Sunday, May 03, 2009

[christianity] is fair discussion possible [4]

You can call this saccharine sweet but it's still an endangered species.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6


From other faiths

Other religions have varying perspectives on Jesus. He is regarded as a prophet by Muslims, as a false Messiah by Judaism and Mandaeanism, as a manifestation of God by the Baha'i, a manifestation of Maitreya by some Buddhists, as an avatar by some Hindus, as the savior and bringer of gnosis by various Gnostic sects and as a guru by many New Ageists.

According to the Talmud, Jesus was a false Messiah, who practiced magic and deceived the people. He was called a sorcerer.

First article

Those early followers of Christ who wrote the Gospel of Q seem to have been unaware of the resurrection of Jesus. The event was not included in their writings.

Gnostics believe that prior to the crucifixion, Jesus swapped bodies with "with an innocent bystander named Simon" This is described in one of their sacred texts, "The Acts of John". It was written about 50 CE; it was widely followed by Christian groups in the early years of the Christian church and is revered by Gnostic Christians today.

The document was suppressed by the Church in the 8th century CE. In the Acts, the disciple John flees from the scene of the execution and is amazed to meet Christ on the top of a mountain overlooking the scene.

The author wrote:

"...we were like men amazed or fast asleep, and we fled this way and that. And so I saw him suffer, and did not wait by his suffering, but fled...and wept at what had come to pass. And when he was hung upon the cross...there came a darkness over the whole earth. And my Lord stood in the middle of the cave and gave light to it and said, 'John, for the people below in Jerusalem I am being crucified and pierced with lances and reeds and given vinegar and gall to drink. But to you I am speaking...I put into your mind to come up to this mountain so that you may hear what a disciple should learn from his teacher and a man from God."

Another Gnostic text, The Gospel of Mary described how Mary Magdelene became the first Christian pastor in history. She delivering a passionate sermon to the demoralized disciples of Jesus. The gospel describes how this raised their spirits and inspired them to evangelize the known world.

Followers of the ancient Doceitism heresy believed that Christ was not housed in a human body. He was a phantasm, specter or ghost which merely looked human. Today we might use the term hologram. Thus he was not crucified, did not die and was not resurrected.

The Jews

This is from the correspondence by Steve Schwartz, a Jew, with a rabbi, in 1980.

# According to the 70 rabbis who worked on the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word "almah" (Isaiah 7:14) is translated "parthenos" meaning virgin.* Why do the rabbis today say it means "young woman"?

Are they simply trying to dispose of the argument for the virgin birth of Christ?

# I'm sure you know the meaning of the two words "yachid" and "echad" forone. Why is the word "echad" (meaning a composite oneness) used to describe God in the Shema while Moses Maimonides uses "yachid" (meaning absolute oneness) in his Thirteen Articles of Faith?

Is Maimonides trying to dispose of Old Testament evidence in support of the triunity of God?

# Why are the 52nd and 54th chapters of Isaiah read aloud every year in the synagogue, but the Isaiah 53 is never read? This chapter seems to describe the life, trial, death and resurrection of Jesus. Is this why the chapter is skipped over?

Furthermore, if the suffering Servant of this chapter is "Israel" as the rabbis today claim, how can the servant die as a substitute for the sins of Isaiah's people - Israel? That would mean that Israel is dying as asubstitute for the sins of Israel...which doesn't make much sense.

# Whose death is described by David in the 22nd Psalm? Also, how could David describe death by crucifixion when that manner of capital punishment was unknown at the time? I know that Christian believe this psalm predicts the sufferings and death of Jesus.

# The Old Testament (particularly Leviticus) testifies that there is no atonement without blood, sacrificed on the altar. Where do we get the idea that our sins are forgiven by going without food or water for a 24-hour period? It seems to me that God is pretty specific...and He never lifted His requirement for the atoning blood.

It seems to me that today we have a Day of Atonement...but no atonement.

# Finally, the Old Testament says that the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham through Isaac through Jacob through Judah, of the house of David, that he would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), that he would be preceded by a forerunner (Malachi 3:1), and it even predicts that he would arrive before the destruction of the Temple - which occurred in the year 70 C.E. (Daniel 9:24-26).

Furthermore, the Messiah would be a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18-19), rejected by his own people (Isaiah 53:3), betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9), sold for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12), smitten, spat upon and mocked (Psalm 22:7-8), crucified (Psalm 22), but would be raised from the dead in three days (Psalm 16:10, Jonah 1:17).

There are more than 300 prophecies in the Old Testament which all find their fulfillment in one particular man...and you know which man I'm speaking about. Now, who do you say the prophets are speaking about?

# Who is Jesus of Nazareth? I know you don't think that he is God, and that's certainly what I believed; but who, then, is he? If he is not God, then he must be either a lunatic (who really believed he was the Messiah) or a liar who was despicable enough to draw people away from God.

From the staggering things he said about himself, it doesn't seem possible to dismiss him simply as a good or wise man. My final question is, Who is Jesus Christ: lunatic, liar or Lord?

Incidentally, I happen to believe-like the great Jewish philosophers and theologians-that the Old Testament is the actual Word of God, so I hope you'll use Moses and the prophets as your authority.

# You say the Hebrew word "almah" is recognized by 99% of Biblical scholars as meaning young woman. I don't know where you got your information, but I could list here scores of Jewish and Gentile scholars who believe the word "almah" is properly translated "virgin."

And you can't deny, Rabbi, that the 70 top Jewish scholars who translated the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek all thought that "almah" means virgin, since they used the Greek word "parthenos"-virgin.

Furthermore, I find that the word "almah" is used just seven times in the Old Testament and each time it refers to what can only be a virgin. So when you say "almah" is mistranslated, you are disagreeing with traditional Jewish thought.

One more thing before leaving this area. Looking ahead to chapter 9, verse 6 of the same book, one finds a description of this special child:

"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on his shoulders; and his name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."

A child will be born who will be called "Mighty God"? Jewish commentators did not dispute the Messianic nature of this prophecy until modern times. As proof, let me cite the paraphrase of this passage given in Targum Jonathan:

"And there was called His name from of old, Wonderful, counselor, Mighty God, He who lives for ever, the messiah in whose days peace shall increase." (Targum of Isaiah)

Rabbi, I agree with you that you shouldn't read something into the Biblical story that isn't there. However, I think it is just as dangerous to delete things that are there.

# Now to your statement that the words "yachid" and "echad" mean the same thing. I have studied this intensively, and I have found that they definitely do not mean the same thing. "Yachid" is used in the Bible when an absolute, indivisible one is intended; this is the word Moses Maimonides used to describe God in his second Principle of Faith. On the other hand, "echad" is used in the Bible for a compound, divisible unity, as, for example, when God says in Genesis 2:24, "And they (husband and wife) shall be one (echad) flesh."

In your letter, you say that "yachid" was simply the Medieval Hebrew meaning the same thing as the Biblical Hebrew word "echad." This doesn't hold true, however, because Moses used both words in the Torah, so we see they were used concurrently. The only conclusion I can reach is that Maimonides was trying to cover up important Biblical evidence for the tri-unity of God by calling Him an absolute one (yachid).

The Biblical use of the word "echad," however, is by no means the only evidence that establishes the fact of the tri-unity of God. Beginning in Genesis, we find that a common name given to God is Elohim, a plural word. Why didn't Moses use the singular form, El? Also, many times we come across the use of plural pronouns for God as in Genesis 1:26: "Then God said, 'LetUs make man in Our image, according to Our likeness...'"

Even the sacred Jewish book, the Zohar, testifies to the truth of the trinity in its comment on the Shema: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one, " (Deuteronomy 6:4).

"Why is there need of mentioning the name of God three times in this verse? The first Jehovah is the Father above. The second is the stem of Jesse, the Messiah Who is to come from the family of Jesse through David. And the third one is the way which is below (meaning the Holy Spirit who shows us the way) and these three are one."

# I'm afraid my research doesn't bear out your answer that the "Suffering Servant" section is read in the synagogue.

According to the Jewish calendar of Haftorah readings, the 53rd chapter of Isaiah is not read. In point of fact, the Haftorah reading for Shofetim includes chapters 51 and 52 while the Haftorah reading for Noah, Sephardi ritual and Ki Tetze begins at the 54th chapter. Isaiah 53 is blatantly skipped over.

I think it is important to note that Rashi (11th century) was the first one to suggest that the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 represents Israel. Until then, the Suffering Servant was almost universally understood by the Jews as referring to the Messiah. By no means does Rashi's interpretation represent the traditional Jewish interpretation.

Here are a few references to back me up:

Rabbi Moshe Kohen Ibn Crispin (14th century) states that those who for controversial reasons apply the prophecy of the Suffering Servant to Israel find it impossible to understand the true meaning of this prophecy, "having forsaken the knowledge of our teachers, and inclined after the stubbornness of their own opinions."

Their misinterpretation, he declares, "distorts the passage from its natural meaning," for "it was given of God as a description of the Messiah, whereby, when any should claim to be the Messiah, to judge by the resemblance or nonresemblance to it whether he were the Messiah or no."

He also said, "I'm pleased to interpret the passage in accordance with the teaching of our rabbis, of the King Messiah...and adhere to the literal sense. Thus, I shall be free from forced and far-fetched interpretations of which others are guilty."

Rabbi Elijah de Vidas (16th century) said: "Since the Messiah bears our iniquities, which produce the effect of his being bruised, it follows that whoso will not admit that the Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities must endure and suffer for them himself."

Rabbi Moshe el Sheikh, chief Rabbi of Safed, stated: "Our Rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the King Messiah, and we shall ourselves also adhere to the same view."

Isaac Abrabanel, a bitter opponent of Christianity, made the following statement about Isaiah 53: "Jonathan ben Uzziel interprets it in the Targum of the future Messiah; and this is also the opinion of our learned men in the majority of their Midrashim."

The original Messianic interpretation of Isaiah 53 survives to this day. It is preserved in Jewish liturgy for the Day of Atonement in the Musaf prayer:

"We are shrunk up in our misery even until now! Our rock hath not come to us; Messiah, our righteousness, hath turned from us; we are in terror, and there is none to justify us! Our iniquities and the yoke of our transgressions he will bear, for he was wounded for our transgressions; he will carry our sins upon his shoulder that we may find forgiveness for our iniquities, and by his stripes we are healed. O eternal One, the time is come to make a new creation, from the vault of heaven bring him up..."

Thus, it is obvious from the above prayer that the Jews of that era (8th century) believed that the Messiah had already come and were praying that He may come a second time.

Rabbi, I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that the Talmud, the Zohar, the Midrashim, and the Jewish Prayer Book all support the view that Isaiah 53 refers to the Messiah, not the people of Israel.

The modern Jewish answer can't be taken seriously by either the scholar or the casual reader. According to the Scripture passage in question, the Servant is described as "righteous," as "sinless," as a willing sufferer, and actually dying.

Not one of these statements can be applied to the Jewish people, as any unbiased person would be willing to admit.

# Moving right along, we come to Psalm 22. You say the psalm doesn't mention crucifixion. Of course it doesn't! How could David use the word "crucifixion" when this manner of capital punishment was unknown to the Jews of his time?

But the psalm does say, "They pierced my hands and my feet" (Psalm 22:16). Sure sounds like crucifixion to me. In fact, the Midrashim (called the Pesiqta Rabbati) applies this psalm to the sufferings of the Messiah, so once again we find that traditional Jewish thought and modernistic Jewish thought are at odds with one another.

You're quite right in saying that David wasn't crucified; it was David's descendant, the Messiah, who was crucified-David predicts the manner of the Messiah's death in this psalm. Jesus even quoted the first verse of this psalm from the cross.

# Now we move into the heart of our discussion-the need for a blood sacrifice to atone for our sins. You agree with me when you say, "The Bible does say that sacrifices are necessary." But then you say that the Talmud replaces sacrifices with prayer, good deeds and charity. While there are many fine and beautiful statements in the Talmud, I have to call a halt when the Talmud (a commentary written by men) starts contradicting the Bible. The Bible says:

"For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for our souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement" (Leviticus 17:11).

Who gives anyone the authority to say, "You don't have to obey that rule anymore. You can simply fast and do good deeds." Wherever you look in the Old Testament, you find His people offering blood sacrifices to become acceptable in God's sight.

The Hebrews had to apply the blood of a slain lamb to the doorposts of their homes if they wanted their firstborn to survive. As God put it, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you" (Exodus 12:13).

Much of the Torah-almost the entire book of Leviticus-is devoted to the subject of blood sacrifices.

Let's turn to the article on atonement given in The Jewish Encyclopedia:

"...the blood, which to the ancients was the life-power of the soul, forms the essential part of the sacrificial Atonement. This is the interpretation given by all Jewish commentators, ancient and modern, on the passage... The life of the victim was offered... as a typical ransom of 'life by life'; the blood sprinkled by the priest upon the altar serving as the means of a renewal of man's covenant of life with God... The cessation of sacrifice, in consequence of the destruction of the Temple, came, therefore, as a shock to the people... It was then that Johanan b. Zakkai. declared works of benevolence to have atoning powers as great as those of sacrifice. This view, however, did not solve satisfactorily for all the problem of sin... Hence, a large number of Jews accepted the Christian faith in the Atonement by the blood shed for many for the remission of sins.'" (Rabbi Kaufmann Kohler)

The "Christian faith" mentioned above is actually the faith to which I adhere. May I suggest you read a book called Christianity Is Jewish by Edith Schaeffer (Tyndale House) for additional light on the subject. Hebrew Christians base their atonement with God on the Biblical basis of "blood atonement sacrificially provided." Modern Jewish thought bases atonement on the Talmud, the word of man.

# You say that Jesus did not do what the Messiah was supposed to do and for this reason the Jews do not accept Him as the Messiah. I disagree. The Bible says the Messiah would come first as a Suffering Servant, that He would die for the sins of His people, that He would be raised from the dead on the third day, and that He would return as a conquering King who would rule forever.

Multitudes of first-century Jews accepted Jesus as the Messiah; some estimates say that millions of Jews accepted Him. Others, however, desired and expected the Messiah to immediately set up His eternal Kingdom, directly in conflict with Scriptures that said the Messiah must first die.

Jesus did exactly what the Old Testament Scriptures predicted. What more could be asked of Him? Isaiah (chapter 53) and Daniel (chapter 9) both predict the death of Messiah and His resurrection. And Zechariah tells us something very interesting about the Messiah's return:

"And I (God) will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a firstborn" (Zechariah 12:10).

In other words, someday the Jewish people will be confronted by the Messiah "whom they have pierced" and will suddenly realize how wrong they have been to reject Him. This is the true Day of Atonement, when all of Israel will repent and turn to the Messiah.

Before you tell me I'm reading something into this passage that isn't there -that it isn't speaking of the Messiah-let me just quote from two respected and authoritative Jewish sources.

Commenting on this passage first is Rabbi Abraham ben Ezra (12th century):

"All the heathen shall look to me to see what I shall do to those who pierced Messiah, the son of Joseph." Next is a rather lengthy quote from Rabbi Moshe el Sheikh, chief rabbi of Safed:

"I will do yet a third thing, and that is, that 'they shall look unto me,' for they shall lift up their eyes unto me in perfect repentance, when they see Him whom they pierced, that is Messiah, the Son of Joseph; for our Rabbis, of blessed memory, have said that He will take upon Himself all the guilt of Israel, and shall then be slain in the war to make an atonement in such manner that it shall be accounted as if Israel had pierced Him, for on account of their sin He has died; and, therefore, in order that it may be reckoned to them as a perfect atonement, they will repent and look to the blessed One, saying, that there is none beside Him to forgive those that mourn on account of Him who died for their sin: this is the meaning of 'They shall look upon me.'"

You tell me "it would be easy for me to pull verses from any book after I have a belief in a certain man as Messiah." I'd like to challenge you to do just that. A Mr. Fred J. Meldau has offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who can "produce any Christ, living or dead (other than Jesus of Nazareth) who can fulfill even half of the predictions concerning Messiah."

Looking at the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, we find that hundreds of prophecies were all fulfilled in the life of one individual- Jesus of Nazareth. Speaking of eight key prophecies, Peter Stoner, a mathematician, points out, "We find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled eight of the prophecies is one in 100,000,000,000,000,000" (Science Speaks, Moody Press). And the probability of any one man fulfilling all of these hundreds of prophecies is a number too large to write down.

To conclude this section, let me just add one more thing. You say that Jesus "came and died." But you make no mention of His resurrection. You may deny it really happened, but the resurrection is the best-attested event in history. Many books have been written on the subject, and it's much too deep to go into at this time. But let me quote former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brewer:

"The existing evidence of Christ's resurrection is satisfactory to me. I have not examined it from the legal standpoint, but Greenleaf has done so, and he is the highest authority on evidence cited in our courts."

I am enclosing a copy of Simon Greenleaf's evidence for your edification(available free-of-charge from Book Fellowship International, P.O. Box 164, No. Syracuse, NY 13212). May I also suggest you read Who Moved the Stone? (Zondervan Press) by Frank Morrison. It's particularly interesting, because it was written by a man who started to write a book disproving the reality of the resurrection. By the time he was finished, he was a believer!

# You seem to be unwilling to take a stand on whether Jesus was Lord, liar or lunatic, preferring to describe him as a "wonderful man." Does such a description fit a person who claimed to be equal with God, who forgave sins but said he had no sins of his own, who predicted his own death and resurrection?

No, I still maintain that your "wonderful man" option is implausible.

You tell me that "the four gospel writers had never met" Jesus and that "they all came much later." This is not true. Listen to the testimony of William F. Albright, who is considered to be the world's foremost Biblical archaeologist:

"We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A.D. 80, two full generations before the date between 130-150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today. In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and the eighties of the first century A.D."

Since the New Testament was completed so soon after the events it describes, the one element necessary to the creation of myths-time-was not available.

In effect, what you're saying is that the Gospel writers "made up" the Gospel accounts and that they bear little resemblance to what really happened and what Jesus really said. Considering the fact that most of the apostles and early Christians laid down their lives rather than their faith, your contention lacks credibility.

Could you imagine Mark Twain and all of his associates submitting to torture and death to prove that Huckleberry Finn really existed? Some of the top psychologists and experts in legal evidence have said that this just couldn't happen, and they have become believers on this very basis.

People might lay down their lives for a lie in which they sincerely believe, but they don't for a lie of their own invention.

You suggested that I read a couple of books by Samuel Sandmel. I have already read his We Jews and Jesus and believe he is quite honest when he admits, "I must be straightforward in saying that my approach is partisan; it is Jewish and not neutral."

All in all, I would say that Sandmel presents a very unbiblical account of which I disapprove. Please keep in mind that when I started investigating the claims of Hebrew-Christianity, I, too, was very biased on the Jewish side. I read Hugh Schonfield's book, The Passover Plot, and a number of other books by Jewish authors. After studying both sides, I cam to the inescapable conclusion that the modernistic Jewish approach to the Scriptures is dishonest.

While I didn't want to believe the Christian side, the Old Testament evidence was all in their favor.

Now may I suggest you read a few books that will explain the Hebrew-Christian position better than I can. In addition to the books previously mentioned, read:

* Judaism and Christianity, Are They the Same? by David Bronstein (O'Neil, Oliver, MacKenzie, Inc.)
* Jesus, the Jew's Jew by Zola Levitt (Creation House).
* Jesus Was a Jew by Arnold Fruchtenbaum (Broadman Press).
* The Bible, the Supernatural and the Jews by McCandlish Phillips (Bethany Fellowship).
* Hebrew Christianity: Its Theology, History and Philosophy by Arnold Fruchtenbaum (Baker Books).
* The Messianic Hope by Arthur W. Kac, M.D. (Baker Books).
* The Chosen People Question Box II by Dr. Henry Heydt (American Board of Missions to the Jews).
* The Prophet Isaiah by Victor Buksbazen (Spearhead Press).
* Where in the World Are the Jews Today? by James and Marti Hefley (Victor Books).
* A Hebrew Christian Looks at Isaiah 53 by Sanford Mills (American Board of Missions to the Jews).

I consider myself a better Jew than before, because now I am a Jew in the Biblical sense of the word. As you know, Abraham became "righteous in God's sight" when he believed God. He wasn't circumcised until later, and the Mosaic law came much later still, so neither of these things made him righteous. Now that I too believe God, I know that I am "righteous in God's sight" and that I am a complete Jew.

My final question to you is, do you believe Moses?

From Deuteronomy 18:18-19:

"I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you (Moses), and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And it shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him."

The following chart reveals the way this "Suffering Servant" passage - from Isaiah 52:13 through Isaiah 53:12 - is omitted.



So we see that the Haftorah readings heard in the synagogue conclude at the very verse which begins the controversial "Suffering Servant" passage. and the readings pick up just after the 53rd chapter of Isaiah.

While some Jewish authorities state that the omission was not purposeful, others see a good deal of significance in the omission. For example, Herbert Loewe - a Reader in Rabbinics at Cambridge University and co-author with Claude Montefiore of A Rabbinic Anthology - had this to say on the subject:

"Quotations from the famous 53rd chapter of Isaiah are rare in the Rabbinic literature. Because of the christological interpretation given to the chapter by Christians, it is omitted from the series of prophetical lessons (HAFTAROT) for the Deuteronomy Sabbaths. The omission is deliberate and striking." (op. Cit. P. 544)

If you'd like to see for yourself if the "Suffering Servant" passage is skipped, you can find the schedule of synagogue readings listed in many Jewish calendars and in Jewish Bibles.

"Almah"

There are hundreds of Jewish and Gentile Bible scholars who believe that the prophet Isaiah was predicting the virgin birth of the Messiah. A list of the Jewish scholars alone would include such names as Dr. Sanford C. Mills, Milton Lindberg, Dr. Arthur W. Kac, Dr. Henry J. Heydt, Dr. Leopold Cohn, Dr. Jacob Gartenhaus and Dr. David L. Cooper. All of these eminent Jewish theologians believe that the Hebrew word "almah" is best translated by the word "virgin."

"Yachid"

The second Principle of Jewish Faith by Moses Maimonides: "I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is an absolute one (yachid) and there there is no oneness in any manner like unto His, and that He alone is our God, who was, is and will be." Compare this with the words of the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4 from the Jewish Scriptures: Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one ("echad" - unity consisting of more than one part).

# Talmudic anomalies

In the centuries following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (70 CE), the Jewish people began writing two versions of Jewish thought, religious history and commentary. One was written in Palestine and became known as the Jerusalem Talmud. The other was written in Babylon and was known as the Babylonian Talmud.

We read in the Jerusalem Talmud:

"Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the western light went out, the crimson thread remained crimson, and the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand. They would close the gates of the Temple by night and get up in the morning and find them wide open" (Jacob Neusner, The Yerushalmi, p.156-157). [the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE]

A similar passage in the Babylonian Talmud states:

"Our rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot ['For the Lord'] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white; nor did the western most light shine; and the doors of the Hekel [Temple] would open by themselves" (Soncino version, Yoma 39b).

What are these passages talking about? Since both Talmuds recount the same information, this indicates the knowledge of these events was accepted by the widespread Jewish community.

The Miracle of the "Lot"

The first of these miracles concerns a random choosing of the "lot" which was cast on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The lot chosen determined which of two goats would be "for the Lord" and which goat would be the "Azazel" or "scapegoat."

During the two hundred years before 30 CE, when the High Priest picked one of two stones, again this selection was governed by chance, and each year the priest would select a black stone as often as a white stone.

But for forty years in a row, beginning in 30 CE, the High Priest always picked the black stone! The odds against this happening are astronomical (2 to the 40th power). In other words, the chances of this occurring are 1 in approximately 5,479,548,800 or about 5.5 billion to one! By comparison, your chances of winning your local state or municipal-run cash Lottery would be much more favorable!

The lot for Azazel, the black stone, contrary to all the laws of chance, came up 40 times in a row from 30 to 70 AD! This was considered a dire event and signified something had fundamentally changed in this Yom Kippur ritual. This casting of lots is also accompanied by yet another miracle which is described next.

The Miracle of the Red Strip

The second miracle concerns the crimson strip or cloth tied to the Azazel goat. A portion of this red cloth was also removed from the goat and tied to the Temple door. Each year the red cloth on the Temple door turned white as if to signify the atonement of another Yom Kippur was acceptable to the Lord. This annual event happened until 30 CE when the cloth then remained crimson each year to the time of the Temple's destruction. This undoubtedly caused much stir and consternation among the Jews. This traditional practice is linked to Israel confessing its sins and ceremonially placing this nation's sin upon the Azazel goat. The sin was then removed by this goat's death. Sin was represented by the red color of the cloth (the color of blood). But the cloth remained crimson that is, Israel's sins were not being pardoned and "made white."

As God told Israel through Isaiah the prophet:

''Come, let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet [crimson], they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as [white] wool'' (Isaiah 1:18).

The clear indication is that the whole community had lost the Lord's attention in relation to something that occurred in 30 CE. The yearly atonement achieved through the typical Yom Kippur observance was not being realized as expected. Atonement apparently was to be gained in some other way. Who or what would provide the atonement for another year?

Concerning the crimson strip though not mentioned in the Scriptures and long before 30 C.E. during the 40 years Simon the Righteous was High Priest, a crimson thread which was associated with his person always turned white when he entered the Temple's innermost Holy of Holies. The people noticed this.

Also, they noted that "the lot of the LORD" (the white lot) came up for 40 straight years during Simon's priesthood. They noticed that the "lot" picked by the priests after Simon would sometimes be black, and sometimes white, and that the crimson thread would sometimes turn white, and sometimes not.

The Jews came to believe that if the crimson thread turned white, that God approved of the Day of Atonement rituals and that Israel could be assured that God forgave their sins. But after 30 CE, the crimson thread never turned white again for 40 years, till the destruction of the Temple and the cessation of all Temple rituals!

What did the Jewish nation do in 30 CE to merit such a change at Yom Kippur? By some accounts, on April 5, 30 CE (i.e., on the 14th of Nisan, the day of the Passover sacrifice) the Messiah, Yeshua, was cut off from Israel, himself put to death as a sacrifice for sin. To this event there is a transference of the atonement now no longer achieved through the two goats as offered at Yom Kippur. Like an innocent Passover lamb, the Messiah was put to death though no fault was found in Him!

But unlike Temple sacrifices or the Yom Kippur events (as detailed above) where sin is only covered over for a time, the Messianic sacrifice comes with the promise of forgiveness of sins through grace given by God to those who accept a personal relationship with Messiah. This is essentially a one time event for each person's lifetime and not a continual series of annual observances and animal sacrifices. The mechanism providing forgiveness of sin changed in 30 CE.

The Miracle of the Temple Doors

The next miracle, which the Jewish authorities acknowledged, was that the Temple doors swung open every night of their own accord. This too occurred for forty years, beginning in 30 CE The leading Jewish authority of that time, Yohanan ben Zakkai, declared that this was a sign of impending doom, that the Temple itself would be destroyed.

The Jerusalem Talmud states:

"Said Rabban Yohanan Ben Zakkai to the Temple, 'O Temple, why do you frighten us? We know that you will end up destroyed. For it has been said, 'Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars' " (Zechariah 11:1)' (Sota 6:3).

Yohanan Ben Zakkai was the leader of the Jewish community during the time following the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, when the Jewish government was transferred to Jamnia, some thirty miles west of Jerusalem.

Might the doors have opened to also signify that all may now enter the Temple, even to its innermost holy sections. The evidence supported by the miracles described above suggests the Lord's presence had departed from the Temple. This was no longer just a place for High Priests alone, but the doors swung open for all to enter the Lord's house of worship.

The Miracle of the Temple Menorah

The fourth miracle was that the most important lamp of the seven candle-stick Menorah in the Temple went out, and would not shine. Every night for 40 years (over 12,500 nights in a row) the main lamp of the Temple lampstand (menorah) went out of its own accord no matter what attempts and precautions the priests took to safeguard against this event!

Earnest Martin states:

"In fact, we are told in the Talmud that at dusk the lamps that were unlit in the daytime (the middle four lamps remained unlit, while the two eastern lamps normally stayed lit during the day) were to be re-lit from the flames of the western lamp (which was a lamp that was supposed to stay lit all the time it was like the 'eternal' flame that we see today in some national monuments)...

"This 'western lamp' was to be kept lit at all times. For that reason, the priests kept extra reservoirs of olive oil and other implements in ready supply to make sure that the 'western lamp' (under all circumstances) would stay lit. But what happened in the forty years from the very year Messiah said the physical Temple would be destroyed?

Every night for forty years the western lamp went out, and this in spite of the priests each evening preparing in a special way the western lamp so that it would remain constantly burning all night!" (The Significance of the Year CE 30, Ernest Martin, Research Update, April 1994, p.4).

Again, the odds against the lamp continually going out are astronomical. Something out of the ordinary was going on. The "light" of the Menorah representing contact with God, His Spirit, and His Presence was now removed. This special demonstration occurred starting with the crucifixion of the Messiah!

It should be clear to any reasonable mind that there is no natural way to explain all these four signs connected with the year 30 CE. The only possible explanation has to be supernatural.

After 30 CE, and the death of the Messiah, great trouble and awesome trials began to come upon the Jewish nation. Yeshua Himself foretold it. As He was led away to be crucified, Yeshua warned the women of Jerusalem:

But Jesus, turning to them, said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!' Then they will begin `to say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!" ' "For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?" (Luke 23:28-31).

When we take an objective look at the events of 30 CE, who can doubt that it was indeed the true year of the crucifixion and resurrection of the true Messiah God sent to Israel? Who can deny that He is the one and only true Messiah? Who else has fulfilled all the prophecies of the Old Testament — including the amazing prophecy of Daniel 9 and the ''70 weeks,'' coming at the very year predicted for the Messiah to appear?

# All of these passages were recognized by the early rabbis as referring to the Messiah:

* Messiah was to be born at Bethlehem: Micah 5:1
* Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah: Genesis 49:10
* Messiah would present himself by riding on an ass: Zechariah 9:9
* Messiah would be tortured to death: Psalm 22
* Messiah would arrive before the destruction of the Second Temple: Daniel 9:24-27
* Messiah's life would match a particular description, including suffering, silence at his arrest and trial, death and burial in a rich man's tomb, and resurrection: Isaiah 52:13-53:12

In the first place, he claimed to be the Messiah.

It must have been quite a hallucination to be seen by vastly different kinds of people at different times of day in many different places. You might be able to fool one person, but can you fool five hundred who saw him at one time? And unlike the pattern of hallucinations, these appearances of the resurrected Jesus stopped as suddenly as they started, forty days after the resurrection took place.

Jewish Talmuds refer to Jesus in a number of places. See Evidence That Demands a Verdict volume 1 p.85-87 for quotes from the Babylonian Talmud, Tol'doth Yeshu, Barailu, The Amoa 'Ulla', Yeb. IV 3, and Baraita. See also Tractate Sanhedrin.

Jewish problems with the Messiah

This applies of course to the classic Christian exegesis, which defined Jesus chiefly, in contradiction to a Strack-Billerbek Judaism, as Torah-critical innovator, with a strong eschatological expectation and much self-confidence, that presented itself as exclusive relationship to the God he called Abba. Against this the Jewish partners in dialogue have emphasized the commitment to Judaism of a Jesus who was faithful to Torah, and they did not hesitate to assign him to Jewish groups (Pharisees12, Zealots13). Newer approaches strive for more flexibility, but the really large conceptions of an inclusive Jesus image are scarce despite an immense literature.

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