Kosher Reality

 

 

 

Kosher Reality

 

A Jewish Response to

“The Real Kosher Jesus” by Dr. Michael L Brown

 

Introduction

When Rabbi Shmuli Boteach published a book entitled “Kosher Jesus” a storm erupted. Jews criticized the book for its misrepresentation of the Jewish conception of “Kosher.” The scholars of conventional wisdom complained that Rabbi Boteach’s book misrepresented the study of history. And Christians were offended by Rabbi Boteach’s misrepresentation of Christianity’s Jesus.

Dr. Michael Brown, a prominent Christian evangelist, took up his pen in defense of his faith. As a response to Rabbi Boteach’s book, Dr. Brown authored a 200 page book named: “The Real Kosher Jesus.” In this book Dr. Brown describes what he believes is the “real” Jesus, and he puts forth various arguments why his “real” Jesus should be considered “kosher” (i.e. acceptable to the Jewish people).

This is not a new activity for Dr. Brown. Dr. Brown has already authored a five volume series; “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus” (henceforth “AJO”) in which he lays out his arguments for Christianity. I have responded to this 1500 page document in my articles; “Contra Brown,” “The Elephant and the Suit,” and in “Supplement to Contra Brown.”

Upon reading “The Real Kosher Jesus” (henceforth “RKJ”) I realized that my work is not done. Although it would be difficult to identify a particular argument that is new to RKJ and that is not found in AJO, yet still and all, the popular style of RKJ and its distinctive approach to the matter has introduced something new to the debate. Furthermore, in RKJ, Dr. Brown expands on some arguments that he only touched upon in AJO.

As a Jew, I cannot stand idly by when my brethren are being led astray. As a member of God’s witness nation I cannot remain passive when any human being is being taught to direct devotion toward an idol. And when this idolatry is being promoted in the name of Judaism, I will not remain silent.

The thrust of Dr. Brown’s book is the exaltation of Jesus. Dr. Brown attempts to demonstrate that Jesus was a great rabbi, a prophet like no other, the Jewish Messiah and an incarnation of God. RKJ focuses on the personality of Jesus and puts forth the argument that the man deserves the exaltation that the Church demands for him. And Dr. Brown speaks of Jesus as the solution to the world’s problems, the precious wisdom that has been hidden in plain sight.

My aim in the following chapters is to set forth the testimony of the witness that God appointed; the testimony of the Jewish nation. This witness has been maligned by many people, but perhaps the most far-reaching slander of God’s appointed witness are the words attributed to Jesus. The gospel’s negative description of Judaism still shapes the world’s view of the people who God charged with the mission of testifying to His truth (Isaiah 43:10). But as we move closer to the messianic age, more and more people are seeing beyond the petty slander of the Church and seeking true testimony from God. It is my prayer that these humble words will aid the truth-seeker in his or her quest.

Idolatry

Idolatry is a sharp word. We tend to think of idolatry in terms of the cruel and immoral child-sacrifices that the ancients offered to their crude statues. Dr. Brown views Christianity as the heroic champion that opposes idolatry and advocates a monotheistic faith. And much of western civilization would concur with Dr. Brown’s assessment. Most people cannot see a connection between the high philosophy of Trinitarian Christianity and the boorish beliefs of the ancient pagans.

The Jewish people beg to differ. For centuries upon dark centuries, Jewish people have chosen to die rather than direct devotion to Jesus. It is not because Jews love death. There is no culture that respects human life as does the culture of the Jew. But the Jew stands in a covenantal relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth. And the obeisance that the Church was demanding for Jesus is seen by the Jew as the deepest violation of that covenant. Not because we hate Jesus, but because we love God. The devotion of our hearts belongs to God and to no one else.

The rejection of idolatry is not a peripheral aspect of Judaism. The condemnation of idolatry is not a marginal matter according to the authors of the Jewish Scriptures. The central task of the Jew is to testify to the world that there is but One God (Isaiah 43:10) and the Jewish prophets taught that the climax of history will be reached when all idolatry is eradicated from the minds of men and God alone is exalted (Isaiah 2:17,18).

But why are the Jewish people so convinced that the Christian devotion to Jesus is idolatry?

We need to define idolatry before we can answer that question, but before we define idolatry we need to define something else. Just as we cannot understand the sin of adultery before we understand the concept of marriage so it is with idolatry. We need to understand the covenant relationship that we share with God before we can define the violation of that relationship.

The Jewish people have a certain perception of God. This perception defines God as the Creator of every facet of existence and who is above and beyond all finite existence. Not only does the Jewish perception identify God, but it also identifies every other aspect of existence. The Jewish perception of God has the Jew see God as the Creator of all and it has the Jew see all existence as beholden to God.

The miracles of the exodus gave the Jewish people the understanding that all of finite existence belongs exclusively to God. And at Sinai, the Jewish people experienced a collective prophetic encounter with God. At that time they pledged their hearts to Him. They committed themselves to worship the God who owns their worship to begin with and Him alone.

The impact of the Sinai encounter is preserved through the living testimony of the Jewish people (Deuteronomy 4:9). Every Jew is born into a nation that already stands in a covenant relationship with the One Creator of heaven and earth. Every individual Jew is enjoined to recognize that relationship and to build his or her life on the basis of that relationship. The covenantal responsibility of each Jew is that every breath of life be suffused with awe and with love toward the One who provided that breath. And the covenantal responsibility of our nation would have us pass on to our children the same covenant that we received from our parents.

The devotion that the Jew carries in his heart toward God is intimately bound up with the sense of justice that dictates that we do not give to one that which belongs to another. The Jewish devotion to God consists of the acknowledgement and the acceptance that our devotion is not ours to give away; it belongs to the One who is holding our existence in His loving hand.

Now that we’ve spoken a bit about the relationship between God and His firstborn son let us talk about the violation of that relationship.

The idolater is overawed by the qualities that his object of worship seems to possess. Be it the awesome power of thunder, the sublime majesty of a mountain, the exquisite beauty of a river or the life giving warmth of the sun. The idolater sees these qualities and he recognizes his own smallness in that he possesses none of them. The idolater concludes that the entity that possesses these qualities must be of a higher plane of existence than his own and he submits himself in worship to this “higher existence.”

The Jew would tell the idolater that he is making a fundamental error. Does your thunder, mountain, river or sun possess the quality of being the Author of all existence? Did the mountain give itself its majesty? Or was the mountain granted its majesty by the same One who granted me the ability to discern and to appreciate majesty? You are confusing the subject with its Master.

When the idolater would attempt to persuade the Jew to join him in his worship of the sun, the Jew would respond: my heart is already tied up in a relationship with the One who created me and who created the sun. All of the qualities that you believe that the sun possesses cannot justify my devotion to it simply because the devotion of my heart does not belong to sun, but to the One who created and sustains my heart.

Christianity; Devotion and Rationalizations

The Jewish attitude toward those who promote devotion to Jesus is no different than their attitude toward those who promote devotion to the sun. All of the qualities that one may believe that Jesus possesses cannot justify devotion to him. Jesus’ supposed unparalleled popularity, his alleged ability to transform lives, his reputed courage in taking on a corrupt religious establishment and his professed humility would all be gifts granted to him by the One Creator of all (had he possessed any of these).

In the context of devotion the only quality that is relevant to the discussion is the quality of Creator. The Jews were worshipping the Creator long before Jesus was born. Jesus brought nothing new to the table in terms of Creator and there is nothing new that anyone can bring to the table in terms of Creator. God is the One Creator; He always was and He always will be and this simple truth can never change or be adjusted.

Where the Christian differs from some of the more crude pagans is not in the realm of devotion. The devotion that the followers of Jesus promote is no different than the devotion promoted by the worshipers of the sun. In both cases we are being encouraged to direct devotion toward a finite existence. Christianity separates itself from some of the pagan cults by the various rationalizations that it presents to justify devotion to Jesus, but not in the devotion itself.

Let us examine some of these rationalizations.

#1 – Christians contend that the devotion that they are encouraging is not the idolatry prohibited by Scripture because they do not worship Jesus’ physical body.

This argument is rooted in the false assumption that idolatry is limited to the worship of a physical body. I think that most Christians would recognize that worship of the spirit that animates an animal, the spirit of a person or an angel would all be considered idolatry. In fact most of those cultures that practiced obeisance to statues were not directing their devotion to the physical statue, but rather their hearts were directed toward the spirit that the statue represented.

God is the creator of both spirit and flesh (Zechariah 12:1). Both of these belong to God and to Him alone. Every body and every spirit and soul are completely subject to the One Creator of all. To give to any subject the devotion that belongs to the Master is idolatry.

# 2 – Christians contend that the spirit that inhabited the body of Jesus was “one and the same” as the God of Israel therefore worship of Jesus is not worship of “another god” prohibited by the Jewish Bible.

This argument is rooted in a misunderstanding of the term; “one and the same,” or in a misunderstanding of our relationship with God, or both.

We can say that two seemingly different entities are one and the same when they share the same elemental properties despite their seeming differences. Water and ice can be said to be one and the same because they both share the elemental ingredients of H2O. A person who appears in two different costumes can be said to be one and the same because the disguises do not define the essence of the person.

Certain things can never be “one and the same” simply because they describe two opposite elements of existence. Light and dark, hot and cold, holy and profane, good and bad can never be “one and the same” unless we are speaking of these qualities in relative terms (such as a room which can be considered both light and dark if it only partially illuminated). But when we speak of these concepts in absolute terms then they can never be “one and the same.”

When we focus on worship the critical terms are; Absolute Giver and the beneficiaries of His benevolence. These are two opposites that can never be “one and the same.”

When people saw Jesus as he walked the earth, or when thy find him in the pages of the Christian Scriptures they might identify him as a righteous person, a humble person, a wise person or a holy person. But they do not see Absolute Master, Creator of all, Source of all existence and the Ultimate Giver. All righteousness, holiness, wisdom, humility and self-sacrifice that abide in a human soul can only be gifts from the Source of all goodness. These qualities can only turn the person into a greater beneficiary of God’s benevolence; they can never turn him into Master.

The only way one can say that any given person is “one and the same” as God is if they do not understand the term; “one and the same,” of if they do not recognize that our worship of God is predicated on the fact that He is the Ultimate Giver and that anything that a finite existence possesses can only be a gift from God.

# 3 – Christians contend that Jesus is a “doorway” through which people come to God. As such, they see Jesus as inseparable from God.

This argument is rooted in the false assumption that God is inaccessible; it is rooted in a misunderstanding of the word “doorway” and in a misunderstanding of the word “inseparable.”

God is accessible to all who seek Him in sincerity (Psalm 145:18). All of the holy men and women who walked the earth before Jesus experienced a closeness to God without ever hearing of Jesus. Many saintly people experienced intimacy with God since the time of Jesus without having devoted themselves to Jesus. The claim that no one comes to the Father but through Jesus is demonstrably false.

To say that Jesus is inseparable from God is also patently false. Many people worship God and do not worship Jesus. Others, such as Unitarians, worship Jesus as a human being and not as a god. The fact that many Christians chose to fuse these two entities together in their minds does not make them inseparable. In fact, many Christians who have studied the matter recognized that their worship was misplaced and abandoned Jesus and remained with God. God and Jesus are certainly separable from one another.

The point of a doorway is that it provides a space through which one can access the area beyond. A doorway facilitates your approach to your ultimate goal. A doorway that demands to be carried with you wherever you go is no doorway; it is a distraction from the destination. No Christian denomination ever advocated that after an initial encounter with Jesus, one can forget about Jesus and get on with developing a relationship with God. Devotion to Jesus is a doorway to Jesus, not to God.

#4 – Christians contend that Jesus was a manifestation of God. They compare Jesus to the fire of the burning bush that Moses saw at Horeb (Exodus 3:4), to the pillar of cloud that led the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21), and to the Angel of the Lord that appears throughout the Jewish Scriptures (Exodus 23:20; Judges 6:12; Isaiah 63:9).

This argument is rooted in a misunderstanding of the relationship that the Jewish people share with God. The relationship between God and Israel includes many activities that are ancillary to the essence of the relationship. The essence of the relationship is God’s love for Israel and Israel’s love and reverence for God. As expressions of His love, God guides His people, He speaks to their prophets, and he protects them from their enemies. As expressions of Israel’s heart for God we offer sacrifices, we build a Temple and we follow His Law. All of these activities are only part of the relationship inasmuch as they express the heart of one party toward the other. If you remove the heart from these activities, they remain empty husks.

All of the manifestations of God that are found in Scripture relate to the ancillary aspects of the relationship. God showed His people that He chose Solomon’s Temple with a cloud of glory (1Kings 8:10), God accepted Elijah’s sacrifice with a fire from Heaven (1Kings 18:38), and God spoke to Abraham through the agency of an angel (Genesis 22:15). These have no impact on the essence of our relationship with God; namely, the love of our heart.

When God came to teach His people about the essence of our relationship with Him, they saw no image. God emphasized this point when He reminded His people of this covenantal encounter (Deuteronomy 4:15). The Sinai encounter was the definitive teaching about the heart of our relationship with God. And in this critical context the Scriptures emphasize that there was no manifestation at all.

Christianity’s claim for Jesus is a claim about the essence of the relationship. Christianity demands a love and a reverence for the person portrayed in the pages of the Christian Scriptures. This is not telling us at which location to bring our sacrifices, it is not guiding our travel and it is not merely bringing us a message. This is telling us where to direct our hearts. It is a teaching that attempts to place a finite existence into the essence of our relationship with God. This is idolatry.

The Historical Jesus and the Historicity of the Christian Scriptures

Much ink has been expended in the effort to uncover the historical Jesus. The questions abound. Was Jesus a radical revolutionary against the oppressive Roman Empire or was he a pacifist who decried the use of force? Was Jesus an imposter or was he a messenger from on high? Was he a prophet or was he a deluded dreamer? What theology did Jesus preach? Did he preach a Trinity or did he advocate a pure monotheistic faith?

All of these arguments center on the work of literature that is known as the Christian Scripture. It is in this set of books that the character and the history of Jesus are depicted. This series of books brings a new set of questions to the discussion. Who authored these books? When were these books authored? Was there another document that preceded these books from which these writers drew their narratives? Are these books reliable?

It is not for me to attempt to resolve these questions. I do not believe that these questions can be resolved decisively and conclusively. The events in questions took place in the distant past. Any theory, no matter how convincing, can only remain speculation.

What we can do and what is incumbent upon us to do is to put this discussion into perspective. In the complexities of the conversations certain common denominators tend to get lost. By recognizing the common thread that is present in all of the theories about Jesus and the books that describe his life we can bring some balance to this debate.

Any discussion about a human being must recognize its limitations. No man can truly know what transpires in the heart of his fellow man. Only God can see the heart (1Samuel 16:7). What we can judge are the words and the activities that our subject brought out into the open. Since this discussion is about a man who lived and died a long time ago, we cannot evaluate all of his words and actions. We can only measure those words and those actions that were preserved in the writings and in the hearts of those who were impacted by his life. In other words this can never be a discussion about Jesus. We can only discuss the impression that Jesus left behind him in this world.

These impressions themselves are ever-changing. New interpretations of Jesus’ words and teachings are being developed on a regular basis. Is it at all possible to determine with any accuracy the content of the original impression that Jesus left behind him? I think that not. But I do believe that we can be confident about one element of the original impression that Jesus made on those who lived with him. There is one constant quality that every strand of evidence affirms concerning the impression that Jesus left behind him. There is no dispute that Jesus raised up a following that saw love for Jesus as a central feature, if not the central feature of their universe.

Since that time, all who considered themselves followers of Jesus accepted this constant. All who follow Jesus accept that a person’s love for Jesus or lack thereof is the most important defining quality of man. These followers of Jesus defined themselves and they evaluated their connection to other people primarily on the basis of their feelings toward Jesus.

Yes, there was and there still is conflict about which Jesus to love. Is it a Trinitarian Jesus or is it a Unitarian Jesus? Is it a pacifist Jesus or is it a Jesus who wants to see his enemies destroyed? But all who like to see themselves as extensions of Jesus’ impact on human society agree that love for Jesus is a central feature of their worldview.

The books of the Christian Scriptures were products of this community. It is difficult to determine with any certainty the precise theological parameters of the writers of the gospels, but there is no question that they saw love for Jesus as a principal element of existence. The most important line in the universe of the gospel writers was the divide between those who love Jesus and those who don’t.

It is naïve to read the books of Christian Scripture without recognizing this truth. These writers loved Jesus in an extreme way. It is clear that these people would not have demanded the same standard of evidence that an objective outsider would demand before accepting something positive or before discounting something negative about their hero.

To say that the books of Christian Scriptures are historical documents is misleading. Yes, these books were written a long time ago. But do these books present objective historical facts? It would be foolish to believe so. It is clear that these books are presenting the worldview of people whose hearts were completely committed to Jesus. Not only were these books written by people with a deep love for Jesus in their hearts, but these books were written with the express purpose of promoting and justifying that love. Few factors can distort a person’s view of reality to the same extent as the factor of love for an individual.

The ramifications of this truth are manifold. When the Christian Scriptures report that Jesus performed many glorious miracles, we need to read those words with the understanding that those who wrote them had a deep motivation to believe those reports. When these writers present fanciful Scriptural interpretations that exalt Jesus we need to recognize that there was a driving force in their hearts that wanted to see these interpretations in the words of the prophets. When the gospel writers vilify those who did not share their love for Jesus, we need to realize that the centerpiece of their worldview would have them reinterpret reality in this way.

We can know very little about Jesus today, so many centuries after his death. But we can be sure that he left behind him a legacy that elevated people’s love for him to an extreme degree.

The question that needs to be asked when reading the Christian Scriptures is if this love is justified. What legacy of justification did they leave for this central element of their message? Perhaps more important is the question of what kind of legacy of respect did they pass on concerning the ethical and moral responsibility for people to question that love.

Did the community that Jesus raised respect the process of honest questioning before loving? Or did they redefine honesty according to the love that was so central to their universe?

These are the questions that we should be asking about the historical Jesus. For this is the imprint that he left on the minds and hearts of men.

The Historical Paul and the History of Opposition to his Message

In the same way that scholars and fanatics wrangle over the historical Jesus so it is with Paul. It is not so much the person of Paul that generates the most intense debates but rather it is the content and the context of his message.

Fundamentalist Christians insist that Paul was only passing on the authentic teachings of Jesus. The proponents of this position would argue that soon after Jesus’ death, the original teachings of Jesus were corrupted by the Judaic tendencies of the Jewish followers of Jesus. According to these Churchmen, it was Paul who saved Christianity and brought the community of disciples back to the original teachings of Jesus.

Many scholars insist that Paul’s message represents a radical departure from the teachings of Jesus. These students of history see Jesus as a person whose entire social context was Judaism while Paul’s teachings departed from the Jewish foundations established by Jesus. Paul’s disparaging attitude toward the Law of Moses and his exaltation of the death of Jesus are seen as deviations from the original teachings of Jesus.

It is not for me to pass judgment and render a decisive conclusion about events that took place so long ago. My aim with the following paragraphs is twofold. On the one hand I plan to bring some balance to the discussion by focusing on the common denominator that Paul shared with the original Jewish Christian community. On the other hand, I also hope to demonstrate the plausibility of the position that sees Paul as one who brought a new message and not one who was simply resurrecting Jesus’ forgotten teachings.

Let us take the position that Paul was presenting a teaching which deviated from the original message of Jesus (the position that I believe is most plausible). So what is the scenario? We have Jesus who proclaims himself as Messiah in a thoroughly Jewish context. This would make him a king who is to rule over a utopian world in which God’s Temple is the center of worship for all mankind. Then he dies. In this template, his disciples see his death as an obstacle, as a bump in the road, if not a complete refutation for their belief in the messianic claims for Jesus (Luke 24:21). The disciples overcome this obstacle with their hope for his imminent return. At this point they do not see the messianic era as something that has already commenced in any way shape or form. They do hope that it will begin soon with the return of their beloved leader.

Enter Paul. According to Paul, the death of Jesus is not an obstacle that stands in the way of his messianic claim. The precise opposite is true. His death is the greatest achievement of his messianic career. It is precisely his death that provides salvation for all mankind and this salvation can only be achieved through belief in and acceptance of Jesus.

If this is the scenario, then the stage is set for a major conflict. We would expect the Jewish followers of Jesus to resist the message of Paul and to discredit his claim as an authentic teacher who speaks in the name of Jesus. And this is what they seem to have done. As we shall see, this opposition to Paul still lingers between the lines of the very book that attempted to erase this opposing stream of thought from the pages of history. But before we study the opposition to Paul it is important to recognize the commonality that the Jewish following of Jesus shared with Paul.

You see, Paul did not build his edifice on thin air. The Jewish following of Jesus gave him the foundation upon which to establish his theology. And that foundation was their extreme affinity to Jesus. The entire thrust of Paul’s theology, as new as it might have been, is to justify and give meaning to a phenomenon that already existed. Had the Jewish following of Jesus not introduced the affinity toward Jesus into the stream of human thought then Paul’s message would have found no context.

With this commonality in mind we can more readily appreciate the indications of conflict that appear in the Christian Scriptures.

The most explicit indicator of conflict is spelled out by Paul himself. Throughout his writings Paul argues for his own authenticity as a legitimate apostle of Jesus (Galatians 2:9; 1Corintians 9:2; 2Corinthians 11:5). He rebukes his audience for giving a listening ear to those from within the community of lovers of Jesus that opposed his message (Galatians 1:7). Paul criticizes Peter, Jesus’ chief disciple, for vacillating between the two opposing factions that existed within Christendom (Galatians 2:11-13). And Paul explicitly speaks of followers of Jesus who preached a message that was different from his own (2Corinthians 11:13).

There are those who would argue that this conflict was limited to one particular question and is not an indicator of a deep theological divide between two opposing camps. According to these Churchmen the only area of disagreement between Paul and his opponents was the question of the Torah observance of gentiles. Paul proposed that gentile followers of Jesus do not need to observe the Torah in order to join the following while his opponents would not accept gentiles into the fold unless they observed the Torah. These Churchmen would have us believe that in every other area of theology, Paul and his Jewish opponents were on the same page.

This argument misses out on a key aspect of the conflict in the early Church. Those early followers of Jesus all accepted and believed that certain people were authorized to disseminate the teachings of Jesus. The fact that Paul sees the need to tell his audience of his legitimacy as a disseminator of Jesus’ message is evidence that this legitimacy was called into question. Paul clearly saw his opponents as illegitimate teachers who preached a different gospel (2Corinthians 11:4).

We cannot identify with precision the parameters of the conflict between Paul and his opponents. But we can be sure that the two parties to this conflict felt that the difference between them was deep and serious. Each of the parties in this conflict considered their opponents to be illegitimate teachers with no authority to teach in Jesus’ name.

Let us step back and put this into perspective. Both Paul and his opponents agreed that love of Jesus is a central feature of life. What they could not agree upon was the interpretation of the theology surrounding Jesus. This theology is supposed to offer the justification for the extreme exaltation of Jesus and this is where the followers of Jesus could not come to an agreement.

What clearly emerges from the writings of Paul is that in his day there existed a community of human beings who exalted Jesus. This community saw their love for Jesus as something central and definitive to the human experience. We can also see that a deep conflict existed within this community as it relates to the justification for this love. Each faction firmly believed that the other faction’s theology of exaltation of Jesus was illegitimate.

We can be sure that Jesus left behind him a legacy of exaltation of his person but we can also be sure that if he provided a justification for that exaltation it was not etched in stone. Within one generation of Jesus’ death his own community could not agree on a theology that would justify their exaltation of Jesus.

Kosher Prophets

The followers of Jesus contend that Jesus was a prophet like no other. Even if this contention would be rooted in truth it would still not serve to justify devotion to him as a deity. A prophet is one who brings a message from God and is not divine himself. But let us examine this Christian contention for what it is worth.

Prophets are people who bring a message from a realm that we cannot see. Since we cannot examine the source of the prophet’s message it is difficult to determine if the prophet is legitimate or not. How can we know if this man is bringing us an authentic message?

Perhaps we should judge the prophet by the content of his message. Does this message sound like a Godly message? Perhaps we should evaluate the prophet by the level of authority with which he speaks. Maybe we should be looking at the aura of mystery that pervades his or her words. Perhaps we should look at the man’s courage and self-sacrifice in order to know if his message is legitimate.

The followers of Jesus, much like the followers of Mohammed, would have us evaluate his mission on the basis of these criteria. They point to the moral and ethical beauty of the Sermon on the Mount as an indication that Jesus’ message was true. The missionaries highlight the authoritative manner of Jesus’ talk. Christians point to Jesus’ courage in taking on a corrupt religious establishment and exposing their flaws as evidence that he was a prophet like no other. And the followers of Jesus accentuate his self-sacrifice. His mission ended in a painful crucifixion. Why would he bring this on himself if he was a fraud?

Are these the most accurate methods through which to evaluate the validity of a claimant to prophecy? Is this the way that God would have us authenticate His messengers? The answer to both of these questions is a resounding “no.”

Each of these standards can be misleading. The fact that someone espouses teachings of deep moral and ethical meaning does not make him a prophet. Each of us has a conscience that is sensitive to moral and ethical truth and by examining our own hearts we can arrive at deep and meaningful insights. Every culture has produced people that have an unusual ability to articulate moral truths. Many of these people never claimed to be prophets yet their words ring true throughout the generations. The ability to give expression to moral truth is not limited to prophets.

An authoritative manner of speaking is also no indicator of the authenticity of a claim to prophecy. Every prophet that Christians recognize as frauds also spoke with authority. Many people who present no claim to prophecy also have the ability to speak with authority. Leaders and lunatics, visionaries and the self-deluded, prophets and frauds can all speak with authority and history is replete with examples of decisive and authoritative speech for members of each of these categories.

Challenging the reigning establishment is also no indicator of authentic prophecy. A false prophet may find himself at odds with the accepted norms. In a society where truth is valued we would expect a fraud to run afoul of the religious leadership. Throughout history many people have courageously attacked the powers that be. Some of these people were righteous and others were evil. Railing against an accepted religious or political establishment is not an indicator of legitimate prophecy.

The willingness to suffer and die for a cause is also no gauge by which to measure the veracity of a prophetic claim. Many people suffer and die for foolish or evil causes. The fact that they are willing to suffer may perhaps indicate that these people believe the cause to be true, but it does not tell us that the cause is indeed true. The false prophets that were challenged by Elijah also demonstrated a willingness to suffer and die for their cause (1Kings 18:28). This doesn’t make them authentic prophets. The human capacity for self-delusion is almost unlimited. We cannot rely on a person’s evaluation of his own self in order to determine if he is an authentic prophet or a fraud.

How then can we determine if a given claim to prophecy is legitimate or not? Since both Jews and Christians accept the authenticity of the Jewish Scriptures we will turn to that document to find the answer to our question.

The Law of Moses addresses the evaluation of prophecy in Deuteronomy 13:2-6 (1-5) and 18:15-22. In these passages we are given to understand that if a prophet encourages worship of a god we never knew, if he speaks in the name of another god, or if his prediction fails to materialize then we can be sure that his message is illegitimate.

Before we attempt to evaluate the claim for Jesus let us pause to take stock. Deuteronomy 13:2,3 (1,2) teaches that a false prophet may perhaps perform a sign or a wonder. This means that a miracle, or even a series of miracles, cannot justify a claim to prophecy. If the message that the claimant to prophecy is bringing to us would have us direct our hearts to someone that we never knew as a deity then all of his miracles are to be disregarded.

What are the practical ramifications of this teaching? How would this particular instruction play itself out in the heart and in the mind of a Jew? What does this teach us about the evaluation of prophetic claims?

One thing is immediately obvious. The Law of Moses gives us guidelines in this realm of determining the authenticity of a prophet. Loyalty to God’s word demands that he same methods that we use to apply the Law of Moses to the observance of the Sabbath or the judgment of civil law should be used to gauge the veracity of a prophet.

The Law of Moses directs our attention to our perception of God. After all, it was God Himself who taught us this perception, and this is the path that He set us on when He took us out of the Land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 13:6 (5). Our perception of the One that we are to worship is the standard that we are to use to measure the prophetic message. A message that violates the understanding we were granted concerning the direction of our worship is a false message according to the Law of Moses. We are to disregard the claimant’s miracles, we are to ignore the seemingly Godly content of this prophet’s message, we must not be swayed by the authority with which this person speaks and the courage and self-sacrifice of this visionary should mean nothing to us. This is what Moses taught us about the evaluation of prophetic claims.

According to Trinitarian Christianity Jesus taught a redirection of worship. He taught that our hearts need to be directed toward himself; a direction that our hearts had hitherto not considered. According to the Law of Moses, which Christianity acknowledges as authentic, we are to reject Jesus as a false prophet.

Kosher Messiah

The central claim of Christianity is that Jesus is the Messiah predicted by the prophets of the Jewish Scriptures. Even if this claim were true, which it is clearly not, it would still not justify worship of Jesus as a deity. The Messiah is a subject of God just like the rest of us and as such is not deserving of our worship. But let us examine the basis for the Christian claim for the Messiah-ship of Jesus.

The prophets of Judaism predicted the advent of a king from the line of David. The prophets presented a vision in which humanity reaches ultimate happiness under the reign of this king. The fact that humanity has not reached this utopian era is more than enough to tell the Jewish people that the Messiah is yet to arrive. But the followers of Jesus still insist that Jesus is this king that the prophets spoke of. Christians contend that Jesus will yet fulfill the utopian vision of the prophets but more importantly they argue that he has already fulfilled a set of prophecies that describe the Messiah’s role before the advent of the utopian age.

The followers of Jesus take this argument one audacious step further. Not only do they claim that the prophets spoke of two separate roles of the Messiah, but they contend that the first mission of the Messiah is the primary achievement of this king. According to the Churchmen the only ones that will enjoy the blessing of the utopian era are those who were “saved” by the Messiah in his first advent.

This teaching of two advents of the Messiah is not explicitly stated in the words of the prophets. According to the Christian Scriptures, Jesus’ own followers did not know of this teaching until after Jesus’ failed to come through as the glorious king that they had expected him to be. After Jesus had died his followers despaired of him being the Messiah (Luke 24:21). This demonstrates that in the few years that Jesus spent teaching his disciples he did not teach them about the two advents of the Messiah. The followers of Jesus only discovered this teaching between the lines of the Jewish Scripture when they desperately needed this teaching.

Today the followers of Jesus have developed an edifice of arguments based on the Biblical texts that would support their belief in Jesus as Israel’s Messiah. These Churchmen insist that their interpretation of these Biblical texts is accurate beyond question. When people who are not devoted to Jesus don’t read the texts as do the Christians the Churchmen theorize that these people are “blinded.” The fact that even the original followers of Jesus did not see Jesus’ death predicted in the pages of the Bible does not disturb these Christians. The theory has it that the eyes of Jesus’ disciples were only “opened” after his alleged resurrection.

There are two primary tactics which the missionaries utilize in order to insert Jesus into the Biblical text. They will take a verse that is not related to the Messiah and present it as a “Messianic prophecy” that Jesus “fulfilled.” Or they will take a detail out of a prophecy that is Messianic, wrench it out of its context and apply it to the career of Jesus.

A famous example of the first method of exploitation of the Biblical text is the “virgin birth” prophecy from Isaiah 7:14. The original Hebrew says nothing about a virgin birth but more importantly, when read in context, this passage has nothing to do with the Messiah. Isaiah was presenting a prediction to the Judean King Ahaz that was to be fulfilled in the immediate future. King Ahaz died many centuries before Jesus was born. The passage in Isaiah that the gospel of Matthew quotes to “prove” the Messianic claims of Jesus has nothing to do with the Messiah.

Zechariah 9:9 which has Israel’s king entering Jerusalem on a donkey serves to illustrate the second method of missionary misuse of Scripture. This passage can be read as a reference to the Messiah, but the ride on the donkey is only one detail of a larger picture. The prophet speaks of the king ruling from sea to sea, the end of war and an advent of peace. There is no textual justification for the Christian interpretation which has a 2000 year pause in the middle of the prophetic passage.

There is however one Scriptural passage which would perhaps lend weight to the “two advent” theory proposed by Jesus’ followers. This passage is known as the “suffering servant” passage from Isaiah 52:13 thru Isaiah 53:12. This passage describes the servant of God exalted and honored in the Messianic era. But this servant is not an unknown figure. Those who witness his exaltation are shocked because they have known this servant as one acquainted with suffering. They had assumed that his suffering was a sign of God’s displeasure with him and now that they see him honored by God they are stunned into a shocked silence.

If this passage is indeed referring to the Messiah then we have a case for two advents. The servant described by Isaiah first undergoes a period of suffering and shame and this same servant then experiences honor and glory. But this passage still does nothing to support the claims of Christianity.

If this passage is indeed referring to the Messiah then it is telling us in no uncertain terms that Jesus is not the Messiah. The entire thrust of this prophetic passage is that the servant of God is despised until his sudden exaltation. This servant is someone who is on the minds of those who despised him (and this includes the kings of nations – Isaiah 52:15). These people will possess a comprehensive evaluation of the servant that is predicated on the idea that he is somehow a lesser human being. They will point to the suffering of the servant as justification for their negative perspective of God’s loyal servant.

The prophet tells us that this negative evaluation of the servant will be completely overturned with his sudden exaltation by God. The entire passage is the shocked expression of these onlookers whose perspective of the servant had suddenly proven wrong.

All students of Scripture will agree that in the present age (April 2014) no one is openly and obviously exalted by God. The exaltation of which Isaiah speaks is yet to occur. But at this point in time there is no human being in the history of mankind who is more popular than Jesus of Nazareth. The Christians, the Moslems and the Hindus all see Jesus as a positive figure. Even the Jews, who see Jesus in a negative light, do not consider him to be subhuman. The Jewish people consider Jesus to be an ordinary human being and not divine and as such his claims to divinity are rejected. The prophetic description of someone who had been considered subhuman suddenly being exalted cannot be applied to Jesus.

A contextual reading of the passage will reveal that the prophet is referring to the righteous of Israel. Merely three verse before this passage (Isaiah 52:10) the prophet describes the exaltation of Israel with the very same metaphor that is used in the passage in question (Isaiah 53:1). The prophetic narrator uses the metaphor of the revelation of the arm of the Lord to describe God’s intervention on behalf of the Jewish people (see also Psalm 98:1-3). The prophets consistently describe the Messianic era being ushered in with a sudden revelation of God’s glory that brings vindication to the righteous of Israel and shame to those who despised Israel (Isaiah 41:11, 49:23,25,26, 60:10-14, 61:6,9, Jeremiah 30:16, Ezekiel 37:28, 39:25-29, Joel 4:2,16,17, Micah 7:10,16,17, Zephaniah 3:20).

So what is the Messiah’s role in God’s plan? What is the King Messiah’s function in the Messianic era?

The most illuminating word that the prophets gave us concerning the function of Messiah is that they called the Messiah by the name of his ancestor David (Jeremiah 30:9, Ezekiel 34:23,24; 37:24; Hosea 3:5). David is the chief Biblical prototype of the Messiah.

There is no character in all of Scripture that we know as well as David. David’s heart is open for all to read. The Book of Psalms are filled with David’s praise for God, his love for God, his trust in God, his yearning for God and his love for God’s holy Law. David’s complete dependence upon God is accentuated, emphasized and displayed most openly again and again. David’s book and David’s life direct all of our attention, all of our hearts, all of our emotions, and all of our devotion and worship towards the Creator of the world. David diverts none of the attention towards himself. On the contrary, David speaks most openly of his own sins, his faults and his utter helplessness before God.

The primary function of the Messiah is to be like David. The Messiah will direct all of mankind’s attention toward the Creator of the universe and only towards the Creator of the universe. When the Messiah’s mission is complete, then; “The Lord alone will be exalted on that day” (Isaiah 2:17).

The central character of the Christian Scriptures is a man who seeks attention for himself. His goal is to divert the heart, the emotions, the devotion and worship of mankind toward his own personality. He attempts to obfuscate his own helplessness before God with the veil of his claim to divinity.

If we were to say that this man cannot be the Messiah, we would have said too little. The founder of Christianity represents the polar opposite of the Messiah of the Jewish Scriptures.

The Wisdom that is Present Wherever You Look

The word “Jew” is a derivative of the Hebrew “Yehuda.” The name “Yehuda” means thanks and acknowledgment (Genesis 29:25), and the calling of the Jew is to praise and acknowledge the goodness of God (Isaiah 43:21). The activity of thanking God may seem to be something that is not very relevant in our fast-paced modern lives. But in fact, thanking God is something that has the power to turn over every moment of your life. And the Scriptural prophets promised that the calling of the Jewish people will one day light up the world.

Most of mankind’s activities are devoted to acquiring happiness or to avoid the threat of pain. We work to acquire food to eat to escape the threat of starvation and to enjoy the pleasure of eating. We amass wealth in order to avoid the threat of poverty and want. We exert ourselves to protect ourselves and our families from all types of disasters. We seek love, security and stability and we attempt to avoid loneliness, vulnerability and confusion. We want guarantees for our future in this world and the next and we want to see those guarantees in writing and in our own possession.

The underlying assumption that stands behind all of these activities is that we have the ability to escape our state of dependency and establish ourselves to be independent. We think that when the money is in our bank account then we are no longer dependent on outside factors for our material well-being. When we have that medicine in our pharmacies then we will have our health in our hand. When our houses are built and our borders are guarded then we will possess our security. When we find that relationship then we will possess the solution to loneliness and emotional want. When we find the right spiritual connection then we will possess the assurances that will assuage our fears.

In other words, most of mankind’s activities are devoted to combatting the fact that we are dependent beings. We assume that by acquiring various possessions we can establish our own independence.

But this battle of life is a battle of futility. We will never become independent. We will never possess our happiness, our health, our security or a guarantee for our future. How can we possess anything if our very existence does not belong to us? All of our happiness, our security and our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being rest with God. Every minute that we experience existence is a gift from the One who created us all and it is a gift that we did nothing to deserve.

The calling of the Jewish people is to declare to the world that there is no point in fighting God. There is no point in trying to acquire what you can never possess. Instead of fearing the state of dependence, rejoice in the fact that your existence is in the hands of God. Recognize that every breath that you ever took and ever thought that passed through your mind stood on nothing but on God’s love for you. You will come to enjoy the love of God not only in your own life, but you will also delight in God’s goodness that is evident in the breath of every living being.

The mission of the Jewish people is to testify to the simple truth that every iota of existence belongs to God and to no one else. Everything always belonged to Him and everything will forevermore belong to Him.

The greatest opposition that the Jewish people encounter in their mission to bring this truth to their own hearts and to the world is the philosophy of idolatry in its various manifestations. Not only does the philosophy of idolatry oppose the foundational truth of the absolute sovereignty of God but it does so in the name of spirituality and religious virtue.

The philosophy of idolatry opposes the foundational truth of the absolute sovereignty of God on two fronts. On the one hand the call to worship an idol is an exaltation of a quality (or set of qualities) that is contained in the context of a finite existence. Be it the majesty of a mountain, the beauty of river, the serenity and solidity of a statue, the power of thunder or the miraculous powers of Jesus, these are all qualities that are perceived in the context of a finite existence. By exalting these qualities and claiming that these qualities justify devotion toward the entity in which they are found the idolater is denying that these properties can never truly belong to a finite existence. The idolater denies that any quality that is found in the context of a finite existence can only be an undeserved gift from the One Creator of all. Worship of an idol is a denial of the idol’s debt toward the Creator for its very existence.

There is another way that the philosophy of idolatry opposes Israel’s message of God’s sovereignty. The idolater is not only denying the idol’s debt to God but the idolater also denies the worshiper’s debt to God. If we truly recognize that every iota of our existence belongs to God then we would also recognize that the only question that is pertinent in the context of worship is: to whom does my heart belong? The idolater encourages the worshiper to turn away from that question and instead ask: where can I direct my heart and profit the most?

The primary message of Israel’s prophets is that God is the absolute Master of all. Instead of allowing ourselves to be overawed by the qualities that we perceive in various finite entities, we should recognize that these entities are beneficiaries of God’s benevolence. Instead of seeing our hearts as free to bend to the object of our choosing we should recognize that our hearts belong to the One whose love is sustaining our heart this very moment.

The prophets looked forward to the day when idolatry is eradicated from the minds of men. They looked forward to the day when all mankind recognizes and acknowledges that they are indebted to God for their very existence. Mankind will then beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks and they shall learn war no more. They will recognize that wealth and security can never be acquired. They will understand that happiness is feeling the love of God in every breath of life.

The calling of the Jewish people is to remain true to this message. If the word “kosher” (which simply means correct and proper) is going to mean that which is correct and proper in light of Israel’s calling before God then recognizing our debt to our Creator is kosher. A philosophy that exalts an individual without acknowledging that individual’s debt towards God is decidedly not kosher.

The beginning of wisdom is a reverence toward God (Psalm 111:10). This wisdom is not far off. The benevolence of God is evident in every blade of grass, every ray of light and every breath of air. What prevents us from seeing God’s sovereignty is our futile desire to be independent, to establish our own sovereignty. The songs of David draw us away from this illusion of self-sufficiency. David’s music gave expression to the joy that Israel experienced in accepting the fact of God’s mastery over every facet of existence. And Israel’s prophets gave the world hope for a future in which all of mankind experiences that same joy.

Kosher Reality

The prophets of Israel teach us that we live in a world of illusion. Finite entities appear to possess power. The forces of nature, military might, wealth and popularity all project an aura of authority and strength. The prophets looked forward to a day when all of humanity will realize that there is no power aside from God (Deuteronomy 32:39).

The prophets described how the revelation of God’s absolute sovereignty over every facet of existence will shock those who were caught up in the illusions of power that pervades the world (Isaiah 2:17; Micah 7:15,16; Psalm 97:7).

The prophets also described how those who held fast to the truth of God’s sovereignty throughout the period of darkness will experience joy and vindication at the time of this revelation (Isaiah 25:9; 40:9; 45:25; 52:7; 60:1; Psalm 97:8).

Let us try to imagine the portrait painted by the prophets of the Jewish Scripture. Imagine a time when every creature recognizes that its very existence is but a gift of the One Creator of all. Try to see your every breath and the breath of every creature as expressions of God’s love. Imagine all of mankind rejoicing together in the fact that God is their king. Picture the day in which every man, woman and child stand in a deep and intimate relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth. This is the hope that the Jewish prophets gave us for the future (Isaiah 11:9).

Where does exaltation of a man find a place in the context of this hope? What is the popularity of any man in light of God’s all pervasive sovereignty? What is the righteousness of any man in light of God’s universal kindness? What is the courage of any man in light of God’s almighty strength?

The prophets of Israel didn’t just give us hope for the future. They also gave us a path for the present. They did not encourage us to worry about the sins we committed in the past. They assured us that God forgives us if we turn to Him and accept His sovereignty over our future (Isaiah 55:7; Ezekiel 33:16). They taught us that God can be found in justice and kindness (Micah 6:8). Not that these will “earn us merit” in God’s eyes for no one can give to God that which He does not already possess (Job 35:7; 1Chronicles 29:14). But rather justice and kindness are intimacy with God in and of themselves (Jeremiah 22:16).

Just as we experience vision through our sense of sight and sound through the sense of hearing so do we enjoy God’s sovereignty through our sense of justice and our love for kindness. By living justice and loving kindness we open our hearts to God.

Living justice helps us see our desire for possession for what it is. With our sensitivity to justice we understand that our own existence does not belong to us. Our sensitivity to justice helps us see that the Creator of the world has the right to put other people in the world aside from ourselves and that as the Master of all He has the right to give them happiness and security.

Loving kindness helps us enjoy the happiness of others. It enables us to appreciate God’s never-ending flow of blessing that encompasses ourselves and all of our fellow creations. Through the love of kindness we learn to see giving as good and greed as evil.

No human being can be perfect in justice or kindness. Justice and kindness are not goals to be attained, they are paths to walk. As we walk these paths with God holding our hand we see through the illusions of this world. We can see right through the wisdom of the wisest man, we are not impressed by the strength of any finite being, and any possession, be it material or spiritual, that is in the hand of a fellow inhabitant of this universe cannot draw our attention away from the rightful source. We recognize all of these as expressions of God’s benevolence and not as evidence for the deification of a finite existence.

If someone can lay claim to the titles: “greatest rabbi, wonderful prophet, courageous social reformer, miracle worker and selfless sacrificial lamb,” it will not shift our focus. The reality of God’s truth teaches us to see these as gifts from the One Creator of all, if they were indeed present in any individual. If someone uses these claims to direct devotion and worship to the entity that seems to possess these properties, then we identify this philosophy as idolatry, the greatest rebellion against God’s sovereignty.

The prophet Jeremiah put it like this: “Thus said the Lord: Let not the wise man glorify himself with his wisdom, and let not the strong man glorify himself with his strength, let not the rich man glorify himself with his wealth. For only with this may one glorify himself – contemplating and knowing Me, for I am the Lord who does justice and charity in the land, for I these is My desire – the word of the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:22,23).

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Thank You

Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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21 Responses to Kosher Reality

  1. Dina says:

    This is mind-blowing and inspiring. I hope everyone who comments on this blog reads this article.

  2. ed says:

    Another wonderful essay from the Rabbi. However, if you pose this to a fundamentalist Christian, he/she will deny that it is idolatry, since they believe that Jesus=Hashem by way of their triune “godhead”.

  3. Yedidiah says:

    Many of the “Jewish” Objections to Jesus are the same as that of the “non-Jewish and former-Christian’s objections” to Jesus. Non-Jews can read the plain words of the Tanach or the Christian OT “plainly” and not out of context (especially if one reads a more literal and less denominationally biased Christian OT’s or a Jewish Tanach translated into English or one’s other native language”). So, might there be some “hidden” purpose in calling these objections to Jesus or Christianity as “Jewish objections to Jesus”? Now certainly, many Christians are not aware of these “Jewish” objections, especially those made from “non-OT” sources, or even the many non-Jewish objections to Jesus, but once those objections are made known, it is hard to refute those objections and easy to grasp or understand them. It is much harder to understand the complex, complicated theology or “higher Christology” of Christian apologists (even the term apologetics appears quite negative). Many average Christians do not really understand the term “trinity” nor the idea of a hell or the concept of god becoming a man who can die. And how did the universe continue to exist while “God was dead”, and how does that relate to the un-Christian term, “God is dead”? Are there 2 Gods, father and son, instead of 1 as many people think? And if there “is no greater love than dying for another, shouldn’t the father have given his life for the son (and therefore the son truly would inherit, just like many preachers who often do talk about “inheritance”)? Or like the “old dying testament” (and Israel) which have to give way & be replaced to the “new testament” (or the new “Israel” or Church)?

    I also wonder how many Christians, from non-Jewish descent, that there would be if preachers had always preached a “kosher Jesus”. How many Christians today reject the concept of kosher? How many Christians would be Christians today if “Judaizer preachers” had preached a Jesus using a Tanach instead of a NT? How many will remain Christian if they would taught the heresy of a “kosher Jesus”? Definitely many would see it as the “end times”, since a “kosher Jesus” could only be seen as the Anti-Christ.

    • Yedidiah says:

      I know some Christians who would see a “kosher Jesus” as a trick, a conspiracy by Jews to destroy/kill Jesus “again” (as they once duped innocent & naive Pilate, and how they “tricked” the “messiah Vespasian” and Titus). Rabbi Boteach’s effort to “educate” (or the effort to appease conservative evangelical Christians) is not likely to be successful. And his approach aids those like Brown who are working hard to see a Christian Israel and to see that no real Jew (those who would prefer to worship the God of Israel rather than the god Jesus of Rome or “Babylon”) is left standing. Then there would be no more need for a “kosher Jesus” and Jesus can be made into the Jesus who Christians want really him to be.

      • Yedidiah says:

        Then there would be no more need for a “kosher Jesus” and Jesus can be made into the Jesus who some Christians really want him to be.

  4. Hi Yedidiah,
    Speaking of Dr. Michael Brown,
    If you go to this link and scroll to the bottom, you will see that the last 5 comments were posted by me. (Starting March 17th) He has never responded.
    https://askdrbrown.org/why-is-john-crowder-spreading-misinformation-about-the-hyper-grace-book/
    Blessings,
    Matthew

    • Yedidiah says:

      Those who wrote & preserved the words of Jesus also wrote & preserved the words of Paul. You wouldn’t know anything about a Jesus unless there was a Paul.

      And according to objective historical studies of who the Pharisees were, neither “Saul” nor “Paul” was a Pharisee. And some scholars have written articles or books attempting to show that “the Jesus of the synoptic gospels” was probably a Pharisee. Of course, you probably accept Rome’s definition of the Pharisees (who were enemies of Rome) and their definition of Jesus (who was a friend of Rome- an enemy to Rome’s enemy). Or else perhaps we should subscribe to the absurd hypothesis that both the “anti-Jewish Pharisee Paul” & “anti-Jewish Christianity” was all a plot by Jews (because Jews wanted to be hated and persecuted??)

      • Yedidiah,
        I must respectfully and strongly disagree with your statements, QUOTE:
        “Those who wrote & preserved the words of Jesus also wrote & preserved the words of Paul. You wouldn’t know anything about a Jesus unless there was a Paul. ”

        I can understand why it seems that way to you. And I have run into some nominal “Christians” who have actually told me directly “There would be Christianity without Paul. Christianity is Paul’s teaching.” That is Paulism, or revived Marcionism.
        http://www.jesuswordsonly.com/recommendedreading/56-marcionism.html

        Most of the Christian Church sees Jesus and all Scripture through the warped lens of Paul. That is the problem. They are following Paul, not Jesus the Jewish Messiah who is revealed in the 4 Gospels written by Matthew Mark Luke and John.

        • Yedidiah says:

          What do you believe happened to Jesus after he was removed from the cross? If you believe he was dead like any other man, then your hypotheses has a bit of merit and NT text or “scripture” is whatever words or sentences or books that you or anyone else wants to accept and the rest can be rejected as lies. If you believe Jesus had one or more messages -or truths- that he was willing to die for and that he had power after his death to direct or influence how the world accepted his message or which part of his message they could reject or corrupt, then you have a much bigger problem. Would Jesus be happy to see that his message was either forgotten or grossly corrupted and that his name was used by Paul to deceive the vast majority of “the followers of Jesus” for the last 1900 years? Aren’t you admitting that Paul was much more of a messiah than Jesus? If Paul had so much power (as you both accept and yet you reject or deny), how did any of the “real Jesus” survive? Can you not see much of “the “Marcionite” or Pauline philosophy or theology in the gospels, especially in the gospel of Luke or John? The Marcionites supposedly first determined a “canon of Christian writings”, which included much of Luke that you read and love today (as a “traitor” to Jesus). They really loved the gospel of John, especially the “word” in Chapter 1. You may want to read writings of the early “church fathers” about how pervasive the influence of Marcion (and Paul) are throughout the NT and the determination of which of the many Christian writings made it into the NT of today.

          And Jesus just “sat by” and let Paul “steal his thunder” and undo most of his work that he died for? Or was Jesus a deceiver & Paul was his select discipline, because the gospels often show his first 12 as “pretty dense” at times?

          • Hi Yedidiah,
            You bring up an excellent question, and I have often wondered about this myself: Quote: “Would Jesus be happy to see that his message was either forgotten or grossly corrupted and that his name was used by Paul to deceive the vast majority of “the followers of Jesus” for the last 1900 years?”

            I would answer “No”. But that is not very satisfying. So a better response is these words from the Torah and the Prophet Jeremiah.

            “Remember how Yahweh your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”
            [Deuteronomy 8:2]

            “This what Yahweh says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares Yahweh, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you’ declares Yahweh,’ and will bring you back from captivity.’”
            [Jeremiah 29:10-14]

            As you may know, the whole idea of a “New Testament” was Marcion’s idea. I believe we need to return to the traditional Orthodox Jewish view of 3 levels of authority for Scripture,
            Torah
            Prophets
            Writings.
            with 3 corresponding general ‘levels” in the “New Testament”
            4 Gospels
            Prophecy (Acts & Revelation)
            Letters

            https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/horaces-tree-by-jim/#comment-10858

          • Dina says:

            You keep repeating this lie that this is the traditional Orthodox view. It is the traditional Matthew Perri view. You cannot find support for this idea WITHIN Jewish tradition.

            You can’t find one source that traditional Jews believe is credible that says that any part of Hebrew scripture is less reliable than its counterparts. You have your speculation (in trying to answer your own questions, like why did they call it Ketuvim and not Nevi’im, and so on), and you have your Marcion (who is not a traditional Orthodox Jew, did you know that?).

            It’s worth bearing in mind that the quotes you provided were addressed to the Jewish people and have nothing to do with Jesus or with Paul.

          • Yedidiah says:

            I have often heard the “scapegoating technique” being used by people when they see and must confront contradictions or problems within the NT or within Christianity. As long as it does not appear to be the fault of the messenger, Jesus. “Those people weren’t ‘real Christians.” Paul was to blame. Or Marcion was to blame. Or Constantine was to blame. Or it was the Roman Catholic Church. Or the Baptists or the “liberals” or the “mainline traditional” church which is not the “first century church”. Or the “trinitarians” or the “Judaizers” are to blame. Or the Gnostics or the Docetists or some other so-called heretical group of Jesus followers, even if that group was popular and was no radical, fringe cult group. Or they use the name Jesus instead of Yeshua or Yahushua or Yahvehshua or whatever-shua (as if the message is somehow different & if you use a different name for the messenger). Or those who don’t “speak in tongues” or those who don’t use “the King James Version only” are to blame for the corruption in the text. Or those who don’t use only the “words in red” are to blame (although the “Jesus Seminar” determined very words were original to Jesus and weren’t “red”).

            The situations in the NT were not the same as in the Jewish Tanach or the Christian OT. There is a difference between messages given to a “nation” and that taught by a man to a dozen or so hand picked individuals. There is a difference between those who heard words at Sinai, but failed to keep or obey the words, and between those in the NT who heard the words indirectly from itinerant preachers who might have forgotten parts of the message or may have replaced the words with their own (even the NT writers warn against the many falsehoods and heresies given by followers of Jesus to those who accepted on blind faith that what they heard were the “real words once spoken by the real Jesus”). There was no “Moses” in the NT times to keep the “sheep in line”. In the writing called the “Didache”, you can read the rules that one early Christian community put in place to deal with the many false teachers (many who just made up stories about or teachings from Jesus) and heretics (who intentionally taught the Jesus they wanted to teach). There is a difference between individuals not following the clear and accurate message from God as given at Sinai and as I suggested above, those individuals in NT times that were given an unclear message, and as you seem to imply, for over 1,900 years individuals, through no fault of their own, might have been deceived and believed lies about God their entire lifetime because of the words of Paul, a mere man. According to your hypotheses, a mere man (or a few self-righteous men) can override or negate what you believe were the very words of God and Jesus is OK with those lies.

          • Yedidiah,
            I see that God chose one family of twelve men, the sons of Israel, to form a nation, the twelve tribes of Israel.

            Wouldn’t it be logical to think that the Jewish Messiah would also choose twelve men to form a new family of God, the Twelve Apostles, who would also bridge the gap with the Gentiles?

            God called Peter, the leader of the Apostles, to reach the Gentiles. Paul the Pharisee relentlessly promoted himself, and gave himself the title “Apostle to the Gentiles” but no one agreed with Paul on that. Paul made it up.

            The New Testament letters are not “the Word of God” even though they have some use. The issue of “what is the Word of God” is something that Jesus kept hammering away at, recorded in the Gospels. The religious leaders of His day were ignoring the Word of God, the Torah & the Prophets, and holding onto the traditions of men – human wisdom, proverbs, the Writings, the Talmud. Today they cling to Paul’s letters – Paul said this, Paul did that, what Paul really meant was…. fill in the blank. They treat Paul’s feelings and experience, and their opinions of what they think “Paul meant” as “the Word of God.” It isn’t.

            Parable of the 12 heavenly chalkboards

            What is a common analogy for a permanent decision?
            “Written in stone.”
            What could be more permanent than that?
            How about written in stone in heaven (in other words, for eternity.)
            And what kind of a stone is the most solid, permanent, and unchangeable?
            Perhaps a foundation stone?

            The Book of Revelation written by the Apostle John, chapter 21 verse 14 says… “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostle of the Lamb.”
            Nothing about a “13th Apostle” or an “Apostle of the Gentiles”…. Hmmmm…..

            Parable of the 12 heavenly chalkboards

            Imagine “Wackyjesus” in “Wackyheaven”, built on the foundations of 12 chalkboards:

            “Matthias, you should have developed your skills in writing and public speaking. Your name never appears in the Bible after your appointment as the 12th Apostle in Acts 1. [erase erase erase]

            Actually, the same is true for you Thaddaeus, after you were appointed. You should have hired a PR firm to promote your name and make if famous. [erase erase erase]

            Of course, you both are specifically mentioned in Acts 6:2. “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together.” And this is before Saul/Paul is even mentioned. But let us not confuse the issue with facts. Paul did a much better job of marketing himself, and he wrote about himself hundreds of times. Share of voice equals share of mind. And most Evangelical pastors who read the Bible spend most of their time listening to the voice of Paul, so they become “like Paul.” But I digress…

            James, we had a good run. I didn’t think King Herod would knock you off so quickly. [erase erase erase]

            Oh well. Wow, they’re dropping like flies. Now I’ve got 3 slots open. I’d better buy a case of chalk and some more erasers. I’ll have to change the names on these 12 chalkboards hundreds of times in the next couple of millennia.

            I guess I had better plan ahead, and save a slot for the last Pope, Francis. And the head Mormon Apostle. And I need to save a throne for my mom, or she’ll be mad. And one for Muhammad too. Who needs truth in relationship, when I can quickly get market share, and totally dominate the market, through mergers and acquisitions?

            And one throne for that other guy named Peter. When he was younger, he used to have the great theological insight about territorial spirits and wrestling with dark angels. What was his last name? Begins with a consonant. Sounds almost like he was in the personal transportation industry back in “sword and sandal epic” days… “Peter Charioteer?” Maybe not. This isn’t the “fullest” description of him, but it’s full enough. Anyway, I should save a throne for him too.”

            So what is the application of this parable?
            Beware of the NAR whale – it’s really a killer whale with a man-made horn strapped on top. The only place in the New Testament that mentions anything like “Seven Mountains” is Revelation 17, “seven hills on which the woman sits.” (The Great Prostitute, that is.) Rome is the city that sits on seven hills, the perfect place for Peter the Roman, the New World Pope for the New World Order, to replace the original Apostle Peter in the apostate church of the Antichrist.

          • Yedidiah says:

            When were the 12 (more or less depending on the gospel) disciples first called apostles? Why should God (or rather Jesus) chose one member of the family to die before “the nation of the 12” even got “off the ground”? Which words did Jesus write? Why are all 4 of the gospels written by unknown authors 40 to 120 years after Jesus (of the 4 out of the “many other gospels” which were also claimed to be “the word of God”, and that happened to be selected by men as the “word of God” several hundred years after the life of Jesus and his disciples)? According to Acts, the “new 12” also considered Paul an apostle and they agreed that he was an apostle to the “Gentiles”. There is not much written that shows Peter was “the apostle to the gentiles”. And almost half of Acts is devoted to Paul.

            Such a straw man argument that Jesus, through the NT gospels (according to the tradition of men) makes about “the religious leaders of his day”. According to tradition of some men, Jesus was supposed to be a or “the” King. And according to this Jesus, both the Sadducees (who only accepted the Torah and the traditional “word of God” – & rejected any “Talmud”) and the Pharisees (sages like Jesus is presented as) were so “legalistic”that essentially they “couldn’t see straight”. The “legalism” (or law abiding belief) was all based on Torah (the law). Now the Essenes (who some historical scholars believe to be proto-Christians or the sect that gave rise to Jesus) did believe in apocryphal writings such as the “book of Enoch”, “wisdom of Solomon”, etc, but these writings were also cherished by Christian and even quoted in the NT, including the gospels. The Gospel Jesus uses quite a bit of the Psalms and other writings (perhaps more than the Torah or “word of a God), and much of his parables come from or are adaptations of the Oral Torah (“Talmud”). I have a book (in storage but the title & author’s names are not in my book database) that was written by a a Jewish Scholar and a Catholic Priest that compares probably over 12 of the Parables of Jesus with the Oral Torah of Jews, and so we can see that Jesus made quite a bit of use of this “human wisdom, proverbs, the writings, the “Talmud”. When Christians try to justify Jesus and show a link to Judaism, they show his similarity’s to the Jewish sages Shammai or to Hillel. Yet both Jesus and Paul show their love-hate relationship with Jews (not just the “religious leaders of the day”. Strange that both Gospel Jesus and Paul (and/or Pauline Jesus) share quite a lot, except the type of animosity that they have for the “Jews”). And as far as marketing goes, Jesus (especially in John) outdoes Paul. It might be fair to say that Jesus markets himself more than God (as other posters have mentioned above).

          • Yedidiah says:

            The 3rd from last sentence in my last response was incomplete or incorrect. It should read something like “Strange that both “Gospel Jesus” and Paul (and/or “Pauline Jesus”) share such animosity for the “Jews” (not just the “religious leaders”), yet they are sympathetic to or just ignore the secular government and the Roman leaders. One expects a real messiah to also address his and the people’s real enemies, the external enemies of God and His people. Sometimes the gospel Jesus seems to be saying that the “kingdom of God” should only be established in the mind (one should live a monastic life because the “end times” is coming very soon – years or a few decades at most, not many centuries or millennia).

            About the “traditions of men” (or so called Paulinism or “Marcionism”) being quite common in the gospels, I forgot to mention the “neo-Platonism” or Hellenistic Jewish philosophy of Philo that is found in John (most evident in the concept of “The Word” and incarnation of God in Chapter 1). Of course, an incarnation of the divine spirit in earthly physical objects or beings, is the very essence of idolatry. Philo probably only believed in a sort of “spirit word” and would not go as far off of Torah as the gospels & the NT letter writers did.

          • Yedidiah,
            The words of Jesus and the Original Apostles are unanimous. There are only 12 Apostles, and Matthias is the 12th, replacing Judas. There is absolutely no ambiguity at all about this. Matthew 10:2, Mark 3:14, Revelation (written by the Apostle John) chapter 21:14, Luke 6:13, Acts chapter 1 (where Luke recorded Peter’s voice). There are not “more or less Apostles depending on the gospel,” although Jesus had more disciples who were not Apostles.

            You don’t know the Gospels were written by unknown authors, and you don’t know when they were written.

            You wrote, QUOTE:
            ‘According to Acts, the “new 12″ also considered Paul an apostle and they agreed that he was an apostle to the “Gentiles”.’
            No.
            Neither Jesus nor any of the 12 Apostles ever referred to Paul as an apostle in any way shape or form anywhere in the New Testament. They did not consider him an apostle, because they knew what an Apostle really was, and Paul did not. You have unconsciously accepted Paul’s false definition of what an “apostle” is, and that Paul was an apostle simply because he said so. But this false difinition is not based on the words and actions of Jesus and the Original Apostles in the New Testament. Paul was a missionary, sent primarily to the Gentiles yes, and others recognized this. Before you quote Acts 14, you need to read what else Paul’s Gentile friend Luke wrote in Acts 1, 6, 9, 13 & 15 regarding recognized appointed Apostles, compared to others like Barnabas and Paul who were not recognized appointed apostles.

            You wrote, QUOTE:
            ‘There is not much written that shows Peter was “the apostle to the gentiles”.’
            Right. There is no such thing as “the apostle to the gentiles”. This is title that Paul made up for himself, like Hitler calling himself The Fuhrer.

            You wrote, QUOTE:
            “And almost half of Acts is devoted to Paul.”
            Yes, and a large portionn of the Torah is “devoted” to the rebellious wanderings in the desert of the Israelites. This is not a model of maturity and an example for us to follow, but rather the opposite.

            Luke wrote the Book of Acts. (Paul did not write it.) Acts is not a Gospel, centered on the perfect actions and words of Jesus. But Acts is a narrative, like other narratives in the Bible, revealing the sinful actions and false words of the imperfect people in its pages, like David’s adultery and murder, Peter denying 3 times he knew Jesus, and Paul… by the way, what about Paul?

            Parable of the Wacky New Religion

            “SNAKE WORSHIPPER” and “PAULIST” make plans to start their own wacky new religion, “based on the Bible”.

            SNAKE WORSHIPPER: I think people make too big a deal about Jesus. Who do they think he is- God? Do they think Jesus is the only way to be saved? The Bible says, “So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. ”[Numbers 21:9] People are saved by looking at a snake. What do we need Jesus for? We should just keep it simple.

            PAULIST: Right on! Who needs a “Jesus Movement?” I say what we really need is a “Paul Movement!” But as to your comment, I think Christians would say that the salvation referred to there was only temporary salvation from snake poison, for the Israelites at a particular time. And it pointed to the future, to Jesus dying on the cross to save us from our sins.

            SNAKE WORSHIPPER: Don’t confuse the issue with facts! That verse is my favorite verse in Scripture. It says it right there in black and white. So my personal interpretation of this one verse is the trump card that negates all other verses of Scripture about salvation. Are you questioning the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures?

            PAULIST: Of course, you must be right! If you quote one verse out of context, insist that it means something that contradicts other verses of Scripture, and then accuse me of questioning the inerrancy of Scripture if I disagree with your personal interpretation, than you must be correct. How foolish of me. Please continue.

            SNAKE WORSHIPPER: So that’s it. Just look to the serpent and be saved. Never mind about Jesus.

            PAULIST: But the Bible tells us: “He (King Hezekiah) broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.” [2 Kings 18:4] So Christians would say that this snake had become an idol, which the godly King Hezekiah destroyed.

            SNAKE WORSHIPPER: Bah! Hezekiah was like Judas, who betrayed the true salvation! We snake worshippers know better. We must restore true worship.

            PAULIST: OK. If that is your personal interpretation of one verse of Scripture, then you must be correct. But my favorite verses of Scripture are from Paul writing to the church in Corinth: “In Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me.” [1 Corinthians 4:15-16]

            SNAKE WORSHIPPER: But Christians would remind us what the Bible says: “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach… They love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi’. But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi’, for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father”, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher’, for you have one Teacher, the Christ (or Messiah).’” [Matthew 23:1-3, 7-10]

            PAULIST: Don’t confuse the issue with facts! Those 2 verses from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians are my favorite verses in Scripture. It says it right there in black and white. So my personal interpretation of these two verses is the trump card that negates all other verses of Scripture. Are you questioning the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures?

            SNAKE WORSHIPPER: Of course, you must be right! If you quote two verses out of context, insist that they mean something that contradicts many other verses of Scripture, and then accuse me of questioning the inerrancy of Scripture if I disagree with your personal interpretation, than you must be correct. How foolish of me. Please continue.

            PAULIST: So that’s it. Paul is our father, and we should “be like Paul”. Paul also testified about himself without any other witnesses: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” [1 Corinthians 11:1] So that has to mean that to “be like Paul” is the same thing as to “be like Christ”, and Paul lived a perfect life as a Christian, everything Paul did was 100% correct and everyone around him was wrong, and Paul is our perfect model for life and ministry. Unless all men speak well of Paul and everything Paul ever did, said, or wrote about himself, they are heretics who are denying the inerrancy of Scripture. What other possible interpretation could there be?

            SNAKE WORSHIPPER: Yes of course! That is the only possible choice. Well since we’re starting our own wacky new religion, we need some of the trappings of religion. How about a slogan and a rallying cry?

            PAULIST: I’ve got it! “There is no god but the serpent, and Paul is his prophet”! Our rallying cry can be “Paul is great!”

            SNAKE WORSHIPPER: That has a familiar ring to it somehow…

            PAULIST: We’ll make people take a religious pilgrimage once in their lives- we’ll call the pilgrimage the “Journey of Paul”. It will go from Galatia (present day Turkey) to Antioch (present day Syria) and to Jerusalem, so we can “be like Paul” and do the things Paul did.

            SNAKE WORSHIPPER: Tell me more.

            PAULIST: In Galatia, the pilgrims will go and circumcise some young men, [Acts 16:3] and then yell at them “You foolish Galatians” [Galatians 3:1] because they got circumcised.

            SNAKE WORSHIPPER: But in the Bible, Paul taught passionately, over and over, that Christians should never be circumcised under any circumstances, and Jesus said “Anyone who says ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” [Matthew 5:22]

            PAULIST: What are you, a liberal? Only liberals criticize Paul. Conservatives have an instant, airtight justification for everything Paul ever did or said. If you criticize Paul that means you’re a liberal who is attacking Jesus.

            SNAKE WORSHIPPER: Of course- carry on.

            PAULIST: At Antioch, the pilgrims must have a sharp disagreement and part company with whomever they are with. [Acts 15:39] If they are married, they must get divorced. If they have children, they must disown them. If they are with friends, they must separate.

            SNAKE WORSHIPPER: But in the Bible, Paul wrote to Timothy “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger or disputing.” [1 Timothy 2:8]

            PAULIST: Paul meant for that to apply to everyone else except him. Paul is an exception. Paul is always the exception to the rule. If Paul disputed, he must have been right. Remember in the inerrant Scripture, Paul testified about himself “follow my example”.

            SNAKE WORSHIPPER: Yes of course.

            PAULIST: Luke records Paul as saying “compelled the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem.” [Acts 20:22] So since Paul said this about himself, that has to mean it was true, and we should “be like Paul.”

            SNAKE WORSHIPPER: But Luke, who was personally traveling with Paul to Jerusalem at that time, also wrote “Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.” [Acts 21:4]

            PAULIST: What are you, a left-wing liberal heretic who is attacking Jesus and the Bible?

            SNAKE WORSHIPPER: OK. Lets just keep true to our foundations as a religion. Just look to the serpent and be saved. Paul is our father, and we should “be like Paul”.

  5. Yedidiah says:

    This is one of the best responses to those who desire to lead Jews astray and separate them from the God their “fathers and mothers” knew (still know). It is the one of the most concise and complete and powerful of the articles that I have read on this site. It needs to be read and re-read again and again. If possible, in the spirit of Pesach, share it with all those you care for; those who need the wisdom and/or encouragement and whether they be a Jew or whether they are a non-Jew like me.

  6. Shomer says:

    When I read about a “real kosher Jesus” the idea arises that there must be another “Jesus”, too. At least one. So I distinguish by taking two empty lists filling them in with statements about “Jesus” and of him, one of them headlined with “kosher”, the other one with “chametz”. One list contains everything Jewish the other everything that was invented by Catholic background. The Jewish Rabbi Yeshua might have given Jewish mishnah in the “sermon on the mount” or in the parables about the kingdom of heavens.

    Matthew 7:14 KJV Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

    This e. g. could be a Jewish statement whereas a megalomaniac demigod instructed his catholic followers to make “talmidim” of all nations, even of the Jewish one.

    Matthew 28:19 KJV Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

    Are all nations “few”? I suggest to tell one Jesus from the other.

    Does “Christ” mean “Anointed one”? Which Cohen HaGadol has ever anointed a Greek “Christ” according to the Torah? The “real kosher Jesus”, the Jewish “Yeshua”, might fill in one page of my suggested lists whereas the rest of the so-called New Testament would have to be taken down in the other one.

    Adoni Echad – so, where is the graven image “Jesus” then? Can you imagine a “real kosher idol”? I can’t.

  7. Annelise says:

    Have’t finished reading this yet, but such a meaningful quote- “In the context of devotion the only quality that is relevant to the discussion is the quality of Creator. The Jews were worshiping the Creator long before Jesus was born. Jesus brought nothing new to the table in terms of Creator and there is nothing new that anyone can bring to the table in terms of Creator.”

  8. Fatima says:

    Iam an ex Musli, I followed jesus for10 year
    I realised now that the real god is the god of israel

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