The following websites contain the works of Avraham Gileadi Ph.D. on the Book of Isaiah: — An interactive website on the prophecy of Isaiah explaining how literary features conceal and reveal its apocalyptic message. — A website on the prophecy of Isaiah featuring webinars and audio and audio-visual aids that teach Isaiah’s apocalyptic message.

What Kept the Jews from Accepting Jesus of Nazareth?

Avraham Gileadi Ph.D.

People often ask, with no small degree of naiveté, why the Jews in their day didn’t accept Jesus as the prophesied Messiah—as if that should have been obvious. While it may be clear to us who have the New Testament that bears witness of him, Jesus came as a “stumbling block” to the Jews just as Isaiah predicted: “Sanctify Jehovah of Hosts, making him your fear, him your awe. And [to you] he will be a sanctuary, but to the two houses of Israel a stumbling block or obstructing rock, and a snare, catching unawares the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Isaiah 8:13–14).

Can we suppose it should have been obvious to the Jews that Jesus was their Messiah when their own scriptures seemed to tell a different story? Who, today, even with hindsight, can point to a clear prophecy of Jesus’ earthly mission, so that if we had lived in his day—before he atoned for his people’s transgressions, and before he rose from the dead—we should have made a match? If all messianic prophecies were as self-evident as people contend, why would Jesus command his disciples to “search the scriptures” for answers even after he had come (John 5:39)?

If one cares to inquire, the combination of historical, political, and ecclesiastical elements that factor into the Jewish rejection of Jesus poses a reality that might be difficult to untangle for one who chooses to categorically judge the Jews of Jesus’ day. Such a person might do better to compare parallels between the unbelievers of Jesus’ day with the believers in him today for how the Jews of that age looked upon Jesus. Both in that day and ours, for example, many of God’s people felt locked into a politically correct narrative that didn’t tolerate a spirit of inquiry.

Collusion against Jesus among the Pharisees—the academics of the day—and the Sadducees—the ecclesiastical leadership that was beholden to the Romans—meant that the common people put themselves under scrutiny of the authorities were they to deviate from that narrative. Witness the “fear of the Jews” that colored people’s words and actions: “There was much murmuring among the people concerning him, for some said, He is a good man. But others said, No; he deceives the people. However, no man spoke openly of him for fear of the Jews” (John 7:12–13).

The Pharisees’ teachings and oral traditions that had been maintained and were being formulated at that time—which would ultimately mushroom into the Mishnah and later into the entire Talmud—constituted the doctrinal foundation on which the Jews built rather than the scriptures themselves. That drift away from the primary sources of God’s Word to the words of the pastors of that day would repeat itself in the Roman church and lastly in our day, resulting in a severe lack of people’s understanding of the scriptures at a time when that would become their test.

Those scriptures—particularly the Old and New Testaments, and later the Book of Mormon that sprang from the same Jewish tradition—differentiate between prophecies of Israel’s endtime restoration, which is of a temporal nature, and ones that depict Jesus’ atonement for sin, which is of a spiritual nature. Prophecies of Israel’s twelve tribes’ gathering to the old and new Jerusalems in a new exodus resembling Israel’s exodus out of Egypt, the building of the temple in the old and new Jerusalems, etc., are not fulfilled by Jesus but by his forerunner—a latter-day David.

Because “the Jews do understand the things of the prophets, and there is none other people that understand the things which were spoken unto the Jews like unto them, save it be that they are taught after the manner of the things of the Jews” (2 Nephi 25:5), were the Jews in that case to deny their own prophets and not expect a latter-day David to fulfill those predictions (Isaiah 11:10–16; 55:3–5; Jeremiah 30:8–11; Ezekiel 34:11–24; 37:21–25; Hosea 3:4–5)? While many of us give lip service to the “manner of the Jews,” who among us today actually uses it?

Who perceives that unraveling paradoxes, ambiguities, layered meanings, and embedded mysteries in the scriptures present a deliberate test God has prescribed to see who among his people will pay the price of searching their meaning as Jesus commands—meeting the challenge of figuring things out for themselves—and who will live with the sanitized interpretations, the shallow dogmas, the precepts of men created by those who “suppose they know of themselves” (cf. 2 Nephi 9:29)? Isn’t worshiping God with our “minds” an inherent part of the process?

Was it not the elitism and Pharisaism of Jesus’ day—which constituted a form of idolatry—that blinded the Jews to who he was? It never seems to have occurred to the Jews that their Messiah was their own God Jehovah—the greatest paradox of them all. Prophecies of the Jewish Messiah, in other words, were those very descriptions of Jehovah as his people’s Savior, Lord, and King, in which the words of Isaiah abound, not the ones people point to in attempts to fudge the temporal restorative roles of a latter-day David onto the spiritual role of Jesus Christ.

Brigham Young’s prediction that the Gentiles will be just as mistaken about Jesus’ second coming as the Jews were about his first (JD 8:115), might forewarn us of a similar test awaiting “us, who are identified with the Gentiles” (Doctrine & Covenants 109:60). While the Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for the temporal savior to deliver them from the Roman bondage, we have been looking for the spiritual Savior, not anticipating his forerunner. Didn’t it require one like Enoch to establish an earlier Zion, before the Lord came and dwelt among his people?