"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

Question:

Apparently, you guys have not read about the foolishness of the Sanhedrin 2000 years ago.  Or perhaps, God has hardened your hearts.

“Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?”

I’m sure you understand this as clearly as the Sanhedrin 2000 years ago understood this.  Do you really believe that a poor carpenter born in Bethlehem of the lineage of David would be able to set circumstances in motion such that the prophets could be made to be fools?  I believe that God and His prophets are bigger than that.

In the end you are forced to believe one of three things: Jesus was crazy and empowered by Satan for his miracles, or Jesus intentionally led people away from God and wanted to do this so much that he died at the hands of the Romans and Sanhedrin to fulfill this purpose, or that Jesus is Messiah — and as Messiah, would save any — even those who had him slain.  My question to you is: Which do you believe that Jesus was?  I would not mind this question and answer posted if you so choose to do so.

Answer:

As I sit here preparing to write down the answers to your questions, it is beginning to sink into my mind that in the first three paragraphs of your letter, you are not asking anything at all.

Your first paragraph begins with the words “You guys . . . .”  I have spent enough time in Brooklyn to know that this is your euphemism for “You Jews.”  No need to get into a tizzy.  We Hebrews have been called worse.

Your unsubtle sentiments in paragraphs one and three are not unfamiliar to the Jewish people.  It is noticeably consistent with the long-held Christian notion that contemporary Jews bear the same loathsome characteristics as their first century forebears who were held accountable in the New Testament for Jesus’ crucifixion.  Do not think that I have an unsympathetic ear.  I understand your position.  The New Testament paints the Jews in the darkest colors imaginable.  Essentially, whatever it is that one considers detestable in a people, that is precisely how the Jews are portrayed in the Christian scriptures.  The nation of Israel has paid a heavy price for this vilification.

Jews of subsequent generations retain the sinister reputation of the Jews who were said to have committed deicide, regardless of how far removed they are from the first century.  This notion was vigorously espoused by virtually all the church fathers and reformers as well as their countless eager followers since time immemorial.  The stories carefully fashioned in the New Testament of the Sanhedrin unjustly condemning Jesus are replete with so many contradictions and inconsistencies — both within the Gospels and outside of the Christian canon — that they immediately betray themselves as self-serving stories designed to heap all of the blame for the crucifixion of Jesus squarely on the yarmulke of the Jew.  This portrayal of the Jews in the Gospels, particularly in the Passion Narratives, has been devastating for European Jewry and is ultimately responsible for the unspeakable misery of untold millions of my people.  The world’s oldest hatred is alive and well.

With regard to the verse you cited from the New Testament in your second paragraph, this is a quote of Jesus’ supposed last exclamation on the cross.  It was lifted from the lips of King David and placed in the mouth of Jesus by the first two Gospel writers.1  It comes from Psalm 22:22 where King David, who is its author and the one speaking throughout this chapter, is describing his own anguish and longing as he remained a fugitive from his enemies.  It was from the very depths of David’s own pain from which he cries out his heart-felt supplication, “Eli, Eli, lamah azovtani . . . .”

Furthermore, the words of this verse do not fit into Jesus’ mouth from a Trinitarian viewpoint.  The opening verses of this Psalm read,

My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?  Why are You so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning?  O my God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; and in the night season, and am not silent.

Why would Jesus, the man/god of Christianity, be complaining that “God is so far from helping me?”  How could God, the first Person of the Trinity, not hear the cries of God, the second Person of the Trinity?  To whom is this supposed “God” complaining?  The speaker here is moaning that God is not listening to him day and night, and questions his feelings of abandonment when enumerating in the next few verses the times that God did listen and intervene for his ancestors.  How can God not understand his own predicament?  Applying the words of Psalm 22 to Jesus challenges even the most fertile imagination, and places an enormous strain on church teachings.

Your fourth paragraph essentially begins your first question.  You ask how “a poor carpenter born in Bethlehem of the lineage of David would be able to set circumstances in motion such that the prophets could be made to be fools?”  The prophets are never made fools of by the willful errors of mankind.  Do you really think that people like Isaiah and Jeremiah were humiliated by the followers of deviant spiritual teachings and idolatry?  Was it not these same men of God who pleaded without end that man should not turn away from the radical monotheism they vigorously proclaimed?

Moreover, your question could be asked of all the successful religions of the world.  How is it that Joseph Smith was able to set into motion the fastest growing religion in North America?  How is that Mohammed was able to set into motion the fastest growing religion in the world?  What about Hinduism with nearly a billion adherents?  I am sure the priests of Baal were very proud of what they had set into motion as well.  The first Book of Kings chronicles their success among the Jewish people.  I could just hear them saying, “Look at what we have set into motion!  The entire nation of Israel, with the exception of  7,000 stubborn Jews, is following us.  Let’s pray for these last 7,000 Jews that their hearts might not be hardened, that the scales over their eyes might be lifted, and they may worship Baal as do the rest of their brethren!”

Furthermore, from the Torah’s vantage point, membership in a large successful religion has little to do with truth.  On the contrary, the Torah foretold that the Jewish people would remain few in number where they would live among the heathens (Deuteronomy 4:27).  In Deuteronomy 7:7, the Bible makes it clear that the intense love that the Almighty has for His people is not because they are great in number, for they are the fewest among the nations.  There were many great nations and religions set into motion that became very successful.  Their success, however, has little to do with the purity and truth of their worship.  In other words, if you belong to a religion that comprises more than a quarter of the world’s population, check your theology.

I am further puzzled by your reference to Jesus as being from “the lineage of David” when according to both Matthew and Luke Jesus was born of a virgin and would therefore be unable to claim the rights to the Davidic line because tribal lineage is traced exclusively through a person’s father.  This is clearly articulated in Numbers 1:18.  If you believe in the virgin birth — and I’m going to assume that you do — how do you proclaim that Jesus was from the line of David when according to your own doctrine Jesus lacked the human father with which to trace his lineage back to King David?  According to Christian teachings, Jesus had only a human Jewish mother, not a human Jewish father.  This human Jewish father would be essential for anyone to be a legitimate heir to the throne of David, which the real messiah will be.

Your last question has been asked of me by many Christians.  It is a well-worn argument popularized by C.S. Lewis, and it seeks to cage a non-Christian into only three possible options regarding who Jesus was.  These three options are: Was Jesus A) a liar B) a lunatic C) Lord?  This line of questioning, however, is preposterous because there is a far more likely option that you had not offered me from which to choose: D) Jesus never claimed to be the messiah, but rather this was a claim placed in his mouth by others.  In fact, option D is consistent with Jewish tradition regarding Jesus, which holds that Jesus never professed to be the messiah, although others would make this claim for him.  It may be for this reason that Jesus almost3 never claims to be the messiah throughout the New Testament.

For the Jewish people, it is completely unimportant who Jesus or Hare Krishna really were.  If they are not who Christianity or Hinduism says they are, then it matters little whether they were liars, lunatics, plumbers, or carpenters.  Their veneration is to be avoided at all costs.

Yours truly,

Rabbi Tovia Singer

Footnotes:

1Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34.  In Luke 23:46, Jesus’ last statement is “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” and in John 19:30, it’s simply, “It is finished.”

2In a Christian Bible this verse appears as Psalm 22:1.

3Exceptions are: Matthew 16:15-17, John 4:26, and 17:3.

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