Believe it or not, many Jewish people say they don't need to believe God exists to be Jewish. That's because for many Jewish people, ethnicity and culture is what defines their Jewishness. Here is just one of several articles that dicusses this issue. Note that this Jewish person says that losing belief in God gave them a new reason to practice Jewish customs. How about that?
Thus, the attempt to discuss passages in the Jewish Scriptures about the Messiah with Jewish people can be a fruitless enterprise. After all, why try to use Scripture with someone who doesn't think there is a God who has spoken into history and revealed who He is in a written text?
But how do we know God exists? Over the years, when I have been asked this question, I used to just jump to an argument for God. I would sit down and try to explain it in detail to the individual. I have now decided to take a different approach and back up: I ask the person “How should we approach the existence of God?” or, “What method should we use?” Now I know that when you ask a Christian, Jewish person or Muslim, and Mormon as well how they know what they believe is true, they might just say, “I have faith.” This should cause us to stop and ask if that is an adequate answer. It probably won’t go very far in a skeptical and pluralistic culture. So in this post I want to discuss some of the various ways we can approach the existence of God. I am well aware that there are other methods as well.
#1: The Revelatory Approach
The skeptical issue in our culture mostly enters into the religious dialogue in the following way: “In the case of God, who isn’t some physical object but a divine being, what kind of evidence should we expect to find? There is a tendency to forget that the Bible stresses that sin can dampen the cognitive faculties that God has given us to find Him. Therefore, sin has damaging consequences on the knowing process (Is. 6:9-10; Zech. 7:11-12; Matt. 13:10-13). Thus, people are dead, blinded, and bound to sin.
One of the most important themes of the Bible is that since God is free and personal, that he acts on behalf of those whom he loves, and that his actions includes already within history, a partial disclosure of his nature, attributes, and intensions. Revelation is a disclosure of something that has been hidden– an “uncovering,” or “unveiling.” There are three things are needed for a revelation to take place: God, a medium, and a being able to receive the revelation.
The mediums God uses in the Bible are General Revelation (The Created Order/Conscience; Rom. 1&2); Special Revelation: Jesus (John 3:16; 14:9; Colossians 2:9; Heb. 1:1-2), The Bible (2 Tim. 3:16); Miracles, Prophecy, Theophanies, Messengers, and other means as well.
But why the need for revelation? First, we need to know the character of God. Hence, we need a clear communication to establish the exact nature of God’s character. Who is God and what is He Like? Also, we need a revelation to understand the origin of evil/the Fall. In other words, we need to be educated concerning the reasons for where we are at as a human race. Furthermore, without a clear revelation, people might think they are the result of a blind, naturalistic process instead of being created in the image of God. And without a clear revelation we would not know our destiny.
#2: Historical Arguments
When it comes to historical arguments, we ask if God has revealed Himself in the course of human history? If so, when and where has He done this? We can look at religious texts and see if they pass the tests for historicity. Thus, we enter the domain of historical apologetics.
The good news is that we can detect God’s work in human history and apply historical tests to the Bible or any other religious book. Former atheist Antony Flew said the resurrection of Yeshua was the best attested miracle claim that he had seen In a debate with Gary Habermas, Flew agreed that if it is a knowable fact that Yeshua rose from the dead literally and physically it then constitutes “the best, if not the only, reason for accepting that Jesus is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.” 
All historical revelatory claims must be taken on a case-by-case basis. We need to evaluate the evidence for each claim in its own historical and religious context. Thus, what is needed is to examine the written documents, both oral and eyewitness testimony, as well as archaeological evidence to support the people, place, or events in the documents they have available to them.
#3: God or Theism as an Explanatory Hypothesis?
C.S. Lewis said that “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” (see The Weight of Glory). To apply what Lewis says, we might utilize what is called inference to the best explanation. The inference to the best explanation model takes into account the best available explanation in our whole range of experience and reflection. In utilizing this method, people on both sides of an argument agree on what needs to be explained (certain features of reality) but they disagree on why this feature of reality exists. Both sides strive to offer the better explanation for the evidence. For example, when we look at these features of reality, which provides a more satisfactory explanation:
- How do you explain the Origin of the Universe?
- How do you explain the Mathematical Fine-Tuning of the Universe?
- How do you explain the Terrestrial Fine-Tuning of Planet Earth?
- How do you explain the Informational Fine-Tuning of the DNA molecule?
- How do you explain the Origin of Mathematical Laws?
- How do you explain the Origin of Logical Laws?
- How do you explain the Origin of Physical/Natural Laws?
- How do you explain the Origin of the First Cell?
- How do you explain the Origin of Human Reason?
- How do you explain the Origin of Human Consciousness?
- How do you explain the Origin of Objective Morality?
- How do you explain Ultimate Meaning in Life?
- How do you explain Ultimate Value in Life?
- How do you explain Ultimate Purpose in Life?
#4: Philosophical Evidence
If we could remember the nature of the object determines how we know it, than for skeptics to constantly say there is no evidence, the first thing to ask is “What is the nature of the object they are trying to know?” What is God? Welcome to natural theology!
The word ‘proof’ is a loaded term, which turns on our understanding of what constitutes knowledge. There are knowledge claims that are rooted in inference, and are therefore on various levels of probability. Some arguments for God’s existence use this approach. A different approach in terms of ‘proof’ in establishing the existence of God is by rational demonstration. This is found in the classical writings of Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Maimonides, Avicenna, Aquinas, & Leibniz. Edward Feser writes that philosophical arguments are still the most adequate approach to showing there is a God—the God of classical theism. The God of classical theism is immutable, immaterial, eternal, uncaused, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, and can’t be compared to created gods that are part of the physical world such as Thor, Zeus, and others. Please note that if you want to find out about these thinkers by reading Richard Dawkins, you are already off to the wrong start.
#5: Pragmatic Arguments?
Many people might ask why I would bring this one up. The reason I mention it is because about 70% of people I talk to about say ”I don’t understand what difference believing in Yeshua would make in my life?” This is a very popular approach. In this argument, many people say their religious beliefs have been tried and tested out in the reality of life. Thus, they think their beliefs correspond to reality because they do make a difference.
This does have some merit. After all, if a specific faith is the one true path, it should make a radical difference in the reality of life. The challenge of this argument is that in some cases, it seems Christianity doesn’t work. Christians have challenges in their families, work related issues and relationships. However, just because Christians don’t always reflect the character of Yeshua and don’t always show the difference it makes, this doesn’t mean Christianity is false.
It could be that the person is not under healthy teaching/discipleship or living in sin. So the pragmatic argument can be a tricky one. Everyone knows Christians have done some amazing things for the world (see here), but we also have some inconsistencies.
#6: Existential Arguments
The latest book by Clifford Williams Called Existential Reasons For Belief in God is another approach to why people believe in God.
According to Williams, for some people logic and reason are dominant and in others emotion and satisfaction of needs are dominant.
Williams mentions 10 existential needs from his book:
- the need for cosmic security
- the need for meaning
- the need to feel loved
- the need to love
- the need for awe
- the need to delight in goodness
- the need to live beyond the grave without the anxieties that currently affect us
- the need to be forgiven
- the need for justice and fairness
- the need to be present with our loved ones
#7: Religious Experience
Here we have to differentiate between knowing our faith is true and showing our faith is true:
1.Knowing our faith is true though personal experience: Disciples of Jesus are blessed to receive the assurance of the truthfulness of our faith through the work of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8: 16-17; 2 Cor. 2:2). However, people of other faiths claim to have personal revelations/experiences. Thus, people have contradictory religious experiences that seem quite real. For example, Mormons claim that the Holy Spirit confirms their faith as true by a “burning in the bosom”—this is something they consider to be a confirmatory personal experience.
Showing our faith is true through reasons and evidence: While religious experience is important, all experience must be grounded by truth and knowledge. Knowledge can be the key thing as to what keeps us close to God over the long haul. Plus, Jesus says we should love him with all our being (i.e., mind, emotions and will). Sometimes people think that personal religious experience negates the need for having other good reasons for faith.
But think about this: Would you accept Islam as true if a Muslim said to you, “I know Islam is true because of my personal experience.” Or, what if a Mormon said to you, “I know Mormonism is true because of personal experience.” The list goes on. I assume many of us wouldn’t consider Islam nor Mormonism as being true based on these comments. Therefore, perhaps when we say, “I follow the Messiah because of my personal experience,” some people aren’t very impressed. In conclusion, religious experience should be one aspect of our overall cumulative case for our faith.
There are several other approaches to the existence of God. Given humans are emotional, intellectual, and volitional creatures, there is no “one size fits all approach.” I hope that has caused you to go further in the question of God’s existence.
 See Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, The Jesus Legend: A Case For The Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Tradition (Grand Rapids: MI: Baker Books. 2007).
 Gary R. Habermas, Antony Flew, and David J. Baggett, Did the Resurrection Happen?: A Conversation with Gary Habermas and Antony Flew (Downers Grove IL: Intervarsity. 2009), 85.
 Gary R. Habermas and Antony G. N. Flew, Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate, ed. Terry L. Miethe (San Francisco: Harper & Row. 1985), 3.
(4) W.L. Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Faith and Apologetics 3rd ed. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 43-60.
By Eric Chabot, CJF Midwest Representative
When it comes to our faith, there is no doctrine more important than the resurrection of Yeshua. Biblical faith is not simply centered in ethical and religious teachings. Instead, it is founded on the person and work of Yeshua. If Yeshua was not raised from the dead, we as His followers are still dead in our sins (1Cor.15:7). Explanations try to show how something happened. For example, I will list a number of points that need an explanation and then posit that the resurrection of Yeshua is the most adequate explanation for each point. Then I conclude that God is the best explanation for the cause of the resurrection of Yeshua. So let’s take a look at if the bodily resurrection of Yeshua as an adequate explanation for the following data:
#1:The Resurrection of Yeshua Explains God’s Actions in History
Human existence is dependent on communication. The abundance of methods to communicate attests to this. Clearly, we rely on phone calls, text messages, email, and other forms of communication daily. If there really is a creator behind the universe, it seems quite plausible that we can know very little about Him unless He communicates with His creation. Therefore, biblical faith rests on being able to know something about history—at the very minimum, knowing the historical truth of the person and work of Yeshua of Nazareth. Historical verification is a way to test religious claims. We can detect God’s work in human history and apply historical tests to the Bible or any other religious book.
Before he passed away, when examining the resurrrection of Yeshua, the prominent atheist Anthony Flew said, “The evidence for the resurrection is better than for claimed miracles in any other religion. It’s outstandingly different in quality and quantity.” (see Gary Habermas, “My Pilgrimage from Atheism to Theism: An Exclusive Interview with Former British Atheist Professor Antony Flew.” Available from the Web site of Biola University at http://www.biola.edu/antonyflew). We should note that Flew ended up leaving atheism for belief in a God. But he never embraced Yeshua as his Lord.
Some skeptics lament that one of the reasons we can’t accept the resurrection of Yeshua is because we don’t see people rising from the dead today. But the entire point of the resurrection of Yeshua is that it is a unique one-time unique event. If we had had all kinds of people rising from the dead (and not dying again as in the case of Yeshua), that would not make the resurrection of Yeshua unique at all.
#2: The Bodily Resurrection of Yeshua Explains the Post-Mortem Appearances to the Disciples:
The post- resurrection appearances are varied. We see them here:
• Yeshua appears to Mary Magdalene, shortly after his resurrection (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-18)
• Yeshua appears to the women returning from the empty tomb (Matthew 28:8-10)
• Yeshua appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12,13; Luke 24:13-35)
• Yeshua appears to Peter ( Luke 24:34, 1 Corinthians 15:5)
• Yeshua appears to his disciples, in Jerusalem. (Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23).
• Yeshua again appears to his disciples, in Jerusalem. At this time Thomas is present (John 20:24-29).
• Yeshua appears to his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 28:16; John 21:1,2)
• Yeshua is seen by 500 believers at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6)
• Yeshua appears to James ( 1 Corinthians 15:7)
• Yeshua appears to his disciples on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20).
• He appeared to his disciples (Luke 24:50-53).
• He appeared to Paul on the Damascus road (Acts 9:3-6; 1 Corinthians 15:8).
I find it interesting that many New Testament scholars/historians agree that the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Yeshua had been resurrected and had appeared to them. And ironically, many of them are not even Orthodox nor evangelical Christians.
Allow me to mention few quotes here:
It is a historical fact that some of Jesus' followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution. We know some of these believers by name; one of them, the apostle Paul, claims quite plainly to have seen Jesus alive after his death. Thus, for the historian, Christianity begins after the death of Jesus, not with the resurrection itself, but with the belief in the resurrection — Bart Ehrman, New Testament Scholar and James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1)
It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’s death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ. It seems to be historically certain that Mary Magdalene experienced an appearance of the risen Jesus. The only thing we can certainly say to be historical is that there were resurrection appearances in Galilee (and in Jerusalem) soon after Jesus' death. These appearances cannot be denied. But did the Risen Jesus in fact reveal himself in them? —Gerd Lüdemann, Chair of History and Literature of Early Christianity at University of Göttingen (2)
I know in their own terms, what they saw was the raised Jesus. That’s what they say, and then all the historic evidence we have afterwards attests to their conviction that that’s what they saw. I’m not saying that they really did see the raised Jesus. I wasn’t there. I don’t know what they saw. But I do know as an historian, that they must have seen something. The disciples’ conviction that they had seen the risen Christ, their relocation to Jerusalem, their principled inclusion of Gentiles as Gentiles – all these are historical bedrock, facts known past doubting about the earliest community after Jesus’ death-Paula Fredrickson, Historian and Scholar of Religious Studies, William Goodwin Aurelio Chair Emerita of the Appreciation of Scripture, Boston University (3)
There is no reason to distrust the conviction of those that testified to having seen the risen Yeshua. As we said, many historians/scholars concede that the disciples at least thought they saw the resurrected Christ. As James Warner Wallace points out in his book Cold Case Christianity, people lie or have an ulterior motive for three reasons:
1.Financial Gain: In this case, we don’t see any evidence for this. The NT shows the disciples/apostles being chased from location to location, leaving their home and families and abandoning their property and what they owned.
2. Sexual or Relational Desire: The NT does not say much about their “love lives.” There are Scriptures that speak to sexual purity and chastity.
3. Pursuit of Power:
While Christianity became a state sponsored religion in the 4th century and the Popes became powerful both politically and religiously, there is no evidence (pre 70 AD), for the early disciples pursuing power as they proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus. Just look at Paul’s testimony here:
“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” – 2 Cor. 11: 23-27
#4: The Bodily Resurrection of Yeshua Explains the Birth of the Yeshua Movement, Pre-70 A.D
It is true that the old saying, “Yeshua is just one of several messiah’s in the first century” is not only patently false but also a gross oversimplification. Just because someone leads a messianic revolt does not qualify them as “the Messiah” (notice the capital “M”). Here are some of the figures who claimed royal prerogatives between 4 B.C.E and 68-70 C.E but are not called “the” or “a” Messiah:
1. In Galilee 4 B.C.E.: Judas, son of bandit leader Ezekias (War 2.56;Ant.17.271-72)
2. In Perea 4 B.C.E.: Simon the Herodian slave (War 2.57-59;Ant 17.273-77)
3. In Judea 4 B.C.E.: Athronges, the shepherd (War 2.60-65;Ant 17.278-84)
4. Menahem: grandson of Judas the Galilean (War 2.433-34, 444)
5. Simon, son of Gioras (bar Giora) (War 2.521, 625-54;4.503-10, 529;7.26-36, 154)
Given I have written about this issue, I will briefly summarize: The Messiah's crucifixion is attested by all four Gospels. Therefore, it passes the test of multiple attestation. It is also recorded early in Paul’s writings (1 Cor.15), and by non-Christian authors Josephus, Ant.18:64; Tacitus, Ann.15.44.3. Donald Juel dicusses the challenge of a crucified Messiah:
“The idea of a crucified Messiah is not only unprecedented within Jewish tradition; it is so contrary to the whole nation of a deliver from the line of David, so out of harmony with the constellation of biblical texts we can identify from various Jewish sources that catalyzed around the royal figure later known as the “the Christ” that terms like “scandal” and “foolishness” are the only appropriate responses. Irony is the only means of telling such a story, because it is so counterintuitive. (4)
Roman crucifixion was viewed as a punishment for those a lower status- dangerous criminals, slaves, or anyone who caused a threat to Roman order and authority. Given that Jewish nationalism was quite prevalent in the first century, the Romans also used crucifixion as a means to end the uprising of any revolts.There is a relevant verse about crucifixion in Deuteronomy 21:22-23: “If a person commits a sin punishable by death and is executed, and you hang the corpse on a tree, his body must not remain all night on the tree; instead you must make certain you bury him that same day, for the one who is left exposed on a tree is cursed by God. You must not defile your land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.”
The context of this verse is describing the public display of the corpse of an executed criminal. The New Testament writers expanded this theme to include persons who had been crucified (Acts 5:30; 13:29; Gal 3:13;1 Pet.2:24). To say that crucifixion was portrayed in a negative light within Judaism in the first century is an understatement. “Anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse”-the very method of death brought a divine curse upon the crucified. In other words, anyone who was crucified was assumed not to be the Anointed One of God. Paul could not of made it any clearer when he stated, “but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor.1:23-24). We can conclude that apart from the resurrection, the Jesus movement would of faded out very quickly (just as we see in the ones listed above).
#5: The Bodily Resurrection of Yeshua Explains Why Paul Believed Yeshua Was Divine
Paul’s Letters (dated 47 to 65 AD) are the earliest records we have for the life of Yeshua. In several of Paul’s Letters Yeshua is referred to as “Lord” (Gr. kyrios). Hence, the willingness to do this place Jesus in a role attributed to God in Jewish expectation.” For a Jewish person, when the title “Lord” (Heb. Adonai) was used in place of the divine name YHWH, this was the highest designation a Jewish person could use for deity.
Also, Paul believed that Yeshua was God by attributing attributes to him that were distinctly reserved for God. And he did so in a distinctly Jewish manner while also preserving monotheism. There were three attributes that first century Jews uniquely assigned to God:
1. God is the Sole Ruler of all things
2. God is the Sole Creator of all things
3. God is the only being deserving of worship
So let’s look at how Paul matches up the data here:
1. Yeshua 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…”
Here, Yeshua is clearly given the authority to rule above every one of God’s created beings.
2. Yeshua as the Creator of all things
Yeshua is clearly thought by Paul to have been the creator of the universe. This attribute is reserved only to God in Second Temple Judaism. Paul makes it clear that Jesus created all things.
Col. 1:15-16: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”
3. Yeshua is worthy of worship
As discussed above, only God was worthy of worship in Second Temple Judaism. Nevertheless, Paul discusses the worship of Yeshua. Since God is the sole Creator and Ruler of all things He alone should be worshiped. Even within the Roman Empire, Jews worshiped God alone. No other entity was worthy of worship. Here is one of the earliest texts about this topic:
Philippians 2:6-11: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
I have barely covered all the arguments for and against the resurrection of Yeshua. I think that the evidence shows the resurrection is the best explanation for the points just mentioned. Therefore,God raised Yeshua from the dead. While the disciple of Yeshua has a responsibility to uphold and defend the doctrine of the bodily resurrection of the Messiah(1 Peter 3:15), we are called to make daily application of the resurrection into their daily lives (Romans 6:1:7:25). If Christians understood that God wanted to radically transform their lives through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the world would be a different place. The Gospel is not simply a message about the death of Yeshua, but his resurrection as well (1 Corinthians 15:1-12). We as Christians are called to live the resurrected life by bringing restoration and justice to a world that desperately needs hope.
1. B. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, (Third Edition New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004), 276.
2. G. Lüdemann, What Really Happened to Jesus?: A Historical Approach to the Resurrection, trans. John Bowden (Louisville: Westminster John Knox. 1995), 80.
3. Fredriksen’s comments came during an interview with the late ABC journalist Peter Jennings for his documentary The Search for Jesus, which first aired in July 2000. Emphasis added.
4. Donald H. Juel, “The Trial and Death of the Historical Jesus” featured in The Quest For Jesus And The Christian Faith: Word &World Supplement Series 3 (St. Paul Minnesota: Word and World Luther Seminary, 1997), 105.
By Eric Chabot, CJF Midwest Representative
Over the years, many Christians have asked me, "How is that Jewish pepole can't understand Yeshua is their Messiah? After all, Yeshua fulfills so many messianic prophecies." But it can be an eye opener to see that Jewish groups such as Jews for Judaism or anti-missionary groups will generally respond by saying, “Yeshua didn’t fulfill any of the messianic prophecies.” For example, Here is a common internet post by Jewish organizations called Why Jews Don’t Believe In Jesus.
To summarize some of the messianic expectations in this article, we see:
1. The Messiah is not divine. Thus, he is an earthly figure “anointed” to carry out a specific task.
2. The Messiah will enable the Jewish people to dwell securely in the land of Israel (Is.11:11-12; 43:5-6; Jer.23: 5-8; Mic.5:4-6), and usher in a period of worldwide peace.
3. The Messiah is supposed to put an end to all oppression, suffering and disease (Is.2:1-22; 25:8; 65:25; Mic.4:1-4) and create a pathway for universal worship to the God of Israel (Zeph.3:9; Zech.9:16; 14:9).
4. The Messiah will spread the knowledge of the God of Israel to the surrounding nations (Isa.11:9; 40:5; 52:8).
These articles generally follow Maimonides view of Messiah: Maimonides was a medieval Jewish philosopher whose writings are considered to be foundational to Jewish thought and study. Here are some of his messianic expectations:
1. The Messiah will be a king who arises from the house of David
2. He helps Israel follow Torah
3. He builds the Temple in its place
4. He gathers the dispersed of Israel
Sadly, this doesn’t represent the entire scope of messianic thought. And it always lead to the “heads, I win, tails you lose approach.” In other words,“Yeshua doesn’t fulfill any of the messianic prophecies so we have that all settled and we can move on and wait for the true Messiah to come.” I have personally encountered this on more than one occasion. Le't go ahead and offer some responses to this article:
Problem #1: Some Prophecies are Unconditional Prophecies, Conditional Prophecies, and Sequentially Fulfilled Prophecies
We need to remember there is a contingent element to prophecy. In other words, the covenants that were made between God and Israel (i.e., the Abrahamic, the stipulations of the Torah, and Davidic covenants) both have conditional and an unconditional elements to them. Because of the conditional nature of the covenant God made with Israel through the Torah, Israel was judged and sent into exile. Thus, there is a delay in the blessings. But even Israel’s failure to obey God’s commands doesn’t negate the promise. Therefore, the prophecy of restoration follows every message about the prophecy of judgment and doom. Hence, there are several passages that speak to the issue of a restoration of Jewish people back to the land. I am well aware Christians differ on how to interpret these texts. This is important because many of the messianic expectations mentioned in the article are seen in relationship with Israel dwelling in the land. But for any of the messianic expectations mentioned above, Israel would have to fulfill their role in the covenants. But they didn’t and that’s why there is a delay in the blessings. Of course, Paul discusses this in Romans 9-11.
Remember: The Messiah’s Role is to Help the Gentile Nations come to know the one true God
The passages mentioned above and in the article also can tend to overlook the role of the Messiah to the nations. Our view of the covenants plays a large role in how we interpret the messianic texts and whether we view Yeshua as the Messiah or not.For example, we see in the Abrahamic Covenant God’s plan to bless the nations (Gen. 12:2–3; cf. 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). All peoples of all the earth would be beneficiaries of the promise. So it could not be clearer that God intended to use Abraham in such a way that he would be a channel of blessing to the entire world. Israel was chosen as light to draw the nations to salvation, which is confirmed by Isaiah:
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isa. 2: 2-4).
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising (Isa. 60:2-3).
The Jewish Scriptures unmistakably reveal that Gentiles will be restored to God as a result of Israel’s end-time restoration and become united to them (Ps 87:4-6; Is 11:9-10; 14:1-2; 19:18-25; 25:6-10; 42:1-9; 49:6; 51:4-6; 60:1-16; Jer 3:17; Zeph. 3:9-10; Zech. 2:11). Even Jewish anti-missionaries agree that the Jewish Messiah will open the door for the nations to have a relationship with God. For example:
The Jewish concept of the Messiah is that which is clearly taught in the prophets of the Bible. He is a leader of the Jews, strong in wisdom and power and spirit. It is he who will bring complete redemption to the Jewish people both spiritually and physically. Along with this, he will bring eternal love, prosperity and moral perfection to the world. The Jewish Messiah will bring all peoples to God. This is expressed in the Alenu prayer, which concludes all three daily services: May the world be perfected under the kingdom of the Almighty. Let all the humans call upon Your Name and turn all the world’s evildoers to You. Let everyone on earth know that every knee must bow to you . . . and let them all accept the yoke of Your Kingdom. (1)
Why does this matter? Though Israel has had many messianic figures, Yeshua is the only one that has opened the door for non-Jewish people to come to know the one true God. Just as Israel is called to be a light to the entire world (Gen 12:3), the Messiah’s mission is also to be a “light to the nations.” Regarding Yeshua, though a remnant of Israel believed in Him, it is significant that the church is now predominately Gentile. We need to ask: Has there ever been any Jewish person who has founded a world religion of Gentiles? With the backdrop of Genesis 12:1-3 in mind, we see in Isaiah 49:6 that the enlarged mission to the Gentiles climaxes the Servant’s commission from God—“I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” An expected Messiah who wasn’t viewed favorably by his own nation and who was reliably reported to have been executed as a criminal would not seem to be an ideal candidate.
Yet, because of the finished work of Yeshua, polytheistic idolatrous Gentiles are now enabled to have a relationship with the one true God. Gentiles across the world have come to know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!
Problem #2: Reember, there isn't one Messianic Expectation
Articles such as this one assume that withing the history of Jewish thought, there has only been one messianic expectation. But this false. Even Jewish scholar Amy Jill Levine (who is not a follower of Jesus but specializes in New Testament studies) sheds light on the first-century Jewish mindset.
Remember, Jewish messianism is a concept study. The word “messiah” means “anointed one” and is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.” The Jewish Scriptures records the history of those who were anointed for a specific purpose such as priests (Exod 28:41; 29:7, 29; 30:30; Lev. 7:36; 8:12; 16:32;), kings (Jdg 9:8; 9:15; 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 15:1, 17; 16:3, 12, 13; 2 Sam 2:4, 7; 3:39; 5:3; 1 Chron. 11:3; 5:17; 127; 2 Sam 19:11; 1 Kgs 1:34, 39, 45; 5:15;19:15,16; 2 Kgs 9:3, 6,12;11:12; 23:30; 2 Chron. 22:7; 23:11; 29:22; Ps 89:21), and even prophets (1 Kings 19:16; 1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 105:15).
But notice these figures were all in the present. Hence, none of these texts speak of a future figure. What we do see is that in many cases, the word anointed one, then, was not originally predictive, but descriptive. There are only a few cases where we see the possibility of one who will be a future eschatological figure. One is in Daniel 9:25-26 where it speaks of “anointed one” who will ‘finish transgression, put and end to sin, bring everlasting righteousness, seal up vision and prophecy, and anoint the Most Holy Place” (Dan. 9:24). Another is seen in Isa. 45:1 where God “anoints” the pagan king Cyrus for the task at hand (Is 41:2-4, 45). Yes, even the pagan king Cyrus was used to restore Israel while the nation was under attack (Is 44:28;45:13).
Remember, other names were used to describe the messianic person other than the “Messiah.” Some of the names include Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, Prophet, Elect One, Servant, Prince, Branch, Root, Scepter, Star, Chosen One, and Coming One. Therefore, to say Jesus is the Messiah is like asking whether he is the Son of Man, Prophet, Branch, etc.
Problem #3: Yeshua doesn’t fulfill the Davidic King Expectation?
The article assume Yeshua doesn’t qualify as the Davidic King. But the reasons it offers are far too simplistic. 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.
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).
Also, I am aware of the argument that Jesus isn’t entitled to the Davidic throne because of his genealogy. But see here for more on that topic.
Problem #4: The Messiah will not be a demi-god
The article says the Messiah will not by divine.This is a common objection. But once again, it fails to acknowledge the variety of messianic expectations in the first century. Daniel Boyarin’s book The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ discusses this in great length. Remember, 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, Yeshua provoked the indignation of his opponents because of His application of Dan. 7:13 and Ps. 110:1 to Himself. Yeshua's 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 Yeshua 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)
Problem #5: Yeshua fails as the role of the prophet like Moses!
The article assumes Yeshua failed to fulfill the role as the prophet like Moses (Deut 18: 15-18). But this is an oversimplification. It is also evident at the time of Yeshua, 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 Yeshua 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 Yeshua 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 which mentions “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 Yeshua being like Moses, we see a similar pattern in that Jesus doesn’t claim to speak or act on his own authority:
So Yeshua 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 Yeshua said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.And he who sent me is with me.He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”
I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world. (John 8:26)
For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me (John 12: 49-50).
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works(John 14:10).
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who 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).
“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 “the sign” to you that it is I who have sent you” (Exod. 3:12).
“If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.” (Exod 4: 8-9).
We see the signs are used to help people believe.
Moses “performed the “signs” before the people, and they believed; … they bowed down and worshiped” (Exod. 4:30–31)
“Works” are directly related to the miracles of Jesus (Jn. 5:20; 36;10:25; 32-28; 14:10-12; 15:24) and is synonymous with “signs.” Interestingly enough, when Jesus speaks of miracles and he calls them “works” he doesn’t refer to Exod. 4:1-9, but to Num. 16:28, “Hereby you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord.” For example:
Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me” (John 10:25).
If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believethe works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:37-38).
But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very worksthat I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me (John 5: 36)
Problem #6: Yeshua Doesn’t Fulfill Isaiah 53
The article assumes Yeshua doesn’t fulfill the prophecy of Isa. 53. Their response is overly simplistic. But I will defer to Michael Brown’s pdf on Isa. 52-53 here.
Problem #7: Judaism is solely based on national revelation
The article says only Judaism bases its belief on national revelation – i.e. God speaking to the entire nation. But this problematic because this argument confuses direct and circumstantial evidence.The giving of the Torah to Moses is the central event in Jewish history, is said to be observed by thousands of witnesses. It is supported by written documents and by a chain of oral tradition that can be traced back to the event itself. Likewise, the resurrection of Jesus is the pivotal event in Christianity (including Messianic Judaism). Both Christians and Messianic Jews can produce witnesses to the resurrection per the New Testament. The only supposed
“private” witness is possibly Paul. But he wasn’t alone when he saw the risen Jesus. Not to mention the resurrection of Yeshua is observed by groups of people.
Historians have at their disposal written documents, oral tradition eyewitness testimony, and archaeological evidence which support the people, places, and events in the story about Yeshua. When it comes to discussing the historical evidence for Yeshua or the giving of the Torah,we must differentiate between direct and circumstantial evidence. Nobody directly observed the giving of the Torah. The claim to have direct evidence is misguided from the start, because when it comes to antiquity, no one can interview or cross-examine eyewitnesses. Keep in mind that this happens all the time with cold-case investigations. Jurors may accept both direct and circumstantial evidence, and many criminals are convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence. Both Judaism and Christianity/Messianic Judaism are supported by circumstantial evidence.
I am well aware this article is a general overview of the Messiah topic. But it simply doesn’t provide any solid reasons for rejecting Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah.
- Kaplan, The Real Messiah: A Jewish Response to Missionaries (New York, NY: National Conference of Synagogue Youth, 2000), 26-35.
- A. J. Levine, A Jewish take on Jesus: Amy-Jill Levine talks the gospels” at http://www.uscatholic.org/church/2012/09/jewish-take-jesus-amy-jill-levine-talks-gospels.
- See The Concept of the Messiah in the Old Testament athttp://www.worldofthebible.com/Bible%20Studies/The%20Concept%20…;
By Eric Chabot, CJF Midwest Representative
As historians evaluate the sources available for the resurrection of Jesus, a critical question is the dating of the sources. In relation to early testimony, historian David Hacket Fisher says, “An historian must not merely provide good relevant evidence but the best relevant evidence. And the best relevant evidence, all things being equal, is evidence which is most nearly immediate to the event itself.” (1) One key in examining the early sources for the life of Yeshua is to take into account the Jewish culture in which they were birthed. As Paul Barnett notes, “The milieu of early Christianity in which Paul’s letters and the Gospels were written was ‘rabbinic.’” (2)
Given the emphasis on education in the synagogue, the home, and the elementary school, it is not surprising that it was possible for the Jewish people to recount large quantities of material that was even far greater than the Gospels themselves.
Yeshua was a called a “Rabbi” (Matt. 8:19; 9:11; 12:38; Mk. 4:38; 5:35; 9:17; 10:17, 20; 12:14, 19, 32; Lk. 19:39; Jn. 1:38; 3:2), which means “master” or “teacher.” There are several terms that can be seen that as part of the rabbinic terminology of that day. His disciples had “come” to him, “followed after” him, “learned from” him, “taken his yoke upon” them (Mt. 11:28-30; Mk 1). (3)
Therefore, it appears that the Gospel was first spread in the form of oral creeds and hymns (Luke 24:34; Acts 2:22-24, 30-32; 3:13-15; 4:10-12; 5:29-32; 10:39-41; 13:37-39; Rom. 1:3-4; 4:25; 10:9; 1 Cor. 11:23ff.;15:3-8; Phil. 26-11; 1 Tim.2:6; 3:16; 6:13; 2 Tim. 2:8;1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 4:2).
There was tremendous care in ‘delivering’ the traditions that had been received. Jesus’ use of parallelism, rhythm and rhyme, alliterations, and assonance enabled Jesus’ words not only ‘memorizable’ but easy to preserve. (4) Even Paul, a very competent rabbi was trained at the rabbinic academy called the House of Hillel by ‘Gamaliel,’ a key rabbinic leader and member of the Sanhedrin. It can be observed that the New Testament authors employ oral tradition terminology such as “delivering,” “receiving,” “passing on” “learning,” “guarding,” the traditional teaching. Just look at the following passages:
Romans 16: 17: “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.”
1 Corinthians 11:23: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread.”
Philippians 4:9: “The things you have learned and received and heardand seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
2 Thessalonians 2:15: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.”
1 Corinthians 15: 3-8
Paul applies this terminology in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-7 which is one of the earliest records for the historical content of the Gospel – the death and resurrection of Yeshua. The late Orthodox Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide was so impressed by the creed of 1 Cor. 15, that he concluded that this “formula of faith may be considered as a statement of eyewitnesses.” (5)
Paul’s usage of the rabbinic terminology “passed on” and “received” is seen in the creed of 1 Cor. 15:3-8:
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”
1 Corinthians is dated 50-55 A.D. Since Jesus was crucified in 30-33 A.D. the letter is only 20-25 years after the death of Jesus. But the actual creed here in 1 Cor. 15 was received by Paul much earlier than 55 A.D.
As Gary Habermas notes, “Even critical scholars usually agree that it has an exceptionally early origin.” Ulrich Wilckens declares that this creed “indubitably goes back to the oldest phase of all in the history of primitive Christianity.” (6) Joachim Jeremias calls it “the earliest tradition of all.” (7)
The majority of scholars who comment think that Paul probably received this information about three years after he came to faith in the Messiah which probably occurred from one to four years after the crucifixion. While we can’t be dogmatic about this, we do know at that time, Paul visited Jerusalem to speak with Peter and James, each of whom are included in the list of the Messiah's appearances (1 Cor. 15:5, 7; Gal. 1:18–19).
This means that Paul received this information from someone else at an even earlier date. How can we know where he received it? There are three possibilities:
- In Damascus from Ananias about AD 34
- In Jerusalem about AD 36/37
- In Antioch about AD 47
One of the clues as to where Paul got his information, is that, within the creed, he calls Peter by his Aramaic name, Cephas. Hence, it seems likely that he received this information in either Galilee or Judea, one of the two places where people spoke Aramaic. Therefore, Paul possibly received the oral history of 1 Cor. 15:3-7 during his visit to Jerusalem.
In Galatians 1:18 Paul says, Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. Here, “acquainted” happens to derive from a Greek word (historesai) that means "inquire into" or "become acquainted.” (8) Interestingly enough, the word “history" also derives from the Greek word “historesai.” So, the work of the historian is to find sources of information, to evaluate their reliability, to make disciplined "inquiry" into their meaning and with imagination to reconstruct what happened. (9) Paul’s first trip to Jerusalem is usually dated about AD 35 or 36.
Why does this matter?
I was once talking to a Muslim about the dating of the Qur’an and the New Testament. Islam states Yeshua was never crucified, and therefore, never risen. The Qur’an was written some six hundred years after the life of Yeshua which makes it a much later source of information than the New Testament. It seems the evidence that has just been discussed tells us that the historical content of the Gospel was circulating very early among the Messianic community. As I just said, historians look for the records that are closest to the date of event. Given the early date of 1 Cor. 15: 3-8, it is quite evident that this document is a more reliable resource than the Qur’an. Furthermore, to say the story of Yeshua was something that was “made up” much later contradicts the evidence just presented.
1. Hacket Fisher, D.H., Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought (New York: Harper Torchbooks. 1970), 62.
2. Barnett, P.W., Jesus and the Logic of History (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1997), 138.
5. Lapide, P.E., The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis: Ausburg 1983), 98-99.
6. Wilckens, U., Resurrection, trans. A. M. Stewart (Edinburgh: St. Andrew. 1977), 2
7. Jeremias, J. New Testament Theology: The Proclamation of Jesus, trans. John Bowden (New York: Scribner’s. 1971), 306.
8. Jones, T.P., Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 2007), 89-94.
Back in Cairo, I was joined by my colleague Dr. Steven Wunderink who arranged the details of my trip and was a constant source of biblical and historical information. There are over 118 known pyramids in Egypt to date, and we set out early to view the most ancient ones. The step pyramid of Djoser (c. 2700 BC) from the Old Kingdom period resembles the ziggurats of Mesopotamia and is a forerunner of the more famous pyramids of nearby Giza.
Built as a royal tomb, the complex is surrounded by what was a tall wall over 32 feet high and contains numerous architectural structures including a roofed Court of Columns designed from limestone to look like massive plant stems or trees in an endless garden (40 columns over twenty feet high). This was a foretaste of later temples and tombs I would visit that idealized nature with huge columns representing a forest garden of enormous lotus-like columns, nature and water scenes—something like the garden of Eden in Genesis 2.
8 The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.
In the nearby Tomb of Ka-Gmni from the same Old Kingdom period (c. 2340 BC), the walls are completely covered with scenes from this life as an expectation for what would happen in the next.
The detail work from this period required artisans to chip away from the limestone all but the desired images which would stand out in raised relief. Later, in the New Kingdom period, artisans got lazier and carved images into the wall with less detail. Every inch of these tombs was also painted in vivid colors, and some of that paint from over 4,000 years ago is still intact today! Part of the reason that these tombs are so well preserved is that they were built immediately west of the Nile Valley where the bank rises well above where the water would normally reach them. Notice the stark contrast between the lush Nile Valley and the barren desert to the west.
The famous Giza Pyramids (c. 2560–2540 BC) were built a bit later in the Old Kingdom Period. It just overwhelms me to think that they would have been over 500 years old when Abraham visited Egypt! Contrary to the Hollywood film Exodus: Gods & Kings, the Hebrews didn’t build the pyramids. Joseph, Moses, and many other biblical figures would have seen these impressive structures which would have been quite ancient to them as well. Sometimes, Hollywood historiography really sphinx!
In the afternoon, we flew from Cairo to Aswan where we welcomed the sunset over the Nile while sipping pomegranate tea and preparing for what to expect the following day.
The wall mosaics of Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria portray how Mark had success preaching the gospel among the Jewish community in Alexandria, and the first Jewish believer was a shoemaker. But Mark was later martyred by Roman pagans who dragged his body through the cobblestone streets on Easter Sunday 68 AD, and some of his relics are on display in the crypt. Sadly, on Palm Sunday (April 9, 2017) twin suicide bombings took place here and at St. George’s in nearby Tanta, Egypt—with a total of 45 killed and 126 injured. ISIS claimed responsibility. There is now a strong military presence outside most churches throughout Egypt.
Similarly, there is tight security at the historic synagogues of Egypt (historic because Jews were expelled in the 1950s and their property was sequestered). Only about 50 Jews remain in all of Egypt today, and nearly all are women over 55 years of age. Nevertheless, there are some special holiday services held in Alexandria’s Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue for various Jewish communities throughout North Africa. It was also in Alexandria that the famous translation of the Hebrew Bible known as the Septuagint or LXX was translated into Greek by seventy Jewish scholars during the third and second centuries B.C. All of this made for an especially nostalgic experience to stand at the bema of Alexandria’s synagogue and recite the Shema.
Later in the day, I visited the modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina which opened in 2002. Alexandria was a center for culture and erudition in the Mediterranean world. And this new library is the recreation of the famed Ancient Library of Alexandria founded by Ptolemy I Soter in the 300s BC. Its interior is modeled after the historic Daughter Library which had niches for storing papyrus scrolls. The exterior resembles a tilted hieroglyphic sun disk with the rising side dressed in Aswan granite that is inscribed with words from 120 different scripts representing the ascent of cultural illumination like the rising of the sun. I burst out with laughter when I finally found the Hebrew inscription—it looked like they chose the word for toothpaste! But maybe it’s some obscure word in Aramaic . . . I’m still researching this one. For those who want to offer a guess, the consonants from right to left are ayin, fey, tzadi, shin, hey. For a bibliophile, all of this was quite fascinating!
In the prophecy of Ezekiel 30:17, “the young men of Heliopolis (also known as Aven or On) and Bubastis (Pi-beseth or Tel Basta in the eastern Nile Delta) will fall by the sword and the cities themselves will go into captivity.” Ezekiel did not predict the destruction of Luxor in Upper Egypt in the far south, so its temples are still standing today. But the ruins of Heliopolis are underneath modern Cairo, never to be seen again apart from some excavations that have revealed an obelisk and a bust that was first identified as Rameses II then later as Pismatic I. And the utter devastation of Bubastis is unmistakable when observing the massive amounts of quartzite stone column pieces that were once imported from nearly 600 miles in Aswan but are now strewn about like messy mounds of legos. With Heliopolis, Bubastis is in complete ruins though its imposing broken monuments reveal a once magnificent city. Even the seven cobras carved as guardians from granite could not protect it, but they are preserved today as a reminder of the city’s former strength. Speaking of guardians, this archaeological site is so far off the beaten path that most foreigners never visit, and I had to be escorted by a security detail.
“The guy on the far left shadowed me for two days like my personal John Reese (Jim Caviezel from Person of Interest).”
Greetings friends, my name is Tim Sigler, and I serve as CJFM’s Israel Scholar-in-Residence. Perhaps you’ve read some of my articles in Messianic Perspectives or used our Messianic Jewish Home Calendar. I’ll have the privilege of exploring some biblical and historic sites in Egypt over the next 10 days, and I’d like to invite you to join me on my travels in the footsteps of Moses (though Abraham and Sarah, Jacob, Joseph and the rest of the family, the children of Israel as a whole for 430 years, Aaron and Miriam, then much later Elijah, Jeremiah, Joseph & Mary with baby Jesus were here as well, and according to tradition Mark the evangelist brought the Gospel to Alexandria). So Egypt plays a significant role in Bible history and prophecy as a place of bondage and a place of refuge—feel free to pray for me that this trip will be the latter! The key passage for my trip will be the words spoken to Jacob in Genesis 46:3-4a, “So He said, ‘I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again . . .”
MESSIANIC HEROES OF THE HOLOCAUST
By Mitch Glaser
"The achievements and witness of Jewish believers during the Holocaust and especially in the Warsaw Ghetto are essentially unknown to most present day Jewish believers. We stand on the shoulders of these heroes of the Holocaust - the Jewish believers of the Warsaw Ghetto - and their story, as much or as little as we know, must be told." Dr. Mitch Glaser uncovers many amazing testimonies of faith from within the Ghetto in his paper, "Heroes of the Holocaust: Poland, the Warsaw Ghetto and Yeshua" . Here are some key gleanings from his research in honor of Israel's Holocaust Memorial Day this week.
On Wednesday night and during the day on Thursday, Israel will have its "Yom haShoah", or "Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laG'vurah" which means "Memorial Day of the Holocaust and of Heroism". Though the rest of the world had Holocaust Remembrance Day in January, in Israel the date was chosen to be close to the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. After 28 days of bitter fighting as the Jewish prisoners rebelled against the Nazis, the ghetto was eventually destroyed, but the heroism of this event is a tremendously important part of Jewish history. But almost unsung in Jewish history are the stories of the thousands of Jews who believed in Jesus at this time. Stories of courageous gentile believers such as Corrie Ten Boom and Deitrich Bonhoeffer are well known, but on this day that we remember the Holocaust and its heroes, it's time to introduce you to some Jewish believers who experienced the horrors of the Holocaust.
Did you know that there were about a quarter of a million Jewish believers at the time of the Holocaust? And that several thousand of them were trapped to starve and die in the Warsaw Ghetto along with their brethren?  Here are some of their stories...
Rachmiel Frydland, a former rabbinical student & Messianic Jewish teacher, is one of the very few Jewish believers who endured the hell of the Warsaw Ghetto and lived to tell the tale:
"I had been a believer for two years when the war broke out. Warsaw shook under more and more bombs. Food became scarce and the electricity and water supply failed. Along with several other young Jewish believers in the Messiah, I went to help defend the city. Because I did not want to use a gun, I was given physical work. Within a month the city was crushed and the triumphant Germans marched in.
I decided to leave the city and seek farm work with friends to the north. With a certificate in hand, given to me by my pastor, I set out across the burning city. Reaching the outskirts, I was stopped by a soldier. "Are you a Jew?" he demanded. Without a word, I handed him my certificate. He looked at it and then spat out: "Yes, but you are still a Jew! " He seized a shovel and slammed it into my back, knocking me into a ditch. There I was ordered to join fellow Jews who were digging graves for dead horses. It was my first taste of Nazi brutality, but actually mild in comparison with what awaited so many others. That night I escaped in the darkness and resumed my journey. My friends received me gladly and fed me, but in a short time the new restrictive laws against Jews forced me to leave. Returning to Warsaw, I discovered that one of my sisters had died of typhus and that a wall had been built around the Jewish section."
Starting in November 1940, almost 500,000 Jews were inhumanely crammed into a small walled area in Warsaw with very little food and sanitation. About 45,000 Jews died the following year due to overcrowding, hard labor, starvation, and disease. "Natural death in the street from hunger, exhaustion, exposure, heart attack, or infectious disease had become the rule." During 1942, most were transported off to death camps, leaving about 60,000 Jews in the ghetto. Charles G. Roland explains in his book cataloging conditions in the Ghetto, that "By 1941, the official ration provided... 184 calories for Jews in the ghetto." Agreeing that it is impossible to survive for any length of time on so little, Roland explains that the Jewish people were able to continue for two years in those conditions through "Provision of food to the poor... by several social welfare agencies, direct smuggling of food by hungry Jews, increased production of food and, most commonly, the purchase on the black market of smuggled food." 
Frydland continues: "In late 1944, by hiding in cemeteries, deserted churches, and the homes of fearful friends, I was one of the few surviving Jews in Warsaw outside the ghetto. In that enclosure were 5,000 Jews, the last of Warsaw's original 500,000. By God's enabling, I secretly slipped into the ghetto and was able to speak comfort to a few of the Jewish believers still alive. Other Jewish brethren heard the message and believed in Messiah Jesus. My friends in the ghetto insisted that I leave. They said that if God had preserved me thus far, I would be a witness to the woes they now experienced. At the end of the war, I could tell the story of their suffering. I was probably one of the last to leave the ghetto. It was only shortly afterward that the Germans obliterated the entire Jewish area."
Dr. Ludwig Hirszfeld was another Jewish believer, who had come to faith in his twenties. He reflects in his book, "The Story of a Life", that, "There were many people who were baptized in the Quarter - old and young, sometimes whole families. Some of my students were among them, men and women, and I was often asked to be the godfather. What motives drove them to the baptism? They never received any benefits from it. The change of faith did not entail any change in their legal status. No, they were attracted to it by the appeal of a religion of love. They were attracted by the religion of the nation to which they felt they belonged. They were attracted to the religion to which there was no room, or least there should not be any room, for hate. Jews are so weary of the atmosphere of universal antipathy".
He also wrote; "Gloria in Excelsis Deo. Glory to God in the highest and peace and goodwill to men. Grzybowski Square and Twarda Street disappear. The excited and feverish crowd of the poor also disappears. We are immersed in the coldness and atmosphere of the place of worship. There is a throng of us they are lost in prayers. We can no longer see the killers and the haters - we are in the company of the enraptured. We are united in a sentiment of higher communion..."
"...Why should I love those monstrous men? For no reason. Love is a state of the spirit. Everybody possesses it, but sometimes in a dimmed and muffled state. But, it is as much an instinct as the hunger for life, as the joy of living. Love is a delight as much as rapture amid the starry silence and the transport of joy of the dancing stars. There are no small things here - everything emanates from the spirit. A heavenly music is heard. And in this harmony the soul bends down sobbing in humiliation. And it embraces the world in rapture, it floats in oblivion. Horrible people, horrible things disappear: all resonates with the Great Harmony."
It might seem surprising that there were so many Jewish believers at that time, but there had been a significant surge in attempts to reach the Jewish people with the gospel in Eastern Europe in the preceding decades. Glaser remarks that "Warsaw was actually a hotbed of Messianic activity". The historical book "Sefer Milhamot ha-Getaot" (Book of the Ghetto Wars) by Yitzhak Zuckerman and Mosē Basōq, confirms that there were indeed a great many Jews who believed in Jesus in the Warsaw Ghetto, and some testimonies characterised them very positively, at one point noting that, "Almost all of them were intellectuals".
Though not a believer, Hanna Krall quotes these lines in her Polish short story "Salvation": "When the Germans cleared the church of all the Christian Jews, there was only one Jew left of the church: the crucified Jesus... Jesus came down from the cross and called (to the painting) of his mother: 'Mame, kim...' This means in Yiddish: 'Come Mama.' She (came down and) went to the Umschlagplatz." Krall describes this as one of the numerous, poignant Jewish - Christian anecdotes told in the Ghetto.
It seems fitting to end with some powerful words from Rachmiel Frydland: "From my harrowing experience, I see that men who reject Messiah are capable of bringing hell on earth. But surely God has not abandoned mankind. He has a plan for every person who will trust Him. The Bible, which has guided and sustained me thus far, promises that peace and justice will fill the earth only when the Prince of Peace returns. He is the only hope of mankind, and I know that He will come, because He has proved His great love and His miraculous power to me."
 "Heroes of the Holocaust: Poland, the Warsaw Ghetto and Yeshua" by Dr. Mitch Glaser, President Chosen People Ministries - a presentation to The Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism North America March 5-7, 2012
 Peter F. Dembowski calculates that there were 5,000 to 6,000 Jewish believers living in the Ghetto at its height. Peter Dembowski, "Christians in the Warsaw Ghetto: An Epitaph for the Unremembered", University of Notre Dame Press, 2005,p.68
 From the personal testiomony of Rachmiel Frydland in the biographies section of www.messianicassociation.org
 Charles G. Roland, "Courage Under Siege: Disease, Starvation and Death in the Warsaw Ghetto", New York: Oxford University Press, 1992, ch 6, p.99-104.
Finished the conference in Jerusalem and today we hired an Arab driver to take us to Shechem, Mount Gerazim, and Ramallah in the West Bank. On board are Tim Sigler (Moody Bible Institute), Richard Averbeck (TEDS), Randall Price (Liberty U.), and Jim Sibley (Israel College of the Bible), among others, so we are well guided! Here's the checkpoint between the Israeli controlled area and the Palestinian territory. We noticed that the Israelis were having to check every car that was crossing over from the Palestinian side – but the Palestinians weren't checking the Israeli cars that were coming from the other direction. So it's obvious that no one thinks anyone from Israel is coming across the border to hurt anyone. The Palestinian soldiers don't even bother to check the Israeli cars.
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