Tower of Truth

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Tower of Truth
Man’s need for self-validation is very deep. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. The deeper the need – the more powerful the desire to invent and to fabricate.
Not that there is a true need to fabricate. The Creator who so lovingly designed us also provided for all of our needs. We have air to breath, water to drink and food to eat. Surely God also provided for our basic emotional needs as well.
There seems to be a pattern in the way God provides for our needs. The availability of the item that satisfies our need seems to be directly correlated to the level of requirement that we have for the particular item. Air is the most essential material need that we have and it is all over the place. Water follows as our second most basic need and while it is not…

View original post 1,100 more words

Posted in General | Leave a comment

The Veil

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

The Veil

The ongoing missionary effort to direct the heart of the Jew towards Jesus in worship has generated many discussions between proponents of Jesus and those who do not accept his claims. Many of these discussions focus on the Jewish Scriptures with each side of the debate coming in to the conversation with the firm belief that they are following the plain meaning of Scripture.

Some people recognize that this conversation cannot get off the ground without the belief that this discussion can lead to the truth. Indeed; it is my firm belief that a civil and respectful discussion, where both parties are willing to put all of their preconceived notions on the table, will only lead both parties closer to the truth.

I have encountered some people who engage in this discussion without any belief in the power of such a discussion to move people closer to what…

View original post 434 more words

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Who Was Jesus? – Excerpt from “Covenant Nation” – a critique of D. Boyarin’s “Borderlines”

Who was Jesus?
Boyarin presents us with an analysis of the hand-washing incident described in the seventh chapter of the book of Mark (TJG; pgs. 106-127). Boyarin concludes that, contrary to popular Christian opinion, this incident does not teach that Jesus abolished the dietary laws altogether. Rather, Jesus was opposed to the specific rabbinical enactment of hand-washing, which stands apart from the general dietary laws.

I find myself in agreement with Boyarin on this point. Reading the book of Mark with an understanding of Jewish law one recognizes that there is a distinction between the purity laws, which Jesus was contesting, and the general dietary laws, which Jesus does not mention. Boyarin however does not stop there. Boyarin goes on to argue that Jesus stood against all Pharisaic innovations and additions to the Law. This position is not supported by the Christian Scriptures, the only source we have for Jesus and his teachings.

Boyarin has ignored a significant piece of evidence in this discussion. The Talmud records that there was an inner-Pharisaic conflict concerning the hand-washing enactment, and that this conflict was still unresolved in the generation of Jesus (Shabbat 14b). In other words by taking a stance against the hand-washing enactment, Jesus is not standing outside of the Pharisaic community. Instead he was taking part in an inter-Pharisaic debate.

This is corroborated by Jesus’ teaching as recorded by Matthew: “the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you.” (23:2,3). Although Jesus goes on to malign the Pharisees for hypocritical behavior, but he does not take issue with their authority or their interpretation of the Law. In fact some of the laws he mentions and upholds in his subsequent diatribe (such as the tithing of spices) are of rabbinic origin.

Jesus is described as observing the Passover Seder according to rabbinic tradition (Luke 22:18-20). When Jesus is accused of breaking the Sabbath law, an accusation that only makes sense according to the Pharisaic understanding of the Law, he never exonerates himself by arguing against the Pharisaic definition of the Law. Jesus’ defense always assumes that the Pharisaic definition of the Law is correct, it is only the application of the Law in those particular instances (i.e. for the purpose of healing) that Jesus takes issue with.

Many of Jesus’ followers considered themselves Pharisees long after Jesus had died (Acts 15:5). These people were prominent figures in the community of Jesus followers and their opinion was taken seriously. A comparison between the debate described in Acts 15 and Paul’s dispute with Peter recorded in Galatians 2:14 shows that Peter, the prime disciple of Jesus, was of the “Pharisee party”. Paul accuses Peter of “compelling the Gentiles to live as do the Jews”. This was the opinion of the Pharisaic segment of the early Christian community as recorded in Acts 15 and Paul attributes this outlook to Peter. A straightforward reading gives us to understand that Peter himself belonged to this group.

If, as Boyarin claims, Jesus took a clear stance against the Pharisee approach to the Law, why would his followers accept this very approach that he discredited? It is clear that Jesus did not reject the Pharisee approach to the Law as a whole it was only some details of the Pharisaic application, details that were being disputed within the Pharisee community itself that Jesus was rejecting.

In the book of Mark (7:8-13) we do indeed find Jesus striking out at the general concept of the traditions. He rebukes the “Pharisees and all the Jews” (Mark 7:3) for using the traditions to make the Law of God null and void. However, the example that Jesus uses to demonstrate how the Jews were using the traditions to nullify the Law of God, is perplexing. Mark’s Jesus accuses the Jews of using the law of taking vows as a method of avoiding honoring their parents. The technical aspects of this accusation are confusing enough (the laws of taking vows are Biblical in nature (Numbers 30:3) and not a part of the traditions as Mark’s Jesus seems to believe). But what is really difficult to understand is that in all of the rabbinic writings, there is not one statement that can be taken as an encouragement to avoid honoring one’s parents. The consistent position of Pharisaic Judaism, according to every historical record, places the honor of parents on the highest pedestal. In sharp contrast, the Gospels leave us with several statements that seem to go against the spirit of the Fifth Commandment (Matthew 10:37; 12:48; 19:29; Mark 3:33; Luke 14:26). The targets of Jesus’ invective left us a literature that is far more extensive than the 4 books of the Gospels, yet nothing equivalent is to be found in their writings.

This would lead us to one of two conclusion; either the group that Jesus was castigating was a fringe sect that never left their mark on mainstream Judaism, or we can conclude that the redactors of the Gospels put this anti-Pharisaic tirade into their book long after Jesus died and were not familiar with the ways of the Jews. Either way, Boyarin’s conclusion that Jesus was anti-Pharisaic cannot be substantiated from this enigmatic passage, especially in light of the totality of the available evidence.

It is interesting to note, that Boyarin does not hesitate to slice up the Hebrew Bible and attribute various sentences in the same narrative to different authors who subscribed to conflicting theologies (TJG, pg. 43). He does this without any explicit evidence for the existence of the conflict that he assumes as the root of this editing procedure in the text of the Hebrew Bible. Yet he takes the Christian Scriptures at face value despite the fact that the same Christian Bible admits that there was deep discord in the early Church between Paul and a faction of “super-apostles” who opposed him. Had Boyarin taken the same irreverent attitude towards the Gospels as he does towards the Jewish Bible, he would have realized that the most probable explanation for the pro and anti-Pharisaic tendencies in the Gospels reflects the tendencies of two conflicting communities in the early Church. The Christian Bible itself acknowledges this rift in the early Church, there is no reason to assume that this controversy left no mark on the editing process of the books produced by these conflicting communities.

Posted in General | 20 Comments

The Myth of the “Frightened Jew”

The Myth of the “Frightened Jew”

One of the popular myths that abound in missionary literature
describes the Jewish teachers quaking in “fear” when they encountered
the “proofs” to the alleged Messiah-ship of Jesus that are supposedly
found in the ancient texts of Jewish literature. According to the
missionaries, these Jewish teachers resorted to all types of nefarious
tactics in their “desperate” effort to “hide the truth” from their
naïve and trusting audiences.

Typical of this category of missionary mythology is the claim that the
rabbis altered the very text of the Bible in their effort to counter
the claims of the Church. The great commentator of Judaism, Rashi
(Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki of 11^th century France) is accused of
slanting his commentary on the Bible so that his Jewish readership
will not learn of the arguments that would support Christian claims.
And Maimonides is charged with formulating his teachings in a way that
would preclude the doctrines of Christianity.

Let us step back and analyze this accusation against the teachers of
Judaism. The Christian charge is that these rabbis saw these proofs to
the claims of the Church in the sacred texts of Judaism and they
distorted the intention of these texts in their teachings in order to
prevent their disciples from being persuaded by these so-called proofs.

This charge is demonstrably false. The only Christianity that existed
in the days of Rashi, Maimonides was a Christianity that believed in
replacement theology. For centuries upon centuries the various
Churches taught that the Jewish nation’s positive place in God’s plan
was replaced by the community of believers in Jesus and that the Law
of Moses was replaced by the teachings of Jesus. It is only in the
relatively recent past that some denominations of Christianity have
reconsidered one or both of these erroneous positions. But as far as
our teachers from the distant past (such as Rashi and Maimonides) were
concerned, the only Jesus that existed was one that came along with a
rejection of Israel as God’s nation and a repudiation of the Law of Moses.

The clarity that the Scriptures give us on these two subjects is
overwhelming and irrefutable. The following Scriptures speak of the
eternal election of Israel and of the centrality of that election to
God’s plan:

Genesis 12:2,7; 13:14,15; 15:5,7,18; 17:7-14; 18:18; 22;17,18; 25:23;
26:3-5; 28:13,14; 35:12; 48:4,16,20; 49:10; 50:24; Exodus 2:24;
3:8,17; 4:22; 6:4,7,8; 15:16,17; 19:5,6; 24:8; 29:45,46; 31;12-17;
33:1,16; 34:10,27; Leviticus 11;45; 20:24,26; 22:33; 26:44,45; Numbers
15:41; 22:12; 23:21; 24:9; 33:53; 35:34; Deuteronomy 1:8;
4:7,20,31-39; 6:10,18; 7:6-8; 8:1; 9:5,26,29; 10:11,15; 11:31; 14:1,2;
21:8; 23:6; 26:15-19; 27:9; 29:11-14; 32:9-12; 33:28,29; Joshua 1:6;
5:6; 21:41; 1Samuel 12:22; 2Samuel 7:23,24; 1Kings 8:13,51-53; 9:3;
10:9; 11:36; Jeremiah 2:2,3; 10:16; 12:14; 14:9; 31:2,8,34-36;
32:37-41; 33:19-26; 46:27,28; 50:20,33,34; 51:5; Ezekiel 11:16; 16:60;
37:20-28; Isaiah 41:8-16; 43:1-21; 44:1-8,21-23; 45:4,14-17; 46:3,4;
49:14-16; 51:7,15,16,22-52:12; 54:10; 55:5; 59:21; 60:1-22; 61:6,9;
62:1-12; Hosea 2:1,21,22; Joel 4:17,20,21; Zephaniah 3:20; Haggai 2:5;
Zechariah 2:12; 8:20-23; Malachi 1:2; Psalms 28:9; 29:11; 33:12;
44:18; 47:4,5; 48:9,15; 50:7; 68:35,36; 74:2; 78:5,69; 79:13; 89:16;
94:14; 95:7; 98:1-3; 100:3; 105:8-45; 111:4-9; 114:2; 125:2;
132:13-18; 133:3; 135:4; 144:15; 147:19,20; 148:14; 149:2,4; Nehemiah
1:10; 9:7,8; 1Chronicles 15:2; 16:15-22; 17:21,22,24; 23:13,25;
2Chronicles 6:6; 7:16; 9:8; 20:7.

The following scriptural passages speak of the importance of the Law.
Some of these passages teach us that the Law is relevant for all
generations, into and including the Messianic age. Other passages
confirm that the Law is beautiful, holy, life-giving and central to
our relationship with God. Some of these passages refer to the
totality of the Law while others focus on a specific subset within the
larger framework of the Law.

Genesis 2:3; 17:7-13; Exodus 12:14,17,24,42; 13:10; 19:9; 27:21;
29:28,42; 30:8,10,21; 31:12-17; Leviticus 3:14; 6:11,15; 7:34,36;
10:9,15; 16:29,31,34; 17:7; 18:5; 23:14,21,31,41,43; 24:3,9; Numbers
15:15,21,23,38; 18:8,11,19; 19:10; 25:13; 35:29, Deuteronomy 4:2,6;
5:3; 6:18,24,25; 7:11-16; 8:1; 10:12,13; 11:1,9,13-25,27; 12:28;
13:1,18,19; 15:4,5; 16:20; 18:5; 25:15; 28:1-14; 29:8; 30:1-20; 31:21;
33:4,10;, Joshua 1:7,8; 23:6; Judges 5:31; 1kings 2:3; 8:23; Jeremiah
31:32; Ezekiel 36:27; 37:24; 44:23,24; Psalms 19:8-11; 111:7,8;
119:1-176; Malachi 3;22; Esther 9:28; Nehemiah 9:13,14.

Whoever wrote the Jewish Bible wanted to make these two points
abundantly clear; that Israel is forever God’s elect and that the Law
of Moses is eternally relevant. The Author emphasized these two
teachings, repeatedly and with force. He used every literary tool in
His arsenal to bring these lessons to our heart.

If we combine all of the arguments that the Church uses in its effort
to substantiate her claims on the basis of the Jewish Bible we will
find that they do not come close to the evidence that the same Bible
supplies to inform us that God’s choices of Israel and the Law of
Moses are irrevocable. Even according to the mistranslations and
misinterpretations of the Churchmen, the Jewish Bible doesn’t provide
anywhere near this level of support for the teachings of Christianity.
Even if a Jew would not see through the hollow arguments of the
missionary, the Jew could never come to the conclusion that the God of
the Bible encourages faith in Jesus.

As long as the Church was teaching replacement theology there was no
way that a missionary could persuade a Jew that the Bible supported
faith in Jesus. Rashi and Maimonides as well as every teacher who only
knew of a Jesus that rejected Israel and the Law of Moses never had a
personal need to refute Christian arguments. The Bible itself
repudiated Jesus in the strongest terms.

Yes, Rashi did respond to Christian arguments in his commentary to the
Bible, but this was not because he had any personal “fear” from the
arguments of Christianity. Rashi supplies his readers with responses
to Christian arguments because the Christian culture forced Jews to
respond to their specific “proof-texts,” be it in the setting of
formal debates or in the setting of private conversations between
Christians and Jews. But as far as Rashi’s personal faith in God was
concerned and as far as the Jews of his generation were concerned, the
arguments of the Church did not deserve any responses. Because the
only Jesus that existed in Rashi’s day was a Jesus that hated the
nation that God loved and rejected the eternal teachings of Moses.

The fact is that even now that many denominations of Christianity are
reconsidering their position on the election of Israel and on the
eternal relevance of the Law of Moses, the faith of a Jew is not
challenged by the missionary arguments. The overall message of the
Bible still repudiates the devotion and worship of Jesus that the
Church is promoting. This repudiation of faith in Jesus is spelled out
with such force and clarity that all of the missionary “proof-texts”
together do nothing to undermine the strength of this repudiation.

However, I do not know if I can expect a Christian to appreciate this
fact. Christians that are used to seeing the Jewish Bible as
supportive of their faith have a difficult time seeing the same Bible
from a Jewish perspective. But now that they have come around on the
issue of replacement theology I expect that they recognize the force
with which the Author of the Bible repudiates that error. And if they
recognize the power of the Bible’s support for the election of Israel
and for the Law of Moses I expect them to appreciate why Rashi and
Maimonides and all the Jews of their generation had nothing to “fear”
from the Christian arguments.

Posted in General | 27 Comments

Psalm 22 and the Dead Sea Scrolls – a video by Yosi Feigenbaum

Posted in General | 52 Comments

Literary Skill

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Literary Skill

Did the Author of Scripture know how to write? Does He have the literary ability to make His point with clarity and with force?

Let us make a case study. God said very clearly that the Jewish people should observe the Sabbath. He said this in a commanding way and He repeated it many times promising reward for obedience and threatening punishment for disregarding His eternal sign (Exodus 16:29; 20:8; 23:12; 31:14; 34:21; 35:2; Leviticus 23:3; Numbers 15:35; Deuteronomy 5:12; Isaiah 56:2; 58:13; Jeremiah 17:21).

Upon reading this selection it will become obvious that the Author of Scripture knows how to get a point across to His readership. He knows how to make clear that Israel’s observance of the Sabbath is important to His heart.

This brings a question to mind. According to Christianity, practical observance of the Sabbath is not very important, to put it mildly. Belief…

View original post 207 more words

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Passover and First-fruits (Bikurim)

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Passover and First-fruits

The Passover Haggada is one of the most accepted Jewish books after the Bible. It is not known who authored the Haggada, nonetheless, the Jewish people recognize in this work the heart and soul of the Passover Seder.

We will focus here on the section of the Haggada which recounts the exodus from Egypt. The author of the Haggada structured the exodus story around the verses from a passage in the book of Deuteronomy (26:5-9). The Haggada quotes one phrase from that passage after another and builds the exodus stories on the amplification of these verses.

Why? From all of the passages in Scripture that speak of the exodus, why did the author of the Haggada choose this particular passage in Deuteronomy?

If we read the passage in its original context, we find that it relates to the bringing of first-fruits to the Temple. When Israel dwelt…

View original post 388 more words

Posted in General | Leave a comment