Volume. XXI, No. 12
Sunday, 17 September 2006

From the pastors heart: The Son of God and Qumran materials

The name of Jesus Christ has gained some popularity unwittingly in recent times.  It is not because of the growth of biblical Christianity, but because of the increase of interest in spiritual matters in general among people.  This generation is overall very spiritual, and we can find lots of spiritual talks, writings, shows, films, and seminars around us.  Postmodernism and multi-culturalism have given momentum to people to have their own gods/goddesses, and religions have become consumer-friendly.  People do not have to learn about what to believe because there is no absolute truth, God, or religion.  It is up to the people which gods or goddesses to choose.  They may even choose to worship themselves.  In this age of religious multiplicity, the name of Jesus has received unwanted attention in recent decades through films like “The Last Temptation of Christ,” or through Broadway shows like “Jesus Christ Superstar.”  His name is once again the number one talk among people through the Da Vinci Code.  The Thomas Gospel, the Gospel of Mary or Judas became popular readings, and the uncritical minds accept them as alternative truths to the Bible.  People talk about Jesus’ marriage to Mary Magdalene and their secret children.  They talk about holy blood through the genealogy of Jesus and Magdalene, et cetera.  Some Jewish writings portray Jesus as an illegitimate son of Mary and a magician.  Is there any objective evidence that Jesus is fully divine-human and that He is the messiah prophesied in the Old Testament? 

I met a Jewish seminarian who was an orthodox Jew in the plane flying to Israel a few years ago.  He was a young man, very devoted to his faith.  During the flight, while I was reading a book, he was praying by moving his body back and forth on his seat.  He was carefully examining his kosher food when his meal was served.  Out of curiosity, I asked him about his knowledge about Jesus.  With a bit of hesitancy, he said that Jesus was a blasphemer.  According to him, Jesus was not the messiah.  Such Jewish understanding is not uncommon.  In fact, if a man claims Jesus to be his personal Savior, he will be easily excluded from Jewish fellowship.  The Jews’ unbelief of Jesus as their messiah relies on two sources: (1) their interpretation of the Old Testament, and (2) the teachings of rabbinical writings.  Both sources can be refuted if we can find the Jewish view of Messiah before the time of Jesus Christ.  If pre-Christian era Jewish understanding of Messiah is the same as that of Christians’, then we may safely say that the Jews must recognize their faults and repent of their unbelief.  There are reasons why I say such presupposition boldly.  One, it is because the Jews rely on the rabbinical writings to refute Christian teachings of Jesus Christ.  However, their arguments may not be sustainable because of two reasons: (1) The Jewish literature used by the Jews are the products of post-Christianity.  For example, the Babylonian Talmud is from about 500 AD, and the Midrash literature from about 300 AD (Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, rev. The Moody Bible Institute, 1985, 63).  Midrash is a Hebrew word referring to a method of exegesis of a biblical text.  These post-Christianity Jewish literature have prejudices against Christianity;  (2) Though it is true that Yesu is found in some of those literatures, it is still doubtful that it refers to Jesus always.  Therefore, we cannot use them as credible sources to understand Jesus Christ.

Then, again, what is the best way to assure ourselves concerning Jesus Christ?  Of course, we read both the Old and New Testaments and believe in them.  Besides them, is there any objective evidence that may give additional insight to the Christian way of understanding about Jesus Christ?  The answer is the same as the presupposition mentioned in the above.  Is there any record about the Jewish interpretation of the Messiah coming from the pre-Christian era?  The Jewish Encyclopedia suggests three sources from which we may find  Jewish understanding in regard to Jesus.  They are —(1) in New Testament apocrypha and Christian polemical works, (2) in the Talmud and the Midrash, and (3) in the life of Jesus ("Toledot Yeshu'") that originated in the Middle Ages.  As we can see, all of them are post-Christianity works. 

In 1947, a Bedouin boy discovered scrolls and fragments in a cave close to the northwest shore of the Dead Sea.  Since that time, in the following 10 years (1947-1956), ten more caves in the same area of the then Jordanian-controlled West Bank near the Wadi Qumran were discovered.  These written materials were dated from the end of the third century B.C. up to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  They have been called “Dead Sea Scrolls.”  These discoveries have borne eloquent testimony to the shape of the text of the Old Testament or to the way that ancient Palestine Judaism understood their Hebrew Bible.  For example, the entire sixty-six chapters of the book of Isaiah were discovered in cave 1.  They were from 150-100 B.C.  It means that we have testimonies of Palestinian Judaism from pre-Christian era.  These materials have rendered some information proving that the New Testament teachings about Christ are not post-Christ makeup stories or legends, but are deeply rooted in the messianic expectations of  Palestine Judaism in the first century. 

One example is the use of the title, “Son of God,” for Jesus Christ.  This title is used sometimes for corporate Israel, or king on the Davidic throne, or of angels, or even of an individual Jew in the Old Testament.  However, rabbinical writings and contemporary Jewish scholarship do not want to refer Jesus as the Son of God.  There may be some reasons.  For example, calling Him “the Son of God” means they have to recognize His deity.  How can God have a Son distinguished from human beings?  However, the Qumran materials show that “the Son of God” was a messianic title in Palestine Judaism. 

[X shall become gr]eat upon the earth.  All peoples sha]ll make [peace with him]; and they shall all serve [him.  For] he shall be called [the holy one of] the [G]reat [God]; by His Name he shall be named. (Col. 2) He shall be hailed the Son of God, and they shall call him son of the Most High.  Like the comets you saw (in your vision), for (some) years they shall rule over the land, and shall trample on all: one people shall trample on all: one people shall trample upon another, and one province on an[o]ther, (vacat) until there arises the people of God, and everyone rests from the sword (vacat). (4Q246 1:8-2:4)

Hence we find two important titles for the Messiah: “Son of God” and “Son of the Most High.”  Both titles are mentioned in the Lucan infancy narrative.  Luke 1:32 says, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.”  Luke 1:35 says, “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”  The quoted document proves that such titles were in current use in Palestine Judaism.  It supports the Christian view that the Jews, before Christian era, expected the Messiah to come and to be called the Son of God and the Son of the Most High.  John 5:23 says, “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.”  Jesus is our Messiah, the Son of God! 

Lovingly,  Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



QUESTION 63: Which is the fifth commandment? The fifth commandment is, Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Please pray for health & God’s healing: Ps Ki, Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren, Rev Peter Clements, Rev David Koo, Rev Timothy Tow, Dr S H Tow, Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan; Bros S Dhamarlingam (post coronary by-pass surgery), Makoto Kobayashi, Raphael Ng’s father, & Winston Selvanayagam; Sisters Sheila George, Myung Ki, Alice Lee’s father, Aranka Rejtoe, Iris Surman, Sally Teng, Juanita Tong, Susan Veradi, & Giok Yeo’s sister-in-law; Auntie Oei & others in affliction. "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped:” (Ps 28:7a).

Please pray for – a) Cambodia Missions - Rev & Mrs Moses Hahn & Ministry (Sihanoukville); Bro Roth Pannith & Ministry (Paillin); b) Laos Missions - Bro S Dhamarlingam; c) Pastors & believers in India & Pakistan; d) Sketch n’ Tell Ministry - Bro H S Lim; e) Journey Mercies - Sis Juanita Tong’s parents (Syd); f) Jobs for - Mr Leo Xeng & Sis Yee Min Tee; g) YAF members - Evangelism event “September 30 in 30” & salvation of all who received tracts; h) Transport ministry - for more to come forward to help in this important ministry.

Praise and Thank God for – a) YAF Bible Study & BSAG Bible Study & Prayer, Ladies’ Fellowship Prayer and “Hymn & Tea” Meetings. b) Journey mercies - Ps Ki (USA & Adl), Sisters Bindu George (Melb) & Serene Wong (Melb & Adl); c) USA ministry of Ps Ki.
Special Thanks from Sis Iris Surman: for Hopefuls’ support and prayers.

Please pray for The Lord to provide $10,950 for Pastor’s car fund.

Please note: ECM has been scheduled for 24 September 2006.

AFG Dinner: Please let Sisters Joyce Gong or Serene Wong know ASAP if you are coming for the dinner.

Service Roster for next qtr: Please let Dn Edwin D’Mello know of your availability to serve the Lord in the Oct-Dec quarter.

Church Directory needs updating.  Please give your contact details to Sis Josephine Lee.



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