Translation is not an exact science, even when translating between two languages that are similar one to the other. Hebrew is not similar to Greek or English -- or indeed to any other language, with the possible exceptions of Aramaic and, to a lesser degree, Arabic.
Few words of any language have one and only one sense (or meaning) - most words in most languages have several different meanings. For example, the Hebrew word רֹאשׁ / rosh means head, but it can also mean top, and it can also mean the most important part of something. Rosh is often mistranslated as "new" (leading to the mistranslation of "new year" for רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה / Rosh HaShanah -- literally translated as "head of the year" not "new year").
This variance in different languages makes translating the T'nach (Jewish bible) from Hebrew into English more art than science as a translator must choose the meaning of a Hebrew word, which may itself have multiple meanings, with an English word which also may have multiple meanings and not be a "perfect" match to the Hebrew.
A good example of this is the Hebrew word יוֹם / yom which is often translated as "day." This causes many missionaries (particularly evangelical missionaries) to insist that B'reshit / Genesis must be speaking of a 24 hour "day" in the creation chapter. However, the word יוֹם / yom can have different meanings other than a 24 hour day. The precise meaning of יוֹם / yom in the T'nach has 4 meanings depending on the context.
There is an additional issue when considering English translations. In English some words have changed meaning over time. This issue is also true of Greek words which were used in early translations of the T'nach into Greek.
A word chosen in translation 1800 years ago may mean something different than the word means today.
Consider the argument that the word in Y’shayahu / Isaiah 7:14 means “virgin” when it does not – it more properly translates to “young woman” and does not even suggest virginity or a lack of virginity. The Greek translations of 2000+ years ago (translators unknown, but maintained by Christians) chose the Greek word παρθένος / parthenos.
Today the Koine Greek word παρθένος / parthenos is usually translated as virgin – and thus many a missionary will argue that the word in Y’shayahu / Isaiah 7:14 must be “virgin” (this is complicated by the fact that the Christian bible uses this passage as the “prophecy” that Jesus will be a virgin birth). Yet, 2800 years ago παρθένος / parthenos did not mean virgin. The ancient Greek poet Ὅμηρος / Homer (1200 - 800 BCE) wrote in his Iliad. 2.512-515 that a 'parthenos' gave birth ('teken') to two children: “Ascalaphus and Ialmenus, sons of Mars, led the people that dwelt in Aspledon and Orchomenus the realm of Minyas. Astyoche, a noble maiden (parthenos), bore them in the house of Actor son of Azeus; for she had gone with Mars secretly into an upper chamber, and he had lain with her.”
The ancient Greek translation of B’reshit / Genesis 34:3 states that Dinah is a "parthenos" after her rape by Sh'chem – obviously after rape Dinah was no longer a virgin.
In the misuse of παρθένος / parthenos as "virgin" rather than "young woman" the English translators may well have been innocent. It seems that the word παρθένος / parthenos came to mean "virgin" over time. . . . but originally it did not mean virgin. The Hebrew in Y’shayahu / Isaiah 7:14 is הָעַלְמָה (the young woman). Jews have been trying to correct this Christian mistake for nearly as long as Christianity has existed! Indeed, Justin Martyr (100 CE, so VERY EARLY Christinan) wrote in "Trypho the Jew" that Jews of his era said: "you (Jews) and your teachers venture to affirm that in the prophecy of Isaiah it is not said, 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive,' but, 'Behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son."
Missionaries who insist they do not need to learn Hebrew to understand the “bible” are fooling themselves.
Missionaries who fool themselves into thinking that the King James Version (KJV) is "as good" as the original are deluding themselves.
When one relies on translations one is allowing the translator to be interpreter – for that is what a translator must be. . . Whether words in early English translations no longer have the meaning they had in the 17th century when the King James Translation was first completed (and contains the word “unicorn” along with “virgin!), or whether there are mistranslations due to poor choices or even deceitful choices the reader is an innocent victim of the translator.
Since translation is more art than science the trick is in finding the word in the target language which is the closest in meaning to each word in the source language. Modern translators have the added problem that if they want people to buy their translation it must also “match” what people expect to see.
Thus modern translations often use earlier mistranslations, perhaps because readers expect to see them. The “proof” texts are particularly vulnerable to this “borrowing” from earlier translations.
Not all Christian translations of the 20th and 21st centuries are guilty of the same mistranslations – but most are. Take for example Daniel 9:25. The King James Version (KJV) has “the Messiah the Prince.” The KJV puts the definite article "the" in front of the translation they chose for the Hebrew word מָשִֽׁיחַ / (moshiach). They chose to translate מָשִֽׁיחַ / moshiach as "the messiah” in Daniel 9:25 although the Hebrew word for "the" does not appear at all ('ha").
Let me repeat that: “the messiah” does not appear in Daniel 9:25. There is no “the” in front of the word מָשִֽׁיחַ / moshiach / messiah / anointed one.
The KJV also capitalizes the “m” in “messiah” (there are no capital letters in Hebrew), thus making it appear to “fit” Jesus.
Let's discuss the word "messiah" -- how is it used? What does it mean? How often is it found in the T’nach (Jewish bible)?
The term מָשִֽׁיחַ / moshiach is usually used to speak of priests and kings who have already lived – not “the messiah.” It means “anointed one” and is used often to speak of Aaron, Moses’ brother, who was a messiah – an anointed priest. It is found 39 times in the T’nach (Jewish bible).
34 times the usage is as a noun (messiah) and 5 times the usage is as an adjective (smeared with oil).
Yet most Christian translations only use the word “messiah” once or twice (usually in Daniel 9, sometimes in T'hillim / Psalm 2). . .
Isn’t that amazing?
The word appears 39 times in the תַּנַ"ךְ / T'nach (Jewish bible) – yet it is not translated as “messiah” 39 times by the Christian versions.
Knowing now that the King James has altered Daniel 9:25 to say “the Messiah” when it truly says “messiah” (or “anointed one”) – and that the KJV uses the word “messiah” in Daniel 9, but not in the other 37 locations in appears in the T’nach (Jewish bible) one can begin to see how translators are liars (whether they mean to be or not).
Let’s just look at a few Christian translations for Daniel 9:
None of them use the word “messiah” in the other 37 locations (39 in all) the term actually is found in the T’nach (bible). This selective translation (mistranslation?) misleads their innocent readers.
Perhaps you can see why it is impossible to rely on English translations to truly read the T’nach (bible).
Even Jewish translations are not perfect. Since translation is more art than science the trick is in finding the word in the target language which is the closest in meaning to each word in the source language – consider the example I gave early in this post that the Hebrew word רֹאשׁ rosh means head, but it can also mean top, and it can also mean the most important part of something.
Hebrew is often poetic, and some subtle nuances of meaning may well be lost in the translation, while in other instances false meanings may be presented even with the best of translators. Consider the Hebrew verb לִשְׁמֹר li-sh'mor. This verb is normally translated as to guard, but it can also mean to keep, or even to observe or to fulfill (a law).
However the verbs "to observe" and "to fulfill" also have other meanings: "to observe" can also mean to witness or to watch something happening, and "to fulfil" can also mean to bring something to completion - but the Hebrew verb לִשְׁמֹר li-sh'mor cannot have any of these secondary senses. G-d frequently commands us in the Torah to "keep His mitzvot!"
וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם מִצְוֹתַי וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם “keep my commands and do them" (Vayikra / Leviticus 22:31), and לְאַהֲבָה אֶת יְיָ אֱלֹהֶיךָ... וְלִשְׁמֹר מִצְוֹתָיו וְחֻקֹּתָיו וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו "(to) love HaShem your G-d... and (to) keep His commands, His inexplicable rules and His judgements..." (D'varim / Deuteronomy 30:16).
Any of the identical verbs mentioned above (keep, observe, fulfill) could be chosen to translate there verses but, if "fulfill" were used, it would have to be made clear that it was not being used in the sense of complete/bring to completion because the Hebrew verb לִשְׁמֹר li-sh'mor cannot mean this. Thus, when Matthew reports (5:17) that Jesus claimed that he had come to "fulfill the Torah and the Prophets" it is misused.
Hopefully this post will encourage some of you to begin to learn Hebrew – but even for those of you who cannot dedicate the time to learn the language, just be aware that you need to double check any translations you might use. All translations have issues – even Jewish translations. Yet, many of the Christian translations, even the modern ones, have “built in” prejudices which can lead the reader in error (Daniel 9 and Isaiah 7 are perfect examples of such mistranslations).
The Judaica Press translation of the T'nach is considered by many to be an excellent translation. It is available online free, with or without the commentary of Rashi -- רבי שלמה יצחקי (R' Shlomo Yitzachi / Solomon Isaac), 11th century CE.
The Living Torah is an excellent translation of the Chumash (Torah and Haftarah) by R' Aryeh Kaplan (Z"L). This is also available free online in English, Spanish and Russian.
The Artscroll Stone Edition T'nach (or Chumash) is available for purchase at the Artscroll website.
The image is the purported rabbinical ordination document (semicha) of Sam Stern. The explanation of the mistakes and alterations is courtesy of Uri Yosef, a native Israeli who also reads German.
Rabbi Sam Stern is another supposed "Orthodox Rabbi" whom missionaries claim converted to Christianity. This post examines that claim.
According to Stern's Christian "story" found on many missionary sites on the internet, Stern was born in Poland around 1917 (give or take a few years). On page 6 of the book he states he is 21 in 1939 (putting his birth year around 1918). He then states he was raised “into a strict Orthodox Jewish rabbinic and Chasidic home,” trained to be a Rabbi. The testimony says he was from “a little town in Congress-Poland near Warsaw.” He later claims he was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust.
Was he an Orthodox Rabbi? It seems highly unlikely. Uri Yosef, the administrator of the Messiah Truth countermissionary forum read Stern's Christian "story" (found in numerous places on the internet) and also saw a copy of Stern's supposed rabbinical ordination (a copy of which is displayed in this post, along with Uri's analysis of it). Written in German, the document has numerous errors which Uri, familiar with German, explains in detail (also found above).
Stern claimed to be from Poland and he claimed to have received his Rabbinical ordination in 1939. In his autobiography Stern claimed he attended Novardok Yeshiva in Lodz, Poland, and that this was the last school he attended prior to the start of World War II. Novardok had numerous yeshivot, but I can find no record that they had a location in Lodz, Poland.
He claimed to be, at that point (1939) he was a משגיח (mashgiach) - a Jew who supervises the kashrut status of a kosher establishment. Yet, in 1936 the Sejm (Polish Parliament) proposed banning shechitah (kosher slaughter). They highly restricted it (establishing a low quota), and with the beginning of World War II in 1939 it was outlawed completely. Link.
Again, the facts simply do not support his claims. How could he be a mashgiach in 1939 when it was highly restricted and then banned that same year? Link. How does being a mashgiach (if he was one) make him a rabbi? The credentials are not the same (although some rabbis are also mashgiach).
On page 28 of his autobiography he states his yeshiva closed due to the war. On page 36, in 1939 after the German invasion, Stern quotes himself as saying "I was too young to be a rabbi having just graduated from school."
Stern himself states he was not a rabbi at the start of World War II, and there was no way for him to become an ordained rabbi during the war. How is that "post war" he can suddenly claim to be a rabbi? Yet by page 42 he sates he was a "graduated rabbi."
Which is it? Was he a mashgiach of a closed yeshiva and not a rabbi, or was he a rabbi? Was there even a Novardok Yeshiva in Lodz, Poland before the war?
There was no mention of Germany or Stern ever having been in Germany as of 1939. Yet, the supposed rabbinical smicha (ordination) is written in German, not Polish or Yiddish or Hebrew and dated 1950. To quote Uri: "There is a picture of what he claims is his Rabbinic certificate from the City of Augsburg, which is a large city in southern Germany. Since I am fluent in German, I can tell that it is a fake, because the German in it is completely incorrect - misspelled words - aside of the fact that it doesn't even contain a complete sentence. The name in it is "Sternschoss Simcha", which also seems to have been "edited".
The Germans had banned Jews attending schools (in Germany, not Poland) in 1938. Stern claimed he received his Rabbinical ordination in 1939 -- but the document he presented was issued by the Germany city (Augsburg) in 1950 (per the document). Was he ordained in 1939 in Poland or 1950 in Germany? Link.
Uri said the name on the document was Sternschoss Simcha, but the name given on his old website was Symcha Sternshoss (a slightly different spelling). A check of the Yad Vashem database of Holocaust survivors and victims results in no result for the name of Sternschoss or Sternshoss -- yet Stern insisted that his entire family (by that name) perished in the Holocaust. Surely his name, and the names of his family, would be recorded. There was a Szternszus, Symcha listed in the Lodz, Poland Ghetto -- but he was born in 1875 and his profession was listed as a drucker (a printer). This birthdate is too early for Stern who said he was born after World War I. On page 6 of the book he states he is 21 in 1939 (putting his birth year around 1918).
Using the various spelling iterations (Sternschoss, Sternshoss and Szternszus) it is not possible to find a person matching the information given for "Sam Stern."
The United States Holocaust Museum finds one "near match" -- Shtermschuss, Slate Yet, this person was born in 1921 and is not the person purporting to be Sam Stern. Slate was a weaver who arrived in Tel Aviv (Israel) in 1939, and thus could not be "Sam Stern."
Uri Yosef is fluent in German, and in reviewing the rabbinical ordination document shown in this post he states that it is obvious the name on that document has been obviously altered (changed).
Is it possible that the person who later called himself "Sam Stern" took an assumed identity after World War II ended? Perhaps he found an old rabbinical ordination for Augsburg, lightly modified it and took the slightly modified name as his own?
Given the missionary articles Stern wrote (a woeful lack of Jewish and Hebrew knowledge) is it possible (probable?) that Stern forged a rabbinical ordination document? Also note that in the document Stern provided it does not say he is an "Orthodox Rabbi," it simply says he is a "Rabbi." Given that the Augsburg Synagogue had been destroyed before the war, and that very few Jews were in Augsburg post war (approximately 300), who had the authority to issue a rabbinical ordination document to Stern from Augsburg?
Let's explore some of the details Stern gave about himself (he later changed his name from Polish to "Sam Stern"). They do not make sense given what we know about the history of the second World War.
Historians estimate that close to 90% of the nearly 3.5 million pre-war Polish Jews perished. Thus only some 350,000 Polish Jews survived the Holocaust. The Nazis were wonderful record keepers and we have the names – particularly the names of survivors. Would it surprise you to know that the name "Sam Stern" or Symcha Sternshoss fitting the information in the "testimony" does not exist?
It is possible to search Holocaust databases by name – for both those who died and those who survived. There is no record of a Sam Stern born around the time this man claims to be born who survived (or died) in the Holocaust. There is no name that even sounds “near” that name which might be the same person. Link. Doing a little more digging I found a claim that he had changed his name from Symcha Sternchoss, but yet again doing a search on that name did not find a Holocaust survivor with that name among the Jews. There was only one person with that last name, and he was a weaver (not a rabbi), and again the birth dates did not match.. Link.
There was a "Sam Stern" who survived the Holocaust, but he was from Germany, not from Poland, and he was only 2 years old at the start of the war where the “Sam Stern” in the missionary testimonies claims he was 22 years old. Link. There was also a “Sam Stern” from Poland, born in 1922, who was murdered in the Holocaust, Link. I include them, even though he claimed his Polish name was different, to show my attempt to be thorough in finding supporting facts for his biographical details.
The Christian “testimony” by Stern claims that in 1952 he came to Rhode Island to be an assistant rabbi in a Synagogue. Again, I can find absolutely no proof of this. I’ve searched the historical information available listing both the Synagogues and the Rabbis from those Synagogues and can find no record of him.
Perhaps even stranger is the fact that the man claims (in his “testimony”) that he went to a displaced persons camp in Poking, Germany near the Austrian border in April of 1946. Poking closed in 1949 (link), yet Stern states (page 75 of his autobiography) that he stayed in the DP camp until 1951.
This raises yet another question as to Stern's credibility. Per the United States Holocaust Museum Poking "had several Talmud Torahs with more than 200 pupils, as well as a Lubavitcher and a Klausenburger Yeshiva with a combined 500 pupils." If this were the case why did Stern not receive proof of his rabbinical ordination from the camp Yeshiva? Why would his "proof" come from a town over 2 hours away (Augsburg) after the camp was closed?
There was also a DP (displaced persons) camp in Augsburg, Germany. Is it possible that Stern was moved from Poking to Augsburg? That possibility seems remote since Augsburg DP primarily housed Ukrainians and Lithuanians (and Stern said he was Polish). The camp operated from 1945 until 1949 and was run by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association. Again, Stern's rabbinical ordination document from Augsburg is dated 1950 -- after the Augsburg DP center had closed. (link).
From what I can discern there was no person meeting the information given in Stern's Christian testimony. There was no “Sam Stern” or "Symcha Sternshoss" born around 1917 (given a 5 to 10 year range) in Poland, who became a Rabbi and who survived the Holocaust to live in a DP camp in Germany, either Poking, or Augsburg Germany.
It gets even odder.
Stern says he became an assistant Rabbi in a Synagogue in Rhode Island. Again, the name of the Synagogue is not given. There is no way to check this claim (I tried!). He says he taught the Talmud. Yet a few sentences later he says “I could not read English.” How could he teach anything to American students if his English was so poor that he could not read it? He does not claim he was teaching in a Yeshiva where he might have been speaking Hebrew, no he was an assistant rabbi and a Synagogue (not a school). . . those facts do not seem to make any sense.
He claims that a missionary gave him a copy of the Christian bible in Yiddish. The missionary giving him the book told Stern that "This is a mission to the Jews."
That also makes no sense! In 2013 Rhode Island had fewer than 19,000 Jews in the entire state! Why would missionaries in Rhode Island be targeting Jews???
Having been unable to prove any of the sketchy biographical data given by Stern up to this point I began to question if this “rabbi” was completely fiction. This options seems more than likely given the arguments he gave for converting to Christianity.
For example “Stern” wrote “Opening the Book of Matthew, I was surprised to read that Jesus is of the lineage of Abraham and David, I also noticed that on every page it says "As it is written," which means that it was written in our Jewish Bible. For example, in the first chapter I read that He will be born of a virgin because it is written: Behold a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son and they shall call his name Emmanuel... (Isaiah 7:14).”
But that IS NOT WRITTEN in the Jewish bible. Isaiah 7:14 says nothing about virgins (the term is “young woman” and anyone who reads Hebrew would know that). The terms ha'na'aRAH & ha'alMAH (accent is on the syllable in CAPs) are age-related classifications (and mean a young woman) -- it has nothing to do with being a virgin (young or old). Would not a rabbi know the difference between the Hebrew word for virgin בְּתוּלָה / b'tuLAH and the word for young woman - עַלְמָה / almah?
A rabbi would also know that lineage is transferred by the Jewish father, and if Jesus was a “virgin birth” he would NOT be of the lineage of Abraham and David (he would have no tribal status at all).
A Christian writing a fake “testimony” would not know what the T’nach (Jewish bible) says, but a rabbi surely would! An educated Rabbi would not make such a basic mistake.
It gets even worse. “Stern” references Micah 5:2 (it is not 5:2 in a T’nach, it is 5:1 – again a rabbi would make that simple an error?) that the messiah must be born in Bethlehem – but that is not what Micah says. It says the messiah will come from the line of David (who was of Bethlehem Efrat). “Stern” also gives Matthew’s misquote of Micah which actually reverses the words of Micah, and yet again a rabbi would know better!
He also says “He shall come out of Egypt, for it is written: Out of Egypt have I called my son (Hosea 11:1)” as if this were about the messiah, but again a rabbi would know that Hosea is speaking of the Jewish people as the text actually is not messianic – it is speaking of the Jews escaping slavery in Egypt. The beginning of that verse reads, “When Israel was a child I loved him,” -- Hosea calls Israel, not Jesus, G-ds son.
The so called “proofs” given by “Stern” are typical missionary proof texts, but any rabbi would know they are taken out of context (Isaiah 7 is a message for the then living King Ahaz, who was dead 700 years by the time Jesus was supposedly born). . .
Then "Stern" mentions Isaiah 53, that favorite missionary "proof text." He says "I did not know the contents of Isaiah 53! The next day I showed the same "poem" to a friend, a rabbi in New York. He did not know either that Isaiah had written the chapter. The only conclusion I could reach was that the main reason so many rabbis and other Jews don't know the Messiah, the Saviour of the Old and New Testament, is that they don't know the Bible. I decided to do everything in my power to bring the Jewish Bible to them."
This is also ridiculous. A rabbi who is unfamiliar with the book of Isaiah, including chapter 53? This "rabbi" has a friend, another rabbi, who did not know that Isaiah had written it either? Rabbis do not know the bible???
Another mind boggling example is his statement "the word Messiah appears here (in Daniel 9) in the T'Nach for the first and only time."
The word "messiah" appears in the T'nach 39 times!
Not once, but 39 times! 34 occurrences are nouns (“a messiah”) and five are adjectives (“smeared with oil”).
Not to mention that it appears twice in Daniel 9 alone (not once).
THIS is an Orthodox rabbi????? This is a man "learned in Torah"? This is a man learned in Hebrew?
In other words, this “testimony” seems to be made up of whole cloth. The entire thing seems fabricated. If there is (was) a real Rabbi Sam Stern I would like a missionary to give us some proof that we can research, as none of the autobiographical information given in the “testimony” holds up to inspection. The man seems real enough -- as he founded Hebrew Witness, Inc., in Brooklyn, New York, but is his "Jewish" background accurate? None of the information supplied in the testimonial holds up to inspection.
Was the man a Jew? Maybe, maybe not. If he was a Jew did he come from a religious family? Also maybe, maybe not. The credentials simply do not "check out." Given the length of the war and his supposed "hiding out as a Pole" (how did he manage to not get caught as a Jew when he claims that every other member of his family perished in the Holocaust?). . . perhaps he was from a religiously Jewish family but had little to no Jewish education because of the interruption during World War II. . .who knows? Given the untraceable autobiographical information supplied there is no way to determine what Stern's true background might have been.
Perhaps oddest of all is that the Christians seemed to reject him, too. If this man was so "learned" why did the very Christians he sought to join reject him? These are the same Christians who now tout him as a great example of a "learned Jew who became a Christian!" Here are a few quotes, again from his autobiography.
Having completed four years at a Christian college (Biola) he wrote "They told me I had started too late in life and would never amount to anything. . . I approached Dr. Michelson. . .and told him I was now ready to enter the ministry full time I was dismayed that he did not agree with me. "You do not need to rush. Stay in the mailing room. . ."
A group of ministers ordained him, but a year later "The Director of the mission said he did not know exactly where to place me. He asked if I would be willing to sit at the reception desk. . ."
Not able to get work as a missionary he wound up becoming a social worker. Why would the Christians not take advantage of this "Orthodox Rabbi who became a Christian"? There must have been some reason they rejected him for that purpose. "Hebrew Christians ignored me, spoke against me, or otherwise thought to discourage me. . ."
One reason he might have been rejected as a missionary is his ignorance. In his book he claims to ask a rabbi why G-d is referred to as "elohim" (plural) rather than "el" (singular). It is impossible that a "learned rabbi" would not know basic Hebrew. Elohim is NOT plural. Those with a rudimentary knowledge of Hebrew think that the use of the word elohim is plural because it ends in "ים” , transliterated as “im.” In Hebrew a single word does not make a sentence singular or plural, and often the use of ים is found in words that are obviously singular. Elohim ends with the masculine plural suffix "ים”.
Surely a learned rabbi would know basic Hebrew grammar! In Hebrew one word alone does not make it plural or singular. To know if "elohim" is singular or plural it must be in a sentence where:
It receives a plural suffix;
It receives a plural verb;
It receives a plural adjective.
Elohim speaks to the majesty of the entity -- a ruler or judge. The "im" ending denotes power and majesty. The word is used to describe HaShem when He is in a judging or ruling mode (versus say anon*i which speaks of His mercy. The root of the word is eil, which means force.
Rambam in “The Guide for the Perplexed” puts it this way: "Every Hebrew knows that the term elohim is a homonym, and denotes G-d, angels, judges, and the rulers of countries, and that Onkelos the proselyte explained it in the true and correct manner by taking elohim in the sentence, "and ye shall be like elohim" (Gen. iii. 5) in the last-mentioned meaning, and rendering the sentence "and ye shall be like princes."
Every Hebrew apparently except for one "Rabbi" Sam Stern!
Elohim is a title ("name") for G-d, but it means a mighty judge. The word is used to speak of powerful humans (as in B'réshıt / Genesis 6:4, "the sons of the nobles (elohim) would come to the daughters of man") and angels in T'hillim / Psalm 82:6 "I said, "You are angelic creatures, and all of you are angels of the Most High." The word elohim refers to judges (as in Sh'mot / Exodus 21:6 "his master shall bring him to הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים (ha-elohim) the judges" as well as Sh'mot / Exodus 22:7-8 "the homeowner shall approach the judges. . . both parties shall come to the judges. . ."; and it can also refer to false “gods” (i.e. idols).
Whenever elohim speaks of G-d it does not have a plural form verb. In B'reshit / Genesis 1:3 we have the singular "vayomer elohim" (“and G-d said”)—not vayom'ru (the plural inflection “and they said”). This is true foin verse 4: vaya'r elohim (“and G-d saw”)—not vayir'u (the plural inflection “and they saw”) and vayavdél elohim (“and G-d divided/separated”)—not vayavdilu (the plural inflection “and they divided/separated”). . . and on and on it goes.
The word e elohim is used more than 2000 times in the T'nach to speak of G-d, false gods (plural), powerful humans and even angels. Almost always elohim has a singular verb, making the usage singular. The adjective is almost always singular, too, where the word "elohim" is concerned. In fact there are over eleven hundred instances of the word elohim governing an explicitly singular verb-inflexion when speaking of G-d.
Whoever Sam Stern might have been, he was not a learned Jew. His ignorance of basic Hebrew grammar relating to the word "elohim" alone shows this. It is interesting that the various Christians he aligned with rejected him as a minister, too. It is sad that Stern concluded that G-d had rejected His people due to the holocaust. Stern should have rightly put the blame for the holocaust on the evil men who perpetrated it, and realized that by turning his back on Judaism he was turning his back on G-d Himself.
Daniel 9 is not about the messianic age. It is not a messianic prophecy. And, "no," "the" messiah did not have to arrive before the destruction of the second Temple.
Daniel is seeing a vision about the return of the Jews from the exile in Babylon. In his vision he sees that a messiah (not "the") will give the word to rebuild Jerusalem. The word "messiah" in Hebrew means "anointed one" and it is used to speak of anointed kings and Jewish priests.
In Daniel 9 the first ruler (messiah) comes after 49 years after the destruction of the Temple a ruler will come and give the order to rebuild Jerusalem:
"Know and comprehend: From the emergence of the word to return and to build Jerusalem until the anointment of the prince will be seven septets, and fir sixty-two shavuim (weeks / septets) it will be rebuilt, street and moat but in troubled times." Daniel 9:25.
The messiah is Cyrus the Great of Persia. He was the king who gave the order to rebuild Jerusalem. From the time the order is given the Jews have nearly 500 years to return to observance and avoid a second exile. If they do, then they will avoid a second exile. (All negative prophecies are warnings that can be averted if one listens to the warning). Missionaries will claim that it was not Cyrus who gave the word mentioned in Daniel 9, but the prophet Ezra tells us:
"And in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the HaShem by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the HaShem stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he issued a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing." Ezra 1:1
In case you were not sure that it this word was fulfilled by Cyrus, we can recap all of the above verses with this synopsis in Chronicles.
"To fulfill the word of HaShem by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths; for as long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years. And in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, so that the word of HaShem spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, HaShem stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, and he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying: Thus said Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth has the HaShem G-d of heaven given me; and He has charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, HaShem his G-d be with him, and let him go up!" 2nd Chronicles 36:21-23.
This indeed happened -- just as Daniel had been told. Cyrus gave the decree to rebuild Jerusalem.
"Know and comprehend: From the emergence of the word to return and to build Jerusalem until the anointment of the prince will be seven shavuim (weeks / septets), and for sixty-two shavuim (weeks / septets) it will be rebuilt, street and moat but in troubled times." Daniel 9:25.
For 490 years (from when the first Temple was destroyed to the destruction of the second Temple) the Jews need to be purified of their sins such as not properly observing the sabbatical years. The angel says the second Temple period will be troubled.
All negative visions can be avoided. If the people used the time correctly they can receive the positive vision mentioned in Daniel 9:24 "to terminate transgression, to end sin, to wipe away iniquity, to bring everlasting righteousness, to confirm the visions and prophets and to anoint the Holy of Holies." If they do not turn away from their transgressions and stop doing the evil things moving them away from Torah they will have a different ending -- and a second (and evil) messiah will come to destroy Jerusalem yet again, and exile the Jews again as well.
The Jews did not heed the warning — indeed the Second Temple period was one of great strife. The Jews actually invited the Romans in! Some Jews became very Hellenized (Romanized). There were many splinter groups, one of whom actually torched the food within the walls of Jerusalem — destroying their fellow Jews. The Talmud (Yoma 9b) says: “Why was the Second Temple destroyed? Because of sinat chinam, senseless hatred of one Jew for another.”
Hence the second exile was not avoided. The Temple was destroyed in 68 CE and around 135 CE the Jews were exiled from Judah — most of us for 2000 years.
"Then, after the sixty-two septets , the anointed one will be cut off and will exist no longer; the people of the prince will come and will destroy the city and the Sanctuary; but his end will be (to be swept away as) in a flood. Then, until the end of the war, desolation is decreed." Daniel 9:26.
The term “messiah” is used 39 times in the T’nach. It means “anointed one” and it refers to kings and priests. In the case of Cyrus it refers to a non-Jewish king. The evil messiah who is cut off from G-d at the end of the 490 years (as mentioned in Daniel 9:26) could have been Herod Agrippa, or even Titus (who became the anointed emperor of Rome). How do we know this second messiah was evil? Because Daniel tells us that he will be כרת / kareit -- cut off. The term כרת / kareit means someone who has done something so evil that he is cut off from G-d and from the Jewish people. Missionaries who wish to insist that Daniel 9 is speaking of Jesus (as at least one of the messiahs) should ask themselves "was Jesus so evil that G-d would have cut him off from knowing Him?" If not, Daniel 9:26 cannot be speaking of Jesus.
When Daniel 9 uses the term "messiah" there is no definite article (the word "the") used at all, even though some Christain translations including the King James Version say "the messiah."
The lack of a definitive article (messiah but not “the” messiah) indicates that this second anointed one (messiah) could refer to several different anointed subjects. King Herod Agrippa the last King of Judah (Kings are considered anointed as it says in 1 Chronicles 11:3). He was killed during this time (around 44 CE). Messiah could also refer to the last High priest (priests are anointed as seen in Vayikra / Leviticus 4). There was also Titus (Emperor) who made a treaty with the Jewish nation for seven years, but for the second half of the term the Romans would violate that covenant and impede the Temple service. He eventually became the Roman emperor and died around 81 CE.
My point being Daniel 9 has nothing to do with “the” messiah or the messianic age. David was a messiah. Aaron was a messiah. Saul was a messiah. Cyrus was a messiah. Solomon was a messiah. . . none of them were “the” messiah. There are two messiahs (plural) in Daniel 9 -- neither of which was "the" messiah. This is not a messianic prophecy. (Actually the book of Daniel is not prophecy at all -- it is found in Ketuvim, Writings, in the T'nach). To better understand why Sefer Daniel is not prophecy refer to the 365 Prophecies tab and read the post explaining prophecy. Link.
Sophiee Saguy has been countering false missionary claims about Judaism and the T'nach (Jewish bible) for nearly twenty years. You may find her on FaceBook and at the Messiah Truth forum.