Pinchas Lapide (1922-1997) was a most unique Jewish individual. He was a well-known Israeli and Jewish theologian, historian, diplomat and died as a non-believer in Jesus. BUT … he adamantly believed that Jesus rose from the dead. He even wrote a book about it called The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective. Even more than Lapide, other Jewish scholars such as Samuel Bergmann and J. Carmel also believe that Jesus arose from the dead as well.
In fact, and despite what you might have been taught during your Bar/Bat Mitzvah days, even the early rabbis in the Talmud (BT Sanhedrin 90B) believed that the Torah advocated that resurrection (i.e., life after death) was not just a Christian belief but also a Jewish belief as well. Why? Because Judaism had not yet abandoned a belief in the possibility in the miraculous and the possible as today’s Judaism has (see What’s the Incarnation?).
The legend of the original and miraculous Rainmaker – “Honi the Circle Drawer” – existed before and during Jesus’ time (BT Ta’anith 19A and 23A). There was a hope and belief in something and someone greater than this David Hume-type temporal world in Judaism.
One woman who you might enjoy reading more about is Joy Davidman. She was a fascinating woman and one who found life beyond the Humean-Jewish world of today. She was the wife of C. S. Lewis, a former Communist, and a Jewish believer in Jesus. In 1954, Davidman in her work Smoke on the Mountain: An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments wrote an awesome thought –
“We live in an age of lost faith and lost hope and empty hearts. Today the Commandment, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me’, must include, ‘Thou shalt have me.’”
She found faith, hope and her heart when she “explored Messiah.” Surprised, yet? If so or even if not, I hope you will give Explore Messiah…? just a few minutes to try and surprise you just maybe a little…
Messianic Expectation during Jesus’ time
Despite what you might have been told, the first century of the Common Era (CE or AD if you prefer the “old way”) was a hotbed of Messianic expectation. In fact, the Christian Bible in the book of Acts mentions two of the many false leaders – Theudas and Judas – who claimed to be the Messiah and led failed resurrections against Rome (Acts 5:34-39). What we know about the Biblical names of Theudas and Judas is limited except that Theudas is not the same individual mentioned by Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews and that Judas led a rebellion against high and unfair taxes. The reason that our knowledge is so limited is because these rebel leaders failed and rarely do failed leaders even get a footnote in history as Rabbi Gamaliel noted:
And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men [disciples of Jesus], and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. (Acts 5:38-39; KJV – Public Domain)
Theudas and Judas did get a footnote but that was about it… There are others that Josephus mentions in Antiquities of the Jews but I don’t think you want a history lesson. Okay … just a little more.
Both 2 Chronicles and Malachi were written about 450 to 430 BCE (give or take a decade) and these are the last two official books of the Hebrew Scriptures. This is why Malachi is the last book of the Christian Bible because the compilers put them in order according to the prophets and the Hebrew Scriptures are put in this order – Torah, Prophets and Writings. No big deal but I thought I would explain if you were curious.
Anyway … Christian scholars call the period between Malachi and the birth of Jesus the Intertestamental Period – a term I don’t care for because I don’t feel as if there is a break but I will explain this in a later section of the website. During this “whatever you want to call it” period before Jesus was born, there was a lot of Messianic expectation because one of Malachi’s last promises was this mysterious prophecy in Malachi 3:23-24 (4:5-6 in the Christian Bible numbering):
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. (KJV — Public Domain)
Everyone was trying to figure out whether Elijah was literally coming back or someone representing Elijah was coming to announce the arrival of the Messiah. And, yes, this is the verse that explains why you have a place for Elijah at Passover every year! For it was understood that the Messiah would show up at Passover. Hmm…
This is also why in John 1, we have on two separate occasions people asking John the Baptizer, “Are you Elijah?” He did not understand his role as an Elijah-type but he did get one job right in John 1:29 – he knew how to make an announcement:
This period was also the beginning of the Two Messiahs Movement – Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David. There was an understanding up until Jesus that there would be two Messiahs – one who would suffer for the people and one who would triumph for the people (BT Sukkah 52A). Jesus came to show that there would be One Messiah who would come twice – once to suffer and once to triumph. Interestingly, this idea was so unique and wow-inducing that even the disciples who obviously knew about ben Joseph and ben David were ready for Jesus to do the triumphing part in Acts 1 until Jesus told them that they (and we) would have to wait until it was the right time.
So, yes, the Jewish people were waiting for the Messiah in Jesus’ time. And we haven’t even touched Daniel 9:24-27! But more on that passage later as well.
Jesus and the Resurrection Issue
In 2007, James Cameron of Titanic fame decided to go on a hunt for Jesus’ tomb (see here for more information). This exploration turned out to be a bit of a bust but his partner in the venture has not given up and in 2015 announced that he really had found the tomb (click here). However, there are a couple of problems with this claim – you cannot access the supposed tomb!
Today the Talpiot tomb is sealed underground between apartment buildings in East Talpiot, and its ossuaries are back with the Antiquities Authority. The James Ossuary is with its owner, Golan, who according to The New York Times, keeps the box in a secret location.
So … what about the arguments FOR Jesus’ resurrection? Is there a Jewish argument to be made for it and not just the one that the world sees and calls “Easter”? YES … there are five simple responses that have not only a Jewish basis but are about as Jewish as you can get except there is no Matzah Ball Soup involved.
- The account one can read in 1 Corinthians 15 has THREE Jewish approaches, styles, and arguments:
- The dating of 1 Corinthians is one of the earliest books that Paul wrote – perhaps even the first (circa CE 45)
- The original or earliest manuscripts of this section are in Aramaic – or the language of Judea at the time of the apostles and Jesus
- The manner of 1 Corinthians 15 follows the Jewish style of the Oral Tradition which Paul simply wrote down – and all the eyewitnesses in the 1 Corinthians account were Jewish!
- All other followers of “messiahs” disappeared after the death of the leader – only Jesus’ followers continued and spread the message of the empty tomb as this was important to the Jewish concept of Resurrection. Additionally, they were even willing to die for the message of the resurrection whereas other followers (including Bar Kokhba’s and most of Shabbatai Zevi’ disappeared)
- Miracles were still important in Jewish thought at the time and the resurrection is the greatest miracle of them all
- Post-resurrection followers of Jesus continued to meet at the Temple for worship as Jewish believers (i.e., the “church” began in the Temple) – read Acts 2 and following as it shows that until Acts 10 all the first believers in Jesus were Jewish.
- Arrival of the Holy Spirit coincided with the lone summer feast of Shavuot (aka Pentecost) to bridge Jesus’ First Arrival with the spring feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits (Death-Burial-Resurrection) and His future arrival with the Fall Feasts
If you would like to read a “nerdy” article about the whole James Cameron thing go to here. He was one of my PhD professors and Dr. Habermas is one of the most foremost experts on the resurrection argument.
What about all those resurrection legends?
In two minutes and a couple of seconds, Explore Messiah…? can answer the issue of “all those resurrection legends.” Interested?
Explore Messiah…? realizes that we have thrown a ton of information at you in this section but the resurrection question is really basic and important to the whole issue of believing or not believing in Jesus as Messiah. If you would like to discuss this idea with us more, come to the CAFÉ Kehillah Discussion Board and someone will either be there or will get back to you ASAP.
And remember that you can go back and check out the other two pages in this section — https://www.exploremessiah.com/did-jesus-even-exist/ and https://www.exploremessiah.com/jesus-claim-messiah-maybe-more/.