One of the most fascinating arguments that Christians raise regarding the proposed Messiahship of Jesus is that no living candidate can prove himself to be a descendant of David, because the family trees were burned with the Second Temple. This is supposed to leave Jesus as the only Messianic claimant whose genealogy can be verified. What fascinates is that the Christian argument relies on a principle of verification, a standard which Christianity by-and-large repudiates. In this article, I will demonstrate why this argument is empty.
In order to do so, I am going to take for granted certain elements of the Christian argument, which if they are not granted do not allow the argument to even be discussed. So, for the sake of argument, it will be granted that the genealogical records were kept in the temple and destroyed with it, though no evidence has been brought in substantiation of this. (The website to which you link quotes from a Christian Biblical encylopedia, which makes the claim that the records were kept in the temple and destroyed with it. The source in the encyclopedia is a non-source: “Babyl. Gemar. Gloss. fol. xiv, 2.” This is like giving a source as a commentary on the Bible, chapter 12, verse 3. Still, I will ignore this bad sourcing, and assume the truth of the claim, in order to examine the argument.) Similarly, I will ignore that the Christian scriptures give evidence that Jesus was not a son of David, being the son of God. Moreover, I will be examining certain prophecies that Jesus is supposed to have fulfilled. In order to allow the argument to progress, I will not discuss how the Church has misrepresented the prophets; I will treat the Christian reading as if it were legitimate, as if these were Messianic prophecies.
Part of what is so fascinating about this argument is the image it conjures regarding a possible future event. Imagine a future in which a king rules in Israel, a temple is rebuilt, the world is at peace, and non-Jews stream to Israel to learn about HaShem. This king claims to be a son of David, but Christians do not accept his lineage, asking: “If you wish to prove a Messianic pedigree now, who will be foolish enough to believe your great, great, great grandfather’s fond pretensions?” They protest outside his home, holding placards that read: “No genealogy- No monarchy!” This protest is based on what—that Jesus is the only possible Messianic candidate, because his is the only verified bloodline? Yet, this king has all the other qualities of the Messiah, all those that Jesus does not have. The greater evidence would seem to be with this king, and it would not be unreasonable to trust that he was a son of David under such circumstances.
What is more fascinating is that the Christian has introduced independent verification as a standard of evidence when many of the Christian claims about Jesus have no such substantiation themselves. So, Jesus is supposed to have fulfilled the prophecy that the Messiah would be born of the virgin. Yet, no independent verification of the virgin proof has ever been produced. As many have noted before, Mary never submitted herself for examination during her pregnancy or at the moment of birth. As a sign attesting to Jesus as the Messiah, it fails, having effectively no witnesses. Perhaps the future Jewish King imagined above will be born of a virgin, and not only that, his mother will be verified to have been a virgin during the pregnancy. Then the world will have a real conundrum on its hands. Each of these two Messianic candidates will have fulfilled one of the Messianic prophecies in a verified way.
This is not the only prophecy Jesus is supposed to have fulfilled, of course, that has no verification. He fulfilled that great prophecy that the Messiah would come out of Egypt. Of course, Mary and Joseph fled secretly to Egypt, and no one seems to have known to where they had gone. No stamped passports were presented showing that they entered and left Egypt. Moreover, the Messianic prophecy that foretells that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem was not verifiably fulfilled by Jesus either. At the time of his adult ministry, people had no idea that he had been born in Bethlehem, according to John 7. If this possible future candidate is born in Bethlehem and has a birth certificate and a passport stamped, showing that he had been in Egypt, he will have gained quite an advantage over Jesus.
In fact, it is not just the prophecies of Tanach that Jesus fulfilled in secret, but his own most famous prophecy concerning himself. In Matthew 12, Jesus declares that his resurrection after three days would serve as a sign. But, if he rose from the dead, he did it in secret, never appearing to those to whom he promised the sign. It is an event with no independent verification. It is astounding how many markers of Jesus’ Messiahship are events that were never substantiated.
Even Jesus’ lineage remains unsubstantiated. Christians imply that Matthew and Luke verified Jesus genealogy in the temple before it was destroyed. However, this is not even asserted by either of them. Modern scholars believe that those two gospels, the only two with genealogies for Jesus, were written after the destruction of the temple. If one assumes, however, that this is not so, that those gospels predate the destruction of the Second Temple, the problem of verifying Jesus’ genealogy remains. In that case, shortly after the writing of those gospels, the only papers that could substantiate their genealogical claims were destroyed, making it impossible to compare them to the originals. It is as if the Christian god said to Matthew and Luke: “You believe in me, because you have seen my family tree; blessed are those that have not seen, but still believe.” The claim that Jesus’ genealogy has independent verification is baseless.
And the need for this baseless claim arises from the fact that Jesus did not fulfill the role of the Messiah. The Messiah is a promised king that will rule under the conditions briefly outlined in the third paragraph above. Jesus is not such a king, and, as such, is not the Messiah. However, the Church has asserted that Jesus is the Messiah, despite not fulfilling this promise. This claim demanded some evidence that would counter this obvious lack of fulfillment. One part of that was to say that the Jews (to whom this promise was made) did not understand the promise. Another was to introduce further qualifications to the Messiah that Jesus could be said to fulfill, qualifications that could not be tested. These qualifications would include the virgin birth and the resurrection and would have to be taken on faith. And yet, against reason, these are supposed to hold greater weight than observable evidence.
Because the unsubstantiated claims of Christianity are so weak, the missionary and apologist attempt to rule out all other possible candidates. He puts forth the notion that no other candidate could fulfill the prophecy, and in eliminating all other candidates, hopes to leave Jesus as the only possible candidate. It is as if the missionary has admitted: “Yes, Jesus’ claims do not rise above mere assertion, but he is the Messiah by default. No other candidates are possible.” In making this argument, however, he has adopted a standard contrary to that of his other claims, all of which must be accepted without evidence.
Yet, he can ask: “How can this prophecy ever be fulfilled?”
The answer is simple. Let it be granted that no one today knows who are the descendants of David. This will not hinder God from fulfilling his promise to David, because human ignorance is irrelevant to God. God knows what humanity does not. He knows who is and is not a son of David. And, He is faithful to fulfill His promises, so that, one can rely upon them—His word will come to pass.
Imagine that Jesus had never come, yet the temple was still destroyed and with it the records of the Davidic line. Imagine even that no one claimed to be a descendant of David. Under these conditions, shall we say that God cannot fulfill his promise? Not at all. Even after nearly 2,000 years since the destruction of the temple, one can rely upon the promises of God. He need have no doubt.
But a problem remains: How, then, shall one know that this king actually is a son of David? It is not hard to find a solution to this problem. Malachi writes of the coming of Elijah before the end, and it is in no way unfeasible that he will, through prophecy, verify that the Messiah is descended from David. Moreover, Joel prophecies about a time when prophecy will abound. The Church claimed to have fulfilled this prophecy 2,000 years ago, but such prophecy is not evident in the Church today, and nothing is more apparent that this time has not yet come. If the Church ever had a gift of prophecy, it has long ago dried up. 2,000 years of the light of Jesus has left not only the Church but the world in darkness. Nevertheless, a time will come when prophecy, true prophecy will abound, and when it does, surely it will not be impossible that the lineage of the Messiah will be revealed.
It is most fascinating that the Church teaches that one should accept Jesus without sufficient evidence, and then attempts to eliminate any other Messianic candidates on the ground that those candidates cannot produce sufficient evidence of their claims. It is precisely because Jesus did not fulfill the promise of the Messiah that secret signs are needed, which forces the Christian to adopt a double standard. But the argument fails to account for the possibility of some other candidate fulfilling the same prophecies as Jesus, only openly and with the verification that Christian claims lack. And it fails to note that a son of David could be verified through prophets, an oversight that arises out of the failures of Christian prophecy. No one whose trust is in God need suffer any consternation from the Christian argument; he may rely upon HaShem to fulfill His promises.
This is one of those arguments that I would never think of in a million years but once raised is so blindingly clear and obvious. Brilliant, brilliant work, Jim!
Dear, o dear, what unhappy desperation.
The rabbinic Jewish community has a somewhat inadequate record of discernment when it comes to spotting false Messiahs. The Third Temple will be enthusiastically constructed no doubt, and animal sacrifices foolishly reinstated for while but not for any good, more as a repudiation of HaShem. This recognition being much older than Hippolytus and Irenaeus.
As to your citing discreditable academics, with their professional determination and interest in discounting the supernatural and discrediting the prophetic, for the dating of the Gospels, why not cite them as authorities for the Tenach, at least noone could fault you with inconsistency? Interesting that Jewish disciples of the Messiah largely escaped Jerusalem around the time of its destruction, according to Epiphanius, Eusebius and Remigius, strange if the Saviour’s predictions were pure imagination.
Here was a perfect test of Deut.18.22, and tragically a plain example too of 18.19, though more recent examples abound both among Gentiles and Jews.
Genealogy testing is and was a vital scriptural criterion for priesthood and for monarchy. Sadly as you acknowledge no one other than a seer can now validate a contemporary candidate.
Charles, the prophets promise that during the messianic era the Third Temple will be rebuilt and the sacrificial system will be restored. To say this is foolish is indeed a repudiation of Hashem.
The Jewish community never fell for any false messiah for very long, beginning with Jesus (actually we never fell for him in the first place). The rabbis did not even fall for Shabbetai Zvi–most of them spoke out against him.
I have to wonder. Suppose that under the leadership of some future person, the Jewish exiles are ingathered, the Land is fully restored to the Jewish people, the Temple is rebuilt, national observance resurges, world peace ensues, universal knowledge of God covers the world like water covers the seabed–and so and so forth. In short, under this Jewish leader, all the messianic promises are fulfilled. Who is going to ask if he has the right genealogy? It’s going to be obvious that he must have the right one if God chose him for the job.
On the other hand, if someone comes along and claims to be the messiah without fulfilling a single one of the messianic promises, then we won’t give him the time of day even if he can produce a perfect genealogy.
Jesus not only did not fulfill the messianic promises, but after his death, the Temple was destroyed, the Jews were slaughtered and the survivors exiled and scattered, and Christianity came to power, ushering in the darkest period in Jewish history culminating with the Holocaust.
So, yeah, we won’t give him the time of day.
Oh, and his genealogy is all wrong anyway.
I forgot to follow, so here goes.
You seem to be referring to the underlying argument of Jim’s article as “desperation” – Can you please elaborate as to why you think his argument is “desperate”?
You have not really engaged the argument. You have put forth several distractions, but these do not serve as counter-arguments. I will just note a couple of points.
The first is that you have misread Deuteronomy 18:22. You have the verse testing for a positive rather than a negative, inverting and distorting the text. It is an easy mistake to make. It should also be noted that you have ignored that Jesus fulfilled the conditions for being declared a false prophet, when he failed to produce “the sign of Jonah.” You have attempted to override Jesus’ failure with a later supposed success.
The second is only this clarification: I am not invested in the modern academy’s dating of the gospels. I only brought them up for your sake, because you recently referenced them yourself. As you can see from my argument, it makes no difference if academics are right or wrong on this point.
Charles pointed out some facts that we can agree with.
1. Some Jews rejected 1 or more true Prophets that they claimed to be False Prophets.
*And ye have profaned Me among My people for handfuls of barley and for crumbs of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live, by your lying to My people that (hearken unto lies.)
2. Jesus was regarded by some Jews as the Prophesied Messiah that was Condemn by (some) Jews as a False Prophet.
3 Prophets are those who have the Spirit.
.I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would place His Spirit on them!”
Lets try not to say Wrong, Failure, Ect because as you state the God was not seen on Mount Sinai but We believe that He Exists. I and other Jesus Followers Believe that Jesus arose from the Died appeared to over 500 brothers at one time.
Forgive the brevity of my reply, but I am busy finishing up some work and I owe a reply to another commenter regarding a question on the oral tradition.
I do not see how your comment relates to my argument. In what way does it answer what I have written?
Secondly, your statements do not appear to drive to any point. You write three propositions, but no conclusion. What do you intend for us to take from the three statements you have made?
Its pretty clear.
I suggest you read it over.
I ask for your patience; I am certain that the fault is in myself and not in you, but having read your comment several times, I still do not understand its point. I would consider it a kindness if you would restate your conclusion for me. Or, perhaps you would be willing to restate the whole argument.
I have a couple minutes right not, so I thought I would address a couple of points, while I await your clarification.
First, I would like to point out the way that Charles has attempted to confuse the conversation. (I do not blame him for this; I do not think it is done with malice. This is the method he has inherited from the Church.) His first comment is only an attempt to discredit his interlocutor. He asserts that I am desperate, addressing himself not to the argument but to the arguer.
It is important to recognize that this is bad argumentation. Let us assume that he is correct. Let us assume that I am desperate. Fine, but this does not disprove the argument. My motivation might be flawed without the argument being incorrect. Charles’ job is to disprove the argument, not to “attack” me as a person.
This method of argumentation carries over into your comment. You address yourself to the errors made by some Jews. However, your job is to demonstrate that some Jews (i.e. those that do not believe in Jesus) got that particular instance wrong. The premise does not serve to establish that the judgement of the main body of the Jewish people was wrong in the case of Jesus. Indeed, you must measure Jesus according to the canon established by Torah and not by the canon of the failure of some Jews, regarding some prophets. From the premise that some Jews have erred, nothing further can be derived.
In order to clarify this point, I direct your attention back to Charles’ comment above. He writes that the Jewish people misidentified the Shabbetai Tzvi as the Messiah. This is to say that some Jews misidentified the Messiah. What can be learned from this in regard to Jesus? Not much. One might be inclined to say that this means that the misjudgement of some Jews regarding Shabbetai Tzvi means that they may have misjudged Jesus when they declared him not to be the Messiah. On the other hand, one might as readily draw a connection in their misjudgement of Shabbetai Tzvi to the misjudgement of the disciples of Jesus that declared him to be the Messiah. That is to say that just as some people followed Shabbetai Tzvi, a false Messiah, some people followed Jesus, a false Messiah. Neither argument has a conclusion demanded by the one premise. They both rely on analogizing to an already held conclusion. In appealing to the situation with Shabbetai Tzvi, Charles has only attempted to discredit the Jewish people and avoid addressing the argument.
This same argument could be turned against you in another way, which again reveals its weakness. Let a Mormon apply the same argument to you: will you embrace the teachings of Joseph Smith? Let a Mormon say that some people have misidentified prophets throughout history, and just as those prophets were rejected, so was Joseph Smith rejected. This is obviously not enough to establish Joseph Smith as a prophet. Nor is it enough to establish Jesus as a prophet. In fact, although I have called it an argument, strictly speaking, it is not an argument at all.
To address another point: you seem to find a great amount of significance in the 500 witnesses that are supposed to have seen Jesus. Allow mean to demonstrate why this claim has no value. Let us say that a man named Horace comes to you and announces that he is a prophet. He has a message that you are to worship his tree, as it is an embodiment of the holy spirit. And, in order to prove to you that he is a prophet, he tells you that just this morning, he walked on a lake near his house in front of 500 people, who were all amazed. Would you believe him?
I hope you would not. If Horace tells you that 5, 50, 500, or 5000 people saw him do something remarkable, that would not mean he had produced so many witnesses. This would still be only the claim of one person, not the claim of 500.
Moreover, if Horace claims one should worship his tree, he is in violation of the Torah. It does not matter if he really did walk on water. The Torah says that apparent prophets will come along, able to produce signs and wonders, and that if they teach one to worship unknown gods, that prophet should not be heeded. The same applies to Jesus. His resurrection would not give license to worship a creature, such as a man. It would give no license to worship any thing or any one in tandem with God.
Jesus proves himself to be a false prophet twice over. When he fails to show himself to to those to whom he promised the Sign of Jonah, he proves himself a false prophet by Deuteronomy 18:22. The unnamed 500 witnesses cannot mitigate this fact. When he declares himself to be God (if he did), then he proves himself a false prophet by Deuteronomy 13. The 500 “witnesses” do nothing to establish Jesus as prophet, Messiah, or god.
Let me go in sequence.
Charles and I are in complete agreement as we are 1 in Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah.
“This method of argumentation carries over into your comment. You address yourself to the errors made by some Jews. However, your job is to demonstrate that some Jews (i.e. those that do not believe in Jesus) got that particular instance wrong. The premise does not serve to establish that the judgement of the main body of the Jewish people was wrong in the case of Jesus. Indeed, you must measure Jesus according to the canon established by Torah and not by the canon of the failure of some Jews, regarding some prophets. From the premise that some Jews have erred, nothing further can be derived.”
When did God disagree with main body of the Jewish people with the duly established Torah?
After the 2nd temple was destroyed or before?
Some follow up comments in reply here: