The Exodus versus the Resurrection
Most world religions look to various miraculous events as the foundations of their faith. Judaism and Christianity both share this quality. Both of these belief systems see certain supernatural occurrences as the pillars of their respective faiths. Judaism looks to the Exodus experience, while Christianity looks to the resurrection of Jesus. Each of these belief systems points to their own “foundational miracles” to justify their respective beliefs.
How do these two claims compare to each other? Is Christianity’s claim that Jesus was resurrected in any way comparable to Judaism’s claim that the miracles of the exodus were real events in the history of the nation? Are these two claims equally credible?
The answer is a thunderous NO! There is no way to compare Christianity’s resurrection claim to Judaism’s exodus. These two are as far apart from each other as east is from west. This is true on several levels.
The Exodus impacted the lives of two nations in a concrete way that is measurable in practical terms. Egypt lost it slaves, Israel was freed from slavery. Egypt was devastated by a series of plagues, while Israel was sustained in the desert for 40 years. The Egyptian army drowned in the sea, while Israel was saved from its pursuers.
To understand the impact of the exodus in modern terms try to imagine the Mississippi turning to blood for a week, the entire USA plagued with frogs, lice, locusts, darkness and the death of the firstborn. Then imagine the entire army drowning in the sea. The impact of these events touches so many people.
Who is impacted practically by a resurrection?
The exodus miracles lasted for 40 years, the resurrection of Jesus is limited to a few “sightings”.
Those who testify to the truth of the exodus are the physical descendants of the people who were impacted by this event. There is no one alive today claiming to be a physical descendant of those who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection.
The witnesses for the exodus include an entire nation, a nation that was large enough to capture the land of Canaan. The witnesses for Jesus’ resurrection are the few individuals who followed him in his life-time.
The community of witnesses that testify to the verity of the exodus had no predisposition for this story. There are no motivating factors that we could point to that would explain why the Jewish people “needed” to produce the exodus story. The followers of Jesus desperately “needed” a resurrection story. These people had already committed themselves in devotion to this charismatic leader. They believed he was greater than Moses and wiser than Solomon, and now he was dead. With this psychological backdrop, it would be a historical aberration if these people wouldn’t come up with something along the lines of a resurrection story.
Direct versus Implied
The foundational events of Judaism directly prove the theological truths that they are called upon to support. God introduced Himself to the nation at Sinai with the words: “I am the Lord your God”. They were shown that there is no power aside from God (Deuteronomy 4:35). The nation heard God speaking to Moses, thus confirming that Moses is indeed a prophet – i.e. one to whom God speaks (Exodus 19:9). The two pillars of Judaism, the perception of God and the knowledge that Moses is a true prophet came directly from God to the entirety of the nation.
Even if we were to assume that the resurrection actually happened, it would still not confirm the theological claims of Christianity in a direct way. Just because someone was resurrected does not make him or her the second person in the godhead or the Jewish Messiah. The Jewish Scriptures record several instances of resurrection (1 Kings 17, 2 Kings 4:8-37, 13:20,21). No one ever claimed that the people who were resurrected by Elijah and Elisha were divine. It is only through the interpretation of the theologian that one moves from a resurrection claim to the trinity.
There is a fundamental difference between the ideas that the exodus and the resurrection are called upon to support. The concept that there is One Supreme being who is above all of nature is a concept that many philosophers came to believe in through human reasoning. There is no inherent “mystery” in the concept of One Creator to whom all are beholden.
The Christian trinity, on the other hand, is a theological absurdity. The concept that a human being, who walked the earth like everyone else, is somehow divine; is not a logical conclusion that anyone would come to on his own. Christian theologians admit that this concept is a “mystery” that cannot be readily understood.
Consistency versus Conflict
The theological claims of Judaism do not conflict with any other claims that Judaism accepts as valid. There is no room for potential conflict. The exodus establishes the basis of a belief that does not conflict with any other previously established claim in any way.
The theological claims of Christianity, on the other hand, conflict with the claims of Judaism that Christianity claims to accept. The exodus miracles taught the Jewish people to worship no one beside the God that they were introduced to at Sinai. This obviously excludes Jesus. Christian theologians found the need to exert themselves for 2000 years to reconcile the monotheism of the Jewish Scriptures with the trinity of the Catholic Church, coming up with conflicting solutions to this problem. In other words the faith that the resurrection is called upon to support needs a plethora of complicated theological arguments to defend it from the charge of idolatry. The faith that the exodus is called upon to support does not.
Who is Obligated
According to Judaism, the only people that are bound to the teachings of Moses are the physical descendants of those who experienced the exodus and those who choose to join them. Judaism does not believe that the rest of the world is separated from God if they do not accept the teachings of Judaism. Judaism teaches that as long as one follows their conscience that God implanted into every human being they can enter into a relationship with God.
In sharp contrast, Christianity teaches that anyone who does not accept Jesus is condemned to the fires of eternal hell, their relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth notwithstanding.
In order to establish that there is One Supreme Being above all of nature; God turned the Nile into blood, plagued Egypt with frogs, lice, wild animals, pestilence, boils, locusts, hail, darkness, and the death of their firstborn. This wasn’t enough, he had to split the sea, and drown the Egyptian army. Still not enough. He had to sustain a nation in the wilderness for 40 years leading them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of cloud by night. Still not enough. He had to speak to the entirety of the nation to establish the only claim for a national revelation in the history of mankind. All of this; for the purpose of establishing a truth that the philosophers of many disparate cultures discovered on their own.
Yet Christianity would have us believe that to establish the idea that a certain human being is deserving of all of our worship – the same God produced a resurrection that was only verified by the few believers?! And Christianity doesn’t stop there. Christianity would have us believe that the same God condemns everyone to hell for not believing the theological claims of the Church.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal
Rabbi Blumenthal, at first glance this article sounds like an attack, but in truth after one allows time for its contents to be digested, it’s simply an appeal to the human sensitivity to truth.
Thank you for bringing simplicity and clarity to the ongoing discussion.
May G-d bless the fruits of your works.
This is an interesting approach, contrasting the theological backgrounds of both Judaism & Christianity’s central events. Thanks for the insight.
Love a challenge. Here you go.
Impact: A redefinition of history and morality, the definition of how we take down time (BC/AD), 2,000,000,000 adherents, thousands of miracles both physical and spiritual, your article and others like it still arguing about the subject 2,000 years later (it seems like people just can’t stop talking about Jesus!). Ask people the world ’round who Jesus is and they’ll know; now ask them about the Exodus and make the comparison!
Duration: The exodus didn’t last 40 years, the exile in the wilderness did (you’re mashing events, which is funny). The resurrection appearances lasted for weeks, hundreds of people saw Him, and the consequences have reverberated for two millennia.
Witness I: There are many people who claim to be direct spiritual descendants (a la apostolic succession) of those who saw Jesus. Not that this point is in any way logical besides– Julius Caesar was murdered and nobody proves it by saying, “Look at me, a descendant of Brutus!”
Witness II: Hundreds. The hundreds of individuals that followed Jesus in His lifetime, and even some who didn’t (Paul, for a popular example). Then we’ve got to account for the appearances of Jesus to saints through the centuries, a claim no rabbi is making about the Exodus (it came out of nowhere!).
Witness III: You just don’t read very much history. When someone’s movement fails, people don’t invent resurrection stories. When MLK Jr. died, nobody said he came back. People were as excited (if not MORE so) about Julius Caesar when he was conquering than they were about Jesus when He was preaching, if we’re going by numbers. The fact is, the people who were following Jesus did not invent a story. They went back to their lives. But His body was missing, and nobody could account for it. This made more waves than the Exodus ever did, pal– this wave took over the whole Roman Empire and eventually most of the world.
Direct versus Implied: You’re making a ridiculous claim. I really wonder why. Because all of Christianity’s truths were not taught at the resurrection, they’re not true? All of Judaism’s truths weren’t taught at the Exodus, either– they were studied and explained and taught through the rest of the Old Testament, and eventually by the rabbis. I’m sorry, rabbis are by definition theologians!
Philosophy: What you’re saying here is, it bugs you that we think God is bigger than your brain. Yeah, no apologies there. He is. Good Christian theologians say that the Trinity is unfathomable, not that it isn’t understandable. It’s like that feeling of looking at the night sky, but amplified: we understand the sky, but how do you fathom it? You don’t. It’s too vast. God is more complicated than the night sky, so why do we expect to fit Him in our silly little boxes? No, you obviously don’t take this very seriously– nobody who tries to condense two huge theological issues like the Trinity and the Incarnation into three sentences has obviously not read up on them, and doesn’t understand Christian beliefs about them.
Consistency versus Conflict: Which theologians? You cite no sources, and I’d guess because you have none to cite. Christians have never felt a need to “reconcile” the Trinity with monotheism. Anybody who reads a third-grade level theological introduction understand that the Trinity is a monotheistic belief. Meanwhile, if Jesus is God, how are Christians worshiping someone besides God? Your problem is with God taking the form of a man, but you’ve got no reason besides prejudice to dislike the idea.
Who is Obligated: No, you’ve badly mistreated that one, as well. Christians instead believe that choosing to reject God results in Hell. Hell is not an arbitrary place where God puts you if He doesn’t like you. Hell is the natural, only result of choosing to reject God. Hell isn’t a torture because God is torturing you; Hell is torture because it is the most painful thing in the universe to be without the living God in all His glory. But your readers knew that, right? Besides that, it’s pretty clear in the Hebrew Scriptures that those who reject God don’t come out on the happy end of the stick.
What you’ve missed in all of this is the immense picture of Jesus in the Exodus. God, coming to the rescue, delivering His people from their enemies, offering mercy to those enemies, delivering just judgment (oh, and that really awesome blood on the doorpost reference). The metaphors and analogies abound. What cracks me up in all of this, though, is how you guys just can’t stop talking about Jesus. You can’t! I mean, it must drive you crazy. Here you are, arguing against the guy you say is no big deal. If he’s no big deal, stop talking about him, no? Or is He a big deal? Does it feel like He’s some sort of threat? I remember those days. Jesus lurking around the corner, waiting to get me when I let my guard down. He’ll come and turn your life upside-down.
Please read the New Testament, or the Early Church Fathers, or G.K. Chesterton. Study up on our religion before you misunderstand it.
Joe; I usually don’t like to address individual posters directly, since it might seem like a personal attack and then the person may get defensive and not even read, must less consider, what you have to say. Let me 1st say that i was a Christian and judging by your picture, I read the NT several times using different versions, and was familiar some of the “early church fathers” long before you were even born. And I’ve studied a little bit of Judaism and read most of the Rabbi’s articles on this site, so i know you challenge no one. The Rabbi, Thomas, and Sharlee already made excellent responses or counters to your arguments, so I will respond differently.
You need to mature in your thinking. Before I stopped counting, I had counted over 40 of your sentences, which were either insults (to the Rabbi, to Jews, or Judaism), gross exaggerations or absurd statements, illogical or contradictory statements, or which lacked any real knowledge of Judaism or Jews, or even of Christianity (it’s texts, it’s history, or different beliefs, philosophies). So, I won’t do a point by point refutation of your statements.
What you need to do is challenge yourself to read more about the subjects you intend to argue for or against. If you want a REAL challenge, you may want to read the longer articles by Rabbi Blumenthal, starting maybe with “The Elephant & the Suit”, “The Light of My Nation”, “The Council of My Nation”, etc.
I hope I was not too offensive, but better you be challenged here then out there in the “cold, cruel world”.
After having my Jewish friends read through my reply, they did not find any offensive statements or insults directed toward the Rabbi, Jews, or Judaism. Could you give me some examples so I can make necessary changes? Also, I’m not sure what was contradictory or illogical. I’d like to think that I’m pretty well-versed in my own religion, so it’d actually make more sense for you to point those things out (if they’re there).
Thanks for the advice on reading more, too– I never stop. Reading’s sort of my thing. But it just seems all to easy to dismiss those with whom we disagree by saying, “You did this, this, and that,” instead of addressing their arguments. That’s what this looks like to me.
Then why were you apologizing? Then why later did you admit that you wanted to come out being offensive? And that is not immoral?
Thanks for your note. It is through such interaction that I get a chance to articulate.
Impact: I was contrasting the direct impact of the foundational events of Judism vs. The direct impact of the foundtaional events of Christianity. I was NOT contrasting the impact of the adherents of the respective belief systems. The impact of adherents is not exclusive to Christianity – look at Islam. Besides the impact of the adherents of Christianity on human society have not always been positive to say the least.
Duration – It is not I who “mashed” the events – it is the Bible – Deuteronomy 8:14-16, 11;2-7, 29:1-5. Again – you confuse the direct impact of the events – which is not duplicated in any belief system versus the impact of the adherents which is a common phenomena.
Witness I – Perhaps there are “spiritual descendants” – but then again so runs the claim for Islam. In any case – the continuity of Christianity runs through those who are spiritual descendants of Paul – not of his original Jewish disciples. https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/a-supplemental-history-of-the-charolites/
Witness II – Until Paul came along no-one claim that “hundreds” saw him – and Paul’s claim is not verified anywhere outside of his own text. Furthermore – did “hundreds” aslo verify that he actually died on the cross?
Witness III – I don’t read history? When a prophecy fails – the excuses abound – it may not be a resurrection story (although there are no shortages of those) – but it is a recasting of the prophecy to fit the expectations of the adherents – how many people saw Elvis?
Direct vs. Implied – It is not a matter of theology – it is a matter of understanding English. The Jewish people were directly introduced to God at Sinai and they directly heard God speaking to Moses – the theological conclusions of the resurrection are still being debated amongst Christians – they remain a matter of interpretation.
Philosophy – the fact remains – the monotheism of Judasim is logical the trinity is not – for the one God turned over the natural world – for the other – he produced a “miracle” for a few devotees of a charismatic leader?
Consistency vs. Conflict – After everything is said and done – Christianity is pointing to a man – and saying – “that is God” – Do you realize that anyone can say that about their little deity? and that many have done so? – No books on the “incarnation”? Who are you kidding? – You accuse me of “prejudice” for “rejecting” the belief in the divine claims of Jesus – how about the Bible?
Who is Obligated – No Jew “rejects” Jesus – we worship the Creator of heaven and earth – it is too bad that Jesus feels “left out”
Please read the Jewish Bible before you go arguing about Jewish theology.
Hello! Glad to have a response. I appreciate it.
Impact: How do you separate impact so arbitrarily? It does seem you were including adherents (or at least witnesses), as you made the point in the Exodus involving greater numbers and “bigger” miracles.
Duration: I’m pretty sure you know it’s unjustified to say the Exodus and its miracles had a duration of 40 years. Otherwise I could just say that the Resurrection’s miracles include every claimed Christian miracle for the last 2,000 years, both small and large.
Witness I: While Paul has a major hand in Christianity, you can’t say Christians are “his” spiritual descendants. Look at the Catholic focus on Peter, or the Orthodox focus on James, etc. Christians are pretty wrapped up in all of those guys. “Spiritual” ancestry is what the Jewish Bible seems to predict, anyway– once we meet the idea of the Gentiles coming to worship the true God, that is.
Witness II: Ah, so Paul is unreliable because we dislike/disagree with him. That’s a bad starting point. But the fact of the five hundred did not originate with Paul, it originated with the apostles. Paul simply related the story in a very early, original Christian creed.
Witness III: I’m sorry, did you just compare Elvis to Jesus? Am I supposed to take that seriously? It’s difficult, to be honest. People don’t invent resurrection stories. They walk away. They go on with their lives. There’s no reason, after the morality of Jesus, after the disappointment and despair of the disciples, after the Christian focus on living an honest life, that the disciples just “made up” a story– oh, and stole His body, and got those involved to play along. It doesn’t add up. People don’t invent resurrection stories, and if they do the rest of the population doesn’t take them seriously– except in this one very particular case, eh? Harold Camping said the world would end, and lots believed him. Most now don’t. He was wrong, and the thousands who believed recognize it. But not so with Jesus.
Direct v. Implied: Wait, so the rabbis never debate? All of them agree on the consequences of the Bible and its teaching? What are we to do with that pesky Talmud? Debates on nuance, opinion, and the like are not at all a show of uncertainty about the fact of the situation. The fact that Lutherans, Calvinists, Catholics and Wesleyans are all considered orthodox Christians goes to show that the disagreements are not so big as you make them sound, and not at all bigger than the disagreements within Judaism.
Philosophy: Jesus did turn over the world. But the call the Exodus a turning over of the world is a bit much– maybe the turning over of a country, making another country. But Jesus pervades the human race. How is the Trinity illogical? Like I said, unfathomable is not illogical. If you need a good introduction to the Trinity, I’d recommend Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, or the Athanasian Creed.
Consistency v. Conflict: No, Christianity isn’t us pointing at a man, saying, “That is God.” Christianity is God taking the form of a man and saying, “Here I am.” It’s the God of Isaiah 50, the Suffering Servant come to seek and save that which was lost.
Who is Obligated: You have rejected Jesus, rabbi. You reject who He says He is, what He claims to be, and what He claims He can do. That’s flat-out rejection.
I do read the Jewish Bible, in quite a varying degree, every day. This month I’m going through the entire Psalter, which is quite the new experience (almost to psalm 70 now). I’d respectfully request that you read the Christian Bible before you go on about Christian theology.
P.S. If you were at all insulted by my response, I do really apologize. I’ve got quite the fierce debating style, and I make no bones about that. But if statements were perceived as personal insults rather than personal corrections, that’s not what I was looking to do.
Did Jesus die on the cross? Seems to me that as there are several who survived Cusifixion, and he after a short time. A book-ofone’s personal experience was written, where he discribed visioins and other phenomenon. He was on the cross for 10 days. As for you story of Jesus’ birth, family getting out of Dodge to stay alive, young evidence of wisdom, coming back to his homeland to re-assert his claims, diing and resurrection, and part of a mutiple divinity; 500 BCE it is suppose to have happened. His name was Khrushna, of the Hindus. The story and life of Jesus sounds like a re-play of Khrusnas’ life. The Divinity of the Hindus is Trimutry, of the Greek/Christians, Trinity. I find aside from cultural items little of importance to haggle over. Both are great and benificial faiths. Only, Christianity has a poorer record of dealing with divergence.
Now, one other item you may have hohped we would not noticed; a whole nation not only saw, but recorded what they saw, witnessed and experienced within their life times. St. Jerome stated he did ot have a clue which manuscript was the colsest to the orignal. So for two centuries many Jews folowed a teacher of peace, whom they did not think of as a god. When the Councils voted that Jesus is a god, the slaughter began. I pray it has ended. You have a great faith, it is the people who are devided whither to obey their founder and G-d, or find a different way to express them selves. I pray for you all to find your siblinghood more important than trying to prove who is boss.
PS; In the serpopulas, where he was cleaned, and no one had entry? Was healing herbs administered?
Hi Joe, your post is not only disrespectful and peppered with insults to the writer, but perhaps worst of all, misses the entire message.
Impact: Obviously it’s a given that Jesus and Christianity are dependent on the OT, but that’s not the point. The point is that the exodus had an immediate and significant impact on all of israel- not only was it big and dramatic, and it included the entirety of the nation, but that they now they knew who was their god, and who they were to worship. The resurrection was totally different. Israel (and the world) did not see or feel anything different- the day before Jesus’ death and the day after Jesus’ death were no different to the world and to Israel. The ‘significance’ only came as a result of the preaching of Paul. This is not something I’m asking you to assume critical scholarship over the NT for- the NT does not claim the entire world came to worship jesus at the resurrection- Acts 1:15 seems to suggest about 120 followers a few months later. Acts 4:4 has more- ‘many who heard the message believed…there were then about 5,000.’ They did not experience the resurrection- they heard a message about it.
Duration: Is not the exile the removal of Israel from Egypt, and their movement towards Canaan? You try to turn semantic wordplay into something more- the point remains that the exodus events (ie Israel leaving Egypt and going to Israel) DID last 40 years. Even if we accept a narrower description, the point remains it was a protracted event.
Witness I: The witnesses of Jesus were people we have no way of verifying or identifying- the ‘hundreds’- named by Paul. These ‘hundreds’ spoke another language, lived in another part of the world (they were in palestine, and Paul was speaking to people in modern-day Turkey), and he spoke to people who would have no interest in the claims of a messianic leader in Palestine. In other words, Paul was speaking to a people who neither cared, nor could verify the ‘hundreds’ even if they wanted to. With the nation of Israel, it is a collective memory, so your Brutus comparison is irrelevant With Israel, one can recall their ancestors (grandparents), who, in addition to everyone else’s grandparents, would have a tradition about such an event. But I’m not assuming anything here- not that sinai or anything happened- merely pointing out that for the audience of Paul, they would have nowhere to begin their search, whereas if your parents/grandparents, etc. told you (and everyone’s grandparents were telling their grandchildren) your ancestors experienced this, the lineage is obviously relevant.
Witness II: Again, the ‘hundreds’ who are neither identifiable nor verifiable, nor of interest to the people being told about it. The ‘hundreds’ out of 1 or 2 million people in Palestine? This, not to people in Palestine, but in Turkey, and this, about a man (jesus) in another country, happening to another group of people, in another language, who, even if the locals somehow had a particular interest in this messianic claimant, would have no way of identifying who these hundreds were, or how to find them.
Witness III: Au contraire, my friend. You cannot possibly be serious when you say stories don’t develop to account for their disappointments. From Gershom Scholem, writing about Shabbatei Sevi: “When discussing the Sabbatian paradox by means of which cruel disappointment was turned into a positive affirmation of faith, the analogy with early Christianity almost obtrudes itself.”
And once again, the argument is NOT that the exodus impacted more people than Jesus (although to be fair, Christianity is dependant on the OT biblical narrative, as well as the fact that it was Paul, not Jesus, who deserves the credit for the spread of Christianity). No, his point was that for the indended audience (ie. israel), who was impacted more? The people who were brought out of Egypt with miracles and plagues? Or the Palestinian jews, most of which had no idea a man named jesus walked among them, and had been resurrected? There is no way the event was even known to everyone, let alone it having an impact.
Direct versus implied: He never said all of a faith’s claims had to be introduced. The point of the revelation/exodus is that the message is self-evident- this is the Divine who Israel is to worship, and none other. The resurrection doesn’t say anything clear- Is this man jesus god? OR just the messiah? Does it mean we’re supposed to worship him or not? But what if neither? Cannot God perform a miracle without having the subject of that miracle being deified?
In that sense, the exodus gave Israel the main theological principle- who their God was. The resurrection doesn’t even answer the most basic of questions. But more problems (see consistency/conflict)…
Consistency v. conflict: You have missed the entire message of this part: that the exodus is consistent with the rest of Israel’s past- the god who brought them out of Egypt is now revealing Himself to the nation. With the resurrection, not only does its claimed message unclear (is he god? A prophet? Divine? Messenger?), but that it conflicts with the already existing teachings the Hebrew Bible!
Philosophy: Enough with the “you don’t understand” defense. One key point here is that theologically, the concept that another being shares divinity with the God who was revealed at Sinai, is in total opposition to the entire central theme of the Hebrew Bible.
Who is obligated: The Hebrew Bible is not a manual to humanity- it is a message to the congregation of Jacob- Israel. Thus, it’s message is for Israel alone. It is admittedly a wider scope to say Judaism’s position on the world’s peoples- that they can become holy by simply following one god, but this is Judaism’s position. And even then, Judaism does not ever suggest an eternal suffering for a finite and limited lapse in judgement, as Christianity does. Christianity’s position on hell is certainly muddled at best and unjustifiable at worst. You present a false dichotomy: those who freely reject god, who you believe is Jesus. What of those who, using their intellect, or the OT or NT, reject his claims to divinity? They did not “reject” your God- they simply did not find him. But for people’s mistake, they are punished eternally.
Joe, I’m afraid you have missed the central message of this post- that the exodus was a formative event in Israel’s history, and it taught a clear message, unmistakable, consistent, and one which impacted the entire nation immediately- this is the God Israel is to worship, and none other. In contrast, the resurrection’s message is unclear (god? Messiah? Prophet? Teacher?), inconsistent (with the Hebrew Bible, both in respect to messiah and his divinity), and which had no impact on the world or Israel at all when the event was purported to have happened- ie Jesus was just another messianic claimant- and the people did not experience anything central or formative as a result. The resulting significance is not the work of Jesus, but of Paul, and even then, a gradual one taking many hundreds of years.
I went ahead and apologized to the rabbi if he felt insulted. Not at all my intent. On with it, I suppose!
Impact: And Jesus didn’t have an immediate and significant impact on all of Israel? Of course He did, the man and His message spread like wildfire, right on through to the entire Roman empire and the world. I suppose it depends on which history book you read, but even historians of the era said that the day (or third day, I suppose I should say) after Jesus died was different than the day before. I also challenge the notion that after the Exodus, Israel suddenly knew who God was. We have to ignore the history of the nation up to modern times to say so. 1, 2, Kings and Chronicles, anyone? How can we say, also, that Paul is the only one that made Christ significant? Paul was a persecutor of Christians, for one thing, and the message was spreading by the thousands before he showed up on the evangelism scene. Moreover, people like Peter and James had just as much if not more of an impact on the Church and the message. The 5,000 experienced a pretty big miracle (the rabbi includes the miracles in the wilderness, so I think I’m justified to include Pentecost under those guidelines), not just a standard message. The 120 of Acts 1:5 were the crowd present, not all Christians in total.
Duration: No, the exile is… well, the exile. The Exodus is the removal of Israel from Egypt, the exile was the result of a lot of disobedience on the part of the Jews (nothing personal, we all ignore God from time to time). It’s not semantics. If you look in a Bible dictionary, you’re going to find the Exodus, and the Exile in the wilderness. They’re different events. And if we’re going to put them together, then, well, my previous point on Impact.
Witness I: We have plenty of named witnesses besides the twelve. Mary. other Mary, Mary Magdalene, etc. The list goes on through the gospels of those who saw His life, death and resurrection (and then saw Him resurrected even later). Why do you say no one could verify the hundreds? It’s a tough sell to say the early Christian witnesses were all liars, especially when they had nothing to gain but persecution and death from their claims, and because they had such strict moral codes. I’d recommend that you read something like Eusebius’s history of the church, which is precisely what you describe: Christians tracing their ancestry back to the apostles. But a lineage is not the same as asking a live witness, something the early Christians did often (Luke, for example, interviewing relevant parties and collecting relevant documents).
Witness II: I’m surprised that no one was interested in verifying these hundreds of people, when we are so concerned with it today. Irony, I suppose. You’re also ignoring the fact of Paul’s personal interactions with many of these churches he was writing to, so to say that he would never have had to given a name or reference makes little sense. I’d recommend you to Eusebius once again.
Witness III: “Stories?” No, resurrection stories. People don’t invent them, or stories for that matter, and especially not so often as the rabbi seems to think. MLK is dead, and we know it. People moved on. The disciples had nothing to gain but death, so why lie? In fact, every one of the apostles except for John DID earn death for their message, and they did not recant! You say that most of the Palestinian Jews had no idea about Jesus, but He was quite the name at the moment (and today, for that matter). That Jesus of Nazareth was creating all sorts of ruckus.
Direct v. Implied: How are any of these unclear? Jesus claimed to be God, His disciples fell down to worship Him, and He rose from the dead as proof that He died for our sins. This is all pretty basic Christian theology, from Peter to James to John to Jude all the way down to Paul, being based on quotes from Christ in the first place. The Exodus gave the Jews the beginning of an idea of who God is, but He continued on giving through the rest of Scripture. The idea is not at all complete with the last letter of the Pentateuch.
Consistency v. Conflict: God, prophet, messiah. The message was pretty clear, if you look at what the early Christians were saying. And they (many, many of them Jews) didn’t seem to think it contradicted the Hebrew Bible at all. They had this funny notion that it completed it.
Philosophy: No, you don’t understand (sarcasm!): the “you don’t understand” isn’t a defense, just an opening line. 😀
The Trinity isn’t another being sharing divinity with God. Read the Athanasian Creed. The Trinity is three persons, not three beings (two little words which theologically mean very, very different things). This makes me really, honestly conclude that “you don’t understand” the Christian belief of the Trinity, or else you wouldn’t attack it in such a misguided way (because there are immensely better ways to attack it than the “another being” route).
Who is Obligated: The message is for Israel alone? I have to wonder about Gentile converts to Judaism (and the Hebrew Bible’s policies for that), or the messages about all the world coming to know Israel’s God. Again, Christianity doesn’t hold that Hell is for a lapse in judgment (I won’t say it, I won’t say it!), but instead a knowing rejection of God. That’s pretty much the uniform Christian position. People don’t go to Hell for making an intellectual decision, but because at the end of the day they choose themselves, their sin, over God. And Christians have always believed that if someone is seeking God, He’s not going to abandon them because they have mistaken beliefs about Him.
As for the message, I may have missed it. The message seemed to me to be that the Exodus was a clear, verifiable, unmistakable, consistent event for the Jewish people while the Resurrection was not for Christians. The Christian message took hundreds of years to reach a fuller impact, but so does anything of historical significance– saying the Resurrection isn’t formative because some people weren’t affected until later makes no sense, since the same can be said of the Exodus. And, to make the point again, the Resurrection has had a much bigger impact on the world and its history overall. If Jesus were just another messianic claimant, we’d expect to see believers of Judas Maccabeus walking around. We don’t.
Joe, A few comments.
Here’s a quote from Rodney Stark in “The Rise of Christianity”
“For a starting number, Acts 1:14-15 suggests that several months after the Crucifixion there were 120 Christians. Later, in Acts 4:4, a total of 5,000 believers is claimed. And, according to Acts 21:20, by the sixth decade of the first century there were “many thousands of Jews” in Jerusalem who now believed. These are not statistics. Had there been that many converts in Jerusalem, it would have been the first Christian city, since there probably were no more than twenty thousand inhabitants at this time”
So no, after Jesus’ death it took many decades for people to become followers. In other words, it was not Jesus who made these people Christians; it was not the resurrection- it was other people teaching about Jesus and the resurrection. BIG difference!
Furthermore, the chronicles of the Israelite history does not mean they do not know who G-d is, or have forgotten him. They may have constantly sinned, but it’s clear that the Sinai revelation was a moment when they knew immediately and clearly who their G-d was. No one in the OT ever denied that G-d appeared to the nation, or that he was their creator. In other words, the centrality of Sinai was never questioned even when idolatry persisted.
Duration: Once again, see the rabbi’s quotations from the OT. The OT itself considers the exodus and the revelation to be part of the same central event- Sinai is the pinnacle of the exodus (Kitchen calls it the penant), but not separate from it.
Witnesses I- Once again, paul’s citation of hundreds of witnesses was completely and totally unverifiable to someone in modern-day Turkey. I have no idea the motivation of Paul- all I know is that his claim that hundreds saw Jesus is unverifiable to the people who actually heard it. As for the eyewitnesses, the gospel may be named after Luke, but it’s a big jump to say he actually wrote it- not getting into a separate argument, but I’m not sure scholarly consensus would say he did- or for any of the gospels, for that matter. The point is that the NT tells of individual eyewitnesses, decades later- no one could actually verify this! The Book of Mormon gives the names of eyewitnesses, who themselves admitted to holding the golden plates. The NT gives us second-hand mention of the witnesses- meaning no one can actually verify these people’s claims!
About Mary & the other witnesses- once again, you have second-hand tales of the witnesses, told by others, most likely after the actual claimed person was dead. Not only would people be unable to verify these claims, but as we see above (Stark’s stats), the fact that such a small number of Christians existed for so many decades means most people didn’t know or care about the claims of Jesus’ resurrection, and thus would not be interested in verifying anyway. So no one at that time could verify the reliability or probably even the existence of these individual witnesses. Do you not see that if you were alive when these gospels were being written, and you heard that around 50 years ago, someone named Thomas, or Mary, witnessed a resurrection. You do not know these people, or how to find them. And even *if* you did, this miraculous claim was only one of many that you would hear on any given day- you paint Jesus to be a central figure in his lifetime, but that’s not true at all.
Witness II- Today is not yesterday, friend! Today Christianity has 2.2 billion people, so yes, people would be interested. Back then, Jesus was just another messianic claimant, one among many. If you heard someone tell you that in rural Congo, 500 people saw a man resurrected, except that there are no airplanes to get you there, no internet, no radio, and some of these people are dead. Plus, these 500 people represent a tiny fraction of a percent of the total population in that region. Plus, you hear about such miracle stories regularly. And plus- you don’t even speak the same language! Tell me- would YOU be so interested in this claim, and even if you were, how on earth would you go about confirming it? It is clear that the people Paul wrote to had both no interest and no ability to verify the 500 witnesses.
Once again, see the Stark quote above. It took many years after jesus’ death for Christianity to spread. And even according to the NT’s numbers (which are low), even those would mean that most of Jerusalem was Christian (which we know it wasn’t)- so yes, it is clear that Jesus did not cause the ‘ruckus’ you attribute to him- the growth happened much later, and clearly, had nothing to do with the resurrection itself, but at most, “hearing” about it (See Acts 4:4 again- ‘many who *heard* the message believed…there were then about 5,000.’). Those who converted did not know Jesus- they merely heard about him.
Furthermore, I’m not sure you can say anyone ‘died for a lie.’ I can only quote one rebuttal which demonstrates that you are assuming more than the text allows:
“First, it is based on nothing in the New Testament itself, or on any reliable evidence of any kind. None of the Gospels or Epistles mention anyone dying for their belief in the “physical” resurrection of Jesus. The only martyrdoms recorded in the New Testament are, first, the stoning of Stephen in the Book of Acts. But Stephen was not a witness. He was a later convert. So if he died for anything, he died for hearsay alone. But even in Acts the story has it that he was not killed for what he believed, but for some trumped up false charge, and by a mob, whom he could not have escaped even if he had recanted. So his death does not prove anything in that respect. Moreover, in his last breaths, we are told, he says nothing about dying for any belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus, but mentions only his belief that Jesus was the messiah, and was at that moment in heaven. And then he sees Jesus–yet no one else does, so this was clearly a vision, not a physical appearance, and there is no good reason to believe earlier appearances were any different.
The second and only other “martyr” recorded in Acts is the execution of the Apostle James, but we are not told anything about why he was killed or whether recanting would have saved him, or what he thought he died for. In fact, we have one independent account in the Jewish history of Josephus, of the stoning of a certain “James the brother of Jesus” in 62 A.D., possibly but not necessarily the very same James, and in that account he is stoned for breaking the Jewish law, which recanting would not escape, and in the account of the late 2nd century Christian hagiographer Hegesippus, as reported by Eusebius, he dies not for his belief in a physical resurrection, but, just like Stephen, solely for proclaiming Jesus the messiah, who was at that moment in heaven.
I mentioned Shabbatai Sevi because people often didn’t “move on.” His followers, despite his conversion to Islam, quickly rationalized that as a necessary action, and even after his death, resurrection stories and other supernatural tales were abound. So no, people did not get “over it.” I’ll quote Scholem again: “When discussing the Sabbatian paradox by means of which cruel disappointment was turned into a positive affirmation of faith, the analogy with early Christianity almost obtrudes itself.
Direct v. Implied. How was it unclear? Well, consider that Jesus’ first followers likely did not even worship him as god, and who continued to bring sacrifices after he died. “Orthodox” Christianity today cannot agree on the nature of Jesus, and the fact that his first followers did not view him the way you do today means that his divinity was not as ‘clear’ as you might want to think it was. We may know that scholarship says Jesus never claimed to be god, and probably never even thought of himself as god. The question once again is that the resurrection does not answer any question- does it answer that he is the messiah? Or that he is god? Or that he died for our sins? Depends on your theology =)
Contrast that with Sinai- it shows that this is the G-d who took the Jews out of Egypt. That is perhaps one reason why Christianity has so many sects all claiming to hold the ‘orthodox’ truth, and to be a descendant of the “true faith.” In Judaism, orthodox is the only group claiming to hold the ‘orthodox’ truth, and no other group in Judaism claims to hold the ‘truth’ of the origins of Judaism which teaches a radically different message. Even if you count the Karaites, they do not disagree about what the message of Sinai is.
Consistency/conflict- Many people believe many things- doesn’t mean it’s coherent! Sinai teaches a central message- I am the G-d who took you out of Egypt, and the only being you are to worship. You say the resurrection teaches Jesus is god. Jesus, who was never present at Sinai when G-d actually taught Israel who G-d was. How is that not a contradiction? The formative moment in Israel’s history when it was ‘introduced’ to who G-d was, and when it was taught that it should worship no other, has Jesus nowhere in sight. But later, we are to believe that claiming Jesus is god is somehow consistent with this message? It could not be more contradictory.
Trinity- The issue is not about semantics! My objection to the trinity is not about “persons” or beings- it is that Sinai revealed who the being Israel is to worship. And therefore, any being not present there is not to be worshipped. The holy spirit or jesus never revealed at Sinai. The rabbi’s last comment repeats this point- I know WHAT you worship- but that doesn’t change the fact that it both totally foreign to the OT, but rather illogical from a human mind perspective. Israel does not reject the trinity because it sounds absurd or because it is illogical- Israel rejects it because G-d forbade us from any deviation from the One G-d from Sinai. Holy Spirit, jesus, Buddha, anyone else- can claim to be part of that same godhead, but G-d never said it when he showed Israel who He was.
Obligation- Read the OT, dude. It is a message from G-d to Israel, not to the world. Israel’s role has been to impart knowledge of G-d to the nations, but not to obligate the nations in observance of the Law. Judaism’s theology on this is coherent and logical. Christianity can say people “choose” to reject G-d for their sins, but I think your experiences are limited if you believe that. To say they reject god for their sins is a naïve and simplistic answer to a complex question. Read what former evangelicals say- they really truly prayed and prayed and prayed, studied, and just didn’t believe. Heck, I partly fit into that category =)
Final message- It is not because of Jesus that there are 2.2 billion Christians, Joe! If you read a lot of history, you will know that. It was Paul and it was Constantine. But the point is that for Israel, Sinai presented a message which was clear, consistent with their existing history and knowledge, coherent/logical, and which impacted the entire nation immediately. The resurrection’s message is unclear (is he god? Just the messiah? Died for sins?). The answer may be clear to you, but that is because your theology dictates your reading of the NT. Each sect of Christianity ascribes different message for the resurrection, but in that time, his followers probably did not believe about jesus what you do today. That should be clear enough that whatever the message of the resurrection was- it wasn’t what you think it is.
Sinai taught a clear message, unmistakable, consistent, and one which impacted the entire nation immediately- this is the God Israel is to worship, and none other. No misunderstandings about its purpose.
Sinai did impact the nation at once, according to its claim. The entire nation knew immediately who its Deity was! Sinai is clear and direct about the message of the event- I am your G-d, and you shall have none other. All of the messages of the resurrection are simply meanings you ascribe to it, based on your beliefs. Don’t believe me? Why are there thousands of Christian sects all claiming to be the ‘truth’ of Jesus’ teaching? No other group in Judaism claiming to hold the Truth claims Sinai means something other than worship the 1 G-d from the Exodus. But ask a Witness or a Mormon- Jesus ‘ first followers still brought sacrifices, for pete’s sake- they clearly did not believe his death provided full atonement.
So no, not only is the resurrection contradictory to the existing teachings which Jesus would have believed (the OT), but that the event itself was not witnessed by the nation who it was supposed to impact, and the entire message of the event is based simply on what believes about the nature of Jesus.
You say- “If Jesus were just another messianic claimant, we’d expect to see believers of Judas Maccabeus walking around. We don’t.”
He was just another messianic claimant- but it’s not because of him that Christianity exists today- as I said, Christianity’s spread was thanks to the preaching of Paul, and later, to Constantine. It was not Jesus’ teaching or miracles which converted millions- it was hearing *about* them which did. Thus, the messenger gets the credit.
Here are some quotes from Christians on the significance of the resurrection (These are groups who claim they hold the truth of Jesus’ teachings- these are not liberal sects- they are groups who sincerely believe they hold the accurate teachings of Jesus. This is what they say- it is significant because these are all groups who consider themselves just as religiously, orthodox Christian as you- who believe they hold Jesus’ real teachings.
“…many persons believe that Christ took his fleshly body to heaven. They point to the fact that when Christ was raised from the dead, his fleshly body was no longer in the tomb (Mark 16:5-7). Also, after his death Jesus appeared to his disciples in a fleshly body to show them that he was alive. Once He even had the apostle Thomas put his hand into the hole in His side so that Thomas would believe that He had actually been resurrected (John 20:24-27) Does this not prove that Christ was raised alive in the same body in which he was put to death? No it does not.” (You Can Live Forever on Paradise Earth, pp. 143-144).
“…the man Jesus is dead, forever dead…” (The Atonement Between God and Man, Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 5, 1899, p. 454).
“…the bodies in which Jesus manifested himself to the disciples after his return to life were not the body in which he was nailed to the tree.” (The Kingdom is at Hand, 1944, p. 259).
Mormons believe a key message of the resurrection is the future resurrection of all humans: “Because we believe the Bible and Book of Mormon descriptions of the literal Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we also readily accept the numerous scriptural teachings that a similar resurrection will come to all mortals who have ever lived upon this earth”
The fact that the earliest disciples brought sacrifices after Jesus’ death means they did not see it as signifying the redundancy of the temple, nor of his complete atoning death.
Furthermore, if Jesus didn’t call himself god, then the message you glean from the resurrection was certainly different than the message that the first Christians had.
Ehrman writes: “Only in the latest of our Gospels, John, a Gospel that shows considerably more theological sophistication than the others, does Jesus indicate that he is divine” or “…if Jesus claimed he was divine, it seemed very strange indeed that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all failed to say anything about it”
Examples: “A further point of broad agreement among New Testament scholars … is that the historical Jesus did not make the claim to deity that later Christian thought was to make for him: he did not understand himself to be God, or God the Son, incarnate. … such evidence as there is has led the historians of the period to conclude, with an impressive degree of unanimity, that Jesus did not claim to be God incarnate.” John Hick
Once again, this is evidence for the argument that Jesus’ first followers, who brought sacrifices after he died, and Jesus himself, who probably did not claim to be divine, did not see the message in the resurrection that he was “God, prophet, messiah. The message was pretty clear, if you look at what the early Christians were saying.” Well, the message wasn’t so clear, because Jesus himself probably never made the claim, and those closest to him didn’t seem to think his death was a full atonement, given that they continued temple sacrifices.
Marcion denied the resurrection of the body, “for flesh and blood shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Marcionism, as you know, existed until the 5th century. Clearly the message he gleaned from the resurrection was also different.
Once again, the point is that the message of the resurrection depends on what you already believe, meaning that the resurrection itself is not clear or obvious-otherwise there would not only not be groups like mormons & witnesses, or marcionites, but that even within evangelical Christian circles, wide belief that Jesus never claimed what you believed he did- and thus, the message you ascribe to the resurrection is a product of your beliefs, not of the event itself.
I love a challenge as well.
IMPACT: 2 billion adherents to a religion does not validate that religion. Otherwise we would have to say that the 1.5 billion that follow Islam are correct in their beliefs and the 12 million Mormons are correct in their beliefs. The number of followers does not indicate truth of the religion. Miracles do not prove a religion is the true one either and miracles abound in voodoo and Buddhism and pretty much any religion out there. Also, the Christian Bible really only mentions around 7 miracles performed by Jesus, not thousands.
You have to believe the OT is true if you are going to believe the NT is true, as the NT validates itself off the OT. Therefore consider, Deut 13, where God says that it is not about someone prophesying and the prophecy coming true or about someone doing a sign or wonder and that thing coming about, it is about who that person tells you to follow. If they tell you to follow a god that is foreign to the one that God revealed himself to be at Sinai, not at Calvary, then you are not to follow that god and you are to put that person to death.
Just because Christianity chooses to ignore such instructions for 2000 years does not give it any more validity than the day Jesus was crucified.
DURATION and WITNESS II: The Exodus was not an exile, it was a journey. Yes, far longer than maybe God originally intended, but God never left their presence the entire time. He continued to intimately take care of them and guide them.
There are no verifiable eye-witness documented accounts of the resurrection, certainly not hundreds of them. No one knows who wrote the gospels. It is only Catholic tradition that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did. It is clear that the information from three of the gospels was taken from the same document. Of the gospels, only Matthew and John could be considered possible eye witness accounts and their stories only mention Jesus revealing himself to his close followers. John (considered to be an eye witness) tells us that after Jesus demanded of his followers to eat his flesh and drink his blood that indeed, most of his followers deserted him at that point.
WITNESS I: Don’t you think this is just a little bit silly. Jews have a documented history of genealogy. This other flim flam stuff is just as you say, not logical. Not sure why you even mention it.
WITNESS III: Actually, if you read much history, you might be aware that the resurrection story is not unique to Jesus. Most cultures had at least one religion with a resurrected savior in it. In fact, there really is not a single unique doctrine within Christianity that can’t be found in some ancient pagan religion. Nothing was even written about this religion for over 20 years after Jesus even died. More than enough time to figure out it wasn’t flying for the Jews and to see the need to make it appealing to the gentile masses with religious overtones that would make it familiar to them. It most likely would have fizzled, in fact, the way all the other pagan religions had if it had not been for Constantine making it the state religion and killing all dissenters. Since Rome ruled most of the known world at that time, Christianity got a HUGE leg up to outlast these other religions. It was not because it was necessarily the “truth” but because it was in the right place at the right time in history to succeed. Read Deut 13. God does not say he might test us with this stuff, he says he WILL. It is just a test to see whom you will serve.
DIRECT VS IMPLIED: I think the point here is that just because there is a belief in a resurrection, this does not prove a doctrine. Which is true, as I have already mentioned that there were numerous religions that claimed a resurrected savior. It does not prove that their beliefs are true. However, the eye witness to the giving of the Torah, by a nation, establishing a religion for an entire people, well, that holds a little more water. And you can’t deny this, because it is foundational to Christian belief as well. So frankly, I don’t know why you are arguing with any of this stuff. Judaism doesn’t have anything to prove to Christianity. Christianity is the one that claims it is the only way and walked away from its origins. I would say that Christianity is the one needing to prove itself, especially in light of the fact that it claims that if you don’t believe, you go to hell. Judaism doesn’t make that claim. It claims, as God says, you but need to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your Creator. In a nutshell.
PHILOSOPHY: Actually, the trinity is more understandable than it is fathomable. Jews don’t doubt the complexity of God, however, if you study the OT, you will see that God revealed himself to his people in a certain way. He made it clear by repeating to them over and over and over and over and over and over that there is no other God besides him. None before him, none after him, ad naseum. THEN he said, if anyone comes along and tries to tell you differently, not only are you to not listen to them, you are to kill them. Remove the vileness from your midst. God revealed that he is not a man. He said he is “one.” Now, a Jew is supposed to believe that God is not only a man, but he is three?
I don’t know how much of the trinity Rabbi Yisroel has studied, but I know that I have studied it, probably more than you have. I was a Christian and I studied it so that I could prove it and explain it to people. I studied it so that I could know that it was true. I studied the OT, I studied the NT, I studied what Jesus said, I studied what Paul said, I studied what the prophets said, I studied what God said, I studied Elohim, I studied echad, and I studied the history of the church. It was through that study that I discovered that it simply was a fabrication of the Catholic church. It was certainly not something Paul taught or believed. It was certainly not something Jesus taught or believed. It was certainly not something found anywhere in the OT. It was voted on in 325 CE and at that time, it didn’t even include the Holy Spirit. He didn’t join the trinity for another 55 years.
CONSISTENCY VS CONFLICT: To state that Christians have never felt the need to reconcile the trinity and monotheism is not a well thought out statement. There are apologetics that can fill volumes of books trying to reconcile the things in Christianity that don’t make sense, including the trinity. It is precisely the reason why they had to vote on it in 325CE, because they had to try and reconcile it, they couldn’t, so they went with the majority. The dissenters were exiled or killed after that vote. Your condescension is unbecoming of a Christian that is supposed to be projecting the love of Christ. Your accusations of prejudice are unfounded and shows that your written response is based on emotional reaction and defensiveness versus sound facts.
WHO IS OBLIGATED: Again, the Christian concept of hell derives itself from pagan religions of the day. It certainly did not come from the origins of Christianity. Again, you spout dogma you have been told to believe instead of things you have actually studied. The fact that you attribute this to “Hebrew Scriptures” is silly.
Maybe, if you set your beliefs on the shelf for a moment, instead of allowing yourself to become over-ridden with the need to defend something, you might have actually learned something about the origins of your faith and about the compelling questions that are being brought up by members of your faith all over the world. Because of the mass access to information, they are able to do their own studies and see that 1+1 does not = 2 in Christianity. There are immense problems with its stated history and documented history and its doctrines based on what was originally its foundation, Judaism.
The fact that Rabbi Yisroel discusses the differences between Judaism and Christianity does not mean he can’t stop talking about Jesus. In fact, I rarely see him even to have typed the name. Your comment is meant to degrade and incite. You project no respect for the beliefs of others or the origins of your own faith. I confidently say this as a former Christian, a pastor’s daughter and bible college student. I know a typical Christian when I see or read one. And you have only served to prove once again that they are simply capable of being some of the meanest and rudest people in the world.
Good! Glad to have you.
Impact: Nobody said that adherents validates anything. We’re talking about impact, and Christianity has had a bigger one than Judaism. But I’m glad to have someone come out and say that at the end of the day “NUMBERS DON’T PROVE ANYTHING,” because that means the whole thing is pretty much moot, eh? It doesn’t matter if the Exodus influenced more people (I still argue it didn’t), because numbers don’t prove anything. And, neither do miracles (such as the miracles of the Exodus)! Good, good. All on the same page. That would probably mean the only real, tenable objection left is whether Christianity contradicts the Hebrew Bible… Now, of course the New Testament only mentions a limited number of miracles. That’s why we call them miracles. In the words of Westley, “You think this happens every day?”
Well, you don’t have to believe the OT to believe the NT (I mean, you do, but only if you want to be consistent)– there were some cults that proved that. But, yeah, I get what you mean. Jesus never said to follow a different God, is the thing. We’re facing a different situation: Jesus is claiming to be Yahweh, not saying people should abandon Yahweh. And, they did put that person to death. Funny thing, He seems to have made more of a problem that way.
Odd that you say Christians ignore those instructions when we often quote them, and use them, and their impact can even be felt in the New Testament methods for rooting out false teachers.
Duration and Witness II: Yes, the Exodus was not an Exile. But the “Exile” was very much so, in the sense of the Jewish people being kept out of the promised land.
“There are no verifiable eye-witness documented accounts of the resurrection.” Many people beg to differ. Many, many people. We do have eyewitness accounts, like Matthew and Mark and John, or the collected accounts of Luke. Mark is considered eyewitness material because it is the testimony of Peter, which Mark simply recorded.
John tells us that Jesus’s disciples gave up hope after He was taken and crucified. Where are you getting your information? Can you give a reference to where John tells us that “after Jesus demanded of his followers to eat his flesh and drink his blood that indeed, most of his followers deserted him’?
Witness I: I’m not sure why you don’t address the “flim flam.” Christians have a documented history down to the beginning, too, and I mentioned that in another response. Eusebius is a great example.
Witness III: Which cultures had a resurrection story that pre-dated Jesus? You said “most” like it’s a common thing, so I’m sure you should be able to give a pretty big list. Maybe off the top of your head, is what it sounds like. Now, as for unique doctrines– flat earth and sphere earth theories both share the idea of the earth, but that doesn’t reflect on their truthfulness. It’s a widely accepted religious belief that God instilled certain information about Himself into humanity, so common beliefs are not unexpected. As for these pagan religions, which ones? Be specific in your points, it helps. And did these religions develop these doctrines before or after Christianity? And how does the sharing of ideas impact the truthfulness of them at all?
“Nothing” was written about Jesus until 20 years after He died? Do you know how much of a newsflash that is in the ancient world? Most ancient historical information is gained hundreds of years after the fact. 20 years is a blip! And much of this information was being written within a few years of His death, like the creed Paul quotes in his letter to the Corinthians, and even some of the earlier letters of the New Testament.
To say that Christians made Christianity appealing to Gentiles makes little sense when we see Gentile reactions to it. “To the Jews, a stumbling block; to the Greeks, foolishness.” Do you even know why Constantine made Christianity the state religion? Why would he do that unless Christianity had ALREADY become widespread? It doesn’t make sense otherwise. And how does a person in power spreading a religion mean the religion is not true, by the way? And if God were going to spread the truth, would we not expect Him to put it at the right place at the right time?
Direct v. Implied: You have yet to name those numerous religions. I addressed the rest of this up to Christianity needing to prove itself. How has Christianity walked away from its roots? There are many Jewish Christians (Jews for Jesus is a biggie, though not popular in these circles for obvious reasons), and many Christians study deeply the Jewish roots of the faith. Anyway, the Hebrew Bible seems pretty big on the fact that God wipes out wicked people, and among those seem to be those who worship false gods. Let’s not make Judaism some ultra-tolerant religion, considering the history of Canaan (and how we’re to treat those false prophets)!
Philosophy: Right, God is not a man like Zeus or Thor, He is not an animal like the gods of Hinduism. But saying God is not a man like Zeus or the gods of the Norse is very different from saying God can appear as a man, or take the form of a man, or come down in the shape of a dove, etc.
See, this is the problem. In the vein of Chesterton, I could believe the claims against Christianity if they weren’t so contradictory. Here I’m being told that Paul is the problem, the originator of Christianity– then that Jesus is the originator of Christianity– now I’m being told that neither is the originator of Christianity! Now you make the very fallacious claim that the First Council of Nicaea decided what Christianity was, but how for goodness’s sake did it do that if Constantine had already made it the state religion, if it had already spread through the empire, if Christians already had Christian ideas? The scholarship is not with the idea that the Council of Nicaea decided what Christianity was, simply that it defined what Christianity was. Don’t you know what the Council was in the first place? It was Christians, getting together, declaring what they believed. It wasn’t some foreign invasion of ideas. And the Trinity was quite present, not only in the Nicene but the Apostles Creed as well. Wikipedia is good for reading and great for its references, so: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Nicaea and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Nicaea#The_Nicene_Creed and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicean_creed#The_original_Nicene_Creed_of_325. To make a good quote: “One of the projects undertaken by the Council was the creation of a Creed, a declaration and summary of the Christian faith. Several creeds were already in existence; many creeds were acceptable to the members of the council, including Arius. From earliest times, various creeds served as a means of identification for Christians, as a means of inclusion and recognition, especially at baptism. In Rome, for example, the Apostles’ Creed was popular, especially for use in Lent and the Easter season. In the Council of Nicea, one specific creed was used to define the Church’s faith clearly, to include those who professed it, and to exclude those who did not.”
Consistency v. Conflict: Which volumes of books? I’ll add them to my reading list. Christians defending the idea of the Trinity is not the same as Christians saying, “How do we force that to fit into that?” The Athanasian Creed is a great reference for that. It defines the Trinity without any insecurity over that definition.
I already apologized to the rabbi in case I offended him, but I’ll add that sarcasm isn’t contradictory to Christian morality. I’m not sure you’ve got the biggest idea of Christian ‘agape’ love– that’s the kind of love that feeds an enemy, which has nothing to do with being blunt in a debate. As for emotions, they’re not really present, to be completely honest with you. I get emotional in all sorts of debates (look at my recent debate with a 9/11 truther to see some of that, I mean!), but this isn’t really one of them. You’re reading emotion into it. Sorry. Right now I’m just enjoying the argument.
Who is Obligated: Which pagan religions does Christianity get its concept of Hell from? If this is so, why does this mean this concept is false? See, you talk about condescension and things, and then go on making assumptions about what I’ve studied. I mean, sure, I did that with the rabbi, but that’s because I’m okay with saying things like that. But you were just saying how wrong that was, you know.
I actually didn’t come in defending as much as you make it sound. I was much more on the offensive in terms of argumentation. So, I’m not sure what defensiveness I have. I think I have more offensiveness, to be honest. But as for putting my beliefs aside, nobody actually does that. You can’t. Everybody uses beliefs to process fact, but saying that that means I can’t process fact well makes no sense– religious people of all sorts agree on most facts, whether in science or mathematics or language or what-have-you. Anyway, you talk about all these problems, but from the studying I’ve done and continue to do they really aren’t that big. If you want really big, insane, crazy questions that are tough for Christians to answer, I’ll gladly give you some. They’re out there. But these aren’t it.
Well, the “can’t stop talking about Jesus” bit was a pretty obvious generalization. I think you knew that. My comment isn’t mean to degrade. Seriously, my friend, if I wanted to be degrading, I’d be degrading. To end, I find your gross stereotype of the “typical Christian” as degrading and inciting as much of anything.
Your webite deserves to be answered by a book Rabbi. I think I’ll write one.
An article touching on how Christians interact with the Old Testament, with good resources, which may be of interest: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2011/07/10/you-asked-did-the-apostle-peter-have-a-bad-hermeneutic/
Joe, a little bit of observation at a time. You will need to study up a little more on the history of Christianity, and both its relationship to Judaism (as seen by the founding fathers and the later adherents of the faith in the 2nd- 4th century c.e.) and to the pagan upbringing and background of Christianity’s founders. Christianity was not created in a vacuum, nor was the world’s non-Hebrew population void of any mythologies (called pagan by Jews) or ideas about hell, heaven, sin, “saviors”, man-gods, persons-as-gods or gods as persons (incarnated in flesh), demons,devils, etc. You seem to be making the argument that these “christian-like pagan ideas” did not exist much or at all before Jesus brought them. I do not believe that you are that ignorant that you do not know that they were mentioned maybe 1000-2000 years before Jesus, in Hebrew holy writings. Surely you know Isis and other pagan gods existed and were well established long before Paul of Tarsus (a city often called the capital of pagan gods because it existed near the cross-roads of the east-west and north-south trading/military routes. You would know that if you were more familiar with the NT writings and especially with the non-canonical early Christian writings. You would be quite familiar with the NT’s and the early church’s its dependence upon pagan philosophy. I am not saying you are wrong for believing more in Greek-Roman and pagan philosophy then in Hebraic religion and philosophy, but be man enough to admit it. Don’t deny your god just to try to diminish the God of Israel and try to negate Judaism (remember, I was not raised Jewish, but Christian).
It is good that you mentioned Chesterton & Lewis, so we know where you are coming from. On Impact; statistically since Islam is 400-700 years more recent than Christianity, Islam has more impact and is the “fastest growing”. To argue against that, you may want to read the “Encyclopedia of Islam Myths”. Of course, Islam only has 2 or 3 major & a few other lesser “denomination”s, while Christianity has thousands. Christianity (or it’s God, or maybe thru a 3rd person, the holy spirit of the 3 substances or persons or people or gods) seems to prefer quantity over quality. Catholicism (with about 80 denominations or groups) has twice as many adherents as “all Protestants” with its thousands or tens of thousands of denominations or groups worldwide. Some say there are over 30,000 Christian denominations which almost mirrors the 30,000 gods in the ancient Roman pantheon of gods.
Some believe something had to go exceedingly wrong with Jesus’s “one way” in order for it to lead to such division and confusion. Some say the devil is the only author of confusion. We wonder why Gospel Matthew & Luke slightly disagree with the order of events, and John and Mark seem to want to say nothing or very little of a “temptation” of Jesus, until we look closer at Luke 4. We see that the devil was given all “the kingdoms of the world” and he could give them all to Jesus. Only Jesus was there to know what deal was made, but we are told that the devil would leave Jesus for a while and come back at an “opportune time”. Joe, perhaps you may have something there when you insist that there was an explosive growth in Christianity. I infer otherwise, since there was an almost negligible (or perhaps no) impact that Jesus made to Jews or to the Romans in the 1st century c.e. and no written evidence of a Christian movement until about the middle of 2nd century. But you may be leading us in the right direction, since there is no “devil” in the Jewish scripture (written before Jesus), Jesus tells us he believes in a devil (unknown before in Judea, as far as we call tell, but “devil or the evil god” was part of some pagan and (harlot) Babylonian religions), and Jesus also believes the devil can be a father of people. Which implies that the spiritual devil is also a heavenly person (from the evil principalities that exist in heaven) that is incarnated into flesh in order to walk on earth. It is also interesting, that this devil person is often pictured with a Trinity, his Trident fork. WOW, Joe you are on to something here. Is that why you also believe paganism came after Jesus came and “who is to say it’s bad” (except for Torah based Jews)??
BTW, the reason some of the Jewish posters are confused about the originator of Christianity, whether it was Paul or Jesus or no one, or about Christian doctrine and history, is because of the contradictory writings of the NT. But perhaps, most of their information comes from Christians and from the contradictory Christian teachings, arguments, and apologetics. So many doctrines to chose from. These debates are between Christians: Paul vs Jesus; Pauline vs Peterine doctrine vs Johannine doctrine vs Jamesian; Book of Acts vs. Pauline letters; Paul’s 7 letters or 14; Paul vs James & the “Jerusalem church”; Protestant proliferation of churches vs Catholic churches vs Orthodox vs Coptic: 26 book NT vs less books vs. more or different one; “King James Version Bible Only” vs “the Devil’s Bibles” which is any bible other than the KJV; “Sacred Name” bibles or “heathen bibles”; Grace or works; Faith alone or law keepers; Greek Jesus or “Hebrew Yeshua”; “Hebraic Roots churches” vs. Ephraimites or “2 House Theorists” vs. messianic Israelites vs “Jews” 4 Jesus vs. messianic “Judaism” (2 or 3 major types and several different varieties) vs “pagan Christians” or “true Christians” or “witnesses” or Later Day Saints or early rain; Santa Claus or no; Easter or Resurrection Day; Sunday or Ssturday “sabbath”; “prosperity churches” or primitive or ……
I give up on Impact for now and will get to your other points tomorrow.
Joe – Thanks for taking the time and the effort to write out your responses. These ongoing discussions give us the opportunity to articulate our beliefs – allowing us to share greater clarity and to arrive at greater clarity – so I sincerely thank you.
I think you missed the point of my original article. Allow me to try to articulate it with different words.
I don’t have to tell you that there are many religions out there each claiming exclusive possession of the truth. Most of these religions appeal to the human sensitivity to truth – the courtroom of the human mind – in an effort to establish the credibility of their religious claim. The adherents of most belief systems do NOT point to their own subjective belief in their effort to establish the credibility of their claim. They recognize that it is no appeal to our sense of honesty to say: “It is true because we believe it”. What many religions do, including; Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, is that they point to certain supernatural occurrences in their effort to establish the validity of their faith.
So, to reiterate, I am not contrasting the subjective claims of the believers in the Jewish faith against the subjective claims of the believers in the Christian faith. It is for this reason that I do not focus on the psychological impact of the respective faiths. I am zooming in on the practical supernatural occurrences that these two faiths present to the courtroom of our minds.
The Jewish Scriptures point to the complete exodus story – from the Nile turning to blood until the Jewish people were brought through the desert to the Plains of Moab – as the “supernatural occurrences” that provide a credible basis for their claim (Deuteronomy 4:32-35, 8:14-16, 11:2-7, 29:1-5, 34:11,12). These are the practical witnesses for Judaism.
Christianity points to the resurrection in its attempt to establish the credibility of her claims. If you want to throw in the miracle healings of Jesus – I have no problem with that. Again – the discussion is about supernatural occurrences that happened (or allegedly happened) in a practical way. The discussion is NOT about the subjective beliefs that arose from the respective faiths.
When we contrast the practical nature of the supernatural occurrences that serve as the basis for Judaism against the supernatural occurrences that serve as the basis for Christianity – the differences become obvious as I enumerated in my original article. If you go back to my original article and you read it with this point in mind – that I am talking of the practical supernatural occurrences – and not their psychological ripple effect – you will see my point. To help you out – I will go through the points one at a time.
Impact – the practical impact of the supernatural occurrences surrounding the exodus were tremendous. The PRACTICAL impact of a resurrection – even if it happened – is extremely localized.
Duration – I provided Scriptural references to demonstrate why it is that all of the supernatural occurrences from the exodus until their arrival at the plains of Moab are considered evidence to Judaism. Take ALL of the supernatural occurrences that are pointed to establish the credibility of Christianity – they don’t add up to more than a few hours.
Witness I – I am just pointing out a difference between Judaism on the one hand and Christianity, Islam and Buddhism on the other. In the case of Judaism it is the physical descendants of those who claim to have been PRACTICALLY affected by the foundational miracles who carry the testimony – as opposed to the other faith systems.
Witness II – The exodus story lives in the mouth of a nation from the earliest records of this nation’s existence. The resurrection story is only found in the books of the devotees. Even these books do not claim that Jesus appeared to anyone besides his immediate following. Paul’s claim that he appeared to 500 still does not match the claim that two large nations witnessed some of the major events of the exodus. Again – consider – the Mississippi turning to blood for a week versus a miracle healing that takes place in a Church in front of 500 people. Would the credibility of these two begin to compare?
Witness III – About the psychological backdrop. People don’t “walk away” from charismatic leaders that they gave their life for. Resurrection stories abound – Buddha, Crishna, Osiris, Aesculapius, and yes Elvis. Post-death appearances and resurrections are one and the same – it is just a matter of subjective interpretation that would set them apart. But even without resurrection stories – the history of charismatic leaders when an unexpected setback happened demonstrates that people do not “walk away” – they come up with something.
Direct vs. implied – The theological truths that the exodus is supposed to teach – were never up for debate – the perception of God and the truth of Moses’ prophecy. The Bible was not given to further our understanding of God’s nature – the Sinai revelation completed that lesson – Deuteronomy 4:35. So to reiterate – the PRACTICAL supernatural events that serve as the foundation of Judaism do not require interpretation to be understood for what they are meant to teach. The PRACTICAL events that are called upon to support Christianity do.
Philosophy – Anyone can claim that a statue, a frog, or a person is the living incarnation of the One Creator of heaven and earth – that doesn’t make it any less of a philosophical absurdity. The claim that the Creator of all made Himself into a created being and is still deserving of worship is like saying light turned itself into darkness and still provides illumination.
Consistency vs. conflict – I challenge you to try to read the OT without the NT. Ask yourself – what kind of world-view is this book (the OT) advocating? – and then judge the NT in light of the world-view advocated by the OT – you might find this article helpful – https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/1000-verses/
Who is obligated – Judaism does not expect the entire world to believe in the supernatural occurrences that it points to as the basis for their faith – Christianity does.
There is more to say – but this should help. Thanks again Joe for commenting – and thanks to all of you – Thomas, Sharlee, and Naaria – for taking the time and effort to contribute so meaningfully to this discussion.
I think that it is interesting to read the arguments that go back and forth. The responses to Joe’s debate is the same response that you read in atheists against the Old Testament. They also say that creation, flood, etc are part of human history and mythology. hum.
As is the same with the documented evidences only documented by a book. The same is said of people of history such as David or Jesus. Only documented in a religious book.
Then there is a reference to denominations, both Judaism and Christianity has its denominations. From extreme to more orthodox.
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Thank you for the article. I find, reading the back and forth , in the comments, that my interest is in studying the scriptures to bring unity. Both sides have their own truths, but I am looking more deeply
The Apostles did not see the Exodus and Resurrection as two separate events. They anticipated Jesus to restore the kingdom to Israel upon his resurrection (Act 1:6) . The Apostles based their expectations on what the prophets foretold about the greater Exodus – Israel will be liberated in the sight of all nations and that God’s presence be revealed to all creation .
It is true that an event witnessed by 500 people has caused peoples of all nations to know and worship the God of Israel . However Israel is still in exile.The Jewish people have been persecuted by the Church for many centuries.The Temple and the sacrificial system have not been restored to date.
In addition , the events of the resurrection exalted Jesus to such a high degree in the eyes of his Jewish followers that they worship him and this shows in their writings (the New Testament).The God who creates is distinct from the God who saves, somehow this belief led the Church to define the God of Israel as a Trinity a few centuries later.
As such, is the resurrection narratives and the establishment of the church a fulfillment of the greater Exodus as foretold by the prophets?
Is the God of Israel most of us (Christians) come to know and love is the same God of Israel- the Creator of the heavens and the earth, who liberated the children of Israel from Egypt in the first Exodus?
Is Jesus the fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures?
Something to ponder.
There is unity. The christian bible starts with the Torah. Maybe you mean agreement?
That was very well said Sharon.
Thank you for the compliment.
I have listened /read many articles/videos by Christians & Messianic Jews trying to convince their audience that there is a unity between the message of both Scriptures. I have come to learn that the Christian Scriptures are actually very Jewish. The Gospel writers or better known as the Evangelists , clearly had the Jewish Scriptures in mind as they recalled what Jesus did in writing down the Gospels. For example, the author of the Gospel according to Matthew may have referred to the Exodus narratives when he wrote about Jesus’s trial in the wilderness and the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 4-7)
Unfortunately , these presentations are not able to provide satisfactory answer to the three questions listed in my earlier comment.
What should one do in this situation? I can think of three options-(1) Ignore these questions (2) Accept there are serious discrepancies, ignore the Jewish Scriptures and focus on the Gospels (3) Accept there are serious discrepancies , abandon the Gospel and worship the God Jews pray to
Pretending unity when there is none will cause one to disregard the unique message of both scriptures. Disregarding Jewish Scriptures is an injustice to the tradition of Jewish followers of Jesus and the early church who relied on these Scriptures to decipher their experiences and producing the Christian Scriptures . It is best to disregard the Gospels since it is not the fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures and its teachings misrepresents the God of the Jewish people,despite its Jewish underpinnings.
However I learn that abandoning the Gospels has a big impact on my reception of the Jewish Scriptures . I have been reading the Jewish Scriptures as a gentile who is redeemed from sin, grafted into the olive tree of Israel. I see myself as part of God’s people . This is what the Christian Scriptures taught me.Option (3) requires me to approach the Jewish Scriptures as a revelation from God to the Jewish people. As such I have to approach the Jewish Scriptures as a gentile who is outside of the covenant. Jewish tradition does not recognise an Gentile who believes in the God of Israel as part of the congregation of Israel.It is a big shift and a huge challenge for me to see the Jewish Scriptures and the God of the Jewish Scriptures in the same light as before.
Pursuing truth comes with a huge cost.I am talking not only about 1 God versus 3 , but so much more. Pursuing truth may cause one’s perception of God and even one’s relationship with Him , built on the foundation of the Gospels , to fall apart. One has to form new relationship with a whole new set of foundation and to see God, His revelation and oneself differently in the new relationship .