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If You Want to Criticize Christianity, Get Your Facts Straight
Usually, I enjoy reading Jeremy Rosen’s commentary and analysis. He’s an orthodox rabbi and a writer. His observations are generally astute, but today I must take exception. In an article for The Algemeiner titled “Not My Bible,” he said,
I am amongst those who think that Pauline and later Christianity developed a series of myths based on earlier popular ideas rather than on a specific, living human being. There is nothing wrong with that in itself, unless it leads to torturing and killing those who do not agree with you. We too have our earlier Canaanite horror stories. Both Christianity and Islam wanted to supersede what came before. To do this they had to show how their religion was so much better. And to hammer it home they had to present the Jews as primitive, hypocritical, corrupt betrayers of truth which the new religion was going to put right. The very distinction between Old Testament and New Testament that make up the Christian Bible is a clear statement that we oldies are now out of date and out of touch.
In the Christian world, for thousands of years Jews have been cursed and pursued for the “crime” of rejecting Jesus and the greater crime of causing his death. In some quarters we are still blamed for “killing God,” ridiculous as such a claim might sound to you and me. As for the myth of Jesus being accused of heresy, you will not find anywhere in Jewish law any hint that it is heresy to say “I am the King of the Jews,” “I am the Son of God,” or indeed to claim “I am God.” One might think you are a lunatic, but hardly a rational heretic.
There are so many errors in those few sentences that I couldn’t possibly address them all in a short response, so I’ll deal with only one: the historicity of Jesus. Actually, his name wasn’t Jesus. It was Yeshua and he was Jewish, but those aren’t the issues here.
Christianity was and is based on a man whose life and death are chronicled in the Talmud. You don’t need to read the New Testament to learn about him. Jewish sages 2,000 ago wrote about him because his teachings exposed the flaws in many Jewish religious traditions. That’s why the priests wanted to kill him. According to the apostle John, they also believed the Jewish people’s enthusiastic response to Jesus’ message might compel the Romans to abolish their positions.
Convincing miracles accompanied Jesus’ teaching. He healed the sick, raised the dead, cleansed the lepers, gave sight to the blind, caused the lame to walk, and cast out demons. Those supernatural miracles caused many people to believe in Jesus, and they turned to him in large numbers. Those miracles aren’t myths.
Additionally, Jesus empowered his disciples to perform healing miracles in his name prior to and after his resurrection. The Talmud speaks about this fact and offers insights into the priests’ attitudes toward Jesus and his disciples:
Abodah Zarah 27b: “A man shall have no dealings with the heretics [Christians], nor be cured by them, even for the sake of an hour of life. There was the case of Ben Dama nephew of R. [Rabbi] Ishmael, whom a serpent bit. There came Jacob [the apostle James who wrote the New Testament book of James] the heretic of the village of Sechanya to cure him (in the name of Yeshu ben Pandera var. leg.); but R. Ishmael would not allow him. Ben Dama said to him, R. Ishmael, my brother, do allow him, that I may be cured, and I will produce a text from the Law to prove that this is permitted. But hardly had he finished his discourse when his soul departed, and he died.”
In this passage from the Talmud, the name “Yeshu” was used instead of Yeshua. Yeshu is a curse. It means “may his name and memory be blotted out.” Leading rabbis of Jesus’ day hated him so much that they used a curse in lieu of his name, and they refused to allow healing in his name even in cases where the life of the person being healed was at stake. The “text” Ben Dama referred to is Exodus 15: 26:
“If you will give earnest heed to the Voice of Yahweh your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, Yahweh, am your healer [i.e., Yahweh Raphah or Yahweh your doctor].”
Ben Dama knew about Yahweh’s promise. He must have been anxious to claim it for his own healing, but Rabbi Ishmael would not allow James to heal him using the name of Jesus so Ben Dama died.
Shabbath 14b: “The grandson of R. Joshua ben Levi had something stuck in his throat. There came a man and whispered to him in the name of Jesus and he recovered. When the healer came out, R. Joshua said to him, What was it you whispered to him? He said to him, A certain word. He said to him, It had been better for him that he had died rather than that.”
Yahweh was the “word” whispered to Rabbi Joshua’s grandson, and that’s who Jesus claimed to be. I won’t go into detail trying to prove that point here, but I wrote a book about it titled His Name is Yahweh. If this interests you, you should read it.
Rabbi Joshua was so incensed that the disciple equated Jesus and Yahweh that he would have preferred his grandson’s death to his healing under that condition. The Talmud says that Rabbi Joshua’s grandson recovered after the disciple prayed for him in “the name of Jesus.” This passage from the Talmud gives you a glimpse of the rabbis’ intense hatred of Jesus.
Sanhedrin X, 1: “R. Akiba said, He who reads in external books [the New Testament], and he who whispers over a wound, and says, ‘None of the diseases which I sent on Egypt will I lay on thee, I am the Lord thy healer’ has any share in the world to come.”
Rabbi Akiba is quoting Exodus 15: 26, and as I said before, it refers to Yahweh Raphah. The people who were seeking healing understood that it makes specific reference to Yahweh, and they believed that Jesus is Yahweh. Thus, they permitted his disciples to pray for them if they used this verse instead of his name thinking that they could obtain healing without offending the rabbis, but Rabbi Akiba would have none of that. He said that people who committed that “offense” were destined to spend eternity in hell because it meant they believed that Jesus is Yahweh.
Rabbi Akiba is more responsible for the chasm between Christians and Jews than anyone else including the Roman Emperor Constantine. During the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 A.D., he declared that Bar Kochba was the messiah. Until that time, Nazarenes, Jewish followers of Yeshua, fought alongside Bar Kochba, but they abandoned the fight after Akiba’s pronouncement thus leading him to declare that they were not Jewish. That edict stuck, and to this day, the gulf between Jews and Christians remains.
Be that as it may, the historicity of Jesus isn’t in doubt and neither are his claims. If Mr. Rosen wants to criticize Christianity, that’s fine. There is plenty of room for criticism, but he needs to get his facts straight.
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Daniel 6: 6-9
Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him as follows: “King Darius, live forever! All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions’ den. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction.
- God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This [Yahweh] is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.” (Exodus 3: 15)
- “Therefore behold, I am going to make them know—this time I will make them know My power and My might; and they shall know that My name is Yahweh.” (Jeremiah 16: 21)
- “Behold, the days are coming,” declares Yahweh, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘Yahweh our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 23: 5-6)
- Yeshua said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” (John 8: 58)
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Hosea 4: 6
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
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Richard F. Miniter: Working Up to Auschwitz—A demon has been revealed in twenty-first-century Philadelphia. The implications for our country are stark.
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Dore Gold: Iran’s usual scapegoat— The whole idea that Iran’s determination to get nuclear weapons has something to do with Israel is completely wrong.
Ruthie Blum: Cristina Kirchner is not invited— Argentina’s president is conspicuously missing from Margaret Thatcher’s funeral guest list.
Daniel Pipes: Support Assad— It causes me, as a humanitarian and long foe of the Assad dynasty, to pause before writing.
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Asaf Gabor: Members of the European Parliament are Starting to Understand the Truth about Israel and the ‘Palestinians’— In the entrance to the luxurious building that houses the European Union, the aide of Dr. Fiorello Provera from Italy was waiting for us. Dr. Provera is the deputy head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament and up until a year ago, Provera was one of the members of parliament who spoke routinely about returning occupied territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the ’67 lines as part of a “two states for two peoples” solution. He supported the routine transfer of monies to the PA, and all he knew about Israel is that it is a Western style state that has a seacoast, pretty models and noisy discotheques.
Mark Helprin: Benghazi’s Portent and the Decline of U.S. Military Strength— In the rush to paper over its delinquencies in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the Obama administration seems unaware that its failures are fundamental rather than merely anomalous. They are, unfortunately, a portent of the future.
Walter Laqueur: Reality Check: The Hazards of Optimism—The exultant reception of the Arab Spring is a particularly poignant example of the triumph of hope over experience in international affairs. When the Arab Spring first bloomed in the winter of 2010-2011 it was welcomed by jubilation on the part of foreign correspondents who carried the good news about the fall of tyrants to the rest of the world. What followed were elections in which the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis received an overwhelming majority. A new constitution was prepared according to the rules of Islamic sharia law. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi successfully grabbed more power in order to incorporate religious fundamentalism as the constitution’s guiding light. It was not what the freedom fighters had hoped for.
Eric Trager: Tired of the Brotherhood, Egyptians Want the Military Back – But Only Temporarily—Non-Islamists in Egypt openly admitted that their increasingly violent protests against the government of President Mohamed Morsi, including a string of arsons targeting Muslim Brotherhood headquarters nationwide, are intended to force the military to reclaim control. Public support for a new military takeover grew tremendously after Dec. 5, when the Brotherhood used organized violence against protesters outside the presidential palace. According to one poll, 82% of Egyptians now want the military back in power.
Sarah Lynch: Poll: Egyptian Support for Muslim Brotherhood Wanes—Amid Egypt’s mounting problems, support for the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood is dwindling. President Morsi’s approval ratings were as high as 79% in September, but have dipped to 49%, according to a poll by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research. Egypt is witnessing “the beginning of the demise of the Islamist project,” said Khaled Fahmy, professor and chair of the history department at the American University in Cairo.
Harold Rhode: Would You Name Your Kid “Sword”?—Would we name our children “Warrior,” “Conqueror,” “Sword,” or “Holy War”? These are names commonly used in the Muslim world, and may give some insight into Muslim values, especially regarding violence. Violence has been endemic to Muslim society from its inception more than 1,400 years ago. A large proportion of the ancestors of today’s approximately 1.3 billion Muslims converted to Islam under duress.
Burak Bekdil: Blessed Are the Peacemakers—Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has outlined further steps Israel needed to take in order to restore full diplomatic ties, including a complete lifting of economic restrictions on Gaza. No more restrictions on imports of weapons? Rockets? Material for innocent Katyushas? There will be plenty of time before President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry will be able to see the real face of Turkish triumphalism over the Israeli apology and, subsequently, the forced and fake detente. Erdogan does not hide the fact that he accepts Israel’s right to exist “only within the pre-1967 borders.”
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Gordon G. Chang: China Sides with North Korea—“No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains,” said President Xi Jinping on Sunday. Has Beijing finally made the switch from supporting Pyongyang to siding with the international community?
Bridget Johnson: McCarthy: ObamaCare Will Be ‘No. 1 Item in the Next Election’—House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Thursday that the lower chamber’s Republicans “have kind of got their mojo back” over the past couple of months and are ready to charge forward with tax reform. With an eye on midterms, though, the whip said the looming implementation date of Obamacare could be the Dems’ downfall.
George Neumayr: Obama’s Soldiers for Secularism— Whoever put together the recently reported Defense Department materials classifying Catholics and Evangelicals as extremists can be excused for simply reflecting, if a bit overenthusiastically, the ideology of the boss. Obama’s anti-Christian secularism is the order of the day. Why wouldn’t that philosophy seep into DOD materials?
Paul E. Rondeau: Hooking Kids on Sex: Planned Parenthood Starts “Saturation Process in Kindergarten.”— While the White House says sequestration has eliminated funds for children touring the White House, President Obama has no problem spending $350 million federal tax dollars for sexual indoctrination programs starting in kindergarten for those same children.
Katie Pavlich: Welcome to Gunsite Academy: Revealing the Truth About the AR-15— Over the course of the next week, I’ll be spending my time at Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona learning the ins and outs of the AR-15 and pistol handling. For those of you who don’t know what Gunsite Academy is, let me give you an introduction.
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Tom Trinko: Why Liberals support Gun Control—The liberal nanny state is not based on a liberal desire to improve the lives of others; it’s based on liberals desire to be nannies — that is, to run the lives of others.
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Blessings in the Book of Revelation is a book that you need to read, especially now. There are blessings throughout the Scriptures but Revelation is the only book in the Bible actually containing a specific blessing for reading it. It’s repeated twice, once at the beginning and again at the end. This is the reason that I believe Revelation should be the first step toward studying biblical prophecy. Though not easy to do, Revelation can be broken down and understood by anyone, not just the academic elite. So, Revelation’s blessings are for everyone. Click here to order the eBook. Click here to order the paperback.
Other Books by Neil Snyder
- Stand! is a suspense novel that exposes the lies, corruption, and greed underlying the theory that man-made CO2 emissions are responsible for global warming. Professor Wes Carlyle and Karen Sterling, his research collaborator, carefully scan the audience for their would-be attacker—a member of the enviro-gestapo who has been following them for days. Wes spots his man in the back of the room leaning against the wall. Suddenly, another man in the audience steps forward and moves toward Karen at a menacing pace. With a vicious stroke, he swings a billy club at her head. Click here to order the eBook. Click here to order the paperback.
- What Will You Do with the Rest of Your Life? deals with a question that every Christian has to consider: what should I do with my life? Click here to order the eBook. Click here to order the paperback.
- Falsely Accused is a true story about a young woman who was accused of committing a double homicide. It’s about a travesty of justice, and it reveals Yahweh intervening in the life of a believer to rescue her from danger in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Everyone will enjoy the book, but young people in particular need to read it because the mistakes made that led to the problem could have been avoided. They were the kinds of mistakes that young people are prone to make. As they say, forewarned is forearmed. Click here to order the eBook. Click here to order the paperback.