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Basic Worldview:
104 Why Christianity?


Rabbinical Judaism Accepts
Christian Interpretations (Part 3)


Judaism and Christianity Introduction and History
History of Judaism Continued
Scholarly Objections and Historicity of Daniel (P. 1)
Historicity of Daniel (P. 2) & Judeo-Christian Syncretism
A Few Words on Gnosticism
Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (P. 1)
Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (P. 2) & Prophecy in Judaism
Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? (P. 1)
Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? (P. 2)
List of Messianic Qualifications & the Resurrection of Jesus (P. 1)
The Resurrection of Jesus (Part 2)
Study Conclusions and Overall Comparisons

Additional Material
The Sufferings of Eyewitnesses
Comparison of Mystical Religions to Judeo-Christianity
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 1)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 2)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 3)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 4)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 5)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 6)

Introduction
| Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3




(Continued)

5. On a Miracle Working Messiah –
Typical Perception of Traditional Judaism:

The Messiah will not be known by working miracles.

Actual Interpretations of Talmudic (or Rabbinic) Judaism:

Many saintly sages of the past were able to work miracles and the Messiah and the Messianic Age will be accompanied by miracles.

7. Similar descriptions of the miracles of the Messianic age (whether performed by God himself or his Messiah) are also found in the Talmudic literature (see, e.g., b. Sukkah 52a, where Messiah ben David raises Messiah ben Joseph from the dead), and a special token of divine favor believed to accompany some of the most saintly Talmudic sages was their miracle-working ability (in particular Honi the Circle Drawer and Hanina ben Dosa). 65 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 1, Historical Objections, p. 100

Footnote 65: For a discussion of Yeshua’s miracles in the context of other contemporaneous miracle workers in Judaism, cf. Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew (Philadelphia: Fortress,k 1973), especially 69-80. According to Vermes, “It is necessary to remember that from the time of the prophet Elijah Jews believed that holy men were able to exert their will on natural phenomena.”


6. Descriptions of God –
Typical Perception of Traditional Judaism:

God (YHWH) is one. He is not three persons.

Actual Interpretations of Talmudic (or Rabbinic) Judaism:

God is one, but God’s oneness is as a man and his body or a tree and its branches. The limbs are many, but the man is one. God is a mystery of three. The Word (or Greek “Logos” or Aramaic “Memra) of God is used in the Old Testament to describe the figure who interacted with man throughout the Old Testament, is the God of Jacob, is savior, is mediator between God and man, led Israel out of Egypt, gave Israel the Law, and created Adam in his own image. The Word of God is the same as the angel (messenger) of the LORD (YHWH) who is himself God (YHWH) (who led Israel out of Egypt under Moses). The Holy Spirit or Spirit of God (YHWH) is a person. He acts as a counsel for the defense, he rebukes, cries out, and tells of things to come.

8. – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 100

Perhaps it would help if, for just one moment, we stopped thinking about what Christians believe – since not everything labeled “Christian” is truly Christian or biblical – and pictured instead an old Jewish rabbi unfolding the mysteries of God. Listen to him as he strokes his long gray beard and says, “I don’t talk to everyone about this. These things are really quite deep. But you seem sincere, so I’ll open up some mystical concepts to you.” And so he begins to tell you the story of the ten Sefirot, the so-called divine emanations that act as “intermediaries or graded links between the completely spiritual and unknowable Creator and the material sub-lunar world.” When you say, “But doesn’t that contradict our belief in the unity of God?” he replies, “God is an organic whole but with different manifestations of power – just as the life of the soul is one, though manifested variously in the eyes, hands, and other limbs. God and his Sefirot are just like a man and his body: His limbs are many but He is one. Or, to put it another way, think of a tree which has a central trunk and yet many branches. There is unity and there is multiplicity in the tree, in the human body, and in God too. Do you understand?” 14 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 8

Footnote 14: These quotes are taken almost verbatim from Simon Herman, “Sefirot,” in the Encyclopedia of Hasidism, ed. Tzvi M. Rabinowicz (Northvale, N.J.: Aronson, 1996), 437-37. According to Breslauer, however, “The great heresy feared by the mystics…is ‘cutting off the roots,’ separating these attributes from the hidden divine source and giving them an independent status. Their divine aspect lies in their identification with God’s secret unity, not in their clear distinctive and individual manifestations….Jews, emphasizing the paradox of monotheism, have refused to give independent status to God’s attributes of Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. They find in Christian claims of a Trinity just the ‘cutting off of the roots’ which Judaism defines as heresy” (God: Jewish View,” 74, 76). A better way to understand Christian views of the Trinity, however, would be to speak of the total interrelatedness and essential oneness – with clear distinctions – of the tree (including its roots, trunk, and branches). As expressed by Christian theologian Jack Cotrell, “The traditional Trinitarian view is that God is one in nature/essence/being/ substance.” As to God being three in one, Cottrell explains, “when we say that God is three persons in one essence, we are saying that he is three centers of consciousness sharing one divine essence” (God the Redeemer, 154, 159). For a useful study, see Millard J. Erickson, God in Three Persons (Grand Rapids: baker, 1995).

9. And what if this rabbi began to touch on other mystical concepts of God such as “the mystery of the three” (Aramaic, raza’ di-telatha), explaining that in the Zohar there are five different expressions relating to various aspects of the threefold nature of the Lord? What would you make of the references to “three heads, three spirits, three forms of revelation, three names, and three shades of interpretation” that relate to the divine nature? The Zohar even asks, “How can these three be one? Are they one only because we call them one? How they are one we can only know by the urging of the Holy Spirit and then even with closed eyes.” 15 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 8

Footnote 15: Quotes in Risto Santala, The Messiah in the Old Testament in the Light of the Rabbinical Writings, trans. William Kinnaird (Jerusalem: Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1992), 121.

10. The rabbis took this one step further. Since God was often perceived as somehow “untouchable,” it was necessary to provide some kind of link between the Lord and his earthly creation. One of the important links in Rabbinic thought was “the Word,” called memra’ in Aramaic (from the Hebrew and Aramaic root, “to say” [‘mr], the root used throughout the creation account in Genesis 1, when God said and the material world came into existence). We find this memra’ concept hundreds of times in the Aramaic Targums, the translations, and paraphrases of the Hebrew Scriptures that were read in the synagogues before, during, and after the time of Jesus. These Targums arose because, in some locations, many of the Jewish people no longer understood Hebrew. Instead, they grew up speaking and reading Aramaic, so they could follow the public reading of the Scriptures only with Aramaic translation. – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 19

11. To use Genesis 3:8 as an example, most of the people who were listening to the public reading of the Scriptures would not have understood the Hebrew, which said, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden.” Rather, they would have understood the Targum, which said, “And they heard the sound of the Word of the LORD God walking in the midst of the garden.” What a difference and extra “word” makes! To speak of the Lord walking in the garden seemed too familiar, too down to earth. So the Targum made an adjustment: It was not the Lord who was walking in the garden, it was the Memra’ (the Word) of the Lord! This Word was not just an “it”; this Word was a him. 30 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 19

Footnote 30: Robert Hayward, Divine Name and Presence: The Memra (Totowa, N.J.: Allanheld, Osmun, 1981), 147, 149, states that, “Memra is God’s ‘HYH [i.e., “I am,” based on Exod. 3:14], His name for himself expounded in terms of His past and future presence in Creation and Redemption,” observing that Memra “was surely one of the most profound and wonderful of the scribal meditations on the Name of the God of Israel.” For critical interaction with some of Hayward’s work, cf. the works of Bruce Chilton, cited below, n.34.

11. Now, I want you to look carefully at the following verses. The translation of the Hebrew text is followed immediately by the translation of the Aramaic Targum. Keeping in mind when reading that these Targums were the official translations used in the synagogues. Therefore, the Targums took on great significance in the religious life of the people, just as English versions of the Bible take on great significance for English speakers today. Here are several examples: – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 19-20

Genesis 1:27

God created man.

 

The Word of the Lord created man. (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan)

Genesis 6:6-7

And it repented the Lord that he made man on the earth.

And it repented the Lord through his Word that he made man on the earth.

Genesis 9:12

And God said, “This is the sign that I set for the covenant between me and you.”

And the Lord said, “This is the sign that I set for the covenant between my Word and you.”

Genesis 15:6

And Abraham believed in the Lord.

And Abraham believed in the Word of the Lord.

Genesis 20:3

And God came to Abimelech.

And the Word from before the Lord came to Abimelech.

Genesis 31:49

May the Lord keep watch between you and me.

May the Word of the Lord keep watch between you and me.

Exodus 14:31

And they believed in the Lord.

And they believed in the Word of the Lord.

Exodux 20:1

And the Lord spoke all these words.

And the Word of the Lord spoke all these words.

Exodux 25:22

And I will meet with you there.

And I will appoint my Word for you there. 31

Leviticus 26:9

And I will turn to you.

And I will turn through my Word to do good to you.

Numbers 10:35

Rise up, O Lord!

Rise up, O Word of the Lord!

Numbers 10:36

Return, O Lord!

Return, O Word of the Lord!

Numbers 11:23

Is the hand of the Lord shortened?

Is the Word of the Lord detained?

Numbers 14:35

I the Lord have spoken.

I the Lord decreed through my Word.

Deuteronomy 1:30

The Lord your God who goes before you, he himself will fight for you.

The Lord your God who leads before you, his Word will fight for you.

Deuteronomy 18:19

I myself will require it of him.

My Word will require it of him.

Deuteronomy 31:3

The Lord your God will pass before you.

The Lord your God, his Word will pass before you.

Joshua 1:5

As I was with Moses I will be with you.

As my Word was in support of Moses, so my Word will be in your support.

Judges 11:10

The Lord will be witness between us.

The Word of the Lord will be witness between us.

Isaiah 45:17

Israel will be saved by the Lord.

Israel will be saved by the Word of the Lord.

Footnote 31: CF. Yeyn HaTob, 1:351, which simply notes here (as it does elsewhere in similar contexts), “to remove personification [hagshamah],” i.e., of the Deity; cf. the discussion of Ezra Zion Melammed, Bible Commentators (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1978), cited below, n. 42.

12. As if these examples aren’t enough (and there are many more), just consider Genesis 28:20-21, Jacob’s vow. In Hebrew, it reads, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then  the Lord will be my God.” The Targum says, “If the Word of the Lord will be with me…then the Word of the Lord will be my God.” The Word of the Lord will be Jacob’s God! And this was read in the synagogues for decades, if not centuries. Week in and week out, the people heard about this walking, talking, creating, saving, delivering Word, this Word who was Jacob’s God. – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 21

13. Risto Santala, A Finnish Christian scholar fluent in Hebrew and Rabbinic sources, summarizes the combined evidence from the Targums: “‘The LORD’s Memra will be my God’; ‘I will save them through their God, the LORD’s Memra’; Abraham was justified through the Memra; the Memra gave Israel the Law; Moses prayed to the Memra; Israel was justified through the Memra’s instrumentality and the Memra even created the world.” 32 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 21

Footnote 32: Santala, Messiah in the Old Testament, 90-91 (with the spelling normalized from “Mimra” to “Memra”); I have used his examples as given on 89-90; see futher Hayward, Divine Name and Presence, and cf. the lengthy discussion below, n. 34.

14. In fact, according to Targum Neofiti, representing important, early traditions, man was created in the image of the Memra’ of the Lord! Consider also Targum Pseudo-Jonathan – a Targum printed in all Rabbinic Bibles (called Mikra’ot Gedolot). Deuteronomy 4:7 in the Hebrew reads, “What other nations is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” The Targum instead says, “The Memra of Yahweh sits upon his throne high and lifted up and hears our prayer whenever we pray before him and make our petitions.” That is just some of the Targumic concept of “the Word.” – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 21

15. Interestingly, Philo of Alexandria, the greatest Jewish philosopher of the day and a man who was, roughly speaking, a contemporary of Jesus, had much to say about the logos. As explained in the Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion:

Although in a sense an aspect of the Divine, the Logos often appears as a separate entity, namely a half-personal emanation of God. The concept was appropriated by Philo in order to bridge the gap between the transcendent God of Judaism and the divine principle experienced by human beings. This view of the Logos as a mediating principle between God and material creation could link up with biblical references to the creative “Word of God,” by which the heavens were made (Ps. 33:6) and witht eh concept of meimra (Aram.; “word”) in Targum literature (especially as it appears in Targum Onkelos). 33 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 21-22

Footnote 33: “Logog,” in R. J. Werblowsky and G. Wigoder, eds., the Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion (New York: Oxford, 1997; henceforth cited as ODJR), 423.

16. Although Philo spoke of the logos more than fourteen hundred times in his writings, there are a few examples that are especially important. To quote New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado:

Philo calls the Logos “the second god” (ton deuteron theon) and states that the “God” in whose image Adam was created in Gen 1:27 is actually the Logos, which the rational part of the soul resembles. It is impossible (according to Philo) to think of anything earthly being a direct image of God himself…[and] Philo also calls the Logos “mediator” (mesites). 34 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 22

17. Philo also refers to the logos as “firstborn” (protogonon), “archangel,” “Name of God,” and “governor and administrator of all things,” stating that the “divine Word” (theios logos) is the “chief” of God’s powers. 35 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 22

Footnote 35: Hurtado, One God, One Lord, 45.

18. According to a story in the Talmud (b. Sanhedrin 38b), a man identified as a schismatic – here a clear reference to a Jewish follower of Jesus – was talking to a rabbi about Exodus 24:1, the beginning of the passage we are looking at, in which God said to Moses, “come up to the LORD [Hebrew, YHWH].” It seems that they were having a discussion similar to our own! The Jewish believer was trying to argue that it seemed odd that God said to Moses, “Come up to YHWH,” rather than, “come up to me.” Didn’t this seem to indicate more than one divine Person? (It was as if I said to you in a conversation, “You should call Mike Brown,” Instead of, “You should call me.”) Now, the rabbi could have simply replied, “Such usage is not that unusual in the Hebrew Bible.” Instead, because he too sense that there were some theological issues to be addressed, the rabbi answered that God was not speaking here of himself but rather of Metatron, the most powerful angel in Rabbinic literature, “whose name is as his Master.” In other words, when God said, “Come upon to YHWH,” he did not mean, “Come up to me” but “come up to Metatron whose name is YHWH.” So according to this Talmudic interpretation, Metatron was called YHWH! Talk about going to all kinds of lengths to avoid the obvious. 43 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 26

Footnote 43: See further Barker, The Great Angel. On a more popular level, see also Robert Leo Odom, Israel’s Angel Extraordinary (Bronx, N.Y.: Israelite Heritage Institute, 1985).

19. According to the Jewish biblical scholar Nahum Sarna, “From several texts it is clear that the demarcation between God and his angel is often blurred [citing examples from Gen. 16:7-9, 11; 22:11-12, 15-18; Exod. 3:2, 4; Judg. 6:11-23]. At the Exodus from Egypt it is now God (Exod. 13:21), now his angel (14:9) who goes ahead of the Israelite camp.” 45 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 27

Footnote 45: Nahum Sarna, Genesis, The JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 383 (Excursus 10, Angelology).  

20. And how does Sarna account for the doctrine of angels (called angelology) in ancient Israel? He offers three scholarly views. One view is to see Israelite angelology as borrowing from Near Eastern mythology, hardly a compelling view for Bible believers. “Another view regards the angel as the personified extension of God’s will, or the personification of his self-manifestation. A third theory sees the angel as a conceptual device to avoid anthropomorphisim [i.e., speaking of God in human terms]. He serves as a mediator between the transcendent God and His mundane world.” 46 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 28

Footnote 46: Ibid., 383-84.

21. Look again at the Rabbinic explanations:

In Exodus 25:8, God says that he will dwell in Israel’s midst. The Targum translates this to mean his Shekhina will dwell among them.

Exodus 24:9-11 states that Moses and a select group of Israelites saw God, who did not strike them down. The Targum says that they saw the glory of God.

According to Exodus 24:1, God said to Moses, “come up to the LORD.” The Talmud states that “the LORD” here refers to the angel Metatron, whose name is as his Master.

Jacob, who wrestled with the angel of the LORD, said that he had seen God face to face (Gen. 32:30). The Targum changed this to, “I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.” The exact same change is made in Judges 13:22.

In Exodus 3:1-6, the angel of the Lord, equated with the Lord himself in the text, appeared to Moses in flaming fire in a bush, and Moses looked away because he was afraid to look at God. The Targum says that he was afraid to look near the glory of the LORD.

        Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 29-30

22. At the end of Genesis 17, we read how Abraham and his entire household were circumcised in obedience to the command of the Lord. Genesis 18:1-2 says, “The LORD [Hebrew, YHWH] appeared to him by the terebinths of Mamre; he was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot. Looking up, he saw three men standing near him” (NJPSV). According to the Talmud (b. Bava Mesia 86b), God himself was paying Abraham a personal sick call, checking on him after the ordeal of circumcision. Here is the expanded translation of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (the actual words of the Talmud are in bold). We read that Abraham went out

And saw the Holy One, blessed be He, standing at the door of his tent, as the verse says, “And the Lord appeared to him by the terebinths of Mamre.” This is what the verse is referring to when it says (Gen 18:3): “and he said, ‘O Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, do not, I pray you, pass by Your servant.’” In this verse Abraham was speaking to God Himself (and so addressed Him as Lord and referred to himself as His servant). When God saw that Abraham was  busy tying and untying the bandages of his circumcision, He said  to Himself, “It is not fitting that I stay here while Abraham is taking care of His would.” He was about to remove His presence when Abraham pleaded with Him to stay a little longer. And this is  also what the verse refers to when it  says (Genesis 18:2): “And he raised his eyes and looked, and, behold, three men stood by him; and when he saw them, he ran to meet them.” 48 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 31-32

Footnote 48: Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, The Talmud: The Steinsaltz Edition, vol. 6, Tractate Bava Metzia, Part VI (New York: Random House, 1992), 159.

23. Now, you will remember our discussion about the Shekhina (above 3.1), what the Israeli scholar Ephraim Urbach calls “the Presence of God in the World.” The Shekhina was one of the most important Rabbinic ways of explaining how the infinite and transcendent God could really be with his people in this world. 52 We explained previously how the rabbis believed that “at the time of the destruction of the Temple (mishkan), the Shekhinah went into exile, as it were, and was thought to accompany the Jewish people in their wanderings – sharing their sufferings and longing with them to be reunited once more with the Holy Land.” 53 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 37

Footnote 52: See n. 24, above, for references.

Footnote 53: rabinowicz, Encyclopedia of Hasidism, 454.

27. Interestingly, there are several references in the Rabbinic literature to the Holy Spirit speaking, announcing, crying out, rebuking, and even serving as the counsel for the defense. 77 For example:

The Talmud (m. Sotah 9:6; b. Sotah 46a) states that when the elders performed the rite of the red heifer (Deut. 21:1-9), “they did not have to say, ‘And the blood shall be forgiven them’ [Deut. 21:8], instead the Holy Spirit announces to them, ‘Whenever you do this, the blood shall be forgiven you.’”

Comenting on Exodus 1:12, “but the more they [i.e., the Israelites] were oppressed [by the Egyptians], the more they multiplied and spread,” the Talmud states (b. Pesahim 117a) that the Holy Spirit announced to them, “So will he [Israel] increase and spread out!” This is explained by Rashi and other major Jewish commentators to mean that the Holy Spirit said to the Egyptians, “Just as you seek to oppress them more, the more so will they increase and spread out! 78

In Pirkei D.’Rabbi Eliezer 31, as Ishmael (Abraham’s son) and Eliezer (his steward) argue about who will be Abrahma’s heir – seeing that they are going together with Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to the Lord (Genesis 22) – the Holy Spirit answers them and says, “Neither this one nore this one will inherit.”

In a later madras cited in Yalkut Reubeni (9d) to Genesis 1:26, after Ben Sira shared secret, mystical teachings with his son Uzziah and his grandson Joseph, the Holy Spirit called out, “Who is it that revealed My secrets to mankind?” Ben Sira replied, “I Buzi, the son of Buzi.” The Holy Spirit said to him, “Enough!” 79

Lamentations Rabbah 3:60, 9 relates that after the Roman emperor Hadrian indiscriminately executed two Jews, the Holy Spirit kept crying out, “You have seen, O LORD, the wrong done to me. Uphold my cause! You have seen the depth of their vengeance, all their plots against me” (Lam. 3:59-60) This provides and example of the Spirit making intercession. 80

According to Leviticus Rabbah 6:1, the Holy Spirit is a defense counsel who speaks to Israel on behalf o the Lord and then speaks to the Lord on behalf of Israel. To Israel the Spirit says, “Do not testify against your neighbor without cause” (Prov. 24:28), and to the Lord the Spirit, “Do not say, ‘I’ll do to him as he has done to me’” (Prov. 24:29). 81

In all these citations, which can be easily multiplied (see, e.g., Genesis Rabbah 84:11; Song of Songs Rabbah 8:16; Lamentations Rabbah 1:48), there can be no question that we are dealing with a “who” and not just with a “what,” with a person dimension of God and not just with an impersonal power, with God himself and yet with a “separate” entity who can mediate between God and man. 82 And these citations closely parallel some of the New Testament descriptions of the Holy Spirit, although virtually all the Rabbinic texts cited were written many years later. 83 – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 55-56

Footnote 81: The Aramaic word used here for “defense counsel” is borrowed from the Greek synegoros. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is called the Counselor, from the Greek parakletos. These concepts are closely related, although the Rabbinic images here go beyond anything found in the New Testament as far as making the Holy Spirit into a separate, personal entity.

Footnote 82: As noted above, n. 77, in the well-known eighth- and ninth-century midrash, Pesikta Rabbati 12a, God is depicted as speaking to the Holy Spirit.

(Continued...)


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