Transcript For How To Answer A Christian Missionary Step-by-step Biblical Refutations
Audio Recording By Rabbi Michael Skobac, Director of Education and Counselling for JEWS FOR JUDAISM (Canada)
Maybe you have a neighbour who’s been telling you that ever since he became a Christian his life as improved dramatically. Or there’s someone at work who’s been giving you literature trying to prove the truths of the Christian faith.
This tape entitled How to Answer a Christian Missionary has been prepared by Jews for Judaism to equip Jewish people with responses to some of the issues that are raised by Born Again Christians.
The central teaching of Christianity is that Jesus of Nazareth was the Jewish Messiah. In order to understand why Judaism has consistently rejected this claim for the past 2,000 years, we first have to understand what is the Messiah. Just like in order to know whether or not your friend is loquacious you have to know the meaning of that word, we must also know what the Messiah is, what the Messiah is supposed to be, before we can understand whether or not someone actually is the Messiah. The word Messiah is an English rendering of the Hebrew word Moshiach, whose correct translation is “anointed”. In the Bible it usually refers to someone who has been initiated into G-d’s service through the ceremony of being anointed with oil. In the Bible, every Jewish king and high priest was anointed with oil and, therefore, they may be referred to as an anointed one or a Messiah.
For example, in the first book of Samuel, Chapter 26, King Saul is referred to as G-d’s Messiah. In the 45th chapter of the Book of Isaiah, Cyrus, the king of Persia, is referred to as G-d’s Messiah. What we see is that in the Jewish bible the word Messiah is used generically to refer to anyone who is anointed.
Now, I might tell you that my brother is president of his chess club and my sister is president of her stamp club and my father is president of his glee club, but this morning I received a phone call from the president, you’re quite aware of who I’m talking about. Now, we see that the word Messiah is used throughout the Bible to refer to anyone who is anointed. But what does the Bible teach about The Messiah? And here we run into a problem because the Hebrew word HaMoshiach, literally The Messiah, The anointed one, describing a future anointed person to come, never appears in the Bible.
This being the case, how did Jewish people derive their concept of the Messiah? Now, one of the central themes of Biblical prophecy is the promise of a future age of perfection which will be characterized by universal peace and universal recognition of G-d. For example, in the second chapter of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet speaks about a time in the future when the nations will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation.
Neither shall they learn war anymore. In the third chapter in the Book of Zephaniah, the prophet speaks about a time when G-d will turn to the peoples a pure language that they may all call upon the name of G-d to serve him with one consent.
Now, among the hundreds of prophecies in the Bible that speak of this future age of perfection, there are several passages which specifically mention an individual, a descendant of King David, who will be the ruler of Israel during this age of perfection. For example, in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet speaks of a descendant from Jesse, who was the father of King David, and says that the spirit of G-d will rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding. And with righteousness he will judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the land. And the wolf will dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid and they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the sea.
In the 23rd chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, the prophet says: Behold, Day is come, says G-d, when I will raise to David a righteous descendant and he shall reign as king and prosper and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. And in his days Judah will be saved and Israel shall dwell securely.
The prophet Ezekiel in his 37th chapter says that my servant David shall be king over them and they will all have one shepherd. They shall also walk in my ordinances and observe my statutes and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given to my servant Jacob where your fathers dwelt and they shall dwell therein, they and their children and their children’s children forever. And David my servant shall be their prince forever. And I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant. And I will establish them and multiply them and I will set my sanctuary in the midst of them forever. My dwelling place also shall be over them and I will be their G-d and they shall be my people. And the nations shall know that I am the Lord that sanctifies Israel and my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them forever.
Now, in the entire Bible this is the only description of any descendant of David who is to come in the future. And since every king is a messiah, by convention Jewish people refer to this future king as The Messiah. And because no person has ever fulfilled the picture painted in the Bible of this future king, Jewish people still await the coming of the Messiah. All past messianic claimants, including, Jesus of Nazareth and Shabtai Zvi among others, have been rejected.
It’s interesting that the Bible never speaks about believing in the Messiah. No one today would tell you that they believe George Bush is president of the United States. People don’t believe that. They know that he’s the president. He won the election. He’s sitting in the White House. It’s a verifiable fact. It’s not an article of faith.
Similarly, because the reign of the Jewish king will be a historically verifiable reality, a clear and self-evident reality to any person, it won’t require belief or faith, and therefore the Bible never speaks about believing in the Messiah. Many Christians ask Jewish people: “Well, how will you recognize the Messiah?” The answer is obviously quite simple. We will look out our windows, we’ll read our newspapers, and we’ll determine that the world indeed has entered into a new phase. There’s been a complete revolution in the history of the world. The entire world’s at peace for the first time ever. The entire world believes in G-d. The Jewish people have been restored to their homeland. The Temple has been rebuilt in Jerusalem. The person that fulfills those prophecies is the Jewish Messiah. Anyone who doesn’t fulfill those prophecies is not the Jewish Messiah.
I once had a discussion with a Christian missionary who tried to denigrate the Jewish people because they had faith in their rabbinic leaders. He explained to me that in the Talmud one of the greatest rabbis was Rabbi Akiva, and Rabbi Akiva had made a drastic terrible mistake by assuming that Bar Kochba, the Jewish general, was the Messiah. And during the time of Rabbi Akiva there was a revolution, a revolt, by the Jewish people against the Romans. And Rabbi Akiva at one point had suggested that Bar Kochba would indeed be the Jewish Messiah.
I asked this missionary how he knew that Bar Kochba wasn’t the Messiah, and he turned to me and said, “Well, it’s obvious, because he was killed by the Romans.” And as his face turned red he realized that’s precisely why the Jewish people didn’t accept Jesus Because he died without fulfilling any of the prophecies in the Jewish Bible. It’s possible to suggest that Jesus himself recognized that he wasn’t the Messiah.
According to New Testament accounts, as Jesus was dying on the Roman cross he cried out in desperate disappointment, “My G-d, my G-d, why have You forsaken me.” Christians will claim that Jesus will fulfill the Messianic prophecy when he returns. However, there are many problems with this second coming theory. First of all, the Bible never speaks about it. There’s no mention anywhere in the Bible about a Messiah who will return after an initial appearance. As a matter of fact, the passages that we examined which speak about the Messianic mission don’t speak about someone returning. They have a first coming perspective to them. Clearly, the second coming theory is a desperate attempt to explain away the failure of Jesus. Obviously, the idea that someone will return does not give them any credibility for their first appearance. So if someone were to claim that their grandfather was the Messiah, and their friends objected and said, “But your grandfather didn’t accomplish anything, he didn’t fulfill any of the Messianic prophecies” and the person says “That’s true, but you’ll see that when my grandfather returns he’ll accomplish everything.” Now obviously, there still is no reason to believe that this person’s grandfather was the Messiah the first time they were on the earth.
And finally, Jesus promised in the New Testament that he would return soon. He would come back during the lifetime of his disciples. And, indeed, followers of Jesus expected him to return imminently. The fact is that Jesus did not return during the lifetime of his followers and after almost two thousand years still hasn’t returned. It’s clear that the second coming theory is just that, nothing but a theory, wishful thinking on the part of Christian believers in Jesus.
Aside from the fact that Jesus didn’t fulfill any of the major Messianic prophecies, there are several other points worth bearing in mind. According to Jewish tradition based upon a passage in the third chapter in the book of Malachi, Elijah the Prophet will reappear before the coming of the Messiah. Behold, I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers.
This tradition was so strong that the writers of the New Testament felt that if, indeed, Jesus was the Messiah, then Elijah the Prophet must have reappeared before he came. Therefore, according to the gospel of Matthew, Chapter 11 and Chapter 17, John the Baptist was Elijah the Prophet.
Now, it’s certainly easy for New Testament writers to claim that John the Baptist was Elijah the Prophet, but we must examine whether or not that’s true. When we read through the New Testament, we find some problematic information. For example, in the first chapter in the gospel of John, the Jewish people ask John the Baptist, “Are you Elijah the Prophet?” And he responds “No, I am not Elijah the Prophet.” Christian apologists will try to get around this problem by claiming that even though John the Baptist was not Elijah the Prophet, John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah the Prophet. However, there are several problems with this claim. First of all, the Jewish bible predicted that Elijah the Prophet himself would return. It does not say that someone would come in the spirit of Elijah the Prophet. Secondly, when asked about his identity, John the Baptist didn’t claim any association at all with Elijah. He didn’t say, “No, I am not Elijah, but I’ve come in the spirit of Elijah.” He flatly denied being Elijah the Prophet. And thirdly, the prophecy about the return of Elijah the Prophet says that he would restore the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. There’s no indication that john the Baptist accomplished this prophecy at all.
There exists one other major problem for the Messianic claims made for Jesus of Nazareth. According to the Jewish bible, one of the central requirements for the Messiah is that he must be a descendant of King David. All of the major Messianic prophecies speak about the Messiah as a descendant of King David. In the thirty-third chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, G-d says that David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the House of Israel.
The New Testament spends almost two chapters to establish the genealogical record of Jesus as going back to King David. The problem is that when we examine the genealogical records, we find some critical problems. In the gospel of Matthew, the genealogy of Joseph, who was the husband of Mary, is traced back to King David.
However, Matthew then shoots himself in the foot by claiming that Joseph was never the father of Jesus. Matthew does this in order to establish his claim that Jesus did not have a normal birth but that Jesus was the product of a virgin birth, that Mary never had sexual relations with her husband Joseph, and that Jesus was conceived through the Holy Ghost and through Mary. And, therefore, since the genealogy as recorded in Matthew only traces Joseph back to King David but never connects Joseph as the father of Jesus, we see that Jesus has no genealogical record going back to King David. Christian apologists might answer that even though Joseph wasn’t the biological father of Jesus, he was the legal father of Jesus and, therefore, passed on his genealogical line through adoption.
There are several problems with this approach. First of all, there’s no indication from the Bible that it’s possible to pass on one’s genealogy through adoption. For example, a priest is someone who is born to another priest. If your father is a priest, then you’re a priest. There doesn’t seem to be any indication from the Bible that if a priest adopts a boy who is the son of a non-priest, that by adoption that child becomes a priest. Even if one would want to say that through adoption it’s possible to pass on genealogy, we have an additional problem. It’s only possible to pass on to a descendant that which you have. We find in Joseph in his genealogical line traces himself back to King David through a king of Israel named Jeconiah. The problem is that in the twenty-second chapter of the book of Jeremiah, this king is cursed by G-d. “Write this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days. For no man of his seed shall prosper sitting upon the throne of David and ruling any more in Judah. “We see from this passage in Jeremiah that any descendant of Jeconiah would be disqualified from ever being a Messianic candidate and, therefore, if Christians insist upon having Jesus a legal adoptive child of Joseph, then Jesus himself would be disqualified from ever even potentially being the Jewish Messiah. In order to answer this difficult problem, Christian apologists claim that Jesus also traces himself back to King David through his mother Mary. And the claim is made that Mary’s genealogy is shown to be traced back to King David in the third chapter of the book of Luke.
There are, however, four basic problems with this claim. Firstly, there’s no evidence from the book of Luke that Mary descends from David. The third chapter of the gospel of Luke is tracing Joseph’s genealogy. Mary isn’t mentioned at all. Secondly, even if Mary could trace herself back to David, that wouldn’t help Jesus since according to the Torah tribal affiliation and family genealogy can only be traced through the person’s father, never through his mother. For example, in the first chapter of the book of Numbers, Verse 18, we’re told the Jewish people declare their pedigrees after their families according to their fathers’ houses. Thirdly, even if it could be maintained that a family line could be passed on through the mother, Mary herself was not from a legitimate messianic family. According to the Bible, the Messiah must be a descendant of King David through his son Solomon.
It’s interesting that in the book of Matthew the genealogy of Joseph is traced back to King David through his son Solomon but ultimately down to the cursed King Jeconiah. However, in the book of Luke, the genealogy goes from David not through his son Solomon but through his son Nathan and then down. The problem is that even if one wants to maintain that the book of Luke is tracing the genealogy of Mary and that it’s possible to pass on genealogical lineage through the mother, Mary would still not be of help to Jesus because Mary’s line does not trace herself back to David through Solomon.
We see the requirement that the Messiah be a descendant of both David and Solomon in the second book of Samuel, Chapter 7, and in the first book of Chronicles, Chapter 17, 22, and 28.
Finally, a fourth problem presents itself. The third chapter in the book of Luke lists both Shialtzial and Zerubaval in the genealogy. These two also appear in Matthew, Chapter 1, as descendants of the cursed King Jeconiah. Therefore, if Mary descends from Shialtzial and Zerubaval, then it would also place her under the curse of King Jeconiah and she would be disqualified from ever being a messianic progenitor.
To recap, we’ve seen that Jesus failed to fulfill any of the major messianic prophecies. In addition, he was not preceded by the return of the prophet Elijah. And finally, he was disqualified from ever being a messianic candidate due to his pedigree.
Many missionaries may claim that Jesus was able to establish his rights to the Messianic throne through his performance of miracles. It would be appropriate at this time to examine the validity of this claim. First of all, there’s no reason to believe that any of the miracles claimed on behalf of Jesus ever took place. The only source of knowledge of these miracles is the New Testament, which was not written by historians but was written by Christian missionaries to convince people of the Messiahship of Jesus. Hardly unbiased witnesses. In addition, much of the New Testament has been shown to be historically suspect. For example, Pontius Pilate is portrayed as mild-mannered and cowering to the Jewish people, yet the historian Josephus and Philo portray him as a vicious bloodthirsty tyrant who is actually relieved of his office by the Roman high command for his brutality. Secondly, even if miracles did take place, they don’t prove anything. Pharaoh’s magicians, for example, in the seventh and eighth chapters of the book of Exodus, were able to replicate some of the miracles that Moses performed in Egypt.
It’s interesting that the Bible never says that miracles would be a way to identify the Messiah. And finally, the Bible actually predicted in the thirteenth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy that G-d would send false prophets who would be able to perform signs and wonders and miracles -to test the Jewish people’s fidelity to G-d. Christian missionaries often raise the issue of the resurrection of Jesus as a claim to his Messianic validity. Again, there’s no reason to believe that this ever took place since the only source for the occurrence of the resurrection of Jesus is the New Testament. It’s interesting that the gospel of Matthew claims that after Jesus was resurrected the bodies of many righteous Jewish people were resurrected from their graves and walked the streets of Jerusalem. This seems as credible as the claims of some people today who claim to have seen Elvis Presley alive or the scores of Catholics who claim to have personally seen the Virgin Mary. Just because something is claimed doesn’t mean that it’s true.
The much-touted shroud of Turin, which has been claimed to substantiate the resurrection of Jesus, was recently shown conclusively to be a fake. What’s more difficult is that even though the gospels are the only source of the resurrection, they each impeach the other’s testimony. Each of the four gospels tells a completely different account of the alleged resurrection of Jesus. For example, who first approached the empty tomb? According to the gospel of John, Mary Magdalene by herself approached the empty tomb. According to the gospel of Matthew, it was Mary Magdalene with the other woman named Mary. According to the gospel of Mark, it was the two Marys and Salome. According to the gospel of Luke, it was the two Marys and Joanna. What actually happened back then?
Who did they first see when they came to the tomb? According to the book of Matthew, they saw an angel sitting outside the tomb. According to the book of Luke, they saw two men sitting inside the tomb. According to the book of Mark, they saw one man sitting inside the tomb. According to the gospel of John, they didn’t see anyone at all. What actually happened at the resurrection?
Who first told Mary Magdalene about the resurrection of Jesus? According to the book of Matthew, it was an angel. According to the book of Mark, it was a man. According to the gospel of Luke, it was two men. And according to the gospel of John, it was Jesus himself.
Who did Jesus first appear to? According to the book of Matthew, it was to a joy-filled Mary Magdalene on the road. However, according to the gospel- of John, it was to a grief-stricken Mary Magdalene in the tomb itself.
What did the women do when they were informed that Jesus had risen? According to the gospel of Mark, they fearfully kept the news to themselves. According to the books of Luke and Matthew, they rushed to inform the disciples. We don’t get a straight story from any of the gospels.
Who did Jesus first reveal himself to and where? According to the books of Matthew and Mark, it was to the eleven disciples in the Galil. According to the book of Luke, it was to the eleven disciples in Jerusalem. And according to the gospel of John, it was to the ten disciples in Jerusalem.
Now, Christian apologists claim that the discrepancy between the four gospel accounts is similar to four different people who witness a traffic accident and will give slightly different reports because they’re seeing the event from four slightly different perspectives.
The problem with this explanation is that none of the gospel writers were eyewitnesses to the resurrection. And finally, Christians claim that the New Testament is the word of G-d. And G-d would hardly make a mistake in transmitting the story that happened. One of the most damning issues is that even in the New Testament accounts Jesus’s disciples didn’t recognize him when he appeared and many didn’t believe the reports that he was alive. Hardly information that would inspire us now to believe the story.
Finally, when Jesus was alive, the leading rabbis asked him for a sign. And in the twelfth chapter of the book of Matthew Jesus says that the only sign he would give them would be his own resurrection. However, Jesus never appeared before the Sanhedrin or the Pharisees. Certainly if he was supposed to be giving them a sign he should’ve appeared in his post-resurrection state to show the rabbis the sign that he had promised them. The only people that Jesus appeared to were to his followers. It certainly seems more reasonable to assume that the story of the resurrection was invented by the followers of Jesus who needed to explain away his embarrassing death at the hands of the Romans.
Another tactic employed by Christian missionaries is to try and demonstrate that all of their teachings are actually found in the Jewish Bible, in the Tanach. This is done for two reasons. First, having a source in the Jewish Bible would be an indication that what they believe is true. Secondly, missionaries are anxious to demonstrate that if a Jewish person accepts Christian teachings, he’s doing nothing, which is antithetical to Judaism. Therefore, if the missionary can show that belief in Jesus and accepting other Christian dogma can be found in the Jewish Bible, then the Jewish person is relieved of any guilt. He can feel at the same time that he can accept Jesus and Christianity and be consistent with Jewish teachings. This technique is called proof-texting. Finding biblical texts which prove what
One of the techniques that is used is to claim that the Jewish Bible contains hundreds of prophecies which predict the coming of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. It’s very frequent for Christian missionaries to claim that the Bible contains over three hundred such proof-texts, such prophecies, which point to Jesus. We saw before that the Jewish Bible never uses the word Messiah as a title for a particular person. Rather, the word messiah, anointed, is a description of anyone who is anointed with oil. The term The Messiah, we saw, never appears in the Jewish Bible in reference to someone who is going to come in the future. The Jewish concept, the Jewish notion of the Messiah, and the use of the word The Messiah to refer to that person, develops by looking at the passages in the Bible which speak of a future king who will come in the future and rule Israel at a time when the entire world is at peace and the entire world believes in G-d. Although the Bible never refers to that person as the Messiah, we by convention refer to him as The Messiah. Because as a king he’s anointed, he’s a Messiah. Since he’s the special anointed one to come in the future, we refer to him as The Messiah.
I once asked a missionary that if the word The Messiah never actually appears in the Jewish Bible, how could he be so sure that his three hundred plus verses actually refer to the Messiah and prophesize the coming of Jesus? The missionary told me that I was right. That he really couldn’t say for certain that any of those passages refer to the Messiah, but if they were put all together the picture that emerged would be clear.
In response to that I told him that three hundred times zero is still zero. You can’t take three hundred pieces of weak evidence and put them together and make them into strong evidence.
It’s often been said that Christian missionaries use the Jewish Bible much in the same way that a drunk makes use of a lamppost. Not so much for illumination but for support.
A story is told of a man walking through the forest and seeing a tree with a target painted on it. In the center of the target, exactly in the middle of the bull’s-eye, is an arrow. An incredibly accurate shot. There were no other arrows in the tree. No near misses. He walks further and sees another tree with one arrow stuck dead-center in the middle of a bull’s-eye. He continues walking and sees tree after tree, each one a bull’s-eye dead center. The man is astonished. He begins to search for the archer. He sees someone carrying a bow and arrow and quiver and stops him and says, “Did you shoot those arrows?” And the man says, “Yes.” And the first person says, “That’s the most amazing thing I ever saw in my life. I can’t believe how accurate you are.” And the man stopped him and said, “You shouldn’t be so impressed with my shooting. You see, first I shoot the arrow at a tree and then I draw the target around it.”
We’re going to see that this is precisely what Christian missionaries do when using the Jewish Bible to prove their beliefs. They didn’t study the Jewish Bible to see what it had to teach. Rather, they approached the Jewish Bible with preconceived conclusions and then tried to find support for those ideas, much in the same way that there was a verdict and then a trial in the story Alice and Wonderland. When we examine these Christian missionary proof-texts, we’re going to find that there are a number of flaws that are used in their arguments. Before we examine some of the common proof-texts that are used, we’re going to examine some of the typical mistakes that are made. The first problem that we need to be aware of is that many times Christians have invented verses out of whole cloth from the Old Testament. Meaning in order to prove that something was in the Jewish Bible, they would quote a verse as saying what they wanted to prove whether or not it actually existed. For example, in the second chapter in the gospel of Matthew, the story of the early years of Jesus is told, and the New Testament relates here that Jesus and his family had to flee from the land of Israel because Herod, who was ruling at that time, was seeking to kill him.
The gospel goes on to say that when Jesus’s family found out that Herod had died, they returned to the land of Israel and settled in a city called Nazareth. The New Testament claims that this happened in fulfillment of a prophecy from the Jewish Bible. The twenty-third verse in the second chapter of Matthew says: “And they came and resided in a city called Nazareth that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled ‘He shall be called a Nazarene’.” Now, as we saw before, the Jewish Bible will never have a verse, which says something like “And the Messiah will be called a Nazarene.” So the New Testament quotes a verse, which they say refers to the Messiah — “And he will be called a Nazarene”.
Now, the problem here is that if you search through the entire Jewish Bible you will find no verse which says anything about anyone being called a Nazarene. As a matter of fact, the city Nazareth is never mentioned at all in the Jewish Bible or in post-biblical Jewish literature. Clearly, this is a verse completely manufactured by the author of the book of Matthew to prove a point that he finds important. The twenty-seventh chapter in the book of Matthew tells the story of the demise of Judas, who allegedly betrayed Jesus to the Romans. According to the story as told in the book of Matthew, he began feeling terribly guilty and he threw the pieces of silver into the Temple and ran away and killed himself. The priests took the money and said that it wouldn’t be proper to take this money and to use it in the Temple and, therefore, it says that they took the money and bought a potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. The story goes on to say that for this reason the field had been called the field of blood and then in Verse 9, That which was spoken through Jeremiah the Prophet was fulfilled saying: “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one whose price had been set by the sons of Israel, and they gave it to them for the potter’s field as the Lord directed me.” Again, if you were to search through the entire book of Jeremiah or search through the entire Jewish Bible, you will find no such passage.
Let’s look at one more example of a verse manufactured by Christian missionaries. In the book of Hebrews in the New Testament, Chapter 10, a passage is quoted from the book of Psalms which is claimed to predict that G-d intended to sacrifice the Messiah. The Messiah should die as a sacrifice. The New Testament here claims to quote a verse from the fortieth chapter in the book of Psalms, Verse 7, and says: “Sacrifice and offering you have not desired but a body you have prepared for me.”
And the New Testament goes on to say that that body is the body of Jesus. Now, if you were to go back to the book of Psalms in the Jewish Bible and check Chapter 40:7, you’ll see that it says “Sacrifice and meal-offering you have no delight in. My ears You have opened. Burnt-offering and sin-offering-You have not required.” You’ll see there’s no reference in the Jewish Bible to a body being prepared. Aside from the fact that missionaries will frequently manufacture verses that don’t exist in the Jewish Bible, they will often frequently misquote or mistranslate verses from the Jewish Bible.
A famous example is from the twenty-second chapter in the Book of Psalms, Verse 17. The verse correctly translated reads: “For dogs have encompassed me. A company of evil doers have enclosed me. Like a lion they are at my hands and my feet.” In order to come up with what they feel is a reference to the crucifixion of Jesus, missionaries mistranslate this passage in the book of Psalms and read it “They have pierced my hands and my feet.” Now, the word in question in this passage is the word ‘ka’ari‘: which correctly translated is “like a lion.” And we find that this word appears in several places in the Bible. For example, in the thirty-eighth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, Verse 13, and even in non-Jewish or Christian translations of the Book of Isaiah it’s translated as “like a lion” and not “they pierced”.
We find that throughout the Book of Psalms David uses this metaphor of a lion to portray the enemies that are pursuing him. For example, in the seventh chapter of the Book of Psalms in Verse 3, David says: “Lest he tear my soul like a lion.” And even in the twenty-second chapter of Psalms that we were reading before, in the twenty-second verse David says: “Save me from the lion’s mouth.”
Another example of mistranslation or misquoting from the Jewish Bible is from the New Testament Book of Romans, Chapter 11:26 where the Christian Bible quotes the Book of Isaiah from the Jewish Bible as saying: “The deliverer will come from Zion and he will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” Now this is done to support the Christian view that the purpose of the Messiah is to take away our sins. However, if you look at the original passage in the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 59:20, it really says something quite different. There we read: “A redeemer will come to Zion and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob, declares the Lord.” So we see that the Messiah’s role is not to take away our sins but rather when we turn from our sins, when we repent, then the Messiah will come, which is a perspective quite the opposite of that taken in the Book of Romans.
Now, aside from completely manufacturing passages from the Jewish Bible or mistranslating them, another very common error that’s made by missionaries is quoting passages from the Jewish Bible out of context. For example, in the second chapter of the Book of Matthew which again discusses the infancy of Jesus, we saw before that Jesus and his family fled from the land of Israel and went down to Egypt. And the author of the Book of Matthew claims that all of this was in fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Verse 15 says that they were there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled saying:”0ut of Egypt did I call my son.” And the gospel is making the point that the Jewish Bible already predicted hundreds of years before that G-d would take the Messiah out of the land of Egypt and 6-d refers to the Messiah as his son.
Now, the Book of Matthew is quoting a passage from the Jewish Bible in the Book of Hosea, Chapter 11:1. And the problem is that when we read that passage in the Book of Hosea we see that it’s not a passage about the Messiah at all. Hosea says: “When Israel was a child then I loved him. And out of Egypt I called my son.” We see in this chapter of Hosea that the prophet is speaking about the Jewish people in their infancy. And G-d at that stage took them out of the land of Egypt. When Israel was a child, at that stage in their history, then I loved him, G-d says. And out of Egypt I called my son. And throughout the Bible we see that G-d refers to the Jewish people as his children, oftentimes as his son. For example, in the fourth chapter of the Book of Exodus, Verse 22, G-d says: “B’nai bechori Yisroel.” My son, my first-born son, is Israel.
The second chapter in the Book of Matthew from the New Testament provides us with another example of quotation out of context. The passage there says that Herod in his efforts to destroy the infant Jesus went to his hometown of Bethlehem and killed all the baby boys in the city of Bethlehem and all the outlying areas who were under the age of two. And the New Testament writer claims that this happened in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
Chapter 2:17 of Matthew says: “Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the Prophet was fulfilled saying ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning Rachel weeping for her children. And she refused to be comforted because they were no more’.” And here Matthew claims that the slaughter of these children at the hands of Herod was in fulfillment of a prophecy from the Jewish Bible in the Book of Jeremiah. Now, when we read the Book of Jeremiah, Chapter 31:15, we see that Matthew correctly quoted from that passage. However, in context we’ll see that Jeremiah was not speaking about the slaughter and the massacre of young children but something quite different.
There’s a famous statement in our Talmud that whenever a heretic quotes the Jewish Bible in order to make a point, the answer is usually nearby. Now, when we read the thirty-first chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, the simplest way of demonstrating the fallacy of Matthew’s interpretation is to read the verses that come after the one that he quotes. And there Jeremiah states in the sixteenth and seventeenth verses in response to the crying and weeping of Rachel, who is weeping for her children but refuses to be comforted, “Thus says the Lord. Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears for your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. And there is hope for your future, says G-d, and your children shall return to their own border.” We see from the Book of Jeremiah that the prophet was not speaking about children who were to be killed but rather children who were taken into captivity. And Jeremiah here is referring to the Babylonian conquest of the land of Israel and subsequently taking many many Jewish people into captivity to the land of Babylon. And Jeremiah predicts that these children will return to the land of Israel.
Now, it’s often possible when viewing a passage in context to demonstrate to a Christian missionary that the verse could not possibly be speaking about Jesus. For example, there was a pamphlet given out by missionaries for many many years entitled “Twenty-seven Prophecies Fulfilled in One Day.” The first of those passages is from the Book of Psalms, Chapter 41:10, which says: “Yes, my own familiar friend in whom I trusted who did eat of my bread has lifted up his heel against me.” Now, the missionary claim is that this is a prophecy which is predicting that the Messiah would be betrayed by a close friend.
Before actually analyzing this verse in the Book of Psalms, two questions need to be asked, First, is this passage even a prophecy? Generally speaking in the Jewish Bible, prophecies are written in the future tense. And many times prophecies are introduced with an introduction such as Behold, Days are coming, says the Lord. Or it will come to pass at the end of days, says the Lord. The passage in front of us is not written in the future tense but in the past tense. David is saying that he was betrayed by a close friend. So we always have to ask ourselves, are we actually reading a prophecy or is it a verse appropriated by Christian missionaries and turned into a prophecy?
The second issue is, are we actually reading a Messianic prophecy? What about the passage indicates that it’s speaking of the Messiah?
A good test for this is to place yourself in the shoes of someone living a hundred or two hundred years before Jesus and asking yourself what about this passage indicates that it’s a Messianic prophecy?
Let’s look at the forty-first chapter in the Book of Psalms. “How blessed is he who considers the helpless. The Lord will deliver him in a day of trouble. The Lord will protect him and keep him alive. And he shall be called blessed upon the earth. And do not give him over to the desire of his enemies. The Lord will sustain him upon his sick bed. In his illness you restore him to health. As for me, I said, O Lord, be gracious to me. Heal my soul for I have sinned against You. My enemies speak evil against me. When will he die and his name perish? And when he comes to see me he speaks falsehood. His heart gathers wickedness to itself. When he goes outside he tells it. All who hate me whisper together against me. Against me they devise my hurt saying a wicked thing has poured out upon him, that when he lies down he will not rise up again. Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. O You, O G-d, be gracious to me and raise me up that I may repay them. By this I know that You are pleased with me because my enemy does not shout in triumph over me. As for me. You uphold me in my integrity and You set me in your presence forever.”
Ask an honest missionary, Why would someone living a hundred or two hundred years before Jesus understand this psalm to be a messianic prophecy? What about the psalm indicates that it’s a messianic prophecy? You probably won’t get an answer further more, there’s indications in this psalm that for a Christian it certainly could never be referring to Jesus. In Verse 5 the speaker says: “As for me, I said O Lord, be gracious unto me, heal my soul for I have sinned against You.” The same person that in Verse 10 says that he was betrayed by a close friend says that he’s sinned against G-d. Christians believe that Jesus never sinned. How could this possibly be referring to Jesus?
Another example of a passage which in context could never refer to the Jesus that Christians believe in is from the New Testament Book of Hebrews, Chapter 1:5, which quotes a passage from the second Book of Samuel in the Jewish Bible, Chapter 7:14, which says: “I will be a father to him and he shall be a son to me.” And the New Testament takes this passage as a prophecy speaking about Jesus who they consider to be the son of G-d. However, when we look at the passage in the second Book of Samuel, it says that “I will be a father to him and he shall be a son to me,” and continues by saying “When he commits iniquity I will correct him with the rod of men.” Now, this passage in the Book of Samuel is a passage speaking to King David about his son Solomon. How could Christians possibly apply it to Jesus when the passage speaks about the possibility of this son sinning? And Christians believe that Jesus could never sin.
Finally, Christian missionaries often engage in circular reasoning. There are many passages in the Jewish Bible, which do speak about the coming of the Messiah. Christians believe that since Jesus was the Messiah, these passages must refer to him. Christians will say that they believe Jesus was the Messiah because he fulfilled biblical prophecy. But if you ask them to explain how they know that Jesus fulfilled those prophecies, they say because he was the Messiah.
Let’s look at a few examples. In the Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 18:18, G-d says “I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren like unto you and I will put my words in his mouth and he shall speak unto them all that I command him.” The first question here obviously is why would we consider this to be a Messianic prophecy. In context, the passage is speaking to the Jewish people and to Moses about the time after Moses dies G-d will raise up a prophet to lead the Jewish people after the death of Moses. The passage does not speak about a messiah that’s going to come in the future. It speaks about a prophet that will follow Moses.
Even if you allow for the Christian interpretation that this passage refers to the Messiah, all it would be saying is that in the future the Messiah would come. The passage doesn’t indicate that Jesus fulfilled that. Christians begin with the conclusion. They begin with the assumption that Jesus was the Messiah. And therefore if this passage says that the Messiah would come, according to Christians it must be referring to Jesus. Again an example of circular reasoning.
The final example is from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 11:2, which says: “And the spirit of the Lord will rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding.” Christians maintain that this passage refers to Jesus. However, the problem is that unless you first accept the Christian belief in Jesus, there’s no way of applying this passage in Isaiah to Jesus. Obviously, anyone could apply this passage to anyone that they believe the spirit of G-d rests upon. The followers of the Ayatollah might have applied this passage to the Ayatollah. The followers of Reverend Moon might apply this passage to Reverend Moon. Again, if you first shoot your arrow, it’s always very easy to score a bull’s-eye.
With this introduction to the field of Christian proof-texting, we can now take a look at some of the more popular passages that missionaries use to prove their beliefs to Jewish people.
One of the problems that Christians have with their proof-texts is that many of them become quite meaningless. They might bring a proof-text showing that the Messiah was supposed to ride on a donkey and that they show that Jesus rode on a donkey so he must be the Messiah. Or they’ll bring the proof-text that the Messiah was supposed to be betrayed by a close friend and Jesus was betrayed by a close friend, therefore he must be the Messiah. Obviously these are meaningless proof-texts because literally millions of people have ridden on donkeys. Millions of people have been betrayed by close friends.
So Christians have been forced to find prophecies which are a bit more unusual. If, for example, the Jewish Bible had said that you’d be able to recognize the Messiah because he’d have sixteen heads, he’d be forty-two feet tall, he’d have orange hair and nine thousand belly-buttons, then when that person came on the stage of history people would have a good reason to believe that he was the Messiah.
Missionaries have attempted to come up with such an unusual prophecy by their claim that the Torah predicted that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. Now, this is obviously a very unusual claim because the idea that someone is born to a woman who is a virgin is clearly unusual. And they base this prophecy on the seventh chapter in the Book of Isaiah, Verse 14, where it says: “Therefore G-d himself will give you a sign. Behold, the alma shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel.” Now, Christians claim that the word alma, the Hebrew word alma in this verse means virgin. And, therefore, they’re saying that the sign that G-d is going to give to us is the birth of the Messiah to a virgin.
The first problem here is one of a mistranslation. Again Christians claim that the word almais translated as virgin. However, the correct Hebrew translation of alma is a young woman or young maiden. The idea of alma refers to her youth and not to her sexual experience. The male counterpart of alma is elem which, even according to non-Jewish or Christian translations of the Jewish Bible, is rendered as a young man. For example, in the first Book of Samuel, Chapter 17:56 and the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 54:4, we find that the word elemis translated as a young man. Secondly, the Jewish Bible and the Hebrew language has a word which specifically does mean virgin and that’s the word betulah. And whenever the Jewish Bible is interested in specifically telling you that a woman is a virgin and not just that she’s a young woman, it will use the specific word betulah and not the more general termalma. And we see this, for example, in the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy and in Verse 3, Chapter 21 in the Book of Leviticus.
One of the arguments that Christian missionaries use to press their idea that the word almais translated as virgin is based upon the Greek translation of the Bible known as the Septuagint. Christian missionaries claim that this translation was rendered by Jewish rabbis two hundred years before Jesus and that when they translated the word alma in the Book of Isaiah into Greek, they translated it into the Greek word parthenos which they claim means virgin. And therefore, they say, it’s not they who translated the word alma as a virgin but the rabbis themselves hundreds of years before Jesus.
There are two main problems with this claim. The first problem is that the Septuagint translation that was done by the rabbis was only of the Five Books of Moses and not of the Books of the Prophets. We really don’t know who authored that Creek translation of the Prophets. Therefore, as far as Jewish tradition is concerned, the Septuagint translation, the Greek translation of the Prophets has no authority.
Secondly, if you were to look at the usage of the word parthenos in the Septuagint translation, you’ll find that it’s not that clear that it refers specifically to a virgin. For example, in the thirty-fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis, which is a story about the rape of Dinah who was the daughter of Jacob, the Bible refers to, or the Septuagint refers to Dinah as a parthenos after she’s raped. So, therefore, it’s not that clear that when the Septuagint uses the word parthenos it’s using it exclusively to refer to virgins.
The evidence for the Jewish translation of alma as a young woman as opposed to the traditional Christian mistranslation into virgin has been recognized by more and more Christian scholars over the years and we see that many many Christian bibles of late have been correcting the mistake and translating Isaiah Chapter 7:14 appropriately as referring to a young woman. We see this, for example, in the Revised Standard Version of the Christian scriptures, in the Jerusalem Bible put out by the Catholic Church, and by the Good News Bible.
A second area of concern regarding the virgin birth prophecy is the problem of context. Is this passage from Isaiah a messianic prophecy? Is there anything about it that would lead a person to believe that it’s speaking about the coming of the Messiah? Obviously, the only solution to this question is to read the entire chapter. Starting from Verse 1 we see that the seventh chapter of Isaiah is speaking about a very difficult time in the history of the Jewish people. Isaiah was prophesizing about six hundred years before the Common Era. And during his days there was a split in the Jewish people, between the ten northern tribes, which was called the kingdom of Israel or the kingdom of Ephraim, and the two southern tribes, which were called the kingdom of Judah. And these two kingdoms were at war for many, many, many years.
In the seventh chapter of Isaiah we’re told that there was a siege laid upon the kingdom of Judah by the northern kingdom of Israel and by the king of Aram, which was a non-Jewish country to the east of Israel. And the king of Judah, whose name was Achaz, who was a wicked king, was completely devastated by the impending attack of these two nations. He felt that the combined forces of the ten northern tribes of Israel and the eastern kingdom of Aram would destroy him. And, therefore, the prophet Isaiah is sent to King Achaz to console him and to tell him that all would be fine and he shouldn’t worry. And the prophet Isaiah tells him not just to take his word for it but to ask of a sign from G-d that things would be okay. And at first King Achaz refuses. So the prophet says that G-d will give you a sign. And what is the sign? The sign is that the young woman will conceive and bear a son and you shall call his name Immanuel. Now, the name Immanuel is significant because it means G-d is with us. The king might’ve thought that since he’s being attacked by two great nations he’s being abandoned by G-d. So G-d tells him no, G-d is with you.
The prophecy continues in Verse 15.”Curd and honey shall he eat when he knows to refuse the evil and choose the good. And before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings horrify you shall be forsaken.” The real sign that King Achaz is given here is that they’ll be a child born to the young woman. Verse 14 speaks about the alma, ha-alma. Obviously a woman who he knows. And this child will be just a young child before he even knows to distinguish between good and evil. The two nations that he’s in dread of shall be destroyed.
We see that the fulfillment of this prophecy takes place in the second Book of Kings, Chapters 15 and 16, where indeed the two nations that are threatening the kingdom of Judah are destroyed. Obviously when read in context, Isaiah Chapter 7 doesn’t speak at all about the coming of a messiah. Its context is limited to the historical realities facing the kingdom of Judah many hundreds of years before Jesus ever walked the earth.
It’s interesting that the passage in Isaiah says that this child will be named Immanuel. And nowhere in the Christian bible is Jesus ever called or named or referred to as Immanuel.
A third issue is the notion of a sign. The prophet here is promising a sign to King Achaz, the king of Judah. How would the virgin birth of Jesus hundreds of years later ever function as a sign, as a reassurance to King Achaz? But more specifically, how could a virgin birth ever even function as a sign that Jesus was the Messiah? In the gospel accounts, Joseph and Mary are engaged to be married and Joseph comes home and finds that Mary is pregnant. Realizing that he wasn’t the father, he suspects that Mary had committed some type of infidelity. Joseph doesn’t come home to see the pregnant Mary and say Praise G-d, you must be the mother of the Messiah. It’s obviously impossible for a virgin birth to function as a sign because it can’t be seen. No one could walk down the street during the time of Jesus and look at Jesus and say he was born of a virgin. And no one could look at Mary and realize that she was a virgin. Mary wasn’t walking around Palestine with a gynecological examination sticker pasted to her clothing. Obviously a virgin birth could never function as a sign.
It’s interesting that although there’s no source for the idea of a virgin birth of the Messiah in the Jewish Bible, the concept was very popular among pagan mythologies during the days of early Christianity. The stories about Buddha, Krishan, Mithra, Osiris, Tamusdanus (?), Dionysus, Bacchus, and Isis are replete with stories of virgin-born saviours who are killed and are resurrected to atone for the sins of their followers, and it’s clear that the idea that Jesus was born of a virgin stems from these pagan mythologies and not from the Jewish Bible.
At the time that Jesus was killed on a Roman cross, it became clear to the Jewish people of his time that he wasn’t the Messiah. But what happens to the people who had followed him for many many years? What happens to the people who put so much faith in the possibility that he would redeem them from the Roman oppression?
In a famous book written by Dr. Leo Festinger entitled “When Prophecy Fails”, the issue of a group of people facing a disconfirmation of their beliefs is dealt with. Festinger theorized that a group of people whose beliefs run up against radical and stark disconfirmation will, instead of giving up those beliefs, generally become more aggressive in trying to convert other people to those beliefs.
In the mid sixteen hundreds Shabtai Zvi was a Jewish person who attracted many many people to the belief that he was the Messiah. And his followers sold their homes and sold their possessions and were going to follow him back to the land of Israel where he’d become the king. On the way back Shabtai Zvi was captured by the Turks, thrown into jail, and forced to convert to Islam. It became clear to most of the Jewish world at that time that Shabtai Zvi wasn’t the Jewish Messiah. However, many of his followers who were not able to admit that they were deceived that they were wrong, ended up claiming that the person in jail was not the real Shabtai Zvi, the real one went up to heaven; the one in jail was just a fake and that the real Shabtai Zvi would soon come down from heaven and take them back to the land of Israel.
Similarry, the early followers of Jesus had to explain away his death at the hands of the Romans. Their explanation was that Jesus was supposed to die as an atonement for the sins of the world. This brings us to the most famous and most popular proof-text that’s used by Christian missionaries. And it’s the famous passage from the fifty-third chapter in the Book of Isaiah which is about the suffering servant of G-d.
Christians will point to verses 5 and 6, for example, as proof, they claim, that Jesus was the Messiah. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. The chastisement of our welfare was upon him and with his stripes we were healed. All we like sheep have gone astray. We turned everyone to his own way and the Lord visited upon him the iniquity of us all.” Obviously Christian missionaries have been attracted to this passage in Isaiah because it seems to resemble their concept of who Jesus was. However, when we examine the context of this chapter in Isaiah, there is no reason for us to assume that it’s a messianic prophecy.
It’s interesting that in the New Testament the followers of Jesus certainly didn’t understand it as a messianic prophecy. They had no concept at all that the Messiah was supposed to die as part of his plan. In the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, Jesus asks his disciples who he is. And Peter identifies him as the Messiah and Jesus congratulates him for getting the correct answer. However, when Jesus begins to tell them that he has to go to Jerusalem to be persecuted and tortured and killed, Peter protests strongly and says G-d forbid, this could never happen to you. Now, Peter doesn’t say to Jesus Praise G-d, You must be the suffering servant that Isaiah spoke about. Another important issue is that there’s no corroboration for the Christological interpretation of this passage in Isaiah.
We saw previously that the Jewish concept of the Messiah emerged organically from reading the entire Bible and finding many passages which spoke about a descendant of David who would become the king of Israel at a time when the entire world believed in G-d and the entire world was at peace.
The Christian understanding of the Messiah is that he’s supposed to die as an atonement for sin. One of the great weaknesses of this idea is that the entire concept is founded on the passage in Isaiah that we’re examining. There’s no corroboration for it anywhere else in the Bible.
Another idea is that the Christian concept here is based upon circular reasoning. Although they may claim that Isaiah 53 is speaking about the suffering of the Messiah, there’s no proof that Jesus actually suffered and died to atone for people’s sins. Although people might’ve seen Jesus dying and Jesus suffering, they believed, they think, that his suffering atoned for their sins. But again this is just a theory. There is no proof that he indeed actually did that.
Before we examine this chapter in Isaiah according to a Jewish perspective, we’ll look at a number of reasons why it’s difficult to make the claim that it’s speaking about Jesus.
Chapter 53:3 says that the servant would be despised and rejected of men. However, this is not consistent with the way Jesus is painted in the New Testament. According to the gospels Jesus was immensely popular. There were constantly multitudes of people following him. According to the Book of Luke, he was glorified and praised by all. According to the gospel of Mark, when he was finally taken away to be crucified it had to be done secretly because the rulers of the land feared a riot among the people.
Verse 3 in Isaiah also says that the servant was a man of pain and a man well acquainted with disease. There’s no indication and no proof in the gospels that this applied to Jesus at all. Although he might’ve experienced some pain during his hours of crucifixion, there’s no reason to believe and no indication from the New Testament that during his entire life he suffered and was well acquainted with pain and with illness.
The sense of the Hebrew is ish mach ovot , a man of pain, of constant pain, of continual pain. And Jesus doesn’t seem to fit this description from the Book of Isaiah. In verse 7 Isaiah says “He was oppressed though he humbled himself and did not open his mouth. As a lamb that is led to the slaughter and as a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, he did not open his mouth.”
This description doesn’t fit Jesus at all. In his trial before the Roman Pontius Pilate on charges of sedition, Jesus very cleverly defends himself. According to the gospel of John, Chapter 18:36, Jesus says: “My kingdom is not of this world.” His claim that he’s only setting up a spiritual kingdom is meant to defuse the situation so the Romans should have no fear of an armed rebellion from himself or from his followers. Later at the crucifixion Jesus protests and screams out, according to the gospel of Matthew, Chapter 27:48: “My G-d, my G-d, why have you forsaken me?” By mistranslating part of verse 8, Christian apologists try to create the impression that the servant in this passage is a singular person. However, the Hebrew in verse 8 says: Mi pesna ami negah lamoh. That according to the transgressions of my people, they were afflicted. The word lamoh in Hebrew is a plural form and it means they or them. And, therefore, it seems that according to this verse, at least, the people that are suffering are a people, a group of people, and not one individual.
According to verse 9, the servant did no violence, neither was there any deceit in his mouth. Now, from the accounts in the New Testament, this clearly doesn’t apply to Jesus. First of all, there were several acts of violence committed by Jesus. According to the gospels he came into the Temple with a whip in hand and chased out the moneychangers, turning over their tables. Chasing out people with a whip could hardly be construed as an act of non-violence.
In the twenty-first chapter of the gospel of Matthew, Jesus at one point is hungry and sees a fig tree on the road. He comes to it but finds no figs on it, only leaves. Getting angry, he says: “May there no longer be any fruit on you from now on.” And at once the fig tree withered.
This story becomes more difficult to understand in light of the fact that according to the gospel of Mark it wasn’t even the season for the growing of figs. And according to the Book of Deuteronomy in the Jewish Bible, Chapter 20:19, even in a time of war when waging a siege against a city, it’s prohibited to cut down a fruit tree because G-d said, Is the tree of the field a man that it should be besieged by you? It’s difficult, therefore, to understand how Jesus could curse the tree that it should never produce fruit, when if he was able to produce miracles he could’ve just as easily blessed the tree that it should produce fruit.
There’s another incident in the New Testament where Jesus unnecessarily kills an entire herd of swine.
In a parable from the Book of Luke, Chapter 19:27, Jesus says: “These enemies of mine who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.” Again, hardly a comment we would expect from someone dubbed the Prince of Peace.
Regarding Jesus’s deception and deceit, we have a number of examples. Throughout the New Testament Jesus is constantly telling people to keep certain things secret. They shouldn’t reveal that he was the Messiah. They shouldn’t reveal that he performed certain miracles. He constantly taught in parables that he explained he was doing so the people shouldn’t understand what he was talking about. However, when he’s brought up before the Roman trial, he says in the Book of John, Chapter 18:20 that I’ve always spoken openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the Temple where all the Jews could come together. I spoke nothing in secret.
Finally, in the gospel of Matthew, Chapter 26:52, Jesus says that all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. And we saw that in the gospel of John, Jesus claimed that his kingdom was a kingdom not of this world. It was a spiritual kingdom. However, in the gospel of Luke, Chapter 22:36, Jesus tells his followers: “Let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one.”
In the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, Verse 10, G-d explains how he will reward the servant. G-d says he shall see his seed, he will prolong his days. This clearly doesn’t apply to Jesus. Seeing his seed was a reference to having children and Jesus had no children. Christians might claim that it means spiritual children. However, in the Bible the word zerra, seed, only refers to physical children. When the Bible wants to refer to spiritual children, it uses the word banim, sons. For example, Banim atem laHashem Elokeichem. You are the sons of the Lord your G-d. The Bible doesn’t refer to the human beings as being the seed of G-d.
Also, Jesus’s days were not prolonged. He died at a relatively young age and, according to Christian theology, Jesus actually was G-d. And obviously it makes little sense to speak about prolonging the days of an eternal being. The traditional Jewish understanding of this passage in Isaiah is that it speaks about the history and destiny of the Jewish people.
There are several reasons for assuming that this passage in Isaiah is speaking about the Jewish people as a whole. First of all, the context of the surrounding chapters, 52 and 54, both deal with the Jewish nation. Secondly, if we’re looking for clues about the identity of the servant of G-d, we have many both in the Book of Isaiah and throughout the rest of the Jewish Bible. In the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 41, Chapter 43, Chapter 44, Chapter 45, Chapter 48, and Chapter 49, the servant of G-d is clearly identified as being the Jewish people. And if you’re wondering how this passage in Isaiah can refer to the nation of Israel when it seems to be speaking about an individual person, the answer is that throughout the Bible the Jewish people as an entity are spoken about as an individual person. We see this, for example, in the thirty-second chapter in the Book of Deuteronomy, in the eighth chapter in the Book of Hosea, verse 3, throughout the opening chapters in the Book of Exodus when the Jews are being persecuted — it refers to him being persecuted. And we see at Mount Sinai when the Jews are about to receive the Torah, it says: Vayichan tachat haHor, that he encamped under the mountain. Obviously refers to all the Jewish people under the mountain.
The concluding verses in Chapter 52 of Isaiah predict that when the Jewish people fully blossom in the Messianic Age, the nations of the world will be startled when they realize the true nature of their history vis-à-vis the Jewish people. Verse 13: “Behold, My servant shall prosper. He shall be exalted and lifted up and shall be very high. As many were astounded at him, his appearance was marred beyond human semblance and his form beyond that of the sons of men. So shall he startle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall understand.” The Bible constantly speaks about the Jewish people as being exalted in the Messianic Age.
In the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah, Verses 14 and 15, the prophet says: “And the sons of those who afflicted you will come bowing to you. And all those who despised you will bow themselves at the soles of your feet. And they will call you the city of the Lord, the Zion of the holy one of Israel. Whereas you have been forsaken and hated with no one passing through, I will make you an everlasting pride, a joy from generation to generation.” The Bible says that when the Jewish people are finally exalted in the Messianic Age, the nations of the world will be shocked, the kings will be startled, their mouths will be shut.
In the Book of Micah, Chapter 7:16, the prophet says: “Nations will see and be ashamed of all their might. They will put their hand on their mouth. Their ears will be deaf.”
The key to understanding the fifty-third chapter in the Book of Isaiah is to realize that it’s just a continuation of the end of Chapter 52, where the nations of the world and the kings will be shocked, will be startled at the sudden elevation of the Jewish people at the end of their history.
These are the people that are speaking at the beginning of Chapter 53 when they say: Who would have believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed’. They’re shocked when they see the arm of the Lord which throughout the~Bib7e speaks of the physical redemption of the Jewish people at the hands of those who oppress them.
They go on to say in succeeding verses that the Jews were constantly despised and rejected, constantly persecuted, having emerged as a humble nation wandering the desert after Egyptian exile.
They begin to explain in verse 4 that the Jewish people were the scapegoats throughout their history. That whenever things are going bad with the nations of the world, either economically or politically, they would take it out on the Jews as a way of relieving their pains. And they begin to admit in verse 5 that the Jewish people suffered as a result of our sins.
This is normally translated as “He was wounded for our sins.” However, the Hebrew here indicates that he, the servant, was wounded from our sins. The nations admit here that because we were so sinful throughout history, the Jewish people suffered. We see this, for example, in the Book of Jeremiah, Chapter 10:25, and Chapter 50:7. The nations admit that they were the cause of Jewish suffering. We are the ones that went astray. We’re the ones that deserve to be punished. We just use the Jews as a scapegoat to cover up our own corruption and problems, to distract the masses. We thought we could solve our national problems by persecuting the Jews. And we gave the excuse that Jews were being punished because they were smitten of G-d because G-d hated them.
Isaiah goes on to say in verse 7 that the Jewish people were led like lambs to the slaughter, yet they didn’t protest or reject G-d. We see this in Psalms, chapter 44. Like the Jews who sang of their faith in G-d as they were being led into the gas chambers of the Nazi Holocaust. Or Rabbi Akiva who recited the Sh’ma, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord Our G-d the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your G-d with all your heart and all your soul and all your might”– as his skin was being scraped off with an iron comb by Roman torturers.
In Verse 10 Isaiah explains that oftentimes the purpose of Jewish suffering is a test from G-d to see if the Jewish people would remain faithful.
We see this exemplified in Genesis, chapter 22, where Abraham is tested by G-d. And this testing serves to purify the Jewish people. If they accept the suffering as having a higher purpose and don’t reject G-d, G-d will reward us. And G-d’s purpose of messianic perfection will be realized through the Jewish people. The Jews, the chosen people, will serve as a light unto the nations and will help lead the world to G-d and cause them to be just and righteous.
We see this, for example, in the eighth chapter in the Book of Zachariah, verse 23, which says that in those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew saying “let us go with you for we have heard that G-d is with you.” It’s interesting that many non-Jewish commentaries to the Bible have come to agree with this Jewish understanding of the meaning of Isaiah, chapter 53. Although we haven’t had the time in this tape to go through a comprehensive detailed explanation of this passage in Isaiah, it should be clear that it’s impossible for it to function as a proof, as a conclusive proof, for the Christological claims made for Jesus.
One of the most common claims made by Christian missionaries is that Jewish people are unable to achieve salvation or forgiveness for their sins without bringing a blood sacrifice. Christians believe that Jesus served as their blood sacrifice. Missionaries will claim that this idea is based upon a passage in the Jewish Bible, which says that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness. Actually, this passage doesn’t appear anywhere in the Jewish Bible and it’s a verse in the New Testament, the Book of Hebrews, Chapter 9:22. Christian missionaries will claim that the idea is also found in the Jewish Bible in the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 17:11, which says: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls. For it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul.”
Actually, if you read Chapter 17 in the Book of Leviticus in context, it’s not speaking about a topic of atonement from sins but rather the prohibition against eating or drinking blood. Also, the passage doesn’t say that blood is the only way of achieving atonement. It says that a blood sacrifice is an atonement. It’s one of the ways of getting atonement for sins.
And actually this is fairly easy to prove. Because if you were to maintain that the only way of achieving forgiveness from sins in the Jewish Bible is through bringing a blood sacrifice, there are several major problems. First, what happens to the Jew who can’t afford to bring an animal sacrifice? Does that mean that G-d is not going to allow this person to be forgiven for his sins because he’s poor? Actually, the Bible itself raises this question in the fifth chapter of the Book of Leviticus, and it says that if a person is too poor to afford to bring an animal sacrifice, he can bring either two turtledoves or two young pigeons.
But what if he’s too poor to bring even these birds? So the Bible says that he can bring a handful of fine flour as his sin offering. So we see that it’s possible to achieve forgiveness in certain cases by bringing flour. And actually throughout the Bible, there are many different types of sacrifices that achieve forgiveness for sins. For example, in the sixteenth chapter in the Book of Numbers, Aaron takes incense, which makes atonement for the people. In the Book of Exodus, Chapter 30, and in the Book of Numbers, Chapter 31, giving charity is a way of achieving forgiveness.
There’s a second problem with the Christian claim that without blood there can be no forgiveness. According to the Bible you’re only allowed to offer sacrifices in the Holy Temple. What happens if the Jewish people don’t have a Holy Temple? What happens, for example, to the Jewish people after the year 586 BCE when the Babylonians destroyed the Temple and took the Jewish people away into captivity? Does that mean that the Jewish people in Babylonia had no way of getting forgiven for their sins?
And again the Bible actually asks this question and answers it in the first Book of Kings, Chapter 8. When King Solomon is building the temple and giving a dedication speech, he asks the question: What happens if the Jewish people are taken away from Israel into captivity? How do they atone for their sins in that case? And he says in verses 48-50 that if they repent and turn to G-d and pray to G-d, then G-d will forgive his people and He will pardon them from their transgressions. And actually we see this throughout the Bible. That through prayer and repenting it’s possible to achieve atonement for all of our sins.
In the fourth chapter of Hosea was writing for the Jewish people in the northern kingdom of Israel, the ten northern tribes who were not able to go to Jerusalem because of the civil war that was going on. And in the fourteenth chapter, verses 1 and 2, Hosea says: “Israel, Return to the Lord your G-d, for you have fallen by your iniquity. Take with you words and turn to the Lord. Say unto Him take away all iniquity and receive us graciously for we will render the calves of our lips”. That through prayer it’s as if we’re offering sacrifices to G-d.
In the thirty-second Book of Chronicles, chapter 7:14, G-d says: “My people which are called by My name shall humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, and I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
In the Book of Ezekiel, chapter 18:21, G-d says: “If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he has committed and keep all of my laws and do that which is lawful and right, he will surely live, he shall not die. All of his transgressions that he has committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him. In his righteousness that he has done he shall live.”
In the Book of Jonah, chapter 3, the prophet comes to the city of Nineveh and warns the people that G-d is about to destroy them. But Jonah doesn’t tell them that they must start offering blood sacrifices. The people take his warning seriously and they begin to repent of their evil and they turn from their evil ways and G-d does not destroy them and He accepts their repentance.
In the Book of Daniel, chapter 4, Daniel tells the king to break off his sins by righteousness and his iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. And yet Christian missionaries insist that G-d cannot forgive the Jewish people unless they bring sacrifices. They actually limit the power of G-d. We know from the Bible that G-d is a G-d of mercy and oftentimes will forgive people even though they don’t repent properly.
For example, in the Book of Micah, chapter 7:18, we’re told: “Who is a G-d like unto You that pardons iniquity and passes by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage. He retains not His anger forever because He delights in mercy.” Psalm 78, verse 37, “For their heart was not right with Him, neither were they steadfast in His covenant. But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity and destroyed them not. Many a time turned His anger away and did not stir up all His wrath. For He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes away and comes not again.”
In the forty-third chapter of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet tells the Jewish people that even though they didn’t offer their offerings properly and they didn’t bring the proper sacrifices, G-d blots out their transgressions for His own sake and He won’t remember their sins anymore.
It’s clear throughout the Bible that the real focus of our spiritual relationship with G-d is not so much in bringing sacrifices but in maintaining a proper relationship with G-d by obedience and by listening to G-d.
Hosea, chapter 6:6 says: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and a knowledge of G-d more than burnt offerings.”
In Psalm 51 David says: “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O G-d, G-d of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For You desire not sacrifice or else I would give it. You delight not in burnt offering. But the sacrifices of G-d are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart. G-d, you will not despise these.”
In the Book of Proverbs, chapter 21:3, we’re told that to do justice and judgment is more acceptable to G-d than sacrifices.
In the famous first chapter of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet asks the Jewish people: What are the purpose of all the sacrifices they’re bringing? He says in verse 18:”Come, Let us reason together, says G-d. For your sins be as scarlet, they shall become as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.” Because in verse 27 G-d says: “Zion will be redeemed with judgment and her repentant people with righteousness.”
If Christian missionaries insist upon reading Leviticus, Chapter 17:11 literally, they actually come into some tremendous problems. Because it says that only blood offered on the altar can serve as an atonement for sins. Since at the time of Jesus the altar was standing in Jerusalem and his blood was not offered on the altar, he could never really serve as an atonement for sins.
We hope that this tape will prove useful for your studies and if you have any questions concerning Judaism and Christianity and how to answer Christian missionaries, please get in contact with your nearest Jews for Judaism office and we’ll be more than happy to help you.
Study Guide For How To Answer A Christian Missionary Step-by-step Biblical Refutations
Audio Recording- by Rabbi Michael Skobac – Director of Education and Counselling for JEWS FOR JUDAISM (Canada)
Today, Evangelical Christians are aggressively targetting Jewish people for conversion. There are over 1000 different organizations operating in North America specifically working to bring Jewish people into the Christian faith. Many of these groups camouflage themselves to appear Jewish in order to lessen resistance to conversion. They may call their clergy “rabbis” and refer to their churches as “synagogues”. They often celebrate Jewish holidays with a Christological spin and wear traditional Jewish skullcaps and prayer shawls. Their goal is to create the impression that a Jew can become a Christian and still maintain his or her Jewish identity.
Aside from these groups specializing in reaching Jews, there are thousands of missionary organizations evangelizing all non-Christians. They operate widely over the Internet, broadcast television and radio programs, run large public events, send their field workers to distribute literature and visit people at their homes and places of work. Obviously, we Jews will also encounter this missionary threat, and all too frequently, the person asking us to embrace Jesus will simply be a Christian friend, neighbour or business associate.
This audio recording was created to provide you with a basic understanding of the issues most commonly raised by Christian missionaries. It is intimidating to be confronted with a barrage of Biblical quotations from someone intent on subverting your faith. This recording will help you learn that there is another side to the story that missionaries present. May you continue to explore and experience the profound wisdom, beauty and joy of Judaism.
The Hebrew term “Mashiach” means “anointed”. In the Bible this refers to anyone initiated into G-d’s service by being anointed with oil. Every king and high priest was a Mashiach, (or “Messiah” in English). King Saul is called G-d’s Messiah (G-d’s anointed) in I Samuel 26:11. David is referred to as G-d’s Messiah in II Samuel 23:1. Sometimes, prophets or non-Jewish kings are referred to as messiahs (anointed ones) (I Kings 19:16, Isaiah 45:1).
The term “the Messiah” never appears in the Bible in reference to an anointed person who will come in the future. The Bible is replete with references to a future age of perfection: Isaiah 2:1-4; 32:15-18; 60:15-18; 66:23, Zephaniah 3:9, Hosea 2:20-22
The Bible never calls this king “The Messiah”. However, because he is the special future anointed one of history, we conventionally refer to him as the Messiah.
The Bible never speaks about believing in the Messiah, because we will be able to empirically verify who the Messiah is. The Bible speaks about a time when the knowledge of G-d has spread throughout the world, when all weapons have been destroyed, when there is an end to all conflict, when the Jewish people have been regathered to their homeland, when the Temple has been rebuilt in Jerusalem, and when Jews are sought out by the world as spiritual teachers. These dramatic utopian events will be plainly evident to every human and impossible to miss. The Bible tells us that the Messiah will reign as the king of Israel when this utopia is established. It is clear that Jesus, Shabbtai Tzvi, Bar Kochba, etc. failed to fulfill these Biblical criteria of the Messiah.
In response to the Christian claim that Jesus will fulfill the Messianic prophesies when he returns:
a) The Bible never speaks about a second coming for the Messiah.
b) All Messianic passages relegated by Christians as “second coming” prophecies have a “first coming” perspective; they speak about someone coming, not returning.
c) A “second coming” could be claimed for any failed Messiah, and gives no credibility to Jesus’ “first coming”.
d) The New Testament has Jesus promise his disciples that he would return during their lifetimes – he didn’t. Matthew 16:28; 24:34, Mark 13:30, Romans 16:20, Hebrews 10:37, Revelation 22:10,12,20.
THE PROBLEM OF ELIJAH:
Malachi 3:23-24 (4:5-6 in Christian editions) says that the prophet Elijah would return before the Messiah appears. Matthew’s Gospel says that John the Baptist was Elijah the prophet (11:13-14, 17:10-13). However, the Gospel of John 1:21 has John the Baptist denying he is Elijah.
Missionaries may claim that John came back in the spirit of Elijah, but:
a) Malachi predicted that Elijah would return, not someone in his spirit.
b) John didn’t claim any association with Elijah at all.
c) John didn’t fulfill Malachi’s prophecy that Elijah would restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.
THE PROBLEM OF JESUS’ GENEALOGY:
According to scripture, the Messiah must be a descendant of King David (Jeremiah 23:5, 33:17, Psalm 89:35-37, etc.)
The Gospel of Matthew traces Joseph, the husband of Mary, back to King David, but then says that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. To the claim that he was the legal father of Jesus by adoption:
a) You can’t pass on genealogy by adoption.
b) Even if Joseph could pass on his genealogy by adoption, he couldn’t help Jesus because he descends from Jeconiah, whose line was disqualified from kingship as part of G-d’s curse (Jeremiah 22:30,36:30).
THE CLAIM THAT JESUS DESCENDS FROM DAVID VIA HIS MOTHER MARY (LUKE CHAPTER 3):
a) Luke 3 doesn’t mention Mary at all; it traces only Joseph’s genealogy.
b) Even if Luke were recounting Mary’s pedigree, family genealogy only goes through the father: Numbers 1:18. Jesus couldn’t trace himself back to King David through his mother. (Whether one is Jewish or not is determined by the mother, but tribal affiliation goes through the father).
c) Even if genealogy could go through the mother, Luke’s Mary descends from David’s son Nathan, and the Messianic line only goes through David’s son Solomon (II Samuel 7:12-14, I Chronicles 17:11-14, 22:9-10, 28:4-6).
d) Mary, as well, may descend from the cursed Jeconiah via Shealtiel and Zerrubabel: Matthew 1:12, Luke 3:27.
THE CLAIM THAT JESUS PERFORMED MIRACLES:
a) There is no reason to uncritically assume that the New Testament accounts are true; they were not written by historians or journalists, but by followers of Jesus to convince others to believe (John 20:31).
b) Much of the New Testament has been shown to be historically suspect. For example, the accounts about Pilate in Josephus and Philo contradict the way he’s treated in the gospels.
c) Miracles don’t prove anything, and therefore, the Bible never tells us that we’ll be able to identify the Messiah by his performing miracles.
1. Pharaoh’s magicians performed miracles: Exodus chapters 7 and 8.
2. Deuteronomy 13:1-4, G-d would send false prophets who could do miracles to test the loyalty of the Jewish people.
3. Even the Christian scriptures state that false Messiahs will be able to perform supernatural miracles (Matthew 24:24). Obviously, then, miracles could never prove someone was the Messiah.
THE ALLEGED RESURRECTION OF JESUS: The Gospel stories completely contradict themselves:
a) Who first approached the empty tomb?
- Mary Magdalene and the other Mary – Matthew 28:1
- Mary Magdalene, the other Mary and Salome – Mark 16:1
- Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, Joanna, and other women – Luke 24:10
- Mary Magdalene alone – John 20:1
b) Who did they first see at the tomb?
- One angel outside the tomb – Matthew 28:2,5
- One man inside the tomb – Mark 16:5
- Two men inside the tomb – Luke 24:4
- No one at all – John 20:1
c) Who first told Mary about the resurrection of Jesus?
- An angel – Matthew 28:5-6
- A man – Mark 16:6
- Two men – Luke 24:5-6
- Jesus himself – John 20:14-17
d) To whom did Jesus first appear?
- To a joyous Mary on the road – Matthew 28:8-9
- To a grief-stricken Mary in the tomb – John 20:14-17
e) What did the women do when hearing that Jesus had risen?
- Rushed to tell the disciples – Matthew 28:8, Luke 24:9
- Kept the news to themselves – Mark 16:8
f) Where did Jesus first reveal himself to his eleven disciples?
- In the Galilee – Matthew 28:16-17
- In Jerusalem – Luke 24:33-36
- It was only to 10 of his disciples – John 20:10-24
- Note that none of the Gospel writers was an eyewitness.
- Many of Jesus’ followers didn’t recognize him in the post-resurrection stories of the Gospels, and many doubted that anything even happened: Matthew 28:17, Mark 16:11,13; Luke 24:16, John 20:14, 21:4.
- Jesus allegedly told the rabbis that his resurrection would be a sign to them, yet he never later appeared to them – Matthew 12:38-40.
- The fact that Christians have sacrificed their lives for their belief in the resurrection doesn’t prove that it happened. Virtually all religions have martyrs willing to die for what they believe to be true.
- Aside from the alleged resurrection of Jesus hanging exclusively on the weak thread of the New Testament’s garbled accounts, a resurrection wouldn’t prove that someone is the Messiah – even if it happened.
- Shooting the arrow first and then drawing the target around it
- Proliferation of many weak prooftexts doesn’t strengthen them: 300 x 0 = 0
a) Verses completely manufactured:
1. Matthew 2:23 – He shall be called a Nazarene
2. Matthew 27:9-10 – the Potter’s field
3. Hebrews 10:5 – a body prepared by G-d, see Psalms 40:6-7
b) Verses misquoted or mistranslated:
1. Psalms 22:17 (16) – like a lion vs. they pierced: see Isaiah 38:13, Psalms 7:3 (2), Numbers 23:24, 24:9, Ezekiel 22:25
2. Romans 11:26 vs. Isaiah 59:20 – a redeemer will come to vs. out of Zion; he will remove the sin from Jacob vs. he will come to those in Jacob who have overcome sin.
c) Verses quoted out of context:
1. Matthew 2:15 Out of Egypt I called my son – Hoseah 11:1
2. Matthew 2:17-18 Rachel weeping for her children – Jeremiah 31:14-17
3. Psalms 41:10 (9) Betrayed by a close friend, yet see verse 5 (4)
4. Hebrews 1:5 I will be a father to him, yet see II Samuel 7:14
5. Zechariah 13:6 The pierced one is a false prophet
d) Circular reasoning:
1. Deuteronomy 18:18 the prophet
2. Isaiah 11:2 – the spirit of G-d will rest on him
THE VIRGIN BIRTH PASSAGE: ISAIAH 7:14
1. Mistranslation of “alma” as virgin, correct translation is “young woman” or “young maiden”. The male form “elem” is always translated as “young man,” I Samuel 17:56; 20:22, Isaiah 54:4.
2. “Betulah” is the Hebrew word for virgin, Deuteronomy 22:13-26, Leviticus 21:3, Judges 11:37-38, I Kings 1:2, Isaiah 62:5.
3. Septuagint translation of alma into the Greek “parthenos” is no proof :
a) Greek translation of the Prophetic books was not authorized by rabbinic scholars
b) In ancient Greek, “parthenos” refers to a young girl, not necessarily a virgin. The Septuagint uses “parthenos” in reference to Dina after she’s raped in Genesis 34:3
4. Christian Bibles are now translating alma as young woman: Revised Standard Version, the Jerusalem Bible, the Good News Bible, The New English Bible, The New Revised Standard Version, New World Translation, etc.
5. Context of Chapter 7 in Isaiah is not the coming of the Messiah, but the attack on the Kingdom of Judah by Israel and Aram. The fulfillment of the prophecy to Achaz is in II Kings chapters 15-16.
6. Jesus was never named or called Emmanuel.
7. A virgin birth of Jesus couldn’t serve as a sign to reassure Achaz who lived 700 years earlier. Furthermore, a virgin birth could never function as a sign because it can’t be seen. A sign needs to be visible, but not necessarily miraculous (Genesis 9:11-13, I Samuel 2:34, etc.).
8. Numerous pagan sources for a virgin birth concept.
THE SUFFERING SERVANT OF ISAIAH 53
- Christianity explains away the death of Jesus at the hands of the Romans by claiming the Messiah was supposed to die as an atonement for sin. See “When Prophesy Fails” by Leon Festinger re: the difficulty in accepting the disconfirmation of one’s belief. Followers of Shabbtai Tzvi in the 17th century who claimed to be the Messiah faced a similar dilemma when he converted to Islam. They dealt with this disaster by asserting that the Messiah was supposed to convert to another religion. Freud stated, “When it comes to self-deception, every person is a genius.”
- Followers of Jesus didn’t understand Isaiah 53 as being Messianic, Matthew 16:21-22, Mark 9:31-32. There is no reason to assume that this passage is about the Messiah – it certainly isn’t clear.
- There is no corroboration for the Christological reading of this passage anywhere in the Hebrew Bible; the entire case for the Christian concept of the Messiah rests on this controversial chapter. The Jewish picture of the Messiah is based on dozens of clear passages throughout the Bible.
- Circular reasoning: Christians may assume this chapter speaks about the death of the Messiah to atone for sin, yet there is no proof that Jesus is the subject of the passage. It could apply to anyone who suffers.
- It is worth noting that this chapter, the nuclear bomb in the missionary arsenal, suffers from two fatal flaws: it isn’t clearly Messianic and it doesn’t clearly point exclusively to Jesus.
Actually, Jesus is the one person in the history of the world least likely to be the subject of this passage. Isaiah begins by telling us that G-d’s servant will ultimately be exalted, lifted up, and raised very high (52:13). Isaiah goes on to say that when this happens, the kings and nations of the world will be totally stunned and taken by surprise. The one individual whose elevation as Messiah would NOT shock the world would be Jesus of Nazareth!
- Reasons why Isaiah 53 doesn’t correspond to the picture painted of Jesus in the New Testament:
a) 53:3 says the servant would be despised and rejected by all, yet the Gospels say Jesus was universally popular, ie. Luke 4:14-15, Mark 3:7-9.
b) 53:3 says the servant would be well-acquainted with sickness and pain; there is no evidence this was true of Jesus.
c) 53:7 says the servant won’t open his mouth and protest before his tormentors, yet in the Gospels, Jesus defends himself cleverly at his trial before the Romans, John 18:36; and protests on the cross: “My G-d, my G-d,why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46.
d) 53:8 is speaking about a group of people who will suffer, not an individual, “as a result of the transgression of my people, THEY (lamo) were wounded.”
e) 53:9 says the servant would do no violence, yet Jesus:
1. Attacked people with a whip in the Temple – John 2:15
2. Needlessly destroyed a fig tree – Mark 11:12-14
3. Needlessly killed an entire herd of swine – Matthew 8:30-32
4. Said in a parable, “Those enemies of mine who didn’t want me to rule over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.” – Luke 19:27
f) 53:9 says the servant will have no deceit in his mouth, yet Jesus:
1. Contradicts himself in John 18:20 because he always taught secretly – Mark 4:10-12, Matthew 16:20, Luke 8:56
2. Told the Romans his was just a spiritual kingdom (John 18:36), yet told his followers to purchase swords – Luke 22:36
g) 53:10 the servant would have children and live a long life.
G-D’S SUFFERING SERVANT IS ISRAEL:
a) Context of surrounding chapters is about the Jewish people who suffer at the hands of the nations, but are ultimately redeemed by G-d.
b) Isaiah identifies the servant as the Jewish people, 41:8-9, 43:10, 44:1-2;21, 45:4, 48:20, 49:3, 54:16-17.
c) Jewish nation is often identified as an individual, Deuteronomy 32, Hoseah 8:3; 14:5-6, Jeremiah 50:19, Exodus 4:22, etc.
d) End of Chapter 52: Jewish nation will be exalted in Messianic age, Isaiah 60:1-3,10,14-15; 61:6-9; 62:2-3, Zepheniah 3:19-20, Nachum 2:2.
e) Nations and kings will be astonished when this happens, Micah 7:15-17, Isaiah 41:11, Jeremiah 16:19.
f) Chapter 53 is a continuation of 52; the nations express their shock, “Who would have believed what we are hearing?” The chapter continues with the confession the nations will make in the future when they are confronted with the true nature of their relationship to the Jewish people. They will admit that they had mistreated the Jewish people throughout history (Jeremiah 10:25). The nations will confess that the Jewish people suffered “from our sinfulness” (or “as a result of our sinfulness”). They thought that by using the Jewish people as scapegoats, their own problems would be alleviated. The nations will confess that throughout history, they based their mistreatment of Jews on their assumption that G-d had rejected Israel (Jeremiah 50:7).
g) Jewish people went through their suffering without rejecting G-d – Psalms 44:12-23. One purpose of Jewish suffering is a test, as in Genesis 22, to purify them and strengthen them.
h) By passing this historical test, the Jewish people will be fulfilling G-d’s purpose, and will bring about the transformation of the world.
- Numerous non-Jewish and Christian commentaries to the Bible accept this understanding of the Suffering Servant as referring to Israel.
ATONEMENT FROM SIN
Missionaries claim that Leviticus 17:11 teaches that the only way to be forgiven from sin is with a blood sacrifice, however:
1. Context of this passage is not atonement, but the prohibition of consuming blood.
2. It says blood is an atonement, but not the only type of atonement.
3. Leviticus 5:11 says someone who can’t afford a blood sacrifice can bring fine flour to atone for their sins.
4. I Kings 8:46-50 teaches if we don’t have access to the Temple, we pray to G-d and repent, and we will be forgiven. This applies today, as well as to the 70 years between the destruction of the First Temple and building of the Second.
5. The prophet Hoseah speaking to the 10 northern tribes who couldn’t get to the Temple in the south tells them that their prayers serve as sacrifices, 14:1-3.
6. Prayer and repentance are actually the primary means of atoning for sin in the Bible, II Chronicles 7:14, Ezekiel 18:21, Jonah 3:10, Daniel 4:24 (4:27 in some editions), Jeremiah 36:3, Proverbs 16:6, Isaiah 55:6-9, Psalms 32:5, 69:30-32, etc.
7. Christian insistence that without blood sacrifices G-d can’t forgive our sins, takes away from the power and mercy of G-d. The Bible says that sometimes G-d forgives us if we don’t repent properly, because He is merciful: Micah 7:18, Psalms 78:36-39, Isaiah 43:23-25.
8. The focus of the Bible is obedience to G-d as the primary way of coming to Him, not sacrifices. Hoseah 6:6, Psalms 51:14-19, Proverbs 21:3, Isaiah 1, I Samuel 15:22, Micah 6:6-8, Amos 5:22-24.
9. If missionaries insist on reading Leviticus 17:11 literally, then Jesus could never serve as a sacrifice. The verse says that only blood on the altar in the Temple served as an atonement, and Jesus’ blood was not offered on the altar.
10. Other problems with Jesus serving as a sacrifice were that he was not offered up by Priests, he was not burnt, and he was not unblemished.
11. The Christian assertion that Jesus was the final sacrifice is contradicted by the Bible’s prophesy of the future restoration of sacrifices when the Third Temple is built, Isaiah 56:7, Jeremiah 33:17-18, Zechariah 14:20-21, Ezekiel 43-45, Malachi 3:2-4.
12. The Hebrew scriptures don’t accept the idea of an innocent person dying for a guilty one, Exodus 32:32-33, Deuteronomy 24:16, Ezekiel 18:1-4, Proverbs 17:15.
13. The Hebrew scriptures strongly oppose the idea of human sacrifice, Genesis 22:12, Leviticus 18:21, 20:2.
Rabbi Michael Skobac is Director of Education and Counselling for the Canadian branch of Jews for Judaism. This tape is a condensed version of The Jews for Judaism Counter-Missionary Survival Seminar, developed by Rabbi Skobac and now taught worldwide. A twelve-tape set of this seminar is available from Jews for Judaism.
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