Without Preconceived Notions
In one of my articles (entitled Messianic Expectation https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/the-messianic-expectation/ ) I wrote: “When we read the scripture without any preconceived notions about the Messiah, when we read God’s promises for Israel’s glorious future age, we can readily see why the Jewish people cannot accept the claims of Christianity.”
Gil Torres commented by saying that the missionary could respond with the exact same argument: “When we read the scripture without any preconceived notions about the Messiah, when we read God’s promises for Israel’s glorious future age, we can readily see why the Christian people accept the claims of Christianity.”
So it seems that Gil Torres is under the impression that reading the Jewish Scriptures “WITHOUT ANY PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS” will lead us to the Christian description of the Messiah.
In this humble article I set out to demonstrate how it is that I know that Gil’s assertion is false.
The first question I need to address is how can I approach this matter with any level of evenhandedness? After all I come to this debate with a whole package of preconceived notions. Who am I to say what things look like from the standpoint of someone without preconceived notions if I never stood there?
The fact is that it is quite easy for me to do this. You see; the missionaries have helped me arrive at this conclusion in more ways than one. For starters I call Dr. Brown and Lee Strobel to the witness stand. No one would accuse these two men of reading Scripture with a predisposition against Jesus yet they both admit that their understanding of the Messiah is not easily found in the Jewish Scriptures. Dr. Brown writes: “Messianic prophecies are not clearly identified as such” (Answering Jewish Objections Vol. 3 Page 189). Lee Strobel complains of the difficulties inherent in the task of “finding” Jesus in the Jewish Bible: “scholars must pore over the context of various passages to determine which ones deal with the coming of the Messiah” (The Case for the Real Jesus page 190).
If the Christian concept of Messiah can be readily found in the Jewish Scriptures as Gil claims then why would these dedicated missionaries warn us that this is not so easily done?
The second way that the Church has made it clear that the Christian version of the role of the Messiah is not readily found in the Jewish Scriptures is with their admission that the disciples of Jesus were shocked when he died. If an unbiased reading of the Scriptures should lead to the Christian understanding of the role of Messiah the disciples should have been terribly disappointed if he would not have died. How would he “fulfill” Isaiah 53? Psalm 22? Genesis 3:15? It is clear that people who are not predisposed towards Christian theology can read the Jewish Scriptures without seeing these passages as necessary prerequisites for the Messiah to fulfill
(Dr. Brown’s response to this argument is especially enlightening – https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/response-to-th-line-of-fire-9/ )
Finally; Christians have made it clear to me that it is not my bias that prevents me from seeing Jesus in the pages of Jewish Scripture is by avoiding the most basic challenge. I have presented the following challenge again and again to different Christian teachers: “The myth of the “blindness of the Jew” is an ugly stain in the history of mankind. Dr. Brown, instead of working to perpetuate this myth, I appeal to you to educate Christians of the fallacies of this myth. Explain to your audience that as long as the Jew sees the teachings of Christianity as a contradiction to the Scriptures with which we were entrusted by God – it is the moral duty of the Jew to REJECT those teachings. Encourage your audience to try to read the Jewish Scriptures as a Jew would have read them before the advent of Jesus. Encourage your listeners to attempt to acquire a complete world-view on the basis of the Jewish Scriptures alone – and ask them – how would they view the doctrines of Christianity in the light of the Jewish Scriptures.“ (This was an appeal to Dr. Brown posted in “Response to the Line of Fire 9”).
In my Eighth Response to Gil Torres (https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/eighth-response-to-gil-torres/ ) I wrote: “According to your own standard (that a claim for prophecy be measured in light of previous revelation) what you should have done is that you should have studied the Jewish Scriptures and the Jewish Scriptures alone, absorbed its spirit and allowed yourself to become saturated with its teachings – you should have developed a complete world-view on that basis and then and only then evaluate the claims of Christianity in that light. Do you not agree that this would be the proper approach?”
Instead of taking me up on the challenge these Christian teachers lecture to me about the “coherence of the dialogue” or by otherwise beating around the bush (https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/goldberg-vs-brown/). If; as Gil claims, that the Christian understanding of the Messiah is clearly spelled out in Scripture for the unbiased reader – I think that these Christian teachers would not go to these lengths to avoid the straightforward challenge that I presented to them.
I can say with clarity and with confidence – When we read the scripture without any preconceived notions about the Messiah, when we read God’s promises for Israel’s glorious future age, we can readily see why the Jewish people cannot accept the claims of Christianity.
The Christian teachers have unwittingly confirmed my statement.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal