Six Reasons For the Need For A Verbal Witness

Note: ” I have heard the objection more than once from people who try to say that it is arrogant that Christians try to persuade others by offering good reasons to change one’s beliefs. In reality, those who make this objection are simply trying offer good reasons to persuade Christians to change their own beliefs. In other words, those who try to prevent Christians from evangelizing are really an evangelist for their own viewpoint” -Paul Copan

We are living in a day of religious pluralism and theological illiteracy. On a very general level many Christians have been told they need to share the Gospel with people. But why? What is it that motivates you to even engage the culture for the Christian faith? Or maybe you just don’t engage it all. Overseas, Christians are being persecuted and killed for their beliefs. So don’t take it for granted that we have the freedom to share what we believe with others. I have come up with SOME reasons as to why we should desire to give a verbal witness for our faith.

1. The Starting Point

If you don’t agree with the following syllogism, it makes it hard to want to share your faith:
1. The New Testament documents are historically reliable evidence.
2. The historical evidence of the New Testament shows that Jesus is God incarnate. This claim to divinity was proven by His miracles/His speaking authority, His actions, and His resurrection.
3. Therefore, there is reliable historical evidence that Jesus is God incarnate.

So if this syllogism is correct, it leads to the next syllogism:

The Command to Make Disciples: Matt 28:19

1. Whatever Jesus teaches is true.
2. Jesus taught that we are to “Go and make disciples of the nations” (Matt 28:19).
3. Therefore, Christians should desire to “Go and make disciples of the nations” (Matt 28:19).

This command does not mean we need to be sent to some far distant land to preach the Gospel. The command applies to every Christian no matter where they are located. God uses us wherever we are.

It is true that much of the Church has focused on the “go” part of this command. But we need to remember that The Great Commission is accomplished while we “go” about living our daily lives.

The context of Matt 28:19 is that in fulfillment of the Great Commission, we are to make disciples. We are to baptize new believers and we are to teach them. Unless there has been teaching and instruction about the commands of Jesus, there has not been any discipleship. So it is clear that people can’t enter into the process of discipleship without hearing about the Gospel.

2. Do people need to HEAR about the NAME?

Acts 10: The context of this chapter is Peter’s encounter with Cornelius. The normative way God reveals Himself to all humans is through the proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah by a specific individual who takes the initiative to explain the message of salvation to another. This matches up with the biblical data. There are cases in the Bible where people are sincerely religious but still had to have explicit faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord. For example, in this chapter, Cornelius is shown to be a God fearer. He worshiped the correct God. However, he received a vision with instructions to send for Peter and awaited his message (Acts 10: 1-6, 22, 33; 11: 14). Because Cornelius ended up responding to special revelation concerning Jesus the Messiah, he attained salvation. In the Bible, people do experience salvation by the explicit preaching of the gospel (Luke 24:46-47; John 3:15-16;20-21; Acts 4:12; 11:14; 16:31; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Heb. 4:2; 1 Pet.1:3-25; 1 John 2:23; 5:12).

In Acts 10:43 Peter says that “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his NAME.”

There is a similar theme in Acts 4:12: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

What is the significance of this verse in relation to the name of Jesus?

How could Jesus be declared as the only one whom God’s salvation is effected? In the ancient world, a name was not merely what someone was called, but rather the identification of the being and essence of its bearer.

We see that just as in the Hebrew Bible where the name of God represents the person of God and all that he is, so in the New Testament “the Name” represents all who Jesus is as Lord and Savior. James Edwards sums it up:

” In the ancient world, a name was not merely what someone was called, but rather the identifi cation of the being and essence of its bearer. To the Jewish people, an idol could not properly have a “name” because it has no being represented by the name (Is. 44:9-21). The “name” to which the apostles refer does not signify an event, but a person, in whom the authority and power of God was active in salvation. The saving activity of God was and is expressed in the name of Jesus Christ.The name of Jesus is thereby linked in the closest possible way to the name of God. “No other name” does not refer to a second name of God, but to the unity of God with Jesus, signifying one name, one nature, one saving activity. The shared nature of God and Jesus is signaled in the most striking way by the custom of the early church to pray to God in the name of Jesus” (1)

3. God has given the world more revelation of Himself in the person of Jesus the Messiah:

Historical verification is a way to test religious claims. We can detect God’s work in human history and apply historical tests to the Bible or any other religious book. The late Anthony Flew said the resurrection of Jesus was the best attested miracle claim that he had seen. Perhaps the most reasonable expectation is to ask WHERE and WHEN God has broken through into human history.

Let’s look at what Paul preached in Acts 17. It details Paul’s mission efforts to two synagogues and then his journey into Athens. As he is speaking to his audience towards the end of the chapter he says the following:

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31).

What stands out here:
(1) Paul is urgent in his appeal for repentance
(2) According to Acts 14: 26, Paul states there was “a time in which God allowed the nations to walk in their own ways,” but now Paul states in Acts 17: 30, “The times of ignorance is over” – God has given man more revelation in the person of Jesus the Messiah
(3) Paul uses the same language as is used in the Jewish Scriptures about judgment (Psalm 9:9)
(4) The judgment will be conducted by an agent, a man who God has appointed
(5) Paul treats the resurrection as an historical fact and he uses it as a proof of God’s appointment as Jesus as the judge of the living and the dead! (2)

Have you ever been asked this question?

What about those people in the Tanakh (the Old Testament ) that never exercised explicit belief in Jesus as the Messiah? What about people like Melchizedek, Jethro, Job and Rahab?

In response, it is true that people in the Tanakh did not have explicit knowledge of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. However, this objection fails to take into account the issue of progressive revelation. The principle of progressive revelation means that God does not reveal everything at once. In progressive revelation, there are many cases where the New Testament declares explicitly what was only implicit in the Tanakh. One of these truths is that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah who takes away not only the sins of Israel, but the entire world (John 1: 29;3:16). That is what we see in Paul’s message in Acts 17.

4. The Reign of God has broken into the world

In the New Testament, the Greek word for kingdom is “basileia,” which denotes “sovereignty,” “royal power,” and “dominion.” Biblical scholar J. Julius Scott Jr. has noted that in the ancient world, “kingdom” referred to “lordship,” “rule,” “reign,” or “sovereignty,” rather than simply a geographical location. Scott asserts “sovereignty (or rule) of God” would be a better translation than “kingdom of God,” since such a translation denotes God’s sphere or influence or control and includes any person or group who, regardless of their location, acknowledge His sovereignty. (3)

There is no kingdom without a King. 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. If the reign of God is breaking into human history, then the King has come. If the Messianic age has arrived, then the Messiah must be present.

There is a relationship between Paul’s commission in Acts 26:16-18 and 2 Corinthians 4:4-6:

“I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:15-18)

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Christ’s sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,“ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
(2 Corinthians 4: 4-6).

We see the relationship between these two passages:

Acts 26:16-18:
(1) Paul’s commission;
(2) Vision of God
(3) Existence under Satan
(4) [Blinded-presupposed]
(5) Turning to God
(6) From darkness to light

2 Corinthians 4:4-6:
(1) Paul’s commission
(2) Vision of God
(3) Under “god of this age”
(4) Blinded
(5) Implied: Turning to God
(6) From Darkness to Light

Source: Data adopted from Seyoom Kim, Paul and the NewPerspective: Second Thoughts on the Origin of Paul’s Gospel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 102; cited in John Piper’s God is the Gospel.

5. All of us miss the mark!

Imagine someone with a bow and arrow who is trying to hit the bullseye on a target but they keep missing. This is a picture of what sin is. The Greek word for sin is “harmatia” which means “to miss the mark.” Sin is missing the mark, falling short of God’s absolute standard of perfection. Sin is going astray, being in autonomy of God. Because of sin, humans have an ALIENATION problem. ALIENATION means to be estranged or split apart from someone or even a community, etc. ALIENTATION does not allow us to have the harmony and proper relationship with God that he intended.

There is a Hebrew word called “Shalom” which means peace, completeness, or wholeness. It can it can refer to either peace between two entities (especially between man and God or between two countries). Why do we lack this wholeness? Sadly, sin causes us to be fragmented. Jesus is the one who offers reconcilation and shalom with our Creator.

6. We share our faith because we think Christianity is true

Guess what? We are living in a day where there is a loss of objective truth. I hope we all know that our faith doesn’t make Christianity true. My faith won’t change the FACT that objectively speaking, God exists or doesn’t exist or that Jesus rose from the dead in the past. The proposition “God exists” means that there really is a God outside the universe. Likewise, the claim that “God raised Christ from the dead” means that the dead corpse of Jesus of Nazareth factually rose from the dead in the context of real time, space, and history.

What about the person who says, “If Jesus works for you, that is great, but it is not my thing.” This is what is called “The Felt Needs Gospel.” It is true that the Gospel does meet a variety of needs in people’s lives. But I still concur that we need to present our faith as something that is true and reasonable. As J.P. Moreland says:

“ Today, we share the gospel as a means of addressing felt needs. We give testimonies of changed lives and say to people if they want to become better parents or overcome depression or loneliness, that the Jesus is their answer. This approach to evangelism is inadequate for two reasons. First, it does not reach people who may be out of touch with their feelings. Second, it invites the response, “Sorry, I do not have a need.” Have you noticed how no one responded to Paul in this manner? In Acts 17-20, he based his preaching on the fact that the gospel is true and reasonable to believe. He reasoned and tried to persuade people to intelligently accept Jesus.” (4)

1. Edwards, J.R., Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Group, 2005, 106.
2. Marshall. I.H., The Acts of the Apostles. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Grand Rapids: MI: Intervarsity Press. 1980, 288-290.
3. Scott Jr, J.J., Customs and Controversies: Intertestamental Jewish Backgrounds of the New
Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995, 297.
4. Moreland, J.P. Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress. 1997, 25.

Is Jesus the Messiah? An Outline on Jewish Messianism

The Messiah Concept

1. What does the word Messiah mean? Messiah means “Anointed One” (Heb. messiah) (Gk. Christos) and  is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.”

2.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. “Anointed One” almost never refers to the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible.

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

4. Remember that words and concepts are separate entities. “Word-bound” approaches to what really are concept studies can lead us astray.

5. The image of the Messiah and the idea of messianism comprise a broad concept that far outreaches the few instances where the term “anointed” is used. It is the concept that we are seeking to define, not merely one particular word.  This can only be achieved by reading not only the Bible but extra-biblical Jewish literature including the Apocrypha, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Targumim, etc. (see Craig Evans handout on Introduction to Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies).

6. Before 70 CE, we can hardly find any occurrence of the absolute term “the Messiah”; instead the word in Greek or Hebrew occurs with a genitive or possessive pronoun like “Messiah of Israel,” “Messiah of the Lord,” “Messiah of Aaron,” “Messiah of the Lord,” etc;  no single meaning is ever assumed.

7. 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.” (See section on messianic titles).

The Messianic Task:  Traditional Jewish Views

1. A personal Messiah is irrelevant; many Jewish people don’t see the need for a Messiah to fix the problems of the world.

2.  The Messiah is not divine-he is an earthy figure “anointed” to carry out a specific task.

3. 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.

4.  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).

5. The Messiah will spread the knowledge of the God of Israel to the surrounding nations (Isa.11:9; 40:5; 52:8).

 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

 The Messiah in Rabbinical Literature

1Messiah Ben Yossef and Messiah Ben David: The prophecy of Zech. 12:10 is applied to Messiah ben Yossef in that he is killed and that it will be followed by a time of great calamities and tests for Israel. Shortly after these tribulations upon Israel, Messiah ben David will come and avenge the death of Messiah ben Yossef, resurrect him, and inaugurate the Messianic era of everlasting peace.

2.What is interesting is that R. Saadiah Gaon elaborated on the role of Messiah ben Yossef by starting that this sequence of events is contingent. In other words, Messiah ben Yossef will not have to appear before Messiah be David if the spiritual condition of Israel is up to par.

3.This is why it says in the Talmud, “If they [the people of Israel]  are worthy of [the Messiah] he will come ‘with the clouds of heaven’ [Dan 7:13] ;if they are not worthy, ‘lowly and riding upon a donkey’ [Zech. 9:9]” (b. Sanhedrin 98a

Messianic Fulfillment Depends on Moral Regeneration

1. The advent of Messiah will not be heralded by the actions of a pagan or Christian king.

2. Israel’s salvation depends on Israel itself.

3.The Messiah will be a sage who will only come when Israel fully accepts God’s sole rule.

4.The coming of the Messiah is not dependent on historical action but on moral regeneration. How about reading John 3:3-8?

 The Davidic Messiah

The capitalized term “Messiah” is often confined to a precisely delineated concept, viz., the anointed king of the Davidic dynasty who would establish in the world the definite kingdom intended by God for Israel. Such a notion of the Messiah is the product of a long development traceable in three stages:

First Stage: Before Eighth Century BC

1. God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17:6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15)

2. Gen 49:9-12: alludes implicitly to the reign of David; this prophecy says the Messiah will have to come before the Tribe of Judah loses its identity.

3. The Davidic Covenant: David is promised 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 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.

4. The Royal Psalms:Psalm 2;72;110 are considered part of this first stage of messianism.

Second Stage:  Eighth Century BC to the Babylonian Exile

1. Messianic Expectation centers on the re-establishment of the throne of David and deliverance of Israel from its foreign oppressors.

2. This expectation resulted from disappointment at the destruction of Jerusalem and suspension of Davidic dynasty.

3. Isaiah: speaks of the time when God that would revive the Davidic dynasty and ensure its permanence. God would raise up a successor of David who would be unlike any past Davidic king (Is.7:14-17; 9:6-7;11:1-10), but he is not spoken of as “The Messiah.”

4. Micah 5:1-6 speaks of the new David coming from Bethlehem; Jer.23:5-6 uses messianic titles such as “branch” or “shoot” to describe this figure.

5. Amos likewise proclaimed that a figure would emerge from the Davidic lineage who would fulfill God’s covenant promises to the nations (9:11-15).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.

Third Stage: From the Exile to NT Times           

The Psalms of Solomon (a Pharisaic composition written about 50 B.C.) describes the Davidic messianic expectation: The “Son of David” will:

1. Violently cast out foreign nations occupying Jerusalem (Pss.Sol:15,24-25,33)

2. Judge all the nations of the earth (Pss.17:4;31;38-39, 47) and cause the nations to  “serve him under his yoke” (Pss.Sol.17:32)

3. Reign over Israel in wisdom (Pss. Sol.17:23,28,31,35,41,18:8), which involves  removing all the foreigners from the land (Pss. Sol.17:31) and purging the land of unrighteous Israelites (Pss. Sol. 17:29, 33, 41) in order to eliminate all oppression (Pss. Sol.17:46) and gather to himself a holy people (Pss. Sol.17:28, 36;18:9).

Jesus as The Davidic King

1.  Jesus is of the “seed of David,” who was sent by God to restore God’s kingship over mankind (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; Rev. 22:16). Jesus  is both the son of David and the one greater than David (Psalm 110:1-4).

Let’s look at Romans 1:1-5

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

We see the following:

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

Remember, 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?

2. In following the pattern of the Hebrew Bible, Jesus (as the Davidic King) will return to this present earth and after the complete removal of all man’s kingdoms (cf. Dan 2:35;44;7:13-14; Zech 9:10;14:1-4;9-11;Matt24;27-31;25:31-33; Rev:11:15;19:11-16;20:1-6).

3. Remember Prophetic Telescoping:  Telescoped prophecy bridges the first and second appearances of Yeshua. In the second coming, “the obedience of the nations will be his,” and “His everlasting dominion will not pass away, his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed”; Gen 49:10-12: Dan 2:37-44;7:13-14; Psalm 2: Isa.9-6-7;11:1-10.

Messianic Expectations (cont):  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).

1. 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).

2. In the Qumran community which predated the time of Yeshua 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).

3. Forgiving sins was a prerogative of God alone (Exod. 34: 6-7; Neh.9:17; Dan. 9:9;) and it was something that was done only in the Temple.

4. The Messiah’s priestly work is seen in Psalm 110:1-4.

5. As with Melchizedek, Jesus was without the ancestral, genealogical credentials necessary for the Aaronic priesthood ( Hebrews 7:3 Hebrews 7:13 Hebrews 7:16 ), he was also before Aaron and the transitory, imperfect law and Levitical priesthood  ( Hebrews 7:11-12 Hebrews 7:17-18 ; 8:7 ). Melchizedek, Aaron, and his descendants all died, preventing them from continuing in office ( 7:23 ). Jesus has been exalted to a permanent priesthood by his resurrection and enthronement at the right hand of God in the heaven ( 8:1 ).

 The Suffering/Atoning Messiah

1. There are several texts that speak to the possibility of a suffering Messiah (Zech 13:7; Dan 9:26; Tg.Isa.53; T.Benj.3:8; 4Q521frgs.9, 24; 4Q285 5.4; 4 Ezra7:29-30;2 Bar.30:1).

2. There are also several expressions of the belief that the death of the righteous will benefit, or even save, God’s people (1 Macc: 6:26-28 17:20-22; T Moses 9-10).

The Prophetic Messiah

1. The characteristics of the prophet (Heb. nabi) of Deuteronomy 18:15-19: (1) He would be an Israelite; (2) he would be like Moses; and (3) he would be authorized to declare the word of God with authority.

2. Emphasis on listening to the Prophet: See Mathew 17:5

3. Jesus says “I say to you,” thirteen times in this one sermon (Matt. 18,20,22,28,32,34,39,44;6:2,5,16,25,29). He even challenged his hearers to base their own lives on his words (Matt. 7:24,26). Yeshua cites not one single rabbi or religious authority. Scholars have found no precedent in the Tanakh, nor have scholars found any precedent in the rest of ancient Jewish literature.

4. Miracles have a distinctive purpose: to glorify the Creator and to provide evidence for people to believe by accrediting the message of God through the prophet of God. Miracles confirmed the prophetic claim: Moses (Ex. 4:1-5; 8-9); Elijah (1 Kings 18:38–39).

5.  Miracles confirmed the Messianic claim of Jesus  (Matt 12: 38-39; John 3: 1-2; Acts 2: 22).

6.  Matt. 11:4-6: Jesus’s evidential claim can be seen in the following syllogism:
1. If one does certain kinds of actions, then one is the Messiah.
2. I am doing those kinds of actions.
3. Therefore, I am the Messiah.

Michael Bird’s excellent book Are You the One Who Is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question, has some insight about this issue as well. Bird says:

“It is historically naive to depict first-century Palestine as ravaged with continual uprisings and to posit some Roman occupying forces as having to put down one messianic pretender after another. Alternatively, it is equally reductionistic to suppose that many of the tumultuous events of the first century were untouched by messianism. The death of Herod the Great led to several uprisings; although things cooled for a while, in the period 4 BCE to 66 CE, there were many socioreligious movements at the time of the procurators that show expectation and hope for God’s miraculous interventions and gradually a spirit of zealotry beginning to emerge. I doubt that we have to wait as long as Simon ben Kosiba in 135 CE to find another messianic leader after the death of Jesus. The following lists indicate messianic expectations that are explicitly titular or implicitly messianic.”-Are You the One Who Is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question, pgs 47-49.

Bird goes onto list the expectations using the title “Messiah.” Notice that Bird knows  in order to understand messianism, we need to read the Bible but also read extra-biblical Jewish literature including the Apocrypha, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, The Dead Sea Scrolls,  and the Targumim, etc, (see Craig A Evans: “Introduction” to Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature).

“Messiah of Aaron and Israel” (CD 12.23–13.1; 14.19; 19.10–11; 20.1; 1QS 9.11)

“Messiah of Israel” (1QSa 2.12, 14, 20)

“Messiah of righteousness” (4Q252 frg. 1 5.3–4)

“Heaven and earth will obey his Messiah” (4Q521 2.1)

“Their king shall be the Lord’s Messiah” (Pss. Sol. 17.32; cf. 18.7)

“May God cleanse Israel for the day of mercy and blessing for the appointed day when his Messiah will reign” (Pss. Sol. 18.5)

“Lord of the Spirits and his Messiah” (1 En. 48.10)

“authority of the Messiah” (1 En. 52.4)

“For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him” (4 Ezra 7.28) “

“This is the Messiah whom the Most High has kept until the end of days, who will arise from the offspring of David” (4 Ezra 12.32) “The Messiah will begin to be revealed” (2 Bar. 29.3) “when the time of the appearance of the Messiah has been fulfilled” (2 Bar. 30.1) “the kingship of the house of David, thy righteous Messiah” (Shemoneh ‘Esreh 14)

Son of Man: (Dan. 7:13–14; 1 En. 46.1–5; 48.2; 62.1–15; 63.11; 69.27–29; 71.14–17; 4 Ezra 13.1–13, 25–26; Justin Martyr, Dial. 31–32)

Man/Ruler: (Philo, Rewards 95; Num. 24:7, 17 LXX) Rod (CD 7.19–20; Justin Martyr, Dial. 100, 126) Prince (Ezek. 34:24; 37:25; Dan. 9:25–26; CD 7.20; 1QSb 5.20; 1QM 3.16; 5.1; 4Q285 frgs. 4–6; Jub. 31.18; Sib. Or. 3.49–50)

Branch of David: (4Q161 frgs. 8–10.15, 22; 4Q252 5.3; 4Q285 frg. 5.3–4; T. Jud 24.4–6) Scepter (1QSb 5.27–28; 4Q161 frgs. 2–4 2.9–13; frgs. 5–6 3.17; frgs. 8–10, 22–26; 4Q252 5.2)

Son of God :(4Q246 1.9; 2.1; Mark 15:39)

Elect/Chosen One (1 En. 39.6; 40.5; 45.3; 48.6; 49.2, 4; 51.3, 5; 52.6, 9; 53.6; 55.4; 61.5, 8, 10; 62.1; Apoc. Abr. 31.1)

King (Mark 15.32 and par.; Sib. Or. 3.286–87, 652) Snow-white cow/horned ram (1 En. 90.9–12, 37–38) Star (T. Levi 18.3; T. Jud. 24.1; Sib. Or. 5.158–60)

Righteous One (Acts 3:14; 22:14; 1 John 2:1; 1 En. 38.2; 53.6)

Historical figures referred to as “Messiah”:

Jesus of Nazareth

Simon ben Kosiba

Implicitly messianic historical figures not referred to as “Messiah”:

Judas the Galilean Simon the servant of Herod

Athronges Menahem Simon bar Giora-

 

 Figures who claimed royal prerogatives between 4 B.C.E and 68-70 C.E but are not called “the” or “a” Messiah:

1. In Galilee 4 B.C.E.: Judas, son of bandit leader Ezekias (War 2.56;Ant.17.271-72)

2. In Perea 4 B.C.E.: Simon the Herodian slave (War 2.57-59;Ant 17.273-77)

3. In Judea 4 B.C.E.: Athronges, the shepherd (War 2.60-65;Ant 17.278-84)

4. Menahem: grandson of Judas the Galilean (War 2.433-34, 444)

5. Simon, son of Gioras (bar Giora) War 2.521, 625-54;4.503-10, 529;7.26-36, 154)

Sources:

1. Berger, D. The Rebbe, The Messiah, And The Scandal Of Orthodox Indifference. Portland, Oregon: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. 2001, 171-173.

2 Bird, M.F.,Are You The One To Come? The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009.

3.  Brown, R.E. An Introduction to New Testament Christology. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1994, 155-161.

4. Evans, C.A. and P. W. Flint. Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1997.

5.  Elwell, W. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996.

6.  Schochet, J.I. Mashiach: The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition. New York: S.I.E. 1992, 93-101.

7.  Zannoni, A. Jews and Christians Speak of Jesus. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.1994, 113-114.

Teaching Series on Why the Resurrection of Jesus Matters

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

 

 

Jewish Professor Speaks About the Incarnation of Jesus: Is it Really a Non- Jewish concept?

Dr. Benjamin D. Sommer, Jewish Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary, a non-Messianic Jew, stated the following in one of his lectures concerning the book he wrote called ‘The Bodies of God and The World of Ancient Israel’:

“When the New Testament talks about Jesus as being some sort of small scale human manifestation of God, it sounds to Jews so utterly pagan, but what I’m suggesting is perhaps the radical idea for us Jews that in fact, it’s not so pagan. That in fact, there was a monotheistic version of this that existed already in the Tanakh. And that the Christian idea, that Jesus, or ‘The Logos’, The Word, as the Gospel of John describes it in it’s opening verses, that the presence of The Word or Jesus in fleshly form – in a human body on the planet earth – is actually God making God self accessible to humanity in a kind of avatar. This is what we were seeing in the ‘J’ and ‘E’ texts [differing Hebrew manuscripts]. This is much less radical than it sounds. Or when the Gospel of John describes God’s Self as coming down and overlapping with Jesus – which is a famous passage early in the Gospel of John – that is actually a fairly old ancient near eastern idea of the reality, or self, of one deity overlapping with some other being. So, this is not just Greek paganism sort of just smoothed on to a Jewish mold, which is a way that a lot of Jews tend to view Christianity. This is actually an old ancient near eastern idea, that is an old semitic idea, that is popping up again among those Jews who were the founders of Christianity. We Jews have always tended to sort of make fun of the trinity. ‘Oh how can there be three that is one? If they’ve got this three part God, even if they call it a triune God, a God that is three yet one, really, really, they are pagans. They are not really monotheists like we Jews are or like the Muslims are. Those Christians are really pagan.’ But I think what we are seeing in the idea of the trinity that there is this one God who manifests Itself in three different ways, that’s actually an old ancient near eastern idea that could function in a polytheistic context as it did for the Babylonians and Canaanites, but it can also function in a monotheistic context as it does I think in the ‘J’ and ‘E’ texts. In fact, to say that three is one, heck, Kabbala [Jewish mysticism] is going to go further than that. They say ten is one. The Zohar says ten is one. Actually certain parts of Kabbala say that within each of the ten spherote has ten spherote within them so that there is a hundred spherote, we are taking this much further than the Christians did. One of the conclusions that I came to, to my shock, when I finished this book [The Bodies of God and The World of Ancient Israel], is that we Jews have no theological objection to the trinity. We Jews for centuries have objected to the trinity, have labeled it pagan, have said: ‘Well, that’s clear. There you can see that the core of Christianity doesn’t come out of the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, what they call the Old Testament. Really, they are being disloyal to the monotheism of the Old Testament.’ Actually, I think that’s not true. To my surprise, I came to the conclusion, somewhat to my dismay, I came to the conclusion that we Jews have no theological right to object to the trinity. Theologically, I think that the model of the trinity is an old ancient near eastern idea that shows up in the Tanakh and in a different way shows up in Jewish mysticism as well.”

You can listen to the lectures here:

“What Does it Mean to Say Christianity is True?”

A common approach in apologetic discussions is to ask someone what would convince them  Christianity is true. And if it is true, would you believe it?  After all, we rely on truth every day of our lives. We want our banks, our employers, government, friends, and  family to be truthful with us. And why would you want to believe something that is false? But the more I have thought about this question, I think it leads to some very important questions.

Truth

1. First of all, when you say the word ‘true’ or ‘truth’ you have to define what you mean! Whatever determines a test for truth determines one’s apologetic approach. It is quite common for the Christian or Christian apologist to defend  the correspondence theory of truth. Thus, truth is what corresponds to reality. As Norman Geisler says:

“Truth is what corresponds to its referent. Truth about reality is what corresponds to the way things really are. Truth is “telling it like it is.” This correspondence applies to abstract realities as well as actual ones. There are mathematical truths. There are also truths about ideas. In each case there is a reality, and truth accurately expresses it. Falsehood, then is what does not correspond. It tells it like it is not, misrepresenting the way things are.”–Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Apologetics, pgs,741-745.

Now here is the challenge: Many people aren’t asking whether Christianity corresponds to reality.  Instead, they are asking if it is true because of the pragmatic benefits they see in people’s lives. This is a very popular approach. In this argument, many people say their religious beliefs have been tried and tested out in the reality of life.  In other words, “Christianity works because it is true!”

This does have some merit. After all, if the Christian faith is the one true path, it should make a radical difference in the reality of life. The challenge of this argument is that in some cases, it seems Christianity doesn’t work. Christians have challenges in their families, work related issues and relationships. However, just because Christians don’t always reflect the character of Jesus and don’t always show the difference it makes, this doesn’t mean Christianity is false. It could be that the person is not under healthy teaching/discipleship or living in sin. So the pragmatic argument can be a tricky one. Everyone knows Christians have done some amazing things for the world (see here), but we also have some inconsistencies.

So now when we are challenging people on whether Christianity is true, sometimes the goal is to break them out of all other tests for truth (especially the pragmatic one) and get them to ask whether Christianity corresponds to reality? So our attempt  to get people out of a post modern view of truth is quite challenging. 

“The Christ” and First Century Context

If we are going to say “Christianity” is true, obviously  it is about Jesus Christ. But what does that mean? “The comparable New Testament Greek word is Christos, from which we get the English word “Christ.” But this Greek word carries the same connotations as the Hebrew word — “the Anointed One” which is is where the word “messiah” comes from. “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, prophets and kings. So are we saying Christianity is true because Jesus is the “Christ”? Thus, he is the Messiah that was discussed in the O.T.? Does this come up in your discussions?  Let’s look at how the apostles spread the Gospel in Acts.

1. The promises by God made in the Hebrew Bible/The Old Testament have now been revealed with the coming of Jesus the Messiah (Acts 2:30;3;19;24,10:43; 26:6-7;22).

2. Jesus was anointed by God at his baptism (Acts 10:38).

3. Jesus began his ministry at Galilee after his baptism (Acts 10:37).

4. Jesus conducted a beneficent ministry, doing good and performing mighty works by the power of God ( Acts 2:22; 10:38).

5. The Messiah was crucified according to the plan of God (Acts 2:23).

6. He was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples (Acts 2:24; 31-32; 3:15-26;10:40-41;17:31;26:23).

7. Jesus was exalted and given the name “Lord” (Acts 2:25-29;33-36;3:13;10:36).

8. He gave the Holy Spirit to form the new community of God (Acts 1:8;2;14-18;33,38-39;10:44-47).

9. He will come again for judgment and the restoration of all things (Acts 3:20-21;10:42; 17:31).

10. All who hear the message should repent and be baptized because of the finished work of Jesus (Acts 2:21;38;3:19;10:43, 17-48; 17:30, 26:20).

 

The Resurrection

For many of us, we say Jesus is the “Christ”- (the Messiah) because he rose from the dead. But there isn’t a lot about the Messiah rising from the dead in the O.T. Not to mention that hardly any Jews today think the resurrection is a messianic qualification. I still think the resurrection is important. But just remember, you may have to get the person to see that this historical claim corresponds to reality.

Natural Theology?

Some Christians have followed the C.S. Lewis approach when he said that “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else” (see The Weight of Glory). To apply what Lewis says, we might utilize what is called inference to the best explanation. The inference to the best explanation model takes into account the best available explanation in our whole range of experience and reflection. For example, when we look at these features of reality, which provides a more satisfactory explanation:

  • How do you explain the Origin of the Universe?
  • How do you explain the Mathematical Fine-Tuning of the Universe?
  • How do you explain the Terrestrial Fine-Tuning of Planet Earth?
  • How do you explain the Informational Fine-Tuning of the DNA molecule?
  • How do you explain the Origin of Mathematical Laws?
  • How do you explain the Origin of Logical Laws?
  • How do you explain the Origin of Physical/Natural Laws?
  • How do you explain the Origin of the First Cell?
  • How do you explain the Origin of Human Reason?
  • How do you explain the Origin of Human Consciousness?
  • How do you explain the Origin of Objective Morality?
  • How do you explain Ultimate Meaning in Life?
  • How do you explain Ultimate Value in Life?
  • How do you explain Ultimate Purpose in Life?

Using God as an explanatory explanation is seen in philosophical theology or natural theology arguments. The book The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology does a fine job in handling this issue. To see a short example of this approach online see,  The Return of the God Hypothesis  by Stephen C. Meyer or Paul Copan’s God: The Best Explanation

The challenge is that  if we try to use natural theology arguments in showing Christianity is true, this will only get us to a generic or Deistic God at best. Natural theology doesn’t show us the character of God nor does it reveal all the attributes of the God of the Bible. In other words,  these arguments only get people half the way to the “Christ.” Thus, we have to do historical apologetics.

Conclusion

Apologists have their work cut for them in showing what they mean when they say “Christianity is true” or “If Christianity is true, would you follow Jesus?” We need to remember that the definitions of terms is crucial to our cultural engagement.

Daniel Boyarin Lecture on Two Powers of Heaven

 

Here is a 25-minute video of Jewish studies / rabbinic scholar Daniel Boyarin (UC-Berkeley) is discussing rabbinic material on the two powers in heaven. Boyarin is one of the few Jewish / rabbinic scholars who pay special attention to the two powers idea. It was filmed in Russia, but you can disregard the Russian text / subtitles. As you might suspect, it’s fascinating to hear about this material from a rabbinics expert.

 

For those that aren’t familiar with Boyrian’s work, he released a book a ways back called The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ. In it, he argues that the deity of Jesus is not something that  broke from Jewish beliefs and teachings. Jesus and his followers, Boyarin shows, were simply Jewish. What came to be known as Christianity came much later, as religious and political leaders sought to impose a new religious orthodoxy that was not present at the time of Jesus’s life.

For those that want to go deeper on the Two Powers topic, see Alan Segal’s work:

 

Responding to Critics, Seekers, and Doubters

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