Messianic Apologetics

Addressing the Theological and Spiritual Issues of the Broad Messianic Movement

Approaching the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth – Messiahship of Yeshua

Why do any of us believe that Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth, is the prophesied Messiah of Israel?

Why do any of us believe that Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth, is the prophesied Messiah of Israel?

Approaching the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth

reproduced from the forthcoming Salvation on the Line, Volume III

posted 03 October, 2019


Why do any of us believe that Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth, is the prophesied Messiah of Israel? As I have asked this question among many people in today’s Messianic movement over the years—while I have found many people who have sincerely done their homework, and have investigated various Tanach prophecies and Second Temple Jewish expectations—I have found far many more who will give subjective answers based on their supernatural experiences. While it is commendable for us to know that on a particular date we were cleansed of our sins and redeemed by the atoning work of Yeshua, our supernatural experiences can never be used as a substitute for theologically processing why we believe that Yeshua is the Messiah. When visiting the synagogue in Berea, it is said that the people “received the message with goodwill, searching the Scriptures each day to see whether these things were true” (Acts 17:11, TLV). They heard the message that the Messiah of Israel had arrived, and they checked it against the Tanach. Unfortunately for far too many of today’s Believers, we have simply been given Yeshua as the Messiah, and have not been forced into thinking through why we should even place our trust in Him.

Today’s Messianic community is a venue for Jewish outreach and evangelism. Unlike more customary Protestant evangelism, where the main purpose is to reach out with the love of the Lord to a hurting world beset by sin—the Messianic community has to go further, in invoking the First Century dynamics of “God brought to Israel a Savior—Yeshua” (Acts 13:23, TLV), in actually proving to some significant degree that Yeshua is the anticipated Messiah. For most of today’s Messianic people, when presenting and/or defending the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth, they will find themselves mainly resorting to various “proof texts” of Messianic prophecy. While not at all improper, many of us have little or no understanding as to why, and most especially how, the concept of a Messiah had developed by the period of Second Temple Judaism. We do not often consider how at various points, particularly crisis moments, in Biblical history, the concept of a Messiah who would resolve the problems of Israel and humanity, would substantially advance.

Many of today’s Messianic people are involved in Jewish outreach and evangelism via their local congregation, and/or one of the many opportunities available through a major ministry operating in Israel or in a large Diaspora Jewish sector. These people do tend to be prepared, somewhat, for having to explain why they believe that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel. Others, however, who are interested in Jewish outreach, may not be as adequately prepared. More disturbing, to be sure, would be those in positions of Messianic congregational leadership and teaching, who are not as well equipped as they ought to be, regarding the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth. Fortunately, regardless of where we have been in our individual studies, the Lord will use circumstances to focus our attention on the necessary investigations that we need to undertake, in order to be ready to best declare the good news of Israel’s Messiah to His Jewish people.

At one point in your Messianic experience, it is likely that you have encountered different materials or books or social media circulate in your local assembly, which at least questions whether or not Yeshua of Nazareth is the prophesied Messiah. It is no more inappropriate to ask whether Yeshua is the Messiah, than it is inappropriate to ask whether or not there is a God. All of us, in trying to figure out who we are as spiritual human beings, need to ask the question of whether Yeshua is the Messiah. Not infrequently, in thinking themselves to be prepared to speak of the good news of Yeshua to various Orthodox Jews, for example, one can encounter various Messianic people begin to seriously question whether He is truly the Messiah of Israel. When you see Messianics being influenced more by the people they are hoping to influence, it is a serious cause for concern. Every person, Jewish or non-Jewish, who is a part of today’s Messianic movement, is a target for being influenced by the Jewish anti-missionary movement: Jewish groups whose mission it is to specifically speak out against the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth.

What do we do when any of us hear some seemingly convincing arguments against Yeshua being the Messiah? Whether we realize it or not, the Lord does not intend us to cover our ears, hide under our beds, and hum very loudly as though we did not hear anything. Instead, this is a time for us to learn, to truly consider why we believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, and to have theological confirmation in our minds of what we know in our hearts. Believe it or not, this is not something limited to an individual here or there; this is a group effort. The belief that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel is something that Messianic congregations are to boldly declare to the Jewish community and to the world. But what does your congregation, fellowship, or study group do about this?

Does your assembly regularly have Shabbat messages, during the main service, on the Messiahship of Yeshua? Some Messianic congregations certainly do, but some Messianic congregations do not. What is the location of your assembly and its demographic profile? Some Messianic congregations’ leadership are able to fairly balance the main Messianic mission of Jewish outreach and evangelism, while at the same time welcoming in non-Jewish Believers wanting to take hold of their faith heritage in Israel’s Scriptures. Yet, some Messianic congregations can be so utterly overwhelmed with non-Jewish people, that the assembly becomes more about Hebrew Roots or Jewish Roots or Torah study, than it does about Jewish evangelism. A congregation focused on Jewish evangelism, will by necessity be teaching its people about the Messiahship of Yeshua. None of us wants to be open season for a personal visit from a Jewish anti-missionary, and see our faith shaken, when hearing claims against Yeshua—because little or no study on the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth has been conducted.

The Term “Messiah”

When we theologically speak of “the Messiah,” we are mainly considering the singular individual, as anticipated in the Tanach, who would be the answer to all of the problems that had been incurred by Ancient Israel at the time of its national decline. God’s covenant with King David included the specific guarantee, “Your house and your kingship shall ever be secure before you; your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16, NJPS). How was this word supposed to remain effectual with the exile of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, and the broad dominance of the Jewish people by foreign powers subsequent to the exile—among other problems and challenges? By the time of the end of the exile, for all intents and purposes, the Davidic throne had been lost. Theologically speaking, as noted by The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion, “the term {Messiah} signified the kings of the Davidic dynasty (‘David and his seed’), and in particular the future ‘Son of David,’ who would deliver Israel from foreign bondage, restore the glories of a former golden age, and inaugurate the ingathering of Israel and God’s kingdom of righteousness and peace.”[1]

The English term Messiah is derived from the Hebrew mashiach, meaning “the anointed one” (HALOT),[2] and it is witnessed throughout the Tanach to be applied to various strata of both supernatural and mortal entities. The term mashiach as “anointed” is applied to the Patriarchs (Psalm 105:15), kings of Israel such as David (1 Samuel 16:1-13), high priests (Leviticus 8:1-13), prophets (Isaiah 61:1), and cherubs (Ezekiel 28:14). Israel is considered to be anointed (Habakkuk 3:13). Less righteous kings of Israel such as Saul, are considered to be anointed (1 Samuel 24:6[7]). Even the Persian Cyrus is said to be anointed (Isaiah 45:1). Frequently throughout the Greek Septuagint translation, the Hebrew mashiach is rendered with christos, “the Anointed One, the Christ, as a transl. of the Hebr. Messiah, N.T.” (LS).[3] In Daniel 9:25, the Hebrew Mashiach gadil, “Mashiach, the Prince” (TLV), is rendered in the LXX as Christou hēgoumenou, “Christ the prince” (LXE). The Greek Apostolic Scriptures, however, do include the transliteration Messias in a number of places (i.e., John 1:41; 4:25). In Messianic Jewish editions of the Scriptures such as the Complete Jewish Bible (1998) and Tree of Life Version (2014), Christos will most often be rendered as “Messiah.”

While it is witnessed in the Tanach, that there were important figures to be regarded as “anointed,” the figure of the Messiah was anticipated to be unique and decisive, far exceeding anyone else.

The Concept of a Messiah in Second Temple Judaism

Ranging across the spectrum of Jewish history and theology, it is easily witnessed that there is a diverse array of options and opinions available at one’s disposal, regarding the concept of “the Messiah.” Those who place some importance on the life and ministry of Yeshua of Nazareth, must by necessity consider the ideas of a Messiah figure circulating within contemporary Second Temple Judaism. It is safe to say that there is no single school of thought regarding a Messiah in Second Temple Judaism, although it is widely agreed that the ideas of a Messiah figure had been piqued and honed as a consequence of the fall of Israel’s Kingdom and the consequences of the exile. That someone was to arise within the community of Israel, and the fix the problems of the exile, was the major impetus behind Messianism. Various groups within Second Temple Judaism—especially including the Pharisees and the Qumran community—had opinions about a kingly or anointed figure who would come and return Israel to its fullness. These opinions, however, were not unified.

While today’s evangelical Protestants are likely to think in terms of the Messiah being a figure who would resolve the human sin problem, Ancient Jews were primarily looking for a Messiah to resolve the political disposition of Israel. Following the return of the Jewish exiles from Babylon and the reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, there was still no political autonomy for Israel, and the Davidic throne was vacant. What did this mean? How could God allow this? This understandably focused the attention of many Jews on prophetic declarations and oracles speaking to the reconstitution of Israel’s Kingdom and the Davidic monarchy. The Maccabean crisis of the Second Century B.C.E., though, saw a shift in the some of the ideas of Messianism toward an eschatological state of being, with discussions and speculations associated with the Kingdom of Heaven, the resurrection of the dead, and the last judgment. Ideas of an entirely political Messiah figure were steadily meshed with ideas of a spiritual or priestly and/or prophetic Messiah figure—in no small part due to the religious corruption present in the First Century B.C.E. As noted by C.A. Evans in Dictionary of New Testament Background,

“In reaction to the oppression of Greek and Roman rule, and in response to what was perceived as usurpation of the high priesthood on the part of the Hasmoneans and their successors, hopes for the appearance of a righteous king and/or priest began to be expressed. The later usurpation of Israel’s throne by Herod and his successors only fueled these hopes.”[4]

Some of the major Tanach concepts of Second Temple Judaism, would have included the raising of David (Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24; Hosea 3:5), and the anticipation of some sort of new age for Israel (Isaiah 63:4; 65:25; Jeremiah 31:31-34; 34:16; Ezekiel 48:35). Intertwined within this are not just emphases on political independence and the restoration of the Davidic monarchy, but also the return of all of the exiles of Israel to the Promised Land, the restoration of proper Temple worship and a just priesthood, and most especially a commitment on the part of Israel to obey God’s Torah.

While one’s review of the Messianic claims of Yeshua of Nazareth, necessarily require an examination of the Tanach Scriptures and Apostolic Writings—various strata of extra-Biblical literature play some role in us considering various expectations present among Second Temple Jews. Pulling a number of themes from Isaiah 11; Ezekiel 34; and Psalm 2; and communicating in a style not unlike Psalm 89, the First Century B.C.E. Psalms of Solomon 17:21-25 witnesses the Son of David purging Jerusalem and destroying the God-less:

“See, Lord, and raise up for them their king, the son of David, to rule over your servant Israel in the time known to you, O God. Undergird him with the strength to destroy the unrighteous rulers, to purge Jerusalem from gentiles who trample her to destruction; in wisdom and in righteousness to drive out the sinners from the inheritance; to smash the arrogance of sinners like a potter’s jar; to shatter all their substance with an iron rod; to destroy the unlawful nations with the word of his mouth; at his warning the nations will flee from his presence; and he will condemn sinners by the thoughts of their hearts” (Psalms of Solomon 17:21-25).[5]

Likely appropriating themes from Zechariah 3, it is witnessed in the Dead Sea Scrolls that the Qumran community believed itself to be an established enclave “until there come the Prophet and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel” (1QS 9.11).[6] The Messiah of Israel is approached as being a priestly type of figure, as seen in the expectation, “The procedure for the [mee]ting of the men of reputation [when they are called] to the banquet held by the society of the Yahad, when [God] has fa[th]ered (?) the Messiah (or when the Messiah has been revealed) among them: [the Priest,] as head of the entire congregation of Israel, shall enter first” (1QSa 2.11-12).[7] That the Messiah would be a priestly king is witnessed in additional remarks witnessed in the DSS:

“This is the rule for those who live in camps, who live by these rules in the era of wickedness, until the appearance of the Messiah of Aaron” (CD 12.23).[8]

“And this is the exposition of the regulations by which [they shall be governed in the age of wickedness until the appearance of the Messi]ah of Aaron and of Israel” (CD 14.19).[9]

“they will escape in the time of punishment, but all the rest will be handed over to the sword when the Messiah of Aaron and of Israel comes” (CD 19.10).[10]

“the Beloved Teacher dies until the Messiah from Aaron and from Israel appears” (CD 20.1).[11]

That the Messiah was anticipated to be some kind of a priestly king, a merging of the vocations of Levi and Judah, is also seen in statements made throughout the Pseudepigrapha:

“When vengeance will have come upon them from the Lord, the priesthood will lapse. And then the Lord will raise up a new priest to whom all the words of the Lord will be revealed. He shall effect the judgment of truth over the earth for many days. And his star shall rise in heaven like a king; kindling the light of knowledge as day is illumined by the sun. And he shall be extolled by the whole inhabited world. This one will shine forth like the sun in the earth; he shall take away all darkness from under heaven, and there shall be peace in all the earth. The heavens shall greatly rejoice in his days and the earth shall be glad; the clouds will be filled with joy and the knowledge of the Lord will be poured out on the earth like the water of the seas. And the angels of glory of the Lord’s presence will be made glad by him. The heavens will be opened, and from the temple of glory sanctification will come upon him, with a fatherly voice, as from Abraham to Isaac. And the glory of the Most High shall burst forth upon him. And the spirit of understanding and sanctification shall rest upon him [in the water]. For he shall give the majesty of the Lord to those who are his sons in truth forever. And there shall be no successor for him from generation to generation forever. And in his priesthood the nations shall be multiplied in knowledge on the earth, and they shall be illumined by the grace of the Lord, but Israel shall be diminished by her ignorance and darkened by her grief. In his priesthood sin shall cease and lawless men shall find rest in him. And he shall open the gates of paradise; he shall remove the sword that has threatened since Adam, and he will grant to the saints to eat of the tree of life. The spirit of holiness shall be upon them. And Beliar shall be bound by him. And he shall grant to his children the authority to trample on wicked spirits. And the Lord will rejoice in his children; he will be well pleased by his beloved ones forever. Then Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will rejoice, and I shall be glad, and all the saints shall be clothed in righteousness” (Testament of Levi 18).[12]

“To me God has given the kingship and to him, the priesthood; and he has subjected the kingship to the priesthood. To me he gave earthly matters and to Levi, heavenly matters. As heaven is superior to the earth, so is God’s priesthood superior to the kingdom on earth, unless through sin it falls away from the Lord and is dominated by the earthly kingdom. For the Lord chose him over you to draw near to him, to eat at his table to present as offerings the costly things of the sons of Israel….And after this there shall arise for you a Star from Jacob in peace: And a man shall arise from my posterity like the Sun of righteousness, walking with the sons of men in gentleness and righteousness, and in him will be found no sin. And the heavens will be opened upon him to pour out the spirit as a blessing of the Holy Father. And he will pour the spirit of grace on you. And you shall be as sons in truth, and you will walk in his first and final decrees. This is the Shoot of God Most High; this is the foundation for the life of all humanity. Then he will illumine the scepter of my kingdom, and from your root will arise the Shoot, and through it will arise the rod of righteousness for the nations, to judge and to save all that call on the Lord” (Testament of Judah 21:2-5; 24).[13]

“And a spirit of prophecy came down upon his mouth. And he took Levi in his right hand and Judah in his left hand. And he turned to Levi first and he began to bless him first, and he said to him, ‘May the God of all, i.e. the LORD of all ages, bless you and your sons in all ages. May the LORD give you and your seed very great honor. May he draw you and your seed near to him from all flesh to serve in his sanctuary as the angels of the presence and the holy ones. May your sons’ seed be like them with respect to honor and greatness and sanctification. And may he make them great in every age. And they will become judges and rulers and leaders for all of the seed of the sons of Jacob. The word of the LORD they will speak righteously, and all of his judgments they will execute righteously. And they will tell my ways to Jacob, and my paths to Israel. The blessing of the LORD shall be placed in their mouth, so that they might bless all of the seed of the beloved. (As for) you, your mother has named you ‘Levi,’ and truly she has named you. You will be joined to the LORD and be the companion of all the sons of Jacob. His table will belong to you, and you and your sons will eat (from) it, and in all generations your table will be full, and your food will not be lacking in any age. And all who hate you will fall before you, and all your enemies will be uprooted and perish, and whoever blesses you will be blessed, and any nation which curses you will be cursed.’ And to Judah he said: ‘May the LORD give you might and strength to tread upon all who hate you. Be a prince, you and one of your sons for the sons of Jacob; may your name and the name of your son be one which travels and goes about in all the lands and cities. Then may the nations fear before your face, and all of the nations tremble, [and every nation trembles]. And with you will be the help of Jacob and with you will be found the salvation of Israel. And on the day when you sit on your righteous throne of honor, there will be great peace for all the seed of the beloved’s sons. Whoever blesses you will be blessed, and all who hate you and afflict you and curse you will be uprooted and destroyed from the earth and they shall be cursed’” (Jubilees 31:12-20).[14]

Noting a number of Tanach passages (Deuteronomy 5:28-29; 18:18-19; Numbers 24:15-17; Deuteronomy 33:8-11; Joshua 6:26), the DSS also catalogue some of the priestly expectations of the Messiah (4Q175).[15]

While a controversial text to be certain, that some Messianic ideas are present in the Book of 1 Enoch is unavoidable. Perhaps with some allusions intended to Psalm 2; the Son of Man in Daniel 7:13; and even the Servant of Isaiah 49; 52:13-53:12, the Messiah is depicted as a transcendent Heavenly figure:

“In those days, the kings of the earth and the mighty landowners shall be humiliated on account of the deeds of their hands. Therefore, on the day of their misery and weariness, they will not be able to save themselves. I shall deliver them into the hands of my elect ones like grass in the fire and like lead in the water, so they shall burn before the face of the holy ones and sink before their sight, and no place will be found for them. On the day of their weariness, there shall be an obstacle on the earth and they shall fall on their faces; and they shall not rise up (again), nor anyone (be found) who will take them with his hands and raise them up. For they have denied the Lord of the Spirits and his Messiah. Blessed be the name of the Lord of the Spirits….For his might is in all the mysteries of righteousness, and oppression will vanish like a shadow having no foundations. The Elect One stands before the Lord of the Spirits; his glory is forever and ever and his power is unto all generations. In him dwells the spirit of wisdom, the spirit which gives thoughtfulness, the spirit of knowledge and strength, and the spirit of those who have fallen asleep in righteousness….And he said to me, ‘All these things which you have seen happen by the authority of his Messiah so that he may give orders and be praised upon the earth’” (1 Enoch 48:8-10; 49:2-3; 52:4).[16]

Ideas of a Messianic figure functioning in roles of king, priest, prophet, and being exalted in Heaven, are witnessed across a broad selection of excerpts from Second Temple Jewish literature. And, there are doubtlessly other avenues or contours of Messianic expectation, to be considered and explored, as well. When Yeshua of Nazareth entered in on the scene in the First Century, in the world of Second Temple Judaism, there were various expectations—some more refined than others—of what the Messiah was likely going to do. While Jewish anti-missionaries will be seen to frequently dismiss the Messianic claims of Yeshua of Nazareth, they are also likely to be seen doing so without any engagement with some of the expectations of the broad time period in which He actually lived—and instead are more concerned with post-First Century C.E. diatribes and debates between the Jewish Synagogue and institutional Christian Church. Our analysis and defense of the Messiahship of Yeshua will not leave out the sorts of Second Temple Jewish views and expectations we have just catalogued.

Why has Judaism widely dismissed Yeshua of Nazareth?

When many of today’s genuinely born again Believers encounter religious Jewish people, they often wonder why they cannot see Yeshua of Nazareth as the anticipated Messiah. Is it only because “a veil lies over their heart” (2 Corinthians 3:15)? Technically, this can be applied to anyone who is resistant to the good news. The negative disposition witnessed in Jewish theology, toward the concept that Yeshua of Nazareth is the Messiah, does involve specific reasons connected to a lack of prophetic fulfillment in His activities as seen in the Apostolic Writings, as well as a great deal of historic Christian theology deemed to be entirely incompatible with Jewish faith. Many of today’s Protestant ministers, in witnessing their Jewish neighbors be dismissive of Yeshua of Nazareth, will consider it to be the result of failing to consider what He has prophetically accomplished—but they tend to be seldom engaged, if at all, with other issues important to Judaism. Today’s Messianic people are far better equipped in handling the wider scope of subjects that involve the Messiahship of Yeshua. While prophetic fulfillment and expectation are doubtlessly important, also being able to weigh issues of Torah, replacement theology or supersessionism from the historical Church, and contemporary anti-Semitism, are also extremely vital.

What have some contemporary Jewish voices said about Yeshua of Nazareth, and the widespread Jewish dismissal of Him as the Messiah?

In the popular resource The Second Jewish Book of Why, Alfred J. Kolatch answers the basic question, “Why after the death of Jesus were most Jews reluctant to accept him as the Messiah?”:

“Of the Jews living in Palestine in the early centuries following the death of Jesus, relatively few accepted him as the Messiah whose coming, some claimed, was predicted by the prophets of Israel. In Jewish tradition, the arrival of the Messiah was to bring with it the amelioration of oppressive conditions and the restoration of Israel to its former glory. Maimonides summarized what Jews looked forward to in the Messianic Age: ‘There will be no hunger or war, no jealousy or strife; prosperity will be universal; and the world’s chief occupation will be to know the Lord’ [Mishneh Torah, Melachim 12:5]. Since these conditions did not come to pass, the idea of Jesus as the Messiah never took root among Jews, and the followers of Jesus therefore turned to the pagan community in search of converts.”[17]

Kolatch fairly indicates that many First Century Jews would have anticipated the Messiah being a military and political leader, who would restore not only Israel’s autonomy and the Davidic monarchy, but would also initiate worldwide peace. Did any of this at least begin as a result of the activities of Yeshua of Nazareth? These are factors which have to be considered by anyone who evaluates the teachings and legacy of Yeshua.

A more comprehensive summary of why Orthodox Jews especially, reject Yeshua as the Messiah, is offered by Aryeh Kaplan, in his book The Real Messiah? A Jewish Response to Missionaries. His conclusions include data that are often not considered by contemporary Protestant ministers and theologians in their evaluations of the Messiahship of Yeshua, but are considered by today’s Messianic Jewish leaders and teachers:

…Christianity as we know it began during…the work of Paul of Tarsus. Paul, or as he was earlier known, Saul, was a disciple of the great Talmudist Rabbi Gamliel, and he began his career by actively opposing the early Christians. In a dramatic incident on the road to Damascus, Paul converted to Christianity, and later became one of its foremost leaders. Although he had never seen Jesus alive, he claimed to have spoken to him in spirit. Under Paul’s leadership, many of the distinctive doctrines of Christianity were first proclaimed, and, for the most part, they have never changed. His teachings are recorded in the Epistles, which form the second part of the New Testament.

Among Paul’s major teachings, we find the following:

    1. Jesus was the Messiah or Christ predicted by the Prophets of the Bible and awaited by the Jews. He is also the Son of G-d, and like any son, is essentially the same as his Father.
    2. Man is evil and sinful. All mankind is damned because of Adam’s sin. The Torah cannot save man, since many its many commandments make it too difficult to keep. The only thing that can prevent man’s utter damnation in hell is the belief in Christ.
    3. The Jews were originally G-d’s chosen people, but they were rejected when they refused to accept His son, Jesus. The name “Israel,” G-d’s chosen people, is no longer carried by the Jew, but by those who accept Jesus as the Messiah. Only these share G-d’s love. Everyone else is damned in hell.
    4. There is only one law now that Christ has come, and that is love. One must follow the example of Christ’s sacrifice, and patiently hope that G-d will be gracious in return.

It is enough to state these articles of Christian faith to see why the Jews could not accept them. Taking them one by one, the Jewish viewpoint would be:

    1. Jesus could not have been the Messiah. The Prophets predicted a world of peace and love after the Messiah’s coming, and this certainly does not exist today. Furthermore, any talk of the Messiah as being the “son of G-d” is totally unacceptable. In no place do the Prophets say that he will be anything more than a remarkable leader and teacher.
    2. Although the Torah does speak of Adam’s sin, it teaches that man can rise above it. Man might not be able to perfect himself, but it was for this reason that G-d gave us the Torah. It is absurd to think that G-d would give a Torah that was impossible or too difficult to follow. In no place does Judaism teach that one can be saved from damnation by mere belief. Any true belief in G-d must lead a person to also follow His commandments.
    3. It is impossible to imagine that G-d would ever reject the Jewish people. In many places the Bible clearly states that His covenant with them will be forever.
    4. In many places, the Bible says that the Torah was given forever. It is therefore impossible to say that it has been replaced by a new law or testament. Love alone is not enough, for one must know how to express it, and for this, we need the Torah as a guide. Love is only one of the Torah’s commandments, and good deeds are its necessary expression.

Why do we believe these ideas rather than the ones expressed by Paul and Christianity?

For one thing, we see no evidence that Jesus was indeed the Messiah expected by Israel. The Messianic promise included things such as perfect peace and unity among men, love and truth, universal knowledge and undisturbed happiness, as well as the end of all evil, idolatry, falsehood and hatred. None of these things have been fulfilled by Christianity.

The Christian answer to this is the simple assertion that all things have indeed changed by the coming of Jesus. If the change is not visible, it is because man is evil and has not truly accepted Jesus and his teachings. Thus, the Messiah or Christ will have to return in order to prove his victory.

The Jew refuses to accept the excuse that the major prophecies concerning the Messiah will only be fulfilled in a “second coming.” He expects the Messiah to complete his mission in his first attempt. The Jew therefore believes that the Messiah is yet to come.[18]

Kaplan has said a great deal here, and have issued some challenges that go beyond the scope of simply Messianic prophecy fulfillment. There have certainly been robust defenses issued in today’s Messianic movement, in favor of Yeshua being integrated into the Divine Identity as the LORD (YHWH/YHVH), and how such was not in conflict with Second Temple Jewish monotheism.[19] It can be shocking, however, to see Jewish theologians and teachers dismiss the Messiahship of Yeshua on issues such as the sin nature of humanity. It is not as surprising as much to see Jewish rabbis dismiss the Messiahship of Yeshua on the basis of how many Christians have errantly promoted replacement theology. And, as many of us are all astutely aware, one of the major differences between today’s Messianic movement and evangelical Protestantism, is our conviction that the Torah or Law of Moses does have validity for the people of God.[20] Addressing the Messiahship of Yeshua has to involve a consideration of issues that go beyond Tanach prophecy.

Could Second Temple Judaism have anticipated Yeshua as Messiah, and His Second Coming?

Today, the main expectations of Orthodox Jews regarding the arrival of the Messiah are that the Messiah will (1) rebuild the Jerusalem Temple, (2) regather the exiles of Israel to the Promised Land, and (3) reign in peace over the Earth. In reviewing the recorded actions of Yeshua of Nazareth in the Apostolic Scriptures, religious Jews have decided that He could not be the Messiah. Is it so impossible for Yeshua of Nazareth to be the Messiah? Luke 24:26-27 actually invites the skeptic to consider the relationship of Yeshua of Nazareth to the Tanach Scriptures: “‘Was it not necessary for Messiah to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them the things written about Himself in all the Scriptures” (TLV). What are some of the factors that we need to consider, not only involving Israel’s restoration, but whether or not Second Temple Judaism could have actually anticipated the arrival of a figure like Yeshua as the Messiah.

A frequent dismissal of Yeshua as the Messiah concerns the Divinity of Yeshua—as Yeshua did indeed claim “I am the Father are one” (John 10:30) and “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM” (John 8:58, PME). What eventually condemned Yeshua to death is how He told the Sanhedrin, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, from now on you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER [Psalm 110:1], and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN [Daniel 7:13]” (Matthew 26:64, PME). Yeshua made a direct appeal to the Daniel 7:13-14 theophany of the figure of the Son of Man brought before the Ancient of Days—the Son of Man being a Divine figure afforded supreme authority and universal worship: “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (NIV). While Yeshua’s Divinity is principally based on His relationship to God proper, with Yeshua integrated into the Divine Identity of the LORD or YHWH often by Tanach intertextuality (i.e. Philippians 2:5-11; Isaiah 45:23)—the Messiah as a co-regent of God proper, is witnessed in various strata of Second Temple Jewish literature (1 Enoch 48:8-10; 49:2-3; 52:4). The broad world of Second Temple Judaism included speculations about the Messiah, which at the very least approached Him as an eminently powerful supernatural being.

Many religious Jews today dismiss the Messiahship of Yeshua on the basis that God would never accept a human sacrifice as a form of atonement. It should go without saying that the death of Yeshua is not modeled after the sort of human sacrifice witnessed by Ancient Israel’s Canaanite neighbors, where children would be burned before Molech.[21] The narrative of John 11:50 specifies that Yeshua’s death concerns “that one man die for the people” (TLV), by necessity requiring us to recognize that there has certainly been discussion in Second Temple Judaism, and immediately thereafter, involving the death of a human person somehow providing atonement or restitution for a situation seen in Israel.

In the Tanach itself, it is seen that the burial of Saul and Jonathan, enacted some favorable response from God:

“And they buried the bones of Saul and of his son Jonathan in Zela, in the territory of Benjamin, in the tomb of his father Kish. And when all that the king had commanded was done, God responded to the plea of the land thereafter” (2 Samuel 21:14, NJPS).

The dramatic scene of the Maccabean martyrs of the Second Century B.C.E., certainly does demonstrate how the death of faithful Jews was believed to provide some degree of purification for the sins of apostasy being committed by others:

“Be merciful to your people, and let our punishment suffice for them. Make my blood their purification, and take my life in exchange for theirs” (4 Maccabees 6:28-29, RSV).

“And through the blood of those devout ones and their death as an expiation, divine Providence preserved Israel that previously had been afflicted” (4 Maccabees 17:22, RSV).

The Maccabees themselves viewed their death for Judaism and the Torah along the lines of the Patriarch Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19) willfully offering himself to die:

“[A]nd another reminded them, ‘Remember whence you came, and the father by whose hand Isaac would have submitted to being slain for the sake of religion’” (4 Maccabees 13:12, RSV).

“For his sake also our father Abraham was zealous to sacrifice his son Isaac, the ancestor of our nation; and when Isaac saw his father’s hand wielding a sword and descending upon him, he did not cower” (4 Maccabees 16:20, RSV).

It is safe to recognize that the death of Yeshua of Nazareth was viewed by His First Century Jewish followers, at least partially along the lines of ancient Jewish martyrs dying for a righteous cause (cf. Romans 5:7-8).

In the Mishnah and Talmud, compiled after the destruction of the Second Temple, discussions about death of human beings, providing some sort of atonement or restitution for Israel, is surely witnessed. The Mishnah includes the thought that the death of Achan for his sin provided a sufficient personal atonement for him to be permitted a place in the world to come:

“For so we find concerning Achan, to whom Joshua said My son, I pray you, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and confess to him, [and tell me now what you have done: hide it not from me.] And Achan answered Joshua and said, Truly have I sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel, and thus and thus I have done (Josh. 7:19). And how do we know that his confession achieved atonement for him. For it is said, And Joshua said, Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day (Josh. 7:25)—This day the Lord will trouble you, but you will not be troubled in the world to come” (m.Sanhedrin 6:2).[22]

Both the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds speak of how the death of figures in Ancient Israel, such as Miriam or Aaron, could provide for a degree of atonement for the community:

“Said R. Ammi, ‘How come the story of the death of Miriam is situated adjacent to the passage that deals with the burning of the red cow? It is to teach you that just as the ashes of the red cow effect atonement, so the death of the righteous effects atonement.’ Said R. Eleazar, ‘How come the story of the death of Aaron is situated adjacent to the passage on the priestly garments [Num. 20:26, 28]? It is to teach you that just as the priest’s garments serve to effect atonement, so the death of the righteous effects atonement’” (b.Moed Qatan 28a).[23]

“Said R. Hiyya bar Ba, ‘The sons of Aaron died on the first day of Nisan. And why is their death called to mind in connection with the Day of Atonement? It is to indicate to you that just as the Day of Atonement effects expiation for Israel, so the death of the righteous effects atonement for Israel.’ Said R. Ba bar Binah, ‘Why did the Scripture place the story of the death of Miriam side by side with the story of the burning of the red cow? It is to teach you that just as the dirt of the red cow [mixed with water] effects atonement for Israel, so the death of the righteous effects atonement for Israel’” (y.Yoma 2:1).[24]

The death of Yeshua of Nazareth is nowhere in the Apostolic Writings modeled after any sort of pagan human sacrifice, but instead would be better understood from the framework of righteous and godly persons in Israel, having died to affect some sort of atonement for the people. It is witnessed that there are discussions in Jewish literature how the death of various human beings, provided for some degree of spiritual restitution.

A lesser option, frequently witnessed among religious Jews dismissing the Messiahship of Yeshua, is the thought that the Tanach is silent on the idea of a suffering Messiah. Perhaps Yeshua of Nazareth was not executed per the dimensions of pagan human sacrifice, but Yeshua is concluded to have been a failure of a Messiah having died at the hands of Rome rather than being triumphant against Rome. So, did Judaism at all anticipate the Messiah to suffer and/or die?

From the Tanach Scriptures, those who believe that a suffering Messiah was to be anticipated, would appeal to how the shedding of blood is required for atonement of sin (Leviticus 11:17; 16:15-17), connecting it to how the Servant will be crushed by the Lord (Isaiah 51:10-11). Unlike how the death or martyrdom of other figures in Israel’s history would provide a degree of atonement or restitution for the community, the death of Yeshua is believed to be the single sacrifice that provides atonement for all human transgression (Hebrews 2:16-18; 9:11-15, 22, 28; 10:1-4, 10-14). While it is common to hear religious Jews today conclude that the Messiah will be a victorious figure defeating Israel’s enemies, ancient Jewish discussions of the Messiah do include the death of the Messiah as some component of his arrival. 4 Ezra 7:28-29 in the Apocrypha reflects the view that the Messiah will reign four hundred years, and then die:

“For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him, and those who remain shall rejoice four hundred years. And after these years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath” (4 Ezra 7:28-29, RSV).

More compelling to be certain, and working from the framework of the Messiah Son of Joseph being a servant, is the opinion that this Messiah would be a victorious warrior who would be killed. This Talmudic discussion invokes Zechariah 12:10 (cf. John 19:37) no less:

“[With regard to ‘And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart’ (Zec. 12:12),] What was the reason for the mourning [to which reference is made in Zechariah’s statement]? R. Dosa and rabbis differed on this matter. One said, ‘It is on account of the Messiah, the son of Joseph, who was killed.’ And the other said, ‘It is on account of the evil inclination, which was killed.’ Now in the view of him who said, ‘It is on account of the Messiah, the son of Joseph, who was killed,’ we can make sense of the following verse of Scripture: And they shall look on me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for his only son’ (Zec. 12:10)” (b.Sukkah 52a).[25]

Orthodox Judaism today understandably anticipates the Messiah to come and rebuild the Jerusalem Temple, but how much of this is an actual feature of the Prophets? The Prophets explicitly anticipate the Messianic Age to be preceded by and/or involve: the regathering of the exiles (Isaiah 11:10-11), an abolition of war (Isaiah 2:1-4; 11:1-9), the nations of Planet Earth coming to Zion and participating in Israel’s restoration (Isaiah 19:16-25; 42:1-7; 49:5-7), and the restoration of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 33:10-11). Each of these themes, to various degrees, are addressed in the writings of Yeshua’s Apostles.

Yeshua of Nazareth actually arrived on the scene during the standing and operation of the Second Temple, and the Prophets of Israel actually spoke during the standing of either the First or Second Temples. It is to be recognized how Ezekiel chs. 44-46 speaks of a future prince coming to the Temple, which is often viewed with Messianic overtones. Zechariah 6:12-13 does speak of the Branch building the Temple, and occupying both a priestly and kingly role. Yet nothing is specifically communicated about how the Temple is reconstructed, whether it is reconstructed before or subsequent to the Messiah’s arrival. As is typical in prophecy, much is left open. Some interpreters[26] direct the Messianic significance of the Temple, in more of a spiritual direction as representative of a cleansed, corporate people of God.[27] Malachi 1:11, among other passages, might be offered to represent a Temple-style of adoration for Israel’s God inaugurated by the activity of the Messiah: “For from where the sun rises to where it sets, My name is honored among the nations, and everywhere incense and pure oblation are offered to My name; for My name is honored among the nations – said the Lord of Hosts” (NJPS). That the Temple features in association with the activity of the Messiah is clear enough, but whether the Messiah must rebuild the Temple is open to discussion.

Much more serious than the factors involving the Temple, is the expectation that the arrival of the Messiah would inaugurate an era of worldwide peace and tranquility. Kaplan is forthright in his conclusion,

“The first task of the Messiah is to redeem Israel from exile and servitude. In doing so he will also redeem the entire world from evil. Oppression, suffering, war and all forms of godlessness will be abolished. Mankind will thus be perfected, and man’s sins against G-d, as well as his transgression against fellow man, will be eliminated. All forms of warfare and strife between nations will also vanish in the Messianic age.”[28]

Much of what he has just communicated is represented in the traditional Amidah prayer:

“We therefore hope in thee, O Lord our God, that we may speedily behold the glory of thy might, when thou wilt remove the abominations from the earth, and heathendom will be utterly destroyed, when the world will be perfected under the kingdom of the Almighty, and all the children of flesh will call upon thy Name, when thou wilt turn unto thyself all the evil-doers upon earth. Let all the inhabitants of the world perceive and know that unto thee every knee must bow, every tongue must swear allegiance. Before thee, O Lord our God, let them bow and worship; and unto thy glorious Name let them give honour; let them all accept the yoke of thy kingdom, and do thou reign over them speedily, and for ever and ever. For the kingdom is thine, and to all eternity thou wilt reign in glory; as it is written in thy Torah, THE LORD SHALL REIGN FOR EVER AND EVER [Exodus 15:18]. And it is said, AND THE LORD SHALL BE KING OVER ALL THE EARTH: IN THAT DAY SHALL THE LORD BE ONE, AND HIS NAME ONE [Zechariah 14:9].”[29]

The most avid Believers in Yeshua of Nazareth, as the anticipated Messiah, have to objectively recognize that His arrival in the First Century did not bring a cessation of war and conflict on Planet Earth. Is the lack of peace on Earth today decisive evidence against Yeshua of Nazareth being the Messiah? A huge stress of the Apostolic Writings, employing the Tanach’s Messianic expectations and various thoughts in Second Temple Judaism, is that the Messiah functions in a dual role of suffering, as well as establishing His Kingdom. Isaiah 49:7, for example, depicts a despised servant, who will yet be universally recognized as supreme: “Thus said HASHEM, the Redeemer of Israel and their Holy One, to the despised soul, to the one loathed by nations, to the servant of rulers: Kings will see [you] and arise; officers will prostrate themselves, because HASHEM, Who is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, Who has chosen you” (ATS).

That the initiation of the Messianic Age of total peace and tranquility may be a transitionary process, is something which has to be considered. A mainstay of Second Temple Jewish thought is that “the Most High has made not one world but two” (4 Ezra 7:50, RSV), the two ages. Concurrent with this, Paul communicates in Galatians 1:4 that the work of Yeshua was “to rescue us from this present evil age” (TLV). Within Apostolic thought, the resurrection of Yeshua of Nazareth from the dead (Romans 1:4) was believed to introduce the powers and realities of the future age to come, into the present evil age. While Planet Earth may find itself in the present evil age of war and injustice, Yeshua’s supernatural work enables His followers to be regarded as people of the future age to come, individually participating in its realities of peace and righteousness now, with it to be fully culminated in the future—most notably the general resurrection of the dead (Daniel 12:1-2). Yeshua’s followers today are to experience the shalom and tranquility that is to one day be universally manifested. Yeshua’s followers, for example, experience in their individual selves (Hebrews 8:8-12; 10:16-17) the New Covenant realities that corporate Israel will fully experience in the future (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27).

Jewish anti-missionaries, who oppose the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth, will commonly conclude that the early Christians invented the idea of a “Second Coming,” where Messianic expectations not accomplished by Yeshua in the First Century C.E. are pawned off on some future event—mainly the goals of total cessation of war and world peace. As Norman Asher puts it, “Missionaries respond with their ‘second coming’ theory, which asserts that Jesus will accomplish everything when he comes ‘next time,’”[30] and it is often concluded among Jewish examiners today that the idea of the “Second Coming” is absent from the Tanach. Yet, much of this involves one’s presuppositions, and ultimately comes down to interpretation. The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology entry for the Second Coming notes a few factors:

“The second coming is a topic of progressive revelation. While there are allusions in the OT to the second coming, they are not clear and explicit, and consequently the Jewish rabbis found the messianic references apparently contradictory. On the one hand, they seemed to depict the coming of the Messiah as triumphant and powerful. On the other hand, this Messiah appeared as the suffering servant (Isa. 53, etc.). What were actually two comings had been collapsed into one…”[31]

Protestant theologians will often just conclude that the Second Coming was not something fully revealed in the Tanach, and could only be known via the principle of “In many and various ways long ago, God spoke to our ancestors by the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1, PME). What is not convenient for Jewish anti-missionaries to ignore, is how the concept of the Second Coming of Yeshua of Nazareth—to defeat His enemies, restore Israel’s Kingdom, and oversee a Messianic Age of cessation of war and peace on Earth—was indeed birthed out of Second Temple Jewish apocalyptism. The figure of the Messiah was to be a major catalyst of change, for both Israel and the nations. But was this change supposed to be primarily political, or was this change supposed to be instead spiritual and eschatological? Was this change supposed to mainly concern the restoration of Israel’s autonomy, or instead inaugurate the restoration of the Edenic world lost at the beginning of human history? The Dictionary of New Testament Background indicates how Second Temple Judaism included ideas of what it labels as both restorative and utopian Messianism:

“During the Second Temple period there were at least two main types of Jewish messianism, restorative and utopian messianism. Restorative messianism anticipated the restoration of the Davidic monarchy and centered on an expectation of the improvement and perfection of the present world through natural development (Pss. Sol. 17) and modeled on an idealized historical period; the memory of the past is projected into the future. Utopian messianism anticipated a future era which would surpass everything previously known. Jewish messianism tended to focus, not on the restoration of a dynasty, but on a single messianic king sent by God to restore the fortunes of Israel. However, as a theocratic symbol, the Messiah is dispensable, since a Messiah is not invariably part of all Jewish eschatological expectation. No such figure, for example, plays a role in the eschatological scenarios of Joel, Isaiah 24-27, Daniel, Sirach, Jubilees, the Testament of Moses, Tobit, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, 1 Enoch 1-36 (the Book of the Watchers), 90-104 (the Epistle of Enoch), 2 Enoch.”[32]

With ideas of the Messiah being a political ruler, or being the initiator of some idealized world lost millennia ago, it is hardly a surprise to see the teachings of Yeshua of Nazareth and the theology of His early followers, find a median place within such opinions and speculation. And within a spectrum of thought from the Messiah being one who would principally restore Israel’s autonomy, to being the initiator of an Edenic idealism, a theology of a return by a Second Coming would have emerged via the Jewish view of the two ages. The entry on “Apocalypticism” in Dictionary of New Testament Background further concludes,

“There is little consistency in Jewish apocalyptic regarding the arrival of the kingdom of God. It was conceptualized by some as the arrival of an eternal kingdom, but by others as a temporary messianic kingdom which would be succeeded by an eternal kingdom (see 1 Cor 15:24). The conception of a temporary messianic kingdom which would function as a transition between the present evil age and the age to come, between monarchy and theocracy, solved the problem of how the transition from the Messiah to the reign of God (where such a conception is present) might be conceived. In Jewish apocalyptic thought generally, the kingdom of God is more centrally important than the figure of a Messiah. A messianic interregnum, therefore, functions as an anticipation of the perfect and eternal theocratic state which will exist when primordial conditions are reinstated forever. This interim kingdom was expected to be transitional since it is depicted as combining some of the characteristics of this age with those of the age to come. In Christian apocalypticism this anticipation of a temporary messianic kingdom is clearly reflected in Revelation 20:4-6, and according to some scholars is also reflected in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. The expectation of a future temporary messianic kingdom is found in only three early Jewish apocalypses, the Apocalypse of Weeks, or 1 Enoch 91:12-17, 93:1-10 (written c. A.D. 90), and 2 Baruch 29:3-30:1; 40:1-4; 72:2-74:3 (written c. A.D. 110).”[33]

Planet Earth is presently not experiencing the time when “Nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war” (Micah 4:3, NJPS). This is something that restorative Messianism would have expected. The essential spiritual reality represented by this word, however, is something which followers of Yeshua believe is accessible today, in the hearts of His own—not too unlike utopian Messianism. Yet, being people of the future age to come in the present evil age, such a reality that is present in the lives of Yeshua’s followers, will be a global reality at some point in the future. The idea of a Second Coming is something that can be said to be a product of Second Temple Jewish apocalypticism.

While there are many details to be explored within the context of passages from the Tanach, it is fair enough to say that Yeshua being regarded as the Messiah by many First Century Jews, was something that took place in conjunction with a number of the extant theological opinions and discussions.

How have Protestants approached the concept of the Messiah?

While there have certainly been various studies witnessed within evangelical Protestantism, intending to probe and consider the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth—there are actually more studies witnessed on the “person of Christ” involving the nature of the Messiah, and His relationship as Son to the Father, than anything else. For many of today’s evangelical people, the belief that Jesus is the Messiah, is something that has been just handed to them. Even in various theological works, while there tends to be a correct emphasis on the centrality of Yeshua to the Biblical narrative and to God’s dealings in history—too many take for granted their belief that Yeshua is indeed the anticipated Redeemer. As a matter of practical Bible study, it is far more important for contemporary Believers to have a better handle on whether Yeshua is the prophesied Messiah of Israel, than on speculating on some of the finer nuances or minutiae of the Being of God.

Conservative Protestant examiners see significant places in the Tanach or Old Testament, where a Messiah is to be expected, or at the very least foreshadowed. Imperative is the idea that the overarching narrative of the Tanach, is the arrival of the Messiah on the scene of history, to resolve all of the problems that ensued from fallen humanity and the loss of Israel’s Kingdom. There can be debates among those who would label themselves as conservative evangelicals, as some might be seen to follow a “prophecy prediction” model or a “promise expectation” model of interpretation.[34] While some evangelicals are unsure about when ideas of Messianism began to truly develop in the scope of Ancient Israel, and later Second Temple Judaism—some of the discussions over Messianic expectation involve whether or not the original recipients of Divine words or oracles understood them to actually be Messianic. When various Prophets issued Divine statements, did they fully know what they were saying? Liberal Protestant examiners tend to be far less convinced that the Tanach or Old Testament anticipates a Messiah, and often regard ideas of a Messiah figure to be rather late to Judaism, and perhaps even forced from various Tanach passages.

Academic Protestant examination of Messianic concepts will frequently trace a Biblical history from the Pentateuch to the Historical Books to the Prophets, usually by probing different periods of time in which external or internal events to Israel and the Jewish people, affected spiritual concepts and religious constructs. What period(s) of time focused the attention of people, to need a specific, anointed figure, who would return Israel to what had been lost? To what extent did national salvation and individual resurrection in a world to come play in the development of Messianism? While many Protestant laypersons tend to only consider the Messiah in spiritual terms as a figure to redeem them from sins, Protestant scholars very much recognize how Messianic ideas are rooted within the political dilemmas of Ancient Israel and Second Temple Judaism.

Conservative Protestant examiners will be seen to stress an ongoing, progressive revelation of God beginning with Genesis, but continuing through the history and Prophets of Ancient Israel. The specific historical period of the Eighth-Seventh Centuries B.C.E., subsequent to the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and witnessing the decline of the Southern Kingdom of Israel,[35] would have seen more specified concepts of a Messiah figure develop. Further on, while the Southern Kingdom exiles would return from Babylon to the Holy Land, their reestablishing themselves as a community was less-than-ideal.[36] Jerusalem had to be rebuilt, the Temple had to be rebuilt, and there were severe questions about not only Israel’s political autonomy, but about what was supposed to happen to the vacancy of the Davidic throne. Evangelical Protestant examiners, in weighing these factors, will see the concept of the Messiah in many more Tanach passages than liberal Protestants, who will often consider the development of Messianism to be more focused around the Second Century B.C.E. Maccabean crisis and its aftermath. Conservative Protestants, while acknowledging how ideas of Messianism were principally guided by the political disposition of Israel in history, will more fully affirm that the Messiah was anticipated to not only restore Israel’s Kingdom, but usher in a universal dominion in which the righteous will prevail.

Communicating With the Jewish People About the Yeshua of Nazareth

One of the most frequent occurrences between modern people who affirm belief in Yeshua of Nazareth as the Messiah, and many Jewish people who presently do not recognize Him—is just assuming things about Jewish people and the whole concept of Messianism. While it is absolutely true that for millennia of Jewish history, Yeshua of Nazareth, at best, has been viewed as some sort of an interesting teacher or philosopher—the frequent rejection of Yeshua of Nazareth has had far less to do with Messianic prophecy fulfillment, and more to do with Christian anti-Semitism and being persecuted by His purported followers. When engaging with Jewish people on the person and activities of Yeshua of Nazareth, most Jews are going to be less interested in whether or not He accomplished various Messianic expectations from the Tanach, and are going to be more preoccupied with how in centuries past, for sure, their ancestors were discriminated against by religious authorities claiming to speak for Him. And, while Orthodox Judaism is concerned, to some degree, with ideas of a Messiah to come—most Jewish people are liberal, secular, and at most have some kind of idealized Messianic condition in mind, where the worldwide Jewish community plays a significant role in enacting global peace.

If the Apostolic Writings (more commonly called the New Testament) are regarded as legitimate Second Temple Jewish literature, then they give reference to how there were various figures who arose, perhaps seeing themselves as “Messianic”—and certainly as Zealots—who tried to gain some following for an insurrection against Rome. Rabbi Gamaliel testified before the Sanhedrin,

“For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody; and a number of men, maybe four hundred, joined up with him. He was killed, and all who followed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this fellow, Judah the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and got people to follow him. He also perished, and all who followed him were scattered” (Acts 5:36-37, TLV).

That other Messianic-type figures would arise, subsequent to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., and even throughout the Jewish Diaspora, has been witnessed in history.[37] One of the more recent figures of interest has been the Lubavacher Rebbe, Menahem Schneersohn, who died in 1994, and continues to have a wide following of devotees. Today, it is witnessed that Orthodox Judaism widely anticipates the arrival of a personal Messiah who will gather in the exiles and restore the Levitical priesthood and Temple—whereas Conservative and Reform Judaism, in stark contrast, approach Messianic ideas from a philosophical vantage point connected to modern ideas of social justice and world peace. These latter perspectives are likely to also be involved with components of Zionism and support for the modern State of Israel. The New Encyclopedia of Judaism details some of these views:

“Modern Orthodox Jewish tradition essentially sees the messianic era as one in which Jews, finally gathered together in their ancestral homeland in the dramatic process of the Ingathering of the Exiles, will be able to fulfill all their religious obligations, particularly those connected with the Land of Israel. According to Orthodox thinkers, even the ritual sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem will be reintroduced.

“In contrast to the Orthodox outlook, classical 19th-century Reform Judaism rejected the concept of a personal Messiah and sought to transform the messianic idea into a notion of progress towards a state of intellectual and moral human perfection. In its 1885 Pittsburg Platform, Reform Judaism interpreted Jewish Messianism as a movement for universal progress and justice, as distinct from a movement aimed at the renewal of Jewish national life in Erets Israel or the restoration in the ancestral Jewish homeland of a community bound by religious observance and cultic sacrifices in the Temple of Jerusalem. This belief in progress and human perfectibility was shattered with the rise of Nazism, and the 1937 Columbus Platform defined its messianic goal as aiding the building of a Jewish homeland and cooperating with all men in the establishment of the Kingdom of God, universal brotherhood, justice, truth, and peace on earth.

“Conservative teachers in general have also translated the belief in the Messiah as a belief in a messianic period. Such a period will be characterized by a state of universal peace, social justice, and the solution of the problems of disease and all forms of evil. There will be nothing supernatural in this; the world will be redeemed by the efforts of all good people. In the vanguard of all those working for a messianic period, the Jew is to make his stand. In a socio-religious sense this is the eternal challenge of the Jew, viz., to bring nearer the age of the Messiah. Although this emphasis is found in most Conservative writings, in fact it is seen as an interpretation of the classical messianic texts in Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:1-6 as well as in the second paragraph of the Alénu prayer. This emphasis on the Jew’s responsibility to live and work for a messianic age is thought to add greater social relevance to modern Judaism.”[38]

Statistically speaking, it is far more likely for those within today’s Messianic movement to encounter religious Jewish people who have idealized or allegorized Tanach concepts of the Messiah, than those who believe in some sort of personal Messiah. The majority of today’s Messianic Jews, who were raised religious, were not reared in Orthodox Jewish environments, but instead either the Conservative or Reform Synagogue. While there are Conservative and Reform Jews who might look for some personal Messianic figure, they see the Tanach’s Messianic expectation more along the lines of the worldwide Jewish community spearheading efforts of social justice, global peace, and a secure Jewish homeland in the world.

While not considering Yeshua of Nazareth to be the Jewish Messiah, many Jews would consider Him to be some important figure in history, and have actually thought that without Christianity—even though with Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy having historically been responsible for atrocities against the Jewish people—the world might actually be a worse off place. Jewish academics, more often than not, certainly recognize that the early followers of Yeshua of Nazareth were Jewish, they were not unfaithful to their Jewish heritage, and that what became known as “Christianity” was originally a Jewish sect (cf. Acts 24:14). Jewish academics will acknowledge that Yeshua of Nazareth was certainly a good teacher, likely a rabbi, and perhaps even a prophet of sorts.[39] Jewish academics and many open-minded Jews may even concede, that in spite of various differences, that ultimately Jews and Christians worship the same God. But, even though Jewish academics may be more open-minded to the teachings of Yeshua of Nazareth, it still tends to be concluded that for Jewish people to acknowledge Yeshua of Nazareth as Israel’s Messiah, will likely lead to an abandonment of one’s Jewish heritage via assimilation into Christianity.

Unlike a half-century ago, when collective Jewish knowledge of the New Testament and the teachings of Yeshua was at a minimum—there are Jewish Rabbis today who are curious about examining the figure and actions of Yeshua of Nazareth. More and more Jewish people are also curious about Yeshua, at least as an interesting teacher. In his 2005 book Why the Jews Rejected Jesus, far from wanting to be unnecessarily antagonistic toward his Christian neighbors, author David Klinghoffer recognizes that without the United States of America, largely founded by pious Christians, he would not have religious freedom as a Jew. He states, “I enjoy the gift of being an American, in a time when it is reasonable to hope that Jews and Christians have developed the maturity to honestly explore the main issue that separates us. Never and nowhere before has the affection of Christians for Jews been more in evidence. Only in America!”[40] In his own 2007 anti-missionary work Twenty-Six Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe in Jesus, Asher Norman likewise tries to be respectful to American Christianity:

“…I admire American Christians and their clergymen for the significant contribution they have made to the morality and character of America. Christians also deserve acknowledgment for their contribution to the general atmosphere of tolerance that exists for Jews and other non-Christians in America. I also thank the many American Christians, especially evangelical Christians, who have supported the State of Israel through difficult times.”[41]

While we should rightfully consider the discussions and debates over the Messiahship of Yeshua to be a salvation issue—the discussions and debates can be respectful, focused on issues of theology, and they can properly recognize the cooperation and mutual respect of Jews and Protestants in recent history. Many in today’s Jewish community recognize that today’s Western Protestants are not the ignorant and illiterate people, who a millennia ago, were manipulated by religious and political authorities to persecute their ancestors. Many Jewish academics and clergy can recognize that the discussion over the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth can stay civil, and that American Protestants do not need to be held directly responsible for anti-Semitic acts that took place on another continent, such as the pogroms of the Russian Empire, centuries ago.

The emergence of the modern Messianic Jewish movement, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, has indeed changed a number of the dynamics. While Jewish and Protestant academics might be content to discuss their differences as a matter of study or philosophy, and perhaps even mutually admire the other in spite of various differences—both tend to be content to leave the other alone in terms of matters of spirituality. Academic discussion over Yeshua of Nazareth involves why one group affirms His Messiahship, and another group denies His Messiahship, without necessarily trying to change the other. When Messianic Jews come on the scene, those who decisively believe that Yeshua of Nazareth is the Messiah of Israel, that believing in Him hardly means an abandonment of one’s Jewish heritage—and even that believing in Yeshua as the Messiah is one of the most Jewish things anyone could do—things get increasingly complicated. Although there are some exceptions, most academic discussion on the figure of Yeshua of Nazareth has (purposefully) seen the activities and ministry of the modern Messianic Jewish movement minimized.

While there have been many useful resources produced by evangelical Protestants, defending the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth—given the fact that they have a Christian audience in mind, they not only tend to overlook various legitimate Jewish issues pertaining to the Messiah, but they also use an inappropriate quantity of Christian terminology and jargon. A significant area of difference, between today’s Messianic movement and contemporary evangelicalism, would be in the approach that Yeshua and His early followers took toward the continued validity of the Torah of Moses. To religious Jews, a Messiah that abolished the Torah of Moses, is no Messiah. More significantly sometimes, to secular but yet attempting-to-be open-minded Jews, if alternatives to customary Christian terminology are not employed, then the discussion will quickly become irrelevant. Even liberal atheistic Jews still tend to have a strong cultural Jewish identity, so talking about “Jesus Christ who was crucified on the cross so you can convert and become a Christian” is one-hundred percent guaranteed to fail! The Messianic Jewish community has done an admirable job in emphasizing how alternative terms need to be employed in Jewish outreach. I myself have previously written about this in my 2018/2020 workbook The Messianic Walk, mainly intended for congregational acclimation:

The Terms We Use, and Communicating Well to Jewish People

All of us at some point in our lives have been told that words mean things. How we communicate in an ever-changing and interconnected world, is vitally important. A term or phrase can mean something positive to one group of people, and can be taken as a striking insult by another group of people. In ministry today, if a speaker tells an audience “God is raising up men in this hour to serve Him,” half of your audience has been immediately lost. If a speaker tells an audience, “God is raising up men and women” or “God is raising up people,” then the real message about how this is taking place can then be communicated to everyone present.

Have you ever wondered what Paul meant by saying, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews” (1 Corinthians 9:20, NASU)? Frequently, 1 Corinthians 9:19-21 has been interpreted from the perspective that in declaring the good news, Paul would frequently change his behavior and actions, in order to do what was necessary in order to have a hearing. Was Paul a chameleon, flip-flopping around different First Century audiences in the Mediterranean? Not only this, but did Paul really not think his Jewishness was that important? While it is absolutely true that one’s identity in Yeshua the Messiah and His work on the tree overrides all human achievements (Philippians 3:4-10), Paul did see value in Judaism and in his Jewish heritage (Romans 3:1-2).

So what did Paul mean when he said “To the Jews I became as a Jew”? The categories of 1 Corinthians 9:19-21 are hardly exhaustive, as there were many more groups of people Paul and company encountered in the diverse Roman Empire. It can be validly concluded that “I became as,” means that Paul rhetorically identified with an audience he was tasked with declaring the good news to. How do you best communicate the gospel to a particular group of people? In the First Century C.E., identifying with the Jewish people involved far more than just understanding the story of Ancient Israel in the Torah and Tanach; it involved understanding the difficulties of the return of the Jewish people from Babylon exile, the fallout of the Maccabean crisis of the Second Century B.C.E., Judea as a province of the Roman Empire, and the struggles of a massive Diaspora Jewish community in the Roman Empire that faced discrimination and threats from polytheism.

In the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, we should be able to easily deduce that “To the Jews I became as a Jew” would mean more than having a good understanding of Ancient Israel from the Tanach and Second Temple Judaism; it is something that involves complicated histories and diverse Jewish communities. What happened after the fall of the Second Temple? How has Roman Catholicism historically treated the Jewish people? How has Protestantism historically approached the Jewish theological tradition? What were some of the terrors perpetuated upon Jews during the Middle Ages? What were the pogroms of the Russian Empire? How and why did the Holocaust happen? What are present Christian attitudes to the existence of the State of Israel? These questions, and many more, are involved in what it means to place oneself in the position of a modern Jewish person, who needs the good news of Israel’s Messiah.

Ever since the early beginnings of the modern Messianic Jewish movement, in late 1960s and early 1970s, there have been various lists composed of words common to today’s evangelical Protestantism—which while meaning many positive things to most of today’s non-Jewish Believers, can be quite offensive to Jewish people you are trying to develop a relationship with. Biblical Hebrew has approximately 3,500 words; Biblical Greek has approximately 5,500 words; modern English has approximately 150,000 words. There are legitimate alternatives that can be employed by today’s Messianic people, instead of the more standard words or terms employed in “Christianese.” While it is a process, particularly for non-Jewish Believers called by God into the Messianic movement, there are a number of terms which you need to be aware of, that do not facilitate Jewish evangelism too well. If you are ever called to speak in front of a Messianic congregation to give a testimony or issue a prayer, the following are some terms you need to really not be using:

Jesus is not the original name of the Messiah of Israel, but is instead an English transliteration of the Greek Iēsous, itself a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew Yeshua, meaning “He is salvation” (Matthew 1:21). The name “Jesus” is hardly pagan, and there were many Jews in the Diaspora who actually bore the name Iēsous (Colossians 4:11). While it was perfectly acceptable in the First Century C.E. for Jewish Believers in Yeshua to call the Messiah Iēsous in a Greek-speaking context, with Iēsous as the Septuagint title of the Book of Joshua—calling the Messiah Jesus in Jewish settings in the Twenty-First Century is quite complicated. Throughout history, persecution has been inflicted upon the Jewish people using the name Jesus (or its derivative forms). When many of today’s Jews hear the name Jesus, they hardly think of a First Century Jewish Messiah, but instead as a figure who has been frequently responsible for enacting great tragedies upon the Jews. Today’s Messianic Jewish movement uses the name Yeshua (also frequently spelled Y’shua) for the Messiah.

Christ is a title derived from the Greek Christos meaning “Anointed One,” the equivalent of the Hebrew Mashiach or Messiah. While Christos does appear in the Greek Apostolic Writings, its post-First Century usage as a title has been more widely employed than Jesus, in fact, in the discrimination and persecution of Jewish people by religious authorities. Today’s Messianic Jewish movement uses the title Messiah.

Christian, derived from Christianos was originally a term of ridicule, or a slur, issued against the Believers in Antioch (Acts 11:26; see NRSV which has “Christians” in quotation marks). Today there are so many denominations, sects, sub-sects, and groups which use and employ the terminology “Christian,” that it is inappropriate to assume that the title “Christian” automatically means that one is a born again Believer. There are actually some today who have stopped using the terminology “Christian,” and instead will call themselves a “Christ follower” or “disciple of Christ.” Today’s Messianic people should similarly see no problem when calling themselves a Messiah follower or disciple of Messiah. When using terminology such as “Christian” or “Christianity,” it should be in reference to religious systems and institutions; Messiah faith or Biblical faith should not be referred to as Christianity. It is also most appropriate, given how many Jews associate the term “Christian” with Roman Catholicism and its non-Biblical to pagan traditions, to today not readily employ the terminology “Judeo-Christian,” but instead “Judeo-Protestant.”

The cross (and similarly the verb crucify) was the means by which Yeshua the Messiah was sacrificed for the sins of humanity by the Romans. But the cross has also been used as a symbol and banner of significant persecution by religious authorities, toward the Jewish people, for centuries. A frequent alternative employed for the term cross in today’s Messianic movement is execution-stake, as seen in David H. Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible. Messianic people will also frequently speak in terms of Yeshua being “nailed to the tree” (cf. Acts 5:30). A new alternative that can employed for cross would be wooden scaffold, as the very purpose of this form of ancient execution was to openly display the condemned, humiliating one before the public.

A church in the minds of many Jewish people, and for that matter many contemporary evangelicals, is a building with a steeple and stained glass windows. For others, the term church is not associated with the people of God, but instead religious institutions (or even principalities). The Greek term ekklēsia  frequently translated the Hebrew qahal throughout the Septuagint, qahal itself often referring to the community of Ancient Israel (i.e., Deuteronomy 31:30). Many theologians today have recognized some of the complications of speaking of the people of God in terms of it being the “church,” and so there are specialty English versions today which more properly translate ekklēsia as assembly, such as Young’s Literal Translation or The Interlinear Bible by Jay P. Green. Today’s Messianic movement very much dislikes it when its local faith community is referred to as a “church,” and so one’s local body should instead be called a congregation, assembly, or fellowship. (Many will employ the Yiddish shul, meaning school.)

Throughout a diverse array of Protestant traditions, to be sure, baptism for the people of God, has been approached from any number of different vantage points. The English verb baptize is derived from the Greek verb baptizō, but the term baptism, even from just an evangelical Protestant perspective, has a great deal of socio-religious baggage associated with it. Very early on, today’s Messianic Jewish movement began employing more theologically neutral terminology such as water immersion or immerse (as would be seen in Bibles such as the Complete Jewish Bible or Tree of Life Version). Many Jewish people, when hearing the terminology “baptize,” do not think of ritual immersions in water taking place, with their origins found in the purification rituals of the Tanach. When many Jewish people may hear the terminology “baptize,” they think of forced baptisms of Jewish people by Roman Catholic authorities throughout history, with the intention of them abandoning their Jewish heritage and traditions.

Many people do not see a problem with using the terms convert or conversion, describing the turning of people to Messiah faith. To many Jewish people who need to hear the good news, however, describing it in terms of “conversion” would mean that they would have to abandon their Jewish heritage and the great virtues of Jewish religion, to embrace another faith. The Messianic Scriptures are clear that the First Century Jewish Believers did not abandon Judaism. While one may be tempted to use convert as a neutral term—certainly as it is in many non-religious contexts—it is much better to employ terminology such as turn or turning, as in “the turning of the nations” (Acts 15:3, PME).

The proper name of God in the Tanach is composed of the Hebrew consonants yud, hey, vav, hey, often represented in English as either YHWH or YHVH. Today’s Bible scholars often think that it was originally pronounced as something close to either Yahweh or Yahveh. In most English Bibles, the Divine Name is rendered as “the LORD” in SMALL CAPITAL LETTERS, going back to the Second Temple convention of not speaking the Divine Name aloud. In the time of Yeshua, the Divine Name was only spoken aloud by the high priest on Yom Kippur (m.Yoma 6:2). Yeshua and the Apostles observed the standing Jewish practice of their day, by frequently using Hebrew titles such as Adonai or Elohim for the Supreme Being, their Greek equivalents being Kurios and Theos—the equivalents of our English titles Lord and God. Many Orthodox Jews today use the title HaShem, meaning “the Name,” to refer to God. Unfortunately, the Sacred Name Only movement has infiltrated the Messianic movement via its literature and Bible versions, as it insists that one must affluently speak the Divine Name YHWH/YHVH in order to be truly saved. Speaking the Divine Name, at a main function of one’s Messianic Jewish congregation, is going to create great challenges in presenting Jewish people with the good news—as they will most probably be offended and feel insulted, given the great sanctity with which Judaism has approached it. When in doubt, speaking of God as “God,” is entirely appropriate.

Many non-Jewish Believers, including those whom God has called into the Messianic movement, are quite eager to share the message of Yeshua of Nazareth with their Jewish friends and neighbors—and they want to just dive right into Messianic prophecy and the like. Too frequently, however, they will be quickly caught using traditional Christian jargon—which at the very least is irrelevant, but more probably offensive—with Jewish people. While in academic discussion, and in considering the quotations of various Protestant and Jewish scholars, we are likely to find terms such as “Christ,” “cross,” or “convert” used, Messianic people should not be too eager to see them employed in matters of Jewish outreach where the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth is the focus of discussion. Indeed, many more Jewish people would be open to the good news of Yeshua, if He were presented in terms of Him being “sacrificed on the tree” than “crucified on the cross.”

The Messianic Expectation from the Tanach

When considering the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth, many people automatically assume that there are simply lists and collections of predictive prophecies in the Tanach (Old Testament) which were then fulfilled in His life and activities. It is to be properly recognized how there are various predictive prophecies in the Tanach, which are afforded fulfillment in the Apostolic Writings. Yet it is also clear that there are some passages in the Tanach, specifically ascribed to Yeshua of Nazareth, where a singular figure was not the original subject. And, there are also various Tanach passages applied to Yeshua, which raise some questions about authorial intent, among other things. While many laypersons do find themselves caught off guard by Tanach ascriptions to Yeshua of Nazareth, theologians and commentators have certainly proposed various solutions to the challenges and difficulties presented. In his 1995 resource The Messiah in the Old Testament, Walter C. Kaiser offers three significant categories for readers approaching Tanach prophecy:

  1. Direct prophecies are those in which the OT author looked directly at the messianic age, and his readers understood it as a prophecy about the Messiah.”[42] Referenced as direct prophecies of the coming Messiah are Micah 5:2(1): “And you, O Bethlehem of Ephrath, last among the clans of Judah, from you one shall come forth to rule Israel for Me – one whose origin is from of old, from ancient times” (NJPS; cf. Matthew 2:6). Malachi 3:1: “Behold, I am sending My messenger to clear the way before Me…” (NJPS; cf. Mark 1:2; Matthew 11:10; Luke 7:27). Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, fair Zion; raise a shout, fair Jerusalem! Lo, your king is coming to you. He is victorious, triumphant, yet humble, riding on an ass, on a donkey foaled by a she-ass” (NJPS; cf. Matthew 21:5; John 12:15).
  2. Typical prophecies are different from direct prophecies in that their immediately referent in their own day was separated from that to which their ultimate referent pointed, though they were joined as one single meaning in that they shared at least one thing in common, which was at the heart of the prediction. In this category we have persons, institutions, or events that were divinely designated in the OT text to be models, previews, or pictures of something that was to come in the days of Messiah.”[43] The Torah direction regarding the construction of the Tabernacle is noted: “And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them. Exactly as I show you – the pattern of the Tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings – so shall you make it…Note well, and follow the patterns for them that are being shown you on the mountain” (Exodus 25:8-9, 40, NJPS). Since there was a Heavenly original for the Earthly implements, in dealing with various Messianic prophecies, so was there some kind of precedent in the Biblical record which found its ultimate fulfillment in the activities of Yeshua of Nazareth.
  3. “The third type of prophecies quoted in the NT are applications. Here the language of the OT text is used or appropriated, but no specific prediction was intended by the OT or claimed by the NT writer.”[44] Matthew 2:23 is offered as an example of this: “and came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene’” (PME). Noted is the word of Isaiah 11:1 and the Hebrew netzer for “branch” (RSV/NRSV/ESV, NASU, NIV) or “twig” (NJPS): “A staff will emerge from the stump of Jesse and a shoot [netzer] will sprout from his roots” (ATS). Literary devices of some sort have been employed to posit Messianic fulfillment in the life of Yeshua.

Most of today’s evangelical theologians and pastors—and by extension a wide number of Messianic congregational leaders and teachers—have been trained to read and interpret the Scriptures using the common historical-grammatical approach. Such a method follows the major premise of reading a Bible passage for what it meant to its original audience first, before deducing modern principles. Our ultimate appeal cannot be to English translations, but instead to the Hebrew and Greek source text. Investigation and consideration for some historical or cultural background, perhaps from some bodies of extra-Biblical literature or material, may be conducted. For many Tanach passages that are Messianic in nature, employing common historical-grammatical approaches, is entirely sufficient. However, it is clear enough that the fulfillment of various Tanach expectations can require some multi-dimensional thinking, particularly in terms if whether a previous figure or event in Ancient Israel represented something which would be witnessed later in the activities of Yeshua of Nazareth. This is where trying to not only enter into the reasoning processes of various Biblical authors is necessary, but also some consultation with Second Temple Jewish hermeneutics.

In a great deal of the anti-missionary materials that one will encounter, it will be frequently witnessed that the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth is dismissed almost entirely on the basis of Him not accomplishing direct prophecies. Almost all appeals to the Tanach of Him embodying in His actions, things once witnessed in the lives of important figures such as Moses or David, or the corporate experience of the people of Israel, do not tend to be too widely considered. Still, it is to be appreciated that an author like Klinghoffer has to admit, “it might be objected that while the Gospels’ interpretations of these verses may be highly imaginative—or, to put it another way, highly strained—rabbinic exegesis is no less so…[W]hy would first-century believers in rabbinic Judaism reject Matthew’s or John’s understanding of the prophecies in question, subjecting them to a higher level of scrutiny than was applied to the teachings of the rabbis?”[45] Klinghoffer hardly agrees with the conclusions of the Apostolic Writings, but he at least acknowledges that some of its methodology is not at all irregular to Second Temple Judaism and the time thereafter.

There are unrealistic ways that some people in today’s Messianic movement have resorted to defending the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth, in probing difficult passages and concepts. The employment of so-called Hebrew letter pictures, for example, is one extremely irresponsible way to try to determine any theological idea.[46] Many are seen to try to find hidden messages via gematria,[47] when a wider consideration of Biblical events in Ancient Israel and Second Temple Judaism, and the issues both faced, is probably what is necessary. Yet, more frequently than not, today’s Messianic congregational leaders and teachers are adequately and appropriately equipped to deal with a selection of arguments issued against the Messiahship of Yeshua. They tend to be prepared enough to handle the main claims of anti-missionaries, although given not only the theological, but more imperatively the spiritual dynamics, one is encountering, the Messianic expectation from the Tanach requires ongoing investigation. New reasons are being proposed against the Messiahship of Yeshua all the time, some of them involving His fulfillment of prophecy, but others of them involving the Apostolic Scriptures and their usage of the Tanach.

While predictive prophecies from the Tanach, and various other typologies, may tend to garner a sufficient amount of our attention in reviewing the Messiahship of Yeshua—having a wider view of the history and narratives of the Tanach is also most imperative. In his 1992 book, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament, Christopher J.H. Wright indicates the significance of “working back from actual events which happened in the…life of Jesus to certain Hebrew scriptures in which [one] now sees a deeper significance than they could have had before.”[48] Sometimes today’s Messianic community is not as adequately prepared as it thinks it is, in terms of understanding the Tanach Scriptures—as our studies tend to be focused more on the weekly Torah portions than anything else.[49] Wright properly responds to the common evangelical dilemma of only looking at the Tanach as a collection of prophecy predictions about the Messiah. He observes, “the Old Testament is much more than a promise box full of blessed predictions about Jesus. It is primarily a story—the story of the acts of God in human history out of which those promises arose and in relation to which only they make sense.”[50]

All of us, in our wanting to see the Messiahship of Yeshua properly defended, need to do more than love Him; we also need to be able to love the Scriptures which speak of Him and to His work, and inform us as to His worldview and values. For some who have either dismissed the possibility of Yeshua as Messiah, or worse, once expressed belief in Him—their denial may have taken place because Believers have not engaged sufficiently with the Tanach Scriptures on a whole panoply of issues directly and indirectly related to His Messiahship.

What has it meant for Jews to receive “Jesus” as the Messiah?

During the Middle Ages in Europe, Jewish people receiving Yeshua into their lives often meant being subjected to forced conversions to Christianity at the hands of Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox religious and political authorities. The local populations, largely ignorant and illiterate, were seen to go along with the discrimination and persecution of their Jewish neighbors—lest their local priest somehow fail to give them last rites and a place among the saints in Heaven. Jewish people today have reasons from past history, to be sure, to be suspicious of anyone wanting to get them to believe in “Jesus,” as the Christian presentation of the Messiah has historically been as a figure that has been responsible for persecuting the Jews. It should hardly be a surprise why, in many Messianic congregations, new potential members are required to have read Our Hands Are Stained With Blood (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image 1992) by Michael L. Brown, which summarizes much of the travesty of Christian anti-Semitism and persecution of the Jewish people.[51]

While hardly perfect, religious movements subsequent to the Protestant Reformation have been far more varied in their approaches to Israel and the Jewish people. There are certainly Protestant traditions which have adhered to replacement theology or supersessionism, the idea that the Christian Church is the New Israel, and that because of the corporate rejection of Israel’s Messiah by the Jews in the First Century, that God is finished with the Jewish people. In the Western world, this has historically manifested itself more in various forms of social and religious anti-Semitism, and generally less in acts of physical violence against the Jewish population. In a country like the United States, which cherishes its religious freedom, one finds Protestant denominations that promote replacement theology, but whose members certainly believe that Jewish people can practice their religion freely without fear of recrimination.

It is also true that there are other Protestant theological traditions which do not promote replacement theology,[52] and believe that God’s promises to Israel in the Tanach Scriptures remain valid and in force. While they might incorrectly compartmentalize the Bible between an “Old Testament” intended for Israel and a “New Testament” intended for the Church, dispensationalists do, at least, believe that the State of Israel was founded in accordance with Bible prophecy (Isaiah 66:8). They also believe that evangelical Christians should stand against anti-Semitism in the world, and that the Jewish people are to be viewed as friends, and not enemies.

Among many religious Jews today, and certainly among secular Jews, while discussions of historic Christian anti-Semitism are important—enough social and ecumenical progress has been made in the Western world, for well read and open minded Jewish people to recognize that modern evangelical Protestants are not responsible for the persecution of their ancestors centuries ago on another continent. While there are lessons from the past to doubtlessly be learned, because of the political and religious freedoms of America, in particular, Jewish and Protestant scholars are at liberty to discuss the theological and spiritual dimensions of Yeshua’s Messiahship, without being distracted by a great deal of unnecessary anti-Semitism. Rather than the focus being on potential censorship from political and religious authorities, as would definitely have been seen a millennia ago, Jews and Christians can legitimately sit down, open the text of Holy Scripture, and together discuss why some have concluded that Yeshua of Nazareth is the Messiah, and why others have concluded that He is not the Messiah.

In more recent history, with the emergence of the Hebrew Christian movement in the mid-to-late Nineteenth Century, Jewish acceptance of Yeshua as Messiah was the result of genuine Protestant love and concern for the salvation of Jewish people. Many Jewish people came to saving faith in Yeshua, as a result of the Hebrew Christian movement. But, as the name suggests, the Hebrew Christian movement was an association of Jewish Believers in Israel’s Messiah, largely participating within Protestant denominations. While Hebrew Christians, as they were called, continued to maintain some adherence to the Torah and Jewish traditions and customs, they were still a part of the Protestant establishment. While Hebrew Christians held their own conferences and had society meetings, the Hebrew Christian movement also saw a great number of Jewish Believers become assimilated into non-Jewish Protestantism. Not only was there a great deal of intermarriage in the Hebrew Christian movement of the early Twentieth Century, but their second generation descendants would often quickly downplay their Jewish heritage, with their third and forth generation descendants almost forgetting it entirely. While the persecution of the Middle Ages was largely gone, assimilation into Christianity with Jewish Believers forgetting their Jewish heritage, has been the cost, in recent history, of Jewish people recognizing “Jesus” as Messiah.

Throughout a great deal of historic Christianity, it has been believed that if a Jewish person receives Yeshua into his or her life, that this Jewish person ceases from being a Jew and becomes a Christian. While open minded Jewish people today tend to recognize that forced conversions to Christianity were the product of a Medieval Christian Church that was unenlightened, a common rejection of Yeshua of Nazareth by Jewish people remains: Jewish people are not going to abandon the Jewish heritage and traditions that they have fought for centuries to preserve. Even in the Western world, where religious freedom and diversity of opinion are valued, evangelical Protestantism on the whole believes that Jewish people who recognize Jesus as Messiah should give up their Jewish heritage and traditions, intermarry, and assimilate into the non-Jewish Christian Church and establishment. This has not gone unnoticed by contemporary Jewish Rabbis, and especially by anti-missionaries. The widespread Christian view that Jewish people who recognize Jesus as Messiah, requires them to give up key Torah practices such as the seventh-day Sabbath/Shabbat, the festivals of Israel, and the kosher dietary laws, among others, does tend to be forthrightly mentioned in anti-missionary writings.

While the continuance of the Sabbath is a debated issue in Christian theology, on the whole historic Christianity has advocated that the seventh-day Shabbat is a thing of past Biblical history (being either replaced with Sunday as the “Christian Sabbath,” or abolished altogether).[53] Torah faithful Jews will not accept a Messiah who completely abolished the Sabbath, especially as the institution of Shabbat has contributed vastly to maintain Jewish identity and cohesion throughout many centuries. In his 2012 anti-missionary book Judaism and Christianity: A Contrast, Stuart Federow describes, “We were promised by God that God would never break his covenant with us, that it is an eternal covenant as God is the eternal God, and as the Sabbath will eternally be observed by the Jews as the eternal sign of that eternal covenant (Exodus 31:12-17).”[54] He further stresses, “For every Biblical verse that Christian missionaries use to persuade Jews to abandon their ancestral faith, there is a valid, reasonable, rational Jewish interpretation that remains true to values and beliefs that are clear and consistent throughout the Bible.”[55]

During the Second Century B.C.E. Maccabean crisis, Antiochus Epiphanes made it illegal on threat of death, for Jews to observe the Sabbath, the appointed times, eat kosher, and circumcise their sons. Even today, when Jewish people recognize Yeshua as Israel’s Messiah, most non-Jewish Christians would absolutely expect them to abandon such practices as well—most especially as a matter of Jewish fidelity to Torah, but even as just a matter of Jewish culture. The Hebrew Christian movement of the past encouraged assimilation, and only reinforced such stereotypes. It is hardly a surprise why the transition in the 1960s and 1970s into the Messianic Jewish movement was necessary, as Jewish fidelity to Torah, Jewish tradition and culture, and continuance of Jewish identity were deemed vital in order to coherently represent Israel’s Messiah to the wider Jewish community. While a number of earlier Messianic Jewish materials, defending the Messiahship of Yeshua, may indicate a less-than-positive view of the continuance of God’s Torah for the post-resurrection era—today’s Messianic Jewish movement on the whole rightly emphasizes that belief in Yeshua and Jewish Believers maintaining fidelity to Moses’ Teaching are hardly incompatible. After all, James (Jacob) communicated to Paul in Acts 21:20, “You see, brother, how many myriads there are among the Jewish people who have believed—and they are all zealous for the Torah” (TLV).

Today’s Messianic Jewish movement does not see itself as promoting an abandonment of one’s Jewish heritage and fidelity to Moses’ Teaching, by Jewish people acknowledging Yeshua of Nazareth as Israel’s Messiah. In his 1983 book Yeshua the Messiah, Messianic Jewish pioneer David Chernoff properly describes,

“The Messianic Movement is in many ways a 20th-century counterpart to the great Messianic Movement among the Jewish people in the first century.

“There have always been Jewish people who have believed in Yeshua as the Messiah. Particularly since the early 1800’s, the numbers of such Jewish believers have increased dramatically.

“But it was only after 1967, when Jerusalem was back in Jewish hands, that the modern movement of Messianic Judaism really came into being.

“Along with the rebirth of Messianic Judaism, Messianic synagogues have sprung up throughout the United States. These Messianic congregations have proved to be the very heart and core of the movement.

“Today’s Messianic Jews believe in Yeshua yet continue to live as Jews.

“They celebrate Jewish holidays, raise their children in Messianic day schools, fervently support the state of Israel and even live in Messianic communities within the Jewish community.

“But most important, these Jewish people have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah and believe that they have found true, biblical Judaism.”[56]

In his anti-missionary work refuting the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth, Norman concludes that the Messianic Jewish movement is nothing more than a front for mainstream Christianity. He says, “So-called ‘messianic Jews’ are a particular problem because they often use highly deceptive practices. They falsely claim that it is possible to be both a Jew and a Christian. Leaders of so-called ‘messianic synagogues’ pretend to be rabbis but are usually ordained Christian ministers. They deceitfully wear and utilize Jewish symbols and mimic Jewish services while worshiping Jesus.”[57] While it can hardly be denied that many leaders in the Messianic Jewish movement have received religious studies training via Christian institutions, and do tend to have various partnerships with evangelical organizations and ministries, this is hardly universal. As an enterprise, and even with various umbrella associations, the Messianic Jewish movement, and most especially its congregations, are largely on their own. It is inappropriate to speak in such generalities, as ultimately each Messianic organization or assembly needs to be evaluated on its own merits.

Federow stresses that “one could look at the websites for any Messianic ‘synagogue’ and compare its statement of beliefs with those of…any…church,”[58] and has a high level of hostility to the Messianic Jewish movement. Very few would deny that, by virtue of its affirmation that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel, that today’s Messianic Jewish movement does have a Protestant theological heritage from which is positively benefits—but to say that the Messianic Jewish movement is evangelicalism draped in Jewish garb is not a conclusion that non-Jewish evangelical Protestants would make. From the other side of the spectrum, at least, evangelical Protestants are beginning to concede more and more that Messianic Jews are Jews. There are differences between the Messianic movement and contemporary evangelicalism, hardly making it another branch of “Christianity.” A significant area of difference does involve Messianic Believers’ approach to the post-resurrection era validity and relevance of Moses’ Teaching, and the Torah observance of the First Century Believers. For example, today’s Messianic community tends to have a much different perspective on Peter’s vision of Acts 10—as it is widely concluded to represent the cleansing of all human beings via the sacrifice of Yeshua—than the abrogation of the Torah’s dietary laws.[59]

Another area of significant difference, between today’s Messianics and evangelical Protestant laypersons, would be in how to approach the First Century Pharisees. Many contemporary Christians see the Pharisees as being universally rigid and legalistic, always antagonist toward Yeshua and condemned by Him—whereas today’s Messianics, engaged with Jewish Studies, would recognize that many of the early Pharisees, for certain, were reforming voices concerned with matters of spiritual and moral integrity, as well as social justice.[60] Noting Jewish religious developments during what is commonly labeled the “Inter-Testimental Period,” Wright’s book Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament correctly indicates how the Pharisees were hardly all bad, but instead were, at least originally, a positive Jewish movement:

“There were professional experts, scribes…and there also emerged lay movements devoted to wholehearted obedience to the law—such as the Pharisees. We may be tempted to dismiss all this as legalism. Doubtless it tended in that direction, and we shall hear Jesus with his unique insight and authority exposing some of the failure and misguidedness of his contemporary devotees of the law and tradition. But we should also be aware of the positive and worthy motives that lay behind it. Had not the exile, the greatest catastrophe in [Jewish] history, been the direct judgement of God on the failure of his people precisely to keep his law? Was that not the message of the great prophets? Surely then they should learn the lesson of history and make every effort to live as God required, thus not only avoiding a repetition of such judgment, but also hastening the day of his final deliverance from their present enemies. The pursuit of holiness was serious and purposeful. It was a total social programme—not just a fringe of hyper-religious piety.”[61]

Sadly, even in today’s Messianic community, common Christian stereotypes of the Pharisees as being rigid legalists, continue to persist, and this does not often aid us in our interactions with anti-missionary criticism. Rather than speaking of “the Pharisees” monolithically, it would be far better for us to learn to speak of “these Pharisees” or “those Pharisees,” and look at each encounter between Yeshua and various Pharisees in the Gospels on a case-by-case basis.[62] If we did this, we would find that there were areas of agreement and disagreement between Yeshua and various groups of Pharisees, no different than how there are intramural disagreements within Judaism up to the present day. A more even handed approach to the Pharisees, should result in having a more even handed approach to engaging with Jewish anti-missionaries.

The Messiahship of Yeshua and the Reliability of the Scriptures

There are various components to theologically considering the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth, some of which are directly related to the ideology of those involved, and some of it concerning how some examiners, particularly Jewish anti-missionaries, are oriented toward the Hebrew Scriptures. While there are classical anti-missionary works such as Faith Strenthened by Isaac Troki,[63] dating from the Sixteenth Century, our attention in this analysis is going to be more focused on recent anti-missionary arguments, from the mid-Twentieth Century forward to a Twenty-First Century of both printed and electronic media.

In our current generation or so, there are various levels of anti-missionary literature, including: resources which are academically engaged on some level, usually by those recognized as Jewish scholars of some sort,[64] information sensationally produced by Rabbis without too much academic engagement,[65] and then various writings produced by individual Jews with no theological training and with tacit academic engagement at best.[66] Some of this literature necessarily wants to defend modern Jewish identity against assimilation. But a great deal of it is also very closed minded and hostile to the figure of Yeshua, and you do not often find those who are interested in honestly dialoguing with Yeshua Believers. Due to the convenient access any of us has to information via social media, any of this literature can end up in the hands of a Messianic congregational member or attendee at any time. And beyond this are people who have been involved in the independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement, who have been seen denying Yeshua as Messiah in a quest for “Truth.” Some of the experiences of these people involves non-Jewish individuals who spent time in Messianic Judaism.[67]

Many purported Believers in Yeshua as Israel’s Messiah, have little or no understanding why they believe in the concept of a Messiah, why they believe in Yeshua as Messiah, and even what to do when the reliability of the Holy Scriptures they hold in high regard is challenged. Far too many people are an open target, and do not even realize it. Anti-missionaries, in addition to concluding that the Tanach Scriptures do not speak of Yeshua of Nazareth, will, to various degrees, question or outright deny the historical existence of Yeshua of Nazareth.[68] At least in his writing of Why the Jews Rejected Jesus, Klinghoffer is honest in stating that liberal Bible scholars have been known to deny the existence of key figures in the Tanach as well, even as late as King David, and that it is futile to deny some historical existence of Yeshua:

“Modern secular Bible scholars tend to doubt the existence of other key figures from the scriptural past—from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to Moses and even a relatively late personage like King David. The answer is, there seems little reason to doubt that there was a Jesus. We’ll see that Jews have always, in their tradition, assumed that he was a genuine actor in the drama of Jewish history. They have even assumed that, just as the Gospels say, their ancestors had a hand in his death.”[69]

It is one thing to deny that Yeshua is the anticipated Messiah of Israel and/or that He performed supernatural works; it is another thing that there was no historical figure of Yeshua of Nazareth whatsoever, who at least taught some compelling message. And if Jewish anti-missionaries want to question the historical existence of Yeshua of Nazareth, on the basis of insufficient external evidence—then they need to realize that the further back one goes in history, the less and less evidence one has to corroborate Biblical events. Liberal Bible scholars certainly consider a great deal of the Hebrew Tanach to be ahistorical at best, with Genesis chs. 1-11 definitely treated Ancient Near Eastern mythology redacted into Holy Writ.

But what are some of the important external quotations from the First Century and early Second Century C.E. that are made regarding Yeshua of Nazareth? Brown is correct to emphasize, “No reputable scholar in the world denies that Jesus existed. You might as well deny the existence of George Washington or Julius Caesar. As for Roman and Jewish historians, there are important ancient testimonies from key authors who write of Jesus as well as his early followers.”[70] Suetonius, writing in the 120s C.E. in his Twleve Caesars, attests of the reign of Claudius (41-54 C.E.), “Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from the city” (Suetonius Claudius 25.4).[71] This is in reference to the expulsion of the Jewish population of Rome (cf. Acts 18:2), likely as a result of the proclamation of the good news of “Chrestus,” i.e., Christ.[72] Tacitus, composing his Annals sometime in the late First or early Second Century, described the great fire of Rome in 64 C.E., which had been started by Nero (54-68 C.E.) but was blamed on the nascent Christian movement:

“But neither human resources, nor imperial munificence, nor appeasement of the gods, eliminated sinister suspicions that the fire had been instigated. To suppress this rumour, Nero fabricated scapegoats—and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberias’ reign by the governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilatus. But in spite of this temporary setback the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judaea (where the mischief had started) but even in Rome. All degraded and shameful practices collect and flourish in the capital” (Annals 15.14).[73]

The First Century historian Josephus, in actually writing about James or Jacob of the Jerusalem assembly, describes him as being the brother of Yeshua:

“when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority]. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or some of his companions]; and, when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned” (Antiquities of the Jews 20.200).[74]

Later in the Babylonian Talmud, Yeshua (Yeshu) of Nazareth, is certainly mentioned as having existed and having been executed for sorcery:

“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!” (b.Sanhedrin 43a).[75]

Some of the claims against the Messiahship of Yeshua do not involve Messianic prophecy or expectation, but instead are focused around the veracity of the Apostolic Writings. Has the New Testament misquoted the Hebrew Tanach? Many Jewish anti-missionaries, coming from Orthodox Jewish backgrounds, will actually argue that the Torah of Moses has been perfectly preserved letter-by-later and stroke-by-stroke since Mount Sinai.[76] Yet anyone, Jewish or Protestant, who has been involved in Biblical Studies and exposed to the JEDP Documentary Hypothesis of the Pentateuch being composed after the Babylonian exile—being a compilation of the so-called Yahwist (J), Elohist (E), Deuteronomist (D), and Priestly (P) sources—should be honest enough to tell you that even when Mosaic origin of the Torah is fairly easy to defend, to argue for a letter-by-letter and stroke-by-stroke perfect preservation since Sinai is hopelessly naive.[77] But, holding to a fundamentalist view of the composition of the Hebrew Scriptures, is what one often has to confront when dealing with Jewish anti-missionaries. And, they consider any other religious writings—namely the Greek Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament—to be an amalgamation of texts riddled with problems.

Jewish anti-missionaries will only consider the witness of the Hebrew Tanach as being a valid reference in discussing Messianic expectation.[78] As a result, they will consider the Greek Apostolic Scriptures to include an entire series of misquotations from or misreferences to the Tanach, and not be too keen to recognize that there are various types of Tanach quotations or references offered. Some of these, of course, may be partial quotations, there might be several Tanach passages referenced or amalgamated together, and perhaps most significantly an ancient version such as the Greek Septuagint translation of the Tanach may be quoted instead.[79] (Additionally to considered may be various Jewish traditions witnessed in secondary literature such as Philo, Josephus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, or Mishnah and Talmud, among other collections.)[80] Those who are engaged in the defense of the Messiahship of Yeshua, do not limit themselves to the Hebrew Masoretic Text, and will most certainly consider other ancient witnesses of and to the Scriptures of Israel.

Michael Rydelnik, in his 2010 book The Messianic Hope, describes how “the Masoretic Text, although generally sound and truly the best Old Testament text available, is a somewhat late version of the Hebrew Bible. Therefore, other versions, such as the Samaritan Pentateuch, and ancient translations, such as the Septuagint, should be consulted to determine the best possible readings of the Old Testament.”[81] He makes some effort to summarize various issues that are witnessed in a number of Tanach passages (Judges 18:30; Numbers 24:7; 2 Samuel 23:1; Psalm 72:5; Isaiah 9:5[6]; Psalm 22:17[16])[82] where textual discrepancies are present, some of them directly relating to ascriptions later applied to Yeshua of Nazareth. Certainly in one’s examination of various passages, the Hebrew Tanach will need to be evaluated, but additional data from ancient translations of the Tanach may also need to be weighed.

In his 2011 publication Anti-Missionary Arguments: Meeting the challenges posed by the Anti-Missionary Movement, Robert Morris makes specific mention of the role of both the Aramaic Targums and the Greek Septuagint, in defending the Messiahship of Yeshua. On the Aramaic Targums, Morris says, “The Targumim are not word-for-word translations; rather, they were paraphrastic in nature. They were interpretive translations which would be equivalent to the Living Bible we have today…The aim was to communicate what the passage meant in the clearest possible terms. They were not interested in producing a one-for-one, literal translation.”[83] The Targums may present some ancient Jewish interpretations of passages which were considered Messianic in nature, but are disputed as being Messianic in nature by today’s anti-missionaries. Morris further describes of the Septuagint,

“The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made by the Jewish community somewhere between the third and first centuries BC. As a result, this Greek version of the Old Testament existed at the beginning of the first century AD….[T]his Greek version of the Bible was made by the Jewish community and found widespread use in the Greek Speaking Jewish community….The Septuagint does not always quote the Hebrew Bible in a word-for-word manner. When the New Testament quotes the Hebrew Bible, it often is quoting from the Septuagint.”[84]

Indeed, one of the first things that students at any Protestant seminary quickly learn when studying Biblical Greek, is that the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament frequently quote from the Septuagint translation, which may reflect some interpretation of a Messianic passage—especially where the Hebrew is unclear or imprecise. Jewish anti-missionaries are frequently seen to dismiss the Greek Septuagint translation of the Tanach as having any relevance to the discussion of Yeshua of Nazareth,[85] even to the point where some have regarded it as a Christian forgery from the late First to early Second Centuries C.E. More academically-minded Jewish resources, though, do not make such extrapolations. While recognizing that, for the long term, what is today called the Septuagint was used more by the emerging Christian Church than the Jewish Synagogue—it is broadly concluded that the material of the Septuagint was in circulation among Diaspora Jews in the Mediterranean by the mid-Second Century B.C.E. As is summarized in the Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period:

“[T]he Septuagint took form over many years, section by section, in various places and through different translators. It is more than likely that the Torah was the first part to be translated, as being of fundamental importance to Judaism, and that the translation was carried out in Egypt, where there was a very large Jewish community, principally in Alexandria. These Jews had little or no knowledge of Hebrew and required a version in Greek for synagogue and study purposes. Probably Isaiah was also translated there, since it, too, has many linguistic parallels with Egyptian Greek papyri. The rest of the Latter Prophets probably followed, then parts of the Former Prophets, and lastly the Writings. Sirach, the translation of the Book of Ben Sira, can be dated by his preface to the years after 132 B.C.E. Since this preface also mentions existing translations of ‘the Law, the Prophets and the rest of the Writings,’ we can be fairly sure that most of the Septuagint was in existence by this date.”[86]

Our defense of the Messiahship of Yeshua will not limit itself only to the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Tanach, but when appropriate will consider ancient witnesses such as the Aramaic Targums or Greek Septuagint. And, when evaluating the logic and reasoning process of Jewish anti-missionaries, we will not shy away from difficult historical and reliability issues in the Tanach Scriptures themselves.

Addressing the Messiahship of Yeshua

The theological debate over the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth has many different components to it, the main ones of which we have just summarized, but other issues will doubtlessly be considered throughout our lengthy analysis. Various discussions and commentary on the Messiahship of Yeshua seen in previous resources have taken various forms, ranging from a question and answer approach, to addressing specific passages which prophecy of the Messiah. We will be going to the text of Scripture, addressing Bible passages which are in some way associated with the Messiahship of Yeshua. Many of these will involve Messianic prophecies fulfilled in the activities of Yeshua, some of them will concern questions about the nature or quality of Yeshua’s Messiahship, and a number of them will involve theological criticisms issued by Jewish anti-missionaries against historic Christian doctrines—among other things. We have honestly tried to make Salvation on the Line, Volumes III (& IV?) to be as broad-sweeping as possible, as it concerns the issues connected to Yeshua’s Messiahship.

This resource has been produced for those in today’s Messianic movement, who need something to turn to for well researched answers, when encountering people in their assemblies or sphere of influence, who have been shaken up regarding their belief in Yeshua of Nazareth. We trust that the format in which we have presented the material will help Messianic people see that the faith of others is shored up!

The defense that we are providing of the Messiahship of Yeshua will be principally focused on the text of Scripture, from the Hebrew and Greek. Where appropriate, ancient translations will play some role in our exegesis, as will relevant bodies of extra-Biblical literature. Unlike other publications from Messianic Apologetics, where the 1995 New American Standard Update (NASU) is employed as the main English Bible version, due to our heavy engagement with Jewish issues involving the Messiahship of Yeshua, the 1985 New Jewish Publication Society Tanakh (NJPS) has widely been used for the Hebrew Scriptures, and the 2014 Tree of Life Version (TLV) has widely been used for the Apostolic Scriptures. All versions have been noted by their relevant abbreviations. Our discussions, of course, will take into consideration the thoughts of Jewish anti-missionaries, various Jewish and Christian commentaries, and theological analyses produced by both evangelical Protestants and Messianic Jews defending the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth.


NOTES

[1] “Messiah,” in R.J. Zwi Werblowsky and Geoffrey Widoger, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 458.

[2] Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, eds., The Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2001), 1:645.

[3] H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), 895.

[4] C.A. Evans, “Messianism,” in Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter, eds., Dictionary of New Testament Background (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000), 699.

[5] R.B. Wright, trans., “Psalms of Solomon,” in James H. Charlesworth ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol 2 (New York: Doubleday, 1985), 667.

[6] Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook, trans., The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1996), 139.

[7] Ibid., 147.

[8] Ibid., 70.

[9] Ibid., 72.

[10] Ibid., 58.

[11] Ibid., 59.

[12] H.C. Kee, trans., “Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,” in James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol 1 (New York: Doubleday, 1983), pp 794-795.

[13] Ibid., pp 800, 801.

[14] O.S. Wintermute, “Jubilees,” in James H. Charlesworth ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol 2 (New York: Doubleday, 1985), pp 115-116.

[15] Wise, Abegg, and Cook, pp 230-231.

[16] E. Isaac, trans., “1 (Ethiopic Apocalypse) of Enoch,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol 1, pp 35-36, 37.

[17] Alfred J. Kolatch, The Second Jewish Book of Why (Middle Village, NY: Jonathan David Publishers, 1985), 71.

[18] Aryeh Kaplan, The Real Messiah? A Jewish Response to Missionaries (New York: National Conference of Synagogue Youth/Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, 1985), pp 6-9.

[19] Consult the author’s preceding books Salvation on the Line, Volumes I & II: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity.

[20] Consult the author’s massive resource The New Testament Validates Torah MAXIMUM EDITION.

[21] Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-4; 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 32:35.

[22] Jacob Neusner, trans., The Mishnah: A New Translation (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1988), 594.

[23] The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary. MS Windows XP. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2005. CD-ROM.

[24] The Jerusalem Talmud: A Translation and Commentary. PDF-compatible MS Windows and Mac OS. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2009. CD-ROM.

[25] The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary.

[26] Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3: Messianic Prophecy Objections (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003), pp 170-179.

[27] Cf. Ezekiel 36:24-28; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1; 1 Peter 2:4-5.

[28] Kaplan, 28.

[29] J.H. Hertz, ed. The Authorised Daily Prayer Book, revised (New York: Bloch Publishing Company, 1960), 211.

[30] Norman, Asher. Twenty-Six Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe in Jesus (Los Angeles: Black White and Read Publishing, 2007), 74.

[31] “Second Coming of Christ,” in Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), pp 1080-1081.

[32] D.E. Aune, T.J. Geddert, and C.A. Evans, “Apocalypticism,” in Dictionary of New Testament Background, pp 49-50.

[33] Ibid., 50.

[34] Consult the summary provided by Michael Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Messianic? (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), pp 3-7.

[35] Cf. Christopher J.H. Wright, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1992), pp 15-19.

[36] Cf. Ibid., pp 21-23.

[37] For a summary, consult “Messianic Movements,” in Geoffrey Wigoder, ed. et. al., The New Encyclopedia of Judaism (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Publishing House, 2002), pp 524-526.

[38] “Messiah,” in Ibid., pp 323-324.

[39] Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds., The Jewish Annotated New Testament, NRSV (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011) is one notable work intended for broad distribution, being a compendium of Jewish and Christian scholars, specifically focusing on the Jewish background of the Apostolic Writings.

[40] David Klinghoffer, Why the Jews Rejected Jesus (New York: Three Leaves Press, 2005), 6.

[41] Asher Norman, Twenty-Six Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe in Jesus (Los Angeles: Black White and Read Publishing, 2007), xix.

The general tone witnessed in Stuart Federow, Judaism and Christianity: A Contrast (Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2012) is quite different, widely apathetic toward evangelical Protestant support for Israel, and even antagonistic in places.

[42] Walter C. Kaiser, The Messiah in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 33.

[43] Ibid., 34.

[44] Ibid., 35.

[45] Klinghoffer, 85.

[46] Consult the FAQ, “Hebrew, Letter Pictures.”

[47] Consult the author’s article “The Effect of Mysticism and Gnosticism on the Messianic Movement.”

[48] Wright, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament, 58.

[49] Consult the author’s workbook A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic.

[50] Wright, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament, 27.

[51] Further discussion is also provided in Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: General and Historical Objections (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), pp 101-196.

[52] Cf. Ibid., pp 170-175.

[53] Consult the Messianic Sabbath Helper by Messianic Apologetics.

[54] Federow, 201.

[55] Ibid.

[56] David Chernoff, Yeshua the Messiah (Havertown, PA: Kesher Ministries International, 1983), 77.

[57] Norman, pp xix-xx.

[58] Federow, 118; Ibid., pp 197-198 for his further discussion on Messianic Judaism being another form of Christianity.

[59] Consult the Messianic Kosher Helper by Messianic Apologetics.

[60] Consult the author’s article “You Want to be a Pharisee,” appearing in Introduction to Things Messianic.

[61] Wright, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament, pp 25-26; cf. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: General and Historical Objections, pp 160-164.

[62] This is especially seen in the lengthy “Sabbath and Rest in the Apostolic Scriptures” section of the Messianic Sabbath Helper by Messianic Apologetics.

[63] Isaac Troki: Faith Strengthened: The Jewish Response to Christian Missionaries, trans. Moses Mocatta (Jerusalem: The Kest-Lebovits Jewish Heritage and Roots Library, 1999).

[64] Aryeh Kaplan, The Real Messiah? A Jewish Response to Missionaries (New York: National Conference of Synagogue Youth/Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, 1985); David Klinghoffer, Why the Jews Rejected Jesus (New York: Three Leaves Press, 2005); Asher Norman, Twenty-Six Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe in Jesus (Los Angeles: Black White and Read Publishing, 2007); Stuart Federow, Judaism and Christianity: A Contrast (Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2012).

[65] Tovia Singer, Let’s Get Biblical! Why Doesn’t Judaism Accept the Christian Messiah?, Volume 1 (Forest Hills, NY: Outreach Judaism, 2014); Let’s Get Biblical! Why Doesn’t Judaism Accept the Christian Messiah?, Volume 2 (Forest Hills, NY: Outreach Judaism, 2014).

[66] S.J. Greenstein, We Are Not Going to Burn in Hell: A Jewish Response to Christianity (Lawrenceville, GA: Biblically Speaking Publishing Company, 1996); Gerald Sigal, Anti-Judaism in the New Testament (Xlibris, 2004); Isaiah 53: Who is the Servant? (Xlibris, 2007); The Blood Atonement Deception: How Christianity Distorted Biblical Atonement (Xlibris, 2010); The 70 Weeks of Daniel (Xlibris, 2013); The Virgin Birth Myth: The Misconception of Jesus (Xlibris, 2013); The Jewish Response to Missionary Christianity (CreateSpace, 2015).

[67] James Wood, Jr., Leaving Jesus (Midland, VA: New Dominion Publishing, 2012).

[68] Cf. Norman, pp 187-194.

[69] Klinghoffer, 39.

[70] Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 4: New Testament Objections (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007), pp 59-60; cf. Ibid., pp 59-66 for full discussion.

[71] Suetonius: The Twelve Caesars, trans. Robert Graves (London: Penguin Books, 1957), 202.

[72] This is widely agreed to serve some as some background for the material in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Consult the author’s commentary Romans for the Practical Messianic.

[73] Tacitus: The Annals of Imperial Rome, trans. Michael Grant (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1971), 365.

[74] Flavius Josephus: The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, trans. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987), 538.

[75] The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary.

[76] Norman, pp 151-152; cf. Klinghoffer, pp 24-26.

[77] Consult the entries for the Pentateuchal books in the author’s workbook A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic.

[78] Kaplan, 62; against Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 4, pp 3-21 addressing “The New Testament misquotes and misinterprets the Old Testament. At times it manufactures verses to suit its purposes.”

[79] Two highly useful resources include Robert G. Bratcher, Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament (London and New York: United Bible Societies, 1987); Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Gregory Chirichigno, Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983).

[80] Consult the author’s article “Approaching Extra-Biblical Literature,” appearing in the December 2018 issue of Outreach Israel News.

[81] Rydelnik, 34.

[82] Ibid., pp 35-46.

[83] Robert Morris, Anti-Missionary Arguments: Meeting the challenges posed by the Anti-Missionary Movement (Irvine, CA: HaDavar Messianic Ministries, 2011), 13.

[84] Ibid., 17.

[85] Federow, 137.

[86] “Septuagint,” in Jacob Neusner and William Scott Green, eds., Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002), pp 567-568.

The Preface to the Book of Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus, says, “Seeing that many and great things have been given to us through the Law and the Prophets and the others that followed them” (Albert Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright, eds., A New English Translation of the Septuagint [Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007], 719).