Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Does the OT predict that the Messiah
Would be resurrected on the third day? Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

We resume with our reply.

The other problem we have with the individuals who raise this objection is that such an assertion, to be quite frank, only exposes their fundamental ignorance of first century Judaism, specifically regarding the methods of biblical exegesis employed by the Jews at that time.

If these Muslims had even bothered to research the issue more thoroughly they would have discovered that the Jews used different principles in their exegesis of the Scriptures, some of which included the following:

P'shat ("simple") - This method applies a literal approach in interpreting Scripture.

Drash or Midrash ("search") - An allegorical approach to interpreting Scripture.

Remez ("hint") - This approach seeks to find a word, phrase or other element in the text that provides hints for a specific event.

Sod ("secret") - This applies a mystical or hidden meaning to Scripture.

These four methods of biblical interpretation are known as PaRDeS in Hebrew.

(The preceding is taken and adapted from Dr. David Stern’s Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, Clarksville, Maryland, 1996, pp. 11-12)

Dr. James D. Price, in his response to Farrel Till regarding this very issue, cites a source that mentions other methods of biblical exegesis which the Jews used to interpret the Holy Scriptures:

The ancient Jews had 32 rules for interpreting Scripture. These were first collected and published by the 2nd century Rabbi, Eliezer Ben-Jose the Galilean. The 7th rule declares that inferences may be made from analogy and parallel passages. [source: "Halakic and Haggadic Rules of Interpretation," The McClintock-Strong Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, eds. John McClintock & James Strong (Harper & Bros, 1876; reprint, Baker, 1969), 6:243-46.] (Source)

Dr. Price lists three types of prophecies which Jewish interpreters would employ in their interpretation of the Hebrew Bible:

A study of how Jesus and the NT authors interpreted prophecy indicates that to the Jewish interpreters there were at three levels of prophetic statements:

(1) direct, specific statements like we Westerners expect;

(2) prophecy by analogy--acts of Israel or God that typify the Messiah; for example--"Out of Egypt I called My Son" (Hos 11:1; Matt 2:15)

(3) prophecy by similarity--ancient events that are prophetically similar to later events; for example--"A voice was heard in Ramah, ..." (Jer 31:15; Matt 2:18)

The question is: How did the ancient Jews understand the term "prophecy," not how do we Westerners think it should be interpreted. All three types were regarded by the ancient Jews as prophecy, so that is the proper way of interpreting the Scripture.

The incident of Jonah's three days and three nights in the fish was of type (2).

It involved a typical resurrection, if not a real one, and it occurred after 3 days.

As Dr. Price noted with the example of Jonah, the NT itself refers to this method of interpretation, since it claims that the events in the OT were intended to foreshadow the Person and work of Christ. It even provides examples of prophecies by analogy and similarity:

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up." John 3:14

"Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ." Colossians 2:16-17

"He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever." Hebrews 7:3

"For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near." Hebrews 10:1

"and this water [Noah's flood] symbolizes baptism that now saves you also - not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ," 1 Peter 3:21 NIV

With the foregoing in perspective, we now turn to the Hebrew Bible to see if we can find prophecies by analogy and/or similarity which prefigure the death and resurrection of the Messiah on the third day.

The Binding of Isaac

We begin with the writings of Moses, specifically with the Genesis account of Abraham offering up Isaac.

"Some time after these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am!’ Abraham replied. God said, ‘Take your son—YOUR ONLY SON, WHOM YOU LOVE, Isaac—AND GO TO THE LAND OF MORIAH! Offer him up there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will indicate to you.’ Early in the morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants with him, along with his son Isaac. When he had cut the wood for the burnt offering, he started out for the place God had spoken to him about. ON THE THIRD DAY Abraham caught sight of the place in the distance. So he said to his servants, ‘You two stay here with the donkey, while the boy and I go up there. WE WILL WORSHIP AND THEN RETURN TO YOU.’ Abraham took THE WOOD for the burnt offering AND PUT IT ON HIS SON ISAAC. Then he took the fire and the knife in his hand and the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘My father?’ ‘What is it, my son?’ he replied. ‘Here is the fire and the wood,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ ‘GOD will provide FOR HIMSELF THE LAMB for the burnt offering, my son,’ Abraham replied. The two of them continued on together. When they came to the place God had told him about, Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood on it. Next he tied up his son Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand, took the knife, and prepared to slaughter his son. But the Lord’s angel called to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am!’ he answered. ‘Do not harm the boy!’ the angel said. ‘Do not do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, because you did not withhold your son, YOUR ONLY SON, from me.’ Abraham looked up and saw behind him a ram caught in the bushes by its horns. So he went over and got the ram and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place ‘The Lord provides.’ It is said TO THIS DAY, ‘In the mountain of the Lord provision will be made.’ The Lord’s angel called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, ‘"I solemnly swear by my own name," decrees the Lord, "that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, YOUR ONLY SON, I will indeed bless you, and I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be as countless as the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the strongholds of their enemies. Because you have obeyed me, all the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the name of your descendants."’" Genesis 22:1-18

Abraham is commanded to offer his son as a burnt offering to God in the region of Moriah, an event which took place on the third day. Amazingly, Abraham tells his servants that he and his son would return to them after worshiping God, suggesting that Abraham somehow knew that Isaac would be returned to him after the sacrifice. The NT picks up on this theme:

"By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He had received the promises, yet he was ready to offer up HIS ONLY SON (monogene). God had told him, ‘Through Isaac descendants will carry on your name,’ and he reasoned that God could even raise him from the dead, and in a sense he received him back from there." Hebrews 11:17-19

This view is not unique to the NT, since certain Jewish traditions taught that Isaac actually died and was brought back to life, and that his sacrifice was accepted as atonement for the sins committed by his descendants:

Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut

There was… a remarkable tradition that insisted that Abraham completed the sacrifice and that afterward Isaac was miraculously revived… According to this haggadah, Abraham slew his son, burnt his victim, and the ashes remain as a stored-up merit and atonement for Israel in all generations.

--The Torah: A Modern Commentary (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981), p. 151 n. 5.

Encyclopedia Judaica

It appears that this notion was widespread in medieval times: Ibn Ezra (commentary on Gen. 22:19) also quotes an opinion that Abraham actually did kill Isaac… and he was later resurrected from the dead. Ibn Ezra rejects this as completely contrary to the biblical text. Shalom Spiegel has demonstrated, however, that such views enjoyed a wide circulation and occasionally found expression in medieval writings.

--Louis Jacobs, "Akedah," Encyclopedia Judaica 2:482. (The Akedah in Jewish tradition; italic and underline emphasis ours)

In Jewish tradition, this became known as the Akedah, or the "binding" of Isaac:

The Hebrew word "akedah" means "binding" and refers to the well-known story in Genesis 22, in which God commands Abraham to offer up his only son Isaac as a burnt offering…

In Jewish tradition, this story has been elaborated numerous times. In some traditions, Isaac becomes a symbol of Jewish martyrs of all times and places. In others, the story is used to show that God does not require a "human sacrifice." According to yet other traditions, the sacrifice of Isaac actually took place and in fact brought atonement to Israel…

In the rabbinic literature, we find traditions about the Akedah that go beyond what the text of the Bible says and attribute atoning value to the incident. These traditions show that even within Judaism, there was a place for the idea that someone's death could function as an atonement. (The Akedah in Jewish Tradition)

The foregoing article cites several Jewish sources which touch upon the issue of the binding of Isaac:

Song of Songs Rabbah 1:14:1

MY BELOVED IS UNTO ME AS A CLUSTER OF HENNA. CLUSTER refers to Isaac, who was bound on the altar like A CLUSTER OF HENNA (KOFER): because he atones (mekapper) for the iniquities of Israel.

--Soncino Midrash Rabbah (vol. 9, second part, p. 81).

Leviticus Rabbah 29:9

When the children of Isaac give way to transgressions and evil deeds, do Thou recollect for them the binding of their father Isaac and rise from the Throne of Judgment and betake Thee to the Throne of Mercy, and being filled with compassion for them have mercy upon them and change for them the Attribute of Justice into the Attribute of Mercy!

--Soncino Midrash Rabbah (vol. 4, p. 376).

Shibbole ha-Leket (13th c.)

When Father Isaac was bound on the altar and reduced to ashes and his sacrificial dust was cast onto Mount Moriah…

--Shibbole ha-Leket.

The Jewish Encyclopedia

In the course of time ever greater importance was attributed to the 'Akedah. The haggadistic literature is full of allusions to it; the claim to forgiveness on its account was inserted in the daily morning prayer...

… even in the Talmud voices are raised in condemnation of its conception as a claim to atonement… These protests were silenced by the persecutions in which Jewish fathers and mothers were so often driven to slaughter their own children in order to save them from baptism. This sacrifice is regarded as a parallel to that of Abraham…. The influence of the Christian dogma of atonement by vicarious suffering and death, it has been suggested, induced the Jews to regard the willingness of Isaac also to be sacrificed in the light of a voluntary offering of his life for the atonement of his descendants.

--Rabbi Max Landsberg (1845-1928), "'Akedah," Jewish Encyclopedia. (Italic and underline emphasis ours)

And here are some additional quotations taken from another article:

'A bundle of myrrh (kofer) is my well-beloved' (Cant. I, 14). This refers to Isaac, who was tied up like a bundle upon the altar. Kofer, because he atones for the sins of Israel.
Cant. R. I, Sec 14,I, on I, 14; f. 12b

If then Isaac's descendants fall into sin and evil deeds, do thou make mention of the binding of Isaac, and get up from the throne of judgment, and sit down upon the throne of compassion, and be filled with pity, and turn the attribute of judgement into the attribute of mercy.
Lev.R. 29:9

R. Judah says: When the sword touched Isaac's throat his soul flew clean out of him. And when He let his voice be heard from between the two cherubim, 'Lay not thy hand upon the lad,’ the lad's soul returned to his body. Then his father unbound him, and Isaac rose, knowing that in this way the dead would come back to life in the future; whereupon he began to recite, Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who quickens the dead.

Pirkei de-Rav Eliezer 31 (Rich Robinson, Issues 4.5, AKEDAH; italic and underline emphasis ours)

Let us highlight the key points:

  1. Abraham was commanded to offer up his one and only beloved Son.
  2. The sacrifice was to take place on the third day at a specific Mountain in the region of Moriah.
  3. Isaac carried the very wood which would be used for his sacrifice.
  1. Abraham believed that both he and his son would return from the Mount after they had worshiped God.
  2. According to the inspired author of Hebrews, Abraham had reasoned that God would resurrect his son from the dead and therefore fulfill His covenant promises concerning Isaac.
  3. Figuratively speaking, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead on the third day!
  4. Abraham also believed that on this same Mountain God was going to provide a lamb for sacrifice.
  5. All nations would be blessed through Abraham’s descendants.

Interestingly, Solomon built the temple in this same place:

"Solomon began building the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem ON MOUNT MORIAH, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. This was the place that David prepared at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite." 2 Chronicles 3:1

This partially fulfilled Abraham’s prediction regarding God providing for himself, since the temple was the place where the Levitical priests offered animal sacrifices to God.

Another point to remember is that the bodies of the animals used for the sin offerings and the remaining portions of the burnt offering were burned outside the camp of Israel:

"all the rest of the bull-he must bring outside the camp to a clean place, to the fatty ash pile, and he must burn it on the wood with fire; it must be burned on the fatty ash pile." Leviticus 4:12

"Then the priest must put on his linen robe and must put linen leggings over his bare flesh, and he must take up the fatty ashes of the burnt offering that the fire consumed on the altar, and he must place them beside the altar. Then he must take off his clothes and put on other clothes, and he must bring the fatty ashes outside the camp to a ceremonially clean place," Leviticus 6:10-11

"The bull of the sin offering and the goat of the sin offering, whose blood was brought to make atonement in the holy place, must be brought outside the camp and their hide, their flesh, and their dung must be burned with fire." Leviticus 16:27

When we turn to the NT teaching on Christ, we find the following parallels:

1. Jesus is God’s one and only beloved Son whom the Father offered as a sacrifice for sinners.

"Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory — the glory of the one and only (monogenous), full of grace and truth, who came from the Father." John 1:14

"For this is the way God loved the world: he gave his one and only Son (ton huion ton monogene) that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

"But the statement it was credited to him was not written only for Abraham’s sake, but also for our sake, to whom it will be credited, those who believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was given over because of our transgressions and was raised for the sake of our justification." Romans 4:23-25

"Indeed, he who did not spare (ouk epheisato) his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things?" Romans 8:32

The phrase ouk epheisato is used in the Greek translation of Genesis, called the Septuagint (LXX), in relation to Abraham offering up Isaac:

"And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the child, neither do anything to him, for now I know that thou fearest God, and for my sake thou hast not spared (ouk epheiso) thy beloved son… And an angel of the Lord called Abraam the second time out of heaven, saying, I have sworn by myself, says the Lord, because thou hast done this thing, and on my account hast not spared (ouk epheiso) thy beloved son," Genesis 22:12, 15(Eng. 16) Brenton’s LXX

2. Jesus is the Lamb of God, which Abraham foresaw.

"On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’ ... Gazing at Jesus as he walked by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’" John 1:29, 36

NET Bible fn. states:

Gen 22:8 is an important passage in the background of the title Lamb of God as applied to Jesus. In Jewish thought this was held to be a supremely important sacrifice. G. Vermès stated: "For the Palestinian Jew, all lamb sacrifice, and especially the Passover lamb and the Tamid offering, was a memorial of the AKEDAH with its effects of deliverance, forgiveness of sin and messianic salvation" (Scripture and Tradition in Judaism, 225). (*; *; bold and capital emphasis ours)

And in regard to this verse,

"Your father Abraham was overjoyed to see my day, and he saw it and was glad." John 8:56

Here is what the NET fn. says:

What is the meaning of Jesus’ statement that the patriarch Abraham "saw" his day and rejoiced? The use of past tenses would seem to refer to something that occurred during the patriarch’s lifetime. Genesis Rabbah 44:25ff, (cf. 59:6) states that Rabbi Akiba, in a debate with Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai, held that Abraham had been shown not this world only but the world to come (this would include the days of the Messiah). More realistically, it is likely that Gen 22:13-15 lies behind Jesus’ words. This passage, known to rabbis as the Akedah ("Binding"), tells of Abraham finding the ram which will replace his son Isaac on the altar of sacrifice—an occasion of certain rejoicing. (*; *; bold emphasis ours)


"You know that from your empty way of life inherited from your ancestors, you were ransomed — not by perishable things like silver or gold, but by precious blood like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, namely Christ." 1 Peter 1:18-19

3. Jesus carried the very wood (cross-beam) which would be used to crucify him.

“… So they took Jesus, and carrying his own cross he went out to the place called ‘The Place of the Skull’ (called in Aramaic Golgotha). John 19:16b-17

Lest the Muslim try and claim that this passage contradicts the Synoptic Gospels which say that Simon of Cyrene was made to carry Jesus’ cross, we simply quote the NET fn. 54:

As was customary practice in a Roman crucifixion, the prisoner was made to carry his own cross. In all probability this was only the crossbeam, called in Latin the patibulum, since the upright beam usually remained in the ground at the place of execution. According to Matt 27:32 and Mark 15:21, the soldiers forced Simon to take the cross; Luke 23:26 states that the cross was placed on Simon so that it might be carried behind Jesus. A reasonable explanation of all this is that Jesus started out carrying the cross until he was no longer able to do so, at which point Simon was forced to take over. (*; *)

4. Jesus was crucified outside the vicinity of the Temple, much like the bodies and remaining parts of the sacrifices were taken outside the camp.

"For the bodies of those animals whose blood the high priest brings into the sanctuary as an offering for sin are burned outside the camp. Therefore, to sanctify the people by his own blood, Jesus also suffered outside the camp. We must go out to him, then, outside the camp, bearing the abuse he experienced." Hebrews 13:11-13

5. Jesus was raised on the third day.

"For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, MOST OF WHOM ARE STILL LIVING, though some have fallen asleep." 1 Corinthians 15:3-6

6. Jesus is the descendant of Abraham through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed.

"Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his descendant. Scripture does not say, ‘and to the descendants,’ referring to many, but ‘and to your descendant,’ referring to one, who is Christ. Galatians 3:16

In light of the foregoing, is it any wonder that the Holy Bible can say that Abraham had the Gospel preached to him?

"And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham ahead of time, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’ So then those who believe are blessed along with Abraham the believer." Galatians 3:8-9

This concludes this part of our discussion. Please proceed to third part.