Are there false Messianic Prophecies? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
As we continue our look at Asher Norman’s book, we come to a section on prophecies. I’m not going to cover everything in this one, especially when we get to matters of atonement and such that need a high knowledge of Judaism. I often tell people with that that if you don’t understand the atonement so you can’t be a Christian, that it’s a secondary matter. If you understand Jesus’s claims and that He died and rose again, that’s all you need.
The first section we’ll look at is that the Christian Bible employed a number of techniques to shoehorn Jesus into the text. The main one he looks at is the prophecy of the virgin birth. (Which I do affirm of course) The mistake is that Norman could here win the battle and lose the war.
Norman starts off saying there is no prophecy that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. With this, I agree. I know of no tradition that the Jews were expecting a virgin born Messiah. At the same time, I do not think Matthew and Luke made up the event. So what’s going on?
The oddity is that this is where Norman goes into a lot of linguistic analysis. Note that when he goes after the New Testament, looking into the languages just doesn’t really matter. He states repeatedly that this was really a young woman (And he’s right) and this was in Isaiah’s time (and he’s right) and that this was about the Syro-Ephraimite war (And he’s right).
Interestingly, one defense he has is that this was likely Isaiah’s son since Jesus was never called Emmanuel. However, if the son born to Isaiah is the one described in the next chapter, that one wasn’t called Emmanuel either. Apparently, Norman doesn’t realize that it was entirely possible to have two names. We could point out that Jacob was called Jacob and Israel both and that Moses’s father-in-law is known by two different names as well.
When we get to the claim that the Messiah wasn’t to die before fulfilling His mission, Norman doesn’t realize that this kind of thing is actually what makes the Christian argument so compelling. Jesus wasn’t a cookie-cutter Messiah. He went against the grain. If the Jews were making up a Messiah figure, they would not make up Jesus.
Norman’s first point is that Jesus said He would die to fulfill Scripture, but that there is no such Scripture. No doubt, Norman has in mind a kind of chapter and verse idea. If so, then he is badly mistaken. Jesus is speaking about more of the whole message of Scripture, the same kind of idea we see in 1 Cor. 15.
Norman also thinks there’s something impressive about the disciples not understanding. Not at all. The disciples would have thought that Jesus was to be the king of Israel without dying. Dying wasn’t on the agenda. It would be just as shocking to hear someone running for president today and talking about what will happen once he gets to office and dies. That’s never the agenda for a campaigning president.
It’s quite amusing when the cup analogy shows Jesus didn’t wish to die. Norman says that the verses make clear that Jesus didn’t want to die but would do so if the Father required it. Yeah. That’s kind of the point. The whole submitting your will to God thing.
Norman also thinks this is problematic for Christian theology. Can we say Jesus intentionally died for our sins if it was not His will? Second, if Jesus is a “member of the Trinity” and each person has the same essence, shouldn’t they have the same will? Unfortunately, Norman is a little over 1,300 years behind the times. Christianity already had this talk. It was the Monothelite controversy. It was asking if Jesus had one will or two wills. The church resolutely said that He had a human will and a divine will.
The answer to the obvious question is, no. Norman hasn’t read any real church history at all.
Norman goes on to say Jesus tried to talk Pilate out of crucifying Him. This would seem more convincing if we had Jesus begging for mercy or something like that. We don’t. At this point, Norman is just trying to use anything He can to make a case.
Finally, Norman thinks that he’s struck gold again by pointing out that Jesus says “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me!” on the cross. Norman points out that Christian missionaries try to rationalize this by saying that Jesus is quoting a Psalm. This is dismissed by Norman without argument, which is a shock because it sounds perfectly proper for a Jew to quote a Psalm. Not only that, this Psalm is highly Messianic in the early church and while it starts with defeat, it ends with glorification and vindication. That is quite appropriate for Jesus.
Next time, we’ll be looking at what Norman has to say about Saint Paul.
And again, it only gets worse.