Thanks again for moving this discussion forward keeping the focus on the issues.
1) Resurrection and Covenant
Your comments about the resurrections done through Elijah and Ezekiel entirely missed the mark. Do you think that I don’t believe in God’s ability to resurrect the dead? What did I say that would give you that impression?
What I did pointo, and which you completely ignored (in keeping with 2000 years of Church history), is the COMMANDMENT of God as articulated in Deuteronomy 13:2-6 (1-5). It is that Scriptural text that commands us to disregard resurrections, miracle healings, stopping the sun in the sky, and all other miracles if they are being used to justify a redirection of our worship as Christianity demands for Jesus.
It was in that context that I stated that a resurrection is utterly meaningless – and I ask you – do you not agree? Do you believe that a resurrection (or any miracle) could justify a redirection of our worship? Do you have a different interpretation of the passage in Deuteronomy?
Did I read you right? Were you stating (or implying) that Israel’s covenantal relationship with God is defined by belief in a resurrection or lack thereof? Wouldn’t you say that the prohibition against idolatry is much more central to the relationship than is belief in the resurrection?
In a certain sense I get the feeling that you view idolatry as some technical legality which happens to be prohibited and you don’t see it for the act of spiritual adultery that it is. Do you not agree that worshiping anyone other than the God who we stand with in covenantal relationship is the deepest violation of that relationship?
2) Bush, Serpent and lessons to be learned
The fact that you keep on bringing up the bronze serpent tells me that you believe that it is somehow relevant to this discussion.
It is not.
It could be compared to a woman who sees her husband driving is another man’s car and attempts to use this as a justification to commit adultery with that person.
I realize that perhaps you don’t consider worshiping Jesus an act of idolatry – but then this is what you should be trying to articulate – why it is that you believe that worship of Jesus is not idolatry instead of harping on the Bronze Serpent again and again.
As for your question – what is the lesson to be learned from the Serpent. I will respond – but before I do so let me point something out – Scripture does not clearly and explicitly tell us in a direct way what the lesson is – all we could do is try to figure it out in the spirit of Scripture as we have absorbed it.
The lesson is this (according to my understanding): The people were being bitten by serpents. The human tendency is to focus on the immediate problem and not see the hand of God behind the problem (as per Isaiah 10:5). God had the solution to their problem come about through the same medium through which He delivered their problem – namely a serpent. They were healed by looking at (note: not worshipping) a serpent. The message is that it is not the serpent that brings death nor is it the serpent that brings life – these are but agents in God’s hand to be used as He pleases for either life or death. When we turn from God and from His holy law we find death and when we turn to God and to His commandments God gives us life – that is the lesson.
3) Prophecy, Moses and Numbers 12
You argue that I set a standard for prophecy (that the prophet be kind and honest) – you argue that it is non-Scriptural and you refer me to Numbers 12. Numbers 12 makes a point about Moses’ humility – do you think that it is coincidental that the most humble person was also the greatest prophet?
The reason I make no reference to Numbers 12 in the context of identifying a false prophet is because it is not stated as a commandment – Deuteronomy 13 and 18 are. (It seems to me that you don’t appreciate the significance of God’s explicit command – perhaps you would care to explain your position on this).
Abraham would not have failed according to my standards and he was not dishonest – in any case, my standard of kindness and honesty was not to demand of the prophet that he or she never sin. But if someone who is clearly wicked (such as in unkind or dishonest – even according to human standards) – we could be sure that such a person is not a prophet. I don’t need Scripture to support such an obvious point – but if you insist I will point you to Isaiah 59:2 where it is stated that our sins stand between us and God – someone who is saturated with sin will not be someone who enjoys the connection to God inherent in prophecy (I understand that there may be some exceptions to the rule; such as with Balaam).
Your statement that Jesus was a prophet like Moses is contrary to Scripture. Moses was the greatest prophet because of the credibility that God granted to his mission (Exodus 19:9; Deuteronomy 34:10-12). Numbers 12 teaches about what was going on behind the scenes. Unless God explicitly teaches us what is happening between Him and any given prophet – we can never know what is going on in that private realm. This is not the measuring stick that God granted us through which we can evaluate the level of a given prophet.
4) Covenantal Responsibility
Do you not see how the claims of the Church concerning the alleged deity of Jesus as viewed from the position of the Jew represent the deepest violation of our covenantal relationship that we share with God? Can you please address this critical issue?
(P.S. It may please you to know that I’ve read most of the articles on your blog.)
If you found this article helpful please consider making a donation to Judaism Resources by clicking on the link below.
Judaism Resources is a recognized 501(c) 3 public charity and your donation is tax exempt.
Yisroel C. Blumenthal
When one mentions a serpent, many people immediately think of satan. In the ancient world, serpents were associated with healing and serpent worship was practiced by many people and “ungodly” nations around the Hebrews, around Israel. Before the “bronze serpent”, serpents were “sent by God” as punishment, for those who spoke against both Moses & God, so the disenchanted might have still longed for “pagan Egypt, their home sweet home”, where they were born & raised? These same type of people requested that a molten calf god be made, so that they could worship it (or through it as an intermediary). So the enemy, fiery serpent, was ironically also the sinners “savior”? So “what punished people was also their only hope” as they seen it? At that time, they did not worship the serpent, but Nehushtan”, the bronze serpent, was later destroyed by King Hezekiah, because it did indeed became an object of worship (2 Kings 18.4).
So appropriate (or unfortunate because the NT author misunderstood the symbolism), that in the NT, Jn 3. 14–15, promotes Jesus as a serpent who must be “lifted up” before those sinners who knew not God. He was the “enemy” and the “protection” from himself? And who will be “King Hezekiah” who will destroy the fiery serpent, the idol, that people have come to worship?
Hello All, I think everyone here has missed the actual point of the serpent, in the OT and the NT. The Whole scripture needs to be viewed in the context as it was written. Not sure where anyone gets the idea of the serpent actually being worshiped!? Because, yes serpents are usually seen as negative, this is not the point here. The whole passages are to do with faith, and standing in faith. Of course in Numbers it would be stupid to say that the serpant actually healed anyone, because that would be quite wrong, spiritually.It wasnt Moses rod/staff the parted the sea, but the Lord. But the rod still had to be stretched forth in faith etc. The point being made was ” to look unto the serpent in faith, in faith that the Lord God of Israel would heal you. So the same point is being made by John in ch 3. Looking unto Heaven to see the Son who has decended. So being “Lifted up is the crucifixtion and the ascension thereafter. Just look at Jeshua in faith and be saved. ” “”For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting Life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condem the world, but the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light,because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing eveil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.
Without faith you cannot be saved.It doesnt have to be difficult and you dont need to be a Theologian. xx
The point is that the fiery serpent was actually worshipped in Israel’s neighboring nations AND in Israel (2 Kings 18:4) and was therefore destroyed by King Hezekiah. And in John 3:14-15, the author, who should have been aware of what a serpent had come to represent in many people’s mind & should have been aware of serpent worship), believes that Jesus had to be “lifted up” (exalted?, and even someday worshipped?) like the OBJECT that the man Moses lifted up.
Before it was claimed for Jesus, there were several other “only begotten sons of God”; none to be taken as literal “sons” or none as God’s “biological son” nor as a “divine son”. If there is a “divine son” who had to be “sent” (which is not the same as an ordinary, born person who is “chosen” as a prophet or messenger or given a mission), this is polytheism & that would be an abomination before God. The words “…gave…””…whoever believes in him…”, makes “him”, Jesus, (who is not God) an idol. If the “Him” in John 3 is God, then there would not be a need for a “him” who is Jesus. Note that an idol is not usually “the very god” itself, but is “the spirit of that god that “had come to dwell in” or come to be manifested in (or incarnated in) an object – or in a person. The message of John is that an intermediary, an idol, is one that we must “believe” in. Incarnation is only a more acceptable (politcally or pagan religiously correct) and more pleasant sounding word than idolatry. This is the evil warned of in the “10 commandments”. This is the darkness that has come into the world. Faith in an idol or man-god “saves” no one; no more than faith in demons or the mighty god, Zeus. But God is a merciful God, so one’s sincere ignorance does not condemn them.
Even if one believes that belief in one who is not God or who is not “our Father” is not idolatry, it can be so easily believed that it actually is idolatry or that it can be “misconstrued” as much. This confusion of what is or isn’t idolatry or what “part” of God is father or which is son or which is a Holy Spirit (or ghost), is not about bringing light to darkness. It only brings more confusion and more discord. The subtlety of the words that one uses in their argument tends to confuse and bring about greater misunderstanding. If you “choose” between “trinitarianism” or “non-trinitarianism”, you might have missed the simple, original idea of the “God that is One”. If you can’t see that there is a difference between father and son, than you may not be able to discern what is meant by “Man’s relationship to God” and then one may be confused by the idea or the reality of a direct relationship to “our Father” (which is not only theoretically possible, but was the way of Jews and non-Jewish “God fearers”, both before and after Jesus.), vs. the idea or faith of an indirect relationship between God and Man, who is a son/daughter of God, through belief in and/or through another son of God, who may or may not also be God depending on your interpretation of words in a book.
First, please accept my apologies, Yisroel, because instead of a copy/paste I typed words which were not yours [resurrection for Jews is utterly meaningless] but seemed that way in quotations. It was a pathetically sloppy typo and not a true reflection of what I intended. I did misunderstand you, hence, my comments on Ezekiel and Elijah as examples of resurrection. I understand now, even if I do differ with your application, of Deuteronomy 13 with its mention of sign and wonder to include the resurrection. Yes, overall, I agree with you on Deuteronomy 13 as to its warning of a prophet who would entice Israel away from the living God.
Yes, you misunderstood me. I do not think, did not say nor did I imply Israel’s covenant relationship is defined by her belief in the resurrection or lack thereof.
Second, I’m a bit baffled that you should think my reference to the bronze serpent, yes, here it is again, was as if it were something truly and necessarily relevant to the discussion. It is not. Also, I do not not seriously think you believe I thought or was suggesting that is a proto-type for a license to engage in idolatrous worship.
Still, I will reiterate why I mentioned it along with other matters. It was to illustrate how utterly and seemingly bizarre (the bronze serpent: for its semblance to idolatry) God manifested his will or his presence to Israel.
I value and commend you for the simple lessons from the bronze serpent as you shared them. It strikes me as a simple and profound, insight you have stated. The manner in which you bring out the lessons speaks very loudly about much of what Jesus said, namely, that he left it for his listeners to do a little head scratching to discern and understand and then accept or reject as they may. What you state resonates in a very big way with me in the way I see God has, – to use your expression which I really like and find quite fitting that He: “used as He pleases” to accomplish his purpose. I will come back to this at a later point.
Third, the weakness of a self-fashioned standard for the prophet candidate is revealed, Yisroel. Even as you did not rely on scripture for that standard saying you “don’t need Scripture to support such an obvious point” you then turn to Isaiah to inform me our sins stand between us and God. What? Was the matter of our sins not an obvious point, Yisroel?
You gotta love the humor of this,Yisroel, though it may be difficult. Your reminder that we are all sinners is so much like too many of my brethren in Christ who are too quick to point out: None of us are perfect; we all sin, as though perfection had anything to do with sinlessness or that such a notion were founded on scripture.
You have completely misunderstood me or misstated my point. I did not say Jesus is a prophet. I stated the exact opposite and said that he is not a prophet on the basis of Numbers 12. Here’s that humor again. If you remember I said the same about Moses on the basis of the same, yet your insistence that Moses is a prophet is word for word, with only a name difference, the same as my brethren in Christ insist about Jesus being a prophet. Yes, it makes me chuckle to thing I get the same on this matter of a prophet from Christian and Jew alike. Gotta love it, Yisroel. lol
Fourth, I will borrow your term “Covenantal responsibility” and go back to the lesson point you took on the bronze serpent (yes, again) for our mutual pondering. I agree with your understanding lesson. It is a lesson which shows how God took can take what the carnal mind of man regards as absurd, ridiculous, contradictory or impossible. It shows how God picks up on the little things we miss or do not understand despite our greatest efforts and brings these before our eyes. We will either gasp with wide eyes or turn away with eyes shut because we either way we cannot remain unmoved or unfazed by God.
Prior to God establishing any written covenant with any people he had such a covenant with Adam and Eve. I won’t rehash the responsibilities with which they were charged as part of that covenant. A provision of that covenant which was never spoken but which ought not surprise us given the (and I’ll again borrow your terminology concerning prophets, again) kindness and mercy that characterize our God was that God would forgive or in some way make amends for Adam and Eve’s transgression.
Whether or not Adam and Eve knew in their earliest years while still in the garden that God was their Creator may possibly not have escaped them completely because they likely saw glimpses of how He was like them and they were like him: He created the man and the woman in his image.
But, what they did with their transgression was to seize power for themselves and to, as God said, “become like one of us.” Here’s the lesson that eludes us: That God who purposed after he had CREATED man and declared that man had BECOME like God would carry out the counter reality to that declaration and himself BECOME like man. A reaction of blaspheme would be misplaced. Why is abominable that the God who is spirit and made man in spirit like him and dress in flesh should despise either of those qualities of man?
Yes, I can imagine the reeling in your mind, Yisroel, but while we know the CONCEPT is not an impossibility the prospect of seeing that REALITY is about as palatable or likely as it would have been for to Israel to say: That’s alright, Moses, we want God to talk directly to us. We know how that went over with Israel. THIS WAS GOD, not an idol, and NOT EVEN his visible appearance, but merely HIS VOICE!! Whatever one wishes to call the manifestation in the burning bush, the cloud, the pillar of fire or the presence in the arc of the covenant I for one do not construe these as the lessening of God or a compromise of God lest he be unable to tend to the affairs of creation while, for instance, in the arc.
Why would God do so in the face of the dangers that would soon come into the world with idolatry? I believe for all that I have heard from Jews about God’s safeguards and prohibitions against idolatry and Israel’s stumbling yet God demonstrated his trust in the creation of his hands. As much as the law is laden with caution and admonishment against idolatry it was no more able to avert idolatry in Israel anymore than God could keep shut Adam and Eve’s eyes without violating his trust of them. It doesn’t get any more intimate than what Adam and Eve had with God in the garden. Yes, Adam and Eve continued to loved God as much as God love them. Yes, Israel continued and continues to love God as much a God loves Israel.
Lastly, and almost out of place, not because I have forgotten, Jesus never called for or insisted on any act of worship towards him, but he also never rejected or admonished worship when it was directed towards. Jesus’ message was to worship the Father. I have no need or desire to compel anyone to worship Jesus. Suffice it that they worship the Father. This pleases the Son.
The Lord bless you and keep you and make his face to shine upon you, Yisroel. Gil
I realize that you are primarily engaged in a dialogue with Rabbi Blumenthal and cannot be expected to engage every commentor who happens upon this blog. Nonetheless, both Rabbi B. himself as well as I in a prior post asked you very directly to address the issue of Deut 13,
Specificially, Rabbi B.posed the following:
“It is that Scriptural text that commands us to disregard resurrections, miracle healings, stopping the sun in the sky, and all other miracles if they are being used to justify a redirection of our worship as Christianity demands for Jesus. It was in that context that I stated that a resurrection is utterly meaningless – and I ask you – do you not agree? Do you believe that a resurrection (or any miracle) could justify a redirection of our worship? Do you have a different interpretation of the passage in Deuteronomy ”
And I, in comment number 2 to Rabbi B’s fifth response to you, I posed essentially the same thing in the following words:
” God in Deut 13 made it abundantly clear that we are not to adopt heretofore unknown forms of worship on the basis of ANY miracle proffered as evidence. No exceptions were made for resurrection… So again, yes, bringing a dead person back to life is an impressive display of spiritual powers by any traditional Jewish definition. It is not however nor is ANYTHING – a justification for adopting an alien and heretofore unknown form of worship as was the worship proposed by Paul. And the reason is because God warned us in the most explicit terms imaginable not to adopt any such worship no matter what kind of miracle is offered in evidence..
The closest you have come to addressing this is when you wrote above that:
“I understand now, even if I do differ with your application, of Deuteronomy 13 with its mention of sign and wonder to include the resurrection. Yes, overall, I agree with you on Deuteronomy 13 as to its warning of a prophet who would entice Israel away from the living God”.
So essentially all you did was state the obvious – that you disagree with the interpretation.
But what I and I think any honest reader of this blog – Jew or Christian – would like to hear is an articulate explanation as to WHY?
WHY you don’t consider the redirection of worship to what was then to the Jew a heretofore, alien, unknown, and at least vaguely pagan (god-man) form of worship, on the basis of the purported miracle of resurrection (which you have admitted is what persuaded you) to be in direct violation of Deut 13.
You seem to feel that the Numbers 12:6-8 does two things: 1) It defines prophecy and 2) It does it in such a way that, technically, speaking excludes Moses (and perhaps Paul) from the particular title of “prophet”, although not to diminish his stature.
I reject both points.
1) This passage is not intended to define prophecy. It is intended to distinguish the manner in which god communicates with all prophets other than Moses.
2) That Moses is indeed counted among the prophets of God using precisely the Hebrew word for prophet “Navi” is made inescapably clear in at least the following three verses: Deut 18:15, Deut 18:18, and Deut 34:10.
So your arbitrary distinction by which you seek constrain the term “Navi” or prophet is contradicted pretty clearly by the Torah.
More to the point, Numbers 12 is not intended to define the role of prophet. It is intended to humble Aaron and Miriam and point out to them to Moses is a PROPHET of a different level than themselves or any other prophet. God at this point makes clear to them that all other prophets receive their message in a vision or dream, the point being that it does not have the quality of direct person-to -person dialogue, whereas Moses prophecy was just that. The point being made to them was this: How could you dare speak ill of Moses whenI communicate in in way far more intimate with him than with you or anyone else?
A better definition of prophet is the one inferred from the Torah and all the books of the prophets. Specifically, one who claims to be speaking a message that he/she received from God. And perhaps more to the point of the ongoing discussion here is the implied definition of a false prophet which is made cleat in Deut 13 as well as Deut 18:20. Specifically, it is someone who falsely claims to be speaking the word of God.
One of your points in this arbitrary – and incorrect – definitional distinction seems to be to somehow make the claim that until someone claims to have received the word of God via a “dream” or “vision”, and uses precisely those words he cannot be called a a prophet and thereby, and this is clever, can escape the charge of “false prophet”.
With all due respect, do you actually believe that given Deut 13, Deut 18 – and even Numbers 12, that preaching as did Paul would be excluded from the Torah’s definition of “prophesizing”?