Hello everyone! Wow, have I been busy! Well, I figured since I probably don’t have time to write a lot of blog posts right now in the midst of college mayhem, I might as well share some of the writing that I already have to do with you guys, so you can see what I’m up to and share some thoughts.
I wrote this research paper at the end of semester one to finish up my class “Thinking and Writing” something of an apologetics/English composition hybrid class. I hope you enjoy reading about Jesus as he appears in the Jewish Scriptures, or, the Tanakh! I found the research for this paper very interesting and I hope you enjoy this perspective on the issue of whether or not we can see Jesus in the Old Testament. Shoutout to Grandma and Grandpa Sutherland for the awesome new Messianic Jewish Family Bible I got for my 18th birthday, inspiring me to write on Jewish perspectives on the Messiah (I use this translation in my paper).
Anyways, here is my paper:
THE WORD BECAME FLESH: JESUS IN THE JEWISH SCRIPTURES
Dr. Bill Nyman
HF 111 Thinking and Writing
Date: Friday, December 16, 2022
AD 132 brought tragedy to the Jewish nation unrivalled since the destruction of the temple in AD 70. The emperor Hadrian had ordered that circumcision be banned and that a temple to Jupiter be built on the former site of the Jerusalem temple, destroyed just 62 years ago by the legions of that very same empire. Rising from the Jewish people came Simon Bar Kosba, recalling memories of the day when Balaam son of Beor prophesied that “…a star will come from Jacob, a scepter will arise from Israel…Israel will triumph. One from Jacob will rule…” (Numbers 24:17-19, TLV). Given the name “Bar Kokhba”, meaning “Son of the Star” this man was considered by some, even Rabbi Akiba, to be the long-awaited messiah who would deliver his people from the hands of their Roman oppressors.
Unfortunately, Bar Kokhba was killed and did not help the Jews, and the dissolution of the Jewish state led to almost 2000 more years of exile and longing for Messiah to come, to restore the scattered children of Israel to their homeland and deliver them from their oppressors. The Messiah coming before him, Yeshua of Natzeret, had also been killed by the same empire, yet somehow, the followers of these two “messiahs” often conflicted with one another. The man crucified 100 years before still had followers (and more than while he was alive) who proclaimed that Jesus had inaugurated a new rule in fulfillment of all the promises made to the prophets in years gone by. Although many Jews still reject the legitimacy of Christ as Messiah, we can confidently assert from the Old Testament, Isaiah 53, Psalm 2, 110 and Daniel 7-9, that Jesus is indeed the One promised to the children of Israel throughout the Jewish Scriptures.
Isaiah is perhaps the prophet who makes most explicit the character of the coming Messiah, especially in the 53rdchapter of his scroll. He wrote that the Messiah would be quiet and meek, that he would be “…oppressed and… afflicted yet he did not open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, like a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). He also told of the Messiah’s role:
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our pains. Yet we esteemed Him stricken, struck by God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities. The chastisement for our shalom was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (Isa 53:4-5)
Although it may be easy for a Christian to immediately associate this passage with the sufferings of Jesus, it would be wise to look at how Orthodox Jewish rabbis and other Jews have interpreted this passage over the years since Jesus’ death. David J. Macleod explores traditional Jewish interpretations of this prophecy in his book The Suffering Servant of the Lord: A Prophecy of Jesus Christ. Some Jews during the early centuries after Jesus’ ascension may have had objections to the idea of Jesus as Messiah that were similar to the ones depicted in the early church father Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho. Justin, a Gentile Christian, writes in the second century of his attempt to convince Trypho, a Jew, that Jesus is the Messiah his people have been waiting for[AS1] . In the Dialogue, Trypho argues that Elijah had to precede the Messiah, that he would come first to anoint him. Since Elijah had presumably not yet come, Jesus could not be the Messiah. Furthermore, he argues that although it may be that in prophecy the Messiah is said to endure shame, suffer and perhaps even die, Jesus’ death by crucifixion could not be God’s fulfilment of prophecy. Death by crucifixion would recall the curse of Deuteronomy 21:23, which states that anyone hung on a tree is cursed. Indeed, God’s Messiah could not be condemned to such a death as this!
To answer the first objection, one could point to a claim made by Jesus about his cousin John the Baptist: “…all the prophets and the Torah prophesied until the time of John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Mt 11:13-14). Justin Martyr argued that Elijah would precede Jesus’ second coming. John the Baptist, however, was the forerunner for his first advent, “…[going] before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to the children and the disobedient ones to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready for ADONAI [the Lord] a prepared people” ( Lk 1:17; c.f. Mal 3:1). Jewish interpreters may not be fully satisfied by this explanation, but John the Baptist ultimately fulfils Elijah’s role in preparing Israel for their Messiah. Furthermore, Jesus’ baptism could also be seen as John’s “anointing” him, as God himself anoints Jesus with the Spirit (Mt 3:16-17).
To answer Trypho’s second objection, we can look at Paul’s letters from shortly after Jesus’ time on earth. The fact that Jesus was so shamefully treated as to be considered cursed by God not only is entirely consistent with the prophecy discussed earlier, “…we esteemed him stricken, struck by God…” (Isa 53:4) but was an essential part of the atoning process that Jesus endured. Paul writes, “Messiah liberated us from Torah’s curse, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)— in order that through Messiah Yeshua the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so we might receive the promise of the Ruach [Spirit] through trusting faith.” (Gal 3:13-14) This means that the curse put upon humanity by Torah for disobedience hung with Jesus on the cross, freeing humanity from enslavement and the ultimate consequence of sin.
How have rabbis, aside from Paul, interpreted this passage over the centuries since Christ? Interestingly, many rabbis cited in the Babylonian Talmud have interpreted Isaiah 53 messianically or perhaps as referring to another person who will suffer for the trespasses of the people of Israel. In one discussion the Sanhedrin rabbis disagreed on what the name of the Messiah would be, and a group of rabbis, when it came to them, said, “‘His name is “The leper scholar,” as it is written, “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of God and afflicted [Isaiah 53:4].”’” Another rabbi quoted in the Talmud seems to have had an interesting dream about the Messiah bandaging up the sores of lepers. Whether the dream is authentic or not, it shows how the early rabbis were aware the Messiah would be one who associated with the poor and lowly, in some cases carrying their burdens and taking their pains on himself. The dream is fascinating enough to quote at length:
‘Where is [the Messiah] sitting?’ – ‘At the entrance.’ ‘And by what sign may I recognize him?’— ‘He is sitting among the poor lepers….’ So he went to him and greeted him… ‘When wilt thou come Master?’ asked he. ‘Today,’ was his answer. On his returning to Elijah, the latter enquired, ‘What did he say to thee?’… ‘He spoke falsely to me,’ he rejoined, ‘Stating that he would come today, but he has not.’ He [Elijah] answered him, ‘This is what he said to thee, “Today if ye will hear his voice.”
So, although the “suffering Messiah” may have been difficult to receive for many of Jesus’ fellow Jews, the rabbis of later centuries did come to know that the Messiah they awaited would bear their pains in some way.
Moving on from Isaiah 53 to some of the other prophecies concerning the Messiah, we begin to understand some of the pushback against those who would claim that the Messiah’s primary role would be such as described in Isaiah. In Daniel, for example, the “Son of Man” is depicted in full glory, receiving the eternal kingdom promised by the Ancient of Days (Dan 7:9-14). In Numbers (from where Bar Kokhba, the “son of the star,” gets his title), we see the military leader who will crush the foreheads of Moab, conquering Edom and triumphing over all Israel’s enemies (24:17-19) and establishing his kingdom in might and judgment. Nahum Levison reminds us why with all the different beliefs and expectations concerning the Messiah in first-century Israel, it could have been a grave mistake to even rightly identify with that title. “[Jesus] wanted it kept a secret. The position in which our Lord was placed, with all the different beliefs and unbeliefs about the Messiah, was very, very difficult. To have proclaimed Himself Messiah, He would have had to identify Himself with one of the sects or parties; moreover, the concept of the Suffering Servant had altogether disappeared from the Messianic teaching of the time.” However, despite these prophecies generating false expectations for Jesus’ first coming, it would be wrong to assume that they did not apply to him. The Christian point of view is precisely the opposite, and we are not left simply to wait and see whether these prophecies will find fulfilment in Jesus. Jesus’ life and teaching demonstrate that Jesus does and will fulfill them, his resurrection proof that Jesus’ second coming will consummate the rule that he inaugurated at his first coming.
Daniel 7-9 is an example of prophecy that contains elements of both Jesus’ first and second comings. In Daniel 7, Jesus is depicted as “One like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven” (v.13). Jesus uses this language as well before his death to refer to his second coming: “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the land will mourn, and they will see ‘the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory” (Mt 24:30). Jesus used this title constantly, whereas the title “Messiah” he tended to avoid throughout most of his ministry, possibly for the reasons already explored. Daniel 9, however, specifically mentions the “Anointed One” or “Messiah” being “cut off” (v. 26) and appearing to have accomplished nothing.
Then after the 62 weeks Mashiach [Messiah] will be cut off and have nothing. Then the people of a prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. But his end will come like a flood. Until the end of the war that is decreed there will be destruction. (Dan 9:26)
This prophecy even foretells the destruction of the temple, an event that Jesus also predicts in Matthew (23:37-39).
The Psalms also bear another important testimony. After all, it was David who first received the promise of a kingdom without end, that someone from his line would inherit his throne to rule forever (c.f. 2 Sam 7:8-17). Psalm 2 even speaks of the “Anointed One” or “Messiah” being called the Son of God! (vv. 7, 12) Furthermore, David speaks (by the Spirit) of his “Lord” (Psalm 110:1) becoming “…a Kohen [priest] forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (v. 4), representing Jesus’ high priestly role in presenting a sacrifice (his body) to God for us to enter His presence. If David is king, then who is his “Lord”? According to Jesus, David refers to the Messiah as his “Lord” in Psalm 110 (see Mt 22:41-46). The king in this Psalm and many others seem to have some idea of a man from David’s line inheriting the throne, being declared the Son of God (Ps 2:7, 12), and becoming “…a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (Ps 110:4, NIV; c.f. Mt 22:41-46).
Some have contested that the phrase “Kiss the Son…” in Psalm 2:12 (commonly understood by Messianics to refer to Jesus) could be translated differently, given the word bar in early Hebrew was not used to mean son. However, this depends on the dating of the psalm. Regardless, this does not negate the use of the word “Son” in verse 7, giving some context to suppose the word may be intended to take the later meaning.
Do these claims that David’s descendant would be called the Son of God mean that he must be divine? Not necessarily. Solomon is even referred to in a sense as God’s “son” in God’s announcement to David that he would establish his royal line forever (2 Sam 7:14). Christians believe that all who are united to Messiah are God’s “sons” in a sense. Some crucial passages in the Hebrew Scriptures, however, do point to Jesus’ divinity. Isaiah mentions this when he prophesies, “Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, she will call his name Immanuel [God with us]. He will be eating curds and honey by the time he knows to refuse evil and choose good.” (Isaiah 7:14-15). This passage indeed refers to a short period before the king of Assyria would invade Israel. That is, the time it takes for a newborn to learn right from wrong. This passage, however, is typologically fulfilled in Jesus’ birth. Isaiah also refers to another child in chapter 9. Isaiah says: “For to us a child is born, a son will be given to us, and the government will be upon His shoulder. His Name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God My Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and shalom there will be no end – on the throne of David and over His kingdom – to establish it and uphold through justice and righteousness from now until forevermore.” (Isa 9:5-6)
Furthermore, the ultimate proof of Jesus’ messiahship and divinity is found in his resurrection. Jesus’ disciples can be considered authentic and genuine witnesses, suffering death, persecution and displacement due to their firm belief and proclamation that their rabbi had been raised from the dead. They were aware of the blasphemy they would be committing had their Messiah not truly been God’s divine Son. Many likely would not have been ready to jeopardize their standing with the God of Israel by worshipping a mere man if they had not seen God’s vindication of his Anointed.
When considering the quickly growing Jesus movement and its consequences for the traditional religious establishment of the apostles’ day, Gamaliel, a Pharisee of the first-century Sanhedrin gave this conciliatory speech:
… some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody; and a number of men, maybe four hundred, joined up with him. He was killed, and all who followed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this fellow, Judah the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and got people to follow him. He also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So now I tell you… if this plan or undertaking is of men, it will come to an end; but if it is of God, you will not be able to stop them. You might even be found fighting against God. (Acts 5:35-39)
Messianic movements are nothing new to the land of Israel—no wonder! Israel’s children have longed for their Messiah for thousands of years. However, what Simon Bar Kokhba and the countless recent messianic movements in Israel have shown us is that when a movement is of man, it does fail—especially upon the death of its leader. As Elijah said in Rabbi Joshua ben Levi’s dream: Messiah will come “today” if “‘ye will hear his voice’.” Messiah comes when one opens his or her heart to him, “Only when he comes to one’s innermost life, bringing salvation and reconciliation, does one pray. ‘Oh, that I might know Him (in) the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering.’ And then the heart cries out, ‘And now I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.’” Messiah’s arms are open to save the moment you put your trust in Him to do it.
Chamberlain, Paul. Why People Stop Believing. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2018.
Inbari, Motti. “Messianic Movements and Failed Prophecies in Israel: Five Case Studies.” Nova
Religio 13 (4 May 2010): 49-54.
Kac, Arthur W., ed. The Messiahship of Jesus: What Jews and Jewish Christians say. Chicago,
IL: Moody Press, 1980.
Macleod, David J. The Suffering Servant of the Lord: A Prophecy of Jesus Christ. Dubuque, IA:
Emmaus Bible College, 2016.
Skarsaune, Oskar, ed. and Reidar Hvalvik, ed. The Early Centuries: Jewish Believers in Jesus.
Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2007.
Strauss, Mark L. Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels. 2nd ed. Grand
Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2020.
 All Scripture quotations are from the Tree of Life Version unless otherwise indicated.
 Mark L. Strauss, Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan Academic, 2020), 149-150.
 Oskar Skarsaune, ed. and Reidar Hvalvik, ed., Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries. (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007), 384-385.
 Justin Martyr; as quoted in David J. Macleod, The Suffering Servant of the Lord: A Prophecy of Jesus Christ (Dubuque: Emmaus Bible College, 2016), 163.
 Jeremias; used in Bailey; cited in David J. Macleod, The Suffering Servant of the Lord: A Prophecy of Jesus Christ (Dubuque: Emmaus Bible College, 2016), 163.
 Justin Martyr, Dialogue 49.2-7 [74-76]; referenced in David J. Macleod, The Suffering Servant of the Lord: A Prophecy of Jesus Christ (Dubuque: Emmaus Bible College, 2016), 163.
 The Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nezikin, 4 vols., vol. 3: Sanhedrin 98b, trans. H. Freedman, 667; quoted in David J. Macleod, The Suffering Servant of the Lord: A Prophecy of Jesus Christ (Dubuque: Emmaus Bible College, 2016), 167-168.
 The Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a, (664); quoted in David J. Macleod, The Suffering Servant of the Lord: A Prophecy of Jesus Christ (Dubuque: Emmaus Bible College, 2016), 168-169.
 David J. Macleod, The Suffering Servant of the Lord: A Prophecy of Jesus Christ (Dubuque: Emmaus Bible College, 2016), 180-182. (This section is a collection of quotes from various Jewish works interpreting Isaiah 53 on the suffering nature of the Messiah.)
 Justin Martyr; quoted in David J. Macleod, The Suffering Servant of the Lord: A Prophecy of Jesus Christ (Dubuque: Emmaus Bible College, 2016), 163. In Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, this is one of the passages that Trypho alludes to when insisting that the Messiah could not be one who would be so shamefully crucified but would come in glory.
 Arthur W. Kac, ed., The Messiahship of Jesus: What Jews and Jewish Christians Say (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 251.
 Arthur W. Kac, ed., The Messiahship of Jesus: What Jews and Jewish Christians Say (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 246.
 Mark L. Strauss, Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2020), 297.
 Paul Chamberlain, Why People Stop Believing (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2018), 105-108.
 See Motti Inbari, “Messianic Movements and Failed Prophecies in Israel: Five Case Studies.” Nova Religio 13 (4 May 2010): 49-54.
 Arthur W. Kac, ed., The Messiahship of Jesus: What Jews and Jewish Christians Say (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 251.
I hope you all enjoyed, and thank you so much to all the staff and faculty at Prairie, as well as my friends, grandparents, etc. who helped make this happen! Thanks also to Mom for helping me edit and running the draft through Grammarly Premium for me 😉
Thanks for checking in! Until next time, shalom!
2 thoughts on “THE WORD BECAME FLESH: JESUS IN THE JEWISH SCRIPTURES – First Bible College Research Paper”
Thanks for sharing Judah, it is great to see your work. Always fascinating to study scripture. Can’t wait for our future conversations. Enjoy your studies.
Sent from my iPad
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for checking it out! You guys helped inspire it!