The Guilt of Books

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

The Guilt of Books

Books don’t commit crimes, people do. If we are going to discuss the guilt or innocence of a given book, we need to first define and delineate what the discussion is going to be about.

There is no discussion about the commitment of the crime. It happened and it is still happening. People are still using the canards of the Christian Scriptures to delegitimize, dehumanize and to create an unjust negative image of the Jewish people and their beliefs. This is not open to discussion, this is a fact of history and it is a fact of life.

The question that is being discussed is the question of the intent of the authors of the Christian Scriptures. If the authors of the Christian Scriptures had no malicious intent then we cannot rightly accuse them of criminal activity. Perhaps they were negligent, perhaps they were foolishly naïve…

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What Does the Resurrection Prove? – by Concerned Reader

(A Letter to E. Lion)

Lion, the issue is really one of claims. The Christian religion is nothing more and nothing less than people making a claim about the fulfillment of the Jewish Bible, and about the promised role of the Jewish messiah. We all know that the Jewish bible stands or falls on the commandments of G-d. Christianity believes that one Jesus of Nazareth fulfills the Tanakh’s picture of the Messiah, Judaism respectfully disagrees.

Consider the following points very carefully

1. The Hebrew Bible is a book primarily composed of the commandments of G-d which he told Israel to follow in all their generations. It clearly and unambiguously teaches Jews the worship of G-d alone so they can be separated from polytheism. The tanakh says mankind can master their evil inclination and that G-d forgives the repentant. The fathers are not punished for the sins of sons, nor the reverse, but the one who sins is punished.

2. The New Testament says that the word of the father became flesh (fully G-d & Fully man Neither confusing the natures nor dividing the person,) and that in this one Jesus alone, mankind can find forgiveness from sin thereby being filled with the spirit of G-d and able to walk in the commands of G-d.

3. This same New Testament claims that someone else who is lawless (sinful or anti law because sin is the transgression of the law.) will come in the future who also claims to be G-d, but who does deceitful miracles, and who also suffers a “deadly wound.” (revelation 13.) This anti Christ figure as it were copies Jesus’ own alleged miracles exactly, and offers his exact proofs for legitimacy, thereby tricking everyone.

The New Testament in this 13th chapter of Revelation is indirectly telling you and other Christians why Jews can never accept your faith. Doctrines like the trinity, the atoning death of Jesus, and the miracles of Jesus, are not a solid ground indicator of the truth, only faithfulness to the commandments are. In other words, just because someone does miracles, claims he is G-d, and is healed from a deadly wound, doesn’t mean he is really G-d, or that you should worship him.

These 3 things being firmly established in the text, why are you so upset that Jews don’t share in the fundamental theology of your faith? Your own book, and you yourself say that groups who claim to be Christians can be deceived, and may not actually be true followers. In that case, Judaism will stick with what EVERYONE AGREES is central to scripture, namely, to a walk with G-d, in the commandments.

Judaism is not about G-d’s nature and what it may or may not be. It is not centered around the messiah and who he may or may not be. It is centered around Israel obeying the plain sense of G-D’s commandments. In that sense Jews are commanded to listen first to the Jewish Bible.

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Reflections on an Alleged Resurrection – Three Letters from Jim

Reflections on an Alleged Resurrection – Three Letters from Jim

Lion,

 

You have been insistent that the resurrection is an event that proves that Jesus was the Messiah. I have argued elsewhere that the resurrection is irrelevant to the Messiah. But, for your sake, I will take up several objections to the resurrection. For the ease of reading, I will address these problems in separate posts. In this one I will take up the question of its credibility.

 

The question of whether or not the resurrection happened is difficult. Certainly, we do not wish to argue that God cannot resurrect someone. It is not beyond the realm of possibility. However, that does not mean it happened. The problem with knowing whether or not it happened is that it was a private event. Jesus revealed himself to a relative few.

 

Complicating matters, the gospels are written in such a way to earn the reader’s sympathy. One sees things through the eyes of a believer. The telling of the story inclines one to accept it, because of the perspective from which it is written. It is as if the reader is there with the disciples when Jesus comes back. To help us examine the credibility of the claims of the NT, I would like us to alter our perspective for a moment. Let us separate ourselves from the perspective of the writer, and consider ourselves as people who lived during the time of Jesus. Let us figure out what the resurrection would have looked like to us as people who did not witness for ourselves the resurrection.

 

For this thought experiment, we will assume that we have heard of Jesus. Perhaps we have even heard him speak. Perhaps we have even been moved by his teaching. According to Matthew, the Jewish leadership understood that Jesus was to be resurrected after three days, so we will assume that we know of this claim. We have heard that Jesus was to return three days after his death.

 

So, here we are, wondering if this man just might be the Messiah. To our horror, he is put to death, a brutal death. This saddens us, for we thought that he just might be the one for whom we had been waiting. Now we see that he was just another false claimant to the throne. But wait! We remember that he is supposed to come back after three days.

 

And so we wait expectantly, wondering if it just might be true. Will he come back?

 

Since we are not in the inner circle, three days come and go for us uneventfully. According to the NT, Jesus only appears to a few on the third day and the event is not publicized. You and I have heard nothing about it. We continue about our business.

 

Then, 47 days later, suddenly we hear news. His disciples claim that Jesus returned just as he said he would. I do not know about you, but I am wary at this point. He was supposed to come back on the third day. We are only hearing about it on the 50th. This seems rather suspicious. But, if you are willing to hear them out, so am I. So we ask them to take us to Jesus. And they tell us that he ascended to be with the Father ten days prior to their announcing his resurrection. He is not here anymore.

 

This is the story according to the NT. It is not until day 50, not day 3, that the resurrection of Jesus is announced. And then, he is not around to prove the claim. My question to you is this: do you find their claim credible?

 

Before you answer, consider the way a magician performs an illusion. He tells you that he is going to turn an egg into a dove. Then he puts the egg behind a handkerchief, a veil through which you cannot see. All you can see is movement, while he distracts you with patter. Then, as if by magic, from behind the veil, emerges a dove. So, do you believe that this was actual magic?

 

Of course you do not. You know that the reason the magician veils his actions is because he is not practicing actual magic. He distracts you and obscures his actions while he swaps the egg for a pigeon. And while you may be delighted by the illusion if it is performed well, you do not believe for a moment that you saw actual magic.

 

With the resurrection, things are the same. There is a remarkable claim made, but everything happens behind a veil. You are told that Jesus came back on time. But the event was private. It was not publicized until 47 days after the event was predicted to happen. Moreover, at that time, there was no Jesus. At least with a magician, you get a pigeon. With the resurrection, you do not get Jesus at all.

 

This is like a magician who forgot the pigeon and tries to fake it. He flutters the veil quickly and looks up like the pigeon just flew away. He tries to inspire amazement in the audience talking about how quickly the pigeon flew for having just been transmuted from an egg. He says that he’s never seen the trick go so well. None of the audience sees the bird. Just so, they never saw Jesus.

 

So, is the claim that Jesus was resurrected credible? No.

 

Jim

Continuing to contemplate the resurrection.

I have already argued that it is not a credible event. There is no reason to believe it. Now, I would like to argue that Jesus cannot be taken as a prophet, precisely because of the promise of the resurrection.

 

According to Matthew 12.38, some Pharisees and scribes approached Jesus and asked him for a sign. Inasmuch as Jesus seems to claim special knowledge through revelation, this is a reasonable request. Jesus uses it as an opportunity to attack them, as is his way. Jesus does not like to be questioned. He expects one to just take his word for it.

 

However, he does give them a sign, if in a surly manner. Basically, he says that he will come back from the dead after three days and three nights. So now, the Jewish people have a test. The only question is whether or not Jesus fulfills the sign that he offered them.

 

Now a note about signs: a sign is something observable. If one cannot see a sign, then the sign is not a sign. If I tell you that I am a police officer, the sign of my being one is my badge and identification. But they are not signs unless I show them to you. If I tell you I am a police officer and that I have a badge in my pocket but that you cannot examine it, you are not likely to take my word for it. I have offered you no proof by claiming that the proof is in my pocket where you cannot see it.

 

With that in mind, let us consider what happens. Jesus is supposed to have come back from the dead. At that point, the only way to fulfill the sign and his word is to present himself to the Pharisees. This is his responsibility. Instead he skulks about, hiding for forty days until he rises, like Romulus, to the heavens.

 

It is the testimony of the NT that Jesus never fulfilled the sign. Deuteronomy 18.22 tells us what we are to make of this: “If the prophet will speak in the Name of HaShem and that thing will not occur and not come about–that is the word that HaShem has not spoken; with willfulness has the prophet spoken it, you should not fear him.” Jesus prophesies, but his prophecies do not come about. He promises a sign and does not fulfill it. We are to reject such a prophet.

 

Keep in mind, even the NT acknowledges that Jesus did not present himself. This is why the Church has created a new definition of faith, which is believing what it says without proof. (See Jesus’ treatment of Thomas. “Blessed are those who have not seen, etc.”) Faith in the NT means taking the NT’s word for it.

 

Very frequently, critics of Christianity cite Jesus’ failure to return in the lifetime of his contemporaries as a false prophecy. And certainly they are correct. But according to the NT, his failed prophecies begin earlier than that. Jesus told people that he would return after three days, and then never came to them and showed them. He just disappeared.

 

As I pointed out, then, he never fulfilled the sign, even if he did come back, because it was not observable. It is as if he said that he was a police officer, but he cannot show you his badge just now. Even if he did return from the dead, he did not fulfill the sign. So, we are not to listen to him.

 

Jim

 

Continuing my remarks on the resurrection:

 

Let us assume that the resurrection did take place. And let us imagine that Jesus did present himself to the Pharisees. Would this have been enough to establish him as a true prophet and the Messiah?

 

The Torah system does not rely solely upon miracles. As R’ Blumenthal recently spoke about, miracles by themselves do not prove anything within the Torah system. Deuteronomy 13 tells us that there may be false prophets who are able to perform signs and wonders.

 

Before pressing on, we must note something here: the Torah does not differentiate in the magnitude of the miracle. The Torah does not say that if one heals the sick, that’s pretty good, but if he raises the dead, then the prophet is certainly a true prophet. There is no ranking of miracles. The Torah is about to apply a test to the prophet, but that test does not relate to the difficulty of the miracle.

 

Within the Torah system, which you acknowledge as having been given by God, the prophet is not entirely validated by his signs or wonders. The Torah says that if the prophet should say, “Let us follow gods of others that you did not know and we shall worship them,” they should not be heeded (v. 3). In fact, this prophet is to be stoned. Deuteronomy 13 makes clear that one is to follow HaShem alone. “HaShem, your God, shall you follow and Him shall you fear; His commandments shall you observe and to His voice shall you hearken; Him shall you serve and to Him shall you cleave” (v.5).

 

Here is where Jesus runs into another problem. Even if the resurrection story were credible, which it is not, and even if he had presented himself to the Pharisees as promised, which he did not, if Jesus claimed divinity, he is not to be heeded. The remarkable nature of the supposed resurrection does not grant license to worship him. Deuteronomy is clear that one is to worship HaShem alone, and it does not allow for a new understanding of him, as has been discussed regarding Deuteronomy 4.

 

If Jesus claimed to be divine, then he was a god that the Jewish people did not know. They did not receive a revelation of Jesus. In fact, Deuteronomy 13 is making quite clear that one’s devotion is to Hashem alone. One must keep His laws and serve Him. The perversion of those laws advocated by Jesus, by turning Pesach into a day about himself, for example, is another violation of these conditions. Jesus ends up failing the test of the prophet in two ways then, and must be viewed as a seducer.

 

The resurrection, therefore, if it had happened, would be interesting. By itself, however, it would not vindicate Jesus. He would not be granted carte blanche to teach whatever he wanted. He must not teach others to worship him. The magnitude of the sign or wonder does not give license to devote oneself to anyone other than HaShem. If Jesus claimed to be divine, then his resurrection becomes irrelevant. It is known by his message that he is a false prophet. And, being a false prophet, he is certainly not the Messiah either.

 

The appeal to the resurrection has failed three ways, then. One, the claim is not credible. Two, Jesus did not fulfill the conditions of the resurrection to make it a sign. Three, even if he had resurrected, if he advocated worship of himself, he is in violation of Torah and is not to be heeded. One’s faith just cannot rest upon the resurrection.

 

Jim

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Representative Idolatry – Response to David

David

In response to comment – https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/06/03/sins-of-confusion-ii-response-to-david/#comment-19243

Thanks again for your thought out reply – I truly believe that respectful discussions such as these that don’t beat around the bush will bring us all closer to the truth.

Your entire post reveals a deep misunderstanding of my position so I will first attempt to clarify my position and to put the discussion in context.

On a superficial level our argument centers on the concept of “representative idolatry” – in other words, making an idol and worshiping it as a representation of the true God.

My position is that this is possible, that it is considered idolatry by the Author of Scripture but that in a certain limited sense it is a bit less evil than outright idolatry. Furthermore, I believe that the worship of the golden calves (at Sinai and of Jeroboam) is an example of this representative idolatry as well as the idol of Micah described in Judges 17,18.

You position is not clear to me. I recognize that you believe that the worship of the golden calves of Sinai and Jeroboam as well as the worship of the idol of Micah were not examples of representative idolatry but I do not understand your position on the other issues. Do you believe that representative idolatry is not possible? Do you believe that if someone creates an idol as a representation of the true God and worships it that it would not be considered idolatry? Do you believe that the Bible never addresses the issue of representative idolatry?

The context of our discussion is Trinitarian Christianity. I recognize that you are not a Trinitarian and I respect you for recognizing the fallacy of that falsehood but there still seems to be a difference between us on this matter. I believe that although those who worship Jesus as a divinity believe that he is somehow “one and the same” as the God of Israel are still engaged in idolatry. You seem to believe differently and you seem to be basing your argument on the fact that the Bible never addresses representative idolatry.

But even if you are correct in your assessment of the Bible (and I hope to demonstrate that the Bible DOES address representative idolatry) I don’t know how you could jump to the conclusion that the worship of the Trinitarian Christians is not idolatry. The fact of the matter is that they are not worshiping Jesus because they believe that he created heaven and earth. They wouldn’t need Jesus if that is what they were trying to do. Their worship is inspired by the activities that were expressed in a human body (an allegedly sinless life and death on a cross). How do you see the fact that they believe that Jesus is “one and the same” as the One who created heaven and earth as a factor that changes the act of worship?

In fact I would say that this is actually worse than representative idolatry. Representative idolatry begins with a desire to worship God. The worshiper then makes a statue to represent the true God. The motivator is a desire to worship God. In the case of Jesus the historical motivator was a desire to exalt Jesus. The theological conundrum that posits that Jesus is “one and the same” as God was only conjured up to justify the worship that had already begun – if not in the sense of worshiping him as a divinity, but certainly in the sense of being overwhelmed by his character.

One more clarifying statement before we get to our differences in Biblical interpretation. You seem to think that I believe that representative idolatry is not a rebellion against God. That is a mistake. I believe that representative idolatry is a rebellion against God, not only in the sense that it is a direct violation of His commandment not to create an image but because it is worship of a different entity than God. Men may think that this physical being represents God but the Bible teaches us that it is worship of the physical being and not worship of God. Representative idolatry is a rejection of God, a rebellion against Him and a turning away from Him. People may attempt to fool themselves into thinking that this is not the case, but the Bible teaches us that this is in fact what is happening in the hearts of the people.

The only way in which I believe that representative idolatry is less than outright idolatry is because there is an element of confusion. This element of confusion would not hold up in a court of Biblical judges to save a person from the death sentence. The letter of the Law only recognizes the mitigating factor of “unintentional” and this confusion wouldn’t qualify as unintentional because God explicitly commanded against it. But we see that when God judges, He considers factors beyond the simple line of intentional vs. unintentional. I see this mainly in the difference of the way the Scriptures discuss the sin of the golden calves of Jeroboam and the way they discuss other idolatry. They are both rebellion against God and both are a rejection of God but the one has an element of confusion and the other doesn’t. But I do agree with you that this distinction is largely irrelevant because as far as humans are concerned both are rebellion against God. If you didn’t notice, most of my blog is dedicated to exposing the error of representative idolatry and demonstrating how despite the sophistry of theologians it is still rebellion against God. (- See for example   https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/isaiah-44/  )

Now that we have clarified (I hope) what it is that we are trying to prove let us approach the various Scriptures.

I will begin with Deuteronomy 4:15 because that is where I believe that God is commanding us against idolatry in a way that clearly includes representative idolatry.

Why would someone who is consciously rebelling against God and rejecting Him give a hoot if God did or did not show Israel a form at Sinai? Is this rejecter of God not turning his or her back on everything that God taught them? Why would this idolater care if God showed Israel a form or not? This person isn’t even trying to worship the God who spoke to Israel at Sinai.

Or perhaps let me word it this way – if someone does want to engage in representative idolatry would the prohibition expressed in Deuteronomy 4:15 not apply to such a person? I do not see how any of your arguments on this subject change the simple reading of the verses.

You wrote that God showed Israel no form so that they should stand apart from the nations around them in that they worship no form. Exactly! And if they do make a form to represent God they would be just like the nations around them.

At this point I will address the points you raise in your comment in the order that you raised them.

I agree with you that not every image is an idol. In fact I believe that the act of idolatry is a sin of the heart and can be committed without a physical image. If the worshiper imagines his or her object of worship and directs devotion to that object (such as a fictional character described in a book) that would also be idolatry. (See – https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/trinity-idolatry-and-worship/   )

On the question of whether the golden calf was still present when Moses called that those loyal to God should gather at the gate of the camp. You argue that it would have taken too long for Moses to grind the calf down to dust. But would it have taken a long time for Moses to remove the calf and take to a place where he or those loyal to him could begin the grinding process? Why would he allow the worship to continue if he could physically remove the calf?

In response to my question about the mindset of the people 3000 years ago you lecture me on the concept of embodiment. I am well aware of the concept of embodiment and that is precisely my point. Those worshiping the calf did not believe that the piece of metal took them out of Egypt but that the power who did take them out of Egypt was somehow embodied, represented, manifest, incarnated or hypostatically unified in the calf in front of them.

So which power did they believe took them out of Egypt? Was it one of the Egyptian gods who were ALL afflicted at the time of the exodus (Exodus 12:12; Numbers 33:4). I don’t think that that would be logical even for people living 3000 years ago.

I pointed out to you that the worshipers of the Ba’al wanted the prophets of God dead while the worshipers of Jeroboam’s golden calves did not. I believe that this lends weight to my argument that the worshipers of the golden calf deceived themselves with the argument that the golden calves were somehow representative of God. I do not see how your arguments counter my point. The fact that Jezebel was involved in Ba’al worship and the fact that you believe that there were more Ba’al worshipers than there were worshipers of the golden calves does not mitigate my point.

I do agree with you that the frequency of Ba’al worship was far greater than worship of the golden calves but I don’t see how this quantitative difference justifies the difference in the way the Scriptures describe the two worships.

You ask me if the idolatry of Solomon (1Kings 11:5) was representative idolatry and how determine which worship is representative and which is not.

Response – Solomon’s worship was not representative idolatry simply because the verse explicitly names the idols and the name of the true God is not mentioned anywhere in association with these idols. The way I see if a particular worship is representative is if the Scriptures associate the true God with this idol – such as when the Scriptures tell us that the worshipers claimed that their idol was the one that took them out of Egypt or when the name of God is used in association with the idol (Exodus 32:5).

The fact that you ask me how does the fact that the Northern Kingdom being exiled because of idolatry “square” with my theory – shows how you don’t understand my theory. I never said that representative idolatry is not idolatry. This brings me to your next point when you argue against my theory by saying that God always defines idolatry as a rejection of God. Of-course! When one worships a calf, a person or the fictional character of some Greek book they are certainly rejecting God. And this simple fact does not change if the worshiper deceives him or herself into thinking that their object of worship is representative of God or not. All that I was saying is that because there is an element of confusion present in this worship so it is a bit less of a rebellion than outright idolatry where the worshiper does not even bother paying lip-service to wanting to worship God.

You claim that I cited commentators that post-date the advent of Christianity in support of my theory of representative theology. Can you point out to me where I have ever cited any authority aside from the Bible?

You present a theory that the reason that God had the Jews make a tabernacle and an ark of the covenant, why He put a pillar of cloud and fire in their midst was because of their pagan inclinations. How then do you explain the fact that the prophets predicted a physical Temple in the Messianic era (e.g. Isaiah 2:1) when such pagan influences will be eradicated?

You cite the fact that the Jews were worshiping idols of other nations from the times of their ancestors – I don’t see how this has a bearing on our discussion.

You ask why would Joshua link inclining their hearts to God with the act of putting away foreign gods if their hearts were already inclined toward God by way of representative idolatry. –  I never said that the Jews always engaged in representative idolatry. Even if they would have been engaged in representative idolatry Joshua would not have been satisfied because that is still idolatry. In any case – The Jewish people worshiped God all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders that lived on after Joshua (Joshua 24:31) – so the Jews of that generation were not engaged in any type of idolatry.

David – I feel I responded to the points that you raised and I hope that you will understand my position. If you still disagree with me – I encourage you to write again and articulate your position – but before you do that I would like you to consider one question:

If a person were to take a statue and stand it up before him – and this person would tell himself and his friends that this statue represents, is a manifestation of, is symbolic of, and/or is an incarnation of the God who created heaven and earth – and then this person would bow down toward the statue believing that he perceives the greatness of God in the beauty of the statue – would you consider this idolatry? Or more importantly – what do you believe that the Bible teaches about such an act – or does the Bible teach anything on this subject?

(My response would be that the Bible directly addresses this and teaches us that this is worship of the statue and not worship of God – but I wonder what your response would be).

Thanks again

Yisroel

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What Do Miracles Prove?

Another video from Judaism Resources –

http://www.judaismresources.com/video-and-audio-lectures.html

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Jacob’s Vow

We have added another video presentation on the Judaism Resources website. We have also made some classes available as downloads.

http://www.judaismresources.com/video-and-audio-lectures.html

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Letters to a Messianic Jew

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

Letters to a Messianic Jew

Dear Brother

I am writing this letter with the hope that you will stop and reconsider the most important decision you made in your life.

I realize that this hope of mine is a brazen one, or as we say in Yiddish: “chutzpa”. Perhaps I should be minding my own business and stay out of your life.

Perhaps – but your own actions encouraged me to write this letter. You see, you spend your own time and energy in an effort to get Jewish people to rethink their commitment to traditional Judaism. You would want people to realize that you are motivated by the feelings of kinship that you harbor in your heart towards your brothers and sisters. You would want people to realize that you are moved by a sincere desire to help your people.

Please view my words in that same light.

You…

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