In the last decade or so, a number of Jewish “anti-missionary” ministries have cropped up to combat the increasing conversion of Jewish people to belief in Jesus as the Messiah of Israel. They have come on the scene because in the words of one of these ministries, “More Jews have converted to Christianity in the last 19 years than in the previous 1900.” Recently someone wrote asking me to respond to the following seven reasons that one of these ministries has published in support of their claim that Jesus cannot be the Jewish Messiah.
1) Jesus Did Not Fulfill The Messianic Prophecies
Claim: The Bible says the Messiah will:
A. Build the Third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26-28).
B. Gather all Jews back to the Land of Israel (Isaiah 43:5-6).
C. Usher in an era of world peace, and end all hatred, oppression, suffering and disease. As it says: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall man learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)
D. Spread universal knowledge of the God of Israel, which will unite humanity as one. As it says: “God will be King over all the world—on that day, God will be One and His Name will be One” (Zechariah 14:9).
The historical fact is that Jesus fulfilled none of these messianic prophecies.
Response: What they mean here is that Jesus did not fulfill the prophecies of the Kingdom Age. But they ignore the hundreds of Messianic prophecies that Jesus did fulfill. These prophecies were meant to help them identify the Messiah when He came. Here are a few examples:
He was born in Bethlehem as foretold in Micah 5:2.
He was born of a virgin as foretold in Isaiah 7:14.
He came from the tribe of Judah as foretold in Genesis 49:10.
He was the Son of God as foretold in Psalm 2:7.
He was the son of David as foretold in 2 Samuel 7:14-16.
He had a special anointing of the Holy Spirit as foretold in Isaiah 11:2.
He gave sight to the blind and caused the lame to walk as foretold in Isaiah 35:5-6.
Had the leaders of Israel recognized Him and allowed Him to be the ultimate sacrifice for their sins, as foretold in Isaiah 53:4-5, He could have fulfilled the Kingdom prophecies at that time as well. Since they didn’t, He went back to Heaven after His resurrection to await their call for His return as foretold in Hosea 5:15.
2) Jesus Did not Embody The Personal Qualifications Of Messiah
a. Jesus was not a prophet.
Claim: Prophecy can only exist in Israel when the land is inhabited by a majority of world Jewry. During the time of Ezra (circa 300 BCE), when the majority of Jews refused to move from Babylon to Israel, prophecy ended upon the death of the last prophets—Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. Jesus appeared on the scene approximately 350 years after prophecy had ended.
Response: I can’t find any Biblical support for this one. And the great Hebrew sage Mosheh ben Maimon (Maimonides), who lived 1500 years after prophecy had supposedly ended, claimed that any man has the potential to become a prophet (not just Jews). He made no mention of the need for a majority of the world’s Jewry to live in Israel in connection with this. Also there was actually about a 400 year gap between Malachi, the last Old Testament prophet and the birth of Jesus. Ezra, Haggai, and Zechariah all preceded him.
b. Jesus was not a descendent of David.
Claim: The Messiah must be descended on his father’s side from King David (see Genesis 49:10 and Isaiah 11:1). According to the Christian claim that Jesus was the product of a virgin birth, he had no father—and thus could not have possibly fulfilled the messianic requirement of being descended on his father’s side from King David!
Response: In the first place Genesis 49:10 and Isaiah 11:1 do not specify that the Messiah has to be descended from King David on His father’s side. Genesis 49:10 simply says he will be of the tribe of Judah, and Isaiah 11:1says he would be descended from the family of Jesse, David’s father.
But to use a fact they don’t accept (the virgin birth) to claim Jesus had no father and therefore couldn’t be descended from David defies logic. As you’ll see, they don’t believe in the virgin birth, so they must believe Jesus had an earthly father. The most obvious candidate would have been Joseph, to whom Mary was betrothed, and who was descended from David. But even if they reject Joseph, the most they could say is they don’t know who the father of Jesus was so they can’t be sure of his family heritage.
But more importantly, in Genesis 3:15 God said in effect that the Messiah would be descended from Eve. So from the earliest times it’s been known that the Messiah would be descended from a woman. The Lord’s mother Mary was a descendant of King David’s through his son, Nathan.
c. Torah observance.
Claim: The Torah states that all mitzvot (commandments) remain binding forever, and anyone coming to change the Torah is immediately identified as a false prophet. (Deut. 13:1-4). Throughout the New Testament, Jesus contradicts the Torah and states that its commandments are no longer applicable.
Response: Deut. 13:1-4 was a warning against allowing false prophets to entice the people into following other gods. Jesus never did that. Also, He said, “ Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until Heaven and Earth disappear not the smallest letter or the least stroke of a pen will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matt. 5:17-18).
3) Mistranslated Verses “Referring” To Jesus
a. the virgin birth
Claim:The Christian idea of a virgin birth is derived from the verse in Isaiah 7:14 describing an “alma” as giving birth. The word “alma” has always meant a young woman, but Christian theologians came centuries later and translated it as “virgin.”
Response: It is true that the Hebrew word “alma” has been translated “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 and that the word also means “young woman”. But it wasn’t Christian theologians who first determined that “alma” should be translated “virgin”. When the Greek ruler Ptolemy Philadelphus II commissioned 70 Hebrew scholars to translate the Hebrew Bible into Greek in the 3rd Century BC they chose the Greek word “parthenos” for “alma” in Isaiah 7:14. Parthenos is a word that can only refer to someone who has never had sexual intercourse. (The work of these scholars became known as the Septuagint translation and was the most widely used translation of the Old Testament during the Lord’s time.)
Also, in Isaiah 7:14 the prophet was describing a sign God would give to Israel. What kind of a sign would it be to say a young woman would give birth? It was an everyday occurrence and would have been meaningless. But a virgin giving birth would have been an unmistakably miraculous sign.
The most common Hebrew word for virgin in the Bible is “bethulah”. Why didn’t the Lord have Isaiah use that word instead of “alma” and avoid all the confusion?
It’s because when the Lord had His prophets speak an important prophecy with a fulfillment far in the future, he often had them phrase it in such a way that it could be partially fulfilled within their lifetime. In Deut. 18:22the Lord had warned His people that if what a prophet said didn’t come true, it meant he wasn’t speaking for the Lord. A partial fulfillment during the prophet’s lifetime served as confirmation of the ultimate one and protected him against being labeled a false prophet.
In Isaiah’s case, the partial fulfillment came through his own wife. Isaiah 8tells us she bore a son whose early life fulfilled the short term prophecies in Isaiah 7:15-17, repeated in Isaiah 8:4. And from Isaiah 8:10 we learn the name Immanuel (God with us) was first associated with him.
The Lord couldn’t call Isaiah’s wife a virgin because she wasn’t one, and besides there would only ever be one virgin birth. But He could use a word that hinted of it, and so he had Isaiah use alma. After Isaiah was long gone and they only had the ultimate fulfillment to deal with, the 70 Hebrew Scholars I mentioned above confirmed that the clear intent of the passage was to be a prophecy of the virgin birth.
Claim: The verse in Psalms 22:16 reads: “Like a lion, they are at my hands and feet.” The Hebrew word ki-ari (like a lion) is grammatically similar to the word “gouged.” Thus Christianity reads the verse as a reference to crucifixion: “They pierced my hands and feet.”
Response: According to the Strong’s Concordance the Hebrew word in Psalm 22:16 is “karah”. It appears 16 times in the Old Testament and means to dig, make, open, or pierce.
Also, Zechariah 12:10 tells us that near the end of the Great Tribulation the Lord will pour out a spirit of grace and supplication on the Jewish people, saying, “And they will look upon Me, who they pierced.” Here a different Hebrew word is used and both the Jewish and Christian Bibles agree that it means “pierced”. It’s a second source that confirms the manner in which the Messiah would die.
c. suffering servant
Claim: Christianity says Isaiah chapter 53 refers to Jesus, as the “suffering servant.” In actuality, Isaiah 53 directly follows the theme of chapter 52, describing the exile and redemption of the Jewish people. The prophecies are written in the singular form because the Jews (“Israel”) are regarded as one unit. The Torah is filled with examples of the Jewish nation referred to with a singular pronoun.
Response: This is a very weak claim because in Isaiah 52:13 the context clearly shifts to a discussion of “my servant” and the singular personal pronouns “he”, “him”, and “his” from there to the end of Isaiah 53 all refer to the phrase “my servant.” There really isn’t any way to read Isaiah 53literally other than to see it as referring to a male person. Trying to make the singular third person pronoun represent Israel leaves one with the problem of defining who the first person plural pronouns “we”, “us”, and “our” (the people speaking) represent, because it’s obvious from the context that it’s Israel.
In addition, this claim puts Israel in the position of dying for the sins of others to bring them peace (Isaiah 53:4-6). Does anyone really believe that? Besides, Isaiah 53:8 says He was stricken for the transgressions of “my people”. Whether these words are attributed to God or to Isaiah, isn’t Israel “my people”?
Finally a clear reading of Isaiah 53 so accurately describes the rejection, suffering, death, and resurrection of the Messiah, it’s been said that more Jewish people have been converted to Christianity by this one chapter than by all the rest of the Bible.
4) Jewish Belief Is Based Solely On National Revelation
Claim: Throughout history, thousands of religions have been started by individuals, attempting to convince people that he or she is God’s true prophet. But personal revelation is an extremely weak basis for a religion because one can never know if it is indeed true. Since others did not hear God speak to this person, they have to take his word for it.
Even if the individual claiming personal revelation performs miracles, there is still no verification that he is a genuine prophet. Therefore, Judaism is not miracles. It is the personal eyewitness experience of every man, woman and child, standing at Mount Sinai 3,300 years ago.
Response: God did speak to the people once, and they asked Him not to ever do that again, but to appoint prophets to speak for Him (Deut. 18:15-18).Thereafter God only spoke to the nation through those He appointed as prophets.
Moreover, the idea that Judaism isn’t miracles simply doesn’t hold up under inspection. When the Israelites were resigned to certain defeat at the hands of the Egyptians, God had Moses part the Red Sea to give them an escape route (Exodus 14:15-31). When there wasn’t enough time in the day to defeat their enemies, Joshua asked God to make the sun stand still, and He did (Joshua 10:12-15). When they couldn’t decide whether to worship Baal or God, Elijah used a miracle to persuade them to follow God (1 Kings 18:16-39).
Their whole religious system was based on the evidence God regularly provided through miracles. According to their traditions, the smoke from their offerings always rose straight into heaven no matter how strong the wind was blowing or from what direction. When the scapegoat died on Yom Kippur, a scarlet ribbon tied to the Temple door always turned white to signify their sins had been forgiven in fulfillment of Isaiah 1:18. And what about the Passover, was that not a miraculous event? Their history is full of miracles God provided to give support to Israel’s faith. It’s the Church who is asked to believe on the strength of faith in God’s revealed word alone.
We’re just over half way through the list of seven reasons the anti-missionaries give to explain why the Jews reject Jesus as their Messiah. But already we’ve had a great chance to see from the Old Testament that Jesus is indeed the Messiah of Israel. We’ll take the balance next time.