Implications of the Miracles

Miracles performed by Jesus of Nazareth reported by the Gospels, if true, would have dual implications. Not only would they serve to corroborate that Jesus is the Messiah, they would also demonstrate the integrity of the Gospels.

Did Jesus actually perform miracles? Aside from the obvious Christian perspective, at least some Jewish authorities support the Gospel’s accounts of miracles and wonders. Encyclopedia Judaica noted without any disclaimer that the miracles ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels define him as a “miracle maker and preacher”:[1]

“…Matthew, Mark, and Luke present a reasonably faithful picture of Jesus as a Jew of his time. The picture of Jesus contained in them is not so much of a redeemer of mankind as of a Jewish miracle maker and preacher.  The Jesus portrayed in these three Gospels is, therefore, the historical Jesus.” – Encyclopedia Judaica

All four Gospels contain accounts of Jewish religious leaders wanting retribution for Jesus when he performed miracles on the Sabbath.[2] To support their accusation of violating the Sabbath, they first had to acknowledge these miracles had occurred:  restoring a withered hand; healing a woman with an 18-year infirmity that kept her doubled over; healing a man who had been an invalid for 38 years; and restoring sight to a man born blind.

Jewish sage Rabbi Maimonides in his premier Jewish work Mishneh Torah (circa 1180 AD) commented on miracles by the Messiah.[3] With Jesus of Nazareth apparently in mind when mentioning the miracle to “resurrect the dead,” a miracle only attributed to Jesus, Maimonides expounded that performing “miracles and wonders” was not proof of the Messiah because miracles are not a requirement for the Messiah…

Mishneh Torah launched Maimonides into celebrity status causing a great response from the Jewish community of his day sending him letters with questions, some to which he responded in what is known as Responsa (Teshuvot).[4] One question was posed by Rabbi Jacob al-Fayumi of Yemen regarding the Isaiah 52-53 parashah prophecy.  Known as the Epistle Concerning Yemen, Maimonides’ Responsa clarified his views about “the signs and wonders” that Isaiah prophesied would be performed by the Messiah:[5]

“…there shall rise up one of whom none have known before, and the signs and wonders which they shall see performed by him will be the proofs of his true origin…”

“…and so confounded at the wonders which they will see him work, that they will lay their hands to their mouth; in the words of Isaiah, when describing the manner in which the kings will hearken to him, At him kings will shut their mouth; for that which had not been told them have they seen, and that which they had not heard they have perceived.” – Rabbi Maimonides

Author of the book, the Gospel of Luke, in his second, the Book of Acts, quoted the Disciple Peter who said the miracles of Jesus of Nazareth attested to the fact that God was manifesting Himself through Jesus:[6]

Act 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know ––” NKJV

If the Gospel accounts of miracles are indeed true and serve to attest that God manifested Himself through Jesus, this is based on the Gospels being credible sources. For those who believe the Gospels are the result of a conspiratorial effort to make Jesus appear to be the Messiah or are fictional books merely comprised of recycled materials, then their accounts of miracles are deemed baseless.[7] Comparing all four Gospels – literary analysis – offers a different perspective. 

Contrary to popular perceptions, the four Gospel accounts of miracles have less in common with each other than they have in common. A total of 35 miracles are recorded that occurred before the crucifixion of Jesus, but only one is common to all four – the feeding of the 5000. One of the most famous miracles is Jesus walking on water and it does not even appear in Luke![8]

Less than a third of the miracles, only 10, are commonly recounted by the three Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Nearly half of all the miracles performed before the crucifixion, 17 in all, are uniquely detailed by a given Gospel author – 3 by Matthew, 2 by Mark, 6 by Luke and 6 by John.[9] Both instances of Jesus resurrecting the dead are exclusively narrated, the first in Luke and the second in John.[10]

If the allegation was true that the Gospels are the result of a conspiratorial effort to make Jesus appear to be the Messiah, the question begs to be asked, then why did the alleged Christian conspirators – authors, witnesses, translators, transcribers – fail to make their fictional Messiah profile appear to be stronger by tightly syncing up their accounts of miracles, signs and wonders performed by Jesus? Undoubtedly, it was not a coordinated effort.

The greatest miracle story ever told in the history of the world, detailed by all the Gospels, is the unique self-resurrection from the dead by Jesus of Nazareth – the sole basis of Christianity. No credible evidence has ever been produced to debunk the miracle of the Resurrection.[11]

Often overlooked are the miracles, signs and wonders recounted after the crucifixion. The same day of the reported Resurrection, Jesus appeared to Cleopas and his traveling partner on the road to Emmaus, sat down to dinner and prayed with them, then vanished before their eyes.[12]

Later that evening, Mark and Luke describe when the resurrected Jesus suddenly appeared inside a locked room terrifying those present; then after eating and speaking with them, Jesus instantly disappeared.[13] John exclusively reports it happened again 8 days later in the locked room with the doubting Disciple Thomas present who was allowed to touch the healed wounds of Jesus.[14]

John, the eyewitness, described a miraculous fish catch orchestrated by the resurrected Jesus that took place on the Sea of Tiberius (Sea of Galilee).[15] Outside of the Gospels in the Book of Acts, Jesus rose in the sky and disappeared into a cloud.[16]

Multiple reports of miracles, signs and wonders based on witness accounts were recounted by the authors of the Gospels – do they attest to integrity of the Gospels and the reality that Jesus of Nazareth was sent by God as the Messiah…and if they do, what does that say about Gospels’ claim of the greatest and unique miracle, the Resurrection?

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] “Jesus.” Encyclopaedia Judaica. Page 246.  CR “Jesus.”  Encyclopedia.com. <https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/jesus>
[2] Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 6, 13; John 5, 9.
[3] Maimonides, Moses.  Mishneh Torah.  Moznaim Publications.  Jewish year 4937 (1177 AD).  Trans. Eliyahu Touger.  Chabad.org. 2018. <https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188356/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-11.htm>  Rich, Tracey R.  “What Do Jews Believe?”  Judaism101. 2011. <http://www.jewfaq.org/beliefs.htm>
[4] Mangel, Nissen. “Responsa.” Publisher:  Kehot Publication Society. 2018. Chabad.org.  2014.  <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/107783/jewish/Responsa.htm>
[5] Maimonides .“Letter to the South (Yemen)”.  Neubauer and Driver.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters.  pp 374, 375. <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>
[6] Acts 1:3, 15; I Corinthians 15. Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies. Philip Schaf, ed. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume I. Book III, Chapter XIV.1. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. 2005. <http://www.ccel.org/search/fulltext/Heresies> Aherne, Cornelius. “Gospel of Saint Luke.”  The Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 9. 1910. New Advent. 2015. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09420a.htm>  Cline, Austin. “Luke the Evangelist: Profile & Biography of Luke.” About.com|Agnosticism/Atheism.  n.d. <http://atheism.about.com/od/biblepeoplenewtestament/p/LukeEvangelist.htm>  Singer, Isidore; Adler, Cyrus, et. al.  The Jewish Encyclopedia. Volume 9. “Luke.”  Page 251. 1912. <http://books.google.com/books?id=lfoOtGOcIBYC&lpg=PA594&ots=6qoCfVVUz7&dq=wave%20sheaf%20encyclopedia&pg=PA594#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[7] Gloag, Paton J.  Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. pp vii-viii, 1-3. 1895.  Online Books Page. Ockerbloom, ed.   <http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008728595>  “Gospel Contradictions.” 2000. Walker, ed. PositiveAtheism.org. n.d. <https://web.archive.org/web/20150324003025/http://www.positiveatheism.org/mail/eml9449.htm>  Smith, Ben C. “Gospel manuscripts – The manuscripts extant for the four canonical gospels.” TextExcavation.com. 2018. <http://www.textexcavation.com/gospelmanuscripts.html> Vick, Tristan D. “Dating the Gospels: Looking at the Historical Framework.” Advocatus Atheist. 2010. <http://advocatusatheist.blogspot.com/search?q=Dating+the+Gospels>  “New Testament.”  Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11498-new-testament> Etinger, Judah. Foolish Faith. Chapter 6. 2018. FoolishFaith.com. <http://www.foolishfaith.com/book_chap6_history.asp> Shamoun, Sam. “The New Testament Documents and the Historicity of the Resurrection.” Answering-Islam.org.  2018. <http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/documents.htm>
[8] “The Miracles of Jesus.” Bible.org. 2018. <https://bible.org/series/miracles-jesus> Fairchild, Mary. “37 Miracles of Jesus.” ThoughtCo. 2017. <https://www.thoughtco.com/miracles-of-jesus-700158> Ryrie Study Bible. Ed. Ryrie Charles C. Trans. New American Standard. “The Story of Jesus.” “Part 13 –His Miracles of Nature.” n.d. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. <https://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CN171-MIRACLES.htm> “The Story of Jesus.” “Part 14 –His Healing Miracles.” n.d. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. <https://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CN175-HEALING.htm> “Gospel of John.” Theopedia.com. n.d. <https://www.theopedia.com/gospel-of-john>
[9] Fairchild. “37 Miracles of Jesus.” Ryrie. “The Miracles of Jesus.” 
[10] Luke 7; John 4.
[11] Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20; I Corinthians 15. Strobel, Lee. The Case For Christ. 1998. Part 3.
[12] Luke 24; CR Mark 16.
[13] Mark 16; Luke 24. NET.
[14] John 20. NRSV.
[15] John 16. “Gospel of John.” Theopedia.com.  “The Book of John.”  Quartz Hill School of Theology. n.d.  <http://www.theology.edu/biblesurvey/john.htm>  Smith, Barry D. “The Gospel of John.”  Crandall University. 2015. <http://www.mycrandall.ca/courses/NTIntro/John.htm>
[16] Acts 1.

Was Jesus Accursed By God When He Was Crucified?

Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth is the fact that serves as proof for Judaism that he is not the Messiah. Jewish belief holds that a person who is hanged is accursed by God; therefore, Jesus was accursed by God disqualifying him as the Messiah:[1]

“The very form of his punishment would disprove those claims in Jewish eyes. No Messiah that Jews could recognize could suffer such a death; for “He that is hanged is accursed of God” (Deut. xxi. 23), ‘an insult to God’ (Targum, Rashi).” – JewishEnclopedia.com

Scriptural basis for this belief is found in the Law of Moses, Book of Deuteronomy. Very plainly it says that anyone who is hanged on a tree is accursed of God:

  1. DT. 21:23 “his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.(NKJV)

Connecting “tree” and “cross” is made through translations of the Deuteronomy Hebrew text word `ets meaning “a tree or wood timber.”[2] Some 300 years before Jesus was crucified, Jewish Hebrew translators of the Septuagint LXX used the Greek word xulon meaning “tree” or “wood.” Jewish and Christian Bibles alike nearly all translate `ets as “tree” or “pole.” [3]

Crucifixion involved a victim being hanged from its wood cross-timber beam on an upright pole. Therein lies the synonymous connection of the Deuteronomy Law to a cross being a “tree” or “pole.”[4]  

Thousands of Jews were crucified by the Romans.[5] Some were executed as judicial punishment for committing commonly recognized crimes such as murder, robbery and insurrection, a form of treason.

Many Jews including priests, however, were crucified for more sinister reasons such as simple hatred, spitefulness, terrorism, deterrent effect, or merely for entertainment. Jews of the Roman era could not conceivably have viewed these hapless victims of crucifixion as being accursed by God.[6] In fact, Jewish practice was to take great care in burying the crucified Jews before sunset:[7]

“Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial, although the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun.” – Josephus, Wars

Hanging of a victim was not intended to be the Jewish form of execution; rather, death was to be accomplished first by stoning, then the corpse was to be hanged. The hanging was not intended to humiliate obviously because the person was already be dead. The Babylonian Talmud defines the capital punishment: [8]

MISHNAH

“All who are stoned are [afterwards] hanged. (Soncino)

Gemara:

“The rabbis taught: It reads [Deut. xxi. 22]: “And he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree.”” (Rodkinson)

“The rabbis taught: If the verse read, “If a man committed a sin, he shall be hanged,” we would say that he should be hanged until death occurs, as the government does; but it reads, “He shall be put to death and hanged,” which means he shall be put to death and thereafter hanged.” (Rodkinson)

Jesus of Nazareth was crucified like other Jews by the Romans – hanged from a cross until dead. Following customary Jewish practice, his body was taken down from the cross and buried with care by none other than two prominent Jewish Council members.[9]

What is then different about the crucifixion circumstances of Jesus than the other crucified Jews – something that would cause Judaism to view only Jesus as being accursed by God? The answer lies in the full context of the Deuteronomy Law:

DT 21:23 “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree…for he who is hanged is accursed of God. (NKJV)

The difference – a person to be hanged on a tree was to have committed an offense deserving of death, so reprehensible the individual was accursed by God. So egregious, death alone was not enough – the corpse was to be hanged publicly whereby all would know the nature of the crime. Talmud Mishnah and Gemara defined those capital offenses as being two: [10]

MISHNAH

“… the sages say:  only the blasphemer and the idolater are hanged. (Soncino)

“…but thou shalt surely bury him the same day for he is hanged [because of] a curse against God, – as if to say why was he hanged? – Because he cursed the name [of God]; and so the name of the name of Heaven [God] is profaned.(Soncino)

Gemara

“The sages, however, say: that as with a blasphemer who has denied the cardinal principle of our faith (i.e., he does not believe in God), the same is the case with an idolater who denies the might of God…” (Rodkinson)

Caiaphas and other Jewish Council members found Jesus guilty of blasphemy for claiming to be I AM.[11] Execution should have been by stoning, followed by hanging. Problem was, Rome had prohibited executions by the Jewish theocracy.[12]

An exception to Jewish Law was required to justify the Roman crucifixion of Jesus – hanged on a tree – as signifying he was accursed by God for committing blasphemy. Without the exception, there is no justifiable connection. Sanhedrin 43a in the uncensored Babylonian Talmud Soncino edition references an exception in the case of Jesus of Nazareth – “Yeshu, the Nasarean”: [13]

Gemara[14]

“…On the eve of the Passover Yeshu [#34 the Nasarean] was hanged…But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!.…With Yeshu however it was different, for he was connected with the government [or royalty, i.e., influential].’”

An exception provides the necessary loophole. After Jesus was judged to be guilty of blasphemy, it can then be said the Jewish Council handed over Jesus to be executed and hanged on a tree, albeit by Rome; therefore, Jesus was accursed by God. 

Rome did not recognize the Jewish crime of blasphemy posing another problem. The Jewish Council, instead, handed Jesus over to the Roman government under the accusation of failure to pay taxes and insurrection.[15] Either crime could result in the same desired result – crucifixion.[16]

Jesus was indeed judged by the Roman government for insurrection. However, neither Tetrarch Herod nor Procurator Pilate found any guilt in Jesus despite admitting to Pilate that he is a King.[17]

Not guilty of any Roman crimes, Pilate still condemned Jesus to crucifixion at the behest of the Jewish Council. In the end, it was political influences that came to bear in Pilate’s judgment to crucify Jesus compelling him to wash his hands saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.”[18]

Does the crucifixion of Jesus actually mean that he was accursed by God only because he was hanged on a wooden cross? Or does Judaism view Jesus to be accursed by God for the blasphemy of admitting he is I AM.?

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8616-jesus-of-nazareth> “God Cannot die!” TorahOfMessiah.com. 2012. <https://web.archive.org/web/20140331233206/http://www.torahofmessiah.com/godcantdie.html>
[2] “H6086.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible.  n.d.  http://lexiconcordance.com/search6.asp?sw=6086&sm=0&x=42&y=16> Benner, Jeff.  “Mechanical Translation of the Torah.” Deuteronomy 21:23. <http://www.mechanical-translation.org/mtt/D21.html>
[3] Net.bible.org. Deuteronomy 21:22, Hebrew text “`ets <06086>”  “Septuagint text, Greek “xulon <3586>” <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=3586Bible Hub. 2017. Deuteronomy 21:22. <http://biblehub.com> Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XII, Chapter II. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  “Septuagint.”  Septuagint.Net. 2014.  <http://septuagint.net>  “Septuagint.”  Encyclopædia Britannica. 2014.  Benner, Jeff A. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center.  2013.  <http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/31_masorite.html> Lundberg, Marilyn J. “The Leningrad Codex.”  USC West Semitic Research Project.  2012 <http://archive.is/WP0w> The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Devarim – Deuteronomy, Chapter 21. <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9985#showrashi=true> Benner, Jeff, “Mechanical Translation of the Torah.” 2017. Deuteronomy 21. <http://www.mechanical-translation.org/mtt/D21.html>
[4] The Babylonian Talmud. Trans. Michael L. Rodkinson. 1918. Mishnah IV Gemara. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/talmud.htmSoncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. 1935-1948. Sanhedrin 46b Gemara.<https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/talmud/index.html
[5] Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. Book II, Chapters V, XIII, XIV; Book IV, Chapter V; Book V, Chapters VI, XI. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  Josephus.  Antiquities of the Jews. Book XX, Chapter VI.2. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[6] Josephus. Wars. Book V, Chapter XI.
[7] Josephus. Wars. Book IV, Chapter V.
[8] Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Sanhedrin 45b. Babylonian Talmud. Rodkinson. Chapter VI, Mishna V.
[9] Matthew  27:57-61. Mark 15:42-47. Luke 23:50-56. John 19:38-42.
[10] Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Sanhedrin 45b – 46a. Babylonian Talmud. Rodkinson. Chapter VI, Mishna V.
[11] NASB. Luke 22:67-70. CR Matthew 26:63-65; Mark 14-63-65.
[12] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XX, Chapters IX. The Complete Works of Josephus. n.d <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
[13] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Epstein, Isidor. “Introduction to the Seder Nezikin.”  Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Shachter & Freedman. “Introduction to Sanhedrin.” Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin Chapter VI, Folio 43a. Greenberg, Eric J. “Jesus’ Death Now Debated by Jews.” Jewish Journal. 2003. Reprinted from The Jewish Week.  <http://jewishjournal.com/news/world/8546>
[14] Soncino Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 43a; footnote #34; “Glossary” > “Baraitha” and “Tanna, Tana.”  Epstein. “Introduction to Seder Nezikin.” Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Visotzky, Rabbi Burton L. Sage Tales – Wisdom and Wonder from the Rabbis of the Talmud. 2011. p153. <https://books.google.com/books?id=pMJYU2DTZ4UC&pg=PA153&lpg=PA153&dq=Talmud+exception+for+Jesus+of+Nazareth&source=bl&ots=ir-xCPF6a0&sig=_Nx3mW86y5dgWQWtuQmV-VidP6w&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwimzZi8yNvZAhXH44MKHf5AAEsQ6AEIXjAG#v=onepage&q=Talmud%20exception%20for%20Jesus%20of%20Nazareth&f=false
[15] Luke 23:1-3.  
[16] Josephus.  Antiquities. Book XX, Chapter V.  Josephus.  Wars. Book II, Chapters V, XIV. Ashby, Carol. Life in the Roman Empire. n.d. “Crime and Punishment.” <https://carolashby.com/crime-and-punishment-in-the-roman-empire>
[17] Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3, 13-15; John 18:33-38.
[18] NRSV, NASB.  Matthew 27:24; Matthew 27:24-26; Mark 15:11-15; Luke 23:20-25; John 19:4-15. Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVI. Chapters II, VI; Book XVII, Chapter XIII; Book XIX, Chapter V-VI. Josephus, Flavius. Against Apion. Book II. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

“I AM” – a Blasphemy or the Truth?

High Priest Caiaphas asked Jesus of Nazareth a direct question, “”Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus answered ‘I Am.’”[1] To Caiaphas and other Jewish leaders, it was self-incriminating prima facie evidence – standalone proof – of blasphemy. Leviticus Law defined blasphemy to be a capital offense, death by stoning:

LV 24:16 “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” (NASB)

As the backdrop, the son of an Egyptian father and Israelite mother had been apprehended for the offense of blasphemy. In the first and only documented judgement for blasphemy in the Old Testament, the Tanakh, the offensive son was judged by God Himself through Moses:

LV 24:13-15 Then the LORD said to Moses: “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him.

LV 24:23 “… and they took the blasphemer outside the camp and stoned him. The Israelites did as the LORD commanded Moses. (NIV)

What exactly constituted the act of blasphemy? It was not until centuries later that the legal question was answered in the Babylonian Talmud:

MISHNAH:  “The blasphemer is punished only if he utters the [The Divine] Name.”(Soncino)[2]

An effort to further define the Mishnah, called the Gemara, led Jewish Rabbi sages to discuss the act of blasphemy. Considered to be so sacred, the topic required extraordinary treatment by using euphemisms in the written text.[3]

During a blasphemy trial, special rules prohibited witnesses from quoting the blasphemy, instead using the substitute name of “Jose.”[4] Only one witness was allowed to quote the blasphemy and all others were to simply say if they agreed with what they heard.

Upon hearing a blasphemy, the judges were to rend their garments, a Jewish sign of displaying heart-rending anguish or mourning.[5] Exactly the reaction of Caiaphas when he heard Jesus answer his question with “I Am.”

Great Hebrew significance of “I AM” goes all the way back to Moses and the unconsumed burning bush. Curiosity drew Moses closer when a Voice called him by name. Moses asked who was speaking and the Voice responded:

EX 3:6 “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (The Complete Jewish Bible, NASB)

The Voice identified Himself as ‘elohiym, the Hebrew plural masculine word meaning “God, divine ones, rulers, judges.”[6] (Translators added the preceding “I am” only as a clarifying literary aide.) Commanded to return to Egypt and confront Pharaoh, Moses asked what he should say if anyone asked who sent him? Resoundingly, the booming Voice declared:

EX 3:14-15 “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”  God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations. (NASB)

Translated as “I AM” from the Hebrew verb hayah, it means “to exist i.e. to be or become, come to pass (always emphatic)” – neither a noun nor a pronoun. God emphatically identified Himself with an on-going action verb, according to Rabbi Rashi – “I will be” – no beginning or end.[7]

I AM then gave Moses His name, YHVH, the unspeakable four letter Hebrew name of God or “Tetragrammaton.” Intended to be concealed, according to Rashi, because the Hebrew 4-letter Name is spelled without a “vav” (a Hebrew letter/symbol).[8] The ineffable Hebrew proper name of God derives from the root word hayah, “I AM.” Translated as “The LORD” in place of the unspeakable Devine Name, it appears in other Biblical references as Jehovah, God (‘elohiym), or Adonai.[9]

Jewish translators of the Hebrew-to-Greek Septuagint LXX completed in 247 BC translated the Exodus text of both “I AM” and “The LORD” into Greek as ego eimi.”[10]Jesus answered Caiaphas using these very same two Greek words.

Ego is a primary first person pronoun to be used emphatically.[11] Eimi, also to be said emphatically, is “the first person singular present indicative meaning “exist’” with characteristics of present, imperfect and future tenses.[12]

When Jesus answered Caiaphas’ question with ego eimi, he in essence declared emphatically and authoritatively, as a statement of fact:  “[Yes], I Am [presently and into the future, the Messiah, the Son of God].”

A year earlier, Pharisees also believed they had heard Jesus commit blasphemy. While teaching at the Temple, Jesus several times referred to himself as ego eimi:

JN 8:12 “…I AM the light of the world…” (Jubliee)[13]

JN 8:24 “…unless you believe that I AM, you’ll die in your sins.”(ISV)[14]

JN 8:28 “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM…”(ISV)[15]

Thinking they had a smoking gun that even the surrounding crowd could not ignore, the Pharisees accused Jesus of being possessed by a demon after he said “If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.”[16] They aptly pointed out that Abraham and the prophets had surely kept God’s word yet they were dead.[17] Jesus picked up on the reference to Abraham:

JN 8:56-58 “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”(NKJV)[18]

Possibly the most astonishing statement in all the Gospels, Jesus not only said he actually knew Abraham, he had observed in real time Abraham rejoicing when he saw that the day of Jesus had arrived. Even more incredibly, Jesus explicitly said, “Before Abraham was, I Am” – ego eimi. The Pharisees picked up stones to kill Jesus, but according to John, it was not yet his time, and Jesus escaped unharmed.[19]

Facts of the case are undisputed – Jesus identified himself as I AM, the Son of God. What remains is the open question: did Jesus speak a blasphemy or the truth? If Jesus spoke blasphemy, his death sentence was truly justified according to God’s own Law.

If Jesus is the Son of God, he could not have spoken a blasphemy and as a result he was unjustly judged in his Father’s own chosen judgment seat of Israel pursuant to his Father’s own Law of blasphemy. Perhaps the greatest paradox of all time – at the Passover on the sacred Mount  Moriah  in the holy city of Jerusalem, Jesus declared himself to be the Son of God to the Priests and Scribes of the Temple, the House of God – coincidence?

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REFERENCES:

NASB = New American Standard Bible translation
ISV = International Standard Version translation
NIV = New International Version tranlation
NKJV = New King James Version translationn

[1] NASB. Luke 22:67-71. CR Matthew 26:63-65; Mark 14-63-65;
[2] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. Sanhedrin 55b, footnote #20. <http://come-and-hear.com/tcontents.html>   
[3] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin 56a, 66a.  The Babylonian Talmud. Rodkinson translation. Book 8, Tract Sanhedrin, Chapter VII, Mishna VI. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/talmud.htm>
[4] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin 56a, 66a.
[5] Lamm, Maurice. “Keriah – The Rending of Garments.” Chabad.org. 2018. <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/281558/jewish/Keriah-The-Rending-of-Garments.htm>
[6] “<H0430>”Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible.  n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com>
[7] Net.bible.org. Hebrew text. Strong, James. The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. 1990.“hayah <1961>.”  The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. 2018. Shemot – Exodus 3:14 translation & commentary. <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9864#showrashi=true>  “exist;” “be/” “become,” “transitive.” Merriam-Webster. 2018. <http://www.merriam-webster.com>
[8] Rashi. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Shemot – Exodus 3:15 commentary. Benner, Jeff, The Ancient Hebrew Alphabet. 2017. “vav.” <http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/alphabet_letters_vav.html>
[9] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin 55b & footnote #20, 56a.   Martincic, Tom. “The Meaning of the Tetragrammaton.”  Eliyah.com.  n.d.  <http://www.eliyah.com/tetragrm.html>  “Tetragrammaton.” Dictionary.com.  <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tetragrammaton?s=t>  Marlowe, Michael. The Translation of the Tetragrammaton.”  Bible Research. 2011. <http://www.bible-researcher.com/tetragrammaton.html>     “Tetragrammation.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14346-tetragrammaton>  Singer, Isidore; Adler, Cyrus, et. al.  The Jewish Encyclopedia. Volume 9. 1912. “The Seven Names.” p 163.   <https://books.google.com/books?id=lfoOtGOcIBYC&lpg=PA594&ots=6qoCfVVUz7&dq=wave+sheaf+encyclopedia&pg=PA594&hl=en#v=onepage&q=seven&f=false>
[10] NetBible.com. Exodus 3:6 – Septuagint text; Hebrew text Myhlah <403>, ‘elohiym, the plural form of  ‘elowahh <0433>.   Biblehub.com. Exodus 3:6 Hebrew ’ĕ-lō-hê <403>, plural form of eloah. Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XII, Chapter II.1-6, 13-1. Trans. William Whitson.  The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
[11] Net.bible.org. Luke 22:70, Greek text.  Strong. “ego <1473> The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
[12] Net.bible.org. Luke 22:70, Greek text.  Strong. “eimi <1510>” The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.       
[13] Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary. John 8:12. BibleHub.com.  <http://biblehub.com/commentaries/jfb/john/8.htm>
[14] Gill’s Exposition. John 8:24. BibleHub.com. <http://biblehub.com/commentaries/gill/john/8.htm> Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. John 8:24. BibleHub.com. <http://biblehub.com/commentaries/cambridge/john/8.htm> Wesley’s Notes on the Bible. John 8:24. BibleHub.com. <http://biblehub.com/commentaries/wes/john/8.htm>
[15] Wesley’s Notes on the Bible. John 8:28. Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. John 8:28.
[16] NASB. John 8:52.
[17] John 8:52-55.
[18] Gill’s Exposition. John 8:58. Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. John 8:58. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary. John 8:58. Wesley’s Notes on the Bible. John 8:58.
[19] John 8:59.