What is EDGE-X?

Evangelize the Lost, Disciple the Found, Give back to the Community, Edify the Church, all to eXalt the Savior.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Hey everyone!

Since Christmas is coming up, I thought I would post one of my papers I wrote for Jesus of Nazareth. In this paper, I make the argument that Jesus actually is the Jewish Messiah (duh!). It is not too profound, its not great or very spiritual deep. It is just informational and logical; a simple research paper. Again, this paper, like my other, is not where I want it to be, but I hope you can follow my train of thought. Anyway, feel free to comment, and have a very Merry Christmas!

by Adam Keeton

         Christmas is soon approaching and sadly, many people forget the origin of the holiday. The hustle and bustle of the holiday season has turned the season into a time of high stress, bargain shopping, and credit card debt. For others the season has become about selflessness, giving gifts, and helping others. While this is a noble cause to be sure, the true meaning of Christmas has evaded much of the American culture. People celebrate a holiday they cannot even define.
 Etymologically, Christmas comes from the Old English phrase Cristes Maesse, first used in 1038, meaning “the Mass of Christ”.[1] Traditionally celebrated on December 25, the date commemorates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Who is this Jesus of Nazareth? How did he become so important? Why are people still celebrating his day of birth thousands of years after his death? Most importantly, how did Jesus receive the title of Christ?
The title of Christ is the Greek word for “the anointed one” and is synonymous with the Hebrew word “Messiah”, taking the same definition.[2] Traditionally, an anointed individual was a king, prophet, or priest. The anointed person than became a meshîah, an “anointed one”. The term meshîah only applied to these special people who were then declared “sacred”. Even though the person was considered “sacred” they were not divine by any stretch of the imagination; they were not God on earth or even a manifestation of God.[3] It was not until the prophet Isaiah proclaimed the message of a “coming messiah” during the reign of Ahaz that turned this title into a term indicating someone more than a simple person anointed by oil. Isaiah spoke of Messiah as an ideal king or a deliverer.
The prophet Isaiah speaks profoundly on the concept of a coming Messiah. Both first and second Isaiah refers to a coming king, a conqueror, and a deliverer that would free the Israelites from their sufferings. Accompany the coming of this God-man would be signs indicating this was YHWH’s divine intervention into the realm of man.
Isaiah uses “signs” in indicating the will of God. To Isaiah, God was active in the lives of the people; he was not detached and distant, but immanent, displaying himself throughout life in circumstances and miracles. YHWH is with his people, not only giving them commands to be heard, but also giving signs that can be demonstrated and seen.
Isaiah 7 is filled with signs concerning King Ahaz and his direction for the kingdom of Judah. Ahaz ruled during one of the Judah’s greatest moments of sorrow: when King Pekah of Israel and King Rezin of Aram attacked Judah together. Judah was too weak to defend itself from the attack. To make matters worse, the tribe of Ephraim aligned itself with Aram and “the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind” (Isaiah 7:2).
It was in this trouble God chose to reveal himself through signs he gave Isaiah, promising the nations of Israel and Aram will fall. Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask of God to give him a sign, but Ahaz refused, not wanting to test God. Isaiah, still following God’s instructions even if Ahaz would not hear it, tells Ahaz about a coming child who will be called Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14). God continues to comfort his people by telling them that the “bee” of Assyria and the “fly” of Egypt will assemble in a valley in which God will “shave with a[n Assyrian] razor” (Isaiah 7:20).  Afterwards, there would be enough resources in the land for the remaining livestock left after the metaphorical haircut.
All of these promises focused around this Messiah figure: Immanuel. According to the prophesy, the sign of restoration is the child himself, not anything else about him. Two major signs indicated the arrival of the “God-child”: first that he would be born of a “young woman”, and second that he would be of the line of David.[4]
The first sign of being born of a “young woman” causes much debate. Originally, the Hebrew word used in Isaiah 7:14 is ‘almah, which literally translated is “young woman”, normally a teenager. Many interpreters read into ‘almah and apply the word “virgin” because it better matches the Christological interpretation of the Scriptures. However, by interpreting the passage through a later theological perspective is disrespectful to the text and does not allow for the text to speak for itself. The word for “virgin” in the Hebrew language is betulah, and is not used in Isaiah 7:14.[5] To imply the word means “virgin” does not provide an accurate translation or interpretation of the Scriptures, but instead disrespects the passage.
However, the Septuagint uses the Greek word parthenos—which translates into “virgin”—in Isaiah 7:14 in addition to other parts in the Hebrew Scriptures where betulah is used. Even still, the parthenos does not imply the woman’s virginity, but demonstrates how the word was commonly used in the scriptures. In other translations, the Greek word neanis, meaning “maiden”, is used in Isaiah 7:14. All in all, the virginity of the woman is not a Jewish interpretation of the passage.
The second prophesy indicated Immanuel would be in the lineage of David. Isaiah 9:7 specifies that the God-child will sit on the throne of David and establish his kingdom. Yet the wording of the verse—“The young woman is with child” (Isaiah 7:14, emphasis added)—seems to indicate a woman Ahaz knew. Many suggest that the woman Isaiah was speaking of was Ahaz’s wife, and that Hezekiah, his son, was Immanuel.[6]
If not Ahaz’s son was not Messiah, other historians suggest that Isaiah’s son was Immanuel. Either Shearjashub (Isaiah 7:3) or Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Isaiah 8:1) could have been the sign of God’s provision over the kingdom of Judah, for all were born around the same time of the Israel-Aram invasion.[7] However, nowhere in the entire Hebrew Scriptures does it ever mention who actually is the Messiah.
According to Isaiah, Immanuel would live in a time of trouble and Assyria would brush through the territory, turning to a wasteland before he became old (Isaiah 7:16-17). Isaiah’s main concern was the immediacy of the Messiah. He was not looking into the future or predicting some far off King, but someone who would come to fix the immediate problem. As the name meshîah indicates, the king would be a “reigning king”, not a distant king yet to be anointed.[8]
If Isaiah passage in itself does not refer to Jesus as a Messiah, then where did the idea originate? What does a picture of the Jewish Messiah look like today?
According to Maimonides in his interpretation of the Mishneh, the Messiah would be an anointed king who would “stand up and restore the Davidic Kingdom to its antiquity, to the first sovereignty.[9] Rebuilding Solomon’s Temple, he would unite the people. The old Laws would return, including the sacrificial system and the Sabbatical years and Jubilees will return.
Maimonides even references Balaam in Numbers 24:17-18 referring to a coming king:
In the section of Torah referring to Balaam, too, it is stated, and there he prophesied about the two anointed ones: The first anointed one is David, who saved Israel from all their oppressors; and the last anointed one will stand up from among his descendants and saves Israel in the end. This is what he says (Numbers 24:17-18): "I see him but not now" - this is David; "I behold him but not near" - this is the anointed king. "A star has shot forth from Jacob" - this is David; "And a brand will rise up from Israel" - this is the anointed king. [10]
Maimonides concludes that the coming anointed king will not perform miracles. Nowhere in any of the texts referring to a coming Messiah mention anything about divinity directly. The only mention is in Isaiah 8 where the child will be called “Mighty God”. Maimonides does “not imagine that the anointed king must perform miracles and signs and create new things in the world or resurrect the dead and so on. The matter is not so…”[11] Kings were not miracle workers or prophets, but leaders and rulers of their people. Kings lead with charisma, compelling the nation to follow them by example, Maimonides argues. This is one of the signs that he is Messiah: that he will be able to lead his people and draw them to him. In addition, Maimonides argues, he will build the Holy Temple again on the original foundation to bring all the downcast of Israel together.[12]
If this is the Jewish interpretation of the coming Messiah, how did Jesus receive the title of Christ? None to these interpretations seem anything like Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was not a king, did not rebuild the Solomonic temple, and did not bring all the Jews in unison. He did not conquer any land, restore the Law, or reinstitute the sacrificial system. All of these systems were already in place during the time of Jesus.
          Jesus of Nazareth can only be considered the Christ when his life, death, resurrection, and teachings are compared to Isaiah’s prophesy of Immanuel combined with Jeremiah’s concept of the New Covenant. Alone, Isaiah’s Immanuel does not match Jesus, but when it is compared side-by-side with Jeremiah’s New Covenant, the life and teachings of Jesus suddenly start to reflect Immanuel in a new light.
Immanuel was never actually named in the Hebrew Scriptures, whether it was Hezekiah, Shearjashub, or Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Therefore, they are unsure as to if he was even born, because the prophet uses so many vague images. Isaiah only describes the consequences of the coming Immanuel, but not actually who he was.
When Jesus was born, according to tradition, an angel appeared to Joseph and said, “they will call him Immanuel—which means, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23). This is the only recorded piece in any text that directly makes reference to someone being Immanuel. If Jesus was Immanuel, then the idea of what Immanuel meant changes.
It is important to note that many people were called Messiah during the day. Some political leaders within Jerusalem, and even leaders outside of the Israelites were called messiahs. Jesus taking on the title of Messiah is not uncommon, although it was for a person of his demeanor. However, the title of Immanuel was rare and was given to nobody else directly like it was to Jesus.
Immanuel came to be the new ruling figure. Isaiah states, “he will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness, from that time on and forever” (Isaiah 9:7). Originally, this was supposed to be an earthy kingdom, for that was relevant to the time Isaiah made the prophesy. However, since Jesus became Immanuel, the prophesy develops a new interpretation.
Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God, just like Isaiah, but the kingdom was not an earthy kingdom. To Jesus, it was a heavenly kingdom that started in the present time and carried into eternity. When viewed from a heavenly perspective, Jesus was the king on the throne of David. This was not an earthy political position, but a divine heavenly seat.
Jesus was both born of a young woman and was of the line of David, showing he was Immanuel, the Messiah.  Jesus was also charismatic in leading the people he followed. According to the Gospels, hundreds flocked to him, and even called him “rabbi”, a title not given to many. Jesus’ charisma became so dangerous; people put him to death on a cross to try to silence him and his movement. Although Jesus may not have built a physical temple, the temple he was referring to was his own body he would resurrect three days after he died. Jesus did fit all of the prophesies of the coming Messiah when they are interpreted from the message of what he taught.
Jesus’ message is only fully cohesive if the concept of the new covenant is applied. The new covenant would be written on the hearts of man, not in stone tablets or in ritualistic rules or sacrifices. God would be with his people, and they would know God. Jesus himself fulfilled the new covenant prophesied in Jeremiah.
Jeremiah’s covenant is expressed in Jeremiah 31:31-34:
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD, because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.
Within this covenant, we can see several facets that differ from the old covenant.[13] First, YHWH says “I will make…” (31), indicating that he is the only one who can make the covenant; he has to initiate, and Israel follows. The covenant will not be a bilateral partnership.
          Different from the Mosaic covenant, this new covenant “will not be like the covenant I made with [the Israelites] ancestors… because they broke my covenant” (32). Where people could fail under the Mosaic covenant, people will not fail under the New Covenant. History repeatedly shows how the covenant was broken, but under the New Covenant, the old history ends and a new history begins.
          Even though a new history will start, the new covenant actually fulfills the old covenant. The confusing imagery instantly creates a paradox—God is eliminating the old covenant, but fulfilling it at the same time. Instead of Laws being written on tablets to be followed, the Lord would “write it on their hearts” (33). Before, rituals and scarifies overshadowed the original covenant.[14] Now, the covenant will be instilled in the person’s inward center of their being.
          A central facet of the new covenant would be the creation of the new community: “I will be their God, and they will be my people” (33). The new community will be a community of individuals, with each person’s heart changed working as one with the whole.[15] God’s will and covenant will be written on their hearts, so there will be no more need for sacrifice or religious instruction. The entire community will “know” God and follow his will, producing a harmony in the nation.
          After the heart has been changed, they can forgive others more readily. God “will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (34). Because they can see God more clearly through the changed heart, they feel shamed before God, afraid of their past mistakes.[16] But God offers great forgiveness for these lost people, allowing them to do the same.
          The final facet is probably the most important. Jeremiah says that “the days are coming” (31), the fulfillment of history. These days cannot be known; no person can predict or know the days of the new covenant. Israel can only look forward to God fulfilling his promise in his own time and plan.[17] This idea is not apocalyptic, for time does not end, but it does symbolize a new time for the people of Israel to look forward to.
          Jeremiah never answers how the new covenant will come about; he does not define a specific person or group of people to bring about this change. Only that the time is approaching and the people are to look forward to it.
          Jesus fulfilled all of the new covenant promises. First, God sent Jesus to earth; he initiated the new covenant. Second, the covenant can no longer be broken, because the covenant is no longer requires sacrifice or ritual. The only requirement now is belief: “Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life” (John 6:47). Third, the covenant was filled through Christ. Jesus said, : Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Fourth, Jesus created a new community, one where people were accepted and welcomed in, and one that was unified. After Jesus left, “all the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:44:47). Fifth, Jesus taught about forgiveness and forgiveness in the community, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them” (Luke 17:3-4).
          Jesus fulfilled all of the new covenant promises, making him the true Messiah that was prophesied years ago. Jesus may not have set up an earthy kingdom, but he did set up a heavenly one. Jesus may not have conquered lands, but he did conquer sin and death. Jesus may not have rebuilt a temple, but he did rise again three days later. Through all of this, he created a new covenant for all mankind that any person can be a part of today.

[1] Martindale, Cyril Charles. "Christmas." The Catholic Encyclopedia. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03724b.htm (accessed December 12, 2010).
[2] Anderson, Bernhard W., Steven Bishop, and Judith H. Newman. Understanding the Old Testament . 3d ed. Englewood cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1975. Pg. 216
[3] Bandstra, Barry L. Reading the Old Testament: an introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1995. Pg. 248
[4] Anderson, Bernhard W., Steven Bishop, and Judith H. Newman. Understanding the Old Testament . 3d ed. Englewood cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1975. Pg. 303
[5] Ibid pg. 303
[6] Ibid. Pg. 305
[7] Bandstra, Barry L. Reading the Old Testament: an introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1995. Pg. 248
[8] Anderson, Bernhard W., Steven Bishop, and Judith H. Newman. Understanding the Old Testament . 3d ed. Englewood cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1975. Pg. 306
[9] Maimonides, Moses, and Eliyahu Touger. Mishneh Torah. Jerusalem: Moznaim Publ., 19881991.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Anderson, Bernhard W., Steven Bishop, and Judith H. Newman. Understanding the Old Testament . 3d ed. Englewood cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1975. Pg. 384
[14] Ibid. pg. 384
[15] Ibid. pg. 384
[16] Ibid. pg. 384
[17] Ibid

I will be posting more about Christmas antics later on for sure so be patient with me. I haven't be able to slow down since I left school. Who knows, maybe I will be making a vlog here pretty soon...... 

Following His Call,
(Matthew 1:23)

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