By: Christopher T. Kozlowski
The Law and the Testimony
All throughout the history of the Hebrew nation, there were two precepts commanded by God never to depart from Israel: The Law and the Testimony. The Law and the Testimony were the ultimate and only standards, the only tools by which God's chosen people could use to test the claims of the prophets. If the chosen nation had failed to use God's standard to test the claims of the prophets, they would ultimately cease to be a nation (Jer. 31:36). As we study the history of Israel, we can see how the various exiles were a direct result of Israel's failure to hold fast to the Law and the Testimony.
The Law and the Testimony were fundamental and absolutely critical elements to the life and blessing of Israel as a nation. It is important to note that miracles were not included in the testing of the prophets. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Satan also has power to manifest the supernatural. Therefore miracles are not a prerequisite by any means. The only test, as was mentioned already, is that the prophet holds to the Law and the Testimony. The following verses are from the book of Deuteronomy depicting how the testing of the prophets was not optional for Israel, that is, if they wanted to remain a nation and not endure God's wrath:
"If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, �Let us go after other gods'-which you have not known-�and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst. (Deut. 13:1-5)
Isaiah says that the people of God have a duty to seek their God and to make sure not to be led astray. Isaiah warns, "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isa. 8:20). God gave the Law at Sinai, and it is clear from the Hebrew Scriptures that it was not optional. For the Jew, Christianity is clearly not an option if they intend to remain under God's grace. Another exile, another destruction of the Promised Land, another holocaust is something that Jews want to avoid. But there is one crucial prophecy that links the Hebrew Scriptures with the life of the Messiah Yeshua.
The Seventy Week of Daniel
The most important prophecy for the Christian is that of Daniel 9 because it predicts the time of the coming Messiah. Up until the life of Jesus, the seventy weeks were generally understood by Judaism to mean 490 years, as illustrated by all of the messianic hope in the various false messiahs of the second and first centuries BC. Christians still hold the original interpretation, Jews have rendered it differently. Let's examine the differences in the translations:
24 "Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. 25 "Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.
Judaica Press Tanakh
24. Seventy weeks [of years] have been decreed upon your people and upon the city of your Sanctuary to terminate the transgression and to end sin, and to expiate iniquity, and to bring eternal righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophet, and to anoint the Holy of Holies.25. And you shall know and understand that from the emergence of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem until the anointed king [shall be] seven weeks, and [in] sixty-two weeks it will return and be built street and moat, but in troubled times.26. And after the sixty-two weeks, the anointed one will be cut off, and he will be no more, and the people of the coming monarch will destroy the city and the Sanctuary, and his end will come about by inundation, and until the end of the war, it will be cut off into desolation.27. And he will strengthen a covenant for the princes for one week, and half the week he will abolish sacrifice and meal- offering, and on high, among abominations, will be the dumb one, and until destruction and extermination befall the dumb one.
The main differences are that in the Tanakh, vs. 25 splits the seven weeks and the sixty two weeks by adding the word "in". Therefore, if one accepts the Jewish interpretation, one would understand the "anointed King" to have arrived "seven sevens" (49 years) after the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. Some Jews believe this King to be Cyrus. The problem is that by using the word "anointed" King, the angel Gabriel has brought a specific King into the picture. The word messiah means "anointed".
By splitting the timeframes and adding the word "in" seems most unreasonable by any objective point of view and also seems to be an attempt by Judaism to make it impossible for one to render a timeframe of 483 years (seven weeks and sixty two weeks, or seven times seven + sixty two times seven). It is also striking that Gabriel tells Daniel that the anointed one (messiah) would be cut off.
Thomas Ice, a Christian scholar, has traced Artaxerxes' decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem in 444 B.C. as recorded in Nehemiah 2:1-8, to the very day of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem using the Nisan calendar where Jesus says:
"If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation."
483 years brings us right up to 33 A.D. After the sixty two weeks, which is sometime after 33 A.D., the anointed one would be "cut off." Jews argue that this isn't Jesus but rather it is the high-priest Onians III who died in 171.The context of the prophecy suggests that the anointed one could only be the anointed king spoken of in the preceding verse. Onians was not a king, and it is not likely that God would send Gabriel to prophesy about Onians.
As Christians, we must ask ourselves how God could ever expect Israel to heed this prophecy and convert to Christianity, a religion that views law observance as inferior. Evidence shows that Jesus never intended for his apostle's gentile converts to ever depart from the Law. In fact, Jesus' words show that He would be repulsed by it.
Jesus has said: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." (Matt 5:17) In other words he came to fulfill the prophecies in the Law, prophets and Psalms. "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." (5:18) Thus, nothing will pass from the law until all is fulfilled. Christians must ask themselves if all of the Prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures have been fulfilled. "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (5:19) Jesus painted the picture of social status in heaven.
Following a Living God
Achtemeier has stated the following of the Hebrews: "Only after the community evaluated the various responses, sometimes over decades and even centuries, did the truth of the various respondents become clear." If this is true, then logic would lead to the premise that the New Testament events that took place almost twenty centuries ago require interpretation in light of what we now know and now face as a community.
Paul's concept of the law is something that is still not understood by scholars in all of Christendom. One is troubled by the imposing tensions between Paul's understanding of the law and Jesus' understanding of the law. The last chapter in the gospel of John reveals startling revelations when we stop forcing scripture to interpret itself and instead, interpret scripture in light of our current situation. John 21:18 shows that Jesus is concerned with Peter's love for him. It is interpreted that Jesus indicated the death by which peter would glorify God. But then Jesus says "Follow me!" When Peter asks about the other disciple following them, Jesus replies "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me" (emphasis mine). But then a rumor spread that that disciple would not die. Why?
Analyzing this text in the context of Jesus' words only, it seems that Jesus is concerned with Peter's testimony. Jesus says to him, "feed my sheep" and he says you must "follow me." Jesus stresses the fact that Peter must follow him. Why would Jesus place so much emphasis on Peter following him in relation to how he would physically die? And why did a rumor spread that Jesus' disciple would not die? Evidence suggests that Jesus had originally said "I will that he remain alive until I return, what is that to you, you must follow me." This is supported by the fact that Jesus has said "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Matt. 24:34-35). Jesus is saying in more than one instance that some will remain alive until he returns. As time went on and Jesus did not return, words were forced into the text and words were rendered differently. Some even tried to translate "generation" as "race" to get around the apparent predicament. They didn't understand what Jesus was saying. A complete understanding of Jesus' vocabulary is necessary to understand that Jesus was making a point that the narrators and translators did not understand at the time.
Exactly how are some going to remain alive? Jesus has said "whoever lives and believes in me shall never die" (John. 11:26). Therefore those who believe in Jesus will remain alive until he returns. Jesus has also said "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John. 6:63). If we pick up on Jesus' language in the context of the gospels, he is saying that it is the generation's testimony that will not pass away, because his words are life. So, why was Jesus concerned with Peter's testimony? And how is it that someone will "lead Peter where he does not want to go" so that he does not remain "alive" to Jesus' words? A study of the book of Revelation reveals startling discoveries.
To the Church in Ephesus John writes "I know your works, your labor, and your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars" (Rev. 2:2). If we turn to the book of 2 Timothy Paul writes "This you know, that all those in Asia Minor have turned away from me" (2 Timothy 1:15). Paul claimed to be an apostle to the Ephesians, and he says that all have turned away from him, which would imply that he was tested by the Ephesians. Paul and his doctrine had troubles being accepted in Ephesus. The Church in Pergamum is warned about someone who is teaching the people to eat food sacrificed to idols. But wasn't the Law done away with? James at the Jerusalem council says "Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath" (Acts 15:19-21). It is apparent that James intended the new believers to be convicted when they heard the OT in the synagogues and as a result, follow through with the rest of the Law including circumcision.
Jesus' words concerning the law were "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" Matt 5:18. Proper exegesis of Jesus' words in context lead one to the conclusion that Jesus is saying that until everything in the Law, Prophets and Psalms is fulfilled and until heaven and earth pass away, the Law is applicable. He did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill, and nothing will pass from the law until all is fulfilled. It is clear that OT prophecy concerning the second coming has not been fulfilled. Only in hindsight of Paul's gospel do we understand Jesus to be saying that since he died for us, parts of the law are no longer applicable. Whenever Paul's authority is called into question, 2 Peter 3:15-16 is shown to prove that that Peter endorsed Paul, but John 21 shows that Jesus was warning Peter beforehand not to. Paul's "faith only" salvation cannot be reconciled with "Not everyone who says to me, �Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father" Matt 7:21, and "depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!" Matt 7:23. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" John 10:27. An exhaustive interpretation of ancient tradition in light of the present requires much more room to write.
Authorial Intention is not Synonymous with God's Intention
The following verses are from the gospel of John:
"...the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." (10:3). He leads them out, out of what? The book of revelation paints the picture of a "woman", or a church that has been corrupted. And Yeshua is the seen saying "come out of her my people." "When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice." (10:4). It is clear that the Messiah wants us to value his words greatly and use them to test others. Considering Paul's standard of salvation, he is a clear wolf in sheep's clothing if we truly hear His voice:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' (Mat. 7:21-23)
"But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them." (John 10:5-6). Verse six shows that not even the evangelists' interpretations could be known then. There is also evidence that the evangelists actually misunderstood the Messiah in some of the passages. Therefore, it is not authorial intent only. One must see through the eyes of the author, and put history together to see through the eyes of God.
God's Authority: Not the Author's
Vanhoozer oversteps his bounds in saying "This parallel between God and the modern author also suggests a reason for recognizing the author's authority. The author is the one who originates. The etymology of the term "authority" is "right, based on origin." In saying that the author originates, one takes the focus off the larger picture as a whole. The author does not originate in this sense. The author plays a small role in a much larger play.
When the word of God became flesh, things were spoken in a way that already foresaw the future. The last act must be seen in order to understand what was not fully understood previously. Therefore it is only the words of the Messiah that transcend authorial intent in the bible, and the will of God can only be discerned through His words, in the context of the Law and the Testimony of the Scriptures of old. God has not given up on Israel, we have given up on Israel's God, the only God, whose law has been changed without permission. And we cannot complacently sit, as followers of the Messiah and not listen to Him. The will of God cannot be seen only from the author's intention; he does not originate meaning. The will of God can only be seen from the perspective of the one who originated all things.
The end of the book of Daniel tells of how "knowledge will increase" in the end times and Ezekiel tells of how the Jews will accept their Messiah before He comes back. This, simply put, will never happen as long as Christians allow Saul of Tarsus to keep the sun from shining over this period of "night" (John 9:4-5). We must get outside of our own preconceptions of the nature of the text. It is the author of life that acts as a communicative agent. One should study the text as a communicative act of the Messiah to the future generations, especially those of the "latter rain" where knowledge would increase before the end.
There is only One Covenant
The earliest manuscript evidence shows that the earliest gospel writers didn't find it significant enough to use the phrase "new covenant", thus alluding to the Jeremiah 31 prophecy. At the last supper, Jesus simply says, "this is my blood of the covenant". Redactional criticism shows that the word "new" is simply a later Christian interpolation. When one confronts a Christian on this, they will immediately reference a Pauline text. Paul represents the period of night spoken of by the prophets in the scriptures of old and by Yeshua Himself.
There is much evidence that shows that the Messiah did not have any intention of setting up the new covenant at the last supper. Not only because He didn't say the word "new" but by judging the context of Jeremiah 31. It seems as if it won't be established until the second coming. Thus, The Law stands.
Vanhoozer, Kevin J. "Is There a Meaning in this Text?" Zondervan, Grand Rapids. 1998. Pg. 45
Achtemeier, Paul. Inspiration and Authority: Nature and Function of Christian Scripture. Hendrickson, 1997. (Pg. 120)