Our civilization is structured in such a way that people sometimes need to trust each other. I have never studied medicine. When I need advice in that field I speak to people who have dedicated their lives to the study of medicine and I trust their expertise.
But how can I figure out who is truly an expert? If I have never studied medicine how then can I evaluate the knowledge (or lack thereof) of anyone who claims to be an expert?
It is here that the concept of trust factors in. I may not trust any one particular individual but I can surely trust the general circle of medical society. The fact that a doctor holds certification from a respected institution tells me that the leaders of that school have applied their own medical expertise in evaluating this person’s knowledge and have determined that he is indeed worthy of my trust. If other medical experts recommend the services of this particular doctor, this will raise his credibility and trust in my eyes. My trust is based on the assumption that these professionals take their work seriously and feel a responsibility toward mankind to guide them with truth.
In the field of medicine there is an additional factor that bolsters my trust in a given doctor. The results of his expertise are often evident in the successful treatment of his patients. A doctor who has his patients die one after another will quickly lose the trust of the populace.
The practical ramification of claimed expertise is something that is obvious in many fields of study. But in the realm of the spirit there is no practical way to measure the claimed expertise of a given person. It is in this realm where people really need to rely on the evaluation of the collective society of scholars of the field.
It is precisely because there is no way to test the claims for spiritual proficiency that those who attest to someone’s capabilities carry so much more responsibility. If they mislead those who trust in them, there is no way that their mistake will be discovered. If spiritual leaders crown an incompetent person with the title of “expert” the result will be that people will receive this person’s false teachings as truth, they will consider it an honor to have him speak in their Churches and they will accept crude ignorance as erudite sophistication. The unsuspecting masses will be lead down the path of darkness with the confidence that they are walking toward the light.
If a group of spiritual leaders certify and validate someone’s claim for scholarship they have accepted a heavy responsibility upon their shoulders. If this endorsement is undeserved then these leaders have failed the people who entrusted them with their spiritual well-being.
The purpose of this article is to bring to light such a failure in spiritual leadership.
In the summer of 2013 Itzhak Shapira published his book “The Return of the Kosher Pig.” Itzhak Shapira has been ordained by the IAMCS as a rabbi. The book that he has published is decorated with glowing endorsements from many Christian leaders. Dr. Michael Brown assures the readers that this book has been written with “much careful study”. Joshua Brumbach calls Shapira’s book an “excellent resource” and he declares that it “far surpasses much of what currently exists in regard to Messianic Jewish apologetics.” Dr. Rudy Gonzalez tells his following that he is convinced that “the arguments raised and defended here cannot be easily dismissed.” Dr. Paige Patterson describes Shapira’s book as “one of the most interesting and learned tomes” that he has ever read. Dr. Rik Wadge endorses Shapira’s work as a “great book and an incredible tool.” Martin Waldman calls the book “a must-read” and “masterful.” Michael Wolf speaks of Shapira’s “encyclopedic knowledge.” And Russel Resnick wrote a foreword to the book in which he claims that Shapira presents his arguments in a way that “honors the people and the traditions of Israel.”
Do Shapira and his book deserve all of these praises? Or did these spiritual leaders fail in their duty toward those who trust them?
I have studied Shapira’s book and I have found that it is full of errors. The number of mistakes and the type of mistakes has led me to believe that these are not typos or even careless mistakes. I am convinced that Shapira is hopelessly incompetent in the field that he claims expertise. I believe that those who endorsed Shapira’s book have acted with incredible recklessness toward the very people who have placed their confidence in them.
I hereby present a selection of errors from Shapira’s book. This selection is far from exhaustive, but I believe that this selection will help you see through the aura of scholarship and sophistication that surrounds Shapira and his book.
Most people living in the United States cannot read Hebrew or Aramaic. Since Shapira’s book is essentially presenting information culled from literature that is written in these two languages most of his readership cannot confirm that his translations are incorrect and inaccurate. I have found, however, that quite a number of his mistakes can be verified even by people who can only read English.
Let us try to examine a few of Shapira’s (mis)translations.
On page 191 of his book Shapira quotes the comments of Metzudat David (a popular Jewish commentator) on Malachi 3:20 (4:2). The commentator elucidates Malachi’s metaphor which attributes “wings” to the sun with a reference to a passage in Joel 2:2. In the book of Joel the dawn is described as “spreading” over the mountains. The Metzudat David explains that the spreading of the light of dawn that Joel speaks of can help us understand the spreading of wings in the verse from Malachi.
Shapira completely missed the point of the Metzudat David and he translated the verse in Joel with the words: “as blackness spread upon the mountains”. Check out these passages in your own Bible (Joel 2:2; Malachi 3:20 (4:2) – see Strong’s concordance #7837).
The commentary of Metzudat David is written in a simple Hebrew. The style of the Metzudat David is not complicated. The comments of the Metzudat David are enjoyed by school-children. Yet Shapira cannot navigate his way through a simple comment that is designed for the child and for the layman.
On page 119 Shapira translates the Aramaic “asei” (from Daniel 7:13), which means “come”, with the English word “you”. Check your own Bible (see Strong’s concordance #858).
Shapira has confused two simple words from two different languages. Is this the “encyclopedic knowledge” that Micahel Wolf was so enthusiastic about?
On page 176 Shapira insists that the Hebrew word “mimenu” (transliterated by Shapira as “M’emnu”) refers to a singular entity and not to a plural one. Shapira declares that the correct translation of this word is “out of HIM” and he takes the JPS to task for translating this word as “out of THEM.”
The fact is that the Hebrew word “mimenu” can be used to refer to both singular and plural entities. This word appears in Psalm 103:12 where every English translation renders “mimenu” as “from US.”
Oddly enough Shapira mistranslates this very same word in this book. Not only does Shapira render this word as reference to a plural entity but he confuses the concepts of “out of” (or “from”) and “to” (or toward”). On pages 107 and 130, Shapira renders this same Hebrew word as “to us” (and not “to me”).
On page 168 Shapira translates the Aramaic words “min kadam” (from the Targum of Isaiah 9:5) as “from the beginning.” Shapira points to this text as a “proof” for the preexistence of the Messiah.
Shapira has mistranslated this common Aramaic phrase. The words “min kadam” appear in the Bible four times (Daniel 2:15, 18; 6:27; Ezra 7:14) and in each of these instances the phrase is translated as “from before” in the sense of location (in front of) and not in the sense of time (prior to).
Shapira demonstrates that he has a difficult time comprehending the English language. Rabbi Shulman wrote a lengthy article in which he explains the Targum to Isaiah 53. Rabbi Shulman translates every word of the Targum and he concludes that although the Targum associated the exaltation of the servant with Messiah but he did not associate the suffering of the servant with Messiah http://www.judaismsanswer.com/targum.htm .
Shapira presents Rabbi Shulman’s article as if it is self-contradictory. Shapira writes; “In addition, earlier in the article Rabbi Shulman writes in direct contradiction to his conclusion when he comments on Isaiah 53:4.”
It is obvious that Shapira completely missed the point of Rabbi Shulman’s articulate and straightforward article.
Sometimes Shapira forgot what he wrote on one page and he goes on to contradict his own assertions on a different page. On page 145 Shapira complains that “Targum Yonatan explains that the name of the child (of Isaiah 9:5) will be “Prince of Peace”, but strangely does not refer to it as a Messianic prophecy.” Then on page 168 Shapira presents the Targum Yonatan on that same verse with these words: “Targum Yonatan to Isaiah 9:5-6 adds an important comment in the Aramaic, translated: “and his name will be called from the beginning.” This is identified as King Messiah, as the word Aviad (everlasting father) was changed in the Targum to be called “The Messiah.”
Which is it? Is the Targum “hiding” the Messianic implication or is he affirming it? It can’t be both. (I have demonstrated in “The School of Matthew” that Shapira has completely misunderstood the Targum’s comments to Isaiah 9:5.)
On page 54 of his book Shapira introduces the Ramban (Nachmanides) to his readers. Shapira tells us that the “Ramban strongly rejected the idea of a divine Messiah.” This does not stop Shapira from quoting the Ramban several times in his book as one who did believe in the concept of a divine Messiah (pages 108, 148, 201, 238).
There are many more examples of Shapira’s incredible incompetence and I have documented more than 80 of them in an article entitled “The School of Matthew” (https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/the-school-of-matthew/ ). In this article I limited myself to those errors that can be easily verified by one who does not read Hebrew or Aramaic.
At this point I would like to address an issue that runs deeper than the matter of clumsy ineptitude presented as if it were skillful proficiency. There is something fundamentally wrong with the entire attitude of this author toward his own people. And there is something deeply flawed in the world-view of those who decorate this book with their superlative endorsements.
I want to draw your attention to three heroes of the Jewish people; Maimonides, Nachmanides and Abarbanel. These three holy men devoted their lives to preserving the testimony of Israel. Each of these men wrote many books in their effort to articulate the core beliefs of the Jewish people. Although these teachers penned books on many subjects they all saw their writings on Israel’s faith as the heart of their work and as the essence of their lives.
Maimonides wrote a lengthy “Guide to the Perplexed” in which he explains how God is removed from any physical properties. Nachmanides distributed written copies of his debate with Pablo Christaini at the risk of his life. (His effort ended with his expulsion from Spain, which was considered the “merciful” punishment for his “crime”.) In this debate Nachmanides articulates the Jewish belief in matters of Divinity and the Messiah. Abarbanel, who post-dated these rabbis by several centuries, wrote a book entitled “Yeshu’ot Meshicho” in which he refutes Christian claims for the concept of a divine Messiah.
Maimonides, Nachmanides and Abarbanel loved the Jewish people with all of their hearts. Yet they did all in their power to encourage the Jewish people to accept death rather than submit to the ideas that Shapira and his teachers are promoting. These men made it abundantly clear that they saw the concept of a divine Messiah as the very antithesis of everything that they stood for.
How can Shapira quote these very same men as people who endorsed his idolatry? Not only does Shapira quote these men, but he actually quotes the very same writings in which they made their theology so abundantly clear (pages 108, 158, 174, 190, 238). How can the scholars of Christendom stand idly by while this travesty is being perpetrated? Not only do these scholars stand by, but they amplify Shapira’s offense by decorating his work with their endorsements. Shapira and his admirers are still not satisfied. They found the need to claim that Shapira’s book “honors” the teachers of Israel.
If this is honor then what is disrespect?
Let us put this in a modern perspective. Imagine an author describing Western Civilization to the people of Communist China. This author represents Thomas Jefferson as a vehement opponent of democracy and provides accompanying quotations from the Declaration of Independence to substantiate his theory. He describes Abraham Lincoln as a zealous advocate of slavery with accompanying “proof” from the Emancipation Proclamation. He portrays Winston Churchill as an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitler and National Socialism with evidence cited from his “We shall never surrender” speech of June 4 1940.
Let us take this parable one step further. Imagine if the Chinese people see this book adorned with recommendations. A President of a University describes the book as the most learned he has ever read. Another scholar recommends the book as an excellent resource. Yet another leader tells the unsuspecting audience that the book that they are about to read honors the heroes of Western Civilization.
This little parable should give you a taste of Shapira’s book together with its superlative endorsements.
At the same time that you are reading these words, Shapira is traveling around the world, sharing his errors with large audiences. These well-meaning men and women who flock to Shapira’s speeches cannot easily evaluate his acumen. They rely on the assessment of the religious leadership in which they have placed their trust.
That religious leadership has failed them in a miserable way.
Don’t take me on my word. I have given you the tools to begin checking things out for yourself. Please research the points that I have raised and come to your own conclusions.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal