A Critical Book Review By Gerald Sigal
Future Hope: A Jewish Christian Look at the End of the World – By David Brickner. San Francisco: Purple Pomegranate Productions. 1999. 154 pages.
Among evangelical Protestants “end of this world” predictions have been big business for centuries. It has spawned thousands of denominations, sects, and cults. It gives hope to millions. In a sense, it is a continuation of an expectation as old as Christianity itself. The parousia, the “second coming” of Jesus, provided an explanation for the failure of an individual that some people professed to be the “messiah.” It allowed his followers to continue to believe in his mission and of the mission of others after him. Predictions and descriptions of doomsday abound, as do the revisions of timetables once the predicted date has passed.
David Brickner’s volume, Future Hope, falls into the category of books about the imminent end of the world, but it sets no specific date for the return of Jesus. His expectation is for Jesus to return “shortly.” It combines fact and fiction to create a make-believe “prophetic” promise with which to prey on the minds and pocketbooks of the gullible.
Before discussing some of the fictions in the book let us clarify one fiction about the author. The author, executive director of the Jews for Jesus missionary organization, is described in the foreword as “a fifth generation Jewish believer in Jesus” (vi). To be exact, on his mother’s side (which is where one traces his/her “Jewishness”), he is, in reality, a fifth generation Christian.
In his foreword to this volume, Lon Solomon writes, “David believes that it is appropriate for Jewish people to personally investigate the claims of Jesus whether or not the rabbis say it is acceptable to do so” (p vi). Well, let’s do exactly that. Let’s “personally investigate the claims of Jesus,” using Brickner’s Future Hope as a source book.
In a section entitled, DO THE MATH (pp. 18-20) Brickner describes Daniel 9 as “a prophecy with . . . astounding implications.” What he does with this prophecy is not only astounding but outrageously deceptive as well. He takes Daniel’s Seventy Weeks prophecy (Daniel 9:25-27) and explains it based on mistranslation and manipulated calculations. He makes it appear as if this passage predicted precisely the coming of Jesus into Jerusalem just prior to his execution. He also hints as to when Jesus will allegedly return. There are a number of ways in which Brickner’s rendering attempts to mislead the reader:
In verse 25, he translates mashiach nagid, “an anointed one, a prince,” incorrectly as “Messiah the Prince.” The Hebrew does not have a definite article prefix nor is one grammatically justified. Moreover, the word mashiach is never used in the Hebrew Scriptures as a proper name, making it additionally deceptive to capitalize what should be read as “an anointed one, a prince.”
n verse 25, he also completely disregards the punctuation that separates the “seven weeks” from the “sixty-two weeks,” which clearly indicates that there are two separate time periods. Further indication that these are two separate periods comes from verse 26, which reads “the sixty-two weeks.” The use of the definite article, “the,” separates the “sixty-two” weeks period from the “seven weeks” period.
Once again, in verse 26, Brickner renders “an anointed one” as “Messiah,” with a capital “M.” As a result, any reader who does not know the Hebrew text is again led to believe that mashiach is to be rendered as a proper name.
In verse 26, the words v‘ayn lo are incorrectly translated as “but not for himself,” in order to give them a Christological significance. The correct translation is “he has nothing” or “he shall have nothing.”Using these distortions of the original passage Brickner artificially combines two distinct periods, enabling him to fabricate a claim that Jesus was “cut off” after sixty-nine weeks (483 years).
In “Appendix 2 Daniel’s Seventy Weeks” (pp. 132-133) he claims that the period covered by the fabricated sixty-nine weeks covers a period from “March 5, 444 B.C. plus 173,880 days=March 30, A.D. 33.” He derives the number of days by multiplying 69x7x360=173,880 days.” But where did the number 360 come from? What Brickner never mentions is that the number 360 come from the number of days attributed to a bogus non-biblical, nonexistent “prophetic year.” Brickner maintains, “This is exactly the time frame when Y’shua died on a Roman cross” (p. 19). What he does not tell his readers is that if he didn’t use the fictitious “prophetic year” his starting date of 444 B.C.E. plus 483 years would come out to the year 38 C.E. This is five to eight years after the supposed death of Jesus. The text of verse 26 says “and after sixty-two weeks the anointed one shall be cut off,” not before as alleged for Jesus.
In true missionary fashion, the blame for Jews being unaware of the implications that Brickner reads into the text is placed on Jewish religious leaders. “It is perplexing,” he writes, “to consider why so many have overlooked a prophecy with such astounding implications. One explanation is that the rabbis have told us not to calculate the time of Messiah’s coming (Sanhedrin 97b)” (p. 20). (The obvious answer to Brickner is that one cannot “overlook” that which doesn’t exist.) Indeed, to see what Brickner has done with this passage we can understand and appreciate the rabbis’ deep insight.
But, there is something that needs to be pointed out here. If all one had to do is DO THE MATH. If Jesus is so clearly and mathematically presented as coming on a specific date as “Messiah the Prince” it is, indeed, “perplexing” that no Christian Bible author uses this passage from Daniel to show that Jesus must come sixty-nine weeks (483 years) from 444 B.C.E.? Moreover, there is not one single word in the Christian Bible concerning a 360-day “prophetic year.” There is not one reference to “Messiah being cut off, but not for Himself” from this passage being predicted anywhere in the Christian Bible. Imagine what an impact it could have made in the first century if such a thing did exist!
And what of the seventieth week (seven years)? Brickner writes, “We don’t know exactly when this Great Tribulation is going to begin, but we do know how long it will last: seven years” (p. 18). After this seven-year period Jesus is supposed to return. But, what did the Christian Bible say in the first century about Jesus’ return: “For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (Hebrews 10:37). Was the “second coming” supposed to be in the far distant future? Jesus is credited with saying, “I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:20). Indeed, the Christian Bible says that Jesus told his contemporaries that “there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death at all until they see the kingdom of God having come with power” (Mark 9:1). The “second coming” never happened as promised.
The truth is, Brickner’s book is really nothing new, nor are his arguments. While there is hope for the future, Future Hope does not offer it.