The resurrection event that changed everything—on both sides of the Judaic-Messianic bridge. What an orthodox rabbi and Jewish scholars have to say about the resurrection of Jesus (Yeshua).
© SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.
The world’s history has long encompassed extremes—light, darkness, goodness, evil, sagacity, folly, hope, discouragement . . . and the ultimate dichotomy, death and resurrection.
It’s the stuff authors love to write about, carefully mirroring this up-down, soul-matrix existence in their art, which sometimes winds up reflected back into life. Remember the seesaw duality of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities?
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way . . .
Thankfully, G-d doesn’t leave us out to dry in our fractured state of humanity. We will rise from the abyss of death. He not only made a way for us to know Him and have a genuine relationship with Him—He’s also pulled back the veil several times to give evidence of the hope that is on the horizon: the bodily resurrection at the end of days—acharit hayamim [אחרית הימים].
I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss.
—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
And, yeah, as shared in Resurrection Jewish Style-Part 1, it’s good news/bad news. There will be a resurrection to everlasting life for the righteous . . . resurrection to judgment for the others. (Daniel 12:2 and John 5:28-29.)
But G-d gave us ten resurrection accounts—seriously, count them—to encourage us. Three in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) and seven in the New Testament (Brit Chadashah). Resurrection is the bedrock of traditional Judaism and Messianic Judaism/Christianity.
And yet, all those resurrection accounts beg the question.
Since resurrection is an obvious Jewish teaching,
then why do some people give
an acknowledging nod
to many of those accounts . . .
but discount one resurrection in particular?
Namely, the historical resurrection of Jesus.
Well, one modern-day orthodox rabbi didn’t.
Nor did some other Jewish biblical scholars and rabbis.
MEET RABBI PINCHAS LAPIDE
author, Jewish scholar, theologian specializing in the New Testament
Clearly a non-messianic, Lapide had a real bridge-crossing view. He even wrote a book in 1979 about it: The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective. It made quite a stir back then, even garnering attention in Time magazine’s religion section.
Lapide (1922-1997) and his scholarly process were all about rediscovering the Jewish aspects of early Christianity. After all, Jesus (Yeshua) and his followers were Jews.
Now I don’t agree with his inference that Jesus (Yeshua) is only the messiah for the Goyim/Gentiles—although there was a time I danced around that tune, but 300 fulfilled prophecies can’t be ignored. Yet, Lapide’s convincing arguments in favor of Jesus’ resurrection as a historic event are worth noting.
Per Lapide, the “Hebrew Bible knows of the translation of Enoch (Genesis 5:24), a transfiguration (Saul: I Samuel 10:6), an ascension (Elijah: 2 Kings 2:11) and three resurrections [which G-d] carried out through the hands of His prophets.” Namely: I Kings 7: 17-24; 2 Kings 4:18-21, 32-37; 2 Kings 13:20-21.
Not a single case was met with unbelief in Israel, per Lapide.
Nope, not one.
The hope and belief in resurrection were so ingrained in Judaic thinking, it became part of the daily prayer from Moses ben Maimonides’ Thirteen Articles of Faith: “I believe with full conviction that there will be a resurrection of the dead at a time which will please the creator.” (Maimonides—aka The Rambam—was a renowned, 12th-century rabbinic scholar and philosopher.)
Lapide also commented that postbiblical literature gives reports of several miraculous healings, multiplication of bread, diversion of a flood, victory over demons, rainfall after prayer, etc.
So the historic resurrection of Jesus
wasn’t a bizarre, non-Jewish event.
And it wasn’t so-called magic or a scheme.
It was real.
From the hand of Adonai, G-d Himself.
In fact, over the 40-day period following his resurrection,
Jesus appeared to his disciples, others, and over 500 people at once.
In addition to Lapide’s scientific analysis of Jesus’ resurrection—which includes support for the genuineness of Saul Paulus’ Damascene experience—he mentioned two other points as further support: (1) G-d permitted the women to be the first to witness and give testimony of that resurrection—when they held no value in the culture; (2) many Jewish believers were willing to die defending their belief in Jesus’ resurrection.
He also addresses the hotly debated three-days-in-the-tomb issue. Even Christians battle out the calculations. But Lapide gives a smart Judaic response: It’s not a literal expression in the Hebrew Bible.
Lapide says, for those with ears biblically educated, that three-days-in-the-tomb expression refers to the clear evidence of G-d’s mercy and grace that is revealed after two days of affliction and death by way of redemption.
- Genesis 22:4. On the third day, Abraham lifted his eyes . . . [before the Akedah, the binding of Isaac]
- Exodus 19: 16. On the morning of the third day, there was thunder . . . [before G-d’s Sinai appearance]
- Genesis 42:18. On the third day, Joseph said to them . . . [before releasing his brothers—except one—to return to Canaan]
- Jonah 1:17. Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days . . . [before he was saved]
- Esther 5:1. On the third day, Esther put on her royal robes . . . [Israel saved after bitter affliction]
- Hosea 6:2. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up . . . [before He comes like the spring rain to water their souls ]
JESUS & JEWISH BIBLICAL SCHOLARS
Per Lapide, the Pentecost testimony of the apostles—claiming the crucified Jesus had risen—proved a big pain you know where for the Sadducees. But for the Pharisees or the majority of Jews, it was a “problem seriously to be investigated.” They knew a resurrection was “entirely in the realm of the possible (Sanhedrin 90b).”
And also per Lapide’s book (pages 137-138, 142), the spiritual heirs of those Pharisees—today’s Jewish rabbis and biblical scholars—have commented on the matter from different angles.
- Maimonides—renowned rabbinic authority. “All these matters which refer to Jesus of Nazareth . . . only served to make the way free for the King Messiah and to prepare the whole world for the worship of G-d with a united heart, as it is written: Yea, at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord (Zeph. 3:9). In this way, the messianic hope, the Torah, and the commandments have become a widespread heritage of faith—among the inhabitants of the far islands and among many nations, uncircumcised in heart and flesh.”
- Rabbi Samuel Hirsch—pioneer of the Jewish Reform movement. “In order that Jesus’ power of hope and greatness of soul should not end with his death, G-d has raised in the group of his disciples the idea that he rose from death and continues living. Indeed, He continues living in all those who want to be true Jews.”
- Rabbi Leo Baeck—author of The Essence of Judaism. “They [disciples of Jesus] were seeking the Messiah, the son of David, the promised one, and they found and beheld him in Jesus. His disciples in Israel believed in him even beyond his death so that it became to them an existential certainty that he—as the prophet foretold—had risen from the dead on the third day.”
- Rabbi Samuel Sandmel—prolific author, theologian, an authority on Jewish-Christian relations. “Only a Jew whose unique combination of qualities was extraordinary could have been thought by other Jews to have been accorded a special resurrection.”
- J. Carmel—Israeli teacher/author, who says he regrets the Gospels aren’t at home in the framework of Jewish literature. “If the prophet Elijah has ridden a fiery chariot into heaven, why should not Jesus rise and go to heaven?”
Without the Sinai experience—no Judaism.
Without the Easter [Passover/Crucifixion/Resurrection] experience—no Christianity.
Both were Jewish faith experiences whose radiating power . . .
were meant for the world of nations.
For inscrutable reasons, the resurrection faith of Golgotha [crucifixion location]
was necessary to carry the message of Sinai into the world.
—Rabbi Pinchas Lapide
John 19, 20, 21
[Head’s up: Bridge-Crossing Account]
Egged on by Jewish authorities and decreed by Rome’s Pontius Pilate, Jesus was crucified at a place called Gulgotha, outside of Jerusalem. Pilate had a sign posted on the cross in three languages, Hebrew, Latin, Greek: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
Two criminals were crucified that day as well, one on either side of Jesus.
It was Friday, a day of preparation for the Shabbat [Sabbath]—a special one because it was Passover week. The Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, so they asked Pilate to hasten the deaths of the three men by breaking their legs. The soldiers broke the legs of the men on either side of Jesus, but when they came to him, they saw he was already dead.
One soldier took his sword and pierced Jesus’ side. Immediately, blood and water poured out. He died without one of his bones broken, fulfilling Psalm 34.
Joseph of Arimathea—a Jew, a man of means, a respected member of the council, and a follower of Jesus—asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Pilate granted permission.
Joseph and another Jew, Nicodemus—a Pharisee, member of the Sanhedrin, and follower of Jesus (John 3)—took the body, wrapped it in linen sheets with the myrrh-and-aloes spices, in accordance with Judean burial practice, and placed the body in a new tomb (previously purchased by Joseph of Arimathea for himself), located in a nearby garden. Shabbat was nearing and they had to work fast.
A huge stone locked the entrance—and Pilate had soldiers guard the tomb, worried about the stories of Jesus’ promised resurrection.
Early on the first day of the week—Sunday—when it was still dark, Miriam from Magdala along with Miriam (the mother of James), and Salome went to the tomb in hopes of someone to roll the stone away so they could anoint the body with spices. [Mark 16]
But the stone was already rolled away.
Miriam Magdala ran to tell the disciples Peter and John, who immediately went to the tomb and saw that it was empty. Not understanding, they returned home, perplexed. Miriam stood outside the tomb crying, then bent down to peer in the tomb. Two angels sat where the body of Jesus had been—one at the head and one at the feet. [Reminds me of the two angels facing one another on top of the Arc of the Covenant.]
“Why are you crying?” the angels asked Miriam.
“They took my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him,” she cried.
Just then, she turned and saw Jesus standing there.
In the evening of the same day—the first day of the week—the disciples were gathered behind a locked door, fearful of the Judeans.
Jesus appeared, stood in the middle, and said, “Shalom aleikhem!”
He showed them his hands and his pierced side.
Throughout the next forty days, he appeared to many people, per convincing proofs, and spoke of things regarding the Kingdom of G-d. He appeared to . . .
(1) several women immediately afterward (Miriam Magdala, Miriam, Salome, Joanna)
(2) Simon Peter
(3) his disciples at various times (e.g. in an upper room and at the Sea of Galilee and on a mountain in the Galil)
(4) two disciples on the Emmaus Road
(5) his half-brother, James
(6) over 500 people at the same time (1 Corinthians 15:6)
Unlike the other resurrected people mentioned in the Bible, Jesus didn’t have to die a second time. He’d conquered death. He ascended into heaven, witnessed by his disciples: Simon (Kefa/Peter), Andrew, John, Ya’akov ben Zavdi (James, son of Zebedee), Philip, Bartholomew (Nathanael, Bar-Talmai), T’oma (Thomas), Mattityahu (Matthew), Ya’akov bar-Halfai (James, son of Alphaeus), Simon the Zealot, and Taddai (Thaddeus, also known as Judas—not Iscariot, but the son of James).
While he was blessing the disciples, Jesus ascended into heaven, returning back to the Father. His followers evidenced him being taken up into a cloud (Acts 1). Right afterward . . .
Two men clad in white robes said to his followers:
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?
This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven,
will so come back just as you saw Him go into heaven.”
* * *
GO DEEPER & READ MORE
Check out all the segments of Resurrection Jewish Style.
RESURRECTION JEWISH STYLE: PART 1
what’s been revealed
RESURRECTION JEWISH STYLE: PART 1
RESURRECTION JEWISH STYLE: PART 1
real-life accounts cont’d
RESURRECTION JEWISH STYLE: PART 2
what’s the point of a resurrected body, anyway?
RESURRECTION JEWISH STYLE: PART 3
why does an orthodox rabbi—a non-messianic at that—believe in Jesus’ resurrection?