An Open Letter to a Closed Mind – by Jim

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Bible 819 has been commenting on this blog for a while now. He/She has not engaged in dialogue, but has been preaching with his/her ears closed. Here is one of Jim’s enlightening responses to this closed-minded commenter.  

Bible819,

You present us with an interesting choice. You say that one cannot trust the judgment of the Jewish people. You claim that they have been unfaithful to their mission. You claim that they are no longer the witnesses of God upon the face of the earth. But of course I know that these claims do not originate with you. Of course not; they originate with the Church. And against the claims of the Church, we have the appointment of the Jewish people by God. So now we must consider the claims of these two parties, that of the Church and that of God.

According to the Church, the Jewish people rejected…

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Who is the Messiah? – excerpt from Covenant Nation

Who is the Messiah?
Boyarin wraps up his arguments by telling his readers that the followers of Jesus did not “invent” the idea of a divine savior, but rather that they drew this idea from the well-springs of Jewish thought that was current in their times. Boyarin argues that the Jewish concept of Messiah as it was understood in the generations preceding Jesus included, or at least allowed for, a second divine figure that is to suffer and die (TJG, pg. 160). The followers of Jesus simply applied these ancient Jewish teachings to Jesus of Nazareth, but they did not invent these teachings.

Aside from the fact that Boyarin ignores the evidence of the Christain Scriptures which clearly indicate that Jesus’ followers did NOT expect Jesus to suffer and die, this after they had positively identified him as the Messiah, Boyarin has also missed the heart and soul of the Jewish concept of Messiah. Interestingly, he did not miss it entirely, he actually included one crumb of Judaism in his description of the Messiah – but he failed to follow up on that one authentic thought that made its way into his book.

Boyarin acknowledges that the Jewish understanding of the Messiah that preceded Jesus would have the Messiah redeem Israel from the “Seleucid and then Roman oppression” (TJG, pg. 160). What happened? Did Jesus do anything of the sort? How did the followers of Jesus identify him as the Messiah without him fulfilling this basic Messianic function?

This leads us to the next question; why were the Jewish people waiting for the Messiah? Was it just so that they could be redeemed from Roman oppression? Was this simply a nationalistic aspiration that was divorced from anything spiritual?

Of-course not! The Jewish people understood that they were called by the Almighty God to testify to the truth of His Oneness by following His Law and obeying His word. They recognized that they had fallen short of their calling, but they still remained loyal to the core of their standing as a chosen nation before God – they had not committed themselves in worship to another god (Psalm 44:21).

The Messianic hope in Judaism centers on Israel’s loyalty to God. Israel looks forward to the day when all of humanity will abandon the worship of idols and serve God together with Israel (Zephaniah 3:9). God alone will be exalted on that day (Isaiah 2:11,17). All will recognize that worship of anyone but the God of Israel is wrong and futile (45:14). And Israel’s loyalty to this truth will be rewarded (49:23).

Israel is waiting to hear one phrase: “Your God has reigned” (Isaiah 40:9; 52:7). In Israel’s God centered heart, this is all that is important. Israel’s human king, like David his ancestor, is not someone who eclipses God’s sovereignty, but is someone whose own humility before God is the catalyst to bring everyone’s heart in line with the truth of God’s sovereignty.

In a certain sense, Judaism views world history as a love story that takes place between herself and her Divine lover. The exodus from Egypt which culminated with the Sinai revelation was the wedding. When the Divine presence came to dwell in Solomon’s Temple, Israel understood that God had come to dwell with His beloved bride. When foreign oppressors trampled the Jewish people underfoot, Israel understood that the relationship between themselves and God was being challenged. But Israel looked forward to the Messianic era, when her relationship with God will shine as the light of the universe (Isaiah 60:2). The Messianic promise for Israel is God’s promise that He will forever remain Israel’s husband.

The Church took this concept and turned it on its head. Instead of a time when Israel is reunited with her Divine lover, the Church taught that the Messiah introduced a deep division and estrangement between Israel and God. Instead of honoring man’s focus on the Creator of heaven and earth, the Church’s version of the Messianic age introduces a new central focus for humanity; a focus on Jesus. Instead of celebrating God’s relationship with Israel, Christianity celebrates Jesus’ relationship with those who “believe in him”. The Church ripped out the heart and soul of Israel’s messianic vision; they ripped out the words “God” and “Israel” and put in their place; “Jesus” and “Church”. The fact that they used some Jewish ideas in constructing their theology does not make their theology “Jewish”. The Jewish concept of Messiah and the Christian concept of Messiah are polar opposites.

Did this happen in the first generation of Jesus’ Jewish followers? Probably not. According to the book of Acts (Ch. 21), the Jewish following of Jesus saw the worship in the Temple as central to their communal identity, even to the degree of bringing animal offerings for the forgiveness of sin. It is entirely possible that the Jewish disciples of Jesus hoped for a day when God alone is exalted and those who believe in Him are vindicated, with Jesus merely serving as an agent of God.

In Paul’s teachings we already see the shift in focus from God to Jesus and from Israel to “believers”. Paul never claims to have acquired his ideas from the wells-springs of Jewish thought as Boyarin would have us believe. Rather, Paul tells us that his theology was the product of his own personal visions. The Christian Scriptures themselves testify that Paul’s teachings did not go unopposed. It is clear that it was the original Jewish following of Jesus who opposed Paul’s anti-Jewish theology. Ultimately, Paul’s theology won out and Christianity became what it is today.

Boyarin’s attempt to rewrite Church history and to rewrite Jewish theology ignores the available evidence. But even more serious is Boyarin’s effort to portray Judaism as if it was a hodgepodge of conflicting ideas. Judaism is not a theology, it is a relationship. It is an eternal covenantal relationship between the Creator of heaven and earth and His beloved bride; Israel.

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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Does Judaism Stand for Anything?

Does Judaism Stand for Anything?

The shots that rang out in the Tree of Life Synagogue this past Saturday
wounded the entire global Jewish community. Precious lives were taken
and families were shattered at the hands of an evil hater of God’s people.
The memory of the men and women who were slain in this terrible massacre
will forever shine as “kedoshim,” holy martyrs, who lost their lives
because they openly identified as members of God’s witness nation.

So many members of the general community of mankind stood
with us in our grief and shared in our pain. People of all faiths joined
the Jewish community in condemning the evil and in remembering the dead.
This broad outpouring of support is a testimony to the inner goodness of
man and gives us hope that we will soon see the day when all of humanity
will live together in peace and brotherhood.

American politicians from all ends of the spectrum denounced the act of violence
and supported the mourners. As representatives of authority it is their
moral duty to publicly decry the crime that was committed in the land
that they govern. It was in this context that at a political rally
attended by Vice President Pence, a memorial prayer was recited to
commemorate the martyrs.

The sentiment behind the prayer is honorable and true. I believe that
the organizers of the rally meant nothing more and nothing less than to
show solidarity and support for the Jewish community. However, the man
chosen to invoke this prayer was the wrong man and the prayer that he recited was the
wrong prayer. Instead of inviting a rabbi of one of the prominent sects of the Jewish community, the coordinators of the event invited a Messianic “rabbi” to represent the Jewish faith.

This was a mistake. Messianic Jews worship Jesus as a deity, and Jesus
is not the God of the Jewish people. In short; Messianic Judaism is
Christianity, it is not Judaism.

I believe that this was an innocent mistake rooted in good intentions. I
would say; “I appreciate the sentiment, but this man does not represent
my people” and leave it at that.

However, when Dr. Michael Brown wrote an article

https://stream.org/mike-pence-ask-fake-rabbi-pray-synagogue-victims/

explaining why he believes that Messianic Judaism is a valid expression of Judaism I feel
that it is my duty to set the record straight and explain the position of those Jews who are loyal to the God of Israel.

Dr. Brown argues that the first followers of Jesus were Jews whose beliefs were
accepted by their contemporaries as a valid expression of Judaism. It is
only when times changed and “trinitarian beliefs were considered 
heretical that these Jewish followers of Jesus were largely excluded 
from their Jewish communities.”

Dr. Brown would have us believe that at some point in time Jews accepted
belief in the trinity as a legitimate expression of Jewish faith.
Indeed, Dr. Brown has written (Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus,
vol. 2, pg. 7) that the Jewish rejection of the trinity is the result of
a “gut level negative reaction to anything Christian.” According to
Dr. Brown, Jews in the past, accepted the trinity as a viable expression of their faith but it was their hatred for Christianity that induced them to reject this belief.

Dr. Brown’s words are a real slap in the face to the Jewish community.
Do we stand for nothing? Why are we called a witness nation? What is our
testimony? Is our worship of God rooted in a petty hatred for another
group of people and not in love for God?

The name “Jew” is something that we inherited and the people who
bequeathed it to us did so at great danger to their lives. It wasn’t
easy to be called a Jew in a world that believed John’s Jesus who
described us as “children of the devil” (John 8:44). And those who held
on to that name “Jew” with their very life blood told us what it means to
be a Jew. To be a Jew means to stand in a covenantal relationship with
the One Creator of heaven and earth. At the very least, this covenantal
relationship demands that we do not give our hearts in worship to one of
God’s subjects, and everything under God’s heaven is His subject,
including the Christian Jesus.

Many Jews have abandoned much of the meaning and significance of that
glorious inheritance that was granted to them by virtue of being born
into the nation of Jews. But as long as they haven’t bent their hearts
in worship to one of God’s subjects, they still stand together with their
ancestors on one foundational issue and that is the belief that no one subject of
God ought to worship another of His subjects.

The Christian belief in the trinity involves devotion to a man who walked God’s earth and
breathed His air; one of God’s subjects. This was never considered a
legitimate expression of the Jewish covenant with God. Every bit of historical
evidence that we have tells us that Jews always saw worship of a man, no
matter what the theological justification, to be the very antithesis of
what Jews and Judaism stands for. We reject the trinity because it is
the deepest violation of the covenant that we share with God.

If Dr. Brown would have done his homework he would more readily find
evidence that the first Jewish followers of Jesus were not real
Christians. It goes without saying that they did not believe in the
trinity. It took several hundred years for the Gentile Christians to
develop this theology. There is no reason to believe that the early
Jewish followers of Jesus accepted this idolatrous belief.

But it goes much deeper than that. There is solid evidence which tells
us that the Jewish followers of Jesus did not see his death as an
all-atoning sacrifice. After Jesus’ death, his Jewish disciples were still bringing offerings for the forgiveness of sin in the Jerusalem Temple that operated under the
jurisdiction of the broader Jewish community (Acts 21:23,24). Not only
were they bringing these offerings for the expiation of sin but they
used these offerings to represent their loyalty to the Law. Had they
believed in the core Christian credo which sees Jesus as the sacrifice to end
all sacrifices they would have no need for the offerings in the Jewish
Temple, much less use those offerings as an act that represents their
loyalty to God and His Law.

Messianic Judaism is not real Judaism. Dr. Brown’s attempt to rewrite
history does not change the testimony of the Jewish people. And our
testimony is clear and simple. All Jews who want to stand with their ancestor in this national covenant that we share with God testify to the following truth: That every cause for devotion resides with the One Creator of all and with Him alone.

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Idolatry

Idolatry
The prohibition against idolatry tells us not to open our hearts in
total submission to anyone but the Author of all existence and the One
who holds our breath in His hand (Daniel 5:23). But there is so much
more to this commandment which takes us far beyond the act that violates
the letter of the law.
The prohibition against idolatry encourages us not to allow ourselves to
be overwhelmed and overawed by qualities exhibited by any being that
exists within the confines of the finite. Yes, we can respect and admire
beauty, power, might, righteousness, selflessness, and intelligence that
we find in a finite existence. But we cannot lose sight of the fact that
this finite existence is as helpless and as dependent as I am and that
it is not the author of its own existence.
The prohibition against idolatry calls upon us to appreciate our own
intrinsic value. It tells us that we are never intrinsically smaller or
lesser than any other finite existence. All of us exist in a world that
we did not create, in space that is not ours and in time that we cannot
move. And all of us are intrinsically worthy simply by virtue of our
existence in this beautiful world.
The prohibition against idolatry encourages us to see the nobility of
man. It encourages us to respect our ability to submit ourselves to
others and not to frivolously bend our hearts in worship. This
commandment demands that we not see ourselves or others as inherent
subjects of one another.
The prohibition against seeing ourselves as intrinsically lesser than
any other finite being also encourages us to view every other human
being as an equal before God. A worldview which justifies the lording of
one human being over another is only a small step away from a worldview
that sees a human as an entity that is a servant of the sun.
The prohibition against idolatry is a call to recognize the dependence
of the object that is demanding our worship. And in turn it directs
attention to our own dependence upon the Author of existence. This same
prohibition reminds us that we are not intrinsically dependent upon the
goodwill of any other finite being. The first commandment calls us to
appreciate that our existence is but a gift and that every finite
existence is nothing but a gift. The spirit of this law calls upon us to
recognize that our hearts and mind belong to no one but to the Author of
existence and that our hearts are not ours to give over in submission to
anyone but to the true Owner of our heart.
Gratitude, an appreciation for truth and justice together with the
recognition that all human beings are intrinsically equal are all part
and parcel of the broad scope of this commandment.  Any act, word or
thought that diminishes our appreciation for truth, our ability to be
thankful, or our respect of a fellow man is a violation of the spirit of
this commandment.

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Connect or Disconnect? Text or Agenda?

Connect or Disconnect? Text or Agenda?

This article is a continuation of my response to Dr. Brown’s article – https://askdrbrown.org/library/how-rabbi-blumenthal-missed-forest-trees-%E2%80%93-part-3

In his latest effort to substantiate his position from the words of
Isaiah, Dr. Brown shares his methods of Scriptural interpretation. It is
precisely to this place where I hoped the discussion would bring us. I
was hoping that we would get beyond the superficiality of stated
conclusions and move to the methods and techniques of Scriptural
interpretation that Dr. Brown uses to arrive at those conclusions that
he so readily declares as proven facts.

As we read the Bible, it is often important to determine if there is a
break in the prophetic narrative. Does one verse flow after the other? Or has the
prophet perhaps introduced a new subject? In his latest article, Dr.
Brown reveals to us how he goes about making this weighty determination.

In my writings I had quoted Isaiah 51:16 and I maintain that this verse refers to
Israel. It is clear beyond a doubt that verses 12 through 14 are
addressing Israel. No one disputes this, not the Christian or the Jew. There isn’t the slightest textual indicator which would tell us that the prophet has changed his audience between verses 14 and 15. From a textual standpoint, every indicator tells us that
verses 15 and 16 flow from verses 12 through 14. This would then tell us that verse 16 is addressing Israel.

Dr. Brown disagrees with my interpretation. He claims; “the context and 
grammar are against 51:16 referring to Israel.”

The fact is that the word “and” (in Hebrew this is represented by the
letter “vav”) connects the entire passage, there is no paragraph break
between verses 14 and 15, there is no introductory statement at the
beginning of verse 15 and there is no shift in the grammar between
verses 14 and 15. Yet Dr. Brown sees no contextual or grammatical reason
to see this passage as one unit.

Now let us look at Isaiah 42 verses 1 through 7. In that passage we find a
paragraph break between verses 4 and 5. Verse 5 opens with a classic
introduction (“Thus says the Lord…”) and the grammar changes from third
person (in verses 1-4) to second person (verses 5-7). All of these
create a clear and distinct separation between the passages.

In light of these textual considerations I argued that the prophet
begins to address a new subject in verse 5. Dr. Brown responded with the
claim; “Contextually, it seems clear that the subject of 42:1-4 is the 
same individual as the subject of 42:5-7 (really, where does the text 
indicate that the Lord is speaking about two distinct individuals rather 
than one?),”

So what tells Dr. Brown where to see a shift in the prophetic narrative?
It cannot be the text because the prophet did everything he could from a
textual standpoint to connect verses 14 and 15 in chapter 51, he did
everything he could from a textual standpoint to separate verse 4
from verse 5 in chapter 42, yet Dr. Brown insists on seeing the former
as disconnected and the latter as connected.

Dr. Brown has made it crystal clear for all who care to know that it is
not the text that tells him what to believe. It is his beliefs that
“tell him” what the text is saying.

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The Doctoral Candidate – a parable by Jim

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

The Christian claim is that the resurrection is proof of Jesus’ messiahship. However, it cannot be a proof in any sense, because there is no proof of the resurrection itself, as an event. To help illustrate how hollow the claim that the resurrection proves that Jesus was the Messiah, whatever that means to the believer, please allow me to present the following analogy.

Let us imagine a man, a doctoral candidate, who must take an exam to earn his degree and title. He receives his exam, and he sits writing for some time. Once time is up, he confidently gives the exam to the qualifying board to review. But, they stare at the paper, mouths agape. They say to the candidate, “You have not answered even one question! You are clearly not qualifed to become a certified doctor.”

“No! No!” the man exclaims. “You have it all wrong! I wrote…

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A Tale of Two Schools

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Imagine two schools of medicine. Let us call them “x” and “y”. Each of these schools has their own approach to medicine and each of these schools puts forth students who put their respective school’s theories into practice. As you probably guessed, these two schools disagree on many elements of the study and practice of healing people. Disagree is actually too mild of a word. Each of these schools earnestly believes that the other school is not teaching medicine, but murder.

One day, the faculty of school “x” admit that they made a mistake. Not just a one-time mistake but a mistake that had continuously been taught as truth for years and years. Not just a minor mistake, but an error about one of the fundamental concepts of medicine. Let us say that they had been teaching that the liver and the heart are useless organs. May I remind you…

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