A Catholic Response to; Why Jews Don't believe in Jesus


WHY Jews don't believe in Jesus . Under this title, a Jewish publicist - Rabbi Shraga Simmons, publisher of Aish.com in Jerusalem - wrote a short argument trying to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is not the Messiah promised by God and announced by the prophets [1] . For him :

1) Jesus did not perform any of the main tasks of the Messiah;
2) he did not have the qualities to claim the title of Messiah;
3) the prophecies applied to it by Christians are poorly translated.

It is these three arguments that we would primarily like to examine here. They will serve to highlight the solidity of our holy Catholic religion.

I The essential tasks of the Messiah

The messianic kingdom
The essential question
1. - First task: the third Temple?
2. - The gathering of all the Jews in the land of Israel
3. - Universal peace
4. - Fourth task: one people
The fourfold response of Christ

II Qualifications of the Messiah

1. - Was Jesus a prophet?
2. - Jesus son of David
3. - Jesus and Jewish Law

III Are the prophetic texts poorly translated?

1. - The virgin birth, prophesied by Isaiah (7, 14)
2. - The crucifixion, prophesied by David (Psalm 21)
3. - The suffering Servant announced by Isaiah (ch. 53)


- I -
The essential tasks of the Messiah
according to Rabbi Simmons

On the role of the Messiah, Rabbi Simmons reduces the teaching of the sixteen prophets of the Old Testament to four propositions. According to him, the Messiah:

  1. Build the third Temple (Ezekiel 37, 26-28).
  2. Will gather all the Jews who have returned to the land of Israel (Isaiah 43, 5-6).
  3. Shall bring the world into an era of universal peace, and end all hatred, oppression, suffering and disease, as it is written: “A nation shall not rise up wielding a sword against a nation, nor a nation. man will no longer learn the art of war ” (Isaiah 2, 4).
  4. Will spread the universal knowledge of the God of Israel, who will unite humanity as one people. As it is written: "God will be King over everyone, on that day God will be one and his Name will be one" (Zechariah 14: 9).

The rabbi continues:

It is historical fact that Jesus did not fulfill any of these Messianic prophecies.

In reality, the rabbi reads all the prophecies he invokes with a constant prejudice: a temporal conception of messianism (the role of the Messiah would mainly concern earthly society, happiness in this lower world). And it is only because he reads the prophecies from this earthly (carnal) perspective that Rabbi Simmons can accuse Christ of not having fulfilled them. It is therefore this presupposition that must first be examined.

The messianic kingdom

The announcement of the Messiah runs and is reinforced throughout the Old Testament from the first book (Gn 3, 15; 22, 18 and 49, 8-10) to Malachi (Ml 3, 1), developed in images particularly striking by Isaiah and Daniel. The Messiah will be a Jewish king (descendant of David) whose splendor will exceed that of all other kings; his kingdom will bring together all peoples in the worship of the true God. Everyone agrees on this. Now it is precisely of this messianic kingdom that Jesus comes to speak in his parables (ten of them present themselves from the beginning as a description of the long awaited kingdom, like a mustard seed, a hidden treasure , etc. ).

The Jews of the time, dominated by the Romans, have for several centuries been influenced by an apocryphal literature which presents the future Messiah as the hero of a war of liberation and conquest of the world. They find it very difficult to rise above a temporal notion of the kingdom of God. Jesus attacks this prejudice head-on. His parables announce that the Kingdom will indeed be established on earth, but only as the provisional anticipation of an essentially celestial reality (Our Lord designates it as the Kingdom of Heaven : Mt 13); it will have, from here below, a public and social dimension, but it is essentially interior and it will be necessary to seek it to really discover it (parables of the hidden treasure and the precious pearl); he will not come with the pomp that the Pharisees expect (Lk 17:20), but will grow slowly (parable of the sower), gradually transforming the world (parable of the ferment), in which nevertheless will always remain bad ones (parables of the sower). the tares, the net, the man returned to the wedding without a wedding dress, foolish virgins, etc.); above all, this kingdom will not be established by brandishing iron (Mt 26, 52), but on the contrary by suffering persecution (Mt 5, 10-12; Jn 12, 24-25); the riches he will accumulate will not be gold and silver, but entirely interior (Mt 5: 3); its leaders will not aim to dominate others,but to serve them (Lk 22, 24-27; Jn 13, 15); finally, although coming through the Jews (Mt 15, 24) and imposing itself on the whole world (Mt 28, 18), this kingdom will not be a world and temporal domination of the Jews, but on the contrary will give a prominent place to the pagans converted, represented by the sheep found (Jn 10, 16), the prodigal son returning to the home (Lk 15), the repentant publican (Mt 9, 9-13; Lk 18, 14 and 19, 2) and the conversion of sinners public (Lk 7, 39 and 23, 43), while many Jews - called the first - will exclude themselves, as indicated by the parables of the homicidal vine growers (Mt 21: 33-46), royal feast (Mt 22, 1-14) and the great feast (Lk 14, 15-24).this kingdom will not be a world and temporal domination of the Jews, but on the contrary will give pride of place to the converted pagans, represented by the sheep found (Jn 10:16), the prodigal son returning to the home (Lk 15), the publican repentant (Mt 9, 9-13; Lk 18, 14 and 19, 2) and the conversion of public sinners (Lk 7, 39 and 23, 43), while many Jews - called the first - will exclude themselves from it. - even, as indicated by the parables of the homicidal vine growers (Mt 21, 33-46), of the royal wedding (Mt 22, 1-14) and of the great feast (Lk 14, 15-24).this kingdom will not be a world and temporal domination of the Jews, but on the contrary will give pride of place to the converted pagans, represented by the sheep found (Jn 10:16), the prodigal son returning to the home (Lk 15), the publican repentant (Mt 9, 9-13; Lk 18, 14 and 19, 2) and the conversion of public sinners (Lk 7, 39 and 23, 43), while many Jews - called the first - will exclude themselves from it. - even, as indicated by the parables of the homicidal vine growers (Mt 21, 33-46), of the royal wedding (Mt 22, 1-14) and of the great feast (Lk 14, 15-24).while many Jews - called the first - will exclude themselves, as indicated by the parables of the homicidal vine growers (Mt 21: 33-46), of the royal wedding (Mt 22, 1-14) and of the great feast (Lk 14, 15-24).while many Jews - called the first - will exclude themselves, as indicated by the parables of the homicidal vine growers (Mt 21: 33-46), of the royal wedding (Mt 22, 1-14) and of the great feast (Lk 14, 15-24).

Two opposing conceptions of the Messianic kingdom clash throughout Christ's public life. When the demon comes to tempt him whom he suspects to be the Messiah, he speaks only of bodily satisfaction, human glory and world domination (Mt 4, 1-11): this is what most expect of the Messiah. Later, after the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus must flee to prevent the Jews from revolting against the Romans by proclaiming him king (Jn 6:15). Questioned by Pilate, he nevertheless acknowledges being king (Jn 18:37), but first specifies that his kingship is not of this world (Jn 18:36).

Just before Ascension, the Apostles themselves manifest that they still have not grasped the nature of the Messianic kingdom: “Lord, they ask, is it now that you are going to restore the kingdom of Israel? » (Acts 1: 6). Only the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost will be able to enlighten them.

Two thousand years later, the stumbling block is still the same: Our Lord Jesus Christ came to preach an essentially supernatural kingdom , delivering souls from the domination of the demon, distributing the riches of divine grace and charity , and preparing crowns of everlasting glory in the next world. On the contrary, the Jews persist in waiting for an essentially earthly kingdom, riches, crowns, victory and glory , and to read the prophecies of the Old Testament from this perspective. The opposition is irreducible.

The essential question

Any honest debate between Jews and Christians should therefore focus not on this or that detailed prophecy, but on the overall vision in which the prophecies are included. A Jew who would really agree to question - even for a moment - the prejudices which make him interpret prophecies in a predominantly temporal and earthly way, would, with the grace of God, be very close to conversion. How indeed could he not immediately perceive that Jesus of Nazareth did indeed achieve, but on a higher level , all that had been promised?

He knows that the central messianic promise is that of a king, descendant of David, who must impose his authority on the whole earth, bringing together all peoples in the worship of the one God. So if he frees his mind from his national prejudices, how can we fail to see that Jesus of Nazareth extended his authority over the whole earth and spread the worship of the one God everywhere there?

Before the birth of Christ, the Jewish people themselves found it difficult to persevere in the worship of the one God. Constantly tempted to build himself a golden calf or to bend his knee before Baal, he had to be brought back to the right path by a whole series of prophets who repeated to him day after day that Yahweh, one day, would be worshiped by all the peoples of the earth. But the Jews could hardly believe it; they would have preferred to adopt the gods of the nations themselves. Exhortations, threats, punishments follow one another throughout the Old Testament to maintain the chosen people in fidelity to their alliance with the only God. - And suddenly, it is the pagan peoples who come, one after the other, to convert to the one God. They receive and embrace the revelation made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.And this incredible turnaround has a name: it is Christianity.

The Prophet Isaiah

If he thinks about it seriously, our Jew cannot fail to be disturbed by this historical fact, which is as incontestable as it is unexpected: in three centuries, the disciples of Christ are destroying idolatry; they immerse the Greeks - so proud of their philosophy - in the meditative reading of the holy books of Judaism; they prostrate the Roman emperors - conquerors of the universe - before a son of David: Jesus of Nazareth. Is this not the obvious realization of the divine promise made to Abraham (Gen 22:18)?

Our Jew may be rebelling: how to give the title of king to a crucified one? And yet, if he is to be honest, he has to admit that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed hailed as King by hundreds of millions of human beings. However disconcerting, annoying - irritating, even - this essentially religious royalty may seem to him, it cannot be considered as non-existent. For centuries, kings and emperors - Napoleon again, at his coronation - publicly recognized Jesus of Nazareth as their sovereign master.

The kingdom of Christ - essentially celestial and supra-political - is certainly very different from what the Jews expect. But even by refusing to believe in its messianic character, they cannot deny its existence, because it also has an earthly dimension ...

Our Jew will argue, of course, that it is a temporal triumph that is promised by the Bible; that the prophets hardly speak of a supra-political kingdom, of spiritual riches, of supernatural destiny - but of a very earthly happiness. Now a promise is a promise. The Messiah must give this earthly happiness.

But isn't God infinitely superior to man? Do we have the right to restrict a priori its munificence, by confining it within narrow terrestrial limits? Moreover, is it breaking its promises to fulfill them superabundantly, at an altogether higher level? If God wants to give more than we expected, how does that hurt us?

The oracles of the prophets themselves hinted, in their most beautiful passages, of a realization going beyond the material order. Such passage from Isaiah for example:

Then the LORD will create upon all the expanse of mount Zion,
and upon its assembly,
a cloud by day and smoke,
and a flash of fiery flame by night.
For over all his glory there will be a canopy;
And there will be a tent to give shade
against the heat of the day,
and to serve as refuge and shelter
against the storm and the rain [Is 4, 5-6].

Or Ezekiel:

I will sprinkle
clean water on you, and you will be clean;
I will cleanse you from all your defilements
and from all your abominations.
A new heart will I give you,
and a new spirit will I put within you;
I will take away the heart of stone out of your flesh,
and I will give you a heart of flesh.
I will put my Spirit within you,
and I will cause you to follow my ordinances, and to
keep my laws and do them. [Eze 36, 25-27.]

The texts follow one another, complement each other, repeat each other: no way to escape them. As long as our Jew consents to the grace offered to him, the evidence is there, at hand: all these passages, slipped into the midst of descriptions of earthly prosperity (promised land, vines, wheat, cattle, etc.), give them a much higher meaning: a spiritual meaning . The earthly promises were not abolished, but surpassed in a new Covenant which the old was preparing and foreshadowing. And one should not be surprised that spiritual realities are announced by material images, because, ultimately, how could it be otherwise? How to announce the unknown, the superhuman, the celestial, if not by using known terms, relating first of all to human and terrestrial realities?

Jacob libermannRabbi Shraga Simmons himself could come to this if he allowed his prejudices for a while. It would perhaps be enough for him to pray with humility and sincerity, as did, one day in 1826, a certain Jacob Libermann, son of the rabbi of Saverne:

Remembering the God of my fathers, I fell on my knees and implored him to enlighten me on true religion. I begged him, if the belief of the Christians was true, to make it known to me, and if it was false, to get away from it at once. The Lord, who is near to those who call on him from the bottom of their hearts, answered my prayer. Immediately, I was enlightened, I saw the truth: faith entered my mind and my heart [2] .

But even before praying in this way, we must accept to renounce certain prejudices, and we do not get rid of prejudices sucked with breast milk so easily. As another famous convert who went through these fights put it:

These were not rational objections that had to be fought; it was the anguish of a Judaic conscience that had to be appeased. I was not educated enough to understand the identity of Judaism and Christianity. I believed that they were two different religions, and that the God of Abraham was not the God of Christians. I was afraid to explore this question further [3] .

Like many other Jews, Rabbi Simmons therefore desperately clings to his conception of the “specifications” of the Messiah. He must build the third temple, gather all the Jews in the land of Israel, bring about universal peace, and finally spread "the universal knowledge of the God of Israel, who will unite mankind as one people. " .

Let's take a closer look.

1. - First task: the third Temple?

Rebuild the Temple. This made no sense in the time of Jesus Christ, since the second temple in Jerusalem was still standing [4] . And yet, Jesus Christ himself hinted at such a construction. "Destroy this temple - he said to the Jews - and I will rebuild it in three days" . Rabbi Simmons is therefore not wrong, despite appearances, to ask the Messiah for the construction of a third temple. But here, as always, the expectations of the Jews, too material, are exceeded and as if eclipsed by reality: Jesus "spoke of the temple of his body" (Jn 2:21).

The same Jesus announces, shortly after, to the Samaritan woman:

The hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in the temple. […] The hour is approaching, and it has already come, when worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth […] [Jn 4: 21-23].

Attached to their national temple, the Jews still mourn it nearly 2,000 years after its destruction. But the Messiah - who had announced this destruction ( “There will not be a stone left on a stone” Mk 13: 2) - inaugurated a spiritual cult. He called all men to become "living stones" (I Pe 2, 4-5) of a temple of which he himself is the cornerstone (I Pe 2, 6-8), and also the head. , since this temple is his body (Jn 2:21; 1 Cor 12).

While the Jews lock themselves in the idea of ​​a material temple, composed of dead stones and erected in a particular place on the planet, Christ proposes a truly definitive temple , able to remain even in eternity, and therefore released from matter  ; a universal temple , where all men can enter  ; a living temple into which they will even be integrated by baptism.

- This Christian temple is very real

A Jew runs the risk of seeing this explanation as an intellectual sleight of hand designed to rule out an embarrassing difficulty. The application of the name "temple" to the body of Jesus Christ will appear arbitrary to him, and he will be tempted to dismiss the argument out of hand. - And yet:

  1. - The notions of temple-body (Jn 2, 21) and of living stones (I Pe 2, 4-5) were in no way forged for the needs of the cause, in order to respond to the objection of a rabbi. These are fundamental principles of Christian Revelation:

a) one cannot believe in the divinity of Christ without admitting that his human body - within which his human soul continually renders the most perfect worship to the Father that can be - is by nature a temple (that is, that is to say, according to the current definition of the word: a building dedicated to the worship of God), and a temple superior to all those which men can build;

b) one cannot adhere to the Christian teaching on baptism (which incorporates into Christ) without recognizing that the baptized are integrated into this temple like living stones.

This is Christianity itself. Even if they refuse to believe in it, the Jews cannot deny that it is such, and that it really exists. They can in a pinch reproach Christ for not having built the temple equipment they expected them , but not for failing Temple Mount. And that is enough to ruin their objection.

  1. - The prophets themselves, despite the importance they attached to the Temple (chapters 30-34 of Jeremiah, 40-48 of Ezekiel), worked to promote spiritual worship and to relativize the material temple. Consider Jeremiah's warnings:

Do not rely on deceptive words, such as these:
"This is the temple of the Lord,
the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!" " [Jer 7, 4].

The last of the prophets, Malachi, announces a universal sacrifice, offered everywhere, and in which the nations (i.e. non-Jews) participate:

From sunrise to sunset my name is great among the heathen, and in every place incense and sacrifices are offered unto my name, a pure oblation, for my name is great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts [Ml 1 , 11].

  1. - Finally, Judaism cannot decently accuse Christianity of being devoid of a temple, since it has itself been deprived of one for nearly twenty centuries! At the very moment when Jesus Christ offered his sacrifice on the cross (sacrifice of which he is at the same time the high priest, the victim and the temple), the veil of the Temple of Jerusalem was completely torn, from the top to the low (Mt 27, 51). Less than forty years later, the Jewish Temple was completely destroyed. Now this absence of a material temple implies, for Judaism, the absence of the essential worship prescribed by God in the Old Testament. Since the year 70, the cult established by Moses has been abolished. Aaron's priesthood no longer exists. There are no more public sacrifices.The book of Leviticus thus became obsolete and Judaism had to be rebuilt on other bases (prayer meetings in synagogues took the place of sacrifices in the Temple, and priests were replaced by rabbis). We are therefore led, ultimately, to return to Rabbi Simmons his own objection: if the Templematerial is so important, why has God allowed such an eclipse for almost 2000 years? And why this eclipse - announced by Christ ( "there will not be stone on stone" ) - did it occur just after the death of this one, even though he had just announced the erection? of a new universal and spiritual temple?

There is a sign here which should succeed in confusing even the blind.

2. - The gathering of all the Jews in the land of Israel

Second great mission of the Messiah: to reunite all the Jews in the land of Israel. However, the opposite has happened. So Jesus is not the promised Messiah.

The rabbi's reasoning would be unstoppable if God had really absolutely promised that the Messiah would reunite all the Jews in the material land of Israel. But Holy Scripture indicates just the opposite. The promises of temporal prosperity addressed by God to his people are conditional promises  : if you are faithful, I will protect you and bless you; but if you disobey, I will deliver you to your enemies and scatter you. This is almost the summary of the whole of the Old Testament:

This is what was seen under the judges, from Joshua to Samuel; under kings from Saul to Zedekiah; under the Maccabees, from Mattathias to Hircan. While they were faithful, God protected them in a very miraculous way; as soon as they ceased to be, he punished them; and these punishments were always proportionate to the size of their revolt: sometimes they were seven years, other times ten or twenty, according to the enormity of their crimes. But as their crimes never went further than in the time of the impious Manasses, the sentence which God drew from them by captivity was the longest of all; it lasted seventy years [5] .

Temporal promises are always conditional. And when the condition is not explicit, it is implied, as God himself has indicated, warning against an overly absolute interpretation of his promises:

Sometimes I speak, touching a nation and touching a kingdom,
To tear up, to bring down and to destroy.
But this nation, against which I have spoken,
Is it coming back from its wickedness,
Then I repent of the evil that I had wanted to do it.
Sometimes I speak, touching a nation and touching a kingdom,
Of building and planting.
But is this nation doing what is wrong in my eyes,
By not hearing my voice,
Then I repent for the good that I said I would do to them. [Jr 18, 7-10.]

None of the temporal promises of the Old Testament are therefore absolute. What is absolute, on the other hand, for the people of the Alliance, is the link between loyalty and reward, infidelity and punishment. The twenty-sixth chapter of Leviticus enumerates the whole series of plagues by which God will punish infidelity, and concludes with the most serious, that of dispersion:

[…] If, despite this, you do not listen to me and if you resist me, I will also resist you with fury and I will chastise you seven times more for your sins. […] I will scatter you among the nations and I will draw the sword after you. Your country will be devastated, and your cities will be deserted. […] I will make the hearts of those of you who survive, in the countries of their enemies, timid; the sound of a stirred leaf will pursue them; they will flee as one flees from the sword, and they will fall without being pursued.

They will fall on each other as before the sword, without being pursued. You will not stand in the presence of your enemies; you will perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies will devour you.

Those of you who survive will be stricken with languor for their iniquities in the lands of their enemies; they will also be stricken with languor for the iniquities of their fathers. […] [Lev 26, 27-39.]

However, as Blaise Pascal notes, the captivity of Babylon itself is nothing compared to the terrible dispersion which has struck the Jewish people since the year 70  [6] . This dispersion of the year 70 being the most terrible punishment that has ever struck the chosen people, it is necessarily the result of their greatest crime. Divine promises do not allow us to conclude otherwise.

According to Maimonides (and most of today's Jews) this exile would only be a means of dispersing Jewish testimony throughout the world, like leaven in dough; a mysterious ultimate (but interminable!) purification before the advent of the Messiah. But even in this hypothesis, exile should nonetheless also be - and even first and foremost , and necessarily - a punishment, since the formal promises of God inextricably link dispersion and punishment. (The fact that the Babylonian captivity prepared for the coming of the Messiah by spreading the prophecies does not prevent it from being primarily a punishment of the chosen people). However you turn the problem around, the question always remains: What crime was committed to attract such retribution?

In 1778, Father Beurier - famous preacher - called out to his Jewish contemporaries:

God has punished you in the most severe way for over seventeen hundred years; you must therefore be more guilty than your fathers were, those who lived in the time of Manasses. Now, what can be your crime? It is not idolatry, which God so often reproached your ancestors; you all have a laudable horror of idol worship. Neither is it disobedience to the law that God had imposed on you not to mingle with nations different from yours; you take accuracy as far as it can go on that. So what can be a greater crime than idolatry and all the other abominations that were committed in the days of Manasses, if not the death you gave to the Messiah?

You have been dispersed in all parts of the world for more than seventeen centuries, and despite this you still exist. Is not this a literal fulfillment of the prophecy of David, who says in Psalm fifty-eighth: “Lord, do not destroy them, but scatter them by an effect of your almighty power” (Ps 58:12) [7]  ?

Theodore RegensburgA young Jew of the XIX th  century Simon Theodore Regensburg (already mentioned above), landed the same questions, and they brought him to Catholicism. In 1824, still hesitant, he wrote to a friend:

I read our story carefully; and I saw that the cessation of worship and the overthrow of the Temple; that the destruction of the Holy City, the confusion of the tribes and the general dispersion of the Jewish nation; that all these facts coincide with the establishment of Christianity in the world. […] I see this situation, I feel it with pain: I would give my life to take away my brothers… and I cannot live with them, I cannot invoke the God of my fathers in their house of prayer […] [ 8] .

Responsible for the Israelite schools of Alsace (his father was president of the Consistory), Theodore had the opportunity three years later to quote to the parents of the students the twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, where the announced blessings and curses are listed. to the people of Israel. The text caused a sensation:

If you do not want to listen to the voice of the Lord your God, the curse will fall on you and overwhelm you. […] You will be scattered throughout all the regions of the earth. […] The Lord will strike you with blindness and frenzy, so that you will grope your way at noon. […] You will be blackened at all times by slander, and oppressed by violence, without anyone delivering you. […] These punishments will remain on you and on your posterity as an astonishing mark […].

This reading was interrupted by the furious protests of one of the assistants, who saw it as an attack on Jewish traditions and yelled at the audience to withdraw. Theodore replied calmly that he was only reading the words of Moses, and resumed his reading. But he understood that he could not indefinitely delay his public profession of the Christian faith. A few months later, he told his father:

I am Christian […]. I am a Christian, but I worship the same God as my fathers, the three times holy God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and I recognize that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Redeemer of Israel .

In the XXI th  century, despite the restoration of the State of Israel in 1948 and the amazing resurrection of the Hebrew language, the situation of Jews has not essentially changed. They still have neither temple nor priesthood, so sacrifice, and their people are still widely dispersed. Does the founding of the State of Israel herald the end of this dispersion and does it prepare for the conversion of the Jews? On the contrary, does she prelude a new catastrophe about to strike them? The future will tell. In any case, far from proving the non-coming of the Messiah, the brutal dispersion of the Jews - less than forty years after the crucifixion of Christ - is a clear sign of his coming .

3. - Universal peace

Third task of the Messiah according to Rabbi Simmons: "To bring the world into an era of universal peace, and to put an end to all hatred, oppression, suffering and disease" . The rabbi invokes in this regard a famous passage from Isaiah.

- Isaiah's text

At the end of days,
the mountain of the house of Yahweh
will be established on top of the mountains,
and high above the hills,
and all the peoples will flow into it.
And peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh to
the mountain of the God of Jacob;
He will instruct us in his ways
And we will walk in his paths ”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law
and the word of God from Jerusalem;
he will be the arbiter of the nations
and the judge of many peoples;
They will forge their swords into plowshares
And their spears into sickles.
One nation will no longer rise up against another,
And we will no longer learn about war. "
[Is 2, 2-4.]

This unmistakably Messianic prophecy announces the conversion of the pagans to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The images are vigorous but remain images  : nobody would dare to understand that the mountain of Zion must be transported to the top of the Himalayas, nor that all the peoples of the earth will come to settle there. There is no more reason to press the meaning of the last verses to imagine a kind of universal pacifism (which, logically, should be extended even to animals, if one interprets the announcements of chapter 11 in the same way: "The wolf will live with the lamb, the panther will rest with the kid […] the infant will frolic on the viper's hole, etc. [9]  "). Isaiah only announces that the revelation of the true God will be open to the Gentiles, and that they will find in it a source of justice and peace. The whole question is about the nature of this peace.

- Christian peace

Jesus Christ brings a mainly interior and supernatural peace ; the Jews expect an external, civil, social peace. But isn't the most important peace inner peace  ? If civil war is the worst war, what about the internal war that man must wage and endure within his very heart?

Every man experiences this intimate struggle between reason (which shows what is right, honest, just) and the various passions. In the depths of our being, it is our relationship with God that is distorted, since the sin of Adam. By coming to heal this fundamental disorder, Jesus brings peace (which is, according to the famous definition of Saint Augustine, "the tranquility of order"). He offers all men the friendship of God. The human heart, so inclined to accuse others, understands that the first enemy is domestic. He changes his sword into a ploughshare, that is to say, turns his weapons against himself, strives to break his own inner hardness, to tear off the brambles of vices, to open himself to the seed of the word of God. Grace, with its train of virtues and gifts, reestablishes order within the human heart - not immediately, brutally and dramatically, but slowly and gradually, as man, with his freedom, collaborates in the order that God wants to put in him.

- A very real peace

A Jew will call this Christian peace a utopia or a pious illusion. But let him reread the prophets. Isaiah chapter 53 - which makes the Messiah's mission consist of a propitiatory sacrifice for sin - does it not very clearly imply that the first peace to be restored is that of man with God?

Moreover, even if it is essentially supernatural, the peace brought by Christianity cannot be disputed, because it also has temporal and visible consequences, which even the Jews cannot deny. How to explain without it the gentle and calm force (the smile, often) of the millions of Christian martyrs? The ardor with which crowds of warlike young nobles suddenly threw down their swords to go and clear the lands of a monastery (literal realization of the oracle of Isaiah 2, 4)? One thinks of course of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, in the 12th century. century, which led to the abbey his brothers, his uncles and his father, almost all devoted until then to the service of arms; but this illustrious name should not make us forget the thousands of young people who, at all times, made the same sacrifice. At the time of Saint Bernard, it was, for example, Count Godefroy de Cappenberg, descendant of Charlemagne, who transformed his castle into a monastery, used his wealth to satisfy the poor, devoted his hands to the relief of lepers, and spent all his life. life in perfect obedience, with his brother Atton (godfather of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa) who made his monastic profession at the same time as him.

The “conversion” of the wolf of Gubbio by Saint Francis of Assisi literally fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 11, 6 ( “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb” ) [10]  ; but it only visibly illustrates what is going on inside hearts. The heart of the fiery François de Sales, for example, who spent his whole life conquering his character, until he was universally known as the gentle bishop of Geneva [11] .

Maximilian Kolbe

Not all Christians, of course, become saints of this caliber. Far too many remain bad, unfaithful to the graces received. The good ones themselves often only slowly sanctify themselves. But heroic holiness is present throughout the history of the Church as a trail of light and peace. In the twentieth century, she reached the Auschwitz camp where a Catholic priest, Maximilien Kolbe (1894-1941), voluntarily gave his life to save a prisoner. Locked in the hunger bunker , the charity, gentleness and joy with which he radiated impressed even his Nazi guardians. Doctor Nicet Wlodarski testifies:

A leader, a German of this bunker, […] described Father Kolbe as an extraordinarily courageous man, a truly superhuman hero. He also stressed that Father Kolbe's person, his calm, made a great impression on the SS who were peering into this bunker. He said that, for the SS, it had really been a psychological shock [12] .

Bruno Borgowiec, employed as an interpreter at the bunker, says:

When I opened the iron door, he had ceased to live; but he seemed alive to me. The face was radiant, in an unusual way, eyes wide open and fixed on a point. The whole face was ecstatic. This show, I will never forget it.

In another story:

Her body was very clean and bright. Anyone would have been struck by his position and felt he was standing in front of a saint. His face shone with serenity, unlike the other dead, lying on the ground, dirty, the marks of their suffering on their faces [13] .

Compare this story with the many Jewish testimonies on the Nazi concentration camps: it immediately clashes. So much this serenity, this joy in suffering are characteristic of Christian martyrs.

And where can this visibly supernatural peace come from, if not from the Lord Jesus?

- Even temporal peace

Temporal peace is not provided directly by Christianity, but neither is it foreign to it. Planet Earth, which has been noisy for centuries with the clash of arms and the clamor of war, seems to calm down and recollect itself as the birth of the child-God approaches. The emperor Augustus imposes universal peace (within the Empire as well as at its borders) closing, after the battle of Actium (31 BC), the doors of the temple of war (almost always opened since the founding of Rome). The world is at peace when the angels come to sing on Christmas night: Glory to God in the highest heavens, and peace on earth to men of good will. The Catholic Church will be the guardian of this peace. When the Roman Empire crumbles under the weight of barbarian invasions, it is not taken with it but peacefully defeats the barbarians, gradually changing their hearts; it attracts some to the monasteries, imposes on others the "peace of God" or the "truce of God" , and, from these hordes which were to overwhelm it, gives birth to the different nations of Christendom.

Jesus never claimed to establish paradise on earth. The tares remain mixed with the wheat (Mt 13:41) and atrocities have not been lacking even within Christianity. But the constant preaching of charity, the example of the saints, above all, does not remain without fruit. The Church protects marriage - and therefore women and children. She knows how to resist kings and emperors when they are brought to tyranny. It gradually abolishes slavery. It establishes a Christian society which, in its earthly miseries, is incontestably more human, more attentive to the weak than all pagan civilizations [14] . Without directly providing temporal peace, Jesus Christ also gives it , to the extent that the nations submit to his law.

- An example

And to end on this prophecy of Isaiah, we gladly dedicate to Rabbi Simmons the example of one of his predecessors, thus described by Tertullian:

Paul, from persecutor became Apostle; he who first shed the blood of the Church then changed his sword into a stiletto and transformed his cleaver into a ploughshare [15] .

4. - Fourth task: one people

Fourth task of the Messiah: "To propagate the universal knowledge of the God of Israel, who will unite humanity as one people" .

Those who know how to distinguish religion from politics ( Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God ) obviously relate this promise to the religious order. They then note that it has been achieved, since a unique society - bringing together all nationalities, without mixing or confusing them - has spread throughout the world the knowledge of the unique God first revealed to Israel.

Those who dream of an essentially temporal messianism, on the contrary, interpret these promises of world unification in a human way (natural, political, terrestrial); they conclude that they have not yet been fulfilled.

To decide between these two competing interpretations, it suffices to compare the visible fruits of one and the other, as well as their internal logic.

- We judge the tree by its fruits

One of yours is better than two you will have , the saying goes. The Catholic Church already has a great advantage over the “unique people” expected by the Jews: it exists  ! This existence is indisputable since the Church possesses an outward unity and a universality easily discernible even by those who have no faith.

Christianity is, historically, the first universal religion. While each people (or each family of peoples) had its national deities, it bows them all before the one God. He conquered the whole earth - but in peace, without violating anyone, on the contrary suffering long and bloody persecutions [16] . The comparison with Islam (which was the second universal religion in history, and in many ways a counterfeit of the first) is very illuminating in this regard. The universalism of Christianity is a universalism of peace (for two millennia, Christianity has continuously engendered the fruits of peace: the saints). Can the same be said of temporal messianism?

- The fruits of temporal messianism

What are, for 2000 years, the great universalist companies inspired by temporal messianism?

- Islam, of which we have not finished counting the victims [17]  ;
- revolutionary utopias [18] , particularly communism, responsible for more than one hundred million deaths [19]  ;
- today, the “planetarian” ideology (let's remove the borders!) [20] , which one can reasonably doubt that it will bring happiness to humanity.

Any historian cannot help but be struck by the apparently irresistible force with which these deadly utopias - contrary to the most elementary common sense - suddenly impose themselves like a rising tide, on a whole portion of humanity. Even the most materialistic of them, the Marxist ideologies, seem to be animated by an entirely religious fervor, like a mystical breath. It is because all of them draw their strength more or less directly from the messianic hope of Israel. Hope of divine origin, certainly, to be the bearer of such energy, but just as certainly deviated, to be at the origin of so many disasters. Modern follies are perhaps not so much "Christian ideas gone mad" (Chesterton [21] ), as Jewish ideas. : messianic hope diverted from its true object (eternal salvation) to be applied to the temporal order.

The worst thing is that temporal messianism survives the disasters it engenders. And it will continue to generate new ones since, according to Rabbi Simmons (who invokes the authority of Maimonides on this point), “each generation contains within it an individual who would have the capacity to become the Messiah” .

- "One people", said the rabbi

After the fruits (of peace on one side, of death on the other), let us compare the internal logic of Catholic universalism with that of temporal messianism.

The rabbi's hope "to unite mankind as one people." " Brings immediately the question: Is the Jewish people called them to blend with the other to form a single people? In this case, how will he preserve all the prerogatives to which the rabbi shows himself so attached? But if he refuses to mingle with others, what does this unique people mean?

Here we touch on the formidable internal contradiction of the messianic hope of the Jews. And in reality, God himself had to intervene to resolve it, making the Apostles understand that the Church could only open up to all of humanity by abandoning Jewish particularities [22] . "There is no longer either Jew or Greek […], you are all one in Christ Jesus" exclaims Saint Paul, who continues: "And if you belong to Christ, you are therefore descended from Abraham; heirs according to the promise ” (Ga 3, 28-29). In other words, the criteria for belonging to the chosen people are no longer racial ( physical descent from Abraham) but spiritual ( mystical incorporationto Christ). The Synagogue refused, fearing above all that it would lose its special status. At the same time, she denied the prophecy of the one people.

Current Judaism strongly criticizes the Church for proclaiming itself the “new Israel” . He sees it as an inadmissible claim. But this "pretension" precisely manifests the dazzling realization of the Messianic prophecy. It is in the Church ( "new Israel" ) that the oracle of Zechariah is fulfilled:

Jerusalem will be a city without walls, because of the multitude of men and animals that will be in its midst. I myself will be for her, says the Lord, a wall of fire all around, and I will be glorified in the midst of her [Za 2, 4].

Augustin Lémann (illustrious convert from Judaism, 1836-1909) commented:

This metaphor indicated that ancient Jerusalem was only the figure of a kingdom which would be very different from it, since its extent could not be determined in a human way. It will have its fulfillment in the Church of Christ, a spiritual and universal kingdom [23] .

- The paradox of Catholic universality

If the messianic universalism of the Jews is inherently contradictory (and therefore unachievable), Catholic universalism may seem, at first glance, just as paradoxical. But it has the immense advantage of being a realized paradox , a living paradox. The Church constitutes a true universal society ( Catholic = universal , in Greek), endowed with a solid unity of government, doctrine and worship [24] ; its members are more attached to it than to their earthly country, and even to their life; and yet, far from dissolving nationalities, the Catholic Church has given birth to several. A nationalist theorist who had no faith had to recognize that this supranational society, far from harming the nations, was largely beneficial to them; he even defined it as "the only international worthy" (Maurras). This is because the Church is situated in a different order from the temporal nations. Its development should therefore not hinder these - which, on the contrary, benefit from its moralizing action.

To anyone who would object that the Church has not yet united all of humanity in its midst, two distinct responses should be made. First, nothing prevents, before the end of the world, a universal triumph of the Holy Church, which would completely fulfill the Messianic prophecy (without however establishing paradise on earth, since men will remain sinners and the Church threatened by lukewarm). The Jews themselves will then join the one Church. But even the one who refuses this hope will have to agree that the Church is already a universal society developed among all the peoples of the world. It therefore already truly fulfills the prophecy of the unique people [25] .

“All the nations of the earth have seen the salvation of our God” (Ps 97, 3; Is 52, 10).

Christ's Quadruple Response

Of the four messianic tasks that he is accused of not having performed, Our Lord Jesus Christ answered in advance, in four sentences:

  1. - As for the construction of the temple:

Destroy this temple, and I will rebuild it in three days [Jn 2, 19].

  1. - As for the definitive gathering of the Jews in the land of Israel:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets, you who stone those who are sent to you, how many times have I wanted to gather your children as the hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you did not want! Now, your house will be left deserted to you. I tell you: you will not see me any more until the day you say: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! [Lk 13, 35; see also 19, 41-47].

  1. - As for the establishment of universal peace:

I leave you in peace, I give you my peace; I do not give it as the world gives it [Jn 14:17].

  1. - Finally, as regards the reunification of the various nations into one people:

Go therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to keep all that I have commanded you: and behold, I am with you until the end of the world . [Conclusion of the Gospel of Saint Mark.]

- II -
The qualifications of the Messiah

For Rabbi Simmons, Jesus did not just fail to act as Messiah. He already lacked three qualities indispensable to the Messiah: those of prophet, descendant of David and faithful observer of Jewish law.

1. - Was Jesus a prophet?

The rabbi is adamant: not only was Jesus not a prophet, he could not be:

Jesus was not a prophet. Prophecy can only exist in Israel when the land is inhabited by the majority of the Jewish people. In Ezra's time around 300 BCE - when the majority of Jews refused to leave Babylon to return to Israel, the prophecy ended with the death of the last prophets - Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

Jesus appeared on the scene of history some 350 years after the prophecy ended.

Instead of defining or describing what a prophet is and comparing the figure of Jesus to it, the rabbi states a principle: the dispersal of the Jewish people prevented prophecy. But where does this principle come from? It was precisely forged from scratch to try to explain the strange absence of prophets since the coming of Jesus Christ (because this absence constituted a very strong argument in favor of the messiahship of this one). So we're going in circles! In reality, if there was, before the coming of Jesus, a certain halt in prophecy (a few centuries of silence, as if to better prepare for what was to come [26] ), it reappears suddenly and brilliantly in John. Baptist. And this one explicitly designates Jesus as the Messiah.

It suffices to consider honestly the figure of Saint John the Baptist - his penance in the desert, his preaching both harsh and full of hope, the disciples he attracts, the conversions he brings about, the opposition he brings about. encounter, his courageous testimony before Herod, and his martyrdom - to recognize that he perfectly fulfills the type of the prophets of the Old Testament.

Jesus also fulfills this type of prophet (the one who speaks in the name of God) to perfection, notably in his proclamation of the Messianic “kingdom” . He is much more than a prophet, but he should at least have been recognized as such. He made very specific announcements in front of witnesses which were fully confirmed by events. The prophecy of the capture of Jerusalem was spread and written down by the Evangelists long before it was fulfilled. She led the first Christians to flee this city - according to the advice given by Christ himself - when they saw the foretold happen.

No one is a prophet in his own country ! Jesus was not recognized by his people. But far from damaging the picture, this ignorance only adds an additional trait of conformity. Our Lord sadly underlined it:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, who build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and who say: If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been their accomplices in shedding the blood of the prophets . By this you yourselves testify that you are the sons of those who killed the prophets. So fill the measure of your fathers! [Mt 23, 29-32].

2. - Jesus son of David

The rabbi is ironic:

The Messiah must be a descendant from the paternal side of King David (see Gen 49, 10 and Is 11, 1). Now, according to the thesis of Christians, Jesus was born of a virgin woman, and therefore had no father. It is therefore impossible that he could have met the requirements of a paternal filiation dating back to King David!

- First response

In reality, neither of the two texts invoked by the rabbi (Gn 49, 10 and Is 11, 1) speaks of paternal filiation .

- Genesis 49:10 only specifies the time of the coming of the Messiah:

The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until Shilo [the Messiah] come,
his peoples will obey!

As it is precisely at the time of Christ that the descendants of Judah lost power in Israel, one would avoid, in the place of the rabbis, to dwell too much on this prophecy ...

- As for Isaiah 11: 1, he certainly announces that the Messiah will descend from Jesse (that is to say from the family of David), but he does not specify that he will be his ancestor on the paternal  side :

A branch will
spring from the trunk of Jesse, and from its roots a shoot will grow.
On him will rest the spirit of Yahweh […]

The fact that the Virgin Mary descended from David is enough for Jesus to descend from David too and to be, in all rigor, a “offshoot of the trunk of Jesse” . The prophecy is therefore fulfilled.

- Second response

One could, however, object that only male descent allowed the transmission of hereditary rights. We must therefore go further and note that Saint Joseph, even if he is not the biological father of Jesus Christ, is his legal (official) father . However, in Jewish law, adoptive paternity takes precedence over biological paternity. It is not the genealogy of the Blessed Virgin, but that of Saint Joseph that the evangelists give, because it is this official genealogy that matters. We also note that Saint Matthew, who is mainly addressed to Palestinian Jews, systematically favors legal genealogy (while Saint Luke, who writes for Greeks, is more interested in real paternity) [27]. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem also underlines the Davidic origin of Jesus. It is because David is from Bethlehem that Joseph and Mary had to go there for the census.

- Third response

According to the prophets, the Messiah was not to be only the son of David (i.e. his descendant), but also his Lord. Jesus himself quoted the psalm where David states:

Yahweh said to my Lord [= the Messiah]: "Sit on my right hand" [Ps 109].

If therefore - Jesus asked the Pharisees (Mt 22: 41-46) - the Messiah is the son of David, how does the latter call him "my Lord"  ? This expression is only understood if, while descending from David, the Messiah precedes him in some way; and therefore, if it does not descend from it in all respects. Now Jesus is David's biological son through his mother, a legal son through his legal father, but at the same time he transcends this origin, as the Son of God. The prophecies could not be better fulfilled.

3. - Jesus and Jewish Law

The rabbi's third argument concerns the permanence of Jewish law (the Torah):

The Messiah will lead the Jewish people to full Torah observance. The Torah states that all mitzvot [the prescriptions of the Law] will always remain in force, and that anyone who wants to change the Torah will immediately be identified as a false prophet (Deut 13: 1-4).

However, our author adds:

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus takes the opposite view of the Torah.

It is to ignore the famous saying of Jesus: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill ” (Mt 5:17).

To follow the rabbi, there is only one alternative: to obey or to disobey. Whoever does not obey the Law is a rebel, and therefore an impostor. This is to forget that such an alternative is binding only on those who are subject to the law; no to the legislator. Now if it is true that the attitude of Jesus vis-à-vis Jewish Law has something surprising, he never appears to be a rebel. Surprise arises, on the contrary, from the contrast between the humility with which he constantly strives to fulfill Scripture  [28] , and, on the other hand, the authority with which he legislates ( “You have learned that he has been told to the elders… and I tell you… ” Mt 5, 21; 5, 27, etc.).

By legislating, Jesus shows himself superior to the Law of Moses. But in another respect, he obeyed this Law, for it itself regulated the way in which it was to be perfected by the Messiah, the definitive legislator. The new law therefore does not abolish the old law but elevates it and transfigures it, accomplishing what it only represented. We can compare it to the butterfly: it does not kill - nor chase - the caterpillar: it is simply the caterpillar in the final and perfect stage of its existence.

The "full observance of the Torah" , that is precisely what Christ has led the Jews (at least those who were willing to follow) the fullness of the Law, St. Paul teaches, is charity ( Ro 13, 10). And the same Saint Paul, so zealous until then for the traditions of his fathers, discovers that the law is only a means, not an absolute [29] . The promises were made to Abraham on the basis of faith - not the Law. This one, who came after, cannot therefore be the foundation of salvation, nor claim to be definitive in all its material prescriptions (Rom 4 and Ga 3). Intended to protect faith, it does not by itself give the life of grace; good but heavy, the occasion of many transgressions, it is even a real burden (Rom 7). By coming to transfigure her, Jesus acts as a true liberator.

The prophets prepared for this transfiguration [30] . When Jeremiah reproached Israel for being "uncircumcised in heart" (Jer 9:26), was he not clearly indicating that bodily circumcision is not an absolute, but only the outward sign of a necessary purification of the heart? ? Saint Paul will say nothing else when he asserts that "the true Jew is not the one outside, and true circumcision is not that which appears in the flesh" (Rom 2:28 ).

As Fr. Lémann noted:

The Israelite, by becoming Catholic, does not change religion but completes his religion, completes it, crowns it. The Israelite who became Catholic is, par excellence, the religious man who has obtained his fullness, as the stem obtains the flower [31] .

To those who asked him why he had given up the synagogue, Eugenio Zolli (former chief rabbi of Rome) replied in the same way:

But I did not give it up. Christianity is the completion of the synagogue. For the synagogue was a promise and Christianity the fulfillment of that promise [32] .

Current Judaism resembles a caterpillar which, having received some confidences on the winged state which awaits it, would stubbornly refuse to enter its cocoon. These promises were made to her as the caterpillar, she says, and not to the brazen butterfly seeking to capture her legacy. She will defend her "caterpillar" against heaven and earth . She wants to fly one day, of course, and she eagerly awaits the coming of the Messiah who will give her wings. But she wants to receive these wings as a caterpillar, without losing her caterpillar legs, her caterpillar mores, her caterpillar law.

And it has been going on for 2000 years.

- III -
Are the prophetic texts poorly translated?

In the eyes of Rabbi Simmons, Jesus not only failed in the prophecies he had to fulfill; he also has the great mistake of having accomplished those which he was not supposed to accomplish! The rabbi attacks on this subject three famous prophecies which would only be badly translated texts:

  1. - The virgin birth prophesied by Isaiah (7, 14)
  2. - The crucifixion, described by David (Psalm 21)
  3. - The Suffering Servant announced by Isaiah (ch. 53).

Let's take a closer look.

1. - The virgin birth, prophesied by Isaiah (7, 14)

Fragment of the Book of Isaiah found in the first cave of Qumran.Rabbi Simmons says:

The Christian idea of ​​a virgin birth originated in Isaiah 7:14 where it is about an alma who gave birth. The Hebrew word 'alma has always meant "young woman", but Christian theologians, several centuries later, have translated it as "virgin".

The rabbi simply forgets that it was not the Christians who translated the Bible into Greek, but the Jews themselves, long before the birth of Jesus Christ (the Greek version known as the Septuagint). Now, in this version, the Hebrew word 'almah is translated not “the young woman” (ἡ νεᾶνις), but indeed “the young virgin” (ἡ παρθένος; it is this same term of Parthenos that Saint Luke will use to designate the Virgin Mary in her account of the Annunciation [33] ).

It was only after the coming of Christ, in the second century AD, that Jewish writers set out to provide a new translation, to oppose it to Christianity. Theodotion of Ephesus, Aquila du Pont and Symmaque then translate 'almah by the young woman (ἡ νεᾶνις).

If one wants to examine the Hebrew term itself ( 'almah ), one can only know its exact meaning by examining its various uses in the Bible. However, we only find this word ten times in all of Sacred Scripture. He designates young girls who are, according to the context, either certainly or very probably virgins; only once, the term designates a young girl who is only possibly virgin (the context does not allow to decide)  [34] . This logically implies that:

1) there is nothing to prevent this term 'almah from designating a young virgin (as opposed to both the term na'arâh [which designates the “young girl” , without further precision) and the term betûlâh [which designates in own a virgin, but unspecified age]);
2) the probability is even high that this is the meaning of this word.

This high probability becomes certainty when we note that this word has been translated as "virgin" in the Greek version of the Septuagint.

Let us add that a Jewish scholar of the XIX th  century, Rabbi David Drach (1791-1865), has shown with great detail how the ancient Jewish traditions confirm the Christian interpretation of this passage from Isaiah: that is the whole theme of his Third Letter from a converted rabbi to his brothers Israelites (Rome, 1833) [35] .

Ultimately, the reality is therefore strictly contrary to the claims of the rabbi. Simmons. It is not "the Christian theologians [who], several centuries later, translated it as 'virgin'" , but on the contrary the Jewish translators who, more than a century after the coming of Christ, rejected the translation until -là current, to introduce the term of young woman (νεᾶνις).

The challenge launched by Saint Jerome to the Jews of his time is still relevant today:

Let the Jews therefore show us a passage of the Scriptures where 'almah designates only a young girl and not a virgin, and then we will recognize that the word of Isaiah must be understood not from a hidden virgin, but from a young woman already married [ Contra Jovinianum , I, 32; PL 23, 254].

2. - The crucifixion, prophesied by David (Psalm 21)

This is Psalm 21 (22 in the Hebrew Psalter). David sings there the call for help that a man tortured by his enemies launches to God, then, in conclusion, his thanksgiving when God delivered him. Verses 15-19 especially announce the passion of Christ:

[…] I am like flowing water,
And all my bones are disjointed;
My heart is like wax,
It melts in my bowels.
My strength is withered like a shard of clay,
And my tongue clings to my palate;
You reduce me to the dust of death.
For dogs surround me,
A band of scoundrels prowl around me,
They have pierced my hands and my feet,
I could count all my bones.
They observe me, they contemplate me;
They share my clothes,
They draw lots for my tunic.

But the rabbi disputes the translation of the verse "They pierced my hands and my feet"  :

It is written in the Psalms (22:17): “For dogs surround me, the band of the wicked circle around me; "Like the lion" (they bruise) my hands and my feet. The Hebrew term KeAri ("like a lion") is grammatically similar to the word "tear". This is how Christianity reads the verse as containing an allusion to the crucifixion: “They pierced my hands and my feet. "

The evil rabbi omits, here again, to specify that the translation "They pierced my hands and my feet" is not a Christian invention. This was already the Greek translation given by the Septuagint long before the birth of Christ ( ὤρυξαν χεῖράς μου καἱ πὀδα  " ). No one disputed it at the time, when this version of the Septuagint was very widespread (it was pretty much the official Greek translation of the Bible, at a time when Greek was the dominant language).

It was only after the birth and spread of Christianity that the Jews felt the need for another translation. By vocalizing the text in a different way (because in Hebrew, only the consonants are indicated, and the same text can therefore have several possible readings), the Jews Aquila and Symmaque translated: "They tied my hands and my feet" , which had the advantage of evoking less the crucifixion, while keeping the disadvantage of remaining easily applicable to Christ. In the Middle Ages, the Masoretes (Jewish scholars who set out to write down the vocalization of the text) preferred to understand: "Like the lion, my hands and my feet". The text did not make much sense, but they claimed that we should imply the verb: "they bruise" , which read: "Like a lion [they bruise] my hands and my feet" . This is, as we have seen, the solution adopted by Rabbi Simmons.

Without being absolutely impossible from a logical point of view, this reading has three big flaws:

- it requires reading the last consonant of the word like a yod (there is a variant on this letter in the Hebrew manuscripts [36] );
- it provides an obscure text (to which a verb must be arbitrarily added to give it an intelligible meaning);
- finally, as we have seen, it does not correspond to the way in which the text was commonly read before the coming of Christ.

The version "They pierced my hands and my feet" , meanwhile:

- is justified whatever the final consonant [37] ,
- presents a perfectly clear meaning,
- corresponds to the traditional reading of the Jews of the Old Testament (as the translation of the Septuagint proves).

Any impartial observer will agree that the plausibility in this matter is not on Rabbi Simmons' side.

3. - The Suffering Servant announced by Isaiah (ch. 53)

Isaiah chapter 53 is one of the high points of the Old Testament, not only because of the emotional force with which it announces the passion of the Messiah, but especially by the doctrinal explanation he gives of it.

Before discussing it, let's reread this chapter:

Who has believed what we have heard, and to whom has Yahweh's arm been revealed? He rose before him like a frail shrub; like an offspring coming out of a parched ground; he had neither form nor beauty to attract our attention, nor appearance to excite our love. He was despised and abandoned by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, like an object before which one veils one's face; in contempt, we did not care. Truly it was our illnesses that he was carrying, and our pains that he had taken care of; and we regarded him as a punished, smitten by God and humiliated. But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquities; the chastisement which gives us peace was upon him, and it is by his stripes that we are healed.We were all wandering like sheep, each of us went our own way; and the LORD has laid down upon him the iniquity of us all. They mistreat him, and he submits and does not open his mouth, like the lamb that is led to the slaughter, and the sheep that is silent before those who shear it; he does not open his mouth. He was taken up by oppression and judgment, and who among his contemporaries thought that he was cut off from the land of the living, that the plague struck him because of the sins of my people? He was given his sepulcher with the wicked, and in his death he is with the rich, while he has done no injustice, and there is no deceit in his mouth. It pleased Yahweh to break it with suffering; but when his soul has offered the sin offering, he will see a seed, he will prolong his days,and the purpose of Yahweh will prosper in his hands. Because of the sufferings of his soul, he will see and be satisfied. By his knowledge the righteous, my Servant, will justify many men, and he himself will deal with their iniquities. Therefore I will give him his share among the great; he will share the booty with the forts. Because he gave up his soul to death and was counted among the evildoers; and he himself has borne the fault of many, and he will intercede for sinnersBecause he gave up his soul to death and was counted among the evildoers; and he himself has borne the fault of many, and he will intercede for sinnersBecause he gave up his soul to death and was counted among the evildoers; and he himself has borne the fault of many, and he will intercede for sinners [Is 53, 1-12].

Rabbi Simmons, of course, disputes that this is a Messianic prophecy:

Christianity considers Isaiah chapter 53 on the “suffering servant” to refer to Jesus.
In reality, this chapter 53 is the direct continuation of chapter 52, which describes the exile and the redemption of the Jewish people. The prophecies are written in the singular because the Jews ("Israel") are considered as one unit.
The Torah is full of examples where the Jewish nation is referred to by a singular pronoun.

For the third time, Rabbi Simmons is opposed not only to the Christian interpretation, but also - without saying so - to that of many Jews. Many, in fact, had to admit that this prophecy did announce the Messiah, even if they then subjected it to a more than acrobatic exegesis to erase the aspects which shocked them.

A very significant case is that of Jonathan's Targum which Father Lagrange gives as "a characteristic and even amusing example of misinterpretations in which the concern to remain faithful to the words of a text can lead to the desire to remain faithful to the words of a text, by evading its spirit as much as possible [ 38] . The whole of chapter 53 is interpreted in this way. When Isaiah says that God places on him the iniquity of all, Jonathan interprets this from the Temple (which the text does not say a word about!): It means that the Temple was desecrated because of the sins of Israel. When the text says that the Servant of Yahweh did not open his mouth, Jonathan understands: "He was heard even before opening his mouth to pray". Then, instead of being treated like a lamb led to the butchery, it is he who leads the people to the carnage! And so on. Jonathan resolutely interprets backwards all the passages which indicate the suffering of the Messiah. But, as Fr. Lagrange concludes:

Even those who were in the presence of Isaiah's text had a simpler way than Jonathan's to escape its evidence; instead of detailed misinterpretations, a general misinterpretation which only allowed the Servant to be seen as a group of just people or the entire people of Israel. The ancient rabbis seem to have preferred the first way; since Raschi, it was the second that prevailed […]  [39] .

Raschi is the name of a rabbi from Troyes (1040-1105), who imposed, in fact, the idea that Isaiah 53 would not apply to the Messiah but to the Jewish people. He argued that the expression "servant of Yahweh" designates the people of Israel in other passages of Isaiah.

But the “servant of Yahweh” described in these passages is explicitly referred to by Isaiah as the Servant-Israel  ; he is a hardened sinner (Is 43, 24-28, etc.), punished for his own iniquities (Is 43, 27-28, etc.), blind to the work of God (Is 42, 19-20) .

On the contrary, the “suffering servant” of Isaiah 53 is presented as perfectly innocent, faithfully obeying God, bearing upon himself the sins of others. He cannot designate the people of Israel, since he is stricken "because of the sins of his people . "

The thing is clear enough so that, for centuries, no one was mistaken: it is only after the coming of Jesus Christ - and against him - that one wanted to apply Isaiah 53 to the Jewish people. Today, we would even like to see an announcement of what the Jews call the "Shoah".. And yet, in the midst of the Second World War, as he worked to protect his small Jewish flock, it was not of his people but of the Messiah that the Chief Rabbi of Rome irresistibly thought whenever he saw him. he was reading this chapter of Isaiah. He had seen a crucifix once in his childhood in the Ukraine in the house of one of his comrades, and he could not help but think about it every time he read the song of the Suffering Servant. Converted later to Christianity, Israel Zolli (that's his name) will tell how much this text from Isaiah had helped him on his journey towards Christ Jesus [40] .



Rabbi Simmons brings up other arguments against Christianity, but unrelated to the prophecies, and so caricature that they hardly deserve a detailed rebuttal. He affirms that "the Catholic idea of ​​the Trinity transforms God into three distinct parts: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" , which seems to indicate that he never bothered to read a catechism, nor , for example, the Symbol of Saint Athanasius. He does not seem to have grasped better what the mystery of the incarnation designates, since he sees fit, in order to contradict it, to assert that God is incorporeal, infinite, outside space, and that "God is not" is not a mortal ” (Num 23:19). He also confuses Catholicism and Manichaeism, asserting: “Catholic doctrine often treats the physical world as an evil to be avoided. "


May he deign to hasten the day when his people will finally recognize him!

It would be interesting, moreover, to list the Messianic prophecies of which Rabbi Simmons omits to speak in his study (he does not say anything, for example, of the time when the Messiah was to be born, yet predicted in several different ways  [41] ). But such a study would take us too far. The only examination of the prophecies explicitly invoked by the rabbi against Jesus Christ seems to us sufficient to establish firmly that Jesus Christ fulfilled the announcements of the prophets, and that he is therefore the Messiah sent by God.

* *

[1] - We are using the French version published by John Kohn on a Jewish website ( http://www.lamed.fr/actualite/israelnation/1024.asp ) on May 19, 2004. John Kohn specifies that the rabbi's text Israeli has been adapted and enriched with comments by him.
[2] - Jacob Libermann (1802-1852), quoted by Maurice Briault CSSp., The venerable father FM Libermann , Paris, Gigord, 1946, p. 17-18.
[3] - Théodore Ratisbonne (1802-1884), quoted in the work Le TR Père Marie-Théodore Ratisbonne, founder of the society of priests and of the congregation of nuns of Notre-Dame de Sion, according to his correspondence and contemporary documents , t. 1, Paris, 1905, p. 62.
[4]- The second temple of Jerusalem - built after the return from captivity of Babylon, from 516 BC, and completely renovated by Herod in 19 BC. JC - will not be destroyed until the year 70, by the Romans. - By entering there, Our Lord fulfilled the oracle of the prophet Haggai according to which the glory of the second temple would exceed that of the first (Ag 2: 9). The last of the prophets, Malachi, also foretold this coming of the Messiah in the second temple: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me, and suddenly the Lord whom you seek, the Lord, will come to his temple. angel of the covenant you desire. Behold, he cometh, saith the LORD of hosts ” (Ml 3: 1).
[5] - P. Vincent-Toussaint Beurier (Eudist, 1715-1782),“The blindness of those who killed Jesus Christ” , text reproduced in The Salt of the Earth 40 , p. 216-228.
[6] - “When Nebuchadnezzar brought the people [into captivity] they were told before that they would be few there, and that they would be made well. They were always comforted by the prophets, and their kings continued. But the second destruction is without the promise of restoration, without prophets, without kings, without consolation, without hope; because the scepter is taken away forever. It is not to have been a captive to have been so with the assurance of being delivered in seventy years. But now they are hopeless. » Blaise Pascal, Pensées .
[7]- P. Vincent-Toussaint Beurier, ibid.
[8] - Théodore Ratisbonne, cited in the work Le TR Père Marie-Théodore Ratisbonne, t. 1, Paris, 1905, p. 60-61. - Theodore's younger brother, Alphonse, will also convert to Catholicism but later, and after an apparition of the Blessed Virgin, in the Church of Saint-André-delle-Fratte in Rome (January 20, 1842). He had accepted shortly before to wear the miraculous medal of Notre-Dame in the rue du Bac.
[9] - Is 11, 6-8.
[10] - Various saints performed similar miracles towards ferocious or harmful animals: of the Desert Fathers, Saint Jerome (and his lion), Saint Martin de Porrès OP, etc.
[11]- Saint Francis de Sales revealed the work he had to do to overcome anger in the little sentence he replied one day to a friend who was astonished at his gentleness towards an impious one: "I was afraid to pour out in a quarter of an hour that little liquor of gentleness that I have been trying to collect for twenty-two years like dew in the vessel of my heart. " - Another friend thus testified to the result of these efforts: " It seems to me that all the leniency that can be in a man was gathered in him: I could never be satisfied with seeing him and hearing him as he was. gentle and pleasant, never doing an action or uttering a word that was not determined by the gentleness of Our Lord… ” . Quoted by Canon F. Vidal, in his workAt the sources of joy with Saint Francis de Sales (Paris, 3rd ed., 1974, p. 163 and 133).
[12] - Quoted by A Ricciardi, Maximilien Kolbe, priest and martyr, Historical Sources , Paris, Médiaspaul, 1987 (translated from Italian), p. 347. - Doctor Rodolphe Diem also testifies: "I stayed at the Auschwitz camp from January 1941 to January 1945, and I know of no similar case, no heroic act of love for one's neighbor like the one demonstrated by Fr. Maximilien Kolbe. ” ( Ibid. , P. 344).
[13] - Quoted by A Ricciardi, p. 348-349.
[14]- Slavery, superstitions, human sacrifices, tyranny of potentates, suppression of unwanted children, exploitation of women, etc. : so many evils from which Christianity endeavored to deliver humanity . - Should we remember that human life was worth almost nothing in the Roman Empire (at least that of newborns, slaves or gladiators)? And that no religious authority was able to put limits on the Emperor's whims - who even came to be worshiped like a god?
[15] - Tertullian, Contra Gnosticos 13.
[16]- We will no doubt oppose this statement with the usual commonplaces on the Inquisition, the Crusades, the conquest of the New World, etc. It suffices here to answer that neither the Inquisition nor the Crusades were intended to convert to Christianity. The first was to protect the faith of Christians alreadybaptized; the second to deliver Palestine - Christian land invaded by Islam - so that pilgrims can get there without hindrance. Neither have been forced conversions. As for Latin America, it was certainly conquered by armed force by Spain and Portugal, but not by the Church. She spread Christianity there by preaching, by example and by miracles, as everywhere else. It is by his miracles - without ever resorting to violence - that Saint Louis Bertrand (1526-1581) made tens of thousands of conversions in Colombia; it is the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadeloupe (1531) which converted the Mexican people, etc.
[17] - On the Judeo-Nazarene origins of Islam, we can refer to the thesis of Édouard-Marie Gallez,The Messiah and his prophet. Aux origines de l'islam , Éditions de Paris, 2005 (review in Le Sel de la Terre 55 , p. 282-293). But independently of these historical works, the dependence of Islam on the temporal messianism of the Jews is obvious.
[18] - "The new Jerusalem will be wherever the French idea of ​​the Revolution triumphs" declared Maurice Bloch (quoted by Marie-Joseph Lagrange OP, Le Messianisme chez les juifs (150 BC to 200 AD) , Paris , Gabalda, 1909, p. 331).
[19] - On the place of the Jews in communism, see in particular Alexandre Soljenitsyne, Deux centuries ensemble , t. 2, Paris, Fayard, 2003.
[20]- See Hervé Ryssen, Les espérances planétariennes , Éd. Baskerville (14 rue Brossolette 92300 Levallois), 2005. This work shows very well how the utopia of temporal messianism, which underpinned communism, today underlies globalist ideology, but it lacks Christian spirit. . Voltairean criticisms of the Bible (pp. 204-208) are particularly unpleasant.
[21] - "World full of Christian ideas gone mad" (GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy , 1908)
[22] - Acts 10 and 11.
[23] - Chanoine Augustin Lémann , Histoire complet de l'énergie messianique, Ghent, 1974, p. 268. - See also the prophecy of the eighth chapter of Zechariah: “Many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek Yahweh of armies in Jerusalem and to implore Yahweh. »
[24] - While all the other religious societies more or less quickly put themselves at the service of a political power (Eastern schismatic churches [known as Orthodox], Anglicans, Protestants, Muslims…), the Catholic Church has always succeeded in to free himself from the powers that were trying to enslave him.
[25] - It can be noted that, globally (despite various persecutions and crises which can be interpreted as "seasonal variations" ), the influence of the Church on earth has always been increasing.
[26]- Blaise Pascal writes on this subject: “God raised up Prophets for sixteen hundred years; and for four hundred years afterwards he dispersed all these prophecies with all the Jews who went to all places of the world. This was the preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ, whose Gospel to be believed by everyone, it took not only that there were prophecies to make it believed, but also that these prophecies were spread by everyone, to get it kissed by everyone. "
[27] - See Fr. Emmanuel-Marie OP " The genealogies of Our Lord " , in Le Sel de la Terre 34 , p. 30-33.
[28]- In the case of Saint Matthew alone, we can cite: 1, 22; 2, 15 and 17; 2, 23; 4, 14; 8, 17; 12, 17; 13, 14 and 35; 21, 4; 26, 54 and 56; 27, 9 and 35.
[29] - Many of the discussions between Jesus and the Pharisees relate to this point. See in particular Mk 2, 24-28 and 3, 1-6. “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath; therefore the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath. "
[30] - A Jewish scholar unconverted to Christianity, Bernard Lazare (1865-1903), noted it well:“We can say that true Mosaicism, purified and enhanced by Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, further expanded universally by the Judeo-Hellenists, would have brought Israel to Christianity if Esraism, Pharisaism and Talmudism had not been there for to retain the mass of Jews in the bonds of strict observances and narrow ritual practices. » ( Antisemitism, its history and its causes, Paris, 1894, p. 16.) -“If again the Jews had stuck to pure Mosaicism, there is no doubt that at some point in their history they could not have modified this Mosaic in such a way as to allow only religious or metaphysical precepts to remain; perhaps even, if they had only had the Bible as a sacred book, they would have merged into the nascent Church, which found its first followers in the Sadducees, the Essenes and the Jewish proselytes. One thing prevented this fusion, and kept the Hebrews among the peoples: it was the elaboration of the Talmud, the domination and the authority of the doctors, who taught a so-called tradition […]. » (Bernard Lazare, ibid. , P. 14-15.)
[31] - Quoted by Father Théotime de Saint-Just OFM cap., Les Frères Lémann, juifs convertis, Paris, Librairie Saint-François, 1937, p. 372.
[32] - Eugenio Zolli, Before the dawn (French translation - by Judith Cabaud - of the autobiographical work entitled Why I became Catholic ), Paris, F.-X. de Guibert, 2001, p. 110.
[33] - The term παρθένος among the Septuagint always designates a virgin. In classical Greek too, the word designates, in its first sense, a virgin still young (see, for example, Bailly's dictionary or Zorell's Lexicon ).
[34] - For details, see, for example, PF Ceuppens OP De Prophetiis messianicis in Antiquo Testamento, Rome, Collegium Angelicum, 1935, p. 192-196. - Or: Abbots Lusseau and Collomb, Manuel d'études bibliques, t. III, Paris, Téqui, 1934, p. 148-149.
[35] - Rabbi David Drach (1791-1865), son-in-law of the chief rabbi of the Central Consistory, Emmanuel Deutz, requested Catholic baptism in 1823. There he received the first names of Paul, Louis, Bernard. - He resumed and developed his study on Isaiah 7:14 in the second volume of his work On Harmony between the Church and the Synagogue (Paris, 1844, p. 1-383; reprinted in 1978 in Ghent, Belgium ).
[36] - For details, see, for example, PF Ceuppens OP, ibid., P. 363-364.
[37]- There is, as we have seen, a variant on this final consonant. The two versions make it possible to translate "they have pierced" (by taking this verb either as a conjugate form, or as a plural participle, which amounts to the same as for the meaning). On the other hand, only one of the two allows you to read "like a lion" .
[38] - Marie-Joseph Lagrange OP, Le Messianisme chez les juifs (150 BC to 200 AD) , Paris, Gabalda, 1909, p. 241.
[39] - Id., Ibid., P. 243.
[40]- Israel Zolli (1881-1956), baptized in Rome on February 13, 1945 (at the same time as his wife), wanted to receive the first name of Eugenio, in honor of Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli) who had very much effectively helped save and aid Italian Jews during the war.
[41] - Blaise Pascal notes in his Thoughtsthat the time of the Messiah's coming is foretold both by the condition of the Jewish people, by the condition of the pagan people, and by the number of years. - As regards the Jewish people, the scepter had to be removed from Judah (Gen 49:10). - For the pagan nations, the fourth empire announced by Daniel (2, 31-45 and 7, 1-27) had to come: that of the Romans. - As for the number of years, the seventy weeks of years announced by the same Daniel had to have elapsed (9, 24-27). - Above all - Pascal emphasizes - "all these brands should arrive at the same time" . Which was done in the very days of Jesus Christ.