Ambassadors and Prophets
The jungle inhabitants were lost in confusion. Then an ambassador from the benevolent and wise king came and taught them some ways of civilization. Since that first ambassador from the king arrived in the jungle, many other ambassadors visited the jungle and its inhabitants. These ambassadors taught the jungle dwellers about the great king and his noble ways. And many of these ambassadors wrote books so that the wisdom of the king can be preserved for future generations.
At some point in time the jungle dwellers noticed something radically different about one of the ambassadors. All of the other ambassadors emphasized their message and kept their own personality in the background. When they read the books of the other ambassadors they walked away with a deeper understanding of the greatness of the king and of his kind and just ways. But this one ambassador’s book left them with a completely different impression. The book was not about the king, it was all about the ambassador.
The jungle people noticed something else about this different ambassador. Those who believed that he was an authentic ambassador (and there were some jungle dwellers who believed that he was a fraud) were all enthralled by the person of this one ambassador. Those who believed in the authenticity of the missions of the other ambassadors hardly spoke about the person of the respective ambassadors. All of their talk was about the king who the ambassadors represented.
The meaning of this parable should be apparent. Moses, Isaiah, David, and Jeremiah were all great prophets. Moses’ impact upon the Jewish people is immeasurable. Before Moses came along the Jews were enslaved in Egypt. After Moses died, the Jews had encountered God at Sinai, had witnessed stupendous miracles, possessed a just and holy Law and were poised to enter the Promised Land. Yet how often do you find Jews speaking about Moses’ personality? How many synagogues are named after Moses?
Contrast this with Christendom’s emphasis on Jesus. How can you compare the two?
A real ambassador represents his country. A fake one represents himself and uses the cause of the country as a means to advance his own glory.
If you found this article helpful please consider making a donation to Judaism Resources by clicking on the link below.
Judaism Resources is a recognized 501(c) 3 public charity and your donation is tax exempt.
Yisroel C. Blumenthal
GEven if people say J ‘is God incarnate’ so it is different…they could consider how the Christian scriptures call him a reflection, word, and manifestation of God’s glory. Such reflections within the created sphere are never the object of worship.
That’s an important distinction. The Christians know that the man had a beginning, he was born, lived, and died. The word is the voice of authority he spoke with, an authority a mortal cannot have. Jesus always said that he came in his father’s name, emphasized the father’s sovereignty, etc. The passages where Jesus is tempted by the Satan, have him showing himself as the servant of his father in heaven. This parable misconstrues much of what the Christian bible has to say about Jesus’ subordination to the father’s will.
This parable gets it exactly right. Christian scripture is all about Jesus. It’s not about God.
imagine you were brought up as a Christian. All you learn is; “Jesus is God.” Trinity is given. You do not question these “facts”, Otherwise you know that you will lose your faith and go to hell…. I mean, it is HaShem’s miracle that I learned that it is working this way. Today, I even discern God (Theos) from HaShem and I hate “God” – think about that!
Shomer, it’s great that you’ve done some serious thinking, but I don’t know what you mean in your last sentence. As far as I know, God is simply the English translation of “Elokim.”
The parable about the jungle people is great and easily understandable. Yet, when I consider it from another point of view I come to the conclusion that there was a Roman Catholic hallow, a certain St. Paul, that caused the greater damage in the jungle.
If the “New Testament” would contain only plain frauds no-one would believe it. Thus it must contain some Jewish truth so that Jews can be converted (desceived) much easier. E. g. “Jesus” preaches in his “sermon on the mount” this;
Mat 7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
And two minutes before his alleged assention he was so megalomaniac that he taught his disciples this;
Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations,
You cannot teach all nations when they are not disciples; some German translations therfore translate this passage this way; “Go ye therefore and make all nations disciples.” Are all nations “few”? As a result the Church made disciples with the sword. So, I came to the conclusion that we must have two “Jesuses” in the “NT”, one must have brought Jewish mishna and the other one is a Roman Catholic invention, a mixture of Mithras and other pagan divinities, a graven image in a manger and on a crucifix.
I can see a tendency in the Christian bible, today; plain Hebrewism/Judaism in the beginning, mixed Judaism/paganism in the Gospels and plain paganism in the Acts and St. Pauls letters. St. Paul was a Roman citizen and (I repeat) a Roman Catholic hallow. In order to make Jews believe in this co-founder of the Vatican thology, the church (my opinion) in an interpolation made a Jew (tribe of Benjamin) of him.
In addition the “New Testament” does not pretend to represent the HaShem of the Jews, no way! It represents the Greek “Theos” instead. That both, ELOHIM and Theos likewise, were translated “God”, is remarkable, too. Desception has many faces.
Reply to Dina (12:49 am)
If I would tell you to pray to Unkulunkulu – would you do so? Surely not! But in South Africa there are a people that pray to this divinity and they think they pray to “God”. Everywhere in the Tanakh and in the “New Testament”, where we read “God” (ELOHIM/Theos), the Zulus in their Bible find their Unkulunkulu. So I did research in the internet and I was shocked: Unkulunkulu is the highest traditional pagan divinity in this culture. Thus, apart from HaShem, every other divinity is pagan, even the “NT”-Theos.
2 Moshe 20:5 KJV Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I, HaShem thy ELOHIM, am a jealous ELOHIM, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; (corrected “LORD” and “God” myself)
Shomer, I hear what you are saying and I respectfully disagree. Thanks for that very interesting explanation.
Dina, there is no dialogue possible when Christians tell you what they believe, and all you can say in response to them is, no it’s not. All of our theologians mark the distinction between Jesus and the father. All of them! I have even posted orthodox articles that show this.They all hold Jesus to be functionally subordinate to the will of G-d. If you think it’s idolatry, that’s fine, but I have shown that these ideas exist in Philo, The Targums, and in later thought. All you can say, is no it’s not, and that it’s not your tradition. It is impossible to have a reasoned discussion when you confine dialogue to the premise that, “it’s right as long as it’s my view.” That way of thinking will not give you truth, but confirmation of your own opinions. I have made great effort in studying the traditional Jewish perspective, and it troubles me that it’s so hard for you to hear our traditional explanations. If you expect Christians to be open minded enough to understand your tradition as you understand it, and as the rabbis teach it, you should be able to offer the traditional Christian reading and understanding a fair hearing. Saying that the gospels are only Jesus centered simplifies our tradition in an unbelievable way, and overlooks teaching that we hold to be absolutely essential to the proper Christian perspective. If you write that information off as a mere justification, it will be impossible for you to judge us fairly, as you won’t accept our beliefs as we in fact believe them, but as you perceive them.
As long as you keep responding, I’ll keep on dialoguing. If you get tired of my unsophisticated, black-and-white style, feel free to not respond. I mean that respectfully.
In my view, I’ve supported everything I’ve said with strong arguments. Therefore, I reject your characterization as unfair that I have dismissed your words simply with “no, it’s not.”
You wrote: “It is impossible to have a reasoned discussion when you confine dialogue to the premise that, “it’s right as long as it’s my view.”
I hope you didn’t mean that. Besides for not being a very nice thing to say, if I didn’t think I was right and you didn’t think you were right, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. We each have strong convictions and we are trying to convince each other of the strengths of our positions, right?
And in my view, you have failed to refute my simple and unsophisticated arguments.
I have argued with Protestant Evangelical Christians who are every bit as smart and learned as you say they ought to be and they believe that Jesus is co-equal with the Father, at once fully human and fully God.
Are you sure you want to stand by your statement that every single Christian theologian sees Jesus as subordinate to the father and not divine?
There are so many different Christianities and so many different beliefs among Christians that it’s bewildering sometimes to argue with them.
I have argued that Jesus introduced a new type of worship and therefore the warning of Deuteronomy 13 about idolatry applies, whether you believe Jesus is subordinate and not divine or whether you believe he is god.
You are free to disagree, but getting angry at me for my lack of sophistication is not a convincing refutation of this point.
I’m sorry I upset you. You’ve been very respectful throughout, and I truly appreciate it.
Wherever this dialogue takes us, may it be God’s will to light up our way with His truth.
Peace and blessings,
Shower, Jesus is not in any way affiliated with Mithras or real pagan belief systems, please do some real research, do not trust the zeitgeist movie. I know that he is not related to paganism, because I have studied this subject in university. I have a history degree, and a degree in comparative religion. I have written extensive posts on this site detailing these misconceptions, rabbi B has also sen them.
Concerned Reader, when you write that Rabbi B. has seen your writings on the misconceptions of pagan influence on Christianity, you imply that he agrees. I don’t know if you meant to imply that, which is why I am pointing it out.
I don’t have a degree in Comparative Religion, as you know, but when I read the gospels (haven’t read them all yet) they sounded like they had some pagan influence. Things like the custom of the Eucharist and the virgin birth seem to me to come from the influence of the surrounding culture.
No one is saying Christianity is completely pagan, just that it borrowed customs and ideas from pagan religions.
You don’t need a degree in Comparative Religion to make this common sense observation.
I am not angry Dina, it’s just that black and white plain sense does not always work, because things are more complex. I agree that we have convictions, but it is not really a discussion if there is the ability by either of us to just dismiss information we may disagree with blithely as happened for instance when I mentioned Philo to you. Not that I’m laying blame. For example, I brought up the concept of the Logos as Philo discusses it, and the fact that he connected the Logos with Moses. The logos was reflected in Moses. The logos is the wisdom of G-d, revealed in Judaism through Moses, and in Jesus for Christians. You said Philo was not your tradition. Ideas in Philo are in the Targums, and in other second temple Jewish sources still used today, in spite of Deuteronomy 13. In other words, beliefs like those in Philo and John’s gospel, existed before Christians used them, weren’t seen as violations of monotheism or tradition, and yet you say this isn’t Judaism, and is not your tradition. How can we have a dialogue when these facts can be ignored? There is no objectivity if we can just ignore evidence, and say that tradition is right because. Eucharist needs to be understood properly too. The mystical body and blood is seen as a participation in the divine energies by adoption, not some cannibalistic ritual of eating a person as people suggest. Notice that acts 15 prohibits consumption of blood. Is there not to be a meal of thanksgiving (Eucharist means thanksgiving in Greek) in the messianic era? Even the literalness of transubstantiation, (the bread and wine as real body and blood of Jesus) or of incarnation, do not mean what people take it to mean. Transubstantiation means that Jesus is mystically present (the logos is present, and his person is present) when Christians take communion. Eucharist is more akin to the biblical conception of the manna, or the show bread that always stayed warm, or even the well of Miriam. Super substantial/providential bread, providential experience. Bread from heaven. Paul refers to taking communion in vain as crucifying Jesus again. How can a meal of bread carry such importance? I’m not saying that I agree with transubstantiation, but it is a theological reality people are participating in, not a pagan ritual. I know that virgin births existed in pagan myth though most sources of these in pagan myth are post Christian in origin. Also, pagan virgin births are gods cohabiting with women, so not virginal. The gospels portray a sovereign creative act of G-d. The virgin birth is not that G-d (heaven forbid) had relations, rather he created the perfect human nature of the second Adam, as he did the first, with his breath/spirit. Classical Christian interpreters spoke of Mary as the source of rectification for Eve’s sin. Eve had pain in childbearing, so Mary had none, etc. The first Adam came from heaven, so the second comes from heaven repairing the damage done in the garden. It’s different sure, but it’s not pagan.
Btw, fully human and fully G-d does not mean that Jesus’ human nature is divine. It means. That words Christ spoke were G-d’s words, but he lived a human existence, tempted alike with us in all ways except sin. Two natures united without mixture or confusion. Moses was fully human, but the words of Hashem came from his throat, carrying with them the authority of G-d.
You keep missing the point, which is that pagan customs influenced Christianity, not that Christianity is pagan.
Plenty of Bible critics with fancy college degrees have written about this. It’s not a very controversial statement to make.
The idea of virgin births and the concept of transubstantiation existed in other pagan cultures and influenced Christianity, even if Christianity modified them and explained them in such a manner as to make them less repugnant to monotheists (this one find them repulsive even after all your explanations).
This is very harsh language indeed, and I have to apologize for almost surely giving offense.
Dina. I apologize if I came on a little strong, or if I sounded rude or mean. I sincerely apologize. Sometimes though, our assumptions get tested, it’s not meant to be mean. I had to go to university to learn a lot about Judaism, Christian origins, etc. I wouldn’t have learned a lot of the information in Sunday school. I had to step out of what I believed, away from comfort, to be able to learn things I might not have initially understood, or agreed with. As I’ve said, and I’ll say again, I find your tradition to be very wonderful, and fulfilling. There was much that felt familiar, and an atmosphere of welcome that was refreshing. I tend not to like black and white readings, not because they don’t work well, but because they promote an undue sense of surety that I have seen lead to cognitive dissonance and overconfidence. So many Christians I have met couldn’t grasp a halachically observant Jesus until I pointed them to sources that showed him and early followers to be such. Their black and white approach wasn’t horrid, but it caused crucial information to go unnoticed, know what Inmean?
Hi Concerned Reader,
No need to apologize! You and Eric are the most respectful Christians I’ve spoken to. I don’t have a lot of time today, so I just want to say this.
You have stressed often that I need to pay attention to what the theologians have to say. I’d like to challenge you to pay attention to what real Christians say and preach about their beliefs. Tune into a typical religious radio station and listen to simple Christians describe their hearts.
Have a great weekend,
Hey Concerned Reader:
1- Please try to keep your posts to under a billion words. They are way too lengthy! It is a blog here, not a Mark Twain novel. Packing in line after line only serves to obfuscate. If your points have merit, they will stand on only a few words. (Also, put away the thesaurus.)
2- It is shocking that you think the gospels are not Jesus centered- for crying out loud! You’re so busy looking at every little tree that you’ve completely missed the forest!
3- Philo is completely not part of Jewish tradition whatsoever, and the proof is that almost no Orthodox Jew has ever heard of him. Ask them. Here is a tip about the Targum (I’m assuming you mean the Jewish Targum): IF IT WAS CONTAINED ANYTHING THAT AGREED WITH CHRISTIANITY, ORTHODOX JEWS WOULD HAVE LET THE CHRISTIANS HAVE IT AND MADE A DIFFERENT TRANSLATION. Isn’t that obvious?
4- If you would stop being so “Concerned” you would realize what every reasonable person knows: Christians think that Jesus is god, they worship him. ASK ANY NORMAL CHRISTIAN AND THEY WILL TELL YOU THIS! WHY DOES IT MATTER IF YOU PERSONALLY HAVE A DIFFERENT VIEW, THAT DOESN’T CHANGE WHAT EVERY CHRISTIAN THINKS IS TRUE!
5- This blog consistently explains that the God of the Exodus and Mount Sinai considers anything except worship of His person to be paganism, He does not change His mind, and the Jews continue to worship Him and relate to Him as they always did.
I agree with the substance of your remarks but not your tone. Concerned Reader does not deserve this disrespect and contempt, and certainly ought not to be shouted at (using all caps is the equivalent of shouting).
You might not like his style, but Concerned Reader has always been respectful.
Perhaps you’re right: I’ve gone too far. Thankfully, I can hide under the anonymity of the internet. (“Concerned Also” is not my real name.) It is ironic that this string is after a discussion about an ambassador. The role of an ambassador is to represent his or her people. “Concerned Reader,” due to his high level of scholarship, has realized that he cannot be an ambassador for any normal group of Christians. Yet, instead of admitting that he himself cannot be at peace with Christianity, he has done back-flips to reinvent his own religion.
Don’t you think that’s cowardly, to hide behind the anonymity of the Internet so you can be as rude and nasty as you would never dare to be if you were known? I’ve given my name out here on the blog and even my email address, so I’m glad I don’t have that luxury.
I can’t join the conversation more at present, as preparations for Shabbos take precedence.
To be continued…
I’m sorry if my posts are lengthy, but there is simply a lot of information you guys should know, that you don’t seem to.
Christianity is Jesus centered insofar as he is the locus of the Christian experience of G-d, (it is through him that they learned about monotheism, and Hashem after all, but there is only Hashem that he is associated with, and speaks in the name of.) He is also subordinate to Hashem in function and role, but not essence in Christian theology.
Average masses of Christians don’t know any more about their tradition than the masses of moderately religious Jews or Muslims do, so should I judge Judaism by your standard?
3. Maybe Philo (who didn’t innovate his ideas) wasn’t always rejected? The Targums do indeed speak about the Memra (word) of The L-rd, that seeks to remove anthropomorphisms found in scripture, and stands in as a euphemism for G-d’s presence in the world. Judaism still has the tradition of the angel of the presence Metatron who bears a name like his master, and the concept of Israel as the son, whose name is inscribed on the throne. Also the traditions about the Shekinah. Christians did not invent the roots of their ideas, and I find it extremely honest of you to say that if these sources existed, you would just ignore them.
Yes I realize the Jewish view of theology, but I have described elsewhere how merely believing in the unity of G-d, while making one technically halachically monotheistic, doesn’t necessarily equal biblical.
Sorry for the vocabulary being too much, college, not my fault.
Be well Also Concerned
Christianity is Jesus centered, indeed. A major theological problem from the standpoint of Deuteronomy 13.
I’d like to know what you think of Concerned Also’s points here? Philo has influenced Christianity, not Judaism. He was not a rabbi. I think a modern counterpart of him would be a Reform Jew. He was thoroughly Hellenized, and it’s no surprise that he absorbed Hellenistic ideas such as the “logos” becoming manifest in a person, a concept adopted by Christianity but not Judaism.
I absolutely disagree that I should not be able to say who is part of our tradition and who is not. Philo is lumped in with Spinoza and Mendelssohn.
The value of Philo is his writing as a historian of the period, but his theology is rubbish.
Another point of Concerned Also’s that I’d like to get your thoughts on is why you think your version of Christianity is correct? You have dismissed Protestantism and in a lesser way, Catholicism, on this blog, seeming to hold only to Eastern Orthodoxy. Only a tiny minority of Christians don’t believe Jesus is God.
You say you come her to impart information, to educate. Since, unlike Judaism, Christianity does not have an authoritative tradition of understanding scripture, why should anyone accept what you say as the final word, your college degree notwithstanding?
Dina, I only ask you not to understand the faith in the way the simple masses of believers do, who haven’t read any of the sources, or been exposed to traditional sources. Many of them haven’t read Augustine, Aquinas, or other important sources. You wouldn’t want me to listen to the large numbers of irreligious people to get an accurate picture of Judaism would you?
On major theological points, like “Who Is God?” It is fine to listen to anyone who is a traditional Jew, even if he or she is not a scholar. He or she will never say, “Moses” or “Vishnu.” The answer to such a fundamental question will be consistent because if anyone makes a mistake, it will be immediately corrected.
It is amazing that you think that the simple masses of believers can be wrong on such an important point. Do you think that god would ever allow that to happen- to have a religion where only the most advanced scholars have any hope?
YOU ARE NOT DEBATING A FINE POINT. You are asking if Jesus is god, and almost every Christian thinks he is. You have to work IN that framework, unless you want to invent your own religion. (If you’re doing that, may I suggest that you make yourself god? Jesus did. It is fun and profitable.)
Correction: It might not have been so fun for Jesus.
Again, apples to apples. Religious Christians to religious Jews. Yes, talk to religious Jews to get an understanding of Judaism. After all, you’re talking to me. I’m just a layperson.
Concerned Also, all orthodox Christians do understand the difference between the human and divine, and how precisely the title G-d applies to Jesus, and how it does not apply. (Hypostatic union, internal dynamics within the trinity, etc.) I have elaborated on this elsewhere, but people see this information as a mere justification, which it isn’t, it’s the tradition. You can ask everyday Christians, but you won’t get the best answers. We have to remember that many of the early church fathers were philosophers, so some degree of background knowledge is necessary to understand what they wrote I’m afraid. You said that I could speak to any Orthodox Jews, well, you can speak to orthodox Christians. Protestants don’t necessarily know Aquinas, Augustine, or others because they are Catholic, so they are missing large portions of tradition. just like I wouldn’t ask a layperson about Rambam’s guide, so you shouldn’t be asking a lay Christian about the trinity, it really is that simple. If you bring up that many Christians don’t believe in the trinity, they are not Orthodox. That would be like me asking the reform or secular humanist movement about the particulars of Torah laws they don’t observe.
I’m sorry you feel that I have been unfair. as I’ve made clear, I am here to give information, not to take your Judaism away from you.
Don’t worry about taking my Judaism away from me- I have a lifetime membership. I don’t think you’ll have to worry about me taking your Christianity away from you.
Again- “Who is God?” Is not a question which can be compared to a fine point in the writings of the Rambam! It is THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL part of a religion! Why can’t you stop comparing it to small details!
I understand that Protestants and Catholics think that each other are going to hell. I also understand that they are fine with that. What group of Christians adhere to your ideas? How many of them are alive today? My point, as I said before, is that you seem to be alone in your collegiate understanding of your religion.
Btw- umm- we all went to college. I have a masters, like many other people, but I can write without throwing in things like this- “(Hypostatic union, internal dynamics within the trinity, etc.) ” It only serves to confuse and mask the fact that you are not addressing the main points.
Catholics believe he is god, it’s the mysterious trinity thing and there about a billion of them. If a Christian wants to know who god is and if he believes in the 10 commandments he needs to talk with the people who gave us the Torah and the 10
commandments. The Jewish 10 commandments and Christian 10 commandments are quite different especially concerning who God is.
Protestant / catholic 1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Jewish. 1. I am the Lord thy God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
Big difference. P and C does not tell you who god is where the Torah tells us exactly who he is. One could easily insert any god in the Christian 10 commandments.
Catholics have the Hebrew bible, with the Exodus narrative just like you have, we know it is the G-d of Israel being discussed who redeemed Jews from bondage.
I know Catholics believe in the father son and Holy Spirit. There is a difference between the three. Anyone can see where their focus is when they pray. The rosary, gets a 1 prayer to God, 10 to Mary, one to the trinity, and 1 is the creed or statement of faith. The focus of Catholics is not God. The Queen of Heaven as Catholics call her, wins in the focus of prayer. That’s what happens when you take out the “I” definition out of the first commandment. Insert your God here. Mary is only co redemptrix, not god, but the focus is on her. Is essence you ask for her help. My understanding is that the original rosary prayers was the Our Farther only, 150 of them. In time that changed, insert your god here. I say insert your god here because as I would not kneel down and pray to my sister Diana and ask for her prayers neither would I kneel down and pray to Mary, any saint, “J” and ask for their help. My focus is totally on God. It’s hard for Catholics to understand since they have been praying to Mary their whole lives. Anyone can do a quick google on Mary and the rosary and they will quickly see how weird it gets.
Concerned Reader, let’s compare apples with apples.
Theologians of both sides can discuss among themselves or educate the laypeople on things like divine sparks and hypostasis. But you should be able to ask the laypeople of both religions about the fundamentals of their religion and expect to get solid answers.
When I say laypeople, I mean religious ones. Ask any religious Jew about the fundamentals of Judaism, go ahead. You don’t need to talk to a rabbi about that. In turn, I expect I to be able to ask any religious Christian about such a basic concept as the trinity. If you need to be a college-educated theologian to understand the basics of your religion, either there is something wrong with the way you are presenting the religion or there is something seriously wrong with the religion itself.
Here is an example of focusing on small points and missing the big ones.
You wrote, “…angel of the presence Metatron who bears a name like his master…” What you have done is found an example of something that sounds vaguely like Christianity, and thrown it at us, as if we are supposed to view it as a proof for you. Why don’t you say that, since God called the Jewish people, “My firstborn son” that Jews are God! No, we cannot say that. A vague similarity is not a proof. Stop presenting details and focus only on the fundamentals.
As for whether or not I would be ok allowing a simple Jew to define the Jewish God- of course I would! Of course you can judge the most basic tenant of a religion by the beliefs of all of its members! Almost every Jew knows that God has no body, created the world, and took us out of Egypt. That is the most basic point you can make about God.
What is more likely: that every other christian is wrong about Christianity, or that you are wrong about Christianity?
Concerned Reader has consistently “missed the point” over and over. His responses are too long and are written in a style which is unreadable. I decided to take funny jabs at him, and make clear points, after allowing him to control the comments on Rabbi B’s blog for over a month- really! Look how he has responded to my comments! He throws details at me and completely ignores the main points I make- It is unbelievable. Someone had to point this out in a forceful fashion in order to try to get him to rethink himself! Is this the right forum for him? This is a discussion, yet he feels as though it is his job, as he writes above, “as I’ve made clear, I am here to give information.” I think that Rabbi Blumenthal is here to give information- it is our job to understand him. That is what makes it his blog.
correction: he has not been controlling all the comments.
Concerned Reader, Concerned Also made a point here which is worthy of your consideration. To emphasize his words, I will give you an example.
Some time ago, I presented a black-and-white, either-or proposition which you did not like. I argued that it is impossible that two contradictory things are simultaneously true:
A. That Jesus cannot possibly ever be the messiah, as the Jews maintain.
B. That Jesus is the only possible messiah, as the Christians maintain.
Your response to this was to defend the Christian position by saying that in traditional Judaism, the possibility exists for two messiahs, the idea of a second coming is not definitively ruled out, and that the future could hold a different possibility than what I think.
That’s a non-answer. You seized on some small details of the Jewish tradition and ignored the fact that even though two messiahs are possible, and even though the idea of a second coming is not definitively ruled out, etc., nevertheless, according to our tradition Jesus cannot ever be that second messiah or that second coming–while according to your tradition it can only ever be him.
So either one of is wrong, or both of us are wrong–but we cannot both be right. It’s impossible, but rather than face this argument squarely, you flung out some details.
You think it’s too simplistic and unsophisticated and makes me overconfident or whatever, but really, I have to disagree with you. The small details are important, but first we have to figure out the big picture.
Sorry if I come across too forcefully, no offense or disrespect intended.
Who is G-d? The G-d of Israel! If you are Jewish, your experience of G-d is couched in the Sinai event, through Moses, and that is your experience, I’m not disputing that. Christians accept the validity of the Torah however, in light of their experience of Jesus, and how he revealed Hashem to them! If you say that their experience is false, it is now up to you to demonstrate the truth of claims the Torah makes, since the Christians accepted these claims on false pretenses in your view. You cannot merely say that they already accept the Torah as true, so why not believe you. If they accepted it through Jesus in the first place, they need better evidence demonstrated by the true source.
Concerned Also, I am not in control of rabbi B’s blog, he has the power to moderate anything I write, that’s fine with me. I could provide more examples, but not while being as pithy with my remarks as yourself. I am not trying to make anyone feel like I’m saying they are uneducated, if you have A degree, awesome! My degrees happen to be in fields pertinent to the subject matter which is the sole reason why I bring them up. I also brought up the shekinah, metatron, and the idea of Israel as the Son, just to note that we do have language in common, that’s accepted, and it’s not as fringe as people think. I’m sorry if that is not black and white information That you agree with, but I’ve backed it with books, not my opinion!
Are not all Jewish souls said to be sparks of the divine presence, that form a collective entity called Israel, whose job it is as son of G-d to make the earth a dwelling place for G-d?
The thing that keeps being missed is that our Christian doctrines and tradition preserve the extremely important distinctions between Jesus the man, and the word within him, which is consistently ignored in favor of rhetoric and misconceptions. I’m sorry if calling that to attention is a crime!
I’m not the only Christian to have these views, my sources come from scholarship and traditional sources, not just my opinion.
To rabbi B, If I am not welcome to post here, please let me know from your own post, and I will stop posting here right away. I understand the purpose of your blog, but I can’t let well meaning gentile Christians who don’t have your level of knowledge lose faith in G-d because of arguments based squarely on your reading of the pshat, when we both know that there is more to our traditions, the issues, and what counts as proper interpretations, so much information that laypeople never get a chance to read. A 2000 year disagreement is not based on stubbornness, or a refusal to see on either side, but is based on well founded points, convictions, and experiences. I understand that full well and do not wish to diminish that. If i have disrespected, I apologize.
Hi Concerned Reader,
Why is Jesus important to you?
Is he so important that you feel you are closer to Christians who worship him as God than you are to Jews who worship God and ignore him?
Also, if Jesus were seen as nust a created mouthpiece or prophet for our Creator, then the ‘orthodox’ Christian sources wouldn’t pour so much attention onto his person, or so much of the devotion that belongs to God onto his person. Nor would they spend so much time unraveling the distinction between God and a man. Things have been blurred at the level of his soul and spirit and life force, not merely his flesh.
Anyway, the question of why he matters to you is the more important one.
I appreciate that you incorporated more paragraph breaks in your writings. The problem with bringing up the shekinah, metatron, and the idea of Israel as the Son (which, incidentally, I brought into our conversation sarcastically, and you seem to have taken seriously), is that they cannot be used in an argument to justify any part of Christianity’s theology. Why? Because the sages who presented them to the Jewish people also rejected Jesus with both hands and without looking back. Any mention of them that is intellectually honest cannot ignore that plain fact. To say that these concepts are “language in common” is a mistake.
This is very true, Concerned Also.
Thanks for pointing that out! And I hope I haven’t offended you. I agree with all the points you made thus far. And I do appreciate your use of white space :). Easy on the eyes!
Concerned Reader, your argument doesn’t make sense to me. Jesus came to the Jews, who knew their scripture, so they rejected him. Then he (Paul, really) went to the gentiles, who did not know our scripture. So they accepted him.
In other words, they were misled. But being that we were here first, and we have shown why belief in Jesus is an error, and also being that Christians insist it’s not an error–then the burden of proof falls on the Christian to show that he is not in error.
If after a good long journey of truth seeking, the Christian concludes that Jesus is a sham, then it would be right for him to question also the Torah that Jesus believed in.
So when you get to that point, it would then make sense for you to demand proof of the truth of the Torah. But certainly not before.
You wrote something shocking at the end of your comment: “I can’t let well meaning gentile Christians who don’t have your level of knowledge lose faith in G-d because of arguments based squarely on your reading of the pshat.”
Whoa! What are you implying here? Are you saying that Rabbi Blumenthal lacks faith in God and would lead Christians away from faith in God?
If not, please clarify what you meant because this statement is very disturbing! Not specifically about the rabbi but about your attitude to Jews in general. I am sure you did not mean to say this!
Concerned Reader, your statement, “I can’t let well meaning gentile Christians who don’t have your level of knowledge lose faith in G-d because of arguments based squarely on your reading of the pshat,” can also be taken to imply that you equate belief in Jesus with belief in God.
Why would it be wrong for Christians to lose faith in Jesus but continue to worship the one true God of Israel? Why would it be so bad that you “can’t let well meaning gentile Christians…lose their faith etc.”?
The importance of Jesus for me, is that through this man, and his movement, an unambiguous knowledge of the one true G-d as taught by scripture experientially reached the gentile world, and took us from a world of the vast majority of polytheistic religions, ending such practices as the gladiator matches and infant exposure in the process. sanctity of life became an embraced value, even prior to the actual physical existence of a life. The soul was recognized as reflective of G-d, personal, special, not an abstract energy that flows. There was a huge step forward. The ethics of this faith gave the nations a view of law that was not totally abstract, or subject to the whims of dictators, without recourse being available to the little guy to an extent, should abuse happen. The recourse, is the person of Jesus himself. By this I mean, it was harder to have an emperor like Nero after Christianity, because if you don’t pattern your ways after Jesus, you can’t actually act in his name, even if you say you do.
I am not saying that evil has not occurred in Christian history, I would never say that as that would be false, but a step forward has occurred in human history thanks to Jesus. I feel closer to Christianity, not because it is better than Judaism, (Judaism is just as fulfilling to those who know and observe it,) but because I don’t need Christians, their literature, or their testimony, to know that Jesus’ movement had a huge impact on the world, and brought the world the notion of a G-d of covenant, who is providentially active in our affairs, which before that, they had some difficulty believing in.
Jesus the person is so important because of the unique personal in your face historical experience his life brought concerning the providential G-d. He & his life were the locus of this unique knowledge for those Christians who heard about him. While it is true that Jesus is central to Christianity, very important distinctions of meaning (Jesus as functionally subordinate to the father, the incorporeality of G-d, and the fact that G-d is personal while being transcendent, are all maintained by Christianity just as Judaism also maintains in its way.)
I think it would be very helpful to give practical examples of why incarnation and other ideas are so unique and yet so important and vital to Christianity as simply as I can. I will use Zoroastrianism as the example of a view that Christianity contradicts through these doctrines.
In Zoroastrianism there are 2 gods, a good god and an evil god. Both of these gods are less like what the bible considers divine, (meaning they are not seen as the providential source of everything and the givers of commandments ) but are more akin to abstract natural principles that represent natural wholeness. So, Zoroastrianism can claim to be monotheistic in the sense that these 2 principles are part of one abstract unknowable wholeness. They represent the unity that is the wholeness of life. However, because this unity is abstract, there is no notion of a personal being who gives divine law attached. Ethics are rather derived from the constant struggle between good and evil in this world, not the will of a deity outside of it. In fact, the idea of the will of G-d as taught by monotheism makes no sense to Zoroastrianism, because of this constant struggle between good and evil evident in this world. As a consequence, they reject the biblical view outright, even though they may be called monotheists in some sense. Everything from their view of life, the nature of human personhood, etc. is affected by their theology.
The chief objection against Judaism and Christianity from Zoroastrianism’s perspective is related to this question of evil. If G-d has a will, is good, and is one as scripture says and shows, it is argued that the evil In The world, as well as the lack of empathy demonstrated by this G-d, demonstrates conclusively to them that the G-d of scripture does not exist. This is why in spite of and with an apparent lack of details in scripture describing G-d as person, Christianity in fact describes G-d as such.
This is why the person of the prophet Jesus or even Moses, or a righteous man with identical experiences, would be so extremely important in scripturally defining Who G-d is, in dialogue with others, (being called a reflection or embodiment of G-d’s own logos/person.) it is through the unique historical experience of the righteous person that G-d is communicated to us, demonstrates to us that he has a will, and is thus personal, that we are made in his image, and that he enters into history. The person of Jesus as G-d, or Moses as a reflection of the Logos (as Philo taught) is not and never was about elevating the limited human being, his body, soul, or spirit, but about showing uncontrovertibly through their life, that G-d is in fact creator, lawgiver, guide, advocate, through revelation. He is not just unity in scripture’s view.
The word that is G-d (john 1:1) is the fact of the personal experience face to face with G-d, not an abstract wisdom as expressed by pagans. When all Israel was on Sinai, they understood the unity, and worship of G-d alone, on the same prophetic level as Moses (as the patriarchs also had done.) But, Moses and Jesus (for Christians) alone taught that unique name and specific will of G-d that specifically serves as the impetus for our service and allows us to call G-d the one who redeems from Egypt, our father, our king. The polytheists can’t see divinity that way because they don’t have that knowledge in the way of experience that we do.
You may say that I have conflated the Sinai event, and the Prophet, but scripture says that they (the multitude) heard the sound of words. It was only with the unique legislation that Moses took dictation on, and his transmission of it to Israel, along with the Exodus, that showed directly and fully who G-d is, in terms of him as a unique being, active, personal, true G-d as we all understand him. In this sense, the word that is G-d is not the human being, but the word (personal face ,and experience of G-d ) in them, that their life uniquely conveyed to the people.
I’m sorry that this is such a lengthy and breathy response, (Also concerned,) but this is a very important question that Was asked, so I answered it.
Dualism is a pagan concept that Christianity endorses (God and Satan) and which Judaism rejects.
The excessive focus on the personality of Jesus is to the Jew strange and foreign.
Annelise: To me, it doesn’t matter if you “believe” in Jesus, in the stereotypical way, as belief in him has always been about clothing yourself with his example. In this sense, Jews who are doing their best to live by the Torah who are not Christians will be in a better position than shirtsleeve Christians, even by traditional Christianity’s standard. So, to me, it’s not a question of whether I relate to Judaism or Christianity better, but rather, not being able to ignore the historical breakthrough that we saw happen when Jesus came on the scene. It also helps me, that since we can’t find very broad independent evidence outside of the Torah for things like the Exodus, that the experience of divine providence comes to life when you consider that this tiny movement in the 1st century conquered polytheism, and testifies independently that G-d is active, does that make sense?
I thought belief in J was required for salvation? “I am the way the truth and the light, no one comes to the father but by me” “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”. Not before breakfast I hope. This is beyond clothing oneself with Christ example. The catholic messiah has now established his own church and now instead of salvation is of the Jews, it is now salvation is of the Catholics. Insert your god here, he comes with his own church, doctrines, sacraments, rituals, day of worship.
I left one thing out they also have their own 10 commandments. The second commandment being “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”. The Torah already teaches this, but not as one of the 10 commandments.
GlarryB, even Catholics know the difference between Mary as co redemptrix and G-d, and the Eastern Orthodox don’t even believe that at all, and call the Catholics out on it, as do Protestants. The same issues with over zealous veneration of saints exists in Judaism, (the rebbes.) Going and praying at the graves of the righteous, etc. seeking intercession. I was actually stunned by how common that practice was in Judaism, when so much resistance to Catholicism and other Christian views exist. One might even say that saint veneration is one Christian practice clearly traceable to Judaism, ironic as that is. On the subject, the practice of treating Mary as co redemptrix/queen of heaven is heretical according to Catholic tradition. There was a sect in the 5th century in Arabia (alluded to by Muhammad in the Quran,) called collydarians who worshiped Mary alongside G-d, they were rightly condemned for it. Having not been raised Catholic, I cannot speak for them, but many Christians know their faith properly, many don’t. This is the case in Judaism too, and it’s sad. That said, as I’ve said before, the proper distinctions are maintained in Christian theology. I’m not claiming Christianity is perfect, neither is Judaism. Saying that Christians don’t worship G-d misconstrues their worship, and I would submit that if you are a former Catholic, you probably cannot judge them without bias. No offense, as I’ve had this problem because I was raised Protestant. As you said, the our father is a primary prayer. Catholic life is meant to be sacramental/liturgical, and sadly there are armchair religious people. The point, as I’ve stressed and showed, is that these foundations like Logos and Son of G-d are traceable to pre Christian Jewish ideas. You can argue that these ideas do not represent the orthodox norm today, but we do not know today the extent of these ideas in second temple times. To me, roundly dismissing these ideas as wrong when they are so clearly present in the literature, even literature still used today, it becomes a little odd. When you can venerate the fathers. Rebbes, and a chosen emissary, to a degree without fault, but you blame Christians who say Jesus is the word of the father, who bears the divine name, and follows his will, we have an issue.
As I’ve mentioned before, if the Christians were in fact worshipping Jesus out of pure emotionalism, idolatrous motive, and a compulsion to do evil, they would not lay such great stress on defining their belief properly, and what Jesus’ role is and isn’t vis the father. They would not hesitate to worship him, as just another example of a good human being. You can disagree, but when you fail to consider distinctions which Christians themselves hold as essential to their belief system, you misjudge them in favor of a judgement based on your own misconceptions of what they believe.
The practice of Mary as Queen of Heaven and co-redemtrix, is still practiced today by Catholics. What Arabians did in the 5 th century is not revelant today, I would say the tradition is alive and well today as ever just look how they pray to her. The sheer numbers of prayers in the rosary alone. The church teaches that next to the mass the rosary is the most effective. She is not only called co redemtrix but co advocate, though the Vatican would explain she is not equal to Christ but you can see the slippery slope you go down and the danger of not praying to God and giving just him your attention. To be more accurate the Catholic Church pushes the the praying of the rosary big time. Sacraments and liturgy is still there on sudays but the rosary is everyday. The cateshism of the Catholic Church still teaches that Jesus became man so man may become God.
Theosis does not mean we become G-d, it means we gain eternal life, and become sons of G-d by adoption, not nature, catholic teaching reflects that. I do indeed see the slippery slope you mention, it’s symptomatic of many unlearned Catholics just blindly following tradition and not reading scripture, or learning traditional views in much depth.
This is a problem not exclusive to Christians. I realize that is a big problem indeed, I don’t disagree with you there. That said, belief that G-d is one, and alone to be worshipped, can be affirmed without actually believing in the Bible or it’s teachings, or history at all, and that’s the problem that the Trinity and incarnation address in Christian tradition. It actually has a purpose other than mere emotionalism as people allege.
Also, there are millions of Christians who know the errors of co redemptrix/advocate, and as you’ve mentioned, the Church actually teaches the proper distinctions not reflected in popular piety. This struggle between popular often misguided piety and educated religion is as old as religion itself.
There once was a time when the Church held views that would be considered in a Torah context as much more consistent with Judaism and not heresy, such as the Christology of Arius/Ebionites, which regarded Jesus as a chosen mortal agent and adopted almost allegorical Son of G-d. This view however was problematic because outside of a Jewish halachic context, the Roman imperial cult used a model of an adopted mortal emperor who was deified after death. The imperial cult, syncretism, and Hellenistic philosophy also explain why Gnosticism was called heretical. For instance, Incorporeality of the divine suggested to many ancient pagans that the nature of divinities were either wholly natural and tied to sacred places, or wholly abstract or allegorical like Plato’s forms, hence the popular belief in fate, and the common notion that all religions lead to the same truth. There was no such thing as the all powerful G-d, the G-d of covenant or commandment, the G-d who, as transcendent reality, remained interested in human affairs.
I’m not disagreeing with you all, at all, about divine unity, incorporeality, or simplicity. I’m merely noting for you that these beliefs alone do not equal the biblical view of G-d alone. Trinity and incarnation were forced on the Church by the challenges made by the surrounding religions and philosophies to the biblical views of G-d that these polytheists couldn’t believe in, because their world views did not grant very important biblical ideas beyond unity and incorporeality. Christian scripture also requires the traditional interpretations.
Pingback: An Open Letter to “Concerned Reader” | 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources
Pingback: A Tale of Two Teachers | 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources
Reblogged this on 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources.