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jesus_and_the_jubilee_year
  • Luke 4:16-30

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Jesus began his ministry by calling a jubilee year, but,

“Yovel (Jubilee) can only be practiced when ALL of the Israel nation is gathered together in the land. Since the disappearance of the tribes of Reuven , Gad and half of Menashe during the time of Sanherib (c 680 BEC) there has been no Yovel (Jubilee Year).

The practice cannot be resumed until and unless the exile has ended. The rebirth of modern Israel, for all its wonderful accomplishments, is not the end of the exile.”

Therefore Jesus began his ministry by breaking the law.

Discuss.

1. Did Jesus call a Jubilee year?

Answer: Yes.

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.

    He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19  to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”Luke 4:16-21 (ESV)

The quote is from Isaiah 61:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;[a]
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;[b]

[b] Or the opening [of the eyes] to those who are blind; Septuagint and recovery of sight to the blind Isaiah 61:1

This is a passage well-known to refer to the concept of a “Jubilee Year” by referencing some of the laws or practices that are associated with the Jubilee year.

Please see the following extra sources from both the Christian and Jewish perspective on the issue of Luke 4, Isaiah 61, and Leviticus 25 and their co-relation over the Jubilee Year:

Christian Consensus

In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus quotes from this passage. He declares that He is the one who fulfills this text. {…} What is Jesus claiming? Jesus is claiming that He is that one that God has chosen, prepared and sent to accomplish all that is mentioned in Isaiah 61:1-3. The Jews would be familiar with the idea of the Year of Jubilee.–“The Year of our Lord's Favor: Isaiah 61:1”
http://www.thefellowship.site/archives/2016/3/29/the-year-of-the-lords-favor-isaiah-611-11

  • He was affirming that He had come to liberate His people from sin, just as in the Jubilee year the people were liberated from their guilt, debt and crimes.
  • In other words, Jesus proclaimed He was the “Year of Jubilee.”

Portraits of Christ, “The Favorable Year of the Lord” (Leviticus 25; Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:16-21

He also came proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor, the year of Jubilee.The Biblical Story of Jubilee

The passage in fact is the only one in the whole of the New Testament which mentions a jubilee year, giving it great importance.http://www.vatican.va/jubilee_2000/magazine/documents/ju_mag_01031997_p-22_en.html

Additionally there are over 31 sermons and copious expoisitory notes on sites like Biblehub which illustrate the Christian consensus that yes, Jesus was claiming to institute a Jubilee year.

2. Was it possible, let alone permissible for Jesus to herald a Jubilee year?

Answer: No.

Issue #1, "You shall count,"

1a. In Leviticus 25:8 we read “8 “You shall count …”. This means that without the Sanhedrin or an active priesthood, there can be no consensus on the Jubilee year. In fact there is now controversy over when the Jubilee year should be and if it should be in the 49th or 50th year due to the long amount of time we have been without a temple and a court.

1b. Secondly, “You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years.” This means the Jubilee year cannot be declared out-of-order; after a minimum period of 49 years it may be declared. It may not be declared earlier, or by whim.

Issue #2, the ingathering of the exiles has not yet occurred

According to the Torah, observance of Jubilee only applies when the Jewish people live in the land of Israel according to their tribes. Thus, with the exile of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh (about 600 BCE), Jubilee has not been applicable.

Issue #3, no shofar and no Yom Kippur

I do not understand this issue fully however, v.9. states “9 Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land.”

This must be done on the day of Atonement, Yom Kippur (iirc). The story in Leviticus does not show this was done, and given that the people were astonished at what Jesus was claiming it is indicative that this was the only component of Jesus' message on the Jubilee. No mention of Yom Kippur is made at all in any gospel so it is unlikely this was the day he began his ministry, or it would have been recorded (being the most important Jewish holiday of the year).

Commentary on Torah Sources

According to biblical law, the Jubilee is only observed when all twelve tribes of the Jewish nation are living in Israel, as is derived from the verse,1 “And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year, and proclaim freedom throughout the land for all who live on it,” which implies that the Jubilee is only sanctified when “all who live on it”—meaning, all who are meant to be living there—are in the Land of Israel. Furthermore, the Jubilee is only observed when every tribe is living in the specific part of the land which it was allotted when the Land of Israel was divided. However, some are of the opinion that the Jubilee is observed as long as there is a partial representation of each tribe, even if most of the tribe is not in Israel.When is the next Jubilee Year? by Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson

For the Yovel to be commemorated, the entire Jewish nation needs to be living on their land. Hence, ever since the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Menashe were exiled — 18 years before the other northern tribes were exiled — the Jubilee was cancelled. This was 130 years before the destruction of the 1st Temple.10 Jubilee Facts to Know by Levi Avtzon

Discussion

It appears by 1 and 2 that Jesus broke the Torah law by declaring a Jubilee Year. According to the sources it appears as if it would not be possible for Jesus to do such a thing. I would sincerely welcome a Christian response to this claim. So far, I have received the following responses from among several Christians on Discord:

The Christian Answer

I've spoken to a number of Christians who make themselves available on debate and apologetics forums on this, mainly because I could not find a standard answer to this online; It appears to be an issue that confuses Christians for a couple of reasons – one issue could be that they are simply unaware of the specifics of various Torah laws in general, and are unaware of the holidays that were commanded by God.

The answers seem to begin with an “of course Jesus didn't break the law, so…”; many of the answers I got seemed to address a separate problem, confusing the “sabbath” with a “sabbath of years”; one Christian I spoke to went on about how Jesus was “lord of the Sabbath” or how the sabbath was made for man and not man for the sabbath; as if that solved the issue (it does not).

But one recurring answer, or the common theme, was the old since Jesus is God, he can do whatever he wants, argument – Jesus-God is not beholden to, or does not “owe” anyone to keep a prophecy or to break a prophecy – not even limited to the covenant he made with Israel at Sinai.

Response to this argument

Of course we must reject the idea that God broke his covenant or his promise, or that he lied in any such way. It is the claim that God would change his mind over what he himself repeatedly stated was an “eternal covenant” and what he himself stated he would not change his mind about, because he is eternal.

After all, if one may say that Hashem broke his covenant with Israel, there is no way anyone would ever be able to trust him to fulfill a covenant with a second group of people.

Therefore our conclusion over this answer is that since God is eternal and (does not change his mind, as a result, etc) that he would not require the heralding of a Jubilee year unless it conformed with the law stated at Mt. Sinai. “you shall consecrate…” has a vital meaning here; the Jubilee year must be consecrated by fulfilling the specific laws listed in Leviticus 25, or else it is not a holy year of the Lord.

In fact we see that in every way it may not be fulfilled we require the return of Elijah for the reasons prophesied in Malachi 3:1 and 4:6 – not merely the return of Elijah – but that those specific prophecies be fulfilled before a Jubilee year may be declared. Thus, we may only conclude that Jesus did not have the “moral right” to call a Jubilee year.

If Jesus is in fact the Messiah on such grounds that he fulfilled the Law, then showing that he did not in fact fulfill the law would instantly disqualify him as the messiah (let alone equate him with Hashem!)

Rather, it serves to distinguish Jesus from God and show that he is neither the Lord, nor his messiah.

Other Christian Answers

We spoke to many Christians and sought out an answer from many professional apologists (ex. CARM, and even members of derivative faiths such as Jehova's Witnesses and the Black Hebrew Israelite movement) but we did not receive a response different from the above.

I am currently in contact with some members of the Ethiopian Orthodox church, which has canonized the “Book of Jubilee” and they may be able to answer the question. I will post updates as they come.

jesus_and_the_jubilee_year.txt · Last modified: 2021/01/09 08:33 by appledog