Without Preconceived Notions

Without Preconceived Notions

In one of my articles (entitled Messianic Expectation https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/the-messianic-expectation/  ) I wrote: “When we read the scripture without any preconceived notions about the Messiah, when we read God’s promises for Israel’s glorious future age, we can readily see why the Jewish people cannot accept the claims of Christianity.”

Gil Torres commented by saying that the missionary could respond with the exact same argument: “When we read the scripture without any preconceived notions about the Messiah, when we read God’s promises for Israel’s glorious future age, we can readily see why the Christian people accept the claims of Christianity.”

So it seems that Gil Torres is under the impression that reading the Jewish Scriptures “WITHOUT ANY PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS” will lead us to the Christian description of the Messiah.

In this humble article I set out to demonstrate how it is that I know that Gil’s assertion is false.

The first question I need to address is how can I approach this matter with any level of evenhandedness? After all I come to this debate with a whole package of preconceived notions. Who am I to say what things look like from the standpoint of someone without preconceived notions if I never stood there?

The fact is that it is quite easy for me to do this. You see; the missionaries have helped me arrive at this conclusion in more ways than one. For starters I call Dr. Brown and Lee Strobel to the witness stand. No one would accuse these two men of reading Scripture with a predisposition against Jesus yet they both admit that their understanding of the Messiah is not easily found in the Jewish Scriptures. Dr. Brown writes: “Messianic prophecies are not clearly identified as such” (Answering Jewish Objections Vol. 3 Page 189). Lee Strobel complains of the difficulties inherent in the task of “finding” Jesus in the Jewish Bible: “scholars must pore over the context of various passages to determine which ones deal with the coming of the Messiah” (The Case for the Real Jesus page 190).

If the Christian concept of Messiah can be readily found in the Jewish Scriptures as Gil claims then why would these dedicated missionaries warn us that this is not so easily done?

The second way that the Church has made it clear that the Christian version of the role of the Messiah is not readily found in the Jewish Scriptures is with their admission that the disciples of Jesus were shocked when he died. If an unbiased reading of the Scriptures should lead to the Christian understanding of the role of Messiah the disciples should have been terribly disappointed if he would not have died. How would he “fulfill” Isaiah 53? Psalm 22? Genesis 3:15? It is clear that people who are not predisposed towards Christian theology can read the Jewish Scriptures without seeing these passages as necessary prerequisites for the Messiah to fulfill

(Dr. Brown’s response to this argument is especially enlightening – https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/response-to-th-line-of-fire-9/ )

Finally; Christians have made it clear to me that it is not my bias that prevents me from seeing Jesus in the pages of Jewish Scripture is by avoiding the most basic challenge. I have presented the following challenge again and again to different Christian teachers: “The myth of the “blindness of the Jew” is an ugly stain in the history of mankind. Dr. Brown, instead of working to perpetuate this myth, I appeal to you to educate Christians of the fallacies of this myth. Explain to your audience that as long as the Jew sees the teachings of Christianity as a contradiction to the Scriptures with which we were entrusted by God – it is the moral duty of the Jew to REJECT those teachings. Encourage your audience to try to read the Jewish Scriptures as a Jew would have read them before the advent of Jesus. Encourage your listeners to attempt to acquire a complete world-view on the basis of the Jewish Scriptures alone – and ask them – how would they view the doctrines of Christianity in the light of the Jewish Scriptures.“ (This was an appeal to Dr. Brown posted in “Response to the Line of Fire 9”).

In my Eighth Response to Gil Torres (https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/eighth-response-to-gil-torres/ ) I wrote: “According to your own standard (that a claim for prophecy be measured in light of previous revelation) what you should have done is that you should have studied the Jewish Scriptures and the Jewish Scriptures alone, absorbed its spirit and allowed yourself to become saturated with its teachings – you should have developed a complete world-view on that basis and then and only then evaluate the claims of Christianity in that light. Do you not agree that this would be the proper approach?”

Instead of taking me up on the challenge these Christian teachers lecture to me about the “coherence of the dialogue” or by otherwise beating around the bush (https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/goldberg-vs-brown/). If; as Gil claims, that the Christian understanding of the Messiah is clearly spelled out in Scripture for the unbiased reader – I think that these Christian teachers would not go to these lengths to avoid the straightforward challenge that I presented to them.

I can say with clarity and with confidence – When we read the scripture without any preconceived notions about the Messiah, when we read God’s promises for Israel’s glorious future age, we can readily see why the Jewish people cannot accept the claims of Christianity.

The Christian teachers have unwittingly confirmed my statement.

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

 

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14 Responses to Without Preconceived Notions

  1. naaria says:

    Many, if not most, Christians have very little knowledge about the Jewish scriptures other than a few Psalms, parts of Genesis, parts of Exodus, “the 10 commandments”, a few stories or the outline of those stories, and a handful of select verses. We are encouraged to believe that there are 2 separate “testaments” and most of the “old” has little to do with the “new”, which “replaces the old”. Seldom does one go to the “old” to read about Jesus or specifically “Christian ideas”. Why even go to parts of the “OT” since all we really need to know is what we can read in the NT directly & unambiguously? So it is extremely difficult for a Christian to not have preconceived ideas about a messiah or about “messianic” prophecies.

    When one finally is encouraged to read the whole Bible, most seems irrelevant, or even contradictory, to one’s Christian beliefs. Without being told what to look for, like in Genesis 3:15, EVEN with Christian preconceived biases, one will not see any connection to a messiah or Jesus or even your Christian faith. One has to be told & taught that a very few verses “point to Jesus” or are about messianic prophecies. Even then it is very difficult to see how these verses are in any way related to Jesus or any messianic prophecies. In most cases the “prophecies” in no way even appear to be prophesies, at least not in plain words, and then one notices that it might only be if one isolates the verses, or part of a verse, and takes them out of context.

    Instead of a plain reading of the text, which is usually done in context, and seeing those parts as messianic or about Jesus, one is taught that those parts “point to” Jesus. We are told there are hints and clues and “mysteries” that we must accept. Later, we may be told about “remezes” or “sod” interpretations. All difficult for the average Christian “to get”, but we accept what we are told. When one looks closer, one sees any number of other interpretations are also possible. The closer one looks, the more doubts one has about those teachings of “hints & clues & “pointings to”. It may lead some to “greater faith” if they accept the “line” and those teachings. But, for many others it is more likely to lead to doubt and loss of faith, when one believes they were “sold” and “the wool was pulled over their eyes”.

    • naaria says:

      Be honest now. If you have studied the bible & its text in any real depth you know that most Christian Bibles have biases, whether Christian, denominational, or otherwise. You may have heard about things like one pastor trying to burn a Revised Standard Version bible in his church, after the RSV first came out, because certain verses were interpreted more honestly, such as Isaiah 7:14, which read “young lady” instead of “virgin”. So sometimes the “preconceived notions” might not be yours, but it is “built” into your favorite version of the bible or “OT” & you accept it as the truth. It is very hard for some people, especially preachers or people whose livelihood depends upon certain ideas being accepted & others rejected, to see what others see. Someone once said that Christian seminaries produce more “atheists” than pastors, for reasons I mentioned above and often because they just can’t accept “the party line” about what the text says or doesn’t say.

      When one is taught to evangelize or, in particular, when one is trained in a mission to Jews, one is taught to emphasize only certain verses and only certain ideas and use only certain words. Just like at any “Jews for Jesus” training material. Without being given new notions or without being given new interpretations (other the one from plain, contextual readings), most people cannot see what the evangelist wants you to see. The new notions go against the “common sense” reading of the text. That is why evangelizing & missionizing takes so much money & effort.

    • Concerned Reader says:

      Given that even the NT (in its earliest strata and historical context) presupposes a Torah observant movement and Torah observant environment, or at least a second temple era “G-d fearing” one, the Church can’t really advocate just a plain straightforward reading of the New Testament text itself. NT scholars have known for years that the New Testament itself has internal Christian polemics for and against diverse Christologies of various different Christian groups. Some books seem to suggest that Jesus was a human who was adopted as messiah/son at baptism/resurrection, while John’s gospel presupposes Jesus’ eternal deity. Christian history is full of groups that “didn’t make the cut,” of “true followers.” This isn’t news, even to seminary students.

      If you examine the Christian legal tradition, (canon law,) and the earliest manuals of Christian ethics, it becomes very clear that the movement started with a Pharisaic Judaism’s assumptions regarding both faith and practices. So, if a person is careful to read, it’s clear why Christianity (as an institution) cannot just read its own history and text plainly.

      Systematic dejudaizing of Christianity took place when Christianity became the official imperial religion. That was the modus operandi of the heresieologists. The creeds in many ways only reflect extremely common denominator Christian beliefs, but not the daily ethical life of the communities, their unique practices, or even the specific details of how Jesus was understood by these communities. The credal form of Christianity is the summary statement of “most” essential Christian notions.

      If you read Chrysostom’s seven homilies against the Jews, it’s crystal clear that there were Christians who attended synagogue and observed some remnants of Jewish practice, and this pissed Chrysostom off. There was a party line in Christendom that you either accepted, or you faded away.

      • Saul Goodman says:

        Earlier than Chrysostom also, in the clash between Pope of Rome Victor and eastern Christian because the latter followed the Jewish Calendar. We can read about it in Eusebius:

        “And Polycarp1697 in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas,1698 bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna.
        5. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris1699 who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius,1700 or Melito,1701 the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead?
        6. All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith.1702 And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people1703 put away the leaven….

        Thereupon Victor, who presided over the church at Rome, immediately attempted to cut off from the common unity the parishes of all Asia, with the churches that agreed with them, as heterodox; and he wrote letters and declared all the brethren there wholly excommuni
        243
        cate.1706
        10. But this did not please all the bishops. And they besought him to consider the things of peace, and of neighborly unity and love. Words of theirs are extant, sharply rebuking Victor…” http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.iii.x.xxv.html

        “The first was mainly concerned with the lawfulness of celebrating Easter on a weekday. We read in Eusebius (Church History V.23): “A question of no small importance arose at that time [i.e. the time of Pope Victor, about A.D. 190]. The dioceses of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should always be observed as the feast of the life-giving pasch [epi tes tou soteriou Pascha heortes], contending that the fast ought to end on that day, whatever day of the week it might happen to be. However it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world to end it at this point, as they observed the practice, which from Apostolic tradition has prevailed to the present time, of terminating the fast on no other day than on that of the Resurrection of our Saviour…” http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05228a.htm

        Also in the 4th century there are sill mentions of some “nazarene” Christians, that are called non Christians by Jerome.

        • Concerned Reader says:

          Yep. Ebionites and Nazarenes still existed in the 4th-5th century (some Muslim writers even mentioned them.) It’s interesting, isn’t it? Justin also mentioned that he held communion with some of them, as long as they didn’t teach that gentiles had to become converts to Judaism. ( He had communion with them which his contemporaries would not do. Its interesting.)

  2. naaria says:

    I seen one Christian Bible reading plan where you read John’s gospel fast in one sitting, them read John very slowly to absorb it all, then read the gospels (including John), and then starting from Matthew read all the NT (including John again). And then, before “tackling” the “OT”, read John first & then lastly, finish up by reading John again. I believe this was meant as a one year plan, so guess what gets left out or rushed at the end of the year. Now, does a plan like that prevent you from having preconceived notions about Jewish scripture or not?

  3. Tom Quinlan says:

    The “myth” of the blindness of the Jew is firmly rooted in Moses and the Prophets. Speaking for the LORD in Deuteronomy 32, Moses writes, “I will hide My face from them [Jacob] and I will see what their end shall be, for they are a very perverse generation.”

    The hiding from this generation clearly extends all the way up to the “glorious future age” of Israel, because Ezekiel refers to this very passage in chapter 39. After he says, “From that day and forward the house of Israel will know that I am the LORD their God” in verse 22, he says in vs 39: “neither will I hide my face any more from them; for I have poured out My Spirit upon them.”

    Similarly, Isaiah is told “Go and tell this people, be ever hearing but never understanding, be ever seeing but never perceiving…” He asks how long this will be and is told “Until… the cities lie ruined lie ruined and the fields ruined and ravaged.”

    You may say “This has already been fulfilled.” But look again at Ezekiel 38, when God calls Gog to come against His people in the LATTER days.” The prophets are very consistent. Israel is to be restored after this last, great, unequaled time of trouble. The restoration of “sight” to Israel comes at the very end of this trouble “when He [God] sees that their [Jacob’s] strength is gone” (Dt 32:36) on the day of the LORD when He comes to destroy Gog and judge the nations that are dividing His land.

    If the “blindness of the Jew” is a myth, Paul comes by it through an honest reading of the Hebrew scriptures.

  4. Tom
    You may be surprised to learn that I do not ignore this theme at all. I fully recognize that our suffering in exile is a result of our hard-heartedness and our stubborn rebelliousness against God (Micah 7:9). But this has nothing to do with our discussion.

    Despite all of our faults, God promised to preserve His truth and His spirit in our midst (Isaiah 59:21). The testimony that God established in Israel at Sinai will be available even to the last generation (Psalm 78:5,6). Nowhere in all of Scripture does it insinuate that we need to turn to the Gentiles to teach us how to read the books which are our own exclusive inheritance (Deuteronomy 33:4, Psalm 147:19,20). And finally, God speaks to the last generation of Jews (Deuteronomy 4:30) and He points to the unique understanding that He granted our nation as the sign of the unbreakable nature of His covenant (Deuteronomy 4:35). The understanding that God granted us is the most precious possession of our nation; it is the deepest sign of God’s love for us. It is our loyalty to this truth that will be vindicated when the mask of blindness is removed from the face of the nations who reject this truth (Micah 7:10, Isaiah 25:7).
    https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/third-response-to-dalton-lifsey/
    https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/a-tale-of-two-schools/

  5. Saul Goodman says:

    In the Gospels, we can see that even Jesus disciples didn’t expect Christianity. Perter the first of them didn’t accept that Jesus would die. From the NT, we can see that all objections of Jews today are anterior to Christianity. When we read about the Pharisees, the High Priest, the scribes, we see Judaism. And even Jesus’s disciples were in agreement until much later, with the Pharisees.

    When Jesus is on the cross,the scribes mock him an say; save yourself if you truly are who you say you are. This added to Peter’s reactions, we can see clearly that nobody, prior to Christianity, excpected the Messiah to die without having fulfilled all the messianic criterias. This is a very strong point for Judaism: even the anti jewish NT indirectly confirms the Jewish view of the Messiah. We can also notice that the NT never truly answers those objections: it always comes to “blindness, lack of the HS, snakes…”.

    The only book attempting to disprove Judaism is the letter to the Hebrews. But how could a letter written in greek convince any Jew? How could it use so strong words against the Temple in light of Acts 21?

    This and many other elements confirm that without Jesus’ glasses, the Tanakh leads to Judaism and not Christianity. The Christian revisionism on the Tanakh is an after the fact novela. But this after the fact novela confirms the anteriority of Judaism’s principles and practices.

    From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” Matthew 16:21-22

    What is interesting, is that after calling Peter “Satan”, he does not explain to Peter why he’s wrong, but makes a threat of Hell:

    Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25″For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26″For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

    And right after it, we see Jesus saying:

    27″For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS. 28″Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

    To break up the event:

    1) Peter refuses the idea that the Messiah should die until he has accomplished his purpose
    2) Jesus rebukes him harshly callng him Satan-A Hominem argument
    3) He threatens him with eternal damnation if he keeps refusing that the Messiah will die
    4) He makes up an excuse for Peter on why he will die before having fullfilled the messianic criterias.
    5) This excuse is the 2nd coming, that Peter might see in his life time, to confort him in his blind faith Jesus is carefull not to mention Peter directly, cause Peter might die before the other apostles, and the other apostles would notice the false prophecy. So he does not name who from the apostles won’t taste death until the 2nd coming. As such, until the last one die, 2nd coming might still happen! And when the last one dies, it’s too late. Believers who never knew Jesus but have faith can start a revisionist interpretation of Jesus’s words.

    What ressorts of it, is that prior to the after the fact novela(the Gospels), Jews, Peter and of course Satan were all in agreement. Only Jesus disagreed. I don’t think any sincere Christian can deny the fact that without Faith in Jesus’ glasses, the Tanakh vindicates Judaism.

  6. remi4321 says:

    I have been told that I SHOULD not read the Bible in order. I did not listened and now, I came to the conclusion that the trinity is false. After that I had to throw the non-testament… Jesus was not there and most prophecies concerning Jesus have not come to past or are in a spiritual realm that cannot be verified. (He is a King, he rules over the whole earth, he provided atonement, End Time AKA prophecies that he has not fulfilled, etc.). Sad that Christians sees us as blind and would do anything to avoid listening to us.

  7. Michael Skobac says:

    Allow me to call one more Christian witness to the stand. Apologist Walter Riggans has the following to say in his 1995 book “Yehoshua Ben David” : Let me repeat this point: there is no self-evident blueprint in the Hebrew Bible which can be said to unambiguously point to Jesus. Only after one has come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, and more specifically the kind of Messiah that he is, does it all begin to make sense and hang together (p.155).

    • Concerned Reader says:

      It seemed interesting (to me at least) that if we examine the history and trends of Jewish converts to Christianity carefully, such as cases like Pablo Christiani and others, it would probably come as no surprise that they were all “convinced” of Christian claims chiefly by reference only to obscure midrashic texts, were infatuated with mystic trends in the middle ages, and more to the point, were not halachicly based in their reasons for believing that Jesus was the messiah. The error is all in the methodology of asking the questions.

  8. Dina says:

    Following.

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