Paul Mauls Deuteronomy 30 – by Jim

Throughout his letter to the Romans, Paul contrasts two means whereby one might try to be righteous before God. One means is through the Law, a means by which, according to Paul, one can only experience failure, for the Law is too difficult for one to keep and only reveals to one the need for some other means to attain righteousness. The other means is through faith in Jesus, and it is this means that is efficacious for the attainment of righteousness. All through his epistle to the Romans, he misrepresents the Hebrew Scriptures, Tanach, in order to “prove” his case. For example, in order to prove that no one can be righteous through the Law, he misrepresents Ps. 14, quoting: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one…” But the psalm is speaking about the fools that say in their heart that there is no God. Paul turns a statement about a specific type of person and makes it appear to be a statement about the universal condition of humanity. He goes along through his letter in this way, representing falsely statements and phrases in Tanach to impose upon them his own theology. Perhaps no portion of Tanach is more ill-used than Deut. 30.

In order to support the opposition of these two means toward righteousness, Paul uses Deut. 30 in support of the idea that righteousness comes through faith in Jesus. Note the juxtaposition in the language of the first Romans 10:5 and 10:6. Verse 5 begins: “Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law…” And verse 6: “But the righteousness that comes from faith…” Just as he has done throughout the letter, he is going to juxtapose the Law and Faith.

In support of his thesis that righteousness comes through faith, he quotes Deut. 3:11-14:
“But the righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim), because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:6-10).

To make comparison easy:
“Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.” (Deut. 30:11-14).

Paul has so badly misrepresented these verses, performed such an act of violence against them, that he clearly had no love of the truth and no fear of God. Of course, he does to this passage what so many Christian misrepresentations do, he makes it to be about the person of the Messiah. His interjections about “Christ” have no relation to what Moses is speaking about in Deuteronomy 30. But this is almost the least of his crimes in regard to this passage.

Paul has made Moses’ words to be about Paul’s word of faith. But Moses is speaking about the Torah, about the Law, the same Law to which Paul has juxtaposed Faith. Paul has turned the passage on its head entirely. Moses, in telling the people not to seek “it” in the heavens or across the sea, is not talking about Christ but the commandment. It is the very opposite of what Paul has made the passage seem to say. (Paul also changes the relation to the sea from “across” to in its depths, which is a minor point compared to the other points. However, this misquote leads to the interjection about “bringing Christ up from the dead,” which imagery would not make sense with the original relation.) When Paul goes on to say that “the word [that] is near you” is the word of faith, this is an absolute lie. Moses is talking about the commandment, the teaching of the Torah, in Paul’s terminology—the Law. Paul attempts to hide this by omitting the end of Deut. 30:14, which continues where Paul stops. Moses indicates that the people have been given the Law just so that they can observe it, that it is not impossible to keep the Law. But, because the thrust of Paul’s argument is that the Law is impossible to keep, he must omit the end of v.14.

Omitting the end of the quote also allows Paul to impose a new meaning upon the portion of v. 14 that he does quote. He relates the lips to the confession that Jesus is Lord and the heart to belief that God raised Jesus from the dead. However, this is clearly not what Moses was speaking about. These misrepresentations by Paul would make no sense if you quoted the end of the verse, which talks about observance. Moses has given the people the key to Torah observance, internalizing it and speaking about it constantly. When one’s focus is on the Torah, he will be able to keep it. But Paul’s whole argument is the antithesis of this: he claims that the Torah is impossible to keep.

Paul has made the promises of God into nothing. As Deut. 30 continues, it says that obeying the commandments of God brings blessing and life. And, disobedience brings curses and death. According to Paul, however, because no one can keep the Law, it does not bring blessing and life, only curses and death. It is bad enough that he would make this argument at all, but it is particularly brazen to hinge this argument in part upon a passage that is the antithesis of his doctrine.

Paul greatly abused Tanach in his letters. He treated Torah like it was his plaything, rather than the holy words of God. He created his own doctrines, and then he misrepresented Torah in order to make his teachings appear to be divine. In so doing, he misled a great many people. His letter to the Romans is littered with his misrepresentations. His misrepresentation of Deut. 30 stands out for its being so blatant, but it is only one of his many crimes against Torah.

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30 Responses to Paul Mauls Deuteronomy 30 – by Jim

  1. Jim, serious accusations, but you need better evidence than this. You greatly err, primarily by not seeing just how sifting the Law really is and how severely we have broken its every basic requirement.
    Even the Lawgiver was firmly banned from Canaan, because he failed to keep the commands. (Deut.33.51) If gold rusts what will iron do?

    It is deeply fallacious to claim that Ps.14 does not universally indict fallen mankind rather than just fools alone, ‘The Lord looked down from Heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no not one.’
    It is deeply dishonouring to the Law and its Author to claim that we do keep the Law perfectly and adequately.

    Repentance the first command of Messiah and the Gospel means bringing forth fruits compatible with God’s Law, it is impossible without the grace and supernatural power of the Holy Spirit (Ezek.18.31).

    Salvation means not deliverance from Hell, but from sin, the transgression of the Law.

    Salvation comes from justification, and justification comes only from the Righteousness, for our own is filthy rags. With that salvation comes change and glad obedience, for the writing of the Law on our hearts is the seal of the New Covenant, Deut. 29 and 30.6 call it the circumcision of the heart.

    You may argue as you wish, but you’d be wiser to pray for a clearer sight of God and of your own heart. Then like Isaiah did, you’ll cry out from the stench of the ugliness within and fitness only for judgement, and the vastness of the need for mercy.

    • Jim says:

      Charles,

      I’ll respond more fully when I have some free time, but for now, let me note that your response does not address directly Deut. 30. You glide past the passage in question, instead of addressing it. Rather than show that Deut. 30 means what Paul says it means, you appeal to other verses from another cut-and-paste job. Your defense of Paul’s abuse of Ps. 14 shows exactly what is necessary, an appeal to the passage in question. You mounted no such defense of the misrepresentation of Deut. 30; you only defend the doctrine, not the abuse of the passage. But even when you defend his misuse of Ps. 14, you ignore the whole rest of the psalm, including the opening in which the topic is given. Either way, you have not shown Paul’s use of Deut. 30 not to be misuse and abuse.

      Jim

    • Ps.14 does not universally indict fallen mankind rather than just fools alone, ‘The Lord looked down from Heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no not one.’

      but the psalmist COUNT not be part of this “fallen mankind” nonsense , otherwise why is he even writing the psalms and attributing to God mercy, love and kindness?

      why ?

    • quote :

      Psalm 14:5 says God is with the righteous generation, thus meaning the universal condemnation words immediately preceding weren’t intended in absolute fashion.. In Psalm 53, the Psalmist obviously excludes himself from the others he accuses of having gone astray. Apparently, Paul was misinterpreting Psalmic hyperbole as if it was literal, and in a way that ignored the context of those passages. The same is true for the case of Psalm 10:7. Romans 3:18 quotes Psalm 38:1, but in v. 10 the Psalmist admits the existence of those who are righteous

    • Jim says:

      Charles,

      Regarding Ps. 14:

      As I wrote earlier, you, like Paul before you, ignore those parts of the chapter that do not fit into your interpretation. You quote v. 2-3, in order to support Paul’s interpretation, but you ignore the beginning of v. 1, which introduces the topic. You treat it as a disconnected thought, as if David was originally thinking about the fool that says in his heart that there is no God, and then shifted the topic to everyone. As the psalm continues, it is reaffirmed that he is not writing about the universal human condition. In v. 4, he asks if the evildoers that “eat up [his] people like bread” are devoid of knowledge. A distinction is clearly drawn between “the company of righteous” and those that are oppressing them (v. 5). The end of verse 1 is not floating in the air by itself. Neither is verse 2 and 3. David’s topic is not a universal condition of depravity.

      But, what is good about this discussion is that a shared principle has been discovered. Your argument was based on looking at the greater context. You just did not consider the whole psalm, just enough to support Paul’s teaching. Your application of the principle is flawed, because it relies upon assuming a conclusion and then finding the means to prove it. But the principle itself is correct: a verse is understood by its context.

      With this in mind, one can see that Paul most definitely misrepresented Deut. 30. Even if one thought that Ps. 14 was not misrepresented, one could not avoid the conclusion that he misrepresented Deut. 30. He inserts concepts that do not appear in the text. He ignores what is in the text, even omitting the end. The passage is not about “faith,” but about the commandments.

      And let the Christian who want to know the truth apply this principle to the prophecies that Jesus is to have fulfilled. He will find that Jesus did not fulfill any of the prophecies that it is claimed he fulfilled. Let him continue to apply this rule to Christian doctrines such as atonement, salvation, and even God, and he will find that he has been deceived by the NT and the teachings of the Church. Let him apply the rule that a word, a phrase, a verse, or a passage is only understood in its context, and he will soon turn away from the NT as a guiding document and no longer put his faith in a man rather than God.

      Jim

    • Jim says:

      Charles,

      In your attempt to bolster the teaching of Paul, you drew upon God’s disallowing Moses to enter Canaan, saying that it was “because he failed to keep the commands,” referencing Deut. 32:51. One cannot say that this is the meaning you derive from the text. Instead, you began with a doctrine for which you sought proof, so that you are not interpreting the text so much as using it to affirm your own belief. Once again, you treat the Torah like a puppet, into which mouth you can place your own words.

      The Torah does not take the opportunity to call Moses unrighteous for breaking God’s command. The idea that one cannot be righteous unless he keeps the law perfectly is never spelled out in the Torah; nor is it associated with Moses’ exclusion from the Land. Your position is incoherent, because, if Moses was banned as a commandment breaker, then surely all Israel must have been similarly banned. To borrow your metaphor, if the gold was unworthy because of one sin to take the land, then how much less the iron? Moreover, if Joshua was worthy to be the leader to take them into the land, your argument implies that he must never have sinned. And, if so, then it is possible for one to not sin. Surely you do not think so. The message cannot be that even one sin makes one unrighteous and excludes one from the Promised Land.

      Even the verse you reference says nothing about breaking God’s commands. The reason given is “…because both of you broke faith with me among the Israelites…by failing to maintain my holiness among the Israelites.” HaShem says nothing about Moses breaking God’s commands, making Moses’ failure into a statement of general failure. Nor in Numbers 20 does He frame His rebuke the way that you do. He does not say, “Because you broke my command(s)…,” but “Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them” (Num. 20:12). No statement of general unrighteousness is made—no statement that the specific failure meant Moses was considered a Lawbreaker. The text of the Torah does not lead one down this path. You have not interpreted Torah; you have injected Torah with your own ideas.

      It is not because Moses sinned once that he was excluded from the Land. I do not suppose you believe him to have never sinned before this point in his life. It was this particular incident that led to his being disallowed to enter the land. If the standard were that any sin made one a sinner, Moses must have been disqualified long before now. And if not, then all sins are not equal. And they do not all make one unrighteous.

      Moreover, one can read a similar case with David. David also sinned. Yet, he was not removed from the throne. On the contrary, his throne is eternal, and when the Messiah comes, he will be from the house of David. His righteousness was great enough that even when his descendants sinned, God did not remove the throne from the House of David. In I Kings 15, Abijam takes the throne, and it says that he sinned all the sins that his father did previously, and that: “his heart was not true to the Lord his God, like the heart of his father David. Nevertheless for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem; because David did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (15:4-5). Although the passage notes the David did wrong in the matter of Uriah, it does not declare David to have broken God’s commands as a general statement regarding him. It does the opposite. It notes the violation, but nevertheless characterizes him as deeply devoted to the commands of God. Moreover, David is rewarded for not deviating from what was commanded him. As David is not characterized by his imperfection, you have insufficient reason to characterize Moses this way.

      Your imposition on the text does not stand. It has no evidence supporting it in the Torah, not even in the verse you referenced. It is contradicted by the fact that other people who broke the commands of God did make it into the Land. It is also contradicted by the way God relates to David, who also sinned, but is characterized by his obedience. The Torah is not Paul’s plaything, Charles. Coming to the Torah with an agenda to find your own ideas in the text is presumptuous. When Paul misrepresents Deut. 30, this is a grave crime against Torah. His distortions cannot be justified by forcing them into the text.

      Jim

    • Jim says:

      Charles,

      In your rebuttal of the post, you referenced Ez. 18:31, writing that it is impossible to “bring forth fruits compatible with God’s law…without the grace and supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.” The first thing to notice is that the verse does not say what you imply it says. You have again misrepresented Tanach. More importantly, the chapter contradicts your argument that salvation is deliverance from sin and Paul’s argument that righteousness comes through faith and not through obedience.

      Beginning with this latter point, Ezekiel writes: “If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right…” (18:5). Righteousness is being defined here in terms of deeds. It is defined by adherence to the law and right action. Ezekiel goes on to name things that if man does the one and not the other “…such a one is righteous, he shall surely live, says the Lord God” (18:9). Paul’s definition of righteousness is an invention of his own. Similarly, unrighteousness is defined by evil action, as can also been seen in Ezekiel 18:10-13.

      And, if one is unrighteous, he is to cease his ways. He is to make restitution for his wrongdoing. He is to begin to do what is right. And, when he does this, he will live: “None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live” (18:22). So, it is not impossible to keep the Law. Rather, one is responsible to do so, and if one fails in this responsibility, the God Who is slow to anger and is merciful will forgive him if only the man will take up his responsibility, if only he will repent, if only he will become obedient.

      What can be seen from Ezekiel is what is said in Deut. 30, that obedience to the Law brings life and disobedience, death. It is not, as Paul writes, that the Law produces death and that Faith produces Life. It can also be seen that the Law is not impossible to keep, because those that keep it are told that they should stop breaking the Law and should keep it instead. This remedy makes no sense if one is to learn from his failure that he could never have kept the Law in the first place. Indeed, if the Law is impossible to keep, then one could have nothing for which to repent when he failed to keep it. It is precisely because one can obey the dictates of the Law that he has something of which to repent when he fails.

      Missing also from Ezekiel is the words you have implied. The passage says nothing about keeping the Law being impossible without the holy spirit. In one sense, it is hard to argue against statements like this, when you make them. You have brought assumptions into the text that have no support. The fact is that you have brought the notions of the Church into a passage that just says nothing of the kind. The entire passage goes against what you have said. The word “impossible” never comes up. (Or, “holy spirit.” Or…)

      Looking at the verse you referenced: “Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (18:31). Other translations say “make” rather than “get,” which is the primary meaning of the word. In either case, it is the people taking an action. It is apparent that through their repentance, they will make for themselves a new heart and a new spirit. Certainly nothing implies that, having learned the impossibility of keeping the Law, they should pray for a spirit to allow them to do so. The idea that salvation means “deliverance from sin” is foreign to a passage that emphasizes human responsibility to change.

      So, it is more than a little strange that you would quote this passage in support of Paul’s theology and yours. None of the helplessness of that theology is present in Ezekiel 18. Indeed, you are imposing concepts upon it that appear nowhere in the text. Rather, your theology is the opposite of that which is in the text. You have imposed on the text misdefinitions of “righteousness” and “salvation.” And, you have imposed a teaching about the impossibility of keeping the law, which contradicts the text. I reëmphasize a point I have made multiple times: Tanach is not your puppet that you should put your voice in its mouth.

      Jim

  2. Annelise says:

    Charles- Long before Jesus was born, the Torah itself and the prophets spoke about the possibility of repentance and forgiveness/transformation as a part of the original law.

    Jim- It’s years since I read Romans, so my memory of it is seriously dimming, and Paul’s writings have always seemed convoluted anyway… but I’m considering a possibility. When speaking of the law of faith, maybe he WAS speaking of the Torah of Moses, which he believed had actually always included an interaction with the spirit of the messiah.

    Keep in mind that he used the word ‘law’ in a very multifaceted way, and it referred to things as diverse as the Torah, the law of sin and death, etc. The anti-Pharisaic rhetoric also focused heavily on claiming that the Pharisees were legalistic, empty of the spirit of Torah, and inventing burdensome rituals beyond those found in it. (I’m not agreeing with that allegation.) So, what if in this instance, he was simply contrasting their alleged actions-without-heart against the Torah’s actual command to have actions-with-intention…in the power of God’s spirit?

    Remember that the Paul seems to have believed that Jesus existed before the creation world (perhaps as the first created being), and he was drawing from other pre-Christian ideas that the spirit of the messiah existed before his appearance and was an essential agent in the redemption of the world. And notice that he was upholding the continuing authority of Moses’ law by quoting it as the ideal.

    As to the absurd logical leaps in his quotes of scripture, I think the best explanation is that he wasn’t seeking logical proofs from them. He was simply anchoring his already-held beliefs in verses of scripture, in a retrospective and poetic way, and (Rabbi Blumenthal, correct me if this isn’t an accurate comparison) I think you can see a similar use of scriptural ‘linking’ in the Pharisaic tradition.

    None of this is to say that I agree with Paul’s belief that the spirit of Jesus was actually the spirit of redemption and of return to Torah, or with his belief that the forgiveness mentioned in Torah is synonymous with the cross-based atonement beliefs of Christianity. Just trying to read his intended meaning.

    • Jim says:

      Annelise,

      Paul teaches that righteousness does not come through observance of the Law. It is one of the main themes of his letter to the Romans and of the earlier letter to the Galatians. In Romans 3:20, he writes that no one will be justified in the sight of God “by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” His doctrine is that, because no one keeps the law perfectly, without ever sinning, one cannot be considered righteous through observance of the Law. Instead, the Law serves to show that one cannot ever be righteous. Therefore, one can only be considered righteous through Faith (in Jesus): “For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law” (Rom. 3:27).

      It is to this end that he misrepresents Abraham’s faith. He wants to separate righteousness from observance of the Law and insert his own doctrine into the Torah. He ignored that Abraham was rewarded for keeping the Law, according to Gen. 26:5—“because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”

      According to Paul, the Law produces unrighteousness. It only ever can, “for all have sinned…” This directly contradicts the Torah, which says that keeping the Law leads to blessing. Paul has nullified this promise, because he demands a standard not implied by the Torah. Paul makes it impossible to keep the Torah, so that the Torah only leads to curse and condemnation.

      This is not a full breakdown of Romans, I know. But, if you follow the thread of his teaching, throughout the book, you will see this is his point: the Law leads to Death, and Faith to Life. If you would like to go through the book more fully, I am willing as I have the time.

      ___

      Regarding Paul’s usage of scripture:

      He is not using Pharisaic tools. He is imposing his own doctrine on the text. Paul was almost assuredly not a Pharisee, never a Torah observant Jew. He claims to have been a student of Gamliel. According to the NT, Gamliel did not advocate the persecution of the nascent Church. Nevertheless, Paul is supposed to have aided in the persecution of the Church—aided the Sadducees! Paul uses the claim that he is a Pharisee as a credential, but it is unlikely that it is true.

      I have not done a study on this, but if I had to guess, Paul’s use of scripture is more in line with Hellenic thought. Certain Greeks schools had been reinterpreting Greek myths for some time, to read them as allegories, giving them quite liberal interpretations. This was due in part to the lack of virtue in their gods, which seemed impossible. (In “The Republic,” Plato writes that such stories should not even be told, because they corrupt the youth.) This style of reading Greek myth was being adopted by some Hellenist Jews at the time to reinterpret the Torah. They had begun reinterpreting the Torah in order to make it match the Greek ideas that were then in vogue. Some felt that it was not “spiritual” enough, so they began interpreting it more allegorically so that they could impose their idea of spirituality in it.

      I believe that this was Paul’s way of reading, as well. But, this is more a sense I have, and I would have to really do some research to be sure. One hint that this is going on, however, might be his treatment of Deut. 30. If he finds the Torah to be mundane, he is going to want to spiritualize it, elevate it, which in his doctrine will be through faith.

      A similar passage, and probably a stronger proof is in Galatians:

      “Tell me, you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One women, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother.” (4:21-26)

      Now, this cannot be an interpretation of the Torah, because what is actually written in the Torah contradicts Paul’s interpretation. It is not the children of Hagar that were at Sinai. But, Paul links them together with Law, because he reads the Law as fleshly and not spiritual. This sort of allegorizing is in line with Greek practice. And all the writing about “flesh” is in line with Platonic thought, in particular. The Platonists saw the flesh as inherently evil (not morally evil, but having an inferior existence subject to corruption and dissolution, while the soul was good in the sense of having absolute existence, incorruptible and indissoluble. This is a simplification, of course, as multiple schools of thought existed with variations.)

      I must disagree with you on another point. You say that Paul was upholding the continuing authority of the Torah, because he quoted it as the ideal. That only shows that Paul knew his audience thought it was the ideal; it does not show that Paul thought it was. Paul clearly did not think Torah was the ideal, or else he would have been more circumspect when treating of God’s Law. By comparison, when a modern missionary quotes the Oral Law or a rabbi, it is not because he holds that the Oral Law or rabbi is correct, is part of the ideal. On the contrary, he believes that the rabbis were hypocrites that invent the Oral Law. But he appeals to it anyway—ignoring the context, as Paul does with Tanach—because it may appeal to the audience. In the same way, Paul using Torah does not imply that he believes it is the ideal, but that his audience does.

      His fanciful interpretations have nothing to do with what is in Tanach. Returning to his treatment of Deut. 30. Not only does he reverse the meaning of the passage, he inserts terms that appear nowhere in the passage. The passage says nothing of “faith.” If one accepts his method of “interpretation,” then one must accept that Torah means nothing at all, except what one pretends to himself that it means. If faith, which does not appear in Deut. 30:11-14, can be said to the the topic, then so can Transcendental Meditation. It is not in heavens, or in the sea, because the guru gives you the word upon which to meditate. And that word will be in your mouth for obvious reasons and in your heart, because when you intone your meditative word, it will vibrate in your chest. Or, perhaps it is hatred for the heretic, which is to be in one’s heart, because he should sincerely hate those that do not believe, and on his lips, because he must pronounce epithets against them. Or, perhaps it is acid reflux, which causes heartburn which travels up the esophagus, even causing reflux into the mouth.

      These interpretations, of course, are fanciful and even silly. But they are silly on the same grounds that Paul’s “interpretations” are silly. They do not rely upon the text. They ignore what is there and substitute for it what is not. This means that any passage can mean whatever Paul—or any fanciful interpreter—wants it to mean. This is not respect for the Torah of HaShem. This is not to affirm HaShem’s Torah as the ideal. This is not to uphold Torah as the source for learning HaShem’s teaching. On the contrary, it is a crime—a violation of HaShem’s Torah, a re-writing of HaShem’s Torah, and a substitution of HaShem’s Torah with something obviously much inferior.

      This is not what the rabbis did. Rules govern their teachings. To those that have not learned the Torah system, it often looks like the rabbis have also made their own fanciful interpretations. But, this is a mistake. They operated from within the Torah system. They do not allow themselves to interject anything they like into the text. They did not attempt to make the Torah align with their own personal ideals but learned their ideals from the Torah. A world of difference lies between Paul and the Pharisees.

      Jim

      • jasonannelise says:

        It’s such a big discussion and would take a lot of research…maybe we can pick the conversation up in future, because I haven’t got the ability to make that time at the moment,). I may have been wrong. What I thought though was that sometimes people (like Paul) overstate their case and are misunderstood as rejecting the thing they underemphasise. I remember reading Romans and thinking that in that letter he was mostly just trying to prove that Christian Jews who kept Torah laws were not superior to non-Jewish Christians…very similar to how you wrote about Noachides not being inferior to practicing Jews. So maybe he wasn’t saying that keeping the laws has no importance, but was just emphasising heavily the idea that it is faith that leads to righteousness, whether that is in thr case of one obeying Torah as a Jew or of one being a righteous gentile without the law…it is never actions alone that save, in other words. He may have meant this but just not been a clear communicator.

        If I’m mistaken, it doesn’t bother me though 🙂 I don’t consider him right on so many other points.

        Sorry for not sitting down to read the letter again before discussing it, but later I hope.

        • jasonannelise says:

          PS I agree that Paul may not have been a Pharisee. He and the early church realy defined themselves in contrast to their image of the Pharisees, though.

        • Jim says:

          Annelise,

          A lot of people do argue that Paul is doing just what you said, that he is emphasizing one thing (faith) and in doing so, seeming to minimize the other thing (law). This is not really the case. What Paul has done is create a false dichotomy, between Faith and Law. And then he creates his own false doctrines regarding how the one leads to life and the other to death. He redefines the purpose of each.

          Regarding Paul making the Jew and non-Jew: His teaching is quite different from what I wrote (not that you were equating them.) I think that difference is important to point out, because it gets to the falsity of his teaching. I wrote what is written in the Torah, that humanity is created in the image of God, that all human beings are intrinsically valuable. This is not what Paul is writing. Paul creates his own doctrine. For him, the Jew is no better than the non-Jew, because all are unrighteous, all violators of the Law. Even though the Jew has been given the Law, he cannot consider himself special, because he is bound to violate the Law. And then, Christians are all one, because they are righteous through faith in Jesus. These are two very different ideas.

          Do not worry about not reading the letter recently. You must have better things to do with your time. Better to study the words of divinely appointed prophets than self-appointed apostles.

          Jim

  3. Brother Jim and my Phariseefriend, thank you for this space and I am so sorry for late response.

    Now, because of my limited ability to express what i think in foreign language (in Korean, too), i must say this. This is what i REALLY want to say. Paul’s concern in his letter to Romans is not failure of Jews or gentile to be righteous before God, his primary concern is gentile’s accusations of any scar on the glory of God of Israel!! He saw in Yeshua event how God faithfully kept what he believed and promised!

    God forgives sinners when they Repent, absolutely! Then, Paul’s concern is “what about the Torah?” “Has God ever declared in a point in time that I am issuing another way of remission of sins; it is repentance! Prophets! Write it and proclaim it!” No. He is concerned with how God can be a faithful God who does what he once said in Torah in ALL times.

    In Romans, (most English translations confused readers because they transliterated the Greek prepositions) Paul talks about faith(fulness) OF God, faith(fulness) OF Yeshua, and man’s faith(fulness) IN God or man’s faith IN Yeshua. God believed that his chosen people can keep the law!! Deuteronomy 30:14 is very clear, Right? what about the result then? I don’t know, but the history of the Jewish people tells. In Paul’s time, the Jews were dispersed and the land was occupied by Rome, and it was not first time, it kept again after AD 70 after Paul’s writing of Romans. Paul is agonized by this fact. Then, God’s faith toward his people was a mistake? God failed to know the ability of His chosen people? Paul says “NO.”

    Then, How did God’s faith has been realized? In what way God has faithfully kept what he has promised in the covenant with those who broke the covenant? How did he establish the Law without providing new law? This is what the Romans is all about. I could talk about it in greater length and depth in the future, but at this time let me share in some of Paul’s words.

    “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” Rom.3:31

    When you read the Romans, notice Paul is rarely saying “man’s faith in Jesus” but mostly just “FAITH.” And “FAITH” means often “Faith of God” or “Faith of Yeshua.” or “faith in the word of God.” Now, notice carefully how Paul uses the prepositions in each group of People: Jews and gentiles.

    For example, “Even the righteousness of God which is through faith OF Jesus Christ INTO all and UPON all them that believe: for there is no difference” (Rom.3:22) The righteous act of the remnant of God in the land of Judah, whose name was Yeshua who obeyed the Torah perfectly as God has expected, has been imparted INTO (eis in Greek) all (JEWS, the covenant people) and
    UPON (epi in Greek) all them that believe (gentile believers). This tells us that Jews have already God’s righteousness in them, not by their perfect obedience of the Law but through Yeshua’s faith (his perfect obedience of the law) and gentiles should put faith in Yeshua.

    In the same context, a few verses later, Paul says, ” Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also
    Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision FROM (ek in Greek) faith, and uncircumcision through (Dia in Greek) faith.” (Rom 3:29-30) This tells us that,

    1. God shall justify Jews (circumcision) FROM faith of Yeshua. This means that although Jews don’t put faith in Yeshua, God will see Yeshua’s faith and justify the Jews – why? Yeshua’s faith is already located in their hearts!- this is explained in his quoting of Deuteronomy 30 in Rom.10:8 — I will go back to this topic when time allows. Sorry.

    2. God shall justify gentiles (uncircumcision) THROUGH faith of Yeshua. This means that gentiles should put faith in Yeshua to make it “through.” Since Paul says that gentiles ” were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

    God establish the Law, the Sinai covenant, which the covenant people has broken, through faith, the Faith of Yeshua. That is why the good news is first to the JEWS! Let me come back later talking about Paul’s quoting of Deuteronomy 30. Thanks.

    • Jim says:

      Gean Guk Jeon,

      With respect, nothing you wrote here addresses the issues. You have written it before, and both times you have gone over this, it has not borne upon the comments you are answering. Instead of addressing Paul’s abuse of Tanach, you give an overview of how you believe people misunderstand his letter to the Romans. However, the doctrine you outline does not answer what I wrote—it addresses, perhaps, some other issues but nothing of what I wrote. More importantly, it has nothing to do with Torah, which is the original problem: Paul misrepresents the Torah to invent his own doctrine.

      I think it is important to point out that your reading of Romans is well-meant in that it seeks to clear the Jews of the charges leveled at them by the Church for 2,000 years and uphold the covenant made between them and God, but it violates the teaching of the NT. You try to say that the Jews do not need to believe in Jesus. But this is not the teaching of the NT. When Jesus says that those that do not believe in him will be condemned, he is talking to Jews, not non-Jews with whom he had limited interactions in the gospels (John 3:17-21). And, it was to the Jewish people that the disciples began preaching the gospel in the Book of Acts. Paul did so as well and went to the non-Jews only when he found the Jewish people unreceptive to his distortion of the Torah. And Romans makes clear that the Jew must believe in Jesus when read without isolating verses. So, when you say that the Jewish people do not need to believe in Jesus, while the sentiment is kind (and appreciated for that kindness), it is not the message of the NT.

      But I do appreciate your kind intentions, and I wonder if you would consider the following case, a case of a non-Jew. Recently, a non-Jew who no longer believes in Jesus wrote about his devotion to HaShem. He wrote that studying the laws of theft made him realize that in some small areas, he has not been as scrupulous as he might be. He realized that he had been performing some small acts of theft, and he resolved to cease this activity out of love for HaShem and to continue studying these laws to find any other areas in which he might not be obedient to the HaShem’s law. Such a person is devoted to HaShem, but he does not believe in Jesus. He trusts in HaShem but not through Jesus. Do you believe that such a person is condemned to Hell, though he loves HaShem, seeks to obey him, and repents when he does wrong? Do you believe that HaShem’s mercy does not extend to him, because he does not believe in Jesus? If your answer is that the non-Jew must believe in the Messiah in order to be justified, then please support your answer from Tanach directly—not through the distortions of the NT, please.

      A final note: your brief comments regarding Deut. 30:14 (which I know are only introductory with more to come) do not bear upon the meaning of that passage at all. You suggest some tension between God’s belief that Israel could keep the law and the fact that they did not. However, no tension exists here. When a person or people chooses not to do something, this does not imply an inability to do it. Therefore, there is no contradiction to be resolved. Indeed, the whole reason that one is responsible for his wrongdoing is precisely because he did not have to do wrong. And repudiation of wrongdoing through repentance is important for the same reason. You ask: “God failed to know the ability of His chosen people?” But this is a bad question based on faulty assumptions. If Paul’s answer is “NO,” it is irrelevant, because the question is a mistake.

      Thank you for your time,

      Jim

    • Jim says:

      Gean Guk Jeon,

      I apologize, but I would like to comment briefly on one other argument that you made. You argue that Jesus was perfectly obedient to the law. Now, on the one hand, this argument is irrelevant. Passages like Ezekiel 18 make it clear that a person is judged for his own obedience or disobedience to the law. So, no one could be justified through the obedience of another. However, I would like to push that aside for the moment and address only the issue of what one is competent to judge.

      As I have noted elsewhere, no human being witnessed the entirety of Jesus’ life. No witness can be given to the claim that he never sinned. It is something said without any evidence: no evidence can be given in support of the claim. The NT does give evidence that this is not true, but ignoring that for a moment. If one accepts the idea that Jesus did not ever sin in the gospels, it would not follow that Jesus never sinned in life. No one living at the time of Jesus was competent to rule that Jesus never sinned. And if no one alive at that time, then no one living later only hearing a few stories about him.

      One certainly cannot trust the impressions of those that followed Jesus either. Human beings are often deceived concerning their own goodness, let alone that of others. Some people make a powerful impression upon others. But, God does not look on the outward appearance; God looks at the heart. Only God knows what one is really like. God knows not only the private moments of an individual but his thoughts, feelings, and motivations, private hatreds, pride, and all manner of imperfections that are not apparent to other people. No human being could be qualified to rule on Jesus’ perfect obedience. That Jesus was perfectly obedient, no human being is competent to determine.

      And those that follow such a leader are often the least objective when considering such matters. The Rajneeshees believed their leader to be a great and holy man. They could feel his goodness flowing off of him. This is common with religious-type leaders. Their followers believe that nothing bad could come from such a person. But, I am sure that you do not believe their leader was the picture of holiness or any such leaders.

      A while back, I wrote an article about how the people in Jesus’ town reacted to him. One notes that they did not comment on his profound goodness and wisdom. They saw him as just another one of them, the son of a carpenter. One expects that if Jesus was a sinless being, the personification of love, wisdom incarnate, the people who had known him longest would have noticed and commented upon it. However, this was not their response.

      You can find that article here: https://judaismresources.net/2016/08/18/invisible-perfect-by-jim/

      The claim that Jesus was perfectly obedient is without merit. It relies upon what cannot be known to any but God. His entire external life is not even laid bare in the gospels, nor could they be. If they had been, however, his internal life would still remain a question. Those that knew him longest did not note this perfection, according to the gospels. To claim that Jesus is sinless is to exceed human competence.

      Jim

  4. Dina says:

    Wow, Jim, good stuff! Charles Soper is hard to talk to. He comes here to preach and then leaves, rarely engages, so good for you for taking him on. I have a bone to pick with him, since I saw this:

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3PLAEU6MRHABI/ref=cm_cr_getr_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1568215193

    This is his review of a book on Amazon about Christian anti-Semitism that I have often recommended on this blog:

    “An author who claims, ‘Christianity is powered by a myth’ is not Christian. An author who refuses to consider the scorching criticism of the Jewish prophets of their own nation’s sin (and that of other nations) lacks perspective on Judaism. An author who claims ab initio that hostility towards Jews (his main but profoundly inadequate definition of anti-Semitism) is always baseless is not well qualified to analyse the subject.

    “I am sympathetic with Nicholls concern to remedy manifold and extreme Christian evils against the Jews, and the tidal wave of new anti-Semitism in the form of anti-Zionism renders this more urgent. Sadly this analysis and this remedy is of little value other than as a partial description of causes. I fear his emotional abhorrence of the Holocaust has seared his ability to critically handle the subject. This is an understandable, but unjustifiable weakness” (my emphasis).

    Annelise, you can know that Paul wasn’t using the same type of literary tools as the Pharisees by linking to the text in this way: the Pharisees never contradicted the Torah’s teachings. Paul’s doctrines flatly contradict basic principles of the Torah. That’s the difference.

  5. Concerned Reader says:

    Christian BS deflection at its finest from Charles Soper. That book review is abysmal.

    The New Testament is a piece of intertestamental literature, it was a sectarian compilation 2,000 years ago when it 1st came about.

    Do Christians want to give the authority of prophecy to other sectarian books of the same time period? I DOUBT IT.

    The New Testament’s oldest and 1st texts are known to be one man’s corrospondences.

    One man who was a self confessed unstable individual who wanted to kill folks wrote the 1st Christian books. CHRISTIANS ACKNOWLEDGE THIS.

    Should the letters of Paul (the 1st and oldest Christian writings) be placed on the same level as that of the Canonized prophets?

    The Christian Bible itself says that this man hated and tried to kill Christians with reckless abandon. It says he was a Pharisee who conspired with Ciaphas to kill Christians.

    One poof later and viola!

    After a single alleged mystical encounter with a Jesus apparition, (who Paul’s witnesses could either not see, or they could see a light but not understand the words, according to the chronicle.)

    After this one encounter, and Paul’s words are now embraced by Christians worldwide as being “scripture that is G-d breathed and fit for instruction.”

    Did Paul even bother to go right to Jerusalem after his mystical encounter to meet with Yeshua’s actual students and siblings who lived with him, to verify the encounter?

    No! He went off to preach by himself for years before eventually going to Peter, James, and John with a messge that caused a controversy on the Church.

    Jewish Christians who were observant of the commandments in the way other Jews were, who lived the law as Yeshua would have actually lived it, were spurned as Judaizers and heretics by gentile followers of the guy from Tarsus who came out of nowhere.

    This man from Tarsus payed for Vows at the temple, to prove loyalty to Torah, but then POOF Christians today call Torah observance filthy rags. THEY CONFIRM THAT INITIAL CHARGE AFAINST PAUL WAS RIGHT!

    Accepting Paul’s words as scripture (especially those texts that ridicule the Jews as those who are “contrary to all men,”)

    while ridiculing Jews for their oral tradition, and charging an alleged failure to understand their own prophets, is the depth of hypocricy.

    At least Jews have used the same arguments for CENTURIES to explain why Jesus doesn’t fit.

    If Charles wants me to give Paul the same heed that a Jew would give to books that all Jewish groups agreed on, then he has some thinking to do.

    By the same criterion that Charles Soper would reject the book of Mormon, any Jew would be fully justified in rejecting Paul, the 1st Christian author.

  6. Jamo77 says:

    Thanks CR and great article again Jim. This stuff is honey. Jasonannelise please hang around.

    Sorry if I have missed it but in Judaism who or what at the time of Jesus would have the authority to approve His claim. I believe the authority of the Torah condemns sections of Christianity but i am thinking more on the Pharisee hierarchical level? For example in Catholicism there is the pope and what is called the magisterium and Catholics must be obedient once a call is made by the pope on a magisterial level. What in Judaism at the time could have approved the Christian claim? I know a fisherman and Paul couldn’t.

    Also CR Paul did come across as unstable – where did he admit this?

  7. Jamo77 says:

    Sorry will reword. What Jewish human authority or group at the time could approve/condemn the Christian claim??

    Having a fisherman and someone like Paul set up Christianity would be like having a self proclaimed mystic (which happens in the Catholic church) come along and say the existing pope is no longer valid and that they are revealing the true meaning behind the gospels and the final veil lifted. Catholics are aghast when this happens but to me it seems this is how their own religion started.

    • Concerned Reader says:

      Jammo, Both the parties (Sadducees and Pharisees) worked together in the context of the temple, because they were forced to, in order to maintain societal cohesion in spite of their differences of opinion vis the law. So, both groups would have authority, and would have (and presumably did) offer rulings.

      The Sadducees were the empowered yet unpopular priestly class, while the Pharisees were the popular party of the common people, ie this is confirmed by Jesus in Mathew 23 (the scribes sit on Moses’ seat.)

      Even the dead sea sectarians (priests who sharply disagreed with the priests in Jerusalem,) still sent the Jerusalem priests letters (such as 4qmmt) to offer them advice on Ma’aseh ha Torah IE “works,” IE advice from the sectarians perspective about how to carry out specific commandments.

      No matter which sect you are talking about, all the sects had a group of men who they regarded as reputable, who they would defer to when asking about questions of observance.

      Dead sea sectarians had their hierarchy (and the example of the teacher of righteousness.)

      Pharisees had lay teachers like Hillel and Shammai.

      Samaritans had their priests.

      Christians had Jesus and Paul, and then later their own priests, etc.

      An authority structure grows naturally out of the biblical text in terms of the people trusting the men who are believed to be of reputable character, lineage, and legal knowledge in the community, concerning questions of observance.

      Notice how the Church lambasts the Jews for believing in an appointed group authority structure on the one hand, while having one of their own that in many ways paralells it? Notice also how Christian spiritual authorities claim a far greater scope of powers than even the rabbis.

      Regarding Paul. When he admits that he initially sought to kill Christians, and that after Damascus, he did not speak to Jesus’ students before preaching, it confirms that he’s not reputable.

      • Eleazar says:

        When I think of Paul’s’ admission of instability, I think of, “The good I wish to do, I do not do. That which I hate and will not to do, that I I do. And yet it is not I, but sin in me that does this.”

    • Jim says:

      Jamo77,

      You have raised an important question: What person or what body of people was qualified to rule on the claims of Jesus? The claim that Jesus was a prophet would have been subjected to the courts, I believe. In Deuteronomy, chapters 13 and 18, it is clear that the false prophet is to have been killed. A decision this major must be turned over to the courts (Deut. 17:8-13). But, Christianity has its own answer to this question. The Christian says that one must pray on the matter, and the holy spirit will enlighten one with the answer, making each person an individual tribunal. This comment will contrast these two positions and show why the Christian position is untenable.

      As noted, the Torah itself does not give the Christian answer. Nowhere does it recommend that each individual pray for a private revelation of the truth, which will be imparted to him by the holy spirit. The establishment of the system was done publicly: the people did not go to their tents to pray and reflect on whether or not Moses might be a prophet. Rather, Moses was verified as a prophet through a public revelation. And, each subsequent prophet was to be judged according to the criteria laid out in the Torah, given through the only publicly verified prophet. It is not left to the individual to determine who is a legitimate prophet according to his own judgment or according to the feelings of his heart after prayer.

      For good reason the Christian’s individual tribunal cannot be the method of validating a prophet. Even the Christian does not really trust this test, which can be seen in how he relates to it when applied by other faiths. The Mormons tell one to pray, and, in response, God will give one a burning in the bosom to verify the claims of Mormonism. But, no Christian believes that this is a legitimate test of the truth. The Christian will say not to follow after that feeling. Nor will they credit all the feelings of spiritual energies that followers of this teacher or that guru feel flowing from their “holy” leaders. Some Christians believe that such feelings are even demonically induced, a counterfeit, but, if so, then perhaps the Christian also is experiencing counterfeit sensations, also demonically induced. Although the Christian advocates following his feelings, inspired by the holy spirit, he does not entirely believe this is a reliable test.

      This can be seen also from the inconsistent way in which he applies the method. Truly, if the Christian believed that verification of the prophet only comes through prayer and the leading of the holy spirit, then he should have applied that test to every prophet that appears in Tanach. He should have prayed fervently to be shown if he could trust the prophecy of Moses and if each of the five books were authored by him. And then, he should have prayed about Joshua. And Samuel. And Isaiah… all the way down to Malachi. He would wait to be shown if each book was from God. And, he would check those books that did not appear in Tanach. He would pray over each gospel. He would pray over the omitted gospels, each one, to know if they were divinely inspired. Instead, he relies upon the judgment of the Jewish judges regarding Tanach. He relies upon Christian councils regarding the “New Testament.” He does not, in fact, subject each prophet to his own tribunal, inspired by the holy spirit to accept this book and reject that book.
      And he could not. It is obvious that if this happened, no Christianity would exist. Each follower of Jesus would have his own individual Bible. This should be impossible if these people were all inspired by the same holy spirit. But, from the beginning, the Church was a schismatic entity, and things have only gotten worse over time. Luther helped inspire only further schism, as each Christian now holds himself competent to interpret scripture through the guidance of the holy spirit. The Church is more schismatic than ever, atomized into smaller and smaller divisions, so that some individuals are practically their own denominations. Two people, both supposedly guided by the holy spirit, cannot even agree upon the fundaments of Christianity, including whether or not Jesus was God. If Christians consistently applied their criterion for testing the claims of Jesus, they would have no community.

      A community relies upon the decisions of a court. Once the court makes a ruling, any individual that does not accept that decision but insists that he is correct and acts according to his own opinion has put himself outside the community. Worse, he has made a move to destroy the community. This is why the Torah condemns such a person to death (Deut. 17:12-13). If each person becomes his own individual tribunal, this means the dissolution of the community.

      Imagine the following scenario: A man is put on trial for murder. The court finds him not guilty. As often happens in cases like this, someone disagrees. He “knows” that the accused did it—he “knows” it in his heart. So, he knows that Torah gives the death penalty for murder, and he finds the accused and kills him. This man will claim that he has not committed murder; he has performed an act of justice. Or, reverse it—say he frees a man sentenced to death for murder. He will still have made a unilateral decision, making his opinion supreme. No society can operate this way, with each person doing whatever seems right to him, ignoring the judgment of the court.

      Though the Church might not like to admit it, it has already relied upon the judgment of the Jewish people to determine who are the prophets and what are the scriptures. In doing so, it has affirmed the authority of the Jewish court. And it could not be any other way. If each person was left to his own devices, Christianity would not exist. Each would have his own scriptures. Each would be his own judge. Each would do what was right in his own eyes, and the Church would be entirely dissolved.

      Jim

      • Jamo77 says:

        Hi Jim,

        Thank-you friend. I am really going to have to read again and digest this. I have had Protestants do that to me ie if I prayed over it I would know their form of Christianity is true “in my heart”. Someone told me since the Jewish court no longer existed at the time of Jesus, Christianity couldn’t be true because the necessary ruling body didn’t exist. I assume with the Jewish messiah to come such a court isn’t necessary since it won’t have to do with “Jewish Faith and morals” whereas a claim like Jesus’ did. Jesus’ followers claimed he needed to be worshipped whereas the man who will be the future Jewish messiah won’t. It will be self evident.

      • Jamo77 says:

        Fr Vince Miceli was someone i listened to. He said the proof of Catholicism was the excellence of its teaching and that scripture and prophecy is veiled until it happened. I think he was fully aware of the problems Judaism posed. And rest his soul but claiming excellence of its teaching is similar to the praying in the heart for truth. Everyone will have a different version of what constitutes excellence.

        • Jim says:

          Jamo77,

          A very good point!

          Jim

        • Jim says:

          Jamo77,

          As I am sure you know, the claim that messianic prophecy is veiled until it is fulfilled is empty. When the Christian says this, he admits to forcing an interpretation on scripture. He is saying that one must begin with a conclusion (e.g. Torah and Prophets points the way to Jesus), and then, he looks for support for that conclusion. This is, of course, not the way one comes to objective interpretation of a written work, just as one does not come to a scientific conclusion before testing a hypothesis or conduct a logical argument through the conclusion to the premises. When one begins with the conclusion, he has stoppered his ears to the voice of the text.

          One of my favorite examples of the absurdities that follow this way of reading comes from Augustine. In “The City of God,” he writes that the prophecy of Deborah in the book of Judges is “so obscure that we could not demonstrate, without a long discussion, that it was uttered concerning Christ” (Book 18, Chap. 15). Rereading this passage recently, I could hardly catch my breath for laughing so hard. He knows that Deborah must have been talking about Jesus somehow, but to explain how will require a convoluted explanation as all convoluted readings do. Veiled prophecy indeed!

          But not all prophecy is so veiled. Eight chapters later in the same book, Augustine writes of two sibylline prophecies that had been “found”—and certainly not manufactured—that prophesied about Jesus and in a much less convoluted way. These prophecies, supposedly hundreds of years old, do not require the lengthy explanations of the Jewish prophecies. One is an acrostic, the lines down spelling out “Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Saviour.” The other contains specific details relating to the alleged crucifixion and resurrection. An enumeration of the details follows:

          1. Unbelievers would strike god.
          2. They would spit on him.
          3. He would yield to the abuse.
          4. His back would be beaten, striped.
          5. He would remain silent.
          6. He receive a crown of thorns.
          7. He would be given gall and vinegar.
          8. The veil of the temple would be torn asunder.
          9. At noon, a three-hour darkness would cover the land.
          10. He would be dead for three days.
          11. He would go to Hell in that three days.
          12. His resurrection would be the first, the promise of a future resurrection.

          Wow.

          When the Christian comes to the actual prophets of God, he cannot find anything nearly so clear as this. He has to constantly ignore context and details in order to make the prophecies appear messianic and/or about Jesus. But, here he has prophecies that just happen to spell out with incredible detail the kinds of things not spelled out in the Nevi’im.

          Augustine’s quick acceptance of these Greek sibyls does tell the reader something. It reveals what one should really be looking for in a prophecy of the type the Christian seeks. When one is supposed to be able to identify a figure by the prophecies he is to have fulfilled, the prophecies must not be vague. They must not require the prior assumption that the messiah is in some way pre-figured in them, if only that pre-figuring can be discovered. Augustine refers to these obvious forgeries, because the use of the Hebrew Scriptures to support the claims of Christianity is ultimately unsatisfying. Augustine knows on some level he is playing a game with scripture, not truly interpreting it. How much more satisfying would it be if Deborah’s prophecy was like the sibyls, instead of requiring clever textual manipulations to locate Jesus in the text.

          Of course, most Evangelicals do not read Augustine, nor would they approve of him. But they are equally at fault in their forced readings of the text. They too begin with the assumption that Jesus is hidden all through Tanach and then search for him. Dr. Brown, in a lecture I heard once, outlined rules of messianic prophecy. The first rule was understanding messianic prophecy was to know that they were not identified as such. Now, this is not a rule. The rule should tell one how to identify messianic prophecy, since they are not identified as such. But, he did not give a rule how to identify messianic prophecy. And the reason is clear. His first rule gives the Christian leeway to read anything as a Messianic prophecy. By not laying out an actual rule, free play is allowed, rather than interpretation. Anything that sounds like it might be talking about Jesus can be applied to him, even if the text clearly has nothing to say about the Messiah or Jesus. The “rule” is a permission to read Jesus into anything.

          But, this is not sound. To know if Jesus is the Messiah, one must first know what the Messiah is. He must have a definition with which to compare Jesus and see if they match. The Christian begins with the conclusion and then manufactures the evidence. This is what it means when a Christian says that messianic prophecy is veiled until it is fulfilled. He means that until he can find Jesus in a passage some way, its meaning is not yet known. This is to make up one’s mind before learning the facts. At this point, the Christian has admitted that his methodology is to begin with the conclusion and then invent the premises. He is not interpreting Tanach: he is rewriting it.

          Jim

          • Jamo77 says:

            Bravo man bravo. That is incredible as is the research you do. For most to be sent to Hell for not worshipping someone who was veiled and unexpected is impossible to grasp.

          • Jim says:

            Jamo77,

            Thanks! I cannot take much credit for research, however. I have read Augustine for school recently. It was fresh in my mind.

            Jim

  8. Jamo77 says:

    ” Notice how the Church lambasts the Jews for believing in an appointed group authority structure on the one hand, while having one of their own that in many ways paralells it? Notice also how Christian spiritual authorities claim a far greater scope of powers than even the rabbis.”

    Thanks CR that is a powerful point.

    Amongst those various groups I wonder if a contentious point come up what they do to sort it out?

    So I gather in Judaism there is no sharp pyramid structure from the top down. The authority structure at time of Jesus and even now wider and looser than in Catholicism. I notice in Judaism there is also more room to believe and think. There seems to be a few major points uniting various forms of Judaism such as and primarily the oneness of God whilst the rest there is a fair bit of diversity in beliefs. I was always interested in the “Seat of Moses” referred to and exactly what it comprised.

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