How balanced has the Church been?
The Rabbis have been waiting centuries for a Messiah. For the best explanation of their expectations we turn to Maimonides, aka Rambam, a Jewish scholar from the Middle ages and one of the most highly regarded of all Jewish sages. He wrote:
"The anointed King is destined to stand up and restore the Davidic Kingdom to its antiquity, to the first sovereignty. He will build the Temple in Jerusalem and gather the strayed ones of Israel together. All laws will return in his days as they were before ..."
He was scathing in his examination of Jesus, particularly the aftermath of his life and ministry, even quoting from Daniel 11:14, as a renegade who stumbled.
"The violent men among your own people will rebel in fulfillment of the vision, but without success". (Daniel 11:14)
Rather than redeeming and ingathering the Jews, the actions of "Christians" demonstrated the very reverse to Maimomides.
"Could there be a greater stumbling block than this [Jesus]? For all the prophets spoke of the Messiah who will redeem and save Israel, who will ingather all its exiles, and who will strengthen them in the fulfillment of the Torah's commandments - while he [Jesus] caused Israel to be killed by the sword, their remnants to be dispersed and humiliated, the Torah to be switched for something else, and most of the world to worship a G-d other than the G-d of Israel!"
And who could blame him, in all honesty? Although Jesus himself wasn't a stumbling block, his supposed followers were. The treatment of Jewish people at the hands of Christians, through events such as the Crusades and the Inquisition, was a blot on the face of humanity and had nothing in common with the teachings of Jesus (For a further discussion on these issues please read my book Outcast Nation). In fact, when we consider the massacres and expulsions committed in Jesus's name, Maimonides hit the nail on the head when he accused them of forcing "most of the World to worship a G-d other than the G-d of Israel!"
Interestingly, the quoted section here was censored by the Church and didn't appear in editions published since 1574! Maimonides then continues in his writings to state that the World has been so corrupted by the followers of Jesus and Mohammed that this very situation will pave the way for the coming of the true Messiah. How ironic!
As a result of the teachings of Maimonides, "Messiah" has not come yet and clearly Jesus is not the one, because ...
- He didn't bring an end to wars and wicked people
- He did not lead the Jewish people back to Israel
- He did not rebuild the Temple.
This is the party-line. This is their set response to Christian missionaries. This has been the argument passed down from sage to sage, rabbi to rabbi, to the current day. It is a major stumbling block against an Orthodox Jew accepting Jesus as Messiah. It is not enough arguing from Holy Scripture, because that is never enough. Doctrine may be based on the Hebrew Scriptures, but it is interpreted by learned sages, such as Maimonides, over hundreds of years of history.
But they had a problem, a big one, how to explain away the Suffering Servant and the Scriptures that spoke of him. The Old Testament seemed to speak of not one, but two Promised Ones, two Messiahs of very different character and purpose. Jesus fulfilled one and not the other. The Messiah expected by those first century Jews was not fulfilled by Jesus during his brief sojourn on Earth. So, although it may have been easy for Jewish scholars then and now to say that Jesus couldn't have been the kingly, conquering Messiah, what is a lot harder for them is to explain away the other Messiah, the Suffering Servant.
More of the two Messiahs next week ...
December 2012 (This is an abridged extract from Steve's book How the Church Lost the Way: And How it Can Find it Again)