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Monday, 18 December 2017
Yom Sheini, 30 Kislev 5778



Starting January 2012, In the Rabbis Dust will be posted here in audio format. Look out for it soon!





Reaching you with the
Messiah's good news






 “If Jesus is really the Messiah, and if he is so important, why doesn’t the Torah speak of him at all?”

Answer: “You would be surprised to see how many passages and concepts actually point to Jesus the Messiah in the Torah. But before you question my beliefs, are you aware that the Torah doesn’t say much about the ‘traditional’ Jewish Messiah? Does this mean that the Messiah is unimportant to traditional Judaism? And the Torah says nothing about the Oral Law. What does this imply? You might want to think twice about your argument here.”


 “Nowhere in the Hebrew Bible are we told that we must ‘believe in the Messiah.’”

Answer: “This is hardly an accurate statement, and it is not even in harmony with Jewish tradition. Believing in God, his prophets, and his Messiah is basic to the biblical faith, while one of the thirteen principles of the Jewish faith as articulated by Maimonides (Rambam), is that we must believe in the coming of the Messiah, awaiting him every day with unwavering faith.”


 “Isaiah 7:14 does not prophesy a virgin birth! And it has nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus, since it dealt with a crisis 700 years before he was born.”

Answer: “Although biblical scholars of varied religious backgrounds continue to debate the precise significance of Isaiah 7:14 (Jewish scholars disagree among themselves, as do Christian scholars), the overall meaning is clear: The prophet speaks of a supernatural event of great importance to the House of David, apparently the birth of a royal child. When read in the larger context of Isaiah 7-11, it is not difficult to see how Isa 7:14 was taken to be Messianic. Matthew therefore had good reason to cite this passage with reference to the birth of Jesus the Messiah. But you have raised some fair questions, so let’s look at them in a little more detail.”


“Isaiah 9:6[5]  does not speak of a divine king (or Messiah).”

Answer: “The most natural, logical, and grammatically sound translation of Isaiah 9:6[5] is: ‘For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us, and the government shall be on his shoulder, and his name is called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Father Forever, Prince of Peace’ (my translation). This is in harmony with other verses in our Hebrew Scriptures that point towards the divine nature of the Messiah, and the names of the child should be taken as descriptive of the Messiah himself.”


 “Isaiah 53 speaks of the people of Israel, not Jesus (or, any Messiah).”

Answer: “It is impossible, both contextually and logically, for Isaiah 53 to be speaking of the people of Israel. Rather, the text clearly speaks of one individual, and as many rabbis recognized through the ages, that individual was the Messiah.”


 “The rabbis only applied Isaiah 52:13-15, not 53:1-12, to the Messiah son of David.”

Answer: “Absolutely not. In fact, an Orthodox anti-missionary made this very claim   quite emphatically in a live radio debate with me in 1991. Needless to say, he had to come back on the air and admit his error.”


“It is not true that the medieval rabbis were the first applied Isaiah 53 to Israel instead of the Messiah. The Israel interpretation is actually very ancient.”

Answer: “You’re partially correct. The earliest reference to this interpretation is found in a second-century Christian source recounting a discussion between a Gentile follower of Jesus and some Jewish teachers who did not believe in him. But, aside from one passing reference in Midrash Rabbah (where part of one verse is interpreted with reference to the righteous), a specific identification of Isaiah 53 with Israel is not found in any Rabbinic literature until almost one thousand years after Jesus. (In other words, it is not found in the Talmuds, the Targums, or in the Midrashim.) Therefore, the view that Isaiah 53 spoke of Israel can hardly be considered a standard (or, ancient) Rabbinic interpretation, and for the traditional Jew, that’s what really matters.”

 “Isaiah 53 contains the words of the repentant kings of the nations rather than the words of the Jewish people.”

Answer: “This is not possible. The servant of the Lord in Isaiah 53 was smitten for the sins of his people while he himself was guiltless. In complete contrast to this, the Torah promised that the people of Israel would be smitten for their own sins, not for the sins of the nations. Even more importantly, the sufferings of the servant of the Lord in Isaiah 53 bring healing to those for whom he suffered, whereas when Israel was smitten by its enemies because of its sins, God subsequently judged those nations for overdoing the punishment. Israel’s suffering brought judgment rather than healing to Assyria, Babylon, Greece, or Rome - to name just a few of the nations used by God to judge his people Israel. (See above, 4.5-4.6, for more on these points.) At any rate, the text plainly says that the servant was suffering for the sins of ‘my people’ which in context must refer to Israel, with either God speaking (‘My people’) or the prophet speaking (‘my people’).”


 “Several key words in Isaiah 53 speak of a servant in the plural.”

Answer: “I’m surprised that you’re still using this objection! It is simply not true, as can be seen by checking even leading Jewish translations of the Bible. Those who claim that there are references to a plural servant in Isaiah 53 failed to realize the specific Hebrew grammatical forms being used and consequently mistranslated or misinterpreted the Hebrew text. These objections were answered decisively decades ago.”


 “Isaiah 53 cannot refer to Jesus because it says that no one was interested in the servant of the Lord or attracted to him, yet the New Testament records that large crowds followed Jesus.”

Answer: “Actually, the New Testament record agrees with the picture of the servant of the Lord described in Isaiah 53, despite the fact that great crowds did follow Jesus at numerous times during his ministry. This is because he spent most of his life almost unknown, and then, once he became popular, he became the center of controversy and was vehemently rejected by many religious teachers and influential leaders, ultimately dying a criminal’s death on the cross. This is certainly in harmony with Isaiah 53.”


 “Isaiah 53 cannot refer to Jesus because it says that the servant of the Lord was sickly and died of disease.”

Answer: “This is the least likely interpretation of the relevant verses in the Hebrew, as confirmed by many major translations, both Jewish and Christian. The text indicates that the servant of the Lord will be a man who is intimately associated with pain, grief, and sickness, a man suffering at the hands of people and crushed by the Lord as a guilt offering on our behalf. Such an understanding of the words is found in some Rabbinic interpretations too.”


 “Isaiah 53 does not actually say that the servant would die.”

Answer: “This objection actually contradicts two of the previous objections (specifically, 4.10 and 4.12), both of which understand that, according to Isaiah 53, the servant of the Lord would die. Many standard Rabbinic interpretations recognize this, either interpreting the text with reference to Israel’s suffering and death at the hands of their enemies, or with reference to the suffering and death of the Messiah (either Messiah ben Joseph or Messiah ben David).”


 “Isaiah 53 does not say that the servant will rise from the dead.”

Answer: “If, as we have demonstrated, Isaiah 53 speaks of the servant’s death, then it must be accepted that the text just as clearly speaks of his continued activities after his death. Thus, there is only one possible explanation: The servant rises from the dead!”


 “Isaiah 53 cannot refer to Jesus because it says that the servant of the Lord did no violence, yet Jesus drove out the Temple money-changers with a whip.”

Answer: “Jesus, who was known for his meekness and gentleness all the way to the cross did not engage in ‘violence’ in the Temple courts. There is no record of anyone being hurt or injured, and, in contrast to the some of the ancient Israelite prophets like Moses, Joshua or Samuel, Jesus did not put anyone to death in the name of the Lord. Obviously, he used a whip not a sword because his design was to clear the area out, not hurt anyone. This is hardly ‘violence’ according to the standards of the Hebrew Scriptures. In fact, it’s unlikely he used a whip to drive people out; rather, the whip was used to drive out the animals.”


 “Isaiah 53 cannot refer to Jesus because it says that the servant of the Lord would not lift up his voice or cry out, yet Jesus cried out several times on the cross, once in near blasphemy (Ps 22:1).”

Answer: “One of the most striking aspects of the suffering and death of Jesus was that he went as a lamb to the slaughter, not resisting those who arrested him, not defending himself before his accusers, and even forgiving those who crucified him. In this, he has become the worldwide symbol of a man who truly ‘turned the other cheek.’ As for his quoting Psalm 22:1 on the cross a beloved passage of Scripture how is this ‘near blasphemy’?”


 “Isaiah 53 cannot refer to Jesus because it says that the servant of the Lord would see seed, an expression always meaning physical descendants in the Hebrew Bible.”

Answer: “Actually, the passage you refer to is the only occurrence of the Hebrew expression ‘see seed’ in the Tanakh, so it is not wise to be so dogmatic about the meaning of the expression, especially since ‘seed’ is sometimes used metaphorically in the Scriptures, and since it can sometimes refer simply to a future generation. This much is certain: Through his continued life after resurrection, we can honestly and fairly say that Jesus the Messiah fulfills the description of ‘seeing seed.’”


“Daniel 9:24-27 has nothing to do with ‘the’ Messiah.”

Answer: “There is no question that Christian versions translating the Hebrew mashiach here with ‘the Messiah’ are reading something into the text. However, what they are reading into the text is correct, since the prophecy is clearly about the work of the Messiah.”


 “Daniel 9:24 was clearly not fulfilled by Jesus.”

Answer: “Since Daniel 9:24-27 speaks of events that must be fulfilled before the destruction of the Second Temple (which took place in 70 CE), the question that must be asked is this: If Jesus did not fulfill Daniel 9:24, who did? Who was it that ushered in everlasting righteousness and made atonement for iniquity before 70 CE if not Jesus the Messiah? In reality, if he did not fulfill Daniel 9:24, then no one fulfilled it and the prophecies of Daniel cannot be trusted.”


“Christian translations of Daniel 9:24-27 divide the seventy weeks incorrectly, and the dates have no relation to the times of Jesus.”

Answer: “There are two different ways to understand the division of the seventy weeks, but both of them are legitimate and in keeping with the rules of Hebrew grammar. More importantly, both of them equally support the Messianic interpretation of the text, and the dates involved clearly point to the times of Jesus. That’s one of the reasons why many Christians point to this text as an important Messianic prophecy.”


 “Daniel 9:24-27 speaks of two anointed ones.”

Answer: “It is possible that the text does speak of two anointed ones, the first in 9:25 and the second in 9:26. This depends on how the seventy weeks of years are divided (see immediately above, 4.20). This does not present a problem, however, since it is clear that (1) if there are two anointed ones, the second anointed one is the Messiah, and (2) the Messianic era had to be inaugurated before the Second Temple was destroyed, thus pointing decisively to Jesus as the key figure of whom the text speaks.”


“Psalm 2:12 should not be translated ‘kiss the Son.’ Only the King James Version and modern Christian fundamentalist translations still maintain this incorrect rendering.”

Answer: “The words “kiss the son” are actually not quoted in the New Testament, but one of the greatest of the medieval Rabbinic commentators, along with some noted, modern Hebrew scholars argued for the ‘kiss the son’ rendering. A good case can be made for this translation. In any case, regardless of the translation of this verse, the psalm is filled with important Messianic imagery.”


 “Psalm 16 does not speak of the resurrection of the Messiah.”

Answer: “According to the biblical record, Psalm 16 is a psalm of David in which he expresses his confidence that he will be delivered from death and will not rot in the grave. However, since David did, in fact, ultimately die and see physical corruption, the New Testament learns from this that he was speaking prophetically about his greatest descendant, the Messiah, who would actually be resurrected from the grave.”


 “Psalm 22 is the story of David’s past suffering. There is nothing prophetic about it.”

Answer: “Actually, Psalm 22 is the prayer of a righteous sufferer, brought down to the jaws of death and then rescued and raised up by God in answer to prayer, a glorious testimony to be recounted through the ages. As such, it applies powerfully to Jesus the Messiah, the ideal righteous sufferer, surrounded by hostile crowds, beaten, mocked, crucified, and seemingly abandoned by man and God, but delivered from death itself and raised from the dead by the power of God, a story now celebrated around the globe. That’s why he quoted words from this psalm with reference to himself when he hung on the cross. How strikingly they apply to him! What is also interesting is that some of the great Rabbinic commentators including Rashi interpreted the psalm as a prophecy of Israel’s future suffering and exile, not as the story of David’s past suffering. Not only so, but a famous Rabbinic midrash composed about 1200 years ago said that David spoke of the Messiah’s sufferings in Psalm 22. We can therefore say with confidence that the application of this psalm to the death and resurrection of the Messiah is in keeping with the clear meaning of the text.”


 “Psalm 22 does not speak of death by crucifixion. In fact, the King James translators changed the words of verse 16 [17] to speak of ‘piercing’ the sufferer’s hands and feet whereas the Hebrew text actually says, ‘Like a lion they are at my hands and feet.’”

Answer: “It is interesting to note that verse 16 [17] is not quoted in the New Testament even though other verses from Psalm 22 are cited in the Gospels. This means that verse 16 [17] was not the primary verse on which the New Testament authors focused. As to the allegation that the King James translators intentionally changed the meaning of the Hebrew text, their translation (‘they pierced my hands and feet’ verses ‘like a lion [they are at] my hands and feet’) actually reflects an ancient Jewish interpretation along with some important variations in the medieval Masoretic manuscripts. In other words, it’s as much of a Jewish issue as it is a Christian one! In any case, there really is no problem. With either rendering, the imagery is one of extreme bodily violence done to the sufferer’s hands and feet, corresponding to the realities of crucifixion.”


 “Some of the so-called Messianic prophecies in the Psalms actually speak of the psalmist’s sin and folly. How can you apply this to Jesus?”

Answer: “No one tries to apply every verse in each ‘prophetic’ psalm to the Messiah. Rather, there is a simple principle behind the Messianic interpretation of these important psalms: As it was with David, so it is with the Messiah. In other words, there are striking parallels that exist between the life of King David and the life of King Messiah, and it is these parallels that are highlighted in the New Testament’s quotation of certain psalms. For example, just as David was betrayed by one of his closest friends, so also the Messiah was betrayed by one of his closest friends, as noted by Jesus himself (see Psalm 41 and John 13:18). But it is obvious that the details of the betrayal don’t have to be the same (e.g., David was betrayed by Ahithopel, Jesus was betrayed by Judas; David’s betrayal led to his temporary exile; Yeshua’s betrayal led to his death).”


 “Psalm 40 is absolutely not Messianic in any way.”

Answer: “Did you know that the Talmudic rabbis interpreted all kinds of obscure verses to be Messianic? They saw hints and allusions to the Messiah in hundreds of unusual biblical texts, in passages that are totally unrelated to anything Messianic. In contrast with this, Psalm 40 has some very important Messianic themes.”


 “Psalm 45:6[7] does not say that the Messiah is God.”

Answer: “Try this simple test: Write out this verse in Hebrew by itself, give it to anyone who is fluent in biblical Hebrew, and ask him or her to translate the verse. They will say that the meaning of the Hebrew is, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.’ The Hebrew is quite clear. The problem is that the verse refers in context to Israel’s king, who was human. So, the real question is, ‘How can an earthly king be called ‘elohim?’ The answer is simple: This passage ultimately points to the Messiah, the divine King!”


"Psalm 110 does not say that the Messiah is LORD. Also, the psalm is not written by David about the Messiah. Our traditions indicate that it may have been written by Eliezer about his master Abraham, then added to the collection of the Psalms by David many years later, or it was written by David for the Levites to recite about him (or by a court poet about David). This much is sure: It does not teach that the Messiah is God!

Answer: “Psalm 110 is an important Messianic psalm pointing to the highly exalted status of the Messiah (to the right hand of God!), and to his priestly and royal nature. For these reasons, it is quoted frequently in the New Testament with reference to Yeshua. Yeshua even quotes it himself, pointing out how the Messiah was greater than David, since David called him ‘my lord.’ However, you are mistaken in thinking that the New Testament (or Christian translations of the Hebrew Bible) make the claim that the opening verse of this psalm means that Jesus is LORD (Yahweh).”


 “You claim that Haggai 2 points to the fact that the Messiah had to come before the Second Temple was destroyed, since it says in v. 9 that the glory of the Second Temple would be greater than the glory of Solomon’s Temple. Actually, Haggai is speaking only about the physical splendor of the Second Temple, which surpassed Solomon’s Temple in the days of Herod.”

Answer: “Although there are some clear references in Haggai 2 to an abundance of gold and silver that would be used in rebuilding the Temple, there can be no doubt that the phrase ‘to fill with glory’ refers to the manifest presence of God and not to physical splendor. We can therefore ask, In what way did the glory of the Second Temple surpass that of the First Temple? The answer is inescapable: The Messiah, the King of Glory, the very embodiment of the presence and power of God, visited that Temple.”


“Zechariah 12:10 has nothing to do with Jesus.”

Answer: “Although there are ambiguities in the Hebrew text, the passage clearly speaks of a time of national mourning in Israel over one slain, resulting in the spiritual cleansing of the nation (Zech. 12:10-13:1). One of the oldest Jewish interpretations of this passage, found in the Talmud, refers Zechariah 12:10 to the death of Messiah ben Joseph, the suffering Messiah of Jewish tradition. Why then should it surprise you that the New Testament interprets Zechariah 12:10 with reference to Yeshua?”


“Jesus fulfilled none of the Messianic prophecies!”

Answer: “To the contrary, we know that Jesus is the Messiah because he fulfilled so many Messianic prophecies. The only real way to deny this is to claim that the many prophecies he clearly fulfilled are not Messianic, which is quite an impossible stretch.”


 “Jesus fulfilled none of the provable Messianic prophecies!”

Answer: “By provable Messianic prophecies, I assume you mean prophecies referring to the Messiah bringing about an end to war and ushering in a universal golden age, or the Messiah regathering the exiles of Israel and rebuilding the Temple. But these are not the only provable Messianic prophecies, and there are some very important, provable prophecies of worldwide significance which Jesus and only Jesus has fulfilled, giving us every reason to expect that when he returns to earth, he will fulfill the rest.”


 “Even modern Christian scholars reject the so-called Old Testament proof texts about Jesus. Just check most modern Christian Bible commentaries and translations.”

Answer: “Those ‘Christian’ scholars who reject the so-called proof texts to which you refer are the very same scholars who reject any clear expectation of a Messiah of any kind Jewish or Christian in the Hebrew Scriptures. Their findings are just as incompatible with traditional Judaism as they are with traditional Christianity. On the other hand and you might find this interesting most of these very same scholars fully recognize the New Testament methods of interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures as thoroughly Jewish in keeping with the style of the Dead Sea Scrolls and later Rabbinic writings, except often more sober! In any case, the real issue is not what whether these scholars believe that Jesus is the prophesied Messiah of the Tanakh. The issue is: Is he, in fact, that prophesied Messiah?”


 “Jesus can not be the Messiah because the Messiah was to be a reigning king whereas Jesus was despised, rejected, and crucified.”

Answer: “The prophetic Scriptures indicate that first the Messiah would suffer and then he would reign. This is exactly what happened: Jesus-Yeshua who is one of us and has identified himself totally with us joined us in our suffering, rejection and pain. We have suffered torture and death; he too was tortured and killed. We have been mocked, maligned, and misunderstood; to this day, he is the butt of ugly jokes and a common curse on people’s lips. (When people get angry, they don’t yell, ‘Moses!’ or ‘Buddha!’ or ‘Mohammed!’ but ‘Jesus Christ!’) But whereas, we have often suffered because we were guilty; he suffered because he was innocent and he did it for us. Therefore, Jesus was and is the perfect Messiah for us, the ideal Savior for a despised and rejected people.”


“Jesus can not be the Messiah because the Messiah had to rebuild the Temple, yet the Temple was standing in Jesus’ day.”

Answer: “There is a fatal flaw to your objection, since we know for a fact that many religious Jews in Jesus’ day were expecting the coming of the Messiah in their lifetimes. This means that they were not expecting the Messiah to rebuild the Temple; the Temple was already standing! As for the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures associating the rebuilding of the Temple with the work of the Messiah, we should point out that they were delivered during the time of the Babylonian exile and pointed to the rebuilding of the second Temple and that Temple has been destroyed for more than 1900 years now. This means that we must reinterpret these passages if we are to apply them to a future rebuilding of the Temple. In that case, it can be argued that these prophecies await the return of the Messiah, when he will establish his kingdom on the earth and build the third Temple.”


 “The only true prophecy about Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures is found in Zechariah 13:1-6 a passage dealing with false prophets. It even makes explicit reference to his crucifixion!”

Answer: “Actually, the passage of which you speak has nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus. To be sure, you are right in saying that it is a prophecy about false prophets, but it makes no reference to crucifixion the Hebrew actually speaks of wounds on the false prophet’s back, not on his hands. The only references to the Messiah in this passage of Scripture are in the powerful, God-centered, repentance-based passages that come before and after Zechariah 13: 1-6. So, you have failed to recognize the true references to the Messiah in Zechariah 12-14 and focused on the one passage that does not apply to him.”


“Paul claimed that the Hebrew Scriptures prophesied the resurrection of the Messiah on the third day. Nowhere in our Bible is such a prophecy found.”

Answer: “Paul’s exact words are: ‘For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . . .’ (1 Cor. 15:3-4). As a Jew schooled in the Scriptures from his childhood, he was not thinking of just one passage but of several passages that pointed to the Messiah’s resurrection on the third day. And remember: Paul was not trying to ‘pull a fast one’ on anybody! And no one had pulled a fast one on him either. This is the tradition he received, and if someone taught him something that was not in his Bible, he would have known it immediately. In fact, when we study the Tanakh, we see that the third day is often the day of completion and climax and so it was with the Messiah’s death and resurrection!”


 “I can find prophecies in the Bible that point to Muhammad just as easily as you can find prophecies that point to Jesus. That’s because all of your so-called proofs are either distortions, make-believe creations, or Jewish midrash free, homiletical interpretations of the worst kind.”

Answer: “Really? Then why didn’t the Muslims find Muhammad everywhere in the Hebrew Bible? Why did they have to completely rewrite their own version of the Scriptures (i.e., the Koran) instead of referring back to the Hebrew Bible the Word of God accepted by both Christians and Jews? And where does the Tanakh point to Muhammad’s place of birth, or the time of his coming, or the manner of his death, or his alleged ascension to heaven? (Remember: the Hebrew Scriptures point to the place of Yeshua’s birth, the time of his coming, the manner of his death, and his resurrection!) I also remind you that modern scholars both Jewish and Christian recognize that the authors of the New Testament were highly sophisticated in their interpretive techniques (see vol. 4, 5.1). Sorry, but you’ll have to do better. Objections like this are hardly worthy of the name.”