A common Jewish objection that I continue to hear is that Jewish people don’t believe that a human can be sacrificed for sins. In other words, a human can’t atone for the sins of the Jewish people. First, let me give some background to the idea of atonement in Judaism. For Jewish people Yom Kippur, which is also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. When the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D, the religious and social life changed forever for the Jewish people. The Jewish people no longer had a sacrifical system in the Temple. Therefore, the atonement structure was changed to repentance which entails prayer, fasting, and doing mitzvah (good deeds). However, when there as no Temple with a sacrifical system, an argument can also be made that a righteous individual can make atonement for the sins of the nation. But regarding the central claim that Jesus can be a sacrifice or atonement for sin generally leads to the following objections:
- God forbids (human) vicarious atonement (e.g., Exod 32:31-33; Num 35:33; Deut 24:16; II Kgs 14:6; Jer 31:29 [30 in Christian Bibles]; Ezek 18:4,20; Ps 49:7).
- And God prohibits human sacrifices (e.g., Lev 18:21, 24-25; Deut 18:10; Jer 7:31, 19:5; Ezek 23:37,39).
In response: It is true the Bible prohibits human sacrifices (the sacrifice of innocent children in connection with the worship of pagan gods). God judges that. But to say that the Hebrew Bible says there is no basis for human vicarious atonement is not doesn’t line up with the evidence. Let’s look at some of the biblical and extra biblical data:
- Numbers 35: 1-28. The context here is intentional an unintentional manslaughter. In the case of unintentional manslaughter, the innocent manslayer was banished from to the city of refuge where he would remain for life unless the high priest would die and take the place of his own.
- Numbers 25:1-13? Why does God allow Phinehas to kill them and then at the end, God says, ” He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made ATONEMENT for the Israelites.’” In Pslam 106: 13, it says “But Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was checked.This was credited to him as righteousness for endless generations to come.”
- 2 Samuel 21:1-14: the sons from Saul’s family are put to death for the sins of committed by Saul’s household. Their death resulted in God answering prayers to relieve the land of Israel from famine, implying that their death made atonement for the land.
Next point: If the Messiah can’t be sacrificed for sin, why is it that later on in the Jewish literaure, there is a case for a Messiah who can be an atonement? Let’s take a look:
In the Zohar, which is the foundational book of Jewish mysticism, we see a text about the relationship between Isaiah 53 and atonement:
“The Messiah enters the [the Hall of the Sons of Illness] and summons all the diseases and all the diseases and all the pains of the sufferings of Israel that they should come upon him, and all of them come upon him. And would he not thus bring ease to Israel and take their sufferings on himself, no man could endure the sufferings Israel had to undergo because they neglected Torah.” –see Patai- The Messiah Texts, pg 116.
And the Zohar also says “As long as Israel dwelt in the Holy Land, the rituals and sacrifices they performed in the Temple removed all the diseases of the world; now the Messiah removes them from the children of the world” – see Patai- The Messiah Texts, pg 116.
And Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Berel Wein says regarding the sufferings of the Jews being a means of atonement:
“Another consideration tinged the Jewish response to the slaughter of its people. It was an old Jewish tradition dating back to Biblical times that the death of the righteous and innocent served as expiation for the sins the nation or the world. The stories of Isaac and of Nadav and Avihu, the prophetic description of Israel as the long-suffering servant of the Lord, the sacrificial service in the Temple – all served to reinforce this basic concept of the death of the righteous as an atonement for the sins of other men. Jews nurtured this classic idea of the death as an atonement, and this attitude towards their own tragedies was their constant companion throughout their turbulent exile. Therefore, the wholly bleak picture of unreasoning slaughter was somewhat relieved by the fact that the innocent did not die in vain and that the betterment of Israel and humankind somehow was advanced by their “stretching their neck to be slaughtered.” What is amazing is that this abstract, sophisticated, theological thought should have become so ingrained in the psyche of the people that even the least educated and most simplistic of Jews understood the lesson and acted upon it, giving up precious life in a soaring act of belief and affirmation of the better tomorrow. This spirit of the Jews is truly reflected in the historical chronicle of the time: “Would the Holy One, Blessed is he, dispense judgment without justice? But we may say that he whom God loves will be chastised. For since the day the Holy Temple was destroyed, the righteous are seized by death for the iniquities of the generation”–Berel Wein, The Triumph of Survival: The Story of the Jews in the Modern Era 1650-1990 (Brooklyn:Shaar, 1990), 14.
The Shottenstein Talmud, a comprehensive Orthodox Jewish commentary states the following about Isaiah 53:
They [namely, those sitting with Messiah] were afflicted with tzaraas- as disease whose symptoms include discolored patches on the skin (see Leviticus ch. 13). The Messiah himself is likewise afflicted, as stated in Isaiah (53:4). Indeed, it was our diseases that he bore and our pains that he endured, whereas we considered him plagued (i.e. suffering tzaraas [see 98b, note 39], smitten by God and afflicted. This verse teaches that the diseases that the people ought to have suffered because of their sins are borne instead by the Messiah [with reference to the leading Rabbinic commentaries]. – Michael Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 2. (Grand Rapids MI: Baker Books. 2000),157.
Solomon Schechter apeaks about this issue in his book Aspects of Rabbinic Theology:
The atonement of suffering and death is not limited to the suffering person. The atoning death extends to all the generation. This is especially the case with such sufferers as cannot either by reason of their righteous life or by their youth possibly have merited the afflictions which have come upon them. The death of the righteous atones just as well as certain sacrifices [with reference to b.Mo’ed Qatan 28a].‘They are caught (suffer) for their sins of the generation.’ [b Shabbat 32b]. There are also applied to Moses the Scriptural words, ‘And he bore the sins of many’ (Isaiah 53), because of his offering himself as the atonement for Israel’s sin with the golden calf, being ready to sacrifice his very soul for Israel when he said. ‘And if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of my book (that is, from the Book of the Living), which thou hast written’ (Ex. 32) [b. Sotah 14a; b Berakhoth 32a). This readiness to sacrifice oneself for Israel is characteristic of all the great men of Israel, the patriarchs, and the Prophets citing in the same way, whilst also some Rabbis would, on certain occasions, exclaim, ‘Behold I am the atonement for Israel’ [Mekhilta 2a;m. Negaim 2:1]. – Solomon Schechter, Aspects of Rabbinic Theology. London: 1909. Reprint. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 1994, 310-311.
We also see a case for an atoning Messiah in the Prayer Book For Day of Atonement-The Musaf Prayer
“Messiah our righteousness is departed from us: horror hath seized us, and we have no one to justify us. He hath borne the yoke of our iniquities and our transgression, and is wounded because of our transgressions. He beareth our sins on his shoulder, that He may find pardon for our iniquities. We shall be healed by his wounds, at the time the Eternal will create him (the Messiah) as a new creature. O bring up from the circle of the earth. Raise him up from Seir, to assemble us the second time on Mount Lebanon, By the hand of Yinnon.” -Written by Rabbi Eliezer Kalir around 7th century A.D
Here are some more rabbinical sources: These are taken from Jacques Doukham, One The Way to Emmaus: Five Major Messiainc Prophecies Explained (Clarksville, MD: Lederer Books, 2012), 136-137.
Messiah of Justice [Meshiah Tsidenu], though we are Thy forebears. Thou are greater than we because Thou didst bear the burden of our children’s sins and our great opresssions have fallen upon Thee….Among the peoples of the world Thou didst bring only derision and mockery to Israel…Thy skin did shrink, and thy body did become dry as wood; Thine eyes were hollowed by fasting, and thy strength became like fragmented pottery –all that came to pass because of the sins of the children-()Pesiqta Rabbati, Pisqa 37)
The Messiah King …will offer is heart to implore mercy and longsuffering for Israel, weeping and suffering for Israel, weeping and suffering as it is written in Isaiah 53:5 “He was wounded for our transgressions,” etc: when the Israelites sin, he invokes upon them mercy,as it is written: “Upon him was that chastisement that made us whole, and likewise the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And this is what the Holy One—let him be blessed forever!—decreed in order to save Israel and rejoice with Israel on the day of the resurrection. (Bereshit Rabbati on Genesis 24:67)
“Who are you, O great mountain?”…..This refers to the King Messiah. And why is He called “great mountain” Because He is greater than the patriarchs, as it is written in Isaiah 52:13 “Behold my Servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.” He will be more “exalted” than Abraham, more “extolled” than Moses and more “high” than the ministering angels. (Tanhuma on Genesis 27:30).
Also, “The Rabbis said: His name is “the leper scholar,” as it is written, Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of God, and afflicted. [Isaiah 53:4].” – Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98b.
We must not forget Moses Maimonides;(1135-1204 A.D.) His systematic compilation of the Jewish law is known as the Mishne Torah, and is the standard legal text for Judaism to this day. Note: He didn’t think for one bit that Jesus was the Messiah. He says:
What is to be the manner of Messiah’s advent, and where will be the place of his appearance? . . . And Isaiah speaks similarly of the time when he will appear, without his father or mother of family being known, He came up as a sucker before him, and as a root out of the dry earth, etc. But the unique phenomenon attending his manifestation is, that all the kings of the earth will be thrown into terror at the fame of him — their kingdoms will be in consternation, and they themselves will be devising whether to oppose him with arms, or to adopt some different course, confessing, in fact, their inability to contend with him or ignore his presence, and so confounded at the wonders which they will see him work, that they will lay their hands upon their mouth; in the words of Isaiah, when describing the manner in which the kings will hearken to him, At him kings will shut their mouth; for that which had not been told them have they seen, and that which they had not heard they have perceived.” –The Fifty Third Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreters (New York: Ktav Publishing House, In. 1969), 5.
John Collins talks about the case for of a pre-existing suffering Messiah:
“In the late-first century CE apocalypses of 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch the messiah dies. His death, however, does not involve suffering and has no atoning significance. In 4 Ezra 7:29-30, the death of the messiah marks the end of a four-hundred-year reign and is the prelude to seven days of primeval silence, followed by the resurrection. In 2 Bar 30:1, “when the time of the appearance of the messiah has been fulfilled” he returns in glory, and then all who sleep in hope of him rise.” Neither scenario bears any similarity to Isaiah 53.” -Collins, Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature, New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 2007, 124.
Let me close with another comment by Collins:
“The Christian belief (in a suffering Messiah) in such a figure, and the discovery of prophecies relating to him, surely arose in retrospect after the passion and death of Jesus of Nazareth. There is no evidence that any first century Judaism expected such a figure, either in fulfillment of Isaiah 53 or on any other basis. The notion of a suffering and dying messiah eventually found a place in Judaism.” pg 126.
Recently, I wrote a post called The Problem of God’s Visibility and Invisibility. I note the following quote by Marvin Wilson. He says:
“The claim that Jesus is God incarnate is foundational to traditional Christianity but is one of the most difficult concepts for Jews to understand. Going back to early Israelite history, Jews have had a fundamental theological resistance to the idea of God becoming a man. The command to make no image or physical likeness of God has generally led Jews to prefer keeping the worship of God as an abstraction. Jews usually avoid concrete representations or physical symbols of God. It is held that to believe in such would be a departure from the idea of pure monotheism and would compromise the teaching of God’s incorporeality. Christians, however, point to theophanies in the Old Testament. These temporary physical manifestations of God, they claim, indicate that God did occasionally choose to manifest himself in human form to his people. At the end of the day, however, both Jews and Christians subscribe to monotheism. Though paradoxical and mysterious to many, most Christians in the creedal tradition would be comfortable describing themselves as Trinitarian monotheists.”-Wilson, Marvin R, Exploring Our Hebraic Heritage, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Well known Jewish speaker Ben Shapiro (who is an Orthodox Jewish man) spoke about the issue of the deity of Jesus and other Orthodox Christian and Messianic beliefs about the Messiah. In his interview with Jewish atheist Michael Shermer, Shapiro gave a summary of why he does not believe in Jesus as the Messiah. He says:
“Judaism never posited that there would be God [coming] to earth in physical form and then acting out in the world in that way. Judaism posits that God is beyond space and time. Occasionally he intervenes in history, but he doesn’t take physical form – it’s one of the key beliefs of Judaism, actually, an incorporeal God. The idea is actually foreign to Judaism of a merged God-man who is God in physical form who then dies and is resurrected and all this. It’s just a different idea than exists in Judaism.”- Ben Shapiro, this is taken from one of his Sunday Specials, June 17th, 2018.
What is troubling about these comments are that they are simply false.
Dr. Benjamin D. Sommer, Jewish Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary, a non-Messianic Jew, has written a book called ‘The Bodies of God and The World of Ancient Israel’:
He says in this MP3 here called The_Bodies_of_God_and_the_World_:
“When the New Testament talks about Jesus as being some sort of small scale human manifestation of God, it sounds to Jews so utterly pagan, but what I’m suggesting is perhaps the radical idea for us Jews that in fact, it’s not so pagan. That in fact, there was a monotheistic version of this that existed already in the Tanakh. And that the Christian idea, that Jesus, or ‘The Logos’, The Word, as the Gospel of John describes it in it’s opening verses, that the presence of The Word or Jesus in fleshly form – in a human body on the planet earth – is actually God making God self accessible to humanity in a kind of avatar. This is what we were seeing in the ‘J’ and ‘E’ texts [differing Hebrew manuscripts]. This is much less radical than it sounds. Or when the Gospel of John describes God’s Self as coming down and overlapping with Jesus – which is a famous passage early in the Gospel of John – that is actually a fairly old ancient near eastern idea of the reality, or self, of one deity overlapping with some other being. So, this is not just Greek paganism sort of just smoothed on to a Jewish mold, which is a way that a lot of Jews tend to view Christianity. This is actually an old ancient near eastern idea, that is an old semitic idea, that is popping up again among those Jews who were the founders of Christianity. We Jews have always tended to sort of make fun of the trinity. ‘Oh how can there be three that is one? If they’ve got this three part God, even if they call it a triune God, a God that is three yet one, really, really, they are pagans. They are not really monotheists like we Jews are or like the Muslims are. Those Christians are really pagan.’ But I think what we are seeing in the idea of the trinity that there is this one God who manifests Itself in three different ways, that’s actually an old ancient near eastern idea that could function in a polytheistic context as it did for the Babylonians and Canaanites, but it can also function in a monotheistic context as it does I think in the ‘J’ and ‘E’ texts. In fact, to say that three is one, heck, Kabbala [Jewish mysticism] is going to go further than that. They say ten is one. The Zohar says ten is one. Actually certain parts of Kabbala say that within each of the ten spherote has ten spherote within them so that there is a hundred spherote, we are taking this much further than the Christians did. One of the conclusions that I came to, to my shock, when I finished this book [The Bodies of God and The World of Ancient Israel], is that we Jews have no theological objection to the trinity. We Jews for centuries have objected to the trinity, have labeled it pagan, have said: ‘Well, that’s clear. There you can see that the core of Christianity doesn’t come out of the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, what they call the Old Testament. Really, they are being disloyal to the monotheism of the Old Testament.’ Actually, I think that’s not true. To my surprise, I came to the conclusion, somewhat to my dismay, I came to the conclusion that we Jews have no theological right to object to the trinity. Theologically, I think that the model of the trinity is an old ancient near eastern idea that shows up in the Tanakh and in a different way shows up in Jewish mysticism as well.”
As far as a Jewish man dying and resurrected being foreign to Judaism, I discuss both of these issues in my two booklets here.
These books are available through CJF Ministries.
Also, see our post called “Why Would God Become a Jewish Man?”
We are two days away from 2020 and a new decade. Some will be asking God for a new vision or a stong leading on what to do this year. Over the years, I have read a slew of books on Decision Making and the Will of God. Here are some things that we can be sure are God’s will for your life. God has spoken in the text. Thus, you don’t need to sit around for months and wait for a still small voice telling you what to do. It is not that complicated. (Note: I am aware nobody does this perfectly and we all fall short in implementing these things). It is God’s will for you to do the following in 2020:
- Share your faith and make disciples of others into the person of Jesus (Matt 28:19). So if you are a 20-year-old Christian that still doesn’t know what the Gospel is or how to disciple anyone, you aren’t doing God’s will.
- Abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thess. 4: 3-7).
- Rejoice always, pray continually, giving thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5: 16-18).
- Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—and be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom 12: 1-2).
- Pray at all times in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18).
- Promote unity among your brothers and sisters (John 17: 20-23).
- Love radically and unconditionally (1 Cor.13: 4-13).
- Know God and his Son Jesus the Messiah so that you may truly experience the quality of eternal life right now (John 17: 3).
- Try to avoid the deeds of the flesh and experience the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5: 19-25).
- Know the role of the Holy Spirit in your life (John 14-16).
- Know what you believe and why you believe and be able to give a reason for the hope within you to others (1. Peter 3: 15-16).
- Find contentment in God (1 Tim. 6:6-7: Heb. 13: 5).
- Forgive others so you can be set free ( Matthew 18:21-22).
- Work on training your mind to dwell on those things that are honorable, true, praiseworthy, and pure (Phil. 4: 8).
- Try to avoid idolatry (Exod. 20: 23). An idol is anything that consumes you other than God. You find your entire identity in it and grab onto it. If it is threatened, you have a meltdown. Notice how politics can do that!
These are just a few tips for the New Year. May God bless you with the energy you need to accomplish what you lay before Him.
“I used to think the becoming incarnate was impossible for God. But recently I have come to the conclusion that it is un-Jewish to say that this is something that the God of the Bible cannot do, that he cannot come that close. I have second thoughts about the incarnation.” -The late Orthodox Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide.” (1)
Over the years I have heard the objection that the deity of Jesus was something that was invented by the Christian Church. For the Muslim, Jesus is regarded as a prophet, but is certainly not God in human flesh. Furthermore, for the majority in the Jewish community, it has been said that the incarnation doesn’t find it’s roots in Judaism. I have also heard the objection that Jesus never claimed to be God.
In order to cover all these issues, I would have to type up several posts. So I hope to clear up a few issues here:
For starters, there are some good reasons as to why Jesus would never say “I am God.” The Hebrew Bible forbids worshiping anyone other than the God of Israel (Ex. 20:1–5; Deut. 5:6–9). For Jesus to ever say something so explicit would insinuate that he was calling upon his audience to believe in two “Gods”- the God of Israel and Jesus. And to Gentiles this would allow Jesus to fit nicely into their polytheism (the belief in many gods).
In Judaism, there is a term called “avodah zarah” which is defined as the formal recognition or worship as God of an entity that is in fact not God. In other words, any acceptance of a non-divine entity as your deity is a form of avodah zarah. (2)
Remember, no Greek or Roman myth spoke of the literal incarnation of a monotheistic God followed by his death and physical resurrection. The attempt to say that the Jewish believers were simply emulating the Gentiles in their polytheism won’t work. After all, there are several references to the negative views of Gentile polytheism (Acts 17: 22-23; 1 Cor 8:5). The New Testament shows that the early Jewish believers have negative views of gentile polytheism (Acts 17: 22-23; 1 Cor 8:5). The Jewish people regard Gentiles as both sinful (Gal 2:5) and idolatrous (Rom 1:23). Also, the old argument that Jesus’ divinity was simply borrowed from paganism or some sort of mystery religion is overly problematic. Scholars were showing the inherent problems with this thesis as far back as the 1970’s. If anything, the Jewish people were resistant to Hellenism and paganism.
Titles for Jesus
So as we look at the incarnation, we can observe that several of the Christological titles for Jesus in the New Testament find their foundation in Judaism. So let’s look at some of these titles and see if we can learn about the Jewish background of the incarnation.
One aspect of looking at Jesus’ deity draws on Israel’s Wisdom literature. Israel’s Wisdom literature includes books such as Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, and the Wisdom of Solomon. Protestants do not accept Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon as part of their canon. In examining the following texts, it can be observed there are amazing similarities. Hence, it would be hard to deny that the “high” Christology of the New Testament was not greatly influenced by Wisdom Christology. By the way, Christology is the study of the person of Jesus. First century Jewish people were strongly monotheistic, so to them, the figure of Wisdom was not a second God. Wisdom is described not only as a personification of God, but as a separate person from God.
One passage in the New Testament that plays a pivotal role to the deity of Jesus is John 1: 1-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” The theme of incarnate Word of God is displayed in other New Testament Scriptures such as 1 Cor. 8:6; Col.1:15-17; Heb.1:2-3; Rev.3:14.
The point of these Christological passages is that God created the world through Jesus and by Jesus. Scholars who specialize in Christology have labored to find an explanation for pre-existence in Judaism that can form the background for Christology. As Oskar Skarsaune notes in his book In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity, “The question becomes which thing or person-which X-is playing an imperative role in Judaism in statements such as “God created the world through X,” then the answer can be explained by glancing at the Jewish writings of the Second Temple period; the only explanation for such an X is the Wisdom of God.” (3)
For example, some of the Scriptures speaking of the Wisdom of God are seen in Prov. 3:19, “The LORD by wisdom founded the earth, By understanding He established the heavens,” as well as in Prov. 8:29-30, “When He set for the sea its boundary so that the water would not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth; then I was beside Him, as a master workman.” Here is a look at some Wisdom texts:
1.Wisdom: is seen with God at creation (Prov. 8: 27-30; Wis. 9:9; Sir. 1:1). Jesus: is seen with God at creation (John 1: 8).
2.Wisdom: God created the world by Wisdom (Wis. 7:22; 9:1-2; Prov. 8:27). Jesus: God created the world by the Word (Jesus) (John 1:3).
3.Wisdom: Is the “pure emanation of the glory of God” (Wis. 7:25-26). Jesus: is the “Reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being (Heb. 1:3; Col 1:15).
4.Wisdom: Invitation to draw near, bear Wisdom’s yoke and learn (Sir. 51:23). Jesus: Invitation to draw near and take “my yoke….and learn from me (Matt 11: 28).
5.Wisdom: Whoever finds wisdom finds life (Prov. 8: 35; Bar. 4:1). Jesus: Is the giver of life (John 6: 33-35; 10:10).
6.Wisdom: People reject Wisdom and find ruin (Prov. 1: 24-31; 8:36; Sir 15:7). Jesus: People who reject Wisdom are lost (John 3:16-21).
7.Wisdom: Has its dwelling place in Israel (Sir. 34:8; Wis. 9:10; Prov. 8:31). Jesus: Has come from God into the world (John 1:1; 9-11). (4)
As 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.” (5)
2. Lord (Gk. Kyrios)
One of the most common Christological title that Luke uses in the book of Acts in regards to Jesus is “Lord.” In Acts 1:24, the disciples address Jesus as “Lord” and acknowledge that he knows the hearts of all people. Hence, the willingness to do this place Jesus in a role attributed to God in Jewish expectation.” For a Jewish person, when the title “Lord” (Heb. Adonai) was used in place of the divine name YHWH, this was the highest designation a Jewish person could use for deity.
As Baker”s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology notes:
“While kyrios was common as a polite, even honorific title for “sir” or “master, “calling Jesus “Lord” to imply divine associations or identity was by no means a convention readily adopted from the Roman world. In Jesus’ more Eastern but militantly monotheistic Jewish milieu, where the title’s application to humans to connote divinity was not only absent but anathema, the title is an eloquent tribute to the astonishing impression he made. It also points to the prerogatives he holds. Since Jesus is Lord, he shares with the Father qualities like deity ( Rom 9:5 ), preexistence ( John 8:58 ), holiness ( Heb 4:15 ), and compassion ( 1 John 4:9 ), to name just a few. He is co-creator ( Col 1:16 ) and co-regent, presiding in power at the Father’s right hand ( Acts 2:33 ; Eph 1:20 ; Heb 1:3 ), where he intercedes for God’s people ( Rom 8:34 ) and from whence, as the Creed states, he will return to judge the living and dead ( 2 Thess 1:7-8 ).” (6)
3. Jesus is given “The Name”
What is even more significant is the statement in Acts 4:12: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other NAME under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” 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.
James R. Edwards summarizes the importance of this issue:
“In the ancient world, a name was not merely what someone was called, but rather the identifi cation 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.” (7)
So 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.
4. Jesus is the New Temple
According to Jewish law, the claim to be the Messiah was not a criminal, nor capital offense. Therefore, the claim to be the Messiah was not even a blasphemous claim. (8) Why was Jesus accused of blasphemy? According to Mark 14:62, Jesus affirmed the chief priests question that He is the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Coming Son of Man who would judge the world. This was considered a claim for deity since the eschatological authority of judgment was for God alone. Jesus provoked the indignation of his opponents because of His application of Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1 to himself. Also, many parables, which are universally acknowledged by critical scholars to be authentic to the historical Jesus, show that Jesus believed himself to be able to forgive sins against God (Matt. 9:2; Mark 2: 1-12).
Forgiving sins was something that was designated for God alone (Exod. 34: 6-7; Neh.9:17; Dan. 9:9) and it was something that was done only in the Temple along with the proper sacrifice. So it can be seen that Jesus acts as if He is the Temple in person. In Mark 14:58, it says,”We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.’ The Jewish leadership knew that God was the one who was responsible for building the temple (Ex. 15:17; 1 En. 90:28-29).(9)
Also, God is the only one that is permitted to announce and threaten the destruction of the temple (Jer. 7:12-13; 26:4-6, 9;1 En.90:28-29). (10) It is also evident that one reasons Jesus was accused of blasphemy was because He usurped God’s authority by making himself to actually be God (Jn. 10:33, 36). Not only was this considered to be blasphemous, it was worthy of the death penalty (Matt. 26:63-66; Mk. 14:61-65). (10)
5. Jesus as 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 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 Shechinah continued to dwell in the holy of holies in Tabernacle and the Temple (Ex.29:42-46; 40:34-38; 1 Kin.8:10-13). Upon the return of the Jewish people from the Babylonian captivity, the second temple was finished. However, the Shechinah was not present in this temple. Haggai 2:39 is a critical passage since it discusses that the Shechinah would return in an even different and more profound way. Therefore, in relation to the incarnation, the Shechinah takes on greater significance in John 1: 1-14. As John says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” As already stated, the Greek word “Skeinei” means to tabernacle. John 1:14 literally says,” the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.”
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. (11)
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” (12)
6. The Word/The Memra
In the Hebrew Bible, the “Word” is discussed in a manner that takes on an independent existence of its own. As seen in John 1:1-2, the “Word” has a unique relationship with God; all things were made through Him. In this passage, John is emphasizing that the Word is with God and yet God at the same time. Paul taught a similar theme in 1 Cor. 8:6 when he says “For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.”
There are other New Testament passages that communicate that the Word is Messiah Himself (Eph.3:17 and Col. 3:16; 1 Pet.1:3; John.8:31;15:17). There are also other passages in the Hebrew Bible that speak of the significance of the Word such as Ps. 33:6,“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,” while in Ps.107:20 the divine word is sent on a mission: “He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.” But why is the Christological title “Word” so significant in relation to Jewish monotheism in the first century?
In Judaism, one of the most common themes was that God was “untouchable,” or totally transcendent. Therefore, there had to be a way to describe a connection between God and his creation. (14)
Within Rabbinic thought, the way to provide the connection or link between God and his creation was what was called “The Word” or in Aramaic, the “Memra.” (15) The Targums, which were paraphrases of the Hebrew Scriptures play a significant role in how to understand the Memra. Since some Jewish people no longer spoke and understood Hebrew but grew up speaking Aramaic, they could only follow along in a public reading if they read from a Targum. The Aramic Targums employed the term “Memra” that translates into Greek as “Logos.” (16)
While John’s concept of the Logos is of a personal being (Christ), the Greeks thought of it as an impersonal rational principle. A good way to try to understand the term “Memra,” is to see what a passage in Genesis would have sounded like to a Jewish person hearing the public reading of a Targum. In Gen.3:8, most people who would have heard the Hebrew would have understood it as “And they heard the sound of the Word of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden.” (17) Therefore, it was not the Lord who was walking in the garden, it was the Memra’ (Word) of the Lord. The Word was not just an “it”; this Word was a him.” (18)
Conclusion: Why the Incarnation?
One of the most important themes of the Bible is that since God is free and personal, that he acts on behalf of those whom he loves, and that his actions includes already within history, a partial disclosure of his nature, attributes, and intensions. The God of Israel is a God who is relational and wants people to come to know Him. The principle of progressive revelation means that God does not reveal everything at once. In progressive revelation, there are many cases where the New Testament declares explicitly what was only implicit in the Hebrew Bible. One of these truths is the Jesus is the long awaited Messiah who takes away not only the sins of Israel, but the entire world (John 1: 29; 3: 16). Although general revelation shows man is under condemnation, it is not sufficient for salvation. If the God of the Bible is a good God, it would make sense that He would give a fuller revelation of Himself to humanity.
In Matthew 16: 13-17, it says that when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
In conclusion, a question that we all have to ask is, “Who is Jesus?”
1. Skarsaune, O, In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity (Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 335-36.
2. Berger, D, The Rebbe, The Messiah, And The Scandal Of Orthodox Indifference. Portland, Oregon: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. 2001, 171-173.
3. Skarsaune, In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity. 320-337.
4. Holmgren, F.C., The Old Testament: The Significance of Jesus-Embracing Change-Maintaining Christian Identity. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1999, 157.
5. Skarsaune, O. Incarnation: Myth or Fact? St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House 1991, 35-36.
6. This is available online at http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/jesus-christ-name-and-titles-of.html
7. These issues were pointed out in Edwards, J.R., Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Group, 2005.
8. See Bock, D.L., Blasphemy and Exaltation in Judaism: The Charge Against Jesus in Mark 14:53-65. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998.
9. Craig, W.L., Reasonable Faith: Third Edition. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2008, 307.
11. 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.
12. Skarsaune, In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity, 331.
13. Skarsaune, Incarnation: Myth or Fact?, 131.
14. Brown, M. Theological Objections, vol 2 of Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus Grand Rapids MI: Baker Books, 2000, 18.
In Mark 12.28-34 we find a scribe asking Jesus a serious question, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus replied by saying, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Jesus then added a second commandment (from Leviticus 19.18) when he said, “The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Here we see the Shema is the central creed
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart
“Shema Israel, Adonai elohenu, Adonai
In the Tanakh (the acronym that is formed from the first three parts of the Hebrew Bible: Torah (the first five books of the Bible), Nevi’
In the Shema, hearing is directly related to taking heed and taking action with what you’ve heard. And if you don’t act, you’ve never heard. Hence, in Deut. : 6: 4-9, we see who our God is and how we should respond to him. It should be a holistic commitment towards him. We love our God with our emotions, our actions, our entire beings (including our minds).
When we come to faith, God goes to work on redeeming the entire person. And this is also related to how we are created in God’s image.
Remember the following:
2. The heart
3. The heart functions as the conscience. After Peter's sermon the audience was "cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37
4. The heart is related to our wills: Finally, the heart plans, makes commitments, and decides:. "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps" (Proverbs 16:9
5. The heart is related to intellectual activity and thinking (Matthew 9:4): Yeshua says to his audience, “ Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?” Yeshua says “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”- Matthew 15: 19-20.
Remember, Biblical faith is a holistic commitment to God. It is a commitment that calls for us to submit our mind, emotions, and will all to the glory of God.
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.
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)
- Here the branch is given a traditional royal Davidic title “my servant”
- There seems to be a distinction between Joshua and the figure who is the branch.
- Joshua is cleansed and commissioned.
- 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.
- 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:
- Zechariah unites two offices that were forbidden to be held by a priest or a king (2 Chron.26:16-23).
- Crowns symbolize a king and priest.
- Zechariah reveals that the priestly and kingly functions can be combined in one person.
- 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.
- The referent here will sit on the throne of David and rule, not Joshua.
- 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.
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:
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.
- Theodore Laetsch, The Minor Prophets (St. Louis:Concordia, 1956) 439.
- Walter Kaiser, The Commincator’s Commentary: Micah—Malachi. 21 vols. (Waco, TX: Word Books. 1992).
- John B. Metzger, Discovering The Mystery of the Unity of God (San Antonio, Ariel Ministries; 2010), 610.
- 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
Over the years, I have been asked if the
First, we must understand the different
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
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” (
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
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.
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.
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 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.
By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative
Over the years I have taught classes on evangelism and
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.
11. “disputed against”
15. “bore witness”
16. “spoke loudly”
17. “cried out”
18. “reasoned daily from
the Scriptures in the synagogue”
22. “vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ”
23. “reasoned daily”
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:
(1) Paul’s commission;
(2) Vision of God
(3) Existence under Satan
(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”
(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.
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
“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
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.”
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
Let’s take a look a comment by Anthony J.
“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
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
Also, Jesus revered the Temple and ceremonial worship (Jn. 2:16) and taught in the synagogue: (Lk.4
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
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?
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.
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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- “What does it mean to say the New Testament is ‘Historically Reliable?’”
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- Why the Resurrection of the Messiah Matters