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Basic Worldview:
104 Why Christianity?

Rabbinical Judaism Accepts
Christian Interpretations (Part 4)

Judaism and Christianity Introduction and History
History of Judaism Continued
Scholarly Objections and Historicity of Daniel (P. 1)
Historicity of Daniel (P. 2) & Judeo-Christian Syncretism
A Few Words on Gnosticism
Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (P. 1)
Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (P. 2) & Prophecy in Judaism
Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? (P. 1)
Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? (P. 2)
List of Messianic Qualifications & the Resurrection of Jesus (P. 1)
The Resurrection of Jesus (Part 2)
Study Conclusions and Overall Comparisons

Additional Material
The Sufferings of Eyewitnesses
Comparison of Mystical Religions to Judeo-Christianity
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 1)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 2)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 3)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 4)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 5)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 6)

| Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3


7. On The Messiah’s Divinity –
Typical Perception of Traditional Judaism:

God does not have a son and did not become incarnate. The Messiah will simply be a man. The New Testament Christian assertion that Isaiah 7 prophesies a virgin birth is a mistranslation of the passage. Micah 5 is not a Messianic prophecy and, as such, does not indicate the place of the Messiah’s birth.

Actual Interpretations of Talmudic (or Rabbinic) Judaism:

The Messiah is the same figure described in Isaiah as God’s suffering servant, in the Psalms as the Son of God, and in Daniel 7 as coming on the clouds of heaven to judge and rule the Earth. In Psalms the Messiah is called “elohim” (Hebrew for “God”). In Isaiah 45 the Messiah is called “El Gibbor” (Hebrew for “Mighty God”). As a result of such passages and others such as Isaiah 52-53, where the Messiah is said to be higher than the angels, the Messiah has been regarded as a divine, semi-divine, supernatural figure. The Messiah is also described as existing prior to his birth and having discourse with Old Testament figures. (In accordance with Old Testament teaching, some Hasidic Jews of Lubavitcher Hasidism claim that their deceased Grand Rabbi is both Messiah and God and that he will be resurrected from the dead and return.) The New Testament Christian view of a virgin birth is a legitimate possible interpretation of Isaiah 7 supported by the language of the text as interpreted even by non-Christian Jewish scholars before the time of Christ who translated the (Old Testament) Hebrew Bible into Greek (called the Septuagint.) The language of the prophecy also indicates something unique is occurring regarding the birth and that this remarkable aspect is related to the impossibility of the mother conceiving and bearing a child as a young woman. Micah 5 is a prophecy of the Messiah and foretells of his coming birth in Bethlehem.

24. For now, however we will return to Psalm 2 in the Tanakh in light of a homiletical Rabbinic commentary called Midrash Tehillim. The midrash is addressing the words, “I will declare the decree. The LORD said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have begotten you.’” Which decree, the rabbis ask, is being referred to here? First, it is answered, the text refers to the “decree of the Torah,” Exodus 4:22, where God calls Israel his firstborn son. In other words, just as Israel was God’s son, so also the king was God’s son. Next, it refers to “the decree of the Prophets,” citing Isaiah 52:13 (“Behold, my servant will act wisely”) and Isaiah 42:1 (“Here is my servant, who I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight”). Now, what is interesting here is that neither of these verses makes reference to the term son, yet they are among the most famous Messianic prophecies in the entire Bible, often pointed to by Christians with ultimate reference to Jesus. And the madrash ties them in with the king being called God’s son in Psalm 2:7! Next, the rabbis point to “the decree of the Writings” (i.e., the remainder of the Tanakh), citing Psalm 110:1, “The LORD said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand,’” a verse quoted by Jesus himself to demonstrate that as Messiah, he was more than just David’s son, since David in Psalm 110 called him “my lord” (see Matt. 22:42-45). And all this is given in explanation of “the decree” proclaiming the Davidic king as God’s son. But it gets even better. The final verse cited is Daniel 7:13: “In my vision at night I looked and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.” Thus, in light of this Rabbinic compilation of Scripture the exalted figure coming in the clouds of heaven is none other than the Davidic king, the Son of God! (Remember this is Rabbinic midrash not New Testament commentary.) From a Messianic standpoint, this verse in Daniel is of critical importance...Now, let’s put this all together: According to this Midrash, the justification for calling the king the son of God is based on: (1) God calling Israel his firstborn son; (2) prophecies from Isaiah referring to the faithful servant of the Lord, clearly Messianic references; and (3) a royal psalm in which God says to the king, “Sit at my right hand,” and the glorious “son of man” prophecy from Daniel. If I didn’t read this myself in the Hebrew Midrash Tehillim, I would have thought that a Messianic Jew put these verses together. They are some of the most common texts that we quote, all with reference to Jesus the Messiah. And here the rabbis tie them in with the Davidic king as son of God. In fact, Rabbi Yudan states explicitly that the words “you are my son” refer to the Messiah. – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 41-42

25. In fact, according to Psalm 45 and Isaiah 9, this anointed king was even called “God.” Let’s look first at Psalm 45. To help you understand this psalm, spoken to the Davidic king, I will leave the Hebrew word ‘elohim (“God”) untranslated in the following verses:

You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since ‘elohim has blessed you forever…In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness, let your right hand display awesome deeds…Your throne, O ‘elohim, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore ‘elohim, your ‘elohim, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. Psalm 45:2, 4, 6, 7 [3, 5, 7, 8]

So this royal descendant of David is called ‘elohim: “Your throne, O God [‘elohim], will last for ever and ever”! To attempt to translate the key verse with “your divine throne” or “your throne is God” is force, to say the least. The most natural and obvious meaning is, “Your throne, O God,” spoken to the Davidic king!...To repeat this is the most natural and obvious meaning of the Hebrew, and no one would have questioned such a rendering had the entire paslm been addressed to God. 60 How then can the earthly king be called “’elohim”? – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 42-43

Footnote 60: There are at least two instances in Rabbinic literature in which this verse, removed from its context, is explicitly understood to mean, “Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever,” and is cited to prove that God’s throne is eternal; see Otsar HaMidrashim, Hekhalot, sec. 3; Shnei Luhot HaBerit, Sefer Bamidbar-Devarim, Parashat Shofetim, Torah Ohr, 2. This provides eloquent testimony to the fact that I have stressed in my discussion, namely, that no one would ever question the obvious and proper translation of this verse had it been in a different context.

On Isaiah 45:6-7 [5-6]

26. Modern Jewish versions attempt to find different solutions to the problem, 65 but the most obvious reading of the Hebrew text – just as in Psalm 45 – is that the titles are descriptive of the king himself, including “Mighty God” (‘el gibbor), and this view is commonly found in the Talmud (b. Sanhedrin 94a) and later Rabbinic writings, 66 and is expressly supported by the brilliant medieval commentator Abraham Ibn Ezra. In fact, in section nine of the Huppat Eliyahu in Otsar Midrashim, all of these names are given as titles of the Messiah. 67 Ibn Ezra, reflecting view expressed elsewhere in Rabbinic literature, explains the words as follows:

The correct view in my opinion is that all these are names of the child. 68 pele’ – because the Lord did wonders in his days;  yo’ets- such was Hezekiah [as it is written], “And the king took counsel” [see 2 Chron. 30:2]; ‘el gibbor – because he was strong, and the kingdom of the house of David was prolonged because of him; [‘abi] ad- the word ‘ad has the same meaning as “dwelling in eternity” [in Isa. 57:15];  sar shalom- because there was peace in his days.

There is only one problem with Ibn Ezra’s interpretation: He explains how the word gibbor (strong one, hero, warrior) could apply to Hezekiah, but he fails to explain how the word ‘el, “God” could refer to him. 69 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 46

Footnote 66: According to Midrash Bereshit 97:6 and Midrash Ruth 7:5, these verse speak of the six qualities of Hezekiah; see also Pesikta Rabbati 46:4, which refers these titles to Hezekiah; cf. also Otsar Midrashim, Yaakov Avinu, sec. 6.

Footnote 67: See also Otsar Midrashim, Rabbeinu HaKadosh, sec. 7.

79. With regard to the divinity of the Messiah, it is true there is not one traditional Jewish source that speaks of his divine nature, but there are certainly important sources that speak of his supernatural qualities to the point that scholars have described these aspects of the tradition Jewish Messiah as “semi-divine.” 258 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 214

Footnote 358: This is actually the term used on the front flap on Lenowitz volume: “The word ‘messiah’ meaning ‘anointed one,’ comes from the Hebrew Bible where it refers to holy prophets and priests as well as kings. In later Judaism it is associated with a semi-divine figure whose future reign will usher in everlasting justice, security, and peace.” For the more detailed statements of Lenowitz, see ibid., 11: “The biblical accounts of anointment make it clear that messiahs have a peculiar relationship with the divine…Supernaturalism comes to enrich the portrait of king-messiah, as the political necessities of the Davidic dynasty demand theological validation.” For his use of the term “quasi-divine” (ibid.), see above, n. 55.

80. The Scripture verse reads, “See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.” This is explained in the midrash as follows:

Who art thou, O great mountain?  (Zech. iv. 7.) This refers to the King Messiah. And why does he call him “the great mountain?” because he is greater than the patriarchs, as it is said, “My servant shall be high, and lifted up, and lofty exceedingly” – he will be higher than Abraham, who says, “I raise high my hands unto the Lord” (Gen. xiv. 22); lifted up above Moses, to whom it is said, “Lift it up in thy bosom” (Num. xi. 12); loftier than the ministering angles, of whom it is written, “Their wheels were lofty and terrible” (Ez. i. 18). And out of whom does he come forth? Out of David (Yalqut Shim’oni 2:571). 359 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 214

Footnote: 359: As translated in Driver and Neubauer, Fifty-Third Chapter of Isaiah, their emphasis.

81. Rabbi Don Yitshaq Abravanel, the illustrious Spanish Bible commentator and philosopher, helps put this in context. 361 Noting that the midrash explains Isaiah 52:13 with reference to “the King Messiah,” Abravanel states:

It is extremely difficult to understand how any child of man can be exalted above Moses, of whom the Law bears witness, saying, “No prophet ever arose in Israel like him” (Deut. xxxiv. 10); still more so, then, how any one “born of woman” can assume a position higher than the angels, whose substance admits nothing above it except the substance of the First Cause: from the latter expression, in fact, Christian teachers have attempted to establish their doctrine of the Divinity of the Messiah. 362 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 215

Footnote 361: Sometimes spelled Abrabanel, Abarbanel, or Abarvanel. (Driver and Neubauer, Fifty-Third Chapter of Isaiah, 2:78).

Footnote 362: Ibid., 2:154.

82. Just look at what Moshe Ibn Crispin (fourteenth century) wrote about the Messiah’s exaltation above the angels:

Exceedingly above the ministering angels, because that same comprehensive intelligence will approach [God] more nearly than theirs. For it is an exceedingly high privilege, that one whose nature is compound and material should attain to a grade of intelligence more nearly Divine than that which belongs to the incorporeal; and so it is said of him that “his strength is greater than that of the ministering angels,” because these have no impediment in the exercise of their intellect, whereas that which is compound is continually impeded in consequence of material element in its nature. Accordingly the grade of his intelligence being such as this, he is said to be “lofty exceedingly,” and his strength to be “greater than the angels.”…And when this “servant of the Lord” is born, from the day when he comes to years of discretion, he will continue to be marked by the possession of intelligence enabling him to acquire from God what it is impossible for any to acquire until he reaches that height whither none of the sons of men, except him, have ever ascended. 365 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 215-216

Footnote 365: Driver and Neubauer, Fifty-Third Chapter of Isaiah, 2:102-3, their emphasis; additional portions of Ibn Crispin’s commentary, which next describes the Messiah’s sufferings, are excerpted below, 3.23.

83. When you couple descriptions such as these with other traditions that speak of the Messiah’s preexistence (or the preexistence of his name; see b. Pesahim 54a; Nedarim 39b) 366 or his coming in the clouds of heaven (b. Sanhedrin 96b-97a), it is easy to see that there are, in fact, Jewish traditions that recognized the exalted, superhuman, and even semi-divine stature of the Messiah. As we also pointed out at the beginning of this answer, there are also important, religious Jewish texts dating to the last centuries B.C.E. and the first centuries C.E. that speak of a heavenly Messiah. However, because they are not part of the main body of Rabbinic literature, most traditional Jews are unaware of their content. John Collins offers this analysis of some of these texts:

In Jewish writings the emphasis on the heavenly character of the savior king appears in the texts of the first century CE, especially in the period after the failure of the first revolt against Rome and the destruction of the Temple (4 Ezra, Sib[ylline] Or[acles] 5). We may suspect, then, that it reflects a certain disillusionment with messiahs of human, earthly origin. The disillusionment was not complete, as can be seen from the messianic revolts of the early second century. Also the hope for a heavenly deliverer, under God, is attested in the early apocalyptic literature, notably Daniel 7, and the heavenly messiah of the Similitudes [of Enoch] is likely to be older than 70 CE. What we find in the writings of the first century CE, however, is a tendency to combine traditions about Davidic messiah with the expectation of a heavenly savior. There was, then, some flexibility in the use of messianic traditions in this period. Daniel’s “one like a son of man” could be understood either as a purely heavenly figure (in the Similitudes) or as a messiah who operates on earth to restore Israel (4 Ezra). Danielic imagery could be applied to the Davidic messiah to give him a more heavenly, transcendent character than is apparent in other sources. 367 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 216

Footnote 367: Collins, The Scepter and the Star, 189.

84. We saw above (3.3) that the Midrash to Psalm 2:7 – in which the Davidic king (i.e., King Messiah, according to Rabbi Yudan) is called God’s son – joined several key Scriptural passages together, interpreting them with reference to the Lord’s anointed one. The verses were (1) Exodus 4:22, in which God calls Israel his firstborn son, meaning that just as Israel was God’s son so also the king was God’s son; (2) Isaiah 52:13, “Behold, my servant will act wisely,” and Isaiah 42:1, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight,” 364 equating the king with the servant of the Lord; (3) Psalm 110:1, “The LORD said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand,’” a verse quoted by Jesus himself to demonstrate that as Messiah he was more than just David’s son, since David in this psalm called him “my lord”; and (4) Daniel 7:13, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven,” another verse applied by Jesus to his own Messianic mission. Putting this Rabbinic compilation of Scripture together, we see that the exalted figure coming in the clouds of heaven is none other than the Davidic king, the Son of God. – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 216-217

85. According to the Talmud, there was a debate between some of the leading sages concerning the meaning of “thrones” in the plural:

One verse says: His throne was fiery flames and another verse says: Until thrones were places, and one that was the Ancient of Days did sit [both of these citations come from Dan. 7:9!] There is no contradiction: One [throne] for Him and one for David [meaning the Messiah]. As it has been taught: One [throne] for Him and one for David [meaning the Messiah]. These are the words of R. Akiva. R. Yosi the Galilean said him: “Akiva! How long will you treat the divine presence [Hebrew, shekhina] as profane! Rather, one [throne] for justice and one for grace. Did he accept this explanation from him or did he not accept it? Come and hear: One for justice and one for grace; these are the words of R. Akiva (b. Hagigah 14a; note that in the ensuing discussion R. Elazar ben Azariah rejects both interpretations, claiming that one throne is for sitting, the other for a footstool!).

Could it be that Rabbi Akiva’s first interpretation was correct and that there was a throne for the Ancient of Days and a throne for his Messiah? – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 218

86. Sadly, in our own day thousands of zealous, devoted Jews continue to proclaim that their deceased Grand Rabbi, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Rebbe, is actually King Messiah (see also below, 3.23, and n. 405). But it does not stop there. As Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok observers:

Some followers of the Rebbe have even gone so far as to use incarnational terminology in describing his mission. [The incarnation, as you may recall from our previous discussion above, 3.2, refers to God taking on human form. Now the Rebbe’s followers are applying incarnational terminology to him.] During his lifetime, the Rebbe was referred to as the “Essence of the Infinite”; today some Lubavicher Hasidim [i.e., some of the Rebbe’s disciples] talk of him as “Master of the Universe.” 376

Not surprisingly, such claims have brought sharp rebukes from non-Hasidic (but quite Orthodox) Jews, especially in Israel. In fact, in response to the claims of the Lubavichers (known as Chabad), followers of Rav Eliezer Schach, an active leader well into his nineties, posted a large billboard in Hebrew reading:

In the words of Chabad themselves:
The Rebbe Is the Messiah
and Even the Creator of the World Himself

As described by Samuel Heilman, beneath these words “was reproduced the masthead of the Lubavitcher newsletter…and the following paragraph from an article in it, circled and enlarged:

…the Messiah at the time of redemption will be revealed to all people to be made not of flesh and blood, not even flesh and blood like our great teacher Moses, but rather to be the Holy One, blessed be He, himself!

“Juxtaposed to this was another quotation: ‘Soon indeed His Holiness, our master, teacher, and rabbi, May He Live for Many Good Days, Amen – the King, the Messiah, in all his glory and grandeur will reveal himself.’ “Were the Lubavitchers saying their rabbi was the Messiah, even God himself? Careful readers would see in the Hebrew letters for ‘indeed’…- (English: M-M-S) – the initials of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s name. To opponents like Rabbi Schach even this was appalling. ‘THIS PAINS US VERY MUCH!’ The poster concluded in giant letters. ‘But we cannot close our eyes to the facts.’” 377 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 219-220

Footnote 376: Cohn-Sherbok, The Jewish Messiah, xvi.

Footnote 377: Heilman, Defenders of the Faith, 303.

111. It is also interesting (and extremely well known) that the Septuagint translated the Hebrew ‘almah with the Greek parthenos (normally rendered “virgin”) more than two hundred years before the time of Jesus. This has been cited for the last two millennia as a further proof that ‘almah really meant “virgin.” Otherwise, why would the Jewish translators of the Septuagint render the Hebrew in that way before Jesus was born? Anti-missionaries have recently countered by pointing out that parthenos does not always mean “virgin” either, as evidenced by the Septuagint’s rendering of Genesis 34:3, where Dinah is still called a parthenos even after being raped. 72 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Messianic Prophecy Objections, p. 28

Footnote 72: According to Greek scholar Gerhard Delling, “In a special instance parthenos can even be a girl who has been raped, Gn. 34:3 for a na’arah (Hebrew],” Delling, “parthenos,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel for Gerhard Friedrich, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 5:833 (henceforth cited as TDNT). Note also that the Septuagint renders ‘almah with parthenos at Genesis 24:43.

112. He actually left out Rashi’s closing comments on verse 14, in which that illustrious Jewish commentator said something of great interest to Christians. As rendered by Rashi’s “official” English translator, Rabbi A. J. Rosenberg: “And some interpret that this is the sign, that she was a young girl [‘almah] and incapable of giving birth.” So the birth itself was unusual and perhaps even supernatural! 77 Does Rashi say that ‘almah means “virgin” here? Absolutely not. Does he say that Isaiah prophesied a virgin birth? Not at all. Does he apply the text to Jesus? Of course not. Yet despite his strong dislike for Christian interpretations of Messianic prophecy, he acknowledges that some Jewish commentators interpret the text to indicate that God’s sign to Ahaz had to do with the highly unusual nature of the birth: She would be an ‘almah – a young girl – and for such a woman to give birth would not be normal. 78 How interesting! Not only so, he also notes that the plural ‘alamot in Song of Solomon 1:3 means “virgins” (betulot). – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Messianic Prophecy Objections, p. 30

Footnote 77: Unless otherwise noted, all quotes from Rashi’s Bible commentary are from Rabbi A. J. Rosenberg, Judaica Press Complete Tanach with Rashi, CD ROM, ed. (New York: Davka Corporation and Judaica Press, 1999). Stern, JNTC, 930, is actually more conservative in his translation of Rashi, translating the key word r’uyah as “appropriate”: “she was an ‘almah for whom it was inappropriate that she give birth,” noting that “some interpret this to mean either that it was improper for her to give birth (presumably because she was unmarried, in which case what would be proper is that she would be a virgin), or that she was too young to be physically capable of giving birth (in which case, unless she had been abused, she would be a virgin).”

Footnote 78: When Rashi says, “Some say” (litarally, “some interpret.” potrin), he is citing a possible interpretation, otherwise he would not quote it at all (or he would quote it to refute it). In this case, he offers no refutation, but rather closes with this comment. For more on Rashi’s methodology, see the series by Avigdor Bonchek, What’s Bothering Rashi? 5 vols., to date (Jerusalem and New York: Feldheim, 1997-).

113. The oldest Jewish translation of Isaiah 9:6 [5], found in the Septuagint, understands all the names as referring to the king, rendering this verse into Greek as follows: “For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder: and his name is called the Messenger of great counsel [Megale he arche]: for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to him.” 84 The Targum, while explicitly identifying this as a Messianic prophecy, renders the verse in Aramaic with an interesting twist, “…and his name will be called from before the One who is wonderful in counsel, the mighty God who exists forever, Messiah, because there will be abundant peace upon us in his days” (translated literally). – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Messianic Prophecy Objections, p. 33

Footnote 84: As translated by Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton, The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English (repr., Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1986), 844.

114. In this light, the commentary of Rashi on Micah 5:2 [1] takes on added significance, since (1) he reads it as a clear Messianic prophecy; (2) he makes reference to Psalm 118:22, which says that the stone rejected by the builders has become the chief cornerstone (a verse quoted several times in the New Testament with reference to Yeshua, who was rejected by the leaders of his people but chosen by God); and (3) he interprets the end of the verse as pointing to the preexistence of the Messiah (or, at the least, of his name) rather than pointing to Bethlehem as the ancient city of David (which is made clear at the beginning of the verse). Here is Rashi’s commentary (words in bold indicate Scripture text):

1 And you Bethlehem Ephrathath when David emanated, as it is stated (I Sam. 17:58): “The son of your bondsman, Jesse the Bethlehemite.” And Bethlehem is called Ephrathath, as it is said (Gen. 48:7): “On the road to Ephrath, that is Bethlehem.” you should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah You should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah because of the stigma of Ruth the Moabitess in you. from you shall emerge for Me the Messiah, son of David, and so Scripture says (Ps. 118:22): “The stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone.” and his origin is from old “Before the sun his name is Yinnon” (Ps. 72:17). 103 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Messianic Prophecy Objections, p. 39

Footnote 103: Note that Psalm 72 is widely recognized as a Messianic psalm (at the least, based on principle 2 in the appendix), giving added weight to the fact that Rashi cites it here, especially since verse 17 seems to speak of eternal origins (“before the sun,” meaning either literal preexistence or conceptual preexistence). Interestingly, Rashi’s actual comment on Psalm 72:17 in his commentary on the Psalms seems to contradict his application of that verse in his commentary on Micah, since he applies it to Solomon and explains, “before the sun, his name will be magnified All the days of the sun, his name will be magnified.” See also above, n. 86, where it is noted that Yinnon is recognized as a name of the Messiah in the Rabbinic writings.

Footnote 86: Cf. the following Rabbinic statements: “R. Yose the Galilean said: “The name of the Messiah is Peace, for it is said, Everlasting Father, Prince Peace” (Midrash Pereq Shalom, p. 101); “The Messiah is called by eight names: Yinnon [see Ps. 72:17], Tzemach [e.g., Jer. 23:5]; Pele [Wonderful, Isa. 9:6 (5)], Yo’etz [Counselor, Isa. 9:6 (5)], Mashaich [Messiah], El [god, Isa. 9:6 (5)], Gibbor (Hero, Isa. 9:6 (5)], and Avi’ Ad Shalom [Eternal Father of Peace, Isa. 9:6 (5)]; see Deuteronomy Rabbah 1:20.

141. There is also a Talmudic reference to Psalm 2:7-8 in b. Sukkah 52a, the famous section dealing the Messiah ben Joseph, which is applied to Messiah son of David. It is written there:

Our Rabbis taught: The Holy One, blessed be He, will say to the Messiah, son of David (may he reveal himself speedily in our days!), “Ask of Me anything, and I will give it to you,” as it is said, “I will tell of the decree, etc., this day have I begotten you. Ask of me and I will give the nations for your inheritance” (Ps. 2:7-8). But when he will see that Messiah ben Joseph is slain, he will say to him, “Lord of the universe, I ask of You only the gift of life.” “As to life,” He would answer him, “Your father David has already prophesied this concerning you,” as it is said, “He asked life of You, and You gave it to him [even length of days for ever and ever]” (Ps. 21:4[5]).

This text reminds us that the language of sonship is prominent in this psalm, as proclaimed by the king himself – the Messiah according to the Talmudic passage just cited – in verse 7b: “I am obliged to proclaim that HASHEM said to me, “You are my son, I have begotten you this day’” (Stone). 213 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Messianic Prophecy Objections, p. 112

Footnote 213: I cite the Stone edition here to emphasize that even through traditional Jewish eyes, the Hebrew yelidtika is rightly rendered, “I have begotten you.” See further vol. 2, 3.3.

149. Commenting on the opening clause, Rashi’s explanation is translated by A. J. Rosenberg as follows: “Your throne O judge Your throne O prince and judge shall exist forever and ever as the matter that is stated (Exod. 7:1): ‘I have made you a judge…over Pharaoh.’ And why? Because ‘a scepter of equity is the scepter of your kingdom’ that your judgments are true and you are fit to govern.” This is highly significant, since Rashi understands ‘elohim to be the description of the king, following the most natural sense of the Hebrew. According to this understanding, the phrase would be rendered, “Your throne, O ‘elohim, is forever and ever.” The question, then, is the meaning of ‘elohim, which Rashi interprets in light of Exodus 7:1, where Moses is appointed by the Lord to be ‘elohim to Pharaoh. This leads to two important observations: (1) Even though we can assume Rashi knew that Christians used this text to point to the divine nature of the Messiah, he still interpreted it along the same grammatical lines as did the Christians; (2) Rashi’s interpretation, although highly unlikely and generally not widely followed by later Jewish interpreters and translators, reminds us that ‘elohim can have varied nuances of meaning. 261 This is in keeping with Christian scholars who have render the phrase as “Your throne, O divine one,” so as to emphasize the Messiah’s divinity without suggesting that his divinity caused God in heaven to cease to be God. 262 The Targum renders this passage as, “Your throne of honor, Yahweh (abbreviated in the Targum], is forever and ever,” reminding us that the meaning of the original text is clear and straightforward. Other classical Rabbinic commentaries, such as Ibn Ezra and Metsudat David, argue that the text means, “Your throne is the throne of God,” or “Your throne is given by God” (cf. also the rendering in the Stone edition; see further vol. 2, 3.3). In their recent Psalms commentary, Rozenberg and Zlotowitz translate this clause as “Your throne from God is everlasting,” explaining, “The sense is that the king’s throne has God’s approval because he renders justice from it in accordance with God’s will. Ibn Ezra translates ‘your throne is the throne of God,’ adding another ‘throne.’” 263 More interesting, however, is their next comment: “The Hebrew could also be rendered ‘Your throne, O God, is everlasting.’ This would not fit the context, which requires the king to be the subject.” 264 So, if not for the contextual difficulty, the translation would be fairly straightforward. And what is the primary difficulty? It is impossible for these commentators to conceive that the human king could be called ‘elohim. But if that human king is the Messiah, and if the Messiah is divine, then there is no valid reason to reject the obvious, clear rendering. – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Messianic Prophecy Objections, p. 132-133

Footnote 261: Actually, in Exodus 7:1, ‘elohim does not mean “judge” contrary to Rashi’s explanation; rather, as indicated by the related passage in Exodus 4:16, and as rendered in the NJPSV, ‘elohimin these passages means “in the role of God.” The Stone edition renders ‘elohim in Exodus 4:16 as “leader” and in 7:1 as “master,” both of which fall short of the mark.

Footnote 262: Cf. further vol. 2, 3.3, with special reference to the rendering of H. J. Kraus.

Footnote 263: Rozenberg and Zlotowitz, The Book of Psalms, 274, 277.

Footnote 264: Ibid., 277.

152. Let’s focus in on Zechariah 3:4, “Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.” The Targum renders this closing phrase as, “Behold I bring my servant the Messiah.” The Branch – understood to be the Branch of David – is the Messiah. Abraham Ibn Ezra provides an interesting interpretation on the identity of the Branch:

He is Zerubbabel, as it is said, “His name is branch” [Zech. 6:12], and the end of the passage proves it, [stating] “before Zerubbabel” [Zech. 4:7]. And many interpreters say that this branch is the Messiah, and he is called Zerubbabel because he is from his seed, as in, “and David my servant will be their prince forever” [Ezek. 37:25[. And I too can interpret this homiletically [derek derash], for tsemach [branch] by Gematria [i.e., numerically interpreted] equals Menachem, that is, Ben Ammiel [in the Talmud Menachem Ben Ammiel is a name for the Messiah; see b. Sanhedrin 99b, and notes of Ibn Ezra that the numeric values for the Hebrew words branch and Menachem are identical, both equal to 138]. 291 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Messianic Prophecy Objections, p. 144

Footnote 291: Remember that Zerubbabel was of Davidic descent.


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