Response to Line of Fire 15
In the October 31 2013 edition of his radio show, Dr. Brown presents one of his old arguments against Judaism. Dr. Brown points to the passage in Exodus 23:2 that charges the courts not to follow a majority to pervert justice. He then takes the Talmud and Maimonides to task for using this verse to support the principle of following a majority. Dr. Brown argues that if Maimonides was able to take a verse out of God’s Bible to establish a principle that directly contradicts that very same verse, then we cannot accept Maimonides as any spiritual authority. Dr. Brown goes on to explain to his audience that the Jewish rejection of Jesus is rooted in the Talmudic misconstruction of this verse.
I have communicated extensively with Dr. Brown over this very verse. As a postscript to this article I will attach a letter that I sent to Dr. Brown back in the spring of 2003. That letter was the final communication that we had on this subject after an extensive debate. Since then Dr. Brown has not responded to my arguments on this subject. I have also publicized some of my arguments relating to this verse, both in Supplement to Contra Brown https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/supplement-to-contra-brown/ (V 33) as well as in Response to Line of Fire 4 https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/response-to-the-line-of-fire-4/ . So it is disappointing to see Dr. Brown still using his original arguments without acknowledging that he has been made aware of a Jewish response to these arguments.
Perhaps Dr. Brown believes that the Jewish responses are so irrelevant that there is no need to mention them. It is his right to maintain this belief but it is the audience’s right to know what those responses are and make the decision themselves. Are the responses so ridiculously irrelevant so as not to be worthy of mention?
Decide for yourself; but let your decision be educated.
What is this all about?
Exodus 23:2 reads as follows: “Do not follow a majority to do evil; do not speak in a cause to incline after a majority to pervert [justice].”
The basic message of the verse is that one should not follow a majority to pervert justice. The Talmud and Maimonides both point to this verse as evidence to the legal concept of having the court’s verdict follow the decision of the majority of judges.
Dr. Brown cries out in righteous indignation that the entire point of the verse is NOT to follow the majority. How then did these rabbis conclude that this very same verse teaches that we should follow the majority? Dr. Brown claims that the rabbis clearly trampled on the plain meaning of the verse and as such should not be considered authoritative teachers of God’s Law.
Dr. Brown takes his accusation one step further. Dr. Brown maintains that the reason that the Jewish people do not accept Jesus is because the majority of rabbis did not accept him. It is this “misinterpretation” of Scripture that is at the root Israel’s rejection of Jesus according to Dr. Brown.
The truth is that the oldest Jewish teachings on this verse; teachings that predate the advent of Christianity, head off Dr. Brown’s objection. The Targum Yonatan interprets the closing phrase of this verse as an admonition to one who is involved in judging or advising a legal procedure. The verse is telling this person to speak his mind and not use the legal regulation which would have a verdict follow the majority as an excuse to remain silent. In other words; imagine if there are 23 judges discussing an accusation against a person for having murdered his neighbor. The majority of the judges are pressing for a guilty verdict. At some point in the discussion judge #21 feels that the man is innocent. He may say to himself; listen, the verdict is going to follow the majority in any case so why should I voice my opinion? Let me speak as does the majority so as not to annoy my fellow judges. In this situation the Scripture is warning this judge; speak your mind! Do not speak about this case to slide after the majority where you see their opinion as a perversion of justice.
This is the oldest Jewish interpretation of the verse. This interpretation accords with the grammatical and contextual construction of the verse. What emerges from this interpretation is that the Scripture assumed as axiomatic that the final verdict will follow the decision of the majority of judges. The verse is warning the individual judge not to use this legal axiom as an excuse to participate in what he sees as a perversion of justice. But it is clear that the Scripture accepted the system of rendering the final verdict after the majority of judges.
Thus Dr. Brown’s attack on Maimonides and the Talmud is completely unfounded. Maimonides recognized that the primary message of the verse is that we not follow a majority or a multitude to pervert justice (Laws of Sanhedrin 10:1). But he also recognized that the verse implies in a clear way that the general court procedure is to have the verdict follow the decision of the majority of judges.
Dr. Brown misrepresents the Jewish position on another count as well. Dr. Brown tells his audience that the Jewish rejection of Jesus is rooted in the Talmudic teaching on following the majority. According to Dr. Brown, the reason individual Jews reject Jesus is because the majority of leaders rejected him.
This accusation is false. The entire principle of following the majority only applies in the limited setting of a legal discussion. When a group of qualified judges debate a matter of Torah Law or an application of Torah Law then we have the final verdict follow the majority. But this does not apply to basic matters of faith. God Himself taught us who to worship (Deuteronomy 4:35). No one, not even a majority of judges has the right or authority to overturn God’s explicit teaching. Even if the majority of Jews would fall into idolatry, the individual Jew is still enjoined to remain loyal to God. Our rejection of Jesus has nothing to do with “following a majority”. Our rejection of Jesus is rooted in our obedience to God’s direct command.
Finally, Dr. Brown’s assertion that we should reject Maimonides as an authentic teacher because his teaching circumvents the Law of Moses is somewhat amusing. On the one hand we have Maimonides who wrote 14 scholarly volumes explaining and elucidating the Law of Moses. On the other hand we have Dr. Brown who doesn’t observe the Law of Moses himself. And we are yet supposed to believe that it is Maimonides who is “circumventing the Law”?
The following message was sent to Dr. Brown in the spring of 2003.
I appreciate your patience in trying to get me to “see the light”, I can reciprocate only by sharing the light that I perceive.
1) the words “follow the majority” have several connotations. One is to follow a crowd because it is socially comfortable to follow a crowd. Two is to speak as the majority speaks even if one’s conscience tells him that the majority is wrong. The breath of God in our nostrils tells us that these two are wrong and evil – and the rabbis agreed wholeheartedly – quoting this very verse in Exodus for support. The third connotation of the words “follow the majority” is that in a situation of a hung jury, the court ruling should be according to the opinion of the majority of the judges. This is what the rabbis meant when they said to follow the majority – this and no more. To imply that the rabbis meant that the crowd be followed is incorrect.
2) a fair and honest reading of the Mishna in Sanhedrin is only possible if one has a familiarity with the way the Rabbis use scripture. To take the Mishna in Sanhedrin (or any other Rabbinic quotation of scripture) and present it as is – is wrenching things out of context.
3) even if the Rabbis misunderstood the verse – it has nothing to do with a Christian believing in the alleged messiahship of Jesus and then misusing a verse in the Jewish scriptures to fool ignorant people into believing in Jesus. The people the Rabbis were speaking to accepted the authority of the Rabbis before the Rabbis started speaking – the Rabbis do not quote this verse to get anyone to change their opinion about something – at worst they quoted it to show where they believed that a concept that they knew to be true was hinted at in scripture – just as they tried to show how the word “ve’shochat” serves as some hint to the laws of Shechita which were unanimously accepted and not open to question to the people that they were addressing. (Chulin 28a) or where they (mis)quote the proverbial “al Taseig gevul Ol(i)m” to serve as a hint to laws which are obviously included in doing what is straight in the eyes of God (Pe’ah chapter 5 and again in 7) – incidentally, the proverbial use of “acharei rabim lehatot” does not necessitate the confusion of lehatot and lintot. The way I understand it (and please correct me if I have erred) is that lintot means to lean, to slide, or to stray, in a passive sense – this is happening to me (or to the person or object) under discussion. An English parallel would be “to slide off the path” in the sense of the sliding being something that happened to the person. The word lehatot means to turn or bend something in an active sense – I (or the person under discussion) is doing it to someone or something else (perhaps even to oneself, but actively so). An English parallel would be “to turn the donkey back onto the road”. Indeed the general scriptural usage of “lehatot” especially in a context of court cases and judgment is in the sense of bending the judgment or the ruling (verdict) from the path of true justice – because the path of true justice is where the ruling is assumed to belong. But technically it can mean to actively bend the ruling from confusion or nonconcurrence towards a specific and decisive verdict. In other words Rabbi Saadiah and Rambam did not read the proverb “acharei rabim lehatot” as speaking to the individual judge and telling him to follow the majority (to stray or slide after the majority). But rather, they read the proverb as speaking to the court as a whole and telling them to bend the verdict (or bend the mishpat from a position of indecision) after the majority. This is how I see that Onkelos put the proverb into the verse – he wrote “basar sagi’ei ashleim dina” (or “sh’lom dina”) meaning to render a final and decisive verdict after the many. He did not write “azal basar sagi’ei” which would be speaking to the individual judge (or to the minority of judges) and telling him to follow, or to slide after, the majority.
4) however you explain the verse, it does not mean the opposite of what the rabbis said, because the rabbis never believed in following the majority to pervert justice – they only believed in following the majority in situations where qualified judges had a scholarly debate and could not come to a unanimous decision.
5) the Rabbis fully agreed to what you consider the plain meaning of the verse – and believed that God wants us to follow it – (as the Rambam quotes tannaitic sources in chapter 10 of Sanhedrin – who quote this very verse) they just believed that there is another layer of meaning in the verse which is not contradicted by the plain meaning of the verse. Do you realize that in order to bring across the plain meaning of the verse – less words would have sufficed? The end of the verse could have read “lo ta’ane al riv lehatot (mishpat)” and the meaning would be the same – “don’t speak up about an argument to pervert justice” – the fact that there are extra words in the verse which describe the motivation that one might have to pervert justice (acharei rabim), or the setting in which the perversion of justice may be taking place, is entirely unnecessary – why would I think that in any particular setting, or that for any given motivation, a perversion of justice would be OK? (Alternately, the verse could have read “lo ta’ane al riv lintot (min hamishpat)” – do not speak up about an argument to stray (away from justice). The words “acharei rabim lehatot” are totally superfluous, as are the words “lo tihyeh acharei rabim lera’ot”. Nothing is added to the plain meaning of the verse by adding the first and last phrases of the verse. The middle phrase of the verse contains the complete message in and of itself.)
6) the verse clearly supports the concept of following a majority – how else do you understand the words “lo tih’yeh acharei rabim lera’ot”? However you translate “lera’ot”, the implication is that if it is not lera’ot – you should be after the rabim.
7) two of the oldest commentaries we have on this verse – namely the Targum Yonatan and the Targum Yerushalmi (all of the versions that I could track down) – explain the verse according to its simple meaning and at the same time give the implication that in a normal situation (not a situation where there is a question of perverting justice) the procedure would be to follow the majority – as I presented from the Malbim in my previous letter.
In light of all of the above I cannot honestly concur with the conclusion you have arrived at – namely that the authors of the Mishna did not know Hebrew or that the Rambam could not read Hebrew – incidentally, there is quite a bit of evidence that these two (the authors of the Mishna and the Rambam) were quite proficient in Hebrew.
To explain the mishna in Sanhedrin according to the way I understand the Rambam would be as follows; after the Torah already went out of its way to imply that we ought to follow a majority (by telling us that for evil we ought not to follow a majority – implying that in a normal situation the majority is to be followed) – then why did the Torah have to waste words to imply the same thing at the end of the verse (by telling us not to stray after a majority to pervert justice – implying that if no perversion of justice is involved then we should follow a majority). For this question the Mishna gives an answer according to the system of drasha that there are different rules of bending the decision after a majority for a verdict of death than there are for any other verdict.
To illustrate, I will try to set down the various scenarios and an analysis of each one;
A) (I don’t think that you subscribe to this one – I just want to give the full range of scenarios.) The rabbis were corrupt and dishonest. They had no compunctions about consciously presenting distorted arguments to further what their own corrupted minds saw as truth, or idealistic, or simply to serve their own best interests. When the question arose as to how to decide arguments in matters of law, they realized that there was a dilemma here, because up until that point there was no accepted method of dealing with this rare and unusual situation. They applied their corrupt minds and found the verse “acahari rabim lehatot” – and decided that it meant to follow the majority (wether they decided this knowing full well that this is not the meaning of the verse or if they never discovered the true meaning of the verse because they did not care to know it – is not relevant). Using all of the political, military and social power at their means they quickly forced this ruling on every court in the land and silenced every voice of opposition.
Analysis; If I were to accept that such a scenario could have occurred, I would not accept scripture. I would still accept the oneness of God as revealed at Sinai, because that is something that did not go through the rabbis, it went through the body of the nation, I would perhaps accept some of the basic points of the law – those points that the nation interacted with on a regular basis – but any other issue that the Rabbis could have corrupted – such as the text of scripture, or any matter in which a decision of religious leadership would be required – such as the acceptance of a book like Esther – no way.
I cannot accept such a scenario for a few reasons – One is that I do not believe that God would allow His message to be so corrupted, two is that I know the rabbis better than that, and finally – I know the Jews better than that.
B) the rabbis were great people, they were just a little stupid – not totally stupid, in fact they may have been great physicists, artists, musicians, sportsmen, whatever – it is just that they didn’t know Hebrew so well. Still, they were the best that the Jews could come up with in that generation. The question comes up – how do we issue a verdict in that rare and unusual situation where the Rabbis cannot agree with each other? Not having any tradition to rely on (being that this situation is so unusual and rare), they applied their happy little minds as best as they honestly could to reading scripture. They came up with the verse “acharei rabim lehatot” and they all understood it to mean “follow the majority”. So that was their unanimous decision concerning this issue and they all live happily ever after (except for Rabbi Eliezer – who incidentally never disagreed with Rabbi Yehoshua’s novel interpretation of acharei rabim lehatot, with all of his miraculous powers he never saw the true meaning of the verse – I guess – lo bashamayim he).
Analysis; if this were the situation, I would say that the decision was valid for that generation. Being that God gave the Torah as a book of instructions for His human children, if they try their honest best to read it – they open their minds to all arguments – and just don’t get it, then that is how God wanted them to read it. If God didn’t want them to read it that way He should have written in a way that their dense minds can see it – or He should have given them better minds. A valid question would be, why should we today not overturn their erroneous decision? See below for the answer.
C) the same stupid rabbis, again not the bad type, but the jolly sort of people that never seem to get things straight. This time though they did have a clear-cut tradition of how to deal with situations of courts that could not come to a unanimous decision. Being that this would be a fairly common occurrence, even they (in their blissful stupidity) had it down pat – they followed the majority without thinking twice about it. For these people you see, the fact that their fathers did it, along with the understanding (rightly or wrongly) that this was a continuous practice from the days of Moses (or at least from Ezra), and that they had no knowledge of any claim that this was not the right way to do things – this was enough authority for them to go by and not to question. One rainy day when they got bored of playing bingo, they decided to see if they can find a scriptural support for this practice of theirs. They searched the scriptures as diligently as their simple minds allowed them, and they found the verse “acharei rabim lehatot”. Not knowing any better, they assumed it to mean “follow the majority” so they happily coined the proverb “acharei rabim lehatot” never realizing that this was not the direct intention of the verse. Perhaps some of them did suspect that this was not the direct intention of the verse, but being that this scriptural search was not very important to them – this practice was going to continue with or without scriptural support – so they didn’t make a fuss about it, they wanted to get back to the bingo anyway.
Analysis; this is certainly a more likely scenario then the previous ones – there is no record of any question about, or deviance from, the widespread practice of deciding matters by a vote of the qualified members of the court – so it makes sense that the rabbis believed that they had an authoritative tradition about the matter. If this were to be the case then the scriptural misquote is not an issue. The issue would be the authority of tradition, but the rabbi’s misunderstanding of scripture is not relevant – even if they would have understood the verse correctly – they would still go on with their tradition without any scriptural support. (Again, the plain meaning of the verse does not contradict the procedure of having the court’s decision based on a majority vote.)
D) this time around they got it right. They understood the simple meaning of the verse – either because they were proficient enough in Hebrew, or because they read the Targum Yerushalmi or Yonatan. They also saw the implication that when the situation is not lera’ot , then a majority is to be followed. Furthermore, they have a clear-cut unanimous tradition about the procedure of deciding court cases – a one judge majority is necessary for most cases, and a two judge majority is necessary for cases in which the death penalty is being considered. Being that the Rabbis found it important to coin phrases from scripture to serve as handles for various laws – they chose this verse to serve as the framework for discussion about these laws – recognizing full well that the plain meaning of the verse is not directly instructing anyone to follow a majority. A parallel would be when the Rabbis quote the verse “ve’yorash osah” (Bamidbar 27:11) as a handle for the law of a husband inheriting his dead wife, when the verse clearly talks of a man inheriting an inheritance (which is female in Hebrew) (see bava basra 111).
Analysis; this is the Ibn Ezra’s version
E) again the Rabbis got it right – they read the verse correctly – even quoting it as a support for the obvious law of a judge not sliding after a majority against what he thinks to be the truth, and also for the law of a judge not sliding after people greater than himself against what he thinks to be the truth (both the majority and the great ones are possible connotations of “rabim”), still, they realized that there are extra words in the verse. If all God wanted to say with this verse was not to stray after a majority against what you think to be true, then all it had to say was “lo ta’aneh al riv lintot” (or “lehatot”) – the rest of the verse is superfluous. So they understood that God is hinting at additional information – the beginning of the verse was put there to give the message that when the situation is not lera’ot then the majority ought to be followed, and the end of the verse implies that when it is not a situation of lintot (or lehatot) then the majority ought to be followed, so on the level of implication, we also find a repetition. For this the rabbis said that God meant to imply two different shades of following a majority – one for capital crimes and one for other judgments.
Analysis; this seems to be the Rambam’s understanding.
Aside from scenario A), there is nothing “grave” about this issue. I think you would concur with me that scenario A) is quite unlikely.
There is more to talk about here – for example the difference in the way the Malbim sees the connotation or implication in the verse (the verse seems to imply that if you want to successfully pervert justice the way to do it is by following the majority – because that is the assumed court procedure) and the way the Ibn Ezra sees the connotation (that if it is not lera’ot or lehatot then the majority may be followed). Furthermore there is the difference in connotation between “lo tihyeh” and “lintot” (the first could be read as a commandment not to render a decision based on a majority of the court, while the second cannot be read that way). But I think this will suffice for now.
Lately I’ve been busy with preparations for Pesach, so the writing is going slower. I don’t see how we’ll be able to learn by phone these two weeks – I am looking forward to continuing after Pesach.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Your Pharisee friend
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal
Right… an argument like that one assumes that the rabbis were ‘proof-texting’, with no appreciation for what their assumptions, conventions, and intentions were in connecting back to the scriptures like this.
…As you said in point 2), and here- “Being that the Rabbis found it important to coin phrases from scripture to serve as handles for various laws – they chose this verse to serve as the framework for discussion about these laws – recognizing full well that the plain meaning of the verse is not directly instructing anyone to follow a majority. A parallel would be when the Rabbis quote the verse “ve’yorash osah” (Bamidbar 27:11) as a handle for the law of a husband inheriting his dead wife, when the verse clearly talks of a man inheriting an inheritance (which is female in Hebrew) (see bava basra 111).”
I also like these thoughts from your letter:
“4) however you explain the verse, it does not mean the opposite of what the rabbis said, because the rabbis never believed in following the majority to pervert justice – they only believed in following the majority in situations where qualified judges had a scholarly debate and could not come to a unanimous decision.”
“7) two of the oldest commentaries we have on this verse – namely the Targum Yonatan and the Targum Yerushalmi (all of the versions that I could track down) – explain the verse according to its simple meaning and at the same time give the implication that in a normal situation (not a situation where there is a question of perverting justice) the procedure would be to follow the majority – as I presented from the Malbim in my previous letter.”
PS Rabbi Yisroel, if there is both a plain meaning and a hooked-on tradition to a verse, could they ever be mixed up?
I read the idea that the rabbis believed there was no non-written Torah law that wasn’t hinted at in the written Torah. I guess that means that everyone knew that scriptures quoted were often as hints so it’s not like a confusing claim was made. Also, is it right to say they looked for hints in order to see the deeper connections between certain laws, or even to show that (because there’s a hint) an oral law is from Sinai?
We concur this is the best post yet. This goes to the heart of ‘missionaries’ (all sides). Dr. Brown was “saved” from his youthful demon possessions from ‘counter missionaries’ to judiasm (in the form of charismatic/pentecostal ‘nicolaitan/catholic reformers’) and not thru own jewishness, or modern day ‘rabbi’ (new york community). Therefore, his ‘followings’ of this ‘majority’ (by which he was “born again” into “real” judiasm, however which is not lined up as “real” unto that which does not ‘pervert justice’, biblically) explains somewhat why no direct ‘dialogue’ here, as of yet. However, we must continue showing why ‘nicolaitanism’ was/still is, an enemy of genuine ‘salvation’ for both jew and gentile alike. We do not question the ‘validity’ of his ‘miracle’, or ‘new birth’, but we question it’s continuing ‘perversion of justice’ unto prophesied last days ‘harlotry’ to the true YHWH in these ‘relationships’ claimed. While canadian missionaries of jews for judiasm readily admit jesus of nazareth could have been messiah ben david + ben joseph in timing at conclusion of 4,000 yrs. since adam’s expulsion, yet was ‘neither’ (according to them due to this tiny planet’s condition still, now that he has come and gone from this tiny world of billions of souls also having come and gone from here) we do want to consider the possiblity of a coming to this tiny sphere the suffering servant ben joseph with no intent whatsoever of bringing ‘peace’ such as the ‘angels’ caused those ‘sheep herders’ to leave their flocks by night and attend what ‘they said’ was the announcement of a ”peace” on earth, even “good will” toward mankind (beginning in this then taxing area of rome called for in history at that particular time in the land of judea).
During the ‘missionary work’ of jesus of nazareth (to his ‘own’), therefore judean jews, especially of those not allowed access to jerusalem and in need of priestly, official temple connected ‘physicians’, then mainly living the areas surrounding the lake fed by mt. hermon’s (aka: mt. zion, both of jews, of gentiles, all pagans, of that day) it’s year around snows, main ‘springs’, flowing from within this mt., south, and directly from those known ‘gates of hades’ (aka: the rock ‘hewn from this Mt. via earthqake’ and ‘cut away’ from the main ‘rock’ of mt. ZION, known to ‘all’ of that day as ‘most famous’ of all past ‘naval’ connection from and unto ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’, even from all ‘mythologies past’, for this entire tiny globe – the ‘message’ made clear (against the angelic messages of ‘peace on earth’ that he came NOT to bring ‘peace’ but to be a ‘dividing ‘sword’ to all peoples, nations and tongues, beginning at jerusalem, unto judea, unto samaria, unto the ‘uttermost parts’ of this tiny ‘footstool’ of YHWM). This is hardly the ‘message’ of a messiah ben david for this tiny globe (either now, or at any time future). He made plain this tiny footstool will be destroyed suddenly ‘by real fire’ (only his father knowing of the exact timing in response to his disciples requesting of ‘his parousia’ understood to be leading up to this sudden end for all life, and the sudden departure of all living soul life from their temporal ‘tents’ of physical flesh and blood’ human tabernacles received from first adam and first adam’s ‘eve’ and mother of all ‘natural living soul hidden bodies’ containing further hidden ‘spiritual human inner-man body’ which is that of ‘eternal’ and in need of a ‘change’ before entering into the ‘kingdom OF HEAVEN’). This is what we have to ‘build upon’ from ‘sola scriptura’ which is to lead us away from any, ALL ‘journies’ while here unto and under angelic led ‘perversions of justice’ while yet still here in our ‘intial only’ INTRO to ‘eternal existence’ somewhere in YHWH’s ever expanding, never ending MATERIAL Universe for housings of eternal, never ending ‘free-will’ creations past, present, future and beyond promised sudden ‘change’ coming to this tiny global speck called YHWH’s footstool, in which a next life IN RESURRECTION FORM AWAITS ALL (from adam’s ‘eve’ unto FAR FROM HERE, on and of ‘different dust’, therefore ‘dust to dust’ again temporal ‘tents’, still in ‘sinful flesh’, same ‘dna’ from adam’s ‘eve’ GOSPEL aka: good news). The ‘message of resurrection’ was always the ‘gospel’ OF the jew, to the jew first, and then all the other nations of this tiny ‘footstool’ of YHWH.
Hi Rabbi Blumenthal.
Brown disappoints again. One cannot help wondering if he is so invested in his beliefs that he will only examine the evidence that supports his conclusions–and don’t bother confusing him with the facts.
I enjoyed your little scenarios.
Michael Brown confuses me! I sometimes sense a sincerity in his expressions of humility and passion, and I have not heard of any abuse of the staff in his ministries (as sometimes does happen when leaders’ narcissism is, conveniently, disguised in ‘Christian humility’. I’m not close to his workplaces, though, so couldn’t say much). In fact, I have seen a bit of the opposite: he very much allows for differing theological opinions among his staff and those he talks with online, as long as they do not go against the ideas of Jesus’ divinity, salvation through grace, and the importance of holiness. Dr. Brown’s obsessions with those things are, I think, not about people agreeing with him as they are about people honouring what he thinks truly matters to God.
Nonetheless, I have seen him ignore really good points countless times. Sometimes I think it’s because he focuses in on the small details that someone addresses and is not motivated to here the ‘big picture’ they are trying to present, which is foreign to him. Fair enough, a shame, but understandable. (This is what I think happens with Contra Brown etc., which is why I don’t push for him to respond to it; I don’t think that will go anywhere because of the huge amount of small detail and contextual issues involved.)
Sometimes, though, it is in situations where clear, heavy issues are put to him and he refuses to entertain as serious anything that rejects his concepts about J and ‘the gospel’. What kind of arrogance and ignorance is that? Does he really think his scholarship and perspectives are impossible to add anything to? Perhaps there’s some of that. Or perhaps, like you say Dina, he is just so invested that it would hurt too much to change. For some reason I think that is less than half-true, because beyond the public image he is a thoughtful person, as is evident from his discourses on moral and theological issues that matter to him individually. Or perhaps he has just had a big experience of God in Christianity and for reasons unbeknownst to us, he simply does not recognise the same experience in the Orthodox Jewish world… so he holds onto what he has spent much time saying he things is truly important to God.
I love the humility in the Kuzari’s dream, nonetheless: “Your intentions are desirable, but your deeds are not desirable.” May we all be open to hearing that from God at any time it is true! Harder done than said 🙂
That’s a long video; I hope to get to it soon as it looks interesting. As for Michael Brown, what he thinks or feels is irrelevant to me. Just seems obvious that such an influential missionary who ignores good arguments is doing that because he can’t refute them.
I don’t Brown; he could be the nicest guy on the planet, but that just doesn’t interest me. If he won’t answer Rabbi Blumenthal, I can draw my own conclusions.
I think you will appreciate this video interaction I had with Dr. Brown. I made a little running commentary of the interaction and pointed out his theological inconsistencies and rabbinic distortions.
Oops, sorry Jason, I thought it was Annelise posting the video. Looks really interesting. I hope you don’t mind if I listen and comment.
Jason, I’ve listened to the first 23 minutes and I hope to listen to the rest tomorrow or Monday. It’s riveting! And brilliant! Thank you so much for posting this. I’ve enjoyed it hugely so far.
Jason, this was a lot of fun to listen to. It must have been frustrating, though, to be interrupted all the time and unable to finish your thoughts. Your analysis is spot-on. Brown is slippery, very slippery indeed. I see why no Orthodox rabbi wants to debate him–and I also take your point (which I as well have made previously elsewhere) about why he won’t respond to any challenges in writing.
I’ve seen about half-an-hour so far, and plan to see the rest later tonight. Thank you for sharing.
Jason: both you and dr.brown both seem to see ‘the new covenant’ as upon ‘this earth’ and not a ‘planned’ beforehand ‘revealing’ of previously planned out expansion of the ‘old’ to far beyond this tiny globe only, and in fact, unto a jerusalem ‘above’ (while at same time the ‘blood’ which both you and dr. brown agree, when shed, pollutes the ground down here, even as speaking in greater volume and territory than that of the shed blood of righteous abel). THEREFORE THE DIALOGUE WITH BROWN BRINGS ALL WHO LISTEN TO IT, EVENTUALLY TO THE REAL BIBLICAL ISSUES, that of an israel ‘forever’ and the ‘suffering’ messiah needed to come and his death by shedding of his blood on this tiny planetary footstool of YHWH to fully ‘eternally curse’ it, even unto a ending ‘by real fire’ and a ‘evacuation’ of all souls, both jews and gentiles into a messianic age of a final thousand years of ‘first’ resurrection FAR from this NOW FULLY CURSED earthly ‘footstool’, in which FAR FROM HERE there will certainly be a future ‘re-gathering’ from ‘one end of HEAVEN’ to the other end, within, at the very least, our own single galaxy, which is now estimated having already now being observed it’s potential of in existence already now having approximately 8.8 billion other planetary earths, potential also footstools, for YHWH, facts being, we are living as eternal beings planned for eternal occupation within an eternal Universe of billions of ‘galaxies’ already in existence NOW, which brings the scriptures into proper context for any and all discussions AS SHOWN HERE, GREATLY APPRECIATED AS POSTED BY THE COMMENTATOR HERE, CAREFUL STUDENT, OBVIOUSLY INTERESTED IN FUTURE DEBATE PUBLICALLY [shown ‘example’ between michael (brown) and jason (incognito?) much appreciated here]
If all three persons of the Trinity were one and the same God, we would expect them to have the same “WILL” the same KNOWLEDGE, the same STATUS, POWER and AUTHORITY…. So does Scripture bear this out?
THE SAME WILL?
At Matthew 26:39 Jesus prayed to his Father “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless NOT AS I WILL , but as thou wilt.” (See Matthew 26:39,42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; John 5:30.
At John 6:38: Jesus said: “for I have come down from heaven, NOT TO DO MY OWN WILL ,BUT THE WILL OF HIM WHO SENT ME.”
THE SAME KNOWLEDGE?
John 8:28 “Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do NOTHING of myself; but as my Father hath TAUGHT me, I speak these things.” (See also John 12:49-50 ESV) And compare Deuteronomy 18:15,18) Verse 18 tells us: “ I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will PUT MY WORDS IN HIS MOUTH ; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall COMMAND him.
Then go to Acts 3:22.…Then to John 12:49 where Jesus confirms the words in Deut.18 above (“he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.”) saying “For I have NOT SPOKEN ON MY OWN AUTHORITY but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment– WHAT TO SAY AND WHAT TO SPEAK.”
Matthew 24:36 ASV “But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, NEITHER THE SON, but the Father only.” See also Mark 13:32.
Had Jesus been the equal Son- part of a Godhead, he would have known what the Father knows. But Jesus did not know, for he was not equal to God.
(Incidentally, the KJV omit the words “NEITHER THE SON”, most other translations include it)
(Jesus even mentions that the angels do not know, but never mentions the supposed third person of the Trinity…the holy spirit, who, if he/it was also God would be as omniscient and knowledgeable as the Father and therefore would know what the Father knows. So we are left with just 1/3rd of the Godhead knowing, and the other 2/3rds not knowing)
Then we have Matthew 27:46: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me“? (You will note from those words that Jesus addresses his Father Jehovah/Yahweh as his God. If indeed Jesus was God, how could he have forsaken himself?)
Jesus apostles and early Christians did not believe that he was God according to the following verses:
Romans 15:6 ; 1Corinthians 8:6; 2Corinthians 11:31; Ephesians 1:3,17; Peter 1:3
It is more than just odd that we “see” God (the Father only, Jehovah), we see Christ (the Son only, Jesus) with God, sent from God praying to God, etc., but we never see the neuter “person” of the nameless holy spirit in heaven with God or with the Son!
This could not be if the trinity doctrine were true. The inspired Bible writers simply could not so completely ignore as they have in the Holy Scriptures a person who is God!
The Jews, in the time of the Apostles, opposed Christianity with the utmost bitterness and passion. They sought on every side for objections to it. There was much in its character to which the believing Jews could hardly be reconciled. The Epistles are full of statements, explanations, and controversy, relating to questions having their origin in Jewish prejudices and passions. With regard however to this doctrine [the Trinity], which if it had ever been taught, the believing Jews must have received with the utmost difficulty, and to which the unbelieving Jews would have manifested the most determined opposition, – with regard to this doctrine, there is not trace of any controversy. But, if it had ever been taught, it must have been the main point of attack and defence between those who assailed, and those who supported Christianity.
Paul is not followed carefully, nor are the other New Testament Writers BY EITHER Dr. Brown nor his both Messianic and non-Messianic critics EVEN AS THOSE ‘myriads’ of Jewish “believers” of whom Paul was a ‘leader’ and ‘scholar’ BEFORE Damascus Rd. experience with the Angel (of the Lord). Peter became finally convinced also “we know longer KNOW him (Jesus) any longer AFTER those days of his flesh”, and therefore “the baptism which NOW saves us” (1st Peter) is that of this same jesus IS NOT Lord over the entire CREATION and sits (stands ONLY when judgment is given him by the ONE sitting at the seat of “all power” above him) ‘THEREAFTER’, ‘HEREAFTER’ and even ‘forevermore’ OVER AN EVER EXPANDING MATERIAL NEVER ENDING ENTIRE Universe (of which this tiny Speck and beginning of an Israel forever is only one of estimated now 8.8 billion potential larger Earthlike spheres JUST IN THIS OUR OWN GALAXY ALONE). The N.T. Writers are writing about not only the resurrection BUT THE RISING FROM THE RESURRECTION even of this same jesus TO THAT ONE SEAT OF LORDSHIP next to HIS FATHER’S SEAT ABOVE HIM “OF ALL POWER” OVER THE ENTIRE ever expanding NEVER ENDING experiment of YHWH in ‘eternal FREE-WILL’ (never to be repented of by either YHWH outside time/space, nor the GODHEAD within time/space FOREVERMORE). THERE ‘will be CERTAINLY in an Israel forever “above” NEVER ENDING, even as earths come and go as HIS ‘FOOTSTOOLS’, with obedience requirements unto the law leading to repentence (THE ONLY WAY UNTO FORGIVENESS by YHWH for sins even beyond a temporary covering over of them as in ‘atonement’, but leading up to a future ‘eternal brand new spiritual body’ like the one jesus RECEIVED in his PERFECTION from those days of his flesh, in which ‘eternal free-will’ takes on this BRAND NEW form, in which Messiah of Israel has already become the ‘firstborn’ over all CREATION and from THERE, will received HEAVENLY a promised ‘BRIDE’ for his reward FOR THOSE terrible days of his flesh REFLECTIVE accordingly to the results of the sin of the similitude of FIRST ADAM).
Sorry for the ‘typo’, but the N.T. says TO BE SAVED one must make jesus NOW (previous ‘typo’- as ‘not’) NOW lord over entire UNIVERSE, not simply a ‘personal only’ lord, in which the candidate UNTO SALVATION, yet in eternal ‘free-will’, can ingnore any personal responsibility of obedience to his Father also, continue being the ‘harlot’ (“Christian”) bride DOWN HERE, while in this tiny footstool of YHWH, awaiting these ‘heavens’ suddenly on ‘real’ FIRE (in which all natural living soul bodies from Adam’s ‘Eve’, HIDDEN, also the further ‘human’ hidden ‘spiritual body’ within, must attend from here THE RESURRECTION on different dust, different ‘earthly Sphere’ and ‘pattern’ beyond this tiny ‘copy’ only of the ‘patternS above, therefore different ‘soil’ to ‘soil’ temporal ‘outer flesh, bones’ same ‘dna’ yet temporal ‘tent’ LIFE beyond this ‘intial only’ INTRO to eternal existence in ‘eternal free-will’ in an ever expanding never ending MATERIAL Universe), Again according to N.T. yet undiscovered by Dr. Brown, and majority, a NEXT LIFE is promised STILL, yet in ‘sinful flesh & blood’, in ‘similitude’ of the ‘sin’ of first Adam, ALL MUST ATTEND from here. THESE HEAVENS ‘on REAL fire’ BECOME THE PROMISED ‘PERSONAL FOOTSTOOL’ and lake of fire for devil and his angelics WHEN FINALLY tossed from heaven AFTER being loosed from a future ‘binding’ by a great Angel FOR A ‘SHORT SEASON after the concluding of the 7th thousand years MILLENIAL from the death of first Adam AND THE 6,000 years of ‘harlotry’ buildup UNTO THESE HEAVENS (Ozone layers) completely ON REAL nuclear age ENDINGS OF ALL SOUL LIFE in vengence ‘speaking far greater than the vengence required for the shed blood of righteous Abel’ by YHWH against the angels and demons INFLUENCES over mankind SINCE First Adam.
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Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,
Thank you for educating us on missionary tactics to discredit the teachers of Judaism.
I hope you don”t mind if I ask this question, should one rely on Maimonides to understand the meaning of Exodus 23:2? Does Exodus 23:2 only refer to a legal concept in Jewish law?
I have been following how the Rabbis interpret the Torah and other Scriptures to derive certain rulings in Jewish law, to the point that I am reading more of what the Rabbis say about the Jewish Scriptures than reading the Jewish Scriptures on my own. I find that the Rabbis interpretation influence my understanding and perception of Jewish Scriptures.
An example- I learnt about Purim (which the Jewish people are celebrating soon at this time of writing) and the book of Esther by following classes on tractate Megillah a few months ago. I am already familiar with the story in the book of Esther as it is one of books of the Christian bible. I learnt through the tractate that the Rabbis have their own colourful interpretation of the book , which completely change my perception of this book . I don’t think I will look at this book in the same way as I did before taking the class.
I understand that the Rabbis and teachers of Judaism have been unjustly accused by parties who are seeking to advance their own agendas. However on the flip side, there is a tendency for people like me to rely on these esteemed teachets to interpret God’s word rather than reading and interpreting God’s word on my own. I learnt that these teachers are trusted leaders of the generation who receive these laws at Sinai. However the fact is I am relying more on the words of men rather than God.
Perhaps you can advise. My apologies if this comment is not directly related to your article. Thank you.
Sharon S Since the Scriptures were written addressing Israel – then the way Israel understands the story becomes part of the story
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Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,
I agree that the scriptures were written addressing Israel , however God is the author of Scripture .Should I , a non Israelite rely solely on Israel’s understanding of Scriptures ? Is there room for me to discern the message of these scriptures on my own?
I will go back to Exodus 23:2. To me this verse goes beyond a Jewish courtroom. It is a message for me to speak up when there is injustice and not to blend with the crowd. Recently a Russian TV employee decide to speak up against what her government is doing to the Ukrainian people during a live broadcast and is paying dearly for it. If this message is to be understood within the context of how Israel understands it ( as per Maimonides), then it seems she has done an extremely foolish act with no meaning whatsoever.
Sharon S You completely missed the point of my article – I clearly wrote that the rabbis did not undermine the plain meaning of the verse, the affirmed it clearly and unequivocally – they were just finding another layer of meaning. You also missed the point of my response – I did not say anything about relying solely on Israel’s understanding – I said it is part of the story and the story is still unfolding
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Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,
Apologies for my poor comprehension of your initial reply.
I understand from your article that the Rabbis are interpreting Exodus 23:2 as applicable within legal procedures, judgements of the court and duties of judges. I also am aware that the minority opinions which did not became law is also recorded in the Talmud , for example the teachings of Beit Shammai. It seems Exodus 23:2 is seen as solely applicable within the above areas only. I was pointing out that this verse is applicable to all people and in daily life situations. Correct me if I’m wrong.
You wrote “Since the Scriptures were written addressing Israel – then the way Israel understands the story becomes part of the story”. Can you clarify further on “the way Israel understands the story becomes part of the story”? Does this refer to the Rabbis/teachers of Judaism ( as leaders/representatives of Israel) understanding of scripture, or this understanding already embedded in the words of Scripture? What do you mean by “the story is still unfolding”?
My apologies for the further questions. Thank you.
Sharon S The plain meaning of the verse is addressing judges and warning them not to follow a large and or respected group to pervert justice. An obvious lesson that we can all learn from this verse is that as individuals we should also do our part in not following a crowd to pervert justice, same applies to not following people who may seem respected to pervert justice. This is all obvious and not open to question. The rabbis saw additional layers of meaning in this verse as well – which is what launched the discussion in the article. What I meant by “part of the story” and “the story is still unfolding” – is as follows. The Scripture is a communication. The story of a communication doesn’t end when the communication is sent out – it ends when the communication is received. The way the communication is received is part of the story of that communication. Since the Scripture was received by Jews throughout the ages – that reception of Scripture is part of Scripture’s story and since it is still being received – the story is still unfolding.
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Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,
Good day. Thank you for patiently explaining your position and replying to my queries. I understand better now.
If I understand you correctly , in order to appreciate the Jewish Scriptures i.e God’s word addressed to Israel, I need to follow how Israel receive ,process and apply this revelation in the life of the nation. I should see the Rabbis (Israel’s leaders) adding layers of meaning in understanding Exodus 23:2, their colourful interpretation of the book of Esther and interpreting the Torah to derive rulings in Jewish law, among others, as part of the story of communication between God and the Jewish people. As such , I should see my leaning on the Rabbis to understand the Jewish Scriptures positive light- as an attempt to understand this communication. Correct me if I’m wrong .
As a non Jew , should I just be listening in to this conversation? How about the non Jews out there who receive , process and apply the Jewish Scriptures in their lives to make this world a better place, even though these Scriptures are not addressed to us (non Jews)?
Again , my apologies for the additional queries. Thank you.
Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,
Condolences to the Jewish community on the recent passing of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a revered spiritual leader and Torah scholar.
If you don’t mind, I would like to remind you on the questions I raised in an earlier comment regarding the Jewish scriptures and the non Jew.
These questions are in response to your earlier reply about Scripture being a communication which ends when the communication is received by Jews throughout the ages . We have seen the same Scriptures is received by non Jews throughout the ages as well , even though these Scriptures are not addressed to us (non Jews) . Is the reception of Scriptures by non Jews considered “part of the story” as well?
My apologies if these queries are not directly related to the message you are conveying in your article “Response to Line of Fire 15”. However, appreciate if you can respond to these queries when you have the time. Thank you.