Jewish Objections to Jesus
We often receive questions from readers asking for help answering Jewish objections to Jesus as the Messiah. We have compiled answers to those questions below. Many of the questions we receive stem from an Aish.com article entitled Why Jews Don't Believe in Jesus. The majority of our answers address Jewish objections from that article point by point.
Before we begin, we find it important to make two observations:
1) The mental exercise of answering objections will not cause a person's heart to change.
In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, Abraham declares, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead." (Luke 16:31)
The primary reason Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah is because (as a whole) G-d has blinded their eyes (Romans 11:7-8) and hardened their hearts for a season to allow the fullness of the gentiles to come into G-d's kingdom. (Romans 11:25) This is part of G-d's sovereign plan of salvation and until G-d's timing is complete that national blindness and hardness will not change.
2) Salvation is G-d's work... not ours.
Believers are never given the responsibility of making converts or "getting people saved". Our job is to testify as witnesses to the work G-d has performed in each of our lives (Acts 1:8) and to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) among those G-d has saved by His choice (John 15:16) and His power (Acts 2:47). Please do not think you have any responsibility to "save the Jews". G-d saved them once during the Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 14:30) and He is entirely able to save them again when the time is right.
Now to the questions and answers...
The Claim: Jesus Did Not Fulfill the Messianic Prophecies
The Bible says that the Messiah will:
- Build the Third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26-28).
- Gather all Jews back to the Land of Israel (Isaiah 43:5-6).
- Usher in an era of world peace, and end all hatred, oppression, suffering, and disease. As it says: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall man learn war anymore." (Isaiah 2:4)
- Spread universal knowledge of the God of Israel, which will unite humanity as one. As it says: "God will be King over all the world ― on that day, God will be One and His Name will be One" (Zechariah 14:9).
Christians counter that Jesus will fulfill these in the Second Coming, but Jewish sources show that the Messiah will fulfill the prophecies outright; in the Bible no concept of a second coming exists.
The Hebrew word for Messiah (משׁיח, mashiach) is extremely rare in the writings of the Prophets. This word is only found once in Isaiah, once in Lamentations, twice in Daniel, and once in Habakkuk.
None of the verses noted above state that either "a messiah" or "the Messiah" would do any of these things. Every one of these prophecies says that G-d will accomplish them:
- "I will... set My sanctuary in their midst forever." says the LORD G-d.
- "I will bring your offspring from the east, and gather you from the west." says the LORD G-d.
- And He [the LORD G-d] will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples...and never again will they learn war.
- And the LORD G-d will be king over all the earth; in that day, He will be the only one, and His name the only one.
Believers recognize these prophecies as "Messianic" because we acknowledge that Jesus the Messiah is G-d made flesh (John 1:14, Colossians 2:9) and we look forward to Him fulfilling these prophecies. Jews cannot claim these are "Messianic" prophecies unless they accept G-d in the flesh... which they do not.
When we consider the specific prophecies that are mentioned we find that they only occur after G-d makes a covenant of peace with Israel. Israel cannot be at peace with G-d until the sin that separates them from Him has been addressed. Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) is the only means of reconciliation between G-d and Israel through His work and the shedding of His sinless blood.
Once G-d brings Israel to national salvation then He will:
- Gather the Jews back to their Land
- Establish His sanctuary in their midst
- Usher in an era of world peace
- Spread the universal knowledge of Himself
We await G-d's perfect timing for this event.
The Second Coming
While it is true that the exact phrase "second coming" is not found in either the Jewish or Christian Bible, it is disingenuous to claim that no concept of the second coming exists in Scripture. If we believe there is only one "capital-M" Messiah then it is reasonable to think He would come twice because there are two distinct pictures of Him given in Scripture: the servant and the sovereign.
In Judaism the servant Messiah is called Mashiach ben Yosef (Messiah son of Joseph) in reference to the servant pictured by Joseph at the end of the book of Genesis. The book of Daniel refers to Messiah being "cut off" and Joseph was cut off from his family. There are numerous parallels between Joseph and Messiah and Judaism recognizes this.
The sovereign Messiah is called Mashiach ben David (Messiah son of David) in reference to the reigning sovereign pictured by King David. Numerous passages refer to the authority and kingdom of David... and yet David did not receive the fullness of those promises. Those promises find their fulfillment in the coming Messiah and Judaism recognizes this as well.
Scripture itself provides a picture of this "return of the King":
I will go away and return to My place Until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me. (Hosea 5:15)
Once Israel acknowledges their guilt and seek His face then Messiah will return. That time will come:
I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)
Judaism itself recognizes "second comings". Every year at Passover, Jews all over the world look for the second coming of Elijah the prophet. At a specific point in the Seder meal, a child opens the door of the home and recites some words asking if Elijah has returned and inviting him into the home.
The Claim: Jesus Did Not Embody the Personal Qualifications of Messiah
- Messiah as Prophet
Jesus was not a prophet; he appeared on the scene approximately 350 years after prophecy had ended.
- Descendent of David
Jesus could not have possibly fulfilled the messianic requirement of being descended on his father's side from King David.
- Torah Observance
Jesus contradicts the Torah (the Law of Moses) and states that its commandments are no longer applicable.
Messiah as Prophet
In the mid to late second century, Judaism established an arbitrary "end of prophecy" upon the death of the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi and declared that Yeshua cannot be the Messiah since "he appeared on the scene approximately 350 years after prophecy had ended."
If this were true then according to Judaism Messiah can never come. Any Messiah that showed up today, tomorrow, next week, or next year would "appear on the scene 2,350 years after prophecy had ended" and would not qualify as a prophet either.
In contrast, believers know that God continues to appoint apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, and various kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28)
There has not been an end to prophecy.
Descendant of David
Judaism has invented a requirement of patriarchal lineage (i.e. lineage through the father) that does not exist in Scripture. The Law of Moses allows for inheritance and continuation of lineage through daughters as well as sons. (see Numbers 27:1-7)
In a rather ironic twist, modern Judaism only acknowledges Jewish heritage and legitimacy through a mother's lineage... not the father's.
The Messiah will lead the Jewish people to full Torah observance. The Torah states that all mitzvot [commandments] remain binding forever, and anyone coming to change the Torah is immediately identified as a false prophet. (Deut. 13:1-4)
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus contradicts the Torah and states that its commandments are no longer applicable. For example, John 9:14 records that Jesus made a paste in violation of Shabbat, which caused the Pharisees to say (verse 16), "He does not observe Shabbat!"
While it is entirely true that most Christians today ignore G-d's holy days, dietary laws, and other commandments with varying degrees of temerity and distain, Christ Himself did not. In my opinion, these actions and attitudes of Christians are the single largest stumbling block in the path of Jews who might become believers.
Although various anti-missionary groups argue that "Jesus annulled the commandments which makes him a false prophet", Scripture itself does not support their claim. In fact, it tells us the exact opposite:
1) Messiah Himself commanded His followers, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill."(Matthew 5:17) He declared that until heaven and earth pass away not even the least letter shall pass from the Law.
The last time I checked, the heaven and earth are still present!
2) In the first century, Messiah's enemies wanted to put Him to death. They hungered for it as a starving man craves food. Yet they never charge Him with violating the Law or being a false prophet. Conviction on such a charge would have easily warranted the death penalty. Instead Scripture tells us that His enemies kept trying to obtain false testimony against Him (Matthew 26:59-60, Mark 14:55-59) but they did not succeed.
Something Greater Than the Temple
Healing, making paste, picking grain... all of these are considered violations of the Sabbath according to Jewish tradition.
Messiah healed on the Sabbath, made paste, and allowed His disciples to pick grain. There are only three possible options to describe what He was doing:
1) He was violating or abolishing the Sabbath.
If this were true then the Law requires His death for violating the Sabbath. His enemies never charged Him with this crime so neither should we.
2) He was abolishing the man-made rules about the Sabbath.
This, too, would have been a sin against the Law and neither His enemies nor Scripture itself accuse Him of this.
3) He was establishing a hierarchy of the commandments.
In defending His actions, the Master points to examples from Scripture:
"Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,' you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." (Matthew 12:3-8)
In defending Himself, Messiah points to King David's clear violation of the Law in eating the consecrated bread and the priests' clear violation of the Law in working on the Sabbath... and yet they are innocent. How is this true?
In declaring "something greater than the Temple is here", He was not referring to Himself. The Pharisees would have never accepted such an argument! The thing "greater than the Temple" was the need of those who were sick and the hunger of His disciples. In these examples, Messiah illustrates that showing compassion for simple human hunger (in the case of David) and need (in the case of the priests' serving the needs of others) is the portion of the Law that must be observed before the stringencies of the Sabbath.
If anti-missionary Jews today only knew what this means, "I desire compassion, and not sacrifice", they would not condemn the Innocent One.
The Claim: Verses "Referring" to Jesus Are Mistranslated
- Virgin Birth
Isaiah 7:14 says that a "young woman" will give birth not a "virgin".
- Suffering Servant
The suffering servant in Isaiah 53 refers to Israel... not Jesus
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
In Isaiah 7:11, G-d tells King Ahaz, "Ask for a sign for yourself from the LORD your G-d; make it as deep as Sheol or high as heaven."
Ahaz declines in fear saying, "I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!" (verse 12)
In verse 14, G-d declares His choice of a miraculous sign for Ahaz: a virgin shall be with child and bear a son.
According to the anti-missionaries the miraculous sign G-d chose was that a "young woman" would get pregnant (presumably in the normal way) and have a son. Really? How is something that happens millions of times every year a miracle?
Yes, the Hebrew of this passage uses the word "alma". Yes, that word generally means "a young woman", however, young women described using this word are virgins. A young woman who is not a virgin is called a naarah. Jacob's daughter Dinah (who is raped by a young man) is described using naarah and not alma.
Between 130 to 350 years before Messiah was born, Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek... a translation we call The Septuagint. They translated the Hebrew word alma in Isaiah 7:14 into the Greek word parthenos. This word parthenos means "a young woman who is a virgin".
Centuries of debate among Jewish scholars record that some considered the child of Isaiah 7:14 to be the Messiah and others to be a messiah (an "annointed one", specifically Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz). The point of this is that Jews definitely consider this to be a Messianic passage of Scripture.
In actuality, Isaiah 53 directly follows the theme of chapter 52, describing the exile and redemption of the Jewish people. The prophecies are written in the singular form because the Jews ("Israel") are regarded as one unit. Throughout Jewish scripture, Israel is repeatedly called, in the singular, the "Servant of God" (see Isaiah 43:8). In fact, Isaiah states no less than 11 times in the chapters prior to 53 that the Servant of God is Israel. When read correctly, Isaiah 53 clearly [and ironically] refers to the Jewish people being "bruised, crushed and as sheep brought to slaughter" at the hands of the nations of the world. These descriptions are used throughout Jewish scripture to graphically describe the suffering of the Jewish people (see Psalm 44). Isaiah 53 concludes that when the Jewish people are redeemed, the nations will recognize and accept responsibility for the inordinate suffering and death of the Jews.
This is a common anti-missionary claim. Not surprisingly, there are several holes in their logic:
1) The suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is innocent and guiltless and "had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth". In contrast, Isaiah describes Israel as a "sinful nation, a people weighed down with iniquity." (Isaiah 1:4)
2) The suffering servant of Isaiah 53:3 was not esteemed by Israel ("we did not esteem Him") and yet Israel esteems themselves daily in their prayers:
"Praiseworthy are those who dwell in Your house; may they always praise You, Selah! Praiseworthy is the people for whom this is so, praiseworthy is the people whose G-d is the LORD!" [The Artscroll Siddur]
3) The suffering servant of Isaiah 53:8 suffers the penalty of the transgression in lieu of "my people," [Israel] "to whom the stroke was due". This cannot be Israel.
4) The suffering servant dies, is buried, and is called rich in His death (verse 9) and yet the nation of Israel has never died or been buried.
5) The suffering servant of Isaiah 53 serves as a "guilt-offering" (Hebrew: asham). This type of offering is used to atone for willful sin. Can the suffering of a sinful nation serve to atone for their own sins much less the sins of other nations? No!
The suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is not Israel.
The Claim: Jewish Belief is Based Solely on National Revelation
Again quoting Aish.com:
Judaism, unique among all of the world's major religions, does not rely on "claims of miracles" as the basis for its religion. In fact, the Bible says that God sometimes grants the power of "miracles" to charlatans, in order to test Jewish loyalty to the Torah (Deut. 13:4).
Of the thousands of religions in human history, only Judaism bases its belief on national revelation ― i.e. God speaking to the entire nation. If God is going to start a religion, it makes sense He'll tell everyone, not just one person.
During the national revelation of G-d to Israel at Mt. Sinai this event occurred:
Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank. (Exodus 24:9-11)
Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up on the mountain and they saw the G-d of Israel!
And He had feet.
The prophet Zechariah speaks of another national revelation that is coming to Israel:
Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations [who seek to destroy Israel], as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. (Zechariah 14:3-4)
The Mount of Olives will be split in two when the G-d of Israel arrives to protect His people.
And He has feet.
The national revelation at Sinai was conducted through a mediator: Moses.
The national revelation of the Messiah during His first coming was conducted directly by Himself but His people rejected Him (John 1:11)... all as part of G-d's plan.
The national revelation of the Messiah during His second coming will be conducted by Himself, a great trumpet, myriads of legions of angels, and mountains splitting in half. Every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him (Revelation 1:7) and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess (Isaiah 45:23) the Name that is above all names (Philippians 2:9).
Oh, Lord, hasten the coming of that day!
This appeared in the "footnotes" section of the Aish.com web page that inspired this article:
There is no Biblical basis for the idea of a father passing on his tribal line by adoption. A priest who adopts a son from another tribe cannot make him a priest by adoption;
This is not true. Scripture actually provides an example of this:
Eli the priest adopts Samuel the Ephraimite (1 Samuel 1). Later, Samuel ministers to G-d (1 Sam 3:1) and then hears from the LORD while sleeping in "the temple of the LORD when the ark of G-d was". (1 Samuel 3:3)
Clearly, Samuel the Ephraimite was serving and living in places reserved only for the Levites.
The Cursed King
This appeared in the "footnotes" section of the Aish.com web page that instigated this article:
Joseph could never pass on by adoption that which he doesn't have. Because Joseph descended from Jeconiah (Matthew 1:11) he fell under the curse of that king that none of his descendants could ever sit as king upon the throne of David. (Jeremiah 22:30; 36:30)
Jeconiah (also called Coniah and Jehoiachin) was the next to the last king of Judah who reigned before Zedekiah. He reigned for three months and did evil in the sight of the LORD. In Jeremiah 22:24-30 the LORD pronounces a curse on Jeconiah and his descendants, declaring them ineligible to sit upon the throne of David as the king of Israel.
Some Christian scholars have pointed to this curse as originating the necessity of virgin birth. King David's lineage through Jeconiah is completely cut off from the Davidic promises. If Joseph was the father of Jesus then the G-d's curse on Jeconiah would have been passed along to Him and He would not have been qualified to be King.
The curse declares that Jeconiah would never prosper however, Jeremiah records this:
Now it came about in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-fifth of the month, that Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, showed favor to Jehoiachin king of Judah and brought him out of prison. Then he spoke kindly to him and set his throne above the thrones of the kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin changed his prison clothes, and had his meals in the king's presence regularly all the days of his life. For his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king of Babylon, a daily portion all the days of his life until the day of his death. (Jeremiah 52:31-34)
Note that the curse declares "no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah." Within two generations, however, a descendant of Jehoiachin is ruling over Judah:
Then the word of the LORD came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying, "Speak to Zerubbabel governor of Judah, saying, 'I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another. On that day,' declares the LORD of hosts, 'I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant,' declares the LORD, 'and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,'" declares the LORD of hosts. (Haggai 2:20-23)
Zerubbabel is the grandson of Jeconiah (1 Chronicles 3:17-19, Matthew 1:12) and yet he is ruling over Judah. Although Jeremiah declared that Jeconiah was the signet ring G-d would remove (Jeremiah 22:24) his grandson, Zerubbabel is described as the signet ring G-d would put on (Haggai 2:23)!
Based upon these passages of Scripture even the Talmudic Sages of Judaism unanimously agreed that Jeconiah was forgiven for his transgressions by the end of his life.