Six Messianic Expectations and One Messiah

Jewish messianism is a concept study. The word “messiah” means “anointed one” and is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.” The 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 19:16). Also, when God anointed or authorized for leadership, in many cases he provided the empowering of the Holy Spirit to 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.” Hence, we can conclude that “anointed one” was not used as a title with a capital “M” in the Old Testament.

Also, there are hardly any texts in the Jewish Scriptures that say “When the Messiah  comes, he will do x, y,  and z. However, most Jewish people think there is going to be a messianic age. Let me give an example:

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

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

Remember:  the Jewish Scriptures don’t reveal an explicit, fully disclosed, monolithic “messianic concept.”  To build on the comments stated here, Stanley Porter says:

Intertestamental and New Testament literature suggests that the expectation was all over the map. Some Jewish people did not expect a Messiah. Others thought that the Messiah would be a priestly figure, still others a royal deliverer. Some scholars interpret the evidence to suggest that at least one group of Jewish thinkers believed there would be two messiahs, one priestly and one royal. From what we know we can be certain that the New Testament did not create the idea of the Messiah. But we can also be sure that there was nothing like a commonly agreed delineation of what the Messiah would be like. The latter point means that modern-day Christians who shake their heads about why the Jewish people did not universally recognize the Messiah, considering all the fulfilled prophecy, really do not understand Old Testament literature.-Porter, The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments (McMaster New Testament Studies), 29.

Varied Messianic Expectations at the Time of Jesus

#1: The Davidic King Expectation

While God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17: 6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15), he also promised David that one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever (2 Sam.7:12-17; 1 Chr.17:7-15). In other words, David’s line would eventually culminate in the birth of a specific person who will guarantee David’s dynasty, kingdom, and throne forever.  Royal messianism is seen in the Psalms. For example, in Psalm 2  which is a coronation hymn, (similar to 2 Kings 11:12) is  the  moment of the king’s crowning. God tells the person to whom he is speaking that He is turning over the dominion and the authority of the entire world to Him (v 8). While David did have conquest of all the nations at that time, (Edom, Moab, Ammon, Philistia, Amalek, which is described as the conquest “of all the nations”  1 Chron. 14:17; 18:11) in Psalm 2, one day God will subjugate all the nations to the rule of the Davidic throne. (2)

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

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

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

Even though this is one expectation in the Second Temple Period, it is not the most prominent one in the New Testament.

#2: A Transcendent Messiah/The Son of Man

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

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

As Randall Price notes:

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

#3: A Miracle Working Messiah

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

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

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

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

Also,  Paul says:

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

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

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

#4: A Prophetic Messiah

Moses and Jesus both claim to speak the words of God. It is also evident at the time of Jesus, that Jewish people were looking for a prophet like Moses. For example:

The people said, “When they heard these words, some of the crowd began to say, “This really is the Prophet!” (John 7:40)

Now when the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus performed, they began to say to one another, “This is certainly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” (John 6:14)

John the Baptist began to preach, he was asked, “Are you the Prophet?” (John 1:19-23).

Also, Peter refers to Jesus as the prophet of Deut. 18:15-18:

And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.—Acts 3: 17-24

Peter is referring to the Deut.18: 15-18 text:

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

Here, we can notice the emphasis, “And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” The prophet only respeaks the words of God (cf. Jer 1:9: Isa. 59: 21). God said to Moses “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (Exod. 4:12).

 We see  in the context of Numbers 16, Moses faced his opposition in that they challenged his headship and authority.  Hence, they challenge the idea that Moses has a special mission and that he was sent  from God.  In response, Moses  defends his mission in that he has never “acted on his own,” i.e., claiming for himself an authority which he did not have.  Moses says, ” Hereby you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord”  (Num.16:28).

 As far as Jesus being like Moses, we see a similar pattern in that Jesus doesn’t claim to speak or act on his own authority:

 So Jesus answered them and said, My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him”  (John 7: 16-18)

So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught meAnd he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world. (John 8:26)

For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me” (John 12: 49-50).

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works (John 14:10).

Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me (John 14:24).

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

Also,  while actions by other prophets such as Ezekiel and Jeremiah etc. show some significant parallels to Jesus, Jesus is closer to the actions of the Jewish sign prophets such as Moses. “Signs” have a specific apologetic function in that they are used to provide evidence for people to believe the message of God through a prophet of God. Hence, the signs Moses does proves he is truly sent from God.  Moses had struggled with his prophetic call when he said “ But they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’ (Exod. 4:1). God assures Moses that  the “signs”  will confirm his call:  

 God says, “I will be with you. And this will be אוֹת “the sign”  to you that it is I who have sent you” (Exod. 3:12).

“If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.” (Exod 4: 8-9).

We see the signs are used to help people believe.

 Moses “performed the “signs” before the people, and they believed; … they bowed down and worshiped” (Exod. 4:30–31)

“Works” are directly related to the miracles of Jesus (Jn. 5:20; 36;10:25; 32-28; 14:10-12; 15:24) and is synonymous with “signs.” Interestingly enough, when Jesus speaks of miracles and he calls them “works” he doesn’t refer to  Exod. 4:1-9, but to Num. 16:28, “Hereby you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord.” For example:

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me” (John 10:25).

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me;  but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:37-38).

But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me (John 5: 36)

#5: A Priestly Messiah

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

As Harvey E. Finley says:

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

#6: A Suffering Messiah

As far as any expectation of a suffering Messiah, see Michael Brown’s pdf here.

Conclusion

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

Sources:

  1. David Berger and Michael Wyschogrod, “Jews and Jewish Christianity” A Jewish Response to the Missionary Challenge (Toronto: Jews for Judaism, 2002), 20; cited in Oskar Skarsaune,  In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity (Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 302.
  2.   Herbert W. Bateman IV, Darrell L. Bock, and Gordon H. Johnston, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing The Promises, Expectations, And Coming of Israel’s King ( Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2012),  80.
  3. See The Concept of the Messiah in the Old Testament at http://www.worldofthebible.com/Bible%20Studies/The%20Concept%20…;
  4.  Evans, C.A., and P. W. Flint, Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1997). Qumran is the site of the ruin about nine miles south of Jericho on the west side of the Dead Sea where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in nearby caves. The Dead Sea Scrolls contains some 800 scrolls with parts or the entirety of every book of the Old Testament except Esther, discovered in the caves near Qumran.
  5. Harvey E. Finley, Melchizedek” featured in Walter Elwell, Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1996).
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Book Review: “But God Raised Him from the Dead”: The Theology of Jesus’ Resurrection in Luke-Acts

 

But God Raised Him from the Dead: The Theology of Jesus’ Resurrection in Luke-Acts (Paternoster Biblical Monographs), Kevin L. Anderson, 2007, 392 pp. Wipf & Stock Pub

The resurrection of Jesus is one of the most important apologetic topics there is. There has been more than enough work done on defending the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. When I received a copy of  Kevin Anderson’s But God Raised Him from the Dead: The Theology of Jesus’ Resurrection in Luke-Acts, I realized this book is not an apologetic for the historicity of the resurrection. Rather, it is scholarly treatment on the theological issues related to background of  the resurrection of Jesus. Anderson discusses important topics such as what the Jewish Scriptures say about the resurrection  (Dan. 12: 13, Hosea 6:1-3, Ezekiel 37: 1-14).

He also analyzes texts  in the Second Temple Jewish period such as 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch (Ch 3).  But even though the resurrection was birthed in the Jewish world, the Jewish world at the time of Jesus was surrounded by Hellenism (Ch 4).  Therefore, Anderson  also rightly discusses the relationship between Hellenism and the resurrection. One area that Anderson says has been neglected is the relationship between the resurrection and the restoration theme in Luke/Acts (Ch 5). The resurrection of Jesus is the central theme of Acts and it is directly related to the restoration of Israel. Granted, N.T. Wright and others have discussed this issue.

But given the abundance of restoration texts we see in the Jewish Scriptures (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; 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), it should be no surprise that this plays a role in how the first followers of Jesus interpreted his resurrection. In Acts 1: 6-7, Peter asks Jesus if he is going to restore Israel and the same theme comes up in Peter’s sermon in Acts 3. Even Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 is to Jews `from every nation under heaven’ (Acts 2:5) and  “the whole house of Israel” (Acts 2:36) which displays evidence for beginning of the restoration of Israel. Ezekiel 37 which is associated with the reunification of the southern and northern tribes and their restoration to the land (37:15-22), the giving of God’s Spirit to revive and restore his people (37:14; 39:29), and the rule of the new David (37:24-25) is in the background of Peter’s sermon here.

Thus, for Second Temple Jews, the resurrection of Jesus  was the mark of the end of the present age and the beginning of the eternal new age, the time of the eschaton. “Resurrection” was much broader then simply the afterlife. Rather, when the followers of Jesus thought of resurrection, they also thought of the “new creation,” “kingdom of God,” “final judgment,” and, in many quarters, the promised “Messiah.”  So, when it comes to Acts, we see the “inaugurated eschatology” theme in which the resurrection of Jesus has  both the “already” and “not yet” aspects to the Kingdom of God. Therefore, the restoration of Israel has started, but it still has a future aspect to it.

Over the years, I have noticed that about 8 out of 10 Christians think salvation is only about the afterlife. When I ask them how they view the resurrection, they seem a bit puzzled. It is a book like this (as well as N.T. Wright’s work) that can help provide a corrective. Also, once again, to try to divorce the resurrection theme from Judaism or the history of Israel is a fatal mistake. Given the centrality of the resurrection of the resurrection of Jesus, Christians can only benefit from learning about the origins of this doctrine.

Anderson’s book is probably too scholarly for the average lay person. There are easier introductions such as N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope. But for those that want to pursue this topic on a scholarly level, I highly recommend this book. It is both rich and rewarding!

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A Look at Messianic Prophecy: A Look at the Timing of the Messiah’s Coming: Genesis 49:8-12: The Universal Rule of the Messiah

Introduction

Anyone who has studied evidential apologetics will see that many apologists have laid a great emphasis on messianic prophecy as one of the keys to demonstrating Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. One thing that is left out of these discussions is that when it comes to prophecy, it is not always predictive. The Greek word for fulfill is πληρόω (pleroo) – which has a much broader usage than “the prediction of an event.”

For example, in Matthew 5:17- Jesus says he came to “fulfill” the Law and the Prophets. In this passage “fulfillment” has a sense of embodying, bringing to completion, or perfecting. Fulfillment is one of the main themes of the New Testament, which sees Jesus and his work bringing to fruition the significance of the Hebrew Bible. However, let’s look at a case of predictive prophecy.For a prophecy to be predictive it must meet the following criteria.

1. A biblical text clearly envisions the sort of event alleged to be the fulfillment.

2. The prophecy was made well in advance of the event that was predicted.

3. The prediction actually came true.

4. The event predicted could not have been staged but anyone but God.

5. Clear Prediction: Is the prophecy publicly available with a reliable text and evident interpretation?

6. Documented Outcome: Is the prophecy documented by publicly available facts?

7. Is there evidence for it in world history?

8. Proper Chronology: Is there empirical evidence that is available presently and publicly to document that indeed the prophecy does predate its fulfillment? [1]

It must be remembered that the strength of this evidence is greatly enhanced if the event is so unusual that the apparent fulfillment cannot plausibly explained as a good guess.

One of the most pivotal texts that speak to a time frame about the first coming of the Messiah is Gen. 49:8-12:

“Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (Gen 49:8-12)-KJV: NOTE: I chose the KJV here because most other translations replace “Shiloh” with “until he comes to whom [obedience] belongs.” Please read on:

In the previous context (Gen. 49: 1-7) we see the following issues:

1. Jacob, prophesied various details as to the fortunes and fates of the descendants of these men.

2. God is revealing to Jacob the future history of his descendants.

3. The older brothers are disqualified from the birth-right (i.e., Reuben, Simon, Levi).

4. Jacob foretold a future for the tribe of Judah that pictures him as the preeminent son – the prominent tribe.

5. Judah: is the name of the son of Jacob/or the name of the southern kingdom of the divided nation of Israel.[2]

We see the following about this passage:

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

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

3. He is going to be a King

4. The rule of Judah is envisioned by Jacob as extending beyond the borders of Israel to include the entire world.

5. The nations of the earth shall benefit (i.e., on the idea of a beneficial rule see comments on v. 11, 12) is in keeping with the author’s view of God’s covenant promises to Abraham in Genesis 12:3: “in you all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”

Let’s take Genesis 49:8-12 and see what outside Jewish literature says (i.e.,The Apocrypha, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Philo, The Talmud, Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Rashi, and the Targumim). This is a similar approach that Michael Brown has taken in his book Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Volume Three: Messianic Prophecy Objections.

First of all, let me introduce what is called a Targum:

1. Targums are the Aramaic Translations of the Jewish Scriptures (The Tanakh), that were read in the synagogues on the Sabbath and on feast or fast days.

2. Scholars usually assume the Targums were needed because the loss of Hebrew fluency by Jewish people growing up during the exile.

3. Targums are supposed to represent rabbinic Judaism after C.E. 70. Targums originated in Palestinian Judaism but later editions were done in Babylon.

4. All of the extant Targums seem to date from 2nd century C.E. and later, yet a number of the translations would preserve readings that were current in the first century. [3]

Let’s see how a couple of Targums read Genesis 49:8-12:

Targum Onkelos

The transmission of dominion shall not cease from the house of Judah, nor the scribe from the children’s children, forever, until the Messiah comes, to whom the Kingdom belongs, and whom the nations obey. He binds the foal to the vine, his colt to the choice vine; he washes his garment in wine, and his robe in the blood of grapes. He shall enclose Israel in his city, the people shall build his Temple, the righteous shall surround him, and those who serve the Torah shall be with him. His raiment shall be of goodly purple, and his garment of the finest brightly -dyed wool. His fountains shall be red with his vineyards, his vats shall drip with wine; his valleys shall be white with corn and with flocks of sheep.”

Targum Psuedo Jonathan

Kings and rulers shall not cease from the house of Judah, not scribes teaching the Torah from his seed, until the time when the youngest of this sons, the Messiah, shall come and because of him the peoples shall flow together. How lovely is the king Messiah, who is to rise from the house of Judah.”[5]

Also, Midrash Rabbah 97 says the following about the prophecy:

Furthermore, the royal Messiah will be descended from the tribe of Judah as it says [quoting Isaiah 11:10]. Thus the tribe of Judah were descended from Solomon who built the first Temple Zerubbabel who built the second Temple and from him will be descended the royal Messiah who will rebuild the Temple. Now of the Messiah it is written [quoting Psalm 89:37]. [6]

Even Rashi who was a leading Tanakh and Talmudic exegete of the Middle Ages says about Genesis 49:10:

The Scepter shall not depart from Judah from David and thereafter. These (who bear the scepter after the termination of the kingdom) are the exlilarchs (princes) in Babylon, who ruled over the people with a scepter, who were appointed by royal mandate…nor the student of the law between his feet. Students: these are the princes of the land of Israel…until Shilo comes the king Messiah , to whom the Kingdom belongs. [7]

David Baron (1857 – 1926) a Jewish believer and scholar was author of “The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah”, “ Types Psalms and Prophecies,” and “The Servant of Jehovah” says the following about Gen. 49:8-12:

With regard to this prophecy, the first thing I want to point out is that all antiquity agrees in interpreting it of a personal Messiah. This is the view of the LXX Version [Septuagint—KB]; the Targumim of Onkelos, Yonathan, and Jerusalem; the Talmud; the Sohar; the ancient book of “Bereshith Rabba;” and among modern Jewish commentators, even Rashi, who says, “Until Shiloh comes,that is King Messiah, Whose is the kingdom.”[8]

It is also worth noting that The Dead Sea Scrolls help shed some light on this text as well: In 4Q Patriarchal Blessings, the interpretation of the Genesis text reads:

A ruler shall not depart from the tribe of Judah while Israel has dominion. There will not be cut off a king in it belonging to David. For the staff is the covenant of the kingship; the thousands of Israel are the feet, until the coming of the Messiah of Righteousness, the branch of David, for to him and his seed has been given the covenant of kingship over his people for everlasting generations.” [9]

A Closer Look at the word “Scepter” and “Shiloh”

The precise meaning of “Shiloh” is challenging. It is either a reference to a place, as it is elsewhere in the Old Testament (e.g. Joshua 18:1,8,9; 19;51; I Samuel 1:13, etc.), or, it may refer to q proper name for the Messiah. This is seen in the Talmud in Sanhedrian 98b which answers the question of what the Messiah’s name is by saying, “Shiloh is his name, as it is said, “Until Shiloh Come.”[10]  In Judaism, Names describe the nature of the Messiah’s mission.

The NIV may have the best translation which says NIV: “until he comes to whom it belongs.” In this case, “Shiloh” is taken as a possessive pronoun. This translation favors the LXX (Greek Septuagint) reading. Furthermore, in Ezekiel 21: 25-27,  Ezekiel uses the Shiloh text as part of a judgment oracle directed against Zedekiah to declare the Lord’s intention not to put a ruler on David’s throne ‘until he comes to whom it belongs.’ Since both Genesis 40:10 and Ezekiel 21:27 deal with Judah and the government or ownership of that tribe, the argument becomes quite compelling.[11]

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

When did Judah lose their tribal independence?

Judah did have possession of the scepter and staff until Herod obtained kingship over Israel in 38 B.C. While Judah ceased to be an independent tribe, they did still continue to be a self-governing nation within the Roman Empire. They did lose the right to administer capital punishment. This is seen at the trial of Jesus in that it was the Romans who enforced the death sentence. This transfer of power is even mentioned in the Talmud: “A little more than forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the power of pronouncing capital sentences was taken away from the Jews.“–Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin, filoi 24.[12]

What Are the Strengths of Prophecy?

1. This verse indicates that He (The Messiah) will have to come before the Tribe of Judah loses its identity.

2. The rabbis passed laws which would preserve the identity of the tribe of Levi, but Jews from other tribes lost their identity.

4. Therefore, the Messiah will have to come before 70 A.D.

5. The “Scepter” did depart in the sense that at the coming of Jesus we see the Jewish people lost their power to adjudicate capital cases and administer capital punishment.[13]

 But let’s look at another aspect of the prophecy:

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

We have been discussing the temporal element of this prophecy. Remember, “Until” in vs 10 is inclusive in the sense that the dominion of the tribe of Judah would not end with Shiloh’s  coming, but would continue on after the arrival of this divine world ruler. In other words, Shiloh himself must belong to the tribe of Judah.

But there is another aspect of this prophecy that remains partially unfulfilled. Apparently, an individual from Judah’s seed came who will rule over both his own nation Israel and the “peoples” of not just Israel but the rest of the world (also see Gen 17:6; Exod. 15:16; Deut. 32:8).  In other words, the Gentile nations will come to him in submissive obedience! We should note that part of this prophecy has not been fulfilled. While there are many Gentiles who have submitted to the rule of Messiah (Jesus) in their lives, all the nations are not under the universal rule of the Messiah. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean that Jesus is not the King right now. He most certainly is but there is more to his future rule than the present.

Thematic Correlation

Numbers 24:17-19:

Let’s now look at Numbers 24:17-19 where we see a similar theme is seen in that a ruler shall arise out of Israel and how a descendant of Jacob will have universal dominion:

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob,  A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab,  And tear down all the sons of Sheth. “Edom shall be a possession, Seir, its enemies, also will be a possession, While Israel performs valiantly.“One from Jacob shall have dominion, And will destroy the remnant from the city.-NASB

The Messianic Interpretation of this prophecy is the following:

1. The context is about Balaam’s oracle. In vs 7 we see that there shall come forth a man who shall be Lord over many nations and his kingdom shall be exalted in Gog.

2. Balaam references two important points: First, “a star shall come from Jacob” and “a scepter comes forth from Israel.”

3. The figure is visible in the term” scepter” who is an earthly king who will use his earthly power to subdue the earth.

4. “Star” may refer to his heavenly origin. (see John Metzger, Discovering the Mystery of the Unity, 385-386).

What does the Outside/Extra-Biblical Literature Say About This Prophecy?

Targum Onkelos:” When a king shall rise out of Jacob, and out of Israel Messiah shall be anointed.”

Targum Jonathan: “When a valiant King shall rise out of the house of Jacob and out of Israel, Messiah, and a strong Scepter shall be anointed.”

John Sailhamer notes that there is a thematic correlation between Gen 49:8-12 and other passages in the Tanakh. He says:

The plural word “nations” rather than singular suggests that Jacob had a view of Kingship that extended beyond the boundaries of the Israelites to include other nations as well. In any case, later biblical writers were apparently guided by texts in formulating their view of the universal reign of the future of the Davidic king. For example, “Psalm 2:8 “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance”; Daniel 7:13-14, “There was one like a son of man…he was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him.” (see John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch As Narrative A Biblical-Theological Commentary (Grand Zondervan, 1995), 235.

It should be noted that “Son of Man” is a messianic title. As we see in Daniel 7: 13-14:

I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him.  “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

Once again, we see that the nations will come under the universal rule of the Son of Man. Note: To see more on the Son of Man and the issue of messianic prophecy, click here:

Psalm 2

Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’” Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!  (NASB)

After reading this, a few things stand out:

1. The figure in the Psalm is called “The Lord’s Anointed” (v 2), his King (v 6) and his Son (vv. 7, 12).

2. Psalm 2 should be read as a coronation hymn, (similar to 2 Kings 11:12) and today marks the moment of the king’s crowning.

3. Is this passage referring to King David? God tells the person to whom he is speaking that He is turning over the dominion and the authority of the entire world to Him (v 8).

How does Jesus fulfill this text?

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?

But once again, in relation to Psalm 2, we can ask if this figure has been given universal rule over the entire world, has this taken place yet? In one sense, yes. Many people have bowed their knee to the Messiah. And even if all the nations don’t acknowledge it, Jesus participates in God’s sole rule over all things:

Phil: 3:20-21: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”

Eph. 1:21-22: Paul speaks of Jesus being ”far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet…”

But after reading Genesis 49:8-10, Psalm 2 and Daniel 7:13-14, we need to remember what is called “prophetic telescoping.” These texts are part of several texts in the Hebrew Bible where part of the text is fulfilled in the first appearance of Jesus. But there is another part that will be fulfilled in the future. In this sense, Jesus will return and establish the earthly, national aspect of the kingdom of God (Is. 9:6; Amos 9:11; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14; 27; Is. 11:11-12; 24:23; Mic. 4:1-4; Zech.14:1-9; Matt. 26:63-64; Acts 1:6-11; 3:19-26). In other words, one day the Messiah will be King over His people (Matt. 19:28).

Conclusion: 
We should be thankful for God’s actions within human history. If God has brought to pass the first coming of His Son, He will surely bring to pass His glorious return. May we all wait with eager anticipation.

Sources:


[1] Points 1-8 are pointed out in  R. D. Geivett and G.R. Habermas, In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case For God’s Actions in Human History (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. 1997), 221-223.

[2] Michael Rydelnick, The Messianic Hope: Is The Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010),  47-48.

[3] John Rolling, The Jewish Targums and John’s Logos Theology (Peabody Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010), 9-10.

[4] See Samson L. Levy , The Messiah: An Aramaic Interpretation,(New York: Hebrew Union College, 1974). Targum Onkelos covers the Pentateuch and probably has many authors. Along with Targum Jonathan, they are both considered as an “official” Targums in the sense that  they both represent rabbinical Judaism after C.E. 70. For more on this topic, see Rolling, The Jewish Targums and John’s Logos Theology, 10-11.

 [5] Ibid. Targum Jonathan consists of the Former and Latter Prophets. Targum Jonathan has traditionally been subscribed to Jonathan Ben Uzziel who lived in first century C.E. However, many scholars think that it may have been a product of more than one author and may have continued to modified into the fourth century. For more on this topic, see Rolling, The Jewish Targums and John’s Logos Theology, 10-11.

 [6] Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998), 21-23. Midrash comes form the Hebrew root ‘darash’, meaning to search or investigate. Midrash attempts, through minute examination and interpretation of the Tanach, to bring out the deeper or ethical meaning of the text. There are many different collections of Midrash. The largest collection is called Midrash Rabbah (The Great Midrash), which consists of a number of volumes. Midrash Rabbah contains volumes on the Chumash (Five Books of Moses) and the Hamesh Megillot (Five Scrolls, from Ketuvim). The Hebrew word for “law” is Torah. Torah means “direction, guidance, instruction.” There are 613 of the commandments in the Torah,which were decreed for the Jewish people.

 [7] Douglas Pyle, What The Rabbonim Say About Moshiach (United States: Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data, Third Edition, 2010), 17-18.

 [8] David Baron, Rays of Messiah’s Glory (Barking, Essex, U.K: The Messianic Testimony, Second Edition, 2000), 258.

 [9] Various translations of 4QPBless are found in Millar Burrows, More Light on the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Viking, 1958), 401; Geza Vermes, Scripture and Tradition(Leiden: Brill, 1961), 53; cited in Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 18-50 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 660.

 [10] Rydelnick, The Messianic Hope: Is The Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? , 48.

 [11] Ibid, 49-51.

 [12] The appendix of Michael Brown’s Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus Vol 2 (Grand RapidsMI: Baker Books, 2000), defines the Babylonian Talmud as the foundational text for Jewish religious study. It consists of 2,500,000 words of Hebrew and Aramaic commentary and expansion of the Mishnah. The Jerusalem or Palestinian Talmud is similar to the Babylonian Talmud but a bit shorter and less authoritative in the Jewish community. It reached its final form about 400 C.E.

 [13] Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology, 21-23.

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The Jewish Background of the Incarnation in The Gospel of John

In the introduction of his book called The Case For The Real Jesus, author and apologist Lee Strobel comments that a basic search for Jesus at Amazon.com will produce 175, 986 books on the most controversial figure in human history.1 Opinions about Jesus can range from him being a social revolutionary, an eschatological prophet, a social reformer, a source of a higher power, or even an enlightened being.2 For the Orthodox Christian, Jesus is God incarnate. For the unbelieving Jewish person, Jesus is simply another failed Messiah in the history of Judaism. And for the Muslim, Jesus is regarded as a prophet, but is certainly not God in human flesh.

Furthermore, for some in the Jewish community as well as liberal theologians, the Orthodox Christian claim of Jesus as the incarnate Word of God is the product of the Hellenization or the “Gentilization of Christianity.”3 As church historian Adolph von Harnack said, “The Christological dogma is a product of the spirit of Hellenism on the soil of the Gospel.” 4

So who is Jesus? For the Christian, the doctrine of the incarnation affords its founder (Jesus), to stand apart from any other founder of a world religion.

The following questions need to be asked: (1) Is the doctrine of the incarnation the result of the Hellenization or the Gentilization of Christianity? (2) How can the apologist utilize one of the most Christological passages in the New Testament (John 1:1-3) to demonstrate that Jesus is the incarnate Word of God? (3) What role does Jewish categories such as “Wisdom,” “Word,” and “Shechinah,” play in communicating Jesus as the incarnate Word of God?

A Divine Messiah?

Moses Maimonides (1138- 1204), was a medival Jewish philosopher whose writings are considered to be foundational to Jewish thought and study. Maimonides asserted that since God is incorporeal, this means that God assumes no physical form.5 Therefore, God is Eternal, above time, Infinite, and beyond space. Maimonides also stated that God cannot be born, and cannot die.6 For Maimonides, the Messiah will be born of human parents, nor be a demi-god who possess supernatural qualities.7 In his famous apologetic work Dialogue with Trypho,Justin Matyr is given a response to whether there is even a Messiah-confession that relates to faith in the incarnation. Trypho the Jew says the following about this issue:

Those who affirm Him [Jesus] to have been a man, and to have been anointed by election, and then to have become Christ, appear to speak more plausibly than you [Christians] who hold to those opinions which you express. For we [Jews] all except that Christ will be a man [born] of men, and that Elijah, when he comes, will anoint him. But if this man appears to be Christ, he must certainly be known as man [born] of men (Dial. 49:1,emp. added). 8

Wisdom Christology

Within Judaism, the description of divine attributes as personified beings is a feature of ancient Jewish language. In relation to descriptions of these divine attributes, Wisdom is the most prominent example.9 First century Jews were strongly monotheistic, so to them, the figure of Wisdom was not a second God. Wisdom is described not only as a personification of God, but as a separate person from God.10

One passage in the New Testament that plays a pivotal role to the deity of Jesus is John 1: 1-3, “In the beginning wasthe Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” The theme of incarnate Word of God is displayed in other New Testament Scriptures such as 1 Cor. 8:6; Col.1:15-17; Heb.1:2-3; Rev.3:14). The point of these Christological passages is that God created the world through Jesus and by Jesus.11 Scholars who specialize in Christology have labored to find an explanation for pre-existence in Judaism that can form the background for Christology.

Therefore, the question becomes which thing or person-which X-is playing an imperative role in Judaism in statements such as “God created the world through X,” then the answer can be explained by glancing at the Jewish writings of the Second Temple period; the only explanation for such an X is the Wisdom of God.12 For example, some of the Scriptures speaking of the Wisdom of God are seen in Prov. 3:19, “The LORD by wisdom founded the earth, By understanding He established the heavens,” as well as in Prov. 8:29-30, “When He set for the sea its boundary so that the water would not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth; then I was beside Him, as a master workman.” 13

During the Intertestamental period, a Jewish person who was trying to keep the commandments that had been prescribed within the Torah would be considered somewhat odd.14 Therefore, the concept of Wisdom became increasingly important because of the challenge of Hellenism. This was one of the tensions that were on the hearts of the authors who penned The Book of Sirach, The Wisdom of Solomon, and The Book of Wisdom.15 Written during the period between the Old and New Testaments, they provide a valuable background for the importance of Wisdom in the New Testament. As just stated, Prov.3:19; 8:29-30 stress the importance of the Wisdom of God in the mediatorship in creation. There are several passages in the Johannine prologue that demonstrate the author was familiar with the Wisdom literature:

John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Wisdom of Solomon 9:9: With you (God) is Wisdom, who knows your works and was present when you made the world.

John 1:4: In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

Proverbs 8:35: For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD.

John 1:11: He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

1 Enoch 42:2: Wisdom went forth to make her dwelling among the children of men, and found no dwelling place.16

Wisdom and Torah

The role of Wisdom and Torah plays an imperative role in the ongoing Jewish-Christian dialogue. But is there any possibility that Christianity and Judaism can find common ground? According to the immanent Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner, there is an irreconcilable division between both faiths. As Neusner says:

Judaisms and Christianities never meet anywhere. That is because at no point to Judaism, defined by Torah, and Christianity defined by the Bible, intersect. The Torah and the Bible from two utterly distinct statements of the knowledge of God. The Torah defines Judaism-all Judaism’s- and the Bible defines Christianities- all Christianities. The difference between Torah and the Bible cannot be negotiated, and those shaped by the one can never know God as do those educated by the other. That is why faithful Judaism can never concede to the truth of Christianity; at its foundations it rests on a basis other than the Torah of Sinai. 17

Given Neusner’s credibility in both Jewish and Christian scholarship, his comments should not be discarded. However, just as there are passages in the Intertestamental literature and the book of Proverbs about the personification of wisdom as an associate in the creation process, there are also passages that speak about the identification of Wisdom and the Torah. The Torah being seen as preexistent is also seen as an agent of creation. In Midrash Rabbah on Genesis 1:1, it says:

The Torah declares: “I was the working tool of the Holy One blessed be He” [cf. Prov. 8:29 “I was with him as a master worker” (Hebrew, amon)]. In human practice when a mortal king builds a place, he builds it not with his own skill but with the skill of an architect. The architect moreover does not build it out of his head, but employs plans and diagrams to know how to arrange the chambers and the wicket doors. Thus God consulted the Torah and created the world, while the Torah declares, “By ‘The Beginning’ God created” [Gen 1:1], “The Beginning” referring to the Torah, as in the verse, “The Lord made me The Beginning of His way” [Prov. 8:22]. 18

In relation to the Torah and Jesus, it is also significant to note the following comment by New Testament scholar Oskar Skarsaune:

The Word became flesh and tabernacles among us” (John1;14, authors translation). In the Wisdom poem of Sirach 24, Wisdom becomes incarnate as the Torah given at Sinai-and at the very center of the Torah is the sacrificial service of the tabernacle temple). That is probably the meaning when Wisdom is said to make priestly service in the holy tent on Zion (Sirach 24:10). If Jesus was incarnate, this could make us understand that he not only taught the way of life, but that he had to be the true high priest, bringing the final sacrifice doing the final priestly service in “the holy tent.” At the very center of the Mosaic Torah are atoning sacrifices. Jesus, the Torah in person, atoned with his own blood. We see this in the Holy of Holies imagery in Romans 3;25. Hebrews also links the Wisdom Christology to the theme of Jesus as the high priest in chapters 5-11.19

The Word/The Memra

In the Hebrew Bible, the “Word” is discussed in a manner that takes on an independent existence of its own. As seen in John 1:1-2, the “Word” has a unique relationship with God; all things were made through Him. In this passage, John is emphasizing that the Word is with God and yet God at the same time. Paul taught a similar theme in 1 Cor. 8:6 when he says “For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.”

There are other New Testament passages that communicate that the Word is Messiah Himself (Eph.3:17 and Col. 3:16; 1 Pet.1:3; John.8:31; 15:17). Furthermore, there are also other passages in the Hebrew Bible that speak of the significance of the Word such as Ps. 33:6,“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,” while in Ps.107:20 the divine word is sent on a mission: “He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.” But why is the Christological title “Word” so significant in relation to Jewish monotheism in the first century?

In Judaism, one of the most common themes was that God was “untouchable,” or totally transcendent. Therefore, there had to be a way to describe a connection between God and his creation.20 Within Rabbinic thought, the way to provide the connection or link between God and his creation was what was called “The Word” or in Aramaic, the “Memra.” 21 The Targums, which were paraphrases of the Hebrew Scriptures play a significant role in how to understand the Memra. Since some Jewish people no longer spoke and understood Hebrew but grew up speaking Aramaic, they could only follow along in a public reading if they read from a Targum.

The Aramic Targums employed the term “Memra” that translates into Greek as “Logos.”22While John’s concept of the Logos is of a personal being (Christ), the Greeks thought of it as an impersonal rational principle. A good way to try to understand the term “Memra,” is to see what a passage in Genesis would have sounded like to a Jewish person hearing the public reading of a Targum. In Gen.3:8, most people who would have heard the Hebrew would have understood it as “And they heard the sound of the Word of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden.”23 Therefore, it was not the Lord who was walking in the garden, it was the Memra’ (Word) of the Lord. The Word was not just an “it”; this Word was a him.”24

The Shechinah Glory

In the Bible, the Shechinah is the visible manifestation of the presence of God in which He descends to dwell among men. While the Hebrew form of the glory of the Lord isKvod Adonai,the Greek title is Doxa Kurion.25 The Hebrew form Schechinah, from the root “shachan,” means “dwelling” while the Greek word “Skeinei” means to tabernacle.26 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 the incarnation, 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).”   As already stated, the Greek word “Skeinei” means to tabernacle. John 1:14 literally says,” the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.”

Conclusion

The identity of Jesus  continues to be a stumbling block for people for people who come from a variety of religious and spiritual backgrounds. However, Jewish categories such as “Word,” and “Wisdom,” and “Shechinah” lend credence to the truth of an incarnate Messiah who came into the world to redeem mankind. In a televised interview, the late Orthodox Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide said the following:

“I used to think the becoming incarnate was impossible for God. But recently I have come to the conclusion that it is un-Jewish to say that this is something that the God of the Bible cannot do, that he cannot come that close I have second thoughts about the incarnation.”27

Hopefully, Lapide came to realize that Jesus  was and is the incarnate Word of God. And for that matter, may the Christian community provoke Israel to jealousy (Rom 11.11), by demonstrating the fact that the Jewish Messiah is not the product of the Hellenization of Christianity.


1 Lee Srobel. The Case For The Real Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2007), 10-11.

2 Ibid.

3 The first followers of Jesus were exclusively Jews. The book of Acts gives a reference to the early followers of Jesus as “the sect of Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5). However, it is asserted that as the Christian faith spread, it became a predominately Gentile based religion. By the time of Jesus, Jews had encountered the impact of Hellenistic culture for three hundred years. The word “Hellenistic” was given to describe the period of history that started with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. and ended when Rome conquered Alexander’s empire in 30 B.C .It is also safe to say that several forms of Jewish culture during the Roman period were somewhat Hellenized. This is why it is often argued that the incarnation grew out of Hellenistic presuppositions. For more on this issue, see Ronald Nash. The Gospel and the Greeks(Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.1992) and Adam H.Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed. The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages(Minneapolis, MINN: Fortress Press. 2007).

4 Oskar Skarsaune. In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity.(Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 322.

5 Rabbi Shraga Simmons.“ Why Don’t Jews Believe In Jesus?” available at https://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/jewsandjesus/, accessed July 22, 2018.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Oscar Skarsaune. Incarnation: Myth or Fact? (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House 1991), 14. Justin Matyr (100-165) was a Platonist but later converted to a Christian as an adult. Justin was turned over to the authorities and killed with some of his friends about A.D. 165 because of his outspoken Christian faith. Matyr, as an early Christian apologist wrote one of his most famous works called: Dialogue with Trypho (ca A.D 160) which was a recapitulation of a conversation which no doubt took place. Trypho, a Jew discusses with Justin whether Jesus is the Messiah and the continuing obligation of the Law.

9 Richard Burridge and Graham Gould. Jesus: Then And Now (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing House. 2004), 71-72.

10 Ibid.

11 Oskar Skarsaune. In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity.(Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 320-337.

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid.

14 Oscar Skarsaune, Incarnation: Myth or Fact? (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House 1991), 31. The intertestamental period is term that Protestant Christians use to refer to a period of prophetic “silence” between the Old and New Testaments.

15 The Book of Wisdom or Wisdom of Solomon or simply Wisdom is part of the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha are the seven books (Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus [also called ben Sira or Wisdom of Ben Sirach], Baruch, and 1 and 2 Maccabees) are included in the Septuagint (Greek) and Vulgate (Latin) versions of the Bible but are not found in the Hebrew or Protestant canons.

16 1 Enoch is part of the Pseudepigrapha which is written 200 BC to 200 AD. These works are not in the Hebrew or Protestant Bibles. Enoch is quoted in Jude 1:14-15 and by many of the early Church Fathers.

17 Paul Copan and Craig A.Evans, Who was Jesus? A Jewish-Christian Dialogue.

(Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 2001), 125.

18 Oskar Skarsaune. In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity.(Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 329. Midrash comes form the Hebrew root ‘darash’, meaning to search or investigate. Midrash attempts, through minute examination and interpretation of the Tanach, to bring out the deeper or ethical meaning of the text. There are many different collections of Midrash. The largest collection is called Midrash Rabbah (The Great Midrash), which consists of a number of volumes. Midrash Rabbah contains volumes on the Chumash (Five Books of Moses) and the Hamesh Megillot (Five Scrolls, from Ketuvim). The Hebrew word for “law” is Torah. Torah means “direction, guidance, instruction.” There are 613 of the commandments in the Torah, which were decreed for the Jewish people.

19 Ibid, 337.

20 Michael Brown, Theological Objections, vol 2 of Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus(Grand Rapids MI: Baker Books, 2000), 18.

21 Ibid, 17-23.

22 Ibid.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid.

25 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah: A Study of Prophetic Events(Tustin CA: Ariel Press, 1977), 409-432.

26 Ibid.

27 Oscar Skarsaune, In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity(Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 335-36.

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Ratio Christi Recommends | Does God Exist? Why it Matters

Here is short blurb on our new book on God’s existence.

 

Ratio Christi is pleased to recommend a recently published resource aimed at equipping all Christians for action. Authors Eric Chabot and Chris Van Allsburg recently published the book, Does God Exist? Why it Matters, as a concise introduction to articulating and defending God’s existence.

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Both authors are Ratio Christi Chapter Directors. Eric Chabot represents RC at Ohio State University and Columbus State Community College, and Chris Van Allsburg leads at Lenoir-Rhyne University. The writing of this book was in response to a recognized need identified by the authors:

We wrote this book as a general introduction to the question of God’s existence. We cover a wide range of thinkers and ideas. We are keenly aware that many books covering the existence of God are too academic for readers new to apologetics. They tend to presume too much and surpass the reader’s comprehension. Our intent is to provide a primer that whets the appetite and compels deeper study. This little tome fills a well-defined niche.”

Does God Exist? is written at a level that will resonate with those new to apologetics and with those already possessing some fluency. Multiple chapters offer an intermediate course in several heady problems in the philosophy of religion. Terms like worldview, proof, evidence, science, metaphysics, and epistemology are laid out in an easy-to-understand way. For example, to make a conversation meaningful requires examining one’s worldview. But what is the structure of a person’s worldview, and how do we uncover it? As these questions are considered, the reader is postured to capture a birds-eye-view of why people think in certain ways about the Big Questions of Life. This book couches readers in the world’s intellectual landscape while explaining fundamental reasons why God’s existence is rational, justifiable, and desirable.

A book like this is important because Christians need to be apologists. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Apologetics is therefore an imperative for every Christian. And apologetics is simply this: making a case for what we believe with a view to proclaiming the gospel. In a post-Christian, and often intellectually hostile society, Christians cannot underestimate the need for apologetics. Some of our biggest challenges today include

1) skepticism and the existence of God
2) the historical reliability of the bible
3) science and the bible
4) the morality of the bible (to include violence in the Old Testament, feminism, homosexuality, and patriarchy)
5) Christian attitudes and hypocrisy towards social issues
6) the problem of suffering and evil.

While all of these topics merit careful examination, Does God Exist? focuses in on the first challenge. According to Chabot and Van Allsburg,

“We begin with common objections related to the human desire of experiencing a “sign” from God. We interlace these points with personal stories, including one about [spoiler alert] a murder charge against one of the authors of the book! We also cover rational demonstrations of God’s existence with a brief explanation of Aquinas’s Second Way and his argument from being and essence. To understand Aquinas requires a familiarity with new vocabulary, and we explain terms such as efficient cause, act, and potency. In addition to Aquinas, we cover Leibniz’s principle of sufficient reason, the fine-tuning of the universe, human longing, morality, consciousness, biological information, and God’s actions in history. All of these, we think, will lead readers to a strong case for God. The history section includes a comparison of Christianity with other religions, centered upon the figure of Jesus of Nazareth.”

The end of each chapter includes footnotes, and the end of the book has a suggested reading list for deeper study. While the book stands well as a singular resource, the comprehensive lists of references provide readers a streamlined way to identify and access additional material.

From the authors:

We hope this small treatise will cause people to stop for a quiet moment and ponder one of life’s biggest questions, “Does God Exist?” And fitting with the subtitle, we hope readers will discover why it matters whether God does or does not exist.

Purchase your copy of Does God Exist? Why it Matters
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What does Hanakahh have to do with Jesus?

What does Hanakahh have to with someone who follows Jesus? It is a Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. Not to mention the Feast of Dedication is the background of John 10.

Over the years many Christians can’t understand why Jewish people can’t see that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah 53. It would be nice if it was so simple. One of the most common questions is whether the New Testament authors were familiar with Isaiah 53 or any other texts in the Tanakh (the Old Testament) that pointed to a suffering messianic figure. After all they were Jewish and had read the Scriptures all their lives. But there is no doubt that the early followers of Jesus had a hard time accepting the fact that Jesus was going to suffer and die: A couple of passages prove my point:

 

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you! (Matt 16:21)

He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise. But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. (Mark 9:31)

Also, with the exception of 1 Peter 2: 24-25, the New Testament passages that quote Isa. 53 don’t address the atoning significance of the Servant’s suffering.  However, we do see Jesus is a Passover sacrifice (e.g, Jn. 19:14;1 Cor. 5:7-8); an unblemished sacrifice (1 Pet.1:19; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 7: 26-28; 9:14; 1 Pet. 2:21-25); a sin offering (Rom 8:3; 2 Cor. 5:21) and a covenant sacrifice (e.g., Mk. 14:24; 1 Cor. 11:25).

Many scholars have asked what might of led to  the acceptance of a Suffering Messiah. As I just said, Hanakahh  is a Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire.  One can observe atoning features about the Maccabean martyrs. Note: this info is adapted from J. J. William’s book, Maccabean Martyr Traditions in Paul’s Theology of Atonement: Did Martyr Theology Shape Paul’s Conception of Jesus’s Death?



  • The books of 2 and 4 Maccabees record that God judged the Jews through Antiochus Epiphanes IV because of the nation’s religious apostasy (cf. 1 Maccabees 1; 2 Macc 7:32).
  • God poured out his wrath against Israel through the invasion of Antiochus because of its disobedience to the Torah prior to 4 Macc 17:21–22 (1 Macc 1:1–63; 2 Macc 5:1–7:38; 4 Macc 4:15–6:29).
  • 4 Macc 6:28–29 states that Eleazar offers his “blood” to be a “ransom” so that God would “be satisfied.” A passage in 4 Macc 17:21–22 states that the Jewish martyrs die a propitiatory death for the nation.
  • The martyrs die as penal sacrifices of atonement for the nation’s sins because the fundamental reason behind their deaths was Israel’s disobedience to Torah, and they died to end God’s judgment against the nation’s sin and to save the nation from his wrath (2 Macc 7:32–38; 4 Macc 6:28–29; 17:21–22).
  • 2 Maccabees 7:37-38: “I [the youngest of the seven sons martyred one by one in front of their mother], like my brothers, give up body and life for the laws of our ancestors, appealing to God to show mercy soon to our nation and by trials and plagues to make you confess that he alone is God, and through me and my brothers to bring to an end the wrath of the Almighty that has justly fallen on our whole nation.”
  • 4 Maccabees 6:27-29: [Eleazar prays] “You know, O God, that though I might be saved myself, I am dying in burning torments for the sake of the law. Be merciful to your people, and let our punishment suffice for them. Make my blood their purification, and take my life in exchange for theirs.”
  • 4 Macc. 6:27–29: Eleazar (one of the Jewish martyrs who died for the nation) asked God to use his blood to be a ransom so that he would be the means by which he purified, provided mercy for, and to be the means by which he would satisfy his wrath against the nation. The author interprets the significance of the martyrs’ deaths in 4 Macc. 17:21–22 by stating that they purified the homeland, that they served as a ransom for the nation, and that their propitiatory deaths saved the nation.
  • 4 Maccabees 17:22: “And through the blood of those devout ones and their deaths an atoning sacrifice divine Providence preserved Israel that previously had been mistreated.”
  • 4 Maccabees 18:4: “Because of them [those who gave their bodies in suffering for the sake of religion; 18:3] the nation gained peace.”

To summarize: 

1.The martyrs suffered and died because of sin (2 Macc 7:18, 32; 12:39–42; 4 Macc 4:21; 17:21–22; cf. Lev 1:1–7:6; 8:18–21; 16:3–24).

2. The martyrs’ blood was the required price for the nation’s salvation (2 Macc 7:32–38; 4 Macc 6:28–29; 7:8; 17:21–22).

3.The martyrs’ deaths ended God’s wrath against the nation (1 Macc 1:1–64; 2 Macc 7:32–38; 8:5; 4 Macc 17:21–22).

4. The martyrs’ deaths provided purification and cleansing for the nation (4 Macc 6:28–29; 17:22; cf. Lev 16:16, 30; Isa 53:10).

5. The martyrs’ deaths spared the nation from suffering the penalty for their own sin in the eschaton (2 Macc 5:1–8:5; cf. 2 Macc 7:1–14).

6. The martyrs died  vicariously for the nation (2 Macc 7:18, 32; 4 Macc 4:21; 17:21–22).

 

After seeing these texts, it is fairly evident there are some parallels between  the Maccabean martyrs and the life of Jesus.

Sources:

1. Michael Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 2. (Grand Rapids MI: Baker Books. 2000),157. 2. Tractate Sanhedrin, Talmud Bavli, The Shottenstein Edition (Brooklyn: Mesorah, 1995), vol 3 98a5, emphasis in original. 3. Solomon Schechter, Aspects of Rabbinic Theology. London: 1909. Reprint. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 1994, 310-311. 4. Jacob Immanuel Schochet. Mashiach: The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition. New York: S.I.E. 1992, 93-101.

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A Look at the Diety of Jesus: Jesus as Wisdom Incarnate

“John’s claims for Jesus are clearest in his presentation of Jesus as Wisdom. It has long been recognised that the language of the Johannine prologue is considerably dependent on the Wisdom theology of Second Temple Judaism. John speaks of the divine Word (logos), but the language echoes the Wisdom reflection of Israel’s sages, as also Philo’s reflection on the Logos. • As with Wisdom in Prov. 8 and Wis. 9.9, the Logos of John was in the beginning with God (John 1.1). • As in 1 En. 42, Wisdom sought a dwelling place among the children of men, and found no dwelling place, so the Johannine Logos ‘came to his own home, and his own people received him not’ (John 1.11). • As in Sir. 24.8, Wisdom ‘set up her tent in Jacob’, so the Johannine Logos ‘pitched his tent among us’ (John 1.14). • John’s talk of Jesus descending from heaven has its closest parallels in such Wisdom passages.

The ‘I am’ claims of the Johannine Jesus are closely paralleled in the first-person singular speech of Wisdom in Prov. 8 and Sir. 24. • That Wisdom is not just another intermediary or angelic agent, but is a way of speaking of God himself in his self-revelation, lies behind John 12.45 and 14.9: ‘He who sees me sees him who sent me’ (12.45); ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father’ (14.9). • In a similar vein, 12.41—Isaiah ‘saw his glory and spoke of him’. Jesus is identified with the glory/Shekinah of God, the presence of God visible to Isaiah in the Temple (Isa. 6). • Hence the charge laid by ‘the Jews’ in John’s Gospel against Jesus: he makes himself equal with God (John 5.18); he, though a man, makes himself God (10.33)

What we see that John is engaging with many of his fellow Jews in reflection about whether and how God reveals himself to his people. Many of them were content to rest on the testimony of Moses and the prophets. John replies by asserting that Moses and the prophets wrote of Jesus (5.46). The grace and truth through Jesus transcended the law that had come through Moses (1.17). The water of life gave a more lasting satisfaction than the well of Jacob (4.5–14). The bread of life come down from heaven far transcended the manna in the wilderness (6.31–40). Many sought deeper revelation through apocalyptic vision and heavenly journey. John replies that it is not those who ascend to heaven who bring true knowledge of God, but the one who has descended from heaven, Jesus. The sages were not slow in identifying the divine wisdom by which God created the world, the divine wisdom which he offered to his people. They identified the Wisdom of God with the Torah.

[Wisdom’s hymn in praise of herself] is the book of the covenant of the Most High God, the law that Moses commanded us’ (Sir. 24.23). ‘She [Wisdom] is the book of the commandments of God, the law that endures forever’ (Bar. 4.1). John replies by claiming that this divine Wisdom is not so much to be found in the Torah as in Jesus (John 1.14–18). We may say that Israel’s sages inscripturated Wisdom in the Torah. Whereas John incarnated Wisdom in Jesus. As the sages had found God’s Wisdom nowhere more clearly expressed than in the Torah, so the Johannine Christians claimed that they had found the same Wisdom nowhere more clearly expressed than in Jesus.”-James Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels.

This entire quote ties in with the following:

Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner wrote a book called The Incarnation of God: The Character of Divinity in Formative Judaism (Binghamton, NY: Global Publications, 2001). In it, Neusner says:

“Since rabbinical documents repeatedly claim that, if you want to know the law, you should not only listen to what the rabbi says but also copy what he does, it follows that, in his person, the rabbi represents and embodies the Torah. God in the Torah revealed God’s will and purpose for the world. So God had said what the human being should be. The rabbi was the human being in God’s image. That, to be sure, is why (but merely by the way) what the rabbi said about the meaning of Scripture derived from revelation. Collections of the things he said about Scripture constituted compositions integral to the Torah. So in the rabbi, the word of God was made flesh. And out of the union of man and Torah, producing the rabbi as Torah incarnate, was born Judaism, the faith of Torah: the ever present revelation, the always open-canon. For fifteen hundred years, from the time of the first collections of scriptural exegeses to our own day, the enduring context for midrash remained the same: encounter with the living God.” (Jacob Neusner, Midrash in Context: Exegesis in Formative Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983), 137)

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