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Basic Worldview:
104 Why Christianity?


Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (Part 2)
and Prophecy in Judaism


Judaism and Christianity Introduction and History
History of Judaism Continued
Scholarly Objections and Historicity of Daniel (P. 1)
Historicity of Daniel (P. 2) & Judeo-Christian Syncretism
A Few Words on Gnosticism
Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (P. 1)
Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (P. 2) & Prophecy in Judaism
Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? (P. 1)
Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? (P. 2)
List of Messianic Qualifications & the Resurrection of Jesus (P. 1)
The Resurrection of Jesus (Part 2)
Study Conclusions and Overall Comparisons

Additional Material
The Sufferings of Eyewitnesses
Comparison of Mystical Religions to Judeo-Christianity
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 1)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 2)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 3)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 4)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 5)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 6)

Introduction
| Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3




(Continued from previous section.)

2. The concept of sacrificing a man being required by God in order to provide atonement.

Some may object to the method of atonement through which Christians claim Jesus redeemed us, specifically, Jesus offering Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. Of course the Old Testament is clear in saying that sacrifice is necessary in order to provide atonement for our sin. However, it has been argued that the Old Testament establishes that God does not permit a human sacrifice, especially for the purposes of atonement.

In the sense of the occult meaning of human sacrifice this is of course true. While God did require the Jews to offer animal sacrifices under the Mosaic covenant, He did not, call for the sacrificial death of any humans. However, the argument that human sacrificial death is an abomination to God is not supportable by the Jewish scriptures. Several examples can be cited to disprove the arguments that the Old Testament is prohibitive of the idea of a man (specifically, Jesus) dying as a sacrifice to atone for our sins.

Consider Numbers 25.

Numbers 25:1 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. 2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. 3 And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. 4 And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel. 5 And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor. 6 And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 7 And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; 8 And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. 9 And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand. 10 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,11 Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. 12 Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: 13 And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel. 14 Now the name of the Israelite that was slain, even that was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites. 15 And the name of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian.

In Numbers 25, God's people began to join themselves with Moabite women. This also led to Israel's committing idolatry by participating in the sacrifices and sacrificial meals of the Moabites to their god Baalpeor. This enraged God's jealousy against Israel and God commanded Moses to hang the chiefs of Israel before the Lord so that God's anger would be turned away from the people. And so, Moses commanded the judges of Israel to slay those who had joined themselves to Baalpeor.

At this point an Israelite named Zimri took a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and the congregation of Israel. Seeing this Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, rose up, took a javelin and went after Zimri following him into the tent and thrust both Zimri and the Midianite woman with the javelin, killing them.

This act by Phinehas provided atonement (Numbers 25:14) for the children of Israel and turned God's plague away from them by killing the guilty party. This instance, therefore, indicates that atonement between God and man can be provided by the putting to death of a man (and in this case a woman as well).

Of course, this was not the normal manner of atonement prescribed by the law. In the books of Exodus and Leviticus various protocols for sacrificial atonement are given to the people of Israel. There were different types of atoning sacrifices. Though most included a bull or goat that was not blemished, Exodus 30:14-16 states that Israel was required to give an offering of a set amount of money to the Lord as atonement for their souls.

When we compile the requirements made by law for various atoning sacrifices with Number 25 we can see that in the Old Testament atonement between God and man for man's sins was made through the sacrifice of unblemished animals, payment of a set price, and by the death of a man (Zimri and Cozbi, the Midianite woman). The Christian view of how Jesus provided atonement between God and man for the sins of mankind does not violate the Old Testament, but instead fits well within the various types of Old Testament mechanisms for atonement.

Additionally, Isaiah 53 also presents the notion of God's servant being an offering for the sins of the people.

Isaiah 53:1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

We will revisit this passage later as we develop the Jewish understanding of the Messiah. For now, we must note that Isaiah 53 clearly depicts the idea of a man dying as an offering for sin. This notion is expressed the clearest in verses 6-12 in the above passage.

Our discussion of this particular issue would not be complete without a look at Genesis 22.

Genesis 22:1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. 2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. 3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? 8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. 9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. 11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen. 15 And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, 16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: 17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. 19 So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.

Before we get into this amazing passage we should first set the stage as far as God's relationship with Abraham prior to Genesis 22. Genesis 12:1-3 records Abraham leaving his household and country of origin at God's request. Also we see that God promises to Abraham that he will make a great nation of his descendents. In Genesis 15:4-5, God promises to provide Abraham, who was at that time childless with a son through whom God would fulfill His promise to Abraham. But, in Genesis 16, Abraham's wife Sarah has an idea that her maidservant Hagar could bear Abraham an heir. Arrangements are made and Hagar bears Abraham (then 86 years old) a son named Ishmael, who is put away from Abraham's household. Then in Genesis 17:1-10, God makes a covenant with Abraham in accordance with His promise to give him a son and that he will be the father of a great nation. This covenant is sealed with the sign of circumcision.

At this point in time Abraham is 99 years old and his wife, Sarah is 90 (Genesis 17:17) and they do not have any children together. However, God promises in Genesis 17:16 that Sarah will bear a son to Abraham, through whom Abraham's descendents will come and eventually develop into a great nation.

(NOTE: God's promise and covenant with Abraham to bless his descendents leads to God's bringing them out of Egypt in the Book of Exodus and initiating a covenant with them in Exodus 19-24, which we looked at earlier. Genesis 18-19 is the record of God's visit with Abraham along with two angels and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, which we looked at earlier.)

Then in Genesis 21:1-3, Sarah conceives and bears Abraham a son in his old age. This son is named Isaac. It is in this context that God comes to Abraham in Genesis 22 and tells him to offer his son Isaac to Him as a sacrifice.

Now this is a strange request on God's part for several reasons. First, it seems to negate God's promise to make Abraham a great nation through his son Isaac. If Abraham kills Isaac as a sacrifice Isaac would be dead and would, therefore, not be able to provide descendents through whom God would fulfill His promise to Abraham.

Second, God is commanding Abraham to kill his only son (Genesis 22:2) as a sacrifice. Two things are noteworthy about this command. One, Abraham offering his only son as a sacrifice to God is eerily familiar with the New Testament claims that Jesus is the only begotten son of God and that God willed for Him to be a sacrifice to atone for the sins of Abraham's descendents, Israel (as well as the Gentile nations). But more to the point, it shows that the idea that the sacrificial death of a man as an offering is far from an abomination to God, it actually originates from Him. And even though God ultimately does not have Abraham go through with this sacrifice, God still expected Abraham to have no problem with the concept when commanded by God sacrifice his son. Therefore, since God expected Abraham not to have a problem with this or reject such a suggestion as evil, neither can critics of Christianity accuse the Christian notion of a human sacrifice of being an evil abomination.

We will leave it to our reader to consider the implications the similarities of Genesis 22 and the New Testament claims about Jesus Christ. But, it is interesting to consider that Christianity proposes exactly that it was God's plan for one of the Persons of the Trinity to become incarnate as a man and die as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of Abraham's descendents Israel (as well as for the Gentile nations) and that in Genesis 22 God makes this same request of Abraham of his only son. It is also worthy to note that Genesis 22 was written over 12 centuries before Jesus Christ lived and died, making it an interesting at least theoretical case of prophecy as far as this investigation is concerned.

Nonetheless, given all of these scriptural evidences it seems the argument that the Old Testament is prohibitive of a sacrificial death of a man as atonement for sins must be dismissed.


1. The Christian Messianic claim concerning Jesus of Nazareth.

At this point we have covered the last four of the five items from our list of issues that distinguish Judaism from Christianity. For reference here is that list:

1. The Christian messianic claim concerning Jesus of Nazareth.
2. The concept that sacrificial death of a man provides atonement between God and man for mans sins.
3. The Christian trinitarian view of God.
4. The Christian view that the Mosaic Covenant and Law have been replaced by another covenant.
5. Christianity's embrace and incorporation of pagan religious beliefs, practices, and customs.

First, we have agreed with item number 5 that Christianity should not incorporate pagan religious beliefs, practices, and customs. We have referenced several other articles that demonstrate that the New Testament is prohibitive of such incorporations.

Second, we have demonstrated that the Jewish scriptures themselves expected and required that the Mosaic covenant would be replaced by another Jewish Prophet who would function in a similar role as Moses who was a mediator, and intercessor, and a lawgiver between God and His people Israel.

Third, we showed that the Jewish scriptures themselves reveal a Trinitarian view of God as one God (Jehovah) in a plurality of distinct Persons. And fourth, we showed that the idea that the sacrificial death of man could atone for sin is included in and originates from the Jewish scriptures themselves.

However, having accomplished all of this we still have not reconciled Judaism and Christianity. The chief difference between these two religious views is listed as item number 1 in our list above. It is the Christian claim that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, which is the essential and defining difference between Christians (whether ethnically Jewish or Gentile) and non-Christian Jews. In order to demonstrate that Christianity is the correct Jewish understanding of God, thereby making the two religions into a single harmonious religious system, we must determine whether Jesus of Nazareth really is the Jewish Messiah.

Demonstrating that Jesus is the Messiah first requires that we demonstrate that Judaism does expect and require a Messiah, and that the Messiah is a person (as opposed to an age or some sort of personal, internal understanding as some modern Jewish groups have come to believe.) This task is not altogether that difficult. We do not even need to rely upon Christian argumentation about the Old Testament. Primarily we can point to examples of prominent Jewish leaders and Messianic movements both from ancient and modern times, which demonstrate that Judaism itself recognizes the need for a Messianic figure.

There are several useful examples in this respect. We will begin with Shabbetaianism.


Shabbataianism

In the 1600's a movement known as Shabbataianism developed and spread in European and Middle Eastern Jewish communities. It was started by a man named Shabbetai Tzevi, who proclaimed himself to be the Jewish Messiah at age 22. He died in 1676, but not before he had gathered a large following of Jews, who accepted his teachings and his claim to be the Messiah based in part upon a false prophetic document, which indicated that he was the Messiah.

"Shabbetai Tzevi - born July 23, 1626, Smyrna, Ottoman Turkey [now Izmir, Tur.] died 1676 , Dulcigno, Alb. also spelled Sabbatai Zebi, or Zevi, a false messiah who developed a mass following and threatened rabbinical authority in Europe and the Middle East." - Britannica.com

"Shabbetai Tzevi - As a young man, Shabbetai steeped himself in the influential body of Jewish mystical writings known as the Kabbala. His extended periods of ecstasy and his strong personality combined to attract many disciples, and at the age of 22 he proclaimed himself the messiah." - Britannica.com

"Shabbetai Tzevi - Driven from Smyrna by the aroused rabbinate, he journeyed to Salonika (now Thessalon’ki), an old Kabbalistic centre, and then to Constantinople (now Istanbul). There he encountered an esteemed and forceful Jewish preacher and Kabbalist, Abraham ha-Yakini, who possessed a false prophetic document affirming that Shabbetai was the messiah. Shabbetai then traveled to Palestine and after that to Cairo, where he won over to his cause Raphael Halebi, the wealthy and powerful treasurer of the Turkish governor." - Britannica.com

"Shabbetai Tzevi - In September, however, he was brought before the sultan in Adrianople and, having been previously threatened with torture, became converted to Islam. The placated sultan renamed him Mehmed Efendi, appointed him his personal doorkeeper, and provided him with a generous allowance. All but his most faithful or self-seeking disciples were disillusioned by his apostasy. Eventually, Shabbetai fell out of favour and was banished, dying in Albania. The movement that developed around Shabbetai Tzevi became known as Shabbetaianism." - Britannica.com

As the last quote clearly affirms, upon being threatened with torture Tzevi converted to Islam, later fell out of favor, was banished, and died in Albania. Nonetheless his faithful disciples remained true to his teachings even after he became a Muslim. And prior to his conversion, a large following of Jews had accepted Tzevi as the Jewish Messiah.


The example of Tzevi points to a recognition of the need for a Jewish Messiah within Jewish mysticism and that a large number of Jews at least in Europe and the Middle East during the 1600's also agreed to the need for a Jewish Messiah. However, Jewish recognition of the need for a Messiah is not limited to Kabbalist Judaism. Our next examples will establish that orthodox Judaism of modern and ancient times also recognizes the need for the coming of a Messiah figure.


The Temple Mount Faithful

On the web at the address http://www.templemountfaithful.org/ you will find the website of an organization called the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful. They are lead by a man named Gershon Solomon, a former officer in the Israel Defense Force who participated in the capture of the Temple Mount and Jerusalem during the Six-Day War. Additionally, his family has lived in Jerusalem for ten generations and he is descended from Rabbi Avraham Solomon Zalman Zoref. The rest of his biographical information is available at http://www.templemountfaithful.org/leader.htm)

As far as beliefs go, the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful is an orthodox Jewish group. They continue to practice the Mosaic sacrificial code and hope to be able to do so in the near future at a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem.

"The Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement is dedicated to the fulfillment of every detail of G-d's commandments as recorded in the TANACH." - Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful

What is of interest about this group, as far as this article is concerned, can be found online under their vision page (http://www.templemountfaithful.org/vision.htm):

"It is the view of the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful that the redemption will proceed in an orderly fashion according to G-d's plan. First is the foundation of the modern state of Israel and the miraculous victories that G-d gave the people of Israel in the wars against 22 Arab enemy states. Second is the regathering of the people of Israel from all over the world to the Promised Land. Third is the liberation and consecration of the Temple Mount and fourth is the building of the Third Temple. The final step is the coming of the King of Israel, Messiah Ben David." - Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful

Although they do not believe that the Messiah has come yet, this quote from the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful website confirms the expectancy among orthodox Jewish groups for a Messiah. The Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful refer to this person as the King of Israel and the Messiah Ben David. These terms will be brought up again later.


Menachem Mendel Schneerson

Yet another modern example of orthodox Jewish groups, which accept the idea of the Messiah is that of the Lubavitch Hasidic movement, which was lead by Menachem Mendel Schneerson for 44 years prior to his death in July of 1994.

"Schneerson, Menachem Mendel - Russian-born rabbi (b. April 14, 1902, Nikolayev, Russia [now in Ukraine]--d. June 12, 1994, New York, N.Y.), was a towering figure in Orthodox Judaism and for 44 years the charismatic spiritual leader of the New York-based Lubavitch Hasidic movement. He built a religious empire from the remnants of a Russian flock, whose numbers had been decimated to a few thousand by the Holocaust, into a powerful following of some 200,000 believers worldwide. Schneerson attracted members by using several strategies: converted campers (dubbed "mitzvah tanks") that served as recruitment centres canvassed New York City; toll-free telephone numbers, satellite television hookups, and faxes of Talmudic disquisitions were made available; full-page newspaper advertisements were published; and Schneerson himself, a mesmeric figure with piercing blue eyes and a flowing white beard, dispensed blessings and a crisp new dollar bill to each Sunday morning visitor. A Sorbonne-educated scholar, Schneerson became the seventh Lubavitcher grand rabbi in 1950 following the death of his father-in-law. Schneerson, though he had not traveled beyond Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the site of the Lubavitch World Headquarters, in 37 years, had a strong influence on Israeli politics, both within the Knesset (parliament) and among the electorate." - Britannica.com

The interesting thing about Schneerson is that many of his followers among the Lubavitcher movement either considered him to be the Messiah or simply thought he might be the Messiah.

"Schneerson, Menachem Mendel - Because many of his followers revered Schneerson as the potential Messiah, his death caused great consternation, especially when his hoped-for resurrection failed to take place. He was childless and did not designate a successor." - Britannica.com

It is also interesting to note that in connection with their expectation that Schneerson might be the Messiah, after he died Lubavitcher Jews hoped that he would be resurrected. So, now we see not only the recognition of the Jewish need for a Messianic figure, but also the connection of the Messiah to the idea of resurrection from the dead. But no survey showing the prevailing Jewish belief in a Messiah figure would be complete without Simon Bar Kokhba and Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph.


Simon Bar Kokhba and Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph

Simon Bar Kokhba (or Kokba) is an example of an ancient Jewish false Messiah, but an example of the Jewish recognition of the need for a Messiah nonetheless. In 132 A.D. Bar Kokhba led the Jewish revolt against the Romans and was eventually killed in 135 A.D.

"Bar Kokhba - died AD 135 original name Simeon Bar Kosba, Kosba also spelled Koseba, Kosiba , or Kochba , also called Bar Koziba Jewish leader who led a bitter but unsuccessful revolt (AD 132-135) against Roman dominion in Palestine." - Britannica.com

"Bar Kokhba - The war became so serious that in the summer of 134 Hadrian himself came from Rome to visit the battlefield and summoned the governor of Britain, Gaius Julius Severus, to his aid with 35,000 men of the Xth Legion. Jerusalem was retaken, and Severus gradually wore down and constricted the rebels' area of operation, until in 135 Bar Kokhba was himself killed at Betar, his stronghold in southwest Jerusalem." - Britannica.com

The significance of Bar Kokhba's Messianic claim does not end with him. A famous and influential Jewish rabbi, considered to be one of the fathers of rabbinic Judaism, perhaps the greatest Jewish scholar of his day and one of the great Jewish scholars of history, Akiba ben Joseph was involved in the Bar Kokhba revolt. In fact, the Talmud records that Akiba believed and actually proclaimed that Bar Kokhba was the Messiah.

"Bar Kokba, Simon - or Simon Bar Cochba (kk«b) (KEY) [Heb.,=son of the star], d. A.D. 135, Hebrew hero and leader of a major revolt against Rome under Hadrian (132-135). He may have claimed to be a Messiah; the Talmud relates that Akiba ben Joseph credited him with this title. His personality and the facts of his life are surrounded by legend. He is sometimes called Simon the Prince of Israel. At first he successfully defeated the Roman armies, but the tide turned against him with the victories of the Roman general Julius Severus, and he was killed at Bether. Israeli archaeologists have found a number of letters in his handwriting." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Bar Kokhba - Enraged by these measures, the Jews rebelled in 132, the dominant and irascible figure of Simeon bar Kosba at their head. Reputedly of Davidic descent, he was hailed as the Messiah by the greatest rabbi of the time, Akiva ben Yosef, who also gave him the title Bar Kokhba ("Son of the Star"), a messianic allusion. Bar Kokhba took the title nasi ("prince") and struck his own coins, with the legend "Year 1 of the liberty of Jerusalem." - Britannica.com

"Akiba ben Joseph - a.d. 50?-132 Jewish religious leader whose scholarship, particularly a reinterpretation of the Halakah, profoundly influenced Judaism." - The American Heritage¨ Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000

"Akiba ben Joseph - Scholarly opinion is divided on the extent of Akiba's participation in an ill-fated rebellion against Rome (132-135) led by Bar Kokhba (originally Simeon ben Koziba). Some consider Akiba to have been the spiritual force behind the uprising. Others take note of the Talmudic report that Akiba considered Bar Kokhba to be the promised messianic king but see no evidence of further action on his part." - Britannica.com

"Akiba ben Joseph - c.A.D. 50-c.A.D. 135, Jewish Palestinian religious leader, one of the founders of rabbinic Judaism. Although the facts of his life are obscured by legend, he is said to have been a poor and illiterate shepherd who began his rabbinic studies at the age of forty. Tradition views him as one of the first Jewish scholars to systematically compile Hebrew oral laws, the Mishna. He is believed to have been executed by the Romans in the aftermath of the messianic revolt of Bar Kokba (A.D. 132-135), though the extent of his participation is a matter of controversy. He is one of the martyrs mentioned in the Jewish penitential prayer." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Given his prominent and influential position within Judaism it is hard to underestimate the significance of Akiba ben Joseph's belief in a Jewish Messiah and his belief that Bar Kokhba was that Messiah. How could a Jewish rabbi who endorsed a false Messiah be considered to be one of the great and foundational Jewish scholars? More to the point, how could Rabbi Akiba, who endorsed a man (Bar Kokhba) who was certainly not the Jewish Messiah, be considered an orthodox and great Jew while other Jewish scholars, who revere Rabbi Akiba, reject out of hand the orthodoxy of any Jew who would accept Jesus as the Messiah? This seems highly inconsistent.

Nevertheless, we have seen that the belief in a Messianic figure is well documented and well established through orthodox Jewish history. Therefore, since orthodox Judaism does recognize the Old Testament expectation of a Jewish Messiah the only question that must be asked is this: has this Jewish Messiah already come or is he still yet to come as Gershon Solomon and the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful believe? Or we might ask this question another way: is Jesus of Nazareth the Jewish Messiah as Christianity claims or is the Messiah yet to come? But regardless of the outcome of this question, since belief in a historical Messiah is not enough to disqualify Rabbi Akiba's Judaism, belief in another historical Messiah similarly does not disqualify Jewish Christians or even Christianity itself, from being considered authentically Jewish.


Moses Maimonides

Lastly, we must also mention Moses Maimonides, also known as Moses Ben Maimon or Rambam. The significance of Maimonides to our current discussion is his influence on modern Judaism.

H. Polano's English translation of selections of the Talmud has the following to say about the significance of Moses Maimonides with respect to modern Judaism.

"Moses Maimonides, one of the greatest of Jewish commentators, and a descendant of Rabbi Judah, the compiler of the Mishnah, was born in the city of Cordova, Spain, March 30th, 1135." - H. Polano, the Talmud, p. 233

"Maimonides simplified the Talmudic rules and traditions, making them clear to the comprehension of all. He was the author of an exhaustive work, entitled 'Mishne Torah,' the 'Second Law,' which was eagerly copied and extensively disseminated." - H. Polano, the Talmud, p. 236

Britannica.com and the Columbia Encyclopedia make similar statements.

"Judaism - Maimonides (Moses ben Maimon, 1135-1204), a native of Spain, is incontestably the greatest name in Jewish medieval philosophy, but his reputation is not derived from any outstanding originality in philosophical thought. Rather, the distinction of Maimonides, who is also the most eminent codifier of Jewish religious law, is to be found in the vast scope of his attempt, in the Dalalat al-ha'irin (Guide of the Perplexed)..." - Britannica.com

"Maimonides, Moses - The first of Maimonides' major works, begun at the age of 23, was his commentary on the Mishna, Kitab al-Siraj, also written in Arabic. The Mishna is a compendium of decisions in Jewish law that dates from earliest times to the 3rd century. Maimonides' commentary clarified individual words and phrases, frequently citing relevant information in archaeology, theology, or science. Possibly the work's most striking feature is a series of introductory essays dealing with general philosophic issues touched on in the Mishna. One of these essays summarizes the teachings of Judaism in a creed of Thirteen Articles of Faith." - Britannica.com

"Maimonides - or Moses ben Maimon, 1135-1204, Jewish scholar,physician, and philosopher, the most influential Jewish thinker of the Middle Ages, b. Cordoba, Spain, d. Cairo. He is sometimes called Rambam, from the initials of the words Rabbi Moses ben Maimon. His organization and systemization of the corpus of Jewish oral law, is called the Mishneh Torah [the Torah Reviewed] and is still used as a standard compilation of halakah." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Several comments are worth noting concerning Maimonides from the excerpts above. First, Maimonides is regarded as "the greatest name in Jewish medieval philosophy" as well "the most eminent codifier of Jewish religious law." Second, Maimonides produced a creed for Judaism in the Thirteen Articles of Faith. Third, and most significantly, Maimonides' organization of the Jewish oral law is still used today as the "standard compilation of the halakah." What is the halakah?

"Halakah - in Judaism, the body of law regulating all aspects of life, including religious ritual, familial and personal status, civil relations, criminal law, and relations with non-Jews." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

As can be seen from the excerpt above, it is the Mishnah Torah that is used to this day as the "standard compilation" of Jewish law regarding "religious ritual, civil relations, criminal law." In light of Maimonides' importance to modern Judaism, including through the Mishnah Torah, it is very significant what Maimonides has to say in the Mishnah Torah about the idea of a Jewish Messiah figure.

In chapters 8 and 9 of the section of the Mishnah Torah known as the Hilchot Teshuvah, Maimonides discusses the world to come and what he calls "the Messianic age."

"[These changes will come about] because the king who will arise from David's descendants will be a greater master of knowledge than Solomon and a great prophet, close to the level of Moses, our teacher. Therefore, he will teach the entire nation and instruct them in the path of God. All nations will come to hear him as [Isaiah 2:2] states: 'And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountains of God's house shall be established at the peak of the mountains...[and all the nations shall flow to it].' [Nevertheless,] the ultimate reward and the final good which will have no end or decrease is the life of the world to come. In contrast, the Messianic age will be [life within the context of] this world, with the world following its natural pattern except that sovereignty will return to Israel." - Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah, Moses Maimonides, p. 212-214.

"In the future, the Messianic King will arise and renew the Davidic dynasty, returning it to its initial sovereignty. He will build the Temple and gather the dispersed of Israel." - Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Melachim, Moses Maimonides, p. 222

"If a king will arise from the House of David who is learned in Torah and observant of the mitzvoth, as prescribed by the written law and the oral law, as David, his ancestor was, and will compel all of Israel to walk in [the way of the Torah] and reinforce the breaches [in its observance]; and fight the wars of God, we may, with assurance, consider him the Messiah. If he succeeds in the above, builds the Temple in its place, and gathers the dispersed of Israel, he is definitely the Messiah." - Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Melachim, Moses Maimonides, p. 234

As we can see from the text of the Mishnah Torah, Maimonides himself believed in the coming of a Jewish Messiah king from the lineage of King David who would restore sovereignty to Israel and who would be a prophet that would teach the nations.

The significance of these statements from Maimonides is immense. First of all, the Mishnah Torah is intended as Maimonides' comments on the written Law of Moses. As can even be seen by Maimonides appeal to passages like Isaiah 2:2, this means that Maimonides believed and taught that the Old Testament predicted and required a Jewish Messianic figure. And finally, since Maimonides' Mishnah Torah is to this day still used as the "standard compilation" of the halakah (the body of Jewish law), we can see that the belief in a Jewish Messiah figure cannot disqualify Christianity from being considered authentic Judaism. For, just like Rabbi Akiba, Moses Maimonides also believed in the coming of a Jewish Messiah. Both orthodox Judaism and Christianity equally share belief in a Jewish Messiah; they simply differ over his identity.



An Examination of Evidence

Determining whether or not Jesus of Nazareth can be identified as the Messiah is the critical argument to our examination of the evidences for Judaism and Christianity in two ways. First, it is the crucial issue in determining if New Testament Christianity is, in fact, the true and accurate form of Judaism. Second, with regard to a comparison of world religions, it is the crucial issue in determining whether or not the religious claims of Judeo-Christianity are legitimately substantiated by the evidence that is offered.

One cannot address either of these questions without simultaneously answering the other. Whether the result is in the affirmative or the negative the implications for Judaism and Christianity follow directly from the issue of whether or not Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. This will become clearer as we move on and consider the Old Testament requirements for the Messiah.

To put it another way, we have at last arrived at the climax of this long study. Having discarded all of the other religious options based upon the evidence (or in some cases the lack of evidence), we will now demonstrate that the evidence offered by Judeo-Christianity does, in fact, substantiate its that its truth claims about God are reliable and should be accepted. In demonstrating that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah we will also be demonstrating that supernatural phenomena have occurred within Judeo-Christianity. The existence of this legitimately supernatural phenomena will serve as evidence, which establishes that Judeo-Christianity is more than simply a human invention or proposition (as the other religions we have examined are), but is instead, divine in origin just as it claims.


Evidence of Legitimate Prophecy in Judaism

A number of approaches could be taken in this endeavor. Though we will narrow our examination mainly to evidence regarding the Jewish Messiah, other Old Testament prophecies could be displayed, which demonstrate the legitimacy of Judaism as an accurate and reliable view of God. A good example of such prophecy comes from Jeremiah the prophet. As we recall from our section on the historicity of Judaism, we learned that Jeremiah lived from just before to just after the Babylonian captivity, roughly between 650 B.C. and 570 B.C.

"Judaism - According to Jeremiah (about 100 years later), Micah's prophetic threat to Jerusalem had caused King Hezekiah (reigned c. 715-c. 686 BCE) to placate GodŃpossibly an allusion to the cult reform instituted by the King in order to cleanse Judah from various pagan practices." - Britannica.com

"Jeremiah - born probably after 650 BC, Anathoth, Judah died c. 570 BC, Egypt Hebrew Yirmeyahu , Latin Vulgate Jeremias Hebrew prophet, reformer, and author of an Old Testament book that bears his name. He was closely involved in the political and religious events of a crucial era in the history of the ancient Near East; his spiritual leadership helped his fellow countrymen survive disasters that included the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC and the exile of many Judaeans to Babylonia." - Britannica.com

As the quotes above also state, the Babylonian conquest of the southern kingdom of Judah and its capital, Jerusalem, occurred in 586 B.C. The Temple was destroyed and much of the population was taken into exile in Babylon.

"Judaism - ...the period of the Babylonian Exile and restoration of the Jews to Judah (6th-5th centuries BCE)...the first fall of Jerusalem (586 BCE)...Ezra the Scribe and his school (5th century BCE)." - Britannica.com

"Judaism - In 587/586 BCE the doom prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel came true. Rebellious Jerusalem was reduced by Nebuchadrezzar, the Temple was burnt, and much of Judah's population dispersed or deported to Babylonia." - Britannica.com

"Jerusalem - Jerusalem became the spiritual and political capital of the Hebrews. In 586 B.C. it fell to the Babylonians, and the Temple was destroyed." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Before the fall of the city and the destruction of the Temple in 586 A.D. the Book of Jeremiah records the following prophecy that the captivity of the Jews will last 70 years.

Jeremiah 25:8 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Because ye have not heard my words, 9 Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the LORD, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations. 10 Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle. 11 And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations. 13 And I will bring upon that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, even all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations.

After the city fell and the Temple was destroyed in 586 B.C., Jeremiah repeats this same prophecy to those going into captivity in Babylon that their exile will encompass a 70-year period.

Jeremiah 29:1 Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon...7 And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. 8 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. 9 For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD. 10 For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

And finally, Daniel the prophet affirms Jeremiah's 70-year prophecy in chapter 9 of his book.

Daniel 9:2 In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

So, we have a prophecy given by Jeremiah the prophet from before and after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple that the timeframe of this punishment from God would last 70 years. Jeremiah accredits this prophecy to God by saying "Thus saith the Lord." In proclaiming this, Jeremiah provides us a means of verifying whether, in fact, his message was from God or not.

If the punishment was completed then 70 years after the besieging of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple, and the exile of the Jews, then we would see the Jews back in Jerusalem with the Temple reconstructed and consequently, we would have evidence that Jeremiah's message was from God, just as he said. For it is not within human capacity to know the future with this kind of specificity. However, if, on the other hand, the Jews were not back in Jerusalem with a newly rebuilt Temple 70 years after 586 B.C. then the prophecy is false and cannot be accepted as a word from God. In other words, unlike Propositional Religions, which offer no evidence that their assertions about God are correct, here we find just one example of how Judaism offers evidence to support the claim that God is behind their religion.

So, the question is: were the Jews back in Jerusalem with a rebuilt Temple 70 years after the fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple, and the exile of the people in 586 B.C.? Well, 70 years after 586 B.C. would be 516 B.C. Does history record that this prophecy was fulfilled? Yes, in fact, it does.

In the year 538, Cyrus the Great of Persia issued a decree allowing the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem.

"Babylonian Captivity - also called Babylonian Captivity, the forced detention of Jews in Babylonia following the latter's conquest of the kingdom of Judah in 598/7 and 587/6 BC. The exile formally ended in 538 BC, when the Persian conqueror of Babylonia, Cyrus the Great, gave the Jews permission to return to Palestine." - Britannica.com

The first priority of the returning Jews was to rebuild the Temple. This task was finished in 516-515 B.C.

"Biblical Literature - The first great aim was the rebuilding of the Temple as the centre of worship and thus also of national existence; this was completed in 515 under the administration of Zerubbabel and became the place of uninterrupted sacrificial worship for the next 350 years." - Britannica.com

"Judaism - After conquering Babylon, Cyrus so far justified the hopes put in him that he allowed those Jews who wished to do so to return and rebuild their Temple...The labour was resumed and completed in 516;" - Britannica.com

"Jerusalem - The city was restored to Hebrew rule later in the 6th cent. B.C. by Cyrus the Great, king of Persia. The Temple was rebuilt (538-515 B.C.; known as the Second Temple) by Zerubbabel, a governor of Jerusalem under the Persians." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

So, history confirms that Jeremiah's prophecy from God was true. Precisely 70 years after the fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple, and the exile of the people in 586 B.C., the Jewish exiles had returned and were again living in Jerusalem with a rebuilt Temple in the year 516 B.C.

Since Jeremiah wrote this prophecy at sometime around 586 B.C., well before 516 B.C., and credits it to God, this prophecy, then constitutes remarkable evidence that God, in fact, is behind the theology of Judaism, just as Jeremiah claimed. Once again, we would like to reiterate that with Atheism disproved and with Deism and Pantheistic Naturalism being conclusions rather than criteria governing the assessment of evidence, there is no need or reason to re-estimate the dating of Jeremiah's prophecies in order to circumvent the occurrence of the supernatural. Thus, we can take this prophecy and its fulfillment at face value and to do otherwise would constitute circular reasoning and tampering with the evidence to arrive at prejudiced conclusions that drive the evaluation of the evidence rather than being driven by the evidence.


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