DID YESHUA THE MESSIAH

Have a Pre-Carnal Existence? - Chapter 2

 

Part II – The Enhanced Public Debate Presentation

 

By Larry Acheson

 

A Response to Chuck Henry’s book

Trinity, Oneness, Duality, and Pre-Existence

 


 

II.  Micah 5:2

Is the Prophesied Ruler’s “Origin” From of Old

Or is His “Ordained Origin” From of Old?

 

 

 

O

ne important principle that we should remember in any Biblical discussion is that we should always interpret what is known as the New Testament in light of what is known as the Old Testament, or the Tanakh Never the reverse.  We should not interpret the Old Testament in light of the New.   I think the New Testament can be used as a guide to understanding how first-century believers understood the Old Testament, but it should never be used to interpret the meaning of Old Testament texts.  In Part I of this study, I revealed that Biblical Unitarian Chuck Henry allows the New Testament text of John 19:37 to “correct” the Old Testament text of Zechariah 12:10, but we are about to see he does the same thing with other New Testament texts, while adamantly claiming otherwise.

        For example, we read in the Old Testament a prophecy that a Ruler shall come forth unto the Almighty from out of Bethlehem, a Ruler whose ORIGIN is from of old, from ancient times.  This prophecy, written hundreds of years before Yeshua’s birth in Bethlehem, doesn’t state that His origin will be from of Old; it doesn’t say His origin is ordained from of Old; instead, it asserts that His origin is from of Old, from ancient times. Again, this comes from the Old Testament and the book where this prophecy is found is Micah.  If we allow the prophet Micah to give us the prophecy without any interpretational add-ons and without any interpretational infusions from interpretations of New Testament passages, Micah tells us there will be a future Ruler whose origin is from ancient times

        The Hebrew word for ancient times is Olam, which means from eternity.  His origin is from the ancient times.  That means He had an origin, a beginning.  I’m going to read from a translation known as Tanakh, The Holy Scriptures, published by the Jewish Publication Society.  I choose to read from this translation because the Jewish Publication Society is completely indifferent to this entire argument.  They have no interest in this discussion because they don’t believe Yeshua is the Promised Messiah at all.  From the Jewish perspective, the individual prophesied about in Micah 5:2 has yet to make His appearance on earth.  Here’s what Micah prophesied: 

2 And you, O Bethlehem of Ephrath, least among the clans of Judah, from you one shall come forth to rule Israel for Me – One whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. 

        So Micah prophesied that a Ruler shall come forth unto the Almighty from out of Bethlehem Ephrath, a Ruler whose origin is from of Old, from ancient times.  That’s what the verse says.  Period.  It doesn’t say His origin was ordained from of Old, it doesn’t say His origin was proclaimed from of Old.  It says this Ruler’s origin IS from of Old. 

        As an aside, the following was not included with my pre-debate presentation, but I’m including it here due to its relevance in terms of ancient Jewish understanding of their coming Messiah.  It is no secret that rabbinical Judaism has long understood the concept that their Messiah (who has not yet made an appearance on earth) had a pre-carnal existence.  One example of this is found in a Jewish midrash known as Pesiqta Rabbati, which was composed around 845 CE.  The midrash is borrowed from the prophetic theme found in Psalms 22.  I realize, in the scheme of things, 845 CE is a long time after Yeshua’s resurrection; nevertheless, if Judaism by any means whatsoever, attempted to come up with their own version of “who” the Messiah of Psalms 22 is, why would they imitate the “pre-carnal existence” aspect if there’s nothing to it?  Here’s what we read in Pesiqta Rabbati 36:6: 

During the week [seven year period] when [Ephraim] comes, they will bring iron beams and they will put them on his neck until the Messiah’s body is bent. He will scream and weep and his voice will rise up to the height [of heaven].  He will say in His presence:  “Master of the universe, how much can my limbs endure? How much my spirit? Am I not but flesh and blood?”  It was this moment that David lamented, saying:  My strength is dried up like a potsherd (Ps. 22:16).  In that hour the Holy One says to them {ed. pr.: him}:  Ephraim, My righteous Messiah, You have already accepted [this suffering] since the six days of Creation.  Now your suffering is like My suffering, since the day on which wicked Nebuchadnezzar destroyed My Temple and burnt My sanctuary, and exiled My children among the nations of the world, by your life and the life of My head!  I have not sat on My Throne.  And if you do not believe, see the dew that is upon My head, My head is filled with dew, {My locks with the drops of the night} (Cant. 5:2).  In that hour, [the Messiah] will say in His presence:  Master of the universe, now my mind is at rest, for it is sufficient for the servant to be like his Master.[1] 

        Just to be clear, the above text should be regarded as a Jewish midrash/commentary and nothing more; nevertheless, it can be used to demonstrate that Judaism has no problem understanding that the Messiah described therein had a pre-carnal existence.  And why not?  That’s what it says in Micah 5:2!  According to the above homily, Ephraim is presented as the suffering Messiah, and it emphasizes that his suffering had already been determined and accepted at the time of creationThis means the Jewish understanding of the Messiah is that He was present at Creation.  Thus, belief in a Messiah who had a pre-carnal existence is neither foreign nor rejected by rabbinical Judaism.  If I were a Jew seeking to undermine all I could about Yeshua the Messiah, PLUS if I didn’t believe the “true Messiah” had a pre-carnal existence, I would most assuredly not attribute to Him an existence dating back to Creation and beyond.

         On the other hand, if I knew the coming Messiah is prophesied to have an origin that’s from of Old, from ancient times, then I would have no choice but to understand that Micah’s prophecy means exactly what it says without any need to insert any extra words, either by interpretation or otherwise.  The question wouldn’t be whether or not He had a pre-carnal existence; rather, the question would be, “Who is the Messiah?”  And that, indeed, is the primary line of demarcation separating Christianity from modern Judaism. 

        Okay, back to my original pre-debate presentation:  The Hebrew scholars who translated the Septuagint into the Greek language understood that the coming Ruler’s “goings forth” are from the beginning, not ordained from the beginning.”  Displayed below is the Septuagint’s rendering of Micah 5:2:[2]

 

        Translated literally, the above text reads, “And you, Bethlehem of the house of Ephratha, are very few, being among thousands of Judah; from out of you, to me shall come forth the one being for ruler of Israel; and his goings forth from beginning, from eon [perpetuity/eternity] of days.” 

         Could the above translation of Micah 5:2 have been made any clearer?  The only way it could have been made clearer would be for the original author to have included the phrase, “Please do not insert any words, by interpretation or otherwise, into this text.”  Seriously, if the Hebrew scholars who translated the Septuagint into Greek understood a “goings forth” or “origin” that was ordained from the beginning, wouldn’t they have found a way to incorporate such an understanding into their translation of Micah 5:2?  Instead, they plainly communicated an origin that is literallyfrom the beginning.” 

        New Testament believers under-stood that Yeshua’s birth was the fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy.  You can read this in either John chapter 7 or Matthew chapter 2, which is displayed in the text box below.

        Once we understand that the prophecy states that the coming Ruler’s origin is from ancient times, we should not use our interpretation of any New Testament verses to then validate believing that this Ruler’s origin was only ordained from ancient times because that’s not what the prophecy says.  The prophecy says His origin IS from ancient times.  Making the prophecy say something else is what is known as manipulating the prophecy

        Yet I’m afraid that manipulating the prophecy is precisely what Chuck attempts to do on page 363 of his book.  Micah 5:2 tells us that Yeshua’s actual ORIGIN is from of Old, from ancient times.  PERIOD.  It says nothing about His origin having been “ordained” from of Old, but that is precisely what Chuck wants us to believe and accept.  The only way we can understand Micah 5:2 at face value without adding our own preconceived notions is to conclude that this coming Ruler had an origin in a realm that we call eternity. 

        Eternity can best be understood as a realm that existed long before this planet existed, and it will exist long after this planet called Earth is destroyed by fire.  Micah 5:2 doesn’t say this coming Ruler IS eternal; it does say He comes from the Olam, from eternity, which is outside of what we understand as the measurement of time.  Angels existed in the realm we know as “eternity” before the earth was created and according to Micah 5:2, that’s where this Ruler whose origin is from of Old comes from; He comes from a realm that we can only understand as being eternity.  But just as the angels are not eternal, neither is the prophesied Ruler of Micah 5:2.  His origin or beginning is from of OLD, and as we will see shortly, He is the firstborn of all creation. 

        The only way we can properly understand the prophecy of Micah 5:2 – without adding our own pre-conceived notions – is to recognize that this coming Ruler had an origin stemming from something we call eternity.  It doesn’t say this Ruler had or has an eternal existence, it just tells us that’s where His origin came from.  Nevertheless, Chuck Henry, in his book, explains that what this verse means is, this Ruler’s origin was ORDAINED from of old because it’s impossible to have both an origin and exist from eternity.  I must reinforce the fact that the text does not say the coming Ruler has eternally existed.  Coming from the Olam doesn’t mean He has existed for Olam (eternity).  Check it out!  If I don’t emphasize anything else in my 45-minutes, it needs to be emphasized that Scripture tells us a coming Ruler’s ORIGIN is from of Old, from ancient times, NOT that this Ruler has an eternal existence and NOT that His origin was “ordained” from Old. 

        A group down the road from here who shares Chuck Henry’s belief that Yeshua did not pre-exist puts out their own Bible in which they outright add to the text of Micah 5:2 in order to make it say that the Messiah’s coming (not origin) was foretold from of Old, which is pretty much the same as saying it was ordained from of Old.  Not much of a difference.  This is blatantly adding to the Word in order to make it say what you want it to say in order to justify your belief.  Chuck doesn’t put out his own Bible, but in a way he does the same thing by telling his readers that what Micah 5:2 really means is, Yeshua’s ORIGIN began at conception in Miriam’s womb and that THIS origin is what was ORDAINED from of Old.   

        Then, to top it all off, Chuck goes on to use a completely unrelated verse from the New Testament to validate that his interpretation is valid.  That’s right, he interprets the Old Testament verse in the light of a New Testament verse.  Chuck’s “go to” verse?  It’s 1 Peter 1:20.  In fact, in virtually every instance in which there is an indication that a certain verse proves Yeshua had a pre-carnal existence, Chuck essentially says, “Well, no, 1 Peter 1:20 proves that His coming was foreordained, which means that His origin was only prophesied about, not that He actually has an origin in antiquity.”  Chuck feels fully justified in allowing this one New Testament verse to color his interpretation of Micah 5:2, citing a term known as “Textual Criticism.”  Let’s take a few moments to address what Chuck calls “Textual Criticism.”  This aspect of the discussion is too extensive to include it with this chapter, so I cover it in chapter three. 

        I close this chapter with the screen capture of a slide that wasn’t incorporated into my debate presentation, but it supplies an example of how some preachers subvert the Bible.  I covered one particular example of Matthew 5:17 in chapter seven of Part I.  It’s an example that was thrown at me by a preacher early in my Sabbathkeeping days and it caught me off guard.  The preacher, much like Chuck, was fully persuaded that he knew what Yeshua “really meant.”  In this case, Chuck is persuaded he knows what Micah 5:2 “really means,” even though what he says it “really means” completely alters the meaning of the actual words of the prophecy.  Once I examined the preacher’s claim in the light of context, as well as practice and belief of early believers like the Apostle Paul, John and James, I realized that he was subverting Yeshua’s words, i.e., twisting Scripture.  It wasn’t a case of what Yeshua “really meant”; it was a case of what Yeshua “really said” and I am fully persuaded that Yeshua really meant exactly what He said.  Sadly, subverting the words of the Bible, including those of Yeshua, is what I found that Chuck also does, but he doesn’t call it twisting Scripture.  He calls it “textual criticism.”  I need to address not only the liberties that Chuck takes with “tex-tual criticism,” but also his very use of the term.  I will do that in my next chapter.


[1] This excerpt was taken from Pesiqta Rabbati 36:6, as quoted in The Jewish Jesus:  Revelation, Reflection, Reclamation, Edited by Zev Garber, Chapter 7, “Psalm 22 in Pesiqta Rabbati: The Suffering of the Jewish Messiah and Jesus,” by Rivka Ulmer, Purdue University Press, West Lafayette, IN, 2011, pp. 117-118.

[2] Taken from The Apostolic Bible Polyglot, translated by Charles VanderPool, 2003.

       

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First Publication, June 28, 2020

Edited July 19, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

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This is the name of our Creator, Yahweh, sometimes called the Tetragrammaton.  It is given here in (A) the Phoenician script, (B) the Ivrit Kadum (Paleo-Hebrew) script, and (C) the Modern Hebrew script (a stylization of Aramaic).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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