He Established Testimony – Psalm 78:5
“Faith” means believing in something that is not readily evident. We would not use the word “faith” to describe our understanding that the sky is blue or that water is wet. We use the word faith to speak of concepts that we believe to be true but that are not openly obvious.
Both Judaism and Christianity speak of “faith” and both of these belief systems emphasize the importance of faith. Both Judaism and Christianity encourage belief in concepts and doctrines that are not visible and obvious in the physical world. But that is where the similarity stops. The faith of Christianity and the faith of Judaism are as far apart from each other as night is from day.
We can find the difference between the faith of Judaism and the faith of Christianity when we ask ourselves what came first: was it the faith in the heart of the believer or was it the truth in the realm of reality? Did the facts on the ground produce the faith or did the faith produce the facts?
In the case of Judaism God put the reality of His truth directly into the faces of the Jewish people. They collectively witnessed the ten plagues in Egypt, they collectively experienced His guiding hand in the wilderness for forty years and they all heard His voice from the midst of the fire at Sinai (Deuteronomy 4:35). While they were listening to God declare: “I am the Lord your God” it was not a matter of “faith”. The need for faith only arose when the curtain came down and God’s presence was no longer openly revealed.
In order to keep the faith alive from generation to generation God established the testimonial observances through which the Jewish people encounter the testimony of their nation on an experiential level. These observances allow each Jew to touch the solid reality of the founding facts of Judaism. With the strength of these truths established in his or her heart the Jew can step forward into the darkness and walk by the light of the truths which his people encountered face to face.
In the case of Judaism it was the facts that produced the faith.
In the case of Christianity it is the faith that produced the “facts”.
No one in the entire history of mankind ever saw Jesus as the second person in a triune godhead. No one in the entire history of mankind ever saw Jesus die for anyone’s sins. These were conclusions that a specific group of people arrived at after they analyzed and interpreted certain events.
Which specific group of people arrived at these conclusions? It was a group of people who “believed in” Jesus. These were people who had already put their faith in Jesus before they decided that he is the Messiah, before they decided that he needs to die as an atoning sacrifice and before they dreamed that the man that stood before them was somehow divine. These people had committed their hearts to faith in Jesus long before anyone had thought of the foundational doctrines of Christianity.
It was this group of people; those who had already a deep and abiding faith in Jesus, who arrived at the conclusions that form the foundational doctrines of Christianity. The doctrines of Christianity stand on the interpretation of men who desperately wanted to believe. It was the faith that these men had in Jesus which produced the supporting pillars of Christianity.
When the Jew is faced with darkness and confusion he or she can always go back to the anchors of Judaism. Yes; the wicked may prosper and the just may suffer, but our ancestors came face to face with the God of justice. The world may ridicule us because God’s presence is not manifest in our midst, but He joined Himself to us at Sinai, in the Tabernacle and in the Temple to the eyes of the entire nation and that bond can never break. These facts nourish and sustain our faith in times of darkness, we don’t need our faith to nourish and sustain the facts.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal
I disagree with the theme of your post which I think is well summed up in this statement you made.
“… In the case of Judaism it was the facts that produced the faith.
In the case of Christianity it is the faith that produced the “facts”. …”
I would say the following is more accurate:
Both Judaism and Christianity believe that it is/was the historical facts that produced/produces a belief in God’s agent(s) (Moses or Jesus for example), that God had indeed “appeared” to those agents. And these historical events “facts” are emphasized in our respective faiths and are part of the basis for our respective faiths. We, Judaism and Christianity, differ on the facts but I think not on the basic process of faith.
First off let’s distinguish between the historical and present day. There are no Jews today who have seen with their own eyes the great wonders and signs of God as performed through God’s agents, Moses and Aaron during the Exodus which you referenced. Likewise there are no Christians alive today who have seen with their own eyes the great wonders and signs of God as performed through His agent, Jesus. But it is these very events, “facts” (great signs and wonders) which are emphasized in our respective faiths.
So then, what we both have is the word of those who came before us; the testimony of those who came before us going back as far as the events “facts” themselves, or so we both believe. We both, Judaism and Christianity have a historical record in written and spoken word.
The second point; one of the manifold purposes for display of said wonders and signs of God through His agents (Moses, Aaron, and Jesus for example) was to establish their “credibility” as authorized agents of God as approved by God Himself so that one could with “confidence” based on God’s signs and wonders (which are the “facts” in the context of your post and my commentary) “conclude” with certainty that this person is/was in fact an authorized agent of God and therefore spoke and acted for God.
That was true of the Israelites in Egypt and following in the desert and after of those who witnessed first hand or second hand through their parents or ancestors and it was also true of the disciples of Jesus, before and after the resurrection (disputed facts, signs and wonders, but the same process).
Then as future generations come after and in the place of those who were before, we both (Judaism and Christianity) have the historical record in our language, written and spoken as documentation as to what took place historically regarding God’s agents.
So, then back to the first point; we (Judaism and Christianity) today are not, in our individual persons, witnesses of those events, but we rely on the veracity of those individuals who came before in whom we believe are reliable witnesses to give testimony themselves as to the events and/or verify and confirm the testimony of others so that we can believe with certainty and have faith in what we are told by God’s agents (Moses and Jesus for example).
So that’s it in a nutshell.
We dispute the facts or our understanding of them which are emphasized in our respective faiths. You believe your witnesses as to the facts and I believe mine.
Thank you again. This answers my question Do I have faith?
Thanks for writing and giving me a chance to further articulate the vast difference between the faiths of Judaism and Christianity.
The pillars of Judaism were not delivered from God to Israel via the medium of any agent. The God who we worship is the One our nation encountered at Sinai – the entire nation as a collective unit came face to face with God. The truth that Moses is an agent of God was not established through an indirect sign – rather the entire nation heard how God spoke to Moses (Exodus 19:9). These are the pillars of the Jewish faith. At some point in history, it is claimed, that our people directly encountered these facts.
The primary doctrines of Christianity were “delivered” through the agency of Jesus and Paul. No one ever actually encountered the “facts”. The Doctrines of Christianity are built on an interpretation of events allegedly witnessed. If Jesus made miracles and was resurrected from the dead – then it is argued that we “ought to conclude” that he was the Messiah and the second person in a triune godhead. These are conclusions of human beings and their thought process can be revisited and refuted.
That is where the difference lies as it relates to the first generation.
As it relates to the second generation – Judaism commemorates the actual encounter with God via the physical descendants of those who lived the encounter and through the observances that were appointed to keep the memories of the encounter alive.
Christianity on the other hand simply passes on the conclusions of the “men of faith” via the medium of those who accepted their story.
The LORD did not speak to the Israelites “face to face.”
First the credibility of God’s agent is established by God; and, regarding Jesus these facts are in dispute.
When Jesus was born God’s angels spoke to the shepherds in the field and they found the child and things as they were told. The wise men understood at least in part the significance and timing of his birth.
When he was baptized there was a voice from heaven “this is my son, with whom I am well pleased”, and a visible spirit descended upon him.
He performed wonders and signs (sometimes to the public at large and sometimes to his inner circle) attributing them to and thanking God, never taking personal credit for them.
During the transfiguration, again, a vision was seen and a voice was heard from God “this is my son with whom I am well pleased, listen to him”
Regarding Moses and to a lesser extent Aaron:
Exodus 4:30, 31
Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses, and PERFORMED THE SIGNS in the sight of the people. 31 The people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had given heed to the Israelites and that he had seen their misery, they BOWED DOWN AND WORSHIPED.
Whether or not the LORD spoke to the nation of Israel “face to face” is irrelevant for the purposes of denying the basis of faith as it pertains to Christianity. But in fact God did not speak to the nation of Israel “face to face: on Mount Sinai.
Exodus 19:9, 18
Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.” 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke… 19 Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder…
So here we see the purpose of why God is showing himself (in a dense cloud) to Moses and speaking to him, so that the people may “trust” him ever after. And that’s just as I stated earlier that God establishes the agent’s credibility.
And the people said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.”
Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18 Moses entered the cloud…
The sighting of God:
Regarding an actual sighting of God or something pertaining to God (as opposed to a wonder or sign from God which the nation of Israel saw in the form of the smoking mountain); it was NOT to the entire nation of Israel that God was sighted, but was rather to Moses and the chief men of Israel, and even then they (the chief men of Israel) did not see God’s face but his feet or under his feet, the meaning being they were not allowed to see his face. And even if they had seen God’s face, again, it was not to the entire nation.
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they SAW the God of Israel. Under his FEET there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. God did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel…
Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.
Note that God had this intimate relation of speaking with Moses as one speaks to a friend and NOT to the entire nation of Israel.
Just as with Jesus some things only his inner circle saw and heard and some things the general public saw and heard.
ONLY the elders “saw” God. The entire nation saw the wonders and signs of God in the cloud, but not God.
The basis of the Christian faith is founded on the fact that Jesus is God’s authorized agent as demonstrated through God’s teachings and signs and wonders manifested through Jesus as in the case of Moses with whom God demonstrated his signs and wonders so that the people would believe ever after.
Do you believe g-d appeared to Mary first?
Or an angel?
Deuteronomy 5:4 clearly says that God Did speak to Israel face to face
That is in relation to the first pillar of Judaism – our perception of God
The second pillar which is the knowledge that Moses is someone with whom God speaks was at one point in time not a matter of faith – Exodus 19:9
“Voices from heaven” are not necessarily prophecy from God
You are factually historically incorrect. The fact is that the Israelites got their instructions, rules, law, etc. through intermediaries and in the case we are disputing, that was primarily Moses. I’m not saying God didn’t manifest himself also to the general body of the Israelite people, which he did often times quite differently than to His intermediaries, Moses and the Elders for example. Not that that has any bearing on Christian faith based in similar manner on the facts on the ground of God working through intermediaries as understood by Christians. But I point that out because of the irony and the fallacy you are putting forth that God did not manifest himself to the Israelites through intermediaries when in fact he did so clearly without question.
Now, in Christianity we have in similar manner God manifesting himself through individual intermediaries, and also to groups sometimes small and sometimes large.
Your specific errors are as follows: The way you put it “the entire nation as a collective unit came face to face with God”, true they came face to face with a CLOUD of fire in which was God (they never actually saw God), but the emphasis of your post and statement is that an intermediary didn’t have a central role in Israel’s faith and development. That’s 100% false. In fact the purpose of God manifesting Himself in a cloud was in continuing to establish Moses as intermediary, so that they would “trust” Moses as stated here in Exodus 19:9, 18, 19
Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and SO TRUST YOU EVER AFTER.” 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke… 19 Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder…
So we see the purpose of God speaking out of the fire to the people.
Who delivered the law to the people? Moses. And why did they understand that the law from Moses was from God? Because in part, God spoke to them out of the fire in addition to all the other times God worked through Moses. So you are wrong; God did use an intermediary, Moses, and the speaking out of the fire to the people was part of the set up to that.
When God manifested Himself to Moses and the Elders who did actually see Him and not just a “cloud of fire” the Nation of Israel did not witness it. So there God worked with just Moses and his inner circle.
And we can go back further in time.
When Moses and Aaron performed the signs to the Elders in Egypt, they “believed” God had appeared to Moses because of the signs performed by Aaron. God was establishing His intermediaries even back then.
And we can still go back further.
When God called Moses through the burning bush, who were the witness? So here we have God starting with an individual, starting with His intermediary to be. No witnesses to the signs performed with Moses, the burning bush, the staff to a snake and back again, the leprous hand. God was establishing His intermediary. No crowd, just God and Moses.
And back further still.
When God called Abraham to leave his family’s house, his homeland, who heard but Abraham? When Abraham was lead out of his tent to look up at the stars of heaven and he then believed, who was there to witness it? And when Abraham was tested, who was there as a witness but his minor son? No large crowds in beginning there.
So here are the facts. God uses intermediaries. And, God also manifests himself to other individuals, and groups of individuals, sometimes large groups, sometimes small groups.
God has done this all throughout history and He did it in the case of Christianity as well.
As stated earlier, my faith (as a Christian) is based in large part on the facts on the ground as I understand and believe them to have happened historically.
You may believe something different, that’s up to you. But you can’t tell me what I do and don’t believe. You can argue and say I believe the myths in error, that the facts are not as I understand them but you can’t say I don’t believe them to be facts and you can’t say that I don’t base my faith at least in part on those facts as I understand them. Because I know what is in my mind and why I believe what I believe just as you know what is in your mind and believe what you believe for your reasons, so do I.
One person can’t say to another you are not thinking what you are thinking, or even that you are not allowed to base your faith on what you believe to be the historical facts. And that’s what you are essentially saying, that’s illogical nonsense to me.
If you limited your argument to the something like the claims of Christianity are nothing more than fantasy, not real historical facts, I’d have no problem with that. But one cannot tell another, what is or isn’t in that person’s head, or what he is or isn’t allowed to think regarding his own thoughts and faith.
David, not one of the 3 major religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) doubts the veracity and authenticity of the Torah account of what transpired at Mt. Sinai. However, all 3 religions differ on their beliefs about Jesus. And, as you mentioned in a previous post, there are even differences between Christians regarding the person of Jesus.
While anyone can doubt that either event occurred, (and there are many who do), the fact that there is no dispute among the 3 religions regarding the revelation of G-d at Mt. Sinai, gives me the confidence to say that this is about as close to the truth as we can get. If you have 3 testimonies from 3 separate, reliable sources that line up identically on one account, yet testimonies from the same 3 sources that don’t agree on a different account, which account would hold more weight?
And how does that relate to the point made by myphariseefriend?
He says in his original post:
“In the case of Christianity it is the faith that produced the “facts””
But when it comes to Judaism he says:
“In the case of Judaism it was the facts that produced the faith”
And throughout I have been disputing his error. I am a Christian, and the historical biblical facts have in large part produced my faith.
Neither Judaism nor Christianity has a living earth dwelling eye witness to these facts (at least I don’t think you are claiming that). We both rely on the same process to lead us from the facts to faith. And that process which we share relies in large part on written reports of eye witnesses. In addition both claim to have a human chain from the origin until now.
So I say, how can anyone contradict another and tell them that they don’t believe what they say they believe?
What you can do of course is dispute the facts or what I believe to be facts and say they are myths, or lies or fantasies, and not facts. And I’m happy to debate that issue with anyone. But you cannot say that I personally don’t believe them to be facts. Or that my faith is not based on these facts as I understand them. Some things that I believe for example to be facts which lead me to my faith is the teachings and signs and wonders performed by God through Jesus as spoken of in the bible. I believe it’s a “fact” that he fulfilled prophesies of the bible. These facts lead me to my faith. You can say they are not facts.
You can dispute that He didn’t perform signs and wonders and that He didn’t fulfill prophesies, and I’ll have no problem with that debate. And therefore logically if you are successful in proving my facts not to be facts, but instead to be myths, you would theoretically erode my faith which is based on these facts if proven to be myths. But what you can’t do, and no one can do is contradict another regarding what they believe and say “you don’t believe that” for example. Nor can anyone contradict another and say “you come to your faith not the way YOU say based on facts, but the way I say based on faith.”
Of course, David, I could never doubt your faith. If faith brings people to a better, kinder place in their life, I would not wish to take that away.
My point, and I believe Yourphariseefriend’s point is that In Christianity one needs to have faith in the Christian Bible first in order to have a “true” understanding of Jewish scripture. A Christian has faith in the Jewish Scriptures because Jesus said so. This is backward reasoning.
To illustrate this point, David, did you learn Tenach first, and then say “Yes, I believe in Jesus because I have studied the Jewish Scriptures”, or did you learn about Jesus first, proclaim faith in him, and then (or even simultaneously) learn what Christianity teaches about Judaism and Jewish Scripture through Paul’s writings? Do you believe what the Tenach teaches because G-d manifested Himself to the nation of Israel, or do you believe in the “OT” because Jesus claimed he fulfilled these prophesies?
I have many friends who tell me that I have scales covering my eyes and cannot see their idea of truth in Scripture because I do not believe. But if I believed in JC as my savior, then I would understand how he fulfilled the “OT” prophesies. This is a prime example of the tail wagging the dog. And I believe that this is what yourphariseefriend is trying to convey.
I have no problem with your argument, but I don’t believe that is what myphariseefriend is trying to say. He’s saying that Christians come to facts through faith and Jews come to faith through facts. And I’m saying I am where I am in my faith largely through facts, or what I believe to be facts; I can say that with 100% certainty. You and he dispute those facts, which is fine. But you can’t dispute my claim (facts to faith) unless you can climb inside my head and prove me to be either a liar or at least mistaken about what my own thoughts are to me, insane perhaps.
To answer your question on how I view the bible, permit me to give you this rather long explanation.
I see the bible as a whole, not as two parts pitted against each other. All parts support each other within as well and across both testaments. My personal testimony is that I have had an awareness of Christianity and have been surrounded by Christianity on and off my entire life. However, I was not a Christian myself even though I had knowledge of many doctrines and knew many Christians, some of whom are/were within my family. As you know, to become a Christian, one believes in his/her heart and confesses with his/her lips; as simple as that, and usually to another Christian, but not necessarily to another Christian. However of course God is the judge of what’s in the human heart, as the bible says. In my case I didn’t become a Christian until I was about 30 (about 15 years ago) after some bible study at my work. I had met someone significant in my life who was a Christian, and it is because of what I observed in this person that I decided to check into the matter of Christianity further through study of the bible. I found a Christian group at work who was already studying the bible daily together during the lunch break. My recollection is that we studied various passages of the bible from both testaments including much about King “David”, perhaps coincidently, perhaps not. If I had to pick a favorite book of the bible and one that I’ve studied more than any other and which means the most to me regarding my faith, more than any other book in either testament, I’d say it is Genesis.
I think for the most part Jews are Jews by birth (although one can convert to Judaism). On the other hand, as you know, there are no Christians by birth. One cannot bestow Christianity upon their children. One has to make an un-coerced personal decision. If it is coerced (by a parent for example) then it isn’t from the heart and it’s no good. Because the bible says one has to “believe” in his/her heart.
Perhaps, just perhaps, this difference and the uncomplicated process of a personal (non-familial) acceptance of Christianity plays a role in the misconception among some that Christians come to facts through faith, rather than to faith through facts. Maybe some think that because we have to believe in our hearts they interpret that (meaning the heart) to mean wild fantasies, myths void of reason and logic without facts based on fantastical non-biblical writings and stories. Of course I suppose that would be possible for some regardless of one’s faith, but the vast majority of Christians I know are reasoning logical people not given to wild fantasies.
Now I’m sure that there are some Christians that disagree with me as well as some Jews who do agree with me. My guess is that mainstream Christianity comes to faith through facts as I did and do reconfirm on a daily basis.
Thank you, David, for sharing a meaningful and introspective explanation of your journey. I can see that being a Christian is very dear to your heart. G-d should bless you on your journey.
To further clarify what you are saying, I don’t think there is a word in the Hebrew that means “faith” in the same way that Christianity teaches, because that concept just doesn’t exist. There’s “emunah”, often translated as “faith” and there’s “bitachon”, meaning “trust”.
“Bitachon” is knowledge of the fact that G‑d is good and He’s the only one in charge, and therefore you have no fears or worries. (“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…” ~ Psalm 23). As you pointed out, this confidence grows out of the knowledge of an entire nation who witnessed firsthand, the greatness of G-d. “Bitachon is not a strategy to manipulate the universe. Your belief does not create good—the good in which you are so confident is already the underlying reality”. (Tzvi Freeman, Chabad.org)
“Emunah” is the faith that, because of G-d’s divine providence, all things, even the seemingly bad, are good, albeit unrevealed good. Emunah is knowing that even when we’re walking through the valley of the shaddow of death, it is for our good. Not that it will turn out good, but that it already IS good, because G-d has a purpose in all that He does. Again, bitachon and emunah don’t affect the outcome of reality.
Both bitachon and emunah are attitudes based in fact, that help us through the tough times. Whether we have faith in a G-d who is good does not change the outcome, nor does it change who He is. But our faith in this reality soothes us during times of trouble and gives us strength. The Messiah will come and usher in a peaceful era whereby the world will be able to worship G-d without the worldly distractions that exist today. That is not contingent on our belief or faith. We can hasten his arrival through our actions, but not through mere faith alone. Additionally, if one does not act, then truly, one does not have faith. Anyone who preaches that faith alone will bring the coming of Messiah, he is preaching a different religion. This is not Judaism.
you continue to misunderstand the faith structure of Judaism as it is laid out in the Bible.
Of-course the law was given through an intermediary – namely; Moses. But the law itself is not the pillar of faith – it itself must stand on a pillar. That pillar is the knowledge that Moses is someone with whom God speaks. This knowledge was openly demonstrated as Exodus 19:9 describes. The people heard God speaking to Moses – this was not a sign or a wonder which would indirectly prove that Moses was an agent (up until that point that is all Moses had to go with – but from that point on – and that was before Moses began teaching the Law we have the direct knowledge)
The same applies to our perception of God – it was taught to us by God Himself not through the agency of Moses as is stated in Exodus 20:22; Deuteronomy 4:9-15, 33-35; Nehemiah 9:13
So the key here is direct knowledge versus indirect knowledge – as far as I know – Christianity does not claim to have any direct knowledge of the pillars of her faith – only indirect knowledge – such as – if Jesus preformed signs and wonders then he must be the Messiah – this is indirect proof – it is not direct knowledge.
If you don’t distinguish between direct and indirect knowledge then how do you explain the commandment in Deuteronomy 13;2-6 to ignore the sign and wonder of a prophet who contradicts Moses – maybe we should ignore Moses on the basis of the sign and wonder of the new prophet?
I think I understand quite well, and agree with you in part as to the basis of Judaism. My argument with you is not about Judaism but your concept of what Christianity is or isn’t. You made the claim that Christianity comes to facts through faith while Judaism comes to faith through facts or words to that effect.
You misunderstand me. I agree with your statement.
“That pillar is the knowledge that Moses is someone with whom God speaks. This knowledge was openly demonstrated as Exodus 19:9 describes.”
Actually, I’ve been try to get you to accept your own point you just made.
So let’s look at the double standard going on here. When God speaks to the first Christians in the presence of Jesus it’s not God. But when He speaks to the Israelites in the presence of Moses it is God. And how do you come to that conclusion?
Now, on the next point we differ somewhat because you seem to be making the claim that Judaism gets its perception of God exclusively through God Himself never with the aid of any intermediary. And as proof you offer the biblical citations below.
Now I differ because the bible says (including your citations) that God spoke through intermediaries. So, while it is true in both Christianity and Judaism that God manifests himself directly as on Mount Sinai and at the baptism and transfiguration, to name a few; God also reveals himself through prophets, intermediaries.
The same applies to our perception of God – it was taught to us by God Himself not through the agency of Moses as is stated in Exodus 20:22; Deuteronomy 4:9-15, 33-35; Nehemiah 9:13
The first passage you cite (Exodus 20:22) is God speaking to Moses, telling him to speak to the people. “The LORD said to Moses, thus you shall say to the Israelites: …”
So there you have God using Moses as an intermediary.
Your second citation (Deuteronomy 4) also proves my point.
You have to read Deuteronomy in light of Deuteronomy 1:1 “These are the words that MOSES SPOKE to all Israel beyond the Jordan …” And, Deuteronomy 1:5 “Beyond the Jordan in the land of Moab, MOSES undertook to EXPOUND this law as follows:”
So, here AGAIN we see God speaking through His intermediary MOSES. This is not God speaking “directly” to the people absent of an intermediary. This is God speaking through MOSES!
As to your third citation Nehemiah 9:13, who is speaking in Nehemiah? It is Nehemiah narrating a general outline of what God has already done in Exodus.
So, the fact that Nehemiah doesn’t give us all the details is not surprising. We have the details in Deuteronomy which are already cited above. Nehemiah is not contradicting the details of Exodus or Deuteronomy. The details are as follows: God came down on Mount Sinai, He spoke through a dark cloud and when all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” And the LORD said to Moses: thus you shall say to the Israelites …” And, Moses spoke to the Israelites. And God also said to Moses: “These are the ordinances that YOU shall set before them.”
Who set the ordinances before them? Moses did as God’s intermediary. Nehemiah merely confirms Exodus but as a general outline without all the details of Exodus.
If you read what I wrote you will see that I was not talking about your personal approach to Christianity – I was talking about the approach of the historical community of followers of Jesus. The concepts that stand at the root of Christianity took root in the historic community – according to the claim of Christianity itself – by a process of people of faith coming to a conclusion about their faith. In other words – the followers of Jesus first “believed in him” – only afterwards did they come to the “knowledge” that he was to die for the sins of man.
The claim of Judaism is that the historic community was presented with the central elements of Judaism – directly.
Thanks for the clarification. Perhaps no one but God can say for sure how another comes to their faith.
Regarding the origins of Christianity and the first followers, we read the same facts but come to differing conclusions.
Your claims are not founded in the bible.
You appear to me to be making the claim that the first followers, (who were the apostles) didn’t believe in facts like you and I. You come to this erroneous conclusion based on the fact that the apostles didn’t know all the details, had incomplete information regarding the Messiah, and/or didn’t understand all that was to come in the future. This in now way supports a conclusion that they didn’t understand the same facts of the Hebrew Scriptures as you and I and in no way supports a conclusion that they didn’t experience and witness revelation directly from God and also from God’s chosen intermediary as did the Israelites at Mount Sinai.
How do I know that the “voice from heaven” at the baptism was not God? – Of-course I don’t believe that there was any voice from heaven either but what I am saying is that the authors of the Christian Scriptures did not equate their claim with outright prophecy
1 – In the Jewish literature that describes that time the term “a voice from heaven” does not denote prophecy
2 – If this was a public revelation I would expect the Christian Scriptures to make a big deal about it and they don’t – Paul says that all the faith hinges on the resurrection not on the “voice from heaven”
As for your argument that the early followers of Jesus “believed in facts” – so tell me – what was their definition of Messiah before the crucifixion? How confident were they that their definition was correct? What made them change their definition? How devoted were they to Jesus while this process was taking place? and Can you honestly say that their devotion played no role in their reinterpretation of this central piece of their theology?
Yes… the New Testament doesn’t speak of the voice from heaven episode in the way that the Torah speaks of the meeting at Sinai.
Regarding the voice of God directly to the people: The circumstances are different. In the case of the Israelites they were pagans at the time. So God used a “sludge hammer” of a burning mountain to get their attention speaking out of the dark thundering cloud so that they would fear Him and obey Him and Moses. In the case of the Jews 1000s of years later they were by then serving God and already feared Him.
Voices from heaven: 3 times God speaks directly to apostles and/or other witnesses.
21 Now it came to pass when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also was baptized, and as he was praying, the heavens were opened 22 and the holy sprit descended in a bodily form as a dove upon him, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are my son, the beloved one, with you I am well pleased.”
34 And while he said these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered into the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my son, my chosen: listen to him.”
27 Now my soul has become troubled. And yet what should I say? “Father, save me from this hour?” But it was for this purpose I came to this hour, 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 therefore the multitude that stood by and herd it said that it had thundered. Other said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for my sake, but for your sakes.
Jesus announces his ministry through reading scripture.
17 And he was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. And he opened the scroll and found the place where is was written: 18 The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to tell Good news to the poor … 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your ears.”
The quote from John confirms my point – the “voice from heaven” was not a clear prophecy from God
In any case – in order to establish that we ought to worship One God who is above and beyond all of nature – a point that many people came to by means of reason – was confirmed by God with many sledgehammers (plagues, splitting of the sea, manna for forty years, pillar of cloud, pillar of fire and national revelation) – but to get people to worship a man we get a sketchy resurrection? (I know you are not a Trinitarian – but this point was addressed to those who are)
The people at Mount Sinai didn’t understand the words of God’s thundering voice otherwise they wouldn’t have needed Moses to talk to them and tell them what God said.
And, you misinterpret the times and circumstances. God had already established the Jews so by the time of Jesus they (including the disciples of Jesus) were already fearing and serving God. That’s why they went out to John the Baptist. So it would be quite pointless to reenact the violently shaking, fiery, smoking, horn blowing, thundering out of a dark cloud on a mountain all over again to put the fear of God into the people who already had the fear of God in them. All that these disciples and other witnesses needed was for God to point out to them the Christ and He did so with His own voice.
Additionally, there were only a small number of eye witness disciples of Jesus (maybe 120 at the most before the day of Pentecost, not 600,000 men as in the case of the Israelites) from the beginning to end of his ministry, and a smaller number of apostles. Christianity grew out of this small number. God wasn’t starting with millions of Jews; He was starting with one, Jesus, and those close to him.
In the case of John they, the multitude who were around Jesus heard him speak and heard God answer “in thunder” just as in Exodus 19:19 “…Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder.” In John 12:28 “Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven, saying… And John12:29 Therefore, the multitude that stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
What the people heard on Mount Sinai was God’s thundering voice. And there are other references to God’s thundering voice.
So, as I noted at the beginning, the people at Mount Sinai didn’t understand the words of God’s thundering voice otherwise they wouldn’t have needed Moses to talk to them and tell them what God said.
some other references in the bible to God’s thundering voice.
Psalm 18:13, Psalm 29; Job 37:5, Job 40:9.
The apostles for the most part were a cross section of the general population and misunderstood and misconstrued many things from scriptures as did the general Jewish population. And Jesus corrected the apostles’ misunderstandings reminding them of what the scripture said about him and was always teaching them before and after his resurrection. He also taught and corrected misunderstandings among the general population and leaders of the people.
The apostles’ initially had a mistaken understanding of an immediate inauguration to a hierarchical based earthly system with Jesus as rightful king of the Jews in the line of David and the apostles lording their authority over others. They mistakenly overlooked the requirement to serve others.
24 – 30
And there also arose a contention among them as to which of them was regarded to be greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who have authority over them are called “Benefactors.” 26 But you – not so! On the contrary, he who is the greatest among you, let him become as the youngest, and he who is the leader, as he who serves. 27 For who is greater, he who is reclining to eat, or he who serves? Is not he who is reclining to eat? But I am in the midst of you as he who serves.
The apostles also mistakenly understood that the Christ would never die, and most certainly not in the manner as Jesus was foretelling and they didn’t understand the resurrection at all.
31 And he took the twelve aside and said to them, “Take notice!, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all the things that are written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered up to the Gentiles and will be mocked, and shamefully treated, and spit upon, 33 and they will whip and kill him, and the third day he will rise again.” 34 And they understood none of these things, and his saying was hid from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.
21 From that time Jesus began to show to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and experts in the law, and be killed, and the third day be raised. 22 and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Be it for from you, Lord! This will never, ever happen to you” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Adversary! You are a stumbling block to me, because you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
And the apostles did not believe the words of the women reporting the resurrection or understand yet from scripture that he must rise from among the dead.
11 And these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they did not believe them. 17 But Peter arose and ran to the tomb, …
8 then, therefore, the other disciple who came first to the tomb also entered in, and he saw, and believed. 9 For they did not yet know the scripture, that he must rise out from among the dead.
There was the mistaken believe among the multitude also that the Christ would not die.
34 … “We have heard from the law that the Christ lives for ever, and so how can you say, “The Son of Man must be lifted up?” Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Therefore Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, …
Jesus continues as teacher after his resurrection explaining his resurrection and the things that came to pass regarding him in light of scripture:
25 And he said to them, “O unthinking ones, and slow of heart to believe in all the prophets have spoken!
27 And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he explained to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
44 And he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled that are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me.”
Do you agree that it is our duty to evaluate the claims of Jesus in light of Scripture? I imagine you do – this being the case do you think the first followers fulfilled this duty? were they capable of doing so? And if they did – then why is their understanding of Scripture so pliable? Do you honestly believe that their devotion to Jesus played no part in their reinterpretation of Scripture?
You misunderstand the foundation of the Jewish Scripture. At Sinai the Jewish people knew that it was God that was speaking to them – this knowledge was so clear to them that the Scripture points to it as the eternal bedrock of the credibility of Israel’s covenant with God (Deuteronomy 4:35). They didn’t wonder if perhaps it was just simple thunder or perhaps it was an angel. And yes – it was to all those who were entering the covenant that God let them hear His voice. At that point in time there were no questions at all – it was facts and not faith. And all this to establish the credibility of a point that is not morally challenging and not contrary to reason – the concept of One Creator that is above and beyond nature.
In sharp contrast the credibility of the Christian witness stands on dubious grounds – it stands on the testimony of people who were already devoted and who never saw the central pillars of their faith in a direct way that left no questions – it was only through indirect evidence that they came to the conclusions they came to – and this evidence needed to be processed through the minds of people that were already committed to the faith
Another major difference between the revelations claimed by Judaism and Christianity is that the entire nation of Israel (3 million people) heard G-d speak. Those people had children and they told their children what happened, who in turn told their children — an unbroken chain of transmission. Contrast this with the claim of Christianity — who speaks of crowds listening to Jesus and eating fish — but where are they? Where are their descendants? The people who wrote the Christian bible are anonymous — and I’ve never heard anyone claim to be a descendant of any of them. Paul never even met or heard Jesus — he had a fit on the road (a vision). The claims are in no way comparable — anonymous people with apparently no descendants and the living Jews many of whom not only claim descendancy from Sinai — but can prove it scientifically via DNA. There are living descendants today from King David and from Aaron (Moses’ brother). Where are the descendants of Mark, Luke, John, etc. — let alone Jesus’ supposed brothers and sisters?
My Pharisee Friend & David –
There is one problem with seeing Judaism/Christianity as ‘two faiths’! The world says there are three great faiths – but the Scriptures tell us: There Is ONE Faith – ONE Baptism/Mikvah – ONE God … The Holy One of Israel is The God of The Whole earth … shall He be Called! (Isaiah 54:5)
The faith of Abraham came because He believed God. Moses, Aaron & Miriam believed God. Elijah, Enoch, Noah, Esther, Ruth, Naomi, Hannah, Samuel, David – The Prophets – The Righteous Kings – believed God … And … Meriam/Mary believed God. Anna and Simeon elder Jews who prayed believed God … The Apostles and disciples believed God … and my frends, you two too believe God.
So the Real question is: Is Yeshua/Jesus Who He said He Was? Is He God Incarnate? Who Came as The Son of God – the Messiah? This Is The Question that Scripture answers – and The Way the NT was written was through the fulfillment of what was spoken about the coming of The Messiah in the Messianic Prophecies … Yeshua/Jesus fulfilled: Where the Messiah would be born … To Whom He would be born … How He would die … and also His Generation up til now that in His time on earth has Not been born (Isaiah 53) … And so much more …
So the answer to the question: can we see the New Covenant in the Old Covenant? – the answer is YES .. The New Covenenant is an Old Covenant Promise to Israel in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and in Ezekiel 36:22-28
Our eyes need to be open to The Glory of God and His Works – and we will See One Faith – One Baptism/Mikvah – One God.
The “real question” is not Is Jesus who he said he was – but what is Israel’s responsibility as God’s witnesses – you first have to study that responsibility and only after you acquire a world-view on the basis of that responsibility – then you can assess claims to prophecy in the a way that is obedient to God
Yes. When Jesus was first teaching, there weren’t two ‘religions’ involved… there was Judaism, and there was a man teaching about his spin on it. Likewise when his students *first* started spreading the message that he was moshiach-and-more. They were a group of Jews who were assuming Judaism to be true, and making some claims about what they interpreted it (and the recent events in their lives) to mean.
Nonetheless, even if you don’t think about the word ‘religion’ (which is kind of a modern concept anyway, in the way we use it)… Yisroel is correct. Yes, one question is whether Yeshua was who he claimed to be. But the biggest and most important questions must be answered and very clearly understood, held to, and lived out, before this other minor question is even considered. Also, those questions about Israel’s responsibility as God’s witnesses should not be considered with a leaning towards answering the question about Yeshua in a particular way!
Hi June, in my opinion, there seems to be some confusion as to the definition of faith. Unlike Christians, Jews are not bound by “faith”. Judaism is not a “religion”. Christianity, on the other hand, IS a religion bound by faith.
Jews, the nation of Israel, Am Yisrael, are just that. We are a nation. We are bound by TORAH, not by faith. When the Jews received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, it was not given in faith. There was nothing to have faith in; an entire nation saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears, the revelation of G-d. No faith. Just indisputable truth.
I realize that you are saying there is but one faith, one real religion, but this is a mistake. “Religion” suggests a common belief, a common faith. Judaism is neither of these. A Jew is a testimony of the indisputable Unity of the Creator over heaven and earth. THIS is what is marked in our flesh, since the days of Abraham. It is a witness to the covenant forged between G-d and Abraham, and all of his descendants for all time. It is the witness to fact, not faith.
A Jew is not consecrated to G-d by his faith.. The cornerstone of our people, “Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem echad”; “Hear o Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One” is not a declaration of faith. It is an explicit statement; an announcement to the world; not that there is merely one G-d, but there is an undeniable Unity in the world; indeed in all of creation.
Through Torah, we are bound together as a testimony of the sovereignty of our Creator. This is why Christianity has no relevance to Judaism. We are comparing two completely, incompatible definitions of man’s relationship with G-d. Christianity is all about us; our faith, our destiny. Judaism is all about G-d; being a witness to His sovereignty, partnering with Him in the redemption of all peoples, in perfecting the world. The Christian’s eyes look toward Heaven. The Jew’s eyes look toward bringing G-dliness down to this earth; making G-dliness a physical reality in this world.
Nowhere in Torah does it speak of the Messiah being the son of G-d. While some people might be looking for a divine messiah, or even a messiah who works miracles, this is merely a diversion from the true identity of the man we will call Moshiahch; the mortal man who will be annointed by G-d to lead the world into an era of eternal peace; an era marked by a universal, unified worship of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, the Holy One, blessed be He. It is G-d who is worthy of all blessings and praise; not the man, G-d’s servant, who will carry the title Moshiach ben David.
Melissa… do you think that you need to believe in the testimony about Hashem and about Sinai, when you hear it, before you can obey it? Even Moshe needed to trust in God in order to please Him and be right with Him (Numbers 20:12). How can anyone obey the mitzvot or especially, how can anyone love God and call on Him, without having faith that He created us, cares about us, and commanded those things during the time of those events? For anyone who isn’t in that early period of the nation’s history, faith is a part of the knowledge that those things happened and are to be responded to with obedience.
PS Even though Christianity is definitely founded and explained as an individual’s escape from judgment, for many people it is also about bearing witness to the greatness of God and to what they think He deserves (on earth and in heaven).
There’s a joke about a Jewish boy from a liberal family who attends the neighborhood parochial (Christian) school:
One day Isaac comes home in great puzzlement about what he had been taught in school that day; so he goes to his father and asks him about it.
“Father, I learned that God is a Trinity. But how can there be three Gods?”
“Now get this straight, Son: We’re Jewish. So there is only one God … and we don’t believe in Him!”
That right there is the difference between Judaism and Christianity. Now for the long form answer, if you’re interested:
Moses’ faith in G-d is not akin to his belief in the existence of G-d. Moses did NOT have trust in G-d until he saw the burning bush that was not being consumed. Then he heard G-d’s voice saying, “Moshe, remove the sandles from your feet. You are standing on holy ground!” And even THEN he didn’t trust G-d because he argued with Him! G-d told Moshe His plans to save the Jews from Pharaoh, and Moses said No way! You got the wrong guy! “I’m not good enough, I have a speech impediment, they won’t listen to me..” And G-d said No, YOU are the one I want”. But Moses did not trust in G-d’s judgement.
Secondly, the whole reason the Jews received the Torah is because they said “Na’aseh v’nishma”: “We will do them and THEN we will try to understand them.” (Notice the collective “we” because we work as one nation. Not “I believe in Jesus” which is a very personal, isolated motivation). Every other nation wanted to know what was in it before accepting it. But the Jews didn’t. They said they would do it. When G-d wanted to know what their guarantee would be, they answered “Our children will keep it (Jewish Law) for all eternity.” Not, “Our children will have faith in it for all eternity.”
Judaism is a way of life. Not a belief system. It is all about “doing”. Faith comes later. Even for those people who do believe, keeping the mitzvot deepens that belief and trust. And even if people don’t have faith, as many Jews don’t, there are certain mitzvot they do anyway, that binds them to G-d and to our people.
For example, many non-believing parents will have rabbi perfprm a ritual circumcision for their baby boys (bris). Why don’t they do it in the hospital? Because Torah outlines certain ritual laws. Why do they do it on the 8th day, and not on the 7th or the 9th? Because Torah law says 8 days. Do we understand the purpose behind these laws? No, we don’t. We just do them because G-d said so.
Many non-believing families will hold a seder at Passover. Many non-believing Jews will attend services on Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur. Many non-believing Jews will light Channukah candles. And if you ask them “Do you believe in G-d?” They will answer, “Of course not!” And then if you ask them “Then why do you do these things?” and they will simply answer “Because I’m a Jew.”
The proof is in the pudding (kugel lol!). Being Jewish, following its precepts and laws, has nothing to do with faith. It is just who we are and what we do.
Further proof: a non-Jew can have belief and faith in the G-d of the Hebrew scriptures. He can even follow Torah and mitzvos. But that does not make him Jewish. Likewise, a Jew can reject his Jewish roots. He can follow some other religion. But that does not take away his Judaism. In fact, ask a Jewish Buddhist if he is Jewish. Most likely he will answer, yes he is. Ask a non-practicing, Atheist Jew if he is Jewish. He would answer, yes he is. On the other hand, ask a lapsed Catholic if he is Catholic, he might say, “My parents are, but I’m no longer Catholic.” Ask the same person, after being “born again”, if he is Catholic. He will say, no, I’m a Christian. Ask someone who has left Christianity altogether, ask him if is he a Christian, he will say “No, I don’t believe in anything.”
So the point I was making in my previous post is that premise of Christianity lies in belief and faith. The foundation of Judaism is built not on faith, but in our bond with G-d and with our people, through Torah. Even Jews with no faith. Without Torah (G-d forbid), there are no Jews. But without faith, the Jews live on.
P.S. I’m not advocating Atheism. I am an observant Jew and my life is enriched immensely in my unwavering belief and my faith in G-d. I believe very sincerely that a Christian’s belief and faith in G-d is likewise enriching. But I just wanted to point out the difference between the two mindsets. Christians/Messianic Jews, as you pointed out, believe that the NT is foreshadowed in Torah. But the problem is that belief results in a religion that is completely opposite of what Judaism is and what Judaism teaches. Therefore it cannot be an extension of Judaism, but a complete break away from Judaism.
My Pharisee Friend,
I know Israel’s responsibilty as God’s first born son and her call to be a light to the nations, a kindom of priests. Howver, Jesus being Messiah, Israel as a nation has not accepted Him, which means their Calling is not yet in effec! The Greatest Jew Who Was Ever Born – Yeshua Who has lightened the Gentiles/Nations to Israel’s king and Messiah and Our Father in heaven.
Romans 9, 10, 11 gives us a picture as to why Israel has not fulfilled her calling … and Paul delcares it was in fact in God’s plan for a parital blindness to be on the eyss of Israel … until .. the fulness of the Gentiles comes in. If Israel accepted her Messiah the nations would not have been evangelized. Isaiah 49:6 says, “It is too small a thing that You should My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”
I write this to say, it is for us to know the Churches responsibilty to my Jewish people and to Israel … since the Church Father’s, and through the Council of Nicea, separated the Church from it Hebraic Roots. Since 325AD the Calendar of the Church has changed, not recognizing the Feasts of the Lord begin on a New Moom … Passover is separate (another holy day) from the death and resurrection of Messiah … our Passover Lamb Who Was Slain!
My point … Israel will not come into her Calling as a nation until the Messiah returns and establishes His Kingdom in Jerusalem. But, The Church does hava her responsibility, according to the Scriptures, to know God’s heart for Israel and to speak to my people about Jesus/Yeshua being The Anointed One.
The Calling of Israel and her coming to her fulness with be to The Glory of God … and The Church coming to her fulness is to The Glory of God … As is written in the conclusion of Romans 11 …
When you speak about Jesus it is never to ask whether the claims about him were and are true. It is always with the 100% assumption that he is messiah and that he is God in a human being.
You said “I know Israel’s responsibility as God’s first born son and her call to be a light to the nations, a kingdom of priests. However, Jesus being Messiah, Israel as a nation has not accepted Him, which means their Calling is not yet in effect!” We are discussing whether Jesus is the promised messiah, so how can you make that the primary assumption (rather than a conclusion that you can show) in your argument for him? No one can accept a claim simply because someone says “Well it’s true.” God forbid. The calling of Israel as a nation has been in effect for a long time, as the books of Torah make really clear. It’s not just something that will begin in the future.
Having the Christian worldview at the centre and the worldview of Sinai completely out of the picture, or at least melded into your assumptions about Jesus, shows that a lot of God’s commandments to Israel in the Torah are being ignored or re-interpreted in light of belief in Jesus. You can’t do that. God told your nation to be very careful to follow Him alone and walk in His ways, and that was before Jesus came on the scene… and ‘if’ he is a false claimant then everything is lost… so if you cared about the Torah at all for its own sake as a covenant with God, then you would at least acknowledge the validity of testing the things you take as your starting point. And realising that if Jesus is not moshiach, nothing is lost of God’s promises, commandments, and gifts, and it is Him alone whom we seek to be loyal to… whatever that means.
For example. You believe that miracles are a good enough reason to accept that man as deserving of your worship. But if you met a witch-doctor who could do amazing wonders and signs, and claimed that you should worship him, you would not do it. In any case, I think that the real question is, How does the Torah explain that God wants Israel to obey Him for all future generations? Another good question is, Does the Torah say that if someone does miracles then you can (and must) always accept their message?
If you aren’t seriously asking those questions then you don’t care about the covenant that God made with Israel after bringing you out of Egypt. You only care about the Christian message, unless you are willing to test it in light of much earlier and deeper understandings.
Likewise when you say that the Christian message does not contradict the Tanach as you read it. It isn’t about whether a claim contradicts. It’s about whether the claim can be taken seriously and believing wholeheartedly in the first place, according to the path that was already laid out. Until you can consider the experience of Judaism-without-Jesus, you can’t take the Torah seriously at all on the matter of who he was.
From Rabbi Yosef Edelstein (link given at the end) “Imagine that a great seer arises from amidst the Jewish people. His deeds are righteous, his love of humanity is sincere and overflowing, his words of Torah are profound and his personality is powerfully compelling. He becomes a leading rabbi of the generation.
At some point in his career, he begins to inform the Jewish world that he has dreamed a dream (or if this scenario would occur in the days of prophecy, that he has been sent a prophetic vision). In the dream, the Almighty came to him and declared unequivocally that the mitzvah of tefillin is no longer binding upon men; the supernal worlds had already been appropriately rectified through the mystical effects of generations of Jews loyally performing this most sacred commandment, and the Almighty had now seen fit to abolish it. (“One down, 612 to go!!”)
To convince us skeptical Jews, this seer announces that he will perform tremendous miracles as a sign of the truth of his word: he will cause the earth to stop rotating about its axis, end famine and tribal warfare in Africa…and, closer to home, make the temperature mid-70’s and zero humidity in Savannah for the whole month of August! (Hey, I can fantasize, can’t I?) And guess what? He does every single one of them.
What exactly would the Torah say about this most remarkable figure?
You guessed it: Kill him! He is a navi sheker, a false prophet, as discussed by the Torah in this week’s parsha:
“If there should stand up in your midst a prophet or a dreamer of a dream, and he will produce to you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes about of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us follow gods of others that you did not know and we shall worship them!’–do not hearken to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of a dream…And that prophet and that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death, for he had spoken perversion against Hashem, your G-d.” (13: 2-4, 6; Artscroll Chumash.)
Although the verse itself makes mention only of idolatry, the Oral Law explains that his punishment is the same if he seeks to abrogate any of the Torah’s commandments (Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin 90a). (A proven prophet is allowed to temporarily suspend a mitzvah, however, in a time of national crisis, as Elijah did when he offered sacrifices outside of the Temple grounds on Mt. Carmel in his “showdown” with the priests of Baal. The prohibition of idolatry, though, cannot be suspended even for a moment.)
From here we learn a secret of our stubbornness, of our historical success in remaining steadfast in our faith: our loyalty to the Torah is not in the least threatened by miracles!
Therefore, even if, for argument’s sake, the founders of world religions did perform miracles, their claims to divine truth or heavenly communication were still proven false once they challenged any portion of the Torah, or–even more so–declared that the entire Torah had been supplanted. The greatest signs and wonders (i.e., making Savannah livable in August) cannot sway us one iota if the message of the wonder-worker contradicts the Torah.
In fact, our own acceptance of Moshe Rabbeinu as the authentic teacher of G-d’s Torah to the Jewish people is not, in any way, based on the miracles he performed! As Rambam explains in Chapter of 8 of Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah, Moshe performed certain miracles in the desert –splitting the Red Sea, bringing water forth from the rock, etc.–because of the pressing need of the particular moment, not because he wished to offer proof of his unique prophetic status.
On what, then, do we base our belief in Moshe, Rambam asks? On the Revelation at Sinai, which the entire Jewish people witnessed–hearing directly from Hashem at least the first two of the 10 commandments (Makkos 24a), and experiencing an exalted level of prophecy. We would thenceforth have faith in Moshe, as he transmitted the rest of the Torah to us which we didn’t hear directly. This was one of the primary purposes of Sinai:
“Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Behold! I come to you in the thickness of the cloud, so that the people will hear as I speak to you, and they will also believe in you forever.'” (Exodus: 19, 9; my
Since the Torah declares that the Torah must never be changed, any would-be seer, or movement, that comes to contradict the prophecy of Moshe–i.e., the Torah–is not to be followed.
Rabbi Elie Munk (The Call of the Torah) beautifully summarizes the implications of the law of the false prophet:
“To be legitimate, any prophetic act must fit into the framework established by the Revelation at Sinai and the complementary oral tradition. It is thus rather simple to tell true from false prophets, by applying that rule and by judging the impact of the “prophet’s” words on the fulfillment of the Law…
One must choose–either to acknowledge Hashem and thereby admit there is but one path, or to claim that there can be a new direction in the teachings, which is quite simply incompatible with the most elementary notions of our knowledge of Hashem.” (Devarim, pp. 143-4)
One may well ask why G-d would allow a false prophet to produce convincing signs that could potentially lead to our seduction. Don’t worry: there’s a good answer.
After commanding us not to listen to the false prophet, the Torah explains the reason why he is allowed to have some success:
“…for Hashem, your G-d, is testing you to know whether you love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul (13, 4).”
To maintain our love of the One G-d and His eternal Torah, despite persecutions, blandishments and even the evidence of our very own eyes, perhaps–this is the supreme test which we have undergone throughout our history, up to this very day.
The great Chofetz Chayim writes that this test will be particularly difficult in the time preceding the coming of Moshiach. The ways of the wicked will prosper, “false prophets” will abound; as it states in the very last prophetic book in our Scriptures, Malachi, the House of Israel will be gripped by doubt: “…what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts?” (3, 14). It ain’t gonna be easy.
I’m not going to tell you for certain that these are the generations immediately preceding Moshiach, but the Chofetz Chayim definitely thought so. And if you want my own opinion on the matter…uh, it doesn’t hurt to get ready. (Elul, the month of repentance in preparation for the High Holidays which begins this Shabbos, is a perfect time, too!)
May Hashem give us the strength to pass the test, to cling to Him and His Torah in love…and to greet Moshiach speedily, in our day.” http://anonymouse.org/cgi-bin/anon-www.cgi/http://www.ou.org/torah/savannah/5758/reeh58.htm
Christians make the claim that all of the facts and prophesies of the OT regarding the Christ prove that Jesus is he.
David, you need to spend some time reading the articles at Jews for Judaism because the so-called prophecies that prove Jesus is the messiah are all either mistranslations or totally lifted out of context. In reality Jesus failed to fulfill even ONE messianic prophecy — which is one reason Jews aren’t Christians! http://www.jewsforjudaism.ca/resources-info/faqs-on-christianity
The fact that you say that “Jesus failed to fulfill even ONE messianic prophecy” tells me that your reference lacks all credibiblity because that’s out of the mainstream even for Judaism.
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