A Supplement to Rabbi Freitag’s debate with Dr. Brown. (Part 1 Addressed to Dr. Brown.)
In Dr. Brown’s debate with Rabbi Freitag, Dr. Brown leveled the charge that the rabbi didn’t provide one example of Christian scriptural manipulation, mistranslation, or obfuscation. I will address one instance, though I mean no offense to either party.
As Dr. Brown well knows, Hebrew is a very context driven language. Dr. Brown knows that rabbis have vowel points on the Hebrew letters in the Masoretic text which guide one in understanding the plain simple meaning of the text, which the rabbi addressed at length by pointing out the Jewish people’s clear unambiguous duty to the commandments.
Dr. Brown views this as a rabbinic addition to the Torah in some sense,( though not malicious as stated in certain of his works,) but he also knows full well that without the vowels, many root words in Hebrew can be translated in several different ways, thus making the Torah into putty in a person’s hands.
It is in this respect that Christians are able to defend the textual variants as found in the Septuagint, (the Greek Tanakh employed by the gospel writers and the Church.) In this sense, Dr. Brown can claim that the Christian translation of Isaiah 7:14 as virgin for one example, is not a mistranslation, due to the Greek’s use of the word Parthenos.
What Dr. Brown will himself point out is that neither Partheonos, nor the word Almah convey a woman’s sexual purity or virginal status.
Both Almah and Betulah can on occasion be read either way.
He can likewise employ a Targum (an Aramaic Paraphrase of a biblical book) to justify the change in tense in 7:14 from the present tense found (in Jewish translations) to the Christian use of 7:14 in the future tense. He will do the same with the choice of Almah or Betulah, and how he chooses to translate.
Jewish translations like the Stone edition Tanakh in Isaiah 7:14 say “the young woman is pregnant and will bring forth a son.”
Christian translations will say “the Virgin will conceive and bear a son.” The Christian will claim then that Isaiah’s prophecy had a meaning in his day, (IE the traditional Jewish meaning,) but also a future typology of a promise to David’s house of a future messiah.
A change so subtle may not seem insidious, or even mistaken, but I ask you, which reading stays consistent with Isaiah’s prophecy as recieved by him and delivered by him in his own day? Which reading makes the best sense of what is plainly happening in the Bible as we read it plainly for its own sake and not as a sectret fountain of future riddles?
When a Christian employs Targumim, Midrashiim, or extra biblical sources, we must realize that this would be like a Christian explaining and establishing Christian doctrines using Lord of the Rings, or The Left Behind series.
These works are based on opinion, a biblical hypothesis, and are a fan fiction as it were, not doctrinal source material.
That being the case, I will not fall into the pit of possible readings and types, because it is a pit into which the Christian himself can fall due to his overzealous use of type and shadow.
Let me illustrate.
Dr. Brown as usual with his masterful use of argument will bring forward a prophecy which he will attempt to back with rabbinic commentary and a semblence of context, and say who but yeshua will fit?
He claims that there is a special servant in Isaiah 53 who is not national Israel (who is usually guilty,) but is an innocent person whose death serves to atone. But is that the plain meaning?
Let’s say (for argument sake,) that I grant Dr. Brown’s premise that this is a rightous sufferer. Nowhere does the text clearly state that this person is the son of David. Nowhere does the verse state that it is the servant’s death that will bring justification.
The NASB states: As a result of the anguish of HIS SOUL, He will see it and be satisfied; By His KNOWLEDGE the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.
Death of the servant does not justify the many, but the knowledge of the servant justifies, IE his knowledge of the Torah and G-d’s justice. He knows G-d will not forsake him.
Why is his soul in anguish if he is wholly innocent? Shouldn’t the soul be elated at the suffering of the sinful flesh, the man resting in knowledge of G-d’s future reward?
Even if this can apply to the death of a righteous man, there is no way to know that it applies to Yeshua conclusively or exclusively.
Dr. Brown sets several criteria
1. The Servant is a righteous sufferer
2. He dies before the Second Temple falls
3. He is the son of David
4. He is a priestly king who fails in his mission to gather Israel.
If we were Jews living in the second temple era, we would not know this was about jesus exclusively, (just as his own students tell us that they did not know it was him.)
Let me ask a question. Could we possibly be well intentioned back then, and still think this prophecy could be about another person?
who other than Jesus might fit these categories?
1. John the Baptist was righteous and suffered.
2. He died before Jesus
3. He was related to David via matralineal descent (as was Jesus,) due to being Jesus’ own cousin.
4. Unlike Jesus, John could actually be called a royal priest because his father Zachariah was a bonafide priest who served in the Temple.
What is my point here? Just because a man can fit into a verse does not mean the verse refers to only him to the exclusion of all others. No Christian would regard John the Baptist as a potential messiah, even though he can easily fit many of the same criteria Dr, Brown pointed out.
In the case of being both a melech and a Kohen, it appears that John actually fits better and more easily than Jesus in that catagory.
Types do not a messiah make.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal