Project Genesis

Jesus and the Snake on the Staff

Question: A Christian challenged me with a verse in Numbers 21:4-7 in the christian “old testament”. He says that the serpent on the staff is Jesus and he claims this is a “proof-text”. I can usually defend myself with the Jews for Judaism resources, but I could not find anything related to this citation. 

Answer: Part of the reason you’ve never found any counter-missionary arguments to counter this is because this is not usually used as a proof-text. While it is true that Christians see the snake as a “type” or picture of what Jesus allegedly accomplished, nowhere in Christian theology is Jesus referred to as the serpent. In mainstream Christian theology, this passage is not considered a christophany (an appearance of Jesus in the Tanach, the Old Testament Bible) but rather, a “foreshadowing.”That is, the snake was lifted up and those who were obedient and looked to the snake on the pole were healed. Likewise, supposedly, Jesus was lifted on a pole (crucified) and those who “look to him” will receive spiritual healing. Also, while Christians may “see” Jesus in this story it’s not technically a proof text because it’s not used to actually prove anything.

This is one of the biggest complaints that Jewish scholars have with Christian proof-texting methods. They read the bible backwards. Rather than reading the Tanach and seeing what it says, they start with a belief and then go back and try to make the Hebrew Scriptures prove what they already believe.

It has been said that Christians use the Jewish bible much like a drunk uses a light pole. Not so much for illumination as for support.

All the Best,
Rabbi Azriel Schreiber

3 Follow-ups »

No published follow-up questions.

We respond to every follow-up question submitted, but only publish selected ones. In order to be considered for publication, questions must be on-topic, polite, and address ideas rather than personalities.


Powered by WordPress