The “Other” Messiah – by Jim

You write that Christianity fills in the gaps of the Jewish definition of the role of the Messiah and argue that the only difference between Jews and Christians is that the Jews expect the first coming of the Messiah, while Christians expect the second coming. As all are aware, the Church claims that Jesus fulfilled many prophecies about the Messiah, all of which related to his first coming. Various lists are produced claiming that he fulfilled hundreds of prophecies, claims which have been answered in detail. I would like to turn my attention to just a couple of those prophecies and show why they do not fill in any gaps in definition, that they are not essential works of the Messiah, and that these prophecies do not indicate two comings.

Please imagine the following scenario: After the death of Jesus, Peter is preaching the gospel in Jerusalem, healing the sick and all of the things that he is supposed to have done in the Book of Acts. One day, he comes to a man—we’ll call him Shem—and he tells Shem the story of Jesus, his death, resurrection, and all the prophecies that Jesus is supposed to have fulfilled. At the end, Shem thanks Peter for his time, but he does not put his faith in Jesus. In fact, he claims that, based on what Peter has told him, Jesus cannot be the Messiah. “Why not?” asks Peter.
“Because,” answers Shem, “you said that Jesus was brought out of Egypt in fulfillment of Hosea 11:1. But that cannot be: everyone knows that Hosea 11:1 refers to the second coming of the Messiah, not the first. So, Jesus cannot be the Messiah.” How could Peter answer Shem?

This situation must seem incredibly far-fetched, perhaps even a bit funny. The reason is because the text indicates nothing about a first and second coming. This was not a big discussion among people before Jesus, which prophecies referred to the first and which to the second coming of the Messiah. This is because nothing in the text indicates any such thing. It is an invention, necessitated by Jesus’ failure to fulfill Messianic prophecy. Peter would have no way to answer Shem from the text. He could not point to any indicator in Hosea 11:1 and say, “This portion here shows that this is a first coming prophecy.” On the contrary, first coming prophecies are deemed such by the Church only after Jesus failed to fulfill Messianic prophecy. The difficulty was not with the gap-filled definition of the Jewish people; it was the need for a new definition of Messiah which could be ascribed to Jesus.

These fulfilled prophecies do not add essential knowledge to the office or person of the Messiah, as can be seen from the following:
Imagine that Jesus did not fulfill Hosea 11:1, but he had fulfilled other Christian Messianic prophecies, such as being born of a virgin. Under this condition, Peter is preaching the gospel in Jerusalem. He comes upon Shem, and he gives over the whole gospel to Shem. Shem again says that Jesus cannot be the Messiah. And again, Peter asks, “Why not?”
Shem answers, “Do you not know that the Messiah had to be called out of Egypt as it says in Hosea, ‘…out of Egypt I have called my son?’ Jesus failed to fulfill this prophecy. Ergo, he is not the Messiah.” How would Peter answer Shem?
It is tempting to say that Peter would put this off on the second coming, as the Church does with anything that Jesus did not fulfill on the first trip. But, this is not necessary, and I do not believe this is what he would do at all. Instead, Peter would point out that Hosea 11:1 is not a messianic prophecy. The “son” in that verse is Israel, and the prophet is referring back to the Exodus, not forward to the Messianic era. Peter can afford to do this, because nothing essential is lost from the definition of the Messiah by denying Hosea 11:1 is a prophecy. He only needs to appeal to a second coming when prophecies are clearly Messianic and contain essential qualities of the Messiah, yet remain unfulfilled in Jesus. So, universal knowledge of God must relate to the second coming, because it does not relate to Jesus, but it is undeniably linked to the reign of the Messiah. But, if Jesus had not been brought out of Egypt, no recourse need be made to a second coming, because nothing essential to the Messiah would have been missing.
Indeed, no one would have noticed. The situation with Shem would not have arisen, because a straightforward reading would not relate Hosea 11:1 to the Messiah; it would not occur to him to ask the question. The same is true of other prophecies that Christians claim Jesus fulfilled. If he had had a broken bone on the cross, it would have made no difference to the Christian claim that Jesus was the Messiah. If he had neither been born of a virgin nor come from Nazareth, it is the same. None of these prophecies is essential to the Messiah and add nothing meaningful to the definition. All of them rely upon texts taken out-of-context (except the Nazareth one, which does not exist), which texts could be dropped without changing Christian opinion regarding the Messianic claims of Jesus. None of them would require a second coming to explain why Jesus did not accomplish them. But with the Jewish understanding of the Messiah, an explanation is demanded precisely because those prophecies are essential.

That the Christian prophecies are unessential can be demonstrated in another way. Imagine a third scenario: This time, the Messiah has come, identified according to the Jewish understanding. He is a Davidic King, ruling over Israel in a time of universal peace and a universal knowledge of God, etc. And, imagine that Jesus had never lived. Peter is again on the streets of Israel, but he has a different message. He is now the head of a group that is waiting for the other Messiah. He approaches Shem and invites him to their meeting. Peter tells Shem that a second Messiah is to come, one that will fulfill the other prophecies. This one will be born of a virgin, come out of Egypt, and live in Nazareth. Could anything entice Shem to join this group? I hardly think so. All of those so-called prophecies are nothing in comparison to those already fulfilled. None of them give reason for a greater hope to come; they pale in comparison to those prophecies universally acknowledged to be Messianic. The Messianic Age could come without them having been fulfilled and nothing would be lost. No one would look for a second Messiah or a second coming whereby those other prophecies could be fulfilled.

Therefore, the Christian definition of the Messiah does not fill any gaps. It is a redefinition employed to explain how Jesus can be considered the Messiah while having none of the qualities of the Messiah, having done none of the accomplishments of the Messiah. The prophecies Jesus is said to have fulfilled are not essential to the definition of Messiah. If they are stripped away from the conception of the Messiah, the core definition of Messiah would remain unchanged. Moreover, those elements that relate to the first or second coming could not be identified as such by the text. Those essential to the Messiah were only labeled as second coming prophecies when Jesus did not fulfill them. One can only conclude that the Church is not filling in gaps but covering its tracks.
Jim

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17 Responses to The “Other” Messiah – by Jim

  1. Dave says:

    Jim has done much better than this….He is answering a fabricated story which he made up He answers Shem who is an Am Haaretz . (Like many of usJ)

    >

    • Eleazar says:

      It is only fabricated in the sense that this particular exchange is between fictional characters. However, the scenario plays out- and the arguments put forth- happen every day, especially in America.
      I appreciate that Jim is always able to articulate these responses in a way that is easy to understand and makes perfect sense. His points are accurate and is an argument that needs to be made more often by the Jew: the Christian reads messianic prophecy into every text that can be applied to Jesus in any way.

      For example: Christians don’t understand how Jews don’t see that the Pesach Seder “clearly points to Jesus” because there are three pieces of unleavened bread, one is broken and hidden and the matzo has holes in it because. They say, “There are three in the godhead, Jesus was pierced and broken, and his body was ‘hidden’ in the tomb. Jews drink wine throughout the Seder, which symbolizes Jesus’ blood.” I heard this myself from a Christian pulpit.He said Jews have to be blind not to see how God is trying to lead them to Jesus through the Pesach Seder.

      This is an important point, since this tactic can be applied to many of Jesus’ “350 fulfilled prophecies”. It is like the Charolite story or the “prophetic pizza” fallacy. Both are fictional yet both illustrate Christian apologetics perfectly.

  2. Brother Jim!
    Thank you for bringing this up on the table. Your article demonstrates that Jews and Christians, we all must be more serious in interpreting the holy text than we used to do before we go and teach the people of God.

    Your article sparked my curiosity in the literal meaning of Hosea 11:1

    ממצצרים קראתי לבני ?
    This means from Egypt i called TO my son or from Egypt i called my son?

    I am wondering why most translations choose to miss “TO” my son? In biblical Hebrew, ל is used as את objective article??

    In the first case, the objective is Israel according to the context and the frame “from מ – toל” is used? In the biblical Hebrew, is there any other place where קראתי ל + someone means “called the someone” ? What is the literal translation? Please anybody help me!

  3. Shema says:

    I started to read this article with open minded curiosity, fortunately for me in the interest of time, this article shows it self early in the second paragraph. Everyone knows (or should know) there are several levels of understanding Scripture, iirc there are 4 levels of understanding accepted by Jewish scholars. By choosing only one of these understandings of Hosea 1:11 while ignoring the others. Early on this article is effectively propping up a rickety straw man so as it can be easily knocked over later.
    It quickly becomes obvious what is coming next. As I read on briefly, my suspicions are indeed confirmed, therefore never finished the article.

    • Shema You are working with the “fifth” way of reading Scripture – the Christian way. It is known as the “pick and choose” way. The other 3 ways of reading Scripture have no authority outside of the traditions. They can be bent to say anything without a guiding authority which you do not accept.

      1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

      • Shema says:

        YPF,
        I understand what you are saying, and you know I’m going to ask; Who is the “guiding authority” and who gives them this authority?

        • Shema The community of a witness nation that stands in a covenantal relationship with God 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Shema says:

            Trying to understand your definition; “the community”? Or leaders of the community? Or is the term “community” only referring to a ‘community of leaders’ or is it the community at large?

            I don’t deny there is a real covenantal relationship between God and Israel. I question if it makes them infallible. I question if we are to blindly follow leaders, only making exceptions for prophets.

            I was taught a person has the freedom to pick their own rabbi.

          • Shema When did I say “infallible”? God placed His Law within a given social context and it can only be lived out in that social context. That social context includes courts and leaders. And of course there are corrupt leaders (prophets also – see Jeremiah 2). But all of this needs to be sorted out in the context of the covenant community. I suggest that you read “The Council of My Nation” in which I address your questions more fully.

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Shema says:

            God placed his covenant into the social context of a mob fifty days fresh out of Egypt who alternatively loved and despised Moses and thought God was a bull deity.

            God wanted a personal covenantal relationship with each individual person, the people turned it down in favor of a covenantal relationship with God through Moses. (we see this same mistake made much later when they asked for a king, God said in doing so the people were rejecting Him) God introduced a system of priesthood, worship and laws. The justice system was introduced by Jethro (Moses’ father-in-law) as a response to the people wearing Moses out.

            You said; “it can only be lived out in that social context.”. I submit to you that the early community of Jesus followers before the advent of organized Christianity resembles the social context God desired from the beginning – individual covenantal relationship. Unfortunately Christianity has almost excatly followed in the same pattern of mistakes as Israel – opting to hear God through self appointed leaders in lieu of hearing God themselves.

            I’ll put the “Council of my Nation” on the list – currently I’m still trying to figure out Shapiro.

          • Shema How does this fit with Deuteronomy 5:26?

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Shema says:

            My take on Deut 5:26 in the context of the people deferring to Moses, is God is utilizing the positive of the situation. God started talking straight to the people and the people didn’t want to hear His voice any longer. Was this Gods’ intent? Who knows, but I think this is always a mistake for all of us, all the time.

            God says;
            “May they always be of such a mind”
            (what kind of mind)
            ” to revere me and follow all my Commandments”

            If I may paraphrase what I think God is saying; ‘Even though they are to scared to hear my voice, at least they are scared, and that’s a good thing; if they always stay this scared, they will always revere Me and follow my commandments.’

          • Shema That’s your interpretation of a pretty straightforward verse – based on this you turn the Torah on its ear. You don’t expect us to take this seriously – do you?

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Shema says:

            Given the context, I think it is a very straightforward paraphrase of the verse. You say I turn Torah on it’s ear – okay, I’m listening – how so?

    • Jim says:

      Shema,

      I do not see how your claim that the gospels are employing Jewish traditional readings mitigates the argument at the heart of my essay. I dispute that the authors of the gospels were merely relying on remez, drush, or sod. However, for the sake of argument, I will accept that this is what they were doing. It does not strengthen the claims of the gospels.

      The need for these variant readings arises from exactly the same situation that gave rise to the claim that Jesus would come a second time: Jesus did not fulfill Messianic prophecy. In so doing, he fails to meet the definition of the Messiah. Therefore, a new definition needed to be found, just as the notion of two comings needed to be invented, whereby Jesus would actually fulfill Messianic prophecy. These non-literal readings are meant to invent a definition of Messiah that Jesus could fulfill.

      That these are non-literal readings only weakens the case for Jesus being the Messiah. This means that Jesus did not fulfill any prophecies, not just those which were relegated to the first coming. The believer will have to stop claiming that Jesus fulfilled 300-some-odd prophecies; he will have to say instead that he has found 300-some-odd oblique hints to Jesus.

      The credibility of the prophetic fulfillments has always been a problem, because many of those prophecies were fulfilled in secret. Hosea 11:1, for example, when taken as a prophecy was not fulfilled in an open way. Virtually no one knew that Jesus came out of Egypt. By taking away the literal prophecy, the argument in favor of Jesus is weakened further. Now, he secretly fulfilled a secret reference.

      Moreover, such readings are prejudicial. They assume that Jesus was the Messiah, regardless of his lack of Messianic qualities. Then, they look for supports to that assumption. They begin with the conclusion and look for supporting propositions afterward, which is not sound.

      That these readings have little force must be obvious. If the believer were confronted by a hint in the text that suggested that Jesus was not the Messiah, it is doubtful he would feel compelled to accept it. Nor would he accept the claim that some other candidate was the Messiah based upon hints found pointing to this other contender.

      So, I cannot see that calling Matthew’s reading of Hosea 11:1 a Jewish-style of reading strengthens that gospel or any of the others. The problems remain. Such readings are necessary precisely because Jesus did not fulfill open Messianic prophecies. Arguing that such passages are not meant to indicate a literal reading of the prophets only weakens the case for Jesus. They look for Jesus precisely because where the Messiah is openly mentioned, no correspondence to Jesus can be found. And they are founded upon what may very well be a mistaken assumption. Finally, the weakness of such readings is evident in how easily the believer could deny similar readings by others. Employing Jewish techniques or not, the gospels’ redefinition of Messiah does not stand.

      Jim

      • Shema says:

        It is more likely that people already believing in Jesus or looking to believe is the reason for variant readings (as compared to Jewish tradition). As they read they see Jesus in the Scriptures. Taking your example of Hosea 1:11, in isolation it proves nothing either way. At this point I must remark; who cares if Christians see Jesus in this scripture? What is it to you they see Jesus in Hosea 1:11? If the New Testament indicated Jesus’ parents hid him out in Babylon and Matthew quotes Hosea as proof (out of Egypt), then you’d have a valid point and reasonable compulsion to point out the obvious inconsistency. But this is not the case. Don’t people have a God given freedom to believe what they want? Aren’t we all called to extend grace to others, regardless of their belief?

        Personally speaking, I believe God intentionally set the Jesus thing up so that so would believe and some would reject. I read Matthews quote of Hosea and think; “hmmm….that’s kind of interesting…..yeah, maybe” but I don’t stand up shouting; “Hallelujah! I now have proof!”.

        • Shema This blog is designed to refute the arguments of missionaries who claim that passages such as the one in Hosea are absolute “proof” to the claims of the Church – and no, God does not want us to believe falsehood

          1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

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