A Rejoinder to Samuel Green

This was a one one-line response by Reverend Samuel Green to one of Tovia Singer’s arguments against the idea Genesis 22 is a foreshadowing or prophecy of the Messiah being crucified.

Rev. Green partially quotes point 3 (he only cites the first sentence) and responds:

This is a straw man argument. They do not have to exegete the Old Testament.

Samuel Green

Samuel stripped away the rest of the point which I will reproduce here:

If early Christians believed Genesis 22 was a foreshadowing of Jesus’ crucifixion why did Paul not mention this? This notion did not occur to any writer in the Bible. This notion is a fabrication which comes from the author of a forgery called the Epistle of Barnabas (non canonical book). This book almost made it into the canon. It was also advanced by a Catholic church father, Justin, in the 2nd century. The key point is why is this idea not in the NT? Why didn’t one of the authors not put this into the Bible? Aren’t these protestants who believe in sola scriptura? There seems to be an evolution of thought as time progressed.

The point the rabbi is making here, how can Sola Scriptura Christians conclude Genesis 22 is a foreshadowing or prophecy of the church crucifixion and atonement narrative? It’s a great point! Does Revered Green have any scriptural reference indicating he should believe this? If so, where is it? He does not have such. He’s clearly getting this idea from church tradition, Tovia Singer points out this idea came from a non canonical “forgery” (Epistle of Barnabas) and it was also advanced by the Church Father Justin ( I assume Justin Martyr, a non Trinitarian!). Are these authorities Reverend Green and other Trinitarian Christians should be relying on to get interpretations of the Bible from?

And the point of New Testament authors not mentioning Genesis 22 and using it in their writings is huge. Something Reverend Green should contemplate on. Philips Jenkins captures the zeal the evangelists had for drawing parallels between the Old Testament and the life of Jesus:

All evangelists, for instance, borrow from the Old Testament passages to shape their accounts of the crucifixion. Few stories in the Gospel accounts of Jesus lack an Old Testament parallel or precedent, and the resemblances are all the more apparent when we read the older text in the Greek translation that the evangelists would have known.

The rabbi’s argument is that one would expect at least one of the evangelists to raise Genesis 22 if they truly believed it was a foreshadowing of a crucified Messiah

Think about it in the light of some of the prophecies in Matthew’s Gospel:

…Matthew claims the Messiah was going to be called a Nazarene:

21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene. (Matt 2:21-23)

Like other prophecies quoted by Mathew, there is a serious problem with this prophecy: it does not occur anywhere in the Old Testament!

I had been suggested that the use of “prophets” instead of “prophet” in the passage above is Matthew’s way of indicating that he is giving “a paraphrase of the sense of more than one passage rather than a quotation of a specific verse” (Miller, 2003; 115; also Davies & Allison, 1988:275). There is no evidence that this is the case, as 2:23 is the only prophecy that Matthew attributes to the unidentified “prophets”. Of the remaining 12 alleged prophecies that Mathew quotes , 6 are attributed to Prophet Isaiah, 2 to Jeremiah, and 4 to an unidentified “prophet”. It is unclear which “prophets” Matthew meant, but there is no evidence that the use of this plural term indicates that Matthew paraphrased more than one Old Testament passage. [ See: The Mystery of the Messiah, Louay Fatoohi, Loc 2080]

Matthew links Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to a prophecy:

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]
“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” [Matt 21:1-11]

The Prophet that Matthew mentions in Zechariah:

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. [Zech 9:9]

The Hebrew text for this Old Testament prophecy talks about one animal which is described twice, but its Greek translation uses “and”, meaning two animals instead. Matthew relied on the Greek translation of the Old Testament so he made Jesus ride on two animals. He had to change the earlier part of the story to make Jesus order his two disciples to bring a donkey and a colt. The fact that Jesus could not have ridden on two animals at the same time did not bother Matthew!

Significantly, the versions of this story in the other three Gospels, which are not influenced by the Zechariah prophecy, are different. According to Mark (11:2,7) and Luke (19:30, 35), Jesus wanted and rode a colt. John (12:14), on the other hand, states that Jesus found and rode a donkey. This is yet another example of how Matthew fine-tuned his Gospel to fulfil Old Testament prophecies.

It is also significant to note that, unlike Matthew, none of the other three Evangelists link Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a colt to the prophecy in Zechariah, or indeed to any other supposedly Messianic passage.

…Matthew’s fascination with linking events in Jesus’ life to alleged Old Testament prophecies aims o show that Jesus was the fulfilment of those prophecies. This link, the Evangelist thought, would strengthen the believers’ faith and convince the Jews that Jesus is the awaited Messiah and would make them follow him. Matthew was so keen on pursuing his endeavour that he often distorted and misused Old Testament passages. He changed them and took them out of context to make them fit his purpose. He even made them up! [See: The Mystery of the Messiah, Louay Fatoohi, Loc 2114]

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8 replies

  1. Yahya, can you please provide me with the references from the Epistle of Barnabas and Justin Martyr? Thanks.

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    • Barnabas 7:3
      But moreover when crucified He had vinegar and gall given Him to
      drink. Hear how on this matter the priests of the temple have
      revealed. Seeing that there is a commandment in scripture,
      Whatsoever shall not observe the fast shall surely die, the Lord
      commanded, because He was in His own person about to offer the vessel
      of His Spirit a sacrifice for our sins, that the type also which was
      given in Isaac who was offered upon the alter should be fulfilled.

      —–

      I never looked for the Justin source prior to posting. I’m going to leave that with you and just lean on Tovia Singer.

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    • Thanks but the quote does not prove your point at all. It simply says that the sacrifice of Isaac was a type for understanding Jesus sacrifice. Any Christian would say this. Nowhere does this epistle say Genesis 22 is a Messianic prophecy. Your evidence is false.

      I am amazed that you reject the idea of Jesus fulfilling the OT prophecies of the messiah and say that the gospels have just written these into the story of Jesus’ life? Do you believe he is the messiah?

      Consider Zechariah 9:9. Everyone agrees it is Messianic so why wouldn’t Jesus do this to show who he is? All the gospels record it. Matthew gives the OT reference but so what, Jesus is the messiah fulfilling the prophecies of the messiah. The prophecy is about riding a colt. A colt is a young animal. Young animals are often with their mothers. It is highly likely that when Jesus gets a colts it is with its mother. Your argument is conjecture.

      If you think that the NT writers were taking OT scriptures and creating a story of Jesus around them then do you believe they did this with the virgin birth too? This is what your scholars say.

      If every time Jesus fulfils the OT you say it is simply someone writing a prophecy into it when how can we every know when God fulfils his promises?

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    • Are you on the same hill here Samuel? We are talking about the origin of the idea of Gen 22 being a prophecy or foreshadowing of a Messianic crucifixion. If you don’t think this idea comes from the Epistle of Barnabas then where does it come from? You’ve been unable to show me a Bible verse telling you Gen 22 is linked to the crucifixion of Jesus narrative. . I get the feeling you don;t want to engage in an in depth discussion on this. You’re not really tackling the content of the video or the post with care. I want to ask you, do you think the spear thrust in John fulfils a prophecy in the OT?

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    • Shalom Mr Samuel. I hope you are in a state of bliss. My question is: do you wish to engage in a debate with Rabbi Singer, so that the truth of the matter becomes clear?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yahya is taking his time. Is it that difficult?

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  3. “of the church crucifixion and atonement narrative?”

    A burnt offering was always for atonement.

    In the light of the NT we exegete the OT burnt offering as referring to Christ prophetically.

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  4. Hebrews 11:17

    By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

    The use of the phrase “only begotten son” links Isaac and Jesus together.

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