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As many of our regular listeners/readers will no doubt already know, this is Part 2 in our series on the circumstantial argument from Messianic prophecy for the truth of Christianity. In Part 1, we first looked at a couple prophecies related to the birth of the Messiah, we saw that at minimum the Messiah would be born to a young women (possibly one that was a virgin) and whose birth would serve, minimally, as a “momentous” and/or “supernatural” sign to the House of David that God is with them (Immanuel- God with us). So far, so good the claims about Jesus plausibly fits the bill here. However, before moving on to our next series of Messianic prophecies, I think it should be necessary to quickly re-clarify what exactly the argument is for the listeners/readers.
RE-CLARIFYING THE ARGUMENT
Having read some of the comments I’ve received on last week’s episode on the “Birth” prophecies, a couple people raised some issues that I would like to quickly clarify as I think there is a slight misunderstanding in what I’m attempting to argue. This is a circumstantial argument based on the circumstances that I can show the prophets made certain minimal predictions about the Messiah and that Jesus is the only candidate who can make a “plausible”or rather “unfalsified” claim to have fulfilled these; hence, it is literally Jesus or bust (i.e. either Jesus or there are bible errors in the Messianic prophecies in the OT). Whether you want to take the option that the Bible has errors or not is irrelevant, this odd or “extraordinary” circumstance that the only other unfalsified option is to say Jesus is the Messiah and no other is what we are evaluating here. This is not a conceptual argument, it is a circumstantial one and courts use this type of evidence all the time in reality; all that remains is for someone to evaluate the nature of the circumstantial evidence to determine if is significant or not. Furthermore, this is a cumulative case and so while the prophecies presented last week alone may or may not be enough to establish the Jesus or bust claim, I’m claiming that the cumulative case can do this.
To illustrate, if you accept that my minimal case of the Messianic birth prophecies was correct- a son would be born to a young women in the line of David and his birth would serve as a “supernatural/momentous” sign that God is with the House of David. One could argue well, lots of people were born of young women, great then there are lots of candidates then. What about the whole being in the line of King David aspect (one skeptical listener pointed out genetically speaking we know that most if not all Jews would have had some distant relation to David and thus could be said to fulfill this prophecy)? Well, not so fast Mr. or Miss. Skeptic, in the first place the genetic evidence is completely meaningless to my argument, ancient Jews didn’t know about this at all and thus couldn’t have used this evidence to adjudicate on who was a son of David or not (remember the sign was meant to be a sign to them not for us today).
Furthermore, historically we know that the ancient Jews in Jesus day did have ways of “knowing” which Jews were descendants of David or not- records were kept until the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D- this is why they didn’t accept the Maccabees or the subsequent Hasmonean dynasty as being a restoration of the Davidic dynasty. Now, today we might claim that such records are complete garbage historically speaking, but again that’s not relevant for the ancient Jews for which this “sign” birth was prophesied the records were good. Finally, perhaps this could still leave many Jewish candidates for being the Messiah, even if some can be eliminated; well, how many of those Jews made unfalsified claims that they had births that served as a momentous/supernatural sign that God was with the House of David, my guess is not many of them.
For example, I’m not Jewish or somehow related to David genetically but even if I were, my birth can hardly be pointed to as constituting a momentous/supernatural “sign” that God was/is with the House of David- my dad was so nervous he put his underwear on backwards when he was going to the hospital- I hardly think this is what Isaiah has in mind when he offers Ahaz and the House of David a “sign from the depths of Sheol to the heights of heaven”. So, the prophecies mentioned last week alone are helpful in eliminating various potential candidates and lead us closer to establishing that Jesus is the only unfalsified Messianic candidate left in the running but feel free to point out any other specific examples if you can!
One last point, I mentioned my argument doesn’t care about proving the fulfillment of the prophecy (it doesn’t matter whether Jesus was born of a Virgin or not), all that matters is that he and/or Christianity makes that claim. However, some of you have criticized me in that claims alone are insufficient since one can just make all the claims Jesus does today and Voila! Actually, I was happy to see that my interlocutor saw the flawed assumption in these attacks, my argument isn’t technically about claims alone but about unfalsified claims. No one can falsify or prove Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin or fulfilled the prophecies I outlined last week, perhaps this can be said of others as well at this point, but not everyone can as I illustrated with the comic story about my own birth above. So, my argument hinges upon using unfalsified claims not just any claims (unqualified).
ESTABLISHING THE ARGUMENT- JESUS OR BUST PART 2
Here is a discussion of some Messianic prophecies related to the Messiah’s divine mission.
Messianic Prophecy #1- The New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34);
This one is relatively straightforward, Jeremiah 31 says the following:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
In context, Jeremiah has been prophesying about the Babylonian exile and the eventual restoration of Israel; he makes several prophecies which have a clear and provable fulfillment (as per the biblical account such as the 70-year captivity for example), but once again not everything predicted seems to come to pass. Jeremiah gets some things correct but then on others we are left hanging; no fulfillment (i.e. no swords beaten into plows or no world peace as Israel was again destroyed by the Romans later on), what is going on? Well, the Branch (Jeremiah 23) is referring to the Messiah and it is through the Messiah that a New Covenant (i.e. New Testament) would be inaugurated, one in which God would put his law within their hearts and will remember their sins no more- if this doesn’t refer to Jesus, I don’t know who it does refer to!
Now, there are some elements in Jeremiah that have yet to be fulfilled by Jesus in the New Testament, yet scholars recognize the “Already but not Yet” aspect of Jesus mission where fulfills some aspects partially and the rest later- this is called “Realized Eschatology” by biblical scholars. Thus, whatever you make of the 2nd coming of Jesus (the two phases of Jesus), whether you think this is true or just some made up excuse to get Jesus “off-the-hook” so to speak, regardless it is claim of Christianity that keeps Jesus as an equally possible/probable candidate for fulfilling this Messianic prophecy. What other Messianic claimants even claimed to usher in a New Covenant like Jesus?- Not too many I would imagine, instead most of them only ever claimed to be simply reaffirming the Old Covenant and thus I suspect this can be used to rule out even more Messianic candidates.
RECOMMENDED SOURCES: Dr. Michael L. Brown gives a lecture on “Messianic Insights from the Book of Jeremiah”, see here = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AJFnqj33s .
Messianic Prophecy #2- Light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6);
“It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant, To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth”.
The prophet Isaiah is famous for his Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 53 (technically that song starts from Isaiah 52:13-53:12), but few realize that this particular Servant Song is part of a larger context of 4 Servant Songs in total, starting back in Isaiah 40 with the songs themselves being found in Isaiah 42:1–9; Isaiah 49:1–13; Isaiah 50:4–11; and Isaiah 52:13—53:12. Now, fuller discussion of these songs and their associated Messianic prophecies culminating with Isaiah 53 will have to wait for the next blog but for now, I just wanted to highlight one aspect in Isaiah 49, the Messiah’s mission would entail being a “light to the Gentiles” (meaning “nations” in Hebrew) and bringing “God’s salvation to the ends of the Earth”. The application to the Christian Jesus is obvious!
Now, there are other interpretations of this verse where some say the Servant is not an individual (as in the Jewish Messiah) but the nation of Israel as a whole or others see it as referring to a righteous remnant within Israel specifically. However, I can assure you that the Servant described in both Isaiah 49:6 and Isaiah 52:13-53:12 does in fact refer to an individual; the Jewish Messiah. For the sake of time and length, I will refrain from making a full case from that this time, but it will be tackled head on in Part 3 coming up next week.
Brief description of the 4 Servant Songs in Isaiah = https://www.gotquestions.org/Servant-Songs.html .
Messianic Prophecy #3- (Zechariah 12:10);
Christians claim that this prophesies the crucifixion of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Zechariah 12:9-12 reads as follows,
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. 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. 11 In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon”.
The overall context of this prophecy includes Zechariah 12-13:1 and very clearly speaks about a time of national mourning in Israel over one slain resulting in the spiritual cleansing of the nation. Christians claim this verse refers to Jesus second coming, when the Jewish people finally realize their mistake, that Jesus, the one they crucified or pierced, was in fact the Jewish Messiah and they will mourn for what their rejection of God’s Messiah when he first came to them. Seems pretty clear cut to me. What’s more, throughout Zechariah 12, it is clear that it is God himself that is being referred to until the sudden and abrupt change to “him”- could this be a subtle hint that the Messiah that was pierced might be divine, certainly in Zechariah 14:1-5 we find that it is the Lord Himself who will come to Earth “on that day” and have his feet stand on the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem and split it in two. Wow, this certainly coheres with what we find with Jesus in Luke 19:41-44 and Matthew 23:37-39 which respectively say,
“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”.
Do you see it, this is saying Jesus claimed that his second coming will not happen until the Jewish people look to Jesus and mourn over the one the Messiah who was pierced and bless Jesus, only then will make his second coming and put his feet on the Mount of Olives, etc.
Now, Modern Jewish translations like the Stone edition or the New Jewish Publication Society of America Tanakh (NJPSV for short) mistranslated the Hebrew to make it sound plural, as though the Jews in Jerusalem will be mourning over multiple people that have been pierced (or slain) but the Hebrew context makes it clear that this translation is mistaken and instead it refers to a single individual and/or thing at least.
The Skeptic challenged me to back up some of statements with ancient Jewish sources, OK here is an ancient interpretation of this verse backing up the Messianic understanding of this verse in the Talmud in b. Sukkah 55a. where they provide two different possible interpretations of this verse; either, i) it refers in the singular to the sinful inclination of man being pierced or slain/done away with or ii) it refers to the Messiah ben Joseph who would be pierced/slain in the last great war before the Messiah son of David would raise this figure from the dead. Thus, the ancient Jewish authorities who wrote the Talmud recognized that this verse spoke of an individual person or thing not a plural subject like modern Jewish versions say and one such interpretation was that a Messianic figure would die and raise from the dead- incredible! The Rabbi’s only mistake it would seem was not recognizing that Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David were one and the same person, Jesus and that the Messiah’s mission was composed of two distinct phases (in which some prophecies would be fulfilled with his First Coming and others at the Second Coming) not two distinct Messiahs.
For the Jewish side (Rabbi Tovia Singer) on Zechariah 12:10, see here = https://outreachjudaism.org/lets-get-biblical-audio-series/ (see Lecture #18- approx. 20 mins). Also, for the Christian side (Dr. Michael L. Brown), see here = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZQ2QNnw3o8 . As an aside, see Brown tackle the one prophecy that Jewish anti-missionaries do attribute to Jesus (Zechariah 13:6- Jesus as the false prophet), see here = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9ZrUuUkxHk .
Originally, I had planned to include Isaiah 53 in this Part 2 blog in order to finish off the main prophecies I wish to use to establish my case/argument, but given the length of this blog (which is supposed to be 800-1000 words in length and is already far beyond that) and the sheer volume of information on the famous Isaiah prophecy, I have opted to exclude it here and to focus on it exclusively in Part 3. Part 4 then will deal with the timing of the Messiah and finally Part 5 will be David’s chance to provide 3-4 Counter Messianic prophecies which might falsify Jesus as a Jewish Messianic claimant.
To summarize, we have thus far seen that minimally, the Jewish Messiah must be;
Messianic Qualifications Discussed in Part 1:
1) CONFIRMED: A Jewish descendant in the line of King David (Micah 5:2).
2) CONFIRMED: Born of a young woman of marriageable age (possibly also a virgin) (Isaiah 7:14).
3) CONFIRMED: Their birth would serve either as a “momentous” (non-mundane yet natural) and/or “supernatural” sign for the House of David/Israel that God is with them (Immanuel = “God with us”) (Isaiah 7:14).
- POSSIBLE: The Messiah would possibly be born in Bethlehem and/or at least be said to “come out of” Bethlehem- the latter interpretation is tantamount to saying he would be a descendant of David though, so not persuasive but yet possible if the former Christian understanding is correct) (Micah 5:2).
- POSSIBLE: The Messiah would have his origins in the days of olam – meaning the days of “eternity”. This hints at the Messiah’s possible divinity and/or pre-existence (prior to the birth of King David himself) (Micah 5:2).
Messianic Qualifications Discussed in Part 2:
- CONFIRMED: The Messiah would establish a new covenant with Israel not like the covenant that He made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, instead this time He will put His law within them and write it on their hearts. A covenant whereby He would forgive their iniquities and remember their sins no more- (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
- CONFIRMED (PARTIALLY PENDING ASSESSMENT IN PART 3): The Messiah would not just come for the people of Israel but would also be a “light to the Gentiles” and would bring about “salvation to the ends of the Earth” (Isaiah 49:6).
- CONFIRMED: The Messiah would be “pierced” (i.e. slain perhaps via crucifixion), and the Jews will mourn over Him (implying a Resurrection) before He would come back to save Israel from its enemies (Zechariah 12:10).
Since this is a cumulative case argument, there is yet more to come but to my mind this is really starting to be suggestive that Jesus is the Messiah these prophecies in the Old Testament has in mind here!
Let the Jews speak for themselves Skeptics View
The funny thing is when I have talked to Jews in the past on messianic prophecy, they didn’t see Jesus anywhere hinted at in their scriptures. Either they are wrong about their scriptures, or Dale is. Now Dale likes to cite the isolated Jew to make his case. But like the technical of Gary Habermas of citing atheist scholars to reach the minimal facts, his champions ultimately do not agree with his conclusions.
So don’t let Dale confuse you with regard to what actual Jews find in their own scriptures. I will stand aside for much of this week and let a Jew talk Jewish scripture.
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
Jesus did not fulfill the messianic prophecies
What is the Messiah supposed to accomplish? One of the central themes of biblical prophecy is the promise of a future age of perfection characterized by universal peace and recognition of God. (Isaiah 2:1-4, 32:15-18, 60:15-18; Zephaniah 3:9; Hosea 2:20-22; Amos 9:13-15; Micah 4:1-4; Zechariah 8:23, 14:9; Jeremiah 31:33-34)
Specifically, the Bible says he will:
A Build the Third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26-28).
B Gather all Jews back to the Land of Israel (Isaiah 43:5-6).
C Usher in an era of world peace, and end all hatred, oppression, suffering and disease. As it says: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall man learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)
D Spread universal knowledge of the God of Israel, which will unite humanity as one. As it says: “God will be King over all the world – on that day, God will be One and His Name will be One” (Zechariah 14:9).
If an individual fails to fulfill even one of these conditions, then he cannot be the Messiah.
I could stop there. But he doesn’t. So neither will I.
Jesus did not embody the personal qualities of the Messiah
His first point is that the Messiah would be the greatest prophet, but that Jesus would not be considered a prophet by the Jews because he was not “in Israel when the land is inhabited by a majority of world Jewry, a situation which has not existed since 300 BCE.”
Partly, this is a closed canon issue. All religions with holy books believe the canon was closed after their guy was done speaking prophetically. Mainstream Christians find it hard to accept new prophets with a new religion because their canon is closed. And a legitimate prophet could potentially open it again and change everything. The Jews feel the same way about their prophets and their canon.
The second point is easier to grasp. Jesus was not a descendant of David from the male branch. It is really that simple. And I have to agree with the rabbi’s assessment. Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus.
There is also the matter of Torah observance. Jesus played fast and loose with the Torah.
Throughout the Christian “New Testament,” Jesus contradicts the Torah and states that its commandments are no longer applicable. For example, John 9:14 records that Jesus made a paste in violation of Shabbat, which caused the Pharisees to say (verse 16), “He does not observe Shabbat!”
He next raises the point that I have made about mistranslating Jewish scriptures to make room for Jesus before making his last point.
Jewish belief is based on national, not private revelation
This point gets a little involved. But it can be boiled down this way: Jesus was revealed to only a handful of people. not to the Jewish people as a whole. I have also opined in similar fashion.
The people Jesus chose were not particularly credible. And he seemed to purposely present himself in ways that would alienate the Jewish leaders, ensuring he would never be generally accepted by the Jews. That is not the way of Jewish messiahs before him.
Conclusion: Written on the heart
The first passage Dale cited is one that I have based a few sermons on. It is one of my favorites in the bible. And as the Rabbi points out, it is proof that Jesus is not the one in view. It speaks of a time when…
And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord.
That time clearly has not come. The passage is repeated in the New Testament. It ends with the following:
“For I will be merciful toward their evil deeds, and their sins I will remember no longer.”
This almost rings of a kind of universalism. That was certainly not the message of Jesus. The Jewish messiah sounds more like the kind of person I could get behind. And as a utopianist, I, too, long for a time when we all live in peace and harmony, and old grievances can be forgotten.
But that time is not here yet. Like the Jews, I don’t believe that any one person is going to come along and bring it on a magic carpet. We all have to work for it. There is no magic. It is just really hard work.
I am happy to play the game of quote-mining Jewish scholarship because I will win. There are far more of them who agree with me than who agree with him. Dale is ultimately trying to make the case that the Jewish messiah has to be Jesus. So far, the case has been made stronger that it couldn’t be Jesus.
And that’s the view from the skeptic.