(The following is the relevant excerpt of a letter which was received in Jerusalem from a reader in Maryland. We are including it here because we understand that the questions which this reader asks, and the answer which he received, are of great interest to many readers, and we hope that this will provide an instructive opportunity to discuss the Jewish view of the messiah. )
To Rabbi Chaim Richman,
Greetings from a Christian living in Washington, D.C. Do you think that Jesus may have been the messiah? Why or why not? Have you ever considered to look at the life of Jesus in that role? Thank you for being patient with my questions. May I state one last thing however, in the New Testament it is written that Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies of the prophets and the law. Please let me share some with you concerning what is known as the second coming of Christ... I dont want to offend you in any way, however I feel that the L-rd wants me to tell you this in this manner....
I am including a list of Biblical verses that I would like you to look at, please also see Matthew chapter 24. Also the Psalms speak of many prophecies fulfilled by Jesus. I have a book with a better list - I will send it with this letter. Please take a look and see if Jesus was the Messiah. I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to write. Again I say that I hope that this letter did not offend you, however I must do what G-d requires of me. Thank you very much. (signed ---)
My dear friend,
Thank you very much for your sincere letter.
I appreciate your expressed desire not to offend, so let me start off by stating that for me as well, to be offensive in any way is absolutely the furthest thing from my mind. Of course, we both understand that if we are truly to communicate in sincerity, with a goal of clarifying the truth of G-d and how we are to serve Him in this world, then the cornerstone of our dialogue must be - and always remain - mutual respect, concern for learning the truth, and care for each other. We must remember at all times that we are all created by the same Master and we are all connected.
Just as I hope that your intention is not to try to change me, but to inform me of your convictions, so too, my intention is not to try to change you, but to answer your questions with as much consideration as possible, and to provide you with information about the One G-d of Israel and His faith. Please be aware that I will not be offended by anything you say (as long as your intention is not to offend) and I would also never want to offend you either. I can only tell you the truth of the Bible as revealed to Moses and passed on to every subsequent generation until this very day.
Many Christians pose the question, why dont you accept Jesus as the messiah? But to us it is not a simple question of accepting or not. Now first of all, before we even get off the ground with our discussion, we must realize that the concept messiah seems to mean different things to us. Jews do not believe that the Messiah is a part of G-d, or Divine in any way, more than any other person. No indication of this can be found in the Old Testament, since this is not a Jewish concept. We look only to G-d for our salvation, and when the time comes for Him to bring the anointed king, then it shall happen. But we do not concern ourselves with the messiahs identity - for he is a person (as we have written, and continue to expound, in the Countdown to Redemption column in this publication) and his coming does not change the essence of our relationship with G-d - the most important fact of life there is. We do not accept the notion that Scripture foretells that G-d would robe Himself in flesh. We believe that this idea is the very embodiment of idolatry, and we must give our very lives to make a stand against it... as indeed we Jews have always done throughout the ages.
The reason why Jews like myself do not accept Jesus as the messiah is a very basic one - we do not see that he fulfilled any of the requirements for the job. If he never qualified, it is not even a question of rejection. G-d outlined these requirements in the Bible. The identity of the messiah is not up to you or me; it is up to his performance to prove. You have said that I should take a look at the book (you enclosed) and see if Jesus was the messiah. These are not lists of prophecies that have been fulfilled, but an attempt at working out New Testament passages to reflect Old Testament prophecies. Can a little booklet one receives in the mail prove that the messiah has come? Is that all it takes? The state of the world must prove that the messiah has come; not a tract. Dont you think that when the messiah arrives, it should not be necessary for his identity to be subject to debate - for the world should be so drastically changed for the better that it should be absolutely incontestable! Why should it be necessary to prove him at all? If the messiah has come, why should anyone have any doubt?
What requirements did he fulfill?
According to the prophets of the Bible, amongst the most basic missions of the messiah are:
You have stated that in the New Testament it is written that Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies of the prophets and the law. But which of these above requirements did Jesus fulfill? And if he is going to fulfill them the second time, why did he not attend to them the first time? This in itself is one concept which no amount of Biblical sleuthing can find a prophetic basis for - FOR THE NOTION THAT THE MESSIAH DOES NOT ACCOMPLISH THESE THINGS UPON HIS APPEARANCE, AND THEREFORE MUST RETURN A SECOND TIME, DOES NOT EXIST IN THE OLD TESTAMENT. WHEREVER THESE THINGS ARE FORETOLD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, WE ARE TOLD THAT THE MESSIAH COMES AND DOES THESE THINGS - ONCE. Where in the Old Testament is there even the faintest allusion to such a concept, that the messiah does not complete the job, and therefore returns a second time? Every prophecy about the messiah makes it clear that he comes once and does the job. He will influence all men to serve G-d with a pure heart. And since the booklets which you have sent me are completely occupied with corroborating Old Testament prophecies with New Testament verses - as if to acknowledge that the contents of those Old Testament prophecies is indeed of paramount importance - THEN WHY IS THIS FACT IGNORED? But because this did not happen - it was necessary for Christianity to redefine the role of the messiah, complete with Biblical interpolation, in order to fit this mans career. First of all, Jesus was said to have been resurrected. Secondly, the Bible was examined with the purpose of finding what no one had ever seen there before - evidence that the messiah would be killed without bringing peace to the world or redemption to Israel (hence the importance to Christians of Isaiah 53, which they say refers to Jesus). Thirdly, there was the expectation of a second coming, at which time Jesus would carry out the task expected of the messiah. And finally, there had to be an explanation for the first coming and its catastrophic end. The basic structure of this explanation was to shift the function of the messiah from a visible level (the only level emphasized by the Bible) - where it could be tested - to an invisible level - where it could not. The messiahs goal, at least the first time around, was now not said to be the redemption of Israel (which had clearly not taken place) but the atonement for original sin. A reworking of Biblical themes. But for Jews, if the Bibles description of the messiah has not been fulfilled, then for authentic Jews there can only be one explanation: he has not yet come. To Jews, who were often subjected to mockery and contempt when asked where their messiah was, this conclusion was painful. But an honest facing of the facts makes it inescapable. In adversity and joy, through holocaust and statehood, Jews who are truly faithful to the Torah and prophets can only repeat the words of their forefathers: I believe with complete faith in the coming of the messiah; and though he may tarry I shall wait for him every day.
We have already written in these pages that we believe that the messiah, sent by G-d Al-mighty, is not G-d, but a human being - but the greatest leader and wisest teacher who ever lived. He will put his extraordinary talents to use to precipitate a worldwide revolution which will bring perfect justice and harmony to humanity. Please understand that several rabbis state that the historical Jesus - not the mangod Christianity made him into - did accomplish a great deal in turning people away from idolatry and towards a more authentic knowledge of G-d. But he did not claim the role which was given him by the early church fathers, nor do these rabbis ascribe any role to him. He has no connection with authentic Jewish thought. For reasons of space, this is not the proper format to enter into a lengthy debate or disputation on every possible Biblical verse - BUT I AM PREPARED TO DO SO - although at Light to the Nations, we prefer to stress that which we share, and unite around what should be our common goal: Greater knowledge of G-d and hastening the Redemption. Nor is this the proper time for me to put forth every aspect of this discussion.
We all want G-d in our lives, and we all want to do the right thing. But we are now living in very special times indeed. G-d is moving the hearts of men - foretold by the prophet Hagai as the time when the very heavens and earth will be shaken - and now men are coming forward, unabashedly, to learn the truth of G-d. I have had no intention, Heaven forbid, to offend you. But just as you feel that you must do what G-d requires of you, so have I done as well. If you, or any of our readers, wish to correspond with me and truly establish a dialogue, I am at your service. You may circulate this to whomever you like - and I will be happy to respond to anyone.