Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Pre-Existing Jewish Understanding that 'Jesus' Developed from the Angel Eesh

Isaac M Wise, an American reform rabbi living in the last century, wrote a compendium of responses to Christian interpretations of the Bible.  Perhaps his most interesting statements is the following, making reference to the Jewish understanding of the angel Eesh:
The funniest piece of exegesis (in the Christian arsenal) is that the 318 men who went to war with Abraham (Genesis xiv. 14), signify Jesus, who was the army of Abraham, although ישו in numerals makes but 316, and yet Barnabas says it was the greatest truth he ever uttered. Next to it comes that the man who wrestled with Jacob till the morning dawned (Genesis xxxii. 25) was also Jesus, which gave rise to the English phrase, he wrestles with the Lord. That Eesh, " man," mentioned there in course of time grew into an angel (Hosea xii. 4-6), and with Christian interpreters it became Jesus, although that whole story, says Maimonides, was a dream, or as that other man says, he (Eesh) must have been a freebooter, that wanted to rob Jacob, and this " other " man appears to have a correct understanding of the obscure passage. Legends grow in proportion to the distance from their source. (Compare Exodus xiv. with Psalms cxiv.) [A Defense of Judaism p. 71]

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