The Rabbi, The Scholar and the Messiah - The Real Kosher Jesus [PART FOUR]

January 27, 2014

With this post, we conclude our review and summary of Dr. Michael L. Brown’s book, The Real Kosher Jesus: Revealing the Mysteries of the Hidden Messiah. The book was published as counterbalance and response to Orthodox Rabbi Shmuely Boteach’s book Kosher Jesus in which he sought to present a de-supernaturalized Jesus, very Jewish in his context, appropriate for Gentiles who might wish to believe in him, but out of bounds of Jews. Brown sets out on the contrary to present a Jesus who, while fully Jewish and compatible with prophetic expectation and Jewish norms, was also the one whom God had sent for the salvation of the entire world, beginning with the Jews first, and who was fully supernatural as to his origins, ministry, and destiny—as the first person raised from the dead to embodied immortality, “The first fruits of those who are asleep.”

We are now in the third and final section of Brown’s book.  This section,  “The Hidden Messiah of Israel,” lists seven hidden mysteries or secrets  about the Messiah, which Brown sets out to reveal. In my previous blog post I examined for those hidden mysteries. And this post, I will examine the remaining three, and also the Epilogue and two appendices with which Brown ends his book.

Unknown-2In Chapter Thireen, Brown discusses the fifth of his seven secrets of the Messian, “The Secret of the Prophet Greater Than Moses.” In Deuteronomy, Moses promised that God would raise up a prophet like himself to lead Israel, but at the end of the book of Deuteronomy we are told that at that time no  prophet comparable to Moses had yet arisen in Israel. From examining the Dead Sea Scrolls and listening to the testimony of the New Testament, we discover that by the first century an expectation had developed that an end time prophet would come as a precursor to the coming of Messiah.  The Manual of Discipline from the Dead Sea Scrolls said this:

“They shall depart from none of the counsels of the Law to walk in the stubbornness of their hearts, but shall be ruled by the primitive precepts in which the men of the Community were first instructed until there shall come The Prophet and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel.”

And of course, in a number of places, this expectation of someone called The Prophet is evidenced in the New Covenant as well. For example, in John 1:21, we find the religious authorities inquiring of John the Baptist as to who he truly is:

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” V20. He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

Jewish expectation was clear that this Prophet would be greater even than Moses. Brown quotes from the 14th century collection of much older midrashim, Yalkut Shimoni, that the Messiah would be higher than Abraham, than Moses, and than angels. And of course this reminds us of the language of the first chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews where just such an argument is made about Yeshua the Messiah. Browns point is that the things that we say about Yeshua as Messiah are entirely compatible with what Jewish tradition says about the Messiah. The concepts and claims are not foreign imports.

Chapter Fourteen considers “The Secret of Six Thousand Years,” examining the Jewish tradition that the Messiah was to come about 2,000 years ago. The Babylonian Talmud also reports , “Our Rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot [‘For the Lord’] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white.” The crimson-colored strap was tied to the outside of the Holy of Holies and the tradition was that when the atonement sacrifice was made by the High Priest, that red strap would turn white as a sign that the sacrifice had been accepted. According to the Talmud, about 40 years before the Roman sacking of Jerusalem, this sign stopped occurring—which is just about the time that Yeshua had died and risen again. Sone view this to be an indication that the Messiah’s sacrifice had been accepted and that these other sacrifices were now invalid.  Brown draws the reasonable conclusion that Jewish sources hint that “the Messiah was expected to come twenty centuries ago, but something terrible happened.”

In Chapter Fifteen, spinning off of today’s appetite for mystical experiences and pop-Kabbalah,  Brown considers “The Secret of the Hidden Wisdom.” He teaches that the wisdom we seek, the power we seek, the knowledge we seek is all wrapped up in one “package” and that is the Messiah himself. The secret wisdom of the ages was God’s plan to unite all things together in Messiah, reconciling all to each other and to Himself, and in in the process. renewing all of creation. This great wisdom is the ultimate paradox because it is through his weakness and humiliation that Messiah passes into a realm of supreme honor and and power.

Brown’s Epilogue strongly demonstrates that we may not simply contend that Yeshua is the Savior of the Gentiles and that the Jews have no interest in him. The Newer Testament scriptures will not allow for this because they make plain that it is only because he is the Messiah of Israel that he brings any benefit to the Gentiles, the other nations of the world. Brown expresses this well when he says, “Jesus did not come into the world to establish a lovely new Gentile religion called Christianity.” Rather, as Paul says so beautifully in his Letter to the Romans 15: 8-9 “. . . the Messiah became a servant of the Jewish people in order to show God’s truthfulness by making good his promises to the Patriarchs, and in order to show his mercy by causing the Gentiles to glorify God.”  He is called “Christ” [Messiah], 500 times in the Newer Testament, and of the Messiah it is written in Isaiah 49:5-6

And now the Lord says,

he who formed me from the womb to be his servant,

to bring Jacob back to him;

and that Israel might be gathered to him—

for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord,

and my God has become my strength—

he says:

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant

to raise up the tribes of Jacob

and to bring back the preserved of Israel;

I will make you as a light for the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Thus says the Lord,

the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,

to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation,

the servant of rulers:

“Kings shall see and arise;

princes, and they shall prostrate themselves;

because of the Lord, who is faithful,

the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

In that passage it is clear that the Messiah, “the One Man Israel,”  “one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers,” has a dual ministry—to Israel and to the nations.  The Newer Covenant scriptures pick up on this in their account of Simeon/Shimon the  Righteous who encountered the infant Yeshua in the Temple courts. In Luke’s Besorah (Gospel) we read this:

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,

according to your word;

for my eyes have seen your salvation

that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and for glory to your people Israel.”

Again, this duality, the Messiah is BOTH “a light for revelation to the Gentiles AND for glory to [God’s] people Israel.”

Finally, in the books Appendices, Brown deals in turn with the dependability of the New Testamental documents, and briefly with Rabbi Boteach’s eight reasons why the Jews cannot except Jesus. Because this latter material is so extensive, in this appendix, Brown directs readers to his other books which deal with such matters in scholarly detail.

Michael Brown’s book is well-organized, and quite readable. Those seeking greater scholastic depth should avail themselves of his extensive footnotes which demonstrate his breadth of knowledge and that he has done his homework. Beyond that, one should read his five volumes on Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus which are comprehensive, scholarly, and fascinating reading. The current book, The Real Kosher Jesus, might fairly be considered a gateway book to those five others. I admire Brown for his consistent irenic tone. Although he disagrees with others, he never denigrates them. His manner is always respectful and warm, and this is no small accomplishment.  My only unscratched itch in reading this book is that he fails to consider how Yeshua’s identity as the Son of David impacts the people of Israel as a covenantal people of God. Like almost everyone I encounter, Brown operates out of an individualistic mindset—thinking of Yeshua as the Messiah/Savior of individuals. He is much more than that: He is the Executor of the fulfillment of God’s covenantal promises to Israel, the one in whom those purposes move forward and to their consummation. I believe those purposes involve a return to Jewish covenantal living, to obeying the stipulations of Torah in the power of the Spirit.  Dr. Brown does not touch that or other related matters which I term "The Ezekiel Agenda," as outlined in Ezekiel 37:21-28.  I regret that the good Dr. Brown leaves these factors untouched.

To understand more of what these entail, I direct everyone here and also here, which are two monographs I have written where I explore the impact of Yeshua’s coming on Israel as a covenant nation, and upon the other nations as well.

Reading this text, I admired Dr. Brown’s intellectual acumen, organizational ability, and writing skill.  I believe you will too.


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