Note: Before beginning reading this article, this is not a response to Yisroel Blumenthal's papers where he responds to me on the subject of Acts 21. If the Lord Wills then that subject will be addressed in the future. But for now, we have an additional paper looking at the arguments raised by Blumenthal in his treatise "Supplement to Contra Brown".
Here in this article we shall be taking a look at some more of the points raised by Yisroel Blumenthal and it has been some time since I have written an article taking a look at what he said. As a reminder, All Biblical quotes, quotes from Brown and from Blumenthal shall be put in bold. Brown's points will be highlighted in italics as well.
One thing I will say, I agree with Blumenthal with the subject of written debates being more effective than oral in many ways, considering it puts all the issues onto the table. I find written debates much easier considering it means I can think a point over. If I consider doing oral debates again, at least I'll be better prepared. But anyway, carrying on.
"“Jesus fulfilled none of the Messianic prophecies!
To the contrary, we know that Jesus is the Messiah because he fulfilled so many Messianic prophecies.”
This is false. Christians “know” that Jesus is their Messiah because of their emotional experience. In Brown’s own life, he first had a subjective encounter with Jesus and only afterward did he learn that Jesus “fulfilled” the Messianic prophecies.
Let us examine the prophecies that Brown claims that Jesus fulfilled."
Putting aside emotional experience, what do you do, with Jews, who through looking through the scriptures, see Jesus in there, without bias or emotional experience but sought diligently to find him? Are they persuaded emotionally? or did they do an honest open study for themselves to conclude that Jesus was their Messiah? You may not consider them real Jews or you may simply think they are drawn to Jesus by emotional trauma. Don't assume every Christian believe Jesus to be the Messiah because of emotional experience. You could say that for some, but not for all.
"Brown tells us: “He was born where the prophet said he would be born (cf. Targum Jonathan, Rashi, Radak on Micha 5:2).”
The prophet says nothing about the Messiah’s birthplace (neither does the Targum, Rashi, or the Radak). The prophet spoke of the clan from which the Messiah will come. The prophet is talking about a family, not a geographical location."
I won't be commenting on Rashi or the Targum on this point. It is interesting that Blumenthal mentions that Micah is speaking about a Family or clan rather than an actual place. This I don't think would be a problem considering that David would of been in that clan and the Messiah comes from that clan. So I don't dismiss Blumenthal's point about the prophet speaking of a family. However, if the prophet is referring to a location and family in that area, More power to the Christians. Why? Because the clan would of settled in that region. Notice what the passage says, even with Blumenthal's interpretation taken into account.
"Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans[b] of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”"
"Matthew 2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”"
Let's grant for argument's sake that Bethlehem in the context is referring to a family, It would not have an impact on Jesus.
If we take the NT as a HISTORICAL record, It gives us an insight into the early opinions of the Jews themselves. It doesn't have an exhaustive record of what they believed, but it records some of the early opinions on where the Messiah would be born, what he would do etc. John 7 even records this:
"John 7:37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”[c] 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”
41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.”
Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him."
Some of the people were confused, they were convinced that the Messiah WOULD come from Bethlehem, yet some, knowing that Jesus had been raised in Galilee, were sceptical that Jesus was the Messiah. Putting aside the Messiahship of Jesus for now here, Notice the people, not just the high priests, were convinced the Prophet came from Bethlehem. Blumenthal has the right to reject this, he is free in the matter, but in the case of historical study, the NT is a reliable source that mentions Rabbinic opinion and those of the lay people. Even the Talmud records debate and discussion with respect to the Messiah. Does this mean I deny the inspiration of the NT? By no means. I do affirm the NT as God's word just as the TANAKH is.
Anyway, You still have the clan of Bethlehem residing in Judah in Jesus' day and it is clear from ancient record, that Bethlehem, the location, was a place where the Jews of Jesus' day were convinced, it was referring to the Messiah's birthplace, not just the clan he would hail from.
Now there is an objection raised by Blumenthal which he raises in Contra Brown, but this issue is for another time if the Lord Wills.
"Brown: “He performed miraculous deeds of deliverance and healing, in accordance with the prophecies of Isaiah (Isa. 35:5-7; 49:6-7; 61:1-3).”
Isaiah 35:5-7 explicitly tells us that these miracles will occur at the time of Israel’s physical restoration to the land. Isaiah 49:6-7 does not speak of miraculous healings. It speaks of God’s deliverance, which again, is associated with Israel’s physical restoration to their land. And Isaiah 61:1-3 also speaks of Israel’s physical restoration. In fact specific mention is made of comforting the mourners of Zion. These are those who yearn for Israel’s restoration and honor, not those who look forward to Israel’s embarrassment.
Brown: “He was rejected by his own people, as was prophesied (Ps. 118:22; Isa. 49:4; 53:2-4).”
Psalm 118 does not explicitly speak of the Messiah. Isaiah 49 describes the subject as a servant to rulers, not a very fitting description of Jesus. And Isaiah 53, speaks of a rejection by the kings of nations, not by the subject’s own people."
To be fair Blumenthal, no prophecy explicitly mentions the Messiah, but we can know it's Messianic by the following criteria, which Rabbi Eli Cohen of Jews4Judaism proposed when speaking of Isaiah 53:
"I'd like to start with a general principle, when it comes to any kind of teaching, any kind of doctrine, any kind of principle that we want to derive from the Torah, from the Bible. When somebody wants to come along and say that Torah teaches any particular thing, you want to look for at least two basic criteria.
1. The teaching should be clear, what do I mean by clear? What I mean by clear is that it is a passage that when the average person opens up the Bible, reads the passage, he himself identifies it as a subject you claim it is talking about. So far example: When talking about the Messiah and we open up the book of Isaiah to chapter 11 and we say that chapter 11 is talking about the Messiah. Both Jews and Christians when reading it, admit that this is clearly a passage talking about the Messiah.
Another thing we want to look for is consistency, in other words, corroboration. If you were to say that Isaiah 11 is talking about the Messiah and somebody were to come along and say "Well I don't necessarily believe this is talking about the Messiah. It talks about universal peace, it talks about a king, it talks about universal knowledge of God that will happen at the end of ages but you know what, I don't necessarily believe it talks about the Messiah that this is what the passage is coming to teach."
You want to be able to go elsewhere in the Bible for corroboration, meaning, Does anywhere else in the Bible give us a picture of a utopian age that will be an age characterized by universal peace and knowledge of God? the answer is yes. For example Jeremiah 23, Zechariah 9, Isaiah 2, there are many places and even in the Torah itself, the first 5 books of Moses you have Deuteronomy 30 which talk about a time and an age where the Jewish people will be gathered back into their land and they will prosper and they will be once again in good relationship with God, keeping all the Torah and the mitzvahs. So we want to be able to find number one passages that are clear and passages that are consistent." (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4xUzzyNYjs Rabbi Eli Cohen, Brief introduction before exploring Isaiah 53).
A very good criteria laid out by Eli Cohen if I say so myself and is indeed a helpful criteria to use. But back to Yisroel Blumenthal's point. Regarding Isaiah 49, Blumenthal doesn't give examples for how Jesus was not a servant of rulers, so I have no comments on this topic at this time. The verse in question is this:
"Isaiah 49:7 This is what the Lord says—
the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel—
to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation,
to the servant of rulers:
“Kings will see you and stand up,
princes will see and bow down,
because of the Lord, who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”".
As for Isaiah 53, Blumenthal states this:
"And Isaiah 53, speaks of a rejection by the kings of nations, not by the subject’s own people."
This is surprising, considering some Jews of today say that Isaiah 53 speaks of the righteous remnant of Israel. If that is the case, then other Israelites, who were not faithful to God would despise the righteous remnant of Israel.
Let's take that a step further, Some Jews say the Messiah and the righteous remnant suffer collectively, so there are Israelites who do reject the Messiah and the rightous remnant and despise them.
Now I have been told that Isaiah 53 is applied to the Messiah midrashic recently but that is another topic neither here nor there. The point is, the Messianic application and the historical context are both considered.
Let's also look at Isaiah 35:
"Isaiah 35 The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.
3 Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
4 say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
8 And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
wicked fools will not go about on it.
9 No lion will be there,
nor any ravenous beast;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
10 and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away."
I would argue that this section is a gradual process. While you can argue it talks about the healing and restoration of the people to the land at the same time, that's fine, but I contend that it is possible for this to be a gradual process.
Let me explain, It begins with the people coming to the land as the first act Isaiah 35:1-4. the miracles in the second act are carried out Yeshua, since the miracles he did were the hallmark of his ministry in Isaiah 35:5-6, not to mention Jesus tells some messengers in Matthew 11 and Luke 7 to report to John what is occurring in Israel.
"Luke 7:18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”
21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”"
"Matthew 11 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.[a]
2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”"
The third act is the cleansing of Israel which can be found in 8-10, which occurs at the end of days when Jesus returns to judge the quick and the dead and banish evil from the earth. Blumenthal mentions the following about Isaiah 61:1-3:
"Isaiah 61:1-3 also speaks of Israel’s physical restoration. In fact specific mention is made of comforting the mourners of Zion. These are those who yearn for Israel’s restoration and honor, not those who look forward to Israel’s embarrassment"
No question it does speak of Israel's restoration. Jesus claims in Luke 4, where he quotes from Isaiah 61:1-3, that scripture is fulfilled in him, that the Father had sent him to earth to accomplish this restoration, which he is slowly doing to this day. Not sure why Blumenthal brings up Israel's embarrassment, unless he is connecting this to Jesus' constant confrontation of the Pharisees. That is the guess I am taking.
"Brown: “He suffered before his exaltation, as the prophets declared (Psalm 22; Isa. 52:13-15; Zech. 9:9).”
Psalm 22 does not explicitly speak of the Messiah. Isaiah 53 also does not explicitly speak of the Messiah, and the exaltation described by the prophet does not fit the career of Jesus. Zechariah speaks of a king who will put an end to war and govern in a literal sense, not a person who inspired more bloodshed than any other person in history."
Jesus was not responsible for inspiring bloodshed with respect to what has happened to Jews and Gentiles outside of the church. An apostate church was responsible for the massacre and slaughter of Jews, pagans and even true Christians. With respect to Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, as I said before, no prophecy explicitly mentions the Messiah but we can know by the method that I had mentioned. This dismissal on the part of Blumenthal is not an argument.
"Brown: “He died and then rose from the dead, according to the scriptures (Isaiah 53; Psalm 16; 22).”
Isaiah 53 is not talking of the Messiah. Psalm 16 and 22 don’t speak about a resurrection, they don’t mention the Messiah either. In any case, there is no reason to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. The only people that claim to have witnessed this event were people who were already totally devoted to him. It is clear that the standard of evidence that these people would have required before believing a resurrection would not be the same as the standard of evidence that an objective bystander would require."
Psalm 22 doesn't speak of the resurrection, it speaks of Jesus' vindication and what transpired on the cross. That's the Messianic application. The historical application is David beseeching God to deliver him from his enemies. Either way, no Christian says it speaks of the resurrection. Also, to comment on the Psalm 16, David is relieved that he wasn't left and abandoned by God.
"Psalm 16:1 Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”
3 I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
4 Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
or take up their names on my lips.
5 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand."
Paul quotes this Psalm in Acts 2:
"22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[d] put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:
“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’[e]
29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’[f]
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”"
The application of Psalm 16 to Jesus by Paul in Acts 2 is this. Despite the Messiah being killed, his body did not linger in the grave as David's body did, nor would it continue to do decay. The Father did not abandon Jesus to continue to lie dead in the tomb and instead of being left in Sheol, he is restored to life. David is preserved in the historical context whereas in the Messianic application Jesus is restored to life and thus was preserved. Both men, despite their circumstances being different, were spared in their given contexts.
Now to comment in this point:
"In any case, there is no reason to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. The only people that claim to have witnessed this event were people who were already totally devoted to him. It is clear that the standard of evidence that these people would have required before believing a resurrection would not be the same as the standard of evidence that an objective bystander would require."
OK, what a interesting method, the same however can be said of Sinai. The only people that witnessed the event were the Jews and some of the Egyptians among them. You can claim that's a red herring on my part Mr Blumenthal, but think about it, the evidence for the events at Sinai for the people who witnessed it would be different for the objective bystander. Two standards of evidence for two different eras.
Yes I believe Sinai happened don't get me wrong, but I am not sure how this is an objection. One thing I can say is examine the claims of the people.
If the Lord Wills, I may consider looking at some more points, Stay Tuned.