Analyzing Jesus: Was he really the Jewish Messiah?

Analyzing Jesus
Part Two: Was he really the Jewish Messiah?

The Star of DavidIn Part One of this series, we analyzed Jesus as a historical figure in history. The second part of this series is to address if Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, but in order to do that, we need to understand what Messianic Prophecies are. Scholars (Jewish and Christian) believe that the Bible (Old Testament) contains over 300 predictions about the Jewish Messiah. These predictions do not come from one source, but are from multiple authors in a variety of books ranging about 1,000 years. In other words, what we have here is an enormous “library” of statements made about the Jewish Messiah (what he will be like, what he will do, and so on).

Okay, so who cares? Well, in the effort to analyze Jesus effectively (like a lawyer would do), then it only makes sense to address these prophecies. Ignoring them would not be good litigation. One important aspect to the Messianic prophecies is that the Jewish Messiah has to fulfill ALL of them…not just one and not all but one. So in this case, Jesus has to fulfill every prophecy made by multiple authors over a 1,000 year stretch in order to be considered the true Messiah.

I don’t have the time or patience type up every single prophecy, but here are a few examples:

-He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14 / Matthew 1:21-23; Luke 1:26-35)
-He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2 / Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-7)
-He would be heralded by a messenger of the Lord (John the Baptist) (Isaiah 40:3-5; Malachi 3:1 / Matthew 3:1-3; 11:10; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 7:27)
-He would perform miracles (Isaiah 35:5-6; Matthew 9:35, and throughout the gospels)
-He would preach good news (Isaiah 61:1-2 / Luke 4:14-21)
-He would first present himself as king 173,880 days from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25 / Matthew 21:4-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-38)
-He would enter Jerusalem as king riding a donkey (Zechariah 9:9 / Matthew 21:4-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-38)
-He would die a humiliating and painful death (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53 / Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19)
-His hands and feet would be pierced (Psalm 22:16; / Crucifixion accounts of Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19)
-His executioners would cast lots for his clothing (Psalm 22:18; John 19:23-24)
-None of his bones would be broken in his execution (Psalm 34:20; John 19:32-36)
-His side would be pierced (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34-37)
-He would die with the wicked and be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60)

At this point, it is quite clear that it’s a mathematical impossibility for one man to fullfill all 300+ prophecies by accident, Peter Stoner believed the same way.
“Professor Peter Stoner (1888-1980) discovered the same thing. Stoner was Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College until 1953, and Chairman of the Science Division of Westmont College from 1953 to 1957. Stoner calculated the probability of one man fulfilling only a handful of the over 300 Messianic prophecies. In 1944, he published his research results in Science Speaks: Scientific Proof of the Accuracy of Prophecy and the Bible. Stoner concluded that the probability of one person fulfilling just eight of the specific prophecies was one chance in 10 raised to the 17th power (one followed by 17 zeros). How about one person fulfilling just 48 of the over 300 prophecies? Stoner calculated these odds at one chance in 10 raised to the 157 power — way beyond statistical impossibility!”

But is this really true statistical science? You Bet. In fact, the American Scientific Affiliation gave Stoner’s work their stamp of approval:

The manuscript for Science Speaks has been carefully reviewed by a committee of the American Scientific Affiliation members and by the Executive Council of the same group and has been found, in general, to be dependable and accurate in regard to the scientific material presented. The mathematical analysis included is based upon principles of probability which are thoroughly sound and Professor Stoner has applied these principles in a proper and convincing way.”

I am a reasonable person, and in objectively looking at this supported data, it seems extremely likely that Jesus was in fact the Jewish Messiah. I should note that the prophecies were not so general that anyone could fulifill it. According to one source:

The Book of Daniel was written 500 years before the birth of Jesus. In Chapter 9, Daniel predicts the very day that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem and present himself as king for the first time. The prophecy states that 69 weeks of years (69 x 7 = 483 years) would pass from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the coming of the Messiah. 3 Since Daniel was written in Babylon during the Jewish captivity after the fall of Jerusalem, this prophecy was based on the Babylonian 360-day calendar. Thus, 483 years x 360 days = 173,880 days.

According to records found in the Shushan (Susa) Palace, and confirmed in Nehemiah 2:1, the decree to rebuild Jerusalem was issued by the Persian king, Artaxerxes Longimanus, on March 5, 444 BC. Remarkably, 173,880 days later (adjusting for leap years), on March 30, 33 AD, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9).4 Five days later, Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross just outside Jerusalem. (Actually, the form of his execution and even his last words were foretold hundreds of years earlier in Psalm 22.) Three days later, the New Testament accounts declare that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, fulfilling numerous other prophecies of the long-awaited Messiah.

Artist's depiction of the First Temple, according to Biblical descriptions Like I said, the probability of one man accidentally fulfilling this stuff does not seem very likely in the least bit. Note that my intent is not to “convert” any of you reading this. No, instead I am merely presenting information for us to analyze together regarding Jesus. I came to my conclusion, and you can come to your own. My plea to you, however, is to really consider the facts… perhaps do your own research if you feel the need.

So after all this information, I bet some of you may be wondering, “couldn’t have all the stuff about Jesus fulfilling prophecy have just been added by zealots after his death?”. I will analyze this question in the next installment.

God Bless,

Justin

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21 Responses

  1. Justin,

    Scholars (Jewish and Christian) believe that the Bible (Old Testament) contains over 300 predictions about the Jewish Messiah

    I don’t think those who follow the Jewish religion would agree with you on this — from what I can see, Judaism has quite a few criteria that they say Jesus didn’t fufill. They also don’t hold some of the events on that list as prophecies. They had a different concept of the Messiah than what Christianity represents, and it had precise criteria. They had that list because they wanted to make sure they could identify the Messiah when he arrived.

    For example, the virgin prophecy. Judaism doesn’t hold that Isaiah 7:14 speaks of a virgin birth (given the differences between virgin/young woman translation, and it also holds that Isaiah 7 was for that specific time.

    I understand what you’re saying in terms of the prophecies, but I think you might want to re-phrase it as scholars from a Christian viewpoint, whether studying Judaism or Christianity.

  2. Hi Heather,
    I understand what your getting at. The fact that the Jews don’t view Jesus as the messiah must mean that they believe he didn’t “meet” the criteria. One of the biggest differences of course being that the Jews believed the Messiah would be a Political power/king (like David)…hence why Satan tempted him with all the Kingdoms of the earth (because it would mean fulfiling what others expected). However, in typical Jesus fashion, he flipped the notion of the Messiah completely from earthly perceptions.

  3. Justin,

    The fact that the Jews don’t view Jesus as the messiah must mean that they believe he didn’t “meet” the criteria.

    Well, the reason why they had that criteria was to ensure that the person they were following was actually the Messiah, and it was precise so that there’d be no confusion, and no one going astray. The Isaiah verse, the Psalms verses, even Isaiah 53 — they don’t consider those prophecies of the Messiah.

    What they were looking for was one who would restore the third Temple, gather all the Jews back to Israel, bring world peace, and make the knowledge of the Jewish God universal (and Judaism has no concept of the Second Coming. All this was to be accomplished the first time the Messiah arrived). He’d also be a descendent of David through the father’s line, genetically (adoption doesn’t change one’s status under the Jewish law), and guide all Jews in observing the Torah.

  4. Justin,

    Heather has hit on one of the main causes that stand in the way of finding truth.
    The Jewish people had and have a preconceived image of the Messiah. They had a list to make sure He would be the kind of Messiah that they wanted and if He didn’t fit their criteria they did not, nor do not want Him.
    If one has an image and a fact doesn’t fit it then either they must twist the fact or set it aside and never consider it.
    Those who have decided not to believe there is a God have theories that are based on other theories, which are based on other th……. Something like Atlas standing on a turtle, standing on a turtle, standing…….. There is no end of theories or turtles.

  5. astudent,
    I agree with you and your analysis of what Heather has brought up. The Jews had their own idea of how the Messiah was to be, and therefore could not see the truth behind Jesus because he didn’t fit their ‘human’ check-list. In other words, they were living in and for the flesh, unable to understand the spiritual truth.

  6. The problem with saying that they had a human check list, or even that they are living in the flesh, is that it’s not really addressing their reasons. Rather, it’s coming across as saying that their reasons don’t even need to be examined, because they aren’t in the right perspective.

    If you ask a Jewish person, they wouldn’t say it was due to a human check-list. Rather, they would say their criteria was given to them by God, so that they wouldn’t follow a false Messiah. They didn’t create their own check-list. Their list, and the qualifications of the Messiah, were given to them by God. Otherwise, they’d risk following anyone who claimed to be the Messiah. In their minds, they had nothing to do with the criteria — God did. After all, Christianity has a very clear set of creeds in order to determine who is actually Christian. The same method applies to the Messianic belief in Judaism.

    For instance, take the prophecies that Jesus fufilled. Many of those were considered prophecies after the fact — after the crucifixion and resurrection. They weren’t considered prophecies before any of that occured. But in many ways, that defeats the point of a prophecy, because it doesn’t provide a guideline of what to expect or who to follow. It can come across as prior statements in the Bible were re-interpreted to fit current events, and that is precisely why Judaism had such a clear outline of the Messiah: so that they could make sure the Messiah was valid and not up to one particular person’s interpretation.

    I’m not arguing for one perspective or the other — I can see both sides. But it is frustrating to watch one religion be interpreted through the lens of another, because then no understanding will be reached. I can’t use Islam to interpret Christianity — if I did, of course I’d say that Christianity wasn’t valid. So to say that the Jews have human preconceived notions, or that they are living for the flesh, is almost looking at their religion in a superficial way, and if discussing this with a Jew, isn’t going to get you anywhere. Judaism considers Christianity polytheistic, because of the Trinity. But I’m sure you’d say that Judaism is seeing it superficially, and not trying to understand why Christianity says the Trinity is valid.

  7. Justin,

    An incredible post. I’m a huge fan. Clear, concise, and very comprehensive. Keep writing, bro.

    In general, I am amazed at how anthrocentric the argument is against biblical prophecy (as opposed to a key aspect of prophecy being theocentric).

    “Well, the reason why they had that criteria was to ensure that the person they were following was actually the Messiah, and it was precise so that there’d be no confusion, and no one going astray.”

    Since when did God ever do what humans expected? We see expectations being failed repeatedly from Genesis (Eve’s first seed, and then Seth failing to “crush the head of the serpent”), to Exodus (40 years in the wilderness), to 1 Samuel (Saul as a horrible king), to the major prophets and the exile to Babylon. God shows repeatedly in the OT that He fulfills scripture perfectly according to His plan, but that we often “don’t get” what His plan is. The role of the prophet was to be God’s voice when His people went astray.

    The argument that, “well, Jesus can’t be the Messiah because the Jews are expecting something different” just does not hold water in light of their own history. Scripture has shown us, if NOTHING else, that God speaks and not everyone listens.

    This reminds me of how often I have prayed for something I wanted, and God answered by giving me something I NEEDED. I don’t always “like” what I “need” more than what I “want.”

  8. Heather,
    I accept your point about interpreting religion through religion lenses. I am not ignorant to the fact that Jews have well thought out reasons why they believe Jesus to not be the Messiah.

    Although I am a Christian, Paul explains that we are all children of Abraham (Jews) through Christ in the spirit. We must be aware that the first “Christians” were actually just a sect of Judaism. Their was zero intent to create another “religion”, but instead to inform other Jews that the Messiah has come (using their own holy book as evidence). The division between “religions” finally came when the Jewish leadership tried to separate themselves from the “extremists” (Christians) so they could be considered a legal relgion in the Roman empire. In other words, they couldnt have a minority of people in their religion causing problems with the Roman empire…especially when trying to rebuild their reputation (which was destroyed during the Jewish-Roman war in 66).

    History aside, I am sympathetic to your frusterations as I share in them somtimes.

    God Bless.

  9. Brad,

    Since when did God ever do what humans expected?

    Except again — this is going back to human expectations, in that the Jews imposed human expectations upon the Messiah. That is not how they state it: God imposed the expectations, to prevent false Messiahs from running amok (not that it stopped false Messiahs, granted) and to prevent the Jewish people from going astray. They would argue that God did speak in giving the Messiah criteria, and would agree with you that not everyone listens. There are just different interpretations as to what is being said.

    Scripture has shown us, if NOTHING else, that God speaks and not everyone listens.

    I’m not sure what you mean by their own history demonstrating this. Their own history shows a clear set of guidelines established that they strayed from, and had to come back to. God spoke, they were supposed to follow, and the prophets were sent to return the people to what was originally spoken. saying that God was displeased that they were ignoring what was originally said. So, yes, they would say the Tanakh points to not everyone listening. But the way you’re phrasing it makes it sound as though God, in speaking, alters what was previously said. The Jews were expecting someone different because of what God told them to expect.

    God shows repeatedly in the OT that He fulfills scripture perfectly according to His plan, but that we often “don’t get” what His plan is.

    The complication, though, is that it’s now argued that Christianity “gets” what the plan is, and Judaism doesn’t.

    Justin,

    We must be aware that the first “Christians” were actually just a sect of Judaism. Their was zero intent to create another “religion”, but instead to inform other Jews that the Messiah has come (using their own holy book as evidence).

    Yes. Their original intention was to demonstrate what they perceived as God’s fufillment. It’s amazing how many don’t realize this. Or that Jesus was Jewish.

  10. Man, this is a great subject. I had not investigated just how the Jewish people viewed Jesus and I see that they have some valid questions. I believe that God has granted me more understanding and I can see how Jesus meets some more of their list. I will post it when I can write it well enough to be understood. Well, when I think it is understandable.
    (Yes, you will call me nuts, but I’m use to it)

    Heather,
    Yes, Christians do “get” it and if we are right Judaism doesn’t. We both can not be right. I am not trying to belittle anyone who is Jewish. Both the New Testament and Old came from the Jews and I am grateful for the Jewish people. We believe, as Jews do, that the Old Testament is the Word of God and is completely true. We (neither of us) just do not understand it all (Yet).

  11. “Except again — this is going back to human expectations, in that the Jews imposed human expectations upon the Messiah. That is not how they state it: God imposed the expectations, to prevent false Messiahs from running amok (not that it stopped false Messiahs, granted) and to prevent the Jewish people from going astray.”

    Exactly my point. Human expectations are sin-tainted and flawed. They did not expect the messiah in the form and manner he acted because they focused on what they wanted (earthly comfort) and not what they truly needed (earthly and heavenly REDEMPTION).

    “I’m not sure what you mean by their own history demonstrating this. “
    I am referring to the accounts in exodus, 1 and 2 samuel, the babylonian exile, etc. In almost every case, some form of exile was imposed because Israel failed in listening to (or acting on) God’s word.

    “But the way you’re phrasing it makes it sound as though God, in speaking, alters what was previously said. The Jews were expecting someone different because of what God told them to expect.”
    By NO MEANS! Absolutely not! I am not saying that ANYTHING about God’s plan, his communication of it, or results were anything aside from what he planned and expected from the beginning. God is objective, unadultered truth. We are flawed, sinful, and subjective in our perception of Him. God reveals truth to us and we may interpret it correctly or incorrectly. We know that the Christian interpretation is correct because, and ONLY because, Truth itself walked among us and told us about Himself. There is no room for interpretation in the incarnated truth.

    “The complication, though, is that it’s now argued that Christianity “gets” what the plan is, and Judaism doesn’t. “

    Absolutely. It is a relativistic fallacy that all opinions or interpretations are equally valid. Some are closer than others, and no single one is 100% correct about every aspect in an objective sense. Judaism is correct about many things, but about the messiah it is not. Only God completely “gets” what the plan is, but in reference to NT prophecy and the identity of the messiah, yes, Christianity is correct and Judaism is wrong.

  12. Justin,

    The Babylonian Calendar was 12 months on a lunar cycle, or approx. 354 days. To compensate for the difference between the 365 days for the rotation of the earth, occasionally an extra month was added.

    What does that do to the claimed Daniel Prophecy?

  13. […] defined as “eisegesis”).  Examples of this can be found in conversations here, and here. Either way, the response is due to an “anthrocentric” (man-centered) focus in reading […]

  14. Brad,

    **Exactly my point. Human expectations are sin-tainted and flawed. They did not expect the messiah in the form and manner he acted because they focused on what they wanted (earthly comfort) and not what they truly needed (earthly and heavenly REDEMPTION).**

    But this is not what I’m saying, because I say that the Jews don’t see it as imposing human expectations, and that’s how you are addressing it. Nowhere do I state that they rejected Jesus because he didn’t match what they wanted. They weren’t focusing on what they wanted, they were focusing on what God told them to expect. From their POV, they had nothing to do with determining the characteristics of the Messiah, and it wasn’t what they wanted, it was what God promised, which included that redemption, such as all would know the one true God and follow that God. I don’t know, maybe we’re speaking at cross-purposes here. THis is how they see it: God told them that the Messiah would be blue, and Jesus ended up being red. Therefore, Jesus is not the Messiah, because he doesn’t meet what God told the Jews to expect in the Messiah. They didn’t say that the Messiah would be blue. God did. What you appear to be saying is that the Jews decided, of their own accord and with no input from God, that the Messiah had to be blue.

    This is also around the second or third time that I have seen a reference to Judaism rejecting Jesus because it/they wanted earthly comforts, it was following the flesh or a combination of the two reasons. They were waiting for redemption, they were waiting for peace and justice and so other things that have a spiritual element, and are something that every human needs at one point or another (or perpetually). Now, you can say that they received those in the form of Jesus. But please stop saying that they choose earthly comforts or along those lines instead. It makes it sound as though they wanted a Messiah who was going to allow them to sit around all day eating good foods or something, or they wanted a Messiah who would allow them to do whatever they wanted. That may not be what you mean — but anytime there is a contrast like this, that will be the perception.

  15. Brad,

    In clarification, I’m not saying that you and you alone are using the phrases that signify selfish desires in the rejection of Jesus. I’m seeing it from quite a few corners, and the request to stop using those phrases was in general, not a way to attack you or shine a spotlight on you (which, by clarifying ,I may be doing anyway) That wasn’t my intention. I simply find any … well, it’s almost a generalization like that almost dismissive. It would be like a Muslim telling us that we don’t follow Allah because we want to go after our sinful desires and can do that by following Jesus, rather than submitting to Allah. I’d find that irksome, because it would show absolutely no understanding of Christianity. Now, I know that you do study the Judaic context. But to say that they rejected Jesus back then because of pursuing earthly desires is basically going to be interpreted by a modern Jew that s/he is only concerned with sin because s/he rejects Jesus — even though this Jew may be very devout, have a sincere love for God and a sincere desire to follow/please God.

    And I know that I’ve done it previously in regards to comments on Christianity, and no doubt other major religions, or even other areas (such as politics, I know I do it in politics), so I’m hoping this isn’t looking like the mote vs. the beam. But religion is tricky because of all the claims of “we have the truth” flying around.

  16. it would be like a Muslim telling us that we don’t follow Allah because we want to go after our sinful desires and can do that by following Jesus, rather than submitting to Allah. I’d find that irksome, because it would show absolutely no understanding of Christianity.

    that is a very good point Heather. I tend to tune out those kind of statements when I hear them.

  17. Heather,

    First, I greatly appreciate your rebuke. I think you are dead on. The way in which I was tackling this subject betrayed that exactly. Here is what I should have said in reference to “earthly comforts:”

    Israel expected/wanted a full redemption: creature comforts, independence from Roman rule (a practical return from exile), and restoration as God’s people and chosen nation in the world. As is commonly stated by my professors, “God did for Jesus (resurection and redemption) in the middle of history what He will do for all of His people (Israel) at the end of history.” Judaism says that Christ cannot be the Messiah because all of God’s people have not been fully redeemed with his coming.

    I think that accurately communicates what I was trying to say. Again, I greatly appreciate the kind and deserved rebuke! You are very correct in my oversimplification.

    I think that also covers my view on the color analogy, except I would say also that God told them the messiah would be red and full redemption would be blue, but they thought God was saying that the messiah would be purple (both messiah and full redemption). Thus many did not (and do not) receive him because they expected both to happen at the same time (which, to my understanding, God did not reveal either way if it would or not).

    Does that make sense?

  18. Justin,

    **I tend to tune out those kind of statements when I hear them.**

    I try to do that as well. It doesn’t always work. 🙂

    Brad,

    After reading what you substituted for “earthly comforts,” I can see why you went with earthly comforts instead — it’s a lot shorter. 😉

    I’m also glad you took my comment in the spirit it was intended — had this been in person, it probably would’ve been a lot easier, as online forums can distort tone. I just posted thinking, “Please don’t let him think I’m attacking him.” And I was painfully aware that I’ve done this with theological positions I don’t agree with.

    **Judaism says that Christ cannot be the Messiah because all of God’s people have not been fully redeemed with his coming.**
    I would say there were a few other stipulations as well, with the direct descent on the father’s line, restoring the third temple and bringing all people to an understanding of God. I think you’ve hit it head-on with Christianity saying that Jesus was the first-fruits of all of this, to be completed at the end. Whereas Judaism held that it was a one-shot deal, able to be detected by certain events occuring, and not being completed at a second coming.

    I do understand your view on the color analogy, and understand the Christian perception of the OT. I think saying that Judaism thought God said purple works a lot better than Judaism had human expectations, because the latter is often associated with selfish desires. Whereas saying they thought it was purple (hmm, is that an oversimplification in itself? 😉 captures the fact that they believe they are following what God told them, rather than what they determined for themselves.

    I just wince at oversimplifications, overall. All the major religions have incredibly complexities, and yet there are people in each which oversimply the other religions in order to show why their religion is the one true superior one. To me, if my religion is the best, then I should be able to demonstrate that by understanding and relating the complexities of the other religion. Otherwise, neither religion is painted in the best light.

    Anyway, I think we’ve pretty much reached the end of this conversation? I feel that if we continue, we’ll just re-hash events we’ve already covered. But thank you for being a gracious conversationalist.

  19. “After reading what you substituted for “earthly comforts,” I can see why you went with earthly comforts instead — it’s a lot shorter. ;)”

    Hahaha… yes well, it may be shorter, but what I meant by it was also wrong. I committed an overemphasis that you were very correct in pointing out not just in my communication, but my own understanding. It was an oversimplification I was quite guilty of!

    “I think you’ve hit it head-on with Christianity saying that Jesus was the first-fruits of all of this, to be completed at the end. Whereas Judaism held that it was a one-shot deal, able to be detected by certain events occuring, and not being completed at a second coming.”

    Yes! We are definitely in agreement. And yes, I also recognize that there were a few other factors involved, as you said, but would state that they were fulfilled at that time, just not in the way previously thought by Jewish scholars. Again, that is more a matter of interpretation, but one that is based far more on the meta-narrative of scripture than the individual verses.

    In Re: to oversimplification – I completely agree. 100%.

    “But thank you for being a gracious conversationalist.”
    And thank YOU for speaking the truth in love, and correcting me with a firm, yet affirming, hand. I would far rather I communicate the gospel correctly than appear correct! Otherwise, I am kind of defeating the purpose and certainly not testifying to the truth it claims. Good stuff!

  20. Here is the problem with the above verses you quoted. Isiah 7:14, is not virgin birth, but young women, that is a Christian Bible translation mistake. Here is how you solve all of this. Go, pick up any Bible, and read the CONTEXT of all of these verses and you come to find they do not mention Messiah or for that matter the context of Jesus Christ. Peace!

  21. Hi Colin,
    the Isaiah verse you bring up isn’t without controversy (naturally). You mention context, and I couldn’t agree more. We must consider the context of the hebrew used, and then compare it across the book.

    This Website can give you an idea of what I am referring to.

    God Bless.

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