If you saw the following advertisement in your local newspaper, would you be interested in applying for the position?
Man required for important position
Applicant must have administrative ability of a high order and a capacity to recognise and reward merit in others;
Must understand principles of delegation of authority and be able to win and hold the confidence of those exercising authority thus delegated;
A quiet, reserved manner is important;
Ability to deal with each and every member of the community;
No person given to ostentation, or status- seeking, need apply;
Patience, insight and integrity essential.
Intending applicants will be expected to undergo an elimination test. This elimination test will be divided into two parts:
As a person completely without status and without privileged position, he must assert the absolute authority of moral values to the point of confrontation with those who have established their power over the people by distortion, suppression and manipulation.
His dedication to principle must be such as will enable him to meet adversity at all times with an indomitable spirit, and to accept apparent defeat in the same manner.
Unpleasant experiences may be expected to follow from his activities, and he may expect to endure personal humiliation at the hands of the ignorant.
In order to expose the false standards, false values, false principles and false fronts of those in opposition to him he will be required to undergo a similar humiliating experience on a second occasion at a different time and in a different place.
The two experiences are actually part of one demonstration. The first will serve as an example and a warning, the second as a demonstration that his opponents have learned nothing by the first example. Between the two events those who opposed him will be masquerading as his representatives.
The second experience will enable these persons, and their false standards, to be exposed finally and utterly.
Would you expect “Jesus Christ” to apply for this position?
Construct an advertisement for yourself setting out the criteria you would expect the “Jesus Christ” of the Christian Churches to possess.
Contrast your criteria with the advertisement.
WORDS AND IDEALS
Concepts such as justice, mercy, faith, integrity, righteousness and so on existed in the minds of humans long before attempts were made to put them down in writing. It was only after humans tried to rationalise their ideals that it became possible to put these ideals into words.
Words are an imperfect medium for expressing such concepts. For instance, written law is one thing, justice, which law is an attempt to express, may be something quite different. Loopholes and technical points in even the best written legislation can provide immunity from complying with the law. In such cases law works to defeat justice.
The Old Testament is written in words, words which, in places, endeavour to express the values and ideals of the nation of Israel. Probably the most noteworthy and specific instance is that of the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses endeavours to express certain fundamental ideals of Israel in a practical list of do’s and don’ts. But the practical list reads like an itemised account that has to be paid rather than the expression of general ethical concepts and principles.
WORDS AND PITFALLS
There are very few direct words about “the messiah” in the Old Testament. There are some suggestive passages, which indicate that one day a man will appear who, anointed by God for the task, will rule the world in righteousness. At the time he appears, this man will restore the fortunes of Israel. A number of events seem to be associated with this appearing. Messianic prophecy as such, however, is practically non-existent, and is mainly derived from the suggestive forces of these statements. This leads to a number of pitfalls for those searching Old Testament prophecy for their “messiah”.
These pitfalls are as follows:
To focus on words and forget what value or ideal it is that the words are trying to express, thereby constructing a pedantic set of rules for “the messiah” to comply with;
To trust in events to guide one to “the messiah”, when quite obviously he must necessarily be possessed of certain qualities of character which should be discernible irrespective of the time or place at which he appears, (for if his qualities of character are not discernible on their own merits he could hardly be a worthy occupant of the position);
To select a set of values, which “the messiah” must possess that are in conflict with the fundamental ideals and values of the Old Testament.
THE NEW TESTAMENT IDEAL
According to the Bible, it was the function of Israel and of individual Israelites to project the values of God into society. From the many there arose one, the ideal Israelite Yeshua Hanotzri. He was seen as possessing qualities and values which in Old Testament times had been connected with Moses, David, the nation Israel, the Kingdom of Judah, the Egyptian bondage, the Babylonian captivity: he recapitulated the life of Israel in his individual life.
Essentially, Yeshua Hanotzri was a composite of values expressed in O.T. texts, which were not “prophecies” in the accepted sense at all. This is quite clear in the opening chapters of Matthew.
The ideals of Yeshua Hanotzri were the exact reverse of what had been commonly expected. The Establishment based its opposition to him on its interpretation of specific Old Testament texts, and emphasised words rather than the value concepts which underlay the words. It was such opposition that brought the retort from Yeshua Hanotzri:
“You search the scriptures and think that in them you have eternal life … ” (John 5:39)
Events at the time of Yeshua Hanotzri did not seem to tally with those suggested in the Old Testament either. According to the New Testament, such events were not so specifically stated in the Old Testament as the Establishment thought.
Broadly speaking, the New Testament said something like this:
Yeshua Hanotzri restored the fortunes of Israel, because he restored the nation’s moral integrity;
The tribes of Israel, though scattered, were reunited in obedience to a common moral principle;
But this principle was like a fire, the fire of the Day of the Lord of prophecy, which burned the stubble of false values and false standards;
And so on.
Should readers wish to acquaint themselves with some of the paradoxes of messianic prophecy, they might consult Joseph Klausner’s “The Messianic Idea in Israel” or perhaps the article in A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scriptures entitled “The New Testament teaching on the Second Coming.”
Alternatively, they might work the matter out for themselves by tracing the “prophecies” cited in the New Testament back to their Old Testament setting. This throws up the pattern in which Yeshua Hanotzri, the unexpected messiah, fulfilled Old Testament “prophecies.”
ONE VALID CRITERION FOR MESSIAHSHIP
Do you think that church presentation of “Jesus Christ” is even remotely correct?
Do you think that the “messiah” can only appear under certain stipulated conditions?
There is only one criterion for messiahship - the man destined to rule the world in righteousness must be a man who possesses certain qualities of character. All the rest of the criteria add up to nothing.