Peter said that the Old Testament prophets were aware of Messiah and spoke of his life to some extent.
● 1Pet 1:10-12 . . Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
Even if Jesus of Nazareth is not the messiah, there certainly is one in the works because of the volume of scripture in the Old Testament that foretells one. Early in Christianity's beginning, the apostles and teachers were very adept at using the Old Testament to prove that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the very one.
● Acts 8:32-35 . .The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth." The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
● Acts 17:1-3 . .When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ," he said.
● Acts 18:27-28 . .When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.
It's not our intention in this chapter to display and explain every single Old Testament passage regarding Messiah. It's just too much. Lots of authors have written entire books on the subject and I have no doubt that just about every Christian bookstore has something on its shelves. But there are two sections of scripture that everyone should at least be familiar with and that is Isaiah 53 and Daniel 9.
It is indeed tragic that Christian era rabbis have so spun and distorted the great messianic chapter of Isaiah 53. It wasn't always that way. Many of the ancient rabbis at one time believed the section regarded Messiah; although they were very confused by the dual picture that the prophet Isaiah, and selected other prophets as well, portrayed of him. He was to be a great Godly king and military leader who would lead his country to independence and world power within an everlasting kingdom; but at the same time he was to be a lowly nobody who would endure death and suffering to redeem his countrymen from their sins.
I believe Christianity's existence handicaps the ability of modern rabbis to accept the scriptures concerning Messiah. Before Jesus of Nazareth came along, Jewish scholars were pretty much free to interpret scripture just as it came out of the box. But they have to be careful now to avoid agreement with the Christian point of view. In their zeal to refute Christianity's claims, the direction of their exegesis is typically inclined toward opposing the Christian Greek writings; whereas prior to Jesus' advent into world affairs, it was not.
Isaiah 53 has caused enormous problems for teachers of Judaism. It is very common among rabbis today to say that this passage speaks not of Messiah, but of Israel's suffering in a Gentile world. Some may even go so far as to say the point of view has always been the traditional one. But such an assertion is entirely dependant upon the ignorance of its audience. All of the ancient writings the Mishnah, the Gemara, the Talmud, the Midrashin all regard this portion of scripture as relating to the Messiah. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 98) teaches that Isaiah 53 refers to Messiah. The Targum of Jonathan begins it with the words Ha yatslakh avdee Mashikha, "Behold my servant the Messiah shall prosper...."
The first rabbi to suggest Isaiah 53 regarded the people of Israel was Rashi, who lived as recent as 1040-1105 AD. Virtually every rabbi prior to Rashi viewed Isaiah 53 as describing Messiah. When Rashi proposed the passage spoke of the nation of Israel, he sparked fierce debate with his contemporaries. The Rambam, another well respected rabbi, better known as Maimonides, who wrote a Torah commentary of his own about 150 years after Rashi's, stated very clearly that Rashi was completely wrong. However, as Christian evangelists began to make greater use of Isaiah 53, particularly from the 1800's and onward, an increasing number of rabbis found Rashi's view an effective way of countering missionaries. Today his position is pretty much the standard interpretation among many orthodox Jews.
It doesn't take a well trained observer to spot the New Testament's Jesus of Nazareth in Isaiah 53. Even one with only a cursory knowledge of the Christian Greek scriptures can detect the cardinal elements in no time at all his kingdom, humanity, resurrection, suffering, innocence, and sacrificial death for his countrymen's sins. Here, along with an excerpt from Isaiah 52, is the text of Isaiah 53 from the 1985 JPS Tanakh.
Isaiah 52 & 53
● Isa 52:13-15 . . Indeed, My servant shall prosper, be exalted and raised to great heights. Just as the many were appalled at himso marred was his appearance, unlike that of man, his form, beyond human semblancejust so he shall startle many nations.
● Isa 53:1-3 . .Who can believe what we have heard? Upon whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he has grown, by His favor, like a tree crown, like a tree trunk out of arid ground. He had no form or beauty, that we should look at him: no charm, that we should find him pleasing. He was despised, shunned by men, a man of suffering, familiar with disease. As one who hid his face from us, he was despised, we held him of no account.
● Isa 53:4-6 . .Yet it was our sickness that he was bearing, our suffering that he endured. We accounted him plagued, smitten and afflicted by God; but he was wounded because of our sins, crushed because of our iniquities. He bore the chastisement that made us whole, and by his bruises we were healed. We all went astray like sheep, each going his own way; and the Lord visited upon him the guilt of all of us.
● Isa 53:7-8 . . He was maltreated, yet he was submissive, he did not open his mouth; like a sheep being led to slaughter, like a ewe, dumb before those who shear her, he did not open his mouth. By oppressive judgment he was taken away, who could describe his abode? For he was cut off from the land of the living through the sin of my people, who deserved the punishment.
● Isa 53:9-10 . . And his grave was set among the wicked, and with the rich, in his death though he had done no injustice and had spoken no falsehood. But the Lord chose to crush him by disease, that, if he made himself an offering for guilt, he might see offspring and have long life, and that through him the Lords purpose might prosper.
● Isa 53:11-12 . . Out of his anguish he shall see it; he shall enjoy it to the full through his devotion. My righteous servant makes the many righteous, it is their punishment that he bears; assuredly, I will give him the many as his portion, he shall receive the multitude as his spoil. For he exposed himself to death and was numbered among the sinners, whereas he bore the guilt of the many and made intercession for sinners.
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A second important scripture, and one that reflects very favorably on Jesus of Nazareth, is found in the book of Daniel.
According to Jeremiah 52, Jerusalem was conquered by Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, on the tenth day of the fifth month, during the nineteenth year of his reign. His army torched the temple and the city, pulled down Jerusalem's walls, and also took the people into slavery. The date was somewhere around 585 BCE.
Daniel, when but a youth, was among those who were carried away into slavery. During his stay in Babylon, an angel named Gabriel delivered this message to him. It is just astounding.
● Dan 9:20-27 While I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and laying my supplication before the Lord my God on behalf of the holy mountain of my Godwhile I was uttering my prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had previously seen in the vision, was sent forth in flight and reached me about the time of the evening offering. He made me understand by speaking to me and saying, Daniel, I have just come forth to give you understanding. A word went forth as you began your plea, and I have come to tell it, for you are precious; so mark the word and understand the vision.
. . . Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city until the measure of transgression is filled and that of sin complete, until iniquity is expiated, and eternal righteousness ushered in; and prophetic vision ratified, and the Holy of Holies anointed. You must know and understand: From the issuance of the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the [time of the] anointed leader is seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it will be rebuilt, square and moat, but in a time of distress.
. . . And after those sixty-two weeks, the anointed one will disappear and vanish. The army of a leader who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary, but its end will come through a flood. Desolation is decreed until the end of war. During one week he will make a firm covenant with many. For half a week he will put a stop to the sacrifice and the meal offering. At the corner [of the altar] will be an appalling abomination until the decreed destruction will be poured down upon the appalling thing.
The date of Gabriel's meeting with Daniel is easy to figure out.
● Dan 9:1-2 . . In the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, consulted the books concerning the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord that had come to Jeremiah the prophet, were to be the term of Jerusalems desolationseventy years.
When Daniel consulted the books and made his prayer in chapter nine; a king named Darius was ruling Babylon. There were at least three kings named Darius, and maybe even four. But the one in Daniel's ninth chapter is pretty much believed to be the one who stepped in after Belshazzar (Dan 5:30 and 6:1) And from Daniel 6:29, some feel it is safe to infer that he reigned contemporaneously with Cyrus.
Anyway, Daniel's prayer, and Gabriel's response to it, occurred during the first year of Darius' reign which was approximately 539 BCE. So, if you do the math, it's easy to see that Jerusalem had been in ruins already for at least 46 years. And Daniel's prayer looked ahead to Israel's restoration; to rebuilding Jerusalem, and to construction of a new temple.
The most incredible piece of information to be found in Gabriel's message is the date in history of Messiah's arrival on the world scene. The word *Messiah* doesn't actually appear in the Hebrew version of that passage. He is referred to as "the anointed leader" and as "the anointed one". The Hebrew word for anointed is: mashiyach (maw-shee'-akh); which means: anointed; usually a consecrated person (as a king, priest, or saint).
Although that word (or its variant; Moshiach) is commonly used among modern Jews to refer to The Messiah, it isn't limited strictly to him nor even to a holy man; but can also apply to any person in authority that God himself hand picked for the job. Even Cyrus, an idolatrous gentile king of Persia, was said to be a mashiyach (Isa 45:1-4).
So why do we feel that passage in Daniel refers to The Messiah? Because Jesus of Nazareth, claiming to be The Messiah, showed up in Israel right on the dot; and precisely according to Gabriel's message.
The point of reference is a decree to rebuild Jerusalem. We found two instances in the Old Testament regarding decrees to rebuild Jerusalem. One is an actual record, and the other one is implied.
The first is in the second chapter of the book of Nehemiah. It was given by a Persian king of the Achaemenid dynasty who reigned from 465 to 425 BCE, named Artaxerxes. According to the data in Nehemiah, the date of his decree would have been right around 445 BCE.
The other instance refers to Cyrus. Although there is no actual record in the Old Testament of his decree to rebuild Jerusalem ; it was nevertheless foretold, and implied (Isa 44:26-28).
A decree of Cyrus, regarding the temple, and proclaimed in the first year of his reign over Bablyon, and contemporary with Daniel, about 539 BCE, is found in 2Chron 36:22 and Ezra 1:1-4. Although Cyrus' proclamation permitted and encouraged the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple, Artaxerxes is the only one who specifically gave official permission to return and rebuild the city.
Gabriel's time frame is a total of seventy weeks; given in three parts. A seven week period, followed by a sixty-two week period; and finally the whole thing culminates with a mysterious seventieth week. The periods of weeks are not seven days each, but heptads of years. So, within 483 years after the decree— using the first sixty-nine weeks as a yard stick— the repairs to Jerusalem and its walls were supposed to be completed.
Jerusalem was indeed rebuilt, along with its wall, and a new temple too; during the times of Ezra and Nehemiah. The new temple was later remodeled by Herod the Great and his efforts produced a true jewel of architecture. According to Mark 13:1 and Luke 21:5, Jesus' friends were very impressed with it.
According to Gabriel, after the sixty-ninth week the anointed one was to appear and then vanish. He didn't really have to appear right at the exact instant that the sixty-ninth week was up, but he couldn't appear before then either. Following that, an unspecified amount of time after his vanishing, the city and the temple were to be destroyed by a foreign power.
In 70 CE both Jerusalem, and the new temple, were demolished by a Roman army led by Titus, son of the emperor Vespasian. So according to Gabriel's message, the anointed one, whoever he might be, has already been here; and gone.
Question: Which of the two decrees are we supposed to use? That of Cyrus, or that of Artaxerxes? I did some figuring and the years don't work right. When I tried Artaxerxes, adding 483 years to 445 BC, I came up with 38 AD. Didn't Jesus of Nazareth actually die before that; like sometime around 33 AD, give or take the errors in our civil calendar? And Cyrus is not even in the ball park.
Please Click Here and we'll show you how to do it.
Gabriel told Israel when Messiah would appear. And Micah told them where he would be born.
● Mic 5:1 . . And you, O Bethlehem of Ephrath, least among the clans of Judah, from you one shall come forth to rule Israel for Me one whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.
There's just no excuse. The Jewish rabbis of Jesus' day had a pretty good idea when to expect Messiah's arrival from the book of Daniel, and they knew from the book of Micah where he'd be born (e.g. Matt 2:1-6). Although it was a good idea to exercise caution in those days to avoid being hoodwinked by frauds; still, they knew that at least one of the contenders had to be for real. It was just a matter of sorting them out. Jesus of Nazareth was such an obvious choice.
Some rabbis, aware of Daniel's prophecy, but unable to accept Jesus of Nazareth, have concluded that since Messiah did not show up on time; they now believe he is never going to come. Others are still looking ahead to his arrival; but they are hopelessly too late. It has been at least 2445 years since Artaxerxes' decree. That's about 349 heptadsway beyond Gabriel's 69.
What The Rabbis Know About Messiah
by Rachmiel Frydland
Messianic Publishing Company
PO Box 14103 Columbus Ohio 43214
by Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum
PO Box 3723
Tustin, CA 972781
Where There Is Faith