An Open Letter to “Concerned Reader”

An Open Letter to “Concerned Reader”

Dear Concerned Reader; this letter is in response to your recent comment: July 26, 2014 at 3:59 am .

I will begin by thanking you for your respectful tone and for your sincerity in demonstrating that there are subtle nuances that get lost in the heat of discussion. I will point out however, that in the work of studying nuances, care must be taken that the broader picture doesn’t go lost.

You say that Jesus is important to you because he was the vehicle through which certain truths came to the gentile world. You acknowledge that these truths are present in authentic Judaism but your contention is that Jesus and his story brought them to the gentile world.

I will point out to you that there is a massive effort sponsored by believers in Jesus to bring Jews, who already accept these truths, to devotion to Jesus. This effort is not something new to Christianity; it has always been an integral part of devotion to Jesus. Something is wrong here. If Jesus is merely a vehicle to bring Judaism to the gentiles then why the effort to convert the Jews?

It would seem that for many Christians, belief in Jesus and devotion to him, are not merely a means to achieve an end, but rather these are an end unto themselves. To these Christians, worship of the Creator of the world as Creator of the world is not good enough. These people pour their energy and finances in order to get worshipers of the Creator to worship Jesus. These people see worship of Jesus as something integral to the human experience and with their activities they acknowledge that this experience cannot be found in worship of the Creator. There is something attracting them to Jesus that has nothing to do with “Creator.”

You speak of the Church teaching the sanctity of life and you see this in the fact that gladiator matches lost their popularity with the rise of the Church. I am not sure why the bull-fights in Catholic Spain are so much better than the gladiator matches, but those aren’t necessarily encouraged by the Church. But what do you say to the form of entertainment, not only encouraged by the Church, but invented by the Church? I speak here of watching human beings burn at the stake. There is a Catholic institution called “The Inquisition” which supplied the human fodder for such “entertainment” by the hundreds of thousands. I hope you understand why I don’t see the value of human life as something so deeply integral to the Church’s legacy.

Yes, the Church did bring the Jewish Scriptures to the gentile world and that book teaches the value of human life. But who is to say that the Church did what would have otherwise not happened? Had Jesus not been born it is entirely possible that the message of the Jewish Scriptures would have eventually seeped into the gentile world. After all, even with the Church’s missionary activity, it took the Reformation and the Renaissance, both of which were opposed by the Catholic Church, to get some of the basic principles of civilization to the masses. If the Church would not have taught the pagan to despise the Jew, perhaps the pagan would have more quickly seen the light? I don’t know that this would have happened but you don’t know that it wouldn’t have happened.

The Church is a tree of good and evil. The good is what it took from Judaism and this is what makes its teachings attractive to the human conscience. Just because the Church rode the light of truth for its own benefit doesn’t mean that anyone owes anything to Jesus. And it certainly doesn’t justify calling him the fulfillment of the hopes of the Jewish prophets.

The Jewish prophets foretold of a world united in worship of the Creator of heaven and earth to the exclusion of anyone else. They saw this as the ultimate climax of the history of man. The missionary effort to get worshipers of the Creator to give their hearts to another entity is a step backwards. And the effort to expose the falsity of the claims of this missionary campaign is a step in the direction of the prophets of the Jewish Scriptures.

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Thank You

Yisroel C. Blumenthal

 

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146 Responses to An Open Letter to “Concerned Reader”

  1. Dina says:

    I haven’t had time to talk to you guys these past few days. I hope to have more time soon, but I just wanted to quickly jump in here and say that I told Concerned Reader a while back that Constantine pretty much imposed Christianity by force on the Roman empire. Imagine if Christianity had never been, and therefore instead of converting to Christianity, the famous emperor had joined the growing movement of God fearers which died when Christianity was born.

    It’s impossible to know what might have been.

    Furthermore, Christianity has more Jewish blood on its hands than any other culture or religion. Not too long ago, Christians were complicit in the attempted genocide of the Jewish people. And the direction Christians are taking today in Europe (and even now in the United States) regarding anti-Semitism is not encouraging.

    This is besides for the massive bloodshed Christians inflicted on each other throughout the centuries in wars and in their system of courts (such as capital punishment of petty thieves and the infamous witch trials, a point I keep making which no one has responded to). It’s only in the last half century or so that Christianity has begun to recoil from murder.

    This is not to say that Christianity has done nothing good, of course. It’s a very mixed bag, in my opinion. But the notion that Christianity introduced to the gentile world the idea of the sanctity of human life? Not very convincing.

  2. Not too long ago, Christians were complicit in the attempted genocide of the Jewish people. And the direction Christians are taking today in Europe (and even now in the United States) regarding anti-Semitism is not encouraging.

    The holocoust was not helped by the anti Jewish polemic of the NT, but to lay the Shoah on Christian shoulders as if that evil was a forgone Christian conclusion is a little strong Dina. Nazism was not a Christian phenomenon, but a radicalized politicized version of eugenics and fascist nationalist notions popularized in universities. A heinous attempt at Social Darwinism. I’m not saying that such Christian silence was excusable, but the Church does not condone Genocide, and I’m concerned if that is your perception, in light of the progress our communities have made.

    Ethnic poles (Christians) and Jehovah’s witnesses were also targeted for extermination by Hitler and his evil compatriots. Read the document Dabru Emet.

    • Birthe jensen says:

      I agree, the believesystem of the nazis has nothing to do with Christianty but is a mixture of Chriatianity and pagan worship – occultisme. I also agree that many “lower and unwanted” were killed as well.
      My family we also suffered under the evil nazi regime. Hitler and his suporters started to “cleanse” his own pwople – the Germans, then brainwashed everybody else; before he stared his rampage over Europa. But his main target was the Jews, I can only say: “Never again”. And I know you agree.

      Mvh. Birthe

      • Absolutely, I agree, never again. Hitler did indeed euthanize elderly Germans, (& the physically and mentally disabled, so I would have been killed too.) He used religion in a very rhetorical way, (as most politicians do.) in fact, we have documentation of the Nazi attempt to control the German churches, and resistance to those efforts. Bishops who refused Nazi ideology were sent to the camps, as were any Christians with Jewish ancestry. It was a system of racial hate, based on the old world views of the Germanic volk, and Eugenics pseudoscience. I will be the first to decry Christian anti Judaism, and have done so on this blog many times. That said, the belief that Christians caused the Shoah is a very very serious charge.

        • Dina says:

          I did not say that Christians caused the Holocaust, but it would never have got off the ground without an accumulation of Christian anti-Semtiism. Historians trace a direct path from anti-Semitism rooted in the gospels (to Martin Luther) to the Holocaust. Hitler knew no one would protest because of this anti-Semitism. (Read A Moral Reckoning by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen.)

          A massive protest by the church stopped Hitler’s eugenics program (at least publicly). Not only was there no similar outcry when he started deporting Jews, but Christians–including Christian clergy!–at best remained silent and at worst actively cooperated. (There were notable exceptions, of course.) It is to this that I refer when I said Christians were complicit.

          Please note, again, that I said Christians were complicit; I did not say they caused it. Those are two different things, and I still stand by what I said. I’m not impressed, historically speaking, by Christians’ regard for human life. Neither should you be.

          • You say Christians were complicit in the Shoah because of anti Jewish Christian texts, but Christians also died in the Shoah for their beliefs,millions of them to. Most of the ethnic poles were Christians, all Jehovah’s witnesses the nazis could round up were Christians, elderly and sickly Germans were Christians, and over 400,000 Serbian Orthodox were killed. That’s not even counting all the poor Romani people. it’s not as though one group suffered. No offense meant, but the Church also didn’t just do nothing, nor did hitler like the Church. Most of the flack that the Vatican received for its inaction, came from its own bishops and presbyters.The pope and churches didn’t voice opposition out loud, but could they have and lived? We have to remember the Vatican was surrounded by mousolini’s fascists, and by the end of the war, the SS. They hid people, got them out of occupied countries, etc. Could they have done more? Yes! Could the US have bombed the rail lines? Yes! Did the Christians do nothing? No! Saying the holocaust wouldn’t have happened without the Church, we don’t really know for sure, but laying responsibility for something so heinous on Christian shoulders is at least partially unfair, at least your emphasis you are coming to this issue with. It’s also worth noting that during periods of persecution in the Middle Ages, people went to ecclesiastical authorities, because in Canon law there were edicts of toleration.

          • Dina says:

            Check out this articles by a very serious scholar (I also recommend his books).

          • Dina says:

            Oops, I forgot to post it, here it is:

            http://www.menorahreview.org/article.aspx?id=1

  3. Imagine if Christianity had never been, and therefore instead of converting to Christianity, the famous emperor had joined the growing movement of God fearers which died when Christianity was born.

    I responded to this, by noting that being declared a halachic monotheist doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to believe in the Bible, or Sinai, and as such, knowledge of G-d, by direct experience, belief in covenant and commandment, and other cornerstones of scripture, do not necessarily follow from being a G-d fearer.

    • Also, the ethical norms and practices of Christianity are based on the ethics for G-d fearers.

      • Dina says:

        Yes, well, I wish they had practiced what they preached. If you shall know them by their fruits, then the fruits of Christianity have been very mixed.

    • Dina says:

      Concerned Reader, God fearers were not “halachic monotheists,” as you call them. God fearers were gentiles who were impressed with Judaism, they hung out in the synagogues, they believed in the truth of the Torah–in other words they were bonafide Noahides. This growing movement was, unfortunately, lost to Christianity. I cannot know that it would have continued to grow, but what if it had?

      That would have been a pretty big deal, and it would have saved the world much human suffering (not just Jewish).

      • Oh so they were polytheists?

        • I wouldn’t say god fearers were lost to Christianity Dina, I would say it developed as a community in a diversified context.

          • Dina says:

            No, no, the God fearer movement was growing but then petered out as a result of Christianity. Anyway, I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere. It may have been John Gager’s book?

            If anyone following this thread knows a historical source for this, I would much appreciate if you would post it.

            Thanks,
            Dina

        • Dina says:

          No, I mean they weren’t what you describe as halachic monotheists who had no Biblical concept of God, like Aristotle. That’s what you always seem to mean when you say “halachic monotheist.” But of course they were halachic monotheists; they also accepted the Torah as true and respected the Pharisees.

          And I think you are getting distracted again. You aren’t responding to my points but are, as Concerned Also said, focusing on small details.

          • Dina, G-d fearers in the second temple period did not need circumcision, dietary observance, Shabbat, or any other positive commandments or theology essential to what makes G-d who he is, to be considered G-d fearers that’s my point, and it’s not a small detail. G-dfearers count as basically moral resident aliens according to the sources. My bet would be that many of these G-d fearers were in Hellenistic diaspora synagogues (such as those at Antioch, Alexandria, like Dura Europos, etc. These people were likely worshiping among the allegotists that Philo was so opposed to in his writings. Also, we know from Roman sources that G-d fearing Gentiles were not granted Jewish exemptions regarding roman Cult service or civic duties because they were 30% of the population. They still had to pay taxes and worship rome’s gods. That trend did not change until Christianity. Christians were persecuted because they wouldn’t worship caesar, and it wasn’t until later that they got toleration.

          • Dina says:

            Right, they didn’t get toleration until Constantine converted, pretty much. What if he’d been a God fearer, instead? Then the pagan laws that included the God fearers would have ended.

            My point is that you can’t know what might have happened without Christianity–maybe it would have been better. Maybe not. Your response is to speculate on small details like what synagogues the God fearers might have prayed in or what kind of monotheists they were.

            I didn’t know they were 30% of the population. If that is correct, that is a large minority! That’s pretty significant.

          • Dina says:

            Don’t forget that as soon as Christians became the ascendant power, they persecuted everyone else out of existence. The only people among them that they failed to convert is the Jewish people.

  4. This is besides for the massive bloodshed Christians inflicted on each other throughout the centuries in wars and in their system of courts (such as capital punishment of petty thieves and the infamous witch trials, a point I keep making which no one has responded to).

    Lest we forget, this Bloodshed was inflicted in medieval and pre-modern theocratic states, I made this point, to which you said, fair point.

    More to come soon.

    • Dina says:

      Did I say that? I don’t remember ever saying such a thing. If I did, I take it back!

      I think that what I did say is that it’s not fair to compare secular, modern Israel with pre-modern theocratic states. That’s not the same as saying that Christianity is responsible for much bloodshed, including the examples I gave, which I still stand by.

      • Here is the exact quote. It was I who said the comparison was unfair..

        Dina said, Concerned Reader, I am astonished that you would not consider the State of Israel to be in a position of power to give back to the Arabs under their control what they suffered under their hands for over a millennium. Yet the fact is that the best place for Arabs in the Middle East today in terms of liberty and economic prosperity is Israel.

        Back to the language of the day: the language of the common Jew was Aramaic, but literacy was very high among males and the first language they learned to read was Hebrew. It would have made sense for a text directed at the Jews to be written in Aramaic first or Hebrew second in order to reach the common man.

        Concerned Reader says:
        June 26, 2014 at 11:38 pm
        Dina, with the utmost respect, the reason that I did not use Israel as an example is because Israel is a secular democracy, not a halachic state. Comparing the actions of the modern state of Israel to the actions of a theocratic empire, or kingdom, such as those that existed in the middle ages (during the time of Church dominance, crusades, pogroms, or inquisitions,) is hardly an appropriate comparison. My statement was comparing apples to apples, (religious state to religious state,) not a modern secular democracy, to theocracy. I can concede on the issue of language, although the eastern Churches do have texts in local languages, and it made sense in the context of Christianity to write in Greek. The idea that there was no continuity in later Christianity with the earlier movement is impossible. Gentile Christians who had only been exposed to the ethics for G-d fearers stayed true to what they had been taught, and history caused much of the venom that later developed, I don’t and wouldn’t deny the horrible things that happened, but to say that the Church was utterly unaware of its own tradition is improbable.
        Dina says:
        June 27, 2014 at 12:01 am
        Concerned Reader, fair enough. How about comparing the modern secular democratic State of Israel with the modern secular democracies of early to mid-twentieth-century Europe?

        I haven’t worked out yet what you are responding to in the latter part of your comment. I suspect you might once again be responding to a point I did not make; I confess I’m a bit confused.

  5. Paul Summers says:

    Hello

    I was wondering this, after reading the Jewish scriptures, the prophet s in perticular, is there anyone of the prophets that actually spoke well of the jewish nation. I dont mean they spoke againts the people because they were Jewish, I mean did anyone actually say ” well done you, for being so upright and faithfull to God”.?
    There probally is just a text, but could someone please show me.

    I see plenty of warnings of punishment, warings of pestilence, famine and even mothers eating there own babies. I see plenty of Gods heart crying and persistent promises of restoration after repentance.

    I keep reading about God constantly sending prohet after prophet, and these prohets being rejected and and then killed for speaking Gods words.

    Now I read the Jewish written NT and see a very similar pattern. Is it just me, or is there a definite recurring theme here. After comparing both testaments I cannot help but see a consistent rejection of God by the majority, and only a minority of faithful believers who actually believe in the God of creation.

    When The Lord God of Israel spoke with Moses, and revealed His Name, God said that He was long suffering God.

    He wasnt joking!!

    Someone stated here that the Jewish people listen diliantgly to the prohets. Now thats a statement that needs framing and hanging on the western wall.

    x

    .

    • Dina says:

      Paul, you admitted to something very important, that even in the “Old Testament” you see a pattern of Jews not listening to the prophets but for a small, faithful minority.

      Yay! I’m so glad to hear you say that.

      By the way, how many prophets does Tanach say the Jews killed? I would be interested in seeing your very long list, backed by Scriptural citations.

      (The wicked kings who did not represent their people in their wickedness, like Ahab and Jezebel, don’t count.)

      Peace and blessings,
      Dina

      • Yaakov says:

        Totally random question for Concerned Reader: Why do you write “G-d” and not “god?” This practice is a Jewish custom as extra respect for the Divine Name. When you (ie- you personally as a Christian) say “god,” you are usually referring to a being that is related somehow to Jesus. In that case, I think we can be lenient in regard to minor Jewish customs and write “god.” In addition, this custom does not apply to computer screens.
        I guess, after some consideration, I think it is a little strange that you’re sending a subtle “We have the same god” message to Jews by writing his name that way…
        In any case, if you insist on writing “G-d,” may I suggest that you also write “Je-us?” 🙂

        • Yaakov says:

          The only reason why I brought this up is because I’m sure that you decided to do it for a reason, as you are “thought out” in your positions.

  6. I do indeed write G-d out of respect I have, for G-d, and for Judaism. Why do I not write Je-us? Because the name Jesus, is already an abbreviated form (yeshua contains 2 letters abreviated.) There is no nefarious hinting going on, sorry to disappoint you. By now, writing G-d is more comfortable to me than the other way.

    Just to clarify something, I understand the perspective you guys are bringing, in that you say, Jesus was not at Sinai, so to worship him is considered idolatrous. Judaism does not accept the points I raised about, Memra, or Logos, or active intellect present in Jewish tradition, so saying its foreign worship I would say is a point of discussion. The point I Have been trying to make, is that Jesus, even if he were an idol, (a point with which I disagree) he would be thoroughly unique in the world of idols in that he points to Hashem as the sole source of his own authority, on more than one occasion. He says the most important commandment is the Shema. He would be an idol that goes against idolatry’s own purpose (distracting us from G-d.) As your own question points out the name Jesus/Yeshua contains the sacred name of G-d, the only name given under heaven by which we must be saved. All trinitarian passages say in the NAME singular of the father, son, and Holy Spirit. Christians felt they had experienced Hashem himself, in a deeply personal face to face way in Jesus, not some other deity. There is no other deity. I can understand calling Christianity heresy, but not idolatry, because the intention is the service of Hashem, and as I’ve pointed out, even core Christian doctrines serve to distance Christians from idolatrous religions, not to imitate them.

    • LarryB says:

      CR
      If J is both fully god and fully man, then he is least another god.

      • LarryB says:

        That would be -at least-

      • No, because the human nature of Jesus (everything about him that is human including birth, mind, body, soul, and spirit, and that he was tempted and died) is not regarded as divine by Christians, nor is it treated as such. In other words, when Christians say divine person of father, of the Son, and spirit, it means that the revealed wisdom of G-d is the self reflection/communication of the father that tells us who he is, and that he relates to us personally. Something you may not have heard about the trinity, is that there is only one will in the trinity, not three. There is the will of the father, communicated by the Son who is the reflection/revelation of the father, which is carried out by the those in the spirit, which is the providence of G-d in this world. When Judaism says the Torah speaks in human language, this is akin to how our religion understands the term person. Person does not mean 3 guys, minds, corporeal existences, or bodies exist in heaven. It means that while G-d is the source of everything, he is not abstract, he is personal. The question comes from the pagans asking how do we in fact know that he is personal if he is transcendent? We know this because of revelation from our teacher who was tabernacle of the wisdom of G-d, which wisdom, called Logos/son of G-d, shows us that G-d has a will, and so can rightly be called a person distinct relationally but not separate from what we would call Hashem as he exists in himself. He is Transcendent person, revealed person, and acting person. The use of 3 there in trinity is meant to denote relation, not division or likeness to created things. For example, G-d cannot die, but when we die, we can truly say that hashem sympathizes and experiences suffering and death with us. How do we know? Because his wisdom/word/Torah/son which is the reflection of who he is, tells us he shares in these experiences with us truly. The problem I’ve noticed is that many people see Christians taking communion, watching a film with An actor playing Jesus, or saying praise Jesus, and they get the impression that Christian devotion is to the man, as a man. All of our teachings (when you learn them properly) say that G-d alone is G-d, and a man can never be called G-d. Only G-d can come to redeem man, and man never redeems himself. Father, Son, spirit, denote distinctions of relation in the actions of G-d,which actions are who G-d is, since he is the essence of all being and action. G-d is thinker, thinking, and thought,he is all, and in all, there is none but him. He is the source of everything who himself has no outside source. Have you ever heard the question atheists ask where they ask, “who made the maker, who designed the designer, ad infinitum into infinite regression?” Christians can answer this question on theological grounds. G-d is the essence of unity and of being. That essence is being in continual communion. G-d is creator because the heart of his being is to create, G-d communes with man because the heart of his being is to commune, G-d providentially acts in holiness, because the heart of his being is to Act, and all that personally.

        • Dina says:

          I’m sure this is all very clear in your mind, but one plus one plus one equals three no matter how you slice it. This unbelievably complicated and twisty way of trying to explain the trinity as one god is exactly the problem–it is an explanation of a type of worship that was *unknown to our fathers.* (Wish I could use italics to emphasize those last four words.)

          Here’s a giveaway: “They get the impression that Christian devotion is to the man, as a man.” The fact that you could even say these words shows there is a problem, that rather, we get the impression that Christian devotion is to the man, as a god.

          Whether you like it or not, the overwhelming majority of Christians for most of Christian history including today revere Jesus as a god, despite all your strenuous explanations to the contrary.

          Do you find it utterly incomprehensible that Jews would tell Jesus (if indeed he said all those things that are attributed to him): “You are introducing new concepts; therefore you are a false prophet”? Do you really not understand the Jewish position that the introduction of a new type of worship is idolatry?

          Halacha differentiates between Christianity and idolatry–yes, Christianity is a lesser form of idolatry, yes, we don’t call Christians “akum,” but it’s still foreign worship, “avoda zara,” idolatry.

          • 1x1x1=1 is a more apt math description Dina, despite 3 distinct integers 1s being in the equation. It’s not complicated at all Dina, if you can allow from an interpretative standpoint for the possibility that the commandments about G-d requiring exclusive worship, about having no form, and about being alone with no other, are not necessarily statements describing G-d’s internal nature, but rather his will and position as venerable authority. As an example, If I were to be in a room and say through an intercom that I am the only sovereign ruler, that you cannot see my face, and that you shall follow nobody else, this is not of necessity a statement about my own nature, but about my will and authority. The same is true of hashem in Torah. If G-d has no form, yet theTorah says you were shown to know, it means you perceived something. Scripture says, they saw the G-d of Israel and that they ate and drank Exodus 24:10-11. G-d is also perceived as a man of war. G-d is not limited to a formless person less concept by scripture, that is your interpretation.

          • Dina says:

            It may not sound complex to you, but I with my limited intelligence find your argumentation unbelievably complicated and very, very hard to follow. (I even have a hard time with math but I can count on my fingers, and this is a question of addition, not multiplication, since Jesus was added on later.) The simple fact is, your explanation is not in the Torah. All these words you are using are not in the Torah. All the Torah tells us is that we were at Sinai and we saw nothing. The Torah tells us precious little about God’s nature, so I think it’s a waste of time to discuss it.

            Everything you wrote is stuff made up by theologians to explain the trinity. It’s not in the Torah. None of it. It wasn’t known to our fathers. None of it. Therefore, it’s idolatry (sorry for repeating myself so many times).

          • LarryB says:

            CR may I try? I don’t think you can use ones since each one represents a different value ‘name’
            God x Jesus x Holy Spirit=God. So we need to prove a x b x c = a. Where b=J and c=HS and a=G Is there an engineer in the house?

          • Dina says:

            My husband is an engineer :).

          • LarryB says:

            Dina
            I wrote that for you. See if he can come up with positive numbers. Anything less than a god won’t do.

        • LarryB says:

          CR
          I’m not talking about his human nature. The god part is what I’m talking about, that’s the mystery we have to swallow. If he is a separate entity than god and he must be if he does his fathers will then if he is fully god and fully human then he is another god yet also human.

          • I would indeed ask that question if you were calling yourself the supreme being. The question isn’t strange at all for the following reason. Given that G-d is described in the Torah as being beyond all of creation,nwhat can it possibly mean for his presence to dwell among us?

          • Dina says:

            I think presence is just a figure of speech. Maybe someone more learned than I can take up this discussion, then.

          • LarryB says:

            CR
            I know , the creator becomes the created. He cannot do that without form. He cannot do that without being” unknown to our fathers” as Dina pointed out.

  7. Can I ask you guys a question? What is Shekinah, and what is its relation to Hashem?

    • Dina says:

      Hi Concerned Reader,

      That is a really strange question, but I will try to answer it. It’s strange because I have never heard of a discussion, in Jewish parlance, of the relation of the Shechina to Hashem. But nevertheless, here is my simple, layperson’s explanation.

      Shechina is the Hebrew word for presence. It is the noun form of the infinitive lishkon, לשכון (to dwell, to reside). This is off the top of my head.

      I don’t know what more to say. Would you ask me what is the relation of my presence to myself? If I say that I sensed someone’s presence in the room and I turn around and it’s my husband, would you ask me what is the relation of my husband’s presence to my husband? Do you see why this is such a strange question?

  8. Sorry for the double post.

    I would indeed ask that question about your presence, if you were calling yourself the supreme being, and saying that you were incomparable to anything that I could possibly understand. The question isn’t strange at all for that, and the following reason. Given that G-d is described in the Torah as being beyond all of creation, what can it possibly mean for his presence to dwell among us?

  9. LarryB, you say that creator becomes created. He doesn’t, but he’s not locked out of creation the way your interpretation intimates. You say that your fathers heard G-d speak mitzvot, and Moses wrote them down. This has to mean, that though G-d is beyond all things, he is still personally knowable to us. His becoming known, does not negate the fact that he is beyond all things, but these are two very distinct descriptions of G-d.

  10. Dina, the proofs you have requested for the presence of Christian theological perspectives in ancient Jewish traditions have been provided to you by me amply, along with what these ideas actually mean to Christians, contra continued assertions to the contrary, but you have said that the data and evidence provided by me does not count as proof, because you reject it. I could bring the ideas in the Dead Sea scrolls too, but you would just provide the same answer. It’s not that proof isn’t there, but your interpretation doesn’t allow you to accept it. I respect that fully, but that’s not Christianity’s fault, and their ideas do have an ancient basis. Second temple era Jews, based on second temple traditions, taught Gentiles who became Christians from their tradition, and you can say that those people were wrong, but where is impartial evidence? Christianity did not invent the notion of G-d, his word/agent of the presence, and his divine presence/shekinah. Sure, they used the terms trinity and father, son, and spirit, to speak of this, but the monotheistic content did not lose its monotheistic meaning when used by them. It seems like objective evidence from scholars matters, but carries little weight, so I’m going to stop posting on this particular subject now, because it’s not a fair dialogue when all the primary sources are not considered. I’ll still post, but not on theology, because evidence I provide is not viewed as relevant.

    • LarryB says:

      CR
      It’s an age old debate not one you will easily convince people of.
      449 By attributing to Jesus the divine title “Lord”, the first confessions of the Church’s faith affirm from the beginning that the power, honor and glory due to God the Father are due also to Jesus, because “he was in the form of God”. That is not taught in the Torah, it wasn’t known to the fathers.

    • Dina says:

      Concerned Reader, what are you responding to? Where on this page did I ask you for proof that Christian ideas were present in Jewish tradition? I’m confused!

      Thanks,
      Dina

    • Dina says:

      Concerned Reader,

      Are you saying, then, that Christianity introduced not a single new way of worship that was foreign to the Jewish people?

      Are you also saying that impartial scholars (as if there is such a thing!) all agree with that statement?

      Why do the scholars who support your views carry weight but the scholars who support mine don’t? How is that fair dialogue on your part?

      • Dina says:

        Why is it not fair for a Jew to compare anything any sect taught to what the Torah actually teaches and to conclude whether it’s a new type of worship or not?

        • Dina, you have asked me repeatedly, as others have, to supply evidence that the Christians didn’t introduce foreign notions unknown to your fathers. To be fair, I have never said that your view had no support at all, in scholarship, or elsewhere, never. In fact, I have said that some early Christians had views similar to yours, hence I’ve said many times that I have no problems with your tradition.

          That said, the very existence and claim made by Judaism of an oral tradition existing throughout history implies by default the presence of many, diverse, even contradictory views, that can arise from a common source without malicious intent, as that is an unavoidable occurrence in human discourse on any subject in that situation. If you have an oral tradition, diverse beliefs or schools of thought are unavoidable, and many people can have an “authentic” reading even if they disagree on fundamentals, or describe them differently, because scripture is a document literally born out of discussion between G-d and humans, and humans with each other. We know there were many traditions, and heated discussions about whether to commit them to writing, and diverse schools of thought in second temple times. On the contrary, people do disagree, and are allowed to, that’s very normal, especially when your claiming a chain of tradition. When you say, “what Torah actually teaches,” this is off course an interpretation of what it teaches, you have yours and Christians have theirs, the Sadducees had theirs, Philo, Targums, etc had theirs. All of these perspectives (given judaism’s and Christianity’s mutual shared roots in second temple times,) can be justly called traditional, even with our great disagreements. Judaism and Christianity as they exist today were born from common root traditions that were clarified in different ways by both communities. it is in that vein that I have offered evidence.

          You asked: did Christians introduce not anything new? I would say they didn’t describe anything new that they didn’t also define in a biblically and traditionally consistent way as others had also done with innovation. I mean, all the important distinctions, clarifications of what was being said and how it should be understood, as biblically consistent were maintained, and connected to the bible. Traditions imply a situation that can cope with change, a situation averse to becoming monolithic.

          • Dina says:

            Concerned Reader, I read only the first sentence of this comment, but I have to respond to that. I did not ask you for evidence that Christians introduced a new type of worship; I stated it as a matter of fact. I don’t even see how you can honestly dispute the assertion. If Jesus had not introduced anything new, his movement would not have been rejected.

            Furthermore, what was Jesus’s great teaching, then, if he had nothing new to add?

          • Dina says:

            Hi Concerned Reader,

            I’m finally responding to this comment as promised, hoping to mollify you for responding only to your first sentence.

            This brings us back to an earlier argument: whose interpretation of the Torah then is valid? Obviously, the interpretation of the target audience. I explained this more fully back then and also explained why the Pharisee interpretation is the authentic one, while the Sadducees and the rest were mistaken. I can try to dig up that comment if you wish.

            But also I’d like to add another point. You say we can’t have a serious argument if I casually dismiss the work of other second Temple sectarians (did you read the article Rabbi B. posted to you on this? It’s a good study of the subject). Do you remember my contention that new concepts are rejected? That applies not only to Jesus but also to other sects. That’s why these sects and their traditions did not survive the centuries.

            For example, pre-Christian Jewish apocryphal writings discuss the concept of dualism. This influenced Christianity in its idea of God and the devil. I would say that Christianity was greatly influenced by many of these writings. But these writings contained ideas of worship which were unknown to our fathers; they were therefore rejected. That’s why these writings don’t carry any weight with us. You might argue that this is circular reasoning–but it goes back to Deuteronomy 13.

            I agree with you that diverse opinions abound in an oral tradition. The Talmud records many contradicting opinions. But you err in saying that “many people can have an authentic reading even if they disagree on fundamentals,” because the disagreements in our oral tradition are never about fundamentals. They are usually about finer points in the law and small details.

  11. Jim says:

    A short parable:

    A married man was once caught in bed with another woman. His wife immediately sued for divorce. The man, however, did not want to divorce his wife. He maintained that he loved her very much. As he pleaded with her not to go through with proceedings, he assured her, “I was thinking of you the whole time. I could understand you being angry if I were like other men caught in adultery. When they have relations with women who are not their wives, they do it because they want to be with other women. With me, it’s not like that. With me, I think only of you, how much I love you. Don’t you see, this isn’t adultery? If it were, you’d have to admit that it’s an entirely unique form of adultery.”

    He was out of the house within the week.

    Jim

  12. The problem with this parable Jim, is that Christians are not limiting G-d to operation through Jesus, and Jesus never sought an adulterous honor for himself, or to be against Hashem, but upheld G-d, the Shema, and the practices in his day. He was not teaching anyone to abandon the G-d of their fathers. Moses spoke with authority in all of Deuteronomy based on his recollection of events alone and he spoke with authority, after the giving of the earlier books of the Torah had already occurred, but nobody would say that he spoke presumptuously, or in an adulterous manner, just because it was him speaking alone based on his recollection. It is also not wrong that we call the Torah, the Torah of Moses, right?

    You might say in response that you don’t pray to Moses, but the fact that the whole substance of the divine service was delivered through him, and Judaism places him on the highest level of any human to ever live, and makes no qualms about it, should give some Pause. Deuteronomy has the sanctity of G-d’s word despite being a written record of Moses’ recollections and his reiteration of the Torah. I know your tradition does not hold to Philo, but he was a second temple era Pharisee who called Moses “the embodiment of Hashem’s forethought.” Ie his wisdom. All this is meant to illustrate, is that the lines of separation between us are truly not so clear cut when all data is considered. That’s my only point.

    • To clarify, this is not me discussing theology, but pointing out a flaw in the parable’s logic. Jesus is never worshipped for his own sake, but is always identified (even in his name) with Hashem’s manifest presence.

      • Dina says:

        Actually, it’s an excellent parable, Concerned Reader.

        I read an article once by a woman defending a sickening concept called “polyamorous marriage.” She and her husband both decided to take on another person. This person did not replace the husband or wife, which was the primary relationship. But she felt that one man could not possibly satisfy all the needs of one woman, so she took another man. This, she claimed, increased the love and passion between her and her husband. Both husband and wife were friends with each other’s extra I-don’t-know-what-to-call-it, who visited often and were known to the children as Uncle or Aunt.

        If it doesn’t hurt the marriage–if in fact it improves it–it sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it?

        I of course found the description nauseating, and I also find that it fits with the parable Jim presented.

    • Dina says:

      Philo was not a Pharisee, Concerned Reader.

  13. He had pharisaic influences Dina, as did Jesus. If there is anything I’ve learned, nothing is a monolith.

    • Dina says:

      In the interest of accuracy, he was not a Pharisee, nor did he identify with the Pharisees particularly. Living in Alexandria, whatever Pharisaic influence he might have had would have been much more limited than Jesus in Israel.

      It’s correct to characterize Philo as a Hellenistic Jew; I doubt that description fits Jesus.

      Concerned Reader, you did not say he had Pharisaic influence (which is certain) but that he was a Pharisee. That was what I was responding to.

    • Pharisees were a very diverse group Dina. It is possible to consider a person who has basic views in common as a member, as pharisee is like the second temple equivalent of a movement like Protestantism. A movement with several different flavors. Hellenistic influence was not entirely unknown to the Pharisees as is commonly thought.

      • Dina says:

        Concerned Reader, nevertheless there were distinct sects and Philo did not belong with, nor identify with, the Pharisee sect. To say that he was a Pharisee is a historical error.

        You wrote that Philo was a Pharisee. I just checked three sources: Wikipedia, the Encyclopedia Britannica, and Fordham University’s Internet History Sourcebook. All three mentioned that he was a Hellenized Jew, none mentioned the word “Pharisee.”

        Seriously, you need to demand a refund from your college :). Check your facts, sir!

        • Does Philo rely only on only the pshat of scripture, or does he have traditional explanations and interpretations that go with his sources, that he considers authoritative? I never said he wasn’t a Hellenistic Jew, merely that Pharisee is a title that can fit many diverse groups, and in that sense, he was one, perhaps I should add in my opinion. He is indebted to pharisaic traditions, as he is to Hellenism. Modern scholarship has lead people to question whether he was the sole product of Hellenism, and has noted that he drew on much tradition from the land of Israel.

          http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12116-philo-judaeus#anchor2

          His Knowledge of Hebrew.
          Although he devoted himself largely to the Greek language and literature, especially Greek philosophy, Philo’s national Jewish education is also a factor to be taken into account. While he read the Old Testament chiefly in the Greek translation, not deeming it necessary to use the Hebrew text because he was under the wrong impression that the Greek corresponded with it, he nevertheless understood Hebrew, as his numerous etymologies of Hebrew names indicate (see Siegfried, “Philonische Studien,” in Merx, “Arehiv für Wissenschaftliche Erforshung des A. T.” 1871, ii. 2, 143-163; idem, “Hebräische Worterklärungen des Philo und Ihre Einwirkung auf die Kirchenväter,” 1863). These etymologies are not in agreement with modern Hebrew philology, but are along the lines of the etymologic midrash to Genesis and of the earlier rabbinism. His knowledge of the Halakah was not profound. B. Ritter, however, has shown (l.c.) that he was more at home in this than has been generally assumed (see Siegfried’s review of Ritter’s book in “Jenaer Literaturzeitung,” 1879, No. 35, where the principal points of Philo’s indebtedness to the Halakah are enumerated). In the Haggadah, however, he was very much at home, not only in that of the Bible, but especially in that of the earlier Palestinian and the Hellenistic Midrash (Frankel, “Ueber den Einfluss der Palästinensischen Exegese auf die Alexandrinische Hermeneutik,” 1851, pp. 190-200; Schürer, l.c. p. 546; “De Vita Mosis,” i. 1 [ii. 81]).

          • Dina says:

            Concerned Reader, in the link you provided, the only place where “Pharisee” appears is in this paragraph, and it disproves what you said:

            “Philo included in his philosophy both Greek wisdom and Hebrew religion, which he sought to fuse and harmonize by means of the art of allegory that he had learned from the Stoics. **His work was not accepted by contemporary Judaism.** “The sophists of literalness,” as he calls them (“De Somniis,” i. 16-17), “opened their eyes superciliously” when he explained to them the marvels of his exegesis. Greek science, suppressed by the victorious Phariseeism (Men. 99), was soon forgotten. Philo was all the more enthusiastically received by the early Christians, some of whom saw in him a Christian.”

            I put asterisks around a particular sentence that you should note.

            Nothing in the paragraph you cited suggests that Philo could have gone under the title of Pharisee because Pharisee was a diverse group of people. This is absurd. Words have no meaning, the way you are using them.

          • Ok, I’ll amend my statement to note that he had pharisaic influence.

          • Dina says:

            Thanks, that’s an acceptable amendment.

  14. Jim says:

    The assumed role of Jesus within Christianity should not be downplayed. He is (in most sects of Christianity) worshipped as a god. Moreover, the NT talks endlessly about Jesus. When Christians say that Jesus is akin to Moses, they are ignoring this fact. One does not read Tanach and find endless references to Moses. A search for the word Moses shows his name mentioned only twice in Isaiah, for example, once in Jeremiah, and not at all in Ezekiel. They do not hearken back to the words and works of Moses as Moses’ words, but as God’s. The NT, however, constantly makes mention of Jesus, not only in the Gospel narratives, but throughout the epistles. The Apocalypse has the apostle John receiving a vision of Jesus (“one like the Son of Man”) who gives him messages to seven churches. One can hardly imagine a similar vision of Moses being given to Isaiah.

    Nor can one imagine the Jewish people directing their adoration to him in a similar fashion as that done in the Apocalypse: “To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1.5-6.) Can one imagine exalting Moses in such a fashion? Who ever wrote letters in the name of Moses “who freed us from Egypt with his staff”? Such a thing would be a terrible crime. Moreover, one can see that the Church here is usurping the role of Israel. It was God who made them a nation of priests, but here we have Jesus making the church a nation. Jesus is not being made comparable to Moses. He is being exalted in a fashion much different than honoring one’s teacher.

    But some will say that I am exaggerating. After all, the priests in the verse are serving Jesus’ God and Father. They will say that they are not serving Jesus then. He is directing their worship to God, not himself. Didn’t I read the very thing I quoted? Indeed, I did. But it is also evident that he is being honored himself. He loved and freed the Christian. It was not the work of God, the Father, but Jesus, the Son. What you have are two distinct entities being worshipped, even if one is considered a subordinate worship. Note that in 1.8, God is announcing that He is “the Alpha and the Omega,” while in 1.17 Jesus is claiming to be “the first and the last”. Similarly, in verse 5.13 you have praise being offered to God and Jesus: “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” The one on the throne is supposed to be God while the lamb is Jesus. Note how they are both receiving worship together.

    Can one imagine saying the same thing about Moses? May it never be so!

    One can see how much Jesus distracts worship away from God. It takes very little reflection. The Christian does believe that God ought to be worshipped. No doubt they have a certain awe of God, albeit flawed. But they also honor a man as God. They turn their attention to him. He is not a messenger like Moses. “Worthy is the lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5.11). I apologize for writing those words, but they draw our attention to the way Christians revere Jesus. God is fearsome. Jesus, the lamb, is gentle, self-sacrificing, uniting the Christian to a terrible God in their minds. God demands life; Jesus gives it. And the adoration they offer Jesus is rooted in the NT.

    In truth, it is an absurdity to equate Jesus to Moses. Nor can one say that Jesus directs one’s attention to God. The things written about Jesus, the adoration given to him has nothing in common with the respect given Moses, a teacher. Rather, Christianity preaches the worship of God in tandem with worshipping a man. Later today, I hope to show that Jesus directed one’s attention away from God in his time on earth.

  15. Jim says:

    Some of the Christians here claim that Jesus only ever directed one’s attention to God, that he did not draw attention to himself. One can hardly imagine a greater argument against this than the Gospel of John, which opens “In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being….” And that Word, of course, was Jesus. Here, John rewrites the opening of the Torah to replace the Creator with Jesus.

    Moreover, John overwrites Pesach with Jesus, making Jesus into the Passover lamb. It is clearly absurd that he attributes the fulfillment of the command not to break the Passover lamb’s bones to Jesus’ bones not being broken. And one ought to strenuously object such obvious abuse of scripture, when one is asked to take it seriously. However, the absurdity of such a claim lends itself more to amusement than to establish serious theology. But the claim that Jesus is the Passover lamb is more significantly troubling than it initial absurdity suggests.

    Making Jesus the Passover lamb directs one’s attention from what God did to what Jesus is supposed to have done. I feel I hardly need to explain the Passover lamb. The story is well known. Exodus 12.26 tells us the meaning of the Passover lamb: “You shall say, ‘It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians and spared our houses.” It is to remind Israel of their deliverance by God. But John expropriates the observance, hi-jacking it to place his own meaning upon it. John takes the sacrifice meant to remind Israel of the Exodus and the great deliverance of God and makes it about the death of Jesus instead. Some will argue that one can remember both things with the sacrifice, now. Adding the crucifixion to the things memorialized in Passover doesn’t mean that one cannot think also of the Exodus. So, now God shares the spotlight. Clearly, attention has been given to Jesus.

    But someone could say that Jesus didn’t point to himself. They could say that John pointed to Jesus, but that was later, in explaining Jesus. Jesus’ ministry was to point to God, and that’s what he did. Anyone who says this is mistaken.

    Jesus clearly draws attention to himself, rewriting the meaning of the unleavened bread. It is related, just like the lamb, to the Exodus. God established the Festival of the Unleavened Bread, and He says, “You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread, for on this very day I brought you out of the land of Egypt: you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a perpetual ordinance” (Ex. 12.17.) Not only does God fix the festival to mark the Exodus, He establishes it in perpetuity.

    Contrast this to Jesus. The Last Supper is at the beginning of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. So, when he takes the bread and breaks it, it is already taking away from God and drawing attention to himself when he says, “Take eat, this is my body” (Mt. 26.26). He says nothing about remembering God. Instead, the disciples are to remember Jesus. In Luke, he takes even another step. “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22.19). Jesus overlays a ceremony to remember himself over one that was meant to remember the acts of God.

    It is not credible to say that Jesus only drew attention to God and never to himself. Because he sometimes said things to which few people could object, does not mean that he never said anything objectionable. Just as the NT at times wrote about honoring God and sometimes about honoring Jesus, so did Jesus divert attention from God to himself. He made a divinely ordained festival to be about himself, distracting from the mighty acts of God in freeing the Jewish people from cruel oppression. To argue that he never drew attention to himself is simply untenable.

    • Yeah, don’t bother to respond to the substance of my post, just tell me I’m wrong, thought so. If you don’t take the text as a whole, you’ll just misinterpret it, just like your doing.

      • Jim says:

        CR,

        I don’t understand your response to my comments.

        I will agree with you this far, that if you don’t take a text as a whole, you are bound to misinterpret it. The Church is the paragon of this. The NT constantly takes the Tanach misinterprets it due to removing pieces of text from the whole. Could any example serve to illustrate this better than the very first time Matthew quotes Tanach? Isaiah 7.14 tells us that a woman is going to name her son Immanuel. Incredibly, Matthew tells us that this was fulfilled in the birth of someone not named Immanuel. But he seems to have recognized that a problem existed; he changed the “she” to a “they”. Now it sounds like “they” (the Church, I suppose) are hailing Jesus with a title.

        The sort of scripture-twisting Matthew has engaged in has shaped the minds of Christians. Note your own appeal to Jesus’ name as special, because it contains the special name of God. But not only is Jesus not the only Yeshua historically, he’s not the only one in the NT. Moreover, his name isn’t the only one related to the special name of God. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Elijah also contain a part of God’s special name. But you lend special significance to Jesus’ name, because you believe in him. And so you appeal to the name as if it signified something about the one who bears the name, when clearly it doesn’t have to do so at all.

        In fact, the great majority of Christians are incompetent to weigh in on the matter of whether or not either the NT or the Tanach is true at the time they come to Jesus. Generally speaking, they do not know Tanach well enough to investigate the claims of the NT. And then, when they come to accept the NT, they accept Tanach because the NT bases itself upon it. Therefore, they claim that Jesus fulfilled prophecies with which they were not familiar in the first place. And now, believing Jesus fulfilled prophecies with which they are not familiar, they have to find a way to make it true.

        In fact, it is shocking how little of Tanach relates to the Messiah, which in Christian theology is a central doctrine. Passage after passage relates in no way to their faith. For many, they have to find a way to relate these to Jesus, or at least the NT, when they bear no relation to either. Augustine is particularly deft at this, turning the creation of the world into an allegory that encompasses lost souls being brought the gospels. Although, I have to admit, one of my favorite passages from Augustine is the rather amusing claim that Noah’s ark is an allegory for Jesus, because, among other reasons, the proportions of the ark are akin to the proportions of a man lying down and the door corresponds to the spear wound in Jesus’ side.

        Indeed, the unfamiliarity of the whole text of Tanach is a profound difficulty for the Church. Consider Aquinas trying to explain the “ceremonial laws” of the Torah. Because he does not understand the Torah as a whole, his theory for their purpose does derive itself from the principles of Torah. In fact, he appeals to the meaning of the word “ceremony” a latin word, which obviously appears nowhere in the Torah. So absurd is this attempt to understand Torah, that he relates ceremonial laws to Ceres, Roman goddess of agriculture. (This is only one of two possible explanations for the origin of ceremonies, but the whole idea is ludicrous.)

        So, I think you are correct in saying that if one does not take a text as a whole, one cannot understand it. However, I wouldn’t say that you have shown that I have misrepresented the NT. I would say that the NT has grossly misrepresented the Tanach and that Christians throughout history have followed in the footsteps of the NT authors. The misrepresentations of Tanach have only multiplied since the time of the authorship of the NT. The relatively few “prophecies” the NT relates to Jesus have blown to rather extensive lists, each one filled with mere frippery, products of Jesus-oriented imaginations. And the only vaccine available to us to protect us from a diseased understanding of Tanach is to study the context of the “prophecies” and passages quoted. Only when we understand the whole from which a snippet was torn will we understand the true meaning of Tanach.

        Jim

        • Jim, is it fair to say that when you claim scripture twisting by Christianity, you are confining yourself, your scope of interpretive method, and your approach to the rules of pardes?

          Because, we know from the DSS, and Philo that there were other common accepted methods for interpretation and historical writing that were employed which were just as old as the method you employ. Using the prophetic books in the style that says “thus was spoken to fulfill the words of the prophet saying x” as Mathew did, being afterward combined with a contemporary telling of an event he was narrating,was a common practice in the period literature that we posses such as the scrolls. So. It is in fact your perspective that twisting was occurring, while based on the methods employed in period literature, we cannot say that nefarious intention or twisting was the intent of gospel writers.

          • Jim says:

            Concerned Reader,

            I do not know of any Christians of the modern era who came to understand Jesus through the interpretive methods employed by the Dead Sea Scrolls. What testimonial ever went like this: When I learned the proper interpretive method for understanding Torah, after years of study, I discovered that Jesus must be the Messiah? The most likely answer is none. The reason is because the Church did not arrive at Jesus by the DSS method. Whenever the methods of the DSS are brought up, it is to justify the NT abuse of scripture, not because Christians had a tradition from DSS.

            No, I do not believe every sect that broke off from Judaism has a legitimate claim to forward themselves as an authentic interpretation of the Torah. Having Jewish blood does not make one’s ideas Jewish; nor does one’s antiquity. And I cannot imagine that you think so either.

            Imagine this scenario: After the reign of Solomon, the Northern tribes broke away from his son. The king of the Northern tribes did not want the people to visit the temple in Jerusalem, because he was afraid that they might wish to reunite with the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. So he sets up a calf in the north and the south of his kingdom, where the people can worship. Here’s the part we must imagine–he says to the people that they should come worship at the calves. And they are not to worry. He has a tradition that this is an old Hebrew tradition, dating back to Sinai. Aaron, himself, the high priest made a calf for the people. That’s a pretty fine endorsement, right? Moreover, in the days of Samuel, the Philistines had taken the ark of the covenant, and God revealed his power to the Philistines. And what animal did they have pull the ark back to Israel? Cows. Obviously, these cows were no ordinary cows. They were representatives of the divine.

            Now, must we accept such a “tradition”? Must we accept such an interpretation of the facts, either because of their antiquity or because they were delivered by a Jewish king? I feel safe in assuming that you would answer “no,” but I do not wish to speak on your behalf.

            I cannot imagine you really think that every tradition that existed long ago has equal weight. Were there not many differing opinions within Christianity, even early in its history? Some did not believe in the deity of Jesus, while others did. Some did not believe that Jesus could have anything to do with the God of the Torah, because they saw Him as a cruel figure. They thought the Christian Bible should not include the Hebrew Bible. (Augustine, himself, had many doubts about Christianity, because he could not reconcile himself to the “Old Testament”. When he finally accepted Christianity, he spent much time allegorizing the “Old Testament.” In my opinion, he was still trying to make it palatable to himself.) And you know that there were many other controversies besides, many of which rage to this day. Yet you don’t give them all equal weight.

            And those controversies seem to go right back to the time of the authors of the NT. Paul urges the Galatians not to listen to the preaching of any other than what he preached to him when he was among them, not an angel, nor himself. He writes that there are some out there perverting the message. But that means that there was a competing message, almost as old as Paul’s, possibly as old.

            Moreover, when you objected to my argument that Jesus drew attention toward himself when he made made the unleavened bread a memorial to himself, your response was that one must understand the book to assess it properly. You have asserted that there is some standard to which one must adhere in interpreting the NT. Why should it be any different for the Tanach? In fact, that is the one argument you cannot make when defending the NT, since it is not the method employed by the NT. So I can say to you, I was just practicing NT interpretation. (I wasn’t, but I could say that.) See, once you allow that method to be the one by which you interpret, you cannot appeal to understanding the context of the NT. That standard is not one applied by the NT, so it cannot apply to it.

            And for this reason you will not be able to defend your faith against any Christian sects that come along. If a Mormon quotes the NT in a manner you find improper, even absurd, he can say to you that it is a midrash. He is employing the same techniques as the authors of the NT. He knows what the text says literally, but as you know, that’s not the method of understanding scripture, according to the NT itself. What’s good for the goose….

            I ask you to imagine another scenario. Go with me two thousand years in the future. A boy is playing in an area of the world, once called Waco, Texas. He stumbles upon the find of a century. He finds the teachings of an ancient Christian sect. Theologians of the day are thrilled. They cannot wait to find out how close the Waco tradition is to modern Christianity. But they find that this extremely dedicated group, that had separated themselves off from a corrupt society had some ideas that are not exactly in keeping with modern Christianity. Now, they must reinterpret the religion, investigate these ancient traditions to truly understand Christianity. Fortunately, they have other recently discovered traditions, one from a place once known as Jonestown. Other teachings come from a Reverend Moon. The Christian world will never be the same.

            You and I know that these are splinter sects. They do not represent mainstream Christianity. Neither their claim to be Christian nor their antiquity would lend them any greater credence. It is not the age of an idea that indicates its truth.

            Anybody can come to a text with an agenda and find it therein. R’ Blumenthal’s Charolite Trilogy is a perfect exemplar of this fact. The point of reading the text is not to put a meaning onto it. It is to get the author’s meaning out.

            The authors of the NT clearly came with an agenda to the Tanach. And they were able to thrust it upon the text. They are not the only ones to have done so. When Shabbetai Tzvi converted to Islam, those who still followed him found in the Psalms (I think) that the Messiah was to convert. It was all part of the plan. And many other false Messiahs have rooted their claims in the Tanach, and some now in the NT.

            But the point isn’t to be able to get their ideas into the Tanach. It is to get the ideas of Tanach into them.

            Jim

          • As far as I’m aware, the yachad (Dead Sea scrolls group) were extremely strictly observant of Halacha in their day, and the DSS are a collection of documents not exclusive to their sect’s perspective alone. What makes the scrolls so relevant is that they reflect many second temple perspectives, of many groups, and serve as our most ancient evidence. The point was, that the particular style of writing employed by Mathew (regardless of what our perspective is of his motives, the method is not unheard of in the tradition. If you are going to claim that the method used is somehow foreign, because the Mishnah doesn’t use it, you are limiting the discussion to a perspective that says, “I’m 100% right, and nothing else is possible.” If you can cast such doubt on literature that represents the oldest biblical texts we posses, as well as doubts on the oldest examples of streams of tradition, then I’m sorry to say, respectfully, that you are really not helping your own position.

          • Jim, if we go with your,future gospel finds from Waco and Jonestown sects, we would be able to use historical methods compared with our contemporary texts to note fairly accurately which ideas are uniquely sectarian, and which reflect a more mainstream, or possibly mainstream tradition. However, yes, perceptions would likely change, what’s wrong with that? As rabbi B has noted, Jews and Christians share many concepts in common, but usage and understanding of these concepts differs between groups. I’m fine with that assessment. If we looked at Waco and Jonestown sermons, we would undoubtedly have found large quotations of the NT preserved within their sermons. For example, let’s say the sermon on the mount was preserved by both Waco, Jonestown, and the future “mainstream” church. We could see that within each separate sect’s interpretations, “blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” is often applied by each individual group to teach love and mercy by members within that separate group towards each other. If you are a Jonestown sectarian, be merciful means to you, to show mercy to your fellow Jonestownians. The same goes for the other two groups. What do we as scholars make of this? The various sectarians regardless of their unique sectarian perspective, preserved a teaching that says show mercy. When we look at the diverse schools, even accounting for radically different sometimes negative perspectives, nonetheless true commonalities remain, and are indeed traditional Christian perspectives. We weigh the ancient independently attested sources, and do our best to be impartial. I commented on the charolite trilogy on a different site. The point is, saying that you have a tradition by necessity means diversity within it, because transmission has occurred through unique generations facing unique issues, arguments, and cataclysm’s in unique contexts. Me pointing out the presence of fulfillment exegesis within writing of historical narrative, (such as in the community rule, and pesherim) is not about forwarding any sectarian agenda. It is about pointing out a common, well attested exegetical method of the period used by several groups. The presence of this method illustrates that it was an accepted method because it is used in documents of various groups, not just some splinter group.

  16. Dina, seriously? You read the first sentence and have to comment? Read the rest of it, then comment. I pointed out that your traditional view has merit. I questioned your assertion that Christians said totally unprecedented things. Nobody responded to how Moses’ words in Deuteronomy can be regarded as having the same level of sanctity as G-d’s word, with the rest of Torah coming from Hashem directly.

    Nobody responds to second temple usages that are similar to the Christian usage. By saying that Jesus introduced new things, I challenged that with examples, and all you can say is no, that’s not fair. The Dead Sea scrolls self glorification hymn has a being using very exalted language of itself in relation to G-d, were the Qumran group polytheists too? I’ve probably given more direct examples than anyone on this blog, but I guess data doesn’t actually matter.

    • Dina says:

      Immediately after posting, I had read the rest of the comment. I still stand by what I said. Your first sentence asserts that I repeatedly requested proof that Jesus introduced a new type of worship. I did not. I stated it as a matter of fact.

      If you find my repeated requests for proof, I will stand corrected, no problem. The truth is more important to me than being right.

      I will respond to the rest of your comment another time, if I can.

  17. Concerned Reader
    I will thank you again for your sincerity and for the knowledge that you bring to this discussion, and I do not mean this sarcastically. You are a respectful and knowledgeable opponent.
    But you seem to be unaware of the context of your knowledge. Let me explain.
    For starters you equate Judaism’s respect for Moses with Christianity’s worship of Jesus. When you are sitting in a library you could find similar words in Jewish and Christian works and see similarities. The fact that the word “worship” doesn’t appear in the Jewish works seems to be a matter of minor importance. But in the real world of human hearts “worship” is not just a word on paper – it is deeper and more significant than life itself. In the world where people live – Judaism’s respect for Moses has nothing to do with Christianity’s adoration of Jesus.
    The same applies for the Christological statements from Jewish writings (such as those that refer to Mettatron and the Shechina). In the library you can theorize about these to no end – but in the real world you will need to consider the social context of these statements. And again, no worship is mentioned in these quotes favored by the missionaries – a fact the significance of which cannot be overstated.
    Lets move on to your argument which contends that since Judaism is an oral tradition so it is flexible. Flexible it is, but it still needs to stand for something. And the one thread that runs through all Jewish writings that is not tainted by an attraction to an attention seeking object of worship is the distance from idolatry. And it is here where the followers of Jesus took the opposite path of the one mapped out by Moses and by Jewish history.
    Let me address your last argument to Jim, about the methods of interpreting Scripture. Yes, there are allegorical and symbolic methods of interpreting Scripture – but these do not justify claims of fulfilled prophecy. The basics of Judaism are all spelled out in Scripture in the simplest terms – and to expect a redirection of worship, or the acceptance of a new form of leadership, on the basis of imaginative Scriptural readings has no precedence in the history of Jewish Scriptural interpretation.
    I will take the liberty of posting links to some articles that I have already written on these subjects:
    https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/covenant-nation/
    https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/usurper-in-triplicate/
    https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/midrash-villain-or-hero-excerpt-from-the-elephant-and-the-suit/

  18. If the creative exegesis of those verses in the Christian scripture weren’t corroborated by the historical redemptive experience of a mass removal of classical idolatry, that is independently attested, I would agree that we could say that we have a painted target Christian prophecy. That however was not the case. The gospels are biographies, and so their use of scripture (using fulfillment language) is not unprecedented for that style of literature. The scrolls do this. I’ll give those articles a read. I wouldn’t bring up Metatron, Shekinah, etc. if the parallels weren’t significant. What of the issue of the book of Deuteronomy having the authority of word of G-d, despite being Moses’ own recounting of events post Sinai? That to me is the significant part.

  19. Yedidiah says:

    We would assume that biblical commentary is commentary, even opinion, and not “scripture”. Halachah, which is more like legal arguments made before a surpreme court is not the same as aggadah, which are tales and lore. And pesher, is a little different form of commentary, and the term only occurs once in the Hebrew Bible, however in the Aramaic portion of Daniel, the word peshar occurs 31 times and it mainly refers to dream interpretation. The Christian gospels are not really aggadah nor biography and definitely not halachah. About 2000 years ago, many Greek writers were trained by imitating the writing of the epics of Homer. The gospel of Mark shows that it’s main author was thoroughly familiar with the works of Homer and well-trained in recasting Homeric verse into new prose tales.

    Put aside differences in text that can be explained as differences in viewpoint or as necessary additions of an explanatory nature, and early Christian writings show a great diversity of religious thought. This great diversity of opinions about the character or nature, the words, and the deeds of its main character, Jesus, indicates that there was no single source for the tales; there was no firm foundation nor no standard for the beliefs expressed by the various authors, though many claimed to be one of the “original disciples” or “apostles” of the main character. Or the fans or promoters of a certain text claimed they had proof or knowledge that the text was of “apostolic origin”. Others claimed that the specific text was not written by an apostle and in many cases, the text was, in fact, heretical.

    Does the book of “Matthew” contradict that of “Mark’s” or did its author edit “Mark” or did he re-intrepret Mark? The same may be asked about the differences between Luke and Mark. Are the differences between Matthew & Luke (or between the “Synoptics” and John) those that are based on ignorance of the existence of these other texts or are they intentional re-interpretations, edits or revisions, or theological disagreements?

    Often exegesis or hermeneutics is a method whereby the contradictions or problems with the text are “fixed” or “explained away” and new meanings are given to the text that make them more acceptable. Those who are opposed to the drinking of alcohol have “studied & studied” and “discovered” that wine (or rather unfermented grape juice) was used as a “medicine”, a “home remedy to prevent or treat an upset stomach”. And therefore, Jesus didn’t turn “water into wine” (like some pagan gods did), he did a different, more acceptable miracle – he made pure water just taste like the “best wine” without any alcohol or grapes or coloring, since after all it takes weeks, months, or even years to make “real wine”. So the theologian winds up agreeing with the bible skeptic; what one calls a trick, the other calls a miracle. To rewrite the gospels and make Jesus opposed to wine and drinking, they almost eliminate a “miracle” or reduce it to some “ordinary parlor trick”.

    “Removal of classic idolatry” is not removal of idolatry. It is just given a different name or explained in a more acceptable way. Such “creative exegesis” might explain part of the reason why Islam is the fastest growing religion (although it started, depending on how you count, 200-500 years after Christianity began)? Or perhaps why the Church of Later Days Saints grew to over about 14 million members in less than 200 years?

  20. Yedidiah, I’m aware of Apollonius of Tiana and others, the Q hypothesis, Greek influence, Homer, Seneca, etc. as I’ve already told you, but we must not overstate alleged pagan parallels, because the substantial accredited scholarly evidence is lacking, or hotly debated. This is why zeitgeist gets so laughed at by scholarship. It’s super sloppy. While narrative May be similar, it doesn’t always imply derivation, or emulation. That said, real pagan parallel falls on its face, not because parallels can’t be found, but because the conclusions and world views expressed are opposed to each other diametrically. You can draw parallels to paganism with the Torah and myths of the near east like the epic of Gilgamesh, or the code of Hammurabi, but fundamental meaning and significance of narrative, metaphysics, and ritual is completely different. For example, virgin births of pagan heroes do not intend to teach sovereign creative action of a transcendent G-d, but the carnal exploits of a deity who behaves just like a natural being, and who was regarded by many old world pagans as an ancient human king buried in myth. What I mean, is that these scholarly perspectives are catastrophic not just to Christianity, but Judaism too. I’m sure you are aware and agree that there are many perspectives, and academic consensus allows us not to go too far down the rabbit hole? For instance, nobody in scholarship seriously doubts that the NT fits in a second temple framework far better than a thoroughly Hellenistic one? That is the scholarly consensus after all.

  21. Yedidiah! The gospels contain halachic disputes between Jesus and other co religionists explored within a pharisaic/second temple sectarian framework. What do you mean there is no Halacha in it? Off course there is! Scholarly consensus is that Jesus and his followers were observant Jews, do you doubt that?

  22. “The gospels are definitely not Halacha”

    I’m confused Yedidiah. Do you mean there is no halachic content in the gospels? Or that Jews don’t accept the gospels as Halacha? If the latter, off course they don’t. If the former, I may have a theological disagreement with prevailing Jewish interpretation about whether Christianity counts as idolatry or not, but no way can I state that Christianity has no halachic content in the gospels, epistles, or Church literature. No way. It’s not honest scholarship even remotely, to suggest that in good conscience, no offense, if that’s what you mean?

  23. Dina says:

    Concerned Reader, some time ago you posted a video lecture about Second Temple Judaism. I was going to analyze it point by point; that’s why I took so long responding–but I can see that I am not going to get to it. So I will respond in a general way.

    First, I am amazed that this is what passes for scholarship. The professor began with his conclusion and then took historical events and fit them together to prove his thesis. The lecture is based on speculation, and as such is completely worthless. Please know that I am not ignoring data. The data have been manipulated, even if presented by a credentialed professor.

    (By the way, I am unimpressed by professors with PhD’s. My disillusionment began when I edited the dissertation of a history student pursuing his PhD in history. Despite the poorly written, high-school level research, he received his doctorate. And this at a prestigious university! My disillusionment continues when I read work by academics that is so far removed from reality that it makes me scratch my head!)

    Second, this lecture suffers from the same flaw that all conspiracy theories suffer from: somehow everyone involved in the conspiracy managed to cover their tracks completely, and their conspiracy is known only to those who believe there is a conspiracy. The fact that Jewish writings barely if ever mention Christianity is explained as deliberate on the part of the rabbis.

    I would remind you that some time ago, you presented a good argument, from an archaeological point of view, against the Ten Plagues and the Exodus. You argued that the Egyptian archaeological record is complete, and that even if the Egyptians wanted to, it would have been impossible to completely hide evidence of something like the Plague of the Firstborn.

    But you are willing to accept that the rabbis had a conspiracy to invent new categories of religion in response to “Jesus envy” (seriously???), deliberately covering up their tracks by failing to mention Christianity in their writings. They were so successful, that they hoodwinked all the Jewish people, who continued to not write about Christianity despite beings surrounded by Christians (whereas Christians kept writing about Jews and Judaism even when they had never met any)–even up till today when most Orthodox Jews know nothing more about Christianity than that Jesus is the guy on the cross.

    And the only person to discover this conspiracy is this brave professor!

    What DO they teach these guys in college?

    I have so much more to say about that lecture; maybe I’ll find the time soon.

  24. Concerned Reader
    When quoting the Dead Sea Scrolls we must remember that they were, by self-definition a splinter sect. Their views cannot be considered representative of what the average Jew was thinking.
    Furthermore, if the Jewish Bible is to be taken seriously, then the fact that the DSS sect did not survive as a living Jewish community tells us that this not the medium through which God chose to preserve His testimony.

    • Rabbi the point I made wasn’t to rave about the literature of the splinter group. The Dead Sea scrolls are a large and diverse collection that contain a wide variety of texts that represent many different schools of thought, positions, and chains of tradition and interpretation, not just the sectarian perceptive. This literature provides the most ancient evidence we have of second temple times, independent of your testimony, (which helps your case) for demonstrating the presence of a living breathing Jewish tradition, complete with everything we would expect to find. Qumran had a scriptorium, where the sect preserved their literature, and other people’s literature too. To say that they didn’t survive antiquity, and so therefore the information they preserved is irrelevant, undermines your whole claim to a living oral tradition in Judaism, lest we forget that the Torah shows that the Torah itself was lost and forgotten by most until found in the temple. If a people’s struggles with sin, their sharp disagreements, and even their deaths or disappearance from history prevent them from speaking for the tradition posthumously, then truly substantial evidence for your claim is limited to your voice alone, and so undermines your whole testimony, since your claims cannot be cross examined. How can you trust the claim of an oral tradition with just majority opinion preserved as the accepted view? Majority opinion doesn’t guarantee truth. This is one reason why I find the particular claim you make of national revelation so hard to agree with. You are saying that since only your position’s voice has survived, to attest for your view, it was the only correct one. I keep hearing a confining of the available information to a view that conforms to your own position. You cannot asses the credibility of a claim that way. According to your own standard, how am I supposed to trust the chain of tradition when something like the calf, korah’s rebellion, etc. occurred. In this case, Your whole claim boils down to resting on an appeal to the honesty of the Jewish people.

      • Concerned Reader

        I didn’t thing that you were trying to rave about the DSS and I am well aware that the library at Qumran contained much more than simply the sectarian literature (for example it supports the primacy of the Masoretic stream of texts) But the Pesher literature, which you were pointing to, was limited to the Qumran community and should be identified as such.

        You fail to understand the argument from the survival of the testimony. It has nothing to do with the honesty of the Jewish people. Furthermore, it wasn’t always the “majority opinion” that survived. The idolatrous ideologies of the Kings of the Ten Tribes did not survive although it was a majority opinion in its time.

        The argument about the survival of the testimony is tied up with the general faith structure of Judaism as spelled out in the Bible. I attempted to articulate my understanding of this matter several times on this blog – here is one of those articles
        https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/belief-system/

          • http://books.google.com/books?id=jAsaAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA839&lpg=PA839&dq=masoretic+primacy+at+qumran?&source=bl&ots=VuMMVYI673&sig=yXwRIY7Yz6NonyQMtSLDENtjtjM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=NwnbU9CIO8y9oQTN2YCACA&ved=0CCgQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=masoretic%20primacy%20at%20qumran%3F&f=false

            Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Volume 2
            By Lawrence H. Schiffman p.839

            “Text critical value of the translations: The discovery of the Qumran biblical texts has made it clear that ancient translations often preserve authentic Hebrew readings even when they differ from the Masoretic text. The Septuagint is the most important translation in this regard as it’s Hebrew parent text in many biblical books is of a different text-type from the Masoretic text. The Targum, the Peshitta, and the vulgate generally reflect texts that diverge only intermittently from the Masoretic Text. The ancient translations provide considerable evidence for variant readings and variant textual editions, which in each case need to be subjected to careful scrutiny in order to ascertain their text critical worth.”

            Saying “(for example it supports the primacy of the Masoretic stream of texts)” is a bit of a stretch as multiple versions are attested, and the claim of your, or any, oral tradition carries with it an inbuilt diversity automatically. The Masoretic text was present, undoubtedly, but so were other attested streams of tradition, and the problem is that your claims cannot be cross examined by us. We have to rely on your understanding, and have no recourse.That’s the problem rabbi. It’s not that your views are without merit, it’s that our experience is roundly dismissed without recourse, or an ability to cross examine your claim independently in the same way.

            You said:
            “When the missionary engages the Jew in a scriptural debate, he is attempting to persuade this individual Jew to change camps. The missionary expects the Jew to abandon the complete belief system for which his ancestors have lived and died in favor of Christianity. The missionary hopes that his arguments will influence the Jew to recognize the supposed validity of the Christian belief system.”

            (Or possibly some of us just want you to be able to acknowledge the minute possibility that we may in fact be authentic monotheists like yourselves, without nefarious motives of causing you harm.)

            Ok, first of all, our own Christian bible can be read as being consistent with halachic content and culture of the day. The New Testament and Jesus’ ethics, even Paul’s mission to teach ethics to Gentiles have their roots in norms of 2nd temple Torah observance. Your own arguments (such as your critique against boyarin’s book Borderlines) reflects that you know this, and that you can ably support your duty to observance of the Torah using our own scripture. What does that say about our Christian tradition? It says very clearly that we make many mistakes, that we have strayed in mistreating our brothers and sisters the Jewish people, and that we need to support you, but also that we faithfully preserved the content of our texts, even whilst we have a distinct understanding. Your argument against Christian exegesis seems to be that since its uniqueness can only be attested from “sectarian” sources, it therefore must be dismissed, as G-d chose not to allow the people of Israel to survive through their sectarian tradition, but through yours only. The reason I say your argument rests on an appeal to honesty, is because there is obvious reason to doubt that Israel had one accord about very important matters back then, and it is hard to claim that all non rabbinic Jews (who were undoubtedly observant,) were wrong in their perspectives, just because they disagreed. Does that clarify the issue I’m having?

            I plan on responding later to some of the articles you posted earlier if that’s alright?

          • Dina says:

            Hi Concerned Reader,

            You wrote this:

            “You said:
            “When the missionary engages the Jew in a scriptural debate, he is attempting to persuade this individual Jew to change camps. The missionary expects the Jew to abandon the complete belief system for which his ancestors have lived and died in favor of Christianity. The missionary hopes that his arguments will influence the Jew to recognize the supposed validity of the Christian belief system.”

            (Or possibly some of us just want you to be able to acknowledge the minute possibility that we may in fact be authentic monotheists like yourselves, without nefarious motives of causing you harm.)”

            If you had read more carefully what Rabbi B. wrote, you would have noticed that he is specifically talking about missionaries. I quote, “When the MISSIONARY engages the Jew in a scriptural debate, he is attempting to persuade this individual Jew to change camps” (emphasis added).

            Since you claim not to be a missionary to the Jews, then this isn’t about you. Just saying.

            Be well,
            Dina

            P.S. What you wrote in parentheses, when read in the context of the history of Christian-Jewish relations, is preposterous. Christians have never granted legitimacy to Jewish rejection of Jesus and dismissed our arguments far, far more readily than you accuse us of dismissing yours. This is true today as well. So it’s hard to muster up sympathy for your feeling misunderstood. Can you understand that context, and what your words sound like to Jewish ears? And why I personally can’t understand why you crave our stamp of approval?–DB

  25. Dina, I posted a lecture for you to consider, I did not say every point was right, or that I agreed with everything. Part of scholarship, especially history, is based on hypothesis, and literally discussing it, because we weren’t there. I’m sure you know that? Also, historians generally cannot make the claims for or against miracles, or absolute truth that religious people do, so their suspicion is normal. They are trying to see, based on available information, what MIGHT have been.

    • Dina says:

      I don’t expect historians to make claims about miracles or absolute truth. That has nothing to do with my objection. The problem with this lecture was beginning with a thesis and then trying to fit some very inconvenient facts, like Jewish silence on Christianity, which sounds more like a conspiracy theory than sound hypothesis.

  26. I agree with you to a point. I didn’t post the lecture to “prove” anything, and neither did the lecturer seek to prove anything definitively. He put forward a thesis, that’s all. Beginning with a thesis (a position you are seeking to prove) and assessing the available information to see if the view holds water is how we investigate, and that was the lecture’s purpose. His claim is not based on an argument from silence alone, but on silence on certain events and things that are available in other sources, which are not mentioned by the rabbis. He would contend that the silence was theologically motivated. He could have done a much better job at making his information and sources clear, that’s for sure. That’s why I posted that second link below his lecture. I’ll provide an example Of how his hypothesis works. Christian and Roman sources tell us about the emperor Julian’s attempt to rebuild the temple, and arguments between Jewish and Christian communities of the day, about whether the destruction was evidence of divine displeasure or not, and what reconstruction might mean. The rabbis don’t mention the actual substance of these disputes, neither do the Christians, so we can hypothesize that both groups only cherry picked information that was relevant to their own theological positions. It is a hypothesis, not a proof. It is up to us to examine his hypothesis. That’s all, have a great day Dina. 🙂

  27. Concerned Reader

    Lawrence Schiffman documents (Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, JPS, pg. 172) that 60 percent of the Biblical texts found in Qumran were proto-Masoretic while only 5 percent were proto-Septuagint. The quote from the encyclopedia that you provided is speaking of translations, not raw texts. My statement about the primacy of the Masoretic text was an understatement in light of the archeological facts. Your complaint about not having any recourse to argue with me is flatly ridiculous. If you feel that my conclusions don’t line up with the facts – I’ll discuss it with you. That is what I am here for.

    You seem to feel that I “dismiss your experiences.” I don’t “dismiss” your experiences simply because they contradict mine, but because you have demonstrated time and time again that your experiences are not rooted in facts but in wishful thinking. Your disassociation of the holocaust from Christianity is one area where you have much to learn. Another area where you seem to be misguided is in the relationship of Christianity with the text of the Jewish Bible. Do you honestly think that the disciples of Jesus came up with their Biblical interpretations that exalt Jesus independent of their devotion to Jesus? Do you expect anyone to believe that their devotion did not color their approach to Scripture? Do you think that it is a wild coincidence that the only two places where we find Pesher interpretation is in the documents of two fringe sects – both of which had an obvious agenda?

    You still fail to understand the argument of preservation of the testimony. In short, the first point in the Jewish faith is the uniqueness of our claim. Note – I said nothing of the veracity of the claim – but the uniqueness of the claim (read about this argument in Deuteronomy 4:30-35). This leads us to understand that God planted testimony in Israel back in the days of Moses (Psalm 78:5). The logic would have it that God preserved this testimony for future generations if this testimony is true – and lo and behold – He did! But did He? He only preserved one version of the testimony amongst the living community. The other versions of the testimony were not preserved in the context of a living community – the very context in which God promised to preserve His testimony. This tells us that if the Jewish Bible is telling the truth – then the Sadducees, the Nazarenes/Ebionites and the Qumran community were not carrying the testimony that the Author of Scripture was talking about when He promised to preserve the testimony (Deuteronomy 31:21).

    If you feel that my logic is faulty – please do not hesitate to point it out and I will reconsider my arguments. But please do the readers of this blog a favor. Think before you write.

    • Concerned Reader says:

      With respect rabbi, I do think before I write, very hard! I also don’t find a ratio of 60% Proto Masoretic to 5% Septuagint with 40 % of the other texts not even accounted for in that particular statistic from professor Schiffman to be entirely convincing, precisely because scholarship says (including schiffman’s own writings) that we need to be careful in assumptions of the primary reading, and also account for the fact that variant readings often arise from interpretation even if we are using the Masoretic. You would also say that the majority reading of Christianity’s textual record is inaccurate and in need of much study, wouldn’t you?

      I do think your logic is faulty rabbi, for many reasons. Firstly, You rest the weight of your claim on the book’s CLAIM of “uniqueness of national revelation to Israel.” We cannot verify the historical accuracy of the statements of the account independent of the torah that is making the claim for itself.

      The text, and the family who preserved it, (witnesses who are partial to the claim being made, because they already accept it,) are the ones testifying about the validity. That’s illogical as it cannot be verified independently. Also, the claim that your testimony was preserved in history through providence, Christians can also claim that.

      The problems with your argument are manifold. The fact is that the Torah text itself shows a massive falling away almost immediately after the Torah’s reception, and the fact that the Torah became lost by Israel according to the text, shows that to rely on the national chain of transmission alone, or your providential national survival alone, is problematic.

      (Did the national experience not take, past the initial giving?) I would contend that many different things validate the Torah when taken as a whole, but not the claim to national revelation uniquely, especially since not all prophets are validated this way all the time.

      For instance, All men of Israel saw Elijah go up on a high place (actually a minor transgression of Torah to defeat a greater one) ) to defeat the worshipers of Baal. The whole nation however did not see him taken up into heaven, only some 300 people. So the nation saw him commit a minor transgression to defeat idolatry, but not his ascension. The Torah is testifying in this way that the character and fruit of the experience, faithfulness to the commandments, witnesses, impartial evidence, (Elijah’s proof of unique unbiased miracle using the two alters,) and providential history, all go together to validate a prophet.

      Your own statements say that your people wrote the bible, and preserved the tradition before the text even existed. They accepted the claim before national revelation. Your whole claim then rests not on national revelation, but on a family tradition inherited from Abraham, that may have been experienced nationally at one point, but we can’t verify that.

      We cannot deny though the reality of Redemptive experiences, that are biblically consistent, and independently attested with providential historic prophetic backing. (Witnesses, independently verifiable history, obedience to commandments, and biblical consistency accounting for unique interpretations.) These things haveindeed been perpetually verified for us all to see, but not just for one people through one movement.

      • Jim says:

        CR,

        With respect, you do not seem to understand R’ Blumenthal’s comment. He spoke specifically about the uniqueness of the claim, not its veracity. You have commented on its veracity, not its uniqueness. You may need to revisit his comment.

        Jim

        • Concerned Reader says:

          Jim, you cannot disassociate the uniqueness of the claim from its veracity, hence the adage extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This is the standard applied by Judaism to Christian claims. If you read my comment carefully I said, it may well be so that this unique claim is valid, but even whilst granting that as possible, the Torah itself doesn’t seem to rely on that occurrence alone internally for validation, as evidenced by the forgetting of the Torah in 2 kings 22, but it relies on other factors more often, such as those that I mentioned above. The whole nation can make the claim to unique national revelation, providential guidance, and historic preservation, and Hashem may have accomplished it, but that is a premise based on your personal experience alone, and veracity cannot be demonstrated. If the Christian evidences and experiences can be dismissed so easily as false, despite the clear and unambiguous redemptive move forward among Gentiles occurring,(the veracity,) then those same criteria apply to the Torah by extension. The Christian acceptance of the Torah becomes an irrelevant point, because you have cast such a critical eye and doubt on the prophetic redemptive experience (veracity) that serves as the Christian impetus for accepting the Torah.

          • Concerned Reader says:

            To summarize, you are saying that we cannot judge Judaism’s claims based on the veracity of those claims, but only the uniqueness of those claims. You then proceed to dispute the veracity of Christian claims, (which you cannot provide for your own position,) and use that as a basis for rejection. Uniqueness and veracity are tied together, everyone knows this.

          • Jim says:

            Con,

            Because this was R’ Blumenthal’s line of argument, I will leave it to him. However, I must point out that you have erred. You have no distinguished properly between two different qualities of a claim. You have no understood that a claim could be utterly unique and yet false, that those two qualities are not tied to one another in the least. Because you have not considered that point, you have not understood R’ Blumenthal’s argument. But, like I said, since it’s his argument, I’ll let him take it up with you.

            It occurs to me that you may also be confusing the idea that a claim is unique with it being unlikely. These are also two separate concepts.

            Jim

      • Concerned Reader says:

        I’ll read his arguments again.

        • Jim says:

          Con,

          So readily do we become entrenched that it is rare that someone will go over an opposing argument again to make sure he understood it. I salute you.

          Thank you,

          Jim

          • Jim, it’s because I care that I want to understand the arguments rabbi B brings. Also, this desire to understand, is not for the sake of my position alone, but for yours too. Part of the problem that belief in G-d faces in this modern world, is the propensity to ignore G-d as a relevant and active agent. There are many deists in this world (such as Jefferson was,) but that belief (though we can say it is purely monotheistic) does not need commands, or personal providence, and even where command exists love doesn’t always. The concept of mitzvah loses it’s thrust without preservation of the unique character of G-d. Having studied polytheism, I can say that the notion of G-d as actively interested in human affairs is the missing element in polytheism, and the greatest gift of Judaism, along with the mitzvot, to humanity. It’s true that Gentiles came to accept this notion primarily through Jesus, but Judaism will always be the source. That’s why my arguments flow from the historical experience of Jesus, and the historic move from polytheism. It’s not about damaging Judaism for me, because your position can be defended from Christian texts, but it’s about preserving the reliability, the veracity of that experience, because that experience testifies to the Torah experience too, and lends credability, in a way that doesn’t require any one particular testimony, opinion, etc.

          • Dina says:

            So the reason you support our practice of Judaism is that Christian scripture supports it. Do I have that right?

      • Also rabbi B, very respectfully, I realize full well that Christian anti-Judaism served as an extremely harmful evil thing, that provided fuel for Nazi propaganda. I do not doubt that one bit, and it is sad that you think I haven’t learned carefully about the Shoah? However, it does not mean Christian values or people agreed with, or sponsored, or condoned the Shoah, or that hitler was a faithful practicing Christian. As I’ve stated, Christians also died in the Shoah. I would have been killed in the Shoah myself because of my disability.

        Religion did not matter to Nazis except for rhetorical purposes, (they had to basically mutilate scripture, emphasizing problematic verses in spite of the whole moral compass of the text.,) in the nationalist church, to conform it to nationalist ideology and use it. We know today, that this same error pervaded In imperial and medieval Christendom, but that we can today change that. I am not forgetting, mitigating, or ignoring that fact. I’m not afraid to say that Christians sinned horrifically through their silence, and that we need to decry anti semitism.

        Many Christians however did try to help, and died also. I find it very problematic that because I don’t automatically accept premises of your arguments, that you seem to think I am missing the point, or not being thorough. I am not missing your point.

        I understand the unique claim to national revelation, (although I confess that I don’t see the relevance to a distinction between mass revelation, and national revelation, especially since a national claim has a degree of partiality and groupthink, (such as preexisting traditional beliefs) coloring perceptions. A mass revelation (of a diverse unaffiliated group of people) might not have the same issues to a degree.)

        I have read Judah Ha Levi’s Kuzari, and I notice that the impetus of the national revelation argument he puts forward, is not the number alone, but that an entire nation of people wouldn’t place the mitzvot on themselves, if such a grandiose experience as the national revelation of Sina were false. The descendants would have put a stop to the tradition, not supported it, and taught it to their children.

      • Concerned Reader

        When I said that the DSS prove the primacy of the Masoretic text what I meant was that it is obvious from the library that the Qumran sectarians left behind that the Masoretic text was the text that was most prevalent at the time. Lawrence Schiffman documents that of the Biblical texts and fragments of texts that were found in Qumran a full 60 percent are proto-Masoretic. Another 20 percent were uniquely Qumran (found nowhere else but in Qumran and generally written in a script that is unique to the sect). Even these texts revealed a proto Masoretic foundation. Another 5 percent of the texts were Samaritan and the Samaritan texts also have a Masoretic foundation. 5 percent of the texts were proto Septuagint and 10 percent of the texts could not be clearly aligned with any known text family. (I got this information from Schiffman’s book; Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls chapter 10).

        None of this is based on “interpretation,” these are simply based on comparing variant texts. Even allowing for a margin of error in the evaluation process (which is not an interpretation process) the Masoretic text is still overwhelmingly dominant. The only way anyone can say that the Qumran library does not prove the dominance of the Masoretic text is if they are unaware of the facts or if they read the facts superficially and did not understand what they were reading.

        Now let’s talk about the faith structure of Judaism. I must admit that it is quite frustrating to talk to you because you keep on thinking that I said what you expect me to say and not what I actually said. I never said anything about a claim that is written in the Torah. I only pointed to the Torah as a source where you could read the argument, but the argument itself stands completely independent of the document of the Torah. If there would be no written Torah the argument would still stand.

        The argument is about the uniqueness of a claim, not its veracity. The claim is that the Creator of heaven and earth openly intervened into the lives of a nation in concrete tangible way. The claim is that the Creator of heaven and earth spoke to this same nation in a collective revelation. The events of the exodus, the Sinai revelation and the journey through the desert are engraved on the hearts of a nation independent of any book. The nation that makes this claim believes that these events sealed a covenant between herself and the Creator of heaven and earth.

        The argument is that this claim is unique. Arguments have been presented on this blog to dispute the uniqueness of this claim and I didn’t bother to respond to them. The reason I didn’t respond is not because I refuse to face facts but because I believe that the claim for the exodus, Sinai and Israel’s journey through the desert towers over every other claim and its uniqueness is clear enough. Perhaps there may be parallels to one detail or another, but the grand total is still unique. I find that most people who study the matter realize this.

        The second step of the faith structure is the question and subsequent conclusion – why is this claim so unique? Why did no other nation come up with a parallel claim? If this claim is simply the result of a quirk of history then why do we find no parallel to it? This leads us to the conclusion that this claim is true. Note, that this does not require one to believe that the Jewish people are more honest than anyone else but instead it focuses on the uniqueness of the claim.

        If we accept that the claim is true and that God truly did seal a covenant with this nation than it would follow that He would preserve that covenant. This would then be the third step of the faith structure.

        The fourth step of the faith structure would be the argument that since we see that there is only one credible claim for the preservation of the covenant since its inception, this then tells us that this is the covenant that God wanted preserved.

        Now you could argue with every one of these steps and I will try to spell out the arguments that could be raised against each of these steps and assign them numbers.

        As I mentioned –The argument that could be raised against the first step of the faith structure is that one could dispute the claim that Israel’s claim is unique. We’ll call this argument #1

        If one accepts the first step of the faith structure they could still dispute the second step of the structure by arguing that the fact that the claim is unique does not prove that it is true. Even if the claim is unique, one could argue that it is still a quirk of history. This is #2

        The third step of the faith structure could be disputed by arguing that although God sealed a covenant with this nation He still did not bother to preserve it in their midst. #3

        The fourth step could be disputed by claiming that there are other versions of the covenant that have been preserved. And this is #4

        I will point out that arguments #1 and #4 are a dispute about the evaluation of facts (is Israel’s testimony truly unique, and is Rabbinic Judaism the only version of Judaism that survived). While arguments #2 and #3 are a matter of evaluating a line of reasoning. My response to these 4 arguments is to encourage the study of the original four steps, taking the time to absorb the full weight of each step and then I encourage the study of the facts on the ground. If you still have questions come back to me and we’ll talk, but please first take the time to understand where I am coming from.

        Now let us approach your arguments. You say that Israel’s claim (which you mistakenly attribute to the Torah) is not verifiable from outside evidence. Fine – that would fit into argument #2. I would respond by asking you – if you accept the uniqueness of Israel’s claim, then how do you explain the fact that no other belief system duplicated it?

        Your argument that Christians can claim that providence preserved their testimony would sound like argument #4 but it is invalid. The argument from providence is only relevant after you accepted the first three steps of the faith structure none of which are applicable in the case of Christianity.

        Your next argument about the national falling away is irrelevant because at no point in the steps of the faith structure did I rely on the honesty of the nation in passing on the testimony. The argument is that if the claim is unique than it is true, if it is true than God would have chosen to preserve it and that there is only one credible claim of preservation. None of these have to do with the honesty of the nation.

        Your point about the prophets beside Moses not relying on the uniqueness of the national revelation is also irrelevant. We accept the prophets that followed Moses only after we have accepted the first four steps of the faith structure. Once we believe that the testimony we have is true, we evaluate a prophet according to the testimony that we possess. The prophet doesn’t need an independent validation, he or she is validated on the basis of his conformance with the testimony as it applies to the acceptance of prophets.

        You then speak of a “family tradition inherited from Abraham.” Indeed, before the giving of the Torah we already had a family tradition from Abraham but it is not this family tradition that validates our faith.

        You then speak of what you consider “undeniable” (your words – “we cannot deny”) and this you describe as: “the reality of Redemptive experiences, that are biblically consistent, and independently attested with providential historic prophetic backing.”

        This is a tall order. What do you mean when you say “Biblically consistent”? Since when is the Bible part of something that cannot be denied? According to whose interpretation are these experiences “Biblically consistent”? And why do you demand that these experiences be “Biblically consistent” before stamping them with your “we cannot deny” approval?

        • The argument is about the uniqueness of a claim, not its veracity. The claim is that the Creator of heaven and earth openly intervened into the lives of a nation in concrete tangible way. The claim is that the Creator of heaven and earth spoke to this same nation in a collective revelation. The events of the exodus, the Sinai revelation and the journey through the desert are engraved on the hearts of a nation independent of any book. The nation that makes this claim believes that these events sealed a covenant between herself and the Creator of heaven and earth.

          The argument is that this claim is unique. Arguments have been presented on this blog to dispute the uniqueness of this claim and I didn’t bother to respond to them. The reason I didn’t respond is not because I refuse to face facts but because I believe that the claim for the exodus, Sinai and Israel’s journey through the desert towers over every other claim and its uniqueness is clear enough. Perhaps there may be parallels to one detail or another, but the grand total is still unique. I find that most people who study the matter realize this.

          The central issue with your argument rabbi, is that it is entirely based on circular reasoning for its foundation. It uses the uniqueness of the claim in question itself, the very one we are seeking to prove, as grounds to demonstrate the likelihood of its own reality, because the claim itself is so unique, and couldn’t have survived if it weren’t actually true. You are using the uniqueness of the claim itself, to demonstrate the likelihood of the truth of the claim. (An inductive argument.) As they say, you cannot use the claim itself to validate that same claim, when it is the claim itself that is in dispute! That is 100% circular reasoning.

          if you accept the uniqueness of Israel’s claim, then how do you explain the fact that no other belief system duplicated it?

          Because no other people conceived of the divine idea in the exact same way as your people did. This is a truly unique claim, I’ve not disputed that. The problem comes in with the circular reasoning, and the following premise “The claim is that the Creator of heaven and earth openly intervened into the lives of a nation in concrete tangible way.” This premise switches the terms of the argument, because it is now no longer limited to the “uniqueness” of your claim. Nations, many nations, accepted divine action in the “Concrete and tangible way,” but not in the “unique” national covenantal expressed will kind of way espoused by Judaism. This portion of the claim then, also opens it up to empirical enquiry, and so cannot dismiss attempts at investigation as non essential to the argument or claim.

          This standard I’ve taken is shared by you as evidenced by your own standard toward Christianity. Christianity also has an unprecedented, unique claim. That unique claim however is not accepted as likely on the basis of its uniqueness, numbers, or anything else. As you wrote, in another post,

          “how would a Jew who heard Jesus preach before the crucifixion have been able to accept his messianic claim?” How would a person believe in the reality of the unique claims of Jesus,(that he had to die and raise) based on the claim itself, without tangible grounds to accept it? Indeed rabbi, indeed. Same question.

          • Concerned Reader
            Again – you didn’t read what I wrote – but you responded to what you were taught that people like me say.
            I never said that the survival of the claim has anything to do with the faith structure. I am talking about the uniqueness of the claim as a quality by itself. The jump from uniqueness to veracity is built on the assumption that if the claim is not true than it is the result of typical human wishful thinking (what I referred to earlier as a “quirk of history”) than why was it not duplicated. Typical human manipulation is common and should be repeated. For example – the Christian claim is repeated – often when you have a charismatic leader that builds a following his followers conclude that he is the Messiah – when he fails to come through – they redefine the role of the Messiah and sometimes he gets elevated to divinity as well. This phenomena is not unique.
            Uniqueness of a claim is something that can be disputed and is in no way circular. I challenge you to study the claim of the exodus, Sinai, and the wandering in the desert and see if you can find a parallel claim for God’s direct intervention into the affairs of a group of people. Not one detail or another – but the grand total. Again – just focus on uniqueness.
            Your argument that other people just didn’t think of it would fit into the category of argument #2 – fine – but why is it that they did think of calling their leader Messiah, divine, and reappearing after death? Why is it that some claims get duplicated several times over while this one just doesn’t get duplicated? Why are people able to think of some claims but not others?
            The question I posed to the Christian does not relate to Judaism for the simple reason that Jesus wasn’t simply making claims (as was Moses) but rather Jesus was making claims in the context of a particular belief system – he wanted the glory of the Messiah that the Jewish prophets foretold – he will need to provide evidence from the context that he is claiming his glory.
            Is this not clear?

          • Dina says:

            Concerned Reader, I posted a lecture, one of the rare times I do so, about the uniqueness of our claim. You had said you would listen. Do you care to comment on it? Here it is again:

            http://www.simpletoremember.com/media/a/rational-judaism/

  28. Jim says:

    Concerned Reader,

    You have confused two different areas of study: history and textual interpretation. The Dead Sea scrolls have historical value. They enlighten us on different sects within Judaism at the time. They even give us an insight into “Pharisaic Judaism”. And by studying them, we may be able to discover the interpretive method of those groups. But this belongs to history.

    It is a different area of study altogether to analyze the method of interpretation employed by a sect to determine if it is viable. The fact of its existence does not make it good. It could be a perfectly flawed method of interpretation and still exist.

    Your argument hinges only upon its existence, however. You argue that because it has historical value, it is an equally valid method of interpretation. This does not follow. This is like a driver who is pulled over for speeding appealing to the speeding of his fellow drivers. The existence of other speeders does not validate his behavior. Likewise, the existence of a method of interpretation does not make it valid for others to employ it. The merits of the method must be weighed.

    And this is why I brought up Waco and other cults. They do not represent normative Christianity (if there is such a thing.) Their method of interpretation is self-serving. Their leaders perverted Christian teachings for self-serving reasons. To study them for historical purposes is of great value. To assert that they represent normative Christianity is absurd. But more to the point, their method of interpretation is flawed.

    To determine if a method of interpretation is valid, one has to critically examine its claims. When I do this, I do not do it in light of the Mishnah. I’m not Jewish, and when I “abandoned” Christianity it was not because of the Mishnah. I don’t study the Mishnah, because it is outside my purview. But the claims of the NT are unsound. It hardly matters if others employed a similarly unsound method.

    The methods the Church employs to find Jesus in the “Old Testament” are superficial. It doesn’t matter if somebody else used a similar method to interpret scripture. The fact is that anybody can read a text eisegetically. That doesn’t make it sound practice. The Church ignores large portions of the texts from which they quote and make absurd comparisons.

    Is this ever more apparent that John writing that scripture was fulfilled by Jesus not having his legs broken? This is only a superficial comparison. On every other point regarding a Passover lamb, the comparison fails, including that Jesus is the wrong species. Or Matthew quoting Hosea 11.1, but only enough to obscure the meaning of the text. If one removes a few words here and there one can make a text mean anything. That strips all the meaning from a text. It is irrelevant to the search of the meaning of the text that a Jewish sect employed the same means. It is of historical interest, but it is an unsound practice for reading the text.

    Again, I stress that you can hardly disagree with me. If I tell people that Jesus was hateful, preaching that his followers should carry swords, that his enemies would be slain before him, that he came to sow division between family members, even urging his disciples to hate their family members, you are likely to say that I am mistaken (or intentionally misleading people.) You will show by the context of the text that while everything I quoted is technically true, it betrays the spirit of the Gospels and even the passages quoted. For example, you will say that Jesus did not mean that one should literally hate his parents, but that in comparison with their love for God, their love for their parents should be as hate. The very fact that you would appeal to the context, however, shows that you find that to be the proper method of interpretation, whatever the authors of the DSS did or did not do. It is bad practice to read a text, any text, eisegetically.

    You have implied in me some sort of arrogance (“I am 100% right and nothing else is possible.”) However, I am not appealing to any sort of superiority. I appeal to reason. I have supported my arguments with logic, examples, and metaphors. Not one time have I appealed to authority. I do not mention this because I am offended. I mention this to draw your attention to the arguments, the bulk of which and the central thesis of which you have missed.

    To summarize, the preexistence of bad textual interpretation does not imply the correctness of later textual interpretation. Both must be judged on their merits. Drawing parallels based on superficiality, truncating of texts, and alteration of texts is untenable, regardless of the antiquity or sect of the practitioner. No text can be properly understood when approached with an agenda. Eisegesis blinds the reader to the true meaning of a text. He will be bound to find support for his beliefs, but such foundation is like a house built upon the sand.

    Jim

  29. I’ve already conceded, and even agreed from the standpoint of my own literature, on the basis of data and evidence, that your duty is to G-d’s Torah. I am not doubting your redemptive experience, but I am accepting the testimony of that experience on your part, on the basis of my own experience. You are casting doubt on that experience, and saying it is then inappropriate for me to do the same.

    BTW, I mean this all with great respect for your tradition. We can have a disagreement, and still have much in common, seeing much good.

  30. Is this ever more apparent that John writing that scripture was fulfilled by Jesus not having his legs broken? This is only a superficial comparison. On every other point regarding a Passover lamb, the comparison fails, including that Jesus is the wrong species. Or Matthew quoting Hosea 11.1, but only enough to obscure the meaning of the text. If one removes a few words here and there one can make a text mean anything. That strips all the meaning from a text. It is irrelevant to the search of the meaning of the text that a Jewish sect employed the same means. It is of historical interest, but it is an unsound practice for reading the text.

    Jim, I think the heart of the difference here is that the gospels are conveying the experiences (in biographical terms) that the disciples said they had with Jesus, and they saw that this experience was in some sense prophetic. The fact that Jewish tradition says prophecy has ceased, shows that the discussion is being pointed in one direction, and not allowed outside of that view. This question over revelation and prophecy, whether they had ceased, was still a question in Jesus’ day. I brought up pesher for this reason. Pesher is an example of prophetic theme being applied contemporaneously. This genre then, is at an intersection between history and biblical interpretation, which is why I am not mixing information or method inappropriately.

    • This is also why it is somewhat interesting to imply deliberate deception by NT authors in their readings and quotations, often they quote the Septuagint. The NT itself contains most of the traditional Jewish interpretations regarding messianism, covenant, etc. anyway as pointed out in this blog. Were they being intentionally deceptive, or communicating experiences? These people, (Jesus’ students) experienced repentance, love of G-d, intimate knowledge of G-d, and the calling of the Gentiles (a prediction unambiguously present in prophecy) through the life and message of their teacher, and I grant, his alleged resurrection. I also grant a degree of eisogesis, but given the type of literature, and it’s intent, this is not necessarily nefarious intent, that’s the point.

      • Dina says:

        Right, if nefarious intent is absent then the only conclusion is that they were uneducated ignoramuses. Which is not really much better :).

    • Jim says:

      Con,

      You continue to appeal to the existence of pesher to imply its virtue. I have shown why it is an unsound practice. Moreover, no Christian would tolerate pesher as a method to interpret their scriptures, which means that they don’t hold it a sound practice. They only appeal to it, because it suits their agenda.

      The debate whether or not prophecy was still extant at the time of DSS or Jesus is irrelevant. If prophecy had ceased at that point, it does not give license to rewrite existing prophecy to suit one’s theological needs. On the contrary, one must be extra cautious not to corrupt the only valid prophecy given. Imposing upon it foreign meanings dilutes the message of God. It is replaced by a message from men who find no satisfaction in the Word of God and thus seek to employ it to their own ends.

      In any case, you have not established the validity of the practice. You continue to appeal to its existence to imply its virtue. One does not imply the other.

      Jim

      • Jim, if one applies the standard, “it’s existence does not imply its virtue” then careful inquiry becomes impossible. The same argument can be used against either of us, as well as how we interpret. Did the rabbis have no agenda, (like against Sadducees or Christians?) If we speak of exegesis in terms of normative, vs not so, this damages the claim of a chain of transmission. No chain of transmission exists without divergence in communication or interpretation, or some degree of disagreement as that is essential to discourse. The argument over prophecy must be relevant. This is because, if it was believed to be existent, and active, then using existing prophetic literature to highlight similar prophetic themes would seem a necessary aspect. In this vein, a Christian or Qumran quote of a prophet may not have intended to give the original plain reading, but a reading in the same light as their experience. Get it? A misquote is nefarious, an allusion is not. The NT may not use pesher, but the fulfillment style carries with it similar purpose and context, ie conveying a contemporary experience via prophetic themes. You are looking for 1 to 1 connections, which is not the point I’m making.

        • Jim says:

          Con,

          You have misunderstood “It’s existence does not imply virtue.” It does not invalidate careful inquiry. It demands careful inquiry. That is my entire point, that one cannot accept (or dismiss) a method of interpretation based on its existence. If you read all the arguments I wrote on this thread concerning this issue, you will see that I have addressed the specific flaws in Church interpretation as an eisegetical method. Your response seems to be that since it is like another eisegetical method it is a sound method, but the existence of that method does not imply its correctness. It could be correct. It could also not be correct. We need to examine it, which I have done.

          I get the sense, and forgive me if I’m wrong, that you are responding to what you expect me to say, rather than what I say. Your response above seems to suggest that you think I am saying that my method (whatever that is) I find acceptable because it is my method, or because it is the method of the Pharisaical tradition. I know at one point you seemed to think I was adopting the method of the Mishnah, a method I’ve not once mentioned.

          In fact, being a non-Jew, I am not steeped in the Pharisaic method of interpretation. But even if I were, determining whether that method was correct or incorrect would be a separate question from whether or not the method of the Church is correct. I have not once compared the two styles. Nor have I appealed to the authority of the rabbis. I have only shown that the method of the Church is unsound. Your repetitive appeal that other Jews used a similar style of interpretation implies advocacy in light of its flaws by virtue of its existence. It is to say, “They did it first!” The question is not whether or not it is practiced as a method of interpretation. It is whether or not it is sound.

          I appreciate you taking up the topic, however. If I can, I will type up tonight an example that should illustrate the dangers of Church interpretive style. I hope you are well.

          Jim

  31. Jim says:

    When one comes to a text with an agenda, he will readily find support for his belief therein. If he ignores the clear statements and looks to murkier passages, he will be able to find support for any fancy that presents itself to his mind. This is the method of the Church, ignoring plain statements of the Torah to find inside it the products of their imaginations: a devil, a trinity, and a divine Messiah. But one can, with a little effort, find support for all sorts of other fanciful doctrines. Herein, I shall show that one, with only a little creativity can “prove” from the Torah, that there is in fact, not a trinity, but a duality, and that the two elements that compose such a godhead are God and the Holy Spirit, leaving no room for Jesus.

    Please let it be clear to any who read this, that I do not intend this as an endorsement of such a view. God has said nothing plainer about Himself than that He is One, and my statements to the contrary herein should be taken to reflect the method employed by Christians to prove the trinity to themselves from the Torah, and not a reflection of a distorted view of God. I am not teaching that God is a duality, but only that when one comes to the Torah with an agenda, he will find a way to put his own beliefs upon that Work.

    Because the parodic nature of what I am about to write, the reader may be tempted to dismiss it as unserious. He may say to himself that he need not take seriously a written work that propounds an obviously fallacious argument. This is an error into which you must not let yourself fall. While the argument is not legitimate, it does serve the purpose of showing how the mind can err in reading a text if it comes to the text with an agenda. That point is quite serious. When one approaches the Torah in such a way, he is unable to extract the message of God but injects his own biases on the text.

    * * * * *

    “The Proof of the Duality of God”

    One of the great advantages of living in the modern world is that paganism has for the most part been extinguished. Only pockets remain. But we must not assume that the world has fully embraced a proper understanding of God. For all those who claim to read the Torah, many have only a superficial understanding of one of the major principles set forth in its pages. Two major errors are propounded, between which there is a golden mean. On one hand, some, like the Jews and Muslims, believe that God is a Unity, comprised of only one person. Others, like the Christians, suffer from excess, placing the number of the persons in the godhead at three. However, as is clear to those who know the mysteries of God, the number of Persons in the Godhead is Two.

    One can almost hear the shout of the unenlightened: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6.4)! Even the Christians, who hold that the godhead is comprised of three persons will quote this verse as a central tenet of their faith. But the question is, what does it mean that God is one?

    Only the superficial will take “one” to mean “one”. They have been unduly influenced by Maimonides, the Aristotelian, who has clouded their minds with Greek philosophy. Do not listen to them, for they have been deceived. If they had only studied their own Torah, they would have known its true meaning.

    It is a sound practice of scriptural interpretation to seek the first usage of a word in Torah to determine its true meaning. Some translations do not indicate this, but the first use of the word “echad” (Hebrew for “one”) is in Gen. 1.5: “And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” Many translations say, “the first day” rather than “one day,” an error. The actual Hebrew says “echad” (“one”), not “rishon” (“first”). What do we learn from this? We note that the first day is comprised of two parts, evening and morning. “One,” therefore, indicates a unity comprised of two elements.

    Lest any should doubt this interpretation, we invite him to turn his attention to Gen. 2.24: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” When the Torah says they become “one flesh,” it again uses the word “echad”. We note again that two elements make “echad,” not one and not three. And this word “echad” is the same applied to God in Deuteronomy. So, it should be evident to all but the hard-hearted that when God says He is “one,” He is telling us that He is composed of two elements. He is a Duality.

    A deeper look at Gen. 1 will reveal to the careful student exactly Who these two elements are that comprise the godhead. The first we many call the Author. It is the being revered by the Jews, called the Father by the Christians. We do not adopt such a term, lest they think there be a firstborn son other than that God told Pharaoh, that is to say, “Israel.” (Enlightened Israel, not physical Israel.) But Who is the Other? “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gen. 1.2). Here we have the second person of the Duality. We have the Author, or the Mind, and the Spirit.

    The Christian has attempted to push “the Son” into the chapter to no avail. They write that because God spoke and Jesus is “the Word” that he also appears in the first chapter. Stuff and nonsense! Do not be taken in! The word “devar” (“word”) does not appear in the first chapter of Genesis. It does not appear until Gen. 15, as a message to Abraham. The injection of Jesus is a Catholic notion, born of their desire to deify a man.

    It makes perfect sense to the wise student that God would be composed of two parts. For we see that it is impossible that a God lacking all physicality could create and interact with a physical world. He must have some portion of him that is physical. But such physicality must be vaporous, barely touching upon the physical at all. This is spirit or wind. The Spirit, which proceeds from the Mind shares the essence of God with the Mind, but it extends far enough into the physical world to interact with it.

    This Spirit is the Shekinah, a semi-physical manifestation of the spiritual God. She is not fully physical, not corruptible. It is the Spirit that speaks to Man, for speech is but vibration of air. It is the Spirit that finished the work of creation by endowing Man with God’s image, by filling Man’s nostrils. And there are many proofs besides.

    By now it must be apparent to all but the stiff-necked, the proud, and those who lack understanding that the godhead is neither a trinity, nor a unity, but a Duality. Reflect on this and know His true nature. It is in the Torah for all to see.

    * * * * *

    I hope one can see that it takes only a little imagination to impose a meaning onto the Torah. I have hated to type such abominable words, but it is my hope that it will become apparent why one cannot tolerate taking the words of God out of context. Such practice will to easily lead one astray. Coming to the Torah with an agenda clouds one’s mind. He will not find in the Torah the words of God, but the echo of his own vanity.

    Jim

    • Only the superficial will take “one” to mean “one”. They have been unduly influenced by Maimonides, the Aristotelian, who has clouded their minds with Greek philosophy. Do not listen to them, for they have been deceived. If they had only studied their own Torah, they would have known its true meaning.

      Jim, what are you saying? Rambam’s position is hardly superficial, and he’s hardly alone in it. The entirety of Judaism’s position rests on the fact that it accepts the tradition prior to the book’s actual existence on the basis of the uniqueness and a claimed unbroken chain, passed down by authoritative teachers. But, if we can pick and choose the teachers who we believe and don’t, and how correct their teachings were or not, we have damaged the core premise of transmission in Judaism’s thesis. If we cannot see Rambam or other accepted teachers as genuinely truly representative of authoritative Judaism, Pray tell what are we supposed to do? Maimonides inherited central tenets of his thought from Saadia, and rationalist readings came from Philo of Alexandria before that. That is a clear demonstrable chain of transmission. I don’t doubt the uniqueness of the Jewish claim, but other criteria and factors are brought in by these arguments you put forward that damage your own premise central to your thesis.

      http://www.talkreason.org/articles/kuzariflaws.cfm Give this article a read. (Bear in mind that I don’t necessarily agree with the tone. And some content of the article, merely the possibility of some of the points it raises.)

      Respectfully

      Concerned reader

  32. Yet again though Jim, the Christians do not treat the divine nature as physical. The

    Physical person is not Divine, but the divine speaks through him.

  33. “Enlightened Israel not physical Israel.” Sounds like a metaphysical view of Israel as son to me Jim. 🙂

  34. Jim says:

    Con,

    You have not understood the parody. None of the points in the parody have any merit. I do not hold that Maimonides was superficial, but that is the sort of thing Christians write about him. They like to pretend to themselves that their views regarding the trinity, messiah, and all sorts of things were part of normative Judaism until the rabbis rewrote their theology to exclude Jesus. You will read among Christian works that Maimonides corrupted Judaism by preaching an indivisible unity, a doctrine they will say was unknown before Maimonides. They will say that he was corrupted by Greek thought. I borrowed their view in writing a false interpretation, because it is the sort of error you will read in their works.

    Every one of the points you have raised answers the parody, not the object of the parody. The point of the parody is not to argue that God is a Duality. I only do that to show the real point, that reading the Torah with an agenda, one is able to twist it up in all sorts of ways. Do not take it for serious that Maimonides is superficial, or that true Israel is “Enlightened Israel.”

    Please consider the paragraphs outside the parody, before and after the asterisks to understand the parody. If you argue about the nature of Jesus, you have missed the point. This is about the nature of eisegesis.

    Jim

  35. Parodies like the one above as you say, seem to represent and refute the common perspective of the evangelical Christian Right, not those knowledgeable in your religion’s development, or their own. Maimonides influenced Aquinas for crying out loud. Lol This is what drives me nuts about articles that use parody, no offense. They don’t actually give much instruction, because the subtleties in rhetoric can be missed. One of the reasons I post here so much, is because I am here to learn, as much as I am to put out what I know. Even though I have a degree in comparative religions, I still have more to learn, about Judaism, and Christianity. In fact, this subject needs more careful prudent study than any other.

  36. Dina, yes I can appreciate that Christianity has not granted legitimacy to Jewish interpretation, and how bad that is, and I can say the same is true for Judaism towards Christianity If Troki’s writings, the disputations, etc. are any indication. The reason that I have felt misunderstood, is not because I don’t understand the realities of our gruesome history, or our communities complex interactions, but because we live in unprecedented times. Our two religions have been able to interact more amicably in the last 20 years, than in 2000 years of history. I never want us to forget or to slight the horrible sins we Christians have committed, but when we use that history (like the Middle Ages) to discredit a modern dialogue (that in many cases is well meaning,) it feels like our attempts to change, will never help anything. To put it another way, when we dialogue, and the crusades, the inquisition, pogroms, etc. is brought up, that is not the basis for why modern believers accept their religion, or something to be emulated. I understand the defensive and informative need to bring those atrocities to people’s attention, but the vast majority of Christians do not see those things as what the religion means. Also, I am not seeking Judaism’s approval, I am highlighting the fact that though our communities understand theology differently, we have historical and ancient connections that serve as the basis for our mutual different understandings. For instance, me bringing up Philo, the Dead Sea scrolls, is not to get you to agree with the belief, or with my view, but to highlight a historic connection to what was a (Be it fringe or mainstream) Jewish view in the past, (whether it was right, or wrong, or heretical is another issue.) the historic connection is still there, and both communities have grown enough, that we shouldn’t feel a need to denigrate. I agree with you about avoiding conversion, but I also know that we can’t call Christianity utterly baseless, any more than we can say that about Judaism, without shaking faith. I care and want people to see the complexity, because polemic leads so many away from faith in G-d at all, regardless of which group we belong to, does that make sense?

    • Dina says:

      Concerned Reader, the short answer is no, it does not make any sense.

      Here is the long answer. The fact is that while physical atrocities have changed (flowing from Christian to Jew), the facile dismissal of the Jewish position has not changed; missionaries still strenuously try to convert us without bothering to listen to what we have to say (note that I said “missionaries”).

      The nicest Christians I’ve spoken to–and don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for your respectful tone–when I speak to them long enough I detect an undercurrent of contempt for the Jewish position. In your case, the contempt shows in your dismissal of our arguments because they are polemical and uneducated, simplistic and lacking nuance.

      You also said in earlier comments that you do care about the Jewish opinion of your position. It bothers you that we see Christianity as idolatrous, even while agreeing that it’s not the same as polytheism.

      You have spent a lot of time trying to persuade us that Christians are halachic monotheists. If you don’t care for the Jewish stamp of approval, then what was the point?

      I’m not trying to play gotcha, just trying to show why I don’t entirely trust you on your motives. You have said many times that you are not trying to take Jews away from their Judaism. In that case, why not better spend your time arguing against Christians who are?

  37. Jim says:

    Con,

    You are mistaken if you believe that these faults only appear in modern uneducated Christian works, but not the older, or that I have missed nuances in rhetoric that exempt those involved in the religion’s development. Aquinas, for example, tries to derive the meaning of “ceremonial laws” from the latin “ceremony” in his discussion of the “Old Law”. This is beyond absurd.

    Moreover, he contradicts himself mightily in arguing that the “Old Law” was an imperfect law, the proof of which is that it was given by angels (the proof of which is derived solely from the NT). God would only give the perfect law directly (in the incarnation). Not much later, he writes that the Decalogue was given directly by God. That means that, by Aquinas’ logic, the ten commandments were a perfect law. And then, he also argues that the rest of the moral law is explanation of the Decalogue. Logically, then, the whole of the moral law is perfect. So what part was imperfect, the ceremonial laws? Or the judicial laws? (According to Aquinas, the law is divided into three parts, moral, ceremonial, and judicial.)

    To be sure, he holds the ceremonial and judicial laws to have been temporary. But it is clear that when he says the “Old Law” is not perfect, though it be good, he is referring to the moral law. For he says that it cannot perfect man, for only the Holy Spirit can do that.

    And the contradictions pile up:

    Aquinas, echoing Paul, tells us that the Old Law was to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus, and to prepare them for the New Law that would have that perfecting power that the Old Law did not have. The Old Law prepared humanity for the coming of Jesus. And it pointed to Jesus.

    So then, it would only make sense that the people who practiced that law and studied it would be the ones perfected by it and understand that it pointed to Jesus. But as Aquinas points out, those most studied in the Law did not recognize the Messiah when he came to them. Generally speaking it was uneducated Jews and Gentiles who were not given the law that found Jesus hidden in the pages of the Holy Book. And yet, if the Law was preparing its practitioners to follow him as Aquinas claims, it should not have been that way.

    Moreover, if the Law was a pedagogue, a mirror to show humanity its inability to keep the “Old Law,” then the people who should have learned that lesson would have been its practitioners. However, it was people who were not given the Law and who had not tried to practice it that found it beyond their ability. Gentiles, who neither studied the Law nor kept it, are the ones who embraced the message that the Law was impossible to keep. However, they never had it. They couldn’t have learned the lesson from the Law that they never received. And yet, you have the ones who were given the Law practicing it faithfully, having found no futility in it. Aquinas’ position is wholly without merit, subtleties of rhetoric aside.

    Aquinas is no less guilty of cherry-picking and taking scripture out-of-context than Josh MacDowell. His arguments are apologetic in nature. His reading of the “Old Law” is self-serving, not devoted to understanding what it says, but how Christian doctrine can be found in it. He is more well-read than many modern Evangelical creatures. But he is not any more honest a thinker.

    Jim

  38. So the reason you support our practice of Judaism is that Christian scripture supports it. Do I have that right?

    Dina, the reason I support your practice of observance is because it is what Tanakh tells you to do. It just so happens that history and the Christian bible say the same. For instance, even the Christian texts that speak negatively about the law, or of a fulfillment, implying end of works of the law etc. curses of the law etc. were being read by Paul primarily, and in the majority, to gentile Christian converts in Pauline churches who were being told by others that for G-d to love them, they had to convert to Judaism. Those first gentile converts were only ever told by the disciples how much of the law to keep in Acts 15. Ethics for G-d fearing non Jews serve as the backbone of this message, as well as the eNtire NT, and also for early Christian ethical manuals, even post Paul. Paul even says in his writings that the rule in all of his congregations was that a person should remain in the station they were called. If you were circumcised, you should remain so, if uncircumcised, you should remain so. (Except for Timothy whose mother was Jewish, and whose father was a gentile. Paul circumcised him.) The issue in the early church was whether or not Gentiles had to be Jews first. Some Jewish followers like from among James, like Ebionites said yes, others (like Paul) said no. Christian anti Judaism is a horrendous thing, but it needn’t be read as a forgone conclusion of being Christian. It’s just like people who misread Paul as saying that he thinks deeds of righteousness don’t matter, totally miss the point he makes. It’s not that good deeds aren’t absolutely vital,(they are) it’s that a non Jew as well as a Jew can be righteous and holy, whether or not he or she is totally observant, and Paul uses the patriarchs as the prime examples. They were technically noachides, even though many sources said they observed the whole Torah out of love also. So righteousness, (even if it is a wild unkempt righteousness (like a gentile May have apart from Torah,) it is still judged by the standard of the law, since those who don’t have it, do by nature (basic morals of G-d fearing) what the law requires. So, even the antinomian (anti law) strain of Pauline thought remains fixed on ethics for G-dfearers, and does not go beyond that, or deviate from it. So, I just happen to have a basis for genuine mutual respect of Judaism, and not some need to feel otherwise. Be well Dina

    • Dina says:

      Yikes! You could have just stopped after the first sentence. I was just asking a question for clarification. Sorry you felt defensive.

      Thanks,
      Dina

  39. No Dina, I wasn’t defensive or feeling attacked, just clarifying why I view things the way I do. 🙂 sorry if my writing came across as defensive or hostile, wasn’t meant that way in the least.

    Have a good day.

  40. Dina, in response to your comments about missionaries, I agree they don’t care to learn your views very deeply, and the same is true of some anti missionaries. (Not you or rabbi B) That’s the real problem that I have with things, that accomplishes nothing. In response to a perceived dismissal or hostility from me regarding your position, I have this to say.

    I understand the position of Judaism to be that Judaism’s claim is unique, and accepted by an entire nation, therefore it is accepted by Jews as a plausibly true claim. I have no problem with that argument in and of itself, especially when the view is further clarified to take note that the claim is accepted on the basis of the claim itself, and not the veracity of the claim, (such as whether archaeology supports the belief or not.) I’m fine with that. I get slightly flustered though, (not at anyone personally, or at Judaism) that prominent arguments against Christianity then choose to focus on the veracity of its claims. Christianity May not have a national claim, but it does have a unique one, (arguably being the first messianic movement to teach redemption in its particular manner.) On top of that, it has the clear achievement (independent of Jewish or Christian testimony) of spreading a knowledge of G-d to Gentiles (which right or wrong) was a prophetic providential occurrence, and I think we can all agree that this knowledge was unlike anything in polytheism before it. My frustration comes, given all this information, not in your arguments per se, but in the fact that Judaism insinuates often (despite the above data) that Christians have no reason for their beliefs. We are told that we follow emotion, not reason, blind devotion, not scripture. It is the insinuations that have little basis in objective fact, that frustrate me, and the reason why I care is because doubting that objective data, casts some sense of doubt on Torah itself in a sense. If you judge Judaism’s claim as acceptable to you based on the uniqueness of the claim, and thats alright and rational for you, but you then judge Christianity on the basis of the veracity of its claim, it’s frustrating that we are told its irrational to use your standard of veracity on Torah merely because we already accept the Torah (on the basis of our own experience in Jesus.)

    That’s not a contempt for your position, just an important respectful question put to it.

    G-d bless.

    • Dina says:

      Concerned Reader, I think you are not understanding the basic element here. Once we accept the truth of the Torah, we test the veracity of any other claim in its light. We therefore test the veracity of the Christian claim against the Torah and it doesn’t stand up under scrutiny.

      Heck, if we believed Christians had reason for their beliefs, we would have to be Christian. Our two religions are not reconcilable. You do not agree with that assessment, but to me that is just bizarre. We cannot both be right, as I have argued many times.

      Furthermore, the claim of Christianity is hardly unique. It is not only not unique, it is also duplicatable, and therefore has been duplicated. This is not so for the Jewish claim. Please listen to the lecture I posted and show me the holes in the logic.

      Please excuse my bluntness, nothing personal.

      Pleasure talking to you,
      Dina

  41. Once we accept the truth of the Torah, we test the veracity of any other claim in its light. (But you have to accept the validity of the Torah first.) You presuppose the conclusion (truth of the Torah) before demonstrating that such a view (the Torah as true) is a claim that is valid for good reasons. Circular reasoning. How do you know that the National revelation claim (though it is unique) didn’t arise over time? Many widely believed national tales revealed en masse arise that way, and it’s more likely that the Torah arose that way too. You say you don’t have to demonstrate?

    Moreover, you don’t accept the Torah itself on the basis of the veracity of the events it describes, rather you accept it because it’s a unique claim. Since you don’t require of your own faith structure to demonstrate the veracity of what it describes, how can you then use it as a standard to judge veracity against? The whole problem with the logic you are using is that you accept the claim in question without requiring a demonstration of its own veracity, or without demonstrating the correctness of the premises your own argument makes. Your acceptance of the Torah is presupposing the correctness and truth of the very thing you are seeking to prove, before you have proved it. If you say that your claim isn’t based on verifiable evidence, but on uniqueness, then the Torah cannot require veracity of any other claim, that it does not require or demonstrate of or for itself.

    • Dina says:

      Hi Concerned Reader,

      You are confusing two issues. One is the standard of evidence we require for the Christian claim; the other is whether the Torah is true or not.

      We do not require an unfair standard for the Christian claim. Remember that Jesus preached to the Jews. According to the gospels, he preached in their synagogues. The gospels therefore appeal to the authority of the Torah in order to prove the truth of his claims. Jesus and the Jews in his audience already accepted the truth of the Torah as a foregone conclusion. Therefore, it would have been fair for them to assess his claims in light of the Torah which they accepted as true. This is not circular reasoning; it’s common sense.

      (Ultimately, those who actually knew what the Torah said rejected him, while those who did not accepted him.)

      The second issue is whether the Torah is true or not. The standard of evidence we require is irrelevant when you consider what I wrote above. Nevertheless, the evidence is strong.

      You keep repeating your argument that the claim of uniqueness is circular and weak, without actually responding to Rabbi B.’s arguments on the matter. Here are his comments so you can review them:

      https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/an-open-letter-to-concerned-reader/#comment-13444

      https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/an-open-letter-to-concerned-reader/#comment-13460

      And finally, if you would save me the time and listen to the lecture I posted, I would be most grateful. However, if you do not have the time, then I will write a summary. Just let me know. That will take me a while.

      • Below is a paraphrase of some of rabbi kellermans main points with my responses interspersed throughout. It was a good lecture Dina.

        G-d spoke to one man, Abraham. (I thought to myself, ok this is classic revelation narrative.) Then G-d spoke to one man, Isaac, (ok classic myth.) Jacob, etc. then I read Exodus, parsha yitro. 600,000 male Jews heard G-d speak. (600,000 people who already believed in the existence, revelation, and providence of G-d.) This is the first problem with rabbi kellerman’s argument. According to apple white theorem, people with charismatic leaders will believe anything, (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.) even if in every other area, they will behave rationally.) The argument isn’t G-d forbid that the Jewish people were somehow idiots, the issue is that they were already prone to accept belief in the very concept in question. They are already saturated with a traditional belief, even a family oriented belief, a belief which according to rabbi kellerman’s own words initially started with one man.

        “Every single member of the heavens gate cult had an undergraduate degree” People are gullible, especially given a charismatic leader. People will BELIEVE ANYTHING, AS LONG AS THE LIE CANNOT BE CHECKED. (Here is where the second problem lies. We do not have independent evidence demonstrating the veracity of the events that the Torah describes. (Such as archaeology, impartial records, etc.) Therefore, the claim cannot be checked independent of Jewish testimony.

        Rabbi kellerman also assumes from the start that the national revelation claim arose all at once without discord either in the past, the present, or the future. He says the theory can go one of 3 ways. Your ancestors (the nation) heard G-d speak, You heard G-d speak, or you will hear him speak. The fallacy is in assuming a once in time linear progression or occurrence of this claim. There is no knowing for sure whether or not the claim of national revelation arose all at once. Rabbi kellerman even admits that the past theory, and to a lesser extent present theory, could theoretically account for Judaism ‘s existence, though he believes this is unlikely.) Further, the Torah itself shows the likelihood, and even the fact that the entire nation as a whole rejected the claim, and only a faithful remnant accepted it.

        Further, it states that they later forgot, and only still later, a faithful king and remnant restored it to glory. Ezra also had to do the same with the exiles. Rabbi kellerman counters this objection by noting the clear chain of transmission with a rather impressive list of teacher to student relationships. He says there is no other view. I would counter his point by saying that an oral transmission carries with it all the elements of human discourse including disagreements, and we have clear unambiguous evidence of these other perspective traditional claims in the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Nazarenes, etc. we have documented historical disagreements between Jews about fundamental issues of law and authority.

        The other issue, as I pointed out, was the intermittence of national revelation. Not all prophecy was validated that way all the time consistently according to scripture. The final issue I’ve noted is with the claim itself of one national unbroken chain of transmission and thus the implied authority of one group of interpreters. The problem I have with this claim is that the Sadducees and priests made this exact same claim to being the authoritative biblical interpreters in the late Hasmonean and on into the rest of the second temple period. They were roundly criticized and refuted by the Pharisees on this exact issue of whether anyone holds that kind of authority over the people of Israel.

        Finally, Rabbi Kellerman rests his acceptance of the Torah, “what he calls the bomb” on the unique nature (and so therefore supernatural) nature of the claims of Judaism. If the claim were just natural, it would be repeated. Christians claimed the experience of G-d speaking to them in a clearly defined unique supernatural and personal way, to communicate his will. Jews have attempted to show pagan parallels and thus the non uniqueness of Christianity, parallels which I have shown elsewhere to be based on a skin deep understanding of what we teach, and an understanding which does not account for or take seriously how we understand and define what is stated by us. In regards to data, the only religion to make claims even approaching similarity (beyond skin deep resemblance) is Judaism itself. When all the data is considered, and people call Christian or Jewish religious experience into question, it invariably damages the credibility of both claims substantially.

        • Dina says:

          Hi Concerned Reader,

          Thank you very much for taking the time to listen to the lecture and to write a response.

          Rabbi B. discusses the Torah-forgotten-in-Josiah’s-day objection you raised, on this blog. You can read about it here: https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/supplement-to-contra-brown/. Search for “Historical objections ‑ the Torah scroll of Josiah.”

          As for the claim of national revelation developing slowly, over time, what you are failing to ask is–if such a thing could happen, why did it only happen in Judaism? Furthermore, why does our Torah predict that no one else will ever make that claim (Deuteronomy 4:33, 35)? Strange thing to predict, of all things, don’t you think?

          Furthermore, a claim of national revelation can be checked against the experience of the witnesses. See, if Paul has a vision, you can’t check it out. But if you along with Paul and every single other person in your nation experiences exactly the same revelation at the same time, you don’t need to check it out because it happened to you. It’s amazing that no other religion ever thought of making that claim. It’s amazing that millennia later, still no religion has come up with such an idea as national revelation.

          You have not directly addressed Rabbi Blumenthal’s points and answered his questions on this issue. I hope you will reread his comments and respond directly, as I am eager to hear your response.

        • Dina says:

          Concerned Reader, you also fail to realize the strength of the claim that only one strain of Judaism appears to survive, despite our weakened, scattered state and despite enormous pressure to become extinct. That this authenticates our claim. That this is what God promised would happen.

          So if other splinter sects claim to be authoritative but they fail to survive, then that proves they are not authentic by virtue of the promise of the Torah itself–that’s why it’s not circular reasoning.

          That the Pharisaic tradition survived the Sadduccees and others not because they were stronger or because they tried to suppress them–this is also important to consider.

    • Concerned Reader
      You continue to misunderstand my words. I never said that I do not require my faith structure to demonstrate the veracity of what it believes. the way it demonstrates the veracity of what it believes is by pointing to the uniqueness of our claim – this is then proof that the claim did not arise by a the general tendencies of human behavior because if that would have been the case then this claim would have been duplicated.
      You countered by arguing that the Christian claim is also unique in its own way – you see this in two aspects – in the way it influenced the world and in the redemptive claim that it makes. You argue that if Judaism could be established on the basis of the uniqueness of a claim then we should allow the same for Christianity.
      Dina countered (and I agree with her here) that since Christianity accepts the validity of Judaism – then it needs to be judged according to Judaism’s rule and regulations and this it fails to do.
      So there is no chance that Christianity is true – the claim is self-contradictory.
      What you could accomplish by pointing to the uniqueness of Christianity’s claim – is that you could argue that since Christianity has a unique claim and Judaism still doesn’t accept the validity of Christianity then Judaism must accept that the uniqueness of a claim does not prove its veracity and then this would knock out the foundation of Judaism (we’d both be wrong)
      My response to this challenge is that I will dispute the uniqueness of Christianity’s claim. Human behavior has duplicated Christianity’s claim for redemption. And as it relates to the influence that Christianity had on the world I will point to Islam and to the fact that Christianity’s influence was far from completely positive – There was much negative in Christianity that was not present in paganism – such as a deep anti-Semitism and a disdain for human knowledge and human endeavor in general. These things only changed with outside influences – so all in all I don’t see Christianity’s contribution as something that has not been duplicated by typical human behavior.

  42. I’ll listen to it Dina, no worries.

  43. Rabbi, a unique claim is a unique claim, it doesn’t demonstrate veracity (whether the claim is verifiably true.) We can only determine probabilities of whether said claim is likely true. This is not the same thing. The point is though rabbi that the duplication of ideas you allege, has only substantially come about from concepts and themes having a source in your own religion. Dying and rising gods (not that this is specifically what christians teach, we know that) have more to do with the cycle of life or crops, than with a redemption notion of any kind. Other religions would ask redemption from what? Other religions don’t even conceive of the divine in the same way as Jews or Christians, so the supposed parallels of common human behavior that you bring are very weak. As I’ve said to you before, if Christians were engaging in self validation and emotionalism when experiencing Jesus, they just would have venerated Jesus as a good man, like every other pagan god and teacher. All of the trouble they take at careful discussion of what they mean makes your accusation a little weak. I said to Dina in response to her counterpoint, that Christians today accept the Torah on the basis of their experience of Jesus, and other evidence, not solely based on the uniqueness of their or your claim alone, though theirs is also unique. The status of prophecy and revelation was not precisely agreed on when Jesus came. I would say the rest of scripture validates based on many things. Also, you say that Jesus doesn’t fit the description, (based on your particular stream of traditional hermeneutic approach, just as ours is based on an approach) but we both know that a dying messianic figure rising to life, a unique theophany establishing legitimacy (like with Moses,) and this being the ground for accepting ethics and commands, are all uniquely established from the Hebrew Bible, and streams of traditional thought (such as Philo) in the period. (Btw i know you don’t accept that. But that’s the point, there are several possibilities.) So yes, you open the can of worms that indeed we are both more likely to be wrong, then either of us is to be right. Your objections about reestablishment of priesthood, temple service, ingathering, etc. not being accomplished by Jesus, and invalidating him are all stated by all of us traditionally to be contingent upon our repentant actions and faith, and so cannot be used as disqualifying factors for who is or is not the messiah. We know that it is possible for a concealed visitation, such as Moses before his open revelation as redeemer. The only point rabbi, is that we both have a rational biblical basis for our beliefs. I’m not throwing your position out, it’s just not the only possible one.

    With much respect, concerned Reader

    • Btw rabbi, I was responding to a lecture Dina posted.

    • Concerned Reader

      You say that a unique claim doesn’t demonstrate veracity. I beg to differ. If you have testimony that cannot be attributed to the twists and turns of human behavior – by virtue of it being unique – then you have reason to believe that the testimony is true. I would agree that this is not the same like a science experiment that can be duplicated by anyone in a laboratory – but it certainly gives us a powerful reason to believe that it is true on the basis of rational and honest thought.

      Your arguments about the uniqueness of Christianity’s claims fail in my opinion because there is nothing in them that hasn’t been duplicated in human behavior many times over. You argue that if Christians were engaged in self-validation then they would have simply venerated their hero as a good man and teacher – human behavior has shown us more than once that the tendency in many cases is to elevate the hero to become an object of worship. Human behavior has also shown us that once an object of worship has been chosen then theology will be composed to explain and to rationalize this worship – and the theology that will be composed will factor in the local philosophies – in this case – Judaism.

      Your arguments that Christianity is not a contradiction to the belief system to which it claims to have come to fulfill based on the idea that Judaism was flexible enough to allow for Christian theology and that the current positions of Judaism cannot be used as a measuring stick by which to judge Christianity – is also fallacious. One – whatever we know about Judaism in the time of the rise of Christianity tells us that it did contradict the very foundations of Judaism and Two – according to the terms of any version of Judaism – the survival of Rabbinic Judaism vindicates it as the authentic strain of Judaism making your argument irrelevant.

      Also, you mentioned that the redemption of Christianity stands out in what it claims to redemption from – I disagree. Christianity claims to redeem from the punishment of sin – what’s so unique about that?

      • You say that a unique claim doesn’t demonstrate veracity. I beg to differ. If you have testimony that cannot be attributed to the twists and turns of human behavior – by virtue of it being unique – then you have reason to believe that the testimony is true.

        Your claim demonstrates a probability of being plausibly true, I grant that. This is not the same however as verifiable truth, this is why ours are both faith claims. There is nothing wrong with that. 🙂 The uniqueness in terms of national revelation while truly unique I grant, requires a high degree of very subtle almost imperceptible nuance that borders on an is/seems distinction, to be able to consider it as truly distinct (not attributable to twists and turns or norms of behavior.) it takes some degree of brass and nuance 😉 to distinguish your national claim from very very common mass revelation claims of past and present. I have (I think reasonably) shown how a national claim, as opposed a mass claim, has a greater tendency towards bias, due to presupposing the truths of the belief in question beforehand. The fact that Israel believed in the type of experiences beforehand, makes them more suggestible, this could be an issue.

        Redemption from sin is indeed unique to Christianity and Judaism, because it presupposes that
        1. A divine being that has a will exists.
        2. This divine being cared to deliver this will to humans.
        3. There is a consequence to violating this will.

        Pagans do not believe these 3 things, or other biblical ideas.

        Christian predictability or non uniqueness stems from its similarities to Judaism, pagan similarity is skin deep, and often when present actually serves as polemic to undermine it. The problem that I have with your statement that Christian theology is wholly unprecedented by Judaism, is Philo and his descriptions of Moses, Maimonides and his descriptions of Moses, saadia and his Kabod Nivra, and literature like the self glorification hymn, and those literatures dealing with Metatron, shekinah, etc, things which are very similar. While I accept your point that addressing Jesus in prayer directly was unprecedented, asking someone to pray for you, was not unprecedented, nor were beliefs in angels or saints as intermediaries who carry prayers to G-d unprecedented.

        The question is, was there an authentic experience of G-d revealing himself, that made these monotheistic people say this? As I’ve stated to you before, even if I granted an idolatrous current, (which I don’t really agree,) this new “idol” pointed to his father, his G-d, and the one name under heaven given among humans by which we must be saved. This is either directly identified, or contains the name pointing directly to Hashem. To put it another way, if in second temple times a gentile was permitted (though reluctantly as a leniency) by the rabbis to partner a totally alien conception or deity with Hashem as long as they know G-d’s headship, how much more a conception of G-d where the partner can only be identified or directly connected to biblical narrative and conceptions of G-d?

        Rabbi, my point is further illustrated by the fact that if we are diligent, With an eye to history, Christians can truly come to appreciate your practices, and your commitments to Judaism. You and other scholars have pointed out that our own book says for you to stay committed to Judaism. That’s great, we need to learn to help you there.

        Btw rabbi, I never said you couldn’t criticize Christianity through appeals to the Torah. Indeed you can. The question is, is the theology set against. Advocating devotion to Hashem.

  44. Concerned Reader
    You are confusing interpretation of the claim with the claim itself. The practical claims of Christianity are no unique – virgin birth, faith healings, and post-death sightings. The interpretations of these claims are also not unique. They are typical human behavior in the context of Judaism.
    As opposed to the practical claims of Judaism – miracles of the exodus, Sinai revelation and wandering in the desert – these are unique and unparalleled in human behavior.
    You may want to differ and point to other claims of national revelation – I am willing to leave it to the judgment of the audience. What are those claims that you see as parallel to the practical claims of Judaism? Again – not a parallel to one detail – show me a parallel to the grand total of the practical claim.

  45. As I’ve pointed out before rabbi, the distinction between mass revelation and national revelation that you see as an extremely important distinction separating Judaism from other claims, and common human behaviors, is extremely subtle to the point of being an is seems dichotomy which it could be argued isn’t a very strong point respectfully. Your position is just as open to the claim that you are dodging through unique interpretation as you say my views of Christianity are open to the same criticism. You have already established (as has scripture) that Torah was known well before national revelation to Abraham’s descendants, and so it stands to reason that resting your claim on national revelation is only part of the experience, and not necessarily one that eliminates all doubt. Abraham’s revelation was not witnessed by a whole nation, but G-d spoke to him alone, this does not make Abraham false. G-d also carried elijah to heaven in the presence of a small number of observers and not nationally. Even if we grant national revelation, it is most clearly in the text a revelation that only truly affected a righteous remnant, and subsequent generations heard the claim of national revelation without first hand knowledge. (Judges 2:10.)

    Blessings and respect

  46. Concerned Reader
    Again, you are responding to claims I never made. I never made a distinction between national versus mass revelation. I am simply saying that if you put the practical claim of Judaism on the table – no other practical claim is similar to it.
    When I say “practical” I mean the claim about concrete events – to the exclusion of interpretations and theology.
    Also I never said that a revelation claim that is not a collective experience must be false. So can you explain why you felt the need to enlighten me about Abraham’s and Elijah’s revelations and miracles? What did I say that made you think that I would consider their experiences to be false?

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