1. Page 4
Brown addresses Maimonides’ statement that Jews must believe in God as
an “only one (- absolute unity): “There is no doubt that this reaction was
due to exaggerated, unbiblical, “Christian” beliefs that gave Jews the
impression Christians worshipped three gods.”
Brown would have his readers believe that Maimonides’ statement is a
“reaction. He would have his readers believe that this “reaction” was due to an incorrect understanding of Christianity.
I have a difficult time imagining a statement that would be more
offensive and insulting to Jews and to Judaism. Brown has “no doubt”
that the core belief of Judaism is a “reaction” to another belief
system. That would be like saying that there is no doubt that Christians revere Jesus as a “reaction” to the Moslem reverence of Mohammed. Or that the reason two people got married to each other was to avoid marrying someone else.
The Jewish people are married to their God. They met Him at Sinai and
their hearts are pledged to Him ever since. We know our God and we do not have
to “react” to redefine our God against other belief systems.
Another underlying misconception that needs to be cleared up is the
idea that Maimonides felt threatened in any way by Christianity, as if
Christianity is a belief system that somehow loomed large and threatening on the horizon of Maimonides’ thought-process. This is false. It is obvious from the writings of Maimonides that the theology of Christianity in no way intimidated him. He viewed a belief system that deifies a human as something that hardly deserves mention. If Maimonides ever felt the need to “react”, it was not to Christianity.
Finally, a “correct” understanding of Christianity would have done
nothing to change Maimonides’ views on the matter. Every form of Trinitarian Christianity attributes deity to a person that walked this earth. This concept, however it is presented, is the very antithesis of Judaism.
2. Page 4
Brown argues against the identification of God as an absolute unity as
if this question would somehow be tied to the distinction between the two
Hebrew words “echad” (- one) versus “yachid” (- unique, alone). Brown accuses Maimonides of inserting the word “yachid” whereas the word “echad” is the word that the Bible uses.
This argument is irrelevant. The famous thirteen principles of faith as
they are printed in the popular Hebrew were not formulated by Maimonides. Maimonides wrote a lengthy essay in Arabic, which was summarized in Hebrew by an anonymous author. When we read Maimonides’ Hebrew work that addresses these matters (Yad Hachazaka, Yesodei Hatorah 1:7) we clearly see that Maimonides did not get confused between “echad” and “yachid”. The fact is that the word“yachid” could refer to a compound unity just as easily as the word “echad”, so
changing the word would not have helped Maimonides in any case. The point that Maimonides is making is that unless we are speaking of an absolute unity, then the word “echad” (- one) is only a relative term. Maimonides understood that the Shema is not using relative terminology to speak of God.
3. Page 6
Brown argues that the Shema (-Hear O Israel…Deuteronomy 6:4) only says that God is alone and not that He is absolutely One.
This point is also irrelevant. Which God is the Shema referring to? The One that the Jews believe in, the One that took them out of Egypt and who revealed Himself at Sinai, Him alone – and no one else. Who is excluded? If someone were to take a graven image and claim that this is “one and the same” with the God of Israel, is that not excluded? When Jeroboam pointed to the calf and said “this is who took you out of Egypt” (1Kings 12:28), was that not excluded? When the Buddhists point to a stone statue of Buddha and claim that this is the incarnation of the Creator of heaven and earth, is that not excluded by the “one” of Shema? The “one” of Shema points back to the Sinai revelation. At that revelation God made clear to the Jewish people who it is that they should be directing their devotion to. It was not Jesus. Furthermore, at Sinai God gave the Jewish people to understand that everything in the heaven and earth are but His creations. Any theology that justifies worship of an inhabitant of this earth is precluded by the Sinai revelation and by the Shema.
4. Page 7
Brown claims that the Jewish rejection of the trinity is the result of a “gut
level negative reaction to anything Christian”. Where did this negative
reaction start from? According to the Christian scriptures, the Jews rejected Christianity because it did not fit with their understanding of God, an understanding that preceded Christianity.
Another point to consider is the fact that the far more likely scenario is that the Church adopted belief in the trinity as a gut level negative reaction to anything Jewish.
The same Council of Nicea that adopted the trinity as a Christian belief, was plagued with a gut level negative reaction to anything Jewish. The same Church Council that ratified the trinity also prohibited celebration of Easter in conjunction with Passover. The basis for this decision was not some scholarly calculation or an esoteric argument. I will allow Eusubius, the Church historian who was present at that Council, to speak for himself:
“And these are the words with which the Emperor addressed
the assembly at Nicea; “Why should we follow in the footsteps of these people who are scorned by God, to celebrate our holy festival together with them? Is there any greater impertinence than this, that these hated Jews should be able to say that we cannot celebrate and observe our festival unless we follow their calculations?” (De Vita Constantini 3:2).
Hatred of Jews and Judaism was reason enough to move this Church Council to change their practices. Is it not likely that the vote against Arius (who opposed belief in the trinity) was also influenced by this hatred of Jews?
If you found this article helpful please consider making a donation to Judaism Resources by clicking on the link below.
Judaism Resources is a recognized 501(c) 3 public charity and your donation is tax exempt.
Yisroel C. Blumenthal