Is the Jewish Bible a Mystery Novel?

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 Jewish Bible. The first, and often the last, question that the missionary asks concerning this chapter is: Who is the servant? If we could get sound-effects with the Bible the missionary would have some eerie, mysterious music that rises to a crescendo as Jesus pops out from the page. And that brings the movie to its satisfactory conclusion – according to the missionary. Now that we “know” whodunit, we can close the book and move on to the “real thing”; the Christian Scriptures.

But is the Jewish Bible a mystery novel or an “I spy” game? Is that the purpose of the book? Were the Jesus-less chapters put in by the author just to provide some distracting back-ground so that the puzzle can be challenging?

The Jewish Bible is not a mystery novel and it is not a game of “hide and seek”. The Jewish Bible is God’s instruction for the Jewish people.  The question we are to ask concerning every chapter of the book is not: who can I find here? But rather we are to ask; what is God trying to teach us? What is the spiritual lesson?

Let us focus on the section of Isaiah that follows the Hezekiah narrative, the part in which chapter 53 appears. Chapters 40 thru 66 in the book of Isaiah are separated from the rest of the book by the narrative that occupies chapters 36 thru 39. This section opens with God commanding that His people be comforted because their measure of suffering is filled (40:1).

The prophet goes on to tell us how God’s word endures forever and that those who had hoped to Him will ultimately be vindicated (40:27-31). Chapter 53 is situated in the midst of several passages of consolation in which God uses intense and vivid language to accentuate the extent of Israel’s ultimate vindication.

But how can Israel be consoled? All the years that Israel was exiled from her land are understood by her enemies as years of widow-hood; years in which her Divine husband had abandoned her and favored them. But God promises that the shame of her widow-hood will be forgotten and will no longer be remembered (54:4). How can the future erase the shame of the past?

Chapter 53 provides the answer to this question. The suffering was not in vain. The suffering that Israel experienced played an integral part in God’s plan for all mankind. Israel’s enemies understood her suffering as a sign that the Jewish people are more sinful than any other nation. But when the truth is revealed all will suddenly understand that Israel’s suffering was a sign of the deep relationship that existed between God and His chosen nation (Amos 3:20).

The more her enemies have built theological edifices on the basis of their misunderstanding of Israel’s suffering to that same degree will they be shocked when the despised people are vindicated (52:14). The nations may think that Israel’s suffering is a sign of their own righteousness, but the prophet encourages Israel with the message that her suffering is an indication of her own closeness to God and the part that she plays in His cosmic plan.

The underlying lesson of these later chapters in the book of Isaiah is that those who trust in God are trusting in the one power that is worthy of trust. Every iota of labor and toil will be rewarded by God, because God is a Master who pays His servant who labors before Him (40:10; 61:8; 62:1,11; 66:14). As God’s servant; Israel is commissioned to bear witness to His truth (43:10; 44:8). Those who resist God’s truth will persecute God’s servant and this suffering is all a part of Israel’s calling to bear witness to His truth.

All those who resisted God’s message and contended with the truth of Israel’s testimony will be confounded (41:11; 52:15; Micah 7:10). And Israel will rejoice and glory in the One God that she always trusted in (25:9; 41:16; 54:1).

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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48 Responses to Is the Jewish Bible a Mystery Novel?

  1. Yehuda says:

    I’m not sure it’s an “I Spy” so much as a “Where’s Waldo”…except without Waldo.

  2. naaria says:

    Another excellent, thought-provoking post. There are many who do search for what they want to find & glance over or ignore the rest (while at the same time they might believe that “all scripture is profitable”). It is a hunt of “who can I find here? Can I find something that agrees with me? Rather than ask, “what is God trying to teach us?”

  3. Larry says:

    Unfortunately for the christian he learns that believing
    in christ is job one, and that “christ” is in fact G-d.
    Armed with this new information he seeks to share his joy
    with everyone. He is taught by his christian leaders what
    the “old testment” scriptures mean and where he can find
    Jesus in them. If he disagrees with his leaders of course
    thats blasphemy and surely he is going to hell for eternity.
    How many ever come to realize that there really are 2 bibles? so to speak. The one that G-d gave us and the other
    one that the christians gave us complete with the new version of G-d. The only way this mystery can be resolved, “how many G-ds there are” is in the past.

    • Larry says:

      Surely the christian will be able to find the “truth” one way or another.

      • Adrian Vink says:

        If a Christian is truly searching for the truth, he will find it, if he can’t find it then G-D will course someone to reveal it to that person. Even though a Christian may believe in Jesus Christ, he can find the truth through the Church and or the Christian scriptures, but once the persons finds the truth that person will be confronted with a choice as to which way he or she will go.

        For example, for as it is written; Salvation is of the Jews. This verse from the N/T is by and largely ignored by the main-steam Christian Church, but yet it is a deeply revealing statement full of meaning and truth.

        If one just looks at this verse on the surface alone, one can see that if one should go and seek out a Jewish person and ask them for the truth, this truth will be revealed to
        them. If one searches behind the said words, then it tells us that it is the way of the Jews. In other words, through their G-D (God), the God (G-D) of the Jewish people, the creator God.

        There are many more of these examples in both the Old and New Testaments of the
        Christian Bible. It must be remembered that God can reveal Him Self through any religion or faith structure.

        Torah and Judaism do not preclude that other nations or people groups may be witnesses to their own revelations from the true God, as long as those revelations are not contradicting what is revealed through the Torah. In other words, out of most religions, Judaism stands out in that it allows that other nations can have their own paths to the true God as well. While the Torah details the covenant between God and Israel established during the Exodus from Egypt, God is also prompt to remind Israel, lest they feel arrogant, that God has established other relationships as well.

        I refer you to Amos 9:7 ‘Behold, you are like the children of the Cushites to me, O Children of Israel – the word of HaShem. Did l not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, as well as the Philistines from Caphtor and Aram from Kir? (Stone edition of the Tanach).

        Christian Bible.

        • Shomer says:

          Shalom dear Adrian

          I agree with your Blog contribution. There is one point where I should share with you my own experience as it is impossible to find the truth within a Christian church. The HOLY ONE left me within the Christian system until HE himself miraculously took me out there. Inside the system I always forgave and forgot and I always saw the positive within my church. Inside the system I always was indoctrinated with a so-called truth and I never could see the truth was with the Jews. But when this said miracle occurred I was free to hearken to a familiar inner “voice” that told me a truth, I was never ever before able to hear this way. All of a sudden this “voice” could tell me things that were mind blowing, jaw dropping and breath taking. I had lost my faith according to Christian mind set (Hallelujah). And today I can share what I have recognized (in my own words) with Jews and it is mind blowing, jaw dropping and breath taking to them. I need not tell Jews that Mary was a whore – why? The truth is even worse; she is a carven idol as all other pagan carven idols are. “Jesus”, her son, is a carven idol on a woody scaffolding (known as a “cross”) likewise! Why should I believe, that “Yeshu’s” father was a Roman soldier – why? I then would have to believe that a young Jewish lady called Miriam who was faithful to the Torah, is a holy virgin, too. (No, thanx!) Why should I hate Yeshu? I love HaShem YHVH with all my heart, with all my mind and with all my strength – this is hatred against the pagan Semi-God “Jesus” enough.

          Shabbat Shalom
          Shomer

  4. Shomer says:

    Well, if I imagine the first two commandments only, I could never ever comprehend that a carven image called Jesus could be prophesied in the Tanakh. On one hand ELOHIM forbids idolatry and on the other he should lay the theological foundation for one of those – no way. Once I was taught to pray to Jesus but now I know that this was idolatry. Today, I notice people that go on praying to Jesus – they just call him Yeshua. Thus they make an Idol from Yeshua and yet they don’t know. Now I know that this prayer to Jesus/Yeshua is evil in ELOHIM’S sight since the HOLY one is qadosh, qadosh, qadosh! But Jesus is not qadosh, even in the Roman Catholic Church where we find a holy virgin, a St. Peter and Paul and all sorts of saints we cannot find a holy/saint Jesus.

  5. dinken says:

    You wrote “The more her enemies have built theological edifices on the basis of their misunderstanding of Israel’s suffering to that same degree will they be shocked when the despised people are vindicated ” YOU became able to say this because you saw the vindicated Israel. Would you have been able to say this before the recreation of Israel and its wonderful survival?

    But one Jew had predicted this some 2000 years ago. HE said to the Jews ,”“You foolish people – how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Wasn’t it necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and enter into his glory? But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’. That Jew was Jesus. He said it wihout seeing the restoration of Israel. Contemprary Jews failed to understand his message, so they labeled him a false prophets. Is it not tiome to make a reassesment about Jesus ?

  6. Dinken
    I do not consider the state of Israel the vindication of Israel – Israel’s vindication is when all the nations recognize that Israel alone was loyal to God’s truth – as Isaiah predicted
    As for Jesus – you may find this helpful
    https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/non-prophet/

  7. Pingback: Is the Jewish Bible a Mystery Novel? | Exploring Life, The Universe and Everything

  8. Yedidiah says:

    The “gospel of Judas” is one early Christian writing that explains Judas” betrayal in such a way that Judas was the truest disciple of Jesus; he is the “13th” disciple, since he will one day have authority over the other 12. Jesus revealed great “secrets” to him that he did not reveal to the others. Just as much as he revealed “mighty, powerful secrets” to Thomas in the gospel of Thomas and other books. Just as he revealed secrets to some of the other disciples in other non-canonical writings. Just as he revealed some things in our current gospels to only a few of his “other” closest disciples. Just as Jesus spoke to Paul. I am not agreeing with them; just saying what early Christians wrote.

    And as “silly” as you think Judas is to being a righteous servant (after his restitution and 2nd coming), others think it is not to much more absurd to “shoehorn” Jesus into Isaiah 53. Early Christian writers did use selected verses from the Hebrew sacred writings to “paint Judas as the villain”, the “guy in the black hat”. He was “fulfilling prophecies”. Likewise, they intentionally selected a small number of other verses to paint Jesus as the “good guy”. But objectively speaking, many (all) of the verses would apply to Israel/Judah (their people and legitimate human leaders), exactly what Isaiah had meant to write. You could loosely interpret some to other humans or maybe even angels. Certain verses even apply much more to Judas then to Jesus (as I demonstrated with little effort). And those, if you apply them to Jesus, negates a good portion of what the NT is trying to show about Jesus. The verses minimize the power of Jesus. They make absurd his deeds and words. For example, some people see that without Judas, then no “betrayal, no crucifixion, no salvation”. Or, as we definitely see in the gospels, Jesus was sinful, so if he became sinless after that did anyone “bear his sins, if sins HAVE to be borne by some other person- since God doesn’t need a person to save Jesus or you. Jesus supposedly didn’t need anyone or anything to prolong his life, have children, etc. Those verses make Jesus appear to be a character in an absurd fictional novel or dramatic play. A “devil” or an “anti-Christ” might read Jesus into Isaiah 53. Of course, the NT contradicts itself quite often, so apologists, sophists try hard to reinterpret the words to fit a few of the claims or “proofs” for Jesus.

    • Yedidiah says:

      Sorry. Somehow this reply, to the article on “Isaiah 53, Micah 7, Isaiah 62”. got attached to a response in the wrong post.

  9. Pingback: Study Notes and References | 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources

    • CP says:

      Mystery? Yes!
      Rabbis have been mining the deeper mysteries of Scripture for thousands of years, writing millions of words about them. A Jewish proto Christian sect has only done what the Rabbis before and after have done. However Gentile spin has moved this sect from within Judaism into a different religion.
      Moving away from religion and sticking with Scripture one mystery among many emerges; on one hand God promises to never completely abandon the Jews making a Covenant with them, on the other hand the same Covenant has been declared broken by the same Scripture. The mystery is how is this Covenant repaired? How is the Jewish Diaspora brought back?
      There are aspects of Yeshua which offer an answer to this mystery.

      • CP I wrote about this in several places (The Elephant and the Suit is one such place) the following is a cut and paste from Supplement to Contra Brown (beginning of section IV > > In these pages Brown attempts to explain the usage of the Jewish > scriptures by the authors of the Christian Scriptures. In many cases > these authors seem to be misquoting or misinterpreting the text of the > Jewish Bible. The thrust of Brown’s response is that the authors of > the Christian scriptures were using the midrashic method of > interpreting scripture. Brown points out that: /”Jewish interpretation > and use of scripture in the first five-plus centuries of this era was > much more free-flowing than our contemporary, historical-grammatical > approach”/. In other words, the authors of the Christian scriptures > were not limited by grammar or context in their interpretations. They > felt free to read the text according to their own spiritual insight, > regardless of textual context. Brown feels that this is justified > because the Rabbis do this too. > > The fallacy of Brown’s argument is readily apparent. By using such > “free-flowing” interpretation of scripture, anyone can “prove” > anything. One can utilize the midrashic method by taking all the > negative characters in the Jewish scriptures, and demonstrate how they > “foreshadowed” the advent of Jesus. The midrashic method of reading > scripture is only meaningful within a specific social context. Before > I can accept anyone’s midrashic interpretations, I must be sure that > these people embody the spirit of the scriptures. Before I accept > anyone’s spiritual insights, I must be first assured that these men > are holy and pure, and that their concept of spirituality is in line > with the God of Israel. One cannot use the midrashic method of > interpreting scripture in order to establish his or her own spiritual > credibility. Anyone can do that. One’s spiritual credibility must be > well established before he can expect anyone hear his midrashic > discourses. > > The fact that the authors of the Christian scriptures expected their > free-flowing interpretations to serve as “proof” for their beliefs > utterly discredits them. These authors condemned to eternal hell-fire, > anyone who does not accept their imaginative renditions of scriptures. > This alone is more than enough evidence to establish the fact that > these people had no connection with the spirit of the Jewish prophets. >

        1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

        • CP says:

          R’B;
          “One’s spiritual credibility must be > well established before he can expect anyone hear his midrashic > discourses. >” ——- Yet how many prophets were rejected for how long until their “spiritual credibility” was established?

          “> The fact that the authors of the Christian scriptures expected their > free-flowing interpretations to serve as “proof” for their beliefs > utterly discredits them.” ——- Why would it discredit them any more than writers of the Talmud who are not discredited?

          “These authors condemned to eternal hell-fire, > anyone who does not accept their imaginative renditions of scriptures. > This alone is more than enough evidence to establish the fact that > these people had no connection with the spirit of the Jewish prophets. >” ——- Quite the contrary, in fact it establishes a strong connection with the Jewish prophets. The disconnect is a product of “eternal hell-fire” being a derived doctrine rising out of mistranslations of “Hades”, “Sheol” “Gehenna”. Hades & Sheol meaning the grave, Gehenna; a literal valley representing personal or national judgement. The Greek “Tartarus” or Hell, is used only once in 2Peter 2:4 as a holding place for fallen angels. Aside from Tartarus, the Jewish prophets all spoke of coming judgement. According to Josephus the Greek concept of “hell” entered Judaism via the Pharisees during the second Temple period.
          “Their [the Pharisees’] belief is that there is an undying power in souls and that, under the ground, there is an accounting to reward and punish those who were righteous or unrighteous in [this] life. Eternal punishment is offered to the latter, but re-creation in a new life to the former. Because of these ideas, they [the Pharisees] are the most persuasive among the citizens. And all the sacrifice and prayer offered to God happens to be according to their exegesis [of scripture].”

          “The midrashic method of reading > scripture is only meaningful within a specific social context.”——- Yes. Therefore, Yeshua (who from scripture was probably a Pharisee) is right in line with those who came before him; (Prophets & Pharisees) calling for repentance in the face of impending judgement.

          However I admit there is no “Mystery” in Yeshua calling for repentance in the face of impending judgement, this is as old as Cain and Abel. But because of conflicting descriptions there has always been mystery about the Messiah. Christian midrash offers an answer to the idenity of the Messiah and his multifaceted purpose.

          The real “Mystery” then becomes Pauline Midrash and the myriad of doctrines which later sprang from it — this has become a seemingly bottomless quagmire, extremely difficult to navigate.

          • CP What does prophecy have to do with Midrashic exegesis? What does the Talmud, whose foundational beliefs stand on explicit Scripture and explicit testimony of God’s witness have to do with the Christian Scripture which supports its belief system upon its own Midrash? 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

        • RT says:

          “Why would it discredit them any more than writers of the Talmud who are not discredited?”

          CP, finding issues with another religion does not helps to make your own issues disappear….

          I have a question for you CP. Honestly, when you became a follower of Yeshua, did you pray to Yeshua and accept him as lord? Did you find out that Yeshua was not G-d after you accept him? I would guess that most people in your situation, who follow HaShem, and still accept Yeshua, first acknowledge Yeshua as Deity. Was it the case for you?

          • CP says:

            RT, I’m not looking to discredit Talmud writers, rather to validate NT writers by comparing the them.

            “I have a question for you CP. Honestly, when you became a follower of Yeshua, did you pray to Yeshua and accept him as lord?” ——- Yes, small “l”

            “Did you find out that Yeshua was not G-d after you accept him? ——- ? I accepted him as the son of God, not as God. (In grammar school I didn’t wrestle with theological issues)

            I would guess that most people in your situation, who follow HaShem, and still accept Yeshua, first acknowledge Yeshua as Deity. Was it the case for you? ——- No, although for a brief time in my twenties while opposing Christian cults I did believe Yeshua was God. However now I see Yeshua as an agent of God similar or possibly the same as Joshua 5:13-15

  10. CP says:

    R’B,
    I gave no mention of “prophecy”, only “Prophets”; those who declare the Truth in accordance with Scripture. Look at all the Prophets declaring some form of ‘I do not desire sacrifice, but… ‘. This has to be “Midrashic exegesis” because Torah plainly and literally calls for sacrifice.

    “What does the Talmud, whose foundational beliefs stand on explicit Scripture and explicit testimony of God’s witness……?”
    Aside from the fact that Scripture teaches not every generation of God’s witness has been faithful. What did Yeshua teach that is not founded on explict Scripture any less than the Prophets before him?

    • CP
      There is an office of prophecy which does not stand on anyone’s exegesis but on an explicit command of God (Deuteronomy 18:15) and then there is Midrash which stands on nothing but the interpreter’s spiritual insight – these two (prophecy/prophet vs midrash) don’t compare.
      Where does Scripture teach that the lack of faith negates the testimony? The opposite is true – Psalm 78:5-7 – even in our unfaithfulness we have the testimony
      And the question is not what Yeshua taught – but is he the Messiah and the only way one can come to that conclusion is to rely on the Midrashic eisegesis of the Christian Scriptures. You keep on defending this practice by pointing to the Midrashic eisegesis of the Talmud – and the two don’t compare (to remind you – for a few reasons – 1 – the Talmud has its spiritual credentials accepted before it expected its Midrash to be accepted, 2 – the foundational beliefs of the Talmud do NOT lean on eisegesis as opposed to the foundational belief of the followers of Yeshua, 3 – The Midrashic eisegesis of the Talmud is in line with the spirit of Scripture, the eisegesis of the Christian Scriptures is not)

    • CP says:

      R’B,
      “Where does Scripture teach that the lack of faith negates the testimony? The opposite is true – Psalm 78:5-7 – even in our unfaithfulness we have the testimony”

      Due to the nature of the Mosaic Covenant; blessings for righteousness & discipline for wickedness, don’t you think this makes the testimony from God, rather than man?

      Speaking of Psalm 78, as I read it this jumped off the page!

      Psalm 78:20-22
      “Behold, he struck the rock, so that waters gushed out, Streams overflowed. Can he give bread also? Will he provide flesh for his people?”

      Therefore the LORD heard, and was angry. A fire was kindled against Ya`akov, Anger also went up against Yisra’el,

      Because they didn’t believe in God, And didn’t trust in his yeshu`ah.”

  11. Dina says:

    Following.

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