Response to the Line of Fire 9
On the June 9 2011 edition of his Line of Fire radio show http://lineoffireradio.askdrbrown.org/ , Dr. Brown interacts with an audio clip of a talk by Rabbi Michael Skobac of Jews for Judaism. The full presentation of Rabbi Skobac can be downloaded at http://www.divshare.com/download/14994437-329
Rabbi Skobac’s presentation is brief and to the point. Rabbi Skobac contends that if we would search the Bible for a description of the Messiah – without any preconceived notions about Jesus – we would never end up with Jesus. It is only after Christians accept Jesus that they then see Jesus in the Jewish Bible.
Dr. Brown did not find enough time in his two-hour radio program to present any substantive response to Rabbi Skobac’s argument. Instead of responding to Rabbi Skobac’s contention, Dr. Brown spends the time speaking about spiritual blindness, telling his audience how he encourages people to hear both sides of the story, accusing Rabbi Skobac of using “circular reasoning” and putting words into Rabbi Skobac’s mouth – words that he never said.
1 – Rabbi Skobac brings up the Christian belief that it is only a supernatural spiritual blindness that prevents Jews from seeing Jesus in the Jewish Scriptures. Dr. Brown counters Rabbi Skobac’s point by telling his audience that Jewish people would have to believe that the Christian people are spiritually blinded to the truth of Judaism.
Dr. Brown’s comparison is completely inappropriate. First of all, the traditional texts of Judaism don’t spend too much time judging the mindset of adherents to other religions – in sharp contrast to the Christians Scriptures and the writings of Christian thinkers since then – who spend an inordinate amount of time teaching their audience about the “blindness” of the Jew. Furthermore, the Jewish people do not have to assume that the Christian is “blinded” by anything more than the natural bias that affects every human being on earth with equal measure. The Christian on the other hand, must believe that the “truth” of Jesus could be staring you in the face and that a “supernatural” veil prevents you from seeing it. In his own radio program (May 20 2011) Dr. Brown maintained that Jesus explicitly taught his disciples about his impending death – in other words he told them “black on white” that he is going to die – and they “didn’t get it”. He then goes on to compare this with the “spiritual blindness” of the Jew. Dr. Brown is not talking about a natural bias – he is talking about not hearing explicit words that are spoken into your ear by your beloved teacher.
2 – Rabbi Skobac makes the point that if you search the Jewish Scriptures for a job description of the Messiah, you will never end up with Jesus.
Dr. Brown counters this point by stating that the Jewish Scriptures do not lay out the role of the Messiah in a text-book format. The Messianic prophecies, according to Dr. Brown, are not clearly laid out but rather they are the subject of debate.
Dr. Brown has inadvertently verified Rabbi Skobac’s argument. Before Jesus appeared on the scene, people had a clear idea of what the Messiah is supposed to accomplish – and until this very day – no student of Scripture has ever attempted to argue that the Jewish understanding of the Messiah that preceded the advent of Jesus was incorrect. What Christianity has done instead, is that they have presented the argument that there are some additional accomplishments that the Messiah must also fulfill. But these “additional accomplishments” are not clearly laid out in the Bible. The prophecies that Jesus did NOT fulfill ARE clearly laid out in the Bible – to the degree that no one ever dreamed of disputing the meaning of these explicit prophecies.
So to put Rabbi Skobac’s argument into Dr. Brown’s words: The Jewish expectation of the Messiah is clearly laid out in the Jewish Bible – to the degree that even if you are spiritually blinded (because you have not accepted Jesus) – you will see it. But the Christian expectations of the Messiah – is not clearly laid out in the Bible, is the subject of debate, and you can only see it if you are “cured” of your spiritual blindness through acceptance of Jesus. – Thank you Dr. Brown.
3 – Dr. Brown accuses Rabbi Skobac of using “circular reasoning”. Dr. Brown bases this accusation on the fact that Rabbi Skobac believes that the prophecies that Jesus did NOT fulfill are the ones Rabbi Skobac considers “Messianic” – while Rabbi Skobac dismisses the “prophecies” that Jesus did fulfill as “non-Messianic”.
Dr. Brown has already refuted himself, but for the benefit of the reader we will reiterate. Those prophecies that Jesus did NOT fulfill were always considered Messianic prophecies by all students of the Jewish Bible – spiritually blinded or not. The prophecies that Jesus did “fulfill” can only be seen by those “cured” from their “spiritual blindness” by acceptance of Jesus. If this is not circular reasoning, then what is?
4 – Dr. Brown assures his listeners that Matthew is a very sophisticated writer. He compares the inability of many to appreciate Matthew’s sophistication to the inability of one who has no understanding of science to appreciate Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Another inappropriate comparison. All who understand science appreciate Einstein’s theory of relativity – whether they are spiritually blinded or not. Not every student of the Jewish Scriptures appreciates Matthew. It is only those who are “cured” of “spiritual blindness” through acceptance of Jesus that have the ability to appreciate the sophistication of Matthew. Those who are “cured” of “spiritual blindness” through acceptance of Mohammed and Joseph Smith see unbelievable depths of sophistication in the Koran and in the Book of Mormon respectively. This is not science.
5 – Dr. Brown tells his audience that Rabbi Skobac is arguing that Matthew misquoted Scripture in order to “trick” his readers. This is a false accusation. In all of Rabbi Skobac’s lengthy presentation (of which Dr. Brown only played a small segment) he says nothing of the sort. Towards the end of his presentation Rabbi Skobac discusses various possibilities as to what Matthew was thinking when he misquoted the Jewish Scriptures, and trickery is not the option that Rabbi Skobac advocates. Dr. Brown’s accusation is unfounded.
The fact is that Dr. Brown himself explains Matthew’s misquotation of Scripture. In the 5th volume of his series; Answering Jewish Objections (page 61), Dr.Brown quotes an Israeli professor who offers the opinion that Orthodox Jews are incapable of reading Scripture literally. While the broad brush of this accusation is clearly inaccurate, but on a limited level, this accusation holds true. Since the sermons of the Rabbis often employed homiletical and non-literal interpretations of Scriptures there have always been ignorant Jews who saw Scripture through these homiletical readings. These were people who never studied Scripture in a formal setting, but rather acquired their knowledge through listening to these inspiring but non-literal sermons. This explains the mentality of the gospel writers. None of these men claimed to have had any formal training in Jewish scholarship. In all probability their understanding of Scripture was acquired through listening to the local preachers – thus they never picked up the necessary tools that would enable them to read Scripture contextually and literally.
6 – Dr. Brown argues that it is “preposterous” to believe that Matthew quoted the Jewish Scriptures but didn’t expect his audience to look up the text he was quoting. Dr. Brown argues that this would be a “self-defeating” exercise on Matthew’s part.
As Dr. Brown himself has explained, it is entirely possible that Matthew was misquoting Scripture in all innocence. There is no need to assume that it ever dawned upon him that a contextual reading of the Scripture will refute his imaginative interpretations. Furthermore, throughout history, until this very day, these misquotations of Matthew are presented by Christians as if they were the contextual and literal reading of Scripture. As a member of the Jewish community I receive mailings from various missionary organizations that attempt to persuade me to believe in Jesus. (– The fact that these organizations do not live up to the basic concept of justice – do not do unto others what you hate for yourself – and they deliver this literature to people who find them offensive – is living testimony that these people are not representatives for the God of truth and justice – unless they would like to have literature delivered to their own communities that presents arguments for another faith.)
These tracts that I receive list the hundreds of prophecies that Jesus “fulfilled”. Matthew’s misquotations of Scripture are always present in these “educational tracts”. These followers of Matthew obviously still cannot distinguish between literal contextual interpretation of Scripture and the imaginative interpretations of Matthew. So much for “preposterous” and “self-defeating”.
I would like to end this critique with an appeal to Dr. Brown.
The myth of the “blindness of the Jew” is an ugly stain in the history of mankind. Dr. Brown, instead of working to perpetuate this myth, I appeal to you to educate Christians of the fallacies of this myth. Explain to your audience that as long as the Jew sees the teachings of Christianity as a contradiction to the Scriptures with which we were entrusted by God – it is the moral duty of the Jew to REJECT those teachings. Encourage your audience to try to read the Jewish Scriptures as a Jew would have read them before the advent of Jesus. Encourage your listeners to attempt to acquire a complete world-view on the basis of the Jewish Scriptures alone – and ask them – how would they view the doctrines of Christianity in the light of the Jewish Scriptures.
You did open your talk with the truth that experience is no proof for truth – all we have to go with is the Scriptures. Please encourage your audience to understand the Jewish people’s rejection of Christianity in light of your own teaching. You have my full permission to use my article “1000 Verses” – I am sure that your audience will find it helpful.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal