Friday, 14 February 2014

Comments on School X and Y

Yisroel Blumenthal has written an article called the School of Matthew in response to Tzahi Shapira of Ahavat Ammi Ministries. However, What I want to look at is the prologue of Blumenthal's paper, I will not be looking at the points that he raises to Shapira nor will I look at what Shapira has said in the School of Matthew that Blumenthal seeks to respond to, nor is this an article defending Shapira or his claims he makes in his book. In fact to be honest I won't be defending Shapira's book in this article and I'd much rather look at the Rabbinic Literature for myself.

With that out of the way, let's get started.

"Imagine two schools of medicine. Let us call them “x” and “y”. Each of these schools has their own approach to medicine and each of these schools puts forth students who put their respective school’s theories into practice. As you probably guessed, these two schools disagree on many elements of the study and practice of healing people. Disagree is actually too mild of a word. Each of these schools earnestly believes that the other school is not teaching medicine, but murder.

One day, the faculty of school “x” admits that they have made a mistake. Not just a one-time mistake but a mistake that had continuously been taught as truth for years and years. Not just a minor mistake, but an error about one of the fundamental concepts of medicine. Let us say that they had been teaching that the liver and the heart are useless organs. May I remind you that the members of “y” had been preaching for years that the liver and the heart are vital organs – but the members of “x” have always disregarded the opinion of school “y”.

At this point you would expect the members of school “x” to do some soul searching. They should ask themselves how this error came to be preached as truth? What fundamental flaw in their system allowed this error to be perpetuated for years on end? What prevented them from realizing their mistake for so long? Why could they not appreciate the inherent truth of school “y’s” teaching concerning the heart and the liver?

Imagine if the members of school “x” do none of the above. Instead they continue teaching whatever they have taught up until now – without even fully rearranging their medical theories to fit with the “newfound” truths that they learned about the heart and the liver.

Would you begin to take them seriously?

The meaning of this parable should be apparent. School “x” is Christianity while school “y” is Judaism. The mistake that many Christians have admitted to is that their teaching of “replacement theology” – which insists that the Church has replaced Israel – is an error. Let us pause to understand the depth of this error. Israel is the second most important word in the Jewish Scriptures after God. Reading the Bible with an incorrect understanding of the word “Israel” is as bad as reading a book about the earth’s climate without knowing what the word “cold” means. You would expect that the various schools of Christian theologians who have now come to realize the error should pause and take stock. They should ask themselves what lead them to this error. They should ask themselves what flaws are inherent in their system that allowed this error to be perpetuated for so long. They should ask themselves why they could not hear the truth inherent in the claim of the Jewish people when they asserted that Israel is Israel and not the Church.

Finally – you would expect them to open their ears just a little bit when the same Jewish people are arguing that God is God and not Jesus.

Is that asking too much?"

It depends on whether a belief is in accordance with the scriptures. As Christians are beginning to realise, replacement theology is bogus to put it mildly. One point is this, Jesus said to his disciples that there would be a great apostasy before his return, let's read.

"9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."

Jesus predicted that there would be a great apostasy in which many supposed Christians will fall away from Christ, renounce him and follow strange doctrines of demons.

Revivals happen within Christian circles and there are individuals who recognise that error is being allowed to flourish and either stay to correct the problem or leave. Such happened in the Reformation and even beyond that, especially breaking away from the Roman Catholic church.

If a person continues to believe in heresy even after receiving the truth, there is something wrong. A false teacher usually comes in bringing SOME elements of truth, mixed with poisonous error and sometimes it takes a while for a person to come along to refute the error.

It's not Christianity as a system that's the problem that false doctrine arises, it's the people in it's circles.

"Introduction

Christianity asserts that Jesus was the Messiah predicted by the prophets of Israel. This assertion has been rejected by the Jewish people, the disciples and followers of the very prophets whose prophecies Jesus allegedly fulfilled. The fact that so many people accept the claims of the Church does not intimidate the Jew. The simple truth is that Jesus is not the Messiah predicted by the Jewish prophets and that’s all there is to it.

All the Jew needed to do was to look out the window to know that the Messiah hadn’t arrived (as of the time of this writing). The prophets taught that when the Messiah comes the world will be filled with knowledge of God, the exiles of Israel will be gathered back to the land, the Jerusalem Temple will be rebuilt and all of mankind will live in peace (Isaiah 11:9; Ezekiel 37:21,27; Isaiah 2:4). As long as these have not happened then we can be sure that the Messiah who Isaiah and Ezekiel had hoped for is not here yet.

If a Jew was curious and wondered what it was that convinced so many Christians that Jesus was indeed the Messiah he would look to the basic texts of the Church."

The statement that "The simple truth is that Jesus is not the Messiah predicted by the Jewish prophets and that’s all there is to it" is an astonishing statement that's for sure. I don't want to dive into to much detail but the Messiah had to come twice, first to deal with sin then bring in the kingdom. I am sure Blumenthal and I would not want to continue living in a world of death.

The knowledge of God is coming to the earth slowly, with the advent of the Gospel being taken to all the nations but the subject of the restoration of the Jewish people to the land of Israel fully will occur in the second coming. As for who builds the temple, that's an issue I need to look into, but if you want to mention the subject of the temple, you could argue that the Messiah has emissaries to build the temple. Again, I need to look into the issue before making further comments.

"What would the Jew expect to find? Since Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah because he supposedly fulfilled the prophecies of the Jewish prophets then the Jew would anticipate that the Christian Scriptures would present some record of the fulfillment of these prophecies. Because we are dealing with foundational matters of faith the Jew would expect that the Scriptural arguments presented by the Christian authors be direct and to the point. Just as Scripture puts forth the foundations of the Jewish faith with force and clarity so would we expect that any important message of faith be presented with the same forcefulness.

The Jew would open the book of Matthew with this expectation in his heart and begin reading. And the Jew would be sorely disappointed. There are so many errors in the first two chapters of Matthew alone that it would be difficult for the Jew to read any further.

Matthew presents Jechoniah as the son of Josiah when in fact he was his grandson (Matthew 1:11 – 2Kings 24:6). Matthew claims that Isaiah 7:14 foretold the virgin birth of Jesus when Isaiah says nothing about a virgin and when read in context, it is clear that Isaiah’s prophecy should have been fulfilled many centuries before the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:23). Matthew translates the Hebrew word “al’fei” as if it said “alufei”. The former means a clan while the latter means a chief (Matthew 2:6 – Micah 5:1 (2). Matthew claims that Jesus fulfilled the prediction of Hosea 11:1 when in actuality Hosea is not making a prediction at all (he is speaking of a past event) and he is referring to the people of Israel and not to the Messiah (Matthew 2:15). Matthew goes on to quote Jeremiah in reference to a massacre of babies when Jeremiah was actually speaking about a nation in exile (Matthew 2:17,18 – Jeremiah 31:14 (15). The kicker is Matthew 2:23. Matthew tells us that Jesus went to live in Nazareth in order to fulfill the prophecy; “he will be called a Nazarene”. There is no such prophecy.

At this point the Jew would put down the book. It is clear to the Jew that to the author of Matthew, words have no meaning. The concept of context seems to be beyond him. And fantasy and fact seem to be completely interchangeable in the mind of this author.

To a Jew who is already holding the book of Matthew in his hands I would say; don’t close the book just yet."

I have written on Jeconiah's curse as well as Hosea 11:1 and Isaiah 7:14:
http://answering-judaism.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/rabbinic-dilemma-101.html

http://answering-judaism.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/an-addendum-to-rabbinic-dilemma-101.html

http://answering-judaism.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/rabbinic-dilemma-101-revisited.html

http://answering-judaism.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/taken-out-of-context.html

http://answering-judaism.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/micah-52-taken-out-of-context.html (Note the Hebrew that is raised in the School of Matthew is not my focus).

It is quite possible that Jeremiah when speaking of the people in exile may have also spoken of those exile's families in danger and God later comforts them and reassures them that they will have descendents despite their misfortune and that's the parallel that Matthew is drawing on within the context of his book.

As for Matthew 2:23, I would encourage you guys to read the following article on Answering Islam: http://www.answering-islam.org/BibleCom/mt2-23.html

"Turn to chapter 23. If you want to know how the Christian world looks at Judaism read that chapter. You can talk till you are blue in the face. You can show them all the sacred texts of Judaism. You can present all of the saintliness of our holiest men and women. It won’t help you. Matthew has already convinced the world of Christendom that Judaism is a legalistic, hypocritical, haughty and cruel religion. The pages of history are soaked with the effects of Matthew’s slander.

This is what a Jew sees when he reads the book of Matthew."

Christians won't deny the sacred texts of Judaism and while you can point to the saintliness of your holiest men and women, you need to know what righteousness is required to enter the Kingdom, namely the righteousness of God is something which I believe is absolutely important, considering the exhortation to "Be holy as I am holy" put forth by God.

Also, Matthew did not condemn all Jews to hell, but rather the religious hypocrites among the people.

"Now that the Jew has closed the book the question that comes to mind is how did anyone believe this man? Why wasn’t this book laughed out of town as soon as it appeared?

Many people would answer this question by postulating that the masses accepted Matthew’s book simply because they wanted to believe. Their desire to believe in the message of Christianity blinded them to the mistakes that abound between the covers of Matthew’s book."

It is implied in the statement although Blumenthal can correct me if I am mistaken, there appears to be a claim that Matthew's claims were accepted simply on the basis of some emotional tether.

Matthew as he wrote the Gospel is counting on his audience to know what the TANAKH is saying, specifically his Jewish readers. He is counting on them to check his claims and see if they are consistent with the TANAKH itself.

Furthermore if other Jews raised the issues to Messianics in the first century, they could sit down and tackle the problems that are being raised.

"I wouldn’t be so cynical. I believe that people are essentially good and they want to believe in the goodness and trustworthiness of other people. It is hard for people to accept that someone would be so irresponsible that they would mislead others in matters of faith. When a book is presented as a sophisticated piece of work people tend to believe that that is exactly what it is."

This would be a case of innocent until proven guilty. Not much for me to comment on since this can be applied to many works.

"This misplaced faith in Matthew put down the foundations of many universities. Throughout the centuries scholars have diligently studied the writings of Matthew and have invented fantastic theories to explain away the errors that plague his book. But the underlying theme of all of these excuses is the belief presented by Dr. Michael Brown in his multi-volume Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. Dr. Brown tells us that the authors of the Christian Scriptures; “were sometimes writing to Jews who knew their Scriptures well. To manufacture, misquote, or misinterpret verses from the Tanach would be absolutely self-defeating” (Answering Jewish Objections vol. 4; pg. 3).

This misplaced faith in the sophistication and the good intentions of people like Matthew laid the groundwork for centuries of crookedness. For many years the Church has taught that the Jewish people were no longer the chosen nation of God. Many Christians recognize that this belief is unbiblical. But how many Christians have paused to take stock and to ask themselves how it is that so many scholars of Christendom were able to make such a grievous error?"

So when trying to deal with the subject of Matthew, the scholars are guilty of inventing "fantastic theories to explain away the errors that plague his book". Or maybe Mr Blumenthal they are trying their best to reconcile the supposed contradictions of the book. If the NT writers were guilty of delibrate misquotation of the TANAKH then they would have a problem. But what is wrong with the writers trying to reconcile the "contradictions" in their book and to dismiss them as "fantastic theories".... Well I don't know quite how to describe it. Referring to them as fantastic theories without tackling the objections doesn't prove them to be theories.

"For many dark centuries hatred of Jews and a disdain for Judaism was considered an integral part of the Christian faith. Since the atrocities of the holocaust many Churches have renounced hatred of Jews (the disdain for Judaism is still quite popular). But how many Christians have stopped to ask themselves how this error came to be so deeply embedded in their theology?

A building that stands on a crooked foundation cannot be straight. A theology that is erected on the assumption that Matthew was sophisticated and responsible cannot be free of serious error. And wherever Matthew is respected then his methods and his errors will not only be perpetuated but they will breed new errors and more irresponsibility. And not only will these errors not be laughed out of town but they will be adorned with honor and respect."

Christians realising they had been mistaken in harbouring hatred toward the Jews is not an automatic refutation of Matthew. Realising that Replacement Theology is poisonous error doesn't mean that Matthew was guilty of teaching it, but rather it means that Christians are realising that they had misunderstood the words of Matthew and are seeking to get back to what he said. It is not the NT that is guilty of Anti-Semitism but rather people misunderstanding or misrepresenting the text have caused these errors to be perpetuated.

I leave all to judge my words, including Mr Blumenthal.

Answering Judaism.

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