Literary Skill

Literary Skill

Did the Author of Scripture know how to write? Does He have the literary ability to make His point with clarity and with force?

Let us make a case study. God said very clearly that the Jewish people should observe the Sabbath. He said this in a commanding way and He repeated it many times promising reward for obedience and threatening punishment for disregarding His eternal sign (Exodus 16:29; 20:8; 23:12; 31:14; 34:21; 35:2; Leviticus 23:3; Numbers 15:35; Deuteronomy 5:12; Isaiah 56:2; 58:13; Jeremiah 17:21).

Upon reading this selection it will become obvious that the Author of Scripture knows how to get a point across to His readership. He knows how to make clear that Israel’s observance of the Sabbath is important to His heart.

This brings a question to mind. According to Christianity, practical observance of the Sabbath is not very important, to put it mildly. Belief in Jesus is the most important teaching of the Scriptures according to these churchmen. The salvation of all humanity rests on this belief as the missionaries would have us believe.

But in all of the Jewish Scripture there is not one clear directive to put our faith in a coming savior. There is not one clear sentence which states that our salvation depends upon our devotion to a Messiah.

Why? Why did the Author who obviously possessed the literary skill to tell us to observe the Sabbath suddenly become tongue-tied when it came to the supposed salvation of humanity? Instead of clear commanding words, this same Author could find no better way to communicate outside of some hints dropped between the mistranslated lines?

Is it perhaps because the missionary theology is not rooted in seeking to understand what the Author is trying to communicate? Is it perhaps because the theology of the Church uses the texts of God to further their own agenda and not His?

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Sins of Confusion – Response to David

David

In response to these comments

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/devotion-and-rationalizations-excerpt-from-kosher-reality/#comment-17822

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/devotion-and-rationalizations-excerpt-from-kosher-reality/#comment-17797

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/devotion-and-rationalizations-excerpt-from-kosher-reality/#comment-17792

Before I begin let me thank you for taking the time and the energy to write these lengthy responses. It is through discussions like these that we can all grow in our understanding of the truth.

First let me demonstrate why your Biblical interpretation is not rooted in a sound analysis of Scripture.

You argue that the motive of the people (in worshiping the golden calf at Sinai) was to replace both Moses and God out of full knowledge of rejection of both of them when the Scripture  clearly says that it was only Moses who they were missing and that the motivation was panic (Exodus 32:1). The word that Scripture uses for god is a word that is explicitly associated with Moses himself (Exodus 7:1) and does not necessarily mean that they were looking for a replacement for God Himself. Furthermore, in Nehemiah (9:19) we are told that the pillars of cloud and fire were still with them, another indication that they were not looking to replace God Himself.

You argue that the people’s declaration that these were the gods that took them out of Egypt proves that they credited the calf with everything that God and Moses had done for them is untenable simply because it makes no sense. How could anyone think that a calf that just arrived on the scene took them out of Egypt several months before?

The more likely explanation is that they understood that Moses was a medium through which God had operated in order to take them out of Egypt and they believed that the power that was manifest in Moses would henceforth be manifest in the calf. But this was not a new power. They understood that the power originated with God whether in Moses or in the calf.

Your interpretation that has people running around naked has no root outside of your own imagination. The Hebrew word “parua” never means “naked.”

You argue that when the Scripture says that they made the calf “for themselves” this indicates a rebellion against God. Your argument is non-Scriptural. The expression “for themselves” or “for yourselves” is used in relation to bringing offerings to God Himself (Exodus 12:3,21; 30:23; Numbers 19:2). This expression does not indicate conscious rebellion against God.

The fact that Aaron tells the people that the festival will be for God (Exodus 32:5) tells us that the people had not forgotten about God. Your explanation that Aaron only said these words to cover his back in case Moses returns is untenable simply because Aaron does not repeat these words when he tells Moses the story.

You argue that the Scripture says that they worshiped “it” and not God. That is precisely my point. They might have thought that with this worship they are serving God but the Scripture is teaching is that in reality they were serving the calf.

You argue from the fact that they made a new altar that this was a replacement of the worship initiated by Moses. This argument is inconclusive because Moses himself did not use this altar when he ultimately built the Tabernacle. It seems that the first altar that Moses made was of temporary nature. Furthermore, it could well be that they felt that a different altar is needed for this new mode of worship without consciously realizing that this worship was a rebellion against God.

You argue that the people were warned not to make an idol and that their worship of the calf was described as disobedience.

Again, this is precisely my point. Look at the Catholics who believe in the Jewish Bible yet flood their Churches with graven images without realizing that they are in violation of the direct command of God. They are reading the text exactly the way you are. They are magnifying the sin of the Israelites in order to deflect the accusation from their own sin.

Your analysis of Jeroboam’s calves is nothing more than a translation of a selection from Scripture and you completely ignored my questions. (Why does Elijah never rebuke Ahab for the golden calves? Why are Jehoram and Jehu commended for destroying Baal worship if they were still engaged in worship of the golden claves?)

I recognize that the motive of Jeroboam to make the calves was completely political and cynical but what did he tell the people? What did the people in future generations think about his calves? My understanding is that they believed that this was worship of the true God and they forgot the message of the prophet who warned Jeroboam. Perhaps they ignored his message because he was ultimately punished by God (1Kings 13:24) making the same mistake that the Christians make; namely – arguing that if the witness is not sinless then even if he was appointed by God then we can ignore his testimony.

Your analysis of Judges 17/18 simply ignores 17:13 and 18:6. 17:13 tells us that Micah felt that the very priest that he appointed for his image was favored by God. This does not sound like he saw the image as a worship that is unrelated to God. In 18:6, the priest that was appointed to serve the image responds to a question that was posed to him in the name of the true God. Again, all indicators show that this worship was a confused mixture of worshiping God together with an image.

You also failed to explain Deuteronomy 4:15.

Your approach to Scripture is to ignore what is inconvenient for your theory and overinflate what you see as supportive of your theory. Your interpretation does not arise out of a careful read of the text. I encourage you to reread the relevant texts and do not develop any theory before you have all the relevant Scriptures in front of you.

Now let us approach the root of our argument.

Your position is (and correct me if I am wrong) that if one is not worshiping the idol out of a conscious rebellion against God then it is not the idolatry prohibited by Scripture.

It seems that we our positions are the polar opposites of each other. You seem to believe that the Scriptures magnify the sin of Israel to demonstrate that it is only the extreme level of rebelliousness against God that is considered a sin by God. My position is the exact opposite. I believe that the Scriptures magnify the sin to demonstrate that even a sin rooted in confusion is really a rebellion against God. Thus your attempts to magnify the sins recorded in Scripture is actually an attempt to limit the sin of idolatry to cases of open rebellion while my interpretation posits that one is still committing idolatry even if there is some confused justification to assuage one’s conscience.

If you want to see which of us is right, just look at Joshua 7. One man sins and all of Israel is held guilty. Look also at 1Kings 13:21. A sin is committed out of confusion yet it is described as rebellion and open disobedience.

I encourage you to look at the example of Christianity. These men and women are not conscious idol-worshipers. They mistakenly believe that their worship is worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But their actions and attitudes belie this belief of theirs. Yes, I know that there are many sincere people who follow Jesus innocently thinking that they are following God but, as a rule, their lives are Jesus centered and not God centered. Their worship is not based on the debt that every creature owes to its Creator but rather it sits on the imagined power of the activities of one human body. Their theology attempts to exalt the activities of that body and tend to look away from the fact that the body that they focus on together with every other body under the heavens never did anything with strength that belonged to them.

But these sincere people do not realize their rebellion against God. And this lack of realization is aided and abetted by the disdain for God’s commandments taught to them by the masters of persuasion. Of-course they do not label their attitude as “disdain for God’s commandments” but after everything is said and done, a large part of their time is devoted to “demonstrating the ineffectiveness of observing God’s Law.” They spend none of their time seeking God’s commandments, studying them in order to fulfill them on a practical level.

Seek God’s commandments and you will find the salvation that God has in mind for all humanity (Psalm 119:155).

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Facing Scripture IV – a response to Charles

Charles

In response to these three comments

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/facing-scripture-2-an-open-letter-to-charles/#comment-17960

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/a-response-to-charles/#comment-17961

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/facing-scripture-iii-an-open-letter-to-charles-from-jim/#comment-17962

You use words as do politicians and missionaries – not to bring clarity and light, but to create darkness, to sow confusion and to mask the emptiness of your position. Throughout your three responses you do not address the explicit passages that refute your position, instead you harp back to your own speculations that you have gleaned between the lines of your misunderstanding of Scripture. You present these with literary flourish as if there was a shred of substance in your argument.

I hope that my humble words bring clarity to those who may be confused by your elaborate but empty words.

You wonder at the harshness of my language concerning the alleged position held by Isaac Lichtenstein. The missionaries have a history of inventing extraordinary titles for those who convert from Judaism to Christianity. Reading the biographies of these people written by the missionaries reveals the emptiness of their claims. In describing the “Jewish” life of these imposing “rabbis” the biographers prove their ignorance of the basic elements of Jewish habits and customs. The fact that you believe these fairytales is very disturbing to all who love truth.

You ask “Who is God? How can we please Him?” These questions ring hollow coming from your pen. What do you mean “how can we please Him”? By obeying His commandments! The commandment that you consistently ignore is the one that bears on our discussion. Instead of asking what God has directly commanded us you turn to your own speculations.

When it comes to the object of worship God does NOT point to the prior revelation (Exodus 3:2) but to the revelation that was granted to the people as a whole (Deuteronomy 4:15). When it comes to the question of the object of our worship Charles points to the prior revelations but God does not. Does this not disturb you? Why do you consistently ignore God’s direct command? It is clear from Scripture, that whatever the purpose of the prior revelations it was NOT to set the tone for future national worship – in the context of national worship God points us to what the nation did and did not see at Sinai.

You dismiss the testimony of the witness appointed by God with the words “ancestors can and do lie” and you quote Jeremiah 23:28,29 to support your position of Sola Scriptura. As is your habit, you have ignored the testimony of the Scripture you claim to believe in (namely Psalm 78:3,4,5; Isaiah 43:10, Deuteronomy 4:35) and instead you have demonstrated that a claim to loyalty to Scripture can be an empty shell. The passage in Jeremiah does not specify that God limits His communication to the written word. The passage that you have quoted is completely irrelevant to this discussion. As for your argument about ancestors lying. Allow me to remind you that written words can and do lie as well. Without the living testimony of God’s witnesses there is no way of knowing that these books are His word.

I asked how could God demand perfect obedience if man is not capable of producing perfection. You did not respond to this question but brought Scripture to demonstrate that man is not capable of perfection. I knew this when I asked you the question. This was the premise for my question that you did not answer. Do you believe that the commandments of God are a joke? Do you not recognize that God does not demand of man that which man is not capable of delivering? Do you not recognize that imperfect human beings are held as examples of obedience to God’s commandments? (Genesis 26:5; 1Kings 11:34 – note, not a word about mediation in these passages).

You respond to my “quest for evidence” with some more speculation. Do you not realize that the Author of Scripture knew how to write? That He was able to make His point with clarity and with force? Why did He not put anything down clearly which states that Sinai is a pathetic joke and that all of mankind needs to put their faith in a coming mediator? Look, God said very clearly that the Jewish people should observe the Sabbath. He said this in a commanding way and He repeated it many times promising reward for obedience and threatening punishment for disregarding His eternal sign (Exodus 16:29; 20:8; 23:12; 31:14; 34:21; 35:2; Leviticus 23:3; Numbers 15:35; Deuteronomy 5:12; Isaiah 56:2; 58:13; Jeremiah 17:21). Each of these is far more explicit than all of your references together for the “need” of humanity for this savior of yours. Yet God, who knew how to make clear how important observance of the Sabbath is to His heart, was suddenly tongue-tied when it came to the supposed salvation of humanity? Instead of clear commanding words he can find no better way to communicate outside of some hints dropped between the mistranslated lines? How do you explain this to yourself?

I did not ask you to exegete Deuteronomy 30:1-10. I asked you to read it. I don’t care if your heart is circumcised or not. All I ask is that you allow the words to talk. How can you say that we cannot repent if Deuteronomy 30:2 makes it clear that we CAN repent even before the divine circumcision of our heart? How do you allow your own sophistry to render God’s word null and void?

You charge that the community of God’s witnesses have not found Sabbath rest. You charge that there is no solid redemption in rabbinic Judaism. We have the peace and redemption of God as our small sanctuary in exile (Ezekiel 11:16). In every generation he is our dwelling place and we couldn’t ask for a better redemption (Psalm 90:1).

Your read on Hosea 12:5 is backward. The angel wept and pleaded before Jacob it wasn’t the other way round. Just read Genesis 32:27.

I would never accuse you of idolizing the word of God. You manipulate the word of God to please your idol (you know who).

You claim that without mediation we can only expect an all-consuming fire. That is if we don’t believe in God’s word. But if we believe in God’s word we can expect Him to forget our sin when we turn to Him with our human repentance (Ezekiel 33:16). Will you continue to declare loyalty to God’s word when you still insist on ignoring those words of His which you cannot manipulate to fit your theology?

Contrary to your claim, God is always our Father whether we sin or repent (Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1). Another example of your disdain for the word of God.

Your accusation that the oral traditions violate the commandment against adding to God’s word has been elsewhere addressed on this blog (https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/letter-to-aryeh-leib/ , https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/two-sides-of-the-same-coin-proverbs-306/ ). If you have a substantive refutation then please share it with us instead of repeating the same accusation. Your argument which demonstrates that traditions can sometimes be misleading (on the basis of events in the time of Manasseh and Josiah) is irrelevant to the argument. No one ever claimed that every tradition originates with Moses. But those traditions that are verified by God’s witnesses are accepted by those who trust God.

You exalt Nebuchadnezzar on the basis of your own speculation (the Scripture does not tell us that the gold represents Babylon because of any spiritual quality that they possessed – that is your speculation). You then jump to an unwarranted conclusion (that Nebuchadnezzar rose to these dizzying spiritual heights on the basis of his “communion” with one who is described as the son of God) which you present as the “word of God” when in fact it is the word of no one but Charles. Perhaps you did not notice, but Nebuchadnezzar says not a word about his “communion” with this figure in his song of praise for the Gracious Host who you refuse to recognize. For some odd reason you also ignore Nebuchadnezzar’s other praise of God (Daniel 4:31,32).

The son of man who is served in Daniel 7:13,14 is none other than God’s firstborn son; Israel whose son-ship you deny. This is the explanation of Daniel’s vision given by Scripture -https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/daniel-713/ . But certainly Scripture cannot trump your theology.

Your manipulation of Psalm 2:12 is also a foundation of quicksand. According to most translations this passage speaks of embracing purity and not of any individual. Even if we were to grant the unlikely translation of “the son” favored by modern missionaries the thrust of the passage will be that the kings are encouraged to submit to the political sovereignty of the Messiah, not to worship him as a god.

Charles. I am just asking you to face the Scripture that you claim to revere. Do not attempt to drown out God’s word with your own speculation. Ask yourself, did God not know how to make Himself clear?

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Another Mathematical Problem

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

Another Mathematical Problem

That Christianity’s insistence on directing worship to Jesus as a deity is a mathematical absurdity, is well known. Most students of mathematics are aware that one and three are not the same, and approximately the same number of students have figured out that if “A” is not equal to “B” than “B” cannot be equal to “A”. Both of these equations apply to Christianity’s claim for Jesus. If the trinity consists of three distinct “persons”, then these three cannot be one. And if worship of God is not equal to worship of Jesus then worship of Jesus cannot be equal to worship of God.

Many Christians remain unfazed in the face of these mathematical problems with their theology. This being the case, you may ask, why it is that I think that presenting yet another mathematical problem with Christian theology will make a dent in the discussion…

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The Passover Altar

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

The Passover Altar

There were ten miracles that occurred in the Temple on a regular basis. One of these miracles involved the smoke that arose from the fire of the altar. The altar was a large structure situated in the open courtyard of the Temple and there was a fire constantly burning on top of the altar (Leviticus 6:6). This fire consumed the offerings of Israel and sent them heavenward in a pillar of smoke. The miracle that was manifest in the smoke was that the wind never dispersed the smoke. The smoke always ascended heavenward in a solid pillar.

We can imagine that when the pilgrims journeyed from afar to worship at the Temple the first thing they would see from miles around Jerusalem was this pillar of smoke. Long before they could see the towering structure of the Temple itself they would see this pillar of smoke.

In…

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Eternal Freedom

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

Eternal Freedom

Passover is the time when we sit around the table with our families to thank God for redeeming us from slavery and making us free. We give praise for the gift that He bestowed upon us by making us His bride; a nation unto God.

In a certain sense it was easy for that first generation of Jews in Egypt. They looked back at the dark days of slavery under Pharaoh and they looked forward to days flooded with light as servants of God. But for us; who have the perspective of history, it is perhaps more difficult. Looking back at our blood-soaked past what kind of freedom do we see? Is it freedom to be locked into ghettoes? Being the chosen nation cost us dearly. We were consistently denied our civil liberties, robbed of our possessions and often enough it cost us our lives. What are we…

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Facing Scripture III – An Open Letter to Charles from Jim

Charles,

I am deeply troubled at the liberties you take when employing scripture. You have attempted to turn Tanach into your puppet in the final paragraph here: https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/changed-lives-a-letter-from-jim/#comment-17701 . But however hard you try to superimpose the voice of God with your own, God’s voice is stronger. Let us examine your abuse of those scriptures from Tanach that indicate in your opinion that we cannot enter the love of God without entering into communion with the Father and the Son. (Because you are short on time, I will limit myself to discussing the only this egregious abuse of scripture, and not the other two topics as well.)

You have grossly misrepresented Tanach to suit your own purpose. Do you have no respect for God? None of the scriptures from Tanach teaches that one must enter “into communion with… the Son” as you pretend them to do. You take verses that mention a son and impose upon it your own theology.

Examine Prov. 30.4 honestly. The author writes of his ignorance. In that framework, he asks: “Who ascended to heaven and descended? … Who established all the ends of the earth? What is his name and what is the name of his son, if you know?” This question is rhetorical. But you jump upon the mention of a son to the one who established the earth. What you ignore is that it teaches nothing about entering communion with him. It is too bad that you did not read v. 6: “Do not add to His words, lest He prove to you, and you be found a liar.” Had you taken that to heart, you might not have seized so readily upon a phrase that sounded Christological on the surface but taught none of what you wanted it to teach.

Shall you fare better in Daniel 3.25? I doubt it. Let us see, here we have one who appears to Nebuchadnezzar to be like a son of a god (or a son of the gods). So, in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego a powerful being appears, and you have quickly seized upon the phrase. But you know what it does not say? It does not say anything about having communion with such a being. (By the way, Nebuchadnezzar’s exclamation means nothing that a powerful being, i.e. an angel, has appeared in the fire with the three men.) You have once again seized upon something that sounds vaguely Christological and attached to it meaning that is not in the text.

In fact, the omission of such a being in their profession of faith is glaring in light of your misappropriation of the verse. They tell Nebuchadnezzar: “Behold there is our God whom we worship; He can save us…. And if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not worship your god, neither will we prostrate ourselves to the golden image that you have set up” (v. 17-18). They mention nothing about the son in whom you have placed your faith. Their faith is only in God. The one who appears to the king as one like a son of God is only an agent. Nothing justifies your gross misrepresentation of the text. It does not exist for you to impose your voice upon.

And for the psalm, it does not speak of having with communion with the son either. David writes that God has declared David to be his son. (If this seems far-fetched, consider that God tells David that Solomon will be a son to Him in 2 Sam. 7.14.) And there he says nothing about having communion with the son. David writes: “Serve the Lord (HaShem) with fear, and rejoice with quaking” (v.11) He writes nothing of having communion with the son. But you have reacted to the word “son” as if it meant that something Christological. It clearly says nothing of the sort.

None of the three passages says anything about having communion with the son. But you, hearing them mention a son of a god in one sense or another, stopped listening to the passages at that point. Then you took over and attempted to superimpose them with Christian doctrine. I can hardly believe that you would be so careless and disrespectful of scripture; the precious scripture you to which you ascribe true doctrine and real spiritual experience. And yet, this is precisely what you have been. You have tried to drown the voice of prophets with your own idle musings. You have attempted to paper over the Word of God with the word of man.

Recently, I answered you on “Facing Scripture”. There I pointed out that you had only proven R’ Blumenthal correct through your arguments. You reference Deuteronomy 4, but you ignore that essential teaching that does not fit your theology. “To you it was shown so that you would acknowledge that the Lord is God; there is no other besides Him” (Deut. 4.35) and “So acknowledge today and take to heart that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other” (v. 39). There it is stated twice that God is alone: “there is no other”. It says nothing about having communion with the Father and the Son. It teaches against your man-made doctrine.

If you wish to know what God says, you will have to be quiet long enough to let Him speak. You cannot drown out his message with your own and hope to get it right. The liberties you have taken here are nothing short of disgraceful. Surely you do not expect us to listen to you over God.

Jim

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