The Testimony of Scripture
by Rabbi Yisroel Blumenthal
Sola scriptura - Solely scripture. Scripture alone and nothing else. This is the rallying cry of Protestant Christianity. Protestant Christianity accepts no divine message other than the one that they believe to be recorded in the Jewish and Christian scriptures. Consequently, Protestant Christianity rejects any component of the national Jewish tradition that is not recorded in the books of scripture.
Earlier in this work we articulated the Jew’s rejection of this position. The same medium that informed the Jew that the Jewish scripture is an authentic document also informs him that there is more to the teachings of Moses. If God expected us to accept one portion of the testimony of our ancestors, there is no reason to assume that He wants us to reject the other portion of that same testimony. Furthermore it is only by means of the unwritten teachings of Moses, that the Jewish scriptures were canonized. So the Protestant insistence on rejecting any unwritten message from God is not very rational.
The missionary activity of Protestant churchmen belies the Protestant’s loyalty to the axiom of Sola scriptura. If the missionaries truly accepted the principle of “Sola Scriptura”, their methodology would be entirely unlike the methods they actually use. If scripture is truly the only authorized divine communiqué as the missionary would have us believe, they would limit themselves to distributing copies of scripture and would do nothing more. If the principle of “Sola Scriptura” is the factual basis for Protestant Christianity, a plain reading of scripture should teach the reader everything there is to know about Christianity. All one would have to do is to pick up a copy of the scriptures, and read them from cover to cover. The fact that the missionaries find it necessary to go beyond the distribution of Bibles, tells us that they feel that something is lacking in the axiom - “Sola Scriptura.”
One who fully accepts the Protestant position, that God chose the books of scripture to transmit His message to the future generations, to the exclusion of every other medium of communication, should educate his children accordingly. He should teach his children Hebrew and Greek, and hand the child the two books of the Jewish and Christian scriptures. Any other educational tool should be forbidden. After all, the Protestant argues that God did not authorize the usage of any method to communicate His message outside of scripture.
The obvious absurdity of the aforementioned proposal brings to light one of the obvious faults of the Protestant position. If we were to take the Protestant principle “Sola Scriptura” to its logical conclusion, no one could begin a relationship with God until they have covered the 30,000 verses of the Hebrew scriptures. This is surely untrue. Scripture clearly indicates that its message is relevant to a living nation, and is certainly not limited to an elite group of scholars. It is obvious that God expects natural human interaction to play a role in the transmission of His words to the future generations.
It is not only the child who requires a human connection to help him grasp the message of scripture. The wisest scholar also requires living human interchange in order to approach the scriptures. In order to begin to comprehend scripture, one must have a working knowledge of the language of scripture. We must appreciate that language is more than a collection of words. Language in general, and the language of scripture in particular, will take an abstract and intangible concept and express it in a single word. A necessary prerequisite to comprehension of scripture is the understanding of concepts such as: God, Israel, holiness, prayer, commandment, Temple, law, prophecy, and much more. We all acquire our perception of these concepts through interaction with fellow man. The man who will read scripture without previously possessing an understanding of these concepts, has yet to be born.
Each individual society has its own perspective, and its distinct understanding of God, Holiness, law and Prophecy. These words have one meaning for the Jew, another meaning for the Christian, and yet a different connotation for the Moslem. Each society will read scripture using their own particular dictionary.
A child who was taught that the Church is the new Israel, will read scripture differently than the child who knows that Israel is the name of the Jewish people. The very nature of man tells us that each society will be reading a different scripture. (The fact that the early Protestants read the scriptures with a Catholic bias, is plain and obvious to everyone today. It never occurred to them to doubt the replacement theology of the Catholic Church although scripture is abundantly clear on this subject. Yet these people lived and died with the motto “Sola-scriptura. By her own example, Protestant Christianity demonstrates the impracticality of her own foundational principle (Sola scriptura).
The fact of the matter is that God presented the Jewish scriptures to the Jewish society. In these books God directly addresses the Jewish nation. All others who read this holy book must bear this simple fact in mind. Any non-Jew reading the Jewish scriptures is reading a record of God’s directives to the Jewish nation. The only dictionary to be used when reading this book is that of the society to whom the book is addressed - the Jewish people. The true language of scripture, is the language of the Jewish people. When scripture says the word “God”, it is referring to the Jewish concept of God. When scripture makes reference to concepts such as holiness, Temple, prayer, or Sabbath, these abstract ideas must be understood in a Jewish context. The scriptures are directed at the Jewish people, it was obviously written in their language.
The Protestant missionary would protest. The missionary would argue that one should clear his mind of all preconceived notions, and approach scripture with a blank slate. The Jew would point out that God never expected scripture to be read that way. God Himself taught the Jewish people the concept of “God” before He gave them scripture. Were the Jewish people to erase from their minds everything that God had taught them before they began to read scripture? Moses directed the nation for forty years before he gave them his Five Books. Were the Jewish people to forget all that they had learned from Moses before they began reading his books?
The Jew cannot accept the missionary approach to the Jewish scriptures. It is clear to the Jew that God expected the scriptures to be read in light of the previous teachings. Still, the Jew was always willing to meet the missionary on his own turf. The Jew saw clearly that if one were to read scripture without the benefit of the unwritten teachings of Judaism, they would still recognize the errors of Christian doctrine. As long as one manages to free oneself of Christian influence, they will find that scripture clearly supports the Jewish belief system.
In the following chapters we aim to present the scriptural evidence that supports the Jewish belief system. We will also analyze the scriptural quotations that missionaries submit in their effort to validate the Christian belief system, and the Jewish response to these arguments.
When scripture is being quoted as an arbitrator between the Jewish and Christian belief systems, it would be helpful to become acquainted with the framework of discussion. We must bear in mind that Christianity is the accuser and Judaism is the defendant. The burden of proof rests solely and squarely upon the shoulders of the missionary. If an analysis of scripture proves inconclusive, then Judaism is vindicated and Christianity is refuted. Unless the missionary presents conclusive evidence that scripture unequivocally supports every Christian doctrine, Christianity must be a false belief system. This is true for several reasons.
a. It is the missionary’s contention that scripture is the sole guide that God provided in order to teach people the doctrines of Christianity. According to the missionary, a plain reading of scripture is all that is necessary to convince someone to accept Christianity. What the missionary is in effect saying is that if one reads scripture and is not convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, there can only be two explanations. Either scripture was not read with an honest heart, or Jesus is not the Messiah. There is no middle ground. If someone honestly believes that scripture is not absolutely supportive of Christian dogma, then this person has concluded that Christian dogma must be false.
b. The status quo is with Judaism. Christianity acknowledges that before Jesus was born he was not a prophet, nor had he fulfilled any of the messianic expectations. Christianity likewise recognizes that before Jesus was crucified there was no atonement for sin through the nailing of a human body to some old boards. Judaism believes that these simple facts never changed. The fellow from Nazareth is still neither a prophet nor the Messiah, and until today there is no expiation of sin in the crucifixion of a human being. Until conclusive evidence is presented to support the argument that these facts changed, the assumption must be that they did not.
c. Judaism was here first. According to the missionary, Judaism was the forerunner of Christianity. The missionary would have us believe that God only established Judaism in order to lay the groundwork for Christianity. If this contention is true then the sole purpose of the Jewish scriptures (which the missionary claims is all there is to Judaism) is to proclaim the alleged messiah-ship of Jesus. If an honest reading of scripture reveals that scripture does nothing of the sort, then the missionary contention must be wrong.
d. If Jesus was not who the Christians claim he was, then worship of him would have to be idolatry, and loyalty to him would be loyalty to a false Messiah. Until the missionary presents conclusive evidence to support his claims, then it is immoral to commit oneself in worship to a human being. The morally correct attitude is to wait and see.
The truth is that scripture is not all that ambiguous. A plain reading of scripture will reveal that the missionary arguments have no basis in the word of God. It is not merely a matter of Christianity standing in contradiction to various isolated verses (although that would be bad enough). Reading scripture from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Chronicles will uncover that Christianity stands in violation of the major scriptural themes. Christianity runs counter to the very spirit and soul of scripture.
Our analysis of scripture will begin with the very basis of Protestant Christianity. Sola Scriptura. This principle that rejects any unwritten directive from God, has no scriptural foundation. In fact, an examination of scripture will reveal that God truly does use instruments of communication, outside of the written words of scripture.
Probably the most important difference separating Christianity from Judaism, is the Christian assertion that one Jesus of Nazareth ought to be worshiped as a god. Judaism considers the Christian deification of Jesus to be a form of idolatry. Christianity considers this same activity to be the highest moral imperative. The basis of the Jewish position is the revelation at Mt. Sinai. The revelation at Mt. Sinai revealed to the Jewish people whom it is they are to worship. At the same time the Jewish people were taught whom it is they should not be worshiping. The revelation was all-inclusive. God showed them that there is no other divine entity. “To you it was shown in order that you know that the Lord is the God in the heavens above and on the earth below, there is none else” (Deuteronomy 4:35). The fact that the Jewish people do not report seeing Jesus at Mt. Sinai, tells us that he is not deserving of worship.
Protestant Christianity refuses to rely on the Jewish nation’s report of that momentous event. The fact that the Jewish nation’s understanding of God was impacted by that event means nothing to the Christian. The Protestant rejection of the national Jewish testimony stands in direct contradiction to the words of the Jewish scriptures.
Scripture records that God directed the Jewish people – “you should make it known to your children and to your children’s children. The day that you stood before the Lord you God at Horeb (another name for Mt. Sinai)” (Deuteronomy 4:9,10). It is clear from the words of scripture that God expected the Jewish people to preserve the message of this revelation. When God talks to the later generations, He uses the revelation at Mt. Sinai as a point of reference. Scripture identifies a false god by a negative comparison to this national revelation. God uses the terms “that which I have not commanded” (Deuteronomy 17:3) or “those that your fathers did not know” (Deuteronomy 13:7) in order to make reference to a false god. God is directing the later generations that they look to their father’s testimony in order to recognize the false gods.
The words of scripture clearly testify to the fact that God uses the collective memory of the Jewish nation as a medium of communication. Scripture tells us that God trusts the testimony of the Jewish nation, and that God requires of us to do the same. The Church position that would have us ignore the testimony of the Jewish nation, is clearly refuted by the words of scripture.
The living legacy of the Jewish nation is commissioned by God not only to preserve the basic understanding of God’s oneness. God also utilizes the national Jewish testimony to deliver to the later generations many details of the Law that Moses did not record in the Five Books. It is only through the living testimony of the Jewish nation that we can understand the spirit of Sabbath, the practical application of the laws of kosher, as well as a host of other scriptural directives. Christianity refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Jewish nation’s testimony concerning any of these matters. The Church would have us believe that in the forty years Moses lived among the Jewish people, he said not a word more than was recorded in the Five Books. Again, it is the scripture that the Christians revere, that testifies to the falsity of the Christian position.
Scripture records the divine directive to observe the holiday of Passover. Any Jew who eats leaven during this seven-day holiday is threatened with the heavenly penalty of having his soul cut off from the midst of his nation. Scripture tells us that this holiday takes place, from the fourteenth day until the twenty-first day of the first month. Scripture does not tell us when this first month is supposed to begin. In fact, scripture says nothing about the construction of a calendar. If we assume, as the Church proposes, that Moses taught nothing more than the words he recorded in the Five Books, we will find ourselves facing a serious problem. How are we to know when the holiday of Passover is to begin?
Similar questions can be asked concerning most of the scriptural commandments. At what age is a person considered responsible for the practice of the Law? What exactly is meant by the term “betrothal” mentioned in Deuteronomy 22:23? What is the court procedure to be followed in a case where capital punishment is to be applied? What are the necessary qualifications required of the judges presiding over such a court, and who elects these judges? The scriptures provide no information on these matters, yet it is obvious from the words of scripture that these laws are to be observed by a living nation. Could it really be as the Christian argues? Is it possible that Moses said nothing more on these matters? How could a nation be held accountable to a Law that is so vague and ambiguous? How could people be threatened with divine penalties for violation of a Law that leaves so much unsaid?
It is quite evident that Moses did provide instructions outside of scripture’s terse terminology. Clearly Moses guided the people in the practical application of the Law. God expected that these instructions be available to the last generation. The only medium that God provided for the transmission of this information, is the living testimony of the Jewish nation. This living chain, which travels along the generations, father to son, teacher to disciple, is the means through which God elected to transport His holy Law to the end of time.
Christianity refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the rabbinical courts. The Church position is then, that no man is authorized to render judgment in matters relating to the divine directives of Moses. Scripture explicitly repudiates this Christian contention.
Chapter 17 of Deuteronomy records Moses’ injunction to the people that they consult with the judges and the priests. The verse goes on to say that the decisions of these men are to be followed. One who blatantly ignores the court’s decision is to be put to death. Chapter 19 of second Chronicles vividly describes how the righteous King Jehosaphat established courts throughout his kingdom. Jehoshaphat makes reference to two leaders to whom the judges can turn to with their questions. One of these leaders was to direct the courts in matters pertaining to the Laws of God, while the other officer guided the judges in matters relating to civil law. Scripture leaves the reader with no doubt that these men were authorized to pronounce judgment in the application of the Law of Moses.
Chapters 13 and 17 of Deuteronomy document Moses’ directives to the people in regard to idolaters. If a comprehensive investigation reveals that an individual or a community is truly guilty of idol-worship, the transgressors must then be killed. Scripture directs the entire nation to participate in the execution of these idolaters. It is obvious from the context of these passages that the guilt of these men was determined by a court of qualified judges. Still, all the people must take part in the implementation of their decision.
It is abundantly clear that not only does God authorize people to make decisions in the application of his holy Law, but God also commands His people to abide by those decisions. Scripture openly contradicts the Christian assertion that no human is authorized to render judgment in matters concerning the divine Law. The Christian position is not based on the words of scripture. Instead the Christian doctrine stands in direct conflict to the clear words of scripture.
The Jew equates worship of Jesus with idolatry. A Jew sees no room for discussion of this issue. A man cannot be God and that’s all there is to it. The missionary effort to present scriptural quotations as evidence to support his devotion to Jesus, is wasted on the Jew. God gave the Jewish people an understanding of Himself before He gave them the scriptures. The Jewish people read scripture in light of their understanding of God. It was God Himself who gave the Jewish people their conception of God, and it is through the lens of this fundamental teaching that we understand all subsequent revelation. The words of the prophets do not have the power to alter that which God Himself has taught us. The exact opposite is true. Our conception of God is the criterion by which the prophet’s words are evaluated.
God is a living reality in the Jewish world. The Jew who follows the ways of his fathers will mention God’s name more than one hundred times in a day. The ongoing relationship that the Jewish people have with God is the path through which each subsequent generation of Jews is introduced into a personal relationship with God. Jews recognize God as the Creator of all, and as the One who constantly sustains all of existence. God is all-powerful and all knowing, and it is to Him and Him alone that our devotion belongs. There is no room for devotion to any other entity, for we receive everything from God. There is no need to worship another being, because everything resides with God. The Jew is missing nothing in the worship of God, and by its very definition, nothing can be missing in the worship of God.
The missionary is not satisfied with the Jew’s worship of the God who revealed Himself at Mt. Sinai. The missionary encourages the Jew to devote himself in worship towards a fellow who died some two thousand years ago. All of the missionary’s convoluted arguments are meaningless to the Jew. If the Jewish worship of the Creator is not good enough for the missionary, then the missionary is advocating idolatry.
Since Christianity has been around for some time, worshiping Jesus while decrying idolatry, much confusion has been generated on this subject. People equate idolatry with the activity of bowing down to a clumsy wooden statue, and that is where it ends. People fail to realize that by scriptural definition, idolatry includes much more.
Idolatry consists of the adoption of an attitude of self-negation and subservience (of the type appropriate only to the Creator) toward any entity other than the Creator. This attitude of total submission toward anyone but God, or any act that expresses this submission, is idolatry. It is irrelevant if the one being worshiped is real or imaginary, a physical object or a spirit. As long as it is not the God who revealed Himself at Sinai as the only sovereign over every facet of existence - it is idolatry. It is only toward the Creator, and the One who is constantly sustaining all of existence, that one should bare his soul in recognition of total dependence. It is only toward Him that we should devote our hearts, souls, and might in the fire of all-encompassing love. And it is only toward Him that we pledge total submission and subservience, for these belong to no one else. To direct such devotion toward anyone else is the height of moral corruption.
Jewish scripture compares idolatry to adultery. Just as the adulterous woman, by giving her heart to another man, violates the very core of the relationship she shares with her husband. So it is with the idolater. By baring his soul in submission to another being, the idolater violates that aspect of his being that connects him to God. No other sin strikes at the heart of one’s relationship with God, as does idolatry. Every other sin involves the denial of connection to God. Idolatry is a violation of that sacred connection.
Idolatry is not limited to the worship of an entity that is perceived by the worshiper as independent of God. The sin of idolatry includes the worship of any being that stands as representative, or as symbolic of God. By inviting a foreign entity into the sacred realm of a soul bared in devotion to its Creator - one has polluted that devotion. Love of God should be an all-encompassing experience, an experience that leaves no part of one’s being untouched. There should be no room left for anyone else to enter into this relationship.
This concept, which prohibits the usage of another being to represent God in our devotion to Him, is clearly stated in scripture. Deuteronomy 4:15,16. “Take heed exceedingly for your souls, because you did not see any image on that day that the Lord spoke to you from the midst of the fire. Lest you corrupt yourselves and make for yourselves an idol, the image of any symbol, be it the likeness of a male or female, the likeness of any beast of the earth.” God is addressing the Jewish people. He is warning them not to use any image as a representation of the One who revealed Himself at Sinai. God is telling us, that had He wanted us to use an image to represent Him, He would have shown it to us at Sinai. God is stating in no uncertain terms that no being may be used to represent Him in our devotion. The usage of such a being is the corruption of idolatry.
Christianity’s worship of a long deceased resident of the Upper Galilee, is not worship of an image as representative of God. It is worship of a being as a god itself. According to Christian doctrine, Jesus is “co-equal” to God.
To its credit, Christendom does not deny the existence of the God of Israel. This is a source of confusion for many people. Many people equate idol-worship with denial of God. This is a mistake. Idolatry and denial of God, are two separate sins. To underscore this point, we ought to go back to the scriptural equation that idolatry is equal to adultery. A married woman, who denies that her husband exists, is certainly ignoring her relationship with her husband. But as long as she does not enter into a relationship with another man, she has not defiled the essence of her marriage. Conversely, a woman who acknowledges the fact that she is married to her husband, but does not hesitate to have relations with other men, has violated the essence of her relationship with her husband.
The same concept applies to a created being’s relationship with his Creator. It is possible to deny the Creator’s existence and not be an idolater, and it is possible to worship idols, while openly acknowledging God’s existence. The aforementioned verses (Deuteronomy 4: 15) made plain, that even if one worships any being as a representative of God, he is guilty of the sin of idolatry. How much more so is this true when one worships someone seen as “co-equal” to God? One who denies God, but doesn’t commit himself in worship to another being, is not an idolater. He is certainly sinning in the sense that he is ignoring his connection to God, but he hasn’t violated that connection. It is only the idolater, by submitting his inner being in devotion to another god, who contaminated that aspect of his being which is his connection to God. So although Christianity’s acknowledgment of God’s existence is commendable, it cannot absolve them of the guilt of idolatry.
Another confusing factor relevant to the worship of Jesus, is the fact that for many years now, Jesus was not visible in a physical sense. Many people assume that the idolatry condemned by the Bible is limited to the worship of a physical body. Since Christianity worships an invisible being, these people fail to identify it as idolatry. This too, is a mistake. When condemning idolatry, God uses the simple term “other gods” (Exodus 20:3). Worship of any being other than the One who revealed Himself at Sinai, is idolatry. It makes no difference if the idol is tangible or not. But in any case, Christianity does advocate worship of a physical body. While Jesus was still alive, Christian dogma contends that he was worthy of the worship, adoration, and devotion that is appropriate for God - worship of a physical body. Would modern day Christians picture in their minds, people prostrating themselves on the ground, in religious devotion to a human being standing there in front of them, they would find no difficulty in identifying the scene as raw paganism. Yet it is this very scene that lies at the core of Christian doctrine.
Many of the worshipers of Jesus, who sense the corruption inherent in the adoration of a mortal, take comfort in the assurance that “Jesus and the God of Israel are one and the same.” These Christians are not alone. Other idolaters also use these same empty words to justify devotion to their idols. This is true both of Buddhism and Hinduism. These idolaters and many others claim that the image they worship is the “physical incarnation” of the one true God. But these words are meaningless drivel. If the Jewish worship of the Infinite Being, who is the Creator of all, and upon whom all of creation is constantly dependant for their very existence - if worship of this God is not considered “one and the same” with worship of Jesus, Buddha, or Krishna, then how can worship of these idols be considered worship of the one true God? To illustrate the hollowness of this claim, picture the following: A woman runs off with a man who is not her husband. She justifies her action by claiming that this stranger and her husband are partners in a trinity that makes them “one and the same.” She tells us that this man is the “incarnation” of her husband. Is this not adultery?
With all of this in mind, the missionary would have us believe that scripture itself advocates worship of Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth. A perfunctory reading of scripture will reveal that idolatry is the greatest abomination in God’s eyes. The term scripture uses to identify an idol (in the context of “idol-worship”) is simply “other gods.” Other than who? - Other than the Creator of heaven and earth, other than the One whom Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob placed their trust in, other than the One who revealed Himself to the Jewish people at Sinai, other than the God of Moses, David, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. Can anything be more clear? Did these people worship Jesus? Did Jesus create the world? Was it a trinity that revealed itself at Sinai? Of-course not! So scripture is clearly telling us that belief in the trinity is paganism, and worship of Jesus is idolatry.
One of the verses that the missionaries are fond of using to deflect the heavy accusation of idolatry is found in Isaiah 55:8. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts nor are my ways your ways says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts (are higher) than your thoughts.” Missionaries teach that the message here is - that although to the human mind, worship of a person appears to be an unforgivable absurdity - one should not be so confident with the human assessment of the situation. God operates on a higher, mysterious plane. We should not be holding God to our standards of logic.
When the verse is examined in context, the irony is inescapable. The verse is not talking about the correct method of worship, nor is it discussing the true essence of God’s being. This verse is talking about repentance. As we find in Ezekiel 28:29 and 33:20, people express disbelief when the prophet presents God’s simple method of atonement for sin. Even today, people (Christian missionaries) attempt to use all sorts of semi-logical arguments to discount the efficacy of repentance as a method for atonement of sin. But God tells us - don’t judge Me by your yardstick. You may not understand how sin can be erased so completely, as if it were never committed without someone paying the price (through blood sacrifice). But that is how it is. If you repent, God assures you that He will forgive. As long as your sense of honesty is satisfied that it is indeed God speaking, then it is not for you to ask questions. God’s ways are not our ways nor are His thoughts our thoughts. That is true as far as repentance is concerned.
Conversely, when scripture does speak of the correct method of worship, it makes reference to human logic, and sometimes scripture even appeals to the human sense of humor to point out the evil of idolatry. (Jeremiah 10:11) “Tell them, gods that did not create heaven and earth should go lost from this earth and from under these heavens.” Scripture is pointing out the inherent absurdity of idol-worship. Since no one ever claimed that their idol or “god-incarnate” was the creator of heaven and earth - so get them out of here. A god that operates in an arena that he did not create, is no god. Similarly we read in Isaiah 2:22. “Cease yea of man that has breath in his nostrils, for of what worth is he.” This verse demonstrates the silliness of worshiping a human being. What worth can he have if he is dependent on a constant supply of oxygen for his own mental and physical well-being? (Daniel 5:23) “- and to the God who holds your soul in His hand, and all your ways belong to Him, you did not attribute glory.” Again we are being taught how foolish it is to direct worship towards anyone other than the One who is constantly sustaining all of existence. It is very clear that if one reads scripture in context, he will find that God expects the human mind to be able to identify idolatry. If this type of worship is an abomination to your conscience, then it is idolatry in God’s dictionary as well.
Another verse which missionaries tell us, is advocating the worship of Jesus, is the one in Psalm 2:12. In most Christian translations the verse reads as follows: “Kiss the son lest His anger flare up.” Missionaries teach, that the “son” is Jesus, and “kissing him”, means submitting oneself to him in religious worship.
The most obvious problem with this interpretation is that the translation is wrong. The Hebrew words “nashku bar” can be translated as – “embrace (or kiss) purity”, or it can read “arm yourselves with purity.” Either way the verse is telling the kings of the nations to cleanse their hearts lest God’s anger flare up. So the missionary “proof-text” simply does not exist.
But even if we were to grant that the translation “kiss the son” is correct (by assuming that the psalmist switched from Hebrew to Aramaic in mid-sentence and immediately switched back to Hebrew again), still the missionary “proof” is non-existent. For if we are to assume that the word “son” is present in this verse, it must be referring to the “son” of verse 7 in this chapter. (Where the psalmist uses the Hebrew “b’ni” as opposed to the Aramaic “bar”) The “son” spoken of in verse 7, is an earthly king who is being granted physical dominion over the nations. This king can be either David, or his descendant, the Messiah. In both cases the submission (kissing) mentioned in verse 12, is the type in which people subject themselves to the sovereignty of a human king. There is nothing in the text that tells us that the submission spoken of is the worship of a deity.
Scripture tells us that both David, and the Messiah, are granted physical dominion over nations. Concerning David the psalmist tells us (Psalm 18:48) that God subdued nations under him.
In Isaiah we read of the physical dominion that will be granted to the Jewish people in the messianic age. Isaiah 60:12 – “For that nation or kingdom which does not serve you (the Jewish people) shall go lost, those nations will be utterly destroyed.” Again in Daniel 7:27 – “and the kingdom and dominion and greatness of the kingdoms under all the heavens, will be given to the nation of exalted holy ones (the Jewish people), his (this nation’s) kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” In these verses we are being told how the Jewish people as a nation will be given dominion over all nations. Since no one attributes divinity to the Jewish nation, so submission to their sovereignty must be a simple physical submission, and not the religious worship of a god. The Messiah as the ruler of the Jewish nation in the end of days, represents the government of his people. So submission to the Messiah as spoken of in Psalm 2:12, does not mean religious devotion. It simply means that the Messiah will be given physical sovereignty over the gentile nations. In conclusion we can state that there is no honest way to read Psalm 2:12 as a license to worship anyone in a religious sense.
Aside from this verse in Psalm 2:12, not one of the missionary proof-texts can be read (even with the most biased translation) as if we were commanded to worship Jesus. This fact is extremely significant. Wherever scripture records that God demands our obedience through religious worship, the message is always very clear. For example, the term used to define idolatry in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2) is “the One who took you out of the land of Egypt.” When God commands us to fear Him, to worship Him, and to cleave to Him (Deuteronomy 10:20,21) He defines Himself as “The One who did wonders for you that your eyes have seen” (referring to the miracles that the Jewish people witnessed in Egypt, and in their sojourn through the desert). The term most often used to identify God is simply “your (possessive) God”, implying the God whom the Jewish people know and worship. When warning against idolatry, we find the idol identified with the plain description “The ones you or your fathers never knew” (Deut. 13:3,7,14). In Deuteronomy 4:35,39, 6:12,13, 8:11,14,15,16, God warns us not to forget the One who took us out of Egypt and who revealed Himself to us at Sinai. These verses are very clear and unambiguous. If we focus on those verses where God is demanding our obedience, there is no room for error. Worship of someone who did not take us out of Egypt is clearly forbidden. The Jewish attitude has always been and still remains, that in the face of a direct command from God there is no room for questions. Abraham, our forefather, set the example. When Abraham was commanded by God to bring his son as a burnt offering, there were many questions he could have asked. But God commended him for faithfully obeying God’s command (Genesis 22:18). Our duty as God’s creations demands that we do the same.
As for the texts within which missionaries see license for idolatry, these fall into several categories. One type of verse exploited by missionaries, speaks of God in an anthropomorphic sense. This means that scripture is describing God, as doing something in a manner that cannot be applied to the true essence of God. An example would be Genesis 18:21. God says; “I shall go down and see.” The omniscient and omnipresent God does not have to “go down” to “find out” what is happening. What is being taught here is that although up until now God had given the people of Sodom the freedom to do evil, God will now exact judgement for their actions. While the people of Sodom were being given free rein, scripture allegorically describes it as if God was “looking the other way.” When God comes to punish them, scripture says, “He came to see their actions.” Scripture speaks in this manner in order to help us understand God’s actions.
Missionaries point to some of these verses (including these verses in Genesis) as examples of the “physical incarnation” of God. This interpretation is the product of wishful thinking. There are many verses in scripture that speak of God in an anthropomorphic sense. Many of these can in no way be read in a literal sense, but are clearly speaking in a poetic and allegorical manner. The famous “outstretched arm” of the Exodus is but one example of this scriptural style. Another example is the verse in Isaiah (66:1) where God speaks of the heaven as His throne and the earth as His footstool. Even the missionaries admit that these verses are not to be taken literally. So we would ask a missionary, pray tell, by what textual means do you determine which particular verse is to be read literally, and which is to be read allegorically? The answer is - none. There is no clue in the text itself that will tell us if any one verse is to be taken literally or not. This arbitrary division of the verses is only dependant on the simple question - will this interpretation “prove” Christian dogma? If the answer is - yes, then presto, this becomes “the only valid interpretation.” Otherwise things are left “as is.” (That means that the general scriptural theme that God has no form is left intact, and the verse in question is understood as a figure of speech being used to describe God’s actions, not His essence.) To the Jew who has no need to insert paganism into scripture, all verses are left “as is.”
Another type of verse used by missionaries as “proof” to the concept of the “incarnation” of God, is one in which an angel speaks God’s words. (See Genesis 22:11,12 for an example.) Missionaries understand this to mean that God’s essence took on angelic form. The missionary argues that if God could take on the form of an angel, then He can assume a human form as well. But the interpretation is wrong. In all of these verses the angel is referred to by the term “mal’ach”, which means - messenger. This clearly reminds us of the subservient status of the angel, who is merely doing the bidding of its Creator. So there is no way that we can look at this angel as being “co-equal” with God. (According to Christian teaching, the physical incarnation of God, is of equal status with God.) No one ever believed that the prophet Haggai, was an “incarnation” of God. Yet the Bible tells us (Haggai 1:13) “Then Haggai the messenger (mal’ach) of the Lord, spoke in capacity of messenger to the Lord (be’mal’achus) - I am with you declares the Lord.” It is obvious that although the messenger is speaking the words of God, he does not have to become an “incarnation” of God. This missionary “proof” is no better than the others.
Yet another missionary ploy is the one that attempts to use scripture to demonstrate plurality within the essence of God. One example of this technique is the missionary reading of Hosea 1:7. The verse reads, “and I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them with the Lord their God.” Obviously, claims the missionary, the speaker intends to use the Lord to save them, so the speaker must be someone else. But from the context of the verse it is clear that God is the one speaking. The missionary argument is then that this verse demonstrates that there are different persons within the larger concept of God.
This argument only works with one who is ignorant of scriptural usage of Hebrew. In Zechariah 10:12 we find quite a similar verse. “And I will strengthen them with the Lord and in His name they shall walk - declares the Lord.” Since this verse ends with “declares the Lord”, the same name with which it began, even missionaries are forced to admit that in the beginning of the verse the Lord is speaking of Himself in the third person. In scripture we find people talking the same way. In Genesis 4:23 we have Lemech calling his wives by the title “wives of Lemech.” There is no reason to assume that God does not speak this way as well. So the verse in Hosea (and others like it) cannot honestly be used as proof to the “plurality” of God.
Missionaries exploit people’s ignorance of the Bible when they point to people who are called by God’s name. Look - they say - if this person has God’s name incorporated into his own, he must be God incarnate. Jeremiah 23:6 (talking of the Messiah) “and this is the name he will be called - the Lord is our righteousness.” Or Isaiah 9:5 (which missionaries claim is talking of the Messiah, despite the fact that the text clearly indicates that it is talking of King Hezekiah) “and this is the name he will be called - wonderful counselor, mighty God, father of eternity, prince of peace.”
To one who has no familiarity with scripture, these verses sound like solid evidence to the concept of a divine Messiah. But once one realizes that the prophet bestows the name “the Lord is our righteousness”, not only on the Messiah, but also on the city of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 33:16), then the solidity of the “proof” starts to dissipate. In Exodus 17:15 an altar is given the name “the Lord is my miracle.” The names of many scriptural personages, to whom no one attributes divinity, are very similar to these. “Mighty God” is the translation of Hezekiah. “God’s salvation” is English for Joshua. Tzurishadai (of numbers 1:6) reads “my rock, God.” These names do not reflect the divinity of these people or objects. Rather they tell us of God’s actions that were manifested, or that were hoped to be manifested, through these people. Again the missionary proof turns out to be an empty bubble that cannot withstand the test of knowledge.
There is an interesting factor which all of these proof-texts share. That is; even according to the missionaries, these texts do not point exclusively to Jesus. What these verses say according to the missionaries is that someone, or something out there may be God incarnate. So if we were to go with the missionary interpretation of scripture, any idolater could claim scriptural license for his idolatry. Yet Christians condemn the worshipers of any idol other than their own as wicked pagans. How can Christians accuse the worshipers of Krishna of idolatry? Maybe these verses are to be read as justification for the worship of the Hindu idol? In fact the Biblical concept of a religious court of law condemning an idolater to death (Deut. 17:2-7) is nullified. The defendant can always claim that the object of his devotion is the “physical incarnation” of the God of Israel. Who will be able to dispute this defense? Isn’t it solidly grounded in scripture? It is clear that these missionary proof-texts are no justification for the worship of a human. Someone, who has not already assumed the divinity of a person, will not find this pagan notion in the Jewish scriptures. The Jew always saw the Christian worship of Jesus on the one hand, and their acceptance of Jewish scripture on the other hand, as an inherent contradiction. The sense of honesty that God planted within our souls compels us to maintain a distance from this falsehood.
OBEDIENCE AND PROPHECY
It has been previously mentioned that aside from one text (Psalm 2:12), the missionaries were not able to find a verse in scripture that can be twisted to read as a commandment to worship Jesus. This holds true not only of the proof-texts that are used as support for the doctrine of the trinity, but this is a fact across the board. All of the manpower Christianity spent over the centuries combing scripture in search of support for their doctrines, could not lend it the appearance of duty. With the exception of one other text, there is no way that one can see in scripture that God demands obedience to Him through adherence to Christianity. The significance of this fact cannot be exaggerated. The entire structure of Christianity rests upon the notion that there is no remission of sin without a blood-sacrifice. (This sacrifice is accessed through devotion to their idol). But scripture clearly says that first and foremost, we should concern ourselves with obedience. The words of the prophet echo down to us through the halls of time: (I Samuel 15:22) “Has the Lord desire in burnt offerings as He desires hearkening to His voice? Behold, obedience is better than sacrifice, to hearken (to His voice is better) than the fat of rams.” The prophet is clearly warning against the Christian attitude that focuses on salvation through sacrifice at the expense of simple obedience. Since the quality of obedience is noticeably absent from Christian dogma, all the claims to the sacrificial value of faith in Jesus are quite irrelevant.
Before we examine Christianity’s claim of exclusive possession of a blood sacrifice, (and the absolute necessity of this sacrifice for the remission of sin,) we must look at the one other verse which missionaries use to provide their actions with a semblance of obedience.
Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses is speaking. “A prophet from your midst, from amongst your brothers like myself will the Lord your God set up for you - hearken to him.” This commandment, to obey the prophet, is applied by missionaries to Jesus. Missionaries claim that obedience to God requires obedience to Jesus.
The missionary will have to agree, that before we apply this commandment (to obey a prophet) to anyone, we must be sure that this person is indeed a prophet. How can we know if a claimant of prophecy is telling the truth? How does God expect us to examine the credentials of a man who died thousands of years ago?
The answer to this question is quite simple. God gave Moses the authority to decide on questions that may arise in relation to His commandments. God also instructed Moses concerning the appointment of other men, to whom the Jewish people can turn to with their questions about God’s Law. The decision of these men is binding upon the entire nation. In Deuteronomy 13:10, God tells us that the entire nation should participate in the execution of a particular lawbreaker. It is obvious that only a few qualified men were the judges who determined the guilt of this criminal. Yet all of Israel is being commanded by God to kill a man about whom they know very little. But they do know the decision of the religious authorities concerning this man. And that is enough. This is basically all we know about Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and all of the other scriptural prophets. We know that the Jewish religious leadership decided that these men were authentic prophets. And that is all we need to know. And that is all we need to know about the fellow from Nazareth. The Jewish religious leadership of his time did not recognize in him any of the qualities of an authentic prophet. If we are going to disregard the decision of these men when it comes to Jesus, then there is no reason to accept it when it comes to the prophets of Jewish scripture.
Generally the traditional Jew found no reason to examine the Christian scriptures. The same authorities that taught him that the Jewish scriptures were written with divine inspiration told him that the Christian scriptures were not. But a plain reading of the Christian scripture could help us understand why the Jewish religious authorities did not see Jesus as a real prophet.
God set down in His Law, three different criterions through which we can determine if a claim to prophecy is or is not authentic. One of these standards is that the predictions of the prophet come true (Deut. 18:22). It is not enough that some of the claimant’s predictions are fulfilled. Every last prediction must be fulfilled to the letter or else we can be sure that the man is a fraud. Luke 19:44 reports that Jesus turned to the city of Jerusalem and predicts that the enemy will not leave one stone on top of another. Tens of thousands of visitors to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount can testify that an entire wall was left untouched. Mark (13:30) tells us that Jesus predicted that; “this generation will not pass until all these words be fulfilled.” The context of the statement clearly tells us that Jesus expected “the son of man to come riding on the clouds” within the lifetime of the people he was addressing. This must have been a prominent teaching of his, because this theme is repeated quite often in the Christian scriptures. (Some examples are Thess. 4:16 and the opening and closing verses of the book of Revelations). Needless to say, this did not happen.
Another means through which we can identify a false prophet is found in Deuteronomy 13:2-6. If a prophet arises and performs signs and wonders, but he advocates the worship of a god who is not known to the Jewish people, he is to be put to death. If the Christian claim is true, that Jesus advocated devotion to himself, then he is a false prophet on this count as well. Before he was born, no one knew of him as a god. Jesus was advocating worship of a strange god.
The third standard that Moses taught through which the authenticity of a prophet can be determined, is recorded in Deuteronomy 18:20. “And (the prophet) who speaks in the name of another god shall be put to death.” Christian scripture records no instance where Jesus fulfilled this criterion of a false prophet, but the Christian scriptures clearly state that Paul fulfilled this one meticulously. Paul never claimed that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob spoke to him. All his “revelations” are spoken in the name of Jesus. Paul never claimed to have been visited by the God who revealed Himself to Moses and to the rest of the Jewish prophets. His entire claim is that he saw the man Jesus in his visions. Paul spoke in the name of a god who was a stranger (as a deity) to the Jewish people. This is very significant when we realize that most of Christian dogma is the product of these “revelations.”
It has just been demonstrated that the prophets of Christianity showed all three signs which scripture gives us to identify a false prophet. 1) Not having a prediction fulfilled. 2) Encouraging the worship of another god. 3) Speaking in the name of another god. All these were fully accomplished between Jesus and Paul.
There is still one more sign that accompanies a false prophet. This sign is not mentioned in scripture, but historically, it has always been the trademark of a fraud. A false prophet can immediately be identified by his attitude towards those who are skeptical about the authenticity of his mission. A true prophet acknowledges that his claim to prophecy should be met by healthy skepticism. (Note Exodus 4:1). Yet a false prophet never seems to grasp this simple concept. All the false prophets of history were full of words of vicious condemnation against those who doubted their claims. Conversely, these frauds showered upon their following words of blessing and praise, although they had done nothing commendable aside from joining their following. Never once does the false prophet acknowledge that the morally correct attitude toward a claimant of prophecy should be one of skepticism. A cursory reading of Christian scripture will reveal that both Jesus and Paul adequately satisfied this criterion of the false prophet.
Christianity’s claim that the commandment to obey a true prophet applies to Jesus, is without merit. The applicable commandment in his case is the commandment associated with the false prophet; “you shall not hearken to him” (Deut. 13:4). There remains no way to present scripture as demanding our obedience to God through adherence to Christianity. On the contrary, an honest reading of scripture leads one to the opposite conclusion - That following Jesus is an expression of rebellion against God. With this in mind we will approach Christianity’s claims concerning the correct method for achieving atonement for sin.
ATONEMENT AND FORGIVENESS
The central thrust of the missionary sales pitch, is the issue of atonement. In order to get someone to convert to Christianity, the missionary will attempt to convince him of the veracity of Christian doctrine as it relates to the subject of atonement.
The Protestant doctrine as it relates to atonement, can be summarized in four sentences. 1) As a result of Adam’s sin, man is inherently sinful, and is therefore damned to eternal punishment. 2) Because of man’s sinful nature, no action on his part can be counted as righteous before God. 3) The stain of sin can only be erased through a blood sacrifice. 4) The only blood sacrifice that has the power to redeem mankind from the stain of Adam’s sin, is the blood of Jesus.
We will now examine the Jewish scriptures to see what God has to say about these ideas.
The first statement that tells us about the ill effects of Adam’s sin upon the nature of his descendants, is partially supported by scripture. But let us take a closer look at what scripture teaches about this concept.
Scripture teaches that all created beings are imperfect before God. Angels, the heavens, sun, moon and stars are all impure in God’s eyes. (Job 4:17-19, 15:14-16, 25:4-6) How can the created being be justified before its maker? Man, as a created being, is also inherently imperfect. There are many verses in scripture that remind us of this concept. Missionaries often quote Ecclesiastes 7:20 “For there is no righteous one on earth who does good, and does not sin.” But there is one verse that clearly teaches this same concept, yet the missionaries seem to have forgotten about it. Job 15:14 “How can one born of a woman be righteous?”
Judaism fully acknowledges the scriptural teaching of the imperfection of man. But it is the missionaries who reject this basic concept. By claiming the “sinlessness” of Jesus, they ignore the word of God that tells us that one born of a woman can never be utterly righteous.
With Adam’s sin, sinfulness was imputed into the very fabric of human nature. As a direct result of this evil, man was cursed by God. Scripture records that God pronounced three curses upon Adam and his seed: 1) Death, 2) The pain of childbirth, 3) Having to work in order to obtain food. As long as these curses are still in effect, we can safely assume that redemption from Adam’s sin is yet to occur.
The missionary claim that as a result of Adam’s sin, everyone is damned to hell for an unlimited amount of time, has no scriptural basis (not even an imaginary one), therefore there is no need to refute it.
The Traditional Jew, who had faith in God’s word, was never impressed by the missionary’s threats of eternal hellfire. God assures us through the words of David – “And the kindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children. To those who keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them” (Psalm 103:17,18).
The other three statements that we used to summarize the Christian belief about atonement, are not compatible with scripture, and as this is the case, are not accepted by Jews. The concept that no human action can be counted as righteous before God, is as non-scriptural as it is evil. It is difficult to think of an idea that would be more contradictory to scripture. The most prevalent theme in the Jewish scriptures is that God relates to people according to their deeds, both good and bad. The sinful nature of man does not cancel out any good that we do.
God chose to save life on this planet through the handiwork of the righteous Noah. Noah’s ark, which was built by Noah’s obedient action, was the means through which God recreated the world. The message is clear. “And the righteous one is the foundation of the world” (Proverbs 10:25).
The entire narrative about the patriarchs, demonstrates, that even though we are under the curse of death still the actions of men find favor in the eyes of God. (See Genesis 26:4)
The lesson of the tabernacle is the same. The fact that the people’s dedication of their possessions, skills, and power, merited the manifestation of God’s presence, tells us how God values these expressions of love and obedience.
The very concept of blood-sacrifice, which Christianity claims as its foundation, tells us how God looks favorably at human action. A blood-sacrifice is essentially a human action that expresses submission and humility towards God. According to the Christian doctrine that has God rejecting every human action, the blood-sacrifice should be rejected as well. The fact that scripture tells us that the blood-sacrifice can play a part in the atonement process, refutes this Christian doctrine.
God points to David as an example of righteousness that others should follow (I Kings 11:38). This does not mean that he was sinless - he wasn’t. But it does mean that his sins did not nullify the good that he did.
This teaching: that God allows the righteous to reap the fruit of their deeds, (Isaiah 3:10) is rejected by the missionaries. They ask; if no man is pure before God, (“how can one born of a woman be righteous?”) then why are his actions meaningful to God? This question is an honest one, but it does not give anyone a right to rip out pages and pages of scripture. Scripture leaves no room for doubt, that in spite of man’s impurity, his righteous deeds done with sincerity, will find favor in God’s eyes. Why indeed is this so? The answer is simply because God willed it so. If a man were to live a totally righteous life, a life of total dedication to the service of God. And this man would voluntarily die a martyr’s death, for the honor of God’s name. God would still owe this man nothing. This man did not give God anything that did not already belong to God. To think otherwise is to deny the absolute sovereignty of God. So if God were to act according the strictest sense of justice, no living being is deserving of reward. But it is God’s attribute of mercy, which rewards men for obeying Him.
Missionaries claim that good deeds on the part of man must inevitably lead to pride. This being the case, human action can do nothing in the process of achieving God’s favor.
Aside from the fact that this contention is bad philosophy, it is also openly contradicted by scripture. In the book of Deuteronomy (17:18-20) God provides an antidote for the sinful tendency of haughtiness. God commands the monarch (who is obviously motivated to be arrogant) that he read the Torah. The activity of reading the Torah, will lead to fear of the Lord, which will lead to observance of the commandments. And it is observance of the commandments that will shield the king from pride. So instead of being conducive to pride, scripture tells us that performance of good deeds will lead to humility.
Missionaries (led by Paul) point to the verse in Genesis 15:6, were it is recorded that God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness. They argue that it is only Abraham’s faith that earned him the blessing of God’s favor. And (the missionary argument goes) it is only faith and not works (good deeds) which can bring upon man the grace of God.
This argument is thoroughly dishonest. First of all this verse does not say that anything else that Abraham did was not counted as righteous before God. In fact God tells us (in Genesis 18:19 and again in Gen. 26:5) that the fact that Abraham obediently did God’s will was essential in securing God’s favor. Furthermore Psalm 106:30 tells us that when Phinehas stood up and executed judgement, that God counted it to him as righteousness. The exact same expression is used in both Genesis 15:6 and Psalm 106:30. It is obvious that human action can be counted by God as righteousness as well as faith. Last but not least is the simple point that Judaism is the belief system which advocates faith in the same one whom Abraham placed his trust. It is the Jew’s faith in the words of the God of Abraham, which leads him to believe all that God has taught us. But it is the missionary who advocates faith in someone whom Abraham never heard of, that is rejecting the simple faith of Abraham.
In spite of the fact that scripture is so crystal clear on this subject, missionaries still try to bring scriptural support for this doctrine of theirs. There are two verses quoted by the missionaries in order to give themselves an appearance of being faithful to scripture. (Isaiah 64:5) “and all our righteousness (are) as filthy rags.” Missionaries say that this verse is a clear indication that God does not value our righteous deeds.
This verse is just one phrase of a long prayer of confession. In the same prayer the prophet beseeches God, “return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your inheritance”(Isaiah 63:17). The prophet is asking God to have mercy in the merit of the righteous sons of Jacob. Obviously Isaiah believed that these men were righteous before God. It is only in reference to a sinful generation, and as part of a humble confession, that Isaiah compares the righteousness of men to filthy rags.
The second verse quoted by missionaries in support of the doctrine of the worthlessness of man’s action is from Psalm 14 (repeated in Psalm 53). “The Lord looked down from the heavens upon the children of men, to see if there were any that understood, and sought God. They are all gone astray, they are all together become filthy. There is none that does good, no, not one.” again, this seems to be telling us that God can see no good in man. But the Psalm doesn’t end there. It continues - “Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? Those who eat up my people as they would eat bread, and call not upon the Lord.” It is clear, that although the Psalmist uses the general term, “the children of men”, or the word “all”, he is only talking about the “workers of iniquity”, and is clearly excluding “my people.” So we can see, that not only are these quotations being wrenched out of the general context of scripture, but they are also being taken out of their immediate context.
Let us now focus on the missionary claim, that there is no scriptural means for the remission of sin other than blood-sacrifice. The one verse cited in support of this position is Leviticus 17:11. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar for atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that atones for the soul.” (The closing phrase of this verse can also read – “for it is the blood that atones with the life that it possesses”). Missionaries tell us that this verse teaches that it is only the blood that has the power to atone for the soul. The words “for it is the blood that atones”, seem to be excluding any other means of atonement.
Let us now examine this verse in context. The passage in which we find this verse is speaking about the prohibition to ingest blood. God is telling us, that although He allowed us to eat the flesh of the animal, we are not to eat its blood. Since the blood contains the life force of the animal, it is not for us to eat. The only usage we may obtain from the blood of the animal is the expiation of sin. By putting the blood on God’s altar as an expression of submission to God, we have used the blood correctly. We have used it directly in the service of God (see also Deut. 12:20-28). Indeed, this verse teaches, that of all the parts of the animal, the only one that can effect atonement, is the blood. But does this mean that outside the realm of animal sacrifice there is no means of atonement? Certainly not! So the entire thrust of the missionary claim is without scriptural foundation.
But this verse does tell us that the blood that effects atonement, is given upon the altar. This would seem to say that blood placed anywhere else, is excluded from the atonement of which this verse speaks. Since the blood of Jesus was never placed upon the altar, it cannot be included in the blood atonement of Leviticus 17:11. (The claim, that in a figurative sense, the cross can be considered an altar, is very original. But the consequences of speaking in a “figurative sense” are, that nothing has to mean anything, and anything can mean everything. In this booklet we are trying to stick to the plain meaning of the text.) The “sacrifice” of Jesus is disqualified by the words of the very verse upon which it claims as its foundation.
The actual biblically qualified blood offering is essentially meaningless to the Christian. The animal offerings of scripture have no use to the Christian, other than serving as a crude symbol for the demise of their idol. But for the Jew, animal sacrifice is as real as it is in scripture. Jews pray every day that God reestablish this means of expressing devotion to Him. God promised that this will indeed come to pass. Isaiah (56:7 60:7), Jeremiah (33:18), Ezekiel (20:41 44:15), Zechariah (14:21), and Malachi (3:4) all predicted in no uncertain terms that God will restore the sacrificial system to its place.
This makes no sense for the Christian. If the entire system of animal sacrifice was only put there as a portent to the death of Jesus, so what need is there for animal sacrifice in the messianic era? Many Christians are shocked to learn that the sacrificial system is coming back. Some try to avoid the implications of these prophecies by making the preposterous claim that these prophecies refer to a temple of the anti-christ. This silly claim is clearly refuted by the texts. So who is the one who has faith in God’s word concerning the blood sacrifice? Is it the missionary who believes Paul when he says that the temple sacrifices never atoned for sin? (Hebrews 10:11). Or is it the Jew, who faithfully awaits the day when our offerings will be pleasing to God as in the days of old? (Malachi 3:4)
We shall now return to the missionary claim that there is no scriptural means for effecting atonement other than blood-sacrifice. This claim flies in the face of scripture. Even within the sacrificial system there are methods of achieving atonement without the use of blood. The verses in Leviticus 5:11-13, tell us that in some instances a flour offering can take the place of an animal offering and bring about remission from sin. In Numbers 17:12, we see Aaron using an offering of incense to gain forgiveness for the sins of the Jewish people.
But atonement is not limited to the sacrificial system at all. Repentance, turning back to God, is what God desires from us. Repentance is what wipes the slate clean. God’s promise to the sinner who turns back to Him with a sincere heart, is that none of his sins will be remembered (Ezekiel 33:16). All the other scriptural methods of atonement (blood-sacrifice, prayer, and charity,) are only part of the general framework of repentance. Time and time again, the prophets remind us that the path to God is repentance. Some of the scriptural references are: Isaiah 55:7, Ezekiel 18:21-23, 33:10-20, and the book of Jonah. All of these passages tell us how God does not spurn a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:19). None of these passages say a word about the “necessity” of blood-sacrifice in order for God to grant forgiveness. The story of Nineveh, as recorded in the book of Jonah, tells us how the sinful people of that city repented, and God accepted their repentance even though it was not accompanied by a blood-sacrifice. Chapter 33 in the book of Ezekiel, is placed amongst other prophecies which were spoken after the destruction of the Temple - when the Jewish people were no longer able to bring animal offerings, yet God assures the people that their repentance will be accepted.
In Deuteronomy 30:1-10, Moses assures us that when the Jewish people repent, God will bring them out of their exile, and restore them to the Land of Israel. This means that even when we are in exile, and without the means of bringing a blood-sacrifice, God will accept our repentance. Moses describes the repentance as “doing all that I (Moses) command you today”, which clearly tells us that repentance does not include the worship of someone who Moses never commanded us to worship. As a result of our repentance, Moses tells us that God will circumcise our hearts, in order that we may indeed love the Lord with all our hearts. This implies that the repentance will take place at a time when we are still stained with sin, and therefore unable to fully love God. But our repentance will nevertheless still be accepted. God knows our weaknesses (Psalm 103:8-14), and He is “good and forgiving, and abundant in kindness to all that call out to Him” (Psalm 86:5).
As an expression of a repentant heart, prayer, can bring about forgiveness for sin (Psalm 107, Proverbs 15:8, I Kings 8:46-50, II Chronicles 7:14). Truth, justice, and charity, also work atonement for sin (Micah 6:6-8, Proverbs 16:6, Daniel 4:24, see Jeremiah 9:23, and compare to Hosea 6:7). The verses in Micah are especially significant, because they tell us that all that God requires from us, is justice, loving-kindness, and walking humbly with God - nothing else is necessary. Some of the more dishonest Christian translations of the Bible simply do not translate all the words in the Hebrew, in order to avoid the implications of these verses. But “the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). All of the energy, which the missionary exerts in his effort to nullify the clear message of scripture, is for naught.
There is yet another detail in the larger picture of atonement as spoken of in scripture, and that is, suffering. Scripture teaches that suffering has the ability to purify a person, thus bringing him closer to God. (Some of the scriptural references are, Deut.8:16, Isaiah 48:10, Psalm 105:19, and Psalm 107) The refinement that is brought about through affliction, effects atonement for sin. Refinement through suffering is stated as being the purpose of Israel’s exile, Leviticus 26:41, (compare to Psalm 107:12) Jeremiah 10:24, and 30:11. The Hebrew word “mussar” means both suffering and instruction, highlighting this scriptural lesson, that suffering is a means of refinement.
Another scriptural theme related to this subject, is the concept that God sometimes uses the righteousness of a few, to counter the iniquity of many. Ten righteous men in the city of Sodom, would have prevented the destruction of that sinful city (Genesis 18:32). Had Jerusalem produced one man of integrity, its sins would have been forgiven (Jeremiah 5:1). The merit of the righteous patriarchs, causes God to have mercy upon their descendants, despite their sins (Lev.26:42, II Kings 13:23). The righteous David protected the city of Jerusalem centuries after his death (II Kings 20:6). The righteous prayer of Moses and the holy zeal of Phinehas, stayed God’s wrath, and atoned for the nation (Psalm 106:23,30). This does not mean that an individual sinner can save himself from the consequences of his actions simply because he has a righteous neighbor. Scripture is very clear, that each person must account for his own actions before God (Ezekiel 18:20). But what this does mean is that when God judges a community as a whole, and the evil of one segment of the community calls for God’s judgement, the righteousness of a few members of this community may stay God’s hand.
In some instances the righteous people on their own merit are not worthy of countering the wickedness of the many. It is only after their refinement through suffering that they can rise to tilt the scale toward a favorable judgement. This gives us an understanding as to why Ezekiel had to suffer in order to be able to bear the iniquity of his people (Ezekiel 4:4). His affliction brought him to a level of righteousness that God deemed worthy of balancing the sins of the nation.
The same applies to the servant of the Lord (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). The righteous among the Jewish people, (those worthy of the title “servant of the Lord”) atone for the sins of the world through their suffering. When God judges the world as a community, these are the people that stay his anger. These are the “ten righteous men within the city” that save it from destruction.
The missionary failure to understand these scriptural concepts, has led him not only to misinterpret the passage in Isaiah 53, but ironically contributed to the fulfillment of this passage. Some missionaries use the traditional Christian approach to prove the “truth” of their religion. Look - they say - look at the awesome suffering which is the lot of the Jew. Is not the only explanation possible for this measure of pain - that they committed the ultimate sin of rejecting the “messiah”? Why else would they be chosen to suffer so much? This is a direct fulfillment of the verse, “and we considered him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4). When God will ultimately reveal his glory upon the Jewish people, as He so clearly promised (Isaiah 52:10, 60:1), then the nations will realize that their evaluation of Jewish suffering was wrong. It was not because they were more sinful than the other nations that they suffered so much. But because as the true son of God (Ex. 4:22), they were chosen to suffer. Proverbs 3:12, “for he whom the Lord loves does He reprove, and as a father accepts with pleasure (the submission of his) son.” When the Jewish people will look back at their history of affliction, and see the purpose and benefit of all their troubles, they will actually thank God for their suffering (Isaiah 12:11). But the gentile nations, who saw in Israel’s suffering a reason to despise them, will shamefully admit their mistake (Isaiah 52:15 Micah 7:10).
Missionaries claim that the Jewish scriptures proclaim the messiah-ship of Jesus. Before we analyze those particular verses within which missionaries see support to their doctrine, we must acquire the broad picture that the prophets painted of the messianic age.
The messianic era will be marked by the ingathering of the Jewish exile (Deut. 30:3, Isaiah 11:12, 40:11, 43:5,6, 49:12,18,22, 60:4, 66:20, Jeremiah 3:18, 30:3, 31:7, 32:37, Ezekiel 11:17, 20:41, 34:13, 36:24, 37:21), the rebuilding of the temple (Isaiah 2:2, 60:7, Jeremiah 33:18, Ezekiel 37:26, 43:7, 44:15, Micah 4:1), observance of the Law (Deut. 30:10, Jeremiah 31:32, Ezekiel 11:20, 36:27, 37:24, 44:23,24), universal peace (Isaiah 2:4, 65:25, Jeremiah 33:9,16, Ezekiel 34:25,28, 37:26, Hosea 2:20), and universal knowledge of God (Isaiah 11:9, 45:23, 54:13, 66:18,19,23, Jeremiah 3:17, 31:33, Ezekiel 38:23, Zephaniah 3:9, Zechariah 8:20-23, 14:16).
When we focus on Israel’s relationship with God in this epoch, we find Israel reaping the reward of their suffering throughout a long and torturous exile (Isaiah 12:1, 40:2, 51:17-23, 60:10,15,16, 61:3,7, 66:10-12, Jeremiah 30:11, Micah 7:8,9), Israel’s vindication in the eyes of the nations which scorned and persecuted them (Isaiah 41:11, 49:23,25,26, 60:10-14, 61:6,9, Jeremiah 30:16, Ezekiel 37:28, 39:25-29, Joel 4:2,16,17, Micah 7:10,16,17, Zephaniah 3:20), and their total reconciliation to God, to the degree that they become the channel through which God’s light flows to the nations (Isaiah 52:10, 60:1,2,3,19,20, 61:11, 62:11,2, Jeremiah 33:8,9).
The individual man, the Messiah, is compared to King David (Jeremiah 30:9, Ezekiel 34:23,24, 37:24,25). David, who on the one hand was granted dominion over the enemies of his nation, the mighty warrior through whom God gives victory to his people. Yet on the other hand - the humble servant of the Lord, in whose pure words of prayer all of mankind finds expression for their submission to God. No one else in all of scripture has his yearnings and inner emotions exposed, as does David in the book of Psalms. And none of the billions of people who ever experienced the joy of existing, not one of them has his words quoted as often in prayer to the Creator of all existence.
The Messiah, like David his ancestor, and even more so, will lead all of mankind in their acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty. His own submission towards God will be both the catalyst, and vehicle of expression for the rest of humanity to submit themselves to the absolute dominion of God.
Not only does the scriptural depiction of the messianic era fail to support the Christian viewpoint, it openly contradicts it. What the prophets teach us about God’s purpose for the messianic era (in effect teaching us the end purpose for all of history, because the messianic era is the culmination of God’s plan throughout history), not only do these teachings leave no place for Christian dogma, but we can see how the prophets yearned for the day when the minds of men will be cleansed from such error.
The prophets looked forward to a time when all of humanity will be united in worship of the God of the Jews (Zephaniah 3:9). They hoped for a world in which the central expression of mankind’s submission to God is the service preformed in the third temple, by the Aaronic priests (Ezekiel 44:15, Zechariah 14:16). A world in which God’s presence is manifest in the midst of the Jewish people, in order that the nations know “that I the Lord do sanctify Israel when My sanctuary shall be in their midst forever” (Ezekiel 37:28). A world in which former monarchs bow low to the Jewish people “in order that you know that I am the Lord and those that hope to Me will not be shamed” (Isaiah 49:23). A world in which the Law of Moses is faithfully observed (Deut. 30:10) under the direction of the Aaronic priests (Ezekiel 44:23,24). A Messiah prince who brings a sin offering for himself, leading the people with his own submission to God (Ezekiel 45:22).
What does all this mean to a Christian? Is this what the Christian yearns and hopes for? Are the worshipers of Jesus hoping for a day when the only one being worshiped is the God of Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah? Are the Christians waiting for a day when the descendants of Israel’s tormentors will bow low to the Jewish people, and those that despised them will prostrate themselves at the Jew’s feet? (Isaiah 60:14). Are the Christians looking forward to the time when God’s light is revealed upon the downtrodden and persecuted nation, and all the nations will walk by that light? (Isaiah 60:1-3). Do Christians consider these events the end purpose of history as do the prophets of scripture? Of-course not! So where does the missionary find the audacity to claim that these scriptures support their crooked doctrine?
For the traditional Jew, who was aware of these lengthy scriptural descriptions of the messianic era - Christianity did not have a fighting chance. Even if one wouldn’t see the obvious flaws in the Christian interpretation of the particular proof-texts, still those individual verses would not have the strength to overturn all of these unambiguous passages in scripture. If one does not know the true interpretation of the passage in Isaiah 53, the honest thing to do is to say “I don’t know what it means” rather than assume that this chapter stands in contradiction to the rest of scripture. But the truth is that those verses which missionaries quote to support their claims, cannot honestly be seen as supportive to these claims. In some instances these very same verses openly contradict their assertions.
Let us take Isaiah 53, the firm favorite of most missionaries. It is the one text that Christian scripture claims, actually convinced someone to join Christianity (Acts 8:30-36). Missionaries feel that it is only intellectual dishonesty that prevents people from seeing Jesus in the verses of this passage.
The truth is quite the opposite. If there is one chapter in scripture which tells us that Jesus is not the Messiah, it is this one. The argument as to whether the subject of the passage, is the individual Messiah, or the righteous community - is totally irrelevant to the discussion at hand. What everyone admits is that these verses are Messianic in the sense that they have as yet not been fulfilled, but will be fulfilled in the final messianic era. The central theme of this passage is that when the arm of the Lord will ultimately be revealed upon His servant (either the righteous community, or the Messiah), the onlookers (the kings of nations) will be astonished. Most of the passage is devoted to the shocked expression of these onlookers. “Look”, they say, “upon whom is it that God’s arm is revealed? We always considered him despicable, sub-human. We thought his suffering was a sign of God’s displeasure with him. But now we see that his suffering served the purpose of balancing our wickedness.” These are the words of shock and surprise that the kings of nations will speak when they finally discover the identity of the true servant of God.
If there is one man in all of history that cannot fit this description - it must be one Jesus of Nazareth. There is no one who would provoke less astonishment, if they were to be identified as the servant of God. Aside from the billion plus Christians who would be quite astonished if this did not happen, you have close to a billion Moslems who consider this man a legitimate prophet, so they are not going to say “we despised him.” Most of the rest of the world has no negative opinion of Jesus. The only ones who do not have a positive picture of Jesus are the traditional Jews. But the Jews are not the ones speaking in this passage, the ones doing the talking are the kings of the nations. Furthermore, the Jews never rejected Jesus because they considered him sub-human or despicable. They rejected him because they realized that he was not the deity that he claimed to be. We reject Jesus because the philosophy taught in his name is evil and contrary to God’s perfect law. Others rejected him because of the evil done in his name. So in no way can this passage be read as a reference to Jesus. On the contrary, this passage clearly tells us that Jesus will not be the one upon whom God’s arm is ultimately revealed.
There are other texts in the Jewish scriptures that the missionaries use as “proof” to their version of Messiah’s role. Christians would admit that some of these verses are not actually proof to their claims. To qualify as proof, a text would have to have no honest interpretation other than the one it is supposedly proving. These texts, (of which we speak now) all have a simple interpretation that has nothing to do with Jesus or Christianity. It is just that the missionaries feel that aside from the plain meaning of the verse, there is an allegorical message being imparted to the reader.
A typical example of such a verse is the one in Isaiah 7:14. The prophet is telling King Achaz that the young woman will give birth to a child in the immediate future. This takes place some 700 years before the inception of Christianity. Missionaries tell us that this verse is also hinting at the alleged virgin birth of Jesus. But this interpretation is not founded on anything more than the missionary’s wishful imagination. When we find such texts quoted in missionary tracts, as “proof” to the messiah ship of Jesus, the only thing proven is the dishonesty of the missionary.
Another missionary technique is the exploitation of scriptural passages that are written in a semi-poetic style. These difficult passages can only be fully understood after a thorough examination of the entire context of the said passage. Missionaries take a phrase or a verse out of such a passage, tag on their own interpretation, (which can in no way stand up to any level of scrutiny) and serve it as “your Bible says it.” The traditional Jew was not taken in by the missionary’s deceptive tactics. The Jew always saw the scriptures as an integral unit, and its message is very clear. (As of the time of this writing) The real Messiah is yet to come, and with his arrival all falsehood will be eradicated from the minds of men.
In the following paragraphs we hope to present an analysis of certain scriptural passages that were not directly addressed in the previous chapters. It must be stated that such a study cannot presume to take the place of a complete analysis of scripture. In order to “get the message” of scripture, one ought to study the book from beginning to end.
Over the years many people have abandoned Christianity in favor of Judaism solely because they saw how Christianity stands in contradiction to the scriptures it claims to revere. These people were not approached by Jewish agents attempting to persuade them to abandon Christianity. These people were rank and file Christians, some were members of the clergy, who were reading scripture with no particular inclination towards Judaism. They realized that scripture plainly contradicts many of the basic themes of Christian dogma. These people were thus encouraged to abandon the pagan doctrines of the Church. I have had the privilege of meeting some of these people in person. I learned of others through reading their autobiographical works.
Although the missionaries claim that there are Jews who abandon Judaism based on a simple reading of scripture, I have not been able to verify that such a person ever existed. All of the many Jews I have met who have abandoned Judaism, were persuaded to do so by missionary agents. I have yet to meet the person who converted to Christianity solely because of an innocent reading of scripture.
There is no question that a general reading of scripture lends no support to the missionary position. The following paragraphs will demonstrate that even those particular verses that the missionaries utilize as “proof-texts” to support Christianity, cannot honestly be used as such.
“The staff shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh arrives, and his will be an assembly of nations.”
Missionaries quote this verse in an effort to prove the alleged messiah-ship of Jesus. The missionary argues that this verse predicts that the tribe of Judah will not lose political power until the coming of the Messiah (Shiloh). Since the tribe of Judah no longer possesses any political power, the Messiah must have already arrived.
The fallacies of this argument are manifold. It is obvious (and missionaries agree) that the Messiah is to come from the tribe of Judah. The prediction contained within this verse is that even unto the coming of the Messiah, Judah’s descendants will occupy positions of leadership. This does not mean that with the coming of the Messiah, this will cease to be. On the contrary, Judah’s descendant, the Messiah, will occupy a most prominent position of leadership.
Now we must ask ourselves if Jesus was from the tribe of Judah? If Jesus had no human father - as the Christians claim, then the answer is clearly - no. (According to an ancient Jewish tradition, Jesus’ was fathered by a gentile.) The last chapter of the book of Numbers makes it abundantly clear, that tribal lineage follows the father. If Jesus’ father was not from the tribe of Judah, then Jesus did not belong to the tribe of Judah. If Jesus was not from the tribe of Judah, then this verse itself tells us that he was not the Messiah.
Furthermore, it must be acknowledged that long before Jesus arrived on the scene, the tribe of Judah had ceased to produce political leaders. With the death of King Zedekiah, (five centuries before the birth of Jesus) the political scepter of leadership departed from the tribe of Judah. This fact does not negate the prophecy of Jacob. It is understood that the terms “rod” and “lawgiver” can apply within the limited sense of internal Jewish leadership, as opposed to political leadership in the international sense. Although the Jewish people lost their independence to the Babylonian conquerors, the rod had still not departed from Judah. Since the Jewish nation retained their national identity, they still looked to their own leaders for guidance on internal matters. In every generation since the Babylonian invasion, many of the Jewish leaders were from the tribe of Judah. This fact holds true until today, thus Jacob’s prophecy is still being fulfilled.
“For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us, and the government was upon his shoulder, and he called his name – wonderful counselor, mighty God, father unto (eternity), prince of peace.”
The missionary interpretation jumps out of this excerpt from scripture. Who can this child be? Why would a human child be entitled with divine names if he was not in fact divine? The missionaries argue that the child of this verse, can only be Jesus of Nazareth.
The most prominent problem with the missionary rendition of this verse in Isaiah, is that it flies in the face of the context of this verse. But before we get to context, let us examine the words of the verse itself. The prophet is speaking of a child having been born, in the past. Can this be a reference to Jesus who was born several centuries after Isaiah spoke these words? Isaiah speaks of “government.” Did Jesus “govern” in any sense of the word? In what way can Jesus be considered a “wonderful counselor”? In what way did Jesus earn the title “mighty God”? Jesus’ career did not produce any demonstrations of wondrous counsel, nor was it an expression of strength in any manner. These would not be the titles given to Jesus. In fact the Christians who worship Jesus as a deity do not refer to him as a wonderful counselor or as a mighty God (unless they are paraphrasing this particular verse in Isaiah). Christians do not call Jesus a “father.” On the contrary, he is called a “son.” So without resorting to the context of the verse, we can see how the missionary interpretation is problematic, at best.
When we examine the verse in context, the missionary interpretation disappears. The passage in which this verse appears talks of a military threat being miraculously eliminated, namely the threat of the Assyrian king Sennacherib. Verse 3 (of chapter 9) of the passage talks of the yoke of his (the nation’s) burden and the rod of her oppressor being broken as on the day of Midian. The “day of Midian” was when God miraculously put an army of multitudes to flight before Gideon’s small band of 300 (Judges 6 and 7). This is a clear parallel to the miraculous annihilation of Sennacherib’s troops (as described in chapters 37 of Isaiah, 19 of second Kings, and 32 of second Chronicles). The various phrases in this passage are repeated over and over again in the book of Isaiah as reference to the destruction of Sennacherib’s army. The expressions “yoke” and ‘burden” (9:3) are used in 14:25 with a direct reference to Assyria’ army being broken. The expressions “staff” and “rod” (9:3), can be found in 10:5,24,27, and 30:31, clearly talking of this same event. The reference to Midian (9:3) is repeated in 10:26 in relation to Sennacherib’s destruction. The concept of “burning” as a description of this miracle (9:4), is mentioned in 10:16,17 and again in 30:31 and 31:9 as a description of the death of Sennacherib’s soldiers. The concept of “counsel” (9:5) is used in 14:26,27 to speak of this miracle. The words “mighty God” (9:5), are repeated in 10:21 to describe Israel’s return to God after this amazing event. The words “zeal of the Lord of Hosts” is repeated in 37:32 in direct reference to this miraculous event. There are many more cross references from this passage to the various passages that speak of Sennacherib’s destruction, but these can be used as a starting point in understanding this passage.
It is only by disregarding the context of the verse, and with no respect for the spirit of scripture that the missionary can wrench the words out of context and use them as a reference to a pagan concept with no foundation in scripture.
So what is the meaning of this enigmatic passage? Who is the child that is deserving of all of these divine names?
There are several Jewish interpretations offered to explain this verse, but they all recognize that the verse is speaking of Hezekiah’s salvation from the threat of Sennacherib. The words “he called his name” can be read in three different ways. 1) That the following phrases are all names of the child (this is how the Christians read the verse). 2) That the phrases following the introduction (“he called his name”) are descriptions of the one doing the calling. 3) The concept of calling a name is not being used in its literal sense, but rather in a metaphoric sense as in Ruth 4:11, where the phrase “and call a name” is used to mean - making a mark, or leaving a memory. According to this interpretation the phrases are not names of the child or of the name-giver. Rather these describe concepts that people will associate with the memory of the child. All of these interpretations conform with the grammatical structure of the verse, and the Jewish commentators may utilize any of the three readings (or a combination of these explanations) of this introductory phrase.
Assuming that the names are titles of the child, one Jewish commentator offers the following interpretation. The child will be called “The Mighty God, Father unto eternity and Prince of peace is planning a wonder.” In other words, the child’s name is a complete sentence describing God’s action. Another interpretation in keeping with this reading of the introductory phrase ascribes all of these titles to Hezekiah, but changes the translation. Hezekiah was a wonderful counselor to his people. The words “e-l gibbor”, generally translate as “mighty God”, but they could just as easily mean “mighty warrior”, with no reference to divinity. In fact the same expression “el gibbor” is found in Ezekiel 32:21 (in the plural form) and the context makes it obvious that the reference is to humans with no connection to divine strength. “Avi ad” is generally translated as “father of eternity”, but that is not the literal meaning of the words. The literal translation is “father unto” or “father until”, with the implication of “father unto eternity.” Some would argue that Hezekiah’s personal life reflected God’s control over time, for he merited two miracles that violated the natural laws of time (Isaiah 38). Others would say that the translation is incorrect, but rather it should read “father of spoils”, which is an apt description of Hezekiah’s victory over Sennacherib. And Hezekiah was indeed a prince of peace, as Isaiah prophesied (39:8).
The oldest Jewish commentary (Targum – which probably predates the advent of Christianity) explains that the first three titles in the verse are those of the One giving the name, while the name given to the child is “prince of peace.” So God is the wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and Father unto (eternity), while Hezekiah is the prince of peace.
The spirit of the verse, is that the child will somehow be a cause for the salvation of the Jewish people from the oppression of Sennacherib. Indeed, Hezekiah’s prayer was the catalyst for God’s intervention on behalf of His people (Isaiah 37:21, 2Kings 19:20). Isaiah is comforting his people. Although Achaz (Hezekiah’s father) was evil, but his child was holy and righteous. In the merit of this holy child, who bore upon his shoulders the government of his people, the nation could hope to survive the onslaught of Sennacherib and his hordes.
ISAIAH 52:13 – 53:12
“Behold My servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted, and lofty, and be very high. Just as many were astonished at you; saying, Surely his visage is too marred to be that of man, and his form to be that of the sons of men. So shall he scatter many nations, regarding him will kings shut their mouths, for that which they had not been told they shall see, and that which they had not heard shall they perceive. Who would have believed our report, and upon whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he grew up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground, he had neither form nor comeliness, and when we saw him, he had no countenance that we should desire him. Despised and disassociated from men, a man of pains and acquainted with sickness, and as one from whom we hid our face, despised, and we esteemed him not. Indeed, it was our sickness that he bore, and our pains did he endure, and we had deemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. And he was violated from our sins, crushed from our iniquities, and the pains of our peace were upon him, and with his wounds we were healed. All of us as sheep have gone astray, each man to his own way did we turn, and the Lord has met him with the sins of all of us. Oppressed and persecuted, and he opens not his mouth, like a sheep dragged to slaughter, and as an ewe mute before her shearers, and he opens not his mouth. From imprisonment and judgment he was taken, and who can tell of his generation, for he was cut off from the land of the living, from the sins of my nation were they smitten. And he placed his grave with the wicked and with the wealthy in his deaths, for no violence that he had done, nor for deception that was in his mouth. And it was the Lord’s desire to crush him with sickness, if his soul shall consider herself guilty he shall see seed and prolong his days, and the desire of the Lord shall succeed in his hand. From the toil of his soul, he hall see, he shall be satiated, with his knowledge shall my servant render righteous justice for many, and their sins shall he bear. Therefore I shall give him a portion with the great, and with the mighty shall he divide spoils, for he has poured his soul unto death and was reckoned amongst sinners, and he bore the sins of many, and for the transgressors he shall pray.”
This is the famous “suffering servant” passage.
“- and they will look to me concerning the one who was pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall be in bitterness over him as one is in bitterness over a firstborn.”
The missionary interpretation of this section of the verse has Jesus as the “one who was pierced” and the mourning described, is the Jewish embarrassment upon discovering that their rejection of him was unjustified.
This interpretation fails for several reasons. Firstly, the mourning is described as the mourning for a lost child, and not as a cry of shame. (For a scriptural description of an admission of shame, see Micha 7:7-17.)
Secondly, the missionary interpretation ignores the context of the verse. The chapter in Zechariah in which this verse is found, speaks of the siege of Jerusalem. The prophet describes how the nations will besiege Jerusalem, but they will not succeed. The prophet describes how a Jewish contingent in the besieging army will do battle against the nations that have come to besiege Jerusalem. The Jewish warriors will succeed, and the nations besieging Jerusalem will be destroyed. In this context, there will be a great mourning for the “one who was pierced.”
The Talmud (Succah 52a) understands that this verse is a reference to the death of a Messiah from the tribe of Joseph. This leader who successfully led the Jewish people in battle against their enemies, will fall at the hands of the nations. At the time of the ultimate victory (under the leadership of Messiah from the lineage of David) the people will mourn for the loss of their former leader. They fact that their leader had died in battle will generate a spirit of repentance and turning back to God. Thus the prophet declares in the name of God that the people will look to me (God) on account of the one that was pierced.
This is obviously parallel to the first events of David’s monarchy. The first activity that David engaged in as King of his people, was to mourn for Saul. In fact the only two people in scripture who died through piercing, and were mourned, are Saul and the unspecified person in this verse in Zechariah. Although David (and his descendant the Messiah) is the ultimate leader chosen by God to guide the nation, the Davidic Kings recognize the sacrifice of the leaders that preceded them and that laid the groundwork for their kingship. Their first act as leader of their people is to mourn for the those who suffered and died before they reached that ultimate victory.
DANIEL 9:24 - 27
“Seventy weeks have been decreed upon your people and upon your holy city to end the transgression, and to complete iniquity, and to expiate sin, and to bring everlasting righteousness, and to seal vision and prophet, and to anoint holy of holies. And you will know and understand from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem until anointed (a) leader, (is) seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks it will return and be built square and moat and in the travails of times. And following the sixty-two weeks (an) anointed (one) will be cut off and he has not, and the city and the sanctuary will be destroyed by the nation of the leader that comes, and his end will be with a torrent, and until the end wars it is decreed desolation. He will strengthen (a) covenant with many (for) one week, and (for) a half week he will abolish sacrifice and meal offering and upon the wing (of) abominations desolation and until extermination as decreed will be poured out upon (the) desolation.”
Before we begin with the various interpretations of this passage, it would be in order to clarify a few points. Both Christians and Jews understand that the seventy weeks of this passage, refer to sets of seven years. Scripture uses this term of reference in relation to the Sabbatical year mentioned in Leviticus 25:8. Christians and Jews likewise agree that the time period of the seventy weeks, generally parallels the Second Temple era. There are several Christian variations of the interpretation of these ambiguous verses, as well as several Jewish interpretations. We will try to provide a synopsis of both the Jewish and Christian interpretations. (Some Christian scholars agree to the Jewish understanding of the passage, we will be presenting a synopsis of those Christian interpretations that see this passage as a reference to Jesus.)
According to the missionaries, the seventy weeks began towards the beginning of the Second Temple era. The missionaries understand the verse that speaks of the coming of an anointed leader is to be read as follows – from the going forth of the word … until anointed leader is seven and sixty-two weeks. In other words, the anointed leader comes after sixty-nine weeks. For the missionary the rest of the verse is disconnected from the beginning. Thus the phrase “it will return and be built …” stands alone. The anointed one to be cut off after the sixty-two weeks is the same one who came after the sixty-nine weeks. Thus the anointed one is Jesus, and these verses refer to his arrival and death. The introductory verse to this passage, describing the ending of sin and the completion of iniquity is understood to be a description of Jesus’ purpose and mission.
The closing verse in this passage is understood by missionaries to be a reference to the seventieth week. There is disagreement amongst missionaries concerning this seventieth week. All of the missionaries understand that it is disconnected from the sixty-nine weeks. The question is, when will it, or was it, fulfilled. One group understands that the seventieth week was fulfilled with the destruction of the Temple, forty years after Jesus’ death. Others understand that the seventieth week will be fulfilled immediately before Jesus’ anticipated second coming.
This interpretation (or these interpretations) fails for several reasons. Most obvious, is the fact that the verse clearly implies that the cutting off of the anointed one is to occur together with the destruction of the city and the sanctuary, after sixty-two weeks. Jesus died several decades before the Romans sacked Jerusalem.
Another problem with the missionary interpretation of this passage is the fact that the passage speaks of two separate anointed ones. The first “anointed leader” is to come after seven weeks, with the second anointed to be cut off after sixty-two weeks. The missionary interpretation ignores this clear implication of the verse, and provides no reason why the sixty-nine week period should be subdivided into seven and sixty-two.
Furthermore, the missionary interpretation does not explain the main point of the passage. By inserting a space into the seventy weeks (either several decades or several thousand years), there is nothing special about these seventy weeks. They do not measure any particular time, nor do they accomplish anything unique. The missionary understanding of this passage can be compared to someone who tells his friend, “it is 50 miles from New York to Los Angeles.” When questioned by his friend about the accuracy of his statement, the fellow responds, “- well I’m sure you realize that there is a large gap between the forty-ninth and fiftieth miles.” In other words the original statement was meaningless.
According to the Jewish commentators, the seventy weeks are contiguous. They end with the destruction of the Temple and the sacking of Jerusalem. The seventy weeks are divided into two periods, the first consisting of seven weeks, with the second consisting of sixty-two. The seventieth week is split between these two periods. The understanding of this interpretation can be compared to the following situation. We are told that the distance between point A and point C is fifty miles. Then we are told that the distance between point A and point B is four miles, while the distance between B and C is forty-five miles. In reality, point B is four and a half miles from point A, and forty-five and a half miles from point C, but we understand that the fractions are being rounded off. The closing verse that speaks of the one week, refers to the last of the sixty-two weeks, and describes the events of that seven-year period.
In order to understand the purpose of the seventy-week period, we must focus on the context of this passage and on the only other passage in scripture that uses the term of weeks to describe sets of seven years. The chapter opens with Daniel contemplating the prophecy of Jeremiah. The Temple was destroyed, the city of Jerusalem was in ruins, and Jeremiah had prophesied that after a seventy-year period Jerusalem would be restored. According to Daniel’s calculations Jeremiah’s seventy years had passed, and the city was still in ruins. Daniel prayed that God have compassion upon His people, and restore the city and the Temple.
In response to Daniel’s prayer God dispatches the angel Gabriel. The passage quoted above, was Gabriel’s response to the prayer of Daniel. Gabriel was telling Daniel that he had misunderstood two separate points. Firstly he had miscalculated the seventy years predicted by Jeremiah. This is the meaning of the phrase “you will know and understand from the going forth of the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.” In other words, Daniel had not understood when it is that the word to rebuild Jerusalem actually went forth, and now he should reevaluate his calculations. Daniel had assumed that the seventy years predicted by Jeremiah began with the first Babylonian invasion, in which the Jews lost their independence to Nebuchadnezzar. In reality he was to count from the third and final Babylonian invasion, when the city and Temple were actually destroyed. Thus the angel tells him that the “word” (of God through Jeremiah) was related to the rebuilding of the city, therefore it was to begin with the destruction of the same.
The second point that the angel clarified to Daniel, was that the rebuilding of the Temple was not going to be final, the Temple was going to be destroyed again. Daniel had been hoping that the prophecies of all the prophets were going to be fulfilled in their entirety, and God will come to dwell amongst His people as in the days of Moses and Solomon. This was not to be. Gabriel told Daniel, that his nation must undergo a purging process of seventy weeks, and only then can the sin begin to be expiated as well as the process of ushering in eternal righteousness. First the nation and the land must make expiation for the particular sin of neglecting the Sabbath of the land. It is for this reason that angel speaks of groups of seven years as “weeks.” This serves as a pointer to the passage in Leviticus in which we are told that the land must undergo a purging period for the expiation of this particular sin. Only after this process is complete, can the national purging process begin, the process that will refine the nation and bring them to the anointing of holy of holies, and everlasting righteousness – according to the visions of the prophets.
The two “anointed ones” that Gabriel makes reference to, are Cyrus – the Persian monarch, and the last high priest to serve in the Second Temple. From the going forth of the word until Cyrus, whom Isaiah (45:1) had already identified as the anointed one who will restore the city, will be seven full weeks. This will be followed by sixty-two weeks of the city being rebuilt, but in troubled times (not as Daniel had hoped.) After the sixty-two weeks the high priest would be cut off without any continuity and the city will be destroyed. When Ezekiel prophecies about the restored high-priesthood in the Third Temple, he tells us that it will not be a continuation of the corrupt Sadducee high-priesthood. Rather, the priests who did not stray from God will serve in the Third Temple, and they will teach the people the Laws of God.
According to the Jewish interpretation, Gabriel’s words are a direct answer to Daniel’s prayer. Daniel had assumed that with the completion of Jeremiah’s seventy years, all of the Messianic prophecies will come to fruition. The main point of Gabriel’s words are that seventy weeks of years were decreed upon Daniel’s people and upon his city, before the Messianic prophecies can begin to be fulfilled. The seventy-week period is the thrust of Gabriel’s message, as the passage clearly implies.
One final point about this prophecy; According to the missionary, the seventy weeks were not decreed “upon your people and upon your holy city.” The seventy weeks are particular components in time that have no direct bearing upon the Jewish people or Jerusalem. In fact the entire Christian vision of the Messiah, negates the people whom Daniel considered his own, as well as the city that Daniel considered holy. An unbiased reading of the Jewish scriptures will reveal that the entire focus of the Messianic vision is upon the Jews whom Daniel considered his own, and upon the city that Daniel considered holy.
©2006 Yisroel Blumenthal. All rights reserved.
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