[editor’s note: This is a paper submitted by Drew Tacher, who is one of the students in our ARS Apologetics Certificate Program.  It was sufficiently well done that we wanted to publish the paper for your benefit.  If you are interested in the program, click on the appropriate link at the front page of the site.]

Responding to Jewish Disbelief of Jesus as the Messiah

At the crux of the divide between Christianity and Judaism lies the belief (or lack thereof) in Jesus of Nazareth being the Messiah. Jews currently are awaiting their savior to come, while Christians believe that the savior has already come in the form of Jesus. Jews and Christians share holy scripture in the Old Testament, made up of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, that prophesies of a Messiah to one day come and save us. However, Jews and Christians disagree on the interpretation of many of these prophecies, leading to a split view in what the Messiah will do and how the prophecies will be fulfilled. As with any debate, for one who has already made up their mind that Jesus is not the Messiah, no amount of evidence will change it. However, with an open mind, the evidence will speak for itself.

It is important to understand the vision of the Messiah that the Jews were expecting leading up to the time of Jesus. This accepted picture would shape their view against Jesus as the Messiah. The Jews had been in and out of captivity and slavery for centuries, and had been heavily oppressed. Because of this, they had been scattered across Mesopotamia and the current-day Middle East before a handful of them made it back to Israel. In part due to their past, the Jews were, and still are, expecting a ruling Messiah that would start a revolution that ends in peace. He would be a glorious leader that would bring back all the Jews to the land of Israel and unite humanity as one under the God of Israel. So, by the time of Jesus, the idea of the Messiah had become greatly publicized to the Jews; they wanted delivery from the oppression of Rome. The victorious aspects of the Messiah came to the forefront of the minds of the people, and the sufferings of the Messiah took a backseat to the deliverance they were seeking.

However, the Messiah that came was quite different than what they had expected, and in this we find one of the major causes for disagreement. Not only this, but the Jews have had many false Messiahs come to them throughout the years. One of the most notable being Bar Kochba who led a revolt against Rome in the years 132-135 AD[1]. Another is Sabbatai Zevi, a Sephardic Rabbai from Turkey who claimed to be the true Messiah in the 16th century AD.[2] There are more examples of false Messiahs before Jesus’ time, as well, who have created skepticism among the Jews.

Why Jews don’t believe in Jesus

Although we cannot speak for all of Judaism, most Jews have three main reasons for not believing in Jesus as the Messiah: Jesus didn’t fulfill the Messianic Prophecies, Jesus did not meet the qualifications for Messiah, and there are mistranslated verses that refer to the Messiah.

  1. Jesus didn’t fulfill the Messianic Prophecies

Most of the discrepancy comes down to the interpretation of the Messianic prophecies. Jews take a more literal approach in their interpretation of what the Messiah would do. The Jews’ history, mixed with a literal interpretation of many of the prophecies, yields a view that Jesus did not fulfill many Messianic prophecies. Here are some examples of this type of disconnect:

  1. The Bible says that the Messiah would bring peace to the world, as it says: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall man learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:1-4, 32:15-18)
  2. The Messiah will bring about universal recognition of God (Zephaniah 3:9, Amos 9:13-15).
  3. The Messiah will build the third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26-28).
  4. The Messiah will gather all the Jews back to the Land of Israel to unify them (Isaiah 43:5-6)
  5. All people will come to God and know him (Jeremiah 31:33-34, Zechariah 14:9)

If we were to take these passages as literally as possible, then it is obvious that Jesus did not fulfill them. Jesus did not bring absolute peace and stop all war; Jesus did not literally make God known to every human at that time; Jesus did not physically build a third Temple as the Jews knew them; Jesus did not bring back every Jew to Israel; and Jesus did not bring about a world where every living human came to God and knew him. Some Christians believe that Jesus will even fulfill some of these more literally at the second coming, but Jews don’t believe in a second coming of the Messiah. So, to the Jew who sees Messianic prophecy through this lens, they would never believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

  1. Jesus does not meet the qualifications for Messiah

In addition to fulfilling Messianic prophecies, the Messiah also had some qualifications for being authentic. There are four main qualifications that Jews believe Jesus did not fulfill:

  1. Jesus was not a Prophet: The Bible states that the Messiah must clearly be a prophet (Isaiah 11:2, Deuteronomy 18:15-19). Jews believe that Prophecy can only exist in Israel when the land is inhabited by a majority of world Jewry. This situation has not existed since around 300 BC, and thus prophecy had ended at that time. Jews believe that since the Messiah will bring back all Jews to Israel, he will then again be able to prophecy.
  2. Jesus was not a descendent of David: The Bible states the Messiah will be a descendent of David (Isaiah 11:1-9, 2 Samuel 7:12-16). Jews believe that the Messiah must be descended on his father’s side from King David. Joseph, Jesus’ father, descended from King David but did contribute DNA to Jesus due to the miraculous virgin birth from Mary.
  3. Jesus was not born of human parents: Many Jews now believe that the Messiah will be born of human parents. Jesus was born of a miraculous birth from Mary through the Holy Spirit and thus cannot be the Messiah. They get this notion from the Maimonides – Laws of Kings 11:3[3]. (Moses ben Maimonides (1135-1204 AD) was a Sephardic Jewish philosopher who is one of the most prolific Torah Scholars and Rabbi. He created writings on Jewish Law that are now largely followed and accepted by Jews[4].) It also states here that the Messiah will not have supernatural powers, resurrect the dead, or perform similar deeds, and that every generation has an individual with the capacity to step into the role of Messiah.
  4. Jesus did not keep Torah Observance: Jews believe that according to Deuteronomy 12:1-4, the Messiah must keep Torah Observance, and any Prophet that does not keep Torah Observance is false.
  5. Mistranslated verses referring to Jesus

Jews use the original Hebrew text when reading scripture, and they believe that this is the only way that that the Biblical verses can be understood. The two main scriptures that Jews claim are misunderstood or incorrectly translated are Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 53.

  1. Isaiah 7:14 – “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and[c] will call him Immanuel.”. Jews claim that the word virgin here was changed by Christians hundreds of years after Jesus had died. The word alma, referring to the word virgin, in Hebrew meant a young woman of child bearing age. Jews accord this as Jesus’ birth following the pagan traditions of humans being impregnated by gods.
  2. Many Jews today believe that the “suffering servant” that is claimed to be a prophecy about Jesus is actually referring to chapter 52 of Isaiah that is about the exile and redemption of the Jewish people. They say that Isaiah 53 is singular because the Jews are one people. Jews claim that the redemptive end of Isaiah 53 describes a time yet to come when Jews will be redeemed and the people who wronged them will recognize and accept responsibility for their suffering. It should be noted, however, that all Jews believed this to be a Messianic Prophecy before Jesus came.

Responding to the Jews’ Criticism

                Responding to most of the Jews’ disbelief described above can be easily done when the nature of these prophecies is understood. Many of these prophecies are more easily understood once the New Testament is understood as well.

Part I

  1. The Bible says that the Messiah would bring peace to the world, as it says: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall man learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:1-4, 32:15-18)
    • Jesus did come bringing messages of peace. He even rebukes his disciple when he draws a sword in the garden of Gethsemane to defend Jesus at the time of his arrest. The words “Christ” and “peace” are found together in the same verse over 24 times in the New Testament, signaling that the followers of Jesus knew he preached peace.[5] In addition, in the second coming of Jesus he will judge between the nations and eternal peace will be established.
  2. The Messiah will bring about universal recognition of God (Zephaniah 3:9, Amos 9:13-15).
    • This will be fulfilled at the second coming of Jesus, not at the first, physical, coming. However, Jews fail to recognize this.
  3. The Messiah will build the third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26-28).
    • Jesus destroyed the temple and rebuilt it through his death and resurrection. He brought in the new covenant and brought about a new heavenly temple where we can commune with God instead of through a physical temple. Under God’s new Covenant, we do not need a physical temple to commune with him, but instead can commune with him anywhere because Jesus acts as God’s temple living in us.
  4. The Messiah will gather all the Jews back to the Land of Israel to unify them (Isaiah 43:5-6)
    • Jesus did indeed bring back the Jews to Israel. The Jews expected it to be in a different manner and misinterpreted what this meant. Jews expected for this to be a physical manifestation and that the Messiah would physically overtake Jerusalem for the Jews and reign as physical king. However, Jesus says that his Kingdom is not of this world. Jesus did in fact bring Jews back to Israel, but did so in bringing them to a spiritual Israel, not a physical one. We know that God told the Jews through Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31 that he would establish a new covenant that is a spiritual one, but the Jews fail to recognize this scripture.
  5. All people will come to God and know him (Jeremiah 31:33-34, Zechariah 14:9)
    • Again, this is fulfilled at the second coming of Jesus. Every knee will bow and every tongue shall confess. In Revelation it tells of every creature in heaven and on earth seeing the LORD and will give an account of Jesus. Jesus also made it possible for every person on earth to know God by giving access to both Jews and the Gentiles.

Part II

  1. Jesus was not a Prophet
    • Jesus was most certainly a Prophet. The people in his time even widely considered him a prophet (John 4:19, Luke 7:16). A Prophet is a mouth of the LORD and speaks for God (Exodus 7, 2 Samuel 24), prays for the people (1 Samuel 12), and is anointed by God (Jeremiah 1). Jesus fulfills these in the New Testament while performing numerous miraculous acts. The notion that prophecy could only exist in Israel when the land was inhabited by a majority of world Jewry is also nonsense. Prophets existed while Jews were in captivity and while other nations inhabited their land in the Old Testament. This is another extrapolation from Maimonides that has crept its way into some current day Judaism.
  2. Jesus was not a descendent of David
    • Jesus did descend from David through both his father Joseph. Mathew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38 give genealogies of Jesus that attest to father’s lineage. Although Jesus did not physically descend from Joseph, he was his adopted son and certainly was not disqualified from being descended from David. In addition, if the Jews’ don’t believe in the miraculous birth, then they believe by default that Joseph did contribute DNA to Jesus. Thus, either they believe he was birthed miraculously or that he did in fact descend from David physically.
  3. Jesus was not born of human parents
    • This is true; Jesus was born of a miraculous conception through the Holy Spirit and his mother Mary. However, it doesn’t say anywhere in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be born of human parents. In fact, it says the opposite in Isaiah 7:14: “…[t]he virgin will conceive and give birth to a son…”. Maimonides’s Mishneh Torah is considered by Jews today as one of the chief authoritative codifications of Jewish Law and Ethics[6]. This extends to Jewish philosophy, as well. In medieval times, many of Maimonides’ followers sought to apply his views in ways that undercut traditional Jewish beliefs. His thought continues to influence observant Jews even today. However, the Bible is the final authority, and this notion of being born solely to human parents is nonsense.
  4. Jesus did not keep Torah Observance (wasn’t a Jew)
    • Jesus was a Jew throughout his life, and he even had his earliest followers continue to follow Jewish Law. Jesus did not abolish the Jewish Law, but fulfilled it.

Part III

  1. Isaiah 7:14
    • Jews believe that Isaiah 7:14 was mistranslated and that the word for virgin is incorrect. The Hebrew word alma is used in this verse, and it doesn’t have an exact Greek or English translation. It most likely means either a young woman or virgin. It almost certainly means a woman who has not yet given birth. However, at least by the end of the 2nd century BC, we had Jews that translated the Hebrew word into the Septuagint in Greek as virgin. This tells us that the Jews back then believed this prophecy referred to a virgin. Although this prophecy is somewhat ambiguous, we have reason to believe it is about a miraculous virgin birth of the Messiah.
  2. Isaiah 53
    • Isaiah 53 is surely a prophecy about the Messiah. Firstly, the earliest Rabbi commentaries such as the Zohar, Midrash Rabbah, and commentary of 2nd century Rabbi Jonathan ben Uzziel all depict Isaiah 53 as a prophecy of the Messiah. It is important to note that these are Jewish, not Christian, commentaries. Secondly, Jesus fulfilled every verse of this chapter of Isaiah roughly 700 years after it was written. To say that it was not about him despite the evidence that he fulfilled the whole prophecy is foolishly audacious. Rabbis in the middle ages pointed out that the noun of the prophecy is singular, and attested this to the prophecy being about the Messiah[7]. Even Maimonides attested this prophecy as Messianic. Lastly, if this is talking about the Jewish people, there are 3 inconsistencies that are easy to see. The Jewish people were never “cut off from the land of the living”. In fact, God promises in Jeremiah 31 that Israel will live forever. Also, in verse 8 it says “for the transgression of my people he was stricken. If verse 8 is referring to Israel, then how can “my people” and the singular “He” both be referring to Israel? It doesn’t make sense. In verse 9 it says the servant “had done no violence”, but Israel is not without sin. It is easy to see this passage is about Jesus.

Messianic Prophecies that Jesus fulfilled           

To begin the proof of Jesus as the Messiah, it is important to look at the vast number of Messianic Prophecies that he fulfilled. There is a wide variety of lists of the prophecies Jesus fulfilled and the exact number in those lists. Some lists will have one or two examples that are dubious as prophecies, and others will try to inflate the numbers a bit. A fair number is somewhere around 353 prophecies in which Jesus fulfilled[8]. To save ourselves from dissecting 353 prophecies, below is a table of 23 of the most important Messianic Prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.

Prophecies of Jesus Old Testament
New Testament
1 Messiah would be born of a woman. Genesis 3:15 Matthew 1:20
Galatians 4:4
2 Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 Matthew 2:1
Luke 2:4-6
3 Messiah would come from the line of Abraham. Genesis 12:3
Genesis 22:18
Matthew 1:1
Romans 9:5
4 Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah. Genesis 49:10 Luke 3:33
Hebrews 7:14
5 Messiah would be a descendent of David 2 Samuel 7:12-13
Isaiah 9:7
Luke 1:32-33
Romans 1:3
6 Messiah’s throne will be anointed and eternal. Psalm 45:6-7
Daniel 2:44
Luke 1:33
Hebrews 1:8-12
7 Messiah would be called Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 Matthew 1:23
8 A massacre of children would happen at Messiah’s birthplace. Jeremiah 31:15 Matthew 2:16-18
9 A messenger would prepare the way for Messiah. Isaiah 40:3-5 Luke 3:3-6
10 Messiah would be rejected by his own people. Psalm 69:8
Isaiah 53:3
John 1:11
John 7:5
11 Messiah would be a prophet. Deuteronomy 18:15 Acts 3:20-22
12 Messiah would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Psalm 110:4 Hebrews 5:5-6
13 Messiah would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. Psalm 41:9
Zechariah 11:12-13
Luke 22:47-48
Matthew 26:14-16
14 Messiah’s price money would be used to buy a potter’s field. Zechariah 11:12-13 Matthew 27:9-10
15 Messiah would be falsely accused. Psalm 35:11 Mark 14:57-58
16 Messiah would be silent before his accusers. Isaiah 53:7 Mark 15:4-5
17 Messiah would be spat upon and struck. Isaiah 50:6 Matthew 26:67
18 Messiah would be hated without cause. Psalm 35:19
Psalm 69:4
John 15:24-25
19 Messiah would be crucified with criminals. Isaiah 53:12 Matthew 27:38
Mark 15:27-28
20 Messiah’s hands and feet would be pierced. Psalm 22:16
Zechariah 12:10
John 20:25-27
21 Soldiers would gamble for Messiah’s garments. Psalm 22:18 Luke 23:34
Matthew 27:35-36
22 Messiah’s bones would not be broken. Exodus 12:46
Psalm 34:20
John 19:33-36
23 Messiah would resurrect from the dead. Psalm 16:10
Psalm 49:15
Matthew 28:2-7
Acts 2:22-32
24 Messiah would be killed in 33 AD Daniel 9:24-26 Matthew 27


Many of these prophecies are a matter of historical record, not just written in the Bible. It’s also important to note that many of these could not have been fulfilled by purposefully trying to fulfill it, such as being born in Bethlehem, being born when he was, or resurrecting from the dead. Even more, many of the above prophecies would be incredibly hard to arrange. For example, the Messiah being rejected by his own people (Isaiah 53:1-3), being betrayed by a close follower (Psalms 41:9), betrayed for 30 silver coins (Zechariah 11:12), being mocked and spat on (Isaiah 50:6), being crucified to death (Psalms 22), his bones not being broken (Exodus 12:46, Psalms 34:20), buried in a rich man’s grave (Isaiah 53:9), and more. One could argue that these things could have been arranged since they occurred during his life. Nonetheless, arranging even one of these things to happen, let alone ALL of them and more, would be next to impossible.

In addition, some of the prophecies predict events that would occur in the future with incredibly accuracy. For example, my favorite Messianic prophecy in Daniel 9:24-26 predicted when the Messiah would be killed: “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.”

Daniel predicts in this prophecy that there would be a decree to rebuild Jerusalem, Jerusalem and the temple would be rebuilt, the Messiah would be killed, and that Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed again. Around 444/445 BC King Artaxerxes gave permission to the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. The Jews did so, Jesus was killed in 33 AD, and Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed about 40 years later.

Furthermore, Daniel correctly predicts when the Messiah would be killed. Firstly, where Daniel says, “cut off”, it is from the Hebrew Word karah which means to die violently. Daniel refers to the anointed one as the one being cut off. Daniel says there will be 7 “sevens” and 62 “sevens” – these “sevens” are periods of 7 years. The “sevens” are interpreted as periods of seven years because of the reference to the seventy years prophecy from Jeremiah in Daniel 9:2 where the Hebrew word shabuim appears which means a period of years. With a total of 69 “sevens”, we arrive at 483 years from the time the word went out to restore Jerusalem to when the anointed one would be killed. However, the prophetic calendar was 360 days (a month being 30 days). We know this from scriptures in Genesis that the flood lasted 150 days, and it began on the 17th day of the second month and subsided on the 17th day of the seventh month. So, if we take 483 years and multiply it by 360 prophetic days, we get 173,880 days. Dividing that number of days by the number of days in an actual year (365.25), we get about 476 solar years. We know from Nehemiah that in the month of Nisan in 20th year of Artaxerxes, who ascended to king in 465 BC, he decreed to Nehemiah to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. So, if the decree was given in the month of Nisan, our equivalent to early March, and in 444/445 BC this period of 476 years was to start. 476 years after 444/445 BC gives us either the spring of the year 32 or 33 AD; This is the same year when Jesus was crucified. As we see, some of these prophesies are incredibly accurate and would be impossible to falsely arrange the fulfillment of.

The question of Jesus being the Messiah comes with the largest implications possible. If Jesus is the Messiah, it has eternal implications. So, to both Jews and Christians, this question should be taken as seriously and open-mindedly as possible. By understanding where the Jews come from, we can better understand why they don’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Nonetheless, by looking into the interpretation of the scriptures and the evidence for Jesus, we can clearly see that Jesus fulfilled every Messianic Prophecy and requirement for being the Messiah. Jesus fulfilled an astounding 353 prophesies; the probability of fulfilling even 8 Messianic Prophesies is one in one hundred quadrillion[9]. Because of the overwhelming amount of prophecies Jesus fulfilled, the accuracy of their predictions, and the evidence that Jesus fulfilled these prophecies, there is no other conclusion than that Jesus is the Messiah.


[1] https://jewsforjesus.org/answers/what-proof-do-you-have-that-jesus-was-the-messiah/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabbatai_Zevi

[3] http://www.shamash.org/lists/scj-faq/HTML/faq/17-03.html

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maimonides

[5] http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=732

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maimonides

[7] https://jewsforjesus.org/issues-v13-n06/who-s-the-subject-of-isaiah-53-you-decide/

[8] http://www.accordingtothescriptures.org/prophecy/353prophecies.html

[9] http://christinprophecy.org/articles/applying-the-science-of-probability-to-the-scriptures/

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