Mattityahu Jewish New Testament

chapter 2
1. After Yeshua was born in Beit-Lechem in the land of Y’hudah during the time when Herod was king, Magi from the east came to Yerushalayim
Yeshua was born between 8 and 4 B.C.E. The reason he was born "B.C." ("Before Christ") is that Dionysius Exiguus, the sixth-century monk who set up the modern calendar, made a mistake in determining the date which was not corrected till later. Instead of the terms "A.D." ("Anno Domini," "in the year of [the] Lord" Yeshua) and "B .C." the Jewish community customarily denotes these periods by "C.E." ("Common Era") and "B.C.E." ("Before the Common Era"), to avoid relating dates explicitly to the Messiah. In Beit-Lechem. See v. 6&N.

Herod the Great (c. 73-4 B.C.E.) founded the Herodian dynasty (see Lk 3: IN), which ruled the Land of Israel and its surroundings from 37 B.C.E. until the war with Rome in 66-70 C.E. Herod himself was a man of great physical energy and ambition. His career comes to the notice of historians in 47 B.C.E. in Syria and the Galil; a combination of military successes, political machinations and bribery of Roman superiors enabled him to replace the last of the Hasmonean rulers, Antigonus, when the latter died in 37 B.C.E. (possibly in consequence of one of Herod's bribes).

Though technically Jewish by birth, since his family was from the Idumeans (Edomites), who had been forcibly converted to Judaism under the Hasmonean Maccabees in the second century B.C.E. (see 23:15N), neither his religious behavior nor his ethics reflected anything of Judaism. He did. however, reconstruct and enlarge the Second Temple, which had been built under Z'rubavel (see the hook of Haggai) in 520-516 ВСЕ. The Talmudic rabbis said, "One who has not seen Herod's temple has never seen a beautiful building" (Bava Batra 4a). but also, "It was built by a sinful king, and the building was intended by him as an atonement for having slain Israel's sages" (Numbers Rabbah 4:14).

Herod was consistently paranoid about his power. He had all his rivals exterminated, including those of his wife's family (he had married Mariamne, a Hasmonean, and feared the restoration of the Hasmonean dynasty) and even some of his own children (he had fifteen). He built remote fortresses, Herodion and Malzada, as refuges should he be deposed. The events described in 2:1-17 are entirely in keeping with the man's independently attested character.

Magi were not merely sorcerers or magicians, although the term "magician" comes from this word; nor were they simply astrologers, although they did observe the stars. They were sages, wise men, often in positions of responsibility but sometimes commanding respect because of their wisdom even when not holding office. These Magi came from the Medo-Persian Empire or Babylon.

2. and asked, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
King of the Jews. At Yn I: I9N I argue thai the Greek word loudaioi should usually be translated "Judeans" and not "Jews" when the context is the Land of Israel. But the set phrase, "king of the loudaioi" is used in the New Testament only by non-Jews — here by the Magi, and later by Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers (27:37; Mk 15:26; Lk23:3, 38; Yn 19:19). This argues for making an exception: all of these people were interested not in distinguishing Judeans from Galileans but Jews from Gentiles.

However, one can make a strong case for rendering loudaioi "Judeans" even here. Not only is the context the Land of Israel, but three times in vv. 1-6 we read of Beit-Lechem in Y'hudah (Judea). The Jewish scholar Solomon Zeitlin so understands the phrase: 'The gospels according to both Matthew [1:1-16] and Luke [3:24—31) trace the genealogy of Jesus to David, while Mark, who does not give the genealogy, states that Jesus is the son of David 112:35]. John, who stresses the view that Jesus was the son of God, nevertheless wrote, 'But some said. Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, that Christ cometh out of the seed of David and out of die town of Bethlehem where David was?' [7:41-42]. According to the gospels Jesus was greeted with the words, 'Blessed be the kingdom of our father David1 [Mark i 1:10]. 'Hosanna to the Son of David' [Matthew 21:9]. On the cross or which Jesus was crucified the words 'Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Judaeans' were inscribed in Hebrew, Greek and Latin [Iesus Nazarenus, Rex ludaeorum]. Mashiah, messiah, Christ were synonymous in their minds with 'son of David' and 'king of the Judaeans.1" ("The Origin of the Idea of the Messiah," in Daniel Jeremy Silver, ed.. In the Time of Harvest, New York: The MacMillan Company, 1963, p. 458)

His star. This seems to allude to Numbers 24:17. where Balaam prophesies, "There shall come forth a star out of Jacob." Judaism understands this "star" to be the Messiah. See 2 Ke 1:19N on "the Morning Star."

3. When King Herod heard of this he became very agitated, and so did everyone else in Yerushalayim.
4. He called together all the head cohanim and Torah-teachers of the people and asked them, “Where will the Messiah be born?”
Cohanim (plural; singular cohen), "priests," a word which today evokes the image of clerics in formal Christian denominations or functionaries in eastern or primitive religions. This is because the Jewish priesthood has been dormant since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. But in Yeshua's day, when the Temple still stood, Judaism without a priesthood was unimaginable.

The task of a priest, like that of a prophet, is to serve as spokesman and mediator between God and man. The prophet speaks to man on behalf of God, the priest to God on behalf of man. The cohanim serving in the Temple were descendents of Moshe's brother Aharon, great-grandson of L'vi, Ya'akov's third son. In terms of practical job-description their primary duty was to offer sacrificial animals on the altar. The ever-bloody altar in the Temple of God was a continual witness to Israel that God's penalty for sin is death (see MJ 10:3). The concepts of priesthood and sacrifice are minimized in today's non-Messianic Judaism (see MJ 9:22N), but the Judaism of the Bible is inoperative without them. Messianic Judaism holds thai Yeshua the Messiah is our everlasting cohen (MJ 7:23-25) and our everlasting sacrifice (MJ 7:27, Yn 1:29). 7ora/i-teachers. The Greek word "grammateus" translates literally Hebrew sofer, which has the literal meaning "scribe" and is usually so rendered in English. But the function of the sofrim in Yeshua's day went well beyond copying scrolls or performing secretarial duties; they were the primary students and teachers of the content of Judaism, that is, of Torah.

The leading cohanim, who were mostly Sadducees, and 7V»ra/r-teachers, who were allied with the Pharisees (but see next paragraph), represented the two main concentrations of power within the Jewish religious establishment (see 3:7N). The opinions of the two groups frequently differed, but Herod's question received a single response; from this we learn that all Israel agreed that the Messiah would be born in Beit-Lechem (see v. 6N). Joseph Shulam, a Messianic Jewish leader in Jerusalem, points out that modem scholars believe the scribes were neither rabbis nor Pharisees but "sages of the 'am.-ha'aretf (see Yn 7:49N, Ac 4:13N), TbraA-teachers without s 'mifdiah (ordination; see 21:23N) — but see Mk 2:16&N. For this reason they could not bring chiddushim (introduce new interpretations) or posek nalakhah (make legal judgments). According to Shulam, this is why the people were in shock that Yeshua taught like a rabbi and not like a scribe (7:28-29, Mk 1:22&N).

5. “In Beit-Lechem of Y’hudah,” they replied, “because the prophet wrote,
6. "‘And you, Beit-Lechem in the land of Y’hudah, are by no means the least among the rulers of Y’hudah; for from you will come a Ruler who will shepherd my people Isra’el.’” (Micah 5:1(2))
In Judaism ihe citation of a Scripture texl implies the whole context, not merely the quoted words. Thus Micah 5:1(2) reads, in full, from the Hebrew:
"But you, Beit-Lechem Efratah, though small among the thousands of Y'hudah, nevertheless out of you shall one come forth to me who will be ruler in Israel; and his goinga-forth are from of old, from ancient days."

Some have taken this verse to mean only that the Messiah is to be descended from King David, who came out of Beit-Lechem (1 Samuel 17:12), also called Efratah (Genesis 48:7). But it is bad exegesis to give this very clear prediction of the geographic origin of the Messiah such a figurative meaning. Instead it is an effort to fudge the obvious reference to Yeshua, the eternal Son of God "whose goings-forth are of old, from ancient days," as noted in Yochanan 1:1-2&N, 14; 8:56-58&N.

It is amazing thai in many periods of history significant numbers of Jewish people have fallen for the claims of Messianic pretenders (see 1:22N), not one of whom fulfilled this prophecy by being born in Bethlehem. There are even rabbinic sources which directly identify Beit-Lechem as the birthplace of the Messiah, for example, the Midrash Rabbah to Lamentations, Section 51 (on Lamentations 1:16):

"A man was plowing when one of his oxen lowed. An Arab passed by and asked, 'What are you?' He replied, 'I am a Jew.' The Arab said to him, 'Unharness your ox and untie your plow [as a sign of moumingl.' 'Why?' 'Because the Temple of the Jews is destroyed.' The Jew asked, 'How do you know this?' 'From the lowing of your ox.' While they were talking the ox lowed again. The Arab said, 'Harness your ox and tie up your plow, because the deliverer of the Jews is born.' What is his name?" 'His name is Menachem |Comforter].* 'What is his father's name?" 'Chizkiyahu [King Hezekiah is identified in Jewish literature with the Messiah].' 'Where do they live?' He answered, 'In Birat-'Arba. in Beit-Lechem of Judea.'" The same aggadah (story) appears in the Jerusalem Talmud at B'rakhot 5a; there the last line is, "In the royal capital of Beit-Lechem." Moreover, although it does not identify the Messiah as Yeshua, it implies that the Messiah has come already, around the time of the Temple's destruction.

7. Herod summoned the Magi to meet with him privately and asked them exactly when the star had appeared.
8. Then he sent them to Beit-Lechem with these instructions: “Search carefully for the child; and when you find him, let me know, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9. After they had listened to the king, they went away; and the star which they had seen in the east went in front of them until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
10. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
11. Upon entering the house, they saw the child with his mother Miryam; and they prostrated themselves and worshipped him. Then they opened their bags and presented him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
12. But they had been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, so they took another route back to their own country.
13. After they had gone, an angel of Adonai appeared to Yosef in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and escape to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you to leave. For Herod is going to look for the child in order to kill him.”
An angel alAdonai. See Yn 1:14N.

14. So he got up, took the child and his mother, and left during the night for Egypt,
15. where he stayed until Herod died. This happened in order to fulfill what Adonai had said through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 11:1)
Out of Egypt I called ray son. Hosea 11:1 clearly refers nol to the Messiah but to the people of Israel, who were called God's son even before leaving Egypt (Exodus 4:22). The previous two Tanakh quotations (1:23,2:6) involved literal fulfillment, but this does not. In what sense, then, does Yeshua's flight to Egypt Fulfill what Adonai had said through the prophet?

To answer, we must understand the four basic modes of Scripture interpretation used by the rabbis. These are:
(1) P'shat ("simple") — the plain, literal sense of the text, more or less what modern scholars mean by "grammatical-historical exegesis," which looks to the grammar of the language and the historical selling as background for deciding what a passage means. Modern scholars often consider grammatical-historical exegesis the only valid way to deal wi± a text: pastors who use other approaches in their sermons usually feel defensive about it before academics. But the rabbis had three other modes of interpreting Scripture, and their validity should not be excluded in advance but related to the validity of their implied presuppositions.

(2) Remez ("hint") — wherein a word, phrase or other element in the text hints at a truth not conveyed by the p'shat. The implied presupposition is that God can hint at things of which the Bible writers themselves were unaware.

(3) Drash or midrash ("search") — an allegorical or homiletical application of a text. This is a species of eisegesis — reading one's own thoughts into the text — as opposed to exegesis, which is extracting from the text what it actually says. The implied presupposition is that the words of Scripture can legitimately become grist for the mill of human intellect, which God can guide to truths not directly related to the text at all.

(4) Sod ("secret") — a mystical or hidden meaning arrived at by operating on the numerical values of the Hebrew letters, noting unusual spellings, transposing letters, and the like. For example, two words, the numerical equivalents of whose letters add up to the same amount, are good candidates for revealing a secret through what Arthur Koestlcr in his book on the inventive mind called "bisocialion of ideas." The implied presupposition is that God invests meaning in the minutest details of Scripture, even the individual letters.

The presuppositions underlying remez, (Irtish and sod obviously express God's omnipotence, but they also express his love for humanity, in the sense that he chooses out of love lo use extraordinary means for reaching people's hearts and minds. At the same time, it is easy to see how remez, ttru&h and sod can be abused, since they all allow, indeed require, subjective interpretation; and this explains why scholars, who deal with the objective world, hesitate to use them.

These four methods of working a texl are remembered by the Hebrew word "PaRDeS." an acronym formed from the initials; ii means "orchard" or "garden."

What, then, is Mattityahu doing here? Some allege he is misusing Scripture, twisting the meaning of what Hosea wrote from its context in order to apply it to Yeshua. Such an accusation stands only if Mattityahu is dealing with ihe p'shat, For there is no question that the p 'shat of Hosea 11:1 applies to the nation of Israel and not to Yeshua.

Some think Mattityahu is using the drash approach, making a midrash in which he reads the Messiah into a verse dealing with Israel. Many rabbis used the same procedure; Mattityahu's readers would not have found it objectionable.

Nevertheless, I believe Mattityahu is not doing cisegesis but giving us a remez, a hint of a very deep truth. Israel is called God's son as Гаг back as Exodus 4:22. The Messiah is presented as God's son a few verses earlier in Mattityahu (1:18-25), reflecting Tanakh passages such as Isaiah 9:5-6(6-7), Psalm 2:7 and Proverbs 30:4. Thus the Son equals the son: the Messiah is equated with, is one with, the nation of Israel. This is the deep truth Mattityahu is hinting at by calling Yeshua's flight lo Egypt a "fulfillment" of Hosea 11:1. This fact, that the Messiah Yeshua stands for and is intimately identified with his people Israel, is an extremely important corporate aspect of the Gospel generally neglected in the individualistically oriented Western world. The individual who trusts Yeshua becomes united with him and is "immersed" (baptized; see 3:1&N) into all that

Yeshua is (see Ac 2:38&N), including his death and resurrection — so that his sinful propensities are regarded as dead, and his new nature, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is regarded as alive (Ro 6.3-6&N). Likewise, just as this intimate identification with the Messiah holds for the individual, so the Messiah similarly identifies with and embodies national, corporate Israel. Indeed it is only because Yeshua identifies himself with the Jewish people, national Israel, the "olive tree" into which Gentile Christians have been "grafted" (Ro 11:17-24), that he can plausibly identify with the Messianic Community, the Church, as "head of the Body" (1С 11:3; Ep 1:10, 22; 4:15, 5:23; Co 1:18, 2:19) and "cornerstone" of the building (below at 21:42, Mk 12:10, Ac 4:11, Ep 2:20, 1 Ke 2:6-7).

Modern readers of the Bible, by using "grammatical-historical exegesis," ignore all modes of interpretation except the p'shat, discounting them as eisegesis. This is in reaction to the tendency of the Church Fathers in the second through eighth centuries to over-allegorize, an error which probably resulted from their misunderstanding the limitations of, and therefore misusing, the other three rabbinic approaches to texts. But the New Testament is a Jewish book, written by Jews in a Jewish context; and the first-century Jewish context included all four ways of handling texts. Mattityahu knew perfectly well that Hosea was not referring to Yeshua, to a Messiah, or even to any individual. Yet he also sensed that because Yeshua in a profound yet recondite way embodies Israel, his coming from Egypt re-enacted in a spiritually significant way the Exodusof the Jewish people. Since remez andp'shtit have different presuppositions one should expect fulfillment of a prophecy by remez to be different from literal fulfillment. At 1:23 and 2:6 the plain, literal sense of the text, the p'shat, suffices to show how the prophecies are fulfilled, but here it does not.

The phrase, "what Adonai had said through the prophet," takes our attention off the prophet himself and puts it on God who spoke through him. Ii lets the reader understand that Adonai might have been saying more than what the prophet himself understood when he wrote. It prepares him for the possibility that behind Hosea's p'shat was God's remez to be revealed in its time and lends credibility to the "PaRDeS" mode of interpretation. Recognition that there are four modes of Jewish exegesis also resolves much of the controversy concerning how certain passages in the Tanakh ought to be interpreted. For example, most Christians say that Isaiah 53 refers to the Messiah, and some (though not all) traditional Jews say it refers to Israel. But if there is a mystical identification between the Messiah and the people whose king he is (an idea expounded at length by the best-known Christian theologian of the twentieth century, Karl Barth, in his Church Dogmatics), then the interpretational conflict vanishes; both claimants hold part of the total truth.

Moreover, the idea that the Messiah personifies or is identified intimately with Israel is a Jewish one. First of all, we see it in the Tanakh itself. Compare Isaiah 49:3 {"You are my servant Israel, in whom I will be glorified.") with Isaiah 49:6 ("Is it too slight a thing that you should be my servant... to restore the preserved of Israel?'). The servant is at once Israel and he who restores Israel, that is, the Messiah. In Chapter 12 of Raphael Patai's The Messiah Texts he quotes Pesikta Rabbati lhl-162, where the Messiah is called Efrayim {a name symbolizing Israel) and is at the same time presented as bearing Israel's sufferings. Likewise the thirteenth-century work which is at the core of the Jewish mysticaJ approach called kabbalah, the Zohar (2:212a), links the Messiah's suffering with that of Israel. Patai also retells the eighteenth-century Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav's story of the viceroy and the king's daughter, adding that most interpreters understand the viceroy to represent both Israel and the suffering Messiah.

16. Meanwhile, when Herod realized that the Magi had tricked him, he was furious and gave orders to kill all the boys in and around Beit-Lechem who were two years old or less, calculating from the time the Magi had told him.
17. In this way were fulfilled the words spoken through the prophet Yirmeyahu:
18. "A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and lamenting loudly. It was Rachel sobbing for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no longer alive.". (Jeremiah 31:14(15))
The p 'shat of this verse from Jeremiah does not refer to the Messiah but to the slaughter of the northern tribes of Israel by the Assyrians. But there is a remez here of which Mauityahu makes use: the traditional burial-place of Ya'akov's wife Rachel is in Ramah, just outside Beit-Lechem — one can visit what is called "Rachel's Tomb" there today. Just as Rachel in her grave moums for her posterity descended from her son Yosef, so the many women of nearby Beit-Lechem moum for their slain infants.

19. After Herod’s death, an angel of Adonai appeared in a dream to Yosef in Egypt
20. and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to Eretz-Yisra’el, for those who wanted to kill the child are dead.”
21. So he got up, took the child and his mother, and went back to Eretz-Yisra’el.
What does the New Testament call ihe Holy Land? Not Palestine but Eretz-lsrael, "the Land of Israel." Similarly, the regions north and south of Jerusalem are called not the West Bank but "Y'budah" and "Shomron" (Judea and Samaria; see Ac 1:8). The New Testament, like the Israelis of today, uses the names the Hebrew Bible uses, not those employed by the Romans or other conquerors. See 5:5&N.

22. However, when he heard that Archelaus had succeeded his father Herod as king of Y’hudah, he was afraid to go there. Warned in a dream, he withdrew to the Galil
23. and settled in a town called Natzeret, so that what had been spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he will be called a Natzrati.
This is a problematical verse. In every instance where Mattityahu is showing the fulfillment of a Scriptural prophecy (see list in 1:23N), a specific writer — Isaiah, Jeremiah, David — is named, or "the prophet," or "the Tanakh" followed by a verse or passage. Here the prophets (uniquely plural) are mentioned, and no text is quoted. This is clear from the fact that Mattityahu leaves out "legontos" ("saying"), the Greek keyword he uses to cite Scripture. Rather, he seems to be alluding to a general concept found in several prophets, capable of being fulfilled by the Messiah's being what the Greek text here calls a Nazoraios (in some other places the word is "Nazarenos "). The questions: Which prophets? What did they actually say? And what is a NazdraioslNazarenos?

Some have suggested that the verse has to do with Yeshua's taking the vows of a Nazirite (Numbers 6:1-23). But this is improbable, since there is no record that Yeshua, who was not an ascetic (11:16-19), ever did such a thing. A second possibility is that since Natzeret (Nazareth, see Lk 1:26N) was a place people made fun of — as in Natan'el's remark. "Natzeret? Can anything good come from there?" (Yn 1:46) — Mattityahu is referring to the many Tanakh prophecies that say the Messiah would be despised (e.g., Psalm 22, Isaiah 52:13-53:12) and is informing us thai these prophecies would be fulfilled, in part, by his having the onus of being a Natzrati, a resident of Natzeret.

The third possibility is that Mattityahu is speaking of the prediction that the Messiah will be a nelzer ("branch") from the stock of Yishai, King David's father (Isaiah 11:1); but compare Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15; Zechariah 3:8, 6:12, where the word is "tzemach" ("sprout"). Thus several prophets use the idea, though not the word "netzer." (For more on "the prophets" see 5:17N.)

What 1 consider most probable is that Mattityahu is combining the second and third alternatives by means of wordplay, a technique very common in Jewish writing, including the Bible. Yeshua is both netzer and Natzrati.

Finally, although one of the earliest names for the Jewish believers was "Notzrirti" ("Nazareth-ites," that is, "followers of the man from Nazareth," Acts 24:5&N), it would be odd for Mattityahu to use the same term for the one they followed. The Talmud refers to him as Yeshu HaNotzn (B'rakhot 17b, Sotah 47a). In modern Hebrew "Notzri" remains the everyday word for "Christian"; but it is wrong and confusing to speak of "Yeshua the Christian," i.e., die follower of Christ — he could not follow himself! The Talmud's expression should be understood as meaning "Yeshua the Naizrati, Yeshua from Natzeret." I use the term "Natzrati" instead of "Notzri" (both are acceptable modem Hebrew) in order to get away from the modem connotations of "Notzri" in Hebrew.

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