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Basic Worldview:
104 Why Christianity?

Rabbinical Judaism Accepts
Christian Interpretations (Part 1)

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)

| Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3


The second section of our “Why Christianity” series examined how Islam is not a legitimate successor or continuation of either New or Old Testament teaching. Instead we saw how Islam and the Koran fundamentally contradict those teachings and are a departure from them. By contrast, in the third and final section of the “Why Christianity” series we demonstrated how the New Testament beliefs of Christianity are based on, entirely consistent with, and even wholly anticipated by the Old Testament.

In that third segment of the series, we demonstrated the veracity of the New Testament’s claim to be the successor to the Old Testament through an examination of some historical, but mostly biblical (Old Testament) material. In this article series we will take that task further by examining the ancient rabbinical Jewish traditions themselves. In doing so, we will show that the New Testament Christian interpretations of the Old Testament is neither novel nor based on pagan influences, but are instead agreed to by the rabbinic traditions that underlie modern Judaism.

A short illustration will help to demonstrate the issue we will examine in this study.

An Illustration

Suppose there is a court case in which a defendant was accused of committing some crime. During his opening remarks the prosecutor lays out that he will prove that the accused is guilty of committing the crime by presenting a series of incriminating evidences. In response, the defense attorney for the accused confidently declares that he can unequivocally demonstrate that the very evidence, which the prosecution claims incriminate the accused, instead is proof of his complete innocence. At this point in the trial, prior to the examination of evidence, the defense attorney and the prosecuting attorney seem to be totally at odds with one another. Both sides seem to have completely contradictory and irreconcilable interpretations of the very evidence that is at the heart of the case.

After the opening statements by both sides the trial proceeds to the next stage, the presentation and examination of the evidence. As anticipated from his opening statement, the prosecutor’s office presents many pieces of evidence and convincingly interprets them as demonstrating the guilt of the defendant.

At this point, the defendant’s attorney steps forward to present his case. Based on the defense’s opening comments, it would be expected that the defendant’s attorney will dispute the prosecution’s interpretation of the evidence and demonstrate the exact opposite conclusion from that same evidence, namely that the defendant is innocent. But, instead, something else occurs, something remarkable.

Wherever the prosecutor interpreted a piece of evidence to indicate that the defendant is guilty, the defense attorney offers no counter-interpretation of the evidence in favor of his client’s innocence. Instead, the defense attorney simply agrees with the interpretation offered by the prosecutor.

The prosecutor claims that the accused was at the scene of the crime at the time the crime was committed. The defense concurs. The prosecutor claims that the accused had the motive to commit the crime. The defense concurs. The prosecutor claims that the accused had the materials and expertise necessary to commit the crime. The defense concurs. The prosecutor claims that the accused has a history of committing such crimes. The defense concurs. The prosecution claims that eye-witnesses saw the accused commit the crime. The defense concurs and even offers defense witnesses who corroborate the testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses. The prosecutor’s office claims that the accused bragged beforehand that he was going to commit the crime. The defense concurs. And lastly, the prosecutor’s office submits the sworn confession of the accused that he had, in fact, committed the crime and the defense does not dispute the confession.

After the examination of all the evidence concludes, it is time for the final statements from both sides. As expected, the prosecution reviews why the evidence demands the interpretation that the accused is guilty. The defense attorney does not dispute the prosecution’s interpretation of the evidence itself, but simply states, without explanation, that the defendant is not guilty.

In effect, the defense’s summation is as follows:

Yes, the accused was at the scene of the crime when the crime was committed. Yes, the accused had the materials and expertise necessary to commit the crime. Yes, the accused has a history of committing such crimes. Yes, eye-witnesses saw the accused commit the crime. Yes, our defense witnesses corroborate the testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses. Yes, the accused bragged beforehand that he was going to commit the crime. And lastly, yes, the accused gave a sworn confession that he had, in fact, committed the crime. But, no the accused is not guilty.

As a result of these proceedings, over the course of the trial the perception of the two views would change quite dramatically. After the opening remarks it would be presumed that the evidence must be pretty unclear. It might be expected that the defense attorney would provide strong reason why the evidence, when interpreted properly, would exonerate rather than incriminate the accused. But to the contrary, as the trial concludes, the evidence does not seem unclear at all. And in addition, the defense didn’t provide any competing interpretation of the evidence or why it didn’t indicate a guilty verdict. The only thing that remains baffling is why the defense attorney wouldn’t admit that the accused was guilty but instead still insisted upon his innocence.

Though it may seem odd at first, this illustration is useful as we examine the explanations offered by rabbinical Judaism for their rejection of New Testament and its claims about Jesus. The impression created by opening statements in our trial illustration above is often very similar to how people view the theological disputes between Christianity and Judaism in a modern context.

The perception is that what we have is a situation in which both sides dispute how the evidence should be interpreted. On the one hand, Christians interpret the Old Testament to indicate that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. On the other hand, persons of the rabbinical (or traditional) Jewish faith are perceived as disputing the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament, and claiming that the correct interpretation of the Old Testament, in fact, proves the opposite, that Jesus isn’t the Messiah.

A specific and simple example of this trend as it occurs between modern Judaism and Christianity might be helpful. Christianity claims that the Old Testament prophesied that the Jewish Messiah would suffer and die as a sacrifice for man’s sin. The typical counter-argument by modern (rabbinic) Judaism is that the Old Testament nowhere prophesies the death of the Messiah and that Christianity has simply misinterpreted the Old Testament texts, or worse yet, deliberately twisted them from their context or even borrowed concepts from pagan myths. This seems like a solid counter-argument.

But what would happen if common and influential Jewish rabbinical scholars throughout the ages were quoted as saying that the Messiah was to suffer and die as a sacrifice for man’s sin? What if those rabbinic, Jewish scholars reached this conclusion based upon the very same Old Testament passages that brought Christians to that conclusion? What would that do to our assessment of the clarity of the evidence (the Old Testament) itself? What would that do to their counter-argument against the Christian claim? What would that do to our assessment of which position was correct?

Notes on Rabbinic Literature and Sources

As we proceed, the focus of this study will be upon examining rabbinical sources and traditions themselves to see if the understanding and interpretation of Old Testament teaching that they offer truly is contradictory of those offered by New Testament Christianity. Before we begin our examination of these quotes it is important to make some brief statements on the sources of rabbinic literature.

First, all quotes that appear below are taken from Dr. Michael Brown’s multi-volume work entitled Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. Dr. Brown is a Jewish believer in Jesus. He as a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He has written over ten books, is the president of Brownsville Revival School of Ministry, has been a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Fuller Theological Seminary, and is a contributor to the Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion.

The quotations below follow Dr. Brown’s manner of citations for rabbinic literature. As is stated on page xiv of the Preface to Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus:

Rabbinic literature is cited using standard conventions (e.g., the letter “m.” before a Rabbinic source means “Mishnah,” “b.” stands for “Babylonian Talmud,” “y.” stands for “Palestinian Talmud,” and “t” stands for “Tosephtah”). When there is a difference in the numbering of biblical verses between some Christian and Jewish versions, the Jewish numbering is in brackets (e.g., Isa. 9:6[5]). Bear in mind, however, that the actual verses are identical; only the numbering is different. – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 1, Preface, p. xiv

For more information on this subject we recommend reading this series. Though it is very detailed and thorough in its citations of original source material, it is quite conversational and easy to read. However, we wished to present a more concise summation of the most critical issues.

Dr. Brown’s volumes sort rabbinic commentary into three categories: Volume 1: General and Historical Objections, Volume 2: Theological Objections, and Volume 3: Messianic Prophecy Objections. Our analysis will not necessarily follow the order he has used in his books, but the volume and page number of each citation is included with each quotation. When relevant, especially to the source of the rabbinic commentary, Dr. Brown’s footnotes are included. (The numbers before each quote indicate the order they occur in Dr. Brown’s books and are not significant otherwise.)

Glossary of Rabbinic Terminology

To help those unfamiliar with some of the rabbinic terminology or figures, we have included the following relevant excerpts from the Glossary of Dr. Brown’s book series. Reviewing and becoming familiar with these terms is important to grasping the significance of the material presented in this study.

(All glossary notes taken from Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 1, Glossary, p. 254-256.)

Babylonian Talmud. The foundational text for Jewish religious study, it consists of 2,500,000 words of Hebrew and Aramaic commentary and expansion on the Mishnah. It includes much Halakha as well as Haggada, and thus it touches on virtually every area of life, religion, custom, folklore, and law. It reached its final form between 500 and 600 C.E., and it is mainly the product of the Babylonian sages.

Haggada. (Sometimes spelled Aggada) Nonlegal (i.e., nonbinding) Rabbinic stories, sermons, and commentaries relating to the Tanakh and Jewish life.

Halakha. A specific legal ruling (“What is the Halakha in this case?”) or Rabbinic legal material in general. The word Halakha is interpreted as meaning “the way to go.”

Ibn Ezra. Abraham Ibn Ezra (1089-1164). He was one of the three greatest Jewish medieval biblical commentators, especially famous for his careful attention to Hebrew grammar.

Jerusalem Talmud. See Palestinian Talmud.

Kabbalah. The general term for Jewish mystical writings and traditions. It literally means “that which has been received.”

Midrash. Rabbinic commentaries on a verse, chapter, or entire book of the Tanakh, marked by creativity and interpretive skill. The best-known collection is called the Midrash Rabba, covering the Five Books of Moses as well as the Five Scrolls.

Mishnah. The first written collection of the legal material relating to the laws of the Torah and the ordinances of the sages. It provides the starting point for all subsequent Halakha. It was compiled approximately 200 C.E. by Rabbi Judah HaNasi (the Prince) and especially emphasizes the traditions of the rabbis who flourished from 70 to 200 C.E.

Mishneh Torah. Systematic compilation of all Jewish law by Moses Maimonides (also called Rambam; 1135-1204). It remains a standard legal text to this day.

Oral Torah. All Rabbinic traditions relating to the Written Torah and various legal aspects of Jewish life. The traditions were first passed on orally before they were written down.

Palestinian Talmud. Similar to the Babylonian Talmud but based primarily on the work of the sages in Israel. It is shorter in scope, less authoritative, and therefore, studied less than the Babylonian Talmud. It reached its final form in the Land of Israel approximately 400 C.E.

Radak. Acronym for Rabbi David Kimchi (pronounced kim-KHEE; 1160-1235). He wrote important commentaries on much of the Tanakh.

Rashi. Acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitschaki (pronounced yits-KHA-ki; 1045-1105), the foremost Jewish commentator on the Tanakh and Babylonian Talmud. Traditional Jews always begin their studies in Bible and Talmud with Rashi’s commentaries as their main guide.

Response Literature. (Hebrew, she-ey-LOT u-te-shu-VOT, “Questios and Answers”) A major source of Halakha from 600 C.E. until today, it consists of the answers to specific legal questions posed to leading Rabbinic authorities in every generation.

Shulkan Arukh. The standard and most authoritative Jewish law code, compiled by Rabbi Joseph Karo (1488-1575).

Targum. Literally, “translation.” This refers to the expansive Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible that were read in the synagogues where biblical Hebrew was no longer understood. They were put in written form between 300 and 1200 C.E. The most important Targum’s are Targum Onkelos to the Five Books of Moses, and Targum Jonathan to the Nevi’im (Prophets).

Tosephtah. An early collection of Rabbinic laws following the division and order of the Mishnah but containing parallel legal traditions not found in the Mishnah.

Zohar. The foundational book of Jewish Mysticism. It was composed in the thirteenth century, although mystical tradition dates it to the second century.

Defining Both Sides – The New Testament Christian and Traditional Jewish Interpretations of the Old Testament

Having finished laying out the important technical information about rabbinical literature we now begin with our comparison of rabbinical (or traditional) Jewish interpretations of Old Testament teachings to those offered by New Testament Christianity. Following below are many quotations of ancient and modern Jewish sources including the Talmud, the Targums, medieval rabbis, modern orthodox Jewish organizations, and even occasionally some Jewish mystical traditions.

As you read them keep in mind the different interpretations of Old Testament teaching offered by New Testament Christian teaching or, alternatively, a typical perception of the traditional Jewish teaching. Again, it might be helpful to think of both sides as presenting their case in a trial to determine whether or not Jesus can be identified as the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament.

The case presented by New Testament Christianity would be as outlined below.

New Testament Christian Teaching

In accordance with Old Testament teaching, the New Testament holds that:

1. On the Timing of the Messiah – According to Daniel 9, the Messiah was to come and be killed and the Second Temple would be destroyed after the completion of 69 weeks of years. (The Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.) Jesus lived, died and rose again between approximately 4 B.C. and 30 A.D.

2. On the Way the Messiah Would Come – According to Zechariah 9, The Messiah was to come riding humbly on a donkey and, according to Daniel 7, will return on the clouds of heaven. The week before his death, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

3. On No Sacrifices – As indicated in the Old Testament, God required a sacrifice to atone for man’s sins. As Messiah, Jesus provided that sacrifice through his death and resurrection in about 30 A.D. Since then atoning sacrifices are no longer necessary to reconcile man to God.

4. On a Suffering and Dying Messiah – According to passages such as Isaiah 52-53, the Messiah was to suffer and die to atone for our sin in fulfillment of his role as High Priest, but would be resurrected from the dead and would return as an exalted, conquering King. Zechariah 3 indicates that the Messiah will be High Priest as well as King, identifying Joshua the High Priest using the term “the Branch” as a symbol of the Messiah. Zechariah 12 speaks of the Messiah being pierced and being mourned by the people of Israel because he died for their sin. Psalm 16 indicates the Messiah will die, but be resurrected as God will not allow his body to decompose, nor leave his soul in the place of the dead (Sheol). On the third day after dying as an atoning sacrifice for sin, our High Priest, Jesus was resurrected from the grave.

5. On a Miracle Working Messiah – Jesus worked many miracles displaying that he was the Messiah.

6. Descriptions of God – God is one being, yet three co-equal and co-eternal persons: Father, Word, and Holy Spirit. The Word of God is the angel (or messenger) of the LORD (YHWH) in the Old Testament who is identified as God (YHWH) himself. The Holy Spirit or Spirit of God (YHWH) is a person who is identified as God in the Old Testament, but who is distinct from the persons of YHWH known to us as the Father and the Word. He acts as an advocate, rebukes, and tells of things to come.

7. On The Messiah’s Divinity – The Messiah is a descendent of David and is also the Son of God. He existed eternally as God and became incarnate as a man in the lineage of David, and as such is both God and man and he will come again on the clouds to judge the earth and to rule as its King. The incarnation of the Messiah is foretold in the prophecy of Isaiah 7, which states that the virgin will conceive and bear a son who is called Immanuel (Hebrew for “God with us.”) According to Micah 5, the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. Jesus is the Word of God become flesh and a descendent of David.

8. On the Death of Man Atoning for Sin – As our sinless High Priest, Jesus the Messiah’s sacrificial death provides forgiveness and reconciliation with God. It is only by his blood that atonement is made for man.

9. On the Importance of the Messiah – The coming of the Messiah and belief in him is the central and critical element of God’s unfolding plan of salvation for mankind.

10. On the Afterlife and the Age to Come – There is a coming day in which God will judge the world. All men will be resurrected. The righteous will go on to eternal life in the kingdom of God (on earth). The wicked to eternal damnation or hell. 

In contrast, the typical perception of the Traditional (Non-christian) Jewish view might be as indicated below.

A Typical Perception of Traditional (Non-Christian) Jewish Teaching:

According to Old Testament teaching, and contrary to New Testament Christian teaching, the traditional Judaism holds that:

1. On the Timing of the Messiah – New Testament Christianity erroneously asserts that Daniel 9 outlines a timeframe for the Messiah’s coming and the destruction of the Second Temple that requires both events to take place in the first century A.D.

2. On the Way the Messiah Would Come – New Testament Christianity erroneously interprets Zechariah 9’s reference to a King riding on a donkey as a reference to the Messiah.

3. On No Sacrifices – New Testament Christianity erroneously asserts that God no longer requires sacrifice to atone for sin.

4. On a Suffering and Dying Messiah – New Testament Christianity erroneously interprets Isaiah 53 as a reference to the Messiah. Isaiah 53 is a reference to the nation of Israel as a whole. The Messiah will not suffer and die, but will be a conquering King. Likewise, Isaiah indicates that the Messiah will have children. Jesus did not have children, so Isaiah cannot be speaking of him. New Testament Christianity erroneously interprets Zechariah 12 as a prophecy of the Messiah. It is not. Likewise, Psalm 16 does not speak of the Messiah or resurrection from the dead.

5. On a Miracle Working Messiah – The Messiah will not be known by working miracles.

6. Descriptions of God – God (YHWH) is one (in an absolute sense that rules out any compound or plurality within the Godhead). He is not three persons.

7. On The Messiah’s Divinity – God does not have a son and did not become incarnate. The Messiah will simply be a man. The New Testament Christian assertion that Isaiah 7 prophesies a virgin birth is a mistranslation of the passage. Micah 5 is not a Messianic prophecy and, as such, does not indicate the place of the Messiah’s birth.

8. On the Death of Man Atoning for Sin – God does not require or accept human sacrifice. The Messiah is a conquering King, not a dying priest.

9. On the Importance of the Messiah – Belief in the coming of a Messiah is not a central or defined theme in Judaism.

10. On the Afterlife and the Age to Come – Jewish views do not include a belief in the afterlife, either in eternal punishment or reward.

So far, the interpretations of New Testament Christianity and Traditional (Non-Christian) Judaism seem quite at odds with one another. Or at least, this is how the differences are typically perceived.

The Interpretation Actually Offered by Talmudic (or Rabbinic) Judaism

As we proceed through the quotations from Talmudic and rabbinic sources we will find that the typical perception of Traditional (or Non-Christian) Jewish thought outlined above does not accurately reflect the actual interpretations of the evidence offered by Rabbinic Judaism. Rather than disagreeing with or rejecting the New Testament Christian interpretation of the Old Testament evidence as we would commonly expect, we find that something remarkable occurs instead. A review of important Jewish sources including the Talmud, ancient Jewish translations (the Targums and Septuagint), as well as ancient, medieval, and modern rabbinic writing, all arrive at the same or very similar interpretations of the Old Testament as those offered by the New Testament Christian teaching. The result is the typical perception of the traditional Jewish position loses meaningful distinction from the New Testament Christian position. Rather than being denied or refuted by the rabbinic interpretation, the New Testament Christian interpretation is instead validated and affirmed by traditional Jewish sources.

For clarity the quotations below are categorized in accordance with the 10-point case outlines provided above. Each quote is listed under each point that it is related to. (Some redundancy may occur when a particular quote relates to more than one issue.)

1. On the Timing of the Messiah –

Typical Perception of Traditional Judaism:

New Testament Christianity erroneously asserts that Daniel 9 outlines a timeframe for the Messiah’s coming and the destruction of the Second Temple that requires both events to take place in the first century A.D.

Actual Interpretations of Talmudic (or Rabbinic) Judaism:

Daniel 9 outlines that the Messiah was to come and the Second Temple would be destroyed after a period of 69 weeks of years. As a result, there was a great expectation among the Jewish people that the Messiah would come about the second quarter of the first century C.E. (prior to the Temple’s destruction in 70 A.D.)

1. Interestingly, the respected Jewish scholar Abba Hillel Silver pointed out that there was great expectation among our people that the Messiah would come “about the second quarter of the first century C.E., because the Millennium was at hand.” 6 Thus, according to Silver, “When Jesus came into Galilee, ‘spreading the gospel of the Kingdom of God and saying the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand’ [Mark 1:14-15}, he was voicing the opinion universally held that the year 5000 in the Creation calendar, which is to usher in the sixth millennium – the age of the Kingdom of God – was at hand.” 7 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 1, Historical Objections, p. 73

Footnote 6: Abba Hillel Silver, A History of Messianic Speculation in Israel (New York: Macmillan, 1927), 7.

Footnote 7: Ibid., 6, his emphasis.

131. To give us a traditional Jewish perspective on the passage as a whole, let’s listen to Rashi’s opening comments on this passage. As rendered by A. J. Rosenberg, the preeminent translator of Rashi today, Rashi explains as follows:

Seventy weeks [of years] have been decreed on Jerusalem from the day of the first destruction in the days of Zechariah until it will be [destroyed] the second time. to terminate the transgression and to end sin so that Israel should receive their complete retribution in the exile of Titus and his subjugation, in order that their transgressions should terminate, their sins should end, and their iniquities should be expiated, in order to bring upon them eternal righteousness and to anoint upon them (sic) the Holy of Holies: the Ark, the altars, and the holy vessels, which they will bring to them through the king Messiah. The number of seven weeks is four hundred and ninety years. The Babylonian exile was seventy [years] and the Second Temple stood four hundred and twenty [years]. 166

Note carefully Rashi’s comments that this prophecy involves a time of restoration brought about “through the king Messiah,” indicating that it is not only Christians who see clear Messianic overtones in this prophecy. The difference, however, is that Christians have a clear basis for their Messianic interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27, namely, that the Messiah died for the sins of the world during the very times specified by Daniel, whereas Rashi simply appends a reference to the Messiah to the end of the passage, without explanation. 167 This becomes more clear when we focus on Rashi’s comments to Daniel 9:26:

26 And after those weeks, the anointed one will be cut off Agrippa, the king of Judea, who was ruling at the time of the destruction, will be slain, and he will be no more Heb. we’en lo and he will not have. The meaning is that he will not be. the anointed one Heb. Mashiah This is purely an expression of a prince and a dignitary, and the city and the Sanctuary lit. and the city and the Holy,  and the people of the coming monarch will destroy [The monarch who will come] upon them. That is Titus and his armies, and his end will come about by inundation And his end will be damnation and destruction, for He will inundate the powers of his kingdom through the Messiah, and until the end of the wars of Gog the city will exist, cut off into desolation a destruction of desolation. – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Messianic Prophecy Objections, p. 88-89

Footnote 166: It should be noted that the traditional Jewish chronology followed by Rashi contains a significant error, since the Second Temple actually stood for roughly 600 years rather than 420 years. See vol. 1, 2.1.

Footnote 167: This is partially confirmed by Heinrich W. Guggenheimer, Seder Olam: the Rabbinic View of Biblical Chronology (Northvale, N. J.: Aronson, 1998). See below, n.169.

Footnote 168: Ibid., 248.

Footnote 169: Interestingly, Guggenheimer (ibid., 246) finds Rashi’s approach to Daniel 8 and 9 to be “somewhat inconsistent in that in Daniel chapter 8, whose vision is not treated in Seder ‘Olam (the standard Rabbinic chronology), he refers that vision to Antiochus and the situation before the Maccabean revolt.” Guggenheimer also points out (244) that in Rashi’s comments on Daniel 9:24-27, Rashi “follows Seder ‘Olam strictly in the interpretation of times and terms but superimposes references to messianic times that come from later medieval sources and are inconsistent with the interpretation of Seder ‘Olam that the end of the vision is the destruction of the second Temple.” This last observation is especially significant for our present discussion.

132. In the Stone edition, the footnote to the words “the anointed one” in Daniel 9:26 summarizes Rashi’s view as follows: “I.e., Agrippa, the last Jewish king, at the end of the Second Temple Era. After his death, the prince of this verse, the Roman Titus, would command the destruction of the Temple, which will not be rebuilt until after the War of Gog and Magog, in Messianic times.” So, Rashi taught that the prophecy pinpointed the death of Agrippa and the destruction of the Temple – but then simply drifted off to the distant future in terms of the final fulfillment of the prophecy. – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Messianic Prophecy Objections, p. 90

133. All this is underscored by Rashi’s comments on the end of Daniel 9:27: “and until destruction and extermination befall the dumb one and the ruling of the abomination will endure until the day that the destruction and extermination decreed upon it [will] befall it, in the days of the king Messiah.” Once again, Rashi sees Daniel’s prophecy as ultimately pointing to the Messiah and his reign, but in a way that is completely unrelated to the passage. It is almost like counting down for the launch of a rocket, with everyone gathered around the launchpad in great expectation, then the countdown is completed, liftoff is announced…but the rocket doesn’t take off for two thousand years. Something is wrong with this picture. Yet that is exactly what happens with Rashi’s interpretation of the passage: He explains how all the prophesied events culminate and unfold in a time period one generation after Jesus and then says, “And the real end of the story will take place in the days of the Messiah” – which, according to traditional Judaism, still have not arrived, now two thousand years later. – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Messianic Prophecy Objections, p. 90

134. I find it interesting that Rachmiel Frydland, a well-known Messianic Jewish scholar, became a believer in Yeshua with the help of Rashi’s commentary on Daniel 9:24-27. Raised as an ultra-Orthodox Jew in Poland, Frydland narrowly escaped death in the Holocaust, enduring terrible suffering and deprivation in his flight from his homeland. 170 During an intensive time of seeking the truth about the Scriptures as a teenager, he read Rashi’s commentary and thought to himself – to paraphrase – “He has the time frame right, but he got the wrong anointed one!” Soon he realized, “It is not Agrippa who was cut off; it was Yeshua.” His reasoning makes perfect sense. After all, the death of Agrippa was of no great significance in terms of God’s eternal purposes for his people Israel, neither was it of great consequence in terms of the future of the Jewish people, the city of Jerusalem, or even the Temple itself. – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Messianic Prophecy Objections, p. 91

Footnote 170: Frydland’s autobiographical story is told in Rachmiel Frydland, When Being Jewish Was a Crime (repr. Columbus, Md.: Messianic Publishing, 1998). To read his testimony of faith in Yeshua, along with the testimonies of other Jews – some of whom were ordained rabbis before coming to faith in the Messiah – see http://www.menorah.org/salv.html.

135. First, traditional Christian translations are not the only ones to add the word “the” before “anointed one” in Daniel 9:26. In fact, the oldest Jewish translation, the Septuagint, translates mashiach as tou christou (“the anointed one”), while the most recent traditional Jewish translation, the Stone edition, renders it “the anointed one” rather than “an anointed one.” 171 This is because the Hebrew language can sometimes specify a particular person or event without using the definite article, as recognized in the standard grammars and, in certain phrases, in virtually all translations. – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Messianic Prophecy Objections, p. 91

Footnote 171: Note also that John J. Collins, a historical-critical commentator who rejects the Messianic interpretation, also translates mashiach as “the anointed one.” Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1994), 346.

138. Notice the opening words of this passage, “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed” (2:44a). What does this mean? According Rashi, “And in the days of these kings in the days of these kings, when the kingdom of Rome is still in existence. the God of heaven will set up a kingdom The kingdom of Holy One, blessed He, which will never be destroyed, is the kingdom of Messiah. it will crumble and destroy It will crumble and destroy all these kingdoms.” 195 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Messianic Prophecy Objections, p. 99

Footnote 195: Cf. further b. Avodah Zarah 2b.

139. We noted previously (above 4.18) that Rashi understood the anointed one mentioned in Daniel 9:26 to refer to Agrippa and that he interpreted Daniel 9:27 with reference to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. 196 In other words, without stating it – or perhaps without even being conscious of it – Rashi dated some of the key events described in this prophecy to the generation after Yeshua. Like most modern Jewish commentators and translators, however, he understood the text in harmony with the Masoretic accents and divided the weeks into three periods of time: seven weeks, sixty-two weeks, and one week. – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Messianic Prophecy Objections, p. 100-101

Footnote 196: The Talmud itself cites Daniel 9:26-27 as setting the time for the destruction of the Second Temple; see b. Nazir 32b.

140. This interpretation works well even with traditional Jewish translations, such as the Stone edition:

Then, after the sixty-two septets, the anointed one will be cut off and will exist no longer; the people of the prince [who] will come will destroy the city and the Sanctuary; but the end will be [to be swept away as] in a flood. Then, until the end of the war, desolation is decreed. He will forge a strong covenant with the great ones for one septet; but for half of that septet he will abolish the sacrifice and meal-offering, and the mute abominations will be upon the soaring heights, until extermination as decreed will pour down upon the mute [abomination].

Daniel 9:26-27 206 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Messianic Prophecy Objections, p. 108

Footnote 206: The footnote to verse 27a explains that, “The Roman emperor would make a treaty with the Jewish nation for seven years; but for the second half of that term the Romans would violate that covenant and impede the Temple service. The ‘mute abomination’, i.e., a temple of idolatry, was erected by the emperor Hadrian on the Temple Mount (Rashi).” I should point out that the Stone edition’s rendering of the words we’en lo (v. 26a) as stating that the anointed one will be cut “and will exist no longer” (my emphasis) is not representative of the majority of translations, Christian or Jewish.

2. On the Way the Messiah Would Come –  

Typical Perception of Traditional Judaism:

New Testament Christianity erroneously interprets Zechariah 9’s reference to a King riding on a donkey as a reference to the Messiah.

Actual Interpretations of Talmudic (or Rabbinic) Judaism:

Zechariah 9 prophecies that the Messiah would come riding on a donkey and Daniel 7 prophesied that the Messiah would come on the clouds of heaven.

2. The Talmud states, “If they [i.e., the people of Israel] are worthy [the Messiah] will come ‘with the clouds of heaven’ [Dan. 7:13]; if they are not worthy, ‘lowly riding upon a donkey’ [Zech. 9:9]” (b. Sanhedrin 98a). 10 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 1, Historical Objections, p. 74

Footnote 10: See also the commentary to Daniel 7:13-14 attributed to Saadiah Gaon, in which these verses are once again interpreted messianically, and see Rashi to the verses cited in Daniel and Zechariah.

162. - According to Zechariah 9:9-10, the king whose reign will extend over the entire earth will come meek and lowly, riding on a donkey. (According to Rashi and b. Sanhedrin 98a, this is King Messiah).

- According to Zechariah 12:10, cited once as a Messianic prophecy in the Talmud, the Messiah will be pierced and killed. Zechariah 13:7 also prophesies that the shepherd – a highly significant figure – will be smitten, causing the sheep to be scattered (see above, 4.31). – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Messianic Prophecy Objections, p. 168

3. On No Sacrifices –

Typical Perception of Traditional Judaism:

New Testament Christianity erroneously asserts that God no longer requires sacrifice to atone for sin.

Actual Interpretations of Talmudic (or Rabbinic) Judaism:

For forty years before the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. (starting at about 30 A.D.) atoning sacrifices were not accepted by God even though they were required by God under the law to atone for sin. And since 70 A.D. no sacrifices have been offered due to the fact that the Temple has been destroyed. However, sacrifices are not required by God since the destruction of the Temple even though the Law of Moses and the prophets clearly taught that sacrifice is necessary to atone for sin. In the Messianic Age atoning sacrifices will not be required.

(NOTE: An important facet of this particular point requires further description. Having no Temple at which to offer sacrifices, some Rabbinic Jews argue that the need for blood sacrifice as the means of atonement has been set aside. To support this argument, appeals are made to the Old Testaments prophets as though the prophets had arrived at a greater understanding that only repentance – or perhaps only death itself – was required for atonement, not blood sacrifice. However, such dismissals of the need of blood atonement only originated by necessity as a result of the Temple’s destruction. Moreover, any such appeals to the prophets on this matter are quickly refuted by other Rabbinic teachings both before the Temple’s destruction and after, even into modern times. These other Rabbinic teachings explicitly assert not only the need for blood sacrifice for atonement but also that the prophets were merely emphasizing the need for true righteous living along with blood sacrifice, not the lack of necessity for blood sacrifice. Quotes 29-42, 46-55 cite these refutations from Rabbinic Judaism. However, as indicated by the main description above, the central issue under examination here concerns the fact that modern Rabbinic Judaism does not disagree with Christianity regarding the need for ongoing blood sacrifice in the present. So there are those within Christianity and within Rabbinic Judaism that agree blood sacrifice is no longer required. As specifically indicated by quotes 43-45, some Rabbinic teaching looks forward to the entire cessation of sacrifices as a result of the Messiah. This again relegates the disagreement over the need for sacrifices to a question of timing and whether or not the Messiah has already come. Additionally, although increasingly rare today, from the earliest times many orthodox Christians looked forward to the rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of sacrifices, particularly as a memorial after Christ returns and begins his millennial reign. In this regard, the Christian view differs little from the views expressed below by certain Rabbinic teachings – see quote 52 in particular. Both sides view the current lack of sacrifices as a temporary cessation to be restored later – although each side views the purpose of the restored sacrifices differently. Consequently, The chief difference between is the basis for abrogating the need for ongoing blood sacrifice. Christianity asserts that blood sacrifices no longer need to continue because a New Covenant without sacrifices has been established and the ultimate sacrifice of blood has been made in inauguration of that New Covenant. As such, atonement is still by means of this blood sacrifice. On the other hand, some modern Rabbinic Jews assert without a valid mechanism or explanation that the need for blood sacrifice simply stopped at some point even while maintaining that the Mosaic Covenant requiring it is in effect.)

3. According to b. Yoma 39b, God did not accept the sacrifices that were offered on the Day of Atonement for the last forty years before the destruction of the [Second] Temple (this was known to the people by means of a series of special signs, all of which turned up negative for those forty years; see b. Yoma 39a). – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 1, Historical Objections, p. 74

29. Writing in the Encyclopedia Judaica, Anson F. Rainey, a professor at Tel Aviv University and a foremost biblical and Semitic scholar, provided these important insights:

The prophets of the First Temple period often spoke out against sacrificial ritual (Amos 5:21-27; Hos. 6:6; Micah 6:6-8; Isa. 1:11-17; Jer. 6:20; 7:21-22). Righteous and just behavior along with obedience to the Lord are contrasted with the conduct of rituals unaccompanied by proper ethical and more attitudes (Amos 5:24; Micah 6:8; Isa. 1:16-17; Jer. 7:23). It has thus been assumed by many scholars that the prophets condemned all sacrificial rituals. [The Catholic biblical scholar Roland] De Vaux has shown the absurdity of such a conclusion since Isaiah 1:15 also condemns prayer. No one holds that the prophets rejected prayer; it was prayer offered without the proper moral commitment that was being denounced; the same holds true for the oracles against formal rituals. Similar allusions in the Psalms which might be taken as a complete rejection of sacrifice (e.g., 40:7-8; 50:8-15) actually express the same concern for inner attitude as the prophets. The wisdom literature sometimes reflects the same concern for moral and ethical values over empty sacerdotal acts (Prov. 15:8, 21:3, 27). Certain other statements by Amos (5:25) and Jeremiah (7:22) have been taken to mean that the prophets knew nothing of a ritual practice followed in the wilderness experience of Israel. De Vaux has noted that Jeremiah clearly knew Deuteronomy 12:6-14 and regarded it as the Law of Moses. The prophetic oracles against sacrifice in the desert are really saying that the original Israelite sacrificial system was not meant to be the empty, hypocritical formalism practiced by their contemporaries. The demand by Hosea for “mercy not sacrifice…knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hos. 6:6; cf. Matt. 9:13; 12:7) is surely to be taken as relative, a statement of priorities (cf. also I Sam. 15:22). The inner attitude was prerequisite to any valid ritual expression (Isa. 29:13). Foreign elements that had penetrated the Israelite sacrificial system, were of course, roundly condemned by the prophets. Such was especially the case with Israel (Amos 4:5; Hos. 2:13-15; 4:11-13; 13:2) but also in Judah (Jer. 7:17-18; Ezek. 8; et al.). 124

Rainey correctly rejects two impossible views: First, that the prophets completely repudiated the sacrificial system; and second that the prophets knew nothing about a sacrificial system in conjunction with Israel’s wilderness wanderings. 125 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 84

Footnote 124: Aaron Rothkoff, “Sacrifices,” EJ (CD-ROM), 14:599-615.

Footnote 125: If you read Anson F. Rainey’s remarks carefully, you would have realized that some liberal scholars believe that prophets such as Jeremiah and Amos were unaware of the teaching in the Torah that connected sacrifices and offerings with the exodus from Egypt and the wilderness wanderings. This is because these scholars believe that those portions of the Torah that record such events were written later, after the days of these prophets. Of course, Orthodox Jews and Evangelical Christians completely reject this view based on their belief in the inspiration of the Torah, along with the internal evidence of the biblical writings themselves.

30. According to Dr. J. H. Hertz, the late Chief Rabbi of the British Empire and the author of the English commentary on the Torah and prophetic readings used in Conservative synagogues worldwide, “Jeremiah by no means opposed sacrifice brought in the right spirit. In his picture of the Restoration (Jer. xxxiii, 18), due place is given to the Temple worship and priestly sacrifices.” 126 With regard to the “widespread misunderstanding [that] exists in regard to the attitude of the Prophets to the sacrificial cult,” Hertz notes:

The Prophets do not seek to alter or abolish the externals of religion as such. They are not so unreasonable as to demand that men should worship without aid of any outward symbolism. What they protested against was the fatal tendency to make these outward symbols the whole of religion; the superstitious over-estimate of sacrifice as compared with justice, pity and purity; and especially the monstrous wickedness with which the offering of sacrifices was accompanied. 127 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 85-86

Footnote 126: Dr. J. H. Hertz, the Penteteuch and Haftorahs, 2d ed. (London: Soncino, 1975), 439.

Footnote 127: Ibid., his emphasis.

31. In the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the most respected Jewish thinkers of the twentieth century:

Sacrifice, the strength and the measure of piety, acts wherein God and man meet – all this should be called obnoxious? Of course, the prophets did not condemn the practice of sacrifice in itself; otherwise, we should have to conclude that Isaiah intended to discourage the practice of prayer (Isa. 1:14-15). They did, however, claim that deeds of injustice vitiate both sacrifice and prayer. Men may not drown out the cries of the oppressed with the noise of hymns, nor buy off the Lord with increased offerings. The prophets disparaged the cult when it became a substitute for righteousness. It is precisely the implied recognition of the value of the cult that lends force to their insistence that there is something far more precious than sacrifice…What they [i.e., the prophets] attacked was, I repeat, extremely venerable; a sphere unmistakably holy; a spirituality that had both form and substance, that was concrete and inspiring, an atmosphere overwhelming the believer – pageantry, scenery, mystery, spectacle, fragrance, song, and exaltation. In the experience of such captivating sanctity, who could question the presence of God in the shape of a temple? 128 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 86

32. As Chief Rabbi Hertz summarized, The Prophet’s call is not, Give up your sacrifices, but Give up your evil-doing.” 137 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 91

Footnote 137: Hertz, Penteteuch and Haftorahs, 561, here commenting on Isaiah 1:4, 11-17.

33. In fact, one petition is so important that it forms the last of the Eighteen Benedictions, called the Amidah or Shemoneh Esreh: “Be favorable, O LORD our God, toward Your people Israel and toward their prayer, and restore the service to the Holy of Holies of Your Temple. The fire offerings of Israel and their prayer accept with love and favor, and may the service of Your people Israel always be favorable to you.” 148 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 97

Footnote 148: I have basically followed the rendering of ArtScroll Siddur, 111, substituting LORD for HASHEM here and elsewhere. For further discussion of this petition, see below, 3.13.

34. This petition is also recited every day:

May it be Your will, O LORD our God, and the God of our forefathers, that You have mercy on us and pardon us for all our errors, atone for us all our iniquities, forgive all our willful sins; and that You rebuild the Holy Temple speedily, in our days, so that we may offer to You the continual offering that it may atone for us, as You have prescribed for us in Your Torah through Moses, Your servant, from Your glorious mouth, as it is said: [Num. 28:1-8 then follows]. 149 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 97

Footnote 149: Scherman, ArtScroll Siddur, 33. A closely related petition is, “May it be Your will, O LORD, our God and the God of our forefathers, that this recital be worthy and acceptable, and favorable before You as if we had offered the continual offering in its set time, in its place, and according to its requirement” (ibid., 35).

35. Rather than teaching that prayer replaces sacrifice, the rabbis longed for the day when they could offer sacrifices again. As the note in the ArtScroll Siddur explains: “We are about to begin ‘offering’ our communal sacrifices, as it were. Before doing so, we recite a brief prayer that God end the exile and make it possible for us to offer the true offerings, not just the recitations that take their place. 150 Even the Prayerbook recognizes how important the Temple sacrifices were. – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 97

Footnote 150: Ibid., 32, my emphasis.

36. In this connection, there is an interesting tradition found in Rashi’s commentary to Genesis 15:6 (“Abraham believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness”). Rashi explains:

6. And he believed in the Lord He did not request of Him a sign regarding this, but regarding the inheritance of the land, he did request of Him a sign, and he said to Him, “How will I know? [from b. Nedarim 32a] and He accounted it to him as righteousness The Holy One, blessed be He, accounted it to Abram as a merit and as righteousness for the faith that he believed in Him (Targum Jonathan). Another explanation for: “How will I know?” He did not ask Him for a sign but he said before Him, “Let me know with what merit will they [my descendants] remain therein [in the Land]?” The Holy One, blessed be He replied, “With the merit of the sacrifices.” 157

What a concept! Abraham’s descendants would be able to stay in the Promised Land through the merit of the sacrifices. How important then, were the sacrifices, even in the traditional Jewish thinking? – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 100

Footnote 157: As rendered by Rabbi Rosenberg. The commentary of Gur Aryeh to Rashi here is illuminating.

37. Obviously, this ceremony was of great importance, and it would be an error to downplay the key role played by the shedding of blood in the faith of our forefathers. In fact, the Targum of Onkelos, the most important Aramaic translation of the Torah read in the synagogues in the early centuries of this era, added a surprising phrase to Exodus 24:8, which I have emphasized here: “And Moses took the blood and poured it on the altar as atonement for the people.” How interesting! The Rabbinic traditions reflected in the Targum actually went beyond the text of Scripture by stating that this blood provided atonement for the people. This indicates that the concepts of the shedding of blood and atonement were intimately connected in the minds of the Talmudic rabbis and their predecessors. 163 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 105

Footnote 163: On the dating and origin of the Targum Onkelos, see Philip S. Alexander, “Targum, Targumim,” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 6:320-31 (specifically, 321-22).

38. As Rashi explained, “for every creature is dependent on blood, therefore I have given it to you on the altar to atone for the life of man; let life come and atone for the life.” In other words, the reason that blood sacrifices played such a central role in the Torah is because the operated on the principle of substitution, i.e., on the principle of life for life. Thus, an ancient midrash on Leviticus 1:2 states: “When you voluntarily offer a korban olah [i.e., a burnt offering] and it is slaughtered and its blood sprinkled upon the altar, I consider it as if you have offered your very selves.” 170 Similarly, Rabbi J. H. Hertz, commenting on Leviticus 17:11, observed, “The use of blood, representing life, in the rites of atonement symbolized the complete yielding up of the worshipper’s life to God, and conveyed the thought that the surrender of a man to the will of God carried with it the assurance of Divine pardon.” 171 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 107

Footnote 170: Midrash Ha-Chafetz to Leviticus 1:2, cited in Torah Shelemah 25:17 and by Joshua Berman, The Temple: Its Symbolism and Meaning Then and Now (Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson, 1995), 126.

Footnote 171: Hertz, Pentateuch and Haftorahs, 487.

39. It is in the context of animal sacrifices – specifically, the wording of Leviticus 1:4 {“He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him”) – that the Talmudic rabbis asked,

Does the laying on of the hand [on the sacrifice] make atonement for one? Does not atonement come through the blood, as it is said: For it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life! [Lev. 17:11]…Does the waving [of the offering] make atonement? Is it not the blood which makes atonement by reason of the life” [again, Lev. 17:11]? B. Yoma 5a, as translated in the Soncino Talmud; cf. also the virtually identical wording in b. Zevahim 6a; b. Menahot 93b; Sifra 4:9). 175 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 108

Footnote 175: Jacob Neusner, in his American translation, renders the key words as “atonement is only through the blood.”

40. Thus, Oxford professor Geza Vermes, one of the foremost Jewish scholars of the Dead Sea Scrolls, stated that “according to Jewish theology, there can be no expiation without the shedding of blood: ‘en kapparah ‘ella’ bedam.” 176 Similarly, Professor Baruch Levine, in his commentary on Leviticus for the Jewish Publication Society wrote, “Expiation by means of sacrificial blood-rites is a prerequisite for securing God’s forgiveness. As the rabbis expressed it, ein kapparah ‘ella’ be-dam, ‘There is no ritual expiation except by means of blood.’” 177 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 109

Footnote 176: Geza Vermes, “Redemption and Genesis xxii: The binding of Isaac and the Sacrifice of Jesus,” in his Scripture and Tradition in Judaism,  Studia Post-biblica 4 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1961), 193-227 (here, 205) with reference to b. Yoma 5a. Interestingly, Vermes adds, “The antiquity of this Talmudic rule is attested by the Epistle to the Hebrews ix. 22: xoris haimatekxusias ou ginetai aphesis, ‘without the shedding of blood there is not remission’” (ibid., 205, n. 4).

Footnote 177: Hartley, Leviticus, 23, with reference also to b. Yoma 5a. Although I have assembled these references on my own, I was interested to see that the Talmudic quotes together with the citation from Baruch Levine, were also cited in a Jews for Jesus web site refuting the erroneous position of Rabbi Tovia Singer. See www.jews-for-jesus .org/CASE/BIBLICAL/Sin.html.

41. This concept is so ingrained in the Jewish psyche that to this day many Orthodox Jews around the world still offer a blood sacrifice on the eve of Yom Kippur (or in some circles, the eve of Rosh Hashanah), taking a live rooster (for men) or hen (for women) and waving it around their heads three times as they say, “This is my substitute, this is my vicarious offering, this is my atonement [kapparah]. This rooster (or hen) shall meet death, but I shall find a long and pleasant life of peace.” 179 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 109

Footnote 179: We will make reference to this ceremony again below, 3.13.

42. To further emphasize the vital connection between blood and atonement, let me cite the observations made by the two most important Talmud commentaries (Rashi and Tosafot) to this Rabbinic dictum that “there is no atonement without blood.” Rashi states that “the fundamental principle (‘iqqar) of atonement is in the blood” (b. Yoma 5a). Tosafot, also discussing the Talmudic statement that there is no atonement without blood, makes reference to a passage found elsewhere in the Talmud (b. Pesahim 59b) that indicated that the priests had to eat certain specified sacrifices if those offering were to have their atoning effect. 180 Tosafot then concludes, “But in any case, the fundamental principle [again, ‘iqqar] of atonement doesn’t exist without blood.” (b. Zevahim 6a). – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 109-110

Footnote 180: See Exodus 29:33, cited above; this verse, however, which we just cited above, refers only to the sacrifices offered in the ceremony of the consecration of the priests.

46. Or as expressed by Baruch Levine, a leading Jewish authority on atonement and sacrifice:

Chapters 4 and 5 [of Leviticus] contain the laws governing expiatory sacrifices, the purpose of which is to secure atonement and forgiveness from God. These offerings are efficacious only when offenses are inadvertent or unwitting. They do not apply to defiant acts of premeditated crimes. Whenever an individual Israelite, a tribal leader, a priest, or even the chief priest, or the Israelite community at large is guilty of an inadvertent offense or of failing to do what the law requires, expiation through sacrifices is required. 223

However, under certain circumstances, the ‘asham could atone for intentional sins. As Levine noted:

The offense outline here [in Lev. 5:20-26, or 6:1-7 in most English translations] were quite definitely intentional! A person misappropriated property or funds entrusted to his safekeeping, or defrauded another, or failed to restore lost property he had located….If, subsequently, the accused came forth on his own and admitted to having lied under oath – thus assuming liability for the unrecovered property – he was given the opportunity to clear himself by making restitution and by paying a fine of 20 percent to the aggrieved party. Having lied under oath, he had also offended God and was obliged to offer an ‘asham sacrifice in expiation….God accepts the expiation even of one who swears falsely in His name because the guilty person is willing to make restitution to the victim of his crime. 224 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 128

Footnote 223: Hartley, Leviticus,18.

Footnote 224: Ibid., 32-33.

47. With regard to the kinds of sins atoned for by the sacrificial goats of Yom Kippur, the Talmud is even more explicit than the biblical text. Here are two different translations of m. Shevu’ot 1:6, a well known text in traditional Jewish law:

A. And for a deliberate act of imparting uncleanness to the sanctuary and its Holy Things, a goat [whose blood is sprinkled] inside and the Day of Atonement effect atonement.

B. And for all other transgression which are in the Torah –

C. the minor or serious, deliberate or inadvertent, those done knowingly or done unknowingly, violating a positive or a negative commandment, those punishable by extirpation [karet] and those punishable by death at the hands of the court,

D. the goat which is sent away [Lev. 16:21] effects atonement. 227

And for uncleanness that occurs in the Temple and to its holy sacrifices through wantonness, [the] goat whose blood is sprinkled within [the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement] and the Day of Atonement effect atonement, and for [all] other transgressions [spoken of] in the Law, light or grace, premeditated or inadvertent, aware or unaware, transgressions of positive commands or negative commands, sin whose penalty is excision or sins punishable by death imposed by the court, the scapegoat makes atonement. 228 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 129-130

Footnote 227: This is the translation of Jacob Neusner, The Midrash (New Haven: Yale, 1988), 622.

Footnote 228: This is the rendering of Philip Blackman, Mishnayoth (Gateshead, England: Judaica Press, 1983) 4:340. He explains “wantonness” to mean “conscious or premeditated sin by an unclean person who ate of qadosim, holy sacrifices, or entered the Temple,” the punishment for which would be “forty stripes after warning” (340, n. 1).

48. As codified and explained by Maimonides almost one thousand years later (Laws of Repentance, 1:2):

Since the goat sent [to Azazeil] 229 atones for all of Israel, the High Priest confesses on it as the spokesman for all Israel, as [Lev. 16:21] states: “He shall confess on it all the sins of the Children of Israel.” The goat sent to Azazeil atones for all the transgressions in the Torah, the severe and the lighter [sins]; those violated intentionally and those transgressed inadvertently; those which [the transgressor] became conscious of and those which he was not conscious of. All are atoned for by the goat sent [to Azazeil]. This applies only if one repents. If one does not repent, the goat only atones for the light [sins]. Which are light sins and which are severe ones? Severe sins are those which are punishable by execution by the court or by premature death [karet]. [The violation of] the other prohibitions that are not punishable by premature death are considered light [sins]. 230 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 130

Footnote 230: Touger, Laws of Repentance, 1:2.

49. The Talmud explains with reference to Leviticus 16:15-16:

He [i.e., the High Priest] shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the Tent of Meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

The rabbis (see b. Shevu’ot 2b; 6b-14a) comment specifically on the words rebellion (transgressions in Hebrew) and sins, explaining that “transgressions” refers to acts of rebellion – which are certainly intentional – while “sins” refers to inadvertent acts. 232 And it is the goat whose blood is sprinkled in the Most Holy Place that effects atonement for the people, just as the blood of the bull offered up by the High Priest effects atonement for him (m . Shevu’ot 1:7, following Lev. 16:11, “Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering.”). – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 131

Footnote 232: See the commentary of Bertinoro – the “Rashi” of Mishnah commentaries – to m. Shevu’ot 1:6.

50. We can also ask why many Orthodox Jews still practice the custom of kapparos (or kapparot) on the eve of Yom Kippur (or Rosh Hashanah) if sacrifices only atoned for unintentional sins. Why then do they take a live fowl and wave it around their heads while confessing that the fowl is their substitute and payment? As described by Rabbi Abraham Chill:

A custom that has prevailed in many Jewish communities throughout the world for centuries and which was the cause of a great deal of controversy and apologetics is that of Kapparot, the expiatory offering. This ritual, which takes place during the night and early morning preceding Yom Kippur, involves the taking of a live white fowl, swinging it around ones’ head while reciting: “This is my atonement; this is my ransom; this is my substitute.” As if saying: if on Yom Kippur it is decreed that I must die, then this fowl which will shortly be slaughtered should serve as my substitute.” 234 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 132

Footnote 234: Abraham Chill, The Minhagim (New York: Sepher-Hermon, 1979), 200-201.

51. Dr. Rich Robinson, a research scholar for Jews for Jesus, has put together some important quotations on this subject. He observes that “according to the sages, repentance could turn an intentional sin offering into an unintentional sin and so be eligible for sacrifice,” offering the following ancient and modern sources in support:

R. Simeon b. Lakish said: Great is repentance, which converts intentional sins into unintentional sins (b. Yoma 86b; this is the rendering of Milgrom; as rendered in the Soncino edition, it reads: Great is repentance, for because of it premeditated sins are counted as errors). This literary image [of the “high hand”; Num. 15:30-31] is most apposite for the brazen sinner who commits his acts in open defiance of the Lord (cf. Job. 38:15). The essence of this sin is that it is committed flauntingly. However, sins performed in secret, even deliberately, can be commuted to the status of inadvertencies by means of repentance. 239

…I submit that the repentance of the sinner, through his remorse…and confession..., reduces his intentional sins to an inadvertence, thereby rendering it eligible for sacrificial expiation. 240

…The early rabbis…raise the question of how the high priest’s bull is capable of atoning for his deliberate sins, and they reply, “Because he has confessed his brazen and rebellious deeds it is as if they become as unintentional ones before him” (Sipra, Ahare par. 2:4,6; cf. t. Yoma 2:1). Thus it is clear that the Tannaites attribute to repentance – strikingly, in a sacrificial ritual – the power to transform a presumptuous sin against God, punishable by death, into an act of inadvertence, expiable by sacrifice. 241 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 135

Footnote 239: Milgrom, Numbers, 125.

Footnote 240: Jacob Milgrom, “the Priestly Doctrine of Repentance,” Revue Biblique 82 (1975): 186-205.

Footnote: 241: Milgrom, Leviticus, 373.

52. I should also remind you that the last of the Eighteen Benedictions (Shemoneh Esreh), recited daily by traditional Jews, is a prayer for the rebuilding of the Temple. I quoted this earlier (above, 3.9), but it’s worth quoting again: “Be favorable, O LORD our God, toward Your people Israel and toward their prayer, and restore the service to the Holy of Holies of Your Temple. The fire-offerings of Israel and their prayer accept with love and favor, and may the service of Your people Israel be favorable to You.” – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 143

53. Interestingly, the commentary of Etz Yoseph explains the petition for restoration of the Temple service as follows: “As we conclude Shemoneh Esrei, which is our substitute for the Temple’s sacrificial service, we ask the true service to be restored to the Temple.” 250 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 143-144

Footnote 250: Cited in Scherman, ArtScroll Siddur, 110, their emphasis.

54. Let me offer another piece of evidence that Jews around the world have often felt the need for a blood sacrifice at the time of Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, wanting to have something die as a substitute for their sins even though the Temple was not standing. As we saw above (3.12), there has been a persistent practice, common to this day, in which Orthodox Jews perform the ceremony of kapparot on the eve of either of the holidays just mentioned. To expand our previous description of this ceremony, let me quote the Encyclopedia Judaica:

Kapparot: custom in which the sins of a person are symbolically transferred to a fowl. The custom is practiced in certain Orthodox circles on the day before the Day of Atonement (in some congregations also on the day before Rosh Ha-Shanah or on Hoshana Rabba). Psalms 107:10, 14, 17-21, and Job 33:23-24 are recited; then a cock (for a male) or a hen (for a female) is swung around the head three times while the following is pronounced: “This is my substitute, my vicarious offering, my atonement; this cock (or hen) shall meet death, but I shall find a long and pleasant life of peace.” The fowl is thought to take on any misfortune which might otherwise befall a person in punishment of his sins. After the ceremony, it is customary to donate the fowl to the poor, except for the intestines which are thrown to the birds. Some rabbis recommended that money, equivalent to the fowl’s value, be given instead. 256 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 149

Footnote 256: “Kapparot,” EJ (CD-ROM), 10:756-57.

55. In b. Sukkah 55b (see also Pesikta deRav Kahana, Buber edition, 193b-194a) we read that the seventy bulls that were offered every year during the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot; see Num. 29:12-34) “were for the seventy nations,” which Rashi explains to mean, “to make atonement for them, so that rain will fall throughout the world.” 259 In this context – and in light of the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 C.E. – the Talmud records the words of Rabbi Yohannan: “Woe to the nations who destroyed without knowing what they were destroying. For when the Temple was standing, the altar made atonement for them. But now, who will make atonement for them?” – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 153

Footnote 259: According to ancient Jewish tradition, and based on the so-called Table of Nations in Genesis 10, there were a total of seventy (Gentile) nations in the world. See, e.g., Nahum Sarna, Genesis, The JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 67-70. Note that the sacrifices were offered up for seven days, beginning with thirteen on the first day, then twelve, then eleven, etc., until the last seven were offered on the seventh day. Then, on the eight and final day of Sukkot, one sacrifice was offered. According to George Foote Moore in his classic work Judaism: In the First Centuries of the Christian Era: The Age of the Tannaim (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1997), 2:43, n. 2, “These burnt offerings were made, according to an often repeated explanation, in behalf of the seventy heathen nations; the one on the eighth day for the unique people of Israel. When the heathen destroyed the temple, they destroyed the atonement that was made for them.”

43. Thus, Maimonides wrote in his authoritative Law Code, “At this time, when the Temple is not standing and we do not have the altar of atonement [my emphasis], there is nothing but repentance; repentance atones for all transgressions.” In teaching this, Maimonides was simply restating the teaching of the Talmud found in b. Berakhoth 55a (among other passages; cf. b. Sukkah 55b; b. Hagigah 27a): “As long as the Temple stood, the altar atoned for Israel. Now a man’s table atones for him.” 181 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 110

Footnote 181: According to Rashi (see b. Hagigah 27a), “a man’s table atones for him” means, “in the entertaining of guests.” With due respect to Rashi and the Talmud, it is only fair to point out that there is absolutely no biblical support for this concept. The Torah doesn’t even hint at such a thing.

44. Professor Ephraim E. Urbach, one of the leading scholars of Rabbinic literature, observed:

The doctrine of R. Ishmael, R. Judah, and Rabbi that death – even death without repentance – as the power to atone originated only after the Destruction, for with regard to the Temple period it is stated, “And for all other prohibitions ordained in the Torah, be they light or grave…premature death and execution by the court, the scapegoat makes atonement” ) M. Shev’out, I, 6)…At the time when the Temple still stood, it was certainly unnecessary and inappropriate to regard death as an atonement. 182 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 111

Footnote 182: Urbach, The Sages, 432, 434. For a discussion of this very important passage cited here from the Mishnah, see below, 3.12.

45. This is the consistent position of the Scriptures as well as the consistent position of the Talmud. To quote Urbach again:

The fasts that multiplied after the Destruction also assumed the character of a surrogate and replacement for the atonement effected by the sacrifices. This fact found concrete expression in the prayer attributed to Rav Sheshet: “Sovereign of the universe, it is known to Thee that when the Temple was in existence, if a man sinned he would bring a sacrifice, of which only the fat and the blood were offered up, and he would be granted atonement. Now I have observed a fast and my own fat and blood have been diminished. May it be Thy will that my diminished fat and blood be accounted as though I had offered them up before Thee on the altar, and do Thou show me a favour” (b. Berakhoth 17a].183

It was only after the Temple was destroyed that the Talmudic rabbis came up with the concept that God had provided other forms of atonement aside from blood. Once more, we will let Urbach explain:

The sacrifices only expiated iniquities between man and God, for which it was not in the power of an earthly court to impose punishment. Transgressions that were liable to punishment by a court were not atoned for by sacrifices, and only the penalty brought with it atonement for sin…When the court’s right to impose the death-penalty was abrogated and the Temple was destroyed, involving the abolition of sacrifices, a sense of despair and the feeling that Israel had been deprived of the possibility of atonement prevailed.” It once happened that Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai was leaving Jerusalem and R. Joshua was walking behind him, when the latter saw the Temple in ruins. Said R. Joshua: ‘Woe to us that this is in ruins – the place where the sins of Israel were expiated!’ Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai replied: ‘My son, be not grieved, we have a means of atonement that is commensurate with it. Which is this? It is the performance of lovingkindness, as it is said, “For I desire lovingkindness and not sacrifice”’” (Hosea vi 6; Urbah is citing Avot d. R. Nathan, Version I, iv, 11a). 184– Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 111-112

Footnote 183: Urbach, The Sages, 433-34.

Footnote 184: Ibid., 433-34, my emphasis.

72. In fact, the second prophecy is the proof text that supports the Rabbinic teaching cited above by Rabbi Hertz, namely, that in the age to come, all offerings will be abolished except the thanksgiving offerings.

R. Phinehas, R. Levi, and R. Johanan, in the name of R. Menahem of Galilee, said: In the time to come all other sacrifices will cease, but the sacrifice of thanksgiving will not cease. All other prayers will cease, but thanksgiving will not cease. As it is written (Jeremiah 33), “…the voice of joy and the voice of gladness” (Leviticus Rabbah, 9:7; see also Midrash Psalms 56:4, with reference to Neh. 12:40). 307 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 185

Footnote 307: Cited in Montefiore and Loewe, Rabbinic Anthology, 350. The rabbis also cite Psalm 56:13 as a proof text.


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