The Angel of His Face

“In all their affliction he was afflicted, And the Angel of His Face saved them…(Isaiah 63:9)

     Continuing the theme of my last post, I want to expound on some things that became apparent to me from the investigation into the Messiah in the Old Testament.  This article continues my supposition that the “Angel of the Yahweh” mentioned in the Tanach is YHWH Himself and a Pre-incarnate Messiah.  (see my last post for details “The Defense of Christina Deity.”)  While researching this Angel, I stumbled across the above-quoted verse.  I was captivated by the phrase, “of His Face.”  Since we’ve been discussing the pros vs. cons of the Peshat approach to scriptures (used mainly by the Karaite Jews), I thought a literal examination of this verse would be in order.

     The Hebrew for face is mnp( (panim) which is literally means “face”.  No spiritual/theological gymnastics are required to determine its meaning.  The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament states, “The face identifies the person and reflects the attitude and sentiments of the person.  As such, panim can be a substitute for the self, or the feelings of the self.” (1)  This was exactly what I was thinking, that this Angel (or messenger in Hebrew) is here literally (Peshatlly if you will) identified with Yahweh Himself.  I thought, perhaps, I was reading into it, so I searched for some additional commentary on it.  Keil and Delitasch write, “This mediatorial angel is called the “the angel of His face,” as being the representative of God, for the “face of God” is His self-revealing presence.  The genitive wynp, therefore, it’s not to be taken objectively in the sense of the “angels who sees His face,” but as explanatory, “the angel who is His face, or in whom His face is manifested.” (2)  Notice the “w” on the end of the word.  It is called a pronominal suffix and the literal translation of it is “His.”  The grammar (syntax) of the Hebrew (literally, plainly, Peshat) is written with “possession” in mind and this tells us that this Messenger represents or is His Face.  There is one final witness I would like to call that bears witness of this translation.

     A group of Rabbis translated the Tanach into Greek a few hundred years before the time of Jesus.  How did they interpret the verse?  The literal translation form the Greek is “not an ambassador, nor a messenger (angel), but Himself saved them.’ (Greek: ou presbus, oude aggelos, all autos eswsen autos.)  Their understanding of the verse is the same as the supposition that is but forth here.

     To conclude, we have the Hebrew text itself (syntax), the commentary of theologians, and the translation of ancient rabbis which all proclaim that this Angel is Yahweh Himself.  Notice how the first part of the verse begins, “In all their afflictions, He was afflicted.”  This sounds much like the character of Messiah and much like the character of Jesus.  This Angel was a pre-incarnate Savior of Israel and of the Gentiles.

Endnotes

  1. 1.       R.L. Harris, Editor; Gleason Archer, Jr. and Bruce Waltke, Associate Editors, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Moody Press, Chicago, 1980, page 727.
  2. 2.      C.F. Keil, F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Mass, volume 7, page 599-600.
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The Trinity in Isaiah

“Come near to Me:  Hear this, not from the beginning in secret have I spoken.  From the time of its Being, there I was.  And now, Lord Yahweh has sent Me and His Spirit.” (Isaiah 48:16)

     The above quoted verse is a transliteration of the Hebrew of Isaiah 48:16.  (I will spare you the gory details of the syntax, which too many of my friends, will be much appreciated.  My wife included.)  I am writing about this to continue on the theme of the last few post regarding Christian Deity from the Old Testament.  I mention the syntax and exegesis (translation and exact meaning of the text) because I’ve been using a “Peshat” approach to prove the existence of the Trinity from the Tanach (Old Testament).  Additionally, I’ve quoted the transliteration above because I believe that most English translations get it wrong.  They will write something like “Come near me and listen to this:  From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret at the time it happens, I am there.  And now, the Sovereign LORD has sent me with His Spirit.” (New International Version)  It is my opinion that this translation misses the essence of the text.  Mainly, that God is identifying His Triune Nature in this verse.  God is speaking in the verse.  He speaks of three distinct beings.  First, the speaker, second, the Lord Yahweh, and lastly, His Spirit.  Additionally, this speaker states, “From the time of its Being”, the word in Hebrew for Being is the same word from which “Yahweh” is formulated.  The speaker is identifying His eternal nature and thus, identifies Himself as Yahweh.  But, let’s not just take my word for it, let’s hear from the theologians.

     Keil and Delitzsch write, “Up to this point Jehovah is speaking; but who is it that now proceeds to say, “And now—namely, now that the redemption of Israel is about to appear (וְעַתָּה being here, as in many other instances, e.g., Isa. 33:10, the turning-point of salvation)—now that the Lord Jehovah sent me and His Spirit?” The majority of the commentators assume that the prophet comes forward here in his own person, behind Him whom he has introduced, and interrupts Him. But although it is perfectly true, that in all prophecy, from Deuteronomy onwards, words of Jehovah through the prophet and words of the prophet of Jehovah alternate in constant, and often harsh transitions, and that our prophet has this mark of divine inspiration in common with all the other prophets (cf., Isa. 62:5, 6), it must also be borne in mind, that hitherto he has not spoken once objectively of himself, except quite indirectly (vid., Isa. 40:6; 44:26), to say nothing of actually coming forward in his own person. Whether this takes place further on, more especially in Isa. 61, we will leave for the present; but here, since the prophet has not spoken in his own person before, whereas, on the other hand, these words are followed in Isa. 49:1ff. by an address concerning himself from that servant of Jehovah who announces himself as the restorer of Israel and light of the Gentiles, and who cannot therefore be ether Israel as a nation or the author of these prophecies, nothing is more natural than to suppose that the words, “And now hath the Lord,” etc., form a prelude to the words of the One unequalled servant of Jehovah concerning Himself which occur in Isa. 49. The surprisingly mysterious way in which the words of Jehovah suddenly pass into those of His messenger, which is only comparable to Zech. 2:12ff., 4:9 (where the speaker is also not the prophet, but a divine messenger exalted above him), can only be explained in this manner. And in no other way can we explain the וְעַתָּה, which means that, after Jehovah has prepared the way for the redemption of Israel by the raising up of Cyrus, in accordance with prophecy, and by his success in arms, He has sent him, the speaker in this case, to carry out, in a mediatorial capacity, the redemption thus prepared, and that not by force of arms, but in the power of the Spirit of God (Isa. 42:1; cf., Zech. 4:6). Consequently the Spirit is not spoken of here as joining in the sending (as Umbreit and Stier suppose, after Jerome and the Targum: the Septuagint is indefinite, καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτοῦ); nor do we ever find the Spirit mentioned in such co-ordination as this (see, on the other hand, Zech. 7:12, per spiritum suum ). The meaning is, that it is also sent, i.e., sent in and with the servant of Jehovah, who is speaking here. To convey this meaning, there was no necessity to write either ‏שָׁלַח אֹתִי וְרוּחוֹ‎ or ‏שׁלחני וְאֶת־רוחו‎, since the expression is just the same as that in Isa. 29:7, ‏צֹבֶיהָ וּמְצֹדָתָהּ; and the Vav may be regarded as the Vav of companionship (Mitschaft, lit., with-ship, as the Arabs call it; see at Isa. 42:5). (1)  Notice this last part, the Vav of companionship.  In Hebrew this vav is attached to the beginning of a word and is almost always translated “and” and almost never “with”.  Thus, the trinity is defined in the verse.

 

     What is the sense of all this?  Basically, the text speaks of three individuals.  Lord YHWH, and the messenger who steps forward to speak, a pre-incarnate Messiah, and the Sprit which linguistically is connected by companionship and, as such, represents a separate being in the text.  The trinity is here clearly (Peshatly) defined in the Hebrew of the Old Testament.  The speaker clearly identifies His co-eternal existence with Lord Yahweh (Hebrew is Adonai YHWH) and the Spirit.  This is strikingly similar to what Jesus says about Himself to a group of Jews.  He states, “Before Abraham was, I am.”  Jesus is clearly making a claim to Deity and His message is clearly understood by the Jews.  They pick up stones to stone Him.

 

Endnotes

 R.L. Harris, Editor; Gleason Archer, Jr. and Bruce Waltke, Associate Editors, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Moody Press, Chicago, 1980, page 465

The Keeping of Torah Positions Us for Revelation

“Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast of restraint, but blessed Is he who keeps the law. (Proverbs 29:18 ESV)

    This is one of those verses that just “leapt” off the page at me.  It is so ripe with meaning that a brief discussion of it is in order.  God is called “The Living God” and as such, desires a dynamic and individual relationship with all of us.  There is to be an “ebb and flow” between us and the spiritual realm.  Without this relationship, things don’t seem to go well for us humans.  We are the agents of God in the physical realm.  We were created in His Image and Likeness and we are to be everything in this realm that He is in the spiritual realm.  We are His representatives and co-laborers.  We are commissioned by Him, to loose His Will on earth as His Will exists in heaven.  This demands a dynamic relationship between us and Him.  This is “prophetic vision”.  That God will reveals His will to us in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in and it is then our job to release His spiritual power into that circumstance to bring heaven on earth. This keeps us grounded as human beings.  It gives us focus, destiny, and purpose and, when this is lacking, people tend to cast off restraint.  Without this prophetic mission, human beings tend to become very human indeed.  We search for fulfillment in things that were never meant to be fulfilling.  Sin is the main dish of this diet.   However, there seems to be a lifestyle that we can adopt that will position us to receive prophetic revelation.

The keeping of the commandments of God demonstrates our great love for Him.  If we are keeping commandments for any other reason other than an expression of our love for Him, then we are either self-righteous or embracing works based theology.  Neither, of which, is capable of producing spiritual life.  But, when we keep the Torah out of a love for Him, we position ourselves to receive prophetic revelation.

The Law has a restraining effect upon the lust of the eyes, the world, and the flesh.  This restraining effect positions us to receive spiritual revelation and keeps us grounded in Him.   It is the prophetic vision of that God shows us about our lives that keeps us grounded and the restraining of the flesh by the keeping of Torah positions us for spiritual release.

The Defense of Christian Deity

Recently, a reader of my post, The Defense of New Testament Prophecy, wrote a comment.  He wrote:

 Perhaps the problem with your group is that a “Torah-observant Christian” is an oxymoron. For an observant reader of scripture reads:

Numbers 23:19: YHWH is not a man, that He should be deceitful, nor the son of man, that He should repent.

Psalms 146:3: Do not rely on princes in or in the son of man, for he holds no salvation.

Hoshea 11:9. I will not execute the kindling of My anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim, for I am God and not a man.

1 Sam15: 28-29 And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you, today; and has given it to your fellow who is better than you. And also, the Strength of Israel will neither lie nor repent, for He is not a man to repent.”

Perhaps a Torah observant reader would conclude that these verses are incompatible with the notion of a Christian Deity.

     These comments, from a Karaite Jew, really demonstrate the point of the above-mentioned article.  Mainly, that a Peshat (plain/literal) interpretation of scripture has tremendous pitfalls.  This comment also demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of Christian Deity.  The concept of Christian Deity is much deeper than Jesus, the man.  It represents YWHW as Father, Son, and Spirit.  That all three are equally YWHW, that all three are one (Hebrew “echad”) and all three are well documented in Torah, even using a Peshat mode of interpretation of the text.  This is a great mystery.  As Avram Yehoshua writes, “The problem that some have with Jesus ‘being God’ is that most confuses the noun-title God with a name like John or Ted.  So, in Heaven, there can only be on John (God), but God is not a name.  It is a designation, the One having it being deity.  In a sense, ‘God” could be the last name of Deity; the family name:  Papa God, Yeshua the Son (God), and the Holy Spirit (God). All share the God-ness or deity.  We have no problem with an earthly family having all its members with the same last name…They, too, share the name nature (human) and are one family.” (1)  Yes, they can be different but be “one”.  The Hebrew word “echad” denotes this particular concept.  According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament it means, “to be united…and stresses unity while recognizing diversity within that oneness.” (2) This concept is, perhaps, demonstrated the most in what contemporary Judaism calls the “Sh’ma.”  In Deuteronomy chapter six it states, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is one.”  The word is “echad” and illustrates the point that God is diverse but still united.   The purpose of this post is to demonstrate the concept of the Trinity, not from the entire Tanach (in which it is also well documented) but from the Torah alone.

    Our first evidence comes from the book of Exodus (twmv) and it states, “HaShem (YWHW) would speak to Moses face to face, as a man would speak with his fellow…” (33:11 Stone Edition Tanach, I’m using a Jewish translation to demonstrate no Christian bias from the text) However, we see an apparent contradiction in a different verse later in the same chapter.  Moses, requesting to behold the glory of YHWH is told, “You will not be able to see My face, for no human can see My face and live.” (33:20) (The Hebrew word for face is the same in both verses.)  How can both these exist?  Simply, it is the Father whose face cannot be beheld by humans and live.  It is a different aspect of YHWH than what Moses met with face to face in the tabernacle.  This is the Pre-incarnate Messiah!  There is additional evidence of this. 

     When Moses beholds the “glory” of God from the rock, this is what the Torah says, “Hashem  (YWHW) descended in a cloud and stood with him there, and He called out with the Name Hashem (YWHW).  Hashem (YWHW) passed before him and proclaimed…” (34:5-6) How can YWHW descend in a cloud and stand next to Moses and proclaim the name of the YWHW as YWHW passes by?  Plainly, there is more than one aspect of YWHW.  There is the Father who passes by, the Son who descends in the cloud, and the Spirit is the cloud (The Shekinah).

    In Exodus ((twmv), the angel of the YWHW appears to Moses in the burning bush.  Who is this angel that speaks in the first person on behalf of YWHW?  It is this angel that tells Moses to go to Egypt to deliver “My People”.  It is this angel who tells Moses that “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob…”  It is this angel that tells Moses that his name is YWHW.  The text clearly identifies YWHW with this angel.  Who is this angel?  This is the Messiah before his incarnation into humanity.  I’m not the only one who has come to this conclusion.  The Talmudic Sages saw the same reference to Messiah here as well.  They state, “Three things were created on the basis of the name of the Holy One:  the Righteous, the Messiah, and Jerusalem.” (3)  Also, Rabbis Shmuel Ben Naham (ca 260 ad) and Abba Bar Kahan (ca 300 ad) came to the conclusion that “this is the name of the Messiah.” (4)  According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “This angel is spoken of as ‘the angel of the Lord’, and ‘the angel of the presence or face) of the Lord.’  The following passages contain references to this angel:  Gen 16:7 the angel and Hagar; Gen,18  Abraham intercedes with the angel for Sodom; Gen 22:1 the angel interposes to prevent the sacrifice of Isaac; Gen 24:7,  Abraham sends Eliezer and promises him the ange’ls protection; Gen 31:1 the angel who appears to Jacob and says, “I am the God of Bethel’; Gen 32:24  Jacob wrestles with the angel and says, ‘I have seen God face to face’ ; Gen 48:15 Jacob speaks of God and the angel as identical; Ex 3 the angel appears to Moses in the burning bush; Ex 13:21; 14:19 God or the angel lead Israel out of Egypt; Ex 23:20  the people are commanded to obey the angel; Ex 32:34-33:17  Moses pleads the presence of God with His people.” (5) This angel is the pre-incarnate Messiah!  I say this because the Hebrew word for angel (מלאך mal’lach) can be translated a “messenger or representative” and not just angel.  We can clearly see that this representative of Yahweh was in fact, Yahweh Himself.  Additionally, it was necessary for this angel or pre-incarnate God to become a man.

     It began in the beginning.  Immediately after Adam and Eve sin and eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the mission of Messiah is identified.  In Genesis chapter three, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers, he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)  It is the ‘seed’ of a woman that will crush the head of the enemy (HaSatan).  Thus, it is imperative that Messiah would become a human being.  Jesus was not just a man, as the comments from my Karaite friend seem to suggest, He was God who became a man because the seed of a woman would crush the enemy (death and the devil).  This is not just my opinion, it is also noted in the Jerusalem Targums.  It reads, “Finally, in the days of Messiah-King, he will be wounded in His Heel.” (6)  In order for mankind to be redeemed from the curse, it required the intervention of a man.  The seed of a woman would be the Messiah, it was necessary for this aspect of Yahweh to become “a man.”

  The activities of the Spirit are well documented as well.  It is the Spirit that “hovers over” in the beginning of creation (Bereshit Gen 1:2) It is the Spirit that “will not contend” with sinful humanity (6:3).  In Exodus, (twmv), it is the Spirit of God (ruach elohim) that fills Uri and Bezalel and empowers them to construct the tabernacle. (Ex 37:1-2)  It is also the Spirit of God that comes upon Balaam and orders the prophetic blessings rather than curses.  The activities of the Spirit are all activities of YWHW.  Thus, the Spirit is an aspect of YWHW as well.

     In conclusion, it is well documented in the Torah that YWHW acts through three distinct beings.  That of the Father, the Creator who no human can behold and live.  That of the Son, the pre-incarnate angel of YWHW who speaks in the first person for YWHW and delivers Israel from Egypt.  That also of the Spirit, who gives divine power to accomplish the will of YWHW and to speak prophetic blessings of Israel.  This is the concept of Christian deity; it is more than just “a man.”  Rather, Christian deity exemplifies all of the activities of YWHW and recognizes the many aspects of YWHW as all co-equal and one.

 

 

 

 

Endnotes

  1. 1.      Yehoshua, Avram, Yeshua:  God the Son, www.seedofabraham.net.
  2. 2.      R.L. harris, Editor; Gleason Archer, Jr. and Bruce Waltke, Associate Editors, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Moody Press, Chicago, 1980, page 30.
  3. 3.       Masekhet Baba Bathra 75b.
  4. 4.      Ibid.
  5. 5.      Bromiley, Geoffrey, Editor; The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,   Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, volume one; 1979, page, 125.
  6. 6.      As quoted in Risto Santala, The Messiah in the Old Testament  in the Light of the Rabbinical Writings, Keren Ahvah Meshihit, Jerusalem Israel, 1992, page 38.

The Defense of New Testament Prophetic Writings

      In recent years, many of the prophecies concerning Messiah in the New Testament have been called into questions.  Many object to the prophecies as being too figurative or even twisted from the Old Testament writings. Many Torah-observant Christians have been incited away from Christianity because of this perspective.  Particularly the Jewish sect of Karaite Judaism has influenced torah-observant Christians to leave the Messiah.  Reason being, their approach and methodology of scripture interpretation.

 

     “The Karaites are a Jewish sect which does not recognize the authority of the post-Biblical tradition incorporated in the Talmud and in the latter rabbinic works.” (1)  The Karaites reject that the Talmud/ mishnah/ targums of the orthodox community are inspired by God.  They believe solely in the inspiration of the Old Testament (Tanach).  Their approach to biblical interpretation is as follows: 

 

“Karaites (Karaim/Qaraim) are followers of the Hebrew Scriptures (Miqra/Mikra). We use Peshat (Plain Meaning) to interpret the Miqra. This does not mean we are strictly literalist but are contextualist. We study and interpret the scripture based upon the context in the scripture, the historic context and a language context. Not all Karaites interpret the Miqra exactly the same but we are dedicated to the following of YHVH and him alone. There is no other Elohim (God) but him.” (2)

 

     Their approach, a Peshat or literal interpretation of scripture, is one of the four methods which are used by the rabbis to interpret scripture.  In essence, the Karaite approach, as well as the approach of modern scholarship, utilizes only one of the four methods commonly used during the time of the writing of the New Testament for biblical interpretation.  (More on this later).  This particular mode, the Peshat, is what modern scholars call a historical-critical exegesis.  Exegesis means that they are drawing the meaning of a text out of the text itself by literally translating the language and then placing it within its historic framework. This is the most common approach of modern scholarship.  Personally, this is my own favorite approach to scripture.  However, I’m forced to admit that this method is not comprehensive and can be very short-sighted. Although this is a great method for textual examination, it’s not comprehensive enough to cover all the aspects of the spiritual gamut.  Why?  Risto Santala, author of The Messiah in the Old Testament, explains, “Mental and spiritual concepts must, by their very nature, described figuratively.” (3). This figurative approach is what we see God using with many of the prophets of the Old Testament itself.  It is also the approach of many of the New Testament writers.  Let me give you an example of how an angelic messenger deploys this method.

 

     In Zechariah chapter four, the prophet is having a conversation with an angel.  The angel says to Zechariah, “What do you see?”  Zechariah responds, “I see a solid gold lamp stand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights.  Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.  I asked the angel who talked with me, ‘What are these, my lord.’”(Zechariah 4:2-4)  The angel seems surprised that Zechariah would ask such a question.  To the spiritual being, the interpretation of this vision (now a passage of scripture) is very clear, but it is not so clear to the prophet.  Things in the spiritual realm do not always fit into the mode of modern scholarship or the Karaite approach to biblical interpretation.  The angel responds, “Do you not know what these are?” Then he will explain, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel:  Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6).  It appears that the angel has twisted the vision to explain something that is not “literally” present. The angel is privileged to certain information that makes little sense to the human intellect but makes perfect sense in the realm of the spirit.  Hence, the Peshat approach to scripture can be short-sighted.  I will allow that it has a tremendous place in biblical interpretation.  Perhaps even a place at the foundation, but it is not the end all and be all of biblical interpretation.  There are spiritual principles that simply cannot be explained by using a historical-critical syntaxical exegesis.  The full gamut of spirituality will require more than just the use of our brains. 

 

     As noted above, the Karaites and modern scholarship use a method of interpretation known as Peshat or “simple.”  The ancient rabbis, however, recognized a need for something more comprehensive than historic-critical methods of interpretation and develop a different approach.  The developed a system of biblical interpretation which is called  sdrp, (PaRDeS) an acronym for the four modes of interpretation.   Dr. David Stern gives us an explanation of what these different approached to scripture can mean to us:

 

  1. 1.       Peshat (simple)—the plain, literal sense of the text, more or less what modern scholars mean by “grammatical-historical exegesis” which looks to the grammar of the language and the historical setting as background for deciding what a passage means.  Modern scholars often consider grammatical-historical exegesis the only valid way to deal with a text.  (As we have demonstrated this cannot always be the case)
  2. 2.      Remez (hint)—wherein a word, phrase or other element in the text hint at a truth not conveyed by the Peshat.  The implied presupposition is that God can hint at things of which the Bible writers themselves were unaware.  (Passover and the Messiah for example.  There is not explicit statement connecting the two but the clues are self-evident)
  3. 3.      Drash or midrash (search)—an allegorical or homiletically application of a text.  This is a spercies of eisegesis (reading one’s own thoughts into a text) as opposed to exegesis, which is extracting form the text what it actually says.  The implied presupposition is that the words of Scripture can legitimately become grist for the mill of human intellect, which God can guide to truths not directly related to the text at all.  (The entire concept of Talmud and midrash comes from this interpretation.  Where the orthodox ere, as the Karaites have pointed out, is that the orthodox have elevated a method of interpretation to the level of scripture itself.  This is a mistake.)
  4. 4.      Sod (secret)—a mystical or hidden meaning arrived at by operating on the numerical values of the Hebrew letters, noting unusual spellings, transposing letters, and the like.  For example, two words, the numerical equivalents of whose letters add up to the same amount, are good candidates for revealing a secret through what Arthur Koestler in his book on the inventive mind called “biosociation of ideas.  The implied presupposition is that God invests meaning in the minutest details of Scripture, even the individual letters. (4 parenthetical notes are mine for emphasis and clarification)

    

     The word PaRDeS literally means garden or orchard.  The supposition underlying this mode of biblical interpretation is that God, in His love for humanity, expresses ideas to us through a wide variety of methodologies, not just intellectually.  Many struggle with this concept of interpretation because it has a subjective ring to it.  Their objection is noted and valid.  We must remember that these are approaches to biblical interpretation and that interpretation, in and of itself, cannot replace what is inspired and written.  (Again, this seems to be the error of orthodox Judaism in its elevation of the oral-torah as inspired.)

 

     In the defense of the New Testament, we must evaluate the text according to its historic context (both scholars and Karaites should agree with this because it is based upon a historic contextual model).  What we will find, is that all four of these methods of PaRDeS existed at the time of the writing of the New Testament and were commonly used in Jewish circles for biblical interpretation.  Therefore, when evaluating the New Testament application of the prophecies concerning Messiah, we must consider these methods.  To reject the methods of PaRDeS is to reject a historical critical approach to the New Testament because the New Testament writers deployed these methods many of the passages where they found Messianic fulfillment in the life of Jesus.  Let’s look at an example.

 

     “And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet:  Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:15)  Matthew writes this as the fulfillment of a prophecy written in Hosea 11:1.  Well, let’s take a look at it.  It states, “When Israel was a child, I loved him and out of Egypt I called my son.” This fulfillment makes absolutely no sense from a historical-critical model.  There is absolutely no mention of anything related to Messiah in this chapter.  Therefore, the Karaites dismiss it as being messianic and believe that Matthew was twisting the scriptures.  Is this the case?  I think not.  Again, Dr. Stern, “What then, is Mattityahu doing here?  Some allege he is misusing Scripture, twisting the meaning of what Hosea wrote from its context in order to apply it to Yeshua.  Such an accusation stands only if Mattityahu is dealing with the peshat.    For there is no question that the peshat of Hosea 11:1 applies to the nation of Israel and not to Yeshua.  Some think Mattityahu is using the drash approach, making a midrash in which he read the Messiah into a verse dealing with Israel.  Many rabbis used the same procedure; Matthew’s readers would not have found it objectionable.  Nevertheless, I believe Mattityahu is not doing eisegesis but is giving us a remez, a hint of a very deep truth.  Israel is called God’s son as far back as Exodus 4:22.   The Messiah is presented as God’s son a few verses earlier in Matthew, reflecting a Tanach passages such as Isaiah 9:5-6-7, Psalm 2:7 and Provervbs 30:4.  Thus the Son equals the son; the Messiah is equated with, is one with, the nation of Israel.  This is the deep truth that Matthew is hinting at by calling Yeshua’s flight to Egypt a “fulfillment” of Hosea 11:1.” (5)  It would be easy to see how someone with only a short-sided methodology would reject this as a fulfillment of the prophecy.  Many other examples could be used here, both from the Talmudic passages discussing Messiah, as well as, other references of fulfilled prophecies from the New Testament.

 

     As Dr. Stern noted, none of Matthews’s original readers would have taken objection to this application/interpretation of scripture.  They would have considered it a common approach to biblical interpretation (according to the PaRDeS method of biblical interpretation.)  Hence, in order to give the New Testament a fair assessment, it must be examined under the light of its historical context which has a PaRDeS approach to scriptural interpretation at its core.  When seen in this light, the prophecies of the New Testament can be fully explained inside of their historical approach to scripture.

 

    

Endnotes

  1. http://www.karaites.org/history.html.
  2. 2.       Hazzan Yochanan Zaqantov, http://www.karaitejudaism.org.
  3. 3.       Santala, Risto,  The Messiah in the Old Testament in the Light of Rabinical Writings, Keren Ahvah Meshihit, Jerusalem Israel, 1992, page 43.
  4. 4.       Stern, David, Jewish New Testament Commentary,  Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1992, page 12.
  5. 5.       Ibid