How Did They Decide?
Christianity stands on the words of a few men. If the disciples of Jesus would have ignored him as did most of the Jews of his day, no one would have ever heard of him. It is only because these men believed he was the Messiah that the world knows of the existence of Jesus of Nazareth.
How did these people come to their conclusion? How did these followers of Jesus decide that he was the Messiah prophesied by the Jewish Bible? What was the motivation behind their decision? Was it a deep loyalty to the words of the prophets or was it some other factor that induced them to come to this conclusion?
It is not easy to determine if someone arrived at their conclusion on the basis of intellectual searching or if the conclusions were generated by some external factor and it is not always ethical to attempt to make these judgments. But when the group in question readily switches their beliefs from end to end simply in order to maintain their conclusion in the face of changing facts, it is naive and even irresponsible to take them seriously. Allow the followers of Jesus to illustrate.
According to the Christian Scriptures the followers of Jesus identified Jesus as the Messiah. In the best case scenario, this would mean that the followers of Jesus had carefully and thoroughly built in their minds a comprehensive portrait of the Messiah as predicted by the Jewish prophets. These men felt that their portrait of the Messiah was so solidly grounded in Scripture that they were willing to take upon themselves the weighty responsibility of positively identifying the Messiah with all of its cosmic ramifications. But after all of their Scriptural research they still did not expect Jesus to die (Luke 24:21) and they actually saw his death as a contradiction and a refutation to his Messianic claims. The portrait that they had developed did not include suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection. They had read Isaiah 53, Daniel 7 Psalm 22 and all of the missionary proof-texts without it occurring to them that the Messiah is supposed to suffer and die.
But after Jesus died and after they believed that he was resurrected, their portrait of the Messiah underwent a radical change – now the Messiah MUST suffer, he MUST die and if you deny these Biblical “truths” than you MUST be spiritually blinded.
If the Biblical interpretation could turn around on a dime just so that it can keep up with the devotion, there is no reason to grant it any credibility. It is not a matter of being judgmental; it is a matter of being responsible and faithful to the truths with which we were entrusted.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal