i. Misquoting Texts – What does Tanach really say?
The claim of Paul and the New Testament authors is that Jesus fulfilled many prophecies connected to the Hebrew Scriptures (so-called Old Testament) and a true believer will easily be able to see them. The gospel according to Matthew, in particular, attempts to cross-reference the miraculous birth, deeds and proclamations attributed to Jesus with relevant passages found in Tanach.
Closer scrutiny, however, reveals a great conspiracy and tampering of the evidence. Not one verse from Tanach proves the messiahship of Jesus. On the contrary, our Jewish sages, for two millennium have had ample time to analyze and decipher all 22,000+ verses in Tanach, and have concluded that Jesus did not fulfill any of its prophecies, nor are there any passages that unambiguously allude to his life or ministry. On the contrary, we will discover how the New Testament distorts and contorts Tanach to make it “bend” to their a priori agenda to “prove” their beliefs about Jesus. Let’s see!
In a certain way, Fundamentalist missionaries shoot the arrow in the target and then draw the bull’s eye around the arrow. In this fashion, they claim to always be correct, making the evidence conform to their foregone conclusions.
Let’s begin with a verse taken out of context (a verse out of context is a pretext):
“And he arose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt; and remained there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “Out of Egypt did I call my son.”
This passage is found in the beginning of the gospel of Matthew where we find Joseph, the husband of Mary, fleeing from Herod with his wife and infant son. The writer wants us to identify this event with a verse that seems to refer to a person called “son” – that is, to prove Jesus was called then “son of God.” Matthew also attempts to demonstrate that the passage identifies one detail of the life of Jesus – namely his exile to Egypt and eventual ascendancy from there.
Here is the passage in Tanach Matthew was trying to “latch on to” for his “proof:”
Among the major problems with Matthew’s attribution of this verse to Jesus is that in context the entire chapter in Hoshea is clearly speaking about the Jewish people as “My son.” This is a very common metaphor in Tanach, where the collective body of the Jewish people is called “God’s son,” or “first born.”
“When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”
However, despite this subterfuge by the author of Matthew, Fundamentalist Christians have no problem rationalizing this for it follows Paul’s teachings of using deception, as we mentioned earlier.
Here is another example:
“Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which being translated means, God with us.”
What is significant here is not only is this verse being taken out of context, it is also being mistranslated (more examples of this to follow). This verse is the basis for Christian theology concerning the miraculous “Virgin Birth” of Jesus. The manufacture of this myth fits a 1st Century mindset where it was very common amongst pagans to venerate their leaders as being “born of God.” It freed them from the “taint” of being conceived by “sinful” human flesh. It is also one of the main verses that attempt to prove the idea of a corporeal god and the divinity of Jesus from the translation of the name “Immanuel,” as “God with us.”
There are many problems with Matthew’s manipulation of this verse:
• How can the birth of a virgin be a sign for anyone? Only God knows the inner secrets of a person, thus, one’s virginity is ultimately a hidden matter
• The word “Immanuel” does not mean “God has become a man and walks among us” nor does it mean “God has become flesh and is with us as a man”. Such assertions contradict the word of God. According to God, he isn’t a man, as we find in (Numbers 23:19) “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”
• Matthew in cross-referencing to Tanach identifies Isaiah 7:14 as the source of this prophesy. What is the context of Isaiah’s message? Who is he addressing when he asserts “The Lord will give a sign: “behold the “Virgin” shall conceive?”
To answer these questions, let’s take a look at the passages in question:
“Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, an Almah shall conceive, and bear a son, and she shall call his name Immanuel.”
Christian translators changed the word Almah המלע, which actually means “young woman” to read “a virgin.” Any student of Tanach knows that when a prophet wishes to identify the word for virgin in Hebrew he will write “Betulah.” Accordingly, elsewhere in Tanach, when the word Almah appears, Christian translators translate it as “young woman.” In fact, the word has a male form, Elam, םלע, and it is perfectly clear from other uses in Tanach that it is impossible to render this word as virgin. For instance, Psalm 30:19 speaks of four paths:
The way of an eagle in the air
The way of a snake in the rock
The way of ship in the sea
The way of a man with an Almah
Is there any need to spell out what is “The way of a man with an Almah” in context?
Another mistranslation that stands out in this verse, deals with who is giving the name Immanuel to the baby. In the actual verse in Isaiah it clearly states that the mother will give his name, while Matthew distorts the text by saying “They shall call his name.” Why the deviation? It is obvious when we consider how Matthew is attempting to rip these verses out of context. It would support his contention that the child born is divine, for it is not his mother who identifies him as being “of the flesh of God,” rather some group (e.g. “they”) also proclaim this phenomenon.
However, the most egregious problem here is with context. Let’s take a look at what is really happening in chapter 7 of Isaiah:
“And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz, king of Judah, …that, Rezin, king of Aram, and Pekah, king of Israel, son of Remaliah, went up to attack Jerusalem, but they were not able to conquer it. When word came to the house of David that Aram was encamped in Ephraim, the heart of the king and heart of the people trembled, as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind. Then the LORD said to Isaiah: Go out to meet Ahaz…,say to him: Take care, remain tranquil and do not fear; let not your courage fail before these two stumps of smoldering brands…who are saying, “Let us go up and tear Judah asunder, make it our own by force.”
Thus says the LORD: This shall not stand, it shall not be! …Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz: Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the depths below, or high as the sky! But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!” Then he said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary men, must you also weary God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the young woman is with child, and will bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall be living on butter and honey until the time he learns to reject the bad and choose the good. Before the child learns to reject the bad and choose the good, the land of those two kings whom you dread shall be deserted.”
Isaiah 7 1-16
In context, we understand that the King of Judah, Ahaz, is in mortal fear of two armies – Aram and the Kingdom of Israel who have attacked. In order to placate his fears, God through His prophet Isaiah, reassures him that he and his kingdom will be safe. The sign of this will be that a woman (obviously known to Ahaz) will bear a child. The essence of this sign was that within a few years (the time the child will be able to discern between good and evil), Ahaz would experience the salvation from Above and be spared. If this passage was predicting the birth of Jesus, who lived 700 years after Ahaz, it makes little sense for God to comfort the poor King with tidings of his birth.