In view of the season, I though I would post this recent question about the Jewish Messiah as an article for your encouragement. J. O.
I’m very confused regarding a Jewish objection to Jesus as the Messiah which goes like this:
"The Bible says that the Messiah would be of the tribe of Judah and a descendant of David. According to Christians, Jesus was born of a virgin. However, tribal affiliation is conferred through the birth father only (Numbers 34:14, Numbers 1:18-44, Leviticus 24:10). The mother’s tribal affiliation was considered irrelevant to what her children’s tribal affiliation was and tribal affiliation/genealogy could not be inherited though a stepfather; only property could be inherited. Because Christians
believe that Jesus had no human father, he would have had no tribal affiliation and would be eliminated from messianic consideration."
This anti-Christian Jewish site has an article entitled "Jesus Failed To Fulfill Any of The Six Authentic Jewish Messianic Criteria" which makes the above objection. Here is a link to the article: http://www.26reasons.com/reason8.html. Here another site which also makes this particular claim: http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2007/09/jesus-was-not-from-lineage-of-david.html
How can this claim be answered or refuted?
You should be very suspicious of the arguments of these Jewish apologists when they talk about the Messiah. The web site you refer to uses the arguments of Maimonides, a Spanish Jew from the 12th century. What these Jewish apologists are doing is cherry-picking the messianic prophecies which they can at least make a defendable (but not correct) claim that Jesus did not fulfill. If fact, Jesus did fulfill all these prophecies, as I will discuss below. Those clear and obvious messianic prophecies which they would not be so bold as to claim Jesus did not fulfill they simply choose to ignore, for rather obvious reasons. Be aware that Maimonides and the people you found who are arguing for Judaism are not studying messianic prophecy so as to determine what the Old Testasment says about the Messiah as much as they are studying them so as to find a reason to deny that the Messiah Jesus Christ is in fact the Messiah. Their principle audience is Jews who they are trying to prevent from passing their allegiance to Jesus. Jewish use of messianic prophecies has changed quite significantly since the time of Jesus. In fact, the Jewish weekly readings in the Synagogue were changed so as to remove the messianic prophecies which were so obviously fulfilled by Jesus for rather cynical reasons, as many Jews were won to Christianity because of these prophecies. Over the centuries, Jews have consciously or unconsciously downplayed the picture of the Messiah in the scripture which was so clearly fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth.
Having said all that, let I will do two things. 1. I will go through the list of messianic expectations that the Jewish apologists use (all of which are messianic by the way) and show that Jesus did in fact fulfill these messianic prophecies. 2. I will list a few rather obvious messianic prophecies which these apologists willfully choose to ignore because of the strong implications with regard to Jesus of Nazareth.
1. The six "genuine" messianic expectations listed at this web site are the same used by Maimonides. They are expactations that the Messiah will:
1. have the correct genealogy by being descended from King David and King Solomon,
2. be anointed King of Israel,
3. return the Jewish people to Israel,
4. rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem,
5. bring peace to the world and end all war,
6. bring knowledge of God to the world.
Remember that the Jewish messianic expectations have morphed in the last two thousand years in a direction which allows them to exclude Jesus as the Messiah. Nevertheless, although misunderstood, the list above does reflect actual messianic prophecies; all of which Jesus fulfilled. First of all, Jesus is indeed descended from David. The genaeologies of Matthew and Luke show that Jesus is in fact descended from David, probably both through his mother Mary and certainly through his father Joseph. These folks want to deny this based on the biblical claim that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. A couple of points here. Do they actually believe that Jesus came by a miraculous vrigin birth? Is this the basis for their claim? Or do they believe that he was actually the son of Joseph? They should be consistent here. If they believe he came by a miraculous virgin birth, then they should perhaps accept the obvious, which is that Jesus in the Messian. If they believe he was the son of Joseph, then they should agree that he is in fact descended from David. They cannot have in both ways (in the negative sense). This argument has a blatantly obvious flaw.
Let us add to this. Isaiah 7:14 predicts of the Messiah that "The virgin conceive, have a son and name him Immanuel. (Immanuel means God with us). The Hebrew word translated virgin here is somewhat ambiguous, but it is worth noting that Jewish translators of the Old Testament into Greek in the third century BC translated the Hebrew as virgin for the obvious reason that it is presented as a miraculous event. So, it is true that the Jewish scripture clearly says the Messiah will be descended from David and also that he will be born to a virgin. The only way for this to happen is for the Messiah to be considered descended from David through a father who accepted him as his own even though he was born of a virgin. Again, the Jews cannot have it both ways. Of course, they choose to ignore Isaiah 7:14 for obvious reasons. But even if they claim that Jesus was NOT born of a virgin, then they must accept that he is in fact physically descended from David through is father. Remember that Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem for the census because this was Joseph’s home city, as he was descended from David.
About the second claim, Jesus was in fact annointed king of Israel. His annointing was not what the Jews would like as it came by the woman who poured pure nard on his feet (Mark 14:3). It is ironic that Jesus was charged by the Jews with claiming to be king of Israel. In fact, this was written atop the cross when he was killed. In a way which is not particularly comfortable to Jewish expectations, it is really striking how many ways the Jews who had Jesus killed helped assure that he fulfilled the messianic prophecies.
About the third expectation, Jesus did indeed return the Jews to Israel. Again, it is not necessarily in the way that Jews today expect, or even in the way many Jews during the lifetime of Jesus expected, but Jesus fulfilled this prophecy nevertheless. Jesus said in John 18:36, "My kingdom is not of this world." Many Jews expected their Messiah to come back and establish a renewed physical kingdom and to rule as a physical king of this renewed physical Israel. They simply misinterpret God’s intent. Jesus is the king of spiritual Israel. If the messianic prophecies are about anything, they are about a different kind of kingdom. It is a kingdom of peace (Isaiah 2:1-4) in which there are no weapons. It is a kingdom without territory. Obviously this is not a worldly kingdom, as in the real world, kingdoms have to have an army, as the nation of Israel can attest to today! The fact that Jews today still misinterpret these prophecies does not negate the fact that Jesus did indeed fulfill the messianic expectation of establishing a spiritual kingdom and ruling as king of that kingdom. In Galatians 4:21-31 Paul describes how the Messiah is the king of a new Israel, not one established at Sinai, but one established at Jerusalem, as prophesied by the Hebrew scripture.
As for the fourth messianic expectation, it is true that the Messiah is expected to reestablish the temple, but many Jews today fail to recognize that it is a spiritual, heavenly temple. Jesus said "Destroy this temple and I will raise it in three days." (John 2:19). Hebrews 9 and 10 describes in much detail how Jesus replaced the physical temple in physical Jerusalem with the true and greater tabernacle in heaven with God. All of the objects in the tabernacle/temple were symbols of the reality in heaven with Jesus reigning as Messiah. The fact that the Jews misinterpret their own scriptures incorrectly does not negate the fact that Jesus fulfilled these prophecies, as he clearly claimed even during his lifetime. That the Messiah was to bring in a new covenant–one which is spiritual and not based on a physical kingdom–is well established by passages such as Jeremiah 31:30-34. Here God tells his people that he will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people." It should not surprise us that Maimonides and these Jewish apologists fail to mention this prophecy of the Messiahic kingdom.
I assume that the fifth expectation of "world peace" is a reference to Isaiah 2:1-4 and other prophecies principally in Isaiah. It is true that the Messian is expected to turn swords into plowshares and cause the lamb to lie down with the wolf. Jesus did all this. He is in fact the Prince of Peace. In the Kingdom of God, all this is fulfilled. In the church, which is at least in a sense an earthly realization of the messianic kingdom, Jew, Gentile, slave, free, male, female, Arab, black, white and every other sort of lamb and wolf is indeed brought together into one unnatural, loving, peaceful family. Again, those who reject Jesus, the Messiah, cannot have it both ways. Either their Messiah is to be an earthly king, ruling in Jerusalem, who obviously must have an army and a police force and all which comes with that, or he will be a spiritual king over a spiritual kingdom, fulfilling the messianic expectation of bringing in some sort of world peace. Of course, Jesus does all this.
As for expectation number six, if there is a single person in all the history of humanity who has brought knowledge of God to the world more than Jesus, I would like to hear a proposed alternative. The fact that Jesus has fulfilled this expectation is a matter of common knowledge. It is a bit surprising that these apologist list this one, as it is so obviously fulfilled in Jesus, yet they claim that he did not fulfill this prophecy!
So you see that Jesus did in fact fulfill ALL these Jewish expectations. Why? Because they are indeed messianic expectations, and Jesus is the Messiah. The fact that many Jews mininterpret their own scriptures does not negate this. In fact, the only way they can maintain their Jewishness without becoming Christians is to cling on to this misinterpretation. This explains the material you found at the web site.
2. As I said, in order to even devise the list of six supposedly unique messianic expectations, Jews who reject their true Messiah: Jesus of Nazareth are required to ignore other clear messianic prophecy. We can be sure of this, because we know from Jewish documents of the first century and earlier that they considered passages such as Micah 5 and Isaiah 53 to be messianic. Naturally, they do not emphasize these passages for the obvious reason that if they did, they would have to become followers of Jesus, or at the very least admit that he did do these things. Let me mention just a small sprinkling of clearly messianic passages which these commentators do not choose to list when trying to prove that Jesus did not fulfill any of the messianic prophecies. First of all, there is Micah 5:2 which describes one "whose origins are from old, from ancient times" being born in Bethlehem. Of course, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This is only natural, because Bethlehem is the city of David. His direct descendents, including Joseph and Jesus are Bethlehemites. Naturally, Jews who are trying to refute Jesus as Messaih, selectively do not mention this prophecy. Then there is Isaiah 53:1-12. If ANY passage in the entire Hebrew scripture is obviously about the Messiah it is this passage. It is about a man who is silent while accused, who is rejected by his own people, who is pierced, through whose suffering the sins of the world are atoned for, who is cut off from his people, whose life became a guilt offering. Why do these Jewish commentators not notice this messianic prophecy? It is rather obvious that they have excluded Isaiah 53, not because it is not messianic, but because it really hurts their case that Jesus did not fulfill the prophecies of the Messiah.
Then there is Zechariah 9:9 which has the Messiah/king riding into Jerusalem on a donkey–actually on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Here we have a king of Jerusalem–the Messiah doing something which Jesus certainly did. Again, this is about as obvious a messianic prophecy as could be, yet it is ignored by these folks for rather obvious reasons. And there is also Zechariah 11:7-13, which talks about one will revoke one covenant and bring in a new one. God will be sold/valued at thirty pieces of silver in this messianic portrait. This messianic prophecy is not one of worldly victory, but one of defeat in a worldly sense, but which leads to God’s victory in the spiritual plane. This is the biblical picture of the Messiah. There are many other prophecies of the Messiah which were fulfilled by Jesus. The Messiah will be from Galilee (despite being born in Bethlehem), he will be born during the Roman ascendancy, he will heal the deaf and the blind, and many more. Hopefully this list is sufficient to reveal what is really transpiring in the mind of those who try to use the Old Testament to claim that Jesus did not fulfill the messianic expectations.
It is particularly appropriate to think of these things as we enter the Christmas season. Whether this is a real "Christian" holiday may be debatable, but it is at this time that many celebrate the fulfillment of so many messianic expectations, including the virgin birth, the birth in Bethlehem, the escape into Egypt and many others.
Merry Christmas from San Diego, John Oakes