The Legitimacy of Questioning – by Jim
Is it fair that Jesus call his opponents “sons of the devil” and such names? Is he really just correcting (lovingly) those who were in sin? The Christian apologists here would have us believe that the invective Jesus spits at his opponents is perfectly justified, but let us examine the evidence.
One of the claims that Jesus makes is that the Hebrew scriptures testify to him: “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40). This claim, however, is wholly unsubstantiated.
It is clear that anybody can make any claim for himself. It is another thing to prove the veracity of the claim. How would Jesus be able to substantiate the claim that the scriptures testify to him? This would be an exceedingly difficult claim, and we cannot be surprised that he never makes an attempt to support it. Instead, he browbeats his opponents, claiming, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote how will you believe what I say?” (John 5:46-47). All Jesus has done here is attempt to humiliate his opponents and borrow the authority of Moses for himself, that and vilify his opponents. As is so often his way, he questions their sincerity.
But let us examine his claim. Is Jesus found in the scriptures? Did Moses write about Jesus?
The latter question is the easier to answer. Torah says very little about the Messiah. It is most certainly false that a reading of the Five Books would lead one to the idea that Jesus has propounded, that one should come to the Messiah (or specifically himself) for eternal life. One can see why Jesus did not appeal to one actual scripture. It is not likely he could find one. It is much easier to call people blind for not seeing something than to show it them where it cannot be found. No wonder then that he would rely upon invective rather than instructing the people.
And what about the scripture in general? Do they testify on Jesus’ behalf?
It is unclear what Jesus means that they testify on his behalf. Once again, it is important to note that the person of the Messiah is hardly mentioned. He is not the focus of the Writings or the Prophets anymore than he is the focus of Torah. Certainly nothing in them shows that the Messiah brings eternal life. Even if they did, that would not mean that Jesus brings eternal life, because he had not yet proven himself to be the Messiah.
It can be supposed that Jesus was making reference to the prophecies he was supposed to have fulfilled up to that point. However, if these are the same prophecies used by the Church, then it is no wonder that he referenced none of them. They would carry no weight with a knowledgeable person. And seldom could they be verified.
What could he say? “I was born of a virgin.” This would be an empty claim, because nobody could know that that was the case. The words would be empty without proof. And anybody with knowledge would know that no such prophecy exists. For anybody who knew Isaiah 7:14, it would be clear that Jesus was a confused person. Isaiah 7:14 is about a woman naming her child “Immanuel”. Jesus’ mother did not so name him. Clearly the prophecy had nothing to do with him.
Perhaps he could tell them that he was from Bethlehem. This would be useful, inasmuch as they thought he was just from Galilee (John 7:42). But this would not be proof either. Anybody could say they were from Bethlehem; that does not make it so. He had no birth certificate. Even today, some people question the birthplace of the current American president. Just saying you were born somewhere does not make it so. There were no witnesses to question about the event. It would be just another empty claim. (And certainly not everyone born in Bethlehem is the Messiah.)
Or, he could tell them how God called him out of Egypt. But any knowledgeable person would know that Hosea 11:1 was not about the Messiah. It was about Israel. And the same problem comes up as with the two previous ‘Messianic’ prophecies. Jesus has no witnesses. So, even if the prophecies had been about the Messiah, they would not be able to compare them to Jesus’ life and see how well they matched up.
Of course, I could go on, but all the supposed prophecies Jesus is said to have fulfilled have been tackled elsewhere. They have been shown not to be Messianic prophecies whatsoever, in most cases. And most anything Jesus is supposed to have fulfilled was a private event that could not serve as verification of his claims.
In short, Jesus’ claim that his opponents do not believe Moses is spurious. John does not have Jesus bringing any proofs, and it is obvious why. Jesus is not making a legitimate argument, proving his claims. Instead, he attacks their character. He vilifies his opponents, because he is actually asking for blind faith. He is demanding that people take him at his word. He will tolerate no investigation into his claims. So, rather than show how they are wrong, he attributes evil motives to them.
Jesus is nothing more than a demagogue. He demands belief without evidence. His castigation of them is not an act of love, of kindness. It is hateful and self-serving.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal