Was Jesus the Jewish Messiah?

Was Jesus the Jewish Messiah?

This is a difficult topic for Christians. We present this information in defense of our views–not to try to convince anyone of anything. If you are unwilling to be confronted with information that at least some people see as providing evidence against Jesus’ messiahship, you may want to stop reading this now.

We do not accept that Jesus was the promised messiah. We also do not deny that it is within the realm of possibility that he could one day be. We simply don’t feel it is proper to crown anyone as messiah who hasn’t completed the messianic tasks, nor to put some sort of “saving faith” in him to be righteous or redeemable.

If the messianic age arrives in our lifetime, (may it be so!), and the messiah declares that he is Jesus who was crucified in 30 CE or thereabouts, there will be no doubt. If you are a Christian, you are probably thinking “It will be too late then!”, but we don’t agree.

What and who is Messiah?

First, let’s talk about the word “messiah”. It is a transliteration of the Hebrew word “Moshiach”, which simply means “anointed”. There are many people who are moshiach in the Hebrew Scriptures, beginning with Aaron and his sons when they were consecrated for service in the mishkan (tabernacle):

You are to make this into a sacred anointing oil, a perfumed compound, the work of a perfumer. It will be sacred anointing oil.

“You are to anoint Aaron and his sons and sanctify them, so that they may minister as my priests.

And you are to tell the Israelites: ‘This is to be my sacred anointing oil throughout your generations.

It must not be applied to people’s bodies, and you must not make any like it with the same recipe. It is holy, and it must be holy to you. (Exodus 30:25,30-32)

The anointing oil was a special formulation which could only be used for anointing holy items and people. Kings were also anointed, but with plain olive oil. All of these were moshiach.

So, technically speaking, there is no one Messiah, there have already been many.

Certainly there is a promised redeemer to come, who will usher in an age of peace and universal knowledge of YHVH. That person isn’t always called moshiach in the prophecies. We prefer to call him the coming redeemer, as opposed to the messiah, for his role is to bring all of the exiles back to Israel.

When can the coming redeemer be identified?

YHVH was fairly clear on how one identifies a true prophet, and it requires the prophecy come true:

whenever a prophet speaks in my name and the prediction is not fulfilled, then I have not spoken it; the prophet has presumed to speak it, so you need not fear him.” (Deut 18:22 NET)

The prophet Jeremiah, when dealing with the false prophet Hananiah, similarly says:

So if a prophet prophesied peace and prosperity, it was only known that YHVH truly sent him when what he prophesied came true.” (Jer 28:9 NET)

Based on these, it stands to reason that one cannot confirm the prophecies about the coming redeemer until the events prophesied to happen with his coming actually unfold, and he is revealed to be that redeemer in no uncertain terms. You could go so far as to say that one cannot verify the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Hosea, Micah, Zephaniah and Zechariah spoke true prophecy, at least regarding the messianic age, until it actually comes to fruition.

Prematurely crowning Jesus as this coming redeemer would be similar to declaring someone president of the United States simply on his word, without a candidacy, presidential primary or election win.

Must we “believe” in the coming redeemer?

Nowhere in the Torah can one find anything requiring a “saving faith” in this future redeemer. In fact, a future redeemer isn’t even central to the Torah. However, there are some allusions to future events, including one with a possible reference to the future redeemer:

Then he uttered this oracle: “The oracle of Balaam son of Beor; the oracle of the man whose eyes are open;

the oracle of the one who hears the words of God, and who knows the knowledge of the Most High, who sees a vision from the Almighty, although falling flat on the ground with eyes open:

‘I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not close at hand. A star will march forth out of Jacob, and a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the skulls of Moab, and the heads of all the sons of Sheth.

Edom will be a possession, Seir, his enemies, will also be a possession; but Israel will act valiantly.

A ruler will be established from Jacob; he will destroy the remains of the city.'” (Num 24:15-19)

And also:

Then YHVH will scatter you among the peoples and there will be very few of you among the nations where YHVH will drive you.

There you will worship gods made by human hands – wood and stone that can neither see, hear, eat, nor smell.

But if you seek YHVH your God from there, you will find him, if, indeed, you seek him with all your heart and soul.

In your distress when all these things happen to you in the latter days, if you return to YHVH your God and obey him

(for he is a merciful God), he will not let you down or destroy you, for he cannot forget the covenant with your ancestors that he confirmed by oath to them.  (Deut 4:27-31)

Nothing in these prophecies indicates a requirement to believe in anyone.

Many Christians believe this to refer to Jesus:

I will raise up a prophet like you for them from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth and he will speak to them whatever I command.

I will personally hold responsible anyone who then pays no attention to the words that prophet speaks in my name. (Deut 18:18-19 NET)

However, if you simply read the entire passage from 18:9-22, it’s clear that this is speaking not about a single prophet, but the “office” of prophet. The first part of the verse prohibits seeking out advice from occult practitioners, followed by the promise to send prophets, and then wrapping up with information on identifying which of those prophets are false. If this were truly about a single future prophet, that would mean, according to verse 22, that the one and only prophet the passage foretold had a 50/50 chance of being a false one!

No covenantal requirement for saving faith in the redeemer

Since the Torah makes no requirement of believing in this future redeemer, much less putting one’s faith in someone who hasn’t even been proven to be that redeemer, doing so is unwise and without precedent.

In another article, we have shown conclusively that the new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah is still future, to coincide with the messianic age. Christianity asserts that it was ushered in with the death and claimed resurrection of Jesus, but that just isn’t possible, and is proven through both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament book of Hebrews. Please read that article for details.

Since the new covenant is still future, YHVH’s people, (the descendants of Jacob as well as the foreigners who have and continue to join themselves to YHVH), are still bound to the covenant of Mount Sinai. This means nothing has changed regarding how righteousness is defined and achieved. There is no simple faith one can place in a man that will save him, to the exclusion of obedience to YHVH required by the Torah.

Did Jesus fulfill hundreds of messianic prophecies?

We really shouldn’t have to continue this article. Without any requirement in the Torah to have saving faith in a messiah who hasn’t finished his job in order to avoid damnation, the discussion should be over. Alas, the Christian mind is generally still at this point teaming with thoughts of all of the hundreds of prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. How can they be wrong?

The truth is that if you inspect them one by one, they all crumble. It is beyond the scope of this article to address each one, but we will address several in order to show you the general idea, so that you can go on and investigate for yourself. There are many people who have tackled these prophecies one by one, but we’ll just deal with a few in order to present the gist of the situation.

Messianic prophecy in Genesis 3:15?

In a list of hundreds of prophecies fulfilled by Jesus, this is generally the first. Here’s the verse:

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Gen 3:15 KJV)

The claim is that because a woman doesn’t have seed (sperm), this is a messianic prophecy of a virgin birth! This is simply not the case, because the Hebrew word “Zara” translated seed here simply means descendants. Yes, it can literally mean seed/sperm, but it frequently means descendants, and women certainly have descendants.

This construction with a woman having seed can be found elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures, such as:

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. (Lev 12:2 KJV)

The previous two verses were quoted from the KJV, because modern English translations do a better job and use the word descendants instead of seed. There is nothing miraculous or surprising about Genesis 3:15. It isn’t a prophecy at all. It is nothing more than an illustration of how man and serpent will deal with each other going forward.

Prophecy of a virgin birth?

In the New Testament book of Matthew we find this:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way. While his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.

Because Joseph, her husband to be, was a righteous man, and because he did not want to disgrace her, he intended to divorce her privately.

When he had contemplated this, an angel of YHVH appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

This all happened so that what was spoken by YHVH through the prophet would be fulfilled:

“Look! The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” (Matt 1:18-23 NET)

If you check for a cross reference for verse 23, you’ll generally find Isaiah 7:14 listed:

Therefore YHVH himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14 KJV)

Sounds like a really good cross reference, right? Well, unfortunately, it crumbles quickly if you bring in the context. In the above verse we quoted the KJV again, because more modern translations use more appropriate words than virgin. Let’s look at the full context, this time from the NET:

YHVH again spoke to Ahaz:

“Ask for a confirming sign from YHVH your God. You can even ask for something miraculous.”

But Ahaz responded, “I don’t want to ask; I don’t want to put YHVH to a test.”

So Isaiah replied, “Pay attention, family of David. Do you consider it too insignificant to try the patience of men? Is that why you are also trying the patience of my God?

For this reason the sovereign master himself will give you a confirming sign. Look, this young woman is about to conceive and will give birth to a son. You, young woman, will name him Immanuel.

He will eat sour milk and honey, which will help him know how to reject evil and choose what is right.

Here is why this will be so: Before the child knows how to reject evil and choose what is right, the land whose two kings you fear will be desolate. (Isaiah 7:10-16 NET)

This is the story of Isaiah delivering a sign to King Ahaz that he will not be defeated by the armies arrayed against him at the time, which was roughly 700 years before Jesus. Jerusalem is under siege, but Isaiah is delivering YHVH’s assurance to King Ahaz that he will not be defeated.

What is the actual sign given to Ahaz, that a virgin will conceive? No! The sign is that the siege will be over by the time the young child is old enough to know good from evil. The pregnancy is simply pointed out as a means to identify who that child will be. The pregnancy is not the sign.

Is the pregnant woman a virgin? No! The Hebrew word “alma”, which means young woman/maiden, is used. Isaiah uses the proper term for virgin, “betulah”, in Isaiah 23:12, 37:22 and 47:1. Had he intended to mean virgin in this passage, he would have used the same word. For this reason, many modern English translations do not translate the word virgin in this passage.

Frequently it is argued that the rabbis who translated the Septuagint translated the word alma as virgin in Isaiah 7:14. However, that is incorrect. Tradition says Ptolemy II sponsored the translation of the Torah into Greek, which was performed by 70 rabbis. Tradition also says that all 70 rabbis translated the entire Torah while individually sequestered, and all 70 copies matched word for word. Whether either is true is difficult to ascertain.

We do know, however, that only the Torah was translated initially. The remainder of the Septuagint was translated and assembled 200-300 years later, and by whom we do not know. Further, we do not have the originals, so further redaction is possible in the manuscripts we do have. What scholars do generally agree on is that the Torah of the Septuagint was translated well, while the remainder was of a decidedly inferior quality, with Isaiah being among the worst.

(For details see Wikipedia’s article on the Septuagint.)

Similar problems with Matthew’s other fulfillment citations

We find similar problems elsewhere in Matthew where fulfillment of prophecy is claimed. They either crumble upon checking the cross references, or they don’t even cross reference to anything in the Hebrew Scriptures. Here’s a simple example:

After they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to look for the child to kill him.”

Then he got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and went to Egypt.

He stayed there until Herod died. In this way what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet was fulfilled: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” (Matt 2:13-15 NET)

This cross references to Hosea 11:1 which reads:

When Israel was a young man, I loved him like a son, and I summoned my son out of Egypt. (Hosea 11:1 NET)

This wasn’t a prophecy, but a statement of historical fact, and it wasn’t about Jesus.

(This article is still under construction. Please check back soon for further analysis.)

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