Jesus failed the Jewish expectations for the Messiah, God never corrected the Jews’ belief when all scripture points towards a highly involved and correcting God, and Jesus died in a manner that proved him a heretic.
In the gospels, Jesus makes a claim to Mosaic prophecy when he tells the Jews “you search the scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf” [John 5:39]. Jesus reiterates his prophetic status later in John, stating, “if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me” [John 5:46]. Despite Christ’s claim, the evidence tells a different story.
The God of the Old Testament, who will be referred to as Yahweh (synonymous with the Father in the Trinity), took an acute interest in the particulars of the Jews’ worship and daily life. For example, in Leviticus 20, Yahweh goes into painstaking details about proper sexual conduct. Man is forbid from having sex with a neighbor’s wife [Leviticus 20:10], having sex with his father’s wife [20:11], having sex with a daughter-in-law [20:12], homosexuality [20:13], marrying a woman and her mother [20:14], bestiality [20:15-16], incest [20:17], having sex on a woman’s period [20:18], having sex with an aunt [20:19-20], and from marrying his brother’s wife [20:21], with the penalties for offense involving death or banishment. That man should conform to these specific requests is reiterated by Yahweh’s declaration “be careful to observe all my statutes and all my decrees; otherwise the land where I am bringing you to dwell will vomit you out” [20:22].
Yahweh’s specificity extends beyond social laws and reveals itself in religious worship. While there are dozens of examples, one regarding the details of animal sacrifice should elucidate the point, as Yahweh instructed Moses:
If a person’s offering is a burnt offering from the herd, the offering must be a male without blemish. The individual shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to find favor with the Lord, and shall lay a hand on the head of the burnt offering, so that it may be acceptable to make atonement for the one who offers it. The bull shall then be slaughtered before the Lord, and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall offer its blood by splashing it on all the sides of the altar which is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. Then the burnt offering shall be flayed and cut into pieces. After Aaron’s sons, the priests, have put burning embers on the altar and laid wood on them, they shall lay the pieces of meat, together with the head and the suet, on top of the wood and the embers on the altar; but the inner organs and the shanks shall be washed with water. The priest shall then burn all of it on the altar as a burnt offering, a sweet-smelling oblation to the Lord.
If a person’s burnt offering is from the flock, that is, a sheep or a goat, the offering must be a male without blemish. It shall be slaughtered on the north side of the altar before the Lord, and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall splash its blood on all the sides of the altar. When it has been cut into pieces, the priest shall lay these, together with the head and suet, on top of the wood and the embers on the altar; but the inner organs and the shanks shall be washed with water. The priest shall then offer all of it, burning it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a sweet-smelling oblation to the Lord.
If a person offers a bird as a burnt offering to the Lord, the offering brought must be a turtledove or a pigeon. Having brought it to the altar, the priest shall wring its head off and burn it on the altar. The blood shall be drained out against the side of the altar. He shall remove its crissum by means of its feathers and throw it on the ash heap at the east side of the altar. Then, having torn the bird open by its wings without separating the halves, the priest shall burn it on the altar, on the wood and the embers. It is a burnt offering, a sweet-smelling oblation to the Lord. [Leviticus 1:3-17]
So how do extremely specific rules concerning sacrifice and sex relate to the prophecy of Jesus? If Yahweh was this detailed about the conduct of small affairs, why did He never correct the Jews in their non-worship of Jesus? For two millennia, Yahweh never explained the trinitarian relationship and Moses had absolutely no conception of who Jesus was.
For those that believe Jesus was hinted at in the Old Testament, but never explicitly named, one must inquire how a belief necessary to avoid eternal damnation took backseat to the specificity of period sex and where to splash the blood of animal sacrifices.
Additionally, the referenced verses which foreshadow Jesus are terribly dubious, or wholly incorrect. Grace Thru Faith claims “the clearest is from Deut.18:17-19” [Kelly]. This verse is clearly not about a fully-God, fully-man Messiah, as Moses states “a prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kindred” [Deuteronomy 18:15]. Moses was born of man, not God; he was fully man, absolutely undivine, made no claim to perfection, and made no claim to saving the Jewish people, let alone the entire world, through his flesh, nor was he disbelieved by his own people, nor tortured to death.
Another often claimed verse is Numbers 24:17 which promises “a star shall advance from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel, that will crush the brows of Moab.” That this is speaking of David, not Jesus, is evidenced by David’s undisputed descent from Jacob [1 Chronicles 2] and his decisive victory and subjugation of Moab [2 Samuel 8:2]. Isaiah 53 was claimed by early Christians, though it speaks of Israel, not Jesus, and it “was not taken by the Jews of Jesus’ generation to refer to the messiah or to announce his coming” [Hoffman, 128].
The references used by the disciples are starkly wrong too. One would expect that if the Bible was the representation of the best argument for Christ, the disciples would have chosen provable verses as justification of Jesus’ status as Messiah. This is apparently not the case, as Matthew claims that Jesus “went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled” [Matthew 2:23], but “the town of Nazareth is not mentioned in the Old Testament, and no such prophecy can be found there” [Matthew 2:23 fn]. The savior predicted as “riding on a donkey,” and referenced by Matthew 21:4-5 and John 12:14-15, was dually predicted to bring the banishment of the warrior’s bow and dominion “from the River to the ends of the earth” [Zechariah 9:9-10], though clearly this didn’t happen.
The disciples also attempted to tie Jesus’ lineage to David and Abraham [Matthew 1:1-17], though Matthew makes two historical errors in his geneology [Matthew 1:7, 1:10 & fn]. Despite the mistakes, Matthew’s attempt to paternally link Jesus to David is flawed, as Jesus was not even born to Joseph, invalidating any geneological connection.
Considering Jesus’ standard for judging prophets was “by their fruits you will know them” [Matthew 7:20], and the religious baseline of Jesus’ environment was Judaism, and the disciples and Jesus both attempted to justify him in the context of Judaic scripture, “by his fruits” Jesus’ failure to fulfill Jewish prophecy indicates he was not Messiah.
It is to be remembered that the most learned Jews of the day, the guarders of the True Faith, were who condemned Jesus as a heretic: “all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus” [Matthew 27:1]. If Jesus couldn’t even convince the priests he knew in the flesh, by what standard is his testimony convincing to less knowledgable men two-thousand-years later? Surely no one is to regard expert, eyewitness testimony as less valid than those who are inexperienced and second-hand?
There was also a belief in the Jewish community, as cited by the gospels, that the prophet Elijah would come to save those in danger [Matthew 27:47 fn] and “the expectation of the return of Elijah from heaven to prepare Israel for the final manifestation of God’s kingdom was widespread” [Matthew 3:4 fn]. Indeed, even the observers of the crucifixion misunderstood Jesus’ cry of “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani” to mean he was “calling for Elijah” [Matthew 27:47]. The crowd was willing to wait and “see if Elijah comes to save him” as an act of Divine endorsement, but none came [Matthew 27:49-50]. The Jewish crowd then offered Jesus a litmus test for faith, mockingly chanting: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him” [Matthew 27:42-43]. This test was not uncalled for, as Jesus formerly claimed that “the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf” [John 5:37], but no heavenly attestation ensued.
Not even the most ardent defenders of Jesus attempt to claim he was anticipated by the Jews. Dr. William Lane Craig, who has published dozens of books and hundreds of scholarly articles, openly admits:
Jewish Messianic beliefs included no idea of a dying, much less rising, Messiah. Messiah was supposed to throw off Israel’s enemies, and in this case that meant Rome, and reestablish the throne of David in Jerusalem, not suffer at their hands an ignominious death of a criminal. Secondly, according to Jewish law, Jesus’ execution as a criminal showed him out to be a heretic, a man literally under the curse of God. The catastrophe of the crucifixion for these disciples was not simply that their beloved master was gone but that the crucifixion showed, in effect, that the Jewish leadership had been right all along...The idea of Messiah being killed, executed by his enemies, is completely un-Jewish. There’s no expectation at all that Messiah, rather than establishing the throne of David and commanding the respect of gentiles and Jews alike, would be shamefully executed as a common criminal. [“Did Jesus Rise From the Dead?”]
Five years later, Craig echoed the same sentiment:
Jesus’ understanding of the Messiah was radically different from the prevailing cultural understanding of the Messiah among the chief priests and the common people. And he didn’t meet their expectations, indeed that’s what helped to get him crucified. [“William Lane Craig | The Ben Shapiro Show Sunday Special Ep. 50”]
Bishop Robert Barron of the Catholic Church agrees,
The clearest indication possible that you were not the Messiah of Israel would be your death at the hands of Israel’s enemies, because the Messiah was expected to deal with the enemies of Israel and now to reign as the triumphant king. [Bishop Barron]
To summarize, “even though there was a rich supply of culturally determined messianic traditions, none of these included the suffering and death of the Messiah of Israel” [Zetterholm, xxii] who “died an accursed death under God’s own Law” [Ally].
Beyond the Christians’ redefinition of the role of Messiah, the substance of Jesus’ claims were similarly foreign to Jewish theology:
The Jews did not expect that the Messiah would be God’s literal Son. In ancient Israel, the idea of being God’s son often referred to the children of Israel and to the king metaphorically. Surprisingly, only three passages in the Old Testament, found in the books of Psalms and Isaiah, allude to the Savior Messiah being the Son of God...The Jews understood these passages to mean that the individual mentioned in each passage would have a metaphorical relationship with God—that he would be an anointed “servant-son.” For this reason, then, Jesus’ claim to be the literal son of God—an idea not extant in Jewish tradition—outraged them. It was a claim far more offensive than the claim of Messiahship. For Jewish leaders, Jesus’ claim of literal sonship was blasphemous. [Holzapfel]
If we are to believe that Yahweh is the same God as the Father of the New Testament, it is extremely difficult to accept Jesus as Messiah when His chosen people believed, without Divine correction, in a different Messiah and that Jesus was a heretic and fraud, and Jesus’ manner of execution proved them right under their own law. To say that the Jews were incorrect is to say that God had intentionally misled them initially or observed their misunderstandings for thousands-of-years without correcting them, despite correcting them tediously about smaller matters, and killing Jesus in the exact manner which would lead to the Jews’ disbelief, contradicting their status as His chosen people [Deuteronomy 7:6, 1 Peter 2:9].