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
Thanks Rabbi. 🙂
Ket.84a ‘the Sages have imparted to their enactments the same force as that of Pentateuchal laws.’ ‘Our Rabbis taught: They who occupy themselves with the Bible are but of indifferent merit; with Mishnah, are indeed meritorious, and are rewarded for it; with Gemara — there can be nothing more meritorious; yet run always to the Mishnah more than to the Gemara.’ Baba Metzia 33a.
‘The goal was to fence the people off from the Torah and from all other influences that would have competed with rabbinic interpretation and authority. In the system which was erected, no one else had the right to interpret Torah. Not the am ha’aretz ‘people of the land’, nor the priests, nor the prophets, nor the Sadducees, the Qumran Covenanters, the disciples of Yeshua (Jesus), nor anyone else.
This was the continuing theme of the rabbinic writings. ‘The apologetic function of the midrash is not only to denigrate the translation of Scripture, but to establish the exclusive authority of the Pharisaic tradition as the legitimate recipient and interpretation of divine revelation.’ Only the Rabbis could give the authorized interpretation. Who said so? They themselves. As a fence, the Oral Law is a means to assert and entrench rabbinic hegemony. Without it, nothing needs rabbinic approval. With it, everything does.’
As a result of this you have man made laws being turned into God given laws. In this way we see the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 29.13: ‘Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.’ When the commandments of men are turned into the word of God, you have the basis of a man made religion which will always end up obscuring the truth of God in His Word. The same thing happened in Christianity with the development of the Roman Catholic Church and its emphasis on traditions which are considered to be as much inspired by God as the Bible.
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
All things were created through Him,
and apart from Him not one thing was created
that has been created.
Life was in Him,
and that life was the light of men.
That light shines in the darkness,
yet the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:5)
I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the One who is, who was, and who is coming, the Almighty.” (Rev 1:8)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Rom 3:23)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:23)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom 10:9)
You used quotation marks for the first three paragraphs of your comment. Please provide the source for this quote.
I will not take on this particular argument; I will leave it to Rabbi Blumenthal and others who are serious Talmudic scholars. (If you plan to go up against Rabbi Blumenthal you had better be well prepared.)
Instead, I’d like to focus on a question I asked you on a different thread and which you failed to answer.
Why in your estimation did God see fit to preserve only those Jews who adhered to rabbinical Judaism? You must surely know that throughout the last 2000 years individual Jews have converted to Christianity. They have left no Jewish descendants, having completely assimilated. You must also know that every group that splintered off of traditional rabbinic Judaism met the same fate. So why do you think that is?
Even devout Roman Catholics Paul Johnson and James Carroll (who charted the course of Jewish history in their books A History of the Jews and Constantine’s Sword, respectively) acknowledge this point. They say that rabbinic Judaism saved the Jewish people from extinction.
So are you comfortable with the notion that in a few generations your Jewish line will end as well? That by practicing Christianity rather than traditional Judaism you are thus cutting yourself off from your people?
Instead of answering these questions, you explained that you were filled with the Holy Spirit, which gave you such love, peace, and joy that you want to share it with me and other Jews.
You seem to think that I have not had powerful spiritual and emotional experiences within Judaism that, I daresay, rival and even exceed yours. Why you think I should trade mine in for yours mystifies me. But I will tell you this: that is not the reason I practice Judaism. While God who is full of grace and mercy has promised to reward us for our obedience, that is not the reason we obey. As I keep saying on different threads, we obey God because He said so, whatever the eternal consequences.
One more point, Derek: you have relied on a mistranslation of Isaiah 29:13. Can you read and understand Hebrew? If not, how could you make a decision to abandon Judaism when you cannot even read her scripture in its original language?
Please note this more accurate translation:
“The Lord said: Inasmuch as this people has drawn close, with its mouth and with its lips it has honored Me, yet it has distanced its heart from Me–their fear of Me IS LIKE ROTE LEARNING of human commands.”
The prophet is rebuking the people for lip service. It’s really that simple. It has nothing to do with your interpretation.
Peace and blessings,
You are repeating slander against the Jewish people. Fact is that the Christians would be still reading the Scriptures the way the Pope would have them read it had it not been for the fact that some Catholic priests dared to read the writings of Jewish Scholars and that was the seed for the Reformation.
When Jesus – a man – said no one comes to the Father but through me – that was the establishment of a man made religion if there ever was one
You have confirmed what I have observed on this blog.
David, and what is that, pray tell?
It is done. It is finished. The Law was fulfilled at the cross.
I am in no way cutting my-self off from my people. My Jewish friends and family (accept for few) have been absolutely wonderful. I am still invited over for the holidays and I get to share the good news with them!!
I am so thankful and grateful to be re-born at a time when persecution is a fragment of what the early believers had to endure. And yes they unfortunately were cut-off by the rabbis and the church.
I was born a Jew, I will die a Jew–maybe not to you…maybe not according to your rabbis.–because my Bible tells me so!
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer;
And by night, but I have no rest.
Yet You are holy,
O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
In You our fathers trusted;
They trusted and You delivered them.
To You they cried out and were delivered;
In You they trusted and were not disappointed.
But I am a worm and not a man,
A reproach of men and despised by the people.
All who see me sneer at me;
They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying,
“Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver him;
Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.”
Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb;
You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts.
Upon You I was cast from birth;
You have been my God from my mother’s womb.
Be not far from me, for trouble is near;
For there is none to help.
Many bulls have surrounded me;
Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me.
They open wide their mouth at me,
As a ravening and a roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
And all my bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It is melted within me.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And my tongue cleaves to my jaws;
And You lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs have surrounded me;
A band of evildoers has encompassed me;
They pierced my hands and my feet.
I can count all my bones.
They look, they stare at me;
They divide my garments among them,
And for my clothing they cast lots.
But You, O Lord, be not far off;
O You my help, hasten to my assistance.
Deliver my soul from the sword,
My only life from the power of the dog.
Save me from the lion’s mouth;
From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.
I will tell of Your name to my brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.
You who fear the Lord, praise Him;
All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him,
And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.
For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
Nor has He hidden His face from him;
But when he cried to Him for help, He heard.
From You comes my praise in the great assembly;
I shall pay my vows before those who fear Him.
The afflicted will eat and be satisfied;
Those who seek Him will praise the Lord.
Let your heart live forever!
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord,
And all the families of the nations will worship before You.
For the kingdom is the Lord’s
And He rules over the nations.
All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship,
All those who go down to the dust will bow before Him,
Even he who cannot keep his soul alive.
Posterity will serve Him;
It will be told of the Lord to the coming generation.
They will come and will declare His righteousness
To a people who will be born, that He has performed it. (Psalm 22)
As one raised as a Christian, I don’t see you as a Jew, as you once were (you family & friends just hope you return to them). You have cut yourself off from your Jewishness, your “people”, since your bible tells you that in Christ there no longer is either “Greek” or Jew. What do you mean the “Law was fulfilled”. Laws can be complied with, but in what sense can they be “fulfilled? They aren’t one-time requests or orders like from a store that are fulfilled when you receive your purchased goods. What do you mean “it is finished”, when you haven’t, or It hasn’t, even started? Are you saying the Law (God Eternal Law, God’s Word, Promise) is “dead”? That suggests that your god is finished and dead as well??? Or are you an anarchist or a crook who has no use for the presence of laws & wished they were “finished”, over and done with?
Why are you quoting OT or Psalms that had nothing to do with Jesus? Or do you believe Jesus is “a worm and not a man”? Or is it about you? The Psalm you quoted wasn’t written by Jesus nor is it about God or anyone who would represent God. When you say son do you mean metaphorically “the Jews” or all Israel, as the bible says? Or “only begotten son” as the title given to the very human kings of Israel? Hope you aren’t a-straying after the old pagan gods, which are gaining a revival in this “New Age” (is this the new covenant we have been promised for such a long, long time?). Like the sons of Zeus or the son of god the cruel & corrupt Nebuchanezzar imagined? Are you aware that Nebuchanezzar & Jesus are both given the title of bright “morning star” or “lucifer”? When according to the NT, the “devil” was given all these things & all the world (supposedly by God, since by whom or how else was the devil ” given it”?), why did the “devil” say he would give it to Jesus & he would be back for Jesus and then shortly after the “temptation”, Jesus now says that he was given “all these things”??? If Jesus followed “normative Judaism” (that doesn’t have a devil), why was he preaching the beliefs of the Babylonian pagans, with their demons & their evil devil that is almost as powerful as their (and the Christian) “good god”? Should we follow old time religion of Jerusalem (that Paul so hated) or the religion of “the great whore Babylon”, or the Word or logos (John 1.1) that was a religion of Rome and the Greek Platonists?
Dina, Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, will answer many of your questions. It’s all there. It’s in the Bible…not amongst men or man’s interpretation of scripture. Don’t let any man of this earth intercede between God and you. He’s for all people…the illiterate, the brilliant, rich men and poor. NO specialized knowledge required from man or of men to understand His Truth. And that’s why so many in history have tried to shield it from us….to have authority over us. Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. (Matt 7-13)
My questions are for you, so if you see that Paul has satisfactorily answered them, I am interested to hear what YOU think he says. But only in direct answer to my questions.
Which you keep dodging. Are you brave enough to answer?
You were born a Jew and you will die a Jew. But will your children? Your grandchildren? Your great-grandchildren? Does the thought that in a few generations Derek will have no identifiably Jewish descendants not trouble you at all? That’s what I mean by cutting yourself off.
I asked you why you think it is that God chose to preserve through fire and water only those Jews who adhered to rabbinic Judaism.
Can you answer these questions directly? Do you dare?
You definitely have a point, Yisroel Blumenthal. It’s not healthy to see myopic endorsements of a careless work or hasty and clumsy replies to calibrated criticism. As to the question of where the problem of idolatry lies, as you know, we differ.
I was listening to an interview with Shapira, and the interviewer asked the following question:
“Tzahi, Yitzchak, wonderful to have you on the air. I want to ask you a really honest question, alright? In the messianic Jewish movement, a messianic congregational leader is normally called “Rabbi”, not in Israel but in the States and other countries, and many times the congregations have mainly maybe a lot of gentiles because of the location of the city, maybe the messianic Jewish leader is not really that well educated. You have the title “Rabbi, Messianic Jewish Rabbi”. What would you say your credentials are, because I’m looking at your book that I wrote an endorsement for, I’m looking at the degree that you get into rabbinic sources right up to this day. Would you say that you would be qualified to be a rabbi in other Jewish settings as well? Have you done that amount of study, sir?”
I was totally flummoxed at the absurdity of the question. To borrow your analogy of visiting a doctor: I can hardly imagine going into a friend’s house, and asking him to treat any sort of physical ailment I have after giving him an interview like that. “Are you sure you read enough medical journals?” “Oh sure, it shouldn’t be a problem.” I go to someone who’s been through med school, who has been taught, trained, and tested. I don’t just take their word for it!
The silliness! It’s outrageous. He calls this an honest question. I cannot believe this. Let Shapira be tested by the Orthodox community. Let them see if he’s fit to teach there. He cannot just declare himself fit to be a rabbi in any setting to any community, because in his own opinion he’s studied enough. The question is ludicrous. It’s certainly not honest.
Thank you for your dedication to the truth,
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Thank you for your thoughtful evaluation of what Shapiro wrote in his book, and not taking the same track as many do..that of a personal attack on the man, not what he says or writes. You have brought to light many errors in a way even I can check out. You are an honorable man. Again, thank you!
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