The Jewish People and the Messiah

The Jewish People and Messiah

One Jewish scholar has said that, "The question of Messiah or Messianism is where the conflict of Judaism and Christianity had developed and continues to exist." It is difficult to pin down exactly what Jewish people believe concerning the Messiah because the rabbis never worked out a consistent systematic theory concerning the Messiah. But interestingly Dr. Solomon Shechter has worked out four main points under which rabbinic ideas concerning the Messianic Age can be summarised:

  • The Messiah will be a descendant of the house of David.
  • His purpose will be to restore the kingdom of Israel and extend it over the whole world and in the final battle the enemies of God will be destroyed.
  • The establishment of Messiah's kingdom will be followed by the spiritual rule of Israel when all nations will accept the belief in the unity of God, acknowledge his kingdom and seek instruction from the law.
  • The Messianic Age will bring material and spiritual happiness, death will disappear and the dead will rise.

Negatively, Jewish people often contend that Messiah has not appeared, that he will not be divine and that he has nothing to do with personal salvation. A medical doctor in charge of an exhibition of Judaism once said to me, "You believe Messiah has come; we are still waiting for him. You believe he will come again. Well, when he comes perhaps we shall see that he is Jesus. But why get so het up about it now? Why be so concerned about it now? The doctor could only say that because he did not believe that his personal salvation had anything to do with the Messiah so to him it was nothing to get "het up" about.

That is the general attitude of Jewish people with regard to the issue. As one young Orthodox Jew said to me at the end of one of our debates, "Your trouble is that you make far too much of Messiah. To you he's everything; to us he's not such an important person, whoever he is."

From a Christian standpoint it's something of a mystery that the Jew can, from the same Scriptures we read, arrive at such a different view of the Messiah and his work. Dr. Patrick Fairburn put it like this: "In the Old Testament Scriptures there are so many clear and explicit testimonies to the truth of Christ's messiahship that we should have thought the rejection of Him by the people holding these Scriptures to be the word of God almost incredible had not the palpable existence of the fact proved it to be otherwise."

The New Testament Scriptures consistently argue from the Old Testament revelation concerning the Messiah and his work. When Paul sets before us in the book of Romans the whole sweep of God's redemptive purposes as they are centred in Christ, he does so on the basis of Old Testament Scripture. When the Saviour spoke to the confused disciples on the road to Emmaus, after rebuking them for being "slow of heart to believe all that the prophets [had] spoken", he began "at Moses and all the Prophets, [and] expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself."

"To the law and to the testimony..."

When witnessing to Jewish people, we have to be prepared to root our argument in their own Scriptures. Bearing in mind the controversy between Judaism and Christianity concerning the Messiah - in which the Jew refuses to accept the authority of the New Testament - we must be ready to consider the testimony of Old Testament on its own grounds. I do not want to press that unduly because I am fully aware that ultimately our interpretation of the Old Testament will depend on whether one accepts the rabbinic writings in the Talmud or the teachings of the apostles in the New Testament.

Dr. John "Rabbi" Duncan, a great character from nineteenth century Scotland, a great Hebrew scholar and a man mightily used of God among the Jewish people, in his lecture The Holy Spirit and the Jews, says"

You say the Talmud is the word of God; we say it is not. We say the New Testament is the word of God; you deny it. We say that Jesus is the Messiah the Son of the living God; your fathers crucified him as a blasphemer and you say you see no reason to forsake the wisdom of your fathers. Well, one thing is sure and on all hands confessed

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