Messianic Prophecies: Do they Point to Jesus or Somebody Else?/Program 5

By: Dr. Pinchas Lapide, Dr. Walter Kaiser, Jr.; ©1985
What is our authority, and how much of an authority is it, and how do we interpret that authority? How do you see the Old Testament being written and what authority does it have for you? Questions and Answers from the Audience.



Ankerberg: Welcome! We’re talking about: Do the Old Testament prophecies point to Jesus or somebody else? And we have two scholars on stage that are our guests tonight. Dr. Pinchas Lapide is an Orthodox Jewish theologian who is one of only four Jewish scholars in the world who is working with the New Testament. Let me say it this way: He teaches the New Testament from a Jewish perspective. And Dr. Walter Kaiser is here, the Dean of Trinity Seminary in Deerfield, Illinois, who is also Professor and Chairman of the Department of Semitic Languages and Old Testament. And, gentlemen, for the people who have not tuned in in previous weeks, we need a base again. Dr. Kaiser, would you set the base from the Hebrew Scriptures themselves of why you believe that when they talk of the Messiah, where is it that they talk about the Messiah and why is it that you believe they are talking about Jesus and nobody else?
Kaiser: The Hebrew Scriptures, I believe, are concerned about the Messiah and the great plan of the Messiah from Genesis 3:15, Genesis 12, the great promise to Abraham, and 2 Samuel 7, the great promise to David. And then with that there is added the wonderful prophecy in Isaiah 53, where the Servant of the Lord seems to me to have the Messianic role and comes to give His life a ransom, not only for the nation Israel, but indeed for all the nations upon the face of the earth. It is the question of, “How can I get rid of my sin?” And I think this is the text that helps us. And then Daniel 7 says that same one who is the Son of Man comes on clouds of heaven and comes as ruler and reigner. So, I take it that this is the great theme of the Scriptures from the beginning to the end. And when Jesus walks into the scene, He is the One who says, “Indeed, these are they that spoke about me,” and points to Himself as the One who is the fulfiller. He, a matter of fact, criticized the disciples on the Road to Emmaus: “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that Moses and the Prophets and the writings have said about me. And beginning with Moses and with the Prophets and the Psalms, He began to show them all things concerning Himself.” [Luke 24:25-27] Our Lord thought that the disciples could and ought and should have known if they had been reading the text the way that He wanted them to read it.
Ankerberg: Okay. Dr. Lapide?
Lapide: Well, I fully agree with you, my friend Kaiser, that just about all the Prophets are very much concerned with the coming Messiah, how he should come and what he should do – or better, “suffer” – in order to usher in the Kingdom of God. But I have not found a single one of the Hebrew prophecies which indubitably and beyond any shadow of a doubt point to Jesus and no one else. I do not say that none of them point to Jesus. The similarities are sometimes striking. But certitude there is none, because there is no nation under the sun more fervent in its Messianic hope than the Jews. And if all the prophecies were unanimous, clear and unmistakably, we would have all been baptized a long time ago.
So, unclarity or ambiguity becloud all the Hebrew prophecies with the possibility of a Jesusanic interpretation included. But let me put another point, which is far more important. What, after all, is revelation? How does Isaiah know, Jeremiah, or Amos that God has spoken to him? The Jewish understanding of the rabbis is that revelation is not the pouring out of a divine content into an empty human vessel, but it is a meeting of the divine and the human in which the human also has to play an active role. In other words, we’ll have to say goodbye to the medieval notion that the Holy Spirit dictated word for word to Luke, Matthew and John, or told Jeremiah and Isaiah word for word what they had to say. That is an unnecessary, I would say, belittling of the role of the Prophets and the Evangelists….
Ankerberg: Let me ask you then, how do you see the Old Testament being written and what authority does it have for you? Define that for us.
Lapide: The entire Old Testament and the New Testament were inspired, they were not dictated. In other words, the Evangelists and the Prophets were inspired from above, but the way to couch it into words and what choice of words they should use was their personal initiative.
Ankerberg: To what effect?
Lapide: To the effect that the notion they had, be it in a voice, an audition or a vision – some of the Prophets don’t tell us how they got to know it – told them a certain thought which ripened within their soul until it burst forth into language which was language of their own choosing so that the Holy Spirit did not dictate, because if the Holy Spirit dictated Luke, Matthew and Mark, I must tell you that as a professor of old languages, He would have not passed the exams in Greek.
Ankerberg: Okay. Dr. Kaiser, how do you hold the Scriptures?
Kaiser: Oh, I like what he is saying there, in part, because I don’t think there is any dictation at all. Oh, the Ten Commandments, now, there is something there: the finger of God. God doesn’t have a finger, but that certainly is very direct.
Lapide: Correct.
Kaiser: And when the handwriting came on the wall, however, that was, that was certainly quite direct.
Lapide: Correct.
Kaiser:Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin” is quite direct. But my point is that you say there is “no one passage.” Rather than trying to move on that basis, I would say the argument is the cumulative effect of passage after passage in which you say, there are striking similarities. It is that “striking” part of it. Micah 5:2, “Thou, Bethlehem Ephratah,” – the old name there for David’s place – “though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet from you shall go forth….” Now, I would think that all Israel that was believing would say, “There. Outside of Jerusalem, look there. It’s got to be from there.” I don’t see how we can debate that. We wouldn’t say that it would be some other city, it has to be here. We’ve got to look at Ephratah. It even uses the older name for the site. And then we start piling up the evidence.
But now to your third point, and that is the medieval concept. I don’t like the medieval concept and I wouldn’t want to get anyone, the Jewish community or the Church, back into that. I think we ought to be through with that, if we ever were in it.
But what about Deuteronomy 18 and Deuteronomy 13, the test for a prophet? I learn my test from the Hebrew Prophets. He had to be a Jew. He had to speak in the name of the Lord. He had to perform signs and wonders. His message had to agree with what was given previously. And he also had to predict the near as well as the distant future. Now, those are tests, and they are tests for truth in which the prophet himself is throwing down the gauntlet: “Here, I want you to judge me.” Don’t say that there are 600,000 interpretations. There are not 600,000 gods, there is only One. So you can’t have 600,000 gods’ “voices.” Remember what we were speaking of in an earlier program? There has to be One God, and this One God is communicating Himself. And in Deuteronomy 13 and Deuteronomy 18, throws down the gauntlet: “Test it! Test it! Because there are charlatans who are going to come and they are going to give their interpretation or they are going to claim this or claim that. But by these five tests, you will know.” And that sounds to me as if these are tests for Truth, and as if there is a dividing line. Not truth with small “t” – truths; but Truth with a capital “T.” And not from our standpoint in which we are going to go murder everyone who doesn’t hold to it. Now, there is graciousness in holding Truth, but still from God’s point of view, if God is One then Truth ultimately has to be One, too.
Lapide: If I follow through your train of thought to its ultimate consequence, considering that in this blessed democratic country of America there you have 4,000 different cults and ways of worshiping God, and one has the Truth, then 3,999 are benighted, ill-led or misled sheep in the flock of God. I refuse to believe that.
Ankerberg: Let me jump in right there because I gave you the facts on the 4,000 cults just a little bit ago. When people have asked me that question, I come back and say this, “If God is loving, would He give us 4,000 ways that all contradict when we have a mind, or would He, if He is loving, give us one way and clearly define it so we can see it?”
Lapide: I have a suspicion that God Almighty has given all of us – Christians, Jews, and I would not omit the Muslims – a rough outline of what God wants us to do. He certainly hasn’t given us a portrait of Himself. We don’t know what God is and what He looks like, but what we ought to do. And in all three religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – agree on the fundamentals. They would say, “Love your neighbor, because that’s the only way to love God.”
Ankerberg: Would you say you have any content that comes from God Himself about Himself?
Lapide: Yes.
Ankerberg: Okay.
Lapide: And it could be put down probably on ten lines and we don’t need Holy Scripture of 500 pages, which are nothing but the detailing and spelling out of the central message.
Ankerberg: Okay, I appreciate that. What makes you think that the ten lines that you’ve got are from God?
Lapide: Well, I’ll tell you. One hundred and fifty generations of my ancestors have lived by it, have died for it, and have dedicated their lives to the stout belief in them. And that my little self considers ample to live by and to walk in their footsteps.
Ankerberg: So it’s the majority of people that have held to that view and suffered for it versus the fact that you think that God Himself said it to you and wants you to hold it?
Lapide: Yes, I would say a Truth for which people were prepared to die joyously in martyrdom, which exceeds all reason and logic, is a hallowed truth and can only come from God.
Ankerberg: Okay, if I could push that just a little further. When we do a program on Buddhism and we count up the millions of people that have suffered and believe in Buddhism, their “Truth” is different. But because there’s so many of them, is it true?
Lapide: If you talk about Buddhism, let me tell you how the Buddhists see it. They say four blind men were sent out to see an elephant and explore it. And one came back and said an elephant is a trunk and nothing else. The other one said, “You’re a liar. An elephant is a tiny piece of tail with a huge piece of flesh attached to it.” The third one said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” The fourth one said, “It’s a long trunk with two little holes at the end.” All four men gave a totally different description of the elephant, all four were right, but each one got a part of it. It seems that religions are like it.
Ankerberg: What I’m saying, though, is if the Buddhists say there is no God and you say there is one, we’ve got a completely different thing there. Do we count up the truth factor by the number of people that hold to that?
Lapide: No, the Buddhists have an absolute being which is above and beyond everything. They don’t want to call it “god” for reasons which, frankly speaking, escape me. But what they actually mean is what we describe with the three letters G-O-D.
Ankerberg: Okay. But can you see where I’m saying? Dr. Kaiser, if I can turn to you. Is that the basis that you are reading the Hebrew Scriptures, that because so many people have held to that view or hold to a particular view, that’s why we hold it, or is there some other reason?
Kaiser: No, I think that we are discussing is, is there a norm in the whole question of Truth? Is there an elephant? I mean, granted that we’ve got people grabbing different parts all the time, there is an elephant standing right there. And while we’re all talking about religion, is God in His heavens and is there a being with Whom we must reckon? That’s a terribly serious question, I mean, to have lived all of life and then finally to have said, “I was going to get around to that question, and I hope that it was, you know, sort of on the averages.” But to find out that indeed it was not would be a tragedy. It would be the most momentous tragedy in all of life.
So, where shall I go? And I must, if God Himself does not reveal Himself, then surely I’m not going to put my trust in all of these kinds of things, Christianity included. Christianity can be a deadly thing, too. It has all of the human problems that any other religion has, so I don’t want to claim that the religion escapes critiquing. What I need, though, is a word from on High. Has God spoken, and has He appeared? Has He shown up, and is there any place where I can see Him? And I say yes. Watch Israel, and watch the promise coming through the promise line in Israel. And then, watch the city Bethlehem. Watch for an announcer, a John the Baptist, a messenger who is coming ahead of Him. And sure enough, Malachi was right. Isaiah was right. And watch for a betrayer. Watch for a man who sells him for 30 pieces of silver. The detail gets striking. It’s striking! More than that, it’s thunderous after a while. The evidence mounts up to such a degree that there is a moral obligation then. How can I walk away from this pile of evidence which comes, not from the bosom of the Church, but comes from the nation whom God has chosen, Israel. And we must hear it.
Ankerberg: Right in that area, Dr. Lapide, there was something that you said concerning that evidence, that it could apply to any Jew. Let me ask you this, could the Messiah be someone that was not born at Bethlehem?
Lapide: Definitely.
Ankerberg: In light of Micah 5?
Lapide: Yes. Micah 5 does not call the Messiah by His name. “You Bethlehem in Judah are the smallest of the cities, but out of you shall come the ruler,” it says. The “Ruler” is by no means necessarily the Messiah, just as in Isaiah 53 the “Suffering Servant” is by no means necessarily the Messiah.
Kaiser: But this ruler has a little bit of antiquity. You may not be able to prove and understand the problem there: “Whose goings forth have been from eternity.” It may not be that, but “from old.” This is a little different from our rulers. Most of them come and we see them go. This one, you’ve got to say there is something a little different about this moshel. He’s come from some way back.
Lapide: Quite correct.
Kaiser: I think that’s what opens up the possibility there.
Lapide: I’m sure that Micah was athrob with good Jewish Messianic yearning, but he didn’t put “Jesus” as a label on his prophecy.
Kaiser: You mean that the name Yeshua doesn’t occur there.
Lapide: Exactly.
Kaiser: Yeah, that’s true. But that’s where I think that there is the element of moral obligation.
Lapide: Yeah.
Kaiser: That’s where the historian, that’s where the person, the layperson’s obligation, “Test and prove these things.” Is this what the Prophets are looking for? Give me my checklist. Now, go down the checklist of Yeshua, and does it fit, or does it not? That’s a pragmatic test for truth. It’s a coherence test. It’s a correspondence test for truth.
Lapide: Let me tell you what the pragmatic test would be for Judaism. The proof of the pudding is in the eating of it. Jesus of Nazareth, with all this grandeur, with the selflessness, with being a paragon of virtue, and I wouldn’t quibble at all about that, has not brought the kingdom of heaven, has not abolished war from this world, and has not ushered in the days which we Jews call the Days of the Messiah or the Redemption. That He hoped to do so is beyond doubt. That He failed to realize it is unfortunately dubitable as well. The solution is not “yes” or “no.” But I can visualize the drama of redemption in two acts. The Suffering Messiah who died on the cross for selflessness and atonement, an indispensable element in the Messiahship, and His second coming and return, when the glory, the kingdom, the peace, warlessness and love will reign supreme. We have the first act behind us. We are all waiting for the second act. Jews and Christians alike.
Kaiser: I think that’s the answer, too. “Keep tuned.” Keep tuned in, because we’ve had Act #1. Wait till you see Act #2. And I can give you some hints as to where the wrap-up comes. The Prophets have got their neck out on the line. They located geographically, they can tell you who the components are, Joel 3 says “all the nations,” that includes everyone on the face of the earth, have decided “this thing’s got to go” and they gang up once again on Israel. The biblical text says God Himself steps in. That is the grand finale and that is the moment in which every bit of the yearning that you express here comes to full fruition.
Ankerberg: But, meantime, now you have written a book, The Resurrection of Jesus, and you have stated that Jesus, according to history, from the evidence of history itself, the probability, the intellectual conclusion off of the probability of history, because there are no certain aspects of history. You can’t put history back and go back and repeat it. You have to take the accounts, the eyewitnesses. And when you take the eyewitness accounts, and you add up the evidence, you have said, “Jesus turns out to be the Messiah for the Gentiles.” And “He was approved of God via the resurrection.” [Rom. 1:4] That’s what it says to you.
Lapide: Yes.
Ankerberg: Did God, in His approving of Jesus, did He want the Jewish people to know anything besides what you have stated?
Lapide: The way I look at it, and I take history very seriously because Judaism and Christianity are historical religions, and take the developments on earth very seriously….
Kaiser: That’s true.
Lapide: It seems to me that it took two things in order to spread the gospel of the loving God among Gentility. It took a small Jewish “Yes” to Jesus in the form of primitive Christianity of the apostles and the 530 Jews and Jewesses who saw Him resurrected. And it also took a great Jewish “No” to Jesus in order to make Saul the Pharisee into Paul the apostle to the Gentiles, because had a great number of Jews, let us say 40 percent, said “Yes” to Jesus the way Paul preached Him indefatigably, Christianity would probably have remained what it was during the first 15 years of its career – a Jewish sect within its native Judaism. And the Gentiles would have remained pagans and idol worshippers. Thanks to the small “Yes” within Judaism to Jesus, there was Paul, the apostles, Peter and the primitive community. Thanks to the “No,” Paul became the Gentile apostle, the apostle to the Gentiles, and you have gotten to be Christian. But for the Jewish “No,” Mr. Kaiser, you might still be worshiping Votan or Indian gods back in Chicago instead of praising the Lord with “Hallelujah” in Hebrew and finishing your prayers “Amen” with Hebrew, too.
Kaiser: That’s the grace of God, and it’s a wonderful thing that anyone ever comes to know Him. I don’t think that this is a matter that is earned or it is something in which you say, “I had to have it.” It’s in the providence of God, I think, that any have heard or even the Good News ever came through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I’m deeply grateful…
Ankerberg: Dr. Kaiser, let me just jump in here off of what Dr. Lapide was saying. I want to follow up exactly. You brought in Paul. But Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” [Rom. 1:16] But I hear you excluding the Jew. It’s for everybody but the Jew.
Lapide: Paul started his career as a Jewish preacher whose only audience were Jews, and that’s why he said it. Eventually – and I have a suspicion this was Divine Providence – the Jews irked him by saying “No” to his message. But Paul in the beginning didn’t understand that that was God’s working and not the obtuseness of the Jews. And then Paul one day in Acts 13 said, “I have preached to you, my dear fellows and brethren. I am fed up with your negative response. Now, I and Barnabas shall go to the Gentiles.” That’s when God’s plan of salvation moved into its next act.
Kaiser: Where did he say he was fed up? Romans, you know, is quite late. This is not the beginning of Paul’s ministry. This is coming more toward the middle. In Romans 10 he says, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer for Israel, for my brethren, is that they might be saved.” [Rom. 10:1] He doesn’t want them to become “Gentile.” That’s not the point. It’s not that kind of conversionist thing. He wants them to understand and come to what the Prophets have been talking about. The Prophets who all the time were saying Shubh, “Turn, turn!” He’s trying to give them a “shubh [shove]” in the right direction. He wants them to come back to the living God.
Lapide: You know, Kaiser, I believe that the entire Gentile mission of Paul was only a roundabout way to convince his brethren, the Jews. His ultimate aim was not the conversion of the Gentiles; that was God’s plan.
Kaiser: Yes.
Lapide: That Paul wanted ultimately to impress his brethren, and since he couldn’t do it directly, he figured he would convert all the Gentiles and then the Jews, as he says in Romans 11, would ultimately emulate the Gentiles. So, the Gentiles, who would show their Christian love of their neighbor in such convincing, almost infectious manner, would infect the Jews. I’m sorry to say that 18 centuries of Christian love towards the Jews have failed to produce that effect, because that Christian love he suggested to the Gentile Christians to show towards their Jewish brethren has failed to materialize almost totally.
Kaiser: Fortunately, not altogether. But you are too correct, and for that you are owed an apology. And I would be the first to say that the Christian community has a lot to eat on that one, and that must be said very, very clearly. But you are exactly correct on Romans 11. He said, “I want to provoke my people to jealousy,” and I agree with you wholeheartedly on that point.
Ankerberg: Okay. The point that I do not intellectually understand, Dr. Lapide, and I need your help. This is one of those tough questions that between friends, I’ve got to tell you it’s a tough one and we’re going to be friends after this, okay, although we’ll probably disagree in the meantime. And here it is: here I hear you saying that Jesus is the Messiah, He has been approved by God for the Gentiles, and He has been approved by the resurrection, alright? And I hear Jesus’ words saying, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” [John 14:6] I hear Paul reiterating that and saying, “The gospel is for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” [Rom. 1:16] Alright? I don’t hear Jesus or Paul or the disciples excluding the Jewish brethren, that Jesus is for them the One they’ve been waiting for. Even though it might be a two-act play, the thing is that it’s important, the first act.
Lapide: Well, if you look at the Christian primitive community in Jerusalem after Easter Sunday and the Ascension, and those are the most trustworthy witnesses we have, Paul tells us that they concluded every divine service with the word mara na tha, “Oh, Lord, do come back!” In other words, to them – and nobody knew Jesus better and His intentions better than they – to them the mission Jesus wanted to accomplish was far from finished. Why all this prayer for His return if He was the Messiah already? For them He was the Messiah in potential, the One who had given an earnest money of ultimately becoming the Messiah. But they never say in the entire New Testament, and that’s strange. Parousia, the hope of all the Christians, doesn’t mean “return.” It means in Greek simply “arrival.” And the first Christians in Jerusalem after Easter prayed, “Oh, Lord, come.” They didn’t say, “Come back.” The only explanation for this strange point I have is that they didn’t want Him to come back the way they had met Him before, as the son of a carpenter and an itinerant rabbi, a God-obsessed person who was able to transmit His faith by mere erudition. They wanted Him back as the Son of Man on the clouds of Heaven, [Dan. 7:13] as the real Messiah who would reign and rule and usher in the Kingdom. That’s why they never prayed for His return, and the only word in the New Testament is “Oh, do come,” because they wanted Him in a new transfiguration.
Ankerberg: Dr. Kaiser?
Kaiser: Not quite, I would say. I like you, but I think that one is missing the point, because I think in John 6 they wanted to make Him king. There at the feeding of the 5,000, [Matt. 14] they said, “This is it. If we have someone here that can multiply bread like this, what could He do with weapons? We’ve got the supply line problem licked! Let’s take Rome on right now.” But Jesus would not. Now, why is it that He moves out of what could have been the most wonderful moment for the introduction of the Messianic Kingdom right then and there? Because He had to take care of the suffering part. He had to take care of the sin problem. He had to go to the cross first. And then the longing still of the community is “Maranatha, Even so, come!” And they want Him to come. It’s true, they don’t use the words, “Come back,” because this had been the heart of the Messianic, the Jewish expectation. It is when righteousness comes, when justice comes, when when the living God Himself is the only fair Person whom this earth has ever seen to rule and to reign. So it still remains the cry of the Church even after He had come, had taken care of the sin problem, then the question is, “So when will you come back? Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Even so, come quickly.”
Ankerberg: Let’s get a question here.
Audience: Yes. Christ said in promising to come back, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man” – no man, Jew, Greek, no man – “comes to the Father but by me.” [John 14:6] Peter, a Jew, speaking to other Jews, said, “This same Jesus whom you killed, God has made both Lord and Christ.” [Acts 2:36] The word that was translated from the Hebrew Mashiach to be Christos, Christ; it means the same thing. And he says, “He is the Christ.”
Ankerberg: What’s the question?
Audience: The question is: In scanning all your knowledge of the Hebrew Old Testament, is there anything that disqualifies Jesus Christ as being the Messiah of the Jews, too?
Lapide: I’m afraid so. You see, my dear friend, Mashiach is a Hebrew word. Messianism is a Jewish gift to the world. No other nation was more hungry and thirsty for the coming of the Messiah than the Israel of 2,000 years ago. Why, I am asking you, did they then not accept this Jesus as the Messiah, a term which at that time was totally unknown to the rest of the world because it was a pure Hebraism? That question is begging to be answered and my only answer is that He was not yet the Messiah of the Jews, but indeed He did become the Savior of the Gentile Church. And I refuse to think of narrow categories of black and white or “Yes” or “No.” I credit my Lord in heaven with more fantasy and imagination than the pure, narrow yes or no. There must be 500 things between. And the between possibilities are that He has become the Savior of the Gentile Church, a fact I would never gainsay. But He has not yet become the Messiah of Israel, could very well become that during His Second Coming.
Ankerberg: Dr. Kaiser, why don’t you answer that question, too, and we’ll get another question here?
Kaiser: I would say that my feeling is that the Zechariah 12:10 passage comes back and here the prophet himself has Israel being regretful at a certain point in history, over this One who was the central hope and is identified in some way with the speaker, the Lord Himself. “They shall look on me whom they have pierced, and mourn.” Why the mourning there and why does the prophet, who is not speaking from a Christian perspective, still see in the Day of the Lord, “Yom Yahweh,” the whole moment here when everything is pulled together, why does he see this as a moment of regret? And I can only say that indeed it’s not because this was the Jesus or the Yeshua of the Gentiles, but it was what the Jewish community recognized itself for the most unrecorded part of history and the place for the best historical work yet to be done, I think, is in the first five Common Era (or Christian centuries) here in which there was in Palestine, in Jerusalem and the surrounding cities, a large Hebrew believing community that did place their trust in Yeshua. Some historians, Neander and others, have said to the tune of already by the second century a million were involved in basic belief. I have no way of checking these kinds of things, but I have seen recently some of the documents which are beginning to roll in. There was a large, large community. It wasn’t just Pella, which is generally said here. We are talking about 20, 30 different sites, some of them which we are uncovering here a kind of synagogue and Christian mix and blend. And it speaks of the fact that it was less a moment of tension in the first Christian centuries, or Common Era, than it is now. There is a greater rift between the two because this is seen as an abandonment of one’s Jewishness if one goes to this particular point. But it was not seen, apparently, in the early Christian, or Common Era, centuries.
Ankerberg: Let me ask, and you can follow up and then we’ve got this question, one thing that in reading the Hebrew Scriptures myself, it seemed to me that there were other times when the Jews had straight revelation and missed it completely. The Exodus is point in case. They just came right out of Egypt, God does wonderful miracles, and they turn around and they don’t believe God. Now, why they didn’t do that, I think we’re all sinners, but it seems like if they could miss that under Moses, then they might be able to miss some of these things on the Messiah. Does that make any sense?
Lapide: It does make sense, I’m afraid, because the Hebrew Bible, of all books of the world religions, over 500 in number, I know none which treats its own believers in such a cruelly realistic manner as the Hebrew Bible does with its Jews. All our weaknesses are stressed, all our virtues are underplayed. It’s true. That’s one of the reasons why we are elected, it seems to me, because self-criticism is a Jewish invention. But let me put it that way. Let me put it that way. You are quite right. But one piece of an answer you will find in Daniel 10. Daniel 10:7 says, “I, Daniel, saw this vision of God and the people standing around with me did not see it.” Visions imparted by God in both Testaments are always to single persons, to unique personalities, metaphysically gifted with a high degree of vision and audition, and the others don’t get it. It takes all the trouble in the world for that seer to impart that message to the others who fail to see and hear.
Ankerberg: I read that in your book and I appreciated that insight because what you’re saying is that it can be true, even if one person goes against the majority.
Lapide: Yes, I’m afraid you’re right.
Ankerberg: Okay, then we’ve got to come back to the tests of Deuteronomy 18 to find out if that person has the real goods, because the rest of us didn’t see it.
Lapide: When my friend Kaiser quotes Zechariah, “They will look upon Him whom they have pierced and mourn….”
Kaiser: “Look on me….”
Lapide: “Look upon me whom they have pierced….” [Zech. 12:10]
Lapide: Let me stick to the text, Kaiser. We never pierced Jesus. By all four Gospels, the Roman soldiers pierced Him in the most brutal manner. No Jew ever would have done that, because it would have been the pinnacle of cruelty. So the prophecy doesn’t stick. We have not pierced Jesus by any matter or by any circumlocution of poetry.
Kaiser: I think you’re right on the point of the Romans. It is the Romans, and I know the point you are making and I respond to it. However, I am also quoting a Jewish prophet. I didn’t write that text. I’m only repeating it, as you know, and I take it there that it is a figure of speech by metonymy or something of that sort. My point isn’t to find out where the fault lies. I don’t think that’s what the writer is talking about.
I think what the writer is talking about, the identity between the One who was pierced and the One who is associated with God and the One who is a Servant who is coming back in that glorious section of Zechariah 9-14. Christians, you know, haven’t had a monopoly just on Isaiah 53. If there is another passage that is quoted more than any other, it’s Zechariah 9-14. In the passion narrative, that plays as large a part as does Isaiah 53. And third place would come the Psalms, too, the so-called Messianic Psalms. So, we’ve got at least three strings here upon which the New Testament writers are playing quite a bit rather than just one particular passage.
But, no, I think that’s wrong. Let me say it plainly. Christians are in error when they say that Jews are the ones who killed Jesus. I think that’s poor. It is no wonder we’ve got trouble in a dialogue. And if I can say something directly to Christians, I would tell you just bluntly, “Cut it out!” I’m giving you professional advice. The text says that it was the Roman community and just a few of that particular day. It has nothing to do with the race as such. As a matter of fact, the Jews of the first century did not even have the power of execution. That resided within the Roman province. There is a part that is played there, I’m not trying to re-read or re-write history, but I’m saying it is wrong therefore to pass it on down.
Ankerberg: Yeah. I want to be sensitive to this, but I can hear all of the Christians at this point. Okay, I’m hearing Christians at one point and hearing Jews at the other point, okay?
Kaiser: We’ll take care of them next. Go ahead.
Ankerberg: Alright, here it goes. In the text you find, “The people,” it says, “And they began to accuse him saying,…” They were the ones that brought Jesus before the authorities who then took Him, okay? They were the ones that were around Pilate and said, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a King” and so on. What I’m saying is, I’m not trying to cause a problem here, I’m saying be true to the text at that point. You do have the Jewish leaders. If you’re saying you have the remnant, and “Not all Jews are Jews,” Paul said, and I believe that applies to both communities, that because you have a group, that doesn’t mean you’re talking about the main group here, okay? But you have the leaders, it seems, coming and making this case and the Romans go along with it. They are the ones that execute. How would you say that in terms of the text? How would you answer the question, “Well, aren’t the Jews at that point responsible?” I’m not trying to cause a problem, I’m just saying, “This is what they’re going to come back with,” and you’ve got to answer it if we’re going to have peace here.
Kaiser: No, I specifically said I’m not trying to re-write history. There is a dual involvement of Jews and Romans. But I’m saying, don’t pass that down and say that therefore that awful saying that’s in our midst, that for all succeeding generations that is the crime here. The Romans were the ones who ultimately “pulled the trigger,” as it were. There is involvement, and to that degree, I still think the prophet’s on target when he says that indeed they did pierce by way of metonymy, or by synecdoche, in which you put the part for the whole, and that it is an involvement of the Roman community, but you have to have accusers who bring it there. And I think, I can’t re-write history, but on the other hand I can’t either ask that that become a stumbling block, because it will be. It will be a stumbling block to Christian and Jewish dialogue when we’re out there….
Ankerberg: I agree wholeheartedly. [To Lapide] Let’s clear up another one on your side of the tracks, okay? When we hear the Jewish writers, and especially people today, we hear about the holocaust, and we are made to feel guilty like every one of us were the ones sitting there, lighting the fires in the gas chambers. As a Christian myself, I love the Jewish people. My Lord was a Jew, and He told us to love them and to talk with them and to care for them. The Scriptures as I read it are full of that, and if I belong to Christ and I have the Spirit of Christ in me, I must be that way. So when I hear somebody saying, “It was the Christians that did that!,” I am repelled at that, and I wonder, in the Jewish community, if there are people that can see that we’ve got the same problem over here when we have this dialogue, that not all people who are called “Christians” are really Christians. That there is a difference. Especially you have a wide variety of Evangelical Christians across this country that are listening in tonight that are saying, “That is abhorrent!” And some people that have called themselves by the name of “Christ” didn’t know the first thing about it. Just like on the Jewish side of the tracks maybe some people did some things in the name of Judaism that they didn’t know the first thing about it. Does that ring a bell? Is that true? Does that come across in the Jewish community?
Lapide: The trouble is that in the back of the minds of many good Christians, Judas and Caiaphas were Jews. Peter, Paul and Jesus, no. And if we don’t stop with this vivisection, and ultimately agree that the entire drama of Jesus of Nazareth took place on Jewish soil and that all the actors in the drama, the villains and the heroes, the good guys and the bad guys, the cowboys and the Indians, they were ultimately, without exception, circumcised Jews. Before we accept that, dialogue is awfully difficult. There were no first rate and no second rate Jews. They were just all Jews, Jesus included. That’s Point One.
Kaiser: Selah.
Lapide: Beg your pardon?
Kaiser: Selah.
Lapide: Amen! Selah! Thank you! And the second point is that I, God forbid, have no recriminations. I love Christians, I teach Christians, and I learn from Christians. But it is a historic fact that the many millions of Christians for many centuries have made the cross into a sword and into a crooked cross. And therefore Jews who know very little of Christian theology – and forgive my brethren, they don’t know very much about the New Testament – when they were killed by the thousands during the first crusade in the Rhine country, the valley of the Rhine by hoards of crusaders with cruciform swords, and they said, “Baptism or death!,” and the vast majority chose death. And they heard of Jesus, the only implication they could attach to the name of Jesus is that He was the inventor of anti-Semitism. It took a long, long time – the end of this our 20th century – that people came forth like me, and God forbid I’m not the only one, but I’m a spearhead, I do trust, who will detach this luminary of Judaism by the name of Jesus from the misdeeds of many, many of His ill-baptized followers for almost two millennia and let Jesus be Jesus and let Him shine forth in His own light without the dark shadows many pseudo-Christians have cast upon His figure.
Ankerberg: Yeah. Reminds me of the old saying, “People haven’t rejected Christ because of the faith, they’ve just rejected Christ because of the Christians.”
Lapide: Absolutely!
Ankerberg: And they need to look at Christ. Next question here.
Audience: I have to say “Amen” to that. My question is, how can the Messiah, who we look to come, or to come again, how can the Messiah bring the Kingdom of God where there is peace and there is righteousness, without being the One that was spoken of by the angel in Matthew who said, “Of whom it was spoken, He will save His people from their sins”? [Matt. 1:21] When the Spirit spoke through Isaiah that, “It is your sins that have separated between you and your God,” [Isa. 59:1-2] how will there be the kingdom of peace and of righteousness without Him being that One who will save from sin, which is the reason there is not peace and there is not righteousness and there is not the Kingdom of God?
Ankerberg: Okay.
Lapide: Well, there is a Jewish and a Christian answer to what the theologians call the “Delay of Parousia.” In other words, we’ve been praying and waiting for His return for almost two millennia, and He hasn’t come yet. In the Mishna, which is not less cruel with its Jews than the Prophets are, it says, “If all Israel would celebrate two Sabbaths in the Spirit of the Lord, the Messiah would come at once.” In the Second Epistle of Peter it says in the New Testament, “Shape your conduct and behave yourselves to your brethren in a manner Christ wanted, and you will accelerate His return. Should you go on committing all the sins you and I know,” says Peter, “then you will delay the return of the Lord.” [2 Pet. 3:12-14] The joint conclusion of both quotations is that it seems we Jews and Christians are to blame that He hasn’t come back yet. It’s up to us not only to pray and to kneel, which is a very good thing, but it’s not enough. Because if we do believe this Jesus, then He said, “Not those who call me ‘Lord, Lord’ will come into the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my Father in heaven.” [Matt. 7:21] The doing should accompany the praying, and that’s good old Jewish home truth. If we do not do, which means “Prepare the way for that so hotly yearned-for kingdom of heaven,” it will not come on its own, because this God of ours wants human cooperation.
Ankerberg: Dr. Kaiser. Maybe you want to answer that.
Kaiser: Yeah. I just would say that I think that’s half of the answer. I would put a prologue to it, if I may, and that would be, “But I can’t do. As a human, I’ve got that herd instinct – ‘All we like sheep have gone astray.’ [Isa. 53:6] Then I’ve got my own problem. Each one of us have turned to our own way. How am I ever going to do the will of God unless there be some help from somewhere with regard to taking away my guilt and my sin?” And it seems to me that this is also part of that particular picture, and it’s the one I think that is separating us here. But yet it is the one that the Prophets were constantly burdened about. It is the one, I think, that we have dropped since the Exile. Yet it still is in the Prophets of the Exile, Malachi and Haggai and Zechariah – they are still saying, “If my people which are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked way and seek my face, then will I answer and I will hear from heaven, and I will heal their land.” [2 Chron. 7:14] And the healing, it seems to me, and the hastening, as you say – I think you’re right on 2 Peter. I think that’s right, and I think that’s also right according to Jewish thought, as I understand it – imperfectly as I do – but it still is. There’s the possibility of hurrying up and hastening that day. But I can’t hurry it up and I can’t hasten it until I deal with my sin through my Messiah, and I must ask that that perfect Lamb of God, the spotless Lamb without blemish that I put my trust in, that One take away my sin. [John 1:29] Only then, I think, can Ido the will of God and only then will the whole of the Kingdom of God be hurried up and accelerated. Looking for and “hurrying up” or a “hastening” of the Day of our Lord. You remember, that’s the passage that’s being alluded to here in 2 Peter. And I think that’s exactly on the money.
Ankerberg: I’m reminded of what the people were asking Jesus when they said, “What must we do to do the work of God?” And Jesus said, “The work of God was to believe on Him whom He had sent.” [John 6:28-29] Question.
Audience: Yes, for Dr. Lapide, first I want to say that I really appreciate your coming here and I enjoy very much your comments. Leaving out the creation and man, which some do not consider creation, and realizing that there is no empirical evidence other than this for man to make a decision about God, what do you think of the proposition that in a final analysis, man must make a personal decision, utilizing the Scriptures and literature, to come to a personal belief, and what do you think of the drawing power of the Holy Spirit in relation to the belief in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the Suffering Servant and the King of Kings?
Lapide: I’m quite convinced, as I said, that Jesus of Nazareth has become the Savior of the entire worldwide Church. I believe it is part of the salvation plan. I fully understand my friend Kaiser that the inner feeling of getting rid of his guilt and his sins, and, by golly, I’ve got my own bundle to carry, enables him and liberates the energies, the moral energies in your heart, and in yours, to do good and hasten the Day of the Lord. I fully agree. Forgive me for not needing Jesus for that, because I pray to His Father, without bypassing Him, because what He wanted, lifelong, is to “preach the will of the Father.” And the will of the Father, to do that, is the main contents of my life. So we don’t diverge very much. But one of the rabbis said, and that it is the great solace of people like me, “Do not consider yourselves as irredeemably sinning, because God’s will to forgive is even greater than your power to sin.” In other words, I have a suspicion that the loving Father in heaven, without whom my life would be senseless, knows very well what kind of a weak, cripple I am, morally and in all other respects. Nothing much to write home about. But He will recognize my good will. He will forgive my many failures. And every day, as the rabbis say in my morning prayer, “He lets me start life with a clean sheet.” Every day for me is a new creation of the world.
Kaiser: What about the Torah, though, with its pointing, its elaborate pointing, to the need for someone other than you or me to take care of that particular problem? I don’t hear you referring to anything in the sacrifices, at all. Do they function for you? Do you see a theology there at all? Or do you feel that has been jettisoned and that we are finished with that part of the Torah?
Lapide: No, we are not. You are quite right. The main problem for all the rabbis after the year 70 when the Temple fell, and sacrifices of atonement were impossible, is, “How do we get rid of our sins?” That was the main question.
Kaiser: Yes.
Lapide: Never mind the edifice. Never mind the glory of Solomon’s building art and all that. That’s it!
Kaiser: And that’s where I am right now in the question.
Lapide: And the answer of the rabbis given before 90 to a despairing, downtrodden and downcast Israel on the verge of despondency was, “On three legs stands your substitute for the Temple.” Now, it’s hard to translate into English: on prayer; on practiced love of your neighbor; and upon daily repentance. And that is the main question, which you have quite rightly put, which has enfranchised itself and which has become, I would say obligatory in Orthodox Judaism since the out-going first century. Otherwise, we couldn’t have lived.
Kaiser: And yet on Yom Kippur, the holiest of all the holy days, as I understand, in the calendar of Israel, stands a drama that is enacted that would say, “Those three legs, though very wonderful, need a fourth leg, it would seem to me.” There is the goat over whom all the sins of all of Israel are confessed, and that one is taken into the Holy of Holies only this one day of all the year , and sins forgiven on the basis of a substitute, it would seem to me here. And then another goat – still one sin offering, but two parts – that goat is led away. Sins forgotten, “Remembered against us no more,” because of a substitute. [Isa. 43:25; Heb. 10:17] I don’t hear that coming through in the three legs. And there is, I think, where the whole problem of our conversation, that’s where the Evangelical part of the dialogue with Jewish conversation is so extremely important. And I think only on that one particular leg hangs the whole discussion. We are deeply concerned about what some have done in the name of Christianity. As a matter of fact, we dislike that even being attached with Christianity and feel horrified, just horrified, when we have read about the Crusades, when we have read about Auschwitz and Buchenwald and the rest of them. But one thing that our heart longs for more than anything else, the conversation on the point of Yom Kippur, which I think is the heart of it. And could it be that in the Messianic longings there is a tie between this, the central drama in all of Judaism, and this which is the central drama in Christianity? Is there some possible link between Calvary and Yom Kippur?
Lapide: There is.
Kaiser: Of course the Christians will say, “Yes,” and we need the further conversation between both communities to tie that together.
Ankerberg: Let me ask you both for a wrap-up concerning our main topic, and that is: “Do the Hebrew Scriptures, the Messianic prophecies, do they point to Jesus or somebody else?”
Lapide: My answer is they could very well point to Jesus, but certitude we will gain when He comes back and tells us Himself.
Kaiser: And my answer is they do point to Jesus of Nazareth, Yeshua, because: First, the claim of the book, I must receive the claim of the Prophets until I find evidence contrariwise. I approach the text on its own terms. I must not read into the text. I must “stand under” the texts and let them be my teachers and then bring the actual claims. I must use the tests of Deuteronomy 13 and 18. Did they predict? Did it come to pass? If it does come to pass, then the text says not only trust the prophet, but look in the direction to which he pointed. And my great prayer and deep love and concern for not only my Jewish friends, but also non-Jewish friends is, we’ve got to see if God dropped the drama into the center of history. And this is the One, Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew from Bethlehem, from the line of David, that He was the One who indeed fulfilled the expectation of the Prophets. My study and all that I have been able to do over these years, I think, has proven over and over and over and over again. To tell you the truth, I have not found one point at which the biblical text of the Prophets or the Torah or the Writings have failed in their coming to pass. There are aspects of them that still wait. Here, we look for the Second Coming, the Parousia, the return of our Lord.
Ankerberg: Dr. Pinchas Lapide and Walter Kaiser, let me just say “Thank You” to both of you men on behalf of all of us that are here as well as those that are watching. For you to both open yourselves up so personably and lovingly, I think we could put both our arms around and give you both a big hug. We appreciate that atmosphere as well as the fact that you have spoken the truth from your heart as you understand it and we appreciate that. I hope we can have you both back again sometime. Thank you for being with us.


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