Trinity, Idolatry and Worship
As God’s witnesses to the ultimate truth, the Jewish people testify that the Christian worship of Jesus is the idolatry that the Jewish Scripture condemns as the greatest rebellion against God.
But isn’t the trinity so much more sophisticated than the pagan obeisance to crude images? Isn’t the Christian belief about the incarnation of God honoring the Creator?
The answer is that it is not the BELIEF of the Christian that is idolatry. Idolatry is not a belief. Idolatry is an act. The act of directing the heart’s devotion to a man is no different than directing the heart’s devotion to a statue or to the sun.
Directing the heart’s devotion (in the sense of worship of the divine) toward anyone or anything aside from the One Creator of all is idolatry – there are no distinctions between the worship of one created being or another.
The beliefs of the Christians are used to justify the devotion. Perhaps the arguments of some idolaters are more confusing than the arguments of others. Indeed, God judges each of us according to our capabilities and according to our opportunities. If a Christian was taken in by the sophisticated arguments of the Church men and did not realize that the devotion that they are advocating is wrong; we can be sure that the Righteous Judge will factor the confusion in to the equation.
Israel’s testimony is not about judging people. Its about telling the world that every last entity owes everything to the One Creator of heaven and earth.
The key words here are “EVERY LAST ENTITY”- including, of course, the gods of the various religions. After all; if they walked God’s earth, breathed His air, and lived in His universe – who else would they owe their existence to?
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal
Hi Rabbi Blumenthal.
I was always under the impression that while Christianity is idolatry, it’s a less severe form than the idolatry of, say, the pagan cultures and that therefore Christians were not designated as “akum.”
Do you know the source for this, or am I wrong?
If it were possible to become a Jew by mere profession of faith, I would do so. However it is so complicated. I trust that the one and only G-d knows my heart and He knows my faith in the One. So I am comfortable in my position as a Christian. Your mileage may vary.
Joining the ethnicity, culture, heritage, and covenant with God that Jews have is not the biggest thing that a Christian has to gain in their relationship with Him. obeying what God wants out of love is a much deeper foundation, for Jew and for other nationalities! People who aren’t part of the ‘priestly nation’ can still be part of the kingdom of God, deeply, and in His ways alone honouring His holiness. A gentile in that position should also take 100% caution that they don’t believe something/someone that isn’t the Maker of every thing gets through the private space of worship for Him only. Their faith and faithfulness to God demand cynicism towards claims like that about J, especially when the Jews who are keeping the Torah and testimony of the covenant are still yet to be taken seriously.
Hi David, if you know that worshipping jesus is nowhere to be found in the Tanakh and the only reason why you keep being a Christian is for that, then you don’t have to. First, anybody can trust in the One true G-d. I cannot convert either, but I do not believe in Jesus. I will truth in YHVH. I think you should do the same…
God is Echad….the Hebrew word for “One”. We know this from the words in the Shema. Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad. But unlike the Hebrew word Yachid which translates as ultimate one or only one or a similar connotation meaning just one, Echad, is a picture of two or more things that come together and make “one flesh” Such as when a man and a wife come together in marriage. They are two separate people but they become Echad. They become one. There is only ONE God, but He has revealed himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Each with the same nature and the same Will. It was the Son who came to Earth in the form of Yeshua. Though He came to the earth in the form of a man, He was still God. This was proven by the miracles He did,(Raising people from the dead, water into Wine, ect….) in the Way He spoke with Authority (You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.) or (You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.) And most of all, He proved it when He rose from the dead Himself after being dead for three days just like he Himself prophesied. We as Christians do not Worship a mere man. We worship the incarnate form of God who loved his creation so much, that He became one of us for the purpose of truly being able to identify with us and to do what we as fallen human beings could not. Atone for our sins. I realize you do not subscribe to this theology and that is fine. I said all of this only because I continually read about how we Goyim worship a man. But Yeshua was not a mere man. He was Immanuel; “God with us” And if you question whether God has a son, please re-read Proverbs 30 verse 4
This was the point of R’ Yisroel’s post, I think: that Jews believe J was merely a human, and so even if Christians don’t think they’re worshipping a mere man, the action itself remains a big problem. Regardless of how you say you think and feel.about the absolute ‘oneness’.
Annelise made the first point I wanted to make. There are many more but I want to just comment one a few of them.
“Though He came to the earth in the form of a man, He was still God. This was proven by the miracles He did,(Raising people from the dead, water into Wine, ect….) in the Way He spoke with Authority”
Putting aside the fact that the Torah never tells us anything about the Messiah being God in the form of a man. The question is, where does the Torah tell us that proof that the Messiah is truly the Messiah or even a prophet or messenger from God, will be by the fact that he will be able to perform miracles?
It doesn’t, in fact the ability of someone to perform miracles proves nothing. If we look at the story of Exodus, Moses comes to Pharaoh and performs all sorts of miracles which the people witness the plagues inflicted upon the Egyptians. But note that the Torah tells us that Pharaohs priests were also able to perform miracles and turn rods into serpents (Exodus 7:8-13)
So here you have two people able to perform miracles against one another, some were greater than the other, but nonetheless the ability to perform miracles cannot be proof that someone is a prophet, Messiah or messenger from God. In fact in spite of the children of Israel witnessing all of these miracles, plagues, parting of the sea, they were still not entirely convinced that God was truly behind Moses, even with manna coming from heaven and water drawn from rocks in the desert. These all sound like very impressive miracles to me, which all Jews witnessed at the time, not just a few, and told of these events to every generation through celebrating Passover all the way to today and recorded in the Torah. Now, after a nation having seen all of these miraculous events they were still unsure of whether or not God was in fact behind it all.
It is not until we experienced national revelation at Sinai and heard God speak directly to us that we knew that Moses was a a true prophet, and that is why the sin of building the golden calf was so great a sin. Because those who did so knew God, and had no reason to disbelieve. But what this narrative is highlighting is telling us something about human nature, it is explained well by Yoram Hazony in his book The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture:
“Coming out of terrifying bondage, a people may believe that what it wants above all else is freedom. But this is an illusion. True freedom – in which a man stands on his own feet, responsible for his own actions, with nothing but the open sky between himself and God – is in such cases experienced as something terrifying and dreadful. What a newly liberated people want more than anything else, the narrative suggests, is to have someone above them again, someone who can bear responsibility for them so that they do not have to shoulder this terror and dread themselves. And when this man, Moses or Gideon, proves unwilling to play a role so similar to that played by their recent oppressors, this people will seek something that is more solid than man, something enduring that will not abandon them in need – the calf, the fetish.”
It is a natural for us to create intermediaries, people want graven images, idols, golden calfs, or even some of the Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt, there they had food, and security even though they were slaves unto Pharaoh. The story is about freedom, responsibility and independence under God, and about how man regresses to looking to put things between man and God and consequently not wanting to take responsibility for oneself. The Torah is a polemic against power and Empire, and a call to action and responsibility through a direct relationship with God.
Back to the point, it is the national revelation at Sinai which is the foundation that Judaism is built on, and why we know the Torah to be true, because a nation cannot invent a lie that one million people heard God speak at the same time and have an unbroken chain of transmission of that teaching. So the point I made earlier is that ability to perform miracles proves nothing, and more to the point God tells us explicitly that we are not to believe in those who come preforming miracles (Deuteronomy 13:2) who tell the people differently from what we learned at Sinai. At Sinai we learned that God is one, no Jew who’s ancestors stood at Sinai heard from their parents or grandparents that they saw a trinity, we of course didnt see anything, we only heard a voice. We learned that God (the father) is one and there is none besides him and he is to be worshipped alone. We were warned that there will be people in the future who may be able to perform miracles… who will claim that God spoke to them, and their message contradicts what we know to be true from Sinai, and that therefore is part of the criteria for how we know that they are a true prophet or not. A prophet cannot contradict the Torah one iota, and miracles prove nothing. Every religion in the world has stories of miracles in their revelation narrative, all this proves is that this person was able to perform miracles, and that God grants that ability to both good people and bad. If your basis for accepting of one person as a prophet or Messiah or messenger from God is that they could perform miracles then you have a problem. You cannot disprove them, but neither can you prove them, so if you accept one there is no rational reason why you shouldn’t accept the word of anyone who claims to be sent by God who can perform miracles. God tells us that he sends these people to test our faith.
You put together a nice theory, but it’s not biblical.
“Back to the point, it is the national revelation at Sinai which is the foundation that Judaism is built on, and why we know the Torah to be true, because a nation cannot invent a lie that one million people heard God speak at the same time and have an unbroken chain of transmission of that teaching.”
The fact of the matter is there are very few references to God speaking to the people at Mount Sinai in isolation from other references to God’s many signs and wonders of the exodus. Most biblical references to the event include it as just one of many signs and wonders of the exodus. secondly, there are many more references to the many signs and wonders of the exodus which don’t even mention the event of God speaking at Sinai at all.
Third, if God speaking at Mount Sinai is such a basis of belief then why didn’t RAMBAM include it as one of the articles of faith?
Also, the people needed Moses, God’s intermediary, to tell them what God was saying through His thundering words. In other words, God spoke words of thunder, then Moses told them what God was saying. God never spoke to the people without Moses telling them what he said even during the event of the thunder.
Moses stood on the mountain between the people and God while the people did not come up on the mountain, and he told them the words of the 10 commandments telling the people what God said while they listened to God’s voice of thunder coming out of the dark cloud and saw the fire and felt the mountain shake. They were surprised at Moses, that a man could hear God’s voice and not die. And they were afraid that they’d die if they heard any more from God and stood any longer in front of the fire. God said that what they had said is right and that He wouldn’t make them listen any longer. At that time He promised them a prophet like Moses so that they could listen to the prophet rather than God directly (as a Christian, that would be Jesus of course). After the 10 commandments they were sent to their tents so that they wouldn’t have to listen any longer and fear death. Then Moses went up the mountain and got the rest of the Law.
From then on He always spoke to all the people through a prophet.
Unfortunately, in the end, the whole thing, including all the other signs and wonders throughout the exodus, made such little impact on the people that they made the Golden Calf and attributed all the exodus works of Moses and God who led them out of Egypt to the Calf and made plans to return to Egypt.
I’m not saying the thunder event wasn’t important, but it goes into the same category as the other signs and wonders of the exodus. It is definitely not the solitary “foundation of Judaism.” That’s a modern day invention not supported by the Hebrew scriptures.
Again, you are in error:
Ex. 19:9: “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak to you and so trust in you ever after.'”
The Sinai event is the very proof of Judaism established by God. Of course, Christianity has no similar event.
Rambam doesn’t need to count it as an article of faith, because it was experienced and passed on. It isn’t an article of faith, but a fact attested to.
Hi CS and Jim,
CS you are wrong on your citation of Deut. 4:35; if you read all of the context of Deuteronomy 4:32-38 you’ll plainly see that it is not JUST about God speaking at Mount Sanai which cause the people to believe. I address this and other points below.
Jim, you are also wrong. You are ignoring all of the other instances where God causes the people to believe Moses. It is not the singular event of the “foundation of Judaism” as you claim.
And neither of you have really haven’t addressed why RAMBAM never referred to it as the exclusive foundation nor why it’s not even mention AT ALL in the statements of faith. Your claim Jim that it was passed on is so lame that would negate the need for all of RAMBAM’s statements of faith. Because they were all passed on.
As I’ve stated in my previous post it is important but not to the extent you both claim. And here is my proof which refutes everything both of you have posted so far.
The purpose of God coming down on Mount Sinai and speaking to the Israelites is not as you say the foundation of Israel. The purpose of speaking to the people in thunder and lightning out of the fire and dark cloud with the sound of the trumpet and with the mountain smoking and shaking is so that they’d trust Moses for ever more just as was the case in Egypt and so that they wouldn’t sin.
God used that process before when He performed miracles through Moses and Aaron. All of Exodus chapter 4 is an example of where God performs miracles through Moses and Aaron and explains the purpose is so that the people will believe that the God a Abraham appeared to him and that he was speaking for God. And it worked.
29 Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the Israelites. 30 Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses, and performed the signs in the sight of the people. 31 The people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had given heed to the Israelites and that he had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.
God uses the process again at Mount Sinai, Moses did not die when he spoke to God and when God spoke to him, and Moses spoke the words of God’s thunder to the people so that the people would trust him ever after.
19:9 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.”
19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” 21 Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
The foundation of Israel is the prophets Abraham and Moses, the promise of the land, and last but not least the Law given to observe in the land and thereby the Law was a means to keep the Land as a possession as God had promised Abraham.
The promise to give another prophet (or prophets) like Moses was given at Mount Sinai by God through the authority of Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18) separate and apart from the law. The promise and authority of the prophet then is not contained within the Law but independent of the Law. The command not to add or take from the Law is to the people and not to the prophet. Moses and the prophet can and did change the law.
15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet[d] like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.[e] 16 This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” 17 Then the LORD replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet[f] like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet,[g] who shall speak to them everything that I command. 19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet[h] shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.
God speaks and His “voice” is at times as thunder (this is noted elsewhere in the OT). He spoke to the people at Mount Sinai as Thunder. On Mount Sinai, “Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder” and the people heard the thunder and the trumpet blast and trembled and were afraid and stood at a distance.
19 As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder.
25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.
1 Then God spoke all these words:
2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt…
18 When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid[d] and trembled and stood at a distance,
Furthermore, as I stated in my earlier post, God used Moses to speak as His intermediary, standing between God and the Israelites to tell the Israelites Gods words, what God was saying, (which were the 10 commandments among other instructions such as the promise of the prophet) which were heard by the people as thunder as noted above.
4 The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the fire. 5 (At that time I was standing between the LORD and you to declare to you the words of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:
6 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt… (the 10 commandments).
There are many significant passages in the OT of the retelling of the Exodus (some include events prior and following the exodus, which are the foundation of Israel) which do NOT include the Mount Sinai event of God speaking as thunder with Moses speaking as the intermediary giving the 10 commandments to the people.
Deuteronomy: 6:20-25; 11:2-7
78:12-72; 105 all; 106 all; 136:4, 10-26
There are also some instances in the OT which somewhat retell parts the events of Sinai but say nothing of God speaking to the Israelites:
Malachi 4:4 (statutes and ordinances commanded to Moses at Horeb/Mount Sinai)
1 Kings 8:9 and parallel verse 2 Chronicles 5:10 (two stone tablets from Sinai placed in the ark)
Psalm 106:19 (the Golden Calf)
The following are instances where the story of the exodus is retold and which DOES include the event of God coming down on Mount Sinai and speaking to the Israelites, BUT, as one of many signs and wonders of the Exodus.
I can find only one chapter in one book which pertains exclusively to the retelling of the event of Mount Sinai of God speaking out of the fire to the Israelites, and that is Deuteronomy 5!! In addition there is Deuteronomy 18:16-18 which does retell the Mount Sinai event but does so in the context and for the purpose of stating when God promised the prophet like Moses which is to come in the future (as noted in a paragraph above).
Deuteronomy: 5:4, 22-33 and 18:16
That’s it, there’s your make believe singular foundation.
Rambam didn’t include it because, as I explained to you in a previous comment, he didn’t provide an exhaustive list, just what he felt at the time to be necessary. Rambam is NOT scripture. Repeat, Rambam is NOT scripture. You cannot interpret his writings as you please, willy-nilly, to prove anything.
The reason God spoke to Moses in front of the whole people is clearly stated in the Torah, and the reason is twofold:
1. So we should know whom to worship (Deut. 4:35).
2. To establish, as you said, Moses’s credibility as a prophet, and as you correctly cited, the verses in Exodus.
The two are not mutually exclusive and I cannot imagine why you think they might be.
Apparently, God didn’t think the massive miracles (which Jesus couldn’t hold a candle to) were enough to convince the Jewish people; he had to actually speak to Moses in front of the whole nation to establish his credibility. (And if Jesus was superior, God would at least have put him on an equal footing with Moses by speaking to him in front of the entire people, as Jim or Blasater has pointed out. Instead, Jesus refused to perform miracles in front of unbelievers.)
That’s so people would accept a body of law that is otherwise just crazy. I mean, imagine if a prophet performed a bunch of miracles and then gave you 613 new laws to follow. You might balk, wouldn’t you?
Then Moses sealed the law with the “do not add or subtract” rule. Last I checked, there was no asterisk indicating “Prophets are exempt from this rule.” Prophets are subject to the law of Moses just as much as every other Jew. You made up the idea that prophets have the authority to change the law based on your weak interpretation of one passage in scripture in order to justify your acceptance of Jesus. If you really believed prophets could change the law, you would have to also obey the prophet Mohammad and the prophet Joseph Smith.
History bears this out. No prophets in the Hebrew canon permanently changed the Law in any way. The Jews who accepted the books of these prophets into the canon rejected Jesus who attempted to change the law as a false messiah and a false prophet. Really, it’s that simple.
You are in error on your claim that Deut 4:35 speaks exclusively to the events at Sinai.
“So we should know whom to worship (Deut. 4:35).”
Maybe you didn’t read my post. I already addressed it. This is the same error that either Jim or CS made and I proved them wrong.
Read my post above yours.
But in a nutshell you’ve conveniently (and to borrow from you) willy nilly excluded 4:34 so cleverly to say what ever you want.
“Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by terrifying displays of power, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?”
So Dina, as I pointed out to Jim an CS the foundation of Judaism is not as you claim. It is rather as I claim and have proven through scripture.
Then Moses said don’t subtract or add to it. That last I checked he was speaking to the people. I read no where that he was speaking to himself. And the last I checked his authority and that of prophets came prior to the revelation of the law and further more is not even covered in he law itself. And to prove the point, Moses himself made changes to the law. Are you unaware of that. I think that you yourself even argued that common sense changes had to be made to the law.
David, I am so completely not following your line of argument that I’m going to take a leaf out of Yehuda’s book and let the audience decide for themselves who is proving whom wrong and who is making the most sense.
Thank you Jim, we see clearly that G-d did speak with Israel directly, another reference is
“Unto you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord, He is God; there is none else beside Him. Out of heaven He made you to hear His voice, that He might instruct you; and upon earth he made you to see His great fire; and you did hear His words out of the midst of the fire.”
I don’t know how you define modern with regards to the Jewish peoples revelation narrative and the Sinai event as the foundation of Judaism. These arguments were put forward by Jews during the middle ages by the Ramban in the Barcelona disputation which took place in 1263.
It appears very clearly in Kuzari, by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, written between 1130-1140 as a book of defence of a ‘despised’ religion.
Rabbi Blumenthal has written on this subject in his post Exodus Versus Resurrection
See Rabbi Keleman’s talk on the Veracity of Torah.
David you are correct that Moses communicated G-ds law to us, but there is a difference between the Jewish people and Moses at Sinai and Jesus and his followers. We heard G-ds voice as a nation at Sinai, as well as witnessing the miracles, it is not until we hear G-ds voice that the people believed. The people having all heard G-d directly could then know that Moses was a true prophet and could trust that the Torah was from G-d.
With Jesus and his disciples, Jesus claims that he is the Messiah, but his disciples do not hear G-d himself speak to them directly like the Sinai revelation to know that Jesus was in fact sent by G-d, they base their belief on witnessing the miracles alone. That is the basis for them following him, and hoping that he will fulfil the Messianic prophesies, and they weren’t wrong to necessarily, the Jews followed Moses before they had heard G-d directly, but the miracles themselves were not conclusive proof, but also the people of Israel were slaves and many would have wanted to be free from slavery and be lead to freedom and followed him. The test for if you are the Messiah is whether or not you fulfil a criteria which is laid out in the Tanakh, people got excited about a Messianic claimant, and would hope that they would succeed, they were within their rights to believe someone like Jesus or another if they happened to meet all the criteria, you get universally awarded the title by everyone if you fulfil all the prophesies in one visit. Jesus didn’t, neither did all the others who claimed to be the Messiah. It is not Jesus though in Christianity which holds what is identifiable as its revelation narrative. The revelation narrative of Christianity is Pauls revelation of Jesus on the road to Damascus. This was something that was only revealed to Paul, no one else was there, and he claimed to have a message from Jesus to spread. There is no way of checking whether or not Paul is lying or telling the truth.
The question is, then, how were future prophets distinguished as genuine prophets from false prophets. G-d obviously did not orchestrate a Sinai event to verify every Prophet he sent. He did however give us a means of determining if they were true or not. We know that the Torah is true, so if someone claims to be a prophet or to have witnessed a revelation and their message contradicts the Torah, that is one of the ways we know that they are a false prophet. It is Paul who has this revelation and whos message we reject, and there is reason to believe that Jesus’s Jewish followers also rejected Paul as an a Apostle or a Prophet.
I obviously do not believe that we can take everything written in the Gospel at face value as accurate. Jesus in the Gospels does say things which go against the teachings of the Torah, but he also says many things which are consistent with it. So I believe that Jesus understood very well, that the Torah is eternal and salvation comes through keeping the Mitzvot and that to deviate from the Torah would make him automatically a false prophet.
1 Then spoke Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,
2 Saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not after their works: for they say and do not.”
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but fulfill.
18 For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, “Good master, what good things shall I do , that I may have eternal life?”
17 And he said unto him, “Why do you call me good? There is none good but one, that is G-d: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments.
Paul on the other hand talks against the keeping of the commandments, that we are justified by faith in Jesus alone. “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” Galatians 2:21.
Or Galatians 3:
23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
God tells us that the Torah is eternal, and for a Jew salvation comes through keeping the Torah, even when the Messiah comes, Paul’s message is the opposite, he thinks that we can’t keep the law, that God is so cruel that he gave us the law only to show us how we cant keep the law,
“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” Romans 3:20
and that the law is only there to lead us to the Messiah and no longer necessary once he comes, faith in Jesus alone is what saves people.
If this is not deviating from what we were taught at Sinai I don’t know what is. But to us it is very clear, do we accept the testimony of 3 million people of whom we are the descendant’s of those witnesses who heard G-d speak at Mount Sinai, who gave Moses his Torah which we know to be true, or accept a new book which talks about miracles Jesus performed to some people, G-d spoke to none of them directly, but then one person called Paul, who wrote most of this book, claims to have seen Jesus (not even G-d) in a revelation all by himself, who then tells him a message which is completely different to what we learned at Sinai.
You keep on insisting that prophecy is apart and above the law – it is not. The law dictates when we should and when we shouldn’t accept a prophetic claim (Deuteronomy 18:18-22) and the Law dictates the parameters of prophecy (Deuteronomy 13:1-6). It is clear from the Bible that the concept of prophecy is subject to the purview of the Law of Moses.
You keep on referring to the Maimonides 13 principles as if they were a Christian creed. I know that many refer to the 13 principles as such but it is a mistake. The 13 principles do not include as a separate principle the chosenness of Israel which is certainly an important belief in Judaism – it is subsumed in the principle which asserts the veracity of the Torah. The point of the principles is to head off common mistakes about faith that people were making up until his times.
Maimonides articulates the foundations of Judaism – not in his thirteen principles – but in his book “Yesodei Hatorah” which means “foundations of the Torah.” It is in that book that he speaks of the centrality of the Sinai revelation.
You have made a few errors in this matter as well. The Sinai revelation does not stand apart from the exodus – it confirms and ratifies the miracles of the exodus – whose primary purpose was to give the Jewish people an understanding of who it is that they are to worship to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. When the Scriptures refer to Israel’s perception of God in such central settings such as the commandments about idolatry (Deuteronomy 4:15; 11:28; 13:3,7,14; 17:3 ); the Scripture is referring to the perception that we picked up at Sinai together with all of the miracles of the exodus. The secondary purpose of the revelation was to ratify the authority of the prophecy of Moses but the primary purpose was to appoint us as His witnesses.
The prophesy of the prophet which was told directly to Moses and is recorded in Deuteronomy 18:18 is not part of the Law per se but was given at the time of the 10 commandments, just before or just after. I think it was just after, but either way, it was not part of either the 10 commandments or the rest of the statutes which were later given after Moses when back up the Mountain.
As proof that it is not part of the Law is the fact that their is no evidence that Moses told them this prophesy of the prophet at the time it was given as being part of the Law, but he told it later. There is evidence that Moses told them the entire law at the time it was given however.
And, the words themselves of Deuteronomy 18:18 are “I will raise up for “THEM” speaking to Moses, NOT I will raise up for “YOU” as if speaking to the people. This indicates these words were only between God and Moses, unlike the 10 commandments and the law which were spoken TO the PEOPLE and THROUGH MOSES.
An inspection of the words of Deuteronomy 18:16,17 and Deuteronomy 2:28 reveals that they refer to the same moment of time when God was speaking to Moses about the people’s fear of listening to God’s voice any longer.
16 This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” 17 Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said.
Notice the similarity in the build up to 5:28 and the VERBATIM similarity between 18:17 and 5:28 “They are right in what they have said/spoken.”
24 and you said, “Look, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the fire. Today we have seen that God may speak to someone and the person may still live. 25 So now why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer, we shall die. 26 For who is there of all flesh that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and remained alive? 27 Go near, you yourself, and hear all that the Lord our God will say. Then tell us everything that the Lord our God tells you, and we will listen and do it.”
28 The Lord heard your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me: “I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you; they are right in all that they have spoken.
That by itself proves that the promised prophet was not promised as part of the Law but apart from it.
Further proof is Moses himself and Abraham, both prophets which preceded the Law. The foundation of Israel is on these prophets (and the promised prophet(s) to follow), the Land promised to Abraham and confirmed later and the Law given later. These three things are the TRUE foundation of Judaism.
So, to the prophet Moses who received his authority NOT FROM the Law (but preceded the Law in authority in order to GIVE the law) was told by God of the prophet or prophets that He would raise up for “THEM” to come like “you.”
the above post is to Yisroel.
David, it is bizarre for a Christian to read the Jewish Bible and then tell Jews what the foundation of their faith is. Just as it would be presumptuous of me to tell you that the foundation of Christianity is observance of the law and then cite verses (of which there are many) from the gospels to prove it.
My response to that is that I have an opinion just as anyone else. And even if I had no standing such as would be the case if I were just an atheist student of the bible and debating the issues for the sake of academic understanding; that would still be true. But I do have standing since my spiritual ancestors were Jews, the first Christians were Jews, I hold to the OT (Hebrew Scriptures) as well as the NT, and I hold that Christianity grew out of Judaism to name a few reasons why I have standing in the debate not just from an intellectual point of view but from a personal interest point of view.
And I believe that it is through conversation, a sharing of our opinions that we are led closer to the truth. Part of the process of a conversation which leads to the truth is exposing one’s opinions to others which naturally may at times generate theological discussions with criticisms of one’s own position. And the corollary to that is giving criticism where we see error. Sometimes in the process we may see where we’ve held to error and sometimes we see where the other is holding to error.
In this particular case, I didn’t start the discussion stating what the foundation of Judaism “is” out of the blue; I was countering a claim by CS and Jim. So, naturally as part of that debate and giving evidence as to why they are in error, I have also given my opinion not only as to what it “isn’t” but also what it “is.” It is personally important to me for reasons I stated above regarding my standing in the debate.
In doing so I’m not telling you or anyone else what to believe or not to believe as a Jew or even as a Christian. But I don’t consider that anyone’s opinion is better than mine simply because of one’s religious background either. So naturally neither do I claim that I have an advantage simply because of my religious background to somehow give me a “unique perspective” to criticize your position or anyone else’s opinion, as does Mr. Blumenthal for example in his piece on “Christianity Unmasked.”
That is correct, David. You are certainly entitled to your opinion.
Echad is two or more things come together? That will come as a surprise to a school child who learns in counting that “echad” is the number “one”! אֶחָד echad is the numeral “1” (actually, the masculine form thereof; the feminine form is אַחַת aḥat). יָחִיד yachid, on the other hand, is either an adjective or a noun meaning alone, single, individual. And I suggest you re-read Proverbs 30:4 — because G-d’s first born son is the Jews (Israel). Sh’mot / Exodus 4:22 “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, Thus says the Lord: Israel is My first-born son.”
Rather than believe me read B’réshıt / Genesis 21:15 — did Hagar put her dying child Ishmael under many different shrubs all at the same time? she threw the boy under ECHAD [one] of the shrubs”). Did G-d tell Avraham to take his son Isaac up onto multiple different mountains “take him up… onto ECHAD [one] of the mountains that I will tell you about”). . .
Roman you are wrong. Yachid is no different than Echad (You have been listening to Christian leaders who know no better. Proof read Psalm 133 the word unity is yachad or yachid. God isn’t 3 persons he is one. person and there is no other. Even Jesus said that he ascends to his God and father.(John 20:17 Therefore the Father was the God of Jesus and there cannot be two Gods As far as Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14) the sign child had to be born within 65 years see Isaiah 7:8 Jesus was around 635 years too late. Look I know it isn’t easy. but you did place your words here and to us needed a response. I hope and pray you keep searching. I believe you are certainly on your way
in God. Tsvi
As God’s witnesses to the ultimate truth, the Jewish people testify that the Christian worship of Jesus is the idolatry that the Jewish Scripture condemns as the greatest rebellion against God.
2012, in Jerusalem, my wife and I got in touch with a young Jewess who told us that Jesus was a Jew. My response was; “Yeshua was a Jew; sircumcised on the eighth day, BarMitzvah on his thirteenth birthday on passover, he later attended a synagoge every Shabbat. But Jesus is a carven image.
The young Jewiss had expected a missionary attempt from our side. But now, there was amazement on her’s.
In Monroe, Ohio there is a “Solid-Rock-Church”. This church got famous because of its “Big-Butter-Jesus” or “Touch-Down-Jesus”, a some 60ft tall Jesus monument. One night in 2010 it got struck by a lightning and not burning remains were left only. Now, they needed a “new Jesus” and out came a “Hug-Me-Jesus” with a lightning protection system to prevent another destruction by “mother nature” – as they said. This Jesus monument is much bigger now but I am curious how long it takes to allmighty “mother nature” to destroy it with other means (tornado e. g.) – or will it be destroyed by men (Muslims)? We’ll see!
I remember when “touch down jesus” was struck by lightning! People should have saw it as a sign from G-d that worship of jesus/yeshua in any form is idolatry. Of course, they just went ahead and build a “hug me jesus” instead. It’s like the Tower of Babel all over again…
What about all the synagogues that were destroyed during Kristallnacht? The Talmud burnings of the Middle Ages? We don’t know why things happen, so I wouldn’t be quick to point to catastrophes of this sort (whether they are natural disasters or man-caused) and say it’s proof of God’s displeasure with that particular religion.
LOL Shomer – I live 5 miles from that church and around here most of us called him touchdown Jesus. The night it burned state troopers had to threaten tickets to stopped motorists in order to keep I75 flowing. Tragically, the pastor of the same church suddenly fell into a coma and died a year later. The new statue is bigger but not as dramatic as touchdown Jesus though.
Reblogged this on Noach ben Avraham and commented:
Regardless of how you say you think and feel about the ‘oneness’…Read this
Roman says “There is only ONE God, but He has revealed himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit” – show me the verse in the Tanakh where that is stated. There are countless verses that say God is one and He is alone, and there is no other, etc. The 3 God’s in one, though – no matter how you try to massage it, only exist outside the Scriptures.
You say you do not worship a man, but that is only a claim. The same claim could be made for any other man, object, or creature, but it would not make it true.
Imagine if you will a man named Horace. Horace has a tree in his backyard that he worships. But he doesn’t worship it as an entity separate from God. He says that this is the incarnation of the Spirit.
He even brings proof texts. He argues that the Tree of Life was the first incarnation of the Spirit. And that Adam and Eve chose the knowledge after the flesh (or some such phrase) rather than filling themselves with the Spirit of God. Moreover, anyone who doesn’t accept the doctrine of the Tree of Life does likewise, removing themselves from the presence of God, relying on their own wisdom. They’ll quote the NT that the wisdom of this world is foolishness.
He has other proofs. After all, why does God talk about the woman’s seed? He finds this unusual. He will seize on the word “seed” as applying to plants. He will notice that plants were created before people, giving them preeminence. When someone points out to him that the Spirit is likened unto wind or breath, he will say that proves the point all the more, because trees produce oxygen.
He will point out that the Messiah is a “branch” or “shoot”, language suitable to trees. He will say that the prophet says that he will be a sapling before us. People will argue with him, pointing out that he neglected that it says “like” a sapling before us. He will argue that seizing on the pre-fix “like” is hyper-literalism, or that the rabbis and Christians altered the text to suit their theology, or that his translation doesn’t say “like”.
Some will point out the terribly obvious that one isn’t to worship a tree. But he will say that one shouldn’t worship just any tree obviously. One should only worship the Tree of Life. There is only one such tree (and right now it’s in his backyard.) Of course one should shun other trees. One should not join an asheirah cult. That would be wrong. This tree, however, is the same as the God that appeared at Mt. Sinai. (I hate typing such words, even to make a point.) He will say that it appeared at various times at scripture, including as a burning bush. He will say that one needs to be “grafted in to the tree”, quoting from the NT. (No need to point out to him that the tree to be grafted into was Israel. That’s a hyper-literal interpretation.)
Among the strongest proofs in his arsenal will be that the Tree of Life—the one in his backyard—has performed miracles. His wife ate a apple from it and her cancer disappeared. Many other occurrences like this have taken place. Also, when he himself ate of the tree, he found that he was overcome by the most incredible love of God and Man. He became truly filled with the Spirit. (So did a couple pies.) He will realize that this fits in with Acts, when tongues of fire came upon the apostles. After all, fire is kindled on wood. (At this point, he likely to shout “Praise the Tree” or some such thing.)
When someone says that Jesus did the atoning work already, he will say that it wasn’t enough. Jesus did the part, and a very important part. But because the first sin was committed with the fruit of a tree, so must the redemption be fulfilled by the fruit of the Tree. And all the time, you will be saying that, “You cannot worship a tree!” And he will agree with you, patiently, smiling. “But this isn’t any tree (just as Jesus isn’t any man.) This tree is part of the triune godhead. The scriptures have been pointing to it all the time, but we didn’t understand until we tasted the sweet apple that opened our eyes. Now that the prophecies have been fulfilled, we know what they mean. We also know why Jesus is taking so long to come back. He couldn’t return until the Tree finished the work of redemption. It all makes sense now.”
He will even introduce a third set of scriptures. He will say that one was needed for the revelation of each member of the godhead. Three persons means three testaments—the final being a tree testament.
It won’t take long until you will find yourself exasperated with such a person. And yet, worshipping a man is no different. He too is created. No man is to be worshipped. Claiming that he is one with God is no less ludicrous. It is no more true than worshipping the tree in Horace’s backyard.
It is no different being a Christian than a Horatian.
Jim, this is brilliant. Brilliant, funny, well written. A terrific analogy. It brings to mind Rabbi B.’s satire “The Charolite Trilogy.” (My favorite part is someone asking in a comment what the significance of the name “Charlie” is; Rabbi B.’s response: he will save you from being charred.)
Thanks, Dina! I forgot about the charred business. Delightful.
Thank you all for your responses. Norm…In the Book of Genesis when God says let US make man in OUR image..or when He says let Us go down and see what man is doing (at the tower of Babel) with Whom is He speaking to? Certainly not the Angels because we were not made in the image of angels, we were made in the image of God. Second, The Israelis knew that it was God that was leading them way before He spoke to them at Sanai. The people were led by a pillar of smoke during the day and a pillar of fire by night. They knew Moses didn’t do that. Surely it wasn’t some Demon that was helping them. Who else COULD it have been but God? They saw the Red Sea part and allow them to walk on dry land and they saw the sea swallow up their enemies. Of course that was God and they KNEW it. But we have a sinful nature and our nature is to rebel and that’s why the Golden Calf incident happened. Even after God spoke to them from the mountain, they still sinned because it’s in our nature. You are right, the tenak does not clearly say that the Messiah will come in the form of a man. But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. In Genesis, Abraham and Lot were both visited by angels who came down in the form of a man. They were still angels even though they looked like men. God is more powerful than the angels is He not? Then why is it so absurd that He would come down in the form of a man. He would still be God, just like those angels were still angels. Catholics worship Mary, who was clearly only human. True she may have given birth to the Messiah, but she was still just a human and not to be worshipped. However, Yeshua, was not a mere human. He is God Himself who came to this Earth in the form of a man similar to the way the angels did. But the greatest evidence of His Divinity is the empty tomb. Say what you want but at the end of the day, the tomb was empty, and Yeshua was risen just as He said He would. Now if this is not true, then the Jewish people have performed the greatest sham in history. Because all of the initial followers of Yeshua and the majority of people from the 1st century churches were Jewish. In fact at that time, the big debate was whether we gentiles had to convert to Judaism in order to be saved. But I truly believe that it wasn’t a sham. Because 11 different individuals would not all suffer horrible agonizing deaths just to perpetrate the lie of the risen messiah. Upon being boiled in oil, hung upside down on a cross, thrown from the tallest pinnacle in the city, and other such things, SOMEBODY would have said “look, this whole Jesus thing is just a lie.” Please don’t kill me.
You argue from the empty tomb. Let me, from the NT, tell the story from a different perspective. Say that you and I are living in Jerusalem around the time of Jesus’ death. We hear that this man is supposed to be able to raise himself after three days. Maybe we even believe it. We wait with high anticipation to see what will happen.
Three days pass. Nothing.
A week passes. Nothing.
A month passes. Nothing.
At day 50, you and I are sitting in a cafe’. In burst Jesus’ disciples! They grab us, laughing, and shouting, “It happened! Jesus rose from the dead! Just as he said he would; it’s amazing!”
You and I look at each other. Really? Wasn’t that supposed to happen almost seven weeks ago? We shrug. Maybe we misunderstood. We get excited. You say, “Great, take us to him. We will follow him with you.”
They say, “Oh, well… about that. He ascended to Heaven to be with his Father and yours. Ten days ago. You just missed it.”
I’m not so excited anymore. I sit back down. Do you go with them? If you ask for proof, they say, “Blessed is he who has not seen but believes [anyway].” Are you compelled to follow this?
Ludicrous. The empty tomb is no argument at all. The story the NT tells is essentially the one I just told you.
“Upon being boiled in oil, hung upside down on a cross, thrown from the tallest pinnacle in the city, and other such things, SOMEBODY would have said ‘look, this whole Jesus thing is just a lie.’ Please don’t kill me.”
If you believe that, Roman, you’re in big trouble. Lots of people were martyred for lots of different religions. If you take that as proof, how will you know which religion is the right one?
If you know ANYTHING about Jewish history, then you know that throughout history Christians tortured and killed Jews who refused to convert to Christianity. Probably if I had to guess at a statistic, the ratio of such Jewish martyrs to Christian martyrs is, like, ten thousand to one (maybe even higher). So based on the statistics and your reasoning, you are in the wrong faith.
Of course, your reasoning is unsound to begin with. I’m just arguing as if it’s sound.
Another point: If God can manifest as a bush, a cloud, or a human, please explain why Hindus can’t use this argument to justify their worship of the incarnation of the divine in Krishna or why the ancient Egyptians couldn’t use this argument to justify their worship of the manifestation of the divine in the sun (Ra). Also please explain why no one thought to worship these manifestations previously.
Thirdly, please explain why God went to such lengths to state emphatically, boldly, and clearly that He is not a man, that He is incorporeal (having no physical form, image, or likeness), that He is alone, that there is no savior beside Him, that we are to worship only Him, and that we not to ever make a physical representation of him–if he planned all along to manifest as a human and share his glory with Jesus. Was He just trying to confuse us? Do you believe God changed His mind?
Here is Scriptural support for the statements in the passage above:
Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 16:29; Psalms 146:3; Exodus 33:20; Hosea 11:9; Deuteronomy 4:12-16, 23-25; Deuteronomy 4:35,39; Deuteronomy 6:4; Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 42:8; Isaiah 43:10-11; Isaiah 44:6; Hosea 13:4; Isaiah 46:9; Isaiah 45:5-6, 18, 20-22; 1 Chronicles 17:20; Exodus 34:14; Jeremiah 25:6,7; Deuteronomy 31:16-18; Exodus 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 4:16, 23; Deuteronomy 7:25
To the first point, it’s because he was talking not only about believers but claimant-eyewitnesses.
I don’t understand this comment. Can you clarify?
It’s one thing to give your life for what you simply feel to be true. It’s something else to passionately, even joyfully give your life for what you claim to’ve seen.
…because it’s harder to convince yourself of a lie about what you saw.
Then again, it isn’t wise to take the ends of the gospels, by default, as direct evidence for what their claim was. What’s clear is that the disciples were teaching early on that people had seen him alive.
…and Paul claimed that in his time there were hundreds of eyewitnesses still living who saw him together.
I suppose that makes sense if you accept as true the stories of their martyrdom, which I don’t. Certainly, later Christians who were definitely martyred (such as the famous Justin Martyr) didn’t see these things. Finally, just about every religion has its martyrs.
Anyway, I’m still not sure what point you’re trying to make, but thanks for clarifying.
I’m not trying to make a point, just explaining the difference between the martyrs of other religions and (if the stories hold) the first believers in J.
The fact that Paul was telling the Corinthians that he could potentially introduce them to hundreds of friends of his who all had the same experience of a group encounter with J is quite something. Comparing what he says here to the odd way the gospels describe so vaguely those weeks is another matter. But you can see why Christians hold his statement to be evidence. And if the resurrection did happen then it doesn’t prove anything, but if J was claiming to be sent from God (and not claiming to be God…), and a love for sincere righteousness was being taught in his group, you can see why a resurrection would be interpreted…without hindsight…as more likely a sign of God’s approval than a deception/test.
(1 Corinthians 15)
I’m sorry, I don’t know what you are trying to say. See my earlier comment in this thread.
Annelise, are you certain that the martyrs of other religions (I’m not talking about Judaism) did not claim to have witnessed something that gave them the resolve to give their lives for what they believed themselves to have seen?
In other words, how do you know that this is unique to the Christian experience?
Then again, even resurrection isn’t enough to let claimant eyewitnesses teach that those who reject the claim of his messiahship can’t be among the righteous… There is no such warning in Torah or even the prophets.
Heh, well Mr. Holding is a mere layman in the matter, without Price’s training and background. I have no idea how Mr. Holding thinks these Diaspora Jews and the occasional wealthy gentile would in any way be able to track down anonymous eyewitnesses. Were they just going to run around Palestine asking, “Are you part of the 500?” Furthermore, his notion is absurd. The early Christians weren’t investigative journalists, but an apocalyptic cult. 1 Corinthians deals with a slew of issues about church practices, such as whether Christians should eat food sacrificed to Pagan idols or sue each other in court. After reading the letter, the message would be: “Wow, we really need to straighten things up around here!” Not, “OMG, that one line about the 500 is really, really important, so we need to go to Palestine to investigate this claim!” The whole notion is absurd. Also, I’m not really sure how large the Diasporic Jewish population was in Corinth or how frequently they traveled to Palestine, but Mr. Holding appears to just be making an ad hoc assumption in order to avoid the far more obvious conclusion that the Corinthians would not have cared to nor been able to investigate Paul’s claim.
> who checked pauls claims??
> People could haved checked the details of the appearances that Paul
> What you did NOT spell out is the rest of the argument :
> (2. people DID check the details)
> (3. and they found them correct)
> Let’s have a look at the various writings which COULD have CHECKED
> Paul’s claims and found them correct :
> Luke was allegedly Paul’s companion, so he clearly could have
> Does he mention the appearance of the 500?
> Luke did NOT confirm Paul’s claim about appearing to the 500.
> Luke’s list of appearances is different to Paul’s.
> Paul met James who was allegedly Jesus brother, and who supposedly
> Jesus appeared to.
> Does he support the appearance to 500?
> Does he say anything about appearances?
> 1 Forged writing from 2nd century mentions seeing Jesus’ “majesty”.
> Does he support the appearance to 500?
> Does he say anything about other appearances?
> Jude was allegedly Jesus brother.
> Does he support the appearance to 500?
> Does he say anything about appearances?
> Does he support the appearance to 500?
> Does he say anything about appearances?
> Yes, he has his own vision – but says nothing about others.
> What about the Gospel writers?
> Do ANY of them mention the appearance to the 500?
> G.Mark – No.
> G.Matthew – No.
> G.John – No.
> You made a fuss that Paul could not have made this claim if it dodn’t
> happen – yet NOT ONE of the other Christians agrees that it happened !
> Either –
they DID check the facts – and found Paul was WRONG about the 500.
> they didn’t check at all, and wrote whatever they wanted.
At most, Festus could have inquired as to why Paul’s unnamed companions fell, or indeed who they even were. But Festus doesn’t even do that. So though Paul says some nameless “those who journeyed with me” fell to the ground with Paul when he saw the vision (26:13-14), they are not there to testify, nor is Agrippa even told who they were, nor does Agrippa even ask to interrogate them, much less actually do so. Nor does Festus. Indeed, Paul carefully avoids saying those with him saw or heard anything–even though Luke says this on other occasions (Acts 9:3-8 & 22:6-11). That’s a slick move. On the legal record, if Luke has it right, Paul claimed nothing miraculous whatsoever except a personal experience that no one could confirm or refute, even in principle. Paul never says “why” those with him fell (and indeed, Luke says elsewhere that Paul claimed they remained standing: Acts 9:7
Festus says outright that he does not know how to investigate the charge (25:20) and has nothing relevant to tell Caesar about it (25:26)–a funny thing to say, if there were all these incredible “facts” that he could “check,” as Holding insists. Ultimately, through all this, Paul’s only evidence at trial that Jesus was still “alive” is a private, unverifiable “vision from Heaven” (26:19) and a voice claiming to be Jesus. That’s it. That’s all Paul has to offer, and that’s all Agrippa needs to hear to acquit him. Paul would have been free had he not appealed to Caesar. No other investigation is conducted, no other evidence is even mentioned.
And how did Stephen manage to see a Jesus that nobody else could see?
And how did Paul see a real person from Macedonia in a vision? Did the guy from Macedonia teleport to appear in this vision, like a character from Star Trek?
And how did Peter think there was real food to eat when he saw unclean food in a vision? Didn’t he know you can’t eat food you see in a vision?
Paul also claimed to have seen a real person from Macedonia in a vision. (See Acts)
So early Christians mistook visions for reality. They couldn’t tell the difference between what was real (real people from Macedonia), and what was just a vision.
Roman, it always baffles me why christians are so impressed with this whole “empty tomb” scenario. If even if you could unequivocally prove that jesus had risen from the dead, this would not prove anything about him being the Messiah! Deuteronomy 13:2-7 makes it clear that if someone claims to be a prophet and tells us to follower other gods who our forefathers have not known, (i.e. jesus) we are NOT to follow that “prophet,” EVEN IF HE PERFORMS MIRACLES! Moreover, there is nothing in the Tanach that indicates that a prerequisite for being the Messiah is for him to resurrect himself from the dead. In other words, the resurrection of jesus is irrelevant to whether or not he is the Messiah. If he were the true Messiah, then he would have fulfilled the Messianic prophesies outlined in the Tanach. Clearly, he did not.
Also, I find it amusing when christians use the idea of “WOULD THE APOSTLES DIE FOR WHAT THEY KNEW TO BE A LIE?!?!!” to try and champion their position…There are plenty of wackos out there who have died for ridiculous beliefs. Just because they died for those beliefs, this doesn’t make their beliefs true!
In 1997, Marshall Applewhite’s cult group called “Heaven’s Gate” committed a mass suicide, (including Applewhite himself) believing that they would be “saved.” There were 39 people who committed suicide in this group. Would they give up their life for this belief if they knew it to be a lie?
See how silly your argument sounds now, Roman?
Hi Roman, I will give you another one…
Remember your Creators in the days of your youth. Ecclesiastes 12:1
See, the word creator in Hebrew is plural. That means, there is more than one creator. if we really use your argument, we should all be polytheist. Yes, there was more than one creator and G-d said “us”, so that means he was more than one. Why do we limit it to three? I mean, Baal was a god, Mary, and many more.
“There were 39 people who committed suicide”
Those whackos did that to themselves. Just like “martyrs” in the faith of Islam. These people blow THEMSELVES up. That IS silly. However, the disciples were tortured and murdered by other people because they refused to recant their belief in the risen Messiah. So your example is completely different than what happened to them. But wait there’s more….There was a Rabbi from Tarsus named Shaul who was instrumental in torturing and killing these people who claimed to believe in the risen Messiah Yeshua. Rabbi Shaul was responsible for hunting down and killing this “rebel” faction of Jews who believed that some mere man was God. He did it with zeal and fervor. So much so that he was FEARED by the first century Messianic Jews. But then, all of a sudden, this Pharisee, this Benjamite started to go out and preach this same Yeshua . In fact the disciples who were there did not trust him at first. And not only did he feel convicted enough to preach Yeshua to his fellow Jews, for he would always go into the Synagogues first, but he traveled all over Asia Minor, Europe, and other places and proclaimed this same gospel to the heathen Gentiles as well. Then he ended up being imprisoned and beheaded in Rome because of this faith of his. And before that he was imprisoned, stoned, beat up, and suffered all sorts of abuse for his belief. So did he go crazy too? Now, between disciples being tortured and murdered for their faith in Yeshua, and then this Rabbi who at first was persecuting these people, but later joined them, they had to have seen SOMETHING that convinced them that this was not a lie. Certainly they all could not have been crazy? Could they? I submit that for the Disciples, and many other Jews, it was physically seeing Yeshua after He rose from the grave. For Rabbi Shaul, it was seeing this same Messiah on the road to Damascus.
Now on to a sensitive subject. Yes Christians did persecute and murder Jews because they would not “convert” to Christianity and I make no excuses for this abhorrent behavior. The New Testament makes it clear that Jews are Jews, Gentiles are Gentiles and one does not have to convert to the other to Worship God. Those who murdered and persecuted the Jewish people were NOT doing the will of God because Adonai tells us “Do not Murder” As a Christian, I can only sincerely apologize for what they did and say that my heart is broken for all of the people and their families of those who lost their lives through the Crusades and the Holocaust. Even today there is a lot of “Anti-Semitism” in the church and people who accuse the Jews of “deicide” However; I believe this comes from a position of ignorance and also a result of our fallen nature as humans. I love the Jewish people and the Nation of Israel. It was because of you that I am even able to read God’s word. It was you who preserved His Word and through your people came the Messiah. I understand that the Jewish people are still God’s chosen people and that He is not finished with the Nation of Israel and I also understand that the “Church” has in no way replaced Israel. I say this not for a pat on the back but so that you know that not all Christians are Anti-Semitic nor are we all ignorant of our Jewish roots in the faith.
Again, I realize that you will all be unmoved by the words I have written here and again that’s OK.
Roman you wrote “one does not have to convert to the other to Worship God”. The apostles were telling Jews though that to be safe from the judgment, be forgiven, and please God, they must accept J as king and as atonement.
luke can steal from mark and matthew but he COMPLETE omits the mention of 500 witnesses? something strange?
if the 500 witnesses was an OLD creed and luke informed his boss that he was examining the EARLIEST witnesses , what happen to the 500 ?
FROM my lengthy post, i QUOTE
> > Luke happily uses the appearance to the eleven from his source
> > Matthew, but ignores the appearance to the Twelve, while knowing the 1
> > Cor. 15 creed? Luke changes his sources’ statement of the angels from
> > “Go to Galilee” to “Remember what he said in Galilee” and completely
> > ignores the appearances in 1 Cor. 15? Does not say much for his
> > considering them history!
I appreciate very much your comments about anti-Semitism. It’s refreshing to see such honesty and lack of self-defensiveness about Christian anti-Semitism, so thank you for saying that.
You wrote that you realize that “you will all be unmoved by [my] words.”
Why do you think that is?
And will you be moved by mine? If not, why not?
Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the LORD with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!
So dear Rabbi & Annelise,
Here is a warning to you in the Holy Scriptures of what the LORD would speak. What is idolatry to you could be idolatry ‘for’ you! The LIFE of God is in HIM … and we rejoice to live our lives by HIS faith –
With Repect & Love,
“Kiss the Son” or “Do homage in purity” in Psalm 2:12?
“Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” (Psalm 2:12, KJV)
The KJV translates “נשׁקו־בר (nashku bar)” as “kiss the son”. The meaning of the verb “נשׁקו (nashku)” is not so much in dispute. “Kiss” is the literal translation (Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions) and “do homage” is a paraphrase of “kiss”. The idea is that kissing demonstrates the subject’s reverence towards the master. The KJV keeps the literal rendering.
The bigger issue is whether “בר (bar)” should be translated “Son”. The normal Hebrew word for “son” is “בנ (ben)”. “בר (bar)” means “son” in Aramaic (Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions). The word for “pure” in Hebrew is “בר (bar)” (Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions). That is why some translations have “Do homage in purity” at Psalm 2:12. However, “בר (bar)” is used to mean “son” in Proverbs 31:2 (“What, my son [ברי]? and what, the son [בר] of my womb? and what, the son [בר] of my vows?”), so it is possible for the Aramaic word to be used in Hebrew poetry. Given that the focus of Psalm 2 is on the coming Messiah (“his anointed” (verse 2), “my king” (verse 6), “my Son” (verse 7)), it seems appropriate in the climactic conclusion for the psalmist to command the people to revere this Messiah. Also, the Psalm begins with the people rebelling against the LORD “and against his anointed” (verse 2). A complete resolution requires the Psalm to conclude not only with the command to “Serve the LORD” (verse 11) but also with the command to revere his anointed – that is, to “Kiss the Son” (verse 12).
Despite “Kiss the Son” fitting the context of the Psalm, critics argue that the context does not warrant the importation of this Aramaic word. The Hebrew word for “son”, “בנ (ben)”, is used in the very same Psalm at verse 7 (“Thou art my Son….”). These critics see no reason for the immediate switch from using the Hebrew word to the Aramaic word.
The reason for the switch may be due to:
1. the shift of audience;
2. the shift in geography;
3. the chronology of the narrative.
Verse 7 is spoken by the LORD to his Son. This is the God of Israel speaking to an Israelite Son. The audience, being an Israelite Son, is addressed as “Son” in the Hebrew language. Verse 12, however, is spoken to Gentiles. The Psalm begins with a question relating to the rebellion of the Gentiles (“heathen”, translated from “גוים (goyim)” is the same word for Gentiles). Verse 10 refers to judges “of the earth” and therefore the admonition in verse 12 to “Kiss the Son” is given to these Gentiles. The Gentiles nearest to the psalmist were the Chaldeans who spoke Aramaic. To these Gentiles, this reverent individual is addressed as “Son” in the Aramaic language.
The Psalm also emphasizes the contrast between Zion and the uttermost parts of the earth. Verse 6 says “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” This coming Messiah is not just a generic ruler of the world. He has his roots in Israel, has a Hebrew character, and speaks the Hebrew language. He is the “בנ (ben)” of Israel’s God. Then verse 8 says “…I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” Here the focus shifts, or rather grows, from the locality of Israel to the entire globe. This coming Messiah is therefore no longer a local king of Israel. He is the “בר (bar)” of earth’s God. Thus the identification of the “Son” as either in the local language or in the lingua franca depends on the geographic context of the verse.
This second Psalm is indisputably loaded with theology. It speaks of soteriology, Trinitarianism, and eschatology. The shifting use of the words for “son” might have its significance in the Psalm’s insights with respect to the chronology of redemptive history. In Christ’s first coming, he was hailed by some as the king of the Jews. In his second coming, he will be hailed as the king of the entire world. The events of verse 9 definitely take place at the time of Christ’s second coming. At this time, he will be addressed in English as the “Son” of God, in Spanish as the “Hijo” of God, in French as the “fils” of God, and by the resurrected Aramaic speaking saints as the “בר (bar)” of God. The historical chronology of the shifting identity of the Son from Jewish to international is mirrored by the Psalm’s shift in the identification of the “Son” from “בנ (ben)” first to “בר (bar)” in the end.
Hey, June, here is a challenge:
Instead of repeating ignorant missionary propaganda, learn Hebrew and study the Bible in its original language. Until you can do that, you can’t really try persuade us Hebrew speakers.
Good luck, and looking forward to having a real conversation with you when you can read and understand Hebrew.
May God our Father lead us in the light of His truth.
Peace and blessings,
Hi June. Let’s not argue about “son” or “purity”. It really does not matter. Let’s just say it is son. Now, did any king rule over the whole world? No. Was Jesus ever a king? No. You may say “It will happen when he comes back”, and that’s totally fine if you believe it. But to use that specific psalm to prove Jesus is non-sense, because it has not happened yet. It was not David, nor Solomon, it talks about the messiah. But to fulfil that prophecy, it needs to have happened. Now, back to kiss the son. If you want to say that it is “kiss the son”, it is only normal that people will pay homage to their king. We have to respect our authority and this does not imply worship. So, basically arguing over a word makes no sense, because even if we agree that it is “son”, it does not point to Jesus.
P.S. The messiah will rule over all the earth, and both Jews and Christians agree.
Now, please let us go to one prophecy that Jesus fulfil… What??? still waiting… None 🙂
The meaning of one word can be the difference between life and death in medicine as much as in theology, never is that more true than in Psalm 2.7,12. There are many other places where testimony regarding the Divine Memra is confirmed.
Christians and Messianic Jews believe the Messiah is already enthroned, waiting till His enemies are put under His feet. Kissing is often synonymous with worship (eg Job.31.27).
As to Messianic prophecies fulfilled, how about starting with Messiah’s death, Daniel 9.26 as a judicial punishment?
But to those who will not see there is no amount of light to help them.
So do you believe that God hinged this “life or death” teaching on one word? God doesn’t know how to make a point? He is a bad writer? He is playing games?
No,but a tectonic difference between two positions can sometimes be condensed to one word.
‘I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.’
Hi Cpsoper, the word “son” was already used previously in the psalm. Nobody has a problem with that. Christian would say that the second son implies worship, which is just not the case. Kiss (nä·shak) only means kiss. Sometimes, the intent of the kiss can imply idolatry as Job 31, but not all the times. Also, the whole psalm has NOT HAPPENED YET. Neither Daniel 9. Using prophecies that has not happened yet is dishonest, for the least.
Now for Daniel 9, this is a vision. Now do you take the beast literally? Seriously. The son of man, as per the interpretation of the angel is Israel. It Does not mean that the son of man will literally come back on a cloud and fight the literal beast. Read the interpretation before speaking. It talks about Israel, which is the son of man (a nation also, as the beast).
Also Cpsoper, just to show you how much non-sense it is, just prove me that I am not the one prophecies in Psalm 2 and Daniel 9.
I am telling you, I will come back in the could. You can’t, I am the son of Psalm 2, I am telling you I will rule over all the world Muchahahah. Truly, truly, Cpsoper, you will not die before you see me ruling over the world.
See how much it is non-sense. You can’t prove me I am wrong… Why? Because it has not happened yet!
“I will wait upon the LORD” You got confused cpsoper you are waiting on Jesus, not the L-rd.
You see, psalm 2 has the L-rd and has a second person, his messiah. They are two distinct individuals. Look “The L-rd has said to me” (the anointed king who will rule over all the earth)
He did not say “the L-rd has said to himself / the 1/3 part of himself / god the son / the son of god.
The son in the psalm is not G-d, this is clear and undeniable. That psalm proves nothing and does not point to Jesus whatsoever.
and now read this .
> > They were seen as dirty, anti-Roman hippies who wouldn’t fight for
> > their country. The actual content of their mythology was not something
> > Romans really cared about, and it’s unlikely they even knew much of
> > what it was. We have some indications from ancient writings that much
> > of the Roman populace wasn’t even clear on the difference between
> > Christians and Jews, and just saw Christians as some kind of Jewish
> > sect. They were completely indifferent to their particular beliefs or
> > myths, and Roman authorities had no reason to try to suppress them or
> > hide them. The Roman empire was full of mythologies, and Rome had
> > always been tolerant of religious freedom as long as everybody honored
> > the state temples, which the Christians wouldn’t do.
> > For instance:
> > In reference 1, Tacitus reports nothing about a resurrection,
> > witnessed, believed in or otherwise. Only that one ‘Christ’ suffered
> > the extreme penalty under Pontius Pilate, that ‘Chrestians’ had spread
> > to Rome, and they are reported to have done certain things. Sorry,
> > maybe I am missing it, but I don’t see the relevance.
> > ..
> > But I don’t see any justification for your claim that the
> > Resurrection was the only thing which could have emboldened them to
> > die for Faith in Jesus. I don’t even think Scripture justifies this.
> > The Gospel of Mark gives no details about the Apostle’s actions after
> > the Resurrection. Matthew describes the Great Commission, but gives no
> > details about the convicting power of the Resurrection. The Gospel of
> > John has a post-Resurrection episode near the Sea of Tiberius where it
> > appears that Peter and some of his friends are content to resume their
> > fishing occupation. Only in Luke and Acts do we get a hint about how
> > the Apostles become emboldened with power – from Luke 24:49, the post-
> > Resurrection Jesus commands his disciples to remain in Jerusalem until
> > they are ‘clothed with power from on high’. Even after the
> > Resurrection then, the Apostles apparently are not empowered – not
> > yet. This occurs in Acts chapter 2 with the filling of the Holy
> > Spirit, and Peter, finally, rises to preach with power for the first
> > time beginning in Acts 2:14 after the filling with the Holy Ghost,
> > i.e. ‘clothed with power from on high’. I think it is clear that
> > Scripture does not teach that the Resurrection emboldened anybody, at
> > least not that I can see. Rather, the Holy Ghost filled the believer
> > with Power as a gift from God.
> > …
> > As to the Twelve…even if Matthias was considered part of the Twelve,
> > the same problem remains. According to this theory an early creed (you
> > indicate 18 months to 8 years post-crucifixion) used the term “Jesus
> > appeared to the twelve.” Yet later sources, Matthew and Luke, freely
> > indicate “Jesus appeared to eleven.” (Luke even uses, “the eleven” if
> > I recall correctly)
> > Why did the later sources (which coincidentally are the ones reducing
> > it to eleven) abandon the title, “the Twelve,” if they were aware of
> > the creed? (Worse, why did they not list Peter, the 500, all the
> > apostles and James, if they were aware of the creed? Why were they
> > that off?)
> > “you would likely say that they copied from each other’s
> > manuscript…”
> > The Synoptic Gospels did copy (and make modifications) from each
> > other’s manuscripts (regardless what I would or would not say about
> > it. *grin*) Luke copied from Matthew and Mark. Matthew copied Mark.
> > (And I would argue portions of John were influenced by Luke and
> > Matthew, without necessarily having the manuscripts.)
> > …
> > They comfortably copied and modified from other sources…what I am
> > wondering is whether they did from the 1 Cor. 15 creed. Let me try a
> > different way—I have two questions:
> > 1) Regarding the 1 Cor. 15 creed, did Matthew and Luke:
> > a) Know it;
> > b) Not know it;
> > c) We don’t know; or
> > d) ____________ [another option]
> > I don’t want to limit your choices to only the first three.
> > ..
> > Why (what arguments would you use) to support that they knew the
> > creed?
> > Obtaining information from the same source does not necessarily mean
> > one obtains the SAME information from the same source.
> > , I am not sure how one gets around the problem the Gospels freely
> > utilize other sources (you even include more than I do with John)
> > without explaining why they would not utilize this supposed source.
> > Even more problematic (and what should be addressed) is why every
> > single appearance in the 1 Cor. 15 creed is NOT addressed in the
> > Gospels with one inferred exception. The Gospels don’t include a first
> > appearance to Peter (except referred to in Luke), nothing about the
> > Twelve, the 500, all the apostles or James.
> > #
> > Luke happily uses the appearance to the eleven from his source
> > Matthew, but ignores the appearance to the Twelve, while knowing the 1
> > Cor. 15 creed? Luke changes his sources’ statement of the angels from
> > “Go to Galilee” to “Remember what he said in Galilee” and completely
> > ignores the appearances in 1 Cor. 15? Does not say much for his
> > considering them history!
> > Our earliest source of information about Jewish persecution of
> > Christians is found in Paul’s letters. These letters tell us almost
> > nothing about why the church was persecuted or what the scope of that
> > persecution was and they do not give us any details about the
> > appearances. Given that silence, I don’t think that we can reasonably
> > draw any conclusions about the nature of the appearances from the
> > nature of the persecution suffered at the hands of the Jewish
> > authorities. The data is simply too scanty.
> > I would even indicate there is nothing directly in Paul’s letters
> > about a systematic persecution of Christianity by the Jewish
> > authorities. Yes, Paul refers to his own persecution, but he does not
> > indicate doing as an official policy, nor doing with others.
> > We only have one writing—Acts of Apostles—indicating systematic
> > persecution of Christianity by Jewish authority. Plenty of writings
> > about Roman persecution. Only one with Jewish.
> > But why would the Jewish authorities even bother persecuting
> > Christianity? Didn’t they already have their hands full?
> > The Sadducees had the political power, but no public support. The
> > Pharisees had public support—no political power. The Essenes
> > considered both incorrect. As did the Samaritans (who also considered
> > the Essenes incorrect.) The Galileans were just stirring up trouble
> > with the Romans, causing apoplexy for everybody.
> > The Herodians were doing…well…we don’t know what. The Qumran community
> > (only recently discovered) was aching for the day the current Judean
> > authorities were deposed.
> > The Jewish government was divided into different geographical areas,
> > with no unifying King until Agrippa, and he only lasted 3-4 years.
> > On top of all this, the Roman Government was a constant source of
> > irritation as the Emperor appointed new prefects or procurators, who
> > promptly appointed a new High Priest
> > Not to mention wars with other countries, Roman armies within Judea,
> > Galilee, Samaria and Perea, famine, taxes, religious troublemakers
> > like John the Baptist, and the constant bombardment of a polytheistic
> > society offering social status for joining in.
> > And along comes (yet another) religious up-start claiming the Messiah
> > came and went, and couldn’t even agree amongst themselves whether
> > converted Jews must continue to maintain the law or not. A religion
> > that fairly quickly began focusing on converting Gentile pagans
> > Why would the Jewish authorities bother? They had their hands full
> > with real problems.
> > And the only source we have of this Jewish persecution is a Christian
> > polemic writing. Like reading a Branch Davidian Diary describing how
> > the U.S. Government was horrendously persecuting them, whereas the
> > government barely had them on their radar, and we would probably never
> > even know they existed short of an ATF raid that went terribly wrong.
> > As I think we have both discussed on other occasions, persecutors are
> > often mistaken about their victims’ beliefs. Jews have never used the
> > blood of murdered Christian babies in their rituals, but many pogroms
> > have been inspired by this falsehood. Early Christians committed
> > neither incest nor cannibalism although these charges were used as
> > excuses for persecutions by pagans.
> > Even if we had a letter from a Jewish official that said, “I didn’t
> > mind when the Christians said that the risen Christ appeared to the
> > disciples in a dream, but I had to put them to death when heard they
> > believed that the risen Christ had a meal with the disciples,” we
> > would still have to reckon with the possibility that the official was
> > simply wrong about what the Christians believed.
> > There is also LDS literature that paints Smith as a faithful husband
> > and warns Mormons not to be deceived by stories told by outsiders who
> > want to destroy the Mormon church.
> > Official LDS histories contain boatloads of facts about places and
> > dates and people that can be corroborated. Smith really did have a
> > wife named Emma and he really was killed by a mob in Carthage,
> > Illinois on June 27, 1844. That doesn’t mean that we should believe
> > that there were really eight witnesses of the golden plates.
> > Joseph Smith had the opportunity to flee the authorities and chose not
> > to do so despite knowing full well that it might cost him his life.
> > His followers accepted great risks and hardships. If I’m not justified
> > in questioning the reality of the resurrection appearances, I cannot
> > see how I would be justified in questioning the appearances of the
> > Angel Moroni.
> > If Luke willingly used earlier Matthew and earlier Mark—why not use
> > the earlier creed too? If Matthew willingly used earlier Mark—why not
> > use earlier 1 Cor. 15? (The additional conflicts between the gospel
> > accounts further reduce credibility.)
> > Your article does not contain a single citation that tells us that the
> > Apostles died because they, not believed, but personally witnessed a
> > physically resurrected Jesus. What further proof do you need of this,
> > than that you yourself did not try to ‘build a case’ based on any of
> > the ancient sources that you cited, but from a quotation made by a
> > modern historian!
> > A few ground rules to retain our previous direction.
> > First, we are discussing the argument from the perspective of people
> > willing to die for what they saw–not what they learned. As you aptly
> > pointed out in your 200 Word Resurrection Witness blog entry, many
> > people are willing to die for what they learned. Today’s Muslims,
> > today’s Christians, Hindus, freedom fighters, cult followers, etc. The
> > focus—the idea this is different–is to point out people willing to die
> > for what they actually saw. Not something they picked up second or
> > third hand.
> > We all agree Christians were persecuted (to some extent) in the first
> > centuries. However, for this argument to have force the only
> > Christians we focus on are those who claim to have seen a physically
> > resurrected Jesus. Otherwise we fall into the predicament you
> > precisely point out—people die for what they heard all the time and it
> > is no measure of verity.
> > Therefore, while Tacitus gives us some background information, he does
> > not list any specific person who was killed, and does not provide us
> > an individual helpful to this argument. The reason we “sensibly” did
> > not argue against Tacitus claim is that we don’t have to! No where
> > does Tacitus indicate, “People who claimed to see Jesus resurrected
> > were killed.” I could equally say you “sensibly” did not respond to
> > our question if any of the persons referred to by Tacitus claimed to
> > have seen a physically resurrected Jesus.
> > Further, Tacitus does list the reasons the Christians were despised—
> > and it isn’t the claim a person was resurrected from the dead. Tacitus
> > states Christians committed “abominations,” retained “superstitious”
> > beliefs (careful we utilize the Roman concept of “superstitions” and
> > not our own) and “hatred of mankind.” You would need to flesh out the
> > argument it was their resurrection claim and not some other perceived
> > issue (like monotheism, cannibalism or incest) which caused them to be
> > persecuted. Bringing me to my next point…
> > Secondly, we have to be careful to avoid the hammer/nail problem—when
> > we hold a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Yes, early
> > Christianity preached Christ resurrected. But was that why they were
> > persecuted? Just because they stated it, doesn’t mean every time they
> > were pursued it was for this reason.
> > For example, John the Baptist preached baptism of repentance for the
> > remission of sins. (Mark 1:4). Is that why he was killed? No—it was
> > for criticizing Herod’s choice of wife. (Mark 6:18) Stephen was killed
> > for calling the Sanhedrin names. (Acts 7) According to Acts, Peter was
> > to be killed because it pleased the people. (Acts 12:1-4)
> > Polycarp was accused of being a monotheist and preaching to not
> > sacrifice to other Gods. As I previously pointed out, Peter was killed
> > for telling wives not to have sex with their husbands. So was Andrew.
> > According to the first source we have, Paul was killed because Nero
> > feared another king was developing a kingdom. And, as you pointed out,
> > the Christians in Tacitus were killed as scapegoats, since Nero
> > couldn’t find any other means to absolve the fire’s blame resting on
> > Nero.
> > Or your example in the 200 word resurrection witness—James, the
> > brother of Jesus. He was killed for breaking the law. (Presumably the
> > Jewish law.) Not for his claim about Resurrection.
> > This is important because if they weren’t accused of Resurrection
> > belief—recanting said belief may not have helped them! Imagine Peter
> > telling Albinus and Agrippa, “Fine. I don’t believe Jesus was raised
> > from the dead.” They would scratch their heads and say, “What do we
> > care about THAT?! We are killing you because you convinced our wives
> > to not have sex with us.” Or imagine the Christians telling Nero, “We
> > recant the resurrection.” Nero would reply, “What do I care about
> > THAT?! I am killing you because I need a scapegoat to avoid this
> > pernicious rumor I started the fire.”
> > All a long way of saying we need two things:
> > 1) A person claiming to see a physically resurrected Jesus; and
> > 2) Recanting that claim would absolve them of punishment.
> > With this in mind, let’s look at your sources.
> > 1 Clement. Whether he is a “contemporary” of the apostles is a matter
> > of some dispute. While some early church fathers refer to Clement,
> > Bishop of Rome as an associate of Peter, 1 Clement itself is curiously
> > lacking in making this claim. Indeed, 1 Clement 44:1-3 indicates the
> > current (95 CE?) generation was once and possibly twice removed from
> > the apostles. (And we have the additional problem of dating and
> > authorship on 1 Clement. It could be as late as the middle second
> > century and wasn’t necessarily written by Clement, Bishop of Rome.)
> > Additionally, as the author is arguing the Corinthian church should
> > retain its leadership, it is curious he would not utilize his own
> > relationship with Peter, and his own appointment either by Peter or
> > Peter’s representative. There is absolutely nothing in 1 Clement
> > connecting the author to Peter.
> > The author does not give any details surrounding Peter or Paul’s
> > death. We don’t know when, we don’t know where, we don’t know by whom
> > (Roman? Jewish? Other?), and of course the most important—we don’t
> > know why.
> > The author is deliberately giving examples of steadfastness, and
> > listing the travesties occurring to these individuals. He states that
> > Peter suffered “many labors”—but skips the bit about Peter being
> > crucified? He gives specifics about Paul—seven (not six. Not eight)
> > times in bonds, exiled and stoned—but skips the bit about Paul being
> > beheaded for his belief!?
> > The author talks about Abel being slain for “jealous and envy.” The
> > author says Joseph was persecuted “unto death” (although not dying).
> > If the author is willing to say some were killed because of “jealous
> > and envy” but others were only persecuted “unto death” (but not
> > killed) for jealously and envy, and our subjects Peter and Paul fall
> > in the “unto death” category, it would seem in line with the author’s
> > intentions they were NOT martyred.
> > Licona also notes not every time “unto death” means the person was
> > actually killed. And Licona notes the word “testimony” did not become
> > “martyr” until after Justin Martyr. Licona does give the qualified
> > statement, “Clement reports that Peter and Paul suffered multiple
> > attacks and most likely refers to their martyrdoms, although the
> > latter is not without question.” Pg 367. “Most likely” and “not
> > without question” does not instill confidence.
> > Polycarp provides us no new information, other than stating Paul
> > suffered. However, the Martyrdom of Polycarp (around 150 CE) does
> > provide a new and interesting twist. The story indicates Polycarp
> > baffled his captors, was allowed to give long-winded speeches, and
> > ended with his dying a glorious, miraculous martyr’s death. Almost
> > immediately following this writing we see a genre of writings giving
> > similar accounts surrounding Peter’s glorious, miraculous martyrdom,
> > Paul’s glorious, miraculous martyrdom, Andrew’s glorious, miraculous
> > martyrdom and eventually (with Hippolytus) the martyrdom of every
> > disciple except John. (who still had a glorious, miraculous death.)
> > Further, martyrdom became revered in the church, allowing martyrs
> > immediate access to heaven, and those condemned but released special
> > offices in the church. Unsurprisingly, within such an environment, we
> > begin to see stories surrounding the deaths of the disciples. Stories
> > non-existent with contemporary writers.
> > Tertullian didn’t have access to any “archives of the empire”—this is
> > rhetorical flourish, like having access to the “stones of Jerusalem.”
> > Tertullian obtained his information regarding Peter and Paul from Acts
> > of Peter and Acts of Paul. It has absolutely nothing to do with
> > “wanting it to be true” or not—it is simple, common historical
> > practice in determining one’s sources.
> > Look, Tertullian, in De Baptismo refers to the Acts of Paul. He knows
> > of its existence (obviously) by reference to it. Tertullian states
> > Paul was beheaded. This is the first time in all recorded history that
> > claim is made with one exception—Acts of Paul. The book Tertullian
> > indicates he knows.
> > If a writer in 200 CE says, “Fact F happened” (where fact F was almost
> > 140 years earlier) and also indicates “I know book B” (written earlier
> > than the writer) and Book B contains Fact F why would we possibly say
> > anything BUT the writer obtained Fact F from Book B?
> > This has nothing to do with us “wanting Tertullian to make it up” or
> > otherwise. It is the most simple, basic historical analysis.
> > Eusebius, of course, is far too late to be of any use, especially as
> > he is utilizing sources we either cannot confirm (Clement of
> > Alexandria, Dionysius), or sources we already have (Tertullian.)
> > Finally, the question that continues to plague me. We see anecdotal
> > evidence in the sources we have (Hippolytus, 2nd Apocalypse of James,
> > Hegesippus, Acts of Peter, Acts of Paul). Why, if Christians were
> > motivated to make this up later, can we presume they were not
> > motivated to make it up earlier?
> > 1) Tertullian was a lawyer. Like all lawyers, he loves rhetoric.
> > Countless examples abound throughout his writing; we can focus on this
> > passage.
> > a) “James is slain as is a victim at the altar.” An allegorical
> > description of James, son of Zebedee, being killed. Was he actually
> > killed at an altar? No—Tertullian is using descriptive words to invoke
> > an emotional response. Rhetoric.
> > b) “that Paul is beheaded has been written in their own blood.”
> > Tertullian is not claiming someone utilized Paul’s head as an inkwell
> > to write the account of his death. Again, rhetoric. Poetry. Analogy.
> > c) “as would the stones of Jerusalem.” Tertullian is not claiming the
> > accounts regarding their deaths was etched in any stones, resting in
> > Jerusalem. Like Jesus, proclaiming “The rocks will cry out” this is
> > hyperbolic speech. Rhetoric.
> > d) “Then does Paul obtain a birth suited to Roman citizenship, when in
> > Rome he springs to life again ennobled by martyrdom.” This one might
> > be more interesting for you. So far, I have been pointing out
> > statements meant to be allegorical and poetic—not literal. Which one
> > does this fall under? See, in the Acts of Paul (Tertullian’s source)
> > Paul comes back in a vision to Nero after being beheaded. This is what
> > Tertullian is referring to. If you claim this is literal, we see two
> > things:
> > i) Further support Tertullian’s source is Acts of Paul.
> > ii) We could claim Paul was resurrected! If Paul claiming to see a
> > vision of Jesus constitutes support for a “physically” resurrected
> > Jesus then Nero’s claiming to see a vision of Paul constitutes support
> > for a physically resurrected Paul!
> > e) We have allegory, rhetoric, hyperbole, poetic language throughout
> > this paragraph, yet the one (1) solitary instance the apologist would
> > like support to sustain their claim, they claim it is literal. I
> > question whether the method is being applied consistently.
> > 2) How reasonable is it such archives would exist?
> > a) Why would the Romans keep track of people they killed? Historians
> > agree Romans were good record-keepers, but toward a certain end—money
> > and power. They kept track of laws, decrees, wills, marriages,
> > divorces, land transfers and census results because such records
> > influenced money and power.
> > How do the names of 200 people killed in Gaul further the Empire’s
> > need for information regarding wealth and power? Bringing me to…
> > b) The Empire killed millions. Again…the Empire killed millions! I
> > understand Christians tend to focus on Christian’s being killed, but
> > we need to look at this claim from the Roman standpoint. They were
> > killing Jews and Christians and Gauls and Romans and Syrians and
> > Egyptians and Ethiopians and…well… the list goes on and on.
> > If we are making the claim the Empire is keeping some record (for
> > unknown reasons) of people they killed, we need to include ALL the
> > names. And this list would run into the millions. For some unknown
> > reason. Taking up precious resources, time and material.
> > c) How would one archive such a list? Again, this would be millions of
> > names. On countless pieces of parchment. Would they be indexed by
> > name? By year? By Country? By Emperor? By law? Imagine going into a
> > warehouse of just parchment, and digging through all of it, to find
> > some list where we see the name, “Paulos.” How would even possibly
> > know it is the “Paulos” of the New Testament? We would need further
> > information on the list.
> > Meaning more writing. With more resources spent.
> > d) I am unaware of any historical record or claim that such lists were
> > preserved. Is there any support for such an archive?
> > So…we have a writer who frequently uses rhetoric make this statement
> > (within a sentence using rhetoric) OR we have this unsupported,
> > unknown, unreasonable list existing.
> > I’m on pretty confident ground to call it “rhetorical flourish”
> > without it being wishful.
> > Now, if you believe otherwise, I would be happy to review arguments
> > presented to the contrary.
> > ============
> > Comment:
> > 6. Who do you have in mind by “the disciples”? Since you mention the
> > “twelve” in the third question above, are you claiming that twelve of
> > Jesus’ disciples died “for their faith”? Who specifically (names
> > please) are you claiming to have died “for their faith”? We don’t have
> > enough historical information to conclude that “the twelve” were all
> > willing to die for their faith.
> > 7. How much do we know about the theological beliefs of “the twelve”
> > disciples of Jesus? It is probable that the resurrection of Jesus was
> > a central belief for some of “the twelve”, such as Peter, but we don’t
> > know that the resurrection was central to the theology of all of “the
> > twelve” because we really don’t have much information about “the
> > twelve” at all. Thus, even if we knew that “the twelve” were all
> > willing to die for their faith, we still would not know that “the
> > twelve” were all willing to die for the belief in Jesus’ resurrection.
> > That belief may not have been of central importance to the faith of
> > all of “the twelve”.
> > 8. If Jesus did not in fact rise from the dead, that does not mean
> > that his disciples were aware of this fact. Some of the twelve
> > disciples may have heard from some female followers of Jesus that
> > Jesus had died on the cross, and some of the twelve disciples may have
> > had dreams or visions of Jesus after the crucifixion.
> > From a modern skeptical point of view, such evidence is way too thin
> > to be proof of such an extraordinary claim, but that does not imply
> > that the twelve (or eleven, since Judas was presumably not a believer)
> > disciples of Jesus were insincere in believing or proclaiming that
> > Jesus had risen from the dead.
> > 9. The stories of Jesus appearing to “the twelve” found in Luke and
> > John are unhistorical in my view, so I don’t think there is an
> > established fact here that needs to be explained (e.g. in terms of
> > mass hallucination).
> I have not examined the issue beyond the first hundred years of the
> Christian mission, because after that period very little of Holding’s
> argument remains relevant–the ability to check the facts would be, by
> then, all but impossible, and greatly thwarted by an overabundance of
> bogus history, while the nature of Christianity had substantially
> changed as well, as did the social circumstances surrounding it. As
> Holding himself admits, after the first century the “evidence would
> have been almost completely inaccessible and decisions had to be made
> on other grounds.”
> Archaeological evidence secures the case: though a vast amount of
> material evidence has been uncovered of unmistakably Jewish occupation
> throughout Palestine, as well as considerable evidence of pagan
> inhabitants, absolutely no material evidence of any Christian
> population can be found there until later centuries. In fact, only in
> the 3rd century does material evidence of a Christian presence
> anywhere in the Empire begin to match that of even minor pagan cults.
> Therefore, from both observations it follows that if Christians
> inhabited Palestine in the first century, their numbers must have been
> truly negligible. And to carry the point home, even the most biased of
> Christian sources make no claims to the contrary. Acts suggests the
> mission was taken to the Gentiles because Jews simply weren’t buying
> it anymore. This looks pretty bad for Holding. Where Christianity
> was most open to being checked against the facts is where it was least
> successful. Hmmm.
> Holding himself quotes N. T. Wright that belief in Christ’s
> resurrection “was held by a tiny group who, for the first two or three
> generations at least, could hardly have mounted a riot in a village,
> let alone a revolution in an empire.” That’s not an impressive rate of
> success. In fact, it’s downright dismal. One might contrast this with
> the success of the Scientific Revolution, when modern scientific
> principles launched from a controversial fringe movement in 1600 to
> near-universal praise and acceptance from every echelon of society by
> 1750. Christianity only wishes it had seen that kind of triumph. In
> the end, it could only gain that scale of success after numerous
> centuries, and even then only by force and intimidation.
> Acts neglects to mention or even estimate the rate of losses and has
> every reason to exaggerate the scale of Christianity’s success, yet
> still only claims the Church began with about 120 members after the
> death of Jesus (Acts 1:15), while the largest actual number on record
> for the size of the Church in Palestine is 5,000 total members (Acts
> 4:4). All subsequent growth is described only in vague terms, and Acts
> loses complete track of the matter once even those few Palestinian
> Christians “scattered” and eventually fled (Acts 8:1, 11:19).
> The problem is that any advocate of P2 must then contend with the fact
> that it was also a capital crime to rob graves. In fact, from the
> first two centuries we have far more evidence of those laws than for
> any laws mentioning Christians. Hence P2 analogously entails that
> if there were laws against robbing graves, then hundreds of thousands
> of people must have been grave robbers, which proves P3: “hundreds of
> thousands of people would engage in lethally dangerous and socially
> despised behavior without overwhelming evidence of divine support.” P3
> refutes P1. Therefore, one must retreat from this fatal assumption and
> admit to P4: “only a tiny fringe minority engaged in grave robbing.”
> And that is probably true–certainly fewer than 1/10th of 1% of the
> population could ever have been grave robbers. But if P4 is true, then
> mutatis mutandis P2 is false, and laws could be passed against tiny
> fringe minorities.
> But the fact is, there is no evidence of any actual law against
> Christianity anyway until the mid-2nd or early 3rd century. Prior to
> that, Christians were rarely prosecuted at all, and even when they
> were, it was for other generic crimes against Rome, not simply for
> “being Christian.” Paul, we are told, ended up before Gallio on a
> vague charge of soliciting criminal behavior, and is charged as a Jew
> (Acts 16:20-21). Even Nero had to formally charge Christians with
> arson to get away with killing them. Even by the early 2nd century,
> when Pliny the Younger asks the emperor Trajan what the law was
> against Christians, Trajan replies, “it is not possible to establish
> anything in general that has a specific form, so to speak.” In legal
> jargon that meant there was no actual law, and so Pliny had to use his
> own judgment. Hence the only general test Trajan suggests is the same
> one Pliny came up with on his own even before he knew why Christians
> were criminals, which is to test whether the accused is a member of an
> illegal society: first by asking them to renounce this, then–to make
> sure they are telling the truth–asking them to do something otherwise
> trivial that he was told members of their association would never do.
> This means Pliny understood Christianity as already violating existing
> laws against illegal associations, and therefore no specific law
> against Christianity was required. Membership in illegal associations
> was already a capital crime since any formal association required an
> approval or a special license issued by the government, which sought
> assurances that the association was not a covertly treasonous movement
> against the Roman order.
> 16:8 Chiasm
> And entering into the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right
> side, arrayed in a white robe; and they were amazed. [Entered the Tomb
> – Amazed]
> —–And he saith unto them, Be not amazed: ye seek Jesus, the
> Nazarene, who hath been crucified: he is risen; he is not here:
> behold, the place where they laid him! [Ordered to not be Amazed]
> —–But go, tell his disciples and Peter, He goeth before you into
> Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. [Ordered To
> And they went out, and fled from the tomb; for trembling and
> astonishment had come upon them: and they said nothing to any one; for
> they were afraid.
> [Left the Tomb – Amazed and not Talking]
> The classic characteristic of a Markan chiasm is it begins and ends
> with arriving and departing a specific location. This Marks the
> chiasm. Markan chiasms can also be based on concepts. Here we have the
> classic Markan ironically contrasting balance that the women enter
> walking and talking and are amazed. They are instructed to not be
> amazed and to talk. Their reaction is to run away amazed and not talk.
> The opposite of their instructions. Note that contrast of the positive
> and negative instructions. Don’t be amazed – they are amazed. Talk –
> they don’t talk. Welcome to “Mark’s” Ying Yah world. Whoever is not
> against him is for him. No in between (and no ultimate mercy).
> This clear chiasm is solid evidence that the AE is original. Try
> getting a chiasm out of the LE. Note also that the chiasm is supported
> by another stylish technique of “Mark”, amazed reaction as the first
> and last reaction to a character. The women are amazed when they see
> the angel and fearful when they leave the angel. They are not
> crucifying their passion as per Paul’s instructions. The angel is in
> complete contrast, sitting and calm. Even more stylish support is the
> literal ending of the Gospel with a reaction of fear. “Mark’s” theme
> all along, don’t be afraid, it’s the enemy of faith. And even more
> stylish support is the ironic contrast between the messenger at the
> end that no one listens to after Jesus has done everything and the
> messenger at the beginning that everyone listens to before Jesus has
> done anything.
> As my ancestor Caiphais said, “What more evidence do we need?” (that
> AE is original). Those who continue looking for the supposed original
> ending of “Mark” are really just looking for their faith.
> There are several very good reasons why we would expect the absence of
> extant opposition accounts to Christianity.
> First and foremost, something like 95% of all ancient literature is
> lost to us. That’s always going to be a problem when you’re looking
> for ancient writings – the lacunae are vast and we have to deal with
> the 5% or so that survived. And that brings us to the second point:
> one of our main vectors for ancient writings from the Mediterranean
> world goes straight through Christian monasteries. We would expect
> texts that are more favorable to orthodox Christianity to be
> preserved, and other texts survived mainly on the basis of how well
> regarded they were. Finds like Nag Hammadi are objective proof that
> there was a good deal of heterodox Christian literature that didn’t
> survive. Pagan anti-Christian writings mostly survive when quoted in
> polemics like Contra Celsum. These two facts mean that we have to
> adopt a position of neutral agnosticism (hard for people who want
> black and white answers, I know, but that’s history for you) with
> regard to anti-Christian polemics before the mid 2nd century CE.
> The third problem with this claim is that Christianity followed the
> growth pattern of new religions in general, meaning that it wasn’t a
> major social force in its early years. Up until the time when we start
> seeing major anti-Christian writings, there wasn’t much perceived need
> to refute Christian thinkers. Before this point it was too small and
> too peripheral to bother with. So we do start to see evidence of such
> polemics at around the time in the religion’s growth that we would
> expect them.
> The fourth thing we need to take into consideration is that new
> religious movements do not grow with reference to the truth or
> falsehood of their scriptures. Period. The Book of Mormon contains
> claims that are simply objectively false, anyone could easily verify
> that the events depicted in it didn’t happen. Yet there are twelve
> million Mormons in the United States, and it’s a growing faith. That’s
> because the kind of person who joins such a movement is more convinced
> by the spiritual aspects of the religion (the Mormons call it the
> “burning in the breast”) than by the facts, and generally isn’t a
> skeptic who does intensive research on them. Christianity could have
> thrived on such people for a hundred or a hundred and fifty years, and
> then start to grow into a major social force only after there was no
> longer anyone able to refute its factual claims – which seems to be
> precisely what happened. (People in the ancient Roman Empire also
> believed in the supernatural in a way that is unfathomable to us –
> there was no “divide” between natural and supernatural, disease was
> believed to come from demons not germs, and so on. So if these
> movements can grow in a time like ours with skepticism and the
> scientific method, how much more in a time of universal
“However, the disciples were tortured and murdered by other people because they refused to recant their belief in the risen Messiah.”
The lengthy post i posted addresses this bs. we DO NOT know for what REASON the deciples were killed.
“So your example is completely different than what happened to them. But wait there’s more….There was a Rabbi from Tarsus named Shaul”
didn’t the dead saints who roamed jerusalem convince paul that jezoz was part of god?
didn’t paul check out the empty tomb?
didn’t paul hear about the sky going dark and heavy earthquakes?
“who was instrumental in torturing and killing these people who claimed to believe in the risen Messiah Yeshua. Rabbi Shaul was responsible for hunting down and killing this “rebel” faction of Jews who believed that some mere man was God.”
why are you making this up? read the lengthy discussion i posted.
the discussion DEMOLISHES everything you say.
When G-d says “let us make man” He begins by speaking in the SINGULAR. וַיֹּֽאמֶר vayomer (“and HE said”) — not “they said.” Every single time G-d speaks He speaks in the singular because G-d is ONE (not three). As for man being created “in G-d’s image” — it means G-d created man using an image (form / blueprint) of His design. If man were a physical “image” of G-d (G-d forbid since He has no form) man would have 7 eyes and wings like an eagle! If man were in the physical image of G-d man would be:
Like a lion (Yeshayahu / Isaiah 31:4)
Like a bird (Yeshayahu / Isaiah 31:5)
An eagle (D’vraim / Deuteronomy 32:11)
A rock (D’varim / Deuteronomy 32:31)
The sun (Tehillim /Psalm 84:12)
Light (Tehillim / Psalm 27:1)
Have wings (Tehillim / Psalm 36:8)
A spring (e.g. brook, running water) (Yirmiyahu / Jeremiah 2:13)
Eagle’s wings (Sh’mot / Exodus 19:4)
Seven eyes (Zechariah 4:10)
Roman — you do know that many early Christians castrated themselves to be closer to Jesus, right? Look up Justin Martyr who asked for permission to castrate himself. . . As for Paul, odds are he wasn’t born a Jew and wasn’t of the tribe of Benjamin — let alone as well learned as he claimed in the Christian bible. Early Christians wrote that Paul was a Greek convert to Judaism because he wanted to marry the high priest’s daughter and when he was refused he became bitter and anti-Jewish. This isn’t from a Jewish source — but a Christian source! Look up Epiphanius and what he had to say about Paul. In any case “Paul” had no authority and never even met Jesus — who is the true founder of your religion — Jesus or Paul?
I think that a recurring theme keeps repeating itself in different ways here. And it comes back to many Christians assuming that their beliefs and understandings of ‘prophesies’, the role and purpose of the Messiah is the same beliefs that were held by the first followers of Jesus, simply because they view the Gospels as trustworthy and reliable as well as having read these texts through a certain lens. A lot of them have been picked up on here. Such as yes the Torah does speak of the Son of God, but this is used in reference to the entire Jewish nation, that does not make us divine in the sense that Christians regard Jesus as God the Son, we are fully human yet considered Gods first born son. An individual who may be referred to as a Son of God means that it is someone who has a close relationship with God. In Judaism we still see our relationship to God as that of father and son, Avinu, malkainu, Our father, Our King. But he is a father to all of us, not just the Messiah. So a Christian may find passages in the Tanakh that support such concepts, but those concepts are defined very differently in the Hebrew bible to their understanding of it. To claim that the proof that Jesus was the Messiah because he performed miracles, and died to atone for our sins and was resurrected, to a Jew sounds as absurd as someone claiming that proof that someone was a great plumber is evidenced by the fact that he did a spectacular job with the gardening. The Torah doesn’t tell us about the Messiah being born of a virgin, of a divine Messiah, that his purpose is to come and die for the sins of humanity, and resurrect himself, or even believing in him being a requirement to atone for sins and receive salvation. By this token, Christians must assume that by boasting these claims about what Jesus did in his life they assume that we are waiting for someone to be born of a virgin, to come and die to atone for our sins and perform miracles and resurrect from the dead. You have to remember, that the Bible was written in Hebrew originally and was addressed to the Jewish people, and to understand it it has to be read within its own culture and tradition, and in Hebrew, many of the issues come as a result of mistranslations, and not understanding that words in one language have very different connotations in another. Put simply be fair to the bible and read it on its own terms. Missionaries want to know why Jews don’t accept Jesus, this is already a question that comes from a prosecuting position, it is as if it is an indisputable fact, and therefore the Jews have some explaining to do. This is not the case, Judaism is the status quo, without Judaism and the Hebrew bible, no one would have any knowledge of what the Messiah is. There is not however one clear reference in the bible to the coming of who we refer to as The Messiah. There are references to Messiahs, meaning high priests and kings, who were all anointed. But when we talk about The Messiah, it is the name which we have given to refer to the restoration of the Davidic monarchy in the Messianic era, the first of many Kings of Israel again. This means that the Messiah will sit on a throne and have children. Along with many other prophesies, such as the rebuilding of the Temple, the in-gathering of the exiles, a universal knowledge of G-d, no more war, a completely changed world. We are told that in the Messianic era the Temple will not only be rebuilt but will have sacrifices too. So this is what Jews expect to see, but nowhere are we told that we will have to believe in the Messiah, or run around trying to convince people to believe in him, part of how we know hes the messiah is that everyone will recognize him as such, it will be an observable fact that a temple has been rebuilt and someone is sitting on a throne in Jerusalem, its not up for discussion, he is the King of Israel! This is what Jews expect, and what the bible tells us and nothing less.
The starting point is the Hebrew bible, we both believe that is true. It is not possible for the New testament to be true and the Hebrew bible not, so to quote things from the New Testament to a non Christian, particularly a Jew as credible evidence and authoritative scripture is not compelling, you can only use the Hebrew bible to make your case. And if anyone claims that someone is the Messiah it is they who have to prove it, using the criteria laid out in what we all recognize to be Messianic prophesies. But that in and of itself is proof that they are not the Messiah, if one has try to convince others that they are.
Roman- We have heard all these Christological explanations of proverbs 30 for centuries. The facts however, are the verses can be interpreted in different ways. The questions are rhetorical. The author is referring to the Eternal- only G-d controls the forces of nature and establishes the ends of the earth. The Tanakh refers to Israel, David and Solomon as “sons”, but in the Hebrew Bible this is not a reference to a biological entity- that is a pagan concept. It only means that there is a special relationship between G-d and Israel or David/Solomon.
The reference can also be applied to Moses who ascended to heaven on Mt Sinai, controlled the winds and split the Reed Sea as G-d’s servant.
Please explain how Jesus can be both G-d and His own son? The trinity is idolatrous as well as incomprehensible. G-d the Father has knowledge of which G-d the son lacks???
Roman Clark shows the difficulty in talking about the Trinity doctrine to Christians. They don’t see it as idolatry because they think Jesus is God. One and the same and interchangeable. Their love and devotion, in their mind, is to God but with the face of Jesus imprinted on Him. Very hard to break through that.
When I was a Christian I always felt deep down something was wrong with that. It never felt right no matter how hard I tried to believe it – it just wasn’t there for me. I felt that in order to pray I had to say “Hey Jesus, could you tell God I love Him and think about Him all the time”. When I started to pray directly to God for understanding and reading the entire Bible amazing things happened. I too would convert to Judaism, I’m already accused of being a Jew, but there is not a Jewish community nearby. It’s a very lonely place for me and my family being surrounded by Christians who think we’ve been deceived by the devil, and having the internet as your only source of fellowship with like minded people.
Ben, I can imagine how difficult it must be for you. I am often told of how Christians are such nice people, open and welcoming and have no ulterior motives, they simply want to help Jews and others. Which is nonsense when put to the test, they feel they have a religious duty to share the gospel, to save souls, and should adopt an open and outreaching approach to everyone, but particularly Jews as Jesus said to the Jews first, he he here for the lost sheep of Israel. But in a Jewish context this is in contemporary terms comparable to movements like Chabad, or Aish HaTorah, there have been many Rabbis who sought to reach out to Jews who had strayed from the Torah with the hope of bringing them back. Yet Christians see this in light of their own beliefs and tell Jews to do the complete opposite. As you mentioned, that being accepting of you is often conditional on you embracing them and their beliefs. If they were truly open and accepting then they would respect that after hearing them out and finding their claims unconvincing, respect our differences and leave it at that, live and let live and leave Jews and non Christians alone to live in peace, but with people investing so much effort and money into trying to proselytize us, it leaves us no choice but to respond bluntly, and assert with equal force explanations for why Jews for thousands of years were willing to die rather than accept those beliefs. To respond to one not accepting their irrational, unfounded claims with things like you are under the spell of the devil (not that the devil exists in the Christian definition), is pathetic, a complete cop out for not being able to respond to the challenges we put forth with anything that is reasonable or persuasive.
With regard to intermediaries, it is no surprise when you look at the development and spread of Christianity. Constantine wanted to adopt Christianity for the purpose of creating unity and order in the Roman empire. Institutions like the Papacy, or things like confession in Catholicism. Jews do not have such a thing in comparison, which requires that to do things you need to go through a front man. When Marx said that Religion is the opiate of the masses and Plato that Religion was a noble lie, it is true when we observe the history of Christianity. The Church did not permit the peasants and the common folk to read the bible themselves, they were told in Churches what it says, when people did study the bible for themselves it would spark revolutions, for they would learn about the teachings of social justice that is inherent within it. It seems that the whole religion is built on the principles of intermediaries of different kinds, even on salvation, this is not unique to Christianity, other religions also claim that to go to heaven you have to convert to their religion… Judaism doesn’t, you dont have to become a Jew to be saved, it is absurd to think that G-d who created us all different but yet in his own image, would give salvation to only 0.02% of the worlds population who he chose. But it is only in recent times that Christians have been able to read and study it for themselves and learn about the history of how their tradition developed. When we contrast that with Judaism, literacy was very widespread among the Jews, because study of the Torah was critical, so that all can participate in the learning of the Torah. How could one have a Bar Mitzvah and read from the Torah if he did not know how to read? Note that our greatest sages were not all wealthy or powerful men, Rabbi Hillel was a woodcutter, Shammai a builder, Rambam and Ramban were both doctors… Being a Rabbi historically wasn’t a profession. Shammai was of the upper classes and Hillel wasn’t. Jews are encouraged to challenge their own beliefs, and ask difficult questions and rejects the idea of blind faith, faith is quite a personal matter in Judaism but it should be logical. On the Pesach seder, it is the youngest child in the family who reads the Ma Nishtana, asking Why is this night different from all other nights? Why do we eat Matzah… Even the youngest are not too young to question and understand what we do and believe. So if we are willing and taught to scrutinize our own beliefs, for their credibility, we are most certainly going to scrutinize others for theirs. G-d gave us an intellect, it is that and our ability to reason that sets us apart as a species, he did not give it to us so that we can abandon basic reason, logic and common sense and blindly accept things that he specifically told us not to do, all along being told that that is in fact exactly what he really meant.
לֹא יִהְיֶה לְךָ אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים עַל פָּנַי: The first commandment literally means “there shall not be for you other gods before me”. This means among other things NO INTERMEDIARIES. We are to recognize the one Creator, Adonai, and prayers are directly to G-d. Christianity, on the other hand believes the author of John, rather than Hashem, when he has the Christian man-god say “No one comes to the Father except through me”. Make a choice- follow what the Hebrew Bible records as G-d’s word through Moshe, or follow the anonymous author of John.
Interesting….No Intermediaries between God and Man? What was Moses then? Did he not stand in the gap between Adonai and the Nation of Israel? How many times did he intercede on Israel’s behalf?
Moses summoned all Israel and said: Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. 2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3 It was not with our ancestors[a] that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. 4 The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. 5 (At that time I STOOD BETWEEN the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) or Exodus 20: 18&19
18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” there are many other examples where Moses was an intermediary Or what about the High Priest who was the ONLY one allowed in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle where Adonai’s presence was manifested? If anyone else decided to go directly to God and waltzed into the Holy of Holies, they would have died. But not the High priest, and only on one special day of the year Yom Kippur.
Some here keep saying things about “Christian” sources and “Jewish” sources. The term “Christian” did not actually appear until many years after the resurrection and was coined as an insult to these Jews who were part of “The Way” or followers of Yeshua. So these are not Christian sources, but Jewish sources because the FIRST belivers in Yeshua were ALL Jewish. I read in an earlier post that someone did not believe that Paul was Jewish or from the tribe of Benjamin. First, Paul never identified himself as a Christian. Never in Acts or any of his writings did he use the term “Christian” of himself or anyone else. The term originated in Antioch (Acts 11:26) prior to his time there, so he was doubtless familiar with it. However, he chose not to use it, even when it was used by Agrippa (Acts 26:28) in asking him a direct question. Instead he used the phrase, “what I am” in his reply.
How then did Paul identify himself? There are three terms that he regularly used. Jew, Pharisee, and the Way. First, Paul identified himself as a Jew to the commander of the Roman troops in Acts 21:39. As a result, he was given permission to speak to the crowd of assembled Jews. To them, speaking in Hebrew, he said, “I am a Jew”. Lest people think that he meant only ethnically and not religiously, he went on to explain his credentials: trained under Gamaliel, zealous for God. He even clarifies that his mentor after his encounter, Ananias, was “a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews” (22:12). Obviously he’s emphasizing that there was no change in his Jewish status after his encounter with Yeshua. He was of the tribe of Benjamin. In Romans 11:1 he says”I say then, Hath God cast away his people (The Jewish people)? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” He was a Pharisee, a son of a Pharisee. In Acts 23:6 he says “But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. (Because the Sadducees did not believe in bodily resurrection). His custom was to go into the Synagogues first and preached Yeshua as the risen Messiah. If he were not Jewish, I highly doubt he would have been allowed to even address the congregation. (But I could be wrong)
Roman: Jews do not pray to, or worship Moses. We worship only the Creator of the universe and pray only to G-d. That is what is meant by an intermediary in the context of the first commandment.
Here is my response to a charge of idolatry.
I started reading your document on Maimonides and Greek philosophy, and my head is already spinning! I can only repeat what I said to you in an earlier comment:
My standard religious Jewish education did not include Greek philosophy, Maimonides, or even the Talmud. The only work of Maimonides I ever studied was his “Eight Chapters,” which I learned in high school about twenty years ago. I get my ideas about the absolute unity of God solely from Tanach, which was the concentration of my studies when I was in school and which continues to be the main form of study I irregularly engage in (besides for reading the weekly Torah portion every Shabbos).
So may I request that you meet me on my turf and respond to my Scriptural arguments using only Scripture? After all, the sources I cited to you about God’s unity, oneness, and incorporeality all derived from Tanach. I think this would greatly simplify the debate. At any rate, I would much appreciate, if you are okay with it, sticking to Scripture. I hope I’m not being too presumptuous in asking to establish a new ground rule.
Please let me know what you think. Thanks!
Peace and blessings,
Dina, please do look at the quotes from Rambam and Plotinus, but don’t get bogged down with them, I don’t think either of them fully understood them themselves and they both seem to say that nearby (I confess I don’t fully understand their statements – but I can see the way their logic tends and why they argue as they do). They do set out some very important assumptions of their respective positions, the meat of my response is all drawn only from scripture below, I wholly agree there is no other safe ground to stand on. You’ll find my arguments strange and maybe not as direct or as clear as you’d like, but please weigh them carefully, they are the product of years of thinking through these texts and where it has long seemed to me that academic theologians have strayed, these are certainly not a quick scrabble for a reply. There is a careful and precise balance in scripture, it’s important to pay attention to all the textual witnesses not isolate some we agree with and ignore others which just don’t seem to fit. (מִשְׁפְּטֵי-יְהוָה אֱמֶת; צָדְקוּ יַחְדָּו)
‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.’ (Isa 8:20)
Yes, I will consider your arguments carefully, Charles. I, too, arrived at my conclusions after much careful thought and study. Though raised as an Orthodox Jew, when I reached adulthood I needed to be certain that I wasn’t practicing Judaism simply because I had been raised to do so.
I will try to examine your arguments this coming week. It might take time, so I ask for your patience. This is intellectually stimulating, I wish I could do this all day long! But as you so eloquently put it, my ordinary labors call me away too often.
Dina has already answered you regarding the unity of God in her own concise manner, and I can hardly think that much more needs to be added.
But there is one argument you’ve made that she didn’t address at all, which she’s probably right to ignore, but that I cannot quite leave alone. I cannot remember in which thread, but some time ago, you leveled the charge of paganism at Judaism based on the argument that Maimonides borrowed from the pagan Plotinus, Aristotle, and others. Normally, I try to avoid arguments like this, because they are fruitless. They go like this: “You’re the pagan!” “No, you’re the pagan!” Yet in this case, the charge is so ludicrous it seems I can’t leave it alone.
The charge is disingenuous. Please forgive me. I don’t mean that you yourself are disingenuous, but the charge is, and the Church is disingenuous to bring it. It’s disingenuous because the Church borrows heavily from pagan ideas. It borrows from the same writers. And it doesn’t address any of the ideas put forward, dismissing them without examination.
This is the part that’s going to sound like: “Nuh uh! You’re the pagan!”
Christians have a real problem if they are going to accuse Judaism of paganism. The Church borrows heavily from pagan ideas. The trinity of the Church is very similar to that found in Plato. (Forgive me for not producing sources right now. I just don’t have the time to look them up. But since these things I present are facts that are seldom disputed, the actual source is less important to me than what we derive from it.) But Plato is pagan. Moreover, the trinity, virgin birth, and resurrection are all elements of many pagan myths. So prevalent are they that early church fathers argued that Satan knew the plan of God, so he planted those true elements in the false pagan myths to confuse people. C.S. Lewis, however, embraced those pagan elements, treating them as types and shadows. See for example his essay regarding how Jesus is basically the Corn King (from “God in the Docks” if I remember correctly. Again, please forgive the lack of actual quotes. I just don’t have the time right now to look up the sources.) How is the Christian, living in his glass house, going to lob stones Judaism’s way?
Moreover, Christians quote from ancient philosophers too. Thomas Aquinas relies heavily on Aristotle. In fact, his arguments for the unity of God are very similar to Aristotle’s. Of course, he contradicts himself later by making God into a trinity, but the fact of the matter remains that Christians can hardly dismiss the very sources upon which they themselves have relied. It’s disingenuous to say the least.
But it’s not clear that ideas are pagan just because they come from “pagan” sources. Aristotle was largely arguing against the ideas of the gods as they were presented. He was really breaking away from paganism. And if he didn’t get there all the way, it is still terribly reductive, not to mention dismissive, to paint his ideas that way. One should go over the ideas themselves, if one is to criticize them, not merely dismiss the source. From wherever one hears a true idea, he should not dismiss it because he doesn’t like where it came from. This is, of course, the inverse of the Christian problem regarding the writers of the NT. They argue that what they wrote must be Jewish, because it’s authors were. But then Christians should also follow Karl Marx and Shabbetai Zvi.
Really, Aristotle comes much closer to the truth than the Trinitarian. God says that He is alone, the only Savior, that He won’t share His glory with another, etc. The Trinitarian denies all of that. Shall I dismiss Aristotle then? No.
Lastly, I would be remiss to accept the idea that Maimonides was teaching paganism derived solely from Aristotle, Plotinus, and whoever else you might name. He clearly contradicts Aristotle, pointing out where his logic errs. Maimonides is not a mindless drone of Greek philosophy. He had a brilliant understanding of Torah, and everything he wrote regarding the unity of God relied on Torah and logic. Avoiding the logic and dismissing the man is an unsound practice. Counter the logic if you can, but it is impossible to dismiss him as a pagan.
It is especially disingenuous for a Christian to label Jewish teachings as pagan.
Thanks Jim, I came into this argument from contentions with Christian theologians about simplicity not with Rambam, and I agree Aquinas and many systematic theologians are also deeply affected, but I then realised how much more pervasive and influential Aristotle and Plato’s influence have become in Islam and post-Messianic rabbinic Judaism, esp in Rambam who dialogues extensively with the neo-Platonic Muslim writers of around his time. Do you really think the Sadducces’ denial of the resurrection and spirits was unaffected by Hellenism? Do you really think none of this leaven contaminated the Essenes or the Pharisees, in spite of some resistance? With respect, you’re naive if you think rabbinic Judaism has escaped the scourge the other two monotheisms have also imbibed. If you think that the Trinity is based on philosophers’ teachings rather than on scripture, you haven’t read a good advocate, like Bickersteth. Paul is an excellent advocate of the co-essential Deity of the eternal Son, but you’ll find no clearer warnings against philosophy anywhere in the Bible, even in the Prophets. One thing though, neo-Platonism is much more at home in Islam and in rabbinic Judaism than in Christian teaching about the Godhead, so if there’s a charge of inconsistency it applies much more rigorously to Christians.
I’m sorry. I didn’t see this response at first. I wasn’t ignoring it.
I think it is a mistake to group Platonic and Aristotelian thought together. Although Aristotle was a student of Plato, he differs with him significantly, particularly on this issue. Moreover, I would say that it is reductive to call Aristotle “pagan”. In some senses, it is true. On the other hand, he was really teaching something opposed to paganism. He went about as far as one can without prophecy, and that is to be admired.
Regarding Bickersteth: It’s true, I haven’t read him. I have read Plato. And I’ve read Tanach. And while you might say that “If I think the Trinity is based on philosopher’s teachings rather than on scripture, you haven’t read a good advocate…” I will turn the sentence around and say that if you think the Trinity is based on scripture, rather than on philosopher’s teachings, you haven’t read Tanach. Of course I’ve read Christian apologetics on the Trinity (but not Bickersteth) but they are reading with an eye to find what isn’t there. They need to deny all the paganism in the Christian faith, not just the Trinity. (Except Lewis, as I said, who embraces it.)
I should apologize if I made it sound as if Jewish thought has been uninfluenced by Greek philosophy. That wasn’t my intention. I would only point out that a Church riddled with pagan concepts, so much so that they have had to devote apologetics to explain it away as the work of Satan, can hardly point the finger at others. If you want to label Judaism as pagan, the beam in your own eye might be a problem. Perhaps it would be better to discuss the ideas without trying to dismiss them with labels.
To that end: Is God Three? Nope. He says He is one. Trying to make that a compound one to fit your theology is the antithesis of what he says. You are forcing a concept on the sh’ma that doesn’t appear in the sh’ma. When God teaches about Himself, he uses the word “one”, not three. This would be a bizarre teaching if what He really meant was that “they” were three. Do you think God is playing mind games? Do you think he’s saying, “I am one,” while crossing his fingers behind his back and muttering “but really three.” And then, he’s waiting for the Jews to fail for taking him at his word. “One” doesn’t mean compound, just because it can refer to a compound.
Jim, lumping Aristotle, Plato and Plotinus together is precisely what many Arab theologians have done because of their sources, and although there’s no doubt that Rambam had access to Physics and Metaphysics, he cites them extensively, there is also good evidence that much of what was thought to be Aristotelian writing in his time actually came from neo-Platonists. My main beef with the philosophers is their reducing Deity to simple rational causal principles, that is precisely what scripture warns against repeatedly. All three of these thinkers and most of their dependents are easily indictable on this charge. I agree there is a danger of reductionism in what is often a complex dialogue, esp between highly nuanced thinkers, however there are some very strong common threads and themes, and it is these I have sought to highlight.
Have I tried to ‘label Judaism as pagan’ – it’s been my intention only to label what’s pagan as pagan, whether it goes under a Christian, Muslim or a Jewish guise – should that be offensive to you? Are we not all concerned for purity from idolatry first at home, then abroad? Read Maimonides and in many cases you are reading raw neo-Platonism, I have given just two quotes with respect to the pagan Simplex, but I shall publish parallel examples and their consequences shortly. It would be very easy to do the same for Muslim writers, with whom he interacts extensively, as others have abundantly shown. Neo-Platonism is also, I agree, a serious poison for Christian theologians, though less rigorously and consistently pursued. Just because all apostate and even some sounder branches Christendom are leavened with other forms of idolatry, which I freely grant they are, doesn’t mean that rabbinic Judaism and Islam don’t have a peculiarly serious problem with Biblical principles here.
The question, ‘Is God’s essence three or is He one’ would be a quite false dichotomy. That challenge would be disingenuous, more designed for rhetorical effect than as a serious investigation, given the extensive discussion, but in case you missed it, my main comment on this is here. The heart of the question is rather this – is God Echad or Yochid? Is He a perfect, relational and complex Unity, absolutely founded in One Father, or is He a solitary and simple Singularity who experiences no internal relation prior to creation, as per Rambam? If this latter position is your shorthand for ‘One’, then it would be wiser to make it more explicit. None of us will get very far by making straw men. Torah alone must be our plumbline.
If you’d like to address the question straightforwardly please reconsider the Bible texts which highlight the problems with Rambam’s position on the Unity, Dina has not done so at all adequately from the texts themselves, in my view, and these are serious matters. I hope you will agree, they are not ones for semantic manoeuvres, which she has nobly eshewed, but I fear you are more in danger of. Best wishes.
Let me clarify, because I do not seem to be able to articulate my point very well. It is dismissive to merely label something pagan. You seek to dismiss Maimonides to support your arguments. You don’t engage his arguments. You don’t assail his logic. You just write him off. If you can show similarity to someone who was pagan, then you “win” by default. But this isn’t sound. For one thing, fools sometimes say things that are correct, so even if something was espoused by a pagan, it doesn’t mean that the thing he said was incorrect in this instance. Secondly, he didn’t agree with every part of their philosophy. Your strategy is to paint him with a brush so you don’t have to deal with the argument at all.
But if you are to employ that brush, then you must certainly apply it to Christianity. And not just some branches. As I pointed out twice, but you ignore, Christianity has so many elements of paganism (i.e. man-god, virgin birth, death and resurrection, all of which appear in various pagan myths and not in Torah) that early fathers acknowledged it, and explained that Satan planted those myths to confuse people. If you are worried about paganism close-to-home and abroad, in that order, I would say you have enough to tend to for a lifetime.
And the only reason I point this out is not to say, “No way, you are more pagan” but to show that if pagan origins are the test that we’re going to apply, you are in trouble. Perhaps, it would be better to avoid pejoratives and actually argue against Maimonides. Am I offended that you would label Jewish thinkers (or even myself) as pagan? No. Well, not for the reason you think, anyway. I admit, I abhor the argument that just dismisses. But am I offended that you think I or Maimonides are pagan? No; I assume you think I’m going to hell, too. That doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is dismissing rather than engaging the thinker.
I’m sorry you find my question a rhetorical trick. I hardly think so. One and three are an actual dichotomy, for all the reasons mentioned in my first response to you. Echad and yachid, however, are not a dichotomy, in that they are not mutually exclusive. I did not answer your paper, because Dina already did, and much ink has been spilt on this already. However, if you feel that I did not give it the attention it deserves, I’ll try to find time to go over it again, and answer your points. Perhaps you would do the same for Maimonides, rather than merely dismissing him.
I am going over your paper as promised, and I hope to offer full response over the next few days. Because of my schedule, and because I’m long-winded, I’m going to break my response up into several parts. This part is on methodology.
In section 4 of your paper, “The Divine Council”, you end with the question “Who is guilty of eisegesis here?” I think this is an important question, though you mean it rhetorically to indict Rambam. Eisegesis is a word thrown around a lot, often without legitimacy. It is an accusation usually made against someone who disagrees with us, however they come by that disagreement, whether actually through eisegesis, through exegesis, through parroting other people’s opinion, or any other means of coming to the disagreement. The claim is usually unsubstantiated.
I write this not to question your usage of the word, but because eisegesis is your methodology. And I don’t think it’s enough for me to claim it. I must show it.
When reading your paper, I am struck by how much of your paper is made by inference. It is true that God does not say much about his nature in the Tanach, but he does occasionally say something about Himself. In all of that, we might expect that He would reveal to us His complexity. Not one of the passages you quote has a clear teaching regarding God having a complex nature. Rather you infer it from a question in the text. And yet, if I study the Tanach, I see that when God actually does refer to Himself, He says openly that there is none beside Him, He is One, He is the only Savior, and so on. Dina already gave you a list of scriptures regarding this issue. I do not have to make any inference from a difficult passage. I can see clearly from God’s testimony regarding Himself that He is the only one.
And yet, reading your paper, not one clear statement about God having multiple persons is quoted. In fact, this is because you cannot find one. When God says that He is the only one, He uses personal pronouns. This means that there cannot be “three whos and one what” comprising God as Christians like to claim. He could not employ a personal pronoun in the singular person. He would have to write something like: “We are your god; there is no other besides us.” Here the term god would be singular to reflect the “one what” while the plurality of persons would be reflected in “the who”. But of course this teaching does not exist.
This is nowhere more evident a problem in your paper than when you infer the complexity of God from the incident of the burning bush. You assert that this is “the most significant of revelations” and that God “reveals His sacred essence, ‘I AM who I AM”. By your own telling then, this is God’s teaching regarding His essence, and He employs the first person singular. Nothing in this teaching regarding God’s essence would tell us that He is a complexity, comprised of multiple persons. But you ignore the clear statement of God about Himself that you defined as His sacred essence and infer that God must be complex from a question rhetorical question. You imply that He wouldn’t have trusted such an important message to a “mere creature”, as if this is inconceivable. But the text says He did use a “mere creature,” a messenger of the Lord. That just doesn’t fit your preconceived notions. Still, a messenger is not the one Who sent him.
Your argument rests partly on the fact that “Moses said unto God” and not unto an angel. This communication seems direct: “Where if at anytime is the saying more appropriate that God spoke to Moses ‘face to face’, as it were and ‘mouth to mouth'”? How much you argument rests on rhetorical questions!
You remind me of a man who never saw a phone before. He sees me on the phone talking to my wife. He hears me tell the phone how much I love her, the most important message I give to my wife. He knows I wouldn’t entrust such an important message to this small box. Our phone is rather loud and he hears it answer back, “I love you, too.” He says to himself that this is the strangest thing he’s ever seen, a man who married a little black box with numbers on it. And the box loves him too. Of course, I’m not talking to the phone, but through it. So it is with a messenger.
In any case, you ignore the only clear statement of God about Himself in the passage, and instead rely on innuendo. According to Torah, God used a messenger, but you find that unlikely, so you reject it. Well, that’s not why really. You really reject it, because you are looking to find complexity in God–no not even that really, the Trinity! This is the very definition of eisegesis, ignoring the clear testimony of the Torah to read into verses that are a little more opaque.
You might counter that not all these verses are as opaque as I make them sound. After all, you quote: “Let us make man in our own image.” And “us” is a plural personal pronoun. But this isn’t a teaching about the nature of God, and the very means you use to employ finding His complexity in the passage is backward. The topic of the passage is the creation of Man. Yes, God uses the plural, but since it is not the normal way He speaks, we would be hard-pressed to think that this meant that He is plural. It leaves us with a question, but it doesn’t tell us He is complex. In fact, when God actually creates Man, it reverts to the singular, which means it is more likely that He is employing the Majestic plural.
You go further, and this is where you make the biggest errors in logic. I will save it for another installment, why the image of God is not “relationships”. That is a very bad bit of logic on your part. Here, I am focused on your methodology. Because Man is made in God’s image, you now want to read backward from Man into God. This is a tremendous error. Isaiah tells us that God is not like any creature. It is preposterous to try to understand God from Man. You are like a man examining an object in a mirror and concluding that it only has two dimensions, because it’s reflection is flat.
Why is this eisegesis? The passage isn’t telling us about the nature of God. But you are trying to read your faith into it, and so rather than discovering what the passage is about, you change the topic of the passage. And in doing so, you ignore all the words in Tanach that actually do tell us something about God.
You responded to me above that the Torah should be our only plumbline. It is obvious, however, that you are not using it as your plumbline at all. Your plumbline is the NT and the Christian theology that followed after. Nowhere is this more clear than in your effort to read a complexity into God–no, not a complexity, a trinity! You avoid saying it, but that is your goal. You aren’t reading traits into God. You are reading other persons into God, and you do it with the unsoundest of principles. If Torah were your plumbline, then you would study the actual passages where God tells us about Himself. Those verses, however, you neglect, reading in a Christian doctrine through innuendo, rhetorical questions, and ignoring the direct testimony of the text.
The analogy to the phone is perfect. Don’t get me wrong; everything else is excellent as well.
I need to correct my statement about your methodology. I implied without meaning to that “I AM that I AM” was a direct teaching about the unity of God. I was hurrying out the door to take my children to a small fair, and did not go over what I wrote. I should have left it to come back for any necessary revisions. My apologies.
Going over it, I should have said like this: “We need to go over the actual statement God makes to know anything about Him. This you did not do. You looked to all the incidentals of the story and neglected the actual teaching. The phrase “I AM that I AM” is to my understanding not a good translation. But, if we accept that as the translation, it shows that God is self-sufficient, not reliant on others. It makes His existence the only necessary existence. Reading relationships into God through the angel is to bring an agenda to the text. It is a poor methodology. It is eisegesis.”
I should have taken my time, but I don’t have much right now, so I rushed. This is also evident from repetitions of a phrase I didn’t realize I put in twice, and various spelling and grammatical errors. I am also afraid my tone sounds accusatory, which wasn’t my intention. I am merely pointing out a flaw (a very big flaw) in the methodology. You rely on eisegesis, but I don’t believe this was intentional or with malice. Unfortunately, the little time I have to work on makes it difficult to edit them properly.
I thought the next item I should take up from your paper was what you wrote regarding “the image of God”. But as I go back over your paper, I see that I had forgotten that you did end with a discussion of the Name as revealed to Moses before the burning bush. And I said that you did not consider the name. For that I apologize. I was wrong.
Because I was mistaken on that point, and because it is such an interesting one, I will take that up now. I cannot speak to the Hebrew grammar. I am slowly learning a little Hebrew, but I don’t know enough to comment on that. I can only deal with your logic. So that will be my next response to you, but I will need a day or two.
Thanks for your candour, Jim. I will try to be as candid in return.
Perhaps I can start by saying this. I hold Trinitarian views, although I am as I wrote before uneasy about the way in which the case for the Trinity is sometimes argued and some of the associations. I also think there are some problems with the term itself. Yet it is an important watershed, and I don’t wish to conceal my convictions.
However in this page I have not sought to demonstrate the Triune nature of the Godhead, I have not sought even to establish the question of Personhood within God. I have asked just one question. Is God’s essence absolutely simple or complex? What does Torah say? This per se is not a debate between Rabbinic Jews and catholic Christians (catholic with a small c, implying all those who now broadly hold the confessions defended by Athanasius in the face of intense, violent and almost universal opposition), it’s also a debate amongst Jews, and amongst Christians, with the majority of traditional reformed Christians standing on the side of Simplicity (Calvin, Turretin, Owen, Berkhof to name but 4 stalwart proponents). To my mind the latter have made a colossal and uncharacteristically inconsistent mistake in following Aquinas. I have yet to find a reformed Christian who can defend simplicity Biblically. None of these 4 make anything approaching a worthy defence.
So please don’t assume I am trying to prove all that I believe. No, but I do think that Maimonides has pursued Simplicity with damaging rigour, in a way no real Christian could follow, (though some philosophical fellows do try remarkably hard). I also think that long before Rambam, Islam was raised on these foundations, though that is more difficult to establish. I accept I have raised the terms mutuality and relational, and I also acknowledge that this begins to go beyond the immediate question of Who God is, but not far.
As to the issues of the ‘I Am’ statement or the repeated statements of ‘I alone’, unequivocally pointing to One speaker. I will if I may return to that when I have a little time. I agree this is most important. Your phone analogy is also interesting, and again I think I can help indicate some of the problems it raises for you, but now it’s late and I must retire. Good night.
You raise some interesting points on the simple vs. complex issue of God. Here’s something that’s mind blowing for me. God did not reveal himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the YHWH. Yet we all know Him as such today, since at least the time of Moses. And yet we are commanded to recognize as the one true God, ONLY the God “known” by our ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and no other gods. But they didn’t “know” him as we know him today as YHWH!
A case for the complexity of God. It’s the same God but we all know Him differently than did our fathers.
David, you know what’s really weird? I just opened my Tanach at random and it fell open to Genesis 15, and the first two verses my eyes alighted upon were verses one and two. In the second verse Abraham, in the Hebrew Masoretic text that I use, addresses God using the Tetragrammaton. Since the vowels in this instance are the same as “Elokim” we read it that way (we are forbidden to pronounce this Name). That is probably why your Bible translates it as God.
In verse five we see “And the word of the Lord came to him”: here the Bible uses the Tetragrammaton as well. Go back to the beginning of Genesis to see how many times it is used. So your whole argument rests on a false premise.
Indeed, we only worship the one true God who was known to our ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
God is indeed referred to many times prior to Moses as YHWH. But what I said was that He did not “reveal” or make Himself known as YHWH to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There’s a difference. We know Him as YHWH, they did not.
2 God also spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the LORD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name ‘The LORD I did not make myself known to them.
2 And G-d spoke unto Moses, and said unto him: ‘I am HaShem;
3 and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as G-d Almighty, but by My name hwhy [This divine name is traditionally not pronounced; instead, Adonai, (the) Lord, is regularly substituted for it.] I made Me not known to them.
The complete Tanach:
2. God spoke to Moses, and He said to him, “I am the Lord. ב. וַיְדַבֵּר אֱלֹהִים אֶל משֶׁה וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו אֲנִי יְהֹוָה
3. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob with [the name] Almighty God, but [with] My name YHWH, I did not become known to them. ג. וָאֵרָא אֶל אַבְרָהָם אֶל יִצְחָק וְאֶל יַעֲקֹב בְּאֵל שַׁדָּי וּשְׁמִי יְהֹוָה לֹא נוֹדַעְתִּי לָהֶם:
All right, then, we have a contradiction in Scriptural verses, and at the moment I do not have a resolution. But this is a very small side point, as I mentioned to Charles, and I will say again that I know I know too little about this topic to argue intelligently. I need to do more study and research.
Very interesting, thanks for pointing that out.
It’s not a contradiction because even though “the bible” (meaning the God inspired writer(s)) refers to God as YHWH (because that’s who He is and has always been), it doesn’t mean therefore that the people “knew” Him as YHWH.
The bible is making a clear non-contradictory statement.
God has always been YHWH even from the beginning, even though people didn’t know Him as such, and they didn’t know him that way because He hadn’t yet revealed Himself to them as YHWH.
We today, know that He has always been YHWH in part because of the very scripture you cited.
The contradiction lies in the fact that Abraham addressed him as such. But more on that another time. I need more time to look into this.
Can you cite the verse please.
Genesis 15:2. In Hebrew. I explained this in an earlier comment.
He’s not addressing God as YHWH.
The complete Tanach
2. And Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am going childless, and the steward of my household is Eliezer of Damascus?” ב. וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְרָם אֲדֹנָי יֱהֹוִה מַה תִּתֶּן לִי וְאָנֹכִי הוֹלֵךְ עֲרִירִי וּבֶן מֶשֶׁק בֵּיתִי הוּא דַּמֶּשֶׂק אֱלִיעֶזֶר
David, if you could read Hebrew you would see that reading from right to left, the fourth word is the Tetragrammaton. I know you have no reason to trust me, but I am telling you the truth. I would never cut and paste that verse onto this blog because of the sacredness of that Name.
I stand corrected in part, as follows.
I’ll concede the point that Abram/Abraham does use the term YHWH.
But I notice that when it is used, more often than not it is mixed with some other term such as “God Most High” such as in Genesis 14:22.
And even in Genesis 15:7 God uses His name YHWH and tells Abram directly that “I am the YHWH who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” To me, that’s a fulfillment of the original command to Abram even though it wasn’t a promise by God per se, the command has been fulfilled by Abram and then God identifies himself as YHWH.
But when God makes covenant with Abraham in Genesis chapter 17, it is not as YHWH, but as God Most High.
Also in the discussion/argument between Abram and Sarai in Genesis 16:2,5, Sarai uses the term YHWH exclusively in referring to God.
It’s also interesting to note that the first time YHWH is used in Genesis is following completion of creation described in 2:1 “Thus the heavens and earth were finished in all their multitude.” Then the term YHWH is used profusely in recounting God’s ultimate most glorious work to complete the work of creation which is the creation of man specifically (in His own image) and the preparation of man’s home throughout the remainder of chapter 2.
So the bottom line (for me) is that the patriarchs knew his name, but didn’t “know” Him in the full sense of what the name YHWH signifies. But beginning with Moses He would be “known” as the YHWH God because of God’s “revelation” directly to Moses and the Israelites as a God brining to fulfillment what he had promised. Moses was His instrument in fulfilling His promise to bring the Israelites out of bondage and into the “promised land” as a possession for a perpetual holding to Abraham’s descendants and to be God to Abraham’s descendants.
The aspect of God, which we know today and which was not revealed prior to Moses, is that of a God who brings to fulfillment His promises. I might add that we can also see His plan in creation and the fulfillment in successive stages of His work to return to the perfect state of being lost in the Garden.
You’re spinning off, as usual, into speculation, which I’m not interested in. Find me clear, open teachings about the changing nature of God and the we can have a discussion. In the meantime, I’m curious to see your answer to Rabbi Blumenthal’s question.
You’ve misunderstood me. I don’t know how you read that into my post.
God’s nature doesn’t change. You should read my post with this understanding in mind. If God reveals Himself one way to Abraham and another to Moses and the Israelites does that necessarily mean that His nature has changed? Of course not.
You are right, David, I reread your earlier comments and I did indeed misunderstand you. You did not say God’s nature changed.
But the fact is, the patriarchs addressed God with the Name. And I think your resolution of this conflict is simply based on your speculation, speculation which just so happens to fit your theology.
Furthermore, your explanation of the reason God appeared with the Name to Moses is pure speculation as well. Here are your words:
“The aspect of God, which we know today and which was not revealed prior to Moses, is that of a God who brings to fulfillment His promises. I might add that we can also see His plan in creation and the fulfillment in successive stages of His work to return to the perfect state of being lost in the Garden.”
You do not see this in Scripture. This is your “hindsight” explanation, a subjective human interpretation that, again, conveniently fits your theology (which came first; otherwise you wouldn’t use the word “hindsight”).
Finally, I do not see that, in your response to Rabbi Blumenthal’s question (“In order to help you understand the message I will ask you – what do the different names of God represent? Do you think they represent different entities within the person of God?”), you actually answered the question. You answered the first part, that the Name represents fulfillment of promises (and since it is used in so many other contexts I don’t know why you arrived at that particular conclusion). But you did not answer the second part and how it shows complexity in God.
The many names or rather titles show us the many aspects of the one true God. YHWH on the other hand is considered His divine name by most because of among other reasons Exodus 3:13-15. Jews, as you know, have traditionally invented ways to refer to God in speech and writing such as Ha Shem which just means “the Name” in order to avoid saying His name or anything too close to His name. I know you and Mr. Blumenthal know all this so that’s why I didn’t go into it before.
My “speculation” as you put it about knowing YHWH as the fulfiller of His promises is based on facts which are based on scripture. The fact is that God says Himself He did not make Himself “known” to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as YHWH, but as God Most High, Exodus 6:2,3. The fact is that YHWH did appear to Moses and make himself known, Exodus 3:16. And the people believed, Exodus 4:31. But Pharaoh refused to let them go because he didn’t believe in or “know” “the YHWH”, Exodus 5:2. God talks about how He will fulfill His promises as YHWH, Exodus 6:5-8 when He says He has “remembered” His covenant and then describes exactly how it is that He is going to fulfill His promises. What does it mean to you what God says He has “remembered?” It means He will DO IT, which means He will “fulfill” it.
“5 I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. 6 Say therefore to the Israelites, ‘I am the YHWH, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the YHWH your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the YHWH.’”
God said that even the Egyptians would come to “know” Him as YHWH, Exodus 7:5 and 14:18.
Now, how do you suppose that is? Because the YHWH God says what He’s going to do (that’s a promise or a threat depending on how you want to read it) and then He does it. The Egyptians came to know God as the YHWH, one who does what He says and says what He’s going to do. Or put another way, means what He says and says what He means regarding promises/threats.
Back in Genesis God said to Abraham in Gen. 15:7 “I am the YHWH who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” What is He saying you Dina? The YHWH fulfills promises. Abraham arrived. Although the full promise of Gen. 12:1-3 would not be fulfilled until later through Moses, when Abraham arrives in the promised land it is a partial fulfillment of Gen 12:1 “…Go from your country … to the LAND THAT I WILL SHOW YOU.” Well, God showed him didn’t He.
David, one thing is for sure. If you approached Scripture without preconceived notions, such as your “hindsight” understanding, you would never arrive at this conclusion. That is why you are ignoring all the other contexts in which the Tetragrammaton appears which have nothing to do with redemption or fulfillment of promises.
I opened each book of the Torah at random and grabbed a bunch of verses from each book just to illustrate this:
Genesis 2:4, 7, 9, 15, 16, 18, 19
Exodus 28:29, 30, 35, 37, 38
Leviticus 27:28, 29. 30, 35
Numbers 28:8, 11,13,15, 16; 35:1, 9
Deuteronomy 4:3,4, 5, 7, 10, 12
Lastly, Genesis 15:7 refutes your point that God didn’t appear as the Name to anyone before Moses.
Conclusion: your attempt to reconcile this fails. It shows that you do not understand what the Name really represents. It shows that your lens, distorted by its theology, is seeing something that simply isn’t there.
I don’t know enough to say more; I am not a Biblical scholar by any means. But it’s obvious that your speculation is still just that: speculation. And not very convincing speculation, at that. I’ll leave it to the scholar-in-residence, Rabbi Blumenthal, to clear it up, if has the time and inclination.
Happy Hannukah to all too. Gentile Christians too have a lot to thank the Maccabees for, even if most don’t begin to realise it.
Just one other unifying comment on HaShem, before we resume warfare after the holiday.
I think we can all agree there is an important and fatal watershed at Exod.6.3. Either you take the Name to have been unrevealed to the patriarchs, and thus belie the early chapters of Genesis, as the Documentary hypothesis and its poisoned architects suggest (for which see Cassuto’s potent but gentle work of demolition), for even Eve as Dina pointed out knew the letters and presumably the pronunciation of This Name. Or in some way what happened in Exodus 3 was a revealing of the meaning and significance of The Name, a revealing triggered by the words ‘I am’ or ‘I will be’, if you prefer. The latter is the only safe path to tread.
In the OT biblical Hebrew mind, to “know” someone was to have an “experience” with that person. Thus when speaking of knowing someone was to recall an experience in the context of the person. In the book of Genesis the patriarchs experienced God as El Shaddai. They did know “of” His name YHWH, that it was God and a name for God, and did use His name YHWH. But they had not yet “experienced” God as the YHWH as He who fulfilled the promises to the patriarchs because He had not yet fulfilled His promises until the plagues and the Exodus.
To “know” in the sense that God is using it in the OT is to experience. Some examples include:
sexual Gen. 4:1; visual Gen. 12:11; political Exodus 1:8.
Therefore the dialog between Moses and God in Exodus 3:13-15 should NOT be read with the understanding that the Israelites did not know “of” God by the divine name the YHWH, since we know that they DID know the name through many biblical reference which I am not disputing and I myself have cited. But the “experience” of knowing the particular aspect of God unique to the name the YHWH was yet to come with the fulfillment of the promises through the plagues and exodus and delivery to the promised land.
Both passages Exodus 3:13-15 and Exodus 6:3 presupposes that the Israelites DID know the Tetragrammaton already. This is not in dispute.
What God is saying in Exodus 6:3 therefore is that the patriarchs did NOT know God in the sense of “experiencing” the aspect of God as the YHWH which is different than the experience they had of Him as El Shaddai.
To know God as El Shaddai is not the same as to know God as the YHWH.
And that is why in Exodus 6:3 God says:
I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai,but by my name the YHWH, I did not make myself known to them.
It makes perfect sense when you don’t read scriptures with a preconceived idea as you seem to be doing yourself which you are accusing me of. You should let the bible define the terms in the way God uses them. Let “know” be “know” the way God is using it and not the according to your preconception and use of the word “know.”
Once we “know” God in this way as the YHWH (the fulfiller of His promises) we can refer to Him with this new collective experiential knowledge for ever more. We don’t need to continue to see and experience successive fulfillment of promises. We know that God makes promises and fulfills them without needing to see evidence at every citation of the tetragrammaton which includes more than 6,000 instances.
Then the verse Exodus 3:15b also makes perfect sense.
“This is my name forever,
and this my title for all generations.”
Of course it is his name forever and from the time of Moses we “know” God as the YHWH forever too because he has made himself know to us as He repeatedly demonstrated in Exodus as I’ve cited in previous posts. God said in Exodus that the Egyptians will “know” that he is the YHWH and said also that the Israelites will “know” that He is the YHWH. Even the father in law of Moses came to “know” the YHWH.
David, this is unfair to Charles. I’m the one who accused you of preconceived notions, and I still stand by what I said. All you did in this post is repeat your SPECULATION. By the way, what you call “hindsight” I call circular reasoning.
Best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving,
And Happy Chanukah to all who celebrate!
I think Charles also accused me in a separate post of reading preconceived ideas into the text but if not then I stand corrected.
And I’ve proven my understanding with scripture which you’ve simply refuted with the claim of speculation and haven’t backed it up with anything.
Don’t be too sensitive, David, I don’t agree with your interpretation, but I didn’t have it in mind, I don’t think I’d read your post carefully, I was addressing the unbelieving use of Exod.6.3 to justify the soul poison of the documentary hypothesis, not your more nuanced and far more reverent interpretation.
However, since you’ve raised it, I am less convinced the passive for know in Exod.6.3 will carry the weight you’re suggesting. The three patriarchs did experience God’s powerful answers to prayer and His assurances that He would keep His land promise, they committed their own dust to His faithfulness in this, as the NT also underscores, for them His Word was as good as fulfilled. If the meaning of the Name is in hot debate now, might it not have been known before it was revealed to Moses at the thorn tree.
Please forgive my confusion. I did consider whether or not you were arguing that God was complex rather than triune, and while I recognized that the word “triune” did not appear anywhere in your paper, I noticed that the complexity you discussed was regarding God having relationships as a component of His being and appearing as the angel of the Lord while delivering a message from God. Both of these things seem to me to be about persons. For this reason, I did not think you were talking about complexity in a general sense. (To be honest, I thought you were being coy.) I shall reread your paper with this new understanding in mind.
Skipping ahead to “The Meaning of the Sacred Name”. As I said, I cannot answer the point about the actual translation of the name. It is my understanding that the name means: “I will be what I will be”. You give a different translation. For the purposes of this argument, I will go according to your translation.
Your definition reads: “He Who causes to Be.” You find in this a contradiction, because it wouldn’t be true of God before He creation. And it would mean that His essence was dependent upon creation. To solve this contradiction, you argue, if I understand correctly, that God must also have brought into existence other parts of Himself.
This solves nothing. It only creates more problems.
1. If God brings other parts of Himself into Being, then at some point those other parts of Him did not exist. Now you wrote that if God’s name was about creation, then “the Name was false before Creation began…” Only, the problem remains. If parts of God are dependent on Him and had to be brought into existence, then at some point, they didn’t exist. Before they didn’t exist, then His name wasn’t true, by your logic, for the same reason it wasn’t true before Creation. It doesn’t matter what the first created thing was, a part of Him or something outside Him, if it was brought into existence, at some point it didn’t exist. You haven’t resolved the conflict; you’ve only deferred it. You’ve moved it further into the past, but the conflict remains.
2. If God is perfect, then any addition to Himself is unnecessary. It can’t improve Him. Addition to Him could only diminish Him. Or, do you think God is perfect now, but He wasn’t to begin with? If that is the case, then we must believe that God was imperfect (a problem) and that an imperfect being was able to perfect Himself by creating something dependent upon His (imperfect) self. This is absurd.
3. If parts of God are dependent and subject to creation, they are also subject to destruction. At some point, God could divest Himself of those parts that He added to Himself. Is it not absurd to say that God can create and destroy Himself?
4. Do you hold that God is immutable? If God does not change, then He neither adds to Himself nor takes away from Himself.
These problems may not be the only ones, but they are enough to show that you have not solved the problem. Your interpretation only creates bigger problems. I am inclined to believe that this is not the proper translation of God’s name. But if it is, I can see that we haven’t found the right interpretation of its significance yet.
(Question: Do you believe God is subject to time? Is time a concept that applies to Him? I ask because, time is a measurement of change. If you don’t believe that time is a concept that can be applied to God, then He cannot have changed at some point.)
Jim, these are excellent points. I think the one about time is terribly important. We cannot understand God with our finite minds which are bound by time and space. God is beyond time and space. Therefore, what you said about God not having been able to change at some point is an idea that can’t be applied to God is so very true. He is timeless and unchanging.
About the whole complex-simplex thing. Some Christians don’t like the idea of an absolute unity because the concept is too simple, it’s not sophisticated enough. But on the contrary, I have found (through painful experience) that the basic truths of life–whether regarding religion or interpersonal relationships–are extremely simple. A five-year-old can understand them. This does not mean simplistic, nor does it mean it’s easy to apply.
I am a relationship coach and one of the things I like to tell women is that the rules for a good marriage are simple, they are easy to understand, but they are hard to follow–and nevertheless the rewards are great. This applies to parenting. This applies to success in your career. And most important, this applies to worshiping God.
Don’t you find that the most brilliant solution to a problem is the one that is so simple and obvious that you can’t believe you didn’t think of it first?
The truths of the Torah are so simple and obvious, one wonders how anyone can miss it.
Jim, these are all very good questions, and I don’t want to address them at length now, though I grant they are most important. Perhaps it will be sufficient to show that your questions are not new ones, to say they were or issues very close to them the cause of a major split in Islam over the eternal character of God’s word (the Mu’tazilis and their detractors (now mainstream Sunni Islam). They were also questions Rambam was very familiar with. He interacts extensively with Mutakallimūn both Arab and Hebrew (the Kalam theologians), usually very critically. In some instances we know now with the crystal clarity of hindsight, he was actually plain wrong – in denying atom theory for example. I can’t say I’ve read much here, and much is unfamiliar territory to me. All of this is both important and highly practical as the denial of causality is widely asserted to be the principal cause of intellectual fossilisation in the Muslim world (see Reilly’s fascinating, short book the closing of Muslim mind).
As to the nub of your question. If God’s name is the Bringer into being, if that act itself was eternal not temporal, say with an attribute or property like wisdom or revelation, many of your consequential inferences are highly tentative and may be rendered precarious. Your arguments are highly reminiscent of arguments between the early church fathers and Arians of various shades about eternal generation. Interesting as these are, I’d prefer not to enter this enormous field right now. I think it’s not difficult to see or assert on the other hand that the Name was itself dependent on Creation for its realisation, if God is indeed simple to the extent (as per Rambam or other Simplicity theologians) of even being without distinct attributes. You may differ.
I do most certainly believe in immutability in the sense that scripture affirms it, God doesn’t change, although in the extreme form that Parmenides and other philosophers held it I have strong reservations that they result in anti-scriptural conclusions. Does God react/think/relate? – or all these all just apparitions for our comprehension – in one sense He has seen all these things before and they are an ever present reality to them, so there is no true repentance with Him. However these are deep areas, we must address with caution, better to start with scriptural assertions, rather than flounder around in human speculation as I have done for almost all this post.
One other thing I should be very straightforward about, or be justly accused of being underhand, yes I am deeply interested in trying to prove relationship within the Deity, when I say He is complex, not simple, but many opponents of Simplicity are not – esp Jewish and Muslim ones. Just as many Christian advocates of Simplicity (to my astonishment at their myopia) see no problem for the Trinity in the doctrine, indeed it helps them, they claim, to preserve Monotheism – I think of all the groups involved, they have by far the weakest sense of its implications.
Now, I had hoped to get back to your original questions, to Dina’s other 3 challenges and if possible to writing a skeletal critique of Contra-Brown….
What you say is true. We too frequently complicate matters. We do not live thoughtfully. Our egos, passions, and appetites cloud our vision. They lead us to conclusions and decisions that reason would deny. Perhaps I should say “I” rather than “we”. Ha!
Thank you for reminding me of this very important truth.
Some humans reach greater heights than others, but we are all in the same boat when it comes to fighting the lower parts of our human nature: we must all engage in the battle and it doesn’t end until we die.
That sounds depressing but it’s actually exhilarating. Nothing tastes sweeter than self-discipline and self-mastery–and those who work toward this goal lead lives full of purpose and meaning and are happier and more fulfilled than those who don’t.
So you’re not talking only about yourself but about me as well :). As the famous Robert Frost said, I have miles to go before I sleep.
A simple definition of eisegesis is reading into Torah things that just aren’t there at all. In this sense I think all mention of Divine Simplicity, in any sense close to what the philosophers meant is pure eisegesis.
Another corollary of eisegesis, but a less obvious one, is reading out things in Torah that don’t fit with what seems a simple, and reasonable construct.
I hope you won’t find this analogy offensive, but I spend a fair amount of my time in the market place and when visiting at the doors speaking to Jehovah’s Witnesses who believe Jesus is God’s Son, but by that they basically mean that He is a creature, in effect an archangel, come down in human form. Many of them are very sincere, serious and religious people, who dedicate their lives to their cause. What drives them to this position, when you speak to them, however is not so much a radical adherence to the scripture (which they badly mistranslate) but rationalism. An insistence that in order to be known God must be understood. But this is not at all the God of the Tenach, Who is a God who hides Himself in darkness (Isa.45.15), and discloses only of Himself that which He chooses (Deut.29.29). He may and must be known, loved and adored, but He is far beyond and above us (Isa.55.9), and far beyond our deepest thinkers (Ps.77.9, 97.2, Rom.11.33). He is incomprehensible and unfathomable (Job.11.7, 37.23). It is no wonder at all that we find His being deeply mysterious (Isa.9.6).
There are many examples in the history of interpreting the Bible, where in order to squeeze a view into the texts, one position has been upheld and the contrary family of texts has been ignored or allegorised. The truth lies often in balancing and embracing the fullness of what God has said. This is precisely what the JWs have refused to do, when faced with NT texts about the Deity of the Messiah, they simply will not take them seriously, mistranslate the passages, or obfuscate. I realise you may not be troubled by these texts, however I fear this is also what rabbinic Jews have also done with the Tenach too, in pursuing a strict unitarianism, close to the Islamic tauhid, and I would also suggest novel to their ancestors.
Does God actually use a majestic plural to describe Himself, or does He include the Angels as co-Creators, after whose image and likeness mankind is also fashioned?
Is the image of God man explicitly said to be expressed in the mirror of both sexes or not?
Is the likeness of God mysteriously found in procreation or not?
These are all specific, direct assertions that need handling carefully. I have suggested they are all incompatible with strict unitarianism, specifically one undergirded by Divine Simplicity, as Maimonides, with him no doubt many rabbinic antecedents also, proposed.
You will very properly counter, then what of the passages where God does speak of Himself as single person with a singular pronoun and rejects the possibility of any coexistent Deity?
It is an excellent question, and I can only do partial justice to it now, even in my own eyes. If there was more than One Deity, we could not love One with all our heart, soul and mind and another also. Just as the Deity we worship is One, our hearts must also be one.
So let me please take you briefly to the question you raised about the One Saviour.
As you point out, HaShem says categorically, there is no other Saviour for us to look to, ‘there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.’ The principal question is Saviour from what enemy? From our physical, earthly enemies? Undoubtedly, but given that God often imposed these very enemies in order to chastise and bring us low (Ps 17:13, Jer.27.6), salvation is primarily about our own rebellion and lawlessness, first of all we need salvation from our own selves, our own selfish lusts and deceits (Isa 64:5, Eze 37:23). We could multiply the same question by adding the term redeemer or the sole forgiver of sin, but I will pass over these for now.
Who is it then that saves us from sin? Only HaShem, and there is no other, not one. Yet, as you know for Christians, the Messiah is the perfect manifestation of the Saviour, Jeho Shua. He personally forgave sin, and liberated lifelong slaves of sin, He redeemed His own kinfolk from sin, He was the supreme Goel, the kinsman-redeemer, the One Who offered Himself like Judah a Surety for His family. He being both the High Priest and the High Priest’s unique sin offering. For Gentile believers in the Jewish Messiah (whether you think the Nazarene was the Messiah or not, you should at least see the consistency of this particular argument) this is the sole prerogative of HaShem, and yet is it wrought, revealed and worked out by the Messiah. Do you see why it would deeply inconsistent for us to hold any position, other than to hold that HaShem has revealed Himself in and through the Messiah personally, to His own eternal and unending praise? This argument is no novelty it was precisely what compelled Athanasius to counter Arian theology with all his might and mane, though it made effectively him the Osama bin Laden of his day. A creature cannot save and cannot be worshipped, if Messiah is a true Saviour He can only be a true manifestation of the Name.
So then, do we believe in two Saviours, two HaShems, two eternals? No, no, there is One invisible God, the Father, visibly manifest and speaking in His eternal Son, Who came to tabernacle with us in flesh, in the Messiah.
It would be unfair for me not to give careful consideration to your reply, and I will if you choose to. Please forgive me however for not writing back again quickly though, I do want now to try and devote some proper time to Dina’s 3 other questions, and with them your helpful phone analogy.
I disagree with your arguments that prophecy is separate from the Law – I would suggest that you read the Bible to find where various details of the Law are presented as to THEM and where prophecy is introduced with to YOU
Instead I will point out to you that Moses gives us instructions as to when we should reject a prophet – one of the points he makes is that the false prophet seeks to push you off the path that the Lord your God has commanded you (Deuteronomy 13:6) – clearly indicating that no prophet has the authority to do something like that.
It is obvious that before Moses there were prophets who were not subject to the Law of Moses – because Moses was not here yet. But when Moses has the veracity of his prophecy established – then the Law he presents in the name of God defines every message that is not verified on the level of Moses’s prophecy.
The supremacy of the Law is contingent on the supremacy of Moses’ level of prophecy – Exodus 19:9 Deuteronomy 34:10-12
The test of the prophet whether or not he is a false prophet or true prophet is not how well he/she follows the law. Nowhere in the bible does it say that. If it did, Moses wouldn’t have himself been able to change the law as he did.
what you’ve said in your post above is in error because you link the test of the prophet too broadly to the entire law; your citations don’t support your claim they actually support my claim. The bible never puts it the way you are putting it. Every verse on the subject is very restrictive (even the verses you’ve noted) and do not pertain to the Law as the body of law per se but as to Deuteronomy 13 just to one specific point within the law which is the issue of not serving/worshiping foreign gods which Israel has not known.
It has always been the case EVEN BEFORE the LAW that a true prophet serve/worship the one true God. The fact then is not therefore dependent upon the law. Abraham followed the one true God as did Moses. The purpose of the tests are to confirm this fact to either the leaders of Israel or Israel or to both. This is why God first performed the miracles through Moses and Aaron in Egypt in front of the elders. Following the Miracles they “believed.” They then knew that the one true God (the God of their fathers) had appeared to Moses and had finally given heed to their misery.
Your point in one of your posts that the Pharaoh also had magicians to perform tricks is well taken, so then to counter that, God beat all the tricks of the magicians of Pharaoh at every step of the way, finally killing all the first born of Pharaoh so then Moses was all along the way and in the end proven to be who he claimed to be, leading the people to God and not to other gods which they nor their fathers had not known. Again at the Red Sea this was proven to all the people. Again at Mount Sinai this was confirmed before all the people.
5 “so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”
31 The people believed…
As we know humans can be fickle, and as was the case in Egypt so it was at Mount Sinai that they soon turned on Moses. Hence the need to continue the signs and wonders through Moses as the people learned and grew in maturity in serving and worshiping the one true God.
Nothing tells us, not even the law itself, that we should now or then base the test of the prophet on the full body of the law simply because the law is introduced on Mount Sinai. This is a grave error. Quite the opposite, Deuteronomy 13 which you cited for example and Deuteronomy 18 confirms the purpose of testing (within the test itself) which has been from the beginning which is (as Exodus 4:5 states) that we may “believe” that the one true God has appeared to the prophet or that the prophet speaks for the one true God and additionally as Deut. 18 states that the prophet does not presume to speak for God what God didn’t say and as Deuteronomy 18 and 13 also state that the prophet does not speak for other gods or does not entice others to follow other gods.
If in Egypt and the desert prior to and after Mount Sinai, Moses were to not speak for the one true God OR speak something God did not say or entice others to follow other gods, then the miracles performed through Moses wouldn’t have been able to do what they did (just as the magicians of Pharaoh failed against God through Moses, and just as Korah failed, etc.).
By the way, Moses speaking to the people as God’s intermediary for God as God thundered the 10 commandments is a miracle in itself performed through Moses don’t you think? How would the people have known what God said without Moses? He stood between God and the people while they heard the voice of God thunder out of the fire and dark cloud, Moses spoke to them the 10 commandments.
The test for the prophet is very simple.
Let us take the words “Because he sought to push you off the path that the Lord your God has COMMANDED you to walk in it” (Deuteronomy 13:6/ 5 in the Christian Bibles)
You have two choices in understanding this verse. Either it is telling us that the prophet has no authority to push us off any detail of the path that God has already commanded us (through Moses). Or you can understand (and it seems that you favor this understanding) that the prophet has no authority to push us off the central feature of the Law which is the commandment against idolatry.
I have no problem with either interpretation.
Both interpretations show how that after the giving of the Law – the office of prophecy is subject to the Law – at least as it relates to the commandment against idolatry. It is the way that we were commanded by God that defines idolatry to us – in order to know which prophet to reject.
Another concept that the passage presents to us is that although in Egypt – before the Law – God out-miracled the frauds – but after the Law He may not do the same thing. He may allow the frauds to perform miracles and leave it to our love of God that we were taught through the commandments of the Law when we left Egypt to recognize that this miracle is a test (Deuteronomy 13:4-5/3-4).
The test described in Deuteronomy 18:19-22 is not “simple” in the sense of leaving no room for arguments. Who is to define “another god”? Who is to determine if a prediction did not materialize? There are people I know who worship a man and insist that their worship is not worship of “another god” (I think you know these people too). And the followers of many false prophets whose predictions failed to materialize were never short on excuses/explanations to be able to maintain belief in their hero (John 21:23). So who is to determine if the prediction did or did not materialize? Are these not questions that the Law is putting under the purview of our process of applying the Law?
By the way – Moses is the authority for the Law (it is the supremacy of Moses’ prophecy that gives the Law this authority – to arbitrate prophecy). So there is no way that Moses can “change” it.
Nice try, but Deuteronomy 13:5 which you cite which if read in isolation may have the appearance of general application to the entirety of the Law, should be read in the context of the verses which precede and follow it. And the context is limited as all can plainly see:
2 and the omens or the portents declared by them take place, and they say, “Let us follow other gods” (whom you have not known) “and let us serve them,” 3 you must not heed the words of those prophets or those who divine by dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you indeed love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. 4 The Lord your God you shall follow, him alone you shall fear, his commandments you shall keep, his voice you shall obey, him you shall serve, and to him you shall hold fast.
6 If anyone secretly entices you—even if it is your brother, your father’s son or[b] your mother’s son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend—saying, “Let us go worship other gods,” whom neither you nor your ancestors have known, 7 any of the gods of the peoples that are around you, whether near you or far away from you, from one end of the earth to the other,
It’s pretty obvious to say the least.
And the test for the prophet is simple for all to understand so we don’t need to be experts in the law to evaluate the authenticity of the prophet. All of these things are related to each other, such as the Land, Law, prophets, and miracles. The mistake you are pushing is thinking that the authority of the prophet rests on the Law. Scriptures don’t say that. The verse you provided supports my claim actually, not yours. I’ve also proven that God’s system of the prophet precedes the Law and continues to be mentioned in scripture before and after the Law and so is not limited or exclusive to the Law. We know that God also spoke to Moses exclusively of sending a prophet and the test for such a prophet like Moses at the same moment (either just before or just after) announcing the 10 commandments as I’ve proven through my previous post
AND we don’t see that fact mentioned at all with the 10 commandments highlighting the fact it is not dependent on, or particular to, the Law.
When Moses went up the Mountain to retrieve the rest of the Law following the 10 commandments, the promise of the prophet and the test had already been given.
It is indeed good to keep in mind context. So, what is the context of Deuteronomy 18:15-22, the passage regarding prophets? Chapter 18 begins with laws regarding the Levites and how they have no land, what they receive from offerings, and the like. Before that were laws of kings. After that are laws regarding various evil practices, child sacrifice, augury and the like. And following those, it goes into the prophet. After the passage in question, it continues with laws regarding cities of refuge, and more. It is right in the midst of a body of laws!
Moreover, Deuteronomy 18:20 prescribes the death penalty for “any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded that prophet to speak”. Clearly this isn’t a matter of personal judgment. This is a matter to be put before the court. It is a law.
What is interesting, also, is that even if your interpretation were true, it would prove that Jesus was not a prophet. Verses 21 and 22 continue: “You may say to yourself, ‘How can we recognize a word that the Lord has not spoken?’ If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.” Let’s now apply this to Jesus, and see if we should listen to him.
Jesus gave a sign to the Pharisees, as I’ve pointed out before. He said that he would raise from the dead after three days. Good. Now we can test whether or not he’s a prophet or if he speaks presumptuously. Did Jesus present himself after three days? No. So, did the sign come to pass? No. Fifty days after his death, his followers began preaching his resurrection. That’s not the sign. It’s not enough to just claim it happened after the fact without presenting the event itself. In fact, if the sign has to be taken on faith, it IS NOT a sign. What good would it be for God to tell you how you could tell a prophet, if you just ignored the evidence when it happened? Even the NT doesn’t try to assert that Jesus came to the Pharisees.
So, according to you, we are all supposed to just figure it out ourselves. But Jesus failed to provide the evidence he volunteered. By this criteria, it was correct to reject him as a prophet. We have once again affirmed that salvation is of God, not of a man.
I think on your first paragraph you answered your own question on context. You correctly noted that it’s about the prophet over several verses which include Deuteronomy 18:15-22. It’s helpful to keep in mind that the chapter breaks and verse numbering did not exist when the bible was written. So it’s not unusual for the context to remain on one topic or several verses and then shift as you yourself noted to another topic even though both may be in the same chapter.
Now, in the case of Deuteronomy 13:2-7 and verse 5 sandwiched in the middle regarding context, I think most casual observers will agree, even you perhaps, that the context throughout that passage does not change as it does through the whole of chapter 18 from privileges of priests and Levites, to child sacrifice, and finally to the prophet.
In addition, back to Deuteronomy 18:15-22, as I already addressed in a very extensive earlier post of mine, the time and place (context) of God speaking the words of passage 18:15-22 are one and the same event as identified in the passage Deuteronomy 5:22-33 which pertains to the time frame of announcing the ten commandments. You have to read all of each passage to understand that they are one and the same event, but the key verses to compare are: Deuteronomy 5:28 and Deuteronomy 18:17.
5:28 …”they are right in all that they have spoken.”
18:17…“They are right in what they have said.”
Your comments on the death penalty have no bearing one way or the other on my arguments regarding the test for the authenticity of the prophet. If you want to get into what’s a collective requirement to the nation of Israel and what’s an individual obligation unto God Himself, then read Deuteronomy 18:19
19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet[h] shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.
Clearly then if there are some individuals that “heed the words” and some that don’t, those individuals who don’t will be held accountable by God HIMSELF, and those that heed the words will have nothing to worry about from God (although I can imagine situations where the nation may take it against those individuals because the nation gets it wrong).
Regarding Jesus and the test of the prophet, as I’ve repeatedly said here, and I’ll say again, we all have an obligation to God Himself (as Deuteronomy 18:19 clearly establishes) to check into the matter of authenticity of the prophet. If you Jim, believe after checking into the matter as you have, that Jesus is NOT a prophet then I support your decision 100% to reject him. And I expect nothing less regarding your support of my decision to ACCEPT him having also thoroughly checked into the matter of his authenticity and come to the opposite conclusion from yours.
Everyone must come to their own decision of course.
But it’s hard to take this sentiment of yours entirely seriously. You’ve come here to argue that the Jews don’t understand their own scriptures. You’ve told them that they don’t believe for the reasons they say they believe. You’ve told them that idolaters are closer to heaven than they are. Nobody came knocking on your door trying to convert you to Judaism. If you want to believe in Jesus, who’s stopping you?
The Christian, however, doesn’t leave it at that. He proselytizes. This, I will say, he has no right to do (other than a political right.) Whatever he wants to believe personally is his own business. But, to take the teachings of another people, rewrite them, misquote them, mistranslate them, force upon them meanings foreign to the text–this is objectionable. And to expect others to believe by faith the very things that cannot be substantiated is folly. Let the Christian believe it, fine. Let him, if he wants, “believe six impossible things before breakfast.” But he should stop teaching it.
David, this is what I tried to tell you that got us started on our argument about anti-Semitism. You came here on this blog of your own volition to preach your brand of Christianity, but this blog only exists because of proselytizers like you. It’s a defense against missionaries, not an offense against Christianity. All we Jews have ever wanted was to be left alone. But even after 2000 years, you don’t give up trying. Some Jews will convert, as individuals have throughout the centuries, but Christian missionaries would love for all the Jews to embrace Christianity.
Not gonna happen.
Hi Jim and Dina,
You forget that the Hebrew scriptures are shared by all of us. There was never a time when Christians didn’t hold them to be God breathed and authoritative. My spiritual ancestors, the first Christians were Jews before they were Christian-Jews, and their ancestors were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses, and King David of course.
I’m not telling you what you personally should or shouldn’t believe as a Jew or as anything else as I’ve already stated in a previous post. But I have as much authority as anyone to debate scripture from a personal point of view as well as a non-personal academic point of view.
Anyway, even if I’m wrong in my understanding of scripture as you say, I don’t see why it would bother you that I state my opinion. If you are confident in what you understand from scripture, and even if you’re not, there are always going to be people who disagree with you and may challenge your understanding with their own understanding.
David, you don’t get it, do you?
No one is disputing the following:
1. That you have the right to read Hebrew scripture and interpret it as you see fit.
2. That you have the right to debate anyone who is willing to engage with you.
3. That you have the right to proselytize whoever you want.
The question is, is it a nice thing to do?
Does anyone knock on your door and hand you Jewish missionary literature? Has anyone approached you and tried to persuade you to convert to Judaism to save your soul because they believe you are forever damned otherwise? Would you not find it insulting, especially if your people had suffered for many hundreds of years because of that religion (whether they were “real” adherents to that religion or not is not the issue)?
No one said you don’t have the right to do any of these things (though excuse me if I don’t respect your authority in these matters; I doubt you respect mine). We just want to be left alone, and it’s not for lack of confidence. If that’s the impression you got from Rabbi B., Jim, Yehuda, me, and others, you are the poorest judge of human spirit I have ever met.
That’s all I’m saying.
Are you saying that’s what I’m doing?
I don’t know, David. You tell me. What is your purpose in engaging in debate on this blog? What is your ultimate goal, and what do hope to accomplish?
My purpose is to debate scripture which for me is both the OT and NT and defend my Christian beliefs primarily through analysis of scripture (I think most would refer to my method as “apologetics”). My goal is NOT to change anyone’s faith but inform and defend my own faith and understanding of scripture. Part of that faith is based on the OT so obviously there’s a lot of overlap there for potential disagreements not only with other Christians but especially with any who hold to Judaism since of course we hold to the same Hebrew scriptures.
The reason why I’m on this blog in particular as the name implies, Judaism vs. Christianity, is because I see a lot of comments expressing misinformation, and misunderstandings in regards to Christianity including the scriptures which Christianity is based on.
If there were no comments or misinformation or misunderstandings about Christianity on this blog, I probably wouldn’t be here. In other words, if it was all just about Judaism, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t be injecting my opinion one way or the other.
David, I just have to ask you this, then: Why do you feel the need to defend a faith practiced by two billion people to a tiny handful of people? I don’t know how many people follow this blog, but I suspect it’s well under a thousand.
Why do you care that a very small number of people are “misinformed” about Christianity?
Why not spend your time rather defending your non-Trinitarian belielfs to Trinitarian Christians? Or visit atheist blogs and argue with atheists? Or talk to the billion Muslims, who adhere to the fastest growing religion in the world? Now that’s really a threat.
Hi David. I hope you’ll respond to my previous question about your need to defend your faith, but I have another thought for you.
You wrote, “The reason why I’m on this blog in particular as the name implies, Judaism vs. Christianity, etc.” Not Judaism vs. Islam, not Judaism vs. Buddhism or Hinduism or Wicca. You will not find Jews actively defending their faith against these religions.
That’s because all these religions, as well as Judaism, don’t proselytize. (You can argue that Islam is an exception; it is more a conquering religion than a proselytizing one. That’s not a good thing, either, I’ll grant you that.)
The most aggressive–and perhaps the only–proselytizing religion in the world is Christianity.
I find it hard to believe that you are here to defend a faith that doesn’t need defending. Why are you really here, David? Tell the truth!
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to articulate again – perhaps more clearly this time.
Imagine if a prophet shows up – lets call him Charlie – and he stops the sun in middle of the sky for a few hours – and he tells us to worship Horace’s tree because it is one and the same as the God of Israel – do we listen to Charlie or do we not?
The Law of Moses dictates that we do not – because the Law of Moses refers us to our understanding of who it is that we are to worship that we acquired from God as a determinant to evaluate the validity of a prophet – and according to the determinant set by the Law of Moses Charlie fails.
Scenario #2 – this time it is Horace – he makes a few hazy predictions – and a debate ensues between his followers and his opponents as to whether the prediction actually did or didn’t come to pass. You and I are bystanders – how do we determine if we should or shouldn’t believe Horace? Will we use a different yardstick than the yardstick that we would use when we are applying any other detail of the Law?
Scenario #2b – Horace hears about the arguments between his followers and his opponents – he decides to settle it once and for all – he comes down from his tree and he announces that God gave him a message that from now on prophecy is not invalidated by a prediction that fails to materialize
Do we listen to Horace?
Who told us not to listen to Horace? It was Moses of-course. wait a second why is Horace subject to Moses’ words?
Do you get my point?
The Law of Moses dictates that we do not …
There is nothing in the Law of Moses that is new revelation regarding the test of the prophet. I addressed some of that above with Jim. What you may be referring to and think is in the law was actually given to Moses apart from the law at the time either just prior to or after the 10 commandments. And even that which is in the law is nothing more than the articulation of the test of the prophet itself as a confirmation of what God was already doing through Moses all through the events of Egypt and after. The only new revelation was that God would raise up a prophet like Moses as proclaimed in Deuteronomy 18:18 and as I said that wasn’t part of the law. It was given at the same time as Deuteronomy 5:28
Moses was already and boldly making prophesies and all the people including the Egyptians were witnessing with their own eyes the prophesies of Moses come true. Moses was performing signs and wonders and all eventually came to believe through Moses. Not consistently but gradually over time they grew to believe.
Prior to Sinai, the book of Exodus is packed with examples of not only signs and wonders but many many prophesies from Moses which came true. The bible tells us the reason was so that Egypt and the Israelites AND their children would know and believe that the YHWH is their God and that Moses is their prophet. And the people grew in their knowledge and worship of God.
4:31 (belief and worship)
The people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had given heed to the Israelites and that he had seen their misery,
THEY BOWED DOWN AND WORSHIPED.
6:6-8 (several prophesies including that they will know their God):
Say therefore to the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’”
10:1,2 (purpose of the signs and wonders – so that you …):
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his officials, in order that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I have made fools of the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them—so that you may know that I am the Lord.”
12:21,26,27 (prophesy and resulting worship)
21 Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go, select lambs for your families, and slaughter the passover lamb. 26 And when your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this observance?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians but spared our houses.’”
AND THE PEOPLE BOWED DOWN AND WORSHIPED.
14:13,14 (prophesy and encouragement):
But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”
16:12 (prophesy and growing knowledge of God):
12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”
18:11 (as the Egyptians before, and now even Jethro believes):
11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because he delivered the people from the Egyptians,[c] when they dealt arrogantly with them.” 12 And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God.
The above shows that Moses (the prophet) was already performing the duties of a prophet performing signs, wonders, and prophesies leading people to God and a growing knowledge of God long before Mt. Sinai and the Law. He did not get his authority from the law, but was already exercising his authority from God. All future prophets follow the examples of Moses.
So you didn’t get my point. I’ll thank you again for giving me the chance to articulate.
I find it interesting that you wrote an entire post attacking the nonsensical premise that there is no prophecy before the giving of the Law.
May I remind you that that premise was not the subject of our discussion. Our discussion is about the authority of the Law of Moses in relation to prophecy.
It seems that you are under the impression that Moses got two sets of prophecy – one entitled “Law” and one entitled “something other than the Law”. In my dictionary this doesn’t work. Since the entire authority of the Law rests on the foundation of the supremacy of Moses’ prophecy over the prophecy of any other prophet – so any message that God delivered to us through Moses has the authority of “the Law of Moses”.
Now let me bring you back to scenario #2b from my previous comment. Horace tells us that God told him that while in the past – the non-fulfillment of a prophetic prediction was enough to invalidate a claimant to prophecy together with all of his miracles – but now a new and better set of rules has been given – this because we are under a new dispensation – and according to the new set of rules the non-fulfillment of a prediction does not invalidate a prophet. Horace goes on to explain that under the new dispensation – our understanding has matured and therefore God deals with us differently and He expects us to understand that with changing circumstances the original prophecy may not be applicable. Horace points to Jonah’s prophecy about Nineveh as a foreshadowing of this new dispensation. When challenged with the question – so if non-fulfillment of a prophecy does not invalidate a prophet than how can we identify a false prophet? Horace responds with the following new set of rules – if the prophet denies the divinity of Horace’s tree, or if he fails to produce three miracles on the same day (as did Moses when he was introduced to the nation of Israel) – then he is a false prophet. Mind you, Horace himself has performed several miracles – so do you accept his “new set of rules”?
I would venture to guess that you would not accept Horace or his set of rules. And I would also venture to guess that you would base your rejection of Horace on the passage in Deuteronomy presented to the Jewish people through Moses.
Now Horace hears that you have rejected his claims – and he sits down to talk with you. He explains that prophecy is not under the purview of the Law of Moses – and therefore is not subject to the rules set down by Moses. Furthermore, Horace argues that he is a greater prophet than Moses.
How would you respond to Horace the prophet?
One more point. How would you reject the claim that Horace’s tree is one and the same as the God of Israel – that tree is the One true God and anyone who denies the tree denies the Father? Would you search your Bible for refutations of the Horatian doctrines or would you point to the definitive testimony by which God expects His nation to identify who it is that they are to worship?
You wrote, “…you wrote an entire post attacking the nonsensical premise that there is no prophecy before the giving of the Law.”
I don’t know where you got that from. My post was written in part to show the opposite of what you claim I wrote. And that is that Moses and others were prophets in the eyes of God and Israel before the law was given (obviously all of Israel considers Abraham a prophet since God himself calls him a prophet). Moses continued to be a prophet after the law was given. Moses performed miracles and proclaimed prophesy concerning many of God’s miracles both before and after the law was given. The people believed Moses (and at times challenged and rejected Moses) both before and after the law was given. The authority of Moses was never dependent on the Law. The authority of Moses was established prior to the law and continued after the law.
The requirement of the law to reject all who go after other gods and entice others to do likewise is not limited to the prophet, but applies to all.
The prophesy of the prophet like Moses (“like” in the sense to include one with the authority of Moses, Deuteronomy 18:18), is clear.
Moses gave the Law. Moses had the authority to make inquiry of God and change the Law which he did, not often but he did do so (Leviticus 10:16-20 and Numbers 9:6-14 for example). Obviously a prophet who comes like Moses has that same authority in relation to the law. The context of how and in what manner the prohibition within the law not to add to or take from the law is to the people so that individual Israelites who are NOT “like” Moses in authority to change the law would not frivolously and carelessly do so. The law never says that a prophet can’t interpret or change the law.
I don’t know if I mentioned it in these most recent post but I’ve posted before that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did NOT manifest himself as the YHWH to them, but as God Almighty. Moses revealed to the Israelites in Egypt (before the Law) that “the YHWH” was the God of their fathers.
Regarding the rest of your post pertaining to Horace in scenario 2. The prophesy of “Horace”, is obviously an allusion to Christianity and Jesus. And as such, is a mischaracterization. You mistakenly believe that since some things Jesus proclaimed have not yet come to pass, that then means they were false prophesies. Not true. I offer the following:
In Exodus 6:8 Moses makes the prophetic claim that God says: “I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you as a possession. I am the YHWH.”
Then in Numbers we see that God didn’t do as the people believed he’d promised regarding Exodus 6:8 and they were ready to stone to death the prophet Moses.
Numbers 14:10: “But the whole congregation threatened to stone them.”
The prophesy of Exodus 6:8 was not yet fulfilled at the time of Numbers 14:10, not yet as the people expected because they had a preconceived idea of the manner of fulfillment which was incorrect. Moses never said when or how it would happen; he just said that it would happen.
My point is that you are making the same mistake in regards to Jesus in your scenario of Horace and as the Israelites in Numbers 14:10.
So my response to the scenario of Horace is give Jesus some time, just as the Israelites were forced to learn during their 40 years in the desert, do to their lack of faith.
Regarding the point that Horace “Jesus” is pointing us to some other god, and not the YHWH; if that’s what you believe then you should reject Jesus. But that’s not what I believe. I believe that Jesus is pointing us to the YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
I’m not responding on behalf of Rabbi Blumenthal; he has good things to say and I’m looking forward to reading them. But I was thinking about this particular conversation over the weekend and wanted to make a couple of points.
You need the prophets to have the authority to change the law in order to fit your beliefs regarding Jesus. You rely therefore on your own interpretation of various texts, not on a clear and open teaching. Nowhere does the Torah clearly state that prophets are above the law. The rule about not adding or subtracting does not contain a little additional clause exempting prophets. If you read Scripture you cannot fail to note that in practice the prophets did not change the law; they never considered themselves above the law, nor did the people they led see them as above the law. The only “prophet” to do this was Jesus. Now don’t you find that odd? I do.
If all prophets are above the law, then you are in trouble. You have no more reason to follow Jesus than to follow Mohammad or Joseph Smith. As prophets, they can claim authority to change the law just as much as Jesus.
Again, I thank you for giving me yet another opportunity to articulate my position and why it is that your position is anti-Scriptural.
It seems that you are operating under a serious misunderstanding of what it is that Judaism believes on this subject. You seem to believe that I believe that the Law is regulating God. As if I am saying that God can’t do this or that because the Law prohibits Him from doing so.
I don’t believe that.
What I do believe is that the Law regulates the way we live our lives. The Law is God’s commandment for His people and if we disobey God’s Law then we have rebelled against God.
One of the things that the Law regulates in our lives is the way we are to evaluate a claim to prophecy. The Law given to us from God through Moses dictates that under certain circumstances we are to reject a claim to prophecy and under other circumstances we are to accept such a claim.
At this point a question arises. If a claimant to prophecy presents a claim that the Law of Moses teaches us to reject – why should we accept the ruling of the Law of Moses and reject the claimant to prophecy? Perhaps we should do the opposite and reject the Law of Moses and accept the new prophet’s teaching that he claims he received from God?
Before I answer my own question I will point out that the Bible tells us that the Law of Moses trumps the claim to prophecy – no matter how many miracles this claimant to prophecy produced and no matter how spectacular these miracles were. So before we answer this question (why it is that the Law of Moses trumps the claim to prophecy) we can be sure that whoever wrote the Bible believes that it does.
This is what I meant when I said that prophecy is under the purview of the Law.
In other words Moses gives us guidance as to how we are to evaluate a claim to prophecy which clearly implies that Moses set his word (that He received from God) at a higher plane of authority than the word that any other claimant to prophecy may be carrying.
Why indeed is Moses’ word of prophecy authoritative to reject a claim such as Horace’s who would tell us that Moses’ message has been superseded?
My understanding of this matter is that it is because the credibility of Moses’ prophecy was established by God so clearly and openly so that we cannot doubt the veracity of Moses’ message while the veracity of any other prophet is open to question.
As it relates to Jesus – this has nothing to do with prophecies that he gave that were not yet fulfilled but prophecies that he gave that cannot be fulfilled. Such as the prophecy that “this generation will not pass until all these things be accomplished” (Matthew 24:34).
I am not confident that Jesus said those words because I don’t have any reason to trust Matthew. But I will say this – those men who were loyal to God’s Law did not see in him a true prophet according to the guidelines set down by Moses. If they would have seen him as true prophet his words would have been preserved in the midst of the community that is loyal to God’s Law.
The Bible clearly tells us that the patriarchs addressed God or spoke about him using the tetragrammaton. You don’t seem to understand the basic message of Exodus 6:2,3.
In order to help you understand the message I will ask you – what do the different names of God represent? Do you think they represent different entities within the person of God?
That’s updated (or corrected) in my latest post to Dina. Yes, the patriarchs addressed at times God as YHWH but more often than not they addressed Him in another manner or in conjunction with another term such as “God Most High” or “Lord” as I noted to Dina. So, although they did know his name “the YHWH” and did at times address him as such, they didn’t comprehend the significance of the “name” as we do today as attested to by God Himself when He says that he didn’t “reveal” Himself as “the YHWH”, but rather as “God Most High.”
Therefore, they didn’t “know” God as fully as we know him. Or perhaps a better way to state it is that they didn’t have the capacity to know God as fully since He didn’t reveal Himself as fully to the patriarchs as we have been given the opportunity (since Moses) to come to know Him as “the YHWH.” That doesn’t mean we all necessarily know Him, but we have the opportunity to know Him in a way that the patriarchs did not.
If you study how and when the term “the YHWH” is used throughout the Tanach and the other terms you might even come to the same conclusion I have come to which is that God fulfills His promises as “the YHWH.” Although the fullness of His name “the YHWH” as the fulfiller of His promises (or the one who brings about His plan to completion) was not “revealed” to Abraham, we do see hints of the significance the term “the YHWH” in hindsight beginning in Genesis chapter two.
Please feel free to take your time. I too have very limited time. I can wait patiently.
The different names of God represent the different ways He interacts with His creation
I think that a simple reading of Scripture will show that the tetragammaton represents God’s acting as complete Master over every facet of existence. The patriarchs “comprehended” that aspect of God’s interaction with creation and they even experienced a taste of it (e.g. the birth of Isaac) but they had not experienced it with the same intensity that Moses’ generation was going to experience it.
By the way – Abraham and Jacob both experienced fulfillment of promise and the generation of Moses – although they experienced fulfillment of promise but it was not complete in their generation (entering the land) – what that generation did experience to a degree that no previous or subsequent generation experienced is the miracles of the Exodus and the journey in the wilderness.
I hope you don’t mind my mixing in to your conversation – this is in response to your comment from Nov 30.
You speak of reading things into the Torah that are not there. Where does the Torah (or Tanach) encourage us to speculate about the nature of God? The Tanach encourages us to direct our worship to God and to God alone. When Tanach speaks of worship it directs away from all that is found within the confines of nature.
Christianity is not a philosophy about the nature of God. It started with love and adoration of a specific point within nature and that is where Christianity ends. The philosophy is only an attempt to read that adoration back into the text of the Bible – a book that discourages that adoration in the strongest terms.
This conversation was troubling me a lot. I think I must have woken up at least six times last night to think about it! And I came to the same conclusion. Really, speculation about God’s nature is a waste of time, since all of us on both sides of the divide can agree that He is unfathomable to us mere mortals. Nevertheless, the Torah was given to simple folks like us, and it teaches in the clearest and strongest terms who and how to worship. Leave philosophy to the philosophers!
I meant to say, the Torah was also given to simple folks like me. I don’t mean to say any of you are simple, hope no one was offended.
Sir, your courtesy deeply impresses me, like a host who politely asks his guest if he minds letting him pass in his own house, though I will still seek to be candid for your sake.
In one sense I strongly agree with you. Speculation is not the business of God fearers and worshippers, it all too easily degenerates into the horrible situation at Beth Shemesh (1 Sam.6.19). Maimonides is to be strongly credited for his caution and reverence, if not the route he follows or the theological company he keeps, these attributes are both very proper in these high places, where a slip is easy and hind’s feet are needed.
On the other hand, is not the reverent, serious, heart search for Who God is the very business of our eternal beings? What else matters in its expression in practice or in thought? David wrote that his overriding desire was to behold, not merely glimpse, God’s beauty in the sanctuary (Ps.27.4). How can one discover that God is indeed unfathomable without beginning to fathom just how unfathomable His heights and depths really are?
We are all, as Dina rightly says, very small children in this, and easily prone to err. However the things that are revealed belong to us and our children, first and foremost this heritage is yours not mine, to treasure and to ponder, but as a Gentile dog under the table, I am content to partake of the children’s crumbs, or, as I hold, a wild olive to taste some of the sap. I write this without any irony, in case you doubt it, as I hope in due course, to demonstrate in response to your challenging piece on the two witnesses not called to the stand, but other things pierce me first.
At your proper request, I shall try to avoid further philosophical digression here, except as far as it’s directly material to showing a false path.
Charles, you are not a Gentile dog under the table. You are a dignified human being created in the image of God.
Peace and blessings,
Thanks Dina, I know what you’re saying, and I do appreciate this, but Mephibosheth also said something similar, if not even stronger, and he too wasn’t playing word games, he also meant it deeply. When I contemplate my beloved but ungodly family, my friends and certainly the way my life was headed as a teenager before I heard about Messiah, I could very easily have been the worst of all of them, as many might testify, I was well on course in selfishness and hardness of heart. Hypocritical or nominal Christians may be bad, but try their degenerate atheist descendants. To describe such lives as dogs would be an insult to pampered, disciplined Western pooches! We have fully deserved to be cast out of the household, but God’s grace still transforms the moral leper and raises dead bones to life, and sometimes He seems to choose hard cases to showcase His power. Now I must press on…
I still owe you a response regarding your interpretation of the “image of God”. I will attempt to get to that in the next few days. However, I’d like to address the responses that you wrote above while I have a moment.
You continue to add distractions to the topic. It is irrelevant whether or not Maimonides was incorrect about atomic theory. In fact, I’m not so sure I’d say he was. Atomic theory as postulated (by pagan philosophers) was not the same thing as what we have today. We’ve borrowed the Greek name, but the ideas aren’t exactly the same. But it is irrelevant, because being wrong about one thing doesn’t make one wrong about another.
A further distraction is that you talk about attributes, but nothing you attempt to prove has to do with “attributes” as much as it does “persons”. It’s misleading to argue against Maimonides on the grounds that he denied attributes to God, when every one of your arguments relates to multiple persons. In fact, if Maimonides is wrong about the attributes, that would still have nothing whatsoever to do with the persons of God.
Regarding eisegesis, I will only restate what I’ve stated elsewhere. When the Christian ignores the clear testimony of God that He is alone and there is none beside Him, and has to read divinity into angels because they don’t see how God could trust a message to an angel, that is reading into the text. It is eisegesis. When He ignores the majority of speeches of God where He refers to Himself in the first person singular and seizes on one of very few times He uses the first person plural (because it fits his theology arrived at through the NT, not the Torah) that is eisegesis. To accuse the Jew of eisegesis for taking God at His word when He says that He is alone, is silly.
Now I know that you accuse Maimonides of eisegesis for teaching Simplicity rather than Singularity, but that’s just muddying the waters (if you can forgive me for saying so.) As I wrote above, this is all distraction. Because, even if Maimonides is guilty of eisegesis, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t. You are trying to win the argument by maligning Maimonides. If he is wrong, you are right. But since you aren’t arguing over the same topic, it’s not true. You aren’t trying to prove that God has attributes (e.g. mercy); you are trying to argue that God has persons. So if you prove that Maimonides was wrong about attributes, it is totally irrelevant to your argument. This only promotes confusion, not clarity.
Regarding the “One Savior”: the Christian position is inconsistent. You want things both ways. You say that Hashem is the only one who can forgive, but then you give Him a partner in forgiveness. In fact, He apparently couldn’t do it without Jesus. So you have to make Jesus divine to try to explain this away. But they are two persons. You want it both ways. You want to make them distinct but the same. You want them co-equal, but one is dependent on the other. You call this consistency.
It’s not. It’s merely an argument based on the prior unfounded belief in Jesus. The Christian faith leads to contradictions, so the Christian is stuck making incredibly complicated and contradictory arguments. It’s not like the divinity of Jesus is the only issue of which this is true. The debate between Calvinists and Arminians basically comes out of the inconsistencies of Christianity and the attempts to reconcile them.
Moving on, you assert Jesus liberated lifelong slaves of sin. But that’s not so. Paul even writes that he still sins. Well, it’s not him but the sin within him. But that’s just a word game. Sin doesn’t sin. Paul sins. You sin. Every Christian sins. It’s not even an argument that they don’t sin. I know Christians believe they are no longer slaves to sin, but since none of them is still able to keep the law, this is mere assertion. It is not fact.
I hope I have not rambled too much. I am between classes with my daughters and I am hurrying as quickly as I can. Please forgive any typos or errors in grammar that result from haste. And if in some way I have offended here, please forgive that too. I only attempt to speak to the truth, not to accuse.
Also, I am not offended by being compared to whomever you choose. But I don’t see the validity of the comparison between me and the Jehovah’s Witness. If you imply that I believe God is comprehensible, you are mistaken. And if you think Maimonides believed God was comprehensible, then you must not have even read him. One reason he denies attributes to God is because we can’t know Him. We can only know what He is not, according to Maimonides.
Jim, you write with crystal clarity. And in haste too! If you are homeschooling your daughters, they have a good teacher, for sure.
I want to thank you for this, because it clarified for me the difference between Maimonides’s argument about attributes and Charles’s argument about persons.
I’d also like to add–and I address this to Charles–that Rabbi Blumenthal made the point that this whole argument is anyway beside the point. The questions is not, “What is God’s nature?” but “Who does God say to worship?” When we ask the second question, the answer leaps out from the pages of Scripture plainly and clearly.
A reply to Dina’s 4th challenge, ‘we are to create no physical representation of God’, is here. A pdf file is here. I think what I have written in and of itself will not prove overly controversial. I hope to move on to the first challenge soon, ‘God is not a man and is incorporeal’.
Jim, I have no personal beef with Maimonides, on the contrary I have always admired him, having followed in his footsteps in a small way for a few years. I have a much better sense of some of the intense business that plagued him, the snares of Egyptian medicine, and the peculiar difficulties of serving people with high expectations and sometimes having to deflate them. I have only used his writings as a fairly widely regarded standard of rabbinic teaching. I appreciate there is not such thing, no codified position for all Jewry, but if you can provide a better and more authoritative systematiser and single spokesman for rabbinic doctrine, I’d be interested.
I do think he confirmed some serious errors in physics – which is a pity, like too many he strayed beyond his expertise or rather allowed himself to be over influenced by others who had.
You claim that I have effectively conflated an opposition to Simplicity with opposition to Singularity (I think I summarise your position accurately). There is some truth in this, examining Maimonides problems with the attributes does not prove ‘the Trinity’ right, however it is not me that makes the link but Rambam himself, and for good reasons, he is farsighted enough to see the strong connexions. ‘Those who believe that God is One, and that He has many attributes, declare the unity with their lips, and assume plurality in their thoughts. This is like the doctrine of the Christians, who say that He is one and He is three, and that the three are one. Of the same character is the doctrine of those who say that God is One, but that He has many attributes; and that He with His attributes is One, although they deny corporeality and affirm His most absolute freedom from matter; as if our object were to seek forms of expression, not subjects of belief.’ (Guide to the Perplexed, part 1, chapter 50.)
Now I have promised I won’t indulge in speculation, so I stop here.
I’ll be visiting the blog sporadically but won’t be able to sustain a long-term debate for a little while, as I have just had a baby. I have nearly finished writing my response on matrilineal descent. When I have time, I will organize the material and post it online, God willing.
Mazel Tov Dina. Much nachas !.
Many congratulations, Dina!
Many blessings to you and your family, Dina!
Thank you, all!
You and R’ Blumenthal have raised the essential point, of course. What does God tell us about Himself? Not much. He does tell us how to direct our worship, and He never gave permission to direct that worship to a man.
And we should be glad that He didn’t. If this man, what about that man, too? If God has three persons, maybe he has four. Five. Six. Perhaps millions. He could reveal Himself to have extra persons at any time and penalize us for not worshipping the new and modern incarnation which we could have no way of understanding except through “faith”. Perhaps Horace’s Tree is the next incarnation. Who could say otherwise?
Of course, God says otherwise. Please don’t let it keep you up at night.
P.S. I do homeschool my girls. Thank you for your kind comments.
Yes, I made that point about more than three persons to a Christian and he got really annoyed with me. Instead of responding to the argument, he accused me of being mocking and combative. So disappointing.
Dina has most important and sacred preoccupations and I do not expect
her to devote herself to these, but for clarity, a response to the 1st
challenge ‘God is not a man and is incorporeal’ is here, and the pdf here.
A response to the 3rd challenge ‘We are to worship God and God alone’ is here and the pdf.
I have ordered my responses to them 2,4,1,3 with care.
For convenience again:
2 God is alone
4 We are to create no physical representation of God
1 God is not a man and is incorporeal
3 We are to worship God and God alone
Thank you, Charles, for your understanding and for your kind way of putting it. You obviously thought long and hard about your arguments, and I appreciate the time you put into their presentation. I’m going to try to respond next week after my kids are back in school (they have their winter break now), God willing.
In the meantime, I hope Jim will weigh in; he’s really good at this philosophical stuff (if he has the time).
This is a brief response to your rebuttal. Your main point, it seems to me, was to present stories of theophanies in Scripture and to conclude that God was meant to be worshiped in human form. Rabbi Blumenthal has thoroughly treated the subject of theophanies on this blog. I will simply point out further that fragments of stories where it appears that God was worshiped in human form do not constitute clear, direct teachings on whom to worship.
I provided Scriptural verses that tell us that God is to be worshiped in no form whatsoever, that He is alone, etc. These verses appear in passages whose context is a teaching on monotheism, the verses are clear statements, and they are corroborated throughout the body of Scripture.
If Jesus is not who you say he is, then worshiping him is a most serious sin indeed. Therefore, before committing yourself in worship to such an entity, it behooves you to find verses that are as clear and direct as those I presented. If God were meant to be worshiped in human form, I would expect a clear teaching such as “You shall worship God as a man” or “When God appears among you as a man you shall worship him.”
You failed to do this because there are no such verses.
I hope to have more coming soon.
Peace and blessings,
I shall briefly address your statement that God is male and female. This concept is not represented by the trinity. According to your view, you should belief in a binity, and your god should have a wife, not a son. This makes no sense.
Furthermore, please examine verse 16 in Deuteronomy 4: “Lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image, a likeness of any shape; a form of a MALE OR A FEMALE.” Need I say more?
One more point: the Bible contains many admonitions not to carve statues and worship them. Do you think it’s just a coincidence that Christianity has a long and respected tradition of doing exactly that?
Dina, HaShem is not our analogy, He is neither male nor female like us, we are in His image, in His likeness, not He ours. The argument about the making of forms is solid but inapposite.
Charles, first you say that the idea that God created man in His image means that God is male and female; therefore, He created male and female (who become one). When I call you out on it, asking why the trinity isn’t then a binity with a male and female in the godhead, you tell me that we can’t make God in our image; it’s the other way around.
You can’t have it both ways. You oughtn’t to talk out of both sides of your mouth, Charles.
Do you realize that having God become a man is making God in your image?
Lastly, why do you say that my argument about the longstanding Christian tradition of idolatrous physical representations, while solid, is irrelevant?
‘God is male and female’ – I think this is simplistic, though each gender reflects His being. I’ve deliberately used the male pronoun, as scripture does. These are delicate paradoxes, easily misconstrued, but I am not the first to propose them, though I’m no expert, you’ll find similar expressions in the Zohar.
Again God did not ‘become a man’, as though the Divine nature became human, but HaShem was manifest in the flesh, He took upon Him the form of a man.
In haste, I’m being pressed to finish.
Please take your time. I don’t mind waiting for a more substantive answer, rather than be satisfied that in your haste you have neglected to directly address my challenges in previous comments. Please see:
Sadly, I am still seeing an attempt to have it both ways. Can this be leading you to play word games rather than confront the challenges head on? I rather think so.
Please know that I say this with respect and without any rancor. The search for truth is the work of a life time. Let’s take the time to sort this out, however long it takes.
Peace and blessings,
Dina, God is my witness, I have not read your comments till this evening, I will conclude here with this, since it seems to me the only point I haven’t addressed elsewhere. Why was your comment about forms and statues inapposite (not so much irrelevant)?:
‘One more point: the Bible contains many admonitions not to carve statues and worship them. Do you think it’s just a coincidence that Christianity has a long and respected tradition of doing exactly that?’
It is inapposite simply because my own forebears, and those of many Protestant Christians, have been burnt at the stake, persecuted, denied education or employment and murdered for opposing such pagan idols, whatever their religious dress, just as yours have – if you doubt me read ‘The Martyrs’ Mirror‘. Some were burnt to death singing or reciting Ps.115. Bible-loving Christians have from the outset hated and opposed the worship of man-made images and artefacts, as we do now.
Nevertheless I agree with others that martyrs can indeed lie. Sadly martyrdom whilst noble, can sometimes be deeply misguided, though I’d agree it’s never, never safe to violate conscience, conscience too can be mistaken or misguided, and must depend on and be instructed by God’s Word.
I will of course read further posts, and once I can gain a little spare time hope to post a basic reply to some of the main pillars of the Elephant and Suit, even if it is disagreed with I hope it will be grit to your oysters.
No worries, I don’t expect you to keep your eyes trained on this blog at all times. I think that the fact that some Christians disapprove of the idolatrous images is not relevant. This type of worship is the worship of mainstream Christianity and has been for two millennia.
I do believe that we don’t mean the same thing when we use the word “lie.” To lie is to knowingly misrepresent the truth. I don’t think you believe that martyrs knowingly die for a lie. You clarified this when you used the word “misguided.”
Since martyrs can be misguided, I don’t see why I should accept that it’s impossible that your particular ones weren’t.
P.S. You haven’t addressed my other challenges satisfactorily, such as the male-female one. When and if you have the time and inclination, of course. And if you don’t, that’s fine too.
I am working on a response to your arguments here. I do not have time to answer each point, so I am constructing a general response. But I do have a separate point that I’d like to make here, before I get to my general argument:
If in the year 30 CE, a lineup were to be created to identify the Angel of the Lord, we would have a real problem. Imagine that the following were gathered together—Jesus, the Buddha, Horace’s Tree, the Reverend Sun Yung Moon, Romulus, Marta from Dairy Queen down the street, and the angel Moroni. They all stand behind one-way glass so that we can observe them. They are told to stand against the wall and face the glass. And now we are going to identify the one that is the Angel of the Lord.
Here’s where we run into a problem. No one alive in the year 30 CE was alive when the Angel of the Lord came to any of the various people to whom he appeared in Tanach. It could be any of these people (or trees) or none of them. It could even be all of them. After all, maybe the Angel of the Lord appeared in different guises at different times and places. And yet, we would have no way of knowing, because no one alive in 30 CE met the Angel of the Lord.
Hopefully you see the problem. Even if we were to grant that the Angel of the Lord is divine—which I don’t—it wouldn’t get us to Jesus. How would we recognize him? In fact, God should have commanded us to make images of the Angel of the Lord, just so when he arrived, we would know who he was. Instead, he does not direct our worship to this being. If we were to worship him, we’d have no way of knowing who he was. The only people who saw him are long dead by the time Jesus comes. It’s not like Abraham is around in 30 CE and says, “Oh, look! It’s the Angel of the Lord! Everybody, come worship the Angel of the Lord!”
When the Christian tries to find divine entities in the Tanach, they are trying to accomplish two goals. One is to show that God can come in human form. The other is to read Jesus into those appearances. But there is no way to know if Jesus is the Angel of the Lord. This is more eisegesis, reading in the prior belief onto the passage. Did anyone hold before Christians that these instances were meant to be worshipped? Did anyone hold that they were even prior incarnations of the Messiah? The so-called theophanies are red herrings.
I should add one other point to this. The least likely candidate to be the Angel of the Lord is Jesus. According to Matthew “an angel of the Lord” visited Joseph twice after Jesus was born. I grant that there may be a difference between “an” and “the” Angel of the Lord, but it’s not clear to me that that difference exists. If every time the phrase “angel of the Lord” appears in Tanach, it’s referring to the same being, then we are likely to think that this one is too, regardless of the indefinite article. It appears to me from a quick survey of Tanach (very quick, so I may be mistaken, double check me on this) that every time the phrase is used in Tanach, it is used with the definite article. We’d have good reason then to assume Matthew means the same angel, definite article of no. And yet, he’s appearing after Jesus is born. Out of everyone on our list, Jesus is the one person (or tree) we can eliminate, or if not eliminate, the one of whom we can be most dubious.
As I wrote in the first paragraph, this isn’t my main objection, but I think we cannot overlook it. The fact is that we can’t know if Jesus was the Angel of the Lord, because there is no one to identify him as such. No one alive in Jesus’ day saw the Angel of the Lord, and could point out how they were the same. But my biggest objection to your argument, I will try to type up this weekend. Dina has already said it more succinctly than I could, but I think I have a few things to add.
Forgive me for taking so long to respond. It is a matter of my being busy, and not a reflection of my not taking your arguments seriously.
Jim, I love your analogies. They make your points so clear. I hereby dub you the Master of Analogy.
LOL. Thanks, Dina. I hope you and your family are well, especially the new baby.
I am following your posts slowly and will write back to your further when I can, but I too will have to take time from other important things.
To Dina, I would say primarily we Gentiles (and the Messianics) don’t worship a man, any more than Israel worshipped a tent or stones when the Shekinah appeared and the people bowed down and adored God for His manifestation with them. (No, I know I haven’t addressed all your points.)
Jim, it’s fairly easy to prove that one Angel was very different from all others, and I have touched on this already, if you wish we can explore this point.
Your identity parade analogy is important, and we have a strong duty to exercise discernment, but there are other tests for the Messiah: a holy and unimpeachable character, real verifiable sign miracles, the fruit of godliness arising from the doctrine, and both consistency with & fulfilment of the Torah. I appreciate that you will contest all of these strongly and passionately (esp given the professing churches’ appalling betrayal in hating the kinsfolk of their ‘Master’), and most strongly of all the most important, the last one, but I don’t think you’ll deny the validity of these other tests – they seem to me to rule out all your other candidates pretty quickly, who make little pretense of even trying to fulfil them.
I respect your call to double check, Jim, it’s a healthy instinct for all of us.
Hebrew Scripture does not say that the Messiah must be of unimpeachable character (by which I think you mean sinless) and that his credibility must be verified through miracles.
He is the Holy One, the One without blemish or spot, righteousness is the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins, anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows, because He has an unparalleled hatred for wickedness: and love for righteousness, He is altogether lovely, not with outward form but with the loveliness of holiness, altogether lovely to the godly and altogether lovely to God.
Are you offering this as proof that the Messiah must be sinless? Can you cite sources from Hebrew Scripture that say that the Messiah must be sinless?
By the way, do you realize that righteous and faithful don’t mean sinless? King David was sinful yet accounted righteous before God and His faithful servant.
You have inadvertently changed the topic. You were talking about incarnations of God. Now you are talking about the Messiah. Those are two different topics. According to you, God doesn’t just come as Messiah. He’s been coming in various guises, at least as the Angel of the Lord. I do not recall if you believe he was Melchizedek, but many Christians do. Therefore, he could come in all of these other guises as well, or none of them.
Regarding the Messiah specifically, I did not say that any of these fit the definition of the Messiah. Clearly, none of them do. But that wasn’t the topic. The topic is the Angel of the Lord. Or, at least, that’s a sub-topic to your argument that God is not simple. In fact, I agree with you that we can identify the Messiah by definition. But, I cannot do that with the Angel of the Lord. Moreover, being the Angel of the Lord is not part of the definition of Messiah. So each element is separate.
Of course, I don’t mean to say that any one of them is the Angel of the Lord. Clearly, they aren’t. I am only showing that identifying the Angel of the Lord as divine (if it were) gets you no closer to Christianity. No one with experience of said being had experience with Jesus. Now, if you want to say that Jesus was the Messiah, you would do that according to definition. But with the Angel of the Lord, you have no definition to work from. You make a backward assumption from believing that a particular man is divine. Once you believe that piece, you interpret him into the earlier text. But there are no identifying features of both to make them the same. You assume.
I don’t think you’ve understood the case well. There is a central problem in the Torah, as Dina pointed out herself on another page – God cannot be seen, and yet He is seen repeatedly, not just in vision or trance, but in real life. It is not simply a matter of exalted expression – but of real experience – HaShem was seen. Some of these manifestations are in the form of the Angel (the same singular redeeming and blessing Angel, Jacob spoke of – who also exercises Divine prerogatives of judgement, forgiveness and mercy).
How do we address this intractable problem?
The Messiah Who is David’s Lord, his root as well as his Branch, the One cut off, not to Himself, and yet Who inherits all things, the One who is made not born the Firstborn of all, the One to Whom the dominion, glory and power of all creation are given, the Son of Man, Who is worshipped ( לֵהּ יִפְלְחוּן Aram.), He was also prayed to and adored by Abraham and Isaac and Jacob as HaShem, He is this manifestation of God, He is the Image of the Invisible God as Col.1.15 expresses it – there is no other safe or sound explanation. Other explanations, like other explanations of the activities of the Council of Godhead at Creation, will inexorably tend to angel worship and idolatry – to the strange gods of the Zohar, and the Sefer ha-Razim etc.
I understand your argument perfectly well. I’m saying it isn’t sound.
“The Messiah” and “the Angel of the Lord” are not two identical terms. If they were, then when you identified one, then you would in fact know the other. But as it stands, one could be “The Messiah” and not be “the Angel of the Lord” because nothing about the definition of the one implies the other.
You have now listed many qualities that you think belong to the Messiah. However, nothing in Tanach tells us that they belong to the “Angel of the Lord”. You are assuming that, because you already believe Jesus is divine.
Let me see if I can clarify my point: If I tell you that I am thinking of a four-sided plane figure with equal sides and four square corners, you know by definition that I am talking about a square. You don’t need to see the figure. You also know that the figure is a rhombus, because that is a four-sided figure with equal sides. And you know it’s a rectangle, because that is a four-sided figure with square corners. The definitions let you know that the square is all three things.
Now, nothing in the definition for the Angel of the Lord means that he is the Messiah. Their definitions don’t meet up.
See, there is a possibility you’ve created that you can’t rule out. Maybe your god isn’t three persons. Maybe he’s four. Maybe he’s fifteen. You have no idea. One of those could be the Messiah (by your definition, not mine). But he could be one different from the Angel of the Lord. The Angel of the Lord could be a fourth person of the quadrinity. If the Angel of the Lord is different than Melchizidek, then he could be a fifth person of the quintinity. If they are different from the man at Mamre, then he could be the sixth of a sextinity. If different than the “one like a son of man” in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, the eighth of an octonity. All of them could have been the spirit. Some could have been the spirit, some could have been Jesus. All could have been the spirit and none Jesus. And that’s because nothing in the definition of “the Angel of the Lord” makes it necessary that he is “the Messiah.”
Very busy recently, still hoping to use the little spare time to finish piece on the serious structural flaws in Elephant and Suit.
‘Nothing in the definition for the Angel of the Lord means that he is the Messiah. Their definitions don’t meet up.’
Who then is the Messenger/Angel ( מַלְאָכִי) of the Covenant, the Lord of the Temple, the purifier of the sons of Levi, if not the Prince, described by his namesake? The Messenger of the Lord is the Anointed One, the Prophet of Deut.18. The two distinct concepts, a supernatural emissary and an inspired human messenger are fused at the hip in one Hebrew word.
I know I’m getting a little ahead of things here, but sometimes something just sticks in my mind. I do want to get to a refutation of your main thesis, but I’m going to take a little detour first.
You wrote that the Messiah must perform signs. I’d like to address whether or not Jesus did this. I’m going to address three signs that Jesus performed or happened on his behalf, and show why they can in no way be considered signs. Because these are probably the three biggest, I don’t think any other of the signs matter are relevant. I’m going to address the virgin birth, the spirit descending upon Jesus at his baptism, and the resurrection. I intend to show that none of them are signs and cannot be used to establish Jesus as the Messiah.
Before I address the virgin birth, however, I think I should discuss miracles in general. I’m sure you’ve seen that miracles by themselves don’t make a prophet according to Deuteronomy, so I’m going to ignore that point. But according to Jesus, false messiahs will arise, and they will also be able to do miracles (Matt. 24). Their miracles will be so convincing that they would “deceive even the elect if that were possible”. So, miracles by themselves don’t prove that one is the Messiah. If we were to draw a Venn diagram and label one side “Messiah” and the other “False Messiahs”, then miracles would appear in the shared portion between the two circles. Miracles by themselves mean nothing.
Also, I find it odd how much Christians want to rely on miracles. They don’t accept miracles from Hindus, Muslims, or Mormons. Augustine writes about miracle after miracles that happened for people who prayed to Stephen or touched his relics. And yet I doubt that you accept these as legitimate miracles. If you don’t accept these, then I’m not sure why I should accept the miracles of the NT. It’s rather selective.
Regarding signs, Jesus only ever offered one that I can remember, and that is the resurrection. Because Isaiah promises a sign to Ahaz—and I’m not going to deal with Isaiah 7:14 itself—Christians claim that the virgin birth is a sign. And because John the Baptist claims that he was promised a sign and received it at the baptism of Jesus, I’m counting that as a sign, too. That’s why I’ve chosen these three.
The virgin birth cannot be considered a sign. Let us pretend we are alive at the time. There is absolutely no way to know whether or not Mary is a virgin. By the story of the NT, all anybody alive at that time would know was that a young married woman was pregnant. Even if Mary and Joseph weren’t married, the perspective of those around Mary at the time won’t change. So we hear that Mary is pregnant. We don’t know that Joseph is going to put her away, because he wants to do it quietly to avoid shaming her. All we know is that he marries her. What is it that we assume? Do we assume she’s a virgin? No. That never occurs to us. In fact, the gospels don’t tell us that she ever even claimed it. We would assume that it’s Joseph’s child.
It’s a pretty safe assumption. The marriage happens either one of two ways. Either, people don’t know she’s pregnant before they get married, so all we know is that a couple got married and then were having a baby. Or, people know she’s pregnant and the man to whom she’s engaged marries her, meaning it’s likely to be his child. He’s not likely marrying her knowing that it’s not his child. Of course, the gospels explain why he married her, but we don’t have the gospels. They haven’t been written yet. We know nothing of Gabriel visiting Mary. We only know that a young woman got married and is having a child, or that a young woman is having a child and got married.
In either case, we have no way to know that this is a virgin birth. No one has even claimed such a thing. Obviously, then, this isn’t a sign. There are no witnesses to the event. To whom is this invisible virgin birth supposed to have been a sign? It isn’t testable. It isn’t observable. It isn’t a sign. By the way, the two gospels that tell us that Jesus was born of a virgin were written by people who weren’t eyewitnesses to the event. So we don’t even have any first hand testimony regarding the virgin birth, or the birth at all.
So, now let’s fast-forward to sign number two. You and I are at the baptism of Jesus. What do we see? Well, it’s not very clear, but according to the gospels it’s quite possible that we see no dove and hear no voice. According to Matthew, “he” saw a dove descending on Jesus. It’s not clear who “he” is, either John or Jesus. Because the voice says, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased” I tend to think John saw the dove. The gospel of John will seem to indicate this, too. Matthew also writes that a voice came from heaven. We might assume everyone heard the voice, but since only “he” saw the dove, I tend to believe only “he” heard the voice.
Mark’s account is like Matthew’s. “He” sees a dove. Only this time the voice says, “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased”. So, this time Jesus seems to have seen the dove and heard the voice. In fact, now we’re not even sure what the voice said, nor to whom it was directed. Trying to figure out what you and I would have heard had we been there isn’t easy. It’s quite possible from these two accounts that you and I heard nothing. Maybe Jesus saw the dove. Maybe John saw the dove. Maybe both saw the dove. You and I, nothing.
Luke only says that the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove descended upon him, and a voice came from heaven. This time, it says “you” like in Mark. If one read Luke by itself, one might think that everyone present (whoever they were) saw the dove and heard the voice. Given the other two gospels, however, that doesn’t seem likely. It’s my guess still that you and I as observers hear and see nothing. Let’s see what John writes.
John doesn’t report the actual event. He writes that John the Baptist said, after the fact, that he saw the Spirit descend upon Jesus in the form of a dove, which was a sign that had been given to him previously, that he should look for one who had this sign. So then, he testifies that Jesus is the Son of God. From here, it doesn’t seem anyone else saw the dove, and nobody seems to have heard a voice, which is why John the Baptist has to testify to Jesus being the son of God. In fact, he has to tell his two disciples—Andrew and an unnamed disciple, presumed to be John—that Jesus is the lamb of God. So, either they witnessed Jesus’ baptism but didn’t hear the voice or see the dove, or they were gone that day.
From these four accounts, it’s not clear that if you and I were on the shore watching the baptism of Jesus that we would have seen or heard anything. It’s quite possible that only John the Baptist or he and Jesus heard and saw anything. Only later did John point out how he knew that Jesus was the son of God. So, the only one who received a sign was John the Baptist. That’s not enough to say that “we” received a sign. We really would just have to take his word for it.
Once again we have no witness to the event. Matthew, Mark, and Luke were not there. The only person we know for certain was at the event was John the Baptist. He was killed before Jesus, so we know those three didn’t interview him. John, the supposed author of the fourth gospel, might or might not have been there. But he doesn’t seem to have seen anything. He just heard it from John the Baptist. This sign is an event to which almost no one was privy.
John’s story is a little strange, too. By itself, it wouldn’t seem odd. But Luke has told us that Jesus and John are cousins. Not only that, Elizabeth knew that Mary was carrying the son of God in her womb. Not only that, the way she knew is because her child in her (i.e. John the Baptist) leapt when Mary visited. But John needed a sign from heaven? That doesn’t seem to make much sense. Didn’t his mother ever tell him that he was related to the son of God?
Perhaps, I’ve wandered off point just a little. The point is the dove and voice aren’t a sign. Only John the Baptist and Jesus seem to have seen it. We have no direct testimony of the event, anyhow. And we weren’t even told to be looking for it. Only John was. So, it was a sign for him, but neither you nor I can verify the sign.
The last sign is one that Jesus actually says that he will give to an “adulterous generation”. (I’m not sure what makes them adulterous, since they weren’t following idols, but that’s a digression for another day.) In Matthew 18, Jesus offers a sign, and he says that they shall get no sign other than the sign of Jonah. In essence, he tells them he’ll be dead for three days and then he’ll come back.
Finally, you and I will have an actual observable event. You and I are going to have a sign we can see. We got nothing from the virgin birth. We got nothing from the baptism. But now, we are going to see something special. Now, something never done before, a dead man will raise himself. Finally, we’ll be able to figure out if this is a prophet or not.
I feel like I’m building suspense or something, so I’m just going to tell you: this isn’t a sign either.
If Jesus had presented himself to the “scribes and Pharisees” to whom he’d promised the sign, that would have been good. They could have inspected him and determined that, yes, in fact, this man here is Jesus, the one killed three days ago. And he’s back at the expected time. They would now be able to say that he was a prophet, maybe even the Messiah.
But Jesus didn’t do that. He didn’t present himself. He came privately to his disciples. He skulked about until it was time to leave, appearing hear and there to this small group, this couple, these men fishing. Never did he present himself to the ones he promised the sign, not one time.
This is by the testimony of the gospels, mind you. I’m not drawing from rabbinic sources. I don’t have the minutes from a meeting of the Pharisees where they say: “We waited all day for that Jesus fellow to come back from the dead, but he never showed.” I don’t rely on their denial. The gospels themselves never claim that Jesus fulfilled sign he promised. Put another way, Jesus didn’t fulfill his own prophecy, let alone that of Isaiah.
I know that the gospels say that he came back. Of course, two of them are written by people who didn’t see the resurrected Jesus, but still, we have two gospels that say he came back. But let’s put ourselves back in Jesus’ day again. We are not his disciples. We did not see him come back. We’re curious. He said he’d come back after three days. So, we wait and see. And guess what—nothing. We hear nothing from him.
Now, fifty days after his death we do hear from his disciples. They tell us that he did indeed come back, just as he said he would. And he did it in three days, just as he said he would. And he ascended into heaven on day forty, not like he said he would, but still, pretty cool right. They tell us that the sign is fulfilled.
I hope you don’t believe them. This is not a sign. Jesus did not come to those to whom he gave the sign. Only a few people saw him. By the time they make public that Jesus came back, he’s gone. By now, his body would be unrecognizable, so we can’t look in the tomb, because even if a body is there, we wouldn’t know whose it was.
Listen, if I told you I could turn wood into gold, you’d want to witness the procedure. So, let’s say I promise to show you. You can be here to watch me turn wood into gold. You come over to my laboratory and I get to work. And then I tell you that the process takes a while. It’s going to take 12 hours. Why don’t you come back then? Do you leave? Let’s say you do. In 12 hours you return, and I say, “Ta da! I did it. Wood into gold!” If you believed me, that would be silly. The only way to know if I did it, is to witness the procedure. Once I’m out of your sight I can claim anything.
The resurrection isn’t a sign of anything. What was supposed to happen in three days wasn’t announced until day 50. At that point, there was no proof of anything. If we didn’t see it, it’s not a sign.
I don’t know what other signs you might think prove Jesus is the Messiah, but if these three aren’t signs, I’m dubious that any other signs can be brought forward on Jesus’ behalf. The fact is, even the men who wrote about these signs didn’t claim to witness them for the most part. They were private events and not signs to Israel or you or me. The best that could be said is that the virgin birth was a sign to Mary and the baptism a sign to John. The sign Jesus promised, he didn’t even bother to perform before those he promised it. I know that this isn’t your main topic right now, and I’m sorry for being off-point. This has just been stuck in my head since I saw it.
As you say, the sign issue is not primarily in focus here. Repeatedly though the Gospels claim that the miracles were examined in detail by sceptics and could not be refuted – that’s different from most modern miracles. The seeing man born blind challenged his detracters to find a similar order of miracle ‘since the world began’, and the process of the examination is recorded meticulously. The virgin birth would indeed have been an impressive sign to Mary, for she would have to bear the reproach of suspicion of the generations. The disciples were so deeply impressed by the resurrection that their lives were never the same again. For many days, they repeatedly claim to have witnessed and interacted with a Saviour who had plainly died before many expert witnesses. You think all this is lies and deceit, I think you’re building on quicksand.
However Yehoshua repeatedly put far more weight on the Tenach than the signs.
‘And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.’
I’m sorry it has taken me so long to finish responding to your piece on Maimonides and the Simplex. I am behind on my own homework, and I need to devote most of my time to my studies. But I did tell you I would answer your points regarding the image of God, so here I go. I shall try to be brief.
First, I should point out once again, that while you hold that your line is according to Torah, it isn’t so. No one reading Torah before Christianity could have possibly understood multiple persons within a godhead. Even William Lane Craig has admitted that. This is important to note because the people who were given the task of being God’s witnesses and were given explicit instructions on how to worship Him did not recognize a triune godhead. I reiterate that your source is not Torah. It is later Christian doctrine. It is an innovation. The innovation does not belong to those who hold that God is alone. It belongs to the Trinitarian.
I appreciate that you want to root your faith in Torah. I find that highly commendable. But to have a Torah-based faith, one should study the Torah without preconceived notions for what it teaches. One must be extremely careful not to read in previously held doctrines. This can be a difficult task. I know it is for me. I was raised in the Church, and its influence can still tint my reading of a passage. I must slowly go over a passage to make sure I have not interpolated my own understanding on it. And so must we all.
When you say God’s image is one of relationship, your own arguments refute themselves. You point out that one is given the death penalty if he murders another, because he bears the image of God. But this according to your argument is not true of any individual. (No individual is in a relationship.) Therefore, no man is made in God’s image.
You might answer that every man is in a relationship of some sort, and therefore he is a part of God’s image. But first, that’s not what the text says. Second, there is no reason to assert that any relationship is one in God’s image, but only the male/female. You single that out as the “profound and most intimate emotional relationship, the intended mutuality between man and woman”. That is the one, according to you, that is the image of God. As further proof, you write: “The Divine Image is only made perfect by taking from one and making two who complement each other, who in turn are made one in union.” (You seem to make special note of the word echad. I will deal with that in a bit.)
So, if this relationship is the one that makes one in God’s image, the unmarried are not in His image. (These are the logical outcomes of your interpretation, not your claims.) Therefore, if one kills an unmarried man or woman, it should not merit the death penalty, because that person is not in God’s image. Children and widows are free game. Moreover, Jesus was not in God’s image, because he was not married, and I don’t think you want to say that. Furthermore, when Paul urges people not to marry in I Cor. 7, he is then urging them to deny themselves the complete image of God. They are as unfulfilled as one could possibly be. I do not think you’ve thought this out very well.
A further complication: when a man and woman become one flesh, they do it through sexual intercourse. Is it your position that God has a body—no, two bodies or more—and that they have sexual relations? I imagine you find the thought absurd. But you have created this problem through what Dina rightly calls your speculation.
You might argue that you’ve already answered that point, by saying that you are not focused on physical characteristics. You pointed out that the animals do not share the image of God, but they have male/femaleness. That should have warned you off your theory altogether. You have only repudiated it in words, because as I pointed out, you have emphasized the mutuality of male/femaleness and their being joined in marriage.
It was right to note that humanity and animalia are different. But you seized on what they have in common. Let us say that relationships are at issue. How is the human relationship different from animal relationship? They have emotions. Some animals mate for life. These are not differences. If we relate to each other differently than animals do, it is because of our intellect. But that puts us back with Maimonides. He deserves more credit than you give him.
Moving on to “echad”; you emphasize the word regarding the union of man and woman. I suppose this is meant to lead us to believe that God is a union too, because He applies the word “echad” to Himself. This is absurd. Words are used homonomously. We must look at context. Does anything in the sh’ma let us know that this is a union? No.
Before a man and a woman are married, how many men is the man? He is one. He is “echad”. And when they become one flesh, also “echad”. But the word doesn’t mean the same thing in both instances. To attempt to give them the same meaning in both places is to force a meaning on word regardless of context. Many words have more than one meaning or usage. It is absurdly limiting to apply only one meaning to words with multiple definitions.
Trying to wrap up, because it is almost 2 a.m. and I could really use some sleep: I will add only one more point. You ask why the Torah says that when God created mankind in His own image, why does it state also: “male and female He created them”? (You should have been asking why it uses the singulare ‘He’ to refer to God if His essence is a “they”.) Your question is good, but you ask it only to offer an interpretation, but not to learn what the Torah is teaching us. I am no scholar, only a baby, but it seems to me that the Torah is teaching that man and woman are both made in the image of God. Some will want to say that man is made in God’s image, but not women. But the Torah makes sure we cannot make that mistake, if we seek it for Truth.
Your own answer leaves us wanting. It has some unsavory consequences. It leaves us with the possibility that not all are in the image of God, and therefore not all murders would leave one subject to the death penalty. It opens the possibility that the godhead has sexual relations, like the Greek pantheon. It ignores all considerations to get to the one point, that the essence of God is multiplicity of persons. But this is innovation, not the historic understanding of the Torah by the people to whom it was specifically given. Words are denied their multiple meanings to get to the one goal, to make a man into a god. The argument is based on innuendo and speculation. It is based on Trinitarian doctrine, not Torah.
Thanks for your sacrificing personal time to address these arguments. I agree I find the corollaries abhorrent, though I think they largely result from two problems, first a focus on the relationship as the Image-bearer, rather than the man (or woman) who enters into relationship. Perhaps I am guilty of not being clear enough about this. I agree the Image was present before the consummation, (albeit more perfect in it). Secondly that it is easy but dangerous to think physically of this profound mystery, as Paul describes tangentially: we are God’s analogy, not He ours. I also agree that intellect, mutual perception, as well as our deepest affections are all vital parts of this Image-bearing, Rambam does hold some of this correctly, but not enough to do justice to the texts. His approach does not sufficiently explain at all why compatible genders are necessary to the Image and like other scholastics, he blinkers himself with the cerebral to the point of becoming sterile. Incidentally this matter is fundamental to much that is rotten with Western society, the ubiquitous vandalism of gender distinctions as a reflection of Divine glory, and represents Divine judgement on our idolising Mother Nature, Paul argues this in detail in Rom.1.
I appreciate this answer is fragmentary and bare, but it’s not now profitable to peer further.
Clarification: No individual by himself makes a relationship. “It takes two” as they say.
You mistake insinuating questions for proofs. Implying that something is true through rhetorical questions is not proof. You have not shown that the definition of Angel of the Lord shares anything with the definition of the Messiah. Your questions are only a verification that they do not share a definition, because if something in the definition of one necessitated that it was the same as the other, you wouldn’t ask, “Who else is this then?” You would instead show why they had to be the same being.
Jim, how about answering the question then?
The question doesn’t demand an answer on logical grounds. You are making a positive claim. It is up to you to prove it. I am only pointing out that you haven’t done so. The entire weight of proof is with you, because you are making the claim. I don’t have to have an alternative to show that you haven’t proven anything. I can just review the logic. And having done so, I can say in all fairness, you haven’t established anything. I don’t have to know who either party is to walk through the logic.
The question is simple, you’ve now evaded it twice – who is the Angel of the Covenant in Malachi, if not the Prophet, if not the Messiah?
I won’t trouble to ask again, but it should concern you, as ignorance on this point will lead to spiritual death. Let me explain why, He is the same as the redeeming Angel in Genesis, and the Angel of the Presence in Isaiah Who saves, these prerogatives belong only to HaShem?
Let’s say that I am ignorant of the identity of the current president of the United States, so I ask you. You tell me it’s Benjamin Franklin. I respond, “That can’t be correct. He’s been dead for 200 years.” Then you fire back: “Oh yeah, smarty-pants, then who is the president?” Does that mean you are correct?
Nothing you have said shows that the Angel of the Lord is the Messiah. You just continue to assert it. Demanding that I give you an alternative is meaningless, not least of all because I have. One is the “Angel of the Lord” and one is the “Messiah”. But even if I respond that I have no idea who either is, that doesn’t mean you’ve proven your point. Even if I give a wrong answer, that doesn’t mean you are correct! We could both be wrong!
This isn’t a dodge. It’s logic.
Of course theoretically we could both could be wrong. I could be a rabbinic advocate for Sabbatai Sevi or another pretender fulfilling the text, and you properly denying him.
However I am not asking for a specific candidate, just a generic one. Who but the Prophet, the Messiah, could be the Angel of the Covenant? I appreciate now you don’t want to answer this question, so I shall leave it with you.
However Jim, when the Judgement we both believe in firmly transpires, please don’t claim you weren’t warned of the need for a kinsman-Redeemer from the bondage of our sin, or didn’t hear about the power of the promised priestly Saviour from our soul leprosy.
I hope I’m wrong, most of my family are there too, but I fear things in the US could get quite hot quite soon, given Obama’s ostrich-like position on Iran, and then I fear the scapegoating will begin – now is the time to be seeking God’s face carefully and earnestly, and I respect you must follow your conscience carefully in doing so.
I shall respond – probably finally – to your other post when I come back in.
Charles, you too have been warned. You are not heeding the words of those appointed by God Himself to be His witnesses.
The difference is, our God is more forgiving than yours.
Regarding signs, again you have only dodged the issue. In the case of Mary, you have basically admitted that it wasn’t a sign. If it was only a sign to her then it isn’t a sign to you or me, and therefore is not a sign that you can call upon to establish the validity of Jesus. Furthermore, we don’t have her testimony, so you don’t even know it’s a sign to her.
You have admitted that the resurrection isn’t a sign. So now you are going to use the changed lives of the disciples as a sign. Was Joseph Smith’s changed life a sign that he met the angel Moroni? I hardly think you believe that. Muhammad changed the world. Do you accept that as a sign that he met an angel in a cave? I doubt that too. Therefore, the change in the disciples is not a sign.
Furthermore, you ignore the fact that Jesus expressly did not fulfill the sign he promised. He did not present himself after three days of being dead. That is the very reason you now have to rely on the change in the disciples. But that isn’t the sign he promised.
Calling upon the miracle is irrelevant. Neither Deuteronomy nor Matthew 24 makes a distinction about what kinds of miracles are performed. You are introducing a new category of miracle only to support your assertion. But neither text supports your categorization.
Furthermore, we don’t have an account from the skeptics. It is quite silly to quote the skeptics from the advocates’ texts. That would be like accepting a claim from Sylvia Browne that no one was able to find fault with her predictions. Rather, we would look to her detractors to give us that information. And then we would weigh both sides. You can’t weigh both sides from a one-sided account.
I will add only one other thing. While this isn’t actually the current topic, it is an important one. So while I am off-topic, it is relevant. It is your assertion we can know that Jesus is the Messiah by these signs, among other tests. Since there are no signs you will have to either:
1. Redefine the term “Messiah” to disinclude signs.
2. Eliminate Jesus as a candidate for the Messiah.
To whom was the sign that Moses would worship at Sinai effective as a miraculous prediction – only to Moses – but as a retrospective confirmation of his mission, to the nation.
No, the resurrection was a potent sign – you have handled my comment inaptly and inaccurately in claiming otherwise – it is alluded to in manifold ways in the prophets – it was a sign to the Nation, to the disciples and the world – the changed lives of the disciples were additional evidence. Care was taken with the empty tomb and the account of the soldiers to try to evade it, just as you have sadly done now.
However much greater judgement comes from mishandling the scripture, not the signs.
There are two very big differences between the sign to Moses and the sign to Mary.
1. Nobody that I am aware of uses the sign to Moses as a proof of Torah or even as Moses as a prophet. We know that Moses is a prophet, not because of his private sign, but because of the very public revelation. The Church uses the alleged virgin birth as a sign that Jesus is the Messiah. So, they don’t compare, because one isn’t used as a sign to prove God’s prophet and the other is.
2. With Moses, the person who was promised the sign received the sign. With Mary, the person promised the sign did not receive the sign. See, the prophecy in Isaiah wasn’t issued to Mary.
These differences mean that one cannot be used to support the other. They are very different circumstances, having little to do with one another.
Regarding the resurrection, the sign wasn’t given to those promised it. We only have to take your word for it that it happened. In fact, that is the very opposite of a sign. Your assertion that it is a sign rests on nothing. It’s not a sign to the nation or the world, because neither saw it.
It is unbelievable to me that you would give credence to Matthew’s unfounded assertion that the Pharisees paid the guards off. Let’s just examine if this makes sense. Was Matthew at the meeting? Did they somehow know that Jesus wasn’t going to start walking the streets of Jerusalem again, that he would keep his appearances to small, intimate settings? Did they not have any fear when they heard the story from the guards? And the guards weren’t afraid to admit that they were sleeping on duty?
It’s very suspicious. What makes more sense is this: If the story happened at all, the Pharisees had guards posted for three days, maybe four to be safe. Jesus didn’t raise, nor did the disciples steal the body. 50 days after Jesus died, the disciples announce that Jesus came back. They may have at that point taken the body. The guards surely didn’t wait around for one-and-a-half months. Matthew’s story is a nice touch, because it can vilify the Pharisees and imply the tomb was empty much earlier than any announcement that it was. But while clever, it isn’t plausible.
Moreover, it’s very easy to put words in your opponents’ mouths. Since Matthew is speaking for the Pharisees, this is not a verification that the Pharisees believed Jesus rose from the dead. I am sure that you would be rather perturbed if I should announce on this blog that in a private correspondence with me you admitted that my arguments were too much for you, and since you admitted that, I am surely correct. But you tolerate it in the NT, as if it can be considered a legitimate source for the Pharisees’ opinions and how they acted.
Again, I doubt you would believe the messages of Sylvia Browne just because she said her critics could find no fault in her. You’d ask them, not her.
Jim, iIf you produced such an emailed confession from me, however you would clinch the day, and I would be ashamed to deny it, and that is precisely what Matthew and the other Gospel writers claim, with sources and places and details – all of which would have been investigable for the life time of the witnesses.
Who uses the virgin birth as proof that Jesus is the Messiah? It is a sign of His Origin His Person, character and of His office, not a refutable proof to unbelievers? Mary was not attested to herself by the sign as a prophetess, though she was as much as Hannah.
John was of the high priest’s family and gained admission to the court audience on account of this, so were other later members of the Jerusalem church. There were plenty of potential high level sources,not least the soldiers themselves. The disciples stole the body ? – a fanciful imagination – they were bold fishermen indeed to lie publicly to a multitude of nations, and spend the rest of their lives defending, propagating and dying for a big lie they had themselves initiated, and persuasive crooks indeed to persuade so many of their fraud. I fear you’re guilty of making not them but God the liar.
Be careful of your conscience, it is a delicate instrument, once damaged, often irreparable.
Come now, surely you don’t even believe the things you write here. Surely you know that Matthew presents absolutely no evidence, not even citing John as a witness. You don’t really believe that these bribes were offered openly to court in front of one of Jesus’ followers, do you? I hardly can believe you believe them yourself. Please, don’t ask us to believe such outlandish nonsense as that Matthew gave proof of bribery on the level of me turning over your e-mails!
The only proof he cites is that the story is told among the Jews “to this day”. What Jews? Who started the rumor? To this day, people insist that the American president was born in Kenya. That doesn’t make it true. It isn’t evidence. There’s a whole website devoted to urban legends.
It’s an ugly thing Matthew writes here, as he shows that the chief priests knew Jesus was the Messiah but rejected him anyway. This is but one of the many Jew-hating texts of the NT. The Jews know the truth, according to Matthew. It’s common knowledge that the guards were bribed and Jesus rose from the dead. But, the Jews rejected him anyway.
Still, I must make a correction in an error I made. I had written that the Pharisees were to have bribed Jesus. It was, of course, the chief priests and elders. I did not mean to misrepresent Matthew. I crossed wires regarding a separate conversation that did pertain to the Pharisees. My apologies at the inaccuracy.
Please forgive my mixing in to the conversation
Jim brought out some logical points – He pointed out that Matthew’s story with the guards is illogical – what would be the point of paying someone off to deny that someone was resurrected unless you are privy to his unusual and unexpected game-plan which is NOT to appear to the public? Second – Jim pointed out that anyone reading the Christian Scriptures must take into account that this set of literature was produced by a community whose central focus in life is the exaltation of Jesus – this declared bias must be factored in – accepting the book as if it were a subjective work of literature is dishonest.
Do you have a response to these arguments aside from the threats of running afoul of God’s truth?
Your argument about fishermen dying for a lie is amply refuted by historical statistics.
Charles, all the Jewish martyrs who accepted death rather than conversion to Christianity, by your logic, would not have died for a lie. Therefore, Judaism must be true.
Charles, most if not all religions have martyrs for their faith.
This is a sensitive field for both parties, and I have only just read your three responses (life has again been busy). I don’t wish to inflame matters more.
I agree history is filled with martyrs who have been liars. Although a transformation from unlearned cowards who all deserted their Rabbi to men who challenged their community with a complete theological innovation they knew they had wilfully concocted, then die brazenly propagating a shameful deceit they had invented, seems the more implausible the more I contemplate it.
My basic point is that Matthew’s Gospel was published within the lifetime of witnesses. (The Ryland’s fragment for an Egyptian copy of John the last of the four has been dated between 117-138, even the scholarly but liberal Bishop of my district of London, dated all four before the destruction of the Temple for very good reason) If, as you claim, it was tainted by this kind of deceit, it should have been as easy to refute and ridicule it at the time of its publication as publishing an email train. It was not, and disciples of the Messiah were still numerous by AD 70..
I expect you to come back, but I intend not to reply, even if I strongly disagree. At the end of the day, we all agree one side is indeed guilty of a serious and culpable deceit, which we are both content God will judge righteously and impartially – this is deeply a painful matter to focus on, no concessions will be made by either party on the basis of historical silence alone, and I don’t think we can do more than add rancour. Again, I respect Jim’s scrupulous self correction on a fairly minor point – it is a pattern of propriety.
However, bluntly, I think this is something of a distraction, compared to the gravity of the question about the Angel/Messenger of the Covenant, if not the Messiah, Who is He?
I’m sorry that you are feeling some measure of hostility which is causing you to withdraw from this particular thread. Please know that I have found these exchanges thought provoking and clarifying, and rather than acrimony, I have sensed much kindness and courtesy on your part, for which I am grateful.
I’m afraid I’m about to commit the discourtesy of taking the last word, since you have pledged silence. I am doing this for the sake of the audience following this conversation, so I ask your forgiveness.
First, you are wrong to say that there have been martyrs who have been liars. No one in his right mind would knowingly give his life for that which he knows to be a lie. Rather, throughout history, people have given their lives for causes they believed in, although history proved their causes to be false or evil. For example, during the nineteenth-century American Civil War, men gave their lives to defend that great evil, slavery. Other religions which you hold to be false have adherents who firmly believe in them and who have at one time or another martyred themselves.
The Jews who died rather than accept Christianity, as another example, weren’t liars. They believed they were being loyal to the one true God of Israel and His Torah.
The people that you spoke of, if indeed they were martyred, believed in their cause. But why accept these accounts as true? Other than the Christian scriptural account, there is scant historical evidence that these events happened.
Your argument that the accounts would have been refuted is not strong for the following reason. Do you have tabloids in England? We have lots here in the States. The National Enquirer, for example, runs sensational stories about celebrities that are scientifically impossible and that are complete fabrications.
Does anyone bother writing a refutation? No.
We ignore these stories. We don’t grant them any legitimacy by even recognizing they exist.
Another problem with your argument is how slowly news traveled back then. By the time the gospel writers finished writing their exaggerated, fanciful, embellished accounts, and by the time they began circulating, too much time had elapsed for any verification to take place. Even as late as the 1800s, for example, The Battle of New Orleans was fought because the news that the war was over hadn’t reached them yet.
I say all this, again, with a desire to clarify rather than to increase any rancor in our debate.
“My basic point is that Matthew’s Gospel was published within the lifetime of witnesses. (The Ryland’s fragment for an Egyptian copy of John the last of the four has been dated between 117-138, even the scholarly but liberal Bishop of my district of London, dated all four before the destruction of the Temple for very good reason) If, as you claim, it was tainted by this kind of deceit, it should have been as easy to refute and ridicule it at the time of its publication as publishing an email train. It was not, and disciples of the Messiah were still numerous by AD 70..”
the question is where was the deceit told and how wide spread was it? how many critics were watching the tomb? if the guards did a bd about the stolen body , why not about an angel flooring them? once jesus was pinned to the cross and died a humilated death, why would the jews care about his dead flesh? why couldn’t 500 witnesses , the deciples and a flying ANGEL prevent LIES from spreading?
why does luke forget about the stolen body claim?
Then Peter steps up and preaches for the first time. And attracts 3000 followers. Acts 2:41. This is no longer controversy, it is becoming competition. By his second recorded sermon, the Priests and Sadducees (Luke had the right sect in power) arrest them. (Acts 4:1-3) The priests were concerned about the growing numbers. (Acts. 4:4)
What to do? What to do? Wait a minute! About two months ago, the priests had bribed their own soldiers to spread the rumor that these very men had committed a capital offense. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what to charge them with—desecrating a tomb and stealing a body. (And, don’t forget, we are assuming a resurrection. It isn’t like the disciples can have one of their own, Joseph, open up the tomb and show a body there. Not very likely Joseph or his family had time to bury another there in two months. The tomb would be empty—proof enough of a stolen body.) The priests have opportunity, motive, and witnesses. They want the disciples out of the picture? Easily done.
But what does Luke say? “They could find nothing as to how to punish them.” (Acts 4:21) Hey, Luke, why couldn’t the priests have used the crime of grave-robbing? Oh, that’s right. You didn’t write that; Matthew did. You didn’t find the guards important to the story.
The priests arrest Peter again. (Acts 5:28) Again they can’t remember using the grave-robbing accusation. Amazingly a Pharisee comes to their rescue, and recommends the Sadducees leave this growing religion alone. They did. For one chapter. The religion grew, the priests forgot the advice of Gamaliel, and execute Stephen
Now we get the start of the persecution against the church by the Jewish authorities. At this point it became acceptable to kill them. Now, finally, can we see the Jewish authorities bring out the grave-robbing accusation? They want the Christians dead, they have a capital crime proof sitting right in their pocket, do they bring it out? Nope.
We have one witness, the author of Matthew, contending there were soldiers guarding the tomb. Every other witness does not include these soldiers. Every other participants in the story act as if these soldiers and seals are completely invisible. When it would be necessary to deal with their presence, they are ignored. When their existence would be helpful to the Jewish authorities, they are forgotten.
“Disciples scattered”? Not according to Acts 1:13. As I pointed our originally, they arrested Peter twice, and never brought it up. Why would it be “too late”? Matthew claims that the rumor was still circulating to the day he wrote the Gospel. Are you saying Matthew was written before Peter’s first arrest? Don’t forget, according to Acts, the priests were arresting the disciples, priests were killing Christians, and the priests could not come up with a reason to accuse the disciples.
I think it extremely unlikely the author of Matthew was a religious Jew. He used the Septuagint, and did not understand Jewish idioms. He used the Gospel of Mark (written in Greek) as his basis for the story of Jesus
Disciples scattered. Such a minor point, but still. If this is to be our last exchange, may as well cover it. Luke 24:13 are the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. After they see Jesus, who do they report to? Why, in vs. 33, we see they report to eleven who were “gathered together.” Acts 1:13 they are all living together in the upper room. And I am not talking about charging them immediately. I agree that would be useless. Only when the religion is growing would it come into play.
The pentecoust events would have caused difficulties for the jews to charge deciples of grave robbing
Rather than “all the disciples” how about “any of the disciples”? And what, were the significant difficulties
The verses I cite, clearly state they arrest Peter. This was not a difficulty. They were looking for a crime to charge him with. This is not a difficulty. They were killing other Christians. They had the ability to issue a death sentence simply for being a Christian, according to Acts. All they needed was an accusation. Not a truthful one, just an accusation.
And, according to Matthew, they had JUST bribed guards to tell people the disciples had been grave robbers—a capital offense.
How do you deal with Mark and John’s women not concerned about the Guards and seal, but concerned about other things? How do you deal with the soldiers not using the earthquake as an excuse? How do you deal with Luke not using the accusation in Acts? I am not going to repeat all the verses and arguments, they are there to review.
“My basic point is that Matthew’s Gospel was published within the lifetime of witnesses. (The Ryland’s fragment for an Egyptian copy of John the last of the four has been dated between 117-138, even the scholarly but liberal Bishop of my district of London, dated all four before the destruction of the Temple for very good reason) If, as you claim, it was tainted by this kind of deceit, it should have been as easy to refute and ridicule it at the time of its publication as publishing an email train. It was not, and disciples of the Messiah were still numerous by AD 70..”
Although a few of Jesus’ closest followers were probably eyewitnesses to a large part of his ministry (such as the Apostles), in an enthusiastic religious movement driven by belief in Jesus’ resurrection and imminent return (I think these were sincerely held beliefs that were not the result of legendary growth), these followers may by themselves have been unable to contain the growth of legend and displacement of the historical core among those in the growing church who did not know Jesus when he was alive or were not eyewitnesses of the specific events being distorted. The ability of a few of Jesus’ closest followers to contain the growth of legend would have been further hampered if the legends were growing in several different locales, for in this case they would have had the nearly impossible task of being present everywhere, stamping out all of the unhistorical legends. Eyewitnesses of Jesus’ ministry may also have viewed the correction of legends and policing of historical accuracy for events that occurred before Jesus’ death as a relatively trivial pursuit if their focus was mainly on Jesus’ future return. In this case, their priority would have been on convincing non-believers and galvanizing believers of the most important thing that they believed was true – that Jesus was the Messiah, had been raised from the dead, and would be back very soon. Any restraint a few firsthand eyewitnesses did provide would have been further diminished as they died off in the decades after Jesus’ death.
another BEAUTIFUL discussion
“It requires him to do three improbable things in a row (particularly
the idea of him leaving without ever being aware of the disciples
mistake is an outlandish claim).”
There’s nothing to indicate that Joseph and the disciples moved in the
same circles, and after he buries the body, he’s not heard from again
in all of the gospels or epistles of the New Testament. Surely Joseph
was no key player in the early church, no intimate colleague of Peter
and John. His very lack of presence in the story suggests a sort of
deus ex machina, a convenient character brought in by the narrator to
solve the problem of how to give an executed criminal an extraordinary
and private burial, thus setting us up for a Locked Room mystery to
enhance the wonder of it all.
So Joseph, a wealthy but politically savvy acolyte, buries Jesus in
his final resting place, and goes on about his business. He doesn’t
make a big deal of it because worshiping a rabblerouser could be bad
for business. Meanwhile, the poor illiterate disciples do their thing
which initially would have been low-key and private. How exactly would
they have made it known to the general populace that they saw a dead
man resurrected–post flyers? make a press release? start a web site?
Of course not. Remember that just days earlier these men hid from
government authorities to prevent being put on trial themselves–it
would take some time before they would stick a finger up to the
political winds and start preaching openly on the streets, and even
then there’s no guarantee that Joseph would have heard about it.
Perhaps by the time the disciples’ message filtered up to the upper
layers where Joseph resided, he had moved out of Jerusalem, or had
died. Perhaps he didn’t think the disciples’ message would have any
legs–do you have any idea how many religions flare up and fade away
in a handful of years?
Perhaps he misunderstood their message to mean
they had seen a spiritual Jesus resurrected, never mind where the
physical body was, and thus he privately agreed with their preaching.
He certainly wouldn’t be the only Christian to have believed such.
Or hey, perhaps, as you suggest, Joseph did hear the disciples’ claim
of a physical resurrection and made steps to debunk the claim. What
could he have done? Dig up an unrecognizable body and parade it
through the streets? Not only would such a stunt not have convinced
anyone, it would have been highly sacrilegious. Or may Joseph wrote
his own gospel–how likely would have that survived the destruction of
Jerusalem in 70 AD? Or centuries of editing by Orthodox Christians who
would have vehemently disagreed with his heretical message? How likely
would the poor underclass pay attention to one single wealthy elite
when the disciples were promising the masses that any day now the
wealthy elites will be overthrown and “the poor in spirit” will take
“And all of this is dependent on the story of the guards being false.”
Well, since three out of the four gospels don’t mention any guards,
nor are they mentioned elsewhere in the Christian canon, I’m inclined
to discount them. Matthew’s guards are accompanied by other events
that are missing from the other gospels, such as rock-shattering
earthquakes and angels rolling stones away after the women arrive at
the tomb. Matthew’s account is significantly different from the
others, and thus is unreliable.
“By the way, Jewish law said that a body had to be buried before
Um, yes, that’s the setup for the body switcheroo. Late on Friday
afternoon, Joseph claims Jesus’ body and buries it nearby before
sundown to satisfy the law. Then early on Sunday morning, he reclaims
the body and takes it to its final resting place. Had he had more time
on Friday, then the temporary tomb wouldn’t have been necessary.
“As for grave robbers – sure it’s possible. Or it is possible that
Pilate moved the body secretly. Or maybe aliens did it. All are
possible options, but there is no reason to think any of these options
Of course, all of this is speculation, but its speculation rooted in
the physical world (except for aliens, of course.) We see these sorts
of actions occur all the time in everyday occurrences. Thus, any one
of these natural explanations is far more likely than a supernatural
one. I’m quite sure that you would exhibit the same sort of
speculation for every other religion’s supernatural claim–what makes
your religion exempt?
“As has already been pointed out, the disciples didn’t believe because
the tomb was empty. They believed because they saw Jesus alive again
after his death. “
Not true. John 20:8 says that John believed when he saw the empty
tomb. Matthew 28:17 says that some of the disciples looked the risen
Jesus in the face and doubted that it was him–where are their
eyewitness testimonies? And what’s with all the cases of mistaken
identity during the post-resurrection appearances? The disciples were
hardly the monolithic group you suggest, all thinking and believing
the same things at the same time. There’s definitely something fishy
going on here that prevents this from being the open-and-shut case
that apologists need to justify their own commitment.
That one’s easy too. All it takes is for Joseph of Arimathea to get
Jesus’ body at first light on Easter Sunday (notice the rush job to
get him buried–anywhere–on Friday evening before sundown of Passover
begins) and then transport it to its final resting place elsewhere, a
place unknown to the disciples and the women. Joseph exits stage right
with the body, unaware of the disciples’ incorrect conclusion that an
empty tomb must mean a resurrected body. Guards at the tomb would
certainly complicate this scenario, but since the oldest gospel source
doesn’t mention any guards, we can ignore them.
I am sorry that it has taken me so long to issue this reply to your arguments regarding the complexity of God. Even now, as I try to make time for this, I do not have the time I would like to devote to an answer. If I am honest, I also feel like others have already shown the incorrectness of your arguments, and they’ve done it much better than I could hope to. But I do not want to leave undone that which I said I would do.
However, I do have several hundred pages of reading that I am behind on for school, and so I will have to keep this brief. (As if I am capable of such a thing.) So, rather than address each and every one of your arguments, I am going to address the general errors that underlie your argument. I will attempt to show that your underlying assumptions are incorrect, causing you to misunderstand Torah.
Whenever we come across a question in the Torah, we must understand the parameters that will guide our answer. We can never take a vague passage in the Torah and use it to interpret a clear passage. Rather, we must take the clear passages and use them to guide us into correct answers to our questions regarding vague passages.
Unfortunately, you have reversed this process. You have taken the dark passages to reinterpret those passages in the light. So, when God tells us that He is One, that He is the only Savior, etc., those passages are reinterpreted in light of the plural of Genesis, passages dealing with angels and other things. You should have been arguing the other way around. You should have taken the open statements of God to guide you through the more confusing passages.
You have legitimate questions, often enough. It’s good to ask why God refers to Himself in the plural when creating Man. But, even if you hadn’t read anything else in Torah yet, you’d not have enough reason to accept that this was referring to multiple entities. You should have been asking yourself more than that one question. You should have been asking yourself, why does it speak of a plural now? Why not before? Why not from the very beginning? Why does it not afterward tell us that “they” created Man? If you had asked these questions (and others I’ve not mentioned) you would not so readily come to the conclusion that God was a complex entity, composed of multiple persons. And that is only from reading the first few chapters of Genesis, none of which is telling us about God, Himself.
This leads you to take a clear statement about God’s Unity and make it about his plurality, interpreting it through your interpretation of the more ambiguous creation of Man. Once, you told me that I was creating a false dichotomy by saying that one and three are not the same. I say, no, rather you have created a false ambiguity where none exists. Nothing in the context of Deuteronomy leads us to believe that “echad” means “complex unity” in this instance. And that’s not the sole definition of “echad”. The Church has insisted upon this as the sole definition of “echad” because it’s belief in the Trinity. But reading Deuteronomy up to that point, one would be very hard-pressed to come to the conclusion that God is declaring His complexity. It is an absurd notion, inasmuch as such a teaching would not fit in with the topics. This would be coming out of the blue.
This is largely a problem of the beginning premises. (This is why I say that you do not argue from Torah, not really. You argue from the NT, not the foundations of the Torah.) The starting place for understanding the Torah isn’t Genesis 1. And it isn’t the NT. It’s the Sinai event. The Jewish people had direct experience of God, and it was from that experience that their understanding was built. When He announces Himself as the God Who led them out of Egypt, He portrays none of the plurality the Church would impose upon Him. Moreover, He forbids worshipping any other than Him. They had no experience of God as multiple persons. And so, in Deuteronomy, when Moses is giving his last words to the nation of Israel, he appeals to their direct experience. When He declares that He is One, they understand clearly from direct experience and from forty years with Moses in the desert that God is One, not made up of distinct persons.
That experience is the guiding foundation for the Jewish people. The current generation was not at Sinai, of course. But their forefathers were. And they have received the tradition for thousands of years, carefully maintaining the teachings that come out of Sinai. And they do not testify to multiple persons in a godhead, but One God Alone, as He testified of Himself.
The problem is that you do not have the same starting point. You assume the validity of the NT and the teachings of the Church (or a church). The Church asserts that a man is the God of Sinai, a clear violation of everything experienced and received by the Jewish people. When you read that God is One, that becomes ambiguous to you, because you have started with a bad assumption. You did not start at Sinai. You started with a belief in a man that wouldn’t come along for 1,300 years after Sinai. So, you have to rewrite what it means that God is One. How would it make any sense for God to be inserting from out-of-nowhere in one verse that He is a multi-person Entity by saying that He is One? It is baffling that the Church even tries to claim this. A clear statement that God is One has to be rewritten that God is three.
No, I’m sorry, this is a false ambiguity, not a false dichotomy. The clear statement is obscured, because you need to locate Jesus in the text. This is why you hardly quote statements that teach God’s Unity. You mention a couple, but not to learn from them. You mention them only to explain them away.
Your method leaves much to be desired. Because you do not want to rely on the NT, you are forced to argue from ambiguous passages in Torah to undue the meaning of clear passages. You argue from Manoah’s angel, where certainly questions abound, but you use it to muddy up clear passages. Rather, you should have interpreted it according to those clear passages. When asking yourself, “Could the angel have been one person of the godhead?” you would have answered, “No; that contradicts clear teaching. Whatever the answer is, it cannot be another person of the godhead.” Then you would have been able to find a good answer, a logical answer. But, because you started with the assumption that Jesus is divine, it made sense to you that he could be the angel.
Your starting assumptions are not the only problem with your method, however. A while back, you told Dina that she was wrong to see God as male/female by your interpretation because Man is made in God’s image, not God in Man’s. But the problem is, she only applied your method. How you learned what God was like was by arguing from Man. You argued backward from Man being relational to God being relational. That is your method. The only problem is that you didn’t agree with her findings, so then she shouldn’t read God from Man’s image.
Your argument was backward from the start. Truth to tell, it wasn’t an argument. It was a justification. Reading the passage straight, one would see it wasn’t teaching about God’s nature, and one would be mighty cautious about asserting something about God’s nature from the passage. It was telling us about us. You used it as an opportunity to shoehorn in the Trinity, but that was never the topic.
In fact, you’ve not established from the Torah how many persons are in the godhead. Even if “echad” meant “a complex unity” that doesn’t mean three. That only means “more than one”. You don’t know from the Torah how many people that would be. The Torah would give you no indication, if you didn’t already hold to the NT. But if your starting point is the Torah, and it must be; it predates the NT by more than a millennium—if your starting point is the Torah, you will not arrive at a Trinity. You won’t arrive even at the complexity. (You won’t really get it clearly from the NT, truth be told.)
I tried to illustrate the problem of starting with the wrong assumptions in “Horace’s Tree”. If you haven’t read that, it’s right here: https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/horaces-tree-by-jim/ . One of the things I attempted to show there is that if one does not read the Torah to find out what it says, but instead looks for a preconceived message, then one will find it. In that piece, I illustrated how a man could prove to himself that God appeared to him in the shape of a tree, and how this was predicted in the Torah and even in the NT. Of course, Horace had made a grave error. He began with a belief that his tree was divine, and then he looked for proof in the Torah. He should first have found out what the Torah taught, and then tested his belief in the tree in light of that.
You may feel that I have given your writings short shrift. After all, you’ve written many pages, and I’ve countered hardly any of it directly. However, others have already addressed almost every one of your specific points. More importantly, the whole way you draw your conclusions is flawed. You have reinterpreted the unambiguous according to the ambiguous. You have interpreted the Torah by the NT without correctly measuring the latter by the former. By ignoring the logical conclusions of your own arguments, you have shown that you did not get them by reading the text but by reading into the text. All in all, you’ve found a way to read your theology into the text by muddying it up.
Charles mentiones that some one here is guilty of
being decietful. I used to agree with him on that
about a lot of people. But, thanks to you and your
ability to unwind peoples faulty thinking processes,
I no longer do. It can be very complicated why we
believe what we believe, and admitting to ourselves
that we’re wrong is hardest of all. You may have given him
quite an ulser this morning, but I wouldn’t think for a minute
that he is being decietful if he didn’t agree with you.
He simply believes the god man is his savior “before” he
picks up his bible. Thanks for your efforts, its a true joy
to read your comments.
Thank you, Larry. Have a good day. You’ve made mine.
Hi Larry. I do believe you’re right. People can be sincere even if they are misguided. Many people have devoted their lives to false causes with utter sincerity and the belief that they are on the right side of history.
Jim, we stand on opposite sides of a divide. Both of us have staked our all on the position we have taken, but for myself I would willingly yield everything I have for the Truth, I hope it is the same for you.
You claim you begin with Sinai, but the reality is that you are determined to impose a Hellenic framework on the notion of God. You insist on reading one family of clear texts and ignoring another family of equally direct and unequivocal texts. You prefer rational uniformity to accuracy. Why else would God reveal His Solitariness through a Messenger – the very One adored by Moses, and the Patriarchs, as the true Representative of HaShem? This is the legacy of the Greek constructs you have inherited from your forebears.
You claim I shoehorn in the Trinity, but the very first verses of Genesis speak of the Spirit of God, the Word of God as well as the Being of God in the absolute. The first chapter speaks of God both in plural AND in singularity, not in singularity alone. These passages are expressed most recklessly and ambiguously for your position. These texts are natural, consistent and clear for those who see relational Complexity not Platonic Solitariness in God’s nature.
If the Shema is indeed a declaration of Divine Solitude of His absolute Isolation, just like the pagan Muslim tauhid, why does HaShem most unwisely and recklessly chosen the plural terms Elohim, Adonai, sometimes with plural verbal forms? The subject of the adjoined command, man’s heart and mind and strength, is complex and distinct, the object is One Divine Union – the Sacred Name, the One Who brings into being. Complex, relational and yet perfectly One – not the idol of a Greek apophatic Simplex – which at least in Maimonides’ hands is little more than a theological black hole, sucking all definition in but yielding no light or attribute.
You suggest I argue back by analogy from man to God in the matter of relationality, but this is pitting yourself against the text itself not me. ‘In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image’. You may find this distasteful or disagreeable, but give God the credit of speaking on His own behalf. Horace’s wooden idol is actually Plotinus’ stone god, not this time neo-paganism but an equally dangerous and barren overreaction to pagan anthropomorphism, that robs God of His personality and our ability to relate to Him as children. This requires not a third testament, but a denuding and impoverishing of the first.
One of us is worshipping an idol, a human construct, the other the true Deity. Solomon warns us that there is a way that seems right to man, yet it ends in death. I respect your integrity in keeping your word after this gap, if I may say so an honourable and a Jewish trait born out of healthy respect for the Law. In recognition of this I have taken time out to reply, but I shall probably have to yield the last word, there are other matters I really must now attend to. A little reflection on the pure text of Torah, and on any contrast with our teachers’ precepts will illuminate this matter more and more as time proceeds. Let neither of us be guilty of violating the conscience as we pray for the light to shine more brightly.
Charles and Jim, I think it’s a waste of time, as I’ve said before (and as Rabbi Blumenthal has pointed out first), to try to figure out the meaning of God’s nature, as He says precious little about it in the Torah. However, He is very clear, in many passages, about whom exactly we are to worship.
There is no ambiguity in that regard. NONE AT ALL. Charles, I challenge you to find ONE VERSE in the Torah that in specifically and clearly telling us whom to worship, commands us to worship as you do.
Good luck! I hope you have time to find that verse, even if you don’t have time to respond. I do understand the constraints of a busy life. I also appreciate the respectful and kindly tone you address to any and all who disagree with you. Thank you for that.
Peace and blessings,
Earlier you said “At the end of the day, we all agree one side is indeed guilty of a serious and culpable deceit, which we are both content God will judge righteously and impartially”
But I think at the end of the day your comment “One of us is worshipping an idol, a human construct, the other the true Deity” is more accurate. Usually I’ll admit I have a hard time understanding your comments and have to look up the words and names you use. Clearly you are better versed on these subjects. But this time I do not know where to go for understanding. What part of the Sianai event, other than the golden calf, can be considered a human construct?
I find it interesting that you are so confident in your willingness to give everything for the truth – could you be deluding yourself?
I also find it odd that you are so quick to launch accusations about Jim’s motives. Why do you need to accuse him of “preferring rational uniformity to accuracy”? You obviously both believe that you are loyal to the accuracy of the text – so why accuse him of choosing another axiom aside from the accuracy of the text?
The central point of Jim’s comment was that we should use the clear verses to interpret the ambiguous ones and not work the other way around (using the ambiguous to explain the clear). It seems that you accept his notion – but that you believe that the verses that seem to support your position are as clear as the verses that Jim is using to support his.
But they are not and you give it away when you have to explain your position with a question (as in “why would God”). Clear verses tell you the conclusion without you having to ask any questions.
If you want to read the Torah in the context that the Author placed it you need to ask yourself the following question. Did the Author expect the reader to know who God is (in the sense of who to worship) before the reader opens the book? Or did the Author expect the reader to read the entire book before knowing who to worship?
These articles may help you:
Jim, this is great.
when God speaks, God use We/I/Us/Me, but you can NEVER find verses referring to God as “They/Their”.
Then God said, “Let Us make man ‘in Our image, according to Our likeness’; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26
God was speaking with majestic authority thus using Us/Our in Gen1:26.
God said clearly “in Our Image according to Our likeness” referring to mankind becoming rulers and creators on earth. Not by any means using the physical of God to create shape of man and female, but rather figure-like to that of God having dominance over universe, but for mankind they having dominance over other living creature on earth.
And God created man ‘in His (verse do Not use THEIR) own image, in the image of God’ created He him; male and female created He them. Genesis 1:27
And if we use Pauline-Christian logic. Whose image was verse referring to? Father? As Christians should know that Word and Spirit do not have image.
Do Christians believe Father/Word/Holy Spirit have image or all three were imageless?
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