The former treatise have we made, O Tekton reader, of all that the anti-missionary Joe Wallack began to spew forth, until the day in which JPH eviscerated him, after that a new opponent had emerged to make an open challenge to Christians, to whom he presented many fallible claims, being seen of them many days, and speaking against the things pertaining to Christian theology, to which we now scrutinize in light of the knowledge imparted by those on a higher scholarly plane.
The purpose of this page is to examine an article (no longer online) written by an anti-missionary attempting to disprove the Christian understanding of a variety of Old Testament passages. This includes a couple of typical Old Testament passages that many Christians understand to corroborate the concept of plurality within the Godhead, the Christian understanding of Biblical atonement for sin, and various passages understood by Christians to be Messianic prophecies (the latter forms the bulk of the author's objections). I would like to extend special thanks up front to Jeremiah, Gray Pilgrim, and, of course, the ubiquitous JPH for their valuable assistance. Their contributions will be noted in the appropriate sections. The following format was used when making citations to our major sources, listed in the "Acknowledgements" section at the end of the article:
[Author (source #): page #(s)]
Citations for other sources (that are not listed at the end) are made within the article itself.
The author says at the top of his article:
This site has enjoyed [N] visits, none of which has disproved its main point -- that the Tannach does not mention Jesus or a Christ. Missionaries who happen to read this -- you are welcome to try to be the first. "
While it may be true that this page had not been specifically refuted, most, and probably all, of the arguments in this page have been refuted elsewhere. In fact, this response is largely a collation of the work performed by others in this area of apologetics, most particularly Michael Brown. Indeed, while we are indebted to Brown for his superb scholarship that has been useful in formulating this article, we would like to encourage the reader to check out the three books of his "Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus" series. Brown discusses many of the objections found here, of course, in much more depth than what space will allow for us to delve in this article, along with many other typical historical and theological objections that modern Jews have to Christianity. See also the Messianic Bible project that Brown is heading. Although it will probably be a few years yet before this is finally completed and published, it looks as if it will be well worth the wait. Some pertinent information can be found by clicking the link. See especially the short video on the site.
While the treatment in this article cannot be as comprehensive as the aforementioned presentations, we feel that this is a worthwhile project since this response may serve as a template for responses to many objections against Christian theology, particularly the Messianic prophecies. It is also worthwhile not only in the arena of Jewish-Christian apologetics, but also in that dealing with atheists and Muslims since these same arguments found here are finding popularity in those circles as well.
Some Preliminary Remarks
Our author starts off in the introduction:
Every third Jew in cyberspace has a counter missionary page, so why add another one? Because the more you explain something, the more people will understand it. This page shows Jews who are wrestling with their spirituality how to look at the Tanach (Hebrew scriptures) on its own terms, instead of trying to force it into a prediction of Jesus or a Christ type of messiah.
In response, we will just note that it is our belief that the Tanach clearly predicts the coming of a Messiah and that these prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. We believe that, rather than Christians trying to force predictions into the O.T., it is the anti-missionaries and other skeptics who are trying to force these predictions OUT of the O.T. However, we agree with the author's admonishment in that everybody, not only Jews, should indeed look at the O.T. on its own terms, not try to force anything into it, BUT ALSO not try to force anything OUT of it.
Missionaries claim that "Jesus fulfilled 300 prophecies from the Old Testament." The claims depend on verses that are either poorly translated, taken out of context, or both. (Actually, most of the claims in the list of 300 are just fanciful.) Looking at the verse in context -- which, more often than not, just means looking at an entire chapter instead of an individual verse -- and examining the translation more carefully is usually enough to show what the verse is actually about. Some of the verses do indeed refer to Messiah, but not to Jesus.
We have good reason to believe, as will be demonstrated in some cases, that it is the anti-missionaries who are often guilty of dishonest translations and faulty interpretations of the text. As far as the list of 300 is concerned, we are not dogmatic about the actual number. It is true, in some cases, that O.T. passages were applied to Jesus that, in their original context, had apparently nothing to do with the coming Messiah. Matthew used, for instance, in Matthew 2:15, the verse from Hosea 11:1 out of context. The context of the verse from Hosea speaks of Israel as God's son coming out of Egypt whereas Matthew applies it to Jesus, as God's Son, coming out of Egypt. In other words, Matthew was applying the verse typologically, which was a widely accepted practice in his day. In response, we often see parodies of this same practice being used to demonstrate that others, such as Napoleon, could be interpreted to be the Messiah based on this standard of reasoning. The author of this piece under scrutiny also links to such a parody. In my opinion, the parodies do not seem to draw parallels which would tend to be as impressive as those found by the New Testament authors, at least in some cases. For instance, how many other historical figures can it be said came out of Egypt and is referred to in some sense (divine or not divine) as God's son? There may be others of which I'm unaware, but yet this application seems to eliminate the vast majority of others from contention. All of that said, we would probably not resort to using such prophecies, in and of themselves, for apologetic purposes since there are numerous other more clear and "pure," if you will, prophecies to which we may make appeal.
This site discusses details of sixteen of these verses (some of which are still under construction). If your favorite verse is not included, send me e-mail and I'll put it in. The discussions can't be complete because these arguments can go on forever. If you think I have omitted an important point, tell me, and, if I agree, I'll put it in. Also, e-mail me if you find any mistakes in the quotations, translations, or logic.
NOTE: you may think you have found a mistake, but if I don't agree, your conviction doesn't obligate me. This sounds obvious, but at least one pushy missionary got mad that I didn't accept his words as -- ahem -- "gospel".
After this the author goes into a story of how he became more involved with the Jewish-Christian debate and then states:
With what I learned, I was able to teach my son who he was and also give the missionary Jewish answers. The more I read, the more I realized the extent to which Christian missionaries will go to convert us to Christianity.
Since then, I've been actively combating Christian distortions of the Hebrew Scriptures. This website seems to be effective in that goal. Missionaries complain bitterly about these pages, but can't answer the basic challenge - to show where the Hebrew Scriptures mention Jesus or a Christ-type messiah.
Of course, we have no idea how scholarly the arguments against these pages' positions actually are to which the author has been exposed. We would state in response that we feel that the evidence weighs substantially on the side of the Christian interpretation when properly assessed on most of the controversial passages. This may not be enough to convince the author, but whether or not this rejection is justified is another story. (JPH note: Our own experience with this author on TheologyWeb suggests that he is incapable to dealing with relevant Biblical scholarship.)
I welcome suggestions for new topics corrections of errors, or anything else. Your input is aways welcome.
This page is NOT intended to convert Christians away from their religion. Though some Jews disagree, I think Christianity is fine for Christians. It is not fine for Jews -- the Bible clearly says that G-d wants different things from different peoples. My hope for missionizing Christians who read this page is for them to understand some of these differences, and to learn that there are more interpretations of the Tanach than they have been taught, so they need not try to convert Jews. E-mail me if I'm wrong about what Christians believe -- but remember that Christians often disagree among themselves. Don't tell me that someone else's belief is not "really Christian" -- instead, tell that someone.
Christian Bible is only occasionally referred to. Other countermissionary links such as the Jews for Judaism library and Drazin's "Their Hollow Inheritance" discuss the so called "New Testament" and Christianity in more detail. One particularly detailed site is "1001 Errors in the Christian Bible by Joe Wallacks (which, sadly, does not have an index -- nag Joe to put one in.) Most of these sources are less tolerant of Christianity than I am.
We should probably make a brief note at this point. Joe Wallack is perhaps a perfect example of the type that JPH had in mind when he wrote "Why Critics of the Bible Do not Deserve the Benefit of the Doubt." Wallack's material finds refutation in this piece. Since the author advertises a variety of anti-Christian sources in the above excerpt, we will take this opportunity to point the reader to the pages here at Tekton where he/she can find information on dozens of scholarly books regarding Christianity. This would include Michael Brown's books (which we discussed very briefly in the introduction), which provide a plethora of detailed answers to many Jewish objections to Christianity. As veteran readers are already aware, there are also many pertinent web articles found on this site as well as others, especially Glenn Miller's Christian Thinktank. Miller's site contains several great articles relevant to Jewish-Christian apologetics. See also the section near the bottom of this article entitled "A Resurrected Messiah?" for more source recommendations.
A note on translation: The Romans said that the translator is a traitor. In truth, all translations are compromises -- some better, and some worse. No translation can perfectly reproduce the original. For one, words shift their meanings from one place to another. Also, words have many meanings, but these vary from one language to another. For a graphic example, the word "calba" in Hebrew literally means bitch (female dog), but the Hebrew "calba" rarely has the other bitchy meanings of the English word.
If you disagree with my translations (mostly derived from the A.J. Rosenberg translation), tell me why. If you are unsure about anything on this page, look it up yourself or ask a recognized expert (though if your expert is committed in his or her religious belief, you'll know beforehand what he or she will say.).
Christian translations, I usually quote the King James Version (KJV) of the Hebrew Scriptures because it is quite popular, and because most missionaries accept it as valid. Bible Gateway has other English translations and versions in other languages. Bible Gateway doesn't have the original Hebrew but this Bilingual Tanach does -- with nikud, and with the 1917 Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation.
I'm going to start a page of really foolish points missionaries make. Here is the first entry: "Yes, I know the word salvation has a "heth" on the end but whether you say yud-shin-vuv-eyin
I personally have never heard any Christian make such a claim, but this, of course, is not relevant to proving or disproving that Jesus is the Messiah. Collecting a list of "bad arguments made by Christians" will not do the trick either. The presence of bad arguments does not negate any good arguments that may exist. With these comments in mind, we will now delve into the actual arguments themselves.
One cannot read the Old Testament and escape the conclusion that animal sacrifices played a key role in the theology of its characters. Animal sacrifices were made going all the way back to the days of Abel (Gen 4.4.), and then to Job (Job 1:5), and then, of course, to the Israelite nation itself, beginning with the sacrifice that prevented the death angel from taking the Israelites' first born sons on the Passover (Exodus 12:3-13). While the animal sacrifices served a number of different purposes, it is the Christian contention that all such sacrifices prefigured the ultimate sacrifice to come-that of Jesus Christ. See especially the section entitled "Sacrifice (NT)" where the different types of sacrifices are discussed and how the NT authors related their anti-typical fulfillment in Christ]. The most important purpose of Christ's sacrifice of which we will be concerned in this section is the atonement that can be made for sins. The author tries to argue that the Torah gives examples of other ways in which atonement might be made besides bloody sacrifices.
Leviticus 17:11 is often cited to "prove" that blood atonement is needed to atone for sins. The KJV translates it like this: For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.
This interpretation has problems. First, the passage does not say that blood is the only means to atone for souls, and, in fact, Torah lists several other means -- e.g. flour (Lev 5:11), money (Exodus 30:15-16), jewelry (Numbers 31:50) or putting fire from the altar in a censure (Numbers 17:11). In addition, Hosea 14:3 says that our lips (i.e. prayers from our lips) can substitute for bulls (i,.e. blood sacrifice), Micah (6:6-8) says G-d wants a good heart rather than blood sacrifices, and the both Isaiah (1:11) and the Psalmist (40 and 50) say that G-d does not need or care about blood sacrifices. Blood is just one of many means for atonement. (See "Verses Missionaries Ignore" for details.)
We'll consider these objections one at a time. First up, we have Leviticus 5:11 where it is asserted that flour can be utilized as a means for atonement. Brown responds:
"The answer is really quite simple, as the verses themselves indicate: 'If, however, he cannot afford two doves or two young pigeons, he is to bring as an offering for his sin a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering. He must not put oil or incense on it, because it is a sin offering. He is to bring it to the priest, WHO SHALL TAKE A HANDFUL OF IT AS A MEMORIAL PORTION AND BURN IT ON THE ALTAR ON TOP OF THE OFFERINGS MADE TO THE LORD BY FIRE. It is a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for him for any of these sins he has committed, and he will be forgiven. The rest of the offering will belong to the priest, as in the case of the grain offering.' (Leviticus 5:11-13, emphasis added) "According to verse 12, the priest will 'take a handful of it [i.e., the flour] as a memorial portion and burn it ON THE ALTAR ON TOP OF THE OFFRINGS made to the Lord by fire.' Then, 'the priest will make atonement for him' (v. 13). In other words, the priest, in his capacity as mediator for the people, and having mingled the flour with the blood sacrifices that were already on the altar, would make atonement for his fellow Israelite.
"Nowhere is it written that 'the flour will make atonement' or that 'the life of a creature is in the flour.' Rather, the whole basis for the atonement was in the sacrificial blood on the altar, and through a flour offering, even poor Israelites could participate in the atoning power of the altar. But there is not a single verse in the Bible that would even hint that flour, in and of itself, had any atoning power, and the rabbis never suggested that, in the absence of the Temple, flour could be substituted for sacrifices. Without the atoning altar and its sacrifices, the flour had no power at all."[Brown (1): 112-113]
Next, what about the references to money and jewelry as alternative means of atonement? Here are the pertinent passages:
"When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the Lord. All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the Lord. The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the Lord to atone for your lives. Receive the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the Tent of Meeting. It will be a memorial for the Israelites before the Lord, making atonement for your lives (Exodus 30:12-16)
"Then the officers who were over the units of the army-the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds-went to Moses and said to him, 'Your servants have counted the soldiers under our command, and not one is missing. So we have brought as an offering to the Lord the gold articles each of us acquired-armlets, bracelets, signet rings, earrings and necklaces-to make atonement for ourselves before the Lord." (Numbers 31:48-50)
These texts are not about atonement for sins, but rather protection from God's wrath. In the first passage, God commanded all the males to pay a ransom ("kopher") for their lives. In the second passage, the officers offered a ransom (same word "kopher") to God in gratitude for His protection of them (as not one soldier was missing when the count was taken). Brown notes that the word "kopher" is used 14 times in the Old Testament and means "ransom" (as with the verses cited, along with others such as Isaiah 43:3), "bribe, payoff" (as in 1 Samuel 12:3; Proverbs 6:35; Amos 5:12). However, it does not in any of the 14 occasions have anything to do with making atonement for sin. So why does it appear in the texts in this case as "making atonement"? Brown again notes that "kopher," which means ransom, and "kipper," which means atone, come from the same Hebrew root. Since the texts have to do with protection from a plague rather than atonement for sins, the text is more properly rendered, "to pay a ransom for your lives" or "to make appeasement." Brown also quotes a plethora of Jewish commentators which agree on this rendering. One example is Rashi, the famous traditional commentator on the Torah that lived in the 11th century A.D. He explains the Exodus passage to mean "so that you will not be smitten with a plague because of the census." Commentaries on Rashi's Torah commentary agree. The Siftey Hachamim commentary, referring to Exodus 30:15, explains that Rashi means, "that is not to atone [lekapper] for your sins as is the one with the other [biblical usages] of kapparah, but the concept is of 'kapparah' in connection with the census.'" More corroboration comes from the Gur Areyh commentary on Rashi. It states, "but not atonement [kapparah] for sins, since it is already written (Exod. 30:12), 'so that there will be no plague against you.'" [Brown (1): 114-116]
Next, we are given a mention of fire from the altar being placed in a censure for atonement of sins. A pertinent passage is found in Numbers 16:46-48:
"Take your censer and put incense in it, along with fire from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started.' So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped."
The context for this passage in chapter 16 is the rebellion of Korah who was "swallowed whole by the earth" (16:31-32) and all of the men that were part of the rebellion were subsequently consumed by fire (16:35). Later in the chapter, we are told that the congregation arose against Moses and Aaron because of the people that were killed (16:41). For this, God caused a plague, as is detailed in verses 46-48 above, to fall upon the people. Once again, similar to the case discussed above with the money, we see that the fire in the censure is to quench the plague that has befallen the Israelites. The only difference is that the money was used to prevent a plague in the former case whereas the fire in the censure was used to stop a plague that had already started. As in the previous case, it had nothing to do with atonement for sins.
One pushback in this case, however, is that the word for atone, "kipper," is used here whereas it was not in the cases of the money and jewelry. Regardless, the context makes it clear that this passage has nothing to do with spiritual atonement for sins, but rather the stoppage of a plague. Brown notes:
"Jacob Milgrom states that the verb kipper, usually translated to make atonement or expiation, 'in this context carries the connotation of 'make appeasement.' He further explains, 'In the cults [i.e., temple-related rituals] of the ancient Near East, incense served to appease and sooth divine wrath,' citing examples from ancient Egypt to support his claims." [Brown (1): 117; cf. also Milgrom, "Numbers." 142.]
The Jewish authority Rashbam explains this passage in light of what started the whole problem in the first place, which was God's rejection of the incense offered by Korah. Thus, Rashbam describes that this "was to demonstrate to the people that the incense which brings death, if offered by unauthorized persons, brings life if it is offered by lawful priests.'" [Brown (1): 118]
Brown also writes:
"The Talmud also found it necessary to explain how incense could 'make atonement,' discussing this very text and concluding that it only atoned for gossip, since 'if someone brings a word in secret, he will make atonement by a deed in secret' (see b. Zevahim 88a). This, of course, underscores just how difficult it was to connect incense with atonement from a biblical-or even logical-viewpoint." [Brown (1): 118]
The author of the piece to which we are responding also makes reference to Numbers 17:11. In chapter 17, God commands Moses to obtain 12 rods, each of which represents a tribe of Israel (17:1-2). Aaron's name was to be written on the rod of Levi (17:3). Moses placed the rods in the tabernacle of witness (17:7) and the next day Aaron's rod budded, blossomed, and put forth almonds (17:8). This was a further sign to the Israelites, as the rest of this short chapter details, that it is indeed Aaron that has the authority to perform the priestly services. In chapter 18, God goes on to tell Aaron that it is he and his sons that are to "bear the iniquity of the sanctuary" and to "bear the iniquity of his priesthood." (18:1-2) How the author feels that this helps his case we do not know for certain. If it is because Aaron and his sons are described as the ones that must "bear the iniquity of the sanctuary and of the priesthood," then there is a contextual issue. The passage makes it clear that this is the case simply in the sense that it is only Aaron and company that are to perform the divinely-appointed priestly rituals through which atonement is made, not that they will in any way serve as an atonement for sins in and of themselves.
Then, we are told by the author, "Hosea 14:3 says that our lips (i.e. prayers from our lips) can substitute for bulls (i.e. blood sacrifice)." Brown writes:
"First, it is quite natural to take Hosea 14:1-2[2-3] figuratively, just as Psalm 141:2, in which David, as we saw, asks that his prayer be set before God AS incense and that the lifting up of his hands be AS the evening sacrifice. So even following the traditional Jewish translation, God's people could be saying, 'We will fulfill the vows of our lips as if they were bulls being offered up in sacrifice.'" [Brown (1): 93]
Brown goes on to note that Hebrews 13:15 draws on the imagery used in this verse [Brown (1): 93].
"By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name."
That said, there are translation problems as well. According to Brown, the Hebrew reads, "Forgive all iniquity, and take good, and we will pay bulls our lips." "For this reason," Brown continues, "there are leading Jewish scholars (such as Robert Gordis) who suggest that the oldest Jewish translation of this verse, namely, the Septuagint, should be followed here, reading the word 'fruit' (peri) instead of 'bulls' (parim)-thereby undercutting the entire anti-missionary argument." [Brown (1): 94] Brown also notes that since the Hebrew word "shillem" is never used in conjunction with making animal sacrifices in the Bible, the verse has nothing to do with sacrificial offerings. The meaning of "shillem" is "to fulfill, complete, pay, repay, compensate." Consider Ecclesiastes 5:4: "When you make a vow to God, do not delay in FULFILLING it [shillem]. He has no pleasure in fools; FULFILL [shillem] your vow." Thus the phrase should be rendered, "We will pay the vows of our lips to God" rather than "We will replace animal sacrifices with the offerings of our lips." [Brown (1): 94]
Next we have the Micah 6:6-8 passage:
"Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself down before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shown thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
What are we to make of this? Given that Micah was writing in the time before the first Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and given the fact that the Jews continued to make sacrifices until the Temple's destruction, and built a second Temple after their captivity in Babylon and reconstituted the sacrificial system, it is very unlikely that the Jews would have understood this as Micah's purpose. Otherwise, it is unlikely that Micah would have even been considered to be an inspired prophet. The key to this passage is clearly in verse 8. While Micah is certainly not repudiating the sacrificial system of atonement for forgiveness of sins, he is indicating that God wants us to: "….do justly,….love mercy, and walk humbly with God." Brown notes of this:
"What then was Micah saying? He was reproving his sinful people and telling them (with some obvious hyperbole) not to think that they could please God merely by bringing thousands of sacrifices and offerings or to imagine that the Lord would want them to sacrifice their own sons to pay for their sins. Rather, what God was looking for was justice, mercy, and humility, something that some of them apparently overlooked in their zeal to bring sacrifices and special offerings. They put their emphasis on the wrong thing, emphasizing the outward ceremonies and ignoring the inward corruption. Such is human nature." [Brown (1): 75-76]
We see a similar theme running through the New Testament texts. For instance, consider Matthew 23:25-27:
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness."
This invokes in this author's mind the situation of a Christian that attends church services every weekend, participates in baptism and the Lord's Supper, supports the church financially, etc. yet whose heart remains unchanged (Matthew 22:37-40). As with the sacrifices outlined in the Torah as being an essential element for the atonement of sins, it is true to the Christian that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ fulfils the same essential purpose. However, in both the Old and New Testaments, we are admonished by God to live righteously and follow Him in a spirit of humility. In a sense, we can say that, just as Micah (and also David, see Psalm 40:5-10) in the Old Testament indicate that the sacrificial system of the Torah is not to be used as a license for sin, the New Testament teaches that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is also not to be used in this manner (See Romans 6). This, quite clearly, does not negate the efficacy of sacrifice as an atonement for sins.
Up next is Isaiah 1:11:
"Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? Saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring me no more VAIN OBLATIONS; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood." (Isaiah 1:10-15, emphasis added)
In light of factors discussed in the last section, it would not make sense that God would be repudiating not only animal sacrifices, but also the annual sabbaths that were so important to the Jewish nation well after the 8th century B.C. (when Isaiah was writing). As with Micah, since the Jews continued to cherish these Torah-ordained institutions in that day as well as afterwards, it would not make sense to conclude from the above passage that God literally hates the appointed feasts and new moons. If this was Isaiah's intent, it is unlikely that his work would have been accepted by the Jews as inspired (since they obviously did not cease from observing the appointed days). So how do we explain this passage? When we go back to the beginning of this chapter when Isaiah is having his vision, God indicates that the Israelites have rebelled against Him (verse 2); they are "a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord (verse 4). God says in verses 16-20:
"Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."
Thus it appears that this collapses back into the same discussion we had in the previous section. It is a matter of Israel performing the divinely-appointed rituals outlined in the Torah yet inwardly being evil and rebellious to the Lord.
Finally, we are given Psalm 40 and 50. Here are the pertinent passages of each:
"Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to usward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation." (Psalm 40:5-10)
"Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God. I WILL NOT REPROVE THEE FOR THY SACRIFICES OR THY BURNT OFFERINGS, TO HAVE BEEN CONTINUALLY BEFORE ME. I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he goats out of thy folds. FOR EVERY BEAST OF THE FOREST IS MINE, AND THE CATTLE UPON A THOUSAND HILLS. I KNOW ALL THE FOWLS OF THE MOUNTAINS: AND THE WILD BEASTS OF THE FIELD ARE MINE. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fullness thereof. WILL I EAT THE FLESH OF BULLS, OR DRINK THE BLOOD OF GOATS? OFFER UNTO GOD THANKSGIVING; AND PAY THY VOWS UNTO THE MOST HIGH: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. BUT UNTO THE WICKED GOD SAITH, WHAT HAST THOU TO DO TO DECLARE MY STATUTES, OR THAT THOU SHOULDEST TAKE MY COVENANT IN THY MOUTH? SEEING THOU HATEST INSTRUCTION, AND CASTEST MY WORDS BEHIND THEE. When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers. Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son." (Psalm 50:7-20, emphasis added)
First, on Psalm 40, as we had alluded to in a previous section in a parenthetical note, this is essentially the same situation we find in the Isaiah 1:10-15 passage as well as that in Micah 6:6-8. David alludes in verse 5 to his innumerable sins and later in the passage to his "ears being opened" and God's "law within his heart." David is speaking here not of some inefficacy of blood sacrifices for atonement, but about the importance of repentance and following the acceptable way of the Lord.
Perhaps the passage in Psalm 50 is most exemplary of this concept, even though the author of the piece to which we are responding feels that it suits his purposes. Notice in the emphasized portions that God will *NOT* reprove the Psalmist for sacrifices made continually before Him, and despite the fact that He will not "eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of the goats" because "every beast of the forest," "the cattle upon a thousand hills," "the fowls of the mountains," and "the wild beasts of the field" all belong to God, He still tells the Psalmist to "offer unto God thanksgiving, and pay thy vows unto the most High:…." However, in the latter emphasized portion, we see God asking the wicked why they follow His statutes when they despise His word. In other words, why make sacrifices and follow His statutes yet still commit the acts described in verses 18-20, clearly condemned in the same Torah which describes these statutes? This goes back, once again, to the concept that Jesus described in Matthew 23:25-27 (discussed above) of giving outward expressions of loyalty to God when your inward heart is in rebellion against Him.
This seems to be the key concept to understand in the last few texts we have considered. While this concept, quite obviously pervades the Old Testament, it is also a concept pervading the New Testament as well. Although Jesus Christ atones for all sins, we are to submit to the power of the Holy Spirit in order to live lives that are more acceptable to God. (See, for example, Romans 3:31, Romans 6, and Galatians 5:16-26)
See the following link for more on the concept of Semitic Totality.
Alas, we move to the next argument of our subject:
Secondly, Leviticus 17:11 speaks of atonement ("kapare" in Hebrew) for our souls, but not for 'sin' -- i.e. an act of intentional wickedness. What else could atonement be for? The Bible evidently has additional uses for the word, because the Bible speaks of atonement for acts committed by mistake (which we do not usually consider sins), and also speaks of making atonement for the altar (Exodus 29:36). The word here may have the implication of making durably holy by applying a coating (see the story of Noah's ark), but whatever the meaning, one cannot impute deliberate wrongdoing to an altar.
Besides making atonement for an altar, other examples could be given as to when sacrifices served a function besides atoning for sins. Burnt offerings ("olah") were offered as symbols of one's full devotion and dedication to God. Other sacrifices, such as one called the "today," were offered to God as a means of giving thanks. One other example, the sin offerings ("hatta't") were made to cleanse of ritual impurity. [Brown (1): 127] However, these examples do not negate that sacrifices were also made in order to atone for sins.
The author claims that sacrifices only atoned for unintentional sins. However, the "asham," or guilt offering, could be used to atone for both unintentional AND intentional sins. Brown quotes Baruch Levine, a top Jewish authority on sacrifice and atonement:
"The offenses outlined here [in Lev. 5:20-26, or 6:1-7 in most English translations] were quite definitely intentional! A person misappropriated property or funds entrusted to his safekeeping, or defrauded another, or failed to restore lost property he had located….If, subsequently, the accused came forth on his own and admitted to having lied under oath-thus assuming liability for the unrecovered property-he was given the opportunity to clear himself by making restitution and by paying a fine of 20 percent to the aggrieved party. Having lied under oath, he had also offended God and was obliged to offer an 'asham sacrifice in expiation….God accepts the expiation even of one who swears falsely in His name because the guilty person is willing to make restitution to the victim of his crime." [Brown (1): 128]
Consider also the following excerpt concerning the Day of Atonement (quoted from Brown):
"When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat [in English, this is commonly known as the "scapegoat"]. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites-all their sins-and put them on the goat's head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert." (Leviticus 16:20-22)
The text says clearly that "all" of the Israelites' sins were to be confessed on the head of the goat. The text speaks of the "wickedness" (which can be translated "iniquity"' Hebrew 'awon) and "rebellion" (pesha' in Hebrew, or willful transgression) of the Israelites, not only the sins that were committed unintentionally. [Brown (1): 129]
The Talmud is, interestingly, even more explicit than the Biblical text in this regard. Consider the following two translations of a well-known text in traditional Jewish law, m. Shevu'ot 1:6:
"A. And for a deliberate act of imparting uncleanness to the sanctuary and its Holy Things, a goat [whose blood is sprinkled] inside and the Day of Atonement effect atonement.
"B. And for all other transgressions which are in the Torah-
"C. the minor or serious, deliberate or inadvertent, those done knowingly or done unknowingly, violating a positive or a negative commandment, those punishable by extirpation [karet] and those punishable by death at the hands of the court,
"D. the goat which sent away [Lev. 16:21] effects atonement." [Neusner, Jacob, "The Mishnah" 622.]
"And for uncleanness that occurs in the Temple and to its holy sacrifices through wantonness, [the] goat whose blood is sprinkled within [the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement] and the Day of Atonement effect atonement, and for [all] other transgressions [spoken of] in the Law, light or grace, premeditated or inadvertent, aware or unaware, transgressions of positive commands or negative commands, sin whose penalty is excision or sins punishable by death imposed by the court, the scapegoat makes atonement." [Blackman, Philip. "Mishnayoth" 340, n.1]
Moses Maimonides, almost a millennium later, writes:
"Since the goat sent [to Azazeil] atones for all of Israel, the High Priest confesses on it as the spokesman for all of Israel, as [Lev. 16:21] states: 'He shall confess on it all the sins of the Children of Israel.'
The goat sent to Azazeil atones for all the transgressions in the Torah, the severe and the lighter [sins]; those violated intentionally and those transgressed inadvertently; those which [the transgressor] became conscious of and those which he was not conscious of. All are atoned for by the goat sent [to Azazeil].
This applies only if one repents. If one does not repent, the goat only atones for the light [sins].
Which are light sins and which are severe ones? Severe sins are those which are punishable by execution by the court or by premature death [karet]. [The violation of] the other prohibions that are not punishable by premature death are considered light [sins]."["Laws of Repentance," 1:2]
There is also a Talmudic reference regarding the atoning power of the blood of the goat that is sprinkled inside the Most Holy Place. Discussing Leviticus 16:15-16:
"He [i.e., the High Priest] shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull's blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatsoever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the Tent of Meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness."
Brown notes that the rabbis specifically comment on the words "rebellion" (Hebrew for "transgressions") and "sins," the former referring to acts of rebellion (i.e. intentional sins) and the latter to inadvertent acts. Brown further claims:
"And it is the goat whose blood is sprinkled in the Most Holy Place that effects atonement for the people, just as the blood of the bull offered up by the High Priest effects atonement for him (m. Shevu'ot 1:7, following Lev. 16:11, 'Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering.') Notice also that it is a sin offering that effects atonement for Aaron and the people of Israel, demonstrating that it is not only the guilt offering that effects atonement for willfull sins."
Brown also discusses Solomon's prayer to God at the Temple's dedication in 1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 6. Solomon asks God to forgive the sinning Israelites when they turn to repentance and prayed toward the Temple. In 2 Chronicles 7:12-16, the Lord promises that He would forgive them because of the sacrifices offered in the Temple. This includes ALL transgressions, and not just unintentional ones, as can be seen from 1 Kings 8:33-36, 46-50, and 2 Chronicles 7:14. [Brown (1): 129-131]
Next we are offered by the author….
One cannot apply this verse to Jesus' blood in any event, because it specifies blood on the altar, and Jesus did not die on any altar, let alone the altar in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem which is clearly the altar Leviticus is referring to.
This appears to be an objection based on "thinking inside the box." Christians maintain that the whole sacrificial system was established by God to foreshadow the ultimate sacrifice that was to come, that of Jesus Christ. The altar, and that of the temple furniture, etc. symbolized the New Covenant that was to be instituted by the Messiah and His sacrifice. Since these were mere symbols of the reality to come, this objection misses the point.
Finally, the verse is taken out of context. Verses 10 to 14 say (KJV):
1 10 And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. 12 Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood. 13 And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust. 14 For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off.
In other words, the verse has nothing to do with salvation. It is about the dietary laws -- specifically, the comments about the life being in the blood are an explanation for the prohibition against eating blood.
While the author is partially correct about context, Brown responds,
"Unfortunately, while Messianic Jews are accused of failing to pay attention to Leviticus 17:11 in context, in reality, some anti-missionaries have actually failed to pay attention to the verse itself. As Rashi explained, 'For every creature is dependent on blood, therefore I have given it to you on the altar to atone for the life of man; let life come and atone for the life.' In other words, the reason that blood sacrifices played such a central role in the Torah is because they operated on the principle of substitution, i.e., on the principle of life for life. Thus, an ancient midrash on Leviticus 1:2 states: 'When you voluntarily offer a "korban olah" [i.e. burnt offering] and it is slaughtered and its blood sprinkled upon the altar, I consider it as if you have offered your very selves.' Similarly, Rabbi J.H. Hertz, commenting on Leviticus 17:11, observed, 'the use of blood, representing life, in the rites of atonement symbolized the complete yielding up of the worshipper's life to God, and conveyed the thought that the surrender of a man to the will of God carried with it the assurance of Divine pardon.' Similarly, with respect to Leviticus 17:11, Christian Old Testament scholar John E. Hartley noted that:
'the pouring out of the animal's blood is also important. The blood represents the animal's "nps," "life." The offerer has already identified himself with the animal by laying his hands on the animal's head; with this gesture the offerer recognizes that the death of the animal will commute the penalty for his sin. It needs to be underscored that the sacrificial system loudly proclaims that the penalty of sin is death. Thus the giving of a life (nps) on the altar for the life (nps) of the offerer upholds justice."
"It is therefore no surprise that Leviticus 17:11 was the proof text commonly used by the Talmudic rabbis to indicate that the atoning power of the sacrifices was in the blood. Several different times in the Talmudic literature-in quite authoritative sources, I should note-it is observed that 'there is no atonement without the blood,' exactly as stated in Hebrews 9:22. In fact, there are leading Jewish scholars (see below) who point out that the author of Hebrews was simply repeating the universally accepted Jewish view of his day when he wrote that, according to Torah, 'without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.' As expressed concisely by New Testament scholar Harold Attridge, these words 'constitute a cultic maxim well known in Jewish tradition.'"[Brown (1): 107-108]
"Talmudic rabbis asked, in the context of animal sacrifices, particularly the wording of Leviticus 1:4 ("He is to lay his hand on the had of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him"),
"Does the laying on of the hand [on the sacrifice] make atonement for one? Does not atonement come through the blood, as it is said: For it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life! [Lev. 17:11]
"….Does the waving [of the offering] make atonement? Is it not the blood which makes atonement, as it is written, 'For it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life" [again, Lev. 17:11]? (b. Yoma 5a, as translated in the "Soncino Talmud; cf. also the virtually identical wording in b. Zevahim 6a; b. Menahot 93b; Sifra 4:9)."[Brown (1): 108]
Michael Brown details more answers to all of the objections discussed here as well as others that anti-missionaries tout in his book, "Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Volume 2." For a book review, please see the link at the top of this article.
For more on soteriology, please see this piece by JPH.
Trouble for the Trinity?
Our treatment in this section will be the least comprehensive of the 3 since the author only alludes to a couple of pertinent passages. However, Christian assertions regarding the Trinitarian nature of God are much more sophisticated than general proof-texts such as the "we" and "us" sayings in Genesis 1, 3, and 11 and the underlying Hebrew regarding the Shema. The Christian understanding of the Trinity (or at the very least plurality within the Godhead) and a divine Messiah, when properly expounded, finds root in Wisdom literature found in certain Old Testament Scriptures as well as inter-testamental literature, certain Messianic prophecies (some of which we discuss later), as well as the mysterious Theophanies (such as with the "Angel of the Lord.") On these subjects and more, we recommend the following resources:
Genesis 1:1; 1:26
Genesis 1:1 (KJV) "1 In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth." Hebrew has several words for G-d. A common one is the word used here in Genesis 1:1 -- Elohim. The grammatical form of this word is plural, leading missionaries to say that G-d must therefore be plural. What they don't realize is that many Hebrew words have a plural form but a singular meaning -- for example water (myim), heaven (shamyim), life (chaiim), and face (panim) to mention a few. "Yesh l'yilda panim yafot" means the girl has a pretty face. Using the missionary logic, one would say something like that the poor girl is two faced. 1:26 (KJV) "26 And G-d said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion" The assertion here is that because the verb is in plural form, it indicates that G-d is plural. This reasoning seems extreme to me. Rashi says that G-d is talking to the angels, and enlisting their cooperation in the creation of humans, which seems much simpler. I think this verse describes how royalty talks. When the Queen of England says, "We are not amused," does anyone think she has a multiple personality disorder? (See comments on Deuteronomy 6:4)
Comparing the usage of ancient Hebrew with 20th century English is probably a shaky analogy, yet Michael Brown concedes in regard to the plural usage in the ANE:
"In the Ancient Near East, it was common to refer to the deity in the compound plural, and when speaking of an owner or master, it was often the rule to speak of him in such terms."
He then goes on to give a few examples. For instance, Abraham's servant speaks to him in the plural in Genesis 24 ('adonim, literally, "lords"), Joseph speaks of Potiphar in the plural in Genesis 39, and David is referred to as "lords" in 1 Kings 1:11. More to the point, God speaks in Malachi 1:6, which reads: "If I am a Lords where is my honor?" Deuteronomy 10:17 refers to God as "the Gods of gods and the Lords of lords." In regards to pagan parallels to this in the ANE, Brown writes the following in an endnote:
"See, e.g., 2 Kings 1:3, where Baal Zebub is called 'the god [Hebrew, 'elohim] of Ekron.' Note that in the Akkadian dialect attested in Tell El-Amarna, Egypt, the Pharaoh, who was considered divine, is literally called 'my gods'' cf. also Rykle Borger, 'Assyrisch-babylonishce Zeichenliste, Erganzungsheft zur 1. Auflage (AOAT 33)' (Kevelaer/Neukirchen-Vluyn: Butzon & Bercker/Neukirchener, 1981), 417, who cites evidence that the Sumero-Akkadian plural form 'dingir-mes (meaning 'gods') can also have a singular meaning.) [Brown (1): 267-268, n. 17]]However, Brown does goes on to note:
"But before you conclude from all this that plural nouns for God have no bearing on the question of his unity, consider this simple truth: Hebrew, along with other Semitic languages, sometimes expressed greatness, supremacy, exaltation, majesty, and fullness by means of compound plural nouns. Plurality could express prominence, ownership, or divinity, all with reference to a single person or single deity. This means that the very concept of 'compound unity' or 'plurality in unity' was part of the language of the Tanakh. Such concepts would not be foreign to the biblical mind. So while these references to God or Lord in the plural do not in any way prove Trinitarian beliefs, they are certainly in perfect harmony with everything we are trying to say here, namely, that in some way the Lord's unity is complex." [Brown (1): 9-10]
The reader is encouraged to compare Brown's work with Glenn Miller's piece (See here), which discusses in much more detail the significance of the OT usage of "Elohim" as well as a short section on the "we" and "us" passages.
Next we have a brief look into the Shema. My thanks go to Jeremiah whose contributions form the bulk of this subsection. The author writes….
Deuteronomy 6:4 (KJV) "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our G-d, the LORD is one" One is surprised any missionary would use this, since it states the oneness of G-d.
It would only be surprising to anyone that is unaware of sound Christian doctrine. The "oneness" of God's being i.e. strict monotheism is a basic foundation of our belief.
However, some, (I don't know how many) retranslate it to: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our G-d, the LORD is a compound unity." This sounds sort of funny, but they are literally trying to change the meaning of the word "ehad" from "one" to "compound unity".
We do not hold that 'echad' must denote a compound unity. What we do believe, and can prove, is that the word 'echad' does not exclude the possiblity of a 'compound unity'. Examples of such are provided below.
By this logic, three minus two would equal a compound unity, and dance instructors would give their students the beat by counting "compound unity, two three." The number 21 (esreem v ehad) would be twenty plus a compound unity.
This is just a pointless distraction that has nothing to do with the linguistic plausibility of "echad" denoting "plurality within unity."
Biblical Hebrew is the same. For example: 2 Genesis 40.5: "And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night ..." (lila *echad*). To say that a night is a compound unity composed of hours, is pushing it. 3 Exodus 29.3: "And thou shalt put them into one basket ...." (sal *echad*). To say a basket is a compound unity of a basket because it is composed of fibers is getting silly.
Yet in support of our argument above, we have the following as provided by Glenn Miller's address of this topic:
Genesis 2.24--the man and his wife will be one (ehad) flesh--clearly a composite unity.
26:6, 11--the fifty gold clasps are used to hold the curtains together so that the tent would be a unit (ehad).
Samuel 2:25--many soldiers made themselves into 'one group' (ehad)
34:16 --the men of Shechem suggest intermarriage with Jacob's children in order to become 'one(ehad) people'.
9.2 -- the western kings agree to fight Joshua as "one (ehad) force"
10.42-- "And Joshua captured all these kings and their lands at one (ehad) time" (NAS) or "All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one (ehad) campaign" (NIV)
24.3 --"Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one (ehad) voice, and said"
Chr 5.12--"and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and sons and kinsmen, clothed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and , standing east of the altar, and with them one hundred and twenty blowing trumpets 13 in unison when the trumpeters and the singers were to make themselves heard with one (ehad) voice to praise and to glorify the Lord"
11.6--"And the Lord said, "Behold, they are one (ehad) people, and they all have the same language."Source
If you ask these missionaries what is the Hebrew word for 'one', they will either say "yachid" (which means "individual", not "one") or they will not have an answer.
An interesting point can be made from the above - If "yachid" means "individual," (see for example its use in Ps. 68:6 - "solitary") then why is it never used of YHWH when Unitarians would expect it to be? At any rate, the point has been made. The word used ("echad") to denote God's essence can be and is often used in the Old Testament to indicate a plurality within unity.
So, in conclusion to this section on Christian theology regarding the nature of God, it seems reasonable to conclude that Plurality within the Godhead is not established or refuted based upon the texts examined. However, we once again strongly recommend the sources mentioned at the beginning of this section for those wishing to delve more deeply into this subject.
Messianic Prophecy Objections
We now embark upon the author's objections to a number of Messianic prophecies. Since this takes up by far the largest section of our article, we were hoping to divide this section into various subsections (e.g. birth prophecies, prophecies indicating Messianic divinity, suffering Messiah passages). However, it proved difficult to properly categorize them due to the overlapping themes found in some of them. For instance, while Micah 5:2 is an obvious birth prophecy, it is also one of the strongest passages indicating a divine Messiah. Another example is that of Zechariah 12:10 which could be placed into the "suffering Messiah" category or the "divine Messiah" category. Thus we decided simply to answer them in the order that they appear in the author's article.
Genesis 3:15 (KJV) "'And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel..'"
Genesis 12:7 (KJV) And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him,'"
Christians, apparently following the lead of Paul, say that because the word "seed" (Hebrew "zera") is singular, that the verses refer to just one person, who must be Jesus. Paul does not explain why it would have to refer to Jesus, but even so, his basic premise is wrong.
The author's comments regarding Paul's use of "seed" presumably comes from Galatians 3:16:
"Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one. And to thy seed, which is Christ."
It appears from this verse that Paul is claiming that "seed" in Genesis 12:7 must be singular since He applies it to Christ. Let's consider briefly the context of Galatians 3, which is about the unity of Jews and Gentiles in the body of Christ:
"Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." (Galatians 3:7-9)
"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." (Galatians 3:13-14)
"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:26-29)
Notice in verse 29 that Paul applies "seed" in the plural sense. He is telling the Galatians that, through Jesus, they are of Abraham's seed. It appears that, in context, Paul is claiming in verse 16 (cf. also verse 19) that Christ is the consummation (or "seed") of the promise God gave to Abraham, and that all who accept Christ as Savior, Jew and Gentile, are part of this "seed" and are thus beneficiaries to the covenant promises. Thus, in terms of "plural vs. singular," we probably are not on solid ground here to argue one way or the next. And, this ambiguity must be acknowledged as we progress into our discussion of Genesis 3:15 as well.
The Tanach uses the word "zera" to indicate many descendants just like the English word "seed" can refer to many.
While the word "zera" can and does indicate "more than one" in many cases throughout the Hebrew Bible, it can also be used to refer to just one individual. One does not have to go far beyond the Genesis 3:15 passage to find an example:
"And Adam knew his wife again: and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed (zera) instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord." (Genesis 4:25-26)
In the above case, the word "zera" is applied to Seth.
Missionaries reply that this plural meaning holds only with the "seed" of a man (though why this should be so they do not explain.) They say that because the Genesis 3 verse refers to the seed of a woman, it must be singular and refer to Jesus. But this is not correct either -- in Genesis 16:10, the many descendants of Hagar (who was not in the line leading to the messiah), are also referred to as her "seed."
Jeremiah responds on this point:
"Note carefully the context: Hagar is currently impregnated with Ishmael (vs. 17). Could the author be referring to the (singular) 'seed' within her is to be 'multiplied'? That is possible. In fact, see Gen. 17:20 where YHWH states that 'Ishmael' will be made into 'a great nation.'"
Before we progress further, let's quote a few Jewish traditions that connect Genesis 3:15 to the work of the Messiah and make comments.
"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between the offspring of your sons and the offspring of her sons; and it shall be that when the sons of the woman observe the commandments of the Torah, they will direct themselves to smite you on the head, but when they forsake the commandments of the Torah you will direct yourself' to bite them on the heel. However, there is a remedy for them, but no remedy for you. THEY ARE DESTINED TO MAKE PEACE IN THE END, IN THE DAYS OF THE KING MESSIAH." (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan; emphasis added) [Webster (4): 156]
"And it shall be that when the sons of the woman study the Torah diligently and obey its injunctions, they will direct themselves to smite you on the head and slay you; but when the sons of the woman forsake the commandments of the Torah and do not obey its injunctions, you will direct yourself to bite them on the heel and afflict them. However, there will be a remedy for the sons of the woman, but for you, serpent, there will be no remedy. THEY SHALL MAKE PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER IN THE END, IN THE VERY END OF DAYS, IN THE DAYS OF THE KING MESSIAH." (Fragmentary Targum to the Pentateuch; emphasis added) [Webster (4): 156]
In the above traditions, the seed ("zera") appears to be understood as plural as it is the Torah-observers that have the power to "smite the serpent on the head," or be "bitten on the heel by the serpent" for not observing the Torah. However, the ultimate "remedy" to the problem is the Messiah.
Rabbi David Kimchi (lived in the south of France and lived 1160 - 1235)
"As thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people by the hands of Meshiha, the Son of David, who shall wound satan, who is the head, the king and prince of the house of the wicked..."
In this tradition, the seed of the woman is, in fact, the Messiah.
A critic has stated that the above translation of the quote from Rabbi Kimchi as is portrayed on the source website is not correct. Instead it is said that the correct translation is:
"And you went forth to save your people by way of the King Messiah, son of David, Who shall bruise the head of the evil inclination."
Regardless of which translation is the accurate one, however, the point remains that the "seed" is still interpreted by Rabbi Kimchi to be the Messiah.
Based on this evidence, there is corroboration from prominent Jewish sources that Satan will ultimately be defeated by the Messiah, although there is a discrepancy as to whether or not the Messiah or the descendants of Eve as a whole is/are the actual "zera" in question. We'll come back to this just below, but for now we should summarize that the Messiah in the two traditions cited by Webster, while acknowledging Eve's descendants as the "zera," concludes that the "remedy" is the Messiah. On the other hand, the famous medieval Jewish commentator David Kimchi argues that the "seed" is the Messianic key word in the passage.
We'll now consider the historical context behind this prophecy. This passage is, IMO, perhaps one of the most "underrated" Messianic prophecies touted by Christians. It will not do justice to the prophecy simply to quote this verse and then present a New Testament proof-text indicating that Jesus has defeated Satan. This Messianic prophecy is more vague in content than many of those that come from later writings (some of which we will look at later in this article). However, what makes this prophecy valuable is not so much the detail, but rather the timing and context in which it was given.
God had told Adam that eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would result in death (Genesis 2:16-17). After the serpent succeeded in tempting Eve, and subsequently after Adam ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree, the rights of the first humans to the tree of life were revoked. They were removed from the garden and the process of death ensued (Genesis 3:22-24). This as well as the other consequences caused by the sequence is detailed in Genesis 3:7, 14, 16-19, 21-24. A disaster had occurred that cost the first parents' their rights to eternal life, and this disaster was brought about by the serpent's temptation. After the serpent is rebuked by God in verse 14, we are given the passage in question:
"And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."
Despite the serpent's victory in causing the sins of the first parents (and thus causing all of the grief and consequences described in the aforementioned passages just above), God declares that the serpent will ultimately be defeated. One important question to be asked would be, "Who or what is it exactly that is going to defeat the serpent, but in the process be 'bruised in the heel'?" [By the way, the Hebrew word for "bruise" in each case above is "shuwph, which according to "The New Strong's Dictionary of Bible Words" means "to overwhelm:--break, bruise, cover."]
From a simple reading of the text, it looks like this subject might have one of two possible denotations: the "enmity" and, of course, the "seed." Most Christians argue for the latter, and this will be the position that we take (see below for why). However, either option would probably lead us to similar conclusions. If the "enmity" is the subject, then we have a situation described in which God will provide some way, force, or entity by which the serpent's power over Eve and her descendants will be alleviated. On the other hand, if the "seed" is the subject, the text conveys the idea that the defeater would be derived from the first parents' lineage. Either way, it seems probable that the defeater is in some way a personal entity (although this need not necessarily be a single person) given that he/she/it will be "bruised on the heel." Gray Pilgrim, a seminary student, gives us the following statement regarding why it is more probable that the "seed" is the subject in question:
"Syntactically it refers to the seed not the enmity, as enmity is feminine and seed is masculine and the one who crushes is masculine, and the one whose heel is bruised is also masculine. So I would say it points to the seed."
The three sources quoted above conclude this as well, although two of them believe the "seed" to be referring to Torah-keepers.
So let's try to summarize the data. The serpent enticed the first parents into sin. This invoked the forfeiting of the first parents' rights to eternal life in addition to causing other calamities outlined in the text. The serpent was, it seems, victorious. However, God proclaimed that the serpent's influence over them would be interrupted and in the process the serpent would be dealt a "blow to the head." However, in the process of this defeat, the serpent would manage to "bruise the heel" of the defeater (which is probably the "seed," or "zera").
So where does all of this lead us? Certainly this understanding is in complete harmony with the Christian message. It was (and is) the message of the church that Jesus Christ, despite being crucified after the betrayal of one of his disciples under Satanic influence (Luke 22:3-6), provided the way through which Satan was ultimately defeated. (In other words, Jesus "bruised the head of Satan" although Satan "bruised His heel.") Although the first parents' sins brought about death, Jesus paved the way through which we can once again obtain the eternal life that they had lost (Romans 6:23). The problem caused by the serpent was resolved.
We should, of course, be cognizant of the fact, based solely on the narrative in which Genesis 3:15 is contained, that at least one other interpretation is plausible, and this comes back to the question of whether "zera" is to be rendered in the singular or plural in this case (The same is the case with Genesis 12:7). We may not be able to settle this part of the debate one way or the other. Thus that an entity consisting of a multitude of people, such as a nation (e.g. Israel), can be plausibly exegeted from the text (at least based on linguistic grounds regarding "zera") should be acknowledged. In fact, in our two Targumic references we find that the "seed" was understood to be Torah-observers, although in each case the ultimate remedy was said to be the Messiah. And, of course, on the other hand, Rabbi Kimchi understood the "seed" to be referring to the Messiah, corroborating our position.
The bottom line is that the solution to the influence of the serpent is given by God within the very same narrative which describes the loss of eternal life and other dubious changes that would occur as a result of the serpent's success. The solution imposed comports well with Christian theology. While this prophecy is admittedly vague, and cannot, it seems, by itself, establish the Christian assertion of a suffering Messiah, it sets the stage for prophecies that would later be revealed (many of which we will look at later), describing in substantially more detail the import of this role of the Messiah's work.
Here we have one of the author's extended pieces detailing the virgin birth prophecy. (Now offline.)
Isaiah 7:14 (KJV) "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Christians say this verse predicts the virgin birth of Jesus, who they maintain is the deity come down to earth to be with us. However, this citation has been poorly translated, taken out of context, and is not messianic in any event. (Note, by the way, how the book of Matthew in the Christian Bible misquotes this verse).
Translation: The Hebrew word for virgin is "betula". The root of the word is so specific that the Hebrew scriptures mention it with reference to stained bedsheets.
We'll examine most of the author's accusations in more depth later. As far as Matthew's alleged misquoting of the verse is concerned, this remains to be seen. Some Christians point out, at this point, that the Greek word "parthenos," found in the Septuagint, means "virgin." However, even that word, apparently, does not always imply virginity. An example mentioned by Brown is found in Genesis 34:3 where Dinah is considered to be a "parthenos" despite being raped in the LXX [Brown (2): 28].
However, the word used in Is 7:14 is "alma" which most dictionaries translate as "young woman." The word "alma" is found only seven times in scripture. In some places, it could mean either "virgin" or "young woman" but two verses suggest that an "alma" need not be virginal (Proverbs 30:19 -- "the way of a man with an alma", which is usually sexual -- and Song of Songs 6:8 -- "queens, concubines, and almas", the first two clearly not virginal, which suggests the third also is not.) To think the prophet would have used "alma" rather than the unequivocal "betula" strains credulity.
Brown notes that there is no single word that always means "virgin" in Biblical Hebrew. The word "betulah" is translated by the NJPSV, the most widely used Jewish translation of the Old Testament today, as "maiden" rather than "virgin" thirty one of the fifty times that the word occurs in the Old Testament. The Stone edition, which reflects traditional Orthodox Jewish scholarship, translates "betulah" as "maiden" in various places as well (e.g. Isaiah 23:4; 62:5; Jeremiah 2:32; 31:12; 51:22, etc.). In certain cases when the word does mean "virgin," there are indicators that "betulah" cannot always be rendered in this manner. Consider Genesis 24:16:
"The maiden (na'arah) was very beautiful, a virgin (betulah) whom no man had known."
In this example, it would be pointless to add the qualifier at the end of this verse if the word always could be defined as "virgin." [Brown (2): 22] Brown also notes a few examples where the word "betulah" is used when defining it as "maiden" makes more sense than to translate it as "virgin." The following verses and commentary are provided by Brown:
"Be ashamed, O Sidon, for the sea has spoken, the fortress of the sea, saying: 'I have neither labored nor given birth, I have neither reared young men nor brought up young women'" (Isaiah 23:4 NRSV). "Could you imagine translating this with 'brought up virgins'? What parent says, 'I've raised young men and virgins'?)"
"In Joel 1:8 "betulah" refers to a widow: 'Lament-like a maiden girt with sackcloth for the husband of her youth' (NJPSV). A widow is hardly a virgin!"
(See also Ezekiel 9:6; cf. 2 Chronicles 36:17; Job 31:1; Isaiah 47:1, 8-9.) [Brown (2): 22-23]
In light of the preceding, and also from material in Miller's article (See here), "betulah" is not at all an unequivocal reference for "virgin."
Brown also provides evidence that the word "almah" cannot be proven to refer to a virgin either, although it can be rendered as such. Some of his reasons for this conclusion include:
1. The masculine equivalent to 'almah, which is 'elem, occurs twice in the Old Testament and means "youth" or "young man" with no reference to virginity. Consider, for instance, whether it makes sense to substitute "virgin" or "male virgin" for "son" in the following verse:
"And the king said, Inquire thou whose son the stripling is." (I Samuel 17:56)
2. Both "elem" and "almah" "should be derived from a Semitic root which means 'to come into puberty, to come into heat (for an animal),' not from a Semitic root meaning 'to hide, be hidden.'"
3. "Almah" does not specifically mean "virgin" in other Semitic languages.
4. "Almah" in Aramic ("ulemta") is sometimes used in reference to women that have been sexually active. [Brown (2): 20-21]
Brown ultimately argues that it cannot be proved or disproved on linguistic grounds that a virgin birth was predicted in Isaiah 7:14 due to this problem, but does conclude that this is a clear Messianic prophecy indicating a supernatural birth. [cf. Brown (2): 24-32]
For a couple of other Christian perspectives, consider the work of Glenn Miller here and James Price here. While these two authors do not seem to draw the same conclusions as Brown regarding "alma," I personally am inclined to agree with Brown, but these perspectives are provided for the reader to compare. See Miller's article, most importantly, for some hard lexical data on "betulah."
Also, "will conceive" is unlikely. The Hebrew "hara" is most likely present tense and is better read "is pregnant."
The author doesn't give us anything to back up this claim. However, we ran it by our Hebrew specialist, Gray Pilgrim, who had the following to say in response:
"That would be quite extraordinary for two reasons. First, in Modern Hebrew there is in fact a present tense, however, there is no 'present tense' in Biblical Hebrew, moreover time is NOT bound up in the morphological forms of verbs in Hebrew in general, but that is another discussion; 2) and the real biggy here. This is the first adjective I have ever seen that encodes time. I have not seen in it in Ugaritic, I have not seen it in Biblical Hebrew, I have not seen it in Qumranic Hebrew, I have not seen it in Rabbinic Hebrew, I have not seen it in Medieval Hebrew, I have not seen it in Modern Hebrew, I have not seen it in German, I have not seen it in Koine Greek, nor have I seen it in English. Now there is a modicum of something to his argument though. If he had said that this clause has an elided verb, that he postulates is in the present tense he would have some merit, but though it may be plausible to insert a present tense verb, it is NOT a sure bet. Besides the other clauses in this verse are all future tense verbs, which would incline me to render this as a future as well."
Context: This verse concerns a specific political problem of that era, and has no messianic significance at all. Isaiah writes in a highly flowery style, which makes it difficult to follow his point. However, if you read verses 1-15 slowly and carefully, you will see that Isaiah is telling his king, Ahaz, not to worry about two neighbors, Rezin and Pekah, who threaten the kingdom, because these two "firebrands" will be vanquished. How long will that take? A few years -- i.e. in the amount of time it takes a young woman to bear a child, and raise him to know the difference between good and evil.
Actually, the Lord in verse 11 prompts Ahaz to ask for a sign. Ahaz in verse 12 refuses and the subject being addressed shifts from Ahaz to the house of David in verse 13. Thus it sets the stage for a fulfillment that need not take place in the days of Ahaz. For more on this, please visit the link given above to Glenn Miller's commentary where this objection is dealt with in detail.
As for the name of the child, Emanuel, though Christians render it as "G-d with us," it should be rendered as "G-d is with us," a statement to King Ahaz that he will defeat his two neighbors because he, Ahaz, has a divine ally. The name is a comment about G-d, not a description of the person so named. (See also comments on Isaiah 9:6).
What the text says is simple. To paraphrase -- look, the young woman is pregant and will give birth to a boy and she will call him "God is with us" he will be eating butter and honey before he knows to choose good from ill. Before he knows how to choose good from ill the lands of those people you fear will be forsaken.
We respond in detail regarding the historical context just below, but note that the author's assertion regarding the placement of "is" in the meaning of the child's name does not nullify the POSSIBILITY that this verse indicates the divine nature of the Messiah. However, we agree, in this case, that the meaning of the name does not prove the Christian assertion either (See our comments on Isaiah 9:6).Parenthetically, Jesus was never called "Emanuel".
"Yet see 2 Sam. 12.25; Jer. 20:1-6, et al. These names were applied yet never used. Is the author employing a double standard? In any case, the very fact that Christians today refer to Him as 'Immanuel' fufills the prophecy perfectly."
In addition, we must ask how the author would know whether or not Jesus was ever referred to as Immanuel. Furthermore, the purpose of the name in this prophecy could be merely to indicate the divine nature of the Messiah rather than to indicate an actual name by which He must be called. In fact, the author in the Isaiah 9:6 section (see below) provides us with an example of someone not considered to be divine yet has a name indicating an attribute/action of God. With this being the case, any argument asserting that the Messiah MUST be divine based SOLELY on the interpretation of the name "Immanuel" is probably faulty. On the other hand, since God chose a name that indicates the presence of God among His people as the name for the child, it well COULD be a hint at the Messiah's superhuman nature.
The author next gives us his commentary of verses 1-16. We will not comment specifically on that, but the reader can access it by clicking the link at the beginning of this section. We admonish the reader to compare the author's commentary, in light of the factors already discussed above, with our commentary that follows.
While we have argued, based on linguistic grounds, that we may not be able to prove or disprove that a virgin birth was being predicted, we should note that the context provides good reason to believe that a supernatural birth is intended by Isaiah. It should be kept in mind, of course, that the promise of the sign was shifted from Ahaz to the house of David in verse 13. This establishes the possibility of a future fulfillment beyond the days of Ahaz, which we will get to a little later. So, how is it that the context allows us to argue for the probability, rather than a mere possibility, of a supernatural birth being predicted in this passage? This assertion may be supported by examining the context of the passage and asking the question, "What exactly is the sign that God is going to give the house of David?" Let's look at verses 14-16:
"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings."
Once again, what exactly is this sign? Let's consider the options:
1. A young woman (virgin?) will conceive and bear a son.
2. The son's name will be Immanuel.
3. Immanuel shall eat butter and honey.
4. Immanuel will eventually know to choose good and refuse evil.
5. The land will be forsaken of its kings.
Remember that God implores Ahaz to ask for a sign in 7:10-11 that would confirm that Isaiah's prophecy in 7:4-9 would come to pass (i.e. that the two kings will not prevail against Jerusalem). For a sign to be given that is supposed to compel Ahaz to believe that God will prevent the capture of Jerusalem by Rezin and Pekah, there must be something about it to which divine activity can reasonably be attributed. With this in mind, let's examine the list. Young women conceive and bear children (including sons of course) all the time. Naming a child Immanuel could be self-fulfilling as could a child consuming butter and honey. Furthermore, there is nothing inherently impressive about a child growing up to choose good over evil (although some parents may disagree with us on that assessment ). This leaves us with two options; the "supernatural" option of #1 and also #5. It may be argued that option #5 is a reiteration of the prophecy itself given in verses 4 through 9, and thus to argue for it would be to argue that the fulfillment of the prophecy itself is the sign. Obviously, this would not make any sense. God tells Ahaz that He will give him a sign that the prophecy will come to pass. This would preclude option #5 from being included in the mix of possibilities. One pushback to this, however, is that the original prophecy of verses 4-9 foretells that Judah will not be overcome by Rezin and Pekah and that their attempts to establish the son of Tabeal as king there (verse 6) will not come to pass. In other words, the prophecy does not say that Rezin and Pekah themselves will be overthrown (as is indicated in 16b), but merely that they will not prevail against Judah; thus option #5 in this case is not precluded as possibly being the sign that God will give the house of David. Of course, in response to this pushback, it should be noted that the overthrow of the 2 kings would make it obvious at that point anyway that those same 2 kings will be unable to prevail against Judah. If there is to be a sign unconnected to the struggle between Judah with Israel/Syria itself that Israel and Syria will not prevail, the Christian assertion of a supernatural birth seems to make sense. Given the verses in question, what other option exists?
So what about the problem of historical context? If the sign was to be given to Ahaz, then it would only make sense that this occur within his lifetime. Ahaz in verse 12 refuses to ask for a sign, but Isaiah gives a prophetic oracle anyway. However, we see in verse 13 that he is not only addressing Ahaz, but the "house of David." (The Hebrew indicates that a plural audience is being addressed in the verse) Also important is the fact that this turns into an oracle of judgment against Judah in addition to the two kings:
"The Lord shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria." (Isaiah 7:17; consider also verses 18-25)
Beginning in chapter 8, we see that a second child comes into the picture:
"Moreover the Lord said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in with a man's pen concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz." (Isaiah 8:1)
Through Isaiah, a prophetess conceived and this child was given the above name (verse 3). Then we see a similar oracle to that in 7:16 regarding Immanuel:
"For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria." (verse 4)
With Maher-shalal-hash-baz, we have here an interesting parallel to the Immanuel child of Isaiah 7:14. The births of both children are important in terms of Isaiah's prophetic oracle(s). Rezin and Pekah will be defeated before each child develops an ability that virtually every child eventually develops. Is it possible then that the birth of Maher-shalal-hash-baz fulfills the Immanuel prophecy of Isaiah 7:14? Probably not, as Glenn Miller notes:
"Actually, not only is it NOT 'clearly described', there are in fact, NO TEXTUAL REASONS to equate Immanuel and the child of 8.3! They differ in virtually EVERY detail:
1. They have different names! And the passage in 8 is NOT cited as a 'fulfillment', as would have been typically done HAD it been a fulfillment (e.g. 1Kgs. 12:15; 1Kgs. 2:27; 2Kgs. 15:12; 1Kgs. 14:18; 2Kgs 7.17; 2 kgs 23.16). [the 'dual-names are okay' reply only works when the passages are far apart, btw]
2. Immanuel's name is positive and encouraging; Maher-shalal-hash-baz (i.e. "quick to the plunder, quick to the spoil") is ominous, alluding to the Assyria swift-power, which was soon to overtake Ephraim and Judah (v. 6-8).
3. The mother of Immanuel is an unknown virgin; Maher's mom is Isaiah's wife.
4. Immanuel is keyed to a moral or dietary spec; Maher is keyed to linguistic ability ("mama")
5. Immanuel is related to the larger destruction of the land; Maher is related to Damascus and Samaria (v.4)
6. Immanuel is from the house of David (9.7); Maher, as a descendent from Isaiah, probably was not. (although Jewish tradition says Isaiah was of royal stock)
7. Maher shows up as a 'bit' player (like his brother in 7.3); Immanuel is in the middle of passages that sweep wide spans of history (8.8,10)."
Regarding the "unknown" aspect of #3 on the above list, Miller explains:
"In verse 14, the Hebrew translated 'a virgin' (NIV et. al) is actually the 'almah' word, WITH THE DEFINITE ARTICLE (e.g. 'the' in English). The significance of this for our understanding of the passage can be found in the standard Hebrew grammars. In Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar (as updated by Kautzsch and Cowley) this passage is discussed in 126q:
"Peculiar to Hebrew is the employment of the article to denote a single person or thing (primarily one which is as yet unknown, and therefore not capable of being defined) as being present to the mind under given circumstances. In such cases in English the indefinite article is used."
The import for our passage is that 'the virgin' is SOMEONE 'unknown' to either Ahaz or Isaiah, and hence could NOT refer to Isaiah's wife (the Prophetess of 8.3) or Ahaz' royal court virgins (as many commentators argue for). This reference is left nebulous before Ahaz...a 'floating' referent, as it were... " (Source)
As in 7:17-25, Isaiah foretells that Assyria will overcome Judah as well:
"Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks: And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel." (Isaiah 8:7-8)
It is very interesting to note here that the land that will be taken over by the Assyrians is attributed to Immanuel. It seems reasonable to suggest that this is the same Immanuel spoken of in Isaiah 7:14, given that this is the only other time in the Hebrew Bible that the name occurs and, of course, the fact that the two instances occur so closely together. So what exactly are we to make of this "Immanuel" figure in light of this? It appears that he will be a very important individual given that he is attributed, in some sense at least, ownership of the land! With this being the case, we start to see a picture emerging where a Messianic theme is not only to be found in Isaiah 7, but also through chapters 8-11 as well. The rest of chapter, starting at verse 11, details God's admonition to Isaiah not to walk in the ways of his rebellious people. This then leads us into Isaiah 9, which contains another prominent Messianic prophecy (see our section on this just below). Despite the oracles of judgment against Israel that lead us up to this point, Isaiah reveals the following:
"Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Thou has tmultiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire." (Isaiah 9:1-5)
Following these verses, of course, comes the pregnant Isaiah 9:6-7 passage, which discusses the birth of another child that will head an everlasting government. The rest of the chapter and much of chapter 10 serves as a further oracle of judgment against Israel and Ephraim (verses 8-9). God's vessel through which these nations will be judged is Assyria (10:5). However, because of the pride of the king of Assyria, they too will be judged and broken (10:12-19). A remnant of Israel will then escape (10:20-22). The rest of the chapter proceeds to describe further the judgment that is to come upon Assyria. Next, we move into chapter 11 where we find another important Messianic passage:
"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;….And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth." (Isaiah 11:1-2, 10-12, emphasis added)
Finally, in chapter 12, God will be praised when He will bring them this salvation: "And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." (Isaiah 12:1-3)
So, let us now summarize the data. God promises Ahaz that, if he has faith, Israel and Syria will not prevail against him. God wishes to give Ahaz a sign, but the latter refuses to ask. However, God declares that He will give a sign to the house of David, but in the prophetic oracle judgment is not only pronounced upon Israel and Syria, but also Judah. The land that shall be overrun by Assyria is also said to be Immanuel's (8:8), the same child of promise in 7:14-16. God continues to pronounce judgment on Judah, warning Isaiah not to take part in their wickedness (8:11-12) and that he should place his trust in the Lord (8:13). However, in chapter 9, God gives words of encouragement that "the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." (9:2; Matthew applies 9:1-2 as a fulfilled Messianic prophecy in Jesus (see below)) In verses 9:6-7, a child that will be called "Wonderful," "Counselor," "the mighty God," "The everlasting Father," and "the Prince of Peace" will establish David's kingdom and a reign that will have no end. From 9:8-10:11, further oracles of judgment are spoken against Israel, Ephraim, and Syria. After this, Assyria will be judged for its haughtiness (10:12-19). A remnant of Israel will return (10:20-23). In chapter 11, the righteous Davidic king is once again foretold, the one to which the Gentiles will seek (11:10). God will then recover the remnant of his people a second time. Finally, God will be praised for His salvation (12:1-6).
When we consider chapters 7-12 as a whole, an interesting picture seems to emerge. The backdrop for these chapters is clearly the judgment that will befall Israel and Judah by the hands of the king of Assyria. However, this Immanuel child is given a very special status as the land is later said to be his land. This could be an indicator of the child's imperial status. From this, it seems quite reasonable to postulate that the Davidic kingly figures of Isaiah 9:6-7 and 11:1-12 also refer to this seemingly imperial Immanuel figure (especially since these passages are so close together and within the same literary unit). In fact, Matthew seems to connect Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 9:1-2, since he cites both as fulfilled by Christ (The latter referring to His ministry in Galilee (Matthew 3:12-16)). It is also possible that Matthew, in 2:23, is referring to Isaiah 11 as well (See Glenn Miller's piece for a discussion on this point). Given the universal and perpetual reign that the Davidic king of 9:6-7 and 11:1-12 is said to have, it appears that against the backdrop of the Assyrian invasion we have some explicit Messianic themes emerging. The return of the remnant from Israel a second time in 11:12 that follows the last of the 3 Messianic passages in this unit is particularly worth noting. N.T. Wright explains that the Israelites of the 1st century A.D. were still awaiting their true return from exile, despite already being in the land with the end of the exile to Babylon occurring hundreds of years in the past. They awaited the return of God to Jerusalem to overturn the Roman yolk and to reign as the true king. This would mark the true end to their exile. While Jesus clearly antagonized His contemporaries' violent revolutionary hopes, He claimed to be the Messiah, the One through which Israel could finally return from exile. It was through Him that the remnant of Israel would be restored. This, quite obviously, deserves much more space, and we hope at some time in the not-too-distant future to work up another article developing this theme. However, interested readers may consult N.T. Wright's "Jesus and the Victory of God" for a thorough treatment on this point (cf. especially chapters 5-10).
In conclusion, we can say that the historical context is not an issue and, upon closer examination of its textual setting, the Messianic themes of Isaiah 7:14 appear to indeed be present, as Christians assert. As far as the virgin birth issue is concerned, it may not be possible on linguistic grounds to prove or disprove, although the context itself may well argue for something more than a mere ordinary birth. See also the valuable commentary provided by Brown in [Brown (2): 24-32].
Isaiah 9:6 (KJV). "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty G-d, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.'" Christians say this refers to Jesus and indicates that Jesus will be born a child who is, at the same time, G-d.
Mistranslation: The two letter word "is", is usually not stated in Hebrew. Rather,"is" is understood. For example, the words "hakelev" (the dog) and "gadol" (big), when joined into a sentence -- hakelev gadol -- means "the dog IS big," even though no Hebrew word in that sentence represents the word "is." A more accurate translation of the name of that child, then, would be "A wonderful counselor is the mighty G-d, the everlasting father ..." Like the name "Emanuel," this name describes G-d, not the person who carries the name.
Gray Pilgrim notes in response:
"Context, context, context! You also forgot to mention that 'hakelev gadol' can simply signify big dog. One cannot tell without looking at context whether an adjective following a noun is meant to be an attributive adjective or a predicate adjective without looking at the context.
"Ok let us look at this verse using the Masoretic markings to break it up as we go (Note in the Hebrew text this is verse 5):
"A few things to note here there is that there is only one animate subject in this verse, as a simple clause analysis will show
Notice that the only other grammatical subject in this verb is his rule which is feminine and as the verb in 09:05b1 is unequivocally masculine, the only fitting person that the titles can belong to is the child in verse 1. Moreover, the Masoretes would take umbrage with reading the titles as a clause (i.e. a group of words that have predication in them, see A.F. den Exter Blokland In Search of Text Syntax Applicatio 14. Amsterdam: VU press, 1995, for an explanation of my clause analysis and a further development of what is a clause and predication.) But back to your flaw here, the Pashta on Yoe'tz (counselor) is a disjunctive of a high quality. 2. The Zaqeph on Gibur (mighty) is even stronger and right there puts to kibosh on your proposed verbless clause explanation, 3. The Tiphcha on Aviad (Eternal Father) is even further problematic. I double checked my Koren edition (one of the major Jewish editions of the Hebrew text of the OT) to see if they had a variant notation on the Hebrew text, but they have it pointed the same except they added a maqqeph (basically a hyphen) between avy-ad (thus Eternal-Father).
For a brief explanation of the Masoretic notes mentioned here one could see a number of sources, such as William R. Scott: A Simplified Guide to BHS; N. Richland Hills, TX: Bibal, 1987; or Page H. Kelley, Daniel S. Mynatt, and Timothy G. Crawford. The Masorah of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: Introduction and Annotated Glossary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998, or for the standard work Israel Yeivin: Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah: Translated and Edited by E.J. Revell. Masoretic Studies 5. Atlanta: Scholars, 1980.
Gray Pilgrim, upon request, has also provided us with a key for the symbols used above:
"A = Actant or the subject of the clause. @ signifies that the clause is using the same subject. However, it is not thematized, i.e. the actual word does not occur in that clause. Thus in 05a1 A = child, 05a2 @=child (but it not thematized 5a3 @ = child 5b1 @ = child.) In all of the clauses the subject is in fact the child, thus it strengthens the argument that these titles do refer to the child. An explanation of this system can be found in:
A. F. den Exter Blokland. "Clause-analysis in Biblical Hebrew Narrative--an Explanation and a Manual for Compilation." TrinJ 1 (1990): 73-102.
Context: Biblical names often describe G-d, and no one thinks to apply the description to the people with these names. The name Isaiah itself means "G-d is salvation," and not that the prophet himself is G-d in a human body. Were we to use the same logic that Christians use on the names in Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6, we would say that "Tuviya" (G-d is good), "Yedaya" (G-d knows), and "Ya-el" (HaShem is G-d) also are all G-d.
As to the names in Isaiah 9:6, however, this is not an adequate parallel. It says that the child will be CALLED "The Mighty God" and "Everlasting Father," not that this is what the child's name will actually mean. It seems unlikely that any Jew or Christian would refer to a mere human being as "The Mighty God" or "Everlasting Father" given the blasphemous overtones that such a reference would carry.
Although it was not mentioned here, some anti-missionaries try to apply this prophecy to King Hezekiah. James Price, in response to this claim, writes:
"Concerning this passage, Lippard stated: "Jewish tradition says that this refers to King Hezekiah, not the Messiah (Sigal 1981, pp. 29-32). Isaiah 9:7, if applied to Jesus, is unfulfilled since it speaks of his kingship." However, Lippard is incorrect because this passage is clearly regarded as Messianic in the ancient pre-Christian Jewish literature and the Talmudic literature. So, whatever Jewish tradition Sigal referred to must be from a different source derived from post-Christian times.
"Obviously this passage cannot literally refer to King Hezekiah because his kingdom did come to an end and titles of deity were never applied to him. Such titles were reserved for the Messiah. It is true that this passage is not cited in the New Testament as a Messianic prophecy fulfilled by Jesus. But on the other hand, this passage is alluded to in the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary: 'He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.' (Luke 1:32-33).
"Titles of deity were applied to Jesus: 'looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ' (Titus 2:13; see also 2 Peter 1:1); 'But to the Son He says: 'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever'' (Heb 1:8); 'God was manifested in the flesh' (1 Tim 3:16); 'the Word was God' (John 1:1). It is true that the exact titles found in Isaiah 9:6 are not applied to Jesus, yet each of them is alluded to in some sense in the life and ministry of Jesus. Lippard's illogical and unreasonable references to Jesus not being a king have been previously answered, and no further comment needs to be made here. So there is no reason to doubt that certain aspects of this prophecy have been fulfilled by Jesus, and the future aspects will be fulfilled by Him." [Price (3)]
Consider also the following Jewish sources on this passage:
"The prophet saith to the house of David, A child has been born to us, a son has been given to us; and he has taken the law upon himself to keep it, and his name has been called from of old, Wonderful counselor, Mighty God, He who lives forever, the Anointed one (or Messiah), in whose days peace shall increase upon us (The Targum of Isaiah, J.F. Stenning, Editor and Translator (Oxford: Clarendon, 1949), p. 32). [Webster (4): 224]
"And why is he called Gabriel, a name made up of the words Gapri ('My means whereby I prevail') and 'El ("God")? Because it is written of Judah For Judah prevailed (gabar) above his brethren (I Chronicles 5:2), and it is also written of a scion of Judah And his name is called 'Wonderful in counsel is God the Mighty (El Gibbor)" (Isaiah 9:5) (Footnote: Refers to Hezekiah and the Messiah) (Pesikta Rabbati, William G, Braude, Translator (New Haven: Yale University, 1968), Volume II, Piska 46.3, p. 793). (emphasis the original) [Webster (4): 224]
Michael Brown writes,
"The oldest Jewish translation of Isaiah 9:6, found in the Septuagint, understands all the names as referring to the king, rendering this verse into Greek as follows: 'For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder: and his name is called the Messenger of great counsel [Megale he arche]: for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to him.' The Targum, while explicitly identifying this as a Messianic prophecy, renders the verse in Aramaic with an interesting twist, '…and his name will be called from before the One who is wonderful in counsel, the mighty God who exists forever, Messiah, because there will be abundant peace upon us in his days' (translated literally). The problem with this translation, aside from the fact that it is grammatically strained, is that almost all the names are heaped upon God, and only the last two are given to the son-although it is the naming of this royal child that is central to the verse. How odd! Clearly, the names refer to the son, not to the Lord who gave them. In other words, the Targumic rendering would be like saying, 'And God-the great, glorious, holy, wonderful, eternal, unchangeable Redeemer and King and Lord-calls his name Joe." THERE IS NO PRECEDENT OR PARALLEL TO THIS ANYWHERE IN THE BIBLE AND NO LOGICAL EXPLANATION FOR THIS RENDERING, NOR IS IT EVEN A NATURAL, GRAMMATICAL RENDERING OF THE HEBREW. The characteristics of the royal child are central-highlighted here by his names-not the characteristics of the Lord. AS THE BRILLIANT HEBREW AND RABBINIC SCHOLAR FRANZ DELITZSCH NOTED, EVEN SAMUEL DAVID LUZZATTO, ONE OF THE GREATEST OF THE ITALIAN RABBIS, RIGHTLY OBSERVED THAT 'YOU DO NOT EXPECT TO FIND ATTRIBUTES OF GOD HERE, BUT SUCH AS WOULD BE CHARACTERISTIC OF THE CHILD.' This agrees with the statements in the Talmudic and midrashic writings, along with the comments of Abraham Ibn Ezra, all of which state that the names refer to the child." (emphasis added) [Brown (2): 32-33] in an endnote attached to this quote notes:
"Cf. the following Rabbinic statements: 'R. Yose the Galilean said: 'The name of the Messiah is Peace, for it is said, Everlasting Father, Prince Peace'' (Midrash Pereq Shalom, p. 101); 'The Messiah is called by eight names: Yinnon [see Ps. 72:17], Tzemach [e.g., Jer. 23:5]; Pele' [Wonderful, Isa. 9:6(5)], Yo'etz [Counselor, Isa. 9:6(5)], Mashiach [Messiah], El [God, Isa. 9:6(5)], Gibbor [Hero, Isa. 9:6(5)], and Avi' Ad Shalom [Eternal Father of Peace, Isa. 9:6(5)]; see Deuteronomy Rabbah 1:20." [Brown (2): End note 86, page 210]
Micah 5:1 (Or 5:2, depending on the edition.) (KJV) "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." Christians say that since Jesus came from Bethlehem, the verse refers to him.
Historical Context is the problem with this interpretation. Even if Jesus was born in Bethlehem (which is uncertain),….
The data we have on Christ's birthplace comes from 2 of His biographies, each of which indicates that He was born in Bethlehem. See Matthew 2:1-8 and Luke 2:3-11. Since it is essentially beyond our scope, and the author doesn't present us with any reason to doubt the testimonies of the biographers, we will not comment further on this. The author continues….
….he did not fulfill the second part of the verse -- Jesus was never a ruler ("moshel") in Israel. Christians answer that he was some kind of virtual or spiritual ruler, but the word "moshel," in the 13 places I find it in the Bible, always refers to visible physical power. Without at least one other use of the word to indicate non-visible authority, this answer is weak.
First of all, the problem is resolved simply by noting that Christians believe that Jesus, upon His 2nd coming, will establish a literal, or "visible" (as the author calls it), Kingdom. However, it is probably more than reasonable to suggest that Jesus is still a ruler in the "visible" authoritative sense. Quite obviously, more people have submitted to Christ's rule throughout the centuries than all of the other Israelite kings combined. One might say in response, "Yes, but the prophecy says ruler over Israel." However, even if we interpret this so it can only mean literal Jews, then Christ still fulfills the prophecy since hundreds of thousands of Jews throughout the centuries, including between 100,000 and 300,000 today, embrace Jesus as the Messiah. However, a case can be made that "Israel" need not refer only to literal Jews. Consider the words of the apostle Paul:
"I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew….Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace….What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their backs always. I say then, Have they sbumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump also is holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in." (Romans 11:1, 2a, 5, 7-19)
Here the apostle relates Israel to a wild olive tree with the Jews being the natural branches. However, the unnatural branches, the Gentiles, can be grafted into this tree through belief in the Messiah.
Finally, consider this excerpt by Glenn Miller in his response to Jim Lippard:
"So, finally, we can get to the question--WAS JESUS A RULER IN THE SENSE OF MICAH 5.2?
"We are confronted here with an interesting methodological puzzle. IF (as the prophecy suggests) the EXISTING RULING GROUP would resist His claims to the kingship, HOW WOULD WE show that He was indeed King? [It would actually be easy to satisfy the 'ruler' word requirement of the verse, for that general of a term would certainly apply to a rabbi-like teacher who taught daily in the temple and in front of large crowds, and was even acknowledged by the leaders as a spiritual authority (John 3). This would BY ITSELF answer the issue/objection raised by Jim. But we can actually go one step farther and make a relatively strong case that he was recognized as King by the important constituents of day (other that the 'rival rulers' of course).]
"Let's look at four incidents:
1. The Birth of Jesus -- we already examined the passage about the Magi from the East already. Their testimony was that he was 'born King' and when they found him, even in extremely impoverished and non-regal circumstances(!), they worshipped him as such, and presented the 'babe in the stable' the gifts of royalty.
2. The Inauguration of his ministry--the Calling of Nathaniel. Immediately after his baptism with John the Baptist we have this passage:
When Jesus saw Nathaniel approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false." "How do you know me?" Nathaniel asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you." Then Nathaniel declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." (John 1:47-49)
3. The End of His Ministry--the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. After all the plots of the Jews, and all the arguments of the rulers against the common Jewry, they still recognized their true King (John 12:12-13, 17-19):
The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna! " "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the King of Israel!
Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!"
The 'great crowd' and 'whole world' expressions seem to indicate a widespread acceptance by the mainstream populace of Jesus as their true King.
4. The Night before His Death--the Encounter with Pilate.
The exchanges between Jesus and Pilate, and between Pilate and the Ruling Jews leads me to believe that Pilate accepted the truth of Jesus' claim to be King of the Jews (although in a different sense than the rabble of John 6:15 wanted him to be). Here are the salient facts:
This data STRONGLY suggests that Pilate (who had been alerted by his wife about the righteous character of this 'criminal'--Mt 27:19) KNEW that Jesus spoke the truth, and understood as well (from the explanations of Jesus about His kingdom being not 'from this world') that He was NOT a treat to the Roman empire at that time. This makes the most sense of his questions to Jesus, his fear, his attempts to free Jesus, his word choices in dialogue, his Crucifixion Announcement, and his desire to be free 'from this man's blood' (Mt 27:24).
So we have acceptance by foreigners, by a cynical Israelite, by the majority of the populace, and probably by Pilate (a representative of the 'real' ruling class--Jesus pointed out that Pilate's authority was actually from God--John 19:11). final note or two about the 'rival rulers': Although we would not expect them to accept the royalty of Jesus for obvious reasons, this doesn't in any way DETRACT from His royalty. (In some sense, it actually SUPPORTS it--the OT data consistently pictures the messiah as 'rejected', 'smitten', 'scorned' etc.) We have many precedents in OT times of where the 'rightful' king is NOT accepted by the "rulers". For example, from the life of David:
The point here is basically this: The fact that the 'ruling Jewish families' of Jesus' day did not publicly admit his kingship is fully expected, and DOES NOT NEGATE the acceptance of His 'rulership' by the other 'normal' constituents. [See also Zeph3:15, where YHWH calls Himself "King" over Israel--in spite of the royal personage of the time!]"
Our critic goes on:
Christians also answer that Jesus will be the ruler when he returns. But with that claim, they apparently agree that in fact he has not fulfilled the prophecy at this time, but that they think he will in the future. As the Tanach does not speak of any second coming of Messiah, even that hope has little basis.
In light of the arguments laid out above, it is probably not necessary to argue that this prophecy has not reached fulfillment. However, even if we do concede that the "ruler" portion of the prophecy has yet to be fulfilled, then this obviously would not negate the fulfillment of the other portion(s) of the prophecy approximately 2,000 years ago. The main apologetic usage of this passage by Christians generally has been to argue that 1) The Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem and 2) The Messiah is pre-existent. As for the 2-fold coming of the Messiah is concerned, the author's claim is based on his own understanding of the Messiah's mission. However, there are certainly some indicators that the Messiah would come 2 times. The most obvious would be the fact that the Hebrew Scriptures describe the Messiah as both a King AND a Sufferer (See more below….). This has led some Jewish commentators to postulate that there would be 2 Messiahs, but one Messiah fulfilling two roles is just as plausible. Christians, in connection with Christ's words, believe that it will be Jesus returning once again to consummate the fulfillment of the Messianic King (although as we noted above this actually began at Christ's birth). But, one could ask, "How can you take Christ's word for it?" The answer would be, if He really did fulfill the prophecies of the Suffering Messiah, He therefore can be trusted to fulfill the prophecies still to come. See below for our defenses of the "Suffering Messiah" passages. Brown also has a helpful discussion pertinent to the "Messianic timetable" as detailed in the Bible [cf. "Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Volume 1." 69-88].
One point that Brown makes that we will briefly summarize is based on the anti-typical fulfillment of the annual feasts. Upon Christ's 1st coming, He served as the antitype of the Passover Lamb by being crucified on the Eve of the Passover; the feast of firstfruits by His resurrection on the 3rd day; the feast of Pentecost by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost that occurred the year of Christ's crucifixion. This was the anti-typical fulfillment of the Spring feasts. Brown notes, however, that there is about a five month gap in between this cluster of Spring feasts and the cluster of Fall feasts which come later in the year. This lengthy gap in time could therefore serve as a template for understanding that there would be a substantial gap in time between anti-typical fulfillments of the Spring and Fall feasts [Ibid. 81-84]. (Whether the anti-typical fulfillments for the Fall feasts occurred around the time of 70 A.D. or in what is commonly regarded as "the end times" is beyond our scope.)
"If the verse does not refer to Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, who does it refer to?" Frankly, asking that question reveals unfamiliarity with the Hebrew Scripture or Jewish history. From Bethlehem comes one of the greatest and most famous rulers of Israel -- King David. The verse may indeed be messianic, refering to Messiah through his ancestor David (similar to Isaiah's reference to David's father, Jesse, to indicate the Davidic line). Or the prophet may be referring to David himself. But, since it talks about an obvious ruler, the verse really cannot refer to Jesus.
This has already been answered above, and since David was born before this prophecy was uttered by Micah, it doesn't seem to be applicable to David himself, although the fact that David was from Bethlehem may have been the divine logic behind making Bethlehem the birthplace of the Davidic Messiah.
Jeremiah 31 verses 30-33 (or 31-34, depending on the edition) is often cited by Christians who identify the new covenant mentioned there with Jesus or with their "New Testament". The problem is, they don't read far enough; they seem to read only the first two verses. KJV says:
1 31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their G-d, and they shall be my people.34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
The third verse is quite specific -- this is the covenant: my "law," (actually "Torah" in Hebrew, which is better rendered as 'teaching' than as 'law'), will be in everyone's heart, and (fourth verse) no one will teach anyone else about G-d, because all will know G-d. Since Jesus didn't bring this about, he can't be this new covenant.
This passage is cited as fulfilled by the covenant Jesus established by the author of Hebrews as well:
"For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8:8-13)
The author's first objection is not really specific. Obviously, Christians believe as is taught in the New Testament that Christ's work and the power of the Holy Spirit make it possible for the laws of God to be established within the life of the believer, or "written on the heart," so to speak. Perhaps in mentioning the Torah the author is implicitly arguing that, because Christians do not abide by the whole Torah (for instance, the necessity of circumcision), that this verse cannot apply to the covenant that Jesus established? As the author has himself demonstrated in that the word can be translated as "teaching," Glenn Miller concurs and has this to say:
"The first thing to realize is that Torah is not equated with 'law': EVERYONE complains about this, 'Jew and Gentile' alike! Torah is instruction, teaching, the revelation of God's will and intent. It comes in many forms: laws, narrative, proverbs, oracles."
First, from the Rabbinic scholar Solomon Schecter:
"It must first be stated that the term Law or Nomos is not a correct rendering of the Hebrew word Torah. The legalistic element, which might rightly be called the Law, represents only one side of the Torah. To the Jew the word Torah means a teaching or an instruction of any kind. It may be either a general principle or a specific injunction, whether it be found in the Pentateuch or in other parts of the Scriptures, or even outside of the canon. The juxtaposition in which Torah and Mizwoth, Teaching and Commandments, are to be found in the Rabbinic literature, implies already that the former means something more than merely the Law (e.g b. Ber 31a; b. Makk 23a; m. Abot 3.11). Torah and Mitzvoth are a complement to each other, or, as a Rabbi expressed it, "they borrow from each other, as wisdom and understanding - charity and lovingkindness--the moon and the stars," but they are not identical. To use the modern phraseology, to the Rabbinic Jew, Torah was both an institution and a faith. (Solomon Schecter in [ART,
"To the great majority of the Rabbis who retained their sober sense, and cared more about what God requires of us to be than about knowing what he is, the Torah was simply the manifestation of God's will, revealed to us for our good; the pedagogue, as the Rabbis expressed it, who educates God's creatures." [ART,
Then consider other, evangelical statements:
"What has handicapped our modern appreciation and usefulness of the Pentateuch more than anything else has been the incorrect, or at least overly restrictive, narrow and inadequate translation of the Hebrew word torah in the Greek Septuagint as nomos, "law." This in turn gave rise to the French rendering of loi, and the German Gesetz. The problem with all these translations of torah is that they continue to give credence to the notion that this portion of Scripture denotes merely formal regulations or rituals that the community could use to attain salvation….But this view is also incorrect because it fails to understand what torah means. Torah comes from the verb "to point [out the direction one should go]." It was intended to serve as guidance and direction for one's life, not as static requirements that supplied a rigid set of rules demarcating what was in bounds from that which was out of bounds. That is why the wisdom books refer so frequently to the contents of torah as being a "path" for one's lifestyle: it pointed the direction a person should go; it was guidance….The legal sections of the Torah are a relatively small part of the total Pentateuch. If one places all the material from Exodus 20-40, the entire 27 chapters of Leviticus, and the first ten chapters of Numbers together, they form only 58 chapters out of a total of 187 chapters. In other words, there are 129 chapters in the first five books of the Bible that are not included in the legal portions of the total Torah. [sic: not sure how he counted Deut here…] And there is more. What laws do appear are fully integrated into the total story and text of the whole Pentateuch that trace the progress of God's word of promise to his people. Thus, to discuss one or more of these so-called laws (or to use a better word, directions) in abstraction, and apart from the context of the story setting in which they occur, is to do a disservice both to the so-called law and the context of the narrative itself." [OT:OTDATRR:
"A survey of the 220 occurrences of tora throughout the OT reveals three main aspects to this word. It involves (1) teaching or instruction to be learned, (2) commands to be obeyed and (3) guidance about how to live in specific situations….The idea of tora as teaching is particularly prominent in Deuteronomy and Exodus…Fourth, the written law of Deuteronomy has attained a fixed and authoritative form. Several references are made in Deuteronomy 28-31 to the "book of the tora," which is probably synonymous with "this law" discussed above. The existence of a written form of tora gave it a final form that was not to be added to nor subtracted from (Deut 4:2). The idea of written tora was not, of course, new. It goes back to the Ten Commandments, which were written by God (Ex 24:12), and to the book of the covenant, which Moses wrote at Yahweh's command (Ex 24:4). However, the fact that Deuteronomy includes narrative and sermon alongside individual commands and teaching takes the notion of written tora to a new dimension. The presence of extensive sections on the historical context of the new generation (Deut 1-4), interpretation of the detailed laws (Deut 5-11), the need for a fresh response (Dent 27-30) and a future perspective (Deut 31-34) also shows that this authoritative written tora contained principles that were adaptable to new situations….The central distinguishing feature of pentateuchal law is that it expresses the will of Yahweh…This is the main reason why 'instruction' or 'teaching' often conveys the sense of tora better than 'law'." [OT:DictOT5,
The breadth of the word can also be seen in the usage of it in the rabbinics:
"In rabbinic literature, the word 'Torah' bears seven meanings: (1) the written Torah; (2) the one whole Torah, oral and written, revealed by God to Moses at Sinai; (3) a particular thing, such as a scroll, containing divinely revealed words; (4) revelation in general; (5) a classification or rules, as in 'the torah of…,' meaning 'the rules that govern ….'; (6) the act of studying the Torah; and (7) the status of teaching, namely, deriving from the Torah, as against deriving from the scribes." [HI:DictJBP,
That the torah is much more extensive than just 'law' can also be seen from the Psalmist's usage of it, in which reference is made to the miracles (obviously not 'law'--but good instruction) and Israel's rebellion (obviously not 'law'--but good instruction):
"According to the Psalms, the Israelites used the tora to teach their children about God's wonders and Israel's repeated rebellion (Ps 78.5)…" [OT:DictOT5,
Since torah included historical sections/narratives, with obvious time-delimited significance (e.g., the command to Noah to build an ark), torah was more eternal revelation of the character/will of God (e.g., God looks to show grace and makes plans to rescue the needy) than eternally-binding commands (e.g., "everyone should build an ark, X cubits by…").
This means, of course, that even laws-in-historical-contexts could reveal the heart of God, whether one-time-only (e.g., go down to Egypt because of the famine) or enduring (e.g., thou shalt love the Lord your God).
"So, the 'law' might not have to be in force at all to be 'torah'…all it had to do was reveal the heart/character of God, as a guide to how we should think and act. An eternal torah, therefore, would NOT require there to be a set of eternally in-force or continually obligatory regulations." (Source)
Thus, this possible implicit objection by the author is not problematic for the Christian understanding.
Next, the author wrote:
"….and (fourth verse) no one will teach anyone else about G-d, because all will know G-d. Since Jesus didn't bring this about, he can't be this new covenant."
JPH once wrote in a response to another anti-missionary site that is now offline:
"It's rather peculiar for the AM site to try to distance Christianity from this by making light of that "every man" and "all". The phrase "every man" is regularly used in the OT contextually to refer to something non-universal:
Exod. 1:1 Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.
Ex. 7:12 For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.
Every man? Every man in the world had a rod? No, this is obviously limited, and while 'every man' is used in some places in a universal sense (as in the Flood judging all), the content is determined by context, and in Jer. 31:34 that context is "the house of Israel" (Jer. 31:33) -- who, again, is now all who believe and accept the Messiah. It is rather poignant that the AM site makes much of the context following v. 34 but not much of what is before it."
Zechariah 12:10 (KJV) "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn."
The missionary argument here seems to be that the verse speaks of someone who has been pierced, and Jesus was pierced (by nails and by a spear) so the verse must refer to Jesus. The main problem with this idea is that it doesn't fit the context. This verse is part of description of events to happen at the beginning of the Messianic age. Verses 2 to nine describe some of these events (in the New Living Translation because it is much easier to understand than the KJV):
2. I will make Jerusalem and Judah like an intoxicating drink to all the nearby nations that send their armies to besiege Jerusalem. 3 On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone, a burden for the world. None of the nations who try to lift it will escape unscathed. 4 "On that day, says the LORD, I will cause every horse to panic and every rider to lose his nerve. I will watch over the people of Judah, but I will blind the horses of her enemies. 5 And the clans of Judah will say to themselves, `The people of Jerusalem have found strength in the LORD Almighty, their God.' 6 "On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a brazier that sets a woodpile ablaze or like a burning torch among sheaves of grain. They will burn up all the neighboring nations right and left, while the people living in Jerusalem remain secure. 7 The LORD will give victory to the rest of Judah first, before Jerusalem, so that the people of Jerusalem and the royal line of David will not have greater honor than the rest of Judah. 8 On that day the LORD will defend the people of Jerusalem; the weakest among them will be as mighty as King David! And the royal descendants will be like God, like the angel of the LORD who goes before them! 9 For my plan is to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
One needs only open the newspaper to see that none of these events, which are listed before this "piercing" has happened yet. So how could the "piercing" refer to a historical event.
Let's take a look at verse 10 once more, keeping in mind verses 1-9 given above by the author:
"And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn."
The author believes that the context indicates that this piercing must take place after the events described in verses 1-9. However, the context actually indicates that the MOURNING over the one that they pierced will take place after this event. This is understood in many circles to refer to the heralding of Christ's 2nd coming at the end of the world. The Jews (or many at least) will mourn for the one that they pierced (Jesus) and will be cleansed of their sins for accepting the Messiah. The context of this verse indicates that the Jews will be looking back on a past event, and this need not be immediately after the piercing takes place.
On the other hand, JPH, upon request, provides us with a concise commentary of Zechariah 12:1-10 from the preterist perspective:
(12:1) The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.
(2) Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.
Comments: The Roman war of 70 AD. Jerusalem and the area known then as Judah were both besieged by the Romans at this time.
(3) And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
"Earth" would be equivalent to the oikoumene -- then represented by the Roman Empire, the master of the oikoumene. "Cut in pieces" would be fulfilled as Rome thereafter collapsed under the ideological weight of the inbreakinng Kingdom of God.
(4) In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness.
(5) And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the LORD of hosts their God.
(6) In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem.
Comments: Here we should note that the identification of the church with Israel -- found in Romans -- has particular relevance, as does Revelation's vision of a "new Jerusalem" inhabited by the body of Christ. Once again, a picture of Rome being slowly overturned from within by the church.
(7) The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah.
Comments: Tents of Judah means Christians who follow Jesus, the Messiah from Judah and the occupant of David's throne.
(8) In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them.
Comments: Of this I would read, "The Lord will defend the inhabitants of the NEW Jerusalem (the body of Christ)" and the language here is a figure of speech for them being justified by the fulfillment of Jesus' predictions. A little stretchy sounding, but this is after all apocalyptic.
(9) And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
Comments: Fulfilled in the eventual destruction of Rome, as well as all of Christianity's other pagan opponents, and that it is now the lead religion in the world.
(10) And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
Comments: I think what we may see in that is some sort of regret that Jesus was NOT accepted at the triumphal entry. Sort of like the longing Paul speaks of for creation to be redeemed, and how we still ache for Christ to return and clean things up.
Th critic continues:
There is also a problem of translation. The Hebrew word rendered as "pierced" is "dakar", which usually has the implication of stab or run through with a sword, not pierce with a spear or nail. And, in fact, both the NLT and the KJV render that same word, dakar, as "stab" or "thrust through" in the very next chapter, Zechariah 13: 1) (KJV) In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. 2) And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land. 3) And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the LORD: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth. 4 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive: 5 But he shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman; for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth. 6 And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. Note, by the way, the reference to the false prophet with wounds in his hands in verse 6.
We see no reason here that "dakar" cannot mean "the stabbing" or "to run through" flesh with a spear or nails as occurs in crucifixions. The example the author gave us in 13:3 doesn't even necessarily imply the use of a sword or any specific "stabbing device." (What of the spear used by the Roman centurion?)
The author briefly mentions Zechariah 13:6, which ironically enough, is used by some anti-missionaries as an actual prophecy of Jesus (Even more peculiarly, some Christians, unfortunately, point to this verse as a Messianic prophecy, apparently without examining the context). This is because the context is speaking of false prophets. Michael Brown notes in response:
"Actually, the passage of which you speak has nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus. To be sure, you are right in saying it is a prophecy about false prophets, but it makes no reference to crucifixion--the Hebrew actually speaks of wounds on the false prophet's back, not on his hands. The only references to the Messiah in this passage of Scripture are in the powerful, God-centered, repentance-based passages that come before and after Zechariah 13:1-6. So, you have failed to recognize the true references to the Messiah in Zechariah 12-14 and have focused on the one passage that does not apply to him." [Brown (2): 179-180]
"In fact, no less a Hebrew authority than H. L. Ginsberg concluded that the Hebrew actually meant 'on your back' (literally, 'between your shoulders'). He demonstrated this in an article published in 1978, basing his conclusions on examples from the Ugaritic language (discovered in 1929 in Syria) and from the Tanakh itself. This helps to explain why the NJPSV, of which Ginsberg was the editor primarily responsible for the translation of the Prophets, rendered Zechariah 13:6, 'And if he is asked, "What are those sores on your back?" he will reply, 'From being beaten in the homes of my friends.'" (Note again that the Hebrew says 'between your hands/arms' and not 'on your hands/arms.') [Brown (2): 180-181]
Brown notes at least two other features of this passage that cannot apply to Jesus:
1) In 13:3, it is said that the prophet's (or prophets') parents will thrust him/them through. Jesus was crucified, not killed by his parents.
2) Verse 5 indicates that the false prophet will be a husbandman of cattle whereas Jesus was a carpenter. [Brown (2): 180]
Lastly, Michael Brown makes note of a tradition in the Talmud, b. Sukkah 55a., which applies one of two interpretations of this text to the death of Messiah ben Joseph. The non-Messianic interpretation of this source refers to the sinful inclination of man that is destroyed with the weeping of the people being due to the fact that they discover how easily it could be overcome. The Messianic interpretation refers to the death of Messiah son of Joseph from fighting in a final great war for his people. Subsequently, upon the request of a second Messiah, Messiah son of David, God raised Messiah son of Joseph from the dead. [Brown (2): 148-149]
Psalm 2 is about a king, who is annointed, against whom other kings plot, and who has just been declared G-d's son. This hits so many key words that Christians use, one can hardly blame them for trying to apply it to Jesus, even though there was a much better candidate. The KJV renders it like this: 1 2 ... the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed,... 2 7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. 3 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, ... This Psalm, written (according to tradition) by King David, is about David. Among David's other accomplishments, he was a military leader who expanded Israel's borders far beyond the rule of the previous king, Saul. "The Kings of the earth" are in areas conquered by David and want to break away from David's rule. According to the Psalmist (David), G-d laughs at them, and will empower David to crush them. Therefore these kings should "be wise" -- i.e. accept David's authority over them.
The king says he is G-d's son. Christians say Jesus was G-d's only son, but the Bible identifies Israel as G-d's first born son (Exodus 4:22), which indicates others. That David would be called another of G-d's sons is consistant with the immense role he plays in Jewish history, a role which Christians may not fully appreciate. And, of course, David, like any lawful king, is indeed G-d's "moshaic" (the Hebrew word translated as 'annointed" or as 'messiah') as was Saul (Sam 1 12:3; 24:7), and even Cyrus, a king who was not Jewish (Is 45:1).
To say that the king in this verse is Jesus raises problems. For one, the chapter fits David so well that no other explanation is needed. More to the point, if you say Jesus is this king and is also G-d, then you have to explain why the Psalm so explicitly refers to G-d and to this king as different entities ("against the LORD, and against his anointed," "Yet have I set my king," "Ask of me, and I shall give thee.") Moreover, the phrase "this day have I begotten thee" is problematic, because Christianity does not teach that Jesus was begotten during David's reign, when the Psalm is traditionally said to have been written.
We have no objections to the claims that this Psalm fits David well, or perhaps any king over Israel to some extent. However, Christians believe that this chapter is ultimately culminated through the reign of Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God. As to why the Psalm "so explicitly refers to G-d and to this king as different entities," we state in response that the difference is the same difference that Christians see between the Father and the Son. In this case, God in Psalm 2, obviously, would be the Father while Jesus, the Wisdom (or Word, or Logos) of God, would be the anointed One. This objection seems to reflect the author's misunderstanding of Christian theology in this regard. The objection of Jesus not being born during David's reign misses the mark since Psalms can be prophetic oracles of future events. This understanding of the Psalms finds corroboration in the Talmud. For instance, on Psalm 2:7-8, the following is found in b. Sukkah 52a:
"Our Rabbis taught: The Holy One, blessed be He, will say to the Messiah, son of David (may he reveal himself speedily in our days!), 'Ask of Me anything, and I will give it to you,' as it is said, 'I will tell of the decree, etc., this day have I begotten you. Ask of me and I will give the nations for your inheritance' (Ps. 2:7-8). But when he will see that Messiah son of Joseph is slain, he will say to him, 'Lord of the universe, I ask of You only the gift of life.' 'As to live,' He would answer him, 'Your father David has already prophesied this concerning you,' as it is said, 'He asked life of You, and You gave it to him [even length of days for ever and ever]'" (Ps. 21:4). [Brown (2): 112]
We will also once again refer the reader to this article by Glenn Miller which discusses ancient Jewish Scriptural exegeses.
The imagery ("kiss the Son') in last verse does not fit the context, and is almost certainly mistranslated. "Nashku bar" is the Hebrew. "Bar" means "son" (more accurately, "son of") in Aramaic, not in Hebrew, and the Psalms are written entirely in Hebrew without foreign words. Moreover, "nashku bar" even if Aramiac, would be bad grammar for "kiss the son." "Arm yourselves with (or embrace) purity lest He become angry" fits the rest of the passage better and is more consistant with the Hebrew text. Note also that the KJV translates Psalm 24:4 "'bar levav" (same word) as "a pure heart", not "son of the heart." A detailed (though technical) discussion of this point is at: http://home.attbi.com/~messiahtruth/psal2.html
"As to the question of why an Aramaic word would occur in a Hebrew psalm, some scholars have suggested that just as in Jeremiah 10:11, where the foreign nations are addressed in Aramaic (the most widely used Semitic language of the day, similar to Arabic today in the Muslim world) in an otherwise totally Hebrew context, so also the final warning to the foreign kings reminds them in the most common Semitic term (Aramaic "bar" for "son") that the king in Jerusalem is God's son." [Brown (2): 114]
We are not told why "nashku bar" is allegedly bad grammar so there doesn't seem to be much upon which we may make remark in that regard. As for the objection regarding Psalm 24:4, it is not unreasonable to expect a word to be translated differently when the context warrants it. Obviously, "son of the heart" in this case would not make sense. However, the KJV does translate "bar" in Proverbs 31:2 as "son" as this meaning makes more contextual sense in this particular case. So, the question remains as to whether "Kiss the Son" or "Arm yourselves with (or embrace) purity" better fits the context of Psalm 2. The author claims the latter, but we disagree. Since the author lists the whole passage just below, our comments as to why are below that.
Here is the full passage (KJV): 1 1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision. 5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. 8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. 9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. 10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
It is our contention that, contextually, the "Kiss the Son," rendering would make more sense than "Arm yourselves with purity...." First, let's detail the Christian understanding of this Psalm going verse by verse and how it could relate to Jesus Christ. Verses 1-3 are rather straightforward. This speaks of the kings and rulers of the earth taking counsel against God and the anointed king. This would have had an immediate fulfillment through the actions of Herod, Pontius Pilate, and the Jewish rulers being implicated in the crucifixion of Christ. However, this part of the Psalm could also indicate something wider in spectrum. In the 4th chapter of Acts, Peter and John were speaking with the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees because they were preaching the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (Acts 4:1). In the proceeding verses, it is described how the two continued to preach the resurrection despite being confronted by the Jewish elite. In verses 16-22, the Jews threatened Peter and John not to preach in the name of Jesus, but the two did not relent. Despite this, the Jews had to let them go because they did not have anything whereby they might punish them (verse 21). Then, we have the following excerpt:
"And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name for thy holy child Jesus." (Acts 4:23-30)
Notice here that the apostles quote the first couple of verses of Psalm 2 and then apply it to Jesus, but then go on to discuss how the threats are now against His servants. Though the connection of the threats against the servants of the Messiah and Psalm 2 are not explicit in this passage, it seems reasonable to suggest that the prophecy's fulfillment includes the many rulers of nations that have opposed the Christian message from the time of Nero up through today, especially those that do so by brutalizing the messengers of the Gospel. This would be applicable, in more recent times, to many rulers in Communist and Islamic nations, for instance. This understanding may also be corroborated by Christ's discourse recorded in Matthew 25:31-46 regarding the treatment of His servants (cf. especially verses 40 and 45) as well as the fact that He considered Saul's persecution of early Christians to be persecution of Himself as well (cf. Acts 9:3-4). Moving on….
"He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion." (Psalm 2:4-6)
Comments: Despite the fact that "the heathen rage against the Lord and his anointed," (verses 1-3) they shall not dethrone the King of Israel. They will be subject to the Lord's wrath.
"I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." (Psalm 2:7-9)
Comments: The king that is being opposed by the rulers of the earth will overcome his enemies and will rule the earth himself. By the way, Acts 13:33 applies the "this day have I begotten thee" to the resurrection of Jesus. Here I asked JPH for some insight on how this connection was drawn. Drawing from Ben Witherington, JPH notes:
"HE SAYS 'BEGOTTEN' HERE AMOUNTS TO SAYING THAT THE REZ WAS A DECLARATION OF JESUS' SONSHIP IN POWER. THIS WOULD PROBABLY BE LINKED TO THE ANCIENT IDEA I HAVE REFERRED TO ELSEWHERE, THAT ONE'S IDENTITY HAD TO BE DECLARED BY OTHERS AND NOT BY ONE'S SELF. THE REZ WOULD OF COURSE BE A HUGE PUBLIC DECLARATION BY GOD OF WHO JESUS WAS." [BW, THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES: A SOCIO-RHETORICAL COMMENTARY, GRAND RAPIDS: EERDMANS, 1998, P. 412]
"Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him." (Psalm 2:10-12)
Comments: Since the king will be victorious in the end against his enemies, the wise will serve the Lord and his king and be blessed for their decision.
So, when reading this passage, we start off with the discussion of the kings of the earth and the heathen opposing the Lord and His king, but the Lord's king, the "begotten Son" of verse 7, will be the one that is ultimately victorious and will possess the entire earth, and break into pieces his enemies. Those that put their trust in this king will be blessed and saved from his wrath. This coincides very well with the Christian understanding of this Psalm.
So now we get back to the question of whether "Arm yourselves with purity" or "Kiss the Son" makes more sense in context. Given that the primary issue is the worldly rulers' rebellion against the Lord and His king in verses 1-3, and it is this king that will destroy the heathen and possess the earth, it is more likely contextually that the Psalm would close with an admonishment to serve the Lord (which both sides agree occurs in verse 11) as well as the king (which we contend is the proper understanding of the beginning of verse 12) to avoid this wrath. In other words, the consequences of conspiring against or serving the Lord AND the king seem to be the issue whereas issues relating to purity are nowhere in direct sight; thus it makes more sense that the closing admonition of the Psalm would be to serve the Son rather than "arm one's self with purity."
The author makes the claim that this is fulfilled in David. We agree that this may well have been a coronation Psalm for David (and for subsequent kings for that matter), but David's reign was never a universal reign where all of Israel's enemies were overcome and the king ruled "the uttermost parts of the earth." Therefore, it seems logical to suggest that the consummation of this prophetic Psalm will occur with the eventual universal rulership of the Messiah. Needless to say, Christ's rulership has extended far beyond that of any Israelite King (both in duration of time and geographical boundaries).
Psalm 110 (KJV) is of interest to missionaries mainly because of two verses: 1 1: The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. 2 4: The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. This translation makes it seem as if the Lord is talking to my Lord -- as if the same word, "Lord", is used twice. Missionaries thus decide that the first LORD is the father part of their trinity, and the second Lord is Jesus. In fact, the KJV renders two different Hebrew words with different meanings as if they were the same English word, Lord. The first word is the tetragramaton, The Name (HaShem.) The second word is adoni, which means master, or lord with a small "l" (e.g. like in landlord). Obviously, when correctly translated, the Christological reference disappears.
Here is my translation: Of David a psalm. The word of HaShem to my master; "Wait for My right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool at your feet." 1) The staff of your might HaShem will send from Zion. Rule in the midst of your enemies. 2) Your people will volunteer on a day of your army at a glorious holy place. The dew of your youth shone from the womb. 3) HaShem swore and will not repent; you are a priest forever because of the words of Malchizedek. 4) My master, on your right hand, has crushed kings on the day of his anger. 5) He will judge nations [into] a heap of corpses; He crushed the head on a great land. 6) From the stream on the way he would drink; therefore, he raised his head. Who is this "master" (the individual called "Lord" by the KJV)? If we assume the psalm's words are David's words, it could be anyone greater than David -- e.g. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Moses. In fact, Rashi interpretes it as being Abraham. If we assume the words are written by one of David's courtiers, then the master is obviously King David himself, and the psalm is praising his military successes.
What the author says may be true regarding the application of verse 1 in some Christian circles, but we agree that this verse cannot serve as proof for the Messiah's divine nature. Consider the following words of a different critic followed by JPH's response:
"'Personally, I would very much like to see you refer us to a scholar or two who have successfully refuted B and H's contention with regard to Psalm 110:1, the most quoted and most controlling christological text utilized within the NT. As they clearly show, the two words for "lord" in that text are significantly different. The first "Lord" (adonai) is Yahweh, the Father, the one God of Israel, as it is in some 6,700 other OT occurrences. But the second word for "lord" - really, "my lord" - is adoni, which was never used of God but was intended for the king of Israel or other humans of high rank.
'Since the NT expressly and frequently identifies Jesus as that second "lord" - for example, at Acts 2:34-36 - it should be rather obvious that in the early church Jesus was viewed as the non-deity lord (adoni, not adonai)! That one challenge alone illustrates that B and H have done more than "a little digging in the relevant Biblical scholarship." Unless someone has or can come up with a significant refutation, they've presented what I think is a devastating challenge to the teaching of the Trinity.'
"Our subject and I had some hemming and hawing over how Ps. 110:1 worked out in terms of vowel placement, but it really doesn't matter. Once again, the answer is the same: this is exactly what we would expect under a functional subordination paradigm. Just as saying "Jesus is God" is correct, but not complete (for it does not imply the opposite, "God is Jesus"), so it is that saying "Jesus is Adonai" would not be specific enough, whereas "Jesus is Adoni" would be fine -- but would reflect the function of Jesus while saying nothing about his divinity, which is worked out on other grounds." (Source)
We also agree with the author's contention that this Psalm is referring to someone that is greater than David, which could refer to the Messiah. In Matthew 22:41-46, Jesus applies this Psalm to Himself [cf. Brown (2): 133-145 for an excellent and in-depth discussion of this Psalm and its Messianic implications]
Jesus, who did none of the things described in the Psalm, doesn't fit. 1) Here is the KJV traslation of the Psalm: The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. 2) The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. 3) Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. 4) The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. 5) The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. 6) He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. 7) He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.
The Christian understanding of verse 1, as per Acts 2:33-35, is referring to Christ's ascension into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. Notice that verse 1 says that the 2nd lord will sit at God's right hand *until* He subdues his enemies. Thus, there is no problem with the Christian interpretation that verse 1 occurred with Christ's ascension and that the other verses will be fulfilled in the future (or are in the process of being fulfilled now).
Proverbs 30: (KJV) 2 Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. 3 I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy. 4 Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?
Christians seize on the word "son," saying that since the fourth verse describes things only G-d can do, this 'son' must be Jesus.
The full context is different. The writer, modestly proclaiming his own ignorance, asks who can do all of these wonderful things. In effect, he says, "I am ignorant and do not know what man can do this. Can you identify him for me? Can you identify his family?" Of course, no one can do these things except G-d. Asking for the name of a family member is somewhat comparable to the modern phrase "You and what army?" to indicate something which someone cannot do. The writer is emphasizing that humans can not match the abilities of the divine. It is a rhetorical question, sarcastic in nature, and has no answer. That is the point.
We can probably agree that this is not a good text in which to argue in favor of the Christian claim that God has a Son. The virtues and abilities described by the writer, quite obviously, can only be attributed to God. Since we know that God is being described, it may plausibly be suggested that the writer is asking, in effect, "What is God's name" and "What is God's son's name?" However, it seems equally plausible that the writer could be asking, in essence, "What is the name of the man that can do these things (that only God can do)?" and "What is that man's son's name?" Of course, if the latter is true, the case asserting that God has a son based on this passage dissolves. While we're on this subject though, it is interesting to note the words of Christ in John 3:13:
"And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven."
Notice that Jesus applies this characteristic (which is something that only God can do) to Himself in the above verse. This appears to be one allusion (of many in the New Testament) to Jesus as God's Wisdom.
Note just two verses later: "6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." To say the chapter refers to Jesus is indeed an addition.
While we may agree with the author's remarks on this particular text, the author's claim that this is some kind of "addition" is erroneous. Interpreting texts (even incorrectly) and adding to them are not the same phenomena.
You can't blame Christians for trying to fit this psalm into their crucifixion story.
22 (KJV) 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. 16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. 18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
They say, not unreasonably, that this describes someone suffering from dehydration and dislocation of joints -- as in a crucifixion. Certainly the part about piercing hands and feet sounds like a crucifixion, and gambling for clothing specifically sounds like the Jesus's crucifixion story.
True, the translation of the end of verse 16 (KJV), "of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet" is probably wrong. The phrase "k'ari" more likely is "like a lion" -- i.e. "a band of evildoers has surrounded me, like a lion, (at) my hands and feet," and indeed, lions are mentioned elsewhere in that Psalm, but that is only one detail.
Actually, as Glenn miller discusses in detail here, the most likely translation is indeed "pierced." Below we will quote Miller's conclusions, but the reader is encouraged to view the whole article that describes in more detail how these conclusions were reached.
"1. "Like a lion" is rejected for a number of reasons by scholars: makes no sense, MT manuscript evidence against it, all the earliest translations (not interpretive paraphrases) reject it, its highly unusual form (for the 'like a lion' expression), the conclusive existence of the verb reading at Qumran, and even ancient rabbinic rejection of the meaning.
2. The textual witnesses line up historically like this: a, The earliest is the LXX, which has "they pierced" b. The next witness is Qumran, which has "they pierced" c. The next witness is Aquila's first edition, which is best explained as a transposition of letters from "they pierced" d.The next witness is the Peshitta, which has "they pierced" e. The next witnesses are A2/S/J, which have "they tied", which can be seen as a 'reasonable' mis-understanding from "they pierced" f. We don't get "like a lion" for centuries after these witnesses, and even then there are MT variants representing "they pierced" g. Later Jewish writers (e.g., Rashi) follow the MT (surprise, surprise), but one or two midrashic writers understand this as a verb, instead of "like a lion" "This sequence alone would make a strong case for "they pierced".
3. Of the remaining two major candidates (i.e., 'pierced' and 'tied'), 'pierced' is to be preferred since: a. It occurs in the earliest manuscripts we have (LXX) b. Its root is widely attested, whereas 'tied' does not even occur in all of existent Hebrew writing c, It is not a 'strange' way to say this--it is not to be rejected for its infrequency d. It provides a plausible basis from which to reconstruct (a) the midrashic/masoretic comments; (b) the MT textual variants; and (c) the Greek , non-LXX variants e. It makes more sense in the immediate context.
Accordingly, I have to conclude that 'pierced' is the better reading of the alternatives--under the praxis of textual criticism."
Our critic goes on:
The main problems with the Christians' interpretation are 1) they take a few verses out of the context of the whole Psalm and ingore others, and 2) there is a much more likely explanation which does indeed fit the psalm as a whole.
Actually, Christians apply this whole Psalm to Jesus, although it may be true that certain verses are magnified in Christian circles more than others.
6 (KJV) in particular does not fit what Christians think about Jesus. "But I am a worm, ..." This is not humility. This is pathological self abasement.
Let's take a look at the context:
"But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him." (Psalm 22:6-8)
We agree that the context is not speaking of humility, but "pathological self-abasement" is certainly an unwarranted assessment as well (especially in the context of hyperbolic idiom of the ANE). In context, we see that the Psalmist calls himself a worm in the sense that he is despised by the people and a reproach of men. In other words, the status of "worm" seems only to apply to the Psalmist in regards to how he is being treated by his antagonists, and this is certainly applicable to Christ's crucifixion experiences.
Christians assert that Jesus was G-d, and that G-d thinks of himself as a worm? This is so bizarre as to border on blasphemy.
In light of the context, this imagery is referring to the fact that the righteous sufferer is despised and mocked by the people, so the author's objection clearly misses the point.
The middle of the psalm is equally untenable for Christians. The psalmist does not say something like, "I'll bring peace and salvation," as one would expect from a self sacrificing god. Rather he says, "Save me and I'll tell everyone how great You are." (Vs 21-22 (KJV).)
Here we have an argument from silence. The author gives his opinion as to what should be included in this prophecy. We would, of course, claim in response that other Messianic prophecies such as Isaiah 53 and Daniel 9:24-27 (see below) discuss how the sufferings of the Messiah will result in salvation. However, we may actually see an indication of the worldwide worship of the God of Israel as a result of the Messiah's sufferings in this very Psalm. In verses 19-25, the sufferer pleads for help to be delivered from his turmoil which afterwards he will praise God's name among his brothers. Then, we read in verses 26-31:
"The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the governor among the nations. All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul. A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this."As even the author seems to agree, the imagery in the Psalm of dislocated joints, pierced hands and feet, and the dividing of garments by casting lots is very reflective of Roman crucifixions. We would also add that the mockery recorded in verse 8 is very similar in wording to the mockery of Jesus by the Jews as recorded in Matthew 27:43. Also, given that Jesus probably died of cardiac arrest, as is indicated by certain details in the Passion narrative, the words in verse 14 "....my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels" may be a further detail of what the Messiah was to suffer as a result of this event. Despite that the sufferer has been brought "into the dust of death" (verse 15), his pleas for deliverance are somehow answered (verse 24). In light of Christ's resurrection from the dead, the Psalm certainly fits what happened to Jesus. Finally, the "ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee." "All they that go down to the dust shall bow before him:...." "A seed shall serve him;....and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this." Undeniably, the message of Christ's sufferings and subsequent deliverance was proclaimed by a remnant (seed) of Israel which has resulted in the worship of God among nations from one end of the world to another, and this was accomplished in the face of overwhelming and innumerable obstacles against the early Church.
On a more mundane level, there is too much livestock for this to refer to the crucifixion. The Psalmist refers to bulls, lions, and dogs, and even unicorns (according to the KJV version). Christians might reply that these are intended to be metaphorical, but then you must ask -- who gets to determine which detail is metaphor and how the metaphor is interpreted? If the lions and bulls are metaphors, why are not the bones out of joint and the cleaving tongue also metaphors?
It is a matter of context. The Psalmist in verses 12-13 says that bulls and lions have surrounded him. Verse 16 declares, "For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me;...." Notice in verse 6, the Psalmist claims that he is a reproach of MEN. In verses 7-8 the Psalmist declares how he is being mocked. Since we know that wicked men have surrounded the sufferer in verse 16, and since we know that literal bulls, dogs, and lions cannot verbally mock someone, it is reasonable to assume from the context that the Psalmist is declaring the enemies surrounding him with such imagery. As far as the other passages are concerned, including the details that correlate to Christ's crucifixion, we would actually agree that those as well were metaphorical descriptions for David's sufferings. I think the author would agree with us that David did not undergo crucifixion or anything like what is literally described in the Psalm. However, as we noted earlier, the Psalms (some at least) were considered as prophetic oracles, and given that Jesus did suffer in a way very similar in detail to what is described, Christians ascribe this Psalm as a foreshadowing of the Messiah's crucifixion. It is only fitting, of course, that it is David, the type of the King Messiah, that is the one to pen this Psalm.
Taking the Psalm as a whole, and fitting it in with what we know of David, the explanation is fairly obvious. This psalm is one of the cries of David who is in deep depression while fleeing Saul and his troops. King David was a spiritual giant, but having the Anointed of HaShem (i.e. King Saul) and half the kingdom trying to kill you can depress anyone. David resolves this depression, as he does in other psalms, by his faith in HaShem. The verses follow a consistent progression of ideas.
Actually, we can probably essentially agree with this assertion. David did probably write this Psalm during a time of great distress, and Christians certainly do not deny this, but the prophetic imagery is clear as well. The Pesikta Rabbati also applies this Psalm to the sufferings of the Messiah. Consider the following quotes:
"[At the time of the Messiah's creation], the Holy One, blessed be He, will tell him in detail what will befall him: There are souls that have been put away with thee under My throne, and it is their sins which will bend thee down under a yoke of iron and make thee like a calf whose eyes grow dim with suffering, and will choke thy spirit as with a yoke; because of the sins of these souls thy tongue will cleave to the roof of thy mouth. Art thou willing to endure such things?
"The Messiah will ask the Holy One, blessed be He: Will my suffering last many years?
"The Holy One, blessed be He, will reply: Upon thy life and the life of My head, it is a period of seven years which I have decreed for thee. But if thy soul is sad at the prospect of thy suffering, I shall at this moment banish these sinful souls.
"The Messiah will say: Master of the universe, with joy in my soul and gladness in my heart I take this suffering upon myself, provided that not one person in Israel perish; that not only those who are alive be saved in my days, but that also those who are dead, who died from the days of Adam up to the time of redemption; and that not only these be saved in my days, but also those who died as abortions; and that not only these be saved in my days, but all those whom Thou thoughtest to create but were not created. Such are the things I desire, and for these I am ready to take upon myself [Whatever Thou decreest]…."
[Source: ("Pesikta Rabbati," William G, Braude, Translator (New Haven: Yale University, 1968), Volume II, Piska 36.2, pp. 678-679, 680-681). This material taken from Webster (4): 177-178]
It is interesting to note that this source regards the Messiah's suffering to be seven years. Could this have anything to do with Daniel's 70th week, which details when the Messiah was prophesied to appear? (See our comments on Daniel 9:24-27 below….)
What follows in the author's presentation is a chart of a Hebrew rendering of Psalm 22 and short phrases that summarize the passages. This was taken from a translation by Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg and published by Davka. The only point of disagreement that we would have with this translation would be the point on verse 16. Also, the commentary summarizes verses 7-8 as to mean "I'm no good." We would like to reiterate that this is in the context of the Psalmist being a reproach of men. The author then gives the KJV translation for comparison purposes. There doesn't appear to be anything by which further comment from us is necessary, but for those interested in seeing it, here is a direct link to the author's piece on Psalm 22 with the comparison in translations, of course, following the material we have provided above in this critique.
Up next the author addresses Isaiah 53<. A while ago we wrote a previous critique of Osama Abdallah's Isaiah 53 polemic, which included material from the "Jews for Judaism" website. In this response, we will be referring and copying from that article at times.
Isaiah 53 arouses lots of enthusiasm in missionary Christians. They smirk and wink, and say things like, "Well, who does THAT sounds like, eh?" Some think that because (in their minds) it so clearly points to Jesus that we Jews deliberately avoid reading it. One writer even says (and I quote) "Although Hebrew-to-English translators have labored mightily to obscure (Isaiah 53) meaning, it has been almost impossible to do so. Instead, Jews simply ignore it. It's never read by Jews -- never."
In spite of this missionary certainty, there are both translation and contextual problems with their interpretation.
The chapter describes a servant ("eved") whose condition is not happy -- a "suffering servant.". The central question is, who is this servant. To answer this question we need to know who is the speaker of the different verses. Christians assume that the speaker in Isaiah 53 is the nation of Israel or, even more generally, is all of us. However, by starting with the previous chapter, where this particular episode about the "servant" actually begins, we see in verse 15 that the speakers are the kings of other nations.
The author then provides a chart containing the text of the passage in question with very brief commentary to the side. His main claim, as we see in the above paragraph, is that the gentile nations are the ones speaking throughout this passage. The following response is taken from the material in the aforementioned link.
"In response to the claim that the speakers of Isaiah 53 are the gentile nations, Brown responds:
"First, there is a fundamental theological flaw in the interpretation that the Gentile kings are the speakers in Isaiah 53. According to Jeremiah 30:11, God would completely destroy the nations among whom he scattered his people. While he promised to discipline his people-hence their scattering among these nations-he would eventually judge those nations for their sins against Israel. So, God's people would suffer for their own sins, often at the hands of their enemies, but then the Lord would destroy those enemies. This is the opposite of what Isaiah 53 states: The servant was guiltless, suffering for the sins of his guilty people, who are then healed by his suffering. How then can the Gentile kings-kings who are promised judgment, not blessing, for inflicting pain on the Jewish people-be pictured as speakers in this chapter? If they were the speakers, they should have said, 'We inflicted great suffering on the people of Israel, who were guilty of great sin against God, but we went too far in our punishments, and now Israel's God will utterly destroy us.' Now that's quite a difference!"
Brown then gives a couple of examples. Isaiah 10:5-34 describes the use of Assyria by God to judge Israel and Judah. However, as a result of their excessive pride and malice, God brought judgment against them. Another example is with that of Nebuchadnezzar, leader of Babylon, who is referred to as God's servant in Jeremiah 27:6. However, Babylon's judgment and destruction by God is described later in Jeremiah 50-51. Similarly, we are told that God gave the Israelites the land of Canaan because of the Canaanites wickedness. Also, the reason that Israel was removed from their land both times was due to their own turning away from God. In other words, while God used Israel to punish the Canaanite nations, He also used various pagan nations to punish the Israelites for their own sins. God is not impartial.
Brown also notes:
"Second, there is a serious contextual and grammatical flaw in this viewpoint. Look carefully at the consistent language of the entire passage. First person singular is only used by God: MY servant(52:13), MY righteous servant(53:11), therefore *I* will.(53:12). The same holds true for MY people in 53:8. God himself is speaking about his servant suffering for his people Israel, rather than the kings speaking of their people individually. This becomes even more clear when we realize that the onlookers in this passage(according to this objection, the Gentile kings) always express themselves in the first person plural: OUR message(53:1); to attract US.that WE should desire him(53:2; WE esteemed him not(53:3); OUR infirmities. OUR sorrows. WE considered him(53:4); OUR transgressions. Our iniquities. brought US peace. WE are healed(53:5); WE all. each of US. the iniquity of US all(53:6)-and then this language stops in verse 6. No more "we, us, our"-not once-indicating that whatever group is speaking, be it the people of Israel as a whole or the alleged kings of the nations, they are no longer speaking after verse 6. The narrator must be either the prophet or (much more likely) God, speaking in the first person singular and describing the sufferings of the servant in the third person singular. And this means that the only possible meaning of my people in Isaiah 53:8 is that the servant of the Lord suffered for the people of Israel, not that the servant was actually the people of Israel themselves."
The author continues….
The first problem with relating all this to Jesus is that the KJV of Chapter 53 has several translation problems. Verses 3 and 4 speak of the servant's "grief" but the Hebrew word here is "choli" -- "sick"
Brown notes in response:
"How then do we explain Isaiah 53:3, which states that the servant of the Lord was "a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity" (NRSV)? There is actually some ambiguity in the Hebrew text, since: (1) The nouns 'mak'ob' and 'holi' can refer to either physical or metaphorical pain and sickness (see, e.g., Exod. 3:7 for 'mak'ob and Eccles. 6:2 for 'holi'). (2) The Hebrew does not say that the servant of the Lord was sick and in pain but rather that he was 'a man of pains' and 'intimate with sickness/suffering.' This describes Jesus quite accurately: He was often in anguish and pain because of the depth of human suffering (and human sinfulness), sometimes sighing or groaning under the burden of it all, at other times being moved to tears (see, e.g., Mark 7:31-34; John 11:32-36). Truly, he was a man of sorrows and pains, intimately involved with sick and afflicted people. (3) The Stone edition renders Isaiah 53:4b as, 'but we had regarded him diseased ['nagu'a'], stricken by God, and afflicted!' It is this verse--in particular the word 'nagua'a' (rendered here as 'diseased')--from which the Talmud drew the concept of the 'leper Messiah' (see b. Sanhedrin 98b). 'Nagu'a', however, can simply mean 'smitten,' with no reference to leprosy or sickness, as can be seen from the use of the word in Psalm 73:14, where it speaks of the psalmist's spiritual chastisements."[Brown (2): 73]
Our critic goes on:
Verse 3 says "we hid as it were our faces," as if the speakers were embarrassed by the servant' appearance, but the Hebrew "mistar" is singular -- the suffering servant arouses contempt just like someone who hides his face.
Verses 2b and 3 in the KJV read: "....he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not."
It doesn't really appear that the KJV gives the impression that the speakers hid their faces because they were ashamed by the servant's appearance, but because they rejected, despised, and did not esteem him.
We ran the author's claim about "mistar" by our Hebrew specialist Gray Pilgrim, who had the following to note in response:
"I'll again translate this clause by clause:
Their understanding of this as contempt is doubly troubling. First, it means that this one word has to do double duty. For it is the noun which is rendered 'hide,' even in their rendering. However, according to their rendering, then it must also be 'despised.' Two problems with that 'mistar,' is from the root 'satar,' which is the word for 'secret/hide.' So they want to find a new meaning here, but there is no evidence for it. Second, the Masoretes put a zaqeph here, which is a major disjunctive accent before the participle 'nivzeh,' which is actually the term for 'despised' (used twice in this verse in that sense). Emmanuel Tov in his book Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (2d rev. edition; trans. Emmanuel Tov; 1992, reprint; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001), 69, groups this disjunctive as one of the 'kings,' only a silluq and atnach [emperors] rank higher. Thus this argument is problematic, on a number of levels. First, they must ignore the Masoretic accents to get their reading; second 'mistar must do double duty in this clause'; and third 'nivzeh' becomes superfluous. One thing to note is that BHS (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) has a text critical note here: 4Q Isa^a reads 'and we despised him'; moreover the Syriac recension of the OT also reads 'and we despised him' as well. The Syriac on its own is generally disregarded, but when 4QIsa^a also has the same reading, generally text critics give it more room for possibility. All that would have to happen for this reading to happen is that the scribe sees the final waw on mimenu (from him) and the initial waw on wlo' (and not). So either reading is possible, although the reading of the BHS, Codex Leningradensis, is preferable to 4QIsa^a and the Syriac in this case. All that is to say, their argument is internally and externally unhelpful"
Verse 5 speaks of "stripes," a specific wound resulting from a whipping, but the Hebrew "heverto" is more general -- bruise or injury -- without reference to whip marks.
This would not be a problem for the Christian interpretation one way or the next.
Verse 6 in the KJV reads "the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" but the grammatical structure suggests "wounded him with our sin," the implication being -- not that the servant took on the responsibility for someone else's sin, but rather that what someone else did hurt the servant.
Notice, however, that the author, gives us no justification for his claim about the grammatical structure. Furthermore, Gray Pilgrim notes in response to the author's claim:
"Context, Context, Context, taken in isolation a straight forward translation would read 'All of us have wandered, like sheep, each to his own way, but Yahweh afflicted (literally "allow x to hurt someone," according to HALOT) him with the iniquity of us all.' Note that a clause level waw when prefixed on anything besides a finite verb has a disjunctive effect. In fact this is a w+x+qatal clause which tells us that we are getting detail not just a narrative, as we would have wayyiqtols in order to signify that.
But alas I digress; at face value this verse would say nothing about substitutionary atonement. However this verse does not stand in isolation it is part of a larger oracle within a larger book, which forms part of the Canon (whether it be the Jewish Mikra or it forms part of the Christian Old Testament). However, let us look at the immediate context, for as Dr. D. A. Carson says 'A text without a context is just a pretext for a proof text.' And alas that is what has happened here in this argument. Let us just go back to verses four and five.
In verse four we see that this servant bears our sicknesses and our sorrows. 'But we reckoned him stricken (here we have a nifal of the verb in question from verse 6 'afflicted' which was a hifil) smitten and afflicted by God.' Thus here we see that this servant has taken to himself out sicknesses and our sorrows. Thus this verse signifies the idea of taking to himself the failings of others which belonged to others.
Verse 5 'He was wounded by or for our transgressions' here we have problems based on the indeterminacy of the Hebrew prepositions. Here we have the preposition 'min' prefixed to transgressions. HALOT lists 11 different uses of this preposition. Both ideas cause or substitutionary fit lexically, thus it gets down to other issues, i.e. which way does the context tip us. The LXX seems to lean towards agency (and the Targumim are well targumic here).
Thus I would say that a contextual reading allows for and leans towards substitutionary understanding of this passage."
Pur critic goes on:
The Jews for Judaism analysis of Isaiah 53 makes these additional points about translation: in verse five, rather than "he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities," the prefix "mem" means "from," not "for", i.e. the speakers of the verse hurt the servant, not that he was punished by G-d as a substitute for them. In verse 11, the Hebrew "yatsdeek" means "will make just" (by bringing the Torah), not "will justify (someone's sins by taking their punishment)."
Gray Pilgrim has this to say in response:
"I discussed this issue above, I think that the view of min as only partative is too simple, and seems to draw more on the usage of Modern Hebrew as opposed to looking at Biblical Hebrew in its usages and the light from cognate languages. This is not to say that a partative is not a common if not frequent usage, but this argument seems to forget that it is also used in construct the comparative, so based on this any translation of a comparison (I of course am not talking about Isaiah 53 here but other passages in the OT) would be faulty for it does not use the simple partative that is mentioned here.
Thanks for bringing in verse 11, I had at first overlooked it in this analysis, but it further strengthens my contention that this sin bearing is substitutionary for the benefit of the multitude. Starting at Isa 53:11a3 "My servant shall make the multitude righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities." Although the JPS translation tries to muddy the waters, in the end their scholarship will not allow them to do it for even they have "It is their punishment that he bears." So while you try to quibble at a non-essential point of the argument, I thank you for steering me to 53:11b1."
Of course, even if "from" is the correct translation rather than "for" in verse 4, it still would fit the Christian interpretation that the servant is Jesus and the "our" is referring to the Jews since it was the Jews rejection and handing over of Jesus to the Romans that resulted in His crucifixion (cf. e.g., Matthew 27:1-2). Obviously, the rejection and execution of the Messiah would constitute iniquity in the sight of God. The author, of course, would disagree with our conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah and thus reject this interpretation. However, that is the whole point under dispute in the first place. The conclusion would have to be assumed ahead of time to reject Jesus on these grounds on an a priori basis. In addition, this passage translated as it is by the author could be understood in light of the fact that the general sins of the world placed Jesus on the cross. Of course, what we see being done in this example as in the one in verse 6, and possibly with the author's translation in verse 11 ("will make just") is an apparent attempt at removing atonement theology from the chapter. By the way, there appears to be no justification from the text whatsoever for the author's parenthetical commentary that "will make just" will be accomplished by "bringing the Torah." We also noted earlier that the author's claim of verse 6 is not justified, but even if we were to concede all of the aforementioned points in translation to the author, we still clearly do not escape atonement theology from this chapter. The servant still "hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows:...." (verse 4); it is with the servant's "stripes we are healed." He "bare the sin of many,...." (verse 12). Perhaps most forcefully we see this played out in verse 10: "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand."
This verse makes it clear that God had a purpose for bruising the servant. If we are speaking here of evil done to a righteous servant because of evil done by whomever, without any "benefits" for anybody coming from this evil, there is no reason for the Lord to be pleased. Furthermore, God made "his soul an offering for sin,...." which clearly implies atonement theology, just as the Israelites had an established sacrificial system by which atonement for sins was to be made through bloody sacrificial offerings.
If you incorporate these different translations into the text, you get a markedly different impression. "He hurt a lot and knew what sickness was" just does not sound like"A man of sorrow and acquainted with grief." "We despised him as someone who hid his face" does not mean the same as "we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised." In short, the almost reflex identification of the chapter with Jesus depends on the translation of the text -- not on the text itself.
In light of our above responses, this is irrelevant at this point.And to see that in fact the text does not refer to Jesus, we need only to examine the ...
The second problem is that Jesus doesn't fit several of the details in the chapter. a) As mentioned above, Jesus was never sick. Some say that he was sick during the crucifixion, but physical trauma (e.g. execution) is not considered sickness in the normal sense of the word.
Although, once again, it is not necessary for us to prove that Jesus was sick in light of the above, we are compelled to ask how exactly the author came to the conclusion that "physical trauma is not considered sickness in the normal sense of the word." In fact, according to Brown, the root "hlh" can refer to both sickness (as in disease) and other injuries. Brown notes:
"Thus, after King Ahab was mortally wounded when he was struck by an archer's arrow, he said to his chariot driver, 'I am severely wounded!' (1 Kings 22:34 and 2 Chron. 18:33 nasb). The Hebrew says 'hohaleti' (literally, 'I have been made hlh'), which is identical in form to 2 Chronicles 35:23, where King Josiah, also struck by a fatal arrow, says to his attendants, 'I am badly wounded'--the Hebrew word 'me'od', 'very,' being added here."[Brown (2): 72]
The critic adds:
b) Jesus had no children. Some say this refers to disciples or spiritual children, but the word "zera" is common in the Tanach and, when applied to people, always means linear descendants, not someone's disciples or followers.
"'Actually, the Hebrew word for "seed," which is "zera" CAN and IS used metaphorically in the Old Testament. Examples in the book of Isaiah alone abound. For instance, Isaiah referred to Israel as "a seed of evildoers," a "seed of an adulterer," and "a seed of falsehood,"(Isaiah 1:4; 14:20; 57:3-4) using "zera" in each case as in this particular verse. Thus, there is no reason to assume a priori that this verse refers to the sufferer's literal seed. Additionally, the phrase in verse 8, "and who shall declare his generation?" may be an indicator that the sufferer would NOT have literal seed.'" [Taken from material given in the link at the beginning of this section]
c) Jesus was not buried with the wicked. One cannot even say he died with the wicked since the Hebrew "rashaeem" is plural and, according to the crucifixion story, one of the thieves next to him ended up in heaven and so was not wicked.
"And he made his grave with he wicked, and with the rich in his death;...." (verse 9) The wicked, in this case, could refer to the fact that Jesus died the death of wicked men (i.e. the crucifixion, which was reserved by the Romans for the most wicked of criminals). Thus, Jesus "made his grave with the wicked" in the sense that He would be treated as a criminal and subsequently die ("made his grave") like one. In light of the more general scope that could reasonably be argued when interpreting this verse, the wicked could simply refer to criminals rather than just those thieves crucified alongside Jesus. Interestingly, Jesus would probably have been buried in the criminal graveyard as well, but Joseph of Arimathaea, a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin, asked for the body of Jesus and his request was granted (cf. e.g., Matthew 27:57-60). This fulfilled the second half of this prophetic verse.
d) Jesus did not have long life. Missionaries say he had long life in heaven, but that, again, is stretching the meaning of the word.
Presumably the author's objection comes from the phrase in verse 10 that claims that the servant "shall prolong his days,...." However, let's look at the context:
"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sins, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand."
Notice that the prolonging of the servant's days FOLLOWS the servant serving as an offering for sins. How are we to make sense of this? The Christian understanding makes sense of this seemingly paradoxical statement by postulating that the resurrection of the Messiah is implied in the text. Despite dying as an offering for sins, the servant will still somehow prolong his days, and indeed, Jesus was resurrected after His sacrificial death never again to return to the grave. The fact that these days (with the exception of the first forty) took place after Christ' ascension doesn't at all seem to be stretching the meaning of the word.
e) verse 9 "Nor was there deceit in his mouth." doesn't apply because Jesus lied to his family about going to Jerusalem. (John 7:8-10), and lied in saying that he never taught in secret (see John 18:20, vs. Matt. 24:3 and others).
In regards to the 2nd objection, Jesus was asked in John 18:19 "of his disciples, and of his doctrine." Jesus responds in the subsequent verses that he taught in the synagogue and temple and did not say anything in secret. The author appeals to a private conversation between Jesus and the disciples in Matthew 24 so as to argue that Jesus lied to the high priests. However, it seems more logical to understand Christ's answer in John to the high priest to mean that He did not hide His claims of being the Messiah to just the disciples (or to any given exclusive group). This makes sense given that in parallel accounts of the trial it is this doctrine that enrages the high priest (cf. e.g., Mark 14:61-63). In fact, Jesus was so emphatic about such matters at times that Jews picked up stones to stone him based on some of his sayings (cf. e.g., John 8:52-59). Furthermore, even if we are to somehow understand Christ's answer to the high priest to encompass literally everything that he spoke, it is unwarranted to conclude that Jesus withheld information regarding Himself and His ministry just because certain narratives like the Olivet discourse are given in the context of private conversations. How do we know that Jesus did not also speak of these things to others, for instance? Just because it is not necessarily recorded in the Gospels does not negate this possibility, quite obviously. As far as Jesus allegedly lying to his family about going to Jerusalem, JPH notes:
"Now we may note a worthwhile answer that will not disturb modern sensibilities: Jesus' reason for not going to the Feast was specifcally that "the time is not yet come:" -- it might occur to skeptics that within the next few days, the time was right, and Jesus received a later and unexpected word from the Father telling him so [Witherington, John's Wisdom, 69]. They may then object that this later word is not narrated, but we would respond that this is thoroughly consistent with Jesus' lack of knowledge of things like the time of the end and John's theme of Jesus as one who does the Father's will alone. There need be no explicit narration of a word from the Father; the idea of a later word of instruction from the Father is consistent with John's presentation of Jesus as the obedient servant of God whose agenda is not controlled or directed by human or other agents. (Cf. John 8:28-9: "Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.") [Source] See the link also for information on rhetorical criticism and ancient concepts of honor that help in understanding this narrative.
The Jews for Judaism analysis of Isaiah 53 points out that a) contrary to verse 2, Jesus is never described as physically unattractive;
This is an argument from silence. Furthermore, Brown notes, quite interestingly:
"The prophet Isaiah stated, 'he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him' (53:2b), and this too accords well with the Gospel witness, since there is not a single reference to Yeshua's having a stately appearance or imposing physical presence. This is in clear contrast with the description of some of Israel's leaders of old, men like Saul, who was head and shoulders above his people in height (1 Sam. 10:23), or David, who was 'ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features' (1 Sam. 16:12b). Nothing like this is said of Yeshua!" [Brown (2): 69-70]
b) far from being rejected and despised as verse 3 says, the Gospel writers describe him as being popular; c) contrary to verse 7, Jesus did a lot of talking; and d) instead of being non-violent (verse 9), Jesus overturned tables, chased people from their jobs, and promised to bring swords.
We provided detailed responses to all of these objections save one in our other article. Given the substantial amount of space we devoted into answering these objections, we will refer the reader there instead of copying it onto this article. What we didn't cover in the other article is the claim that Jesus "chased people from their jobs," which is presumably referring either to Christ's running the moneychangers out of the Temple. Even though this probably did not end the moneychanger's employment, this is hardly a violent action in any case.
So then, while the first impression on reading a Christian translation of Isaiah 53 may be to think of Jesus, looking deeper shows that the Hebrew text does not sound like Jesus, and the context shows shows many differences from what the Christian Bible says about Jesus.
Of course, in light of the above, we feel that these objections are unwarranted.
Who then is the servant? Though some Jewish scholars have said he will be the Messiah, more likely the chapter does not refer to an individual person at all. Isaiah himself identifies Israel as the servant of HaShem:
While it is true in some texts that Israel is referred to as God's servant, this does not negate the fact that it is an individual being spoken of in others. In fact, we disagree with the author's claim that Isaiah 49:3 refers to the nation of Israel even though the servant is called "Israel" in this case. The main objection we have is that in this particular passage (49:6), the servant is said to be the one to restore Israel. Thus, it does not appear to be contextually accurate to apply this passage to the nation of Israel. For more information on this, as well as why we feel this applies to the Messiah, see the pertinent section in our other article on Isaiah 53 for which links have been provided in the above sections.
The author next gives responses to a few Christian objections to the servant being identified as Israel:
Christians have many objections to the idea that Israel itself is the subject of Chapter 53:What follows is a chart with the Christian assertion followed by "Jewish response." We will, for clarity, format this a little differently than what is in his chart. The following will be in a dialogue format with the Christian assertion labeled as such followed by the Jewish response followed lastly by "Our response."
Christian assertion: The servant is repeatedly referred to an an individual. Jewish response: Tanach often describes tribes and countries as if they were one person, usually the founder.
Our response: While that is true, and also acknowledging that the servant is referred to as the nation of Israel in other servant songs in the book of Isaiah, the overall context and theology fits Jesus much better than the nation of Israel. Furthermore, according to Brown, no Rabbinic source interpreted this passage as do modern Jews until the 11th century A.D. This is despite the fact that there is a tradition which dates back to the 2nd century A.D. recorded in the works of the early church father, Origen, where some Jewish leaders interpreted the passage as referring to national Israel. As Brown notes in regards to this, "In other words, the national, non-Messianic interpretation was apparently used in some Jewish circles more than three centuries before the completion of the Talmud, yet it simply didn't stick." [Brown (2): 50] Given the usage of this passage by the New Testament authors and subsequent Christians, it is remarkable that authoritative Jewish sources for the entire first millenium A.D. understood Isaiah here to be referring to a lone individual, which included in many cases (though not all), interpreting this passage as referring to the Messiah. The next two responses are connected so we'll give them both before responding.
Christian assertion: Israel is not silent, "as a lamb to the slaughter" Jewish response: During the Holocaust Jews were described in just those terms, going to the gas chambers like lambs to the slaughter.
Christian assertion: The servant "had done no violence". Jewish response: The lack of violence need not be absolute, but can refers to the reason for them being slaughtered. The Jews had done none of the violence the Nazi's had accused them of.
Our response: The only way for the author's understanding of this passage as referring to the nation of Israel to work would be if this passage was referring to the Jews that suffered during the Nazi Holocaust. But, we would have to ask in response, what gives us indication from Isaiah 53 that, out of all of Israel's history, the passage is to be condensed into what happened over the span of only a few years during World War II (although granted it is a major historical, and very tragic, event)? The author also claims that "the lack of violence need not be absolute," yet remember that he did reference what he thought to be a violent act performed by Jesus in the Temple as disqualifying Him. Even if we were to concede that this action by Jesus can be properly defined as violence (and we clearly and emphatically are not making such a concession--see our other article mentioned earlier), how can this disqualify Jesus if "the lack of violence need not be absolute"? We point this out only to question the author's consistency in this regard.
To get back to the topic at hand, we must, in addition to asking about the warrant in attributing this prophecy to the Holocaust Jews, ask how it is that the non-Jewish nations somehow find healing through this event? In regards to violence, as can be seen from recent history, ironically, since only a few years after World War II and continuing through to today, Israel continues to do violence. Much of this is in self-defense, which is justifiable, of course, but Israel cannot be seen as "being led as a lamb to the slaughter" with this being the case.
Christian assertion: V 4 -- Israel cannot itself bear its own grief Jewish response: The speaker in the first nine or ten verses is the neighboring kings. Israel carries their griefs, not its own.
Our response: See again the answer to the first response given in this section.
We would also like to add a few more objections of our own to this list, before moving on to the next topic.
1. Given the atonement theology clearly detailed in this passage, how is it that "with his (Israel's?) stripes, we are healed"?
2. How is it that Israel can serve as an offering for sin? (verse 10--see also our response at the beginning of this section which details the theological problems involved with such an interpretation)?
3. What does it mean that Israel was taken from prison (verse 8)? The author made much out of the fact that he did not think that Jesus "made his grave with the wicked"(in verse 8). We ask in response, how is it exactly that Israel "made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death;"?
4. Verse 8 in the text reads, "....for the transgression of my people was he stricken." Unless the author believes that "my people" is referring to the Gentile nations rather than Israel (which wouldn't make sense in light of virtually the rest of the Bible), the servant obviously is not Israel.
The author continues:
Isaiah 53, then, continues the theme of prior chapters: Israel is the servant of God. It will suffer at the hands of other nations, but through that suffering will be able to bring the Torah -- and its salvation (though not in the Christian sense of the word) -- to everyone. Whether you agree with this interpretation or not, it is completely consistent with the text. However, the idea that Jesus is this suffering servant is not consistent with the text.
In light of the preceding comments, however, we disagree and come to the reverse conclusion of that of the author. Isaiah 53 speaks of an individual (as is corroborated by many authoritative Jewish sources in the first millenium A.D.) and the prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus Christ. This theme expanded in more detail former servant songs (e.g. Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:1-7) that also spoke of this same individual. For a good summary of the "Messianic fingerprint "data in the book of Isaiah, see this article by Sam Shamoun and Jochen Katz (See especially the bottom half of the article--"The Uncanny Refutation" where a helpful summary and discussion can be found.).
To summarize -- Isaiah 53 says: The neighboring kings confess: They (Israel) bore the sufferings which we deserved, while we thought them afflicted by God; that the sufferer described (i.e., Israel) grew up in the presence of God, as a root out of the dry ground; that he was despised and rejected; that his countenance was so marred as scarce to retain the human form; that he (i.e., some Israelites) actually suffered as martyrs; that he (i.e., therefore, these who died or who were exiled) actually suffered death, and was buried with the rich; that kings (when the messiah came) would acknowledge him (Israel); and that he should intercede for the transgressors.
In light of the above, this summary with its accompanying parenthetical commentary is moot. We will bring up two more issues relating to this summary, however, that has not yet been mentioned. The text indicates that the servant actually died, but how is it that this can apply to Israel? The author seems to assume that the martyrdom of SOME Israelites gives justification to the text that indicates that the servant himself would die. While this interpretation MAY be allowable, notice that technically speaking, this interpretation would indicate that only a fraction of the servant died, and not the whole servant as the text seems to indicate. Secondly, notice also that the claim is made that "when the Messiah came" that the kings would acknowledge Israel. However, we are told (or given the implication) in an earlier section of this article that the sufferings of the servant applies to the Jews of the Holocaust. How is it that the author justifies the servant as referring to the Jews that suffered the Holocaust in one section of the reply and in another section refers to a future state of Israel? The author may reply by saying that he was merely highlighting the Holocaust as an example of how, at one point in Israel's history, they were "led as lambs to the slaughter." This is allowable, but we would say in response that other points in Israel's history (such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts) disqualifies them from being the servant in question.
In closing, the author gives us his own translation of the text. We will have a few more comments to make below it on one more peculiarity since we did not address it in the above sections.
My own translation follows. I've adapted it mainly from the Davka translation with specifics [added in brackets] and some uncertain meanings indicated with (?). I'm no scholar, especially in Biblical Hebrew, but this is what I think the prophet is saying. If you disagree, let me know the specifics of why. 53
[The kings say], "Who would have believed our report, and to whom was the arm [intention(?)] of Hashem revealed? he came up like a sapling before him [i.e. G-d(?)], and like a root from dry ground. He had neither form nor comeliness; and we saw nothing describable or handsome. despised and rejected him, a man of pains and familiar with sickness. And we despised him like one who hides his face [lit. face is secret] from us, and didn't think much of him. , he bore our sicknesses, and suffered our pains, and we thought him stricken by God and oppressed. he was [left(?)] violated from our crimes, and crushed from our iniquities; rebuke [for] our welfare was on him, and with his bruise we were healed. all went astray like sheep, we have each turned to our own path, and Hashem wounded him with the sin[ful doings (?)] of all of us. was persecuted and tortured, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb lead to the butcher or like a ewe that is mute before her shearers, and he did not open his mouth. imprisonment and from judgment he was taken, and who will discuss with his generation how he was cut off from the land of the living, because of the transgression of my people, a plague befell them. he gave his grave to the wicked and to the wealthy. With his death he committed no wrong, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 1 Hashem wanted to crush him and make him ill; if his soul places [itself] a guilt [offering(?) - i.e. for the sins of the kings], he shall see children, prolong his days, and Hashem's purpose shall succeed by his hand."
[Hashem says] "From the toil of his soul he would see, would be satisfied. With his knowledge [i.e. of Torah(?] My righteous servant would make many righteous, and he would tolerate their wrongdoings. , I will distinguish him from many, and with the enormous he shall share plunder, because he poured out his soul to death, and we counted (?) sinners, and he carried many sins, and was vulnerable to the sinners."
Notice that verse 8 is translated as "....because of the transgression of my people, a plague befell them" as opposed to the KJV which reads "for the transgression of my people was he stricken." The author's translation translates the servant in the plural. The ambiguity results from the Hebrew word "lamoh." The "Jews for Judaism" site elaborates on this. Below is their commentary on this as well as the response provided by Michael Brown:
"From my peoples' sins, there was injury to them." Here the Prophet makes absolutely clear, to anyone familiar with Biblical Hebrew, that the oppressed Servant is a collective Servant, not a single individual.
The Hebrew word "lamoh", when used in our Scriptures, always means "to them" never "to him" and may be found, for example, in Psalm 99:7 - "They kept his testimonies, and the statute that He gave to them."
"As to "lamoh," Brown responds: "First, the phrase nega'lamo, as rightly understood by the NJPSV, most likely means that the servant receives a stroke *for them*-in other words, for those for whom he is suffering. Second, Isaiah elsewhere uses lamo to mean "to it," not "to them,"(in 44:15: "he makes an idol and bows down to it"). So, even if you wanted to take lamo to refer to the servant(which, as stated, is unlikely), it could still mean "for him" as opposed to "for them."" [Copied from our other Isaiah 53 piece]
Lastly, the author discusses Daniel 9:24-27.
Christians tend to get quite emphatic about these verses. They say, "It predicts the time of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem to the DAY. To the EXACT DAY", and then they jab their finger in the air or pound the table to show how certain they are.
Of course, since no one knows for sure when Jesus entered Jerusalem, no one can know that a prophecy correctly predicts it. There are other problems.
The verses describe "seventy weeks", i.e. seventy groups of seven years, 490 years, starting with "the command to restore and to build Jerusalem" (v 25) and ending with the time for Israel to "finish the transgression, and to make and end of sins" and other things (v 24).
We do not subscribe to the interpretation that is used to predict the actual day of Christ's entry into Jerusalem and thus will not be defending it. However, we do believe that this is a prophecy which accurately predicts the timing of the Messiah's ministry and death. More on that will be discussed just below, but first we will list the two translations of these 4 verses that the author lists on his page. For a side-by-side comparison, a chart is provided on the author's page. Here we will just paste the KJV translation followed by the 1917 translation by the Jewish Publication Society (both listed by the author):
24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. 25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. 26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. [KJV]
24 Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sin, and to forgive iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal vision and prophet, and to anoint the most holy place. 25 Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem unto one anointed, a prince, shall be seven weeks; and for threescore and two weeks, it shall be built again, with broad place and moat, but in troublous times. 26 And after the threescore and two weeks shall an anointed one be cut off, and be no more; and the people of a prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; but his end shall be with a flood; and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week; and for half of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the offering to cease; and upon the wing of detestable things shall be that which causeth appalment; and that until the extermination wholly determined be poured out upon that which causeth appalment.' [JPS]
Before moving on to the author's objections, we will give a brief summary of the understanding of how the 70 weeks should be divided that we will endorse.
The starting date for the 70 weeks (which we shall justify below) is 457 B.C. Sixty nine weeks (constituting 483 years) takes us to the date 27 A.D. JPH notes at this point two possible understandings of the 70th week, each of which he finds to be plausible: "Many have written on the subject of how the coming of Jesus precisely fulfilled the timing of this passage on terms of the first 69 weeks, and we have no reason to dispute or discuss that here. What is at issue is the last or 70th week. The dispensational paradigm holds that this 70th week is on hold until a future time called the Tribulation. I disagree. The 70th week, or last 7-year period, transpired either around the crucifixion of Jesus (ending around the time of Paul's conversion), giving the Jews time to accept him as Messiah (during which the punishment for this rejection was determined), or possibly during the war on the Jews from 66-73 AD (which may have allowed a 40 year gap, programmatic of the Exodus, for Jesus to still be accepted, between 30-70) though that seven "weeks" need not be part of Daniel's 70." (Source)
As to how the 66-73 A.D. understanding could fit the 70th week, JPH notes in the same article:
"The people of the prince that will come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary" -- obviously this is fully interpretable as the Romans under Vespasian (with Titus perhaps, as Vespasian's son, qualifying as the "prince") destroying Jerusalem and the Temple. It was so interpreted by Josephus, by ancient rabbis, and by medieval rabbis [Miller, 268]. It's also possible to see Jesus as the "prince" using Rome's armies to judge Israel (as God used Assyria and Babylon previously) and noting Jewish responsibility for the war, thus making the Jews the "people". It gets hairier here:
"And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate." -- the dispensational paradigm sees this as a case of the Antichrist ("he") signing a peace treaty with the Jews, and then halfway through the Tribulation period putting a stop to re-established Jewish sacrifices. But this interpretation works its way by applying the pronoun "he" back to the "prince" of the people who will come. "Prince" is of course the most obvious antecedent, if placement is all that is to be considered, but the object of the phrase is the people, not the prince.
"The week here may or may not be identical with the 70th week. Whatever the case, we have two possible interpretations: 1) it was in the midst of the 7-year war -- in 70 -- that "he", meaning not the prince of the people, but rather, the Messiah in verse 26 -- confirmed (which is to say, verified -- the word here means to strengthen [sic] or prevail, not merely make or create) the covenant with "many" (if the Jews are in mind, why not say the "your people"? -- on the other hand, cf. Matthew 26:28, "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.") by delivering the promised judgment against Jerusalem, predicted in more detail in the Olivet Discourse. In the middle of this week -- in 70 -- this God-ordained judgment "cause[d] the sacrifice and the oblation to cease". (For what it is worth, liberal commentators who make the "Messiah" out to be Onias III or another Maccabbean-era priest see the "Messiah" as the one who confirmed the covenant; see Hartman and DiLella, 251, and Lacocque, 993.) Another idea is 2)66-73 AD fell not within the weeks but rather was a consequence of the weeks. In this view the 70th week ended with the conversion of Paul and Christ is the one who brings and end to sacrifice and offering, so the crucifixion is in the middle of the 70th week. I find either one of these usable at present."
I personally prefer the other option, of the 70th week being understood as referring to the period of time from about 27 A.D. to 34 A.D. This view has some advantages, IMO, over other interpretations. 1) As with the interpretation detailed above, this interpretation corresponds to a fulfillment of the 70 weeks before or in relation to the destruction of the 2nd temple and fall of Jerusalem. This seems to be a more natural and less forced interpretation of the text rather than to bypass the destruction of a 2nd temple/fall of Jerusalem and focus on a still-future establishment and destruction of a 3rd temple with accompanying destruction of the city. 2) Unlike the above interpretation, this interpretation makes the 70th week continuous with the previous 69 weeks. 3) More information can possibly be gleaned about Christ's ministry with this interpretation, as shall now be demonstrated.
Here again are verses 26-27 with the pertinent parts for our discussion emphasized in CAPS: "(26) AND AFTER THREESCORE AND TWO WEEKS SHALL MESSIAH BE CUT OFF, BUT NOT FOR HIMSELF: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. (27) AND HE SHALL CONFIRM THE COVENANT WITH MANY FOR ONE WEEK: AND IN THE MIDST OF THE WEEK HE SHALL CAUSE THE SACRIFICE AND THE OBLATION TO CEASE, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate."
Many commentators identify the "prince that shall come that shall destroy the city and sanctuary" as the same subject as the "he" that "shall confirm the covenant with many for one week" at the beginning of verse 27. The key to our understanding, on the other hand, is to identify the one that is "cut off" in verse 26 as the same subject discussed (at least in the first part) in verse 27. In other words, the subject that is "cut off" in verse 26 (which Christian commentators agree refers to the Messiah) is the same as the one that shall "confirm the covenant with many...."
1) The 69 weeks, beginning at the starting date we proposed earlier (app. 457 A.D.), would take us up to about 27 A.D. Although the timing of Christ's crucifixion is uncertain, and thus so is the beginning of His ministry, the 27 A.D. date would be a good approximation for the latter event. If we understand that in verse 27 the ministry of Jesus and the 70th week is being described, then this would seem to fit well with certain aspects of Christ's ministry. "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week:" would be applicable, in this case, to the fact that Israel was still God's covenant people, although Christ warned that this would soon change (Matthew 21:28-44) as a result of their rejection and execution of Him. This would explain why Jesus largely restricted His ministry to the Jews and instructed His disciples only to preach to the Jews during His earthly ministry (Matthew 10:5-6). Jesus also encouraged the continuation of sacrificial offerings as well prior to His crucifixion. He told certain people that He had healed, for instance, to make their obligatory gift offerings as a result of the good that had come their way (e.g. Matthew 8:1-4).
2) "....and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease..." would indicate that in the middle of this 70th week (which would take us to about 31 A.D. under this paradigm) something would happen to cause the sacrificial offerings to cease. Of course, we know that sacrifices were made by Jews until 70 A.D. when the Temple was destroyed. However, at the point of Christ's crucifixion, the value of sacrificial offerings ceased to be of value since the final, and obviously most important and ultimate, sacrifice had been made. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil of the Temple separating the most holy place from the holy place was torn (cf. e.g. Matthew 27:51). This was an indicator that man could now receive atonement through the blood shed by Jesus rather than that of bulls, goats, etc. being administered by a priest. It should also be added that understanding verse 27 as referring to Jesus would correspond to the length of Christ's ministry, which was about 3 and 1/2 years. The end of the 70th week would take us to 34 A.D., which as JPH noted earlier, is about the time that Paul was converted. This is significant since Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles (although, of course, Peter and the other disciples also preached to the Gentiles--cf. Acts 10). This marked the point that "the transgression was finished" (Daniel 9:24) as the 70 weeks were complete. The Gospel was to go to the Gentiles and all Jews that did not accept the Messiah were cut off from being members of God's covenant people, or as Paul describes, the natural branches were removed and the unnatural branches could be engrafted (Romans 11). This scenario, of course, would place the destruction of the Temple (described in 9:27b.) after the completion of the 70 weeks.
3) "....and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate" could refer, we submit, either to Titus or the Jews. Understanding it in either way would make the sequence of events describing the two subjects in verses 26 and 27 follow an alternating literary pattern thusly:
Under this scenario, "A" would be referring to the "anointed one" and "B" to Titus ("the prince" and "desolator") or the Jews ("people of the prince" and "desolator").
We favor understanding the references to "the people of the prince" and "desolator" as referring to the Jews. Before we delve into why, it may be helpful to comment upon the translation of 9:27b. There are several translations that render 9:27b differently than that seen in the KJV. Consider, for instance, the NASB version:
"And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations WILL COME ONE who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate." (emphasis added)
A differentiation between the one that will "make a firm covenant with the many for one week" and the "one who makes desolate" is more explicit here than in some other translations. Other translations that allow explicitly for this differentiation include the MSG, AMP, NLV, ESV, CEV, NKJV, and ASV. [This information was gleaned from the helpful Bible Gateway site.] The author's Jewish translation (JPS-quoted above) also makes the argument that two different figures are being described in this verse plausible as well.
With this background, let us now delve into 9:26-27. Here are the verses again, according to the NASB:
"Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate."
In this case, our understanding of the anointed one being "cut off" and the one that will "make a firm covenant with many for one week" remains the same, referring to the Messiah. However, instead of the "people of the prince" referring to the Roman soldiers under Titus, we propose that the prince is the same anointed one in the first part of the verse and the people being, of course, the anointed one's people, which according to this paradigm would mean the Jews. This interpretation presents an apparent problem in that it was the Romans that sacked the city, not the Jews. However, we may be able to resolve this by considering that it is ultimately due to the rebellion of God's people that this calamity befell them. We can use the prayer of Daniel in 9:1-19 as a control. In verse 2, Daniel refers to Jeremiah's prophecy that Jerusalem would lie desolate for seventy years. Daniel then, in subsequent verses, describes why this happened and ultimately who was responsible. Consider, for instance, verses 10-15: "Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him. And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem. As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth. Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice. And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly."
In verses 16-19, Daniel asks God to restore His people and turn away His anger from Jerusalem. While it was Nebuchadnezzar that sacked Jerusalem, it was because of the sins of the Israelites that God punished them with this 70 year exile. The same principle can be applied also to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Romans (cf. also Deuteronomy 28:15-68]. Jesus also, places the blame for the coming destruction at Israel's door: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." (Matthew 23:36-38) [Consider also the parable of the wicked tenants and parable of the king's marriage for his son (Matthew 21:33-44 and 22:1-14, respectively)]
With that in mind, who is this "one that will come who makes desolate."? Ted Noel postulates, regarding this: "About AD 66, the Zealots and other groups of rebels fomented a revolt to throw off the Roman yoke. Although there were several leaders, such as Simon ben Giora, the most influential was John, son of Levi, of Gischala in Galilee. The revolt was in itself an abomination, but worse was to follow. The Zealots murdered over 12,000 priests. Later, as the revolt reached its peak in AD 70, over 8,000 were murdered in the Temple grounds and left unburied, a further abomination. The bloody rebels used the Temple itself as their final stronghold in Jerusalem. The end of the revolt was the complete destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans, with loss of a million Jewish lives. The desolation was complete….The 'abomination' was the Jewish revolt and its aftermath. The one who made desolate was John, son of Levi, who stood pars pro toto as the corporate image of revolt against God. He, through his complicit countrymen, caused the desolation of Jerusalem. And complete destruction, just as decreed in Deuteronomy 28:15 and the verses following, was poured out on him and the Jews with him. The handful of survivors was dispersed, and Jerusalem became a Roman city, off limits to Jews." [(Noel, Ted. "I Want to be Left Behind." 2002. pgs. 65-66) My thanks also go to Noel for being the inspiration behind this particular understanding of the last 2 verses in the passage.]
To this it should be added that, when the Romans entered the city, it was not their intention to destroy the Temple, but this resulted from the resistance of the rebels.
"The responsibility of the Jews in Jerusalem cannot be denied. At the urging of the Zealots, they rebelled against their Roman overlords. Titus' army besieged the city, which fell into cannibalism when food supplies ran out. Eventually the Roman army was able to enter the city, but was under orders not to cause any harm to the temple. But Zealots inside the temple walls resisted, and eventually a torch was thrown in by a soldier. The resulting fire was so hot that the gold in the temple melted and ran out. Resistance to the last man led to total destruction of the city.
"The Romans physically destroyed the city, but the Jews were responsible. In Hebrew thought, this was a judgment from God on a rebellious people. In fact, it was part of the covenant curses described in Deuteronomy 28. The Romans were the agents of God. Thus, the people of Jesus, the Jews, did destroy Jerusalem." [Ibid. 59]
So, in summary regarding Daniel 9:26-27, we propose 2 possible interpretations, each of which approaches the text in the "A, B, A', B'" pattern we suggested earlier. In both cases, the "anointed one" is the one that is "cut off" after the 69th week and who "confirms the covenant with many for one week." The prince of verse 26 and desolator of verse 27, then, would, under the first proposal, refer to Titus. The "people of the prince," of course, according to this paradigm, would be the Romans. According to the latter proposal, the "prince" refers to the "anointed one" and the "people of the prince" and "desolator" refer to the Jews, most particularly the ones that instigated the revolt which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem along with the Temple. Before concluding, we might note a few additional strengths to this latter proposal. 1) The prince ("nagiyd") in verses 25 and 26 refer to the same character rather than 2 different ones. 2) The flow of the passage appears to be more fluid in this case, as verse 26 describes the "anointed one" with the "people of the prince" referring to the people of the "anointed one," and not a second character. 3) Postulating verse 27a as referring to the work of the "anointed one" of verse 26 then becomes more natural. 4) Given that the 70 weeks is referring to what is "determined upon thy [Daniel's] people and upon thy holy city,…." (verse 24), it is consistent with the overall theme of the passage that the desolator in 9:27b refers to the same people upon whom the "determination" is made in the first place.
With this in mind, we shall now consider the objections of the author:
Christians agree that the verses PRECISELY predict Jesus entering Jerusalem (or maybe the crucifixion), but they can't agree how. One Christian webpage says the starting point is 458 BCE, while another says only 445 BCE will do. A third says the phrase "cut off" refers to Jesus' crucifixion, while a fourth says it means Christ's leaving heaven.
While there is some disagreement on the date and to what the date points, I have yet personally to see a Christian commentary that does not understand "cut off" as referring to the death of the "anointed one." Regardless of which date is correct or method of counting, this prophecy still brings us up to about 30 A.D., give or take a few years, details a very important set of events to take place, including atonement for iniquity (verse 24), which has to do with the death ("cut off") of some anointed one. The core prophecy remains intact in spite of the divergences among commentators.
In other words -- missionaries, get your act together before you come preaching to Jews. Though there is really no need to refute them (since they refute one another),….
As mentioned before, the core of the prophecy remains intact regardless of some of the divergences in interpretation. All of the major Christian interpretations of which I'm aware agree that an "anointed one" had to be "cut off" between 27 and 70 A.D. and that connected to this event would be the accomplishment of the six important events listed in verse 24, including of course, providing "atonement for iniquity." Most interpretations also seem to agree that these events were to take place prior to the destruction of the 2nd Temple. It would be faulty to simply dismiss all interpretations because of divergences in the understanding of some of the secondary details. Besides, the fact that there exists disagreement on some of the secondary details of the prophecy does not mean that there is not one truly sound interpretation that may be gleaned from the text. We could complain in response that anti-missionaries need to "get their acts together" and come up with only one counter-interpretation for each Christian claim regarding the various Messianic prophecies. For instance, the author's contention that the Holocaust Jews fulfill at least part of the role of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 does not necessarily make all anti-missionary arguments, including this one, bad, because of the fact that others may see it differently (such as with contentions that the servant in question refers to all of Israel's history, or the Israel that suffered the exile under Nebuchadnezzar). What if we were to conclude the following based on these divergences?: "Since Jews can't even agree as to how Israel fulfills the Isaiah prophecy in question, it obviously cannot be referring to Israel. There is no need to refute them since they refute one another." We figure the author would find this logic quite faulty, and rightfully so. As noted in that section of this article, however, this understanding, as with the others, is to be dismissed on other grounds.
….I'll discuss the modern missionary position as it described by the Jews for Jesus types and others on the web, and I'll give the Jewish response to their claims. If I misstate specifically what THESE claims are, let me know.
To make this 490 year span come out right, the missionaries do several things (as Dave Barry says, I am not making this up); 1) they choose an unlikely starting point, 2) they ignore the end point, 3) they invent a new system of writing numbers, 4) they invent a new kind of year, and 5) they add a word not in the original text. That they interpret many Hebrew words and phrases differently than Jews do is legitimate. But that list of 1 through 5 -- well, read the explanation below and decide for yourself.
Let's discuss the individual items:
1) Starting date: Daniel's says "from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem", which is what Cyrus (whom Isaiah refers to as "the Lord's Messiah") had commanded in 538 BCE (see Is. 44:28). But Cyrus's order is too early for the missionaries (some even admit this is their reasoning), so they say the Daniel verse refers to the order in 445 BCE by one of Cyrus' successors, Artaxerxes, to resume the restoration which had already begun, but had been temporarily interrupted. is possible, but not likely
We would ask in response, first of all, if the starting date is 538 B.C., how is this prophecy fulfilled, according to the author? Secondly, Michael Brown notes that the problem of starting the countdown at 538 B.C. with the degree of Cyrus is that it applied only to the rebuilding of the Temple and not Jerusalem itself, as the prophecy requires (cf. II Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4). A later decree in 521 B.C. is made by Darius which renews the earlier decree of Cyrus, yet still only concerns the Temple. (Ezra 6:1-12). We should note here that, up to now, there is no good reason whatsoever to take 538 B.C. or 521 B.C. as our starting point, as verse 25 explicitly states that the 70 weeks are to begin with the restoration of Jerusalem. These dates have only to do with the Temple, not the city. The decree of Artaxerxes I in 457 B.C. centers on the rebuilt Temple (Ezra 7:12-24), yet goes a step further in verses 25-26:
"And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not. And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment."
We see here that in addition to Temple funding, Ezra is to establish the legal system once again in Jerusalem. This extends beyond Temple construction, and makes 457 B.C. a more plausible starting date than the two previous ones. Other relevant texts, pointed out by Brown, indicate that this decree extends beyond Temple construction and toward the restoration of Jerusalem as well (Ezra 9:9; Nehemiah 1:4). [Brown (2): 106-107]
Ted Noel writes,
"The final decree is found in Ezra 7. In the seventh year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, after the temple is completed (6:15), Ezra is granted a decree allowing any Israelite I the Medo-Persian empire to return to Jerusalem (7:13). The king 'freely offered to the God of Israel" gold and silver (7:15) as well as the last of the sacred vessels taken by Nebuchadnezzar. Other offerings are included from 'all the silver and gold which you shall find in the whole province of Babylon' (7:16). These are to be 'offered on the altar of the house of God which is in Jerusalem' (7:17). Other specifics are included which add up to a full restoration of the worship of God in a fully furnished temple. Artaxerxes then continues with a full restoration of civil authority for the returned exiles. Magistrates and judges are to be appointed to apply the law of God in Judea (7:25-26). He even provides for teachers of the law.
"This decree fully restores Jerusalem. The autonomy of the city is explicitly re-established under the laws of God. The rebuilt temple can now be properly used for the worship of God, complete with all the sacred vessels. Artaxerxes further indicates his submission to God by providing gifts for the temple from both the royal treasury and the people of the land. Even the treasures of neighboring provinces (7:21-22) are required to contribute. But most important is the reason stated in the decree.
"Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be done with zeal for the house of the God of heaven, lest there be wrath against the kingdom of the king and his sons." (Ezra 7:23)
"Artaxerxes makes it clear that he is submitting his authority to the God of heaven. By all the related actions in the decree he makes it clear that all of his subordinates are to respect Yahweh as well. Ezra confirms this effect (7:28). In this way Jerusalem becomes more prominent in the world. It is 'built up." This is a complete and exact match to the specifications given by Gabriel. Artaxerxes has issued the decree 'to restore and to build up Jerusalem.' As a final note, Ezra identifies this decree as something God has put in the king's heart (7:27), suggesting that Ezra understands its prophetic significance.
"Daniel 9:25 says Jerusalem will be 'restored and built up.' We do not need to revisit the derivation of this language, since it is identical to what we have just covered. But the next phrase requires attention. The KJV says the restoration will be 'with streets and a wall.' The NASB reads 'with plaza and moat.' The first word, rehob, means a wide place. Since streets were generally narrow, 'plaza' or 'square' (RSV) is the preferred reading. The second word is one we have seen before: charats.
"The root meaning of charats is 'to cut.' Thus we find that the NASB and NIV indicate that there will be a moat or trench. But Jerusalem has never had a moat, and the Old Testament only uses charats in the concrete sense once [footnote reference: Lev. 22:22 uses charats to refer to injured or mutilated animals unfit for sacrifice]. Its primary usage is with regard to decision-making. [footnote reference: Perhaps the best example of this is Joel 3:14, where the word is used in the repeated phrase 'Valley of Decision.'"] In Old Testament times civil decisions were carried out in the square near the city gate. If we read this phrase as 'square and decision making,' then we have encountered an idiom which describes having both the place and power of independent civil authority. This is a perfect description of the civil autonomy granted in the decree of Ezra 7. No further search is necessary. When properly translated, the specifications in Daniel 9:25 are matched in exacting detail by the decree given by Artaxerxes in his seventh year." [Source: Noel, Ted. "I Want to be Left Behind." 2002. 48-50]
So what happened between 446-444 B.C. for various commentators to ascribe significance? The key text is Nehemiah 2:5-8:
"And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchers, that I may build it. And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? And when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah; And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me."
It is understandable, especially in light of the KJV translation, that many would understand this event to begin the 70 weeks. After all, this is a provision allowed by the king for Nehemiah to return to Judah and build the wall of the city. However, in light of the linguistic analysis provided by Noel in the above quote, the 457 B.C. decree seems to be a more suitable description. The largest problem, it seems, with attributing the starting date at the time of this event is that it doesn't even seem to be a decree. This is an incident where Nehemiah is given permission to go to Judah and perform the acts described in the verses in question, but it is questionable it seems to call this an actual royal decree as the prophecy in Daniel 9:25 requires. On the other hand, the event of 457 B.C. is clearly referred to as a decree (cf. Ezra 7:13).
2) Ending date: Missionaries say the phrase "after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off" refers to Jesus' entrance to Jerusalem. If that occurred in the 69th week -- better yet, let's use the word "septad" to avoid confusion -- then all those wonderful things (end of sin, everlasting righteousness, etc) should have come about a long time ago, certainly before the Romans leveled Jerusalem. Obviously this has not happened. So how could Jesus' death have occurred in the 69th septad of Daniel's predicted time span?
In response we could ask, since this prophecy was to be fulfilled prior to the destruction of the 2nd Temple, if it was not fulfilled by Jesus, who and how was it fulfilled? On the other hand, according to the Christian paradigm, this prophecy was fulfilled perfectly in Jesus.
1) "....to finish the transgression,...." As hinted at earlier, this was the time left for the Jews ("Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city,...."), consummated by the coming of the Messiah at the end, to remain as God's people. With the "transgression finished," the Gospel went to the Gentiles and Jerusalem was destroyed. Israel now consists of "spiritual Jews," those Jews and Gentiles that accept Jesus as Messiah. Alternatively, this could be referring to the time when sin is finally defeated.
2) "....to make an end of sins,...." According to the Christian paradigm, the death of Christ served as the mechanism for how sin was defeated. Through His death, all men and women can find atonement through His blood and be counted righteous before God! Until this sacrifice was made, the stranglehold of sin upon humanity could not be broken. Brown notes: "As other New Testament writers explain, everything necessary for forgiveness and redemption was accomplished by the death and resurrection of Jesus. It need only be applied and appropriated (cf. 2 Cor. 5:14-21). [Brown (2): 96]
3) "....to make reconciliation for iniquity,...." This, of course, is the whole essence of the Christian paradigm. It is through Christ's atoning death that we may be reconciled to God in spite of our sins.
4) "....to bring in everlasting righteousness,...." Through the death of Jesus Christ we may be cleansed of all unrighteousness:
"For even here unto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, THAT WE, BEING DEAD TO SINS, SHOULD LIVE UNTO RIGHTEOUSNESS: by whose stripes ye were healed." (I Peter 2:21-24, emphasis added)
"Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; THAT WE MIGHT BE MADE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM." (II Corinthians 5:20-21, emphasis added)
5) "....to seal up the vision and prophecy,...." Brown notes in regard to this:
"This could mean 'to authenticate' or 'to hide.' Either one would be applicable to Jesus, since (1) his coming fully validated the prophetic witness of the Hebrew Scriptures (if he did not come at the appointed time, this would have invalidated both vision and prophecy), and (2) God judged those who rejected him with hardness of heart, thus hiding the truth of the prophetic Scriptures from them." [Brown (2): 97]
6) "....to anoint the most Holy [place]...." One question to be asked here is whether it is possible that the "most holy place" could refer to a person. Brown notes one possible exception in the Hebrew Scriptures of "most holy" (i.e. "holy of holies") referring to a person. That comes from 1 Chronicles 23:13. To quote Brown:
"It is true that most translations understand this verse to state that Aaron was set apart 'to consecrate the most holy THINGS.' (NIV; cf., e.g., KJV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, NLT). Yet there are other translations, both Christian and Jewish (e.g., NASB and Stone), that interpret the Hebrew with reference to Aaron himself: 'Aaron was set apart to sancrify HIM as most holy' (NASB; for he Stone rendering, see n. 178)Brown also notes:
"As far back as the eighteenth century, C. Schottgen cited no less an authority than Nachmanides as having stated that 'the Holy of holies is naught else than the Messiah, the sanctified one of the sons of David.'[Brown (2): 97-98--(Brown's source for this is "C. Schottgen, as cited in Montgmery, "Daniel," 398.)] This view may also be supported by the Septuagint, and it is certinly supported by the Syriac Peshitta, composed in the first centuries of this era." [Brown (2): 98--(Brown's source here is Keil, "Daniel," in C.F. Keil and F. Delitzxch, "Commentary on the Old Testament," 1028-33)]
Alternatively, it is possible that the "most holy" in Daniel is referring to the formation of the church. Notice what we find in Isaiah 61:1:
"The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek;...." Jesus applies this passage to Himself (in Luke 4:18-19). It seems that there is a very plausible correlation in the passage of being anointed and having the spirit of God come upon one. It was shortly after Christ's baptism [(cf. Luke 3:21-23) where the Spirit descended upon Him] that He began His public ministry. Ten days after Christ's ascension into heaven, the Holy Spirit likewise fell upon the disciples (Acts 2:1-4) and they subsequently began preaching the Gospel to the Jews (Acts 2:22-40 and so on....) Paul also refers to the church as God's temple:
"And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." (II Corinthians 6:16)
As the Shekinah of God dwelt within the Temple building, He now lives inside of the "spiritual Temple," consisting of people that have been redeemed by Jesus Christ.
One other possibility worth noting would be a reference to the Temple in heaven described in Hebrews and Revelation. We do not wish to speculate what exactly this Temple may be, but the imagery certainly is prevalent in the aforementioned books. After the author of Hebrews describes in some detail the rituals and furniture associated with the first temple (Hebrews 9:1-5), he writes:
"Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. BUT CHRIST BEING COME AN HIGH PRIEST OF GOOD THINGS TO COME, BY A GREATER AND MORE PERFECT TABERNACLE, NOT MADE WITH HANDS, THAT IS TO SAY, NOT OF THIS BUILDING; NEITHER BY THE BLOOD OF GOATS AND CALVES, BUT BY HIS OWN BLOOD HE ENTERED IN ONCE INTO THE HOLY PLACE, HAVING OBTAINED ETERNAL REDEMPTION FOR US. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?....For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water; and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. FOR CHRIST IS NOT ENTERED INTO THE HOLY PLACES MADE WITH HANDS, WHICH ARE THE FIGURES OF THE TRUE; BUT INTO HEAVEN ITSELF, NOW TO APPEAR IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD FOR US: NOR YET THAT HE SHOULD OFFER HIMSELF OFTEN, AS THE HIGH PRIEST ENTERETH INTO THE HOLY PLACE EVERY YEAR WIHT BLOOD OF OTHERS; FOR THEN MUST HE OFTEN HAVE SUFFERED SINCE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD: BUT NOW ONCE IN THE END OF THE WORLD HATH HE APPEARED TO PUT AWAY SIN BY THE SACRIFICE OF HIMSELF. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: SO CHRIST WAS OFFERED TO BEAR THE SINS OF MANY; AND UNTO THEM THAT LOOK FOR HIM SHALL HE APPEAR THE SECOND TIME WITHOUT SIN UNTO SALVATION. (Hebrews 9:6-14; 19-28, emphasis added)
Here we see clear imagery of Christ, our High Priest, entering into the "tabernacle made without hands" offering us atonement through His own blood. In this sense, one can quite plausibly state that it was this Temple in heaven that Christ entered (whatever we are to make of this) that has been anointed and to which all people may come through acceptance of Christ's sacrifice on their behalf.
Missionaries say that "the clock was stopped". Daniel doesn't mention any stoppage of the clock. Try telling that to your mortgage company.
Well, the proposal of gaps in between the sets of weeks mentioned by Daniel is not peculiar to Christian interpretation. Brown details how the famous Jewish Biblical and Talmudic interpreter of the 11th century A.D. Rashi performs a similar exercise. [Brown (2): 88-90] However, one of the strengths of the above interpretation of the 70 weeks (from 457 B.C. to 34 A.D.) is the fact that there are no gaps in time. However, given the fact that Daniel broke down the 70 weeks into sets of 7, 62, and 1, we should not exclude the possibility of short chronological gaps. However, it appears necessary given the data that our time boundaries be confined to between 457 B.C. as the beginning of the 70 weeks (since this is when the order to restore Jerusalem, and not just the Temple, first took place) and 73 A.D. as the ending of the 70 weeks (since, at the latest, the first 69 weeks and at least half of the last week must be completed by the time of the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem). And, of course, speaking of clock stoppages, we would ask the author how Daniel's 70 weeks was all fulfilled prior to 70 A.D. if not through Jesus?
3) Numbering: Part of verse 25 in the KJV reads " ... seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built ..." Note the punctuation. The KJV is combining the numbers 7 and 60 and 2 into one number -- 69 to get the 69 septad prophecy. (Note that the JPS separates these into two numbers -- 7 and 62, each indicating a different event.) KJV usage is unprecedented. The Tanach (and everyone else) gives numbers almost the same way as English -- sixty and nine. You literally never see something like "seven and sixty and two." To make the prophecy fit, missionaries have invented a new numbering system for the Tanach.
This objection appears to be arguing, as per what can be seen by the JPS translation, that an anointed one would come after 7 weeks. Of course, we see that AFTER the 62 weeks from verse 26 that an anointed one would be "cut off." Thus, the Christian position is not hindered by the possibility of two anointed ones. But, are there really two anointed ones being spoken of in the text? James Price argues against this possibility:
"(2) Lippard, based on the work of Sigal, points out that the punctuation of the Hebrew text, as indicated by the Masoretic accents, places a major division of the verse between the seven weeks of years and the sixty-two weeks of years in verse 25. This makes the passage state that the Messiah will come after the seven weeks of years, and another Messiah after the sixty-two weeks. He is right, the Masoretic accent known as Athnach (the second strongest of the disjunctive accents) separates the seven weeks from the sixty-two weeks. This would seem almost conclusive if one were satisfied with shallow scholarship. But one must know more than the elementary concepts of the Masoretic accents before such conclusions can be made. The most important principle regarding the Masoretic accents is that they are primarily musical and only secondarily grammatical.
William Wickes, the most highly respected authority on the Masoretic accents, stated: "The character of the accentuation is . . . preeminently musical." Likewise, Israel Yeivin, a modern Masoretic authority wrote that the primary function of the accents "is to represent the musical motifs to which the Biblical text was chanted in the public reading."
My own research on the Masoretic accents has verified this principle. The placement of the accents of a verse are usually in harmony with the grammar of the Biblical text; but they are governed primarily by the musical demands of cantillation, and especially in poetry (as is this text of Daniel), the musical demands may overrule the grammatical demands. For example, in 1 Chronicles 1:7, a prose section, the text reads: "The sons of Javan were Elisha and Tarshishah, Kittim and Rodanim." This verse has a predicate with a fourfold compound predicate complement. In this verse the Athnach separates Tarshishah from Kittim. Grammatically there is no reason to place the major division of the verse in the middle of the compound predicate complement. According to the accents the verse should be punctuated "The sons of Javan were Elisha and Tarshishah; Kittim and Rodanim." Such punctuation is grammatically illogical. But the situation is even worse in 1 Chronicles 1:13-16 which constitutes only one sentence in English (and Hebrew): "Canaan begot Sidon, his firstborn, and Heth, and the Jebusite, and the Amorite, and the Girgashite, and the Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Sinite, and the Arvadite, and the Zemrite, and the Hamathite." This sentence contains a compound object of the verb "begot" with eleven elements each joined with the others by the conjunction "and." Yet this compound object is divided into four segments by the strongest disjunctive accent in Hebrew: Silluq with Soph Pasuq. There is no grammatical reason to divide this sentence into four segments. The reason for such grammatically illogical divisions is musical, due strictly to cantillation not grammar and syntax.
Such grammatically illogical divisions occur often, especially in poetry. So for example, in the very verse under discussion (Dan 9:25) a rather strong disjunctive accent (Tiphcha) separates "seven" from "weeks," words that are obviously grammatically related; a disjunctive accent (Garshaim) separates "weeks" from "sixty-two," again words that are obviously grammatically related; and a second time the rather strong disjunctive accent (Tiphcha) separates "troublesome" from "times," words that are obviously grammatically related.
So one cannot take an elementary approach to the accents of any verse. The punctuation of a translation, although often guided by the Masoretic accentuation, must be governed by the grammar, syntax, and exposition of the Hebrew text. These linguistic features often must overrule the musical cantillation. So in this passage, the punctuation preferred by Lippard, Sigal, and the RSV divide the verse so that it makes little sense. It calls for the introduction of two different Messiahs where the text obviously refers to only one; otherwise the laws of linguistics expect a distinguisher such as "another" to mark the fact that the second word "Messiah" has a different referent. Otherwise the same referent is expected." [Price (3)]
4) Duration of a year: 69 septads equals 483 years. If you start at 445 BCE, this would take you to 39 CE, seven years after when most people think that Jesus entered Jerusalem. However, if you subtract 5 days for each year -- that is 2,415 days -- which is converted to about 6.5 years (bear with me) -- that takes you back to about 32 CE. In other words, if you say that a year is only 360 days long, then the time works out. So they say that the septads that Daniel speaks of are composed -- not of normal years -- but of 360 day years, and call these "Biblical years." corresponds to a 360 day year. It is longer than standard Jewish year (of 12 lunar months) which is 354 days and is shorter than a solar year or a Jewish leap year (which is 13 lunar months.) Such a year could not have been used in Biblical times because the festivals, which are at least in part agricultural, would have gotten out of sync with the seasons. can this 'Biblical year' be other than an invention? When you set your own intervals, you can make anything come out.
As can be gleaned from our study by now, we are in agreement with the author that the years are not to be calculated in this manner. Instead, placing the starting date at 457 B.C. takes us to the time of Christ's ministry via solar years.
5) Adding to the text: KJV verse 25 says -- "from the ... commandment to restore ... Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince"; the JPS says -- "from the ... word to restore ... Jerusalem unto one anointed, a prince," KJV says "the Messiah" while JPS says "one anointed." The Hebrew word "moshiac" can mean either (though in the Bible it is usually "an anointed." The problem with the KJV is the use of the specific adjective "the". "The Messiah, the Prince" certainly sounds like one very specific person, like Jesus. But the Hebrew text does not have "the." (in Hebrew, the prefix of the letter 'hay') The Hebrew words are "mashiac nageed" -- an anointed prince, of whom there were many. KJV has added a word not in the text. what do the verses refer to? Probably the Hanukah story. If you are interested as to why I say this, or disagree with anything else in this page, write me
This objection centers upon the fact that the Hebrew does not contain a definite article to justify the interpretation "the anointed one" over and against "an anointed one." However, even with this being the case, this would certainly not disqualify Jesus as being the Subject of the text. As we have argued in this response, the elements of this prophecy point very strongly to the time and work of Jesus Christ, indeed AN anointed One of God. Given the import of the work of the anointed one as expounded in verse 24, it is certainly reasonable to postulate that this indeed does refer to the work of THE anointed one even though there is no definite article in the Hebrew. Furthermore, according to Brown, the KJV translation is corroborated by the Septuagint which translates "mashiach" as "tou christou," or "the anointed one." The most recent Jewish translation, the Stone edition, also contains this rendering. Brown notes in regards to this:
"This is because the Hebrew language can sometimes specify a particular person or event without using the definite article, as recognized in the standard grammars and, in certain phrases, in virtually all translations. Thus, it is not just any anointed one that the prophecy describes, but one particular anointed one. Some translators, both Christian and Jewish, feel that this concept is best expressed by using the word 'the' to identify that particular subject. Second, later Jewish usage made the word 'mashiach' into a proper name, as in the Jewish bumper sticker that says, 'We want Moshiach now!' For many centuries, in the Jewish mind the word 'mashiach' has not simply meant 'an anointed one' but rather 'the anointed one, King Messiah." Some Christian translations simply interpreted Daniel 9:26 in the light of their own Messianic traditions and views, finding in this verse the most overt reference to the Messiah-identified as such-in the Hebrew Scriptures." [Brown (2): 91]
In conclusion to this section, we believe that the author's criticism of the assertion made in many Christian circles about counting the years as if to have "360 days" may be justifiable. However, we believe that the data clearly indicates that the starting date began in 457 B.C. when there was a decree to restore Jerusalem (and not just the Temple) as is clearly stipulated in Daniel 9:25; the first 69 weeks (i.e. 483 years) are to be counted continuously from that point until 27 A.D. in solar years, taking us to the probable time when Jesus began His public ministry; the 70th week must be completed by 73 A.D. (since the Temple's destruction is to occur, at latest, in the middle of this 70th week), but it is perhaps more exegetically consistent to add the 70th week onto the previous 69 (so there are no gaps in time) taking us up to 34 A.D. as the ending point of the 70 weeks. This latter interpretation requires understanding that the one to confirm the covenant with many for one week in Daniel 9:27 refer to Jesus. "In the midst of the week," the "anointed one" will "cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease." This makes sense as referring to Jesus since it corresponds to the length of Christ's ministry (3.5 years) and it was after this time that Temple sacrifices ceased to be of value since the ultimate sacrifice had just been made, illustrated by the tearing of the Temple veil from top to bottom at the time of Christ's death. Furthermore, ending the 70th week at 34 A.D. takes us up to the time when the apostle to the Gentiles, Saul of Tarsus, was converted. It was soon after this that the Gospel went to the Gentiles, although the primary thrust of evangelism up to that point had been to fellow Jews. As a result of the rejection of this most important "anointed one" by Israel, the transgression was finished (Daniel 9:24) and the subject of Daniel 9:27b. (which as we noted earlier, could be the Messiah or the 'prince that is to come') caused the Temple to be destroyed and Jerusalem along with it.
The reader might also be interested in Glenn Miller's article regarding Daniel's 70 weeks.
We would like to add to this that there are other Messianic prophecies which indicate that the Messianic era had to take place prior to the destruction of the 2nd Temple. Consider, first of all, the words of the prophet Malachi:
"Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' sope: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years." (Malachi 3:1-4)
In this text, we see that the Lord speaks of a messenger to precede Him. Christians understand this to be an indicator that the Messiah would have a forerunner, namely John the Baptist. This prophecy also augments the Christian claim that the Messiah would be divine (since the messenger paves the way for the Lord and since the Lord Himself here is called a "messenger of the covenant"). And, of course, the Lord here claims that He shall come to the Temple, which, in retrospect, we realize had to occur prior to its destruction in 70 A.D. Much more could be added regarding the forerunner prophecies, but for the sake of space, we will refer the reader to a more thorough discussion of this topic by Glenn Miller (Included is a discussion predominantly of Isaiah 40:3 with a little on Malachi 3:1).
Brown also discusses a passage in Haggai 2:6-9 in favor of the Christian position that the Messiah was prophesied to visit the 2nd Temple [Cf. Brown (2): 145-148].
Finally, we have the potent prophecy of Genesis 49:10: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be."
Various Jewish sources consider this passage to be a Messianic prophecy with "Shiloh" denoting the Messiah. This includes the Targum Onkelos, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan to the Pentateuch, the Babylonian Talmud, and the Yalkut [Webster (4): 157-160].
Josh McDowell writes, "The word which is best translated 'scepter' in this passage means a 'tribal staff.' Each of the 12 tribes of Israel had its own particular 'staff' with its name inscribed on it. Therefore, the 'tribal staff' or 'tribal identity' of Judah was not to pass away before Shiloh came. For centuries Jewish and Christian commentators alike have taken the word 'Shiloh' to be a name of the Messiah.
"We remember that Judah had been deprived of its national sovereignty during the 70-year period of the Babylonian captivity; however, it never lost its 'tribal staff' or 'national identity' during this time. They still possessed their own lawgivers or judges even while in captivity (see Ezra 1:5, 8).
"Thus, according to this Scripture and the Jews of their time, two signs were to take place soon after the advent of the Messiah:
1. Removal of the scepter or identity of Judah.
2. Suppression of the judicial power.
"The first visible sign of the beginning of the removal of the scepter from Judah came about when Herod the Great, who had no Jewish blood, succeeded the Maccabean princes, who belonged to the tribe of Levi and who were the last Jewish kings to have their reign in Jerusalem (Sanhedrin, folio 97, verso.) (Maccabees, Book 2).
"Magath, in his book Jesus before the Sanhedrin, titles his second chapter: 'The legal power of the Sanhedrin is restricted twenty-three years before the trial of Christ." This restriction was the loss of the power to pass the death sentence.
"This occurred after the deposition of Archelaus, who was the son and successor of Herod, 11 A.D., or 7 V.E. (Josephus, Ant., Book 17, Chap. 13, 1-5). The procurators, who administered in the Augustus name, took the supreme power of the Sanhedrin away so they could exercise the jus gladii themselves; that is, the sovereign right over life and death sentences. All the nations which were subdued by the Roman Empire were deprived of their ability to pronounce capital sentences. Tacitus says, '…The Romans reserved to themselves the right of the sword, and neglected all else.'….
"The Talmud itself admits that 'a little more than forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the power of pronouncing capital sentences was taken away from the Jews.' (Talmud, Jerusalem, Sanhedrin, fol. 24, recto.) However, it hardly seems possible that the jus gladii remained in the Jewish hands until that time. It probably had ceased at the time of Coponius, 7 A.D. (Essai sur l'histoire et la geographie de la Palestine, d'apres les Talmuds et la geographie de la Palestine, d'apres les Talmuds et les autres sources Rabbinique, p. 90: Paris, 1867.) Rabbi Rachmon says, 'When the members of the Sanhedrin found themselves deprived of their right over life and death, a general consternation took possession of them; they covered their heads with ashes, and their bodies with sackcloth, exclaiming: "Woe unto us, for the scepter has departed from Judah, and the Messiah has not come!"....
"Once the judicial power was suppressed, the Sanhedrin ceased to be. Yes, the scepter was removed and Judah lost its royal or legal power. And the Jews knew it themselves! 'Woe unto us, for the scepter has been taken from Judah, and the Messiah has not appeared!' (Talmud, Bab., Sanhedrin, Chap. 4, fol. 37, recto.). Little did they realize their Messiah was a young Nazarene walking in the midst of them." [McDowell, Josh. "Evidence that Demands a Verdict." Vol. 1. 168-169.]
The fact that the Jews had lost the power to administer capital punishment around this time, of course, is corroborated by the Gospel accounts where the Jewish leaders had to go to Pontius Pilate to have Jesus crucified.
To wrap up this section on the Biblical Messianic timetable, we recommend Glenn Miller's detailed article regarding Messianic expectations in 1st century Judaism.
A Resurrected Messiah?
We now have reached the end of our examination of the author's objections to Messianic prophecy. In the end, we feel that the Christian contention that the Hebrew Bible predicts the coming of a divine Messiah, born in Bethlehem, through the lineage of David, Whose ministry would take place early in the 1st century (and just prior to the destruction of the 2nd Temple), be marked by the performance of remarkable miracles, be consummated through a death by crucifixion occurring around 30-33 A.D, and which would serve to atone for the sins of humanity, and whose fulfillment is found in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, has not been seriously challenged. However, in addition to the Messianic prophecies discussed above, it would perhaps be fitting to conclude with a brief discussion of one last major aspect of the Messianic mission that Christians believe to be predicted by the Old Testament. That is, of course, the Messiah's resurrection. We have already made scant allusion to this in a couple of the above sections. Psalm 22 could possibly hint at a resurrection given that the sufferer is "brought down to the dust of death" in verse 15 yet whose delivery is described in subsequent verses. Isaiah 53:8-10 seems also to imply some sort of reclamation of life despite the sufferer's death. Perhaps most explicit would be Psalm 16:10 (which we have not discussed), quoted by Peter in his sermon in Acts:
"For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: BECAUSE THOU WILT NOT LEAVE MY SOUL IN HELL, NEITHER WILT THOU SUFFER THINE HOLY ONE TO SEE CORRUPTION. MEN AND BRETHREN, LET ME FREELY SPEAK UNTO YOU OF THE PATRIARCH DAVID, THAT HE IS BOTH DEAD AND BURIED, AND HIS SEPULCHER IS WITH US UNTO THIS DAY. THEREFORE BEING A PROPHET, AND KNOWING THAT GOD HATH SWORN AN OATH TO HIM, THAT OF THE FRUIT OF HIS LOINS, ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, HE WOULD RAISE UP CHRIST TO SIT ON HIS THRONE; HE SEEING THIS BEFORE SPAKE OF THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST, THAT HIS SOUL WAS NOT LEFT IN HELL, NEITHER HIS FLESH DID SEE CORRUPTION. THIS JESUS HATH GOD RAISED UP, WHEREOF WE ALL ARE WITNESSES. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself the Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:25-36, emphasis added)
We saw earlier that the Psalms could be understood as prophetic oracles, and such exegesis of them was widely accepted and practiced in Christ's day. Peter's logic in the above passage is that, since David is dead and buried, and his grave was still with them at that time, he could not have been speaking of his own resurrection in this passage, but that of the Messiah that is to come through his own lineage.
We should note at this point that, in light of the Jewish milieu of the day, these passages would probably not have been understood before Christ's resurrection as referring necessarily to the resurrection of the Messiah, but rather to that of ascension. According to Jewish belief in Christ's day, the resurrection of the dead was an event that would take place at the end of the world that would include everybody. This is one reason for the enigma that exists for secular historians as to explaining the rise of the church, which centered its beliefs on Christ's resurrection. Given that the Old Testament 'resurrection' passages could just as easily have been understood beforehand as direct ascensions to heaven (with the cases of Enoch and Elijah serving as templates, only in this case it would have been the ascension of a slain Messiah whereas Enoch and Elijah were alive), this would have probably been the favored exegesis in light of the dominant Jewish understandings of the day regarding resurrection. In fact, we see further evidence of this in light of the disciples' misunderstandings of Christ's own predictions about His upcoming resurrection! (See here for more information.) However, in light of the disciples' encounters with the risen Jesus and subsequent realization that He had been resurrected, they proclaimed that the Old Testament foretold the resurrection of the Messiah, and this is evidenced by the allusion of Peter to Psalm 16:10 in his sermon (See also I Corinthians 15:3-4.) Obviously, a resurrection would be just as plausible to glean from the OT passages in question although this would likely not have been the meaning attached to them BEFORE the resurrection.
The reason we include this discussion of the resurrection is because the answer to the question of what really happened on the first Easter Sunday is the key as to whether or not Jesus really did fulfill the Messianic hopes of Israel, and of the world. Defending the historicity of Christ's resurrection from the dead is beyond our scope, but the evidence supporting its historicity is superb. We encourage the reader to consider the material found in the following sources:
Some valuable on-line articles by NT scholar William Lane Craig detailing the historical evidence include "The Historicity of the Empty Tomb of Jesus" and "Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ" See also Edwin Yamauchi's "Easter: Myth, Hallucination, or History?" and Sam Shamoun's "The New Testament Documents and the Historicity of the Resurrection.". Finally, there is, of course, the impressive array of circumstantial evidence that JPH details in "The Impossible Faith".
We also highly recommend the following books which contain valuable information regarding Christ's resurrection as well as other issues pertinent to New Testament studies: "The Son Rises" (by William Lane Craig) "The Case for Christ" (by Lee Strobel) "Jesus Under Fire" (by J.P. Moreland and Michael Wilkins) "Reasonable Faith" (by William Lane Craig) "Scaling the Secular City" (by J.P. Moreland) For more advanced students: "The Resurrection of the Son of God" (by N.T. Wright) "Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus" (by William Lane Craig) [Unfortunately, this one is quite expensive. These books are also available on Amazon.com.]
Verses Christians Ignore?
This section (Now offline) of the author's website deals with verses that the author feels are problematic for Christian theology. The author starts…
Missionaries say that 300 verses in the Tanach support their beliefs. Between the claim and the proof are some obstacles, but that's another story, one discussed elsewhere. However, several verses in the Tanach refute missionary claims fairly directly. When confronted with these verses, some missionaries rationalize, and others change the subject. That they never cite these verses is worth noting. The verses which missionaries do not like to cite show that:
1. G-d is not a human person
2. Blood is not needed to forgive sin
3. Torah is permanent and Mitzvot are possible
4. The Messiah -- or an annointed?
We agree with the author's implications that, if there are Old Testament passages that are truly contradictory to Christian theology, this would present a problem. Do such passages really exist? The author claims that Christians, when confronted with these passages, essentially have no answer. We obviously do not know, once again, with what sorts of Christians the author has engaged in such discussions for satisfactory answers not to be given to the anti-missionary proof-texts, but the important question to answer is whether or not these texts truly are problematic for Christian theology. With that in mind, let's delve into them and see if they carry as much force as what the author claims.
1. G-d is not a man. Missionaries say that the 'son' aspect of their tri-partite god was the person Jesus. (Sometimes they even seem to say the other two aspects were also human, but that's another story.) They emphasize that they believe G-d became man, not that a man became G-d. The Tanach makes no such distinction. The Tanach says simply that G-d is not a man.
· Numbers 23 (KJV) 19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
o Missionaries claim the verse should read "G-d is not a man who lies..." This is not what the Hebrew text says, or even how the KJV translates it..
Just to make a brief note on the author's parenthetical remark first, as far as we are aware, no evangelical Christian church teaches that God the Father and/or the Holy Spirit are in any sense human. The author also claims that the OT makes no such distinction in "God becoming man" and "man becoming God," but we do not see justification of this claim by the author's first text. Speaking of which, technically, it would be most accurate regarding Christian theology to say that the eternal Word (or Wisdom, or Logos) of God entered human flesh and dwelt among men (cf. John 1:1-3, 16) rather than to simply spout the less informative phrase, "God became man." As to the text itself, regardless of the translation, this text does not present a problem. Indeed, God is not a man. Men lie and commit acts for which he should repent. God does not. This seems to be the interpretation demanded by the context. It does not negate the concept that God cannot enter human flesh. While Christians believe that Jesus is God Incarnate, we also believe that He retained His divine essence, and indeed, it is for this reason that we believe that Jesus was able to remain sinless whereas other men cannot.
· Hosea 11 (KJV) 9 ...I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee ...
· I Samuel 15: (KJV) 29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.
These two verses seem to move along the same lines as Numbers 23:19, which we just discussed. Thus, no further comment appears to be necessary.
· Psalm 146 , (KJV) 2 While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being. 3 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
o Jesus is frequently refered to as the "son of man."
o The Hebrew phrase "ben adam" (literally "son of man") in a poetic way of saying "person".
Part of this argument once again appears to collapse into what we have just discussed, but what about Christ's "Son of Man" title? It appears to be a matter of context. In the context of this Psalm, the Psalmist gives the admonishment to place one's trust in God rather than man. Christians certainly agree with this, especially since it is a fundamental Christian belief that Jesus is divine. However, why did Jesus call Himself the "Son of Man"? In doing so, Jesus is most likely referring to the "son of man" figure of Daniel 7:13-14:
"I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the SON OF MAN came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." (emphasis added)
Thus what may appear on the surface to imply a low Christology is actually a very high one when taking into account the probable Old Testament referent to which Jesus is alluding by applying the "Son of Man" title to Himself. For more on this, see JPH's treatment on this subject.
· Job 9 (KJV) 32 For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.33 Neither is there any daysman ("mediator" in the New KJV) betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.
o Note that Job 9:3 also contradicts the missionary idea that someone must mediate between people and G-d.
This verse once more seems to fall into the same category as those above since to say that the Word of God entered human flesh is not to say that God is, in essence, human. However, this one is a little more interesting in regards to the mediator. First of all, it should be noted that the idea of a mediator isn't originally a "missionary" idea, but finds root in the Old Testament. Leviticus 16 describes the instructions as to how Aaron is to perform the sacrificial offering rituals on the Day of Atonement. Here are a couple of pertinent excerpts from that chapter:
"And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house." (verse 6)
"Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat: And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness. And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth into make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel." (verses 15-17)
See also verses 29-34 where instructions are given that this ritual is to be performed annually (These verses come up again later in this section of the author's article-see below).
In this sense, Aaron played the role of mediator between the people and Israel as he was the one that bore the burden of making the sacrifices that atoned for the people's sins. It is in this role that he served as a type of Christ, Who is the ultimate Mediator as He administers righteousness via His own shed blood to those that accept it:
"For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw night unto God. And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec): By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. WHEREFORE HE IS ABLE ALSO TO SAVE THEM TO THE UTTERMOST THAT COME UNTO GOD BY HIM, SEEING HE EVER LIVETH TO MAKE INTERCESSION FOR THEM. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore." (Hebrews 7:18-28, emphasis added) [My thanks to Jeremiah for the assist on this one]
What then are we to make of Job 9:33? Consider a similar problem that occurs if we look at Job 7:9: "As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more." Of course, this is contrary to verses that speak of the general resurrection from the dead (cf. e.g. Daniel 12:2). First of all, it must be remembered that the author of Job is merely reporting what Job said, and it is not necessary that Job's theology be completely accurate. Furthermore, Job is considered as proverbial literature. JPH notes, in regards to this:
"Wisdom and proverbial literature was a leading genre of the ANE. Much of the OT, and parts of the NT, fall into this category. (One of the best-known examples outside the Bible is the Egyptian Wisdom of Amenomope.) Wisdom literature was (and still is!) characterized by language of exclusivity. This is partially attributable to the fact that wisdom/proverbial literature was intended to be short, pithy, and easily memorized. Our modern literature of this type --- for example, the maxims in Poor Richard's Almanac --- can be described similarly. The wisdom genre has changed little over the years from a functional perspective.
Because of these characteristics of proverbial and wisdom literature, the genre has a high rhetorical function and cannot be read as though it were absolute. Much of what is written in the OT, and a good deal in the NT, is subject to these constraints.
To use modern examples, consider these maxims, taken from the Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings:
1. "He who hesitates is lost." This frequently used proverb alludes to the fact that quick action leads to success, whereas self-doubt means disaster. Obviously this is not always true: Self-doubt may lead to preservation in some instances!
2. "Practice makes perfect." Does it always? Obviously not, for internal skills are a factor as well --- and even then perfection is a difficult goal.
3. "Poets are born, not made." You can substitute anything for "poets" here --- the point is that internal or God-given skill cannot replace education. Not only is this obviously not absolutely true, it contradicts our previous saying if both are taken absolutely!" (Source)
Our critic goes on:
The same idea is expressed in a different way in Deuteronomy Chapter 4. The text is explicit -- you saw no image at Horeb, so don't try to make a representation of G-d.
· Deut 4: 15 (KJV) Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: 16 Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, 18 The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: 19 And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.
o Note that Deut 4:19 also contradicts the missionary idea that G-d will condemn those who worship incorrectly. G-d created objects (sun, moon, and stars) for non-Jews to worship so it is unreasonable to think G-d would condemn them for doing so.
First, we must note that we disagree with the author's exegesis of Deut. 4:19. It is difficult to conceive that God intended for pagans to worship the host of heaven while commanding the Israelites not to do so. The last part of verse 19, "which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven," seems more likely to refer to the fact that the sun, moon, and stars "reside" over all of the earth, or over all of the nations given the Lord's position on idolatry. As to the author's main thrust, we agree in that idolatry should be condemned, but if God did come to earth to dwell in human flesh, then the problem of allegedly making an idol out of a mere human being dissolves.
Missionaries sometimes say that G-d has changed since those words were written. They assert that now G-d is indeed human, and if we Jews don't believe it, we will be consumed in the fires of hell.. However, the Bible says that G-d does not change and we will not be consumed.
· Malachi 3 (KJV) 6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
We would agree with the author in this case that the idea of "God changing" is a bogus argument, but in light of our analysis, such exegetical subterfuge is obviously unnecessary.
2. Blood sacrifice is not essential for forgiveness. Missionaries say that G-d must have blood in order to forgive sins. I have even heard them make the blasphemous sounding statement that G-d is incapable, does not have the ability, to forgive without bloodshed. Such an idea is primitive and barbaric, but that is not the point.
The Christian doctrine of atonement is essentially a matter of justice and mercy. God, before the first sins, declared that the penalty for sin is death (Genesis 2:17). Is God just if He simply forgives arbitrarily, simply disregarding His established system of justice? To paraphrase an often used allegory, "The just and merciful judge will not simply tear up a speeder's speeding ticket, disregarding the law. The just and merciful judge will carry out the sentence, and pay the fine out of his own pocket." JPH deals with this argument in some more detail, responding to a critic that touts what seems to be a similar line as our author:
"It seems to me that this presents a very wimpy view of what is supposed to be an omnipotent, all-powerful deity. Either he/she is incapable of withstanding the presence of one "tainted" with "sin" (is this weak or what?), or is incapable on creating the right times and situations where one so tainted might be able to approach his/her divine presence. Both are limitations on the "power" of the "all"-mighty.
This is where our skeptic goes awry. DTW is confusing categories: Power (omnipotence) has nothing to do with the nature of God per se. Not even God can overcome the laws of logic: I.e., He cannot be God, and also not be God; he cannot make 2 + 2 = 5; He cannot create something, and also not create it. No amount of power changes such things; we cannot apply infinite amounts of electricity to 2 + 2 and make it equal anything but 4, although that same electricity applied to our person might convince us (a la Winston Smith) that it is so! Similarly, God cannot change His nature so that sin can remain in His presence, and this has nothing to do with power or lack thereof.
DTW also has the problem reversed - it is not that God is incapable, it is that WE are incapable; as for creating times and situations: That's what the Atonement is all about! In Christ, God HAS created a situation that allows us to enter His presence!" Source)
The point is that the Tanach does not agree. According to Tanach, there are several acceptable means for repentance.
After this, the author lists the same texts that we cover in the "Atonement Anomalies?" section. However, there is one text not covered there for which a brief comment appears necessary:
Hosea is specific that animal sacrifices will stop for a temporary period (as opposed to being stopped forever and replaced by something else.)
· Hosea Chapter 3: 4 (KJV). For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: 5 Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.
The context of Hosea is regarding Israel "committing whoredom" with other nations and not being truly faithful to God. Hosea was writing in the 8th century B.C. which was well prior to the Babylonian captivity where the Temple was destroyed and sacrifices did indeed cease for a period of time. The author needs to explain why this passage must be referring to the exile from 135 A.D. and beyond for this argument to have merit. Also, notice that this passage does not even say that sacrifices will be restored when "the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king;…." The author might reply that this must apply to the post 135 A.D. period because the Messiah has yet to come. However, this is, once again, the whole point under dispute. If the Christian assertion is correct, then the Messiah has indeed already come and this was during the period of the second Temple.
3. The commandments can indeed be followed. Missionaries, following Paul's lead, say that the Torah and its commandments are impossible to follow and are are intended only to show us how bad we are. Then will then cite examples which show conclusively that they do not understand what the commandments actually are.
· Deuteronomy Chapter 6:25 (KJV) And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us."
· Deuteronomy Chapter 30:11 (KJV) For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.
Psalms Chapter 19:7 (KJV) The law of the LORD (Heb. Torat HaShem) is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
o Paul says the Torah condemns the soul. The Psalmist disagrees with him.
The author does not give us any New Testament examples, but does make a couple of vague allusions. Paul does tell us that we gain knowledge of sin by the law, that all men are carnal and cannot fulfill the requirements of the law, and that it is through Christ's sacrifice that we may be granted righteousness and reconciliation with God:
"Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of the sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sins which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." (Romans 7:4-25)
"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Romans 3:20-28)
Notice that Paul in the first excerpt calls the law holy, just, and good. It is because of our carnal nature and inability to keep the law that we are condemned by it, not because of the nature of the law itself, for Paul states that the law is spiritual (thus the alleged contradiction between Paul and Psalm 19:7 is in fact non-existent). So can righteousness come by the law? The answer, in theory, would be yes. Consider Romans 2:5-12:
"But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;…." (Romans 2:5-12)
JPH notes regarding this:
"However, this understanding of this verse fails as before on the qualification of Romans 3:20: "by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight." Romans 2:5-10 does mean that a person who persists in good deeds will be granted eternal life, but as Romans 3 goes on to show, that is irrelevant, because no one can live a life in accordance with the commandments of God, and completely faithful obedience is no more than a theoretical means of obtaining justification!" (Source)
This understanding is also consistent with passages in the Old Testament which state that nobody is without sin. Solomon, for instance, seems to agree with Paul:
"If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near;…." (I Kings 8:46; cf. also II Chronicles 6:36)
In these passage, Solomon is reciting a prayer to God asking that Israel be returned from captivity if they acknowledge their sins and return to God "with all their heart and with all their soul" (cf. e.g. II Chronicles 6:37-38). Consider also the words of Isaiah:
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6; cf. our section on Isaiah 53)
Thus the passages the author cites (which could easily be multiplied), while being clear in that God wants His followers to keep His commandments, should not be taken to mean that any human can fulfill the requirements of the law, which demand perfection. Paul also, while acknowledging that no amount of good works can save one because of one's inability to fulfill the requirements of the law, tells his readers to not use the righteousness gained from Christ's sacrifice as a license to sin:
"For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether or sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:14-23) [See JPH's article on the concept of "Semitic Totality"]
The author next tells us….
The Torah was intended to be permanent, not a temporary measure to be set aside at a later time. Missionaries claim that Jesus "fulfilled" the Torah so that it is no longer needed. Torah says otherwise, and uses the phrase "eternal statute" ("hukat olam") 16 different times. Of particular interest is the use of this phrase in relation to atonement.
· Leviticus Chapter 16: 29 (KJV) And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: 30 For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. 31 It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever. 32 And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest's office in his father's stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments: 33 And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation. 34 And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the LORD commanded Moses.
o In spite of the explicit detail, the clear statement that it is to be an ongoing yearly ritual, and the repeated statement that it is an eternal statute, the missionaries will tell you that it has all been replaced by a one time human sacrifice in the form of a Roman execution.
o The missionary may ask if our sins are not forgiven since we do not have this ritual now. The answer is that this ritual is not the only one for atonement, not by a long shot (see above).
o Since this ritual is not in fact done today, one might ask if that proves the Torah wrong. The answer is no -- it doesn't. The ritual is one of the temple rituals, and so is intended only for when the temple is in existence. If and when the temple is rebuilt, the ritual may very well be started again.
With regards to "olam," JPH notes:
"What of verses that say the law is "for ever"? The word used in the Hebrew is 'olam and means, not exactly forever, but "in perpetuity." It is used to describe as well the term of a slave (Ex. 21:6//Deut. 15:17). Unless one thinks that this means that the master would dig the slave out of his grave and put him to work, this clearly does not mean "forever" in the sense that covenant would always be kept, but implies that the Jews would keep these feasts and such as long as they maintained the covenant agreement and didn't break it. At the same time, it hardly indicates that God cannot sign a new covenant/contract with others on different terms."
For more on the topic of why Christians do not keep the law, see the full article from which the above excerpt was taken. See also Glenn Miller's presentation on the subject. [See also how "Torah" should be defined in section 1 of Miller's article-we pasted his presentation on this subject in the Jeremiah 31:31-34 section of this article as well. Section 2 of Miller's presentation discusses the "eternal" nature of the Torah which is the subject at issue.]
The author also alludes to the other alleged means of atonement aside from sacrificial offerings in the Old Testament. For the responses to these, see the "Atonement Anomalies?" section of this article as well as the second subsection of this section of the article (just above).
The fourth part of the author's piece is, at the time of this writing, still in the works: 4. Bible refers less often to "The Messiah," than it does to "an annointed."
Although there isn't really anything upon which to make comment at this point, we can agree in advance that this is probably true. "An anointed" can refer to priests, kings, prophets, etc. and is used widely in the Old Testament as such. Learned Christians would not disagree with this. Of course, this does not negate the fact that there are prophecies of "the" Messiah in the Old Testament. We'll come back to this at a later time some time after the author finishes preparing this section.
Response to a Parody
In this final section, we will be looking at a parody formerly on the author's site. The author's purpose is clear:
We've all seen missionaries try to support their religion by quoting the Tannach. This page turns the tables and quotes the Tannach to debunk Christianity by comparing passages from the prophet Isaiah with passages in the so called New Testament.
Personally, I don't think the Tannach says anything, good or bad, about Jesus, but it is interesting to note how differently the quotes can be interpreted.
The reader should keep in mind that the author does not think that this is really a (dubious) prophecy of Christianity, but is merely attempting to demonstrate how similar exegetical methods employed by Christians to show that Jesus is the promised Messiah can be used against them to show that Jesus was predicted in the Old Testament, but as a false Messiah. In other words, it is being asserted that both approaches can be successful, in a sense, of achieving their purposes, but both give us contradictory results, and thus neither are meritorious.
The question, however, is a matter of 1) whether or not certain passages in the Old Testament are truly prophetic oracles and 2) whether or not there is good reason to believe that they are fulfilled by someone, some event, or what have you. If the author's proposal can be met on the first ground, and most importantly, if it can be met on the second ground (i.e. more specifically, that Isaiah 24 and 28 predict the coming of a time which was, in some sense, fulfilled by the Christian movement), then the author's argument may have actually discovered a true prophecy, even though he intends it only to be a parody. So the question before us, as we look at the author's assertions, is "Do the passages in Isaiah 24 and 28 meet the 2 aforementioned criteria?" We will see that it fulfills criterion #1, but not criterion #2, which is the important one for our purposes.
The author writes….
Isaiah warns of coming chaos: 24:1 Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. 24:2 And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; ... 24:3 The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word. 24:4 The earth mourneth [and] fadeth away, the world languisheth [and] fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish.
Then he says WHY this will happen: · 24:5 The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. 24:6 Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, ...
The so called New Testament advocates all three of these things -- i.e. that people transgress the laws, change the ordinance, and break the everlasting covenants.
1. Transgressing the Law:
· Galatians 3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that hangeth on a tree
· Galatians 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
· Romans 7:6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not [in] the oldness of the letter.
· Galatians 5:18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
· Hebrews 7:12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
· Romans 4:13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, [was] not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if they which are of the law [be] heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: 15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, [there is] no transgression. 16 Therefore [it is] of faith, that [it might be] by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
2. Changing the Ordinances:
· Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, [even] the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, ...
· Colossians 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, ...
· Colossians 2:20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
3. Breaking the Everlasting Covenant -- presumably the Sabbath, the Brit Milah, or the everlasting priesthood.
1. Sabbath (as specified in 1 Chronicles 16:17, Leviticus 24:8)
o Colossians 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath [days]:
2. Brit melah: (as specified in Genesis 17:13)
o Galatians 5:2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
3. Everlasting priesthood. (as specified in Numbers 25:13)
o Hebrews 7:12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
In summary, the New Testament recommends what Isaiah says will bring chaos.
Here, of the whole article, the author makes his best case. However, the force of the argument is dependent upon the author's own Biblical understandings regarding the perpetuity of the Law. We saw in the section on Jeremiah 31 that the advent of a *new* covenant was expected. At the time of the writing of this passage (around the 8th century or so B.C.), the new covenant had not come, and thus the old covenant was still in effect. Anyone that broke the old covenant at this time was, as a result, subject to God's wrath. However, if Christianity truly did fulfill the promise of the new covenant (which is the whole point essentially under dispute), then it is fallacious to impute the requirements of the old covenant onto Christianity. Whether or not Jesus truly is the Messiah and whether or not Christianity truly is the manifestation of the new covenant are the main questions that must be answered, and this must be worked out on other grounds. (We've discussed the issues regarding the usage of "everlasting" and what "Torah" (and/or "Law") truly means in their ancient Biblical contexts elsewhere in this article. Please see the sections on Jeremiah 31 and Verses Christians Ignore?.)
From this point forward, the author's attempts at drawing parallels become quite bizarre. The author next takes us away from Isaiah 24 for a time and moves us into chapter 28:
One aspect of the coming hard times, says Isaiah in a later chapter, will be a "covenant with death, an agreement with the grave."
· 28:14 ... hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, ... 15 Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell(the grave) are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:
That is, the scornful say they will make a bargain with death so as to escape the bad times. The so called New Testament does talk about an agreement with death:
· Hebrews 9:15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament(covenant), that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions [that were] under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
· Romans 7:4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, [even] to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
· Colossians 2:20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
· Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
· Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
· Colossians 3:3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. This is just what Isaiah is warning against -- people who plot an agreement with death so as to avoid their own personal misfortune. Isaiah says, however, that it won't work:
· Isaiah 28:18 And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.
The Lord's rebuke here is to the tribe of Ephraim, and this takes place more than 700 years prior to the advent of Christianity. Thus, if this chapter is to be applied to Christianity, it must be done in a typological manner. This, as we have seen in other sections, is clearly not an unfounded exegetical approach, but in order to make a case, it must be amply demonstrated that Christianity provides an adequate parallel to the passage in question. One problem is with a phrase within the very passage in question that the author ignores. God, later in the same verse (Isaiah 28:15 in the Christian Bible), defines what is meant by making an agreement with the grave: "for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:…." It appears that the "covenant with the grave" is merely referring to false beliefs. The author may claim that this can still apply to Christianity because he believes it to be false, but this is, once again, the premise under dispute in the first place. We could claim in response that this refers to non-Messianic Judaism because its adherents are in a state of rejection of the true Messiah, but this would also be to assume the conclusion that is under dispute. Secondly, the author's subsequent usage of NT passages is faulty. The passages from Isaiah do not even imply, as the author suggests, a warning to those "people who plot an agreement with death so as to avoid their own personal misfortune." Furthermore, it is not accurate to portray Christianity in such a manner anyway. As anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Christianity would know, Christianity is based on the belief that Christ's death served as the atonement for sins so that eternal life may be granted. The Hebrews 9:15 passage (alluded to by the author) is exemplary of this concept. Consider also:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:16-27)
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
Christianity would be more accurately described as an "agreement with eternal life that was made possible through the death of the Messiah." In other words, while a case can be made for some sort of oblique "covenant with death" since Christianity centers around the sacrifice of the Messiah, Christianity is better described as a "covenant with eternal life." As we noted earlier, however, the author's faulty exegesis of Isaiah 28:15 makes the argument moot anyway.
The other passages alluded to by the author are clearly to be taken as metaphorical. The Romans 6:3-4 passages are the closest to helping the author's case, but in context, as can be seen in the latter part of verse 4, this is referring to "walking in newness of life." Consider the verses that follow:
"For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin." (Romans 6:5-7)
Paul didn't mean to imply that Christians undergo a literal "death" in these passages anymore than he meant to imply that Christians undergo a literal crucifixion (see verse 6).
We now move back to chapter 24:
Isaiah 24:16-17 warns against treachery:
· 16 ... woe unto me! the treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously;... 17 Fear, and the pit, and the snare, [are] upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth. 18 And it shall come to pass, [that] he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake.
Could this be Christianity:
FEAR: · Luke 12:5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
· Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. THE PIT:
· Revelation 9:2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.
· Revelation 9:11 And they had a king over them, [which is] the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue [is] Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath [his] name Apollyon.
THE SNARE: · Mark 1:16 Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.17 And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.
· Luke 5:10 And so [was] also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. Far fetched? No more so than the quotes missionaries use to support their ideas.
This is hardly worthy of comment, but perhaps we should do so briefly. The ones that "run from fear," "fall into the pit," and are "taken in the snare" are those that are worthy of being referred to as "treacherous dealers." Since we have demonstrated earlier that it has yet to be established how Christians can properly (that is, from a proper Biblical understanding) be equated with the "treacherous dealers" in this passage, the author's case collapses. Furthermore, the author's use of the NT passages is quite dubious, even more so than in the previous section. The Revelation passages, for instance, have nothing to do with Christianity. They are referring to an evil force, or evil forces. The passages where Jesus calls disciples to be "fishers of men" are simply entailing the fact that Jesus has chosen these men to be the vessels through which He would spread His message. It has nothing to do with the futility of wicked men running from God because they will eventually be ensnared.
Here is another end of times prediction:
Isaiah 24:20 The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, ... 21 And it shall come to pass in that day, [that] the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones [that are] on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.
HIGH ONES IN HIGH PLACES: Ephesians 2:6 And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus:
Again, Isaiah does not bode will for these:
· Isaiah 24:22 And they shall be gathered together, [as] prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited.
The context of Isaiah 24 is referring to a time of a wicked earth that is ruled by wicked kings. This is suggestive of temporal, earthly power whereas Paul was clearly speaking in a spiritual sense.
Isaiah talks about pride:
· Isaiah 28:1 Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty [is] a fading flower, which [are] on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!
Who gets to wear such a crown? · 28:5 In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people,
But the so called New Testament says: · 1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
I'm not sure that I see what exactly the alleged problem is in this case. In Isaiah 28:1, God is pronouncing judgment on "the drunkards of Ephraim," who God refers to as "the crown of pride." In Isaiah 28:5, the Lord will be a metaphorical "crown of glory" unto "the residue of his people," and in I Peter 5:4, it is said that Christians will receive "a crown of glory." If the author is suggesting that crowns are only to be equated with God and/or prideful men, this is eisegesis. At any rate, "crown" is used as part of a title in the first verse of Isaiah 28 and is part of a metaphor in Isaiah 28:5. The alleged problem, it seems to me, is non-existent.
Who does Isaiah say is able to learn?
· Isaiah 28:9 Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? [them that are] weaned from the milk, [and] drawn from the breasts. But the so called New Testament says the opposite:
· 1 Corinthians 3:2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat[see also Is28:10,13]: for hitherto ye were not able [to bear it], neither yet now are ye able.
Paul goes onto state why the Corinthians could not receive the "meat" yet:
"And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal and walk as men?" (I Corinthians 3:1-3)
To draw the passages together, once the Corinthians were willing to be "weaned from the milk" that Paul was giving them, they'd be ready for the "meat," but in their present state they were "not able to bear it."
So what to make of all this? Is Isaiah really warning against Christians and Christianity?
Yes, when these nations and their kings hear what they have not been told, they will shut their mouths and try to understand it and say "Who would have believed this report?" [Isaiah 52-15-53:1]
In conclusion to this section, we must ask whether or not the author has adequately simulated Christian exegesis to make his case. We have shown that the author misses the target from the beginning, and drifts farther and farther away as he continues through the Isaiah 24 and 28 passages. Adequate parallels are not drawn, and the proof-texts used are at best out-of-context and at worst outlandish. We should note that there may well be cases of Christians exegeting passages incorrectly to make their case(s), or in instances of applying certain passages typologically (like the author tries to do above with Isaiah 28), the parallels are too vague to be of any apologetic value. However, as we noted near the beginning of this article, the presence of bad arguments do not negate any good ones that may exist.
In this article, we have examined a number of objections to Christian theology often propounded by Jews. This includes objections to Christian atonement theology, the Christian belief in the Trinity, and a number of Messianic prophecies. In regards to atonement theology, it is the Christian contention that all animal sacrifices and the rituals surrounding their application in some way prefigured the sacrifice of the Messiah on behalf of humanity. The author alludes to many Old Testament passages in hopes of demonstrating that there were other means of atonement, but in light of our analysis, we find the author's applications of these passages to be faulty.
On the objections to the Trinity, or at least plurality within the Godhead, we examined a couple of passages argued by the author to be misused in Christian circles. While we may have allowed certain concessions regarding this particular data, the Christian assertion extends far beyond what was discussed. The Christian understanding of the Trinity (or at the very least plurality within the Godhead) and a divine Messiah, when properly expounded, finds root in Wisdom literature found in certain Old Testament Scriptures as well as inter-testamental literature, certain Messianic prophecies (some of which we discussed in the Messianic prophecy section like Isaiah 9:6 and Micah 5:2), as well as the mysterious Theophanies (such as with the "Angel of the Lord.") Aside from the Messianic prophecies, we did not discuss these issues in this article, but we did provide links in the pertinent section.Finally, we examined a number of Messianic prophecies argued by the author to be misused Old Testament passages by Christians. However, after an in-depth scrutiny of the passages in question, we find that the author's objections do not disprove the Christian understanding, with the lone exception being perhaps the passage in Proverbs.
The author, in his conclusion, gives some "Tips for Debating with Missionaries." The main thrust of each is the following: 1) Check on Old Testament passages quoted by Christians to be sure that they say what the Christian claims. Check also Jewish translations of the verse(s) in question. 2) Don't get caught in debates about verses of which you are unknowledgeable. 3) Don't allow Christians to change the subject if you are making a good point that is not being successfully refuted. 4) Don't allow Christians to be your "spiritual advisors." 5) Be on the look-out for universal replies such as "You are limiting God" (by claiming that God cannot become a man). [The author further notes, in this example, that God would not do something that the Old Testament claims that He would not do.]
In response, we would say that this is actually good advice, but we should add to this that the same methodology should also be applied to conversations with anti-missionaries and rabbis as well. In other words, one should not trust on an a priori basis a Jewish translation over and against a Christian one. The evidence should be assessed as to which is a better translation, if either. Consider, for instance, the scrutiny provided for us by Gray Pilgrim of some of the author's translations. Tip # 4 utilized by the author essentially seems to be saying not to trust those who would claim to know how atonement for sins can be achieved. The author claims, for instance, that Jews atone for sins through repentance. As Christians, we would add that repentance is part of the Christian salvation experience, but it is necessary for the price to be paid for the sins that one has committed to be attributed righteousness. The important question, that we have tried to address in part 1, is whether or not the Old Testament serves as a better foundation for the Christian belief or for the current Jewish one. In any case, nobody should be trusted on an a priori basis when it comes to any of these issues. Each person should pray for guidance and fairly weigh the evidence given by each side. For a quick comment on tip #5, we would actually agree with the author's assertion. The question in this case is whether or not there is ample warrant from the Old Testament to support the Christian claim that God (or more appropriately, the Word, or Wisdom of God) would enter human flesh, not whether or not He is capable of doing so. As noted throughout our response, we do believe that God entered human flesh and that there is ample evidence foreshadowing this event from the Old Testament, but the reader must make that decision for himself/herself following a proper appraisal of the evidence.
1. Brown, Michael. "Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. Volume 2." Baker Books. 2000.
2. Brown, Michael. "Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. Volume 3." Baker Books. 2003.
3. Price, James D. "Response to a Skeptic." http://www.heartofisrael.org/chazak/articles/proph-response.html
4. Webster, William. "Behold Your King: Prophetic Proofs that Jesus is the Messiah." Christian Resources Inc. 2003.
Zvi replied but his site is now offline.