The Religious A priori


First Century Jewish
Expectations of Messiah

I.Major Messianic Expectations

The general "qualifications" for Messiah were: decendant of Jesse, of David, through the line to Solomon, thorugh the kings of Judah and finally through Zerubbabel. This means of course that he would come from the tirbe of Judah. They expected him to free them from the Romans and bring in a great time of world peace and a holy nation. But they also had many other expectations which are in differing degrees, not necessarily those recognized by Jews today. Edersheim reveals most of these and they will be demonstrated within the context of arguments below. IT is not clear exactly how common or universal all of these expectations were, but they did exist and some were common within first century Judaism. Since it is absurd to think that Jews would just give up their faith and dash off to join another religion, we should expect that all of the claims Jesus made and that are made about him by his early followers were present in Jewish expectation, and so we do.

What we find when we examine these, and others below, is not a host of randum fulfillments but that they tell the whole Jesus story as presented in the Gospels. Suffering, rejection, dissaperance, death, return. These expectations will be demonstrated in the course of the following arguments.


(1) Linage: Tribe of Judah, decent through David.

(2) Decent through line of Zerubabel.

(3) associated with Galilee

(4) Star will Herald Birth

(5) Mystery concerning his seed

(6) Son of God

(7) Unrecognized by his people

(8) Rejected by his people--impresioned

(9) He would be the Suffereing Servant of Is 53

(a) wounded for the people's transgressions

(b) wounded (preiced)

(c) flogged--stripes form beating

(d) cut off from land of living

(e) See the light of life


(1) Linage: Tribe of Judah, decent through David.

The whole of chapter 11 (Isaiah) is designated by more than one ancient rabbinical source as pertaining to the Messiah.Targum v 1-6 as Messianic.(Jer. Berach 5a and Snah 93b) and number of passages in the Midrashim . v 1 says "a shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse." Jesus was decended from Jesse, father of King David.

Edersheim demonstrates thorugh many many passages of Rabbinical origin that "branch" and "branch of David" are terms specifically designating the Messiah, but Eisenman and Wise also document this fact specificially using the whole phrase "Branch of David." (24). Of course this phrase is used often in describing Jesus, and in fact is a pun on the word "Nazerath" since no prophesy of the OT predicts the Messiah coming form Nazerath.

Eisenman and Wises translation of "Genesis Florolegium" coloum 5.1 "The Government shall not pass from the tribe of Judah. During Isreal's dominian a Davic decendant on the Throne shall not cease...[elipseies mine] until the Branch of David comes because to him and to his seed was given the covenant of the Kingdom of his people in perpetuiy.." (89).(4q252)

(2) Decent through line of Zerubabel.

Haggi 2:23, after describing how their supplies and harvest yeilds were low the Lord would take them back and an abundant harvest will come. He makes an apocylpitic statemtn about nations being saken and armies being defeated and then prounces that Z is his choice and he will "use you like a signant ring" Why does the book end with this statement, after building up to it through description of Messianich times and forgiveness for Israel. Zerubbabel becomes the final focual point. He is the line of the Messiah.

Zechariah 4:7 "What are you O mighty Mountain before Zerubbabel you will become level ground, then he will bring out the capstone..." IT goes on to say Z will lay the foundation for the temple. That really happened. So that's not so amazing, but it is linked to Messianic prophesy as the language of the captone is seen by Rabbis Quoted by Edersheim as a reference to Messiah, and in Gospels of course that is what is meant when Jesus speaks of Himself as "the stone that the builders rejected."

In 3:8 God tells Joshua the priest that he will bring a branch. In the Notes to the Oxford Bible (RSV), of Messianic prophesy, it says "8 Branch a Davidic figure who is to usher in the Messianic age (compare Psalm 132:17...) here refurs to Zerubbabel (see 6:9-15n) Now that note says "This section abounds with difficulties. ORiginally it probablly directed crowning of Zerubbabel as Messianich King but was revised to refur to Joshua."

Zech. 3:8 "The designation 'Branch' is expressly applied to King MEssiah in the Targum. Indeep this is one of the Messiah's peculiar names." Thus these branch references link Z to Messiah in some fundamental way.

Now look again at 4:7 where it speaks of Z and the Capstone. Zech 4:7 is generally applied to the Messiah, expressly in the Targum and also in several of the Midrashim, thus as reguards both clauses of it Tanchuma (Par. Toledoth 14 ed. Warsh p. 56 at the top.) --Edersheim, 735).

So Z is clearly linked to Messiah. And as he lays the corner stone, which, though it was litterally something he did do in history, can also have a double meaning, especially since that very verse is linked Messianichally. So the Messiah comes through Z's line, which links Jesus closer and removes the curse a priori.

(3) Associated with Galilee

From Isaiah 9:1-3 "In the future he will honor Galilee of the gentiles, by the way of the Sea...The people who walked in Darkenss have seen a great light..." This whole chapter showed to be Messianich by Edersheim and leads into the declaration of Messiah's divinity (see below).

Allegro documents Isaiah suffering servant Messianic. [John Allegro, The Dead Sea scrolls, Pelican, 1956] Allegro was the only member of the original translation team who was neither Christain nor Jew, but claimed "nutrality." However, he was criticized by other members of the team as being anti-Chrsitian and skeptical]

"In one of their hyms the sect pictures itself as a pregant woman suffering the pangs of parturition as she gives birth to her 'firstborn' who is described in terms reminiscent of the Child of Isaish 9:6, the 'Wonderful Counsellor.' Most scholars agree that the passage retains its biblical Messianic significance, in which case it appears that the Sect believed that out of its suffering of atonement for 'the land' would come the Anointed One or Christ."(161).

Is. 8:14 is applied to Messianic times by the Talmud(sanh 38a) and of 9:6 Edersheim says "is expressly applied to the Messiah in the Targum also Haggada in Debarim and Bemidbar." (Edersheim, 723).

(4) Star will Herald Birth

"There is however testimony which seems to us not only reliable, but embodies most ancient Jewish tradition. It is contianed in one of the smaller Midrashim of which a collection has lattley been published. ...the so called Messiah Haggadda...'a star shall come out of Jacob' ...'the star shall shine out of the East and this is the Star of the Messiah.'" (Dr. Jellineck a work in six part Beth ha Midrash LIep and Venne 1853--in Edersheim 211-212). Edershiem also quotes three other midrashim. These are presented in the same book. Edershiem goes on to document (Ibid) from the works of Keppler that a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn did actually occurr two years before the birth of Chrsit, and the following year was joined by Mars making for an extremely bright sideriol event.

There is also the star prophecy from Numbers refurring to a star out of Jacob and linked to the world ruler at Qumran (see above reference). Eisenman and Wise document many times the importance of this prophecy at Qumran, int he revolt of 66 and the bar Kochba revolt of 135 (and indeed the name bar Kochba itself which means son of the star). Perhaps it could be that, though the star in Numbers is the Messiah himself, the notion of a Star as a herold and symbol of the birth of the 'ture Star' somehow was prophecied in an oral tradition, or at least traspossed. This thought must have crossed Edersheim's mind for he does mention the numbers prophecy here in passing.

(5) Mystery concerning his seed (Virgin Birth?)

Edersheim states: "It is is not without hesitation that we make reference to the Jewish allusions to the miraculous birth of the Savior. Yet there are two expressions which convey the idea of, if not super human origin, yet of some great mystery attaching to his birth. The first occurrs in connection with the birth of Seth R. Tanocum said in the name of R. Samuel "Eve had respect [regard, looing to] the seed which is to come 'form another place' and who is this? This is King Messiah [Ber R. 23 ed. Warsh] The second appears in the narrative of the Crime of Lot's daughters 'it is not written that we may preserve a seed from our father," but 'seed form our father.' This is that seed which is coming form another place. And who is this? This is Messiah the king.'" (Edersheim p178, in Ber R. 51= Bereshith Rabba on Genesis).

I have looked over the Thanksgiving Hymn in question from the DSS (1QH 11:3-12) and can make a few comments. 1. It speaks of original sin. Yes. Original sin is not a doctrine that got thought up by Christian theologians. It is a doctrine of the Essenes, and thus Jewish in origin. The piece in question refers to children being born from "the breakers of sin," and that the these "breakers of the pit" (as they are also called) cause all acts and deeds of terror and sin. 2. It passingly speaks of the Messiah. It refers to a child born who will be "wonderful counselor" (Isaiah 9). 3. The Messiah is free from Original Sin. "There emerges from the crucible of the pregnant woman a wonderful counselor with all his strength, and the boy is freed from the breakers." The breakers being a ref to original sin, being free of the breakers would mean being free of original sin. My understanding at this point is that the man child is the "seed of the woman" referred to in Genesis 3. He is contrasted in line 12 with the seed of the serpent. According to the guy who pointed me to this hymn, a prof who did his PhD on the use of Abba in the DSS, this is far from the only reference to original sin in the DSS.


(written and sent to me by a friend named "Frank" who posts on

(6)Messiah would be Divine

Neverhteless we find in the Dead Sea Scrolls "Sons of Light" already understood the Messiah as the Son of God before Jesus came onto the scene. "He will be called Son of God and they will call him son of the Most High.... His Kingdom will be an eternal kingdom and all his paths in truth and uprightness. The earth will be in truth and will make peace. The Sword will cease in the earth and all the cities will pay him homage." (F.G.Martinez: Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, 2nd ed. (New York:E.J. Brill Leiden)1992). The concept of Son of God existed at Qumran before Christianity, and thus was in Judaism, and was not made up by Jesus' followers.

Isaiah 9:1-3 quoted as Messianic in Edersheim's list and at Qumran, the Messiah to come from Seed of Jessy, from Galilee. "The people who walk in Darkness have seen a great light." Light related to Messiah (see above). This verse in particular is Mesianic at Qumran and on list. v6 "to us a child is born, to us a son is given, the government will be on his shoulders and he will be called 'wonderful conselor'Almighty God, Everlasting Father Prience of Peace." "Prince of David" was a Messianic title at Qumran. "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end...with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever."

Now Rabbinical apologists today say that this merely refurs to the child born in capter 7 as a sign to the King that God will support them in battle. This is a verse often quoted by Chrsitians becasue it sepaks of a "Virigin Birth." Most Chrsitians take this as the expectation of the Messiah as born of a virgin, as was Jesus. Yet Modern day Jewish apologists disagree. They say that the child was not born of a vigin, but that the word is mistanslated in chp 7. But the passage in nine indicates that, while the interpritation fits with the ostincible story of the chapter, the birth of Mahar-Shalal-Hash-Baz" (the child), the passage in verse nine has doule meaning. For not only does it fit with the sotry in Isaiah, but it was also understood by Rabbis of Jesus' day to harold the Messiah. This can only be the case unless Mahar-Shala-Hash-Baz was to be called "every lasting father, almighty God."

"Isaiah 9:6 is expressly applied to Messiah in Targum" Debarim R1 (ed. Wash p4) The Child referred to in Chp. 9 is the Messiah, HE will be called "everlasting father, almighty God," Which the Jewish expositors would not call the Messiah, but Jesus Christ has been so called! As further proof that this passage is Messianic Edersheim also shows that the next verse, 7, "the government shall be on his shoulders," is attentested by Rabbinical authorities as Messianic. Whose shoulders shall the government be on? The child in v6, the "almighty God."

It is argued by the Jewish apologists of today that nowhere do the scritpures speak of a man being sacraficed for the sins of the people; nor does it speak of a resurrection of the Messiah form the dead. It is not very likely hat any Jews of Jesus' day understood what was about to befall him. But it is not true that the scriptures don't teach these things. When the first followers of Jesus turned to the Scriptueres to try and understand what had happaned they saw in them the cruciffiction and the Ressurection. They understood this as a fulfillment of Messianic prophesy, though understood expost facto. While this leaves us open to the charge of reading in a meaning that is not there, it can be argued that it is a sound interpriation of scripture.

(7) Unrecognized by his people

Is. 8:14 "...he will be a sancuary but to both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall and to the people of Jerusalem he will be a snare" [not the application to Christ, the evengelists even refurr to the stumbling stone in the Gosple's] it makes perfect sense within the context of the story in Is. and no one would think it refurrs to something else, and yet the rabbinate says it does. This is more evidence of intersperssed Messianich prophecy; or "double meaning." It makes sense on one level and then is interpreted on another. Is. 10:27 says: "in that day their burden will be lifted from their shoulders; their yoke from their neck." Again, Edersheim quotes rabbinical sources which show that these verses speak of the Messiah.

(8) Rejected by the masses and Imprisioned

"Jewish writtings speak frequenly of the so called sorrows of the Messiah (Chebhley shel Mashiech ) [Sabb.118]. These were partly those of the Messiah and partly those coming on Israel and the word previous to coming of the Messiah...peroid of internal corrupton..." Edersheim 433. Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98bThe Rabbis said: His name is "the leper scholar," as it is written, Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of God, and afflicted. [Isaiah 53:4].

Ruth Rabbah 5:6The fifth interpretation [of Ruth 2:14] makes it refer to the Messiah. Come hither: approach to royal state. And eat of the BREAD refers to the bread of royalty; AND DIP THY MORSEL IN THE VINEGAR refers to his sufferings, as it is said, But he was wounded because of our transgressions.

(Isa. LIII, 5).-- Soncino Midrash Rabbah (vol. 8, p. 64).

The Karaite Yefeth ben Ali (10th c.)As to myself, I am inclined, with Benjamin of Nehawend, to regard it as alluding to the Messiah, and as opening with a description of his condition in exile, from the time of his birth to his accession to the throne: for the prophet begins by speaking of his being seated in a position of great honour, and then goes back to relate all that will happen to him during the captivity. He thus gives us to understand two things: In the first instance, that the Messiah will only reach his highest degree of honour after long and severe trials; and secondly, that these trials will be sent upon him as a kind of sign, so that, if he finds himself under the yoke of misfortunes whilst remaining pure in his actions, he may know that he is the desired one....

(9) He would be the Suffereing Servant of Is 53

(a) wounded for the people's transgressions

We need not expect that the corropsondence between the sin offering of the temple and the crucifiction be one to one. In other words, the tempel offering was to be without blimish, Christ was sinless, but why must he also corrospond one to one with all the requirements? If so, he would have to be less than a year old. Jewish Apologists often quote injunctions from the Deuteronimical code against human sacrafice and argue that to sacrafice a man for the sins of the people violates the law of Moses.Obviously this doesn't apply in the cas of the Messiah, because he was the perfect offering and because it was God's will and God himself as the offering.

That being said the OT clearly teaches that the Messiah will take upon himself the sins of the people.

"Surely he took up our infirmaties and carried our sorrows and yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted, but he was periced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed...the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all, the was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth, he was like a lamb to the salughter...for the transgression of my people he was stricken..."

(727) Also see below on suffering servant where this same passage interpreted as bearing the sins of the people in suffering). v"yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer...the Lord make shis life to be a guilt offering..."

This remarkable passage clearly teaches that the Messiah would take upon himself the sins of the people, that he would be stricken for them. Moreover the Jews of Jesus day did expect that, though they did not necessarily think of it as curcifiction, they did expect that the messiah would be striken for them in his sufferings, which has already been point out. Edersheim shows that Rabbinical authorities views these passages as applicable to the Messiah.

-- S. R. Driver and A. Neubauer, editors, The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters (2 volumes; New York: Ktav, 1969), pp. 19-20. The English translations used here are taken from volume 2. The original texts are in volume 1. Cf. Soloff, pp. 107-09. Another statement from Yefeth ben Ali:By the words "surely he hath carried our sicknesses," they mean that the pains and sickness which he fell into were merited by them, but that he bore them instead. . . . And here I think it necessary to pause for a few moments, in order to explain why God caused these sicknesses to attach themselves to the Messiah for the sake of Israel. . . . The nation deserved from God greater punishment than that which actually came upon them, but not being strong enough to bear it. . . God appoints his servant to carry their sins, and by doing so lighten their punishment in order that Israel might not be completely exterminated."-- Driver and Neubauer, pp. 23 ff.; Soloff pp. 108-109.

Another statement from Yefeth ben Ali"And the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all." The prophet does not by avon mean iniquity, but punishment for iniquity, as in the passage, "Be sure your sin will find you out" (Num. xxxii. 23).-- Driver and Neubauer, p. 26; Soloff p. 109.

In his list of Messianich passages, drawn from the most ancient sources, Yalkut, Targrum, Talmuds, Midrashim, Edersheim deomonstates all the passages of the suffering servant are Missianic. "how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that bring good news," Messianic. v 13 of Is. 53 the Targum applies to Messiah. "and he was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities, and the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and whith His stripes we are healed."is Messianich, R Huna says in the name of R Acha "all sufferings are divided into three parts, one part goes to David and the patriarchs, another to the generation of the rebellion and third to King Messiah, as it is written (ps 2:7) 'yet have I set my Kind upon my holy hill of Zion.'" Edersheim adds a quotation from the Midrash on Samuel, in which theMessiah indicates that his "dwelling is on Mount Zion and that guilt is connected to the destruction of it's walls."

(b) wounded (pierced)

Overview of veres:

*Isaiah 53:5

*Crucifiction in Psalm 22: 1,7,14-18

*Zechariah 12:10 "They will look upon me, the one they preiced."

evidence on verses:

Is 53

Ps 22

v1 "My God, my God, why have you forsken me?" Jesus last words on the corss. v7 "all who see me mock me, they hural insults..." v14 "I am poured out like water and all my bones are out of joint/my heart has turned to wax/ touge sticks to the roof of my mouth..." v"they have peirced my hands and my feet ...they divide my garements among them." This is a picture of Chist on the corss. The mocking of the crowd, the physical effects of being crucified upon the heart and internal organs, and the peicing of hands and feet, and the acts of the soldiers at the cross. Of course one can argue that gambling for his clothing is a detail added latter to the Gospel account for veri simelitude, but what are the chances of the effects of crucifiction, a means of exicution totally unknown in Isaiah's time?

The Jewish apologists argue that the verse is wrongly rendered. They say it sepaks of animals tearing at the persona, and that the line about peircing hands and feet should really read "like lions my hands and feet," or "lions tear at my hands and feet." This is arguable if one only goes by the Hebrew text. But in the Septuagent (LXX) the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures made in Alexandria before the time of Christ, and used as the Bible of the early chruch, it says "peirced." Moreover, they cannot dispute the physical discription of crucifiction, its effects upon the heart and internal organs, nor the statment of bones being out of joint, through the beatting prioir to the resurrection, and the breaking of legs to hasten death.

Of Pslam 22 Yalkut views as Messianic and relates it to Is. 9. Edersheim writes "using almost the same words of the Evangelists to describe the crowd's mocking behavior at the cross." The verse says "all who see me mock me, they hurl insults shaking their heads." He also shows Yalkutlinks v.15 to the Messiah, and this is the exact verse put forword as a discription of crucifiction! "my strenth is dried up as a potshred my tounge sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death."

Zechariah 12:10

New American Standard Bible (1995) "I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.

the hebrew used here for "pierced" is dqar, meaning to bore or dig or pierce. It clearly means pierced. Pherhaps it could be translated another way, this pierced is clear

(c) flogged--stripes form beating

Is 53 "by his srtipes we are heald"

(d) cut off from land of living

Is 53:10

(e) See the light of life

The resurrection is clearly seen in the account of the "suffering servant" from Isaiah 53:8
"...he was cut off from the land of the living, for the transgression of my people he was stricken, he was assigned a grave with the wicked..." One thinks of the two theives on the their corsses crucified on either side of Christ. But in v 11 "after the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied. By his knolwdge my rightous servant will jutify many and he will bear their iniquities...for he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.."

B.Fulfillment in Jesus

There are some telling differences between the Mesoretic and the LXX and again the LXX agrees with the DSS on these points. MT does not have "light of life" on v11 but DSS and LXX do. And also on v11 rather than his knowlege "knowlege of him. (from Margin notes in New International Version).

This list of expectations outlines the story of Jesus' life as recorded in the gospels: His brith, his family, the claims to his divine nature, his mission.Jesus meets everyone of these requirements, most of them, like his family and the star at this birth would have been beyond his control:

(1) Decendent of David (Matt 1:1-22) (Luke 3) (Rom 1:3)
(2)From line of Zerubabel (Mat 1:12 "And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel...")

(3)Born in Galilee (in Nazerath)
(4)Mystery--calims of virgin birth
(5)Star hearlds brith--Keppler proved conjunction of planets in 4BC
(6)Son of God--claimed to be
(7)Not accepted by masses
(8)Rejected by the masses:by crowd in favor of Bar Abas
(9)Manner of his death and mission--curcified for sins of world and rose from dead.

II.Why the Suffering Servant cannot be Israel as a nation.

The Jewish apologists cliam that this passage in Isaiah (53) speaks of Israel rather than of the Messiah. They argue that all the references to the servant are in the plural rather than the singular. But this is not the case in the LXX or DSS. Those references are singular. Furthermore, to read the passage as the nation of Israel would necessitate the absurdity of the nation of Israel taking upon itself its own sins in order to be a guilt offering for itself. Let's read it that way:

Surely [they] took up their infirmaties and carried [their] sorrows and yet [they] considered [themselves] stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted, but [they] were periced for [their own] transgressions, [they] [were] crushed for [their own] iniquities, the punishment that brought [themselves] peace was upon [they themselves] and by [their own] wounds [they heal themselves]...the Lord has laid upon [them] the iniquity of [them] all, [they were] oppressed and afflicted, yet [they] did not open [their] mouth[s], [they] [were] like a lamb to the salughter...for the transgression of my people [my people were stricken]

In that sense it looses all meaning. What would be the point? Espeically in the line
"the punishment that brought them peace was upon them." What sense does that make? It totally looses the meaning of soemone who was thought to be unworthy who suffers on behalf of the people, and makes the people themselves their own guilt offering. Moreover, the Jews have never been totally cut off from the land of the living. I also challenge anyone to find a Rabbi with that reading from before let's say the begiing of the third century. The actual verse does not have the plural but the singular! "Surely He took upon himself their infimaties and carried our sorrows and yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and affliicted, byt he was periced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities..."

R. Elijah de Vidas (16th c.)Since the Messiah bears our iniquities which produce the effect of His being bruised, it follows that whoso will not admit that the Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities, must endure and suffer for them himself.-- Driver and Neubauer, p. 331.

Rabbi Moshe Alshekh (El-Sheikh) of Sefad (16th c.)I may remark, then, that our Rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the King Messiah, and we ourselves also adhere to the same view.-- Driver and Neubauer, p. 258.

The Religious A priori