How do we know that our Christian perspective of what the Jews thought isn't gross revisionism?
“Jews do not believe that Jesus was the moshiach. Assuming that he
existed, and assuming that the Christian scriptures are accurate in
describing him (both matters that are debatable), he simply did not
fulfill the mission of the moshiach as it is described in the biblical
passages cited above. Jesus did not do any of the things that the
scriptures said the messiah would do.”
I came across this passage in a book that I am reading. I wonder how you
would response to it. The author stated that the Messiah would not be
divine and that he would be a military leader. How do we know that our
Christian perspective of what the Jews thought isn’t gross revisionism?
A very good question. The person whom you quote is giving what is
the most common view of the Messiah for the Jews in the first century
AD. Although there was a fairly wide spectrum of ideas of the Messiah
amongst the Jews, the greatest number believed that the promised Messiah
would be a military leader who would lead the Jews to a time of
unprecedented glory and physical blessings. Many if not most saw the
Messiah as being a godly man, but not deity. If one can assume that the
common Jewish concept of the Messiah at the time Jesus was born was
correct, then the passage from which you quote is accurate.
The question, of course, is whether the common view of Jews of
their Messiah is a correct understanding of the Old Testament scripture.
The fact that the person you quote from doubts the actual existence of
Jesus as a real person shows that he or she has not done a very good study
of the historical record. Both the Jewish historian Josephus and the
Roman historian Tacitus fully acknowledge that Jesus was a real person.
Even the Rabbinical writers of the Talmud in the second and third
centuries do not deny that Jesus was a real person, although they clearly
deny that he was the Messiah.
In order to find out the true mission of the Messiah, one must
consult, not Jewish opinion in the first century AD, but the Old
Testament. Jesus certainly saw himself as the fulfillment and culmination
of all the prophecies of the Messiah. Luke 24:44 has Jesus saying
“Everything must be fulfilled that was written about me in the Law of
Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Isaiah 53 describes a Messiah who
will suffer at the hands of sinners–one who will be silent before his
accusers. Zechariah 11:12-14 describes a Messiah who will be sold for
thirty pieces of silver (the exact price given to Judas). Psalms 22:16-18
describes a Messiah who will be crucified and whose garments would be
divided and gambled over. The most well-known messianic prophecies to the
Jews were probably Micah 5:2 which describes him being born in Bethlehem,
and which also describes him as “ruler of Israel.” As well as Isaiah
9:1-7, which describes the Messiah as being from Galilee, and as ruling on
the throne of David. Both of these latter passages could fit the Jewish
concept of a Messiah who would rule as a physical king of a physical
Israel. On the other hand, they are beautiful descriptions of a spiritual
king of a spiritual Israel. Besides, Isaiah 9:6 describes a child who
will be “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of
Peace.” This clearly does not fit the description of the Messiah from the
person you quote, who does not see him as deity. If one takes all the
clear messianic prophecies together; including Micah 5:2, Isaiah 9,
Zechariah 11:12-14, Psalms 22, as well as dozens of other clear messianic
prophecies, one sees a figure who is born as a child, but who is
God-in-the-flesh. One sees a savior of Israel who nevertheless suffers
and dies for his people. The common Jewish view of the Messiah is quite
simply not consistent with the full range of messianic prophecies in the
Old Testament. This person is just plain wrong.
John Oakes, PhD