"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21

Fair Weights and Measures…

May 29, 2011

in Christianity:,Judaism vs. Christianity,Judaism:,The Torah

Fair Weights and Measures[1]

There is a well-known lecture by Dr. Michael Brown[2] called “UNEQUAL WEIGHTS AND MEASURES A CRITIQUE OF THE METHODOLOGY OF THE ANTI-MISSIONARIES” which he gave at one of the messianic conferences a number of years ago, and which has circulated in missionary circles since then. I am pleased that it has been posted on his site so that the truth can be said, and his erroneous accusations laid to rest.

Let me sum up his thesis, which when first read (heard) seems to sounds quite fair:

We know that the Torah requires us to use equal weights and measures in our business dealings. According to Jewish commentators this also applies to our method of judging one another. But the anti-missionaries are not doing this. There are three primary areas that anti-missionaries attack Christianity on which they would not be able to defend themselves if Judaism was challenged. These areas hyper-literality, alleged contradictions and alleged misquotations. Since they are guilty of the same things, they are unfair and violate this principle. In fact, if the tables were turned the anti-missionary would not fair so well.

This sounds nice but is it really the truth? Are the arguments used against missionaries unfair? If we look at Rashi on Leviticus 19:36 we see that he points out that measurements for liquids cannot be used for solid items and vis versa. It is wrong to do that. We need to use FAIR or proper weights in addition to equal ones.

This means that the real question is, can both systems be compared with the same measures? Dr. Brown asserts that they must. But is that the truth? No! There is a big fallacy in the argument of Dr. Brown. The fallacy is understood when we ask a simple question. Is Judaism theologically the same as fundamentalist Christianity? Do they both arrive at religious truth the same way? What do I mean by this? If I wish to disprove a theory based on inductive reasoning, I do it differently than a theory based on deductive reasoning and demonstrative evidence. Why? Because, a theory arrived at by one of those methods is different then the other, their systems of logic are not the same.

There are two factors that need to be considered with regards to the disputes between Christians and Jews:

First, a simple reading of history shows that Christianity appeared later than Judaism. Even Rabbinic Judaism[3] has been shown to predate Christianity thanks to the research of scholars on the Dead Sea Scrolls[4]. Judaism had been an established belief system, before Christianity came along with her new ideas. The introducer of a new belief system must be prepared to prove his point with clear logic, and not just opinion. The claim that a new system of beliefs is the authentic one, or the real one, requires much more factual proof, then a traditionally accepted one.[5] This principle is similar to the Talmudic dictum in money matters. He who wants to take money from his friend (in a court) must produce proof of the debt. Any contradiction, distortion, or erroneous argument must be judged negatively AGAINST the newcomer. Proof brought by misquotes is no proof at all and shows that there is clear distortion. It is not unfair to expect that any verse quoted by missionaries to prove doctrine must be real and in context. It’s not a question of unfairly looking for misquotations. Any misquote is a clear distortion.

Second and much more importantly the theory behind Christian[6] Scriptural interpretation is different than that of Judaism. I am not here to discuss the validity of either of these methods but it must be recognized that Judaism and Christianity have a completely different outlook. They read the same Tenach differently. Christians subscribe to a theory of Biblical interpretation called Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone). This theory, first espoused as a doctrine by Luther, holds: That all knowledge needed for salvation can be found in Scripture and that what it says in the Scripture outweighs all traditions and outside information. In Luther’s words  “Since your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without distinctions…. Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Sacred Scripture or by evident reason (I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other), my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against my conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me, Amen.” The theory of Sola Scriptura contends that ‘What you see is what you get.’ What it says, in the original texts, is of divine origin from start to finish. It is literally true and can only be interpreted by what is in the Scripture.

Historical Judaism is not a subscriber to the theory of Sola Scriptura. Josephus makes this clear when he points out that the precursors to Rabbinic Judaism, the Pharisees, had many traditions that they handed down from previous generations. Historical Judaism holds that the Tenach was orally handed down with oral traditions relating to its performance and understanding. The text is divine but it requires oral teachings to understand and implement it fully. As to the Talmud, it is a compendium of laws and traditions. There is no belief in infallibility of the text of the Talmud. There are halachic portions with rules to decide legal decisions, and there are Midrashic portions. (There is a discussion about Jewish interpretation methodology in ‘What is a Midrash’.) The general rule regarding the Midrash is ‘a verse is not to be understood outside of its simple meaning’. That means the traditional simple meaning is the meaning of the verse and nothing else. When dealing with non-religious matters such as science, the truth is the truth. (So we see that the Talmud when discussing when the sun goes down tells us that even though the Jewish sages disagreed with the gentile sages, based on verses, we follow the gentile sages because they were correct on this matter).

Is it just and proper to measure the two interpretations of Scripture the same way? Obviously not. It is true that both must be held to objective standards of truth. We may even question the validity of their systems (and this is not the place to prove the validity of the Rabbinic system, or a refutation of the Christian one.) But when it comes to judging, and criticizing, each has a separate weight to be used, just like liquids and solids are weighted differently. When someone is trying to counter the missionary’s ‘proofs’, this person needs to do so with an understanding of the interpretive methodology accepted by Christianity and not of Judaism. (And vis versa.) In fact to insist that they be treated exactly the same is grossly unfair, and deceitful.

If we think about what Dr. Brown is saying, he seems to be taking the famous O. J. Simpson defense. If your case is weak attack the opposition. For example, those who try to counter missionary efforts against Jews are called ‘anti-missionaries’. It is not as if they were going around the world trying to thwart Dr. Brown when he speaks in Korea or other places. These ‘anti-missionaries’ who he is accusing are really serious committed Jews who are trying to educate other Jews who are being fooled into abandoning Judaism. In fact, Dr. Brown’s whole method here is to delegitimize any questioning of Christian beliefs, by ad homonim assaults on those raising questions that are serious and deserving of serious answers.

Dr. Brown mentioned three areas where the anti-missionaries are unfair. But are they really being unfair, or are they holding Christianity up to critical inspection with a fair weight and measure? Let’s look:

Hyper-literality. Let’s consider one case he mentions. It says ‘an eye for an eye’. The Jewish traditional interpretation says that it means the monetary value of an eye must be paid as compensation.[7] Is that a valid answer? Yes. The Jewish tradition understands the verses that way and that is their method of arriving at religious truth. However if I ask a Christian what that verse means, he has no recourse to the ‘tradition.’ That is Sola Scriptura. So we see that demanding the Christian to adhere to the literal wording of the text is a valid measure to judge Christian claims. A Christian must be able to prove that the verse means something other then what it literally says without the claim that the tradition says something else or that he believes something else.

  1. Alleged contradictions. Lets look at Genesis 1 and 2 the ‘two’ accounts of creation. The orders are different. The Jewish answer: ‘Ayn Makdim Emaachar BeTorah’ i.e. there is no order in the Torah. That is the Jewish tradition interpretation of textual issues like this. For the believer in Jewish interpretation there is no contradiction in the order. But what does a Christian have to answer? Why the contradiction? Traditions or appeals to support from sources other then the Biblical text doesn’t work. Judaism and Christianity ARE different and there is no question about it. Contradictions are important and are a valid measure.
  2. Alleged misquotations. Who killed Goliath? We all know the difference in the stories. Jewish tradition says that the verse should be read a different way. A Christian cannot rely on a Jewish tradition like that. What can a Christian answer when asked who killed Goliath? This is a valid question.

So we see that in general, the methods used seem to be fair, unlike what Dr. Brown is claiming. The questions posed are valid and serious, requiring answers that are truthful. There are some serious issues that are raised, which he seems to want to avoid, but which do not appear when he tries ‘put the shoe on the other foot.’

Let us now examine some of his points and see where his attacks just drip of unjustness. (The Baal Shem Tov tells us that the failings that we see in another are really a persons own failings and we shall see that Dr. Brown has proven the Holy Baal Shem correct):

In terms of hyper-literality, they will ask: “Do you literally believe what Jesus said? “Then, if your right eye is causing you to sin, you should gouge it out and throw it away!” or, “Didn’t Jesus say, “Give to him who asks you?” then give me your wallet, your shirt, and the keys to your car!”  Or in abusing the concept of the incarnation (I doubt that many of our opponents actually try to understand the incarnation in any serious way, they will use coarse quips such as, “Does your G-d wear diapers?!  The overall effect of their hyper-literality is to try and make our faith seem idiotic and absurd.

Is it valid to question the literal meaning of a verse to someone who proscribes to Sola Scriptura? Yes of course! What are they afraid of? There may be an answer, but it had better be right there in the verses or there is a serious problem!! As to the specific points he raises here, if we look at the famous Lightfoot commentary he twice [8] mentions this issue of gouging out of the eyes, and tries to SUPPORT THE LITERAL MEANING. We are, of course, aware that Origin actually castrated himself to avoid sin. Also asceticism is a well-known phenomenon in Christian history. This is a serious issue.

Is it valid to ask if their G-d wore diapers? Yes. They hold the scripture says he was born G-d.[9] It is an interesting question that I would love to see answered. I would love to hear who taught G-d to talk and to walk? Did your god have diapers or sleep? What went on when he was in the womb? Christian theologians grappled with these issues of the nature of Jesus for generations. These are not hyper-literal. These are all serious questions. They are serious theological questions requiring serious answers.

Just imagine what their unsympathetic and shallow hyper-literality would do with passages like Gen 2:18-20, where the L-rd apparently brought giraffes, monkeys, elephants, and armadillos to Adam, only to find that none of them would make a good wife for him, or Ex. 4:24-26, where the L-rd sent Moses to Egypt to deliver His people, but tried to kill him on the way, because he failed to circumcise his son.  And I am sure they would also have plenty of comments to make about G-d’s bow that appears in the sky after the showers (Gen 9:12 ff) or about the “windows of heaven” that are opened to allow the rain that is above the expanse to fall to earth (Gen 7:11)

What would the anti-missionaries do with the moving story of the aqedah? Would they ridicule a G-d who tests the obedience of His faithful servant by asking him to slaughter his own son?  Of course, they would also point out that according to the text, He is hardly omniscient. (Gen 22:12).  Would they contrast the goodness of the heavenly Father in the New Testament with the cruelty of Yahweh in the Old, a Yahweh whose incessant hardening of Pharaoh caused him to lead Egypt to disaster, even when Pharaoh was ready to let Israel go?  Just picture how the anti-missionaries would glory in the mercy of the Son of God, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”, while denigrating the L-rd’s command to exterminate totally the Canaanites – men, women, children, and babies.  And would they be sympathetic to the fact that the Torah legislated slavery (Ex 21:1-11) or that when the Israelites went to war, the Torah permitted them to spare good looking virgins for possible future wives (Deut 21:10/14)?

These are valid questions, however an examination of the passages in light of Jewish traditional interpretations, show that they are not problematic or meaningless. The Rabbis find some deep spiritual truths from these questions. Things like the Akadah and Pharaoh are well discussed in tradition and answers are given there to such questions. Let’s take Gen 22:12 as an example and see how the Rabbis deal with this issues. In Gen 22:12 the literal meaning is in fact a problem. A theological principle taught by Tradition: ‘Everything is known but reshus (permission to act freely) is given’ explains it.  There are a number of other answers taught by the Rabbis based on traditions.

But how does he answer the questions he poses? Bound to a literal interpretation, he has no tradition to explain what these verses really mean. Maybe he should have provided his answer first and then asked for what Judaism says. Why should G-d act so cruelly to Pharaoh? I think this is an interesting question for Dr. Brown to answer. He cannot in all honesty reply, ‘the Jewish tradition says…’ because he holds from Sola Scriptura, and tradition is not valid.

As for the G-d of the Talmud and the Midrash, He could not possibly fare much better.  What would the anti-missionaries say of a G-d who asked for prayer for Himself?  Yet, in a famous Talmudic account, the L-rd asks the high priest to pray for Him.  Doubtless, the anti-missionaries would also have great fun with a G-d who wore tallis and tefillin, studied Torah and weaved ornamental crowns for its letters, or a G-d whose decrees could be nullified by a tsaddik.  As for the sensational tales and exploits of the sages, if taken at face value they would make the stories in the National Enquirer look sober and reliable.

Is it just weights and measures to judge non-literal elements of the Talmud, by the standard of Sola Scriptura? A doctrine never claimed for it? These stories have ethical and spiritual messages that are important. They were not meant to be literal and no one understands them that way (except people who wish to judge unfairly like Dr. Brown). While this passage on tefillin sounds strange (and clearly not literal) it has a lesson for us. Tephilin is a sign of Israel’s relationship to G-d. They contain in them the verses of the Shema that proclaims the oneness of G-d. G-d’s tephilin says ‘mi k’amcha Yisroel’ that represents G-d’s relationship to Israel, and their unique place.

In terms of alleged contradictions, these can be divided into two categories: historical problems and apparent contradictions within the New Testament sources themselves.  A favorite passage of the anti missionaries is Stephen’s speech in Acts 7, a speech supposedly brimming with error.  And if we would object that, even if there were errors (I do not believe there are) it would be no problem, since inspiration only means that Luke accurately recorded what Stephen said, and the hyper-literal anti missionaries are quick to point out that Stephen was “filled with the Spirit” when he spoke.  Thus, according to them, if he really had spokesman in the Spirit, he could not have made an error! As for apparent contradictions within the sources, the Gospel accounts of Yeshua’s betrayal, crucifixion, and the resurrection, or the accounts of Saul’s Damascus road experience in Acts are singled out as being hopelessly at odds with themselves.  The overall effect of these accusations is to try and make our Scriptures appear utterly untrustworthy.

Again since Christians hold that the literal meaning is all that you have, ANY contradiction must be explainable by WHAT IS WRITTEN. If two places contradict there is no outside source to fix it up. If Acts 7 disagrees with Genesis (which it clearly does) is it unfair to question it? No. Even if there is an explanation, the question is fair and valid. When there are two completely different accounts of the resurrection, in both theology and order, which cannot reasonably be harmonized by the text, it is fair to ask about it.

The issue here is the ‘fairness’ of the questions themselves. Dr. Brown is attempting to delegitimize any question about Christianity a priori, whether valid or not. He is essentially arguing that his Christian believes are not only infallible, but even questioning them is prohibited.

Remember, for the sake of this paper, the shoe is still on the other foot, with the apparent historical problems in the Torah.  First and foremost would be the literal six-day creation with a six thousand year old earth.  How unscientific!  Then there would be the problem of the apparently anachronistic appearance of the Philistines in the patriarchal narratives, or the lack of any clear Egyptian historical evidence for the exodus, And what would they do with the Talmudic chronology, a chronology that makes Zerubbabel, Malachi, Ezra, and Simeon the Just into contemporaries, reduces the Persian period (from the rebuilding of the temple under Zerubbabel in 516 BCE to Alexander’s conquest) to 34 years, incorrectly tallies the duration of the First and Second Temples, and (Apparently) places Yeshua with the sages who lived in both the second century BCE as well as the second century CE?

Abarbanel deals with the dating of the Temples and shows that they are valid. (I would point out that there is a Christian who has written a book that also supports the Jewish chronology, and a professor in Israel who has likewise done some work in this area.). The comment about Yeshua is just incorrect as there is no evidence that the person in the 2nd century CE was Jesus. Tosephus, based on various passages in the Talmud, shows that it is not the case. As far as the other person it may turn out to have been the Moreh Tzeddik of the Dead Sea Scrolls, who seems to have been executed at that time. It may have been someone else. It may also be that it was Jesus, and the Rabbis were correct in when he lived. More could be said, but again, even should there be dating problems; we would have nothing worse than the question of when the sun sets, where we follow the truth even if it contradicts something in the Talmud.

The Talmud was not meant to be a history. But there is a lot of good history there. There are a number of stories in the Talmud that are verified by Josephus. Let’s look at one story: Josephus Ant. Book 13 chapter 10. Here he tells of the split between Pharisees and Sadducees. All his main points appear in tractate Kiddushin that relates the same events. (Only the order in one point differs, and names are different.)  Main points:

  1. Events occur at a meal with the Pharisees
  2. King told to give up High Priesthood
  3. Reason given were not held by Pharisees
  4. King had friend who was no friend of the Pharisees
  5. Friend causes Kings anger
  6. Friend claims all Rabbis agree
  7. King persecutes Pharisees
  8. King becomes Sadducee

However, does Dr. Brown agree with Eusebius who claims the census of Luke is the same as the one mentioned in Josephus as being 6 AD? How would they act if their historical account were wrong? They wouldn’t have a religion any more and they know it. This is just smoke to avoid the real problem.

As for alleged contradictions, the anti-missionaries would go wild here, especially in the Five Books of Moses.  After highlighting the apparent discrepancies in the creation accounts of Genesis 1 and 2, and pointing out that the Torah sometimes provides different etymologies for the same event (e.g., the naming of Beersheva), they could simply move to the Ten commandments. After all, these are the very words of G-d, and Moses is the key mediatorial figure in the Hebrew Scriptures. Yet there are several key contradictions between the commandments as given at Mt Sinai according to Exodus. 20:1-1`7 and the repetition of the commandments as given by Moses (according to Deut. 5:6-21) Most noteworthy are the numerous differences in the wording of the Sabbath commandment, beginning with the first word: Did G-d say remember (zakhor) the Sabbath, or did He say keep (shamor) the Sabbath?  Just think of how the anti-missionaries would howl when we sheepishly stated, “shamor wezakhor bedibbur ‘ekhad hishmi’anu ‘el hameyukhad:” “At Mount Sinai, the One g-d simultaneously caused us to hear the words

keep and remember”

Again the problem is for Dr. Brown to explain according to SCRIPTURE alone. Judaism has traditions that answer these questions, but he can’t use it.

And there is no doubt that Talmudic dialectology would receive the derision of the mocking anti missionaries.  To give just one example, consider the Talmudic phenomenon called “teyku” (Aramaic for It remains standing) used in cases where there is no possible way to arrive at a definitive answer to the halakhic problem presented.  A classic case of teyku occurs with reference to the search for leaven on Passover.  The problem, as summarized by Prof. Louis Jacobs, is presented by Rava a fourth century Babylonian Amora: “Supposing, asks Rava, a mouse is seen entering a house that has been searched and found to be clean of leaven.  The mouse has a morsel of bread in its mouth, and is later seen coming out of the house with a morsel of bread in its mouth. Are we to conclude that this is the same mouse and the same morsel (ie, and consequently, the house does not require to be searched again or are we to be apprehensive that it might be a different mouse and morsel (so that the house must be searched again)?  [For space deleted] … “teyku”…. Would the anti-missionaries find this to be sublime, inspired, and edifying? I can almost hear them contrasting such Talmudic dialectics with the awesome power and simplicity of 1 Corinthians 13 or the spiritual heights of Romans 8. Let’s be honest: If the anti-missionaries disparage the Sermon on the Mount, what would they do with the Talmud’s 39 sub-divisions of prohibited Shabbat labor?  How then would they take refuge in Yeshua’s authoritative word from heaven, standing as it does in such stark contrast to the opinions and traditions of men!

For the sublimeness of the logic I would suggest an investigation of the mathematical theorems dealing with ‘incompleteness’[10]. The principle of Teyku is the logical equivalent (almost 2 thousand years earlier) of this principle.

The discussion about the mouse (first chapter of tractate Pesachim), but it has a serious point to it. We do not live where seeing mice is common; they were common in the times of the Talmud. What is funny to us (and it is quite amusing) was in fact a serious problem then. (The Talmud also talks about what to do if we see a child carrying chometz, which was just as common). The question deals with if we are required to recheck the house for chometz to avoid violating a Biblical law of having chometz in our domain on Passover. As funny as it is, it still deals with practical matters of what is considered a sufficient doubt that it requires a recheck of the house.

In terms of alleged misquotations, we are generally pointed to verses like Matt. 2:23 “he will be called a Nazarene” – supposedly an entirely fabricated verse; and Heb 10:5, “a body you have prepared for me” -supposedly a blatant alteration of the Hebrew of Ps 40:6; or verses allegedly wrenched from their original context, like Hosea 11:1, “I called my son out of Egypt,” quoted in Matt. 2:15; and Isa 7:14, the Immanuel prophecy, quoted in Matt. 1:23.  The overall effect of these accusations is especially serious.  It tries to give the impression that the authors of the New Testament were not only idiotic and untrustworthy; according to the anti-missionaries, they were actually devious and deceitful.

This is the most hypocritical part of his whole paper. Sola Scriptura stands or falls on one thing and one thing only: The text of Scripture. If the text is distorted, or it is missing something, the whole structure crumbles. You cannot decide doctrine on Scripture alone when there are parts that are missing, if there are twenty different versions, or there are multiple readings of important texts. A contradiction to the Tenach is fatal, not just a simple question to be dealt with. When Matthew distorts verses, you cannot answer; yes, the Tenach does not say that but we believe it is ok because of our faith. You cannot appeal to ‘Midrashic commentaries’ or similar subterfuges. When the verse quoted in Hebrews does not correspond to what the Tenach says there is a serious problem. The answers are sheer hypocrisy, and open season for any doubter of the validity of the NT.

Last but not lest, the anti-missionaries would set upon the subject of misquotation and/or misinterpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures within the rabbinic literature, and even within the Tanakh itself. The anti-missionaries would confront us with the fact that Deut.24:16, a rare Torah verse quoted in its entirety in the historical books, appears in 2 Kings 14:6 as well as in 2 Chr.25:4, yet both times the wording is different! There is even a variation of the verbal forms in 2 Chr 25:4 yamutu, “they will die” vs the original yumatu, “they will be put to death.”  Wasn’t every word of the Torah dictated to Moses? Yet the other biblical writers couldn’t even copy one verse accurately! Ezra also makes reference in prayer to the “commandments which you gave through your servants the prophets when you said…”(Ezra 9:10-12). But the words quoted are not found in that exact form elsewhere in the scriptures.

As for Talmudic usage of Scripture, the anti-missionaries would have a field day.  They would ridicule the interpretation of Exod.34:27 where “write down these commandments, for in accordance with these commandments I make a covenant with you and with Israel” is quoted to demonstrate the supremacy of the Oral Torah.  They would certainly question the moral integrity of the Sages who interpreted the end of Ex. 23:2 to say, “Follow the majority,” whereas the verse is universally understood by both Jewish and Christian exegetes and translators to mean, “Don’t follow the majority”! Then, after some digging, the anti-missionaries would come up with some surprising, and potentially damaging, information.  In addition to apparent misinterpretations, the actual Talmudic citations of the Hebrew Scriptures sometimes vary from the Masoretic tradition, and there is at lest one instance in which part of a verse not found in any Masoretic biblical manuscript is quoted by the fourth century sage Rav Nahman Bar Isaac to the consternation of the later Talmudic commentators.

As I have many times already pointed out, we have no problem with these complaints. The different versions have all been discussed in the Talmud or the other works within our traditions. As far as the misquoting of scripture in the Talmud it is well known that there are some differences. The Marshal on Brachos 61a (the quote from R. Nachman bar Yitzchok) mentions the well-known fact that the Talmud DOES NOT ALWAYS quote correctly in its Midrashic teachings. The Gilyon HaShas that he mentions in his talk brings a long list of minor differences (missing or extra vav’s etc). SO WHAT. It’s just not important, and is irrelevant to the purpose and nature of the Talmudic Aggadah, and Dr. Brown is well aware of that.

The plain truth is this:  It is the anti-missionaries who are often being devious and deceitful.  For if they would be honest with themselves, they would have to admit that using the same canon of criticism on their own sacred texts, they would utterly shipwreck their own faith.  In other words, if the New Testament would be disqualified by anti missionary arguments in one hour, using those same arguments, the Tanakh would be disqualified in a matter of minutes and the Talmud in a matter of seconds!  The anti-missionaries will readily accept the views of critical, nihilistic New Testament Scholars, while following only rigidly conservative (general, traditional Jewish) scholars of the Old Testament.

The truth is that those that challenge Christianity have 100% valid reasons for their questions, and to answer that the shoe is to be put on the other foot is hypocrisy. Judaism and Christianity do not have equivalent theologies and methodologies of interpretation. The method of criticizing the one does not work for the other. I would ask Dr. Brown what is your view of Catholics? Your disagreement is because they have a completely different view of Scripture, and how it is to be understood. It is quite valid to challenge them ACCORDING to the theology they have and not according to yours. It is also valid to argue that they should adopt your method of interpretation. But to attack them if they question your views based on YOUR methodology, is hypocrisy.

He then states what he feels are the conclusions:

First, there are answers, but only for the sympathetic and open.

This is just dishonest. If you must first be sympathetic than you have admitted that an objective observer will not agree with you. Answers must be sufficient for all but the fanatical opponents. I once told a skeptic a parable of how G-d can know everything and still have free will. He admitted the logic of my parable, even though he was an atheist. Ignoring serious and sincere questions of those who don’t agree with you, and attacking the questioner, is the sign of a fraud. This point is a cop out.

The very same methodology can provide answers for the Old Testament and rabbinic problems referred to in the bulk of this paper can provide answers for the New Testament problems raised by the anti-missionaries.  For example, the question of the apparent misquotation of the Tanakh in the Talmud points to valid textual traditions outside of the Masoretic textual traditions.

Wrong! No appeals to tradition help as they do in Judaism. He cannot give an answer like Judaism that in a Midrash they were not careful in their words, and that the true meaning of the text is the exact opposite. (We see that it says many times:  ‘don’t read… but…’ or where a word is interpreted as if it had a different letter, but similar sound. All to bring out some spiritual or theological truth.) There are no valid Midrashic methodologies for Christians holding Sola Scriptura. Midrash is anathema to that methodology.

Second, seemingly strange interpretations should be seen in the light of large contextual themes, sometimes even reflecting Targumic or possibly, on occasion, Midrashic liberties.  Also, just as the Torah is greatly exalted in rabbinic literature, and hence the sages find allusions to the Torah throughout the Tanakh, the New Testament writers saw Yeshua as absolutely central, reading the Tanakh in the light of Messiah.

WRONG again! Sola Scriptura does not allow Midrashic interpretations. Only the literal ‘G-d inspired word’. He cannot hold to Sola Scriptura and ALSO claim to be able to derive theology or Biblical truth in a Midrashic manner. This is hypocritical.

Third, we can gain insight into how best to deal with the Talmud (or even the Koran, albeit to a much less degree).  We must be fair to the text, seeking to understand it through the eyes of its transmitters and/or interpreters.  We must seek to be scientific and honest; then, we can freely contrast its differences, critique its misinterpretations, and then cut down its errors, in fairness and with a spirit of love.

The principle of Just Weights requires that the PROPER measure be applied to the same type of object, and not using an improper measure that is suited for another type of object. Dr. Brown must judge the Talmud and Judaism by the standards they have, and we shall judge your beliefs by the standards that YOU have. The Biblical principle of just weights and measures requires us to use the PROPER measures for each belief system. Christians judged by Christian standards and Judaism judged by Jewish standards. Dr. Brown has been using the WRONG measure on both his own New Testament and on the Talmud. There is nothing unfair or immoral in challenging and exposing Christian doctrines that do not live up to the text,[11] based on Christianity’s standards (even if they are not our own.)

© Moshe Shulman 2003 http://www.judaismsanswer.com

For more information, questions answered, or help with missionaries you can reach Moshe Shulman at outreach@judaismsanswer.com.


[1] This paper was originally written and posted on the CJ Debate BBS in March of 1993. Over the years I have added to it.

[3] The Messianic Scholar Dr. John Fischer agrees this to this point.

[4] One need only look at the scholarly work on the document called 4QMMT.

[5] I am not saying that what is old is automatically true, and what is new is automatically false. Just those new interpretations need more ‘proof’. It must show that the old is not true, and that the new is true. An old theory need only show it has not lost its value.

[6] In this case I refer specifically to Evangelical Christianity, which is what the majority of missionaries to Jews subscribe to.

[7] How this is arrived at is not the issue here.

[8] Pages 118 and 425.

[9] In fact, when Jesus became G-d, birth or later, is a subject of debate in early Christianity. And, of course, the Modalists will defiantly have to address an issue like this, since they deny the trinity, but affirm the divinity of Jesus.

[10] In Higher Mathematics it is proved that Mathematics itself and many similar formal logical systems are ‘incomplete’. That means that there are truths that cannot be proved within them. Teyku tells us that in a legal system there are facts and truths that cannot be proven within the formal system.

[11] This method of debate is ancient going back to pre-Christian times and is exemplified by the argument: reductio ad absurdum.

 

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