Was Jesus a Prophet? Let's find out in this post.
A major tenet of traditional Jewish thought is that the Torah is a blueprint for creation. That means that every significant event, even major personalities are somehow hidden within the tapestry of the Law of Moses. Surely, no one can deny the impact the life (or at least, concept) of Jesus has had on world history over the last two millennia. Many Fundamentalist Christians fervently believe this and insist one does not have to look that far into Scripture to uncover a hint to the main personality of Christianity:
“I will raise them a prophet from among their brethren, like you (Moshe), and will place My words in his mouth; and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whoever will not listen to My words that he shall speak in My name, I will requite it of him.”
Deuteronomy 18: 18-19
They will argue that none other than Jesus was that prophet as renowned as Moses and if we do not heed his words, we are in big trouble. In fact, they take their New Testament seriously and thus find support there with this quotation:
“For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your G-d raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.”
If Deut. 18 is talking specifically about Jesus, I think we are entitled to ask for proof other than just the New Testament's say-so. Does the passage in Deut. 18 exclusively point to one lone prophet? Could Samuel fit into that passage? Could Isaiah? Could Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Zechariah, for that matter?
“Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put My words in thy mouth.”
We could just as easily say that this is exclusively referring to Jeremiah because the book of Jeremiah quotes the same passage from Deuteronomy.
However, in context, the passage in Deut. 18 actually serves a dual purpose:
• It establishes the authority of all true future prophets. If, as the missionaries might claim, it only refers to Jesus, then where would Ezekiel, Jeremiah, or Samuel derive their authority?
• Even if it were to identify Jesus, how would that place his status among the Jewish people?
We shall see in a moment that calling Jesus a prophet would not augur well for him, or “Born Again” believers. Let’s read another passage in Deuteronomy:
“If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke unto you, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; 3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God tests you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall follow after the Lord your God, and fear Him, and keep his commandments, and obey His voice, and you shall serve him, and cleave unto Him. Other And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust you out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.”
What these two separate passages teach is that if a prophet arrives, claims he was sent by God, gives you a sign or wonder, and that sign or wonder comes true, and preaches nothing but adherence to the Torah, then the Jews are required to follow him. (Deut. 18) However, if that prophet tells you that any part of the Torah is changed, or that you should worship something that you weren’t commanded before, then that prophet is automatically proven false, even if his signs and wonders came true. In fact, he should be put to death. (Deut. 13 &18)
Let’s see how that applies to Jesus. The following is a passage from Matthew where Jesus is giving a sign to predict his resurrection:
“Then certain scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, master, we would like to see a sign from thee. But he answered them, ‘an evil and adulterous generation seeks a sign, and there shall be no other sign than the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’.”
From here we have one of the passages where Fundamentalist Christians insist Jesus should be considered a prophet for he predicted his own demise and his resurrection. The only problem is that he never reappeared to his doubters, the scribes and Pharisees, to establish the veracity of his claim. One other disproof:
“Verily I say unto to you (his disciples), There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming into his kingdom (e.g. Jesus’ return)”
In summation, Jesus clearly promised that some of his disciples would still be alive when he returned. It has been almost 2,000 years since Jesus left and his followers are long gone. How should the Torah in Deuteronomy deal with this? If he was proclaiming prophesy and it did not come true, then he would have incurred the death penalty. The truth of the matter is, from a Jewish perspective, we do not believe either Deuteronomy passages allude to Jesus.