You Can Talk – But You Can’t Hide

You Can Talk – But You Can’t Hide

On the July 18 2013 edition of his Line of Fire radio show Dr. Brown explains to his listeners why it is that he is not responding to my critique of his work. At the same time he addresses my policy of refusing to debate him in a public setting with the question: “what do you have to hide?” In order to give Christianity a veneer of honesty and love for truth he holds up his willingness to debate any rabbi in a public setting. And in order to give Judaism an appearance of dishonesty and falsehood he speaks of our refusal to engage in the spectacle of a public debate. He makes the claim: “Let us recognize that it is not I that is running from dialogue”.

This whole discussion is really a smokescreen.

You have the arguments themselves and you have the people that are arguing. Dr. Brown himself introduces his five volume series with the words: “The real question is, What do the Hebrew scriptures teach? Which Jewish expression follows the Bible? That must be the rule of Jewish faith and practice.”

In this radio show instead of directing the attention of his audience towards the “real question” he tries to get his audience to focus on the image of Dr. Brown as a fearless defender of the “truth” who has “nothing to hide”.

Sadly, I have indeed interacted with many people who rely on their perception of Dr. Brown’s scholarship and integrity. When presented with challenges to belief in Jesus instead of seeking answers themselves they have told me that they are sure that Dr. Brown has already answered these questions.

On the other hand I have met real truth seekers who have decided to seek the truth for themselves. These people have made brave and courageous life-changing decisions when they chose to follow the truth with no one holding their hand but God Himself. These people have found that the Jewish community has provided clear and concise answers to every question that Dr. Brown has presented against the Jewish belief system. These people have also realized that 2000 years of the Christian effort to justify their own belief system has not provided answers to basic questions that a Jewish child can ask. And these people have abandoned their faith in Dr. Brown and have put their faith in the God of Israel.

I have found that people who are truly seeking for the truth generally do not expect to find it in the setting of a public debate. These people want to take the time to study and examine the issues without the distractions of the flash and noise of a public debate. Those who seek the truth down this path will find the answers of the Jewish community and will be confronted by the non-response of the Christian missionary that hides behind smokescreens like the one thrown up by Dr. Brown.

But there may be some people who are persuaded to believe that the truth can be found in the venue of a public debate. For the sake of these people I have offered to debate Dr. Brown in the following manner. He will speak on his radio show while I will respond in writing on my blog. In keeping with his pattern of failing to respond to me he has yet to take me up on this offer as well.

As things stand now, I am satisfied that the Jewish community has provided the truth seeker with the tools to be able to see through the missionary arguments. Should Dr. Brown or any other missionary come up with a substantial argument that has not yet been addressed by the Jewish community, it will be incumbent upon us to fill that gap. But as long as Dr. Brown is not adding any new substance to the argument but is instead busying himself with smokescreens we will continue to attempt to bring clarity to the world without his help.

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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176 Responses to You Can Talk – But You Can’t Hide

  1. Annelise says:

    Yes. It’s frustrating… in fact I can’t comprehend it… that you keep telling Dr. Brown every time he says this on his show that:
    1. You have replied to everything he has written in a lot of detail;
    2. He said he would reply in writing to your articles;
    3. He indicated that it would be a good idea to have an exchange between his radio show and your blog;
    4. You are not willing to debate in the spoken format because it doesn’t leave enough space to work through everything that’s important, and it also lets rhetoric press towards a ‘winner’ or ‘loser’.

    *And still* he keeps speaking as Jewish rabbis have not replied to the charge he making here, as if he thinks you are avoiding discussion. Even when you point out that the ball is in his court and he is yet to make *his* response. It’s very dishonest. When he plays clips of you, Rabbi Skobac, Rabbi Cohen, and people who aren’t so involved in Jewish-Christian dialogue such as Rabbi Boteach, he tends to pick up peripheral issues and avoid the real questions at the heart of your work. He also drowns the whole thing in passionate exhortation of people to pray that you and your community will “see the truth of etc. etc.”

    I don’t want to gossip about someone, especially in public, but in this case I’m speaking about the tactics. I do call them tactics, because if this is all honest and above board then it is hard for me to believe that Dr. Brown is capable of hearing or considering others’ ideas at all… and he is too intelligent for that. I’m not inherently against him as a person, for sure. But this repeated issue of his rhetoric being answered and then him going back and saying exactly the same thing again is a true twisting of the true nature of his discussion. Of course people will agree with him if the impression on his show is all they’re looking at 😦 As a person in a position of influence, he has got to be called out for that. I know that what I do is not perfect either, and in a previous (short) conversation I had with him he challenged me about a few areas of how I speak that he was right about. The crazy thing is that I believe he is doing those same things, and other things, in worse ways.

    The lack of integrity and transparency, and then the defense of it all as if it were both transparent and the light of Hashem, bothers me so much. I just hope people are able to find the resources they need.

    • Brian Jamieson says:

      You probably shouldn’t judge yourself so harshly; I have, and tend to do the same thing; I reflect and step back, and think to myself… Wait a minute thousands of people are going to read this, and acquire a bad image of me..This is what he thrives on, and trust me, he will make it a point to make it visible to his viewers. It is very hard not to engage. I have made the decision to make it clear that I will only have private debates with him, and that I do not wish to be part of the spectacle.

      • Annelise says:

        “I have made the decision to make it clear that I will only have private debates with him, and that I do not wish to be part of the spectacle.”

        I very much get you. (This comment comes after the discussion that is placed below in the thread.)

        Me, I’d be happy to talk on his live show with him, provided it were in a fair format. I doubt he would be interested because I’m not Jewish, certainly not trained as a rabbi, and not a counter-missionary technically. I wouldn’t provide much weight to the spectacle, so-called. I just feel like I don’t have the training to make sure I say everything succinctly and clearly when speaking out loud, and I also don’t have the confidence to be sure I wouldn’t forget important things till later.

        Anyway, you’re right. It does feel like that… it feels like things get twisted around in front of a public audience, and it hurts to be used like that. I don’t think that is the way it’s intended but it happens.

        • Brian Jamieson says:

          Unfortunately people feel the need for justification for their beliefs, and do not give things much thought. I have seen even some of the most intelligent of rabbi made to appear like they lost a public debate; this type of spectacle serves no one but the ones in control of the debate. I have observed you here even before you obtained the views you now have; I am impressed with how far you have come; it doesn’t take being a rabbi to acquire truth or know it. The wisdom of the Torah never fails.

          • Annelise says:

            I’m so thankful, privately, for the chance to see what I’ve seen in the last year and a half. God knows my heart about that gift. And publicly, I feel it is very important to make sure that this side of the story is heard, by Jews and also by others who are willing to be interested… even though it has been muted, twisted, dampened, accused, ignored, manipulated, and made a fool out of. I hate the spectacle as well. I’m only writing like this because I thought it was fair to point out a few things that Dr. Brown said in his broadcast that were, themselves, fair. Otherwise part of the truth of the matter isn’t heard; it is impossible to *really* address, listen to, and respond to what’s going on in the dialogue; it isn’t fair to Michael as a person; and it makes it seem like we aren’t actually listening. I only qualified some of the details of my first post… for the most part I hold to the sentiment of it and agree with you and Yisroel.

          • Annelise says:

            I’ll reply to your other comment at the end of the thread 🙂

          • Annelise says:

            Oh btw, Dr. Brown speaks very kindly and respectfully about the counter-missionaries he’s dialogued with from Jews for Judaism. I don’t know how well he listens to them and I think he does use his relationship with them in the wrong way publicly. He calls them friends and even colleagues, and I don’t know how they feel about the ‘friendship’ from their experience (I’d have to ask them). But almost without exception, and even though it is a part of his apologetics as well, I can rarely fault him on the way he upholds respect of these rabbis’ sincerity as worshipers of God and dignity as human beings.

          • Annelise says:

            (I didn’t mean I actually would ask them.)

  2. Brian Jamieson says:

    I personally have made comment to Brown about not wishing to be part of the spectacle he so seems to desire; I choose not to give him that; thus far any scriptural discussion I have had with him has ended with silence on his part. Maybe I just do not bear enough of a title for him, to serve his popularity needs. My take is; that even if Mr. Brown could, or did see the faults with his views, he has developed quite a following; radio show, books, and the like. The embarrassment would be monumental; the financial losses would be staggering. Maybe I am wrong though; could it be possible that Mr Brown’s comprehension skills of what the Tanakh actually says, after all this back and forth discussion over the years is simply beyond his IQ level? Somehow I just have major trouble accepting that; the Jim Bakers of the world have shown me otherwise.

    • Annelise says:

      I personally think that it would not be impossible for Dr. Brown to drop the finances/influence, the popularity, the respect, or the comfort of ego and self-confidence. From what I can see, it’s not like he has never been humble before God or made costly sacrifices to do what he thinks is right. So I don’t claim to know what is going on. But what you wrote Brian, I can resonate with the impression you got.

      This is how he wrote about his own message, in response to Jews for Judaism’s warning that his message is subversive, twisting Torah.
      “You know actually, it’s subversive to any tradition that’s not based on the word of God. My message is subversive to the religious establishment, be it Christian, be it Jewish, be it other, to the extent that I’m declaring what the word of God says, and that’s subversive to what we as human beings build.” This is not exactly listening to the weight of our objections.

      • Brian Jamieson says:

        The weight is despite the fallacy of his declarations; the question is…does he realize that this reckless behavior is at the expense of possibly millions of followers? My concern, and objection lies with those unfortunate enough to be taken in by all this smoke & screens and deception, be it intentional or not. I guess not everyone is like me; I have asked myself if I could ever do something like that & become wealthy at the expense of others; the answer is no! I just do not have it in me to do something like that. I can only pray that HaShem place conviction in his heart, and that he realize his error, and tell the truth to his followers at his own expense.

        • Annelise says:

          I want to take back some of what I said in the first comment here, having now listened to the relevant part of Dr. Brown’s show from the 18th. What I wrote above was in reply to the previous times when he has said things like this, and my feelings about those utterances.

          In the present radio show, Dr. Brown did represent the fact that Rabbi Blumenthal has written many articles in response to his books, and that Dr. Brown himself has promised to reply to them in writing and (although he still intends to) has not made the time in his schedule for responses that he feels are not so important. As I understand it, he made time to write a book in response to Rabbi Boteach because they have engaged together in public debate. And Dr. Brown did offer to give a few hours of time in any format that would make counter-missionaries feel comfortable, in order to have a spoken debate… giving the reason that he feels you can go around in circles in writing, but when speaking together you can immediately clarify things.

          Fair enough. What I still dislike about what he said here is: “Let’s recognise that I’m not the one who’s running from dialogue, debate, discussion, and I’m not the one who’s trying to rely on rhetoric and tricks.” I’m interpreting that to mean (or imply) that Jews for Judaism counter-missionaries *are* running from dialogue, debate, and discussion. I see nothing wrong with the suggestion that he can speak on his show and you can reply on your blog; I think that it would actually be a fine compromise between the two approaches, and mitigate some of the problems of each. Dr. Brown uses his time very selectively in terms of how he can influence the most people towards Christianity, but maybe that is at the expense of answering the most serious objections.

          Rabbi Yisroel, I would agree with your point here that seeking out the truth has got to be done away from the personalities on both sides and the media that they speak through. I try to be careful of that in my own walk with God, and I would urge others to do exactly what Yisroel said about these things. But to be fair, Michael Brown is trying to say passionately what he believes, just as we are. It is up to the listeners to do most of the guarding of their hearts in this area, even as it is up to the presenters of opinions to take huge amounts of care to be transparent.

          Brian, Dr. Brown said in this broadcast that his intention was not only to refute the rabbis he met as a young man but also to seriously wrestle with their objections before God in case they were true. I believe that he still considers himself to be in a place like that, despite the much bigger stakes he has now of being married and being such a public figure… not just in terms of the fame, but also in the responsibility he has not to wrestle with issues in public if that might negatively affect his followers. I’ve experienced that from a much smaller level of influence, responsibility, friendship, and appreciation with and from people in the church. But Dr. Brown has a big heart and he could handle it. I would want to be supportive of him as a person while also having a no compromise perspective, as blunt as need be, towards the way I believe these ideas are hurting other people. Again, I pretty much agree with you.

          • Annelise says:

            PS I’m not suggesting that Michael Brown does wrestle with issues in private and hide that in public 🙂 Just saying that *if* he did see the weight of some of these objections, he wouldn’t be in an easy position… but I think he has the resources and the heart to deal with such a situation. In the end, I just don’t know why people say what they do, and don’t pretend to.

          • Brian Jamieson says:

            Correct me if I am wrong; my understanding is he has not answered for what? Four years; yet he has since written a book & more. This isn’t exactly wrestling with the possibility that he is wrong. This is exactly why I consider his actions reckless & selfish. I have yet to hear, or read where he has made the declaration publically…a disclaimer of sorts, that it is possible that his views should be adhered to cautiously, and that he recommend that his viewers seriously review & consider the orthodox Jewish views as well before making a responsible life decision. Maybe he is a nice guy, maybe he isn’t; for me, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and he will need prove himself to me. So far he has not earned that from me.

          • Annelise says:

            Well he believes that he has no reason to point Jews in the direction of Orthodox Judaism, because he thinks a) that is isn’t true, and every point can be refuted, and b) that therefore it isn’t an accurate representation of the Torah. We wouldn’t point someone to join a Buddhist monastery before deciding to observe Judaism or stand with the Jewish community 🙂 Even though I think that Dr. Brown is not hearing (though he has been told) some important reasons why Jews should take more seriously the observant community… I can kind of grasp why he doesn’t think it’s necessary to start by considering Jesus from within a rabbinic perspective.

            I am guessing he would say that people *should* test his views carefully before accepting them, but he also thinks that there are messianic prophecies, miracles, and personal experiences to back up fully what he’s claiming. Then again, I don’t believe he has ever described the way in which the Torah teaches Israel to test and consider such things, nor explained why it is that God never told Israel to be careful not to miss the messiah or look out for an incarnate form of Himself… only to be careful to worship Him, alone.

            I don’t know if Dr. Brown is a nice guy or not. If I talk with him, we both have some respect and some disagreement between us. We try and tell each other to be less subjective. But I agree with what you said about earning real, true respect. And I’d apply it to the Christian message as well: “[Jesus’ followers would] need prove [him] to me. So far he has not earned that from me.”

          • Annelise says:

            He has also said that he doesn’t reply to R Blumenthal’s articles, even though he does honour other writing commitments, just because he feels that not a lot of Christians have really read or been challenged by them.

  3. Brian Jamieson says:

    That is a given; however Buddhist are not staging themselves as public spectacles, claiming they alone possess the truth of Torah. I feel it is his right to think Judaism isn’t the truth, and that he need not direct Jews to first consider Judaism. Problem is he does not keep his views privately. He recklessly declares them publically.

    • Annelise says:

      Yep. Agreed. The rabbinic view is very important for anyone who decides to care about the written Torah. Many people have objections to it that really show an unwillingness to hear out the picture as we see it… and I believe that for numerous reasons, it has to be taken seriously at the very least. Your parallel is right.

      Dr. Brown and other people with whom he is friends have also told me that I recklessly declare my disagreement with Jesus publicly, in a way that could eternally damage other people ‘if’ (they take it as a given) I am wrong. I think that the nature of the caution, and the nature of the claim, are such that it’s right for me to totally go against something that I believe is profaning the holiness of God in people’s hearts, by bringing tests against it publicly and saying that a) no one should let Jesus in through any other door, and b) I don’t think that they can bring him in through these doors.

      • Annelise says:

        In case it gets lost in everything we’ve written, I really want to say again that I so agree with the heart of Rabbi Yisroel’s article here… that people are putting confidence in Dr. Brown’s confidence (that’s definitely true), and that is not the way to go in seeking God on this issue.

        • Paul summers says:

          The one point and its a big point is this. Orthodox non believing Jews or athiest gentiles, no real difference actually…. is this……..

          If someone is honestly and sincere in seeking God then God will Himself reveal Himself. People claiming to “seek God” as you put it are way short of reality and the true works of God. This is a New age liberal way with modern trend settings. In other words, man seeking a religious experience of somekind.

          Men offering praise to God with there lips only are just a hollow noise. There has to be praise and worship from a repentant heart.

          Israel proved God to be right, that God is holy, and man is not. Israel showed that the Law is Holy but unatainable by works. Jeshua God of Israel showed that God, The Son was the Law perfect And Holy but rejected by men who new not there God or the Law.

          Only sheep who know the voice of THE GOOD SHEPHERD will hear His voice. And the shepherd knows His sheep. A vast amount of sheep who were lost when the GOOD SHEPHERD came,they listened to the hirelings and were lost forever.
          Zech ch11.
          Jhn ch 10

          • Annelise says:

            This is the kind of seeking that we meant.
            “And you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve him with single mind and willing heart; for the Lord searches every mind, and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will abandon you forever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9)
            “Upon my bed at night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer. ‘I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves.'” (Song of Songs 3:1-2)
            “For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: Seek me and live; but do not seek Bethel, and do not enter into Gilgal or cross over to Beer-sheba; for Gilgal shall surely go into exile, and Bethel shall come to nothing.” (Amos 5:3-5)

          • Brian Jamieson says:

            The problem with your view Paul is that you believe that orthodox Jews non belief in jesus, is rejection of God.
            When in fact quite the opposite is true; there is no command that anyone believe in God at all; he does command that we know who he is/is not.
            http://www.mesora.org/belieforproof.html
            God gave national revelation before millions so that they would know that he alone is God and with that revelation he gave the command that we remember that he has no form or likeness to any of his creation Deut.4:15-19 The greatest patriarch Moses was told that no man can see God and live; God states “To whom will you liken me that I shall be equal? Says the holy one. Isaiah 40:25.
            I agree: men offering praise with just their lips; or rather the christian version of blind faith, is not what is needed.
            A repentant heart is one that heeds to the words of God Deut. 11:26-28 Deut. 6:2 Deut. 4:2.
            Psalms 119:142 the Torah {law} is called truth Psalms 19:7-14 The Torah {Law} is called perfect, converting the soul; finer than much fine gold; sweeter than honey.
            God declares no one will ascend into heaven for you; that you CAN walk in his ways and keep his Torah {Laws} Deut. chapter 30.
            God declares he will not give his glory to another Isaiah 42:8 and that there is no other besides him, either before or after Isaiah 43:10-13 or mediator between God and man.
            The Torah is already perfect, and in need of nothing; nor is there, nor has there been any need of the act of perfecting. There is no law, or commandment to worship any man as being the Torah.

  4. Dina says:

    I do not know Dr. Brown personally, nor have I ever interacted with him, but I do know this: he has promised repeatedly to respond to Rabbi B.’s written articles on his blog but hasn’t done so. His excuse that few Christians read this blog is so lame as to be pathetic. He should keep his word.

    • Annelise says:

      Mm. Regardless, I feel that if people are listening to both sides it becomes clear that the conversation is missing responses on Dr Brown’s side and not on the other side. Alongside not keeping his word (to be fair, he said he still wants to do it in future) and manipulating the vision of what’s happening, that lack of a real response is the issue for me. Like in this blog post, “But as long as Dr. Brown is not adding any new substance to the argument but is instead busying himself with smokescreens we will continue to attempt to bring clarity to the world without his help.”

      • Dina says:

        Annelise, I do appreciate your giving Dr. Brown the benefit of the doubt. That is a Jewish ideal, to be sure. But if someone keeps saying, “I’ll get to it sometime” for ten years, without getting to it, it’s hard to take that person seriously.

        • Annelise says:

          Agreed. He seems to run out of time for anything that I think is an important issue, while he has plenty of time to keep saying the same things over and over. It is a strange and frustrating thing, to me. I doubt that it’s a cognisant lack of sincerity on his part, as if he were consciously (or even subconsciously) trying to trick people. I do think he’s not being careful enough with the truth, and he’s not keeping his own standards when it comes to ‘really listening’. But that’s my impression. Anyway, I will be honest and say I can’t help but guess that because a) these issues are beyond his ability to answer, and b) he feels that his experience justifies his faith anyway, he just brushes them off as not important. Therefore the attempt to put into *clear* words (not just ideas in his head that we could also respond to) a response seems like more effort, and he puts it off.

          I’m not just saying all of this to be kind or fair to him, though that is important… but seeing the good in others is necessarily complicated when they start saying that evil things are holy and convincing others to worship something in creation. That sort of thing has to be called out bluntly, and R Yisroel was right to set things straight in this article. However, I believe that the truth needs to be said in a way that is very pure, and so it matters for many reasons to make sure that our complaints and accusations are totally, totally accurate. What I mean is that I am trying to be fair and even give the benefit of doubt for Dr. Brown’s sake, and for the sake of truth and honesty in general, but a real force behind the way I have tried to say all this is the way that the truth of the accusations against these tactics needs to stand very strongly. I’m sorry if it came across the wrong way. It’s part of the way I find myself approaching the need to unravel discussions and hold up what is real… but it may not always be helpful, I don’t know.

          • Annelise says:

            An example of what I was saying… I have an email that I want to write to you, but it takes more thought to do that than to talk on this topic. So I have a lot of comments here, even though our email conversation is more meaningful to me personally! It’s a normal human thing to find some things easier and other things more demanding. So for Dr. Brown I do not think it’s a matter of not having the time. It’s just a matter of how much would need to be invested into deeply replying to Jews for Judaism. But you are right: he promised he would do it, and it’s important, so he (in my opinion) should. Even if he thinks that it isn’t the most persuasively effective use of his time, this is about conversing over truth… it’s not just about winning people over who haven’t been exposed to the heaviest reasons not to listen to his message.

          • Dina says:

            I admire your commitment to truth, Annelise. In my experience, which is very limited, I have found that Christians are so certain of the truth that they don’t need to take our arguments seriously; instead they pray for us. I’m very much looking forward to your next e-mail. I’d love to get your thoughts on all the material I sent you.

          • Annelise says:

            That’s my experience too 😦 I don’t understand why the questions that hit me so clearly as being important to Jews and to gentiles to consider mean absolutely nothing to my friends and family. People talk with me to help me, and they do try to give a listening ear in that, but not a single Christian friend of mine has ever asked me questions as if they were a personal concern to them. It baffles me that these things are not even considered worthy of a little interest. If there’s any reason, any reason at all, for any amount of doubt that the person you are worshiping is God to deserve it… then that is the most serious issue in your life! It is getting easier for me, though, to be ‘prayed for’ and to have my friendships be of that nature. I really feel for the generations of Jews in history who’ve been isolated and accused in all these ways… and much worse than I’ve experienced, for sure… it’s not fair.

            I still need to finish reading what you sent me, but hopefully can reply today because I have a day at home. Talking with you about that issue is valuable to me beyond what I can explain. Thank you so much 🙂

      • June Volk says:

        “But as long as Dr. Brown is not adding any new substance to the argument but is instead busying himself with smokescreens we will continue to attempt to bring clarity to the world without his help.”
        Dear Annelise,
        As a Jew to my Gentile friend – be careful!!! These are the times of the Gentiles … and you should be bringing the Truth to my people .. and instead, you are being used as a tool of the enemy to bring them away from the Truth – that sets one free!!! You know better!
        I love you, Annelise, but you have been deceived by the deceiver!
        June
        “There Is Nothing New Under The Sun”
        Ecclesiastes 1:4-11

  5. Yechiel! says:

    Dear Friends;
    I have a question for Dr. Brown; has he considered the two Jesus’ in the Gosple? One is positive; “I bring peace.” The other is negative; “I bring a sward, not Peace!” (I did not fully expressed the verses, but the concept relaid.)
    Then, also I wonder if Barnabus, who’s full name was Jesus bar Abba-son of the Father – may have been placed in the Gosple? Remember also the denial by Jesus of his being anything speacle? Matthew 19:16-19. He stated to the questioner the Noahide code as all he needed for his salvatioin (Must have been a Gentile?) Also found in Mark and Luke.
    So Dr. Brown has some study to do, before he tells anyone how to see the Divine.
    I know I do, but I listen and research back to the origins.
    Shalom;
    Yechiel

    • Concerned Reader says:

      Yechiel, there is actually an explanation offered in some early Christian sources of the dichotomy between “I come to bring peace,” and “I come to bring a sword.” In the Clementine Recognitions it says (to paraphrase) that I come to bring peace was a statement made to the righteous, while coming with the “sword” is meant as warning for the unrepentant. There are many early Christian writings that allude to what we today would call Noachide laws, and many sources that point away from a faith only Christianity. Evangelical protestants are the most vocal missionaries, but they are only one part of a large entity.

  6. Brian Jamieson says:

    Of course not; everyone can just go and have $400,000 + homes built, and besides I’m sure the guy needs to eat as well right?

    • Annelise says:

      Larry I don’t exactly get this comment. Why be pessimistic about the wealth of Dr. Brown’s lifestyle with mere speculation? That’s not fair. From what I understand, he doesn’t live (or value) a lavish lifestyle, and if he is on par with the social norm economically in the area where he lives then you can’t discredit him for that… especially since people in ‘ministry’ often want to have a space that is comfortable enough at least for hospitality and a people-centred lifestyle. “You can never tell” is not fair grounds for a criticism and I think you’re coming close to the lines (or at least the intentions behind them) of the comment policy for this blog.

      I don’t believe it’s lashon hara to talk negatively about people in positions of influence, but it has to be 100% true and kept to the minimum necessary. I would totally agree with your impression about it being very difficult to have any control of a situation in which Dr. Brown is constantly working the things you say back towards the eyes of his audience. Sure. But how do you know that Dr. Brown (or his advisors) is afraid to discuss things in written debate? He has clearly said that he has a number of other reasons for his hesitance with this medium, and your speculation could be true but it also might not be. I think it is good to criticise and sometimes even to mock anything that goes against God and damages people’s lives, but to take sides against the person as pure evil isn’t true… and therefore it’s damaging in a lot of ways. It takes away from our ability to listen in nuanced, unexpected sometimes, but very careful and honest ways for truth. It spreads a false or exaggerated/unconfirmed testimony about someone. And it also makes the valid points get lost amidst the untrue ones, which brings obscurity to the whole conversation.

      Commenting on the mode of experience that Dr. Brown has been part of in the Pentacostal churches may be valid but it is generally way out of context, I feel. I have been in Pentecostal churches myself when I was a Christian and the connection between falsehood and truth in people’s seeking of (and experience of) God in that context is, in my opinion, too complex to simply mock. Even though I deeply disagree with the thing as a whole, in the end, and think that it should be mocked for that reason. But in the specific comments about a person’s life… I think that it hurts to generalise.

      Please tell me if you disagree. I believe I possibly need correction in some of my attitudes here, but I also feel that a lot of it is important, and true, and fair, and right.

      • Annelise says:

        What I was trying to say was this. For sure, if Dr. Brown figured out that Orthodox Judaism has got to be taken seriously or even accepted, and if he chose to leave missionary work and be a simple Jew and try and find a different job… I know that it would cause some financial instability for his family and probably a less expensive lifestyle. Just like for anyone who feels the need to change careers or anyone famous who needs time out of the public eye. But you know, I have a very strong feeling that he would be fine with that and would willingly do that in a heartbeat if he believed it were right. I also think that the financial stability is not a strong enough consideration to really be what keeps him hesitant about the traditional Jewish understanding. Basically, there are much bigger issues here. That is my opinion (and it’s weird talking about someone else’s personal life), but I’m telling you that Dr. Brown would be willing to really live in rough circumstances to be loyal to and to spread the Christian gospel, and consequenty, it’s probably not the money that makes him unwilling to listen to Judaism as a thing from God.

      • Larry says:

        Annelise. I know what a phony Brown is. I know who he hangs out with and who he used to hang out with. Much of what used to be available on the Internet about him has been washed away with his heavy advertising. Now all you see is the successful Dr. brown on just about any search. I used to disagree with anyone who wanted to debate him because he has zero credibility to me, but I see the benefit of trying to debate him in a thoughtful way. To me it exposes him for the phony he is. He would love to make a big show of it though. For the record, I do not believe he is pure evil. Only a phony. I gave brown the benefit of the doubt. I have spent many hours watching and researching him. Your right he is not all bad, he has some really good things he does. He is on the right side of many things and issues. That may make him successful and get his voice on the radio and TV. But that does not make anyone a qualified religious teacher/leader. The fact his show is syndicated means he has to preach what they approve of or he quickly loses his job. I’ve seen some of the most popular people on TV, Billy Graham even, with their drunken ministries. Their laughing ministries. Their a joke. I think drunken ministries is harmful to people. I think laughing ministries is harmful. I think falling on the floor shaking ministries is harmful. I think talking in tongue ministries is harmful. To me, he cannot be exposed enough. But if you or the rabbi wish, from this point on when ever I see dr Browns name I will be silent, and bite my tongue.

        • David says:

          Why do you and others on this blog focus so much on Dr. Brown?

          • David says:

            That was for Larry.

          • Annelise says:

            I think it’s because he so often converses with, addresses…and mentions to people his relationships with…some of the teachers involved in Jews for Judaism. Christians have also given him a huge presence in Christian-Jewish apologetics and use his resources a lot.

          • Annelise says:

            Also possibly because he has tried to answer a wider range of Jewish objections, rather than just focusing on ‘Christian proof texts’. That’s not to say he gets to the actual objections that many people feel *at all*, but he has still done a lot of work in trying to listen and therefore Christians and Jews alike need to hear the answers to his ‘work’.

          • Annelise says:

            PS I wasn’t saying that there are no Jews who are Christians… I just meant, both of those groups including the overlap.

      • Larry says:

        I hang out here to learn and very much enjoy reading Y.B. and your writings. It is enough for me to just ask questions.

      • Annelise says:

        I’ll reply to you at the bottom of the thread (where it is at the moment), because Dina also replied to you there 🙂

      • Brian Jamieson says:

        I certainly do not know Browns financial status; however the fact is all those public shows, publishing and such are not free.
        Does he work? I personally was raised xtian; my parents were pentecostal and still are; few xtian pastors work, some in more supressed area’s do; however most derive their income from their congregation; they refer to it as tithe and offering; and when they need more money they beat followers with Mal.3:8 implying that they have been robbing God by not doing their part, in effort to invoke guilt & fear; another tatic is what they peg revivals.
        Funds that are for the up keep of their buildings are seperate, and pegged building funds; where they have special fund raisers where the followers do things to raise money at their expense.
        Sometimes Pastors when they have extra large takes will treat some of those who are closest friend to meals after their services.
        I have seen some pretty lavish lifestyles realized from xtian leaders; at the expense of those who have been duped into following them.
        I drove truck over the road for 22yrs; I once delievered huge vats of ink to a catholic place in western Mass. that had a huge piece of land with nuns and preist residing there; where I back to a dock to be unloaded. Inside they had a huge operation that was extremely sophisticated; with computer generated letters, and the names and addresses of millions; the letters are completely computer generated and printed, and machines stuff & seal envlopes; they go out regular mail to people asking for money usually begining at anywhere from $50 to $100 min. The letters usually apear personalized, and promise some kind of pray or answer to any need. The letters that come in with the checks or money orders are never read; a compterized machine scans the incoming mail opens it and seperates any checks and such.
        I must say when I seen it I was completely astonished.
        Maybe I am generalizing maybe not not; however like the Jim and Tammy faye Baker thing; Benny Hinn, and yes even Billy Graham how do you divide the spoils of falsehood?
        false is false.
        Maybe Browns heart is true, maybe it isn’t; however if is unable to honestly respond to the rabbi how can he honestly make the claims he does to his followers.
        How can you honestly teach something that is all lies?
        I spent many years now studying all the different religions, and the thousands of xtian beliefs; all the while learning Judaism & Torah; The Torah & Judaism is truth, all others are false.
        I have no idea what normal is, but I have never had a home over $150,000 and that had a morgage; guess I am not in the norm.

  7. Yehuda says:

    I’m going to add a comment to this dialogue and I sincerely hope that no one – especially not you Rabbi B. take offense. I hope you now by now how much I respect you.

    Let’s be honest. Rabbi B. you have a number of little clips on youtube and it is fairly obviously that you sometimes display a somewhat nervous, halting, or hesitant speech pattern (certainly nothing to be ashamed of, so did Moshe Rabbeinu 🙂 ) And thath’s even with a friednly interviewer.

    Dr, Brown on the other hand is a practiced and accomplished rhetoritician who stakes a great deal on his debating skill, in all fora.

    I for one have no doubt that he views an opportunity to engage you in a public debate as a forum for detracting from your credibility simply by way of comparative oratory skills.

    You are completely correct for denying him the opportunity. And no argument he can present explains his refusal to respond to your writings if the responses are – as he insists – so self evident.

    Stay the course and Chazak V’Ematz.

    • Annelise says:

      That’s a good point, Yehuda. I would say that I didn’t notice anything nervous or hesitant about the videos that Rabbi Cohen and Rabbi Blumenthal put up on Youtube, but perhaps that is because I expected an everyday person who isn’t filmed much and who needs time to think of how to put thoughts in the best way. I would be no different, nor would most of my friends, so no surprise there… and also, I watched them as someone who already respected R Blumenthal and wanted to understand more of what he was teaching there (not as a closed off audience). That said, if you compare these videos with Dr. Brown’s material then you’re totally right! Dr. Brown is able to articulate his feelings very openly and smoothly for a crowd, and he also seems to feel that his presentation should pull any honest listener to agree with him. You can’t meet that kind of skill and experience without being at distinct disadvantage in terms of communication.

      I have another question that I’d like to hear your honest thoughts on, Yehuda. I feel that the short video clips are more accessible to some people than the long articles are. They’re helpful in presenting thoughts in short bites that take very little effort to listen to, and have more of a personal expressiveness. But what do you feel? Is it counterproductive for non-trained speakers to put videos like that out? Do you feel it’s good, as long as it’s not in dialogue/debate? Or if not, what would you suggest as an alternative? I find this thought useful as well… not that I’m planning to make videos 🙂 … but I’m in a similar situation, as I mentioned earlier, of not being confident in very public expression.

      • Yehuda says:

        Hi Annelise,

        I too first encountered Rabbi B.’s video clips long after I had come to admire the clarity and articulate nature of his writings. And that is precisely why his somewhat shy and unsure video presence caught me by surprise. (Again please do not take this personally Rabbi B.) Then again, there is something very engaging about the simple persona of the “Ben Torah” (dedicated student of Torah and example of Torah Lifestyle) that Rabbi B. obviously is, which as a yeshiva alumnus myself, I can very much appreciate. But that is something that is better appreciated by the initiated and doesn’t play as well in Peoria.

        I of course am able to see beyond these trivialities, and I of course don’t imagine that I would be any better myself at performing for a camera or an audience.

        As for your question, I actually DO think Rabbi B.s video clips are useful for precisely the reason you mention. They offer a concise easily digested overview of the question at hand. So I do think there is a place for them but I ultimately think that well thought out written arguments of the type Rabbi B has mastered are ultimately where truth is preserved and where seekers of truth can ponder things deeply, review them at their pace, and come to clear conclusions.

        • Annelise says:

          Okay, thanks for that response… I get it. There is a time and place for different media. I think that the honesty and the dedication are enough to mean a lot. And to be honest it is refreshing when there is no air of performance. I’ll go further than that… when someone is caught in confusion about how to follow God, every tiny bit of transparency is worth more than gold.

          I believe the small clips are planned and presented in a way that gets messages across clearly and well. They could be clearer, but that’s just the thing… we pray to keep refining the argument and our ability to communicate, in a way sincere but easy to engage with. They’re pretty good, not just for the initiate who values the style but even just as presentations in themselves. A lot of communicative value, alongside the content and the honesty. But I agree with you, and with Rabbi Yisroel’s last blog post, that written dialogue is really where it’s at when what we’re looking at is not a ‘debate’ to be declared won or lost; it’s a presentation of information and a careful examination of perspectives, where real clarity and consideration are of an essence.

          All of that said, there is a down-side to cutting things down to 2-5 minutes. It was long after I came to agree with the stance of Judaism that I finally came to understand what was being said in many of those videos… just because the bite-sized presentation allowed me to go away with too many unanswered questions and misunderstandings of intention. I feel that there are pros and cons to this format and I think you can be aware of both and work accordingly.

    • Dina says:

      What it basically boils down to, as Rabbi Blumenthal has said, is who is the better performer and not who has the better ideas. Debates are entertaining but not necessarily illuminating. Having said that, I confess that I like to be entertained, and I think it would be fun to match up Dr. Brown with a seasoned debater like Rabbi Skobac or Rabbi Singer. A whole series could be made out of out of it, too.

    • Concerned Reader says:

      Yehuda, while I hear what you are saying, its a big accusation to say that Brown mainly wants to debate Rabbi B because of comparatively polished rhetorical skills. Personally, I think the Christians care about what they think is true, they just often can’t grasp the insider perspective.

      Judaism as it survives today follows oral and written tradition. For an evangelical protestant like Brown, dialogue is difficult when it comes to oral tradition and explanations, (precisely because he is protestant.) I remember seeing the video where you questioned Brown on his drawing of links between atonement (as a concept) and priests. You asked where on earth he drew his conclusions from, and he pointed to a lot of near eastern literature, including inter-testamental literature .

      The links between priests (temple functionaries) and atonement is well established in the literatures of many cultures. When someone asks “why is that other literature relevant?” it shows a clear difference of approach and method concerning the sources. I’ve written on the difference of approach and its effects several times, it accounts for a lot of the contention.

      Take for example how each group (Jewish and Christian) understands the golden calf. In the tradition, the Jewish people sought a replacement for Moses (who failed to come down,) so they created a likeness to represent Hashem.

      The Christians by contrast (because of their historical critical method) see it as likely that Israel made the calf to represent an Egyptian deity, (like the bull god Apis) that they retroactively claimed, “is the god who redeemed you.” Method and perspective is everything in these sorts of debates, and it seems we forget that on occasion.

      • Fred says:

        >>>>>For an evangelical protestant like Brown, dialogue is difficult when it comes to oral tradition and explanations, (precisely because he is protestant.) <<<<

        Tradition and oral teachings play a much larger part in Protestant theology than you might think. That Protestants call themselves "sola scriptura" is a joke. Many of their doctrines are not based on the NT but use the NT, usually out of context, to defend them. The trinity is such a doctrine. There is a reason why there are literally thousands of "protestant" denominations.

        • Concerned Reader says:

          I know its a Joke, not the point Fred. No book can be comprehended without a hermeneutic, everyone knows that. The point is, they are resistant to people making claims of inherent authority concerning the text.

          Someone like Dr. Brown doesn’t doubt that various traditions exist, he questions the claims to authority over such traditions. Brown himself has said that he doesn’t deny the existence or value of tradition, but is hesitant of the idea that one group can claim to be the arbiters of such. This kind of argument predates Christianity.

  8. Dina says:

    I agree with Annelise. Dr. Brown’s wealth or lack thereof is irrelevant and nobody’s business.

  9. Dina says:

    Rabbi Blumenthal, I thought a lot about your expression of the ideal that the way to search deeply for truth is not through the entertaining medium of debate but by delving into the issue through the written word. It is a noble ideal, but not one which most people aspire to. Much of Dr. Brown’s Messianic Jewish audience, already under his influence, will not bother reading a written debate between the two of you. Fact is, you can’t make Dr. Brown debate you in writing, and you can’t make his audience read your blog. Unfortunately, a series of riveting debates on his radio show may be the only way to reach these people and to at least plant enough doubt to keep some of them awake at night. I suggest that someone like Rabbi Michael Skobac take him up on his challenge.

    I suspect that Dr. Brown is bluffing. He calls you his “dear, personal friend,” so by his own admission he knows you well. He knows that in a written format he cannot match you in wit, wisdom, sheer brilliance, and intellectual superiority. He also knows that in a verbal debate you are no match for his smooth oratory and rhetorical skills. He keeps challenging you to a verbal debate while avoiding a written one because he knows you won’t accept it; then he can proclaim on his radio show that no Orthodox rabbi will debate him (leaving his audience to draw their own conclusions). I say, call his bluff! Let’s see what he can do with Rabbi Skobac.

    To conclude, the only way to reach a lot of Jewish souls might be through the format Dr. Brown is recommending.

    • Annelise says:

      Important thoughts here. Though I’d give a guess that Michael Brown does *not* personally think Rabbi Yisroel (or other countermissionaries) have greater wit, wisdom, sheer brilliance, and intellectual superiority 🙂 He seems to actually believe in what he says, that had he the time, he could quite strongly refute anything posed to him, in writing. Not that he expects everyone to accept it.

      About Rabbi Skobac debating with Dr. Brown, I think he could do a great job with it, but it isn’t his style exactly… he is extremely good at listening and teaching, but to try and wrestle in the emotionally, rhetorically charged format of a debate? I think he finds it distasteful and even problematic for the way in which people are meant to be able to naturally think and speak about these things with sincere willingness to listen (rather than partisan apologetics, as debates often ring with). I don’t like it, I don’t think that that kind of event is a healthy thing. But you’re also very right in all your points, I know… it’s important to work with the things you’re saying. It’s hard. Because when does it end, how can it end? Once Jews for Judaism puts its information into the debate format, then I think the audience you’re speaking of will be even less likely to feel the need to come and read or listen to this side of the story in its better-expressed context away from the debate arena. Once you go into that mode, you’re kind of stuck there and it makes the style of education have to change.

      • Annelise says:

        In the end you can’t force people to listen either, or be totally concerned with giving the right impression (that they won’t misunderstand) that you can’t express things in their most real form. The best you can do is let people know where you are, and that you’re speaking, so that if they are willing to listen then they’ll be thirsty to understand both sides as well as they can. Then there’s a real conversation. And I don’t just mean that people who agree with us are ‘open’; I mean, people who really at least listen, that’s something that yo can’t coerce in someone.

        Do you agree? Or do you think that presentation and dissemination have more importance than I’m giving? And what other options might there be?

        Maybe yo are right about the debate format, even despite its history and its hyped-atmosphere. Have to think about it.

        • Annelise says:

          the ‘yo’s are a typo 🙂

          • Dina says:

            You can only work with what you have, not with what you wish you had. In an ideal world, Dr. Brown and Rabbi Blumenthal would engage in a written debate, and both their audiences would read the debate and continue doing their own research, thinking, and reflection, examining both sides of the issue with an open mind.

            In the real world, Dr. Brown is refusing (for lame reasons) to debate Rabbi Blumenthal in a written format; Rabbi Blumenthal is refusing (for good reason) to debate Dr. Brown on his radio show; furthermore, Dr. Brown’s audience is not reading this blog.

            I would bet that there are Messianic Jews in Brown’s audience who have NEVER heard the Jewish position (from someone like Rabbi Skobac). So even if you couldn’t make them listen with an open mind, they would at least be listening on some level, and thus some of them might be reached. Not all, but you can’t reach everyone anyway. If you are holding out for people to come around to your ideal of truth-seeking, I fear that you will not reach anyone.

            That’s why, when your circumstances are not ideal and you can only work with what you have, sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and do what you find distasteful. I am open to possibility that I am completely wrong about this and that there are dangers inherent to this type of debate, unintended consequences, of which I am unaware. At the moment, I think the benefits outweigh the risks.

            Do you agree?

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Dina,

            I do agree, a lot, with that. Some people might say that the debate forum given by Jews for Judaism missionaries on FB is untasteful, harmful, unnecessary, for many reasons. But I thank God for the fact that I came to hear this side of the story through seeing notifications of a Messianic friend posting on the FB statuses of a counter-missionary rabbi in my city. Many people simply can’t otherwise know that these resources exist, or get a real understanding of what they hold. So… you’re right.

            It’s just a question of whether the debate format in particular just holds too much trouble and distraction. Maybe you can talk more about this with Rabbi Skobac, because his views on it are carefully thought out, but I think he would consider what you’re saying. I feel the importance of what Yisroel wrote in his recent blog post and here, and also the importance of what you’re saying. So I don’t know what is wisest, here.

            I still really dislike the debates and I wouldn’t enjoy seeing Rabbi Skobac and Dr. Brown creating an event like that together. Maybe it would really have an impact. Maybe it would take away from the depth and quality of what Jews for Judaism is already able to do. I don’t really know. There must be better ways of making sure that Jews know that this resource exists, and even that non-Jewish Christians, and others, are able to hear this if it’s possible, in Hashem’s time and still… I wish everyone could have this blessing.

          • Annelise says:

            Here, I think, is basically where it’s at. The fact is that God hasn’t let everything about His truth be clear to us, and to a lot of the world so much important teaching hasn’t been made available for them. Also, sometimes He seems to ask people to look after the integrity of the message, even if that means compromising on how widely it can be spread. Take for example this message of Rabbi Blumenthal’s, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVtoUq3Skp0 – it seems hard but whatever God’s way is, we can’t compromise.

            So the question really is, are we ignoring genuinely important opportunities to bless others even within this kind of plan? Or are we, on the other hand, compromising the plan? That’s just another way of rephrasing what you said about the benefits and the risks.

  10. Dina says:

    Larry, everything you say may be 100% true. I do not know Dr. Brown, nor have I studied him or researched him. But you will be able to persuade more people to see his ideas for what they are–phony–by attacking his ideas rather than his person. As unfair as it might be, once you engage in ad hominem attacks, people perceive you as being the one who lost the argument.

    Therefore, I hope you will not keep silent but will strenuously expose the lies he is spreading by countering them with the truth.

    Peace and blessings,
    Dina

    • Annelise says:

      I have to take back a lot of what I said to you, Larry, and just say that I don’t know. Maybe you know a lot more than I do, I’m not sure about your process so I can’t guess. And I really agree with you about laughing ministries type things… there was a woman in an old church of mine who came around and brought that kind of thing and as a teenager I just could really see the level of disruption that it brought and also the way it fed on and exacerbated emotional struggles and confusion in people’s lives. I found out after a while that the pastor agreed with me, and he was quite open to ‘spiritual gifts’ etc. as he believed them to be written in the NT and present in his experience in church. It’s a denomination with some really good points and also a capacity to attract all kinds of damaging material of that particular kind. I agree with Dina that it’s better to attack ideas than a person, for all the reasons… though sometimes talking about a leader’s integrity is quite right. The main thing is it needs to be accurate, verified, and spoken about in the right way. Anyway, I’ll let you two discuss it further because you have a better grasp on it than I do.

  11. Dina says:

    Annelise, In the video clip you posted, Rabbi Blumenthal says that the only way all the nations will come to knowledge of God is through the physical salvation of the Jewish people. I take your point, but I believe it only applies to spreading our message to all the nations or the world. My concern is reaching out to the lost Jewish souls in Dr. Brown’s audience. Again, I may be completely wrong about this, so I am curious to hear what Rabbi Blumenthal has to say.

    As for Facebook, I agree with you there (although I personally loathe Facebook. I only maintain a Facebook presence for marketing purposes 🙂 ).

  12. Yechiel! says:

    Dear Friends;
    I have a suggstion as to what we shoud be thinking of, in relation to how one shares her or his thoughts on one’s religion; the Soul in each of us belongs to G-d. He placed them where He wants them. So if you do not look at another way to approach the devine, and choose to try or accept it, no one has the right to traspass on His property. The issue we face with the Missionaries is that they adoupted a Roman concept to impose their way on an other culture. This is what Christians call “Sharing the Gosple.” It is not sharing; it is imposing or trying to inpose one’s way onto another, so as to diminish rival cultures, and to streanthen their own way.
    Judaism is remarkable in today’s world in that those who convert to Torah way – either the Noahide or Judasim, come to that desire without a Jewish person trying to convert them. As it happens, the number of converts to Judaism are many more in numbers, than the number of Jewss who convert to an other religion.
    When you look at the number of Jews who return to their faith, so as to be with G-d, not separated from Him, the difference in the number of those who change theirfaith is even more.
    I suggest we imncourage all to do the best they can, to be loyal to their faith and to live by it’s precepts. Who knows; they may be happier for sticking with their versioin of the “Old time Religion?
    Shalom;
    Yechiel

  13. Yehuda says:

    Hi Folks,

    I’d like to point out something else, Holocaust denial advocates also clamor for open debate. The fact that the proponents of a position want public debate is often because they know that they debate itself gives them legitimacy. Similarly, the fact that their opponents refuse to debate them is because they do not want to grant even the appearance of legitimacy to a presentation they feel is designed to obfuscate the truth..

    Now before anyone takes what I’ve said here our of context, let me be clear. I am not accusing anyone of Holocaust denial nor am I implying any moral comparability between anything being discussed here and Holocaust denial.

    I am pointing out only that clamoring for public debate is not only NOT an indicator of where truth lies, it is often an indicator of of precisely where truth does not lie.

    I am reminded of something Alan Dershowitz said in one of his books. He explained that once upon being challenged to publicly debate the truth of the Holocaust, he responded to his challenger that he would accept the challenge only on the condition that they presented in a forum as part of a three-in-one presentation where they also debated the truth of the moon landings and the existence of leprechauns.

  14. David Kaufmann says:

    You have to pity Dr Brown or anybody else who has taken a position on a sensitive issue (and this is) who has invested his life energy in it and then really stuck his neck out by publishing and broadcasting his views and position all over the planet. People like that simply CAN’T openly admit they are wrong without torching everything they have worked for and exposing themselves to worldwide public embarrassment. Such a person will suppress his own doubts and desperately cling to his own position out of pure, frantic self-defense.
    I am personally acquainted with a close relative who was born a Jew just as I was, but raised christian and has not only invested most of his life in christianity and christian ministry, but he is published all over the world and is known by possibly millions. A man like this cannot afford to actually critically examine and change his belief structure without admitting that he just might have wasted most of his life on a lie….and now has to admit it to so many who depended on his research and insights for “truth.” People like this just cannot change… at least not publicly.. without coming to grips with destroying the foundations of their own lives and ambitions, and the impact of such change on countless others who might have come to become as fanatical about the Lie as he was.
    When i look at a person like that, I thank G-d that in surrendering to the Truth of G-d and His Torah, all I had to lose was my brother and sisters, who now consider me a “reprobate.” That was hard enough. At least I never published any books!

    • Annelise says:

      Yes, neither one of us can know what it’s like to have published books and become well known by strangers for a message, or to have convinced so many people of so many of those things. That in itself is a unique set of challenges to overcome in keeping your integrity, whatever message you’re teaching and no matter what side you’re on. But it is not impossible. You lost a lot in what you just mentioned there, and I’m sure it was a struggle to work through it, so you shouldn’t underestimate the similarity between that and what famous people need to think about. In the end we cannot know the paths of integrity that have or have not been trodden in someone’s heart. None of us can fully even know that in our own hearts!

      All that is to say I still think that it is not at all impossible for Dr. Brown to understand what we are trying to share, and if he got it in a way he couldn’t ignore, I think he would probably accept it. That’s just speculation. Though I honestly don’t know what stops him from seeing it… and for sure he feels the same right back at us. It’s not a battle of wills, all we can do is keep serving God as well as we can and trust Him to open the path out for us all to walk in the light of what He judges to be good. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, I know I feel similarly in a lot of ways, about this.

      • David Kaufmann says:

        Annelise, when a clearly highly intelligent person such as Dr Brown has such a defective argument, yet refuses to (publicly at least) acknowledge it, there are only a limited number of explanations; 1. He knows that his argument does not stand up to fact, but he cannot back down from it because of the reasons of “self-defense” and/or “self-preservation which I already set forth; 2. He is engaged in a self-deception based on cognitive dissonance in which his mind (Intelligence notwithstanding) allows to hold to irrational, conflicting and mutually exclusive concepts and beliefs without realizing that they make no sense; 3. The person clings to a position and attempts to rationalize it because the alternative is too distasteful to consider.
        In the instant case, it is clear that Dr Brown more than incidentally overlooks Scripture which does not support his position; he appears to go out of his way to gloss over many of them. There is a pattern of this and I suspect that he knows that he is doing it. Why? G-d is the righteous Judge, Baruch Hu!

        • Dina says:

          David, I agree with everything you said except your very last assessment, that Brown is intentionally spreading falsehood. I am inclined to Annelise’s view that he is sincere in his beliefs, but his cognitive dissonance or whatever it is poses an obstacle that is preventing him from seeing the truth. This is tragic. God has promised us that we will never disappear as a people. His promise extends to the people as a whole and not to individuals who cut themselves off. Jews who convert to Christianity, like Dr. Brown, end their Jewish line within three to five generations. In the not-too-far-distant future, Dr. Brown will not have a single descendant who identifies as (or even knows whether he is) a Jew. That breaks my heart.

          • David Kaufmann says:

            About Dr Brown knowing what he is doing intentionally, perhaps I can explain that as more of an effort to avoid dealing with Scripture that does not support his position. This may be nothing more than an effort to avoid dealing with facts that frighten him. Keep in mind what is at stake for him!
            I am a Jew, raised as a christian at the insistence of my Jewish mother who was raised by converted Jewish mother whose Jewish mother nobody in my family was allowed to talk about. My paternal grandmother was Jewish, but was non-observant. It is scary that I was almost at the point of being the Jew who disappeared from Judaism…. and the rest of my family did, leaving me…. the Reprobate!

          • Dina says:

            David, what an inspiring and moving story!

          • Annelise says:

            No you aren’t the reprobate… even in jest! It is sad and awful that people feel that way about you. But the blessing that you have is immense. Thank God.

            A few other things. Dr. Brown chose Christianity for himself and that choice changed his life… unlike you and I whose experience of Christianity was because we were raised Christian. The other day my dad told me that he thinks my loyalty to Jesus earlier in my life was only because he and my mum had taught it to me, rather than being something I took up on my own. That shocked me a bit because I had really chosen to seek God as a Christian and owned my relationship with Him for myself, and I thought that my dad knew that. But then I realised that he was really right. I told him that I was following God when I was a Christian and that it hadn’t been my own choice to include Jesus in that. And he agreed. For him and my mum, Christianity was something they chose and that is the only experience they’ve had of a community seeking God together. So it is different for those people than for us.

            Also, there is the issue of Christians really thinking that the only reason they can worhsip Jesus is because they decided or were taught that he ‘is God’, and also that his message was/is the only way to obey God. So to let go of loyalty to that seems horrible and dangerous to many Christians, and maybe that is a big part of why people aren’t willing to consider ‘loyalty’ to Him anywhere else.

            I agree with you that it makes no sense to me that Dr. Brown speaks as he does. I do not get it and I don’t really know where the sincerity is or not. Is there a purpose in speculating?

          • Dina says:

            That’s a good point, Annelise. I agree, speculation about this is pointless. Only God knows what’s in other people’s hearts. The other points you raised are important as well. It was true for me too. When I reached adulthood I worried that I only practiced Judaism because my parents had raised me to. I had to do a lot of searching and thinking to be sure that I was really in the right religion! I also had to be honest with myself and acknowledge that many factors colored my objectivity. Chief among them: that I had experienced Judaism as positive and uplifting and that my entire circle of family and friends were Orthodox Jews. The only thing I could do was admit this to myself and continue to seek the truth as earnestly as I could, because these factors were there and they couldn’t be helped. No one lives in a vacuum and no one can be entirely objective about such issues, I think. “God is close to those who call on him, to those who call on him sincerely” (Psalms 145).

            As for Michael Brown, I want him to come back! As a Christian missionary, he has led others astray. If he comes back, perhaps he will bring along with him some of these lost souls. I pray that Hashem open his heart and mind to receiving His messages and give him the courage and strength to follow through.

          • Annelise says:

            Dina you’ve really expressed that clearly. We all come from a background that colours our acceptance of a belief, and a lot of people raised in Orthodox Judaism do consider that same question with hesitance about their reasons for accepting it for themselves. Personally, I know that my choices and experience make me extremely averse to Christianity, because I have spent a long time trying to sift it, and decided that it is not at all from God in its departure from traditional Judaism. That taps not only into my sense about the Torah and the Jewish people, but the way in which my worship inherently is only for God and that is very deep, very important and carefully guarded. To think about Christianity as possible and to weigh any new arguments carefully, if I were to hear anything, wouldn’t be natural or easy for me.

            I was thinking about it last night and this morning, as well, because I have a Turkish friend who is a Muslim and she introduced me to a Muslim scholar who feels that he can listen to and engage with my questions about the connections between Islam and Judaism. I don’t feel that he can, but I am far from having fully heard him out, so I have to try to. I’m meeting with him this afternoon, actually, and the idea is exhausting and unsettling… because I’ve just been through a process of upheaval of everything. What if I were to see something in Islam and have to get up and let go of so much, and follow with such intensity and instability, again? But if I’m not open to doing that *if* I am compelled to do so by conscience, then I have stopped following God and started following a tradition or a culture or a group of friends. God forbid that. Another thing is that I feel like these two religions try to present similar kinds of proof-positive (mostly, though not completely), like historicity, the nature of the scriptural texts, and the experience of God in the community. For the most part they also feel they have answers to each other’s objections of contraction, derivativeness, etc. It is pretty hard to decide what the criteria should be for a religion’s proofs being actually good enough to accept not only as likely but as true. To listen to another religion and be willing to go there if yo uhave to, while being totally unwilling to go there otherwise, can really cause difficulty in your loyalties ‘in the meantime’… for example, how Jews stay away from everything that seems like idolatry, and Christians stay away from everything that seems like ‘denying Jesus’ (whom they think is worthy of our hearts as God…). It can also make everything, every positive proof, seems blurred against the recognition of our small capacity to test and measure. But this is vitally important, because it means that we become more comfortable with the fact that our stability is not in our perception of truth but in our relationship with the one who leads us in it.

            I still hope that there’s a place for certainty, within that, though. Still reading through the materials you sent me as I’ve had a busy week, I’m a new teacher and preparation takes time. But this conversation is really beautiful and good, and I have hope in it. I see so many extremely clear reasons to listen to Judaism over Christianity, and even now there are also many good reasons to listen to Judaism in the first place, and it’s special to seek God with a community such as this. Thank you for holding tightly to what you have in Him.

          • Annelise says:

            The fact that I was so deeply inclined to take Christianity as true, precious, or at least extremely serious to consider probably adds to the fact that having now found that to be hollow, I see it as very hollow and wrong.

          • Annelise says:

            *contradiction (not contraction)

          • Dina says:

            Annelise, if you agree with me that Jew hatred is a moral disease, then it’s pretty easy to rule out both Christianity and Islam. Both of these religion’s sacred texts preach hatred of the Jews, however loudly their adherents wish to deny it. You have only to read them to see for yourself (and study how they treated their Jewish subjects throughout history).

            Another way to identify which of the big three world religions stands for the truth is to compare the kinds of societies they have created. Look at the societies that, over the last 2000 years, Christianity created compared with those that traditional Judaism created. Then compare the societies of Islam and traditional Judaism over the last 1400 years (Islam was founded in 700 CE). Surely God is on the side of the consistently morally superior civilization? An objective historical assessment will show you that there is no comparison with the way Jews ran their communities and lived their lives, often under the worst, most oppressive conditions, and the bloodshed, hatred, wars, persecutions, and immorality of Christianity and Islam.

            Both religions claimed to lead their followers down a better moral path, and both religions failed spectacularly to do so.

            I hear that you are nervous to talk to this Muslim cleric. You are worried that after all the hard work you’ve done trying to find the truth, you will have to start all over again. Perhaps it will allay your fears a bit to know that you don’t have to present impeccable counter arguments when you meet with him. If I may, I would like to suggest that you just listen and ask questions and then when you come home think about what you have learned. I do believe that those who seek the truth with an open mind will find it, and that God will show you the way. If you find any of his arguments convincing, may I ask you to share them with me? I am very curious to know what this Muslim can say that is remotely persuasive.

          • Dina says:

            And good luck with the teaching, Annelise! I do believe that’s the hardest job in the world.

          • Annelise says:

            Thanks, Dina. I haven’t heard anything that makes me take this particular claim on Jews seriously, but it’s more the similarity of some of the ‘proofs’ to Judaism’s that makes it hard for me to think about it. Similar with Christian ‘proofs’, to a lesser extent. So it confuses me about whether the reasons to listen to Judaism are *any better*. And it also unsettles me that there is a possibility that I will learn something new and have to move with it in a way that would be at least somewhat as difficult as listening to Judaism was. And that I might simply be too comfortable where I am to go looking for such a thing. Surely we need to be careful of our limits in terms of considering what we expose ourselves to, and . Also feel uncomfortable because I recognise my human ability to walk down the wrong path with conviction and I want to be careful about that.

            You are right about simply listening, asking questions, and thinking later. I think it’s my nature to do that, which helped me listen to Judaism and also helps me keep listening to Christianity while staying far from the acceptance of it, now. It’s kind of necessary to become less and less defensive or agitated, when a lot of the people you value a lot feel that you’re denying everything that you and they have loved together. But anyway, your encouragement to really do that helps and encourages me. Thanks.

            Regarding anti-Jewish verses in the New Testament and Qur’an, they tend to be explained as not actually referring to Jews as a whole but to those Jews who were rejecting Jesus/Muhammed. Especially when you look at some of the things that the Hebrew prophets also said, you could say it’s comparable. And Jewish scriptures contain some verses against other nations that would also seem immoral unless they came out of the context of those scriptures and the experience of God in them being true and revealed.

          • Annelise says:

            Thanks also for the blessing! I’m teaching ESL, which is so enjoyable, though I have a lot to learn about communicating with people who often can barely grasp what I need to say at the level of words and sentences. I think it will teach me a lot about communicating with people when words and sentences may have meaning to them, but other aspects of communication may or may not yet be clearly expressed. And as a friend (actually, a Christian who works at the same place) pointed out, it has got to be all about the students… we are teaching English to eternal creatures who are precious to God, and it makes a big difference in the years ahead for them when their teachers invest into them and the teaching 🙂

          • Annelise says:

            Hey Dina, I met with him today and it was fine… we both learnt from each other and I appreciate a conversation where that is possible. Thankful also to feel much more comfortable with the fact that just because I ask questions and have conversations, that doesn’t mean that I will be moved somewhere completely different in life 🙂 Yet I can also commit with joy and not with total confusion to the fact that if something really seems right then I’ll go with it. I have more to learn about his perspective, but nothing he said today made me consider that Islam is likely to be true or important to listen so carefully to. We did both see that some of our objections to each other probably aren’t solid. But I took lots of notes afterwards on the train home, and I’ll email you in more detail after I’ve got back to you about the things we were talking about regarding Judaism.

            Thanks for being with me in the process of hearing him out, by the way. It really helped to have discussed it a bit with you beforehand.

          • Dina says:

            Oh, boy, Annelise, I have so much to say about this that I am going to respond at the bottom of the page so I can spread my words out all over the place :).

          • Dina says:

            On my computer, the comment shows up just below our most recent interaction and not at the bottom of the page. Just letting you know so that you can find it if you don’t see it at the bottom.

  15. Dina says:

    Okay, Annelise, here I go. The typical Christian and Muslim apology for anti-Jewish verses in their sacred texts, which you repeated, is that they only apply to the Jews who reject Jesus or Mohammed, respectively, which you must surely realize INCLUDES ALL JEWS. (The numbers who accept these personages are so small as to be negligible.) Another typical apology is that these verses only seem anti-Jewish when taken out of their social and historical context.

    I should like to know, please, why for the last 2000 years, while Christians were expelling Jews from their lands, burning their books, torturing them, massacring them, burning them at the stake, subjecting them to all sorts of humiliating and degrading laws, and incinerating them in gas chambers, no one was offering this type of apologetics? Could it be that the adherents of Christianity, for the vast majority of her history, read the over 400 anti-Jewish verses in the New Testament and understood them as justification for this horrific persecution? I should also like to know why for the last 1400 years and down to the present day, Muslims have been doing their best to make life difficult for the Jews and have cited the Koran to support their despicable acts?

    You must understand that these apologies are offered only in very recent times when anti-Semitism has become unfashionable. I believe that the Holocaust finally caused Christians to come to their senses and confront the fact that something was wrong with their theology–and to reinterpret it rather than reject it.

    You want to say that the Torah also contains such verses regarding gentiles (I don’t know what you mean but let’s say that’s the case for argument’s sake). Can you point to a time in the last 2000 years when Jews engaged in the persecution of gentile nations–even when they had the opportunity? And can you explain why THIS HAS NEVER OCCURRED?

    I must repeat what I said in an earlier comment, that both Christianity and Islam claimed to lead their followers down a better moral path and both failed. Utterly. Whereas Judaism, which makes the same claim, succeeded wildly. Does this mean nothing?

    I would also like to repeat Rabbi B.’s powerful point that these religions revere a book that slanders their theological enemies, while we revere a book that highlights our own faults. Is there a moral equivalence here that I am missing?

    As for the prophets saying the same thing, that is simply not the case. The defense that the prophets of old castigated their own brethren just doesn’t work. That was a private communication from God to his firstborn son, Israel, whom He yet loves. Deuteronomy 8:5: “You should know in your heart that just as a father will chastise his son, so the Lord your God chastises you.” The prophets of old, after their searing words of rebuke, always encouraged their brethren to return to God, and he would take them back. Without fail, they reminded the Jews of God’s surpassing and enduring love for them, and that God desired their return and would surely forgive them their trespasses. Jesus, on the other hand, held out no hope of forgiveness for the Pharisees. They were going to go to hell no matter what.

    Imagine if your father scolded you for stealing money from his wallet. “I’m so disappointed in you,” he says. “How can I ever trust you again?” The neighborhood kids happen to be playing right outside the open window and overhear the conversation. Their conclusion? You’re a thief and a liar and not to ever be trusted. So they ostracize you and bully you and make your life miserable.

    That’s exactly what Christians have done when they read the prophets and concluded that the Jews are horrible hypocrites undeserving of their election as God’s chosen.

    Isn’t it interesting that in all of the voluminous writings of the Pharisees you will not find any vitriol toward Christians, while the writings of Christians, from the New Testament through the early church fathers, contain reams and reams of venom toward Jews? What does that tell you about who has taken the moral high road?

    Annelise, I know I sound angry, but please understand that I am not directing my anger at you. I have a lot of anger to Christianity and Islam for the unspeakable misery they have inflicted (and in the case of Islam continue to inflict) on my people. If I had no other reasons for rejecting their theologies–which of course I do–this would be enough of a reason for me to pay them no heed.

    • Annelise says:

      When I was a Christian, I didn’t accept replacement theology. It was actually on this basis that even when I listened to the Catholic teachings about tradition and authority in Christianity a few years ago, even when I learnt that they do believe in relying on God’s grace and they don’t believe in praying to images (I would now think differently about that, but not from within the framework of Christianity)… and considered the fact that if I accepted Catholicism, it would be very uncomfortable in terms of friends and family who don’t really grasp those things, and see life in the spirituality of evangelical churches… I in the end could not accept that any level of infallibility or unique protection exists in a setting where the leadership had allowed and even perpetrated such lies and persecution about Jews.

      Nonetheless, isn’t it fair for a sola scriptura religion like Protestant Christianity to claim that their scriptures were misunderstood and that they need to get back to the real meaning? I don’t see antisemitism per se in the NT, though anti-Phariseeism is definitely there. Remember that Christianity started out as a Jewish sect for a short time, so those comments *were* originally intended as statements within the private dialogue between father and son. (I value the illustration you gave about that, by the way.) And it seems like even though ‘the Pharisees’ as a group are considered to be doing the wrong thing by far, and the NT is very much against them in numerous ways, I don’t think it’s fair to say that it says all Pharisees were going to miss being saved from the judgment. It’s more a generalisation. Gamliel was described in positive terms in the book of Acts, which also describes some of the early Christians as continuing to identify as Pharisees and doesn’t wholly denounce them for that.

      That said, you’re right that most of the Jews through history have followed the Pharisees and that this direct fact has made Christianity antisemitic for most of that time.

      Muslims will point out that Muhammed said that some Jews and Christians are sincere in their religion, which perhaps genuinely suggests that even if a person doesn’t directly deny his message while actually believing it is from God, he or she can be close to God by believing that He is one and trying to follow Him alone. Anyway, it is fair for Muslims to discuss the interpretation of this, I feel, and to not see it as directly making their religion impossible to believe. Just like if you a few generations of most Jews being secular, or in older times, idolatrous, and say that true Judaism hasn’t been lost but that those people aren’t practising it. What do you think? Anyway, even though Muslims have definitely made life hard for Jews and sometimes also persecuted your people, I think that life was often much better for Jews in Muslim countries than in Christian ones. And even Christians have sometimes gone to very great lengths to help Jews, again because of their religion, and that before and during the last century.

      When I spoke about the Israelite treatment of other nations, I was referring mostly to the beliefs about the land of Israel as an inheritance from God. The warfare against the Canaanites and others was essentially religious cleansing. And the dislocation of some Palestinians more recently is hard to defend even on the grounds of Torah, though I know that so much of that history has been exaggerated and misrepresented.

      • Dina says:

        Annelise, you’re ignoring two important points that I made:

        1. The morally superior civilization of the Jews over the last two millennia compared with Christian civilization and Muslim civilization (not only in persecution of Jews but also in the wars and bloodshed they perpetrated within their own civilizations), taking into consideration violent crime, sexual morality, the strength of the family unit, and ethics.

        2. The fact that these two religions revere books that slander their theological enemies and that Judaism reveres a book that highlights our own faults.

        Now I will address your points with which I couldn’t disagree more.

        1. A sola scriptura religion like Protestantism cannot defend the Jew hatred in the NT. It is so blatant, I don’t know how you miss it. I am currently reading the gospels and I am horrified. I don’t know how Christians aren’t ashamed of it. If I were a Christian I would want to hide this from Jews. The fact is, for most of Christian history, both Catholics and Protestants read these verses and interpreted them literally. For them to come along in the 1960s and say, oops, it was all a mistake, that’s not what it really means–well, that’s a joke, Annelise. Are you telling me that Christians really believe that all the brilliant Christian thinkers including the founder of Protestantism, Martin Luther, were mistaken? They are desperately defending the indefensible.

        2. It is true that long before and also during the Holocaust courageous individuals went out of their way and even risked their lives to protect Jews. I am sorry to say that they were the exception rather than the rule.

        3. True, the earliest Christians were Jews. But guess what? They didn’t leave behind any writings. Neither did Jesus. We don’t really know what they believed. The first writings we have were written decades after Jesus died by no one who knew him personally. And here’s the kicker: the people who wrote Christian scripture wrote them in GREEK. They directed their words to a gentile audience. If this were a group of Jews writing for Jews, they would have written their books in Hebrew or Aramaic. Therefore their comments were now outside of the context of a private conversation between father and son.

        4. The vast majority of Jews at that time period were Pharisees or followers of the Pharisees. All Jews today (except for converts) are their direct, lineal descendants. So to make distinctions is spurious. Furthermore, in John, all Jews are lumped together as “the Jews.”

        5. The facts speak for themselves. If this were from God, how did the followers of such a religion become so misled as to “misinterpret” the anti-Jewish sentiments in Christian scripture?

        6. True, the Jews had it somewhat better in Muslim countries (although if there were any left in those countries that would no longer be true; today’s Muslims are making up for lost time). Nevertheless, Jews were still considered dhimmi (second class citizens) subject to the jizyah (special tax), forced to wear distinctive dress, suffered from pogroms, and were also subject to humiliating and degrading laws.

        7. That you see a moral equivalence between millennia of persecution of the Jews and the Jews recent self-defense against Palestinian terror troubles me. Did you know that the Jews did not force the Palestinians (about 600,000 people) to flee from their homes in 1948? Their Arab leaders encouraged them to leave, promising them that they would drive Israel into the sea and then the Palestinians would return and take over Israeli homes. (This is documented, historical fact that has been buried under successful Arab propaganda.) In the meantime, a roughly equal number of Jews (also about 600,000)fled from real persecution from Arab lands to the fledgling and struggling State of Israel. While the financially strapped Israel absorbed her refugees, the neighboring well-established Arab countries refused to absorb theirs and grant them citizenship, preferring to see them languish in refugee camps so they could use them as a weapon against the hated State of Israel.

        8. The original “Palestinians” arrived from surrounding Arab countries in the late 19th century when Jews started to make aliyah to Palestine. They were attracted by the better economic opportunities the Jews offered.

        9. The best place for Arabs in the Middle East to live in terms of human rights, freedom, and economic prosperity is Israel.

        10. One final point to consider: not a single religion in the last two millennia that has sacred texts with no reference to Jews has ever persecuted them. Have you ever heard of Hindu oppression of the Jews of India (and there had been Jews in India for well over two thousand years)? Or Buddhist pogroms? Does it mean nothing to you that only the two religions with anti-Jewish sentiments expressed in their sacred books are the ones who have made the lives of Jews miserable? Can you really defend the notion or even consider the possibility that this might have come from God? It would make more sense, morally, for you to investigate the claims of Hinduism and Buddhism.

        Yikes, I’ve spent a total of about three hours today, I think, on this. This dialogue is very stimulating!

        • Annelise says:

          Mm, I didn’t ignore those two points that you made… I agree with you about them. I also agree with what you’re saying in a lot of the above points. But I was just trying to explain how the Christian and Muslim positions, though very, very hurt by these issues, are not made impossible because of them. We’re talking about the difference between what is likely and what is possible. Sometimes in a religious discussion, there are things that look unlikely on one point but are still possible, and then there are other aspects that make the whole picture as a whole look likely. For example, the fact that evolution science currently doesn’t seem to fit with the early chapters of Genesis, but I still think that Judaism is possible and, for other reasons, it lays much deeper claim on my life than just a mere possibility. Anyway, I hear what you’re saying. I was just saying it’s not totally conclusive.

          I don’t think that you answered what I asked about the original religious cleansing in the land of Israel, e.g. in the time of Moses, Joshua, etc.

          • Dina says:

            Oh, dear, if I keep this up much longer my family won’t have dinner tonight :). Let me just quickly say that to me the moral behavior of the vast majority of a religious following for the vast majority of its history is conclusive. We’ll have to agree to disagree on that.

            As for evolution science, much of it is unproven theory, and what isn’t theory is not only not contradicted by Genesis but confirmed by it. I recommend you read “Genesis and the Big Bang” by Gerold Schroeder, a physicist with impressive credentials. He writes compellingly about this very topic.

            About the original religious cleansing: I was discussing the last two thousand years of history, but you are asking an almost fair question. I say almost, because there wasn’t an ongoing persecution of non-Jews for centuries and millennia, so it’s not quite parallel to the persecution of Jews. But I confess that I’ve had the same question for a long time and I don’t know what to say. Rabbi Blumenthal, if you are listening to this conversation, can you weigh in? Thanks!

          • Annelise says:

            Yes, I hear everything you’re saying here. I should look at that book as well… I feel very unqualified to understand that kind of science, but note that I did speak about evolution science as unproven (but current, and with some reasons for interpreting the evidence like that) theory.

            I decided to type up for you the things I talked about yesterday with the Islamic scholar, so in a minute I’ll post it… I’ll also post it as a wider post rather than continuing this thread.

    • Annelise says:

      I’ll tell you what our conversation was like, yesterday. This teacher (I’ll use his initials, MO) was very good at listening and discussing rather than debating. You can’t doubt that his relationship with God is real and precious to him and that he sees the same in other people’s lives. We both made concessions to each other’s understanding of various topics, a good sign. But he didn’t refrain from telling me a few times that since I believe in God I’m half-way to Islam. I didn’t realise till he explained what he meant that this means halfway through the creed that people convert with. I said it’s only his opinion that my journey is going in that direction 🙂

      One question I asked was how Muhammed could tell the Jews of his time to look at their own scriptures and heritage and therefore to accept him. Wouldn’t that be very selective, saying that certain ‘proofs about Muhammed have not been changed in the current written Torah, but then also saying that the Jewish tradition as a whole contains many changes? With no way to distinguish between what is said to be changed and what isn’t, then anyone relying on that tradition to affirm something that in the end denied it would be like someone climbing a ladder only to find that the lower rungs disappeared under him.

      The answer MO gave made partial sense, and I accept its possibility. To put it in my own words, he said a few things about this poiny. Firstly, that the fact that certain things exist in Tanach or the New Testament, changed as he thinks those documents are, might still be considered to be a measure of historical indication that those things really were prophesied or revealed by God. I would disagree with him that it’s an ‘independent witness’, and I don’t think this would be much of an argument really, but it isn’t absolutely nothing. The main point, though, was that if someone has an experience of things in their faith and accepts them as anchors, such as the way that we have been told that there is one Creator and that we are in a relationship with Him, then those things are learnt from the heritage of our faith but we would still continue to believe them even if we found out that other parts of the revelation claim were false; we have now experienced these things and their reality.. It is possible that Muhammed was telling Jews and Christians not to keep their version of the scriptures but still to follow the things he thought they were accurately remembering, and that is all. I personally think he was probably also telling them to rely on the *scriptural* authority in part of their writings, and not in other parts, which makes no sense. We didn’t discuss very much how there are many things in Judaism that cannot be considered anchors that would lead someone to Islam. But it is fair to say that the idea about anchors that are derived from, but not dependent on, our faith in a revelation claim actually can answer my objection here.

      MO also told me that the Jewish expressions of Kabbalah have been influenced by Sufism, which I would probably agree with as well. So if a person believed certain things about how our Creator relates to our world, and to us, because of Jewish or Muslim teachings that resonated with them, then they would see those things as truths in the claims of the other religion as well.

      Something I specifically see very little weight in is the claim that because the NT documents Jews possibly interpreting the prophet like Moses (Deut 18) as a specific awaited figure (John 1:25), there would be a single future prophet whose role was more like Moses’ than any other prophet’s had been. For one thing, see the way that most other instances in the gospels render this as prophets in the plural. Also, those same Jews would not have expected any prophet to change the laws of the Torah, since it is certain that the scriptures they were reading at that time spoke of the laws being forever, for all generations. (Muslims tend to think that this was added in later.) To me, this is far from conclusive towards the Muslim perspective, and any possibility that it means anything is very much a side point. Similarly with the idea that the word ‘paracletos’ used by Jesus, which Christians usually take as a promise of the Holy Spirit, actually has the same meaning as the name Muhammed… which therefore could be what Jesus originally said in Aramaic. MO only asked me to consider that as historical data, though I could tell he was used to telling this idea to Christians who accept the NT. Anyway, I don’t see it as certain or as significant.

      The other main objection I made that MO did explain away was the question of how the Qur’an could say that there are some sincere monotheists who will not be turned away from Paradise even despite ‘not understanding Islam enough to accept it’, and then also speak as if anyone who denied Muhammed’s message was not with God at all. MO asked me whether there is any comparison with the Hebrew prophets; whether people could potentially not accept them, and still be loyal to God alone and have a real relationship with Him? I said that it’s possible, if they didn’t understand that those people were from God. So MO said that anyone who spoke against those prophets was still considered to be going against God, in a sense, and that in general it would not be done out of sincerity. This is a difficult topic, but I accepted the comparison he was making.

      One thing that he accepted from what I explained was the difference between Torah, rabbinic judgments, and customs. We didn’t discuss the oral Torah, really. But the reason we talked about this was because MO mentioned the Shabbos eruv in Bondi (a suburb near here) as an example of how he thinks Jews in our time can’t keep the Torah, and that it makes sense that God would have updated it and even as a kindness that He would make it easier. Keep in mind that MO doesn’t believe that the scriptures about the Torah being eternally relevant were necessarily there in the original. But I explained to him the concept of making a fence around the Torah in rabbinic law, especially as it is a whole nation or communities keeping it, in both detail and in spirit, and in everyday situations where not everyone can be fully learned about all the details. Therefore it is acceptable for the rabbis to make fences, and to make some exceptions in those extra fences, and this isn’t considered a loophole against the actual Torah. He heard what I was saying, but the thing that really helped him grasp what I was saying was when I described it in terms of private, public, and semi-private space, which I know is also an aspect of Islamic law in a fairly similar way to that of an eruv. The reality also is that Muslims from different communities do have customs, which they separate from Islamic law, and yet keep to in a way partially similar to what Jews do (though the system is different in other ways).

      MO also said that he thinks God made a covenant with all humanity, not just the Jews. He said that this was in place since the time of Adam, and that the covenant with the Jews was just giving them a job… something which was then opened out to all humans because Israel had not been doing the job properly. We didn’t discuss that accusation, that Israel wasn’t doing her job at the time of the writing of the Qur’an. But I did say that I see mostly just a semantic difference in the way he was describing the two different ideas of covenant. Although Judaism does not believe that the specific job given to Jews of being a repository of God’s truth was conditional in that sense, Jews do believe that God has given relationship with Himself, closeness, and obedience to all people (we talked about what God expected from the people spoken to by Noah and Jonah). You also see your covenant as a special job, which certainly comes with a special closeness, but doesn’t exclude other nations from also being children of God. In the end, anyway, to say that the lack of ‘equality between all people’ is an argument against Judaism is to take an assumption about things should be and then make it the measure of what God has revealed. And anyway, Islam considers the prophets to be special because of their role as well. To bring those two points together, the argument that Judaism is wrong because it claims that prophets don’t have to be sinless is again an assumption rather than a proof. I couldn’t figure out whether or not MO accepted that last thought, because even though he stopped pushing it as a proof he still felt it very strongly.

      When I explained that the current written Torah says that the laws are forever, and that it said so in the time of Muhammed as well, MO asked whether it was possible that the Jews were just holding on to their tradition and customs, so that they accidentally missed the fact that a prophet could come from another nation. But I explained that he would not take lightly a claim that Islamic law didn’t come from God and that he could therefore let go of some of the central messages and also break those laws in his actions. Likewise, the Jews in that time had a real experience of God and they wouldn’t go against their traditions lightly. So at the end of our conversation, we agreed that we had addressed a number of each other’s objections, and also disagreed on a few points, but that MO is yet to get to where he thinks the actual positive proof was and is for those Jews to know whether the Qur’an really was the pure form of what they had already had passed down to them. He hopes to get onto such things in a future conversation. We are going to have to talk about miracles etc. as a proof for a prophet, because he did mention this and I didn’t explain that the current written Torah and the Jewish tradition has its own criteria for examining a prophet. Not that I’m sure how Muhammed is measured against that anyway, because how can we know now whether he made predictions? But if he failed the test, MO would say that the tradition could had changed the original commandment here. Therefore this conversation is different from the one with Christianity, where written scriptures are shared. Sometimes if both parties are using scriptures that the other doesn’t accept, then the conversation has to go on to a different level. Another similar example is the Islamic belief that there are two kinds of prophets, one who only points people back to commandments given previously (like the Jewish concept post-Sinai), and then also major prophets who can bring in new things (like Abraham and Moses).

      There’s much more to talk about… but I think this is a good conversation. I feel more comfortable now in the fact that dialogue can be measured and that even though we have to be careful, we will not be thrown and tossed about by simply hearing different perspectives and coming to understand them better. There have to be compelling reasons to accept a point of view, and if those reasons were there then I would happily follow them. At this point I don’t see them at all in Islam, and I continue to listen for them, but also to try and learn how to explain the Jewish objections more clearly as well. That is very important, to find clearer places for conversation and for weighing the truth together before God.

      It is also a blessing to be able to talk like this without the ugliness of Jesus-worship invading the conversation or the pressure of being considered ‘lost’ and cut off from both grace and the deepest form of intimacy with God, which I feel when talking with Christians about Judaism. I felt that MO really heard what I was saying about why Jews are so, so careful about guarding the current written Torah and the Jewish tradition. I also recognised in myself that I need to be careful, as do all people involved in this conversation, about allowing our sense of cultural belonging, aesthetic beauty, familiar paths of modesty/ethics, or setting that have been comforting to us, have any real say about what we perceive the truth to be. These things can colour our perceptions almost entirely! And if they come from something true then they are in turn very deep expressions of truth. But as Rabbi Yisroel told me a while back, we easily slip between our hearts and our logic in these kinds of conversations even without realising it.

      • Annelise says:

        Two side-points that are important in a way, just as impressions…

        MO told me that Islam can be used as a verb or as a noun, but that most Muslims speak of it as a verb. This is part of his concept that Islam existed since the time of Adam, even though the specifics of the Torah were updated/’perfected’ in the time of Muhammed, which is when he also believes that the specific job given to Israel was opened out to all humanity in the Muslim community.

        Also, he seems to be really influenced by a Turkish theologian who is also a favourite writer of my friend who introduced me to him. I see a lot of similarities between the way that this writer Said Nursi speaks and the Chadissic way of thinking, and I deeply appreciate a lot of the imagery he lends. I also heard another Muslim girl speaking about her experience of fasting during Ramadan and it was very close to what I’ve heard in the Jewish community about the heart of knowing God here. This is obviously no proof for Islam but it is the place that many people are coming from when they see real life in their community and way of expressing faith, and therefore assume that it is for real in the details.

        • Dina says:

          I’m finding a lot of the arguments muddled and hard to follow. I will have to reread this a couple of times when I have more time, perhaps. But it just occurred to me that you might be putting yourself through a lot of needless turmoil. The fundamental question is this: Is the Torah true?

          If the Torah is not true, then the three religions that derive from it, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, are all false.

          If the Torah is true, then only Judaism is true, because the Torah does not support the doctrines of Christianity and Islam.

          Therefore, I recommend that you focus your efforts on discovering whether or not the Torah is true and then taking your search from there. I believe that will save you a lot of time.

          • Annelise says:

            Hm, I’ll think about it. Hypothetically, in asking if it is true… why start with the Torah and the Jewish testimony, instead of starting with the Qur’an and the Muslim one?

            It’s my fault that the conversation isn’t presented clearly enough. I think that sometimes when I go back and forth between two sides a bit, weighing them both against each other, it isn’t clear which one I am agreeing with in the end. I don’t know how to fix that in my writing.

          • Dina says:

            Because, you see, Islam is derived from Judaism, which is derived from the Torah. If the Torah is false, you can eliminate three religions in one fell swoop and start your search all over again with a clean slate. If the Torah is true, then you know which is the true religion and your search is over.

            Doesn’t it make sense to examine the original rather than the photocopies?

            Isn’t that logical?

          • Annelise says:

            You are making such an important point. But I think that if a Muslim took the same approach they might come up with lots of reasons to accept their own faith but never understand the Jewish issues with that.

          • Annelise says:

            Oh sorry, just saw your reply.

            The problem with that, I think, is that Muslims believe that Judaism as known now, and the Torah as preserved now, are *not* the original.

          • Dina says:

            Is this about how a hypothetical Muslim or about the real-life Annelise?

          • Dina says:

            Sorry, I meant to say, is this about a hypothetical Muslim or about the real-life Annelise?

          • Annelise says:

            Both… except for the fact that I am standing here with Judaism and I have seen so much of value and importance in it, while for a Muslim that would not be the case.

            Good question, though.

          • Dina says:

            That’s exactly the point. Find out if the Torah is true, original, whatever. If it is, you can eliminate Islam and Christianity. If it isn’t, you’ve got a lot of work to do. The Torah came first, so it needs to be looked at first.

          • Dina says:

            Then you can go back to your friend’s imam and say one of the following:

            1. Sir, I have found compelling reason to believe that the Torah is original and true; therefore Islam is false. Great speaking to you though, and have a nice day.

            2. Sir, I have found compelling reason to believe that the Torah is false; therefore your religion, along with Judaism and Christianity, is false. I enjoyed our talks, and have a nice life.

          • Annelise says:

            From my perspective, I can’t say that the Torah (as I know it now) comes first and is unchanged and that Islam comes second without assuming from the outset that the Islamic version of events is wrong. So already, in examining it in this way, I would be taking Muslim arguments (and the existence of that alternative interpretation) into account.

            How could I tell, absolutely for certain, whether the written Torah is still as it once was? That kind of textual criticism is far beyond my capacity. And to do so completely away from the existence of Islam would be disingenuous, because remember that MO said I should only believe his claim if (in future) he is able to show me actual positive evidence. Such attempts at evidence would have to be weighed on the same scale as that on which I’m weighing the Jewish testimony… unless you believe that someone as finite as myself can come to a 100% conclusion about Judaism from the outset and never have to ask any questions about my perception of things.

            There is a third option to what you just wrote. What if the Torah as it stands now is false, but the original Torah (as Muslims would say) was true? I’m not saying I see a reason to say that, again. But it is an alternative.

            Then again, I see something important in what you’re saying. Someone told me some time ago that Muslims need to account for how God actually intended for the Torah to be preserved. Jews say it is through the promise that His words will never leave you for all generations. Muslims say that every time people went off-track, a new prophet would arise to teach them the way again. But I want to understand whether there is anything deeper to respond to that from what was told to me… because if so, then you are right that maybe accepting the Jewish testimony about your own message would definitely negate other claims. If that were strong enough to be an anchor of belief, then all of Judaism would be held on it. So the question I ask myself is about that, to a very large extent.

          • Annelise says:

            PS if any Christians are reading this discussion… I just want to say that the Muslims I have been speaking with do believe that it is by God’s forgiveness, and not by ‘works’, that we can be allowed to come close to Him… even though obedience is an important part of the process. And they do believe in a real and close relationship with Him, not a distant one. I know that these are two impressions that people have about Islam, so I wanted to point out that when I consider Islam worthy of at least listening to, I am not saying that grace and love are unimportant in knowing Hashem.

          • Annelise says:

            …nor am I saying I have seen reasons to take Islam seriously, or that I have answers to all the objections I see. Nor am I saying that what I can see in the Jewish community doesn’t ring with so much clarity to me. But I am just still learning a lot and I need to keep asking these questions in order to understand things better 🙂

          • Dina says:

            I think that about wraps things up for this thread, Annelise. I do agree that there is meaning in what people do to seek goodness and truth who don’t have access to or knowledge of prophetic claims (or who have been indoctrinated against such beliefs).

            Hope your wrists feel better soon.

        • Dina says:

          I disagree with your premise. You can indeed say the Torah came first (leaving out the part that it is unchanged), because it’s a well-known historical fact. Judaism, based on the Torah (original or otherwise, however you want to put it) preceded Torah-derived Christianity, which preceded Torah-derived Islam.

          I assure you that you are perfectly capable of assessing whether the Torah that we have today is original. In fact, I think I provided you with enough material to point you in that direction.

          I’d like to point out that you can never be 100% certain of anything. That’s the Cartesian standard, which we reject, as explained in the paper by Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb that I sent you. I can’t be 100% certain that unicorns don’t exist because I can’t prove it. I can’t be 100% certain that this blog and this discussion isn’t a figment of my imagination. We make our decisions based on high probability.

          • Dina says:

            Here is a link to an article that makes a simple but compelling argument for the accuracy of the Torah. I sent you this in an e-mail along with more links to interesting information.

            http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/torahaccuracy/

          • Dina says:

            A quick Internet search showed me that there is no consensus among Muslims that the Torah today is not the original. According to one view, we have the original Torah but we simply misinterpret it. Whatever. Anyway, just thought you might like to know.

          • Annelise says:

            Thanks, Dina.

            I’m sorry I wasn’t clear… that wasn’t exactly my premise. I agree with you that the Torah came first. But what I was talking about was the current form, and whether that is the original is extremely important in this discussion.

            Anyway, I’m planning to look at the material that you sent me today, and then we can keep talking from there. But what I meant by asking if we can 100% know is exactly what you said. Even if I stand at a high degree of likelihood about the current Torah being both original and true, my intellect can never accept complete certainty, so if Islam presented an alternative interpretation of things and their significance then how could I, as you said, flatly ignore it based on *almost* certainty? To what extent do I need to consider the other alternatives and the evidence that people take to try and show that they are in fact the most likely?

            You’re right that some Muslims think the written Torah as we now have it was original and that the issue is in interpretation. I wasn’t addressing that because it seems like a very weak position, for me, for exactly all the reasons you have said. I know from my experience of really trying to see if Christianity could be true that it is possible to read in various ways the verses about the Torah observances being for all generations of Israelites, but I also realised at that time that all of them are so unintuitive and so far from the simple meaning. (I began to think that if Christianity were true, then it would be much more likely that Jews still needed to keep the Torah… and that doesn’t go against the New Testament, except according to some readings of verses by Paul.)

            Anyway. You said that Islam was derived from the Torah. Did you mean that you start with the assumption that Muhammed, knowing Judaism to some extent, reworked his knowledge of that into Islam? I think that looking at the Qur’an, that is the most likely conclusion. But I don’t think we can start with that assumption, because Muslims pose an alternative situation where it actually came from God and not from a human’s imagination.

          • Dina says:

            We can never be 100% certain about anything, but we can be reasonably confident. The ability to consider the possibility, however small, that we may be wrong about our cherished beliefs forces us to learn to articulate a strong and clear defense of our positions. I see that as part of truth seeking, which never ends, as we can always attain deeper levels of truth.

            Nevertheless, I point you again to Rabbi Gottlieb’s argument that many people apply a higher standard of proof (an unreasonably high standard, a Cartesian standard) to religion than they do to anything else. I’m hearing some of that in your writing, though please know that I respect where you are coming from and I admire your commitment to truth and your courage in making life-changing decisions to conform to the truths you have discovered.

            To address your point about the derivation of Islam, I must say that the conventional wisdom that Christianity and Islam are daughter religions of Judaism is so well known that I did not know this was disputed. Mohammed was extremely surprised (and angry) that the Jews didn’t accept him; he expected they would because of the tremendous similarities he saw between his “revelation” and Judaism.

            Also, speaking of revelation, Judaism is based on national revelation, while Christianity and Islam are based on personal revelation. There is no comparison between the strength of the claim of national revelation on the one hand and the weakness of personal revelation on the other hand.

            For example, please tell me why you don’t take the claims of Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, seriously. Why should we take any personal revelation seriously?

            I will repeat again that if you can find out whether the Torah is original and true or false, then this whole conversation is irrelevant. I encourage to focus your search on that.

          • Annelise says:

            You said that we have to entertain the possibility that there are things we haven’t considered. But then you said if I can be reasonably sure about Judaism without looking at alternative faith claims, then that completely takes away the necessity of listening further to other perspectives. How do those two thoughts fit together?

            It’s important because it’s about knowing God and following what He wants, and I guess I want to listen to people’s seriously when I see that their relationship with Him is real; I have experienced what it is like to hear a better perspective than the one you feel sure about by hearing one perspective only.

          • Dina says:

            I am going to restate what I meant because I must not have been clear. When I am challenged about my beliefs, I consider the possibility that I may be wrong, which forces me to examine my beliefs more closely and see if I can defend them against the challenge. However, that doesn’t mean I have to consider every other possible religion and alternative on the planet. If I can be reasonably confident the Torah is true–applying a fair standard and not a Cartesian one–then I can examine every challenge in that light.

            In other words, if I can be confident that the Torah is true, that eliminates all the other contenders for the position of “I am the one true religion.” That’s why I started my search with the Torah. Once I was satisfied that the Torah was true, I only needed to examine the religions which claimed support from the Torah. I examined those religions in light of the Torah. When I saw that the Torah did not in fact support those religions, I concluded that it was imperative for me to continue my observance of Torah Judaism.

            If it should ever happen that the Torah does not stand up to a particular challenge, then if I am intellectually honest I will have to consider that my beliefs are wrong (so far that hasn’t happened).

            Have I resolved the contradiction for you? Is this more clear?

          • Annelise says:

            How about when you said just now, “If it should ever happen that the Torah does not stand up to a particular challenge, then if I am intellectually honest I will have to consider that my beliefs are wrong (so far that hasn’t happened).” But you also said “Once I was satisfied that the Torah was true, I only needed to examine the religions which claimed support from the Torah. I examined those religions in light of the Torah.”

            How do you draw the lines between considering a challenge in light of the Torah, and considering the Torah in light of a challenge? Do you see what I’m asking there?

          • Dina says:

            That’s a really great question. I’m saying that I am confident in the truth of the Torah based on high probability, and that’s why I can examine every claim in light of the Torah. But I cannot be 100% certain of anything, so if someone came along and actually challenged me on my fundamental belief in the Torah’s truth–and it would be such a serious challenge that the Torah couldn’t stand up to it–then I would have to think really hard about that. And that is what has not happened. Christianity accepts the truth of the Torah, and Islam’s claims about its changing nature are weak.

            Is that better?

          • Annelise says:

            That makes sense 🙂 But two things. You said “if someone came along” and challenged you. But shouldn’t we, if we see a community where many people are loving God and being blessed in their love for Him and loyalty to Him… and we know our understanding of their perspective and insights is so limited… shouldn’t we sometimes look for ourselves? I think yes. The question is when we should feel a cue to look into something further and learn more about it.

            Second, I know a Jewish Muslim who didn’t really see reality in Judaism but when he confronted the Qur’an through a Muslim friend, he read it and says he realised that these were the words of God. Think what we might about his process, there are other people like him as well. And some of them might realise that they do want to dialogue with us about truth. But for them (non-hypothetical people), the starting place now is whether their experience of Islam is true and whether it’s really true that the Muslim arguments about the Torah’s changing nature are weak. I know we have to look after ourselves, but also live for other people, and if not now, when? etc.

          • Annelise says:

            And it’s not just Jewish converts to Islam who matter in that way. I’ve heard both secular and religious Jews talking about the issue as well, and maybe it would really bless people if there were more transparency in the relationship between these two faiths. That being even more the case because of tensions between the two groups, even though understanding people shouldn’t be necessary for treating them well… in a way it has also caused more inter-faith dialogue.

          • Dina says:

            Yes and yes, to both questions. Your points don’t contradict anything I’ve said. Bear in mind that if there were no Torah, Christianity and Islam would not exist. It makes no sense to me why you would take the time to examine the claims of the daughter religions without first determining the truth of their source.

            Once you’ve done that , then I do encourage you to go ahead and take a look at these two religions to see if they offer a new and improved version. I have no problem with that; in fact I did the same thing in my early twenties. But if you discover that they contradict the source, which you have determined to be true, you do have a problem. You would have to conclude these religions are false. (And that’s what happened in my case.)

            The rabbis also discuss a concept in the Talmud known as “Da ma she’tashiv,” shorthand for “Know how to answer a heretic.” So yes, it’s important to study the views of the opposition so you can discuss the issues with them and lead them to the truth. I did not mean to give the impression that we shouldn’t see what anyone else is saying. I was just saying that beginning your search with the Torah would simplify your personal journey.

            As for the tension between Jewish and Muslim groups, there isn’t much that Jews can do about the indoctrination of Jew hatred that goes on in Arab and Muslim countries. You seem not to understand that the Jews have done nothing to cause the tension. It’s completely one-sided. All we want is to be left alone! And if they would just leave us alone, the tension would disappear. (And don’t think that the anti-Jewish passages in the Koran have nothing to do with it.) Interfaith dialogue is like putting a bandage on a hemorrhage.

          • Annelise says:

            I’m just trying to say that one theory is that there is an original Torah, and then all three of these religions are derived from it with some changes, the current version of the Torah included. To think in the way that you’re suggesting, you first have to ignore the idea that Judaism is a ‘daughter religion’ of the original Judaism, and that Muhammed was sent as a prophet to restore the revelation from God to its original form. Does that make sense?

            I really do know that Jews are basically wanting to be left alone, particularly to be left alone to have a place of your own in the world and in the land of your heritage, and you aren’t asking for this tension. I know, but what I was saying was that interfaith dialogue *does* exist, initiated by both Jews and Muslims who want peace, and that because of that these discussions become important to people.

            Btw I’m more than halfway through reading the article you sent me by Rabbi Dovid Gottleib… thank you so much for it. There are some assertions that I don’t resonate with, like how he feels that any religion that does not *offer* evidence for its truth (like some Eastern religions), or even offer good evidence, should be 100% ignored out of hand. Shouldn’t you weigh them by their fruits as well when considering the likelihood of truth in their philosophies? Even with Judaism, there are certain human aspects of our relationship with God and commitment to truth that precede an acceptance of this faith based on those anchors (even though it does go on to define most of the anchors in life, after that). And also, while I think he articulates a lot of truth and wisdom about religion being a matter of wise decision rather than something of totally having no possible alternative options possible (no matter how unlikely)… it isn’t just about a choice. It is also about a relationship, and in that relationship we speak about trust and love. That kind of thing is also important to seekers of truth, and to focus only on the choice about whether to keep Torah law or not is only part of the discussion.

            That said, the things that he said about the predictions in the Torah made more sense to me in the way he laid them out than the way I’ve heard about them briefly before. I really see how there is weight in that evidence. Likewise, the historical issue of this nation recording its defeats and weaknesses while other nations did not. I confidently see the importance of things such as this in a way that I do not see in the claims of other religions (like, for Islam, the fact that there was rapid conquest or that the Qur’an ‘couldn’t have been written by mere human imagination’). It’s this kind of thing about Judaism, your history and especially the way in which you have handled monotheism, relationship with God, and your faith as a whole in so many circumstances, that really does give me than the impression that you more to listen to than just the things that other religions also possess (as important as those shared things, also, are to the picture of seeking Him in truth). These things add up with more weight, for me, and that is unique to this place (as much as I know of other perspectives, anyway…). What is causing me sadness and confusion is the fact that Judaism speaks about complete faithfulness to certain kinds of hope or belief, particularly about God and the things He is said to have done and be yet to do. Not only that, but as a person, I don’t just look here to ‘find out what I should do’. I also look here because all my love is invested in knowing God, and yet even the mere possibility (in this case, the real wondering) about Him not being approachable in His love or goodness really scares me and/or makes me become desensitised to that hope.

          • Dina says:

            Annelise, it looks like you and I have taken over the comments section of this blog post :).

            If Judaism has changed and is a daughter religion of the original Torah which is now lost, it still preceded Christianity and Islam, so let’s say Judaism is the daughter religion and the next two are the granddaughters. It still behooves you, then, to find out how much truth there is to the existing Torah and if there really is truth to the claim that it is not the original one. I think I provided good reason to believe that it is the original.

            I’m copying those points from my e-mail to you to remind you of what I said:

            The question about when the process began: it would have been impossible for human historians recording events a thousand years after it happened to have had knowledge of specific features of that time period. The archaeological record shows that there are no anachronisms in the Torah. Ironically, there are anachronisms in the New Testament, which was recorded less than a hundred years after the events transpired. So this is another stream of evidence.

            The Torah was already an ancient document in, say, the year 1 CE, because the Romans, and the Greeks before them, already respected Judaism because of its ancient pedigree.

            I agree with you that for those Muslims and Jews having this dialogue it’s important to them. And I have no problem with that.

            Annelise, I’m surprised that after all your arguing for a high standard of proof, for weighty evidence, you would then say that a religion that offers no evidence for its truth should be measured by its fruit. Isn’t that a contradiction?

            I don’t understand what you said about religion not being only about a choice but also about a relationship. I see the relationship as part of that choice, and keeping the law as part of the relationship. Our loving relationship with our Father is essential. I don’t see what you are saying at all.

            Forgive me, but I did not understand your last paragraph. Why are you afraid that God is unapproachable? What hopes and beliefs of Judaism make you sad and confused, and why?

          • Annelise says:

            But you’re still saying that Islam is certainly a ‘daughter religion’ of the Judaism that existed at the time, i.e. that the Qur’an is influenced by an awareness of surrounding religions rather than being revealed from God. We may well come to the conclusion that this is exactly the best explanation. But I think you are talking about an assumption that would come earlier than that point, and I don’t know about it.

            I really am with you about the lack of anachronism in the Torah and about the presence of really accurate details from the claimed time periods… especially around the time of the patriarchs, which I had previously felt unsure about until reading Rabbi Gottlieb’s comments about it.

            In terms of the fruits of a religion, I don’t say that this is a compelling evidence to me for those faiths, but again I would say to Rabbi Gottlieb that to start with the assumption that the fruits are *not* evidence… i.e. that just because it has no memory of where the ideas where revealed from, they could never be considered to be true or revealed… is strange to me. The fruits *are* one sort of evidence.

            To reply to your last two paragraphs here, I do know that loving God in our heart is important in Judaism, not just obeying Him with our physical actions! All I was saying was that uncertainty about a choice I have to make not being successful might make things a bit unstable, but uncertainty about whether a close friend really cares about you or about whether we can really trust God according to the revelations and promises in the Torah about having a relationship with Him……. that is a lot harder.

          • Annelise says:

            Btw I wasn’t totally equating the relationship with God to the relationship with a friend. There are similarities but our closeness to Him and the way we look to Him is much more.

            I’m mostly pressing these points, though, because I see evidence with real weight in it but I find that when I speak with people I often find out that some evidence is much better than I had previously understood. I want to seek that out.

            Thanks again! Feel free to move this conversation over to email if you think it is better than cluttering the comments here. There is some small link between this and the earlier conversation 🙂

          • Annelise says:

            Oh, and you should know that this conversation in the last couple of days has really helped me to see more of a difference than I did before about the main evidence that is offered in apologetics for Islam and the main evidence in apologetics from Judaism. Not to say I think I should stop listening but I really do see the solidity here a lot more, which is so interesting and… meaningful as well, to see something I think is important become more clearly so in some areas.

          • Dina says:

            Okay, here’s the deal. You have a religion, Judaism. Maybe it’s the original Judaism, maybe it isn’t. Then along come Christianity and Islam, which are based on Judaism. Maybe they’re true, maybe they’re false. Now, suppose Judaism is false. How then can Islam be true? Would it make sense for there to be a revelation from God to start a new religion based on a false one? I say, first determine that Judaism is true. Then you can check out Islam and see if the revelation it claims for itself is a truer and better one. Does that make sense?

            But also bear in mind that Islam is based on personal revelation to one human being. That makes its witness very shaky.

            I don’t understand what you are saying about the fruits of a religion. The fruits of a religion is a nice thing to point to, but if that is the only evidence, how on earth can you decide which religion to join? It may be evidence, but it is only one very small piece of evidence that all religions share.

            I do understand that it’s a scary decision to make. I get that. Is that what you are saying?

            I think it’s great to keep seeking evidence and find it getting stronger. Gaining clarity is a blessing, and I’m glad that I have helped that process along a little bit.

          • Dina says:

            And let me also add that the digger I deep in the Torah, the more clarity, solidity, and strength I find. But the digger I deep into Christianity (not Islam much, I admit), the more it unravels.

          • Annelise says:

            I agree about Christianity getting weaker through these discussions while Judaism, for me anyway, has been only building in strength, slowly though I am unraveling the discussion. Even though there is less doubt about how much time transpired between the events of Christianity or Islam and then the writing and establishment of their scriptures, just because we don’t have historical remnants of whether the Torah was written in the time of Moses (it’s longer ago). Anyway I think that the kind of proof a person would need to accept Jesus as Messiah and/or God is quite different from the kind of proof we’re looking at regarding whether to guard and hope in Jewish beliefs. Again, the kind of proof that you need to accept certain kinds of wisdom as good is different from what you’d need to accept a revelation claim. It’s complex, even the definition of ‘religion’ doesn’t really fit the conversation that well because definitions are so slippery between words and ideas in these various faiths.

            You know that Muslims would answer you by saying that the original Torah *is* true, but the currently held one (and I’m including the living Jewish testimony in this) is not, and that in fact Islam was not created at the time of the writing of the Qur’an; it was only ‘perfected’ then. They would not consider their faith to be a daughter of the Judaism around them, but rather a return to the original way in a form coming directly from it, from God. That doesn’t mean I see a reason to actually accept this alternative. I’m just saying it is a logical thing to let it be an alternative and consider it, and if we accept Judaism then it will always be, as much as we know, in light of the alternatives and the weight of evidence here.

            What I was saying was not so much that it’s a scary decision to make… but more that it’s scary that no matter how sure we are about God’s love, we can never be totally sure of our own perceptions and hopes. The vulnerability in the relationship is difficult to bear because it means so much.

          • Annelise says:

            Also, historical evidence is not the only kind I’m considering. I don’t want to accidentally slip between thoughts and feelings without realising it, but the truth is that when I see morality, kindness, and beauty, I do take it as a kind of evidence about what to follow. That has a place and time where it is good, and also a possibility to deceive us by our subjective feelings. But for me to accept a faith claim that I thought was immoral and abhorrent, just based on historical evidence….. hm. The fruits are part of the picture, and how relevant they are just depends on the kind of claim that’s being made.

          • Dina says:

            Annelise, I’m having trouble following your second-to-last post, so I can’t comment on it. But as for your last post, yes, obviously, if a religion is immoral and abhorrent, that’s a good reason to reject it. I do see that with Islam. It is morally repugnant. I’m just saying that in your arguments you are questioning really weighty evidence but at the same time you say we ought to examine the claim of any religion that uses as it’s ONLY evidence the fact that it bears good fruit. Do you not see a contradiction here?

          • Annelise says:

            I don’t see a contradiction because I’m asking these questions at two totally different levels. Questioning evidence that looks 80-90% good, just to see if it’s actually better than that, is quite different to simply making the point that 10% is not equal to 0%. What I mean is that to reject the examination of a religion on the basis that it ‘has no evidence’ (As Rabbi Gottlieb does), rather than to say the evidence is not good, is not correct in my opinion.

          • Dina says:

            But, Annelise, if every single faith uses this same piece of evidence, then that’s 0% evidence, not ten percent. But let’s say, for argument’s sake, that this is 10% evidence. If you have 80% to 90% evidence for one claim and only 10% for another, why bother with it? If there’s an 80% to 90% that you have appendicitis and a 10% chance that you don’t, you’ll opt for surgery because if you don’t there’s a 90% percent chance you’ll die of a ruptured appendix. That’s why I think your standard of evidence is unreasonably high–and unreasonably low at the same time.

          • Annelise says:

            I don’t see my measurements as being objective enough to be static like that. I have to keep my eyes open even while I run in something that I saw to be real and worth running in.

            Some religions are more like suggestions and expressions of wisdom, so there is no situation with them like the one you’re talking about? If religion X has a unique way of expressing certain things like justice, kindness, interaction with goodness, or whatever, and then basically every other religion also agrees that those things are important, then the fact that religion X makes no specific revelation claims does not mean that if a person were to reject all revelation claims, they couldn’t then decide that religion X is a wise and probably realistic philosophy for engaging with reality. Even though its values are not unique, that doesn’t mean it might not be the best expression of them. Again, I’m not saying it is so, I’m just disagreeing with the particular idea I mentioned, and saying that a lack of a revelation claim is not actually a lack of positive proof *unless* a fundamental aspect of the religion is belief in a revelation claim.

          • Annelise says:

            Such religions generally don’t claim that they are the unique possessors of their knowledge, either; just that they are a good expression of it, which the observer can weigh for themselves. People choose them like choosing a philosophy or a lifestyle.

          • Dina says:

            That’s all very well for a New-Age-y, hippie type of mindset more interested in lofty-sounding philosophies but it’s not all very well for a hard seeker of truth. I think it’s another thing we’ll have to agree to disagree on :). It sounds a bit relativist to me.

          • Annelise says:

            Agreed. But all I was trying to say was that I disagree with the premise that such claims don’t need to be examined. In fact what you’re doing here is examining them through your perspective of what is valuable or will be found to be true, and then rejecting them. This is different to saying that Judaism is the only religion that has evidence that can be examined, as I understood Rabbi Gottlieb to be concluding.

          • Dina says:

            I did not reach the same conclusion. I did not understand him to say that Judaism is the only religion whose evidence can be examined; rather I understood him to say that in our search for the truth (not the nicest philosophy), we can eliminate the need to examine any religion that does not offer evidence other than that it’s a nice philosophy.

          • Annelise says:

            Thanks for articulating it so clearly; I agree that this was his attitude. But I don’t see why we could immediately assume that one of the revelation claims is true. What if ‘philosophy’ is the best that human beings can get at; or to put it in a more positive light, what if God has revealed Himself through creation and deeper parts of the heart of humans, rather than speaking through a prophet?

            There are some humans who never heard a prophet speak. So clearly we know that God doesn’t only reveal Himself through prophets. So what if He never actually sent any? This is an alternative. R Gottlieb says that if you decide Judaism is not true, then you must assume that no religion is true. I would say that if you did decide that Judaism is not true (it’s all hypothetical…), then you could still try to consider whether God has revealed His goodness and wisdom in any way other than a prophetic one.

          • Dina says:

            How would you do that? Without revelation, how would you determine how God is revealing Himself and what He wants from you? How would you discover the truth, and know it was the truth, as opposed to other truths other people discovered? If there is no revelation, you’re left with moral relativism. Each person decides for himself.

          • Annelise says:

            You can’t get 100% certainty from historical evidence either.

          • Dina says:

            I already established that I’m not holding out for 100% certainty, and that if you are, then I can’t help you with that. This doesn’t answer the question.

          • Annelise says:

            I know, that is what confused me about what you were saying. I’ll put it this way. How do you know that the way God reveals His ways is through prophetic revelation rather than by other kinds of revelation?

          • Dina says:

            Please tell me what I said that confused you and I will try to clarify. I believe that God revealed Himself through revelation because He has common sense. If He didn’t reveal Himself that way, then my question still stands. Here it is again: Without revelation, how would you determine how God is revealing Himself and what He wants from you? How would you discover the truth, and know it was the truth, as opposed to other truths other people discovered? If there is no revelation, you’re left with moral relativism. Each person decides for himself.

          • Annelise says:

            So you think that every human who has lived had no access to knowing or obeying God, except if they happened to hear a prophetic revelation?

            Just because I feel as you do, that people just do what they feel is right without being taught a standard… that does not mean I assume that what is common sense to me is actually what He would do. I don’t say that because I can’t comprehend why a kind God causes suffering to exist in creation, therefore it does not exist. And I don’t say that just because I think that God would reveal Himself very clearly if He wants us to know where to walk, that therefore everyone must be able to say they heard truth from a prophet.

          • Dina says:

            That is not at all what I meant. Sorry for being so unclear. It makes sense to me that if there is a God, then He would leave some kind of revelation, some kind of instruction manual for how to lead our lives, rather than leave it up to each individual to try to figure it out for himself. That doesn’t mean each person has to experience a prophetic revelation, just that there would have been one, or some, at some point in history.

            You keep challenging me on this, but you still have not answered my question.

          • Annelise says:

            And I really want to clarify, if anyone else is actually reading, that I do see a super-amount more evidence for listening to Judaism than I do for any of the Eastern religions… etc. But in trying to understand something a bit more clearly, I have let this conversation spend many, many words on a small point 🙂

          • Annelise says:

            Just saw your comment. I know what you’re saying does make sense to me as well. But in the case where Rabbi G saw someone rejecting Judaism and therefore rejecting all religions… if Judaism is not true, and if our intuitions on this point aren’t accurate, and if no prophet is accepted… who is to say that there isn’t any way left at all to seek goodness?

          • Annelise says:

            Personally, I do seek into this prophetic revelation because in my relationship with God I do want to hear if He has given such a thing, and also because of the evidence that leads me to look into it closely. But who am I to tell Him that if He didn’t speak in one way, then He didn’t speak at all and I won’t be listening out for goodness in such a case?

            Maybe too many hypotheticals. I actually think our perspectives are quite close?

          • Dina says:

            I was about to say, how else would you know? A question you STILL haven’t answered. Then I realized, we’re talking at cross-purposes, because I’m talking about seeking truth and you’re talking about seeking goodness. There is plenty of goodness to be found in many parts of the world where people have never been taught about God. There are good Hindus and there are good nomads in Tibet. There are good atheists. Humans naturally yearn to be good.

            But if you are seeking truth along with goodness, the truth about God, then I don’t know how else you would find this truth without some kind of revelation. I don’t know how you would understand God’s wisdom without some kind of book that describes it.

          • Annelise says:

            Mm I think I’m talking about both truth and goodness… and goodness as a part of the revelation of truth. After all, if goodness isn’t true then it isn’t good; it isn’t anything.

            I didn’t say ‘without revelation’; I said without prophetic revelation. Surely looking at nature and wisdom and conscience and all these things could be considered a revelation, even though there is some lack of certainty because of subjectivity.

          • Dina says:

            Too subjective. It’s meaningless.

          • Annelise says:

            Maybe I agree with you, but I don’t know, I need to think about it. I’ll probably email you my reply! Anyway my wrists have started hurting again the last day or so… a very great conversation but I need to rest a bit. I have a dictation microphone/program thing, but it takes longer to use, so I will need to be deliberate about using that 🙂

            Thanks again.

          • Annelise says:

            I’m just thinking about all the people who haven’t heard a prophetic claimant, or haven’t heard true prophetic revelation in any case. When they seek wisdom, kindness, when they offer thankfulness, when they try to understand truth and goodness, then I think that in all those ways they are connecting with their Creator in a true way. It may be lacking but it is real and it’s meaningful! And anyway, this is the basis for all of us, the sense of some of these things is the reason why we choose to listen to the claim about the covenant at Sinai and the things that unfold from it.

          • Annelise says:

            Basically, I’m just saying that if I felt there were a choice only between atheism and searching out non-prophetic revelation from God, I would for many reasons absolutely go with the latter. But that is a small point because I do take the prophetic claim seriously 🙂 That’s all.

          • Annelise says:

            In the end though, since we started here with a discussion about Islam, I’ll say that I don’t think that this later part of the discussion applies to it very much. Yes, our conscience and other ways of recognising what is true and right are important in our appraisal of any faith claim. But in the end, it is the claim of the prophet himself that needs to be examined with some evidence that is much different to merely the philosophical resonance with the message. This is someone claiming to speak on behalf of God in human language and with authority.

            You’ve helped to clarify and expand my feelings about why Islam is incoherent and not holding any proof of that kind that should compel us, especially when we are already listening the the testimony of living Israel to the Torah and we are careful, for good reasons, about faithfulness to God in that regard. I still believe I need to keep learning from Muslims about the refutations that they think they can bring, and the proofs that they think they can bring, and I want to listen very carefully to the basic paradigms that they rest those things on; maybe they are unfamiliar to me and I can misunderstand them. But anyway, the mix of religions’ and mysticisms’ stories in the Qur’an seems so influenced by the kind of things that might have been heard orally by someone in Muhammed’s position in that time, and the confusion of the sister of Moses with the mother of Jesus… things like that… are especially problematic. As is what you showed me about how convenient some of these ‘revelations’ were for his life. The kinds of historical claims about the tradition’s transmission might be similar to Judaism, as might be the sense of a real knowledge of God in the community (and the feeling that outsiders misunderstand it). But basically, this conversation and reading the article by Rabbi Gottlieb have given me so much more clarity about the actual differences in the ways that we should weigh these two religions, and others. I may not fully agree with his approach or some of his conclusions, but the ideas in there lenda lot of weight to things I had already been recognising as relevant. I’m still trying grasp what this approach to knowledge means in a relationship with God, but maybe that is a personal thing more than something that can just be talked about.

          • Annelise says:

            An important point that I missed. I don’t think that ‘exploring religions’ is a neutral thing to do, nor am I specifically talking about any Eastern or other indigenous etc. religion in particular. Because firstly, some of those have values and practices that I think are so, so far away from the anchors I have in my heart and beliefs about how we relate to God and what He deserves from us, and they would also be in violation of the Torah understanding, which matters to us too.

            I was just merely saying that just because they don’t claim to have a prophetic revelation or exclusive value does not make them *inherently* worth ignoring. But in practise, I would stay far away from a lot of those things, being able to see enough from a distance that I’m not compelled and not willing to go nearer.

          • Dina says:

            Reposting comment here because I posted it in the wrong place:

            I think that about wraps things up for this thread, Annelise. I do agree that there is meaning in what people do to seek goodness and truth who don’t have access to or knowledge of prophetic claims (or who have been indoctrinated against such beliefs).

            Hope your wrists feel better soon.

          • Annelise says:

            Mm I agree. It’s really good to talk about these things, thanks for all the time you put into it 🙂

          • Dina says:

            You’re welcome! I enjoyed this very stimulating conversation.

          • Annelise says:

            🙂 Shabbat Shalom.

  16. Concerned Reader says:

    In the real world, Dr. Brown is refusing (for lame reasons) to debate Rabbi Blumenthal in a written format; Rabbi Blumenthal is refusing (for good reason) to debate Dr. Brown on his radio show; furthermore, Dr. Brown’s audience is not reading this blog.

    I wouldn’t say either rabbi B or Dr. Brown have lame reasons for doing anything. Dr. Brown wants a spoken debate so that both parties can directly interact. That makes sense. Often, comments can get lost on a blog. (it happens here all the time.) Also, people can read intention into words very easily that may not be intended. The spoken word and tone help to remedy that.

    Rabbi B makes the point that the substance of the argument simply cant be explored in a talk. Corners get cut, groups feel shortchanged, etc. Both Dr. Brown and Rabbi B have good reasons for wanting the forum they want. I personally enjoy a spoken debate, (especially when time is given for a Q&A at the end,) but I understand both sides.

    • Dina says:

      Con, Brown likes to go around saying that no Orthodox rabbi will debate him on his radio show with the implication that either they don’t dare because they know he will cream them or they know the “truth” and are hiding from it. He even has a statement to that effect on one of his websites. If that is not chutzpah, I would like to know what is.

      And that is why we are cynical about Brown’s motives.

      • Concerned Reader says:

        I understand your cynicism. I’ve heard rabbis say the same type of things Brown does, (though off course never rabbi B,) but yes those are hurtful sentiments, and it is chutzpah. I’ve seen Christian Bibles burnt on videotape, so flared tempers and rhetoric are not uncommon on either side, nor the assumption of correctness. Its a heated subject to say the least, and I agree that we should not impute motives.

    • Concerned Reader I offered Dr. Brown that we debate with him talking and me writing – he hasn’t responded to that either. Furthermore – I did have a written debate with him on his blog – perhaps some minor points got lost in the discussion but by and large we got much further than we would have gotten with a verbal debate – you can find this debate if you search for “Written Debate” in the upper right corner

      1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

      • Concerned Reader says:

        I think you both need to agree to one or the other format for a discussion, or one of you will feel shortchanged. If you write and he speaks this gives you more room for depth than him. If you both speak, there will be more (ill advised) room for rhetoric and showmanship. So either way its a tough call.

  17. Concerned Reader says:

    I honestly feel that a debate like that (in either form) ultimately wont produce much because you are both talking from fundamentally different experiential vantage points about the issues. The Christianity that exists today is built on people’s perceived experiential life changes after learning of Jesus’ life, (such as Dr. Brown’s experiences,) while Judaism is built on the bedrock of Israel’s covenant to uphold Torah observance. The Christian vantage point fundamentally sees halacha as serving a pedagogical function, as opposed to being the centerpiece that it is to Jewish people. That fact in itself will produce (unwittingly) biased hearing despite best efforts. There really is (from a purely historical perspective) no reason why Christianity needs to be so antagonistic to halachic religiosity. Jews are observant because they love G-d, and they want to see the nation as it is, and was, continue to exist. Christians who find a redemptive element in Jesus (who came to that knowledge without Jewish law) simply don’t see things the same way. The only thing you guys can do up there in a dialogue is sit and debate verses, and you both have enough ground to give either viewpoint a semblance of legitimacy. Its really a giant circle.

    • Dina says:

      Con, one can indeed gain clarity by going round and round in that giant circle. Sometimes it could take a long time, but sometimes people get there in the end. I’m surprised to hear you sound so defeatist when you went through this very process yourself. It took a long time and going round in circles, but you did eventually reject Christianity.

      • Concerned Reader says:

        I have gone through it, and I don’t have much faith anymore lol, so defeatist, though grim, I guess describes it, though I don’t feel that way. I feel like I have a grasp on both sides of the issue, which helps with compassion and understanding. That aspect is good. : )

        • Dina says:

          The compassion and understanding is great (and comes through in your writing), but you missed my point about defeatist. If you can be convinced to reject Christianity, why take up a defeatist attitude that there’s no point trying with anyone else? See what I mean?

        • Concerned Reader I have demonstrated that Dr. Brown’s own standard for “Messianic prophecy” that he applies to discredit Maimonides works against him – I don’t believe he has a response to this and I believe that this argument and others like it lie at the root of his failure to keep his word to respond to me in writing – I can’t help it but his repeated assurances to respond coupled with his subsequent failure to do so leave me with no other conclusion at this point

          1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

  18. Concerned Reader says:

    One might say rabbi that this whole discussion is entirely circular. You said to Dr. Brown
    “it seems, that without FIRST accepting Jesus as an authority – the Jewish Bible does NOT encourage belief in Jesus.”
    Dr. Brown could say that your own interpretations require accepting your own traditional authority as rabbi first as well.
    You understand all of the texts in light of rabbinic interpretation and the Sinai experience, because that to you is the native context, and is proven by your people’s own experiences. You both have a ground floor of experiences behind what you feel is the proper reading of the Bible.
    To Dr. Brown, binding authority of your own intepretation is an unverified claim. While he accepts the existence of oral traditions, they do not carry the weight of authority for him that they do for you. His faith in Jesus is grounded for him in his own percieved personal experiences, just as your faith is for you. You are both making impassioned pleas to your readers (and to each other) that your authority should be accepted.
    You have said before that listening to the judges is commanded by the Torah, and accordong to your understanding this means that the Torah supports rabbinic authority to interpret the Bible. That this verse applies to modern rabbis is as much an interpretation that is not plainly stated, as are Jesus’ own interpretations. Everyone comes to these books with assumptions. Another commentator Sheila suggested that we start with this: (notice the suggestion is based on something experientialy verifiable/measurable.)
    “Maybe we should try this exercise. You tell me which Words Jesus spoke that have absolutely no First Testament counterpart and we’ll see if, in fact, they do or not.”
    This goes back to a central issue. Do we listen to any given religious authorities because the book tells us to, or because we ourselves have reasons based on our lived out experiences in reality to accept them as authoritative or true?
    If I expanded Sheila’s question to add “are there any Jewish ideas/movements that bear striking similarity to things taught by Jesus or in Christianity in Judaism?” The answer is there have been quite a few.
    You and Dr. Brown both believe you posses the truth, but you are both coming at the question of how to discern it with a fundamentally different set of assumptions.
    Dr. Brown answered your initial question below the comment by saying that the words that have borne themselves out in the world are what he accepts.
    “The clear point I was making was that the fulfillment of the prophecy makes the prophecy itself clearer, hardly anything that even needed to be stated, but apparently it needs to be restated.”
    To put it another way, what constitutes a fulfillment? If we go by Maimonides’ own views in the laws of kings, many a Jewish monarch (and even non Jewish ones) have fulfilled parts of the core requirements that he set down, but we have still not seen a messiah embraced by the broader world, ressurection of the dead, or other things associated with the era of messiah.
    Look at how the talmud views Hezekiah and his relation to messiah? Why wasn’t Solomon the messiah? Why not bar Kochba? They all set up kingdoms, strengthened observance, etc. The question of whether their are miracles or Temple has an answer. Its BOTH! lol

    • Concerned Reader Dr. Brown has no response. My authority or interpretations are completely irrelevant to the discussion. Dr. Brown has set his own Scriptural criteria for affirming a Messianic prophecy and that is whatever it is that Scripture tells us about the Messiah’s miracles. No one is bound by this gauge – except Dr. Brown himself because it was he who declared it to be true and accurate. Dr. Brown also set the standard by which we could dismiss a requirement as insignificant or peripheral – and he gives us this gauge when he dismisses the connection between the Temple and the Messiah. I can hold no one to this standard because it is Dr. Brown’s own invention but I can hold Dr. Brown to stick to the standards that he has set for himself. This has nothing to do with authority or interpretation – it has to do with honesty and consistency

      1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

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