Take Three – by Mordechai Gold

Take Three

In Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Dr. Brown addresses a charge leveled at Paul. As Dr. Brown words the challenge, “Paul claimed that the Hebrew Scriptures prophesied the resurrection of the Messiah on the third day. Nowhere in our Bible is such a prophecy found” (objection 4.38, pg. 181).”

As a brief response, before he goes into much more detail, Dr. Brown says:

“Paul’s exact words are: ‘for what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…'(I Cor. 15:3-4). As a Jew schooled in the Scriptures from his childhood, Paul was not thinking of just one passage but of several passages that pointed to the Messiah’s resurrection on the third day…In fact, when we study the Tanakh, we see that the third day is often the day of completion and climax–and so it was with the Messiah’s death and resurrection!” (pg. 181-182)

The response from Dr. Brown suggests that there are at least two passages which discuss the Messiah’s resurrection and that although Paul didn’t attempt to quote a passage, he does have clear verses on which to rely.

But first, Dr. Brown wants to set the scene for us:

“We should first look at some prophecies that make reference to restoration–or rescue from death–on the third day.” (pg. 182) His verses?

*Hosea 6:1-2, which says “After two days he will revive us, on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.” Brown adds, “This is a word given to Israel as a whole, but the sequence is there: full restoration on the third day!”

*Genesis 22:4, the Binding of Isaac, an event which Brown paints as a messianic foreshadowing (objection 4.1 in this volume) in which the actual binding–and reception of Isaac back from the dead according to midrashic allegories–took place on the third day

*II Kings 20:5, where Isaiah tells Hezekiah (a prototype of the Messiah, Dr. Brown points out, as he descends from David) that on the third day from the promise that he will recover from his illness he will enter the Temple of G-D

*Jonah 2:1-9, where Jonah was released from the fish’s belly on the third day

Brown again, page 183: “Elsewhere in the Tanakh, it is striking to see how often the third day has special significance,” as he points to Exodus 19:10, Esther 5:1, Ezra 6:15 (referring to the third day of the 12th month), Genesis 40:1-23, Leviticus 7:7-18; 19:6-7 (speaking of some sacrificial meat becoming unfit for consumption on the third day following slaughter), Judges 20 (in which the Israelites defeated the tribe of Benjamin in battle), and Joshua 1:11; 3:2.

After referencing two German scholars who weigh in on the importance of three days, Dr. Brown concludes the section as follows:

“These insights, coupled with some key verses about restoration, salvation, or rescue from death on the third day, give Paul the right to say that the Messiah rose from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures. There would have been no day more suitable than this from the viewpoint of the Word of God.” (pg. 183-184)

I encourage you, dear reader, to examine the referenced chapters closely and ask yourself: if I were reading these chapters before Jesus was born, would I have come away with the notion that the Messiah is to be resurrected on the third day following death? Did Dr. Brown provide an actual reference that the Messiah is supposed to resurrect on the third day (setting aside every other aspect of the crucifixion/resurrection account for this exercise)?

As a minor objection, one could argue that the Messiah was to resurrect on the seventh day, since the Jews encircled Jericho seven times on the seventh day and the walls came tumblin’ down (Joshua 6); the seventh day of the week was blessed by G-D (Genesis 2); the seventh year is a year of rest (Leviticus 25); the year following the seventh seven of years is a holy year of freedom (ibid.); and examples abound.

Dr. Brown has not actually made an argument that the Messiah is to resurrect on the third day (of the month? week? that part isn’t clear from his argument, either). He begged the question and then tried to back into an answer which suits his purposes–and even then he opens the door for other possibilities.

Once again, he says a lot without resolving the objection.

-Mordechai

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The “Lost” Genealogies – by Jim

One of the most fascinating arguments that Christians raise regarding the proposed Messiahship of Jesus is that no living candidate can prove himself to be a descendant of David, because the family trees were burned with the Second Temple. This is supposed to leave Jesus as the only Messianic claimant whose genealogy can be verified. What fascinates is that the Christian argument relies on a principle of verification, a standard which Christianity by-and-large repudiates. In this article, I will demonstrate why this argument is empty.

In order to do so, I am going to take for granted certain elements of the Christian argument, which if they are not granted do not allow the argument to even be discussed. So, for the sake of argument, it will be granted that the genealogical records were kept in the temple and destroyed with it, though no evidence has been brought in substantiation of this. (The website to which you link quotes from a Christian Biblical encylopedia, which makes the claim that the records were kept in the temple and destroyed with it. The source in the encyclopedia is a non-source: “Babyl. Gemar. Gloss. fol. xiv, 2.” This is like giving a source as a commentary on the Bible, chapter 12, verse 3. Still, I will ignore this bad sourcing, and assume the truth of the claim, in order to examine the argument.) Similarly, I will ignore that the Christian scriptures give evidence that Jesus was not a son of David, being the son of God. Moreover, I will be examining certain prophecies that Jesus is supposed to have fulfilled. In order to allow the argument to progress, I will not discuss how the Church has misrepresented the prophets; I will treat the Christian reading as if it were legitimate, as if these were Messianic prophecies.

Part of what is so fascinating about this argument is the image it conjures regarding a possible future event. Imagine a future in which a king rules in Israel, a temple is rebuilt, the world is at peace, and non-Jews stream to Israel to learn about HaShem. This king claims to be a son of David, but Christians do not accept his lineage, asking: “If you wish to prove a Messianic pedigree now, who will be foolish enough to believe your great, great, great grandfather’s fond pretensions?” They protest outside his home, holding placards that read: “No genealogy- No monarchy!” This protest is based on what—that Jesus is the only possible Messianic candidate, because his is the only verified bloodline? Yet, this king has all the other qualities of the Messiah, all those that Jesus does not have. The greater evidence would seem to be with this king, and it would not be unreasonable to trust that he was a son of David under such circumstances.

What is more fascinating is that the Christian has introduced independent verification as a standard of evidence when many of the Christian claims about Jesus have no such substantiation themselves. So, Jesus is supposed to have fulfilled the prophecy that the Messiah would be born of the virgin. Yet, no independent verification of the virgin proof has ever been produced. As many have noted before, Mary never submitted herself for examination during her pregnancy or at the moment of birth. As a sign attesting to Jesus as the Messiah, it fails, having effectively no witnesses. Perhaps the future Jewish King imagined above will be born of a virgin, and not only that, his mother will be verified to have been a virgin during the pregnancy. Then the world will have a real conundrum on its hands. Each of these two Messianic candidates will have fulfilled one of the Messianic prophecies in a verified way.

This is not the only prophecy Jesus is supposed to have fulfilled, of course, that has no verification. He fulfilled that great prophecy that the Messiah would come out of Egypt. Of course, Mary and Joseph fled secretly to Egypt, and no one seems to have known to where they had gone. No stamped passports were presented showing that they entered and left Egypt. Moreover, the Messianic prophecy that foretells that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem was not verifiably fulfilled by Jesus either. At the time of his adult ministry, people had no idea that he had been born in Bethlehem, according to John 7. If this possible future candidate is born in Bethlehem and has a birth certificate and a passport stamped, showing that he had been in Egypt, he will have gained quite an advantage over Jesus.

In fact, it is not just the prophecies of Tanach that Jesus fulfilled in secret, but his own most famous prophecy concerning himself. In Matthew 12, Jesus declares that his resurrection after three days would serve as a sign. But, if he rose from the dead, he did it in secret, never appearing to those to whom he promised the sign. It is an event with no independent verification. It is astounding how many markers of Jesus’ Messiahship are events that were never substantiated.

Even Jesus’ lineage remains unsubstantiated. Christians imply that Matthew and Luke verified Jesus genealogy in the temple before it was destroyed. However, this is not even asserted by either of them. Modern scholars believe that those two gospels, the only two with genealogies for Jesus, were written after the destruction of the temple. If one assumes, however, that this is not so, that those gospels predate the destruction of the Second Temple, the problem of verifying Jesus’ genealogy remains. In that case, shortly after the writing of those gospels, the only papers that could substantiate their genealogical claims were destroyed, making it impossible to compare them to the originals. It is as if the Christian god said to Matthew and Luke: “You believe in me, because you have seen my family tree; blessed are those that have not seen, but still believe.” The claim that Jesus’ genealogy has independent verification is baseless.

And the need for this baseless claim arises from the fact that Jesus did not fulfill the role of the Messiah. The Messiah is a promised king that will rule under the conditions briefly outlined in the third paragraph above. Jesus is not such a king, and, as such, is not the Messiah. However, the Church has asserted that Jesus is the Messiah, despite not fulfilling this promise. This claim demanded some evidence that would counter this obvious lack of fulfillment. One part of that was to say that the Jews (to whom this promise was made) did not understand the promise. Another was to introduce further qualifications to the Messiah that Jesus could be said to fulfill, qualifications that could not be tested. These qualifications would include the virgin birth and the resurrection and would have to be taken on faith. And yet, against reason, these are supposed to hold greater weight than observable evidence.

Because the unsubstantiated claims of Christianity are so weak, the missionary and apologist attempt to rule out all other possible candidates. He puts forth the notion that no other candidate could fulfill the prophecy, and in eliminating all other candidates, hopes to leave Jesus as the only possible candidate. It is as if the missionary has admitted: “Yes, Jesus’ claims do not rise above mere assertion, but he is the Messiah by default. No other candidates are possible.” In making this argument, however, he has adopted a standard contrary to that of his other claims, all of which must be accepted without evidence.

Yet, he can ask: “How can this prophecy ever be fulfilled?”

The answer is simple. Let it be granted that no one today knows who are the descendants of David. This will not hinder God from fulfilling his promise to David, because human ignorance is irrelevant to God. God knows what humanity does not. He knows who is and is not a son of David. And, He is faithful to fulfill His promises, so that, one can rely upon them—His word will come to pass.

Imagine that Jesus had never come, yet the temple was still destroyed and with it the records of the Davidic line. Imagine even that no one claimed to be a descendant of David. Under these conditions, shall we say that God cannot fulfill his promise? Not at all. Even after nearly 2,000 years since the destruction of the temple, one can rely upon the promises of God. He need have no doubt.

But a problem remains: How, then, shall one know that this king actually is a son of David? It is not hard to find a solution to this problem. Malachi writes of the coming of Elijah before the end, and it is in no way unfeasible that he will, through prophecy, verify that the Messiah is descended from David. Moreover, Joel prophecies about a time when prophecy will abound. The Church claimed to have fulfilled this prophecy 2,000 years ago, but such prophecy is not evident in the Church today, and nothing is more apparent that this time has not yet come. If the Church ever had a gift of prophecy, it has long ago dried up. 2,000 years of the light of Jesus has left not only the Church but the world in darkness. Nevertheless, a time will come when prophecy, true prophecy will abound, and when it does, surely it will not be impossible that the lineage of the Messiah will be revealed.

It is most fascinating that the Church teaches that one should accept Jesus without sufficient evidence, and then attempts to eliminate any other Messianic candidates on the ground that those candidates cannot produce sufficient evidence of their claims. It is precisely because Jesus did not fulfill the promise of the Messiah that secret signs are needed, which forces the Christian to adopt a double standard. But the argument fails to account for the possibility of some other candidate fulfilling the same prophecies as Jesus, only openly and with the verification that Christian claims lack. And it fails to note that a son of David could be verified through prophets, an oversight that arises out of the failures of Christian prophecy. No one whose trust is in God need suffer any consternation from the Christian argument; he may rely upon HaShem to fulfill His promises.

Jim

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Faith Crisis – by Annelise

Every human is familiar with inner conflict. The sensations, emotions, thoughts, ideas, and values that we have don’t always align or work together. We try to find unified ways to think and live, and yet, internal conflict resolution doesn’t always come naturally.

During a crisis of faith for someone questioning and leaving Christianity, this confusion can be tumultuous.
Perhaps an inner voice of reason, mixed with fear, points out that it’s a serious question of salvation and faithfulness to God. “I can’t rest until I find answers.”
Yet the heart and body may be weighed down to their limit with anxiety and grief, and need times to rest. Times to be present and attune with the things that calm and enliven us.  Times to spread our focus more broadly on the things we need to do in our lives, for ourselves and for others.

The voice of reason may conclude, “There is no clear reason to worship Jesus, so I can’t.”

The heart may accept this, with eager love for God and truth. But maybe some part of the heart still says, “I want to cling to the person who seemed to be my loving shepherd, closest friend. I looked only to him to understand me fully, with unwavering love. I thought he was God! How can I stop seeing him as my comfort, joy, and hope?”

This feeling may not be logical, helpful, or acceptable. However, it’s fed by deep and legitimate yearnings for secure love, and may grow stronger if suddenly exiled to a distant corner of the mind.

Logic says, “I can’t be part of the church, then.” But for some people, something in the heart might say, “I don’t want to be torn from the belonging and friendship I’ve found in the Christian community. That’s where my place was, my identity, even my language for connecting with others. And my friends won’t see light on any other path I take.” If we had found a good community and let our roots grow deep, then there may be wounds and loss in separating from it.
One part of the heart says that it’s beautiful to seek God and truth with new clarity and freedom. A blessing to learn so much from the Jewish community, and finally let go of unjust beliefs about them. Perhaps another part of the heart is still in mourning.
And when the foundations of the faith we once had are taken out from under us, logic may ask if we can still see solid reasons to trust in God at all. When pain or fear beset us, though, something deep in the heart still calls straight to God, for help and shelter.
The conflict may be different in some ways for each person, but it does affect many of us.
What can we do with this? Without cooperation between our inner parts, we might become overly rigid, suppressing emotions and ignoring unfamiliar perspectives. Or we may become chaotic, letting strong emotions drive us unrestrained, or letting them cripple us. We might go back and forth between rigidity and chaos.
The more logical part of ourselves can help by becoming a gentle leader of decision making. Collaborating with and empowering the other parts within, rather than treading them down.
Without compromising what matters in the commitment to reason, we can still let our hearts and intuitions express themselves, rather than silencing them. We can let painful emotions be felt, and release them, in whatever place some beauty and peace may meet them. We can find our way in the overlap between what is right and what we desire. Only then may we be able to follow wisdom passionately, wholeheartedly, and with joy, in positive expressions of what we most yearn for.
The heart can lead too, by finding the rhythms of wellness in our lives. We can’t seek truth or serve God if we’re wearing ourselves out and losing our minds.
The music of wisdom balances deep thoughts with more ordinary ones. It alternates between effort and surrender. There is work and there is rest. There are short times of speaking, followed always by listening. Sometimes learning flows rapidly, and at others we grow slowly as the trees. The heart can find these rhythms, and gradually grow into them, when we pay attention to where we find wellness. We can only move forward freely towards our goal as we learn to fall in time with this music.
And when it comes to effort and surrender, surrender comes first. We can only offer what we are given.
Nothing more could be expected than that. And what we are given is very near to us, in the here and now, within us and all around us, taking us by the hand.
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Considering the Claims – by Jim

You ask if it is possible to be neutral when considering the claims of Jesus. Two difficulties present themselves to the mind that desires to be neutral. The first is emotional, and the emotions can make it almost impossible to impartially consider the claims of Jesus. If one is attached to Jesus from youth, the idea of investigating the claims made either by Jesus or on his behalf is a difficult one. Because Christianity tells the story of a man rejected by others, it puts one in a position where he feels that he might be rejecting Jesus as well, a feeling which makes one extremely uncomfortable. He feels as if he might be hurting an innocent man, a man that cared about him. In this way, it can seem impossible to impartially consider the claims of Jesus. And similar emotional factors exist for some that do not believe in him, making it difficult for them to remain neutral as well.

The second difficulty in remaining neutral is that the Western World is saturated with Christian ideas. One has trouble reading Tanach without carrying preconceived notions into the text. Of some of these, he may not even be aware. When reading the prophets, for example, he may find himself injecting into the text a Christological interpretation, only because it is in the zeitgeist. It is my opinion that this is what happens with Isaiah 53. When it is presented to people who are unfamiliar with Isaiah, it sounds like Jesus them because of the past 2,000 years of history. Generally, it does not come about because of the familiarity with Isaiah; indeed, readers are often quite ignorant of the rest of Isaiah.

Each of these biases is difficult to overcome, but I believe it can be done to a sufficient degree. Moreover, I believe that in one’s initial inquiry into the claims of Jesus, it must be done. Each task carries its own difficulties. The person with emotional resistance must make up his mind that the truth is more important than his currently held opinions and attachments. He must recognize that if he does not yet know the truth of Jesus’ claims, he does not know what his emotional reaction to Jesus should be. Since he knows that truth is a good and he does not know yet if belief in Jesus is a good, he must attach his emotions to the pursuit of truth. This is a great difficulty, but the second difficulty may be the harder because he may not know what preconceived notions he brings to the text. Therefore, when he reads a text, he must not accept too readily the first idea that comes to his mind, but he must settle down to understanding exactly what the text is talking about. He must take nothing for granted. I believe that these steps can be done and that, though perfect neutrality is probably not possible, one can create for himself enough neutrality to investigate the claims of Jesus.

As to whether one should be neutral in examining Jesus’ claims, I have already written that I think it is important during the initial investigation. Before I explain why, let me define what neutrality is and how the neutral investigator conducts himself.

Neutrality begins with the statement, “I do not know.” Therefore, the first step of the investigator is to educate himself. The impartial investigator must first determine the definition of the Messiah. And, because the definition of the Messiah predates Jesus and the NT, he must ask what was the definition of the Messiah before Christianity. And then he will compare Jesus to that definition. As a neutral party, he will also be forced to consider certain prophecies from Tanach, because part of the Christian proof relies upon such proofs. Therefore, he will need to read those prophecies and the books from which they come. He must review whether or not they mean what the Christian says they mean. And he must ask whether or not he can know Jesus fulfilled them.

The neutral investigator must be cautious not to fall into a trap, however. What happens sometimes is that the investigator does not realize he has dropped his neutrality. He comes to a prophecy and asks: “Does this sound like Jesus?” This is not a proper question. He has already tainted his reading by putting a lens before his eyes, so to speak. He must first just understand the passage, whatever it is talking about. Once he knows the subject matter of a passage and what is taught about that subject matter, then he can make comparisons if necessary.

He must similarly avoid using indefinite passages to impose a reading on the text. He must not take a vague phrase and ‘interpret’ it by inventing a meaning for that phrase. This puts one in the unfortunate position of writing his own Torah. Therefore, he must be willing to admit that he does not know what a phrase means.

After studying and reaching conclusions, the once impartial investigator need not remain emotionally neutral. On the contrary, his emotions should align with his understanding. But he will have to be careful about expressing these emotions to family members that disagree. These matters can be real points of contention. Discussions should be dispassionate, though one cannot be truly neutral anymore.

Jim

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Isaiah 41:15

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Isaiah 41:15

“Behold I have made you like a new, sharp threshing iron with many blades; you will thresh and pulverize mountains, and you will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them and the wind will carry them off, a storm will scatter them – but you will rejoice in the Lord; in the Holy One of Israel you will glory.”

These words give expression to God’s promise of encouragement to a despondent Israel. It is clear that the terminology is symbolic, but what do these terms symbolize? How is Israel a threshing board? What are the mountains that will be pulverized and how will it happen?

I propose looking at the particular context of this particular promise and at the broader scope of Isaiah’s prophecies in order to discover the meaning of these metaphors.

The paragraph in which this promise appears (14-16) is directly parallel to the…

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Turning on a Dime

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

It is not easy to determine if someone (or a group of people) arrived at a theological conclusion on the basis of intellectual searching or if the conclusions were generated by some external factor and it is not always ethical to attempt to make these judgments. But when the group in question readily switches their beliefs from end to end simply in order to maintain their conclusion in the face of changing facts, it is naive and even irresponsible to take them seriously. Allow the followers of Jesus to illustrate.

According to the Christian Scriptures the followers of Jesus identified Jesus as the Messiah. This means, in the best case scenario, that the followers of Jesus had carefully and thoroughly built in their minds a comprehensive portrait of the Messiah as predicted by the Jewish prophets. These men felt that their portrait of the Messiah was so solidly grounded in Scripture…

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Idolatry and the Definition of Marriage

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Idolatry and the Definition of Marriage

The Biblical concept of the marriage relationship constitutes of a union between a man and a woman. According to the Bible, each of these was designed by God to fill a different role in the context of a marriage. A relationship that consists of two men or two women is not considered a marriage because the two respective roles that make up a Biblical marriage are not present in the union.

The relationship between God and those who worship Him is compared to a marriage (Jeremiah 2:1). The difference between God and any of His creations is far greater, both qualitatively and quantitatively than the difference that exists between a man and a woman. God is the Author of all existence and all of His creations are the recipients of His kindness.

When two beneficiaries of God’s kindness enter into a relationship with each…

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