Supplement to Responding to an Atheist

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Supplement to Responding to an Atheist (and to a Christian)

The following question was posed in the context of my article “Responding to an Atheist”. This question articulates something that weighs deeply on the hearts of many Christians. The Jewish testimony that lifts God above all of nature seems to push God far away. The Christian philosophy which has God humble Himself and participate in the experience of His creations makes God so much more accessible and loving.

Here then is the question: “…what is wrong with the Christian belief that God might humble Himself and be known as part of creation, even though He still deserves our worship… and even more so because of such a gift?”

Annelise puts the question in context: “I understand that there’s no way within Judaism of testing that someone/something that seems like part of nature actually is an incarnation of God and deserves…

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Foundational Claims – excerpt from Supplement

In order to establish the logical principles that God exists and that He is in control of nature, God turned over the world (with the miracles of the exodus and Sinai). He did this in front of an entire nation. He left no room for questions. Yet missionaries would have us believe in the paradoxical teaching that attributes divinity to a human being on the basis of the garbled report of people who were devoted followers of this human being!?

Just for the record let us contrast the foundational events of Judaism against the foundational events of Christianity.

Every religious belief system (including atheism) must by definition present a teaching on that which is not visible in the physical world. Judaism teaches that there is one God, Christianity teaches that belief in Jesus provides forgiveness for sin, and atheism teaches that there is no God. None of these teachings could be verified through a physical science experiment.

In order to maintain a minimal sense of credibility, any given religious belief system must explain how it is that it received this knowledge from the realm of the invisible.

Judaism is the only religious belief system that comes with the claim that the foundational elements of knowledge came from the realm of the invisible directly to an entire nation. God Himself spoke to Israel and showed them that He is the only God (Exodus 20:1, Deuteronomy 4:35). God Himself allowed the nation to listen in as He spoke to Moses, affirming Moses’ position as God’s prophet (Exodus 19:9). These two articles of information (God’s reality, and the truth of Moses’ prophecy) are the foundations of Judaism, and these were given to the nation directly from God. In stark contrast, the foundational concepts of Christianity were allegedly revealed to individuals (Jesus, and Paul) who passed on what they claimed to have seen and learned. Judaism stands on the testimony of a nation, Christianity (like Islam) stands on the word of individuals.

We could classify miracles into two categories, there are “Wall Street Journal” miracles, and there are “tabloid” miracles. A faith-healing or even a resurrection, are not events that impact the world at large. A respectable newspaper will not put a faith-healing as a headline article because it has no broad ramifications. On the other hand, if the entire army of China were to drown in the sea, the event would make headlines in every respectable media outlet.

The foundational miracles of Judaism impacted the physical lives of nations in a concrete way. The Egyptian army, the world power of the time, was drowned in the Red Sea. A large nation (Israel) was set free from slavery, while another large nation (Egypt) suffered terrible losses. The Nile turned into blood for seven days, the country of Egypt was covered with darkness for three days – events that are visible for miles around and to countless people. In contrast, the alleged miracles of Jesus touched the lives of individuals. Not any individuals, but only those who already had put their faith in him (Mark 6:5). The alleged resurrection was only witnessed by people who already believed in him.

The miracles of Judaism were preserved by the physical descendants of those whose lives were impacted by these foundational miracles. In sharp contrast, there is no family that lives today that claims to descend from those who were healed by Jesus.

In short, the miracles of Judaism are credible from every angle. Christendom acknowledges that God went to these lengths to establish the credibility of the principles of Judaism. And again, the principles of Judaism are logical and straightforward. Yet Christendom expects people to believe that the same God will condemn everyone to hell for not believing the paradoxical teachings of the trinity and the incarnation on the basis of a few “tabloid” miracles?!

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It’s a Midrash! – by Jim

It’s a Midrash!

Because Jesus did not perform the function of the Messiah, the authors of the New Testament had difficulty demonstrating in what way Jesus could be the Messiah. They could not quote Messianic passages—at least not much—because the reader would realize that Jesus had not met the definition of the Messiah. Therefore, the authors of the NT would need to invent new functions of the Messiah, quoting and misquoting passages irrelevant to the definition of the Messiah in order to make it appear that Jesus fulfilled numerous prophecies. A strong proof against Jesus having fulfilled any prophecies is derived from the abuses of scripture in the NT; if Jesus had fulfilled any actual prophecies, the authors of the NT would not have to invent them from whole cloth. Many have objected to the abuse of the Hebrew Scriptures, Tanach, on the basis that one must not misrepresent the words of God through decontextualization and mistranslation. But the Church has responded that those who object to these abuses are not applying a fair standard to the NT, arguing that the authors of the NT are relying upon midrashic interpretations when they force Jesus into Tanach. They will admit that Jesus did not fulfill Hosea 11:1 on a literal level, the p’shat, when he returned from Egypt, but Matthew is giving a midrash. This is an absurd argument that does nothing more than impose upon Tanach whatever the reader desires, which absurdity can be shown by applying the same standard to the New Testament, from which it can be proven that President Barack Obama is the Second Coming.

It must be noted before proceeding with this exercise that Christians quite often argue that the New Testament books are Jewish books. They are akin to the Hebrew Scriptures. For this reason, it is not unreasonable to apply the same manipulations to that book as are applied by them to Tanach. So, one may omit inconvenient parts of passages or sentences that would establish the context of a verse or partial verse. Similarly, if a Christian were to object that President Obama did not fulfill New Testament prophecy by coming in the clouds of glory or bringing the dead back to life for judgment, the answer will be that he will perform that at the Third Coming, but we can know that he will come back again, because he fulfilled these prophecies—midrashim—in his lifetime, and that hints of him can be found all over the New Testament.

One might object to the use of Luke or Acts in this exercise, inasmuch as the author was Greek, not Jewish. However, one excuse Christians bring for the scriptural abuses of Matthew is that he was quoting from the Greek. From this, one can derive two things. First, one can make a midrash on the Greek, which makes Luke fair game. Second, the original meaning does not matter; one can make a midrash on mistranslations and misunderstandings. If the English translation obscures the meaning of the Hebrew, this is of no matter. The midrashic interpretation must still be counted as a legitimate interpretation. It follows also that if one finds a meaning in Portuguese that he prefers, he is free to base his interpretation on the Portuguese or any other language that might allow him to push his own meaning onto a passage. These matters having been addressed, the midrashim follow.

To those that doubt that President Obama was the Second Coming the following proofs may be sufficient. First, a great controversy arose over the birthplace of the president. This was to fulfill what was written in the Christian Scriptures: “…when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from” (John 7:27). The literalist and simpleton may respond by saying that this scripture has nothing to do with President Obama and is not even a prophecy, that it requires no further fulfillment. The answer to them is obvious:

It’s a midrash!

By virtue of being President of the United States, Barack Obama was a powerful figure. This was to fulfill what was written: “From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). This is an obvious reference to the White House and Air Force One. To those that object:

It’s a midrash!

During his time in office, President Obama oversaw the killing of Osama bin Laden, then considered a great threat to the American people. This too was written in the Christian Scriptures: “…that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us” (Luke 1:71). Of course, some might object that the entire prophecy was not quoted. That this speaks of one from the “house of his servant David” appears to be an omission, probably because the midrashist recognized that Obama is not descended from David. But this objection comes from one that does not read the four levels of Jewish interpretation. Clearly Matthew did not need to quote all of Hosea 11:1 to create his midrash or the entire prophecy in Isaiah 7:14-15. The midrashits will say that the one that raises this objection is an ignoramus.

The Christian Scriptures prefigured the words of Hillary Rodham Clinton when it said of President Obama: “…the heaven was opened…” (Luke 3:21). It is clear that Secretary Clinton was speaking prophetically when she said that if then Candidate Obama were elected the heavens would open, the seas roll back, etc. This is a clear reference to the Second Coming as fulfilled in President Obama.

Moreover, one can see the character of the Second Coming in the actions of President Obama, the great care he had for the people. Jesus spoke of President Obama when he quoted the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free…” (Luke 4:18). The President brought good news to the poor through welfare programs. He released captives through the presidential pardon. He brought recovery of the sight to the blind through Obamacare. (This is just a general statement of healing.) And he let the oppressed go free by welcoming refugees to America. Of course, it is obvious that these things were not said about President Obama or the Second Coming, but the response will be:

It’s a midrash!

Of course this exercise might appear to be silly, and indeed it is a fair bit. But the underlying point must be considered. The Christian argument for midrash does not follow any rules other than necessity. This exercise makes the New Testament dance to the tune of a fictitious person that reveres the former president. However, this is exactly how the Christian treats the holy words of HaShem. He attempts to make Tanach dance to his own tune, stripping passages of any inconveniences, including context under the guise of midrash. By this method, scripture can mean anything one wishes it to mean.

Undeniably, multiple levels of understanding exist when reading Tanach. This is not a license to read whatever one wishes into the text, however. It is absurdity to read Jesus into texts by relying on mistranslations and removing the passages from their context. Such reading is not midrash but eisegesis. Torah is not meant to prop up one’s preëxisting notions. It is not a journal into which one puts his own thoughts; it is a book from which one gets the Teaching of HaShem.

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Is the Jewish Bible a Mystery Novel?

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Is the Jewish Bible a Mystery Novel?

Christian missionaries read the Jewish Bible as if it were a mystery novel. The Bible presents the missionary with an enigmatic puzzle that needs to be unraveled. Only the missionary knows that Jesus is the answer before he or she begins reading. The trick is to try to see Jesus behind every symbol and every metaphor that the poetic authors of the Bible bequeathed to us. When Jesus is “discovered”, the Jewish Bible has achieved its purpose and can now be summarily put aside.

But is the Jewish Bible a really a “mystery novel”? Is it one big “I spy” game in which the reader has to try to find that elusive Jesus? Is the Jewish Bible the ancient version of “Where is Waldo/Jesus”?

The missionary approach to the 53rd chapter in the book of Isaiah illustrates the Christian attitude towards the…

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Exploiting Ignorance – by Jim

It is sometimes troubling to Christians that typically a Jewish believer in Jesus is Torah ignorant. Even a celebrated Christian Jew like Dr. Michael Brown grew up in a Torah deficient environment. Because, at the time when a Jewish believer comes to faith in Jesus, his decision is uninformed, it is suggestive that his decision is a mistake based in ignorance. And the question must then be asked, why does the Torah knowledgeable Jew not put his faith in Jesus? One can see how this might trouble the Christian. Inasmuch as Jesus is supposed to fulfill the Torah, it appears to delegitimize their faith when the Torah expert does not put his faith in Jesus and the inexpert Jew does. For this reason, if a Torah observant Jew—better yet, a rabbi—puts his faith in Jesus, this person’s ‘testimony’ becomes very important. The Christian faith does not seem so illegitimate when a Torah observant Jew signs up.

Only a few weeks ago, I wrote a comment related to this topic under a different blog post. Briefly I discussed why the Torah ignorant read Isaiah 53 and believe that it sounds like Jesus. I pointed out that the Torah ignorant did not know the overall context of Isaiah. And I pointed out that the reading of the Hebrew Scriptures has been shaped by 2,000 years of Christian interpretation the majority of which Christian culture has been dominant in the West. A commenter recently on this blog post listed a handful of Jews that believe in Jesus. The story of one of the women in the list is helpful for understanding my argument, as the Christian missionary is successful due both to the woman’s ignorance of the Hebrew Scriptures and the influence of the Church in Western culture.

The list consists of the following names:

Rose Price
David Yaniv
Sergey Katchanov
Sharon Allen
Frieda Roos
R. Mathetes
Moran Rosenblit

Their stories can be read here: http://www.jewishvoice.org/who-is-yeshua/jews-who-believe/

This essay will focus on Frieda Roos. Please let the reader understand that the intent of this essay is not to mock Ms. Roos. That her Torah education was neglected is not her fault. Nor is it her fault that someone was able to use her ignorance against her. This essay is only concerned with the realities that are facing Torah ignorant Jews in the modern age.

But it should be pointed out that the commenter that referenced Frieda Roos and the others in the list added them to a conversation about how many Torah observant, Torah knowledgeable Jews put their faith in Jesus. The commenter presented them as if these seven people would be part of the community of believers that knew Torah before coming to Jesus. But if the reader will follow the link to their stories, he will find that largely they were not Torah observant and largely ignorant of the Torah.

Frieda Roos did not grow up with a Torah education. To the contrary, she writes: “[My parents] never talked about God, and I had never been in a synagogue except for my brother’s wedding. For me, Yom Kippur meant a day off from school…”. Ms. Roos was deprived of her heritage, growing up in a home where God was not even mentioned. While she did not visit the synagogue, she did frequent a Catholic church with her boyfriend in her teenage years. This appears to be the extent of her religious education.

Afterward, Frieda Roos suffered through the Holocaust. The details are there for those who wish to read them. While those things through which she suffered had an enormous impact on her life and ought not be minimized, they are of little relevance to this topic. After surviving the Holocaust, Ms. Roos was beset by several Christians telling her about Jesus. She then contacted a pastor who put her in touch with a German woman that had been married to a Jewish man who was at this time deceased. And she and that woman argued about Jesus for six weeks:

“For the next six weeks I argued with her until she asked me to read Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. Reading Isaiah 53, I did not understand a single word. Then, as promised, I started reading Psalm 22, and coming to the 16th verse where it says ‘they pierced my hands and my feet,’ I let out one big yell, ‘Oh my God, that is Jesus, because He was crucified!’”

“I remembered all the Christian paintings I had seen years earlier in that church in Amsterdam. Suddenly all of it made sense. I went back to the 53rd Chapter of Isaiah and now I understood each and every word. Hallelujah!”

Please let the reader take note that the Christian presented Frieda Roos with the classic missionary text, Isaiah 53. Again, it is as if the whole rest of Isaiah did not exist. It is as if the whole rest of Tanach did not exist. And experiencing the passage in a vacuum, Ms. Roos could not understand it.

What convinces her is Psalm 22:16, that the psalm says “they pierced my hands and my feet.” Notice that she links this to the Christian paintings she saw. Her reading of the Hebrew Scriptures is based on Christian culture. Used to seeing Jesus with his hands and feet pierced, her mind relates the figure in the psalm to Jesus. It is Christian imagery that interprets the psalm for her.

Tragically, she is a victim to her ignorance. Psalm 22:16 says nothing about hands or feet being pierced. But it is unlikely that Frieda Roos reads Hebrew, and relying upon the Christian translation, she does not know that it does not say, “pierced” but “like a lion”. Relating the verse to Jesus based on the imagery of the Church is an understandable error, but it is an error and a significant one. And it is made in part because she cannot read the text, which does not say what she thinks it says. And it is made in part because her interpretive lens is not Torah but Christian paintings. She has been suffused with Christian culture.
Only after she sees Jesus in Psalm 22 and relates it to the paintings in a church does she have an idea for understanding Isaiah 53. Now the Suffering Servant makes sense to her. Again, she does not understand this through the lens of Torah and through the lens of the rest of Isaiah. She understands it through one psalm, primarily one verse, which does not say what she has been told it says and which she understands through the paintings in a church.

That the commenter would present her as a knowledgeable Jew believing in Jesus is quite bizarre. Unfortunately, Frieda Roos represents the Torah ignorant Jew who has been deceived by a bad translation and the dominant Christian culture. Her parents did her a grave injustice by denying her the Torah and knowledge of God. Like so many other Jews that believe in Jesus, she did not know enough to understand what she was being told. Denied her heritage in youth, it continued to elude her later in life.

Of course, this does not mean that no Torah observant Jews ever put their faith in Jesus. But those cases do not appear to be typical. For 2,000 years, the Torah observant community has put their faith in God and not a man. They have not been misled by bad translations of verses or verses ripped out of context. Because of their knowledge of Torah, by and large, the Torah community has been faithful. But those who did not know Torah and did not know the Prophets, they were misled. One can only hope that they return home soon.

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Bloodless Intercession – by Jim

Your comments are often so terse, that I must admit I cannot always follow them. However, you appear to be in a contradiction. You write that HaShem requires blood, and by this, I assume you to mean that He requires it in order to forgive one of his wrongdoing. And then you say that sacrifices ceased due to rebellion. This puts you in something of a conundrum.

If the only way for the people to gain forgiveness for their rebellion is through their sacrifices, then by what means will the rebel be forgiven? The only means, according to you, for him to become right with God had been taken from him. Moreover, now even those that did not rebel were left entirely cut off from God, according to your reading. Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel were all left without means of forgiveness according to you, at least for large portions of their lives.

Indeed, you make Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9 a rather ridiculous prayer. There he admits the faults of Israel. He begins by acknowledging the guilt of Israel: “…we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances…” (v.5). And he concludes: “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, listen and act and do not delay! For your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people bear your name!” (v. 19). But surely Daniel knew that God would not forgive, not when there was no temple, not when there was no sacrifice. Why then does he ask for forgiveness when he knows there can be none?

It is because Daniel knows that sacrifices are not necessary for forgiveness. His prayer is not ridiculous, and it is not offered in vain. He knows that his trust is in the Merciful One. He knows that blood is not a prerequisite to forgiveness. He knows the love of HaShem for His creatures, that He wants only their good and not their destruction.

Do not imagine that the Merciful One destroyed the means of forgiveness for either a short or long period of time. Do not imagine that He is weak, unable to forgive without blood. Know that HaShem does not desire that the wicked should die, and He calls them to repentance.

Jim

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Trust – by Jim

Is there any greater comfort than knowing that one can put his trust in HaShem rather than in a man? I cannot imagine one. Because we know that HaShem is without need and because we know that God created the world for our good, we can be certain that HaShem does not seek our destruction. Nor does he seek the destruction of another on our behalf.

The Church imagines a god with a foreshortened arm, a god with no strength. He is a god bound in rules and either unable or unwilling to forgive unless suffering is inflicted upon someone, even the innocent. In Ezekiel 33:10, the people have said: “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?” The Church echoes this question. It is the question on the lips of every missionary. But the answer of the Church does not match that of Ezekiel. The answer of the Church does not match that of HaShem. Ezekiel continues: “Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn back from their ways and live.’” The Church might acknowledge that HaShem has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but then it responds that He takes pleasure in the death of the righteous. But this is not what Ezekiel says. Ezekiel says that HaShem wishes that we would turn away from our ways. HaShem says of those that turn back to Him: “None of the sins that they have committed shall be remembered against them; they have done what is lawful and right, they shall surely live” (Ez. 33:16). No one need die for the sins of another; one need only turn back to HaShem.

The Church will say that this is to make light of God’s righteousness. They will say that someone must pay the penalty for sin, if not the sinner then someone. In this, they echo what the people say in Ezekiel: “The way of the Lord is not just…” (Ezekiel 33:17). It does not seem right to them that HaShem would ‘just’ forgive a person. But HaShem’s response is that “it is their own way that is not just” (Ezekiel 33:17). And He reiterates that He desires the wicked to repent: “And when the wicked turn from their wickedness, and do what is lawful and right, they shall live by it” (Ez. 33:19).

Sadly, the Church often portrays this teaching as trusting in one’s own righteousness. But this is not the case at all. Indeed, this is trust in the promise of HaShem, trust in His love and in His goodness and in His mercy. This is the God that assured Moses of His mercy: “…a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation” (Ex. 34:7). We can be assured of His kindness extended toward us. So assured can we be that we know that if he punishes us, it is for our good, an act of kindness: “My child, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves the one he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:11-12). Such punishments are a call to return to Him, where we are assured of His forgiveness, mercy, and generosity.

One of the blessings of God is the conscience. It serves to motivate one to review his actions, to see if he has not violated God’s precepts, to see if he has not ill-used another. Guilt, when used properly, is a blessing, urging the sinner to return to HaShem. But guilt can be a burden to those that do not properly heed it. The guilty can become hopeless, feeling he may never be right with God, as those in Ezekiel. The Church compounds this guilt by telling its adherents that they are so bad that God could never forgive them. Not only that, an innocent man needed to be terribly shamed, beaten, and murdered on their behalf. This can create in incredibly over-powering guilt in people, creating in them the sense that they are worthless.

All this leads to the mistake of putting their trust in a man rather than in HaShem. Because they have been told that HaShem could never tolerate them, He feels forever far away. Moreover, He is an object of fear, because He would destroy them. Jesus on the other hand, rather than wanting to destroy them, was willing to suffer and die for them. His love appears to the Christian to be so much greater than the love of God. God was willing to send someone else to die. Jesus was willing to actually do the dying.

And so his trust and affection is given to a man.

All the while, he does not know that HaShem did not need someone to die for Him. He does not know that HaShem loves him enough to forgive him if he will but make amends and return to HaShem. He does not know that his trust in a man is misplaced, but trust in HaShem can never be misplaced. HaShem does not wish his destruction. Nor is HaShem powerless to forgive those that have violated His Torah.

You are right to put your trust in HaShem.

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