Much of the debate between Judaism and Christianity, (originating as a Jewish sect believing that many prophetic Scriptures had been fulfilled by Yeshua), – centers on just what sort of Messiah was to be expected. Modern Judaism claims almost exclusively now, that what the Scripture called for was a triumphant Messiah who would rule an ascendant Israel.  Much of this controversy centers on the interpretation of portions of Isaiah 53. Let’s look at Isaiah 53 verses 3 & 5. “He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” The now unanimous position of traditional Judaism is that the passage refers to the Jewish nation as a whole. The Christian one is that it is referencing the person of the Messiah come first as the suffering servant, and later to return as King Messiah. To the Christian, Christ’s suffering and death as the payment for sin, is clearly visible in the phrase “But He was wounded for our transgressions.

In the rabbinic interpretation however was not always the case. Even the Babylonian Talmud written as late as AD 1000, held to the Messianic/(Christian) interpretation of the passage.[i]  It was ultimately a famous French Jew named Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, who put a definitive modern spin on the passage in the 11th century. From thence forward Jewish authorities have considered the passage to have in mind the entire nation of Israel. The Israeli paper Haaretz summarized it thus: “The premise that the Messiah died and was resurrected is considered the foundation of the Christian faith, one which differentiates it from Judaism.”[ii]

However, there is ample evidence that the notion of a Messiah that dies and rises in three days was an established part of Jewish thought by the time that Christ walked the earth.  This was not just an addition of later Christian thinkers.  According to Professor Knohl of Hebrew University, Jesus saw “His mission” was to be put to death by the Romans “so his blood will be the sign for redemption to come…This is the conscious view of Jesus himself.”[iii]  Yehezkel Kaufman, yet another professor from Hebrew University confirms that thought.[iv]

Christian authors like Hal Lindsey have been telling us this all along. As Lindsey pointed out, many early Jewish thinkers were actually expecting 2 Messiahs; – The first, the Son of Joseph, a suffering Messiah, – and later, a Son of David, – or Messiah-King. Luke 4:16-20 records a very enlightening event, when Jesus goes into a synagogue and reads from the scroll of Isaiah.  What’s interesting is that Jesus is reading from Isaiah 61 beginning with verse 1, but then stopping in the middle of a sentence, – right where today we find a comma, in the middle of verse 2.  Christ is pointing out the fact that the passage refers to the two phases of His coming. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Luke 4:20-21 then records; “Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’”  So not only was Jesus claiming to be the very Messiah, but He also did something else unheard of; – He stopped quoting a Scripture in mid-passage. It was a signal as to what was going on. The very next words were clear reference to His 2nd Coming as Judge of the World. The rest of Isaiah 61:2 reads, “And the day of vengeance of our God.”

The upshot of all of this seems to be that there is growing evidence that the Christian view, that the Messiah would come as a ‘suffering servant’ was at least present in some 1st century Jewish thought. At least some Jewish scholars recognized that there had to be a double manifestation of the Messiah to fulfill the Scriptures.  Despite reasoned argument, Scripture itself tells us that the Jews retain a blind spot when it comes to understanding that Jesus is the Christ, the fulfillment of the Law.  “But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” (2Cor 3:14-16)  But there is good news in even this. That blindness will run its course: It will have its end. Paul explains it in Romans 11:25-26, when he writes, “that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved.”

Rabbi Kaduri

But now here’s where it starts to get really good! There are clues that we might be entering those times when the veil is being lifted and the times of the Gentiles may be coming to an end. In late 2017, the highly respected public opinion pollsters from Barna were approached to do a survey on Jewish Millennials living in the United States.  That means those born between 1984 and 1999. What they found was little less than astounding. Jewish millennials see their Jewish identity as being more important to them than any other Jewish demographic group. In addition, three- quarters of them consider their faith to be “somewhat to definitely important” to them. Nine-in-ten consider their religion to be important. But now here’s the real kicker. A full 21% of Jewish Millennials believe that Jesus was “God in human form who lived among people in the first century.”  That’s an astounding development – that one-fifth of Millennial Jews believe in Jesus.  They are aware of their heritage, somewhat steeped in their ‘Jewishness,’ – and believe that Messiah came – and that He is Yeshua / Jesus – the Son of God.  And they believe this, despite the Holocaust, despite centuries of Gentile persecution (coming from those they perceived as Christians) – and despite the current world-wide rise in antisemitism.  An additional 28% view him “as a rabbi or spiritual leader, but not God.”[v] [vi]  This follows the astounding revelation one year after the death of Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri, one of Israel’s most respected rabbis.  In a letter opened after his death, Kaduri revealed his belief that Yeshua or Jesus was truly the Messiah.[vii]   While that shocked many of his followers as they along with the majority of Jews dismiss the claims of what they see as a Gentile God, we can still see that the spiritual landscape is shifting.  Yet more scriptural prophecy seems on the edge of fulfillment.  In the words of that great and honored Jewish-American songwriter: “The times they are a chagin’.

[i] Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98

[ii] Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki), Jewish Virtual Library

[iii] Joel C Rosenberg, Missiles & The Messiah Making News, July 8, 2008

[iv] Ancient Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection, New York Times,

July 6, 2008

[v] The Evolving Spiritual Identity of Jewish Millennials, Barna Update, October 10, 2017

[vi] Survey: 1 in 5 US Jewish Millennials Believes Jesus Is the Son of God, Charisma, November 6, 2017

[vii] Aviel Schneider, The Rabbi, the Note and the Messiah, Israel Today, May 30, 2013

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