Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Conversion of the gentiles

To my knowledge, rabbinic Jews think the NT is guilty of special pleading when it subdivides messiah's advent into two comings, separated by an indefinite interval. They think that's a face-saving device to explain away why Jesus failed to do the things messiah is supposed to do. And that's an understandable objection, given their perspective. 

But here's a problem with that objection: the OT has oracles about the conversion of the gentiles. Where do rabbinic Jews put those in their timetable? It can't be something that messiah does all at once. He can't come, exact judgment all on the wicked living and dead pagans, and that's that, because there'd be no opportunity for a widespread conversion of gentiles in time and place. So don't rabbinic Jews have to space that out? Salvation and judgment can't happen at the same time when messiah arrives, since most gentiles would face judgment if it all happens when messiah comes. Doesn't that mean rabbinic Jews have a parallel issue to harmonize? They also have to spread out the work of the messiah. Don't they believe that generations of gentiles will become followers of Yahweh during the messianic age? And isn't that analogous to the interadventual church age?


  1. And the related problem: how do they explain the fact that Jesus of Nazareth has been bringing about the conversion of the Gentiles, bringing people from across the nations to worship Yahweh? If the true Messiah is still to come, he faces the problem that somebody else already did his work.

  2. Some ancient rabbis distinguished between a Messiah ben David and Messiah ben Joseph. In other words, a Messiah who would either be a king or suffer. What they put into an either/or condition we proclaim is one person who does both at different times.

    1. Yes, instead of one messiah–two advents, they had two messiahs–one advent (apiece). Of course, that's a roundabout way of admitting the complexity of messiah's mission.

    2. At the same time, interestingly, many first century Jews seemed to have split messianic roles, which likewise illustrates how complex the Messiah's mission was. For example, many first century Jews believed there would be a priestly Messiah and "son of man" co-equal to the Davidic or kingly Messiah (e.g. the Qumran community). In fact, this priestly Messiah was apparently so predominant in many first century Jewish minds at the time that Simon bar Kokhba's priest Eleazar, mentioned in bar Kokhba's coins for instance, was thought to have fulfilled the priestly messianic role while bar Kokhba fulfilled the kingly messianic role.

  3. On the face of it, one would expect the Jews to have accepted their own Messiah. In fact, that's what many Jews argue now: if Jesus is the Messiah, then why don't more Jews accept him? By contrast, why would Gentiles care about a Jewish savior? It's not as if pagans have an established tradition of prophecies, promises, pronouncements, and other precedence about a coming Messiah.

    However, supposing Jesus is the Messiah, then it turned out that the majority of Jews rejected their own Messiah, whereas the Gentiles embraced the Jewish Messiah. In fact, if we look closer at the OT, this was predicted in the OT (e.g. Gen 49:10, Psa 72:17)! And of course it's a pregnant theme in the NT. This seeemingly ironic turn of events calls for an explanation too. How would the Jewish rabbis explain this?