuasive these days. Many of these component arguments are strong inductive and abductive arguments. They have exceptionally high probability, even if we sometimes cannot give them some precise numerical probability calculation. Furthermore, these are only the positive arguments. A total case would have to also include an array of arguments against physicalism, materialism, or, in general, naturalism.” – pg. 318-319.

I wholeheartedly agree with Beck on this. His book is a wonderful contribution to the topic of God’s existence. He has told me personally that there are not a ton of academic books out there on this specific topic.  Hopefully, this book will be utilized in the years to come.

Also, see our interview with Dr. Beck here:

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How Should a Christian View Israel?

Introduction

Obviously, one of the most challenging issues within Christian apologetics is the accusation that in many cases, Christianity has been associated with anti-Semitism. Several years ago, I remember reading Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Faith. In one chapter he interviews John Woodbridge about Christian history.  Woodbridge agreed that “One of the ugliest blights on Christianity’s history has been anti-Semitism.” Woodbridge readily conceded that, regrettably, “anti-Semitism has soiled Christian history”(The Case for Faith, pg 297).

There have been numerous books written on this topic such as Dan Cohn- Sherbock’s The Crucified Jew: Twenty Centuries of Christian Anti-Semitism, and Susannah Heschel’s The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany as well as Michael Brown’s Our Hands Are Stained with Blood.  I know Christians sometimes can say “How in the world could any Christian be anti-Semitic? Ronald Diprose says the following: “Whoever denies that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah is in fact denying the gospel which was announced to Abraham (Galatians 3:8–16; Romans 1:1–5, 16–17)”  (see Israel and the Church: The Origins and Effects of Replacement Theology, by Ronald Diprosepg 182). 

When a Christian or someone is accused of being anti-Semitic, we can break it down into these three categories:

1  Anti-Semitism can be based on hatred against Jewish people because of  their group membership or ethnicity.

2.  Anti-Zionism is criticism or rejection of the right of Jewish people to have their own homeland. I should note that not all Jewish people are supportive of modern Zionism. Also,  Christians are divided on this issue.

3.  Theological anti-Semitism: critical rejection of Jewish principles and beliefs.

I should also note that  the Jewish community has at least three ideas that most, if not all, Jewish people have been socialized into:

(1) The Holocaust – to deny the Holocaust is to remove oneself from the Jewish people.

(2) The State of Israel – its right to exist and some allegiance to it.

(3) The rejection of Jesus.

Of course, many Jewish people don’t know why part of their identity is to reject Jesus as their Messiah.  But  the history of anti-Semitism has been a huge stumbling block.

Sadly, some very well-known Christian leaders such as John Chrysostom (Against the Jews.  Homily 1) and Martin Luther’s The Jews and Their Lies  contain statements that can be perceived as fitting into one of the anti- Semitic categories that were just mentioned.

Anti-Semitism is alive and well in many parts of the world. Given Israel is continually in the news. But why would a devout follower of Jesus care about Israel? As David Stern says:

“For years all the disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) were Jewish. The New Testament was entirely written by Jews (Luke being, in all likelihood, a Jewish proselyte). The very concept of a Messiah is nothing but Jewish. Finally, Yeshua himself was Jewish—was then and apparently is still, since nowhere does Scripture say or suggest that he has ceased to be a Jew. It was Jews who brought the Gospel to Gentiles. Paul, the chief emissary to the Gentiles was an observant Jew all his life. Indeed the main issue in the early Church was whether without undergoing complete conversion to Judaism a Gentile could be a Christian at all. The Messiah’s vicarious atonement is rooted in the Jewish sacrificial system; the Lord’s Supper is rooted in the Jewish Passover traditions; baptism is a Jewish practice; and indeed the entire New Testament is built on the Hebrew Bible, with its prophecies and its promise of a New Covenant, so that the New testament without the Old is as impossible as the second floor of a house without the first.”- David Stern, Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel, Kindle Locations, 963 of 1967.

Israel’s Election

What does it mean to say Israel was elected? Scott Bader-Saye says:

“Election is the choice by one person of another person out of a range of possible candidates. This choice then establishes a mutual relationship between the elector and the elected, in biblical terms a “covenant” (berit). Election is much more fundamental then just freedom of choice in the ordinary sense, where a free person chooses to do one act from a range of possible acts. Instead, the elector chooses another person with whom she will both act and elicit responses, and then establishes the community in which these acts are done, and then promises that for which the election has occurred. The content of these practical choices is governed by Torah, but there could be no such coherent standards of action without prior context of election, the establishment of covenantal community, and the promise of ultimate purpose.”–  (see Scott Bader-Saye, The Church and Israel After Christendom: The Politics of Election(Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1999), 31).

 What was Israel elected to do? 

1. Be a holy people (Deut. 7:6 [3x]); (Isa. 62:12; 63:18; Dan. 12:7)

2.Be a kingdom of priests (Exod. 19:6)

3. Be a redeemed people (Joshua 4:23-24)

4. Be a light to the nations (Isa. 60: 3)

5. Bring the Scriptures to the world: “To them were entrusted the oracles of God” (Rom 3:2)

6. Be the vehicle by which the Messiah will come into the world (Rom 15: 8-9).

We also need to remember Israel’s election was only because of the grace of God: 

 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.  It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,  but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”- Deut. 7: 6-8.

Supersessionism in Church History

Before I expand on R. Kendall’s Soulen’s  The God of Israel and Christian Theology which has shown the long history of supersessionism in Church history, we should note that according to to Mary Boys, this idea of the church replacing the Jews in the divine economy has eight main features: the assertion that the revelation of Christ supersedes the revelation to Israel, that the New Testament fulfills the Old Testament, the church replaces the Jews as God’s chosen people, that Judaism is obsolete, the notion that postexilic Judaism was legalistic, assertions that the Jews did not heed the warning of the prophets and did not understand the prophecies about Jesus), and finally accusations that the Jews killed Christ. These might be thought of as the basic tenets of supersessionism (see  “The Road to Reconciliation: Protestant Church Statements on Jewish-Christian Relations.” In Seeing Judaism Anew: Christianity’s Sacred Obligation, edited by Mary C. Boys ( Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. 2005), 241-251.

After the Holocaust, many Christian theologians had to rethink the relationship between the Church and Israel.

Supersessionism is sometimes seen as another word what is called “replacement theology,” “transference,” “expansion” “absorption” or “fulfillment theology.” The term supersessionism comes from two Latin words: super (on or upon) and sedere (to sit). It carries the idea of one person sitting on another’s chair, displacing the latter. Hence, one religion, Christianity, permanently displaces the other, Judaism.  By the way, Islam is viewed as a new religion that ‘supersedes’ both Judaism and Christianity.  Given I have already written a post on whether Jesus came to bring a new religion (i.e. Christianity), I won’t deal with that issue in great detail here. But suffice to say, it is fallacious for Christians to assume there was one clear Judaism in the first century—viewed through the lens of Paul’s critique of the law and represented by the Pharisees as depicted in Matthew—and then Jesus came along and started a new religion called ‘Christianity’ as a new entity that separated from Judaism.  As Craig Evans says so well:

“Did Jesus intend to found the Christian church? This interesting question can be answered in the affirmative and in the negative. It depends on what precisely is being asked. If by church one means an organization and a people that stand outside of Israel, the answer is no. If by a community of disciples committed to the restoration of Israel and the conversion and instruction of the Gentiles, then the answer is yes. Jesus did not wish to lead his disciples out of Israel, but to train followers who will lead Israel, who will bring renewal to Israel , and who will instruct Gentiles in the way of the Lord. Jesus longed for the fulfillment of the promises and the prophecies, a fulfillment that would bless Israel and the nations alike. The estrangement of the church from Israel was not the result of Jesus’ teaching or Paul’s teaching. Rather, the parting of the ways, as it has been called in recent years, was the result of a long process. But we must ask if Paul has created a new institution, a new organization, something that stands over against Israel, something that Jesus himself never anticipated. From time to time learned tomes and popular books have asserted that the Christian church is largely Paul’s creation, that Jesus himself never intended for such a thing to emerge. Frankly, I think the hypothesis of Paul as creator of the church or inventor of Christianity is too simplistic. A solution that is fairer to the sources, both Christian and Jewish, is more complicated.”  – Craig A. Evans, From Jesus to the Church: The First Christian Generation, pgs, 18, 36.

Here are some helpful illustrations:

Linguistically speaking, Christianity didn’t exist in the first century. Judaism in the first century wasn’t seen as a single “way.” There were many “Judaisms”- the Sadducees, the Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots, etc.  The followers of Jesus are referred to as a “sect” (Acts 24:14;28:22); “the sect of the Nazarenes” (24:5).  Josephus refers to the “sects” of Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees. The first followers of Jesus were considered to be a sect of Second Temple Judaism. Even James Dunn says the following:

“Prior to Paul what we now call ‘Christianity’ was no more than a messianic sect within first-century Judaism, or better, within Second Temple Judaism — ‘the sect of the Nazarenes’ (Acts 24.5), the followers of ‘the Way’ (that is, presumably, the way shown by Jesus)”- James Dunn, Jesus, Paul and the Gospels, pg 119

The title “replacement theology” is often viewed as a synonym for supersessionism. As of today,  because the title “replacement theology” is not well received by some, some scholars/theologians prefer  to be called “fulfillment theologians.”  Thus, the emphasis is on the “promise/fulfillment” theme in the Bible. However,  while one can use fulfillment terminology, the end the result is really the same— we see the following:

Israel, the “earthly” people of God in the Old Testament,  which includes their land, temple, and identity as an ethnic or national people, has been replaced, expanded, or fulfilled  in the divine plan not by another “earthly” people or peoples, but by a “spiritual” people, the church of the New Testament.

As I just mentioned, a  leading voice in this issue is R. Kendall Soulen, Professor of Systematic Theology at Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington DC. Soulen’s theological project is to reconceive the standard Christian “canonical narrative”—i.e., our view of the Bible’s overarching narrative framework—in such a way that avoids supersessionism and consequently is more coherent. Soulen identifies three kinds of supersessionism: (1) economic supersessionism, in which Israel’s obsolescence after the coming of the Messiah is a key element of the canonical narrative, (2) punitive supersessionism, in which God abrogates his covenant with Israel as a punishment for their rejection of Jesus, and (3) structural supersessionism, in which Israel’s special identity as God’s people is simply not an essential element of the “foreground” structure of the canonical narrative itself. Soulen sees structural supersessionism as the most problematic form of supersessionism, because it is the most deep-rooted.

He identifies structural supersessionism in the “standard model” of the canonical narrative, which has held sway throughout much of the history of the Christian church. This standard model is structured by four main movements: creation, fall, Christ’s incarnation and the church, and the final consummation. In this standard model, God’s dealings with Israel are seen merely as a prefigurement of his dealings with the world through Christ. Thus, the Hebrew Scriptures are only confirmatory; they are not logically necessary for the narrative (see Lionel Windsor’s  Reading Ephesians and Colossians after Supersessionism: Christ’s Mission through Israel to the Nations (New Testament after Supersessionism Book 2)

Economic Supersessionism 

In this view, Israel is not replaced primarily because of its disobedience but rather because its role in the history of redemption expired with the coming of the Messiah. It is now superseded by the arrival of a new spiritual Israel, the Christian church. Thus, Israel was never in God’s mind more than a temporary reality ultimately to be superseded by “a new Israel,” the church.

Thus, the ethnic, national, and territorial promises to Israel have to be spiritually interpreted in order to discern their true meaning.

In his book Israel in the Apostolic Church, Peter Richardson notes that Justin Martyr (100 – 165 AD), an early Christian apologist, was the first Christian writer to explicitly identify the church as “Israel.”  Justin declared, “For the true spiritual Israel, and descendants of Judah, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham . . . are we who have been led to God through this crucified Christ.”.He also said, “Since then God blesses this people [i.e., Christians], and calls them Israel, and declares them to be His inheritance, how is it that you [Jews] repent not of the deception you practice on yourselves, as if you alone were the Israel?. Justin also announced that “we, who have been quarried out from the bowels of Christ, are the true Israelite race”(See Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 11, ANF 1:200. 17. Ibid., 1:261; 18. Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 135, ANF 1:267).

In my experience, when I have brought up Richardson’s work about Matyr, Christians can immediately get defensive and attempt to point to all kinds of texts in the New Testament that seem to teach economic supersessionism or fulfillment theology.

Israel in the Scriptures 

Now when we say “Israel” we have to define what we mean. Do we mean Israel the land, Israel the people, or the government of Israel? We know that Jacob experienced a theophany and was given a new name  (Yisrael) meaning he had persisted with God.  There are 15 references to Jacob’s children as the sons of Israel (b’nai yisrael) (Gen 45:21; 46:8; 50:25; Exod. 1:1; 13:19; 28:9; 11-12; 21, 29; 39:6-7,14; Deut. 32:8;1 Chron.2:1). Israel is national name that is used when they were delivered by God for Egyptian bondage (Exod. 1:9; 12; 2:23; 25) and for those who came out afterward (Exod. 10:5-6). Israel is also seen as a political entity or nation state (1 Sam.15;28; 24;20; 1 Chron.11:10); the royal monarchy under the rule of David, Saul and then his descendants.

The ethnic origin of Israel as expressed in the concept of “people,” can be traced back to Abraham (cf. Ge 12:2; 17:6; 18:18).  “Israel” is used seventy-three times in the New Testament, and it is always used of ethnic Jews. Thus, of these seventy-three citations, the vast majority refer to national, ethnic Israel. The passages that are generally disputed are the “Israel of God” reference in Galatians 6:16  and Romans 9:6 which both speak of a believing remnant within Israel. Thus, there is an ‘Israel’ within ethnic ‘Israel.’ But neither of these texts teach Gentiles become spiritual Jews.

Even in Acts, after the title “church” (ἐκκλησία/ekklēsia)  is established, Israel is still addressed as a nation in contrast to Gentiles (Acts 3:12; 4:8, 10; 5:21, 31, 35; 21:28).  Sometimes, it is asserted that the imagery for Israel is used for the “church”/ekklēsia.  Perhaps, like Israel, if the ekklēsia.  are “a people that are his very own” (Tit 2:13; Ex 19:5; Rom 9:25; 2 Co 6:16; . 1Pe 2:9–10), they are now called “Israel?”

However, to assume just because the “people of God” has been enlarged to include those from nations other than Israel means that the ekklēsia  is now Israel leads to some exegetical problems. For example, in 1 Peter 2:9–10, was Peter was addressing Gentile believers in his epistle or was it written to Jewish Believers in the Diaspora? If it was written to Jewish Believers, Peter could be addressing a similar group Paul was referring to in Gal 6:16—a remnant of Israel made of ethnic Jews who placed their faith in the Messiah. Other texts that are somtimes used to demonstrate that the the church is the fulfillment of Israel or the “true Israel” are Rom. 2:28–29; 4:11–12; 9:6–8; Gal. 3:16–29 and Eph. 2:11–22. However, these texts are disputed as well. Of course, there is no text that says the church is the “true Israel.” As seen above, Matyr was the first person to assert the church is the “true Israel.” In most cases, inferences are made from the texts that have just been mentioned.  One way or the other, there is no possibility anyone should be able to infer from any of these texts that Israel has been irrevocably rejected by God and replaced by Gentiles (see Rom. 9–11).

Furthermore, what can be forgotten is that though when most Christians hear the word “church” they assume this means “Christian church,” the reality is that in the first century, “ekklēsia” could refer to  synagogue institutions, public assemblies or what our English translations refer to as “assembly.”

As I have already said, to assume there is an actual Christian church that is outside the Jewish world is to read our modern understanding or ecclesiastical tradition back  into the first century.

I should also note that Philippians 3: 3 is another text that is seen as supporting the ekklēsia as being Israel. The NASB translates it as “for we are the true  circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (NASB) Unfortunately, the word “true” isn’t in the Greek text. Phil 3:3 simply refers to those Jews and Gentiles circumcised in their hearts in the new covenant. In the new covenant, both Jew and Gentile who follow the Messiah may experience circumcision of the heart and are spiritually “one in Messiah” (Gal 3:28). Thus, both Jew and Gentile can  have a heart that can be circumcised!

Jesus as the True Israel?

Another place where economic supersessionism is apparent is the common saying that “Jesus is the true Israel.”  I see this come up a lot. In this view, in the idea of corporate solidarity, one person can represent a whole group. In other words, Jesus as the Messiah is the culmination of the characteristics within the positions. Given the Messiah is the ideal representative of his people (Israel), Jesus as their head, is seen as Israel! Another way to view this is if our current president went to meet the leadership of Russia and he said, “I am the United States.” In other words, he is saying the president is the head of the country.

Some examples are the following: Since Israel is a son of God (corporately), Jesus is the ideal “Son of God/The Davidic King.  Or, as Israel is called to be “ a kingdom of priests and a holy nation( Exod. 19:5-6), Jesus, as their ideal representative fulfills the role of priest, as being exalted to a permanent priesthood by his resurrection and enthronement at the right hand of God in the heaven (Hebrews 8:1). Or, as Israel is the Servant of the Lord and Jesus is the Servant of the Lord,  He embodies everything Israel was called to be and do!  Some of the passages about the Servant of the Lord are about the nation of Israel (Is.41:8-9; 42:19; 43:10; 44:21; 45:4; 48:20), while there are other passages where the Servant of the Lord is seen as a righteous individual (Is.42:1-4;50:10; 52:13-53:12).

Granted,  no New Testament author ever calls Jesus “Israel” or “True Israel.” The real question is whether Jesus is called to ‘restore’ Israel, or ‘absorb’ Israel. Is he called to fulfill (which sadly,  translates as ‘end’ as many Christians see it) everything about Israel? Remember as Evans just said:

“Jesus did not wish to lead his disciples out of Israel, but to train followers who will lead Israel, who will bring renewal to Israel , and who will instruct Gentiles in the way of the Lord. Jesus longed for the fulfillment of the promises and the prophecies, a fulfillment that would bless Israel and the nations alike. The estrangement of the church from Israel was not the result of Jesus’ teaching or Paul’s teaching. Rather, the parting of the ways, as it has been called in recent years, was the result of a long process”—Craig Evans , From Jesus to the Church: The First Christian Generation.

Even if Jesus did demonstrate he was the corporate head of Israel, to say this means He has “replaced” “expanded” or “fulfilled” or “ended”  Israel’s role as the “earthly” people of God (which  includes their land and identity as an ethnic or national people), takes some serious exegetical work.

In Jeremiah 31:35–37,  God links Israel’s perpetual existence as “a nation” with the sun, moon, stars, and foundations of the earth. With Romans 9:4–5 Paul explicitly affirms that the “covenants,” “promises,” and “temple service” still belong to national Israel, even when Israel as a whole was characterized by unbelief.  The context makes it clear that Paul is speaking of Israel in unbelief. Michael Rydelnick points out the following:

“ In Rom. 9:1–3 the apostle makes plain his compassion and concern for the lost condition of his unbelieving brethren. So great was his love that he makes the remarkable statement that he would be willing to be accursed and separated from the Messiah, if this could provide spiritual life for his people. There is no question that Paul is speaking of unbelieving Israel here. Nevertheless, he describes them as having a significant national status: “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises. The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Messiah, who is God over all, praised forever. Amen” (HCSB). The present tense verb in verse 4 demonstrates that all the benefits described still belong to Israel. As Thomas Schreiner writes, “The present tense verb εισιν (eisin, they are) indicates that the Jews still ‘are’ Israelites and that all the blessings named still belong to them.” (see Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998).

Of these benefits that God has granted to Israel, two are significant to this discussion. The Jewish people still have covenants and promises to claim, both of which include God’s grant of a specific territory. There is no way to separate the territorial promises found in the covenants or to think that Paul now views them as belonging to an alleged new spiritual Israel (the Church). Nor did he mean that these promises have been expanded to refer to the whole world and not the land of Israel. It seems Paul still believes that the God of Israel has granted the people of Israel covenants and promises, and thus that God has given them a specific territory. The third crucial passage reaffirming Israel’s covenant status is Romans 11:28–29: “Regarding the gospel, they are enemies for your advantage, but regarding election, they are loved because of the patriarchs, since God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable. Here are three observations to be derived from these verses. First, Paul is speaking of Israel in unbelief, a reference to the Jewish people who, for the most part, are opposed to the gospel.

This does not mean that all Jewish people are clinging to unbelief as Paul has already identified a remnant of faithful Jewish people (Rom. 11:1–5) who are followers of Jesus. Nevertheless, the majority of Jewish people do not believe Jesus is the promised Messiah. God used this in an advantageous way for the Gentiles as Jewish nonbelief has mysteriously led to the gospel spreading to the Gentile world (Rom. 11:11). Second, the Jewish people remain God’s chosen people. The word “election” used here means “chosen.” Therefore, the NASB translates it as “from the standpoint of God’s choice,” indicating that the Jewish people remain chosen (see the chapter called “The Hermeneutics of Conflict” in Israel, the Church, and the Middle East, by Darrell L. Bock, Mitch Glaser).

Gentile Inferiority?

I can only reflect on my own experience. That means I don’t speak for everyone. But I have seen a lot of Gentiles who simply don’t understand the election of Israel or feel they are inferior to Israel. With the coming of the Messiah, I have no idea why this continues to happen. One passage that continually gets misinterpreted is Gal 3: 26-29: “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[ nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (ESV).

I have seen many Christians assume this text is saying God has wiped out all ethnic distinctions. But all one must do is read it in context. For that matter, a rule of thumb is to never ignore the immediate context and the wider context. Thus, we would have to look at all the passages that discuss the issue. Obviously, if we read it in context and assume God has wiped out all ethnic distinctions, than males aren’t males anymore and females aren’t females. With the coming of the Jewish Messiah, spiritually speaking, Gentiles are equal with believing Jewish people. But we see Paul goes onto to speak of Jews and Gentiles as distinct ethnic groups in his letters (Rom. 1:16; 9:24; 1 Cor. 1:24; 12:13; Gal. 2:14, 15). Paul expresses the relationship of Gentiles to Jews/Israel by saying Gentiles are “fellow citizens” (Eph. 2:19), “joined together” (Eph. 2:21),  “built together” (Eph. 2:21), “heirs together” (Eph. 3:6), “members together of one body” (Eph. 3:6), as well as “sharers together” (Eph. 3:6). The Gentiles are brought near to Israel in  the Jewish Messiah to share with Israel in its covenants, promise, hope, and God. But they  do not become Israel; they share with Israel.  So when looking at individual salvation, there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Galatians 3:28), no distinction between them (Romans 10:12), no dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14-19). But being unified as one in the Messiah does not nullify functional distinctions.

This should be no surprise given that the Abrahamic covenant was to not only bless Israel, but the the Gentile groups of the world (Gen. 12:2–3; 22:18).  The original words “goyim” and “ethnos” refer to “peoples” or “nations” and are applied to both Israelites and non-Israelites in the Bible. The Jewish Scriptures had already revealed that Gentiles will be restored to God as a result of Israel’s end-time restoration, and will become united to them (Psalms 87:4-6; Isa. 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). In the Tanak (Old Testament) even though non-Jewish people could become part of the commonwealth of Israel as proselytes, the physical element is never abolished. Non-Jewish people were already seen as were seen as joining themselves to the Lord as “others,” rather than joining Israel through conversion. A clear distinction between Israel and the nations is seen in  Isaiah 56:6; Micah 4:2. Thus, nations could become part of Israel, but they worship God as foreigners because God’s house is now a house of prayer for all peoples (Isa. 56:7).

Even at the  “Jerusalem Council” in Acts 15  the conclusion was God had accepted the Gentiles as Gentiles in accordance with  a prophecy (Amos 9:11, 14), and also of “all the nations who are called by my name” (Amos 9:12). God’s work among Gentile believers in Jesus by the Holy Spirit shows Gentiles don’t  become Jews nor even spiritual Jews  (Acts 15:8–17a; cf., 11:1–18).

The Challenge of Systematic Theology

There is no doubt that the debate about the role of Israel in the Bible has been debated primarily by two theological systems: Dispensationalism/Progressive Dispensationalism and Covenantal Theology.  Both camps have made several modifications in their views. Having read quite a bit of literature on the topic myself, I have seen this debate for many years now. If you like systematic theology, these are the two main choices. But for many  scholars, they tend to think that trying to start with a system and then to try to make the Bible fit into a school of thought can be a risky endeavor.  After all, the Bible isn’t a systematic theology. Rather, we take the Bible and make into a systematic theology. Then we can spend our lives defending our systems. When the Bible was written, obviously, no author was familiar with many of the modern systematic theologies that are taught in Christian seminaries. It is not as if they sat around arguing about whether Ἰσραήλ “Israel”  is the “church” (ἐκκλησία/ekklēsia). Let me give an example by looking at Matthew’s Gospel where he mentions both the church and Israel.

Matt 2:6 And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah: because out of you will come a leader who will shepherd My people Israel.

Matt 2:20 saying, “Get up! Take the child and His mother and go to the land of Israel, because those who sought the child’s life are dead.”

Matt 2:21 So he got up, took the child and His mother, and entered the land of Israel. Matt 8:10 Hearing this, Jesus was amazed and said to those following Him, “I assure you: I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith!”

Matt 9:33 When the demon had been driven out, the man spoke. And the crowds were amazed, saying, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel!”

Matt 10:6 Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Matt 16: 18 And I tell you,  you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the  gates of hell shall not prevail against it

Matt 18:17 If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you.

So is Matthew saying  Ἰσραήλ “Israel”  is the same thing as the “church” (ἐκκλησία/ekklēsia)?

Fortunately, scholars are working on new paradigms which should help with this discussion. But Christians  like labels and old paradigms don’t easily die. There is a group of scholars working on post-supersessionist thought. 

In a future post,  I will discuss the over reaction to the dispensationalism camp/Left Behind Series pop eschatology as well. But perhaps we can ponder this question:  if someone does hold to holds to economic supersessionism, does this mean they are anti-Semitic? I would say it depends on the individual. I have encountered Christians who quote texts to try to prove their point about the Church superseding Israel. Some of them are quite aggressive and some make some very anti-Semitic comments. But even though economic supersessionism was endorsed by people such as Matyr, Tertullian, Origen, St. Hillary, St. Ambrose, St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Prosper of Aquitaine, Cassiodorus, Preniasius, St. Gregory the Great, St. Isidore, Venerable Bede, St. Anselm, St. Peter Damian, and St. Bernard and others, what is ironic is that many of these same figures believed in a future salvation or even restoration of Israel. I will define these issues more clearly in our next post.

Even though  popular or modern theologians such as Wayne Grudem and Millard Erickson hold to a economic supersessionism, they also affirm a future for Israel. As Grudem says:

Many New Testament verses . . . understand the church as the ‘new Israel’ or new ‘people of God.’” Yet he also says: “I affirm the conviction that Rom. 9–11 teaches a future large-scale conversion of the Jewish people” (see W. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 861).

Erickson says:

“To sum up then: the church is the new Israel. It occupies the place in the new covenant that Israel occupied in the old. . . . There is a special future coming for national Israel, however, through large-scale conversion to Christ and entry into the church.” He also says, “There is, however, a future for national Israel. They are still the special people of God” (see Milliard Erickson, A Basic Guide to Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Baker. 1998), 123-124.

Or, you can see the long history of interpretation of Romans 11:26. here. It shows how many ancient and modern commentators have viewed Israel in that text.

In the next post, we will discuss structural supersessionism. 

In the third post, we discuss  punitive supersessionism

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A Look at the Objection: “If Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, where is the Peace?”

In a previous post, I discussed some of the common objections anti-missionaries and groups like Jews for Judaism make to the claims about Jesus being the Jewish Messiah of Israel and the nations. 

One objection that always comes up is that if Jesus is really the Messiah, how come there’s no peace in the world?  So one of the traditional objections is that Jesus is not the Messiah since he did not fulfill the job description. One of the Jewish expectations is that 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.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). Thus, if the Messiah has come,  it seems that there is supposed to be societal and political transformation.  Isa. 2:2–4 speaks of international harmony under the ruling Messiah will occur. While messianic salvation has been inaugurated in this present age, societal transformation of the nations has not happened yet. Passages like Isaiah 2, Micah 4:1-3  Isaiah 19:24–25, and Zechariah 14 predict nations will worship God.

So we  are supposed to see the challenge: anti-missionaries can string together some texts in the Jewish Scriptures and then say “Case closed, Jesus is not the Messiah.” If you read the texts just mentioned, some of them don’t even mention a personal Messiah at all.  Also, as I have said before, Israel’s faithfulness and the role of the Messiah go together. Thus, if Israel doesn’t fulfill their side of the covenant, there is a delay in blessings. 

One text anti-missionaries  try to use is Isaiah 11: 6-9:

“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.  The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.  The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.  They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the land will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:6-9).”

Now, it is obvious this text speaks of some sort of utopia conditions on earth. As Richard Bauckham says here in his online article: 

“Occasionally this passage has been read as an allegory of peace between nations, while inattentive modern readers sometimes see it as a picture simply of peace between animals. In fact, it depicts peace between the human world, with its domestic animals (lamb, kid, calf, bullock, cow), and those wild animals (wolf, leopard, lion, bear, poisonous snakes) that were normally perceived as threats both to human livelihood and to human life. For the Israelite farmer, the unacceptable face of wild nature was these dangerous animals. What is depicted in the prophecy is the reconciliation of the human world with wild nature. Significantly, humans and domestic animals are all represented by their young, the most vulnerable. Each of the pairs of animals in verses 6-7 is carefully chosen, so that each predator is paired with a typical example of that predator’s prey. Especially from verse 7, it is clear that this peaceful condition is possible because the carnivorous animals have become, like the domestic animals, vegetarian. No doubt, this also includes humans. The pairing of the snakes and the children (v 8) differs from the other pairs in that the child is not the prey of the snake, but its poison is nonetheless dangerous to a child who ignorantly interferes with its hiding-place. This is a utopian (or, we might say, ecotopian) picture of the future kingdom of the Messiah that harks back to the primeval utopia that Genesis depicts as the beginning of human history.

Originally, all the creatures of the earth were vegetarian (Gen 1:29- Bauckham Page 3 30), and violence both among humans and between humans and animals came with the degeneration of life on earth that provoked the Flood (Gen 6:11-13). Isaiah’s description of the peaceable kingdom probably also alludes to the human responsibility for other living creatures that God gave humans at creation (Gen 1:26, 28). The first depiction of animals at peace (Isa 11:6) concludes: ‘a little child shall lead them.’ This is a reference to shepherding practice, in which the domestic animals willingly follow the shepherd who leads them to pasture. Even a small child can lead a flock of sheep or herd of goats, because no force or violence is required. In the ecotopia of Isaiah the little child will be able to lead also the wolf, the leopard and the lion. It is a picture of gentle and beneficial service to wild animals, which the animals now willingly receive. It is how we might imagine Adam and Eve related to the animals in the garden of Eden. This is not to say that the messianic kingdom is merely a return to the garden of Eden. It is more than that, but the original innocence of humans and animals does provide a model for the way this prophet envisages the future.”

Anti-missionaries like to say that  in worshiping a deified Messiah/God man, Christians and Messianic Jews are committing idolatry. But the question  is what kind of ordinary, anointed, Davidic King  can usher in such a peaceable kingdom on earth and restore the earth back to Eden? The other problem is that perhaps there is societal peace unless there is peace between people. And the only way there can be peace between people is if mankind’s heart is changed. Thus, there needs to be atonement. I talk more about that here.

To see more about this objection, see Michael L Brown,  General and Historical Objections 

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A Look at the Objection: “Jesus Fulfilled None of the Messianic Prophecies!”

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 the typical internet post by these Jewish organizations.  Who exactly is the Jewish Moshiach (Messiah), and why is he so critical to the Jewish people?

To summarize some of the messianic expectations, 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.”

The reality is that we have the same problem Jesus had when he was here. Hence, the Jewish expectations of the kingdom what would come would be (1) visible, (2) all at once, (3) in complete fullness, (4) when God’s enemies would be defeated  and (5) the saints are separated from the ungodly, the former receiving reward and the latter punishment. But  once again, as Beale and Gladd note in their book Hidden, But Now Revealed, the kingdom  that is revealed by Jesus is (1) for the most part invisibly, so that one must have eyes to perceive it (2) in two stages (already- and- not yet), (3), growing over an extended time from one stage to the last stage, (4) God’s opponents are not defeated immediately all together, but the invisible satanic powers are first subjugated and then at the end of time, all foes will be vanquished and judged and (5) saints are not being separated from the ungodly in the beginning stage of the kingdom, but such a separation will occur on the last day, when Jesus’ followers receive their reward and the latter punishment.This topic is also directly related to the topic of the covenants and God’s role with Israel and the nations.

I should note that there is a positive outcome of links like this one and others that discuss why Jewish people don’t believe in Jesus and the common messianic expectations. The good news is that it puts Jesus back into a Jewish context which is where he belongs.

Many Christians have no context to their faith and know very little about the Jewish background on this topic.  In his book Kingdom Conspiracy (which I just finished), Scot McKnight summarizes what James Dunn says about understanding the importance of Israel. He says;

Dunn says we must begin with the story context: “It will have to be the context of Israel’s memory of its own monarchic past, of Jewish current experience under the kingship of others, and of the hopes of the faithful regarding God’s kingship for the future.”

He begins with three simple observations and then drenches those three points in a powerful display of evidence from Judaism of the various nuances at work at the time of Jesus. His three simple observations are these:

(1) God was King over all the earth (Ps. 103: 19); (2) only Israel acknowledges God’s kingdom, and that means Israel’s king (when they have one) is specially related to God the King; and (3) this universal kingship of God will someday, perhaps soon, expand over the whole earth. The integral features in the big story of Israel are these:

God is King, Israel is God’s people and as such is God’s kingdom, and God’s kingdom will someday cover the globe. We can say the story has three nonnegotiables: the universal kingship of God, the covenant kingship of God with Israel, and a future universal rule. These three nonnegotiable beliefs in the Old Testament and in the shaping of Judaism’s story are rarely alone and almost never this abstract or theoretical. Instead they flow into very timely and contextualized expressions, and it is here that Dunn advances our discussion. When those three ideas were at work in real ways with real people in real contexts, they wore all sorts of attire, and Dunn lists fourteen different ways this basic story was told in various contexts: Return from exile Hope for prosperity, healing, or paradise A Messiah The renewal of the covenant Building a new temple Return of YHWH to Zion Triumph over, destruction of, and sometimes inclusion of gentiles Inheriting and expanding the land A climactic period of tribulation Cosmic disturbances leading to a new creation Defeat of Satan Final judgment Resurrection Sheol/ Hades morphing into a place of final retribution This list does not come from one Jewish source. Each of the themes has traces or footings in the Jewish Scriptures, the Old Testament. Each takes on either emphasis or de-emphasis depending on the author and circumstance. Each can be the entry through which the whole story of Israel can be told. It is not as if there are fourteen elements of the one story that we are called to tally up, making sure each gets represented in each retelling of Israel’s future”(46).

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:

The only way to define “the Messiah” is as the king who will rule during what we call the Messianic age. The central criterion for evaluating a Messiah must therefore be a single question: Has the Messianic age come? It is only in terms of this question that “the Messiah” means anything. What, then, does the Bible say about the Messianic age? Here is a brief description by  famous Christian scholar: “The recovery of independence and power, an era of peace and prosperity, of fidelity to God and his law and justice and fair- dealing and brotherly love among men and of personal rectitude and piety” (G.F. Moore, Judaism, II, P 324). If we think about this sentence for just a moment in the light of the history of the last two thousand years, we will begin to see what enormous obstacles must be overcome if we are to believe in the messianic mission of Jesus. If Jesus was the Messiah, why have suffering and evil continued and even increased in the many centuries since his death.” (1)

“The state of the world must prove that the Messiah has come; not a tract. Don’t you think that when the Messiah arrives, it should not be necessary for his identity to be subject to debate – for the world should be so drastically changed for the better that it should be absolutely incontestable! Why should it be necessary to prove him at all? If the Messiah has come, why should anyone have any doubt?” (Rabbi Chaim Richman, available at http://www.ldolphin.org/messiah.html).

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.

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.

Varied Messianic Expectations at the Time of Jesus

#1: The Davidic King Expectation

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. (2)

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

One of the most valuable resources that speak to the Messianic expectation of the time of Jesus is found in The Psalms of Solomon. The Psalms of Solomon is a group of eighteen psalms that are part of the Pseudepigrapha which is written 200 BC to 200 A.D. Even though these works are not part of the Protestant Canon, they are dated just before or around the time of Jesus. Therefore, they help provide the historian with valuable information about the messianic expectations at the time of Jesus. In it, there are two passages about a righteous, ruling Messiah:

Taught by God, the Messiah will be a righteous king over the gentile nations. There will be no unrighteousness among them in his days, for all shall be holy and their king shall be the Lord Messiah. He will not rely on horse and rider and bow, nor will he collect gold and silver for war. Nor will he build up hope in a multitude for a day of war. The Lord himself is his king, the hope of the one who has a strong hope in God. He shall be compassionate to all the nations, who reverently stand before him. He will strike the earth with the word of his mouth forever; he will bless the Lord’s people with wisdom and happiness. And he himself will be free from sin, in order to rule a great people. He will expose officials and drive out sinners by the strength of his word.” (Psalms of Solomon 17.32-36)

Even though this is one expectation in the Second Temple Period, it is one of several other expectations.

#2: A Transcendent Messiah/The Son of Man

“Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite title for Himself throughout His ministry. First of all, “Son of Man ” is employed to Jesus’ earthly ministry (Mk. 2:10,28; 10:45; Matt. 13:37); Second, the Son of Man was to suffer and die and rise from the dead (Mk. 8:31;9:31;10:33). Third, the Son of Man would serve an eschatological function (Mk. 8:38;13:26;14:62; Matt.10:23;13:41;19:28:24:39;25:31). In other words, there is a correlation between the returning Son of Man and the judgment of God.

The term “Son of Man” in the time of Jesus was a most emphatic reference to the Messiah (Dan. 7:13-14). The title reveals divine authority. In the trial scene in Matthew 26:63-64, Jesus provoked the indignation of his opponents because of His application of Dan. 7:13 and Ps. 110:1 to Himself. Jesus’ claim that he would not simply be entering into God’s presence, but that he would actually be sitting at God’s right side was the equivalent to claiming equality with God. By Jesus asserting He is the Son of Man, he was exercising the authority of God.

As Randall Price notes:

“ The concept of the Messiah as a “son of man” after the figure in Daniel 7:13 is expressed in a section of the apocryphal book of 1 Enoch known as Similitudes, which has been argued to have a date as early as 40 B.C. It  should be noted that scholars have found in Similitudes four features for this figure: (1) it refers to an individual and is not a collective symbol, (2) it is clearly identified as the Messiah, (3) the Messiah is preexistent and associated with prerogatives traditionally reserved for God, and (4) the Messiah takes an active role in the defeat of the ungodly. New Testament parallels with Similitudes (e.g., Matt. 19:28 with 1 Enoch 45:3 and Jn. 5:22 with 1 Enoch 61:8) may further attest to a mutual dependence on a common Jewish messianic interpretation (or tradition) based on Daniel’s vision.” (3)

#3: A Miracle Working Messiah

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

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

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

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

Also,  Paul says:

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

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

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

#4: A Prophetic Messiah

Moses and Jesus both claim to speak the words of God. 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:

 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

Here, we can notice the emphasis, “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 sentme (John 14:24).

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

Also,  while actions by other prophets such as Ezekiel and Jeremiah etc. show some significant parallels to Jesus, Jesus is closer to the actions of the Jewish sign prophetssuch 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 works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me (John 5: 36)

#5: A Priestly Messiah

The priest (Heb. cohanim) was anointed in his role as a mediator between God and the Jewish people because of his ability make to make atonement (Lev.4:26;31,35;5:6,10; 14:31).  There are implicit passages in the Hebrew Bible that discuss a priestly aspect of the Messiah (Hag:1:12-14; 2:2-4; 20-23; Zech:3:6-10;4:2-5,11-14).  In the Qumran community which predated the time of Jesus was convinced there were possibly two Messiahs, one priestly and one royal (1QS 9.11; CD 12.22-23; 13. 20-22; 14. 18-19; 19.34-20.1; CD-B 1.10-11; 2.1; 1Q Sa 2. 17-22). The Messiah’s priestly work is seen in Psalm 110:1-4.

As Harvey E. Finley says:

Psalm 110:4 reads: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’” This is a royal psalm. Two significant points are made about the One who is to sit at God’s right hand. First, the order of Melchizedek is declared to be an eternal order. Second, this announcement is sealed with God’s oath. Neither of these affirmations applied to the Aaronic order of priesthood. As with Melchizedek, Jesus was without the ancestral, genealogical credentials necessary for the Aaronic priesthood ( Hebrews 7:3;Hebrews 7:13Hebrews 7:16), he was also before Aaron and the transitory, imperfect law and Levitical priesthood  (Heb. 7-12; 7:17-18 ; 8:7 ). Melchizedek, Aaron, and his descendants all died, preventing them from continuing in office ( 7:3).  Jesus has been exalted to a permanent priesthood by his resurrection and enthronement at the right hand of God in the heaven (8:1). (5)

#6: A Suffering Messiah

In many cases, Jewish people say there is no basis for an atoning or suffering Messiah in Jewish thought. This is false. As far as any expectation of a suffering Messiah, I talk about it here- Answering an Objection: Jewish People Don’t Believe in a Suffering/Atoning Messiah!

Conclusion

Despite the fact that the are a variety of Messianic expectations, I think Jesus is the most likely candidate to fulfill all six of the ones mentioned here.

Sources:

  1. David Berger and Michael Wyschogrod, “Jews and Jewish Christianity” A Jewish Response to the Missionary Challenge(Toronto: Jews for Judaism, 2002), 20; cited in Oskar Skarsaune, In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity(Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 302.
  2.   Herbert W. Bateman IV, Darrell L. Bock, and Gordon H. Johnston, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing The Promises, Expectations, And Coming of Israel’s King ( Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2012),  80.
  3. See The Concept of the Messiah in the Old Testament athttp://www.worldofthebible.com/Bible%20Studies/The%20Concept%20…;
  4.  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.
  5. Harvey E. Finley, Melchizedek” featured in Walter Elwell, Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1996).
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