Facing Scripture 2 – An Open Letter to Charles
In response to – https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/facing-scripture/#comment-17579
It would seem that you are not satisfied with the responses that I wrote in response to your response. You want something more “careful.” I hope the present work satisfies your exacting standards.
You charge that I ignored your first argument in which you argue for the sufficiency of Scripture alone to guide a concerned seeker.
I have written extensively on the subject of your first argument and you have ignored what I have written on the subject. Either way, your first argument is not relevant to the discussion at hand. Even you recognize that God appointed a remnant of living Jews to act as His witnesses and preserve the testimony or else you cannot face Isaiah 43:10. The only difference that divides us is our disagreement over the identity of this remnant. But it is here were you ignore the explicit word of scripture which identifies the community with which He preserves His covenant by the sign of the Sabbath (Exodus 31:15). You also ignore the Scripture (Deuteronomy 4:35) which tells us that this remnant sees Sinai as the bedrock of their covenant with God and see no need to minimize Sinai.
You further accuse me of “sidestepping” the “central question” which you claim is the identity of the messenger that was worshiped at Sinai.
The fact is that no messenger was worshiped at Sinai or anywhere else for that matter. But even according to your distorted interpretation which posits that a messenger was worshiped, it is still completely irrelevant to our discussion. Because when God commands us about future worship He points us away from every messenger and He points us to the testimony of our ancestors (Deuteronomy 4:15,35).
You claim that my accusation against you in which I state that you ignore the Scriptures is mere “hyperbole.” According to you the question is who revealed Himself at Sinai and according to your assessment it is I who is ignoring the “central issue.”
Allow me to remind you what it is that the Scriptures say. The Scripture points to the experience of Israel at Sinai as the bedrock of the covenant, not only for that generation, but for every subsequent generation. The only people who see Sinai as the bedrock of their covenant with God testify that they were taught by their ancestors to worship the One who is above and beyond ALL that inhabit the heaven and earth – He is above EVERY form of finite existence including Jesus. And it is you who completely and utterly ignore the testimony of God’s witnesses that is confirmed by God’s Scripture. I am not engaging in hyperbolic usage of words. It is you who are playing word games in an effort to dodge the words of God.
You claim that Isaac Lichtenstein was the chief rabbi of Hungary. This is a blatant lie according to any stretch of the imagination. Even the Messianic liars couldn’t exalt this unknown fellow beyond claiming that he was a chief rabbi of an unnamed region in the backwaters of the Hungarian countryside. I challenge you to provide a shred of original documentation which would show Isaac Lichtenstein ever held the position of chief rabbi of Hungary.
You challenge me to support my charge that you claimed that six other passages from Scripture contradict Deuteronomy 30:1-10.
The relevant quote from your dissertation is found in the paragraph entitled “Attitudes to the Land, Tragic Predominance of Orthodox Victims of the Shoah.” In the fourth line of that paragraph you write that “other texts reverse the order.” You are creating an artificial conflict between the passages in order to justify your effort to dismiss Moses’ words for the sake of “preserving the Bible’s integrity and consistency.”
You state that: “It is improper to separate genuine repentance from the new heart.”
Your premise is directly contradicted by Scripture. Scripture speaks of a full-hearted repentance BEFORE the divine circumcision of our heart (Deuteronomy 30:2). It is this very passage that you consistently refuse to face.
You charge that I attempt to make a “rhetorical impression” when I state that you devoted one line to explain the passage in question (Deuteronomy 30:1-10). You argue that you have written several pages explaining the difference between the Sinai covenant and the one described in this passage in Deuteronomy, all of this to justify your interpretation of this passage.
It is you Charles who is engaging in creating rhetorical impressions and hyperbole. Yes, you devoted several pages in an attempt to establish the premise that Sinai was a failure and a new covenant will come and provide successful mediation. You didn’t quote one passage from Scripture that states this theory clearly and unambiguously. What you have done is attempted to demonstrate that there are hints and clues for this Christological theology that lurk in the shadows. But you fail to address the direct words of Moses which clearly and unambiguously describe the new covenant. Instead you point to the fact that the covenant is addressed to the nation in the singular and argue on this flimsy basis that it is referring to one man. You don’t explain to your readers how one man can be scattered to the ends of the earth. You don’t tell your readers that the Sinai covenant is also introduced in the singular as is much of Scripture. My statement to the effect that you devote one line to explaining the passage in question is completely justified.
You charge that my failure to see the discontinuity of the Moab covenant from the Sinai covenant governs my interpretation of Deuteronomy 30:10.
My interpretation of Deuteronomy 30:1-10 is governed by the words of Deuteronomy 30:1-10. My challenge to you is that you face those same words and allow them to tell you what Deuteronomy 30:1-10 is saying instead of dictating to the text what it ought to say according to your conjectures.
In response to my point that Deuteronomy 18 speaks of a mediator in the sense of prophet you respond by pointing out that Moses sometimes acted as an intercessor as well.
Indeed he did as did many human prophets and righteous people until this very day. But if you read Deuteronomy 18 you will realize that the Scripture is not talking about that type of mediation. Again, you refuse to allow Scripture to talk.
Throughout your dissertation you claim that the Sinai covenant demanded “perfect” obedience.
How could God demand perfect obedience from human beings who are not capable of presenting perfect obedience? God never demands from people that which they are not capable of producing (Psalm 103:14). And if you understand that when the Torah speaks of observing ALL the Law with ALL your heart then how can you justify your interpretation of Deuteronomy 30:2 which speaks of the same obedience BEFORE the circumcision of the heart. And since you contend that this passage is talking to Jesus can you please explain how Jesus experienced the blessing and the curse and finds himself in ALL of the lands that we were scattered. While you are at it, can you please explain how this is not a complete mockery of the word of God?
Charles; all I am asking you to do is to face the word of God without your Christological conjectures and allow the words to talk for themselves.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal
I am honoured to be favoured with such attention, and I seek to reply to both of your posts, when occasion provides, but I have a great deal of other pressing work to attend to at the moment, and it will take some time. I request your patience in the meantime.
First, it’s proper to tackle my own error. I unreservedly apologise for describing Isaac Lichtenstein as a chief rather than a district. It was indeed my mistake, not that of my sources. It was an inadvertent slip based on my ignorance of his history, and if that is ‘blatant lie’, then I alone bear the fault, but the metric seems a little harsh and I shall not apply the same criteria to you.
Nonetheless, there is a basic warning to take note of here:
‘The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;
According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not.’ Rejecting the testimony of this uniquely qualified and effective Moses-replacing Messenger and Mediator is fraught with danger, ‘whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.’
Now the bedrock of Sinai’s bedrock is Moses’ prior experience of HaShem’s self revelation</a at Sinai. There the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob appeared to Moses, as He had appeared visibly (causative of ראה to see) to each of the patriarchs before (Gen.12.7, 17.1, 18.1, 26.2,24, 35.9, 32.30). The identity of the Revealer, the One who is about to redeem Israel is foundational to the foundation stone of Sinai. Why else does He there first reveal the meaning of His Name (Ex.6.3)? Yet HaShem in the absolute is never seen or observed (Ex.33.20). Yes, the people saw no 'similitude' (Deut.4.34), but Moses had before and did again since (Nu 12:8). Underscoring this paradox is not sidestepping the issue, it is at heart of the issue between us, Who is God? How can we please Him? It is the bedrock of your texts, ‘the LORD he is God’ (Deut.4.35) – Who is the LORD? Is He an unmediated and invisible Simplex or is He the One revealed in His Word, the Memra? Who is the similitude of the LORD whom Moses saw, though the people did not (Deut.4.15), if Moses never actually witnessed His ‘face’ (Ex.33.20)? These are not incidental issues, even to your own chosen texts, they are very basic questions of fact and of understanding.
As to oral law, ancestors can and do lie, only God can be relied on the reveal Himself. In the time of Manasseh, and even early in Josiah’s reign, as I argued, ‘rabbinic’ traditions would have been dangerous quicksand, ‘their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men’. (Isa.29.13) The basic problem is we must have a fail safe discriminant, and that is only found in written Torah (Jer.23.28,29).
You ask, ‘How could God demand perfect obedience from human beings who are not capable of presenting perfect obedience?’ It’s a good and a painful question, but since the Fall, for which we bear responsibility, being in our parents, man is incapable of real good, ‘Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.’ It goes to the heart of Job’s other seminal question, ‘how should man be just with God?’ David says, ‘If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?’ Where then is the covenant of sacrifice by which alone we can justify God’s justice and find solid peace with Him? (Ps.50.2) Not in Sinai, by which even Moses, Aaron and a whole generation was denied entry into the promise (Deut.32.51), and all their children left uncircumcised as a sign till the passage over the Jordan (Jos.5.5).
You ask for evidence of the promise of new mediation that replaces the defective and weak mediation at Sinai. It is abundant, esp in the promises of David’s Seed and the covenant founded in Him. ‘I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.’ Why the need for another covenant, if the first was secure? Why David, not Aaron or Levi? Yet the Sinaitic covenant was clearly broken, (Jer.31.32, Eze.16.8,60-62) The need arises for a New Covenant with better mediation, and a mechanism of transcription of the same Law to the heart, not to tongue and doorpost only, by a new heart and a new spirit. This mediation coming through the suffering King and Priest, who Daniel saw being cut off for sin (Dan.9.24), Zechariah the Davidic ‘Branch’, a priest sitting on His throne (Zech.6.12), after being wounded and pierced by His own countrymen (Zech.12.10, 13.7), Jeremiah as the only means of obtaining Job’s needed righteousness (Jer.23.5,6) and Isaiah the very embodiment of the Covenant (Isa.42.6) who will be a light to the Gentile before restoring His own beloved Nation.(Isa.49.6)
You ask about evidence for the equivalence of heart circumcision to repentance and ask me to exegete Deut.30.1-10. I accept heart circumcision (at least in the NT) is broader than repentance, it stands for the whole new birth, the new heart (Col.2.13, Rom.2.27, Eph.2.11). But in the Tenach its first signs are what the Messiah and His forerunner and all the prophets sought, repentance. In Deut 10.16, though it is the gift of God, it is commanded to the unjust, stubborn and impenitent. For this, the Messiah depicted by His spiritual work in commanding the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dead and lame to rise. Left to ourselves, we cannot repent by nature. In Lev.26.46, the humility that accompanies repentance is the first sign of addressing ‘uncircumcised hearts’. In Jer.6.10, the uncircumcised ear will not hear because it is impenitent, it won’t break up the hard fallow ground of the heart. Yes, in Deut.30.1-10 circumcision succeeds repentance, as repentance deepens and bears fruit in all the fullness regeneration, in ever deeper heartfelt obedience to God’s law.
It is well to raise the Sabbath. The Sabbath of Sabbaths (שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן) is indeed the sign of the Sinaitic covenant (Ex.31.15), and its crown (שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן) the great Atonement. Yet have God’s people found peace and sabbath rest with Him? For there is no peace to the wicked. Do they, as Sabbath requires, remember His redemption (Deut.5.15) not from Egypt only, but more importantly from the slavemaster of this evil generation, the greater Pharoah? It can only be found by a redemption by better blood, a redemption that Jacob tasted (Gen.48.16), at the hand of the Angel, the One speaking, with whom Jacob pleaded being and wept before, being described as ‘the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial.’ (Hosea 12.4-5) It is a redemption known in the wilderness by the only Saving God, the glory of which deliverance Isaiah also ascribes to the Messenger of His presence (Isa.63.9) – two redeemers or One, two saviours or One, two gods or One? I chose One, you seem to choose two. The Day of Atonement is the great culminating Sabbath, because it provides relief from dead works. Yet to this day, is there any blood atonement and is there any solid redemption in rabbinic Judaism?
If I am to be accused of harbouring an idol for adoring the Word of HaShem, then I share company with the prophets and priests whose testimony you reject. Real idolatry is to fashion a view of HaShem, derived from the concealed Antiochene snares left behind by the Hellenes, as the Philistines before (1 Chr.14.12) but this time with far more devastating effect. Their pursuit of an absolutely sterile Deity, per Rambam, was not that of the prophets, One devoid of true mediation, by the claim mediation is either unnecessary or impossible, and that our own works mingled with His lenience will suffice the fire of His scrutiny.
Is this not as sure a rejection of the Prophet as the construction of a golden calf?
I just wonder: does Charles actually desires to hear anything that calls his belief in his godman into question? Methinks he is quite happy to just ignore what God’s revelation to His people so clearly teaches. Never mind he is an idolater. Never mind he foregoes a relationship with his Maker on his Maker’s terms, not his own terms. Never mind he has to repudiate almost everything his own religious tradition has produced (“They were not REAL Christians…”). Never mind he has to ignore the greatest miracle God has ever done: the continued presence among men of the faithfully preserved authentic SInaitic revelation.
Let the man live in blissful ignorance. Who has ever told us that we are to try to disabuse idolaters of their errors? If Charles Soper comes with genuine questions and wants to LEARN, THEN we have an obligation to teach him. If he merely comes to ascend his soperbox – forgive the pun – to “share the good news”, yawn, yawn.
No one is more blind than those who refuse to see.
The tragedy, of course, is that the truth is not difficult to see at all. It is not in heaven so that we would have to mount an expedition to bring it down from heaven in order to hear the truth AND ACT UPON IT, nor is it in some distant land, written in a very difficult foreign tongue, so that we would have to travel around half the globe to get it, hear it AND ACT UPON IT. It is in our mouth and in our heart TO ACT UPON IT.
Charles Soper is a moral man, an ethical man. He fears and loves God. He just does not fear and love God ENOUGH to humble himself before the Creator and admit his mistake. He would rather continue to believe in a counterfeit religious belief system. So be it.
Charles may not be aware of this but he is in the prayers of every Torah faithful Jew every single day. Charles is not likely to study the following words very carefully. They are in complete and utter contradiction to his Jesulatry. But they are at the core of what it means to be a Jew: constantly pray for the entire family of mankind and continue hoping – even in the face of Charles’ evidence to the contrary – that one day ALL of mankind will TRULY know and serve the God Who chose to entrust His Truth to the nation He Himself created.
Here is that prayer – time to skip until the end, Charles, otherwise some of these words may actually pierce your ears and reach your God given brain:
Upon us rests the duty to give praise to the Lord of All, to give greatness to the Former of Creation, Who has not made us like the nations of the lands, nor made our position as the families of the earth, Who has not made our portion like them nor our destiny like their multitude. For they bow down to emptiness and vanity and pray to a god that cannot save but we bend our knee and prostate ourselves and acknowledge the King over the kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, Who spans the heavens and lays the foundations of the earth, Whose Glory dwells in the heavens above, Whose Presence of Power is high above. HE is our GOD. NO ONE ELSE, in truth our KING, NONE BUT HE ALONE, as it is written in His Torah: KNOW THEN TODAY AND LET IT PENETRATE YOUR HEART THAT THE L-RD IS GOD IN THE HEAVENS ABOVE AND ON THE EARTH BELOW, THERE IS NO OTHER.
And it is for this reason that we put our hope in You, L-rd our God, that we may see soon the beauty of Your might when all idols will be removed from the world and the counterfeit gods will be cut off decisively and the world will return to its correct state: the kingdom of the Almighty, and ALL FLESH will call on Your Name, and all evildoers will be turned in repentance to You. All the inhabitants of the earth will recognise and know that to You every knee will bend and every tongue will swear. Before You, L-rd our God they will humble themselves and bow down and the honour of Your Name they will consider they most precious thing and all of them together will accept upon themselves the yoke of Your Kingdom and You will reign over them soon for ever and ever. For kingship, it belongs to You alone! And You will reign as King eternally in glory. As it is written: The L-rd reigns forever! And it is said: Then the L-rd will be King over the entire world; on that day the L-rd will be ONE and His Name will be ONE.
Charles is free to ignore this. He is well-advised to ignore this. It is the only way he can continue believing in his godman.
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