Messianic Prophecy in light Muhammadan Polemics

Muslims are keen on undermining Old Testament prophecies that point to the Messiah being God in the flesh by appealing to disbelieving Rabbinic Jewry and/or liberal critical scholarship that deny prophecy altogether. In order to expose this blatant inconsistency, I have decided to cite the key OT texts which speak of the eternal divine nature of the Messiah along with specific sources that highlight the fact that these are passages that even the rabbis interpreted messianically.

Isaiah 9:1-2, 6-7

“Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, As when at first He lightly esteemed The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, And afterward more heavily oppressed her, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, In Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined… For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” New King James Version (NKJV)

Interestingly, the Greek version (typically referred to as the Septuagint [LXX]) interprets this as a prophecy of the incarnation of the Angel of the Lord!

“For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder, and his name is called the angel of [the] great council (megales boules angelos): for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to him.”

“The prophet said to the house of David, For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and He has taken the law upon Himself to keep it. His name is called from eternity, Wonderful, The Mighty God who liveth to eternity, The Messiah, whose peace shall be great upon us in His days. The greatness of those who do the law shall be magnified, and to those, that preserve peace. There shall be no end to the throne of David, and of his kingdom, to establish it and build it in judgment and in righteousness from henceforth, even for ever. By the Word of the Lord of hosts this shall be done.” (The Chaldee Paraphrase on the Prophet Isaiah by Jonathan b. Uzziel, translated by Rev. C. W. H. Pauli, Presbyter. London: London Society’s House, 16, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, 1871], pp. 30-31 https://books.google.com/books?id=_boCAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false; bold and underline emphasis mine)

Here is another rendering of this particular targum:

The prophet saith to the house of David, A child has been born to us, a son has been given to us; and he has taken the law upon himself to keep it, and his name has been called of old, Wonderful counselor, Mighty God, He who lives forever, the Anointed one (or Messiah), in whose days peace shall increase upon us. (The Targum of Isaiah, J.F. Stenning, editor and translator [Oxford: Clarendon, 1949], p. 32)

Another explanation: He said to him: ‘I have yet to raise up the Messiah,’ of whom it is written, For a child is born to us (Isa. IX, 5). (Midrash Rabbah Deuteronomy, Rabbi Dr. H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, editors: Rev. Dr. J. Rabbinowitz, translator [London: Socino Press], I.20, p. 22)

Messianic Jewish Scholar Dr. Michael L. Brown writes:

“The oldest Jewish translation of Isaiah 9:6[5], found in the Septuagint, understands all the names as referring to the king, rendering this verse into the Greek as follows: ‘For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder: and his name is called the Messenger of great counsel [Megale he arche]: for I will bring peace on the princes, and health to him.’ The Targum, while explicitly identifying this as a Messianic prophecy, renders the verse in Aramaic with an interesting twist, ‘… and his name is called from before the One who is wonderful in counsel, the mighty God who exists forever, the Messiah, because there will be abundant peace upon us in his days’ (translated literally). The problem with this translation, aside from the fact that it is grammatically strained, is that almost all the names are heaped on God, and only the last two are given to the son – although it is the naming of this royal child that is central to the verse. How odd! Clearly, the names refer to the son, not to the Lord who gave them. In other words, the Targumic rendering would be like saying, ‘And God – the great, glorious, holy, wonderful, eternal, unchangeable Redeemer and King and Lord – calls his name Joe.’ There is no precedent or parallel to this anywhere in the Bible and no logical explanation for this rendering, nor is it even a natural, grammatical rendering of the Hebrew. The characteristics of the royal child are central – highlighted here by his names – not the characteristics of the Lord. As the brilliant Hebrew and Rabbinic scholar Franz Delitzsch noted, even Samuel David Luzzato, one of the greatest Italian rabbis, rightly observed that ‘you do not expect to find attributes of God here, but such as would be characteristic of the child.’ This agrees with the Talmudic and midrashic writings, along with the comments of Abraham Ibn Ezra, all of which state that the names refer to the child.” (Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections [Baker Books, Grand Rapid MI, 2003], Volume Three, pp. 32-33; bold emphasis mine)

Brown writes in an endnote that,

“… the following Rabbinic statements: ‘R. Yose the Galilean said: “The name of the Messiah is Peace, for it is said, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace“’ (Midrash Pereq Shalom, p. 101); ‘The Messiah is called by eight names; Yinnon [see Ps. 72:12], Tzemach [e.g., Jer. 23:5]; Pele’ [Wonderful, Isa. 9:6(5)], Yo’etz [Counselor, Isa. 9:6(5)], Mashiach [Messiah], El [God, Isa. 9:6(5)], Gibbor [Hero, Isa. 9:6(5)], and Avi ‘Ad Shalom [Eternal Father of Peace, Isa. 9:6(5)];’ see Deuteronomy Rabbah 1:20.” (Ibid., fn. 86, p. 210)

The great medieval commentator Abraham Ibn Ezra, despite applying the passage to Hezekiah, nonetheless admits that all of these names are titles of the child in question:

The correct view in my opinion is that all these are names of the childpele’ – because the Lord did wonders in his days. yo’ets – such was Hezekiah [as it is written], ‘And the king took counsel’ [see 2 Chron. 30:2]; ’el gibbor – because he was strong, and the kingdom of the house of David was prolonged because of him; [abi] ‘ad – the word has the same meaning as ‘dwelling in eternity’ [in Isa. 57:15]; sar shalom – because there was peace in his days.” (Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Theological Objections [Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI 2000], Volume 2, p. 46; bold emphasis mine)

This candid admission clearly rules out Hezekiah from being the one spoken of, unless one wants to believe that he was the Mighty God in human flesh!

Finally, section nine of the Huppat Eliyahu and section 7 of Rabbeinu HaKadosh in Otsar Midrashim applies all these names to the Messiah.

Jeremiah 23:5-6

“‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’” NKJV

For the rabbinic exegesis of this passage please read the following post: The Davidic Branch in Rabbinic Judaism.

 Daniel 7:13-14

 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” New International Version (NIV)

one like a man was coming: That is the King Messiah.

and… up to the Ancient of Days: Who was sitting in judgment and judging the nations.

came: arrived, reached. (The Complete Jewish Bible With Rashi Commentary https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16490/showrashi/true#v13; underline emphasis mine)

In the decree of the Prophets it is written Behold My servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high (Isa. 52:13), and it is also written Behold My servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth (Isa. 42:1). In the decree of the Writings it is written, The Lord said unto my lord: “Sit thou at My right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Ps. 110:1), and it is also written I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the Ancient of days, and he was brought before Him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him (Dan. 7:13, 14).

In another comment, the verse is read I will tell of the decree: The Lord said unto me: Thou art My son … Ask of Me, and I will give the nations for thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for thy possession (Ps. 2:7, 8). R. Yudan said: All these goodly promises are in the decree of the King, the King of kings, who will fulfill them for the Lord MESSIAH (The Midrash on Psalms, William G. Braude, Translator (New Haven: Yale, 959), Yale Judaica Series, Volume XIII, Leon Nemoy, Editor, Book One, Psalm 2:9; bold and capital emphasis mine)

R. Yudan said in the name of R. Hama: In the time-to-come, when the Holy One, blessed be He, seats the lord Messiah at His right hand, as is said The Lord saith unto my lord: “Sit at my right hand” (Ps. 110:1), and seats Abraham at His left. Abraham’s face will pale, and he will say to the Lord: “My son’s son sits at the right, and I at the left!” Thereupon the Holy One, blessed be He, will comfort Abraham, saying: “Thy son’s son is at My right, but I, in a manner of speaking, am at thy right”: The Lord [is] at thy right hand (Ps. 110:5). Hence Thy gentleness hath made great. (Ibid., p. 261; bold and underline emphasis mine)

5. For thou shalt make him most blessed for ever (Ps. 21:7) means that all the nations shall bless themselves in the king Messiah (Psalm 21). Thou shalt make him exceeding glad with Thy countenance (Ps. 21:7). R. Berechiah said in the name of R. Samuel: One verse reads of the king Messiah that One, like the son of man…came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before Him (Dan. 7:13), but in another verse God says, I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto Me (Jer. 30:21). How reconcile the two? Angels will bring the king Messiah to the outer edge of their encampment, and then the Holy One, blessed be He, will reach out His hand and bring the king Messiah near to Him. Hence, it is said I will draw him near. (Ibid., Book One, Psalm 21:5; bold and underline emphasis mine)

R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua b. Levi pointed out a contradiction. It is written, in its time [will the Messiah come], whilst it is also written I [the Lord] will hasten it!– If they are worthy, I will hasten it: if not, [he will come] at the due time. R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua opposed two verses: it is written, And behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven (Dan. VII, 13); whilst [elsewhere] it is written, [behold thy king cometh unto thee…] lowly and riding upon an ass! (Zech. IX, 9)- If they are meritorious, [he will come] with the clouds of heaven (Dan. VII, 13); if not, lowly and riding upon an ass (Zech. IX, 9). King Shapur said to Samuel. ‘Ye maintain that the Messiah will come upon an ass” I will rather send him a white horse of mine.’ He replied, ‘Have you a hundred-hued steed?’ (The Babylonian Talmud, Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein, Editor [London: Soncino Press], Seder, Nezikin, Volume III, Sanhedrin 98a, pp. 663-664; bold and underline emphasis mine)

It is interesting to see how the above references combine Isaiah 42:1, 52:13, and Daniel 7:13-14 with Psalms 2 and 110 and applies them all to the Messiah. This isn’t the only rabbinic source that does so:

“I will now proceed to my exposition. 13 Behold my servant shall have understanding. From the prophet’s saying ‘understanding,’ it may be seen that all the lofty predicates which he assigns to him have their source in this attribute; in virtue of his comprehensive intelligence he will attain an elevation above that even of the most perfect men in the world. He shall be high and exalted, and lofty exceedingly. According to the Midrash of our Rabbis; he will be higher than Abraham, who was first of all a ‘high father,’ and afterwards a father of a multitude. He will be more exalted than Moses, who was ‘exalted’ above the exalted ones of Levi (cf. Num. iii. 32), who was a prophet such that ‘none arose like him in Israel,’ (Deut. xxxiv. 10), who ‘saved’ Israel ‘with a great salvation’ (cf. I Chron. xi. 14) when they came out of Egypt, and the report of whom spread into all places until ‘the dukes of Edom were confounded’ before him, and ‘trembling seized the mighty men of Moab, and all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away’ (Ex. xv. 15). But this one will be exalted far above Moses: for when he gathers together our scattered ones from the four corners of the earth, he will be exalted in the eyes of all the kings in the whole world, and all of them will serve him, and will exalt him above them, as Daniel prophesies concerning him, ‘All nations, peoples, and tongues shall serve him’ (Dan. vii. 14, 27)He will be loftier than Solomon, whose dignity was so lofty that he is said to have ‘sat on the throne of the Lord’ (I Chron. xxix. 23), and our Rabbis say that he was king over both the upper and the nether world. But the King Messiah, in his ALL-COMPREHENDING INTELLIGENCE, will be loftier than Solomon. Exceedingly above the ministering angels, because that same comprehensive intelligence will approach [God] more nearly than theirs. For it is an exceedingly high privilege, that one whose nature is compound and material should attain to a grade of intelligence more nearly Divine than that which belongs to the incorporeal; and so it is said of him that ‘his strength is greater than that of the ministering angels,’ because these have no impediment in the exercise of their intellect, whereas that which is compound is continually impeded in consequence of material element in its nature. Accordingly, the grade of his intelligence being such as this, he is said to be ‘lofty exceedingly,’ and his strength to be ‘greater than the angels.’… And when this ‘servant of the Lord’ is born, he will continue to be marked by the possession of intelligence enabling him to acquire from God what it is impossible for any to acquire until he reaches that height wither none of the sons of men, EXCEPT HIM, have ever ascended: from that day he will be counted with his people Israel, and will share their subjugation and distress; ‘in all their affliction’ (Is. lxiii. 9) he will be exceedingly afflicted; and because of their being outcasts and scattered to the ends of the world, his grief will be such that the colour of his countenance will be changed from that of a man, and pangs and sicknesses will seize him (for great grief, as physicians know, by producing melancholy, subjects a man to many diseases); and all the chastisements which come upon him in consequence of his grief will be for our sakes, and not from any deficiency or sin on his part which might bring punishment in his train, BECAUSE HE IS PERFECT, IN THE COMPLETENESS OF PERFECTION, as Isaiah says (xi. 2f.). Truly all his pains and sicknesses will be for us…” (R. Mosheh Kohen Ibn Crispin (14th century AD), as cited by Driver and Neubauer, The “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah, pp. 101-103; bold and capital emphasis mine)

 Micah 5:2-4

 “‘But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.’ Therefore He will give them up until the time When she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren Will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock In the strength of the LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, Because at that time He will be great To the ends of the earth.” New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Here is the exposition of renowned Bible scholar and expositor John Gill:

[yet] out of thee shall he come forth unto me [that is] to be ruler in Israel; not Hezekiah, who very probably was now born at the time of this prophecy; nor was he born at Bethlehem, nor a ruler in Israel, only king of Judah: nor Zerubbabel, who was born in Babylon, as his name shows, was governor of Judah, but not of Israel; nor can it be said of him, or any mere man, what is said in the next clause: but the Messiah is intended, as the Targum, Jarchi, and Kimchi confess, and other Jewish writers. The Targum is,

“out of thee shall come forth before me the Messiah, that he may exercise dominion over Israel.”

Jarchi’s note is,

“out of thee shall come forth unto me Messiah, the son of David;”

and so he says, “the stone which the builders refused”… (Psalms 118:22); plainly suggesting that that passage also belongs to the Messiah, as it certainly does. Kimchi’s paraphrase is,

“although thou art little among the thousands of Judah, of thee shall come forth unto me a Judge, to be ruler in Israel, and this is the King Messiah.”

And Abarbinel F7, mentioning those words in (Micah 4:13); “arise, and thresh, O daughter of Zion”, observes,

this speaks concerning the business of the King Messiah, who shall reign over them, and shall be the Prince of their army; and it is plain that he shall be of the house of David: and it is said, “O thou, Bethlehem Ephratah”, which was a small city, in the midst of the cities of Judah; and “although thou art little in the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall come forth unto me” a man, a ruler in Israel, “whose goings forth are from the days of old”; the meaning is, the goings forth of the family of that ruler are from the days of old; that is, from the seed of David, and a rod from the stem of Jesse, who was of Bethlehem Judah.”

So Abendana F8, a more modern Jew, paraphrases the words thus,

“out of thee shall come forth unto me a Judge, that is to be ruler in Israel, and this is the King Messiah; for because he is to be of the seed of David, from Bethlehem he will be.”

To which may be added R. Isaac F9, who, having cited this passage, observes, and, he, the ruler in Israel, is the King Messiah, who shall come forth from the seed of David the king; who was of Bethlehem Judah, as in (1 Samuel 17:12). Wherefore Lyra, having quoted Jarchi, and given his sense of the passage, remarks, hence it is plain that some Catholics, explaining this Scripture of King Hezekiah, “judaize” more than the Hebrews. Though some of them object the application of it to Jesus, who they say ruled not over Israel, but Israel over him, and put him to death; which it is true they did; but God exalted him to be a Prince, as well as a Saviour, unto Israel, notwithstanding that, and declared him to be Lord and Christ; besides, previous to his death, and in the land of Israel, he gave abundant proof of his power and rule over universal nature, earth, air, and sea; over angels, good and bad; and over men and beasts: all creatures obeyed him; though indeed his kingdom is not of this world, but of a spiritual nature, and is over the spiritual Israel of God; and there is a time coming when he will be King over all the earth. Now out of Bethlehem was the King Messiah, the ruler in Israel, to come forth; that is, here he was to be born, as the phrase signifies; see (Genesis 10:14); and here our Jesus, the true Messiah, was born, as appears from (Matthew 2:8,11) (Luke 2:1-6,11,15,16); and this is not only certain from the evangelic history, but the Jews themselves acknowledge it. One of their chronologers F11 affirms that Jesus the Nazarene was born at Bethlehem Judah, a parsa and a half from Jerusalem; that is, about six miles from it, which was the distance between them: and even the author of a blasphemous book F12, pretending to give the life of Jesus, owns that Bethlehem Judah was the place of his nativity: and it is clear not only that the Jews in the times of Jesus expected the Messiah to come from hence, even both the chief priests and scribes of the people, who, in answer to Herod’s question about the place of the Messiah’s birth, direct him to this, according to Micah’s prophecy, (Matthew 2:4-6); and the common people, who thought to have confronted the Messiahship of Jesus with it, (John 7:41,42); but others also, at other times. The tower of Edar being a place near to Bethlehem Ephratah, (Genesis 35:19,21); Jonathan ben Uzziel, in his Targum of (Genesis 35:19), says of the tower of Edar, this is the place from whence the King Messiah shall be revealed in the end of days; nay, some of them say he is born already, and was born at Bethlehem. An Arabian, they say F13, told a Jew,

“the King Messiah is born; he replied to him, what is his name? he answered, Menachem (the Comforter) is his name; he asked him, what is his father’s name? he replied, Hezekiah; he said to him, from whence is he? he answered, from the palace of the king of Bethlehem Judah.”

This same story is told elsewhere F14, with some little variation, thus, that the Arabian should say to the Jew,

“the Redeemer of the Jews is both; he said to him, what is his name? he replied, Menachem is his name; and what is his father’s name? he answered, Hezekiah; and where do they dwell? (he and his father;) he replied, in Birath Arba, in Bethlehem Judah.”

These things show their sense of this prophecy, and the convictions of their minds as to the births of the Messiah, and the place of it… The phrases are expressive of the eternity of his divine nature and person; Jarchi compares them with (Psalms 72:17); “before the sun was, his name was Jinnon”; that is, the Son, the Son of God; so as the former part of the text sets forth his human birth, this his divine generation; which, cause of the excellency and ineffableness of it, is expressed in the plural number, “goings forth”. So Eliezer F15, along with the above mentioned passage in the Psalms, produces this to prove the name of the Messiah before the world was, whose “goings forth [were] from everlasting”, when as yet the world was not created.

F7 Mashmiah Jeshuah, fol. 62. col. 2.
F8 Not. in Miclol Yophi in loc.
F9 Chizzuk Emuuah, par. 1. p. 279.
F11 R. David Ganz, Tzemach David, par. 2. fol. 14. 2.
F12 Toldos Jesu, p. 7. Ed. Wagenseil.
F13 T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 5. 1.
F14 Echa Rabbati, fol. 50. 1.
F15 Pirke Eliezer, c. 3. fol. 2. 2. (The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible*; underline emphasis mine)

“And you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, you who were too small to be numbered among the thousands of the house of Judah, from you shall come forth before me the anointed One [Messiah], to exercise dominion over Israel, he whose name was mentioned from of old, from ancient times.” (Kevin J. Cathcart & Robert P. Gordon, The Targum of the Minor Prophets: The Aramaic Bible [Liturgical Press, 1989], Volume 14, p. 122; bold emphasis mine)

Finally, here is what a noted medieval Jewish Rabbi named David Qimhi (also spelled Kimchi) had to say concerning Micah 5:2:

“It will be said in the Messianic age that his ‘origins are from old, from ancient time;’ ‘from Bethlehem’ means that he will be of the house of David, because there is a long period of time between David and the Messiah-King; and he is El (God), which is how he is ‘from old, from ancient times’.” (Risto Santala, The Messiah in the Old Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings [Keren Ahvah Meshihit, Jerusalem 1992], p. 115)

The Rabbi correctly reasoned that in order for the Messiah to be from of old, from ancient times, he must be God!

Now contrast these statements with the way the following early Church Father quoted specific OT texts such as Micah 5:2 to prove the Messiah’s eternal generation and preexistence:

18. He who has seen the Son, has seen the FatherJohn 14:9: for in all things the Son is like to Him who begot Him; begotten Life of Life and Light of Light, Power of Power, God of God; and the characteristics of the Godhead are unchangeable in the Son; and he who is counted worthy to behold Godhead in the Son, attains to the fruition of the Father. This is not my word, but that of the Only-begotten: Have I been so long time with you, and have you not known Me, Philip? He that has seen Me, has seen the Father. John 14:9 And to be brief, let us neither separate them, nor make a confusion: neither say thou ever that the Son is foreign to the Father, nor admit those who say that the Father is at one time Father, and at another Son: for these are strange and impious statements, and not the doctrines of the Church. But the Father having begotten the Son, remained the Father and is not changed. He begot Wisdom, yet lost not wisdom Himself; and begot Power, yet became not weak: He begot God, but lost not His own Godhead: and neither did He lose anything Himself by diminution or change; nor has He who was begotten any thing wanting. Perfect is He who begot, Perfect that which was begotten: God was He who begot, God He who was begotten; God of all Himself, yet entitling the Father His own God. For He is not ashamed to say, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God. John 20:17.

19. But lest you should think that He is in a like sense Father of the Son and of the creatures, Christ drew a distinction in what follows. For He said not, I ascend to our Father, lest the creatures should be made fellows of the Only-begotten; but He said, My Father and your Father; in one way Mine, by nature; in another yours, by adoption. And again, to my God and your God, in one way Mine, as His true and Only-begotten Son, and in another way yours, as His workmanship. The Son of God then is Very God, ineffably begotten before all ages (for I say the same things often to you, that it may be graven upon your mind). This also believe, that God has a Son: but about the manner be not curious, for by searching you will not find. Exalt not yourself, lest you fall: think upon those things only which have been commanded you. Sirach 3:22 Tell me first what He is who begot, and then learn that which He begot; but if you can not conceive the nature of Him who has begotten, search not curiously into the manner of that which is begotten.

20. For godliness it suffices you to know, as we have said, that God has One Only Son, One naturally begotten; who began not His being when He was born in Bethlehem, but Before All Ages. For hear the Prophet Micah sayingAnd thou, Bethlehem, house of Ephrata, art little to be among the thousands of Judah. Out of you shall come forth unto Me a Ruler, who shall feed My people Israel: and His goings forth are from the beginning, from days of eternity. Think not then of Him who is now come forth out of Bethlehem, but worship Him who was eternally begotten of the Father. Suffer none to speak of a beginning of the Son in time, but as A TIMELESS Beginning acknowledge the Father. For the Father is the Beginning of the Son, TIMELESS, INCOMPREHENSIBLE, WITHOUT BEGINNING. The fountain of the river of righteousness, even of the Only-begotten, is the Father, who begot Him as Himself only knows. And would you know that our Lord Jesus Christ is King Eternal?Hear Him again saying, Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad. John 8:56 And then, when the Jews received this hardly, He says what to them was still harder, Before Abraham was, I am. And again He says to the Father, And now, Father, glorify Thou Me with Your own self, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. He says plainly, before the world was, I had the glory which is with You. And again when He says, For You loved Me before the foundation of the worldJohn 17:24, He plainly declares, The glory which I have with you is from eternity.

21. We believe then In One Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God, Begotten of His Father, Very God, Before All Worlds, by Whom All Things Were Made. For whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, all things were made through HimColossians 1:16, and of things created none is exempted from His authority. Silenced be every heresy which brings in different creators and makers of the world; silenced the tongue which blasphemes the Christ the Son of God; let them be silenced who say that the sun is the Christ, for He is the sun’s Creator, not the sun which we see. Silenced be they who say that the world is the workmanship of Angels, who wish to steal away the dignity of the Only-begotten. For whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, or anything that is named, all things were made by Christ. He reigns over the things which have been made by Him, not having seized another’s spoils, but reigning over His own workmanship, even as the Evangelist John has said, All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made. John 1:3 All things were made by Him, the Father working by the Son. (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 11; bold emphasis mine)

Interestingly, even Muslim tradition agrees that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Sunni writer G.F. Haddad narrates the following tradition:

… Gibril said: “Alight and pray here.” He [Muhammad] did so and remounted, then the Buraq continued his lightning flight and Gibril said: “Do you know where you prayed?” He said no. Gibril said: “You prayed in Bayt Lahm [Bethlehem], where ‘Isa ibn Maryam was born.” … (Islamic Doctrines & Beliefs, Volume 1: The Prophets in Barzakh, the Hadith of Isra’ and Mi’raj, The Immense Merits of Al-Sham, The Vision of Allah, Al-Sayyid Muhammad Ibn ‘Alawi al-Maliki, translation and notes by Dr. Gibril Foaud Haddad [As-Sunna Foundation of America, 1999], p. 100; bold emphasis and comments within brackets mine)

And he mentions Muslim scholars who graded it as sound:

Narrated as part of a long hadith from Anas by al-Nasa’i with a sound chain and from Shaddad ibn Aws by al-Bayhaqi who declared it sound in Dala’il al-Nubuwwa (2:355-357), and by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir and al-Bazzar with a sound chain as indicated by Haythami in Majma’ al-Zawa’id. See Ibn Hajar’s Mukhtasar (1:90-91 #32). (Ibid., p. 101, fn. 134)

Psalm 72:17

As we saw above, Psalm 72:17 is another passage that was viewed as a reference to the preexistence of the Messiah:

Composed by Solomon, uttered in prophecy. O God, give your just rulings to the King Messiah, and your righteousness to the son of King David… May his name be invoked for ever; and before the sun came to be his name was determined; so all the peoples will be blessed by his merit, and they shall speak well of him.” (Targum Psalms: An English Translation, by Edward M. Cook)

And:

Yet was the fire of the Gehenna created on the eve of the Sabbath? Surely it was taught: Seven things were created before the world was created, and these are they: The Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah. The Torah, for it is written, The Lord made me [sc. the Torah] as the beginning of his way. Repentance, for it is written, Before the mountains were brought forth, and it is written, Thou turnest man to contrition, and sayest, Repent, ye children of men.27 The Garden of Eden, as it is written, And the Lord planted a garden in Eden from aforetime.28 The Gehenna, for it is written, For Tophet [i.e., Gehenna] is ordered of old. The Throne of Glory and the Temple, for it is written, Thou throne of glory, on high from the beginning, Thou place of our sanctuary. The name of the Messiah, as it is written, His [sc. the Messiah’s] name shall endure for ever, and has exited before the sun! — I will tell you: only its cavity was created before the world was created, but its fire [was created] on the eve of the Sabbath. Pesahim 54a

Finally:

Resh Lakish said: Where is visiting the sick indicated in the Torah? In the verse, If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men etc. How is it implied? — Raba answered: [The verse means this:] If these men die the common death of all men, who lie sick a-bed and men come in and visit them, what will people say? The Lord hath not sent me for this [task]. Raba expounded: But if the Lord make a new thing: if the Gehenna is already created, ‘tis well: if not, let the Lord create it. But that is not so, for it was taught: Seven things were created before the world, viz., The Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah. The Torah, for it is written, The Lord possessed me [sc. the Torah] in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.6 Repentance, for it is written, Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world . . . Thou turnest man to destruction, and sayest, Repent, ye sons of men. The Garden of Eden, as it is written, And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden from aforetime. Gehenna, as it is written, For Tophet is ordained of old. The Throne of Glory, as it is written, Thy Throne is established from of old. The Temple, as it is written, A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary. The name of the Messiah, as it is written, His name [sc. of Messiah] shall endure for ever, and [has existed] before the sun! — But Moses said thus: If a mouth has already been created for it [sc. Gehenna], ‘tis well; if not, let the Lord create one. But is it not written, There is no new thing under the sun? — He said thus: If the mouth is not near to this spot, let it draw near. Nedarim 39b

There are also references which say that the Messiah was actually born before the world and that he has been in heaven ever since!

As the following scholar explains:

“Jewish authors and sages had a very specific way of emphasizing the great importance they attached to certain central values in Jewish life and thought: they made statements to the effect that the features in question were preexistent in the sense that they were either actually created in the six days of Genesis or their idea came up before God at that seminal time. Among them they mentioned the Tora, Repentance, the Garden of Eden and Gehenna, God’s throne of Glory, the Fathers, Israel, the Temple–and the Messiah. Of these various entities to which preexistence was ascribed, the Messiah is mentioned in a much earlier literary source than the others. He first appears as preexistent in the apocryphal First Book of Enoch, which was originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic about 150 B.C.E. From that period on, the concept of the Messiah who was created in the six days of Creation, or even prior to them, or who was born at variously stated subsequent dates (see chapter 3) and was then hidden to await his time, became a standard feature of Jewish Messianic eschatology. In one version it is the name of the Messiah which was created in the Beginning, in another, his spirit or his soul; in a third, he himself was actually born and even his celestial throne was fashioned.

“The concept of the preexistence of the Messiah accords with the general Talmudic view which holds that ‘The Holy One, blessed be He, prepares the remedy before the wound’ (B. Meg. 13b). By this token, of course, the preexistence of the Messiah means that the exile of Israel (the wound) was predetermined by God in the very six days of Creation. Only if this was so did the creation of the Messiah, the ultimate healer of the great national disaster of Israel, at the early date make sense, and more than that, become a mythical necessity.” (Raphael Patai, The Messiah Texts: Jewish Legends of Three Thousand Years [Wayne State University Press, Detroit, MI 1979], 2. Preexistence and Names of the Messiah, pp. 16-17; bold emphasis mine)

Patai then cites a few examples illustrating this, some of which include:

1. Shim‘on ben Laqish explained: “and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the water(Gen. 1:2)–this is the spirit of King Messiah, as it is written, And the spirit of the Lord will rest upon him(Isa. 11:2). By what merit will it [the spirit of the Messiah] come? … By the merit of repentance.” (Gen. Rab. 2:4)

You find that at the beginning of the creation of the world King Messiah was born [and] that he emerged in the thought [of God] even before the world was created…. (Pes. Rab. Ed. Friedman, p. 152b) (Ibid, p. 19; bold emphasis mine)

Here we see that some of the rabbis actually believed that it was the Spirit of the Messiah that was hovering over the water of the earth at the start of creation!

Finally:

1. Hosha‘ya said: “In the future Jerusalem will be a lantern for the nations of the world, and they will walk in her light….” 

In Thy light do we see light (Ps. 36:10). This is the light of the Messiah, as it is written, And God saw the light that it was good (Gen. 1:4). This teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be He, saw the generation of the Messiah and its deeds prior to the creation of the world. And He hid the light for the Messiah and his generation under His Throne of Glory.

Satan said before the Holy One, blessed be He: “Master of the World! The light which is hidden under Your Throne of Glory, for whom is it [destined]?” He said to him: “For him who will turn you back and disgrace you, and shame your face.” He said to him: “Master of the world! Show him to me!” He said to him: “Come and see him!” When Satan saw the Messiah, he trembled and fell upon his face and said: “Surely this is the Messiah who in the future will cast me and all the princes of the nations of the world into Gehenna….”

In that hour the nations became awestruck and said before him: “Master of the World! Who is he into whose hand we shall fall, what is his name and what is his nature?” The Holy One, blessed be He, said to them: “His name is Ephraim, My True Messiah. He will raise his stature and the stature of his generation, and will light up the eyes of Israel, and will save his people, and no nation and language shall be able to stand up against him…. All his enemies and adversaries will be affrighted and will flee from him… and even the rivers will cease to flow into the sea….”

[When He created the Messiah], the Holy One, blessed be He, began to tell him the conditions [of his future mission], and said to him: “Those who are hidden with you [your generation], their sins will in the future force you into an iron yoke, and they will render you like unto a calf whose eyes have grown dim, and they will choke your spirit with the yoke, and because of their sins your tongue will cleave to the roof of your mouth. Do you accept this?

The Messiah said before the Holy One, blessed be He, “Master of the World! Will that suffering last many years?” The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: “By your life and the life of my head, it is a septenary of it that I decreed upon you. But if your soul is troubled, I shall banish them as from this moment.”

He said before Him: “Master of the Worlds! With gladness in my soul and with joy in my heart I accept it, so that not a single one of Israel should perish; and not only those who will be alive should be saved in my days, but even the dead who have died from the days of Adam the first man until now. And not only they, but even the stillborn should be saved in my days; and not only the stillborn, but even those to whose creation You gave thought but who were not created. This is what I want, this is what I accept!” (Pes. Rab. pp. 161a-b)

They said: In the septenary in which the Son of David comes they will bring iron beams and put them upon his neck until his body bends and he cries and weeps, and his voice rise up into the Heights, and he says before Him: “Master of the World! How much can my strength suffer? How much my spirit? How much my soul? And how much my limbs? Am I not but flesh and blood?…”

In that hour the Holy One, blessed be He, says to him: “Ephraim, My True Messiah, you have already accepted [this suffering] from the six days of creation. Now your suffering shall be like My suffering. For ever since the day on which wicked Nebuchadnezzar came up and destroyed My Temple and burnt My sanctuary, and I exiled My children among the nations of the world, by your life and the life of your head, I have not sat on My Throne. And if you do not believe me, see the dew that is upon My head….”

In that hour he says before Him: “Master of the World! Now my mind is at rest, for it is sufficient for the servant to be like his Master!” (Pes. Rab. pp. 162a) (Ibid, 12. The Suffering Messiah, pp. 111-113; bold emphasis mine)

In these examples, we not only have a preexistent Messiah who dwells and speaks with God in heaven but one who also voluntarily takes on the sins of his people in order to save them!

FURTHER READING

Jews, Christians and Prophecies of Muhammad

Messianic Prophecy and the Quran: Another Muhammadan Dilemma

Jews for Jesus and Isaiah 9:6-7

JUDAISMS’ VIEWS ON THE MESSIAH’S PREHUMAN EXISTENCE

The Rabbis Affirm the Divine Prehuman Existence of the Messiah!

A Divine Messiah That Suffers and Reigns! Pt. 1

A Divine Messiah That Suffers and Reigns! Pt. 2

 

4 thoughts on “Messianic Prophecy in light Muhammadan Polemics

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