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

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

If we look here at the article, it says:

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

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

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

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

He goes onto say:

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

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

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

But as Brown says:

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

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

Brown goes onto say:

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

Book Review: The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation (New Studies in Biblical Theology) by Graham Cole

The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation (New Studies in Biblical Theology) by Graham Cole, IVP Publishers, 2013, 202 pp.

The incarnation is a central tenant of the Christian faith. For myself, having been involved Jewish- Christian theological discussions for several years now, the issue of the incarnation has come up on more than one occasion.

I read Graham Cole’s book with eager expectations in that I wanted to see if he had any new insights on the mystery of the incarnation in the Old Testament and how it relates to the New Testament. In other words, “Are there any explicit texts in the Old Testament that show the deity of Messiah?” Or, is the incarnation something that is totally foreign to the Old Testament?

Over the years Christian apologists have attempted to demonstrate that theophanies and messianic prophecies reveal a full blown deity of Jesus in the Old Testament. I have always been on the cautious side on this issue. I appreciated this book because Cole thinks that the Old Testament doesn’t reveal an explicit case for the incarnation. He elaborates on this by saying there are certainly “patterns”or “hints” of the incarnation. These patterns are seen in Old Testament themes of preparation, theophanies and messianic texts. But we can never arrive to the conclusion that the Old Testament demands or requires an explicit case for the incarnation.

After all, Paul says,

“Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that,if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:He appeared in the flesh,was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory” (1Tim. 3:16).

Note that Paul speaks of a “mystery” here. This means Paul speaks of something that wasn’t previously revealed in the Old Testament. If the incarnation was already explicit in the Old Testament, why does Paul speak of it as a mystery here. 

After years of debating this topic with Jewish people, I concur with Cole that while  patterns and hints of the deity of Jesus are in the Old Testament, as with most progressive revelation, things become much clearer in the New Testament. It is for this reason, that I highly recommend this book. Keep in mind that this book is not a full blown apologetic for the deity of Jesus. If that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend the book Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ by J. Ed Komoszewski and Robert Bowman. For a current treatment of the theophanies topic, see Andrew Malone’s Knowing Jesus in the Old Testament?

Book Review: Israel and the Church: The Origins and Effects of Replacement Theology, by Ronald Diprose

 Israel and the Church: The Origins and Effects of Replacement Theology, by Ronald Diprose, IVP Publishers, 2012, 276 pp. 

Over the years, I have done my share of reading on the topic of Israel and the Church. While I am not Jewish, I have had years of experience with talking to Jewish people about the claims of Jesus. I also grew up in a predominantly Jewish community. I have also thought long and hard about the issue of replacement theology. At this point, I have grown a bit tired of the “dispensationalist vs covenantal theology” debates.

It is for this reason, I found Israel and the Church: The Origins and Effects of Replacement Theology, by Ronald Diprose to be quite refreshing. If you are new to this discussion, Replacement Theology is a theological view that says the promises and covenants that were made with the nation Israel are no longer in the possession of national Israel. Thus, Israel’s promises and covenants now allegedly belong to another group which happens to be the Church. The ever popular N.T Wright (whom I actually agree with on many things) has provided a nice summary here. He says:

“Israel’s purpose had come to its head in Jesus’ work.”As a result, “those who now belonged to Jesus’ people claimed to be the continuation of Israel in a new situation.” Wright also argues that “Jesus intended those who responded to him to see themselves as the true, restored Israel.- N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 316.

Hence, there is no present purpose nor future restoration of Israel. I should note that some theologians like Wayne Grudhem, John Piper and others do affirm a national salvation of Israel (as mentioned in Romans 11). However, they do not think there will be a restoration of Israel in the sense of Israel playing a prominent role in the future.

What inspired Diprose to tackle this topic? He says:

“I have always been aware that Israel is important for Christian theology. However, for a long time it had seemed to me that the question of Israel had become some kind of theological football that two opposing teams of theologians kicked about in accordance with their particular agendas. For dispensationalists it was apparently important that ethnic Israel be given a high profile while for reformed theologians it was apparently important to show that, with the advent of the Church, ethnic Israel’s significance had been irrevocably eclipsed. The result was that to affirm that there are institutional distinctions between Israel and the Church was tantamount to declaring oneself to be a dispensationalist while denial of such distinctions was a sign of reformed orthodoxy. A few years ago I decided to consider Israel as a question in its own right and not as an adjunct to a given theological position. Following that decision, I made some interesting discoveries. For example, I discovered that two very different views concerning Israel have held sway in Christendom. During the early centuries, Israel was thought to be a renegade nation that should be treated with contempt. However, after the Shoah1and the birth of the modern State of Israel in 1948, a new view developed xiii according to which Israel’s status as a visible, elect nation exonerated its members from the need to exercise faith in Jesus Christ in order to be saved. The antithetical nature of these two views puzzled me and suggested that factors other than the clear biblical message had determined their development. This was confirmed as I read many of the Church Fathers and then the literature pertaining to the current Jewish Christian dialogue. I also noticed that the neglect of the biblical message concerning Israel had repercussions on Christian theology in general. While both views have important implications for hermeneutics, the effects of the earlier view were particularly evident in ecclesiology and eschatology, whereas the new view is having serious repercussions in soteriology and missiology.”

It should be noted that many theologians/scholars now prefer to be called advocates of “fulfillment theology.” Hence, they’re not favorable to the “replacement theology” category. Nor do they like to be called “superesssionists.” In my view, whatever label you give it, the end result is the same.

Replacement Theology in the New Testament

Of course, it should be noted that there is no text in the NT that says the Church is Israel, nor are there any texts that say the Church is called “Spiritual Israel.” As we see below, Justin Matyr was the first Christian writer to explicitly identify the Church as “Israel.”This is why Diprose spends a good deal of time focusing on the supposed texts in the NT that are sometimes used  by supersessionists to lend support to their view that the Church is the “New Israel.” Diprose discusses texts such as Matt. 21:43, Ephesians 2:11–22, 1 Peter 2:4–10, Galatians 6:16, and others. Exegetically speaking, none of these texts can be used to make a case that the Church is Israel. Dirpose also spends an extensive amount of time on Romans 9-11 which when looked at as a whole, makes a strong case against supersessionism. For example Dipose says:

“[Paul] denies that Jewish rejection of Christ implies God’s rejection of the Jews (Romans 11:1, 11). Although their rejection of Christ shows their current disobedience, the Jews remain included within God’s promises because God is faithful” (Romans 11:28–31). Romans 9–11 contains the only extended discussion of the problem posed by unbelieving Israel and the implications of such unbelief for the continuance of Israel as God’s elect people. However, there are other elements in the New Testament which appear to imply the permanence of Israel as God’s special, covenant people. Paul’s own apostolic ministry reflected his conviction that Israel continued to be unique among the nations. Despite the obstinate unbelief of many of his own nation, he continued to go to the Jew first (Acts 13:14, 46; 17:1–2; 18:4, 19–20; 28:16–17). That this custom was not only dictated by good missionary strategy is clear from the following passages of Romans: 1:16; 2:9–10; 3:1–4; 15:25–32. These passages demonstrate that Paul was fully prepared to make the supreme sacrifice in order to facilitate the conversion of his own race (Romans 9:1–5; 10:1). Furthermore, he described the Gentile Mission as an “offering” which he hoped would provoke envy amongst his own people in order to save some of them (Romans 15:16; cf. 11:13–14). There are other New Testament passages which seem to envisage a distinctive future for physical Israel as well, thus excluding the logic of replacement theology.”-Pg 64-65.

Dirpose devotes a good deal of space of the development of replacement theology/supersessionism, in post Apostolic thought. Of course, reading the anti-Israel quotes by Christian thinkers/apologists is never a faith building experience. Let me show a few of them:

Justin Martyr (100 – 165 AD), was an early Christian apologist).

1. He was the first Christian writer to explicitly identify the church as “Israel.”

2. 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.”

3.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?”

4. 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).

Irenaeus (130–200) wrote, “For inasmuch as the former [the Jews] have rejected the Son of God, and cast Him out of the vineyard when they slew Him, God has justly rejected them, and given to the Gentiles outside the vineyard the fruits of its cultivation.”-Irenaeus, Against Heresies 36.2, ANF 1:515.

Clement of Alexandria (c. 195) claimed that Israel “denied the Lord” and thus “forfeited the place of the true Israel.”-Clement, The Instructor 2.8, ANF 2:256.

Tertullian (c. 197) declared, “Israel has been divorced.”-Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews 1, ANF 3:152. 12.

Cyprian (c. 250), “I have endeavoured to show that the Jews, according to what had before been foretold, had departed from God, and had lost God’s favour, which had been given them in past time, and had been promised them for the future; while the Christians had succeeded to their place, deserving well of the Lord by faith, and coming out of all nations and from the whole world.”- Cyprian, Three Books of Testimonies Against the Jews, ANF 5:507.

There are many more than the ones mentioned here. But suffice, to say, one would think these so-called heroes of the faith never read Romans 9-11.

The Need to Link Israel and the Mission of Jesus

Another important outcome of supersessionism is the ignorance about the relationship with Jesus and and His mission to Israel.

Dirpose says;

“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). Hans Joachim Krau makes a different but equally radical proposal for modifying the Church’s concept of Christ. Instead of the traditional concept of a distinct person with supernatural attributes who came to fulfill the promises made to Israel, Krau proposes a kind of mystical Christology. According to this concept the Messiah and the people of the Messiah are inseparable. I propose that, instead of avoiding Christology, Christian partners in the Jewish-Christian dialogue would do well to distinguish between the relevant biblical data and the “theological embroidery”dating from post– apostolic times. In particular they should disassociate themselves from the triumphalism of the Medieval Church. In its place they should underline the Jewishness of Jesus and make clear what both Jesus and the apostles taught concerning the fulfillment of the Old Testament Messianic hope.”-Page 182.

Why does this topic matter?

From what I have seen, it seems that within the social justice crowd (not that I am against social justice), Israel is not viewed in a positive light. Hence, Israel is demonized in the media as well as in the Christian crowds that tend to fall into the pro- Palestinian movement. Sadly, many Christians are theologically illiterate which means have no concept of the role of Israel in the Bible. When you are told all that matters is that Jesus has saved you from heaven or hell, it is no wonder that many Christians don’t even know the Biblical narrative. Furthermore, with the over- reaction to The Left Behind Series, any mention of Israel as having a present or future role is automatically labeled as “dumb dispensationalism” or something worse. Sadly, in my experience, many of the points leveled against Israel are almost always straw man arguments and don’t have any exegetical basis to them. So the way I see it, this topic is important for the following reasons:

1. It impacts how we read the Bible. Hence, do we read the Bible as one continuous story (from Genesis to Revelation), or do we just read the New Testament and skip the Scriptures that both Jesus and Paul read?

2. It impacts our view of the character of God.

3. It impacts our view of ecclesiology (the study of the ekklesia).

4. It impacts our missiology: the area of practical theology that investigates the mandate, message, and mission of the ekklesia.

5. It impacts our view of eschatology.

6. It impacts our view of Israel today and the Middle East situation.

If these issues are important to you, then I recommend you read this book.

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

Just recently, I came across this article called The Personality of Mashiach by Rabbi Immanuel Schochet (1935–2013). His bio says he wrote and lectured extensively on the history and philosophy of Chassidism and topical themes of Jewish thought and ethics. He was a renowned authority on Jewish philosophy and mysticism. He was rabbi of Cong. Beth Joseph, and professor of Philosophy at Humber College, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

Anyway, I want to look at some of his points about what he considers are the qualities and characteristics of the Messiah. I then will compare his list and  consider whether Jesus does meet any of these messianic qualities and characteristics.  I also want to make it clear that I AM NOT SAYING that just because Jesus might not meet this rabbi’s requirements nor any perfect list given by the rabbinical community that this means it is settled that he failed at the messianic task.

Keep in mind that this rabbi is a bit on the mystical side. Please note that he  calls the Messiah the ‘Mashiach’ which is another word for ‘messiah.’I talk more about that here in our post called Are There Over 300 Messianic Prophecies?

 Anyway he says: 

#1: The Mashiach is Human: Mashiach and the Messianic age are the ultimate end for the world, preconceived from the very beginning, for which the world was created.1 Mashiach, therefore, is one of the things that precede the creation.2 This refers, however, to the principle and soul of Mashiach. On the actual level of the physical world’s reality, Mashiach is a human being.

Response: Judging by what I have seen in the other literature by those involved in the Hasidic Jewish movement, this is is a similar theme to what we see in Midrash Rabbah, Bamidar (Numbers) 13:6 where it says

‘From the first day that G-d created in the world, He desired to dwell with His creations in the lowest realms (tachtonim) but he did so until the tabernacle was constructed and he caused His presence (Shechinah) to dwell therein. When the princes came to bring their sacrifices, G-d said, ‘Let is be written that on this day that the world created.”

How does this relate to Jesus? Notice that in the rabbi’s comments, the Messiah proceeds creation. Also note the passage in the Midrash about the emphasis on how God desires to dwell with man. In the Bible, the Shechinah is the visible manifestation of the presence of God in which He descends to dwell among men.  The Shechinah glory is seen in a variety of visible manifestations such as light, fire, a cloud, the Angel of the Lord, or a combination of all of these.

For the Jewish people, the ultimate manifestation of the Shechinah was seen in the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai (Ex.19:16-20). Therefore, in relation to Jesus, the Shechinah takes on greater significance in John 1: 1-14. As John says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” “Dwelt”(σκήνωμα), means to“live or camp in a tent” or figuratively in the NT to”dwell, take up one’s residence, come to reside (among).” 

What’s the point? The rabbi’s comments about the Messiah proceeding creation, and God’s desire to dwell with man has much in common with John’s Gospel about the incarnation.

We should also note that the rabbi says Mashiach and the Messianic age are the ultimate end for the world, preconceived from the very beginning, for which the world was created.”

Response: Most Christians don’t know that most Jewish people link the coming of the Messiah and the Messianic age together. So what is the Messianic Age? I will offer a definition here by David Berger and Michael Wyschogrod:

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.” – 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

Another one is given by Amy Jill Levine:

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

 If you have no idea what texts these Jewish scholars are referring to when they talk about the Messianic Age, here are some hints:

1. The Jewish people are regathered to their land both before and after the Exile: Isa. 11:10-16; Jer. 3:11-20; 12: 14-17; 16: 10-18; 23:1-8; 24:5-7; 30:1-3, 10-11; 31:2-14-23; 32:36-44; Ezek.11:14-20;20:33-44; 28:25-26; 34:11-16; 23-31;36:16-36;37:1-28;39:21-29.

2. The Jewish people are ruled by their Messiah with Jerusalem as its capital: Jer. 23: 5-6; 33:17; Ezek. 37:22, 24; Zech 9: 10; 14:9.

3. Israel is recognized by the nations as being blessed: Isa. 62:2; 66:18; Ezek. 36: 23; 36; 37:28; Mal. 3:12.

4. The nations go to Jerusalem to worship God: Isa. 2: 2-4; 56: 2-8; 62: 9-11; Jer 16: 19; Zeph. 3:9; Zech 9:16; Zech 14:16-18.

5. The Temple is rebuilt with the presence of God in it: Isa. 2:2; 56:6; Ezek 37: 26-28; 40-48; 43:1-7; 48:35.

6. 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).

Of course, anyone that is familiar with the premillennial view of eschatology, knows that they believe that many of these texts will be fulfilled at the return of Jesus. Hence, they believe in the restoration of Israel. Most Preterits and amillennialists don’t see any fulfillment of these texts. Anyway, in regards to the rabbi’s comments, 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 covenants and God’s role with Israel and the nations.

Stay tuned for more in Part Two of our series on this topic.


A Look at Messianic Prophecy: The Messiah as “The Branch”


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

The Hebrew Bible records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod. 29:1-9 ), kings (1 Sam 10:1;2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34), and sometimes prophets (1 Kings 19:16b) as a sign of their special function in the Jewish community. Also, when God anointed or authorized for leadership, in many cases he provided the empowering of the Holy Spirit to do complete the task (1 Sam. 16:13; Isa. 61:1). However, just because someone was anointed in the Old Testament to perform a specific task doesn’t mean they are “the Messiah.” The messianic concept also has a wider dimension than the royal, priestly, and/or prophetic person. Included in this wider view are some of the characteristics, tasks, goals, means, and consequences of the messianic person.

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.

The Branch

Let’s look at a name for the Messiah which is “Branch.” “Branch” or “Sprout” comes from Hebrew word “tzemach” or “netser.”  I offer some comments after each Branch passage.

The Branch in Zechariah

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.  And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”  Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by. And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua,  “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.  Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day.  In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.” (Zech 3: 1-10)

  1. Here the branch is given a traditional royal Davidic title “my servant”
  2. There seems to be a distinction between Joshua and the figure who is the branch.
  3. Joshua is cleansed and commissioned.
  4. Zech 3:1-10; Jer. 33:14-26 anticipated a royal branch to arrive shortly after the people would return from the exile and the priesthood was reconsecrated.
  5. Many commentators (both Jewish and Christian) have attempted to see the Branch as Zerubbabel. However, this would conflict with the other “Branch” passages (see below). Also, Zerubbabel only came as  governor, not a king. While we can note that Zerubbabel built the second temple in 516 B.C. the Messiah will build the Temple in the new age (Isa. 2: 2-4; Eze. 40-42; Mic:4:1-5; Hag 2:7-9).

“And say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord. It is he who shall build the temple of the Lord and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’  And the crown shall be in the temple of the Lord as a reminder to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah. “And those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the Lord. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.”  (Zech. 6: 12-15)

Here we see the following:

  1. Zechariah unites two offices that were forbidden to be held by a priest or a king (2 Chron.26:16-23).
  2. Crowns symbolize a king and priest.
  3. Zechariah reveals that the priestly and kingly functions can be combined in one person.
  4. Who is the referent?  The royal branch did not arrive on the scene (read Zech 9-14). To no priest has ever such an event happened.
  5. The referent here will sit on the throne of David and rule, not Joshua.
  6.  If it is referring to Jesus,  in the first coming he becomes the Temple (John 2: 18-22).  But then he will be part of the Millenial Temple:(Isa. 2: 2-4; Eze. 40-42; Mic:4:1-5; Hag 2:7-9).

Theodore Laetsch states the following:

Joshua was not to pronounced king of Jerusalem. Such a transference of the royal crown from the tribe of Judah and the house of David to the tribe of Levi would  have been not  only obnoxious to the Jews,  but also have voided all the promises of the Lord to the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:0ff) and to the house of David (2 Sam. 7:12ff). The Lord will not contradict Himself, or the prophet the high priest, and the governor would have been guilty of a despicable, blasphemous deception. (1)

Regarding this text, Walter Kaiser also points out the following:

So He shall be called a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both (v.13d, e). This is the greatest Old Testament passage on the fact that the coming Messiah will be both a Davidic King a Priest (cf. Heb 7). So amazing is this prediction that it has troubled many a commentator. Was it likely that a “priest” would “sit upon His throne?” The Greek Septuagint attempts to soften this prediction by substituting “in His right hand” for “on His throne.” But as we know from the royal Psalms (e.g.,Ps. 110:4), the Annointed One would exercise as everlasting priesthood in addition to His royal and prophetic offices. Thus Zechariah daringly combines the priestly and kingly offices into one person, “the Branch.” (2)

Given that Kaiser mentions Psalm 110:1-4, I will mention he following about ts text:  While David did perform priestly functions,  he could not be a priest forever because he died (and remained dead, so far as his physical existence is concerned).  So if the Messiah is to be David’s son, then how can he also be a priest, unless he is of a different line of priests, one that was before and in some capacity greater than the line of Levitical priesthood? And how could he be a priest forever? He would have to not die.

We need a descendant of David that is greater than David, and he must also serve as priest in some way outside of the qualification of being a Levite, and must do so forever. But then the Psalmist answers the his own riddle: The priest would be of the order (not the line) of Melchizedek – a king of Righteousness and of Peace. And the very way that he would be of the order of Melchizedek is by virtue of being a priest forever – without end. Melchizedek was, as you recall, greater than Abraham – having been before Abraham.

Finally, regarding both of the Branch texts in Zechariah, John B. Metzger offers some helpful comments:

God uses words that should not be missed or counted as insignificant. When He calls the BRANCH a servant when speaking to Joshua, He is referring to the basic ministry of the priest. The priest was a servant of the Lord who mediated between the people and their God. These two passages in Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12-13 are extremely important in understanding the full ministry of the BRANCH, as understood from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and now Zechariah. (3)

The Branch in Jeremiah

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’  “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he[ahad driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.” (Jer. 23: 5-7)

The context is that Israel is dwelling safely in the land. Hence, the text could be considered part of what it is called Prophetic Telescoping. Prophetic Telescoping  is prophecy that bridges the First and Second Comings of the Messiah. In this way, prophecy telescopes forward to a time. The prophets saw future events as distant “peaks” (i.e., events) without an awareness of the large time gaps between them. Also, the prophets understood that history had two major periods—the present age and the age to come–although they did not always make a hard distinction between the two. Prophetic Telescoping stresses progressive revelation which means that God does not reveal everything at once. There are  texts that are  fulfilled in the first appearance of Jesus. But there is another part that will be fulfilled in the future. In this sense, the Messiah will build the Temple in the new age (Isa. 2: 2-4; Eze. 40-42; Mic:4:1-5; Hag 2:7-9). In other words, one day the Messiah will be King over His people (Matt. 19:28).

The Branch in Isaiah

“In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel. And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.” (Isa.4: 2-6)

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

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

In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia,from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. He will raise a banner for the nations  and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah  from the four quarters of the earth.  Ephraim’s jealousy will vanish, and Judah’s enemies will be destroyed; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,   nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim.  They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia to the west;   together they will plunder the people to the east. They will subdue Edom and Moab,   and the Ammonites will be subject to them.  The Lord will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian sea; with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand  over the Euphrates River. He will break it up into seven streams so that anyone can cross over in sandals.  There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria, as there was for Israel   when they came up from Egypt.” –Isa. 11: 6-16.

It could not be more evident that vs 10-16 have not come to pass yet.

Isaiah 53:

Isa 53:2:“ For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.”

A canonical reading shows how Isaiah connects between the servant of Isaiah 53 and the coming King of Isaiah 11:1-16. In verse one it says, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” This indicates the Servant is a royal figure who is a Davidic King. Also, as Daniel I. Block notes, when the messiah is both characterized as a servant with a specific name, that name is always “David” or a person with a Davidic connection:

And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken. (Ezek. 34: 23-24)

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ (Jer. 23: 5-6)

Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. (Zech. 3:8) (4)

Note: To see how the Suffering/Atoning Messiah is treated in the Jewish literature, see here:


The Messiah was to be both Priest and King. In other words, the Messiah has a dual role- as a priest he would provide atonement and make intercession for the people. As a King, he would rule and reign! As the Jewish Messiah, Jesus is the ideal sufferer for the nation the representative King, the one greater than David.


  1. Theodore Laetsch, The Minor Prophets (St. Louis:Concordia, 1956) 439.
  2. Walter Kaiser, The Commincator’s Commentary: Micah—Malachi. 21 vols. (Waco, TX: Word Books. 1992).
  3. John B. Metzger, Discovering The Mystery of the Unity of God (San Antonio, Ariel Ministries;  2010), 610.
  4. Daniel I. Block, “My Servant David: Ancient Israel’s Visions of the Messiah” in Richard S. Hess and M. Daniel Carroll R, Israel’s Messiah In The Bible and The Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), 48