Response to Line of Fire 11
In his February 7 2013 radio show Dr. Brown takes issue with a presentation by Julius Ciss; Director of the Canadian branch of Jews for Judaism.
Julius’s presentation is simple and straightforward. He explains that the reason that Jews cannot accept Jesus as the Messiah is because he did not fulfill the requirements of the Messiah as described by the prophets. The prophets spoke of the ingathering of the Jewish exile back to the land of Israel where the Messiah will reign over a united Israel in their ancient homeland. The prophets spoke of a rebuilt Temple during the reign of the Messiah. The prophets spoke of an era of universal peace in the times of the Messiah. The prophets speak of Israel observing the Law of Moses in the Messianic era. The prophets described the Messianic era as a time when all the nations will have faith in the One God of Israel. And the prophets taught us that the Messiah will be a member of the tribe of Judah and a descendant of King David. In the Bible we find that tribal affiliation and royal inheritance only passes through the father.
The exiles are yet to be gathered. The Temple is not rebuilt. We don’t have universal peace. Much of Israel is not observing the Law of Moses and the nations of the world have not yet unanimously put their faith in the One Creator of heaven and earth. No one ever claimed that Jesus was a descendant of David from his father’s side. Each of these factors standing alone is enough to disqualify Jesus from claiming the title of Jewish Messiah. How much more so is this true when all of these factors combine. After everything is said and done Jesus did nothing that should make us think that he is the Messiah.
Dr. Brown makes some general statements in response to the totality of these arguments and he responds to each of the Messianic criteria individually.
None of his arguments are new and I have already responded to most of them in my critique of his writings. However; for the sake of clarity, I will briefly present some of Dr. Brown’s responses and my answers to those response in this article.
Before we get to the arguments themselves I will address a comment that Dr. Brown keeps coming back to throughout his show. He keeps on telling his listeners that he invites any rabbi to call in to his show and that he will treat him fairly. He bemoans the fact that the counter-missionaries refuse to respond to his challenge.
The fact of the matter is that every one of his arguments has systematically been refuted in writing. Dr. Brown has consistently backed out of his assurances to respond – in writing – to these challenges to his position. Most recently; on the comment section of his November 3 2011 radio show he entered into a give and take with me over the very subject that he discusses on this show. He assured me that he will get back to me but he never did.
Perhaps Dr. Brown has his legitimate reasons for not being able to answer in writing, but the fact of the matter is that he has consistently avoided this venue despite his assurances to the contrary. When he tells his listeners how the counter-missionaries refuse to debate him in a live forum it would only be fair if he also explains to his audience that he consistently refuses to debate in writing.
Early on in his show Dr. Brown takes issue with Julius’s assertion that Judaism believes that the Messiah must fulfill specific prophecies before being considered the Messiah. Dr. Brown argues that there was no one version of Judaism in the days of Jesus and that Judaism did not present a codified definitive concept of the Messiah’s role until the 12th century.
This argument is fallacious. Despite the diversity that existed within Judaism in the Second Temple era still there were certain basic concepts that all Jews agreed upon. There is no record of any Jewish group subscribing to the Messiah coming twice. All of the prophecies that Julius quoted in reference to the Messiah were understood as Messianic by every Jewish group. So Dr. Brown’s argument concerning the diversity of Judaism; which he greatly exaggerates, actually works against him. If the Jews were arguing about so many other details of their faith why did they all agree with each other that these prophecies of Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah were Messianic? It is clear that the plain straightforward reading of Scripture didn’t allow even the craziest deviant to deny these truths. Even the disciples of Jesus who were with him throughout his entire public career did not deny these truths. It is only after Jesus failed in his mission as they originally understood it that they were forced to come up with a new definition of the mission so as to fit the person to whom they had already pledged all of their devotion.
As part of his overall response Dr. Brown downplays the significance of the Messianic prophecies that Julius mentioned. Dr. Brown takes particular issue with the prophecies related to the ingathering of Israel’s exile and the restored Temple. Dr. Brown goes so far as to say that the concept of the Temple in relation to Messiah is “fringe at best”.
I actually interacted with Dr. Brown concerning this very issue. How do we know if a prophecy is “significant” or “fringe”? How many times does a concept need to be stated before we can say that this is a “significant” prophecy? With what level of clarity and unambiguousness will the concept need to be stated by the prophets before we decide that a given concept is not “fringe”?
Fortunately; Dr. Brown’s was kind enough to supply with a yardstick that we can use to discover which prophecies are “fringe” and which prophecies are “significant”.
In Volume 3 of Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus (page 178) Dr. Brown passes judgment on Maimonides. I quote: “There is NO DOUBT that he missed the mark, PAINTING A PICTURE of the Messiah that would be in agreement with Rabbinic Judaism and would rule out Yeshua as a candidate.”
What was Maimonides “sin” that incurred this scathing review from Dr. Brown? Well; you see, Maimonides states that the Messiah does not necessarily need to perform miracles. For Dr. Brown this is unforgivable because – and again I quote: “the prophets explicitly associated miraculous acts with the Messianic age (see, e.g. Isa. 35:5-7).”
So here we have our yardstick. According to Dr. Brown the miracles of the Messiah are a significant prophecy that one dare not downplay. We will then use this as our measuring stick. How many times are the miracles of the Messiah mentioned in Scripture? In how many books of Scripture are these miracles mentioned? How clear and unambiguous are these prophecies? Is there perhaps another more obvious interpretation of these prophecies? Did the prophet tie down these miracles to a specific timeline?
There are three passages in the book of Isaiah which can be misconstrued to read as if the Messiah must perform miracles (35:5,6; 42:7; 61:1). They are only found in this one book of the Bible. One of these prophecies (35:5,6) does not mention a Messianic figure at all while the other two speak of an individual who many see as the prophet himself. There is ample contextual evidence to indicate that when Isaiah spoke of “opening the eyes of the blind” – he was not referring to a literal healing of a few blind people, but rather to Israel’s release from the bondage of exile (Isaiah 33:23, 41:17, 42:16, 43:8,20; 49:9-13, 52:11-12, Jeremiah 31:7). And the prophet explicitly ties each of these passages in with God’s revenge against Israel’s enemies.
Yet for Dr. Brown; the “miracles of the Messiah” are so clear and unambiguous that if someone downplays their significance it is an unpardonable sin.
Every last one of the requirements of the Messiah that Julius so clearly laid out towers over the concept of miracles in every way that they can be measured. In terms of number of Scriptural references, in terms of the amount of books of Scripture these concepts are described and in terms of clarity. The ingathering of the Jewish exile – Deuteronomy 30:3, Isaiah 11:12, 40:11, 43:5,6, 49:12,18,22, 60:4, 66:20, Jeremiah 3:18, 30:3, 31:7, 32:37, Ezekiel 11:17, 20:41, 34:13, 36:24, 37:21; the rebuilding of the Temple – Isaiah 2:2, 60:7, Jeremiah 33:18, Ezekiel 37:26, 43:7, 44:15, Micah 4:1; national resurgence of Torah observance – Deuteronomy 30:10, Jeremiah 31:32, Ezekiel 11:20, 36:27, 37:24, 44:23,24; universal peace – Isaiah 2:4, 65:25, Jeremiah 33:9,16, Ezekiel 34:25,28, 37:26, Hosea 2:20, Psalm 72:3; and universal knowledge of God – Isaiah 11:9, 45:23, 54:13, 66:18,19,23, Jeremiah 3:17, 31:33, Ezekiel 38:23, Zephaniah 3:9, Zechariah 8:20-23, 14:16.
It is clear that according to Dr. Brown’s own yardstick – Julius’s presentation is right on the mark – and if you want a scathing review of anyone who attempts to minimize these prophecies – just read Dr. Brown’s own rebuke of Maimonides quoted above.
At one point in his presentation Dr. Brown makes the preposterous assertion that the Messiah is FIRST to be a light to the Gentiles and only AFTERWARD is he going to be recognized by the Jewish people. This statement is patently false and is roundly contradicted by the prophets of Scripture
The scriptures clearly tell us exactly how the light will come to the Gentile nations. The message is repeated quite a number of times in an open and unambiguous manner. Isaiah compares the error of the nations to a veil that covers their faces (25:7), and to a thick cloud of darkness (60:2). The prophets teach that God will use the physical salvation of the Jewish people to dispel this dark error. When the downtrodden and persecuted nation is exalted, and their enemies are destroyed, the nations will see the light and be converted to the service of God. Israel’s deliverance is the catalyst for the conversion of the nations. This lesson is repeated by the prophets again and again (Isaiah 17:12 – 18:7, 25:1 – 8, 30:26, 34:1 – 35:10, 40:1 – 11, 41:17 – 20, 49:8 – 13, 52:7 – 10, Zephaniah 3:8 – 20, Psalm 9:8 – 13, 40, 66, 69, 98, 102, 117 ). Any faith that the nations are coming to before the light of God is openly revealed upon Israel, can only be a part of the darkness that the prophets yearned to see dispelled (Isaiah 60:1 – 3).