Monday 10 February 2014

Examination of some arguments raised by "Supplement to Contra Brown" 9

Here are some more arguments by Yisroel Blumenthal which I am going to be taking a look in this article.

"IV. 8. Objection 5.20

Here Brown revisits the charge that the Christian Scriptures are an anti-Semitic document. In response to this charge, he provides us with a synopsis of his arguments recorded in Volume 1. I have responded at length to his points in my critique of volume 1, I refer the reader to that article. I will however take this opportunity to reiterate one of the salient points.

Brown compares the Christian Scripture’s criticism of the Jewish people to the criticism uttered by the prophets in the Jewish Scriptures. This comparison reveals the moral bankruptcy of Brown’s belief system.

The criticism recorded in the Jewish Scriptures is internally directed. These books were written for the very people at whom the criticism was directed. These books were treasured and preserved by the very people who were criticized and castigated by the authors of these books. The Jewish people read these criticisms as words of rebuke and correction directed at them.

The criticism recorded in the Christian Scriptures is the moral opposite of the criticism recorded in the Jewish Scriptures. The Christian Scriptures direct their criticism at a people who stand outside the sphere of their readership. The intended audience of the Christian Scriptures, the followers of Jesus, read these harsh words as a character assassination of their theological opponents. Historically, the Christian Scriptures “taught” mankind that the Jewish people are the devil incarnate and that Judaism is the religion of the devil. This concept is the invention of the Christian Scriptures. Even today, when this concept is losing popularity, still, the criticisms of the Pharisees recorded in the Christian Scriptures are utilized by Church theologians to paint a negative picture of Jews and Judaism."

I have looked into whether or not the NT is Anti-Semitic and have responded to Uri Yosef on this particular subject.

Although the NT condemns the Pharisees, there isn't character assassination of them, the NT is giving it's readers a description of the attitude the Pharisees had towards their traditions and that Jesus CONDEMNED them for their manmade traditions and their hypocrisy. Also, I have already said about the reference in John 8:44 the following:

"The Jews who were speaking to Jesus are Jews who believed in him, supposedly. However, as Jesus speaks, he reveals their heart's attitude towards him, Once again, this is referring to specific Jews in a given context, he is not saying ALL Jews are of the devil, he is condemning a particular group of Jews. They were shocked by his claims and also couldn't stand what he had said about them. They were superficially believing in Jesus, not really submitting to him. This is the one statement in all the Gospels that is commonly quoted by the Counter-Missionaries to attack the NT and accuse it of Jew Hatred."

In light of this, Brown's point remains. While I don't deny that the Jews were painted in a negative light by many theologians across the centuries, Where did they get this from? Certainly NOT from Jesus. The hatred of the Jews is certainly dying down especially with the restoration of Israel in 1948 and a belief among Christians that this is part of prophetic fulfilment which I won't be getting into here as of now.

"IV. 9. Page 153-154

Brown addresses the objection that Jesus falsely predicted his return in the lifetime of his disciples. Interestingly, Brown fails to mention a key text that bears directly upon this discussion, namely: John 21:23. In that text we learn that the very first generation of Jesus’ followers expected Jesus’ ultimate return in the lifetime of John and were subsequently disappointed when this “prediction” failed to materialize. Instead of criticizing his readers for not seeing the “obvious” meaning of Jesus’ words the redactor of the Gospel of John tells us that the precise wording of Jesus’ prediction was misunderstood by Jesus’ own disciples. This is not an accusation invented by the counter-missionaries in a biased effort to discredit Jesus, but rather Jesus’ own devoted followers were faced with this problem. It is not as Brown would have his readers believe that Jesus’ never predicted his immediate return and that it is only a gross misunderstanding of his words that would lead one to such a conclusion. In this text from the Book of John we see that this accusation surfaced in that first generation of Jesus’ followers. All we have as a response is the word of the anonymous redactor of the Book of John. His weak response is that Jesus did not mean what his followers thought he meant. It seems that they did not “discover” their mistake until the “prophecy” actually failed to materialize. This is the typical pattern of the false prophets. The predictions do not come true, but for the devotees – the gates of excuses never close."

Let's read the context:
"20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."

So Blumenthal pretty much dismisses John's testimony as a weak response? All Jesus was telling Peter was to mind his own business. Earlier in the chapter Jesus tells Peter how he will die and that he would die faithfully. There are traditions that claim that Peter died by crucifixion upside down.

"18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”"

Peter was enquiring about the fate of John, because he was told what would happen to him and he was curious. Jesus was not saying he would return imminently.

Also, For what reason would John lie to his audience and claim Jesus didn't mean what he said?

"Brown puts forth another argument in his attempt to defend Jesus against the charge of false prophecy. Brown argues that if Jesus really did present a prophecy that failed to materialize then why did the gospel writers preserve his mistake for posterity? (Brown actually uses this hollow argument to deflect several of the objections that are based on the Christian Scriptures.)

What Brown fails to realize is that even a liar cannot simply ignore the truth. When the facts are well known to the intended audience, the liar will have to acknowledge something of the truth or else he will have no credibility in the eyes of his audience. This text in John serves as a perfect example. The redactor of John would have much rather that no-one hear of this indictment against the credibility of Jesus. It is only because it was a well known fact to his audience that he found it necessary to present a response to the allegation."

So John was willing to preserve a false prophecy? Why would he do that? If he did preserve a false prophecy knowingly, he would be exposed by his fellow apostles for doing such a thing.

"IV. 10. Page 158

Brown makes the claim that it was only Jesus who predicted the destruction of the SecondTemple. Brown fails to tell his readers that this prediction was proclaimed by Daniel (9:26) several centuries before Jesus. This was recognized by the Jewish leaders of the generations preceding the destruction as recorded in the Talmud (B. Yoma 39b, Nazir 32b)."

While Jesus predicts the other events that will transpire, there is no question he was alluding the the prophecy in Daniel rather than predicting it, unless believe that there is double fulfilment of the prophecy then he is predicting it will happen again. It depends on the perspective taken.

The next number of points Yisroel Blumenthal talks about the reliability of Paul, which has already been addressed here:

"IV. 25. Page 216

In this section Brown takes a page out of Jesus’ book, and besmirches Judaism and her teachers.

When Jesus presented his moral teachings to his audience, it was not enough for him to encourage his followers to aim for a higher moral standard. It was important for him to claim that his teaching was original, and that the teachers who preceded him failed to understand some basic moral insights. By doing so, Matthew’s Jesus set the stage for the subsequent teaching of John’s Jesus that the Jews are children of the devil. Eventually, the European people came to believe that the Jewish people are so intimately connected with evil that they fail to appreciate some of the most basic principles of morality."

There is an assumption from Blumenthal that the Pharisees of Jesus day held to an oral teaching going back to Moses which later became known to the Jews as the Talmud. I hardly think that Jesus in Matthew is paving away for future generations of Christians to become hateful towards the Jews. I have already covered John 8:44 so I needn't repeat myself on that point.

We'll continue the response to some more of his arguments at another time.

Answering Judaism.

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