Asher Norman, in his book ‘26 Reasons why Jews don’t believe in Jesus,’ states that there are six tasks which the Messiah has to accomplish:
- Have the correct genealogy by being descended from King David and King Solomon.
- Be anointed King of Israel.
- Return the Jewish people to Israel.
- Rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.
- Bring peace to the world and end all war.
- Bring knowledge of God to the world.
He says that anyone who has not done these six things cannot be the Messiah. Therefore Jesus is not the Messiah. He says that we will know when the Messiah has come when someone has succeeded in doing all of this.
Asher Norman is following the teaching of Maimonides (who lived from 1135 to 1204). He said the Messiah has to show that He is Messiah by completing the following three tasks:
- Re-gather the dispersed Jewish people to Israel.
- Rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.
- Make world peace.
Following this it is said that he will bring about a perfect world: ‘He will then perfect the entire world, motivating all the nations to serve God together, as it is written, I will make the peoples pure of speech so that they will all call upon the Name of God and serve him with one purpose.’ Maimonides Hilchos Melachim 11.1 from the Mishneh Torah.
Two questions to this.
- If Messiah is just a great man (as is believed by Orthodox Jews like Asher Norman), how is he going to do all this?
- What about other prophecies, believed by Jews to be Messianic which are not covered by this list?
Answers to this.
How is Messiah going to do all this?
Most Jewish people I know when spoken to about the Messiah coming, reply ‘Not in my lifetime.’ The possibility of anyone who is a great world religious leader accomplishing the six items required of Messiah in Asher Norman’s list is near to zero. This does not mean that we believe they will not happen for the reason that they will not be accomplished by a great world religious leader, but by the supernatural divine intervention of the Messiah Yeshua as King of kings and Lord of lords at the end of this age (which given current events which line up with biblical prophecies of the end of days is not too far off). But let us first consider the prospects of a purely human Messiah accomplishing this.
- How is he going to show descent from David and Solomon? No records are available to prove such descent. I once asked this to an Orthodox Jew who said ‘God will know that he is descended from David.’ That is not the point. Since God is omnipotent He knows the descent of each of the people on the earth today (just under 7 billion). The point is that we should know that the Messiah is descended from David.
- Be anointed King of Israel. Today we have the State of Israel which has a President, a Prime Minister and two Chief Rabbis (one Ashkenazi and one Sephardi). We have the Jewish diaspora with local leadership in different countries. But we have no Jewish king. Lubavitch made proclamations of King Messiah for the late Rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, but this was not accepted by all members of Lubavitch, let alone all Jewish people. There is no priesthood today and no means of anointing a Jewish king. How is this to come about?
- Return the Jewish people to Israel. Today we have a return of Jewish people to Israel, so one could say that this has already been accomplished. But the modern State of Israel does not constitute the Messianic return of the Jews to Israel. We see a largely secular state with only part of the people living on part of the land. We have this return opposed by most of the Muslim world and any further expansion of Israel strongly opposed by the UN. In fact we have calls from the nations of the world for Israel to withdraw from Judea and Samaria and set up a Palestinian State there. In saying this we actually do believe that the modern State of Israel is a fulfilment of Bible prophecy – see our article ‘Biblical prophecies about Israel.’ However the modern State of Israel is not the complete fulfilment of those prophecies.
- Rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Today the Temple Mount is in the hands of the Muslims who jealously guard it as the third holiest site in Islam. While there are Jewish groups (the Temple Mount Faithful) who have plans to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, they have to deal with the opposition of one billion Muslims in the world to such a prospect. If anything could unite the Muslim world in a jihad for Jerusalem it would be any movement by Israel to remove the Dome of the Rock Mosque and rebuild a Temple on the site (or event to rebuild a Temple alongside the Dome of the Rock).
- Bring peace to the world. Wars and genocides in the 20th Century claimed around 160,000,000 lives. Will the 21st Century produce a Messiah figure who is a mortal religious leader who will bring in eternal peace as is claimed by Orthodox Jewish rabbis like Rabbi Kaplan? See our article ‘Messiah – a great man or a divine person. If so what happens when he dies? Actually a number of prophecies in the Tenach and in the New Testament speak of wars and mass destruction in the last days of this age (for example Isaiah 24, Jeremiah 25.30-33, Zechariah 12-14, Matthew 24, Revelation 6, 19). These wars will only be brought to an end by the supernatural intervention of the Messiah – the Second Coming of Yeshua.
- Bring the knowledge of God to the world. Which God? Bring all Gentiles to accept Torah Judaism? Some kind of interfaith union bringing peace to the world? Or the Day of Judgement in which God himself comes to judge the world in righteousness, purge out the rebels and bring only those who have come into a covenant relationship with Himself into the Messianic Kingdom (see Ezekiel 20.33-44). The passage which speaks of the Messiah reigning with justice in Isaiah 11 also speaks of Him destroying the wicked: ‘But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.’ (Isaiah 11.4). This is exactly what Paul says the Messiah will do at His second coming in 2 Thessalonians 2.8-10: ‘And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.’
Concerning these six items we believe they will come to pass, but only through a supernatural intervention of God as the Messiah returns with all the power of God at His disposal to take up His reign on earth:
‘Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. … Thus the LORD my God will come, and all the saints with You. … And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be — “ The LORD is one,” and His name one.’ Zechariah 14.3-4, 5, 9.
‘Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He shall reign forever and ever!”’ Revelation 11.15
‘Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.’ Revelation 19.11-16.
When this event happens the Messiah will do all that Asher Norman says He will do and more. He will indeed:
- Restore the Jewish people to Israel within the biblical borders of the land (Isaiah 11.11-12.6, Jeremiah 31.35-40, Ezekiel 47-48).
- Create peace between Israel and her neighbours and in the whole world (Isaiah 19.21-25, Amos 9.11-14).
- Restore the Temple and rule the world from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2.1-4, Ezekiel 40-48).
- Bring an end to all war and military training (Isaiah 2.4).
- Cause the animal kingdom to become vegetarian and no longer harmful. Extend the life span of humans (Isaiah 11.6-9, Isaiah 65.20-25).
- Change the geography of the region of Israel (the Temple Mount to become the highest mountain and the waters of the Dead Sea to become fresh). The deserts will blossom as waters gush forth in the wilderness. (Isaiah 2.2, Isaiah 35, Ezekiel 47.1-12).
- Cause the earth to be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11.9, Habakkuk 2.14).
This list is by no means complete!
Significantly some of these prophecies to be found in the Hebrew prophets are not included in the Jewish Messianic view held by Asher Norman and others, because they can only be accomplished by one who is more than ‘a great man’ as Judaism holds the Messiah to be. In fact they can only be fulfilled by God. Maimonides says that the ‘lion (or the wolf) lying down with the lamb’ of Isaiah 11 and 65 is to be understood symbolically as Israel (the lamb) living in peace with the ferocious Gentile nations (the lion). So he is claiming that this prophecy is non-literal whereas the prophecy about the Jewish people returning to the land of Israel and the nations not studying war any more is to be taken literally. The verses about the lion and the lamb are in the same chapter in Isaiah (11.6-9) as the verses about the ‘Root of Jesse’ (i.e. Messiah ben David) recovering ‘the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth’ (11.10-12).
It is more logical to believe that there will be a literal fulfilment of these prophecies because the one who causes them to happen is the Messiah who is also ‘God with us’, a divine person. The New Testament book of Revelation supplies some information that is lacking in the Hebrew Prophets concerning this period, which is that it will last for 1000 years (the Millennium) and that during this time Satan will be bound and unable to influence the nations (Revelation 20.1-6). The possibility of any of this happening without the rule of God is zero. For more information on this go to our article ‘The Messianic Kingdom or the Millennium.’