Who is Dr. Brown? And why is it important to know that he has failed to address certain questions? Who cares and why should it make a difference? Why am I taking up your time to tell you about it?
You see, Dr. Brown has written a 5 volume series entitled “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus.” In this series he lays out the argument that the Jewish Bible points to the alleged Messiah-ship of Jesus. Dr. Brown knows that in order to convince a Jew to join him in devotion to Jesus, it won’t be enough to tell him about the vast number of people that believe in Jesus. Dr. Brown knows that he won’t convince a Jew to give his heart to Jesus by telling the Jew about miracles performed in Jesus’ name. And Dr. Brown won’t persuade a Jew to turn to Jesus on the basis of the spiritual experience of Jesus’ followers.
The Jew has the word of God, the Jewish Bible, which was here before Jesus walked this earth. This book is God’s guidance to the Jewish people and if this book tells the Jew to reject Jesus then the Jew is morally obligated to ignore the numbers, ignore the miracles and ignore the spiritual experiences and reject Jesus. The word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8) and no miracle, experience or any number of “believers” can overturn one word of Scripture.
Fact of the matter is that Jews read the Bible and hear God directing them to reject the claims of the Church. Dr. Brown recognizes this and that is why he wrote his massive work attempting to make a case for Jesus on the basis of the Jewish Bible. Because Dr. Brown knows that if the Bible is not on Jesus’ side, then Jesus is not the Messiah.
I have read Dr. Brown’s work and I have found to be incredibly empty. He fails to address some of the foundational Jewish objections, his reasoning is flawed and his arguments are riddled with self-contradiction. I don’t expect you to take my word for this. I have laid out all of my arguments in writing. My articles have been brought to the attention of Dr. Brown and he has failed to respond.
So now you know why this is important. If my questions are indeed valid then the Church has no case for Jesus on the basis of the Jewish Bible. You see, Dr. Brown is certainly motivated to convince the Jewish people that Jesus is who the Church claims he is. I have done him the service of articulating why a Jew who has a working knowledge of the Jewish Bible sees right through all of his arguments. Why would he fail to respond? I don’t believe that Dr. Brown has the answers to my questions and he is withholding them from the public. It makes no sense.
I am not here to persuade you or to convince you. I don’t want you to believe me. I want to empower you. I encourage you to study, analyze and educate yourself. Don’t rely on the Christian to give you the Jewish position. I have provided you with a written articulation of the Jewish perspective, take advantage of it.
But perhaps all this reading is too much for you. It is for this reason that I am talking to you now. I want to share 3 of the many questions that I have posed to Dr. Brown. These are but a fraction of my critique of his work, but I trust that they will whet your appetite. I hope that when you consider these questions you will be encouraged to study the matter with greater depth and more fully.
Reader’s Guide to the Bible; Dr. Brown vs. God
In my own life I find that the more I study the Bible the more I am able to articulate why it is that Jesus is not who the Church claims he is. The Bible gives me the clarity and the strength to see right through the arguments of the missionary.
Dr. Brown points to the same Jewish Bible and he arrives at the opposite conclusion. How does he do this? How does he get a book which so clearly directs the Jew to reject the claims of the Church to be seen as supportive of those very claims?
If you read Dr. Brown’s work you will see that he simply omits some of the foundational Scriptural passages when he presents “Scripture’s position” on a given subject. He misinterprets other passages in his effort to support the claims of the Church but these are not his main tools. The main tool that Dr. Brown uses to get the Bible to point to Jesus is that he invents his own reader’s guide to the Bible. What do I mean when I say “reader’s guide to the Bible”?
You see, in order to build a world-view on the basis of the Jewish Bible you need some guidance. The Jewish Bible is a big book, about 30,000 verses. It is very easy to get lost out there. Someone has to tell you where to find a teaching on a given subject and someone has to tell you what is central and foundational and what is peripheral. It is only if you have this information that you can see the Bible as a cohesive whole.
Thankfully, the Author of the Bible provided us with a reader’s guide to His book. God used various literary devices to accentuate and to emphasize certain passages and concepts. Certain ideas are repeated again and again. Sometimes the narrative builds to a climax demonstrating what the Author sees as the pinnacle of a given event. The Author uses strong and commanding language to show that a given teaching is central and important.
If you follow the Author’s cues you will realize that the prohibition against worshiping idols is central. The practice of justice and mercy is foundational. The election of Israel, observance of the Law of Moses, the power of repentance and the Temple in Jerusalem are all pillars of the Scriptural worldview.
The Scriptures introduce Deuteronomy 4 as the definitive teaching on the subject of idolatry and Ezekiel 33 is presented as a teaching on the subject of dealing with guilt and sin. This is the guidance that the Divine Writer of Scripture provided for the readers of His book.
When I follow the guidance of God I see the theology of Judaism in the pages of Scripture. I find all of the foundational teachings of Judaism spelled out clearly and explicitly in the pages of the Jewish Bible.
I now turn to the books of Dr. Brown. Dr. Brown is encouraging his readers to find the theological underpinnings of Christianity in the same Jewish Bible. How is he going to do this?
He takes various passages and misinterprets them so that they support the theology of Christianity. But before he does this he discards the reader’s guide provided by God and he puts forth his own “reader’s guide” to the Bible. Instead of pointing his readers to Deuteronomy 4 for a teaching on devotion he tells his audience that Genesis 18 is the central teaching on worship and devotion. God, the Author of Scripture doesn’t place this passage at the center of this discussion, but Dr. Brown does.
When it comes to the subject of sin and guilt, Dr. Brown also ignores the Author’s guidance. The Author points to Deuteronomy 30 as a teaching on how the nation can repair its relationship with God and to Ezekiel 33 as a teaching on how an individual deals with the burden of sin. The Ezekiel passage is introduced with the question; “our sins and our transgressions are upon us and we melt away in them, how then shall we live?” Deuteronomy 30 did not make it into Dr. Brown’s discussion of this subject and Ezekiel 33 is relegated to the back pages of the discussion and is not given the weight that God gives it.
Instead Dr. Brown points to Leviticus 17:11 as the focal point on dealing with guilt and sin. But God doesn’t put His finger on this passage as a teaching on this subject. Leviticus 17:11 is introduced by the Author as a teaching against drinking blood.
So here we have it. Dr. Brown puts aside God’s reader’s guide to the Bible and presents us with his own. Are we to take this seriously? In case you answered yes to this question then please consider the following. Dr. Brown doesn’t take his own reader’s guide to the Bible seriously.
On page 199 of “The Real Case for Jesus” Dr. Brown excitedly declares that Zechariah 6 is the “most overt passage in the Jewish Bible where a human being is identified with a Messianic figure.” He tells us this to highlight the point which he incorrectly gathered from between the lines of the narrative that the Messiah is some sort of priest. So when it comes to a point that the prophet only refers to in a backhanded way (according to Dr. Brown’s faulty interpretation) this prophecy in Zechariah is prominent and significant. But when the prophet tells us explicitly that this Messianic figure is to build the Temple, Dr. Brown tells us that this prophecy only appears once and in only one book of the Bible and is therefore of little significance (page 172 of Volume 3 “Answering Jewish Objections”).
How then can I abandon God’s guidance concerning the centrality of various Scriptural passages and accept the guidance of a man who doesn’t take his own words seriously?
Here is the first of the three questions that I will be sharing with you. God gives us clear direction concerning His book. He highlights certain points and He tells us that certain passages are teachings on particular subjects. How can I be expected to abandon the guidance provided by God and accept the guidance of a man who doesn’t take his own words seriously? How could I follow the direction of the Church when the Author of Scripture is pointing the other way?
Do you understand my question? Do you not recognize that this is an important question? Is this something I am not supposed to notice? If Dr. Brown would have a good answer for this question, would he withhold it from you?
The Church had 2000 years to work on this question and they have failed to address it. Can you understand why a Jew has the moral responsibility to disregard the claims of the Church if they cannot address this foundational question?
That was a question about the Bible which is the book upon which Dr. Brown attempts to build his case. Let us move on to a question related to idolatry, which from a Jewish perspective is the most important issue in this conflict.
Idolatry, the Violation of a Relationship
What is the real reason that Jews don’t accept Jesus? And please don’t take this question lightly. Jews have submitted themselves to tremendous suffering for centuries upon centuries in order to maintain their distance from Jesus. They were locked in ghettoes, barred from interaction with the citizenry of their host countries, subject to ridicule, pain and suffering. On various occasions throughout history Jews have been given the grim choice of accepting Jesus or dying and they chose to die. Tens of thousands of Jews were willing to die gruesome deaths rather than accept Jesus. Why?
The reason that the Jews chose to suffer rather than to accept Jesus is because they considered the worship of Jesus that is encouraged by the Church to be idolatrous.
In light of this serious charge against Christianity, Dr. Brown devotes many pages in his book to defend the Christian worship of Jesus. Dr. Brown gives us arguments from Scripture, philosophical arguments and theological arguments. The gist of Dr. Brown’s reasoning is that in some mysterious way, Jesus is one and the same with God.
Dr. Brown fails to address some of the foundational Scriptural challenges to his position and his reasoning is seriously flawed. I encourage you to read what I have written on this subject. But that is not what I am going to talk about here and now. I want to draw your attention to the fact that Dr. Brown never addresses the issue on the level of a relationship. You see, those Jews who chose death over Jesus were not scholars, philosophers or theologians. Some of them may have been learned but the vast majority of them were simple people. Carpenters, blacksmiths, butchers, bakers, shoemakers and tailors. Housewives and their children, teenagers and seniors all chose suffering rather than bend their hearts to Jesus.
This is not about philosophy or theology. This is about a relationship. Idolatry is a sin of the heart, it is a violation of the worshiper’s relationship with God. Idolatry is not something that you believe, it is something that you do. You don’t necessarily do it with your hands, you do it with your heart. If you are talking philosophy or theology, you can point to the mysterious realms and present an argument that may confuse some people. But idolatry takes place in the very familiar realm of the human heart and it is something that anyone can understand.
In order to have devotion towards someone, there needs to be an attraction, a magnetism. Something has to draw my heart toward that entity that I worship and there needs to be an experience of satisfaction, a thirst that is quenched in that relationship. If you are not talking about an attraction and a joy then you are not talking about a relationship.
So what is the magnetism that exists in the human heart towards God? What is the joy and satisfaction that is inherent in a relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth? Read the Psalms of David and you will discover that yearning, that joy, that security and that satisfaction. And when our martyrs went to die they did so with this love in their hearts.
These men and women didn’t understand philosophy and they were not sophisticated theologians but they knew their own hearts. They knew that the God that they loved was everything. They found every satisfaction and joy in their love for God. They were lacking nothing in this relationship.
The Christian missionary is not satisfied with a heart that finds joy and satisfaction in a relationship with the One Creator of heaven and earth. The missionary is not satisfied with a heart that is flooded with a yearning and a love for God as articulated by David in the Psalms. The missionary finds it necessary to move such a heart toward Jesus.
So here is the second question that Dr. Brown fails to address and it is not my question, it is God’s question. In Jeremiah’s days there were Jews who strayed after idols and God asked them; “what flaw did you find in Me?” (Jeremiah 2:5). God asks Israel; what were you missing in your worship of Me? What joy did you not find in your relationship with Me? And this is the question that the Jew asks the Church. Why do we need Jesus? What does Jesus have to offer to us that God didn’t already give us? What will we find in Jesus that we don’t have in God? What are we missing when we love God as David did before us? What can we be missing? Can you add anything on to God?
Dr. Brown does not address this question in his five volumes. From the standpoint of a Jew who loves God he wrote nothing.
Idolatry is the important question for a Jew. For a Christian the central issue is the claim that Jesus is somehow the Messiah predicted by the Jewish prophets.
Messianic Prophecies, Dr. Brown vs. Dr. Brown
The Messianic prophecies of the Jewish Bible ought to be the heart and soul of Dr. Brown’s presentation. After all, he encouraged his audience to read the Jewish Bible and he hopes that on the basis of this reading they come to the conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah. It would then follow that the prophecies that allegedly speak of Jesus are the centerpiece of Dr. Brown’s 5 volume work.
On page 153 of volume 3 Dr. Brown provides a list of the “main” Messianic prophecies that Jesus supposedly fulfilled. A few pages later (pg. 159) Dr. Brown narrows this list and he presents those prophecies that Jesus “provably” fulfilled. This final list contains those prophecies that Dr. Brown believes Jesus fulfilled in a way that can be proven to the impartial bystander. So this list is the crux of his argument. In a certain sense, the rest of his 5 volume series is just filler.
I encourage you to examine this list of prophecies and I have provided the resources for this study on my blog, but before we do so it is important to ask another question. Is this all that the prophets had to say about the Messiah and his times? No! Not at all! There are many prophecies that Jesus did not and will not fulfill. These include peace on earth, a Temple in Jerusalem, the restoration of the sacrificial system, universal knowledge of God, the vindication of the people of Israel, the restoration of the people of Israel to the land of Israel, the destruction of Israel’s enemies, and national observance of the Law of Moses. But in order for us to focus on his little list of prophecies Dr. Brown needs to downplay these prophecies which do not conform to the picture he is trying to paint. Dr. Brown employs a three step strategy in his attempt to direct your attention away from the Messianic vision of the Jewish prophets.
The first step in Dr. Brown’s strategy is evasion. He simply does not speak of the universal knowledge of God, the vindication of the people of Israel, the destruction of Israel’s enemies, Israel’s restoration to their ancestral homeland or of the observance of the Law of Moses that the prophets foretold as important aspects of the Messianic hope. These features of the Messianic hope did not merit any serious discussion in the 1500 pages that Dr. Brown devoted to educating his audience about the same Messianic hope.
Dr. Brown is willing to speak about three of the Messianic prophecies that Jesus did not fulfill. These are peace, Temple, and restoration of the sacrificial system. At this point we come to the second step in Dr. Brown’s strategy, separation. Dr. Brown separates these prophecies from one another. Instead of seeing them as one panoramic whole, Dr. Brown would have us judge each of these concepts as if they stood apart from one another. The fact that these various aspects of the redemption are woven together by the prophets in one Scriptural passage after another is ignored by Dr. Brown.
The third and final step in Dr. Brown’s strategy is that he creates an artificial dichotomy. According to Dr. Brown, some prophecies are “significant” while the others are “fringe at best” (February 7 2013 Line of Fire). The “significant” prophecies will be fulfilled literally and practically while the “fringe” prophecies are to be interpreted on a symbolic level and we should not expect them to be fulfilled in a literal practical way.
On what basis does Dr. Brown minimize the significance of these prophecies that stand at the heart of the Jewish Messianic hope? He tells us that they appear too few times in the Bible, they appear in too few books of the Bible, some of these prophecies fail to mention a Messianic figure and some of them seem to be associated with a different time-frame than the one allowed for by the Jewish understanding.
Let us put aside the fact that in order to arrive at his count of the prophecies that he is attempting to minimize, he conveniently forgot a number of prophecies. Let us also put aside the fact that some of the very same prophecies that Dr. Brown claims are significant, because he believes Jesus fulfills one aspect of those prophecies, also speak of these concepts that Dr. Brown is trying to marginalize. Instead we will ask a more obvious question. What happens to Dr. Brown’s list of prophecies when we analyze them according to his own standards? How many times do they appear in the Bible? In how many books of Scripture do these prophecies appear? Do they all mention a Messianic figure? Are some of them tied in to a time-frame other than the one that Christian eschatology allows for?
They all fail miserably. They appear less times in the Jewish Bible and they are mentioned in fewer books than are the prophecies that Dr. Brown is trying to minimize. Some of the prophecies that Dr. Brown is attempting to highlight do not mention a Messianic figure and many of them are tied into a time-frame that does not allow for the Christian Jesus. Dr. Brown never bothered to apply his own standards to his own little list of prophecies. By Dr. Brown’s own standard of Scriptural interpretation his list of prophecies ought not to be considered significant and they could be interpreted on a symbolic level.
So the heart of Dr. Brown’s argument is an exercise in hypocrisy and self-contradiction. He creates this false contrast between significant and insignificant prophecies. He goes on to tell you how he defines “insignificant” prophecies. But he never tells you why the prophecies he favors are any more significant than the ones he dismissed. This contradiction has been brought to Dr. Brown’s attention and he has not provided any explanation.
Should a Jew just ignore this? You need to realize that the Messianic prophecies of Scripture gave the Jew the strength and the fortitude to survive the darkest hell. When the Jews were locked in ghettoes and were ridiculed by the world around them they needed strength, they needed comfort and they needed a rock to stand on. And the rock they stood on was God’s word through His prophets, this was their strength and this was their comfort.
And this is what the Church is asking us to throw out, the very rock that carried our nation through this painful exile. And on what basis? On the basis of arguments that don’t add up! Can you expect the Jew to “overlook” this problem with the Christian argument? Is this an argument that deserves no answer?
I gave you three questions to think about. I will remind you that these questions are only a fraction of what Dr. Brown has not responded to, but these questions should encourage you to study and to learn. Why does the Author of the Bible lead you in a different direction than the direction that Dr. Brown and the Church would have you march? What are the Jewish people missing in their relationship with God? What could they be missing in that relationship? And why does Dr. Brown contradict his own presentation of the Messianic prophecies?
Are these questions so irrelevant? You see, Dr. Brown had 1500 blank pieces of paper upon which to make his case. He had 10 years of time. And it is not just Dr. Brown, in this digital age he had 2000 years of Church writings open before him. And he couldn’t find the space or the time to answer these foundational questions. Since he wrote his 5 volumes, he has been made aware of these questions and he hasn’t answered them. Why should the Jew take his arguments seriously?
And this is not only about the Jew. The way that I see it is that this proves that Jesus is not the Messiah for anyone. Millions of man-hours were invested in the effort to make the case for Jesus and this is the pathetic result. An argument tied in the knot of self-contradiction and one which avoids the foundational challenges. What more could the Church do to tell you that Jesus is not the Messiah? If 1500 pages could not do the trick, 15 million won’t do it either.
That’s how I see it, but this video is not about me, it’s about you. Please consider the questions that I have presented, think about them and study. I encourage you to read the articles that I wrote on this subject. I provided some study notes which I hope you find helpful. But again, this is not about me, it is not about Dr. Brown. It is between you and God. Please study and learn. You decide, but let your decision be an educated one.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal