Haven’t Christians Taken Prophecies Passages Out of Context?

Depending on who you ask, there are anywhere from 300 to 1239 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled, is fulfilling or will fulfill. Tzedakah Ministries and Explore Messiah…? won’t go as high as 1239 and we are not even comfortable with some of the subjective ones (i.e., Hosea 11:1) that others point to as prophetic. However, I hope that would agree that even if Jesus fulfilled only 3 of the vast number of Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures … that there must be something unique and wonderful and special about Jesus of Nazareth.

Additionally, the likelihood that one person could fulfill 3 prophecies written by 3 different writers written over a 400-year period would stretch mathematical probability … correct? So, Explore Messiah…? decided to look at simply 3 prophecies in this section but we will be glad to look at more if you would like in the CAFÉ Kehillah Discussion Board section.

What are those 3 prophecies – Daniel 9; Psalm 22; and Isaiah 53. We did not pick them because they are related to the “Easter” story but because these three passages are relatively ignored by Rabbinic Jewish scholars (additionally they are never read in the synagogue) and we think you should explore the answer as to why. Are you ready?

Daniel 9:24-27 – The When

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (King James Version – Public Domain)

Of all the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh, Daniel 9:24-27 (especially verses 25-26 in bold) is one of the most complicated and convoluted because it involves a strict time and deadline. There is a wide variety of possible options for interpretation. Rabbi Isaac Troki, one of the first of what we might call “anti-missionaries,” argued that Daniel 9 came about when Cyrus order the rebuilding of the Temple in Ezra and 1 & 2 Chronicles 36. However, there are a couple of problems with Troki’s argument:

  • The Ezra and 2 Chronicles passages only speak of rebuilding the Temple and not the restoration of the city of Jerusalem
  • If Rabbi Troki was correct, the fulfillment of this passage and the Messiah’s appearance should have happened around 63 BCE/BC. Do you know what happened in 63 BCE? Roman Emperor Pompey was conquering Judah! I don’t think the rabbi was calling Pompey the Messiah … do you? (Troki, Faith Strengtened, 200-205)

NOW YOU SHOULD BE ASKING YOURSELF ABOUT NOW … WHY WAS THIS RABBI TROKI SO DESPERATE TO HOLD ON TO THE 63 BCE DATE?

GOOD QUESTION! The idea of a week in Daniel 9 has always been understood in the Jewish and Christian world, especially in relationship to prophesy, as seven years. Therefore, 69 weeks (or 483 years) from the 536 BCE Cyrus decree, would have us ending up at 63 BCE for “Messiah the Prince” or “anointed leader” as the JPS translates it to appear. However, nothing happened in this period except Roman oppression. Is there another option aside from just disregarding this prophecy as mere allegory? Explore Messiah…? thinks there is…

The other and better option is to consider this fulfillment as beginning with the order from King Artaxerxes’ to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem which happened in c. 445/444 BCE (see also Nehemiah 2:4-5). Based on this dating for verse 25, one sees the actual fulfillment coming to fruition in 29/30 CE – or around the date a certain Jewish carpenter from Nazareth rode through Jerusalem streets on a white donkey (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew  21:4, 5 – BTW, this is another prophecy we could discuss at CAFÉ Kehillah if you want).

I recognize that all these dates are confusing … almost like real-life dating! However, let’s quickly simplify it before we move on to another issue. When one analyzes the dates of 536 vs. 445 and 63 BCE and 29 CE, one has to realize that we are considering two different calendars – Hebrew and Julian/Modern. The Hebrew calendar has 354 days (and added an extra month probably around the 4th century) while the Julian calendar has 365/366. Therefore, one needs to multiply the number of days (354) by 483 and then divide by 365 to see all that is happening in Daniel 9.

However, and while Explore Messiah…? believes that Jesus makes infinitely more logical sense in answering the WHEN? Question. It is the relative avoidance of Daniel 9 by anti-missionaries and the silence in the synagogues that should make you ask – WHY? Now, I think you know. So, now let’s go to the second prophecy which answers the HOW? Messianic Question…

Psalm 22 – The How (Read It All)

“Jakov” was an Israeli Jewish believer and we were having lunch together at a typical NYC diner. He was sharing with me how he came to faith in Messiah Jesus. It was a fascinating story; however, it was his explanation of Psalm 22 that most grabbed my attention over that fried egg sandwich lunch.

Jakov explained to me that had never been related to me before about 1st century Judaism. He said that when Jesus proclaimed on the cross at 3:00 p.m., “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (Mark 15:34) that every good Jewish male standing there above the age of 13 would have had two things immediately gone through their mind:

  • They would have recognized that Jesus was quoting Psalm 22:1 AND
  • The remaining verses of the psalm would have gone their mind because every Jewish male would have had their passage memorized and would have recognized that Jesus was “commandeering” this Davidic and Messianic psalm as his own

Why was Jesus “Commandeering” this Davidic and Messianic Psalm for himself?

  • Jesus and all those around Him that Crucifixion afternoon knew that any Messiah claimant would have to come from the lineage of David. It was a prophecy and one that can be explained to you in more detail if you have further questions but simply began at 2 Samuel 7:13-14 and follow the trail. Also, I would encourage you to talk to 3 people about this exploratory question – a rabbi, a Christian friend, and someone here at Explore Messiah…? through the CAFÉ Kehillah Discussion Board. Compare our answers and see who gives you the answers that not only are the “most personally and sociologically comfortable” but also make the most sense.
  • The Jewish individuals surrounding the cross that unique day in history would have looked at Nazarene carpenter and saw the fulfillment of Psalm 22 before their own eyes. That might be hard to believe but let’s compare Matthew 27 and John 19 with Psalm 22 below:
Psalm 22 (JPS Verse Numbering) Matthew 27 and John 19 (cf. John 20:24-28)
Verse 2 – “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me…” Matthew 27:46 – Jesus proclaims this verse on the cross
Verses 7-8 – Lament over being mocked and derided by men Matthew 27:39-44 – Temple priests and others come to mock Jesus on the cross
Verses 15 – Bones are disjointed but not broken John 19:31-33 – None of Jesus’ bones were broken
Verses 15-16 – Description of dehydration and severe cramping (David Terasaka, MD)
John 19:28-29 – Jesus describes himself as being thirsty
Verse 17 – Hands and feet are pierced (see below for more explanation on this verse)
John 20:24-28 – Jesus was pierced in His hands and feet
Verses 18-19 – Mocked over exposure to the people and clothing is considered as nothing but to gambled over John 19:24; Matthew 27:35-36 – Jesus was crucified nude and his garments were gambled for by Roman soldiers
Verses 21-22 – Sought deliverance from the sword John 19:33-34 – Jesus did not die from the spear that was thrust into His heart as he was already dead
  • The consequences of the victory that began with this psalm in verse 1 show us that there is something more than just a Davidic psalm. Verses 24-31 of Psalm 22 tell us that the death of Jesus is not the end of the story. The Messiah of Psalm 22 is not only vindicated with the gift of resurrection but also even those who have not yet been born will received the benefit of His righteousness (or what is called charity/tzedakah today) because what He has done for us.

Does this simply sound like a Davidic Psalm to you? Jakov didn’t think so and neither does Explore Messiah…? However, ask your rabbi and come tell us his/her answers on the CAFÉ Kehillah Discussion Board. And never fear – let’s also consider the issue of …

“Pierced” vs. “Like a Lion”

A great controversy has arisen over how to interpret ONE Word in Psalm 22:17 – כָּ֝אֲרִ֗י. One translation will see it as the word pierced based on the fac t that the etymology should be based on the word (כָּרָה) which means dug or bore (Christian understanding). The other translation (modern Jewish) is that the etymology should be the word (אֲרִ֗י) which means lion. So which is it? The Septuagint and Dead Sea Scrolls which were written before the time of Jesus agree with the Christian translation of the verse. However, I would like to argue that even if the JPS version – “like lions (they maul) my hands and feet” was correct what do lions do? They would pierce and dig through someone’s hands – just like what happened to Jesus on the cross…

Isaiah 53: The Who (Read It All)

YES … this passage! You have probably heard about this passage discussed in hushed whispers around the synagogue or at the Seder table. However, may I ask you a question – have you ever read this passage for yourself or heard it read in the synagogue?

Isaiah 53 is not included in any of the Haftarah portion readings and I would “guesstimate” that 99% of the Jewish people have never studied the passage for themselves. Have you?

So … let’s examine three of the verses of Isaiah 53, especially the all-important fifth verse … but please explore the whole chapter for your own edification:

Isaiah 53:4-6 – Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (KJV – Public Domain)

Perhaps you are thinking or have been told that Christians have altered the wording of Isaiah 53 to make it read like a certain Jewish carpenter from Nazareth? This would answer the “elephant in the room” question – would it not? Well … let’s examine the all crucial verse five from not one but two Jewish Bible translations:

JPS, 1999 – But he was wounded because of our sins. Crushed because of our iniquities. He bore the chastisement that made us whole. And by his bruises we were healed.

Chabad Translation of The Complete Jewish Bible – But he was pained because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; the chastisement of our welfare was upon him, and his would we were healed.

Not a whole lot of differences are there? And actually, Explore Messiah…? prefers the JPS (1999) word “crushed” over “bruised”. Therefore, just who is this person who suffered so much for the people. Who is this person who was wounded, crushed, bore the chastisement and bruises for the others?

Rabbinic/Modern Judaism has a few leading candidates but each of them has a few impossible flaws…

CANDIDATES FLAWS
Cyrus of Persia Cyrus was a PAGAN king who never suffered for Israel (Isaiah 45:1-7)
Moses Moses suffered in a metaphorical way for Israel BUT he promised another prophet still to come (Deuteronomy 18)
King Hezekiah King Hezekiah was a godly king BUT he was guilty of the sin of pride AND never suffered for the people of Israel (Isaiah 38:1-8)
People of Israel The people of Israel have suffered a great deal over time for themselves … BUT the pronouns of Isaiah 53 require a single individual to suffer for the sins of Israel and the world (REMEMBER THIS TRUTH)
Prophet Jeremiah The 2004 Jewish Study Bible have tried to get around those sticky pronoun issues of Isaiah 53 by proposing Jeremiah the prophet. He suffered for the people’s sins throughout the book of Jeremiah; HOWEVER, Jeremiah comes from a priestly and non-Davidic line despite what BT Megillah 14b says. Additionally, there is a interpretation problem and it comes from Jeremiah himself – 31:31-40; 33:14-18 and 23:5 (see below) – Behold, the days come, saith the LORD that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment  and justice in the earth.

Jeremiah knew that he did not qualify for the role of Messiah because he knew the qualifications set out by the prophet Isaiah …

  • One who suffered by being punished for our sins (verses 4-5) – John 19:1-30; 1 Peter 2:24-25
  • One who suffered by having our sins placed upon himself (verse 6) – Hebrews 9:24-28; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 2:24-25
  • One who suffered in silence (verse 7) – Matthew 26:59-64; 27:11-14
  • One who suffered because it was necessary for him to intercede and be the perfect sacrifice for our sins (verses 8-12) – Romans 4:28; 5:6, 8; Hebrews 2:10; 5:7-9

So … Tzedakah Ministries and Explore Messiah…? has presented only 3 of the prophecies that we could have presented. There are others and we did sneak in one more with Zechariah 9:9 that we could have shared with you and we are willing. How did we do? Did we present an intriguing argument for Jesus to be the Messiah? Do we need to present more Messianic prophecies such as Micah 5:2 and Isaiah 7:14 or Numbers 24:17? Let’s discuss them and others in the CAFÉ Kehillah Discussion Board!

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