Q219 : Rabbinical Avoidance of Jesus

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Q219 : Rabbinical Avoidance of Jesus

I have been curious lately concerning how the Rabbis and those still steeped in the Jewish culture look at and exegete the Old Testament. I have often wondered if they might have cultural insight that might open our eyes when we apply proper hermeneutics in our studies.

When I read interpretations like the one below it grieves me. I believe in my heart he must be blinded but how is the average believer supposed to deal with interpretations like this when witnessing to an Orthodox Jew? They also do something similar to Isaiah 53.

Is it a waste of time then to look at there views on other books of the Old testament? It's just a shame if it is.

Psalm 110 represents one of the New Testament’s most stunning, yet clever, mistranslations of the Jewish Scriptures. Moreover, the confusion created by the Christianization of this verse was further perpetuated and promulgated by numerous Christian translators of the Bible. . . . The Church began tampering with Psalm 110 in its infancy, when the New Testament was written during the first century. In the Gospels we find the first use of Psalm 110, and it is introduced with within the framework of an anecdotal question. In the Book of Matthew Jesus turns to the Pharisees and asks them,

“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:41-44)

The question in laymen’s terms is, “Of whom is the messiah supposed to be a descendant?”

They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How then does David in the spirit call him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool?”’ If David then called him Lord, how is he his son?” No one was able to answer him a word, neither did any man from that day forth ask him any more questions. (Matthew 22:41-44)

Although, as you will soon understand, the above conversation could not have occurred, this narrative has been replayed over and over again in the imagination of countless Christians for nearly two millennia. . . .

Let us closely examine the original verse from which Matthew’s Jesus quoted in order to grasp the manner in which the original Hebrew text was manipulated to create the above storyline. The King James Version (KJV), the most esteemed English language Christian Bibles in use today, translates this passage in the following manner,

The LORD said unto my Lord, “Sit thou on my right hand, till I put thine enemies underneath thy feet.” (Psalm 110:1 KJV)

It appears from the KJV translation that the “Lord,” which is God, said unto to “my Lord” – who missionaries would have you believe is Jesus (David’s “Lord”) – “Sit thou on my right hand, till I put thine enemies underneath thy feet.”

Is the above verse speaking about the messiah? Not at all. Yet look at the first and second word “Lord” in the verse (they are side by side). Were you able to detect any difference between these two words in this fundamentalist Bible? In the “translation” they appear virtually identical because the Christian translator cleverly masked the text of the original Hebrew.

Although the two English words in the KJV translation were deliberately made to appear virtually identical, in the original Hebrew text they are entirely different. Whereas the first word “Lord” in the Hebrew is a correct translation of יְהוָה [Yahweh], which is the Tetragrammaton (YHWH), the ineffable name of God, the second word “Lord” is a complete and deliberate mistranslation of the text. The second word “Lord” in the verse is an appalling translation of the Hebrew word לַאדֹנִי [laḏōnî]; (pronounced ladonee).

The correct and only translation of ladonee is “to my master” or “to my lord.” The Hebrew word adonee never refers to God anywhere in the Bible. It is used only to address a person, never God. That is to say, God, the Creator of the universe, is never called adonee in the Bible. There are many words reserved for God in the Bible; adonee, however, is not one of them.

. . .

The Psalm begins with the opening Hebrew words לְדָוִד מִזְמוֹר [leḏāwiḏ mizmôr] (Mizmor l’David).” The word “Mizmor” means “a song,” and thus the opening phrase of this Psalm is, “A Song of David.” . . . Why would King David be writing these songs? For whom was he writing them? Who did King David intend to sing these songs? With these questions in mind, we can begin to understand the meaning of Psalm 110. . . . The central purpose of the composition of this sacred work [was] for the Levites to sing them in the Temple. The Levites would stand on a platform and joyfully chant these spiritually exhilarating Psalms to an inspired audience. Accordingly, the Levites would sing allowed, The Lord [God] said to my master [King David] “Sit thou at my right hand...” (Psalm 110:1).

. . .

Here is some advice. The only way to recognize rampant Christian tampering of the Bible is to read the passage in the original Hebrew language, without the biased filter of the Christian translator.

Sincerely yours, Rabbi Tovia Singera

[underlining added for emphasis]

A219 : by Tony Garland

As you have found, learning from Rabbis regarding how to interpret the Old Testament is a mixed bag. On the one hand, there can be some valuable aspects to familiarize ourselves with the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. On the other hand, when the topic veers near any passage which is obviously Messianic, then there is considerable motivation to deny a Messianic interpretation and especially any connection with the historical Jesus. In some cases, you’ll actually find older commentary by early Rabbis in the Targums less biased than modern Rabbis when it comes to understanding Messianic passages. Some of the passages which the modern Rabbis deny as having a personal Messiah in view were recognized by older Rabbis as speaking of Messiah—even if they still denied fulfillment by Jesus. (For examples of this, see The Rabbinic Messiaha.) To the degree Christianity gained a greater understanding and familiarity with OT passages claiming their application to Messiah Jesus, Judaism has moved further in a tendency to deny any possible connection. So the inspired diagnosis by the born-again Rabbi, Paul, must be taken seriously:

  • “What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” (Rom. 11:7)
  • “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” (Rom. 11:25)
  • “But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” (2Cor. 3:14-16)
Besides, Rabbi Singer is just plain wrong on several points.

  • The Rabbi accuses the translators of the KJV of trying to make the two words for “Lord” in Psalm 110 look identical—as if some subterfuge was involved. In his explanation, he even incorrectly renders the first appearance of the word in mixed-case (“Lord") when, in fact, it is specifically uppercase ("LORD”). Who is really being transparent and careful here? In point of fact, the KJV and other word-for-word translations of the Old Testament are extremely careful and consistent with their representation of the underlying Hebrew. The covenant name of God, יְהוָה [Yahweh], is consistently rendered by uppercase “LORD.” Conversely, mixed-case “Lord,” represents the Hebrew word אָדוֹן [ʾāḏôn]. This is neither accidental or deceptive, but careful and precise! A similar approach is taken by the NKJV, NASB, and other modern translations. For instance, the NASB contains an introductory section titled, “PRINCIPLES OF TRANSLATION” which states: “The normal word for Master is Lord, a rendering of Adonai. . . . the four letters YHWH . . . has been translated LORD.” The translators make plain that they will be rendering YHWH by “LORD” (all uppercase) and Adonai by “Lord” (mixed-case). Is this deceptive? So much for the Rabbi’s claim that “the two English words . . . are carefully made to appear identical.” On the contrary: the translators have been very careful to consistently handle the various Hebrew words referring to God.
  • The Rabbi says “the Hebrew word adonee never refers to God anywhere in the bible.” Really? One wonders which Bible the Rabbi has in mind? A small sampling from the Hebrew Old Testament shows otherwise: “Lord of Lords (adoney ha adoniym)” (Deu. 10:17); “Behold the ark of the covenant of the Lord (adon) of all the earth” (Jos. 3:11); “The Lord (adon) of all the earth” (Jos. 3:13); “For this day is holy to our Lord (adoneynu)” (Ne. 8:10); “and do all the commandments of the LORD (YHWH), our Lord (adoneynu)” (Ne. 10:29); “Oh LORD (YHWH), our Lord (adoneynu), how excellent is thy name in all the earth” (Ps. 8:1); “The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD (YHWH), at the presence of the Lord (adon) of all the earth” (Ps. 97.5); “Tremble thou earth at the presence of the Lord (adon), at the presence of the God (eloah) of Jacob” (Ps. 114:7); “For I know that the LORD (YHWH) is great, and our Lord (adoneynu) is above all Gods (elohim)” (Ps. 135.5). If the Rabbi can be so wrong about this basic fact, one wonders how we can trust what else he has to say?
Interestingly, the Rabbi’s view is contradicted by no less an expert on all things Jewish than Jacob Neusner:

Adon means lord, master when applied to persons in authority (Gen. 45:8-9; Deu. 10:17; Jdg. 19:26-27; 1S. 29:8), and is occasionally used for God (Ex. 23:17; 34:23; Jos. 3:11,13). Adonai, on the other hand, is a plural form based on Adon, but is used exclusively for God and is often used as a parallel to YHVH (Gen. 15:2,8; Jos. 7:7; Isa. 25:8) or as a substitute for it (Isa. 13:17; Amos 7:7-8; 9:1; Eze. 18:25). [Neusner and Green, Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period, 389]1

As to the “insights” one can gain from the Rabbis, many of their explanations are strained. For instance, the Stone edition of the Tanach2 also attempts to evade the intended meaning of Psalm 110 with this footnote: “An unnamed psalmist, possibly one of David’s soldiers, composed this psalm about his king” [emphasis mine]. In other words: “God said to David.” It renders the Hebrew introduction of the text (לְדָוִד מִזְמוֹר [leḏāwiḏ mizmôr] (“by David, a Psalm," and so interpreted by Rabbi Singer) as “Regarding David” [emphasis mine]. Interestingly, the exact same Hebrew phrase in Psalm 109 they render, “by David, a psalm” [emphasis mine].

The Jewish Study Bible has this to say concerning Psalm 110:3 “It is quite difficult because v. 3 is totally obscure, and the psalm changes speakers often.” To their credit, they mention the Christian interpretation as applying to Jesus, but then go on to say: “Here, God is speaking to the king, called my lord; perhaps these are the words spoken by a prophet.” Then follows a long and convoluted explanation—typical of messianic passages which they deny as having any possible Christian application. Time and again one sees the most strained interpretation of Messianic passages in order to deny any possible application to Jesus.

You asked how the average believer can witness to an Orthodox Jew?

First, we should remember that ultimately it is not the sophistication of our presentation or our familiarity with the Hebrew Old Testament which brings a Jewish person to faith. Rather, a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the listener must take place. Even the Apostle Paul, with his extensive rabbinical knowledge and impressive logic, encountered great opposition when reasoning with his “countrymen according to the flesh” that Jesus was “the Christ" of the OT scriptures (Acts 28:24-29). This is simply a manifestation of Satan's effective strategy to keep Jews from considering the claims of their own New Testament.

Second, we present anything and everything we know about Jesus from both testaments and then trust that God's Spirit will use it as He wills.


1.Ref-1401, 88
2.Ref-0196, Ps. 110
3.Ref-0934, Ps. 110


Ref-0196Nosson Scherman, ed., Tanach - The Stone Edition (Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, Ltd., 2001).
Ref-0934Adele Berlin, Marc Zvi Brettler, The Jewish Study Bible (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2004). ISBN:0-19-529751-2b.
Ref-1401John B. Metzger, Discovering the Mystery of the Unity of God (Matthews, NC: Promises to Israel, 2010). ISBN:978-1-935174-04-2c.

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