An Open Response to Dalton Lifsey

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An Open Response to Dalton Lifsey

 

http://thecontroversyofzion.com/2012/02/dr-michael-brown-and-the-anemic-polemic-of-the-jewish-anti-missionaries/

 

Dear Dalton.

You seem to have taken exception to my post entitled “Persuasion versus Education – a response to Dr. Brown”. After quoting my post where I assert that the missionary campaign is a campaign of “persuasion”, while the campaign of the Jewish community is one of “education”, you go on to write:

“I find it hard to believe that Blumenthal wrote this without a few dozen gut checks and a wrestling match with his conscience. The degree of intellectual dishonesty required to commit these words to print is astounding. Particularly the assertion that “the conflict between the missionary and the Jewish community is a conflict between the method of persuasion favored by the missionary and the method of education favored by the Jewish community.” This is coming from a man who offered 48 pages of extremely weak argumentation predicated on circular…

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Daniel 7 and Acceptance of Scripture – an Open Letter to Bru

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Daniel 7 and Acceptance of Scripture – an Open Letter to Bru

Bru

You have come to this blog to share what you understand as the truth. You quote Scripture in an effort to demonstrate how the theology that you are espousing is the belief of the Author of Scripture. You are hoping that we will accept your theology on the basis of these Scriptures that you quote.

If you expect us to change our theology on the basis of the word of God as recorded in Scripture you should be willing to do the same. You may be thinking that your theology is rooted in the word of God and that you have nothing to change but your lengthy comments demonstrate that your position is NOT rooted in the word of God but in the Christian Scripture as interpreted by the Church of the Seventh Day Adventists.

Allow me…

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A New Set of Feelings

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

A New Set of Feelings

The heart of the Jew who worships God is filled with emotion. Gratitude, awe, love and reverence for the One who brought everything into existence. Love for the One who knows all and sustains all with a degree of knowledge, precision and perfection that humanity could never fathom. Awe of the One who is the source of all truth and justice. Love of the One who is the source of all goodness and blessing. Gratitude toward the One who is presently sustaining every form of existence that we can encompass with our finite minds, including all of the people I see in front of me, the animals, the trees, the grass the sky and the sea. Reverence for the One who knows every thought of every man, woman and child that ever lived. And yearning toward the One who knows the yearnings of our hearts…

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Out on a Limb – by Mordechai Gold

~Out on a Limb~

In his appendix to Answering Jewish Objections volume 3, Dr. Michael Brown lays out some principles to try to help us see that Jesus fulfilled messianic prophecies.

Number five in his list is, “It is important to read every prophecy in its overall context in Scripture.” To explain his point, he elaborates on Isaiah chapters 7-11, hoping to connect the birth of Immanuel from 7:14 with the shoot of Jesse in 11:1. Following this thread, Brown remarks (pg. 192) that Matthew 2:23 alluded to Isaiah 11:1, adding parenthetically that “the Hebrew word for ‘Nazarene’ resembles the Hebrew word for ‘branch’.”

This argument by Brown and others seeks to solve a major issue many Jews have with the author of the first gospel. Matthew 2:23 says that Joseph “went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.” We will presume that when the gospel writer wrote this, he was referring to Jesus’ dwelling in Nazareth being significant, not Joseph’s, but the major issue raised by the Jewish camp is that there is no verse in Tanach which says the Messiah, or anyone, is to be called “a Nazarene.”

Brown hints that since the word “Nazarene” (from the city Nazareth, or נצרת) is similar to the word for “branch” in Isaiah 11:1 (נצר), Matthew is correct in his claim in 2:23 and behold, Jesus fulfilled prophecy.

What makes this response from the missionary camp difficult to accept is the fact that there is still no verse that says anyone will be a “Nazarene.” Sure, the Hebrew words in question (נצר and נצרת) share three letters, but the word in Isaiah is not speaking of a city.  Using the Christian logic applied here, one could also say that the Messiah is supposed to be a Choterene, perhaps from a city called Choteret, since the verse says a twig (חטר) will emerge from Jesse, and thus we have a verse Jesus didn’t fulfill.

Back to the point. It is a stretch to say that since the Greek Testament claims Jesus lived in a city with a name similar to the word “branch” in Isaiah, he therefore fulfilled a major messianic prophecy. We gain nothing from knowing where the Messiah lived (which may be why there is no explicit verse telling us this).

What about when Matthew states that “the prophets” said the Messiah will be called a “branch?” Perhaps he was paraphrasing a few oracles which, when we combine their testimony, can be summarized as “he will be called a Nazarene?”

Well, no. The word נצר, branch, appears twice in Tanach: once in Isaiah 11:1 speaking of the Messiah, and once in Isaiah 60:21 speaking of Israel. Yes, there are other places where the Messiah (Jeremiah 23:5) and Israel (Hosea 14:6-8) are described in botanical terms, but only once he the Messiah called a נצר.

The crucial blow to Matthew’s claim is the timing. At what point would one be able to say the Messiah is the “branch?” We could say either when the Messiah is born, at which point the “branch” has already shot forth from Jesse, or when he reveals himself as the Messiah for all to recognize, when it becomes clear who it is who is the branch from Jesse.

Thus, it would make sense for Matthew to appeal to Isaiah 11:1 during the infancy narrative in chapter 1, because then he could argue that now the branch is born. It would make sense for him to appeal to this branch concept during the baptism in chapter 3, when the voice from heaven proclaims “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased.” Or even during his death, when, according to Christians, the main function of his “first coming” was fulfilled. I would go so far as to suggest it would be better had Matthew never written 2:23, and then any appeal to Isaiah 11 would be a basic appeal to actual, clear messianic prophecy.

But for apologists like Dr. Brown to suggest Matthew was pointing to Isaiah 11 only when Jesus moved to the north of Israel lends great credence to the Jewish claim about the first gospel: that a verse or concept was made up from whole cloth and applied to Jesus.

It sure is easy to fulfill hundreds of prophecies if one can make them up as they go along.

-Mordechai

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The Talmud – excerpt from The Council of My Nation

Another activity through which God preserves the unified national consciousness is the living discussion. Through participation in the ongoing living discussion, a discussion that spans the centuries and millennia, the individual Jew joins with the national consciousness of the eternal nation. When the Jewish people were centralized in the Land of Israel, this discussion touched the entire community in a pool of common thought. The throngs that gathered in Jerusalem during the three pilgrimages were hubs of interaction that impacted the nation. During the times of the Second Temple, the weight of the central communities of Babylon and Israel maintained the interconnectedness of the living discussion. In the centuries following the destruction of the Second Temple, various circumstances forced Jews to wander far from the bastions of Torah scholarship. This situation necessitated the writing of a book which would unify the nation’s thought process – not only throughout the communities scattered around the globe – but one that would also join the nation throughout the corridors of time. This book is the Talmud.

The Talmud is not written as a record of facts or as a chronicle of events. The Talmud is written in the format of a run-on discussion. An intricate and involved discussion, with questions and answers, proofs and counter-points, arguments and explanations. The Talmud is not a book that can be read as a leisurely diversion. Study of the Talmud demands complete involvement, and generates intense discussion. Since the writing of the Talmud, the Torah discussions of the Jewish nation centered on the Talmud. Through the study of Talmud the 21st century American Jew is joined with his brethren in Israel today, with the Jew who lived in 16th century Poland, in 13th century Spain, in 10th century France, in 5th century Iraq and in Israel of the3rd century B.C.E.  Although they are strewn throughout the realms of space and time, countless Jewish communities are linked together to stand before God as one entity – Eternal Israel. This living discussion spanning the generations joins the elements that make up the body of Eternal Israel.

By maintaining the identity of Eternal Israel, the only true context of the Law is preserved. But the relationship does not end there. Just as the Law needs Israel to act as the living setting for its own vitality, Eternal Israel needs the Law for its own existence. It is only to the degree that the individual Jew bears the Law in his heart (Isaiah 51:7) that he is united with the eternal community. Israel is only eternal to the measure that she discharges her duty in relation to the Law.

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Birthday of the Sun

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Birthday of the Sun

The fact that the most prominent holiday in the Christian yearly cycle is pagan in origin is relatively well known. Some Christian leaders argue for an abandonment of this pagan celebration while most observe this holiday and use the time as an opportunity to call attention to the message of Christianity.

Many churchmen justify the adoption of a pagan holiday with the argument that this was simply a historical circumstance. The expanding Church found that so many people were already celebrating this time, so instead of attempting to repress this celebration, the Church converted it from paganism to Christianity. The “conversion” of the holiday was achieved by artificially associating the Christian message with the observance of the holiday. This merger turned the commemoration of the birthday of the sun into a celebration that commemorates the birthday of the “son”.

Are these two celebrations really so different?…

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Peace, Jerusalem, and David

Peace, Jerusalem, and David
In the book of Deuteronomy God commands Israel to establish righteous judges (Deuteronomy 16:18-20). Immediately thereafter we are enjoined not to plant an idolatrous tree near the altar, nor to designate a “matzevah” (- a single stone) for ourselves as this is something that God hates (Deuteronomy 16:21,22).

The association between justice and the altar is not coincidental; it is also found in the book of Exodus where certain laws pertaining to the altar are presented and immediately thereafter we are instructed concerning matters of justice (Exodus 20:21 – 21:1). What is this connection between justice and the altar? And why does God hate the “matzevah”? Didn’t our forefather Jacob offer to God on a “matzevah” (Genesis 28:18)?

A civilization is not a group of people that happen to be living in the same geographical area. Civilization is only achieved when the group of people coordinates their efforts and work together to create a complex society that is much greater than the sum total of the individuals that it includes.

Justice is the glue that keeps a civilization together. Without justice a civilization quickly degenerates into a jungle where the strong crush the weak and the powerful grind the faces of the poor. It is only a society that respects the rights of each individual and only to the degree that the rights of the individual are respected that the society can hope to function as a successful civilization.

The primary function of the king is to ensure that the society he rules over functions as a civilization and not as a jungle. This duty includes synchronizing the efforts, the resources and the various energies of the country to work as one for the good of all. But above all the king must uphold the ideal of justice within the society that he controls.

The concept that stands at the foundation of true justice is the idea that all human beings were equally created by God. Job expresses this thought when he describes how he was dedicated to the principle of justice: “if I ever spurned justice for my servants or maidservants when they contended with me, then what would I do when God would rise up? When He would attend to me, what would I answer Him? Did not the One who made me in the womb make him too?” (Job 31:13-15).

In Job’s society it was very easy for a master to see himself as one who is above the arguments of his slaves and maidservants. Landholders saw themselves as standing on a higher plane of existence than the slaves and maidservants. But Job did not see things that way. Job recognized that there is One Creator who created all men and all are equally subservient to the One who created them all.

Many civilizations have risen and flourished; each with their own version of justice and each with their own set of ideals and aspirations. God did not choose these civilizations. This was not the society that would serve as His dwelling place on earth.

Then Abraham came. He separated himself from the society around him and he established a family on the foundations of charity and justice (Genesis 18:19). It was here that God found a heart that was completely loyal to Him and God chose Abraham, his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob (Nehemiah 9:8). God made a covenant with the patriarchs that it would be their children who will be identified as His people; this will be the civilization that He favors (Genesis 17:7).

When God redeemed the people of Israel from the house of bondage He established a dwelling place for Himself amongst His holy nation (Exodus 29:46). But God still did not choose a permanent “House of God” amongst his people. The society of Israel had not yet reached its full potential as a civilization that is worthy of a permanent dwelling place for God.

Then God found His servant David (Psalm 89:21). David established justice in Israel (2Samuel 8:15) and this justice was rooted in a deep recognition of the absolute sovereignty of God as represented in the songs of the Psalms. In the book of Psalms David gave voice to the heart of Israel in their complete submission to God and with this he consolidated and gave permanence to the true epicenter of Israel’s civilization as a society that is dedicated to God.

When God made the choice of David’s dynasty as the permanent rulers of Israel, then Jerusalem, David’s capital, became the permanent center of Israel’s civilization. Once Israel’s civilization achieved this quality of stability and permanence then, and only then, was God able to establish His permanent dwelling place at the political center of this society (1Kings 8:16).

Let us now return to the questions with which we opened this article. What is the connection between justice and the altar? Everything! It is only when the society is held together by the Godly ideals of justice that God favors their offerings and that His presence can be manifest in their midst.

Why does God hate the “matzevah”, the altar of a single rock? And why was it appropriate for Jacob to offer on this rock?

The altar that God favors is made up of many rocks symbolizing the harmony and unity that exists in the collective of Israel (1Kings 18:31). Once Israel is established as a national entity it is inappropriate for an individual to offer to God on a single rock. The single rock declares that I stand alone and apart from the people around me. The man who offers on the single rock sees himself as an entity that is above and separated from the people around him; the very opposite of the ideal of justice expressed by Job. When our forefathers had not yet established a nation whose heart is dedicated to God then God desired that they stand apart from the idolatrous nations that surrounded them. At that point in time the single rock altar was an appropriate structure for offering to God. But once a society is established on the foundation of loyalty to God; then the man who insists on standing apart is attacking the principle of justice which is the foundation of the civilization.

“A song of ascents, by David. I rejoiced when they said to me, “Let us go up to the House of the Lord.” Our feet stood firm within your gates, O Jerusalem. The built up Jerusalem is like a city that is united together. For there the tribes ascended, the tribes of God, a testimony for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord. For there sat thrones of judgment, thrones for the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; those who love you will be serene. May there be peace within your wall, serenity within your palaces. For the sake of my brethren and my comrades, I shall speak peace in your midst. For the sake of the House of the Lord, our God, I will request good for you.” (Psalm 122).

 

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