Does Jesus Claim to be the Messiah?

Here is a 5 minute video with Dr.s Walter Kaiser, Michael Brown, and Darrell Bock (all contributors to The Gospel According to Isaiah 53) discussing whether Jesus claimed to be the Messiah foretold in Isaiah 53.

About the book:

Publisher’s Description: The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 presents the redemptive work of the Messiah to the Jewish community, exploring issues of atonement and redemption in light of Isaiah chapter 53. It is clear that Jesus fulfills the specifications of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. This book has many potential uses in its presentation of the gospel for Jewish people. Pastors who study it will find unparalleled help in preparing Bible studies and sermons, so that their listeners will become better equipped to tell Jewish people about Jesus. It will be beneficial as supplemental reading for classes on Isaiah, the Prophets, and Jewish evangelism. And believers will be trained to share Isaiah 53 with Jewish friends and family.

the church in China

is really growing!  God is on the move!

Over at the Gospel Coalition website: Matt Smethurst interviews (via translation) Liao Yiwu, whose book God Is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China (HarperOne, 2011) won the Books & Culture 2011 Book of the Year award.

It is pretty interesting to read.  There was one segment that stood out to me about how Christianity in China has or is beginning to become distinctively “Chinese.”   Here it is:

You observe that in China “there is now a new Christian identity that is distinctively Chinese.” What do you mean?

One hundred fifty years ago, the London-based China Inland Mission started to send missionaries to China. Many of those brave Christians set their sights on the villages hidden up in the mountains. Because modern transportation was lacking, they journeyed for many days to reach them, arriving just in time to save the mountain people from a devastating bubonic epidemic with Western medicine and their knowledge of modern hygienic practices. They also preached Christianity, which, to the locals, was as foreign as their own appearances.

Gradually, these brave men and women won the hearts and minds of villagers, who for generations had found solace in the chanting of local shamans and the worshiping of pagan gods. Over the past century, the Christian faith has passed down from generation to generation despite the government’s brutal persecution against Christians in the 1960s and 1970s. In those villages, Christianity has taken root and become a part of the local heritage. It is as indigenous and life-sustaining as qiaoba, a popular buckwheat cake. During my visit there, I never felt that the locals had embraced a foreign religion. It blended seamlessly with the local cultures. Villagers held their services led by local leaders in their native tongues, and celebrated their Eucharist or Christian holidays in a way that they knew the best—local delicacies. It definitely had a distinctive Chinese identity.

Isn’t this really good news?  Isn’t how things should be?  That the nations receive the gospel and make it their own?  Now I could see a bunch of conservative Christians getting their pants in wad over the people using local delicacies to take communion as though it “must” be bread and wine specifically.  But hey?  Where does it say that in the Bible?  Sure Jesus says the bread is his body and the wine is his blood, but would that not be a case of contextualization in that setting?  Getting in a fuss over this, I think, would be to miss the point and miss out on the fact that the many peoples of China are taking on this ordinance as their own, they are taking on the person and work of Jesus Christ as their own and applying it and I think that is and should be the ultimate goal of the Christian missionary task.

Good things are happening in China and the Far East!   And do take note, Liao Yiwu does say China is still in great need of missionaries, those who will go to the vast number of isolated (and unreached) villages to bring the gospel to those peoples!

Isaiah 6:8

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I.  Send me!”

given that it is Lenten season

is it coinicidental that parts of Isaiah 53 would be in the readings of Bagster’s Daily Light on Bible Works 8 today?

וְהוּא֙ מְחֹלָ֣ל מִפְּשָׁעֵ֔נוּ מְדֻכָּ֖א מֵעֲוֹנֹתֵ֑ינוּ מוּסַ֤ר שְׁלוֹמֵנ֙וּ֙ עָלָ֔יו וּבַחֲבֻרָת֖וֹ נִרְפָּא־לָֽנוּ׃ כֻּלָּ֙נוּ֙ כַּצֹּ֣אן תָּעִ֔ינוּ אִ֥ישׁ לְדַרְכּ֖וֹ פָּנִ֑ינוּ וַֽיהוָה֙ הִפְגִּ֣יעַ בּ֔וֹ אֵ֖ת עֲוֹ֥ן כֻּלָּֽנוּ׃ מֵעֹ֤צֶר וּמִמִּשְׁפָּט֙ לֻקָּ֔ח וְאֶת־דּוֹר֖וֹ מִ֣י יְשׂוֹחֵ֑חַ כִּ֤י נִגְזַר֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ חַיִּ֔ים מִפֶּ֥שַׁע עַמִּ֖י נֶ֥גַע לָֽמוֹ׃ וַיהוָ֞ה חָפֵ֤ץ דַּכְּאוֹ֙ הֶֽחֱלִ֔י אִם־תָּשִׂ֤ים אָשָׁם֙ נַפְשׁ֔וֹ יִרְאֶ֥ה זֶ֖רַע יַאֲרִ֣יךְ יָמִ֑ים וְחֵ֥פֶץ יְהוָ֖ה בְּיָד֥וֹ יִצְלָֽח׃

a compilation of  Isa 53:5,6,8,10….

why you NEED to study the biblical languages and linguistics

Eminent Greek Scholar Daniel Wallace of his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics fame has written an article over at the Parchment and Pen blog discussing the merits (or the lack thereof) of a supposedly wildly popular video claiming to explain, from the Bible, why President Obama is “the” Anti-Christ.  Dr. Wallace takes the video apart piece by piece showing the utter falsities of its claims on a solid linguistic  basis.

The narrator of the video in discussion makes many ignorant claims such as that Aramaic is the oldest form of Hebrew, but then contradicts himself when he says the Aramaic Jesus spoke is close to the form of Hebrew spoken today.  Both of these are false claims. Aramaic may have similarities to Hebrew but it is not a form of Hebrew.  Knowing language changes over time, how can he say the Aramaic Jesus spoke  2000 years ago be similar to a language spoken 2000 years later?  Then he goes on to put together some pretty poor exegesis and makes lots of lingusitic leapfrogs and does exegetical gymnastics.  

He did raise a conteroversial issue, did Jesus speak only Aramaic or did he also speak Koine Greek?  This author insists Jesus only spoke Aramaic but I tend to side with Wallace that, of course Jesus spoke Aramaic but it only seems natural, his being a carpenter of sorts (probably specialized in farming tools but did some masonry too) that he would speak some Greek.  It was, afterall, the lingua franca of the day.  Why would he not? 

So, all that to say, his attempt to prove Obama is the AC, from the Bible, is poorly executed.  But more importantly, if folks were aware of even basic exegetical method and linguistic principles along with a basic understanding of the biblical languages, this video would not be as wildly popular as it seems to be – it would be ignored or laughed off the exegetical stage

So, PLEASE study the biblical languages so you won’t keep getting DUPED. 

I report, you decide.

New Book: Encountering the Book of Isaiah: A Historical and Theological Survey

isaiahBecause of all the crazy weather over the last month our family had a bit of a delayed Christmas time together in combination with Mercy’s brithday (you could say she got a lot of presents!).  One of my gifts was Dr. Bryan E. Beyer (PhD, Hebrew Union College) Encountering the Book of Isaiah: A Historical and Theological Survey (Baker Academic, 2007).   If you go to the Amazon page where this is, I was hpoing for the combo where it says “Frequently bought together.”  But, alas!  I’ll take this as a start! 

Here is a descriptor from the Baker website:

In this new addition to the Encountering Biblical Studies series, Bryan Beyer offers a comprehensive introduction to the book of Isaiah that surveys the book’s content, its meaning in its original context, and its application for people today. Beyer presents the prophet’s recurring themes of remnant, the sovereignty of God, the Day of the Lord, covenant obligations, Messiah, and God and the nations. He gives special attention to Isaiah’s use of geographical issues to illustrate his message, Isaiah’s place in the canon of Scripture, and the implications of the book for mission.

Beyer has provided a clear and readable text based on his experience of teaching the Old Testament for over twenty years. As with other volumes in the series, Encountering the Book of Isaiah is specifically designed with students in mind. Chapters begin with outlines and objectives that allow easy entry into the discussion and end with conclusions and study questions that aid comprehension and recall. Informative sidebars delve further into the language, theological connections, and controversies of Isaiah. This helpful survey will be valued by any serious student of the Bible. 

I was surprised in browsing the preface that he said he wrote it for upper undergrduate and graduate level students since it is pretty much a basic introduction/survey of the book of Isaiah.  Well, perhaps, he says one will need some prior knowledge of the Bible in general and biblical studies as well and even a working knoweldge of the issues in Isaiah to get the best use of the book.  I’ll have to read it and see how I do.  I did get OT studies in seminary but didn’t get the chance to do a study specifically on Isaiah (that came after I left the seminary (shouldn’t wonder)!  😉

Here are a couple of the endorsements/reviews:

“[An] accessible tour of one of the most complex and magisterial books of the canon. Beyer’s judicious discussions show a depth of knowledge and a balanced assessment of difficult issues. The student of Isaiah will find the book opened up in ways that will promote scholarship as well as faith.”–John H. Walton, Wheaton College


“[This book] is written in reader-friendly fashion, with sidebars, chapter outlines and objectives, glossaries of key terms, study questions, and suggestions for further reading. I think people with very little background would cope with it fine. . . . The book also works hard to show how Isaiah relates to people’s individual lives. It shows good awareness of many aspects of modern study of Isaiah. . . . It includes useful documents such as the Siloam inscription and Sennacherib’s account of his siege of Jerusalem. I can imagine it being useful in Bible College courses and in study groups in conservative churches.”–John Goldingay, Expository Times
Depending on how this book works out, if it goes well and I like it, I plan on getting one for each of the what I consider to be the major books of the Bible – Genesis, (I have Isaiah), one of the Gospels, maybe John, Romans, and the Revelation.

Ben Witherington on Isaiah 7:14

Secondly, it needs to be stressed that Isaiah 7.14 while patient of the interpretation that it refers to a virginal conception, was never interpreted that way before the time of Mary of Nazareth.  Why not, because a literal rendering of the Hebrew there is as follows “an almah will conceive and give birth to a child…..”.  The normal translation of almah is ‘a young nubile woman of marriageable age.  Now, in an honor and shame culture, this would normally include the conception of the virginity of the woman, and thus we should not conclude that the LXX translation of almah is incorrect, when it renders the word as parthenos.  The latter is a term with a more limited semantic field, focusing more clearly on the virginity of the woman. 

Even so, what Is. 7.14 and in particular“a virgin will conceive and give birth to a child” seems to have been understood to mean in early Judaism was that a woman who was a virgin would conceive by the normal means and give birth to a king.  In short, no one seems to have been looking for a virginally conceived messiah in early Judaism.  And this leads to an important conclusion—it was the unexpected event in the life of Mary that led latter Christian interpreters to search the OT and interpret Is. 7.14 as they did (see Mt. 1-2).  In other words, the claims that the story of the virginal conception is an example of prophecy historicized, rather than being a reflection on an actual historical event, won’t work because Jews did not read that prophecy that way.  On the contrary, it was the actual historical event that led to the re-evaluation of OT prophecies, including in particular Is. 7.14.


Isaiah 35:1-10 – Joy in Advent

Here is the sermon I did this weekend that I wanted to share with you all. Let me know what you think.

The Joy of Transformation: Isaiah 35:1-10

Do you watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition? In my opinion it is one of the better shows on TV because of the good things they do for people who are often in such destitute situations that without help they will not get out of it – in desperation they send in a video application to the show and hope and dream that maybe Ty and the gang will one day show up at their home – to build them a new one! What is the response? Spontaneous shouts of Joy! What is the response when folks see the new house? Shouts of Joy and gladness that bring tears of happiness! Sometimes people will stand in awe and then joy will rise out of them and they cannot contain their emotions and they shout and rejoice at the blessing they have received from Ty and the gang – many often attribute the blessing to God and rightfully so.

Well, in the passage we are going to look at today we will see future descriptions of the People of Israel and also the creation shouting for joy and rejoicing as the people return to the land after having been in exile for 70 years in Babylon – they got back to Israel to find their land destroyed and overgrown – yet in this passage in Isaiah following on the heels of a judgment passage there is a prophecy that in the midst of suffering and morning the Glory of the Lord will return to Zion and the people will see the deliverance of the Lord – the blind will see – the deaf will hear – the lame man shall leap – and the mute shall sing for joy! In addition, not only will the people shout for joy at the presence of the Lord – so too the creation will express joy at the redemption of Israel.

ISAIAH 35:1-10

1 The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus,

2 it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.

3 Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;

4 say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”

5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.

7 The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

8 And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness.
The unclean will not journey on it;
it will be for those who walk in that Way;
wicked fools will not go about on it.

9 No lion will be there,
nor will any ferocious beast get up on it;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,

10 and the ransomed of the LORD will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Exegetical Notes:

There are several Hebrew words in this passage for joy – they are synonyms yet they have slightly different nuances (though of course some overlap).

Joy is characteristic of the life of faith. It marks both the life of the community of faith and the life of the individual believer. Joy is a quality and not simply an emotion. Above all God is both the object and giver of our joy!

This first word gil, refers especially to joy before God and is associated with rejoicing. It has to do with a person’s expression of jubilation and joy because of what God has done on behalf of his people.

The next word is raan. Its basic meaning is to yell. On most occasions it describes an emotional and physical response to the presence and provision of God. So it often indicates a loud, enthusiastic, and joyful shout; So how this word is used (because it can mean yell) is determined by the context – in this case it is the joyful, enthusiastic shout in praise to God for his redemptive provision. Despite the root being related to yelling, there are over fifty occurrences, in the OT where it expresses happiness, joy, or relief, occurring in association with other vbs. that express a similar joyful emotion.

While there may be many reasons for joyful expression, by far the predominant object of the shout of joy in all its OT occurrences is God!

God evokes shouts of joy from his people because of his acts of redemption. In our passage we see that God will rescue his people from their dispersion among the nations, and they will respond with shouts of joy especially as they see the tremendous bounty of grain, wine, and oil that God will provide for them.

In the Bible, a multitude of voices shout for joy to God. Most often the ones who shout are God’s people. Prov 29:6 tells is it is only the righteous who can shout for joy; the wicked are unable because of their sin. In Isa 26:19, we see it described that the dead rise out of their dusty graves to “shout for joy” before the Lord. Job 38:7 describes the angels as shouting for joy at the sight of God creating the world.

In our passage in throughout the Psalms and Prophets, different parts of God’s inanimate creation also take part in the symphony of praise. In our passage it is the wilderness and dry land; In Isa 44:23; 49:13, the heavens give praise to God; the mountains do the same in Ps 98:8; as well as the trees in Ps 96:12; Tabor and Hermon [89:12 (13)]; and Lady Wisdom [Prov 1:20; 8:3]).

Finally, there is samach (also simcah). It signifies a spontaneous and vocal expression of joy rather than a restrained frame of mind. In verse 10 we see the redeemed of the Lord are overtaken by joy in being able to return to Zion and worship God! Sometimes we need to realize it is okay to shout to God in joyful exaltation to him for his miraculous provision in our lives! And that its is okay to be happy.

When samach occurs we often see the expressive nature of the word: for example in 1 Chron 15:16 and Ezra 3:12 it means to lift up one’s voice. In Gen 31:27, 2 Chron 23:18, and Ps 137:3 thee is singing. Ps 9 and 68 tell us to sing praise.

In such texts as Genesis 31, Deut 12; 1 Chron 29; in Esther and the Psalms 104:15 samach often serves as part of a festive celebration that entails eating and drinking and the playing of various instruments. Other expressive activities that occur along with samach are dancing which we see in 2 Sam 6:14-16, clapping the hands as in Isa 55:12 and Ezek 25:6, and stamping the feet (Ezek 25:6).

samach serves as the polar opposite for mourning (Ps 30:11 [12]) and gloom (Isa 24:11).

These words for joy also indicate a sense of future rejoicing. Both Jeremiah and Isaiah (as in our passage) affirm that the day when Yahweh restores Israel to her land inheritance will be a day of joyful shouting and gladness. Zech 8:19 draws attention to the abundant blessings awaiting Israel by making a contrast between the present days of fasting and future feast days. In this passage, the Lord will transform the fasts that commemorate dark days in Israel’s history into joyful days of feasting. Instead of mourning (as was the case with Israel during and following the exile), these days will be characterizes by joyfulness and festive celebration because of the redemption Yahweh will accomplish on Israel’s behalf. In fact, in Zeph 3:17 God himself will rejoice over his covenant people.

There is one other word I want us to look at in this passage. In our passage, in verse 10 we see that the ransomed of Yahweh who will return to Zion with singing will be overtaken, or overwhelmed by joy and gladness and, with the departure of sorrow and sighing, will experience uninterrupted happiness (Isa 35:10). In this case, the salvation of the Lord will be so great that the people of Israel will simply be overtaken by the joy of their newfound freedom and redemption. At the same time, this idea of overtaking could equally well be translated “they overtake gladness and joy,” in which case the meaning would be that the joy that had been previously eluding their grasp will now at last be caught and possessed. They have longed to walk in the joy of the Lord and in his redemption they have finally obtained it!

In this season of Advent there are plenty of reasons for allowing ourselves to be overtaken by joy and gladness.

The first is that Jesus Christ came into the world to usher in a new messianic age: At his birth there was joy because the people knew Jesus was the long promised messiah – when the angel announced to Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth would have a son – he noted there would be joy and gladness (Lk 1:14). In the magnificant Mary rejoices at the notion that she is to give birth to the Messiah (Lk 1:46) and then when Jesus is born there is much rejoicing (Lk 2:14). There was much Joy is in the hearts of the people because they knew God had finally come to live with and among his people.

The second is because Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14). Through his coming into the world we are now able to experience the future coming messianic age through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives. Jesus is Emmanuel “God with us”. Because God is with us – the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk; there is evidence of the Kingdom among us! When John was in prison and beginning to wonder if Jesus was really the Messiah – he sent his disciples to ask Jesus about this – he pointed to this text in Isaiah. In Matthew 11:4 and following Jesus does not point to political or militaristic evidence of the kingdom but rather spiritual and physical evidence through the various healings and miracles that had been performed. Joy is in our hearts because God has finally come to live with and among his people.

The third reason for joy in this season of advent is because we know Jesus will come again – and when he does even the creation will be full of gladness and joy and will rejoice at the restoration of creation and the coming messianic age (cf. Rom 8:18ff.). We call this an eschatological hope – a hope based on the future promises that God will finally bring all suffering, oppression and injustice to an end. Lets look again at Isaiah 35:2. It says one day we will they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. Here is a reference to shekinah glory of the Lord that will come down and rest upon Zion and the creation and as a result there will be no more blindness – deafness – lameness – the mute will sing with joy to the Lord for his saving power. It will be an awesome day!

Why is it hard for some to have joy in this season? Some have bad memories of Christmas’ past, some remember loved ones who have passed away – some get caught up in their own situations and have difficulty being joyful – how can we overcome this?

Focus on God and his love for you – when you dwell on your own circumstances we often lose joy – look outward to what God is doing and you will find new joy.

Let your heart be full of anticipation for the coming of Jesus. As out text notes in verse 4: “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come… he will come to save you.” Remember that despite the struggles we face, God has and is coming to save us! That should bring you plenty of joy in this Christmas Season.

Don’t celebrate the material aspects of Christmas but the spiritual aspects in the coming of Jesus into the world. His joy in us will be inner transformation and change in or hearts that will reflect his presence in us.

God’s presence in our hearts and lives and in the world brings transformation and a day is coming when that transformation will be completed in the permanent coming of God into the world!

In this season of Advent let your heart be filled with the joy that comes form knowing that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us – because a day is coming when God will throw down injustice and oppression and will fully and permanently (and physically) live among his people. Let your heart be full of hope and expectation that God will bring deliverance and healing to all.