Question:

Hello Dr. Oakes. I recently have had the desire to study out the biblical support for Jesus being the Messiah and why the Jews don’t consider him to be the Messiah. I listened to a podcast by a Jewish Rabbi on the Trinity.  He talks about a few things: he referenced John 10 saying that the verse in the psalms Jesus quotes about “being gods” points towards the meaning of the word God in the Hebrew Scriptures beings different that how we would interpret the passage. He claims that the word in this context means a mighty warrior or strong individual because it uses people and calls them gods in the psalm.  He also analyzed Isaiah 9:6-7 saying that these verses are taking about Hezekiah because his name in Hebrew means mighty God. Therefore the verse is taking about him. He explains more but I am shortening it for the sake of my question.  Also, he uses Isaiah 37 to claim that these historical events are the fulfillment of Isaiah 9.   I want to consider both sides and their interpretations. How would you explain this verse?

Answer:

Jews who do not accept Jesus as their Messiah obviously have to find a way to explain away the Christian interpretation of a number of classical messianic passages. Their strategy tends to be to not consider the evidence for messianic prophecy as a whole, but to refute each Christian interpretation one at a time. Of course, Isaiah 9:1-7. As you know, this passage describes how God, who had humbled Zebulun and Naphtli (the part of Galilee immediately West of the lake where Jesus was raised) would, in future, honor Galilee. God continues to describe a child who will be born who will receive the government on his shoulders and who will be known as Wonderful Counselor, Might God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace, telling us that this child from Galilee will reign on David’s throne.

Remember that the job of the Jew is to refute claims that this is a reference to the Messiah. Yet, what passage in the Old Testament could more obviously be seen to be Messianic? It is true that the name Hezekiah means “one empowered by God”. However, it does NOT mean Mighty God. In fact, the claim that his name means mighty God is ludicrous. Can you imagine a Jewish person having as his name “mighty God”? That would be blasphemy! This is a rather blatant example of misinterpreting the fact to fit a pre-selected interpretation. In fact the Hebrew in Isaiah 9:6 is literally mighty (gibbowr) God (el). This prophecy is about a child born in Galilee who will take the throne, who will be a Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father, the Mighty Counselor and the Mighty God. Could this be applied to Hezekiah? Perhaps, but it would require a great deal of stretching of the passage. First of all, he certainly did not come from Galilee. He certainly did not honor Zebulun or Naphtali. He was not called any of the four things in Isaiah 9:6, nor do any of them fit him as well as they fit Jesus, who did come from Galilee, who did come as a king. Could Hezekiah be describe as a Prince of Peace? No way! He fought in many wars. Could Jesus be described as a Prince of Peace? The answer is rather obvious.

The interpretation you have read of Isaiah 9 is coming from a person who is reading his preconception into the passage rather than reading it our of the passage. Given what we know of Jesus and what we know of Hezekiah it becomes rather obvious that this is a highly biased interpretation.

As to his application of Isaiah 37 as fulfillment of Isaiah 9:1-7, in what sense is the saving of Judah and Jerusalem in 705 BC a fulfillment of a child from Galilee being called a Prince of Peace or Everlasting Father. Really…. Does the destruction of Sennacherib’s army fit the description of Isaiah 9:1-7? Personally I see absolutely NO parallel between these passages. On the other hand, the parallel between Isaiah 9:1-7 and the person we know as Jesus of Nazareth is stunning.

This author is trying to use John 10::34 to prove that in Isaiah 9:6, with its use of the phrase Mighty God is actually talking about a powerful person. Really…. What does John 10:34 have to do with Isaiah 9:6? In John 10:34 Jesus is claiming to be God. He is using Psalm 82:6 as a kind of sarcastic challenge to the Jews who want to reject his claim to be God. How a person can use this passage to “prove” that the “Mighty God” reference is to a powerful leader rather than God is beyond me. I think we can fairly dismiss this interpretation!

The claim that a prophecy of a child who will be born–a child who will honor Galilee of the Gentiles–a child who will be Prince of Peace and Mighty God applies better to Hezekiah than it does to Jesus is to prove that one is extremely biased and presuppositional in approach–assuming the answer before asking the question. This is how I see it.

Remember that it is the entire case which should be considered. We should not be intimidated into only considering one passage at a time. The case for Jesus being the fulfillment of the well-known (even to the Jews) messianic prophecies is strong indeed. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zech 9:9), he was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12), he was born in Bethlehem Ephrethah (Micah 5:2), he was pierced in his hands and his feet (Psalms 22:16), he was despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:3) and pierced (Isaiah 53:5), he came to Jerusalem to be anointed Messiah in about AD 30 (Daniel 9:25) and many more. It is the overall case, not an effort to explain away any one passage which establishes beyond all reasonable doubt that the messianic passages point to Jesus of Nazareth, about whom each of these passages fits with mind boggling precision.

John Oakes

Comments are closed.