Oftentimes, Jews who come to believe in Jesus are told by their unbelieving families, “If you’d only known more about Judaism, if you’d only studied your own religion, you never would have come to believe this way.”
My parents never said that to me because, before I accepted Christ, I went to see an Orthodox rabbi on my own initiative.
You see, I had met some Jews for Jesus who had given me some very convincing arguments from the Scriptures apparently pointing to Jesus as the Messiah. However, I was afraid to just “jump in.” “How can I be sure?” I thought. My impetuousness had gotten me into trouble in the past. Once I had gotten involved in the occult. Another time, I had come very close to marrying a Gentile girl I knew I shouldn’t marry. The only sound thing to do, I thought, would be to see a rabbi and ask him what he thought of these Scriptures. After all, I figured he should know.
“And with more courage than I thought I had in me, I plunged into my own study of Daniel 9.”
Rabbi Bogner and I sat and discussed the many passages the Jews for Jesus had pointed out. We began with the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. The Jews for Jesus said it talked about the Messiah. The rabbi said it referred to Israel. Then we studied Jeremiah 31:31-34 which talks of a “new covenant” that God would make with His people. The rabbi just scoffed at this one.
Finally, I brought to his attention Daniel 9, which, according to the Jews for Jesus, told the time of the Messiah’s coming.
At that, Rabbi Bogner told me he was prohibited by Talmudic Law from studying that chapter. When I asked why, he said, “Cursed be the man who calculates the time of the coming of the Messiah.” He knew that Daniel 9 did indeed contain God’s message to us as to when the Messiah would come. But he explained that the Talmud prohibited studying it because of the possible unbelief that could arise from some making incorrect calculations and being disappointed.
But this didn’t make any sense to me. Why would God give us a Book and then tell us not to read part of it? I didn’t think God played “cosmic games” on us.
I left the rabbi’s study a little perplexed. And with more courage than I thought I had in me, I plunged into my own study of Daniel 9. Now I knew I was not a Bible scholar, but I was no dummy either! As a college instructor I felt I had a good grasp of concepts and could follow a carefully reasoned argument to its conclusion. And having been trained as an accountant, I knew I could make whatever mathematical calculations were necessary.
Well, Daniel 9 referred to “an anointed one” being “cut off” after a certain number of weeks. The Hebrew word for “anointed” is “mashiach,” which, in Greek, is “christos” or “Christ.” Also, in the Bible, to be “cut off” meant to die. I then needed to calculate the number of weeks starting with the rebuilding of Jerusalem as stated in the Scripture verse, “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and 62 weeks.” (Daniel 9:25) The only decree to go out was by Artaxerxes in 444 B.C.E. Biblically speaking, a week equals seven years and a sabbatical year, approximately 360 days. My computations were fairly simple, but the answer I got was difficult to accept.
“I could not call this a coincidence. It would be like saying two plus two equals five.”
This anointed one was to die in 32 C.E., the year Christ was crucified. I could not call this a coincidence. It would be like saying two plus two equals five.
I thought about Rabbi Bogner. It did help me to talk with him. For despite the Talmudic prohibition on studying that Scripture passage for fear of resulting unbelief, its study made me into a believer, a believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.