Answers for a Jew
Does Jesus fulfill the prophecies about Messiah? (part 3)
The dating of the coming of the Messiah is also foreshadowed in the first book of Moses: «The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until [Peacemaker]
This prophecy has several possible interpretations. They acknowledge the loss of the "scepter of Judah" as something that has already happened; the only difference is in the timing of the loss. Let's analyze some of the most common interpretations.
One version sees the loss of the "scepter of Judah" in the interrupted reign of the kings of Judah. This happened in 37 BNE when Herod the Great, an Edomite, was enthroned in Judah. Jesus Christ was born precisely during Herod's reign: «Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king» (Mt 2:1; compare Lk 1:5). Notably, his birth was recognized by the Jewish teachers of the Law and Herod himself as the coming of the Messiah (see Mt 2:1-8). It should also be noted that there was a Herodian sect in Israel at that time; they saw king Herod as the Messiah (see Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion, 20). Herod must have encouraged such hopes, and initiated the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Seen from this perspective, Herod' worry about the birth of Jesus (see Mt 2:3) and the subsequent massacre of the innocents (see Mt 2:16-18) makes perfect sense.
According to the second version, the "scepter of Judah" was lost when the kingdom of Judah was divided after the death of Herod the Great. The third version connects it with Judah becoming a Roman province in 6 NE. Both events fall within the lifetime of Jesus.
The fourth version connects the loss of the "scepter of Judah" with the loss of power by the Jewish leaders: «When the member of the sanhedrin saw that they were deprived of authority over life and death, they were overcome by great fear and despair. Putting on sackcloth and ashes they exclaimed: "Woe to us! The "scepter of Judah" has departed, but the Messiah has not come!"» (Rabbi Rahmon, quoted in Eg.Fred.John Meldau «Messiah in Both Testaments»). According to Talmud, the sanhedrin was deprived of the authority to pronounce death sentences 40 years before to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (see Avodah Zarah, 8b), which would place it around 30 NE. The Gospel confirms it: «Then said Pilate unto them [sanhedrin], Take ye him [Jesus], and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death» (Jn 18:31).
(to be continued)