Judea, the Land Promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

Canaan, land of Abraham, Palestine, Judaea or Judea – all refer to the same place today known as Israel.[1] Judea’s 2000-year history preceding the era of Jesus of Nazareth began with Abram who was ironically born in the land of Babylon known today as Iran, a mortal enemy of Israel.[2]

Young Abram grew-up and married Sarai in Ur of the Chaldees. His father, Terah, moved his son’s families to Haran in the land of Canaan.[3] One day God appeared to Abram telling him to move to a place God would show him.[4] He also promised Abram, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”[5]

Abram and Sarai along with nephew Lot and his family eventually resettled near Salem. One day, an enemy raiding party captured Lot, his family and their possessions whereupon Abram took up arms and set out on a rescue mission.[6]

Victorious in battle having rescued Lot’s family and possessions, Abram returned home to a hero’s welcome greeted by Melchizedek, priest and King of Salem. He blessed Abram in the name of the most high God, creator of the heavens and earth.[7] Soon thereafter, God reaffirmed His promise giving Abram’s descendants the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River.[8]

Thirteen years later at the age of 99, God blessed Abram changing his name to Abraham; his wife’s name from Sarai to Sarah; promised them a son to be named Isaac; and reaffirmed His promise that Canaan would be a permanent possession: [9]

Gen. 7:18-19 “I will give the whole land of Canaan – the land where you are now residing to you and your descendants after you as a permanent possession. I will be their God. (NET)

Gen. 17:19 “…Sarah your wife is going to bear you a son, and you will name him Isaac. I will confirm my covenant with him as a perpetual covenant for his descendants after him.” (NET)

Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebekah, was blessed by God changing his name to Israel and promised that his descendants would produce an assembly of nations and kings. The sons of Israel became the fathers of the tribes of Israel.[10] Just before Jacob died, he blessed each son and to Judah, he specifically passed on the blessing of his grandfather Abraham foretelling Judah would become the father of the tribe of royalty.[11]

Events took a major detour that lasted some 400 years before God’s promise to Abraham was to be fulfilled. Jacob had a favorite son, Joseph, causing jealousy among his brothers.[12] They ambushed Joseph and sold him as a slave to a passing caravan bound for Egypt, then told their father the boy had been killed by a wild animal.[13]

Many years later during a famine in Canaan, Jacob resorted to seeking food from Egypt and eventually discovered that not only was Joseph alive, he was second in power only to Pharaoh himself.[14] Under the protection of Joseph, all the sons of Israel left Canaan and moved to Egypt where, over the next 400 years, they became slaves of the ruling Pharaohs.[15]

Along came Moses who led the Hebrews on the Exodus out of Egypt. Just weeks later atop Mt. Sinai, God gave the Law to Moses which included five big promises, all dependent on God’s plans for the place in the land promised to Abraham:[16]

EX 23:20, 23 “I am going to send an angel before you to protect you as you journey and to bring you into the place that I have prepared…For my angel will go before you and bring you to the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and I will destroy them completely.”(NET)

EX 33:1-2 “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’” (NASB, NKJV)

Canaan, the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob spanned from the southern tip of the Dead Sea and the Negev Desert to the Mediterranean Sea in the South; the Mediterranean Sea on the West; the Jordan River on the East; and as far North as the mouth of the Jordan River.[17] Inhabitants of Canaan certainly were not willing for give up their land to the fledgling Hebrew nation – it had to be taken by force.

Poised to return to the land of Abraham, the waters of the Jordan River were miraculously parted allowing the Israelites to cross on dry ground.[18] First to be conquered in the promised land was Jericho followed by many battles over several generations.

Continuing their conquests of Canaan, eventually the new Hebrew King David battled the inhabitants of Jebus, formerly known as Salem. Once King David established his throne in the City of David that encompassed Mt. Moriah where the Temple would eventually be built, the city became known as Jerusalem.[19]

Over the next several centuries and generations, David’s kingdom of Israel degraded when successive kings and the Hebrews did not follow their promised Covenant with God presented by Moses at Mt. Sinai. Split into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, Israel was eventually destroyed by Assyrians, and Judah was conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar and taken away captive to Babylon.

Persia vanquished Babylon while the Hebrews were still in captivity providing the opportunity for the wise man, Daniel, to serve kings in both Empires.[20] Under Persian Kings Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, the Hebrews were allowed to return to the land of Judah and rebuild Jerusalem.[21]

Conquests of Alexander the Great building the Greek Empire included the land now called “Palestine.”[22] In 333 BC, Alexander’s army was met outside of Jerusalem by the Jewish High Priest Shimon HaTzaddik in attempt to prevent the army’s destruction of the Jewish Temple.[23]

Jerusalem was spared and the Jews viewed Alexander as their liberators in part because Hellenism under the new Greek Empire allowed them religious freedom. In fact, Greek eventually became the common language in Palestine.[24]

On the stage of history, the Greek Empire was replaced by the Roman Empire and Palestine picked up a new name, Judea. Caesar Augustus and the senate allowed Judea with Jerusalem as its capital to be ruled by a new ruthless king named Herod.[25]

Jesus of Nazareth of the lineage of Abraham, Judah and King David, was born in Bethlehem of Judea during the reign of Herod. He traveled Judea and Samaria teaching and healing until one day during the Passover in Jerusalem, Jesus was captured, tried and crucified.

Was it merely a coincidence that over the course of 2000 years, the land promised by God to Abraham remained essentially unchanged where the same city known as Salem, Jebus and Jerusalem, remained at the center this land until Jesus of Nazareth arrived on the scene?

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[1] “Palestine.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/place/Palestine>  Niese. B., ed. Flavii Iosephi opera. 1892. J.  Book 5, Section 117 [AJ 5.1], footnote 1. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0146:book=5:section=1&highlight=palestine> Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book 20, Chapter 11.2.<https://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=Palestine&f=false>
[2] Genesis 11:31,12:1-4; 13:12-17; 15:7. “Historical Timeline.” The Biblical Zionist. BiblicalZionist.com. 2009. <http://www.biblicalzionist.com/timeline.htm>  Uittenbogaard, Arie “Salem meaning | Salem etymology.” Abarim Publications. n.d. <http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Salem.html#.U5SQqCjyTih> Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. Book VI, Chapter X. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[3] Genesis 11:27-31.
[4] Genesis 12:1.
[5] Genesis 12:2. NIV.
[6] Genesis 14:11-16.
[7] Genesis 14:18-20.
[8] Genesis 15:18-19.
[9] Genesis 31:1  CR. Quran. Pickthall translation. Surah 21:72. <http://wwhttp://www.islam101.com/quran/QTP/QTP021.htmw.islam101.com/quran/QTP/QTP021.htm>
[10] Genesis 35:9-13.  CR. Quran. Trans. Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 40 references to “Children of Israel.” <http://search-the-quran.com/search/Children%20of%20Israel>
[11] Genesis 49:8-10.
[12] Genesis 37:3-4; 18-28.
[13] Genesis 37:18-28.
[14] Genesis 42-46.
[15] Exodus 12:40.
[16] Ryrie. Charles C., ed.  Ryrie Study Bible. New American Standard Trans. 1978. “Laws relating to conquests, [Ex] 23:20-33.” [xvii] Joshua 15.  Mark, Joshua. “Canaan.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2018. <https://www.ancient.eu/canaan>  “Canaan.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/place/Canaan-historical-region-Middle-East>  Jarus, Owen. “Who Were the Canaanites?”  LiveScience. 2016. <https://www.livescience.com/56016-canaanites.html>
[18] Joshua 3:9-17.
[19] Samuel 5:6-9; I Chronicles 11:4-8;  2 Chronicles 3:1;
[20] Ezekiel 1:2-3.
[21] Ezekiel 6:7, 12; 7:12-13, 23, 26.  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XI, Chapter V.1.
[22] “Palestine.” Encyclopædia Britannica.  Maier, Paul L. The New Complete Works of Josephus. Trans. William Whiston. 1999. p 385. <http://books.google.com/books?id=kyaoIb6k2ccC&lpg=PP1&dq=the%20complete%20works%20of%20josephus&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false>  Herodotus. The Histories. 440 BC. English Trans. A. D. Godley, Ed. 1920. Book 7, Chapter 89.<http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0126%3Abook%3D7%3Achapter%3D89>  “From Alexander the Great to ad 70 Hellenistic Greece.” Washington State University. 6 June 1999.  Archived URL. Archive.org. 4 Jan. 2011.  <http://web.archive.org/web/20110104072822/http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GREECE/ALEX.HTM>
[23] “Palestine.”  Encyclopædia Britannica. 2014.  Spiro, Ken.  “History Crash Course #27: The Greek Empire.” Aish.com. 2001. <http://www.aish.com/jl/h/cc/48939587.html>  Hooker, Richard. “Hellenistic Greece: Alexander the Great.” Washington State University. 1999. <http://web.archive.org/web/20110104072822/http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GREECE/ALEX.HTM>
[24] “Hellenism.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7535-hellenism>  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XII, Chapter II.1.
[25] Maier. The New Complete Works of Josephus. p 491. “Actium (31BCE).”  Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering. 2019. <https://www.livius.org/articles/battle/actium-31-bce/>  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XV, Chapters V-VI; Book XVII, Chapter VIII.1.  “Herod the Great.” Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering. <http://www.livius.org/articles/person/herod-the-great/?>  Villalba i Varneda, Pere. The Historical Method of Flavius Josephus. p 14. <http://books.google.com/books?id=kdUUAAAAIAAJ&lpg=PA14&ots=2ek7SgCy2c&dq=josephus%2C%20battle%20of%20actium%2C%20herod&pg=PA14#v=onepage&q=josephus,%20battle%20of%20actium,%20herod&f=false>


Mark, Interpreter for Peter

Mark’s Gospel seems like the fairy tale style stepchild of the Gospels’ accounts of Jesus of Nazareth. Shortest of the four and probably the least quoted by Christians and skeptics alike, that does not mean the Gospel is less than credible or authentic.

Assessing the merit and authenticity of Mark can be approached in two ways – historical and uniqueness. How far back in history can the source of Mark’s Gospel be traced? What information in Mark does not appear in any of the other three Gospels?

Experts date the writing of Mark to around 60 AD possibly making it the oldest Gospel written, although there is debate that Matthew preceded it.[1] One key reason for the date is no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.[2] In fact, Mark 13:2 refers to the destruction of the Temple in future tense suggesting it had not yet happened.[3]

Origins of the Gospel’s author can be traced outside the Bible back to some of the original Disciples – first generation sources. Papias, an astute man born in 70 AD, said:

“For I imagined that what was to be got from books was not so profitable to me as what came from the living and abiding voice.” [4]

A direct reference was made to books already written just a few years after the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, quite possibly the Gospels themselves. Setting aside books as a primary source of information, Papias made it his personal mission to seek out the actual elders of the early church to ascertain the truth from them directly:

“If, then, any one who had attended on the elders came, I asked minutely after their sayings,-what Andrew or Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the Lord’s disciples: which things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say.”

Identified by name as sources, Aristion and the presbyter John both personally knew seven of the Disciples.[5] At the conclusion of his investigation, Papias provided a matter-of-fact report, saying in part:[6]

“And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered.  It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord’s sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them.  For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements.”

Irenaeus was a student of Polycarp who himself was personally mentored by the Disciple John.[7] Like Papias, Irenaeus identified Mark as the author of the Gospel, the traveling interpreter for the Disciple Peter:[8]

“…Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter.”

“…Mark, the interpreter and follower of Peter, does thus commence his Gospel narrative…”

Several times in the New Testament Mark is mentioned. Peter referred to Mark as “my son.”[9] The Book of Acts written by the author of Luke makes three mentions, 12:12-14, 25 and 15:37, identifying John called Mark.

Apostle Paul made several references to Mark. In Colossians 4:10, the Apostle identified Mark as the cousin of Barnabas. Paul called out by name Mark and Luke twice – in Philemon: “Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers” and in 2 Timothy 4:11: “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.”[10]

Not just casual acquaintances, Luke and Mark were part of Paul’s ministry, yet neither were eyewitnesses to the life and times of Jesus.[11] Mark’s Gospel reflects the knowledge gained during his years spent traveling with Peter and Paul, his interactions with the other Disciples and listening to eyewitness accounts.

Some differences between Mark and the other Gospels are readily apparent. Mark begins by immediately declaring Jesus to be the Son of God, then ties an Isaiah prophecy to his introduction of John the Baptist.[12] Matthew has 28 chapters and Luke 24 whereas Mark has only 16 chapters. Mark, unlike Matthew and Luke, did not provide any genealogical details of Jesus.

Miracles by Jesus solely reported in Mark are two, the healing of the deaf mute and healing the blind man at Bethsaida.[13] One parable by Jesus, the seed growing in secret, is exclusive to Mark and perhaps another (or was it an analogy?) about the householder.[14]

Mark is the only Gospel reporting activity the night before the Resurrection event. He named three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, who purchased and prepared aromatic spices and anointing oils for the following morning.[15]

Both Mark and Luke pick up the Resurrection story at the tomb after the stone had been rolled away. Mark reveals a very specific detail not described in the other Gospels: “Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right.” Further, he reports the witnessing women trembled, were amazed and afraid – details not reported in the other three Gospels.

Digging deeper reveals more differences. Nearly 8% of Mark, 51 verses, is unique content.[16] Writing analysis strongly suggests Mark had the special ability to interpret both Aramaic and the Roman Greek.[17]

In the world of investigators, identical or nearly identical statements can be a clear indication of collusive deception as are alleged by some Gospel critics.[18] Are the differences in Mark enough to say it is not identical to the other Gospels? If Mark did reference Matthew or vice versa, in their era of history it was common and acceptable practice to copy information from other sources without any formal references.[19]

With charges of collusion, deception or plagiarism unfounded, what remains is believability – does Mark’s Gospel about Jesus of Nazareth bear the marks of credibility and authenticity?

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[1] Ryrie. Charles C., ed.  Ryrie Study Bible. New American Standard Trans. 1978. “Introduction to the Book of Matthew;” “Introduction to the Book of Mark; “Introduction to the Book of Luke.”  “New Testament – Historical Books.” “New Testament.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11498-new-testament> “The Four Gospels.” ReligionFacts.com. 2019. <http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/texts/gospels.htm>
Gloag, Paton J. Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. 1895. pp 45, 204. <https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=yale.39002051125079&view=1up&seq=9>
[2] “Mark, the Gospel According to.” Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary. 3rd Edition. n.d.  <http://www.ccel.org/e/easton/ebd/ebd/T0002400.html#T0002421> Ryrie. Ryrie Study Bible. “Introduction to the Book of Mark.”
[3] “New Testament.” Jewish Encyclopedia. “The Four Gospels.” ReligionFacts.com. Gloag. Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. pp 45, 204.
[4] Papias. “Papias.” Fragment I. “From the exposition of the oracles of the Lord.”  2005. <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.vii.ii.i.html>
[5] Schaff. Ante-Nicene Fathers. “Introductory Note to the Fragments of Papias.”  <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.vii.ii.i.html>  Papias. Fragment I, footnote #1739.  Papias. Fragment VI, footnote #1755. <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.vii.ii.vi.html>
[6] Papias.  Fragments I & VI. Swete, Henry Barclay. The Gospel According to St. Mark, The Greek Text with Notes and Indices. 1902. pp LX – LXI. <https://books.google.com/books?id=WcYUAAAAQAAJ&lpg=PA127&ots=f_TER300kY&dq=Seneca%20centurio%20supplicio%20pr%C3%A6positus&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[7] Schaff, Philip. “Introduction – The General Character of His Work.” Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume I. <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/richardson/fathers.xi.i.i.html>  Schaff, Philip. “Introductory Note to the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians.” Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume I.  n.d. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. 13 July 2005. http://m.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.iv.i.html>  Gloag, The Synoptic Gospels. p11.
[8] Irenaeus. Against Heresies. Book III, Chapters I.1, X.5, XIV.1. <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.iv.html> CR Acts 12:12.
[9] 1 Peter 5:13.
[10] NKJV.
[11] Swete. The Gospel According to St. Mark, The Greek Text with Notes and Indices. pp XV – XXI. Irenaeus, Against Heresies. Book III, Chapter XV.3.
[12] Mark 1:1-4. NLT, NASB.
[13] Mark 7:31-37; 8:22-26.  Aune, Eilif Osten. “Synoptic Gospels.” Bible Basics. 2013. <https://web.archive.org/web/20171214110423/http://www.bible-basics-layers-of-understanding.com/Synoptic-Gospels.html>  “Luke, the Gospel According to.” Easton’s Bible Dictionary. 3rd Edition. n.d. <http://www.ccel.org/e/easton/ebd/ebd/T0002300.html#T0002331> Ryrie. “The Miracles of Jesus.”
[14] Mark 4:26. Sween, Don and Nancy. “Parable.” BibleReferenceGuide.com. n.d. <http://www.biblereferenceguide.com/keywords/parable.html>  Ryrie. “The Parables of Jesus.” Aune. “Synoptic Gospels.”
[15] Mark 16:1.
[16] “Mark, the Gospel According to.” Easton’s Bible Dictionary. 3rd Edition.  Swete. The Gospel According to St. Mark, The Greek Text with Notes and Indices. pp XIX, LXXIV.
[17] MacRory, Joseph. “Gospel of Saint Mark.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. 1910. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09674b.htm>  “Miscellaneous Notes and Queries.” 1895. History, Folk-Lore, Mathematics, Mysticism, Art, Science, Etc. Volume 13. p21. <https://books.google.com/books?id=diwAAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA21&lpg=PA21&dq=what+language+did+Mark+interpret+for+Peter?&source=bl&ots=AnNyDYHoXC&sig=ACfU3U1nG49JG00-xpncw9xnrUbYIAs6ng&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwipo6-qwdjjAhUInawKHRHOA8U4ChDoATADegQICBAB#v=onepage&q=what%20language%20did%20Mark%20interpret%20for%20Peter%3F&f=false>
[18] Vick, Tristan D. “Dating the Gospels: Looking at the Historical Framework.” Advocatus Atheist. 2010.  <http://advocatusatheist.blogspot.com/2010/01/dating-gospels-looking-at-historical.html>  “New Testament.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011.  Etinger, Judah. Foolish Faith. Chapter 6. 2019. 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. 2013. <http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/documents.htm>  Sapir Avinoam. LSI Laboratory for Scientific Interrogation. Language analysis courses.  <http://www.lsiscan.com/id37.htm>
[19] Reed, Annette Yoshiko.  Pseudepigraphy, Authorship, and ‘The Bible’ in Late Antiquity. pp 478 & 489. 2008. Academia.edu. <http://www.academia.edu/1610659/_Pseudepigraphy_Authorship_and_the_Reception_of_the_Bible_in_Late_Antiquity> Chase, Jeffrey S. “The Gutenberg Printing Press.” Duke University|Department of Computer Science. n.d.  <http://www.cs.duke.edu/~chase/cps49s/press-summary.html>  Fausset, Andrew R.  “New Testament.” Fausset Bible Dictionary. 1878. <http://classic.studylight.org/dic/fbd> “Custom Cheating and Plagiarism essay paper writing service.” ExclusivePapers.com. 2019.  <http://exclusivepapers.com/essays/Informative/cheating-and-plagiarism.php> Cummings, Michael J. “Did Shakespeare Plagiarize?” Cummings Study Guides. 2003 <http://cummingsstudyguides.net/xPlagiarism.html> Pearse, Roger, ed.  “Tacitus and his manuscripts.” The Tertullian Project. 2008. <http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/tacitus>

The One Undisputed Messiah Requirement

One undisputed Messiah requirement serves as common ground to Judaism and Christianity where both are in agreement. Beginning in Genesis with Jacob and then in Exodus by Moses, prophecies laid the foundational requirements for the Messiah.

First, a prophecy came in the form of a blessing when Jacob, aka Israel, gave a blessing to each of his 12 sons. One son, Judah, received the blessing that his family-tribe would become the lineage of the “scepter”:

Gen 49:8-10 “Judah, [as for] you, your brothers will acknowledge you. Your hand will be at the nape of your enemies, [and] your father’s sons will prostrate themselves to you.  A cub [and] a grown lion is Judah.  From the prey, my son, you withdrew. He crouched, rested like a lion, and like a lion, who will rouse him?  The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the student of the law from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him will be a gathering of peoples.”(Complete Jewish Bible)[1]

Rabbi Rashi, one of Judaism’s most revered sages, identified Shiloh as the “King Messiah, to whom the kingdom belongs.” The“scepter” refers to the royal lineage of “David and thereafter” – the kingdom of David.[2]

Moses at Mt. Sinai received the Law from God that appears in the books of the Law, the Torah – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers. Much more than just the 10 Commandments, the Laws of God also included promises and prophecies. One was the promise of a future kingdom in a place where God would choose.[3]

Leaving Mt. Sinai on their quest to reach the promised land of Abraham, the tribes of Israel were defeating one enemy after another creating dread by those kings and nations lying in their path. One enemy king, Balak, thought he could cleverly use God to prevent his Moab nation’s defeat.

Persistently asking the prophet Balaam to place a curse from God on the Hebrews, Balaam refused. In response, he instead issued a momentous Messiah prophesy saying:

Nm 24:17 “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth.”(New American Standard Bible)

“Scepter” or “staff” is translated from the same Hebrew word shebet in Jacob’s blessing of Judah.[4] Rashi again says shebet represents “a king who rules dominantly” pointing to King David in the next phrase. A star, the Rabbi describes, “shoots out like an arrow” and uproots the sons of Sheth or Seth, the son of Adam; in other words, symbolically all of mankind.[5]

Rabbi Maimonides in his “13 Principles of Faith” that serves to define the fundamental basis of the Jewish faith,  interprets Balaam’s prophecy as referring to the future King David and the Messiah.[6] Based on this prophecy and Deuteronomy 30:3-5, Maimonides expounds that the future Messiah will be a king who  comes from the “House of David.”

Multiple prophecies after the reign of King David, most notably by prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, forewarned of judgements for disregarding God, yet they included good news of forgiveness and redemption. Jeremiah issued two commonly recognized Messiah prophecies:[7]

Jer 23:5 “”Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth…””

Jer  33:15 “‘In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David A Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth…’”(New King James Version)

Isaiah, regarded by Judaism and Christianity to be the greatest of all the prophets, issued multiple Messiah prophecies – which ones are Messiah prophecies is where Jews and Christians part company.[8]

For Christians, one of Isaiah’s earliest Messiah prophecies often appears during Christmas season, Isaiah 9:6-7. Rabbi Rashi, on the other hand, viewed the prophecy as referring to King Hezekiah a few decades later, not the Messiah – regardless that two of the names for the figure in the prophecy are “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father”:[9]

Is 9:6-7 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.”(Jewish Publication Society)[10]

Rabbi Jose the Galilean, in the Babylonian Talmud tractate on “Peace,” identifies one of the names of the Messiah as the “Prince of Peace” who would be “upon the throne of David” citing Isaiah twice in 9:5 and 52:7, then Moses in Deuteronomy 20:10:[11]

“R. Jose the Galilean said: The name of the Messiah is also “peace” (Shalom), as it is written [Is. ix. 5]: “The prince of peace.” … When the Messiah shall come to Israel, he will begin with peace, as it is written [Is. lii. 7]: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger of good tidings, that publisheth peace, that announceth tidings of happiness, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth.” He also said: Great is peace, because even wars are waged for the sake of peace, as it is written [Deut. xx. 10]…”(Babylonian Talmud)

Two chapters later in Isaiah appear two more controversial prophecies referencing the “root of Jesse,” the father of King David, yet there is disagreement over its prophetic Messiah meaning. The first appears in the first two verses of Isaiah 11. While Christians view them as Messiah prophecies, Rashi teaches they again refer to King Hezekiah:

Is 11:1-2 “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.”(Jewish Publication Society)[12]

Rabbi Tanhun in the Talmud interprets one of the six blessings of Ruth 3:17 as referring to the Messiah where he cites Isaiah 11:2. Quoting the Rabbi from the Rodkinson translation, “Messiah — as it reads [Is. xi. 2]: “And there shall rest upon him the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”[13] The Rabbi clarifies the “rod out of the stem of Jesse,” who is his son King David, is from whom “a Branch shall grow out of his roots” – the Messiah.

Jewish Rabbi sages interpret the prophecies of the scepter, the Prince of Peace, and the Branch as referring to the Messiah. This establishes the one single Messiah requirement recognized by both Judaism and Christianity – the Messiah must born in the family lineage of King David of the tribe of Judah. The question then becomes, what are the odds that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of this Messiah requirement?

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[2] Rashi. The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary.  Commentary on Genesis 49:10.
[3] Dueteronomy17:14-15.
[4] Net.bible.org. Numbers 24:17. Hebrew text shebet <07626>. 2019. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=07626>
[5] Rashi. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Numbers 24:17 commentary.
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[11] The Babylonian Talmud. Trans. Michael L. Rodkinson. 1918. Book 5: Tractate Derech Eretz-Zuta, “The Chapter on Peace.” p 32. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t05/ere18.htm>  “Minor Tractate Zuta Rabbah: Chapter on Peace.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/minor-tractate-zuta-rabbah-chapter-on-peace> “Jewish Concepts: Peace.” Virtual Library. 2019. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/peace> “Jose the Galilean.” Jewish Encyclopedia. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8788-jose-the-galilean>
[12] “The Book of Yeshayahu (Isaiah): Chapter 11. Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/yeshayahu-isaiah-chapter-11>
[13] “Tractate Sanhedrin: Chapter 11.” Virtual Library. 2019. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/tractate-sanhedrin-chapter-11>  CR Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. “Sanhedrin 93.” 1935-1948.  <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_93.html#93b_12>