The First and the Last: Read first the Jewish Bible, and last the New Testament?

Some “Messianic Jews” and other Jewish followers of Yeshua/Jesus reject the Tri-unity of God. This is the main reason why they reject the appellation “Christian” which is simply Greek for “messianic.” unfortunately, “Christian” does carry a lot of baggage, and some garbage as well.

I ask, as a Trinitarian Jew, If Jesus does not share the nature of God, why is he called “Saviour,” and why does he speak and act like THE Saviour? Here is the Jewish view expressed by one of the most passionate converts to Judaism I’ve ever come across: “we are told… by Hashem, that G-d is not a man and that there is no saviour or redeemer besides Him.” (see gila8, comment of 15 May, 2012 at 20:53).

In Isaiah 43:11, we read “even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour.” Matthew, in the New Testament, writes:

While he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS (Saviour): for he shall save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:20-21).

Let us return to Isaiah 43:11, “even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour,” and read verses10 and 12:

“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me (Isaiah 43:10).

And

I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God (Isaiah 43:12)

So, the Saviour is also the LORD (Hashem, the Name, G-d).

In Isaiah 48:12, the Saviour LORD is also called the “First and the Last” (Alpha and Omega): “Hearken to Me, O Jacob, and Israel, who was called by Me, I am He, I am first, yea I am last.”

Rashi’s commentary on Isaiah 48:12 does not say anything about the “first and the last,” but focuses on “Israel, who was called by Me: You were called Israel by Me (Gen. 32:29). Jonathan renders: Israel, My summoned one” (Rashi).

(“Servant” in this verse can only refer, as Rashi says, to the “witnesses” (plural), which is “Israel.”The “servant” issue is not the topic here).

In Isaiah 48:12, Rashi stresses the role of Israel in salvation. Christians, in contrast, want to stress the “first and the last” of Isaiah 48:12, because they, as do the writers of the New Testament, want to establish the divinity (that is, ”fully God”) of the Lord Jesus Christ. (“Unitarians” – so-called Christians who reject the Trinity – would deny that the writers of the New Testament were trying to show that Jesus was God. I don’t regard Unitarians as Christians).

Hence we find in the book of Revelation not merely one, but four references to the Jesus as the First and the Last; the Alpha and the Omega.

Revelation 1:7-8
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

Revelation 1:10-11
in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last…

Revelation 21:5-6
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

Revelation 22:12-13
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. 13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

Jesus, for the Christian, is not only the Son of the “First and the Last” but also the “First and the Last,” hence the doctrine of the trinity (tri-unity) of three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – sharing the same nature/essence. Jesus is absolutely (that is, in essence) God, and relatively (that is in function) the Son. The same pattern obtains with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are three “relations” within the same divine nature.

(By “relative” I mean “relational” and not the sense of “situational” ethics/morality, where one man’s meat is another man’s poisson [fish]).

One can only legitimately find Jesus in the Tanach (Jewish Bible) by seeing it through the lens of the New Testament. Indeed, how could one possibly see Jesus in any of the Tanach unless through the lens of the New Testament. For starters, why would you want to search for something – Jesus, in our example -, that you couldn’t know anything about unless you read about it (in our example, the New Testament)- and believed it. It is silly, therefore, to tell Christians that the right way to discover whether Jesus is in the Jewish Bible is to discount the New Testament and that, instead of working backwards from the “New Testament” to the “Old Testament,” Christians should shovel the NT to the back (of their minds) and start excavating the OT. First, the OT, and last the NT.

Owing to the fact that we can only legitimately find Jesus in the Tanach (or anywhere) by seeing Him through the lens of the New Testament, we should regard any commentaries from Christians on the Tanach in the light of this fact.

In conclusion, I said at the beginning that “Christian” carries a lot of baggage, and some garbage as well. In spite of these encumbrances, it is a glorious appellation.

1 Peter 4:14-16
If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

Jesus Christ, Saviour Messiah – the First and the Last. Glory to God in the highest.

2 thoughts on “The First and the Last: Read first the Jewish Bible, and last the New Testament?

  1. I read your blog. You use – understandably for a Christian – quotes from the New Testament to support your argument, which as a Torah observant orthodox Jew I do not accept as having any divine validity. Most of the time you quote from Revelation, which was written, at the earliest, near the end of the 1st century CE, long after the life and death of jc. This book also barely made it into the accepted Christian canon at all on account of its eschatological and visionary writing.

    Interestingly, though it appears that jc thought he was the moshiach, even though he did not fulfill the relevant prophecies of the Tanach that have yet to be fulfilled by the true moshiach, he also claimed that he had not come to change even one iota (probably said yud rather than a Greek letter) of the commandments of the Torah. Yet Paul – who never even met let alone knew jc personally as did James, Peter and other disciples with whom it appears clear from the available evidence that Paul was in some disagreeement, does exactly that, claiming that belief in jc as the supposedly sinless sacrifice frees us from the commandments of the Torah. Also jc clearly said that the Father ie G-d knew things that he did not when referring to his supposed second coming. If jc was truly divine, then how come he did not know all that G-d knew? And furthermore, why on the cross did cry out, “My G-d, my G-d, why have you forsaken me?” Wouldn’t he at least have appealed to his Father?

    Christian mainstream beliefs were only properly established at the Council of Nicea in the 4th century CE. Before then, there were various different Christian sects, various different accepted Christain writings and various different understandings about the nature of jc, ranging from him being a man with no divine nature at all to being fully spiritual with no human nature. Frankly, if he really were to come back, not only am I sure he would head for a synagogue and not a church when he wanted to pray, but that he would have been horrified, as an observant albeit arguably misguided Jew, at having been deified at all.

    I guess I should be flattered that you consider me to be “one of the most passionate converts to Judaism I’ve ever come across”!

    • Gila, your bits are in inverted commas, followed by my comments.

      I read your blog. You use – understandably for a Christian – quotes from the New Testament to support your argument, which as a Torah observant orthodox Jew I do not accept as having any divine validity.

      – “Most of the time you quote from Revelation, which was written, at the earliest, near the end of the 1st century CE, long after the life and death of jc.”

      So, what is amiss about writing 60 years after the death of the person you are writing about, especially since the person writing is, as the Bible describes several times, Jesus’ “beloved disciple.”

      It is the Beloved Disciple who, while reclining beside Jesus at the Last Supper, asks Jesus, after being requested by Peter to do so, who it is that will betray him.[Jn 13:23-25]
      Later at the crucifixion, Jesus tells his mother, “Woman, here is your son”, and to the Beloved Disciple he says, “Here is your mother.”[Jn 19:26-27]
      When Mary Magdalene discovers the empty tomb, she runs to tell the Beloved Disciple and Peter. The two men rush to the empty tomb and the Beloved Disciple is the first to reach the empty tomb. However, Peter is the first to enter.[Jn 20:1-10]
      In John 21, the last chapter of the Gospel of John, the Beloved Disciple is one of seven fishermen involved in the miraculous catch of 153 fish.[Jn 21:1-25] (Wikipedia).

      And at he end of John’s Gospel, second last verse of last chapter, we read about Jesus and the Beloved Apostle:
      John 21:24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

      What greater witness do you need than one who not only saw but touched Jesus, not to mention having the closest relationship with Jesus than any other human being (Jesus’ mother perhaps excepted). To wit (First letter of John [the beloved disciple] chapter 1):

      “1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (First letter of John, chapter 1).

      – “This book also barely made it into the accepted Christian canon at all on account of its eschatological and visionary writing.”

      It was firmly established as part of the Bible (Canon) by 220, as were most books, which is a century before the Council of Nicea.

      – “Interestingly, though it appears that jc thought he was the moshiach, even though he did not fulfill the relevant prophecies of the Tanach that have yet to be fulfilled by the true moshiach.”

      If he wasn’t what he thought he was, he must’ve been either a liar, a deceiver, or mental.

      -“He also claimed that he had not come to change even one iota (probably said yud rather than a Greek letter) of the commandments of the Torah.”

      This needs extensive treatment, which I prefer to deal with in a separate space.

      “Yet Paul – who never even met let alone knew jc personally as did James, Peter and other disciples with whom it appears clear from the available evidence that Paul was in some disagreeement, does exactly that, claiming that belief in jc as the supposedly sinless sacrifice frees us from the commandments of the Torah.”

      There was some disagreement between Peter and Paul, but in the end, Peter bowed to Paul’s judgment, and remains firmly behind Paul:

      14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. ( 2 Peter 3)

      – “Also jc clearly said that the Father ie G-d knew things that he did not when referring to his supposed second coming. If jc was truly divine, then how come he did not know all that G-d knew?”

      Jesus “emptied” Himself of his divine power as a sign of his humility and humanity:

      5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
      6 Who, being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
      7 rather, he made himself nothing
      by taking the very nature of a servant,
      being made in human likeness.
      8 And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
      by becoming obedient to death —
      even death on a cross!

      (Philippians 2)

      – “And furthermore, why on the cross did cry out, “My G-d, my G-d, why have you forsaken me?” Wouldn’t he at least have appealed to his Father?”

      In several occasions refers to God as God, but mostly as Father. In this instance he is quoting Psalm 22. Read the Psalm.

      “Christian mainstream beliefs were only properly established at the Council of Nicea in the 4th century CE. Before then, there were various different Christian sects, various different accepted Christain writings and various different understandings about the nature of jc, ranging from him being a man with no divine nature at all to being fully spiritual with no human nature.”

      The various councils brought more precision to scripture. It is called “theology.” You make out that there was a free for all of “understandings.” No; there were splinter groups going off the rails. Paul had already warned about this departing from the Gospel in his letter to the Galatians. Indeed, the first part of the book of revelation was also about going off the rails.

      “Frankly, if he really were to come back, not only am I sure he would head for a synagogue and not a church when he wanted to pray, but that he would have been horrified, as an observant albeit arguably misguided Jew, at having been deified at all.”

      You talk of Jesus as misguided and as being surprised at being deified. Did you know that Jesus said he is the Lord of the Sabbath and that he forgave people their sins, and that if you did not believe that he was “He” you would die in your sins? Why do you think your brethren had him crucified (yes they did, Gila)? Exactly because (they believed) he claimed to be God (verse 33).

      John 10

      22 Then came the Festival of Dedication[b] at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

      25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[c]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

      31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

      33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

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