To the Jew First: The Case for Jewish Evangelism in Scripture and History  -     By: Edited by Darrell L. Bock & Mitchell Glaser

By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative 

Mission in the Bible

The relationship between Israel and the nations has  been something that has been on my mind for the last 15 years or so.. But why even care about reaching Jewish people for the Messiah? After all, is not the Gospel for all people? I will offer some reasons why I think the Gospel is still  “To the Jew First” (Romans 1:16).

First, let’s look at the calling upon Israel:  Israel was supposed to have an inward focus in that parents were expected to repeat the stories of deliverance to their children (Ex. 12:24-27; Deut. 6:4-9; Isa. 38:19): “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works” (Ps. 145:4, 5). The account of God’s goodness was to be passed on from each generation to the next. “Tell your children and grandchildren” (Ex. 10:2) is God’s crucial instruction.

Second, the purpose of Israel was not to be a blessing to herself. Therefore, through her witness, the world will either be attracted or repelled towards the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The entire promise to Abraham in Gen 12:3 exhibit’s God’s plan to bless the nations.  Therefore, the Messianic blessing  is for all the world. All peoples on all the earth – 70 nations at the time- would be beneficiaries of the promise-(Gen. 12:2–3; cf. 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). This was  repeated to Isaac (26:4), and reaffirmed to Jacob (28:13-15; 35:11, 12; 46:3) and Moses  (Ex. 3:6-8; 6:2-8). Remember, the election of Israel was for a universal goal which is the redemption of humanity. Old Testament scholar Christopher Wright says:

Genesis 1-11 is entirely occupied with humanity as a whole, the world of all nations, and with the apparently insoluble problem of their corporate evil. So the story of Israel, which begins in chapter 12, is actually God’s answer to the problem of humanity. All God’s dealings with Israel in particular are to be seen as the pursuit of God’s unfinished business with all nations. Old Testament Israel existed for the sake of the nations.-Christopher Wright, Knowing Jesus Through The Old Testament, Second Edition, pg 46.

God called Israel to an ethical distinctiveness (Lev. 11:44, 45; 18:3; Micah 6:6-8).  They were to be committed to a holy life, because only in this way could they live to the glory of God and His name, and attract people to Him. In other words, they were called to be a light to the nations.  Also, the temple in Jerusalem will be the mega-world center for true worship (Isa. 2:2) and everyone will come there and learn how to worship the true God (Isa. 2:3, 4; 56:2-8; 62:9-11).  “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, “Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you” (Zech. 8:23).

Also, we see in Jeremiah 1:5, this prophet  is chosen by God, not simply as a prophet to Israel, but as  prophet “to the nations.” Other prophets like Jonah or major writing prophets, addressed twenty-five chapters of their prophecies to the Gentile nations of their day (Isa. 13-23; Jer. 46-51; Ezek. 25-32). So the point is that while Israel was called to have an inward focus, they have an external calling. This is why it should be no surprise that in Matthew’s opening chapter, he says,”The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham “(Matt. 1:1). The Messiah is not only of Davidic descent, but will bring fulfillment to the Abrahamic Covenant.   Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ mission to help Israel fulfill its calling in the following passages:

“Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 10: 5-6)

“ I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”  (Matt 15: 24)

However, we see at the end of Matthew that Jesus commands his followers to bring the nations into God’s redemptive plan (Matt 28:19).

Given that the Messiah is called to be the ideal representative of His people, His mission is also to be a “light to the nations.” We see the following in Isa. 49:1-7:  The Servant of the Lord is a chosen instrument  by the Lord (1–3). The Servant glorifies the Lord before Israel and brings back the remnant of Israel 5–6). He has A calling to the nations (Gentiles).  Kings and princes shall see and bow down  to the Servant (vs. 7). Yet, for the sake of the glorified name of the Lord, this Servant also suffers (vs 4), being despised and abhorred by Israel (vs 7).  In relation to Jesus’ messiahship, while a remnant believed in Him, what is more significant is that Christianity now the home of 1.4 billion adherents. Sure, large numbers don’t make a faith true. But another traditional view is that the Messiah will spread the knowledge of the God of Israel to the surrounding nations (Isa.11:9;40:5;52:8). Are there any other  candidates that have enabled the world to come to the knowledge of the one true God other than Jesus?

So always remember  that the Abrahamic Covenant was prophetic. In this sense, there are several aspects of the covenant such as land promises, etc. But as far as Gentiles, they are supposed to receive spiritual blessings, but ultimately these were fulfilled though one specific “seed” of Abraham—the Messiah.

Also, given Israel’s calling, it should be no shock that in Ephesians 2: 11-3:6, the Gentiles recipients are those without the Messiah. They were “aliens from  the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise\, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2: 12). So Israel was already near (Eph. 2:17), but the good news is that now along with Gentiles they are brought closer to God (Eph. 2:18).

What About Romans 1:16: “To the Jew First”

“For  I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is  the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew  first and also to  the Greek. For in it  the righteousness of God is revealed  from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (ESV)

Many Bible scholars agree that understanding Romans 1:16, 17 as the key  to understanding the rest of the book of Romans. But does  Paul mean the gospel was formerly, or once brought to the Jews, but now it is for the Gentiles? Is this view possible? In Romans 1:16 the Greek word for first is proton. As Dr. Michael Rydelnik, Professor of Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute writes: 

“If Paul had meant ‘formerly’ or ‘earlier’ he would have used the Greek word “proteron.” The same word for first (proton) is used non-historically three times in Romans: …tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek… (Rom. 2:9,10), and First of all (chiefly, NKJ ), that they were entrusted with the oracles of God (Rom. 3:2).

Grammatically, the entire verse is in the present tense. There are three verbs: unashamedis and believes. All are in the present tense. The gospel is, not was, but is the power of God, it is to all who believe, and it is to the Jew first. The idea that the Good News was “first for the Jew and then for the Gentile” implies that the Good News is no longer for the Jew (i.e. “they had their chance”). Obviously, this cannot be true, for to this very day Jewish people are still coming to faith in Jesus.  Remember, Paul was writing to the Jew first, not regarding a past activity, but as his present and active ministry (compare Acts 13:46 with 14:1). He was not looking back on the first century advance of the Good News, but stating it as an ongoing principle for the future flow of history. Even as the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul’s ministry was always to the Jew first.  (1)

After all,  we see Paul going to the Jew first in The Book of Acts. Paul goes to the synagogue first in Salamis (13:5), Pisidian Antioch (13:14), Iconium (14:1), Thessalonica (17:2), Berea (17:10), Corinth (18:4) and Ephesus (18:19 and 19:8).

Is the Return of Jesus Contingent on the Repentance of Israel?

As far as Christians and Messianic Believers, depending on one’s eschatology, some Christians think Jesus 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, Jesus 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). And once again, depending on  one’s eschatology, some Christians have concluded that Jesus 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

Jesus 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 restoration 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.  The points is that the Messiah is in heaven and his reappearance to rule and reign can be expedited by Israel’s repentance.

Ironically, while the same themes about the condition of Israel and the coming of the Messiah (for the first time) is seen in the Rabbinical literature.

I was recently going back and reading a book called Jewish Christian Debates: God, Kingdom, Messiah, which features a dialogue between Bruch Chilton and 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?

As Carl B. Hoch, Jr says in Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, “It is absolutely necessary for a person to be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God. In the central passage in the New Testament about the new birth ( John 3 ), Jesus tells Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council, that he will not enter the kingdom of God unless he is born anew. The alternation between singular and plural Greek pronouns in the passage shows that Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus both personally and representatively. The need for the new birth is not only true of Nicodemus, but of the entire Sanhedrin, all Jews, and, by extension, all people.

The new birth allows us to have the supernatural cleansing from sin that God through the Spirit effects on all who believe on his Son. This water-Spirit combination is a reflection of Ezekiel 11, 36, and Jeremiah 31. In these Old Testament passages God’s Spirit is viewed as doing a revolutionary work in the lives of God’s people in the new covenant age.

So what’s the point?

The Apostle Paul showed he had a tremendous burden for the Jewish people (Rom. 9:1-5), (Rom. 10:1), and calls upon the Church to provoke Israel to jealousy (Rom. 11:11). For Paul, the resurrection was God’s stamp of approval on Jesus as the promised Messiah of Israel (Rom. 1:3-4). Paul also understood that since the Gentiles have received the blessing of knowing the Jewish Messiah, they now have the responsibility to take the message of salvation back to Israel. Therefore, Christians of all denominational backgrounds should show interest in sharing the good news of the Messiah with the Jewish people.

Sources:

1. This section was taken from JEWISH EVANGELISM AND DISCIPLESHIP, Article 3 of 13: GOD’S UNCHANGEABLE PLAN by Sam Nadler at http://messianicassociation.org/ezine14-sam.God%27sUnchangeable%20Plan.htm?vm=r&s=1


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By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative 

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

1. The Starting Point

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

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

The Command to Make Disciples: Matt 28:19

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

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

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

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

Romans 1:16

“For  I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is  the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew  first and also to  the Greek. For in it  the righteousness of God is revealed  from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (ESV)

Grammatically, the entire verse is in the present tense. There are three verbs: unashamedis and believes. All are in the present tense. So Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel. He knew it was for the Jew and the Greek. He also knew the power of God was demonstrated in the message.

But now we need to ask ourselves whether we can make an application of this text. Do we as Christians actually believe the Gospel is Good News and are we ashamed or unashamed of the Gospel? Are there some visible signs as to whether we are ashamed or unashamed of the Gospel? Here are some signs that we might be ashamed of the Gospel. Please note the goal of this post is not meant to induce false guilt or condemnation.

#1: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we are worried about offending people

One time I was teaching a class on evangelism. One student said that one of the people they witnessed to were offended by the message. My response is the same as always: The Gospel is offensive. 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)

To summarize “The Kerygma” of the early Christian community:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You could always make people less offended and preach a false Gospel such as “Jesus will meet all your needs.” In other words, Jesus is a buddy. But if you do this, you will have to answer to God for giving people the false Gospel. So always remember the power is in the message. And it will offend because the Holy Spirit does convict people of the truthfulness of the message.

#2: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we are a man-pleaser rather than a God pleaser

This happens to all of us. In a day of political correctness, Christians are more worried about what their peers think than what God thinks. In the end, we will answer to God with what we did with the Gospel. We are stewards of the message.

#3: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we are afraid we can’t answer objections

In this case, that’s why we have apologetics. There are plenty of resources that can help the Christian to be confident in what they believe.

#4: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we don’t take the Lordship of Jesus seriously

This is a hot topic. As far as Lordship, I think the new believer needs to know about this early on. To make Jesus as Lord of one’s life is a lifelong process. It is a call to daily surrender. We are called to yield our time, bodies, goals and gifts to His Lordship. Is it easy? No, not at all. I struggle with this quite a bit. But we do have a Helper to give us the grace to do it (hint: study the ministry of the Holy Spirit). So in other words, we say ‘”Lord Jesus, have your way with me. I am relying on the work of the Holy Spirit to yield myself to you on a daily basis.”

There is no doubt that in a world that wants instant results, self- sacrifice is a tough sell. Part of the problem is that churches preach a Gospel that promises that Jesus will fix all our problems. And when things get tough, many people walk away. A long-term commitment to our Lord, which involves self-denial (Luke 9:23) is hard to swallow for those that have been told The American Dream is the way of happiness.

#5: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we don’t really believe the Gospel is true

In this case, perhaps we need to preach the Gospel to ourselves on a daily basis. Do we really believe it is Good News?

#6: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we don’t even know what the Gospel actually is!

You may say this is impossible. But there has been a slew of books questioning “What is the Gospel?” I have written elsewhere that the Gospel is presented in a variety of contexts.

Those are some of the checkpoints I have come up with. Feel free to think of some more.


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By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative 

The resurrection of the dead  is a core tenant of faith for every Orthodox Christian and Jewish follower of Jesus the Messiah. But to many well-meaning Christians, the resurrection of Jesus tends to be detached from its Jewish foundations. Jon D. Levenson and Kevin 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 in the late 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). This was the world of thought and practice of which Jesus and his followers partook and by which their piety was essentially formed." [1]

 The Jewish people knew the God of Israel as the only one who could raise the dead.[2] In the Jewish Scriptures, the resurrection terminology is seen in two places to show a national and spiritual restoration brought about by the return from the exile.[3] This is specifically seen in Ezekiel 37. After Ezekiel’s long lament in chapter 36 of national idolatry and the hope of renewal, the purpose of Ezekiel 37 speaks of the valley of the dry bones, i.e., the re-constitution of the ‘dead’ [4] and the molding together of two sticks, representing Judah and Israel, to become one.[5] At the outset, Ezekiel paints a vivid picture of hope of national restoration:

Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it,” declares the Lord.’” [6]

Resurrection is also related to a personal vindication of an individual. [7] Sometimes it is debated whether Isaiah 53 teaches a prophecy about the resurrection of an individual.

But the Lord was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.[8]

The late Jewish scholar David Flusser of Hebrew University said the following about Isaiah 53:

"Although no Jewish interpretation of this passage, which would explain that the Servant will be a prophet or the Messiah who will be killed, is preserved, such an interpretation could have existed. If an interpretation of Isa. LIII in this vein ever existed in Judaism, this would have been important for the concept that the prophet will again come to life. Though the servant “was pierced for our transgressions, tortured for our iniquities” (v.5), he “shall enjoy a long life and see his children’s children (v.10). So Isa LIII could be understood not only as speaking about the death of the Servant, but implicitly about his resurrection."[9]

We also find a relationship between the resurrection and reward or punishment. For example, in the book of Daniel it speaks of “those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12: 2). Those who “sleep in the dust” is a reference to the dead, Sheol, which is the underworld, and the grave. The verb “to live” appears paired with “to stand up,” and the causative form of “to wake up is there as well, emphasizing the resurrection theme.[10]

The Dead Sea Scrolls [11] reference the reviving of the dead in the days of the Messiah. For example, we see a text that resembles Matthew 11:4-6.

The heavens and the earth will listen to His Messiah, And none therein will stray from the commandments of the holy ones. Seekers of the Lord, strengthen yourselves in His service! All you hopeful in [your] heart, will you not find the Lord in this? For the Lord will consider the pious and call the righteous by name. Over the poor His spirit will hover and will renew the faithful with His power. And He will glorify the pious on the throne of the eternal Kingdom. He who liberates the captives, restores sight to the blind, straightens the bent . . . . And the Lord will accomplish glorious things . . . . For He will heal the wounded and revive the dead and bring good news to the poor. (4Q521, fragment 2). [12]

In Matthew 11:2, John sent word to Jesus when he “heard in prison what the Messiah was doing” But what caused John to doubt? According to the fragment above (4Q521) which alluded to Isaiah 61:1 and Psalm 146:7, prisoners were to be set free when Messiah came. But obviously, since John had not been set free and since he was still bound in prison, he was beginning to doubt whether Jesus was really the Messiah. [13]

Nearly every Jewish person who celebrates Hanukkah is at least somewhat familiar with the stories of the Maccabean martyrs. Details of Antiochus Epiphanes’ graphic torture and execution of seven Jewish brothers and their mother for their refusal to eat pork are found in 2 Maccabees 7. They respond to their torture in hope for a future resurrection. One of the brothers says to Antiochus, who is their oppressor, “You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us to live again forever, because we are dying for his laws.” [14] The text goes on to record still more courageously spoken words: When he was near death, he said, “It is my choice to die at the hands of mortals with the hope that God will restore me to life; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.” [15]

We find explicit teachings on the resurrection in the Rabbinical literature. There is a noteworthy reference in the Mishnah [16] to resurrection in Pirke Avot, the “Sayings of the Fathers.” We also find a specific reference to resurrection in the entire tractate of Avot:

He [R. Elazar ha-Kappar] used to say: Those who are born [are fated] to die, and those who die [are fated] to be brought to life, and [the resurrected] are destined to be judged, that man may know and make known and understand that He is God, He is the Fashioner, He is the Creator, He is the One Who understands, He is the Judge, He is the Witness, He is the One Who brings suit, He is the one who in the future will judge, Blessed be He, before whom there is no wrongdoing or forgetfulness, nor favoritism, nor bribe-taking. Know that everything is according to its reckoning, and do not let your [own] inclination cause you to believe that Sheol is a refuge for you. For against your will, you are formed, against your will, you are born, and against your will you live, and against your will you die, and against your will you will have to give an account before God, the King of Kings, blessed be He.[17]

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 fundamental principles taught by Moses. A person who does not believe this has no faith, nor does he share any bond with Judaism.” [18]

Finally, we find a remarkable passage about the resurrection in the Amidah, also called Shmoneh Esreh ("The Eighteen"). We find this prayer in the Siddur, the traditional Jewish prayer book. The prayers in the Amidah are likely dated from both before and after the  destruction of the Temple (70 CE). We see the promise of the resurrection of the dead is part of the liturgy:

“You are Lord, are all-powerful forever. You resurrect the dead, You are mighty to save. You sustain the living with loving-kindness, resurrect the dead with great mercy, support the falling, heal the sick, release the prisoners, and uphold Your faithfulness to them that sleep in the dust. Who is like You, Lord of mighty acts, and who resembles You, O King, who orders death and restores life, and causes salvation to come forth? And You are faithful to resurrect the dead. Blessed are You, O Lord, who resurrects the dead.’[19]

For more info on this topic, see my book "The Resurrection of the Jewish Messiah."  It is available on Amazon. 

The Resurrection of the Jewish Messiah by [Chabot, Eric]

 

Sources: 


[1]  J. D. Levenson and K. J. Madigan, Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews (New Haven: Yale University Press. 2008), 2.

 

[2]  Job 19:26; Ps. 17:15; 49:15; 73:24; Is. 26:19; 53:10; Dn. 12:2; 12:13.

 

[3] Ezek. 37:1-14; Hos. 6:2.

 

[4]  Ezek. 37: 1-14.

 

[5]  Ezek. 37:  15–23.

 

[6]  Ezek. 37: 11-14.

 

[7]  Is. 26:16; 53:10-12.

 

[8]  Is. 53:10.

 

[9]  D. Flusser, Judaism and the Origins of Christianity (Jerusalem: Magnes. 1988), 423.

 

[10]  L.L.  Bronner, Journey to Heaven: Exploring Jewish Views of the Afterlife (Jerusalem: UrimPublications. 2011), 35.

 

[11]  The Dead Sea Scrolls refer to the Qumran Caves Scrolls which  are a collection of different manuscripts discovered between 1946/47, 1956 and 2017 in  the Qumran Caves. These are located  in the immediate vicinity of the Hellenistic-period Jewish settlement at Khirbet Qumran in the eastern Judaean Desert, the modern West Bank.

 

[12]  G. Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, revised edition (London: Penguin Books. 2004), 412–13.

 

[13]  C.A. Evans, Holman Quick Source Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls (Nashville:  B&H Publishing. 2010), Kindle Locations 4648.

 

[14] 2 Ma. 7:9.

 

[15]  2 Ma.7:14.

 

[16]  The Mishnah is an edited record of the complex body of material known as oral Torah that was transmitted in the aftermath of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Jewish people not only believe Moses was given the written Torah, but the oral Torah as well. Most Christians of all denominational backgrounds reject the oral Torah as a binding, authoritative guide for Christian living.

 

[17]  Bronner, 71.

 

[18]  Paraphrased from Maimonides, Hakdamot le-Ferush ha-Mishnah (Introductions to Commentary on the Mishnah), ed. and commentary by Mordechai Dov Rabinowitz (Jerusalem: Mosad Harav Kook. 1969), 129; cited in Bronner, Journey to Heaven: Exploring Jewish Views of the Afterlife, 113.

 ​​​​​[19]  B.H. Young, Meet the Rabbis: Rabbinic Thought and the Teachings of Jesus (Grand Rapids, Baker. 2010), Kindle Location, 2998.


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By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative 

As we celebrate Independence Day, we shouldn’t overlook The Declaration of Independence. In it, we see that God’s revelation in nature itself allows for the grounding of human rights and human dignity. As Stephen Meyer points out,  Jefferson  wrote the Declaration, asserting the inalienable rights of human beings derived from “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God. Also, from a Biblical standpoint, all human beings enjoy the right to life and the resources to sustain it, for life is a gift from God. Thus all humans have a right to human dignity (i.e. the right to receive respect irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity or rank or any other way). NOTE: I chose to the use the word ‘ethnicity’ instead of race since the Bible doesn’t teach there are races. There is only one race which is the human race.  We also have a responsibility to secure/protect/establish the rights of others.

Theism says that the physical universe is not all there is. There is a personal God who created it, sustains it, and can intervene within it in a non-natural way. While God is the primary Cause of singularities, He also uses secondary, or natural causes for the operation of the world. Theism also has a clear teleology which is the belief in or the perception of purposeful development toward an end, as in nature or history. Many atheists adhere to a naturalistic worldview which has no teleology. In other words, humans are a blind cosmic accident who came from a process that has no meaning, no purpose, no goal, no directions. Therefore, teleology has a goal in mind and evolution has been seen to run down dead ends many, many times. As Richard Dawkins says:

Humans have always wondered about the meaning of life…life has no higher purpose than to perpetuate the survival of DNA…life has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference-Scheff, Liam. 2007. The Dawkins Delusion. Salvo, 2:94.

A ways back, my friend Wintery Knight posted this on his blog:

“If you love to listen to the Please Convince Me podcast, as I do, then you know that in a recent episode, J. Warner Wallace mentioned a blog post on an atheistic blog that clearly delineated the implications of an atheistic worldview. He promised he was going to write about it and link to the post, and he has now done so.

Here is the whole the whole thing that the atheist posted:

“[To] all my Atheist friends.

Let us stop sugar coating it. I know, it’s hard to come out and be blunt with the friendly Theists who frequent sites like this. However in your efforts to “play nice” and “be civil” you actually do them a great disservice.

We are Atheists. We believe that the Universe is a great uncaused, random accident. All life in the Universe past and future are the results of random chance acting on itself. While we acknowledge concepts like morality, politeness, civility seem to exist, we know they do not. Our highly evolved brains imagine that these things have a cause or a use, and they have in the past, they’ve allowed life to continue on this planet for a short blip of time. But make no mistake: all our dreams, loves, opinions, and desires are figments of our primordial imagination. They are fleeting electrical signals that fire across our synapses for a moment in time. They served some purpose in the past. They got us here. That’s it. All human achievement and plans for the future are the result of some ancient, evolved brain and accompanying chemical reactions that once served a survival purpose. Ex: I’ll marry and nurture children because my genes demand reproduction, I’ll create because creativity served a survival advantage to my ancient ape ancestors, I’ll build cities and laws because this allowed my ape grandfather time and peace to reproduce and protect his genes. My only directive is to obey my genes. Eat, sleep, reproduce, die. That is our bible.

We deride the Theists for having created myths and holy books. We imagine ourselves superior. But we too imagine there are reasons to obey laws, be polite, protect the weak etc. Rubbish. We are nurturing a new religion, one where we imagine that such conventions have any basis in reality. Have they allowed life to exist? Absolutely. But who cares? Outside of my greedy little gene’s need to reproduce, there is nothing in my world that stops me from killing you and reproducing with your wife. Only the fear that I might be incarcerated and thus be deprived of the opportunity to do the same with the next guy’s wife stops me. Some of my Atheist friends have fooled themselves into acting like the general population. They live in suburban homes, drive Toyota Camrys, attend school plays. But underneath they know the truth. They are a bag of DNA whose only purpose is to make more of themselves. So be nice if you want. Be involved, have polite conversations, be a model citizen. Just be aware that while technically an Atheist, you are an inferior one. You’re just a little bit less evolved, that’s all. When you are ready to join me, let me know, I’ll be reproducing with your wife. I know it’s not PC to speak so bluntly about the ramifications of our beliefs, but in our discussions with Theists we sometimes tip toe around what we really know to be factual. Maybe it’s time we Atheists were a little more truthful and let the chips fall where they may. At least that’s what my genes are telling me to say.”

And the late Cornell University atheist William Provine agreed: (this is taken from his debate with Phillip E. Johnson)

"Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either."

Even Ron Bonteke says the following:

“Human beings cannot be deserving of a special measure of respect by virtue of their having been created ‘in God’s image’ when they have not been created at all (and there is no God). Thus the traditional conception of human dignity is also undermined in the wake of Darwin.”–Ron Bontekoe, The Nature of Dignity (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), 15– 16.

In his book An Atheist Defends Religion: Why Humanity Is Better Off With Religion Than Without It, author Bruce Sheiman gives a general outline of how atheists account for how we got here:

Human Life = Laws of physics X chance + randomness+ accidents+luck X 3.5 billion yrs. In other words, the laws of physics for our present universe arose by chance (from a multitude of possible universes); the first forms of life developed by chance (arising by primordial soup combinations that resulted from the laws of physics plus accidents); the first concept of life developed purely by chance (genetic mutations and environmental randomness); and humans evolved by more improbable occurrences.

So if we look at these comments by Dawkins, Provine, Bontekoe, as well as the model here proposed by Sheiman, it is obvious that the Judeo-Christian worldview  has better explanatory power in grounding human rights and human dignity. This doesn’t mean atheists and skeptics can’t treat people with respect and dignity. But for those who are so adamant about securing and protecting human rights, where does the moral obligation come from to do this, and what in the heck makes humans suddenly have so much value and dignity? 


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By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative 

Some people think the resurrection of Jesus is impossible to believe or they may think the entire story just doesn’t make sense. I think if there is anyone who would rise from the dead, it would be Jesus. In other words, when I look at the entire ministry of Jesus, he is the perfect candidate to be raised from the dead. Here are five reasons that help explain what I am saying about this topic:

 Jesus viewed Himself as the Son of Man/The Elect One

The “Son of Man” (bar nash, or bar nasha) expression is employed to Jesus’ earthly ministry (Mk. 2:10,28; 10:45; Matt. 13:37). Second, the expression was used to describe the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus (Mk. 8:31;9:31;10:33). Thirdly, the Son of Man has a future function as an eschatological judge (Matt. 25:31-36; Mark 14:60-65). Jesus spoke of this function in the following texts:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations , and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father , inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels….’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matt. 25: 31-36).

“You, who have persevered with me in my tribulations, when the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne will also sit upon thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (cf. Matt. 19: 28; Luke 22: 2830).

One of the most pertinent issues is Jesus’ use of Son of Man in the trial scene in Mark 14.

And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows (Mark 14: 60-65).

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. While we will deal more with this messianic title in the next chapter, 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.” (1)

Jesus Viewed Himself as The Son of God

One of the most important Christological titles for Jesus is “Son of God.” There are numerous passages in the New Testament that attest to Jesus and His authority as the Son of God. The first is seen in John 5:22-23: “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” In Psalm. 2:2-7 we see the relationship between the term “Son of God” and the King of Israel. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed [that’s the word for Messiah]. . . . Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.”

Therefore, when the Jewish people heard the term “Son of God” they mostly associated it with a king. The God of Israel is identified as King: (1 Sam. 12:12; Ps 24:10; Is. 33:22; Zeph. 3:15; Zech. 14:16-17), as ruler over Israel (Ex. 15:18; Num. 23;21; Deut. 33:5; Is. 43:15), and ruler over the entire creation, his reign is ongoing (Ps.10:16; 146:10; Is. 24:23), and rule and kingship belong to Him (Ps. 22:28). The Son of God was to be a descendant of King David who will rule Israel during the age of perfection: (Isaiah 11:1-9; Jeremiah 23:5-6, 30:7-10, 33:14-16; Ezekiel 34:11-31, 37:21-28; Hosea 3:4-5).

Dead Sea Scroll specialists such as Craig A. Evans and Peter W. Flint have shown that the writings that were found at Qumran show that divine sonship was clearly a part of the Royal- Christian rhetoric of pre-Christian Judaism. In relation to the “Son of God” term, these passages that were read during this period were referring to the Davidic King. The “Son of God” term is seen in the fragment known as (4Q246), Plate 4, columns one and two. In relation to this issue, within the Psalms, we see that God and His anointed king are described in ways that are equal in status and they are both qualified to be worthy of the same worship and reverence. (2)

Jesus was a Prophet like Moses

There is no doubt that Moses spoke of a prophet that would come who would be like him (see Deut. 18:1518). Moses was a sign prophet. We see this is an important feature with Moses: 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).

When Moses asks God, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” the Lord gives Moses two “signs”: his rod turns into a snake (Exod. 4:3) and his hand becomes leprous (Exod. 4:1–7).

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

Jesus was a sign prophet as well in that He gave the prediction of his resurrection when he was asked for a sign (Matt. 16:1, 4). Not only was the resurrection a miracle, but it was a miracle that Jesus predicted (Matt. 12:40; 16:21; 20:19; John 2:19). Nicodemus said of Jesus “We know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2). “Jesus the Nazarene was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22)

A very important messianic text is seen here:

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

A published scroll from Qumran has helped confirm this theme: According to 4Q521,

“Heaven and earth will obey his Messiah and all that is in them will not turn away from the commandments of the holy ones … for (the Lord) will honor the pious upon the throne of the eternal Kingdom, setting prisoners free, opening the eyes of the blind, raising up those who are bowed down…. For he will heal the wounded, revive the dead, proclaim good news to the poor.” (3)

Jesus is the Shechinah

In the Bible, the Shechinah is the visible manifestation of the presence of God in which He descends to dwell among men. While the Hebrew form of the glory of the Lord is Kvod Adonai, the Greek title is Doxa Kurion. The Hebrew form Schechinah, from the root “shachan,” means “dwelling” while the Greek word “Skeinei” means to the tabernacle.

The Shechinah glory is seen in the Tankah in places such as Gen.3:8; 23-24; Ex.3;1-5; 13:21-22; 14;19-20; 24; 16:6-12; 33:17-23; 34:5-9. In these Scriptures, the Shechinah is seen in a variety of visible manifestations such as light, fire, cloud, the Angel of the Lord, or a combination of all of these. The ultimate manifestation of the Shechinah was seen in the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai (Ex.19:16-20).

The story of Jesus has tremendous parallels to the Shechinah story in the Hebrew Bible. In the Hebrew Bible, the Shechinah would appear and disappear at certain times while eventually making a permanent home in the tabernacle and the temple; the Shechinah also departed from the Mount of Olives. Likewise, in the New Testament, Jesus as the visible manifestation of the Shechinah, also appeared and disappeared; He also departed from Israel from the Mount of Olives. (4)

Remember, the rabbis could speak of taking upon oneself the yoke of Torah or the yoke of the kingdom; Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” (Mt 11:29). Also, the rabbis could say that if two or three men sat together, having the words of Torah among them, the shekhina (God’s own presence) would dwell on them (M Avot 3:2) ; Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I will be among them.” (5)

Jesus had the authority to forgive sins and became the Temple in person

According to Mark 14:62, Jesus affirmed the chief priests question that He is the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Coming Son of Man who would judge the world. This was considered a claim for deity since the eschatological authority of judgment was for God alone. Jesus provoked the indignation of his opponents because of His application of Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1 to himself.

Also, many parables, which are universally acknowledged by critical scholars to be authentic to the historical Jesus, show that Jesus believed himself to be able to forgive sins against God (Matt. 9:2; Mark 2: 1-12). Forgiving sins was something that was designated for God alone (Exod. 34: 6-7; Neh.9:17; Dan. 9:9) and it was something that was done only in the Temple along with the proper sacrifice. So it can be seen that Jesus acts as if He is the Temple in person. In Mark 14:58, it says, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.’ The Jewish leadership knew that God was the one who was responsible for building the temple (Ex. 15:17; 1 En. 90:28-29).

 Jesus is Wisdom Incarnate

Another way of looking at Jesus’ deity draws on Israel’s Wisdom literature. Hence, it would be hard to deny that the “high” Christology of the New Testament was not greatly influenced by Wisdom Christology. First century Jews were strongly monotheistic, so to them, the figure of Wisdom was not a second God.

As Oskar Skarsaune says:

Jesus appears in roles and functions that burst all previously known categories in Judaism. He was a prophet, but more than a prophet. He was a teacher but taught with a power and authority completely unknown to the rabbis. He could set his authority alongside of, yes, even “over” God’s authority in the Law. He could utter words with creative power. In a Jewish environment zealous for the law, only one category was “large enough” to contain the description of Jesus: the category of Wisdom. (6)

Many Jewish scholars believe that it is not the content of Jesus’ preaching in and of itself that sets Him apart and differentiates Him from other rabbis of his own time. What distinguished Him is the manner in which His own person, His own “I” manifests itself.

The Swedish rabbi Marcus Eherenpreis says,

“A difference appears immediately that from the very beginning constituted an unbridgeable wall of separation between Jesus and the Pharisees. Jesus spoke in His own name. Judaism on the other hand, knew the one I, the divine Anochi (the Hebrew word for I) who gave us the eternal commandments at Sinai. No other superhuman has existed in Judaism other than God. Jesus sermons began, “I say to you.” Here is a clash between that goes to the inner core of religion. Jesus’ voice had an alien sound that that Jewish ears had never heard before. For Judaism, the only revealed teaching of God was important, not the teacher’s personal ego. Moses and the prophets were human beings encumbered with shortcomings. Hillel and his successors sat where Moses sat.” (7)

In their book Putting Jesus Back In His Place: The Case For The Deity of Christ, authors R.M. Bowman and J.E. Komoszewski note again that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus cites not one single rabbi or religious authority. Instead, he says “I say to you,” thirteen times in this one sermon (Matt. 5:18,20,22,28,32,34,39,44;6:2,5,16,25,29). He even challenged his hearers to base their own lives on his words (Matt. 7:24,26). Within the Tanakh, the prophets would introduce God’s message with a formula such “thus says the Lord” (over 400 times) or “the word of the Lord came” to such and such a prophet (about 100 times). As just stated, Jesus introduced his comments by saying “I say to you” (about 145 times).

What is even more significant is that seventy-four or seventy-five times, Jesus used the introductory locution that appears to be unparalleled: “Amen I say to you” (often translated “Truly I say to you”). Scholars have found no precedent in the Tanakh, nor have scholars found any precedent in the rest of ancient Jewish literature.

Conclusion

These are just a few reasons why I think Jesus is the most likely candidate to rise from the dead.

Sources:

1. See Randall Price, See The Concept of the Messiah in the Old Testament at http://www.worldofthebible.com/Bible%20Studies/The%20Concept%20…

2. See Craig Evans and P. W. Flint. Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls ( Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1997).

3. Ibid.

4.These points were laid out systematically in Fruchtenbaum, A.G, The Footsteps of Messiah: A Study of Prophetic Events (Tustin CA: Ariel Press, 1977), 409-432.

5. Skarsaune,O, In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity (Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 331.

6.  Skarsaune, O. Incarnation: Myth or Fact? St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House: 1991, 37.

7. Skarsaune, O. Incarnation: Myth or Fact?, 33-34.


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By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative 

Over the years I have talked to many Jewish people about whether Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. Whenever I bring up the resurrection of Jesus as an attempt to show that Jesus is most certainly the Messiah, I usually get the response that a resurrected Jesus is not really anything that special. While there have been a variety of messianic expectations, the main reason many Jews say this is because in their mind they are adhering to Rabbinic Judaism’s messianic criteria which generally entails the following:

1. 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.
2. 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).
3. The Messiah will spread the knowledge of the God of Israel to the surrounding nations (Isa.11:9; 40:5; 52:8).

Or, with many Jewish people, the Maimonides view of Messiah is what matters. Maimonides was a medieval Jewish philosopher whose writings are considered to be foundational to Jewish thought and study. Here are some of his messianic expectations:

1. The Messiah will be a king who arises from the house of David
2. He helps Israel follow Torah
3. He builds the Temple in its place
4. He gathers the dispersed of Israel

The Resurrection of Jesus and the New Covenant

So in relation to the qualifications of the Messiah, how might we show the importance of the resurrection? There is something that can be overlooked here. If we look at the Torah, we see God promised Moses something that would happen in the future for the Jewish people:

“These are the words of the covenant that the Lord commanded Moses to make with the people of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant that he had made with them at Horeb. And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land,the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear. I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet. You have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine or strong drink, that you may know that I am the Lord your God. And when you came to this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon and Og the king of Bashan came out against us to battle, but we defeated them. We took their land and gave it for an inheritance to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of the Manassites. Therefore keep the words of this covenant and do them, that you may prosperi n all that you do.” (Deut 29: 1-9)-ESV

Here we see that God gave Moses the informing theology in vs 4, ” But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.”

God repeats it to Moses in Deut:30:6 when he says, ” The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.”

Let’s now look at a couple of New Covenant Passages:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”-Jeremiah 31: 31-34-ESV

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses.And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.”- Ezekiel 36: 22-32:ESV

So here we see the Promises of the New Covenant:

1. God promises regeneration (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26).
2. God promises the forgiveness of sin (Jeremiah 31:34; Ezekiel 36:25)
3. God pledged the indwelling Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:27).
4. God promises the knowledge of God (Jeremiah 31:34).
5. God promises His people would obey Him (Ezekiel 36:27; 37:23-24; Jeremiah 32:39-40).
6. The fulfilling of this covenant was tied to Israel’s future restoration to the land (Jer. 32:36-41; Ezek. 36:24-25; 37:11-14).

Each of these promises has a historic, partial fulfillment beginning in the 530’s BC when the first wave of the exiles returned home and when Jerusalem was initially rebuilt and each of these promises has a future, ultimate fulfillment which waits the end of the age. At that time- at the eshcahton- there will be a final, supernatural regathering of Israel’s remaining exiles, a Jewish return to God of national proportions, the Messiah’s second coming, the establishing of God’s kingdom on the earth, and the final, glorious rebuilding of Jerusalem (See Michael Brown’s Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus Vol 4, pgs 286-292).

Remember, the people of Israel were again forced out of their land again (by the Romans in 135 AD) and scattered to countries throughout the world. But, during the past few centuries, millions of exiled Jewish people around the world have returned to their ancient homeland.

Why the Resurrection Matters

Before Jesus rose from the dead, he made a promise that was related to the New Covenant passages:

Just like the giving of the Torah (with Moses), the New Covenant needs someone to inaugurate it. As Jesus says:

“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, so that He may be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not see Him nor know Him. But you know Him, for He dwells with you and shall be in you.” John 14:16,17

Also, after Jesus rose from the dead, he promised something related to the New Covenant passages:

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1: 3-7)

Also, it could not be more evident that the New Covenant passages were written to both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. So what about the Gentiles?  How do we fit into the picture? In response, we probably can note that 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 Tanakh. 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.

So we can conclude with following syllogism:
1. If Jesus rose from the dead, He can send the Spirit and inaugurate the New Covenant.
2. Jesus rose from the dead
3. Therefore, Jesus is the initiator of the New Covenant.

Conclusion

In asking whether Jesus really is the Jewish Messiah, one of the most important criteria to meet this requirement is to have the ability to inaugurate the New Covenant. Only a resurrected Messiah could fulfill such a task.


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Danny Danon is Israel's ambassador to the United Nations. Here's his powerful defense of Israel’s right to the Land. He starts with the Bible, then moves on to history, international law, and even Palestinians’ own admission of Israel’s right to exist—all in less than 20 minutes. Powerful stuff, folks. (Submitted by CJF Ministries staff writer Georgia Heisler)


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By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative 

Over the years I have heard many skeptics say Jesus was just another messianic figure who got himself crucified. The old saying, “Jesus 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)

Another issue that can tend to be overlooked is that we can minimize the issue of blasphemy in a Jewish setting. by the way, none of the above figures were accused of blasphemy. According to Jewish law, the claim to be the Messiah was not a criminal, nor capital offense. Therefore, the claim to be the Messiah was not even a blasphemous claim. (1)

If this is true, why was Jesus accused of blasphemy? According to Mark 14:62, Jesus affirmed the chief priests question that He is the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Coming Son of Man who would judge the world. This was considered a claim for deity since the eschatological authority of judgment was for God alone. Jesus provoked the indignation of his opponents because of His application of Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1 to himself.

Also, many parables, which are universally acknowledged by critical scholars to be authentic to the historical Jesus, show that Jesus believed himself to be able to forgive sins against God (Matt. 9:2; Mark 2: 1-12). Forgiving sins was something that was designated for God alone (Exod. 34: 6-7; Neh.9:17; Dan. 9:9) and it was something that was done only in the Temple along with the proper sacrifice. So it can be seen that Jesus acts as if He is the Temple in person. In Mark 14:58, it says, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.’ The Jewish leadership knew that God was the one who was responsible for building the temple (Ex. 15:17; 1 En. 90:28-29).(2)

Also, God is the only one that is permitted to announce and threaten the destruction of the temple (Jer. 7:12-13; 26:4-6, 9;1 En.90:28-29). (3) It is also evident that one reasons Jesus was accused of blasphemy was because He usurped God’s authority by making himself to actually be God (Jn. 10:33, 36). Not only was this considered by the Jews to be blasphemous, it was worthy of the death penalty (Matt. 26:63-66; Mk. 14:61-65; Lk. 22:66-71; Jn. 10:31-39; 19:7)

As the late Martin Hengal said:

“Jesus’ claim to authority goes far beyond anything that can be adduced as prophetic prototypes or parallels from the field of the Old Testament and from the New Testament period. [Jesus] remains in the last resort incommensurable, and so basically confounds every attempt to fit him into categories suggested by the phenomenology of sociology of religion.” (4)

Remember that there was a Jewish leader named Bar Kohba who made an open proclamation to be the real Messiah who would take over Rome and enable the Jewish people to regain their self-rule (A.D. 132-135). Even a prominent rabbi called Rabbi Akiba affirmed him as the Messiah. Unfortunately, the revolt led by Bar Kohba failed and as a result and both he and Rabbi Akiba were slain. And remember, Bar Kohba was not accused of blasphemy. He never claimed to have the authority to forgive sins or claim to be the Son of Man (as referring to Daniel 7).

What is interesting is that in relation to the Daniel 7 text is that there is an established tenet in Talmudic times is that there is a splitting of the Messiah in two: Messiah ben Yossef who is also referred to as Mashiach ben Ephrayim, the descendant of Ephrayim will serve as a precursor to Messiah ben David. His role is political in nature since he will wage war against the forces that oppose Israel. In other words, Messiah ben Yossef is supposed to prepare Israel for its final redemption. The prophecy of Zech. 12:10 is applied to Messiah ben Yossef in that he is killed and that it will be followed by a time of great calamities and tests for Israel. Shortly after these tribulations upon Israel, Messiah ben David will come and avenge the death of Messiah ben Yossef, resurrect him, and inaugurate the Messianic era of everlasting peace.(4)

What is also interesting is that R. Saadiah Gaon elaborated on the role of Messiah ben Yossef by starting that this sequence of events is contingent. In other words, Messiah ben Yossef will not have to appear before Messiah be David if the spiritual condition of Israel is up to par.(5)

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

Sources:

1. See Darrell L. Bock. Blasphemy and Exaltation in Judaism: The Charge Against Jesus in Mark 14:53-65. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998.
2. William Lane Craig. Reasonable Faith: Third Edition. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2008, 307.
3. Martin Hengel, The Charismatic Leader and His Followers. New York: Crossroad, 1981. 68-69; Cited in Edwards, 96.
4. Jacob Immanuel Schochet. Mashiach: The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition. New York: S.I.E. 1992, 93-101.
5. Ibid.


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By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative 

Introduction

Over the years, I have had my share of discussions with people about Jesus the Messiah. I can say without hesitation that one of the most common objections I hear is the following: “I think Jesus was a good teacher, but I don’t take those miracle accounts in the Gospels as literal events.”

It is evident that this objection to the miracles of Jesus are mostly philosophical. Many skeptics attempt to claim that it was during the Enlightenment period that any so called miracle claim was cast into the domain of superstition and pre-modernism. After all, modern people can’t believe such silliness. This is really just a hangover from David Hume’s work. To see a response to him, see the book Hume’s Abject Failure: The Argument Against Miracles. Or, you can read more about that here and here.

As N.T Wright says:

“The natural/supernatural distinction itself, and the near-equation of ‘supernatural’with ‘superstition’, are scarecrows that Enlightenment thought has erected in its fields to frighten away anyone following the historical argument where it leads. It is high time the birds learned to take no notice.” (1)

As the miraculous, I think a more balanced approach is seen here in the comments by Gary Habermas and Mike Licona:

” Our knowledge of the world around us is gained by gathering information. When we cast our net into the sea of experience, certain data turn up. If we cast our net into a small lake, we won’t be sampling much of the ocean’s richness. If we make a worldwide cast, we have a more accurate basis for what exists. Here is the crunch. If we cast into our own little lakes, it is not surprising if we do not obtain an accurate sampling of experience. However, a worldwide cast will reveal many reports of unusual occurrences that might be investigated and determined to be miracles. Surely most of the supernatural claims would be found to be untrustworthy. But before making the absolute observation that no miracles have ever happened, someone would have to investigate each report. It only takes a single justified example to show that there is more to reality than a physical world. We must examine an impossibly large mountain of data to justify the naturalistic conclusion assumed in this objection.”(Habermas & Licona 2004:144). 

 

I am in full agreement with James Sire that Jesus is the best apologetic that the we can offer to a dark and needy world. Therefore, I would like to examine the miracles of Jesus. There is not a ton of disagreement that Jesus was a miracle worker and  considered to be a exorcist. As Christopher Price notes in the article here:

Any fair reading of the Gospels and other ancient sources (including Josephus) inexorably leads to the conclusion that Jesus was well known in his time as a healer and exorcist. The miracle stories are now treated seriously and are widely accepted by Jesus scholars as deriving from Jesus’ ministry. Several specialized studies have appeared in recent years, which conclude that Jesus did things that were viewed as ‘miracles’.” B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), Authenticating the Activities of Jesus, pp. 11-12 (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998).

• “[T]he tradition that Jesus did perform exorcisms and healings (which may also have been exorcisms originally) is very strong.” R.H. Fuller, Interpreting the Miracles, p. 39.

• “[B]y far the deepest impression Jesus made upon his contemporaries was as an exorcist and a healer. . . . In any case he was not only believed to possess some quite special curative gifts but evidently, in some way or other he actually possessed them.” Michael Grant, An Historian’s Review of the Gospels, pp. 31, 35.

• “Yes, I think that Jesus probably did perform deeds that contemporaries viewed as miracles.” Paula Fredriksen, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, p. 114.

• “There is no doubt that Jesus worked miracles, healed the sick and cast out demons.” Gerd Theissen, The Miracle Stories of the Early Christian Tradition, p. 277.

• “In most miracle stories no explanation at all is given; Jesus simply speaks or acts and the miracle is done by his personal power. This trait probably reflects historical fact.” Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician, p. 101.

• “There is agreement on the basic facts: Jesus performed miracles, drew crowds and promised the kingdom to sinners.” E.P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, p. 157.

• “Yes, we can be sure that Jesus performed real signs which were interpreted by his contemporaries as experiences of an extraordinary power.” H. Hendrickx, The Miracle Stories and the Synoptic Gospels, p. 22.

• “That Jesus performed deeds that were perceived as miracles by both him and his audience is difficult to doubt.” Witherington, The Christology of Jesus, page 155.

• “[W]e must be clear that Jesus’ contemporaries, both of those who became his followers and those who were determined not to become his followers, certainly regarded him as possessed of remarkable powers.” Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God , p. 187.

• “[T]he tradition of Jesus’ miracles has too many unusual features to be conveniently ascribed to conventional legend-mongering. Moreover, many of them contain details of precise reporting which is quite unlike the usual run of legends and is difficult to explain unless it derives from some historical recollection; and the gospels themselves show a remarkable restraint in their narratives which contrasts strangely with that delight in the miraculous for its own sake which normally characterizes the growth of legend.” A.E. Harvey, Jesus and the Constraints of History, p. 100.

The Context of Jesus’ Miracles-God’s Relationship With the Nation of Israel

The historical and religious context for the miracles of Jesus is God’s interaction with the nation of Israel. Even during thousands of years of Bible history miracles were clustered in three very limited periods:

(1) The Mosaic period: from the exodus through the taking of the promised land (with a few occurrences in the period of the judges)

(2) The prophetic period: from the late kingdom of Israel and Judah during the ministries of Elijah, Elisha, and to a lesser extent Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah spoke of a time where miraculous deeds would be the sign of both the spiritual and physical deliverance of Israel (Is.26: 19; 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 42:18; 61:1).

(3) The apostolic period: from the first-century ministries of Christ and the apostles. Occurrences of miracles were neither continuous nor without purpose. (2)

Jesus as the Inaugurator of the Kingdom of God: The Actions of the King

In the New Testament, the Greek word for kingdom is “basileia,” which denotes “sovereignty,” “royal power,” and “dominion.” The references to the word “kingdom” can be seen in two classes: First, it is viewed as a present reality and involves suffering for those who enter into it (2 Thess 1:5). Second, the kingdom is futuristic and involves reward (Matt 25:34), as well as glory (Matt 13:43).

In observing the ministry of Jesus, He demonstrated one of the visible signs of His inauguration of the kingdom of God would not only be the dispensing of the Holy Spirit (John 7: 39), but also the ability to perform miracles. But if the kingdom is breaking into human history, then the King has come. If the Messianic age has arrived, then the Messiah must be present.

Within the context of first-century Jewish miracle workers, how much weight should be given to Jesus’ miracles?As Ben Witherington III says:

“The miracles themselves raise the question but do not fully provide the answer of who Jesus was; what is important from an historical point of view is not the miracle themselves, which were not unprecedented, but Jesus’ unique interpretation of the miracles as signs of the dominion’s inbreaking, and also the signs of who he was: the fulfiller of the Old Testament promises about the blind seeing, the lame walking and the like.” (3)

Wolfgang Trilling, a German New Testament scholar argues for a consensus in New Testament scholarship that Jesus performed some sort of miraculous acts ascribed to him in the Gospels. Jesus’ authority is evident as His role as an exorcist. He said, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, than the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).

This is significant for three reasons: (1) It shows that Jesus claimed divine authority over evil (2) It shows Jesus believed the kingdom of God had arrived; in Judaism, the kingdom would come at the end of history (3) Jesus was in effect saying that in Himself, God had drawn near, therefore He was putting Himself in God’s place. (4)

In Matthew 11:13, John the Baptist, who in prison after challenging Herod, sent messengers to ask Jesus the question:

“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus’ responded by appealing to the evidence of his miracles. As Jesus said, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me” (Matt. 11:4-6).

Jesus’ evidential claim can be seen in the following syllogism:

1.If one does certain kinds of actions (the acts cited above), then one is the Messiah.
2. I am doing those kinds of actions.
3.Therefore, I am the Messiah. (5)

Even in the Messiah Apocalypse, which is dated between 100 and 80 B.C.E mentions a similar theme as seen in Matt.11: 4-6:

“He [God] frees the captives, makes the blind see, and makes the bent over stand straight…for he will heal the sick, revive the dead, and give good news to the humble and the poor he will satisfy, the abandoned he will lead, and the hungry he will make rich.” (6)

Jesus as the Sign Prophet of Deut 18: 15-18:

One of the most pivotal texts that speak about the first coming of the Messiah is Deuteronomy 18: 15-18:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18: 15-18)

In order to be like Moses, this prophet will have to be a “sign prophet.”

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).

When Moses asks God, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” the Lord gives Moses two “signs”: his rod turns into a snake (Exod. 4:3) and his hand becomes leprous (Exod. 4:1–7).

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

How does Jesus fulfill the role of a “sign prophet?”

Remember, “sign” (Gr.sēmeion) is used seventy-seven times (forty-eight times in the Gospels).

“Sign” is also used of the most significant miracle in the New Testament, the resurrection of Yeshua from the grave.

Jesus repeated this prediction of his resurrection when he was asked for a sign (Matt. 16:1, 4). Not only was the resurrection a miracle, but it was a miracle that Yeshua predicted (Matt. 12:40; 16:21; 20:19; John 2:19).

Nicodemus said of Jesus “We know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2).

Some Jewish people object to the miracle issue as not being a vital piece of evidence that Jesus is the Messiah. After all, Elijah did miracles as well. Perhaps he is the sign prophet ‘like Moses?’ Regarding Elijah, yes he did miracles because it was another case where God was confirming a true prophet. But to be like Moses (Deut. 18:15-18), Elijah must fulfill all the requirements which he does not. Also, Jesus did his signs in the context of the in breaking reign of God. They were done more to confirm the messianic claim (not just the prophetic claim like Moses and Elijah).So if Jesus did rise from the dead (which he said would be a sign), that would make him rather different from Elijah.

Jesus and His Contemporaries

During the time of Jesus, there were other “holy men” are what are called “Hasidim.” A Jewish Hasid was someone who had a close relationship with God and had the ability to call upon God for power over the natural realm. Two examples of Hasid’s are Honi, “the Circle Drawer” and Hanina ben Dosa. In comparing the miracles of Jesus and Honi the Circle Drawer, the records of Honi’s miracles are from are the Mishnah (c. A.D. 200) and from Josephus (c. A.D. 90):

In comparing these healers with Jesus, we also see some other glaring differences. First, the earliest portions of the Misnah date no earlier than roughly a.d. 200, becoming part of the Talmud even later. Josephus relates other cases of Jewish holy men, but his account was written perhaps a.d. 93–94, at the very end of the New Testament period. Also, Honi had no control over the forces of nature, but he could ask God for rain. Other Jewish exorcists resorted to power other then themselves through prayer to send away demons. They even invoked “powerful” names such as those of God and Solomon. Jesus was quite different because when He did a healing He did not “receive” power before he drove out the spirits; He did it with a simple, powerful word that was His own. Rather than invoking the name of Solomon, he said “Behold, something greater than the wisdom of Solomon is here” (Matt. 12:42). Furthermore, Jesus did not ask God to quiet the storm or calm the waves; He did with His own word. (7)

Hellenistic Divine Men?

There have been other comparisons between Jesus and Hellenistic divine men such as Apollonius of Tyana. Philostratus, his biographer, tells that Apollonius cast out a demon from a young man and ordered it to provide a sign that it had left. A nearby statue promptly fell down. This example sounds like the account of Jesus expelling the demon from the Gadarene man (Mark 5:1–20). Did this account influence the Jesus story?

Gary Habermas points out four problems with the Hellenistic Divine Men theory:

The first problem is that Jesus was obviously Jewish and was probably even widely considered by some to be a Jewish holy man. We are told that he was sometimes addressed as Rabbi (John 1:38, 49; 3:2; 6:25), as was John the Baptist (3:26). Still, we have no clear signs of mimicry. The ancient definition of magician, one who was involved in such practices as incantations, sorceries, spells, and trickeries, hardly seems to have applied any influence on the Gospel depiction of Jesus.

Secondly, there are few parallels between the magicians, divine men, and Jesus. Clearly, the Gospels are much more closely aligned with the Old Testament, Palestinian Judaism, and rabbinic literature. But given this, it becomes very difficult to establish the influence of pagan ideas on the Gospels. As Habermas notes, historian Michael Grant has shown that Judaism strongly opposed pagan beliefs, helping us understand why these ideas never gained much of a foothold in first-century Palestine.

Thirdly, the evidence for Apollonius is rather scant. While the miracles of Jesus pass the test of multiple attestation, the single account of Apollonius was recorded by Philostratus nearly 2-300 years later. This means it may have borrowed from the Jesus story, not the other way around.

Fourthly, our faith centers on the death and resurrection of Jesus, and this message is not borrowed from the beliefs of others. Habermas also notes that the late Martin Hengel asserted, “The Christian message fundamentally broke apart the customary conceptions of atonement in the ancient world and did so at many points.” (8) .

Scholar Werner Kahl provides some insights about three characteristics of miracle workers: First, the person who has inherent healing power is called a “bearer of numinous power” (BNP). Kahl uses the term “petitioner of numinous power” (PNP) for those who ask God to perform the miracle. Between both (BNP) and (PNP) is what Kahl calls the category of a “mediator of numinous power” (MNP), which can apply to an individual who mediates the numinous power of a BNP in order to produce a miracle. Kahl concludes being a MNP or PNP clearly is not the evidence of deity, whereas being a BNP could possibly be evidence of a deity. (9)

Eric Eve makes another valuable contribution to this topic in his published dissertation The Jewish Context of Jesus’ Miracles. Eve observes that only the God of Israel is the only BNP while Moses is an example of an MNP and Elijah is an example of a PNP. After studying the miracle accounts in Josephus, Philo, the wisdom and the apocalyptic literature of the period, as well the Qumran texts and Jewish literature such as Tobit, Eve concluded that it can be demonstrated that the God of Israel is the only BNP. Hence, Eve contends that the Gospels display Jesus’ miracles as departing from Jewish tradition since Jesus is shown to be a BNP and his miracles point to him as being the incarnation of the God of Israel.

The Gospels provide valuable insight into the relationship between prayer and the miracles of Jesus. Jesus has no need to pray before performing any miracle, and the exceptions are prayers of only thanks or blessing, not prayers asking God to effect the miracle (Mark 14:9; 15:36; Mark 6:41; 8:6; Luke 9:16; John 6:11; 11:41-43). Eve concludes that the Gospels show no hint of Jesus being a “petitioner of numinous power” (PNP). (10)

It must not be forgotten that Jesus did not perform any  miracles independently of the Father; instead Jesus did all his miracles in union with the Father (John 5:36; 10:38; 14:10-11) so that His audience would see the unique relationship between the Father and the Son.

Conclusion

It is evident that Jesus’ miracles are best understood within the context of God’s covenant relationship with Israel. Most importantly, God took the initiative by revealing to mankind a fuller part His kingdom program through the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus’ miraculous deeds, healings, and power over nature as well as His role as a Suffering Servant was another stage of inaugurating the kingdom of God. Jesus, being the divine Messiah exhibits the same attributes as the God of Israel. One day, Jesus will return to fulfill the promise of completing the earthly aspect of His kingdom work. May all of us as wait with eager anticipation.

As the Apostle Peter said,

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat” (2 Peter 3:10-12).

Sources: 1. Wright, N.T. The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress, Minneapolis. 2003), 707 n63.

2. Geisler N.L., Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999, 468-469.

3. Ben Witherington III. New Testament History. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2001, 12.

4. Craig, W. L. Christian Truth and Apologetics. Wheaten, ILL : Crossway Books.1984, 233-54.

5. Douglas Groothuis, “Jesus: Philosopher and Apologist,”http://www.theapologiaproject.org/JesusPhil.pdf/2002{accessed January 10, 2011}.

6. See Evans, C.A., and P. W. Flint, Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1997). Qumran is the site of the ruin about nine miles south of Jericho on the west side of the Dead Sea where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in nearby caves. The Dead Sea Scrolls contains some 800 scrolls with parts or the entirety of every book of the Old Testament except Esther, discovered in the caves near Qumran.

7. Skarsaune, O. Incarnation: Myth or Fact? (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House: 1991), 35-36.

8. Geisler, N.L., and Paul K. Hoffman Why I Am A Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books. 2001), 112-113.

9. Kahl, W, New Testament Miracle Stories in Their Religious- Historical Setting: A Religionsgeschichtliche Comparison from a Structural Perspective (FRLANT 163. Gottingen: Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994), 76; cited in Eric Eve, The Jewish Context of Jesus’ Miracles, JSNTSSup 231 (London and New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), 15; cited in R. M. Bowman and J.E. Komoszewski, Putting Jesus Back In His Place: The Case For The Deity of Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007), 195-206.

10. See Eve, E, The Jewish Context of Jesus’ Miracles, JSNTSSup 231 (London and New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), 15; cited in R. M. Bowman and J.E. Komoszewski, Putting Jesus Back In His Place: The Case For The Deity of Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007), 195-206.


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By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative 

Dan Cohn-Sherbock, a well-known rabbi of Reform Judaism and Jewish theologian provides his own reasons for rejecting the resurrection of Jesus. He says:

"As a Jew and a rabbi, I could be convinced of Jesus’ resurrection, but I would set very high standards of what is required. It would not be enough to have a   subjective experience of Jesus. If I heard voices or had a visionary experience of Jesus, this would not be enough. Let me sketch the kind of experience that would be necessary. If Jesus appeared by hosts of angels trailing clouds of glory and   announcing all for His Messiah ship to see, this would be compelling. But it would have to take place in public domain. video cameras, shown on television, and announced in newspapers and magazines worldwide. Jesus appearance would have to be a global event, televised on CNN, and other forms of the world’s media. Further, if as a consequence of his arrival, all the prophecies   recorded in scripture were fulfilled; the ingathering of the exiles, the rebuilding of the Temple, the resurrection of all those who died, the advent of the days of the Messiah, final judgment-I would without a doubt embrace the Christian message and become a follower of the risen Christ." [1]

The comments by Rabbi Cohn-Sherbock demonstrate the attitude among many in the modern world today. He also raises some objections based on another traditional role of the Messiah in Judaism.  However, there isn’t one messianic expectation in Judaism. Also, whether certain passages are about the coming of the Messiah in the Jewish Scriptures will depend upon what the preconceived idea of the reader. What do they believe the Messiah is supposed to do? If a traditional Jewish person says the Messiah cannot suffer and die and rise from the dead, how would we expect them to interpret the Messianic passages?  It is obvious  Rabbi Cohn-Sherbock has unrealistic explications for the evidence for the resurrection. If we were to apply the same criteria that to the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, we could never know that happened as well. After all, the giving of the Torah was not witnessed by multitudes (they saw Moses after he received it), photographed, recorded on video cameras, shown on television, and announced in newspapers and magazines worldwide.

Thus, while Jewish people like to boast of the thousands of witnesses that were at the Sinai event, both Christians and Messianic Jews can discuss the witnesses to the resurrection. However, in both cases, the testimony of the witnesses is imbedded in a written text. This means we must differentiate between direct and circumstantial evidence.

 Almost all historical inquiries, as well as cold case investigations are built on indirect or what is called “circumstantial evidence.” When we rely on circumstantial evidence, we can imagine a court scene where a series of coincidental circumstances are presented, none of which is in itself conclusive proof but all of which together, in the absence of any other evidence, can add up to a case ‘beyond reasonable doubt.’ For example, a husband is accused of murdering his wife by pushing her over a cliff, beneath which her body was found.  Like many trial scenes, no-one saw the husband push his wife over the cliff, so there was no eyewitness testimony and the case rested entirely on circumstantial evidence.In a court of law, both are considered viable and good. Furthermore, a large majority of science, history, and cold case investigations involve making inferences. Historians collect the data and draw conclusions that provide the best explanation that covers all the data in what is called “Inference to the most reasonable explanation” which never leads to absolute certainty or exhaustive knowledge. 

The demand for direct evidence is misguided from the start, because when it comes to antiquity, no one can interview or cross-examine eyewitnesses.  Since we can’t obtain direct evidence about the resurrection of Jesus nor for the giving of the Torah, we must build a circumstantial case for both events. Therefore, both Judaism and Christianity/Messianic Judaism are supported by circumstantial evidence.

1. G. D’ Costa, Resurrection Reconsidered (London: Oneworld. 1996), 198-199.


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