By Eric Chabot, CJF Midwest Representative
The reign of God is one of the most pertinent themes in biblical theology.The term “kingdom of God” is absent from the Tanakh. However, the God of Israel is identified as King: (1 Samuel 12:12; Psalm 24:10; Isa 33:22; Zeph 3:15; Zech 14:16-17), as ruler over Israel (Exod 15:18; Num 23; 21; Deut 33:5; Isa 43:15), and ruler over the entire creation (2 Kings 19:15; Isa 6:5; Jer 46:18; Psalm 10; 47:2; 93; 96:10; 145:11,13). The God of Israel also possesses a royal throne (Psalm.9:4; 45:6; 47:8; Isa 6:1; 66:1; Ezek 1:26); His reign is ongoing (Psalm10:16; 146:10; Isa 24:23), and rule and kingship belong to Him (Psalm 22:28). We see in the Tanakh that in an eschatological sense, God’s sovereignty is not universally accepted, but it will happen in the future (Zech 14 1-9; Dan 7:13-14; 2 Sam 7:11-12; 16-17; Matt 19:28).
As far as Christians, depending on one’s eschatology, some Christians think Yeshua will bring the physical or earthly aspect of the reign of God in the future. It is evident that Jesus did inaugurate the kingdom of God. However, he didn’t do this physically but spiritually. Thus, Yeshua spoke of a mystery form of the kingdom (Matt. 13:11) that is taking place between His first and Second Coming. Jesus now offers an invisible, spiritual reign through a new birth to both Jew and Gentile that will last throughout eternity (John 3:3-7; 18:36; Luke 17:20-21).
Depending on one’s eschatology, some Christians have concluded that Yeshua corrected the view that there will be a restored Israel in the future.I should note that Craig Evans says:
Did Jesus intend to found the Christian church? This interesting question can be answered in the affirmative and in the negative. It depends on what precisely is being asked. If by church one means an organization and a people that stand outside of Israel, the answer is no. If by a community of disciples committed to the restoration of Israel and the conversion and instruction of the Gentiles, then the answer is yes. Jesus did not wish to lead his disciples out of Israel, but to train followers who will lead Israel, who will bring renewal to Israel , and who will instruct Gentiles in the way of the Lord. Jesus longed for the fulfillment of the promises and the prophecies, a fulfillment that would bless Israel and the nations alike. -Craig A Evans, From Jesus to the Church: The First Christian Generation, pg 18.
What is interesting is that Yeshua spoke about the relationship between Israel’s repentance and their response to him in the following text:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”-Luke 13: 34-35
A similar text is seen in Matthew 23: 37-39:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Notice the emphasis on the article “until.” Here, it could not be clearer that Jesus says the Jewish people will not see him again and cry out to Him until there is genuine belief on their part.
Another text that is important to the concept of Israel’s repentance and the Messiah’s return is seen in Peter’s sermon in Acts 3:19-21:
“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.”
Here, the word for restoration is “apokatastasis” which is only seen in this text. There is also a similar theme in Acts 1:6 when Jesus is asked about “restoring” the kingdom to Israel.. C.K. Barrett said that this text speaks of “the times of refreshing” which suggested “moments of relief during the time men spend in waiting for that blessed day.” – C.K. Barrett, “Faith and Eschatology in Acts 3” in Glaube und Eschatologie (ed. E. Grässer and O. Merk), J. C. B. Mohr. 1985). 1-17.
The point is that the Messiah is in heaven and his reappearance to rule and reign can be expedited by Israel’s repentance. Also regarding the Acts 3 text, widely respected theologian Gerald McDermott notes the following in his book, Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land
1.The Greek word he uses here for “restoration” is the same word “apokatastasis” used in the Septuagint for God’s future return of Jews from all over the world to Israel.
2. I will bring them back [apokatastēsō] to their own land that I gave to their fathers. (Jer. 16:15)
3. I will set my eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back [apokatastēsō] to this land. (Jer. 24:6)
4. I will restore Israel [apokatastēsō] to his pasture. (Jer. 50:19 [27:19 Septuagint]
5. Peter was using a Jewish code word for a future, renewed earth in which Israel would be preeminent.
Ironically, the same themes about the condition of Israel and the coming of the Messiah (for the first time) are seen in the later rabbinical literature. In the book Journey to Heaven: Exploring Jewish Views of the Afterlife, Leila Leah Bronner says the following:
All “the ends” have passed and still the Messiah has not come; it depends only upon repentance and good deeds. (BT Sanhedrin 97b) If [the whole of] Israel [genuinely] repented a single day, the son of David would come immediately. If [the whole of] Israel observed a single Sabbath properly, the son of David would come immediately. (JT Ta’anit 64a) If Israel were to keep two [consecutive] Sabbaths according to the law, they would be redeemed forthwith. (BT Shabbat 118b) Because they describe a uniformity of devotion and behavior that is difficult if not impossible to attain, these passages show the lengths to which Jews as a community must go to attract the Messiah, as does this statement from Rabbi Yohanan: “The son of David will come only in a generation that is either altogether righteous or altogether wicked.”
Also, in a book called Jewish Christian Debates: God, Kingdom, Messiah features a dialogue between Bruce Chilton and the late Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner. In it, Neusner says:
What is most interesting in the Talmud of the land of Israel’s picture is that the hope for the Messiah’s coming is further joined to the moral condition of each individual Israelite. Hence, messianic fulfillment was made to depend on the repentance of Israel. The coming of the Messiah depended not on historical action but on moral regeneration.-pg 172.
Now this is very interesting! Does moral regeneration sound familiar? Just read John 3 when Yeshua discusss the new birth with Nicodemus.
In conclusion, we see in the Bible and the later rabbinical literature that there is a relationship between Israel's repentance and the return of the Messiah!
When it comes to the study of messianic prophecy, the idea of corporate solidarity states that one person can represent a whole group. In other words, given the Messiah is supposed to be the ideal representative of his people (Israel), Yeshua is the Jew par excellence! Keep in mind, this post is not arguing that the Messiah's identity as the ideal representative of his people means there is no longer any future significance for Israel as a national entity. Let’s take a closer look:
Yeshua as the Son of God
And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”- Exodus 4-21-23
He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’ And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him. I will establish his offspring forever and his throne as the days of the heavens.- Psalm 89: 26-29
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.- Colossians 1: 15-18
Even though divine sonship appears in the Jewish Scriptures with regards to persons or people groups such as angels (Gen 6:2; Job 1:6; Dan 3:25), and Israel (Ex. 4:22-23; Hos 11;1; Mal. 2:10), the category that has special importance to the Son of God issue is the king. When the divine sonship is used in the context of the relationship between Israel and the king (2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7;89:26-27), the sonship theme emphasizes that the king is elected to a specific task. Furthermore, there is also a special intimacy between God and the king. The existence of Israel is directly related to God’s covenant with Israel and Israel’s relationship to God as the King. The Davidic covenant established David as the king over all of Israel. Under David’s rule, there was the defeat of Israel’s enemies, the Philistines. David also captured Jerusalem and established his capital there (2 Sam. 1-6).
In Psalm 89, the Davidic King will be elevated over the rivers and seas (v.24- 25) and is the most exalted ruler on earth (v. 27). He also will be the “firstborn” and enjoy the highest rank among all earthly kings. Furthermore, David’s throne continues his dynasty from one generation to the next for perpetuity (vv.28-29). In Psalm 110, the Davidic King is invited to sit at the royal throne at God’s “right hand” (vs.1) and his called “lord” (vs.1) and called a “priest” after the pattern of Melchizedek. As Israel went into the Babylonian captivity, the prophet Hosea says that Israel will be without a Davidic king for many days (Hosea 3:4).However, in the last days, God kept his promise of the Davidic covenant by rebuilding Israel which includes the re-establishment of the Davidic kingdom (Isa.11:1–2; Hosea 3:5; Amos 9:11–12). The Davidic King will be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2) and would be unlike any past Davidic king (Is.7:14-17; 9:6-7;11:1-10), even though he is not spoken of specifically as “The Messiah.”
Israel and the Priesthood
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”- Exodus 19:5-6
In Israel’s history, priests served as an intermediaries between God and men, so this “kingdom of priests” had been called by God to bring God’s Word to man. Also, the priest (Heb. cohanim) was anointed in his role as a mediator between God and the Jewish people because of his ability make to make atonement (Lev.4:26;31,35;5:6,10; 14:31).There are implicit passages in the Hebrew Bible that discuss a priestly aspect of the Messiah (Hag:1:12-14; 2:2-4; 20-23; Zech:3:6-10;4:2-5,11-14). Since Yeshua is the ideal representative of Israel, he fulfills the role of priest.
As Harvey E. Finley says:
Psalm 110:4 reads: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’” This is a royal psalm. Two significant points are made about the One who is to sit at God’s right hand. First, the order of Melchizedek is declared to be an eternal order. Second, this announcement is sealed with God’s oath. Neither of these affirmations applied to the Aaronic order of priesthood. As with Melchizedek, Jesus was without the ancestral, genealogical credentials necessary for the Aaronic priesthood ( Hebrews 7:3Hebrews 7:13Hebrews 7:16 ), he was also before Aaron and the transitory, imperfect law and Levitical priesthood ( Hebrews 7:11-12Hebrews 7:17-18; 8:7 ). Melchizedek, Aaron, and his descendants all died, preventing them from continuing in office ( 7:3). Jesus has been exalted to a permanent priesthood by his resurrection and enthronement at the right hand of God in the heaven (8:1). (1)
Israel’s Calling to be a Light to the Nations
What does it mean to say Israel was elected? Scott Bader-Saye says:
Election is the choice by one person of another person out of a range of possible candidates. This choice then establishes a mutual relationship between the elector and the elected, in biblical terms a “covenant” (berit). Election is much more fundamental then just freedom of choice in the ordinary sense, where a free person chooses to do one act from a range of possible acts. Instead, the elector chooses another person with whom she will both act and elicit responses, and then establishes the community in which these acts are done, and then promises that for which the election has occurred. The content of these practical choices is governed by Torah, but there could be no such coherent standards of action without prior context of election, the establishment of covenantal community, and the promise of ultimate purpose.”
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples;but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”- Isaiah 60: 1-3
Election is not solely a doctrine about salvation- that some get saved while others do not. Hence, it is simply about God’s fairness. Instead, election of one is not the rejection of the rest, but ultimately for their benefit. It is in Genesis 12:1–3 that the Messianic blessing for the entire world would come from the offspring of Abraham:
I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”
It is God’s reaching out to restore Israel and through Israel to extend covenantal peace to the world. Israel is elected for mission by God for the sake of these other families so that God’s blessing might come to all of them through what Israel is and what Israel does. The calling of Israel would be to see the inclusion of Gentiles (“goyim” or “people groups” ) into the covenant.
Micah spoke of a time when the nations would go to a restored temple to learn about God (4:15). Amos also spoke of all the nations coming to the God of Israel (Amos 9:12), and other prophets spoke of the inclusion of Gentiles into God’s redemptive plan (Ezek 17:23; 31:6; Dan 4:9-21). This is why just as Israel is called to be a light to the entire world, the Messiah’s mission is also to be a “light to the nations” (Isa. 49:6). Hence, while God’s plans are national (Israel), it is evidence that the nation is an instrument to bring international blessings. Therefore, Israel’s Head, the Messiah, is called to restore the nation and use the nation to bring blessings to the other nations of the earth—blessings that are spiritual and physical.
Keeping this in mind, within the book of Isaiah there are several Servant of the Lord passages. Some of the passages about the Servant of the Lord are about the nation of Israel (Is.41:8-9; 42:19; 43:10; 44:21; 45:4; 48:20), while there are other passages where the Servant of the Lord is seen as a righteous individual (Is.42:1-4;50:10; 52:13-53:12). One passage that stands out is Isaiah 49: 1-7:
“Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from afar, The LORD called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He named Me. He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; And He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver. He said to Me, “You are My Servant, Israel, In Whom I will show My glory.” But I said, “I have toiled in vain, I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity;Yet surely the justice due to Me is with the LORD, And My reward with My God.” And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him. For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, And My God is My strength, He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and its Holy One, To the despised One, To the One abhorred by the nation, To the Servant of rulers, Kings will see and arise, Princes will also bow down, Because of the LORD who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen You.”
In order for the prophecy of Isa. 49:1-7 to be successful, we must take some things into consideration. Remember, Isaiah 49:1-7 predicts that that the Servant will be powerful, bringing God’s “salvation to the ends of the earth,” and yet he will be “despised and abhorred by the nation” of Israel, although rulers of the gentiles will “bow down” to him. So let us ask the following questions:
Has there ever been any Jewish person who fits these words, having begun a world religion of gentiles?
There are only a handful of major world religions, about five, so the search among the possibilities is rather manageable (Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism Christianity/Messianic Judaism). Before the first century A.D. only the Jewish people and a few Greek philosophers were believers in one God, and only a small percentage of the world’s population had any awareness of the Jewish Scriptures.
But now, 1.4 to 2 billion people profess to be followers of Yeshua. And these are mostly if not all Gentiles.
How does one calculate the probability that a Jewish person would found a world religion? A reasonable assumption is that a founder belongs to some people group.
Since the world has produced about five founders of major religions and since about one in 300 persons are Jews, a guesstimate for the antecedent odds of this prophecy coming true is highly improbable.
This expected Messiah would be despised by his own nation certainly gives him a tough start on becoming a world leader, and Jesus in particular is reliably reported to have been executed as a criminal.
Despised and executed criminals are not likely candidates for becoming major figures in world history, so the antecedent odds for this particular candidate, Jesus, to overcome these severe handicaps and still become a worldwide religious leader would be awfully difficult. (3)
In the end, as the ideal representative of his people, Jesus has helped bring Gentiles into a relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Given the ekklesia is made up of predominately Gentiles, the word “mystery’ (μυστήριον) plays a key role here. It does not mean “mysterious” as in “strange.” It means “secret”–something kept hidden. The mystery that Paul talks about (e.g., Rom. 16:25-26; 1 Cor. 2:7-8; Eph. 3:4-9; Col. 1:26) was that regenerated Jews and Gentiles being united in one body was not known in the Jewish Scriptures.. Gentiles had now become fellow heirs and members of the body of Messiah with the Jewish people. While Paul knew Israel held priority in God’s program, he realized that the prophets had revealed that Gentiles would be blessed–but after Israel had been blessed–and through Israel’s blessing.
These are just a few examples as how Yeshua is the only one who is the one-man Israel.
1. Harvey E. Finley, “Melchizedek” featured in Walter Elwell, Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1996).
2. Scott Bader-Saye, The Church and Israel After Christendom: The Politics of Election(Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1999), 31.
3. R. D. Geivett and G.R. Habermas, In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case For God’s Actions in Human History. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. 1997, 221-223.
Even though the Christian can always offer certain dates for the Gospels, it should remembered that there was a gap of time between the ascension of Jesus and when the Gospel authors actually wrote their individual biographies about the life of Jesus. Therefore, there was an oral period where the words and deeds of Jesus were committed to memory by the disciples and transmitted orally. Oral Tradition is the transmission of a teaching or saying from person to person or from generation to generation by word of mouth rather than by the use of writing. The home, the synagogue, and the elementary school was where Jewish people learned how to memorize and recall information such as community prayers. But while we need to heed the importance of the oral phase of the Jesus story, at the same time, there is some evidence that Jewish people of that era took notes on waxed tablets. There is no reason to presuppose that literate members of Jesus’ group might not have written down his teachings. We could point to the teachings of the Teacher of Righteousness who was the founder of the Qumran sect which predates Jesus. This Teacher of Righteousness had his own teachings written down during his lifetime, perhaps on waxed tablets. This lends support to the possibility that literate members of Jesus’ group might have written down his teachings as well.
Given that many skeptics assume the New Testament is biased, they tend to ask for sources that are written about Jesus outside the New Testament. Furthermore, since the request for these sources must be written by non-Christians, this supposedly equates to pure objectivity and no propaganda. Sadly, the demand for this wish list shows the ignorance about the oral world of Jesus.The late Maurice Casey, who was a non Christian scholar who specialized in early Christianity summarized the importance of the oral world of Jesus:
The major reasons why all our earliest sources for the Life and Teaching of Jesus are Christian is that Jesus was a first- century Jewish prophet who lived in a primarily oral Jewish culture, not a significant politician in the Graeco-Roman world. By contrast, for example, Julius Caeser was an important political and literary figure in the highly literate culture of the Romans. It is therefore natural that he should have written literary works which have survived, and that other surviving literary sources have written about him.
Casey goes onto say:
Jesus of Nazareth left no literary works at all, and he had no reason to write any. He lived in a primarily oral culture, except for the sanctity and central importance of its sacred texts, which approximate to our Hebrew Bible. A variety of works now thought of as Apocrypha (e.g. Sirach) or Pseudopigrapha (e.g. 1 Enoch) were held equally sacred by some Jewish people, and could equally well learnt and repeated by people who did not possess the then- difficult skill of writing. Almost all our surviving primary sources about Jesus are Christian because most people who had any interest in writing about him were his followers,and the few relatively early comments by other writers such as Josephus and Tacitus are largely due to special circumstances, such as Jesus’ brother Jacob (Jos.Ant .XX,200), or the great fire of Rome (Tac.Annals XI, 44). 
As Craig Evans notes, according to the Shema, which all Torah observant Jews were expected to recite daily, parents were to teach their children the Torah ( Deut 4:9; 6:7; 11:19; 31:12-13; 2 Chr 17:7-9; Eccl 12:9).
How would Jesus have made his teaching memorable?
While none of Jesus’ adversaries called Jesus a rabbi, Jesus was seen as a rabbi and teacher in the Gospels (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). In the first century A.D. Rabbi (‘My great one”) could refer to those religious figures who were in a high position,while later in the third century it became associated with those who had produced rabbinic literature. There are several terms that can be seen that as part of the rabbinic terminology of that day. As Paul Barnett notes, the disciples of Jesus had “come” to him, “followed after” him, “learned from” him, “taken his yoke upon” them” (Mt. 11:28-30; Mk 1).
Jesus taught in poetic form, employing alliteration, paronomasia, assonance, parallelism, and rhyme. Since over 90 percent of Jesus’ teaching was poetic, this would make it simple to memorize. Also, in some ways Jesus did fit the mold of a rabbi, this doesn’t mean he fit the mold of an ordained of rabbi which was more of a formal office that took place a century or more later. The similarities and differences between Jesus as a rabbi and teacher and the rabbis who also taught in his culture are seen here:
- Jesus taught but not in formal educational settings.
- Jesus’ delivering system was face to face and oral.
- Jesus modeled how to live as much or more than he stated, ”Do this” or “Don’t do that.”
- Jesus’ teachings were created orally and transmitted orally.
- Jesus was a passionate guardian of Old Testament law.
- Jesus explained and expanded on Old Testament law.
- Jesus’ actions could attain the status of commandments in the minds of his followers.
- God’s truth was incarnate in Jesus.
- Jesus wrote nothing; it was sufficient for this oral text to remain oral.
- The oral origins of the Gospels are evident within the Gospels.
- It was not until approximately twenty years after Jesus’ public ministry that the first written accounts of his words and deeds were inscribed in the Gospels. 
Interestingly enough, given Jesus had such a high view of the Torah and it was believed that God was incarnate in Jesus, we should heed the words of Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner. He says:
Since rabbinical documents repeatedly claim that, if you want to know the law, you should not only listen to what the rabbi says but also copy what he does, it follows that, in his person, the rabbi represents and embodies the Torah. God in the Torah revealed God’s will and purpose for the world. So God had said what the human being should be. The rabbi was the human being in God’s image. That, to be sure, is why (but merely by the way) what the rabbi said about the meaning of Scripture derived from revelation. Collections of the things he said about Scripture constituted compositions integral to the Torah. So in the rabbi, the word of God was made flesh. And out of the union of man and Torah, producing the rabbi as Torah incarnate, was born Judaism, the faith of Torah: the ever present revelation, the always open-canon. For fifteen hundred years, from the time of the first collections of scriptural exegeses to our own day, the enduring context for midrash remained the same: encounter with the living God.
We also see an emphasis on the importance of remembering the words of Jesus:
“Listen carefully to what I’m about to tell you.” (Luke 9:44)
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on themwill be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” (Matthew 7:24)
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20)
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”(Mark 13:31)
“ It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63)
“So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68)
“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; but the Father who dwells in me does his works” (John 14:10)
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you”(John 14:26)
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7)
Even after the ascension of Jesus, the apostles gave their eyewitness testimony to the words of Jesus. It is also important to note the role of how the disciples were active participants in the life of Jesus. They saw the importance of bearing witness to the deeds and sayings of Jesus:
As Bauckham says:
The sense (not a properly one generic one) in which the witnesses of the Holocaust created a new literature of testimony, is much the same sense as that in which the witnesses of the history created the Gospels. Those witnesses understood the imperative to witness to a command of the risen Christ, but the parallel is sufficient to be suggestive. In both cases, the uniqueness required precisely witness as the only means by which the events could be adequately known. In both cases, the exceptionality of the event means that only the testimony of participant witness can give us anything approaching access to the truth of the event.
Common Objections to Oral Tradition
#1: Hasn’t Memory Been Shown to Be Very Unreliable?
First, if memory is so unreliable, than much of human existence couldn’t be sustained on a daily basis. Memory, along with testimony are some of the things we take for granted in the common concerns of life without being able to give a reason for them. Also, high impact events that have strong emotional involvement can survive accuracy over a long period. As Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy note, the “memoric skepticism” paradigm can be traced back to the collapse in human knowledge after World War I. This time period that gave rise to the this paradigm is seen in various forms such as individual (F.C. Bartlett); collective/social (Maurice Halbwachs); historiography (Carl Becker); sociology of knowledge (Karl Mannheim) and New Testament studies (Rudolph Bultmann). Sociologist Barry Schwartz says: “These men appealed so greatly to the West because their views resonated with the cynicism of the post World War I worldview and ethos: ‘the world is not what it seems.’
One thing for sure: high impact events that have strong emotional involvement can survive accuracy over a long period. For example, my sister died in 1973. Even though I was four years old at the time I can still remember much of the details of the day it happened. Steven Waterhouse summarizes Bauckham’s work and the importance of memory:
1. Unique, unusual, unexpected events (like healings, miracles, and exorcisms) are memorable.
2. Events that are personally important and relevant tend toward long term memory (like matters of the Messiah’s arrival and eternal destiny in heaven or hell).
3. Events in which one is emotionally involved are memorable (Mark 9:6, 14:72, as in being a participant in a great cause with struggles and opposition).
4. Memories involving vivid imagery are remembered well (Mark 2:4, 4:37-38, 6:39-40, 7:33-34, 9:20, 10:32, 50, 11:14).
5. Memories often include irrelevant and odd details (there were “other boats,” Mark 4:36).
6. Reliable memories rarely include precise dates as on July 15 but do include time of day and relationships to seasons and holidays (as in the Gospel of John).
7. The “gist” of a memory (even with details essential to the main point) is more likely to be retained than purely secondary details. (Bauckham’s own conclusion is that this explains the variation in the Gospel accounts but unity on the core facts.)
8. Frequent retelling of a story shortly after an event tends to sharpen not diminish memory. “Frequent recall is an important factor in both retaining memory and retaining it accurately.” 
In conclusion, as Bauckham says:
The eyewitnesses who remembered the events of the history of Jesus were remembering inherently very memorable events, unusual events that would have impressed themselves on the memory, events of key significance for those who remembered them, landmark or life-changing events for them in many cases, and their memories would have been reinforced and stabilized by frequent rehearsal, beginning soon after the event. They did not need to remember – and the Gospels rarely record – merely peripheral aspects of the scene or the event, the aspects of recollective memory that are least reliable. Such details may often have been subject to performative variation in the eyewitnesses’ telling of their stories, but the central features of the memory, those that constituted its meaning for those who witnessed and attested it, are likely to have been preserved reliably. We may conclude that the memories of eyewitnesses of the history of Jesus score highly by the criteria for likely reliability that have been established by the psychological study of recollective memory.”
Mauruce Casey, Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths? (New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark.2014).
 John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy, The Lost World World of Scripture (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVaristy Press. 2013), 105.
Paul Barnett, Jesus and the Logic of History (Downers Grove, IL: InterVaristy Press. 1997), 138.
D. G. Reid, The IVP Dictionary of the New Testament: A One-Volume Compendium Of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 2004), 460.
 Walton and Sandy, 108.
 Jacob Neusner, Midrash in Context: Exegesis in Formative Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983), 137.
 Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy, The Jesus Legend: A Case For The Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Tradition (Grand Rapids: MI: Baker Books, 2007), 278.
 Barry Schwartz, “Christian Origins: Historcial Truth and Social Memory” in Memory, Tradition and Text: Uses of the Past in Early Christianity, ed. A Kirkand T. Thatcher (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005), 45-46; cited in Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy, The Jesus Legend: A Case For The Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Tradition (Grand Rapids: MI: Baker Books, 2007), 278.
 Steven Waterhouse, Jesus and History, How We Know His Life and Claims (Amarillo, TX: Westcliff Press, 2009), 86-87.
Bauckham, 346; cited in Waterhouse, Jesus and History, How We Know His Life and Claims (Amarillo, TX: Westcliff Press, 2009), 87.
Over the years I have taught on the resurrection of Yeshua. Sometimes we take for granted that we understand what we mean when we talk about resurrection in the Bible. Perhaps this post will help spark some interest to go further on the topic.
One of the most important doctrines is the resurrection of the dead/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). Yeshua said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even of he dies.” Yeshua could not have made full atonement for our sins without the resurrection. Also, through the resurrection, Yeshua took on the role as advocate and intercessor (1 John. 2:2; Rom. 8:34). His resurrection also guaranteed us the opportunity of having a resurrected body’s like His (1 Cor.15:20-23, 51-53; 1 Pet.1:3; Phil. 3:20-21; John. 5:25-29).
An important aspect of possessing eternal life is the ability to raise the dead. The Jewish people knew the God of Israel as the only one who could raise the dead (Job 19:26; Ps. 17:15; 49:15; 73:24; Is. 26:19; 53:10; Dn. 12:2;12:13).Therefore, by claiming the authority to raise the dead, Yeshua was exemplifying both the same actions and attributes of the God Israel. The resurrection also marked Yeshua as the one who will be the judge all men (Acts 17:31).
Where do we see resurrection in the Tanakh?
As just stated, belief in a resurrection of persons from the dead are seen in eight passages: (Job 19:26; Ps. 17:15; 49:15; 73:24; Is. 26:19; 53:10; Dn. 12:2;12:13). The resurrection terminology is seen in two places (Ezek. 37:1-14; Hos. 6:2) to show a national and spiritual restoration brought about by the return from the exile. As far as the nature of the future bodily resurrection, it may involve a corpse or the receipt of a material body comparable to the present physical body (Job 19:26; Is. 26:19), or it may be a matter of transformation (Dn. 12:2-3 and perhaps 12:13); or glorification after reanimation, in the case of the righteous.
As far as the function of the resurrection, it may be personal vindication (Is. 26:16; 53:10-12). Resurrection may also have a function in relation to reward or punishment (Dn. 12:2; 12:13), an assumption to heaven and enriched fellowship with God (Ps. 49:15; 73:24,26), or preface to the beatific vision of God (Ps. 17:15 and possibly Job 19:26). (1)
The Greek word for resurrection is “anatasis” which means “a raising up” or “rising.” There are resuscitations in the Tanakh such as the example of Elijah and Elisha raising a person from death (1 Kings 17-23; 2 Kings 4:34-35). While these figures may have been raised in a resurrection sense, they were not raised immortal in the same way Yeshua was.
J. D. Levenson and K. J. Madigan, say the following:
““Christian understandings of resurrection, along with the church’s appreciation of its religious depth, its historical richness, and its reverberations, would be much impoverished if Christians thought that the expectation of resurrection were merely theirs. In particular, and what is most crucial, they would lose sight of the extent to which resurrection is rooted in the belief and practice of Judaism. Indeed, it occurs already in the Old Testament, the only scriptures the church knew at the time of Jesus (when it wasn’t yet called the “Old Testament”). In fact, not only the notion of the resurrection of the dead, but the expression of God’s vindication of Jesus in the language of resurrection, owes its origins to its parent religion, Judaism-or, to be more precise, to Judaism as it stood late in the Second Temple period (about 515 B.C.E., when the Temple was rebuilt after its destruction in 586 B.C.E. by the Babylonians, to 70 C.E., when the Romans destroyed it.” (2)
Resurrection in Jewish Thought
In the Rabbinical literature there are explicit teachings on the resurrection. It says in the Mishnah 10.1, it says, “All Israelites have a share in the world to come; … and these are they that have no share in the world to come: he that says that there is no resurrection of the dead prescribed in the Law.” Moses Maimonides, a Jewish rabbi and a medieval Jewish philosopher who has forever influenced the Jewish and non-Jewish world said:
” The resurrection of the dead is one of the cardinal principles established by Moses our teacher. A person who does not believe this principle has no real religion, certainly not Judaism. However, resurrection is for the righteous. This is the earning of the statement in Breshit Rabbah, which declares: “the creative power of rain is both for the righteous and the wicked, but the resurrection of the dead is only for the righteous.” Our sages taught the wicked are called dead even when they are still alive; the righteous are alive even when they are dead” (Bab. Talmud Brakhot 18 b).
Three points are made here: 1. Resurrection is a cardinal principle taught in the Torah which all Jews must believe 2. It is for the righteous alone 3. All men must die and their bodies decompose. (3)
Resurrection in the New Testament
As we approach the New Testament, Joachim Jeremias comments:
” Ancient Judaism did not know of an anticipated resurrection as an event in history. Nowhere does one find in the literature anything comparable to the resurrection of Yeshua. Certainly resurrections of the dead were known, but these always concerned resuscitations, the return to the earthly life. In no place in the late Judaic literature does it concern a resurrection to doxa [glory] as an event in history.” (4)
Other Issues in Defining Resurrection
1. Resurrection is completely different from reincarnation which is a many-times event: Reincarnation is also categorized as a rebirth of a soul into a new and different but still physical and mortal body. Resurrection is a one-time event where the believer receives not a second body but a transformed body. In resurrection, there is continuity between our present bodies and the transformed body to come.
2. There are three resuscitations in the Gospels: Lk. 8:49-56; Jn. 11:38-44; Lk. 7:11-15. Lazarus was resuscitated. He went on to live on in his old mode of but still had to face a second death. Lazarus and these other resuscitations are similar to the raising of the dead as already mentioned in the examples of Elijah and Elisha raising a person from death (1 Kings 17-23; 2 Kings 4:34-35). Yeshua was not only but resurrected, he was changed. His body was transformed into what Paul calls a glorified body. He never died again. Therefore, it is important to remember that Yeshua is not the only one in human history that has been raised from the dead ( if we call it resuscitation), but he certainly is the only one that has ever been resurrected! In other words, He is the only one who has been raised immortal.
3. Resurrection is not translation: Within the Tanakh (the Old Testament) people such as Elijah and Enoch did not die but were simply translated to heaven (2 Kings 2:11; Gen. 5:24). Also, within the extra-canonical Jewish writing called Testament of Job 40, an account of translation was given as a category to describe recently deceased people as well as to the living.(5) Translation is defined as the bodily assumption of someone out of this world into heaven while resurrection is defined as raising up of a dead man in the space-time universe.(6)
4. In relation to the view of resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:51, is a critical passage. Paul says, “We shall all be changed.” Paul is indicating that the resurrected body is the transformation of the existing body into a new mode of physicality. When Paul describes the new body as a soma pneumatikon, which is often translated “spiritual body” he does not mean a “nonphysical body.” Therefore, Paul is not contrasting a “spiritual body” with a “physical body” but instead a soma psychikon, which is literally a “soulish body.” The real contrast is between a body “animated by the soul” (the present natural body, which, will, like animals, die and decay), and a body animated by a spirit, which is presumably God’s spirit, which will allow a quality of life that transcends the present decaying existence.
In 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, Paul contrasts the present, earthly body and the future, resurrection body, which will be like the Messiah’s. Paul says the earthly body is mortal, dishonorable, weak, and physical whereas the resurrected body is immortal, glorious, powerful, and spiritual. (7)
5. Resurrection is not the same as the so- called dying and rising fertility gods in the ancient world: The myths of dying and rising gods in pagan religions are merely seasonal symbols for the processes of nature and have no relation to historical individuals. (8)
6. Resurrection involves transformation since “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50). Accordingly, Paul indicates that believers will be “raised immortal” (1 Cor. 15:52), which suggests the transformation or change that results in immortality is coincident with resurrection. In fact, this is part of the resurrection event itself.
7. Another aspect of resurrection is the how it impacts our present life: We as believers now live in a resurrection state. For after noting that God “made us alive together with” Messiah (this is a past event). Eph. 2:5 says: “by grace you are now in a state of salvation” (indicating a present resurrection state).(9)
This is where many of us miss the boat. When Yeshua rose from the dead, He not only reversed the curse of death (1 Cor. 55-56) but also broke the power of sin in this life for us. This doesn’t mean we will be perfect. But it does mean we can have a transformed life and victory over sin in this present life.
8. What are the differences between our resurrection and the Messiah’s resurrection? Yeshua was raised on the “third day” whereas we will be raised on the last day. And only of Yeshua was he installed as Son of God (Rom. 1:4), as universal Lord (Rom. 14:9; Eph.1:20-21; Phi.2:9-11), and judge of the living and the dead (Acts 17:31). (10)
What is the final destination for the follower of Yeshua?
Sadly, due to a lack of teaching on the resurrection, we may assume that that the final destination is to be in the intermediate state- the place that is called “heaven.”
Hence, immortality is generally viewed as the immortality of the soul. Contrary to what many people think, salvation in the Bible is not the deliverance from the body, which is the prison of the soul. The believer’s final destination is not heaven, but it is the new heavens and new earth- complete with a resurrection body. Eternal life is a quality of life that does not start when we die, but right now in the present (John 17:2).
In the final state, heaven including the New Jerusalem portrayed as a bride breaks into history and comes to the renewed, physical, earthly, existence (see Rev 21). This shows that God is interested in the renewal of creation- God cares about the physical realm.
Peter Walker leaves us with a detailed definition of resurrection:
“Resurrection” (anastasia) in Greek was a word which has already developed a clear meaning. It referred to a physical raising back to life within this world of those whom God chose –“the resurrection of the just” “on the last day” (cf. Matthew 22:28; John 11:24). So when the disciples claimed Resurrection for Jesus, they were claiming that God had done for one man what they were expecting him to do for all his faithful people at the end of time (what Paul refers to as the “hope” of Israel [Acts 23;26:6]. If they had meant merely that Jesus was a good fellow who did not deserve to die and whose effect on people would surely continue beyond his death, they would have used some other word. They would not have dared to use this word, which meant one thing and only one thing—God’s act of raising from physical death. That is what they meant. And that is what they would have been heard to mean.” (11)
1. Adapted from Harris, M.J. From Grave to Glory: Resurrection In The New Testament (Grand Rapids: MI: Academie Books. 1990), 66-67.
2. Levenson, J.D., and K. J. Madigan, Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews (New Haven, Yale University Press. 2008), 2.
3. Gillman, N. The Death of Death: Resurrection and Immortality in Jewish Thought (Woodstock, VT. Jewish Lights Publishing), 1997.
4. Craig, W.L. Reasonable Faith.Third Edition. Wheaten, ILL: Crossway Books, 1984.
5.Sandlin, A.P., New Flesh, New Earth: The Life Changing Power of the Resurrection (Lincoln, CA: Oakdown Books), 2003.
6. Craig, W.L. Reasonable Faith, 394.
8. Borg, M..J. and N.T Wright. The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (New York, NY. Harper Collins Publishers, 1999), 120.
9. Longenecker, R.N. Life After Death: The Resurrection Message in the New Testament ( Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans), 1988.
11. Walker, P.W., The Weekend That Changed the World (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1999), 63.
It is that time of the year when many people will attend a Good Friday service this weekend. Also, since many of us think the Messiah is the fulfillment of Passover, some of us may attend a Passover event as well. But as many of us gather to remember the death of the Messiah and all that He has accomplished for humanity, it made me think of the following: How many cross necklaces have you seen around the necks of people? What about the crosses that are seen on the necks of movie stars and sports figures? If you ask the average person who is wearing a cross what it means, they may say the following:
” Jesus died for me on the cross”
” The cross is a symbol of love”
“The cross saved me”
The First Century
I don’t doubt the sincerity of some of these people. But what is interesting is that many of us don’t know how the cross was viewed in the first century. 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. According to Cicero (Vern. 2.5.168) and Josephus (J. W. 7.203), crucifixion was the worst form of death. Given that Jewish nationalism was quite prevalent in the first century, the Romans also used crucifixion to end the uprising of any revolts. Thus, the primary political and social purpose of crucifixion was deterrence. The concept of deterrence has two key assumptions: The first is that specific punishments imposed on offenders will "deter" or prevent them from committing further crimes. The second is that fear of punishment will prevent others from committing similar crimes.
But for the Jewish person, 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. Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:13-14 is rather telling:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith
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. So what is seen in these verses is not the execution itself but what is done to the body after the person is executed–it is displayed as a warning to others. For Jewish people at the time of Paul, the crucified victim could be viewed as either a victim or a villain. If it is the latter, the person being condemned as a criminal would be considered cursed by God because of their actions.
Paul commented about the challenge of proclaiming a dying Messiah to his fellow countrymen:
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (1 Cor.1:21-22)
Even well known skeptical scholar Bart Ehmran says:
“Christians who wanted to proclaim Jesus as messiah would not have invented the notion that he was crucified because his crucifixion created such a scandal. Indeed, the apostle Paul calls it the chief “stumbling block” for Jews (1 Cor. 1:23). Where did the tradition come from? It must have actually happened” (2)
A Dead Messiah and Sheol
In light of what Jewish people knew about Sheol (the realm of the dead), a dead Messiah was an absurdity. In the Jewish Scriptures, the pictures of the fate of the wicked are presented as consciously suffering in Sheol, or the grave. It is also described as the place that both the righteous and the unrighteous are expected to go upon death (Ps. 89:48). God does no wonders for those that are in Sheol; those that are there cannot praise God. Let’s look at some of these passages:
1. “For there is no mention of You in death; In Sheol who will give You thanks?” (Ps. 6:5).
2. “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it declare Your faithfulness?” (Ps. 30:9).
3. “Will You perform wonders for the dead? Will the departed spirits rise and praise You? Selah. Will Your loving-kindness be declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Abaddon?” (Ps. 88:10-11).
4. “The dead do not praise the LORD, Nor do any who go down into silence” (Ps. 115:17).
5. “For Sheol cannot thank You, Death cannot praise You; Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness (Isa. 38:18).”
It can be concluded that any attempt to proclaim a dead Messiah who had been consigned to Sheol would have created a tremendous barrier for a Jewish person in Second Temple Period. Furthermore, a dead Messiah would have extinguished any hopes of the restoration of the Davidic Dynasty.
Blessing and Curses
In the context of the covenant of Israel, the Near Eastern pattern was of both blessing and curse. The blessing is for those who obey the stipulations of the covenant while the curse is upon those who violate the stipulations.
Deuteronomy 27:6 says “Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.”
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all the commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God” (Deut. 28:1-2).
For a Jewish person to be blessed was to be in the presence of God and enjoy his presence and all the benefits that this entailed. The blessing was to experience God’s shalom in one’s life. In contrast to blessing, to be cursed was to be outside the presence of God. To be declared “unclean” or defiled meant was an offense to the Jewish people. So for the Messiah to die on a crucifixion stake was not a sign of blessing from God. If anything, it was the opposite.
“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. “- Luke 9: 23
The death of the Messiah may be viewed as a symbol of love. But when we look at the first century context, to a Jewish person, a Messiah who was crucified was not a badge of honor. In reality it was a sign of rejection and embarrassment. When the disciples heard Jesus talk about the cross and self-denial here, they knew to make Jesus the Lord of their lives was going to be a life of commitment and an abandonment of autonomy.
1. Pamela Eisenbaum, Paul Was Not a Christian: The Original Message of a Misunderstood Apostle (New York: Harper Collins, 2009), 144-145).
2. Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (Third Edition New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 221-222.
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.
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