- Rabbis, Skeptics and the Suffering Messiah – Jews for Jesus
- Did Jesus — and Jesus alone — match the identity of the Messiah?
- Tim Keller’s pastorally inadequate responses to a skeptic’s questions
- From Messianic Jew to Counter-Missionary - Part 3
Many Jews had died in his name, and many who hated Jews called themselves Christian. And the idea of someone dying on a cross for me seemed like a bunch of hocus-pocus. As I studied the Bible, I began to see how Jesus could have fulfilled many of the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures. I was shocked to learn that Jews had written it and that Jesus himself was a Jew.
One of the most convincing passages showing that the Messiah would make the ultimate sacrifice and die for our sins was Isaiah Present-day rabbis disagree. Rashi a. But many Jewish sages, before and after Rashi, saw the Messiah in Isaiah Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. This pronoun is very rarely used in regards to Israel.
Rabbis, Skeptics and the Suffering Messiah – Jews for Jesus
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Just a quick read through the Prophets will show that Israel could not even bear its own sins, let alone those of others. According to the revered twelfth-century Jewish scholar Ramban Nachmanides , the Redeemer is the Messiah :.
But we, when we saw him weakened and prostrate, thought that he was stricken, smitten of God. The chastisement of our peace was upon him — for God will correct him; and by his stripes we were healed. The mystical Zohar records:.
Did Jesus — and Jesus alone — match the identity of the Messiah?
When the Holy One desires to give healing to the world, he smites one just man amongst them, and for his sake heals all the rest. Whence do we learn this? He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. We cannot find any biblical references to affirm that Israel was silent in the face of oppression. But we do find that this is true of Jesus. Before the Sanhedrin, he remained silent. When he finally spoke, it only aided the prosecution:.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
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A final oft-noted problem is that the genealogies in Matthew and Luke contradict each other and the Hebrew scriptures. Matthew omits Jehoiakim who in Jeremiah suffers a curse similar to that of his son, Jeconiah between Josiah and Jeconiah 1 Chronicles and Matthew omits Admin between Ram and Amminadab Luke Finally, Matthew says that Abiud is the son of Zerubbabel, Luke says that Rhesa is the son of Zerubbabel, but 1 Chronicles lists neither as sons of Zerubbabel.
Another prophecy related to the birth of Jesus is the claim that the Messiah would be born at a time when King Herod was killing children. Only the gospel of Matthew makes this claim, quoting a prophecy of Jeremiah which states that "A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more. In context, the verse is about the Babylonian captivity, which its author witnessed. Subsequent verses speak of the children being returned, and thus it refers to captivity rather than murder.
The slaughter by Herod is also in doubt because the writer of Matthew is the only person who has noted such an event.
Tim Keller’s pastorally inadequate responses to a skeptic’s questions
Flavius Josephus, who carefully chronicled Herod's abuses, makes no mention of it. Matthew goes on to claim that to evade Herod's murders, Jesus was taken as a child to Egypt. This is done, according to Matthew , in order "that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 'Out of Egypt did I call my son.
It is a reference to the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. At the end of the same chapter of Matthew , its author writes that Mary, Joseph, and the child Jesus settled in Nazareth, in order " This verse describes an angel speaking to the mother of Samson, telling her that her son "shall be a Nazirite. A Nazirite is quite different from a Nazarene.
A Nazarene is an inhabitant of Nazareth, but a Nazirite is a Jew who has taken special vows to abstain from all wine and grapes, not to cut his hair, and to perform special sacrifices see Leviticus Jesus drank wine Matthew , Mark , Luke , and so could not have been a Nazirite. A prophecy relating to the time of the Messiah which many evangelical Christians find extremely convincing is found in the book of Daniel. It is probably no exaggeration to say that this prophecy, more than any other, convinces Christians that Jesus was the Messiah.
Daniel says:. Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.
The word translated in these verses as "weeks" is a form of the Hebrew word for "sevens," and is interpreted by Christians to mean seven years rather than seven days. Thus "seventy weeks" in verse 24 is interpreted to mean seventy periods of seven years, or years, "seven weeks" in verse 25 is interpreted to mean 49 years, "sixty-two weeks" in verses 25 and 26 is interpreted to mean years, and "one week" in verse 27 is interpreted to mean seven years.
The starting point of the prophecy is the "issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. These verses describe the decree issued by Cyrus, king of Persia and contemporary of Daniel, in B. So Christians must reject the equation of the decree in verse 25 with that of Cyrus, and they do. What other decrees are available? Josh McDowell , p. The decree of Darius, described in Ezra , was to conduct a search of the archives to find the text of the decree of Cyrus, and then to resume the construction of the temple at Jerusalem using tax money.
This occurred around B. The decree of Artaxerxes to Ezra described in Ezra allows for the people of Israel to return to Jerusalem, taking with them various support from the royal treasury. This decree was issued in B. This works fairly well if you take the end of the "sixty-two weeks" to be the beginning of Jesus' ministry, though most Christians take the end point to be the crucifixion due to the reference in verse 26 of the Daniel prophecy to the Messiah being "cut off.
One exception is Gleason Archer. Archer , pp. Ezra states that God has not forsaken the Jews but has given them a chance "to raise up the house of our God, to restore its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem. The decree of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah described in Nehemiah is really no decree at all.
Rather, Artaxerxes gives Nehemiah letters of safe conduct for travel to Judah and to obtain timber to rebuild the gates of the temple and the walls of Jerusalem. This occurred in B. Despite these flaws, most evangelical Christians adopt this as the appropriate decree because Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem.
In order to make the B. The most popular such calculation, due to Sir Robert Anderson and promoted by Josh McDowell, is to adopt a "day prophetic year" -- an invention of Anderson based on his reading of Revelation , where he equates 42 months with days, giving 30 days per month.
Using "prophetic years" puts the end of the year period at 32 C. Robert Newman , pp. Newman offers his own alternative: the use of sabbatical years, which do have biblical justification Exodus and Leviticus , Every seventh year is a sabbatical year. Newman uses information from the first book of Maccabees, which has reference to an observance of a sabbatical year, to calculate that B. If this is the first sabbatical cycle in the count, the sixty-ninth is C.
In response to the criticism that the prophecy says that the Messiah will be "cut off" after sixty-two weeks, Newman says that in conventional Jewish idiom "after" means "after the beginning of. There are further problems for all of the above interpretations, which Gerald Sigal , pp. Foremost among Sigal's criticisms is that the Masoretic punctuation of the Hebrew Bible places a division between the "seven weeks and sixty-two weeks," meaning that rather than stating that the Messiah will come after the combined time periods, he will come after the "seven weeks" alone.
Another criticism Sigal makes is that the Hebrew text does not put a definite article in front of the word "Messiah" or "anointed one". The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is translated with these facts in mind, and it gives the Daniel as follows:. Seventy weeks of years are decreed concerning your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.
Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off, and shall have nothing; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war; desolations are decreed.
And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week; and for half of the week he shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator. Using the Masoretic punctuation, the "sixty-two weeks" goes with the rebuilding of the city rather than with the coming of the Messiah. This interpretation explains why "seven weeks and sixty-two weeks" are given separately, rather than simply stating "sixty-nine weeks.
The result of all this? The Daniel prophecy is not nearly so convincing as it might initially appear to someone presented only with one of the interpretations that "works. There are good reasons to reject each of these interpretations. The first two choices for beginning points don't work for any offered interpretations. The Artaxerxes decree works for ordinary years with the ministry of Jesus as the end point, but says nothing about rebuilding Jerusalem.
The Artaxerxes letters work for sabbatical cycles with the crucifixion as an end point, but they are not a decree to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. Rather, they gave Nehemiah safe conduct to Judah and permission to use lumber from the royal forests. Finally, none of them take into consideration the Masoretic punctuation, which, if not itself in error, eliminates all of them as possible interpretations of the text. Alleged prophecies about Jesus' life and ministry claim that he would be preceded by a messenger i. The first of these, that he would be preceded by a messenger, refers to Isaiah , which reads, "A voice is calling, 'clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
Another verse claimed to offer the same prophecy is Malachi , which says "Behold, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. But did John the Baptist actually "clear the way" as a messenger for Jesus? The historian Flavius Josephus writes about John the Baptist, but makes no link of his name with that of Jesus Antiquities of the Jews, The earliest of Christian writings, the letters of Paul, make no mention of John the Baptist. The gospels and the book of Acts, written by the author of Luke are the only real evidence of a link.
From Messianic Jew to Counter-Missionary - Part 3
But the gospel evidence does not hold up. The gospel of John shows John the Baptist explicitly recognizing Jesus as the Messiah John before being cast into prison by Herod John But the gospels of Matthew and Luke Luke depict John the Baptist, in prison, sending his disciples to Jesus to ask if he claims to be the Messiah. If the story in John were true, John the Baptist would have had no reason to ask this question. For more on John the Baptist and his relation to Jesus, see Miosi Christian apologists claim that Jesus' Galilean ministry is prophesied by Isaiah , which says, " The subsequent verses Isaiah speak of a child to be born who will be king, whose "name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah , if applied to Jesus, is unfulfilled since it speaks of his kingship. Prophecy of Jesus' miraculous healings are purported to be found in Isaiah and Isaiah The latter does not speak of healing, but says that "the eyes of those who see will not be blinded, and the ears of those who hear will listen. And the mind of the hasty will discern the truth, and the tongue of the stammerers will hasten to speak clearly.
The former verse, on the other hand, describes people being healed "the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped" but also, in verses , describes land being "healed. The gospels contain no account of Jesus healing land. A final prophecy dealing with Jesus' life and ministry is Zechariah , which says "Behold, your king is coming to you The alleged fulfillment of this prophecy is also problematic.
According to Mark , Luke , and John , Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. But Matthew has Jesus riding on both a donkey and a colt, indicating his misunderstanding of the prophecy. A number of alleged prophecies relate to Jesus' betrayal by Judas. These include prophecies that Jesus would be betrayed by a friend for thirty pieces of silver and that this money would be thrown into the temple and used to buy a potter's field. Two verses taken as prophecies of betrayal by a friend are Psalms and Psalms , the former of which reads, "Even my close friend, in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
Yet Jesus already had foreknowledge of his betrayal by Judas John , and so must not have trusted him. When the gospel of John quotes from Psalms , it tacitly admits this problem by omitting the phrase "in whom I trusted. Matthew states that Judas Iscariot was paid thirty pieces of silver by the Jewish priests as payment for his betrayal.
Matthew claims that this is done to fulfill a prophecy of Jeremiah:. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying, "And they took the thirty pieces of silver for the price of the one whose price had been set by the sons of Israel; and they gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord directed me. The problem here is that the quoted verse appears nowhere in the book of Jeremiah. There is a verse which is quite similar in the book of Zechariah, but there the prophet Zechariah is speaking about himself and no betrayal is involved.
Christian apologist Gleason Archer , p. Why does Archer write "a certain number of shekels" instead of giving the number specified in Jeremiah? Because Jeremiah says seventeen shekels, not thirty. What Archer has done here is simply look for the words "potter," "shekel," and "field" in an attempt to argue that Matthew really was referring to Jeremiah rather than Zechariah.
But there is really no question that Matthew meant to refer to Zechariah rather than Jeremiah. Compare Zechariah :. And I said to them, "If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind! Then the Lord said to me, "Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them. Again, this is Zechariah speaking of his own experience rather than a messianic prophecy. But Matthew tries to fulfill this non-prophecy by telling a story of Judas Iscariot throwing his payment into the temple before committing suicide, after which the priests use the money to buy a potter's field.
This story does not appear in the other gospels though Acts says that Judas himself, rather than the priests, bought a field with the unspecified amount of money earned by his betrayal. Another problem with this alleged prophecy is that in the earliest Syriac manuscripts of Zechariah, verse 13 does not even contain the word "potter" -- instead, it says "treasury," which makes more sense but further damages its credibility as prophecy.
The Revised Standard Version gives the verse as "Cast it into the treasury," with the "to the potter" translation relegated to a footnote. Christian apologists are perhaps most impressed by a number of alleged prophecies relating to Jesus' crucifixion. They claim that the Hebrew scriptures contain prophecies that Jesus would be crucified, that his garments would be divided by the casting of lots, that he would be given wine mixed with gall or myrrh, that he would cry out about being forsaken, and that none of his bones would be broken.
There are several verses taken to refer to crucifixion: Psalms , Zechariah , and Zechariah are typical examples. Psalms reads, "For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet. Gerald Sigal , p. Zechariah says "they will look on me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for him, as one mourns for an only son Further, the "him" being mourned for is not the "me" that is being pierced.
The Jewish interpretation of this verse is that God is speaking of the people of Israel being "pierced" or attacked Sigal , pp. Zechariah speaks of "these wounds between your arms," spoken of one who claims not to be a prophet and to have been sold as a slave in his youth Zechariah Wounds between one's arms are not characteristic of crucifixion, and Jesus was neither sold as a slave nor claimed not to be a prophet. Only the gospel of John speaks of Jesus' garments being divided among the soldiers and their casting of lots for his tunic John , and he cites Psalms as the prophecy which is thereby fulfilled.
This latter verse reads, "They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But John transforms it into two events: first the division of Jesus' clothing apart from his tunic John and then casting of lots for his tunic John It appears that John created a story in an attempt to provide a fulfillment for his misunderstanding of a verse which gives no indication of being a prophecy in the first place. Matthew speaks of Jesus being given "wine to drink mingled with gall" and Mark says he was offered "wine mixed with myrrh. The verse says that poison is being put into food, which does not apply to the crucifixion.
Myrrh, which is not poisonous, is referred to by the Hebrew word "mor," which does not appear in Psalms This psalm, which speaks repeatedly of flood waters, gives no indication of being either prophetic or of applying to Jesus. The gospels of Matthew and Mark give Jesus' last words as "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me," a quotation of Psalms Luke gives "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit" as Jesus' final words, while John has Jesus say "It is finished. Presumably Jesus was familiar with the Hebrew scriptures.
Such a remark, however, is inconsistent with Christian theology. Why would Jesus, supposed to be God incarnate, speak of being forsaken by himself at all, let alone at the culmination of his plan for human salvation? It is also not apparent that Psalms 22 is either prophetic or applicable to Jesus see Sigal , pp. A final prophecy I wish to examine relating to the crucifixion is that Jesus' bones would not be broken. It is only the gospel of John which tells of soldiers breaking the legs of the crucifixion victims to hasten their deaths, yet sparing Jesus because he was already dead.
John cites Psalms , "He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken," as the prophecy which is thereby fulfilled. There is no indication that Psalms 34 is intended as prophetic, nor that it applies to Jesus. The intent in the gospel of John is to represent Jesus as a sacrifice, specifically corresponding to the paschal lamb e. A requirement of the paschal lamb is that none of its bones be broken Exodus , Numbers But this analogy fails for several reasons: the paschal lamb was not for the atonement of sin, and Jewish sacrifices were required to be completely without blemish, sore, or injury Leviticus while Jesus was scourged and mutilated John ; Sigal , pp.
It is worth briefly examining some conclusions regarding messianic prophecies quite contrary to mine presented by Peter Stoner and repeated in McDowell Jeffrey , pp. There are a number of problems with Stoner's calculations.
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The probability of each prophecy being fulfilled by chance was arrived at by getting an estimate from "a class in Christian Evidences" at Pasadena City College sponsored by Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship Stoner , p. These estimates did not consider any of the above objections to these prophecies, nor did they consider the possibility of intentional fulfillment.