V. 62. Objection 6.12
Brown presents one of the fundamental Jewish Objections to Christianity: “Judaism is a unique religion. Of all the religions of the world, only Judaism began with a public revelation witnesses by the entire nation. No one and nothing can alter that fact or change the substance of that revelation.”
Brown responds on behalf of Christianity with three arguments: “1) Followers of Jesus also accept the revelation of God at Sinai, recognizing it as the foundation of everything else that follows…” Further on (Page 236) Brown elaborates: “…the revelation at Sinai is NOT the exclusive property of traditional Judaism. Rather, it is the heritage of all who embrace the Tanakh, and that includes hundreds of millions of Christians as well.”
Brown’s second argument: “2) In and of itself, the revelation of Sinai argues against a binding oral tradition – which is the foundation of traditional Judaism – rather than for it.”
Brown presents his third argument: “3) God did not stop speaking at Sinai, and therefore I embrace the words of the prophets and the words of the Messiah, which build on the foundation of Sinai. I should also point out that many liberal Jewish scholars do not even believe that this revelation at Sinai ever occurred…”
Before refuting Brown’s arguments, a question is begging to be asked. Why bring up the liberal scholars? What is the point of reminding his audience that there are people who do not believe in the Sinai revelation? Could there be any other motivation other than to minimize the power of Sinai in the eyes of his audience? If this conclusion is correct (and I do not insist that it is, it simply the only logical answer I can see for my question) than another question presents itself. Why? Why is it important for someone – who claims to believe in Sinai, and who claims a share in the heritage of Sinai – to attempt to minimize the impact of Sinai? The fact that Brown found the need to include the opinion of these liberal scholars in his response to the Jewish argument based on Sinai, leaves me with a strong impression, that Sinai does not sit all that well with Brown. For all of his declarations to the effect that he affirms the revelation of Sinai, something is seriously wrong.
Since Sinai is so foundational to Judaism, and since the Scriptures put Sinai and the exodus at the very center of the faith-structure of Scripture, I will beg the reader’s indulgence, and I will take the time to elaborate.
Before I begin, I will quote some Scripture.
“When you are in distress and all these things have befallen you, at the end of days, you will return to the Lord your God, and hearken to His voice. For the Lord your God is a merciful God, He will not abandon you nor destroy you, and He will not forget the covenant of your forefathers that He swore to them. For inquire now regarding the early days that preceded you, from the day that God created man on the earth, and from on end of the heaven to the other end of the heaven: Has there ever been anything like this great thing or has anything like it been heard? Has a people heard the voice of God speaking to them from the midst of the fire as you have, and survived? Or has any god ever miraculously come to take for himself a nation from the midst of a nation, with challenges, with signs, and with wonders, and with war, and with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with greatly awesome deeds, such as everything that the Lord your God, did for you in Egypt before your eyes? You have been shown in order to know that the Lord, He is the God, there is none beside Him. From heaven He caused you to hear His voice in order to teach you, and on earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire.” (Deuteronomy 4:30-36).
The point of this passage is: That the fact that Israel is the only nation that claims to have heard God’s voice from the midst of the fire, and the fact that Israel is the only nation that claims to have experienced anything like the exodus from Egypt, is supposed to encourage the Jew at the end of time that God will not forget the covenant that He made with our forefathers.
Why? How do the unique claims of Judaism reassure us that God’s covenant with us still stands? What is the covenant that we share with God?
The thrust of the covenant that Israel shares with God is that we are called to be His nation and He declares Himself to be our God (Exodus 6:7, Deuteronomy 29:12, 1Chronicles 17:22). This means that God tied up His own identity with that of Israel. The covenant that Israel shares with God denotes that God will be called: “The God of Israel”, and that Israel will be called: “The people of God”. In other words; a covenant is like a marriage. No longer can we look at the two parties of the covenant as separate entities; the destiny of these two parties is bound up with one another and the very identity of these two parties is bound up with one another. The exodus and Sinai sealed the connection between God and Israel. From that point onward, Israel is God’s bride, and God is Israel’s husband and lover.
Israel’s intimacy with God that was displayed by the exodus and the familiarity with God that Israel gained through the Sinai revelation remains unmatched by any other national entity.
In these verses in Deuteronomy, God is reassuring Israel that no nation will ever match Israel’s claim of being married to God.
The perception of God that Israel acquired at the Sinai revelation is not a peripheral aspect of our covenant with God. Neither is this perception something that fades away with the passage of time. God points to this knowledge of God that we acquired at Sinai as the very heart of our relationship with Him, and God speaks to the last generation and points to this knowledge as a unique possession that sets us apart from every other national entity. This knowledge was not acquired through the handing over of a book, nor was it accomplished through the recital of words. God points to a fiery encounter, collectively experienced as the means through which He imparted this knowledge to us (Deuteronomy 4:35). God also tells us how it is that this knowledge will be preserved throughout the generations. Again, it is not through the recital of words or through the reading of a book; but through the channel of love and trust that exists between children and their parents (Deuteronomy 4:9, Psalm 78:5).
Sinai and exodus were fiery experiences that seared the perception of God into the minds and the hearts of the people who experienced it. They were commanded by God to keep this awareness and intimacy with God alive and to pass it on to their children. Each generation of Jews is enjoined by God to absorb the testimony of exodus and Sinai from their parents, to come to know and love the God of their ancestors and to stand together with their parents in a covenantal relationship with God (Deuteronomy 29:13). The power, the reality and the truth of God embodied in the testimony of exodus and Sinai is so weighty that the last generation of Jews can put their full trust in the God of Sinai on the basis of this testimony (Psalm 78:7). A trust in God that will encourage them to give their lives for Him (Psalm 44:17-23). A trust in God and a love for Him that will carry them through the darkest times (Isaiah 26:13, Micha 7:7,8). A trust and a yearning for God so that when God arises to judge the earth, the children of the exodus and Sinai will cry out with joy: “Behold! This is our God! The God that we hoped for! (Isaiah 25:9). And the connection between God and Israel that was forged at exodus and Sinai runs so deep and is so steadfast, that when God alone is exalted on that day (Isaiah 2:17), His bride, Israel, will be vindicated to the eyes of all the nations (Isaiah 49:23, 62:2. Micha 7:10, Psalm 98:2,3).
Now here we have Brown, declaring that hundreds of millions of Christians share in the heritage of Sinai! Brown seems to be under the impression that Sinai is completely restricted to a book, it has nothing to do with living people, so that according to Brown, anyone who grabs hold of the book can claim a share in the inheritance of Sinai.
Brown has missed the point of Sinai, which is actually the central point of the entire Scripture. Its not about a book, it is about a covenant between two living parties; between the living God, and between His bride, Israel. Just because you are holding a copy of a description of the wedding ceremony doesn’t make you the bride. And if you make it your life’s mission to declare to one and all that the witnesses that God commissioned at Sinai are liars, then how can you turn around and claim the heritage of Sinai for yourself? (Just to remind the readers; in Volume 2, Brown contended that Israel’s rejection of the trinity is not based on what they learned at Sinai, as Israel claims, but is rather: “a gut-level negative reaction to anything Christian” (Page 7).)
Brown’s argument that: “the Sinai revelation does not give a hint of the Oral law. Not a hint!” – is equally fallacious. The whole point of the exodus and Sinai is that words alone, neither written or spoken can effectively communicate a perception of God; it can only be done through a living experience. The whole point of exodus and Sinai is that through a series of living experiences, God forged a nation for Himself that will walk through the corridors of history with His truth in their hearts (Isaiah 51:7) – a living nation, not a series of books.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal
This is so inspiring! What do you have to say to that, Dr. Brown, huh?
Dr. Brown’s assertion that “many liberal Jewish scholars do not even believe that this revelation at Sinai ever occurred” reminds me of Concerned Reader’s strenuous efforts to point out that the archaeological record shows that the Exodus and Sinai could never have happened.
It’s totally bizarre to me because if the Exodus and Sinai never happened, if they really want to believe that, then they’ve pulled the rug of their faith out from under their feet. No Exodus and no Sinai, no Jesus–regardless of whether they came to believe in Sinai through him or not.
Reminds me of Concerned Reader’s strenuous efforts to point out that the archaeological record shows that the Exodus and Sinai could never have happened.
could not have happened on the exact level as reported in the text Dina. The exodus experience (one of exile, birth of a covenant nation, and redemption from harm) is a theme that doesn’t expressly need one event exclusively, such as the national revelation at Sinai to be validated. The proverbial stones cry out about the validity of this experience of the Jewish people, because redemption has happened over and over to the same people, and had the same kind of impact and from the Christian perspective at least, has now been shared with us all.
The Jewish people will always be the unique covenant people of G-d, even the Christian texts testify to this. Even the anti Semites among the Church fathers had to admit the role of Israel, and G-d’s providence, though it was couched in dreadful inexcusable polemic.
May it never be said that the Christians consider the event at Sinai which happened for the Jewish people to be irrelevant as this article insinuates. Our difference of interpretation is in the emphasis and stress laid on this event by the common reading, not a doubt about the validity of it.
Allow me to amend my statement about the experience that Christians believe is “now shared with us all.” I do not mean by this statement to suggest that Judaism is somehow inaccessible, or anything negative, because the truth is, anyone who wants to take part in services may (at least that’s been my experience) and you will find maturity, warmth, and fellowship as long as you are a decent polite person.
Con, I don’t know what you mean by stress and emphasis. Deuteronomy 4 clearly tells us in very simple and clear language that we are to worship God ONLY as he appeared at Sinai. How do you reconcile this with your worship of a trinity?
When will you answer Rabbi B.’s last question to you?
Hi Dina, I’ve been busy over the past few days. I’m working on my response.
Christians do not tell the difference between the Hebrew ELOHIM (God) and a pagan Theos (God). To them, both are the same. They are not aware that ELOHIM (God) had said to the Hebrew people that….
“2 Mose 20:3 KJV Thou shalt have no other gods before me,”
….not even a Christian Theos (God). As long as Christians believe that their pagan Greek deity Theos had reveiled himself on Mt. Sinai – how can they see the truth? As a logical result, they even believe that the “God” of Mt. Sinai was Jesus and the Holy Ghost likewise. They assert that the so-called New Testament is the Word of God but they can’t see that this “God” has nothing to do with ELOHIM. Theos had sacrificed a sinless Jew (a graven Xmas manger and crucifix idol) for the sins of the world – maybe. But ELOHIM for sure didn’t; I couldn’d find such a statement in the so-called Old Testament, not even prophetically.
A. “Iam the lord your god who took you out of the land of egypt”. Thou shalt have no other gods before me”.
1. Words that god said to the people.
B. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
1. Words that man said to the people.
There is a clear choice. You either believe what god says or you believe what man says.
Christianity isnt the only choice for those who dont want to believe in christianity. Theres muslim, morman etc.. but my favorite and the one I think has the most potential is “Horaces tree”. Its about love, gardening, feeding people, building houses and communities, Bridges between people. Horaces tree is every where. He is in our homes, our furniture, churches, schools. Where would man be without trees. It has to be true.
You have given me a good laugh at a time when I could use one. Thank you.
Larry, the difference in relationship between Islam, and polytheistic religions, in their relationship to Judaism, compared to Christianity’s relationship to Judaism, is that none of those other movements arose directly out of Judaism, within an observant Jewish historical context. Further, even if you could eliminate the Christian religion altogether, all of the ingredients needed to create a Christian theology would still exist within Judaism, and it wouldn’t take much to bring it out, nor has it taken much. You don’t need Christians or pagan gentiles to create the Christian religion.The history of Jewish messianism has shown that Christian like movements can and have arisen in Judaism since Jesus, even with some of the theological concepts. When it is said that Jesus was totally false, or Christianity man made, it brings to mind Ezekiel 18:2. G-d being just, does not make the righteous to suffer beyond his purpose. Testing Israel alone with an idolatrous prophet (as Jesus is alleged to be,) is not the same thing as spreading actual salvific knowledge through such a person or movement. Through the Christian movement, polytheists learned about commandments and the messianic idea. If Christianity is man made, it is not the Christians who are guilty of making “man made” ideas, as all content needed to bring their religion about existed in Judaism before and after this movement even existed.
I apologize if you all think this is a distraction, or irrelevant, but from the standpoint of history it cannot be ignored.
Salvation, seriously? The minute Christians rose to power they hounded all non-Christians and Christian “heretics” out of existence. Christianity was forcibly imposed through the might of the Roman Empire. The only ones who managed to survive the vicious onslaught were the Jews, and it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying.
So forgive me if I’m not impressed by the salvation Christianity spread around the world.
By the way, everything you said about Christianity applies to Islam, which was directly influenced by Judaism. Its founder was not a Jew, but he was well acquainted with Jews and the influence of Judaism on Islam was much stronger than its influence on Christianity.
And yes, this is a distraction, especially from the very important conversation you’re having with Rabbi B. May I recommend you get back to that? My ulterior motive is that I’m very curious how you answer his latest question to you.
It is incredibly disingenuous to ignore all the innovations that Christianity has introduced. Judaism does not contain any element of coming to God through one man. It does not require the death of an “innocent” man for atonement. These things and more besides, many of which have been discussed here, are foreign to Torah, inventions by those who poorly understood it. It’s seeds are not found in the Torah but in the imaginations of men. To seize on the similarities of Christianity to Judaism while ignoring its difference is absurd.
I’m aware there are differences Jim, the point is that historically speaking, you don’t need another religion to create Christianity. Judaism says that Christians look to a man for salvation, but nobody takes note about how he is perceived and defined by the Christian community. Christian theology doesn’t limit G-d to Jesus, they don’t teach that G-d’s nature is corporeal, etc. We know that G-d is G-d alone.
Faith reserves the right to suspend logic, and from there, no progress or understanding is possible.
Shalom. No, faith does not suspend logic. Logically, and empirically speaking, Christianity arose out of the myriad ideas found in second temple Judaism. Ideas very close to Christian theology have even arisen within Jewish movements since Christianity, even in more modern times, ergo, logically you only need Judaism to be under a certain set if circumstances in order for Christianity to arise from it. The Christians are practicing what they were taught, and what was brought to them. That’s what I was saying.
So what, Con? That doesn’t make it true.
How jesus is percieved is the topic. For some he is god himself part of the triune god, which is idolatry. for others he is the messiah. Both wrong as has been explained to you now probably a hundred times?
I’m an easily distracted bottom feeder, so what do you mean by “within an observant Jewish historical context”? By observant Jew, do you mean, When a man claims he is god or when a man claims that his teacher, friend, etc. is god? Is a man claiming to be god within Jewish historical context? I’m not sure what you mean.
R’ Blumenthal– That is a devastating indictment of the church (and Brown). Really, it should be a fatal blow to anyone who is a real truth-seeker.
14 ‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.
42 It is a night to be observed for the Lord for having brought them out from the land of Egypt; this night is for the Lord, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations.
So important is the Exodus to the people of Israel, G-d tells us twice to keep it permanently. Twice. If it’s that important, we need to ask why. Rabbi B tells us why. Exodus and Sinai go together. Part 1 and Part 2, if you will. Gathering the Nation, Instructing the Nation.
So how can Brown claim this original nationhood for himself (Argument 1) when he claims allegiance to a new nation (Christendom) that rejects the “Constitution” of the original nation as understood by the original nation (written and oral, Sinai part 1 and 2), based upon Argument 3? (the circular reasoning of claiming authority to build on the original constitution, when no such authority exists).
Obviously G-d continues to speak to the prophets after Sinai. But He never authorizes a new nation to rewrite the constitution, literally and /or figuratively.
In order to be an honest Christian, one must be convinced that the Jewish GOD is bearing false testimony.
But we’re saved by faith alone, you say.
Well, that’s actually Luther, not the Tanahk
Likewise, faith = intellectual ascent is also not the Tanahk. It’s evangelicalism.
The sort of faith the Tanahk talks about is faithfulness to God through a particular way of life.
Read Deuteronomy and keep reading it until you realize what and who a jew is. Then maybe, just maybe you can have a coherent with some of the posters here.
Lachiam, I understand that good deeds matter in our standing with G-d, that’s obvious. As you mentioned, its Luther and many in Protestantism that say faith is alone, and it’s also Protestantism that says faith is only intellectual assent. “Faith” in the NT, in the early Church, and in other denominations of the Church is defined as deeds done in faithfulness. “Not by works” means in Paul’s contextual use that your community affiliation doesn’t matter, one can be a Jew or a gentile and live for G-d, without conversion to Judaism because G-d is the G-d of all peoples. James 2:21-24 teaches that faith requires actions, as does Paul in Romans 2:13-16.
Perhaps you forgot – but we were in middle of a conversation back here – https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/childishly-easy-an-open-response-to-charles/#comment-16014
I am not pressuring you to respond – this is just in case you forgot
I haven’t forgotten rabbi, I’m just trying to figure out how best to articulate my response.
my new email is email@example.com