From the Foundation Up, by Annelise

From the Foundation Up, by Annelise

Some people encounter Judaism and leave mainstream Christianity, but hold on to the Christian scriptures. They keep some Christian beliefs out of loyalty to their messiah. When the Orthodox Jewish community rejects them, they “identify with Yeshua’s suffering.” There are many different versions of following him like this away from the rest of the church.

Many of these groups explain their reading of ‘the Bible’ as uniquely important and different through the illustration of building a house. They feel that mainstream Christianity has tried to build the roof first and then get to the foundation. So they say that they now start with the ‘first testament’, the Hebrew scriptures, and only then interpret the ‘second testament’ (or ‘New Testament’), through the lens of Torah.

The problem is that interpretation, from the right perspective, is not even relevant until something is accepted as true from that perspective. They assume that when they go back to the foundations, they will be able to come back to the Christian scriptures and read its symbols and theology with a new light and deeper understanding. And they insist that when they start with the Torah, the New Testament intricately matches the context of Judaism in which it was originally written. They find it exciting to see the similarities, exploring the deeply important themes of Torah amidst a collection of new ideas.

Rather than starting with Torah, these readers are still starting with the belief that their sixty-six books are the ‘whole Bible’, and that the Torah, prophets, and other Hebrew writings are the foundational part of a bigger picture that they imagine. All the things that the original followers of Jesus/Yeshua learnt in their Jewish upbringing gave them language and symbols for what they wanted to say about their leader. So it is no wonder that the meanings of their New Testament are better understood by those who look at the historical and living Jewish culture and spiritual heritage. But being connected to the original ideas does not make a new one true.

What if the foundation could be built, in a living nation’s context, with no such preconception of the ‘roof’ in mind? Ideas that the ‘New Testament’ obsesses over would not come to mind at all; the entire claim would seem unnecessary, yet supported by mere shadows. We can explore two of the greatest themes of the Hebrew prophets to see this.

One thing these prophets thought and wrote about often was the complete difference between worshiping what is in the realm of earth and the sky, and on the completely opposite hand worshiping the maker of everything. This is how they defined true and false worship. But they never defined God.

Christians often feel that a difference between their faith and that of rabbinic Judaism is the ‘imagination if God’. Some have argued that worshiping ‘not-Yeshua’ could itself be considered idolatry, since they think that involved worshiping a false concept of the Creator. But this is a twisted portrayal of the prophetic terminology. While traditional Jews avoid imagining God, turning their hearts away from creation and their minds towards His actions when they pray, Christians have a concept or imagination of what God ‘is’. But He is incomparable even though He is close. Every image, every shape, every idea, every concept of relationship, every value that we can even begin to conceive is a part of His world, a reflection of His light; the heavens, the earth, and everything in them. That is the simple definition of what not to worship, and one who begins with Torah will not find or allow any blurring of this.

The world is an intimate gift from God, according to Judaism. He doesn’t need to ‘become part of it’ in order to be very close. His words and actions in the world are an expression of love and relationship, and there are many of these; all are His servants. Imagining God at all, even when saying that beyond a certain level it is a mystery, blatantly transgresses a deep value of those who begin with Torah. No matter how perfectly a reflection or manifestation of His love serves its purpose, it is part of creation. It can be in front of our eyes when we pray, but not in front of our hearts. Torah Judaism knows this.

A second emphasis of the Jewish Bible is that the Torah path already contains the path of righteousness, forgiveness, and devotion. A simple Jew who seeks to follow it and to love God does not need the messiah to help him access this. That king is a future hope of comfort for the community who follows the prophets’ clear warnings.

The Talmud, and other writings and teachings related to it, reflect the Torah observant community’s generation-to-generation record of what Torah involves in everyday life. Its experiences and intricacies of holiness, and the memories and debates that are attached to it, are all emphasised in the school system of a holy nation. And this love of God and what it means to live out His law with the fear of heaven, gradually becoming more and more noble in every action of life while keeping steady with the main things, is what the prophets were pointing to all along. The Torah observant community has preserved through history the only record of authoritative rulings from the judges and priests about how the Jewish community should keep Torah. Any Jew who focused first on Tanach would find their eyes drawn by all the prophets to the details and the spirit of the Torah, a complete and beautiful gift that is in reach even of the weakest person who desires God. Hope for restoration of the Temple, Israel, humanity, and creation is part of this picture, but the ‘need’ for something specifically like Christianity is not visible unless you already assume it is the next level and build your reading to match.

Christians believe that since no one is perfect in keeping God’s laws, either His laws to Israel or His expectation of humanity, justice must be served and someone sinless must die in place. This comes from an explanation developed by the early church, and taught to the world by the missionary Paul. But in all his honest psalms, King David never lamented that because no one had died in his place, he couldn’t imagine how God could forgive or help him. He just accepted the forgiveness and help offered by God in Torah. The Jewish scriptures don’t warn that a person who loves all their commandments and moulds their life around them might still be an enemy of God if they ignore a ‘second covenant’. Instead it points over and over to the path of life given by Moses, as if that already included God’s best for the nation and the world and even the possibility of healing and growth as a person keeps returning to the path.

If you truly begin with the foundation of the Hebrew scriptures, counting its own emphases as your emphases, and then look at the historical Jewish community, you will never come to the conclusion that among what they have yet to improve in observance is devotion to Jesus/Yeshua. Before giving labels of stubborn rebellion and tragic misguidance to Jews who have, through history, focused their lives on the details and spirit of Torah and built a Temple for God in their hearts, your reasons for thinking that they are rejecting parts of God’s own building must rest on more than shadowy links, verses with multiple readings, or circular logic. When the followers of your messianic claimant have spent the last two-thousand years worshiping him, even more so.

Devotion to God alone, which lies beneath the desire to take the Torah-observant Jewish testimony seriously, should give a person the strength to cling to God and have confidence that He will lead… from the foundation upward.

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50 Responses to From the Foundation Up, by Annelise

  1. junzey says:

    If you truly begin with the foundation of the Hebrew scriptures, counting its own emphases as your emphases, and then look at the historical Jewish community, you will never come to the conclusion that among what they have yet to improve in observance is devotion to Jesus/Yeshua. Before giving labels of stubborn rebellion and tragic misguidance to Jews who have, through history, focused their lives on the details and spirit of Torah and built a Temple for God in their hearts, your reasons for thinking that they are rejecting parts of God’s own building must rest on more than shadowy links, verses with multiple readings, or circular logic. When the followers of your messianic claimant have spent the last two-thousand years worshiping him, even more so.
    Devotion to God alone, which lies beneath the desire to take the Torah-observant Jewish testimony seriously, should give a person the strength to cling to God and have confidence that He will lead… from the foundation upward.

    Dear Annelise,
    BE CAREFUL!
    Psalm 118:21,22
    Give Thanks to the Lord, for He is Good
    21 I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me, And You have become my salvation.
    22 The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.
    23 This is the LORD’S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.…

    Isaiah 28:15,16,17
    A Cornerstone in Zion
    15 Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, And with Sheol we have made a pact. The overwhelming scourge will not reach us when it passes by, For we have made falsehood our refuge and we have concealed ourselves with deception.”
    16 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.
    17 “I will make justice the measuring line And righteousness the level; Then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies And the waters will overflow the secret place.…

    Isaiah 8:13,14,15
    A Call to Fear God
    13 “It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread.
    14 “Then He shall become a sanctuary; But to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, And a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
    15 “Many will stumble over them, Then they will fall and be broken; They will even be snared and caught.”…

    Psalm 11:2,3,4
    In the Lord I Take Refuge
    2 For, behold, the wicked bend the bow, They make ready their arrow upon the string To shoot in darkness at the upright in heart.
    3 If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do?”
    4 The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD’S throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.…

    If you deny the LORD, your foundations are destroyed! Christian simply means Messaih or annointed One … as a Gentile, Annelise, you are walking on sand! Turn again to the foundations and build your life (house) on the ROCK!

    God be with you and bless you,
    With Much Love,
    June

    • Dina says:

      June,

      If there is any chance you are reading my words, I would repeat your admonition to Annelise, “Be careful,” although I won’t shout it at you in all caps, much as I would like to🙂.

      The Torah defines idolatry as a type of worship that was unknown to our fathers (as in a god your fathers did not know). Jesus was unknown to our fathers; hence, worshiping him is idolatry. You know, June, it really is that simple.

      Be careful, June! You have been paying attention to the wrong people.

      Be careful, June! You have rushed in where angels dare not tread.

      Be careful, June! The sin of idolatry is the greatest crime you can commit against God.

      I pray that you to return to your people.

      With love,
      Dina

  2. Yedidiah says:

    Before the destruction of the Temple, a man, who claimed himself (or others claimed him) a messiah sought to cleanse the Temple, but he failed. He promised that soon his followers would be saved and that the “scourge will not reach us when it passes by” (for he made falsehood their refuge and attempted to conceal them with deception.”)

    When the Temple fell, many stumbled upon the rock of Zion and men set about building a “new house” (many houses eventually) on a “new rock”, a new “Lord”, instead of putting or keeping faith in the LORD. Psalms 11:3-5. “When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous man do?” The LORD is in His holy palace; the LORD–His throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His gaze searches mankind. The LORD seeks out the righteous one…”. In Heaven as always, not on earth. The LORD was abandoned and replaced by their “messiah”, their “Lord”.

  3. Concerned Reader says:

    Junzey, as one who has been discussing much on this site as of late, I think one way to see the perspective being put forward here on this blog most clearly is to look just at the five books of Moses primarily. If you read just the first five books, (the original context of the giving of the covenant by G-d on Sinai) its not until the prophet Samuel that Israel even gets its first anointed king, and Samuel even chides Israel for asking for such a person to lead them in 1 Samuel 17-19. This means that you can and do have a solid biblical foundation in Judaism without the need of a king, prophet, or Messianic figure, of any kind. Jews entered the land of Israel as a nation of descendants and proselytes without Moses. Moses who was the greatest most unique prophet of that time, as per Exodus 6:3 who saw G-d’s back, and spoke to him as a man with his friend. He was not allowed in. The point I can see made on this blog repeatedly is outlined in Deuteronomy 30.

    11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

    If you say that Genesis and the fall of man is being ignored in this comment, then we can look at, Genesis 4:7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” G-d is telling Cain, that he has control over his actions, and he can rule over his evil inclination. In short, the perspective here is that G-d has given the Torah, and all you really need is in there, try your best to observe, and G-d will forgive you your sins. You don’t need any messiahs, G-d will not punish you if you do your best to repent of your sins by changing your behavior according to the text just quoted, and according to Ezekiel 18. We even see the same message in Genesis, right after Adam’s sin of eating from the tree of knowledge. Genesis 3:9 has G-d calling to Adam, where are you? Off course G-d knows everything, so this can be seen as G-d offering Adam the chance to admit his wrongdoing, which off course he didn’t do, prompting his punishment.

  4. Concerned Reader says:

    Yedidiah, again, I understand the views that are being argued on this blog. I’ve tried to explain that to you before. It’s not that I’m incapable of seeing your perspective. If we look at the totality of what we know about Judaism and Christianity from history, we can easily say (even looking at Christian texts) that the traditional Jewish interpretation fits the Bible very well. We also know however that there are ideas in Jewish history among traditional and accepted circles that resonate with Christian theology. It’s never been the case that I didn’t understand the prevailing interpretation you hold to, but I’ve tried to note that even in Christianity there are limits to the glory or veneration that Jesus receives, and a knowledge among Christians about what it specifically means and doesn’t mean to say Jesus is divine.

    I understand that Judaism says that devotion to anyone but the creator is idolatry, whether you regard said things as metaphysical or temporal realities. What I have noticed though is that various writings, including Philo, or more importantly sources that are accepted by mainstream Judaism such as Maimonides, Saadia, etc. have posited the existence of G-d himself existing as he does, but also the existence of a heavenly Glory, created or eternal, essential to G-d or not, (depending on who you ask,) a logos, an active intellect, an angel of the presence who bears the divine name, that stands in for G-d’s immanent manifest presence, and let’s us know G-d’s will. This entity is even said to be reflected in Moses. Kabbalah and other streams of Jewish thought resonate with these concepts that Christians rely on.

    Those initial Christians may indeed have elevated Jesus after already being devoted to him (as rabbi B has noted,) or they may have actually had a legitimate experience that lead them to say he was G-d. We today can’t really know for sure. What we do know today is that Christians have defined what they mean to the point of believing in divine simplicity, incorporeality, and ethics. Their hearts are inclined to Hashem, and they indeed know traditionally that G-d the father is not limited to operating through Jesus, and moreover that to say he is is heretical. The Meiri was one rabbi who understood well that to call Christians or Muslims idolaters was a stretch, because up until these faiths, there were no gentile societies on a large scale “constrained by matters of religion.” To call it idolatry one has to create a new category of idolatry, because contrary to popular belief, it’s not really similar to classical idolatry at all.

    I meant what I wrote to Junzey, but I also know that it’s not outside the scope of the Christian tradition to come to similar ethical or metaphysical conclusions. You know that the Christian tradition draws distinctions that it sees as vital to a proper Christian understanding. Words like demigod, idol, etc. do not give adequate weight to Christian self definitions.

    Christians can learn to love traditional Judaism, if they are given the means to see its presence in their own sources and history.

    • Yedidiah says:

      I am well aware of Christian self definitions of several “school of thought” from Calvinists to “inclusivists” or “universalists”. The belief on or in any one issue or doctrine in Christianity can range from one extreme to the other. And I’ve seen that Judaism also has a tradition that “draws distinctions that it sees as vital to a proper” Jewish understanding. Philo was a Hellenist, as were most early Christians. His reading of Torah was a re-reading that I would disagree with, so it is not hard to see his ideas being rejected by most Jews who might read him and not to difficult to see that most Jews 2000 years ago were either ignorant of him or intentionally ignored his personal opinions. He was no Maimonides as much as you might want him to be. I am not sure Jewish Kabbalists would be interested in Philo. I guess that many traditional Christians would find his readings unhelpful or unacceptable.

      I am much more jaded on the concept that “Christians can love traditional Judaism, if they are given the means to see its presence in their own sources and history.” No need to look at “sources or history” that only accentuate the differences. I see that “love” first hand in a Church “returning to its Hebraic roots”. They teach “Torah” and celebrate the “feasts” and Jewish holy days; but all is revised to be compatible with the NT and to replace God with Jesus. Not to rewrite Torah & Tanach is write out the centrality of Jesus.

      Using words like idolatry in reference to Jesus is needed. First, because it is or because it comes dangerously close depending on which Christian denomination one belongs to or what philosophy one ascribes too (doesn’t matter that a man was not the usual or “classic” idol). Second, to minimize the danger of idolatry in “worship” of a man is, in a way, a promotion of idolatry. It is hard to see in much of Christianity that there are real or meaningful “limits to the glory or veneration that Jesus receives”. And it is even more difficult to see that there is “a knowledge among Christians about what it specifically means and doesn’t mean to say Jesus is divine”. There instead is a confusion of what a trinity means (by the people in the pews and by many in the pulpit). And as some “Unitarians” try to explain their idea of a unity, they instead sound as if there are 2 Gods or else God was indeed a man and therefore a liar. “Depending on who you ask” is key; many Jewish concepts of God do not resonate with many Christian’s view of Jesus or God, and vice versa. And all sorts of people reasonably and logically see Jesus as a “demigod” or “man-god” (unless he is portrayed as merely a teacher who was born normally, died as many other persons did, and was not “resurrected”). Minimizing those “extreme views” need not shrink the “son of man” into irrelevancy. In fact, it might be a good thing if the man decreases, because the God increases necessarily thereby. Less of a divided “house”.

    • Dina says:

      Not well argued, Con!🙂

  5. yashar19 says:

    Dear Annelise, You are brilliant in what you know and you truly seem genuine in your heart as I have commented to you before.

    However if Abraham had reasoned the way you have, he would never have taken Isaac to sacrifice him on the mountain G-d showed him. He would have said that G-d himself had commanded “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed”. Surprisingly Abraham acted outside the foundation of this commandment. Why? Because he knew G-d and heard his voice. Do you?

    Thus saith the LORD: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth, and knoweth Me…

    May Hashem bless you with that kind of knowledge more and more.

    • LarryB says:

      Y19,
      So, by what your saying
      “Devotion to God alone,”
      Is not something Abraham would consider?

      • Concerned Reader says:

        LarryB, I think what Y19 means is that Abraham was open to hearing G-d’s voice in history, and hearing his teaching again, expanded after the initial message, in a progressive prophetic manner and spirit, and he didn’t necessarily interpret his encounter with G-d in the way that says, it is not in heaven. When G-d said “he who sheds a man’s blood by man shall his blood be shed,” it was a law that clearly meant not to kill. G-d later appears at a glance to be inconsistent with this, his own law, by saying to Abraham “offer Isaac your only son whom you love. ” Imagine If Abraham had said to Hashem, “wait G-d, it is not in heaven, you have no authority or right to change this ruling, or a similar one, or to teach me anything new by walking the line so closely and dangerouslyagainst this principle.

  6. Concerned Reader says:

    Philo was a Hellenist, as were most early Christians. His reading of Torah was a re-reading that I would disagree with, so it is not hard to see his ideas being rejected by most Jews who might read him and not to difficult to see that most Jews 2000 years ago were either ignorant of him or intentionally ignored his personal opinions. He was no Maimonides as much as you might want him to be.

    I never said philo was a Maimonides. Jewish thought has evolved over 2000 years (as all human thought does) I’ve said there are ideas that resonate between the two of them, not a one to one copying, or borrowing. Please don’t twist my words.

    You’ve stated that Philo was a thorough Hellenist (because of his views about primal matter for instance,) but there is enough ambiguity in his words that we can’t definitively state that he rejected creation out of nothing outright, he believed primal matter was reasonable. after all what is nothing? Is it really nothing? Is time a created thing? These are questions he and later philosophers tried to answer. Philo was also Torah observant, and said that such was required by the people.

    Moreover just because a person might have a unique view about the creation, it doesn’t make him a heretic, or give him nefarious motive, especially if he goes to great lengths to defend the religion.

    Maimonides makes the point in the guide that holding such philosophical views or not, is not something we can really truly prove by means of dialectical argument, so it makes little sense to rest on such arguments so fully.

    “I will not deceive myself, and consider dialectical methods as proofs; and the fact that a certain proposition has been proved by a dialectical argument will never induce me to accept that proposition, but, on the contrary, will weaken my faith in it, and cause me to doubt it. For when we understand the fallacy of a proof, our faith in the proposition itself is shaken. It is therefore better that a proposition which cannot be demonstrated be received as an axiom, or that one of the two opposite solutions of the problem be accepted on authority. (Guide part II chapter xvi)

    Maimonides seems to be saying here then, for us to accept with reasoned faith what we find to be most acceptable in the light of scripture and reason. He also notes later that even if matter is proved to be eternal, it does not detract from the fact that G-d created the world with a purpose, or do injury to scripture.

    So, in fact, these questions are and have been open to some degree of ambiguity. Philo speaks of the Tohu and Bohu of Genesis as the primordial stuff. It’s hardly impossible (since scripture is not giving the creation chronologically) According to Philo, Moses anticipated Plato by teaching that water, darkness, and chaos existed before the world came into being (Op. 22). Philo teaching that G-d endowed chaotic unreasoned stuff with order and purpose is hardly a misreading, though indeed it is unconventional.

    • Yedidiah says:

      Concerned Reader on September 1, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      Where did I say there was a “one to one copying, or borrowing”, especially since I know Maimonides was born long after Philo. And I mentioned on another blog in a reply to you that Christian and Jewish thought has evolved over the last almost 2000 years, so that is one of my points as well. Likewise, Orthodox Christians aren’t the same today as they were 1500 years ago, or so (and beliefs vary within the Church today as well). As far as “ideas resonating” between 2 groups, there are some Buddhists who believe Jesus resonates with Buddhism and I have heard a few Christians say Buddhism resonates with them. So “resonates” can mean little to a serious seeker, especially if you agree that what was believed 2000 years ago has evolved to something different to some degree (to what extent is the point for study). Try not to have such a problem with the concepts of dissimilarity and similarity.

      Nowhere did I write, or even hint in the least, anything about Philo’s views on “primal matter”. Unless you assume that all Hellenist or Stoics or Gnostics or Christians thought alike about creation or the nature of nature or the nature of humans or life, or the nature of the divine or divine realm. How foolish like. I also stated, or at least meant to, that Philo disagreed with Plato on several points. That does not mean Philo rejected all of Plato’s words or that he disagreed with Neo-Platonists.

      These are a lot of questions that philosophers try to answer. And they have no definitive answers, so speculation is a danger. Mystics as well often sound alike and deal in the speculative, rather than the knowable. And I said nothing about Philo being anti-Torah; actually I said the opposite. And I did not insinuate or hint, that “a person with a unique view about the creation” necessarily made a person a heretic. But it could if acted upon, just as publicly holding any number of other beliefs can be seen as heretical. Where, did I even hint that Philo, or anyone else, had “nefarious motives”? That is absolutely absurd or at least a very gross misunderstanding of my arguments.

      Might I ask for a simple summary of what Maimonides believed about miracles in the Hebrew Bible? Was he a literalist? Not that I don’t know, I just want other views of several of the key points of his philosophy.

      • Concerned Reader says:

        http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/maimonides/

        It seems clear to me that Maimonides believes in rational and natural explanations for the miracles (such as his belief that G-d planned them in advance to happen as part of nature, and not beyond it.)

        You said “Philo was no Maimonides as much as you might like him to be.” I was pointing out that I never said he was a Maimonides.

        You are right that resonating ideas don’t usually mean much, but when these similar ideas arise over time in more than one accepted orthodox thinker, who has no intention to borrow from questionable sources, it becomes partially more credible to believe that the ideas might not be so alien to the culture they arise in.

  7. Concerned Reader says:

    From the Internet encyclopedia of philosophy article on Philo

    For some men, admiring the world itself rather than the Creator of the world, have represented it as existing without any maker, and eternal, and as impiously and falsely have represented God as existing in a state of complete inactivity” (Op. 7). He elaborates instead his theory of the eternal creation (Prov. 1.6-9), as did Proclus (410-485 C.E.) much later in interpreting Plato.

  8. Dina says:

    Con, regarding what you wrote to Annelise, and then what you wrote to Yedidiah, I have to ask you why you have a different standard of truth for Jews and Christians. I appreciate your many hours of careful study and inquiry, but you have still failed to grapple in any meaningful and real way the question of how Jesus cannot possibly be the Messiah according to Judaism and how he can only ever be the Messiah according to Christianity–and how both positions are simultaneously acceptable.

    You have only said things like that within Judaism the idea of a second coming is not discounted or that the possibility of two Messiahs exists. These types of responses do not answer the question at all.

  9. Jim says:

    Annelise,

    Very well said. A great pleasure to read.

    MAS member,

    Jim

  10. Concerned Reader says:

    Dina, for those non Jews who are sincere in their Christian faith and who try their best to live up to the ethics of Jesus, (which is necessary for salvation in Christianity) it is not a question to them whether Jesus was a messianic redeemer or not. Their known faith in the G-d of scripture, and the ethical standard Jesus sets for them shows them that he was a redeemer for them. Jews who have not seen any meaningful impact in the lives of their ancestors from Jesus’ coming have every right to be skeptical about Christianity. So, in a sense, he has played a redemptive role for the Christians (that can’t be doubted,) and it’s true Muhammad has too done that for Muslims, though Jesus hasn’t had any impact for many Jewish people. I understand then why he can’t be said to fit with Your traditional expectation of the Messiah in any way. For people however who did not worship G-d at all, or understand the idea of one G-d as consistent with the notion of a being invested in history or our moral development, the message of Jesus was undoubtedly redemptive for them.

    Jim has said that Paul would be the redeemer of the Christians if what I’m saying were true, and not Jesus, but that would be akin to saying that the rabbis alone, not Moses, or G-d, were responsible for teaching every generation of Israel after the first generation that received the Torah on har Sinai first hand. If Jim is right, it’s As Hume says, it’s only revelation for the first generation who actually witnessed the event.

    • Dina says:

      Con, I’m very much relating to Jim’s frustration with your not responding directly to the questions raised or the points made. I do not understand how this response even begins to answer the challenge I posed to you. It has nothing to do with it. Please go back and read what I wrote.

      Thanks,
      Dina

  11. Jim says:

    Con,

    Anyone who has read your definition of Christian redemption and reflects for ten or more seconds will readily see that Jesus did not redeem the Gentiles and the rabbis did not redeem the Jews. I would be surprised in fact if it took even ten seconds. Nor can I believe you would write something so poorly conceived.

    Let’s begin by defining the redemption of each group of people. The redemption of Israel is the releasing them from Egyptian bondage. God did this. It applies to later generations, inasmuch as if God had not released them, then they would still be slaves. This has nothing to do with the teachings of the rabbis.

    The redemption of the Gentiles, according to you, is that they no longer worship Zeus, etc., but instead worship God. (Let me emphasize, this is your definition, repeated often in the comments on this blog.) Jesus did not go to the Gentiles and teach them about God. (He castigated, and one could even say mocked, those who did.) His dying on the cross does not achieve this, and Christians don’t even claim it does. They claim that brings redemption from sins, but this has not been your claim. Paul is the primary agent of the NT who goes to the Gentiles and leads them away from their idols. To attribute this act to Jesus is an act of the imagination. The testimony of the Church has Jesus only coming to the “lost sheep of Israel.” And it is Paul’s testimonly that he did not even receive his message from Jesus’ immediate disciples, but got them in a vision (see Galatians 1 and 2). So, it is not even clear that the Gentile Church is in a chain of teaching that goes back to Jesus. Note the dearth of quotes Paul attributes to Jesus. The only one of which I am aware concerns the Eucharist.

    It is the definitions of these two events which makes one attributable to God and one to Paul. Jesus is not responsible, from your definition, for the redemption of the Gentiles. He made very little effort to do so. He taught them almost nothing. That work was accomplished by Paul.

    Only it wasn’t. The Church does not direct people to God. Instead they direct them to worship a man they imagine to be God. Your own words testify to this. Note your comparisons above. You say attributing the redemption of the gentiles to Paul rather than Jesus is akin to attributing the redemption of Israel to the rabbis. What greater testimony does one need to see that you worship Jesus rather than God, or at best in conjunction with God? You are likely to bring up that you do not worship him qua man but qua God, but that is a product of the Church’s imagination. Jesus was experienced as a man walking on the earth. You attribute properties to him that do not belong to him. Deuteronomy warns us against worshipping anything other than God as experienced at Sinai, emphasizing that He showed no form. We are not to conceptualize him through physical beings. This point Dina has made umpteen times, and each time you ignore it.

    You write that it can’t be doubted that Jesus performed a redemptive role for gentiles. Not only can it be doubted, it is easily provable that he did not perform any such role. Gentiles have largely taken to worshipping Jesus or with God. They have redefined God to fit their own misconceptions. In the YSG comments, you told Devorah that even Maimonides didn’t doubt this. I actually quoted him saying the opposite. This you have not been able to retract, because of your ipad situation (though you have found time to type some rather lengthy responses elsewhere.) Please do not forget to go there and retract your incorrect statement. You owe that to Devorah and the truth.

    Jim

  12. Concerned Reader says:

    Jim, You keep saying that Jesus’ divinity as taught in Christian texts and tradition (and the view among Christians of Paul as a faithful emissary of Jesus) is merely in church imagination. This is your assertion Jim, and it’s not even a well backed assertion historically speaking when we look at the majority of non Christian, orthodox Christian, and even the heterodox Christian sources available to us. Your assertion is all it is. You have to ignore the context of vast, even majority amounts of the Christian bible. (the earliest Christian sources are the epistles of Paul, and they freely equate Jesus with G-d, they also show evidence of older pre Pauline Christian liturgy in them which is of a christological character.)

    When you imply that the birth of Christianity rests with Paul and not with Jesus, you conveniently forget or ignore that we only really have the knowledge of this “original” hypothesized pure monotheistic Jewish Jesus movement through the agency and transmission of these supposed evil Pauline gentile Christians who had an agenda to change things. Tell me, if all of the New Testament material was compiled by this antinomian Pauline school, why is it that we can see so clearly the undercurrents of second temple halachic discussions, ethics for G-d fearers, follow the early disputes, and learn about 1st century Christian issues of import in the current redacted text? If the aim of Paul was to reinvent the Jewish Jesus movement into a gentile man god mystery cult, he and his scribes did an awful job, as much of that old “original” material continued to be present and relevant to the gentile church even centuries later. The Praxis of the early church is preserved in the didache, didascalia, canon law, Tertullian’s treatise on Idolatry, etc. all of these sources preserve the norms found in the earlier Jewish movement, albeit amended in the light of texts like Acts 15, lining up with the decisions made by the movement at the Jerusalem council.

    You have to assert that Christians are brazenly Focussing on a man for the man’s sake alone, even when It has already been explained to you, not too mention it’s historically verifiable, that it is heresy in the majority of classical Christianity to worship Jesus without the father, or to worship him as a mere man, or as some second power who upstages G-d. To deny that Christians are and have been historically careful in their definitions and understanding of monotheism is to show that you have an incredible bias against the sources, no offense. I’m not saying you can’t disagree with those sources, but you are asserting that Christianity’s whole premise and chain of transmission is wrong because it doesn’t fit precisely your traditional interpretation. You don’t accept as valid any of the very available data that can be presented to counter some of your views. With respect, you have stacked the deck from the get go by only accepting as true your own premises as the basis of the possible discussion. Judaism was multifaceted in second temple times, not limited to one orthodox view. I will post the church sources that deal with Jesus’ life, and those that present the perspective that the wisdom he brought was seen as the impetuous of the redemption for non Jews, it may take time to look it all up.

    Jim You also misrepresent what I meant in speaking to Devorah regarding Maimonides’ statements. I know Maimonides off course does not see Jesus as the redeemer, I didn’t say that he did, but meant that he can’t get away from his impact. He has to resort to polemic, saying that G-d raised up Jesus and Muhammad to pave the way for the real messiah. He sees something wrong from his view, yet it’s redemptive at the same time in that Christian Gentiles accept the Torah as holy (which is why he says Christians but not Muslims can be taught the Torah,) and he ends up saying who can understand G-d’s judgements? He has to explain away the existence of these sibling movements, by saying only G-d knows why they exist. That’s what I meant about an acknowledgement, not heaven forbid that he believed in Jesus, or accepted Christianity, off course not.

    • Jim says:

      Con,

      It is my dream that one day you will actually read what I wrote and stop interjecting your own biases onto what I wrote. I recommend you read again what I wrote, since most of your response is non sequitur and does not touch anything I said. I invite you to be more cautious and less concerned as a reader. I did not accuse Paul of inventing Christianity, but doing the redemptive work as defined by you (not the Church). Nor did I accuse the Church of taking interjecting the divinity of Jesus into the NT. Do you read anybody else before you write your knee-jerk responses that are based, not upon our arguments, but what you expect to find due to your “studies”?

      Regarding my alleged misrepresentation of your words to Devorah, allow me to quote you:

      “You say that Jesus did not bring knowledge of G-d. Not even Maimonides doubted that he brought knowledge of G-d.”

      The fact that you have construed his writings to fit your faith is not surprising from a Christian, but if you read what he wrote, you will see that it handily refutes your the way you represented his words there and here. However, you will have to actually read and contemplate his words, a task which you continually show yourself unwilling to do.

      With respect,

      Jim

  13. Jim says:

    Con,

    Let us speak about assertion and imagination. What do I mean that it is the Church’s imagination that Jesus was part of the godhead? Am I making an unfounded assertion?

    You believe that if it is in the NT that it isn’t in the imagination of the Church. That is a ludicrous notion. If Jesus himself said it, it wouldn’t make it so. It would be merely an assertion. Some proof must be brought to show that Jesus is God.

    For example: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God and the Word was with God, etc.” is not an argument; it is an assertion. It doesn’t matter if it is accepted by John. It wouldn’t even matter if Jesus said it of himself. It would be mere assertion.

    The assertion has no foundation. What observable qualities does Jesus share with God? (“Observable” means that it cannot be merely his testimony, i.e. “I and the Father are one.”) What is observable is that he is a man. He had a finite existence, being bound by both space and time. These are not qualities of God. He died. This is not a quality of God. He did not know things God knows (by his own testimony), lacking the quality of omnipotence. His had to submit his will to God’s, meaning that his will was different than God’s. Jesus’ observable qualities do not make him any more divine than me or you.

    When the Church asserts that they do not worship him as a man, but for some divine element in him, that is imagination, because no divine element is observable in him. They have invented qualities to suit their worship, and they have become very adept at creating rather sophisticated arguments to support their faith. But sophisticated arguments are not true by mere virtue of their sophistication. Jesus was a man; that was observable fact. The rest is a product of the Church’s imagination, whether it began with Jesus or not. The fact that the NT asserts Jesus’ divinity does not make it fact. It may well have been in his imagination as well, but it is still not an observable fact.

    By the way, I find it wholly egregious that you constantly assert that I appeal to a tradition I have not once mentioned except the Torah which is accepted as true by the Church. I have always relied upon argument, as I did above, working from definitions. Meanwhile, you constantly appeal to tradition both “mine” (whatever that might be) and yours. And when your contradictions are brought to light, you label me as judgmental and pout.

    You say that I dismiss your sources, but I have not done that haphazardly. Rather, I have shown on multiple occasions why they cannot be accepted. I have shown why one cannot tolerate the standard of interpretation you allow the NT and Church to employ with the Torah. I have shown why the DSS are irrelevant (from argument, not tradition). I have shown why two great Church fathers you have mentioned on a couple occasions (Aquinas and Augustine) were unsound interpreters of the Torah, points which you either did not see or ignored. These arguments were based on the absurdities of their own words and not any appeal to tradition. I did not say, for example, “And this contradicts the words of Maimonides…”. For you to continue to come back with my appeal to a tradition that I never once go to (nor do I even have) is brazen.

    If you wish to argue with phantoms that will respond in a predetermined manner, may I suggest you begin your own blog, wherein you can respond to your posts with comments from yourself (under an assumed name, of course) to which you can then respond in your own name, and show those other commenters to be fools. If you wish to have actual conversations, why not respond to what I wrote, rather than these phantoms of your imagination?

    Jim

  14. Concerned Reader says:

    I apologize Jim, I don’t mean to be responding to things you didn’t write. Your statements and their implications bear similarity to certain foundational assumptions that are similar to the kinds of traditional objections made by Judaism that I did respond to. I apologize for jumping the gun and directing those toward you, it was wrong of me to do and inaccurate to your position.

    By the way, I find it wholly egregious that you constantly assert that I appeal to a tradition I have not once mentioned except the Torah which is accepted as true by the Church.

    You are a Noachide are you not Jim? You accept the authority of the traditional rabbinic interpretations of scripture and the rabbinic chain of transmission do you not? Your hermeneutic is an appeal to that tradition in and of itself. You accept certain Jewish writings as normative and authoritative, while rejecting other ancient historical Jewish literature as inaccurate or flawed, because it doesn’t fit your hermeneutic or the rabbinic approach. That is an appeal to a tradition, even if not meant that way.

    You are also assuming off the bat that the christian experience that lead them to call Jesus G-d was imaginary, and not based on faithfulness to his teachings or a historical experience. This is your faith based assertion. Neither Sinai, nor Jesus have been directly observed by anyone except that first generation, so we both have to believe on a degree of faith. Unless you have personally observed Sinai or the Exodus?

    “What observable qualities does Jesus share with God?” Christians are not asserting that anything divine was physically observable, (our texts say no man has seen G-d at any time!) Rather, we are saying that G-d’s divine words were made knowable.

    What observable qualities did Moses share with G-d when he wrote Deuteronomy by his own hand? Jews accept on faith that the words written by Moses himself (by Judaism’s admission) found in Deuteronomy, qualify as the words of the Torah of G-d, as if Moses had taken dictation directly from G-d. How with respect, is this different in character from what John asserted in John 1:1? There are clearly differences between the Sinai narrative in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, and Moses’ later recounting of events in Deuteronomy, so did Moses have authority to amend or clarify what G-d said? I would submit that the word that was G-d was with Moses and gave him that authority.

    You say that “omnipotence was not a characteristic that Jesus possessed by his own admission.” You clearly are viewing the doctrine of the incarnation as mere Christian sophistry or irrelevance ignoring its implications for practical Christian teaching. Again this is an unfounded assertion, and you cant just say its wrong without assuming the conclusion you seek before you have proved it.

    Jesus according to the Church possessed a fully human nature that by definition is not divine, nor is his limited nature (including his mind) understood as divine by us. Jesus however said things IE “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes unto the father, but by me,” or before Abraham was born, I Am. Only G-d himself can speak these words with authority, or would you disagree? Jesus also said “go, your sins are forgiven thee.” Can a man say these words, going so far as pardoning a man’s transgressions? The fact that we Christians are aware that a mere human cannot say these things on his own authority should give anyone pause before the assertion is brought that we appeal to some emotional need or defect in reasoning, not that you did this personally.

    Its clear that Jesus and NT authors did not mean these sayings to refer to his physical limited nature. It is the authority of the teaching that Jesus speaks with in his WORDS that lead us to say he must be G-d in a certain non physical way. The authority with which Jesus speaks is also an essential element of his personality, this is so even as he is in the earliest sources.

    You believe we have free will right? If our will is indeed free, it would mean that G-d, can of his own accord, freely elect not to know, or reveal that he knows certain things to humans. This can explain how the father might know things that Jesus does not know. How do you explain that an omnipotent being can coexist with a finite creation without destroying it by his mere presence? The issues surrounding these questions and the incarnation are very similar.

    ill write more responses soon.

    • Sharbano says:

      “You believe we have free will right? If our will is indeed free, it would mean that G-d, can of his own accord, freely elect not to know, or reveal that he knows certain things to humans. This can explain how the father might know things that Jesus does not know. How do you explain that an omnipotent being can coexist with a finite creation without destroying it by his mere presence? The issues surrounding these questions and the incarnation are very similar.”

      I’ve heard similar propositions from Xtians who would assert to impose divinity on Jsus. It makes no sense whatsoever that G-d, being omnipotent, would “choose” Not to know something. He is then, by definition, Not all knowing. It’s one thing Not to reveal but knowing is another matter altogether. In order to be the G-d who is apart from time and space, since these are Creations, He would have to have knowledge of all, a knowledge that can’t be swept away. Otherwise He is no different than former gods such as Zeus among others. Anytime man attempts to restrict G-d to the physical universe it diminishes Him and His place in that universe. Therefore He does Not “co-exist” in the physical realm. It is an attempt to blur the realm of the physical with the spiritual. It would be like taking thoughts and separating them from an individual and implanting them in another entity. Therefore, there is no coexistence between G-d and physicality. Just as He created this physicality He can influence, with His Will, what we Perceive in it. When it goes beyond what we see as common, physical laws, we can attribute it to something beyond physical laws. Since we cannot “see” G-d recreating second by second the entire physical realm He appears “hidden”, hence the same root for world is the same as hidden. In this we can realize that the Creator and the Creation cannot occupy the same plane of existence.

  15. Jim and Concerned Reader
    Forgive me for mixing in to your conversation – but Concerned Reader – you are amazing. You start out by apologizing for making assumptions and not responding to the words that Jim wrote – and in your very next paragraph you continue to make assumptions (“you are a Noachide are you not”).
    Careless Reader – if you are truly apologetic for making assumptions you will let Jim tell you what he believes and respond to his words. You will not put him into one of the boxes they taught you about in school.

  16. Jim says:

    Con,

    I don’t have much time today; I will be out. So, I must keep this short, and I will only address one point, that of my tradition.

    When you write that I have a tradition, you are ignoring my arguments which are not based on tradition. It is a way to ignore logic and reason and put all beliefs on a common footing. It is a way of dismissing my arguments without reviewing them. It is to say, “Oh, you only believe this because you belong to School X.”

    One problem with this method of engaging in discussion is that it is not discussion. Constantly you have ignored the reasons I’ve presented, because your idea of my tradition. Though it has come up multiple times as you constantly appeal to the context of the NT and the Church fathers, you have constantly ignored my argument that an eisegetical reading is a violation of reason and one which you do not tolerate yourself. You do not tolerate it for the NT. You do not tolerate it for early Christian writings. You only tolerate it for the “Old Testament,” which shows that you are in a contradiction. The mind cannot tolerate such a system. It goes against reason. This has nothing to do with my “tradition”. It is an inconsistency with the Church that they do not tolerate Jesus’ words being taken out of context, but they not only remove the words of God from their context, but literally misquote them as well. And I can only think that the reason you do not see this point is because you have already dismissed me, because I come from a different “tradition” and am only acting according to “what I’ve been told”.

    Regarding your other arguments, you have failed to grasp my argument but have again resorted to arguing against some other point than the one I made. I can only ask you to re-read it, slowly this time to understand the point. A small addition may clarify: Let us say that you and I actually witnessed the resurrection. Would that mean that Jesus was a part of the godhead? No, because being resurrected from the dead is not one of the qualities of God. The claim that Jesus is God is only that, a claim, which contradicts the scriptures that the NT claims to fulfill. Likewise, if Jesus walked on water, we would be suitably impressed, but that is not a quality of God. I would wonder how he did it, but I would not be able to say that he was God. The two things have nothing to do with one another.

    Have a good day,

    Jim

    • THIS WAS WRITTEN BY ME EARLY LAST WEEK managing to post it now.

      Rabbi, for clarification sake. “Jim you are a noachide are you not?” Is a question, not an assumption I’m making, beyond what was plausible and reasonable given his hermeneutic approach and the relevant point I was raising in my argument. I’m asking him if he is noachide, and asking him if he accepts the normative rabbinic interpretations. These questions off course can be said to have rhetorical purpose (in the fine tradition that is any argument,) as I was arguing the point that he can’t say, nor can I, nor yourself, that he is only arguing “what scripture says,” neither can I because we all believe (Jews and Christians) that we know what it says, and we all have a hermeneutic that we approach scripture with that we believe leads to truth.

      I can accept that this could be construed as a bad argument, but it’s not making an unfounded or unreasonable assumption, or deflecting, by noting that we each believe as true that we have a true reading or approach.

      I understand Jim’s objection that Just because the NT says something, it doesn’t make it so. I also understand his objection that “there was nothing observable of divinity in Jesus” by which to test, “not an observable fact” as he says. I also understand his objection that resurrection does not equate to someone being G-d. I also understand that the NT (being written by Christians) is probably subject to rose colored glasses, or we might say common christian assumptions. This is true of any group and any text.

      In response to these criticisms, I would say that the Torah is subject to the exact same kind of criticisms.
      Notably, to paraphrase Jim’s criticisms that

      1. Some “observable” evidence or proof must be brought to demonstrate Christian claims of Jesus’ divinity.

      2. Just because the New Testament says it, doesn’t make it true.

      These objections can be leveled against the Torah too.

      This is why I have not ever asserted that I have “proof,” of miracles, or “proof” for what I have always acknowledged were Christianity’s unique faith claims such as Jesus’ divinity and resurrection. I have noted that there were perspectives throughout Jewish history that resonated with these Christian ideas, making them possibly more plausible, but it’s not a “proof,” I never said it was.

      I can only ever bring, have sought to bring, (and have already brought,) the evidence that I know we posses for sure impartially, such as non Christian historical records that note Jesus’ existence, non Christian observation of the historical impact (for good or ill, hence my paraphrase of Rambam, I was not imputing belief in Jesus to him) that Jesus and his students had on the world, and the observed documented historical western movement from polytheism to monotheism occurring among Christians.

      This evidence is as observable as any other historical evidence from any other natural average regular historical event, it does not require an appeal to a special unique category of evidence a la the Kuzari, nor unique knowledge as put forward by any one group’s tradition, or anything else.

      I have noted that non Christian sources have observed these things, and that you do not need to rely on my testimony, Christian testimony, tradition, special knowledge, or any Christian assumptions at all to see this evidence of the impact of Jesus and his movement on the history of the world, and on bringing monotheistic belief to previously polytheistic peoples. (Saying that Jesus didn’t actually do anything to redeem anyone is but a simple straw man argument, that anyone can make about any other religion.)

      I cannot nor have I sought to provide physical or observable evidence for a miraculous event that I did not physically personally witness myself at that time, as I was not alive, nor have I ever tried to argue for the truth from miracles, and I would submit that neither can or has Judaism. So, it is inconsistent of anyone, including Jim, to ask anyone to provide observable evidence for Jesus’ divinity when Judaism doesn’t provide this same level of verifiable evidence for itself and it’s own traditional claims.

      Judaism does not try to produce physical observable evidence of the Sinai theophany event, or the Exodus, because Judaism traditionally claims that this standard of evidence is not applicable to the Torah unless the evidence in question is of the same category of event, or standard of evidence that the Torah itself supposedly relies on.

      To quote rabbi B from here https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/isaiah-53-micah-7-and-isaiah-62/#comment-13730

      “I meant a parallel claim of an encounter with God – again the grand total of the exodus miracles, Sinai revelation and 40 years in the desert.

      It is argued that any event considered to be comparable with Torah must fit the category of the unique national level of revelation of the divine to Israel, before it can be likened to Torah. It is demonstrably certain that this is not the only way G-d reveals himself, which can be shown from scripture. So, it’s not essential to say that this unique national claim category must serve as the main basis for comparison between the Sinai event claim and any other historical event.

      So why, I ask Jim, are you asking me, or Christians in the past for observable evidence of Jesus’ divinity or proof of other unique Christian faith claims? In the cases of claims and events like these in Torah and gospel, both Judaism and Christianity can and do only attempt to demonstrate a high plausibility or likelihood of the truth of these events, but not observable proof of them. Why this double standard?

      To paraphrase the argument as Ive seen posted on the blog, any evidence used in relation or comparison to the Torah’s narrative must be of “a unique comparable claim of national revelation about an encounter with G-d, that is not subject to the common patterns of myth formation, or human thought process.”

      So that I am sure that I do not misrepresent Judaism’s argument, I will post a comment by Dina found here:

      https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/isaiah-53-micah-7-and-isaiah-62/#comment-13794

      Dina said, “Concerned Reader, the argument is that something that could have happened as a natural evolution of a mythology would have happened more than once–more than several times, in fact. That’s why the Christian claim has been replicated so many times by other religions which preceded and followed it. The very uniqueness of the claim points to its veracity. Do you not think it’s amazing that the Torah would predict that no other entity would make such a claim?”

      I have questioned the assertions with sources and background knowledge that there are any meaningful or substantial pagan parallels to Christianity prior to the existence of Christianity itself, and that the parallels that do exist are weak and skin deep if you read the original myths, and know how the polytheists understood them.

      According to Dina, the uniqueness of the claim in the Torah points to its veracity. How after all could anyone convince the entire Jewish people that G-d spoke to their ancestors if it didn’t actually happen? This was a similar argument to the lecture Dina posted by Rabbi Kellerman.

      I have noted elsewhere and here again, that this is an argument for the Plausibility of the truth of the Sinai event and the exodus, it’s not a proof, just as I have argued for the plausibility of certain Christian notions from a second temple context.

      I have been very consistent and provided amply what unbiased historical evidence I sought to provide, or was able to provide, to support the argument I was actually making.

      so it is wrong to say that I have not provided observable evidence. Evidence of Jesus’ divinity was evidence which I never argued that I possessed, I only argued that such beliefs existing were plausible in a second temple context! This type of argument is used in Jewish tradition, in the case of its unique claim, so it’s not inconsistent.

      I have brought all the observable evidence that I sought to provide for the argument I was actually making. Jim is requesting of Christianity’s faith claims, observable evidence of things that he and Judaism cannot produce for Judaism’s own faith position. I have never tried to convince anyone here of things like the resurrection or Jesus’ divinity that I know and acknowledge full well to be Christianity’s unique faith claims. I have argued that he brought knowledge of monotheism, and that unique Christian beliefs arising is plausible in the context of the second temple period.

      • Concerned Reader
        Just because Jim may or may not believe in tradition does not mean that he is arguing from tradition. Your bringing Jim’s assumed beliefs into the argument means that you cannot answer him on the basis of his arguments alone.
        You claim that you have been consistent – and I agree. You consistently ignore the arguments presented to you and respond to arguments that you were trained to respond to.
        To compare the NT as a document recording the truth to the testimony of Israel (note – I did not say the document of the Torah – I said the living testimony of a nation) is like comparing a communist biography of Vladimir Lenin to the living testimony of the Japanese people about the Hiroshima bombing. Its just a completely different level of testimony. Again – I am not talking about outside corroboration – I am talking about the type of testimony itself.

        • I’m not ignoring the argument Jim is making rabbi, I’m recognizing it as what it is, largely rhetorical, and I realize it’s not meant deceptively.

          When Jim says things like resurrection does not imply deity, he shows he has no real desire to listen to what I have consistently argued. I’ve perhaps returned the discourtesy in poor taste, (I’m sorry) but I’ve never discussed Jesus’ miracles as reason to accept him, as divine or anything else ever.

          Also, when he posts “Though it has come up multiple times as you constantly appeal to the context of the NT and the Church fathers, you have constantly ignored my argument that an eisegetical reading is a violation of reason and one which you do not tolerate yourself. You do not tolerate it for the NT. You do not tolerate it for early Christian writings. You only tolerate it for the “Old Testament,” which shows that you are in a contradiction.”

          He shows by this line of argument that he does not recognize my intention or the thrust of my argument. Eisogesis literally means, Eisegesis (/ˌaɪsəˈdʒiːsəs/; from the Greek preposition εἰς “into” and the ending from the English word exegesis, which in turn is derived from ἐξηγεῖσθαι “to lead out”)[1] it is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text. THIS IS AN UNAVOIDABLE PHENOMENON IN THE BIBLE! Let me explain.

          You rabbi have claimed yourself that the Jewish people existed before the book, and that these people had a received interpretation alongside it, when they received the book. This means that reading into the text what is not directly observable there is unavoidable!

          (One might even say that eisogesis is a phenomenon that superimposes people’s experiences, or claimed recounting of those experiences, and emotions onto the text, because technically, experiences are only really called experiences to those first individuals who were actually there in the first generation when the events originally occurred.

          THIS IS WHY I HAVE CONSISTENTLY ARGUED FOR THE PLAUSIBILITY NOT THE PROOF of Christian theological notions arising, especially when we have examined the plethora of diverse second temple sources like Philo and the DSS, and certain elements of traditional rabbinic literature that have some clear resonances with NT ideas. This is not proof at all, or claimed to be such by me, but it shows that in light of the cultural and historical context, these beliefs could have plausibly arisen among a group of Jews in the past without any malicious intent. (As you yourself have noted, a Jesus like phenomenon has happened in Judaism since Jesus, it has been replicated by Judaism itself.) That’s ONE REASON WHY ITS MORE PLAUSIBLE FOR US TO BELIEVE IT.

          Jim says that just because the book says it, doesn’t make it so. I agree wholeheartedly. He says eisogetical method is untenable. I also agree, but the nature of the claims and sources make this phenomenon unavoidable.

          The assertion has no foundation. What observable qualities does Jesus share with God? (“Observable” means that it cannot be merely his testimony, i.e. “I and the Father are one.”) What is observable is that he is a man. Actually Jim his human body is not “observable” in a strict sense, he’s not here right now. Nor is Moses, Nor is Hashem! NEITHER YOURS NOR OUR UNIQUE FAITH CLAIMS are OBSERVABLE in the sense you are asking for it. This is why both traditions argue for plausibility and that the claims have reasonable weight.

  17. ‘Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers …which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD’
    A new covenant, different in character and effect from the old is necessitated by Tenach.
    The Tenach as it stands is incomplete and as yet not wholly effectual, by its own admission.

  18. Jim says:

    Con,

    Concerning my arguments, you have written on several different points here: https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/from-the-foundation-up-by-annelise/#comment-14559 . I am going to address them in separate comments. I divide the topics this way:

    1. On the Use of Rhetoric
    2. The Inevitability of Eisegesis
    3. Plausibility vs. Proof
    4. Responding to Arguments that You Never Made

    This Comment will deal with the first topic.

    ***

    On the Use of Rhetoric

    You have found another excuse not to engage the reasonable arguments presented by me and others here. It is your constant practice to dismiss us and avoid logic. You dismiss them because we are merely arguing our “tradition,” to which I have never appealed. I have only appealed to reason. Now you dismiss my arguments, because they are rhetoric. (You may as well have written, “mere rhetoric” for all the consideration you give them.) This is nothing more than another dodge. You do not face our arguments; you dismiss them.

    But if you were honest, you would see that my approach is not based on rhetoric. Does rhetoric slip in? Sometimes. Often, however, what you describe as rhetoric is nothing of the sort. Moreover, there are times when I write a piece like “Horace’s Tree” which you might describe as rhetoric, but what I have written is an illustration. It’s underpinnings are logic, and I am illustrating a logical fallacy. An honest reader, if he disagreed with me would address the point, rather than dismiss it: “That’s rhetoric.” (For example, he might show how the NT practice of quoting scripture is different from what Horace does.)

    In fact, you should have observed how much I base my arguments on logic. For example, when I wrote of Jesus not being a redeemer for the gentiles, my argument was based on your definitions. I accepted your definition and followed the logic forward, concluding that Paul would be the best candidate for redeeming the gentiles. Then you discussed points about Paul not being at odds with the Church in Jerusalem, which was irrelevant to the topic but is clearly a pet issue you have. I did not write about Paul being at odds with the apostles, but that he claims he did not get his teaching from them. (And he does claim that.) My argument went from premise to conclusion. It was not based on exaggeration or linguistic trickery. And, in your attempt to discredit my arguments, you did not actually address them. You dismissed them, which is your method, but you did not disprove them.
    This does seem to be your way. You do not have to take any objections seriously. You assert the ignorance of your opponents. You dismiss their arguments as products of their tradition. You dismiss their arguments as rhetoric. But you don’t engage their arguments.

    Jim

  19. The reason that I haven’t responded to your “logical” argument about Paul being more plausibly the redeemer of the Gentiles and not Jesus, is that this same logic you apply to us, applies to your own secondhand receipt and acceptance of the Torah through a supposed teacher student chain. This has not prevented your acceptance. Just because they said jesus rose doesn’t make it true, you are right, but the same goes for your views on Moses.

    You have accepted noachide laws and rabbinic interpretations, no doubt because of your sincere belief that there are solid contextual reasons in scripture for doing so, but none of us has directly witnessed any of scripture’s events as they happened, or received the teachings firsthand from the first teacher, or had direct experience of miracles like Sinai or resurrection.

    We were not alive when these things took place. We rather both have reasonable faith in the plausibility of the events described, faith in the integrity of the transmission, and faith in the sincerity and truth of the messengers and messages received. You are not providing for your own faith what you are requesting from mine, and are showing yourself thereby to be inconsistent, and committing the same fallacy you accuse me of committing. I’m sorry I have difficulty with your logic when you are making similar fallacies. Paul did claim unique revelation, true, but he was also accepted by the disciples. Faithfulness of transmission in the sources can be demonstrated by the fact that we have the sources preserved by Pauline churches that preserve the heated debates and questions about Paul’s validity as an apostle, debates he had with Peter, etc. along with the resolutions of these questions. If the church was interested in fabrication or lie, why preserve the testimony that is unflattering or possibly damaging? Further, Paul’s teachings show continuity with Jesus’ halachic perspectives, as is evidenced by the fact that it was his churches that wrote and compiled the texts, wherein we learn about Jesus’ Judaism.

    What a Data Jim am I lacking for my claims that you also aren’t lacking?

    • Jim says:

      Con,

      I do not have time to respond to this now, but I will ask you once again to go over the argument. You have missed that I have been going according to YOUR definition of redemption, not the Church’s. Your answer shows that you do not understand my argument. You thought you did, but you read it too quickly.

      I am very busy right now. If I have time I will respond tonight, but I have a lot of work to do tonight. I may not get to it until after the weekend, but I am not neglecting you.

      (Also, thank you for responding to one of the points regarding testing Jesus’ words. I am not ignoring that. I’ll get to it as soon as I can. If you would like to move on to the other 12 points, I will get to them as time permits.)

      Jim

    • Sharbano says:

      You continue to resort to the false comparison. Xtianity is SUPPOSED to have its roots in Judaism. THIS is what you have to argue against. Judaism, or Torah, has its roots spoken by G-d. Whether or not that is “believed” is irrelevant. The fact Remains, Xtianity has a root source. The only argument you can have against is stating Jews are ignorant of their own writings .Whether or Not Paul had disagreements with the church is also irrelevant. It’s whether the totality of the teachings align with the root source. We find they do not. By the way, according to Torah Jsus has No authority to render halachic decisions.

  20. Jim says:

    Con,

    Continuing my response to your comments here: https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/from-the-foundation-up-by-annelise/#comment-14559 .

    * * * * *

    The Inevitability of Eisegesis

    Once again you attempt to justify Christian eisegesis by claiming that eisegesis is inevitable, and so I must repeat myself, it seems. When you claim that it is an “unavoidable phenomenon” it is clear that you cannot mean that one should not try to avoid it. How do I know that you cannot mean that? You have even recently attempted to correct Jewish misconceptions about Christianity. Your arguments rest in part on the idea that the Jewish reader comes with preconceived notions to the NT, and therefore doesn’t understand them. You tell people that the understanding they bring to the text isn’t the understanding of the Church. And you frequently appeal to the context. This means—and forgive me for repeating myself—that you hold that one should attempt to avoid eisegesis whenever possible.

    Therefore, if it can be shown that the Church misreads Torah, because they come to the text with an agenda, the Church has a responsibility to retract its positions. It will be no use to argue that eisegetical mistakes are bound to happen. An intellectually honest person, when it is shown to him that he has made an error due to a preconceived notion, does not cling to his first conclusion. He does not shrug his shoulders and say, “Oh well.” He does not point the finger at those who showed him his error and say, “You are not perfect either.” If he seeks the truth, he thanks the person and corrects his position.

    If eisegesis leads to error, one must do his best do divest himself of it, regardless of who he is. Imagine that because everyone sins, one would argue that he is allowed to give himself up to sin. Such an argument we must reject. Even though we know that people are bound to err, we do not say that they should abandon themselves to it. Rather, they are to repent and to avoid repeating the moral lapses of the past. The errors of reason are no different. One should not maintain a false opinion because everyone is bound to make them. When he discovers a failing, he must alter his opinion.

    In your argument, you appeal to the existence of the Oral Torah as proof that it is unavoidable that one must read the text eisegetically. This is not sound. First, the Oral Torah is part of the context. So is the fact that the Torah is a Jewish book. Those are not outside influences but part of the system. This is similar to how the Federalist Papers, which made the case for American Constitution, can be read to understand the American Constitution when one does not understand the meaning of a particular part. The Federalist Papers are part of the context. But one should not read the Communist Manifesto to understand what is meant in the American Constitution. (This is why it is foolish for Aquinas to appeal to the origin of the Latin word “ceremony” when discussing a book written in Hebrew. When he speculates on ceremonies coming out of Ceres, the grain goddess, this is foolish eisegesis. If one examined the origin of the word “chuk” which does appear in Torah, that would not be eisegesis.)

    Moreover, the rabbis do not allow the meaning of the written Torah to be altered by the Oral Torah. They do not ignore the plain meaning of a passage. They have exegetical rules for interpretation that are based on a logical system. One may not interpret things willy nilly, according to his own ideas. Within the rabbinic system, eisegesis is to be guarded against. The rabbis guard against the “unavoidable.” They do not shrug their shoulders at their own errors.

    If one shrugs his shoulders and accepts every eisegetical reading equally, then one strips a text of all meaning. One does not glean the meaning imparted by the Author. One only reflects a mirror back to himself. He hears not the voice of God, but only his own echo. If one cannot criticize such error, then one must say that the text means nothing at all. One sees Jesus. One sees Horace’s Tree. One sees Joseph Smith. None of them sees God. One is left alone with his narcissism.

    So, one must avoid eisegesis. You do not tolerate it in a reading of the NT or Church fathers, which means that you agree to this principle. Even if it is unavoidable, when one discovers an error, he is obligated to correct it. If he is a truth seeker, he will want to correct it. He will not excuse his faults by appealing to human frailty. The Church cannot excuse her eisegesis by pointing out the faults in others.

    * * * * *

    On a related note, and I do not want to say much about this, the fault of Christian reasoning is not limited to eisegesis. It has been brought up that Christian sources literally alter the text. Matthew misquotes Isaiah. Hebrews misquotes Jeremiah. These are not mere eisegetical errors. Nor do they “merely” take texts out of context. They have altered them. The errors of the Church go beyond the “unavoidable phenomenon” of eisegesis.

  21. Jim says:

    Con,

    Continuing my response to your comments here: https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/from-the-foundation-up-by-annelise/#comment-14559 .

    * * * * *

    Plausibility vs. Proof

    I have in no way overlooked that you have eschewed proof for plausibility. However, Christianity is not plausible and the arguments you bring to support the plausibility of Christianity are baseless.

    In fact, Christianity is one of the least plausible religions extant. While many so-called prophets, priests, and gurus exist, no means is available to test their stories. If Martin Fibblebee approaches me with a message from God, I have no means to test his claim that God gave him a message. He may have heard from God and he may not. This is a limited plausibility. Christianity shares this extremely limited sort of plausibility with accounts of Bigfoot and alien encounters. Granting the existence of God, the narrative elements of Christianity cannot be known to be false by themselves. Did Jesus walk on water? I cannot say for sure that he did not. But this is no reason to accept that he did either. This makes it plausible, in a sense, but not compelling.

    However, what Christianity does not share with Martin Fibblebee is that it bases its claim on another religion. This makes the claims of Christianity testable. It is at that point that it becomes wholly implausible. No one need guess if he should worship Jesus. The religion that Jesus is supposed to fulfill has already taught that one should not worship any idea of God differing from the revelation of Sinai.

    Other Christian ideas also do not appear in Tanach. The idea that gentiles are less than Jews and would need grafting in does not appear in Torah. The gentiles are not “dogs” as Christianity would make them, only to gain equality through the Church. Nor does one need an innocent to die for his sins. This idea is totally foreign to Torah. The Messiah of the Torah is not divine and is not even a focal point of the system. These innovations and many others make Christianity testable in the way that Martin Fibblebee’s message is not testable.

    As I’ve noted before, one doesn’t even need to know if Torah is true to test the claims of Christianity, at least in a limited fashion. One can see that it contradicts the system to which it is supposed to be the aim. It is a system so foreign that the Trinity could not be found in the Torah. As I’ve noted before, Augustine had to find the divinity of the son in Platonic writings and then conjure from his imagination a meeting between Plato and Jeremiah in Egypt. This is an admission on his part that the divinity of the son is not a Torah doctrine.
    If the foreign doctrines introduced by Christianity were not enough to show that it is implausible, one can observe the use it makes of the scripture. At times, as when Matthew quotes Isaiah 7.14, the words are not merely taken out of context, they are altered to fit his theology. The author of Hebrews makes a huge alteration to Jeremiah’s words to show that God “disregarded” Israel, a claim the prophet did not make. Clearly, the Church was unable to reconcile its doctrine to Tanach, and rather than altering their beliefs, they altered Tanach. This is proof of its implausibility.

    When the NT is not rewriting the Torah and Prophets, it is altering the meaning by removing them from context. One cannot only take the bits and pieces that sound like Jesus and push him onto the text and ignore the rest. Your constant appeal to the DSS and Philo is intellectually dishonest, because you do not tolerate taking the words of Jesus out of context. I do not appeal to any tradition here, but the demands of reason. It is no good to agree with me that it is untenable and then to justify its use because it suits your need. Dragging in the DSS, whose methods are faulty if they rely upon eisegesis, does not justify Christian eisegesis. Pointing out that some people had confused notions is no reason to adopt other confused notions. It is reason to guard oneself against them.

    Considering that to make the NT appear consistent with Tanach, the writers had to alter the Tanach and take it out of context, one can see that it is untrue. There is no longer any question of plausibility. Whether or not you wish only to show that it is plausible, rather than offer the proof that it is true, the NT itself testifies to its implausibility. Bringing in other bad readings of the Torah will not justify the innovations and misrepresentations of the Church. And no one seeking truth will find it by avoiding reason and attaching himself to whatever confused practices and others who violated reason held beliefs. Your efforts to make Christianity plausible are thwarted by the NT and the teachings of the Church.

    I emphasize once again that you cannot tolerate the very practices to which you appeal in an effort to make Christianity plausible. But I will thank you for reminding me of a very important idea. There is one truth, but many falsehoods. One must not look at the myriad ideas around him and give his mind over to confusion. It is too easy to take a wrong path. Rather one must carefully analyze which path is true and follow that one unerringly. He cannot appeal to the existence of other false paths to justify his own errors. He cannot say that he saw many others come this way, or that many have gone farther astray than he has. He must look to the true path and assiduously keep to it, lest he become lost in the numerous false ones that shall appear along the way.

    Jim

    • Dina says:

      Beautiful, beautiful. Some of your lines bear repeating:

      ” There is one truth, but many falsehoods. One must not look at the myriad ideas around him and give his mind over to confusion. It is too easy to take a wrong path. Rather one must carefully analyze which path is true and follow that one unerringly. He cannot appeal to the existence of other false paths to justify his own errors. He cannot say that he saw many others come this way, or that many have gone farther astray than he has. He must look to the true path and assiduously keep to it, lest he become lost in the numerous false ones that shall appear along the way.”

      Very true!

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