3 Challenges – excerpt from Supplement to Contra Brown

# 7 – The seventh line of reasoning relates to the prohibition against idolatry.

 

As a general rule, the argument about the authenticity of the traditions of Judaism is not very relevant to the debate between Judaism and Christianity. It is not necessary to believe in the traditions in order to reject the doctrines of the Church. The Bible itself provides more than enough evidence to refute the claims of Christianity. Historically, Jews who rejected the traditions of their fathers, (known as Karaites), were amongst the most vociferous opponents to Christianity. Conversely, there are Christians who accept the authenticity of many of the traditions and still believe in Jesus. It is clear that the traditions are not a central factor in the debate between Judaism and Christianity.

 

There is however one exception to this rule, and that is the tradition that defines the prohibition against idolatry. This tradition has been the central focus in the debate between Judaism and Christianity for the past 2000 years. When Jews chose death over Christianity, and tens of thousands made this choice, it was because they accepted the Jewish definition of the prohibition against idolatry. Amazingly, Brown never addresses this particular tradition in this book! The one detail of the traditions that plays such a critical role in the debate between Judaism and Christianity is not mentioned in this volume that purports to defend the Church against Jewish objections to Christianity that are based on the traditions!

 

This is all the more surprising in light of a communication that took place between Dr. Brown and myself ten years ago.

 

I presented the following challenge to Brown in August of 2001. (At that point in time, his projection for this series was that it would only contain three volumes, and it was the third volume that would include his arguments against the traditions, hence the reference to the third volume as opposed to the fifth.)

 

I will present you with a challenge. You are presently preparing the third volume of your book for publication. I did not see it, but I can tell you what it does not contain. I will list three objections to the Christian belief system which you were not planning to mention. Two of these objections lie at the heart of the Jewish resistance to any belief system aside from their own. Here they are.

1) The medium through which we learned that scripture is authentic is the testimony of our parents. These same people testified to us that there is a body of unwritten Mosaic law which is crucial in understanding how God wants us to live. If they lied about these unwritten traditions then why should we believe their testimony about scripture. (The Ibn Ezra articulates this argument in several places)

2) The one item which the Torah itself is most explicit and clear that we are to follow the testimony of our fathers, is the issue of “who are we to worship”. Scripture tells the witnesses of Sinai, “you should make it known to your children and children’s children”. It is obvious that God considered this a valid medium of transmitting information, that is the chain of parent to child. Once God explicitly designated a medium of transmitting information, we can be sure that He will ensure its preservation. Until today jews testify that God revealed Himself at Sinai as an absolute unity. All those who deviated from this tradition never claimed that with their worship they follow a tradition which goes back to Sinai. (This is the main point of the Jewish insistence on clinging to their belief system)

3) An honest reading of the NT will reveal that Jesus and his followers believed in, and observed the unwritten traditions which the Jews accepted as God‑given. (I hope to substantiate this at length later in this letter)   

 

At the time, Brown responded by accepting the challenge and assuring me that he will address these arguments in his upcoming volume. But he did not. He devotes one paragraph, in an end-note (#131) to the first objection (- see our response below in point #16). He touches upon one  limited aspect of the third of the three Jewish objections in the main body of the book (6.15 – see our response in point #69), but he completely ignored the second objection.

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45 Responses to 3 Challenges – excerpt from Supplement to Contra Brown

  1. Annelise says:

    Hi Rabbi Yisroel… could a Christian respond to those challenges like this?

    1. The testimony of parents isn’t a valid witness because it can change over time and even when it contains much truth, it will never be infallible or perfect; it will always contain human error and imagination to some extent. We each need to look to something more objective than merely the things we have been taught. Protestant Christians don’t accept all Jewish traditions, nor do they accept the scriptures as a matter of tradition; rather they believe that the scriptures are a gift of God through (and sometimes despite) human history and that they attest to their own validity more strongly than they think any tradition could.

    2. What if the commandment to teach it to their children is not actually the primary medium that God had planned for transmitting the revelation? You could say that even if entire generations of Jews were lazy with the testimony or changed it, the presence of the scriptures would allow people to come back to it properly. Jews are commanded to teach their children, but God can preserve His word with or without their obedience in that matter. As to the idea that Jews testify to God revealing Himself as an absolute unity, Christians believe that the concept of God in Tanach is less developed than their view yet not contradictory to it… simply less articulated.

    3. The idea could be that Jesus and the disciples believed in some of the oral traditions as true and good, but rejected others; that is, that the Jewish tradition is fallible but full of wisdom in places and that Christianity helps a person to distinguish within it.

    I think that there are some good refutations of those three points, but could they be fair responses specifically to the challenges you made?

    Blessings.

    • Annelise
      1) The question is – what medium did God use to teach us that the Scriptures are His word?
      Concerning the idea that traditions could be faulty – so they can – but then who says that these books are authentic, that their authors were Godly men, and that they were indeed written by those whose names are appended to them?
      2) The Scriptures themselves testify that the nation is the primary medium that God designated to transmit these truths – and that this truth as preserved by the nation is the yardstick by which to evaluate the validity of a claim to prophecy
      3) I spelled out to Dr. Brown and repeated in Supplement to Contra Brown that the Christian Scriptures testify (for whatever that is worth) that Jesus accepted the rabbinic definitions of God’s law and he freely quoted from the rabbinic law as he quoted from Scripture. The idea that the rabbinic definitions of Mosaic law is something arbitrary clearly didn’t occur to Jesus.
      In short – These challenges are only the summary of questions – each of which I spelled out at greater length in Supplement to Contra Brown.

      • Annelise says:

        I think that my attitude to point 1 comes from my encounter with Catholicism when I was in Christianity. I accepted that their ideas about tradition made a lot of sense in light of early Christianity, but I eventually couldn’t accept their authority in the places where it had clearly contradicted scripture at places in history and where it had not been anywhere near infallible in its responses to the most extremely important issues. So I concluded that witness-bearers aren’t the only way that scriptures and prophets can become known to be from God.

        I guess there’s also such a fine distinction when it comes to the scriptures as a checker for the nation that, in general, points to them. Is their testimony really so independent of the written words, or is it preserved and even- over time- improved by them? How faulty can it be in any generation before the chain is considered broken? And things like that.

        • Annelise says:

          Especially since one of the main ways we can tell who the righteous Jews are is by seeing who is following the things recorded in the writings.

        • Dina says:

          Hi Annelise,

          If I may interject, you wrote, “So I concluded that witness-bearers aren’t the only way that scriptures and prophets can become known to be from God.” But your conclusion was based on interaction with people who were not appointed by God to bear witness to His testimony.

          You also asked, “How faulty can it be in any generation before the chain is considered broken?” God promised the chain of transmission would never become faulty and would never break. See Isaiah 59:21 and Psalms 78:5-7.

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Dina,

            I definitely am in a different place now from where I was then. But I was driven then to see it as a possibility, and to me it did seem possible, that the people-and-scriptures could be verified by means other than simply tradition. After all, even religious Jews weigh up the words of their ancestors based on criteria more than just “they are my parents”. So I’m not wholly convinced by the argument (on its own) that without a tradition pointing to the scriptures, no one could know that they matter.

            If it’s not infallible, then I think the question of “how faulty” it can be is a fair one. It can be valid and valuable while still being in need of correction. How much so?

          • Dina says:

            It is also fair to ask, why is this a question that has never troubled the Jewish people?

          • Annelise says:

            I think that every time a Jewish offshoot emerges there is an attempt at correction, getting closer and closer to the real thing, and it is almost always surrounded by controversy because of attempts not to lose the precious tradition of previous generations. It’s a constant balancing act in the Jewish experience.

          • Dina says:

            Yes, but why are Jews not anxious about it? Why are they so confident? Why does the question you ask not even occur to them?

            While we might condemn a new sect that appears heretical, why are we so unworried about losing our tradition?

          • Annelise says:

            Although I don’t see Jews being worried about the tradition being lost on a wider scale, there are many who strive not to lose it for themselves and their families. How about the spectrum between Ultra-Orthodox and Modern Orthodox? Even without cries of heresy, there is anxiety about how to strive for utmost halachic relevance (that is, focus and growth in what really matters) and also not slip away from valuable things by accident. It has happened numerous times that well-meaning rulings have, in retrospect, either been too harsh or too lenient.

            Also, in this question we are really going back to a matter of whether a religion called heretical by the mainstream could in fact have a real basis. I don’t believe it does, but that’s what the discussion is about. So the feelings of safety held by the mainstream in their tradition are either true or false, but that would be part of what CR is disputing.

            I am only asking certain questions because I want to understand the strength in Rabbi Yisroel’s resonant points. I’m not clear on whether anything is being overstated, and if it’s not, then I’m keen to look at it more intricately.

          • Dina says:

            Okay, I’ll answer the question, then. The Torah insists that the primary transmission be from parent to child. Since God commands it, we are confident that He will ensure that the transmission remain pure and that He will sort out the elements that seek to change what may not be changed.

            In other words, if God isn’t worried about His choice of how to preserve the chain of our tradition, then we sure as heck aren’t worried, either.

          • Annelise says:

            In other words, Orthodox Jews believe that God is preserving something in their nation, but each generation still feels that there are certain areas to improve and get closer to truth in.

          • Dina says:

            There is always room for improvement, but I see that as a completely separate issue.

          • Concerned Reader says:

            Dina, if I may interject to your question to Annelise “why has this question never bothered the Jewish people,”

            I would say that it’s the same reason that this question doesn’t bother most people in most religious traditions. Christians, Muslims, and In Judaism, faith, ie implicit trusting faithfulness is seen as a virtue in proper context. Whether we speak of trusting a Torah Scholar, or a Christian trusts the pope, it’s trust, so there isn’t much of an internal desire to question deeply held convictions.

            How many Catholics are troubled by papal authority in context? How many Times in Jewish history has the issue of the proper place of authority come up? (Debates between Sadducees and Pharisees, debates about writing the oral Torah down, debates with the Karaites, the debates and initial resistance to Rambam’s ideas in his generation, Hasidim and Mitnagdim’s perspectives on approach, etc. nobody is immune to thinking they are in the right.

          • Dina says:

            Hi Con,

            None of these other religions have both God’s instruction to preserve His testimony through parental transmission and God’s promise that this type of transmission would never fail.

            By the way, I’m going to call you out on something. You have a tendency to drop out of arguments, joining new ones after you’ve been quiet a while. It’s frustrating that you don’t engage until the issue is resolved or we agree to disagree. What gives?

          • Annelise says:

            Room for improvement was basically the gist of my original question. I think it’s what Christians are talking about, too. So the question is more, how to *define* to what extent aspects of the surviving Jewish tradition are foundational and to what extent they can be good but partial.

            I think that gets to the heart of CR’s thought elsewhere in these comments about overemphasis.

          • Dina says:

            Annelise, by room for improvement I did not mean room to improve our received tradition. I mean room for individual as well as national growth in character and in adherence to Torah observance.

            As for the rest, let Hashem sort it out. He always has; history testifies to that.

  2. Concerned Reader says:

    Annelise, I think many Christians would raise those points you listed, but I would add one to #3

    There is inherently absolutely nothing wrong at all with Halachic living, or rabbinic commentary on scripture, as not only is it wise, but it breathes life into religion through time, keeping it relevant. It has truly kept the Jewish people set right, strong, and resilient (all at times while the Christians have been lazy, hard hearted, bigoted, and violent.) I wish for the day that all Christians can appreciate, and support Judaism for its virtues in this regard, and aid people in observance. While many Christians may agree with premise 3, the fact that Judaism emphasizes the practical living of Torah, is the very essence of what makes Judaism so resilient. That’s why G-d gave the Torah text, it’s the book of testimony. Deuteronomy 31:19 notes that its text is to be the witness when people fall short. We all fall short, so even if your a Christian, the law should be perpetually relevant. (Particularly if Christians would learn the history of their movement.)

    I had a street preacher once ask me why a Christian would need or see the use of the practical aspects of the law of Moses. I told him. “What if everyone on earth believed in JC, went to Church, etc. but not one person actually lived as he did, knew how he lived, or understood the lived context of his words, etc. Would his work really mean anything in that case?” He clearly and quickly said no. I said, “isn’t it ironic to you then that the one people on earth that actually live life as he lived, and know these things are those that you accuse of not knowing?” I said. “Where do you think we got any of this information from?” We both have religious history, but a mindful person cannot rob Jews of all they have done for the world, and continue to do.

    • Concerned Reader
      Your “respect” for Judaism is unappreciated. Let me ask you a question – God declared that we are His witnesses (several times in the book of Isaiah as well as in Deuteronomy 4:35) – what is our testimony?
      And what weight does our testimony carry if people like you can redefine it at will – by telling us what is “good” about our testimony and what is not.
      Let me reiterate my question – What was the covenant that God shared with the Jewish people before Jesus came on the scene – and what did God do to ensure the preservation of the integrity of that covenant?

  3. Concerned Reader says:

    Let me reiterate my question – What was the covenant that God shared with the Jewish people before Jesus came on the scene – and what did God do to ensure the preservation of the integrity of that covenant?

    The covenant was to worship G-d in following his biblical ethics/laws, circumcision, and repentance with a contrite heart when you have done wrong, though the Torah makes provision for Gentiles too as you know. The text is what G-d gave Israel to preserve the testimony as noted in Deuteronomy, and later in Joshua. The people’s commitment to the law was renewed multiple times, as the Circumcision at Gilgal from Joshua 5 shows us. As I’ve noted to you, your emphasis on the role of the people as the means of preservation, and your reading of national revelation is not wrong, but is overstated. No disrespect intended, in cars you couldn’t tell.

    I’m sorry If anyone feels offended that I have respect for Judaism, but also respect for my own tradition.

    • Dina says:

      Hi Con,

      If you really understand both religions, you cannot respect both. Since we cannot both be right–a point I have pressed you on but one with which you have not engaged–then one or both of us is wrong. It doesn’t make sense to respect falsehood. Now, you can respect the practitioners, because you can assume that they don’t know that their religion is false, but to respect their religion when you know it to be false is silly.

    • Concerned Reader
      The covenant was worshiping G-d – expressing that worship and devotion through His commandments which include ethical laws amongst many others – your answer was pretty good – but you missed the point. By entering into a covenant with Israel – the assumption is that Israel can identify her divine partner – and every place the Torah speaks of identifying G-d we are referred to the national “knowledge”. Never, not once in all of Scripture are we pointed to the text to “help us” identify our divine lover.
      Of-course the Torah has provision for gentiles – who are human beings created in His image.
      The primary purpose of the text was to preserve the record of the curses of the covenant – but as I pointed out – it is never pointed to as a repository for identifying G-d.
      Now how do you expect me to take you seriously when you tell me that I “overstate” the role of the nation in preserving the testimony and the covenant – when it is obvious that you had no clue of the role of the nation in this endeavor until you encountered this blog?

  4. Concerned Reader says:

    The one item which the Torah itself is most explicit and clear that we are to follow the testimony of our fathers, is the issue of “who are we to worship”. Scripture tells the witnesses of Sinai, “you should make it known to your children and children’s children”. It is obvious that God considered this a valid medium of transmitting information, that is the chain of parent to child. Once God explicitly designated a medium of transmitting information, we can be sure that He will ensure its preservation.

    You say that G-d designated parent to child transmission as the seemingly main valid means of transmission of the whole truth of the revelation, but G-d has texts written, explicitly because he knows people will fail in their observance and that the text will be a fact checker of sorts. Even the best kept tradition is subject to human limitations, which is why we have texts, and prophets too.

    The first set of tablets would have performed this role, if not for what happened with the calf. If the parent to child transmission was the chief means, why does it fail in its stated purpose? The very notion of the faithful remnant illustrates not to rely on a majority of people.

  5. Concerned Reader
    texts do serve as a sort of “checker” – I would agree with that – but as I pointed out in a previous comment – the text is never described as the witness that will help us identify the One with whom we stand in a covenantal relationship.
    I never said anything about following a “majority” – its not about a majority – its about testimony – none of those who deviated from our covenant ever claimed that they were following a different testimony

    • Concerned Reader
      furthermore – the parent to child testimony did not “fail” in its stated purpose – G-d always preserved living testimony in His nation so that the nation can maintain its covenant standing with G-d

      • Annelise says:

        I’m still learning from this conversation, but I think CR there is an extra point to consider. Whatever portion of the testimony is maintained either by the people or the text… it is clearly a Torah teaching that the rulings of the priests and judges coming after Moses should be followed. To me it makes sense that the children of the community that asked the question would also need to follow them, unless the priests and judges re-ruled. This doesn’t mean that all the opinions of the rabbis are correct, but it does mean that their teachings (which follow the last Sanhedrin, and await the next) are legally binding on the followers of Torah.

        I think there can be three Christian responses to that. One would be to say that since the coming of their ‘messiah’, things have changed form: Torah is not to be followed in the same way anymore but has become wholly internalised rather than ritual, even for Jews. A problem with this view is that Moses spoke of Israel returning to the Torah as he had commanded it in the time of return and restoration… and anyway, there’s not even anything clear in the Christian scriptures that would define the eternal signs of ritual as no longer binding. The commandments should be seen as still standing.

        Another response would be to say that the disciples took over the role of defining halacha; that is, after Jesus’ death, they took over the ‘seat of Moses’. But the only thing you have close to apostolic tradition is in the Catholic/Orthodox churches and for a long time they weren’t even aware of the fact that Jews need to keep Torah.

        The third would be that individual Jews can now keep Torah through the leading of the holy spirit, specially in a time when the Temple doesn’t stand, and that the past rulings of the Sanhedrin can be over-ruled by such self-instruction. This view in particular is just foreign to relevant the commandment in Tanach.

        So essentially, even if you don’t follow the consensus opinions of the Talmud, you’ve still got to see that its consensus laws (and the boundaries of its disputes) are more than just ‘wise’; they are binding, because they record the teachings of the last Sanhedrin, which haven’t been revoked or revised since.

  6. Concerned Reader says:

    Anneliese, there is another response that is very historically possible. Even the “ecclesiology,” or social structure of the Torah is diverse. Meaning, just because the judges make rulings, all judgements don’t always fit all contexts, and there isn’t a statement of full hierarchy, ie anything like the pope. There is diversity( like in any normal system of law.)

    while it’s true that the Sanhedrin is appointed to rule in civil, religious, and societal matters, it is true in a context of cooperation together with the priesthood, and also with the people. The text says, IF a case is to hard for you, go to the priest or the judge. Who has more Authority? Tge Priests? Or The Judges, Moses, or the text? Or is the authority shared between them, and local community leaders, or even the people at large? See what I mean? We know verifiably from history that the notion that there was only “one authoritative body to rule,” was argued by the Sadducees at one time, (and the Pharisees opposed it,) and these questions have continued through history. You have the text, the Judge, the priest, the prophet, and the people, to stress that Torah is dynamic, ie nit meant to be standardized, overmuch, beyond what’s written.

    • Annelise says:

      CR, it’s true that halachic rulings are context-related. But many rulings by the Sanhedrin were made to be relevant to the entire Jewish people, or given enough definition that it is clear where and when they must be applied. Until the Temple is rebuilt, those laws and principles remain binding- not just wise. That was the point… I was making it to try and help explain why R’ Yisroel felt you were paying lipservice to the value of Jewish traditions instead of seeing their full importance.

    • Concerned Reader
      While the text itself allows for deviation and correction in the community of witnesses – the same text attests to a central body of leadership – Leviticus 5:15
      History also tells us that we needed correction and that this was achieved by reconnecting to the testimony – both written and oral. There is no question in my mind that we need correction now (or else we wouldn’t be in exile) – and that it will be achieved the same way – by reconnecting to the testimony both written and oral.
      My problem with your position is that if you ignore the oral and you allow your own interpretation of the text – then the testimony of the text itself becomes meaningless – because texts can always be interpreted differently – and furthermore – the covenant that we share with God is predicated on a testimony preserved in the heart of the nation as attested to by the text in Deuteronomy 4 and Psalm 78 amongst others.

  7. Jim says:

    A thought experiment:

    Imagine that you have never heard of the Bible. You have an idea that there is a God, and you have deduced from this certain ethical behaviors–refraining from stealing, killing, and the like. But you do not have any religious practices that cannot be deduced logically, because you have had no communication from God.

    One day, you board a plane to go on vacation. There is an accident, however, and the plane goes down. You survive on a raft and eventually wind up by yourself on an uninhabited island. You are able to make a nice life for yourself, though you are lonely.

    After a few months, you are surveying a part of the island which until now you have not visited. You notice a strange chest. Excitedly, you open it. Inside there is a book with the following words printed on the cover: “The Commands of God as Issued to His Holy Prophet, Horace”. Curious, you open the book and read it. According to the book, God has forbidden theft and killing and the generally unethical behaviors that you have reasoned out yourself. But also, it tells you that every Tuesday at dusk, one is to take a piece of fruit, cut it in fourths, and burn it upon a rock in acknowledgement of the One Who Makes Fruit Grow.

    Do you accept this book as divine? Do you offer a piece of fruit up every Tuesday at Dusk to fulfill the divine command?

    Jim

    • Dina says:

      Good old Horace…I’m starting to like this guy.

    • LarryB says:

      I don’t know if it would matter being all alone, but it surely would get much tougher if Horaces tree started talking to you was well.

    • Concerned Reader says:

      A further question Jim, do you do what this book says because some people (whether 1 or one million tell you they received it, or because you can actually test the claim without relying on any one group’s testimony?)

      • Jim says:

        Con,

        One question at a time. Do you believe the book’s own testimony about itself?

        Jim

      • Jim says:

        Con,

        It should be mentioned, by the way, that one person is not equivalent to one nation.

        Jim

        • Concerned Reader says:

          In the case of any nation or people that already (through an ancestral transmission) hold to a very strong belief, about a very sensational claim, it is indeed very close to the same phenomenon as a given sensational claim by an individual Jim.

          Abraham for instance had a very sensational individual claim long before there ever was an entire nation (of his descendants) who later made a similar claim.

          We see the phenomenon Globally, even on a national scale, where people believe in astrology, and folk medicine. Some whole nations in fact believe in dragons, (such as in the Asian countries,) and up until we knew about dinosaurs, the actually had bones to substantiate their claims. some cultures believe in aliens, Yeti, etc. (to the point of believing with certainty that certain landmarks show irrefutable evidence of the reality of their various hypotheses etc. ) The number of people, or the national nature of a claim does not Ipso facto make the claim true. Look at how groups like the Sioux nation look at the black hills? Many of the Native American tribes have national sacred histories, dealing with national sacred space.

          The distinction between a national claim and a mass delusion is also a pretty artificial distinction as these things above show. Do I believe in the book’s testimony? Yes, but clearly we are reading it as having a differing emphasis, and through our respective lenses. I don’t deny the historical viability of Judaism, clearly you should know this based on what I’ve said, but I’m not accepting it just because the people say so. I’m looking at history, independent witness, archaeology, and scripture together.

          • Concern e says:

            And, as you know, nobody here would accept what the Christians say just because they say it either.

  8. Concerned Reader says:

    Sorry the keyboard freaked out, concern e is me. Lol

  9. Jim says:

    Con,

    Inasmuch as you will not answer the question the question directly, I feel at liberty to interpret your answer. Your answer comes out to saying: “No, you can’t blindly trust a book, but you can’t trust a people either.” We are not to the second part, so we are going to ignore it for now.

    The point is that a book by itself does not establish truth. By itself, it is an insufficient means of transmission (which you have, in your own way acknowledged.) Something else must establish the book to be true, and then the book becomes useful. But it cannot attest to itself.

    So, then, how does one know to follow the book? The Jewish people are the transmitters of divine truth. They attest to the book. The book rests on them, not them on the book.

    Note: this is about the transmission process. The book does not transmit itself. The people do.

    Further note: this was not about whether or not Christians have insufficient evidence for their faith while the Jewish people do. But, because you bring it up, I will address other means of verification for the texts and compare the two. I will also address your incessant need to tear down the foundations of Torah to build up your own unfounded faith. For someone who “respects” Judaism you spend a lot of time trying to show how silly it is.

    Jim

  10. Concerned Reader says:

    you spend a lot of time trying to show how silly it is.

    It’s not that Torah is silly Jim I’m just showing you that you can’t prove more premises than the Christians can when under the same microscope. You feel that Christianity fails because of many premises, but then you implicitly trust Judaism, even when it fails under the same criteria you have set up.

    The book clearly says the people transmit the text, but it also says plainly that the text testifies against the people to set them straight when they fail. The point is, it’s a cooperative effort, a collegiate effort. Notice also, I wasn’t picking on Judaism, I was saying that ANY claim needed to be examined critically. I’m assuming you don’t believe in Dragons just because the Chinese people as a nation show you bones and say, see! Dragons are real, we actually have proof!

  11. I have answered your question directly Jim. Do I believe in the book’s testimony? Yes, but clearly we are reading it as having a differing emphasis, and through our respective lenses. You view the people as the primary mode of transmission, while the book itself intimates that transmission is a collegiate effort, a dynamic relationship between the people and text.

    • Jim says:

      Con,

      Because you have introduced into the conversation the idea of independent verification (independent from testimony) I will address this question briefly.

      I agree with you that if we can test a text by other modes of verification that can be useful.

      The NT gives us a particularly useful tool in this regard. It claims to align with the Torah. So, since it claims that the Torah is true, I can line up their teachings and see if their claims are true. And the NT fails this test. It claims that God cannot forgive without a human sacrifice. This is not true, according to Torah. It directs worship to a human being. This is a violation of Torah. The man-god of the Torah was a Jew who violated the Sabbath and taught others to do so. He did not honor his parents. He petulantly cursed fig trees. He stole pigs. (Many of these points you have left unanswered by the way, as Dina brought to your attention.) He violates the very Torah he claims to fulfill.

      You claim that worshipping Jesus is not idolatry, but you do not take your definition from Torah. You take your definition from pre-Christian pagan practices. But if the Torah is true as your religion asserts, then that is where the definition of avodah zara must be found. And the Torah forbids worshipping a god the Jews did not know in a book emphasizing that God did not reveal Himself to have any form. You will claim that before Jesus your people were worshipping Zeus. You might as well brag that you no longer worship Zeus, you worship Caesar Augustus (although a lesser worship than that you give to God.)

      The hero of the NT does not only violate the Torah and teach others to do so, he rewrites it in his own image. He takes a festival meant to commemorate an act performed by God for the Jewish people and makes it about himself.

      Moreover, the Torah system has a method for testing prophets. Jesus considered himself above such scrutiny, castigating those who did not accept his claims on his mere say-so. When he did haughtily offer a sign, he did not fulfill it. He offers “an adulterous” generation a sign, speaking with contempt for those who asked, the sign of Jonah. But after he had been dead for three days, he did not present himself to them to establish his credentials. He did not bother to fulfill his own sign, showing disregard not only for those who asked but for the Torah itself.

      He also failed to prove himself a prophet when he did not return within the timeframe of those alive during his life. Some Christians have tried to say that he did not mean that he would return to rule “before this generation” passed away, but that was clearly the understanding of the Church. Paul, another unverified prophet, who had visions of Jesus and received his message directly from him, wrote that people should no longer worry about longterm problems like business and marriage because the end was nigh. He too is a false prophet, and his works may be justly ignored.

      The NT has been quite helpful to us in regard to testing its validity in light of the dearth of witnesses. Your undermining of the witnesses of Torah is vain. If you have no Torah, you have no Christianity. However, if the Torah is true, you have no Christianity. Christianity is a logically untenable religion, because it appends itself to Torah. If it had not done that, then it would be difficult to examine its claims. Since it is appended to Torah, I have a framework to examine the man’s teachings and claims. They are in contradiction to the Torah, and so I know they are false.

      If the argument rested only on the dearth of witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection, then I could say that I did not know that Christianity was false. I would not know it was true. I would be uncertain. But Christianity claims to affirm Torah, an older system. So now, even if I did not know if the Torah were true, would know that Christianity is not true. It is not just that Christianity cannot be entirely proven true. All doubt has been removed. Christianity is false.

      Jim

    • Concerned Reader
      The text never says that the text is the witness to define the core of the covenant – which is the identity of the One with whom we share our covenantal relationship – that the text tells us – is reserved for the people.
      I suggest that you read Jim’s comment and take his words seriously. You are going in circles because you do not absorb what we’ve been telling you these past few months

      • Annelise says:

        I suppose that no matter how much the witness community in any generation can grow and improve, there are a few things that we can see-
        1. For much of history, there is no Jewish community other than Orthodox Judaism that could claim to be fulfilling the image of the righteous remnant of Israel;
        2. That remnant is a witness to God’s truth and a light in the world, in every generation (not just from the echoes of its past that are recorded in the book; and
        3. It would be far too extreme to suggest that they could be at once the light of the world and also lost in darkness and missing their saviour.

        • Annelise says:

          It would be worth studying more into what the witness community / righteous remnant looks like in the prophets’ descriptions of the generations of Israel to come… and also, what it means for Israel to be told “you are my witnesses.” If we come to clarity on that then the medieval period will provide a great case in point, because the only Jewish community observing Torah in any visible way was the Orthodox- for many centuries. What does that mean to a reader of the prophets?

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