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WAS JESUS THE PROPHESIED MESSIAH?

Are the Jews Right When They Deny Jesus Was the Christ?

Are the Christian Interpretations of the Old Testamentís Messianic Texts Wrong?

 

By Eric V. Snow

 

††††††††† Recently in the Church of God a number of Christians have turned skeptical eyes on the New Testament's portrayal of Jesus as the prophesied Messiah and Savior.The leader of this movement in the COG is Darrell Conder, an ex-WCG elder, whose book Mystery Babylon and the Ten Tribes in the Lost Times (MB) is a full-fledged assault on the historical reliability of the New Testament (NT) and the independence of first-century Christianity's doctrines from the influences of pagan religion and philosophy.[1]Conder also argues extensively that the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament (OT) don't refer to Jesus of Nazareth.He believes they were quoted out of context or otherwise misapplied.However, Conder and his group of apostate Christians are not alone in their teachings.Recently the director of Outreach Judaism, Tovia Singer, visited Big Sandy, met with people from the COG and other groups, and attacked belief in Christianity.Although below Conder's arguments against believing Jesus is the prophesied Old Testament Messiah are dealt with, it must be realized that similar claims against the truth of Christianity are used by mainstream Jews as well.

 

††††††††† To really understand the issues Conder raises, you have to enter the frame of mind of someone who knows only the OT, and nothing about the NT or Jesus.Pretend you were a Greek-speaking Jew in what is now modern-day Turkey in (say) A.D. 45.Some fellow by the name of Paul visits your city's synagogue one Sabbath, and argues a certain man named Jesus was the promised Messiah (the anointed one, "Christ" in Greek).You, being a lifelong dweller in this mostly pagan city, never have set eyes on the Holy Land, let alone on this Jesus of Nazareth.He cites various texts from the Hebrew Scriptures to support his viewpoint.How would you check him out?The Bereans of Thessalonica (part of Greece) didn't just blindly accept what Paul and Silas told them about Jesus, but, "they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11).When discussing religion with a Jew today (when he is open-minded and receptive), or those who have converted to Judaism, such as Conder, you have to go through the same texts that Paul would have used in the first century A.D.

 

WHAT IS THE FOUNDATION OF OUR FAITH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT?

 

††††††††† Before proceeding with this exercise, we Christians have to consider the foundation of our faith in Jesus as the Messiah and our Savior.Is the main proof to be found in Jesus' resurrection from the dead, or in lining up OT prophecies that are fulfilled in Him?Can we--should we--try to read the OT as if we weren't believers in the NT already, while checking out various citations in the latter of the former?Can we assume we have no further revelation from God (i.e., the NT) or historical/eyewitness support for that further revelation when checking out its citations of the OT's messianic prophecies?If the resurrection is the foundation of our faith, then organizing the data of the OT to fit Jesus' claims to be the Messiah (Matt. 16:13-17; Mark 16:61-62; John 4:25-26) makes perfect sense.But, can we line up all the prophecies the NT quotes from the OT to fit perfectly while pretending we don't know of the resurrection or any of the miracles Jesus performed?This is problematic.Remember, the disciples by and large accepted Jesus as the Messiah because of the miracles He performed, the experiences following His resurrection, the depth of His teaching, and His perfect character, which included experiences the Old Testament messianic texts would have (at best) only obscurely prophesied.

 

††††††††† It's necessary to remember that the primary, even exclusive sign, of Jesus' Messiahship was His resurrection from the dead, according to Jesus Himself (Matt. 12:39-40).Thus, many of the OT texts that involve types (for example, Ex. 12:46 in John 19:33) become a supplementary proof that Jesus was the Messiah, not the primary proof that can refute all skeptical challenges against using them.But those texts that make direct, predictive prophecies, such as Dan. 9:24-27, or which cause virtual contradictions in the OT when considered by itself, are much stronger, and can't be casually dismissed.In other words, if the NT can be proven to be historically reliable and be without contradiction within itself or with the OT (which are necessary (basic minimal) criteria for inspiration) and to have successful fulfilled prophecy in it (fundamentally, a decisive, or sufficient, condition for inspiration), then the OT messianic texts are largely additional proof for our position.Many messianic texts aren't the knock-out blow that overcomes all disbelief, whether by Jews, agnostics, or atheists, although the specifically predictive kind still retain much force.The OT Messianic texts as a whole appear contradictory when the NT insight upon them is dismissed, a point developed below.Therefore, the proofs for the resurrection are to be the foundation for Christians' faith in Jesus (i.e., a further revelation from God found outside the OT), which leaves the OT messianic prophecies involving types (I would add) to be more suggestive than decisive.[2]

 

WHAT TYPES ARE, AND HOW THEY DIFFER FROM DIRECT PREDICTIVE PROPHECY

 

††††††††† Now, what exactly are types?They are "a shadow of things to come" (Col. 2:17).These differ from direct fulfilled prophecy, in which a predicted event occurs literally as it was originally said to, such as the destruction of Babylon or Nineveh (Isa. 13:19-22; Zeph. 2:13).As Dr. James Smith explains:

 

††††††††† Sometimes New Testament writers use Old Testament prophecies merely because they see an analogy.They borrow Old Testament language without intending to suggest that the prediction-fulfillment relationship exists between the two statements.[This would explain how such texts as Ps. 41:9; 34:20; Jer. 31:15; Hosea 11:1 are used in the NT as referring to the Messiah; cf. MB, pp. 74-75, 79--EVS].Even when they declare that a prophecy was fulfilled there is sometimes a question as to whether or not they mean that the Old Testament statement was a direct prediction of that which is said to fulfill it (e.g., Matt. 13:14, 15).

 

A type is something, such as an animal, ritual, or object, that will stand for something as a forerunner of something else to come, but doesn't make any direct, specific predictions verbally.For example, the Passover lamb was "an unblemished male" (Ex. 12:5), which pictured Jesus, the sinless God made flesh who died for humanity's sins.Obviously, Exodus 12:5 predicts nothing explicitly in words about a promised Messiah to die for humanity's sins. It (the sheep) remains just a suggestive physical object picturing what is to come--something only really knowable upon fulfillment and further revelation (i.e., the NT) to explain its meaning.Smith defines a "type" as:"A description of an event, institution or person designed by God to be distinctly prophetic of the Messiah and his kingdom."[3]True, a Jew or agnostic could always deny any one case of prophetic types in the Old Testament as pointing to a man/God who would die for the world's sins as a sacrifice.But as these cases pile up, counter-explanations wear increasingly thin.

 

††††††††† A number of the OT messianic texts that the NT cites do not come from direct discussions of the Messiah, but they concern secondary meanings that become only clear in the light of the NT's revelation of Jesus as our promised Savior.A particularly good example of this is Matthew's wordplay in chapter 2, verse 23, "He shall be called a Nazarene."Conder finds this absurd, but let's dig deeper (MB, p. 39).This prophecy refers back to Isa. 11:1, in which the Messiah is referred to as a "branch," which in Hebrew is "netzer."As Rachmiel Frydland explains:"The town Natzeret is the word Netzer plus the feminine ending, designated by the letter Tav. . . . He is to be a Branch [cf. Isa. 4:2; Jer. 23:5, where a different word for 'branch' is used, 'tsemah'] and also would live in the town Natzeret.He is a Netzer from Natzeret."[4]It's also necessary to remember the principle of duality in Biblical interpretation.According to it, some of Scripture has a primary meaning or fulfillment, and an earlier and/or lesser meaning or fulfillment.Hence, the animal sacrifices had a certain meaning for ancient Israelites in rendering service to God, but they also pointed forward to the day when God Himself would be the sacrifice to the world's humans.Similarly, Abraham's near-sacrifice of his "only son, whom you love" (Gen. 22:2; cf. John 3:16; Matt. 3:17) similarly was a type, but notdirect prediction, since its secondary meaning only became clear with the truths revealed in the New Testament.

 

††††††††† Clearly, the NT quotes from OT texts that don't have any clear connection in their primary meaning, judging from the immediate context, to the Messiah.But this does not mean that they have been "quoted out of context."Conder mistakenly assumes the NT's citation of types in the OT are "quotes taken out of context."But this key assumption is in error, since a secondary meaning also can be found in them, perhaps only discernable to a mind under the direct inspiration of God after the (implied) prophesied events in question have occurred.Christians have to avoid looking at all the messianic texts cited in the NT as direct, prophetic statements that will be literally fulfilled which use the texts' primary meanings, but see more of them as subtle, analogous types, which draw upon secondary meanings.

 

THE DUALITY PRINCIPLE OF INTERPRETING SCRIPTURE DEFENDED

 

††††††††† Using the Old Testament alone (Conder, "By-Gosh Josh" (BGJ), pp. 36-37), can one find justification for the duality principle of interpreting Scripture?The main, even exclusive, application for this principle is prophecy and fulfilled types, in which an earlier, lesser fulfillment precedes a greater one later.This principle clearly appears in the New Testament, such as in Jesus' Olivet prophecy, which includes the prediction of Jerusalem's fall.His language has application to both 70 A.D. and to His Second Coming (Matt. 24:1-3, 15-18; Luke 21:20-21, 24).Jesus' prophecy that "Elijah is coming and will restore all things" yet "Elijah already came" (meaning, John the Baptist) is further proof of the duality principle for Christians (Matt. 17:11-12).But what about using the Old Testament by itself?Consider two cases:The abomination of desolation and Israel's regathering to the Holy Land.One can see the abomination of desolation occurring twice in Jerusalem, once when Antiochus Epiphanes in 165 B.C. desecrated the Temple of Yahweh by making a profane sacrifice (a pig) on top of the altar of burnt offering (see I Maccabees 1:54 in Catholic Bibles).The second time (arguably) occurred when the Roman legions torched Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D.Another, less disputable case, comes from the texts describing the regathering of Israel.Of course, this occurs once after the Babylonian Captivity (Isa. 39:6-7; 44:28; 45:4; Jer. 25:9-12), but it also will happen when the Messiah rules on earth.The gathering of Judah today in Palestine is a preliminary fulfillment of the millennial prophecies about all of Israel returning from the Diaspora.(Note Zech. 12:6-11--Judah is already there when Christ returns).Such texts as Eze. 38:8; 37:16-28; Deut. 28:64-68 point to the future millennial gathering.But Jer. 50:1-10, 17-20+certainly seems to be more ambiguous, admitting to some dual application to the return from Babylon and also at the beginning of the millennium.[5]Hence, even using the OT alone, there's good evidence for the duality principle, at least for prophecy and fulfilled types.But applying the duality principle outside non-prophetic, non-typical statements in Scripture is hazardous, since the Gospels, Acts, and Paul's Letters generally aren't prophetic.

 

OT PROPHETS CAN SUDDENLY CHANGE SUBJECTS AND TIMES WITHOUT WARNING

 

††††††††† Conder complains that the author of Matthew 2:6 misused Micah 5:2, saying that this prophecy won't be fulfilled until the kingdom of God is established on earth when the Conquering Messiah arrives (MB, p. 35).

Micah 5:2-3 describes where the Messiah was to be born:"But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.Therefore, He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child . . ."But then, a description of what would occur when the Conquering Messiah sets up the kingdom of God ensues in vs. 3-5.Conder's point raises yet simultaneously ignores a key point:The OT's prophets will suddenly change subject midstream, or ignore the time element by telescoping together two events that may be separated by centuries.This explains such a text as Hosea 11:1, which otherwise seems quoted out of context by Matthew.[6]The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel clearly show this happens by leaping back and forth between their descriptions of Satan and two ancient monarchs, respectively the king of Babylon and the ruler of Tyre, in Isa. 14 and Eze. 28.Therefore, a time jump could have occurred between the first and last parts of Micah 5:3, although it takes the light of further revelation (the NT) to make this crystal clear. Similarly, in Luke 4:18-19, Jesus quotes from Isa. 61:1-2, but He suddenly stops mid-sentence and mid-verse.He avoids quoting "and the day of vengeance of our God."Why?Because this part of the prophecy wouldn't be fulfilled during His First Coming's ministry, He didn't cite it, while the rest of it would be, so He did.The same principle applies to Isa. 11:1-9, in which the first three (maybe three and a half) verses Jesus fulfilled during his First Coming, but the remainder describes what happens after the Second Coming.In Mal. 3:1-2, the first verse was fulfilled in the first century A.D., but the second still lies in the future.There's simply no compelling reason to believe everything in a given prophecy has to happen all at the same time; Dan. 11 is sufficient proof of this, since v. 41+ is unfulfilled at this time, but the rest has already occurred at least preliminarily.Conder mistakenly believes that just because the verses (3b-5) following Micah 5:2 are placed in the future, therefore, the whole prophecy has to be.

 

DOES MICAH 5:2 HAVE TO REFER TO A FAMILY/CLAN INSTEAD OF A SPECIFIC PLACE?

 

††††††††† Conder also criticizes the NT's use of Micah 5:2 for taking "Bethlehem Ephrathah" as a specific location as the birthplace of the Messiah, not a family or clan "that originated in this region" (MB, p. 35).First, this point ignores that the NT clearly portrays people who aren't Christians as interpreting this prophecy as referring to a specific location (John 7:41-42; Matt. 2:4-6).Second, the word translated (NASB) "among the clans" ("alapim") literally means "the among the thousands."(See Green's Interlinear Bible).This term isn't the standard word in Hebrew for a tribe's subdivision, which makes its meaning more ambiguous than Conder would think.Here, it appears in a context that indicates a town is being referred to, as the Old Testament scholar Gleason Archer explains.There's also another reason to see this as a specific geographic location, because, as Smith maintains:"Ephrathah was either the district in which Bethlehem was located, or an ancient name for the town.The double name distinguishes his birth place from the northern Bethlehem in the tribal area of Zebulun (Josh. 19:15)."David's father Jesse was called "an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah" (I Sam. 17:12).This verse also has one particularly interesting implication in favor of the Messiah being God, since He is said to have pre-existed from long ago:"His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity" (Micah 5:2).What average human could this be said of?Remember, this couldn't fit King David, because he would have to have continuously lived from the time he died until being born again as a baby, a period of (say) 250 years!The Targum Jonathan, an ancient Jewish paraphrase of the Hebrew Bible in Aramaic that dates from the second century A.D., rendered/interpreted Micah 5:2 thus:"And you, O Bethlehem Ephrath, you who were too small to be numbered among the thousands of the house of Judah, from you shall come forth before Me the Messiah, to exercise dominion over Israel, he whose name was mentioned from before, from the days of creation."Even Jews saw this as a messianic text![7]Clearly, there are good reasons to believe Micah 5:2 refers to a specific geographical location, not just the clan/family from which the Messiah would be born.

 

DAVID AS A TYPE (FORERUNNER) OF CHRIST IN PSALM 22

 

††††††††† Conder's attack on Ps. 22 referring to the crucifixion (MB, pp. 73-79) raises again the issue discussed above about the differences between types and direct literal fulfillments.In the books of Leviticus and Exodus, animals served as types.But in Ps. 22 a human serves as a type--King David.Despite his imperfections (II Sam. 12:27; I Chron. 22:8), he served as a type of Christ's sufferings while on the stake in this Psalm, just as the imperfect animal sacrifices also foreshadowed the death of Jesus as Savior.This Psalm isn't only a direct prediction of what would come, which Conder mistakenly assumes it has to be before the NT could actually cite it as referring to the Messiah.Let's stop assuming something cited as a type is taken "out of context"!Again, something serving as a type doesn't have to make a specific verbal prediction to serve as a foreshadowing of future realities. Consequently, not all of this Psalm need apply literally to Christ and be fulfilled in every detail, since it describes a type, and isn't an actual prophecy.(This same reasoning explains why the NT cites Ps. 69 some seven times, despite it isn't an actual predictive prophecy either).[8]Nevertheless, when reading this Psalm straight through without interruption, much of it is a convincing and remarkable description of the scenes of the Messiah's suffering on the cross.

 

††††††††† First in Psalms 22 there's the dramatic opening cry, which Christ quoted while on the cross in Aramaic (v. 1):"My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"People ridiculed him, just as occurred to Christ (vs. 6-7):"But I am a worm, and not a man, a reproach of men, and despised by the people.All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying, 'Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him."Compare this with Luke 23:35-37, 39; Matt. 27:39-44; Mark 15:29-32.Conder strangely insists on taking the metaphorical for the literal, by saying Jesus could not have been referred to as a worm, and not a man, which discounts Jesus' pathetic physical plight at the time (MB, p. 74).The description of suffering in verses 14-17, while also metaphorical, also is rather medically accurate for someone undergoing crucifixion:

 

††††††††† I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It is melted within me.My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and Thou dost lay me in the dust of death.For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet.I can count all my bones.They look, they stare at me.

 

This form of execution was unknown in Judea at the time David wrote (c. 1030 b.c.).Stoning was the traditional method of execution among the Jews.But crucifixion (and/or impalement) was a leading method of capital punishment for the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks (especially by Alexander the Great), and Romans, who all rose to power in later centuries.Only by supernatural inspiration could have David described the agonies of dying in a way totally unknown in his culture.Finally, like Christ, David describes his clothes being gambled for by his persecutors (v. 18):"They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots."Compare Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:24.Since David died in his own bed, this didn't happen to King David; instead, this foreshadows something to come in Someone Else's earthly life.David didn't describe his own death in the Psalm, because presumably he lived some years after it was written!Not all of it fits David's life well anyway.Consider verse 27:"All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will worship before Thee."As Smith remarks:"No Old Testament person could have imagined that his personal deliverance from death [cf. verses 19-21--EVS] could be the occasion for the world's conversion."Since something serving as a type doesn't need to match the eventual reality in all details since it isn't a specific verbal prediction, and since the OT prophets would zoom in and out on particular subjects without warning even within single verses, Ps. 22 can be considered remarkable evidence that Jesus' death on the stake was foreshadowed in the OT.[9]

 

WAS "THEY PIERCED MY HANDS AND MY FEET" IN THE ORIGINAL HEBREW?

 

††††††††† "They pierced my hands and my feet" (Psalms 22:16).By citing the standard reading of the Hebrew Masoretic text to deny that Psalms 22:16 refers to the crucifixion, Conder mistakenly believes that ends the debate (MB, p. 78).Following the Jews, he uses the textual variant "like a lion" to replace "they pierced," which produces this intrinsically unlikely reading:"like a lion my hands and feet."Only by inserting additional words can this make any sense.The difference between these two readings are based upon changing one similarly shaped final consonant for another in the Hebrew word in contention.The discrepancy could easily have arisen from a scribe omitting one downward stroke for a single letter, as Rosen points out.Importantly, the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint (LXX), made some time before Jesus was born (c. 250-100 b.c.), does contain the reading "they pierced," as do the Syriac and Latin translations.Even some manuscripts of the Hebrew text have it!According to the Ginsberg Hebrew Bible and NIV Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament, vol. 3, p. 368, "some mss." or "other scrolls" contain this reading.It appeared in the first three mechanically printed editions of the Hebrew text.In the thirteenth century, the Jew Nehemiah commented on Ps. 22:16 in the Yalkut Shimoni (687) using this reading.Furthermore, and most devastatingly for Conder's position, it evidently appears in the Dead Sea Scrolls.After having analyzed the Qumran sect's manuscript remnants, Peter Flint writes in The Dead Sea Psalms Scrolls (1997) that "pierced" is the preferred option.[10]††

 

††††††††† Conder accuses Strong's of scholastic dishonesty when saying the Hebrew word here is #1856 instead of #738 ("like a lion").In reality, all Strong apparently did was make a textual correction based upon the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Vulgate, and/or use the minority reading of the Masoretic text.Conder argues that if someone had stakes driven through their hands instead of their forearms, they would tear right through the surrounding flesh because of the body's weight (MB, p. 78).But as Jehovah's Witnesses reply:"Since the wrists have always been considered by anatomists as part of the hands, some medical men think the nails were driven between the small bones of the wrists to prevent the stripping out that could have occurred if driven through the palms--See Arizona Medicine, March, 1965, p. 184."Taken altogether, "They pierced my hands and my feet," is a much more sensible candidate for the original reading of Ps. 22:16 than, "Like a lion my hands and my feet."[11]

 

THE PSALMS RELIABLE IN THE SEPTUAGINT

 

††††††††† Was the Septuagint corrupted in Ps. 22:16 to favor the Christian viewpoint?If Origen (c. 185-254 A.D.) carefully and reverently used the Hebrew (or other Greek) texts to correct the Greek translation from it, and inserted textual critical marks to note the changes that future scribes were supposed to copy, instead of leaving them out entirely, he isn't a plausible candidate a priori for perverting the word of God.The LXX's variations in literary style and/or in the original Hebrew text being used while different men translated different books don't prove Christians perverted it.Furthermore, excellent evidence exists for the LXX being finished by c. 100 b.c.Soderlund notes several facts of interest for the questions Conder raises about the LXX.First, "the discovery in the Judean desert of a Greek leather scroll of the Minor Prophets from the 1st cent. B.C. or A.D. has significant implications for the question of LXX origins."Among the poetic books, he notes that "the Psalms are the best section and constitute a fairly faithful rendering of the Hebrew," unlike the paraphrasing [perhaps like a Targum at points?] often encountered in the other books of the Writings.Earlier, he notes that by far the most common LXX manuscripts (mss.) are those of the Psalms, so there's more material here to study potentially.The prologue to the apocryphal book Sirach (c. 132-100 B.C.) gives some external evidence for most of the LXX being translated by the late second century b.c., since it mentions the prior translation of "the Law itself, the prophecies, and the rest of the books."Citing Ronald Harrison as their source, McDowell and Wilson write:"At least by 117 B.C., the entire translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek had been completed."[12]However, if Peter Flint's work above asserting that the Dead Sea Scrolls' readings favor "he pierced" withstands scrutiny, debates over the Septuagint's reliability in Psalms 22 are rendered largely irrelevant.

 

WILL END-TIME JEWS LOOK UPON THE GOD THEY PIERCED?

 

††††††††† "And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born" (Zech. 12:10).In this striking verse, the "Me" is clearly God.How could God become "pierced" or otherwise physically wounded?The Almighty God has to become flesh in order to be "pierced"!A hint of the doctrine of Jesus being the only begotten Son first born from the dead is found in the statements about mourning "for an only son" and "weeping over a first-born."How does Conder attempt to duck this verse's implications?"The original Hebrew in Zechariah 12:10 reads, look 'unto Me,' or look 'to Me,' (Elai) not 'upon Him' (Ahlav)" (MB, p. 76).This minor quibble hardly delivers Conder from the quandary of explaining how God could be pierced, yet still deny Jesus was the Messiah who came as God in the flesh, who allowed His creatures to wound Him, then kill Him.Whether it is translated "to Me" or "upon Me" is almost irrelevant, although the Hebrew seemingly can be translated either way.The Hebrew word clearly is "Me," not "Him."Conder claims it's implausible that the narrative would suddenly switch from the first person to the third, from "Me" to "Him."John Wheeler, a LCG laymember who can read Hebrew, maintains otherwise:"It is not uncommon for the grammatical person to change (as from first to third) in the middle of a Hebrew narrative (especially when referring to God)."[13]The NASB rendering found above of the crucial part of Zech. 12:10 is highly literal, which Green's Interlinear Bible clearly verifies, which has underneath the Hebrew, "And they shall look on Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him."Conder cites two Jewish translations to prop up his case, The Holy Scriptures and the Tanakh, but, by using loose translations (especially the latter), they display anti-Christian bias.Nevertheless, even if many of Conder's points were granted, he still hasn't explained how the invincible Yahweh was pierced, which is the main problem non-Messianic Jews face here.

 

ISAIAH 7:14--DOES IT REFER TO JESUS' BIRTH?

 

††††††††† "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14).In Matthew 1:23, this verse is cited as a prophecy that is fulfilled when Jesus is born.Arguing it is hopelessly yanked out of context, Conder says it was just a sign relevant to King Ahaz in 734 b.c. when Judah was being invaded by Israel and Aram, so it has nothing to do with the Messiah (see MB, pp. 30-31).†† Clearly, the secondary meaning of this text isn't obvious.It has a dual meaning, the obvious, primary one being fulfilled in Ahaz's time, and the secondary, antitypical one in Jesus' birth.According to Smith, the use of the announcement formula "behold!" "signal[s] births of unusual significance," including even in the Ugaritic language, which is highly similar to Hebrew.Much of the controversy surrounding this verse concerns how to translate the Hebrew word "almah."It is somewhat ambiguous, and can be translated "virgin" or "young woman."The Septuagint's Jewish translator for this verse may have felt a deeper meaning was here, since he chose the Greek word for virgin, "parthenos," which has to mean a woman without sexual experience.After all, since a young woman giving birth is (ahem) the expected, it's hardly a very distinctive sign.But a virgin giving birth, well, that's truly miraculous!The word "almah" always refers to (when the context is clear) an unmarried woman in the nine times it appears in the OT (five times in the plural, four times in the singular).Furthermore, it can mean "virgin," since it is used of Rebekah when she had yet to know a man (Gen. 24:43; cf. 24:16).In the Ugaritic language and the Carthaginian dialect of Phoenician, the equivalent term for "almah" also means "virgin."Smith reasons thus:If the woman giving birth was unmarried, an illegitimate birth doesn't make for much of a sign from God.So then, the birth had to be by a virgin.Conder then gives us the standard Jewish reply to Christian reasoning on "almah," by saying that if "virgin" had really been intended, Isaiah would have used the word "bethulah."However, this word could refer to an married woman as well.Note Joel 1:8:"Wail like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the bridegroom ['husband'--NKJV] of her youth."While perhaps still somewhat ambiguous, this text still undermines any claim of certainty that "bethulah" must always mean "virgin."Furthermore, the closely related Aramaic language uses the equivalent of "bethulah" for a married woman.

 

††††††††† Conder also argues that the Hebrew word translated "conceived," "harah," in Isa. 7:14 is in the past or perfect tense, and so therefore can't be a prophecy.Similarly, he argues that the past tense in Isa. 9:6 in the literal Hebrew (i.e., "is born," "is given," etc.) proves this verse can't refer to a future Messiah (MB, p. 85).This argument overlooks the difference between Hebrew, a Semitic language, and English, an Indo-European language, concerning "state" and "tense."†† In Biblical Hebrew, not modern Israeli Hebrew, "states" are used, not "tenses" like past, present, and future.As Wheeler explains:

 

††††††††† State may be perfect, participle, imperfect or imperative, without regard to the time in which the action occurs (which is generally indicated--if at all--by other aspects of the syntax).In modern Israeli Hebrew, these forms have become past, present, future, and imperative--but if one reads biblical Hebrew like Israeli Hebrew, one stumbles over a great deal.Many Jews make this mistake; so do certain Protestants, and also some in God's church.

 

Isaiah is evidently using the "prophetic perfect," a special past tense (when literally translated into English) about, as Smith explains, "future events which are so vivid to [the prophets'] minds and so certain to occur that they can be described as having already occurred."So for Conder to argue that the woman of Isa. 7:14 has already conceived (past tense), and then insist that this text couldn't refer to the future, is ultimately unconvincing since it betrays a lack of knowledge of Hebrew grammar.[14]So to reply against Conder's reasoning concisely, it's evident that the Hebrew word "almah" can mean virgin, that the perfect (a type of past) tense/state doesn't mean this prophecy could only occur while King Ahaz lived, and that the verse has a dual meaning/application, since the earlier typical fulfillment in Ahaz's time is followed by a later, antitypical fulfillment in the first century A.D.True, the secondary, antitypical meaning couldn't be known without the inspired NT's author citing it as referring to Jesus' birth.But just because the secondary meaning is obscure doesn't mean it doesn't exist.We have to avoid ruling out a priori further revelation from God, since (as surveyed in my longer essays on Conder's claims) there is plenty of evidence for belief in the NT as inspired by God, and Jesus' Messiahship as established by His resurrection (and other miracles) independently of any potentially ambiguous messianic texts.

 

ISAIAH 9:6--THE CHILD IS "MIGHTY GOD"

 

††††††††† For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father [or better, 'Father of Eternity'--EVS], Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:6).

 

Did any human king of Israel ever have the titles/names that this Child received?Conder claims that the child born here was Hezekiah (MB, p. 85).Although Hezekiah was a good king, "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace" he was not.Furthermore, Rashi, the eleventh-century Jewish Bible commentator, said the child of this verse couldn't be Hezekiah because, "if you count up the years of Hezekiah you will find that Hezekiah was born nine years before his father [Ahaz] ascended the throne."Then, v. 7 says the reign of this King will be "forevermore," which certainly didn't fit Hezekiah's reign, or that of any other human king.To parry this reply, Conder correctly maintains that the Hebrew word translated "forevermore," olam, need not always mean something totally without end.But his counter-argument ignores Hebrew poetry's classic refrain pattern, in which the same basic thought is repeated in different words twice in succession.In v. 7, after saying, "There will be no end," it adds, "From then on and forevermore."The repetition reinforces the notion that olam's normal meaning applies.Since this text obviously poses major problems to Jews, Conder cites two Jewish translations that apparently deliberately obscure this prophecy.The Tanakh transmogrifies the titles "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God," into "The Mighty God is planning grace"--huh?The Holy Scriptures transliterates all four titles into a long proper name:"and his name is called Pelejoezelgibbor Abiadsarashalom."Both do somersaults to avoid calling the Child GOD.[15]Clearly, this OT text may be the hardest for a Jew denying Jesus is the Messiah to explain away since a literal translation plainly labels some human child "Mighty God," i.e., God incarnate.[16]

 

JUST WHO IS THE "SERVANT" IN ISAIAH?JESUS OR ISRAEL?

 

††††††††† Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12 contain what have come to be called the four "Servant Songs."When interpreting these texts, the basic debate is over whether they describe the nation of Israel, Jesus as the Messiah, or someone else.Following the majority Jewish view of the present time, Conder maintains they refer to the nation of Israel/Judah (MB, pp. 95, 100, 101).This narrow interpretation doesn't reckon with the double meaning involved, especially in the Second Servant Song (Isa. 49:1-6).Isa. 49:3 declares that the Servant is Israel, "You are My Servant, Israel," yet the Servant suddenly becomes the One to lead Israel back to God in v. 5:"The Lord, who formed Me from the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, in order that Israel might be gathered to Him."Obviously, Israel can't be the one leading Israel back to God!Someone Else has to be doing it.True, Isaiah 41:8-9 calls Israel a "servant."But can this interpretation be uncritically applied to all four of the Servant Songs, especially Isaiah 52:13-53:12?In order to sort through this seeming confusion, it's necessary to remember that a "king" and his "kingdom" are interchangeable in Biblical prophecy (see Dan. 7:17, 23).This is understandable because a king represents and governs over the realm he rules.As E.J. Young explains the dual meaning in the Servant Songs:"The servant is the Messiah (Jesus Christ) conceived as the Head of His people, the Church (or redeemed Israel).At one time the body is more prominent, at another (e.g., chap. 53) the Head."

Although many parts of the Servant Songs can be easily applied to Israel, to say they speak only of Israel straightjackets the natural meaning, especially in the climatic Fourth Song.

 

JEWS SEE THE MESSIAH ACCORDING TO ISAIAH'S PROPHECY

 

††††††††† The First Servant Song (Isa. 42:7) is similar to Isa. 61:1, which Jesus quoted in Luke 4:18.Conder's claim that the Messiah is never called a servant ignores Isa. 61:1, which says the Eternal "has anointed me,"--and the meaning of the word "messiah" is "the anointed one"!By letting the Bible interpret itself, the Servant becomes the Messiah here.At least one ancient Jewish commentary, the Midrash Rabbah, Lamentations 3:49-50, 59, said Isa. 61:1 referred to the Redeemer.Even the Jews themselves sometimes have interpreted Isa. 42 as referring to the Messiah, such as the commentaries Mesudat David and Metsudat Zion, as well as David Kimchi.One targum (a Jewish paraphrase of the OT) reads:"Behold my Servant, the Messiah, I will draw Him near, my chosen one in whom my Memra [Logos] is well pleased."†† The highly individualistic language of the Servant Songs supports the interpretation that they can refer to a specific person, even as it can be seen as allegorical also.[17]Now let's turn to the fourth Servant Song to see if Conder's analysis that the Servant refers to Israel (or Judah) can withstand scrutiny.

 

THE SUFFERING SERVANT OF ISAIAH 52-53 POINTS TO AN INDIVIDUAL, NOT ISRAEL

 

††††††††† Undeniably, the most specific prophecy of Jesus' first coming is Isaiah 52:13-53:12.This passage describes the "Mournful Messiah" who died for the sins of others in a vicarious, substitutionary atonement.Quoting the whole passage is superfluous for those with Bibles, but notice in particular Isa. 53:4-5, 10, 11:

 

††††††††† Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.But He was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him . . .But the Eternal was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering. . . . My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.

 

Notice that the Servant does not just suffer because of others directly attacking or injuring Him (v. 7), but He takes on their sins and bears them in their place.Clearly, the sufferings of Judah during the Holocaust (for example) can't be made to fit this passage.No human who isn't God can bear someone else's sins, as the Suffering Servant does (v. 6):"But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him."Similarly, the agonies Judah has suffered through the centuries don't fit v. 10:"But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering."Just as an animal sacrificed in a guilt offering bore symbolically the sin of the individual human in question, although it (the animal) had done nothing wrong, so does the Suffering Servant, who (v. 8) "had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth," yet He died for others.Judah has not been a purely innocent "guilt offering" that bore the sins of the world--but Jesus did.Furthermore, saying Judah (or Israel) has never engaged in violence or deceit is absurd, for all men have sinned--besides Jesus.Conder implausibly applies v. 7 to Judah as a tribe:"He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth."It may be true that during the Holocaust few Jews fought against their oppressors--though the Warsaw uprising of 1943 and the mass escape from the Sobidor camp show even then the Jews weren't entirely "silent."But this is only one part of their history, as Frydland reminds us.It discounts the Maccabean Wars of the second century b.c. against the Greeks and the two major Judean revolts against Rome (66-70 A.D., 132-135 A.D.).Nor could Israel be called "silent" concerning the Babylonian exile and the Assyrian invasions.Nor does it fit the history of modern Israel since 1948, which has fought five wars against the Arabs (including the Lebanese invasion).Now notice that the language of Isa. 52:13-53:12 is very personal and singular in its references to the Servant by its use of "he," "him," etc.Verse 3 says:"He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face . . ."Such language should be taken literally, unless strong compelling evidence indicates it is symbolic--and no such evidence is at hand in the two chapters.Very importantly, Isaiah distinguishes the Servant from Israel by writing that the "ALL of US like sheep have gone astray, each of US has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of US all to fall on HIM" (verse 6; cf. verses 4-5).Now who could be the "US" other than Isaiah's nation, which then is clearly distinguished from the Servant?(To claim the "us" is gentile onlookers artificially forces this thought into these verses, especially since we should assume Isaiah (or God) is the narrator, unless otherwise noted).Then notice this (v. 8):"HE was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of MY PEOPLE to whom the stroke was due."HOW CAN ANYONE HONESTLY SAY THE SERVANT AND ISRAEL ARE ONE AND THE SAME WHEN FACING THIS VERSE?[18]No other passage in the Hebrew Bible, other than perhaps the seventy weeks prophecy, more strongly challenges the orthodox Jewish viewpoint, which discounts the Mournful Messiah in favor of the Conquering Messiah.[19]

 

††††††††† Nowadays Jews normally maintain that Isaiah 52-53 speaks of Israel; Unsurprisingly, Conder follows their lead.But interestingly, this view didn't become widespread among them until the thirteenth century A.D., and only then largely thanks to the influence of the Jewish Bible commentator called Rashi (1040-1105 A.D.)Anciently, various Jewish writings attest that at least some Jews saw Isaiah 52 and/or 53 as messianic texts.For example, note how the targum Jonathan (early second century A.D.) paraphrases Isa. 52:13:"Behold, My servant the Messiah shall prosper; he shall be exalted and great and very powerful."Other Jewish religious leaders interpreted this passage similarly, such as the famous Jewish scholar of the sixteenth century, Moshe Alshekh, who wrote:"[Our] Rabbis with one voice, accept and affirm that opinion that the prophet [Isaiah] is speaking of king Messiah."Despite his exaggeration, this claim still had some foundation, at least for the last three verses of Isaiah 52.The Talmud, the collection of Jewish law and tradition completed by the fifth century A.D., applies Isa. 53 variously.But at least once the Talmud applied it directly to the Messiah (Sanhedrin 98a):"The Rabanan (rabbis) say the Messiah's name is The Suffering Scholar of Rabbi's House [or The Leper Scholar] for it is written 'Surely He hath borne our grief and carried our sorrows, yet we esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted."The Midrash (ancient Jewish commentary) Rabbah Ruth v. 6 applied the text "He was wounded for our afflictions" to the Messiah, and it did not stand alone in doing this.One targum even interpreted Isaiah 52:13 as, "Behold my Servant the Messiah shall prosper."None other than Moses Maimonides (1135-1204 A.D.), the great medieval Jewish philosopher, rejected Rashi's interpretation and said Isa. 53 referred to the Messiah.[20]When carefully examined, calling this section of Isaiah a parabolic description of Israel simply isn't persuasive.

 

THE MOURNFUL AND CONQUERING MESSIAHS

 

††††††††† Like most Jews of early first-century Judea, Conder conceives of the Messiah as a conqueror who establishes the kingdom of God when he comes and totally dismisses the ideas of a "Mournful Messiah" or "Suffering Servant" who came to serve God and die (MB, pp 88, 95).Nowadays, most (practicing) Jews say the Messiah has only one coming in which He is a Conqueror waging war against the nations.But can all the texts on the Messiah be reconciled to this interpretation?Note that Zech 9:9 has Israel's king arriving humbly and on a donkey.But Dan. 7:13-14 has the "Son of Man" in the clouds of heaven and being given power to rule over all the world's peoples.Both of these texts describe the Messiah, but He comes in two very different ways!How can they be reconciled them?Without positing two comings for the Messiah, it's nearly impossible!To explain this discrepancy, Jews have even resorted to saying it would be a miraculous donkey (!), or saying that if Israel was worthy, the Messiah would come one way, but if not, the other.Consider this rationalization in the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a:

 

††††††††† R. Alexandri said that R. Joshua bar Levi combined the two paradoxical passages; the one that says, 'Behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven' (Dan. 7:13) [showing Messiah's glory] and the other verse that says, 'poor and riding upon a donkey' (Zech. 9:9) [showing Messiah's humility].He explained it in this manner:If they are worthy, He will come 'with the clouds of heaven;' if they are unworthy He will come 'poor and riding upon a donkey.'

 

TWO MESSIAHS?

 

††††††††† Showing that some Jews did conceive of a (semi?) Mournful Messiah, the Babylonian Talmud, in Sukkah 52b, asserts there would be two Messiahs.One is called Messiah ben Joseph, who, as Frydland summarizes, "fights, suffers extreme humiliation, and is pierced, fulfilling Zechariah's prophecy, 'They shall look unto Me whom they have pierced.'"The other was Messiah Ben David, who would be given the nations as an inheritance (Ps. 2:8). Later Jewish sources portrayed the two thus, as Frydland summarizes the work of Waxman:"Messiah Ben Joseph will be pierced through by Armilus, after which there will be much tribulation.Then, the Messiah, called Menachem Ben Ami-El, appears to the remnant of Israel.He, together with Elijah, brings to life Messiah Ben Joseph, and then the rest of the dead."Conder and modern Jews may discount or ignore the differing descriptions of the Messiah in the OT.But anciently at least some did not, which shows interpreting the OT to portray the Messiah only as a Conqueror disagrees even with how many of the Jews themselves understood it![21]The Christian solution, of saying the same Messiah has two widely separated visits to earth, solves this seeming OT contradiction.Now, how would Conder propose to solve it, using the OT alone?

 

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXPOSE OTHER JEWISH INTERPRETATIONS OF THE MESSIAH

 

††††††††† Conder's case is further damaged by the Dead Sea Scroll discoveries that indicate that the Qumran community applied such texts as Gen. 49:10; Num. 24; Ps. 2, Isa. 11:1; II Sam. 7:12-14; and Amos 9:11 to the Messiah.In one place, 4QWar Scroll (4Q285 [4QM]) Frag. 5:2-4), the Messiah is portrayed as being killed in battle:"A Shoot will emerge from the stump of Jesse . . . the Bud of David will go into battle with . . . and the Prince of the Congregation will kill him, the Bud of David . . . and his wounds."In another text (4QAramaic Apocalypse [4Q246] Col. I:7-9; Col. II: 1, 5-8), it says of the Messiah:"He will be great over the earth . . . all will worship him . . . He will be called 'Son of God' . . . His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom . . . He is a great God of gods."Hence, the Messiah in one place is portrayed as being killed, yet in another as God, both views that are congruent with Christianity's view.What has to be remembered is that the Talmud and Midrashim mainly represent just one type of Judaism (with its attendant interpretation of Scripture), while alternatives rate little or no space. Hence, divergent views of the Messiah such as the Qumran sect's would have been lost to history except for the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.[22]

 

GENESIS 49:10 AND WHEN THE MESSIAH ARRIVES

 

††††††††† When Jacob (not Abraham) was on his deathbed, he prophesied of Judah:"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes" (Gen. 49:10).Does the last clause refer to the Messiah?Anciently, Jews have applied this text to the Messiah.For example, the Targums Onkelos (second century A.D.), Yershalmi (sixth century A.D., but based on earlier sources), Pseudo-Jonathan (late seventh century A.D., but based on earlier sources) inserted the word "Messiah" into this verse.In the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98b, one person said the name of the Messiah was "Shiloh."[23]At least two Midrashim (ancient Jewish OT commentaries) have a messianic interpretation of this verse, the Midrash Rabbah Genesis and the Midrash Tanhuma.Although the Yalkut, a medieval Jewish anthology, said the word "Shiloh" meant "gift to the Lord," it still attributed this prophecy to the Messiah.[24]Evidently, having found this text troublesome to their faith, contemporary Jewish translators (see MB, p. 156) deliberately misread an apparent proper name ("Shiloh") as another word, "tribute."

 

††††††††† Now, it's all fine and good to show many Jews in the past interpreted Gen. 49:10 to refer to the Messiah, but how about a more direct argument, based on the Bible interpreting itself?Consider Ezekiel 21:27, which refers to the removal of the scepter (throne) from Judah to Israel, as HWA understood it:"A ruin, a ruin, a ruin, I shall make it.This also will be no more, until He comes whose right it is; and I shall give it to Him."Frydland says that the Hebrew word for "whose right it is" is asher-lo, "which is basically the same word used in the scepter prophecy for 'Shiloh.'"The two passages correspond with one another, since in Eze. 21:27 the throne of Judah is really the Messiah's, which He will take back when He comes to rule the nations.Smith maintains that seeing "Shiloh" as a title for the Messiah is the most likely meaning, arguing it's unjustified to change the text to read "which is to him" or "which belongs to him."To do this means admitting a transcriptional error has occurred, which creates the peculiar grammatical problem of "shiloh" being then a "combination of a relative pronoun, a preposition, and a pronominal suffix."If it is interpreted to mean "until he (Judah) comes to Shiloh," then it would mean that Judah received "the obedience of the peoples."The history of the Jews since the end of united monarchy hardly fits that description, since Judah didn't receive obedience even from the other tribes, let alone the nations of the world.

 

††††††††† If "Shiloh" refers to the Messiah, it helps to place when the Messiah would come.The Messiah has to arrive before monarchy ends among the Jews:"The scepter shall not depart from Judah . . . until Shiloh comes."Although the Davidic monarchy ended among the Jews when Zedekiah was taken into captivity in 587 b.c., rulers after it did have the title, "the king of the Jews."The Hasmoneans, better known as the Maccabees, had the title "the king of the Jews" from 103 b.c. to 63 b.c.Herod the Great, although an Edomite, did have some Jewish blood in his veins if his biographer is to be trusted [although this may not be true].He ruled from 40 b.c. to 4 b.c.His grandson Herod Agrippa I, descended from the Hasmoneans as well, had the same title and ruled from 41 to 44 A.D.No one since has had that title and been the king over the Jews.Although HWA applied this prophecy to the Second Coming, there's also reason to apply it the first as well, when following the principle of duality in fulfillment/interpretation.As Newman deduces, "If Genesis 49:10 is understood in this sense, the Messiah must have come before A.D. 44."[25]

 

††††††††† Another approach to dating when the ruler's staff/scepter departed from Judah concerns when Jewish leaders could no longer inflict the death penalty independently of Rome.During Jesus' trial, this issue came up (John 18:31).The Roman historian Tacitus (c. 56-120 A.D.) wrote that:"The Romans reserved to themselves the right of the sword, and neglected all else."When the Sanhedrin in Judea lost the power to inflict death has been disputed.Evidently according to Magath, after Herod's son Archelaus was disposed in 11 A.D., the procurators of Rome stripped the Sanhedrin of this power.Even the Talmud (Jerusalem, Sanhedrin, fol. 24, recto.) asserts it was lost "a little more than forty years before the destruction of the Temple."The Jews then lamented the loss of this power:"'Woe unto us, for the scepter has departed from Judah, and the Messiah has not come!'"Notice the second clause's statement that "a lawgiver from between his feet" (KJV) wouldn't depart from Israel before Shiloh came.If this means some generic kind of lawmaking, legislative, or political authority, that too passed from the Jews during the first century. W.J. Moulder notes that the Sanhedrin changed permanently following 70 A.D.:"The Romans thereafter ruled directly, being unwilling to give autonomy to the Jews, who had revolted so violently."[26]Therefore, two comings of the Messiah are necessary to explain all the OT texts referring to Him, since the Conquering Messiah hasn't arrived, yet the scepter did depart from Judah if interpreted in either of these ways.

 

THE SECOND TEMPLE AND THE MESSIAH'S ARRIVAL

 

††††††††† Another way to possibly date the time of the Messiah's arrival concerns whether the Second Temple, rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity had ended, of Zerubbabel (c. 515 b.c.) and Herod (beginning 19 b.c.), had to be standing when He came.Although the Second Temple was being initially rebuilt under Zerubbabel, the prophet Haggai predicted:"And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of Host" (Haggai 2:7, KJV).Now, how was the glory of the second temple greater than the first?The word translated "glory" can refer to physical wealth or to God's presence.True, if it refers to the former, then arguably under Herod the Second Temple eventually exceeded the First of Solomon, by becoming one of the ancient world's real architectural marvels.But if it refers to the latter, which certainly makes more sense (cf. I Kings 8:10-11), this could only be fulfilled by Jesus, God in the flesh, arriving at the Temple.Why?Because the Second Temple never had the personal presence of God in the form of the Shekinah in it, nor did it have the Ark of the Covenant.[27]Instead, Mal. 3:1 was fulfilled in Christ:"Behold, I am going to send My messenger [John the Baptist--Matt. 11:9-11], and he will clear the way before Me [the Eternal].And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple [Luke 2:26-27, 32, 46-49; John 2:13-21--this could also refer to a possible temple yet to be built--EVS]; and the messenger of the [new] covenant, in whom you delight, He is coming."Since the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., the Messiah had to arrive before then in order for its glory to exceed the First Temple's.After all, when else could have the 30 pieces of silver, "that magnificent price at which I [Yahweh] was valued by them," been thrown to the potter in the House of the Lord?(Zech. 11:13).Certainly, this can't occur to the Conquering Messiah!

 

TRANSLATION ISSUES IN HAG. 2:7

†††††††††

††††††††† True, a lot of controversy erupts over how to translate the above underlined phrase in Hag. 2:7, because the Hebrew word for "desire of," chemdat is a singular, but the verb is plural, "they shall come."Now this construction also occurs in Amos 6:1 ("house of Israel" and "they shall come") and Haggai 1:2 ("people" and "they said").Taking chemdat collectively, as most modern commentators do, runs into the problem that no cases of this appear in the OT.Although other translations exist, note that the desire (chemdat) of Israel was focused on Saul as a king to save them from their enemies:"And to whom is all the desire of Israel?Is it not to you and to all the house of your father?" (I Sam. 9:20, Green's Literal Translation).Although legitimate ambiguity remains in how to translate Hag. 2:7, a good case can be made for the ancient Jewish interpretation that saw this as a personal reference to the Messiah, which then likely means the Messiah had to come before the Second Temple's destruction.[28]

 

THE SEVENTY WEEKS PROPHECY

 

††††††††† The Seventy Weeks prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 is surely the most powerful proof that the Messiah had to come by the first century.Again, quoting its words here is superfluous for those having Bibles.Admittedly, several schools flourish about how to exactly interpret this prophecy.Nevertheless, note one part that is clear:The Messiah will be "cut off," i.e., killed, in v. 26.Since this certainly can't refer to the Conquering Messiah, it conclusively proves the Messiah will have two comings!Regardless of the mental somersaults anyone could apply to this prophecy besides totally allegorization, it points to the Messiah arriving by 100 A.D.By using the Old Testament's day-for-a-year principle (Num. 14:33-34; Eze. 4:4-6), the 7 weeks and the 62 weeks amount to 483 years (v. 25) "from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince."Counting 483 years from the time king Artaxerxes of Persia issued a decree (457 b.c.), while skipping the year "0" since there was no such thing, comes out to A.D. 27.This last year was the first year of Jesus' public ministry, since He was crucified in A.D. 31 after a ministry of three and a half years.Newman counts up 69 seven-year land sabbatical cycles, which concern the years Israel was to let farmland lie fallow.When using the starting point of 445 b.c., this yields the similar result of 28-35 A.D. for sixty-ninth cycle.True,you can argue about the exact year of Jesus' birth (such as whether it was 4 b.c. or 2 b.c), death (A.D. 30, 31, 33), and/or which decree by which Persian king to start from (Cyrus, 537 b.c.; Darius, c. 519 b.c.; Artaxerxes, 445 b.c., etc.).Nevertheless, Daniel clearly has the Messiah appearing by the first century.To maintain the Messiah is still only in the future, centuries and centuries after the 69 weeks have expired, is simply absurd, when using one part of the Bible to interpret another part by the day-for-a-year principle.True, long-standing running disputes surround whether the seventieth week follows right after the sixty-ninth, or is separate from them, and is fulfilled during the Great Tribulation.But either way this prophecy still points to the Messiah arriving by the early first century A.D., regardless of any disputes over the precise dating of Christ's birth and the beginning of His ministry.It's hardly all just "guess work"--a couple of disputed years back and forth doesn't solve Conder's fundamental problem with Daniel, which is no doubt why he attacks its historicity nearly as harshly as any book in the NT! (MB, p. 126).[29]

 

THE INSERTED PUNCTUATION IN BIASED JEWISH TRANSLATIONS OF DAN. 9:25

 

††††††††† In order to duck this prophecy's implications, Conder uses a biased Jewish translation.It inserts a semi-colon in the middle of v. 25, between the 7 and 62 weeks, to push back the arrival of the Messiah to just 49 years after the Persian king issued the decree, causing the 62 weeks to apply to the time for rebuilding ancient Jerusalem.As professor E.B. Pusey explains:

 

††††††††† The Jews put the main stop of the verse under [the Hebrew word for "seven"], meaning to separate the two numbers, 7 and 62.This they must have done dishonestly . . . as Rashi [the leading Jewish Bible commentator] says in rejecting literal expositions which favoured the Christians 'on account of the heretics,' i.e. Christians.[30]

 

The Tanakh reads for v. 25:"You must know and understand; from the issuance of the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the anointed leader [the Messiah] is seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it [Jerusalem] will be rebuilt, square and moat, but in a time of distress."This translation creates three major absurdities.First, did the Messiah appear by the fifth century b.c.?If only 49 years elapsed from 457 b.c., He had to arrive by 408 b.c., which is the purest poppycock.Then, second, note what v. 26 says:"And after those sixty-two weeks, the anointed one [Messiah] will disappear and vanish."If the Messiah was cut off after the 62 weeks of years, that would mean He lived on earth for some 434 years before being killed!Third, did it really take 434 years for Jerusalem to be rebuilt?By citing The Jewish Encyclopedia, Conder attempts to turn the Persian king Cyrus into the anointed one (cf. Isa. 45:1) (MB, p. 128), but saying a gentile king could fulfill the promises of v. 24 is simply impossible!Furthermore, he'd still have to live the entire 434 years!Conder cites two liberal Christian commentaries to buttress his views--Peake's and the Collegeville--which merely displays their evident anti-supernaturalistic premises.

 

THE BATTLE BETWEEN TWO SCHOOLS OF PROPHETIC INTERPRETATION OVER DAN. 9:24-27

 

††††††††† Conder eagerly seizes upon some of the standard disputes that rage over how to interpret some parts of the seventy weeks' prophecy, ignoring how what is clear decisively refutes his teachings about when the Messiah comes.The last part of Dan. 9:26, which prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Roman legions under Titus, need not be considered as occurring during the 70 weeks of years.As Smith writes, "The word determined in verse 26-27 may suggest that what would happen during the seventy heptads [weeks] would seal the fate of Jerusalem, and of the Roman armies which would attack Jerusalem."To create confusion, Conder apparently uses the long-running disputes between futurists/dispensationalists (e.g., Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth) who maintain the seventieth week is separate from the other 69 by a large gap, and the traditional historicist view (which the SDAs uphold), which asserts the seventieth week occurs right after the first 69 weeks of years.(HWA literally split the difference between the two schools, by saying the first 3 1/2 years of the seventieth week followed right after the sixty-ninth week (27-31 A.D.), but that the second 3 1/2 years will ensue during the great tribulation after a gap of some 2000 years in-between).The futurists relate the beginning of v. 27 to the Antichrist during the great tribulation to come, when he would stop the Jews from offering sacrifices at a literal temple yet to be rebuilt in Jerusalem.By contrast, the historicists apply it to the year of Jesus' crucifixion.Donald Ward recently has made an excellent case for justifying a gap between sixty-ninth and the seventieth weeks by noting the covenant that was confirmed in v. 27 couldn't have been the New Covenant.Although much more could be said on how to interpret this prophecy, the confusion Conder creates can be eliminated by following the SDA/historicist view, which places the seventieth week right after the sixty-ninth.[31]

 

CONCLUSION

 

††††††††† Although in this present time of religious confusion and apostasy in the Church of God many have found the religious rituals and wisdom of the Jews comforting to embrace, we as Christians must still emphatically proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah, or else our own salvation is at stake.By realizing many of the Old Testament messianic prophecies are types, not prophecies that will be verbally fulfilled literally and directly, we Christians can avoid the trap of believing this or that New Testament citation of the Old Testament is "out of context."We must also remember that our belief in the New Testament as a further revelation of God is also partially founded on a base independent of the Old Testament, such as the miracles Jesus performed or participated in, culminating in His resurrection from the dead, and His supreme moral example and profound religious teaching.Through such data as archeological evidence and correlation with pagan historical documents and writings, we can infer that what can't be checked in the New Testament is reliable since what can be directly verified has repeated confirmed it.Certain key Old Testament messianic texts have proven deeply troublesome to the Jews, such as Isaiah 52-53 and Daniel 7:24-27, not to mention the Zech. 9:9 and Dan. 7:13-14 conundrum.Their replies on these texts are hardly persuasive to an informed listener.The frequent distortions in the Messianic texts in Jewish translations of Scripture, such as for Gen. 49:10; Dan. 9:25; Zech. 12:10; Ps. 22:16; and Isa. 9:6, are evidence that the Jewish interpretation isn't as strong as its advocates believe.We should reject the Siren call of various Jews and apostate Christians to convert to Judaism, and cling all the more tightly to Jesus as our Lord and Savior who died to save us from sin.As Jesus Himself warned us:"Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 10:32-33).

 

 

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    [1]Darrell W. Conder, Mystery Babylon and the Lost Ten Tribes in the End Time (Salt Lake City:Commonwealth Publishing, 1996).In response to this book, I wrote the essay, "Is Christianity a Fraud?A Preliminary Assessment of the Conder Thesis."In response, Conder wrote a caustic 40-page reply, "By-Gosh Josh:An Answer to Eric V. Snow."My further rebuttal is entitled, in the Servant's News edition, "Is Christianity a Fraud?Round Two!"Hard copies of my essays can be requested free from:Servants' News, P.O. Box 220, Charlotte, MI48813-0220 or downloaded from the following websites:biblestudy.org; www.io.com/~ucgaa/ucgaa.html.

    [2]Those interested in the historical evidence for the NT's relability and the proofs of the resurrection should read my essays listed above, and consult the books cited in them for still further evidence.

    [3]James Smith, What the Bible Teaches about the Promised Messiah (Nashville, TN:Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993), pp. 6, 9.

    [4]Rachmiel Frydland, What the Rabbis Know about the Messiah (Cincinnati, OH:Messianic Publishing Company, 1993), pp. 27-28.

    [5]For a quick discussion of this subject, although it's hardly mistake free, see Hal Lindsey with C.C. Carlson, The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI:Zondervan Publishing House, 1970), pp. 32-47.

    [6]Besides being typical, an obvious change in subject briefly occurs between Hosea 11:1 and Hosea 11:2, with a switch back in v. 3, which means it doesn't refer to the Messiah in v. 2.(See MB, p. 38 for Conder's analysis).As Smith observes, the subject is a singular first person in v. 1 ("I"--God is speaking), but plural in v. 2 ("they"--false prophets probably).The object changes also, from singular ("my son") to a plural generally occurring in verses 2-4.The transition from v. 1 to v. 2 is quite rough grammatically.Smith runs the intriguing argument that v. 1 stands alone, as a separate revelation (as v. 12 does in the NASB), since Hosea didn't write whole chapters on single subjects in chapter 4-13, but had various short revelations that were eventually put together.He contends that Hosea 11:1 should be attached to the prior chapter's last unit, that began in 10:9.This is unconvincing, because Hosea 11:3 uses the same parent/child analogy as v. 1 does.It's best to see this as a type mainly, with the grammatical shift from v. 1 to v. 2 signaling a change in the subject suddenly away from the Messiah (as a type, in its secondary meaning) to physical Israel itself (where this secondary meaning doesn't apply).For an interesting but flawed analysis of this text, see Smith, Promised Messiah, pp. 237-42.

    [7]Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI:Zondervan Publishing House, 1982), p. 319; Smith, Promised Messiah, p. 332; Targum Jonathan, as quoted in Moishe Rosen, Y'Shua:The Jewish Way to Say Jesus (Chicago:Moody Press, 1982), p. 70.

    [8]As Joseph A. Alexander explains:"The subject of the [sixty-ninth] psalm is an ideal person, representing the whole class of righteous sufferers.The only individual in whom the various traits meet is Christ.That he is not, however, the exclusive or even the immediate subject, is clear from the confession in verse 6 (5)."The Psalms, Translated and Explained (Grand Rapids, MI:Baker Book House, 1975), as cited by Smith, Promised Messiah, p. 131.

    [9]Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict:Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith (San Bernardino, CA:Here's Life Publishers, 1979), pp. 161-162; Rosen, Y'Shua, p. 45.On Ps. 22 generally, see Smith, Promised Messiah, pp. 145-54.

    [10]See Kevin D. Miller, "The War of the Scrolls," Christianity Today, Oct. 6, 1997, pp. 42-43.

    [11]Rosen, Y'shua, pp. 45-46, 74; Smith, Promised Messiah, p. 150; Aid to Bible Understanding (Brooklyn, NY:Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, 1971), p. 824; The NIV Interlinear and Ginsberg Bible as cited by John H. Wheeler, "Letter to Eric Snow," July 19, 199[7], p. 7.

    [12]S.K. Soderlund, "Septuagint," Geoffrey W. Bromiley, gen. ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids, MI:William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), vol. 4, pp. 403, 404, 408; Ronald Kenneth Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI:William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1969), pp. 228+; as cited by Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson, He Walked Among Us:Evidence for the Historical Jesus (Nashville:Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993), p. 228.This last book seems to be the closest thing to a refutation of Conder written in advance, so it's highly recommended for anyone seeking solid reasons for believing in Christianity.

    [13]Wheeler, "Letter to Eric Snow," p. 5.For example, note Ex. 23:25.

    [14]Rosen, Y'shua, pp. 16-17; Frydland, What the Rabbis Know about the Messiah, p. 41; Smith, Promised Messiah, pp. 252-54, 262, 264; Milton Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics (New York:Eaton and Mains, 1890), as cited by Smith, Promised Messiah, p. 251; H.W.F. Gesenius, Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI:Baker Books, 1979 (1847, original publication), p. 634; Wheeler, "Letter to Eric Snow," pp. 3, 4;See Aid for Bible Understanding, p. 741, for further confirmation of Wheeler's analysis of Hebrew grammar.

    [15]RASHI as cited by Frydland, What the Rabbis Know about the Messiah, p. 40.

    [16]Conder argues that Isa. 9:1-2 has been taken out of context as a reference to the Messiah (MB, pp. 39-40).This claim discounts how (along with verses 3-4), they are a "warm up" to verses 5-6.As Smith explains:"Two points are emphasized in this famous prophecy:(1) the promise of a new day (vv. 1-5); and (2) the reason for the new day (vv. 6-7)."Promised Messiah, p. 261.Smith's translation of Isa. 9:1-7 is very striking, which notes a number of "prophetic perfects" put into the English future tense.

    [17]Frydland, What the Rabbis Know about the Messiah, pp. 52, 55.

    [18]Conder attempts to evade the whole passage by saying Jesus' death doesn't fit part of v. 10:"He will see His offspring."Although it's true Jesus had no physical offspring, he certainly did have spiritual offspring.Note John 1:12-13:"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born [begotten, margin] not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.""He will prolong His days" (v. 10) after being "cut off out of the land of the living" (v. 8) through His resurrection from the dead.Otherwise, these two texts could easily be seen as contradictory.Conder's comment that "The prophecies of Isaiah are not, to put it bluntly, prophecies of Jesus unless he was to have children and live to a ripe old age!" certainly doesn't resolve this otherwise implicit contradiction (MB, p. 100).

    [19]On the subject of Isa. 52-53 generally, see Frydland, What the Rabbis Know about the Messiah, pp. 69-72; Rosen, Y'shua, pp. 58-65; Smith, Promised Messiah, pp. 306-18.That Jews were not exactly "silent" under Roman rule is shown by one chapter in:Anthony A. Barrett, Caligula:The Corruption of Power (New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 1989), pp. 182-91.

    [20]Rosen, Y'shua, p. 75; Frydland, What the Rabbis Know about the Messiah, pp. 53-56; McDowell and Wilson, He Walked Among Us, pp. 307

    [21]Frydland, What the Rabbis Know about the Messiah, pp. 5, 60; cf. Raphael Patai as cited in Rosen, Y'shua, pp. 73-74; Robert C. Newman, "The Testimony of Messianic Prophecy," in John Warwick Montgomery, ed., Evidence for Faith:Deciding the God Question (Dallas:Probe Books, 1991), p. 206.

    [22]See Robert Morey, The Trinity:Evidence and Issues (Grand Rapids, MI:Word Publishing, 1996), pp. 226-29.

    [23]as cited in Rosen, Y'shua, pp. 71-72.

    [24]Frydland, What the Rabbis Know about the Messiah, pp. 17.

    [25]Frydland, What the Rabbis Know about the Messiah, pp. 16; Smith, Promised Messiah, pp. 57-58; Newman in Montgomery, Evidence for Faith, p. 209; See HWA's comments in The United States and Britain in Prophecy (Pasadena, CA:Worldwide Church of God, 1980), pp. 58.After all, transferring the throne to Joseph from Judah means the scepter did depart from Judah, at least when narrowly defined to refer only to the Davidic line.

    [26]See McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol. 1, pp. 168-70; W.J. Moulder, "Sanhedrin," Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, p. 332.

    [27]Interestingly, God increasingly withdrew what presence from the Second Temple during the forty years before its destruction, according to the Jews themselves."The lot for the goat to be sacrificed ceased to come up on the right hand of the High Priest as previously; the crimson cloth they put out on Yom Kippur would not turn white as it had before; the Western light would not keep burning as before; and the doors of the Temple would no longer open of themselves" (Frydland, What the Rabbis Know about the Messiah, pp. 18-19; citing Rosh Hashanah 31b and Yoma 39b).

    [28]Smith, Promised Messiah, pp. 398-406, 408-10; Newman in Montgomery, ed., Evidence for Faith, pp. 209-10; McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol. 1, p. 170; Frydland, What the Rabbis Know about the Messiah, p. 76.

    [29]On the Seventy Weeks Prophecy, see Rosen, Y'Shua, pp. 37-40; Frydland, What the Rabbis Know about the Messiah, pp. 75-76; Newman in Montgomery, ed., Evidence for Faith, pp. 211-12.For a good defense of the anti-gap interpretation, see Seventh-Day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine:An Explanation of Certain Major Aspects of Seventh-Day Adventist Belief (Washington, DC:Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1957), pp. 268-308; Smith, Promised Messiah, pp. 382-396.For a pro-gap interpretation, see McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, pp. 170-75.

    [30]Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 2 (New York:Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1988), pp. 902-3.E.B. Pusey, Daniel the Prophet, 1885, p. 190, as cited by Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 2, p. 903.

    [31]Curiously, in a footnote, Conder says the 1290 days of Daniel 12:11 were used by William Miller, whose predictions about the end of the world in 1843/44 helped form the SDA church (MB, p. 128).Actually, it was the 2300 days of Dan. 8:14, when interpreted as years and added to 457 b.c., that formed the foundation of the SDA system of prophetic interpretation concerning the sanctuary, the investigative judgment, etc.For Donald Ward's views favoring the "gap" interpretation, see "Abomination of Desolation," in the UCG-AIA's World News and Prophecy:Biblical Perspectives on Current Events, September 1998, pp. 6-11.