Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Response to a Jew with a View about Jesus

A couple of hours ago, I read a blog written by a Jew With A View arguing that "Jesus was not, indeed could not have been, the Jewish Maschiach." I wrote a response to it that is currently awaiting blogger approval. I figured since I haven't posted anything here in a while that I'd post my response. You are encourage to read the other blog first.

Howdy! I found your blog from a link somebody (you?) posted on Yahoo Answers. I've been hearing quite a bit lately about Jews complaining that Christians misrepresent their views. Although I've done quite a bit of reading about the Jewish people from around the time of the Babylonian Exile up until the second war with Rome, I know very little about modern Judaism or how it has developed since then. And, I don't even claim to be an expert on Judaism between the times I described. So it wouldn't surprise me a bit if I myself have some misconceptions. With that in mind, I have a few questions and some comments about your post on Jesus.

Jewish Maschiach is a normal mortal man - he's born, he lives, he dies. And BEFORE he dies, he must usher in world peace, rebuild the temple, redeem Israel, and redeem the world.

I think I can sort of understand why you would say the messiah has to do these things before he dies. I mean if he's dead, he can't do them, right? But the Christian claim is that Jesus was raised from the dead after he died, so he's still alive. Is there anything specific in the Tanakh that precludes the messiah from dying and rising again before fulfilling all of the roles assigned to him?

Also, it is my understanding that the eschatological messiah will reign forever. He will not have heirs. One place I get this is from Ezekiel 37:24-26, especially the part that says, "My servant David shall be their prince forever." How will the messiah do this if he's just an ordinary mortal man? Or am I mistaken to think the messiah will be king forever?

BTW, I'm citing the Christian old testament. I realize some of the books and chapters are arranged differently in the Tanakh, but I'm in a hotel room at the moment and don't have one handy, so I don't know what the corresponding reference would be in the Tanakh.

Numerous young Jewish blokes believed themselves to BE that messiah. Jesus was one of them but - Christian friends, brace yourselves - he was far from unique.

This is actually one of my reasons for believing Jesus was raised from the dead. I mean if you think about all the messianic or quasi-messianic movements in the first century, and even Simon bar Kosiba in the second century, none of those movements survived the death of their leader. When some messianic pretender died in failure, nobody continued to think they were the messiah once they were dead. The Jesus movement is unique in this sense because it's the only one that survived the death of its leader. There has to be an explanation for that.

As you said above, and as I agreed, it does make sense that if somebody dies without fulfilling the role of the messiah, then it's perfectly reasonable to think they are NOT the messiah. In fact, it's downright crazy to go on thinking they are. So why did the Jesus movement not only survive Jesus' death, but even flourish? Well, the reason given by his earliest followers is that some of them SAW him alive after he had died, which lead them to believe he had risen from the dead. This is such a powerful explanation for the origin of Christianity that the most popular theory among scholars these days is some version of the hallucination hypothesis. Not many scholars will bite the bullet and say he rose from the dead, but most seem to agree that the disciples saw SOMETHING that led them to believe Jesus had risen (check out E.P. Sanders' discussion of the resurrection appearances in The Historical Figure of Jesus). Due in part to weaknesses in the hallucination hypothesis, I think they DID see the risen Jesus.

Thus it seems logical to include that the people who first described their messiah, are sufficiently intelligent to IDENTIFY THEIR OWN MESSIAH.

But when you think about how many of those people went after Simon bar Kosiba, thinking he was the messiah, it also seems logical to conclude that those people were perfectly capable of MISIDENTIFYING their own messiah. I think almost all Jews are sufficiently intelligent to identify their own messiah once their messiah has fulfilled all of the messianic roles predicted of him. Shoot, I think even non-Jews could do that. But what we're dealing with here are people who were in the process of fulfilling prophecy without completing it, and Jews were being asked to trust these would-be messiahs that they would continue until everything was accomplished. Understandably, mistakes were made. It should be no shock that given the great number of people claiming to be some sort of messiah that there would be a great deal of skepticism on the part of most Jews to any given claim of that sort, including Jesus.

But besides that, the people in the first century who we are talking about did not write the scriptures having to do with the messiah. Those scriptures were written hundreds of years earlier. They, just like us, had to interpret those scriptures. And they did not all interpret them the same. There was a quite a bit of variety in messianic expectation. Some Jews, namely the Essenes, actually expected two messiahs--a king and a priest. While you can certainly make generalizations about what first century Jews expected of the messiah, there is too much diversity to claim that they were all in a position to recognize their own messiah before that messiah had finished fulfilling all the messianic prophecies.

when Christians study the 'old testament' many of them assume they are reading the 'jewish bible'. Well, newflash: they're not!

Are you arguing just that Christian translations are inaccurate, or are you claiming that the content is actually different?

The OT is just a MIStranslation of a translation of the actual Jewish bible - the Tanakh.

Unless I have misunderstood you, this is just not accurate. Most modern versions of the Christian old testament are not translations of translations. They are translations of the original Hebrew and Aramaic taken from the best manuscript evidence and textual criticism available, and these translations are done by people who are experts in the Hebrew language. I'm not a Hebrew scholar myself, but if there are disagreements between Hebrew scholars on how certain passages should be translated, then it's debatable at worst.

Why would you use the passage in Isaiah 7:14 to support your claim that the Christian old testament is a mistranslation and then turn right around and cite what you think is the correct translations from so many versions of the Christian old testament? These citations you yourself give prove just the opposite of what you're claiming.

As you probably know, the reason many English translations have said "virgin" instead of "young woman" is because that is how the Hebrew word was translated into Greek in the Septuigint. Do you think the Septuigint was translated by Christians or Jews?

The Jewish G-d NEVER takes human form - and certainly doesn't pop in to planet earth to quickly impregnate young Jewish chicks!!!

But does this actually contradict anything in the Tanakh? Is it impossible for God to do these things? Unless there is something in the Tanakh that would preclude God from ever doing these things, then this strikes me as being a weak argument. I mean the Tanakh was not written in a day. A person who accepted only the first five books might very well reject anything else in the following books just because it didn't happen in the first five books. In fact, that's exactly why the Sadducees of Jesus' time disagreed with the Pharisees on the issue of resurrection. There was no resurrection in the Torah, and the Sadducees placed no authority on the writings and the prophets where there WAS resurrection. It's easy to imagine somebody saying, "God doesn't cause giant fish to swallow people! That's nowhere in the Torah!" But if there's nothing in the Torah that specifically precludes God from ever doing that, then you have a very weak argument against it.

The issue of whether Jesus is God is completely different from the issue of whether Jesus is the messiah. If Jesus is the messiah, then Christianity is true even if he is not God. In fact, there are a few Christian sects who are quite adamant in pointing out that Jesus is not God. So even if you can prove that Jesus is not God, this doesn't even touch the issue of whether Jesus is the messiah. It's just a different subject. It's worth debating over, I'll agree, but it's irrelevent to the question of whether Jesus is the messiah, which seems to be the main subject of your post.

But let me say something about it anyway. From what I understand (and please correct me if it's a misunderstanding), the primary reason Jews reject the notion that Jesus is God is because the Tanakh explicitly says that God is not a man. But, from what I understand, that text was written in the present tense, and if so, then it is something any Christian could agree with wholeheartedly. It was written well before the incarnation. Now, given that nothing is impossible for God, except perhaps some logically incoherent state of affairs such as knowing what he doesn't know, lifting what he can't lift, etc., it does seem at least possible for God to create a human body and to animate it himself. I don't know the Jewish view on substance dualism, but if any Jews hold to substance dualism and believe that people are both physical bodies and spirits that animate the bodies, and if God is a spirit, what reason is there to suppose that God could not animate a physical body if he chose to? Or, if you allow that he COULD, what reason is there to suppose that he never WOULD? There are many things God is recorded to have done that we might've consider odd until he actually did it--turning people into pillars of salt, drowning the world, causing a prophet to be swallowed by a fish and then spit out alive, requiring animal sacrifices, circumcision, etc. The fact that something is very strange and unexpected is not much of a reason to claim that God would never do it.

You said that the Jewish messiah must "reject doing miracles." What do you base that on?

Some Jews probably doubt he ever existed at all - remember, Jesus is not mentioned by any of the contemporary writers of his own time.

Of course he was. Paul was a contemporary of Jesus, and he was personally acquainted with Jesus' brother, James.

I have much more to say about Jesus, but really just wanted to respond to what you had said. I've planned for a long time now to write a series of blogs on the historical developement of messianic expectation and how Jesus fit into it. If only I had more time! I would love to get your response to it.

I hope I haven't come across as antagonistic or condescending. You're disagreeing with me on a subject I'm very interested in, and the intelligent and articulate way you expressed your views gave me too much temptation to respond. As Oscar Wilde said, the best way to deal with temptation is to give in to it.

Please forgive any misunderstandings I've had or misrepresentations. Keep in mind that I'm only a Christian. :-)

53 Comments:

At 6/20/2008 12:39 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

Sam,

I agree with most of what you have written here. I am commenting more in the hopes of encouraging more blog entries than out of a sense of disagreement.

It is true the Messianic movements of First Century Judea ended at the death of the claimed Messiah, or relatively shortly thereafter. One thing of note in the Jesus movement is that we don’t have a good idea as to how successful (or not) it was in the Jewish community. Even Acts records the movement moving to the Gentiles within a matter of decades. And Hellenized Jews of the Roman era where much different than the Jews of Judea. (As you know.)

One of the reasons Christianity thrived differently than other Messianic claims was that it didn’t attempt to promulgate its beliefs among Judaism, but went to Gentiles.

I’m not sure the most popular theory is that of hallucination when it comes to a natural explanation of the resurrection of Jesus. (I am not even sure how to measure “popular.” Most skeptics? Most books on the topic? Most popular books on the topic.) In my opinion, the hallucination theory is extremely weak. Unfortunately, the New Testament does not help by having individuals who see Jesus after the resurrection not recognize him! (John 20:14; John 21:4; Luke 24:15-16) Not to mention Jesus popping in and out like visions can do.

(The best argument, again in my opinion, would be that one disciple had a vision, and was so convincing in his description, the other disciples agreed that they, too, had visions. This is far more commonly demonstrated in group thinking. The idea a “group” had a vision? Far-fetched.)

Can you give me a cite where the Essenes thought there would be two (2) Messiahs? Thanks. (If not—no big deal, just curiousity.)

I didn’t follow that the “Old Testament” was a translation of a translation, either. I agree with you that we use the oldest manuscripts we have (albeit I would not have used the term “original Hebrew.” *grin*). It is interesting, though, as to how closely the Dead Sea Scrolls follow the Septuagint as compared to the Masoretic Text, causing wonder as to which is the more reliable.

(I liked the question about Christians writing the Septuagint.)

I, too, was curious as to what he meant by “rejecting miracles.” Paul indicates the Jews were looking for a sign. Mark, Matthew and Luke discuss Jesus talking about giving a sign. (A bit contradictory, true.) John talks about signs. Was this some sort of Christian mis-understanding of the Messiah?

I thought even the Jews expected signs (miracles) at the advent of the Messiah.

 
At 6/20/2008 11:50 PM , Blogger Sam said...

I appreciate the encouragement. I just lack the motivation to write these days like I used to.

When I say the hallucination hypothesis is the most popular theory, I'm basing that on two things. First, some of the scholars I've read have said so (and I wish I could tell you who, but I don't remember), and second because it's the impression I get from everything I've read. The subject just seems to come up a whole lot when discussing the origin of Christianity. It hasn't always been the hallucination hypothesis, though. Before hallucination became popular, it seems like the most popular theory was cognitive dissonance (W.H.C. Frend, I remember, advocated this in The Early Church, and I vaguely remember Wayne Meeks advocating the same thing). I just get the impression that some form of hallucination or vision or something like that gets talked about more and more in recent literature. In the book I mentioned, The Historical Figure of Jesus, by E.P. Sanders, he doesn't say anything about hallucinations or visions. He says that he's convinced that the disciples saw something, but he has no idea what it is they saw, only that it caused them to believe Jesus had risen. Gerd Ludemann is pretty famous these days for advocating the hallucination hypothesis, though.

Your theory about one disciple having a vision and then convincing the others is similar to a theory I came up with myself. I mentioned it on Paul's blog a while back. I don't know why more critics don't bring it up.

I've read that the Essenes expected two messiahs in a few different places, but the only reference I can come up with at the moment is the 4th edition of The Dead Sea Scrolls in English by Geza Vermes. He mentions it in a few places, including page 60-61 in the introduction and page 353 in his comments on 4Q174.

albeit I would not have used the term “original Hebrew.” *grin

Agreed. I should've said "the original language, which was Hebrew and Aramaic." We certainly don't have the autographs, darn the luck!

Thanks for stopping by, Dagoods. It's good to know that somebody checks in once in a while.

 
At 6/21/2008 8:16 PM , Blogger Tabatha said...

JEW WITH A VIEW HERE :)

Sam, many thanks for your comments on my blog, which alas I found just as I was getting ready to go out. Thus far I've only had time to quickly read through your response, so I'll start by noting some of the points that jumped out at me :)

Firstly: yes, there is indeed a clear message in the Tanakh that G-d NEVER takes human form. In fact we are warned in the Torah that if any man should come to us and claim to be 'god' or god incarnate, then he is a liar! The Jewish G-d NEVER assumes human form. The mere notion is blasphemy for Jews.

Secondly: I appreciate that Christians study the 'old testament'. Please realise, though, that this is NOT the Jewish bible. The OT is a Christian version of the Jewish Tanakh - some versions of the OT contain so many MIStranslations that it totally alters the meanings of entire paragraphs and concepts. Also, the material is organised differently, and inevitably this changes the context.

The Christian bibles that I listed with regard to Isaiah, are those that have REVISED their translation, from 'virgin' to 'young woman', thereby bringing them into line with the original Hebrew. Nowhere in the Tanakh can you find anything about a 'virgin' birth. This is not surprising, given that again, in Judaism, such a thing is simply not accepted as being possible.

I'm sure you know that Judaism was the first religion to articulate the concept of 'maschiach'. Christianity has changed the definition of 'messiah' radically, to the point where now, when Jews and Christians use the word 'messiah', they are talking about two PROFOUNDLY different concepts.

For instance, the Jewish messiah does not perform miracles!
Again, we are told in the Torah that any man who offers miracles 'as proof' is a 'false messiah'.

So we could rule out Jesus as the Jewish messiah PURELY on the basis that he did indeed perform miracles!

You are totally right in that throughout history, various Jewish men have been viewed as messiah. Here's the key thing though: not a single one has been viewed as such by ALL Jews. And none of them have fulfilled ALL the Jewish prophecies.

I'll leave these points with you just for now, though there's more I'd like to say.

Please know that I don't consider one of our religions 'right' and the other 'wrong'. Just different :)

 
At 6/21/2008 9:06 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Tabatha, thank you for stopping by. You said there was more you'd like to say, but I don't know if you plan to say it or not. If you do, then I'll wait for the rest of it before responding. Please let me know.

Sam

 
At 6/22/2008 7:13 AM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Sam -

Yes, within the next few days I will definitely add to the comments I've already left; I just need to thoroughly read through your initial response to my blog first :)

Regards,

Tabatha

 
At 6/24/2008 12:46 PM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Sam,

I've now read through your comments on my blog (Jew With A View) and would like to elaborate on my initial response. I'll send each point as a separate post.

I'd like to start by addressing your comments on the Septuagint. I couldn't help noting that another person who commented on your blog found it amusing that I suggested the Septuagint could be anything other than a Jewish document.

But as it happens...

The Septuagint that we know today is not a Jewish document; it is a Christian one.

The original Septuagint, which was created some 2200 years ago by 72 Jewish translators, was the Greek translation of the Torah alone (five books of Moses). It did not include the prophets, such as Isaiah etc.

The Septuagint that we know today, which does include the Prophets and Writings, derives from the Church. It is the official 'old testament' of the Greek Orthodox Church, and this Septuagint dates to the third century C.E.


Consider this: in the Septuagint you refer to, we find additional books, the Apocrypha, which are holy texts of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church. This of course illustrates that today's Septuagint is not a 'Jewish' document...!

That the original Septuagint, the one that was indeed translated by Rabbis more than 22 centuries ago, was comprised only of the Torah and not the Prophets, is confirmed by numerous sources; for instance, the 'Letter Of Aristeas', which is the earliest reference to the Septuagint.


Dr F.F. Bruce, a renowned professor of Biblical exegesis, notes: "The Jews might have gone on at a later time to authorize a standard text of the rest of the Septuagint, but . . . lost interest in the Septuagint altogether. With but few exceptions, every manuscript of the Septuagint which has come down to our day was copied and preserved in Christian, not Jewish, circles."

Hence my comments in my original blog article that many Christians are not reading accurate translations of the original Hebrew of the Tanakh.

I'll post another response to your original piece, a bit later today :)

 
At 6/24/2008 1:25 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

I apologize, Tabatha.

It would seem the “Septuagint” is more nebulous than I understood it to be. I did know it had developed over a period of time, and was not all (the entire Tanakh) written at one sitting. What I did not realize was how its preservation was more highly esteemed by Christianity than Judaism.

Thank you for correcting me, and giving me some new information. For anyone interested, F.F. Bruce wrote:

Part One
Part Two

on this topic. While a bit out-dated (I would like to see incorporation of the DSS’s translations and how that effects his conclusions) still very informative.

 
At 6/24/2008 3:43 PM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Cheers dagoods :)


I'd like to respond to another good point that Sam made in commenting on my blog. Sam asked why the Jesus movement managed to survive when so many other sects didn't.

It's a great question. Those that followed Jesus comprised a tiny, tiny sect within Judaism. It seems fair to suggest that they would have remained a small sect and quite possibly have faded into oblivion, because as we know, 99% of Jews refused to abandon Torah, in order to worship Jesus.

My suggestion is that Paul is the character responsible for keeping belief in Jesus alive.

Paul tried to persuade the Jews to abandon Torah; and when they wouldn't, he took his message to the Pagans and the Gentiles, neither of whom knew Torah and neither of whom, crucially, knew the Jewish definition of 'maschiach'.

(In Judaism, 'maschiach' means 'anointed'. It has never, ever meant 'saviour'. Indeed in the Tanakh, we can find reference to several men who are described as being the 'maschiach' - because they were anointed.)

Keen to get more Pagan converts, Paul incorporated several Pagan themes into the emerging religion that became Christianity. And so this new faith very rapidly severed any connection it had with Judaism. It was, within a short period of time, an entirely non Jewish religion.

And yet Paul never knew Jesus. I appreciate that on the road to Damascus something happened, whereby Paul claimed he saw a vision of Jesus, who by this time of course had already died.

Whereas Jesus taught basic Judaism, Paul did not. Paul emphasised that the Torah was no longer binding and that belief in Jesus now replaced the laws that G-d gave to the Israelites in the form of the Torah.

Yet Jesus himself adhered to the Torah, though of course he did try and reform some aspects of Judaism. 'Love they neighbour' appears first in the Torah. Though Jesus died a practising Jew, Paul taught the opposite - that Judaism was now irrelevant.

So is this not why the Jesus movement survived, because of Paul? I will be greatly interested to read your thoughts on this.

I wanted also to address Sam's remarks on the resurrection - but I'll wait until hopefully there are a few responses to this post :)

 
At 6/24/2008 6:57 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Tabatha, I wanted to respond to your first post first, but I don't want to jump the gun in asking you questions or bringing things up you had planned on talking about later, so I was going to wait. Is there still more you'd like to say or should I go ahead and start a response?

Sam

 
At 6/25/2008 7:27 PM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Sam -

By all means, please do go ahead and respond. I can post the rest of my response to your comments on my blog later. I look forward to reading your next post :)

 
At 6/26/2008 10:45 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Tabatha,

I appreciate you sticking around to have a civil discussion with me about our disagreements. I hope you don't think I'm a pest, but there were some specific questions I asked in my first post that I was hoping you'd answer. They were not meant to be rhetorical questions (except the one about who wrote the Septuigint). I'm genuinely curious. In your response, you repeated some of the things you said in your initial blog, but you still didn't go into your reasons, which is what I was hoping you'd do, and thinking you might do when you said you had more to say. That's why I was waiting. I didn't want to jump the gun and complain and then have you say, "Well, just hold your horses. I was getting to that!"

You repeated, for instance, that God never takes human form, but I wanted to know what you based that on. I'd especially like it if you could give me a reference to where it say in the Torah that "if any man should come to us and claim to be 'god' or god incarnate, then he is a liar!"

You also repeated that the Christian old testament is not the same thing as the Jewish Tankah, and the reason you say that is because the Christian old testament is a mistranslation of the Tanakh, and also because it is arranged differently, changing the context. I don't dispute the difference in arrangement, but I also don't know to what extent the difference in arrangement alters the context and meaning.

The example you gave of mistranslation was Isaiah 7:14. You repeated once again that the Christian citations you gave were those that had revised their translations to what you take to be the correct translation. I'm not sure whether you understood the point I was making in my response (or maybe I'm misunderstanding your point), so let me see if I can put it another way. It seems to me that if your reason for saying the old testament is not the Tanakh is because it's translated wrong, and if you also can cite many Christian versions of the old testament that are translated correctly in your view, then wouldn't that remove your reason for saying the Christian old testament is not the Tanakh? In the one example you gave of mistranslation to support your case, you cited several correct translations of the Christian old testament, which seem to me to prove the opposite of what you're trying to demonstrate. Why not just say that some translations of the old testament are bad translations and others are good translations?

Even with the bad translations, I think you go too far to say they are not even the same scriptures. I think the New Living Translation and the New World Translation are bad translations of the new testament, but I wouldn't go so far as to say they're not even "the new testament."

Why do you say that in Judaism, virgins births are not possible? I've never read the Tanakh, but if it's anything at all like the old testament, there are lots of spectacular miracles. In one of them, God created the heavens and the earth. If he can do that, I can't imagine why he couldn't cause a virgin birth. There's a passage in the old testament where God talks to Abraham about Sarah having a son in her old age, and after Sarah questions it, he says, "Is anything too difficult for the LORD?" (Genesis 18:14). The implication seems to be that, no, nothing is too difficult for the LORD, so there's no reason to doubt God could cause a woman past her child-bearing days to have a son. Why couldn't the same principle apply to virgin births? Do you think virgins births are too difficult for the LORD? Is this same passage in the Tanakh? Does it have the same meaning?

There's another passage in the old testament version of Jeremiah where Jeremiah is praying, and he says, "Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You" (Jeremiah 32:17). Is there anything like that in the Tanakh? If so, why would you think God could create the heavens and the earth, but not be able to cause a virgin to become pregnant? You said that virgins births are impossible in Judaism. Why do you say that?

I grant that there are many differences in how Jews understand the messiah and how Christians understand the messiah. But then again, the same was true among Jews in the first century, as I've said. But there is still enough similarity between them to identify them both as "messiah." The eschatological messiah primarily is thought of by all to be a Jewish king who will restore the throne of David, establish an everlasting kingdom that will never again be overthrown, and usher in a new age of peace and prosperity. So I believe that despite our differences in the particulars of what the messiah will be, we both basically mean the same thing by "messiah." I do not agree that Christians and Jews, when using the word "messiah" are talking about "two PROFOUNDLY different concepts."

One example you gave was about whether the messiah performs miracles. Christians believe he does, and Jews say he doesn't. But that is hardly justification for saying Christians and Jews mean something completely different by "messiah." The performance of miracles is not part of the Christian DEFINITION of the messiah. It is simply something Christians believe ABOUT the messiah.

Dagoods and I have both expressed interest in why you say the messiah does not perform miracles. In your blog post, you said the messiah must reject doing miracles, and now you say that Jesus can be rejected purely on the basis that he performed miracles. I'm very interested in the reference you gave saying that anybody who offers miracles as proof is a "false messiah." Jesus did, indeed, offer his miracles as proof of his authority, so if it isn't too much trouble, I'd like to know this reference so I can look at it myself. I wonder if this is another example of a difference between the Tanakh and the Christian old testament, because I've read the whole old testament, and I don't remember reading that. I do remember reading something similar in Deuteronomy 13, but it doesn't say what you are saying.

Finally, I have to say something about your last comment in your first response. If you were a regular at my blog, my reaction wouldn't surprise you a bit. :-) You said that you don't consider one of our religions "right" and the other "wrong," only different. While the sentiment sounds very nice, I have trouble making sense out of it logically. If you don't consider your religion to be right, then why do you believe it? Why do you adhere to a religion if you don't think it's right? And if you don't think mine is wrong, then why are you arguing with me? You have made some very strong claims about Jesus--that he not only is not the messiah, but that he COULD NOT BE the messiah. But I think Jesus IS the messiah. My religion centers around the notion that Jesus is the messiah. That's why it's called CHRISTianity. It's all ABOUT Jesus being the messiah. If he's not the messiah, then my religion is wrong.

I suspect that I may have a misunderstanding about what you meant, and when you clarify for me, I'm going to feel silly for making such a big deal about it.

Tabatha, I enjoy the openness and civility with which you've been corresponding with me, and I hope to continue. But I've got my daughter this weekend, so don't think I'm ignoring you if I don't get back with you again until some time next week.

Sam

 
At 6/27/2008 5:44 AM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Sam :)

Goodness me, why on earth wouldn't our discussion be 'civil'???! :)

I will indeed address your specific queries and yes, I will give you the precise references in the Tanakh. I was intending to clarify these points anyway, but wanted to explain about the Septuagint at the start, as it's something that often is misunderstood.

Re the bibles I cited: I think we're going round in circles a bit with this one! I was merely illustrating that one of the most significant mistranslations of the Tanakh has now been corrected in those versions of the NT.

But for a long time before this, those versions still were used as 'proof', by many Christians when they insisted that a 'virgin birth' appears in the Tanakh. I will happily provide you with other mistranslations that also are brandished as 'evidence'of Jesus being mentioned in the Tanakh.

With regard to my saying that this isn't a question of one religion being 'right':

I suspect this, in part, reflects a fundamental difference in our faiths. Judaism does not, and never has, claimed to be the 'only' path to G-d. It is simply ONE path.

Judaism states that, whatever our religions, we are all equally G-d's children. The righteous of ALL faiths, reaches heaven. Thus even though you and I may never agree on religion, I still don't label you or your faith as being 'wrong'.

I will post more later with the specific references you have mentioned!

 
At 6/29/2008 9:38 AM , Blogger J.L. Hinman said...

you might find Alfred Edersheim's book Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah helpful, even though it was written in the nineteenth century. Edershiem brings up Talmudic passages which spell out a set of expectations which existed in the time of Christ, expectations that the Messiah would come twice, the first time he would be rejected by his people. This was what Rabbis in the Talmud said.

 
At 6/29/2008 4:32 PM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Hi Sam :)

I'm going to address first your queries about my statement that in Judaism, G-d never takes human form. I'll then answer your question about the Jewish view on the Messiah performing miracles. I'll add more later or tomorrow in answer to other queries you raised, also, re the 'virgin birth' and a few other points you raised.

_______________________

YOU ASKED: ‘You repeated, for instance, that G-d never takes human form, but I wanted to know what you based that on.’

ANSWER: Throughout the Tanakh, there is a definite contrast made between G-d, and humans. On several occasions, it is made clear that G-d is not a human and does not appear as a human:

"G-d is not a mortal, G-d is not a man, that He should be deceitful, nor a son of man that He should relent. [change His mind]..." (Numbers. 23:19)

And:

"The Eternal One of Israel does not lie and does not relent, for He is not a human that He should relent." (1 Samuel 15:29)

And:
"...I will not carry out My wrath; I will not recant and destroy Ephraim, for I am God and not a man..." (Hosea 11:9)

In addition, there are consistently reprimands against any human being who claims to be God, or Divine, as we read in Ezekiel 28:2:

“...say unto the prince of Tyrus, Thus saith the Eternal God; Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a god, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas; yet thou art a man, and not God, though thou set thine heart as the heart of God.”

The Jerusalem Talmud states categorically the Jewish view: “If a man claims to be G-d, he is a liar!”

In ‘Guide for the Perplexed’, Maimonides discusses the Jewish view that G-d is incorporeal. G-d is eternal, he is beyond time. He is infinite, he is beyond space. He can neither be born nor can he die. To claim that G-d ever takes human form, diminishes his unity and his divinity.
A man is a limited creature - but G-d is without limits. If G-d were to place himself, or part of himself, in/as a man, then that would violate the very definition OF G-d. Because G-d CANNOT limit himself, so cannot make himself a man. By definition of what G-d is, he cannot be a man.

In fact, for Jews, the notion that G-d would ever assume human form, actually constitutes *blasphemy*.


MIRACLES

YOU ASKED: ‘I'm very interested in the reference you gave saying that anybody who offers miracles as proof is a "false messiah.’

The Tanakh warns that supposed "miracles" may, in reality, be a test from G-d. A classic example of this is found in Deuteronomy:

"If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises and gives you a sign or wonder [miracle], and the sign or wonder comes true, saying, 'let us go after other gods whom you have not known and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your G-d is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the Lord your G-d and fear Him; and listen to His voice, and serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your G-d." (Deuteronomy 13:1-6)

(You did make reference to Deuteronomy, and you are correct in that the words 'false messiah' don't appear here. The Jewish view is that anyone who claims to be the messiah and who offers miracles as 'proof' is definitely a false messiah. This is based on the above bit of scripture and also the belief that the Jewish messiah won't need to prove anything and won't need to perform miracles. The whole world will be able to identify him purely because of what he achieves, by dint of being an extraordinarily honest, honourable and strong leader)

We also learn in Exodus 7:11, that miracles do not necessarily have to be attributed to G-d. In this passage, Pharaoh commands his court magicians to imitate, with their magic, the miracles that Moses and Aaron performed.

At this point, I feel I should clarify something.

YOU SAID: 'You have made some very strong claims about Jesus--that he not only is not the messiah, but that he COULD NOT BE the messiah. But I think Jesus IS the messiah'

To clarify: I am not 'claiming' anything. I'm just giving you the Jewish position: Jesus is not the Jewish messiah. This is a statement of fact - Judaism alone can define the Jewish messiah.

Just as Christianity alone can define the Christian messiah.

Now, having said that, I am aware that many (all?) Christians believe that Jews are 'blinded' to the fact that Jesus is in fact our messiah.

To me, this doesn't really make sense. Judaism was the first organised faith to articulate the idea of 'maschiach'. Christianity then revised this concept and changed it and now tells us that we are wrong...!

But more on this later, as I am going to address your query about how the faiths have different views of the 'messiah', in a separate post.

Finally, in this post:

YOU SAID: 'Why do you adhere to a religion if you don't think it's right? And if you don't think mine is wrong, then why are you arguing with me?'

At the risk of being pedantic, I'm not 'arguing'. I am *responding* to the points you posted on my blog......! :)

I'll post more very soon, with the relevant references to scripture.

 
At 6/30/2008 4:02 AM , Blogger Timothy said...

Hey guys. I've been following along with this interesting discussion - I don't know much about the topic, so I wasn't going to post any comments of my own. But then Tabatha said something on a topic that I am a bit familiar with, and I also happen to disagree with Tabatha, so I hope you don't mind me sticking my 2 cents in.

My point of disagreement is about where Tabatha says that god cannot limit himself or make himself a man. I don't see why that is true? When I tussle with little children, I limit my strength so that I don't hurt them. But that doesn't diminish me or make me permanently weaker in any way. In fact, it permits me to do something - play safely with children - that I wouldn't be able to do if I didn't limit myself! Similarly, I don't see any logical contradiction in the idea of god choosing to limit himself. And if there's nothing logically contradictory about it, then why shouldn't god be able to do it?

There is one other reason I disagree with Tabatha's statement.
(Disclaimer: My argument from here on out rests on the premise that all intangible things [i.e. wisdom, honesty, etc.] and properties [i.e. mathematical properties, spatial properties, natural laws, etc.] were created by god. If you happen to disagree with this premise - as many people do - let me know and I'll back up and tell you why I think it's true.)

Continuing...
I believe that god does limit himself all the time. Even though god is above such things as mathematical properties, logical properties, or time, he limits himself to working within those frameworks so that he can communicate and relate to us. For example, humans cannot abandon the concept of numerosity. To our minds, there must either be none of something, or one of something, or more than one. We cannot imagine anything that does not fit into one of those categories - so for the sake of relations with humans, god takes on the numerical property of being only "one," simply because our minds require that distinction.

Similarly, it is a rule of logic that all things are equal to themselves ("law of identity"). Again, our minds are limited by the rules of logic, and so god limits himself to logical consistency (for example, being equal to himself) for the sake of interacting with humans.

Lastly, when god interacts with humans, he does so at a certain *point in time.* As Tabatha said, god is outside time, but he limits himself to a temporal framework - he limits himself to working within time - because that is what we humans require.

Furthermore, there are certain ways that god describes himself to humans that are also limitations. He has said that he is wise, but this is once again a property that god takes unto himself. To say that the limitless being of god is wise is to limit him - it is to say that he cannot be otherwise, that he cannot act in ways that we would deem "unwise." But god simply cannot have such a limitation and still be god - that would make "wisdom" greater than god himself. In reality, god *can* be "unwise," but he chooses to limit himself to doing only wise deeds because, well, it's the wise thing to do.

So those are some ways in which I see god as limiting himself. ...This is a hard argument to make and I doubt I've made it very well, but anyway, let me know what you think.

 
At 6/30/2008 9:02 AM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Sam :)

I'll try and address a few more of your points:

YOU SAID: 'I do not agree that Christians and Jews, when using the word "messiah" are talking about "two PROFOUNDLY different concepts."'

ANSWER:

I agree with you that there are similarities in terms of what both Jews and Christians believe will happen when the messiah comes/returns. We both believe that the messiah will usher in an age of peace, for example.

However, don't you feel there are significant differences in how Jews and Christians define, or understand 'messiah'?

Note: it may be that I am misunderstanding the Christian concept of 'messiah'! If this is the case, I'm sure you'll correct me :)

In Hebrew, 'moschiach' simply means 'anointed one'. It does not and never has implied 'saviour'. The concept of an innocent, part-divine being who dies for the sins of others is a purely Christian notion, and has no basis in Judaism.

In Jewish scripture, the term 'messiah' is used for all kings, high priests, and some warriors. In the Tanakh, 'moschiach' is used 38 times, for: two patriarchs, six high priests, once for Cyrus, and also 29 Israelite kings, such as Saul and David. Not once is 'moschiach' actually used in reference to the awaited messiah.

Even in the apocalyptic book of Daniel, the only time moshiach is mentioned is in connection to a murdered high priest.

Wouldn't you agree that these are some key differences in our respective faiths? :

Christians believe that the messiah, Jesus, died for the sins of others.
Judaism does not accept that any human can ever die for the sins of others.

The Christian messiah is the 'son of god'.
The Jewish messiah is just an ordinary mortal. He is no more the 'son of god' than any other mortal, since Judaism says that all humans are *equally* the children of G-d.

The Christian messiah has a 'second coming'.
The Jewish messiah does not: he is to fulfill all the Jewish messianic prophecies in one normal, mortal lifespan. Judiasm rejects any notion of a 'second coming'.

So it seems to me that there are profound differences in the way that Judaism and Christianity approach the idea of 'messiah'.


YOU SAID: 'Why do you say that in Judaism, virgins births are not possible?'

ANSWER:

Nowhere does the Jewish bible predict that the messiah will be born to a virgin.

There are very clear, very strict criteria given in order that the Jewish people don't all misidentify the true messiah - given that a virgin birth is never mentioned among these, it is clearly not an identifying feature.

No virgin ever gives birth anywhere in the Tanakh. This idea is found in Pagan mythology, but nowhere in Judaism. For Jews, the concept of a 'virgin birth' is in fact both unnecessary and unnatural. What is accomplished by it? What positive purpose does it accomplish?

At any rate, Judaism rejects any notion of a 'virgin birth', and always has. The Jewish messiah will have a 'normal' birth, to two 'normal' parents.

Since you raised a number of points both in your last post and also in your original one, I'm going to try and address them all today, time and work permitting :)

Whenever you have time to post your thoughts on our discussion, I am most interested to read your thoughts.

 
At 6/30/2008 11:32 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Goodness me, why on earth wouldn't our discussion be 'civil'???! :)

Oh, I'm sure you've seen debates that went south. I get nervous every time I debate with anybody because of it. I'm a sensative person.

I started a response to you on the Septuagint tonight, but it was getting kind of long, and I was wondering whether it was worth it or not. I almost feel like I'm responding to Rabbi Tovia Singer instead of you since you seem to have cut and pasted almost all of your response from his article. I was going to ask what you meant by a couple of things until I realized you didn't write it.

I think I'm going to respond anyway, though. There was an article in the Anchor Bible Dictionary I read over the weekend that I'd like to reread before I respond. I'm in a hotel at the moment, though, and the ABD is back at home. It'll be Wednesday before I respond, and it might be as late as Friday.

I would highly recommend reading that article if you have access to an ABD. (You too, Dagoods. It's very interesting and informative, and it has a long bibliography.) Singer actually cited the ABD article, but his "facts" were very different. They're different from most everything else I've read on the Septuagint, too. I'll be more specific in my response. Sorry it's taking so long.

Sam

 
At 7/01/2008 8:09 AM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Sam:

Just to clarify re my post on the Septuagint:

I already had material on this, as have been planning to include it in my blog. As I wasn't 100% sure my facts were correct, I did indeed check them against Rabbi Singer's material, though I did not cut and paste. I want to be sure I am always giving accurate information and when it's a topic I am even slightly uncertain about, I double check, and I make no apologies for this.

Since in one of your recent posts you mentioned that you hadn't been expecting me to respond on the issue of the Septuagint anyway, I'll leave it entirely up to you as to whether you want to continue discussing that, or instead address any of the other points I have clarified. Either way, I look forward greatly to reading your next post :)

 
At 7/04/2008 12:01 AM , Blogger Sam said...

Greetings Tabatha. I haven’t forgotten you. :-) I’m home now, I have my ABD in front of me, and now I can respond.

First, let me apologize. When I read Singer’s article, it sounded so familiar that it appeared to be a cut and paste job. After reading your message, I opened up a Word document, made a two-column table, and cut and pasted your comments into one column and the corresponding comments from Singer in the other. I discovered that, indeed, you did not cut and paste. You closely paraphrased, though! Anyway, I’m sorry.

I think the crux of our disagreement about the Septuagint insofar as it is relevant to our discussion is whether it’s a “Jewish document” or a “Christian document.” This is how I see this part of the debate so far:

Tabatha: The Christian old testament is not the same thing as the Jewish Tanakh. Evidence—the old testament mistranslates Isaiah 7:14 with “virgin” instead of “maiden” or “young woman.”

Sam: But the Jews themselves translated Isaiah 7:14 with “virgin” in the Septuagint. They, at least, did not think it was a mistranslation.

Tabatha: The Septuagint is a Christian document, not a Jewish document.

Before we go on, I think we need to be clear about what is meant by “Jewish document” and “Christian document.” It could mean one of two things. It could mean, “a document that Jews or Christians use that the other doesn’t,” or it could mean, “a document that was produced by Jews or Christians.” If you are using the first meaning, then I completely agree with you. Jews generally rejected the Septuagint by the 2nd century, and Christians continue to use it today.

But the point is only relevant if you are using the second meaning. If Jews did not produce the LXX, then my argument is defeated since it’s based on a faulty premise.

So I want to look at your arguments for why you think it is a product of the Church rather than of Jewish translators, and I want to explain why I think it is a Jewish translation.

I thought about writing a separate blog entry to respond to Singer’s article, but I’m going to put that on the back burner. I do want to say something about his article, though, and it is relevant to our discussion. In the paragraph where he cited the ABD article on the LXX, he was making the point that “Septuagint” originally referred only to the first five books. He quoted the ABD article where it mentioned the story about the 70 or 72 elders who translated the Pentateuch, but he failed to quote the very next sentence, which reads, “That story is now acknowledged to be fictitious, yet the label persists by virtue of the tradition.”

I don’t doubt that the Pentateuch was translated first. (Dagoods is right, though, that the LXX was translated in stages.) But that point doesn’t advance your case. The fact that the Pentateuch was translated first and that the LXX got its name from the story of the 70 or 72 translators doesn’t tell us anything about who translated the rest (including Isaiah) of what we now refer to as the Septuagint or when it was translated.

When I read in your post that the Septuagint that we know today dates to the 3rd century, my first thought was, “Surely you must jest.” I think you have made a mistake in reading Singer, though. Singer didn’t say the Septuagint dated to the 3rd century CE. He said the manuscripts date to the 3rd century CE. Huge difference! The Septuagint was translated long before the 3rd century CE, but Singer is simply saying that the oldest manuscripts we have of it date to the 3rd century.

But even here, Singer is only half right. While it’s true that the most complete manuscripts of the Septuagint date from the 3rd century CE and later, smaller fragments exist from much earlier. There are even fragments of the minor prophets (not just the Pentateuch) that date to the 1st century BCE (See Rahlfs’ 943). Clearly, they are not Christian translations.

Later, Singer does go on to say that “the present Septuagint is largely a post-second century Christian translation of the Bible.” Here, I think he’s just wrong. I’ve read a lot about the Septuagint, and I have yet to hear anybody claim that the Septuagint is a “Christian translation of the Bible.” The unanimous consensus (unanimous as far as I’ve read anyway) is that the Septuagint is a Jewish translation of the Bible. I’ll say more about that later.

Let me make a qualification, though. “Septuagint” is an ambiguous term as far as what it refers to. It appears, from the variety of texts, that there may not have been one original Greek translation. Rather, there may have been more than one different Greek translation that underwent revisions. This is a problem for textual critics, but regardless of whether you think there was one original or more than one original, the consensus is still that they were Jewish translations. And as far as I know, there is no textual evidence that any of the “Septuagint” translations used anything other than “parthenos” to translate “alma” in Isaiah 7:14. There are no textual variants on Isaiah 7:14 in the LXX. I’m open to being corrected on that, though.

You and Singer both made the argument that since some of the Septuagint contains the Apocrypha, it’s therefore not a Jewish document. I can only assume that you base this on the fact that Jews do not accept the Apocrypha as scripture, but neither of you explicitly said so. Please correct me if my assumption is wrong, but for the moment, I’m going to respond as if I’ve got it right. For the purposes of my original argument, it’s irrelevant whether Jews today consider the Apocrypha to be canonical. All that’s relevant is that they are Jewish translations. The books of the Apocrypha are products of Judaism.

(As a side note, it is curious that Jews reject the Apocrypha while the stories in 1 and 2 Maccabees remain so important in Judaism. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin writes:

”Today, few Jews—aside from Bible scholars—read the Apocrypha, except perhaps for Maccabees….Indeed, once the rabbis of the Talmud declared these books outside the biblical canon, they effectively guaranteed that they would become curiosities and of little religious significance to later generations of Jews. --Jewish Literacy, p. 526)

Now I want to give you some reasons for why I think the LXX is a “Jewish document” in the sense of having been produced by Jews. I’m going to use Singer as a springboard. He wrote:

”Christians such as Origin and Lucian (third and fourth century C.E.) had an enormous impact on creating and shaping the Septuagint that missionaries use to advance their untenable arguments against Judaism. In essence, the present Septuagint is largely a post-second century Christian translation of the Bible, used zealously by the church throughout the centuries as an indispensable apologetic instrument to defend and sustain Christological alterations of the Jewish scriptures.”

Singer’s comment about Origen is curious. Origen, as you may know, published the Hexapla between 230 and 240 CE. The Hexapla had parallel columns of six different versions of the Bible. Four of them included the LXX, and three Greek translations done by Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion. The LXX used “parthenos” in Isaiah 7:14 while Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion used “neanis.” According to the author of the ABD article, these three translations were done by “Jewish scholars, [Symmachus may have been an Ebionite] reacting to the widespread co-opting and polemical use of the LXX by Christians.” If so, then it shouldn’t surprise us that they would use “neanis” instead of “parthenos” in Isaiah 7:14. But if Singer is correct to imply that Origen “shaped the Septuagint” in such a way as to alter Isaiah 7:14 to read “parthenos,” then it should surprise us that he wouldn’t have done the same thing to the other three Greek translations. He appears to have recorded them with accuracy in mind, which means the Septuagint did originally have “parthenos.” Singers implications are without foundation.

That the Septuagint (not just the Pentateuch) is a Jewish document in the sense I mentioned above is evidenced by (1) the fact we have manuscripts dating earlier than the origin of Christianity of the minor prophets, (2) the fact that the LXX is quoted in early Jewish and Christian sources (e.g. Philo of Alexandria, the New Testament), and (3) the fact that we have versions based on early manuscripts of the LXX in Syro-Hexaplar, Coptic, Armenian, Georgian, Arabic, Ethiopic, and Old Latin. According to the author (might as well give him a name: Melvin K.H. Peters, Associate Professor, Duke University) of the ABD article, “The autographs of some versions would have been made from mss that predate considerably our oldest complete extant Greek mss.” Finally (4) every scholar I’ve read who had said anything about it has said that the entire Septuagint was translated by the beginning of the 1st century BCE. Peters didn’t exactly make that claim, but this is what he said: “For convenience, it is assumed throughout what follows … that the earliest parts (most likely the Torah) of the translation took place in the 3d century B.C.E. (perhaps in Egypt) and the last parts were completed by the first part of the 1st century B.C. E.”

Every manuscript or quotation we have from Isaiah 7:14 of the LXX contains, “parthenos.” Christians did not feel the need to change later Greek translations by Jews (Aquila, et al), so there’s no reason to suppose they doctored the LXX in this way. There are a few critical editions of the LXX that “we can recover from the extant witnesses, texts sufficiently reliable to be considered equivalent to the originals, if carefully controlled text-critical principles are employed. This process is being carried out with extreme care in the editions of the Gottingen Septuaginta-Uternehmen” (Peters, ABD Vol. 5, p. 1094).

Wow! All that just to say that, yes, it was Jews who chose to translate “alma” with “parenthos.”

 
At 7/04/2008 2:09 PM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Sam:

Apology accepted :)


I read your response with considerable interest, and as I'm certainly no expert on the Septuagint, I got busy locating some long and very detailed articles on the topic.

Then I realised that in fact, this was not required. We can resolve this very simply, with two points.

(That said, I really did enjoy your post and would be most interested to see what Rabbi Singer would say in response, were you to submit it to his website.)

OK, my two points:

1) From a pragmatic viewpoint, it doesn't matter which word is used in the Septuagint. Your stance, unless I've seriously misunderstood, is that a 'virgin birth' and Jesus appear in the Jewish scriptures, the Tanakh and from there, via Jewish translators, found their way into the Septuagint.

Thus all that matters is what Isaiah says in the Tanakh, in the original Hebrew.

Of course, in the Tanakh, the text is not in Greek. Isaiah did not write in Greek, and he never, ever used the word 'parthenos'. Every word of Isaiah was spoken in Hebrew and then noted down in Hebrew. And only Hebrew.

And in that original text, in Hebrew, the word used is 'almah', which always is used to mean 'woman' and which NEVER means 'virgin.

So whatever may or may not appear in the Septuagint, while it's interesting, it's not relevant.

BUT....

Let us say, purely for argument, that you are right. Let's assume that 'parthenon' does indeed appear in the Septuagint and that it was written/translated by a Jew.

It still proves nothing.

It would only be meaningful IF you could prove that 'parthenos' ALWAYS refers to 'virgin'.

But you can't prove that, and nobody can. Because 'parthenos' in fact can be and is used in both contexts, to mean both 'virgin' AND 'woman'.

As an example: Genesis 34:2-4, Shechem raped Dinah, yet the Septuagint refers to her as 'parthenos' AFTER she had been raped.

"...his heart desired Dinah, and he loved the damsel (LXX: parthenos) and he spoke tenderly to the damsel (LXX: parthenos)."

Having been raped, Dinah was not a virgin BUT in the Septuagint, the word used is still 'parthenos'.

So even if a Jewish translation did include 'parthenos', it still proves nothing.

If your contention is that a 'virgin birth' appears in the Tanakh, then it is the Tanakh and only the Tanakh, that you must reference to 'prove' this.

But nobody has ever been able to prove this because as soon as the original Hebrew text is examined, it becomes clear that no 'virgin birth' is ever mentioned. Jesus is not mentioned anywhere in the Tanakh.

Only by starting with the belief that he is there, can you find him there. When the Hebrew is approached objectively, it's clear Jesus does not appear in the Tanakh.

 
At 7/04/2008 3:06 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Tabatha, I think you may have forgotten why we are talking about the Septuagint. It is not to argue about whether Isaiah predicted a virgin birth, or even whether Isaiah 7:14 has anything to do with Jesus. Rather, it is to establish whether the old testament is a Christian mistranslation of the Jewish Tanakh. You brought up Isaiah 7:14 as evidence that the Christian old testament is not the Jewish Tanakh.

I think the issue can be settled very simply as well, but for a different reason. You said:

Thus all that matters is what Isaiah says in the Tanakh, in the original Hebrew.

If that's all that matters, then your whole argument is refuted. Your argument that the Christian old tesatment is not the Jewish Tanakh was based on the fact that some English translations of the old testament mistranslates Isaiah 7:14. But the Christian old testament was also originally written in Hebrew (and Aramaic). To reestablish your argument, you're going to have to say that the underlying Hebrew of the Christian old testament is significantly different than the underlying Hebrew of the Jewish Tanakh, such that they aren't even the same scriptures.

Translational issues are irrelevent, as you've said. Since translations are irrelevent, Isaiah 7:14 cannot be used to demonstrate that the Christian old testament is not the same thing as the Jewish Tanakh.

 
At 7/04/2008 3:34 PM , Blogger Tabatha said...

I am happy to provide further examples of mistranslations that appear in the Christian 'old testament'.

I will post them within the next few days.

I also look forward to reading your responses to the other points I posted in response to your original comments on my blog :)

 
At 7/04/2008 3:46 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Tabatha, you have already said that translations don't matter. Only the original languages matter. Both the Tanakh and the old testament were written in Hebrew and Aramaic. If you want to continue to argue that the old testament is not the same as the Tanakh, you're going to have to show that the underlying Hebrew is significantly different.

If you want to change the subject and argue about whether the English translation of the Tanakh (maybe the JPS) is more accurate that some English translation of the old testament (maybe the NASB), then I might as well go ahead and tell you that I'm unqualified for such a debate.

 
At 7/04/2008 4:27 PM , Blogger Tabatha said...

To clarify:

My comment about the translation not mattering so much was in direct reference to the use of the word 'parthenos' in the Septuagint, something you claimed was compiled by Jews.

I have no idea whether you, or Rabbi Singer, is correct with regard to this issue. It has always been my understanding that the Septuagint in use *today* is indeed a Christian document that was translated BY Christians. Certainly, the material posted by Rabbi Singer supports everything else I have read on this topic.

Now, in reference to the Tanakh and the 'old testament':

It is fact that many versions of the 'old testament' contain mistranslations. This is beyond dispute, UNLESS you are prepared to state that your Hebrew surpasses that of the most renowned Hebrew scholars in the world? There are comprehensive lists and articles available online that document every single error, mistranslation and oversight as they appear in many copies of the Christian 'old testament'.

Given these mistranslations, I again state that many Christians are reading different material to that which Jews read when we study and discuss the Tanakh.

If you would like me to post some examples of key mistranslations, I will be happy to do so.

If not, then I would really like to read your thoughts on the other points I posted which of course were in *response* to your original critique of my blog :)

 
At 7/04/2008 6:19 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Tabatha, I don't dispute that many English translations of the old testament have translation errors. I have never heard of a perfect translation before. Is it your position that every English translation of the Tanakh is better than every English translation of the old testament? That is certainly NOT beyond dispute, being as how many English translations of the old testament were DONE by Hebrew scholars. Obviously, if there's differences in translations, then there's differences in opinion among the experts.

Unless you are a Hebrew scholar, I don't know why you would just take these lists of mistranslations at face value. I mean, obviously, there's going to be dispute about how things are translated. If somebody says, "This is a mistranslation," you can't just take their word for it. If they have a different opinion than whoever did the translation, then of course they're going to say it's a mistranslation. But how are you going to judge? How are you going to decide which Hebrew scholar is right? It seems to me that you've either got to be a Hebrew scholar yourself, or you've got to hear the arguments from both sides. Have you done that with all of the lists of mistranslations you've come across?

Let me explain where I'm coming from by talking about the King James Only people. There are people out there who think the King James Version is the only accurate translation of the Bible out there. And they have long lists of "mistranslations" from other versions of the Bible. But how do they decide that something is a mistranslation? They do it by comparing it to the King James Version. If a translation differs from the King James Version, they think, then obviously, it's a mistranslation. But do you see the question-begging nature of this reasoning? You cannot label something a mistranslation merely because it differs from the Tanakh. I don't know if that's your reasoning or not, but it is certainly the impression I get when I read your words:

Given these mistranslations, I again state that many Christians are reading different material to that which Jews read when we study and discuss the Tanakh.

I'm working on a response to your comments about the origin of Christianity, and it is getting kind of long. I'm trying to decide how I might shorten it up a bit.

 
At 7/04/2008 7:07 PM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Sam,

Just a quick post:

Yes, in fact, when *some* Christian 'old testament' versions differ from the Tanakh dramatically, I can say they are mistranslations.

Especially given that, in my own personal experience, inevitably the differences appear when the 'old testament' 'shows' a reference to Jesus that NEVER appears in the Tanakh!

If all Jewish scholars and Rabbis and religious Jews (who spend YEARS studying Torah) ALL agree on the objective definitions of certain Hebrew words, and if my OWN understanding of Hebrew supports their view, then yes, I can and will say that the 'old testament' that differs is a mistranslation.

Hebrew words have *objective* definitions. Perhaps I should post some of the biggest errors that appear in some Christian bibles, so that I can illustrate the point I'm trying to make :)

Imagine if, for example, another religion produced versions of the 'New Testament' and when you read them, you were astonished to find references to MOHAMMED. Would you not claim that the accurate text was the original 'New Testament'?
Of course you would!

 
At 7/04/2008 7:43 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Why would you assume that just because an old testament reference appeared to be talking about Jesus that it must therefore be a mistranslation? I have my suspicions, but I'll just let you answer for yourself.

You can post a link to your lists if you want, but I honestly don't see the point. I'm not a Hebrew scholar, so I have no way of making judgments about it. I've either got to take your word for it or go through the trouble of finding out what the arguments are on both sides of each of the supposed mistranslations, which I just don't have the energy to do.

 
At 7/04/2008 7:51 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Hi Tabatha. I’m responding to your post in the order they were written. Next is your response to my comments about the origin of Christianity.

There are basically two claims I made that you responded to: (1) The Jesus movement survived the death of Jesus, and (2) it flourished.

In answer to the second, you said that Paul had everything to do with why Christianity flourished. I’m tempted to argue with you on the particulars of how you think Paul kept Christianity alive, but I’m going to resist because it’s not that important. I will just grant you that, yes, Paul had a lot to do with why Christianity flourished. I also agree that Christianity flourished as a result of being taken to the Gentiles, and not just the Jews.

I don’t concede the degree to which you think Paul was instrumental, though. There were gentile churches that Paul did not start. The one in Rome is the best example.

I have no idea what would’ve happened to Christianity if it had never been taken to the Gentiles. Once Judaism and Christianity went their separate ways and basically became distinct religions, it’s hard to say how many former Jews made up the Christian congregations. The Ebionites seemed to have survived at least until the fourth century. I don’t know what became of them.

So I’m just going to concede this second point. Having survived the death of Jesus, Christianity flourished, not necessarily because of the resurrection, but because of its success among the gentiles, and Paul’s missionary activities had a lot to do with it. But we must still account for Paul himself, which brings me to the first claim.

In answer to the first, you just said that only 1% of Jews followed Jesus. Personally, I don’t have any idea how many followed him, but I’d be interested in where you get that figure from. You said it’s something we know. How do we know it?

Your answer doesn’t really explain away my contention, which was that part of my reason for believing in the resurrection was the fact that Christianity survived the death of Jesus. You claim that 1% of Jews became Christians. I want to know why any Jews would continue to believe that Jesus was the Christ after he died in apparent failure unless they had some reason to think he was still alive.

1% is actually a high number when you consider the fact that except for Jesus, no messianic movements survived the death of their leader. I find that significant. I don’t think the Jesus movement could’ve survived his death among Jews unless they had some reason to think he was alive. I think resurrection had everything to do with why his movement survived his death.

Paul can’t be invoked as an explanation because it leaves Paul himself unexplained.
He was highly educated, and even claimed to be a Pharisee, zealous for the law. He persecuted Christians. But something changed him. He claims he saw the risen Jesus.

Jesus also had two brothers, James and Jude, who didn’t believe in him during his lifetime (John 7:5), but who after his death converted to Christianity. James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. According to an oral tradition quoted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, James also saw the risen Jesus. It would explain his conversion.

 
At 7/04/2008 7:58 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Although not really important, I wanted to say something about your comment that “99% of Jews refused to abandon Torah, in order to worship Jesus.” You said later that “Jesus himself adhered to the Torah.” If you are right in the second case, then Jews would not have had to abandon the Torah in order to follow Jesus.

And while I’m making asides, let me also say that in Christianity, “maschiach” also means “anointed.” It does not mean “savior” in Christianity either. There are many titles Christians give to Jesus, including “messiah” and “savior,” but we don’t claim that they are all synonyms.

But even in ancient Judaism, messiahs were thought to be saviors. The hope was that they would save the Jews from exile or save them from foreign oppression. I would like to explain how I think the Christian idea of Jesus being a messianic savior ties in with Jewish expectations. It solves a problem that, so far as I can see, Judaism has never even considered.

Messianic expectation arose in Judaism as a result of two things. First, there were certain promises that the throne of David would last forever. Here are some examples:

2 Samuel 7:16 “Your [David’s] house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.”

1 Kings 2:45 “But King Solomon shall be blessed, and the throne of David shall be established before the LORD forever.”

Second, David’s dynasty came to an end as a result of the Babylonian exile. So the Jews had a crisis of belief on their hands, and they could interpret the events in one of two says. Either (1) God broke his promise, or (2) God would keep his promise by restoring the throne of David. They went with 2. So, we find messianic prophecies involving a descendent of David being king forever. Here are some examples:

Isaiah 9:7 “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”

Ezekiel 37:25 "They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons' sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever.”

In 1 Kings 2:4 and 8:25, it says that David “shall not lack a man to sit on the throne of Israel,” as long as his sons are obedient. The messianic prophecy in Jeremiah 33:14-22 is explained as a fulfillment of that promise.

The whole reason for the exile and for the end of David’s dynasty was sin. This is not Christian anti-semitism, either. It’s the explanation the Jews themselves had for why God’s promises seemed to have failed. They couldn’t blame God, so they blamed themselves. This theme is found throughout the prophets, but let me quote just one reference:

Jeremiah 25:8-9 “Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Because you have not obeyed My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them and make them a horror and a hissing, and an everlasting desolation.”

Every time something bad happened to the Israelites, the prophets always explained it as a punishment from God for their disobedience. The pharisaic movement was a response to this kind of thinking. They figured that since disobedience to the Torah got them into the situation they were in, Torah intensification would get them out. They were always coming up with innovative ways to make it easier for ordinary people to keep the laws of Moses in hopes that by doing so, God would restore Israel to national sovereignty and get rid of the Roman oppressors.

But this is the problem I see. If unfaithfulness causes God to send Israel into exile in spite of the promises, and if repentance causes God to bring them back in fulfillment of the promises, then how can there be any guarantee of an everlasting kingdom of peace and prosperity? Once Judah and Israel are reunited under the messiah, what assurance is there that history won’t repeat itself? I don’t know how Jews deal with that problem.

Jews did seem to think of kings as saviors (see 2 Samuel 3:18), and they associated the coming of the eschatological messiah with salvation.

Jeremiah 23:5-6 “’Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘When I will raise up for David a righteous branch; and he will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely, and this is his name by which he will be called, “The LORD our righteousness.”’”

The big difference between Jews and Christians is what the messiah (or God through the messiah) is going to save us from. In Judaism (and I’m referring to ancient Judaism, not modern Judaism which I know little about), salvation meant the fulfillment of God’s promises of everlasting peace, prosperity, eternal life, the promised land, sovereignty, freedom from oppression, sickness, etc. In Christianity, salvation means forgiveness of sins.

But if you think about it, this is not a huge difference. In Judaism, the lack of all those things is a result of sin, and in Christianity, salvation from sin leads to the fulfillment of the promises. In Christianity, there is no worry that continual rebellion against God is going to lead to further exile, the reintroduction of death, etc. In Christianity, the messiah conquered sin and death once and for all. From what I can tell, Jews don’t even address the question of how the messiah will usher in an everlasting kingdom. How will sin be dealt with in Judaism? What will prevent sin from wreaking the same havoc it did in the past?

 
At 7/04/2008 9:36 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Okay, I’m moving on down to make sure I’ve responded to everything else.

Judaism does not, and never has, claimed to be the 'only' path to G-d. It is simply ONE path.

Do Jews believe that gentiles are obligated to keep the same laws that were handed down by Moses? Or do those laws apply only to Jews?

Judaism states that, whatever our religions, we are all equally G-d's children. The righteous of ALL faiths, reaches heaven. Thus even though you and I may never agree on religion, I still don't label you or your faith as being 'wrong'.

Well, I don’t mean any offense by it, but I use the word “wrong” as a synonym for “incorrect,” so if somebody believes something that I think is not true, then I say that person is “wrong.” I’m using “wrong” in the same sense as you might say that a person who thought two and two made five was wrong. It has nothing to do with whether everybody is a child of God or not. You can be a child of God and still be wrong about things. But, I guess we are just using the word “wrong” differently. You obviously think I’m mistaken about Jesus being the messiah.

Now to the fun stuff…God taking human form. None of the scriptures you quote seem to preclude God from ever taking human form. In the case of Ezekiel 28:2, God condemns the prince of Tyrus for claiming to be a god because he was not a god. I don’t see how that supports your view that God could never or would never take human form.

The Jerusalem Talmud states categorically the Jewish view: “If a man claims to be G-d, he is a liar!”

The reason I was so interested in that quote is because you originally said it was in the Torah. What kind of authority do Jews ascribe to the Talmud? Does it carry the same kind of authority as the Tanakh? I wonder if that Talmud reference was a reaction against Christianity.

In response to the Maimonides quote, I see no reason to suppose that God could not animate a human body, nor that it would somehow limit him. I explained that earlier, though. Maimonides seems to think the incarnation is incoherent because it entails a logical contradiction—the infininte is finite, and the limitless is limited. If it is a contradiction, then I would agree that it’s impossible. But I don’t believe it is a contradiction. I don't want to go into that, but I wrote a short blog about it.

In fact, for Jews, the notion that G-d would ever assume human form, actually constitutes *blasphemy*.

In Christianity, it’s only blasphemy if it’s not true. That’s why it’s blasphemy for the prince of Tyrus to claim to be a god, but it’s not blasphemy to claim that Jesus is God.

About the messiah performing miracles…the reference in Deuteronomy 13 is what I thought you might bring up, but it just doesn’t say what you are claiming. You claimed that anybody who offers miracles as proof is a false messiah. Deuteronomy 13 doesn’t say anything close to that. The ability to do miracles do not necessarily mean that somebody is a true prophet, but that does not at all entail that somebody who uses miracles as proof is a false messiah. Shoot, Moses used miraculous proofs to try to convince Pharaoh. Elijah used miracles to prove that his God was the true God.

The Jewish view is that anyone who claims to be the messiah and who offers miracles as 'proof' is definitely a false messiah. This is based on the above bit of scripture and also the belief that the Jewish messiah won't need to prove anything and won't need to perform miracles.

Even if your premise is true that the messiah won’t need to prove anything, your conclusion just doesn’t follow. And besides that, you contradicted yourself when you said:

The whole world will be able to identify him purely because of what he achieves, by dint of being an extraordinarily honest, honourable and strong leader.

If the world identifies the messiah by what he does, his honesty, etc., then all of those things serve as proof that he is the messiah. If honesty, etc. can serve as evidence that somebody is the messiah, why can’t miracles? Neither necessarily entails that somebody is a messiah.

I am not 'claiming' anything. I'm just giving you the Jewish position: Jesus is not the Jewish messiah. This is a statement of fact - Judaism alone can define the Jewish messiah.

Well tell me plainly, then, Tabatha. Do you think Jesus is the Jewish messiah or not? I thought you were a Jew and that you subscribed to the Jewish position, and that’s why you were making the claims you were about Jesus. If you’re not claiming that Jesus is not the Jewish messiah, then at least admit that you’re claiming the Jewish position is that Jesus is not the Jewish messiah. And you’re claiming that Judaism alone can define the Jewish messiah. You’ve made all kinds of claims in your posts.

At the risk of being pedantic, I'm not 'arguing'. I am *responding* to the points you posted on my blog......! :)

Once again, we may be using “arguing” in different senses. When I say, “arguing,” I’m talking about giving reasons to support your point of view, and reasons for why you disagree with somebody else. Since that’s what you and I have been doing, I say we’ve been arguing.

However, don't you feel there are significant differences in how Jews and Christians define, or understand 'messiah'?

I think there are significant differences in what Jews and Christians believe about the messiah, but I do not believe there is a significant difference in how Jews and Christians define the messiah.

After giving me your explanation of what “messiah” means, you asked:

Wouldn't you agree that these are some key differences in our respective faiths?

No. I completely agree with how you defined “messiah.” I think the mistake you’re making is in assuming that the things Christians say about Jesus are part of our definition of what it means to be a messiah. Given the fact that not even a Jewish Hebrew scholar who had the Tanakh, the Talmud, and the Mishnah memorized could write a detailed biography of the future messiah, don’t you think it’s at least possible that the messiah will do things that are not recorded in any of these documents? If so, then you can’t exclude him as the messiah just because he does them unless there is something in these documents that specifically says that he won’t do them.

The Christian messiah is the 'son of god'.
The Jewish messiah is just an ordinary mortal. He is no more the 'son of god' than any other mortal, since Judaism says that all humans are *equally* the children of G-d.


You’re going to get mad at me for saying this because you hate it when Christians tell Jews what they believe, but I’m going to say it anyway. I can’t speak about modern Judaism, but in ancient Judaism, “son of god” was a messianic title. Granted, all people are children of God in a sense, the phrase “son of God” is used in different senses in the Bible. I will show you a few references where it is used specifically to refer to kings of Israel.

Psalm 2:6-7 “But as for me, I have installed my king upon Zion, my holy mountain. I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, ‘You are my son, today I have begotten you.’”

Psalm 89:20-27 “I have found David my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him….He will cry out to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.’ I also shall make him my firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.”

2 Samuel 12:12-14 “When your [David’s] days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he will be a son to me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men.”

The Christian messiah has a 'second coming'.
The Jewish messiah does not: he is to fulfill all the Jewish messianic prophecies in one normal, mortal lifespan. Judiasm rejects any notion of a 'second coming'.


I can’t find anything in the old testament that precludes the messiah from dying and rising again before he completes all the messianic prophecies. Is there anything like that in the Tanakh?

Virgin birth…you originally said that virgin births are impossible in Judaism. When I asked why, you said there are no virgin births in the Tanakh, and there is no prediction of a virgin birth for the messiah. But none of that supports the claim you made which is that virgin births are impossible. Moreover, you failed to address my arguments to the contrary. Of course you’re not obligated to address all my arguments, but I was really curious to know how you would respond to the arguments I gave where I quoted references saying that nothing is impossible with God.

The Jewish messiah will have a 'normal' birth, to two 'normal' parents.

One of the arguments you gave for why the messiah will not be born of a virgin is because virgin birth is not given as a clear identifying criteria of the messiah. Where is the clear identifying criteria that the messiah will have a normal birth with two normal parents? I asked you before, but how will the messiah rule forever if he’s just an ordinary mortal? Do you believe the messiah will have successors?

There are very clear, very strict criteria given in order that the Jewish people don't all misidentify the true messiah

Then how do you respond to the point I made in my initial response about the fact that Simon bar Kosiba was misidentified by so many Jews as the messiah?

There. I think that’s everything.

Sam

 
At 7/05/2008 9:22 AM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Sam:

I'm going to just briefly respond to a comment you've posted:

SAM: Why would you assume that just because an old testament reference appeared to be talking about Jesus that it must therefore be a mistranslation? I have my suspicions, but I'll just let you answer for yourself.

I'm going to briefly address this. Let's be really clear:

I think you've just helped prove my point, in fact. If Jesus appears in the 'old testament'then of course it means there's been a mistranslation OR an even more dramatic alteration.
Because Jesus does not appear in the Tanakh - and you've repeatedly stated you think the Tanakh and the OT are the same.


So you've just highlighted my very point: the very fact that Jesus seems to be mentioned in the OT proves we are speaking of different texts. Nowhere in the Tanakh does Jesus get a mention.

The fact that *some* Christians try to back engineer Jesus INTO the Tanakh by changing the meanings of words in the OT and THEN saying they derive FROM the Tanakh is meaningless.

In fact, if your ultimate argument is going to be that Jesus does appear in the original Hebrew scriptures, the Tanakh, then please, feel most welcome to show me where. There are numerous good translations of the Tanakh, both online and in book form.

If you want to argue that Jesus appears anywhere in the Hebrew scriptures, then you have to USE the Hebrew scriptures to 'prove' your claim.

 
At 7/05/2008 9:48 AM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Sam :)

- just to respond to your latest points:

QUESTION: Do Jews believe that gentiles are obligated to keep the same laws that were handed down by Moses? Or do those laws apply only to Jews?

Answer: Jews are obligated to follow them. Non Jews are not obligated to, although of course, people can and do convert to Judaism and they are always welcome to do so. Whether or not non Jews adhere to them, Judaism believes that the righteous of ALL faiths reaches 'gan eden', or 'garden of eden'.

QUESTION: The reason I was so interested in that quote is because you originally said it was in the Torah. What kind of authority do Jews ascribe to the Talmud? Does it carry the same kind of authority as the Tanakh? I wonder if that Talmud reference was a reaction against Christianity.

ANSWER: The Talmud is known as the ‘Oral Torah’. It was given by G-d to Moses, again at Mount Sinai, along with the Torah that we refer to as the five books of Moses.
The Talmud defines, fleshes out and illuminates the Torah.

And the Talmud sets forth the official Jewish position; the facts as understood in Judaism:
‘If any man claims to be ‘god’, he is a liar!’


QUESTION: Well tell me plainly, then, Tabatha. Do you think Jesus is the Jewish messiah or not? I thought you were a Jew and that you subscribed to the Jewish position, and that’s why you were making the claims you were about Jesus. If you’re not claiming that Jesus is not the Jewish messiah, then at least admit that you’re claiming the Jewish position is that Jesus is not the Jewish messiah. And you’re claiming that Judaism alone can define the Jewish messiah. You’ve made all kinds of claims in your posts.


Again, let’s be really clear:

It is not a matter of what I or anyone ‘thinks’ or what anyone ’claims’.
It is *fact* that Jesus is not the Jewish messiah:

1) Jesus did not fulfill the Jewish messianic prophecies before he died. The Jewish messiah must fulfill them all before he dies.
2) As you already know, Jesus plays no role in Judaism. Jews await the real messiah.

Key point:
Judaism alone gets to define the Jewish messiah.
Christianity does not get to define who is, or isn’t, the Jewish messiah.

Or are you disagreeing with this?

I’m a tad confused as to your saying ‘I thought you were a Jew'...
My blog is called Jew With A View :)
You thought right!! :)


QUESTION: I can’t find anything in the old testament that precludes the messiah from dying and rising again before he completes all the messianic prophecies. Is there anything like that in the Tanakh?
Virgin birth…you originally said that virgin births are impossible in Judaism. When I asked why, you said there are no virgin births in the Tanakh, and there is no prediction of a virgin birth for the messiah. But none of that supports the claim you made which is that virgin births are impossible.


ANSWER: So your reasoning is as follows: unless something is SPECIFICALLY named and outlawed, then it’s ‘possible’?

I would suggest that your reasoning is flawed. The fact that there is no mention of any ‘virgin birth’ nor ‘second coming’ is because these concepts are so alien TO Judaism that they don’t require a mention. You know full well that all faiths have belief sets and doctrines. An analogy:

Many Muslims believe that Jesus was never crucified to start with. Some of them believe that another man swapped places with him.
Now, does the Christian bible ‘preclude’ that?
Specifically?
If not, then by *your* own reasoning - it’s entirely possible and you can’t claim it didn’t happen. Again: that’s using your own logic.

 
At 7/05/2008 11:08 AM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Sam,

I neglected to address this comment by you:

'Then how do you respond to the point I made in my initial response about the fact that Simon bar Kosiba was misidentified by so many Jews as the messiah?'

It is precisely because there was a danger of the Jews identifying the wrong person as 'messiah' that nobody was accepted as 'messiah' UNLESS they fulfilled ALL the messianic prophecies.

Bar Kochba did fulfill some, as did many other Jewish men. But all of them must be fulfilled.

Throughout history many Jewish men have claimed themselves to be 'maschiach', but none were accepted by ALL Jews because none of them satisifed all the criteria as laid out clearly in the Tanakh.

I want to respond to your points about Paul etc, after which I will post the list of Jewish messianic prophecies. From that I think you will see that nobody - Jesus included - has fulfilled every single one of them.

 
At 7/06/2008 10:36 AM , Blogger Sam said...

Tabatha, I don’t know whether the Tanakh and the old testament are the same document or not. I haven’t read the Tanakh. I’m just trying to find out why you think they are different and why you think the Tanakh is right and the old testament is wrong, and so far your reasoning sounds circular to me.

You said the Tanakh was originally written in Hebrew, so it’s the underlying Hebrew that determines what the Tanakh is, not translations. Well, the old testament was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic. So I answered that to show that there’s a difference, we have to show a difference between the underlying Hebrew of both the Tanakh and the old testament. Is the content different or not? I haven’t gotten an answer from you on that. You said the arrangement is different, which changes the context, which changes the meaning, but what about the content?

Now you also seem to think that the English translation of the Tanakh is more accurate than the English translation of the old testament. So, I asked if you think every English translation of the Tanakh is better than every English translation of the old testament, and I did not get a clear answer. I only know that you think at least some English translations of the old testament are inaccurate, and I agree with you about that.

But now we come to your reason for saying the old testament is a mistranslation of the Tanakh. You gave basically two reasons. First, because the Tanakh was translated by Hebrew scholars. Well, the old testament is translated by Hebrew scholars, too, so that doesn’t really help us decide between them.

Second, the old testament has references that appear to be talking about Jesus, but the Tanakh doesn’t. And since Jesus isn’t in the Tanakh, the old testament must be a mistranslation. Is it not obvious to you that your argument here is question-begging? Suppose a Christian said to you that the Tanakh was a mistranslation of the old testament since it does not have clear references to Jesus and the old testament does? Would you not immediately recognize that as a question-begging argument?

You made a distinction between a fact and a claim when talking about whether Jesus is the messiah, which makes me think you’ve been misunderstanding me. A fact is something that is so. A claim is when you say that something is so. So claims are about facts. If you say, “Jesus is not the messiah,” you are making a claim about something you take as a fact. So yes, you have been making claims.

Judaism alone gets to define the Jewish messiah. Christianity does not get to define who is, or isn’t, the Jewish messiah.

I’m afraid this is another area where we disagree. I think anybody literate enough to read the Bible and other historical sources gets to define what is meant by “messiah.” An atheist could be competent enough to do the research and discover what first century Jews thought of as “the messiah.”

I’m a tad confused as to your saying ‘I thought you were a Jew'...
My blog is called Jew With A View :)
You thought right!! :)


I said that because you said this:

I am not 'claiming' anything. I'm just giving you the Jewish position: Jesus is not the Jewish messiah. This is a statement of fact - Judaism alone can define the Jewish messiah.

1. The Jewish position is that Jesus is not the Jewish messiah.
2. Tabatha is a Jew.
3. Therefore, it is Tabatha’s position that Jesus is not the Jewish messiah.

BUT…

4. Tabatha is not claiming anything.

Does see now why I said what I did? You left me a little confused.

Yes, I think that unless there’s a logical incoherence in something, or it is specifically denied in the Bible, then it’s at least possible. If all you said was that Jews have no reason to think there will ever be a virgin birth or a second coming, then I wouldn’t have responded to you the way I did. But you say that virgin births are impossible which I think is a clear contradiction to some things that specifically are said in the Bible. And I gave you references. Nothing is impossible with God. How do you reconcile the Bible’s statements that nothing is impossible for God with your statement that in Judaism virgin births are impossible? Do you not see a contradiction there?

Your Muslim analogy doesn’t help you at all because the new testament does specifically preclude the idea that Jesus wasn’t crucified and that another man took his place. It specifically says that Jesus himself was crucified, which makes the Muslim position impossible in Christianity.

I’m afraid I’m not following you in your response about Simon bar Kosiba. I asked you to explain why so many thought he was the messiah if there were these specific criteria meant to prevent anybody from misidentifying their messiah. You said that “nobody was accepted as 'messiah' UNLESS they fulfilled ALL the messianic prophecies,” and you said that bar Kochba fulfilled some of them but not all. Wouldn’t it follow from these two statements that nobody thought Simon bar Kosiba was the messiah? But they did think he was the messiah. How do you explain that? It wasn’t just a few Jews who thought he was the messiah either. A war against Rome was started because so many people thought he was the messiah. The Rabbi Akiba thought he was the messiah, for goodness sake!

I want to respond to your points about Paul etc, after which I will post the list of Jewish messianic prophecies. From that I think you will see that nobody - Jesus included - has fulfilled every single one of them.

I already agree with you that Jesus didn’t fulfill all the messianic prophecies. I just don’t think you can dismiss somebody as the messiah if they haven’t fulfilled them all yet. After all, in Judaism, not even the real messiah has fulfilled them all yet. That, of course, doesn’t mean the real messiah isn’t the real messiah.

This is just a suggestion, but I think you should post all the messianic prophecies on your own blog and then just make a link here. There are too many of them to leave in a comment box, and it’s something that would probably be helpful to a lot of people.

I could be wrong, but I get the impression that Jews have this very clear idea of what the messiah is and what he does, and also what he isn’t and what he doesn’t do. But such clarity simply didn’t exist in Judaism in the first century. As I’ve said before, there were a wide variety of messianic expectations—some even including two messiahs.

(BTW, Dagoods, I found another secondary source about how the Essenes expected two-messiahs. I was looking at E.P. Sander’s book, The Historical Figure of Jesus, and he mentions it a few times.)

The broad definition of the messiah was that he was an eschatological king who would sit on the throne of David. That’s about the only thing everybody agreed on because that’s the definition of the messiah.

 
At 7/06/2008 6:32 PM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Sam -

We are now quibbling about semantics :)

I'm going to address as many of your points as time allows for.

YOU SAID: 'I’m afraid this is another area where we disagree. I think anybody literate enough to read the Bible and other historical sources gets to define what is meant by “messiah.” An atheist could be competent enough to do the research and discover what first century Jews thought of as “the messiah.”'

MY RESPONSE: Obviously, you are entitled to read the OT, or the Tanakh and then come to the conclusion that there are references to Jesus and the concept of 'messiah'. And of course, you as a Christian can decide whatever you like about Jesus. I wasn't implying otherwise.

What I meant was this, and I am going to say it so clearly that there cannot possibly be room for any misunderstanding:

Christianity AS a movement, does not get to define Jesus as the messiah, for Judaism AS a movement.

Or, to put it yet another way:

For Jews, Jesus is not the 'maschiach'.

Or:

Judaism does not and never will view Jesus as the Jewish messiah.

Only Judaism *as a religion* gets to decide who is or who is not the messiah OF the *Jewish religion*.

This is not a 'claim'.

This is a statement of fact *about* Judaism, decided *by* Judaism.

--------------------------------

YOU SAID: 'I could be wrong, but I get the impression that Jews have this very clear idea of what the messiah is and what he does, and also what he isn’t and what he doesn’t do. But such clarity simply didn’t exist in Judaism in the first century.'

MY RESPONSE: You are right in that Judaism does have a very clear picture of what the Jewish messiah does and does not do.

Judaism has always had totally clear criteria for recognising the Jewish messiah.

The belief in the arrival of the 'maschiach' is a fundamental theme within Judaism. The criteria is there to read, in the Jewish scriptures.

---------------------------------

YOU SAID: 'I already agree with you that Jesus didn’t fulfill all the messianic prophecies. I just don’t think you can dismiss somebody as the messiah if they haven’t fulfilled them all yet.'

MY RESPONSE: Jesus did not fulfill *any* of the Jewish messianic prophecies.

Here are some of the Jewish prophecies that the Jewish messiah must fulfill *before* he dies:

- All the Jews of the world will unite, in Israel (Isaiah 11:12, 27:12-13, 43:5-6; Jeremiah 16:15, 23:3; Zechariah 10:6; Ezekiel 37:21-22;

- The Temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt (Micah 4:1; Ezekiel 37:26-28; Isaiah 33:20);

- There will be peace, across the world (Isaiah 2:4, 11:6; Micah 4:3; Ezekiel 39:9)

- The entire world will recognise the one, true G-d. (Isaiah 2:4, 11:9, 40:5; Zephaniah 3:9; Jeremiah 31:33; Zechariah 8:3, 14:9,16;

- The dead will be resurrected (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2; Ezekiel 37:12-13);

- The enemy dead will be buried (Ezekiel 39:12);

- Each Tribe of Israel will receive its inheritance (Ezekiel 47:13-14);

- Eternal joy and gladness will characterize the Jewish Nation (Isaiah 51:11);

- The Egyptian River will run dry (Isaiah 11:15);

- Trees will yield new fruit monthly in Israel (Ezekiel 47:12);

- Israel will be perfect in the practice of Torah (Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 31:31-33);

- Elijah will appear first and will announce the arrival of the Moschiach
(Malachi 3:23-24)

Jesus did not fulfill any of these.
This is not a 'claim'.
This is a statement of fact.

And even if Jesus had fulfilled some of them, Judaism has always said that the Jewish messiah MUST fulfill ALL of them - in one normal, mortal lifetime.

One could argue that the very notion of the 'second coming' was a device used by Christianity to justify and explain precisely *why* and *how* Jesus could have died before fulfilling all of the prophecies. That is, as it happens, my own personal view. I don't expect you to agree, just as I'm sure you don't expect me to agree with you on many of the points that have been raised :)

---------------------------------

THE TANAKH AND THE 'OLD TESTAMENT:

Yes, to answer you, there is a difference in 'content', in some instances. The words that you as a Christian read in the 'old testament' are sometimes not there in the original Tanakh. And vice versa. That said, as I mentioned in my very first post, I think: *some* Christian 'old testaments' have now CHANGED their translation OF the Tanakh, so as to produce a more accurate translation of the Hebrew.

I don't know what the 'old testament' is translated from. I believe that some versions are translated from the Greek and also the Latin, rather than from the Hebrew.

Most Jews don't study or read a translation of the Tanakh. We study it and read it in the original language in which it was written.

I'm sure you realise that there is NO Jewish bible that has in it the 'old testament'?

And of course, it's only 'old' to Christians. The very designation of the Hebrew bible as 'old' could ONLY have come from Christianity!

Judaism would hardly label its own scripture as 'old' when for us, *nothing* has replaced it nor could ever replace it!

I'm also going to post, on my blog, some of the numerous differences between the OT and the Tanakh, and hopefully that will help to clarify some of my comments.

--------------------------
RE 'VIRGIN BIRTH' and 'SECOND COMING'.

YOU SAID: 'Nothing is impossible with G-d. How do you reconcile the Bible’s statements that nothing is impossible for God with your statement that in Judaism virgin births are impossible? Do you not see a contradiction there?'

MY RESPONSE: Again with the very greatest of respect, we did not start out having a philosophical debate about what is or isn't 'possible' for G-d. You offered some very interesting comments on my blog and I have done my best to clarify what Judaism, as an organised faith, believes *about* G-d.

Judaism rejects any notion that
G-d would ever allow or create or wish to produce a 'virgin birth'.

Judaism rejects any notion that anyone has a 'second coming'.

Again: simply because it is not specifically precluded in the Tanakh, does not leave open a possibility that 'yes, it might happen'.

I could suggest produce many things NOT specifically precluded in the Christian bible. I'm certain that you wouldn't agree they could still happen though!

You know, as do I, that all religions have doctrines and dogmas. The Jewish belief is that there has not been nor will there EVER be either a 'virgin birth' or a 'second coming'.

I feel that I cannot possibly express it any more clearly than this.

And I'm not going to try, because I don't want to waste your time and it is clear to me that the answers I'm providing are not helping us to further our debate.

You clearly don't agree with the Jewish vision of G-d and what G-d might or would or can do. That's fine. I clearly don't agree with the Christian vision of G-d and what he does or might or would or can do. That's fine too.

We must just agree to disagree :)

-----------------------------

RE SIMON BAR KOCHBA

YOU SAID: 'But they did think he was the messiah.'

Yes, *some* Jews thought he was the messiah. But unless *ALL* the prophecies are fulfilled, the person is not accepted as the messiah by Judaism *as a religion*.

And in fact, after Simon Bar Kochba had died, precisely BECAUSE many of the prophecies had been left unfulfilled, even the Jews who had followed him *acknowledged* that of course he was not 'maschiach'.

YOU SAID: '... then Jews would not have had to abandon the Torah in order to follow Jesus.'

MY RESPONSE: Your statement here is incorrect; here's an analogy:

Suppose Rabbi Singer fulfiled SOME of the prophecies. If he then - G-d forbid - died before fulfilling them all, it would be clear that he was NOT the messiah.

Now, if a group of Jews STILL felt that Rabbi Singer was the 'messiah', they might well form a breakaway movement that involved defining Rabbi Singer as 'maschiach'.

But this would not be Judaism.

They would be deviating from what the Tanakh says, they would be ignoring the Jewish criteria for identifying the messiah, thus they would not be practising Judaism.

The fact that Rabbi Singer is Jewish, is irrelevant. The fact that his followers may be mainly or uniformly Jewish, is not relevant. The objective criteria as set out in the prophecies shows that unless he has fulfilled all of them, Rabbi Singer is not the Jewish messiah.

And whichever new 'faith' might form around him, it would not be Judaism.

Now, if those same Jews were to start actively worshipping Rabbi Singer, they would be violating Torah, as Jews are only ever allowed to worship G-d.

--------------------------------

YOU SAID 'After all, in Judaism, not even the real messiah has fulfilled them all yet. That, of course, doesn’t mean the real messiah isn’t the real messiah.'

As of this moment, none of the Jewish messianic prophecies have been fulfilled. When you say that Jesus has not fulfilled them 'yet', I assume you refer to his 'second coming'?

As I've explained, the argument that 'Jesus will fulfill them all when he returns' is not remotely relevant to Judaism or the Jewish view of these issues.

You cannot use an inherently Christian concept - the 'second coming' - and apply it to Jewish belief. It is not a valid argument, any more than if one were to try and apply an Islamic concept to Christian belief, in order to argue for changing that Christian belief.

-----------------------------------
YOU SAID: 'I can’t speak about modern Judaism, but in ancient Judaism, “son of god” was a messianic title.'

Let's clarify:

If at any point I am misunderstanding or misrepresenting Christian beliefs, then I apologise :)

Christianity refers to Jesus as the 'son of god' in the sense that he is that above other mortals, does it not? Do most if not all Christians not pray TO Jesus? Does the 'New Testament' not present Jesus as saying that the 'only way' to G-d is through him?

Judaism, both way back and now, describes ALL MEN as 'sons of G-d'. Any man and every man is a 'son of G-d'.

It has nothing to do with the idea of the messiah. The Jewish messiah is no more the 'son of G-d' than ANY man on earth.

---------------------------------

To conclude then :)

I think I've said it all as clearly as I possibly can. I've greatly enjoyed our exchanges but I'm also aware that we're starting to go round in circles a bit!

I WILL post on my blog, this week, the differences in material/translation/content that exist between the OT and the Tanakh.

Have you given any thought to presenting your points to Rabbi Singer? Or indeed, any other Rabbi - some of them have websites that are very good.

I think you might find a response from one of them more helpful than anything I seem able to offer in terms of explaining the Jewish view of G-d and 'maschiach'.

If you do decide to engage any Rabbi in debate, PLEASE let me know as I would LOVE to read their responses to you! I will be adding new content to http://jew-with-a-view.blogspot. this week so feel free to check in :)

One final suggestion:

I think you found my blog via Yahoo Answers? I know there are a number of Jewish people in the R&S forum there. If you wanted to post some of your points/queries there, one or two of them might possibly be able to either reinforce exactly what I've said OR come up with more satisfactory explanations!

Anyway, it's just a thought :)

Best wishes

Tabatha

 
At 7/06/2008 7:11 PM , Blogger Tabatha said...

One final point I forgot to address in my earlier post:

YOU SAID: 'But this is the problem I see. If unfaithfulness causes God to send Israel into exile in spite of the promises, and if repentance causes God to bring them back in fulfillment of the promises, then how can there be any guarantee of an everlasting kingdom of peace and prosperity? Once Judah and Israel are reunited under the messiah, what assurance is there that history won’t repeat itself? I don’t know how Jews deal with that problem.'

RESPONSE:

In Judaism, the world after the arrival of the Maschiach, is called 'Olam Ha Ba' (the world to come).

At this time, war, hatred and all forms of conflict will end. Some Jewish theologians go as far as to state that the very laws of nature themselves will change, so that predatory animals will no longer seek prey, for instance. Others disagree, and argue that this idea is just a metaphor for the messianic age being one of peace and prosperity.

One interesting point: it is believed that the law of the Jubilee will be reinstated.

And finally: there will be no sin (Zephaniah 3:13).

At this point it may also be worth noting: Judaism and Christianity do not approach the idea of 'sin' in exactly the same way.

For instance: there is no concept of 'original sin' in Judaism. We believe that all humans are born pure and innocent, and that every single person has the capacity for good, and to draw closer to G-d through, among other things, 'righteous' behaviour.

And in Judaism, we reject any notion that one human can die for the sins of another; again, this is an aspect of Christianity that has no basis nor equivalent in Judaism.

I'm aware that in these final two posts, I have not addressed every single point that you have raised. I've addressed as many as time allows, and I would encourage you to address the outstanding points either in the R&S forum at Yahoo Answers, or to post questions to any one of the Rabbis that have their own websites - if you would like some of their website addresses just let me know :)

 
At 7/06/2008 11:19 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Tabatha, I guess that's the end of our debate. Thank you very much for endulging me. I hope I didn't exasperate you. Besides my brother-in-law, you're the only Jews I've ever debated with. I'll let you know if I ever get in contact with Rabbi Singer, and I'll check in on your blog. Take care.

Sam

 
At 7/07/2008 4:31 AM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Sam,

It's been a pleasure :)

I hope, if you have time, you'll feel welcome to post any comments on the new entries in my blog; no doubt they will open up entire new areas for debate!



Until then,

Shalom :)

 
At 7/08/2008 2:32 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

He he he. This will teach me to go on vacation! Although perhaps it is better to take in the whole debate as it progressed and then reflect on a few points.

”Judaism says…”
“Christianity says…”


In normal conversation we can ferret out what the person means by these broad statements. If a person told me, “Christianity requires immersion baptism” I understand the person is talking about that particular denomination which does not sprinkle, nor have infant baptism. Most likely not a Roman Catholic. We can continue on the conversation from there.

However, if the person insists that Christianity has baptism by immersion, ONLY baptism by immersion, and ALWAYS baptism by immersion, I begin to wonder if the person is aware of the various flavors of Christianity, the debates over that very issue, and how many others call themselves Christian, yet do not.

In other words, “Christianity says ___” is normally easily understood, but when insisted upon a certain doctrine can become too dogmatic in its application.

One of the issues I see, Tabatha, is your claims of “Judaism says a Messiah would be ____” does not seem to take into account the various sects of Judaism throughout history. While I appreciate your particular brand or flavor of Judaism may lay claim to certain aspects of what a Messiah would or would not be, not all Judaism is the same. Even today we have Conservative, Moderate, Liberal and Hassidic Jews with differing sets of beliefs.

A fascinating study is in watching Christians argue over what one must explicitly believe to qualify for the title “Christian.” Does one have to hold to the Nicene Creed? Some say so. Others do not even hold to Jesus being pre-existent as a God, yet claim to be a Christian. (Causing the former to go into conniptions.) And we see the fight break out as to how a belief has varied to the point of no longer qualifying to be “Christian.”

Tabatha, you raise a good point that a Jew who believes Christ was the Messiah has probably stretched their belief to the point of no longer qualifying to be called a Jew. But aren’t there various beliefs, even within “true” Judaism, as to what the Messiah and the world to come will be? Aren’t there disagreements as what the Messiah would look like? As to what events will surround his coming? As to theological disputes as to the interpretations of the prophecies?

We see such disputes today—would there be disputes in First Century Judea? We have records of four (4) sects by Josephus. Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes and those following Judas the Galilean. The New Testament also has Herodians. The Qumran community, as pointed out by Sam, considered the possibility of two (2) Messiahs. (By the way, Sam. I follow the scholars who liken the Qumran community on its own. I am not convinced they were necessarily Essene. Irrelevant to the discussion, of course, as it merely adds one more sect of Judaism and its treatment of a Messiah.)

“Judaism would expect ____ in a Messiah when Jesus would have lived” is simply too broad of a brush. There was no set doctrine of what a Messiah would have to look like to all Jews at that point of time. Certainly we could use a similar broad brush and claim all Jews were looking for the Messiah to establish a “kingdom”—but what that kingdom looked like would depend on the individual beliefs. No possible way the Essenes would have accepted a person claiming to be Messiah through the authority of the Sadducees, for example. (The Essenes even held a different Passover day to demonstrate their separation from the Temple authority.)

The Pharisees expected a Pharisee Messiah who would establish a Pharisee kingdom. The Essenes expected an Essene Messiah who would establish an Essene kingdom. And so on. (Not to mention Samaritans, or Galileans, from a geographical standpoint.)

We also know from the writings of the time, the people were actively looking for a Messiah. Like the Dead Sea Scrolls. Or Josephus who characterized Vespasian as the Messiah. More than a passive expectation. The Temple had been restored, the Jews felt they were repressed under Roman rule—it was certainly a good time to expect a Messiah!

I think it too broad to claim Jews would have rejected a person such as Jesus as not possibly being a Messiah, since the word “Jews” covers too many beliefs.

Our knowledge of the times

In order to relate with other people, we first project our own feelings, motivations, thought processes, etc. on them. This is not a bad thing—just how we learn to relate with other people. If we meet someone, even in a foreign country, the first language we use is our own. Why? Because it is what we know!

Or if we invite a person to a restaurant, we invite them to one we like ourselves. We present material in a way convincing to us. The nice thing about interaction is how we can modify and adopt upon this interaction to account for the other person’s tastes, needs, desires, etc.

“Want to go to McDonald’s?”
“No, I don’t like their food.”

Or

“No, that is too cheap for me.”

Or

“No, too busy.”

Each of those responses, while not ruling out McDonald’s for me, gives me insight into the person and their own desires, or what motives them.

The perpetual problem with studying the First Century, is the lack of response. The lack of interaction. We can read the writings, we can view architecture, sculpture, advances, etc. But in the end, there is no person responding saying, “No, you have it wrong.” Because of that lack of response, we (naturally) project some of our own, 21st Century thoughts, motivations, etc. into the First Century. Projections which are dangerous.

While on vacation, I was happily immersed in Bruce Malina’s Commentary on Acts. Once again, I am impressed with how little our society is like that of the First Century. We do not relate to the honor/shame role. Or the client/patronage. Or limited goods. Because of these vast, vast differences, when we do project our desires, we are almost certain to get it wrong.

For example, a common polemic asked is why the priests didn’t present the body of Jesus, if it was still there. But this is completely from our experimental, demonstration view of “proof” of our time. All a person of honor had to do was say, “Didn’t happen” and this was more than sufficient proof to another person of equal honor. To listen to a rag-tag group of rebels making ridiculous claims would dangerously give it more credence (and possibly more honor) than was due. And honor gained to one’s opponent is shame to oneself.

How can we say, “The Jews would expect this ___” when we know so little about how they expect, their desires, their motivations, etc.? Nor can we claim what Jesus-followers were doing was so unexpected, so inexplicable in such an unknown.

Sam, I know you have a long enough reading list as it is, but I highly recommend Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. It will provide a whole new insight as to how different the First Century world was from our own. I would also note it is recommended by the opposite spectrum of Richard Carrier and J.P. Holding. (I figured any book praised by both of those individuals HAD to be worth a look.)

The Septuagint

Thanks for the article, Sam. Again, I would highlight the Dead Sea Scrolls (to the surprise of many scholars) align with readings from the Septuagint. Clearly this society was not Christian, and it also had more than the Torah in its writings.

I felt I was too cavalier with you, Tabatha, regarding your statement. It appears to be a misunderstanding by what one means by “The Septuagint” and there was no need for me to respond so flippantly.

What surprise is it that the First Century writers of the letters and gospels of the New Testament relied so heavily on the Septuagint? They were, after all, writing and reading in Greek. For at least the author of Mark and 1 Peter, it was their native tongue. For the persons the writings were going to, it would have been their most common language as well.

All of us here quote from English when citing the Tanakh. Why? Because it is our common tongue. In the same way, the Septuagint would be the most ready source for citations in early Christian writings.

I agree, Tabatha, that Hebrew (Tanakh) --> Greek (Septuagint) --> English (Old Testament) is a poor way to provide translation. However, I disagree this is how the Old Testament (to differentiate from the Tanakh) came into existence. The translators and textual critics certainly looked at the Septuagint, and utilized its information, but that is not the sole basis for the translation. Not by a long shot.

We all agree the original Septuagint was written closer in time to the original writings of the Tanakh. We don’t HAVE the original writings. Therefore, how it was translated is informative upon what the writings said.

To use a similar Christian example, we likewise agree a translation from Greek to Latin to English is not optimal. But we don’t disregard the Vulgate, primarily because its translation provides information about documents we don’t have—namely its Greek source!

And we look even further beyond the Septuagint. It is not as if the Torah was written at one time, and consistently stated the same words in the same positions copied down until it was translated into the Septuagint. The Torah had its individual authors providing portions, and individual editors combining portions, and presumably adding/subtracting on their own. At one time the Torah had two flood stories. Which were combined, later, by one editor.

Part of higher criticism is an attempt to determine what was written when. When was the first part of Isaiah written? When the second?

I get the feeling (and I could be wrong) there is this thought of a consistent Tanakh from its original writing through the present day, and the Septuagint was some offshoot enveloped by Christianity. This is a very inaccurate picture.

The Tanakh took time (100’s of years) to slowly come together from various writings. Part of its rich tradition was a time (Late third century BCE) in which it began to be translated to the common tongue of Greek. This allows us to have a small glimpse into how the people of that time treated the Tanakh, and their views on it. (Why, for example, did they add 100 years to many of the ancestors? Did they think there was a timing issue?)

It is a mistake to use the Septuagint as the sole source of translation of the Old Testament or the Tanakh. But it is an equal mistake to completely disregard it as well.

Signs, Miracles and Such

You indicated the Messiah would REJECT (your capitalization) miracles. I still have not seen a specific citation, either in the Tanakh or the Talmud, which demonstrates this. Yes, Deuteronomy says that others besides the Messiah can perform miracles, but says nothing about a Messiah NOT performing miracles.

Like me asking about a punt kick in soccer. You respond with a basketball rule stating one cannot kick the ball. We ask where it says the Messiah REJECTS miracles; you point out how others can do miracles.

The reason I ask, is that Paul talks of the “Jews require a sign” in 1 Cor. 1:22. Not to mention Jesus talking of not giving a sign to that generation. (Matt. 12:39, Mark 8:12, Luke 11:29) Now I am aware you don’t hold to the inspiration of the New Testament; and you may not hold to its historicity. But I do find it of significance the authors were very concerned about “signs” and attempting to attach them to Jesus.

Either the audience found it significant or the author did.

We also have Josephus listing signs and miracles foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem, and possible miracles associated with the Messiah in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Do you believe Isaiah 35 is a prophecy regarding the Messiah?

And if you think about it, a Messiah is a bit of a miracle in itself. Or are you saying this will simply naturally occur and God will have nothing to do with it?

Again, do you have a verse indicating the Messiah will not give a sign?

(And just so’s there is no confusion, I am an atheist. I have no need to prove Jesus was anything.)

 
At 7/08/2008 6:00 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Dagoods, thanks for the book recommendation. One more can never hurt. :-)

 
At 7/10/2008 8:36 PM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Hi Dagoods :)

I'll respond thoroughly to your post tomorrow, but for now just to clarify:

No, it's important to note that the various sects within Judaism ALL agree on certain core beliefs. For example: ALL Jews know that the minute they begin practising any other religion, or worshipping anyone/anything BUT G-d, they cease to be Jewish - they are now 'jewish' only in as much as they are obligated to 'repent' and return TO Judaism. The Tanakh illustrates this. I will provide the scriptural reference tomorrow.

And throughout Jewish history, the idea of 'maschiach' has always remained pretty much the same. It has always involved a normal mortal who MUST fulfill ALL the Jewish messianic prophecies BEFORE he dies. These criteria have not changed.

Within the various Jewish sects, the differences are largely down to the level of observance and also, involvement with things like Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism. Chassidic Jews are far more likely to study Kabbalah than, say, Reform Jews.

But all Rabbis and all Jews adhere to the core tenets, the most sacred one being the worship of one G-d and only one G-d.

 
At 7/10/2008 8:49 PM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Having just very swiftly read through the rest of your remarks, I will add more tomorrow but meanwhile:

I just have to correct you with regard to the Torah. You stated the opinion that with the Tanakh, it wasn't written all at one time and that parts changed.

With the TORAH, this is not the case. Jews are expressly forbidden and always have been, from adding or subtracting even ONE letter to the Torah. Any Torah manuscript that has even one tiny error, addition or subtraction, is not used. This has always been the case.

And to a large extent, I would argue that yes, I can indeed speak of what Jews way back when expected of the messiah - because it is laid out in the Tanakh. The messianic prophecies are all there; I've listed some in an earlier post, as you might have seen. All Jews, no matter which group (Pharisees, Sadducees etc) adhered to the Tanakh and thus to the messianic prophecies therein.

And no, it's certainly NOT a 'miracle' if and when the Jewish messiah arrives. On the contrary: there is a rather nice belief in Judaism that every generation has within it a potential maschiach.

With regard to the messiah and miracles: I will try and find you the specific reference from the Talmud, or 'oral Torah', which contains a tremendous amount of discussion upon all Jewish themes, rules and beliefs.

With regard to the Tanakh and the 'old testament': I can only speak from personal experience. When I've discussed religion with Christian friends in the past, they have often cited parts of the OT; but the same words often simply do not appear in the Tanakh. There is one example in particular I am thinking of and I will include it in my post tomorrow.

 
At 7/10/2008 9:18 PM , Blogger Sam said...

All Jews, no matter which group (Pharisees, Sadducees etc) adhered to the Tanakh and thus to the messianic prophecies therein.

Tabatha, it was my impression that Sudducees only ahered to the Torah, not the whole Tanakh. That's why Sadducees rejected resurrection and Pharisees accepted it. It would be interesting to find out whether Sadducees had any messianic expectations at all.

 
At 7/12/2008 4:29 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

Tabatha, I was going to wait until you had posted your information regarding the Messiah rejecting miracles. In the meantime, though, I had prepared this for your reading.

Tabatha: I just have to correct you with regard to the Torah. You stated the opinion that with the Tanakh, it wasn't written all at one time and that parts changed.

With the TORAH, this is not the case. Jews are expressly forbidden and always have been, from adding or subtracting even ONE letter to the Torah. Any Torah manuscript that has even one tiny error, addition or subtraction, is not used. This has always been the case.


I am genuinely sorry to inform you this is simply not true. I am sure the people from whom you learned this were sincere in their belief to its truth, yet a little study will reveal scholars, including Jewish scholars, have long realized this is not accurate.

How familiar are you with Textual Criticism? (I will give you a number of links within this comment.) It is the study by which we compare documents of ancient variety, view the variants contained therein, and attempt to determine what the “original” document said. (I put “original” in quotes, because it may not be possible to ever see the original. We can only go back to the most recent document we have, and scholars recognize that document most likely contains variants as well.)

We use this for New Testament studies, on Shakespeare plays, on Pythagoras, and even the Tanakh. The article I linked above makes this quote:

“Textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) mainly compares manuscript versions of the following sources:

a) Masoretic text, the Tanakh in Hebrew, 7th to 10th centuries CE, the basis of the modern Hebrew Bible, as well as of the Old Testament in many modern Christian Bibles.

b)Septuagint, the Tanakh in Greek, c 300 BCE.

c) Vulgate, the Christian Bible in Latin, early 400s CE.

d) Samaritan Pentateuch, which often agrees with the Septuagint against the Masoretic text.

e)various Syriac texts.

f)the Biblical texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, practically the only Biblical texts from before 100 CE. “

Understand if there were Torahs without errors, additions and/or subtractions, Textual criticism would not even exist. Yet it does for precisely the reason such errors, additions and/or subtractions exist, are compared, and determinations are made (not always in agreement) as to what variant was introduced, and what is the older document. What is closer to the “original.”

Ask any person who told you, “Any Torah manuscript that has even one tiny error, addition or subtraction, is not used” how they consider Textual Criticism, and what do they do about comparisons between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Masoretic Text, and I will bet they don’t even know Textual Criticism even exists. Let alone the various schools and methods used to make such comparisons.

It is simply not true there has been one sole text flowing through history. Some links to demonstrate what I mean:

An article on how Textual Criticism of Hebrew Text is utilized. (Warning. PDF File)

A list of the electronic sources of the various Codex and Manuscripts available.

(Again, notice that we have these differing texts. Which one is the person claiming was the Torah without error? Which one is the Torah without additions? Which one is the Torah without subtractions?)

And you can download an article here about oral transmission and reliability on text. As well as useful information as to the age of the texts we have.

An article discussing variant readings.

I also found a book (I have not read) regarding textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible: Tov, Emanuel. TEXTUAL CRITICISM OF THE HEBREW BIBLE. Minneapolis, Fortress Pr., 1992. 456 pp.

Tabatha, it is a lovely idea the Torah was preserved through the generations by scribes who took such care that any Torah with “additions, subtractions or errors” was not used. Yet what we practically see ARE variations within the manuscripts. Such variations could not occur, or be a matter of study, if there was this consistency as claimed.


The second problem with the claim the Torah was written all at one time is the internal evidence known as “Documentary Hypothesis.” A Basic outline of Documentary Hypothesis. Essentially it was noticed there were a number of doublets. Stories told twice. The two creation stories, two flood stories, two stories regarding Moses striking the rock. And it was equally noticed these stories disagreed in details, and each used (consistently) a different name for God.

You can read abrief history of how documentary hypothesis came into being.

What developed is the theory there were four (or more) groups of authors of the stories. At some time an editor combined these stories in what we have today. The second (more primitive) creation story was added after the first. The flood stories were intertwined. Yes, it was made to look as if it was a consistent whole—but the investigation tells the tale.

You can also read how historically various Jewish beliefs treat Documentary Hypothesis. (Warning! PDF File.)

Again, this would be a question I would ask any person claiming the Torah was written at one time—how do you explain away the Documentary Hypothesis. For an outstanding example, break out the Flood Story into the two different tales. If you start to look for it, it can quite easily be done!

Textual Criticism and Documentary Hypothesis cannot be waived away with “that is your opinion.” These are legitimate areas of study which even Jewish scholars recognize, and incorporate.

(And if one holds to the opinion the Torah was written by Moses in the 15th Century BCE, there are additional problems, such as the use of terms which would not have existed at the time of Moses, and more importantly the development of the Hebrew Language. But since those were not raised, I will leave you to this.)

Please read the links. Don’t just gloss over what I have written on these topics—there is so much more. Do your own research. I have only barely touched on skimming the surface regarding the depth of study available.

Once engaged, you will see the claim the Torah was written all at once, or has been perfectly preserved throughout history falls on its face.

 
At 7/13/2008 1:21 PM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Hello Sam and Dagoods :)

I'm going to answer all the points raised at some point this week. Prior to that, I just wanted to quickly address Sam's comments regarding ISAIAH 53:

I am very aware that many Christians interpret Isaiah 53 to be referring to Jesus. The problem is: there is no hint, let alone anything resembling 'proof', that the ‘servant of G-d’ referred to is either the Jewish messiah OR Jesus.

Indeed, one can refute the claim that it refers to Jesus very swiftly: the subject of Isaiah 53 was ill, was buried with the ‘wicked’, had offspring, and lived a long life.

Jesus does not fit any of these, let alone all of them.

For a more detailed refutation:

In genuine messianic prophecies there is always a clue that the text refers to the messiah. It will speak of a king, or a ruler, or about a descendent of King David. But there is nothing like this in Isaiah 53!

As for this ‘servant of god’ - where else in the Tanakh is the messiah EVER referred to in this way?

Answer: nowhere! Not in the entire Tanakh.

There are additional problems for the claims made by Christianity about this piece of text.

The prophet Isaiah is talking in the present/past tense; verse 3 and 4: “He is despised and rejected of men” “We hid as it were our faces from him, he was despised, and we esteemed him not” It goes on like this in the past tense up to verse ten.

This is not the way the prophets announce future events, by saying that they had already happened!

The King James Version says in verse 2: "For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant."

Future tense.

However; this is wrong. In the original text, it appears in the past tense. Compare the Revised Standard Version, it gives this verse *correctly* in the PAST tense.

When the prophet Isaiah switches to the future tense, he describes events that are not applicable to Jesus; verse 10: “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days.

But Jesus was not married - how is he going to ‘see his seed’?

So who is Isaiah referring to?

Well, we know that the name of Jacob was changed to Israel, when he had struggled with the angel in Genesis.

Isaiah 41:8: “But thou , Israel art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. Thou who I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thou from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee: Thou art my servant, I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.”
Isaiah 44:1-2; “Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant, and Israel who I have chosen. Thus said the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; fear not O Jacob my servant, and thou Jesurun whom I have chosen.”
Isaiah 44:21; “Remember these, O Jacob and Israel, for thou art my servant. I have formed thee, thou art my servant; O Israel thou shalt not be forgotten of me
Isaiah 45:4; “For Jacob, my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name.”
Isaiah 48:20; “The lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob.”
Isaiah 49:3; “And said unto me: Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

The ‘servant’ that Isaiah refers to is the people of Israel.

You might also find some interesting points about this piece of text at http://www.jewsforjudaism.com, which points out:

in verse five, rather than "he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities," the prefix "mem" means "from," not "for", i.e. the speakers of the verse hurt the servant, not that he was punished by G-d as a substitute for them. In verse 11, the Hebrew "yatsdeek" means "will make just" (by bringing the Torah), not "will justify (someone's sins by taking their punishment)."

If one reads Isaiah from Chapter 40 all the way to the end, chapter 66 it’s easy to see that Isaiah is referring to the people of Israel.

Perhaps this starts to give some indication of why I frequently refer to 'incorrect' translations of the Tanakh?

Sam - you mentioned the translation you now have. I don't know whether you mean you have it online or that you have actually purchased it. If you haven't done the latter, and you want the best translation available, I would recommend the STONE edition of the Tanakh. This is widely regarded as far more accurate. There is also a STONE edition of the Torah, on its own.

Sam - also, many thanks for your most helpful suggestions re my blog and the way I have discussed and defined 'Jewish' and 'Christian' etc. I take on board what you have said and will be making changes. Cheers :)

 
At 7/13/2008 1:33 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Tabatha, you're apparently responding to my most recent comment on your new blog entry. It's just going to cause me all kinds of confusion if we carry on that conversation in the comment section of this blog. To anybody else reading this, your comments on Isaiah 53 are going to look like they came out of nowhere. Do you plan on posting this same response in your other blog along with my comment?

 
At 7/13/2008 1:35 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Bummer. I got this translation after reading a bit and finding out that this one is the most popular. Maybe I should've asked you first. I purchased it, so I have a hard copy.

 
At 7/13/2008 2:10 PM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Sam,

Not to worry, even a less than perfect translation is going to be of some help. If you got it from somewhere where you think they might agree to exchange it, that's an option, maybe...

And yes, I'm going to post your comments on Isaiah 53 and my response, on my blog a bit later:)

 
At 7/13/2008 11:39 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Then I'll respond to you there and delete your response here to avoid confusion.

 
At 7/16/2008 7:43 PM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Hi :)

DAGOODS - just to say, I haven't forgotten your arguments about the Torah and am definitely going to respond, just haven't had time yet :) I'll post my response within the next couple of days though.

SAM - cheers for posting your comments on my blog, I've published them now. I'm going to use a page of the blog to repeat some of your points and to answer them, as I think hopefully they'll make interesting reading for other people too. I'll aim to do it tomorrow but if not, within the next few days :)

 
At 7/16/2008 9:33 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Congratulations, Tabatha! You made the 50th comment! Wahoo!

 
At 7/20/2008 4:36 PM , Blogger Tabatha said...

Sam :)


I've posted some of your most recent comments at my blog and have also answered your queries about Jewish atheists and Isaiah. And when time allows, I'm going to add answers to your other points as well.

I'm also going to post here again with a response to the points made by DAGOODS regarding the Torah.

 
At 7/20/2008 10:35 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Thanks for the update, Tabatha. :-)

 

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