Jeremiah 31 Teaches that Christianity is NOT the New Covenant
Christians point to the passage in Jeremiah as the foundation for their faith. Jeremiah speaks of a New Covenant, and Christianity insists that it is a fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy.
A thoughtful reading of the relevant passage in Jeremiah will reveal that Christianity is the very antithesis of the New Covenant predicted by Jeremiah.
The prophet describes the New Covenant as something that is unique to the Jewish people. It will set them apart from other nations (Jeremiah 31:32, 35, Ezekiel 37:28). In sharp contra-distinction, Christianity claims to have broken down the barrier of separation between Jew and gentile (Ephesians 2:14).
The prophet describes the New Covenant as a positive development in the history of Israel (Jeremiah 31:25, 27). The advent of Christianity ushered in a period of darkness for Israel.
The prophet describes the New Covenant as something that is impossible to disobey (Jeremiah 31:32, Ezekiel 36:27). The Church’s version of the new covenant is easily disobeyed.
Finally, the prophet describes the New Covenant as a time when it will no longer be necessary to teach the knowledge of God amongst the people of Israel (Jeremiah 31:33). The advent of Christianity launched the most intense missionary campaign that the world has ever seen.
Moses (Deuteronomy 30:1-10), Ezekiel (11:17-20, 34:20-31, 36:22-38, 37:15-28) and Jeremiah (31:26-39, 32:36-44, 33:4-26) clearly described the New Covenant. It is not Christianity.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal
There is strong new testament evidence that Jesus only preached to the Jew, but “lost sheeps” does not necessarily mean Jew.
Also sacrifice was really a primitive way which prevented and still prevents man from killing off ourselves worse then we already do.
This is the RESTRAINER, which is sometimes spoken of.
1st -‘Q says’ does not speak truth plus he makes little sense. Sacrifice doesnt prevent violence and sacrifice is meant as a token or as a gift of love by “puny”, powerless man to the Almighty powerful God. God doesn’t need sacrifices & God does not sacrifice to man nor God.
They (Greeks, Roman, future Christians) didn’t like God’s covenant with Jews, the “old covenant”, so their replacement theology required them to peruse the Jew’s bible to find any passage (even if out of context) that they could use to create a new myth (to add a “Jewish” god to their pantheon of 30,000+ gods) and in an attempt to give Jews (who they believed were “atheists”, according to Platonists & pagan philosophers) a new god or to destroy them spiritually as they almost destroyed them militarily and economically. Jewish prophets gave us a promise of a marvelous new covenant. The NT still only can promise a future new covenant. No gain, but a lot of regression to heathen ideas like human or man-god sacrifice, drinking blood and eating flesh (which the “Old God” in “Old Testament” always spoke of as a curse or a punishment and not as some type of “holy” ritual), god manifested in the flesh (just like idols, golden bulls, asherah poles, Epiphanes IV Antiochus, Caesar, etc).
Thanks for directing me here. I appreciate time may forbid detailed response.
Some questions from a Gentile Christian:
Yes, the New Covenant is cut with the Hebrew people, but does that preclude the members of other nations altogether? What about the Gibeonite woodcutters and waterdrawers of Deut.29.11-12 (Heb.10-11). – they were not strictly proselytes, or else they would have been treated differently, not as the servants they are. The switch from pl to singular 2nd person suggests they too are invited into covenant. What about the nations of Ishmael offering sacrifices in the New Temple (Isa.60.5-7) or strangers building up the walls (v.10)? How else will the Gentiles also offer up incense (Mal.1.11)?
Can times of light not also be times of darkness, or at least times of a future hope in present darkness (Dan.11.32-35)? – Who would say the times of the Maccabees were easy or untainted by some shame, as well as glorious triumphs of faith?
We also believe that the rule and work of God cannot ultimately be broken or fail at all, Dan.2.44, but that doesn’t mean that there is not horrible disappointment and failure on the way to its fulfilment, and was this not also Ethan’s experience, Ps.89.38-49?
How can perfect knowledge and love be attained without the intensive teaching and preaching of the Divine Law (Isa.49.6,9,Isa.42.1,4,6) by Israel – the embodiment of the nation in her surety the Messiah and His own once estranged true flesh and blood?
The key question to me is not whether but why did the old covenant fail? Was it not because its venerable and holy mediator failed – he was most reluctant to accept his mission, Aaron was appointed as a ‘failsafe’, and yet so soon heartbreakingly shaped the rebellion, the decalogue being smashed even upon receipt, and had afterwards to be shielded and carried by a frail and all too fallible priesthood (- itself needing outside refining (Mal.1.8;3.1-3)), in an ephemeral Ark (Jer 3.16), mysteriously sealed by the high priest’s own death (Deut.10.4-6), several times dear Moses despaired of his terrible commission until consoled, ultimately the Lawgiver himself was refused entry – no wonder this holy and blessed, yet sinful, man longed for and looked for another Prophet to mediate with the all consuming Fire, One who would see Hashem face to face, and not from His back only. Was this not heavenly pattern Moses foresaw with joy?
The Old Covenenat did not “fail” – Leviticus 26:44. The Christain position which claims that the “Old” covenant that allows for disobedience, still “fails” on account of disobedience – how then can they believe that the Christain version of the new covenant – a covenant that does not allow for disobedience – is still valid after the history of the Church?
It is evident that a covenant more secure and well founded is needed, Ezek. 16.59-62, more like the gracious covenant cut with the patriarchs Lev. 26.42, Ex. 2.24, which unlike Sinai was never broken, since Abraham was a spectator and did not himself pass between the pieces Gen. 15.17, Jer. 34.18.
To those efficaciously called the New Covenant is irresistible & immutable John 6.37, Heb. 6.18.
Charles Soper We have the gracious covenant of our patriarchs
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Three times I have sought to reply, twice been blocked. Have I cut too close to the bone?
There is a radical disjunction between the Covenant at Sinai, which would be perfected by works but was not (Jer.31.31, Deut.28.68) and the Covenant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Covenant in the plains of Moab, both of which look forward to something better which secures real obedience, denoted by a circumcision of the heart (Deut.30.6). It’s a shame this clear distinction between the two מִלְּבַד הַבְּרִית is obscured by the versification of the rabbinic versions at Deut.28.69 (more naturally 29.1 as in the Christian texts).
Observance of the Law validates (or invalidates) both, but it is only forthcoming in the latter covenants, which prefigure the New Covenant.
A New Covenant requires new mediation, given the failure of the old (Deut.32.50-1), a new Priest (Ps.110, Zech.6.10-13). given the numerable corruptions of the old (Mal. 1-2) – in spite of the perpetuity of some priestly privilege (Jer.33.22) – after the order of a different tribe (Zech.6.12, Jer.23.5;33.15) and a new heart (Ezek.36.24-26). This is indicated for national Israel by a return to the Promised Land (Ezek.36.24; 37.14,21) before not after repentance in many if not most cases (Ezek.39.22-19).
The covenant head and mediator this time being David or rather by metonymy his Lord and Son (Ps.110.1, Isa.55.3-5, Ezek.34.24-26). The essence of His provision being righteousness (Jer.23.6) not just liberation or peace or a new temple, but the root of all these blessings, a right standing with HaShem. The root of this provision being purchased by the redemption of His blood (Zech.9.9-11) and nothing less (the ‘thy’ f. belongs to Zion, but the covenant sealing blood to the King (Dan.9.26-7)).
I looked in the “comments pending” section and found no comments of yours there – I have no reason to block you as you provide one of the best examples of a follower of Jesus slicing up the text of the Jewish Bible in order to fit your theology – your comments are always welcome (although your ears would be welcome as well)
It is not the rabbinic division of chapters that places Deuteronomy 28:69 as the last verse in a segment as opposed to the first verse in another segment – it is the paragraph breaks inherent in the Masoretic text that creates this connection.
Your theories about the new covenant are refuted by the text of Scripture, they are rooted in nothing more than your imagination.
I do not have time to respond in full to your comments right now. I may come back to it later. However, I do want to quickly address one point, which is your comment about rabbinic versification obscuring a particular Torah point.
If rabbinic versification obscures the meaning of Torah, how much more the distortions of the Church? The Book of Hebrews literally alters the words of Jeremiah. Matthew alters the words of Isaiah. Paul interpolates his own innovations into Tanach. It is the constant practice of the NT to truncate passages in order to obscure their actual meaning in order to imply a new one. All of these offenses are much more serious than the rabbis dividing up verses differently than the Church.
The complaint you have lodged is superficial and absurd. It is like your recent comment that the rabbinic world has lost the message of Torah, proven by the corruption of Hebrew pronunciation. If the rabbinic world has lost the thread, how much more so the Church, which has few Hebrew speakers at all? Likewise, if the rabbinic world has obscured the message through a different division of verses than the Church, how much more so the Church which tolerates the corruption of Tanach within its own most sacred writings?
I hate to reference the teaching of an idol, but I must ask you: Would it not be better to remove the beam in your own eye rather than squinting to find specks in the eyes of others?
P.S. I had a similar problem with my comments not being posted. Your cynical and insulting tone directed at R’ Blumenthal is unjustified.
Just a quick point of clarification, while I have a moment:
Your comment on the proper division of verses takes for granted a principle that must not be overlooked. Underlying the comment is the idea that one must keep a verse or passage in context. Your criticism rests on the idea that by labelling a verse as belonging to the end of one chapter rather than the beginning of another, the meaning becomes confused, a confusion that results from changing the context.
The principle that a verse or passage must be understood by its context is one that is universally acknowledged. However, the Church violates this principle constantly. Virtually every time the NT quotes Tanach, it violates the context of the passage. You, yourself, having inherited this practice from the Church, routinely violate the sense of scripture by either de- or re-contextualizing a verse or passage. It is this practice that has led me to point out time and again that you have made Torah into a puppet for your own ideas. The Church’s method is to constantly violate the context of Torah and to impose its own meanings on the text. That you object to a versification that you believe re-contextualizes a verse reveals that you accept the principle of which the Church is in constant violation.
Please do not read this statement as agreement that the “rabbinic versification” does decontextualize the verse. I am not saying that you cannot object when “we” do it because “you” do it to. That is not my argument. R’ Blumenthal has already addressed whether or not the chapter division actually does alter the meaning. So, I am not leveraging the guilt of the Church to silence criticism.
I wish only to draw to your attention what everyone acknowledges already, that meaning comes from context. If one alters the context, one alters the meaning. Indeed, whenever a Christian wishes to defend the words of Jesus from a critic, he will say that the critic does not understand what Jesus meant, and he will rely upon context to demonstrate Jesus’ true meaning. Your criticism of the chapter division implicitly acknowledges this principle. Now, apply it to the teachings of the Church, beginning with the NT. In so doing, you will discover that the Church has practiced a terrible deception.
Pleased we’re still on speaking terms. Thanks for that welcome reassurance about blocking from both of you (although I could initially post from mobile by email only and still can’t now). The Masoretes were rabbinic post-Messianics too, were they not? The best evidence Deut. 28.69 has been misreckoned is from the context of the two chapters.
The complete failure of Sinai in AD 70, signified by the complete devastation of the Temple with a persisting Hellenism even more serious than the idolatry in Jeremiah’s time (and with the Temple the loss of genealogical data validating the Messiah) in 28.68 leads to a better hope of real circumcision in the distinct next covenant in 29.1. Why else the continuing dispersion, what else constitute the uncleanness and transgressions of even rabbinic Israel (Ezek.39.24), if not the rejection of their own glory, hope and righteousness?
As to Jim’s angst with the ’70’ Jewish translators of Septuagint (often NT is closer to Heb than LXX), that is a matter for elsewhere and another time.
charles soper please explain how you expect people to take your theories seriously. If the covenant of chapter 29 is non-Siniatic s you claim then why does Moses describe the ultimate return as a return to obey everything that I (Moses) command you today? And please share with us the source for the claim that the genealogical records were destroyed with the destruction of the Temple?
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You bring some interesting techniques to these arguments that make me wonder what rhetorical effect they will have upon the reader. In mischaracterizing the arguments of others, what is it you hope to accomplish?
Your dismissive use of the term “angst”—not only dismissive but inaccurate—does not make the argument vanish. Do you imagine that it does, just because you dismissed it? Well, perhaps you are correct. Perhaps you know better what such dismissive terminology has on the minds of the reader.
Do you believe that we are all so easily distracted from the real arguments that we cannot see that you altered the argument in a self-serving way? The NT violates the context of Tanach virtually at every quotation—my point. Also, it mistranslates Tanach—also my point. Your response is to claim a greater fidelity to Tanach in the NT than is present in the original Septuagint. This comment, even if it were true, is wholly irrelevant. My argument was not that the NT is a worse translation than the original translation into Greek. It is that it alters the meaning of Tanach.
I do not have much time, so I will bring a couple examples from Hebrews, since I mentioned that book. Hebrews alters Jeremiah’s words, which state that God was a husband to the Jewish people, to a statement that God rejected the Jewish people. It alters a psalm, changing the idea that God has opened the psalmist’s ears to the idea that God has prepared a body for the psalmist. These alterations are seen by comparing Hebrews to the original texts, not by comparing them to translations of the original texts.
Your indictment of the rabbis looks petty and light-headed in light of these alterations. You complain that the rabbis used a different versification than that of the Church. Of course, that versification is not a part of the original text. However, the Church alters the actual text of verses. How superficial is your complaint!
Similarly, you appeal to the context of the verse in Deuteronomy in support of the Church’s versification. Yet you tolerate the constant violation of context in the NT. Paul, for example, alters the meaning of Deuteronomy 30 in Romans 10 through de-contextualization and interpolation of his own ideas. This is done openly on the page. In comparison, your objection to rabbinic versification appears extremely minor. Do you think by making unsubstantiated and grandiose claims that the NT translates Tanach better than the original Septuagint you will have sufficiently distracted us? If not me, then other readers?
I admit, I am not the rhetorician that you are. It may be that you know these techniques work quite well: dismissal and distraction. They do not promote knowledge, but it may be that they will work for your purpose—it may be that they will persuade someone. I may just be out of my depth here, for I cannot see it.
Allow me to reiterate two points have minimized:
1. If differences in pronunciation of the Hebrew are an indication that the Jewish people have lost the message of Torah with which they were entrusted, then the Church in which only a few speak Hebrew—historically, amazingly few—and to whom the Torah was not entrusted must have lost even more of the message of Torah, if they understood any of it at all.
2. If the rabbis mis-versified the Torah, altering its meaning through altering the context, then the Church has altered the Torah to a much greater extent, not only through mistranlation but through a constant violation of context.
I cannot imagine that your rhetorical techniques stop people from seeing these very basic points. However, as I say, I have not your gifts in this arena, and you must “argue” in the manner that you think is correct.
Jim, you hit the nail on the head.
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The context of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31 tells us that the Nations will witness and hear the word of the Lord and proclaim the Salvation of Jacob (31:10-11). When did such a Gentile ministry break out and join to the Jewish revival? After the return of Jews from the Babylonian Exile? maybe not. Isn’t it around 1 century of Yeshua’s time? and the around 1948 when Jews are gathering into the land of Israel upon which So many Christians celebrate and proclaim what God has done for Jews? I guess Jeremiah 31 specifically prophesies of the age of revival among the Messianic Jews in both 1 century and I believe the New covenant revival will prevail among all the Jewish people in the near future when God pour out His spirit, the Holy Spirit upon them.
Gean Guk Jeon Jeremiah 31:10 tells us that the new covenant did not happen yet – Jeremiah 31:30 tells us that when the new covenant comes it will not be Christianity 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >
one thing which one must try to answer is where does the jewish bible say that
“yhwh” the invisible being became visible and offered himself as an animal sacrifice for humans. all throughout tanakh we see that god does “saving” “to save” and “saviour” through divine combat , not through ritually allowing death to take his life.
i believe christianity is a very weird and pagan religion and no matter how much “concerned reader” interpretation one does, one cannot find one place that “yhwh” allowed death to knock him out and put him in 3 day coma.
if a boxer knocks out an opponent everybody would say “he defeated”
how can one preach in torah times “yhwh shall be tkoed”
does it make sense?
christianity is a very strange religion. we find gods battling with nature in greek religions, in the torah nature is under gods control.
sacrificed flesh gods don’t come from torah, they come from greece and italy.
no matter how much “concerned reader” spin one does nature/death does not tko god.
Mr. heathcliff! Nice to meet you and thank you for your comment. I also feels weired when i hear Gospel is all about crucifixion and we are saved by crucifixion..?? But! Listen!
“but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in Him who raised Yeshua our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” Romans4:24-25
“For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His LIFE!” Romans 5:10
Mr. heathcliff! Nice to meet you and thank you for your comment. I also feels weired when i hear Gospel is all about crucifixion and we are saved by crucifixion..?? But! Listen!”
look, yhwh doesn’t have memorial day.
romans is like a memorial for some unknown pagan god.
can you find one place in the torah where yhwh the invisible being said that one day death would defeat him ? yhwh doesn’t get sacrificed .
“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification”
“For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His LIFE!”
very strange . was jesus teacher of jewish bible? did he ever come across these verses
Exodus 32: 30-35
Jeremiah 31: 29-30
Ezekiel Chapter 18
he would know that pauls sacrificed god was absolutely not required. do you know paul does not call jesus “teacher” even once?
Let me ask you a simple but the most important question in your life. The word of God in the Old testament says “We will die according to our own sins” then have you never sinned? Do you keep the Law 100% to be righteous? If you say, “no but i was forgiven by repentance and prayer and mercy” Then, people will say “you make God lier because it contradicts to what He said in Jeremiah31:30, Deuteronomy 24:16.” Now, only Christianity can answer: “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate His JUSTICE, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-He did it to demonstrate His JUSTICE at the present time, so as to be JUST and the one who justifies those who have faith in Yeshua.” Romans 3:25-26
“Do you keep the Law 100% to be righteous? If you say, “no but i was forgiven by repentance and prayer and mercy”
you see the problem? when god gave the law to moses did he not think of asking your questions? before your god gave moses the law, none of the questions about sincerity and how well one could keep it came up?
if it were all about perfectly keeping the law god would have never revealed it.
5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
6 They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. (Lk. 1:5-6 )
if the commandments are making these people closer to god and god is seeing them as people who are walking blamelessly , then it is in gods SIGHT they are walking blamelessly. sacrificed god is redundant and useless because gods SIGHT is enough.
there is no demand for perfection in your own text.
“then have you never sinned? Do you keep the Law 100% to be righteous?
Now, only Christianity can answer: “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement,
through faith in his blood.”
but christians sin everyday and wash themselves in blood. christians get away with sin and breaking the laws of torah. it makes no sense that human sacrificial ritual has made one closer to god. yhwh is a god who sends rituals and laws so that you become closer to him. you never showed anywhere where yhwh’ justice is made for his own death. you never showed this. you never showed where in tanakh invisible being called yhwh made punishment for punishing himself.
Thank you, again new technical reasons preclude a post except from my laptop.
The Law is not the Covenant, the Covenant administers the Law this is plain not only from Jer. 31 but also from Deut. 29. Why else the need for a distinctly new covenant, as opposed to a renewal of the old? The distinction is not mine, other Christian writers observe it.
As to the Temple and other records, the Sifre Yuchsim of Habaiah, Koz and Barzillai’s were bogus (Ez. 2.62, Neh. 7.63) unlike other priests, they were put out. An authoritative written record, such as Ezra’s crystal clear pedigree was needed (Ez. 7.1-5).
It is absolutely certain huge swathes of vital documents with vital genealogical data were burned in AD 70. Matthew and Luke appeal to their readers’ ability to test their claims (Lk. 1.1-4, Mt. 1.17, tho’ there are depths to this, these difficulties accentuate not lessen the appeal). If you wish to prove a Messianic pedigree now, who will be foolish enough to believe your great, great, great grandfather’s fond pretensions?
Jim’s characteristic lengthy, if slightly testy reply to my terse comment does warrant a proper response, though it’s massively off topic here. Is there a better venue?
Charles Soper There was nationally accepted Davidic pedigree in Babylon long after the destruction. Abarbenel’s family was known to be of Davidic lineage in Spain and Italy as recently as a few centuries ago. It would not be difficult to establish sober testimony to connect someone today to one of those families. Either way, anyone’s great grandfather’s fond pretensions would be more trustworthy than the desperate ramblings of Matthew and Luke. Those two authors clearly showed their affinity to falsehood in the way they misquote and misapply God’s word as Jim has demonstrated. This page is as good as any to try to respond to Jim.
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Abarbanel is a good case in point – disputed from lack of proof!
Jim’s argument is not with Matthew, Luke or for that matter with Hebrews, it’s with LXX, and the precedent the Tenach itself has already set for use of its own text.
Did the author of 1 Chronicles 16 in v. 10-13 misuse, wrench and twist Psalm 105 in citing it inaccurately, or in misquoting Ps 96 and the end of Ps. 106?
When was Psalm 60.8 secretly wrenched to support Palestinian nationalism from the authentic text on Ps. 108.9? You need to do more than show what appears a miscitation with apparent intent to prove your case, especially when there is systematic neglect of texts that disprove your own position.
charles soper lack of proof is only when you first decide that the testimony is invalid – without any basis just because you don’t want to believe it. Your desperate attempts to compare the criminal activity of Matthew and Luke to the pleasant ways of the Tanach only serve to underscore the emptiness of your position.
1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >
Jim, you claim the real problem is with NT not the Jewish LXX.
Spot the difference:
θυσιαν και προσφοραν ουκ ηθελησας σωμα δε κατηρτισω μοι (LXX Ps.40.6)
θυσιαν και προσφοραν ουκ ηθελησας σωμα δε κατηρτισω μοι (Heb.10.5)
Will you now admit you’re wrong? Somehow I doubt it.
The removal of the husband phrase in Jer.31 is minor, may be comment or interpolation of another quote, (though some commentators have other explanations per Kimchi). There are clear descriptions of God’s ongoing faithfulness to unbelieving Israel (Rom.11.28). Happy to discuss, better page sought.
What testimony? In Abarbanel’s case – there isn’t any, except unreliable and contested oral tradition?
What difference is there between Jim’s case against the NT on one hand and the hypothetical case against the Tenach for ‘misciting’ its own text or the LXX for ‘mistranslating’ and ‘interpolating’ the word ‘body’ into Psalm 40.6 for example, or ‘wrenching’ Ps.108.9 on the other!
It is not a great evil we all need to avoid to use different weights and measures (Deut.25.13) is it not?
By the way, why can I never respond to your replies without personally editing the link, whilst my own replies still have a reply link posted below them? This doesn’t help someone who wants to follow the thread of the conversation.
charles soper Who contests the oral testimony of Abarbanel’s pedigree?
And the difference between Matthew and Tanach is very simple. “Criminal” is when you deceive someone – when they found out that they were told misinformation they feel they were wronged. No one feels having been wronged when Chronicles misquotes the Psalms. Many people feel wronged , and deeply wronged, when they find out that Matthew and Luke misquoted the Tanach. The weights are equal, your glasses are not. And I have very limited control as to how “wordpress” posts the comments, I apologize for any inconvenience but there is nothing I can do to help. Long ago I adjusted the settings to allow all comments and your comments are especially welcome and appreciated. So thank you for your comments – they are always welcome.
1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >
What testimony? In Abarbanel’s case – there isn’t any, except unreliable and contested oral tradition?
What difference is there between Jim’s case against the NT on one hand and the hypothetical case against the Tenach for ‘misciting’ its own text or the LXX for ‘mistranslating’ and ‘interpolating’ the word ‘body’ into Psalm 40.6 for example, or ‘wrenching’ Ps.108.9 on the other!
It is not a great evil we all need to avoid to use different weights and measures (Deut.25.13)?
By the way, why can I never respond to your replies without personally editing the link, whilst my own replies still have a reply link posted below them? This doesn’t help someone who wants to follow the thread of the conversation.
Moreover, the book of Hebrews teaches that Jesus died “once for all” so that by the indwelling of his spirit we would walk in complete obedience, negating the need for another sacrifice. That is the entire gospel in a nutshell.
I don’t know any perfect Christians. Every one of them admits they “sin every day”. The gospel doesn’t deliver on its promise. The rest of the debate is peripheral. That is the bottom line. The New Covenant has not come yet. End of story.
one thing i don’t get fred is that they say with passion “we all break the law of god”
but hold on a second, you tell yourself at the same time with great joy that “we are free from divine consequences and that unseen and invisible god punished himself for all future sins”
this leaves one scratching his head and ask , “what the hell is going on here? ”
what does such thinking do to the psyche?
where is this belief that invisible and unseen god said that he would die as sacrifice FOR the humans?
i ask God to forgive me for asking such thing about Him .
I agree with you mr.heathcliff. As far as i know, there is NO, not one verse in the Christian Scriptures that says “GOD died as sacrifice for the humans.”
I know its been a long time, but I was not aware of this question. John chapter one begins “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God”. And that the “word was made flesh and dwelt among us”. This is the #1 apologetic of Christianity. along with John 3:16. Christian doctrine is clear and repeated that Jesus was “God incarnate” and that only because of his supposed deity can his blood atone for human sin.Otherwise, it would be a mere human sacrifice.The Council of Nicea solved the ‘How can we believe a human sacrifice can atone?” problem, with “This was not a human sacrifice, but a divine one, for only the divine son of God, God in the flesh, have the atoning power “foreshadowed” in the Old Testament”.
Christians never proclaim that the invisible and unseen God was sacrificed for humans. They claim the see-able and observable incarnation of God as Jesus can and did atone through his blood sacrifice. This, of course, is held as a “mystery”, because on one hand,they would admit that human blood cannot atone for anything, but on the other hand, God cannot die. So the final word is that God “mysteriously” took on human form for the SOLE PURPOSE of dying and shedding blood. And that while deity did not really die, the human sacrifice was more than human.
In other words, the so-called deity of christ was a theological and apologetic necessity.
Moreover, because the god-man Jesus could only be sacrificed once, there became the necessity to create a situation where Jews no longer needed further sacrifices (especially now that the temple was gone) while at the same time absolutely needing sacrificial atonement. This is where the book of Hebrews, and the apologetic of “animal sacrifices never made anyone literally perfect, but Jesus’ spirit can and does”, comes into play.
If the sacrifice of Jesus did not accomplish any more than animal sacrifices did, then what was the point of Christianity now that Jesus was gone? Answer: Jesus’ spirit changes you from a sinner needing a new sacrifice every yom kippur to a non-sinning saint no longer ever needing another sacrifice.Simne have argued that this is not what Hebrews teaches. To them I ask, if this is not the teaching of Hebrews then how was the sacrifice of Jesus superior to that of bulls and goats? Could Jews have not just said, “The temple is destroyed, so we’ll just consider the last Yom Kippur to be permanent, so long as you ‘believe in and accept’ the sacrifice?” Of course they would never say such a thing because that runs counter to torah. But then again, so does a human/man-god sacrifice.
Hi, Fred. I’m glad you read the NT as much as i do. Yes, NT negates the need for another sacrifice but it means THE sacrifice for our justice before God’s judgment. but Romans 12:1 says, “… to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” which means we must continue to die to the world but live to God on a daily basis. Indwelling of the Spirit does not garantee our perfect life. It is the process of sanctification. Galatians 5:16 says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” NOtice it says “WALK” by the Spirit. It is not “indwelling of the spirit” but “walking by listening to the voice of the Spirit” makes us walk in obedience. Isn’t Isaiah 30:21 saying too- ” And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” If the indwelling of Spirit automatically makes us walk in complete obedience, it is not Spirit. it is medicine that programs us like a robot.
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Forgive me rabbi, but of late I have been having some thoughts, and this post has spoken to those thoughts somewhat. What you are essentially stating in this post is that Jeremiah 31 applies only to the people of Israel.Forgive me for asking, but where does this leave the rest of humanity who G-d had dealt with vis Adam, and Noah, ie non Jews?
Seems to me that you can read the Torah cover to cover, and the non Jews are barely a subject?
I have no problem with seeing Jeremiah as referring to a unique”new” /new covenant between G-d and Israel, but as I see it, the fruit of this covenant is to be that G-d is accessible to Jew and gentile, where the heart of humanity is a heart of flesh. (the idea being that by this time, the nations themselves will have abandoned their idols.) Will it be that when Moshiach comes, that he relates to Jew and gentile with equal measure? From the plain sense of the Torah (from a halachic reading,) this does not appear so.
How can G-d redeem via a law that does not see all men as essentially equal? Not to say that Torah promotes inequality, but merely that there is a stratification of role that places us on different tiers vis how we relate to commandments.
I mean to say, A Jew is commanded to love the lord with all his might and soul. A gentile’s obligations in the commands only deals with commands of Justice, IE the seven laws. How is the rest of humanity meant to relate to G-d with the sense of reverence that the Jewish people have towards him, if they have no basis on which to relate to the unique Israelite covenant relationship?
No need for forgiveness – your comment is honest and does not offend.
The prophecies of the Messianic age encompass all mankind (one example out of many – Zephaniah 3:9) but still, Israel is called to be priests to the world (Isaiah 61:6). There is a stratification of roles as there is a stratification of roles within the nation of Israel between priests, Levites and Israelites.
The Gentile does not have the particular covenantal relationship of the Jew but he/she is still called to find themselves in the God who created them by virtue of Him having created them and sustaining that life (see Daniel 5:23). This is a tremendous closeness that should never be underestimated. Many of the Psalms focus on thankfulness to God for creation itself – in a way that is relevant to Jew and Gentile. This would be more than enough – this is all Abraham had to go with – and he found this cause enough to love God to a degree that no one before or since has achieved. But in addition you have the blessing of being allowed to study the covenantal relationship of Israel and absorb the lessons that are relevant to you. Focus on your blessings.
Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,
My apologies for butting in. I have a few questions on your reply to Concerned Reader as follows:
1. When is Israel able to carry out its priestly role to the world ? Will this only be realised during the era of Israel’s redemption /coming of the Messiah?
2. How does Israel carry out its priestly role to the world? Is it through active (teaching) or passive witnessing (carrying out the requirements of the covenant relationship)?
3. Does having no covenantal relationship means the relationship is at a lower level or no relationship with G-d at all ? Daniel 5:23 is a good reminder of our mortality and our need to be thankful for the gift of life-but in my opinion it is not enough to establish closeness with G-d
4. You mentioned about studying the covenant relationship and absorbing lessons that are relevant from that relationship.To my understanding this relationship is established by G-d’s act of redeeming Israel from Egypt and establishing a covenant relationship with her at Sinai. How can a non Jew relate to that?
5. Apologies if this question is directly unrelated to your comment .According to Isaiah 60:2, there is a thick darkness over the peoples. Does this thick darkness refers to the nations being unaware about G-d’s sovereignty? If this is so , do you think this is accurate , given the level of awareness of G-d and His acts in the world today?
You mentioned of stratification of roles within the Israelite community and its comparison to Israel and the world. I see a vast difference between the two ,hence my questions above .Do correct me if I am wrong.
Again ,apologies if these questions is distracting from the main conversation here.
Sharon S No need to apologize your questions are honest, thought-provoking and welcome. – I’ll take the liberty of copying and pasting your questions and put my answers in between your words: You asked 1. When is Israel able to carry out its priestly role to the world ? Will this only be realised during the era of Israel’s redemption /coming of the Messiah? and then you asked 2. How does Israel carry out its priestly role to the world? Is it through active (teaching) or passive witnessing (carrying out the requirements of the covenant relationship)? My response: The aspect of our teaching the world by carrying our message is something we have been doing (not as well as we should be doing but still – we have been carrying the message). The aspect of actively teaching is something we need to develop – questions and challenges from people like you will force us to accept that role more quickly You ask: 3. Does having no covenantal relationship means the relationship is at a lower level or no relationship with G-d at all ? Daniel 5:23 is a good reminder of our mortality and our need to be thankful for the gift of life-but in my opinion it is not enough to establish closeness with G-d My response: Abraham loved God before any covenantal relationship – he found God’s grace in the gift of existence cause enough for establishing closeness to God. If someone doesn’t see that gift as enough of a foundation for a deep relationship – a covenant won’t do much more. You ask: 4. You mentioned about studying the covenant relationship and absorbing lessons that are relevant from that relationship.To my understanding this relationship is established by G-d’s act of redeeming Israel from Egypt and establishing a covenant relationship with her at Sinai. How can a non Jew relate to that? My response: By learning that God is active in this world, that He stands for justice, kindness morality and truth. That He is close to those who call upon Him in sincerity and who hope to Him. These truths are universal even if they do not come to fruition as a national covenantal relationship You ask: 5. Apologies if this question is directly unrelated to your comment .According to Isaiah 60:2, there is a thick darkness over the peoples. Does this thick darkness refers to the nations being unaware about G-d’s sovereignty? If this is so , do you think this is accurate , given the level of awareness of G-d and His acts in the world today? My response: I think that the darkness is slowly being dispelled but it is still pretty dark – people are becoming more aware of God but there is a long way to go until people learn to relate to Him as their personal Father
You comment: You mentioned of stratification of roles within the Israelite community and its comparison to Israel and the world. I see a vast difference between the two ,hence my questions above .Do correct me if I am wrong. My response: There is a vast difference in that in Israel all are part of a national covenant while outside of Israel this covenant does not exist – but the concept of stratification of roles is similar. Bottom line – God established His truth in Israel but we could all learn that every iota of existence is a personal gift from God and could inspire and instigate love, awe and devotion. Enough love, awe and devotion to sustain an eternal relationship of closeness with God.
1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >
“If the sacrifice of Jesus did not accomplish any more than animal sacrifices did, then what was the point of Christianity now that Jesus was gone? Answer: Jesus’ spirit changes you from a sinner needing a new sacrifice every yom kippur to a non-sinning saint no longer ever needing another sacrifice.Simne have argued that this is not what Hebrews teaches. To them I ask, if this is not the teaching of Hebrews then how was the sacrifice of Jesus superior to that of bulls and goats? Could Jews have not just said, “The temple is destroyed, so we’ll just consider the last Yom Kippur to be permanent, so long as you ‘believe in and accept’ the sacrifice?” ”
Eleazar. its interesting that you say this, because in a way, when the rabbis stated that it is repentance, and not sacrifice that atones, this is exactly what they did. According to Acts it is hearing about the life work, ethics, death, and resurrection of Jesus that atones.
Hebrews deals with the Jesus dying issue theologically as opposed to wholistically it seems to me.
Now when they heard Peter’s words, they were cut to the heart. They asked Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ ” (Acts 2:37).
¶“38Peter answered them, ‘REPENT and be immersed every one of you. [Do this] in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39This promise is made to you, to your children, and to all who are far away; yes, as many as the Lord our God will call’” (Acts 2:38-39).
¶“40With many other words he testified, and exhorted them, to tell them, ‘Save yourselves from this twisted generation! 41Then those who were pleased to welcome Peter’s message were immersed. There were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:40-41).
See how it says repent and immerse in Jesus’ name for forgiveness? That sounds different than Hebrews, but sounds very similar to the dicta that repentance atones for sin.
If it seems weird that the life and good deeds of one man can bring eternal life via a substitutionary atonement, consider how weird it is that one man’s disobedience can bring death to all of his descendants, IE substitutionary punishment.
Why else did Achan’s children die?
Shall not the Judge of all the Earth do right?
“Hebrews deals with the Jesus dying issue theologically as opposed to wholistically it seems to me.”
And then you quoted something other than Hebrews in support of that theory. No doubt, the Christian bible has its own contradictions as it jumps from track to track in an attempt for a relevant, consistent and provable message. As you just illustrated, CR,one can quote this or that from various sections and texts, but as the existence of thousands of denominations shows, any particular take on a coherent message can be refuted using the very same book. That is why there are Arminians, Wesleyans and Calvinists. But no, Hebrews is clearly teaching that the so-called superiority of Jesus’ human sacrifice is based on the wholistic redemption of not only sins as acts of moral error , but of the nature from which sin arises ( flesh nature- Paul wrestles with this throughout his writings, culminating in Romans 8:1- “There is now no condemnation for those who are IN christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit”). Otherwise, being a Christian has no practical meaning and “accepting Jesus” is not necessary to be saved by Jesus.
The “entering wedge” ( to use the sales terms) theme of Christianity is the one we hear on Christmas day: “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”- tidings of comfort and joy!. But how does a divine man-god achieve this that is not what the religion actually teaches, otherwise one would be “saved” without becoming a Christian, and the world would be a much different place. The next step is “Jesus takes away the sins only of those who believe in and accept him and his blood atonement”. But the disgusted Jew sees only a hybrid Judeo/pagan theory of human sacrifice and wonders why he should believe a word of this. as suggested above, Paul now needs to raise the bar, because at this point there is still no reason for the anyone to believe that repentance and Jesus is any better than repentance and offerings. Enter: Romans, Galatians and the epistle to the Hebrews.
Hebrews claims that Judaism did not have the answer to the problem of sin as a meta problem. (thus, God eliminated it after it reached Daniel’s 490 year limit without achieving the goal of eliminating sin), whereas Christianity could do what Judaism could not through the sacrificial atonement of a man-god who could change your very nature by partaking of his spirit. Paul declares that Judaism had its chance at Tikkun Olam and failed. The reason for the failure was two-fold.
1- Jews did not understand that sin was simply man doing what man does after *the fall* because of a fallen nature from Adam that overtook any inclination to do good.That is why in spite of 1300 years of offerings, the Hebrew people and the world itself had not changed.
2- Only by being “in christ”, with the holy spirit now doing those works, can the world be repaired.According to Paul, the Jews missed the moschiac’s real purpose, which was Tikkun Olam through his blood offering and by partaking of the holy spirit by becoming “one with christ”. By accepting Jesus and the indwelling holy spirit, man’s nature would be changed and the effects of the fall would be erased. Hebrews was so serious about that it even hedged its bet by saying that anyone who claimed to be a Christian but continued to sin would go straight to a fiery hell.Why? Because Jesus could only be crucified once. If one could continue to sin and still be “saved”, then Jesus’s sacrifice was no different or better than the goats, bulls and grain offered at the temple. If being sorry and promising to try harder was an answer, then Jesus was also without purpose.
The fact that the message of Hebrews has not come to fruition has kept the church scrambling for two millennia to explain how some Christians are good people and many are not (even though among Christians they accuse each other of being “fake Christians” depending on what they believe). Paul went back and forth with himself about this in Romans chapters 5-8. And to this day, NOBODY has a water tight interpretation of what conclusion Paul actually came to, since even Romans 8:1, as it appears in the Textus receptus eliminates every single person from being “saved”. That is why many churches argue that Romans 8:1 as it appears in the Byzantine text/Textus Receptus is a scribal gloss and does not belong in the Christian bible. But the TR Romans 8:1 is 100% consistent with Hebrews. Is Hebrews a “scribal gloss” as well? Is 1st John3:6?
Romans 8:1-1 “[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6For to be carnally minded [is] death; but to be spiritually minded [is] life and peace.”
1John 3:6- “No one who remains in him commits sin, and no one who sins has seen him, neither has he known him.”
As you can see, CR, this is not merely theological, but a theology that results in a wholistic and nature-changing plan of personal salvation and universal Tikkun Olam by solving the problem of sin on a spiritual and meta narrative level.
The only problem? It doesn’t work. It never worked, regardless of any promises made by Paul, John and the Christian bible. But without that promise, the church offers nothing of any superior substance. So now it ignores the best promise of their own scriptures in favor of a personal salvation only that is summed up as “Believe in Jesus and try not to sin, but if you do, just ask forgiveness and you’ll be forgiven by God’s grace.” Tikkun Olam through Jesus? It’s kicked down the road, so no proof of that either.
The offers and advantages of Christianity are little different than what Judaism has always offered. The differences?
Christianity demands- in complete rejection and defiance of Torah- that you worship a human being and believe in human sacrifice and if you don’t you’ll burn in hell for all eternity..(give or take the ones who preach that being Christian will make you rich).
And then you quoted something other than Hebrews in support of that theory.
Knowing the gospels as I do, if one reads just one book, you are only going to get one microcasm of the whole religion.
If you read just Mark, you would likely have an adoptionist Christology.
I am no longer a Christian, but I’m well aware that if I only read John’s gospel, or Hebrews, that would be but one primitive Christian community’s view of him, and its not how a real Christian community would relate to him in an orthodox way.
Christian theology is so convoluted and contradictory precisely because there are contrasting portrayals of who Jesus was, what his nature was, etc, and the orthodox position is the constant struggle to vacillate between the two extremes.
If Jesus was as John’s gospel said he was, or as Hebrews said he was. then you couldn’t deny (as a believer within that Jesus community) that IF you followed Jesus’ ethic perfectly, you would not sin.
However, being that everyone is human, everyone messes up. So, even within those communities where Jesus was regarded as “better” or “divine,” the community deals with reality by interpreting out of the contradictions.
These contradictions serve as the source for a Christian’s belief in many things like a sin nature, purgatory, etc.. So, Jesus dies and he conquers that nature, but even Jesus was tempted. IE to a Christian, if even God can be tempted, you are oriented towards these questions in a totally different way.
“No doubt, the Christian bible has its own contradictions as it jumps from track to track in an attempt for a relevant, consistent and provable message. As you just illustrated, CR,one can quote this or that from various sections and texts, but as the existence of thousands of denominations shows, any particular take on a coherent message can be refuted using the very same book.”
I imagine Judaism must have dealt with contradictory issues close to this in arguments involving Sadducee’s and Pharisees, where one community lacked what was a fundamental belief in resurrection or the world to come in the other group for example.
Without unwritten or assumed components in Torah, you would likewise run into huge issues.
The presence or absence of those beliefs would completely alter how one understands G-d\s sense of justice, or the “omni” qualities we apply to God in the Torah. That interpretive tightrope is something that all faiths deal with. Its actually fortunate that Judaism didn’t have to deal with that fundamental issue anymore after the 2nd century, because Jewish and emerging Christian communities regarded these theological truths as solved or settled by fiat,because the other ideology was toast.
Think about that for a moment. Imagine if you just kept the commands without any assumption of a future world or reward. There are moments in Torah that if taken by themselves, it would make it seem that man could be more moral than the creator of the universe.
Even when we say God is our father, that notion has a lot of development behind it, and you might not get that by just reading the Torah.
As I said in the last post, even if you don’t believe in a substitution atonement, in more than one place, Torah lays on us a substitutionary punishment, or a punishment where we cannot fathom the reason.
Take when God wants to punish Israel after the calf! He literally says to Moses “hey, I’ll make a nation from you Moses,” and then Moses has to talk him down, explaining to God why that would be a terrible idea. Its only if we bring in later ponderous thoughts about an Olam haba where we could possibly theorize as to what the reasoning might be on G-d’s part for an episode like that.
In other words, we don’t read any books in a Vacuum. I understand completely where you are coming from on the book of Hebrews, but Christians in real life (as you know) would give a reading like I gave you.
The Church itself argued about the canonical status of Hebrews precisely because of issues like you mention.
Answering your comment, here: https://judaismresources.net/2011/03/27/jeremiah-31-teaches-that-christianity-is-not-the-new-covenant/#comment-44788 .
You continue to mischaracterize my argument, which I find interesting. I did not compare the NT to the LXX. I compared it to Tanach. Indeed, this whole argument has come about, because you asserted that the rabbis re-contextualized a verse by labelling it as the end of one chapter instead of the beginning of another chapter, and I responded by saying that the NT constantly violates the context of the NT and alters it beside. Twice now you have attempted to alter my argument. But, I think your comments are helpful, because they reveal the errors and inconsistency in your position.
It is apparent that you are using the Septuagint as an excuse for NT errors and misrepresentations. Consider this please, Charles. Let us imagine that the Septuagint differed from Tanach on some point that the NT did not. To which version would you adhere? I hardly believe you would adhere to the Septuagint over the NT. Indeed, you would castigate the rabbis, pronouncing them Hellenists all, and declare that they have lost the message of the Torah. Why then do you appeal to the authority of the Septuagint now? Only because it suits your purpose. Your recent declarations that “rabbinic Judaism” is a Hellenized faith, and the Church is the true continuity of Judaism needs no stronger refutation than this, that you prefer the Greek translation to the original.
This inconsistency is one that you inherited from the Church. It has saddled itself with the task of justifying the misrepresentations of Tanach in NT—not mere errors, but outright misrepresentations. This argument of yours, reaching back to the Septuagint, has been one of the primary arguments for defending the abuse of Isaiah 7:14 practiced by Matthew. So much argumentation over the word “almah” [young woman] revolves around the Septuagint. Going back to at least Augustine, the Church has tried to justify Matthew’s misrepresentation—the so-called virgin birth—by appealing to the Septuagint. Ignoring the context of the passage, ignoring the other mistranslations in the verse, the Church single-mindedly attempted to justify misrepresenting the prophet by appealing to the authority of the rabbis who translated the Septuagint. This has been justified in various ways, including the claim that the rabbis were gifted with prophecy.
But, how do they know that rabbis were right to alter “young woman” to “virgin”? They know, because their theological need dictates they accept the authority of these particular rabbis at this particular time. Matthew has stated that Jesus was born of a virgin and that this fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. This cannot be a mere scribal error on Matthew’s part. And, since the verse in Isaiah says nothing about a virgin, justification must be found somewhere. Thus, the conclusion precedes the argument. The rabbis that translated the Septuagint are considered authoritative only by the necessity of the Church. If the Church had not the need of the rabbis, the Church would have called them “sons of the devil,” “blind guides,” or Hellenists, as they do later rabbis. The acceptance of these rabbis is self-serving, granting them authority only so the Church might then borrow that authority.
Let me remind you again, that you argued that variation in Jewish dialects shows that the Jews have lost the message, that they have been Hellenized. How much more must this be true of the Church that relies upon the Greek Septuagint, the consequence of which is not mere error in citation without the alteration of meaning but a distortion of the text and the justification of that distortion?
Yet, the whole argument that the Church has put forward is a sham. It was not the rabbis that mistranslated Jeremiah 31 into the Greek or Psalm 40 or Isaiah 7:14. The 72 rabbis only translated the Five Books of Moses, nothing more. The Septuagint that you have referenced is not THE Septuagint; it is a later product of the Church. So, when you attempt to show the fidelity of Hebrews to the Septuagint, you do not show that Hebrews matches the rabbinic translation. You have only shown that Hebrews matches a later Christian “translation.” This is not particularly spectacular.
You have also attempted to show that the errors of Hebrews are unimportant, for instance the omission of the “husband phrase” of Jeremiah 31 in Hebrews 8:9. But, this is not a matter only of omission of the phrase but an alteration to one that means something quite different: “I disregarded you.” Your attempt to minimize it, but the altered meaning of that phrase cannot be minimized.
Imagine a man whose wife has been flirting with other men. He is hurt, and he separates from her. After a month, he sends a friend to speak to her. The message the man wishes to send is like this: “Let us come back together. I was terribly hurt by your behavior. I have always been faithful to you; why were you flirting with other men?” And imagine the friend changes the message to this: “I was terribly hurt by your behavior, and I want nothing more to do with you.” This is not a small change. It is not merely an omission. Neither is the alteration of Jeremiah 31, the message of which is the opposite of “I disregarded you.”
Therefore, I reiterate that your complaint about the rabbis labelling the verses differently than the Church is petty. The Church constantly violates the sense of scripture by re-contextualizing it. Moreover, it alters the scripture. Verses like Isaiah 7:14 are violated in both ways, and so the Church appealed to the authority of the rabbis in order to justify its own malfeasance. Yet, in reality, the rabbis did not translate that passage. They translated only the Five Books of Moses. When you tout the fidelity of the NT to the Septuagint, you are really only touting the fidelity of the NT to later Christian translators. Regardless, the argument is vain, because you only take the translation of the rabbis as authoritative to justify the Church. In any other context, you would accuse the rabbis of having been Hellenized and lost the thread of Torah, while you rely upon the Hellenic tongue to justify Christian misrepresentation of the Torah.
Jim, this is great!
Jim, where is your evidence that Christians translated or transformed LXX, other than your a priori preference for rabbinic error?
Most authorities claim it was much earlier.
‘The Qumrān scrolls have now proven that the Septuagint book of Samuel-Kings goes back to an old Palestinian text tradition that must be earlier than the 4th century BCE, and from the same source comes a short Hebrew rescension of Jeremiah that probably underlies the Greek.’
LXX was widely used in diaspora before Messiah, why would a Greek writer to Greek readers not allude to a universal Greek translation of the Tenach? To claim that is ‘Hellenism’ is rather farcical. Are we both guilty of Anglicism, because we write in English? Hellenism is doctrinal error, an aberration from Tenach, based on Greek philosophical assumptions, like the denial of the resurrection of the body, of angels, of a physical judgement, of a real Hell, and indeed of the Divine Sonship, whether expressed in Greek, Farsi or Hebrew.
The issue is when the NT quotes the LXX is that distortion?
You characteristically raise other threads, as to the Almah/Betulah question in Isa.7, we have tackled this before, Almah can and does sometimes mean virgin and Betulah can and does sometimes mean a recently married wife, though we all agree the latter is more explicit in reference to virginity, the former less plain. This is not distortion, not by the very different standards of the Talmud as you know well, it’s midrash.
You’re also mistaken to claim I prefer LXX to Tenach, that too, as you know, is polemic straw, but to attack the NT, without first addressing the widespread, pre-Messianic Jewish approval of LXX first is inconsistent and unwise. The Tenach itself also frequently quotes its own passages freely and modifies both their words and sense, that is the prerogative of an inspired text, a few examples of which I’ve given.
I am sorry, I won’t feel obliged to chase down your reply, if it reiterates the same argument.
I do not have much time today to answer you, so let me just quote you:
“Arabic accented Sephardi speakers are closer to original Hebrew pronounciation than European-rooted Ashkenazis, who can’t capture the difference between a sin and a samekh, a caph or a qeph, a tau or a teyth, indeed these distinctions can’t be captured by Latin transliterations.
So the old resonances of a blood sacrifice for propitiation, the necessity of the sacrifice of the firstborn, the just vengeance implicit in redemption, the inbred impurity of every human soul seem strange and dissonant to the Hellenised rabbinic ear, but in perfect harmony with the heart of the books of Torah.” (https://judaismresources.net/2018/11/21/resonance/#comment-43408)
“LXX was widely used in diaspora before Messiah, why would a Greek writer to Greek readers not allude to a universal Greek translation of the Tenach? To claim that is ‘Hellenism’ is rather farcical. Are we both guilty of Anglicism, because we write in English? Hellenism is doctrinal error, an aberration from Tenach, based on Greek philosophical assumptions, like the denial of the resurrection of the body, of angels, of a physical judgement, of a real Hell, and indeed of the Divine Sonship, whether expressed in Greek, Farsi or Hebrew.”
Charles, your statement that the Greek Septuagint was widely approved and used before the advent of Jesus (I have to assume that is whom you mean when you write “Messiah”) is historically inaccurate.
In fact, the Septuagint was used by wealthy, Hellenized Jews, the only ones, for the most part, who spoke Greek. The Jewish masses as well as the learned rabbis spoke Aramaic and Hebrew and thus would have had no use for the Greek rendering, studying the Tanach in its original language instead.
The overwhelming majority of Jews of Jesus’s time also spoke Aramaic and Hebrew, not Greek. The fact that the authors of the Christian scriptures had to refer to the Septuagint instead of the Hebrew original is a sign that they were not well-versed Torah scholars.
A famous example of a Hellenized Jew who relied on the Septuagint is Philo of Alexandria.
Quite right. Both Josephus and Philo refer to LXX approvingly. Both were indeed Greek speaking and somewhat Hellenized but not Christian, both indicate amongst Greek-speaking Jews, LXX was widely regarded as authoritative in Greek. A Greek text to Greek readers would be expected to allude to it. It would have been and remains churlish to dispute LXX quotes in the NT.
Where LXX interprets rather than just translates Tenach (always a difficult distinction) there is indeed ground for caution, the Tenach is always the root text. As to Aramaic and the Peshitta the story is more convoluted and even more disputed.
No contradiction from what was written before in the 2 quotes, Jim, think about it carefully in the light of the above, but it does reflect a certain rigidity of conception.
The real irony of course is that Hebrew speakers (and for that matter Arabic ones) have embraced such Hellenic concepts as an aversion to physical resurrection, Hell, and the eternal Son of God.
charles soper How good that you are here to tell us about the “real irony” – and while you are at it, you can also tell us what is “Hellenic” and what is “Hebrew”
1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >
I understand why introducing Isaiah 7:14 might seem to be the introduction of a new topic. However, I did not introduce it to begin anew an argument regarding the definitions of “almah” and “betulah.” I am not ‘shifting gears,’ as they say. I bring up the passage in order to discuss the Church’s treatment of the Septuagint, and how it has used the Septuagint to justify the misrepresentations of Tanach.
The Church has not been unaware of the frequent deviations from Tanach in the NT. Some passages were misrepresented by removing them from their context, which allowed the author to make them appear to mean something other than the actual meaning. It allowed the authors of the NT to coöpt the “Old Testament.” As an example, I referenced Romans 10, which Paul truncates and re-contextualizes through interpretations to force his own theology onto the Torah, to substitute his own teachings for that of the Almighty. The Church justified these misrepresentations by allegorizing scripture, by turning every verse into a possible type or shadow, a possible hint to Jesus. Once one accepts that Jesus is to be found in the Law and Prophets, then one is able to find him anywhere, provided one makes finding Jesus the purpose of reading the “Old Testament” and provided one is willing to ignore the context of any passage.
Other deviations come through mistranslations of passages. I cited as example two passages in Hebrews, one where the psalmist’s “my ears you have opened” is changed to “a body you have prepared for me” and one where Jeremiah’s “I was a husband to them” was changed to “I disregarded them.” To justify these mistranslations, the Church has relied upon the authority of the Septuagint. Yes, deviations like this exist, the Church says, but they exist in a translation by the rabbis which must be accepted as a legitimate translation and, therefore, these deviations do not misrepresent Tanach but get at something deeper, something even the rabbis knew long before the time of Jesus.
It is in this context that I bring up Isaiah 7:14. Matthew’s treatment of Isaiah 7:14 relies upon both mistranslation and de-contextualization in order to make the verse appear to relate to the Messiah and apply it to Jesus. But it is not for this reason alone that I bring Isaiah 7:14 into the conversation. It is the Church’s justification for the misrepresentation of Isaiah 7:14 that is relevant to the conversation.
I misremembered slightly Augustine’s treatment of the Septuagint. He does not discuss it in relation to Isaiah 7:14. The argument is actually older, going back to the second century. It is Irenaeus that discusses Isaiah 7:14 and the Septuagint. Irenaeus objects to the translations of Isaiah 7:14 by Theodotion and Aquila, both of whom translate “almah” as “young woman,” and to the Ebionites who not only agreed that Isaiah 7:14 had nothing to do with a virgin birth but also taught that Jesus was the son of Joseph. His objection relies in part upon the Septuagint:
“But it was interpreted into Greek by the Jews themselves, much before the period of the Lord’s advent, that there might remain no suspicion that perchance the Jews, complying with our humour, did put this interpretation upon these words. They indeed, had they been cognizant of our future existence, and that we should use these proofs from our scriptures, would themselves never have hesitated to burn their own scriptures, which do declare that all other nations partake of [eternal] life, and show that they who boast themselves as being the house of Jacob and the people of Israel, are disinherited from the grace of God.” (Against Heretics, Book III, Ch. 21. Brackets in the translation by Rev. W. H. Rambaut)
He goes on to write that the Septuagint was divinely inspired, because the miraculous nature of the translation. With the 72 sages being separated, it could only be a miracle that they would produce the same translation, yet they did. This was such a powerful miracle, he writes, that even the non-Jews acknowledged that this was a divine interpretation.
The argument relies mainly on two different points. One is the antiquity of the translation. Because the translation of the word “almah” as “virgin” is supposed to have preceded the advent of Christianity, then it is also supposed to gain legitimacy. That the Septuagint was published by Jewish authorities undermines the Jewish translation of “almah” as “young woman.” The other point is apparently stronger, that the Septuagint was a product of divine action. The validity of the translation is thought to be beyond doubt due to its miraculous nature.
While I acknowledge that the stronger argument is not your argument, I shall show first why it is incorrect, and then I shall show the errors with the weaker argument.
The strength of the argument from miracle is obvious. It makes the Septuagint into a prophetic work itself, indeed even another set of scriptures. Regarding the translators of the Septuagint, Augustine writes, “…we ought to believe that the prophetic gift is with them” (The City of God, Book XVIII, chapter 43). He goes on to say that they were moved by the same spirit that moved the prophets, so that wherever they differ with what is written in the prophets was given by the same spirit of God: “Wherefore, even if anything is found in the original Hebrew in a different form from that in which these men have expressed it, I think we must give way to the dispensation of Providence which used these men to bring it about, that books which the Jewish race were unwilling, either from religious scruple or from jealousy, to make known to other nations, were, with the assistance of the power of King Ptolemy, made known so long beforehand to the nations which in the future were to believe in the Lord” (On Christian Doctrine, Book II, Chapter 15). He draws further argument from the employment of the Septuagint by the authors of the NT: “For which reason I also, according to my capacity, following the footsteps of the apostles, who themselves have quoted prophetic testimonies from both, that is, from the Hebrew and the Septuagint, have thought that both should be used as authoritative, since both are one, and divine” (The City of God, Book XVIII, chapter 43). So, the Septuagint is, according to Augustine, a divinely authored book on par with the Hebrew.
This argument is bad from beginning to end. The most obvious problem is that the Septuagint was only of the Five Books of Moses. The article you cited indicated that, though you implied otherwise. Other translations existed, but they were not all the work of the 72 rabbis. This means that the strong argument is an illusion. The translations of Nach do not have the attestation of miraculous agreement. They are not a product of prophecy. The Greek translations of the Prophets and Writings, then, have not the authority of the originals and any deviation therefrom is to be rejected.
Moreover, in the time of Augustine, it was already known that the Septuagint contained errors, not only errors but signs of willful tampering. He writes that the Septuagint misrecords the ages of certain people in one of the genealogies of Genesis. Some seem to be nothing more nefarious than copyist’s errors “[b]ut in those cases in which there is a methodical resemblance in the falsification, so that uniformly the one version allots to the period before a son and successor is born 100 years more than the other, and to the period subsequent 100 years more than the other, and to the period subsequent 100 years less, and vice versa, so that the totals might agree—and this holds of the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and seventh generations—in these cases error seems to have, if we may say so, a certain kind of constancy, and savours not of accident, but of design” (The City of God, Book XV, chapter 13). He goes on to attribute the error to the first copyist of Ptolemy’s Septuagint, but as far as I can tell, the timing of the introduction of the error is only speculation on his part. However, it does not matter at what point the error was introduced. What does matter is that the Septuagint was already a problematic text. The deviations from Tanach could not all be attributed to divine inspiration.
So, then, how will one know if a deviation from Tanach is later prophecy or not? The answer will be, like so much Christian interpretation, if it can be made to support Christian doctrine, it is prophecy, and if not, not. That is to say, the Church has created a false context of scripture, Jesus, and reads everything through that context. If the Septuagint can be made to fit Christian doctrine, then it will be granted legitimacy.
This can be seen in Augustine’s treatment of an error in Jonah. In the “Septuagint,” Jonah warns the Nineveh that the city will be destroyed in three days rather than the 40 that appear in the Hebrew original. One would suspect this of being a mere error of the copyist and not of any significance. Augustine, however, sees the prophetic hand at work. He gives an allegorical reading which makes use of the 40 in the original and the 3 in the badly transcribed translation. In his reading, the Gentile Church is signified by Nineveh (having repented and been forgiven like Nineveh), while the 3 and the 40 relate to Jesus in two different way. The 3 of the bad copy relates to the three days of Jesus in the tomb, while the 40 relates to the 40 days Jesus taught the disciples after his death. In his opinion, then, the 3 is inspired by the holy spirit, prophecy impressed upon the rabbis that translated the Septuagint. (City of God, Book XVIII, chapter 44).
This allegorical interpretation is more than a little far-fetched. In light of the fact that the “Septuagint” of his day already had errors in it, as noted by Augustine, himself—errors regarding numbers even—it is not reasonable to ascribe both the 40 and the 3 to the spirit of God, two separate acts of prophecy. Even if the 72 rabbis had translated Jonah, which they did not, Augustine has already admitted both accidental and purposeful error have crept into that work. Moreover, the second “prophecy” is entirely useless. The three days of Jesus in the grave do not need a corresponding prophecy from the 72 rabbis. For those who wish to read a reference to Jesus in the text, the three days in the belly of a fish already cover that. A second three is not needed. Indeed, Jesus is supposed to have drawn a parallel between Jonah’s three days in the whale and Jesus’ three days in the earth in Matthew 12:40. No further prophecy was needed, then. The whole argument is rather absurd.
However absurd the argument is, it was necessary for Augustine to make it in order to justify the NT’s misrepresentations of Tanach. These would no longer appear to be misrepresentations if they were the product of the holy spirit. The differences between Tanach and the Greek translations would be reconciled with a doctrine that essentially created a whole new set of scriptures of equal validity to Tanach. (I do not mean to imply that Augustine originated this argument.) But the argument was not well-founded.
The weaker argument is that which argues that, because the Septuagint preceded the advent of Christianity, the NT’s misrepresentations of Tanach are not really misrepresentations at all. This argument relies upon the wide-spread acceptance of the Septuagint as a legitimate translation before the time of Jesus. And a further implication is that the Jews are not raising legitimate objections to the Septuagint, because those objections only arise after the advent of Christianity, at which point they objected, not because of flaws in the translation but due to their rejection of Jesus. Otherwise, they would have already objected.
However, as the article to which you referred us showed, there was no Septuagint in the sense that Christians mean at the advent of Christianity. That is to say, there was no one translation of Tanach, referred to as a body as “the Septuagint.” What did exist was the original Septuagint of the Five Books of Moses and a whole bunch of other translations into Greek done by different peoples at different times and of varying qualities. As you yourself point out, the Jeremiah translation is based on an altered copy of Jeremiah, not on the original book itself. It is a translation of a recension.
This presents a huge problem for the NT and the Church. One must ask, did the NT authors use the Greek translations with the knowledge that they distorted the originals? Did they embrace those distortions, because they were able to make use of them? Why not translate the passages themselves to avoid propagating error? Were they unable? Or, were they just ignorant of the alterations? Did they have so little knowledge of the actual Prophets that they did not realize that the message had been altered? Either way, through malice or ignorance, they misrepresented Tanach. This cannot be justified by saying that the misrepresentation preëxisted the NT. The NT is only perpetuating the distortions. (All this assumes that the NT does rely upon those translations, which has not been established.)
You have tried to paper over these distortions, but in so doing, you have revealed them to be just that: distortions. And they are criminal distortions at that. Regarding the alteration of “I was a husband to them” to “I have disregarded them,” you have appealed to another NT book in order to say that “I have disregarded them” does not mean what it appears to mean. But, in fact it does, which is why you have to go to another book, Paul’s letter to the Romans, to find a passage that would seem to undo the damage done in Hebrews. Irenaeus and Augustine, they would just say that such a distortion was a later revelation to the rabbis. They would be wrong, of course, and in so doing, they would only admit what you have only admitted implicitly, that the words in Hebrews violate what is written in Jeremiah. Distortions like this one can only contribute to Irenaeus’ Jew-hating sentiments that the Jewish people are willing to destroy their own texts in order to hide the truth. Worse, these distortions have been codified into the New Testament.
Irenaeus almost cannot be blamed for his maligning comments regarding the Jews. The misrepresentations of Tanach that appear all over the NT create a tension for the Christian. He must face the contradictions between what appears in Tanach and what appears in the NT. How is he to reconcile himself with the fact that the Jews—those who know the Hebrew—will say that “almah” does not mean “virgin,” while Matthew puts “virgin” into the passage? Because he already believes that Matthew is true, he must accept that the Jews are either willing to lie about the meaning of the word in order to avoid the Christological reading or that they are blind, a veil drawn over their hearts, that they are “disregarded by God.” Or both.
He could, of course, deliver himself from this dilemma by paying attention to the context of the passage. The baby of Isaiah 7 was to be born around 600 years before Jesus. But here, the Church has done itself a great disservice. It has imposed a context on every passage of Tanach. The rule of the Church is: if it can be made to sound like Jesus, it is. The Church violates the context of scripture at every turn.
And, sadly, the Church often acknowledges this, yet does it anyway. A notion that many Christians put forward is that of dual fulfillment of prophecy. Yes, they will admit, Isaiah 7:14 applies to a child born at the time of Isaiah, but a second fulfillment happens in Jesus. This is an implicit acknowledgement that the context has nothing to do with Jesus, even that it has nothing to do with the Messiah. But, in order to maintain their faith, they fashion for themselves a new context and superimpose it upon the text. It is a form of doublespeak.
This doublespeak has the Christian attempting to reconcile Paul’s distortions of Tanach with the Tanach itself. He must attempt to hold two contradictory ideas in his head at all times. Moses says the Torah is good and keeping it is a blessing. Paul says that the law is a curse, that the blessing is a mirage (since no one can keep the law). He quotes the very passage wherein Moses says the Torah is accessible to support the idea that it is inaccessible, truncating it and interpolating his own ideas onto the text, ideas that violate both the immediate context and the general context of Torah. This doublespeak has the Christian attempting to argue from a verse in which it is stated that God is One, that He is three, even as the same book from which he argues emphasizes that none are beside Him, forcing the Christian to try to hold the two contradictory viewpoints in his mind at the same time.
It is this doublespeak that leads Irenaeus and Augustine to wrongly claim that a new message could be imposed on the Torah by a second prophecy given to the 72 translators. The same doublespeak leads the modern Christian to appeal to the authority of various Greek translations as one authoritative “Septuagint,” when it is neither one nor authoritative, in order to justify for himself the distortions of Tanach that appear in the NT.
The necessity for doublespeak comes from the fact that Christianity affirms that the Torah is true. But, since Christianity denies basic tenets of the Torah, then the Torah must be reinterpreted. It must be re-contextualized. It must be allegorized. It must be denied and affirmed at the same time.
And to justify this doublespeak, one must deny the testimony of God’s witnesses. One must hold the contradiction in his mind that God appointed the Jews to be His witnesses and that their testimony is invalid. One must say, as Paul does, that they have a veil over their hearts. Or one must say that they are liars, even willing to destroy their own books, the way Irenaeus does. Or one must say that they are Hellenists. One must justify the constant de- and re- contextualization of Tanach that appears in the NT and accuse the rabbis of re-contextualizing a verse by labelling it differently than the Church. He must strain at gnats while swallowing whole camels.
[“The City of God,” translated by Marcus Dods and “On Christian Doctrine” translated by J. F. Shaw.]
You claim above that the Christian reading of Isaiah 7:14 is a midrash. (https://judaismresources.net/2011/03/27/jeremiah-31-teaches-that-christianity-is-not-the-new-covenant/#comment-45158)
I hardly know what to say. This is—wow!
First, after all your going on about the Hellenized rabbis, you borrow their interpretive methods to support your theology? Okay, so you do not use “midrash” properly. Still, you believe that the traditions of the rabbis are valid? Excuse me. Let me be more precise: you think the traditions of the rabbis are valid when it suits your purposes. Nevertheless—
One thing your comment illustrates is the inconsistency of Christian rules of interpretation. If it suits the Church, then it is correct, and if not, not. That is all there is to it. It is a game of “heads I win, tails you lose,” which your comment demonstrates most clearly.
So, if it means that you can force Jesus into a passage, then you will accept Midrash. Otherwise, it is sola scriptura for you.
But your comment also illustrates most clearly why Christian doctrine must be rejected: it is all a matter of reading one’s belief into things. By calling the Christian reading midrashic, you admit that the plain reading of the prophecy has nothing to do with Jesus. Jesus only fulfilled it if one chooses to see it that way. But the text does not mean refer to Jesus if one reads it plainly. A plain reading renders that it has nothing to do with Jesus…
Which makes your (incorrect) argument about “almah” meaning “virgin” (only less clearly than “betulah”) a pile of nonsense. If “almah” meant “virgin” in the literal reading, then another virgin must have been pregnant at the time of King Ahaz. If not, then your midrashic reading disappears into the ether.
And I must ask—though not unkindly meant—how many of your “fulfillments” of prophecy will evaporate when they are revealed to be only “midrash”? When all you can say is that you have read Jesus into hundreds of passages, rather than that hundreds of passages in Tanach can only refer to Jesus, your religion will evaporate. One by one, it will be shown that Jesus only fulfills this or that prophecy in a non-literal “midrashic” sense by ignoring the context and accepting that it can be read to be about Jesus only if one assumes first that each passage refers to him.
All you can say about Isaiah 7:14 then is that, yes, it refers to a child (probably) not born of a virgin. But, you also claim/believe/assert that it also refers to Jesus, because… because…
How many other prophecies that Jesus is to have fulfilled are “midrash”? Hosea 11:1? Psalm 41:9? Jeremiah 31:15? Did Jesus literally fulfill anything? Or is it all just “midrash”? Is it all just reading the Christian faith into the text wherever one might? Indeed it is. Wherever a Christian can find a “hint,” a “type,” or a “shadow”—all is Jesus. Whatever suits his need: all is Jesus.
And so, what did he fulfill literally?
All those prophecies that support the worship of Jesus vanish in the light of Torah. They are only the forced readings of the Church, justified by the word “midrash,” a thing of which the Church has heard but does not understand. It is an apologetic term, meant to hold the Jew, faithful to HaShem, at bay. Its only rule is that, if a verse can be linked to Jesus somehow, then it should be. So, the more than 300 prophecies touted by the Church as being fulfilled by Jesus disappear; they are not prophecies, but eisogeses—300 passages upon which the Church has inflicted its own forced readings.
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 comment, 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.
P.S. Your comments to which I am responding: https://judaismresources.net/2011/03/27/jeremiah-31-teaches-that-christianity-is-not-the-new-covenant/#comment-44779
Jim This is from the most awesome pieces that I’ve read on this topic – thanks so much for taking the time and effort to write this!!
1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >
There is only one word to describe this piece of work, Jim: Brilliant. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. I would never have come up with these arguments on my own, but once you point them out, they are so blindingly clear and obvious.