Sabbath vs. Jesus, Excerpt from Supplement to Contra Brown

If we focus on what God teaches us about the Sabbath in the Jewish Scriptures it will become obvious that not only did the followers of Jesus do away with God’s Sabbath (something that they never tried to hide), but that the belief system built around Jesus is the very antithesis of God’s Sabbath. It was through the Sabbath that God empowered and encourages the Jewish people to reject the claims of this self-proclaimed god-man.

The Sabbath is the sign that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh (Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 20:8-11, 31:12-17).

The one truth that is the underlying principle of the Jewish Scriptures is the fact that God is God and everything else are but His creations. This truth is stated explicitly in the first verse of the Bible, and is the implicit message of every verse that follows. This foundational truth: that God is the One Master of all, was made known to the Jewish people through the miracles of the exodus and through the Sinai revelation (Deuteronomy 4:35). God’s absolute sovereignty is brought home to the hearts of the Jewish people through the observance of Sabbath, and the Jewish people testify this truth to the world through the observance of Sabbath.

The heart of the Jew’s calling before God is that we stand as witnesses to the ultimate truth: the fact that God alone is Lord (Isaiah 44:8), and it is through observance of the Sabbath that the Jew dispenses his calling before God. It is for this reason that the Sabbath is the covenantal sign between God and His people, and it is for this reason that commandment to observe the Sabbath is situated together with the commandment against idolatry and the injunction to honor our parents (Exodus 20:1-12, Leviticus 19:3-4).

The commandment against idolatry is based on our understanding that God is the only one deserving of our devotion to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. The commandment to honor our parents reminds us, as does the Sabbath, that our own existence is not an intrinsic truth but rather a gift that God chose to grant us through the medium of our parents.

God granted man control of all of creation (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 8:7). With the mastery of the earth placed in his hands, it is very easy for man to forget that he is a servant and fall into the illusion of thinking that he is master. By relinquishing control of the world once a week, the Jew reminds himself and testifies to all who care to hear, that we are not the masters, but rather, that we are all servants of the One Master.

Observance of the Sabbath gave the Jew an unambiguous and explicit perspective of reality. When the Jew encounters a rock, a plant an animal, a fellow human or an angel – the Sabbath tells the Jew – this form of existence is not your master – it is a creation of your God just as you are. While the populations around them were enslaved to the beliefs that they are subservient to forces of nature or to people who were born into a higher station in life – the Sabbath set the Jew free. The truth of the Sabbath gave the Jew the clarity to see through the intimidating posture of those who claimed to be the masters of men. The Sabbath reminded the Jew that there is but One Master, and that all are equally subservient to Him.

When the Christian missionaries presented Jesus as “man’s lord” (page 229), the nations who did not know the message of the Sabbath were taken in. They accepted this false teaching and believed themselves to be under the mastery of this Jesus.

The Jew, however, who had absorbed the message of Sabbath was enabled by the Sabbath to identify this teaching for what it is – a call to idolatry. The Sabbath taught the Jew that no-one but the One Creator of heaven and earth can lay claim to the title of: “Master”. When any one inhabitant of God’s creation claims to be the master – the Sabbath tells us – he is but a servant like ourselves.

The Sabbath is the very antithesis of Christianity. It is no wonder then that the followers of Jesus developed such a hatred and scorn for God’s holy day. As for us, we will walk in the light of God’s holy Sabbath until the darkness of Christianity is dispelled and all flesh will recognize that God alone is king (Zechariah 14:9).

“Observance of the Sabbath has been the hallmark of the Jewish people, separating us from other nations and identifying us with the covenant of God. Since Christianity changed the Sabbath, Christianity is obviously not for the Jewish people.”

Brown responds to this Jewish objection by pointing out that the gentile Church, who changed the day of rest from Saturday to Sunday, was not following Jesus. Jesus himself did not teach that the day of rest be changed. Brown therefore argues that one can believe in Jesus and still observe the Sabbath.

The question that Brown does not address is: Why did the later Church change the day of rest? Why did the gentile Church develop such a negative view of this covenantal sign? Is it merely a coincidence that those who deified a human chose to abandon the commandment that serves as a reminder that everything, including Jesus, are but God’s creations?

There is another message of the Sabbath that is antithetical to Christianity. The Sabbath serves as a testimony that God sanctifies Israel (Exodus 31:13). The Sabbath confirms that Israel was chosen by God to serve as His witness nation. Their role is to testify to the world that everything that exists is but a creation of God.

Christianity rejects this message of the Sabbath as well. Christianity denies Israel’s role as God’s witnesses. If they would have any respect for the message of the Sabbath they would pay heed to the witnesses that the Sabbath authenticates.

If a Jew accepts the doctrines of Christianity, he or she will have to turn their backs on the Sabbath. Yes, they can continue observing the Sabbath, but it will be a dead observance.

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Still Unanswered, Questions that Dr. Brown Continues to Avoid

Still Unanswered, Questions that Dr. Brown Continues to Avoid

A few weeks ago, I made a presentation entitled “Unanswered, Questions that Dr. Brown Has Failed to Address.” Dr. Brown responded with a video of his own entitled “Dr. Brown Answers Rabbi Blumenthal’s Questions.” As disappointed as I am with Dr. Brown’s video, I will thank him for engaging. By putting his thoughts on the table, the conversation which has stalled for 10 years can now proceed.

As I stated in my previous video, if you have read Dr. Brown’s 5 volumes of Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus and you have read my written critique of his work, then you don’t need these video presentations. Each of the questions that I raise on the video deserves so much more than a few minutes. And in my writings I attempt to do justice to these questions by illuminating them from different angles. So if you have read Dr. Brown’s books and my written work then you have all the information you need to make an informed and educated decision. The purpose of my talk is to encourage you to study the matter more deeply and to learn. I encourage you to overcome your reluctance and read the relevant material, study and analyze.

In my previous video I shared a brief segment of my comprehensive critique of Dr. Brown’s 5 volume series, “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus.” I wanted to put these questions on the table and my primary goal was to demonstrate you that my critique of Dr. Brown presents a serious challenge to his writings.

So I only asked three questions, three basic questions. Dr. Brown took 28 minutes of your time. Did he give you the answers to these questions? I will repeat my questions and I want you to go back to his video and ask yourself, what are the answers? This is supposed to be about education, were you educated?

He filled his video with diversions and distractions and I have responded to those diversions and distractions in the format that we agreed upon 15 years ago. We agreed to answer the challenges that we present to each other in writing. For 15 years now, I have been keeping my end of the deal and I hope to be able to continue to do so. If you want responses to all of his distractions, go to my blog, you will find my responses. https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/responding-to-dr-browns-distractions/

On this video I will repeat my questions. In case you haven’t understood them, and perhaps Dr. Brown did not understand them, I will try to articulate and clarify. Maybe this is my fault? Perhaps I was not clear.

So, to remind you, my three questions were about Dr. Brown’s reader’s guide to the Bible, the Jewish devotion to God and the contradictions that are inherent in Dr. Brown’s presentation of the Messianic prophecies.

Reader’s Guide to the Bible, Dr. Brown vs. God

Jews and Christians read the same Bible. And each of them comes out of this book with a completely different theology, world-views that are polar opposites. Only one of us can be reading this book right. The other one is misusing the text or should I say, abusing the text. One of us allows the text to speak for itself while the other tries to get the text to say something that it does not.

Both Jews and Christians acknowledge that Scripture has a structure to it. Some passages, some concepts are like the central pillars of a building or like the trunk of a tree, while other passages are like the bricks and paint of the building or like the branches and leaves of the tree. But the set of passages that Jews see as central to the narrative of Scripture is not the same set of passages that the Christian is pointing to. One of these two belief systems is looking to the Author of Scripture, to the literary context of the passage in order to make the determination as to whether a verse is indeed foundational and the other belief system is not. This belief system looks to its own theology in order to make that decision. If the verse says something that could be manipulated to be read as supportive of the theology that is being promoted then it becomes “foundational.”

So which is it? Which of these belief systems is looking to the context of Scripture and to the cues of the Author to determine the centrality of a given verse and which belief system is violating the intent of the Author to make this determination? Is it Judaism or is it Christianity?

Dr. Brown makes this very easy for us. Let us read his words. In The Case for Jesus, page 199, when Dr. Brown wants to highlight the priestly role of the Messiah he tells us that Zechariah 6 is “the most overt passage in the Bible where a human being is explicitly identified with a Messianic figure.”

Dr. Brown is telling us that the Divine Author is drawing our attention to this passage. According to Dr. Brown, identifying a human figure with the Messiah is the Author’s way of telling us, “I am about to present an important teaching about the Messiah.” It’s as if an arrow is pointing at this passage with the words “an important teaching about the Messiah” inscribed on its shaft. Fine and well.

But in volume 3 of Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, page 172, Dr. Brown notices that this same passage in Zechariah tells us that this Messianic figure will build the Temple and that doesn’t fit his theology. So Dr. Brown tells us that this passage is found in only one book of the Hebrew Scriptures. The fact that this concept appears in one book is the Author’s way of telling you that this is not important. To use Dr. Brown’s own words “fringe at best” (Line of Fire February 7 2013, 33 minutes in).

But didn’t we have an arrow pointing to this verse telling us that this passage is going to be teaching us something important about the Messiah?

It is obvious that Dr. Brown is not looking to the context of the passage to tell him if the text is central or not. It is his theology that is telling him which texts to highlight and which texts to put into the background. And his non-Scriptural theology could get him to highlight and to minimize the very same text.

But Dr. Brown’s hypocrisy is only symptomatic of the 2000 year approach of the Church to the Jewish Scriptures. In order to get the Scriptures to point in the direction of Jesus the Church is forced to violate the Authorial intent and recreate the literary landscape of Scripture.

When it comes to the question of directing our worship the Church highlights texts such as Genesis 18, Exodus 24 and Numbers 12. But the Author of Scripture never associated these passages with the question of directing our worship. The Author had a lot to say about the question of directing worship and He knows how to tell you when He is going to present a teaching on the subject and he does NOT point to those passages. Instead he points to Deuteronomy 4, Exodus 20, Isaiah 44, Jeremiah 10 and to many similar passages as teachings on this question.

And guess what, these passages, presented by the Author of Scripture as teachings on directing worship is exactly where Judaism draws its theology from as it relates to this question. So which one of us is following the lead of the text and which one is attempting to get the text to follow our lead?

The same applies to the question of sin, guilt and repairing your relationship with God. From the Jewish standpoint, the central texts are Deuteronomy 30 and Ezekiel 33. Both of these are introduced by the Author of Scripture as answers to the question of sin, the former on a national level and the latter on an individual level. But from the Christian standpoint these texts are peripheral to the question of repairing our relationship with God. According to Christianity the central principle of atonement is that there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood, a concept which appears nowhere in all of Scripture.

It is on this subject that Dr. Brown actually attempts to provide a partial answer to my question. He argues that since the word atonement appears in Scripture so many times in conjunction with the blood sacrifices, this then tells us how central and important these sacrifices are to the Author of Scripture.

You see, this is a valid point, this argument shows me that Dr. Brown agrees to the premise of my question. He is acknowledging that if the Author of Scripture wants to emphasize something, He repeats it dozens and dozens of times. What Dr. Brown is NOT sharing with his audience is the fact that I have addressed this argument at length in “You are My Witnesses” and in “Contra Brown.”

At this time I will share part of my answer with you.

So Dr. Brown is arguing for the importance and the centrality of the blood offerings described at length in the book of Leviticus. Does Dr. Brown hear what he is saying? Is he encouraging you to obey the Torah and bring the offerings that Moses commanded us to bring? When was the last time that Dr. Brown brought a goat to the Temple in Jerusalem to atone for his sins? Does he yearn to fulfill God’s commandments concerning the sacrifices as do the Jewish people? Of course not! He doesn’t care about the animal sacrifices that are described in the Torah.

But it gets even worse. Does he really believe God when He says that the animal sacrifices brought in the Temple have the power to atone? Or does he believe that Book of Hebrews which declares that the animal sacrifices never atoned to begin with (Hebrews 10:4)? Dr. Brown believes that the sacrifices described at length in Leviticus never really atoned for sin at all and that once Jesus came on the scene, they were discarded and done away with. Is this “acknowledging the centrality of the offerings”? I am sorry, this is just a mockery of God’s word.

Let’s put this whole question into perspective. How important is the Sabbath from the standpoint of a Christian? How does it compare to the “principle” that posits that there is no remission for sin without the shedding of blood? Now search the Jewish Bible, how many times do the prophets exhort our people to guard the Sabbath? Dozens of times. How many times does the Jewish Bible say that there is no remission for sin without the shedding of blood? Zero. Does God not know how to emphasize a point? Did he forget how to write?

Is the Christian looking to the Bible to tell what is important and what is peripheral? It is clear and obvious that Dr. Brown’s read on the Bible is produced by the theology he is trying to promote and that his theology is NOT produced by his read on the Bible.

So that was my first question. How could we ignore God’s reader’s guide to the Bible?

Idolatry, the Violation of a Relationship

Dr. Brown and the 2000 year old missionary campaign of the Church are not only trying to get us to believe a set of beliefs. The Church wants us to commit our hearts. The Church wants us to look at the life and death of Jesus and to get excited about what we see. The Church encourages our hearts to be overwhelmed by what we see and bend our hearts in devotion. It’s not just a matter of believing something with your head, the Church wants us to do something with our heart.

Judaism is also about our heart. Judaism is not just something that we believe with our heads, it is about something that we do with our hearts. Judaism is also about excitement, passion, joy and a deep satisfying relationship. We see God as the source of all goodness and righteousness and our hearts are drawn into complete devotion.

These are two different excitements and devotions. It is entirely possible to be excited about God, the Creator of heaven and earth and not commit oneself to Jesus. And it is completely possible to get excited and worship Jesus and not get excited about the Creator of heaven and earth.

The Church sees the heart of the Jew completely devoted to the One Creator of heaven and earth and the Church is not satisfied. It would have that heart also give devotion to Jesus. The Church would introduce to the Jew a new excitement, a new passion and a new relationship that the heart of the Jew never knew.

So I ask; what are we missing when we sense God’s endless love in every breath we take? What excitement, passion and satisfaction does devotion to Jesus have to offer to us?

Dr. Brown claims that he answered my question in objection 6.8.

I don’t know how you could answer a question without acknowledging the existence of the question. Throughout Dr. Brown’s 5 volumes he never once acknowledges that it is love for God that prevents a Jew from committing to Jesus, but let us see what he says in objection 6.8.

In that section of his book, Dr. Brown tells us about the benefits that we stand to gain if we follow Jesus. But my question has nothing to do with benefits and kickbacks, not even spiritual benefits. Love is not about benefits. Love doesn’t calculate, asking; what do I stand to gain? Love finds joy and satisfaction in the relationship itself.

So here is my question. What joy, what excitement, what passion and what satisfaction are we missing in our relationship with the One Creator of heaven and earth?

Messianic Prophecies, Dr. Brown vs. Dr. Brown

On page 182 of volume 2 (in his series, “Answering Jewish Objections”) Dr. Brown speaks about the prophecies that would indicate a restoration of the sacrificial system in the Messianic era. He tells us that “out of all the prophets whose words were recorded in Scripture, four others (aside from Ezekiel) make mention of future sacrifices.” He goes on to say that the references to future sacrifices in the books of Isaiah, Zechariah and Malachi take up a total of three verses. He concludes with the words, and I quote; “These are hardly major subjects in these prophetic books.”

Dr. Brown goes on to offer the possibility of a non-literal interpretation of these passages.

Yet in volume 3, when he notes that Maimonides states that the Messiah does not necessarily have to perform miracles he passes judgment on Maimonides and he tells us that Maimonides’ interpretation of Scripture was “no doubt” motivated by the need to “rule out” Jesus as the Messiah. Why? Because Maimonides puts forth the possibility that the Messiah does not necessarily need to perform miracles.

Why are the alleged miracles of the Messiah so important to Dr. Brown? You see, Jesus tells the Jews that if they would have believed Moses they would believe him (John 5:46). This was before the crucifixion, before the alleged resurrection and before he even rode on a donkey. So which prophecies did he fulfill up until that time? None! Unless you believe that the prophets said that the Messiah must perform miracles and you also believe that Jesus did perform those miracles. So these miracles are critical for Dr. Brown. Dr. Brown absolutely needs Maimonides to be wrong.

But there are a grand total of three verses that could be misconstrued to read as if the Messiah must perform miracles. They appear in only one book of the prophets.

So according to Dr. Brown’s own standard, Maimonides is completely justified to offer a non-literal interpretation of Messiah’s miracles. And the fact of the matter is that the context of those 3 verses in Isaiah makes it clear that they are not talking of literal miracles.

Furthermore, in order to minimize the restoration of the sacrifices in the Messianic era Dr. Brown makes a point of counting how many times in Scripture this concept appears. But he missed 4 prophecies (Isaiah 56:7, 60:7, Ezekiel 20:40,41, Malachi 3:3,4). His count is completely off!

How does Dr. Brown explain this? The prophecies that speak of the restoration of the sacrifices take up more than double the space than do the prophecies that speak of Messiah’s miracles even according to Dr. Brown’s interpretation and even according to Dr. Brown’s sloppy count. So why is it OK for him to reinterpret the restoration of the sacrifices and allow for a non-literal interpretation but for the miracles of the Messiah, he makes no such allowance? Why the double standard?

And my question is quite simple. If Jesus is the Messiah of the Jewish Scriptures than why does Dr. Brown have to tie his argument in the knot of self-contradiction when he tries to make a case for Jesus?

Conclusion

All I asked was three questions. Dr. Brown responded with a 28 minute video entitled “Dr. Brown Answers Rabbi Blumenthal.” But he does not answer my questions.

Please, try to understand my questions and ask yourself if they deserve answers. If you agree that these questions are indeed valid and that they deserve to be answered I encourage you to go back to Dr. Brown’s video and see if he answered them. This is not about me, this is not about Dr. Brown, this is about you. Did his video give you answers or did they not?

And to Dr. Brown my message is simple. If you have any clarity or insight to add to this discussion, please share it with us. Answers that you carry around in your head or that are found on papers that the public may not see benefit no one. You owe it, not to me, but to the public to share your answers.

I sincerely believe that such a discussion can lead to greater clarity and will benefit the public. I have put all the clarity that I am able to muster up until this point on the table for everyone to read and see. Questions from people like you have forced me to study more deeply. These challenges have allowed me to achieve greater clarity and have forced me to articulate the position of Judaism more clearly for myself and for others. So again, if you have something to add to this discussion, please take the time and share it with us.

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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The Most Influential Man – excerpt from 7th Response

In any case, your lack of appreciation for Hezekiah’s career and your exaggeration of Jesus’ career needs to be put in perspective.

Assyria was the most powerful nation of the time. It was the scourge of the land. In one night the world’s greatest superpower became a banana republic. Their entire army dies in one night and the city it threatened with annihilation is saved. On the same day, the sun goes back in the sky and turns afternoon into morning. How does this compare to the healing of a few lepers and some questionable sightings of a crucified man?

“Oh, but that was in the world of objective reality – I was talking about the influence that Jesus had on the subjective minds of men” – you say.

Yes; I recognize that Jesus was the most influential man on earth, but is that something to be proud of? The Crusades, the Inquisition and the holocaust were only the apex of years of oppression and pain – is that the influence that you are pointing to? And what Jesus did to the Jews was nothing compared to what he did to the Gentiles. The Jews were physically oppressed in his name – but the Gentiles had darkness poured into their souls. The Jews suffered the holocaust – the followers of Jesus perpetrated it.

“But that was not the “real” Jesus” – you protest. The “real” Jesus loves the Jewish people.

For argument’s sake – I’ll buy your story (- just don’t try it in a court of law – the jury will never accept the argument: “that wasn’t the real me”.) So we have two incarnations of Jesus; the “fake” Jesus and the “real” Jesus. Which one of these two was more influential? For many dark centuries, no-one ever heard of the “real” Jesus. The blood-soaked pages of history should tell you that it was the fake Jesus who was far more influential than his brother.

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Matthew Admits that Jesus was Never Resurrected! – by Jim

CP,

It will take me a few comments to respond to your comment here: https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/conversation-a-note-from-jim/#comment-29404 . In this first comment, I would like to address the supposed proofs that the religious leaders had. Peter escaping from prison and Paul remaining in prison are not proofs of the resurrection, and I see no purpose in your mentioning them. So I will only write about the priests that believed in Acts 6 and the events in Matthew.

Regarding the priests, they disprove your argument not support it. If they had believed in Jesus from seeing him at the resurrection, they would not only be coming to belief in him in chapter 6 of Acts when some time has passed. They did not believe because they had “first hand evidence”. According to Acts 6:7: “The word of God continued to spread; the numbers of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” These priests believed due to preaching, not because they saw Jesus. They had no “first hand evidence.”

But it is Matthew I would like to spend the most time on. First, we must acknowledge that Matthew is an untrustworthy author. He has no regard for the truth. His distortions of Tanach are well-documented. Consider what he does to Isaiah 7:14. He alters it. And I do not mean just with the substitution of the word ‘virgin’ for ‘young woman’. He also changes the naming of the child. Isaiah says that the young woman to whom he is referring will name her child ‘Immanuel’. Matthew changes even this to ‘they’ rather than she. This way the name sounds like an appellative, that people will be hailing this child in some special manner. If he left the verse alone, even just that change of pronoun, it would be obvious to the reader that it did not have anything to do with Jesus. His mother did not name him Immanuel. Even those unfamiliar with the actual context of the verse would be able to quickly identify that it had nothing to do with Jesus. The unethical Matthew found a solution in altering the verse.

He likes to omit the parts that do not suit his purpose, showing no regard for Tanach. When he quotes Hosea 11:1, he omits the beginning, that which tells the reader the topic. The topic is, of course, not Jesus. It is Israel. And the verse is not predictive but descriptive of the past. But I will not run through the whole list of dishonest uses of scripture by Matthew. The point is that he is not trustworthy in the first place.

But even if we did not know that, Matthew accidentally reveals to the reader that his story about the Jewish leadership trying to hush up the resurrection is a lie. The bribe itself shows that the story is a fabrication, because the leadership acts on knowledge that they did not and could not have. At Matthew 28:13, the priests and elders wish the guards to say that the disciples came and stole the body. In writing this, Matthew has just shown us that the story is a lie.

The leadership cannot at that point know what is going to happen. For all they know, Jesus is going to begin walking around the streets of Jerusalem healing people, preaching, and attracting an even larger following than before. He could show up at any moment and demand that they acknowledge him as a prophet, now that he has fulfilled his predicted resurrection. So, how is it that they bribed the guards to say that the disciples took the body? No, they did not do such a thing, because they could not know that Jesus would never show himself. This story is an invention.

Moreover, the story shows that Jesus did not show himself publicly. If he had, no such story could have been circulated. The story is built on the premise that Jesus came only to a few here and a few there, privately.

Matthew’s fabrication has two purposes. First, he wants to draft the Jewish leadership into his argument. He wants to support belief in Jesus from the opposition. To do this, he invents testimony on their behalf. And it is shocking how much Christians and general lovers of Jesus believe whatever the NT tells them about the Jews and the Pharisees. They accept the writings of the NT as if it were the direct testimony of the Pharisees, when it obviously is not. Second, he wants to vilify the Jews, especially the leadership. The Jewish people were not on board with the message of Jesus and his followers, generally speaking. This had to be explained, inasmuch as Jesus is supposed to be their Messiah. So, the Jews become the villains. And how dastardly they are, according to Matthew. He wants us to believe that the Jewish leadership knew the truth but rejected Jesus anyway. Matthew’s lies would be one of the causes of 2,000 years of Jewish persecution.

But the story was not true. It could not be, because as I pointed out, the Jewish leaders are acting as if they know Jesus will not show himself. Obviously this story was fabricated much later, after Christians started teaching that Jesus came back from the dead. And Matthew did not account for what would have been the Jewish leadership’s perspective and knowledge. That Matthew lied at the end of the book should have surprised nobody who had read the beginning. But the book, given to the Torah-ignorant gentiles was believed by them, and it caused great damage to the Jewish people. Two thousand years of suffering ensued.

Clearly, Jesus did not show himself to the Jewish leadership.

Jim

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Post Script to Responding to Distractions

V. 62. Objection 6.12

Brown presents one of the fundamental Jewish Objections to Christianity: “Judaism is a unique religion. Of all the religions of the world, only Judaism began with a public revelation witnesses by the entire nation. No one and nothing can alter that fact or change the substance of that revelation.”

 

Brown responds on behalf of Christianity with three arguments: “1) Followers of Jesus also accept the revelation of God at Sinai, recognizing it as the foundation of everything else that follows…” Further on (Page 236) Brown elaborates: “…the revelation at Sinai is NOT the exclusive property of traditional Judaism. Rather, it is the heritage of all who embrace the Tanakh, and that includes hundreds of millions of Christians as well.”

 

Brown’s second argument: “2) In and of itself, the revelation of Sinai argues against a binding oral tradition – which is the foundation of traditional Judaism – rather than for it.”

 

Brown presents his third argument: “3) God did not stop speaking at Sinai, and therefore I embrace the words of the prophets and the words of the Messiah, which build on the foundation of Sinai. I should also point out that many liberal Jewish scholars do not even believe that this revelation at Sinai ever occurred…”

 

Before refuting Brown’s arguments, a question is begging to be asked. Why bring up the liberal scholars? What is the point of reminding his audience that there are people who do not believe in the Sinai revelation? Could there be any other motivation other than to minimize the power of Sinai in the eyes of his audience? If this conclusion is correct (and I do not insist that it is, it simply the only logical answer I can see for my question) than another question presents itself. Why? Why is it important for someone – who claims to believe in Sinai, and who claims a share in the heritage of Sinai – to attempt to minimize the impact of Sinai? The fact that Brown found the need to include the opinion of these liberal scholars in his response to the Jewish argument based on Sinai, leaves me with a strong impression, that Sinai does not sit all that well with Brown. For all of his declarations to the effect that he affirms the revelation of Sinai, something is seriously wrong.

 

Since Sinai is so foundational to Judaism, and since the Scriptures put Sinai and the exodus at the very center of the faith-structure of Scripture, I will beg the reader’s indulgence, and I will take the time to elaborate.

 

Before I begin, I will quote some Scripture.

 

“When you are in distress and all these things have befallen you, at the end of days, you will return to the Lord your God, and hearken to His voice. For the Lord your God is a merciful God, He will not abandon you nor destroy you, and He will not forget the covenant of your forefathers that He swore to them. For inquire now regarding the early days that preceded you, from the day that God created man on the earth, and from on end of the heaven to the other end of the heaven: Has there ever been anything like this great thing or has anything like it been heard? Has a people heard the voice of God speaking to them from the midst of the fire as you have, and survived? Or has any god ever miraculously come to take for himself a nation from the midst of a nation, with challenges, with signs, and with wonders, and with war, and with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with greatly awesome deeds, such as everything that the Lord your God, did for you in Egypt before your eyes? You have been shown in order to know that the Lord, He is the God, there is none beside Him. From heaven He caused you to hear His voice in order to teach you, and on earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire.” (Deuteronomy 4:30-36).

 

The point of this passage is: That the fact that Israel is the only nation that claims to have heard God’s voice from the midst of the fire, and the fact that Israel is the only nation that claims to have experienced anything like the exodus from Egypt, is supposed to encourage the Jew at the end of time that God will not forget the covenant that He made with our forefathers.

 

Why? How do the unique claims of Judaism reassure us that God’s covenant with us still stands? What is the covenant that we share with God?

 

The thrust of the covenant that Israel shares with God is that we are called to be His nation and He declares Himself to be our God (Exodus 6:7, Deuteronomy 29:12, 1Chronicles 17:22). This means that God tied up His own identity with that of Israel. The covenant that Israel shares with God denotes that God will be called: “The God of Israel”, and that Israel will be called: “The people of God”. In other words; a covenant is like a marriage. No longer can we look at the two parties of the covenant as separate entities; the destiny of these two parties is bound up with one another and the very identity of these two parties is bound up with one another. The exodus and Sinai sealed the connection between God and Israel. From that point onward, Israel is God’s bride, and God is Israel’s husband and lover.

 

Israel’s intimacy with God that was displayed by the exodus and the familiarity with God that Israel gained through the Sinai revelation remains unmatched by any other national entity.

 

In these verses in Deuteronomy, God is reassuring Israel that no nation will ever match Israel’s claim of being married to God.

 

The perception of God that Israel acquired at the Sinai revelation is not a peripheral aspect of our covenant with God. Neither is this perception something that fades away with the passage of time. God points to this knowledge of God that we acquired at Sinai as the very heart of our relationship with Him, and God speaks to the last generation and points to this knowledge as a unique possession that sets us apart from every other national entity. This knowledge was not acquired through the handing over of a book, nor was it accomplished through the recital of words. God points to a fiery encounter, collectively experienced as the means through which He imparted this knowledge to us (Deuteronomy 4:35). God also tells us how it is that this knowledge will be preserved throughout the generations. Again, it is not through the recital of words or through the reading of a book; but through the channel of love and trust that exists between children and their parents (Deuteronomy 4:9, Psalm 78:5).

Sinai and exodus were fiery experiences that seared the perception of God into the minds and the hearts of the people who experienced it. They were commanded by God to keep this awareness and intimacy with God alive and to pass it on to their children. Each generation of Jews is enjoined by God to absorb the testimony of exodus and Sinai from their parents, to come to know and love the God of their ancestors and to stand together with their parents in a covenantal relationship with God (Deuteronomy 29:13). The power, the reality and the truth of God embodied in the testimony of exodus and Sinai is so weighty that the last generation of Jews can put their full trust in the God of Sinai on the basis of this testimony (Psalm 78:7). A trust in God that will encourage them to give their lives for Him (Psalm 44:17-23). A trust in God and a love for Him that will carry them through the darkest times (Isaiah 26:13, Micha 7:7,8). A trust and a yearning for God so that when God arises to judge the earth, the children of the exodus and Sinai will cry out with joy: “Behold! This is our God! The God that we hoped for! (Isaiah 25:9). And the connection between God and Israel that was forged at exodus and Sinai runs so deep and is so steadfast, that when God alone is exalted on that day (Isaiah 2:17), His bride, Israel, will be vindicated to the eyes of all the nations (Isaiah 49:23, 62:2. Micha 7:10, Psalm 98:2,3).

 

Now here we have Brown, declaring that hundreds of millions of Christians share in the heritage of Sinai! Brown seems to be under the impression that Sinai is completely restricted to a book, it has nothing to do with living people, so that according to Brown, anyone who grabs hold of the book can claim a share in the inheritance of Sinai.

 

Brown has missed the point of Sinai, which is actually the central point of the entire Scripture. Its not about a book, it is about a covenant between two living parties; between the living God, and between His bride, Israel. Just because you are holding a copy of a description of the wedding ceremony doesn’t make you the bride. And if you make it your life’s mission to declare to one and all that the witnesses that God commissioned at Sinai are liars, then how can you turn around and claim the heritage of Sinai for yourself? (Just to remind the readers; in Volume 2, Brown contended that Israel’s rejection of the trinity is not based on what they learned at Sinai, as Israel claims, but is rather: “a gut-level negative reaction to anything Christian” (Page 7).)

 

Brown’s argument that: “the Sinai revelation does not give a hint of the Oral law. Not a hint!” – is equally fallacious. The whole point of the exodus and Sinai is that words alone, neither written or spoken can effectively communicate a perception of God; it can only be done through a living experience. The whole point of exodus and Sinai is that through a series of living experiences, God forged a nation for Himself that will walk through the corridors of history with His truth in their hearts (Isaiah 51:7) – a living nation, not a series of books.

 

V. 63. Page 235

“3) God did not stop speaking at Sinai, and therefore I embrace the words of the prophets and the words of the Messiah, which build on the foundation of Sinai.”

 

There is another foundational aspect of Sinai that Brown has missed and together with Sinai he has missed the mainstay of the faith structure of the Jewish Scriptures.

 

Through the exodus and Sinai, God established a perception of Himself in the minds and in the hearts of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:35, 39). At Sinai God also established the authenticity of Moses’ claim to prophecy (Exodus 19:9). The truth of these two concepts (Israel’s perception of God, and the validity of Moses’ prophecy) were so firmly established, that every subsequent generation of Jews is enjoined to evaluate prophetic claims in light of these two perceptions. No matter how many miracles and no matter how spectacular those miracles are; if the claimant to prophecy contradicts Israel’s perception of God or if he contradicts Moses; he should be put to death (Deuteronomy 13:6).

 

Brown’s acceptance of Jesus’ claims for deity, is a direct contradiction to Sinai. Brown’s acceptance of the claim that Jesus is somehow greater than Moses is likewise contradicted by Sinai. It is only because Brown rejects Sinai, that he is able to accept the claims of Christianity.

 

V. 64. Pages 237-238

Brown goes back to the Jewish objection (6.12) and reiterates it in different words: “You might say, “but God DID give the Ten Commandments and much of the Written Torah to Israel, in a public, definite way, before the whole nation, whereas you claim that Jesus just showed up on the scene and drew a few disciples about him and then changed everything. Why should we believe this?’”

 

Before we approach Brown’s response to the Jewish objection, it is important to point out that his presentation of the objection is misleading. First and foremost, a key concept that is missing, is the concept of credibility. The claims of Judaism are more credible then are the claims of Christianity. And second, it was not “much of the Written Torah” that we received in a public definite way, but rather it was a perception of God (Deuteronomy 4:35), and the knowledge that Moses is His prophet (Exodus 19:9) that we received at Sinai. To approach these concepts from a different angle; if I were to ask a Christian: How do you know your god? On what basis do accept the claim that Jesus was god incarnate? Did anyone SEE that he is god incarnate? – If we turn to volume 2, we find a series of arguments (incidentally; no mention of Sinai) arguing for the alleged divinity of Jesus. That is still not seeing. The Jew on the other hand can say: “We encountered God face to face” (Deuteronomy 5:4). If you ask the Christian: How do you know that Jesus was a prophet? – Brown will point to signs and wonders that Jesus performed before those who already believed in him – but that is still not KNOWING that God spoke to him. If we ask a Jew, how it is that he knows that Moses is a prophet – he could respond – “we heard God talking to him” (Exodus 19:9).

 

Now for Brown’s response to the Jewish objection. Brown points to various phenomena that accompanied the career of Jesus. He points to the prophetic prediction which, according to Brown, predict that the Messiah must come before the destruction of the Second Temple (- we addressed these in Contra Brown), he points to signs in the heaven and an angelic announcement that preceded the birth of Jesus (Matthew 2 and Luke 2), the preaching of John the Baptist that preceded Jesus’ ministry, the faith healings of Jesus that Brown refers to as “unprecedented signs, wonders and miracles”, the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on donkey-back, the supernatural events that coincided with Jesus’ death; namely an eclipse, and earthquake and the rending of the Temple veil, Jesus’ resurrection, the “outpouring of the spirit” that took place on the Pentecost, the miracles the Peter performed, and Jesus’ prediction of the destruction.

 

Brown appeals to his readers: “When you think of it, with Israel scattered throughout the world, what could have been more public than the Messiah’s triumphal entry and death at the time of the Passover – with Jerusalem thronged with Jews from around the world – and then Jews from every nation hearing and seeing the events at Shavuot?”

 

(As an aside, before we respond to Brown’s argument – I find it noteworthy that Brown did not mention the many dead saints that Matthew claims were resurrected at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. I would have thought that this most incredible miracle should be at the forefront of the list of miracles that are supposed to confirm Jesus’ claims.)

 

To respond to Brown’s question: “what could have been more public?” – I say; God could have spoken to Jesus from the thick of the cloud like He spoke to Moses, that would at least place him on an equal footing with Moses. God could have turned the Jordan river into blood for seven days, He could have stopped the sun in the sky as He did for Joshua, He could have done any number of miracles that would impact the nation on a practical level – but He didn’t. Brown has failed to understand the unique nature of the exodus miracles. The exodus impacted Israel and Egypt on a practical level. To put things in a modern American perspective; could you compare the Mississippi turning to blood for a full week, to a faith healing that may take place in front of those who already have faith in the healer? (Note: Matthew and Mark inform us that Jesus could not perform mighty miracles in places where people did not have faith in him – Mark 6:5, Matthew 13:58). Would you compare the impact of the bulk of America’s military forces drowning in the sea to a dead person reappearing to a select few devotees, who had already committed themselves in devotion to this person?  

 

Furthermore, the alleged miracles of Jesus can only be found in the pages of a book written and edited by a limited group of individuals that have dedicated themselves to promulgate the glory of Jesus. There is no one on earth today who claims that he or she is a direct descendant of one who experienced one of Jesus’ miracles. Contrast this with the exodus, where you have an entire nation of living people testifying to the truth of the exodus – telling their children that they heard from their parents that they were personally impacted by the miracles of the exodus. In fact, the descendants of the people amongst whom Jesus lived namely the Jewish people, remember Jesus and his followers in a negative way.

 

The bottom line is and remains; Both Judaism and Christianity make claims about the realm of the unseen and unknown: Judaism claims that all of our devotion belongs to our Creator and to no one else, while Christianity claims that our devotion ought to be directed towards a man who lived and walked this earth. The assertions of these two belief systems cannot be verified through the five senses; each of these belief systems claims to have received their respective beliefs through a revelation from that realm of the unknown. In the case of Judaism, that revelation came to the entirety of the nation – all of them encountered the living God at Sinai; in the case of Christianity, the Christian points to Jesus as the channel through whom this information came from the realm of the unknown to this world. In the case of Judaism, we believe the testimony of a nation, in the case of Christianity, it all stands on the words of an individual.

 

V. 65. Page 238

Here Brown devotes one paragraph to one of the major Jewish objections against Christianity (- note: one paragraph out of a five volume series that spans almost 1500 pages! And this paragraph is not even placed in the section that purportedly deals with the Jewish objections of this category (- theological objections; idolatry)).

 

“I am aware, of-course, that traditional Jews point to God’s revelation at Sinai, as recounted by Moses in Deuteronomy 4:14-34, emphasizing that the people of Israel saw no form on Sinai – including that of a man or woman – and that they should not make an idol in any shape or form. Therefore, it is argued, we are violating the Sinai covenant by worshiping Yeshua as god, as if we were making a man into a god (or vice versa).”

 

Again, before getting to Brown’s response; a question is in order: Why when quoting Deuteronomy 4 does Brown stop at verse 34? Does he not realize the critical nature of verse 35 and its central place in this discussion? Verse 35 reads: “Unto you it was SHOWN in order that you know, that the Lord is God, THERE IS NONE ELSE BESIDE HIM.” In other words: whatever it si that we are to worship was shown to us at Sinai, and we are to worship NOTHING ELSE.

 

Now to Brown’s response. “But that is a crass misunderstanding of our faith. We do not worship a human form. The New Testament plainly states that “no one has ever seen God” (John 1:18a) describing Him as the One “who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see” (I Tim. 6:16). In Yeshua, however, we recognize the fullness of God revealed, not in physical form or shape – how absurd! – but in spiritual reality, clothed in human flesh.”

 

A crass misunderstanding of Sinai and a mockery too. As if a nifty word-game can get around the prohibition against idolatry. This is actually the third lesson of Sinai that seems to have completely escaped Brown. Brown missed the idea that Sinai sealed a covenant between two living parties, Brown missed the idea theme that Sinai is the yardstick against which subsequent claims for prophecy are judged, and here Brown misses the idea that Sinai serves as the definitive teaching on the subject of idolatry (Exodus 20:19, Deuteronomy 4:15). Brown also has completely missed the concept of the Oral Law because it is here that the Scripture most explicitly testifies to the concept of the Oral Law.

 

Allow me to reiterate what we mean when we say Oral Law. When we say that we believe in the Oral Law we are saying that there is more to the commandments than what is written in the Five Books of Moses. The concept of the Oral Law maintains that the full scope of the commandment can only be grasped through the living testimony of Israel. Those, such as Brown, who dispute the authenticity of the Oral Law contend that everything that Israel needs to know about the Law is completely contained in the Five books of Moses.

 

When it comes to the Law that prohibits idolatry, the Torah clearly and unequivocally authenticates the position of the believers in the Oral Law. God chose to teach the prohibition against idolatry to the nation of Israel in a direct fashion. As opposed to the other commandments, where God taught them to Moses who then went and taught them to Israel, God Himself taught the nation of Israel the injunction against worshiping idols.

 

Now, according to Brown and his fellow deniers of the validity of the Oral Law, God should have recited some words or handed Israel a book – and nothing more. After all, if there is no Oral Law then everything must be contained in written words. But that is not what God did. He certainly did recite words and He also gave Israel a written record of those words in the form of the two tablets, but He did not stop there. In order to teach Israel who it is that they are to worship and who it is that they are not to worship God put Israel through a fiery experience which goes far beyond words. And the written words itself point to this fiery experience as the touchstone for the prohibition against idolatry (Exodus 20:19, Deuteronomy 4:15). Subsequent passages identify idols with the simple term: “that which I have not commanded” (Deuteronomy 17:3), or: “that which your fathers did not know” (Deuteronomy 13:7); implying that if we did not hear about it from our ancestors from Sinai, then it is an idol that is not deserving of our worship. If there is anywhere in scripture that we are taught that words alone do not adequately convey the underlying message of a commandment; it is here. And it is precisely here, in the realm of idolatry, that Christianity most emphatically rejects the living testimony of Israel.

 

How does the living testimony of Israel negate the claims of Christianity concerning the alleged divinity of Jesus? Simple! At Sinai we were shown towards whom it is that we are to direct our devotion. Anyone or anything that was not revealed to our ancestors at Sinai, is not deserving of our worship. No one ever claimed that our ancestors saw Jesus at Sinai. If God wanted us to direct our devotion to Jesus, He would have shown Jesus to us at Sinai. Since Jesus was not there at Sinai, worship of him is idolatry.

 

But what about those nifty word-games? What about the claim that Jesus is somehow one and the same as the God we encountered at Sinai?

 

The basic response is that if “a” is not equal to “b” then “b” cannot be equal to “a”. In other words, if worship of the God who revealed Himself to our ancestors at Sinai is not worship of Jesus, then worship of Jesus is not worship of the God who revealed Himself at Sinai. Its as simple as that.

 

To illuminate the matter from a different angle let us focus on the sin of idolatry. The sin of idolatry is not a philosophical abstract, it is a sin of the heart. The sin of idolatry is not committed when you use the wrong phrase – for example, according to Brown; the phrase: “the fullness of God revealed in physical form” would be “absurd” and presumably idolatrous, while the phrase: “the fullness of God revealed in spiritual reality clothed in human flesh” is perfectly fine. These word games have nothing to do with the sin of idolatry.

 

The sin of idolatry is perpetrated when one’s heart is committed in devotion to an entity other than the God of Israel. In order for one to commit their heart in devotion to someone or to something, there has to be a basis for that devotion, a motivation and a stimulus for that devotion. In the case of the God of Israel, the stimulus for the devotion is the awe one feels in the presence of the Master of all creation, who holds the existence of every being in His hand. Devotion to God is rooted in the understanding that every fiber of our existence belongs to Him because it was He who brought us into existence to begin with. Worship of God is inspired by the sense of gratitude that we feel for all of the kindness that He is constantly pouring upon us with love and mercy. Israel’s devotion to her God is rooted in the very fact that God is God. It is impossible to separate between Israel’s devotion and the concept of Creator, Master, and Sustainer of all existence – because Israel’s devotion is rooted in those very truths.

 

The Christian’s devotion to Jesus on the other hand is rooted in the admiration of a human character portrayed in the pages of the Gospels. It is rooted in an awe for his alleged righteousness, in a reverence towards his teachings, and in an appreciation for his sacrifice and suffering – all of which took place in a human body. All of this devotion has nothing to do with the claim that he is somehow divine. All of the feelings that a Christian bears in his or her heart towards Jesus are entirely possible without believing that Jesus is divine. The argument that Jesus is somehow one and the same as the God of Israel is not the root or the stimulus for the Christian’s devotion – rather it is the result of the Christian’s devotion. The words: “Jesus is the same as the God of Israel”, are simply a set of words that is appended to the Christian’s devotion to Jesus as a justification for the devotion, but in no way is this set of words an intrinsic and inseparable part of the devotion itself.

 

The awe that one experiences when contemplating the reality of the Master of all existence, the gratitude that one feels for the kindness of existence, and the submission that we feel towards the One who created us out of nothing – has nothing to do with the admiration that Christians feel towards the human character portrayed in the four Gospels. These are two different devotions rooted in two different sets of human emotions. One is the service of God and the other is idolatry.

 

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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Responding to Dr. Michael Brown’s Distractions

Responding to Dr. Michael Brown’s Distractions

In my video response to Dr. Michael Brown’s presentation entitled “Dr. Brown ANSWERS Rabbi Blumenthal” (   https://youtu.be/IUIdgyhUfUE  ) I focus on the subject at hand. I demonstrate how Dr. Brown did not answer the questions that I had raised (

). In this article I will respond to the various arguments that he brought up or to comments that he made that were unrelated to the questions that I had raised.

  1. Dr. Brown asks, if as I say, that his 5 volumes are so incredibly empty and inadequate, so why do I bother responding to them?

The answer is simple. Dr. Brown gives the impression that in his 5 volumes he fairly presents the Jewish position. Innocent readers, who are unfamiliar with the real Jewish position, can walk away from his books with the impression that Christianity is the world-view that is closer to the Biblical text than Judaism.

But his presentation of the Jewish position is completely off the mark. What I have done in my rebuttals is that I have attempted to accurately present the Jewish position. If I were assured that people would actually read through his 5 volumes and read my rebuttals, I would stop right there. I put all the issues on the table and I am satisfied to let these things stand.

So why don’t I ignore his writings? Because most people don’t read. And this fact allows Dr. Brown to use his writings deceptively. He is telling his audience, who will never read 1500 pages, that all the answers are there. They are not.

 

  1. Dr. Brown claims that in his 1500 pages he answered all of the objections that he was made aware of up until that point in time.

It is obvious to the Jewish reader that he missed some of the major objections. Whether this is his fault or not is irrelevant. His book doesn’t talk to the heart or to the intellect of a Jew who knows his or her heritage.

Furthermore, if he has to contradict himself in order to make his presentation, shouldn’t he realize that something is wrong? If he wrote with intellectual integrity then he shouldn’t be contradicting himself and if he did contradict himself he should appreciate that there are serious problems with his work.

But I have my own problems with his assertion. Back in 2001 I challenged Dr. Brown to include 3 objections in his then upcoming third volume (eventually that volume became volume 5). In 2008 I reminded him of this challenge and I sent it to him again. Here is the original challenge:

I will present you with a challenge. You are presently preparing the third volume of your book for publication. I did not see it, but I can tell you what it does not contain. I will list three objections to the Christian belief system which you were not planning to mention. Two of these objections lie at the heart of the Jewish resistance to any belief system aside from their own. Here they are.

1) The medium through which we learned that scripture is authentic is the testimony of our parents. These same people testified to us that there is a body of unwritten Mosaic law which is crucial in understanding how God wants us to live. If they lied about these unwritten traditions then why should we believe their testimony about scripture. (The Ibn Ezra articulates this argument in several places)

2) The one item which the Torah itself is most explicit and clear that we are to follow the testimony of our fathers, is the issue of “who are we to worship”. Scripture tells the witnesses of Sinai, “you should make it known to your children and children’s children”. It is obvious that God considered this a valid medium of transmitting information, that is the chain of parent to child. Once God explicitly designated a medium of transmitting information, we can be sure that He will ensure its preservation. Until today jews testify that God revealed Himself at Sinai as an absolute unity. All those who deviated from this tradition never claimed that with their worship they follow a tradition which goes back to Sinai. (This is the main point of the Jewish insistence on clinging to their belief system)

3) An honest reading of the NT will reveal that Jesus and his followers believed in, and observed the unwritten traditions which the Jews accepted as God given. (I hope to substantiate this at length later in this letter)   

At the time, Dr. Brown responded by accepting my challenge and assuring me that he will address these arguments in his upcoming volume. But he did not. He devotes one paragraph, in an end-note (#131) to the first objection (- see our response in Supplement to Contra Brown, V16). He touches upon one limited aspect of the third of the three Jewish objections in the main body of the book (6.15 – see Supplement to Contra Brown, V69), but he completely ignored the second objection.

He subsequently told me that he couldn’t change the objections because they had already been prepared a decade before. Let us accept this answer. But this still leaves us with a question, when he does address the third objection, why does he skip so much of the evidence that I presented to substantiate that argument? Is he really addressing all the objections that were raised to him?

  1. Dr. Brown tells his audience that he sent me “responses” to my question. He then turns to the audience and tells them that I “know” that he has answers to my questions.

It is very interesting to note that he asked me not to share those “responses” with anyone. His response consists of about 14 pages in response to one question that I raised in Contra Brown. So to speak of this paper as if it contains “responses” in the plural is misleading and false.

Furthermore, the argument contained in this paper that he shared with me completely ignores the other arguments that I put forth in Contra Brown but instead focused on the words that I wrote to explain that one question as if that was all I wrote.

So I have no hesitation to say that I believe that Dr. Brown has no answers to my questions and the paper that he sent me only confirms my belief. If I would have written that paper I would also be embarrassed to share it with the public.

 

  1. Dr. Brown tells his audience about a written debate that he was about to have with 4 counter-missionary activists. He complains that I shut that debate down. He wants to know why I did that, what do I have to hide?

This debate was going to take place after Dr. Brown reneged on his agreement to engage in a written debate with me. It was obvious to one and all that Dr. Brown is willing to have a written debate with these well-meaning, but amateur activists only because of their inexperience. My challenge to engage him in a written debate still stands. It is 15 years old. What does he have to hide?

 

  1. Dr. Brown claims that he responds to the Jewish objection based on Deuteronomy 4. He tells his audience that although Deuteronomy 4 emphasizes that the Jewish people saw no from but Numbers 12 and Exodus 24 teach us that God does have a form.

This is no response to the objection based on Deuteronomy 4. In Supplement to Contra Brown points V 62 thru 65 I demonstrate how Dr. Brown has completely missed the Jewish objection. For the sake of brevity I will share one paragraph from that section of my work:

Brown has missed the point of Sinai, which is actually the central point of the entire Scripture. It’s not about a book, it is about a covenant between two living parties; between the living God, and between His bride, Israel. Just because you are holding a copy of a description of the wedding ceremony doesn’t make you the bride. And if you make it your life’s mission to declare to one and all that the witnesses that God commissioned at Sinai are liars, then how can you turn around and claim the heritage of Sinai for yourself? (Just to remind the readers; in Volume 2, Brown contended that Israel’s rejection of the trinity is not based on what they learned at Sinai, as Israel claims, but is rather: “a gut-level negative reaction to anything Christian” (Page 7).)

I will make the full segment of my writing available in a separate article entitled Post Script to Responding to Distractions – https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2016/09/18/post-script-for-responding-to-distractions/  .

  1. Dr. Brown tells the audience that he addressed the Jewish objection based on Deuteronomy 30 in volume 5 objection 6.10

Deuteronomy 30 poses several challenges to the Christian position. The point I was making in my video presentation is that Deuteronomy 30 is a foundational text as it relates to Israel repairing her national relationship with God. It clearly precludes the Christian theology that asserts that there is no remission for sin without a blood offering. Dr. Brown does NOT address this challenge to his position in objection 6.10 or anywhere else in his 5 volumes.

He does address the challenge that Deuteronomy 30 poses to his position as it relates to the centrality of Torah observance. I share with you here what I wrote in “The Elephant and the Suit” in response to Dr. Brown’s treatment of Deuteronomy 30 in objection 6.10.

Let us leave no stone unturned. Let us examine the one paragraph that Dr. Brown did devote to this Scriptural passage in 6.10 of vol. 5 (page 223). In this paragraph Dr. Brown tells us that there is a divergence of views amongst followers of Jesus. Some understand that the obedience to the Torah that this passage speaks of is a reference to obedience and faith in Jesus. In endnote # 343 Dr. Brown informs us that other followers of Jesus believe that this Scriptural prophecy will never be fulfilled because of Israel’s failures.

Both of these positions are openly refuted by the text. Moses told the people that they will return to obey God, “according to all that I (Moses) command you (Eternal Israel) today”. These words were spoken by Moses more than 1000 years before Jesus was born. Moses made it clear that he expected the last generation of Jews to look back to him (Moses) as their ultimate teacher, and that he expected them to follow his commandments as they were understood on the day he presented them to Israel. These words of Moses clearly preclude the Christian belief that Jesus is the ultimate teacher, and that the teachings of Jesus are somehow superior to the teachings of Moses.      

The second position that Dr. Brown attributes to followers of Jesus is also invalidated by the Biblical text. The passage opens with words: “And it shall be that all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse…” The curse that Moses is referring to is the curse that God warned would befall Israel should they fail to obey His voice. How then can one make the claim that on account of Israel’s failure to obey God, this Scriptural prophecy will never be fulfilled? This same prophecy clearly predicts Israel’s failure to obey and tells us how, after our failure, we will ultimately return to God. It is clear that God took our failures into consideration when He encouraged us with these words, and God’s promises are irrevocable.

The two Christian explanations that Dr. Brown offers his readers are clearly refuted by the words of this passage. Dr. Brown does not even begin to provide a textual justification for the Christian interpretation of Deuteronomy 30.  

According to Dr. Brown’s own standard, the real question is: What do the Hebrew Scriptures teach? This passage in Deuteronomy clearly teaches that Israel’s repentance is the precursor of the Messianic age, this passage teaches that repentance is efficacious while Israel is still in exile, and this passage clearly teaches that the Law of Moses, as Moses taught it, is going to be observed in the Messianic era. Each of these issues is central to the debate between Judaism and Christianity. Why then does Dr. Brown fail to address this key passage in his comprehensive work?

  1. Dr. Brown takes issue with my assertion that he deals with Ezekiel 33 in a backhanded way. He claims that he deals with this passage “head on.”

I will take the liberty to explain what I meant when I said that he deals with this Scriptural passage in a backhanded way and I will again do this by quoting what I have written on this subject in Supplement to Contra Brown:

Brown tries to repudiate the message of Ezekiel 18, and 33. The prophet clearly speaks of atonement for sin through repentance and repentance alone. The first technique that Brown uses to nullify God’s word is that he puts the Jewish argument into a straightjacket. He has the Jews arguing that Ezekiel was only referring to a situation where the Temple is destroyed.

Once the Jewish argument is safely locked up, Brown launches his counter-attack. He argues that once the Temple was rebuilt the prophet’s words would be meaningless. He makes the point that Ezekiel’s contemporaries looked forward to the restoration of the sacrificial system. He also informs us that Ezekiel himself prophetically predicted a restoration of the sacrificial system. Brown argues that according to the Jewish reading of Ezekiel, which posits that all one needs is repentance then all of the other commandments such as Sabbath and Passover would be of no importance.

Finally, Brown argues, that the interpretation of Ezekiel 18 and 33 which teaches that repentance is all that is necessary for atonement from sin was unknown to the Talmudic and medieval Jewish Rabbis. It is only an argument created under polemical pressure from Christianity. He “proves” this preposterous premise by pointing out that this text was not used in the Jewish-Christian debate for the last 1900 years.

Every one of Brown’s arguments is fallacious. The prophet clearly says that with repentance all sins are forgiven. Repentance means a change of attitude. Repentance means returning to obedience from rebellion. Someone who repents, by definition, accepts upon himself or herself all that God has commanded. This includes the Sabbath as well as the blood offerings spoken of by Moses. As long as one has sincerely accepted all that God has commanded, he has repented. If for whatever reason, it was impossible for the person to fulfill the Law practically, the repentance still stands. A long as the person accepted upon himself or herself to be obedient to God he or she has repented and is forgiven. For example; a man repents on Sunday. The Sabbath is still 6 days away. He has not fulfilled the Sabbath yet. Will God forgive? Similarly, if one accepts the validity of every word in the Torah, including the commandments about the sacrifices, he has repented. The fact that he cannot practically fulfill the sacrificial offerings does not nullify his repentance and he will be forgiven. On the other hand if one refuses to accept the validity of Moses’ words, and claims that the sacrifices were replaced, then he or she has not repented. God’s words through Ezekiel retain their eternal meaning. Repentance alone effects atonement. The fact that the people were looking forward to the Temple does not mean that repentance does not work. Repentance means yearning to fulfill every one of God’s commandments, even those commandments which we cannot practically fulfill.

The fact that the Rabbis did not use these passages in the polemical debates of the middle ages is because the Catholics who they debated did not bring up the issue of atonement. But in non-polemical settings the Rabbis certainly did quote Ezekiel 18 and 33 to prove that repentance works. These include the Talmud (Yoma 82b, Kiddushin 40b), the Midrash (Tanchuma Vayeitzei 22) and the Yom Kippur liturgy.

Does Dr. Brown’s response to Ezekiel 33 deserve the title “backhanded”? You be the judge.

 

  1. Dr. Brown argues that I contradict myself. At times I say that a working knowledge of the Bible will help a person see through the arguments of the Christian missionary. Dr. Brown sees this as a contradiction to what I state in my video presentation where I tell the audience that one does not need to be educated to see through the missionary arguments, you just need to love God.

This is no contradiction. You could be an atheist, but if you have studied the Bible you will see right through the arguments of people like Dr. Brown. And you could be an ignoramus, but if you love God with all your heart, then a Christian missionary who is trying to get you to direct devotion to Jesus cannot begin a conversation with you. It would be like trying to propose a prospective mate to a person who is happily married. It is not either intellect or love. You could use both to refute the arguments of the missionary. Each one of them standing on its own is more than enough negate the claims of the Church.

  1. Dr. Brown claims that at the end of volume 3 he sets forth a logical and systematic way of identifying Messianic prophecies.

Really? Let me again share my critique of his appendix to volume 3 (from Supplement to Contra Brown). The first statement that Dr. Brown makes in this “logical and systematic” study guide is that; “Messianic prophecies are not clearly identified as such.”

This is amazing. Brown believes that the main purpose of the Jewish Bible is to predict the advent of the Messiah, yet the prophecies are not clearly identified?! And on what basis can he make such a preposterous statement? The prophets gave us a clear hope for Israel’s future. There are many prophecies in the Jewish Bible which clearly talk of the Messianic era, and of the Messiah. These include but are not limited to Numbers 24:14-19, Deuteronomy 4:30, 30:1-10, 32:43, Jeremiah 3:14-18, 16:14,15,19, 23:3-5, 30:3,7-11,16-25, 31:1-39, 32:37-44, 33:6-26, 46:27,28,50:4,5,19,20, Ezekiel 11;17-20, 17:22-24, 20:40-44, 28:24-26, 34:9-16,22-31, 36:6-16,22-38,37:1-28,38:1-48:35, Isaiah 1:26, 2:2-4, 4:2-6, 10:33-12:6, 24:21-25:9, 30:26, 34:1, 40:1-11,41:10-20, 43:5-10, 44:1-5 49:8-26, 51:11,22-52:12, 54:1-55:5, 56:7, 60:1-63:9, 65:17-25, 66:10-24, Hosea 2:1-3,16-25, Joel 3;1-5, 4:1-21, Amos 9:11-15, Obadiah 1;17-21, Micah 4:1-7, 5:1-13, 7:8-20, Zephaniah 3;9-20, Zechariah 2:9, 8:2-8, 14:3-21, Malachi 3:4,16-24, Psalms 51:20,21, 69:36,37, 98:1-3, 102:14-23, 126:1-6, Daniel 2;44, 7:18,22,27, 12:2,3, 

Can anyone question the fact that these prophecies are the hope and promise of Israel’s glorious future? How can Brown say that messianic prophecies are not clearly identified? More important is the question; Why does Brown say that the messianic prophecies are not clearly identified? The obvious answer to this question is that Brown never seems to have approached scripture with an open mind. It seems that he never asked himself; What would a Jew before Jesus’ times have believed about the Messianic era? What would scripture have taught him about the Messiah? Who and what does God encourage us to hope for? Had Brown asked himself these basic questions, he would have realized that the scriptures are very clear on these issues. The problem is that Brown started the other way. He first came to believe in Jesus. He then looked back into the Jewish scriptures and tried to understand Jesus’ claim that the prophets predicted his coming. Things tend to get quite murky if you read the book that way. When Brown tells us that Messianic prophecies are not clearly identified as such, he is admitting that the preconceived notions of Christianity cannot be readily seen in the Bible.

  1. Dr. Brown ends his video with an invitation to debate me. He says that this will put “the issues on the table.

This is a distraction. If my critique of his book is valid, let him address it. If it is not, let him ignore it. To tell us that my critique is valid but he won’t share his answers with the public unless I engage him in a public debate for the sake of “putting issues on the table” is simply ridiculous.

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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