Many people wonder or debate whether Jesus was the Messiah. It is interesting to read the list of proofs that are often given in his defense. There are lists that claim that there are hundreds of Messianic prophecies that Jesus has lived up to. However, when you read through those list with an educated eye, you find that many of the prophecies are not actually prophecies at all. They do not have any relationship as to who will be the Messiah. Many others are out of place, misquoted, mistranslated and in some cases, multiple errors of these types are made. To understand who is the Messiah, we first need to understand a basic underlying principle of judging. After all, Judaism has had literally dozens of people claim to be the Messiah. How do we know who is the true Messiah versus a Messianic "pretender."|
In Judaism, no matter what arguments are put forward by someone claiming to be the Messiah, one principle has always been followed. The priniciple is that the person claiming to be the Messiah must live up to every single Messianic prophecy. Not a single prophecy can be missed. A statement that "I will do the rest of the prophecies at another time" is not sufficient. After all, who is to say that this person will actually complete these prophecies later? How can a person be declared the Messiah without only partial evidence in support of their declaration? Without evidence that all of these these prophetic requirements having been fulfilled, a person cannot legitimately say that they are the Messiah.
Next, it is necessary to look at the Messianic prophecies. In the interest of time and space, I will not go through everything single prophecy. This article will highlight some of the most important prophecies that the Bible requires the Messiah to live up to. Also, I will mention some of the locations in Jewish prayer and practice which reflect these Jewish Messianic beliefs.
1. The Messiah must be a male, patrilineal descendant of King David, through King Solomon. If you look at 2 Samuel 7:8-16, King David is promised that Solomon and his descendants will be the royal line of the Jewish people forever. Keep in mind that this is a family lineage. Biblical family lineage only proceeds through the father, hence the Messiah must have a patrilineal lineage to David through Solomon. This is the reason why a person in the Bible is referred to as "Your Name son of Your Father's Name." This continues to be the way that Jewish names are given in Hebrew, when someone signs a Jewish contract (e.g. marital contract) or is called up for an honor at synagogue. In fact, once a woman married into a family, she officially left her family and joined her husband's family. This is reflected in the complaints of some tribal leaders from the Tribe of Menashe regarding the daughters of Tzelophad in Numbers 36. The leaders complain that since Tzelophad had daughters but no sons, that if the daughters marry into another tribe their families will lose possessions to the tribes that the daughters marry into. This is because not only did the woman join the man's family but all of her possessions also went with her to the man's family. In response to this complaint, G-d issues commandments that keep possessions within the tribe if a man does not have any sons.
The prophecy that the Messiah will come from the line of David, through Solomon, comes up in numerous Jewish prayers. For instance, the prophecy is part of the Messianic prophecies that the Jewish people pray for during the Amidah. The Amidah, also known as the Shemoneh Esrei, is one of the hearts of the Jewish service. Three times a day on weekdays the Amidah is said. One of these prayers, "Et Tzemach David" ("A Shoot from David") talks specifically about this prophecy. The prophecy is also part of the prayers said after the Haftorah, the selection of readings from the Books of Prophets and Writings that are read on Shabbat.
2. The Messiah must be heralded by Elijah the Prophet, as prophecied in Malachi 3:23-24. We must remember that Elijah never actually died in the Bible. According to 2 Kings 2:11, Elijah was taken up to Heaven in a chariot of fire. Therefore, no one can claim to be the a "type of Elijah" or "have the spirit of Elijah" as a substitute for the real Elijah in Messianic prophecy.
The prophecy that Elijah will herald the Messiah comes up in many Jewish prayers and rituals. It is part of the "Harachaman" (The Merciful One) section of the Birkat Hamazon prayers which are said after one eats a meal involving bread. It is also part of the prayers said after the reading of the Haftorah. This prophecy is also related to the reason we put out a Cup of Elijah on Passover.
3. The Messiah must gather the Jewish people from the across the world and bring them to the Land of Israel. This prophecy actually appears throughout the Prophets. For example, Isaiah 11:11-12 states: "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the L-rd will set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, that shall remain from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And He will set up an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the dispersed of Israel, and gather together the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth."
As many Messianic prophecies, there is a prayer in the Weekday Amidah which specifically asks G-d to gather the Jewish people from "the four corners of the Earth." This is also part of the Ahavah Rabah prayer in the morning, which is said immediately before the Shma. The Shma prayer, along with the Amidah, is another of the main hearts of the Jewish prayer service. During the Ahavah Rabah prayer, it is customary to gather the four Tzitzit, the fringes on the corners of the Jewish prayer shawl known as a Tallit. The gathering of the Tzitzit from the corners of the Tallit is symbolic of how G-d will gather the Jewish people from the four corners of the Earth.
4. The Messiah will bring back the dead of the Jewish people. Not just a few of the dead, but the vast majority of the Jewish dead. This prophecy occurs in a few places in the Books of Prophets, such as in Isaiah 26:19 which states, "Thy dead shall live, my dead bodies shall arise--awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust--for Thy dew is as the dew of light, and the earth shall bring to life the shades." Probably the best known source is the prophecy of the Valley of the Dried Bones in the Book of Ezekiel, chapter 37. Verses 11-13 of this chapter state, "Then He said unto me: 'Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say: Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off. Therefore prophesy, and say unto them: Thus saith the L-rd G-d: Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel."
The belief that the Jewish people will be brought back to life is part of the second prayer of the Amidah. This prayer is said both on weekdays and holidays, in which the Jewish people refer to G-d as "Mechayeh Hametim", "The Bringer of Life to the Dead." This belief is also part of the rationale for a common Jewish burial custom. At many Jewish burials, some soil from the Land of Israel will be poured into the grave. The reason for this is that Judaism believes that when the Jewish dead are brought back to life, all of the dead will be brought back to life in Israel, no matter where they actually died or where buried.
5. The Messiah will bring an era of world peace. Again, this is one of those prophecies that appear over and over in the Book of Prophets. Arguable the best known verse in which this appears in the Bible is Isaiah 2:4, in which we read that, "Nation shall not life up sword against nation neither shall they learn war anymore."
This idea of world peace is part of the Prayer for Peace which is found in Jewish prayerbooks, often following the reading of the Torah. Moreover, the aforementioned verse from Isaiah has been put to music. Jewish children around the world have been taught to sing the verse and the verse is commonly part of the repertoire of Jewish performance groups.
6. The Messiah will bring an era of world-wide recognition of G-d as The One True G-d. This prophecy appears throughout the Bible, such as in Isaiah 11:9 which reads, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the L-rd, as the waters cover the sea."
The prophecy that there will be universal recognition of G-d is part of one of the best known prayers in all of Judaism. At the end of each service, the Alienu prayer is said. The last line of the prayer is generally sang out loud by the congregation. It is a verse from Zechariah 14:9 which says, "And the L-rd shall be King over all the earth; in that day shall the L-rd be One, and His name one." This verse specifically reflects the belief in Judaism that during Messianic times, everyone will universally recognize G-d as The One True G-d.
7. During Messianic times the Holy Temple will be rebuilt. One Biblical example of this prophecy is Ezekiel 37:25-28 which says, "And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob My servant, wherein your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, they, and their children, and their children's children, for ever; and David My servant shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them--it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will establish them, and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in the midst of them for ever. My dwelling-place also shall be over them; and I will be their G-d, and they shall be My people. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD that sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for ever."
The rebuilding of the Holy Temple is part of the Amidah which is said on weekdays and holidays, in which the Jewish people pray that "G-d will return worship back to His House." The term "House" in Judaism is almost universally a reference to The Holy Temple. During the holiday of Sukkot, we add a "Harachaman" to the Birkat Hamazon in which we ask G-d to bring back the "Sukkah of David that fell." The "Sukkah of David" in the prayer is a metaphor for the Holy Temple.
These are some of the major prophecies that the Messiah must fulfill and a sampling of where the prophecies occur in the Jewish prayer and practice. Please remember that there are other prophecies that the Messiah must complete; the above list only comprosises some of the major prophecies. Since Jesus did not fufill these prophecies, he could not have been the Messiah. When a man comes who can fulfill all of these prophecies, the Jewish people and the entire world will clearly know that the Messiah has arrived.
There are many reasons why Jews do not accept Jesus, and the links below are some of the better explanations on this topic. Of course, if you have questions that are not covered on the links, you can always e-mail me with your questions.
An Answer from Rabbi Stuart Federow Click Here
An Answer from Rabbi Shraga Simmons Click Here
Ask the Rabbi from Ohr Somayach Click Here
An Answer from Rabbi Tovia Singer Click Here
There are a number of groups that provide Countermissionary Counseling. Here are links to a few of them:
Alternatively, you can call them at 1-800-4PROOF1 with general questions about missionary claims.
Here are a number of great sites that counter missionaries and explain the differences in belief between Judaism and Christianity, including addressing the Biblical verses that missionaries try to use against the Jews and explaining why the missionaries are incorrect. For the most in-depth analysis of verse by verse questions, go to Messiah Truth (sections on Counter-Missionary: Multi-media training [this can be read without being "multi-media"], Knowing Your Orchard and Judaism's Answer), Jews for Judaism (in their Reference Section (please note that the Isaiah topics tend to be under "Suffering Servant" part of the "Proof Text" section) and the Q & A section of Outreach Judaism.