When the Messiah Comes...

Oftentimes, Jews who come to believe in Jesus are told by their unbelieving families, "If you'd only known more about Judaism, if you'd only studied your own religion, you never would have come to believe this way."

My parents never said that to me because, before I accepted Christ, I went to see an Orthodox rabbi on my own initiative.

You see, I had met some Jews for Jesus who had given me some very convincing arguments from the Scriptures apparently pointing to Jesus as the Messiah. However, I was afraid to just "jump in." "How can I be sure?" I thought. My impetuousness had gotten me into trouble in the past. Once I had gotten involved in the occult. Another time, I had come very close to marrying a Gentile girl I knew I shouldn't marry. The only sound thing to do, I thought, would be to see a rabbi and ask him what he thought of these Scriptures. After all, I figured he should know.

"And with more courage than I thought I had in me, I plunged into my own study of Daniel 9."

Rabbi Bogner and I sat and discussed the many passages the Jews for Jesus had pointed out. We began with the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. The Jews for Jesus said it talked about the Messiah. The rabbi said it referred to Israel. Then we studied Jeremiah 31:31-34 which talks of a "new covenant" that God would make with His people. The rabbi just scoffed at this one.

Finally, I brought to his attention Daniel 9, which, according to the Jews for Jesus, told the time of the Messiah's coming.

At that, Rabbi Bogner told me he was prohibited by Talmudic Law from studying that chapter. When I asked why, he said, "Cursed be the man who calculates the time of the coming of the Messiah." He knew that Daniel 9 did indeed contain God's message to us as to when the Messiah would come. But he explained that the Talmud prohibited studying it because of the possible unbelief that could arise from some making incorrect calculations and being disappointed.

But this didn't make any sense to me. Why would God give us a Book and then tell us not to read part of it? I didn't think God played "cosmic games" on us.

I left the rabbi's study a little perplexed. And with more courage than I thought I had in me, I plunged into my own study of Daniel 9. Now I knew I was not a Bible scholar, but I was no dummy either! As a college instructor I felt I had a good grasp of concepts and could follow a carefully reasoned argument to its conclusion. And having been trained as an accountant, I knew I could make whatever mathematical calculations were necessary.

Well, Daniel 9 referred to "an anointed one" being "cut off" after a certain number of weeks. The Hebrew word for "anointed" is "mashiach," which, in Greek, is "christos" or "Christ." Also, in the Bible, to be "cut off" meant to die. I then needed to calculate the number of weeks starting with the rebuilding of Jerusalem as stated in the Scripture verse, "So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and 62 weeks." (Daniel 9:25) The only decree to go out was by Artaxerxes in 444 B.C.E. Biblically speaking, a week equals seven years and a sabbatical year, approximately 360 days. My computations were fairly simple, but the answer I got was difficult to accept.

"I could not call this a coincidence. It would be like saying two plus two equals five."

This anointed one was to die in 32 C.E., the year Christ was crucified. I could not call this a coincidence. It would be like saying two plus two equals five.

I thought about Rabbi Bogner. It did help me to talk with him. For despite the Talmudic prohibition on studying that Scripture passage for fear of resulting unbelief, its study made me into a believer, a believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

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No, your study made you a believer in Jesus. There were various mix-ups when the editors of the King James bible were busy "copying" the Torah. First up, Daniel 9:25 should not read "the messiah the prince", but "an anointed one, a prince". Cyrus in this case (Isaiah 45:1, 13 and Ezra 1:1-2). Second, the KJB seemed to have zero regard for punctuation. The verse should not be read as (9:25) "the emergence of the word to...rebuild Jerusalem until the anointment...will be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks:...", but rather as follows, "the emergence of the word to...rebuild Jerusalem until the anointment...will be seven septets, and for sixty-two it will be rebuilt". To read it as the KJB version would be to combine the 7 septet period with the 62 septet period.


To Mordechai - You have presented an interesting theory in your last post; however I feel that your position as stated is incorrect in a number of key points. Firstly, the term 'messiah' means 'anointed,' and the messiah is 'an (or the) anointed leader' so there is no big deal here, the words are interchangeable. The best modern Jewish translation (JPS) is representative: ' “You must know and understand: From the issuance of the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the [time of the] anointed leader is seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it will be rebuilt, square and moat, but in a time of distress. And after those sixty-two weeks, the anointed one will disappear and vanish.” As you see, the terms mean the same thing (ie - anointed leader).


Secondly, your assertion that Cyrus is the 'anointed one' alluded to in Daniel 9,is speculation/interpre tation on your part, and Jewish interpreters have understood this to be otherwise. At least some strands of interpretation from the Judaism of the inter-testamental and 1-st century periods viewed the passage as referring to Messiah and the time of his coming; the earliest Jewish translation of the passage (the LXX) rendering the passage as: “And thou shalt know and understand, that from the…until messiah the prince there shall be seven weeks, and sixty two weeks: and then the time shall return, and the street …”


Beyond this period, as the article by Barry Rubin has suggested, early rabbinical interpretations evidenced in the writings of the Rabbinics (2nd-4th centuries ad) in the Talmud indicate a Messianic understanding of this passage, as seen in such verses as: B. San 97a: "Our masters taught as follows of the particular seven-year period at whose end [Messiah] son of David will appear" (This seems to refer directly to the Danielic final week!) B. San 97b: "Rav said: All times set for redemption have passed, and the matter now depends only on repentance and good deeds" (All time calculations had been fulfilled). B. San 97b: "R. Samuel bar Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: Blaste be the bones of those who presume to calculate the time of redemption. For they are apt to say, 'Since redemption has not come at the time expected, it will never come.' Rather, one must wait for it...what then delays its coming? The measure of justice delays it..."


These passages do seem to suggest at least a strand of rabbinical opinion that had calculated the timing, based on the Daniel, and knew the time of Messiah's coming had already passed by the time of their writings (admittedly interpretation of the end-times was calculated by a variety of other means as well, but at least one of these appears to have been from the 'weeks' passage in Daniel 9, evidenced by the reference to the 'one week' above). Further, even some later medieval Jewish interpreters, such as Maimonides, also viewed the verses as referring to Messiah. Finally, more recent interpretations, though not viewing Daniel 9 as referring to Messiah, have understood this verse differently from your own suggestion (from the Jewish Study Bible) “In the context of the other historical references, however, the anointed leader probably refers to either Zerubbabel or the high priest Joshua, while the anointed one is most likely the high priest Onias III…”


So you see that traditional Jewish exegesis has viewed this verse in a variety of different ways over the centuries. Next, you raise the issue that the KJB has zero regard for punctuation, but unless I have misunderstood what you have meant entirely (and if so I apologise), it should be said that there is no real punctuation (esp. commas) in the Hebrew Bible/Masoretic text. The Hebrew word sequence for this verse reads, when directly rendered in English without translation, as 'leader, weeks, seven, and, weeks, sixty, and, two, be restored, and, be built...'. There is no punctuation - only Yods ('ands'). Semantic breaks have to be decided on the basis of other considerations - not non-existent punctuation.


Finally, referring to your re-translation of the text adding to word 'for' in front of sixty-two, it should be said that this is not explicit from the text. The JPS has translated it that way, as indeed do a number of Christian translations (ie NRSV, WBC), but it should be noted that most Hebrew sentences begin with a verb. So, when verse 25 moves from the word 'two' to 'be restored' that would typically mean to start a sentence after the 'two'. Basically, there would be an English punctuation-period (or strong semi-colon, introducing a new clause) after the 'two', and 'Be Restored' would be the start of another sentence or thought. This is how the more literal translations handle this - 'There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall.' (NKJV) and 'and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress' (NASV). And it should be noted that the JPS itself understands the septads as weeks.


The three divisions of time alluded to in the verse are separate periods, but some of them are consecutive, running alongside of each other. At the end of this I would like to finish by encouraging you to move away from the KJV and work with more modern translations (both Jewish and Christian), as you should be able to interact with God's revelation more freely that way. I would also encourage you to sincerely pray to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Israel, to reveal to you the truth of this (and other) verses, and whether they do refer to Y'shua (Jesus) or not, and to show you whether or not He is indeed the Messiah of Israel, and trust that God will respond to that call, and reveal the truth to you. May God bless you, Grant.
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