Friday, May 29, 2009

A Christian's Response: The Jewish Requirements for Maschiach

This post comes in response to a comment on a previous post, Will the Real Messiah Please Stand Up, by a Jew with the charge that Jesus did not meet the full list of requirements for the Maschiach (Messiah). I asked and was given this list by Tabatha aka "A Jew with a View" and so I've decided to post it here with some brief commentary. In a later post, I will provide a more detailed outline of Christian Messianism as it relates to the Jewish criticism of Jesus' claims to the Messiah title, "Anointed One."

My comments here will be color coded:
Already met in Jesus
Promised at Jesus' return
Incorrect exegesis resulting in a false criterion
  • He will be descended from King David (Isaiah 11:1) via King Solomon (1 Chron. 22:8-10)
    Realizing that Jews reject Jesus' lineage because he is not a son of Joseph, I will address this point in a later post, but for here, state simply that Christian theology accepts this as being met in Jesus.

  • The Moshiach will be a man of this world, an observant Jew with “fear of God” (Isaiah 11:2)
    This is the mysterious Kenosis, also rejected by Jews. However, I want to challenge the meaning of "an observant Jew." Observant of Jewish traditional legalism, or of God's law?

  • Evil and tyranny will not be able to stand before his leadership (Isaiah 11:4)
    That's what we're waiting for!

  • There will be no more hunger or illness, and death will cease (Isaiah 25:8)
    That's what we're waiting for!

  • All of the dead will rise again (Isaiah 26:19)
    Unless, of course, you're a Sadducce :-)

  • The Jewish people will experience eternal joy and gladness (Isaiah 51:11)
    According to Romans, it's the remnant that will experience this. Just as it was the righteous Remnant who God saved from exile in the Old Testament.

  • He will be a messenger of peace (Isaiah 52:7)
    In principle, I believe Christians agree with this. However, He will wage war to destroy the enemy before peace can be established.

  • The ruined cities of Israel will be restored (Ezekiel 16:55)
    Close, but not quite. This text does not promise a restoration for all of the cities of Israel, but rather We await the restoration of Jerusalem.

  • Weapons of war will be destroyed (Ezekiel 39:9)
    Umm... ok, I guess. Not one that Christians emphasize greatly, but probably goes hand-in-hand with the perfect peace that will be established.

  • The Temple will be rebuilt (Ezekiel 40) resuming many of the suspended mitzvot.
    That's what we're waiting for! The Temple represents God's glory on earth. Even though there's some difficulty around the presence of animal sacrifice in view of Christ's eternal sacrifice, but Dr. Constable gives a good description in his commentary.

  • He will then perfect the entire world to serve God together (Zephaniah 3:9)
    What's left after judgment, yes.

  • Jews will know the Torah without Study (Jeremiah 31:33)
    Many view this as having happened, at least partially, with the indwelling. However, this, along with the following verse 34, will happen in perfection when we receive our resurrected bodies at His return.

  • He will give you all the desires of your heart (Psalms 37:4)
    Umm... ok, I guess. But, I do like John Piper's definition that the true desires of our heart are for God Himself.

  • He will take the barren land and make it abundant and fruitful (Isaiah 51:3, Amos 9:13-15, Ezekiel 36:29-30, Isaiah 11:6-9).
    That's what we're waiting for!

  • Once he is King, leaders of other nations will look to him for guidance. (Isaiah 2:4)
    Close, but rather we hold that He will rule over all nations Himself.

  • The whole world will worship the One God of Israel (Isaiah 2:17)
    What's left after judgment, yes.

  • The peoples of the world will turn to the Jews for spiritual guidance (Zechariah 8:23)
    I agree. I am of the persuasion, based on Romans 10-11, that ethnic and national Israel will hold a position of higher importance in the Millenial Kingdom.

  • Nations will end up recognizing the wrongs they did to Israel (Isaiah 52:13-53:5)
    And to Christ. Just before they're judged, yes.

  • He will include and attract people from all cultures and nations (Isaiah 11:10).
    Hi, I'm a gentile, and I believe in the Messiah :-)

  • Knowledge of God will fill the world (Isaiah 11:9)
    Can't wait!

  • The Sanhedrin will be re-established (Isaiah 1:26)
    Close, but what Isaiah had in mind was not the Sanhedrin of Jesus' day. He clearly says, judges as in days of old.

  • All Israelites will be returned to their homeland (Isaiah 11:12)
    I agree. I am of the persuasion, based on Romans 10-11, that ethnic and national Israel will hold a position of higher importance in the Millenial Kingdom.

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  • Hi Nick :)

    - just wanted to say I haven't forgotten about your questions on my blog; I want to give an accurate and detailed response so that's why I haven't responded just yet. I aim to do so either later today or by the latest tomorrow morning (UK time)

    While I'm here, I'll respond briefly to your post about the Jewish messianic prophecies.

    Yes, it does indeed seem that there is a bit of overlap and that both Jews and Christians are waiting for some of the main things.

    But of course there is one vital difference. The Jewish belief has always been that the maschiach, being a normal, mortal man, must fulfill all prophecies in one *mortal* lifetime. There is no 'second coming'. That is a purely Christian concept.

    One could also argue that Jesus was not an 'observant' Jew. After all - please correct me if I'm wrong - but according to Christian scripture didn't he advocate violating the Sabbath? Judaism allows us to break the Sabbath but only if it's a medical emergency or something akin to that.

    And if Jesus did indeed claim that the 'only way' to G-d was via him, then this again totally contradicts core Jewish beliefs. Judaism says that every single human being has a **direct** relationship with G-d.

    Also, while I appreciate that Christianity views Jesus as being from the House of David, he wasn't according to Jewish religious law. Tribal lineage has always passed via the father. If, as Christianity itself states, Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, then no, Jesus wasn't from the line of David. Adoption does not count because it doesn't alter the actual bloodline, of course.

    Re animal sacrifice and the temple:

    There's an interesting debate between Jews, in fact, about whether or not animal sacrifice would resume once the temple was/is rebuilt. *Some* Orthodox Jews maintain they will resume animal sacrifice. Many other Jews - myself included - would not agree!

    It might be worth my noting at this point: sacrifice was only ever *one* route to atonement. And it was only for certain, specific sins. Throughout the Torah, we see that G-d showed his mercy to those who repented without sacrifice.

    I should also note: the sacrifices stopped purely because the temple was destroyed. Nothing to do with Jesus.

    You cite Romans a number of times; we'll have to agree to disagree on that :) Again, I'd argue that Christian scriptures don't get to redefine Jewish criteria for the Jewish maschiach.

    I'm still thinking about my response to the lovely bit of scripture you very kindly explained to me. Watch that space :)

    By Anonymous Jew With A View/ Tabatha, At June 1, 2009 at 4:47 AM  

  • Perhaps I should also clarify the Jewish position. We don't criticise the Christian belief that Jesus is the messiah.

    We simply disagree when Christianity says Jesus was the Jewish messiah.

    It isn't Jesus per se that we don't accept; we don't accept any self proclaimed 'messiah' unless he fulfills all our prophecies in one normal, mortal lifetime. As you have noted elsewhere, there were many, many claimants to the title of 'maschiach', yet none were accepted and precisely for the same reasons that Jesus wasn't.

    I just want to make it crystal clear that Judaism spends no time critiquing Christian beliefs. The only time we discuss Christianity is when we, through necessity, have to educate young Jews on how to answer *some* Christian evangelicals who seek them out for conversion drives.

    By Anonymous Jew With A View/ Tabatha, At June 1, 2009 at 5:41 AM  

  • Tabatha. I'm very well aware of the objections Jews have against: 1) the notion of a second coming and 2) the bloodline of David. I am intending to address those in more detail in a later post. My first goal of posting this here was to have something to reference when I write on it in more detail later.

    A few points to clarify for you:

    First, Jesus actually did not advocate breaking the Sabbath. Instead, just as you have said, He defended the position that a dire need (such as medical treatment, or in His case, miraculous healing) was warranted. Read the text: Matthew 12:1-13.

    Second, about animal sacrifice, we're well aware that sacrifice did not end in your temple on account of Jesus. The destruction and desecration of the temple in 70 AD was the cause. The point I make is for Christian readers, obviously, that we don't sacrifice because one sacrifice has been made for us, once for all. That's quite clearly a Christian doctrine that I don't expect Jews to subscribe to.

    By Blogger Nick Carter, At June 1, 2009 at 7:44 AM  

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