By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative  

Introduction

The word Messiah”-“Anointed One” (Heb. messiah),(Gk. Christos) is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.”

The Jewish Scriptures records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod. 29:1-9 ), kings (1 Sam 10:1;2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34), and sometimes prophets (1 Kings 19:16b) as a sign of their special function in the Jewish community. Also, when God anointed or authorized for leadership, in many cases he provided the empowering of the Holy Spirit to do complete the task (1 Sam. 16:13; Isa. 61:1). However, just because someone was anointed in the Old Testament to perform a specific task doesn’t mean they are “the Messiah.” The messianic concept also has a wider dimension than the royal, priestly, and/or prophetic person. Included in this wider view are some of the characteristics, tasks, goals, means, and consequences of the messianic person.

Other names were used to describe the messianic person other than the “Messiah.” Some of the names include Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, Prophet, Elect One, Servant, Prince, Branch, Root, Scepter, Star, Chosen One, and Coming One. Therefore, to say Jesus is the Messiah is like asking whether he is the Son of Man, Prophet, Branch, etc.

The Branch

Let’s look at a name for the Messiah which is “Branch.” “Branch” or “Sprout” comes from Hebrew word “tzemach” or “netser.”  I offer some comments after each Branch passage.

The Branch in Zechariah

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.  And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”  Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by. And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua,  “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.  Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day.  In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.” (Zech 3: 1-10)

  1. Here the branch is given a traditional royal Davidic title “my servant”
  2. There seems to be a distinction between Joshua and the figure who is the branch.
  3. Joshua is cleansed and commissioned.
  4. Zech 3:1-10; Jer. 33:14-26 anticipated a royal branch to arrive shortly after the people would return from the exile and the priesthood was reconsecrated.
  5. Many commentators (both Jewish and Christian) have attempted to see the Branch as Zerubbabel. However, this would conflict with the other “Branch” passages (see below). Also, Zerubbabel only came as  governor, not a king. While we can note that Zerubbabel built the second temple in 516 B.C. the Messiah will build the Temple in the new age (Isa. 2: 2-4; Eze. 40-42; Mic:4:1-5; Hag 2:7-9).

“And say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord. It is he who shall build the temple of the Lord and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’  And the crown shall be in the temple of the Lord as a reminder to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah. “And those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the Lord. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.”  (Zech. 6: 12-15)

Here we see the following:

  1. Zechariah unites two offices that were forbidden to be held by a priest or a king (2 Chron.26:16-23).
  2. Crowns symbolize a king and priest.
  3. Zechariah reveals that the priestly and kingly functions can be combined in one person.
  4. Who is the referent?  The royal branch did not arrive on the scene (read Zech 9-14). To no priest has ever such an event happened.
  5. The referent here will sit on the throne of David and rule, not Joshua.
  6.  If it is referring to Jesus,  in the first coming he becomes the Temple (John 2: 18-22).  But then he will be part of the Millenial Temple:(Isa. 2: 2-4; Eze. 40-42; Mic:4:1-5; Hag 2:7-9).

Theodore Laetsch states the following:

Joshua was not to pronounced king of Jerusalem. Such a transference of the royal crown from the tribe of Judah and the house of David to the tribe of Levi would  have been not  only obnoxious to the Jews,  but also have voided all the promises of the Lord to the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:0ff) and to the house of David (2 Sam. 7:12ff). The Lord will not contradict Himself, or the prophet the high priest, and the governor would have been guilty of a despicable, blasphemous deception. (1)

Regarding this text, Walter Kaiser also points out the following:

So He shall be called a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both (v.13d, e). This is the greatest Old Testament passage on the fact that the coming Messiah will be both a Davidic King a Priest (cf. Heb 7). So amazing is this prediction that it has troubled many a commentator. Was it likely that a “priest” would “sit upon His throne?” The Greek Septuagint attempts to soften this prediction by substituting “in His right hand” for “on His throne.” But as we know from the royal Psalms (e.g.,Ps. 110:4), the Annointed One would exercise as everlasting priesthood in addition to His royal and prophetic offices. Thus Zechariah daringly combines the priestly and kingly offices into one person, “the Branch.” (2)

Given that Kaiser mentions Psalm 110:1-4, I will mention he following about ts text:  While David did perform priestly functions,  he could not be a priest forever because he died (and remained dead, so far as his physical existence is concerned).  So if the Messiah is to be David’s son, then how can he also be a priest, unless he is of a different line of priests, one that was before and in some capacity greater than the line of Levitical priesthood? And how could he be a priest forever? He would have to not die.

We need a descendant of David that is greater than David, and he must also serve as priest in some way outside of the qualification of being a Levite, and must do so forever. But then the Psalmist answers the his own riddle: The priest would be of the order (not the line) of Melchizedek – a king of Righteousness and of Peace. And the very way that he would be of the order of Melchizedek is by virtue of being a priest forever – without end. Melchizedek was, as you recall, greater than Abraham – having been before Abraham.

Finally, regarding both of the Branch texts in Zechariah, John B. Metzger offers some helpful comments:

God uses words that should not be missed or counted as insignificant. When He calls the BRANCH a servant when speaking to Joshua, He is referring to the basic ministry of the priest. The priest was a servant of the Lord who mediated between the people and their God. These two passages in Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12-13 are extremely important in understanding the full ministry of the BRANCH, as understood from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and now Zechariah. (3)

The Branch in Jeremiah

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’  “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he[ahad driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.” (Jer. 23: 5-7)

The context is that Israel is dwelling safely in the land. Hence, the text could be considered part of what it is called Prophetic Telescoping. Prophetic Telescoping  is prophecy that bridges the First and Second Comings of the Messiah. In this way, prophecy telescopes forward to a time. The prophets saw future events as distant “peaks” (i.e., events) without an awareness of the large time gaps between them. Also, the prophets understood that history had two major periods—the present age and the age to come–although they did not always make a hard distinction between the two. Prophetic Telescoping stresses progressive revelation which means that God does not reveal everything at once. There are  texts that are  fulfilled in the first appearance of Jesus. But there is another part that will be fulfilled in the future. In this sense, the Messiah will build the Temple in the new age (Isa. 2: 2-4; Eze. 40-42; Mic:4:1-5; Hag 2:7-9). In other words, one day the Messiah will be King over His people (Matt. 19:28).

The Branch in Isaiah

“In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel. And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.” (Isa.4: 2-6)

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.  The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—  the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,  the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,  or decide by what he hears with his ears  but with righteousness he will judge the needy,   with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;  with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt  and faithfulness the sash around his waist.  The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together;  The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den,   and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.  They will neither harm nor destroy  on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord  as the waters cover the sea.-Isa. 11: 1-9

Here we see no mention of the word “Messiah.” However, we do see the impact of the rule of Messiah in that the world is a different place.  It looks as if there is some sort of utopian order.  Christians can try to apply vs 1-5 to the first appearance of Jesus . But now we go to read the rest of the chapter:

In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia,from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. He will raise a banner for the nations  and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah  from the four quarters of the earth.  Ephraim’s jealousy will vanish, and Judah’s enemies will be destroyed; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,   nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim.  They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia to the west;   together they will plunder the people to the east. They will subdue Edom and Moab,   and the Ammonites will be subject to them.  The Lord will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian sea; with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand  over the Euphrates River. He will break it up into seven streams so that anyone can cross over in sandals.  There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria, as there was for Israel   when they came up from Egypt.” –Isa. 11: 6-16.

It could not be more evident that vs 10-16 have not come to pass yet.

Isaiah 53:

Isa 53:2:“ For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.”

A canonical reading shows how Isaiah connects between the servant of Isaiah 53 and the coming King of Isaiah 11:1-16. In verse one it says, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” This indicates the Servant is a royal figure who is a Davidic King. Also, as Daniel I. Block notes, when the messiah is both characterized as a servant with a specific name, that name is always “David” or a person with a Davidic connection:

And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken. (Ezek. 34: 23-24)

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ (Jer. 23: 5-6)

Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. (Zech. 3:8) (4)

Note: To see how the Suffering/Atoning Messiah is treated in the Jewish literature, see here:

Conclusion

The Messiah was to be both Priest and King. In other words, the Messiah has a dual role- as a priest he would provide atonement and make intercession for the people. As a King, he would rule and reign! As the Jewish Messiah, Jesus is the ideal sufferer for the nation the representative King, the one greater than David.

Sources:

  1. Theodore Laetsch, The Minor Prophets (St. Louis:Concordia, 1956) 439.
  2. Walter Kaiser, The Commincator’s Commentary: Micah—Malachi. 21 vols. (Waco, TX: Word Books. 1992).
  3. John B. Metzger, Discovering The Mystery of the Unity of God (San Antonio, Ariel Ministries;  2010), 610.
  4. Daniel I. Block, “My Servant David: Ancient Israel’s Visions of the Messiah” in Richard S. Hess and M. Daniel Carroll R, Israel’s Messiah In The Bible and The Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), 48

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By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative  

Over the years, I have been asked if the messianic prophecies are so clear about the coming of Jesus, why didn’t the disciples understand His mission? This question can be dealt with in a number of ways.

First, we must understand the different messianic expectations at the time of Jesus. As I have  said before, there wasn’t one dominant messianic expectation at the time of Jesus

Secondly, we need to understand the various ways the New Testament authors interpret the Jewish Scriptures. 

Third, we need to possibly consider the words of Michael Heiser here. He says:

“Have you ever wondered how it was that the disciples never seemed to get the things that Jesus told them about himself? Think about it. When Jesus told them that it was time for him to go to Jerusalem and die, it angered and scared them (Matt. 17:22-23; Mark 9:30-32). No one replied, “That’s right—I read that in the Scriptures.” Peter even rebuked Jesus for saying such a thing (Matt. 16:21-23). The truth is that the disciples had little sense of what was going on. Even after the resurrection their minds had to be supernaturally enabled to get the message (Luke 24:44-45). We shouldn’t be too hard on the disciples. They weren’t dumb. Their ignorance was the result of God’s deliberate plan to conceal messianic prophecy. Paul talked about the need for that when writing to the Corinthians: But we speak the hidden wisdom of God in a mystery, which God predestined before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew. For if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Cor. 2:7-8) Had Satan and the other powers of darkness known that instigating people to kill the messiah was precisely what God had designed to accomplish their own doom, they never would have done it. The gospels are clear that Satan and demons knew the prophesied son of David had come (Matt. 8:28-29; Luke 4:31-35). The Old Testament was clear that would happen at some point. But what it concealed was the plan of redemption.

Let’s take Isaiah 53 as an example. It’s clear that God’s servant would suffer for sins—but the Hebrew word translated “messiah” (mashiach) never occurs in the passage. It occurs only once in all of Isaiah—and then it is used of Cyrus, a pagan king. The word never occurs in Jeremiah or Ezekiel, and is only found once in the Minor Prophets (Hab. 3:13) where it speaks of the nation. The occurrences in the Psalms refer to Israel’s king. Only a handful of them are quoted by New Testament authors of the messianic king—but their application only became clear after the fact of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Even the label “son of God” isn’t helpful since Israel is called God’s son in Exod. 4:22-23, and kings like David got that title, too. As shocking as it sounds, there isn’t a single verse in the Old Testament that refers to a suffering messiah (mashiach) who would be God incarnate, die, and rise again. That’s deliberate. What we do get in the Old Testament are all the pieces of that profile scattered in dozens, even hundreds of places. The portrait could only be discerned after the fact. The plan of salvation was a cosmic chess game that had to be won. The rest of prophecy figures to work out the same way—fulfilments hidden in plain sight.” – Michael Heiser, The 60 Second Scholar: 100 Insights That Illumine the Bible

 


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By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative  

Note: Some of this was adopted from the recommended readings here:

1.Fruchtenbaum, A.G, Messianic Christology: A Study of Old Testament Prophecy Concerning the First Coming of the Messiah (Tustin CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998), 146-152.

2. Cooper, David L. Messiah: His Historical Appearance (Los Angeles; Biblical Research Society, 1933), 174-177.

Other recommeded readings:

1.G. K. Beale, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation

2. Craig Evans, Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature

Introduction

When I was a new Christian I remember reading books on Christian Apologetics. In many cases these books would say there are over 300 so- called prophecies in the Hebrew Bible which were all fulfilled by Jesus. The problem was that the majority of these books explained very little about the hermeneutical methods of the New Testament authors. Much has been written on this topic. Richard Longenecker’s Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period is one source that covers this topic. The Messianic Hope. Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? is a more current resource.

Starting Points:

We need to understand the context of first century Judaism. Remember, the Holy Spirit superintended the biblical writers while not violating the writer’s personality, style of writing, or vocabulary. Hence, the Holy Spirit’s practice of not overwhelming the writer’s background explains why the New Testament authors used several ways of quoting the Hebrew Bible that were similar to the rabbinical methods of the Second Temple period.

Four Ways the New Testament Authors Used The Old Testament In Regards to Messianic Prophecy

Direct Fulfillment/Predictive Prophecy/Literal Prophecy Plus Literal fulfillment:

In this case, the NT author wants to show something happened in the life of Jesus or in the lives of his followers is a fulfillment of a direct verbal prophecy from an OT passage. Sometimes there is an introductory fulfillment of various types (e.g., ‘that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled” or “it is written”). In other cases we don’t see any introductory formula.

Examples:

Matthew 2:5-6: Matthew quotes Micah 5:2 about Jesus being born in Bethlehem. We see that in the original context of Micah 5:2, the prophet is speaking prophetically and says that whenever the Messiah is born, He will be born in Bethlehem of Judah. Thus the literal meaning of Micah is that the Messiah will be born in the Bethlehem of Judah and not the Bethlehem of Galilee.

Other examples: Other prophecies that fall into this category include:

o Psalm 22 (describing the death of the Messiah).
o Psalm 110:1 (the Messiah will be seated; on the right hand of God).
o Isaiah 7:14 (the virgin birth); 40:3 (the forerunner of the Messiah); 52:13-53:12 (the rejection, atoning death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah). 61:1-2a (the prophetic ministry of the Messiah).
o Zechariah 9:9 (the ride into Jerusalem on a donkey); Zechariah 11:4-14 (Messiah will be sold out for thirty pieces of silver).
o Malachi 3:1 (the forerunner of the Messiah); etc.
o Remember: some of the direct prophecies used in the New Testament only refer to the first appearance of the Messiah.

Literal Plus Typical (Typology):

1. Passages which interpret their present experience in terms of a person, event, place, rite, etc, from the historical past. These events that were ‘set up’ typologically in an earlier, predictive passage, and interpreted so after the predicted event occurred.

An Example: Matthew 2:15 which quotes Hosea 11

The context of the Hosea passage is not even a prophecy but refers to an historical event, that of Exodus 4:22-23 which refers to Israel as the national son of God. Thus, according to Hosea, when God brought Israel out of Egypt, He divinely called His son out of Egypt. Pro-Judaic hermeneutics. The literal meaning of the Hosea passage refers to the Exodus under Moses. There is nothing in the New Testament that can change or reinterpret the meaning of the Hosea passage nor does the New Testament deny that a literal exodus of Israel out of Egypt actually occurred. The literal event in the Tanakh becomes a type of a New Testament event. In Matthew, an individual Son of God, the Messiah, is also divinely called out of Egypt. Remember, the passage is not quoted as a fulfillment of prophecy since it was not a prophecy to begin with. Rather, it is quoted as a type.

Other Examples Include:

Isaiah 29:13 (Israel has become religious only in the outward sense, obeying man-made commandments while ignoring the divine commandments) quoted in Matthew 15:7-9. Israel becomes a type of the Pharisees and their traditions which made them very religious. They were religious based upon man-made traditions while actively disobeying divine law such as honoring father and mother). Isaiah 6:10 (speaks of Isaiah’s ministry that will be largely rejected) quoted in John 12:39-40 (Isaiah’s ministry becomes a type of Messiah’s ministry which was also largely rejected). Psalm 118:22-23 (the rejected stone) quoted in Matthew 21:42 (a type of the rejection of the Messianic stone that becomes a stone of stumbling). Exodus 12:46 (prohibition against breaking any bone of the Passover lamb) quoted in John 19:36 (that prohibition is now a type for not breaking the bones of the Passover Lamb of God).

Literal Plus Application:

An Example: Matthew 2:17-18 which quotes Jeremiah 31:15.

In the original context, Jeremiah was not prophesying of an event in the far future, as was the case with Micah, or dealing with an event that was long history as was the case with Hosea.

Jeremiah was prophesying about a current event happening in his own time, the beginnings of the Babylonian Captivity. As the Jewish young men were being taken into captivity, they went by the town of Ramah, a town not far from where Rachel was buried. Rachel had become the symbol of Jewish motherhood. As the young men were marched toward Babylon, the Jewish mothers of Ramah came out weeping for sons they would never see again. Jeremiah pictured the scene as Rachel weeping for her children. This is the literal meaning of the Jeremiah passage.

The event is quoted as an application. The one point of similarity here is that once again there are Jewish mothers weeping for sons they will never see again. The Jeremiah event happened in Ramah, north of Jerusalem; the Matthew event happened in Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem. In the Matthew passage, the sons are killed; in the Jeremiah passage, the sons are not killed but taken into captivity.

The literal meaning of the Jeremiah passage is dealing with the Babylonian Captivity. But by means of drash, (Matthew investigates and finds, the meaning deduced by investigation), the verse is quoted as an application because of one point of similarity. Another example: Acts 2:16-21: Joel 2:28-32: Just as Israel’s national salvation will be when The Holy Spirit will be poured out on all Israel, there is one point of similarity in that there was an outpouring of the Spirit in Peter’s day.

Perhaps an English expression will help explain this: “He met his Waterloo.” The expression points to an historical event which had to do with Napoleon’s imperial ambitions which collapsed at Waterloo. Because of one point of similarity, we use this story as one point of similarity when we express the ambitions of someone whose ambitions were suddenly destroyed by some climatic event in their life.

Other Examples of Literal Plus Application:

An example is Isaiah 53:4 (where Isaiah is speaking of the spiritual healing of Israel as a nation from their sins by means of the blood atonement of the Messiah) in Matthew 8:17 (applied to the physical healing of Jewish individuals by Jesus). The point of similarity is the healing by the Messiah. Isaiah deals with the spiritual healing of the Jewish nation resulting from Messiah’s atonement; Matthew describes the physical healing of Jewish individuals at a point of time when Jesus had not yet died and therefore no atonement had yet been made. Isaiah 6:9-10: (which describes the nature of Isaiah’s ministry) quoted in Matthew 13:14-15 (which applies to the ministry of Jesus). The point of similarity is that both speak in a way the unbelieving Jewish audience will not be able to understand.

Summation

Summation is not based on a single passage of Scripture nor a quotation of any specific scripture. It tended to summarize what the Scriptures said on a subject. Example: Matthew 2:23: “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophets, that he should be called a Nazarene.” There is no such actual statement anywhere in the Hebrew Bible. While many try to make a reference to Isaiah 11:1, the only point of similarity is the sound of netzer, but that passage is not dealing with a town called Nazareth. Matthew is not quoting a specific statement but is summarizing what the Hebrew Bible said. The Prophets did teach that the Messiah would be a despised and rejected individual (Isaiah 49:1-13; 52:13-53:12), and this was well summarized by the term Nazarene.

What was a Nazarene? In the first century, Nazarenes were despised and rejected people (see John 1:45-46). Nathaniel’s question “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” reflects the people’s low opinion of Nazarenes. Nazareth was viewed as a poor, despised village. Another example is Luke 18:31-33: Jesus said he must fulfill all the things written in the prophets (plural). That includes the following: going to Jerusalem, the Jews turning him over to the gentiles who will mock him, spit on him, scourge him, and kill him, and also rising again on the third day. Here again, no one prophet ever said all this. However, putting the prophets together, they did say all this. Therefore, this is a summation of what the prophets said about the Messiah but not a direct quotation. Ezra 9:10-12 is an example of same thing: In this passage, his quotation can’t be found anywhere in the Hebrew Bible. Rather, he is summarizing the teachings found in Deut. 11:8-9; Isa. 1:19; Ezek. 37:25.


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By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative  

Introduction

Over the years I have taught classes on evangelism and apologetics. I have always stated that Christians will only get motivated to learn and apply apologetics into their lives when they start to engage the culture for the faith. I am troubled by what seems to be an obsession with ‘lifestyle evangelism’ in the churches. Sadly, for many this can lead one to assume that a silent witness is the best witness.

It is as if many Christians assume if they live a certain way, many people will automatically ask “What makes you tick?” Now don’t get me wrong:  I know our actions matter. I do know we need to live what we profess. But how many of us ever meet the standard that will cause people to ask us about what we believe? Also, what if a Mormon or a Muslim is an outstanding moral person who feeds the poor and goes out of their way to love others? The point is that we need to remember something: The Apostles weren’t martyred for lifestyle evangelism. Instead, they were martyred for proclaiming the Lord. If you want to see the evangelistic vocabulary in Acts, one of my former professors (Barry Leventhal) wrote about this in his article In Search of That Elusive Jewish Evangelist. Note: there is no direct link, but you can type in the article title and read it online.  Anyway, here is some of the terminology used in Acts. 

1. “testified
2. “exhorted
3. “responded
4. “answered
5. “spoke boldly”
6. “taught
7. “preached”
8. “spoke”
9. “questioned”
10. “confounded”
11. “disputed against”
12. “commanded”
13. “declared”
14. “persuaded”
15. “bore witness”
16. “spoke loudly”
17. “cried out”
18. “reasoned daily from
the Scriptures in the synagogue”
19. “explained”
20. “demonstrated”
21. “proclaimed”
22. “vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ”
23. “reasoned daily”
24. “conversed”
25. “begged to listen patiently”
26. “solemnly testified”
27. “persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets from morning until evening”

It is clear that 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. I have come up with SOME reasons as to why we should desire to give a verbal witness for our faith.

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.

2. The Name

Acts 10: The context of this chapter is Peter’s encounter with Cornelius. The normative way God reveals Himself to all humans is through the proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah by a specific individual who takes the initiative to explain the message of salvation to another. This matches up with the biblical data. There are cases in the Bible where people are sincerely religious, but still had to have explicit faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord. For example, in this chapter, Cornelius is shown to be a God-fearer. He worshiped the correct God. However, he received a vision with instructions to send for Peter and awaited his message (Acts 10: 1-6, 22, 33; 11: 14). Because Cornelius ended up responding to special revelation concerning Jesus the Messiah, he attained salvation. In the Bible, people do experience salvation by the explicit preaching of the gospel (Luke 24:46-47; John 3:15-16;20-21; Acts 4:12; 11:14; 16:31; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Heb. 4:2; 1 Pet.1:3-25; 1 John 2:23; 5:12).

In Acts 10:43 Peter says that “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his NAME.”

There is a similar theme in Acts 4:12: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

What is the significance of this verse in relation to the name of Jesus?

How could Jesus be declared as the only one whom God’s salvation is effected? In the ancient world, a name was not merely what someone was called, but rather the identification of the being and essence of its bearer.

We see that just as in the Hebrew Bible where the name of God represents the person of God and all that he is, so in the New Testament “the Name” represents all who Jesus is as Lord and Savior. James Edwards sums it up:

” In the ancient world, a name was not merely what someone was called, but rather the identification of the being and essence of its bearer. To the Jewish people, an idol could not properly have a “name” because it has no being represented by the name (Is. 44:9-21). The “name” to which the apostles refer does not signify an event, but a person, in whom the authority and power of God was active in salvation. The saving activity of God was and is expressed in the name of Jesus Christ.The name of Jesus is thereby linked in the closest possible way to the name of God. “No other name” does not refer to a second name of God, but to the unity of God with Jesus, signifying one name, one nature, one saving activity. The shared nature of God and Jesus is signaled in the most striking way by the custom of the early church to pray to God in the name of Jesus” (1)

3. God has given the world more revelation of Himself in the person of Jesus the Messiah:

Historical verification is a way to test religious claims. We can detect God’s work in human history and apply historical tests to the Bible or any other religious book. The late Anthony Flew said the resurrection of Jesus was the best attested miracle claim that he had seen. Perhaps the most reasonable expectation is to ask WHERE and WHEN God has broken through into human history.

Let’s look at what Paul preached in Acts 17. It details Paul’s mission efforts to two synagogues and then his journey into Athens. As he is speaking to his audience towards the end of the chapter he says the following:

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31).

What stands out here:
(1) Paul is urgent in his appeal for repentance
(2) According to Acts 14: 26, Paul states there was “a time in which God allowed the nations to walk in their own ways,” but now Paul states in Acts 17: 30, “The times of ignorance is over” – God has given man more revelation in the person of Jesus the Messiah
(3) Paul uses the same language as is used in the Jewish Scriptures about judgment (Psalm 9:9)
(4) The judgment will be conducted by an agent, a man who God has appointed
(5) Paul treats the resurrection as an historical fact and he uses it as a proof of God’s appointment as Jesus as the judge of the living and the dead! (2)

4. The Reign of God has broken into the world

In the New Testament, the Greek word for kingdom is “basileia,” which denotes “sovereignty,” “royal power,” and “dominion.” Biblical scholar J. Julius Scott Jr. has noted that in the ancient world, “kingdom” referred to “lordship,” “rule,” “reign,” or “sovereignty,” rather than simply a geographical location. Scott asserts “sovereignty (or rule) of God” would be a better translation than “kingdom of God,” since such a translation denotes God’s sphere or influence or control and includes any person or group who, regardless of their location, acknowledge His sovereignty. (3)

There is no kingdom without a King. 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. If the reign of God is breaking into human history, then the King has come. If the Messianic age has arrived, then the Messiah must be present.

As Paul states in Colossians 1:13-14, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

There is a relationship between Paul’s commission in Acts 26:16-18 and 2 Corinthians 4:4-6:

“I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:15-18)

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Christ’s sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,“ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
(2 Corinthians 4: 4-6).

We see the relationship between these two passages:

Acts 26:16-18:
(1) Paul’s commission;
(2) Vision of God
(3) Existence under Satan
(4) [Blinded-presupposed]
(5) Turning to God
(6) From darkness to light

2 Corinthians 4:4-6:
(1) Paul’s commission
(2) Vision of God
(3) Under “god of this age”
(4) Blinded
(5) Implied: Turning to God
(6) From Darkness to Light

Source: Data adopted from Seyoom Kim, Paul and the NewPerspective: Second Thoughts on the Origin of Paul’s Gospel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 102; cited in John Piper’s God is the Gospel.

5. All of us miss the mark!

Imagine someone with a bow and arrow who is trying to hit the bullseye on a target but they keep missing. This is a picture of what sin is. The Greek word for sin is “harmatia” which means “to miss the mark.” Sin is missing the mark, falling short of God’s absolute standard of perfection. Sin is going astray, being in autonomy of God. Because of sin, humans have an alienation problem. Alienation means to be estranged or split apart from someone or even a community, etc. Alienation does not allow us to have the harmony and proper relationship with God that he intended.

There is a Hebrew word called “Shalom” which means peace, completeness, or wholeness. It can it can refer to either peace between two entities (especially between man and God or between two countries). Why do we lack this wholeness? Sadly, sin causes us to be fragmented. Jesus is the one who offers reconciliation and shalom with our Creator.

6. We share our faith because we think our faith is true

Guess what? We are living in a day where there is a loss of objective truth. I hope we all know that our faith doesn’t make Christianity true. My faith won’t change the fact that objectively speaking, God exists or doesn’t exist or that Jesus rose from the dead in the past. The proposition “God exists” means that there really is a God outside the universe. Likewise, the claim that “God raised Christ from the dead” means that the dead corpse of Jesus of Nazareth factually in the context of real time, space, and history.

What about the person who says, “If Jesus works for you, that is great, but it is not my thing.” This is what is called “The Felt Needs Gospel.” It is true that the Gospel does meet a variety of needs in people’s lives. But I still concur that we need to present our faith as something that is true and reasonable. As J.P. Moreland says:

“ Today, we share the gospel as a means of addressing felt needs. We give testimonies of changed lives and say to people if they want to become better parents or overcome depression or loneliness, that the Jesus is their answer. This approach to evangelism is inadequate for two reasons. First, it does not reach people who may be out of touch with their feelings. Second, it invites the response, “Sorry, I do not have a need.” Have you noticed how no one responded to Paul in this manner? In Acts 17-20, he based his preaching on the fact that the gospel is true and reasonable to believe. He reasoned and tried to persuade people to intelligently accept Jesus.” (4)

It is my hope that when it comes to communicating the Good News, we will use both words and actions. Given we live in a day of religious pluralism and a world where people have so many spiritual options, to assume people will pick our faith over another because of our lifestyle is assuming too much.

1. Edwards, J.R., Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Group, 2005, 106.
2. Marshall. I.H., The Acts of the Apostles. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Grand Rapids: MI: Intervarsity Press. 1980, 288-290.
3. Scott Jr, J.J., Customs and Controversies: Intertestamental Jewish Backgrounds of the New
Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995, 297.
4. Moreland, J.P. Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress. 1997, 25.


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By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative  

 

I once read an article by Alan Miller on the CNN Belief blog called “My Take: ‘I’m spiritual but not religious’ is a cop-out

Miller says:

“The increasingly common refrain that “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” represents some of the most retrogressive aspects of contemporary society. The spiritual but not religious “movement” – an inappropriate term as that would suggest some collective, organizational aspect – highlights the implosion of belief that has struck at the heart of Western society.

Spiritual but not religious people are especially prevalent in the younger population in the United States, although a recent study has argued that it is not so much that people have stopped believing in God, but rather have drifted from formal institutions.

It seems that just being a part of a religious institution is nowadays associated negatively, with everything from the Religious Right to child abuse, back to the Crusades and of course with terrorism today.”

To read the entire article, click here:

In my own outreach efforts, I have heard the “I’m spiritual, but not religious” comment as well. ‘Spiritual’ implies that one is freed from unnecessary dogma. Thus, you can be yourself before God. You also can mix it up. One can mix Jesus  with Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, or something else.  While I expect this comment to come  from New Agers or someone outside the Christian faith, I am saddened when I hear it among professed Christians. So if someone professes to be a follower of Jesus and thinks being 'spiritual' but not religious is the way to go, my thoughts are it is time to take a look at what Jesus would say about this topic.

Let’s take a look a comment by Anthony J. Saldarini:

“To wrench Jesus out of his Jewish world destroys Jesus and destroys Christianity, the religion that grew out of his teachings. Even Jesus’ most familiar role as Christ is a Jewish role. If Christians leave the concrete realities of Jesus’ life and of the history of Israel in favor of a mythic, universal, spiritual Jesus and an otherworldly kingdom of God, they deny their origins in Israel, their history, and the God who has loved and protected Israel and the church. They cease to interpret the actual Jesus sent by God and remake him in their own image and likeness. The dangers are obvious. If Christians violently wrench Jesus out of his natural, ethnic and historical place within the people of Israel, they open the way to doing equal violence to Israel, the place and people of Jesus. This is a lesson of history that haunts us all at the end of the 20th century.” (1)

So in light of the Jewish context of the life of Jesus, let’s make some observations:

Jesus observed the Jewish Feasts of His day

As an observant Jew, Jesus observed Passover (John 2:13)  The Feast of Sukkot (John 7: 2, 10), Hanukah (The Feast of Dedication) (John 10:22) and probably Rosh Hashanah (John 5:1).

Also, Jesus revered the Temple and ceremonial worship (Jn. 2:16) and taught in the synagogue: (Lk.4:14-20; Jn. 18:20).

Jesus was concerned with Holiness

As Scot McKnight says:

“At no place have Christians been more insensitive to Judaism that when it comes to what Jesus believes and teaches about God. In particular, the concept that Jesus was the first to teach about God as Abba and that this innovation revealed that Jesus thought of God in terms of love while Jews thought of God in terms of holiness, wrath, and distance are intolerably inaccurate in the realm of historical study and, to be quite frank, simple pieces of bad polemics. The God of Jesus was the God of Israel, and there is nothing in Jesus’ vision of God that is not formed in the Bible he inherited from his ancestors and learned from his father and mother” (7) “Countless Christians repeat the Lord’s Prayer. When Jesus urged His followers to “hallow” or “sanctify” the Name of God (Matt 6:9), many are unaware of what that may have meant in Jesus’ day- in part, because Christianity has lost sight of God’s awesome splendorous holiness. A good reading of Amos 2:6-8 discusses this issue. “Reverencing the Name of God” is not just how Israel speaks of God-that it does not take the Name of God in vain when it utters oaths or when someone stubs a toe or hits a finger with an instrument -but that God’s Name is profaned when Israel lives outside the covenant and by defiling the name of God in it’s behavior” (Jer 34:15-46; Ezek. 20:39; Mal 1:6-14). God’s Name is attached to the covenant people, and when the covenant people lives in sin, God’s Name is dragged into that sin along with His people. So, when Jesus urges his followers to “reverence,” or “sanctify” the Name of God, he is thinking of how his disciples are to live in the context of the covenant: they are to live obediently as Israelites.” (2)

Jesus was concerned with Righteousness

McKnight says again:

“When most Christians think of this term, they are faced with two problems: First, that the apostle Paul used this term so much in the sense of “imputed” righteousness and did so in an innovative, however, effective, manner; and second, that is what the cognate in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek is not so in English. Fundamentally, the term “righteousness” along with its cognates, describes an Israelites relationship to God and his Torah, and that relationship is conceived in its behavioral categories: the righteous Israelite is one who does Torah as a covenant member (Deut 6:25; Job 22:6-93; Ps 1:4-6; Ezek.45:9) Jesus teaches about such righteousness as did his Jewish ancestors, as well as John (Luke 3:7-14; Matt 21:28-32), to describe those Jewish followers of his who wholeheartedly conformed their obedience to Torah, as taught by him (Matt 5:17-48), in the context of renewal of the covenant taking place though his offer of the kingdom.”  (3)

But Didn’t Jesus Reject Hypocrisy and Formalism?

“It is true that Jesus condemned  the hypocrisy of some religious leaders – those who took such a strong stand on the letter of the law but were leaving behind the spirit of the law. There is a misconception that Jesus utterly rejects the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law. But although Jesus does condemn their sternness and hypocrisy, He rejects neither their function nor their teaching. This is clearly seen when Jesus says “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Mt. 23:2-3) (4)

Note: To read more about the relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees (which is generally misunderstood by many Christians), see Scot McKnight’s posts here. 

What About Individualism vs Community?

When I hear the “I’m spiritual, but not religious” from Christians, this generally translates as ” I don’t need to be in a community or local congregation. I do my own thing.” This leads me to say the following:

1. Whatever Jesus teaches is true.

2. Jesus taught that we are to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”(Matt 28:19).

3. Therefore, Christians should desire to “ go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”(Matt 28:19).

My question is the following: What does Jesus say about those who want to not be part of community or be accountable to a local congregation?

Conclusion

Jesus was a religious Jew who practiced the Judaism of his day. Granted, I don’t think Jesus came to start a new religion. Jesus’ main teaching was about the Kingdom of God. In the end, for Christians who continually say “I’m spiritual, but not religious” need to rethink their position.

Sources:

1.Anthony J. Saldarini, Was Jesus a Jew? Available at http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/was-jesus-a-jew/

2. Paul Copan and Craig A. Evans. Who Was Jesus? A Jewish-Christian Dialogue. Louisville: KY.Westminster John Knox Press. 2001, 84-85.

3. Ibid, 84-85.

4. Chosen People Ministries, Jewish Roots, Available at http://www.chosenpeople.com/main/jewish-roots/245-in-what-ways-did-jesus-live-as-a-jew


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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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