Hebrew Voices #37 – How the New Testament Interprets the Tanakh (Rebroadcast)

In this episode of Hebrew Voices, How the New Testament Interprets the Tanakh, Nehemia Gordon discusses with Methodist Pastor A.J. Bernard, whether Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled in the New Testament. Dawn wrote: “Amazing, as always, WOW... Going on the third time listening to this!!!!”

I look forward to reading your comments!

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Hebrew Voices #37 - How the New Testament Interprets the Tanakh

You are listening to Hebrew Voices with Nehemia Gordon. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon's Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

Benjamin Netanyahu: Le ma’an Zion lo ekhesheh, u’l’ma’an Yerushalayim lo eshkot. (For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest. Isaiah 62:1)

Nehemia: Shalom, this is Nehemia Gordon, and welcome to Hebrew Voices. Today I’m speaking with Pastor A.J. Bernard about how the New Testament interprets the Tanakh.

A.J. Bernard: My name is A.J. Bernard. I’m a Pastor in Jackson, Ohio at Victory Chapel United Methodists, and I am a big fan of Nehemia’s work, and I’ve been following him for years. I’m really excited to be on the program today, this is an incredible honor, and thank you very much, Nehemia.

Nehemia: I was on the phone last week with A.J. Bernard and we were talking. He asked me a question, a very innocent, simple question. I had spoken over in his town, or his village – I call it a village, because there’s no Starbucks. I was speaking over in Jackson, Ohio, and we were on the phone last week as a follow-up, and he asked me a question, and we ended up speaking for about 45 minutes. I said, “Wow, we need to share this with the people.” [laughing]

A.J. Bernard: It was an excellent conversation.

Nehemia: The topic, I call it, How the New Testament Uses the Prophets, and it really came up with A.J. asking me what was a very innocent question; it had to do, I believe, with the verse in Isaiah where Jesus… A.J. are you comfortable with Jesus, or Yeshua? What term do you prefer?

A.J. Bernard: I use both on a regular basis. I prefer Yeshua, but my culture uses Jesus.

Nehemia: Okay. I’m going to call him Yeshua, because I’m Jewish and was a distant cousin of mine. The Greeks would have called him Yesus, it’s true, but my Jewish brothers and sisters would have mostly called him Yeshua – maybe other things, but the respectful reference to him. I mean, there were some issues going on there and they had some criticisms, but when they were being respectful, they would have called him by his name, Yeshua, or Yehoshua.

So A.J., tell me about your question. It had to do with the verse - and I think it’s the verse from Hosea which is quoted in the New Testament, according to which - the way it’s usually understood - Yeshua was fulfilling a prophesy from the Book of Hosea through some of the things in his life. Tell me about that.

A.J. Bernard: The verse in Hosea is Chapter 11 verse 1, which reads in the English Standard Version, “When Israel was a child I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My Son.” Now, Matthew quotes that in Chapter 2. Matthew spends the first couple of chapters of his book working very hard to establish the Messiahship of Yeshua. So if you go through the first few chapters of Matthew, you’ll find these odd quotes, and the verse in Matthew that I’ve been looking at is Matthew chapter 2 verses 14 and 15 is the sentence. “And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called My Son.’”

Nehemia: Wow. So if you only read these two verses, if you were a modern-day Christian in a church, and you were just reading verses 14 to 15 while the Pastor was preaching and you were bored and you were flipping through your Bible. I’m actually sharing from my own experience, because when I was in synagogue I’d be flipping through my Bible while the Rabbi was reciting prayers.

If you’re in the church though, and you’re flipping through your Bible while the Pastor’s reciting some prayers or whatever, and you came across these two verses, I guess your point when you called me was if you were just looking at these two verses you would think, “Okay, there was a prophesy about the Messiah in some Old Testament Book,” he doesn’t say where it says “through the Prophet”, and that prophesy was that God would one day call His son the Messiah out of Egypt. Would you say that’s fair? That’s the impression that I think modern Christians have.

A.J. Bernard: Yeah, that was my understanding for a very long time, because I didn’t bother to go back to Hosea and look.

Nehemia: Right. So what did you find when you went back to Hosea?

A.J. Bernard: I found that the verse is ostensibly talking about Israel itself, and that Hosea is calling Israel “God’s Son”.

Nehemia: And how did you come to that wild conclusion? [laughing]

A.J. Bernard: By reading the verse.

Nehemia: So read the verse once again in Hosea.

A.J. Bernard: Hosea 11:1, “When Israel was a child I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My Son.”

Nehemia: And you called me up, and I think you were vexed that you have this verse here, and you were vexed because it doesn’t fit… I was talking to somebody just the other day and we had an interesting conversation. I won’t go into the whole thing, but basically, she was telling me why she believes in Jesus. Her answer was, “Because of the hundreds of prophesies that he has fulfilled,” and it was examples like this.

Well, okay - lots of people maybe were called out of Egypt. How many of them were the Son of God? And if you line all of them up, it’s got to be Jesus. That was her point. Your point was, when you look in the context, what’s going on here, it’s talking about Israel. If we get down to it, what the real point is, if you read Hosea you don’t get the impression that this is a prophesy about any Messiah, whatever his name is, you get the impression that this is about Israel as a people. And I guess your question was, what’s going on here?

Now, I could have done the anti-missionary thing, and I could have said, “A.J., it’s time for you to join our team. You have been let in on the secret. The Gospel of Matthew was trying to trick you. It was hoping you wouldn’t check the sources, and now it’s time for you to deny Yeshua. Will you deny him, please?” That’s what I could have done.

The reason I didn’t do that is because I know that’s not what Matthew meant. This is complicated, but we’re going to get to it, it’s going to make sense. Please listen, people. This isn’t a session on why you should deny Yeshua, that’s not what it’s about. Of course, I’m Jewish, I’m a Karaite, this isn’t a session about why you should believe in Yeshua. This is a session about, from my perspective, how did the New Testament use the Tanakh? This isn’t maybe every instance, but it’s a common trend, let’s put it that way.

The way I see that the New Testament used the Tanakh isn’t the way that modern Christians expect, and that’s where things get confusing. Then counter-missionaries jump on that and they say, “You see, Methodist pastor? It’s not using it the way you think, and therefore, you need to deny your beliefs.” I think it all comes down to how is the New Testament using the Tanakh, the Old Testament? And it actually tells us, that’s the amazing thing. We’ve talked about this, but we’re going to share it with the people. The New Testament tells us how it’s using the Tanakh.

Before we get to that, I want to look at a prophecy in the Tanakh. The reason I want to look at this is that this could be our paradigm, this could be our example of how prophecy works. It could be, but it may not be. It’s the prophesy about King Josiah.

It starts in 1 Kings chapter 13 verse 2. If you remember in the history, the kingdoms were split between Jeroboam and Rehoboam, Rehoboam was the son of Solomon. Jeroboam sets up an altar at Dan and Bethel, and it’s an altar with a golden calf next to it at both Dan and Bethel. He tells the people, “Don’t go to Jerusalem. Come and worship at my golden calf.” Then we’re told in 1 Kings 13:1…

A.J. Bernard: “And behold a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the Lord to Bethel. Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make offerings. And the man cried against the altar by the word of Yehovah and said, ‘Oh, altar, altar, thus says the Lord. Thus says Yehovah. And behold, a son shall be born to the House of David, Josiah by name. And he shall sacrifice on you, the priests of the high places, who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you. And he gave a sign that same day saying, This is the sign that Yehovah has spoken. Behold, the altar shall be torn down and the ashes that are on it shall be poured out.’”

Nehemia: This is a prophesy, and it’s a prophesy about a specific person who’s going to be born. He’s going to have a certain lineage. He’s going to be a Messiah, and Messiah, remember, means “anointed one”, and every king of Israel was anointed with oil, every legitimate king. So he’s going to be a Messiah and his name will be Josiah, and he’s going to do certain things. He’s going to kill the priests of Bethel and he’s going to destroy the altar, basically, and desecrate the altar of Bethel, the false altar. This prophesy is then fulfilled. It is fulfilled in 2 Kings 23.

A.J. Bernard: 2 Kings 23:15.

Nehemia: Now bear in mind, this is something like 300 years later. Jeroboam was sometime in the 920s BCE, and this is in the 620s. This is 300 years later.

A.J. Bernard: “Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by Jeroboam, the Son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, that altar with the high place he pulled down and burned, reducing it to dust. He also burned the Asherah. And as Josiah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount and he set and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar and defiled it, according to the word of Yehovah, that the man of God proclaimed, who had predicted these things. Then he said, ‘What is the monument that I see?’ and the men of the city told him, ‘It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted these things that you have done against the altar of Bethel.’”

Nehemia: Wow. So there’s a prophesy in the 900s BCE by this man, and he’s buried there afterwards, and he has some kind of big tomb or something, or nice tomb. Meanwhile, for 300 years, people are burning sacrifices to the idol at Bethel, and then Josiah comes, fulfills the prophesy to the T, and then the people tell him, “You’ve fulfilled this prophesy.” And the Scripture says he fulfilled the prophesy. And this is what, when people read the New Testament and they see a statement like we read in Matthew, “fulfilling the word of the Prophet,” they’re assuming it’s this sort of fulfilment. Would you agree with that? Meaning, this is what the expectation is.

A.J. Bernard: Right, yeah.

Nehemia: And I think the point that we’re going to get to, if I get to it, [laughing] is that that’s not how the New Testament, by and large, uses the Tanakh. And that’s where people get confused, and that’s where people will swoop in and say, “Okay, now you’ve got to deny it, because it’s not working according to the Josiah paradigm.” I’ve got to say the Josiah example is one of two examples I know of in the Tanakh. You could argue there’s a third. The second example would be King Cyrus, Isaiah 45 and some other chapters, where Cyrus is mentioned by name. It’s mentioned by name that this will happen, and it happens. And of course, there are a lot of examples where somebody has a prophesy and he says something that’s going to happen, but that’s generally something that’s going to happen imminently.

Like Jeremiah coming along and saying, “Jerusalem’s going to be destroyed and we’re going to be taken into exile.” That’s something that happened within a short number of years, maybe a decade. What I’m talking about is long-term prophesies. So we’ve got the Josiah prophesy that was fulfilled, we have the Cyrus prophesy that was fulfilled, and those two are prophesies that were fulfilled after, in the case of Josiah 300 years, and Cyrus it’s about 150 years, maybe 170. Then you’ve got the 70-year prophesy of Jeremiah, who says the exile will be 70 years, and lo and behold, its 70 years.

That’s really unusual in the Tanakh. Most prophesies aren’t like that. Most prophesies are either very short-term or they’re very long-term, and when they’re long-term, they’re not always so clear. Go ahead, A.J.

A.J. Bernard: The 70-year prophesy, I just wanted to point out, was important because it would be important to Daniel in order to do what Daniel did.

Nehemia: Also, I just wanted to bring up Daniel. Daniel, we’re told, is looking at the Book of Jeremiah trying to figure out, what is he talking about? And why is there any question? Because it’s not so clear when the 70 years end. It’s not even clear when the 70 years begin! What do I mean by that? If you read in Kings and in Chronicles and in Jeremiah, there were three waves of exile. There were three different waves of Babylonian invasion, and each time they invaded they took a bunch of Jews as exiles.

So when does the 70 years begin? And based on that, when does it end? Does it begin in 597 with King Jeconiah? Does it begin in 586? Of course, they didn’t have the number 586, they had such-and-such year of King Zedekiah. If it begins in 586 with Zedekiah, and when does it end? Does it end with Cyrus, this Decree of Cyrus? Or does it end with the second year of Darius, where they actually rebuilt the Temple? So this isn’t as clear as the Josiah prophesy or the Cyrus prophesy, where you’re given the name of somebody.

And so Daniel is sitting there and he’s struggling, it’s actually really interesting, because it’s talking about Daniel - this is in the Book of Daniel - and it’s mentioning that he’s trying to figure out what does Jeremiah mean? He ends up fasting and praying, there’s a whole scene there.

A.J. Bernard: Daniel 9, beginning of verse 1. “In the first year of Darius, the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede who was made King of the realm of the Chaldeans in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel perceived in the books the number of years that according to the word of Yehovah to Jeremiah the Prophet must come to pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely 70 years.”

Nehemia: In other words, we very casually say the 70 years of exile – at least in my tradition – we very casually say that they were fulfilled, no question. But for Daniel it was, “Okay, yeah, they were fulfilled, but how do we count the 70 years? [laughing] It’s important for him, because based on how you count them, there are certain things that are going to be expected to happen or not happen. Guys, read Daniel 9 in this context. This isn’t a prophesy he’s invented out of thin air; this is a prophesy that had been around for decades, and it’s the 70 years of the exile that Jeremiah predicted. There are different ways of counting it, that was the point. Anyway, it’s a fascinating chapter there, Daniel 9. The way I read Daniel 9 is it continues all the way to 12, but whatever.

Let’s get back to the New Testament. So now when we look at this prophesy - maybe I could say “alleged” prophesy - but what’s presented as a prophesy in Matthew 2:14 to 15, it says, “This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord to the Prophet, ‘out of Egypt, I have called My Son.’” This will be in the list of prophesies that Jesus fulfilled for the Christians, and for the counter-missionaries it will be in the list of prophesies that the New Testament mis-quotes. That’s how it’ll be presented.

Look, I understand both perspectives, but I think if we truly want to be intellectually honest, we have to ask the question, how did the Gospel of Matthew intend to use the prophesy? That’s the question.

It leaves you two options. One option is, the author of Matthew was sitting there and his scribe and he was thinking, “Oh, man. I really hope nobody checks this, because if they check it, I’m toast. [laughing] I’m done. They’re going to know that I’m lying.” This is the way it’s presented in the counter-missionary argument. I don’t know- are you familiar with those arguments, have you seen those discussions?

A.J. Bernard: I’ve watched plenty of lectures, and from my perspective, I don’t have the problems with the text that he does. He raises some interesting points, but I think it’s largely a matter of world view.

Nehemia: I agree with that, and I think the New Testament says that! [laughing] That’s what I want to get to. So let’s look at Luke 24, this is one of my favorite stories in the New Testament. I just want to remind people, if you’ve never listened to this program before, I am not a Christian. I am not a Messianic Jew. I’m a Karaite Jew. I am looking at the Gospels as ancient books written by Jewish people. I am not what you would call a believer in Jesus. You might think, “Okay, so here he’s going to try to convince us not to believe in Jesus.” That’s not what I’m trying to do.

I want to understand the text. That’s what I am - I’m a textual scholar, and I want to come with what I call “intellectual honesty” to the text. It would be really easy for me to do the counter-missionary thing and say, “See? He misquoted Isaiah. He didn’t even know what the quote was!” But that’s not what the New Testament says it’s doing.

Let’s look at Luke 24, it’s the road to Emmaus, and I’m going to encourage people to read Luke 24 themselves. I’m not going to read the whole thing. But it’s a fascinating passage, and maybe I’ll do one time a whole session just on Luke 24. It’s the story where the Disciples are walking on the road to Emmaus, and Jesus, according to the Gospel, shows up. They don’t know who he is. He asks them why they’re upset. I love this. Verse 36, “While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” I love that, “Shalom aleichem.” That’s to this day how you greet somebody in Judaism.

Actually, it was the verse before that I wanted to get to. It’s verse 13, “Now on that same day, two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.” Remember, this is the third day after the crucifixion. “While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near them and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’” By the way, I’m reading from the NRSV. If you read the other translations they might be slightly different, but it’s the basic gist. “They stood still, looking sad.”

Now, I’ve encountered a lot of Christians who come to me and say… In fact, last night I was sitting with this family of Palestinians. They were from Palestine, Texas, but I call them “Palestinians”. [laughing] One of the people, she said to me, “What do you need to believe in Jesus? I don’t understand. You know the New Testament so well. What are you waiting for? There are hundreds of prophecies that he fulfilled. What don’t you see?” And I don’t remember if I talked to her about the road to Emmaus, but this is my response.

My response is, “You’ve got the hundreds of prophesies…” And it’s funny, because I then prodded her and asked her, “So why do you really believe?” She said, “Well, it’s 100 prophesies, 350 prophesies. Who else could it be?” As we talked more and more, it turned out that’s not why she believes in Jesus. The real reason she believes in Jesus, she admitted – and I don’t know why she was hesitant, some people would lead with this – was because she’d had these spiritual experiences. And the prophesies confirmed what she had with her own experience. But it’s not that she believes in Jesus just because of the prophecies. Rather, she had a personal encounter with Jesus, according to her, and then these prophecies, “Oh, that’s what happened to me.” They contextualize it. Does that make any sense?

A.J. Bernard: Absolutely, yeah.

Nehemia: I think that’s exactly what it’s saying here in Luke. Let’s read it. So, they were looking sad. Why are they sad? Because they didn’t know what every Christian missionary knows, or at least what every Christian missionary tells the Jews. Which is, Jesus fulfilled all these prophesies. He died and was resurrected. It’s now the third day, and the tomb is empty, and they would have been shouting, “Woo, the tomb is empty. Halleluyah! Praise God, the tomb is empty.” Instead, the tomb is empty and they’re upset about it.

Verse 18. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas answered him – meaning Jesus, who they didn’t know who he was – it says, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” Jesus asked, “What things?” He’s playing, pretending he didn’t know. Kind of like God in the Garden, “Where are you?” [laughing] What, you don’t know? You made the whole Garden. They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.” I love that, because that really strikes authentic. There are no theological declarations here that you find in the later centuries.

A.J. Bernard: Yeah, they’re not declaring him to be the Messiah, they said, “He was a mighty prophet.”

Nehemia: And maybe they believe him to be the Messiah, but if you’re talking to another Jew you don’t lead with, “The Messiah was killed.” You definitely don’t lead with that. What you lead with is, there was this prophet that everybody recognized as this amazing prophet before God and the people… meaning what they’re leading with is what probably what no Jew in that period up until that time might have disputed. Or if they would have disputed it, there would have a major dispute. It wouldn’t have been, “Oh, no. That’s not possible.”

Okay, he was acting like a prophet, certainly. He goes on in verse 20, “And how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.” This is like they used to say in that television show, “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.” No theology, no doctrine. Verse 21, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” That hope was the hope of the Disciples. They thought he was going to redeem Israel, and for a Jew what that means, to simplify it, it’s three main things. He’s going to defeat the enemies of Israel, gather in the exiles, and bring world peace. This is what they were expecting, even on the third day. “Besides all this, it was now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us.” They astounded us, because we didn’t read the tract of the missionaries about the 350 prophecies, right? They were astounded. “They were at the tomb earlier this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.” They’re upset about this. Bear in mind, they’re not saying, “Woo! He’s alive! It’s the fulfillment of what we thought.”

Verse 24, “Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see him. Then Jesus said to them…” Let’s stop there for a minute, verse 24. The Disciples on the road to Emmaus…

A.J. Bernard: They knew the tomb was empty.

Nehemia: They’re not expecting the resurrect... The tomb’s empty and they’re not shouting for joy. They’re upset, because it seems to them that the body is stolen, people are telling crazy stories that he’s alive. It’s insult to injury. And that means when they read Isiah 53, they didn’t know he was going to die and be resurrected. They didn’t know that. Verse 25, “Then he said to them…” Now, here’s where Jesus is saying – and I hate to use this term – but we’re going to now enter into a new dispensation. [laughing] I don’t mean it the way that you were taught in seminary.

I think he’s saying, “Okay, now let me explain things you didn’t understand.” The things that the Christian missionary tells me are supposed to be so obvious, the 12 Disciples didn’t know, these other two Disciples didn’t know. And the only reason they knew these things is because Jesus explained it to them. Now, before we get to verse 25, can we back up and look at an amazing part earlier in the chapter? Can you read me Verse 1 and on?

A.J. Bernard: “But on the first day of the week at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared, and they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. But when they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He has risen.” That makes me shout. Woo!

Nehemia: But why weren’t they shouting? That’s the question. [laughing] Let’s read on. Because they should have been shouting. And this is the point of Luke! I’ll share this with people, and people will get upset with me. They’re saying, “You’re denying Yeshua. Why are you telling us this?” I’m like, “This is in your Gospel.” And it’s not a side point- this is the central message of the Gospel of Luke that isn’t preached in most churches, as far as I know. But anyway, go on.

A.J. Bernard: “Remember how he told you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men to be crucified and to rise on the third day.”

Nehemia: We’ve got to stop there, verse 7. Remember now, the Disciples are walking on the road to Emmaus and they’re upset. It’s not like they haven’t heard. According to Luke, they heard it in Galilee. They’ve now been reminded by two angels the tomb is actually empty, and according to the Gospel, there are angels who are saying he’s alive. Read now verses 8, 9 and 10.

A.J. Bernard: “And they remembered His words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the 11 and to the rest. Now, it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the Apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”

Nehemia: [laughing] That’s amazing. So the tomb is empty, they’ve been told in Galilee these things are going to happen. And I’m sure when they heard these things they said, “We know the Messiah isn’t going to be killed. What are you talking about? That’s some metaphor. That’s some symbolism. He obviously doesn’t mean that literally, because we know any day now, we’re going to rise up and defeat the Roman legions. Otherwise, what are we doing here?”

If you believe the Gospels, if you believe the stories, he walked on water and he was feeding 5,000 people. It was only a matter of time until he goes thermonuclear on the Romans, right? What is this all about, otherwise? So when they heard the prophesy according to Luke, they heard this is Galilee. It’s idle tale. Now they’re hearing it again. Come on, guys. We know that’s not what it means.

A.J. Bernard: Yeah, even at his ascension after the resurrection, after they’ve seen all these miracles and He’s come back from the dead, the last thing they ask him is, “Are you now going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” It’s like they understood what the Messiah was supposed to be, and he wasn’t fulfilling their expectations. There’s a lot of speculation about why Judas did what he did. Some people think that Judas did it in an attempt to force Yeshua’s hand. Because if the Romans are coming to take Yeshua by force, and Judas knows that the Messiah’s not going to be killed, then Yeshua will have no choice but to just wipe the Romans off the face of the earth.

Nehemia: Now let’s jump ahead to verse 25 and see what is, I would argue, and I think many Christian scholars would argue, the central message of Luke, or a central message, maybe not the most. “Then he said to them…” this is Jesus speaking, according to Luke. He said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared. Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things then to enter into its glory?”

And they’re walking along and thinking, “What is he talking about? Of course not. The Messiah’s going to defeat the enemies of Israel. It’s Isaiah 2 and Isaiah 11. Even in Isaiah 53:12, He’s dividing the spoils among the many. That’s a military victory. What are you talking about?” Verse 27, “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophesy, interpreted to them the things about himself in all the Scriptures.”

I’ll be honest with you, I’m a Jew in the 21st century, and I’m reading this and I’m genuinely wondering, which prophesies? I know what the Christians will say. They’ll say it’s Isaiah 53 and it’s Zechariah, the pierced verse, and all those. I know the verses. But for me as a Jew, I hear this and I say, “What is Luke really saying here?” And I think it’s very clear what Luke is really saying here. Let’s read on, verse 28. Can you read verse 28?

A.J. Bernard: “They drew near the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going to go further, but they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.’ So, he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed it and broke it, and gave it to them, and their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he vanished from their sight. And they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, and while he opened to us the Scriptures?’”

Nehemia: Wow! So what it’s saying is – and you correct me if you understand this differently – but what I’m hearing here is, there were these prophesies, according to Luke, that referred to events in the life of Jesus, or Yeshua, that nobody understood until it was explained to them, and when it was explained to them, there was some kind of experience they had during that explanation that made them realize this is referring… In other words, if I read the verse in Hosea by myself – which I have – there’s no way I would think that had anything to do with Jesus. It has to do with Israel. But because this was revealed in some sort of Divine revelation, or messianic revelation by Jesus himself or by God, or whoever, or the Holy Spirit, they felt something in their heart and they realized yes, this is referring to Jesus. Is that what you’re hearing here? Is that what you’re getting?

A.J. Bernard: Yeah, yeah. A Christian would say that the burning within them is the Holy Spirit. We spoke on the phone about the ruach hakodesh.

Nehemia: Right. Absolutely, meaning in the Jewish tradition… it’s funny, what we had talked about on the phone is I was telling you how I grew up with this concept in Judaism that people are doing things with ruach hakodesh. Literally, ruach is spirit and kodesh is holy. So, ruach hakodesh is the Holy Spirit. But it was never translated that way, and if you would have said to anybody in my Orthodox Jewish upbringing, “Oh, so you’re saying that Rashi had the Holy Spirit,” or this rabbi had the Holy Spirit, they’d say, “Oh, no. That’s a Christian concept. He had ruach hakodesh”. [laughing]

I think there is a difference in that, when Christians tend to say “Holy Spirit”, that comes out as part of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit, and for Jews, Holy Spirit maybe isn’t defined as clearly or as definitively when people say, “It’s part of it that Godhead.” No, it’s God. It’s not a separate thing from God. It’s how we experience God. I think that’s how Jews would describe ruach hakodesh. And I don’t know that Christians would dispute it, except they’ve got the doctrines that they’ve got to espouse.

A.J. Bernard: Right. We would say that the Holy Spirit is God. It is Divine. It is a Divine being and there is only One God. It’s the doctrine of the Trinity which is…

Nehemia: Let’s not get into the doctrine of the Trinity. [laughing]

A.J. Bernard: …confusing to everybody. [laughing]

Nehemia: Are there three chairs or one? That’s the question. But I think both Jews and Christians would agree, and throughout the Tanakh you have the Spirit of God. In Genesis you’ve got “ruach Yehovah”, and in many places you have the Spirit of Yehovah coming over a person, or even going inside of a person and putting them on like a garment, in some verses. So there’s definitely this Divine Spirit, the Spirit of Yehovah.

So basically what we’re saying is, and I tell this to Christians and they say, “You’re trying to destroy our faith.” What I think Luke is saying is that if you believe in Jesus, then you can look back. If you believe in Yeshua, you can look back retrospectively and see how there were these prophesies that predicted he would do these things. But first you need to believe in Jesus and it needs to be revealed to you. That’s what Luke seems to be saying. This is why Jews and Christians had these dialogs and both sides get so frustrated. The Christian is saying, “How is that you don’t see that?” And the Jew says, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I read Isaiah 53 and I just don’t see it. I understand what you say it means. There’s no way I would read that passage by myself and come to that conclusion. The reason that you see it according to Luke is because it was revealed to you.”

So when I was talking to the Palestinian woman last night, and she’s telling me that she believes because of the 350 prophesies, but then when we have a longer conversation, well, she had a spiritual experience and those prophesies confirmed what she believes, that’s straight out of the Gospel of Luke. That’s proper Christian doctrine. That’s what’s being explained in Luke 24, and not the other way around.

A.J. Bernard: Now. A brief defense of Matthew’s use of Hosea 11:1 – and you’re welcome to disagree with me – but the chapter divisions are arbitrary, for the most part.

Nehemia: Absolutely.

A.J. Bernard: For the most part. So if we skip back one verse to Hosea 10:15 it says, “Thus it shall be done to you, oh Bethel, because of your great evil. At dawn the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off.” And then it says, “When Israel was a child, I loved Him, and out of Egypt I called My Son.” So is it possible – and I don’t know, this is a sincere question – is it possible that the word “Israel” could be taken as the sovereign figurehead rather than the title of a nation?

If we said “England today went to,” or “England today released a…” We would be talking about the Queen, or maybe the Prime Minister. But is it possible that’s how Matthew is using Hosea?

Nehemia: Let’s back up. We had talked about this on the phone. And I understand what you’re trying to do. What you’re trying to do is say, “Okay, we could explain how after all in the context it could mean this.” And I guess you could be right. In other words, what you want to say is, Hoshea 11:2 is a new prophesy, and Hosea 11:1 is part of the old prophesy. Is that what you’re saying?

A.J. Bernard: Oh, I don’t know. I didn’t read through 2. [laughing]

Nehemia: If you read 2 it’s talking about how He called them from Egypt and they went to worship idols. Is that Yeshua worshipping idols? [laughing] I mean, of course not.

A.J. Bernard: Oh, no.

Nehemia: All right, I hear what you’re saying. That’s a really good point, and it’s going to tie into what we’ll talk about in a minute, and what we talked about on the phone, and what I want to share with people.

So there was this concept in ancient Judaism, and it still exists in modern Judaism, that there are two ways of interpreting Scripture. One of them is called “Peshat”, which I’ve talked about in other programs. Peshat is plain meaning. People say, “Oh, you mean the literal meaning?” Not necessarily. Peshat is the meaning based on the language and the context using reason. Usually, that’s the literal meaning, but not always. The example I like to give is, if God says, “Judah is a lion”, the literal meaning is that Judah’s actually a lion. The plain meaning is no, that’s a metaphor and Judah’s not actually a lion, he’s very strong and has the attributes of a lion.

So Peshat is the plain meaning, which is often literal but not always. Then there’s “drash”, I talk about this in the Hebrew Yeshua vs the Greek Jesus. Drash is this concept that the Rabbis use all the time, especially the Rabbis, but not only. The idea of drash is that the language and the context are sometimes things that can be suspended, especially in prophesy, to find what they would call a “deeper meaning”, And as a Karaite, I’m definitely a Peshat person, don’t get me wrong. But I think it’s important to understand the historical and cultural context of how the New Testament is using the Old Testament.

So I think on a drash level, what we would call the “juxtaposition”, or the “smichut parshiot”, that’s a concept in drash, that the fact that verse 15 of Hosea 10 is just before verse 11:1 and talks about the king of Israel being cut off, whoever that king of Israel – meaning we could pick through Hosea 10 and say, “Oh, no. This king of Israel’s referring to Jeroboam II, or something which it may be, actually. But for the purposes of drash, that’s not important. For the purposes of drash – and by the way, I’ve heard in the Hebrew Roots world they’ll often talk about “We’re going to Midrash together.” It’s the same word, “midrash” or “drash”. That’s not the meaning we’re talking about, of Midrash.

Midrash actually means “to seek”. And so studying Scripture can be called “to drash ” or “to Midrash”, I’m using the word “Midrash” in this Rabbinical sense of where the language and the context is important, and the language and the context always stands, but if we suspend the language or the context then we could have a deeper meaning or another meaning.

In other words, the fact that verse 15 talks about “a king of Israel being cut off”, or literally “being silenced” is what it says here, that almost certainly played into how Matthew used Hosea 11:1. In other words, I think you hit upon something absolutely correct. I don’t think it’s the Peshat, I don’t think that’s the plain meaning. In other words, in the days of Hosea, I don’t think they said, “Oh, the king of Israel’s going to be killed, and then he’ll have to flee to Egypt at some point.”

Because even think about it - in verse 15 he’s cut off and in verse 11 he’s being called from Egypt. These are two different times in the life of Jesus. But for the Christian who’s looking back retrospectively – meaning the Christian is saying this in the 1st century, or the Jewish believe in Yeshua is saying, “I know he’s the Messiah, he appeared to my friends, he appeared to 500 people,” like it talks about in 1 Corinthians 15. “And we know he’s there, now we’ve got to go find him, and the only way we’ll see that he’s actually in there is if it’s revealed to us.”

I could just imagine them sitting down with their scrolls, maybe standing with their scrolls, and praying saying the prayer of David, “Uncover my eyes that I may see the wonderful hidden things of your Torah.” Psalm 119:18…

A.J. Bernard: Amen.

Nehemia: …and thinking, “Okay, if I just look at this as a Jew who doesn’t believe in Yeshua, I’ll never see this. But I know he’s in here, so now I’ve got to find him.” That might sound like a far-fetched idea to a modern person, but I mentioned to you when we had our first conversation that I actually wrote my master’s thesis on a man named Daniel al-Kumisi, who was a Karaite Bible scholar in the 9th century CE. He came to Jerusalem around the year 880 and he wrote his commentaries shortly after that. He does this sort of thing, not relating to Jesus or Yeshua, he does this thing, and he bases it on a verse in Amos. The verse in Amos – I believe it’s in 5, where God says, “I don’t do anything without revealing it to My servants, the prophets.”

And Daniel al-Kumisi is sitting there in Jerusalem in the 9th century CE, or AD, and he’s living under the rule of the Muslims. There are two major super-powers at the time, the Islamic Empire and the Christian Empire - the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was still around in the form of the Byzantine Empire, and it’s a Christian empire at this time. He’s thinking, “How is it possible? I read Scripture every day and I don’t see references to the Islamic Empire or the Christian Empire? It’s not possible. It’s got to be in there. God says, ‘I don’t do anything without revealing it to my servants, the prophets.’”

Remember, in the 9th century, both Karaites and Rabbinical Jews, it was a given to them that prophesy had ended. That’s actually a central concept for most Jews, that prophesy doesn’t exist anymore – meaning prophesy is written, but there won’t be prophesy again until the end time when the Messiah comes.

So if there are no prophets today who are describing the Islamic or Christian empires, then it’s got to be back in the Tanakh. Then he uses this method – this is what my master’s thesis was about – where he goes and he reads a verse, and it might be talking about Edom, the Edomites, and he’ll say, “Well, the Edomites we know refers to Rome.” That was something the Rabbis agreed with, meaning it was a given to the Rabbis that whenever it talks about the Edomites, it’s actually referring to the Roman Empire.

And you could understand why, if you were a Rabbi living under the Roman Empire and there’s a whole book, the Book of Ovadia, talking about the destruction of the Edomites, Edom, you think, “God wasted a whole book on the Edomites? Who cares about them? Our big problem isn’t the Edomites, it’s the Romans. When it says Edom it must be Rome.”

And what they did is straight Midrashic interpretation. What they did is, they took the letter Daled of Edom and Daled and Reish, those two letters in Hebrew are almost identical. It’s a tiny little bump on the Daled that distinguishes it from the Reish.

They said, “Okay, we’re not going to change Scripture, we wouldn’t dare do that. But for the purposes of interpretation, we can read that Daled as a Reish, and we can read Edom as Rome.” In Hebrew that’s really easy to do. In fact, it’s easy to make a mistake and misread it. I’ve talked about that in some of the Prophet Pearls and Torah Pearls, that there are scribal errors in the Tanakh that happened out of a Daled and a Reish. I’ll just give a quick example.

There’s a nation mentioned in Genesis called Dodanim, or Dedanim, and they’re called Rodanim in Chronicles, when the passage is repeated. And you could really come to no other conclusion other than one of those was originally a Daled and one was originally a Reish, and something happened. I’ll call it a “scribal error”, but something happened. So the rabbi’s reading “Edom”, there’s no problem if you want to read it as “Rome”. They wouldn’t dare change it, because that would be tampering with the text. But for the purpose of interpretation, “Oh, yeah. Obviously, this is talking about Rome.”

Now, for Daniel al-Kumisi, what he said is, “Well, this was talking about the Edomites thousands of years ago, but it’s also talking about the Romans today,” which for him was the Byzantine Romans. When it talks about something in Daniel, a figure who will rise up and change times and seasons, he’ll say, “Okay, that is talking about an evil figure in the future, or maybe Nebuchadnezzar in the past, but it’s also talking about a prophet of a nation that I’m being ruled by right now.” I won’t say the name of that prophet, but I think you know who I’m talking about.

And he actually didn’t say the name either, but it was obvious in the context who he was talking about. So basically, there’s this Karaite in the 9th century, what he’s saying is that these major events in our lives, they’ve got to be somewhere in the Bible. There’s no prophesy like Josiah that says, “There will be a man name Emperor Heraclius who will arise, or Hadrian who will arise, and he will kill us.” And there could have been, meaning the Tanakh could have said, there could have been a prophet in biblical times that says, “There will be a man named Vespasian and he will come from a far-off land across the sea. He will burn the Temple,” or “and his son Titus will burn the Temple.” But we don’t have prophesies like that.

So Daniel al-Kumisi looks back and he says, “I know these things happened. They’re history, and they’ve got to be in the Prophets. Something so important in history must be in the Prophets. If it doesn’t say ‘Titus and Vespasian’, then it must be in there somewhere, and there must be a symbolic explanation of some verse. So when there’s a verse that talks about the great and terrible day of the Lord, or Yehovah, and the destruction of the Babylonians by Nebuchadnezzar, it did happen under Nebuchadnezzar. That was the ancient understanding of it. But in the history of our people, it also refers to the destruction of Titus and Vespasian.” That’s how he read it.

What’s fascinating to me, and what my thesis was about, is yes, we expect the Rabbis to do this because they have their drash method. They could take any verse and make it mean anything they want. But a Karaite doesn’t do that. The Karaites only do the Peshat, and that was what my thesis was about at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, showing that yeah, a Karaite does that too. And why does he do it? He’s got to do it, because it says in Amos 3 verse 7, “The Lord Yehovah does not do any matter except He reveals His sod.” That’s interesting – his “counsel”, but it also can mean “secret”, “To his servants, the prophets.”

And the point was, this counsel, these secrets, it’s got to be revealed somewhere. And sod, technically, is what Yehovah says to the angels, and that is revealed to the prophets. In other words, a prophet gets to listen in on what Yehovah is saying to the angels. He brought these emperors, Titus and Vespasian, to destroy the Temple in 70 CE, AD. It’s got to be somewhere in the Prophesies. It’s got to be.

Some people will refer to this as a “retrospective prognostic interpretation”. Prognostic means telling the future, but it’s retrospective. In other words, we’re looking back and we don’t find a Josiah-type prophesy or a Cyrus-type prophesy. Not even a 70-years of Jeremiah-type prophesy. But it’s got to be in there somewhere. And to somebody like Daniel al-Kumisi, this doesn’t seem far-fetched. It has to be in there. And I think that Luke is doing a similar sort of thing. He’s saying that they didn’t see it themselves. They couldn’t see it themselves! But Jesus came along, according to Luke, and said, “Okay, here it is. I’m in there, and here are the things that refer to me.”

Then when we read those in the Gospels, the counter-missionary comes along and says, “But that’s not the context! He’s talking about Israel. Yeah, there’s a king cut off, but even that doesn’t fit, because that was at the end of Jesus’ life, and this is the beginning of his life.” There’s no way that I could read this as a Jew who doesn’t believe in Jesus, as one of the 12 Disciples who even believed in Jesus. But this wasn’t revealed to him. Imagine that, that the 12 Disciples on the third day couldn’t see these things. That’s what Luke is saying.

The point here is that there’s a lot of confusion and frustration, I think, between Jews and Christians, because I as a Jew read these prophesies, and my Jewish brothers and sisters say, “They’re twisting our Scripture. That’s not what it says.” And the Christians read it and they say, “Why don’t you see it? It’s so obvious.”

I think both of us are missing the point. The point is, that’s not how the New Testament is using it. The New Testament, I think, is using - and maybe not in every case, but in many Old Testament prophesies – is using it the way that the Rabbis used many prophesies. They said, “Edom, it can’t be Edom. It’s got to be something relevant today. We know Rome is a super-power. It’s got to be referring to that.” And the way Daniel al-Kumisi used many of the prophesies…

This didn’t seem far-fetched to the Rabbis or Daniel. Now, here’s where things get a little confusing. If you came to Daniel al-Kumisi or to the Rabbis and said, “You guys are living on a desert island and you don’t know what’s going on in the world, but I can prove to you there’s an empire called Rome. How can I prove to you there’s an Empire called Rome? Because there’s this prophesy about Edom.” [laughing] They’d say, “What are you talking about? That’s crazy. If I don’t already know about Rome, then I’m not going to tie that prophesy to Edom.” This is where a lot of Christians will come to the Jew and say, “How do you not believe in this? It’s so obvious.” The point of Luke is, first you’ve got to believe in it, and then you can see how it applies to Yeshua, if it’s revealed to you. That’s how I’m reading it. If you have a different understanding, I can accept that and affirm that. What’s your take on it, A.J.?

A.J. Bernard: Like I said earlier, it comes down to world view. If you start with Jesus, then when you look in Genesis chapter 3 you see the seed of the woman crushing the head of the serpent. Well, where does that happen? On Skull Hill, where the serpent’s head is crushed when the serpent strikes at Jesus’ heel, driving a nail into the cross. But if you don’t start with the crucifixion, if you don’t start with Jesus, if you just start with Genesis 3, then you say, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and you move on.

Nehemia: Or you say, “What are you talking about?” [laughing]

A.J. Bernard: Right, yeah.

Nehemia: Really, I’ve heard this from a lot of my Jewish brothers and sisters, “These guys are making stuff up. Where are they getting this?” And I think both sides are missing the point. As far as I know, this is mainstream Christian doctrine, or understanding of interpretation. In other words, it’s not like you read Matthew, where he’s quoting Hoshea, and you’re the first one to realize that and say, “Uh-oh, we caught him in a mistake.” It’s my understanding that many Christian scholars say that, and I think they use the word “retrospectively”, that after the crucifixion, the Disciples went back and said, “Okay, this is the most important event in history, from our perspective. It’s got to be in the prophesies. Where is it?” And they found it.

If you’re talking to somebody who doesn’t already believe in it, then he’s going to look at you like you’re talking about ancient aliens. Like, “What do you mean?” Does that make any sense?

A.J. Bernard: Oh, absolutely. Modern Christian scholars do the same thing, and a lot of them make the news because they come off as absolute kooks.

Nehemia: What are you referring to? I don’t know what you’re referring to.

A.J. Bernard: Harold Camping. Are you familiar with the name?

Nehemia: No.

A.J. Bernard: Harold Camping made some prophesies. He went into the Scriptures, he said, and did some math, he said – although I don’t know if he ever revealed his math. He determined that Jesus was returning, that the second coming of Christ would be in October of 1988.

Nehemia: Really - was it?

A.J. Bernard: Harold was wrong on that one, but somehow, he survived and he rebuilt his multi-million dollar teaching empire.

Nehemia: I’m shocked. [laughing]

A.J. Bernard: Yes, me too. Then a few years later, a few years ago, actually – it was like 2006 – Harold comes out and says, “Jesus will return in 2008.”

Nehemia: Was this the May 21, 2012 guy?

A.J. Bernard: That might have been it, yeah.

Nehemia: Or is that a different? I remember that happening, yeah. So now let’s get some perspective. When you say he sounds like a kook… see, that’s different because he’s predicting the future, and what we’re talking about here is finding past events in Scripture. I’ve got to bring this, and it’s just one example. We could do a whole session just on this, and I probably will.

So for example, in the Dead Sea Scrolls there is something called “Pesher Habakkuk”. And Pesher, that’s a really important word. Pesher basically means the interpretation of a dream.

For example, when Joseph interprets the dreams of the men they say, “Wow.” That’s maybe the word “pitaron”. But pesher often means “the interpretation of a dream.” So Pesher Habakkuk is an explanation of Habakkuk, who was one of the minor prophets, minor not meaning he’s unimportant, but that he is from a small book. There were 12 small books that they put together in one Scroll, they were called the “12 Minor Prophets”.

So the Pesher Habakkuk was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Dead Sea Scrolls had a teacher or a leader whose name we don’t know. He’s referred to as “moreh tzedek”, the Teacher of Righteousness. He’s believed by modern scholars to be the founder of the Essene movement, or of the Qumran movement, depending how you define it. But he’s referred to throughout the Dead Sea Scrolls repeatedly. His arch enemy was called “HaKohen Harasha”, “The Wicked Priest”. There were these two figures in history whose names we don’t know, it’s amazing. One was the founder of this movement, and one was the enemy of the movement.

People tried to identify the Wicked priest as maybe Alexander Jannaeus, or John Hyrcanus, or somebody like that, one of the Hasmonean High Priests who was also a king. There were all these events in the history of this movement of the Essenes, who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, and they looked back at the Prophets and they said, “This is when history changed. When the Teacher of Righteousness rose up and he founded our movement and the Wicked Priest tried to stop him, this is when history changed and the redemption began. Surely, the prophets spoke of this.”

What they did is, they set out to find him in the Prophets. For example, in Pesher Habakkuk, it’s a famous passage, and there are numerous passages like this. Habakkuk 2:15, can you read Habakkuk 2:15, can you pull that up?

A.J. Bernard: Yes. “Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink. You pour out your wrath and make them drunk in order to gaze at their nakedness.”

Nehemia: So what’s it talking about, in the time of Habakkuk? It’s talking about people who were probably quite literally, getting people drunk in order for some sort of licentiousness, some sexual sin, or to humiliate people. But they looked at that and they said, “Come on. The Teacher of Righteousness and the Wicked Priest are the most important figures in history. They’ve got to be there in the Prophets.” They found it in that verse that you just read, which is unbelievable.

So here’s how they quote it - even how they quote the verse goes into this whole Midrashic method of interpretation. This is probably where a Karaite might slightly differ. A Karaite wouldn’t go this far, or at least Daniel al-Kumisi didn’t go this far, but it was definitely part of the cultural milieu of ancient, 1st century Israel.

This is column 11 line 2, you guys can look this up. It’s in Pesher Habakkuk from the Dead Sea Scrolls. “Woe to the one who gets his friend drunk, pouring out his anger, making him drink just to get a look at their holy days.”

A.J. Bernard: Holy days?

Nehemia: Holy days. How did he get from nakedness to holy days?

A.J. Bernard: [laughing]

Nehemia: What’s the word for nakedness in that verse? It’s “ma’or”, Mem-Ayin-Vav-Reish, and if you change the Reish to a Daled

A.J. Bernard: It sounds like me’od, yes.

Nehemia: It sounds like mo’ed.

A.J. Bernard: Mo’ed. Yes, I’m sorry.

Nehemia: It’s very close to mo’ed, if you change the Reish to the Daled, which we talked about with Rome and Edom, and that Kumisi would be okay with, as a Karaite. Who is this talking about? They got somebody drunk to look at his holy days? Well, it’s not literally drunk, it’s spiritually. “This refers to the Wicked Priest” - this is in the Dead Sea Scrolls – “who pursued the Teacher of Righteousness to destroy him in the heat of his anger at his place of exile. At the time set aside for the repose,” or the rest, “of the Day of Atonement, he appeared to them to destroy them and to bring them to ruin on the fast day, the Sabbath intended for their rest.”

So they read the verse we just read, which is talking about people who get each other drunk to have sex with them, or to humiliate them with nakedness, and they said, “Of course it’s the Wicked Priest attacking the Teacher of Righteousness on Yom Kippur! Who else could it be?” Okay, one of these prophies may be. But there are hundreds of prophesies that refer to the Wicked Priest and the Teacher of Righteousness. Yes, in the context it doesn’t mean that, but that’s because you don’t have eyes to see.

They actually talk about this in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and scholars call this “illuminational exegesis”. Exegesis means “interpretation”. You have to have this divine illumination to see what they’re seeing. But to them, they didn’t understand - how it is that you don’t accept the Teacher of Righteousness and denounce the Wicked Priest? To the rest of Israel, the Wicked Priest was the Righteous Priest. If he was Alexander Jannaeus or John Hyrcanus or one of those guys, he was the High Priest. He was a holy man. But to the Essenes, the people who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, he was the Wicked Priest who attacked their leader, their founder, the Teacher of Righteousness. They didn’t understand how you don’t see it. Clearly, this refers to him! Who else could it be? There are 350 prophesies… and there was a lot more than that. There are whole books where every verse was referring to the Teacher of Righteousness. We could go on, and on, and just about every verse is understood as something in the life of the Teacher of Righteousness.

From their perspective, you’d come to them as the non-believing Jew - meaning you don’t believe in the Teacher of Righteousness who founded these themes – and you’d say, “You guys are just making this up. What are you talking about?” And the two sides are talking past each other, because what their point was, “We believe in the Teacher of Righteousness, it’s been revealed to us by God that he is the true teacher. It’s not possible, God wouldn’t do something without revealing it to his servants, the prophets.” That’s what Amos says. “So he must be in here somewhere. We find him on every page! He’s on every word on every page!”

I’ll read you another one, and this is at the end of column 11. I’m just randomly choosing something. “For the crimes perpetuated against Lebanon he will bury you, for the robbery of beasts He will smite you…” this is the verse. “Because of murder and injustice in the land, he will destroy the city and all who live in it.” And Habakkuk is clearly talking about the sinners of his day, who were about to be invaded by the Babylonians and destroyed. That’s the context of Habakkuk.

Then they say, “The passage refers to the Wicked Priest, that he will be paid back for what he did to the poor.” “For Lebanon doesn’t mean Lebanon. Lebanon refers to the party of the Yachad.” The Yachad is what the Essenes called themselves. “And beast refers to the simple-hearted of Judah who obey the Torah.” In other words, Lebanon in the verse isn’t Lebanon like everybody thought in the time of Habakkuk - maybe it’s also that - but we know it refers to something in the history of our movement, which is the Dead Sea Scroll people, the Essenes. Lebanon refers to the Yachad, and “beasts are the Jews who support us but they’re not part of our group.”

It goes on, “God will condemn him…” the Wicked Priest, “to utter destruction, just as he planned to destroy the poor.” And it goes on, and on, and on, everything here is about the Wicked Priest and the Teacher of Righteousness. Again, if you would go to an Essene.... Imagine there would be the counter-missionary standing up to the Essenes saying, “You Essenes have taken it out of context!” And they’d be looking at him and saying, “What is this guy talking about? He’s come here to destroy our faith. We know it’s referring to the Teacher of Righteousness!”

Here’s my criticism of the counter-missionary. He’s an Orthodox Jew, and when he interprets the Torah for very practical purposes, he uses this non-Peshat method, what I call “drash”, or what he calls “drash”. An example is, it says, “don’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” What does that mean to him? It means have separate dishes for milk and meat. It means after he eats a hamburger, he’s got to wait six hours before he can eat cheese. Literally. It means you can’t obviously cook meat and milk together. I read that and I say, “What are you talking about? That’s not what it means in the context.” So he’ll take it out of context and ignore the language for the purposes of very practical application of the Torah.

But when it comes to the Messianic prophesies, he says to the Christians, “You can’t take that out of context, it’s talking about Israel in Hosea 11:1. It’s not talking about the Messiah. It’s not talking about Jesus. Read the context.” Well, wait a minute - you don’t read the context when you apply the Torah. The point is that Rabbinical Jews will interpret contrary to the language and the context for the purpose of applying how to keep the Torah. But when it comes to the Messianic prophesies, all of a sudden, they’ve discovered the Peshat, the plain meaning based on the language and the context. And all of a sudden that’s the only way to interpret. Does that make sense? Do you understand what I’m saying?

A.J. Bernard: Yeah, absolutely.

Nehemia: Look, I’m a Karaite, so I tend to interpret everything according to the Peshat. But the point, I think, of Luke, isn’t Peshat or drash. The point is, if you believe and it’s revealed to you, then you’ll see how these prophesies refer to Yeshua, and if you don’t, you won’t. I think that’s what it’s saying.

A.J. Bernard: Sure. Absolutely.

Nehemia: And so when Christians come to me, I sense their frustration. “Why don’t you see this, Nehemia?” The answer is in your Gospel. Why are you accusing me? What I say is, if God wants me to know this, He’ll let me know it. Up until now, I hear what you’re saying, and I understand intellectually how you get to what you’re saying, but it’s not been revealed to me.

A.J. Bernard: Yeah, and I understand as well from the Christian perspective, when I talk to Jewish people and I say, “Look, right here, it’s right there. It’s very plain. Can’t you see this?” I get frustrated. I know exactly what you mean. From my perspective, and I’ve grown quite a bit, since I got serious about the Scriptures, since I got serious about being one of the foreigners who joins himself to Yehovah, what I’ve decided is that Yehovah is truth, and I am seeking Him and I’m going to seek Him as He has revealed Himself. And what He has revealed in the Torah is truth, and what He has revealed in the Tanakh is truth. But what I find in the New Testament is not what a lot of Christians find. A lot of Christians want to say, “The Torah is evil. That’s the law of sin and death,” Paul calls it.

Nehemia: Wait, stop A.J. You’re a Methodist Pastor. The Torah is done away with, right?

A.J. Bernard: No, the Torah is absolutely the word of God, because our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Nehemia: Come on with that! Preach it!

A.J. Bernard: He didn’t change His mind…

Nehemia: Amen.

A.J. Bernard: … when Yeshua was born, folks. It’s the same God.

Nehemia: No, He changed His mind at the crucifixion, when the law was nailed to the cross, right?

A.J. Bernard: No! [laughing]

Nehemia: That’s the standard Methodist explanation, isn’t it? I’m not making stuff… I don’t know if Methodist, but Christian.

A.J. Bernard: Yeah, the standard Christian explanation is that the law was fulfilled and done away with. Well, portions of the law were fulfilled, but that doesn’t mean it’s done away with. Yeshua himself preaches this when he says, “Not one jot or one tittle should be done away with the law until all will be fulfilled.” And what does the Torah speak of? The Torah speaks of all of human history. So when all of human history is fulfilled, then maybe we can re-address this. But the Torah is still absolutely valid and essential today.

Nehemia: Amen. I want to say one last thing. I want to say why I really do think counter-missionaries have a place and they have a purpose. I think they fulfill an important function, even though that’s not my calling. But I appreciate what they do, and what I appreciate is they’re saying, “Okay, you’re saying there are 350 prophesies. What do those prophesies say in their context?”

And I think Christians should be grateful for the counter-missionary, because I think he can get them back to Luke 24. And not just Luke 24, we just brought that one passage, there are quite a number of verses in the New Testament that talk about the only way that you can know this is if it was revealed to you by the Holy Spirit. I’m referencing there… what is that, Mark…? The scene where he asks him, “And who do you say that I am?”

A.J. Bernard: Mark 8.

Nehemia: Right. Yeshua doesn’t respond to Peter and say, “Oh, you have studied the prophesies and you know they refer to me. You have good doctrine, and you’ve memorized the verse.” He says, “No, this was revealed to you by the Holy Spirit.” [laughing] So I think Christians out there should thank the counter-missionary and the literature that he’s basing himself on in Jewish history, because what it’s doing is saying, “What do these verses mean in their context?” And there is a principle even in Rabbinical Judaism which says the Peshat never is lost. What that means is, they’ll say, “Yeah, you can’t eat milk and meat together, but you also can’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” Meaning that for the application they’ll say, “We’re going to change the language and the context,” and what they’ll say is they have a tradition that allows them to do that. That their tradition gives them the authority, and the Rabbis have the authority.

In other words, it’s not like we just caught them in some mistake. If you ask most counter-missionaries, why is it that when you interpret the Torah for practical purposes for halacha, that you’re not bound by the language and the context, but then when you come to the Messianic prophesies, all of a sudden you can only interpret by the language and the context?”

The answer is very clear. There’s no question about it. Our Rabbis interpreted the first thing this way, and the other thing that way, and we’re guided by their traditional interpretation. That would be his response.

A.J. Bernard: Boy, doesn’t that sound Christian, though? We’re wrapped up, we’re tied around our traditions…

Nehemia: You’re preaching to a Karaite [laughing] who says tradition is a wonderful, beautiful thing, but I’m going to be led by the Spirit of Yehovah…

A.J. Bernard: Amen.

Nehemia: … as I read Scripture. A.J. would you end with a prayer?

A.J. Bernard: I sure would. And before I do, please let me just say, thank you so much. This in an incredible honor to be asked to do this, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Nehemia: I really did, too.

A.J. Bernard: Avinu shebashayim, yitkadesh shimcha, our Father in Heaven, may your Holy Name be sanctified. We thank You so much for Your Holy Scriptures. We thank You so much for the truth that You have revealed in them. We thank You so much that You have called us to be Your people, that You desire a relationship with us. Blessed Father, thank You. Blessed Father, please help us to draw closer to You, to bring glory to Your Holy Name. In the name of Yehovah we pray, Amen.

Nehemia: Amen.

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Hosea 11:1
Matthew 2:14-15
1 Kings 13:1
2 Kings 23:15
Daniel 9:1-2
Isaiah 53
Luke 24
Psalm 119:18
Amos 3:7

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  • sandy yerger says:

    So appreciate this study. It was enlightening to see that the rabbis’ do the same with regard to identifying a prophecy after the fact, using the new knowledge to understand or complete an understanding that Yehovah wants us to have about His ways or plans.

    But another recent post in this thread mentions that no feasts can currently be kept outside of the land, something to do with the lunar calendar. Does this have any validity?

    I will keep listening

  • Matt says:

    Has anyone heard of the Two Messiah Teaching? In a nutshell, one Messiah was to be the Suffering Servant and one was to be the Conquering King. This is why John the Baptist sent his two disciples to Yeshua. John wanted to know if Yeshua was both, and Yeshua was. This would help explain why the disciples of Yeshua didn’t quite get it at first. If they thought Yeshua was the Conquering King then they thought he would set up the Kingdom on Earth. This could explain why Judas went along with betraying Yeshua because Judas thought Yeshua was the Conquering also. Therefore Yeshua wouldn’t have been taken to be staked. If Judas thought Yeshua wasn’t the Conquering King then Judas might have thought he sent an “innocent” man to the stake.

  • Luke is really saying that Yeshua stated that the truth of HIs death/resurrection is in the prophet’s words and they (we) are slow and foolish for not having recognized it. How should THEY have recognized it? Certainly not through those with a preconceived agenda like the oral law teaching rabbis. Certainly not through the pharisees who did not obey Torah themselves, but instead, obeyed their traditions with a stern warning about this (matt 23). And certainly not through those who are more comfortable resting in what man says instead of what God says. They should have recognized those prophesies by HIs own words and Him actually acting out those words. Daniel said this would happen “in the time of those kings” so their timeframe would have been the parameter.

    Now…..how should WE have recognized this all in hindsight and not be foolish and slow ourselves? Well, Yehovah responds to those who lay down their worship of man, denying all acts of disobedience to His law (repentance) and humbly searching for truth. You cannot claim to humbly search for truth while living a life that continues in sin. Sin is defined as transgressing or breaking the instructions of Yehovah.

    Thinking about all the ways Judaism, Christianity and Hebrew roots disobey. The lunar calendar is the first that comes to mind. No tribe other than Levites, was given authority to declare the lunar calendar for Israel and even then, only Aaronic priests. (Num 10) It would be sin to deny this and usurp their authority. In fact, it would be making up your own authority and instructions and declaring yourself to be a new priest who gets to make this declaration.

    Likewise, attempted or declared feast keeping is another continued sin. Without the lunar calendar, no feasts can be kept nor are they to be kept in captivity. (Hosea 2:11 & chap 9). Feasts were instructed ONLY after Israel crossed over into the land (Ex 12 & 13) and then, only at the Temple where the priests accept the instructed sacrifices (Deuteronomy 12). To declare feasts for God’s people in the United States or anywhere else (without Temple/Levitical priests) is no different than Jeroboam setting up his own high place for the people. A high place is where a false worshipper would go to worship or supposedly obey or give homage to their god. Anytime we change what Yehovah says and do it our own way, declaring the lunar calendar ourselves, gathering for made up feasts anywhere else, denying Yehovah telling us these things CEASE outside of the land because they were not to be done outside of the land EVER, we are setting up our own high places and priests.

    THIS is the very reason blindness continues today as Deut 28:28 says. Sin is sin. Disobeying Yehovah by being a thief is no different than disobeying Yehovah by being a supposed feast keeper (which is impossible). The heart of a truly surrendered person who comes back to Torah, does not make up their own commands to do outside of the land, encouraging whole groups of people to disobey God as well.