The “Broad Strokes” of Dr. Brown’s Position

The “Broad Strokes” of Dr. Brown’s Position

Towards the beginning of his most recent article,

https://askdrbrown.org/library/how-rabbi-blumenthal-missed-forest-trees-–-part-3

Dr. Brown presents
what he sees as the “broad strokes” of his position. He makes the claim
that these have not been successfully rebutted.

I will allow Dr. Brown to speak for himself.

“Before responding to Rabbi Blumenthal’s most recent article, let me
reiterate the broad strokes of my position, none of which have been
successfully rebutted to date. First, Israel was in exile for sin and
rebellion and therefore cannot be the subject of Isaiah 53, since the
subject of that chapter was a righteous individual who was not suffering
for his own sins. Second, the righteous remnant of Israel cannot be the
subject of Isaiah 53, since God judged the nations that mistreated His
people, and so their suffering brought judgment on the nations, not
healing. Third, there are no explicit references to the nation of Israel
as the servant of the Lord after Isaiah 48. Fourth, Isaiah 49 and 50
clearly focus on an individual servant, not a national servant. This is
in harmony with the thrust of Isaiah 49-53, in which the prophet
increases his focus on the nation but, much more so, focuses on the
individual servant within the nation, Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel.”

I addressed each of these arguments many times over. Here is the
synopsis of my responses to these arguments. I leave it to the reader to
judge if Dr. Brown’s arguments have been refuted or not.

1) First, Israel was in exile for sin and rebellion and therefore
cannot be the subject of Isaiah 53, since the subject of that chapter
was a righteous individual who was not suffering for his own sins.

The text of Isaiah 53 does not say that the servant was not suffering
for his own sins. That is perhaps what a superficial read of the text
would lead one to believe, but the prophet does not say that. The
prophet says that the servant suffers for the sins of others but this in
no way precludes that his suffering also atones for his own sins.

2) Second, the righteous remnant of Israel cannot be the subject of
Isaiah 53, since God judged the nations that mistreated His people, and
so their suffering brought judgment on the nations, not healing. 

Not every nation persecuted God’s servant, those who did not persecute
the servant will be healed and blessed. The prophet tells us that in the
Messianic age all the nations will serve God together with Israel in the
Temple (Isaiah 56:7). Even those nations who did persecute the servant
and who will ultimately be judged at the time of the servant’s
exaltation, experienced healing and blessing until the time of their
judgment.

3) Third, there are no explicit references to the nation of Israel as
the servant of the Lord after Isaiah 48.

The prophet has other ways of expressing the concept “servant” without
using the actual word “servant.” And these expressions are used right up
to Isaiah 53. In 52:11, Israel is referred to as the “armor bearers” or
the “vessel bearers” of the Lord. These concepts both tell us that
Israel is not only a servant of the Lord, but a very significant servant
of the Lord (see 1Samuel 14:1; Numbers 10:21; Isaiah 61:6).

4) Fourth, Isaiah 49 and 50 clearly focus on an individual servant,
not a national servant. This is in harmony with the thrust of Isaiah
49-53, in which the prophet increases his focus on the nation but, much
more so, focuses on the individual servant within the nation, Yeshua,
the Messiah of Israel.”

Simply false. The prophet does not focus more on the individual servant
over the nation. The nation remains the primary character of Isaiah
right up until chapter 53. In chapters 51 and 52 the focus on the nation
intensifies greatly, while the individual servant isn’t mentioned even
once. If the focus of the prophet in the chapters preceding Isaiah 53
will determines the identity of the servant, it will have to be the
righteous of the nation and not the individual.

Judge for yourself.

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Staggering Mistake or Strengthened Argument

Staggering Mistake or Strengthened Argument?

Between May and July of 2017 I debated Dr. Brown under the title “The Real Jewish Messiah.” In the course of this debate, Dr. Brown presented a faulty argument. When Dr. Brown realized that he made a mistake he put forth the claim that this mistake does not affect his overall argument. Dr. Brown actually claimed that the discussion around his mistake “strengthened his argument” rather than weakened it. I strongly disagree with Dr. Brown’s assessment of the situation and I presented my opinion in various articles on my blog. Dr. Brown responded with some articles of his own and by now there are quite a few pages of discussion about Dr. Brown’s mistake.

The focus of the discussion has been Dr. Brown’s claim that his argument has been strengthened. I am more than satisfied to leave things as they stand now. I encourage you to read what I have written on the matter and what Dr. Brown has written in his defense and I trust that you have enough information to make an educated judgment.

The focus of this article is my claim. I have described Dr. Brown’s error as “staggering.” On what basis did I make that claim? Why did I use that word to describe his mistake?

Please allow me to explain.

The Christian sees Isaiah 53 as one of the most important if not the most important passages in the Jewish Bible. Dr. Brown acknowledges that the only honest way to read Isaiah 53 is in light of the chapters that lead up to Isaiah 53. In fact, this was the very basis for his argument in which he committed the aforementioned error.

Dr. Brown’s error revealed that he is not aware of the fact that Israel is the primary character of the chapters immediately preceding Isaiah 53. Not only was he not aware of this obvious fact but he was deeply convinced that in the four chapters preceding Isaiah 53 Israel is only a secondary character. This error was so deeply entrenched in his mind that when he was told, in plain English, that he erred he did not comprehend what he was being told.

Now this man has been preaching Isaiah 53 for about 30 years now and he has an inaccurate understanding of the chapters preceding Isaiah 53. He got confused between the primary and secondary characters of these chapters.

What word would you use to describe the error?

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Temple Vessels

Temple Vessels

In his most recent article
https://askdrbrown.org/library/how-rabbi-blumenthal-missed-forest-trees-–-part-3

Dr. Brown charged that “Rabbi Blumenthal has made far too much out of the armor-bearer image, which simply refers to the returning exiles as those who carry the vessels of the Lord. They are not to touch anything unclean because of what they are carrying – namely, some of the sacred objects from the Temple. That’s it. Rabbi Blumenthal makes something out of this that the text does not make, then turns around and criticizes me for holding to the scriptural context.”

Dr. Brown is referring to my interpretation of Isaiah 52:11 which proposes that the people of Israel are called “armor bearers of the Lord.” The point I was making is that the prophet is identifying Israel as one who works to accomplish God’s purpose here on earth. Dr. Brown counters with the argument that the Hebrew words that I translated as “armor bearers” can also be translated as “vessel carriers.” According to Dr. Brown the prophet is merely referring to Israel as people who carry the vessels of the Temple and “that’s it.”

The fact is that I acknowledged (in Blumenthal 2) that this is a legitimate interpretation and I put forth the argument that this interpretation also supports the point that I am trying to make. I will take this opportunity to elaborate.

First of all, the Temple vessels contained the tablets of Law that Moses brought down from Sinai, God’s word. So if Israel is described as bearers of the Temple vessels, the prophet is telling us that they are bearers of God’s word. The prophet has already taught us that it is God’s word that accomplishes His purpose here on earth (51:16; see also 55:11). Whether Israel is being called the armor bearers of the Lord or they are being called bearers of the Temple vessels they are being described as active participants in God’s plan for mankind.

But it goes much further than this. In the book of Numbers (chapter 4), we read how the Levites were appointed with the task of carrying the vessels of the Tabernacle. All of Israel benefited from this service, but the responsibility was placed on the shoulder of the Levites. In that same chapter we read how this responsibility was liable to bring judgment upon the Levites (verses 17-20). If the Levites did not fulfill their holy responsibilities exactly as commanded they would die.

Now imagine if a child from the tribe of Dan watching how the Levites seem to be stricken by God to a greater degree than the other Israelites. This child would assume that the Levites must be more sinful than the rest of the nation. The child’s elders would explain
that the Levites were given an awesome responsibility and that the slightest deviation from the parameters of that responsibility brings God’s wrath down upon them. But they carry this responsibility for the benefit of the entire nation. In a sense, their suffering is what  preserves the holiness of the sanctuary for the blessing and benefit of the entire nation.

This is precisely the Jewish position on Isaiah 53. The righteous of Israel are suffering primarily for their own sins, but this is no contradiction to the concept that their suffering brings healing and blessing to the world at large. Although they suffer for their own sins, but the responsibility that they carry as bearers of God’s word makes them so much more liable than the rest of mankind. And the task of bearing God’s word will ultimately be revealed as mankind’s greatest blessing.

According to Dr. Brown’s own interpretation, it is this very image that the prophet sets before us as we approach Isaiah 53. Is this merely a wild coincidence?

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To the Eyes of All the Nations

To the Eyes of all the Nations

This article is the first in a series of my point by point response to Dr. Brown’s article entitled “How Rabbi Blumenthal has Missed the Forest for the Trees – Part 3.” https://askdrbrown.org/library/how-rabbi-blumenthal-missed-forest-trees-–-part-3

In this article I will be addressing Dr. Brown’s critique of my interpretation which has the kings of the  nations confessing in Isaiah 53:1-9.

Here is what I wrote in my article (“Diminishing References and Dr. Brown’s Staggering Mistake – Part 3”):

“Verse 52:15 concludes by describing the speechless shock of the leaders of nation when they see God’s might revealed on behalf of Israel. And 53:1 gives expression and articulation to that shock and consternation. The next several verses continue with the words of shame expressed by those who reviled Israel and persecuted her precisely because Israel is God’s servant.

The nations of the world had been thinking that Israel is suffering because Israel is following a corrupt message. Dr. Brown himself confirms this Biblical truth when he tells us that it is our rejection of Jesus that brought all of our suffering upon us (Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pg. 107). Our rejection of Jesus is rooted in the core of our message, the testimony with which God entrusted us. If our rejection of Jesus brought us suffering according to Dr. Brown, he would have to believe that our message is corrupt.
But now the nations see that Israel’s message is true and they realize that it was their own crooked theology and wicked behavior that caused them to revile the message that Israel was carrying. God had made Israel the target for haters of God throughout history and Israel bore the brunt of the sins of the world.

The fact that it is Israel’s enemies who are shamed by the revelation of God’s strength should come as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention to Isaiah’s words in the chapters leading up to this passage. In the preceding chapters, it is those who contend with Israel that are shamed with Israel’s exaltation. (41;11, 12, 15, 16; 44;27; 47:1-18; 49:17, 19, 23, 25, 26; 51:7, 8, 22, 23.) Dr. Brown’s interpretation that has Israel expressing shame at the revelation of God’s glory has no basis in the words of Isaiah.”

Here is one paragraph from Dr. Brown’s critique of my interpretation:

“Second, often in the Scriptures the prophets speak of the day when we will be ashamed of our sins. This is hardly a foreign theme, as Rabbi Blumenthal claims. Allow me to quote from Ezekiel 36 at length (here, verses 16-32 in the CSB):”

Did you notice how Dr. Brown put words into my mouth? At what point did I say that the idea that Israel will be ashamed of her sins is a “foreign theme”? I was simply pointing out that in the context of Isaiah, chapters 40 through 52, the prophet spoke much about the ultimate shame of those who contend with Israel. It was Dr. Brown’s own idea to read Isaiah 53 in light of Isaiah chapters 40 through 52 and it was that context that I was referring to.

But the fact that Dr. Brown misrepresented my position makes me feel quite honored. He put me in the company of the prophet Isaiah himself whose words are also misrepresented by Dr. Brown. Only a few paragraphs before the one I quoted Dr. Brown writes:

“Rabbi Blumenthal is wrong on all points. First, as I previously pointed out, there is no reference to the nations or the leaders of the nations in the context preceding 52:13. On what basis do they appear out of the blue, unannounced, and without identification? To call this a hermeneutical stretch would be an understatement. (The passing reference to “kings” in 52:15 hardly introduces them as the
speakers beginning in 53:1.)”

I think that you would agree with me when I say that Isaiah 52:10 precedes 52:13. And 52:10 tells us that God’s arm will be revealed “to the Eyes of All the Nations.” Contrary to Dr. Brown’s dramatic pronouncement, the nations are mentioned only 3 verses before 52:13. The context makes it clear that the revelation of God’s arm will be for the benefit of His servant (53:1) and to the eyes of the nations. It would then follow that those who are described as the beholders of this revelation are the ones expressing their surprise. The shame of Israel’s oppressors and of those who contend with her is mentioned many times in the chapters leading up to Isaiah 53. Check out the following verses; 40:23,24; 41:5,11,12; 42:17; 44:9-20; 45:14,16,20,24; 49:7, 23,26; 51;8,23.

Now let us go back and read Dr. Brown’s words: “there is no reference to the nations or the leaders of the nations in the context preceding 52:13.”

It seems that when Isaiah talks, Dr. Brown does not hear.

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Two Letters from Jim to David

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

David,

I appreciate that you do not see the NT as hate speech. To many modern Christians, it would not occur to them to hate the Jewish people for the things written therein. In fact, most would be horrified by such a notion. (When I was a Christian, I would have been horrified by such a notion too.) But much of modern Christianity is separated from its history and is horrified by the scope and temporal proximity of the holocaust.

Let me explain why I call it hate speech. Even if the words addressed to the Pharisees and other groups were accurate–I do not say that they are–they weren’t delivered to those people. The books of the NT are largely directed to non-Jews. And so the image that is painted of the Pharisee to the non-Jew is one horribly skewed. They have no context. They are left with this image…

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Who “Reacted” ?

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Who “Reacted” ?

Christianity does not suffice itself with the presentation of her own theology. Since its inception, the followers of Jesus found the need to disparage Judaism. The Christian Scriptures already begin this pattern of maligning the Jewish people and their belief system. The Church Fathers continued the pattern, and this process still lives amongst various factions of Jesus followers today. From the extreme anti-Jewish faction, who still propagates the myths of replacement theology, which needs the Jews to be an evil people that lost God’s promises; to the extreme Jew-loving faction of Messianic Jews claiming to be the true Judaism, who find the need to argue that the Jews have changed their religion so as to exclude Jesus; all of these have a comment on Judaism.

In sharp contrast, out of the 2700 pages of Talmud there are perhaps three paragraphs that might have a bearing on the…

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Christianity’s Glass House

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