Is there anything Jewish lurking in this cultural symbol?

Conversation Starter: Is the Idea of the Cross Jewish?

Is there anything Jewish lurking in this cultural symbol?

Is there anything Jewish lurking in this cultural symbol?

The following excerpt is from the beginning of a chapter in my upcoming discipleship guide for Messianic Judaism. I include it here as a prelude to a few discussion questions. I hope you, readers, will join in the discussion. This afternoon and evening I will be replying to comments.

Ask any person what they think is the big point about Jesus and they are likely to talk about how he died for people. The death of Messiah, as an act of love for people in need of forgiving and healing, is a cultural theme in Western society. Never mind that without the resurrection and ascension the cross would have been the end of an ineffective martyr. What people are reacting to is the sacrificial love and the beauty of the idea that all people can have redemption.

The theme people are thinking about, in its deeper meaning, is atonement. The word atonement is not really found in the Bible. It is more of an idea bringing many terms together. It was coined in English from the phrase “at one.” In the ultimate sense atonement is being made “at one” with God. But how does atonement work? Is it a Christian idea or a Jewish one?

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There are two basic ways to work on a theory of the meaning of Yeshua’s atoning death. One way is to start with the cross and work backwards into the Hebrew Bible. This approach, which is a Christian one, re-read verses of the “Old Testament” in light of certain presupposed ideas about the cross. The other is, as much as possible, to read it forward. That is to say, we can read the ideas related to atonement in the Hebrew Bible and understand the cross in light of what came before.

Many interpretations have used the first approach with what I would argue are inaccurate results. The realization that Messiah is our atonement came into being from a rich background that already existed in the Jewish scriptures. Yeshua came as Israel’s Messiah, so it is incongruous to think our task should be to erase the lessons of Torah about atonement and overwrite them with a new theology. If Yeshua is not the apex of all the sacrificial symbolism of Israel’s Tabernacle and Temple, then how is he Israel’s Messiah?

Let’s have some discussion and feel free to tackle any one or two of these questions in a comment.

  1. How does an over-emphasis on the death (as opposed to incarnation, resurrection, ascension, return) of Yeshua distort our faith? Specific examples helpful.
  2. Have you heard some bad examples of interpreting the “Old Testament” in light of the cross that you can share?
  3. What does atonement mean to you?
  4. How is Yeshua’s death like a sacrifice?
  5. How is Yeshua’s death not like a sacrifice?
  6. What have you learned about Messiah and atonement that deepened your faith?


  1. I’ll leave a starter comment to pave the way for people who might want to discuss, but are not sure what sort of responses I’m asking for. I’m looking for short comments picking one or two of the questions for some conversation. I’ll take on 1 and 2 as an example:

    1. Focusing on “the cross” only has led many people in my experience to think of Jesus as being a ticket to a happy afterlife party and there is little relevance to the idea of Jesus for daily living. It becomes something he did in the past instead of something ongoing and meaningful.

    2. I once read a “Meaning of the Tabernacle” sermon that got really specific and said things like the meat hooks in the Tabernacle courtyard (for hanging an animal carcass for the purpose of flaying and preparing for the altar) were symbols of the nails in Jesus’ hands and feet.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly with your first point here. I refer it to the “get out of hell free” card. The focus in the large majority of churches I’ve attended of visited has been on salvation as solely about living in heaven rather than hell. There is little focus on salvation as now or living an abundant life which is not materially necessarily but one free of being enslaved to sin. They teach we are not “under the law” and therefore, we are not expected to live according to Torah except for the 10 Commandments. And even then, no one clearly understand the 10 Principles (more correctly interpreted).

  2. I have two questions for you instead of answers.

    Jewish anti-missionaries draw attention to Hebrews 9:22, specifically that there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood. Their point is that the Torah does in fact provide for sin without the shedding of blood.

    A second issue they bring up is that the Torah forbids human sacrifice therefore God using a human as a sacrifice would violate that.

    How would you respond to these?

    1. Regarding the comment/questions about the Temple sacrificial system and how Yeshua’s death relates, I think we have to remember that Yeshua’s sacrifice was according to the “order of Melchizedek” and NOT according to the order of the Aaronic priesrthood.. In other words if we are looking for EXACT parallels to the Levitical system of sacrifice, we will not find them. The two “orders” have differing but overlapping functions with the former “shadowing/prefiguring” the latter.

      Anyway, with regard to Daniel’s questions, these “objections” by anti/counter missionaries are easily answered, but I will defer first to Derek to hear his take.

    2. Daniel, my comment to your second question (though you posed it to Derek) is that the binding of Isaac preempts the Torah’s prohibition against child sacrifice. The example of the offering of the promised seed is commanded by God but forbidden for others to duplicate. This is a clear picture of the sacrifice of Christ in the Torah.

  3. Regarding your point #2: During a particular study, I once saw a video teaching by a very well-known women’s Bible teacher a description of the encampment of the Israelites in the desert in the form of the cross with the tabernacle at the center and the tribes arranged north, south, east and west. She thrilled the audience with how this represents the eventual cross of salvation. A great example of supersessionist assumptions that remain unspoken but which continue to influence the Christian world in America. It’s as if the entire history of the people of Israel was lived and recorded for the sake of the one ultimate moment of the cross so that we could go to heaven. Never mind the intrinsic beauty of the story of God’s people throughout centuries as they follow a faithful LORD who keeps his promises to the Fathers.

  4. 4) Yeshua is not like a sacrifice in that: he is not a clean animal (only clean animals could be offered); he is not without blemish (no animal scourged as he was would be a fit sacrifice); he was not offered on the Temple altar by the priesthood (common Israelites were not authorized to offer sacrifices, much less outside the Temple precincts); he was not offered as any of the Levitical sacrifices (e.g. burnt offering, peace offering, grain offering, sin offering, or guilt offering).

    The sacrificial language used to describe the crucifixion is purely symbolic, with the exception that one could argue the view that Yeshua sacrificed his own life willingly as as pure tzaddik. He was not, however, a sacrifice in any traditional, Levitical sense.

    1. I agree with that, and interpreting Yeshua as a Levitical sacrifice is the main, but incorrect, evidence used to show that Jesus came to abolish the Temple system. If Christians had more knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures they would not make this error.

    2. A good point, has anyone looked into which biblical texts support the value of the death of a tzadik gadol? Or is it mostly found within midrash and Zohar?

    3. Agreed, Jeremy R….another interesting picture which speaks to your point is the tearing asunder of the veil before the Holy of Holies. The veil is a clear representation of the “flesh” of Christ, and by being “torn” disqualifies Him as an offering according to the Levitical system.

      I think the better picture of “atonement” in regard to the crucifixion is Leviticus 16. The Lord is the escapegoat which is cast away. This picture is also represented in the story of Joseph being cast into the pit (the grave) and then taken away.

  5. An over emphasis on the death of Yeshua for sin (and as you mention, interpreting that as a “ticket to heaven”) has also caused the churches who function in the Protestant paradigm to ignore eschatology. In my decades of life in the church, I’ve noticed increasing hesitancy of even discussing the return of Messiah for fear of causing controversy. And the fear of controversy is somehow related to an idea that those “young” in the faith will lose their faith (and thus not “go to heaven”) if we discuss difficult matters or any subject for which a firm systematic theological answer can not be ascertained. It has made for a very narrow approach to Scripture, and definitely relegates the Hebrew Bible to non-essential status. A very weak position if one desires to know God and live faithfully.

  6. I mentioned question 1 on facebook.

    2. I read a huge blog post once from a man who believed that because of the Cross he could examine and judge the workings of the entire “Old Testament”. In this particular post he wrote that it was obvious because of the Cross that the Israelites weren’t equipped to understand G-d at all and every choice they made including the way they kept the commandments was utterly incorrect, because…according to him…they just didn’t know any better yet. It was by far one of the most ridiculous ways I’d heard the history of the people explained.

    I will have some answers for the other questions after I’ve had a bit to think about it.

  7. Daniel:

    You mentioned that counter-missionaries say that Hebrews 9:22 (“there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood”) is false since there are some cases where an atonement is made without blood in Torah (grain offering in place of an animal, payment of a fine, etc.).

    The counter-missionaries, as always, are too smart to actually believe their own rhetoric. I believe them to be disingenuous when they make arguments like this. On the few occasions I’ve been able to speak with counter-missionaries I have found them to be intelligent, capable of understanding subtlety, and so forth. Therefore, I believe they offer weak arguments like this insincerely.

    The point in Hebrews is absolutely correct. The Temple cannot be cleansed without blood. The existence of a few exceptional cases does not overturn the general rule. Since Judaism is filled with commandments that have exceptional cases, I refuse to believe anyone Jewishly knowledgeable would actually believe the Israelites could have pleased God without animal offerings while the Presence was in the Temple.

  8. Daniel:

    With regard to your second question, I go on to answer it specifically in the chapter of my upcoming book from which this blog post is excerpted. I also answer it at length in Yeshua Our Atonement (get it here on amazon:

    Here is a short form of my answer:

    In another criticism, which more commonly comes from Jewish circles, the Messianic Jewish belief in Messiah’s atoning death has been called Human Sacrifice. Yeshua was possibly a pious Jew who became a human sacrifice in order to appease the angry God. Or Yeshua was possibly a deceiver who believed he would continue to exist after death and erroneously offered himself like some vestal virgin to avert the evil decree. Or Yeshua was misunderstood and it was not he, but his followers, who erroneously declared him a sacrifice.

    But the notion of Yeshua as a sacrifice is not literal. He was not offered by worshipers seeking to appease any deity. He was not slaughtered in the fashion of either an Israelite or a Greek or Roman sacrifice. The idea of Messiah as a sacrifice is a metaphor. Messiah’s death is like (but not actually) a sacrifice in that he repaired the broken relationship between us and God.

  9. Chris:

    The idea of merit coming from the death of righteous martyrs is in some Second Temple Literature. I believe it is in 1 Maccabees and perhaps other writings (but it could be 2 or 3 or 4 Maccabees as my memory is truly imperfect).

  10. I have a lot of trouble reconciling “sacrificial” theories of the Atonement to Torah teaching. It seems that the sacrificial system in the Hebrew Bible is only meant for unintentional sins and even at that is really not a replacement for repentance, the true thing necessary for forgiveness of sins. In this sense, I think the so-called “moral influence theory” of the atonement fits more nicely with Torah teaching and makes more sense of the death of Yeshua. In this view, Yeshua’s death was more of an example of his love for us rather than a sacrifice. We are encouraged to repent based on Yeshua’s example.

    1. Jordan:

      I appreciate your contribution to the discussion and I sympathize with your reading. Yet I find the moral influence view (Peter Abelard’s, I believe) inadequate and would like to plant a few incendiary devices in the wall of your conclusion, if I may.

      Though some verses make “sinned unintentionally” a criteria for the purging effectiveness of the sacrificial blood in Leviticus, there are other verses that undermine the distinction between intentional and unintentional sin. Jacob Milgrom deals with this in his commentary and the rabbis dealt with it long before him. “Repentance converts intentional sin to unintentional” is the principle by which he rabbis harmonized the verses. So take examples of intentional sin that are atonable: Lev 5:1, 5:20-24 (which is 6:1-5 in Christian Bibles). And Numbers 15:30 suggests the opposite of “unintentional sin” is not “acted on purpose” but “acted defiantly,” which leaves room for repentance to ameliorate the offense.

      Now, in the rest of the chapter about “Atonement and Messiah” I will go on to list six theories about how Messiah’s accomplishments atone: recapitulation, ransoming victory, substitution, penal substitution, satisfaction, and representation. The one overarching principle is that Messiah identifies with us to incorporate us into his people. I explain this in even more depth in Yeshua Or Atonement (here on amazon: I think there is a LOT more than moral influence.

      1. Thanks for the reply Derek. I’ve been wanting to get your book but I keep forgetting! I really struggle with the idea of a sacrificial atonement. But I look forward to reading some of your upcoming posts.

        In relation to Lev. 6:1-5, doesn’t that passage seem to indicate that it is the restitution of the sin which is more related to forgiveness than the offering of the guilt offering? “when they sin in any of these ways and realize their guilt, they must return what they have stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to them, or the lost property they found, 5 or whatever it was they swore falsely about. They must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day they present their guilt offering.” It seems to me that it is the additional “make-up” required by this kind of sin that distinguishes it from an “unintentional sin”.

        1. Jordan:

          If you think about what you just said (about the remuneration being what makes the sacrifice acceptable) you see the rabbis have it right” “repentance converts intentional to unintentional.” Oh, and thanks for wanting to buy my book 😉

  11. You say that Jesus is atonement according to the order of melech tzedek priesthood not Cohanim order. Orders of Cohanim priesthood are given in Torah yet where in Torah is the orders of the melech tzedek priesthood ?

    1. Ori….the writer of the apostolic book of Hebrews draws from many Talmudic traditions and explains the nature of the priesthood of Messiah after the “order of Melchizedek”. The Messiah is not a priest after the order of Aaron. He is not a Cohen. He represents a merging of roles. At least this is my understanding.

      1. David,
        I understand what you are saying but my point is that throughout the torah we are told what the order of the cohanim are, we are told all the what, where, when’s and who’s. There is nothing laid out for us in torah or Talmudic sources that detail the order of malchi tzedek priesthood. So how do you know what the order of malchi tzedek is?

        1. Ori:

          Not that I feel a need to defend Merrill’s comment about the priesthood of Melchizedek, but Torah certainly does not prescribe many things which happened in the Temple. David and Solomon, according to Chronicles, gave the Levites new roles (with no apparent authority from God). So why this insistence that Gen 14, Psalm 110, and references to David behaving in a priestly manner cannot, in fact, be a real thing?

          1. Derek,

            David did receive authority from Hashem. Divrei Hayamim II chapter 29.25 . Levites were commanded by David and. Gad the kings seer and Nathan the prophet, for by the hand of the Hashem was the commandment, by the hand of the prophets. See Rashi and Tractate Arachin 11a as to what David commanded. I will follow up to your question once I’m off work.

          2. Ori, I appreciate your correction. It does in fact say that prophets were involved. Yet it is highly unusual, you must admit, that chapters of Torah are overturned by a mere mention of some prophets affirming David’s reorganization of the Levites.

    2. Ori, read Psalm 110 carefully. It is clear that there is an “order of Melchizedek” and that the “order” somehow relates to King David who was NOT a Cohen. The connection is revealed to us in Messiah.

      Here is Psalm 110 (NOTE ESPECIALLY VERSE FOUR):

      1 The Lord says to my lord:
      “Sit at my right hand
      until I make your enemies
      a footstool for your feet.”
      2 The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying,
      “Rule in the midst of your enemies!”
      3 Your troops will be willing
      on your day of battle.
      Arrayed in holy splendor,
      your young men will come to you
      like dew from the morning’s womb.
      4 The Lord has sworn
      and will not change his mind:
      “You are a priest forever,
      in the order of Melchizedek.”
      5 The Lord is at your right hand;
      he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
      6 He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
      and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
      7 He will drink from a brook along the way,
      and so he will lift his head high.

      1. Also Ori,
        Revelation of God’s redemptive plan is progressive. We are given “hints” through prophecy, but usually these “hints” aren’t clear until we are given further revelation. The fulfillment (especially for far reaching prophecy) also occurs progressively and many times not all at once.

        Think about this: There is only ONE prophecy given relating to the future priesthood of the Levitical tribe. It is here in Genesis 49:5-7:

        5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers;
        Instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place.
        6 Let not my soul enter their council;
        Let not my honor be united to their assembly;
        For in their anger they slew a man,
        And in their self-will they hamstrung an ox.
        7 Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce;
        And their wrath, for it is cruel!
        I will divide them in Jacob
        And scatter them in Israel.

        Would anyone have known from this little bit of information we are given that the scattering of Levi (verse 7) had anything at all to do with their elevation to priesthood? Answer: NO!
        It is only in retrospect that we can see the connection. And this is how far reaching predictive prophecy usually works. It’s a puzzle that starts out very vague but then becomes clear as God reveals more to us.

        1. Regarding Shimon and Levi. The blessing Jacob gave them was not a curse. If it was would Hashem have still given the priesthood to Levi at Sinai? It was a blessing because Levi would be scattered among Israel as a blessing to the people instead of being a separate tribe. (see Rashi on this verse you quoted). Also there is a tradition which is also found in the book of jubilees that Isaac blessed Levi and since one can’t curse what has been blessed, Jacobs “curse” is s blessing. We also know that it was a blessing since Bilaam says in Bamidbar chapter 23.8 that he cannot curse what Hashem has not cursed. This would include Levi and all of Israel who it seems most were cursed by Jacob but in reality were not. Jacob cursed the anger of Simeon and Levi but not them.

      2. Tehillim chapter 110.4
        נשבע יי לא ינחם אתה כהן לעולם על דברתי מלכי צדק
        Hashem swore and will not repent; you are priest forever because of the speech of Malchi Tzedek. It doesn’t say order . 73 times דברתי is in Tanak each time translated in Christian bibles as spoke, spoken or speech and only in tehillim 110 do Christians translate the same word as order. For it to be order the word would need to be סדר (order). To understand what this verse is speaking of see Rashi. The only reason Christians say this is Jesus is because their writings say it. But Jesus himself never said it about himself. If I’m correct, Jesus had the opportunity to state this in Matthew 22:44, mark 12:36 and luke 20:42. He never did, but only in the Hebrews section it is mentioned. I researched it and found that in Christian beliefs, no one is sure who wrote Hebrews, yet because it states that Jesus is a priest of melchi tzedek priesthood then when you read tehillim 110 you put Jesus in there because that’s what you were told to see. Its backwards and I’m sorry I just don’t see it. Thank you for your reply though, you gave me a lot to look up.

        1. There is a problem with your exegesis of Psa 110:4. It is al divrati and not dibarti. The root is the noun divrah and not the verb diber. And it means a manner or account or, in some uses, a legal case. I agree that “order” is not the right rendering. “According to the manner of” sounds good to me.

          1. Derek,
            Rashi says otherwise. Tehillim 110.4 ” you are a priest forever because of the speech of Malchi Tzedek”
            From you will emerge the priesthood and the kingship that your children will inherit from Shem your progenitor, the priesthood and the kingship, which were given to him. דברתי מלחי צדק . The “yud” is superfluous, like (Lam.1.1) : “the city that once was so populous (רבתי). Because of the speech of Malchizedek, because of the command of Malchizedek. You are a priest, Heb. כהן. The word כהן bears the connotation of priesthood and rulership, as (II Sam. 8.18): “and David’s sons were chief officers.”
            Rashi is the premier scholar on all things Tanak, surely you wouldn’t suggest that he’s wrong and you’re right?

            Also Nedarim 32b R.Zechariah said on R. Ishmael’s authority: The Holy One, blessed be he, intended to bring forth the priesthood from Shem, as it is written, and he [Melchizedek] was the priest of the most high G-d. But because he gave precedence in his blessing to Abraham over G-d, he brought it forth from Abraham; as it is written, and he blessed him and said. Blessed be Abram of the most high G-d, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed be the most high G-d. Said Abraham to him, ‘Is the blessing of a servant to be given precedence over that of his master?’ Straightaway it [ the priesthood ] was given to Abraham, as it is written, The Lord said unto my lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool; which is followed by, The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, thou are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek, ‘ meaning, because of the words of Melchizedek.’ Hence it is written, and he was a priest of the most High G-d, [implying that] he was a priest, but not his seed. Though Abraham was a descendant of Melchizedek, and thus the priesthood was inherited by the latter’s seed, yet this was through the merit of Abraham, not Melchizedek. (Radak)

            We can see in this that order is more understood as command or some sort of speech.Ultimately according to both Rashi and Talmud examples given here, it send that the melchizedek priesthood ended with Shem and the realization of it was the priesthood of the cohanim being established through Aaron.
            Midrash Rabbah- Bamidbar 4.8- Take the Levites, etc. I won’t type it all out but basically it states that the before the tribe of Levi arose, the firstborn performed the sacrificial service. This idea of a “better Priesthood” doesn’t make sense since if the preisthood of melchizedek was better than the levitical, then why give the levitical in the first place? Why not stay with Melchi tzedek and let it grow from there? When we see the 3rd temple described in Ezekiel it doesn’t say anything about a melchitzedek priesthood but says that the cohanim through Zadok are established as the priests forever.

          2. Ori:

            If you think Rashi is always right, why bother to read any Jewish books? You might not want to pick up the Ramban (Nachmanides). He disagrees with Rashi about half the time. Funny, no one ever said Ramban was a heretic for disagreeing with Rashi.

          3. Ori…I also study the teachings and commentary of Rashi, but make the statement that “Rashi is the foremost authority on Tanakh”, in the manner which you do, which is to say that you suggest that it is unimaginable to even begin to call into question his seemingly indisputable conclusions, is to violate the very spirit of Torah study.
            No Torah scholar, including Rashi, would be so presumptuous to suggest that they have the final and authoritative position on anything. The very concept of Torah study precludes this. Furthermore, Rashi is certainly not more authoritative than the comments and teachings of any of the ancient sages, nor is he any more so than modern scholars. He is an important voice for sure, and a revered one, but ultimately just another in a line of the chain of custody.
            There is always another way of considering something, and this freedom of interpretation was exercised by the writer of Hebrews. That Rashi would circumvent this well after the fact, begs the question of whether Rashi was unduly influenced by the realities of his people’s status at the time of his life, in relation to a Christian church which was killing his family and persecuting his community, than it suggests that his rendering of the passage is more valid or authoritative.

  12. Christianity has over inflated the role of the cross and misappropriated its purpose by misunderstanding the Tanakh. While “The Centrality of the Cross” makes for a good book title, sermons and theological debate, it was death, not sin, that was the primary target of the cross.
    I think it was was Dwight Pryor (OBM) who noted that both the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicean Creed mention Yeshua’s birth, death, burial and resurrection, but fail to give note of his life and teachings.
    The Apostle’s Creed: “He (Jesus) was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
    That these foundational doctrines in which both the Catholic and many Protestant churches use as a profession of their faith leave out Yeshua’s life, culture, ministry, miracles, teachings (let alone that He was a Jewish rabbi) is telling.

      1. David and Derek,

        For some reason I can’t reply to both of you since the reply feature is missing after your last posts so I’ll address it here.

        Derek- I was hoping for some great back and forth with you but you ignored all the sources I posted and instead reply about my use of Rashi? I am fully aware of who Ramban is and I never implied you’re a heretic. Your ego got bruised and my rabbi was right,” no good comes from debating Christians or messianics. They easily veer off the course of scholarly discussion and launch personal attacks when they feel they no longer have an answer or the upper hand”. Thanks for proving him right.

        David- Rashi is read and study by Jews worldwide and agree that his commentary to the torah and Talmud is authoritative. You can’t open a Chumash without seeing Rashi in it. I do agree there is always another way of looking at something, that’s one of the reasons I came to this blog. I would say that you’re not the first person to say that perhaps Rashi was influenced by his surroundings and persecution by Christians but it would be up to you to prove that he was. If you can’t its irrelevant. You’d also need to ask yourself why you are part of a religion, started by a supposed moshiach, that killed Jews (as you admitted about Rashi’s influence for his commentary) in the first place and why you align yourself with it by reading their book (Christian bible) and believing like they do? To me, that would be the more important question, “why is my Jesus religion so full of bloodshed towards Jews?”

        To those who observe, Shabbat shalom.

        1. Ori, I study Rashi every week. This is mainly through the Chumash. I am not of the opinion that his commentary on Tanakh is somehow tainted by his personal experience, but as you cryptically mention in your reply, your question “Why do I follow a Jesus religion that is responsible for killing Jews?” (I’m paraphrasing your exact quote), does in fact speak to my point.
          I cannot defend myself to you other than to say that my Messiah was revealed to me through supernatural means. Now, 30 years later, after many trials and much study, I find that I have discovered His family and the richness of their long history. I don’t view my faith in Yeshua as being in conflict with the faith of the Jewish people, though I certainly understand, based on history, how you would view that it is.
          Finally, I read many Torah scholars, including modern ones, who, in a reverent way, take Rashi to task for some of his interpretations, and challenge his conclusions. This is as it should be. The text of scripture is living and breathing and interacts with us imminently. It is not static. Nor is it always linear. No one “owns” truth. Truth is. We simply get to discover it. I applaud your willingness to explore additional views not in line with your own in an effort to learn. I would caution you to carefully avoid lashon hara.

        2. Ori:

          You are reading things into my reply to you that were not there. Let me quote my response and then comment on your reply. I said: If you think Rashi is always right, why bother to read any Jewish books? You might not want to pick up the Ramban (Nachmanides). He disagrees with Rashi about half the time. Funny, no one ever said Ramban was a heretic for disagreeing with Rashi.

          Now, a number of points you misunderstood me on: I did not think you were calling me a heretic, I did not ignore the sources you quoted, and I did not launch into a personal attack.

          Here is what I did. For starters I responded to your statement: Rashi is the premier scholar on all things Tanak, surely you wouldn’t suggest that he’s wrong and you’re right? As my response indicates, I think this sentence, as it is worded, is naive about Jewish interpretation. You imply that no modern scholar should disagree with Rashi. I countered what I regarded as your naïveté with a sharp comeback. If I was too harsh, I apologize.

          Now, you say that your rabbi has stereotyped Messianic Jews as easily hurt by debate, incapable of serious discussion, and prone to personal attacks (ad hominem). I don’t think this statement makes either you or your rabbi look very good. But feel free to think what you like about all of “us Messianic Jews,” since we’re probably all from the exact same mold anyway 😉

          1. Derek, In your use of the term ‘mold’ regarding “us Messianic Jews,” do you mean the fuzzy fungus that grows on rotting substances that causes spoilage? No wonder Ori is offended! I suppose I should be glad I am a gentile after all!

          2. Michael, yes, there is some stinking mold in some corners of Messianic Judaism. I do hope that in the circles I call home we keep the place a little cleaner.

        3. Ori,
          Neither Derek nor David were in any way “dissing” Rashi or skirting the issue. They were merely pointing out that there are differences of opinion amongst the sages. Your “favorite sage” or rabbi should not be your sole interpretation of Scripture. Let the words of Tanakh speak for themselves and then think on your own. It is fine to consider the opinions of others as you come to your own conclusions. But just remember that Scripture and the Spirit of Hashem working in you should be your primary teacher.

          Also, fyi: I am a Jewish (by both parents). The stereotype of the New Testament as being “antisemitic” is absolutely NOT true. The historic gentile CHURCH INSTITUTION was antisemetic but this was NEVER the intent of the NT or of our Messiah! EVER!! Thankfully today the sins of the church are beginning to be repented of and corrected. (Primary amongst them the doctrine of replacement theology). People like Derek get this. Let’s not be afraid to let them and other scholars restore the message of the NT to it’s original intent.

  13. Derek’s book “Yeshua Our Atonement” explains much of the queries here in detail. It is very informative, and for me, it confirmed much of what I felt God had been also teaching me on the subject. I highly recommend it to any of Derek’s readers. (Also the Daily D’var is highly informative on the subject as well.)

    I would like to add just a couple of remarks especially regarding the question about “human sacrifice”. So here goes:

    Regarding atonement, it is entirely true that we do not see human sacrifice on the altar of atonement in the Temple/Tabernacle, we DO however see the PRINCIPLE of human atonement in Scripture. Here are some examples [caps mine]:

    2 Samuel 21:

    21 Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the LORD. And the LORD said, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.”…. 3 And David said to the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? And how shall I make ATONEMENT, that you may bless the heritage of the LORD?” 4 The Gibeonites said to him, … 6 LET SEVEN OF HIS SONS BE GIVEN TO US, SO THAT WE MAY HANG THEM BEFORE THE LORD at Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the LORD.” And the king said, “I will give them.”…and he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them on the mountain before the LORD, and the seven of them perished together.…AND AFTER THAT GOD RESPONDED TO THE PLEA FOR THE LAND.

    1Chronicles 21:

    7 But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel. 8 And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, PLEASE TAKE AWAY THE INIQUITY OF YOUR SERVANT, for I have acted very foolishly.” 9 And the LORD spoke to Gad, David’s seer, saying, 10 “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the LORD, Three things I offer you; choose one of them, that I may do it to you.’” 11 So Gad came to David and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Choose what you will: 12 either three years of famine, or three months of devastation by your foes while the sword of your enemies overtakes you, or else three days of the sword of the LORD, pestilence on the land, with the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’
    Now decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.” 13 Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let me fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”

    2 Samuel 12:

    The LORD sent Nathan to David….You killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and took his wife to be your wife! …
    13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”
    Nathan answered, “The LORD has TAKEN AWAY YOUR SIN. YOU will not die. 14 BUT…THE SON WHO WAS BORN TO YOU WILL DIE.”
    15 Then Nathan went home. And THE LORD CAUSED THE SON OF DAVID…TO BE VERY SICK. …18 On the seventh day the baby died.

    Isaiah 43:3-4:

    For I am the LORD your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
    I give Egypt as your ATONEMENT,
    Cush and Seba in EXCHANGE FOR YOU.
    4 Because you are precious in my eyes,
    and honored, and I love you,
    I give men in return for you,
    peoples in exchange for your life.

    Isaiah 53:5:


    And here is the citation from Maccabees that Derek mentioned earlier (showing that the death of the righteous for others was not a foreign concept in 2nd Century Jewish understanding) :

    4 Macc 6:26-28: “When he was now burned to his very bones and about to expire, he lifted up his eyes to God and said, 27 “You know, O God, that though I might have saved myself, I am dying in burning torments for the sake of the law. 28 Be merciful to your people, and let our punishment suffice for them. 29 MAKE MY BLOOD THEIR PURIFICATION, AND TAKE MY LIFE IN EXCHANGE FOR THEIRS.”

    4 Macc 17.20-22: “These, then, who have been consecrated for the sake of God, are honored, not only with this honor, but also by the fact that because of them our enemies did not rule over our nation, 21 the tyrant was punished, and the homeland purified-THEY HAVING BECOME, as it were, A RANSOM FOR THE SIN OF OUR NATION. 22 and THROUGH THE BLOOD OF THOSE DEVOUT ONES AND THEIR DEATH AS AN ATONING SACRIFICE, DIVINE PROVIDENCE PRESERVED ISRAEL that previously had been mistreated.”

    I would also like to add as a though for consideration is that the millions upon millions of animals which were slain during the temple/tabernacle cultus (a GOOD portion of which were NOT used as food for the Levites), as well as the Akedah (the binding of Isaac) really do not make much sense unless there is a GREATER reason for what they REPRESENT/FORSHADOW. (At least IMHO.)

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