The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Doukhan's On the Road to Emmaus

I’m about finished reading Dr. Jaques Doukhan’s On the Road to Emmaus. I ran across a highly interesting reference recently to how “the many” is used in a technical fashion in the Tanahk (i.e. the OT) to mean “all” in such a way as to formally emphasize the greatness of God (and the Messiah).

This has obvious relevance to a scriptural case for Christian universalism, since it offers a(nother) method for checking whether or not an author, or Jesus by report, means “many” in an indistinct sense (perhaps even limiting to not-all). Aside from immediate and local thematic context, if the speaker is using the term to honor God or to talk about the coming honor of God, then it would not only mean “all” but would even be an emphatic way of meaning “all”.

In other words, for example, when Paul is talking about “all” and “many” in Romans 5, the context makes clear enough that by “the many” he means “all”, but that analysis still leaves over why he would bother switching back and forth between them instead of sticking with “all”. The traditional answer, offered by both ECT and anni proponents, has been that because he could have just stuck with using “all” then he must have been contrasting “all” to “many” – even though that makes no sense to Paul’s rhetorical argument. However, it turns out that, according to technical praise usage of “the many” in Hebrew OT texts, Paul (the Jewish rabbi familiar with such contexts and usage) would have been using “the many” as an emphatically STRONGER way of meaning “all”!

I’m not sure the author is a Christian universalist himself, although he’s definitely a Christian (and a trinitarian one, which is evident in his arguments in the book); maybe also a Messianic Jew, though possibly not – his book is certainly recommended by a Messianic Jewish organization (which is how I found it), and they aren’t usually also Christian universalists. But his arguments edge pretty hard into universal salvation, or so I’m noticing as I go along. They’re definitely helpful to us.

I also like the book for its systematic hermeneutic methodology. Even though he’s focusing on only five passages as root cases for Messianic expectations in the OT (and then how those compare to Jesus of Nazareth), he starts with linguistic and formal analysis, and works outward from immediate and local contexts, out to extended contexts across other OT topical connections (including references in the OT back to the source texts, where applicable), and then to how various rabbinic texts have also reached the same conclusions as the author’s analysis, beginning with the early tanna (the authors creating Aramaic targum/commentaries) forward.

So it covers a lot more material than just five scriptural blocks.

I highly recommend this book for anyone looking into OT Messianic connections for why the early Jewish Christians came to believe Jesus was the ultimate promised Messiah. It should still be useful for non-trinitarian Christians, too – you can just skip past those parts of his arguments as you prefer – but of course my fellow trinitarians will find it more useful along that line. And it has some very interesting connections to a systematic scriptural case for Christian universalism. (Plus a lot of end-notes for further reference and research!) The book does have Kindle and other e-versions.

For an even larger discussion of OT prophecies about the Messiah, overlapping with Christian belief, I can also provisionally recommend The Return of the Kosher Pig by the Messianic Jewish Rabbi (and Sephardic Jew, born and raised in Israel) Itzhak Shapira. I say “provisionally” because a lot of his argumentation I wouldn’t even slightly accept as valid (Gematria etc.); but what he does very amply illustrate is how strongly many non-Christian rabbis have believed various aspects of Christianity to be true – so strongly that they go to lengths I would regard as desperate reaches about reading the beliefs into the data! – but which they just don’t put all together, since then they would be Christian. (And then in some cases they did put the pieces together and became Christian.)

While I’m much less of a fan of his methodology, Rabbi Shapira also has a ton of footnotes with interesting additions and research references for further study. I’m pretty sure he isn’t a Christian universalist, for what it’s worth, but I didn’t find anything specially damaging or even challenging to our case(s) in there. As long as you’re willing to put up with obscure leaps of topical connections, I can recommend his work, too, with a little caution that some patience may be needed.

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Fascinating and a shame the book is quite expensive in the UK.
Can you cite the OT texts referred to regarding use of ‘the many’?

I have read that the 5 Messianic prophecies studied are:

  1. The Seed of the Woman of Genesis 3:15.
  2. The star of Numbers 24:15-19. 3.
  3. The Sign of the Virgin Isaiah 7:14
  4. The Suffering Servant Isaiah 53
  5. The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9

P.S. I’m getting the impression that he is an Adventist so, presumably, if he is not universalist then he is annihilationist?

That would be a plausible guess, I agree.

He uses those five prophecies as a springboard for discussing others along the way.

I’ll have to look up his argument about “the many”; text isn’t handy at the moment.

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