Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Has Amalek been Destroyed?

While I have been ruminating on the following idea and its consequences for a number of years, particularly around Purim, a question over at Mi Yodeya about whether or not Amalek has been destroyed prompted me to present the idea in its basic form:

While I haven't seen it spelled out per say, presumably because the mitzvah still has a very real relevance, it seems clear from the sources that while it wasn't preformed in the "lechatchila"/optimal manner the mitzvah in its primary manifestation was fulfilled by Shaul (or more correctly Shmuel):
From the Gemara in Sanhedrin (20b, see also Rashi) we see the mitzvah of cutting off Amelek was a prerequisite for the building of the Temple:
סנהדרין כ:ב תניא רבי יוסי אומר שלש מצות נצטוו ישראל בכניסתן לארץ להעמיד להם מלך ולהכרית זרעו של עמלק ולבנות להם בית הבחירה ואיני יודע איזה מהן תחילה כשהוא אומר כי יד על כס יה מלחמה לה' בעמלק הוי אומר להעמיד להם מלך תחילה ואין כסא אלא מלך שנאמר וישב שלמה על כסא ה' למלך ועדיין איני יודע אם לבנות להם בית הבחירה תחלה או להכרית זרעו של עמלק תחילה כשהוא אומר והניח לכם מכל אויביכם וגו' והיה המקום אשר יבחר ה' וגו' הוי אומר להכרית זרעו של עמלק תחילה וכן בדוד הוא אומר ויהי כי ישב המלך דוד בביתו וה' הניח לו מסביב וכתיב ויאמר המלך אל נתן הנביא ראה נא אנכי יושב בבית ארזים וגו'
“It has been taught: R. Jose said: Three commandments were given to Israel when they entered the land; [i] to appoint a king; [ii] to cut off the seed of Amalek; [iii] and to build themselves the chosen house and I do not know which of them has priority. But, when it is said: The hand upon the throne of the Lord, the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation ,(Exodus 17:16) we must infer that they had first to set up a king, for ‘throne’ implies a king, as it is written, Then Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king (1 Chron. 29:23). Yet I still do not know which [of the other two] comes first, the building of the chosen Temple or the cutting off of the seed of Amalek. Hence when it is written, And when He giveth you rest from all your enemies round about etc., and then, Then it shall come to pass that the place which the Lord your God shall choose, (Deut. 12:10) it is to be inferred that the extermination of Amalek is first. And so it is written of David, And it came to pass when the king dwelt in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from his enemies round about, and the passage continues; that the king said unto Nathan the Prophet: See now, I dwell in a house of cedars etc. [Soncino]
Which is brought down as halachah in the Mishneh Torah:
משנה תורה: הלכות מלכים ומלחמותיהם א:ב מנוי מלך קדם למלחמת עמלק, שנאמר: "אתי שלח ה' למשחך למלך עתה לך והכיתה את עמלק". והכרתת זרע עמלק קודמת לבנין הבית, שנאמר: "ויהי כי ישב המלך בביתו וה' הניח לו מסביב מכל איביו. ויאמר אל נתן הנביא, אנכי יושב בבית ארזים וגו'"
The appointment of a king should precede the war against Amalek. [This is evident from Samuel’s charge to King Saul] (I Samuel 15:1-3): “God sent me to anoint you as king . . . Now, go and smite Amalek.” Amalek’s seed should be annihilated before the construction of the Temple, as [II Samuel 7:1-2] states: “And it came to pass, when the king dwelled in his palace, and God gave him peace from all enemies who surrounded him, the king said to Nathan, the prophet: Look! I am dwelling in a house of cedar, . . . [but the ark of God dwells within curtains]. [Moznaim]
This seems consistent with the peshuto shel mikra (plain meaning) of 1 Samuel 15 where it is related that King Saul destroyed the nation of Amalek, only sparing King Agag and animals (although he was not supposed to spare either). King Agag, however, was executed by Shmuel after he rebuked Saul for his disobedience. That this commandment found its historical fulfillment doesn't detract from its status as a commandment. Yet it seems to me that although Amalek was destroyed in a literal sense, a prerequisite for building the Temple as we have seen, by failing to do so as commanded Saul allowed the ["disembodied"] spirit of Amalek to live on. It is in this sense that we find the primary significance of Haman's descent from Amalek regardless of how literal we should take the midrashim about Agag siring offspring during his brief period in custody. Haman is called Agagi, not Amalaki, he carries on the "spirit" and "mission" of Amalek not as Amalek strictly defined but because the Bnei Yisrael failed to preform the mitzvah as commanded even though the end result was equivalent.

Of course there is still a lot to be said about this, but a recognition that the mitzvah in its primary sense was fulfilled already means that the more disturbing particulars were, l'maaseh, relevant only when a)there was open prophecy and miracles and b)when the norms of war made it easier for such things to qualify as necessary. In contrast we can anticipate that the future and final rectification of Shaul's error in the Messianic era will address the spiritual root cause.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Rivevos Ephraim: On is required to imagine as if the Shechinah is before him the entire day.

רבבות אפרים חלק א סימן א
צריך לחשוב כאילו שכינה כנגדו כל היום

נראה במה שכתב המחבר בסימן צ"ח המתפלל צריך שיכון וכו' ויחשוב כאילו שכינה כנגדו דיש לכון כל היום  אפילו שלא בשעת תפילה דהשכינה כנגדו, והוא ממה שכתב הרמ"א בסימן א' סעיף א' כשישים האדם אל לבו שהמלך הגדול הקב"ה אשר מלא כל הארץ כבודו עומד עליו ורואה במעשיו. הרי דהרמ"א הביא דין זה אפילו שלא בשעת התפילה וכמו שכתב הרמב"ם במורה נבוכים ח"ג פנ"ג (ומ"ש ברמ"א וכן בדרכי משה בשינוי פרק ל"ב ט"ס וצ"ל נ"ב.) כשניעור משנתו בבקר מיד יחשוב בלבו לפני מי הוא עומד. ועיין עוד במורה נבוכים ח"א פי"ט. וא"כ כל היום יחשוב כאילו שכינה כנגדו וזה יועיל שלא יתנהג שלא כהוגן. ועיין בספר אשדת הפסגה לידידי הרב שמואל אברהם מלצר שליט"א בסימן א', ועיין בשו"ת יין הטוב סימן א' להגר"י ניסים שליט"א דהעיר דמגמרא דסנהדרין כ"ב משמע דיחשוב דשכינה כנגדו כל היום ולא רק בשעת תפילה. ועיין מה שביאר הדברים בטוב טעם בשו"ת חמדת צבי להגרמ"ר וולנר שליט"א בסימן ב'. וכתב לבאר דיש ג' מעלות בכונת התפילה. ועיין חיי אדם כלל כ"ב אות י"א בשמו"ע ויעמוד באימה ויראה כי השכינה נגד המתפלל וישים אל לבו אף שבלאו הכי מלא כל הארץ כבודו מ"מ עכשו עומדת לנגדו.

On is required to imagine as if the Shechinah is before him the entire day.

It appears from what the Mechaber has written in chapter 98 [of the Shulchan Aruch] that one who prays must have the intent… and imagine as if the divine presence is before him. Nevertheless there is basis throughout the entire day to consider that the divine presence is before him and not only during the times of prayer.  This is what is written by the Rema in chapter 1, seif 1, [of the Shulchan Aruch] that a person should place upon his heart that the Great King, the Holy One blessed be He (whose Glory fills the entire world) stands before him and observes his actions.  Note that the Rema applies this ruling even when it is not during times of prayer, just as was written by the Rambam in the Moreh Nevuchim 3:53 (….) that when one awakes from his sleep in the morning he should immediately contemplate in his heart before Whom he stands, and see further in the Moreh Nevuchim 1:19. Therefore one should consider as if the divine presence stands before him throughout the day, and this will assist him avoid impropriety. And look in the first chapter of Sefer Ashdot HaPisgah of my friend haRav Shmuel Avraham Meltzer shlita, and also in the first chapter of Sh’ut Yayin Tov by haRav haGaon Yitzchak Nissim shlita who stated from the Gemara Sanhedrin 22 that we can infer that one should consider it as if the divine presence stood before him the entire day and not only during prayer.  And see how the matter is clarified with good reasoning in the second chapter of Sh’ut Chemdas Tzvi by haGaon Rav Moshe Dov Vilner shlita, and he writes that there are three levels of preparation for prayer.  And see Chayei Adam: klal 22:11 that during Shemoneh Esrei one stands in fear and awe since the divine presence is before one who prays. One must take it to heart that even though His Glory fills the earth in any case, nevertheless now he is standing before Him.

(Any comments on how to improve this rough translation are welcome)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Olive Seedlings on Emunah Peshuta

After checking out the Blog of someone whose comments I found refreshing I was pleased to come across the following post at Olive Seedlings on Emunah Peshuta:

While we, today, no longer have that degree of direct knowledge, we do have the historical tradition of that experience, which (among other things) provides a rational basis for our belief in God and the Divine origin of the Torah. With that basis, we can then have faith, of the rational kind, that even when we do not understand why God does something, there must be a good reason for it.
It is only in this context that the concept of emuna peshuta - simple faith - comes into play. We trust God because we have simple faith in Him. But before we can trust him, we must first know that He exists. That initial knowledge cannot be based upon "simple faith." 

It touches  upon some of the same issue as I discuss here

Monday, April 15, 2013

"Who is the "son unto Me"?

2 Samuel 7:14, 1 Chronicles 17:13

--Hebrews 1:5

"I shall be a Father unto him and he shall be a son unto Me"

The first chapter of Hebrews is the only place in the Christian Scriptures which makes a serious attempt to prove the Nazarene is divine using the T’nakh.

In these parallel passages from Samuel and Chronicles, God is speaking to David telling him that he is not the one to build the Temple, his son is. Christians argue that this refers to David's "greater son", the Nazarene. However the reference is clearly to Solomon as you can tell by reading the passages.

"And Hashem informs you that Hashem will establish a dynasty for you. When your days are complete and you lie with your forefathers, I shall raise up after you your offspring who will issue from your loins, and I shall make his kingdom firm. He shall build a Temple for My sake, and I shall make firm the throne of his kingdom forever. I shall be a Father unto him and he shall be a son unto Me, so that when he sins I will chastise him with the rod of men and with afflictions of human beings." (2 Samuel 7:11-14, Stone Edition, emphasis added)

"I will raise up after you your offspring who will be from among your sons, and I shall make his kingdom firm. He shall build a Temple for Me, and I shall make his throne firm forever. I shall be a Father unto him and he shall be a son unto Me, and I shall never remove My kindness from him, as I removed it from the one who preceded you." (1 Chronicles 17:11-13)

Solomon is the one who built the Temple for Hashem. Nineteen of his descendants ruled over Judah on the throne of David. The true Mashiach will be a descendant of Solomon, the legitimate heir to David’s throne (notice that Luke records the Nazarene as having descended from Solomon's brother Nathan who was not the royal heir). If these passages referred to the Nazarene, why does it say, "when he sins"? Christianity can't even say, "if he sins" because it is impossible for the perfect Nazarene to sin. "In the famous prophecy of 2 Samuel 7 where Christ is prefigured in terms of Solomon, the expression "if he commit iniquity" cannot refer to Christ." (Protestant Biblical Interpretation, page 252).

The T’nakh itself tells us that these word were said regarding Solomon. David made many preparations for the building of the Temple and told Solomon. "My son, I had in mind to build a Temple for the Name of Hashem, my God, but the word of Hashem came to me, saying, You have shed much blood and have made great wars; you shall not build a Temple for My Name's sake, for you have shed much blood upon the ground before Me. Behold, a son will be born to you; he will be a man of rest, and I shall grant him rest from all his enemies all around. His name will be Solomon, and I will bestow peace and tranquility upon Israel in his days. He will build a Temple for My Name's sake; he will be a son to Me and I will be a Father to him. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever." (1 Chronicles 22:6-10)

These verses clearly identify Solomon as the "son of God", not the Nazarene. Many Christian apologists automatically suggest that this is a dual prophecy, referring to Solomon in its plain sense but alluding to the Messiah. But if the passage applies to the Messiah and Solomon equally then it cannot show it is appropriate to worship the Messiah unless it also shows it is appropriate to worship Solomon as well, they are the same words after all. "The interpreter should take the literal meaning of a prophetic passage as his limiting or controlling guide." (Protestant Biblical Interpretation, page 253). You do no more to demonstrate that you can worship Messiah, whom the passage refers to secondarily at best, than to show you can worship Solomon (חו״ש). Even if you wished to argue, ignoring the context, that it could be understood in such a manner it certainly doesn’t predict that the Messiah is divine. You can only infer such an idea if you already accepted it. It is the result of belief in the Nazarene, not it’s cause.

Solomon, like Israel in Hosea 11:1, is described as God's son because of the unique relationship they have. Israel is God’s chosen people and Solomon is the leader of that people. He is the one who reigned after David and it is he whom David himself identifies as the subject of the prophecy according to the T'nakh itself.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Who is "David's Fallen Sukkah"?

On that day I will raise up the fallen booth [i.e. sukkah] of David; I will repair their breaches and raise up its ruins, and i will build it up as in days of old so that they upon whom My Name is called may inherit the remnant of Edom and all the nations--the word of Hashem, Who shall do this (Amos 9:11-12, Stone Edition).
According to Christian Scriptures (Acts 15:16), James cites this verse, albeit conjoined to entirely separate verses, in connection with their topic of the role on non-Jews in their new faith. It would seem from the line of reasoning James is presenting, as well as the general tenor of the Christian scripture's use of verses in the T'nakh, that James understood that David's booth (which had fallen but was risen) was a reference to the Messiah whom they believed to be the Nazarene. Indeed Herbert Lockyer (All the Messianic Prophecies of the Bible) understands it is such a manner (as do many other missionaries, no doubt).

Of course those familiar with the Biblical narrative immediately recognize that the "fallen booth of David" is a reference to the Davidic dynasty which ceased to reign over most of the tribes of Israel after the reign of Solomon. As highlighted by Rabbi David Kimchi 's commentary, "Since [Amos] stated the kingdom of Ephraim would fall, he now states that, in contrast, the kingdom of David would be raised up. It is symbolized by the tabernacle [sukkah] because it affords shelter to the people." (transl. by Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg, Twelve Prophets, vol. 1, Judaica Press). The Moshiach, the Messiah, is not "the fallen booth of David" but just the opposite, he is its rectification.

In line with our previous observations, this straight-forward and obvious interpretation is also the one favored by Evangelical scholars applying normal and sound exegetical principals:

David's dynasty, which had been a protective canopy over all the people of Israel, had "fallen" with the great schism o the 10 Northern tribes from the 2 Southern tribes (1 Kings 12). This booth [i.e. sukkah] had been broken in two. But God promised to unite the two kingdoms once again under Davidic rule (cf. Jer. 30:3-10; Ezek. 37:15-28; Hosea 3:4-5). He will restore the sheltering tend, repair its broken places, building it as it used to be. ( J. F. Walvoord, R. B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, page 1451)

 While this passage is, it would seem, legitimately messianic in its meaning this does not mean that the Messiah would be "fallen".  The Messianic aspect of this passage is the reversal of this fallen state.  There is simply no need, nor any basis, to understand "David's fallen booth" as being the Messiah. Instead the Messiah will be the first king to reign over a united kingdom of Israel since the days of Solomon.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Why would a Good Person make a Bad Argument (Supporting a True Conclusion)? (Recycled)

Originally posted  9/5/08 5:20 PM:

We encounter a similar situation in poetry. The goal of those who teach mechanics and construction of poetry is to implant in their students the ability to compose poetry that is as perfectly balanced and technically correct as that of a born poet. Those who are naturally gifted poets, however, compose beautiful poetry without instruction; they would be stifled by the technical terms and mechanical concepts of formal instruction. (Metzudah Kuzari, page 7)

To say [that only the student of logic can reason well or correctly] would be as mistaken as to say that to run well requires studying the physics and physiology involved in that activity. Some excellent athletes are quite ignorant of the complex processes that go on inside themselves when they perform. And, needless to say, the somewhat elderly professors who know most about such things would perform very poorly where they to risk their dignity on the athletic field…But given the same native keenness of intellect, a person who has studied logic is more likely to reason correctly than one who has never though about the general principles involved in that activity. (Introduction to Logic, Copi, page 4)

Quite often, on any number of issues, a person may believe something that is true for reasons which are faulty or insufficient. It should not be too surprising that some of these individuals prove gifted in presenting their “arguments” in a persuasive manner influencing others to accept their fallacious reasoning. While it is obvious that one presented with such an argument need not accept it, it is quite another thing to dis-affirm the conclusion.

Often the difficulty with various arguments for the existence of God (or other conclusions) is that they are presented in a form that they are not. An argument which the arguer believes to be persuasive is presented as a deductive argument when it is really inductive. Rather than correctly presenting an argument as sufficient reason to accept the existence of God ,the arguer over reaches and implies that God’s existence is the only possible conclusion. Implausible alternatives are deemed impossible. I believe that this tendency is found among the Philosophers who sought absolute proof of the existence of God, and I believe that this is one of the reason the great Sages of Israel largely abandoned the philosophical approach in favor of Emunah Peshuta. Our world is one of concealment of God, and anything else would negate free will. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t reason to believe in God, but that there must be room for an unbeliever to equivocate.

I cannot claim that I am an intellectual purist who would always protest against someone for holding a correct view for the wrong reasons. I suspect that in many instances everyone involved may benefits from turning a blind eye to such logical transgressions. Nevertheless when it comes to defending our faith I think we must be extremely cautious with our choice of arguments. If someone becomes a Ba’al Teshuvah based on reasoning that they latter find to be faulty, then there is great potential for them to become despondent and forsake observance (ח״ו) when they learn of their error. At very least it can become a nagging doubt which the yetzer hara will exploit.

And when we see someone great offer up a problematic argument I suggest that we should approach it the same way as is done in halachah, with a polite צ״ע and a recognition of the Rambam's admontion that, "whenever the words of a person can be interpreted in such a manner that they agree with fully established facts, it is the duty of every educated and honest man to do so."(The Guide for the Perplexed, 3:14, transl. Freidlander page 279)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Who is Chemdath?

A few days back a user going by the name of Ali posted a series of leading questions over at Mi Yodeya one of which seemed to be an attempt at arguing Muhammad was predicted in the book of Haggai.  This line of argument is stated more explicitly (if not more cogently) over at www.answering-christianity[dot]com/adeel_khan/Prophet_Muhammad.htm:

Haggai 2:7
I will shake all nations, and the Muhammad of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD Almighty.
 This prophecy in Haggai not just says [sic] that Prophet Muhammad (s) is to come but also confirms that Prophet Muhammad (s) has been prophesied in various scriptures as he will be the desire of all nations.
 Translators have used incorrect words to translate the word Muhammad.
 Ben Yehuda's Hebrew-English Dictionary defines Muhammad as praised one.
This is the correct word to use but it better that the translations use the original word “Muhammad”.

We have already discussed this passage in our post How was the Glory of the Second Temple Greater than that of the First? but this argument takes a wildly divergent (though to some degree parallel) direction from the arguments we discussed there.

First we must ask what is the word that is claimed to be, in the "original word", Muhammad?  The word there is חמדת--chemdath. Although I do not have a great library on Arabic, to my ear (and somewhat supported by Wikipedia) the root in our verse is cognate with the root of the name Muhammad. Nevertheless our verse does not say Muhammad any more than any Arabic text mentioning the word "praise" mentions Muhammad. Here too our method to analyzing such claims is relevant.  We must look at the context and determine its normal implication based on an informed reading. To illustrate the difficulty of the above interpretation, surely even though the shoresh (root) חמד is used no one would accept "I am Muhammad and I took them, and behold they (the stolen goods) are hidden in the ground within my tent" as a legitimate interpretation of Joshua 7:21!! Such an interpretation would be false and offensive. Yet the only way to avoid such abuses is to make certain that our interpretations are grounded in solid exegesis of Scripture or to understand that a statement's connection to the verse is only illustrative while its veracity is subject to a different authority, and of course a true predictive prophecy can practically only be of the former.

It is clear that chemdath is not equivalent to Muhammad simply by enunciating the words. Furthermore it is patently false that the words used to translate it are "incorrect".  Whether or not there is justification for transliterating the word chemdath, the major translations I have encountered use appropriate translations that accurately reflect the words meaning. As we will see this is more than can be said for its citation in the quote above.

To identify our subject it is best to look next door to its predicate, specifically the verb. Adapted from above we see that "chemdath of all nations will come". Yet  if we look in the original we see that while the translation "will come" may be acceptable but it is an imprecise rendition of the Hebrew ובאו which means "and they will come". We are dealing with a plural subject here, there is more than one חמד that will come! Indeed that chemdath is plural is seen from the Hebrew word itself which is the plural construct form.

This of course leads us to consider the construct itself "chemdath kol hagoyim" Although associating Muhammad with "the nations" would be appropriate insofar as he was a gentile, to call him "Muhammad of all the nations" makes little sense whatsoever.

And we mustn't forget to ask where chemdath "comes" to? As we discussed in our previous article this passage, as most of Haggai, is expressly about the Second Temple.  The verse explains that the chemdas of all the nations will come "and I [G-d] will fill this House with glory!" The house is the Temple, as is clear from the usage of the word through Haggai as well as other places in Bible. And this passage makes it clear at the outset that we are discussing the Second Temple. The chemdath would come and the Temple would be filled with glory, yet Muhammad came many centuries after the Temple was destroyed.  He clearly was not the chemdath of our verse.

So what was the chemdath of our verse?  Chemdath can be translated by a number of different words but it essentially means valuables.  The valuables of all the nations would be brought to the Temple of Jerusalem and fill it with splendor. Those who had seen the Temple of Solomon were disappointed by the more modest  replacement (Haggai 2:3) but G-d reassured them that this was only temporary and it would eventually be more grandiose.  This was fulfilled by the famous renovations of the Herod.   The valuables of all the nations would be brought to glorify G-d's house because "Mine is the sliver and mine is the gold" (Haggai 2:8).

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Circular Fulfillment

There was once a novel infamous among Evangelical Christians for portraying the Nazarene and his disciples as orchestrating events to fulfill his messianic ambitions. I have not bothered reading it because its plot seems implausible and seemed to presume more historical accuracy to the Christian Bible than I am willing to concede. Needless to say Christians were not at all impressed with the suggestion that the Nazarene fulfillment of Messianic prophecies where contrived.

Nevertheless there is at least one instance where the Nazarene did just that, as recorded in the account of the Nazarene's "Triumphal Entry" which he did so specifically to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. This is despite there being no significance to the event other than symbolic. The sole purpose was to make the Nazarene appear to be fulfilling the role of Mashiach.

There is another way this concept is significant. Take a moment to reflect on a typical chart of "Messianic Prophecies Fulfilled by the Nazarene". On the left side is usually a column with verses from the T'nakh of "prophecies". What is on the right side to indicate how the Nazarene fulfilled them? Quotes cited from the Christian Bible! Absent are independent sources to provide evidence of fulfillment. And even a very liberal acceptance of the extra Christian sources which "prove" the Nazarene existence could only provide the most general support for less than a handful of the "hundreds" of Messianic prophecies cited by Christians.

The “New Testament” is not independent document; it is the document which defines Christianity. What we have is missionaries and apologists telling us that we should believe in Christianity because Christianity says the Nazarene fulfilled the Messianic prophecies, not because he is objectively shown to have fulfilled them. So supposedly Messiah was predicted to be born in Bethlehem, the Nazarene was born in Bethlehem! How do we know? Christianity tells us!

And it is not that we aren't without reason to be suspicious that the accounts of the Nazarene fulfillment are fabricated.  Take the example of Zechariah 9:9 mentioned earlier.  As we will look at when we examine this verse Luke has the Nazarene riding in on a donkey in accordance with this verse. However Matthew has him riding two donkeys!! Apparently Matthew misunderstood the verse and adjusted the story accordingly. Or consider the case of Jeremiah 31:14(15) which Matthew uses as a proof text for Herod’s murder of all the infants in the area around the birth of the Nazarene. Yet despite this claim of widespread massacre, the account is totally missing from non-Christian accounts of Herod written around the time (or before) the Christian Bible that are not otherwise lacking in their description of Herod's atrocities.

The Nazarene is therefore Messiah because Christianity claims he is, or so goes the Missionaries approach when you break it down to its essential logic. He can only be said to have fulfilled Messianic prophecies by accepting the accounts of his followers whose own accounts seem to be based on making the Nazarene fit their idea of the Messianic role rather than to relating historical fact. We then only have general information from non-Christian sources, lacking any evidence to support Christianity’s theological claims, and partisan accounts which have not so subtle traces of doctoring the record to assure the desired outcome. Since it is these "fulfilled" Messianic prophecies that are the main evidence for the Nazarene being Messiah, there is no reason to accept Christianity based on "facts" which are only known from the very document which defines Christianity.


Exod. 12:9 commands the Israelites: "Do not eat any of it [the Passover lamb sacrifice] raw, or boiled/cooked [bsl] in any way with water, but rather roasted over fire, its head with its legs and entrails". Deut 16:7, however, requires that "you shall boil/cook [bsl] it and eat it in the place where the Lord your God shall choose". One attempts to reconcile the two evidently incompatible verses is to translate bsl in the second verse as 'roast'. Nonetheless, this ignores the fact that however the verb is translated, one verse prohibits performing the action (of bissul) while the other requires it. (From the Article "Clearing Peshat and Derash by Stephan Garfinkel published in Hebrew Bible Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation,I/2: The Middle Ages page 130.)

No, I'm afraid that you are ignoring the fact that Exodus 12:9 does not make an unqualified prohibition against bishul, only bishul in water. The two verses are simply not mutually exclusive. Indeed the verses need to clarify that bishul is prohibited if it is done "with water" implies that there is such a thing as bishul without water.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Would God truly dwell on earth? Behold, the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain You

Would God truly dwell on earth? Behold, the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain You, and surely not this Temple that I have built! (1 Kings 8:27)
On the surface the proclamation just cited by King Solomon as he dedicated the first Beith HaMikdash is obvious, intuitive. On the other hand, it can be seen as a little difficult insofar as it seems to limit God’s ability by saying He is unable to dwell in the Temple. In truth, it must be understood (I believe here and in other similar paradoxes) that the limitation isn’t on God, per se, but on the Universe. The Universe, the physical, was created by God, according to His will, unable to contain Him.

In a very significant passage in the Christian Bible Paul asserts the following: "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him." And "For in Christ1 all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form." (Colossian 1:19, 2:9). While the T’nakh declares flat out that even the whole Universe is unable to contain God, Christianity teaches that all God’s fullness dwells in the bodily form of the Nazarene! Christian commentators and thinkers elaborate, "In Him dwelleth all the pleroma--this is a clear-cut statement of the deity of Christ. It could not be stated any stronger that it is here. In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead-not just 99.44 percent but 100 percent."2

"In Colossians 2:9 ‘the fullness of deity’ refers to ‘the whole glorious total of what God is, the supreme Nature in its infinite entirety.’"3

Though it may be tempting for a Christian to try to soften the conflict by qualifying the intent of Colossians it would be a mistake to do so. It is argued that:
Like many other theological terms, this term can be misleading. It might suggest that the eternal Logos by the act of incarnation was confined to the body of Jesus of Nazareth. The implication of such a construction of the result of the incarnation is that God the Son, kenotically "emptying" himself, divesting himself of the attribute of being always and everywhere immediately present in the universe. But to hold such a view is tantamount to contending that he who enfleshed himself as Jesus of Nazareth, while doubtless more than man, is not quite God."4
This formulation appears to take a swipe at Kenotic Theology (which we will touch upon later), though its proponents, to my knowledge, affirm the Nazarene’s omnipresence even during the incarnation.5 Nevertheless, while it would be a mistake to interpret Colossians as asserting that God was not present except in the body of the Nazarene, confined to his body as it were, it would be mistaken both from the thrust of this verse and the thrust of Christian doctrine do deny that God’s presence in the Nazarene (His "fullness") is any less than where we to imagine God confined to the Nazarene's body. While Colossians claim that in the Nazarene dwells the fullness of God may represent a "paradox", the doctrine of Trinity itself is a "paradox". In effect Paul indirectly asserts that the Temple can contain God, the "fullness" of God no less (in the incarnated Nazarene), affirming what Solomon denies, even though he presumably and paradoxically did not mean to deny God concurrent omnipresence. Conversely we may rightly see Solomon’s words as implying or alluding to God’s omnipresence, but he does so by denying that which Paul affirms, that the fullness of God can be contained in the physical world.
Michael Brown argues,
In fact, even the concept of God’s "fullness" dwelling in the Messiah in bodily form presents no problem when properly understood. For just as the glory of God filled the Tabernacle and Temple without it in any way emptying, depleting, or lessening God, so also his glory filled his son, without in anyway emptying, depleting, or lessening him. Isaiah 6:3 also teaches that the whole earth is filled with his glory, while in the New Testament, it is written that the church—the worldwide congregation of true believers in Yeshua—is "the fullness of him who fills everything in every way" (Eph. 1:23) Does this diminish God?6
God is not diminished, yet it is a diminished view of God. Many readers will have already noted that his analogy with the Temple fails because while the Temple was "filled" with God’s glory the verses in Colossians asserts a very different idea, that the "fullness" of God lives in the Nazarene’s bodily form. This is not the difference between a cup being half empty or half full, it is the difference between the cup being filled with water and all water being in the cup! In other words the verse does not say, "For in Christ’s bodily form is filled with Deity." Again, Solomon specifically says the Temple could not contain God while Colossians says that the Nazarene’s body does contain the fullness of God. Being filled with God’s glory is not the same as containing the fullness of God.

Proponents of the Trinity are accustomed to accepting beliefs that in other contexts would be considered mutually exclusive. They will not easily be swayed from their beliefs, particularly by theologically based arguments. We must, however, recognize that while Solomon said that the Temple cannot contain God, Paul says that the body of the Nazarene can contain the fullness of God. These are mutually exclusive beliefs. One must also note the irony that at the inauguration of the Temple, which Christians see as prefiguring the incarnation of the Nazarene, Solomon through ruach hakodesh asks "Would God truly dwell on earth?", a clearly rhetorical question whose answer is clearly "no" based on the context. Yet Christianity demands an affirmative answer, undermining the force of this verse, or more correctly out rightly contradicting it.

1 The word "Christ" does not appear here in the Greek, but is inferred from context.
2 Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee vol. 5, page 350.
3Quoted in Christ Before the Manger, page 50.
4Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, pages 555-556.
5While living on earth, He also was omnipresent in His deity." Cited in Christ Before the Manger, page 45.

"Bodily Form" means "Bodily Functions"

I would, straightaway, like to apologize for the following content, but I do think it is necessary for us to touch on this topic in a more serious and dignified way than is typically done:

To many people the notion of God becoming human makes the Creator seem more relatable. Certainly around the time of the holidays traditionally celebrated by Christians in the winter the mental image of their deity as a small infant can be particularly endearing to many. Yet as anyone who has been a parent knows, infants have less endearing practices...along with taking on "bodily form" means the necessity of "bodily functions."

Messianic/Christian apologist Michael Brown takes great exception to this being pointed out:

When attacking the New Testament -- that is exactly what the anti-missionaries do -- they often use a three-pronged approach: hyper-literality, alleged contradictions, and alleged misquotations.

In terms of hyper-literality, they will ask....Or, in abusing the concept of the incarnation (I doubt that many of our opponents actually try to understand the incarnation in any serious way) they will use coarse quips such as, “Does your God wear diapers?”  The overall effect of their hyper-literality is to try and make our faith seem idiotic and absurd. (


Emotions run high over this, and misunderstanding is the rule not the exception. The objections raised here are sometimes crude, such as, "Your god wore diapers. Our God sits enthroned in heaven." (Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol 2, page 15).

First of all we must point out that the idea that the Nazarene had to perform such bodily functions as urination and excretion, that he wore diapers", is neither "hyper-literal" nor is it a "misunderstanding", it is a straightforward implication of the doctrine that the Nazarene was not only 100% divine but 100% human.
Because the divine Christ became a man in the Incarnation, he as our Priest is able to intercede in prayer for us. Since Jesus was truly one of us, experiencing all of the temptations and trials of human existence, he is fully able to understand and empathize with us in our struggles as human beings. (Christ Before the Manger, page 206)
The theology of the Christian Bible is dependent upon the Nazarene having a fully human life experience. There is zero basis in the Christian Bible to exclude natural bodily functions for that experience and to do so would undermine Christian teachings.

And although I can, to a degree, sympathize with Michael Brown's predicament, his complaint about "crude" and "coarse quips" isn't against man...but against what God said through His prophet:

And it was at noontime, Elijah ridiculed them [the "prophets" of Ba'al], and said "Cry out in a loud voice, for he is a god! Perhaps he is conversing or pursuing [enemies], or relieving himself; perhaps he is asleep and he will awaken! (1 Kings 18:27)

The divinely inspired prophet mocked their grossly anthropomorphic view of the divine by exaggeration. Yet for Christianity it is no exaggeration. We are expected to believe that  God put Himself in the very same position that He mocked the false gods about!?

We have already argued that in addition to being unsupported by the Hebrew Bible, and in addition to conflicting with the monotheistic view of the Hebrew Bible, time and again Christian theology under-minds the very arguments and criticism's which the Hebrew Bible makes to present and support it's vision of monotheism. Michael Brown and other's may find it distasteful to make jokes about the Nazarene wearing diapers (and I would tend to believe that such tactics are not effective ways at communicating our position in a way others will be able to hear) but the Bible itself points out the absurdity of deities who need to relieve themselves.

Monday, February 18, 2013


One of the difficulties in ascribing deity to the Nazarene is that throughout the Christian Scriptures (and indeed by simple mental reflection) we encounter a portrait of the Nazarene which appears much more of a limited and finite human than an infinite God. We are informed that the Nazarene "The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him." (Luke 2:40, NRSV).

In order to understand the instances where the Nazarene appears more human than divine, many Christians have begun turning to Philippians 2:6-7: "[Jesus], though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but he emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave, being born in human likeness" The notion that the Nazarene "emptied himself" or, alternatively translated, "made himself nothing" has given rise to the "Kenotic Theology" (named after the Greek term in question). Ron Rhodes sees three aspects to this process a) the veiling of his preincarnate glory, b) taking on human likeness, and c) the voluntary non-use of the divine attributes. The first doesn’t strike me a particularly an issue, in and of itself. Nature itself is, in a sense, a veil of God’s glory allowing us to have free choice, this application is a little more problematic but because it is tied to the aspects which are being dealt with separately. The second one we will deal with more in depth later. The final one, the "voluntary non-use of the divine attributes is what concerns us here.

Rhodes explains:

A second issue involved in Christ making himself "nothing" in the Incarnation had to do with submission to voluntary nonuse of some of his divine attributes in order for him to accomplish his objectives. Christ could never have actually surrendered any of his attributes, for then he would have ceased to be God. But he could (and did) voluntarily cease using some of them during his time on earth (approximately 4 B.C. to A.D. 29) in order to live among men and their limitations.1


"Made himself of no reputation" means to empty--the Greek word is keno. The kenosis theory derives its name from the word keno. Christ emptied Himself…He emptied Himself of something, but it was not of His deity. He was 100 percent God when He was a baby reclining helplessly on the bosom of Mary….Well, then, of what did the Lord Jesus empty Himself when He came to earth? I believe that He emptied Himself of the prerogatives of deity. He lived on this earth with certain limitations, but they were self-limitations. There was never a moment when He wasn’t God.2

Finally while Jesus Christ voluntarily refrained from exercising certain attributes of deity, he did not divest himself of a single divine attribute (John 1:14; Philippians 2:1-11; Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrew 2:14-18). (Hank Hanegraaff, The Complete Bible Answer Book, page 229)

God has certain attributes, attributes which humans lack. God is everywhere, omnipresent. God is all-knowing, omniscient. God is all-powerful, omnipotent. God is un-changing, immutable. Humans do not possess those capacities so we are told that in order to become human God "toned it down" a little, willingly abstaining from his powers without giving them up. Indeed as the citation from Rhodes notes that to surrender these attributes would have been to cease being God, about which he later elaborates, "As such, it is clear that Christ, as God, cannot change in his essential being, and hence he could never give up any of his divine attributes. Indeed ‘God cannot change His nature by act of His will any more than any other being. Attributes inherent in a persona essence cannot be dismissed.’"(ibid page 196).

So when we see that the Nazarene underwent normal human development, such as growing and learning, or indicated that he was unaware of a particular matter, it was because he had voluntarily given up use of his divine attributes, he was, if you pardon the term, "keeping it real" (indeed this slang term carries a heavy overtone of maintaining artificial self-limitations in order to project a pre-conceived notion of authenticity.)

The difficulty is that while it is conceivable to possess the power to do anything without exercising that power, the parallel is not true with other divine attributes. On may be omnipotent with respect to knowledge, possessing the ability to know anything, but one is not omniscient if there are things that one does not know. One may be omnipotent with respect to place, possessing the ability to be anywhere and/or everywhere but if one has restricted himself to a single location this is not omnipresence. While it is argued "With respect to his omniscience, for example his human nature may have served as a filter limiting his knowledge as a man (e.g., Mark 13:32). Nonetheless, Jesus' divine omniscience was ever accessible at the will of the Father." (Hanegraaff, The Complete Bible Answer Book, page 229), this is a distinction without a difference. The potential to know anything is not omniscience, and if the Nazarene's "divine nature" was omniscient while his human nature was not there is no meaningful unity between those natures. Such a suggestion would at best be equivalent to saying he was part God, part man, rather than fully God and fully man.

We are not alone in this assessment; we have already encountered Christian objections to it while discussing the concept of incarnation:

Like many other theological terms, this term can be misleading. It might suggest that the eternal Logos by the act of incarnation was confined to the body of Jesus of Nazareth. The implication of such a construction of the result of the incarnation is that God the Son, kenotically "emptying" himself, divesting himself of the attribute of being always and everywhere immediately present in the universe. But to hold such a view is tantamount to contending that he who enfleshed himself as Jesus of Nazareth, while doubtless more than man, is not quite God."3

While proponents of the Kenotic Theology do not seem to understand the incarnation as implying that the Nazarene was not omnipresent, the principle remains the same. Not-knowing something, even voluntarily, is to "surrender" omniscience just as not being everywhere is to "surrender" omnipresence. Christian critics of the Kenotic Theology object, "How can Jesus Christ be God if we would simultaneously affirm that during the incarnate life he was not omniscient?"(Evangelical Dictionary of Theology page 602). Insofar as Kenotic Theologians would not say that the Nazarene was not omniscient, these critics are essentially calling them out on a merely verbal affirmation of omniscience.

It is not easy for Christians to dismiss the Kenosis Theory though:

Did Christ know or not know the time of the end (Mark 13:32)? Orthodoxy said he must know, he is the presence of the omniscient God; however for some reason he has chosen not to reveal this knowledge. Kenotic theorist insist that the text says what it says. He limited himself to his human and real development; he was genuinely dependent on his Father, he did not know. The problem of who is biblical cuts more than one way.4

Similarly, with respect to the conceptual difficulty of how the human and divine consciousness of the Nazarene interact according to the Kenotic Theology the rejoinder could be made:

However, the strain [in the Kenotic Theology] is fundamentally a relocation of the same strain orthodoxy faces when it attempts to affirm very God-very man in terms of the consciousness of the earthly Jesus. The problem cuts both ways.5

We, however, are unstirred by such counter-arguments since we do not consider the belief in the divinity of the Nazarene to be coherent or biblical. The two camps pointing out the problems in either’s solutions highlights that the real problem is the erroneous doctrine. Though it might be appealing for a Kenotic theologian to argue that the distinction between non-use of attributes and not retaining them is a mystery, this is insufficient. Such an argument would be extremely ad hoc as illustrated by their very insistence that the attributes must be retained, since by admitting logical impossibilities we could just as easily argue that, in opposition to Kenotic Theology, the Nazarene entirely divested himself of the divine attributes, yet mysteriously remained wholly divine. There is not theological hurdle which cannot be "overcome" by such reasoning.

Christian thinkers struggle with reconciling the apparent absence of divine attributes in the Nazarene with the necessity of him having them to be divine. Those who argue that while he possessed them, he did not utilize them, but particularly with respect to omniscience this distinction is verbal. Others understand him as actually being omniscient but are forced to understand certain passages in their scripture unnaturally. Either system has serious drawbacks and neither are appealing, particularly when one bears in mind how little reason there is to believe the Nazarene is divine.

1Christ Before The Manger, page 195-196.
2Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee Volume 5 page 302.
3Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, pages 555-556.
4Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, page 601.
5Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, page 602.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Who is a Prophet Like Moses?

Deuteronomy 18:15 A Prophet like Moses Acts 7:37
Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, 19 A Prophet like Moses Acts 3:22, 23

"A prophet from your midst, from your brethren, like me (Moses), shall Hashem, your God, establish for you to him shall you hearken." Deuteronomy 18:15

"I will establish a prophet for them from among their brethren, like you (Moses), and I will place My words in His mouth; He shall speak to them everything that I will command him. And it shall be that the man who will not hearken to My words that he shall speak in My name, I will exact from him." Deuteronomy 18:19.

In the New Testament we find that Stephen quoted the first verse, however he did not particular comment on how he understood it to have been fulfilled. He simply stated that this was a prophecy of Moshe (Moses). Peter also quoted the verses without elaborating. Although in either instance the quotes seem to be almost chosen randomly (they seem to neither add nor subtract from the subject), from the context one can assume that they intend to apply these verses to the Nazarene. This is in fact a common use of these verses in Christian circles.1

There are several reasons that we can understand that these verses don't provide evidence that the Nazarene is the Messiah. First of all, if we where to assume for the sake of argument that the Nazarene was a prophet, although I find it clear he was not, there is nothing in this text that would apply to him anymore than the dozens of prophets we are told of in the T'nakh. Why should we, how can we, single out the Nazarene as the subject of this prophecy rather than Jeremiah or Malachi, etc.?

Next let us consider the context itself. This verse is part of the section referred to as Shoftim (Judges) by Jews based upon the first word in this section. This portion describes many rules and regulations concerning different areas of Jewish leadership. Within this portion, which begins on 16:18 and continues until 21:9, the laws concerning Judges, Priests, Levites, Kings, witnesses, and more are discussed. Reading Deuteronomy 18:15-22 you see that the "prophecy" wasn't about an individual prophet but to all true prophets of God. The rules concerning kings are discussed in the singular (see 17:14-20) but apply to all kings and not only to one specific king. Likewise our verses use the singular when discussing the prophets but the rules apply to all prophets. The prediction is that prophecy would not cease at the death of Moses and the verses teach the obligation to obey those.

One might have assumed that after Moshe died then prophecy would die with him. This was not the case however, God told Israel that He would continue to raise up prophets and He proceeded to give the requirements. A prophet was to be from there midst, that is traditionally understood to mean that he had to begin his prophecy in Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. He had to be from among there brethren, that is he must be Jewish. Whatever the prophet spoke in the name of God had to come to pass. If these requirements weren’t fulfilled then the prophet was not to be feared. We have in this section the guidelines for determining a true prophet from a false one, not a prophecy about an individual prophet.

So if we assume that the Nazarene was a prophet, you could apply this verse to him as well as the other Nevi'im. Nevertheless the Nazarene was not a prophet. Remember that what a prophet predicts must come true. When the Jewish leadership asked the Nazarene for as sign, the New Testament records the Nazarene as saying, "A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah" (Matthew 16:4).

The Nazarene is predicting his supposed death and resurrection. However since the Nazarene’ stayed in the tomb for one complete day and two nights, this can not compare to the three days and three nights of Jonah in the large fish. Christians like to argue that in "Jewish time" a partial day could be considered a day. While there is a concept in Rabbinic law that is along these lines, nevertheless the book of Jonah is very specific saying three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17). Likewise the Nazarene himself is very specific regarding three days and three nights in a parallel passage earlier in Matthew (12:40). The Nazarene did not spend a third partial night in the tomb. Furthermore if we were counting partial days, Jonah could have possibly had a forth day or night since the text doesn’t tell us what time of day it was when he was swallowed or released from the fish. Because of these, the Nazarene's sign did not come to pass and he is therefore not a prophet of Hashem. Regarding the claim of those who adjust the "passion" narrative in such a way that presents the Nazarene as actually being in the tomb for three days and nights see what we have written in the section on the "typology of Jonah" (to be posted). Note, however, that even according to these Christians the traditional understanding of the Nazarene's death on Friday and resurrection on Sunday would render the above passages false prophecies.

Nor did the Nazarene speak in Hashem’s name as the prophet of our text. In the T'nakh to speak in someone's name means to give them credit for the statement. In Ester 2:22, Ester speaks to the king in Mordechai's name. Since she gave him credit he was latter honored by the king. In a quick search through prophets that have a book of the Bible named after them, I was able to find instances where each of them used phrases such as "the Lord says" or "declares the Lord". These phrases were never used by the Nazarene in regard to prophecy, in the few instances where he made (or so claim the Gospels) what could be considered prophecies. Many Christians will take pride of this in fact, seeing it as an example that the Nazarene "spoke with authority". Some see it as evidence that the Nazarene thought he was God incarnate and not merely God’s messenger. "In this Scripture [Matthew 5:20,22,26,28,etc] we find Jesus teaching and speaking in His own name. By doing so, He elevated the authority of His words directly to heaven. Instead of repeating the prophets by saying, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ Jesus repeated, ‘Verily verily, I say unto you.’" (Evidence that Demands a Verdict, page 95).Even where one to understand it in this way he still doesn’t fulfill the statement in our passage that says he will speak in God’s name. The Nazarene doesn't present himself as God's representative, he speaks on his own authority regardless of whether he thinks it human or divine. In fact, his predictions are phrased in such a way that were they not to come true, he could not be condemned as a false prophet on their account, so conversely even if they came about they are not "prophecies". Without being falsifiable/testable they are just opinions of what will occur, not prophecies.2

There is nothing in this passage which implies it refers to any single Prophet or the Mashiach. There is certainly nothing that indicates it refers to the Nazarene as a "prophet like Moshe". Rather what we see is a discussion on the continuance of prophecy after the time of Moshe and Israel’s obligation to obey them. And we see guidelines to distinguish between a true and false prophet. And using these guidelines we see that the Nazarene is neither the prophet nor a prophet discussed in this passage.

1According to the introduction of The Jewish New Testament (page xxvii) the Messiah must "Be a prophet like Moshe." An interesting example is the "testimony" of Louis S. Lapides who describes his initial study of the "Old Testament" at the challenge of a street minister who cited "Messianic prophecies": " ‘Pretty soon,’ Lapides told me, ‘I was reading the Old Testament every day and seeing one prophecy after another. For instance Deuteronomy talked about a prophet greater than Moses who will come and whom we should listen to. I thought, Who can be greater than Moses?" (The Case for Christ, page 177, italics mine). Of course the glaring problem is that while he is describing a time period where he claims to only be reading the Jewish Scriptures, in both his characterization of the passage in Deuteronomy and his reaction use the adjective "greater." In truth however "greater" is not found in the Deuteronomy passage, only "like", while it is reflected in Hebrews 3:3, "Jesus has been found worth of greater honor than Moses". Indeed the NIV segment heading is "Jesus Greater Than Moses."

2By analogy, a recent news event was about a certain Church "predicting" that the rapture would take place on March 21, 2011 and the world would begin to end and purchasing ad space on billboards across the country to draw attention to impending doom. In truth, while they likely did so through poor reasoning (from an uninspired book) their prediction was really just their interpretation of the book of Revelations and not a proper prophecy. The pastor involved, to my knowledge did not claim to predict the event, but understood that the event had been predicted. Even in the instances where the Nazarene offers "predictions", it would probably be more correct to understand them in a fashion similar to the "prediction" of the pastor in this story. It is Christianity which wishes to confer upon him the status of "prophet".

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Honest Evaluation or Close-mindedness?

When one reads through Christian apologetic materials one finds a reoccurring theme. The image of a court weighing the evidence as to whether or not The Nazarene is the Messiah is encountered repeatedly. The apologetic books Evidence that Demands a Verdict, 1 and 2, are classics. A newer apologetic book is called The Case for Christ. These theme is rooted in the word apologetics itself, "In NT times an apologia was a formal courtroom defense of something (2 Tim. 4:16)." 1

The imagery of a courtroom brings up thoughts of individuals who have cast away their preconceived notions and biases. They weigh the evidence without emotion, just examining the facts. Frequently missionaries will use this image to present themselves as representing a rational belief based on the only reasonable conclusion one can draw from the evidence. Particularly Messianic testimonies will often present their conversions as a result of examining the prophecies of the Messiah found in the T'nakh. They are portrayed as courageous individuals who fought the bias against the Nazarene they were raised with and accepted the facts of Christianity.2

On several occasions I have had correspondence with missionaries who have challenged me on my bias. They have accused me of having made my mind up about Christianity without having ever really considered it. Rather, they claim it was a result of my Jewish upbringing which influenced my decision. If only I where to examine the evidence fully, and to do so with an open mind, I might "see the light".

This stereotype is common. Jew's are painted as ignorant of Christianity, "the Jewish person assumes that all Gentiles are Christians."3 His reaction to the Christian claims is a result of being "taught from the cradle that Judaism and Christianity are mutually exclusive categories" (ibid). I would concede that, in general, people frequently do not make religious choices on purely logical grounds. But in this regard Christians are certainly no less disinclined to accept a faith other than the one they where brought up with.4 And the generalization that Jews are ignorant of Christianity has no factual support and my own experience indicates that the typical Jew is more familiar with the various sects of Christianity, and the nature of the Jewish/Christian polemic, than their Christian counterpart.

All that said, I will not try to paint myself as unbiased. It would be dishonest of me to indicate to you that when I began the research which resulted in this book that I did not have a preconceived notion of what the conclusion would be. I had no intent on examining the validity of my own beliefs, merely the intent to persuade others to accept mine. When I first began researching the so-called Messianic prophecies of the Jewish Bible I did so with the express intent to show that they prove conclusively that the Nazarene was the Jewish Messiah who died for the sins of the world.

Yes, I was biased without a doubt. My bias was that of an evangelical Christian who believed that the Bible was the inspired and inerrant Word of God. I wanted to produce a work which gave a comprehensive and persuasive argument to support my beliefs with the hope that it might persuade others to accept them. I had one thing going for me though; I wanted my case to be rock solid. I wanted an intellectually honest argument. Once familiar with the Messianic approach, in my head I produced an Orthodox Jewish audience, but one that knew everything that I did. If I where to produce an argument that could be understood differently I could not bluff them...they knew it too. If I found an argument less than persuasive, I couldn't expect them to accept it. I would just set such arguments aside as support, but not being proof. After all there was so much "evidence' to work with, why not only use conclusive evidence. But then came a point where I realized that most of the arguments for Christianity could only "support" one's case if one where to already hold a Christian world view. I could no longer honestly say that if I where a Jew living in the first century C.E. that I would be a follower of the Nazarene based on the teaching found in T'nakh.

Nor was this an easy decision to make. Believing in Torah observance I had developed a great admiration for Judaism. But at the same time I was driven to create a "Torah observant" community within the "Messianic" framework. Goals and dreams which gave me a sense of purpose were rendered superfluous. By joining the Jewish community the community was made, my goals where accomplished. I became a participant in a Torah observant community rather than helping build one anew. And while becoming Messianic was socially difficult, causing me to leave my old Church, leaving the Messianic movement by rejecting the Nazarene was rejecting a belief by which I had defined myself by since childhood, my Christian faith. It was not easy, but I knew what I had to do.

So yes, I was biased, and still am. I do not read a new missionary argument expecting it to possible be correct, to indicate that the Nazarene really is the Messiah. But my new bias is one based on intensive study of Christian arguments and proof texts and repeatedly finding them to be incorrect. My new bias is an educated guess based on previous experience with Christian arguments. And a Christian who is reading this is not likely expecting it to provide a sound argument that the Nazarene is not the Messiah. But I believe if they try to be honest and open that this book will do just that. The issue is not who is more or less biased. We all have biases. The issue is who can get beyond them to recognize the truth. I am by no means perfect and may not always present an argument without flaw, but I remain confident that my analysis of this issue is sound and the conclusions correct.

1Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, page 68.
2”To [Louis S.] Lapides, this was new information. Intriguing information. Astonishing information. So he went back to his apartment, opened the Old Testament to its first book, Genesis, and went hunting for Jesus among words that had been written hundreds of years before the carpenter of Nazareth had ever been born… I reflected on how many times I had encountered similar stories, especially among successful and thoughtful Jewish people who had specifically set out to refute Jesus’ messianic claims. I think of Stan Telchin, the East Coast businessman who had embarked on a quest to expose the “cult” of Christianity after his daughter went away to college and received Y’shua (Jesus) as her Messiah. He was astonished to find that his investigation led him—and his wife and second daughter—to the same Messiah….There was Jack Sternberg, a prominent cancer physician in Little Rock, Arkansas, who was so alarmed at what he found in the Old Testament that he challenged three rabbis to disprove that Jesus was the Messiah. They couldn’t, and he too has claimed to have found wholeness in Christ. And there was Peter Greenspan, an obstetrician-gynecologist who practices in the Kansas City area and is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine. Like Lapides, he had been challenged to look for Jesus in Judaism. What he found troubled him, so he went to the Torah and Talmud, seeking to discredit Jesus’ messianic credentials. Instead he concluded that Jesus did miraculously fulfill the prophecies. (The Case for Christ pages 177,185-186, the author Lee Storbel’s own “testimony” is referenced in True for You, But Not For Me, page 157.)
3Share the New Life with a Jew, p. 23.
4Indeed, this is an objection Christians themselves confront, “John Hicks has asserted that in the vast majority of cases, an individual’s religious belief will be the conditioned result of his geographical circumstances. Statistically speaking, Hick is correct. But what follows from that scenario?...Just because a diversity of political options has existed in the history of the world doesn't obstruct us from evaluating one political system as superior to its rivals.”(True for You, But Not for Me, page 82,83).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Subject of the verse is Vague

One of the first things one will notice when encountering Christian proof texts which are said to support a distinctly Christian view of the Messiah is the number of times the subject of the passage is contestable. That is to say, it is common that the individual the verse is talking is not entirely clear. More often than not, the passages cited by Christianity as referring to the "First Coming" of the Nazarene do not use words or terms that indicate clearly that the Messiah is being referred to.

That is obviously not to say that the fact a verse is vague is proof it is not Messianic. Clearly the author had someone in mind when writing the verse and the subject could possibly be the Mashiach. But it should raise a few questions to Christians that the passages which are taken to describe the heart of the Messiah's are lacking the indication that the verse is about Messiah.

Now, by Jewish interpretation there are no verses where "Mashiach" is used to refer to the Mashiach in the T'nakh. In Christian interpretation there are only a couple instances at most.1 Then what terms are lacking that would clear up these ambiguous references? That is, how do passages that are Messianic in there simple meaning according to Jewish interpretation indicate that Mashiach is the subject in such a way that is absent in Christian proof texts?

Now, as mentioned elsewhere, most of the clear Messianic prophecies (which Christians typically ascribe to the "Second Coming") are about the events of that Era rather than the individual. But when the individual Mashiach is described there are two ways he is identified, and often both are utilized. The first is reference to his Davidic lineage. In Ezekiel 37:24 we see him called David. In Isaiah 11:1 he's described as from the "stump of Jesse", David's father. Jeremiah 33:17 promises that a descendant of David will always rule. Closely related to the first and is identifying Mashiach by using a royal title such as king or prince. Clearly the former is less ambiguous because there are many people in T'nakh who are given royal titles but are not the Mashiach. Each of these methods to identify Mashiach can be seen in Ezekiel 37. Essentially all, if not all, the clear prophecies about Mashiach the individual use these methods to identify the subject.

It is noteworthy that many of the verses cited by Christians do have these indicators. The indicator, for example tribal affiliation or ancestors, are often cited as the prophecy which is "fulfilled". Meanwhile the rest of the prophecy, containing the more significant issue of Mashiach’s activities, is left to be fulfilled at some future date.2

Furthermore while it is not at all uncommon for the major concepts in the Jewish expectation of the Messiah to be stated clearly and repeatedly it is not uncommon to see fairly significant doctrines asserted to be ”predicted” in a single (or a couple) of ambiguous passages. It would do Christian apologists well to bear in mind the words of Bernard Ramm, “Essential truth is not tucked away in some incidental remark in Scripture nor in some passage that remains ambiguous in its meaning even after being subjected to very thorough research.”3

So while the prophecies that are used to form the concept of Mashiach in Jewish law and tradition are more specific in designating their subject, verses used by Christians are more likely to be open to argument. While this itself does not prove that they are not referring to the Christian Messiah, the weight of evidence suggest that this is the ambiguity that allowed Christians to fill in a meaning contrary to that meant by the author since the Nazarene did not fit the clear and explicit Messianic prophecies.

1 “It is noteworthy that the word “messiah” does not appear at all in the OT (the AV of Dan. 9:25 is incorrect; it out to read “an anointed one”), and only rarely in the intertestamental literature. (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, page 710.)
2 In addition to being out of context it is worthwhile to note that it is often difficult to associate the fulfillment of many (or most) of these passages with the eschatological picture of the “Second Coming” described in Revelation.
3Protestant Biblical Interpretation, page 105.

Monday, February 11, 2013


When Christians cite a verse that is actually Messianic they often run into a problem. All though there is a particular part that they want to apply to the Nazarene, there is usually another part that the Nazarene clearly hasn't fulfilled. This is usually likened by them to one who sees the top of two mountains but is unable to see the valley in between.

Beyond the natural difficulty in a unsupported span of two thousand plus years appearing out of nowhere in the middle of a verse one must note another difficulty. Michael Brown (in his appendix to Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 3) likens this to prophecies of the ingathering of the exiles which began with the return from Babylon, continues today, and will have ultimate fulfillment in the Messianic era. Though I’m not certain that we could suggest another clear prophecy which lends itself to such a notion of continued fulfillment, nor am I certain that we can locate verses which truly speak of the return from exile in such broad terms to include both the Babylonian Exile and our current exile, there remains still another difficultly with incompletely fulfilled Messianic prophecies. While we supposedly see individual verses which describe the "first" and "second" coming in one verse, we do not see those which describe the "suffering Messiah" and the "victorious Messiah" in a single prediction. When part of a prophecy clearly applies to a Messianic era not yet realized, the “fulfilled” part is consistently of secondary importance such as the Messiah’s tribal affiliation or so forth (see also Vague).

The point is this. Regarding the unfulfilled Messianic prophecies Christians explain that they refer to the second coming when the Nazarene will come as King. But in his first coming Messiah was supposed to suffer, and those concerning the "first coming" are the ones he fulfilled. But although we have "first coming" prophecies supposedly mixed in with King Messiah prophecies we never see predictions of suffering mixed in with the description of the Mashiach gathering the Exiles and rebuilding the Beith HaMikdash (Jerusalem Temple) and so forth. I also suspect that we will find that it is difficult to reconcile the fulfillment of these prophecies with the apocalyptic picture of the future presented in the Book of Revelation and other portions of the Christian Bible, making it doubtful that these will be truly fulfilled according to Christianity. A “Partially Fulfilled” prophecy remains an unfulfilled prophecy.