Reflections on an Alleged Resurrection – Three Letters from Jim
You have been insistent that the resurrection is an event that proves that Jesus was the Messiah. I have argued elsewhere that the resurrection is irrelevant to the Messiah. But, for your sake, I will take up several objections to the resurrection. For the ease of reading, I will address these problems in separate posts. In this one I will take up the question of its credibility.
The question of whether or not the resurrection happened is difficult. Certainly, we do not wish to argue that God cannot resurrect someone. It is not beyond the realm of possibility. However, that does not mean it happened. The problem with knowing whether or not it happened is that it was a private event. Jesus revealed himself to a relative few.
Complicating matters, the gospels are written in such a way to earn the reader’s sympathy. One sees things through the eyes of a believer. The telling of the story inclines one to accept it, because of the perspective from which it is written. It is as if the reader is there with the disciples when Jesus comes back. To help us examine the credibility of the claims of the NT, I would like us to alter our perspective for a moment. Let us separate ourselves from the perspective of the writer, and consider ourselves as people who lived during the time of Jesus. Let us figure out what the resurrection would have looked like to us as people who did not witness for ourselves the resurrection.
For this thought experiment, we will assume that we have heard of Jesus. Perhaps we have even heard him speak. Perhaps we have even been moved by his teaching. According to Matthew, the Jewish leadership understood that Jesus was to be resurrected after three days, so we will assume that we know of this claim. We have heard that Jesus was to return three days after his death.
So, here we are, wondering if this man just might be the Messiah. To our horror, he is put to death, a brutal death. This saddens us, for we thought that he just might be the one for whom we had been waiting. Now we see that he was just another false claimant to the throne. But wait! We remember that he is supposed to come back after three days.
And so we wait expectantly, wondering if it just might be true. Will he come back?
Since we are not in the inner circle, three days come and go for us uneventfully. According to the NT, Jesus only appears to a few on the third day and the event is not publicized. You and I have heard nothing about it. We continue about our business.
Then, 47 days later, suddenly we hear news. His disciples claim that Jesus returned just as he said he would. I do not know about you, but I am wary at this point. He was supposed to come back on the third day. We are only hearing about it on the 50th. This seems rather suspicious. But, if you are willing to hear them out, so am I. So we ask them to take us to Jesus. And they tell us that he ascended to be with the Father ten days prior to their announcing his resurrection. He is not here anymore.
This is the story according to the NT. It is not until day 50, not day 3, that the resurrection of Jesus is announced. And then, he is not around to prove the claim. My question to you is this: do you find their claim credible?
Before you answer, consider the way a magician performs an illusion. He tells you that he is going to turn an egg into a dove. Then he puts the egg behind a handkerchief, a veil through which you cannot see. All you can see is movement, while he distracts you with patter. Then, as if by magic, from behind the veil, emerges a dove. So, do you believe that this was actual magic?
Of course you do not. You know that the reason the magician veils his actions is because he is not practicing actual magic. He distracts you and obscures his actions while he swaps the egg for a pigeon. And while you may be delighted by the illusion if it is performed well, you do not believe for a moment that you saw actual magic.
With the resurrection, things are the same. There is a remarkable claim made, but everything happens behind a veil. You are told that Jesus came back on time. But the event was private. It was not publicized until 47 days after the event was predicted to happen. Moreover, at that time, there was no Jesus. At least with a magician, you get a pigeon. With the resurrection, you do not get Jesus at all.
This is like a magician who forgot the pigeon and tries to fake it. He flutters the veil quickly and looks up like the pigeon just flew away. He tries to inspire amazement in the audience talking about how quickly the pigeon flew for having just been transmuted from an egg. He says that he’s never seen the trick go so well. None of the audience sees the bird. Just so, they never saw Jesus.
So, is the claim that Jesus was resurrected credible? No.
Continuing to contemplate the resurrection.
I have already argued that it is not a credible event. There is no reason to believe it. Now, I would like to argue that Jesus cannot be taken as a prophet, precisely because of the promise of the resurrection.
According to Matthew 12.38, some Pharisees and scribes approached Jesus and asked him for a sign. Inasmuch as Jesus seems to claim special knowledge through revelation, this is a reasonable request. Jesus uses it as an opportunity to attack them, as is his way. Jesus does not like to be questioned. He expects one to just take his word for it.
However, he does give them a sign, if in a surly manner. Basically, he says that he will come back from the dead after three days and three nights. So now, the Jewish people have a test. The only question is whether or not Jesus fulfills the sign that he offered them.
Now a note about signs: a sign is something observable. If one cannot see a sign, then the sign is not a sign. If I tell you that I am a police officer, the sign of my being one is my badge and identification. But they are not signs unless I show them to you. If I tell you I am a police officer and that I have a badge in my pocket but that you cannot examine it, you are not likely to take my word for it. I have offered you no proof by claiming that the proof is in my pocket where you cannot see it.
With that in mind, let us consider what happens. Jesus is supposed to have come back from the dead. At that point, the only way to fulfill the sign and his word is to present himself to the Pharisees. This is his responsibility. Instead he skulks about, hiding for forty days until he rises, like Romulus, to the heavens.
It is the testimony of the NT that Jesus never fulfilled the sign. Deuteronomy 18.22 tells us what we are to make of this: “If the prophet will speak in the Name of HaShem and that thing will not occur and not come about–that is the word that HaShem has not spoken; with willfulness has the prophet spoken it, you should not fear him.” Jesus prophesies, but his prophecies do not come about. He promises a sign and does not fulfill it. We are to reject such a prophet.
Keep in mind, even the NT acknowledges that Jesus did not present himself. This is why the Church has created a new definition of faith, which is believing what it says without proof. (See Jesus’ treatment of Thomas. “Blessed are those who have not seen, etc.”) Faith in the NT means taking the NT’s word for it.
Very frequently, critics of Christianity cite Jesus’ failure to return in the lifetime of his contemporaries as a false prophecy. And certainly they are correct. But according to the NT, his failed prophecies begin earlier than that. Jesus told people that he would return after three days, and then never came to them and showed them. He just disappeared.
As I pointed out, then, he never fulfilled the sign, even if he did come back, because it was not observable. It is as if he said that he was a police officer, but he cannot show you his badge just now. Even if he did return from the dead, he did not fulfill the sign. So, we are not to listen to him.
Continuing my remarks on the resurrection:
Let us assume that the resurrection did take place. And let us imagine that Jesus did present himself to the Pharisees. Would this have been enough to establish him as a true prophet and the Messiah?
The Torah system does not rely solely upon miracles. As R’ Blumenthal recently spoke about, miracles by themselves do not prove anything within the Torah system. Deuteronomy 13 tells us that there may be false prophets who are able to perform signs and wonders.
Before pressing on, we must note something here: the Torah does not differentiate in the magnitude of the miracle. The Torah does not say that if one heals the sick, that’s pretty good, but if he raises the dead, then the prophet is certainly a true prophet. There is no ranking of miracles. The Torah is about to apply a test to the prophet, but that test does not relate to the difficulty of the miracle.
Within the Torah system, which you acknowledge as having been given by God, the prophet is not entirely validated by his signs or wonders. The Torah says that if the prophet should say, “Let us follow gods of others that you did not know and we shall worship them,” they should not be heeded (v. 3). In fact, this prophet is to be stoned. Deuteronomy 13 makes clear that one is to follow HaShem alone. “HaShem, your God, shall you follow and Him shall you fear; His commandments shall you observe and to His voice shall you hearken; Him shall you serve and to Him shall you cleave” (v.5).
Here is where Jesus runs into another problem. Even if the resurrection story were credible, which it is not, and even if he had presented himself to the Pharisees as promised, which he did not, if Jesus claimed divinity, he is not to be heeded. The remarkable nature of the supposed resurrection does not grant license to worship him. Deuteronomy is clear that one is to worship HaShem alone, and it does not allow for a new understanding of him, as has been discussed regarding Deuteronomy 4.
If Jesus claimed to be divine, then he was a god that the Jewish people did not know. They did not receive a revelation of Jesus. In fact, Deuteronomy 13 is making quite clear that one’s devotion is to Hashem alone. One must keep His laws and serve Him. The perversion of those laws advocated by Jesus, by turning Pesach into a day about himself, for example, is another violation of these conditions. Jesus ends up failing the test of the prophet in two ways then, and must be viewed as a seducer.
The resurrection, therefore, if it had happened, would be interesting. By itself, however, it would not vindicate Jesus. He would not be granted carte blanche to teach whatever he wanted. He must not teach others to worship him. The magnitude of the sign or wonder does not give license to devote oneself to anyone other than HaShem. If Jesus claimed to be divine, then his resurrection becomes irrelevant. It is known by his message that he is a false prophet. And, being a false prophet, he is certainly not the Messiah either.
The appeal to the resurrection has failed three ways, then. One, the claim is not credible. Two, Jesus did not fulfill the conditions of the resurrection to make it a sign. Three, even if he had resurrected, if he advocated worship of himself, he is in violation of Torah and is not to be heeded. One’s faith just cannot rest upon the resurrection.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal
Jim a long post of yours full of lies and sophisms.
1) your first lie, you said: ”Complicating matters, the gospels are written in such a way to earn the reader’s sympathy.”
That is untrue for the Gospel identifies pagans with dogs which is not so pleasant to hear as you all have demonstrated by your hypocritical reactions… If it were seeking sympathy they would had pulled out all controversial passages.
2) one of your sophism or fallacy, you said: ”According to Matthew 12.38, some Pharisees and scribes approached Jesus and asked him for a sign. Inasmuch as Jesus seems to claim special knowledge through revelation, this is a reasonable request.”
You here said with Yisroel that signs and miracles are not important and prove nothing. I will add that it does not validate a prophet but only his teaching if it is in accord with Torah.
The core of the problem lies in the reality of the Torah which was given to Mosheh by the One Messiah who is the form of YHWH in Numbers 12. Our contention is that you do not see it and that we see it. Who is right?? It is a battle I will conceded where we are sure The Truth will prevail. We will see then who was right.
But in the mean time it is only Faith that gives us this assurance. This precise faith that you deny. The same faith of Abraham in the Elohim asking him to sacrifice his only Son Issac for Abraham knew and believe in the Resurrection which only the Elohim can perform not to deceive but to fulfil the Promise.
3) one of your question, you said: ”This is the story according to the NT. It is not until day 50, not day 3, that the resurrection of Jesus is announced. And then, he is not around to prove the claim. My question to you is this: do you find their claim credible?”
Here you are supposing that fearing men most of them fisherman add the guts to preach in public places about the Resurrected and that all the eye-witnesses were bearing false witness on top of it. Who is credible here? Your false accusation and your bad faith or the extraordinary power of simple men being really eye-witnesses and full the Ruah holy whom they received precisely in this 50 days after the Resurrection like 50 days after the Passover was Shavuot the giving of the Torah to Israel.
Now a question could be: how many days after the events of Sinai did the Torah was written? 3 days? 50 days? 40 years? 100 years? Hmm do we know… How can we be sure that the story was not tempered and transformed after generations passed… Was it compiled and edited by a few the Levites for a religious purpose and control of minds? Many scholars even Jewish doubt that even Mosheh exited…
You see your faith can not be proven it is a faith. Our parents believed it but no proof of it except some nice sophism from clever rabbis that can fool the masses. Here the Resurrection and the Gospel and the holy Letters of Paul and Peter and John and the Book of Revelation gives credit to the Tanakh for without Christianity the Jewish faith would already be a vestige of the past… like the dry bones of Ezekiel…
We the saints give credibility to your dead letters by being living icons of the living Torah!!
You are a very rude individual sir. You honestly think that Judaism would cease without Christianity? The reverse is the case. Judaism has outlasted many a person who claimed to be a messiah. Judaism’s existence does not depend on your Jesus.
I sure hope you don’t fall of your horse as you would suffer tremendous injury and countless broken bones.
What IS faith EL. What is Your definition. We already discussed the fallacy of Ruach in regards to Stephen and the same applies to the deceitfulness of Paul in his writings. He is as duplicitous as one can get.
Maybe your continuous disregard for answers given is related to a need for attention. Could This be the case.
Sharbano you can not win the argument of truth for you have no truth in you. You try to attack me but that only reinforce the superiority of the sons versus the fathers. For the holy psalm said it:
”Listen, O daughter,
Consider and incline your ear;
Forget your own people also, and your father’s house”
Instead of Your fathers shall be Your sons,
Whom You shall make princes in all the earth.
I will make Your name to be remembered in all generations;
Therefore the people shall praise You forever and ever.” (Psalm 45)
What can you do against the princes of the earth?
What can you do against the elect for our mother will make us reign and you will be the footstool of our feet?
7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,
‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”:[c] 8 “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it;[d] for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. 11 Behold,[e] I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. 12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” (Revelation 3)
Shalom and may shabat turn your hearts toward YHWH ELOHAY toward Elohei Israel and may the veils on your eyes be lifted by his mercy!!
You insult Sharbano and then have the nerve to say Shalom? You don’t appear to know the meaning of the word Shalom
What’s winning an argument have to do with truth. How many have “won” the arguments in the courts only to find out later the error of their ways. That is the way of Esav. That is why you disparage everyone and set yourself up the same as Heylel. As many have shown the wisdom of, and in Torah, You have rewritten and abused Torah, to use only for your own benefit and your own exaltation, not only by inference but by direct statement. Maybe you should begin praying to Heylel since That is your equal.
There is much to be said in answer to your rebuttal of my comments. I will not be able to do this all in one sitting or in one comment. But it is important to keep in mind that I do not write for the sake of writing. Not every point can be made in 140 characters or less. Any real discussion of Torah cannot be tweeted. So I ask you not to be impatient with the length of my comments. As you know, this post was made up of three different comments to you, which I had posted separately for ease of reading. Similarly, I will divide up my answers to you here, but my answers may not fit within the bounds you would prefer to impose upon them. I can only ask for your patience.
I will begin by talking about signs. I believe you do not understand my argument regarding signs, and I do not wish to speak for R’ Blumenthal, but I think you misunderstand him as well.
I did not say that signs are not important. In fact, you will see, if you reread what I wrote to you, that I find them quite important. If a man comes to me and tells me that he has a message from God for me, I will ask him to prove it. I will, in fact, expect a sign. It will not matter if the message is innocuous or even flattering. If he tells me that God says I should eat more broccoli, or if the man comes to me and says that I have the favor of God, I will not take his word for it. I will expect a sign. He must offer me some proof that he heard from God.
And I will need to be able to observe the sign. It will do no good if he says that he walked on water earlier that morning, out of my sight. This is not proof. The fact of the matter is: Anybody can say anything. This does not make it true. One may be mistaken. One may lie. So, if someone comes to me and says that he has heard from God, I am in no way obligated to believe him until he offers some proof.
Deuteronomy 13 begins with the assumption that one has performed the prerequisite sign. It does not teach that one should accept a prophet willy nilly. But the sign or wonder is not the sole consideration. That does not mean it is not important, only that there are other considerations. So now we must ask, which is the trump factor, the sign or the teaching? And it turns out that the teaching can invalidate the sign or wonder. If the prophet advocates the worship of a new god, he is not a prophet. This is what the Torah says, not me.
Note that Torah does not make a distinction in miracles. It does not rank them. It does not say give more credence to one who raises the dead to one who parts a sea or a river. And it does not allow for a sign or wonder that is so absolute that the teaching is substantiated regardless of what it is.
I hope that you see, then, that I do not say that miracles are worthless. They are necessary to substantiate a prophet. But they are not the final test of the prophet, nor the most important. One needs flour to bake a cake, but flour by itself does not a cake make.
So, if Jesus wanted to substantiate himself as a prophet, he needed to validate himself with a sign or wonder. Of course, he is supposed to have worked many miracles. But he claimed that he would offer another sign. That sign, he failed to produce. When he failed to produce it, it meant that one was not obligated to listen to him any further. He did not substantiate his claims properly.
And, I am in no contradiction by pointing out that if he had fulfilled it, that would not be the final test. A further test would be applied, as Deuteronomy 13 prescribes. If he claimed to be divine, then he failed that test. The resurrection would be remarkable, but we would still have to turn away from Jesus. The resurrection would have made us consider his claim. We would have to sit up and take notice. We would have to listen to his message. But then, hearing him declare himself to be god, if he did, we would know that he was not a true prophet. A true prophet does not teach a new god.
Miracles are tested by teaching, not the other way around. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that miracles prove that one’s teaching is in accord with Torah. This is not what Torah teaches. The miracle does not prove conclusively that one heard from God or that his teaching is true. It is necessary, but it is not enough. His teaching must be scrutinized. It must be shown to accord with Torah on its own merits, not on the merit of the miracle. It is a second test, which can invalidate the results of the first. But the miracle does not validate the teaching.
Jim very easy to break here your poor argument proven by Torah:
“Hear now My words:
If there is a prophet among you,
I, YHWH, make Myself known to him in a vision;
I speak to him in a dream.
7 Not so with My servant Moses;
He is faithful in all My house.
8 I speak with him face to face,
Even plainly, and not in dark sayings;
And he sees the form of YHWH
Why then were you not afraid
To speak against My servant Moses?” (Numbers 12)
YAHUSHUO the MESSIAH is more than a prophet He is the One who talks and inspires the prophet. YAHUSHUO יְהוֹשֻׁ֣עַ is the form of YHWH , YHWH identifies Him by seeing:
”And he sees the form of YHWH ”
Therefore YAHUSHUO is not a new god but Elohei Israel in visible form … Don’t you understand??
Don’t you see the contradiction with Deuteronomy 4 and the idea of G-d as visible?
Once again YOU write INTO Torah what you WANT it to say, regardless of truth. If this is not so then Why can you not justify the writings of your Xtian text. This you have failed to do. Need I mention Stephen AGAIN, which is one of many occurrences. Apparently you cannot deal with the truth and sidestep the issue time and again.
In other words, you rely solely on your ruach which Stephen did also, so then you should be able to JUSTIFY that ruach. Do So, now. Otherwise everything you say is questionable. OR, is it that your Ruach cannot explain Stephen and you are literally afraid to “ask” your ruach and the result of what that entails. By not answering and evading it is apparent who has a veil and that veil is self-imposed.
Regarding the lie of which you accuse me, I am afraid you do not understand my point. This is my fault; I should have been more clear.
When I write that “the gospels are written in such a way to earn the reader’s sympathy,” I do not mean that it does so by flattering the reader. The gospels are written in such a way as to make Jesus the good guy and his critics that bad guys. Also, they put the reader in a similar position as the disciples. The reader is made to feel as if he is witnessing events to which he was not a witness. I do not accuse the gospels of wrongdoing on this point, but it makes it hard to evaluate the claims of the gospels.
All I want to do is take the same facts as the gospels give without adopting the gospels’ sympathetic perspective. This is why I take the tack of placing us as people alive during the time of Jesus but hearing the story as if we did not witness it, which of course we did not. When the NT tells us about the resurrection, it is as if we are there. But the fact of the matter is that this was a private event with very few witnesses. Even you admit that there were not 70 witnesses, but this is a figurative number. The real perspective of the majority of the Church is not as witnesses to the event, but hearing about it 47 days later and never seeing a raised Jesus. This is the testimony of the NT, not a secular scholar’s view. But while it is the testimony of the NT, it is not the perspective from which the story is told. I wish only to give us an opportunity to adopt a more objective viewpoint than is adopted by the gospels.
Having addressed what I meant by saying that the gospels were written in such a way to earn the reader’s sympathy, I will address your continue haranguing us with the name “hypocrites” because we do not think it appropriate to call non-Jews “dogs” and your rather uncharitable assertion based on this that I lied. It was your claim that the Tanach calls non-Jews “dogs”. You quoted several scriptures, most of which had nothing to do with non-Jews at all. This was shown to you. Yet you have not retracted that claim yet. Instead, you attempt to transfer your error by calling us hypocrites and the like. You should have retracted your claim. What audacity, then, to say that my writing is full of lies, when you will not retract your error. However, it is not to late to retract your claim.
Moreover, you have muddied the waters. Here you write that it is pagans who are called “dogs”. As I wrote on the page where you began this brouhaha, not all non-Jews are pagans. It is a mistake to say that all non-Jews are to be called “dogs” if the justification for calling them so is that they are pagan.
But now, let us say that I wanted to assert that the NT flatters the non-Jew to bring him to Jesus. This was not my argument, but you have attempted to counter it. Let me then take it up, and see if the gospels flatter the non-Jew or not.
In fact, I have no problem asserting that the gospels flatter the non-Jew and are frankly anti-Jewish. Let us consider, what people are the most likely to recognize that Jesus is the Messiah, the Torah observant Jew or the non-Jew, or as you like to call them, ‘dogs’?
Who are Jesus’ opponents? They are those who know Torah. They are the Pharisees, those who dedicated their lives to performing and guarding the Torah. Those who studied it and kept it are those who the gospels will make out to be hypocrites, too blind to understand who is their Messiah. The gospels would have us believe that those who devoted themselves to HaShem’s holy Torah were the people least qualified to understand its teachings.
But who knows that Jesus is the Messiah? Some Jews, sure, with some help. The Jews who discovered Jesus was the Messiah were the ignorant, people with unhealthy lifestyles, sinners. And even they, though Jewish, could never understand anything Jesus was saying to them.
And who knows most clearly that Jesus is the Messiah? It is the non-Jew, who does not know what the Messiah even is. So we have men from the east, astrologers, come to pay homage to baby Jesus. The very means by which they learn of this king is prohibited by Torah, but that does not bother the Matthew. Matthew does not find idolatry and superstition odious, only the keeping of the Torah.
Again, who is guilty of killing Jesus? The modern Christian finds it politically correct to say the Romans killed Jesus. It is not expedient to their efforts to missionize the Jewish people to continue accusing them of killing Jesus. But when you read the gospels, you see that the Romans were just the unwitting tools of the Jewish leadership. Pilate, who was in actuality a vicious man, in the gospels can find no fault in Jesus. He is reticent to harm Jesus. His wife is a dreamer, and she sends word to him not to kill Jesus, a righteous man. It is the non-Jew who finds Jesus to be faultless. It is the non-Jew who sees his goodness.
It is the non-Jew who stands below the cross and declares Jesus to be the son of god. The Jews present are insensitive to the nature of Jesus. They do not see the fulfillment of Torah. They do not see this son of god, toward whom you would say that Tanach is pointing. But a Roman centurion, though he likely knows nothing of Tanach, he can see that Jesus is the son of god.
Even the woman whom Jesus refers to as a “dog” when compared to the Jewish people, the “children,” has greater faith than the Jewish people. Somehow she knows that he is the Son of David. Yes, Jesus took the time to insult her, but the writer of the gospel is going to use her to flatter the non-Jew and again insult the Jewish people. The Jewish people cannot recognize Jesus after all their Torah study, but this woman, a “dog,” she has greater faith in her ignorance.
The Church has asserted that the Jewish scriptures point to Jesus. But this is not borne out by its testimony. It is the unstudied and ignorant that followed Jesus. It was the non-Jew who knew little or nothing of Torah that could see his true nature. Pilate was a vicious man, but he was gifted with the sight of knowing that Jesus was pure. Through astrology, men came from the east to worship him. But those that studied Torah, they knew nothing of a son of god, divine messiah. Devoting themselves to Torah, they did not understand it. They did not find Jesus written in its pages.
If you think this does not flatter the non-Jew, then you are mistaken. It makes him superior to the Jew. The Jew had the light of Torah, but could not see beyond himself. The non-Jew, without the light of Torah, recognizes Jesus easily. They are not hypocrites like those Pharisees who rejected their own Messiah.
I should make a further note: There are complexities here that I have not discussed, obviously. That would take a much lengthier comment. This comment skims the surface of some much larger issues, which are not relevant to the current discussion.
That didn’t work. I’m trying again.
I must admit something. I am terribly troubled. I have noticed a distressing trend among Christians who say they love HaShem and say they love His Torah, the moment their faith in Jesus is threatened, they attempt to undermine Torah. There is a real flavor of: “Oh yeah, you’re Torah is not true either.” Somehow it would bother the Christian for the NT to be undermined but not the Torah. Is the Torah less essential to the Christian’s faith? Why does the Christian care less about the integrity of Torah? Why is he less concerned with its honor?
Once, a man approached me, and he wished to share the gospel of Jesus with me. As he told me about the fulfilled prophecies, I showed him how the prophecies were manipulated and taken out of context. After talking to me for a little while, the entire time with me countering his message, he realized it was a lost cause. And he had two last thoughts for me. The first was that at least Jesus showed those Pharisees, huh? And the other was that he really liked Buddhism, so maybe he should think more about that. It was clear that he would not look to Torah for his answer. Torah was never true unless it was about Jesus in his mind.
When I read your words, I am saddened by the deep disrespect you give to Torah. You may call it Torah, but really to you it is nothing more than the Old Testament. It is only good as long as it points to Jesus. This is why you can disrespectfully write: “…no proof of it except some nice sophism from clever rabbis that can fool the masses.” If someone wrote that about the NT, you would call him a liar, one-eyed, one like a demon and a hypocrite. But you do not guard the Torah in this way. And I can only think this is because to you, Torah is not Torah. It is OT, only to be read to find Jesus, not to find the eternal truths spoken by HaShem.
How sad that you find Torah lifeless. How incorrect you are. True, the OT is a lifeless husk. All devotion to HaShem was stripped of it by the Church. Instead of finding in its pages the method of serving HaShem, they have looked only for a justification to serve a man. How could such a book have any life to it? Yes, your OT is dead. But not the Torah.
Over and over, a Christian comes to this blog and distort Tanach. He, like the author of Hebrews, misquotes Jeremiah. He supports the misrepresentations of Matthew. He will defend the NT to the hilt. If he believes that the words of Paul have been misrepresented, he will tear his clothes and put ashes upon his head. But he will not defend Torah this way. With Torah, he will let Paul, Matthew, and whomever else in the NT, or a later Church father, abuse Torah however he may wish. This he finds acceptable. This practice he will even defend.
And I am saddened by it. With what fine words the missionary comes and says how much he loves HaShem. He professes his great love for Torah. “Oh how much I love you my HaShem Elokim. May Your Name be blessed! etc.” But his neglect for Torah tells another story. It appears that his affection is not really for HaShem at all; it is for a man. And any threat to his faith in that man will allow him to abuse HaShem’s words and say that there is no good reason to believe them.
Oh, he will say he has all the reason in the world to believe in the resurrection. But believing in Torah, he has no reason at all. He will defend his Christian faith and the NT. But he will sacrifice Torah on the altar of necessity readily.
And it makes me sad.
You are likely to think I am either angry or confused. I am neither. There are answers to your questions, and I will tackle them in a few days. For now, I am just sad.
What a brilliant point. I’m sure we have all considered it but NOT with such clarity.
One thing is for certain, no Xtian has ever “Studied” Torah “as a Jew”. This is endemic in the choice of words each side uses. The Xtian will say he has “read” the Bible, or sometimes it is said he “studies” the Bible. A Jew doesn’t “read” Torah, instead it is said we “learn” Torah. It is a Learning process. This takes on a much greater degree of understanding and effort. This, the Xtian doesn’t have time for.
Jim, respectfully, this isn’t a revelation, its not even a brilliant point that you make, its just a very true point you make. Its the naked truth of what you said, namely that the Christian doesn’t ever consider Torah from an insider perspective. If you look at my former arguments when I supported the Christian view, I always said to all of you here on the blog, “Christians approach the claims of Torah through the lens of their “experience” of Jesus.” They only see the Tanakh’s claims as plausible because they already believe in an “experience,” and a story that is fantastical. Its a belief that to them strengthens the plausibility of those claims found in the Tanakh to a small degree. It hurts to hear, but its the truth. Most Christians only retroactively believe in the Torah account. It never comes first hand, because Christian education doesn’t work that way.
To use myself as an example, I was introduced to the concept of G-d only through Jesus. That was my experience, my culture. I was taught from childhood that “we all know we fall short of being as good as we should to others, but you should know G-d loves you and he sent his son Jesus to die for you. He loves you that much.” It was that strong sense of boundless undeserved love that made me believe in G-d. The Tanakh only came into the equation later on, and then it was only through the New Testament’s interpretation of it.
The lens Christians look through is based mainly on their understanding of their own history, and their own personal experiences. just like in Judaism, the covenant on Sinai is the unique collective experience of the Jewish people, and of their fathers that has been passed to them from generation to generation.
NEVER does the thought enter into the Christian’s mind to ask, “what does the law of Moses really teach for Jews, what is its value as a covenant for them, etc. Just look at what happened to the few Torah observant followers of Jesus. They were all gone. The Church wrote them off. Christianity was a new entity by the 2nd century, and those last observant followers were gone by 400 CE.
That is really sad.
Very sad, in a way, but its just life really. If you were born in India, its likely you would be either Hindu or Muslim. If in Ireland, Protestant or Catholic. We are a product of our surroundings and our own experiences, culture’s, etc.
Hi Concerned R.,
And if born into an observant Jewish family, much more likely to remain Jewish.
I first came to Christianity through a bible study group at work wherein we studied the Hebrew Scriptures. And that has been my biblical underpinning in my faith (but not the only reason I came to believe). So I tend to think whether you start with the NT or the Hebrew Scriptures, eventually for many Christians (who actually study Scripture) you tend to at some point understand that the Hebrew Scriptures are the underpinning for the NT. Even Jesus himself says that the law and prophets (meaning the Hebrew Scriptures) testify about Him.
On the other hand, in many cases it has only been recently (relatively speaking) that Christians have been encouraged to study the Christian bible (meaning OT and NT). My mother and wife, who grew up in different cultures, in different times, thousands of miles apart in different countries speaking a different language from each other, were both told essentially the same thing in regards to reading the bible.
It was forbidden. They were told by the hierarchy of the church that they would go insane.
There are also many examples of Gentiles in the Hebrew Scriptures who turned to believe in the God of the Israelites to be the God of the universe even though it was not part of their culture (which was usually pagan). I doubt they were reading Scripture to come to that conclusion. More likely they came to believe the stories they heard which were handed down of the many miracles performed by the hand of God and were swayed to believe because so many testified to the same events.
David, the point is that your hebrew scriptures are a christian midrash of the Torah, not a translation. Book order, translations, etc. Are all church mediated and approved from a christian septiagint preserved tradition. No christians hear the Torah in hebrew directly from Jews themselves. A christian hebrew study is about as useful as a muslum or Mormon NT study. I dont say that to be arrogant or offensive. Just to note that ideological bent can color perspectives.
Hi Concerned Reader,
It’s not my Hebrew Scriptures, and yes it is a translation. Even observant Jewish Scholars attest to that.
Hi Concerned Reader,
A few other points to comment on in your post above:
Book order, translations, etc. Are all church mediated and approved from a christian septiagint preserved tradition.
It is true that the book order outside the Torah is different, but you are wrong on the other points.
Virtually all protestant translations are based on the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT), not the Septuagint. The Catholic Church started shifting over in 1943 to the MT. The Eastern Orthodox Church holds to the Septuagint.
Keep in mind that the Greek Septuagint was written for Greek speaking Jews.
There are 24 books in the Hebrew Scriptures and 39 in the protestant OT; both are based on the MT and the contents of both are the same. The reason why there is a difference in the numbers is because the Hebrew Scriptures combine many of the books that the OT splits up. For example Ezra and Nehemiah are combined into one book in the Hebrew Scriptures whereas in the OT they are two separate books.
No christians hear the Torah in hebrew directly from Jews themselves.
The same could be said about first century Jews living outside of Judea. Did that make them less Jewish?
And why do you suppose there are translations of the Hebrew Scriptures today for Jews such as the JPS?
David, you missed Con’s point entirely.
In Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate, William Nicholls points out that Christians read and interpret the Hebrew Bible so differently from Jews that in Christian hands it did not simply become the “Old Testament”; it became the Christian Old Testament. If you came to Christianity through study of the Hebrew Scriptures taught by observant Jews (without any prior Christian instruction), it might be a bit surprising. But you were taught by Christians who were already viewing our Bible through the lens of Christian scripture.
I do not believe that anyone is entirely objective, including me. Those who claim objectivity lose their credibility. They are simply deluding themselves.
According to Josephus there were very few Jews who actually spoke Greek. It should also be noted that the Septuagint used by Xtians isn’t the one Written by the Jews. If one looks at the copy of the Septuagint there is an introduction where Origen, as I recall, speaks about the issues the translation has. I have heard it said that Jews used the Septuagint in the synagogue and that is nothing more than wishful thinking.
There are many misconceptions by Xtians regarding the Masoretic Text. People seem to assume it to be a translation or something. The Masoretic, which comes from Mesorah, Tradition, was simply the addition of the Nikkud. A system was developed to include vowels into a consonant only language. If there were no Mesorah would Torah be speaking about cooking “milk” with meat, OR is it speaking of cooking “fats” with meat. With the addition of the vowels there is no difficulty.
The only ones who required translations were those who became assimilated. At the time of the JPS it was a serious issue. It was such a prevalent issue that it was mentioned at the Wannsee conference. It was said there was no need for a final solution as the Jews were assimilating themselves out of existence. Those who kept the Traditions of the Fathers had no need for translations. The Actual learning of Torah cannot be done with a translation.
Actually, it is a translation to the modern Hebrew of the time, and more than just putting in vowel points. And just as in the case of the Septuagint, there is no original with which to verify it’s accuracy.
However, we do know that the Septuagint is centuries closer to the originals than the MT and is not itself a reaction to the NT.
Having said that, mainstream protestant Christianity does base the bible translations on the MT Hebrew Scriptures and the Greek NT and NOT the Septuagint as some have claimed here. Even the Catholics have been switching over. The one exception is the Eastern Orthodox which still uses the Septuagint, but I don’t fault them for that decision for reasons alluded to above.
Again, the text was not a Translation. Others used that clarification of vowels etc in determining Their translations. As they say, the translation is based upon the Masoretic Text. The scholars who were set with the task needed to come with a method of chanting symbols and vowel placements so future generations would understand proper pronunciation.
Most of the Old Testament scriptures were written in Paleo-Hebrew, or a closely related derivative. Generally considered to be an offshoot of ancient Phonecian script, Paleo-Hebrew represents the pen of David, the script of Moses, and perhaps even the Finger of God on the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments.
Modern Hebrew, on the other hand, is not quite so ancient. Israelites acquired this new alphabet from Assyria (Persia), somewhere around the 6th-7th century B.C. This was the same general time period as Israel’s exile to Babylon . . . many centuries after most of the Old Testament was written.
Initially, the Old Testament Scriptures were exclusively written in Paleo-Hebrew.
Then, after borrowing the new alphabet from the Assyrians, the Jews began transliterating large portions of Scripture into the newer version.
The Samaritan Pentateuch uses the Samaritan alphabet, which is closely related to Paleo-Hebrew. It is likely that much of this text looks similar to what Moses and David saw in the original copies of the Old Testament. The Masoretic Text differs from the Samaritan Pentateuch in over 6,000 places.
But old habits die hard. Especially with religion. Especially in regard to the name of God. For a period of time, Jews transcribed the majority of the Old Testament using the new Hebrew alphabet, while retaining the more ancient way of writing God’s name. Thus, for a while, the Hebrew Scriptures were written with a mixture of two different alphabets. Even after the Jews began exclusively using the new Assyrian letters to copy the text of Scripture, the more ancient Paleo-Hebrew letters persisted in some corners of Jewish society. As late as the 2nd century A.D., during the Bar Kokhba revolt, Jewish coins displayed writing with the ancient Paleo-Hebrew script.
Eventually, though, the newer Assyrian alphabet won the day. No new copies were being made of the ancient text, and the earliest copies of Scripture eventually disintegrated. By the time of Christ, the only existing copies of the Old Testament had either been transliterated into modern Hebrew, or translated into Greek (in the Septuagint). One exception is the Samaritan Pentateuch, which continues to be written in the ancient form, even to this day. However, Jews and Christians both rejected the text as being of questionable accuracy.
Today, many people are under the false impression that the Masoretic Text represents
the “original Hebrew”, and that the Septuagint is less trustworthy because it is “just a translation”. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The Septuagint is actually more faithful to the original Hebrew than the Masoretic Text is.
Christian propaganda. The Septuagint was in Christian hands with Christian editors–and you seriously believe no changes were made?
The letters of the ancient Hebrew script correspond exactly to the modern; the Biblical Hebrew remains unchanged. That is why my husband’s friend who studied the ancient script but only learned Biblical Hebrew the traditional way (the same way I did), can read and understand ancient texts like the Dead Sea Scrolls without a problem.
Furthermore, the later books were translated much, much later–only the first five books were translated that early.
Just because Xtians write historical thesis it doesn’t automatically endow them to accuracy. What Jews DO have is a chain of transmission that gives more credibility than someone’s “study” within a single generation.
The Samaritans, for example, weren’t even indigenous to Israel, let alone the time of Moshe’s writing of Torah, and NOT “ot”.
David Taking the Paleo-Hebrew text and rendering it with Assyrian letters doesn’t change the text at all – its like using a different font
The Dead Sea Scrolls are dated from the last 2 centuries BCE to the first century CE.
The majority of Dead Sea Scrolls were written in Hebrew, but the collection also includes many Aramaic and Greek texts, as well as some Arabic texts and a small number of Latin fragments.
Most of the Hebrew Scrolls are written in the standard “square” (“Jewish”) script, very similar to today’s Modern Hebrew, while several are written in paleo-Hebrew.
This is true, and therefore no one can be entirely objective. In fact, as soon as someone claims objectivity they have lost their credibility in my eyes. This makes truth seeking a challenge! The best we can do is be honest and acknowledge our biases and pray for clarity and guidance–and the courage and strength to do the right thing.
I have often thought that I am an Orthodox Jew because I was raised that way, and I experienced (and continue to experience) Orthodox Judaism as positive, joyful, uplifting, and ennobling. I will be the first to admit that I am biased in favor of Orthodox Judaism, but that I try to set aside my bias and evaluate as objectively as I can every argument that is presented. God expects us to do no better than our best, with whatever limitations we have to work with.
Its really as simple as the fact that people are more likely (predisposed) to believe what they hear from family than what they hear from strangers. So, when a person is raised in a Christian culture, that is his default truth position, his assumptions are governed by that exposure. Very simple indeed.
Jim the Christian will defend his NT with the same fervor that any Jew would in his defending of Torah, because from his vantage point, Christianity is as much a “truth from his fathers” as he is aware of from his viewpoint.
Jews follow the testimony of their fathers that they are raised with, so why should we be surprised that the Christians or Muslims trust what they are told from birth is true by their parents? We are all made in G-D’s image, we all have the same senses, the same thirst to know. In many ways our view is a product of circumstances.
I did not say that a Christian should not be expected to defend the NT, but that, since he holds the Torah to be true, he ought to defend that equally.
But, since his acceptance is only based on Jesus, he has a crisis on his hands.
Also, when a Christian reads the bible with an agenda, they will find it everywhere.
Hi Larry B
Obviously your comments on reading the bible with an agenda would not be limited to Christians, although you may have intended it that way.