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, his Hebrew name).
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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-body 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 season of Light, it was the season of Darkness
Thankfully, God 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].
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.)
Resurrection is the bedrock of traditional Judaism and Messianic Judaism/Christianity for a reason: It’s true. God 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).
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 Gentiles (Goyim).
No, there is one Messiah—per scriptures—sent by God
for the Jew first and then for the Gentile.
And Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies, over 100.
Including the Messiah’s initial coming for spiritual redemption,
which will be followed by the final physical redemption,
ushering in the Messianic Age.
By the way, the scientific probability of Jesus/Yeshua fulfilling those prophecies is mind-boggling. As Lion and Lamb Ministry aptly states on their site, referencing the noted work of now-deceased mathematics/astronomy university chair Peter Stoner: “The chances of fulfilling 16 [of the 108 prophecies] is 1 in 1045. When you get to a total of 48 [prophecies fulfilled], the odds increase to 1 in 10157. Accidental fulfillment of these prophecies is simply beyond the realm of possibility.”
That said, Lapide’s convincing Judaic arguments in favor of Jesus’ resurrection as a historic event are worth examining. I mean, rabbis, some of the Sanhedrin, and pharisees—not to mention multitudes of Jews—recognized in the first century CE that Jesus/Yeshua is the Messiah. So when a modern-day rabbi studies the totality of the scriptures and supports Jesus’ resurrection, it’s a red-letter moment.
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 God] 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, God 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) God 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. [An easy method to me—without gagging on a calculations gnat—is using our Judaic/biblical view that a day is measured sundown to sundown: (1st “day”) Friday daylight buried before Shabbat began; (2nd day) Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, still in the tomb; (3rd “day”) Saturday sundown to Sunday morning, arose on that third day.]
But Lapide gives a compelling Judaic response: It’s not a literal expression in the Hebrew Bible.
Stick with me for a moment and hear him out . . .
Lapide says, for those with ears biblically educated, that three-days-in-the-tomb expression used in various scriptures refers to the clear evidence of God’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 God’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 ]
Per Rabbi Pinchas Lapide:
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 was necessary to carry the message of Sinai into the world.
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 God 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, God 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?”
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