Forty years before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Rabbi Yeshua ben Yosef of Nazareth, or monumentally known as 'Jesus', endured cruel torture and was executed by the Roman government. Considerable numbers of Jews and Gentiles believed that He was the Messiah, even after His death. Declaring that He had risen from the dead, believers suffered torture and horrible death rather than deny His Name. Though He was corporately rejected as Messiah by the nation of Israel, within 30 years of His Resurrection approximately 30,000 Jewish people became believers in Him, and were zealous for the Torah, the Instruction of Moses. 2 Today, in modern Judaism, a resurrected Messiah rings like an extremely foreign concept to Jewish ears, though the notion has been entertained, not without controversy, however. Some followers of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menechem Schneerson, thought he was the Messiah, and had actually expected him to raise from the dead. Such an idea is the entire foundation for the literature of ancient Nazarene Judaism, which, along with the Tanakh, has become the most influential Book that the world has ever set eyes upon. The New Testament did not surface in a vacuum, however. As one delves into the thought of the 1st century Jewish religion, the concepts that the New Testament brings into beautiful focus and alignment, can be discovered scattered like seeds among a field. The understanding of these antique, New Testament contemporary theories can enhance one's understanding of views in early Messianic Jewish literature and the person of Messiah in ancient Judaism.
Rabbinical Judaism maintains believe in two anointed ones who come once. Messianic Judaism, in contrast, finds its foundation firmly established upon the concept of one Messiah who makes two appearances. Traditional Judaism says that the King Messiah, who succeeds in his task of creating world peace, will be preceded by a warrior Messiah, who will be pierced, suffers and dies in the great battle with Gog and Magog. The military Messiah is dubbed the designation of "Messiah ben Joseph," which indicates his lineage from the most famous of the twelve sons of Jacob. This Messiah ben Joseph will be resurrected by his Messianic successor "Messiah ben David," the descendant of the Israelite king to whom the throne belongs. Jewish anthropologist and former professor at Hebrew University in Israel, Raphael Patai, states,
"Messiah ben Joseph, also called Messiah ben Ephraim, referring to his ancestor Ephraim, the son of Joseph, is imagined as the first commander of the army of Israel in the Messianic wars. He will achieve many signal victories, but his fate is to die at the hands of Armilus in a great battle in which Israel is defeated by Gog and Magog. His corpse is left unburied in the streets of Jerusalem for forty days, but neither beast nor bird of prey dares to touch it. Then, Messiah ben David comes, and his first act is to bring about the resurrection of his tragic forerunner...."3The death of the Messiah, son of Joseph, establishes it's foundation upon such Biblical passages as Zechariah 12:10b,
They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son." (NIV)Nazarene Jewish scholar, Dr. James Trimm, identifies this as one of the places "in which the Talmud applies the Tenach passages to the Messiah which clearly speak of YHWH."4 The speaker in this Scripture appears to be God Himself, but in the second part of the verse, the person is shifted to the second person point of view. The main Talmudic proponent of the messianic significance in the aforementioned reference in Zechariah arrives in the person of Rabbi Dosa, who lived at the time of the compilation of the Mishna (130 C.E.). His interpretation of this verse is cited in the Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 52a,
What is the cause of the mourning [of Zech. 12:12]---... It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the scriptural verse: " And they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for his only son." (Zech. 12:10)Trimm notes, "Similarly the Targum to Zech. 12:10 has:
"Afterwards, the Messiah son of Ephraim shall go forth to engage in battle with Gog, and Gog shall kill him before the gate of Jerusalem."Now the speaker in Zech 12:10 is YHWH (see Zech 12:1). So "Me" in context must refer to YHWH, but the Talmud is identifying "Me" as the Messiah."5
"How did the the idea of a twofold Messiah arise; and why is the second Messiah called "son of Joseph? It seems to me that the idea of a twofold Messiah inevitably arose from the conception of the twofold character of the essentially single Messiah," 6 writes Dr. Joseph Klausner, professor of Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Klausner explains that "two different conceptions" of the Messiah, united in one, developed in the "evolution of the Messianic idea." He notes the twofold character of Messiah consisting of "political-national salvation and the religion-spiritual redemption." Professor Klausner expounds upon the thought thoroughly,
"The Messiah must be both king and redeemer. He must overthrow the enemies of Israel, establish the kingdom of Israel, and rebuild the Temple; and at the same time he must reform the world through the Kingdom of God, root out idolatry from the world, proclaim the one and only God to all, put an end to sin, and be wise, pious and just as no man had been before him or ever would be after him. In short, he is the great political and spiritual hero at on and the same time," 7 (emphasis his).However, nowhere in the Scriptures does it say that the Messiah must accomplish these tasks "at the same time." The twofold nature of the Messiah, is also noted by Dr. Patai,
"When the death of the Messiah became an established tenet in Talmudic times, this was felt to be irreconcilable with the belief in the Messiah or redeemer who would usher in the blissful millennium of the Messianic age. The dilemma was solved by splitting the person of the Messiah in two: Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David."8Thus, apart from the consideration of one Messiah who will make two appearances, a necessary separation of the twofold Messiah was unavoidable. Consider Rabbi Joshua's statement in the Talmud, " . . . it is written, 'And behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven whilst [elsewhere] it is written, [behold, thy king cometh unto thee...] lowly, and riding upon an ass! --if they are meritorious, [he will come] with the clouds of heaven; if not, lowly and riding upon an ass."9 But how could both of these prophecies be fulfilled? If the prophecy is conditional then one of them will fail to come to pass.
It was impossible to conceive the idea of a King, whose throne would be established forever in peace, and subsequently being violently killed in war. But what of a Messiah who comes peacefully, only to be violently killed for the sins of many, to accomplish the religio-spiritual task of reforming the world, and then resurrected to return again, establish peace and the Kingdom of Israel? Messianic Jew, Dr. Michael Brown writes,
"Our rabbis tell us that when Messiah comes, He will establish peace on earth. When the real Savior comes, He will remove us from sin. But a savior who takes us out of sin without taking the sin out of us is really no savior at all. And a Messiah who establishes peace on earth without first establishing peace in our hearts is really no Messiah at all. . ."10(emphasis his.)However, this conclusion could not be possibly considered in Rabbinical Judaism due to the fact that the Nazarenes already maintained belief in such a 'foreign' concept.
Amazingly, in Rabbinical literature, the concept of the King Messiah suffering for the sins of Israel is not foreign! In the Zohar, a book of mystical Jewish literature, it states,
"In the Garden of Eden there is a hall that is called the "hall of the afflicted." Now it is into this hall that the Messiah goes and summons all the afflictions and pains and sufferings of Israel to come upon him. And so they all come upon him. And had he not eased the children of Israel of their sorrows, and taken their burden upon himself, there would be none who could endure the suffering of Israel in the penalty of neglecting the Torah. Thus it is written: "Surely our diseases he did bear and our pains he carried." (Is. 53:5) As long as the children of Israel dwelt in the Holy Land, they averted all afflictions and sufferings from the world by the service of the sanctuary and by sacrifice. But now it is the Messiah who is averting them from the habitants of the world," Ex. fol. 212a.11This is clearly an allusion to the highly debated and controversial passage found in Isaiah 53. Skeptics and 'anti-missionaries' contend that this passage is speaking of Israel, despite the fact that numerous rabbis have interpreted it to speak of the Messiah. A striking parallel to this passage is found in Rabbinical literature in application to Messiah ben Joseph, as Pesikta Rabbah 36a states,
"The Holy One, blessed be He, will tell him (the Messiah) in detail what will befall him... their sins will cause you to bend down as under a yoke of iron and make you like a calf whose eyes grow dim with suffering and will choke your spirit as with a yoke, and because of their sins your tongue will cleave to the roof of your mouth. Are you willing to endure such things?... The Messiah will say: ‘Master of theuniverse with joy in my soul and gladness in my heart I take this suffering upon myself provided that not one person in Israel shall perish, so that not only those who are alive be saved in my days, but also those who are dead, who died from the days of Adam up to the time of redemption.’"12RADAK, Rabbi David Kimchi comments, "If we search the prophets we shall find that He who is promised as the Shepherd of Israel is the Messiah. The Messiah therefore is the person to be smitten before the scattering of the sheep."13 Dr. Klausner, illustrates the parallels between Messiah and Moses, the prototypical deliverer and precursor to the Anointed King,
"[The authors of the Talmud and Midrash] name Moses "the first redeemer" in contrast to the Messiah, who is the "last redeemer." They compare Moses to the Messiah in various phraseology: for example, just as Moses brought redemption to the people, so also would the Messiah bring redemption; just as Moses was brought up in the house of Pharoah, so also will Messiah dwell in the city of Rome, among the destroyers of his land; just as Moses, after revealing himself to his brethren in Egypt and announcing to them that deliverance was near, was forced to go into hiding for a time, so also will Messiah be forced to hide himself after the first revelations; just as Moses crossed from Midian to Egypt riding on an ass (Exod. 4:20), so also will Messiah come riding on an ass; just as Moses caused manna to rain from the sky, so will the Messiah bring forth different kinds of food in a miraculous way; and just as Moses gave to the children of Israel wells and springs of water in the wilderness, so also will the Messiah make streams of water flow in the desert. Not only this, but the acceptance of suffering because of the iniquities of others, which late Jewish legend attributes to the Messiah, is in the Talmud and is also attributed to our master Moses. (This may be called "suffering for atonement;" Christian scholars call it "vicarious suffering" and in Christianity this idea has become an important article of faith.") [Emphasis and italics mine.]14"It was taught in the School of Elijah, the world will endure 6,000 years - 2,000 years in chaos, 2,000 with Torah, and 2,000 years will be the days of the Messiah. but through our many iniquities all these years have been lost."15 Today, the current Jewish calendar is 5760. Messianic Jewish scholar, Dr. Michael Brown states in his book Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, ". . . the Messiah was supposed to come 2,000 years ago! As explained by Rashi, "After 2,000 years of Torah, it was God's decree that the Messiah would come and the wicked kingdom would come to an end and the subjugation of Israel would be destroyed." Instead, because Israel's sins were many, "the Messiah has not come to this very day."" Brown goes on further to note,
"Most traditional Jews follow Rashi's dating putting the expected time of the Messiah's arrival at 200 C.E. However, Rashi based his figures on a significant chronological error in the Talmudic tradition, probably the most famous error of its kind in Rabbinic literature. It is a miscalculation of almost 200 years! You see, when the Scriptures were not explicit in dating times and events, the rabbis had to rely on other sources and traditions to figure out how long certain periods were, sometimes getting these historical periods wrong. In the case in point, they believed that the Temple stood for only 420 years, whereas it stood approximately 600 years. Adjusting Rashis' calculations by roughly 180 years, therefore, we find ourselves right in the middle of the time of Yeshua. He was the one who came at the time the Messiah was expected to come, and this according to a Rabbinic tradition."16Accordingly, the times for the Messiah have passed by long ago as the Talmud goes onto confirm, "Rab said: All the predetermined dates [for the Messianic Kingdom] have passed, and the matter [now] depends only on repentance and good deeds."17 Dr. Trimm notes an interesting fact citing a previous discussed passage in the Talmud, "In examining the text of Isaiah 60:22 the ancient Rabbis noticed what they called a "contradiction" in the phrase "I, the L-RD, will hasten it in its time." The Talmud discusses this verse as follows:
R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua b. Levi pointed out a contradiction. It is written, "In its time [will the Messianic Kingdom come], whilst it is also written, "I [the L-RD] will hasten it!"-- If they are worthy, I will hasten it; if not, [it will come] at the due time. [b.San. 98a]Thus, the Rabbis understood this verse to mean that the L-RD would offer to hasten the Messianic Kingdom, if they were worthy but if not, the Kingdom would not come until its due time." One of the most shocking statements in the Talmud notes in Yoma 39a,
"Our Rabbis taught: during the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the lot for the L-rd (on Yom Kippur) did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white (on the neck of the scapegoat); nor did the western-most light shine; and the doors of the Hekal (Temple) would open by themselves."18The scarlet thread turning white was a sign that their sins were forgiven. History records that the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE. The doors of the Temple opening by themselves was seen as an omen that the great structure was soon to be destroyed. What event in 30 C.E. could have caused such a horrible judgement upon the nation of Israel? Why was the Temple destroyed? Talmudic tradition answers in Yoma 9b, "Why was the Second Temple destroyed, seeing that the people were engaged in Torah, commandments and charitable deeds? Because at that time there was hatred without a cause."19 Who was hated without cause? The Romans? Certainly not! Rabbi Yeshua ben Yosef quoted Psalm 35:19 which states,
Let not those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; let not those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye."His words recorded in the book of John read,
"In none of the cases where rabbinic literature speaks of such visions did it result in an essential change in the life of the resuscitated or of those who had experienced the visions....It is different with the disciples of Jesus on that Easter Sunday....If the defeated and depressed group of disciples overnight could change into a victorious movement of faith, based only on autosuggestion or self-deception--without a fundamental faith experience--then this would be a much greater miracle than the resurrection itself."21The article goes on to observe Rabbi Lapide's conclusion,
"Remarkably Pinchas Lapide believes Jesus rose from the dead, but does not believe he is the Messiah. In his view, Jesus was a Galilean rabbi of extraordinary righteousness . . . [and] God raised Jesus from the dead, not because Jesus was the Messiah, but out of mercy and in foresight. Seeing such a faithful follower killed unjustly, God raised him. God also had foresight of the effect that Jesus' resurrection would have on Gentiles, drawing them to faith in one God and to read the Hebrew scriptures. But the disciples then misunderstood Jesus' message and God's purpose in raising him."Or the other conclusion could be that maybe Yeshua was and is the Messiah. It is written that the Messiah would have the Gentiles as His inheritance, and that He would be a light to them long before Yeshua ever came to earth. Anyone with eyes can see that this has literally happened. Maybe the Jewish writing, Midrash Ruth Rabbah, was correct when it stated,
"He will be with the last deliverer, (Messiah), as with the first (Moses); as the first deliverer revealed himself first to the Israelites and then withdrew, so also will the last deliverer reveal himself to the Israelites and then withdraw for a while," (5:6).22When one looks into the ancient beliefs on the Messiah in relation to Yeshua, it can be seen that the Messiah came when He was supposed to, accomplished what He was supposed to accomplish, revealed Himself, was slain, resurrected, only to return in power and great glory.
"As [Yeshua] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes."23Yeshua declared in Matthew 23:37,
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say,
"Barukh haba b'Shem Adonai"