The Totality of Scripture
Judaism and Christianity are two different belief systems. They differ from each other on foundational issues such as the identity of God and atonement from sin. Yet these two disparate belief systems point to the same Jewish Bible as a fundamental element of their respective faiths. The doctrines of Judaism and Christianity are diametrical opposites, yet the proponents of both sides of the argument find encouragement in the pages of the same book.
It is obvious that only one of these belief systems can be reading the book correctly. The adherents of one faith are following the true intent of the Divine Author, while the adherents of the other faith must be misusing the book.
There are two methods we can use to determine which of these two belief systems is following the true intent of the Author. We can either focus on the details, or we can look at the big picture.
In order to focus on the details, we would examine each and every one of the passages that the proponents of both faiths present to substantiate their respective doctrines. We must study each passage to see which interpretation is validated by the text. Is it the Jewish interpretation or is it the Christian interpretation?
A thorough analysis of the various scriptural quotations is a worthwhile exercise. A serious study of these scriptural passages will reveal that the doctrines of Judaism are based on a direct and straight-forward reading of the text. At the same time this examination will confirm that the scriptural quotations of the missionary are being wrenched out of their immediate contexts. This study has convinced many committed Christians to embrace Judaism.
There is however another method that will help us determine which of these two belief systems is being loyal to scripture, and which is misusing scripture. We need to step back and look at the big picture. We need to examine the total approach to scripture employed by both Judaism and Christianity. We must ask ourselves if there any major differences that separate these two belief systems in their general approach to scripture.
When we contrast the scriptural quotations presented by the Jew against those presented by the missionary, the disparity between them is immediately obvious. The Jewish quotations tower above the Christian quotations in three distinct areas. The scriptural quotations presented by the Jew are; 1) direct, 2) they are clear 3) and they provide comprehensive support for the doctrine in question. In contrast, the quotations presented by the missionary are 1) never direct, 2) they are not clear, 3) and they fail to support the most significant points of the Christian doctrine in question. This study clearly demonstrates that it is Judaism that is in line with scripture, while the Church is abusing the same document.
A scriptural quotation can be considered direct when the Divine Author places the passage in a setting that clearly identifies it as a teaching on the doctrine in question. We will utilize two examples to illustrate this principle. We will examine the Jewish teaching on idolatry, and the Jewish teaching on atonement. The proponents of Judaism quote the passage of Deuteronomy 4:9-39 to establish a basis for the Jewish doctrine on idolatry. The passage of Ezekiel 33:10-20 is quoted in order to validate the Jewish doctrine on atonement from sin.
The passage of Deuteronomy 4:9-39 is clearly marked as a teaching on the issue of idolatry. The Author repeatedly emphasizes that this is the very point He is trying to make. “Lest you become corrupt and make a carved idol, the similitude of any figure…” (verse 16). “Take heed to yourselves lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God that He made with you and you create for yourselves a carved idol …” (verse 23). “Know therefore this day and consider it in your heart that the Lord, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth below there is none else” (verse 39). The Author of scriptures takes the trouble to ensure that the readers associate this particular passage with the prohibition against idolatry.
Likewise, the passage of Ezekiel 33:10-20 opens with the rhetorical statement “ye have said – our sins and transgressions are upon us, how then shall we live?” The Author of scripture presents the question that every sinner must face; how can I deal with my guilt? The Author of scripture makes it clear that a teaching on the issue of forgiveness from sin is about to be presented.
These two passages quoted by the advocates of Judaism directly address the doctrinal issues that they are called upon to support. The Divine Author ensured that no one can doubt that the passage in Deuteronomy presents a teaching on idolatry, while the passage in Ezekiel teaches forgiveness from sin.
The passages quoted by the proponents of Christianity do not share this elemental property. These passages are not placed in a setting that would indicate that the doctrine in question is being addressed in this passage. The scriptural quotations of the missionary do not directly relate to the doctrines they are called upon to support.
A scriptural quotation can be considered clear when the Divine Author chose words that do not leave room for debate. We will turn to the same two passages that we mentioned above in order to illustrate this point.
The passage in Deuteronomy 4:9-39 clearly provides focus and direction for the worship of the Jewish people. “Only take heed for yourself and guard your souls exceedingly, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life, and you shall make them known to your children and to your children’s children” (verse 9). “And the Lord spoke to you from the midst of the fire, you heard the voice of words, but saw no form, only a voice” (verse 12). “Take therefore good heed unto yourselves for you saw no manner of form on the day the Lord spoke to you in Horeb from the midst of the fire. Lest you become corrupt and make a carved idol the similitude of any figure…” (verses 15,16). The passage points to the revelation at Sinai as God’s directive to the people of Israel concerning the direction of their worship. Idolatry is prohibited because they saw no form on that occasion. Furthermore this passage reveals that God expects this revelation to be preserved through the teaching of the Jewish nation. No one ever disputed this interpretation. The words that God chose to communicate this message leave no room for another interpretation.
The same holds true for the passage in Ezekiel 33:10-20. The words that God employed in the communication of this message leave no room for doubt in the mind of the reader. “And when I tell the wicked you shall surely die and he repents from his sin and does justice and righteousness. If the wicked returns the pledge, repays for his theft, follows the statutes of life without committing iniquity he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his sins that he committed will not be remembered for him, he has done justice and righteousness, he shall surely live” (verses 14-16). The teaching is crystal clear. When the sinner turns from his evil ways, God does not remember his sins. God did not leave any room for the reader to question the clarity of the message.
The passages quoted by the proponents of Christianity cannot be considered clear. Every one of the major scriptural passages presented in support of Christian doctrine is the subject of fierce debate. It is not only the Jewish scholars who reject the missionary interpretations of these passages. Many Christian scholars dispute the missionary rendition of these passages. The scriptural quotations presented as the basis for Christian doctrine are not clear.
A scriptural quotation can be considered comprehensive when it articulates the basic elements of the doctrine it is called upon to support. The Jewish doctrine on the issue of idolatry is fully articulated in the passage of Deuteronomy 4:9-39. A complete doctrinal statement can be formulated by simply paraphrasing the words of scripture. The doctrine can be summed up with the following words. “We worship the God who revealed Himself to our ancestors at Sinai, as He revealed Himself to our ancestors at Sinai, and in the manner that our ancestors preserved that revelation”. All of these concepts are clearly spelled out in the aforementioned passage.
Similarly, a complete doctrinal statement on the matter of forgiveness from sin can be formulated on the basis of the passage in Ezekiel 33:10-20. The Jewish doctrine can be summed up with the following words. “We believe that God does not hold the sins of the sinner against him when he repents from his evil ways”. The complete concept is spelled out in this passage from the book of Ezekiel.
The passages quoted by the proponents of Christianity are far from comprehensive. The complete amalgamation of all the scriptural quotations presented by the missionary still leaves basic gaps in the missionary argument. Even when the missionary applies the most radical Christian interpretation to scripture, he still will not come up with a passage that can be read as a commandment to direct religious devotion to Jesus. The most radical Christian reading of scripture will still not produce a single verse that associates faith in an individual with forgiveness from sin. The scriptural quotations of the missionary are not comprehensive. They fail to uphold some of the most basic elements of their doctrines.
In conclusion we can say that the scriptural quotations presented in support of Judaism are direct, comprehensive and clear, while the quotations of the Church are circuitous, incomplete and vague. The sum-total of the disparity between these two sets of scriptural quotations is that the Jew relies on God, the Divine Author of scripture, while the Christian must have faith in the wisdom of biased Christian scholars. For the Jew, it is God who tells him that the given passage is talking about the issue at hand. For the Christian, it is the missionary who must tell him that the passage quoted is presenting a teaching on the theological issue under discussion. For the Jew, it is the Divine Author of scripture who made the message clear and understandable. The Christian needs the scholar to create clarity out of confusion. For the Jew, it is God who spells out the complete doctrine in the prophetic texts. The Christian must rely on the theologian to piece together a doctrine from the available fragments.
When we stand back and look at the big picture, it becomes clear that it is Judaism that is loyal to the Authorial intent of scripture, while Christianity misappropriates the scripture. We can more readily appreciate the statement of a former missionary who converted to Judaism. “The Bible is the most powerful counter-missionary book ever published”.