Tale of Two Rabbis (Classmates) in 1st Century Israel:
Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai
Rabbi Shaul of Tarsus
(Also Known as 'Paul')
By Jacob Prasch ... A Jewish scholar and believer in Messiah ... www.moriel.org
In order to help facilitate understanding of what happened in the Jewish religion, I'm going to tell you a Tale of Two Rabbis: Once upon a time, there was a very famous rabbi whose name was Rabbi Hillel. There were two main kinds of Pharisee: one was the School of Hillel – this rabbi – and the other was the School of Shammai; academies where rabbis were educated. They had certain differences in their emphasis, but they were the two main schools of Pharisaic thought. The School of Hillel had a number of very famous graduates – Hillel was the grandfather of another very famous rabbi who was his successor, Rabbi Gamaliel. Rabbi Gamaliel is mentioned in the Talmud, which says of him that when he died righteousness perished from the earth. The New Testament tells us in Acts 5 that Gamaliel said that if Jesus was not the Messiah, Christianity would disappear; and if it did not disappear, the Jews who opposed it would be working against God. Rabbi Gamaliel from the School of Hillel was associated with something called the Midot of Hillel, which St. Paul used in his teaching methods. Gamaliel had a number of famous students, one of whom was Onkleos, who did a famous translation of the Targum into Aramaic. He also had two other very famous students, one or the other of whom every Jew who came after them would follow, causing the Jewish religion to have a schism. The first of these students was Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai, whom I quoted earlier. When the Temple was destroyed, Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai said (in paraphrase), "We have a big problem: we cannot practice the Jewish faith that Moses gave any more." To this day, on every Orthodox Jewish synagogue you will find the term Ichabod; 'the glory has departed, the Shekinah has gone'. They know very well that without a Temple they cannot practice the faith of their fathers. On the Passover, the Pesach, instead of taking the Passover seder with lamb, they take it with chicken because they have no priesthood and no Temple.
Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai had a council at Yavne, near modern Tel Aviv, at which the rabbis decided the following: instead of the Levites and priests, the rabbis would be the new spiritual authorities, ergo the new leaders of Israel. Also, instead of the Temple being central, the synagogues would become central (synagogues having begun developing after the Babylonian Captivity). Thus another religion began to evolve from that point, based in tradition.
There was a classmate of Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai, whose name was Rabbi Shaul of Tarsus – better known to some as St. Paul the Apostle. He was likewise a disciple of Gamaliel; but he said that the Law was fulfilled by the Messiah. Jesus paid the price for our sins, and thus the curse of the Law and the consequences for breaking it were laid on Him. Every Jew is under one law or another; think of an unsaved Jewish person as a kind of backslider – he is in a covenant relationship with God. He may not keep that covenant, he may be an atheist – but he is still under the curse of the Law. If you want to know what happened to the Jews, read Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 – their entire history is therein foretold. The Jews are under a national curse because they reject Jesus; they are under the curse of the Law.
By the time the Temple was destroyed, Daniel's prediction that the Messiah would come and die beforehand was fulfilled. Every Jew then had one of two choices: he either accepted Jesus as Messiah, or he began to practice a Judaism that was not Scriptural. The entire future of the Jewish faith to this day is based on these two classmates: Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai and Rabbi Shaul of Tarsus.
At the end of his life, the Talmud tells us, Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai was weeping. His disciples came to him and said, "O Mighty Hammer, why are you weeping? Why is your soul in distress?" And Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai said, "I am about to meet Ha Shem – God – blessed be His name, and before me are two roads: one leading to Paradise (Heaven) and the other leading to Gehenna (Hell); and I do not know to which road He will sentence me." The founder of Rabbinic Judaism admitted that he had absolutely no assurance of salvation. He said that he did not know whether God would sentence him to Hell for what he did; at the end of his life he was terrified to die. It is the same for all the Jews who follow him.
However, then there is Rabbi Shaul of Tarsus, who said at the end of his life, "Trouble me no further, for on my body I bear the marks of Christ, and I know there is laid up for me a crown of glory and of righteousness." He had the assurance of his salvation, and so does every Jew who follows him.
That is what happened in the Jewish faith, and what is going on to this very day.
As early as the Talmudic era, the sages knew that the Messiah should have come already. They cried, "All the predestined dates for the Redemption have passed, and the matter now depends only on repentance and good deeds." – Sanhedrin 97 beht. They were faced with major prophecies that were well past their dates for fulfillment; Jesus was the only person who claimed to be the Messiah who could actually in His time prove Davidic descent. This is not only recorded in the New Testament, but also in Sanhedrin 43 aleph: "With Yeshu (Jesus), it was different: He was connected with the government. This is an ambiguous phrase, which has actually misled some people to believe that it actually refers to royal lineage." God spent 1000 years promising Abraham and David that the Messiah would descend from them; therefore, when He allowed all of the genealogies to be destroyed with the second Temple, it was obvious that the Messiah had to have come. So we read, "And the Sanhedrin wept: 'Oy vevoy, woe to us! For the Temple is destroyed, and the Messiah has not come.'" We will come back to this one.
Genesis 49:10: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people." Shiloh is one of the places in which the Ark of the Covenant dwelt, but it became an appellative for the Messiah in Judaism. Every tribe of Israel had its own tribal staff, a scepter, with the tribe's name inscribed upon it. This represented judicial power. The removal of the scepter, therefore, occurred when Herod the Great – a non-Jew – became king and the Sanhedrin had its power limited; these things both happened during Jesus' lifetime. The name 'Shiloh' is the name of the Messiah, according to the Talmud, Sanhedrin 98 b.
According to the prophecy
of Genesis 49:10, the Messiah had to have come prior to the removal
of the scepter from Judah. Therefore, either the Messiah has
already been and gone or God lied. God cannot lie; so whoever the
Messiah was, according to the Talmud He had to have already come at
that point. Again, the Talmud mentions how 40 years before the
destruction of the Temple the Sanhedrin was moved from the Hall of
the hewn stones to a place outside; you may read this in 41a and in
the Avodat Zerah 8b. Whoever
After five centuries of accumulated oral teaching was passed down, Rabbi Yehudah ha Nassi – meaning 'Judah the President' – and his disciples wrote down selected material from the oral law, calling it 'Mishnah'; this was not done until 230 A.D. The Talmud, in other words, was not even written down at all until 230 A.D. What the rabbis teach is this: the Talmud – what they call the Torah b'pei was given to Moses on Mount Sinai, although he did not write it down. However, in Joshua 8:35, among other places, we read this: "There was not a word of all that the Lord had commanded Moses which Joshua did not read before the people of Israel." So the Torah says that Moses wrote it all down, but the rabbis deny this and claim that the oral law was given without being written down until a later date. They go so far as to say that the opinion of one rabbi is more important than the opinions of a thousand prophets, because the prophets were only messengers and secretaries, while the rabbis had to interpret the messages and divulge their meaning.
Each generation continued to raise new questions, so there were experts, one of whom was Rabbi Yohochanan, of the same college as Tiberias. He compiled these new rabbinic decisions in about 330 A.D. When this was done, he called it the Gimmorah , taken from the Hebrew word that means 'to finish', or 'completion'.
The Mishnah and the Gimmorah were put together and named the Jerusalem Talmud; this was the first Talmud. Through the centuries, however, there has been much tampering with the Talmud, and there are all kinds of critical arguments as to what the original actually said in some cases.
During the Dark Ages – from about 900 to 1500 A.D. – other things began to develop. Few Jews could understand the Hebrew or Aramaic text, so commentaries and codifications were written on the Talmud. These codifications were condensed into systematic codes of law, and from here we have things called the Torim, the Riff , the Schulhan Aruch, Ha kitzor Ha Schulhan Aruch, the Mishnah Torah, etc. Rambam was the main rabbi at this time; preceding him was Rashi in France. They got continually further away from the Word of God, and began developing along the same lines as Roman Catholicism.
Around 1000 A.D. there was a rebirth of Aristotelianism in the Moslem world. Thomas Aquinas totally redefined Roman Catholicism in Aristotelian terms when he wrote Summa Theologia, in which he said that the opinion of the 'church' was more important than the opinion of the Bible, just as the Rabbis declared the opinion of a rabbi more important than that of all the prophets. Reacting against Aquinas, who was a terrible heretic, were people like the Reformers, who came from the Humanists.
However, what Aquinas did for Roman Catholicism, Rambam did for Judaism – he wrote a book called A Guide for the Perplexed, followed by something called Mishnah Torah, in which he Aristotelianized Judaism with totally Hellenistic ideas that were alien to anything originally believed by Jews.
Some other Talmudic writers were the following: Rabbi Shlomo Itzachi, Rabbi Saida Gaon ('the Genius'), Rambnn , Rabbi Moshe de Nachman – (also know n as Nachmanides) , Rabbi David Kimchi, Ibn Ezra, Rabbi Levi Ben Gershom,etc.
At this point, the Kaballah began to come on the scene. Kaballah is mystical Judaism, the chief work of Zohar. It began in Poland.
To these they added other sacred books: such as the Pirque Rabbati, and the Yalkuth, and various haggadic 13th-century writings. Then there was the Yohar on Moses (, which is held by Hasidic Jews today because it uses Gnosticism and spiritualization, which is their approach to Judaism).
In any event, what does God say about all this? Let us look: "Because this people draws near to Me with their words and honors Me with lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote." – Isaiah 29:13. All of the prophets prophecied only about the Messiah; the entire Old Testament is about the Messiah, according to the Talmud in Sanhedrin 99a, d. "The world was not created but only for the Messiah" – Sanhedrin 98b. In John chapter one, it says that the world was created through Jesus and by Him. Rabbi Yosef said that the Messiah would come when this gate (Rome) shall fall and be built again, and the land Israel would be overrun by enemies, in Sanhedrin 96-99. The stone cut without hands in Daniel 2:44-45 is the Messiah, according to the Pirque Eliezar chapter 11.
There was a famous rabbi named Rabbi Leopold Cohen, who was greatly troubled by Daniel 9, which said that the Messiah had to come and die before the destruction of the second Temple. He wanted to find out what this meant; so he read in the Talmud that the world would last for 6,000 years, 'for a thousand years is like yesterday in Your sight when it passes by'; they link this, according to Rabbi Katina , with Psalm 90:4. From this they derive that the world would be 2000 years in a state of chaos, 2000 years under the Law of Moses, and 2000 years under the Messiah, when the Shabbat – the Millennium – will be 1000 years of peace. Then will come the war of Gog and Magog, and the Messiah will renew the world after 7000 years, according to Sanhedrin 96b and 99a, and Yalkut volume II p. 129d. – this is exactly what the book of Revelation teaches. The Messiah will arrive to destroy the nations and to rule the earth for a thousand years of peace when people are conducting themselves in the following manner: Those who fear sin will be abhorred, truth shall fail, children will rebel against their parents, general lawlessness will abound, Sadducaicism would universally prevail (the Sadducees denied the Resurrection, like the Bishop of Durham) – in other words, when people who claim to be believers in God deny the Resurrection on a popular level: When Anglican Arch Bishop of York David Jenkins denied the Resurrection of Jesus, two thirds of the Anglican bishops defended him; but the ancient Rabbis long before David Jenkins said that Sadducaicism would prevail universally – the study of God's Law would decrease, there would be a general increase in universal poverty and despair, apostasy would increase, and there would be a growing disregard for Scripture. This comes from Sanhedrin 96b, 99a – or, if you wish, read Paul's epistle to Timothy.
Rabbi Cohen had a big problem when he went to the Talmud and saw this. He realized that the Messiah had to have come around 32 or 33 A.D. The Talmud said two things in this regard: one was as stated above, and the other was that there is a curse on anybody who reads Daniel 9. He asked his instructors why, and looked into the Talmud, and found that it said the reason for the curse was that the time of the Messiah's coming was foretold in Daniel 9. He could not believe that God would put something in His Word and not want people to understand what it meant; therefore, Rabbi Leopold Cohen became a Baptist minister.
I mention this in passing, though it is a subject that could be treated at much greater depth: in the Talmud it is noted that the word dor in Hebrew, meaning 'generations', is spelled correctly before Adam fell in Genesis 2:4, but afterward the Hebrew letter vov – which is also a '6', since in Hebrew the letters also stand for numbers – is missing, because Adam lost six things. The letter vov is then replaced in Ruth 4:18, because she was the grandmother of King David, whose son would be the Messiah. The Messiah would restore the six things lost by Adam. Bresheit Rabbah 12, p. 24b (of the Warsaw Edition).
To this day, the Rabbis read the Book of Ruth at Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. Ruth is the story of a Jewish man who takes a Gentile bride, and from their union the lineage of David begins – from which the Messiah would ultimately come. Do you see how they knew? They knew that somehow the Messiah would, through this Gentile woman, restore what Adam had lost.
Jews will go to all kinds of lengths to tell you that Zechariah 12:10-12 does not necessarily refer to the Messiah. Zechariah 12:10-12 says "And they will look upon Him whom they have pierced, and mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son"; they will try to deny that this must mean they will look on the Messiah whom they had pierced. However, in Sukkah 52a it says directly: "They will look upon Me – the Messiah – whom they have pierced". The Talmud confirms rather than denies that this is speaking about the Messiah – whom they had pierced.
The Messiah will arrive with the clouds of Heaven, according to Daniel 7:13, but humble and mounted on a donkey according to Zechariah 9:9. One Talmudist proposes that if Israel deserves it, the Messiah will come with the clouds of Heaven, but if Israel is not deserving, He will come poor and riding on an ass. (Sanhedrin 96b – 99a.) To this day, this is how the Rabbis will get around it: they will claim that the Messiah did come in the days of Jesus, but Israel was not worthy and therefore he did not reveal himself. Thus this becomes the big catch-all, by which they are able to explain anything away.
In Deuteronomy 18 Scripture says that if you predict something that fails to happen in the name of the Lord, you are a false prophet. I show that to the Jehovah's Witnesses right before showing them false prophecies made in their own literature. The same with the Vineyard people and John Wimber's false prophecies; it cannot be denied, so they find they cannot handle it. Rabbi Menahem Schnerson , the last Lubavitch rebbe, said that Messiah was going to come at Rosh ha Shanah (September) of 1991. The day after this deadline, I called up the Chabad Center in London and asked to speak to someone who spoke Hebrew. When he came on the line, I asked in Hebrew, "Well?" – he knew what I meant. Then I went down to Stamford Hill with some of my friends from CMJ who have a Messianic testimony, bringing our tracts. We confronted the Jews there with the fact that Moshe Rabbenu says that if people predict things in the name of Ha Shem that don't happen, they are false prophets who must be taken out and stoned; we then asked them if they keep the Torah. The point of this was to show them that if they remain under the Law, they must take their Rabbi Schnerson out and stone him as a false prophet; their only other choice is to accept Yeshua as their Messiah who fulfilled the Law. They didn't like that much.
I love the Talmud – it illustrates so clearly the old joke, "If you have two Jews, you have three opinions". Forget three opinions – if you have two Jews, you have thirty-three opinions! Israel would have no more Messiah because he had come in the days of King Hezekiah, according to Rabbi Hillel – not the original Hillel, but another one. (Sanhedrin 96b, 99a.) In the same passage, Sanhedrin 96b – 99a, his grandson, Rabbi Yosef, said "May God forgive my grandfather, Rabbi Hillel."
Some Talmudists, however, thought that the Messiah would come on two separate occasions, which would account for the two conflicting descriptions of his arrival – again, Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben David. It is stated that the two dates given in Daniel 12:11,12 were to date the two arrivals at 45-year intervals. (The Midrash on Ruth 2:14, p. 43b of the Warsaw Edition; also The Lost Talmud on Daniel 9, 24-27.) The ancient Talmudists knew a lot of things.
One thing that will inevitably happen to you when you talk to Jewish people is, again, that they will tell you Zechariah 12:10-12 is not about the Messiah. An answer to give them is that Sukkah 52a says it is. They will also try to tell you that Isaiah 52 and 53 are not about the Messiah. I showed those very passages to a Jewish girl on a kibbutz in Israel once, and she immediately said, "This is about Jesus." No one had to tell her anything or manipulate her thinking – she simply used common sense. Her name was Sally Brown, and I hope she gets saved. Anyway, the Talmudists knew that Isaiah was predicting the Messiah's appearance in Isaiah 52:14: "His – the Messiah's – appearance was marred more than that of any man, and His form more than the sons of men" Sanhedrin 97b, Yalkut volume II p. 53c and also Shemoth R, 15-19. The Talmud repeatedly quotes Isaiah 53 as a prediction of the Messiah's appearance on earth.
There are two main Targums in Judaism: the Targum Onkleos which I mentioned earlier, and Targum Jonathon. After the Babylonian Captivity, most Jews knew Aramaic rather than Hebrew, so they translated the Scriptures into Aramaic. However, these were not simply translations, but also interpretations. It says: "Who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender root out of dry ground; He had no stately form or majesty that we should look on Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. The Messiah was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows acquainted with grief" – it goes on and on and on, directly pointing to the Messiah in these passages. "Each of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall upon the Messiah"; "Although He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth, the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief if He would render Himself as a corban – a guilt offering – He would see His offspring, He would prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand, and as a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied. By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify many and will bear their iniquities" and so on. "He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors" – Sanhedrin 98b, also the Midrash on Samuel, the Lemburg (SP?) Edition, p. 45a, and the Targum of the Kingdom of the Messiah. They knew very well that this was about the Messiah; the Targum Jonathon says so specifically.
Jewish people will often accuse Christians of twisting Scriptures to make them about Jesus when they actually are not about Him; what most Rabbis will say is that these passages are about Israel and the vicarious suffering of Israel. There are a number of problems with that: one is that the same Isaiah repeatedly castigates Israel for its sin, whereas he describes this Suffering Servant as having no sin. Therefore their idea is simply incompatible with the context. There are four Servant Songs in Isaiah, and the fourth one, found in Isaiah 52-53, is different from the others. In one sense, the rabbis are right: much the same as the Church is the Body of Christ, Jesus is the embodiment of Israel. For example, when you see verses that say things like "Israel My glory, Israel My Firstborn", they are midrashically alluding to Jesus. But only in a very abstract sense are these passages about Israel; their primary meaning, according to the Rabbinic literature, is pointing to the Messiah. When they tell you this is not about the Messiah, ask them to explain the Targum Jonathan, or the Midrash on Samuel, which say it is.
Jewish people will also accuse Christians of inventing a New Covenant that does not exist, claiming that the only covenant is the Torah. Jeremiah 31:31 says that God will make a new covenant, but when you tell them this they will try to tell you that you have misunderstood the text. At this point, you can point to the Midrash on Psalm 7, p. 5a of the Warsaw Edition: "God will speak through the Messiah to make a new covenant."
Psalm 2 says, "Thou art My Son; do homage to the Son, lest He become angry and you perish in the way." The Rabbis say that God has no Son; but they have a big problem. Here is where I tell you how to drive an Orthodox Rabbi into early retirement in Florida: Psalm 2 is put together with Psalm 110 and II Samuel 16:1, and then connected with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. These things can be read in the Midrash on II Samuel 16:1, paragraph 19 of the Lemburg Edition, p. 45; also the Midrash on Psalm 7, p. 5a of the Warsaw Edition; and Yalkut (SP?) Volume II p. 90a. (These things can be obtained at a Yeshiva or a religious Jewish library.)
It goes on to say, then, when it has connected Psalm 110 with II Samuel 16:1 and Isaiah 53, "Against God and His Messiah: "If I find the Son of the King, I shall lay hold of Him and crucify Him with a cruel death." The Talmud actually says that the Messiah would be crucified 'Litzlov oto' is exactly what it says, 'crucify'. This is one thing they cannot answer; it shocks them.
Once again, in Genesis 49:10 Jacob predicted that the scepter would not depart from Judah nor the ruler's staff from between his feet until Shiloh comes; the Babylonian Talmud states that when this occurred, the sages said 'Woe to us, for the scepter has been taken from Judah, and the Messiah has not appeared!' Rabbi Ruchman adds that the members of the Sanhedrin covered their heads with ashes, their bodies with sackcloth, and wept when they heard these words. The Jerusalem Talmud dates this occasion at a little more than forty years before the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.; so they are saying that from around 30 A.D. the Messiah was pierced. – The Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin Volume 24, and the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin chapter 4 Volume 37.
"The sins of those who are hidden with thee will cause thee to be put under an iron yoke, and they will do with thee as with the calf. I take it upon me that no Israeli should perish; am I not flesh and blood?" – the Midrash on Jeremiah 31:8, the same as Isaiah 53. "All limits of time as regards the arrival of the Messiah are past." – Sanhedrin 96-99. The Talmud states clearly that the Messiah had to have come already.
In the Talmud it is noted that God has made various numbers significant in His plan: they noted that there were ten names for idols and prophets, ten trials of Abraham, ten generations from Adam to Noah, and ten generations from Noah to Abraham – the Avotah chapter 36. They developed from this a dating system. This Mosaic dating system of Israel is given in Leviticus 26:13-16, and they Messianically applied it in the Talmud. Moses dated the Messiah's exit in A.D. 33 – Midrash Bresheit , Rabbah on Genesis, p. 24b of the Warsaw Edition. Their own dating system says that the Messiah had to exit in 33 A.D.
The Talmud states that the Temple's destruction in 70 A.D. was predicted by Daniel 9:24-27. When you get into arguing with rabbis about the weeks of Daniel and what they mean – I have not the space to explain it now – the easiest thing to say is that Daniel 9 says that the Messiah had to come and die before the second Temple was destroyed. "No, it doesn't", they will tell you, but Yalkut Volume II p. 79d says it does, and so does Nazir 32b. The Talmud states that the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. was predicted by Daniel 9:24-27, when the coming of the Messiah to be cut off was predicted to precede this destruction. So the Messiah was predicted to arrive and to be killed before 70 A.D., according to the Talmud – and the Rabbis knew this.
The Talmud confirms that the stone cut without hands in Daniel 2:44, 45 is again the Messiah. "A stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, and a snare and a trap for Jerusalem". In Isaiah 8:14 God also predicted that the leaders of Israel would reject the Messiah: "Thou hast become my Yeshua; the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone." - Psalm 118:21, 22, which is the Hillel Rabbah that they sang to Jesus on Palm Sunday.
Moses Maimonides, Rambam, the greatest rabbi, confirmed that Yeshua the Messiah's appearance in A.D. 30 was Israel's greatest stumbling block. In Kings and Wars chapter 11, the uncensored edition, (the rabbis have for obvious reasons put out a censored edition) it says "There has never been a greater stumbling block than this problem of Yeshua (Jesus) in 30 A.D. For three and one-half years, the Shekinah – God's dwelling, His presence – dwelt on the Mount of Olives, waiting to see whether Israel would repent, and calling on them to "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found – call on Him while He is near", but all was in vain. After three and a half years, the Shekinah returned from the Mount of Olives. – Rabbis' Lamentation.
There is something called the Avodat Zerah; it is one thing when Christians say they believe that Jesus did miracles, rose from the dead, and ascended from the Mount of Olives – but what about when people who were not only non-Christians but actually anti-Christian believe all these things? You can read Roman historians such as Suetonius and Tacitus, and it is fascinating to read of how Jesus was understood by pagan Rome – even they did not deny the things that He did; it was said to be common knowledge throughout the Roman Empire that Jesus rose from the dead. The Avodat Zerah, however, says that Jesus did miracles as no other rabbi, that his disciples not only healed the sick but even raised the dead in His name, that after He was crucified He rose from the dead, and that He ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives. All of that is actually in the Talmud – even His enemies acknowledged the truth of what He did. This was written by rabbis who were trying to prevent other Jews from believing in Him; but they had to deal with the historicity of His miracles, of His disciples doing miracles, and not only of His crucifixion but also of His resurrection and ascension into heaven – the Talmud admits He did it! When you confront an Orthodox rabbi with these things, he will not want to deal with it. However, if you press him, he will tell you that Jesus knew Kabbalah – this was invented centuries later, but they say it anyway – Jesus knew Kabbalistic, mystical secrets and had the ineffable name of Ha Shem (the Tetragrammaton) under His tongue and under His foot and so on, and this is how He performed these miracles. That is what they will tell you if pressed.
The rabbis will try to tell you that Psalm 22 does not really say "They have pierced My hands and My feet"; all of Psalm 22 was fulfilled in Matthew 27, but in Hebrew there is a difference in the letter aleph, and they shorten a vov to make it a yud; in this way they will try to change "They have pierced My hands and My feet" into "I am like a lion's paw". This might be legitimately true, except that someone must have changed something at some point because the Talmud states the following: "At the time of the Messiah's creation, the Holy One – blessed be He – will tell him in detail what will befall him according to the : 'There are souls that have been put away with thee under My throne, and it is their sins which will bend thee down under a yoke of iron and make thee like a calf whose eyes grow dim with suffering.'" In other words, according to the Talmud, the Messiah would know before He was born that He was coming to die for His people. "And during the seven-year period preceding the coming of the Son of David, iron beams will be brought and loaded upon his neck until the Messiah's body is bent low. It was of the ordeal of the Son of David, who wept, saying 'My strength is dried up like a potsherd', Ps. 22:16." In Yalkuth Shimoni, they connect 'many dogs have encompassed me' (using a midrashic principle called "binyan ab m'shna ketubim") with the Book of Esther , commenting on which, Rabbi Nehemiah said "They pierced my hands and feet"..Hence, the Pisgah Rabbatai 36:1,2 states directly that Psalm 22 is about the Messiah coming to die.
There are technical linguistic explanations for the translation of 'like a lion' such as a textual reading adjustment called " im crea". Then, in the Yalkut Shimone, we find this: "'Many dogs have encompassed me'" – they connected this somehow with the book of Esther and the king Ahasuerus – "'but the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me; ka a'ri'"; in English, 'they have pierced my hands and my feet' – Rabbi Nehemiah quotes it this way, and the reading of 'pierced' was accepted by ancient rabbis. In addition, the Peshitat Abitai says directly that Psalm 22 is talking about the Messiah suffering and dying.
Again, Isaiah 52 and 53 from the Targum Jonathon: "Behold, My servant the Messiah shall prosper; He shall be exalted, and great and very powerful" – it states directly and repeatedly that this is about the Messiah.
Daniel 9, Megillah 3 aleph of the Targum of the Prophets, was composed by Jonathon ben Uzziel under the guidance of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, according to tradition: "And a voice from heaven came forth and said, 'Who is this who has revealed My secrets?' and he further sought to reveal by Targum the inner meaning of the Hegiographa (the portion of Scripture which includes Daniel), but a bat kol went forth from Heaven and said, 'Enough!' 'Why, why should we not read Daniel 9?' 'Because the date of the Messiah is foretold in it.'" And again, Sukkah 52 a regarding the Messiah being pierced: "What is the cause of the mourning in Zechariah 12:12? It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of the Messiah, the Son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptures: 'And they look upon Him, because they have thrust Him through, and shall mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son.'"
We could continue almost indefinitely like this; there is not a single Messianic prophecy that I would use in witnessing to Jewish people that I could not prove not to be a Christian invention applying it to Jesus. The Talmud agrees, for instance, that Micah 5:2 is about the Messiah, who in some way had to be pre-existent: "O you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, are by no means least in the clans of Judah, for from you going forth from eternity will be one whose existence is from eternity." From the Targum of Micah 5:1 from Targum Jonathon says this: "And you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, you who are too small to be numbered among the thousands of the house of Judah, from you shall come forth from Me the Messiah to exercise dominion over Israel – He whose name was mentioned from before the days of creation." In this way when one meets with the protest that Christians have read something into Micah 5:2 that it does not really say, one may respond that Christians have not read anything into it that Jews did not read into it long before Christianity was established.
From Genesis 3:1-15: "And it shall be that when the sons of the woman study the Torah diligently and obey its injunctions, they will direct themselves to smite you on the head and slay you" – right from the beginning, they believed that the Messiah had to be slain. Comments on Genesis 23:5 from the Midrash Rabbah show that Rabbi Tanhumah said, "In the name of Rabbi Shmuel Kozit, she hinted that the seed would arise from another source – the Messiah". The Midrash deals with Eve's naming of Seth, which is connected with the idea of the Messiah being bruised upon the heel and then bruising the head of the serpent.
You will only ever do one thing with all of this information: that is, undermine their arguments that these things are Gentile fabrications resulting from Gentile Christians twisting the Jewish Scriptures. One can show very clearly that these things were understood by ancient rabbis in the same way in which they are understood by Christians. But there is something called 'ecclentics' or convictions. "No one comes unless the Father draws him" – if you bring a Jehovah's Witness to my door, I can win every argument, but it does not mean they will get saved. The same can be said of a Mormon or again of a rabbi.
These things are very important – Paul said that we should be "instant in season and out of season, to refute every argument". I certainly do not deny the importance of this kind of teaching; but without prayer and without holy lives that will provoke the Jews to jealousy, it is useless. We have a long way to go, but God is doing something. We will see God work among the Jewish people in the Last Days in the same way in which He worked in the time of the early church – with not only thousands being saved, but even tens of thousands. We will see whole synagogues split over the issue of Yeshua being the Messiah – but do you know what? We will also see whole churches split over the same kind of issue.
Please remember . . .
The Kingdom of Heaven is available to every man, woman, boy, and girl in this world, no matter who they are, where they live, or what they have done. It is freely offered to any and all who will receive it. Simply learn of Jesus (Yeshua), the promised Messiah, invite Him into your life as Lord, believe He died on the Cross for all of your sins and rose from the grave (proving there is a Kingdom of Heaven ... and a coming resurrection for both those who are going to Heaven and for those who are going to Hell). Learn of Him and believe in Him . . . for He was the only one who has ever loved you enough to substitute Himself for you on the Cross (which represents Hell). He shed His blood, suffered, and died on the Cross to save you from your sins and from the utter darkness, aloneness, and torment of Hell, if you will accept it, believe it, and trust in it. That is why Jesus is called Savior. He now lovingly and graciously offers you life in Heaven (and we are warned it is a "take it or leave it" proposition.) We have to consciously receive it and accept it in faith. If you sincerely admit you have sinned (and need a Savior to get into Heaven) and ask Jesus (Yeshua) to come into your life while fully trusting in Him alone to save you from your sins ... and turn back to God while honestly trying to stop doing (and saying) those things God says are wrong, you will go to Heaven ... and with open arms and tears of joy He will receive all who will come to Him in faith and in love ... It's God's Promise!!!
The only unpardonable sin is to reject (or ignore as a common and unclean thing) God's love and His free offer of eternal (and awesomely beautiful and exciting) life in the Kingdom of Heaven by rejecting His Son ... Jesus Christ (Yeshua Ha'Mashiach in Hebrew) ... who stepped forth from Eternity ("from of old, from everlasting"... see Micah 5:2) ... not to condemn the sinner, but to save the sinner (from the torment of Hell) and who willingly and lovingly shed His blood and bore all of our sins and guilt on the Cross so we can be "washed clean" and forgiven of all our sins. The Bible also warns there will be no peace in our hearts or minds until we make peace with God through His Son, Jesus (Yeshua), the promised Messiah. (God's Promise ...)
Grace and Shalom