Questions that Dr. Michael Brown Has Failed to Address
The video lecture entitled; Unanswered, is but a brief sampling of the arguments that I have presented to refute Dr. Brown’s writings. Please refer to Contra Brown, The Elephant and the Suit, Supplement to Contra Brown, Kosher Reality and Response to Line of Fire for a comprehensive refutation of his works.
CONTRA BROWN: Answering Dr. Brown’s Objections to Judaism
THE ELEPHANT AND THE SUIT: A Critical Review of Dr. Michael L. Brown’s “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus” – 5 Volumes
SUPPLEMENT TO CONTRA BROWN: A Critical Review of “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus”
Response to Dr. Brown LINE OF FIRE Radio Broadcasts:
KOSHER REALITY: A Jewish Response to “The Real Kosher Jesus” by Dr. Michael L Brown
The following articles were not necessarily written as a direct refutation to Dr. Brown’s writings but they will help you understand the three questions that I presented against the works of Dr. Brown.
Readers Guide to the Bible; Dr. Brown vs. God
Idolatry, the Violation of a Relationship
Messianic Prophecies; Dr. Brown vs. Dr. Brown
These are in addition to the hundreds of articles that Judaism Resources has made available to expose the fallacies of the missionary arguments.
The following essays complement the video lecture entitled; “Unanswered.” We hope you find these study notes helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>
Yisroel C. Blumenthal
The Fundamentals of Judaism
In the following paragraphs I will present the foundational Jewish beliefs concerning the key issues that stand between Judaism and Christianity (worship of God, atonement from sin, and the advent of the Messiah). I will also demonstrate how these beliefs are supported by the Biblical text.
Our devotion is directed to the God who spoke to us at Sinai and to Him alone. This core belief of Judaism is clearly stated in Exodus 20:1, 2. The passage records how God told the people: “I am the Lord your God who took you out of the land of Egypt from the house of bondage, you shall not recognize other gods before me”. This concept is repeated in Deuteronomy 4:35, where Moses reminds us: “You have been shown in order that you know that the Lord, He is the God there is none beside Him.”
Jews believe that God requires sincere repentance for the forgiveness of sin. This fundamental doctrine is plainly stated by the prophets. Isaiah taught: “Let the wicked one forsake his way and the iniquitous man his thoughts, let him return to the Lord and He will show him mercy, to our God for He is abundantly forgiving” (Isaiah 55:7). Ezekiel passes on the word of God: “As for the wicked one, if he repents from all his sins that he has committed, and he observes all My decrees and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he has committed will not be remembered against him…” (Ezekiel 18:21, 22).
All of Judaism’s core beliefs about the Messiah and the Messianic age are clearly expressed in the Jewish Scriptures.
The prophets spoke of the ingathering of the Jewish exile (Deuteronomy 30:3, Isaiah 11:12, 40:11, 43:5,6, 49:12,18,22, 60:4, 66:20, Jeremiah 3:18, 30:3, 31:7, 32:37, Ezekiel 11:17, 20:41, 34:13, 36:24, 37:21).
Scripture describes the destruction of Israel’s enemies (Numbers 24:17,18; Deuteronomy 30:7; 32:43; 33:24; Isaiah 11:14; 14:25,26; 17:14; 18:6; 26:21; 34:8; 41:11,15; 49:25,26; 51:23; 60:12,14; 61:2; 63:4; Jeremiah 30:16,17; Ezekiel 39:10; Joel 4:2,21; Obadiah 1:18; Micah 5:8; 7:9; Daniel 2:44; Psalm 79:12; 83:18).
The Bible teaches about the vindication of Israel’s hope to God (Isaiah 26:2,13; 40:31; 49:23; 51:7; 54:17; 60:21; 62:2; Micah 7:8,9).
The prophets spoke of a Temple in Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:2, 60:7, Jeremiah 33:18, Ezekiel 37:26, 43:7, 44:15, Micah 4:1).
The Scripture tells us about a national return to Torah observance (Deuteronomy 30:8, Jeremiah 31:32, Ezekiel 11:20, 36:27, 37:24, 44:23,24).
The prophets taught us about universal peace (Isaiah 2:4, 65:25, Jeremiah 33:9,16, Ezekiel 34:25,28, 37:26, Hosea 2:20, Psalm 72:3).
And Israel looks forward to a world that is filled with the knowledge of God (Isaiah 11:9, 45:23, 54:13, 66:18,19,23, Jeremiah 3:17, 31:33, Ezekiel 38:23, Zephaniah 3:9, Zechariah 8:20-23, 14:9,16).
The fundamentals of Judaism are explicitly spelled out in the Scriptures.
Skip and Choose, Downplaying the Messianic Prophecies
Peace on Earth
Dr. Brown does not provide any evidence to minimize this aspect of the Messianic hope of the Jewish prophets. He just tells his audience that this was not the Messiah’s role during his “first coming.” The only argument he presents to support this fallacious position is that: “…nowhere in our Scriptures does it explicitly say “When the messiah comes there will be peace on earth.” Rather, it speaks of an era of peace at the end of the age (see Isaiah 2:1-4, without any mention of a Messianic figure there)” (Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol. 1, pg. 70)
In other words, because the prophets did not explicitly say the words that Dr. Brown would have them say, and because in one particular prophecy, they did not associate peace with a Messianic figure, he dismisses this central aspect of the Messianic vision and hope of the Jewish Scriptures.
Ezekiel 34:23-25; 37:24-26; Jeremiah 23:6 explicitly associate peace and security with a Messianic figure. The following passages speak of peace and security in the Messianic era without explicitly mentioning a Messianic figure. Isaiah 2:4; 11:6-9; 32:18; 52:7; 54:10,13; 60:17; 65:25; 66:12; Jeremiah 30:10; 32:37; 33:6,9; Ezekiel 28:26; Hosea 2:20; Zephaniah 3;13; Zechariah 14:11. This is aside from Haggai 2:9 and Zechariah 9:9 which Dr. Brown himself identifies as “significant” Messianic prophecies. These prophecies speak of an era of peace, but this detail of the prophecy is relegated by Dr. Brown to “fringe at best.”
The Restoration of the Jerusalem Temple
Dr. Brown minimizes this aspect of the Messianic hope of our prophets by quoting Maimonides. Maimonides says that the Messiah will rebuild the Temple and Dr. Brown insists on understanding Maimonides’ statement in the most literal way possible; that the Messiah build the Temple with his own hands. Dr. Brown then goes on to complain that the prophets don’t say anything about the Messiah building the Temple.
Before we get to Dr. Brown’s treatment of Zechariah 6:13, let us see what Dr. Brown has to say about Israel’s hope for a restored Temple.
Dr. Brown claims that Isaiah spoke of the House of the Lord in Jerusalem (quoting 2:1-4), but Isaiah did not say anything about a restored or rebuilt Temple (Answering Jewish Objections, Vol. 3, pg. 171).
Dr. Brown does not explain how the “house of the Lord” is different from a “Temple” and he doesn’t tell his audience why he forgot to mention Isaiah 56:7; 60:7,13 which clearly speak of a Temple in the Messianic era.
Dr. Brown acknowledges that Jeremiah 33:10-11 speaks of thanksgiving offering being brought to the house of the Lord but he claims that “no mention is made of the Temple’s restoration.” Again, we have an explicit reference to God’s House in the Messianic era, yet it is not good enough for Dr. Brown.
Dr. Brown goes on to say that aside from the books of Zechariah and Ezekiel there is no mention of the Temple’s restoration nor is the rebuilding of the Temple associated with the mission of the Messiah. This statement is patently false. Joel 4:18 and Micah 4:1 both speak of a Temple in the Messianic era.
The book of Ezekiel devotes several chapters to the Temple in the Messianic age but Dr. Brown dismisses these prophecies because they do not explicitly state that the Messiah will be the one to build the Temple with his two hands. It is important to note that Ezekiel 37:28 points to the Temple as a purpose and goal of the Messianic hope. The prophet highlights the Temple and calls attention to it, but Dr. Brown would have us focus elsewhere.
When Dr. Brown discusses the book of Zechariah, he seems to have forgotten that Zechariah 14:20,21 mention the Temple in the Messianic age. Instead he turns his focus on Zechariah 6:12,13 which explicitly says “he will rebuild the Temple.” Dr. Brown does not tell his audience that in his interview with Lee Stroebel he enthusiastically declares that this prophecy is “the most overt passage in the Bible where a human being is explicitly identified with a Messianic figure” (The Case for the Real Jesus, pg. 199). Instead he complains that this prophecy appears in only one book of the Bible, he tells his audience that Rashi, the Jewish Bible commentator does not see this passage in Zechariah as a Messianic prophecy and he suggests that the Temple described in this passage might not be a literal Temple (Answering Jewish Objections, vol. 3, pgs. 170-179).
The Restoration of the Sacrificial System
In his attempt to minimize the restoration of the sacrificial system predicted by the Jewish prophets Dr. Brown dismisses the lengthy prophecies in Ezekiel (chapters 40 thru 48), which speak extensively about a restored sacrificial system, with the argument that the rabbis had difficulties explaining these passages.
Dr. Brown goes on to say that aside from Ezekiel only four other prophets make mention of the future sacrifices; Isaiah, Zechariah, Malachi and Jeremiah. Dr. Brown argues that Jeremiah is the only one of these four prophets who mentions Jewish people bringing the sacrifices (Jeremiah 33:10-11) and he claims that the references to future sacrifices in Isaiah, Zechariah and Malachi take up a total of three verses. He concludes with the assessment; “These are hardly major subjects in these prophetic books” (Answering Jewish Objections, Vol. 2, pg. 182).
Dr. Brown has conveniently forgotten that Ezekiel 20:41 (this is not one of those chapters that are difficult to interpret) explicitly speaks of Jewish people bringing sacrifices in the Messianic era. Dr. Brown has misunderstood the prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi. He points to Isaiah 19:21 and Malachi 1:11 as if they were Messianic predictions when in fact Isaiah is speaking of an event that was fulfilled during the times of the Second Temple and Malachi was speaking about his own times and not making a prophetic prediction.
But more important is the fact that Dr. Brown has conveniently forgotten that Isaiah speaks of sacrifices in the Messianic era in two other passages (56:7; 60:7). He also forgot that Malachi explicitly speaks of Jewish offerings and he describes them as a hope and purpose of the Messianic restoration (Malachi 3:3,4), and he also forgot Jeremiah 33:18.
Dr. Brown’s List of Messianic Prophecies Evaluated by Dr. Brown’s Own Standard
Let us examine the prophecies that Dr. Brown claims were fulfilled by Jesus (Answering Jewish Objections, Vol. 3, pgs. 153-154).
Dr. Brown tells us: “He was born where the prophet said he would be born (cf. Targum Jonathan, Rashi, Radak on Micha 5:2).”
The prophet says nothing about the Messiah’s birthplace (neither does the Targum, Rashi, or the Radak). The prophet spoke of the clan from which the Messiah will come. The prophet is talking about a family, not a geographical location.
In any case, this is one prophecy, it takes the space of one verse and it appears in only one book. According to Dr. Brown, “hardly a major subject.”
Dr. Brown tells us: “He came into the world when the prophets said he would (according to the combined prophetic witness of Daniel, Haggai, and Malachi, along with hints found in the Talmud…).”
I have dealt extensively with this argument in Contra-Brown. To summarize we can say that none of these prophecies are quoted by the authors of Christian scripture as support for Jesus’ claims. According to Dr. Brown (page 18) a prophecy that is quoted only once by the Christian scriptures cannot be considered a “central” prophecy. This should certainly hold true with prophecies that are never quoted at all. There are serious problems with the Christian interpretations of these passages. These problems include (but are not limited to); the cutting off of the anointed mentioned by Daniel is to occur at the same time as the destruction of Jerusalem, The glory that Haggai speaks of is attributed to the Temple, not to a replacement of the Temple, and the visitation that Malachi speaks of is one that brings back the Levitical priesthood, not one which deposes it.
In any case, according to Dr. Brown’s standard, a prophecy which appears in only three of the prophetic books must be insignificant. Furthermore, Haggai’s prophecy does not mention a Messianic figure. According to Dr. Brown’s own standard, this factor relegates all of the prophecies from this category to the level of “fringe.”
Dr. Brown: “He performed miraculous deeds of deliverance and healing, in accordance with the prophecies of Isaiah (Isa. 35:5-7; 49:6-7; 61:1-3).”
Isaiah 35:5-7 explicitly tells us that these miracles will occur at the time of Israel’s physical restoration to the land. Isaiah 49:6-7 does not speak of miraculous healings. It speaks of God’s deliverance, which again, is associated with Israel’s physical restoration to their land. And Isaiah 61:1-3 also speaks of Israel’s physical restoration. In fact specific mention is made of comforting the mourners of Zion. These are the people who yearn for Israel’s restoration and honor, not those who look forward to Israel’s embarrassment.
Furthermore, the overall context of the book of Isaiah tells us that the “opening of the eyes of the blind” is a reference to Israel breaking free from the darkness of exile and not to the healing of a few blind people (see Isaiah 33:23, 41:17, 42:16, 43:8,20, 49:9-13, 52:11-12, Jeremiah 31:7).
In any case, one of these prophecies (35:7) does not mention a Messianic figure, which should relegate the category to “fringe” according to Dr. Brown. Furthermore, this concept appears in only one book of Scripture and in only three lonely prophecies, far too few for Dr. Brown’s standards that he set for the prophecies which he would have us dismiss.
Dr. Brown: “He was rejected by his own people, as was prophesied (Ps. 118:22; Isa. 49:4; 53:2-4).”
Psalm 118 does not speak of the Messiah. Isaiah 49 describes the subject as a servant to rulers, not a very fitting description of Jesus. And Isaiah 53, speaks of a rejection by the kings of nations, not by the subject’s own people.
Here too, only three prophets spoke of this concept, which is too few for Dr. Brown when it comes to the restoration of the sacrificial system.
Dr. Brown: “He suffered before his exaltation, as the prophets declared (Psalm 22; Isa. 52:13-15; Zech. 9:9).”
Psalm 22 does not explicitly speak of the Messiah. Isaiah 53 also does not explicitly speak of the Messiah, and the exaltation described by the prophet does not fit the career of Jesus. Zechariah speaks of a king who will put an end to war and govern in a literal sense, not a person who inspired more bloodshed than any other person in history.
Here too, only three prophets spoke of this concept, which is too few for Dr. Brown when it comes to the restoration of the sacrificial system.
Dr. Brown: “He died and then rose from the dead, according to the scriptures (Isaiah 53; Psalm 16; 22).”
Isaiah 53 is not talking of the Messiah. Psalm 16 and 22 don’t speak about a resurrection and they don’t mention the Messiah either. In any case, there is no reason to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. The only people that claim to have witnessed this event were people who were already totally devoted to him. It is clear that the standard of evidence that these people would have required before believing a resurrection would not be the same standard of evidence that an objective bystander would require.
Here too, only two prophets spoke of this concept, which is too few for Dr. Brown when it comes to the restoration of the sacrificial system.
Dr. Brown: “He has brought the light of God to the nations, as the prophets said he would (Isaiah 42, 49, 52) – so that countless millions of people who were once “pagans” now worship the God of Israel through him.”
Isaiah and the other scriptural prophets clearly and explicitly prophesied that the light will only come to the nations with the physical restoration of Israel (Isaiah 17:12 – 18:7, 25:1 – 8, 30:26, 34:1 – 35:10, 40:1 – 11, 41:17 – 20, 49:8 – 13, 52:7 – 10, Zephaniah 3:8 – 20, Psalm 9:8 – 13, 40, 66, 69, 98, 102, 117). The prophets were not looking forward to an age where a human being, a subject of nature, is deified by many nations. The prophets looked forward to a day when the only one exalted is the Supreme Master of Nature.
In any case, this prophecy appears in only one prophetic book and only in three prophecies. Not enough, according to Dr. Brown.
Dr. Brown: “His last act, before he returns to Jerusalem in power and glory, will be to turn his people Israel back to him (Isaiah 49) – and it is this that he is now doing!”
Isaiah 49 speaks nothing about a “last act” and the restoration that the prophet is talking of has nothing to do with an insidious missionary campaign that only succeeds amongst those who are ignorant of their heritage.
Thus the “main” messianic prophecies that Jesus allegedly fulfilled are either, non-existent, not messianic prophecies, not fulfilled by Jesus, or testify against the claims of Christianity. The Jewish objection rings loud and clear – Jesus fulfilled none of the Messianic prophecies.
The Purpose of the Messianic Age According to Scripture
What do the Scriptures teach us about the purpose of the Messianic age? Why do we want the Messianic age? And what are we looking forward to? What are the accomplishments of the Messianic age according to the prophets of Scripture and how will these accomplishments be achieved?
When God made a covenant with Abraham, He said that he would be a God for Abraham’s children (Genesis 17:7,8). When Moses was commissioned by God to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt, God told him that the purpose was so that He can be Israel’s God and they will be His people (Exodus 6:7). And when the prophets speak of the final redemption, they use the same terminology (Jeremiah 30:22; Ezekiel 37:27). This concept is repeated so many times and in such central settings that the Author of Scripture left us with no question that this concept is important to Him (Exodus 29:45; Leviticus 11:45; 22:33; 25:38; 26:12,45; Deuteronomy 26:17; 29:12; 2Samuel 7:24,26; Jeremiah 7:23; 11:7; 24:7; 30:25; 31:32; 32:38; Ezekiel 11:20; 14:11; 36:28; 37:23; Zechariah 8:8; 1Chronicles 17:22; see also Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 4:20; 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; 28:9; 1Samuel 12:22; 2Samuel 7:23; 2Kings 11:17; Isaiah 43:21; 51:16; 54:5; 62:5; Jeremiah 13:11; Hosea 2:18,21,22; 2Chronicles 23:16).
What does this mean? Isn’t God simply God? How is He going to be a God for Israel?
This is all about a relationship. The covenant relationship that Israel shares with God is compared to a marriage. A marriage is a relationship that redefines both participants to the outside world and God’s covenant relationship with Israel is no different.
Israel being God’s people means that they express loyalty to Him. That they give their hearts to no other in worship but to Him and that they follow His Law. That they hearken to His voice, love Him and cleave to Him.
And God reciprocates by showing His closeness to Israel in an open and manifest way. In a way that singles Israel out and sets them apart from the nations of the world. God does this by making His presence manifest in the Temple of the Jewish people. He does this by miraculously intervening to save the Jewish people from their enemies, planting them in the land that He promised to their ancestors and blessing them with peace (Exodus 19:6; Numbers 23:9; Deuteronomy 4:7; 33:29; 1Samuel 12:22; 2Samuel 7:23; 1 Kings 8:53; Isaiah 43:10; 59:21; Jeremiah 2:3; 31:10,35; Ezekiel 37:28; Joel 4:16; Amos 9:15; Zechariah 2:12; Malachi 3:12; Psalm 29:11; 111:9; 115:12).
Israel experienced this closeness to God in the times of Moses, in the times of Solomon and in the times of Hezekiah. But when Israel sinned and turned away from God, God turned away from them. He removed His protection from Israel, He removed His blessing of peace, He allowed them to be removed from their land and He removed His presence from the Temple.
The hope and yearning for the Messianic age is simply a hope and yearning for a reconciliation between God and Israel, His covenantal partner. The prophets cried for the restoration of Israel, the restoration of God’s presence to the midst of Israel and for Israel’s salvation from her enemies (Isaiah 64:8-10; Jeremiah 14:9; Zechariah 1:12; Psalm 28:9; 44:27; 51:20; 74:1,2; 79:5; 80:4-8; 83:1-19; 85:5-7; 102:14; 106:47; 126:4; 137:7; Lamentations 5:20,21).
But there is something else that they cried for as well. They cried for the shame of God and for the shame of Israel. When you see a Jew praying, you know exactly who he or she is praying to and you also know who they are not praying to. As long as the Jewish people are in exile and God’s closeness to them is not manifest, then the hope of the Jew seems to be an empty hope and the God of the Jew seems to be a powerless God. Those who do not appreciate the Jew’s relationship with God taunt the Jew and mock his God. They ask the Jew with derision; where is your God? And the prophets prayed that this shame be removed from God and from His nation (Joel 2:17; Psalm 42:4,11; 74:22; 79:9-13; 116:1,2; Daniel 9:16-19).
And the thrust and the purpose of the Messianic hope is that Israel’s hope is ultimately vindicated. The prophets promised that all the nations will see God manifest His closeness to Israel and they will realize that the One in whom Israel placed their trust is truly God and that all else is naught. (Isaiah 2:17,18; 24:21-23; 25:9; 26:1; 49:43; 52;10; 60:2,3; 61:11-62:4; Ezekiel 37:28; 38:23; Joel 2:27; Micah 7:10,16,17; Psalm 67:2-4; 69:35,36; 83:18,19; 97:6,7; 98:2,3; 99:2; 102:16-18; 126:2).
The prophets testified that Israel’s suffering will turn into joy when she hears that her God reigns (Isaiah 40:8; 52:7; Psalm 97:8).
Israel’s covenant with God and the Messianic hope cannot be separated from one another. The vindication of Israel’s relationship with God is the Messianic hope. They are one and the same.
The role of the king of any nation is to lead his nation to its national destiny and the king of Israel is no different.
Israel was created by God so that they can praise Him (Isaiah 43:21) and Israel yearns for her freedom just so that she can praise God (Psalm 79:13; 106:47; 115:18; 1Chronicles 16:35). This is Israel’s eternal destiny and Israel’s rightful king is David, who leads them in this task of praising God.
Israel’s hopes and yearnings are given expression on the harp of her king and Israel and David undergo the same experiences. They both recognize their poverty before God. They appreciate that man cannot possess security, strength, wisdom, or wealth because it all belongs to God. This sense of poverty is the heart of one who trusts in God, because if someone sees himself as possessing security or wealth, then their hearts lean on their imagined possessions. And when this sense of poverty and absolute trust in God is vindicated, then God is vindicated. This happens to the nation and it happens to the king. This is not a peripheral aspect of God’s plan for mankind, but it is the very heart of it. That when God vindicates those who trust in Him mankind learns to appreciate God and His absolute sovereignty (2Samuel 22:28; Isaiah 14:30,32; 25:4; 26:6; 41:17; 49:13; Psalm 9:10-12; 18:28; 31:8,9; 35:10; 40:18; 68:11; 69:30,34; 70:6; 74:19,21; 102:1,18; 109:31; 113:7; 140:13).
Praising God and recognizing one’s own poverty before God are also one and the same. You can only thank God for something that you believe He gave you and that you do not deserve. If you see yourself as a rightful possessor you will not find gratitude in your heart. You can only praise God from a position of recognizing your complete and absolute dependence upon God and His mercy. The nation of Israel and her king David exemplify this attitude of gratitude and recognition of complete dependence on God. The vindication of this attitude is the heart of the Messianic promise.
The first time the Messianic promise appears in Scripture is in Jacob’s blessing to his son, Judah (Genesis 49:10). The name “Judah” means praising and thanking God (Genesis 29:35). Thanking God is the center of the Messianic promise and it is the center of the destiny of the Jew, because after all, the name “Jew” is just an English version of the word “Judah;” praise God. And the king of the nation simply leads the nation to its national destiny, the destiny that is inherent in its very name.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal