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Letters to Ya'acov

Letter 4: From Mike

12th June 1987


Dear Ya’acov,

Thank you for your quick response to my letter of 13th May. I appreciate your willingness to discuss the all-important issue of the messiahship of Jesus. If Jesus is not the Messiah then all Christians are deluded. If Jesus is the Messiah then all men, Jews and Gentiles, must bow to his authority, and love him. I will be as brief as possible in my remarks but the nature of your objections demands a substantial response.

If, as your maintain, the Messiah has not yet arrived, how will we recognise him when he does arrive? There are certain elements that would make it impossible for any messianic pretender to authenticate his claims. For example: Messiah is to be David’s son (1 Chronicles 17:11-14; Isaiah 11:1, 2, 10; Matthew 22:41, 42). At the destruction of Jerusalem all the genealogies were destroyed (cf.: Flavius Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book IV). Jesus, being born before the destruction of the records, could trace his ancestry back to David (Matthew 1:1; Luke 3:23ff). The Jerusalem Talmud [a collection of over 60 volumes of rabbinic discussions and commentary] records that Jesus was the son of Mary, daughter of Heli, thus vindicating Luke’s account of the ancestry of Jesus. No claimant to messiahship since 70CE has been able to vindicate his claims. Perhaps even more important than this is that, according to the prophet Daniel (Daniel 9), the Messiah had to appear and be executed before the destruction of the temple: "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined." (Daniel 9:24-26)

By this reckoning Jesus is at the very least the only legitimate candidate for Messiah. After the destruction of the temple, all would-be messiahs were too late to establish their claims.

Your point about virgin births occurring nowhere else in the Bible is, of course, correct. That is the whole point! Messiah’s birth was to be totally unique, a miracle. As I pointed out in my last letter, the debate about the meaning of the Hebrew word almah is easily settled when one reads the Greek Septuagint translation of Isaiah 7:14. It was the pre-Christian Greek translation of the Tanakh [the Hebrew Bible], translated by Jewish scholars. They rendered almah as parthenos. The meaning of parthenos is beyond dispute. If further evidence is needed, Isaiah even uses the definite article ha almah "the virgin", not "a virgin". He obviously intended more than an ordinary birth.

You still maintain that Ahaz had a son named Immanuel. Several sons of this Judean King are mentioned (2 Chronicles 28) but not one is called Immanuel! Such an important son, predicted by the prophet Isaiah, would surely be recorded. Yet there is not one single, solitary reference to any such person. Doesn’t that strike you as strange?

You ask what was the point of the virgin birth was. What is the point of any miracle?!

Not only was Messiah to be the son of David, he was also to be the Son of God (Psalm 2:2, 7, 12; Psalm 110:1 cf. Matthew 22:41-45, 16:16). If the Messiah was conceived and was born as other men, he could not be in a unique sense the Son of God. Born by the power of God to a virgin he is both Son of Man and Son of God; man and God. We are back to the doctrine of the holy Trinity, which is a logical deduction from the event of virgin birth.

I have tried in this letter to present evidence for the Christian position, rather than to make sweeping statements. In return, would you please present positive evidence for your case and not simply rubbish the points I have made? It is easy to state that "nowhere in the Bible were people born of virgins". I am simply, asking for a considered, thoughtful and biblical response on your part to these points.

I think it might be best to leave things, for now, at this point rather than weary you with responses to the rest of your objections.

Could I just, in closing, put a very important point to you. In the Tanakh [the Hebrew Bible], sins cannot be forgiven without the substitutionary shedding of innocent blood (Leviticus 1:5; 3:2; 4:5-7; 5:5-6; 16:14, 18-19; 17:11). Where is your atonement for sin? For myself, I trust in the one Isaiah spoke about in his 53rd chapter, the one unanimously regarded as the Messiah by every rabbi up to the 12th century CE.

With every good wish.

Yours sincerely,

Mike


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