A Christian's Response Part II: The Jewish Requirements for Maschiach
As you might expect, the vast majority of the Messianic requirements held out by the Jews are not disagreeable for the Christian. After all, we do reference the same prophets. Now, before I begin, I do want to state that this article is very clearly pertaining to the specific set of Jewish requirements for the Messiah, and as such, does not represent the full scope of expanded Christian messianism. For more details on the three offices of "the annointed" according to Christology, read Who Else by Christ and also reference the Week 4 lecture of the Person and Work of Christ class.
Now, back to the topic at hand. The three most pivotal points at which Jews argue Christ fails to fulfill their Messianic requirements are these:
- To be a king in the line of David. You see, Christ was not actually a son of Joseph, and so His paternal lineage--the lineage through which tribal bloodline is established--cannot be linked to David.
- That Christ was not an observant Jewish man. There are many layers to this dispute: first, the Jewish position that there cannot be a God-Man. Second, the Jewish position that Jesus violated the Jewish Law.
- Finally, the position most vehemently defended by Jews, is that there is no place for a Messiah who comes, does part of His job, dies and comes back later to finish it.
First, let's address Jesus' lineage. I want to first point out that this objection was not developed as an argument until long after the establishment of the church. It was not an objection of Jesus' Jewish contemporaries. That is not to say, however, that later inspiration cannot be valid. The point which I believe is most notable is that in the time of Jesus, genetic recombination was hardly the measure by which parental lineage was tested. There was no paternity tests administed in DNA labs.
Jesus was given as a son to Joseph and Mary, raised in their household, and given every legal claim to the firstborn sonship without question of the seminal contributor (which is in fact a crucial part of the seminal view of original sin, but I digress). The point is that the definition of "son" was not dependent on genetic criteria. Jesus was in every way a son of Joseph. In Luke 2:23, Joseph accepted fatherhood of the boy by fulfilling the Law's requirement to consecrate his firstborn to the Lord.
And, if such irregularity in the passing of inheritance and bloodline is disagreeable, I would submit that God's purposes have been shown several times over not to follow man's tradition. Take Jacob, for example, who inhereted the blessing and promise despite the fact that he was not the first born--overturning the tradition of primogeniture.
Finally, perhaps in God's infinite wisdom, He did not provide a law of lineage. There was nothing in the Law that established an irreversible statute of paternity.
The Jewish God-Man
Where do I begin? I have already written much on the humanity and deity of Christ. I do not dare to think that I could convince a Jew of this point outside of the acceptance of such a mystery that comes--even for the most educated Christian--purely by faith. Let me simply point to previous works on the topic of the Kenosis. Christ the Mediator, An Attitude the Same as Christ, and We Beheld his Glory.
So, accepting that Jesus is God in the flesh, who emptied Himself by adding such limitations as the flesh, not out of weakness but out of love, we arrive at the conclusion that Jesus was a man.
But, was He an observant Jew? If not, then He is a lawbreaker and can be neither the Jewish Messiah nor our Spotless Lamb. But Jesus did not break the Law. He broke the legalistic stipulations of the contemporary Jewish hypocrites, but not the Law of God. Reference Matthew 12:1-13 for an understanding of His so-accused Sabbath breaking.
The key to understanding this point is in realizing the difference between the Jewish Law and the Jewish Traditions that prevailed in the 1st century. In Matt. 15:1-3, for example, the Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the Law. But His defense, undeniably accurate, was that He had not broken any Laws, but rather, their traditions.
Jesus, in fact, taught that the Law had more to do with one's heart than with legalistic obedience. His teachings in the sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) actually expound on the Law making it even harder to obey, for many, by applying it to thought and attitude.
I would charge Jews to simply analyze their traditional view of Jesus. Read the accounts of Christ's life on earth (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Ask for yourself, where did He break the Law? Especially bear in mind that even the Jew's teach "Torah is not viewed as a literal document in Judaism. Rather, it is something that can be understood, read and interpreted on many different levels" (A Jew with a View).
The Second Coming
If you've been following along in any of the comment strings that have prompted me to write this post, you've seen over and over that there "is no place in Judaism for a Messiah who comes, fulfills part of the requirements, dies, and comes back to finish it."
This is, perhaps, the simplest to address and yet the hardest to explain. It is simple because I can simply say this: Christians do not teach that Christ fulfilled ANY of the traditional Jewish Maschiach requirements (except for His lineage). I believe the greatest misconception--no doubt spurred on by the many Christians who themselves do not fully understand Christology--is that Jesus was the Anointed (Maschiach) King of the Jews.
The Christian belief is that we await the return of Jesus to assume His reign--a reign that so closely resembles what Jews await in their Maschiach the parallel is undeniable. In fact, as I've stated before, I even ascribe to the position that ethnic and national Israel has a particular place of blessing in this new kingdom, and that Gentiles are in fact "grafted in."
So, as I said, this is simple to state but difficult to explain. It's difficult to explain because we must then delve into the purpose of Jesus first coming 2000 years ago. His first coming and claiming the title "Annointed" throws confusion into the topic because that term carries a specific connotation to the Jew... a connotation that Jesus did not fulfull. And yet, the term is nonetheless applicable.
If a Jew is to accept the term Messiah placed on Jesus, they have to accept the doctrine of a New Covenant, established in Jesus' blood. That He was "annointed" to the office of prophet and of priest FIRST, declaring and mediating a new covenant. That He will be anointed the earthly politcial ruler, the King on David's throne (not in Heaven but on Earth) at a later time, but that this fulfillment of prophecy is dependent on those prophecies that Jews have not associated with their Maschiach. The prophecies that foretold His first coming.
Too much needs to be said about the covenants and Christ's first coming than can be stated here. I must leave you waiting for yet another future article in which I will dive deeper into the covenant purposes of Jesus first coming.