Thomas’ Journey

I was raised like most other North American Jews- in an interfaith (Jewish mother, non-practicing Protestant father) in the suburbs of a large North American city. I was raised with a Jewish identity, went to Hebrew school, and had a bar mitzvah. We went to synagogue on the High Holidays, lit Shabbat candles on Friday night, and so on.

When I went away to university, I started getting involved with the local Jewish association- mostly Israel advocacy, some Jewish programming, and I was also learning more about my Jewish identity through getting involved at the local orthodox synagogue (although I was neither observant nor religious- merely started attending shabbat morning services).

Upon my graduation, I moved back to my home city, and started working. I don’t quite remember when I first came across the ‘messianic jewish’ movement, but I had always known of Jews for Jesus (et al), and one day I came across a messianic website featuring proofs texts of Jesus’ messiahship in the Hebrew Bible, and it caught my attention, so I looked at it, thinking I would get a good chuckle. Rather, I was very bothered- although I knew little about the Hebrew Bible, these arguments seemed compelling! The scriptural verses seemed to prove exactly their point! How was this possible?

To make a (very) long story short, this bothered me day and night. I read articles and watched videos online- there was messianic site after site offering proofs, and yet I had difficulty finding one or two competent Jewish websites offering refutations- I knew there must be some Jewish refutation- but nothing I found online was satisfactory.

The Christian arguments had dozens of verses, plus references to the Talmud and other Jewish works, and the Jewish refutations I found online seemed surprisingly bare-boned, and did not ease my doubts in the slightest.

This reached a fever pitch where, one night laying in bed, I asked myself- what good reason do I have NOT to accept Christianity? What other choice did I have? It was so abundantly clear that whatever Jewish arguments existed, I could not find them.

One morning, I asked G-d to teach me- to show me what He wanted me to do.

I got an answer.

That night, while on campus for an evening classes program I was taking, the guest speaker happened to be (obviously unknown to me) a rabbi from Jews for Judaism. That certainly caught my attention. I actually had met this rabbi once or twice in the past, and I scheduled a meeting with him to discuss what was causing me so much distress, and to finally hear what the Jewish responses were- and whether they were satisfactory.

We reviewed some of the big proof texts, and the major theological issues (repentance & atonement, divinity of messiah, etc.), and it caused me to take a big step back. The refutations he provided me were very clear and straightforward, and I did a lot more reading, and met with the rabbi a few more times, and after a while I felt that I had received a satisfactory answer to my questions. But some doubts persisted, but while I knew that I could not answer many Christian arguments, I was not plagued by the same fears I had before.

It was only later, when I came across Rabbi Blumenthal’s writings (Contra Brown and The Council of My Nation) did it become clear as day to me. Until then, all the arguments I had seen were when the Christian presented Proof Text A, and the Jew attempted to refute it. But when I read Rabbi Blumenthal’s articles, it put everything in a new light. It became clear to me that not only are the ‘messianic prophecies’ not pointing to Jesus, but the Jewish-Christian disagreement goes MUCH deeper: the fundamental teachings of the Hebrew Bible preclude the major theological teachings of Christianity, such as the required belief in the messiah’s divinity, his death as atonement, the nature of G-d, and so on. I also found one argument particularly convincing- that Christianity accepts wholeheartedly the Jewish biblical tradition- that the Jews knew how to identify correct prophets and reject false prophets, and that the Jews accurately kept, passed on, codified and canonized the books of the Hebrew Bible.

And yet, the same Christianity that believes the Jews met G-d at Mt. Sinai and transmitted His message to humanity- do not know how to identify their own messiah and do not know the nature of their own G-d. Once I reflected upon this more, the point made more and more sense- to accept the Jewish bible and reject everything the Jews say about their own bible – seemed to be utterly illogical.

I printed both these articles out, and I read them each dozens and dozens of times. I thought about them, reflected upon them, and argued with myself about the arguments presented in the book, and it knocked out any lingering doubts I had.

Peace had come upon me.

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Saul’s Journey

Saul’s Journey

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Proverbs 14:12

What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God. Romans 3:1-2

My religous journey really started at the age of 19. For 2 years, I had been reading political books, trying to find the right way for man. Of course, I couldn’t find it. God was the only possible option left. I never felt the need to question the existence of God. When I look back, I have never doubt it. But man is, in part, the product of his experience and environment. My family was not religious at all. A Jewish father, a Christian mother, but none really exhibiting any faith, and even less any practice. Coming from Eastern Europe, Communism left its marks. Their anti-communism was humanist and rational. How then could I believe in God? Only Him; blessed be He, knows the answer. I can’t explain it myself. I didn’t need the kalam argument, God’s existence was self evident.

Very quickly, the only religion i looked into was Christianity. An irrational choice. Why such a choice? I think the best answer I can offer is who I am. When you have a Jewish Father and a non-Jewish Mother, you never feel at home anywhere. For Jews, you are not Jewish. For non-Jews, you are a Jew (a fact any Jew should think about when the mixed marriage issue comes up). And as is often the case, man follows the majority. Now I can fully understand the warning God gave to his people, “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong”(Exodus 23:2). After a study of Church History, I became Orthodox Christian. The search for Orthodoxy is the recurrent thread in my life. Orthodoxy or Death would say some Greeks and Russians. I can say that, as many others, my belief in Jesus and his Church led me to the Bible, and not the other way. This will be an important point at last, since it is the case for many Christians and explains much of the Christian misunderstanding of the Tanakh. I came to the Bible with Christian glasses. As such, i could find Christianity and Jesus from Genesis to Revelation, and even in Ezekiel’s visions (and for this, you really need a twisted mind).

During my Christian journey, I also embraced the traditional anti-Semitism. I didn’t see it as self-hatred, after all, I’m not a Jew and I became Christian. And after all, aren’t Christians supposed to be the true Jews? With such a worldview, I was mainly opposing some reprobates who didn’t possess the Holy Spirit and who got blinded by Jesus. I was smarter than those fleshly Jews, since I had accepted the true Messiah! For 5 years, my practice went up and down. Mostly down. Jesus paid it all, and I’m saved by Faith. Let’s not be legalistic like those Jews! At some point, after my girlfriend left me, I felt lonely. This situation forced me to turn back to God. The world could fall apart, but God will remain and is faithful to those who look unto him sincerely. Before coming back to Church, after some months of desertion, I decided that it was time to reason about what I believed and why.

This was to be a turning point in my life. I gave up Eastern Orthodoxy. I won’t go into the details now, but i can in a separate message. I then became a religious UFO: Calvinist with Judaizing tendencies. Adhering to the principle of Sola Scriptura, I couldn’t but look for the Jewish roots of my faith. Now, it really looks like a domino effect. But the brutal reality was this: my faith made no sense. If Jesus intended us to follow the Law, why did it never really happen except for marginal sects that got off the map for more than 1000 years? I couldn’t make sense of what I believed in. There is a saying that the devil hides in the details. This was precisely the case with the New Testament. Jesus sends us back to the Law (Matthew 5:17-19). Not only to the Law, but to the Pharisees, “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2″The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.3So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Matthew 23:2-3).

At this moment, I couldn’t make any sense of Jesus’s teachings. He asks me to go to the Pharisees. The Pharisees tell me to forget about Jesus. Which means, that to truly obey Jesus, I have to forget about him. Those thoughts are, I think, common to many former Christians who turned towards Judaism. No need to go into the details here, it would be too long; from Matthew confusing Jeremiah and Zachariah, the eating of human flesh and blood up to Stephen full of the Spirit making more mistakes than a catechumen. The whole Christian edifice got crushed under investigation. During this investigation, I must give credit to Rav Blumenthal. I was already in the process of leaving Christianity when I started to read his blog, but it helped me to make sense out of this process. Contra Brown is a masterpiece, and should be read by all, whether Christians, Jews, or even Muslims. From it, the main point is right at the beginning: “We must cast our mind back to the time before Jesus was born. We must ask ourselves how a Jew would have read the scriptures before the advent of Christianity. What was the total world-view that the Jewish scriptures imparted to the Jewish people? What would have been the perspective of the Jew who accepted the totality of the Jewish scriptures concerning the major theological issues that stand between Judaism and Christianity?” This point must be the central focus of any truth seeker. And when one tries to follow this methodology, the only logical conclusion is the truth of Judaism. Once the Christian glasses are put aside, one cannot but to see how off-track Christianity went when confronted with the Jewish Scriptures.

If I now feel better, this journey is not easy. When I look at my past Christian life, regrets invade my heart. Regrets for what I believed. Regrets for what I did. I cannot count how many nights I’ve spent without being able to sleep. Even for the future, I realize it will not be easy either. Leaving my job, I’ll also have to move from where I live. Everything is going to change. I feel both scared and hopeful. But following in the steps of Avraham, Ruth, or Rabbi Akiva’s parents gives me strength.

Many more points or events could be brought. I cannot tell everything in this message, and I can’t even remember everything. If my story can benefit Jews, reminding them their Godly heritage, or help Christians to open their mind to the message of the beloved people of God, I’ll be blessed. Any mistake is my own, everything good comes from Hashem. I pray that Hashem will forgive me, and that His people will accept me in their midst in the future.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’ ” Zechariah 8:23

Then I will not be ashamed when I gaze at all Your mitzvot” Psalm 119:6

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Closing Arguments

Originally posted on 1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources:

Closing Arguments – Excerpt From Critique of Volume 5

72. Objection 6.18

Brown concludes his five volume series with an appeal to his readers to put their faith in Jesus. I will conclude my critique of this series with an appeal to my readers to put their faith in God, and in God alone.

I find it interesting that Brown chose to place his objections against the Oral Law as the “closing argument” in his five volume series. The entire debate about the Oral Law is not very relevant to the controversy between Judaism and Christianity. The Karaite Jews, who do not accept the Oral Law, are among the most vehement critics of Christianity. On the other hand, we find Christians that see no need to repudiate the Oral Law in order to maintain their belief in Jesus. It seems however that Brown considers the discussion about the Oral Law…

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Supplement to “Hope Faithfulness and Joy”

Originally posted on 1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources:

Supplement to Hope Faithfulness and Joy

Dear P. J.

Thanks for your thoughtful questions. Your questions encourage us to try to find more light and more clarity in our search for truth.

You asked me if Isaiah really predicted that the Jews will remain faithful to God throughout this long exile.

My response: Yes, he did.

Look my friend. Isaiah tells us that the one who bears the glad tidings to Israel will just say one phrase: “Your God has reigned” (Isaiah 52:7; see also 40:9). That is all he will have to say to bring joy to the heart of Israel.

Furthermore, Isaiah describes how the nations will serve Israel in the Messianic era. Isaiah tells us that the purpose of this is: “so that you know that those who hope to Me will not be shamed” (Isaiah 49:23). It is clear that Israel will be identified as the people…

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Silencing the Prophets – a Response to David

Silencing the Prophets – a Response to David

David

Thanks again for taking the time to contribute to this discussion. I recognize that you are not happy with my habit of making new posts out of my responses to your comments, but this blog is my responsibility and I need to do things the way I understand. The purpose of this blog is to give people a forum to argue things out respectfully because such arguments ultimately lead to clarity. I have a responsibility to manage this blog in a way that I believe most effectively brings clarity to the discussion.

This post is in response to the following comments

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/representative-idolatry-response-to-david/#comment-19549

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/representative-idolatry-response-to-david/#comment-19574

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/representative-idolatry-response-to-david/#comment-19638

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/representative-idolatry-response-to-david/#comment-19667

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/representative-idolatry-response-to-david/#comment-19668

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/representative-idolatry-response-to-david/#comment-19696

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/representative-idolatry-response-to-david/#comment-19699

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/representative-idolatry-response-to-david/#comment-19700

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/representative-idolatry-response-to-david/#comment-19718

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/representative-idolatry-response-to-david/#comment-19721

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/representative-idolatry-response-to-david/#comment-19735

This discussion is about Trinitarian Christianity. It is you who are trying to whitewash that form of idolatry by saying that the Scriptures never explicitly prohibit this form of idolatry and that the Scriptures never provide an example of someone worshiping idols in this way. It is not I who has created a new class of idolatry it is you.

It is my contention that the Scriptures explicitly prohibit the idolatry of Trinitarian Christianity and that Scripture has provided examples of idolatry which shares some of the mitigating factors that are present in Trinitarian Christianity.

In order to make my case I will be repeating myself so please bear with me but I will not be ignoring your responses.

I pointed out that Deuteronomy 4:15 reminds Israel that they saw no form at Sinai and it is for this reason that they should make no idol. This reminder only makes sense if Israel would one day want to worship God together with an idol. Because if Israel is planning to completely turn their backs on God and on the Sinai covenant then the fact that they saw no form at Sinai would not discourage them from making an idol. It would encourage them to make an idol because if you want to turn your back on someone you go and do what that person told you not to do.

To illustrate let us imagine two different scenarios. In one scenario a person decides that he has enough of God and the Bible and he wants to worship ba’al. His friend tells him; hey, don’t you know that at Sinai we were shown no image?

Scenario 2 A fellow decides that its ok if he worships God through the golden calf. His friend tells him; hey, dont you know that at Sinai we were shown no image?

In which of these two scenarios do you think that the fact that we were shown no image will impact the decision to worship idols?

Nothing that you wrote mitigates this argument. Cutting and pasting your previous comments does not add clarity to the discussion. Please try to understand what I said before responding.

Now for the examples. But before I begin let me state that even if Scripture would not provide one example it would not mitigate the sin. As far as I can remember, Scripture does not provide one specific example of someone committing the sin of bestiality (Leviticus 18:23). This does not make it a lesser sin.

I just happen to believe that Scripture did provide examples of people worshiping idols and in some confused way mixing that idolatry with worship of God.

I already stated that the worship of the golden calves that the Northern Kingdom engaged in was associated with worship of God. I believe that I provided ample evidence to this theory and I will add a detail that I did not mention previously. In 2Kings 17:28 it tells us that a priest from the Northern Kingdom taught the Samaritans how to fear God. What kind of priests did the Northern Kingdom have? They only had the priests appointed by Jeroboam see 1Kings 12:31; 2Chronicles 11:15 where we see how Jeroboam appointed his own priests and 2Chronicles 11:13 how all the authentic priests and Levites abandoned the Northern Kingdom. It is clear that this priest was one of the worshipers of the golden calf but he was still someone who was considered knowledgeable in the fear of God.

This factor coupled with the evidence of 2Kings 10:16 where a golden calf worshiper describes himself as “zealous for God” or 2Kings 13:14 where a golden calf worshiper humbles himself before God’s prophet, all lead us in the direction that the worshipers of the golden claves were confused and they did not clearly identify their worship as a rebellion against God and as a rejection of God. The Scriptures however teach us that regardless of their self-delusion, their worship was indeed a rejection of God and a rebellion against Him.

You seem to have a problem understanding the concept of self-delusion. I see this happen all the time. You have people who think that they are motivated by kindness when in fact they are motivated by a craving for recognition. There are people who think that they are motivated by zealousness for righteousness when in fact they are motivated by an enjoyment of lording over others. There are people who tell themselves that they are motivated by a love for God when in fact they are motivated by an unhealthy fear of death.

Man is capable of self-delusion but the Scriptures speak the searing truth, cutting through all the delusions of men. So the worshipers of the golden calves of Jeroboam may not have consciously identified their worship as a rebellion against God and a rejection of Him, but the prophets come along and tell us that that is exactly what they were doing.

It is for this reason that the prophets were often persecuted, it is because they spoke the searing, uncomfortable truths that tore through the self-delusion of the people. I believe that it was for this reason that the authors of the Christian Scriptures needed to demonize the Jewish people. It is because the Jewish people saw through their self-delusion, that the man that they were idolizing was simply a man.

Throughout history, the Church has attempted to silence the voice of the nation that God appointed as His witnesses for the same reason that some Jewish people moved to silence God’s prophets. The Jewish people testify to the world that God hears all prayer and that He is close to all who call upon Him. The Jewish people testify that every heart belongs to the Creator of all hearts and to Him alone. The Jewish people testify that no being that walked God’s earth can rightly claim the devotion of our hearts. And the searing truth of this testimony disturbed the Churchmen and they moved to silence God’s witneses. Ironically, as they attempted to silence God’s witnesses the Church accused these same witnesses of being “prophet killers.”

David, God’s witnesses will continue to testify. And my prayer is that this humble blog serve as a fraction of a fraction for that testimony.

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The Pharisees in the Gospels – an Excerpt from Covenant Nation

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.

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Response to Blesch

Originally posted on 1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources:

Response to Blesch

A fellow by the name of William Blesch has penned a critique of my article: “Consumer Alert”. You can read it at http://watchmanonthewalls.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/the-bbb%e2%80%99s-report-on-blumenthals-consumer-alert/ . I would like to thank him for giving me the opportunity to bring more clarity to the issue.

He begins by asserting that my article is “incredibly hypocritical”. He takes issue with the fact that I called the religious devotion demanded by Christianity “a transaction”. Blesch points out that the devotion demanded by Judaism also involves a transaction. Further on in his critique, Blesch argues that Judaism also offers an exchange of devotion for a
future return.

He has completely misunderstood my point. I wasn’t comparing the devotion of Christianity to a transaction as a critique of Christianity. I acknowledge that all religious devotion is in essence a transaction. The question just is – is this a legitimate transaction – or a shady…

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