Yisroel Blumenthal of yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com has taken the time to respond to one of my articles (and others) on the subject of Acts 21 and Paul. He quotes from his treatise Supplement to Contra Brown with respect to certain issues within Protestantism which I shall be responding to. This particular article won't be dealing with Paul and Acts 21 because they require another article to deal with.
I had stated the following in my first article to Mr Blumenthal with respect to contradictions:
"I think Mr Blumenthal and others will agree that the honest thing to do with any book is to read a passage within in it's context. To claim that the New Testament writers wrote contradictory messages shows that the person is unwilling to take the time to reconcile the contradictions, Besides, many more can be found in the Hebrew Bible, which can all be reconciled and the Talmud which I am sure the Rabbis have given superlative answers regarding the 63 tractates."
I raised this issue because often many will assert that Jesus taught a different doctrine to Paul or James taught a different doctrine to Paul and that this problem can be rectified by careful study and looking into these issues and the same being with the subject of the TANAKH and the Talmud. In this paper I wish to look at some of the points Blumenthal makes in his paper.
I had been meaning to do this for some time but I think now is the perfect time to do it. Let's begin.
"IV. 6. Objections 5:16 and 5:17
Here Brown focuses on some of the misquotations and contradictions that are to be found in the Christian Scriptures. Brown’s responds by demonstrating that the Jewish Scriptures and the Jewish Rabbinic writings also contain discrepancies and seeming contradictions. Brown argues that whatever methods that the adherents of Judaism utilize to resolve the contradictions found in their sacred texts should be allowed for the resolution of the discrepancies found in the Christian texts.
Brown has failed to grasp the vast difference between the respective faith structures of Judaism and Christianity.
Judaism affirms that God established the basic foundations of Judaism in the hearts of the Jewish people. The Exodus and the Sinai revelation which were experienced by the nation as a collective unit, served to establish the basic truths of Judaism in the hearts and minds of the nation. The sacred books were presented to the nation in order that their message be assimilated by the people who will read these books in light of the foundational experiences.
As it is with any written work, and especially one as lengthy as the Jewish Scriptures, there will be questions and confusion. Judaism maintains that the Divine intent was that the judges of the Jewish people arbitrate in all situations where the Scriptural guidance is not clear. The foundational concepts of Judaism will never be affected by the intricacies of the text because they are not dependant on the text. They were established in the hearts of the people independent of any text."
Brown I think was simply pointing out that there needs to be consistency when it comes to examining another religion and that uneven weights and unequal measures are not to be utilized.
In a discussion I had with Nakdimon and Gassen Duu last year, I asked for their comments on the point regarding the Sinai Revelation and other points.:
Nakdimon wrote: "Blumenthal writes: “Judaism affirms that God established the basic foundations of Judaism in the hearts of the Jewish people. The Exodus and the Sinai revelation which were experienced by the nation as a collective unit, served to establish the basic truths of Judaism in the hearts and minds of the nation. The sacred books were presented to the nation in order that their message be assimilated by the people who will read these books in light of the foundational experiences.
As it is with any written work, and especially one as lengthy as the Jewish Scriptures, there will be questions and confusion. Judaism maintains that the Divine intent was that the judges of the Jewish people arbitrate in all situations where the Scriptural guidance is not clear. The foundational concepts of Judaism will never be affected by the intricacies of the text because they are not dependant on the text. They were established in the hearts of the people independent of any text.“
What Blumenthal is writing here is just not true! It sounds all nice and dandy but this is just another romanticized, wishful thinking description of the historical events and contrary to the testimony of the Hebrew Scriptures. The basic foundations are NOT in the hearts of the Jewish people, which is evident of the rebellion of the Jewish people for centuries as soon as Moses died and even when Moses lived! In fact, that rebellion is the exact reason why God sent prophets over and over again to attempt to set the Jewish people straight. The rebellion of the Jewish people resulted in two exiles, the second being more severe than the first.
Also, the majority of the Jewish people nowadays are secular at worst, semi-religious at best and follow little to no Torah. It is the minority of the Jewish people that are religious and read the scriptures at all. But take away the Hebrew Scriptures and it is only by the grace of God that there will be any religious Jews left. So much for “the basic foundations of Judaism [being] in the hearts of the Jewish people“. Truth is that the supposed experience at Sinai died with the people in the desert, all that is left is the testimony of that experience, which we find in the Tanach. The foundational concepts of Judaism (if Judaism is to be measured by any Biblical standard) depend very much on the TEXT of the Hebrew Bible!"
Protestant Christianity, on the other hand prides itself that it does not rely upon humans for the foundation or for the transmission of their belief system. Protestants point to the texts of Scripture and declares that they only rely upon the word of God.
Without getting into the question as to who decided that these texts are indeed the word of God and upon what authority is this decision based, there are serious problems with the Protestant position. If indeed these texts are to serve as the foundation of the religion, and these texts are not meant for any specific audience (as opposed to the texts of Judaism which are meant for a specific target audience) – then who is to arbitrate when confusion arises? These confusions are not limited to peripheral issues in the Christian faith. The texts are unclear about some of the most essential issues of Christianity. This problem is severe enough when we limit our focus to the Christian Scriptures alone. But the confusions are multiplied exponentially when we throw the Jewish Scriptures into the mix."
One of the 5 Solas of Protestantism that is well known in Christian circles but is also the most misunderstood is Sola Scriptura.
Sola Scriptura teaches that the scriptures, The TANAKH and the NT, are are the final authority in all matters of faith and conduct. Protestants who know what Sola Scriptura teaches will not deny the usage of tradition. Quite to the contrary, Protestants do use tradition such as church councils, church fathers, creeds, catechisms etc, however, the tradition uttered needs to be in conformity with the scriptures themselves.
There is something called SOLO Scriptura, which does teach you can only use the Bible and no tradition period, however, this concept is foreign to the Reformers and even to those well versed in the Protestant faith. The fact that Protestant Churches have creeds in the first place means they don't deny the usage of tradition. Pastors ,Teachers, Tradition, General Revelation, the Holy Spirit and the transmission of scripture orally, arenot refuted by Sola Scriptura.
Sam Shamoun in an article on Sola Scriptura articulates what it teaches in three points:
"1. The Holy Scriptures are the sole, infallible rule of faith by virtue of it being breathed out or inspired by God. As such it is completely sufficient in and of itself to thoroughly equip Christians in all things necessary for salvation and sanctification.
2. The Bible is the only certain norm, since it is the only revelation that can be demonstrated to have come from inspired men of God. This cannot be said of oral traditions.
3. Finally, the central focus of the Scriptures is to reveal and make known the risen Lord and immortal Savior Jesus Christ, God’s eternally beloved Son, who alone grants eternal life to all who believe"
Keith Thompson has also done a comprehensive documentary refuting Catholicism and in a small snippet defines what Sola Scriptura is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t24AnKrp61o&list=UUf7UKslwT23nmUwsMMO48xw
My question to Mr Blumenthal, Didn't the Prophets call their people back to Moses? The Torah was the ultimate authority and is to the people of Israel. Also, in Rabbinic thought to the best of my knowledge the Torah stands on the highest plane of revelation so wouldn't the traditions of the Rabbis need to be tested in light of the Torah?
"The sacred texts of Christianity do not give clear direction on issues such as the alleged divinity of Jesus, on the position of the Law of Moses after the advent of Jesus, on the role of the Jewish people in the Messianic age and on many such issues that have divided the Protestant Church since its inception."
The Deity of Christ is quite clear, especially in the Book of Acts where people are praying to Jesus just as HaShem was called on by the righteous in the Genesis 4:26. I have written on this subject of the Trinity, specifically responding to Richard Merrel and Tovia Singer.
Protestants to the best of my knowledge will be in agreement that the Law of Moses as a whole doesn't apply to Gentiles and that only moral commands minus the death penalty will apply, which the NT makes very clear, especially in the letters of Paul, although Protestants are divided on the issue of the Sabbath whether it should be observed or not and the subject of tithing is also disputed.
I am aware that Seventh Day Adventists make a mountain out of a molehill about Sabbath observance but they do not take Romans 14 or Colossians 2 into consideration. But that is another issue I won't be getting into here.
"Since Protestant Christianity does not attribute any authority to a body of human judges, there is no way that these conflicts can be effectively resolved except on a person by person basis. Each reader could resolve the confusions as he or she sees fit. This leaves Christianity with the unhappy proposition of having as many Christianity’s as there are adherents."
Letting the common man resolve the confusions would not allow him to interpret as he sees fit, especially when it comes to moral prohibitions within the NT and the fact that the NT commands Christians not to focus on worldliness.
As for issues not directly addressed in scripture, The subject of playing sports, watching movies or going down the gym is up for debate.
As stated before, Sola Scriptura is not a denial of authority, what it actually does is holds the authority accountable to the Bible.
Like I said with respect to the TANAKH, the prophets called their people back to the Law of Moses by Ha Shem's command. Jesus and the apostles are the ones whom Christians are to be called back to obeying Christ and the Father on the basis of both TANAKH and NT, considering the fact the warnings of the TANAKH can make a Christian wise unto salvation. The point is the ones who wrote the scriptures are the ones we are called back to, but this doesn't mean you cannot have a second and lesser authority guiding you.
There are two other points also worth noting:
1. The "many" Christianities arise because of the FAILURE to practice Sola Scriptura, not because of using Sola Scriptura effectively.
2. Protestants are only to divide over issues that affect our salvation. Believing in the existence of a third temple, eschatology and stuff such as what food's we can eat and what day we should worship on are minor issues which don't affect a man's salvation.
"This is only where Christianity’s problems begin. When we consider the question of the trustworthiness or lack thereof of the sacred texts of Christianity the Protestant Christian can only point to the texts themselves. As opposed to Judaism where the testimony of the living nation augments the testimony of the texts and the testimony of the texts augments the testimony of the living people – Protestant Christianity only has a set of books upon which they could place their trust. How can we know if these texts were written by honest people? On what basis can we accept that the books of the Christian Scripture were authored by people who lived up to a high ethical and moral standard? Why should we judge the authors of the gospels in a favorable light if there is no outside evidence to support the thesis that these were honest and ethical people?"
I had to get clarification from Mr Blumenthal before I could answer this, he said to clarify his point:
"What I am trying to say is this: If you have a person that is reputed to be Godly, honest, kind and trustworthy and he writes something in a book that seems to be dishonest – it is appropriate to study his/her words and try to understand them in a light that would fit with everything else that we know about this person.
But if you have someone who has a reputation for the opposite – or even if he has no reputation – and such a person writes something that seems to be dishonest – why should we exert ourselves to understand his/her words in a favorable light?"
If they were dishonest, you would still test what they say, considering one is able to mix truth with error. If however they were honest people, then yes, you would try to understand what they are saying and read what they say. Aren't we supposed to judge all mans words and test them, even mine?
Gassen Duu also made the following observation: “As opposed to Judaism where the testimony of the living nation augments the testimony of the texts and the testimony of the texts augments the testimony of the living people – Protestant Christianity only has a set of books upon which they could place their trust. How can we know if these texts were written by honest people? On what basis can we accept that the books of the Christian Scripture were authored by people who lived up to a high ethical and moral standard? Why should we judge the authors of the gospels in a favorable light if there is no outside evidence to support the thesis that these were honest and ethical people?"
This is an understandable objection and for sure nothing new, at least as old as the challenge for the “testimonies of the living nation” recorded by a single person – Moses.
As Nakdimon pointed out in another conversation:” Moses was a person of high moral conduct. BUT WHERE IS THE OUTSIDE SOURCE THAT TESTIFIES TO THAT?”
The New Testament was penned by the first hand eye witnesses of Jesus and those who stayed close to the disciples of Jesus."
Let's carry on
"In the case of Judaism, we have the testimony of the nation concerning the moral and spiritual character of the Biblical authors. These men and women established their credentials in the hearts, minds, and memories of a nation appointed by God as His witnesses. If we find confusion in their writings, we have the testimony of the nation amongst whom these writers lived to reassure us that these authors were holy and trustworthy. The confirmation of a nation serves to counteract any questions that would arise from the body of the texts.
In the case of Christianity, on the other hand, the exact opposite is true. The Jewish people amongst whom these authors lived remember them in a negative light. Why should we trust these people? What is the justification to exert ourselves to straighten out the confusion that abounds in their writings? Where is the witness that will stand to counterbalance the contradictions found in the gospels?"
The apostles do not remember in a negative light every single Jew who has ever lived, only those who denied the Messiahship of Yeshua, that's it. The apostles had used the TANAKH as their foundation to demonstrate how Yeshua or Jesus fulfils the OT prophecies pertaining to the Messiah.
Not to mention some of the NT books such as the book of Hebrews were specifically written to the Jewish Christians in Rome.
The TANAKH is the foundation for both Jews and Christians, hence that is where we should start and see where the truth actually lies. We are both not interested in the Quran, the Bhagvad Gita or the Book of Mormon as our foundation, we are strictly speaking of the Judeo-Christian texts and no other texts outside them.
Hope this article helps