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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Christianity Unmasked

Note: I encourage readers to read the complete article by Rabbi Yisroel Blumenthal. I have denoted those clips from his article with italics and asterisk (***) marks. The section headings are from his article. gt

***The Church has enjoyed the credibility associated with these truths because people failed to discern between that which is originally Christian and that which is the true possession of all mankind.

Christianity has also falsely claimed to be the originator of certain truths that do not belong to her.

And finally and most seriously, the Church has set herself up as the sole distributor of truths that belong to everyone.***

The Universal Principles of Justice and Charity

***This literary device accentuates the fictitious notion that Jesus is the originator of these universal truths and that they were unknown to mankind until Jesus uttered them to his audience.***

I appreciate your opening word of caution in your article, sir. It may be my own familiarity with much of the content of your message, but I found nothing shaking about your approach or your claims and unbelief.

As you are a Jew with convictions; I am a disciple of Jesus. Your claims reflect some common misconceptions.

You state: ***This literary device accentuates the fictitious notion that Jesus is the originator of these universal truths and that they were unknown to mankind until Jesus uttered them to his audience.***

The truth is I have stated for many years that with the exception of very few points most of what Jesus taught was not new to the world. That you take exception to what you perceive as Jesus' claims as originator of these truths is more a flaw of interpretation. The claim is as weak as it is unnecessary. Your claim is unnecessary for no less then the reason you cite, namely, that the universal, common principles and truths exposition by Jesus are as much his as they are yours, mine and all mankind to claim. When our convictions meet or exceed those of the originator have we not effectively made those truths our own so as to live and die by them? Certainly, Jesus propounding of those truths was with much more of an intent that to speak or parrot them as others did before and have done so since. More on the exaltation of Jesus and humanity’s “need” for Jesus later.

The Inherent Godliness of Mankind

You have seriously overstated, if not outright misstated, the message of the New Testament scriptures on the evil of man, sir. Your overstatement is a eschew, as for example, of the Genesis 6 passage.

Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually only evil. 6 Yahweh was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him in his heart.

As much as you eschew the above passage you do concede there is evil in man. It's the matter of that “sorry state of affairs” concerning Jesus that does not sit well with you. More on that sorry state later.

I understand there's no room for any gospel business here and I'll leave that aside for the moment, but your assertion is as ignorant as it is a serious misstatement of the New Testament message. IT IS NOT that non-Christians cannot do good. It is not that they cannot do righteousness. Furthermore, it is not that they fail to DO good or DO righteousness. Rather, it is that the good they do and the righteousness they do is according to a righteousness in accordance with their own standard. Yes, the scriptures do speak of “enemies of God”, but any judgment on them is NOT for the good they DO, but for the good they DO NOT do. More on that later.

The Testimony of the Jewish Nation

Yes, Israel was the recipient of the oracles of God even as Paul reminded the church of Israel's role in God's revelation to man. Your claim:

***The Jew was trustworthy enough to establish the credibility of her covenant with God, her prophets and her Messianic vision.***

What does “trustworthy enough to establish the credibility” mean? Your statement does bring to my remembrance the admonition of God to Israel that He had not chosen them because of piety, goodness or anything God deems favorable. Rather, Israel was chosen because of God's was faithfulness to his promise to Abraham.

The Jewish Scriptures

***According to the Jewish Bible, the deification of any inhabitant of God’s earth is idolatry, the greatest rebellion against God.***

This is certainly a true statement. Yet, as true and noble as it may make us sound or make us appear it is not to say there is much or any degree of appreciation for one of your key points: Man was created in the image of God.

Israel's own sin of idolatry is only reflective of all mankind's own proclivity to idolatry. The interesting point about your statement is that it is glib if not short of memory. The reason I state this is that in a mere matter of weeks or months after God had liberated Israel from Egyptian bondage and after they have already seen his works Israel was quick to forget these works of God and had Aaron built them a golden calf.

Although the sin was immediately dealt with by God Israel was to slip into worse, far-reaching idolatry which resulted in Israel, not God, breaking their covenant with God and being taken captive to Babylon.

What shook my first century Jewish brothers and sisters in the faith to look to Jesus was extraordinary. It was not the matter of a virgin birth or his claims on universal truths, but the claims He unabashedly made and which were clearly heard and understood as much by friends and foes as to his deity.

Those claims would be a hollow, worthless notion had his friends and foes alike not been witnesses to the fulfillment of his claims concerning his resurrection from the dead.

Why does it seem incredible or impossible if God were to elect to take on a similar form as the man which he created? Do we really think such a short term blink-of-an-eye human experience of thirty years could possibly be a hindrance to God? Was God hampered or limited in his governance of creation when he manifested Himself in the burning to Moses? Or, when His presence remained with Israel in the ark of the covenant? The history of Israel in the Torah, the prophets and writings is replete with God surprising people with his actions, often to the appall of Israel and her prophets. Today, if we would understand and appreciated those lessons we would then maybe consider, even if with no less shock or appall then Israel and the prophets, at His incarnation among his own.

The Messianic Hope

***According to Christian theology, the glory of the Messianic era is reserved for those who have placed their faith in Jesus.***

This statement struck me as peculiar until I read the rest of your article. A message of exclusivity does not play well in our present world. The world wants to be safe, as in professing trust in God in accordance with a particular tenet of faith, while being open to anything and everything. This is the way to absolve oneself both from the need to understand, teach and tougher still, to correct.

The Relationship That Man Shares With God

***All we need to do is to focus on the blessings, recognize how we did nothing to deserve them, and we will learn to feel each moment of existence as an embrace from a loving Father.***

This marks an enormous and significant shift between your point on The Messianic Hope and The Relationship That Man Shares With God. You ply on the prophets and their message of hope to the world to employ your own message. Was the message of prophets like today's new age, culture-speak of “focus(ing) on the positive”, “overcome(ing) psychological barriers,” of “Your relationship with your Creator . . . before you were born” or did they call it sin? Yes, in the midst of their proclamation of messianic hope and calling Israel back from her rebellion against God they called it sin. We know of the people's response to the message of sin by the prophets and the fate faced by those servants of God.

Conclusion

Your lament about how the church has stolen the scriptures, Jewish culture is unconvincing. It is unconvincing because Israel still has the scriptures and her culture. Whatever the church or anyone else might do with those scriptures and that culture can in no way be taken from Israel. Your mistaken view to equate the precepts and practices of the Catholic church as that of all disciples of Jesus is seriously flawed.

The thrust of your article fell short. You failed to unmask Christianity, (Personally, not a term for which I have any use and about as intended towards the faith that is in Christ Jesus as your view on the term “Old Testament.”) Had you unmasked those who followed after Jesus as Lord and Savior you would have seen they emerged with much fear. Yet, greater still was their joy, resolve and determination from these who were from among the children of Israel. They followed, unmasked, after one who ostensibly appeared to be like any Jew or any man, but was cleared more than a man. He was God incarnate.

Blessings to you in the name of the our God and Creator of heaven and earth, sir.

36 comments:

  1. Sir
    thanks for your comments on my article - if you would read the rest of my blog you will see that I addressed each of your comments
    If you have any real responses you can send them to me at yourphariseefriend@gmail.com or post them as comments on my blog
    Thanks again
    Yisroel Blumenthal

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  2. Sir,
    Thank you for your reply to my comments. However, I've searched through the article itself and your blog comments (138), but I can not find exactly where you addressed my comments.
    Gil T

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  3. Sir
    My intention was that under the various categories of articles on my blog (such as "Ultimate Truth" - in relation to your arguments about the incarnation - and mainly in my critique of Dr. Brown's series where your arguments are already articulated) you will find why your arguments fall flat - in any case - I hope that in the near future i will get a chance to address your arguments directly
    Yisroel Blumenthal

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  4. You may be pleased to know that I posted a comprehensive reply to your critique on my blog
    Yours
    Yisroel

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  5. Hi Gil,

    In response to the idea that Jews who ignore Jesus are in 'unbelief', I would love your thoughts on Romans 10:5-11. This is a passage I've been trying to understand for some time now.

    It seems that Paul interpreted Deuteronomy 30 through the lens of an assumption that faith in Jesus was inseparable from faith in God; that Jews who ignored Jesus were blind to the inner meaning of the Torah and "pursued [righteousness] not by faith but as if it were by works". He did a similar thing with the many other verses about faith and responsiveness that he quoted in this chapter, but I'd value focusing in just on verses 5-10.

    Three times Paul stopped his quotation from Deuteronomy to say 'that is', and explain that the faith being spoken of by Moses was actually acceptance of Jesus. How could he say that, when the whole chapter of Deuteronomy is about a) the ability of Jews to keep God's commandments in a way that pleases Him, and b) the fact that when they would break the covenant and receive its curses, they could return through repentance to "all his commands I am giving you today... that are written in this Book of the Law"? In this chapter we find often that love for God and a means of repentance are already an essential part of the Torah, and that the commandments are not an inferior yoke waiting for a new system to arrive; they're life itself to the covenant nation. Here, and throughout the prophets, the way of return to God is made clear. It doesn't involve narrowing the definition of righteousness itself to include acceptance of a messianic claimant in the time before his reign occurs.

    So what do you think Paul's interpretative method was here, and why did he feel it was appropriate to narrow the circle of faith and righteousness to mean 'faith in Jesus'?

    I feel that what Rabbi Yisroel wrote in his article was not relativist; he has a very clear sense of what is glorifying to God, what is obedient to Him, and what is not. The only thing is that the circle he drew is not limited to disciples of any particular teacher or divine claimant. Maybe an understanding of what Paul was doing in these verses would help to open the reasons for difference in your perspectives of what it means to love and please God, and the way in which God has revealed (and continues to reveal) this in our world through history.

    With blessings,
    Annelise

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    1. Annelise, Thank you for a really great comment and questions. The numbered entries are from your comment followed by my reply below. gt

      1. the commandments are not an inferior yoke waiting for a new system to arrive

      Paul does not say nor does he suggest the commandments were inferior. He quotes the Deuteronomy text not because his readers were not familiar with it, but to call attention (hence, his interjection, “that is,” to the significance and meaning of those words.

      2. It doesn't involve narrowing the definition of righteousness

      It is with respect to the significance and meaning of the Deuteronomy passage that Paul does, in fact, define the limitations of righteousness. Contrary to common misconceptions on Paul’s words those limitations are not limited to Christians. They are not limited to Jews. Those limits are most definitely not those who trust on and do their good works to obtain favor with God. This is not to dismiss good works which even an atheist is just as capable of performing and still deny and reject God.

      The parameter for these limitations is a faith like that of Abraham who preceded Israel, the law, the gospel message of Jesus preached by Paul and the church. Abraham, Paul stated in Romans 4:1ff, was not justified by works which caught the attention of God. He was not justified by the law which was given to Israel through Moses more than four hundred years later.

      Abraham was justified because he BELIEVED God and God counted that as righteousness unto Abraham.

      3. why did he feel it was appropriate to narrow the circle of faith and righteousness to mean 'faith in Jesus'?

      Again, this seeming limitation by Paul to, as you state, “to narrow the circle of faith and righteousness to mean ‘faith in Jesus’ is not new. He reverts to Moses’ own words in Deuteronomy where Moses admonishes, prophetically, all Israel to keep the commandments of the law and to do so, “with all your heart and soul.” Moses was speaking to Israel about the commandment, the word, which he said is not in heaven or across the sea for you to long or despair for it. It (the word) “is near you, in your mouth and in your heart that you may observe it.”

      It is the natural, difficult struggle of humans to understand and perhaps even more to accept what they have understood. Moses stated this commandment, this word, “is not too hard or to distant.” How many do we not read in the Torah of God being present and people being unaware until after the fact, God using the mouth of a donkey to speak sense to Balaam. Even in the garden, although Adam and Eve were intimately aware of his presence, they acted not much differently than any other human. Yet, Israel, like mankind, looked to a golden calf, not even to heaven or across the sea when God was delivering his law to Moses. I do not cite this to mock or ridicule Israel. I'm saying they acted just like anyone else. All these experiences and to the degree Israel as a people attuned to the commandment and the word of God speak to their awareness and understanding of what Jesus said and did.

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  6. Thank you Gil, I appreciate such a thoughtful response.

    I need to get back to you within a week or so because of exams about what Paul himself was saying, but may I quickly clarify something?

    I'm curious to hear what you think of Jews who are living according to the Torah and the Jewish traditions that have been passed down through their generations, who don't accept Jesus in any way, and yet have a relationship with God that is based on faith. I've met Jews who understand that everything they have and are, in life and in relationship with God, is a gift of His kindness. While recognising their responsibility to choose righteousness as the way of choosing Him, they know their dependence on repentance. While being joyful about the good things God has given them a capacity to genuinely please Him with (what a gift!), they say with Elihu "If you are righteous, what have you given Him, or what has He taken from your hand?" The Jewish liturgy is full of thankfulness for God's gift of covenant, and recognition of their own humility in light of that. Many religious Jews speak about these things from their hearts as well in everyday life. In short, these Jews are living by faith in God's revelation to them, through the Torah and their living community, in the way that Paul believed was true of Abraham and many others in ancient Israelite history.

    Do you believe that these Jews really are living by faith, if they have heard everything about Jesus and yet continue to reject him till the end of their lives? Or is that a sign that they really are trying to gain righteousness by their own works? If they are living by faith, then do you believe they still can't be saved from the judgment unless they accept Jesus?

    Hearing your thoughts about this would help me to know how to answer.

    Have a great week,
    Annelise

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    1. You are welcome, Annelise.

      I'm responding to your questions below.

      First, what I believe with respect to the Jews who live by faith is of no consequence. I will not question anyone's faith, devotion or commitment. I will speak to and about our respective understanding of the scriptures.
      Second, it seems you yourself have framed well the tension here: faith by righteousness versus works.
      Third, the predicament of those Jews who do not believe in Jesus is no different than it was for Saul of Tarsus while he was a zealous persecutor of the saints in Christ. Somewhat similar to Saul only in the sense that they were Jews who lived by faith, heard and saw Jesus and each came to that point of either accepting that this was indeed the Son of God and obeyed him or refused to obey him. This has been the same scenario which has repeated in every generation since the first century.

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  7. Okay. I value where you're coming from in listening to the scriptures rather than judging individual people's sincerity or relationship with their Creator.

    I think the belief in your point three still implies that a Jew who knows about Jesus and rejects him is in that action also refusing to obey God. If true, that kind of rebellion would be incompatible with truly living by faith. That's all I meant by asking if you think it's possible for any Jew to seek righteousness by faith and still reject Christianity.

    Anyway, I understand more where you were coming from, so I will reply when I can. See you :)

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  8. I'm finally replying to your first response to me. Thanks for this conversation, I value your perspective and the way you really listen to what others are describing.

    I believe that Paul (and other early Christians) actually did divide the Jews of that generation into two groups. There were those who rejected Jesus, thus refusing to respond to God in faith and trying to attain righteousness through their own perfection. On the other hand there were those who accepted Jesus in a response of recognition, faith, humility, and obedience before God.

    The constant mentions of faith in the synoptic gospels imply that belief in Jesus' ability to do miracles was a reflection of one's level of faith in God. Paul's theme of faith as the gift that allows humans to respond in obedience to God is often closely reflective of Judaism. It's still clear that he believed this outpouring of God's righteousness comes specifically through faith in Jesus (Romans 3:20-22).

    I'll give you my thoughts on Romans as a backdrop, though this paragraph needs to digress a little. I think that in this letter Paul was explaining to the church that even though Jewish believers were still in the covenant of Torah, according to the halachic decisions of the church's leadership, and Gentile believers were not (as in Acts 15), there needed to be unity among them: one righteousness, expressed in two different forms. The later chapters in Romans are especially focused on this. The discussion of faith as the means of salvation from judgment for Abraham and the others who lived before Sinai, for those under the Mosaic covenant, for righteous Gentiles who didn't join Israel, and now for both Israelites and the nations equally in the Kingdom of God (defined by response to Jesus) was therefore brought up mostly to teach against Jewish Christians' pride in a more detailed kind of obedience. Paul wasn't merely trying to discredit all of the value of the Torah for Jews; he also wasn't writing just to make the point that you can only be rescued from judgment through accepting Jesus (his audience believed that already). It's worth pointing out that as similar as this theme of saving faith is to that in Galatians, the purposes of the two books are different they can only be compared carefully. Paul also made a complex word-play with the concept of the law, so I won't go into deducing what he thought of the life-bringing, eternal value of this Mosaic covenant. I give him the benefit of the doubt that when he spoke of humanity's inability to please and truly obey God without the renewal found in Jesus, he wasn't trying to prove from Tanach that such a sacrifice would be 'needed' for forgiveness. He was only trying to explain what he believed had been revealed about forgiveness and the justice of God, in retrospect, through the lens of his existing belief in Christianity.

    [I need to continue in a second comment because of the word limit.]

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  9. [cont.]

    Regardless of all that, there *were* times when he spoke strongly about faith in God only existing in response to the messianic movement surrounding Jesus. He did use 'faith' passages from the Jewish scriptures constantly to give the impression that this faith and the Abrahamic/Mosaic faith were one and the same. Romans 9 and following make clear references to the division I mentioned at the start, most notably 11:20-
    "they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble."
    The same thought is explored in Hebrews 11-12:2, where the ancient faith is considered the same as that which the early Christians were implored not to let go of (by returning to the wider Jewish community), and in the implications of 'faith' throughout the NT.

    The main point that I want to make is that even though I know Paul wasn't using Deuteronomy 30 as a 'proof text' for Jesus, he did believe that only those who responded to Jesus by word and by heart had the faith spoken of in that passage. He and the other early Christians believed that Christianity was the direct continuity of the biblical Jewish community, though now having other 'branches' grafted in according to the hope of Isaiah, Zechariah, and other Hebrew prophets. But my question is still this: How could he do that when Deuteronomy itself speaks about the way of repentance, through a faith that comes with obedience (similar to that emphasised by James, and also in the holiness theme of the NT, in light of their messianic hope)- right in this same chapter? He adds so much to what Israel was given in the original passage, They were already given a full faith system, which taught them how to return even in the last generation, and never mentions anything about belief in (let alone worship of) a man who claimed to be Israel's king and hadn't yet been coronated.

    Of course accepting future revelations along the way, and remaining part of the community of faith, was going to be important. God gave ways of testing the prophets, though even these were to be ignored if the person tried to lead the people away from the commandments into worshipping 'other gods'. I know that Jesus isn't set up as a rival god, but worshipping him is idolatry if false. Like I wrote on Rabbi Yisroel's last post to you as well- The issue is that the Torah makes Jews incredibly cautious of idolatry, gives no hint or clear sign that God will expect one day to be worshipped as a man, and doesn’t even give a test for such a claim.

    The fact that the majority of Israelites were generally not good at recognising God's revelations to them till after the event has no bearing on the way in which such things needed to be engaged with according to the Torah itself. As Rabbi Yisroel wrote, just like Christians don't expect a fourth member of the trinity to make himself or herself known before the return of Jesus, and would have no way of testing the claim no matter how righteous and impressive that person appearing... so the Israelites had no reason to think that their forgiveness could only come through accepting Jesus, nor should they have accepted it. I know that Christians believe the commandment to worship Jesus occurs in the heart of each human being. But even before Jews can consider what they feel in their hearts, they have been commanded to keep a wall up in their worship that allows God alone to come in, and tests this according to what He had taught them at the mountain. This formative experience is passed on for every generation, and God's commandments about worship were among His clearest. There is no way or reason to lower that caution and allow a human in, no matter how impressive, and no matter how much imagery from Tanach is found in the New Testament.

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    1. I hope the numbered highlights of these points from your post represent the core of your message. It is not my intention to corrupt or distort your message and I do this in the interest of brevity and clarity. I hope I have understood you correctly.

      1) The constant mentions of faith in the synoptic gospels imply that belief in Jesus' ability to do miracles was a reflection of one's level of faith in God.

      2) Paul wasn't merely trying to discredit all of the value of the Torah for Jews; he also wasn't writing just to make the point that you can only be rescued from judgment through accepting Jesus (his audience believed that already).

      3) He did use 'faith' passages from the Jewish scriptures constantly to give the impression that this faith and the Abrahamic/Mosaic faith were one and the same.

      4) But my question is still this: How could he do that when Deuteronomy itself speaks about the way of repentance, through a faith that comes with

      5) The issue is that the Torah makes Jews incredibly cautious of idolatry, gives no hint or clear sign that God will expect one day to be worshipped as a man, and doesn’t even give a test for such a claim.

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    2. 6) The fact that the majority of Israelites were generally not good at recognising God's revelations to them till after the event has no bearing on the way in which such things needed to be engaged with according to the Torah itself.

      Belief in Jesus is not implied. It is declared and is the expected response. What is implied is the corollary of unbelief with its resultant consequences of judgment. (1)

      Do I understood you correctly that Paul wasn't "trying to discredit" or wasn't writing just to make the point . . ." as much as he was explaining and calling for a need of unity in righteousness, albeit, expressed in two different forms? The first of these being a righteousness like that of Abraham; the second a righteousness like that of the law of Moses, and a third (oops?) a righteousness that is as "(defined by response to Jesus)?"(2) The truth is here Paul and the entire NT contrast the righteousness of Abraham, not with the righteousness of Moses/Israel, but with the law. This is not to say anything as to the righteousness of Moses, but it is to clarify that while the faith which is the subject of Paul's writings may be said to be the same as Abraham and Moses, the stark contrast is between the righteousness of Abraham and the righteousness of Moses the law-giver as law keeper.(3)

      I'm afraid your question seems to be a struggle with a problem that is not there between faith of obedience and holiness.(4) This are not separable neither in the Deuteronomy or the whole of Torah anymore than they are in the NT.

      The point is well established from the Torah on the prohibition, judgment and punishment against idolatry.(5) Yes, I agree Israel's slowness or slackness at various times in their history to remain true has no bearing on the Torah itself. However, lest our own faith chants be overshadowed by our pride in what sounds good and makes us feel good lets observe Israel for our learning.

      Aside of the matter or discussion of idolatry Israel showed their reluctance, fickleness and rebellion first against Moses. Korah's rebellion was a forerunner to another rebellion manifested in Miriam and Aaron's questioning of Moses as the one with whom God communicated unlike any other and to lead Israel. Of course, then throughout her history there were the prophets which God sent to her.

      Please note I have, contrary to the rushed assumptions and questions about Jesus, matters of deity, etc., found no need to delve into those matters. My primary aim has been to focus and stay within the matters as brought into the discussion by you and others. I do so, and I hope all things considered, done so in a manner which is clear, namely, that I have no need or desire to bash neither Israel, the law, etc., in order to establish or exalt those matters which are the core of the faith of my convictions.

      Peace be upon you. Gil

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  10. Forgive me for complicating the conversation so badly. I'm impressed at your willingness to engage with such a long post; the points 3-6 that you identified were the core of what I was saying.

    "I'm afraid your question seems to be a struggle with a problem that is not there between faith of obedience and holiness.(4) This are not separable neither in the Deuteronomy or the whole of Torah anymore than they are in the NT."
    I totally agree that faith of obedience and holiness are inseparable, both in Torah and the NT. I think we may well be on exactly on the same page about that, from your wording, unless something I wrote makes you think otherwise. Going into a digression about Paul and the idea of faith in Romans probably gave a poor impression about what I see to be the key points in this conversation. I don't think I've ever brought any of those things up before in the context of Jewish-Christian dialogue. I just felt that I needed to mention the way I read Romans, not to say I have a problem with Paul's thoughts in many of the areas I mentioned, but simply to contextualise the passage in Romans 10... and to point out the things Jews often object to in Paul that I don't have any issue with.

    I'll reiterate what I do see as a problem, though. Paul and other Christians certainly were declaring that the faith of Tanach had to be outworked in faith in Jesus. They were saying that in light of the immanent judgment, the only way to inherit God's Kingdom was to rely on forgiveness of sins through Jesus' death. In the passage we were talking about, Paul appealed to Deuteronomy 30 as the framework his idea of faith in Jesus. No one outside the community of faith in Jesus would have his or her 'faith' counted as righteousness.

    But Deuteronomy 30 says this:
    "When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you."

    Do you think these verses are still applicable to anyone in 2012? If so, there are Jews in this generation who are living in obedience through faith and also keeping the commandments given to them that day. Not all Jews live like this, but still many do.

    If what they are missing for 'salvation' is faith specifically in Jesus, then the absence of that in God's instructions about how to return is really striking. It seems like Paul has redefined faith and repentance in a way that simply doesn't fit with the message of Deuteronomy 30. Does that make sense? God gave them instructions about how to return to Him in faith, so that people in an exile like the present one would know what to do. And He didn't mention anything about faith in a future king as something that people might need to consider when they listen to this advice. That's why I don't know why Paul could use the passage as he did, because the chapter itself suggests that a solution exists outside of anything to do with Jesus.

    My assumptions about Jesus and matters of deity aren't rushed or lightly formed. I believe that they're also at the heart of the matters that you and Rabbi Yisroel have been speaking about, and the things that I've written that are closest to my heart and least defensible by Christianity have also been about this issue. Hopefully we can get around to them, because I appreciate how you think and how you engage with Judaism. I do completely believe you when you say you're not trying to bash Israel or the Law; on the contrary you're very respectful, while holding to your convictions. I admire that a lot.

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  11. I will, God willing, be back later this evening, but for now I just want to say my reference to rushed assumptions was not to suggest neither you nor Yisroel have anything than a solid, well-thought out response to Jesus and related matters. It is to say the tendency is quite often to jump to those things even while the discussion is on other matters more distant from the resurrection, etc.
    I admire and respect you for your willingness to express yourself as well and not merely casting stones, chants or any maliciousness. peace, Gil

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  12. Now I get what you meant...that makes sense.

    I jump back to the issues that are at the heart of the matter (for me) because I feel like Christianity can answer most Jewish questions in some way and fit them into a systematic set of beliefs. There are a few questions that I don't think can be answered, and from the perspective of Judaism they're incredibly important. Everything else feels peripheral, and many topics also seem like they can go back and forth forever without really touching on exactly why Christians think Jews must accept Jesus or exactly why Jews will not.

    I've grown up in a Christian family and my relationship with God within that faith has always been the biggest part of my life. I feel I have a fair grasp on Christian theology and history, and I've been closely involved in a number of ministries. Despite having some questions about that faith (most of which also apply to Judaism), I knew God and I knew the smallness of my own knowledge for questions I couldn't answer. I knew my experience of Him, of His grace and closeness in my life, and the beauty of the shared journey with Him that exists in the Christian community.

    A year ago I started seeing posts from one of my Christian Jewish friends on the Facebook page of a Rabbi here in Sydney, and noticed how Jews and Christians seemed often to miss each other's point. Sometimes Jews would make arguments that showed a complete misunderstanding of Christianity or of how the issues could be resolved. I started joining the conversation there to see if it could be explained more clearly, and I started talking with that Rabbi and with Rabbi Yisroel as well. Through talking with them I started to recognise what the Jewish understanding of God is, and how serious it is for a Jew to accept that Jesus is God if it's false. The commandment about worshipping God alone is so strong and central that Christianity needed to have a real positive claim, scripturally so. I found that Christians and Jews read the scriptures quite differently, and that there aren't any satisfying proof texts to suggest that God might one day expect to be known in the form of a human who would come. There was nothing about Jesus' life or claims that could enable a Jew to say "I'm about to worship this person, and this is what makes me absolutely sure that he is the only God." There are tests for prophets in the Torah, but not for an incarnation claim.

    It was confusing to wonder if I was missing something important about Christianity, or to know how to speak to God and identify my loyalties before Him. After a few months I got to a place where I was very much standing within Christianity, knowing my questions might be wrong, but I was unwilling to include anyone or anything which might not be God into my prayers to Him. After about half a year I decided before God that I'd taken this single question in circles in every way imaginable and that I couldn't identify with a faith that I thought might be idolatrous unless I could see the way in which the first Jewish Christians who worshiped Jesus possibly tested and accepted what they did. So I kept looking at Christianity, but from the outside, holding on to my relationship with our Creator as all that I have.

    Other conversations can be endless and distracting, but I want to bringing it back to the one question that- out of all the questions I've heard and struggled through from other faiths and against faith- made me step away from a set of beliefs I would have held onto before God with my life. Not just how the Christian faith can be defended and harmonised with every verse in the Jewish Bible, but actually how a Jew could look at a man and decide that according to God's commandments, they may (and must) worship him. It also gets us close to the important message that Judaism holds about knowing God.

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  13. 1) No one outside the community of faith in Jesus would have his or her 'faith' counted as righteousness.

    2) Do you think these verses are still applicable to anyone in 2012? If so, there are Jews in this generation who are living in obedience through faith and also keeping the commandments given to them that day. Not all Jews live like this, but still many do

    This has to be one of the major misconceptions among Jews as well as misunderstanding with many Christians. The truth is the exemplary model of righteousness which precedes the law of Moses for the Jew also precedes the gospel for the Christian is Abraham. Who would question whether his “faith” COUNTED as righteousness were Abraham to walk into the community of the saints during Hezekiah's reign or the saints in Corinth? Having said that and to continue with the same analogy can anyone see Abraham refusing to keep the commandment of the Lord and to bring his offering to the priests during the great awakening in Hezekiah's reign? Can anyone imagine Abraham preach the message of the good news of God to those who know not God?

    This is essentially what Yechiel advocated in favor of the Noahide Covenant and with which I concurred. The introduction, establishment and observance of the law of Moses was not a free for to trash the Noahide Covenant or Abraham's righteousness. Certainly, Paul's preaching and advocacy for the gospel was no more a trashing of the law of Moses than Moses trashed the Noahide Covenant. I do not know, but it would not surprise me, to learn there are quite likely Jews who carry a torch for the Noahide Covenant as the commandment of God which Moses put aside.

    What Paul stated repeatedly throughout the NT concerning Jews, as much as for Christians, was to remind all of Abraham's faith which resulted in God counting it as righteousness for Abraham.

    I recognize your wonder about Deuteronomy 30: “(God) didn't mention anything about faith in a future king . . .” Sooner or later it is heard in most every discussion I've been in regardless of the language or belief. The problem with this rationale is evident in the garden account in Genesis.

    We inject, on the basis of reading the narrative of the text, that it was God who created Adam and Eve. However, no where does God declare outright and openly in the account that 1) He is God, that 2) Adam and Eve were to worship him, or even that 3) He had created them.

    Furthermore, after the fall no where does God state outright, openly and clearly that He will defeat the Deceiver. Would anyone doubt that God would take on the Deceiver to crush him? Certainly, God did not go back to where He was, sulking, pouting or at a loss as to what to do, before coming to Adam and Eve and addressing their utter transgression. Please understand I have absolutely no doubt it was God who was there, who received worship from Adam and Eve through their simple obedience until the fall and that it was God who created them.

    Yes, the Deuteronomy 30 passage has as much application today for Jews as well as Christians and regardless whether one looks forward in time from that passage to Jesus or backwards to Abraham; the conclusion is the same: The righteous shall live by faith just like Abraham. It is for this reason that I can say Paul was no more redefining faith and repentance any more than Moses redefined the righteousness of Abraham when he gave the law to Israel. peace, Gil

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  14. I appreciate the way you wrote about progressive revelation using the clear example of Abraham. This is something I have definitely thought about, but the way you wrote about it boiled the thought down to a simple form.

    When God made His will clear in specific circumstances in history, faithful people responded. They accepted His prophets within the Mosaic understanding, and followed their instructions about where they needed to go in relationship with God. When God revealed to one generation a full way of knowing Him, such as the way in which Adam or Noah or Abraham were each uniquely taught, that didn't mean that a more intricate commandment or covenant wouldn't be made in the future. So you're saying that to Paul, a Jew who rejected Jesus would be like a person who complained that God had never told them He would reveal Himself on a mountain, or that God never commanded them at Sinai that they must rebuild, even in times of danger, after the Babylonian exile... and therefore stood in disobedience to a revelation God did give in their generation. You could never accuse the prophets of 'narrowing the covenant' in an inappropriate way. I agree with your thought there, and it's so important to the discussion about Jesus' claims. Just like the prophets spoke of people who rejected them as also rejecting the way God had given them to walk, so the apostles spoke of the wider Jewish community as outside the circle of response to a real revelation from God that they should have accepted if they really had that sensitivity to Him by faith.

    From an Orthodox Jewish perspective, the idea of the Noachide covenant is not spoken about as a reason for Jews to reject the covenant that God made with Moses and just go back to the earlier one with Noah. It's a concept that has been around in Judaism since at least the first century CE (it's hard to know, before that), which informs the idea of a 'righteous gentile'. Jews believe that the covenant that God made with all humanity stands, and that there are certain moral laws that are binding on everyone, whether Jewish or not. They also believe that God made a specific covenant with the Jewish people, which involves adherence to what is required of all humans, and then a lot of other covenant specific instructions. So some groups of Jews are particularly active in teaching gentiles about God, but not encouraging them to convert to Judaism; instead, teaching them about the way in which all humans should live. And sometimes gentiles who believe in Judaism, but don't become Jewish and keep the Torah, cal themselves 'Noachides' as their religion.

    You can see a very similar emphasis in Paul's teaching that 'everyone should remain as they were when they were called', and his passionate preaching against Jews who were saying that gentiles couldn't be 'saved' from punishment for their sins unless they converted to Judaism and followed Christianity as Jews. This is what I was trying to say about his emphasis on the faith of Abraham, by which *everyone* knows God, in both Romans and Galatians... a faith that is outworked in obedience to the specific things that God asks from a person, in their own generation and their own ethnic heritage.

    So the question is... did God command the Jews to trust in Jesus as Messiah? Even if his followers started to claim that he deserved worship and that forgiveness of sins could only come from him? These are massive claims to make, and certainly can't be accepted by default. I don't see any acceptable reasons that could cause a Jew to open a strongly guarded door of their worship and allow Jesus inside. But if you can see a reason why this is just as binding on a Jew, and every person on earth, as the words of Moses or the Hebrew prophets, maybe we can talk from there about whether those reasons stand up to the caution commanded in the Torah, and whether they fit within the framework of the way Torah was passed on and guarded before Jesus was heard of.

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  15. It's important to add that the way in which prophets after Moses were tested was quite different from the way Moses himself was tested... since his message and covenant set a particular set of limitations on the way in which the Israelites were to know and approach God, for every generation after the experience of the exodus and Sinai revelation. Their nation was formed by those experiences, and by the Torah, for a particular purpose, and they continue to experience these things today in the festival observances and the Torah laws in everyday life. God set them aside in this way for a reason, and those who know God by faith are very careful to check every 'new revelation' against absolute caution not to break God's commandments.

    So, if God wanted to be worshipped as a man, and therefore wanted the Jews to worship someone they knew as one of themselves... He would have made it absolutely clear that a) they were not at risk of violating the commandment of idolatry, and b) they had made their decision to do so according to the method of testing that was provided to them in that covenant. What I'm asking is how you think He did that, in a way that Jews have no responsibility to object.

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  16. More to the original point. I also think that Deut 30 and passages like it were designed as simple instructions to Jews in a generation like our own. Of course there are things that aren't mentioned in that chapter but which are extremely important for such people to respond to God in. But the Christian claim is monumental, and the lack of warning about it in passages like this (and of any unambiguous reference to it in all the Jewish scriptures) really is a big issue.

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  17. 1) paragraph# 2, "When God made His will clear . . ."

    I really appreciate the honesty with which you state of Israel "They ACCEPTED (emphasis, mine) the prophets and in the same breath credit the same prophets oracles about those "people who rejected them."

    I reiterate what you agreed with me: The prophets did not narrow the covenant, but still, somewhere between those two parameters concerning the prophets was a narrowing of the covenant.

    It is this narrowing which you see Paul applying in such a way as to exclude the wider Jewish community because they lacked "sensitivity to Him (Jesus) by faith?" A rather peculiar expression which aside of being non responsive to either the teaching of Jesus or of Paul really reveals a failure to look, _ backwards.

    This is the same matter I addressed with Annelise, namely, that contrary to the accusation against Paul that he redefined faith and repentance so as to exclude the Jews Paul pointed backwards, not to the a faith or righteousness of keeping the law as some Jews trusted, but back to the righteousness of Abraham that was by faith; Abraham who trusted God and who predated the law.

    2) paragraph# 3, "From an Orthodox Jewish perspective . . ."

    When I say the Noahide Covenant is of no consequence to me it is not to trash or dismiss it, but to say that in as much, as has been stated by other saints in this discussion, that is is incorporated into the law of Moses then I take it to heart. Similarly, however some Jews, as you state, may use it to teach gentiles is immaterial to me.

    3) paragraph# 4, "You can see a very similar emphasis . . ."

    You have taken view of Paul's words to the saints that, "everyone should remain as they were when they were called' and applied to a Jew, a gentile, etc., each remaining in their respective beliefs. However, I will leave to you to review that passage with which you are familiar. Paul's words are as to the social position of the new convert, whether he/she was a slave, he/she was married, he/she was single. He does not lay that down as hardcore, cast-in-concrete statement, but qualifies his words. For example, in the matter of the single individual he makes it clear they are certainly free to marry, but he is trying to spare them the suffering which they could inevitably expect to come.

    4) paragraph 4, "So the question is . . ."

    What did God command concerning Jesus or messiah?

    Permit me to illustrate by way of an analogy, Yisroel, and I will use myself as an example.

    I have great deficiencies in the area of mathematics, such as college level algebra. Now, suppose i went to the professor, without having done any sustained, successive work leading up to the college algebra exam, but I plea my case with the professor. He agrees and proceeds painstakingly and with great grief and angst to take me through every single step of every question until I complete the test successfully with a passing grade.

    I could probably boast I took the college algebra exam and passed it, but could I really stake a claim that I know or learned algebra merely because I have the results of a successful exam? I don't think so.

    This is to illustrate what has been a lifelong, fundamental conviction of mine as to teaching and learning. Would I claim it is the best method for teaching and learning? No. It may irritate and annoy some, but it's my heartfelt conviction that knowledge and the resulting understanding about those things we do not understand, believe we understand, but definitely have no desire to accept are savored best when we break break (even if it is in the cyber world), chew on it, talk with our mouths full as between friends and before we know we're actually enjoying a fellowship meal.

    peace to you, brother. Gil

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  18. I can't reply this second, but I think you were replying to the posts I've written (with the name yonati) as if they were Rabbi Yisroel's. Just to let you know that I'm Annelise... I signed one of the earlier posts, but should have kept doing so. When I sign in here with my WordPress account it just uses the url name of a blog I've been writing from that account.

    If that was misunderstood then I'll just read your comment as if adressed to me.

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    1. AAARRGGGHHH!
      My apologies, Annelise. I knew the name mix up would surface sooner or later.
      So, yes, lets sign.
      Thank you.
      Peace to you.
      Gil

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  19. Actually, I can give a quick response to each of these thoughts.

    1) The Jews who didn't accept Jesus also seem to have been pointing back to the same relationship with God that you've been speaking of, which predated and was the context of the Torah. If they and Paul were both claiming to live by the faith of Abraham, then that claim alone doesn't give Paul any *exclusive* continuity. Why exactly should Paul (or any other apostle) have been accepted as a prophet and listened to by all Israel? And how can we know, in this generation, who the prophets to Israel were?

    2) The covenant with Noah is of great consequence to everyone, as you can see in the end of Genesis 8 and the beginning of Genesis 9 :) But I'm happy to leave that point aside, as I didn't bring it into the conversation and semantically it has meant different things in certain contexts. I have mentioned Acts 15 earlier in this conversation, though, and it's worth pointing out that the way in which rabbis understand the obligations of all gentiles towards God is similar to the ruling that was given by the Jewish leaders of the church to the gentile Christians.

    3) I shouldn't have used that verse as if it were the main indication of Paul's beliefs about gentiles. I don't think he wanted gentiles to keep the Torah. But I could be wrong in my assumptions about what Paul thought on this issue, so I don't want to draw it out. I'm just trying hard to give him the benefit of the doubt that his way of thinking was closer to that of the Torah than some Christian theologians in the past have assumed.

    4) I think that long conversations are definitely important, because concepts come in layers that need to be absorbed and built up into more intricate pictures. The only thing is that unless a Jew can point definitively to the reason why he or she can and must worship a human being, and/or let go of acknowledging what has been preserved in the Jewish community, it's not going to happen.

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  20. I really like how you described conversation as a fellowship meal, though. Beautifully said.

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    1. 1) “The Jews who didn't accept Jesus . . .”

      First, neither Paul nor any of the apostles ever claimed to be prophets. The definition of what constitutes a prophet is found in Numbers 12 for which reason I have always asserted Jesus was no more a prophet than was Moses. (As an aside, I apply the same standard to dismiss the Muslim claim concerning Mohammad as a prophet of God.) Jesus never stated or claimed to receive any revelation through visions or dreams as God said he would communicate with his prophets.

      Your question poses the very real and valid implication that the Jews ought rightly to have rejected Paul (and Jesus, too) had they claimed to be prophets. Jesus, and later Paul, established the authenticity of their message on the authority of scripture before all else. The reason I state it this way is that as much was the resurrection, for instance, was vital to their message both Jesus, Paul and all the apostles, Jews as they were, staked their claims on the authority of the Torah.

      Any prophet (or should I say quack?) can claim he received a vision or dream from God (Woe to him who makes that claim falsely), but the test of his claims, even before considering what lofty revelation he might claim to have, is whether he validates and upholds the message of prior prophets. This also puts the burden on self-proclaimed prophets whose claim to legitimacy is that their message is not contrary to the revelation in scripture. Of course, this raises the question what is the point of their prophecy?

      3) Paul had no qualms concerning the place of the Torah in the life of Jews who had come to an obedient faith in Jesus. He had no trouble distinguishing between matters which some might have continued to observe as a part of their Jewish faith heritage. For instance, the observance of holidays was not a problem. I would go further (given Paul’s consent to having Timothy circumcised) and say that Paul saw no problem with Jews who might continue to practice circumcision, _ provided they did not do so as a enhancement to their salvation in Jesus or to teach and expect others to continue to practice circumcision.

      4) Yes, I prefer dialog as opposed to the rapid fire of one-word, one-liner which does little or nothing to enlighten anyone. I don’t think I rounded off my analogy about the algebra exam, but given your comment I think you understood me. Some of the drilling for answers between theists is quite often the same as heard from atheists. The atheist wants to know, even as he scorns and ridicules the creation account , a yes or no from the theist as to whether the theist believes that account. Whatever reply he receives hardly constitutes the dialog of two humans who have more to offer to the discussion than one-word replies. This is what I have expressed to Yisroel. Many of my comments seem to lead to questions of deity claims and the resurrection. It's not that I am bothered or troubled about answering those questions, but I prefer to remain in a zone of far greater comfort (such as the Torah, for Yisroel) for the person than to grab them by the hand and plunge into the what Jesus or Paul said. Yes, eventually this is where the discussion will lead, but this is not the place to begin.

      Peace to you, Gil T

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  21. I agree with you on point three, and I'll get back to you on point four. But briefly... I was thinking of Galatians 1:11-12, 2:1-10, 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, and even 1 Corinthians 7:25 by implication. There definitely was prophecy in the early churches, and a lot of Paul's theology about how Christianity should apply to gentiles (at least) was supposed to come from revelation. That's why I said he believed he was a prophet. Ephesians 3:4-6, 1 Corinthians 2:10-11, 4:1, and 1 Peter 1:12 are very important.

    When Paul went around to the synagogues he had in his mind that he was presenting reasonable arguments from scripture, but when people rejected his message he treated them as if they were unwilling to listen to the words of God. In every way he saw himself not merely as a messenger of the gospel, but as a prophet regarding its validity, its nature, its application, and its authority. How would you see it, though?

    Blessings,
    Annelise

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  22. When you said that you prefer to talk in an extended conversation, painting a big picture piece by piece and building up from the familiar... do you believe that Jesus did the same thing with his disciples and the Jews who heard him speaking for those years? If so, do you think you could trace the lessons that he gave them, which would eventually bring them to be able to recognise a claim that he deserves worship as something they should obey while guarding the commandments and understanding they already had?

    Annelise

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  23. First, I want to commend you, Annelise. You are a rare exception, regardless whether or not you are learned in the languages of scripture the abundant verbiage of theology scholars and others. You speak confidently from your own understanding and conviction without fear or need to engage in pettiness. The Lord bless you, dear sister.

    I won't presume my stated preference is the same as Jesus did or that I can string those lessons he delivered to his disciples when they got that AH! moment of enlightenment, Annelise. The reason I won't look for that string and can confidently state it does not exist is because the single most vital piece was not a WORD. It was the EVENT of the resurrection.

    Yes, the disciples did witness instances when they were overcome by the awe of the moment such as Jesus calming the storm and they worshiped Jesus. Notice that this was a private moment, at night, out at sea and with no one to see their reverence of Jesus. They were not certain enough of themselves to demonstrate that reverence publicly like the lepers and others who unabashedly and openly worshiped him.

    I've never been one to present a case to those who question or reject the worship of Jesus. My primary reason for that is because this, like many things Jesus said and did, He expected would upset and trouble some people. He wanted them to discern for themselves what these things could possibly mean which they were hearing and seeing before their own eyes. This was the case with the peculiar meaning of those things they heard from him about laying down his life a taking it up on the third day and the significance of his resurrection.

    The human preference to bypass that struggle to discern and understand and have another one do it for us is ancient. Israel was too terrified and opted to have Moses be their intermediary with God. The Jews were no different with Jesus and were angered at his words. The disciples were no different. After so much time and teaching and they wanted Jesus to "just show us the Father." Never mind the theological implications, but suffice it to say Jesus response to them was that the answer to their question had been made known to them over a prolong period of time. The angst, anger-filled question put to Jesus at his trial, such as it was, was telling. As outrageous and preposterous as was the notion of Jesus claiming to be the Son of God, it was also far more palatable and safe to pose that question to him than to ask him, "Are you the Christ?" Truly, those grilling and abusing the defendant were not prepared to hear his response to that question.

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  24. I don't know what happened before Jesus' death and in the appraisal of him by people who knew him. I've heard the disciples' and early Christians' side of the story, and that's all. If Jesus was outright rejected as Moshiach then it's beyond our knowledge of history to tell why. I'd rather focus on the question of whether or not anyone could possibly have worshipped him as deserving God's worship, because it comes closer to the heart of the issue. The answer to this question would help us to approach the claim of Christianity in retrospect.

    I think it's fair for you to say that an actual event, not just a slippery train of thoughts and feelings regarding reality, would have needed to make it clear to the disciples that Jesus was the creator who deserved worship. Perhaps Jesus' teaching in the years beforehand could have clarified their understanding of scripture and of Israel's witness in the way that would allow them to accept such a thought, but nothing in the Hebrew scriptures would have clearly commanded or taught them to worship the human being in front of them. Even if they came to the conclusion that he was definitely going to be Moshiach.

    The thing with the resurrection is that if it happened, it could certainly verify Jesus' message as being *from* God, because he was said to have predicted it. So long as he didn't lead Israel away from Torah or from worshipping only their Creator, the resurrection would be a fairly good reason to believe that he was the redeemer he claimed to be, in the way he claimed to be. From our perspective there are a few problems here. The biggest is that resurrection has never proven a person to *be* God!! It's a huge miracle, but it is like any miracle. Second, if a person can prove himself to be Moshiach with such a miracle (not that miracles are the scriptural basis for identifying that king, or that anyone needs to do so ahead of his manifestation- and the NT would agree, excepting its claims about Jesus), that proof may well have been challenged according to Torah standards if he allowed worship to be directed towards himself. Third, he didn't do this sign in front of everyone. A good historical case can be made for it, but it's certainly not without alternative explanations, and those are devastating to the case if you're really trying to avoid idolatry absolutely. If Jesus really gave the 'sign of Jonah' to his generation, and that was the one event that should have made them think he was God (I'm not sure how it should have), it's unfair that almost no one got to see him resurrected. Hearsay is not enough for us, especially because similar stories about miracles and glorious spiritual experiences are known to follow the impact of other messianic claimants as well. There has to be a reason other than the resurrection. But I can see no process in the early churches where they figured out clearly and spelled out clearly exactly what they were doing. It's fundamental enough of an issue that it should have been made clear in the New Testament writings, and you'd expect it to show up everywhere if they really had tested and affirmed this.

    You just can't be unsure. The description of the disciples tentatively worshipping a person under the cover of night and the emotional force of a miracle is so awful. Either they believed he was God and they worshipped him, or they did not believe it OR weren't sure and they shouldn't have gone anywhere near worshipping him. It is enough for us to look to God as our Creator and not give that honour in any 'other' relationship we have.

    Blessings,
    Annelise

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  25. Despite the value of gradual learning and long conversation in the uncovering of many things, taking them into ourselves, in the question of whom we worship there must be simplicity and clarity. In the Jewish scriptures, this issue is given as a specific commandment from God, one of the clearest. He doesn't leave confusion about it or imply that it will one day be appropriate to direct prayer towards multiple people 'of Himself' and/or towards a human being. For people who do not want to risk transgressing it, and are willing to give their lives to avoid it, you simply can't ask them to even dabble in the idea unless there's a scriptural reason why they must. If there's nothing clear then belief in Jesus' deity can't be your default; it can't be something that Christians proclaim to us as if a mistake in the matter wouldn't be devastating, or as if somehow it actually is crystal clear. Where does that certainty rest? God's testimony through Israel is important for the rest of the world to listen to, so if that is Judaism or if somehow it's Christianity... this conversation has to move beyond tolerance and even close friendship and into the sphere of why we believe what we do.

    Basically, great miracles reflecting the nature of God, even a resurrection, should not have struck anyone as a reason or permission to worship that entity as an incarnation of the eternal God.

    Annelise

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  26. Dear Annelise,

    I think the question of whether or not Jesus as a human being deserves or is worthy of worship is misplaced in the discussion because of some of the key elements which he claimed to fulfill simply do not add up to the expectations of the Jews. In this light any question of worship is out of place in the chronology.

    Israel did anticipate messiah. I cannot speak with certainty as to the development of Israel’s collective understanding about exactly how the prophecies of messiah would be fulfilled and realized in the midst of Israel. My understanding, which also seems the more apparent one from the scriptures, is that messiah was expected to be a human individual. Some had associated the prophet reference of Deuteronomy 18 with messiah.

    Somewhere in Israel’s history that expectation changed from messiah as a man to an age, or an era. This view, if I am not mistaken, emerged after the exile experience. Although Israel emerged from the exile with her messianic hope intact there were now some for whom that expectation had changed.

    Jesus, then, presented a multitude of complex considerations for the Jews. 1) He was a man in accordance to messianic with their expectations, but nothing more beyond than that fit their expectations. 2) Israel had expected messiah to liberate them from the tyranny of Rome or whatever world power was ruling over Israel at the time, but Jesus said render unto Caesar. Despite Jesus’ reference to the term prophet, mistakenly viewed by some as a claim of himself, he made did not claim himself as a prophet.

    You lament that it is unfair that only a few people saw the resurrected Jesus. It’s not a coincidence that he appeared to one alone in the garden and that one was a woman. I can picture Eve's delight to see her sister believe in the one who died and took up his life again much to the horror of the Deceiver who had lied to Eve and Adam. I don’t think the response here is to refer you to I Corinthians 15 on some numbers of how many saw the resurrected Jesus, albeit, these are still relatively small numbers in the overall picture, because I do not believe the point is to be made by the numbers.

    The reason we as disciples of Jesus who profess Father, Son and Holy Spirit lose ourselves in the argument which storms around the worship of Jesus is because we forget worship is about honor and reverence of the highest order. Everything Jesus did and said was to honor the Father and to direct worship to him. The Holy Spirit, likewise, does nothing for his own gain, but moves, directs and guides the saints in Christ to worship the Father in word and in deed.

    Another example of the anxious and misplaced focus of many saints is whether to address Jesus as Lord, lord, Son of God, son of God, etc., but Jesus reveals he is neither impressed by titles, but that we do what he says nor does it escape his notice when a good deed is done even when those who do it do not know in whose name or who they are serving when they do the good deed.
    Peace to you. Gil

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  27. Annelisse . . . continue

    I think you've probably read my comments on resurrection to Yisroel. I like your challenge to the message of the resurrection. You are right that a resurrection in itself is not the proof seal of divinity. However, the dismissal, under the umbrella of Deuteronomy 13, of resurrections as a sign or wonder performed for the purpose of leading the faithful astray in their worship to God wields the proverbial double-edge sword.

    On one side resurrections were performed by Elijah when he raised the widow's son and by Jesus when he raised Lazarus. It's not improbable that the same ones who judged Jesus as casting out demons by the power of Beelezub could as likely have cast his resurrection of Lazarus equally in the same evil frame. Yet, neither Elijah nor Jesus called for worship of them after these resurrections.

    The other side of that sword is that Jesus declared openly and publicly to friends and foes alike that he would lay down his life, -no one would take it from him- and take it up on the third day. There was no collaborator who would raise him up as ALL other resurrections ever depicted in the scriptures.

    After the resurrection Jesus did not demand that the disciples worship him, but as he did during his life he never rejected or admonished those who did worship. He knew too well what those who witnessed such worship would judge according to the flesh. He also knew others would just as well discern and began to understand the implications of who this was as was to be penned later by the apostles in the New Testament.

    You are right. Israel had it spelled out quite clearly. They did not have to discern anything. God instructed in every step of what they were to do. This is not travesty or falsehood about Israel. It is a simple reality spelled out in scritpure. This is why many struggled to understand and fewer still were willing to act on what they discerned about Jesus as they saw and heard him. Your anxiety about the few who saw the resurrectted Jesus versus you and others who did not see is as real and as old as Thomas' doubt.

    Finally, I go back to Abraham.

    He stands as a monument of faith unlike anyone else. Yet, what was it God asked him to DO? Sacrifice the son Abraham had longed for and which God had promised and delivered and now God was asking him to sacrifice him?!?!?! Once again, the implications are astronomical as a portend of what some may say is appalling, but which was in the wisdom of God. Lest anyone say it, here's the disclaimer: NO, God was not teaching or condoning human sacrifice. It is powerfully significant that, in the English version of the Bible, the first mention of the word love appears in the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. If anyone thinks Isaac was not for all intents and purposes a dead man they may as well deny their own appointment with death. They may as well deny who it was that brought Isaac back from the brink of death.

    Peace to you. Gil

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  28. Thanks Gil for your replies here.

    If it's okay, can I get back to you in two or three weeks? I feel that this conversation has been very constant in my life for many months, with so many people I know and care a lot about. But to talk about worship in the setting of words is a different thing to knowing God in each day as He deserves. I don't want to mix them up, so I need a bit of time to refocus.

    I hope that you and Rabbi Yisroel continue to value and invest in your conversation in the meantime. Your words represent two different worldviews, each of which I've had closeness to and invested a lot in, caring a lot about the people involved. Historically and with God this is an important dialogue. So, enjoy whatever it is and becomes.

    Talk with you soon,
    Annelise

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  29. Enjoy your time with friends and family. I can well imagine the dialog will continue to flow from your innermost being.
    You have my email on my blog if you wish to use it.
    Peace to you, Annelise.
    Gil

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  30. Thanks, Gil. You're right, it seems inescapable :) Talking about faith is impossible to hold back from, and I wouldn't want to take a break from that. It's a blessing that we can know God and share that knowledge in conversations! Talking about Jesus and Christianity is a different matter, but I've had some people challenge or reach out to me lately so... I don't have a choice. And it's important. I still need to try to find some quiet and a place to focus for a couple of weeks. I want to find a balance between answering concerns and simply explaining the positive aspect of what I believe is precious, important, worth sharing, and leaves no room for certain thoughts and values.

    I look forward to hearing your particular perspective on a lot of things soon. Be well :)

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