Response to Line of Fire 11
In his February 7 2013 radio show Dr. Brown takes issue with a presentation by Julius Ciss; Director of the Canadian branch of Jews for Judaism.
Julius’s presentation is simple and straightforward. He explains that the reason that Jews cannot accept Jesus as the Messiah is because he did not fulfill the requirements of the Messiah as described by the prophets. The prophets spoke of the ingathering of the Jewish exile back to the land of Israel where the Messiah will reign over a united Israel in their ancient homeland. The prophets spoke of a rebuilt Temple during the reign of the Messiah. The prophets spoke of an era of universal peace in the times of the Messiah. The prophets speak of Israel observing the Law of Moses in the Messianic era. The prophets described the Messianic era as a time when all the nations will have faith in the One God of Israel. And the prophets taught us that the Messiah will be a member of the tribe of Judah and a descendant of King David. In the Bible we find that tribal affiliation and royal inheritance only passes through the father.
The exiles are yet to be gathered. The Temple is not rebuilt. We don’t have universal peace. Much of Israel is not observing the Law of Moses and the nations of the world have not yet unanimously put their faith in the One Creator of heaven and earth. No one ever claimed that Jesus was a descendant of David from his father’s side. Each of these factors standing alone is enough to disqualify Jesus from claiming the title of Jewish Messiah. How much more so is this true when all of these factors combine. After everything is said and done Jesus did nothing that should make us think that he is the Messiah.
Dr. Brown makes some general statements in response to the totality of these arguments and he responds to each of the Messianic criteria individually.
None of his arguments are new and I have already responded to most of them in my critique of his writings. However; for the sake of clarity, I will briefly present some of Dr. Brown’s responses and my answers to those response in this article.
Before we get to the arguments themselves I will address a comment that Dr. Brown keeps coming back to throughout his show. He keeps on telling his listeners that he invites any rabbi to call in to his show and that he will treat him fairly. He bemoans the fact that the counter-missionaries refuse to respond to his challenge.
The fact of the matter is that every one of his arguments has systematically been refuted in writing. Dr. Brown has consistently backed out of his assurances to respond – in writing – to these challenges to his position. Most recently; on the comment section of his November 3 2011 radio show he entered into a give and take with me over the very subject that he discusses on this show. He assured me that he will get back to me but he never did.
Perhaps Dr. Brown has his legitimate reasons for not being able to answer in writing, but the fact of the matter is that he has consistently avoided this venue despite his assurances to the contrary. When he tells his listeners how the counter-missionaries refuse to debate him in a live forum it would only be fair if he also explains to his audience that he consistently refuses to debate in writing.
Early on in his show Dr. Brown takes issue with Julius’s assertion that Judaism believes that the Messiah must fulfill specific prophecies before being considered the Messiah. Dr. Brown argues that there was no one version of Judaism in the days of Jesus and that Judaism did not present a codified definitive concept of the Messiah’s role until the 12th century.
This argument is fallacious. Despite the diversity that existed within Judaism in the Second Temple era still there were certain basic concepts that all Jews agreed upon. There is no record of any Jewish group subscribing to the Messiah coming twice. All of the prophecies that Julius quoted in reference to the Messiah were understood as Messianic by every Jewish group. So Dr. Brown’s argument concerning the diversity of Judaism; which he greatly exaggerates, actually works against him. If the Jews were arguing about so many other details of their faith why did they all agree with each other that these prophecies of Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah were Messianic? It is clear that the plain straightforward reading of Scripture didn’t allow even the craziest deviant to deny these truths. Even the disciples of Jesus who were with him throughout his entire public career did not deny these truths. It is only after Jesus failed in his mission as they originally understood it that they were forced to come up with a new definition of the mission so as to fit the person to whom they had already pledged all of their devotion.
As part of his overall response Dr. Brown downplays the significance of the Messianic prophecies that Julius mentioned. Dr. Brown takes particular issue with the prophecies related to the ingathering of Israel’s exile and the restored Temple. Dr. Brown goes so far as to say that the concept of the Temple in relation to Messiah is “fringe at best”.
I actually interacted with Dr. Brown concerning this very issue. How do we know if a prophecy is “significant” or “fringe”? How many times does a concept need to be stated before we can say that this is a “significant” prophecy? With what level of clarity and unambiguousness will the concept need to be stated by the prophets before we decide that a given concept is not “fringe”?
Fortunately; Dr. Brown’s was kind enough to supply with a yardstick that we can use to discover which prophecies are “fringe” and which prophecies are “significant”.
In Volume 3 of Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus (page 178) Dr. Brown passes judgment on Maimonides. I quote: “There is NO DOUBT that he missed the mark, PAINTING A PICTURE of the Messiah that would be in agreement with Rabbinic Judaism and would rule out Yeshua as a candidate.”
What was Maimonides “sin” that incurred this scathing review from Dr. Brown? Well; you see, Maimonides states that the Messiah does not necessarily need to perform miracles. For Dr. Brown this is unforgivable because – and again I quote: “the prophets explicitly associated miraculous acts with the Messianic age (see, e.g. Isa. 35:5-7).”
So here we have our yardstick. According to Dr. Brown the miracles of the Messiah are a significant prophecy that one dare not downplay. We will then use this as our measuring stick. How many times are the miracles of the Messiah mentioned in Scripture? In how many books of Scripture are these miracles mentioned? How clear and unambiguous are these prophecies? Is there perhaps another more obvious interpretation of these prophecies? Did the prophet tie down these miracles to a specific timeline?
There are three passages in the book of Isaiah which can be misconstrued to read as if the Messiah must perform miracles (35:5,6; 42:7; 61:1). They are only found in this one book of the Bible. One of these prophecies (35:5,6) does not mention a Messianic figure at all while the other two speak of an individual who many see as the prophet himself. There is ample contextual evidence to indicate that when Isaiah spoke of “opening the eyes of the blind” – he was not referring to a literal healing of a few blind people, but rather to Israel’s release from the bondage of exile (Isaiah 33:23, 41:17, 42:16, 43:8,20; 49:9-13, 52:11-12, Jeremiah 31:7). And the prophet explicitly ties each of these passages in with God’s revenge against Israel’s enemies.
Yet for Dr. Brown; the “miracles of the Messiah” are so clear and unambiguous that if someone downplays their significance it is an unpardonable sin.
Every last one of the requirements of the Messiah that Julius so clearly laid out towers over the concept of miracles in every way that they can be measured. In terms of number of Scriptural references, in terms of the amount of books of Scripture these concepts are described and in terms of clarity. The ingathering of the Jewish exile – Deuteronomy 30:3, Isaiah 11:12, 40:11, 43:5,6, 49:12,18,22, 60:4, 66:20, Jeremiah 3:18, 30:3, 31:7, 32:37, Ezekiel 11:17, 20:41, 34:13, 36:24, 37:21; the rebuilding of the Temple – Isaiah 2:2, 60:7, Jeremiah 33:18, Ezekiel 37:26, 43:7, 44:15, Micah 4:1; national resurgence of Torah observance – Deuteronomy 30:10, Jeremiah 31:32, Ezekiel 11:20, 36:27, 37:24, 44:23,24; universal peace – Isaiah 2:4, 65:25, Jeremiah 33:9,16, Ezekiel 34:25,28, 37:26, Hosea 2:20, Psalm 72:3; and universal knowledge of God – Isaiah 11:9, 45:23, 54:13, 66:18,19,23, Jeremiah 3:17, 31:33, Ezekiel 38:23, Zephaniah 3:9, Zechariah 8:20-23, 14:16.
It is clear that according to Dr. Brown’s own yardstick – Julius’s presentation is right on the mark – and if you want a scathing review of anyone who attempts to minimize these prophecies – just read Dr. Brown’s own rebuke of Maimonides quoted above.
At one point in his presentation Dr. Brown makes the preposterous assertion that the Messiah is FIRST to be a light to the Gentiles and only AFTERWARD is he going to be recognized by the Jewish people. This statement is patently false and is roundly contradicted by the prophets of Scripture
The scriptures clearly tell us exactly how the light will come to the Gentile nations. The message is repeated quite a number of times in an open and unambiguous manner. Isaiah compares the error of the nations to a veil that covers their faces (25:7), and to a thick cloud of darkness (60:2). The prophets teach that God will use the physical salvation of the Jewish people to dispel this dark error. When the downtrodden and persecuted nation is exalted, and their enemies are destroyed, the nations will see the light and be converted to the service of God. Israel’s deliverance is the catalyst for the conversion of the nations. This lesson is repeated by the prophets again and again (Isaiah 17:12 – 18:7, 25:1 – 8, 30:26, 34:1 – 35:10, 40:1 – 11, 41:17 – 20, 49:8 – 13, 52:7 – 10, Zephaniah 3:8 – 20, Psalm 9:8 – 13, 40, 66, 69, 98, 102, 117 ). Any faith that the nations are coming to before the light of God is openly revealed upon Israel, can only be a part of the darkness that the prophets yearned to see dispelled (Isaiah 60:1 – 3).
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal
I think you’re right… this shows clearly how central, clear, and vivid those promises you mentioned are in the whole identity of the king in the restored kingdom of Israel.
What makes it so difficult for Jews to accept that they must believe someone is the Messiah before he is actually established on his throne and fulfills the basic prophecies? Why can’t someone make a claim about a person speaking words from God, saving the world from sin, and being God incarnate… and then, if those three things were demonstrated to be true, also verify that person’s claim that he is going to be Israel’s king and must be accepted as such already?
I’m not asking whether that can fairly be said about Jesus. Just asking whether a) it’s possible to be surprised by a twice-coming Messiah, and b) it is ever fair to ask someone to accept you as God’s anointed before you are clearly established on the throne and shown to be so.
Another thought on what Dr. Brown said about varying messianic imaginations through history. I don’t think it is unnatural that some traditional Jewish groups, who followed Torah according to the prophets and their heritage, would imagine the king as someone who would suffer. As a representative member of the nation and the remnant they could imagine him sharing in that. As an increasingly hoped-in figure, you could expect him to be read into many biblical images regarding righteous people.
Even so, this kind of interpretation isn’t clear, it’s speculative. It doesn’t raise the passages themselves to a level of specific clarity about things that just can’t be demonstrated otherwise.
PS Obviously the claim about saving the world from sin is huge… and the claim to be both human and God is impossible… to make. But I was just asking whether there was reason to believe things of that magnitude, perhaps it might be acceptable to also claim to be the coming king?
Some believers are fond of using the phrase – if Jesus is who he says he is… . But if you ask them who Jesus clearly said he was, you will get several different answers. One is that he never really outright said. Some think he said he was God, but others argue he never said he was. One more unusual one is that he never said he was the messiah because he was not, at least not then. Sure, he spoke eschatologically, but that was all about the future not about him or about his mission in his time. He spoke as a prophet or a messenger. He spoke about “one coming like a thief in the night” or a groom who won’t come at the “expected hour”, but after the average prospective bride gives up on “her prince charming”. In Revelation he won’t come in his same name. But that might be a loophole to get around the idea that there is no clear prophecy of a second coming. Or another way that the many will be deceived by many false messiahs and the anti-Christ who will act and be accepted as a Christ or messiah by many believers.
Hi Yedidiah, please read this from John 4:25-26, it will answer your question. “The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
The NT states or suggests that it was also possible for a messiah to “come as a thief in the night”. Or, that one need just wait & be always wide awake & prepared (at night only?) for the groom might come at any moment swiftly & basically he would randomly choose his one bride from those few awake. One you might be on a housetop. But there are also many who will be false messiahs (doing all sorts of signs & appearing as ones who were the most wise) and fooling so many that even the few elite believers could be fooled unless that time is shortened and no longer prolonged. Yet at the same, God may use fools or foolish ways to confound the wise. And no signs will be given for those looking for signs, except clear signs, like those of Jonah that are given to us. However, then the many could not be deceived. However, we notice there are quite a few more unique signs given in the book of Jonah. For one, Jonah was sitting in the desert in the shade of a peculiar plant, while he is waiting and secretly hoping his mission has failed. He is waiting for an “end” that does not come.
The very fact that Daniel had a limit… and you have not a Messiah or king proves one of two things…. Daniel is a false prophet and then you have to chase out all the other prophesies… or two Jesus is the Messiah. The mere fact you looked for someone during that time that would not die is the kicker….. Because this would mean he would be divine. I am so sick of when people want to discuss on paper what they have accumulated from others and have many people work on it for them and then avoid the person, willing to give you the floor in person. Dr Brown told your dear Armando he would debate you on paper granted there was a oral debate…. that has yet to be fully filled, if I am correct. And furthermore…. why should he debate a person on paper? We been debating on paper for centuries. Facts still stand for so many years! over thousands in fact! there has been no Messiah come in the Messianic years other than Jesus Christ. We have ours….. in that time line of Daniel…. whom you still despise.
Ken Johnson is obviously attempting to mislead the untutored – he misquotes the Talmud – there is no Talmud which says that the coming of the Messiah is revelaed in chapter 9 of the book of Daniel – Johnson made that up – isn’t it ironic that you are “sick” of people who want to debate on paper what they have accumulated from others?
It seems that you are under the impression that it was the rabbis who tied together the destruction of the Temple with the end of the 70 weeks – in fact it was Daniel (who was a Jewish Rabbi also) -read verse 26 and tell me if you see a forty year gap in the midle of the verse
As for Dr. Brown reneging on every commitment of his to respond in writing – his assurances to respond in writing were not tied in to an oral debate – and in any case why don’t you try to respond for him? – try to explain why he applies one standard of measuring Messianic prophecy to Maimonides and another to himself – good luck
As for teh miracles that ceased 40 years before the destruction – I responded to this in Contra Brown
FROM DR BROWN.
Michael L Brown
Could you kindly post this on my behalf in response to Rabbi Blumenthal’s last post (responding to my Line of Fire broadcast)? I can’t get into a discussion there, but I’d be happy to go on the record for those who go to his site. Is that OK?
I wanted to take a moment to respond to Rabbi Blumenthal’s statement that I have failed to respond in writing to his articles critiquing my work. I still plan to do so, but it’s important to bear in mind that:
1) There are numerous articles critiquing my work (which I take as a compliment), along with multiplied thousands of posts, many of them asking me for a response. If I responded to all of them, I would not have time to breathe.
2) While I find Rabbi Blumenthal’s writings worthy of response, to date, with the rarest exception, the only requests I have received to respond to him have been from him and his fellow counter-missionary rabbis, which means this is hardly a pressing need.
3) One reason I prefer verbal interaction is because in the course of several hours, issues can be discussed and differences highlighted and viewpoints challenged in a way that could take months or years in writing. Before I had done much study, I was challenged to debate by rabbis. The more I studied, the more they declined my invitation for debate and dialog. And to this moment, Rabbi Blumenthal or any other qualified rabbi or counter-missionary is welcome to call my program and take issue with my views and I will guarantee fairness in our interaction — meaning, I will give a national and international platform to those who oppose me. Surely, I am not running from issues!
4) I’m actually quite eager to finish the refutations of some of Rabbi Yisroel’s principle writings, since I believe this will only demonstrate the error of his position and the rightness of the position of Jewish believers in Yeshua. But I’m in the midst of numerous writing projects and, to be honest, a lifetime is hardly enough time to finish everything I’m working on. So, it’s a matter of priority, and I can’t allow personal challenge or any sense of pride (wanting to prove I’m willing to refute his arguments) to get in the way.
I want to say again that I count Rabbi Blumenthal to be a personal friend and I have the utmost esteem for him. The fact that I have not taken time to finish my rebuttals should in no way be taken as a dismissal of his work.
In response to Dr. Brown I will just say that Dr. Brown is more than welcome to respond to my arguments in writing – for my part I commit myself to attempt to treat his arguments fairly, with respect and with a response in writing.
The door is open.
This invitation has been extended to Dr. Brown more than 10 years ago. The point I was making in my blog post was that when Dr. Brown continuously harps on the fact that counter-missionary activists have not accepted his invitation to debate him – it would only be fair to qualify that by saying that they have not accepted the invitation to debate him in a live forum – but that they have taken the effort to respond to ever one of his arguments in writing and that it is he who is declining the open invitation to continue the discussion in the educational forum of the written word.
As for point #3 – where Dr. Brown claims that in a written dialogue it takes “months and years” – My experience has shown that in a written dialogue the arguments of the side that is defending falsehood tend to unravel rather quickly – depending of-course on the partciipation of the two sides (if one of the participants doesn’t respond for many years – then yes – it could take months and years)
Dear Dr. Brown;
You know about Kosher and Triff? Kosher is what is permitted, triff is what is not permitted.
Cow, sheep and goat, for example, are permitted meat; horse, swine, and camel are not permitted.
Not that they are bad for human comsuption. Just that there are resons for the forbidence of these meats.
Cow has no parisites we need to be concern with; swine, shell fish, cat fish have parisites and there is a need to be careful. So you can see the wisdom of not consumingthese meats.
Theologically, there is Kosher and Triff theology.
Kosher Theology uplifts humanity, Triff Theology by what is written about them, puts gods on the level of humans, and ib some pagan practice, on the level of animals. Thus, a human offering/sacrifice is ok for them. This is Triff, and forbidden to Jews, as are physical manifestation of gods.
We are required to acept G-d as He said we sould. This is not a rejection of your faith, anymore than not eating swine flesh is a put-down of your diet. Just what G-d expects or demands from His People, the Jewish nation. So the Gospel is Triff, not bad, but still forbidden to us. Interacting on a positive level with each other is blessed, though, by the Creator, as He Created allof us and desires peace for all.
So for your sake, do not “share” you Gospel with Jews. As it is forbidden for me to eat Swine flesh, so it is forbiddden for me to pray through your Gospel.
Unfortunately, when the discussion is not written, I feel like I just sit there listening to my Christian friends talk on and on about the verses they have chosen as the central issues in Tanach and their NT-influenced interpretations of them. If I try to say something else and get a word in, or present a different framework of looking at the questions, I’m told that I am getting off topic from ‘the point at hand’. But if I do bring up a question, it’s impossible for Christians to stay on topic and actually answer that question; they almost always, with two exceptions, go and answer a different question that doesn’t even matter to me.
I think they probably would say the same thing about me.
So a written conversation is good in that it allows ideas to be portrayed with more wholeness, in situations where the two sides of conversation are just not getting each other.
If Dr. Brown would like, maybe someone could send him a shorter and more manageable list of questions that he has never to date answered in any of his works. When I ordered his books as a Christian who was starting to hear the importance of the Jewish objections, I usually looked through the contents pages and wondered why barely any of the actual questions that I had were mentioned there.
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