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 Chapter 5: The Nature of the Messiah

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كاتب الموضوعرسالة
أحمد محمد لبن Ahmad.M.Lbn
مؤسس ومدير المنتدى
أحمد محمد لبن Ahmad.M.Lbn

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Chapter 5: The Nature of the Messiah Empty
مُساهمةموضوع: Chapter 5: The Nature of the Messiah   Chapter 5: The Nature of the Messiah Emptyالإثنين 21 أغسطس 2017, 8:54 pm

Chapter 5: The Nature of the Messiah
The first thing that I was reminded was that Messiah only means “anointed”. Cyrus, the King of the Medes and Persians was actually described in Isaiah 45:1 as being the “anointed” of God and could therefore have been considered “a” Messiah. Priests and Prophets and Kings were all anointed. Just being one of this group was a great honour shared by a relatively small proportion of the people of the Old Testament. However, “The Messiah" was something different. I expected that it was this difference that I was looking for, and so I dove into the inquiry with a great sense of excitement and anticipation.

According to my copy of The Oxford Companion to the Bible, the Jews prior to Jesus hoped for a prophesied ruler whose reign would bring everlasting justice, peace and security. The prophecies thought to refer to him included Isaiah 11:1-3: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The spirit of the Lord will be on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord”, Jeremiah 33:14-18: “‘The days are coming’, declares the Lord ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety.

This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.’ For this is what the Lord says: ‘David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, nor will the priests, who are Levites, ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offering and to present sacrifices’”, as well as Ezekiel 37:24-28: “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd.

They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them, it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever”, Genesis 49:10: “The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his” and Numbers 24:17-19: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth. Edom will be conquered; Seir, his enemy, will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong. A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city.”

None of these verses gave me any indication that the Messiah would be God Incarnate. In fact, one of the most important prophecies, the first half of which is quoted in the New Testament as if it refers directly to Jesus and his divine origins, was really completely incompatible with a divine Messiah. In 2 Samuel 7:11-15, the prophet Nathan tells King David: “The Lord declares to you that the Lord Himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

I will be his father, and he will be my son.” In the New Testament book of Hebrews, the quote stops there. In the book of Samuel, it continues: “When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.”

Although the first half of Nathan's prophecy, the part found in the New Testament, could be construed as saying that Jesus was God's son, the rest, if the prophecy referred to Jesus, appeared to say that he would sin and be punished by God with floggings inflicted by men. The title "Son of God", if based on this verse, seemed to be more a matter of adoption than a declaration of divine origin. God couldn't sin! It seemed worse than dishonest to me that the second part of the prophecy had been omitted from the New Testament and had never been taught to me in my Christian studies, as there was obviously no reason to separate the sentences originally.

I read, reread and thought about these verses, and however I looked at them, it was still evident to me that the Messiah they predicted could not have been a manifestation of God on earth. Quite to the contrary, to fulfill the prophecies, he would have had to be both human and fallible. The Old Testament said that he would be given as a gift from God the Spirit of Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Power, Knowledge and the Fear of the Lord and that despite this, he would still do wrong and be punished.

I tried for a while to convince myself that human fallibility was just one of the characteristics that God had had to take on to become fully human. I actually had a few people whom I trusted assure me that God had to become fallible to understand humanity!! Even then, the conception seemed ludicrous to me -- that God could have created mankind at the beginning of our time on earth and yet not have understood everything about us.

I probably could have stuck to my old beliefs and decided that somehow God had taken upon Himself the ability to sin and to deserve punishment -- except for one thing. According to these verses, all the Bible said was that the Messiah was a human descendant of David who would be established by God to reign on earth over God's people. Try as I might, I couldn’t find any verse in the Old or New Testament that said that I had to say or believe that the Messiah would be God. I started to wonder why everyone I knew had always insisted that Christians had to believe what we did.

Still trying to hold on, I broadened my search, looking for anything that I might have misconstrued. In the Bible, I could find verses where God described Himself as a shepherd, and others where He said that He would appoint the Messiah as a shepherd, but never that He would be that shepherd. The Bible spoke of many shepherds for Israel, only one of whom would be the Messiah.

In the end, I had to accept that the prophecies of the Old Testament were quite clear; though the Messiah would be divinely appointed and supported, he would also be a human being whom God promised to treat like a son and punished when punishment was necessary, but from whom God would not take away His love.

By now, I was understandably quite upset. These Bible passages completely contradicted everything that I had been taught to believe about Jesus. I wasn’t sure if I had misunderstood or simply misapplied what I had read. Instead of giving up, I searched harder for verses that would support my belief that Jesus as Messiah had to be God Incarnate.

Some Bible translations that I found quoted the Old Testament as though it said clearly that the Messiah was God. In my New American Standard Revised Version translation the writer of Hebrews quoted a verse from the Psalms in Hebrews 1:5: “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” Placed in the context of the book of Hebrews, the verse seemed to support the doctrine that Jesus was the begotten Son of God. I really wanted to believe that this was sufficient to show that Jesus was divine. However, when I looked, I couldn't find the passages where the Bible said God-hood was hereditary.

I don't remember when I first began to ask myself why calling Jesus the "Son of God" meant that he had to be God himself. Although Greek and Roman mythology taught that the begotten sons of gods were themselves at least partially divine, when I actually considered it, this concept seemed basically incompatible with monotheism. I knew that many of the early fathers of the Church had some background in polytheism, since they had been raised and educated in a Greco-Roman culture.

Out of respect for them, I could almost bring myself to believe that incorporating this into my own faith was all right, and that maybe those ancient Greek storytellers had known something all along. However, I knew in my heart that using polytheistic mythology to shore up Christianity was fundamentally wrong.

In fact, I found that the verse quoted, Psalm 2:7 said: “I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: he said to me, ‘you are my Son; today I have become your Father.’” The footnotes of my New International Version said that the verse could be translated either as ‘become your Father’ or as ‘begotten you’ into English and, I suppose, Greek. Apparently, there was conceptually no difference in the original language.

In my NIV, they were both translated in the fashion of the Psalm. If I understood the verse as “become your Father”, it seemed to speak of adoption and exaltation. That God would choose to treat a servant as if he was a son said a lot about God's mercy, but little about that servant.

I was frustrated because it seemed unlikely to me that the word “begotten” or its connotation of divinity was intended. The voice speaking in Psalm 2:7 had already been born. As I understood it, the act of “begetting” was linked to the moment of conception, not some event that occurred after birth. It was not simply an acknowledgment.

However, it is only when the words are understood and translated as “begotten You” that this verse becomes a support for the doctrine that the Messiah was the begotten Son of God and therefore, at least by the rules of Greek and Roman polytheism, divine.

Chapter 5: The Nature of the Messiah 2013_110
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Chapter 5: The Nature of the Messiah
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