Tom Gilson

So Many Misconceptions—Where Even to Begin?

Discussion on this very long thread has branched off onto another topic, which isn’t going to be good for the original topic there, so I’m opening up a new thread for this new subject.

Greg Magarshak has posted a few comments listing a litany of reasons he thinks Christianity and the Bible cannot be true. My answers will be brief, necessarily so because although I want to get this new thread going, I don’t have time to do it with a great deal of care. On the other hand it seems to me this flurry of short and mostly unsupported answers are appropriate to the short and unsupported set of challenges Greg himself flung in such a flurry. So here goes.

******************

Greg, we’ve got a lot of work to do here. You said,

You say people don’t arrive at Christianity by believing the Bible is inerrant first. I get it, you are trying to say that they feel something inside, and accept Jesus.

First, the inerrancy of the Bible is a rather technical discussion. What counts for people at first is whether it’s generally trustworthy, especially as regards Jesus. People come to that sense of trust in many ways. For me it was through apologetic argument coupled with an inner conviction of the Holy Spirit. The two were mutually consistent and mutually reinforcing.

The Christianity you know is the winner in a long and protracted battle to understand what happened around 30 AD. It includes things that I think give themselves circular authority, like the writings of Paul and Luke.

Historically, textually, and philosophically inaccurate. Where to begin, even?

But Christianity itself came out of a division, and this whole idea that Jesus is God is also a circular argument giving authority to itself.

Evidentially and philosophically inaccurate. Where to start?

I disagree with your first premise: “The NT present a generally historically reliable account of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.” You should be careful about making possibly false dichotomies about a real person and his teachings based on what the legendary figure based on him says in a book.

Circular and historically false. Where to start?

Then Paul came along, wrote some letters and suddenly the doctrine of original sin was born. It gets put in the Christian canon alongside all those hundreds of years of Jewish history, prophecy and other writings, which explicitly espouse views contradicting the doctrine of original sin, and suddenly “The Bible” contains it.

The NT and OT conceptions of sin are not the same, for the NT is a product of God’s progressive revelation. But they are also not contradictory. “As understood by Jews” is not authoritative; the Bible is.

I know there are interpretations that can pretty much explain anything. The only thing is that these interpretations are only necessary if you presuppose certain things and never stop believing them.

No, there are not interpretations that “can pretty much explain anything;” at least not if you mean by that “You can make the Bible say whatever you want.” And what do you mean by this second sentence? What’s wrong with understanding what the text means by what it says? Paul and James do not disagree with one another, even though out of context they can be made to seem that way. Jesus was not literally telling people to hate their parents. What kind of fool would be taken in by that canard?

I would say that I have usually seen verses taken out of context to support presuppositional beliefs much more frequently.

You think very, very lightly of the hundreds of years of Christian polemic, through which teachings have been tested, disputed, and confirmed. The history of Christianity itself would not have permitted what you’re describing here.

Similarly Christians have a tradition that Paul is as authoritative as the Jesus’ own disciples, which I consider to be circular.

Jesus’ own disciple, Peter, did not view it that way. Neither did their immediate successors, who stood in a considerably better position to assess that question than you do.

Where do we even begin to answer all this?

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270 thoughts on “So Many Misconceptions—Where Even to Begin?

  1. You started this thread because of me, so I feel that I should at least reply to something to get it started. I definitely stand by the things I said, but I can’t address them all at once because that would make an unwieldy discussion (I can definitely understand how you must feel with me sometimes, Tom!) But I will try to take 2 points first, and address them substantively.

    1. First, a point of agreement:

    “Jesus was not literally telling people to hate their parents. What kind of fool would be taken in by that canard?”

    I agree! I even pointed this out. The takeaway from this particular verse is definitely not that the Bible is full of contradictions, but that you should be very careful when using the Bible to support *any* kind of statement, because who knows what the author really meant and if it’s applicable to the situation you are applying it. I think that *is* a valuable takeaway, and just want to make that point. It takes care of a lot of preaching which I think you and I would both disagree with — preaching that understands something to be literal, even though it may have almost no support in fact, and sometimes it’s hard to tell one way or the other. Biblical analysis is often closer to literary analysis than scientific reasoning.

    2. Bill T brought up the way he must feel about atheists: taking verses out of context to support some point, and ignoring strong evidence that contradicts their point. I agree there are definitely atheists who do this, and I don’t have much respect for their arguments. They frustrate me as they do you, Bill. But I would like to say that in my experience, it is the people who presuppose a doctrine (such as Christian doctrines) that do these things very frequently in my experience. They mean well, but they merely parrot what others say.

    I said:

    I would say that I have usually seen verses taken out of context to support presuppositional beliefs much more frequently.

    Tom responds:

    You think very, very lightly of the hundreds of years of Christian polemic, through which teachings have been tested, disputed, and confirmed. The history of Christianity itself would not have permitted what you’re describing here.

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean here, Tom. Let me illustrate my point first with a very obvious example:

    The gospel of Matthew was written anonymously. Its author was describing the story of Jesus’ birth, and apparently attempting to relate it to Old Testament prophecy. In Matthew 2:13, he writes:

    13. When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

    14. So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,

    15. where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

    This author’s gospel is in the Bible. Notice what this author did: he claimed that the story he just told of Jesus’ childhood fulfills the prophecy of Hosea the prophet, canonized in the TaNaKh: “out of Egypt I called my son”. But let’s read the immediate context of this short prophecy, claimed by the writer to apply to Jesus:

    Hosea 11

    1. When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

    2. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images.

    Gee. We have the usual Jewish ideas of Israel not following God’s law, and having idol worship, and so forth. Yes, it is being spoken by Hosea, a prophet. But A) It is about Israel, B) The more God calls Israel, the further they go away from him — definitely not what Christians would say about Jesus, and C) This is not even a prophecy!

    There is no other place in the entire TaNakh that the writer of Matthew could have been referring to. All the prophets have already been canonized in the TaNaKh for 300 or even 400 years, and well known to the audience this writer was writing to. There is no one else he could have had in mind. This is the clearest example I can think of, where an author *who made it into the Bible* engages in this sort of taking verses out of context.

    I would bring many more examples lest you think this is an isolated incident. But let me limit myself to just mentioning one of the most prominent examples: Isaiah 53. Christians love to claim the song of the suffering servant as Isaiah prophesying about Jesus’ coming. I’ve seen billboards with Isaiah 53. I have seen it used to try to convert Jews to Christianity and prove to them that only Jesus could have fulfilled it. Yes, taken out of context it seems quite powerful. But in context, it is completely not about Jesus at all, and moreover (for those Christians who say it’s ALSO about Jesus) it has discrepancies with his actual life and ministry. I won’t say more about this, but you can read the actual original Hebrew and original analysis, line by line, and in context, here:

    http://www.aish.com/sp/ph/Isaiah_53_The_Suffering_Servant.html

    This is a tour de force. You cannot come away from this thinking the Catholic Church wasn’t overreaching. In fact, this is of an order different from my first example — for not even Paul nor any NT writer ever claimed that Jesus’ life and ministry and death on the cross ever fulfilled Isaiah 53. This was a later Christian invention, that made a presupposition — and then, decided to take verses out of context and twist them to support the presupposition. If you don’t believe me, read the link.

  2. Greg,
    It is hard to know where to begin, but I would again emphasize that I think many of your objections are really not the central issue. I would say that the central issue is still that you do not believe yourself experientially to be a sinner. For instance, what if I asked someone “Is the sky blue?” and they responded “Well, what do you mean? Blue by whose definition? Blue can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. And the sky isn’t even an object, so it’s difficult to say whether it could have a color…” Clearly, this person is either deliberately avoiding the question or does not consider the answer itself to be a matter of very great importance.

    In the same way, when I ask you: “Do you think you are a sinner? Are you a complete moral failure? Do you need radical forgiveness?” I think that some legitimate answers would be “No, I think I’m pretty good” or “No, I don’t think God cares about sin” or “No, I don’t think objective good and evil exist” or or “I’m not sure” or even “yes, but I’m not sure what that means.” All of these answers indicate that the person is actually trying to answer the question. But when someone immediately launches into a disputation about the dotrine of original sin and purgatory and Pauline versus Johanine theology, I have to ask whether they are taking the question seriously. So again, let me offer you an essay I wrote on this subject which I think should be very interesting for you: Why I am a Christian

    Anyway, as to your specific questions, like Tom, it’s hard to know where to begin. In all honesty, your comments include quite a few unquestionable errors, and I am not saying this as a Christian but just as a person who has studied some of these issues. Let me just give one example. You say:

    “Jesus is God” is one such doctrine — you will not find 100% clear support for it anywhere in the Bible, not even Paul said this.

    Note the immensity of this claim! Let me just point out two passages (in context) that I think are clear refutations of this statement. The first is from Philippians, a Pauline letter dated in the 50s. In it, he quotes what even skeptic Bart Ehrman acknowledges is a pre-existing Christian hymn, which says:

    Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Phil. 2:5-7, NASB which is about as literal a translation as you can get)

    I’d also consider the entire opening to John’s gospel, John 1:1-18 which includes the famous opening: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Now if these are not clear affirmations of Jesus’ divinity, I’m not sure what is. If you want to argue that there are other passages that contradict these passages, that is fine. But I’m just trying to point out how obviously false is the sweeping statement that “you will not find 100% clear support for [Jesus’ divinity] anywhere in the Bible.” I’m sure other people will address other problems. But at the very least, the fact that you make such claims ought to cause you to question the veratcity of your beliefs on some of these issues.

    -Neil

  3. Just popping in to add my two cents, in response to the last few paragraphs of Greg’s comment #1 about Isaiah 53. Anyone who reads Greg’s link and comes away overwhelmed by the “tour de force” identifying the Suffering Servant as the Jewish people ought to read this document, which rigorously argues for a messianic interpretation, without presupposing such an interpretation:

    http://images.acswebnetworks.com/1/934/ChristintheOTa.pdf

    It is a scholarly article (published as a book chapter), and the author has a PhD in Hebrew from Oxford (and happens to be my pastor). I’m not trying to argue from authority here; I’m just trying to blunt the psychological force of Greg’s unfounded assertions about Isaiah 53.

    So read Greg’s link, then read my link, and judge for yourself. But pay no attention to the bluster.

  4. here is no other place in the entire TaNakh that the writer of Matthew could have been referring to. All the prophets have already been canonized in the TaNaKh for 300 or even 400 years, and well known to the audience this writer was writing to. There is no one else he could have had in mind. This is the clearest example I can think of, where an author *who made it into the Bible* engages in this sort of taking verses out of context

    Thats unfortunate for your position then because this passage is hardly the air tight example that you suppose. For three reasons

    A) Matthew (and Jesus in Matthew) uses the word fulfilled in two different ways. Matthew Five actually includes the idea of fulfilling law which is not prophecy ( in addition but seperate form prophecy). Apparently a law can be fulfilled as well. Simply it means to make something complete to fill something up. Did Matthew see Jesus being called out of Egypt as a fulfillment of not wanting his people to rely on Egypt? I think so and it has good context to Hosea which I will touch on shortly. At any rate Hosea 11:1 is not a prophecy but a command and the implication of that is that the fulfillment talked about here was of the second type not in reference to prophecy.

    B) such kinds of connections are often employed in Jewish Midrash. Some excellent books that cover this are available here

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=answering+Jewish+objections&x=0&y=0

    Thats not a christian creation. The author in these books shows the foundation of this in in Jewish thought not christian creation and the history of Jewish teaching agrees.` Matthew is uniquely Jewish and of the four gospels written more for Jews.

    C) I know its the popular commentary to claim that Hosea 11:1 refers exclusively to the past of God calling Egypt out in time of Moses but the clear context of Hosea goes well beyond that as a mere four verses later Egypt is brought up again and in the context that they should not return there. The call to come out of Israel is much more universal than a single call and Egypt relates even then to a position of being away from God.

    Oh and if you think your link to to the Aish (a known anti-missionary site) is a tour de force you should read the books I linked to. The author properly dispels their position and in addition the dead sea scrolls reading of the text gives more support to the suffering servant being a christ figure than it does the nation (Which takes a great amount of hermeneutical gymnastics to apply to the Jewish nation particularly in verse 5)

  5. Wow, I just noticed this statement too:

    In fact, this is of an order different from my first example — for not even Paul nor any NT writer ever claimed that Jesus’ life and ministry and death on the cross ever fulfilled Isaiah 53

    Now, come on, Greg. This is ridiculous.

    How about these:
    “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.'” – Matt. 8:17

    “It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” – Luke 22:37

    “This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: ‘Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?'” – John 12:38

    “The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:’He was led like a sheep to the slaughter and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.’ The eunuch asked Philip, ‘Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?’ Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” – Acts 8:32-35

    “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” – 1 Pet. 2:24-25

    Now I am not even asking what the correct interpretation of Isaiah 53 is. I’m just pointing out that you said “not even Paul nor any NT writer ever claimed that Jesus’ life and ministry and death on the cross ever fulfilled Isaiah 53.” Shouldn’t mistakes like this at least make you reconsider your grasp of New Testament theology?

    -Neil

  6. So it’s still Greg’s list, is it?

    Okay, the standard complaint about Hosea 11 … the first half of the verse shows it is Israel in sight, and not Jesus.
    This complaint ignores, of course, that the OT is replete with partial fulfillment of prophecies in the near future with parallel fulfillments to come.
    Matthew is a trained scribe and knows his Tanakh very well. And he is writing to Jews who would also have much of it memorized. There is nothing wrong with quoting part of the verse, as the Talmud and Rabbinic literature did, and to expect your audience to know the whole. If his citation were erroneous it would have been spotted in a second and his Gospel would have been discarded, rather than preserved, as it was. He expected his readers not only to catch the reference to Jesus, but to also see the allusion to Israel’s history. Matthew is a Hebrew-speaking and writing Jew, using Hebraic expressions and often translating from the Hebrew Scriptures as opposed to the LXX. He knows what he is talking about.
    “As it happened to Israel, God’s son, so it also happened to the Messiah, God’s Son. …. ‘ Matthew applies this text to Jesus because Jesus epitomizes and fulfills Israel’s history.’ ” page 24, Michael Brown, Jewish Objections to Jesus vol. 4.

    On Isaiah:

    Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is one of the most important Messianic prophecies in the entire Hebrew Bible, and I would not be exaggerating to say that more Jews have put their faith in Jesus as Messaih after reading this passage of Scripture than after reading any other passage in the Tanakh. To the unbiased reader, it clearly speaks about the death and resurrection of the righteous servant of the Lord on behalf of his sinful people. It speaks of Yeshua!

    Reviewing the above evidence, one thing is clear: The ancient rabbis – traditionally Judaism’s most authoritative sources – almost always interpreted Isaiah 53 with reference to an individual rather than to Israel as a whole or to the righteous within Israel, and this individual was most commonly interpreted to be the Messiah. page 60

    Jewish Objections to Jesus vol. 3

  7. I have read all your responses so far, and there’s a lot to respond to, so I will try to do it in a coherent manner.

    Neil:

    Anyway, as to your specific questions, like Tom, it’s hard to know where to begin. In all honesty, your comments include quite a few unquestionable errors, and I am not saying this as a Christian but just as a person who has studied some of these issues. Let me just give one example. You say:

    “Jesus is God” is one such doctrine — you will not find 100% clear support for it anywhere in the Bible, not even Paul said this.

    Let’s take it one at a time. I will discuss this one with you, but first, I have focused on elucidating points 1) and 2), which I numbered. You haven’t addressed 1, but you have addressed a part of 2:

    Wow, I just noticed this statement too:

    In fact, this is of an order different from my first example — for not even Paul nor any NT writer ever claimed that Jesus’ life and ministry and death on the cross ever fulfilled Isaiah 53

    Now, come on, Greg. This is ridiculous.

    How about these:

    Yes! You have amply convinced me on this point. I take back what I said about the NT writers. I accidentally paraphrased one of the points of the Aish article instead of stating it correctly. Let me restate: In the days of Jesus, nobody ever understood Isaiah 53 to be predicting the death of the Messiah. Not in the days of the NT writers. This is indeed a mistake on my part. Also, I realize that even this claim might be contentious to you, and it is technically unprovable by me, so I will withdraw it, because it has no bearing on point #2: that people who want to support a certain interpretation take verses out of context, when *in* context, they were meant totally differently.

    By the way, what you did there — bringing evidence to change my mind — is what it’s all about. This is what I am talking about. No personal attacks, and no equivocating. Right there, bam. You said this, well what about that! And you showed me. Very good. Notice my response — I acknowledged I was wrong, explained why I thought what I thought, and re-evaluated my position. That is what I want to be happening in both directions. Many Christians should also consider the evidence others bring.

    Now would you like to address the other parts of point 2? I gave two examples: one clear and one famous.

  8. Hosea 11:1 is Typical fulfillment, rather than a direct fulfillment. Matthew’s type is based on Numbers 23 and 24, which establishes Israel as a Type of Messiah. The Numbers 23 oracle uses a plural pronoun to refer to the whole people of Israel:

    -God brings *them* out of Egypt
    -God is for *them* like the horns of an Ox
    -*Isreal* is like a lion

    However, in Numbers 24 there is a deliberate shift to the singular pronoun while discussing the “seed” of Jacob:

    -God brings *Him* out of Egypt
    -God is for *Him* like the horns of an Ox
    -The *King* is like a lion

    The type established here “specifically identifies coming out of Egypt as a point of correspondance between Israel and the future Messiah.” The reason why Numbers 24 was not directly cited (though some scholars have recognized the subtle allusion to Numbers 24, and others have even claimed Matthew may have been citing Numbers 24 directly) is that “Matthew wanted to emphasize the Messiah’s relationship to His Father as Son.”

    Quotes and information taken from Rydelnik’s ‘The Messianic Hope’ http://www.amazon.com/Messianic-Hope-Testament-Studies-Theology/dp/0805446540/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1307074380&sr=8-1

  9. Charlie: In terms of the true meaning of the section, it speaks only of the people of Israel, which the prophets regularly call “Israel My servant” or “Jacob my servant.”

    I will summarize some of the evidence from the original Hebrew text and invite you to interpret how it relates to Jesus:

    1) Isaiah has four “Servant Songs”, and this is one of them. In the other ones, he specifically identifies the Suffering Servant as Israel at least 9 times, and no one else.

    Isaiah 44:1, 44:2, 44:8, 44:21, 45:4, 48:20 49:3

    2) Isaiah 53 verse 8 says, “… who could have imagined such a *generation* ? For he was removed from Eretz HaChaim, because of my people *THEY* were afflicted”.

    In the original Hebrew, They is always plural. How do you interpret “they” to apply to Jesus?

    Isn’t it clear that “they” refers to a multitude of people? Israel is often referred to both as a nation and as a single person, by God. Compare this to Deuteronomy 28.

    3) Isaiah 53 verse 10 says that if the Suffering Servant *would acknowledge guilt*, then he would see offspring and live long days, and God’s purpose would succeed in his hand. What does this match?

    A) The verses found throughout the Bible, for example Deuteronomy 30:

    “1 When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes[a] and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.”

    B) The Christian idea of the guiltless Jesus, who never needed to acknowledge any guilt and who has eternal life with his father in heaven (rather than offspring and long days).

    4) Isaiah 53 verse 3 says: “he was despised and rejected of men, a man of pains and accustomed to sickness.”

    The above verses already showed that we are talking about a nation. But let’s try again. Maybe this matches Jesus?

    Matthew describes Jesus’ activities in Galilee as very successful:

    23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis,[g] Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

    Mark also describes his activities there as “great success”, maybe a little too great even:

    7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him,

    Luke 4:14 specifically says Jesus was famous and welcomed in Galilee:

    14And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.

    15And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.

    And not just in Galilee, but in all the country around there:

    37And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about.

    Luke the historian also says of Jesus:

    52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

    How do you square this with “despised and rejected of men, a man of pains and accustomed to sickness”? Why would he be accustomed to it?

    Let’s start with just these 4. Don’t they show clearly that the passage is about the nation Israel, and fulfills the theme of Deuteronomy 28, Deuteronomy 29, and Deuteronomy 30? You don’t think it’s about Israel?

    However:
    You are correct that some rabbis in the Aggadah (tales) interpret Isaiah 53 as referring to the Messiah. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggadah) The Messiah in Jewish mystical thinking is the embodiment of all the Jewish souls who ever lived. However, they never said he would be killed at the hands of his enemies. You will find in NO book of the Jews, neither in the Talmud nor the Midrash, that the messiah, the descendant of David, would be killed or would be turned over to his enemies or would be buried among the wicked. In fact, even Jesus was himself not buried.

    However, the Messiah *is* supposed to rebuild the physical temple, gather all the Jews in the physical land of Israel (Ezekiel 37:26-28) (Isaiah 43:5-6), and usher in an era of world peace without end (Isaiah 2:4). Did Jesus do these things? Once the Messiah (annointed king of Israel) comes, he will fulfill all four things. None of the prophecies ever say the messiah would be killed. Jesus preached a kingdom of heaven in the time of his listeners. But after his death, the nation of Israel was scattered from their land instead of gathered into it, and his very followers the Christians persecuted them for generations, and did not usher in an era of world peace by any means. So in what way do the Messianic prophecies refer to Jesus? It seems to me that a reader would have to be pretty biased to claim that despite all the above evidence, the prophecies definitely refer to Jesus.

    My original point was that they were quoted out of context and/or mistranslated. But above you have some clear reasons why one would consider Isaiah 53 be about a nation. What do you have to say to that?

  10. This is a pretty good point:

    However, they never said he would be killed at the hands of his enemies.

    Most Jews certainly did not expect their Messiah to die. That’s why even Jesus’ Disciples were confused by the goings on. Even they had wondered if He was now going to restore the kingdom. This failure to generally anticipate His death is not a failing of prophecy or of fulfillment or of Christianity. It is demonstrated directly in the NT. Jesus not only took on the role of Messiah, claiming it directly for Himself, but He also showed us that it had meant more than had been commonly expected.

    Whether or not the Servant was to suffer, however, we see this as a fact. Isaiah 53 was, in fact, viewed as Messianic and the Servant clearly dies. He pours out His life even unto death.

  11. Bill R, thanks for posting that article. It makes some interesting points, but I am not sure it argues that this prophecy is about Jesus.

    First, it affirms that this is one of four servant songs. And the other servant songs all identify the servant as Israel, specifically and by name. Can you explain why, if this is about Jesus?

    one interesting reaction I had when Hugenberger said:

    With reference to the fourth servant song, where the servant suffers,
    dies, and yet apparently lives (53:10f.),

    I looked up 53:10 in a Christian Bible (KJV) and indeed it says:

    10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the LORD makes[a] his life an offering for sin,
    he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

    But in the original Hebrew, we find:
    יהוָה חָפֵץ דַּכְּאוֹ הֶחֱלִי אִם תָּשִׂים אָשָׁם נַפְשׁוֹ יִרְאֶה זֶרַע יַאֲרִיךְ יָמִים וְחֵפֶץ יְהוָה בְּיָדוֹ יִצְלָח

    this translates as: “if his soul will make itself atonement”

    See for yourself in any authentic Jewish translation of the Tanakh. Don’t like aish? here’s Chabad.org: http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15984 .

    Let me make a couple comments. First of all if you want to learn Indian Vedas – do you travel to Argentina and ask the local native tribes people? If you want to learn about the intricate details of the empire state building – do you travel to Romania and ask the local carpenters there? No. If you have a question about the vedas you travel to India and ask their sages. If you want to know the intricate details about the empire state building you ask the architect who designed it. The Torah is no different. The Torah is not a plain text left for personal interpretation. It comes with a vast oral tradition and a very specific method of interpretation and if you want the verses interpreted correctly you go to the only people who hold the key to this puzzle and that is the Jews and their sages. It is their text. It was given to them and they are the only who are qualified to interpret it. Its as simple as that.

    Fishermen and a former pharisee are not qualified to interpret it for the Jews. God says right in Deuteronomy — follow your Sanhedrin, judges and council of sages on matters, and veer not the left nor to the right. So if you were a Jew living in the year 30 AD and some guys started interpreting the Torah for you contrary to what the sages said, you aren’t supposed to abandon everything and follow them. Deuteronomy 13:4-5

    “It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. 5 That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.”

    It can’t get any clearer than that. God Himself is saying it.

    On Jesus being God or being part of a Trinity or anything of this nature. This is a knife to the heart of Judaism. This cuts to the very core. Over and over again the Jews are warned to not commit one particular transgression – a transgression thats worse than all the other transgressions – and that of course is to not worship anything, anyone, any form any semblance – nothing but God alone. God that has no form, no parts, to be honest no physical description at all. And here comes Christianity and wants to convince the Jews that Jesus is God or in any way Divine. Like I said this cuts to the core of Judaism and that is why they have never accepted it for 2000 years. Jews are left with only one possibility – perhaps Jesus was the messiah.

    On Jesus being the messiah. The simple fact of the matter is that Jews have been waiting for a messiah since the Exodus from Egypt. Nobody in the world is more qualified to spot the messiah than the Jews. They are the ultimate experts on the topic. And there’s nothing more that they want in life than to have this messiah come already. So if thats the case why do they so bluntly deny Jesus? After all he was a jew and reportedly from the house of David. Seems to fit the criteria so far. Well not exactly. Once again we have to resort to the oral tradition because Judaism is the oral tradition. And the tradition says that messiah is suppose to 1) build the 3rd temple. 2) gather all the Jews in Israel. 3) Launch an era of world peace and unprecedented perfection which will be obvious to all. Fact of the matter is Jesus didnt do any of these things. And thats really the only reason the Jews dont accept him as messiah. He didnt get the job done. But what about a second coming? As a matter of fact the oral tradition tells us that the messiah can come from the dead so technically this still gives Jesus a shot. Well there’s just one problem – the oral tradition tells us the messiah cannot be killed. He can die naturally but he cannot be killed. If he is killed he cannot be messiah. Well that takes care of that… Just to end on an optimistic note the Jews do have a deadline by which the messiah must come and that deadline is now just 230 years away. Also many Jews believe that the messiah will come within the next 30 or so years and if that happens then the truth will be obvious to all!

  12. The servant of the Lord is mentioned a total of seventeen times in Isaiah 40-51, sometimes with reference to the nation of Israel as a whole and sometimes with reference to a righteous individual within the nation. In several verses it is not clear whether an individual or the nation (or a righteous remnant withint the nation) is referred to, although a good case can be made for the individual interpretation (42:1; 44:1-2).

    The references tot he servant as a people actually end with Isaiah 48:20, while the references to the servant as an individual come into indisputable focus beginning with Isaiah 49 and continuing through the end of chapter 53. Thus, by the time we reach Isaiah 52:13 the spotlight is on a person, not a people.

    [Isa, 42:1. 6-7]
    This servant is obedient and righteous, setting captives free, and according to the Targum, this servant is none other than the Messiah. This is confirmed by Rabbi David Kimchi.

    page 43 Answering Jewih Objections To Jesus, volume 3

  13. Isaiah 53:8

    lamo in verse 8 … provide[s] a clue that the singular servant is actually a nation….

    What’s wrong with these interpretations? Plenty! First, the phrase nega’ lamo, as rightly understood by the NJPSV, most likely means that the servant receives a stroke for them – in other words, for those for whom he is suffering. Second, Isaiah elsewhere uses lamo to mean “to it”, not “to them,” (in 44:15).

    page 66

  14. re: pt. 4

    At first glance, this objection might seem odd. After all, wasn’t Jesus rejected by his own people, and didn’t he die a horrific, humiliating death on the cross?Doesn’t he clearly fulfill the image of the suffering servant of the Lord described in Isaiah 53?

    Don’t the anti-missionaries sometimes claim that the authors of the NT made up details about the life of Jesus in order to give the impression that he was fulfilling Messianic prophecies? How then can they claim that the picture of Yeshua painted by the writers of the Gospels actually contradicts the words of the prophets?
    Obviously, there is something self-contradictory in these two objections.

    What does the text actually say?

    [it] agrees well with the humble, inauspicious origins of Jesus.

    Truly, he grew up like a tender shoot, like a root out of dry ground, and when he began his public ministry, those who knew him were taken aback.

    ..this too accords well with the Gospel witness, since there is not a single reference to Yeshua’s havng a stately appearance or imposing physical presence.

    Isaiah also stated that the servant of the Lord was “despised and rejected by men”, something that very accurately describes the ministry of Jesus. no sooner did he preach his inaugural message in the synagogue in Capernaum than some of the people tried to kill him.

    pp 67-70

  15. Regarding all attempts to defend the Christian interpretation of Isaiah 53:

    Okay let’s keep this clean. Can anyone address my comment 9, numbered arguments 1 – 4?

    Also, do you agree that Jesus did not gather all the Jews in Israel, rebuild the physical 3rd temple, and usher in a neverending era of world peace? I spoke of this also in chapter 9.

  16. Regarding Hosea:

    Can you guys address my points A, B, C which I wrote in the very first comment?

    Mike has an interesting attempt:

    Did Matthew see Jesus being called out of Egypt as a fulfillment of not wanting his people to rely on Egypt? I think so

    My point A) was that the verse is about Israel. So you are saying that Jesus’ parents — whose son is Jesus — leaving egypt fulfills the words of the prophet who says “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”

    So the son is Jesus? That can’t be it. The verse continues, “But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images.”

    So the one being called is in fact, Israel. So this whole thing is about Israel, not Jesus.

    In what sense do you understand the word “fulfillment” exactly? In what sense do you think it makes the words of the anonymous writer of Matthew the infallible Word of God, instead of a guy taking part of a sentence out of its context which means something completely different? Out of the tons of cases I know of taking things out of context, this is the clearest one because had the guy taken the very next verse, or even *THE BEGINNING of the verse whose second half he quoted*, it would have been clear that his words make absolutely no sense. He conveniently snipped just the part that doesn’t mention Israel, which required him to take *half of a verse*. I find that to be incredible. Don’t you at least bat an eye?

  17. And finally, #3.
    Yes, B.
    It is Jesus. A guiltless, perfect offering poured out for our sins. The free gift of propitiation to be accepted with unending gratitude.

    Did Jesus have offspring?
    The idiom “see seed” is found only one time in the Tanakh; in Isaiah 53.
    And zera can be used metaphorically in the Hebrew Bible, as it is in other places in Isaiah. A standard Hebrew lexicon says of “seed” that it is “marked by moral quality – persons of such a quality”.
    page 84 of Michael Brown.

  18. Regarding Hosea:

    Can you guys address my points A, B, C which I wrote in the very first comment?

    Done.

    Okay, the standard complaint about Hosea 11 … the first half of the verse shows it is Israel in sight, and not Jesus.
    This complaint ignores, of course, that the OT is replete with partial fulfillment of prophecies in the near future with parallel fulfillments to come.
    Matthew is a trained scribe and knows his Tanakh very well. And he is writing to Jews who would also have much of it memorized. There is nothing wrong with quoting part of the verse, as the Talmud and Rabbinic literature did, and to expect your audience to know the whole. If his citation were erroneous it would have been spotted in a second and his Gospel would have been discarded, rather than preserved, as it was. He expected his readers not only to catch the reference to Jesus, but to also see the allusion to Israel’s history. Matthew is a Hebrew-speaking and writing Jew, using Hebraic expressions and often translating from the Hebrew Scriptures as opposed to the LXX. He knows what he is talking about.
    “As it happened to Israel, God’s son, so it also happened to the Messiah, God’s Son. …. ‘ Matthew applies this text to Jesus because Jesus epitomizes and fulfills Israel’s history.’ ” page 24, Michael Brown, Jewish Objections to Jesus vol. 4.

  19. This servant is obedient and righteous, setting captives free, and according to the Targum, this servant is none other than the Messiah. This is confirmed by Rabbi David Kimchi.

    Charlie: as I told you, in the aggadah, some rabbis consider this to be the Messiah, but once again, Christians attempt to seize on this while ignoring the fact that the same Targum indicates Messiah has not yet come.

    There was a precedent already, where the great Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman (Nachmanides) was challenged by a Christian friar to debate in front of the King. These very arguments were already covered. The famous result is that the rabbi completely won, and then was exiled as a result, and jewish villages were burned. But the topic of the debate was, “did the Messiah come already?”

    http://israel613.com/books/RAMBAN_DIPUTE_E.pdf

  20. I don’t think you made much of an attempt to respond to my comment on Hosea, Greg.

  21. Charlie: as I told you, in the aggadah, some rabbis consider this to be the Messiah, but once again, Christians attempt to seize on this while ignoring the fact that the same Targum indicates Messiah has not yet come.

    Irrelevant.
    The interpretation shows that the passage is seen as Messianic. It doesn’t matter at all if later writers denied that Jesus was that Messiah.

  22. Out of the tons of cases I know of taking things out of context, this is the clearest one because had the guy taken the very next verse, or even *THE BEGINNING of the verse whose second half he quoted*, it would have been clear that his words make absolutely no sense.

    This makes absolutely no sense, because …

    Matthew is a trained scribe and knows his Tanakh very well. And he is writing to Jews who would also have much of it memorized. There is nothing wrong with quoting part of the verse, as the Talmud and Rabbinic literature did, and to expect your audience to know the whole. If his citation were erroneous it would have been spotted in a second and his Gospel would have been discarded, rather than preserved, as it was. He expected his readers not only to catch the reference to Jesus, but to also see the allusion to Israel’s history. Matthew is a Hebrew-speaking and writing Jew, using Hebraic expressions and often translating from the Hebrew Scriptures as opposed to the LXX. He knows what he is talking about.

  23. Matthew is a trained scribe and knows his Tanakh very well.

    This document was authored by an anonymous writer. How do you know all this stuff about him?

    If his citation were erroneous it would have been spotted in a second and his Gospel would have been discarded, rather than preserved, as it was. He expected his readers not only to catch the reference to Jesus, but to also see the allusion to Israel’s history.

    I see this kind of argument a lot. The truth is, the Jewish sages and judges did reject the Nazarene sect. They were persecuted even. If they had the truth and God on their side, and they read Deuteronomy 17:8-13, they knew exactly what to do: go and get on the high council of sages and tell everyone about Jesus. Instead of writing letters from the backwaters. They knew what God commanded Jews to do: follow the majority leaders. Were they the Jewish majority leaders? No.

    Lots of Christians claim that since Jews heard the message and it survived therefore it’s true. This is a fallacy. You can convince lots of ignorant Jews about things. Look up shabbatai tzvi, another messiah claimant. Stories spread quick about this guy and his miracles. But so what?

    Let me recap.

    In my first comment, I set out 2 points.

    I find that no one has challenged my first point, so I guess you all agree with it. Cool!

    My second point is that I see a lot of examples of verses being taken out of context (in the sense that the larger context completely changes the apparent meaning of the verse). The fact that there may be some elaborate explanation as to why it was included out of context does not change the fact that it was included out of context. That was what I was saying, in response to Bill T mentioning that atheists do this. If you use this argument to discredit points made by atheists, why do you not use the same logic to discredit anyone who uses that tactic? If you think these examples are too few, I can try and give another 20 examples of Christians taking Jewish prophecies out of context in order to support that the Messiah has already come and it is Jesus, or that Jesus is God, and thereby support their own presuppositions.

    Frankly I don’t think it’s such a controversial thing that people who have a presupposition decide to read the older books “in the light of the presupposition” and take verses out of context, or even snippets of verses, to give even more support to their idea. You deny that this happens a lot?

    These were supposed to be minor points that we could dismiss quickly and get to the real heart of the matter — namely why do you consider “The Bible” and “Christianity” as if it’s this prepackaged monolithic thing? This is an important question for anyone who wants to become a Christian. As Neil pointed out, even a simple question like “are you a sinner” is not simple at all. For what is sin, in Christianity? How does answer that? Are you a joojoo? I don’t know, it depends on the definition, doesn’t it. And it also hinges strongly on how this definition has changed from its original and natural expression in Judaism, to the prepackaged, yet in my opinion incoherent, idea in Christianity. This is what I want to discuss as soon as we can agree regarding my first two contentions (1 and 2 in the first comment).

  24. Greg,

    Speaking about taking words out of context:

    Fishermen and a former pharisee are not qualified to interpret it for the Jews. God says right in Deuteronomy — follow your Sanhedrin, judges and council of sages on matters, and veer not the left nor to the right. So if you were a Jew living in the year 30 AD and some guys started interpreting the Torah for you contrary to what the sages said, you aren’t supposed to abandon everything and follow them. Deuteronomy 13:4-5

    “It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. 5 That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.”

    It can’t get any clearer than that. God Himself is saying it.

    Deuteronomy says follow your Sanhedrin? How about you cite a verse for that.

    As for the prophets in this verse they are ones who say “Let us follow other gods’ (whom you have not known) ‘and let us serve them”. This whole chapter is a warning about idolatry.

  25. Lots of Christians claim that since Jews heard the message and it survived therefore it’s true. This is a fallacy. You can convince lots of ignorant Jews about things

    He wasn’t addressing ignorant Jews. He was addressing sophisticated Jews who would see that he was showing the fulfillment and perfection of Israel’s history in the Person of Jesus.

    The fact that there may be some elaborate explanation as to why it was included out of context does not change the fact that it was included out of context.

    You falsely characterize the quotation and the explanation. Matthew is simply showing that what happened to God’s son Israel, and what they did incompletely, happened in the fulfillment to His Son, Jesus, and He was the perfect fulfillment.

    If you think these examples are too few, I can try and give another 20 examples of Christians taking Jewish prophecies out of context in order to support that the Messiah has already come and it is Jesus, or that Jesus is God, and thereby support their own presuppositions.

    Nobody thinks you can paste too few arguments from anti-Christian websites.

    It’s certainly no surprise that Christians read the OT in light of Jesus. That’s exactly what He told us to do and He showed His own Disciples that the OT was about Him.

    These were supposed to be minor points that we could dismiss quickly and get to the real heart of the matter

    They have been dismissed quickly – as spurious attempts to undermine the New Testament and Christianity. They have failed to do so.

  26. Bryan: fair enough. I’ve been trying to respond a lot tonight (as you can see) so as not to leave anyone out. Sorry it took a while. I am going to sleep after this.

    “Matthew wanted to emphasize the Messiah’s relationship to His Father as Son.”

    That’s a nice theory, but you know, Matthew could have easily quoted the whole verse and explained that he wanted to emphasize the Messiah’s relationship to His Father as Son. It would have been a lot clearer than the cryptic second *half* of a verse that he quoted. It makes one think that he may have been trying to avoid the word “Israel”. A couple points:

    1) Let’s stop calling him matthew, this is the writer of the gospel named Matthew *now*, but it was anonymously authored. We do not know it was “matthew” writing it.

    2) My original point was that people who presuppose something (Jesus is the Son of God, begotten not made, one with the Father, and the Messiah prophesied by the prophets, for example) have quoted verses out of context. The writer of Matthew quoted Hosea out of context. He could have quoted the context, but he didn’t. Whatever his motivations were, my original point was that this is done often by those who hold a presupposition. See my comment above.

    3) If you give the writer of Matthew so much leeway, perhaps you should give atheists leeway when they quote something.

    4) Actually, it shouldn’t matter in the case of atheists. If you start claiming they are quoting it “out of context”, then they should be able to quote it *in* context and still make the same point. If they can’t, then you are right, they are committing the same problem that I’ve been pointing out: quoting verses out of context.

    Anyway can we all agree to move on to the next points?

  27. That’s a nice theory, but you know, Matthew could have easily quoted the whole verse and explained that he wanted to emphasize the Messiah’s relationship to His Father as Son.

    He didn’t have to; his audience knew the whole verse and knew what he was saying.
    Throughout his Gospel he demonstrates that he does not have to explain Hebrew idioms.

    It makes one think that he may have been trying to avoid the word “Israel”.

    Not really.

    Let’s stop calling him matthew, this is the writer of the gospel named Matthew *now*, but it was anonymously authored. We do not know it was “matthew” writing it.

    This is silly. Even if the author of Matthew was not a man named Matthew, why would we say “the author of Matthew” instead of “Matthew”?

    The writer of Matthew quoted Hosea out of context.

    Your original point is flawed. Matthew was not quoting out of context – he was fulfilling the context.

    If you give the writer of Matthew so much leeway, perhaps you should give atheists leeway when they quote something.

    Everyone should be given a gracious reading.

    Anyway can we all agree to move on to the next points?

    What are they?

  28. Melissa: Deuteronomy 17:8-13 says to follow the judges and the Levitical priests. The sanhedrin was like the supreme court of judges, and they were the ones authorized to interpret the law.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanhedrin

    Any Jews including the followers of Jesus would have known this. They would realize that their fellow Jews would not simply stop following the law of Moses after accepting Jesus, nor would they believe Jesus is God, just because they said “don’t worry guys, we have the right interpretation. A man is justified by faith, apart from works of the law. The old covenant is obsolete. Yeah, I know you haven’t met Jesus yourself, but we’re telling you now. Yup, and don’t bother asking your sages because God has hidden the truth from them and revealed it to babes.” It seems strange that God told the Jews not to listen to prophets or dreamers who try to turn Jews away from the way the LORD God commanded them to follow, and told them to listen to the judges and priests when there is a dispute, but then when God wanted the Jews to follow Jesus, He used fishermen to write letters that said “you are no longer under the law” and made the judges reject them. Doesn’t it seem a little strange to you?

    What is more likely:

    A) First God told the Jews not to listen to guys like Jesus’ disciples, but then He used Jesus’ disciples to spread the message and the Jews are blamed for not listening to them?

    B) People made things up about Jesus, and had no hope of convincing the actual authorities, so they started their own campaign? It’s been done lots of times throughout history.

    I have to sleep. See you tomorrow!

  29. Very little of the NT was written by fishermen, including only a few of the Epistles.

  30. And so, to quote:

    But at the very least, the fact that you make such claims ought to cause you to question the veratcity of your beliefs on some of these issues.

    -Neil

  31. Charlie:

    The interpretation shows that the passage is seen as Messianic. It doesn’t matter at all if later writers denied that Jesus was that Messiah.

    That is not the point. If you are going to use a Jewish book of tales to support your point that Isaiah 53 was considered to be about the Messiah by one of the authors, then you should also consider Isaiah’s direct prophecies about what the Messiah will accomplish didn’t come true yet (everlasting world peace, etc.) You seem to pick and choose what you want the book to say. Anyway, my only point was back in comment 1 and you seem to agree with it: that people who have presuppositions (not just Christians, but others too) often take things out of context in order to support their point.

    Your edit to that comment is also irrelevant.

    Irrelevant to what? Your whole argument is irrelevant to my original points, I simply addressed it.

    Let’s stop getting sidetracked with these off-topic arguments, okay? See my numbered points in comment 1.

    Most Jews certainly did not expect their Messiah to die. That’s why even Jesus’ Disciples were confused by the goings on.

    So you agree with my point that I made to Neil:
    In the days of Jesus, nobody ever understood Isaiah 53 to be predicting the death of the Messiah.

    By the way, I don’t completely stand behind this point because it’s unprovable. Maybe someone somewhere thought in Jesus’ time that Isaiah 53 applied to him. But I think it is very unlikely.

    If you give the writer of Matthew so much leeway, perhaps you should give atheists leeway when they quote something.

    Everyone should be given a gracious reading.

    So then you agree with my original point #2! That was mainly what I was saying with it. Wonderful. Do you also agree with my point #1?

    These were supposed to be minor points that we could dismiss quickly and get to the real heart of the matter

    They have been dismissed quickly – as spurious attempts to undermine the New Testament and Christianity. They have failed to do so.

    Those points weren’t even intended to undermind the NT or Christianity. The first point was actually an agreement and simply noting that we must be careful about preaching based on the Bible, because many times we may be mistaken about what the words being said mean, whether they are literal, and whether they apply to the situation being preached about.

    The second point happened because Bill T in the previous thread dismissed the links I posted by saying the verses are all taken out of context. I had replied that in my experience, while there are many atheists doing this, there are also many theists throughout the ages doing this. I indicated the major presuppositions people have and how that makes them deists, sadducees, rabbinnical jews, messianic jews, christians, catholics… we could go on, muslims, mormons, etc. Each group has presuppositions, and it takes the previous texts and often quotes verses out of context, in order to support its point.

    These were not supposed to be major or contested things. You have brought up a lot of side points but how about addressing those two main points, so we can move on? Do you disagree? People with presuppositions never quote things out of context when the presuppositions are Christian? Each example of quoting out of context by a Christian writer can be dismissed as being “anti-missionary” or whatever/whatever? But atheists quote out of context and therefore their arguments are wrong? I don’t get it. What is it that you are contesting.

  32. They would realize that their fellow Jews would not simply stop following the law of Moses after accepting Jesus,

    Nor did they ask them to. For centuries, Hebraic Christians were fully faithful, religious Jews.

    nor would they believe Jesus is God

    A great apologetic point, because these Jews did believe and worship Jesus as God. So something had to have happened other than a few fisherman writing badly researched letters half a century after-the-fact.

  33. Greg,

    “That’s a nice theory, but you know, Matthew could have easily quoted the whole verse and explained that he wanted to emphasize the Messiah’s relationship to His Father as Son. It would have been a lot clearer than the cryptic second *half* of a verse that he quoted. It makes one think that he may have been trying to avoid the word “Israel”.”

    First, I’ve just explained that Israel was established as a ‘Type’ of Messiah in Numbers 23 and 24. Balaam’s second and third oracles are intentionally similar (phrases) and different (pronoun usage), the point being that what God did for Israel, he will do for the “seed, star and scepter” that will “come out of Jacob” and “rise out of Israel.” Since 1st century Israel was a high context society, this would have been common knowledge so quoting the entire verse would have been unnecessary or perhaps irrelevant to Matthew purposes, and further, you seem to be forcing a 21st century, Western view with your opinions on how Matthew “should have done it.”

    “1) Let’s stop calling him matthew, this is the writer of the gospel named Matthew *now*, but it was anonymously authored. We do not know it was “matthew” writing it.”

    Without getting into a debate on the authorship of the Gospel of Matthew, this is semantical objection is irrelevant.

    “2) My original point was that people who presuppose something (Jesus is the Son of God, begotten not made, one with the Father, and the Messiah prophesied by the prophets, for example) have quoted verses out of context.”

    Well, if the writer of Matthew’s Gospel was Matthew or knew Matthew, or was recording true events, then it is something more than a presupposition.

    “The writer of Matthew quoted Hosea out of context. He could have quoted the context, but he didn’t.”

    The point is that in the Old Testament the typological Messiah would be called out of Egypt just like the nation of Israel. Some scholars believe that Matthew was actually quoting Numbers 24: 8. Given the cultural and literary background, I see nothing wrong with Matthew’s quotation. You’ll have to provide stronger evidence that the author had sinister intentions.

  34. If you are going to use a Jewish book of tales to support your point that Isaiah 53 was considered to be about the Messiah by one of the authors, then you should also consider Isaiah’s direct prophecies about what the Messiah will accomplish didn’t come true yet (everlasting world peace, etc.)

    Yes, indeed you should. You should pay attention to the part of the scroll that Jesus read in their hearing and also to the part He chose not to read.

    You seem to pick and choose what you want the book to say.

    No I don’t. You seem to read without charity.

    Anyway, my only point was back in comment 1 and you seem to agree with it: that people who have presuppositions (not just Christians, but others too) often take things out of context in order to support their point.

    They also misconstrue things, deliberately ignore, read without charity, accidentally bias their conclusions, etc. That’s pretty non-controversial and quite pointless in your anti-Christian crusade – when stated as such, at any rate.

    Irrelevant to what? Your whole argument is irrelevant to my original points, I simply addressed it.

    Every single thing I have written is a point by point answer to your claims. Irrelevant? If you say so.

    Let’s stop getting sidetracked with these off-topic arguments, okay

    I am actually sitting here in the dark giggling.

    So you agree with my point that I made to Neil:
    In the days of Jesus, nobody ever understood Isaiah 53 to be predicting the death of the Messiah.

    No, I don’t agree. “Most Jews” is not nearly so universally negative as your claim. There were lots of Messianic ideas about and I am not going to broadbrush so quickly. I will agree, as the Bible confirms, that the role of the Messiah was not fully understood at that time.

    So then you agree with my original point #2! That was mainly what I was saying with it. Wonderful. Do you also agree with my point #1?

    ! Neat! Your point 2 seems to be a mishmash of points. I agree that because of their misperceptions people often parrot bad arguments – even when their intentions are good.

    The first point was actually an agreement and simply noting that we must be careful about preaching based on the Bible, because many times we may be mistaken about what the words being said mean, whether they are literal, and whether they apply to the situation being preached about.

    Is that what your first point was about? Yes, I agree that preachers should use sound hermeneutics. They are speaking on eternal matters and will be judged severely for misrepresenting God.

    You have brought up a lot of side points but how about addressing those two main points, so we can move on?

    I haven’t brought up a single side point; I have answered your sidepoints. If you don’t like sidepoints you ought not litter your every exchange with them. I’ve seen you do this comment after comment, thread after thread, in your short stay here. Neil called this evidence of your anger toward Christianity, using things like your completely pointless claims about Paul’s conversion. Soon after that you hijacked the “truth” thread with more of the same – including your apologetic for evolution, of all things.

    You have brought up a lot of side points but how about addressing those two main points, so we can move on? Do you disagree? People with presuppositions never quote things out of context when the presuppositions are Christian? Each example of quoting out of context by a Christian writer can be dismissed as being “anti-missionary” or whatever/whatever? But atheists quote out of context and therefore their arguments are wrong? I don’t get it. What is it that you are contesting.

    This series of questions makes no sense to me except as a defensive gesture. What I am contesting is the claims you made. You even numbered and lettered them for us and re-reminded us that you wanted answers to them.

  35. Charlie: correction, fishermen and a former pharisee. Happy? No one on the NT writing staff was part of the Sanhedrin, so my point stands. Your latest argument is strictly ad hominem.

    I think we got really stumped on the first two points, and yet I am not sure if anyone actually disagrees with them.

    To summarize, my points were:

    1. First, a point of agreement.

    The takeaway from this particular verse is definitely not that the Bible is full of contradictions, but that you should be very careful when using the Bible to support *any* kind of statement, because who knows what the author really meant and if it’s applicable to the situation you are applying it. I think that *is* a valuable takeaway, and just want to make that point. It takes care of a lot of preaching which I think you and I would both disagree with — preaching that understands something to be literal, even though it may have almost no support in fact, and sometimes it’s hard to tell one way or the other. Biblical analysis is often closer to literary analysis than scientific reasoning.

    2. Bill T brought up the way he must feel about atheists: taking verses out of context to support some point, and ignoring strong evidence that contradicts their point. I agree there are definitely atheists who do this, and I don’t have much respect for their arguments. They frustrate me as they do you, Bill. But I would like to say that in my experience, it is the people who presuppose a doctrine (such as Christian doctrines) that do these things very frequently in my experience. They mean well, but they merely parrot what others say.

    I noticed that no one disagreed with the first point.

    Also, no one seemed to explicitly disagree with the second point. There was lots of interesting related conversation, but can any of you say that you think people who presuppose a doctrine do NOT ever take verses out of context to support a point? You are willing to say that no christians do this? I am willing to say that in *my* experience, it happened frequently.

    Which of these two points do you find a problem with?

    To support my second point, I brought only two examples. I can bring many. One was the author of Matthew, who made it into the NT, quoting half a verse. The other was a link to the aish explanation of Isaiah 53. If you don’t like aish, get Rashi’s explanation, or any other Jewish commentator. Or maybe you don’t like them all?

    Many people quickly rushed to the defense of both presuppositions. So let me at least be intellectually honest and support my original claim that in my experience, I have seen a lot of these. I will list some more.

    Matthew 2:16-18
    Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
    A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they were no more

    The author of Matthew is claiming that the prophecy of Jeremiah is fulfilled here. But let’s see the full context:

    Jeremiah 31:15-17
    Thus says the Lord:
    A voice is heard in Ramah,
    lamentations and bitter weeping.
    Rachel is weeping for her children:
    She refuses to be comforted for her children,
    because they are not.
    Thus says the Lord:
    Keep your voice from weeping,
    and your eyes from tears;
    for your work shall be rewarded,
    says the Lord:
    and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
    There is hope for the future,
    says the Lord, and your children will come back to their own country.

    This time the whole sense of the passage has been changed. In Jeremiah 31:17 we see that Rachel’s children, far from being slaughtered, will come back home! Seen in this context it is obvious what is meant by the phrase “they are not” in Jeremiah 31:15. It means that her children are at the moment not physically present in their homeland, they are in the land of the enemy where they shall return. So this time, Matthew had given a meaning to Jeremiah 31:15 that it did not have.

    Let me bring modern Christian authors so as to maybe have more contemporary examples.

    As I said — and this is the disclaimer — they mean well! I am not saying they did it maliciously. I am just simply giving examples to support my point.

    http://www.josh.org Josh McDowell ministries
    Book: McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict: p141-166
    Chapter 9, look at it yourself

    Prophecy No.13: Jesus’ Pre-Existence
    The prophecy given here is from Micah 5:2. This is the verse as given in his book:[6]

    Micah 5:2
    From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His going forths are from long ago, From the days of eternity.

    The “fulfillment” of this prophecy is supposedly the passage below:

    Colossians 1:7
    And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

    McDowell is claiming that an unfounded claim by a (probably) anonymous author in the New Testament makes for fulfilled prophecy! Even if the author was Paul, the passage is nothing more than an empty assertion. How does the context support the conclusion?

    But even worse is that the first verse — the prophecy — is itself a mistranslation. It should properly read:

    Micah 5:2 GNB
    but out of one of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times.

    making the entire claim spurious.

    Here are more of the same kind:

    Prophecy No.15: Jesus Called Immanuel

    McDowell quotes Isaiah

    Isaiah 7:14
    “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin is with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel”.

    Immanuel means God is with us in Hebrew.

    Matthew 1:22-23
    And this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin is with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel-which means ‘God is with us'”.

    Interesting technique. The anonymous writer of the Gospel of Matthew simply quotes Isaiah, and thereby claims that Jesus was called Immanuel, fulfilling the prophecy. Nowhere in the gospels was Jesus called by that name. So doesn’t the context of the quote (of Matthew by McDowell) invalidate his argument that this is a fulfilled prophecy?

    Another one, by McDowell again:

    Psalms 110:4
    “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

    McDowell claims that this “prophecy” is fullfilled here:

    Hebrews 5:5-6
    “So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high Priest, but He who said to Him, ‘Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee’; just as He says also in another passage, ‘Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchidezek.'”

    both the author of Hebrews and McDowell refer to the same psalm, therefore this means the prophecy is fulfilled?! Again I think the proof of fulfillment is not cited properly. The context is somehow off, methinks.

    I would like to note that for both the original NT writers and the current Christians, the first and foremost fact is that Jesus is the Messiah. Therefore it is understandable that they try to find as much evidence in the Old Testament so as to better support their presupposition. Muslims would do it, as would others who want to support their point of view. So do you disagree with my points or you just want to argue? 🙂

  36. Greg,

    Deuteronomy 17:8-13 says to follow the judges and the Levitical priests. The sanhedrin was like the supreme court of judges, and they were the ones authorized to interpret the law.

    I get it, you were reading Sanhedrin into the passage. I don’t think you realise just how diverse Jewish thought was during the second temple period, there were at least four main groups, but many Jews belonged to no discernible group at all. The Sanhedrin were the Jews with political power, that much is sure.

    They knew what God commanded Jews to do: follow the majority leaders. Were they the Jewish majority leaders? No.

    Really? how does that square with the time of the prophets? The leaders and people had gone astray, God sent prophets to call them back to Him.

    It seems strange that God told the Jews not to listen to prophets or dreamers who try to turn Jews away from the way the LORD God commanded them to follow, and told them to listen to the judges and priests when there is a dispute.

    You said at the start of the discussion that you don’t think people should take verses out of context. How about you start taking your own advice. As I said previously read the context of Deut 13. The prophets and dreamers referred to are those calling the people to worship other gods. Jesus doesn’t match that description.

    What is more likely:

    A) First God told the Jews not to listen to guys like Jesus’ disciples, but then He used Jesus’ disciples to spread the message and the Jews are blamed for not listening to them?

    B) People made things up about Jesus, and had no hope of convincing the actual authorities, so they started their own campaign? It’s been done lots of times throughout history.

    Well I’ve shown that your reasons given to support your claim that God told the Jews not to listen to guys like Jesus disciples are flawed. To summarise:

    God commanded the Jews to turn away from prophets who called them to follow other gods, Jesus does not fall in this category.

    God sent prophets to call the nation of Israel back to Him. These prophets were persecuted by the leaders of Israel, therefore there is precedence for the political and religious powers to be corrupted and fail to fulfil their role as legitimate interpreters of God’s law.

  37. Greg,

    Also, no one seemed to explicitly disagree with the second point. There was lots of interesting related conversation, but can any of you say that you think people who presuppose a doctrine do NOT ever take verses out of context to support a point? You are willing to say that no christians do this? I am willing to say that in *my* experience, it happened frequently.

    Which of these two points do you find a problem with?

    If you have particular points you want addressed then state those points only, don’t follow them up with reams of ridiculous assertions. You really seem to be unable to help yourself. Go easy on the cut and paste and give us one point at a time with just a summary of the reasons why you believe your assertion is true. I agree with your point 2, you have amply demonstrated it in this thread yourself, but do you think we should just allow your assertions to sit unchallenged? If they are not part of your argument don’t put them in.

  38. No one on the NT writing staff was part of the Sanhedrin, so my point stands.

    Oh, good, point then. Too bad you tried to support it with another failed side issue.

    Your latest argument is strictly ad hominem.

    No it’s not. There are resources online to help define fallacies.

    I’ll only have time for one of your brand-new side issues. I know that for me to respond to them I am being irrelevant. Nothing I can do to help that, though.

    Regarding Micah.

    Which translation is right? It comes down to the rendering of the Hebrew phrase describing the nature of the Messiah’s origins, miqedem mi yemey ‘olam.

    The next two words would most naturally be translated “from eternity” (literally, from “days of eternity”), unless context indicated a translation of “from ancient days” (in other words, way back in the very distant past). In most cases in the Scriptures, ‘olam clearly means “eternal”.

    There are, however, some cases where ‘olam cannot mean “eternal”, but rather “for a long time”. How then, does Micah use the word?
    In Micah 2:9; 4:5, 7, ‘olam clearly means “forever” as commonly rendered in both Jewish and Christian versions. This would point clearly to a similar rendering just a few verses later in 5:2.

    [W]e cannot be dogmatic about the translation of Micah 5:2, since the context allows for an “eternal” or merely “ancient” meaning.

    So then, Micah 5:2 can also be understood as pointing to the Messiah’s eternal nature, undergirding our reading of Isaiah 9:6.

    Michael Brown, pp 38-40

    So do you disagree with my points or you just want to argue?

    What I’d love to do is make assertion upon assertion and then complain when they are answered. But that job is taken.

  39. Fair enough. You are right. I will try to stick only to main points. So it seems we ARE all agreed to my first two points which were supposed to just acknowledge what Tom’s post said and get the discussion started. Good. Then I have had a chance to address two of the things posted about me, one of which was a passing response to Bill T’s argument, and one of which was an illustration of a point which I myself said was not meant as a knock-down argument.

    Good. Those were supposed to be easy. Sorry for muddying the waters with “side assertions” if I did it. Although when it comes to ciring examples I have brought of point #2, I don’t think it’s a side assertion, but necessary since I have *made* point #2. To recap, I think we are agreed so far — however, if anyone would want to address the examples I provided further and show that they are non examples, let me list them for you:

    A. Hosea quoting of half a verse out of the context of a larger thought

    B. Isaiah 53 quoting part of a song out of 4 songs of the suffering servant, identified as israel in the other songs

    C. Voice heard in ramah, Rachel weeping, used to claim Herod’s killing of children fulfils prophecy when immediately following verse of the prophecy reveals children are coming home later

    D. McDowell’s use of quoting NT verses in his book to support that many “prophecies” of the OT came true in Jesus, where the context of the quoted verses is, curiously, a mere restatement of the prophecy by an NT writer, and then using this as proof that his assertion is true.

    In each of these cases, the author had a presupposition of a religious nature (eg that Jesus is the Messiah). And in each of these examples, the verse is part of the larger context, which is ommitted. Finally, when the verse is considered in context, its meaning differs dramatially from the plain meaning that it would have when read in the assertions in which it was placed.

    Some people have responded to example A, saying that the writer Matthew really meant something else to his audience, when he wrote that Jesus’ parents left egypt with their son, so the words of the propet would be fulfilled: “out of egypt I called my son”. The plain meaning is that Jesus is leaving egypt, with the claim being that Jesus is the Son of God that is being referred to in the words of Hosea. But had the author included even the first half of the verse he was quoting, let alone the surrouding context, it would have changed the meaning of the cited verse from the one I explained above. This is the definition of taking out of context.

    Likewise with B, if the Christians would include all four Suffering Servant songs, or even Isaiah 54 immediately following Isaiah 53, then they would have had toexplain why Isaiah keeps talking about Israel. If they translated verses from the Hebrew they would have to explain why it says “because of my people they suffered” — who is they, if the servant is Jesus? Perhaps Jesus is a multitude? Good questions, but ones neatly avoided by not considering the textual or linguistic context of the cited verse.

    Example C hasnt been addressed yet.

    Example D hasnt been addressed yet.

    Addressing these things is not what I mean by off topic. But I will try to exercise more discipline with my jumping around and responding yo everyone. Thanks for teaching me about that, guys! (And Melissa 🙂

  40. Likewise with B, if the Christians would include all four Suffering Servant songs, or even Isaiah 54 immediately following Isaiah 53, then they would have had toexplain why Isaiah keeps talking about Israel. If they translated verses from the Hebrew they would have to explain why it says “because of my people they suffered” — who is they, if the servant is Jesus? Perhaps Jesus is a multitude? Good questions, but ones neatly avoided by not considering the textual or linguistic context of the cited verse.

    Greg, clearly you haven’t read the whole document to which I linked. Hugenberger answers your exact question. Furthermore, he goes through a detailed and nuanced analysis of the servant in all four of the servant songs, not just Isaiah 53 (you seemed to misunderstand that point earlier). He embraces and uses the textual and linguistic context of the verses to show that the servant is an individual — the “prophet like Moses” alluded to in the end of Deuteronomy.

    You, by contrast, have ignored the textual and linguistic context that does not support your personal opinion. Do you actually want answers to these questions you’re asking? If you do, read what we link to. If you don’t, then just keep asking them without bothering to understand our answers and we’ll eventually give up. I used to think you were serious about these discussions, and I still want to believe that you are, but it’s difficult.

  41. My point A) was that the verse is about Israel. So you are saying that Jesus’ parents — whose son is Jesus — leaving egypt fulfills the words of the prophet who says “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”

    So the son is Jesus? That can’t be it. ,

    Wow. You COMPLETELY missed the point. Hosea IS talking about Israel and God calling them out of Israel. It is NOT a prophecy. Its a direction and a command. Matthew uses the identical word fulfill in quoting Jesus who said that he came to fulfill THE LAW (so it can be used not merely in reference to an acutal prophecy). The meaning of the word means to fill up , complete or satisfy. Matthew is indicating that the call of the only legitimate heir to the rulership of Israel being called out of Egypt completes and makes full the call of Israel to come out of Egypt.

    So the one being called is in fact, Israel. So this whole thing is about Israel, not Jesus.

    Jesus is and was the messiah which is the annointed king of Israel. Christ is not his last name. It is a title meaning the king of Israel who leads an d rules Israel. In that role he is not seperate from Israel he is the leader of it.

    He conveniently snipped just the part that doesn’t mention Israel, which required him to take *half of a verse*. I find that to be incredible. Don’t you at least bat an eye?

    No need to bat an eye. You are merely begging here (and in almost all your assertions). First theres is not a single passage taken form the Torah, writings or prophets that is quoted entirely without being “snipped” for obvious reasons (time and space). What? We are supposd to believe that Matthew refers to a passage to appeal to a Jewish audience that would know the verse but thought they wouldn’t actually KNOW what the verse says? This is a silly caricature of Matthew’s intelligence in order to suit a particular argument. Second the context very much fits once you realize that Jesus is not some separate or meaningless figure in relationship to Israel. He is the only legitimate leader of it and its his monarchy that defines the nation as the Moshiach.

    So does the King of Israel being called or pulled out of Egypt fulfill God’s call for Israel to come out of Isreal? Why yes it does unless you assume that the word fulfill can only apply to a prophecy but Matthew proves you wrong by using it elsewhere to relate to other commands that are not prophectic and Hosea was never a prophecy whether you apply it to Israel or not. Its a command to come out. One that was given both to Israel as a nation and Israel’s leadership that Jesus most definitely is seen by Matthew as.

    So though Isee what others are saying about type its really not applicable here as far as I see. Jeus isn’t merely a type of Israel . He is the head figure of it as God’s only accepted King. A king in a monarchy defines the nation. The king of Israel being called to come out of Israel makes complete, satisfies the call of God for the people of Israel not to stay in or depend on Egypt rather than God. Hosea is FILLED with this context whether you choose to see it or not.

  42. I only have time on the Isiaiah 53 issue to say that the reference to the four servant songs of Israel is not one defined in the text as such. Its a post biblical categorizing of passages in order to claim tht all four have the same subject. Nothing in the text requires that.

  43. Hi Greg,

    Some people have responded to example A, saying that the writer Matthew really meant something else to his audience, when he wrote that Jesus’ parents left egypt with their son, so the words of the propet would be fulfilled: “out of egypt I called my son”. The plain meaning is that Jesus is leaving egypt, with the claim being that Jesus is the Son of God that is being referred to in the words of Hosea. But had the author included even the first half of the verse he was quoting, let alone the surrouding context, it would have changed the meaning of the cited verse from the one I explained above. This is the definition of taking out of context.

    Likewise with B, if the Christians would include all four Suffering Servant songs, or even Isaiah 54 immediately following Isaiah 53, then they would have had toexplain why Isaiah keeps talking about Israel.

    You obviously haven’t read the refutations to these points well. Your assertions don’t stand in the face of them and repeating them as you do is an example of what has been called your “ignoring” of answers.

    Example D hasnt been addressed yet.

    It certainly has been. It falls flat as do your other lettered side points.
    The address:

    Which translation is right? It comes down to the rendering of the Hebrew phrase describing the nature of the Messiah’s origins, miqedem mi yemey ‘olam.

    The next two words would most naturally be translated “from eternity” (literally, from “days of eternity”), unless context indicated a translation of “from ancient days” (in other words, way back in the very distant past). In most cases in the Scriptures, ‘olam clearly means “eternal”.

    There are, however, some cases where ‘olam cannot mean “eternal”, but rather “for a long time”. How then, does Micah use the word?
    In Micah 2:9; 4:5, 7, ‘olam clearly means “forever” as commonly rendered in both Jewish and Christian versions. This would point clearly to a similar rendering just a few verses later in 5:2.

    [W]e cannot be dogmatic about the translation of Micah 5:2, since the context allows for an “eternal” or merely “ancient” meaning.

    So then, Micah 5:2 can also be understood as pointing to the Messiah’s eternal nature, undergirding our reading of Isaiah 9:6.

    Continuing on with your “it’s not a prophecy, it’s not fulfilled” allegations …

    What happened to Immanuel? Nothing is clearly said. But what is clearly said in Isaiah 9:6-7 [or sometime 5, 6] and 11:1-16 is that there will come forth a rod from Jesse who will rule the nations in righteousness.
    And this was Matthew’s context! He was reading Isaiah 7-11 in full ! Thus, he quotes Isaiah 7:14 in MAtthew 1:23, Isaiah 9:1-2 [sometimes 8:23-9:1] in Matthew 4:15-16; and he alludes to Isaiah 11:1 in Matthew 2:23.
    Was anyone born in Isaiah’s day that began to fulfill the prophecy? We simply do not know. But of thi we can be sure: Jesus, the ideal King form the house of David, and clearly the subject of the Messianic prophecies in Isaiah 9 and 11, Is Immanuel – God with us – in the fullest sense of the word!

    Michael Brown, pp 192, 193

  44. It is also fair to point out that Matthew’s interpretive method, throughout his writings, is quite typical of the best of ancient Jewish interpretation, reflecting literal interpretations, allegorical interpretations, plays on words, and midrashic allusions. Thus, in the first two chapters alone he cites … Jeremiah 31:15 where Rachel is heard allegorically weeping and poetically weeping for her children once again …
    For Matthew – rightly so – the Hebrew Bible was the Messiah’s Bible, and therefore, given that 1) Yeshua was literally Immanuel, God with us, 2) the Immanuel prophecy was clearly directed to the house of David, 3) Miriam, Yeshua’s mother was an ‘almah who had never known a man, and 4) the surrounding context in Isaiah contained highly significant Messianic prophecies, it is no wonder that Matthew pointed to Isaiah 7:14 as being “fulfilled” in the birth of Jesus the Messiah. Who else fulfilled it?

    pp27, 28

    Rachel, the matriarch of Israel and her weeping:
    http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Parashah/Summaries/Vayishlach/Rachel_Weeps/rachel_weeps.html

  45. Regarding Melchizedek, king of Salem, we see that the Psalm referred to was a Messianic Psalm. Referring to Melchizedek, in and of itself, does not give the entire argument. As was the case in Matthew, the knowledgeable author of the book of Hebrews is presupposing, in this shorthand, the sophistication and knowledge of his readers. This is the same Psalm Jesus cited for the Pharisees when He showed them that David called his own son “Lord”, indicating that Messiah was more than just a human descendent. Melchizedek is also King of Righteousness as well as King of Salem, a priest with unusual (eternal?) past, and whose name refers us back to Abraham’s binding of Isaac and the promise that the LORD will provide His own Lamb.
    Melchizedek is king and priest – a forbidden combination, but one prophesied by Ezekiel and Zechariah. Referring to Jesus as Melchizedek claims all of this, the fulfillment of the king/priestly roles of Messiah, the eternal priesthood, the eternal Lordship, etc. Because of this, the author of Hebrews can call Jesus both our King and our High Priest.

  46. In each of these cases, the author had a presupposition of a religious nature (eg that Jesus is the Messiah). And in each of these examples, the verse is part of the larger context, which is ommitted. Finally, when the verse is considered in context, its meaning differs dramatially from the plain meaning that it would have when read in the assertions in which it was placed.

    So, no. The context is not omitted, it is presupposed. The context is what gives meaning to the claims that the OT was pointing to, talking about, and fulfilled in Jesus Christ. These ‘prophesies’ are not always, or necessarily, of the nature of “look, you said Messiah would be X, and Jesus is X, and therefore He is messiah”. Rather, they show how, as Messiah, Jesus is the fulfillment of all the OT had alluded to. His being Messiah shows what the office really is and demonstrates how the expectations were to be turned on their head in many cases.

  47. I think part of Greg’s problem is that he does not realize that there are four types of messianic fulfillment found in the New Testament. There are direct fulfillments, such as Micah 5:2/Matthew 2:5. There are typological fulfillments, such as the much-discussed Matthew 2:15/Hosea 11:1. There is applicational fulfillments (“literal prophecy plus an application, demonstrating Scriptures continuing relevance”) such as Matthew 2:16/Jeremiah 31:15, which he mentioned. And there are summary fulfillments, such as Matthew 2:19. Direct fulfilments are not and never were intended to be the whole story.

    Also, Greg seems to take the opinions of liberal scholarhip as the ‘Gospel truth’ (pun intended) and he and his sources manifest little evidence of having engaged with conservative scholarship at all, which is typical of the liberal camp.

  48. Let me point out what is happening here. I think it’s important.

    I came on to this blog saying that I think atheists are debating the wrong questions, and getting mired in side points with theists, when the entire debate can be avoided if one deals with the central question: Is Christianity True?

    I want to debate those questions and want answers to those questions.

    I have always made it very clear what I am interested in finding answers to. I have also made it very clear what my approach is, regarding belief, regarding religion, some of problems I come up against, and also what strategy I use (second part of that link). In short, I have clearly indicated that I am interested in finding out the truth, and that I do not enjoy getting mired in savant-like debates regarding fine points of theology or literary interpretation.

    The one debate I was interested in was the moral debate, because that is useful to me in case I decide to become an atheist. That is why I participated in it.

    This thread was started with the title “so many misconceptions, where even to begin,” and a bunch (like a dozen) of excerpts from my responses and comments were posted. Where to begin, indeed. I guess I should first note that this is not what I am interested in discussing. So to answer your question, Bill R,

    Do you actually want answers to these questions you’re asking?

    in this thread – sadly not really. As you can see from my opening comment on it,

    You started this thread because of me, so I feel that I should at least reply to something to get it started. I definitely stand by the things I said, but I can’t address them all at once because that would make an unwieldy discussion (I can definitely understand how you must feel with me sometimes, Tom!) But I will try to take 2 points first, and address them substantively.

    1. First, a point of agreement:

    I was more interested in defending myself against the dump of excerpts and the title “misconceptions” that was suddenly thrust upon me. If you want to know what questions I *am* interested in pursuing, I have indicated them before on this blog and specifically linked to them.

    This isn’t a threaded discussion board — if it were, I would simply start threads with the question I am interested in. But since Tom has taken the time to post a collection of excerpts by me, including my responses to other people, I felt like I should at least address some of them since the thread is about me. I don’t really want to do it. I am more interested in answering my questions about what is true and not getting mired down in the finer points. But as it is, I decided to start with just taking two, and took what I considered to be the least contentious points first.

    Please read my comment 42 . As you can imagine it’s hard to respond to 10 people at once, and who are all bringing different arguments at me. Therefore if you think I have ignored you, I probably haven’t (since I have been trying to read the comments and respond in order). However, my main goal with comment 42 (my last comment) is to have you state what exactly you disagree with. I simply took two points from Tom’s list: 1 and 2.

    1. I simply illustrated why I said what I said in the first point — that preaching or claiming things based on the Bible has to be done very carefully, and one has to wonder how they know that the verse they are quoting should be interpreted the way they said and applied to the situation they are trying to apply it — which was in response to Neil’s comment that we “have” a good, well defined notion of objective morality on Christianity, and I am saying hold on a sec, how do you know what to conclude when you have, among other things, apparent contradictions on the purely literal level? Once you allow non-purely-literal interpretations, you have to admit that it gets a little vague because different people will have different interpretations. My passing comment was highlighted in the “misconceptions” post and therefore I expanded on it.

    2. Secondly, my passing comment to Bill T, about my impression of theists and the situation from my point of view, was also highlighted and commented on by Tom, who said

    You think very, very lightly of the hundreds of years of Christian polemic, through which teachings have been tested, disputed, and confirmed. The history of Christianity itself would not have permitted what you’re describing here.

    I simply wanted to back up why I have this impression, and I decided to post some examples. One was clear (to me), and one was famous. After much debate I decided to post a more extensive list, categorize it into four categories A B C and D, and explain what I mean by “taking out of context”. Bill T’s original comment was

    Greg,

    Your post #440 may be off topic for where Tom, Neil and lambda.calc are in the discission but I’d make a few brief comments about it. The website “Rejection of Pascal’s Wager” which you rely on for your information is a very typical athiest site which basically uses the a standard “new athiest” formula to create its conclusions. Take a Bible verse, quote it out of context or misinterpret it and then using that misinterpretation show how “wrong” it is. There are enough straw men on that site to put a scarecrow on every front lawn in America.

    My response was:

    Bill T: on the contrary, I am reading Reasonable Faith and trying to get to the bottom of it. I am interested in how Christians deal with these issues, but what I have found so far is that many issues don’t have any clear answer at all. Have you looked at rejectionofpascalswager.com ? Do you disagree with everything in it? I happen to think it is one of the better analyses.

    Don’t think that the people compiling these things don’t have a good knowledge of religion and haven’t studied it. This, for example, was compiled by formerly Orthodox Jews, carefully researched and the conclusions are supported: http://www.talkreason.org/articles/list.cfm . I find resources like that far and few between. For example the “skeptics annotated bible” is frankly full of crappy comments, and less than 5% of them are actually problematic. On the other hand, both rejectionofpascalswager.com and the talkreason.org articles are quite well researched. You have no idea how much I have been studying about possible interpretations. Do you know the Jewish oral tradition, the talmud? I care about that, too. Do you?

    Tom also said:

    Greg,

    The question is not whether the interpretation is obvious taken one verse at a time like that. It’s whether the interpretation can be obtained with proper study. We can do that.

    I responded:

    Tom, actually I completely agree with you. After all I grew up reading the Bible. I know there are interpretations that can pretty much explain anything. The only thing is that these interpretations are only necessary if you presuppose certain things and never stop believing them.

    God created the world <– stop there? Deist
    God appeared on Mount Sinai to Israel <– stop there? Sadducee
    God gave an oral Torah to Israel <– stop there? Rabinnical Jew
    Jesus was the Messiah <– stop there? Messianic Jew, early Christian
    Paul was right <– All modern Christians
    Jesus was God <– All followers of Nicene Creed
    Additional apostolic tradition, you can pray to Saints <– Catholic church

    People who do not presuppose one of these things can bring plenty of verses against the groups that do, showing problems. They can also cite history for why they don't believe. People who DO presuppose something (e.g. that Paul was right, or that Jesus was God) find verses in the writings of the Jews, to support their view. Bill T talked about atheists taking verses out of context, but I would say that I have usually seen verses taken out of context to support presuppositional beliefs much more frequently

    This is one of the things that got highlighted, and I chose to answer because I decided to start by addressing just two.

    If you read my comment 42 above, you will see me defending my passing assertion about my impression, which is important, but happened solely as a result of people dismissing the arguments going the other way by saying “they are out of context”. I pointed out that anyone who has an agenda does it. I did more than that — I pointed out what the presuppositions are by different groups, and that determines what they decide to focus on and quote.

    So that kind of sums up where I”m at right now. I’m sorry if I ignored you. If you want to address comment 42 specifically, I will try to answer you. Otherwise, let’s move on to more substantive issues.

    An aside: Tom, I don’t think this is a good format for addressing my main goal on this blog, which is also what I pointed out here:

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2011/06/right-or-so-very-very-wrong/#comment-27399

    I definitely don’t want discussions like that any more than you. My vision of a good discussion is people figuring out new things side by side, rather than close quarters aggravated combat, with “he said, she said” quotes just to prove whether or not someone’s been naughty.

    Greg

  49. This format is just fine for addressing a main goal. When that main goal is always buried in off-topic assertions (admitted off-topic by Greg himself) and a laundry list of claims against Christianity then any format is going to be insufficient.

    Tom moved your assertions here because they were doing nothing but bogging down an interesting conversation he was enjoying on the other thread.
    When you are the one who has to deal with all the topics you bring up then you complain over and over that it is too much work and too messy. But you have no such sympathy when you come here and throw a million questions at this blog, each of which would take a lot of work to answer. And then, the moment any address was made, throw out a million more. The very fact that this made discussion next to impossible was the cause of what you call the “attack” made on you.

    So my suggestion would be that you stop doing this. Stop pretending your opinions are facts, stop making up your own histories and stop dumping in every discussion a myriad of unsupported claims as though they will be accepted as background to your positions. If you like a topic you could try discussing it while leaving your catalogue of aspersions for another day.

  50. BTW
    Mike Anthony, your discussion of “fulfillment” is excellent and has been obscured a bit. In particular, by my careless acceptance of the word “prophecy” early on with regards to Hosea. Michael Brown, my main source on this thread, says just what you do in the books I’ve been quoting from.

  51. I decided to illustrate my point #2 in a less contentious way.

    God created the world <– stop there? Deist
    God appeared on Mount Sinai to Israel <– stop there? Sadducee
    God gave an oral Torah to Israel <– stop there? Rabinnical Jew
    Jesus was the Messiah <– stop there? Messianic Jew, early Christian
    Paul was right <– All modern Christians
    Jesus was God <– All followers of Nicene Creed
    Additional apostolic tradition, you can pray to Saints <– Catholic church

    I think if I keep it within Christianity I will catch less flak for what I’m saying, because I won’t offend the presuppositions of the majority of the participants. So let’s pick the last two: Those who believe the Nicene Creed but not necessarily the Catholic Church vs Catholic church.

    1. Light contradiction

    Matthew 23:7 says:

    … they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’
    But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.
    And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.
    Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.”

    Indeed, anti-Catholics point to this stance by Matthew:

    In his tract 10 Reasons Why I Am Not a Roman Catholic, Fundamentalist anti-Catholic writer Donald Maconaghie quotes this passage as support for his charge that “the papacy is a hoax.”

    Bill Jackson, another Fundamentalist who runs a full-time anti-Catholic organization, says in his book Christian’s Guide To Roman Catholicism that a “study of Matthew 23:9 reveals that Jesus was talking about being called father as a title of religious superiority . . . [which is] the basis for the [Catholic] hierarchy” (53).

    The Catholics handily parry the problem:
    http://www.catholic.com/library/Call_No_Man_Father.asp

    A lot of the technique of the parrying involves taking verses which the anti-Catholic would consider to have plain meaning, and reading into them additional meaning to support the Catholic position. Which, although contradicted by Matthew, is nevertheless a consistent and viable way of explaining things.

    2. Heavy contradiction

    In the 10 commandments, we find:

    Exodus 20:4

    You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

    You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

    but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.

    Deuteronomy 5:8

    You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

    You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

    but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.

    This is God’s commandments. You can’t get any clearer than that.

    If you are higher up on the list than Catholics, and believe that God gave Israel the Torah on mount Sinai: Sadducee, Rabbinical Jew, Messianic Jew, Early Christian, Modern Christian, Believer of Nicene Creed, etc.

    you may say things like:
    “If you believe Jesus is God, why do you have a statue of him?”

    “Why do you draw God as a bearded man on the ceiling of your chapels commissioned by your popes?” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallery_of_Sistine_Chapel_ceiling

    “Why do you have a bunch of saints that you seem to address in your prayers, such as when you begin a prayer with, “Mother Mary, …””?

    Catholics also handily address all these questions, not a problem for them:

    http://peperonity.com/go/sites/mview/roman-catholic-church/15550021

    Mary is the mother of God and the saints are the friends of God. If keeping their pictures or statues helps to inspire us to a more holy life, then it is a good thing. Don’t you have pictures of your family in your home? Is this idolatry? Or when someone dies, should you destroy all images or pictures of them, lest you be guilty of worshiping them?

    http://www.catholic.com/library/Do_Catholics_Worship_Statues.asp
    http://www.catholic.org/saints/faq.php

    The main points: it’s okay to make images of God, as long as you don’t worship them. Saints are just friends of God, and you don’t pray to them, you pray WITH them. (Get with the program, protestants. You and your anti-catholicism is tiresome. Your interpretation just looks at the plain meaning of the same verses but it lacks sophistication, which Catholics can explain to you, etc.)

    The technique employed to defend the tradition is once again, using other verses which are understood differently by both sides, and attributing additional meaning to them, in order to build a “more sophisticated” picture by taking non-obvious takeaways from every verse. Let us see how it is accomplished:

    1. During a plague of serpents sent to punish the Israelites during the exodus, God told Moses to “make [a statue of] a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it shall live. So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live” (Num. 21:8–9).

    2. David gave Solomon the plan “for the altar of incense made of refined gold, and its weight; also his plan for the golden chariot of the cherubim that spread their wings and covered the ark of the covenant of the Lord. All this he made clear by the writing of the hand of the Lord concerning it all, all the work to be done according to the plan” (1 Chr. 28:18–19). David’s plan for the temple, which the biblical author tells us was “by the writing of the hand of the Lord concerning it all,” included statues of angels.

    Well, if we can make statues of snakes and two cherubim that God specifically commanded, then maybe we can conclude that people can make pictures of God anytime they want. I guess it MAY be plausible. But would you risk it as a protestant? Probably not. This is how Jews feel when Christians talk to them and tell them to believe Jesus is also God.

    But how about God’s words, “do not bow down to them”? Surely that must be taken literally?

    Sometimes anti-Catholics cite Deuteronomy 5:9, where God said concerning idols, “You shall not bow down to them.” Since many Catholics sometimes bow or kneel in front of statues of Jesus and the saints, anti-Catholics confuse the legitimate veneration of a sacred image with the sin of idolatry.

    Though bowing can be used as a posture in worship, not all bowing is worship. In Japan, people show respect by bowing in greeting (the equivalent of the Western handshake). Similarly, a person can kneel before a king without worshipping him as a god. In the same way, a Catholic who may kneel in front of a statue while praying isn’t worshipping the statue or even praying to it, any more than the Protestant who kneels with a Bible in his hands when praying is worshipping the Bible or praying to it.

    As you can see, it is not that hard to spin things. You have a motive to do it when you need to defend your position, and your technique will usually involve some sort of taking verses of the other guy, which you both read but the other guy reads literally and plainly, and adding extra meaning to them. Doing this with several verses, and then finally justifying your position, which contradicts some major verse’s literal meaning. The final cherry to top it off is to say that the major verse needs to be understood in a more “sophisticated” manner. That was my main point with #2. I hope I illustrated it.

    No offense to Catholics – you guys might be right. My point is simply that this is the strategy that is employed, and people who don’t have the tradition will be left mouths open wide at how you sidestepped something that was for them a major problem, contradiction, almost an open-and-shut case.

    Hopefully I was able to make a good illustration. If not, I apologize, I tried.

  52. You sure do write a lot, Greg.
    What’s the point, again? Yes, I realize that it is that different verses can be interpreted in different ways depending upon the overall view.
    But what is the point of this observation?

  53. Charlie: there is a difference between

    A) backing up your assertions with 2 or 3 examples in each comment, to show why you hold that position — which I think is a valid and even desirable thing to do, to show you aren’t just talking out of your rear end, and

    B) collecting all these assertions from several places and dumping them in one post entitled “so many misconceptions, where even to begin” causing the person to defend himself and respond to 10 people at once.

    The main differences are:

    1. the 10-12 assertions are all in one place, as opposed to 2 or 3 in one comment, so you are forced to either write a long post addressing all of them, which would be counterproductive for everyone involved (readers or writers), or address only a couple

    2. you are put on the spot as the post is about YOU, and therefore you must suddenly talk to 10 people.

    In threaded discussions, as I said, I would simply start the topics I wanted. There are 3 questions I have and I linked to them. All the rest is getting mired in debate. Do you understand the difference between A and B, though? I am “guilty” of A, but I do not deserve “B”, I feel. Tom did it once before and I have pointed out that half the questions were from my own dialogue, meant to illustrate a point — and weren’t even aimed at anyone. This time, I have to defend myself in a post that basically says, “this guy has a lot of misconceptions, BAM 12 things! I collected them from 4 or 5 comments in one place. go ahead, guy.” Tom, what if I had 30 posters on my blog and wrote a blog post like this? What would you like me to do in response? I have tried to defend my stance on these things but it’s not easy when 10 people are just intent on taking everything you say and trying to see if you misspoke here or there.

    See comments 25, 30 and 38 for an interesting side discussion for example, which I consider very useful, but can’t continue because I have to choose between either 1) sadly not addressing Melissa’s comment or 2) inviting an avalanche of counter-responses from everyone and later accusations about how I am not staying on topic. Personally to Melissa, I just want to say this and we can take it offline:

    1) Abandoning the law that God gave to their forefathers, in an everlasting covenant for all generations

    2) Thinking that Jesus is God, when God specifically said He is One (Ehad in Hebrew, extremely clear), not to have any gods before him, not to make idols or images of anything in order to bow down to it, and God said, “I am not a man”.

    Christians are fooling themselves if they think they can get real orthodox Jews to skirt so close to transgressing the biggest commandments in their faith, on the basis of some guys saying “don’t worry, my interpretation is correct! We are dead to the law! etc.”

    Lots of interpretations go even further and seem really wrong to me. Jews and Muslims don’t enter Churches because they consider all those little figurines and icons to be idols. There are paintings depicting God as a bearded man in the sky — what is that?? I hope my point is not lost that if the disciples of Jesus believed what Christians do today and wanted Jews to follow them, they should have realized that what they are selling sounded very dangerous to the Jews. I don’t see how God would have allowed such a situation — first telling the Jews in very strong terms not to follow people who lead them away from the laws and ways God commanded them, and in times of dispute listen to their judges and priests, but then spreading his message using people who were not placed as judges or priests, and causing judges and priests to reject them. Please see my previous comment about how anyone can support anything, but realize that there is something very close to Judaism: belief in one God, no idols, no intermediaries needed. No intercessions needed. Direct atonement. Please, read the second half of my comment 11.

    I gotta go.

  54. Charlie: if you fail to see the point, then I don’t know why you are commenting. It was to support my point #2.

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but maybe this is really counter productive.

  55. You fail to see why I comment? Aren’t the multiple examples of refuting your allegations evidence of my goal? It is to see the truth being told.

    You say you are backing up your point number 2. Like I said, point #2 is a bit of a mishmash but the main thing I see is that it alleges out-of-context quotations, ignoring evidence and parroting the claims of others.
    Is this what you thought you were evidencing and backing up in your #54?

    I don’t really see that, although, as always, instead of just reporting factually you’ve bundled in your own aspersions again.

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but maybe this is really counter productive.

    It’s not just you, there have been many others whose commenting has been mostly counterproductive; hence, my reference to whack-a-mole.

  56. Anyway, I think this whole exercise is pointless. I will just leave it at

    this

    and respectfully bow out. I might be accused by some people of evading, or ignoring, or something, but I think I stated my case and overall position pretty clearly there.

  57. “Anyway, I think this whole exercise is pointless.”

    Finally, Greg makes sense. This is pointless because Greg gets virtually 100% of his information about the Bible from atheist websites. How does anyone expect to have a coherent conversation about the Bible with someone whose perspective is informed by “rejectionofpascalswager.com” and “talkreason.org”. It would be like me trying to have a conversation on the inner workings of a tokomak with a bunch of PhDs in Applied Physics.

  58. Well, it was a nice exercise in squashing my points by dumping them all into one post. Was I supposed to debate 10 people on 12 topics? If you want me to realize atheist websites are wrong in every claim of theirs, this is not the way.

  59. Greg,

    I’m back at a computer screen now after a full day of travel. I haven’t read what’s gone on. That’s life for me lately, and I can’t do much about it.

    But I have a question for you. Would you consider it all surprising if I found your 8:19 pm comment rather ironic? Who brought all this up?

  60. So my suggestion would be that you stop doing this. Stop pretending your opinions are facts, stop making up your own histories and stop dumping in every discussion a myriad of unsupported claims as though they will be accepted as background to your positions. If you like a topic you could try discussing it while leaving your catalogue of aspersions for another day.

    Here here. I ‘m sorry but this is a muddled mess. Its the online equivalent of a drive by machine gun shooting only its derogatory assumptions about Christianity and the new testament text instead of bullets.

    Greg pick one objection and stick with that. Its not my blog but I have never gotten much out of any discussion thats main real subject was the person arguing it and not a given issue and thats what this is. I know that you state that you just want to know the truth but there are other times when you make such sweeping statements of fact it just betrays those statements.

    I will be direct and have a bit less tact than some (without being rude ) and say this – Neil’s post 5 should be a defining post for you. You made a strong statement about the NT and its failing to support the notion of Isaih 53 referring to Jesus and Neil surgically an conclusively demonstrated that you really you were so way off that you should consider that you really don’t have a grasp on the NT at all. His question is one I think you need to address

    Shouldn’t mistakes like this at least make you reconsider your grasp of New Testament theology?

    I do NOT say this to attack you but because I think if you took this opportunity more to learn than to challenge you would find this more beneficial and so would all of us.

    and no for the record we do not all agree on your first two points. Your first point is not anything that I think any one here agrees with particularly

    but that you should be very careful when using the Bible to support *any* kind of statement, because who knows what the author really meant and if it’s applicable to the situation you are applying it. I think that *is* a valuable takeaway, and just want to make that point.

    It s an illogical conclusion to claim tht because there may be differences of opinions on some passages that *any* kind of statement is unreliable because “who knows what the author meant” . If that were the case then every document historical or otherwise would have the same flaw if enough people had a difference of opinion about it and thats absurd.

  61. Greg and others,
    I want to reemphasize what I said (and Mike mentioned again). Although all of these questions and answers may be a very useful and edifying exercise for Christians, they are not at all useful for Greg. Why not?

    Greg, I’d suggest a helpful thought experiment. Imagine that every single one of your questions were plausibly answered. The crucial question would still remain: “Am I a sinner? Am I desperately evil and in need of radical forgiveness?” If you answer “No” to this question, then Christianity will be completely useless to you. Why bother asking any more questions? A man who is completely certain that he is not hungry doesn’t need to ask detailed directions to the nearest grocery store. A man who is completely sure that his house is not on fire, doesn’t need to know the location of the fire esacpe.

    I don’t mean this in an offensive way to suggest that we shouldn’t take the time to answer your questions. I’m merely suggesting that you should reevaluate why you are bothering to ask them in the first place. If you are only asking them to try to tear down Christianity, then we might still find it a useful, edifying exercise for us to do the research so that we have good answers. But we (and you) should understand that those answers not be at all useful to you personally.

    Just as a side note: I would also suggest that we focus on one major topic at a time, like the interpretation of Isaiah 53 or the historicity of the NT. There is no way that jumping from topic to topic will be of any use to anyone.

    -Neil

  62. Neil, I am not interested in jumping from topic to topic. See my latest comments to this effect. If someone took excerpts of several of your comments and statements made in passing that are all on various topics and made a blog post entitled “so many misconceptions – where to begin” what would you do? Where to begin indeed? What is the point of this? I didn’t make this thread about me. See my latest comments. Tom, as for what you said, read my comment and especially the last part of it where I quote my response to your previous apology. This is exactly the sort of thing I said I didn’t want. I quoted to you my words what kind of discussion I think we both want. And no, I don’t find it ironic.

  63. Neil, I agree with you, and I don’t want to jump from topic to topic. I didn’t make this thread about me, either. It was already about me before I started commenting. I have said everything about this situation already in my comment 51.

    What if you found many things you have said in passing to several different people on different topics, all compiled into one post about you, that said in essence, “here are 10-12 of Neil’s misconceptions. Where to even begin. Discuss!”

    Tom – I do not find it ironic, I find I am rather disappointed that you took excerpts from many different comments and put them in a post about me entitled “So many misconceptions – where to begin?” What did you expect would happen? If you want to know why I am disappointed, read comment 56. I will also point you to the end of comment 51, where I quote my response to your apology that you wrote in the previous post. In it I once again draw your attention to the fact that I am not interested in this mode of discussion, and what mode I find productive. You know what, I’ll quote it one more time:

    I definitely don’t want discussions like that any more than you. My vision of a good discussion is people figuring out new things side by side, rather than close quarters aggravated combat, with “he said, she said” quotes just to prove whether or not someone’s been naughty.

    I thought we understood each other. And no, I don’t find it ironic. What did you hope to accomplish by taking 12 excerpts at once on various topics, (which are passing comments made in response to various people on different topics) making a post all about me and my “misconceptions”, and then leaving me to talk to 10 people about it?

    Is it to teach me a lesson that I shouldn’t back up what I say with reasons for why I say it, shouldn’t supplement it with examples and illustrations, links to my sources and further reading for someone interested as to where I am coming from? Yes, it is a habit of mine to explain my thought process so as to better come to a conclusion, and I ask the same of others. The only lesson I learned here is not to get involved with a “let’s bash Greg” thread. See my comment #1. Your statement “we have a lot of work to do here” sounded almost like an invitation to discuss something, amid a post all about how Greg is misguided and has tons of misconceptions — here is a bunch of them. You already did something similar once here, where you combined all the questions from all my comments into one. In fact ironically half of the questions came from a single comment where I illustrated my point of view in a Q&A format, where the questions weren’t even directed at anyone on the blog, but were merely to illustrate what has been my own experience and point of view. As I said in comment 56, the difference is that I may bring 2 or 3 questions to back up a single point, or I may post a link or 2 to provide further reference to something I said, *because* I want to back up what I am saying and show you where I am coming from, rather than making seemingly empty assertions. If anyone wants to overwhelm, it’s the person who goes and meticulously collects those things into one post entitled “so many misconceptions, where even to begin.”

    I ask one thing — if you don’t even know where to begin, what did you expect or hope to achieve with this post about me?

    You told me,

    I’m still going to call on you—and I think you agree—to work with us to conduct blog conversations with the kind of focus that’s appropriate to the venue.

    In light of the content of this post we are commenting on, I would like to call on you, Tom, to do the same.

  64. And Neil: I definitely appreciate where you’re coming from when it comes to the fundamental reasons to believe in Christianity. I also would like to focus on one thing, although a different thing than you.

    Let me address what you are saying about the fundamental question of being a sinner directly, though. Let’s separate two things: 1) I don’t want to discuss 20 different theological topics at once, however 2) I don’t think the question of “are you a sinner” is a clear cut question.

    The reason I ask “what is sin” is because it’s not at all obvious to me what is being asked. Lots of people believe different things about sin. If you are asking me whether I feel I am a profoundly fallen person who is a wretched doer of evil deeds with no desire to do good in his heart, I must say that I do *not* feel that way. But I can appreciate that Christianity thinks I have fallen short of a perfect standard, and intellectually I can grant that maybe this in some way lead to an afterlife different from the one in Judaism.

    But you have to understand that the original concepts of sin and atonement in Judaism are radically different from the ones in Christianity, and indeed, *within* Christianity there are differences. I agree with you that this is a central point and maybe Tom will make *your* question a single topic, and it may be interesting to discuss.

    In fact, one of the three questions that I care about is the fate of the unevangelized. How do Christians believe that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon and all other the righteous Jews living before Jesus were saved if “there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved” and “no one comes to the Father except through me?” Clearly not every Jew knew the name of Jesus. Even after Jesus’ death on the cross, people lived all over the world who never heard about Jesus. So either 1) they were saved somehow, in which case I want to know why we can’t have that deal today, or 2) they weren’t saved, in which case I would ask about how King David and the patriarchs got saved.

    (An aside, to Tom: look what I did above. I elaborated on my point, so as to make it clear what I am saying, and enable the other person to understand where I am coming from answer my question better. It is *NOT* fair to take stuff like that and compile it into a big list of “hey look, Greg is quoting verses and making unfounded statements all over the place.” Let’s discuss topics, not people, in a post, due to the nature of a blog.)

    You may think that I should have a simple answer to the question of “do you think you are a sinner”, but I see nothing clear cut about the Christian idea of sin. What is a sin, in Christianity? Christians say the stock definition: It is falling short of God’s expectations. But what are those expectations? Jews have it clearly spelled out: the law given to Moses. So I think related but important questions are: are Jews still under the law? Why are Gentiles under the law to begin with? Or are they? What constitutes a sin in these situations?

    I find this to be important mainly because Christians, who use the argument that “you are a sinner and must accept Jesus” — the same guy who said “go and sin no more”, continue to sin if we apply the standard of the Law. My point is not that they are fallible and sin, but they don’t consider it to be sinning! And they have no interest in stopping it. So clearly they have a different understanding of what sin is, and I don’t get how they decide where to draw the line. (They eat pork, they light fires on the sabbath day, etc.) I don’t see why this would be a problem for gentile Christians. But for Jewish Christians it would seem to be a sin — but maybe not, since Paul rebuked Peter, and Paul thought we are dead to the law, etc. So really, I have no idea what sin is. All I know is, if you want to “sin no more”, it should be important to you what is and isn’t sin. And I’m sorry but it’s not clear to me.

    I’m sorry if that sounds like rambling. It’s late at night and I just wanted to answer your question honestly and show you why I can’t simply answer you whether I am a “sinner” or not. I can tell you that I have definitely sinned according to Old Testament law. But Jewish conception of sin and atonement is very different from the Christian one. So I would need you to clarify what you actually mean before I can answer the question.

  65. Greg, in response to #61 and #65,

    You have made many, many, many drive-by charges against Christianity. You yourself requested another post to discuss such problems:

    [EDIT: I am afraid you may reply that this is going off topic. I think you would be right. Personally I want to request – can we turn this comment (and the previous one) into a separate discussion somehow by giving it a post sometime?)]

    That request for a post included links to eleven other web pages on “contradictions with science,” “historical difficulties,” “internal contradictions spelled out,” “mathematical issues,” “and some lesser problems.” That same post specifically pointed toward what you see as difficulties with the Flood account, the Babel account, the origin of the language groups, the Exodus, Solomon’s fame, and biblical infallibility. That’s what you asked to have another post for.

    Later in that same discussion on epistemological ethics, you brought up what you consider to be multiple contradictions in NT teaching, not to addresss ethics but to question scriptural infallibility. You re-emphasized that same point later. You also brought up questions regarding Mosaic authorship of the Torah, and Pauline authority. You brought up divisions in Christianity, inerrantism (again), the historicity of Christ, NT interpretation of the OT.

    Now you call these things “passing comments made in response to various people on different topics:”

    I thought we understood each other. And no, I don’t find it ironic. What did you hope to accomplish by taking 12 excerpts at once on various topics, (which are passing comments made in response to various people on different topics) making a post all about me and my “misconceptions”, and then leaving me to talk to 10 people about it?

    I see it differently. I see it as a sustained accusation that Christianity is riddled with massive error throughout; an accusation exemplified with a long list of its supposed errors.

    One could take a list like that and respond to it point, one at a time. We tried that with the Flood (the OP also had a passing reference to the role of the Holy Spirit), but that didn’t work there did it? You called into question a whole list of other things, including Jesus’ prophecies, scriptural geography, Messianic claims, the status of Tyre, Paul, Lazarus, the formation of the Canon, the Sunday Sabbath, the Trinity—and that was only in the first 40% of the discussion.

    Now in this thread you have asked,

    If you don’t even know where to begin, what did you expect or hope to achieve with this post about me?

    Here’s my answer. When I wrote this post, I was

    a) Responding to your request for a post (and remember your request for that post was in the context of a long list of topics that you supplied), and
    b) Registering my strong disagreement with your sustained accusation of systemic error in Christianity. I could only register that disagreement, I could not mount a defense on each point, for obvious reasons; and
    c) Redirecting all this away from the other post, which was getting derailed.

    That’s what I was hoping to accomplish.

    Finally, in response to this:

    (An aside, to Tom: look what I did above. I elaborated on my point, so as to make it clear what I am saying, and enable the other person to understand where I am coming from answer my question better. It is *NOT* fair to take stuff like that and compile it into a big list of “hey look, Greg is quoting verses and making unfounded statements all over the place.” Let’s discuss topics, not people, in a post, due to the nature of a blog.)

    Look again at the original post. I did not make any personal comments about you. It was not about you, it was about your topics: your questions and charges.

    So now you know why there were multiple topics in this original post.

  66. And now I call on you to take a look at yourself, Greg. You’re complaining about “12 topics.” Is there anything debated in the comments of this thread that you yourself did not bring up here first? Neil’s questions in comment 2, yes. Other than that, the debate you are complaining about is entirely on topics you brought up in this very thread. Please go easy on the “12 topics” complaint in light of that, okay? You asked for it yourself. It is your consistent pattern, in case you hadn’t noticed.

  67. Greg,

    You have some very good questions in this post. I think what might help you is if you did some reading around how the old testament was complied. It is not a magic book but a book recording a people’s understanding and experience of God. There are multiple threads and points of view. These multiple views are drawn together to give a fuller picture. You can’t gain an understanding of any topic by referring to one passage let alone one verse.

    I think your view that Jews have God’s expectations clearly spelled out is a bit simplistic. They are laws written into a particular context and as such need interpreting into our current context. Also the constant theme running through scripture was that finding favour with God was not directly linked to your ability in following the law. Just take Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they didn’t have the law and yet were declared righteous. What about David, we know the obvious infractions, but what about him eating the holy bread?

    I think Micah does as good a summary as any in the old testament of God’s expectations:

    He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
    but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

    How do Christians believe that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon and all other the righteous Jews living before Jesus were saved if “there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved” and “no one comes to the Father except through me?” Clearly not every Jew knew the name of Jesus. Even after Jesus’ death on the cross, people lived all over the world who never heard about Jesus. So either 1) they were saved somehow, in which case I want to know why we can’t have that deal today, or 2) they weren’t saved, in which case I would ask about how King David and the patriarchs got saved.

    This whole point is dealt with in Romans 4 and Hebrews 11. Everyone is saved through faith in God even those who lived before the incarnation. Faith in God is trusting who He is, what He has done and what He will do. You are forgetting that if Jesus really is God you are rejecting God. You are thinking of just a man on the cross but think about what it means for God to be on the cross. Then the effect of the cross reverberates through the whole of space and time.

  68. Tom, I knew you would bring this up:

    You have made many, many, many drive-by charges against Christianity. You yourself requested another post to discuss such problems:

    [EDIT: I am afraid you may reply that this is going off topic. I think you would be right. Personally I want to request – can we turn this comment (and the previous one) into a separate discussion somehow by giving it a post sometime?)]

    Does this mean I completely forgot about and no longer stand behind my response to your apology, just a mere few hours before that:

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2011/06/right-or-so-very-very-wrong/#comment-27399

    However, with my rambling discourse and ADD tendency to respond to just about everyone, I fear I was largely responsible for the increasingly myopic and tense discussions that ensued with you, Tom. I definitely don’t want discussions like that any more than you. My vision of a good discussion is people figuring out new things side by side, rather than close quarters aggravated combat, with “he said, she said” quotes just to prove whether or not someone’s been naughty.

    Back then, you said:

    Thank you, Greg. I appreciate your spirit and tone, even if I disagree with you over who was most at fault

    which was a nice gesture – you implied that you thought you were responsible for the large part of what happened 😛 I am stil of the opinion that it was mostly my “rambling discourse and ADD tendency to respond to just about everyone”.

    But this time, Tom, I have to say, it *is* mostly your fault that this happened. Look at what happened. (I normally hate doing the “he said, she said” thing but in this case it absolutely must be done.)

    Obviously if we had an understanding, you would realize this yourself easily.

    1) I have always made it very clear what I am interested in finding answers to. I have clearly indicated that I am interested in finding out the truth, and that I do not enjoy getting mired in savant-like debates regarding fine points of theology or literary interpretation. Look at comment 51 for links supporting this.

    2) In my response to your apology, in the very post preceding this one, I specifically agreed with you and said,

    I definitely don’t want discussions like that any more than you. My vision of a good discussion is people figuring out new things side by side, rather than close quarters aggravated combat, with “he said, she said” quotes just to prove whether or not someone’s been naughty.

    3) In the morality thread, I recognized we were going off topic and suggested creating a different post for the topic *sometime*. Considering this was within several hours of our discourse above, you might think that I still don’t like “close quarters aggravated combat, with he said, she said quotes just to prove whether or not someone’s been naughty”. So is it reasonable to assume that I *wasn’t* asking for what you did, namely:

    A) Collecting responses to different people on different topics from several comments into one post

    B) Titling the post “So many misconceptions, where even to begin”, and then inviting me to “do a lot of work”.

    C) Leaving and inviting everyone else to debate with me on 10-12 topics at once.

    Rather, I was asking for you to create one cohesive thought-out discussion that was about a specific topic, not about me and 10-12 “topics” that I didn’t even want to discuss in this format. Tom, if you are confused about what I mean, why not ask me? Why do you always assume I have been disingenuous and/or completely changed my position? Only by assuming I do that would you have possibly ignored the response I gave you just hours earlier where I strongly indicated my dislike of the very thing you seem to suggest I then requested!

    4) As I said, what you consider “drive-by-charges” against Christianity are actually my attempts to back up and document my reasoning behind many statements I make. For a trivialized example, if I said, “I personally don’t believe the earth is round, because A) We can see it from space, B) If it were flat, how could ships disappear top-first?” and then in another comment I said, “I am not sure we should interpret the entire oral tradition in Judaism as infallible. For example, in the talmud it is written that lice arise spontaneously out of sweat, and that non kosher animals born with 5 legs will always die before the end of the year.” It is better than simply saying, “I personally don’t believe the earth is round. Period.” and I “I am not sure we should interpret the entire oral tradition in Judaism as infallible. OK cya”.

    I understand why someone with a strong emotional attachment to the position I am skeptical about would say these are “drive-by accusations”. Many Talmud scholars over the years have defended the spontaneous generation of lice comments, as well as the animals with 5 legs comments. They may consider my simple mentioning of these things (and probably getting a couple details wrong, maybe it wasn’t sweat but skin) to be drive-by accusations. They are not intended that way at all!! They are things to *back up* and *illustrate* the major statement I am making, the major points I am bringing up.

    It is not cool to take A, B from one comment, and C, D from another comment, dump them all into a post and say “Look, so many misconceptions”. If I scoured this blog I could probably do that to you, Tom, and post it on my blog and invite you to come and defend 10-12 passing assertions at once. How would you like that? It would serve one purpose: to try to strong-arm you into agreeing that your brief one liners and links to support your points are “drive by comments” and discouraging you from supporting your points. Everyone does it. If you would like, I could collect sayings of Neil Shenvi, who I can tell from his demeanor is quite an interested and well meaning and reasoned person, and invite you to post all of them in one place, where I dismiss them quickly.

    What *is* cool is understanding my main point, and if not understanding it, asking about it, and working TOGETHER to post something about a TOPIC and not a PERSON. I understand you probably didn’t do it on purpose. But the ease with which you are able to decide I am not being consistent with my previous, very strong statement that I *don’t* like this kind of discussion, suggests to me that you really don’t think I am being consistent or participating in good faith, even in the strong statements I make in response to a very heartfelt thread / post by you. That is what I kind of resent. Wouldn’t you?

    You can read comment 56 where I specifically outlined why what you did was not cool.

    This post is getting long but I really hope you get the gist. The reason I said *sometime* is because I thought we could figure out a good topic to discuss. I will give an example. At the very bottom of my first letter to you (the WARNING: LONG COMMENT), I had a PS. That would make for a very good topic, imho. It highlights one of the crucial differences between Jews and Christians. You have long said you will post the rest of it sometime. Cool, *sometime* implies you will give it proper treatment — and I am happy to work with you — not combine it with 20 other things and put me on the spot to answer 10 people and leave.

    Anyway, I hope we are on the same page.

  69. PS: if you like, just ask me, and I can do the work for you and take some time to combine my own ideas into a cohesive post on a topic I am interested in, like I did with the flood. You might then want to post that.

    As far as I can tell, you have never posted 10-12 disparate things by a member of this blog and released them to the wolves. With every other member of this blog, you posted one complete, well-formed thought of theirs — such as the one by Neil Shenvi that we all enjoy discussing. While this also opens up the floor to everyone to address Neil in various ways, at least it is on one consistent topic. But please don’t make a discussion like this again — if it’s okay with you — because I really don’t think this format is productive for anyone.

  70. I’ve sat back and read through most of these discussions, and finally decided to add in my two drachmas here.

    One thing that seems to be missing from the discussion is the fact that Christian belief is more than just an intellectual exercise – at its heart, it is a relationship based on faith(that Christianity is the inference to the best explanation of *all* the data), trust and love, with the personal, Triune and sovereign, eternally self-existent Creator God.
    There is more than sufficient evidence available to anyone who has the right heart attitude (see Psalm 19, Romans 1 & 2, for example), who is willing accept the evidence at face value and take that next step of obedience and commitment. It’s not a matter of “can’t believe’, but “won’t, or don’t want to believe”.

    I recall from another thread that one skeptic said that “If Christianity were true, he’d certainly want to believe it”; yet these skeptics never seem to consider any reasons to believe that it just might really be true – instead, they look for *anything* that might suggest it isn’t. When we (Christians) give reasonable answers to these objections, or show that the objection is completely wrong (as with the Isaiah 53 issue that Greg raised), the response is all too often “well, OK, but what about [insert issue here]?”.

    I wonder if these same skeptics would have claimed that the Standard Model in Particle Physics and the Standard Solar Model were false because of the missing solar neutrinos problem (until those missing neutrinos were found), or that General Relativity was false because the gravitational redshift of light could not be measured (until it finally was)?
    Physicists don’t give up hard-won theories (those that we (I’m a physicist, too) have confidence in because of previous validation tests) so easily when we find problems. Those problems spur us on to look for answers – to put the theories to deeper tests. Resolving those problems gives us confidence that we are really finding the inferences to the best explanation.

    A healthy dose of critical realism and ‘inference to the best explanation (using inductive, deductive and abductive reasoning)’ works well in science, and in Christian theology, too.

    Determining if the Christian faith is the inference to the best explanation is a far more balanced, productive and rewarding approach (see Hebrews 11:6 – “Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”) than mere attempts at falsification.
    Sure there are problems that we’d like to resolve – many have very satisfactory answers, others challenge us to think more deeply about what the Bible is really saying, i.e., revising our interpretations when warranted, and still other issues seem to defy any clear, satisfactory resolution, given what we know at present, so all we can offer are tentative possibilities that seek to honor both the Bible as God’s inspired Word as well as the ‘conflicting data’.

    Still, the starting point in all of this must be the person and life of Jesus of Nazareth. The inference to the best explanation is that He is really God the Son, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, who stepped into our spacetime, into our history, lived as one of us, who was crucified, died, buried, and resurrected – all to redeem us from our sin and separation from God. God offers new life and forgiveness to any and all who will come to Him through faith in Jesus, who will acknowledge Him as Saviour, Redeemer, and Lord.

  71. Melissa: I really like the focus of our conversation, and I hope we can settle some things together. Certainly as someone who is part of the Jewish tradition, I believe that it’s important to understand the Jewish conception of Christianity and of their own writings, both now and as it was understood in Jesus’ time.

    I want to preface this by saying I am no means an expert in Judaism, just someone who has read a lot. I would encourage you to ask a competent rabbi many of your questions. What I *can* tell you is that your understanding of orthodox Jewish belief, as well as historical Jewish belief, seems to be at odds with what I strongly believe is the actual way Jews understand their writings, the TaNaKh, the Talmud, and the Kabbalah. Since it is the Jews and their understanding of their own religion and scriptures that I am speaking of, it is therefore vital that we turn to the actual Jews to elucidate them for us. I will try to do my best to address what you said, but when you bring up finer points on which I am not sure, I will refer you to a good rabbi. Resources I would strongly suggest:

    http://chabad.org
    http://simpletoremember.com

    These can answer many of your questions about Judaism and the Jews’ own understanding of their own scriptures.

    You say,

    You have some very good questions in this post. I think what might help you is if you did some reading around how the old testament was complied. It is not a magic book but a book recording a people’s understanding and experience of God. There are multiple threads and points of view. These multiple views are drawn together to give a fuller picture. You can’t gain an understanding of any topic by referring to one passage let alone one verse.

    You can definitely agree, then, that you should apply your own reasoning to this:

    I think Micah does as good a summary as any in the old testament of God’s expectations:

    He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
    but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

    Let me respond by saying this. First of all, it is true that some verses (such as those from a psalm or a prophet’s words) are often laden with non obvious meaning. However, it is also understood in Judaism that the words of God, as well as the law given to Moses and recorded in the Torah, are to be taken at their word. Jews have an additional oral tradition that helps them understand the law in the Torah, which the Christians simply lack and for the most part do not wish to study. (The Talmud, based on many of these teachings, was burned by Christians, largely because its conclusions were considered anti-Christian — but this further underscores the apparent incompatibility of authentic Jewish perception of their own religion, and the claims of Christians.)

    Rather than list the many reasons that there must have been an additional tradition about how to interpret the law given to the Israelites, which Christians do not possess, I will give you a link that lists many proofs that this must have been so, but if you like, I can also point you to further resources about the oral torah:

    http://www.aishdas.org/student/oral.htm

    Also I would encourage you to read this dialogue on askmoses.com . I think you will find a lot of parallels between people who are skeptical about the oral tradition of Judaism (Sadducees, Christians), and people who are skeptical about Christianity (atheists, agnostics). A lot of the arguments there echo what has happened on this very board involving me, I think.

    http://www.askmoses.com/en/article/706,2062267/Why-did-the-Sadducees-dispute-the-authenticity-of-the-Oral-Torah.html

    Jesus himself, as we know from the New Testament, was an orthodox Jew at the time and he practiced the oral torah traditions, such as keeping Hanukkah, a Sabbath’s day’s journey (oral torah), and understood what it meant to not work on the Sabbath. The written Torah (the one in the Bible) does not define what work is, but every Jew understood exactly what constituted work using the Oral Torah. That is how they were able to meaningfully discuss this subject amongst themselves and decide whether someone was guilty of working on the Sabbath, or not. The Oral Torah tells Jews the dimensions of the Sukkah, the pattern of the Tzitzit wrapping, the design of the Tefillin, the details to build the Temple by, defines work and the Sabbath days’ journey, mentioned in Acts. You can look into the oral torah for details on all these things.

    Why is all this important? Because we must turn to the Jews themselves of the time to understand what they understood themselves to be commanded by God to do.

    Now, as to your quotation of Micah, it is true that this is part of what God wants. I will give you a quote from Hillel the Elder, born in Babylon around 110 BCE. He was a famous Jewish religious leader, and often his school is contrasted with that of Shammai, another great leader of the time. In the Babylonian Talmud, a gentile comes to Shammai and says, “explain to me the whole the Torah while I stand on one foot”. Shammai sent him away. This man came to Hillel and Hillel said,

    “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn” (Shab. 31a).

    Hillel recognized brotherly love as the fundamental principle of Jewish moral law. (Lev. xix. 18). But he said this to the gentile simply as the basics. The Torah and God’s laws and precepts takes a lifetime of study and understanding. It applies to many daily situations. What Micah was saying is true, but it by no means implies that Jews should not have to follow all the Mitzvot (commandments). On the contrary, the Torah spells out punishments for many commandments, if they are not followed.

    For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death.

    (Exodus 31:15)

    Obviously, in order to understand this law, one must understand what work means, and in what cases the punishment should be administered. So therefore, it is vitally important to the Jews to understand their own “Halakha”.

    More information here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halakha

    As a side point, many of Jesus’ teachings are not original in their message, but are directly related to previous Jewish teachers. Read the book “Pirkei Avot”, as in any case it will be interesting to you as a person, you will appreciate it even more as a Christian. It contains sayings such as “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?”

    So where does this leave us? Returning to time of Jesus, what did the Jews believe regarding what they must do?

    1. They believed that the law which God gave to Moshe is binding on them. In fact, many commandments come with punishments if not obeyed. More than that, there are collective punishments if the nation turns from following God’s commandments (such as building a golden calf). Deuteronomy’s chapters about a “blessing and a curse” go into detail about just how strongly this should matter to Israelites, both individually and collectively.

    2. They had two ways of understanding the law:

    A) The written Torah scrolls (sefer Torah) which were in all the synagogues. Every Jew was to write his own Torah scroll at least once. http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/979201/jewish/Writing-a-Personal-Torah-Scroll.htm . Many Jews today hold that that simply commissioning a torah scroll or writing one letter is like writing the whole thing. This may have been true at Jesus’ time, but in any case, there were plenty of Torah scrolls.

    B) The oral tradition that explains how to observe the commandments. Like I said, Exodus 31:15 implies that people know what “work” means and when and how to apply the punishment. This is not found in the Bible, because the books which were included in it do not explain these things. (Just like they don’t explain what ” a sabbath’s day journey ” is.) But the people at the time knew exactly what it meant, and if you want to know what the oral torah says, you should definitely speak to an orthodox rabbi. They should be happy to give you more information or point you to the right people.

    3. Just as Christians today have their own holistic understanding of their doctrine, borne out of participating in a Christian life and community as well as reading the Bible (God’s love for us, our status as wretched sinners, trinity, and more) and they form an overall picture with a central message, so too did Jews in Jesus time, and to this day, have this picture. It is:

    God is one.
    God created this world.
    Abraham, Isaac and Jacob blessed by God, and Israel is their seed.
    Israel was chosen by God, led out of Egypt, and made a holy nation.
    God gave them the Torah (literally: instructions) to follow.
    If they follow these commandments, they and their descendants will be blessed in the land of Israel forever.
    if they do not follow these commandments, they will be cast out of the land and be spread out among the nations and worship gods they have never known, and many troubles will befall them.
    But if they repent and turn to the LORD their God once more, they will be returned into Israel and God will once again bless them and they will follow His law.
    Even though they may be spread to the furthest corners of the earth, God will never forget the Jews, and will gather them in the land of Israel before the end of the world.
    Messiah will come and gather the Jews in Israel.
    Messiah will come and rebuild the physical third temple in Jerusalem. (Jeremiah)
    Messiah will usher in an era of world peace during his lifetime, which will be without end (Isaiah).

    In this overall picture, the biggest and most important message is:
    Hear, oh Israel The LORD your God is one.
    God is the one true God.
    You will not have any other gods before him.
    You will not make any idols to bow down before. It’s directly You, and God. No need for idols.

    If one was confused about how to follow the commandments, they knew that they should follow their actual leaders and levite priests.

    Deuteronomy 17:8-10

    D’varim 17:8-10
    8If a matter of judgment is hidden from you, between blood and blood,1 between verdict and verdict, between plague and plague, matters of dispute in your cities — you shall rise up and ascend to the place where HASHEM, your God, shall choose. 9You shall come to the Kohen’im, the Levi, and to the judge who will be in those days; you shall inquire and they will tell you the word of judgment. 10You shall do according to the word that they will tell you, from that place that HASHEM will choose, and you shall be careful to do according to everything that they will teach you.

    another translation:

    Law Courts

    8If cases come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge—whether bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults—take them to the place the LORD your God will choose. 9Go to the priests, who are Levites, and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict. 10You must act according to the decisions they give you at the place the LORD will choose. Be careful to do everything they direct you to do. 11Act according to the law they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left. 12The man who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the LORD your God must be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel. 13All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not be contemptuous again.

    Even Jesus himself said this to everyone who will hear:

    Matthew:
    1Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moshe’s seat. 3Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.”

    So what have we established? We established that the Nation of Israel was set up in such a way that each individual Jew, if he indeed desired to follow what God commanded, would turn to the leaders, judges and priests, and abide by their decisions. Turn neither to the left, nor to the right!

    Now let’s consider the message that Jesus disciples brought to the Jews. If you were a Jew, and you heard things like

    “the old covenant is now obsolete, and will soon disappear”
    “circumcision is now unnecessary”
    “we now are dead to the law”
    “eating pork is fine, all things are clean now”
    “The sabbath day is unnecessary”
    “accept Jesus as your lord and savior”
    “Jesus is God”

    This seems like a radical departure, and very dangerous to a nation who God repeatedly warned not to stray from the ways He has commanded them. And this message is coming not from the leaders, but from regular everyday people.

    These are MAJOR THINGS. This cuts right to the core of any real Jewish person’s beliefs, as I have shown. These are the things God specifically talks about. You may take issue with this excerpt, but I will try to find many more if you don’t believe me:

    It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. 5 That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.

    The point here is not to make *your* own interpretation in order to reconcile Judaism and Christianity’s ideas. The point is to understand the authentic Jewish tradition and what every believing Jew understood they were commanded to do. What I quoted there is directly related to the main message of Judaism!!

    Now consider what is more likely:

    A) First God told the Jews not to listen to guys like Jesus’ disciples, but then He used Jesus’ disciples to spread the message and the Jews are blamed for not listening to them?

    B) People made things up about Jesus, and had no hope of convincing the actual authorities, so they started their own campaign? It’s been done lots of times throughout history.

    Do you see my point?

  72. Victoria, thank you for your sincere comment. I appreciate the sentiment and I understand where you’re coming from. I will make a substantive comment, but let me know if you want me to address something I missed.

    1) About Isaiah 53: this is a side point, and I didn’t want to get bogged down in the details of literary analysis and theological discussion. I was linked to an entire paper by a Ph. D who spent months writing it, while Isaiah 53 was mentioned as a response to a quote of a passing comment.

    2) I am very much interested in finding out whether Christianity *can* be true. Not that it is true, even, but that the belief “Christianity is true” is coherent and can hold in the face of evidence about the world that we actually have.

    3) My very first words on this blog were “I think atheists are debating the wrong questions“, and getting mired in side points with theists, when the entire debate can be avoided if one deals with the central question: Is Christianity True

    So I am with you in many respects. Why is Christianity a central issue for me personally?

    A)
    If I don’t believe Christianity and it happens to be true — particularly the version that includes eternal hell if you don’t believe Christianity — then it would be really unfortunate. I strongly want to avoid this situation. That said, I find it really problematic to believe this version, because I think it is incoherent. Christians themselves don’t seem to agree on a definition of sin, hell, salvation, or what it takes to get saved. By that I mean, different Christians have different ideas. Personally I also find the fate of the unevangelized to be a serious problem, and this puts the entire Christian message into a state for me where I want more answers.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fate_of_the_unlearned

    B) If I do believe Christianity in the sense of believing Jesus is Fully God of Fully God, and Judaism happens to be true (please, see my extensive comment above), then I have just violated God’s most important commandments. As a Jew by birth, I am not willing to do that. I take these things very seriously. If you read my comment above, you will see I am in substantially the same position as the Jews were in Jesus’ time. This explains why the Jews have not accepted Jesus for 2000 years, even as they very much wish for the Messiah to come and rescue the Jewish people, rebuild a third temple, and usher in an era of world peace. Isaiah 53 speaks of the nations’ amazement at the Jewish people which they persecuted for 2000 years. Why did these Jews, who want the messiah so much, not accept Jesus? Because the Christians’ message that Jesus is God and that you don’t have to follow the law anymore cuts to the very heart of Judaism. You will find more about this in my comment above.

    4) I hope you can now understand why it’s a big deal for me to find out proof for Christianity or against it. To be honest, because I am Jewish, it is also a big deal for me to decide whether Judaism is right and Sinai really happened. Because if I am an atheist and God really gave the Jews this law — even if there is no afterlife as the Christians envision it — I have still committed a serious error. Even if I had good reasons to think it was all mythology. If I am wrong, it will be most unfortunate.

    That is why I continue to search and debate.

    I hope you see that I am not just an atheist with an agenda to debunk Christianity. My agenda is to find out the truth and although right now it seems strong to me that the stories in the Bible were disproven and therefore it is not the Word of God, I am open to the idea that I may be misunderstanding them. That is why I go one by one.

    Last thing: Please understand that from my point of view, I get different answers from different groups. That was my point that I tried to illustrate here.

    If you are a gentile Christian, the choice should be very simple. Keep believing Christianity, and be a good person (as described in the Noahide laws

    http://www.chabad.org/therebbe/article_cdo/aid/62221/jewish/Universal-Morality.htm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Laws_of_Noah

    and try to reconcile your beliefs with the first Noahide law as much as possible. I think Christianity and Islam both brought the knowledge of God to the world, and I am glad for that.

    But as Jew, I have to decide for myself what to do. That is why I need to find out the truth, and why I debate. I know Jews think Christianity doesn’t have a chance, and I know that atheists have good reasons to think that all the abrahamic religions are based on a mythology. I want to find out who is right. It is one of the most important things in my life.

  73. Greg:

    And yet, in those turbulent days following the events of that circa AD 30 (assuming the corrected date of Jesus’ birth) Passover, the first Christians were Jews who came to believe that He indeed is the promised Messiah, that He was actually resurrected from the dead, and that in Him, God offered the forgiveness of sin, and new spiritual life through the gift of the Holy Spirit. And what of Saul of Tarsus – the educated Pharisee who persecuted those first Christians? What converted him into Christianity’s most profound spokesman?

    Now, our primary source of this information is found in the writings of the New Testament, which you claim is not historically reliable, despite scholarly works in peer-reviewed journals (as opposed to web sites that have no such corrective controls) that argue for the essential reliability of the New Testament [ See Craig Blomberg’s The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, 2nd Edition, and references therein, or F.F. Bruce’s The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable?, for example]. You are rejecting a priori it seems, the best primary information about Christianity available to us. That’s not the way to discover the truth – looks more like someone trying to rationalize his unbelief.

    Yes, those first Jewish Christians did come to believe in God the Father, God the Son(Jesus the Christ: both human and God) and God the Holy Spirit – paradoxically that God is a Trinity, which nobody claims to actually understand, certainly on this side of eternity.

    This reminds me of the state of physics in the latter half of the 19th century – the amazing successes of classical mechanics (Newton, et al) and classical electrodynamics (Maxwell, et al), only to find that it was not the whole story after all – we needed Special Relativity and Quantum Mechanics (and more), after Rutherford, Planck, Michelson & Morley – in short, a whole new understanding of physics. I can consider myself something of an expert in modern physics, but to this day, quantum interference experiments with single photons still amaze me, especially having actually done them. So it is with Christianity – a new understanding of God was needed to account for what those first believers saw and heard and experienced first-hand.

    The truth of Christianity is not to be found in endless intellectual debate, but in accepting that it is the inference to the best explanation, and then taking that step of faith to humbly commit oneself in trust and obedience to what God has done in the person and work of Jesus Christ. For those of us who have done that, God the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us, as a confirmation of our faith, and a pledge and a promise of our redemption and forgiveness. You say that Christianity is incoherent – but not to believing Christians sealed with the Holy Spirit;I know what you are saying – I thought the same way before I became a Christian. Now that I am one, and have been since my university days (30+ years ago), it all makes sense, even though my understanding is not exhaustive or complete. The Spirit of God within me is constantly teaching me and training me to live the Christian life – and that’s not just about knowledge, but more importantly, virtue – how to be a Godly Christian woman – what does He use, but the written word of God, the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.

    If you want to learn to run a marathon, you actually have to put on a pair of running shoes and train for it by running – all the intellectual debate about it won’t get you into the race, let alone crossing the finish line after 42K. Those of us who have done that know it is worth the effort.

  74. Greg,

    Your insistence that Orthodox Jews have correctly interpreted the old testament is just begging the question against Cheistianity.

    As you said we need to go back and understand what the Jews of Jesus day thought about the old testament which I have already addressed in an earlier post.

    As to the oral tradition Jesus interacts with that in Matt 5 which is why I suggested you start there if you wanted to find an answer to this difficult question. So far you have not bothered to do that.

    You have repeatedly argued that Jews would not accept Jesus as Messiah. That is clearly demonstrated by history to be false. The gospel of Matthew came out of a Jeeish context. I also was involved in ministry earlier this year with a Messianic Jew.

  75. Greg, your continued complaining about this thread is pitiful.
    You blame Tom for “what happened”. Well, nothing happened. And as far as I can see nobody even responded to Tom’s posting. I certainly didn’t; I barely read it. I responded to you. So did everyone else, it seems, with maybe Neils first being the e mother’sxception, respond to the allegations you introduced in your very first comment. Were there 12 topics? Then you introduced all 12 for debate.

    Anyway, I hope you’re enjoying yourself now. I’m going to have a look now and see what you’ve been chatting about since this morning.

  76. Greg says:

    while Isaiah 53 was mentioned as a response to a quote of a passing comment.

    I’m not quite sure what you meant in the sentence that this came from, but, just in case, and as a matter of fact, you brought Isaiah 53 up, out of the blue, in the first comment of this thread …

    I would bring many more examples lest you think this is an isolated incident. But let me limit myself to just mentioning one of the most prominent examples: Isaiah 53. Christians love to claim the song of the suffering servant as Isaiah prophesying about Jesus’ coming. I’ve seen billboards with Isaiah 53.

    You also say:

    They are things to *back up* and *illustrate* the major statement I am making, the major points I am bringing up.

    And everyone of your illustrations was debunked. That should say something to you about the major statements you bring up.
    You say you want answers. You got lots of answers. In one case you even admitted you were wrong in your previous assessment.
    ——
    Great comments, Victoria. You said to Greg:

    And yet, in those turbulent days following the events of that circa AD 30 (assuming the corrected date of Jesus’ birth) Passover, the first Christians were Jews who came to believe that He indeed is the promised Messiah …

    Indeed. And they remained for centuries practicing Jews and Christian at the same time. The source I’ve been linking in defence of Christianity against Jewish objections, Michael Brown, is Jewish. As are/were many Rabbis who have converted.

  77. Eek.
    I must have timed out during an attempt to edit number 46 and it’s come out a dog’s dinner.
    Somehow the word “mother’s” has inserted into what was meant to say “the only exception”.
    I don’t know how that happened as I never typed the word “mother’s”.

  78. Victoria, let’s take it one step at a time.

    First of all, you can understand why it’s important that I get things right before becoming a Christian. As I said, there’s one message God spoke to the Jews over and over and more importantly than any other: do not have other gods, walk in my ways, do not have idols. Let’s take the extreme leap to today’s Catholic church. They believe

    1. Jews who accepted Jesus aren’t under the law, and they say it’s okay because we are “dead” to the law so nothing will happen if we don’t e.g. follow the Sabbath day prohibition of work (which carries the death penalty)

    2. Jesus is God, and they specifically pray to Jesus by name, but they say it’s ok because that’s not like believing in an idol or another god.

    3. They can (and do) draw God as a bearded man (sistine chapel) and figurines of Jesus and others, and don’t call it idol worship

    4. Mary and other saints are regularly addressed in prayers, but Catholics say it is ok because they aren’t praying TO the saints, just with them, and they like to have their pictures like they would have pictures of their relatives.

    Now please understand a real believing Jew would not take make a leap like this lightly — from following God’s law and praying to God directly and no one else, to doing 1, 2, 3, 4. You yourself probably think 3 and 4 are a little bit stretching it, if you are not a Catholic. Well, welcome to how Jews feel about all four things.

    Now, as to your points:

    And yet, in those turbulent days following the events of that circa AD 30 (assuming the corrected date of Jesus’ birth) Passover, the first Christians were Jews who came to believe that He indeed is the promised Messiah, that He was actually resurrected from the dead, and that in Him, God offered the forgiveness of sin, and new spiritual life through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    Just because a few Jews happened to be converted to the religion does not mean the vast majority of Jews would decide to abandon everything they and their forefathers did because some non-leaders said so (fisherman, a former Pharisee, etc.) Please see comment 73 for a detailed explanation as to why.

    Secondly, people are all different. Some people accepted Shabtai Zvi as a messiah claimant, and also believed in miracles about him. In fact, way more Jews accepted Shabtai Zvi than Jesus. Like 1000x more Jews. Does this mean he was the Messiah? No. When he converted to Islam under pain of death most Jews gave up on this guy. To this day some Jews believe he was the messiah. But so what?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabbatai_Zevi

    Today, the Chabad movement has a few extreme people who believe the great Rabbi Menachem Shneerson is the messiah. Even though his grave is in Queens, many members of the sect believe he is not really dead, but merely hidden. Others believe he will come back to life and do everything the Messiah was supposed to do. They believe the time of Messiah is coming soon.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menachem_Mendel_Schneerson#Schneerson_as_the_Jewish_Messiah

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chabad_messianism

    Keep in mind that these are real orthodox Jews. Some of them even eat pork because they believe that the time of the Messiah has come. According to the wikipedia article, “A small minority believe that he has God-like powers,[4][5] or is the “creator”[6]” .

    Sound familiar? These are Jewish ideas. But just because a small group of Jews believes someone is the Messiah, or even a large group of Jews believes it, doesn’t make it okay to ignore God’s words to Israel: walk in my ways, keep my commandments, have no other gods before me.

    An important reason why many more Jews believed in Shabbatai Zvi than Jesus was because Shabbatai Zvi and his followers never claimed that the law was abolished, so Jews didn’t feel a big risk and didn’t have to switch religions to welcome their Messiah.

    And finally, why is it so surprising that a few Jews accepted the claims of Jesus’ disciples? After all, if no one accepted Christianity we wouldn’t have been talking about it. The fact that way more Gentiles accepted it — people who had no idea about the whole framework of Judaism and Torah and Israel’s God, in which Jesus’ teachings and in which his authority is based — and a tiny fraction of Jews, should tell you something. It is significant.

    It’s not just that Paul was better at spreading the message, it’s that the message was easier to spread. I make social apps for a living. I know a lot about virality and social networks. One of the reasons facebook took off is because colleges are tightly knit communities. Dating sites are loosely knit — you don’t know which of your friends is single necessarily, so it’s harder to spread it. Lowering the barriers to “user signup” causes a social network to expand faster. For actual Jews, the barrier was really high. For Gentiles it wasn’t, hence this took off in lots of places but never gained more than a small following among the Jews themselves, the very people Jesus said he came to save.

    Matthew 22:
    A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”
    Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
    He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

    Jesus who is super powerful came only to save the lost sheep of Israel, but ultimately was able to get a small minority of Jews to believe in his message. But Paul was way more successful with the gentiles — by a factor of like 1 million.

    What is more likely?

    A) This is because the Jews are hard hearted and refused to see the truth. The usual Christian explanation.

    or

    B) Jews had a lot of barriers to believing this message, as I have explained. But Gentiles had very little barriers to “user signup” and Jewish ideas were packaged very nicely for them. They joined in droves. Eventually Constantine made it the official religion of Rome. European generals converted to Christianity from their pagan religions. But among Jews it never gained more than a foothold because Jews don’t abandon God’s ways just because a bunch of guys, who are not even in power, tell them the rules have changed.

    You tell me.

    One more point:

    Now, our primary source of this information is found in the writings of the New Testament, which you claim is not historically reliable, despite scholarly works in peer-reviewed journals …

    I agree that I will benefit from studying the historical reliability of the New Testament as it appears in its canonized form. I plan to study it further.

    That said, “historical reliability” isn’t a panacea that will suddenly make atheists believe in miracles, and more importantly, Jews believe that God changed the rules and decided to tell them through a bunch of random guys.

    It’s not all or nothing. Even if there are good reasons to believe the gospels have some historical basis, there are even better reasons to believe that they are legends! What about those reasons?

  79. Charlie: I was wrong to respond to the original post in my first comment the way I did. Instead of defending myself and mentioning Isaiah 53 as an illustration of what I mean, I should have just explained my point of view and made a positive case for it. This is what I am doing now, with Melissa and Victoria. Feel free to join in, but please stop talking about the stuff that happened because of Comment 1. OK? This is much more important to everyone.

  80. Greg
    Where is your proof that the Gospels are legends?
    The scholarly works that I referred to would disagree with that assessment.

    Best of luck in your so-called search for truth.
    You’ll need it.

  81. Greg
    That’s Matthew 15:22

    15:21 After going out from there, Jesus went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 15:22 A Canaanite woman from that area came and cried out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is horribly demon-possessed!” 15:23 But he did not answer her a word. Then his disciples came and begged him, “Send her away, because she keeps on crying out after us.” 15:24 So he answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 15:25 But she came and bowed down 33 before him and said, “Lord, help me!” 15:26 “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs,” he said. 15:27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 15:28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, your faith is great! Let what you want be done for you.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

    In Matthew 12….

    12:15 Now when Jesus learned of this, he went away from there. Great crowds followed him, and he healed them all. 12:16 But he sternly warned them not to make him known. 12:17 This fulfilled what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet:

    12:18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen,

    the one I love, in whom I take great delight. 2

    I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.

    12:19 He will not quarrel or cry out,

    nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.

    12:20 He will not break a bruised reed or extinguish a smoldering wick,

    until he brings justice to victory.

    12:21 And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

    It is clear from the OT that God fully intended to extend salvation to the Gentiles, so your quote from Mt 15:22 (a) did not include the full context, and (b) does not consider the larger context of the both the Old and New Testaments.

    You also completely missed my point of comparison with 19th century physics – the facts of what they observed and experienced caused them to realize that God was in fact, making that new covenant with not just Israel, but all mankind. You are not even considering those facts at all, and why should you, since it is all legend to you anyway. It is the supreme irony that you actually quote from the Bible that you profess to not believe in.

    You are also committing the fallacy of appealing to the majority – truth is not a matter of majority opinion.

  82. Feel free to join in,

    Thanks! 🙂

    but please stop talking about the stuff that happened because of Comment 1. OK? This is much more important to everyone.

    I will address whatever is germane and subsequent to my last comments, Greg. If you keep misrepresenting event he history of this thread I will keep pointing it out.
    Thanks for your interest in moderating.

  83. Okay Charlie. Do what you like. I am simply trying to keep things on the current topic that I am discussing with Melissa and Victoria.

    Tom: I apologize if I was too harsh or disrespectful to you. I appreciate your blog, and this is a great place because it brings together many intelligent and reasoned Christians to discuss my ideas and challenges with. I just didn’t appreciate being “fed to the wolves” like that, and that you would think I didn’t mean what I said in my response to your apology. But Charlie is right. I may have bitched too much about it, mostly because being attacked like that by lots of people was overwhelming and unpleasant. Anyway, although I stand by what I said, I apologize it was too much bitching, and I apologize to everyone that this thread until very recently wasn’t very good.

  84. . But Charlie is right. I may have bitched too much about it, mostly because being attacked like that by lots of people was overwhelming and unpleasant.

    You weren’t attacked. Your points were answered fairly and accurately. If they were good points it wouldn’t have mattered a whit if the responders were one, twelve or the actual seven.

    In my opinion, this has actually been a very good thread, but kudos to you for your apology to Tom.

  85. Victoria:

    Greg
    Where is your proof that the Gospels are legends?
    The scholarly works that I referred to would disagree with that assessment.

    Best of luck in your so-called search for truth.
    You’ll need it.

    Thanks, and I wish that all is well with you also. It will certainly take a lot to figure this thing out conclusively, and I probably could use some luck 🙂

    Regarding the proof: I think there are many good reasons to believe that the entire Judeo-Christian religion is based on legends. The flood story, the babel story, the exodus story, the archaeological evidence of the kingdoms of Solomon and David, they have serious issues with them that would make a critical thinker doubt that these things ever happened. Mostly because they make huge and testable claims that would leave evidence if they were true: the flood killed all humans and animals outside the ark, before the tower of babel everyone spoke the same language, 3 million people left egypt and wandered in sinai, while egypt suffered heavy losses, and the kingdom of Solomon was the richest and most well known kingdom in the world. All the external evidence about the past from geology, history, archaeology, seems to discredit these claims. Don’t believe me — research it yourself.

    Meanwhile, the Greeks and other nations also had myths, some also about the flood (promethius giving fire to the humans, anyone?) And we consider these fictional stories. What makes one flood story fictional and the other not? The fact that one is “found in the Bible” and the other is not.

    Currently I find it easier to explain this by saying that Judaism was also based on a collection of legendary stories, similar to the Iliad and Odyssey. But these stories were also mixed with laws and commandments for people, and monotheism. That was the magic formula that caused them to persist to this day.

    For example, the “sign of the covenant” with Abraham seems to have also been practiced in Egypt and surrounding nations. It suggests that circumcision, a practice that was already in place, was given a legendary origin and enshrined in the law.

    If we don’t believe Judaism, or that any of these things happened, then how can we believe Christianity?

    I am searching for the answers but the above things are some examples why it’s hard for me to believe.

    ********
    The following arguments are ones I already wrote to you and you didn’t address them, so since you ask, I will try to write them again in the hope that you address them this time
    ********

    Also, there is a whole separate set of reasons why it’s hard for the Jews believe that God would appear to them all on Mount Sinai give them a law saying not to listen to random dreamers who attempt to take them away from the law, and then would send His only begotten Son to die on the cross for sinners, but have the message be spread through some fisherman, a former Pharisee, etc. and then blame the Jews for not listening to them.

    Read this

    “It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. 5 That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.”

    What is a regular Jew supposed to do if someone comes to them and says:

    1. The old covenant is going away. If you accept Jesus you aren’t under the law any more, but don’t worry, it’s okay because we are “dead” to the law so nothing bad will happen if you stop following the Torah commandments.

    2. Jesus is God, and we want you to specifically pray to Jesus by name, but it’s ok because that’s not like believing in an idol or another god.

    Just because a bunch of guys write a letter that says, “Trust us we know what we’re talking about. You didn’t see any of this but we did and we are convinced. – Signed, Matthew, former tax collector, now religious authority PS: don’t bother asking your leaders like it says in Deuteronomy 17 because God hid the truth from them and revealed it to babes. Make the right choice!”

    doesn’t mean Jews will do that. So my “proof” is once again, what is more likely,

    A) First God told the Jews not to listen to guys like Jesus’ disciples, but then He used Jesus’ disciples to spread the message and the Jews are blamed for not listening to them?

    B) People made things up about Jesus, and had no hope of convincing the actual authorities, so they started their own campaign? It’s been done lots of times throughout history.

    Also as I argued in the previous comment, Jesus himself said he came to save the lost sheep of Israel. Well, he got less than like 1% of Jews to accept his message. Meanwhile Paul was wildly successful and Pauline Christianity currently has over 1 billion Christians. Wow. So which is more likely,

    A) Jesus who is super powerful and came to save the lost sheep of Israel ultimately got only a small minority of them, because the Jews were no longer the chosen people and refused to see the truth. Despite the fact that they wanted a Messiah desperately to come already and kept hoping to spot him.

    or

    B) The Jews rejected the idea because they already saw what happens when you transgress the commandments — they got back from captivity in Babylon. So they had no intention of believing this stuff from some random guys. So the guys who went to talk to gentiles had way better luck. The other nations (Greeks, Turks etc.) got Christian missionaries spreading the message, prepackaged with 90% Jewish theology and 10% Christian ideas on top of it. So many of them were like “YEAH THAT HAS A LOT OF GOOD STUFF IN IT” and converted. With threats of consequences in the afterlife if you don’t believe, it spread virally around the world.

    Is that enough reasons for you? Would anyone like to address them?

  86. It is clear from the OT that God fully intended to extend salvation to the Gentiles, so your quote from Mt 15:22 (a) did not include the full context, and (b) does not consider the larger context of the both the Old and New Testaments.

    Are you saying that because I don’t quote the whole Bible, Jesus’ stated mission of coming *only* for the lost sheep of Israel cannot be used to make conclusions about his intentions? I hope you aren’t. Because that would mean we would have to second guess Jesus’ own words about his own intentions, because who knows, maybe in another verse in this Bible, (which wasn’t canonized in his time yet), it might suggest he didn’t REALLY mean what he said.

    I have made 3 or 4 arguments. Two of them asked you which is more likely, A or B. The other ones were arguments that would suggest that many of the claims in the Bible never actually happened. I am deciding between atheism, judaism, and Christianity. What is wrong with trying to find the truth? Do you think I shouldn’t be discussing these things on a Christian blog?

    You also completely missed my point of comparison with 19th century physics – the facts of what they observed and experienced caused them to realize that God was in fact, making that new covenant with not just Israel, but all mankind. You are not even considering those facts at all, and why should you, since it is all legend to you anyway. It is the supreme irony that you actually quote from the Bible that you profess to not believe in.

    I’m sorry Melissa, but I already responded to so much of what you said and wrote extensive comments, so I didn’t want to continue responding to ALL of it. But you likewise seem to have completely missed my arguments and my questions to you, so we’re even 😛

    What can I say about the physics… I am not an expert in physics. The relevant difference is that nothing about Newtonian mechanics or Maxwell’s equations said “DO NOT FOLLOW OTHER SCIENTIFIC THEORIES OR MANY CURSES WILL COME UPON YOU”, and nothing about special relativity etc. said “DONT WORRY ITS OK, NOW WITH THIS NEW THEORY THE PREVIOUS WARNINGS ARE NULLIFIED”. There is no need for this stuff in science. In religion, the whole point is to make people do certain things and act in certain ways. There are threats issued and they are specific. You ignore them ONLY because you don’t know what it’s like to be Jewish! You don’t know what it’s like to have your people experience captivity in Babylon and their prophets telling the it’s all because they turned away from God’s commandments, and then come back to Israel and rebuild the temple. The last thing on these guys minds was to abandon the law again. After God repeatedly told them not to. So a bunch of random tax collectors and fisherman is not the way to get them to do it. God knew this. Therefore it is extremely unlikely that He would have used this means to spread such an important addition to the religion, that change everything. Especially after telling the Jews to listen to their leaders and priests *and not tax collectors*!

    You are also committing the fallacy of appealing to the majority – truth is not a matter of majority opinion.

    I think that it is the Christians who are doing that. Let me ask you something, what if Christianity didn’t have numbers on its side? What if it was a small sect that started right now like the heavens gate cult? How much would you care about their writings then?

    My argument has nothing to do with majority opinion. It has to do with God’s words to the Jewish people.

  87. Matthew 28: 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations

    Luke 24:44Then he said to them, (BE) “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,(BF) that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then(BG) he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46and said to them, “Thus(BH) it is written,(BI) that the Christ should suffer and on the third day(BJ) rise from the dead, 47and that(BK) repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed(BL) in his name(BM) to all nations,(BN) beginning from Jerusalem.

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+4&version=NIV

  88. Greg
    So why then are you even bothering? You are just rationalizing your unbelief, through caricature, saying but not citing. You tell me not to take your word for it, but to do the research myself…I have news for you – I’ve been following that for 30+ years. I’m not saying that there are no unsolved questions or puzzling issues in how everything fits together – as a physicist I know that such things are not unusual; as a Christian I have faith that these puzzles do have answers.

    Your reasoning is unconvincing, filled with logical fallacies and questionable information, and misses the key questions (Who is Jesus, and what happened back in AD30 that got Christianity off the ground?) You keep sidestepping those questions by claiming the accounts are mere legends (with no convincing substantiation), committing both the genetic and appeal to majority fallacies, and refusing to accept the possibility that this is the new covenant that Jeremiah spoke of (Jeremiah 31:31 ) and spoken of by Jesus (Luke 22:20 for example) and the author of the NT book of Hebrews (Hebrews 10:16 and 12:24). You are letting your presuppositions determine your conclusions, not following the data wherever it may lead; I guess if you were around in Galileo’s time, you would have refused to look through his telescope, too; you will never find the truth this way, not because it isn’t there, but because you won’t give up your intellectual pride. Christianity does ask for faith and trust, given from a receptive heart. I like how 2 Chronicles 16:9 puts it:

    NASB© 16:9 “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.”

    With that, I will leave you to your unbelief, and pray that God will lead you to faith

  89. You are also committing the fallacy of appealing to the majority – truth is not a matter of majority opinion.

    I think that it is the Christians who are doing that. Let me ask you something, what if Christianity didn’t have numbers on its side?

    Do you? I’ve read a lot of apologetics and I’ve never read an argument that said “there are billions of Christians, therefore, Christianity is true.”

  90. @Charlie
    I haven’t done this in a while, but thanks. I’ve forgotten how simultaneously rewarding and frustrating this can be 🙂

  91. I hear you. In fact, Greg has brought me temporarily out of my own semi-retirement with his comments.
    God bless you.

  92. I have already answered you why I bother, and everything else too. V, although I’m glad for your point of view and I respect that you’re a physicist, you haven’t answered any of my questions. I frankly don’t know in what sense you can believe the Bible is fully true if it contains the flood, babel and other stories. Do you believe these stories literally happened in the real world, or not?

    I know many physicists are Christian (and Jewish). The most atheist scientists are usually anthropologists, probably because they see a lot of cultures and see the ideas of Judaeo-Christian religion in previous cultures.

    I don’t know why you think the most important questions are the ones you listed. Certainly you didn’t consider my questions important enough to even address — even though I wrote them twice to you and tried to address your comments extensively. Still, if you want to know why I have trouble believing Christianity, you have my answers above.

    Who was Mohammad? Why do so many Muslims believe him? Why aren’t these the most important questions for you? Why does William Lane Craig choose to talk about the Muslim conception of Jesus and raise problems with it, rather than engaging with Muslim thinkers and learning all about Mohammad, his life, what he claimed, what he taught? And if he already did that and still doesn’t believe, why can’t he just have faith? Because he sees major problems with Islam that don’t allow him to believe it.

    It’s the same with Christianity. For what it’s worth I enjoyed the spirit of your comments but I really wish you would address my answers to you 🙂

  93. OK one more thing….

    In 1 Corinthians 1 and 2, Paul (the former Pharisee who met the risen Lord on the Damascus Road) says [I apologize for the format…]

    The Message of the Cross

    1:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will thwart the cleverness of the intelligent.” 21 1:20 Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law? 22 Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish? 1:21 For since in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching. 1:22 For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, 1:23 but we preach about a crucified Christ, 23 a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. 1:24 But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1:25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, 24 and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 25

    1:26 Think about the circumstances of your call, 26 brothers and sisters. 27 Not many were wise by human standards, 28 not many were powerful, not many were born to a privileged position. 29 1:27 But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong. 1:28 God chose 30 what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, 1:29 so that no one can boast in his presence. 1:30 He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, 31 who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 1:31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 32
    Wisdom from God

    2:6 Now we do speak wisdom among the mature, 5 but not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are perishing. 2:7 Instead we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, that God determined before the ages for our glory. 2:8 None of the rulers of this age understood it. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 2:9 But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, 6 are the things God has prepared for those who love him.” 7 2:10 God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 2:11 For who among men knows the things of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So too, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 2:12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God. 2:13 And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom, but with those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. 8 2:14 The unbeliever 9 does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 2:15 The one who is spiritual discerns 10 all things, yet he himself is understood 11 by no one. 2:16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to advise him? 12 But we have the mind of Christ.

    And in Philippians 2:

    Phil 2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
    Phil 2:6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
    Phil 2:7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
    Phil 2:8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
    Phil 2:9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
    Phil 2:10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
    Phil 2:11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father

    Turnabout is fair play, Greg – your claim that it would be fatal for the Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah can be turned around to say that it would be just as fatal for all mankind to reject Jesus as the Messiah.

    Again, you have not understood my physics analogy (and one does not have to be a physicist for this): those nasty facts showed us that classical physics was not the whole story – that it was incomplete and needed revision. The events circa AD30 cry out for a new covenant and a new understanding of God. As long as you refuse to consider that these events actually occurred in history, Greg, our discussions will come to nothing. If Jesus died on a cross, was buried, and was resurrected, it changes everything.

    BTW I really dislike that captcha!

  94. Okay here’s a better way to phrase it:

    Why can’t William Lane Craig just accept Koran as the Word of God spoken to Mohammad through angel Gabriel, and just have faith that his problems and questions with it have good answers?

  95. Because Mohammad didn’t make the claims that Jesus did; he was not resurrected from the dead and thereby show himself to be God incarnate; moreover we have only his word that an angel dictated the Koran to him. Christianity (and Judaism, for that matter) is a faith rooted in God’s redemptive acts in human history; those who witnessed these events wrote about them.

    As I said, if Jesus did rise from the dead as a historical reality, if he did appear in bodily form to many witnesses, then that changes everything ( 1 Cor 15 ) – this is the reason for the hope that is in us, and why we Christians believe as we do. This is the heart of the truth of Christianity – and this is where I think the discussion should be

    You just want to debate secondary issues – I do not.

  96. And again, you have locked yourself into one interpretation of the flood account. We’ve had this long conversation already. If your interpretation is the only possible one; if all others are absolutely ruled out; if you understand ANE culture well enough to say you are right and everyone else is wrong; then and only then can you say the Bible us errant and totally to be rejected (on that point, at least).

    I put it that strongly because it is a point of logic I have brought up before, which you continue to regard as if it were not true or not relevant. It is both true and relevant.

    If you are the final arbiter of these things and know the truth about them already, why posture yourself as a seeker after truth? Don’t you already have all you want of it?

    That is not intended as an attack. It us a serious observation and a serious question, based on how imperiously you are pronouncing your interpretations of these accounts to rule over all the rest.

  97. See further this on the Flood-related thread:

    So if the larger question is whether or not Christianity is true, then I think we’ve gone as far as we need to with the question of the Flood. If there is a possibly true interpretation of Genesis which is consistent with the overall truth of Christianity, that’s all we need to know from Genesis. Taken by itself, this does not tell us whether Christianity is true, but it does tell us that what we know about the Flood neither proves nor disproves Christianity.

    That being the case, we ought to move on to another topic.

    Here is where you’ll find the argument leading to that conclusion. See also here.

    For you to continue to tell us that the Flood disproves Christianity (and/or the trustworthiness of the Bible) is tantamount to telling us that every single other understanding of the Flood account—including those put forth by serious and responsible scholars—must bow down before yours. I reject that, I think it’s illegitimate, I pay no attention to it in the arguments you keep trying to base on it (for it deserves no attention paid to it), I think you ought to quit it, and I think the reason you ought to quit it ought to be more than obvious to you.

  98. Greg
    as for archaeology, Tom posted a link a while back
    http://www.bib-arch.org/bar/article.asp?PubID=BSBA&Volume=37&Issue=03&ArticleID=06&Page=0&UserID=0

    Also, there are plenty of peer-reviewed scholarly works on Old and New Testament Archaeology:

    see F.F.Bruce New Testament History,
    F.F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments (New Testament documents)
    John McRay Archaeology and the New Testament,
    Alfred J. Hoereth Archaeology and the Old Testament
    two older books with the same titles by Merrill F. Unger,
    K. A. Kitchen On the Reliability of the Old Testament
    Gary R. Habermas Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus
    and of course, references therein.
    These authors deal frankly with the issues and areas of research – they are honest about problem areas, but they also give a good account on the general reliability and trustworthiness of the Bible.
    Why is this important? Knowing that the Bible is trustworthy gives us confidence to trust it as the Word of God – that my friend, is faith

    Yes, there are issues in understanding how what the Bible has to say about history and science meshes with what we know; you seem to think that the only position is one of conflict and contradiction, whereas we think that there are possible ways to do justice to both (cf Tom’s answer to your Genesis Flood question). The example I like has to do with the geocentric vs heliocentric views, and how the Church read the geocentric view into Scripture as the only way to understand it. Well, today’s Christians take the view that perhaps the Bible authors are writing from an earth-centered vantage point to describe things ( a reference frame that General Relativity tells us is completely valid). We are not required to interpret the Bible in a way that conflicts with our modern descriptions of celestial mechanics.

    Yes, I whole-heartedly accept Genesis 1 as truth, and I accept that Big Bang cosmology is currently our best inference from good, solid physics (after all, if General Relativity was completely wrong, GPS would not work). Young-earth creationists notwithstanding, many scientists (go to http://www.asa3.org) have given serious thought to revisiting our understanding of how to read Genesis 1 in ways that do justice to both Scripture and science.

  99. All the external evidence about the past from geology, history, archaeology, seems to discredit these claims. Don’t believe me — research it yourself.

    Right back to the wide sweeping claims. I have researched it and I disagree. Frankly as someone who claims to have studied these issues I would be embarassed to write “the archaeological evidence of the kingdoms of Solomon and David” considering recent archaeological evidence has debunked previous myth supporters who claimed there were no such kingdoms at all.

    In fact the laundery list of things in the Bible that were claimed to have been mythical but are now accepted as having basis in fact because of archaeology would give any truly honest person considerable pause in making that accusation. Mythical kingdoms of david and Solomon are just the latest to be debunked———————.

    In addition to all that you are fudging what the “testable claims that would leave evidence if they were true” would be

    the flood killed all humans and animals outside the ark, before the tower of babel everyone spoke the same language, 3 million people left egypt and wandered in sinai, while egypt suffered heavy losses

    What exact archaeological evidence do you expect to find of what langauge a people spoke if they were not given to writing? and what archaeological evidence has ever existed for a nomadic people who never built anything in an area passing through it?

    In my opinion you are going to see constantly diminishing results from this thread and I suppose you may even think you have stumped some people. So far I have seen every issue you raised – the full kaleidoscope of ever shifting and dancing lights – answered but you’ve done a few things here that will make some people just withdraw from participating further (or perhaps just me) and frankly they all have to do with intellectual dishonesty.

    A) Rather than take full resposibility for your actions and posts you continue to accuse Tom of ganging up on you and criticize the very thread allowing you to raising more and more issues. I see nothing wrong with Tom posting what he posted. You presented multiple issues on his public blog and he publicly responded. The fact that he could list so many issues raised is your own fault for having taken this scattered gun approach. I say this for your own good because as long as you take this attitude then nothing is going to be of value because being honest with ourselves is the only way we grow.

    B) when caught in very poor points rather than admit to the overall lack of study you have applied to these issues you merely admit where you were wrong (which is a positive) and continue running with wide blanket statements of fact on other issues. Neil’s point stands and his questions is still unanswered. the intellectually honest thing to do would be to admit (and act accordingly) that your conclusions/arguments are premature, that you are not in the drawing conlcusion stage but rather in the “I don’t grasp the basics” stage. You can’t say Mount Rushmore is in Florida and then continue to claim that you however still ready to discuss US geography

    C) and it maybe just what I alone see – you vacillitate constanly between being open to learning and perfect close mindedness. In one response you are merely looking for answers and then in the next you are stating what can be the only answer. Its just not coherent and one of those extremes is disingenuous. I am not indicating that you are lying to us in any of those posts. I am suggesting that you are lying to yourself(something we all do far more than we do to others).

    I’ll look forward to any single issue post in the future that I can particpate in. I have debated on Internet forums, blogs and webistes for many years and I have never seen this kind of an approach lead to anything substantive . Its been universally a waste of time. You could answer all the points raised and the person will blink and the without much more pause move on to another issue because the end conclusion in truth has been drawn and the person no matter how they profess otherwise is just looking for a path to get there.

  100. Greg,

    I’m sorry Melissa, but I already responded to so much of what you said and wrote extensive comments, so I didn’t want to continue responding to ALL of it. But you likewise seem to have completely missed my arguments and my questions to you, so we’re even

    Really, you looked up Matt 5 to see how Jesus understands the law and oral tradition? You thought about why the prophets are considered favourably when they spoke against the official Jewish authorities? No Greg you repeated much of what you have already said and I have told you what was wrong with that. I have collected below the summary of what I think are your main points and my summarised responses. Feel free to respond to each of these numbered points. If you think I have missed anything add it as another number.

    1. Christians are ignorant of Judaism.

    Jews have an additional oral tradition that helps them understand the law in the Torah, which the Christians simply lack and for the most part do not wish to study.

    Your constant insinuation that Christian scholarship occurs in some kind of vacuum without reference to the knowledge of other disciplines is frankly insulting. There is a huge amount of work done in studying the cultural context that the early Christian writings grew out of, including much research into second temple Judaism.

    2. Orthodox Jewish belief is the correct interpretation of the old testament and in Jesus time the only people authorised to interpret God’s will were the official Jewish authorities.

    We established that the Nation of Israel was set up in such a way that each individual Jew, if he indeed desired to follow what God commanded, would turn to the leaders, judges and priests, and abide by their decisions. Turn neither to the left, nor to the right!

    Firstly to assume that today’s orthodox Judaism is the correct interpretation of the Jewish scriptures is just begging the question against Christianity. Secondly I have already addressed your “don’t turn to the left or the right” quote, with examples in the old testament where the official Jewish leaders were corrupt and had turned away from God. You ignored that and just continued to quote “turn not to the right or left”. Don’t those situations cause you to pause and consider that maybe it’s not quite so clear cut as you are making out. Also the situation around the time of Jesus was that there were diverse interpretations of the law.

    3. Jews have the oral tradition to help interpret the written Torah and Christians don’t so have interpreted the old testament wrong.
    Once again Jesus was interacting with the oral tradition in Matt 5. Christians consider Jesus interpretation of the law as authoritative therefore we follow His and His followers interpretation rather than the orthodox Jewish interpretation.

    4. Jesus can’t be God because God is one.
    Ans: The Trinity

    5. No Jew would accept Christianity just because someone said they had the right interpretation.

    Christians are fooling themselves if they think they can get real orthodox Jews to skirt so close to transgressing the biggest commandments in their faith, on the basis of some guys saying “don’t worry, my interpretation is correct! We are dead to the law! etc.”

    You’re right they believe Jesus had authority to interpret the scripture because of the resurrection. The conversion of Jews throughout history since Jesus death shows that in fact Jews do convert.

    6. FOLLOW YOUR JUDGES AND PRIESTS !!!

    So what have we established? We established that the Nation of Israel was set up in such a way that each individual Jew, if he indeed desired to follow what God commanded, would turn to the leaders, judges and priests, and abide by their decisions. Turn neither to the left, nor to the right!

    The passage you’re using to support begins by referring to cases of bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults that are too difficult to judge in the villages and you have continued to ignore the times when the Jewish authorities were corrupt and it was the prophets who spoke God’s will. In your own words:

    The point here is not to make *your* own interpretation

    7. God told the Jews not to listen to people like Jesus (insert passage here but make sure you don’t quote the section that explicitly states that they are prophets who teach the Jews to turn to OTHER gods.)

    Jesus was not teaching the Jews to follow other gods so the passage is not relevant.

    8. I know more than you because I’ve read some stuff on the internet.

    I have done university level biblical studies including study of the origins and writing of the old testament.

    Feel free to respond. It will help if you respond to each point separately and number

  101. Greg,

    I don’t know, but I imagine from where you sit this might feel like being ganged up on, especially our reactions to your style of interaction. I urge you to consider it ll carefully, though. Sometimes when I hear the same thing from many people, it’s because they’re seeing something that I haven’t been able to see from my own perspective.

    Here’s what I wonder about, reading through the recent comments this morning. I wonder whether you are conducting your search for truth (which in spite of a comment last night I’m still believing is real) in the wrong place. You have a lot of technical questions about ANE history and biblical interpretation. It occurred to me yesterday that your questions about Jesus as Messiah would be well addressed if you read N.T. Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus, where he shows that the very points you made about Jewish messianic expectations provide support for the veracity of the New Testament. Wright is a solidly responsible historian, and he’s not employing question-begging methods. Scholarship of that sort,

    EDIT: I was editing this immediately after publishing, and about half of it disappeared. I’ll be back in a couple minutes with another try.

  102. Greg,

    I don’t know, but I imagine from where you sit this might feel like being ganged up on, especially our reactions to your style of interaction. I urge you to consider it carefully, though. Sometimes when I hear the same thing from many people, it’s because they’re seeing something that I haven’t been able to see from my own perspective.

    Here’s what I wonder about, reading through the recent comments this morning. I wonder whether you are conducting your search for truth (which in spite of a comment last night I’m still believing is real) in the wrong place. You have a lot of technical questions about ANE history and biblical interpretation. It occurred to me yesterday that your questions about Jesus as Messiah would be well addressed if you read N.T. Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus, where he shows that the very points you made about Jewish messianic expectations provide support for the veracity of the New Testament. Wright is a solidly responsible historian, and he’s not employing question-begging methods. Scholarship of that sort, along with my readings of Jesus’ teachings and the rest of the New Testament, is what give me confidence in the Gospel even though it differs from Jewish interpretations of Scripture.

    Victoria has recommended a whole raft of sources on archaeology. You’re reading Craig. Several of us have recommended other sources for you along the way. These things take time; and they’re a whole lot better set of sources for you than any of us here could be. Your search for understanding Christianity is far better conducted there than here. If I were you I would spend a lot more time in those top sources, and less here.

    But I’m not pushing you away. Instead I’m suggesting you see this forum in a different light. We’re not your source of scholarship, and (as I’m sure you’ve noticed) not much productive has come out of discussing all the many objections to Christianity you’ve raised. If I were you, I would think, “This isn’t working,” and, “If I’m trying to understand Christianity better, this isn’t getting me there. Nor am I making any progress toward talking them out of their Christianity.”

    But there is a way interactions here could be quite fruitful for you. When you’re reading Craig, or Wright, or Bruce, if you run across some specific item you want to converse on with a few more people with a Christian perspective, we could do that for you, gladly.

    I affirm your search for truth. I suggest you focus your time more where you can get better answers than we’ve been able to give you. And I suggest you see this as a place to discuss some of that reading (one topic at a time) with a few people of the Christian persuasion. It will do you a lot more good in the long run.

  103. Victoria @ 91 wrote:

    Greg
    So why then are you even bothering? You are just rationalizing your unbelief, through caricature, saying but not citing. You tell me not to take your word for it, but to do the research myself…I have news for you – I’ve been following that for 30+ years.

    I bailed out on this conversation long ago because I think Greg is being very disingenuous.

    It seems to me that more than rationalizing his unbelief he is actually trying to promote it.

    My frustration with Greg early on was that he doesn’t engage in conversation, rather he gives lectures– long lectures. If he was sincere he would engage in conversation, one topic, one point at a time and not try to overwhelm people with his so called knowledge, where more often than not he repeats the same points over and over again. If his purpose is to impress on us how well read and intelligent he is, then color me unimpressed. It is easy to be argumentative, and that is all Greg is doing– his protests to the contrary– being argumentative.

    Greg’s problem, in my opinion, is more a problem of the heart than it is of the head.

    Jesus talked about this in Mark chapter 4:

    When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,
    “‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
    and ever hearing but never understanding;
    otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’[a]”

    I use to think that Jesus was being cold hearted here. But after having engaged people on the internet, for almost 6 years, I now see what he was saying. What keeps people from faith are not the intellectual issues but the moral and spiritual ones.

  104. I was just reading in the Book of Acts this morning, and read this passage (from Acts 3: Peter and John had just healed the man born lame from birth, and they were explaining the real reason for this miracle to the crowd in the temple…)

    3:11 While the man was hanging on to Peter and John, all the people, completely astounded, ran together to them in the covered walkway called Solomon’s Portico. 3:12 When Peter saw this, he declared to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this? Why do you stare at us as if we had made this man walk by our own power or piety? 3:13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our forefathers, has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate after he had decided to release him. 3:14 But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a man who was a murderer be released to you. 3:15 You killed the Originator of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this fact we are witnesses! 3:16 And on the basis of faith in Jesus’ name, his very name has made this man – whom you see and know – strong. The faith that is through Jesus has given him this complete health in the presence of you all. 3:17 And now, brothers, I know you acted in ignorance, as your rulers did too. 3:18 But the things God foretold long ago through all the prophets – that his Christ would suffer – he has fulfilled in this way. 3:19 Therefore repent and turn back so that your sins may be wiped out, 3:20 so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and so that he may send the Messiah appointed for you – that is, Jesus. 3:21 This one heaven must receive until the time all things are restored, which God declared from times long ago through his holy prophets. 3:22 Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must obey him in everything he tells you. 3:23 Every person who does not obey that prophet will be destroyed and thus removed from the people.’ 3:24 And all the prophets, from Samuel and those who followed him, have spoken about and announced these days. 3:25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed.’ 3:26 God raised up his servant and sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each one of you from your iniquities.”

    Peter’s first quote of Moses is from Deuteronomy 18:15; the second is from Deuteronomy 18:19 and Leviticus 23:29.

    If Greg wants to know what the historical, Biblical Christian position is, well this is it…Peter, speaking by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is explaining the implications of Jesus’ death and resurrection, in the context of the Jews’ own Scriptures.
    The rest of the New Testament writings affirm and expand on this concept.

    Also, Greg claims that when the nation of Israel disobeyed God by following after other gods, etc…He sent them into exile – true enough. But, has Greg considered the fact that the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 and the subsequent scattering of the Jews all over the empire might be the result of disobeying God once again by rejecting His Messiah? Actually, Jesus Himself alludes to this very thing in Mark 13:1-2,
    Matthew 23:37-24:2 and Luke 19:41-44.

  105. Hey, guys. I awoke today to find a flurry of activity here. It will be definitely not be easy to answer your all substantively, but I just want to address a few things, and I apologize if I may have missed something in one of your points.

    First: why do I want to address them?

    Tom makes a good point, that I must do my own research in addition to talking on the forum. I am already reading Reasonable Faith, and it is helping me become more conversant with modern Christian thought on the subject of Jesus. I will try to look at some resources pointed to by Victoria, and continue to gather more evidence.

    That said, I want to make a distinction. The original post and subsequent discussion until around comment 51 were frustrating to me, and I don’t think were helping me or anybody else. (Well, certainly I can speak for myself here.) However, afterwards, I think my conversation with Melissa and Victoria, and now the rest of you, is productive. It is on a subject that I care about, and moreover, it helps me understand how *you* deal with the issues that have been troubling *me*. Tom,several of the references that you referred to have come out of this discussion — and that is to be expected, since I am addressing my issue to a multitude of Christians and they are coming back with responses.

    I will not automatically consider every response to be the definitive answer or end to the conversation, however. For example, I have repeatedly pointed out to Victoria that I have addressed several of her questions and asked her how she deals with it (see comment 88 and questions of the form “which is more likely”). Of course, Melissa might come and say that she has debunked one of the previous assumption so therefore Victoria doesn’t have to answer… but I don’t think that’s what it’s about. If I am going to answer you, you should respond back to me and my questions, especially when my answer is of the form “why do I think this? here is why I think this: insert what I know about X. Now, you tell me, which is morel likely, A or B?”

    I ask you guys if you can to please cool it a little on the ad hominem attacks though, because I am telling you that nothing productive can come of it. I already know I must do further research.

    But the reverse is kind of amazing to me. When asked why I find it hard to just “accept the message” of Christianity, I cite numerous reasons. Of *course* I can’t expand each reason into an encyclopedia article here, nor would it be productive. I simply cite them, and am happy to discuss one at a time in another thread, as we did with the flood (productively, by the way). For example,

    Regarding the proof: I think there are many good reasons to believe that the entire Judeo-Christian religion is based on legends. The flood story, the babel story, the exodus story, the archaeological evidence of the kingdoms of Solomon and David, they have serious issues with them that would make a critical thinker doubt that these things ever happened. Mostly because they make huge and testable claims that would leave evidence if they were true: the flood killed all humans and animals outside the ark, before the tower of babel everyone spoke the same language, 3 million people left egypt and wandered in sinai, while egypt suffered heavy losses, and the kingdom of Solomon was the richest and most well known kingdom in the world. All the external evidence about the past from geology, history, archaeology, seems to discredit these claims. Don’t believe me — research it yourself.

    Meanwhile, the Greeks and other nations also had myths, some also about the flood (promethius giving fire to the humans, anyone?) And we consider these fictional stories. What makes one flood story fictional and the other not? The fact that one is “found in the Bible” and the other is not.

    Does any one of you *also* feel that they might want to do some research in light of this, or did you all already consider all these questions, which I would consider important reasons to think the Bible may be falsified, and realize right away that they’re absolutely silly activities of someone who tries to suppress the “obvious” truth? I think this goes back to what Neil was saying in a previous thread, about believing the truth. Sure, if believing Christianity is more important to you, even if the majority of scholarship in their respective fields thinks that the OT stories were legends, then continue doing it. But know that I will try to put in some serious time researching whatever responses you give me, if not now then a year from now (for this all takes a long time, and as you can imagine we all have other important things to do), so please take care with your answers.

    Not to suggest that I only use wikipedia for my sources (I have seen some people dismiss any internet link that doesn’t agree with their religious people’s views will immediately be dismissed as wikipedia/atheist nonsense/out of context quotations/etc.), take it for what it is: a responsible encyclopedia with neutral point of view and overseen by editors who can revert bad entries, and has been listed as comparable in accuracy to the encyclopedia britannica, let me just take one of these, the flood. And most importantly, a way for me to link you to a responsible summary regarding what I’m talking about and references to other resources.

    Here is what makes it difficult for me to just accept many of your answers:

    When you say “The Bible” is true, this may seem like a coherent statement to you, but it is loaded, in light of this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible

    What do you expect me to say to that? OK, I accept the “Bible” is true?

    When you say that a certain thing (like the trinity) is part of the Christian faith, realize that this is just the view of the Majority. To suggest that it is the truth is an argumentatio ad populum.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nontrinitarianism#Points_of_dissent

    There are many approaches to interpreting the Bible:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bible_and_History#Overview_of_academic_views

    Questions like “to what degree you are a sinner” are not coherent questions to me, if the questioner doesn’t define what “sin” is. Perhaps they are unaware of the various concepts of sin. What would my answer signify to the questioner? That depends on the sense in which sin is understood.

    Many of the questions I encounter from Christians are of this sort, that is why I feel compelled to engage in clarifying and pointing to “difficulties” in prepackaged terms like “The Bible” being used in telling me something which is clearly very important to both of us.

    I will try to write much more and answer several great points brought up here.

  106. Greg said

    You will find in NO book of the Jews, neither in the Talmud nor the Midrash, that the messiah, the descendant of David, would be killed or would be turned over to his enemies or would be buried among the wicked. In fact, even Jesus was himself not buried.

    Huh????
    How about Psalm 22 for starters?
    (the opening lines of which Jesus quotes as He is on the cross – see the excerpt from Matthew, below)

    Here is the excerpt from John’s Gospel: John 19-20 (which also refers to Psalm 22)

    The Crucifixion

    So they took Jesus, 19:17 and carrying his own cross he went out to the place called “The Place of the Skull” (called in Aramaic Golgotha). 19:18 There they crucified him along with two others, one on each side, with Jesus in the middle. 19:19 Pilate also had a notice written and fastened to the cross, which read: “Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews.” 19:20 Thus many of the Jewish residents of Jerusalem read this notice, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the notice was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. 19:21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The king of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am king of the Jews.’” 19:22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

    19:23 Now when the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and made four shares, one for each soldier, and the tunic remained. (Now the tunic was seamless, woven from top to bottom as a single piece.) 19:24 So the soldiers said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but throw dice to see who will get it.” This took place to fulfill the scripture that says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they threw dice.” So the soldiers did these things.

    19:25 Now standing beside Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 19:26 So when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, look, here is your son!” 19:27 He then said to his disciple, “Look, here is your mother!” From that very time the disciple took her into his own home.
    Jesus’ Death

    19:28 After this Jesus, realizing that by this time everything was completed, said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty!” 19:29 A jar full of sour wine was there, so they put a sponge soaked in sour wine on a branch of hyssop and lifted it to his mouth. 19:30 When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

    19:31 Then, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not stay on the crosses on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was an especially important one), the Jewish leaders asked Pilate to have the victims’ legs broken and the bodies taken down. 19:32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men who had been crucified 97 with Jesus, 98 first the one and then the other. 99 19:33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water 101 flowed out immediately. 19:35 And the person who saw it has testified (and his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth), so that you also may believe. 19:36 For these things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled, “Not a bone of his will be broken.” 19:37 And again another scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”
    Jesus’ Burial

    19:38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus (but secretly, because he feared the Jewish leaders ), asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission, so he went and took the body away. 19:39 Nicodemus, the man who had previously come to Jesus at night, accompanied Joseph, carrying a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about seventy-five pounds. 19:40 Then they took Jesus’ body and wrapped it, with the aromatic spices, in strips of linen cloth according to Jewish burial customs. 19:41 Now at the place where Jesus 119 was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden was a new tomb where no one had yet been buried. 19:42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of preparation and the tomb was nearby they placed Jesus’ body there.

    From Matthew 27: (ignore the ordinal numbers – they are superscripts to footnotes in the text from the NET Bible.

    The Crucifixion

    27:32 As 53 they were going out, they found a man from Cyrene named Simon, whom they forced 54 to carry his cross. 55 27:33 They 56 came to a place called Golgotha 57 (which means “Place of the Skull”) 58 27:34 and offered Jesus 59 wine mixed with gall to drink. 60 But after tasting it, he would not drink it. 27:35 When 61 they had crucified 62 him, they divided his clothes by throwing dice. 63 27:36 Then they sat down and kept guard over him there. 27:37 Above 64 his head they put the charge against him, 65 which read: 66 “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.” 27:38 Then two outlaws were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 27:39 Those 67 who passed by defamed him, shaking their heads 27:40 and saying, “You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! 68 If you are God’s Son, come down 69 from the cross!” 27:41 In 70 the same way even the chief priests – together with the experts in the law 71 and elders 72 – were mocking him: 73 27:42 “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! He is the king of Israel! If he comes down 74 now from the cross, we will believe in him! 27:43 He trusts in God – let God, if he wants to, deliver him now 75 because he said, ‘I am God’s Son’!” 27:44 The 76 robbers who were crucified with him also spoke abusively to him. 77
    Jesus’ Death

    27:45 Now from noon until three, 78 darkness came over all the land. 79 27:46 At 80 about three o’clock Jesus shouted with a loud voice, 81 “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 82 27:47 When 83 some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 27:48 Immediately 84 one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, 85 put it on a stick, 86 and gave it to him to drink. 27:49 But the rest said, “Leave him alone! Let’s see if Elijah will come to save him.” 87 27:50 Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit. 27:51 Just then 88 the temple curtain 89 was torn in two, from top to bottom. The 90 earth shook and the rocks were split apart. 27:52 And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died 91 were raised. 27:53 (They 92 came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.) 27:54 Now when the centurion 93 and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were extremely terrified and said, “Truly this one was God’s Son!” 27:55 Many 94 women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and given him support 95 were also there, watching from a distance. 27:56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
    Jesus’ Burial

    27:57 Now 96 when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 97 27:58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 98 Then Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 27:59 Joseph 99 took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 100 27:60 and placed it 101 in his own new tomb that he had cut in the rock. 102 Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance 103 of the tomb and went away. 27:61 (Now Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there, opposite the tomb.)
    The Guard at the Tomb

    27:62 The 104 next day (which is after the day of preparation) the chief priests and the Pharisees 105 assembled before Pilate 27:63 and said, “Sir, we remember that while that deceiver was still alive he said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 27:64 So give orders to secure the tomb until the third day. Otherwise his disciples may come and steal his body 106 and say to the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” 27:65 Pilate said to them, “Take 107 a guard of soldiers. Go and make it as secure as you can.” 27:66 So 108 they went with the soldiers 109 of the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

    Another sweeping statement that has no basis.
    At least do us the courtesy of getting your facts straight…

  107. Now let me turn to why I think some of the Old Testament stories might be based on legends. Some people have cited scholarly articles so let me just cite major scholarly positions and consensus, and Bible verses.

    Although I think that providing 7 or 8 illustrations or references to back up each of your points is a GOOD thing, I agree that subsequently discussing several issues side by side is not as effective. Therefore I will expand on my 3 things below, but if you want to discuss them individually, you can post on the flood thread and I will address it there, or please ask Tom to create a new thread for e.g. the exodus. I’m sorry but I am torn between explaining what I mean, and inviting tons of side by side discussion. I choose to explain — but definitely we should have a way to move this to a threaded discussion somehow. It would be way more productive!

    1. The Flood – fact or fiction?

    We already had an extensive discussion on the flood, and I think we came to a consensus that the flood could not have been both global and around 2104 BC. Several civilizations that existed before that time, continued to exist after the supposed flood, including Ur, Babylon, Egypt, China and India.

    In fact, it could not have been global at all:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-noahs-ark.html

    For example:
    There is no evidence of a global flood in the geological record.
    The geographical distribution of animal species and their actual abilities contradicts the account.
    DNA studies in humans do not show a bottle neck in our population.

    Personally, I find the arguments below compelling to conclude that the Bible indicates only a global flood:
    http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-c005.html

    However, note that there are many people defending the idea of a global flood, and indeed in 2104 BC. The point I am trying to make is that anything can be “defended” with enough technique, so we should be careful and open to the evidence.

    What can we say of serious scientists believing in the historicity of the flood today? Most of them don’t believe it today. Various editions of the Encyclopædia Britannica reflect the collapse of belief in the historicity of the Ark in the face of advancing scientific knowledge.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah's_Ark#The_Ark_and_science

    I remember our consensus last time was that the flood:
    1) Certainly wiped out all the humans except the ones on the ark, but didn’t have to cover the whole earth
    2) Could have happened much earlier, like maybe 3000 BC or 30,000 BC

    But
    1) Human DNA shows no bottleneck in our population at any time in the last 50 thousand years
    2) To this I have a personal objection, that I think it was obvious that Genesis 11 genealogies were specially crafted so as to not leave room for any other interpretation than a literal one. Obviously some people disagree.

    That is why I said I have made a personal decision about the flood. Although I think I can make a stronger statement in light of 1.

    You have asked me to do research and I will. But when I do and present you with specific references to evidence that conclusively points the other way, and the majority consensus of scientists, you should do some research too. At the very least, you can easily check the mainstream views in an encyclopedia or wikipedia, and if you want to dig deeper, read peer reviewed journals or email one of the people who says this. Maybe you’ll change your arguments regarding what the Bible says – fine. But don’t just dismiss the results of the research.

    2. The Exodus – a legend?

    Exodus 5-12 gives a very impressive picture of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt: the Ten Plagues, starting with the Nile waters turning into blood and ending with the Plague of the Firstborns in which “all the firstborns in the land of Egypt had died. This is followed by 600,000 male adult Israelites leaving Egypt. As they were on their way out, at the coast of the Sea of Reeds, Pharaoh’s army reached them. Then G-d divided the waters of the sea to let the Israelites pass “into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground” (Exodus 14:22) – and when Egyptians, pursuing them, entered the dry ground in the midst of the sea, the waters closed over them.

    Unfortunately, nothing like this story is found in Egyptian history. Egyptian history of the 2nd millennium BCE is very well documented, yet no papyrus, no stone pillar, and no inscription mentions the Israelites’ enslavement in Egypt nor their escape. No mention is found of any of the Ten Plagues, of a total defeat of the Egyptian army in the waters of the sea, or of millions of people leaving the country at one time. Much less significant events (such as an escape of a couple of slaves from Egypt) were carefully put down in the chronicles by royal scribes – but not a single word mentions the great upheavals of the alleged Exodus.

    Historical documents of other peoples and kingdoms of that time (who would surely have paid attention to great cataclysms that devastated the powerful Egyptian empire) also remain completely silent concerning the Israelite enslavement or the Exodus, the plagues, the massacre of the Egyptian army, or the simultaneous escape of millions of people from Egypt.

    About the alleged date of the Exodus: Egypt engaged in a decades-long war with the Hittite empire, a war that led to the great Battle of Kadesh, in which some 20,000 Egyptian warriors participated on Egyptian side. That battle did not resolve the war, and after 16 more years of indecisive fighting a peace treaty and a mutual defense pact were signed between Egypt and the Hittite empire (see Encyclopaedia Britannica, Hittite and Ramses II, Military exploits). Were the Egyptian army indeed to drown in the Red Sea waters and were the Egyptian economy totally destroyed by the Ten Plagues, Egypt would not have been able to withstand such a war, especially as, according to the Torah, the Egyptian army was not able to recover for at least 40 years (see Deuteronomy 11:4 and Nachmanides’s commentary there) – the same years that the army waged campaign after campaign against the Hittites and supplied 20,000 warriors for the battle of Kadesh.

    The archaeological evidence of the largely indigenous origins of Israel is “overwhelming,” and leaves “no room for an Exodus from Egypt or a 40-year pilgrimage through the Sinai wilderness.” (What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?.)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Exodus#Historicity_debate

    3. Solomon’s Kingdom – was it embellished to legendary status?

    The Bible claims Solomon was a king greater in wisdom and riches than all other kings of the earth, everyone not only knew about him but sought him out:
    http://bible.cc/1_kings/3-13.htm
    http://www.biblestudytools.com/1-kings/passage.aspx?q=1%20kings+10:23-29

    But the picture produced by historians is that the kingdom of Solomon was nowhere near being the richest kingdom on the earth and certainly it’s worrying that external accounts of Solomon’s riches are missing, considering such a famous king should have left some traces in world history through books of other nations than just the Jews.

    Kingdoms of Solomon and David,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon#Archaeological_evidence
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_ancient_Israel_and_Judah#Religion

    ————–

    Let me summarize why I think there are good reasons to believe these stories are legends, and why it makes it hard for me to believe Christianity.

    1) They make grand claims, which would imply that we should find evidence

    2) We look for the evidence and we are able to find lots of evidence for OTHER things

    3) But when it comes to things that MUST have left traces, it is utterly lacking in the places we should expect to find it

    This is precisely what one would expect from a legend: grand claims that we should find evidence for, but after looking for it, we don’t find it.

    In the face of this, I don’t see how any “historicity of the NT” arguments can be stronger. When we have consensus of the entire mainstream of the respective scientific communities that the exodus was a legend, and we can look over the reasons for their conclusions ourselves, that is an incredibly strong argument. Therefore how can the Bible be the infallible word of God?

    I understand that you think the person of Jesus is the more important question. But to me, that is like ignoring all the evidence against the Koran being the infallible word of God (by citing many many seriously problems in it) because there are good reasons to believe it MAY be true. Christians certainly find no problem finding issues with the Koran in order to explain why they don’t think it’s God’s word. Can’t you see that I am in the same boat?

    As I said, I brought up a lot of issues in one thread. I am prepared to discuss the first two — I am not an expert on the kingdom of Solomon (Israel Finkelstein et al have serious problems with it but I think they may be biased, so I can’t simply refer you to them to back up my contentions, even though they are famous.)

  108. Victoria: I am not exactly sure where in that huge quote or two I was supposed to look.

    I will do you the courtesy of avoiding literary analysis of the Bible and discussion of Jesus because it’s a side discussion, and focus just on established facts about the flood, exodus and other things I consider to be legends, when talking to you. If you do me the courtesy of addressing what I actually said — it seems I am writing my comments to you for nothing because you never address them but just jump to the next thing. I have even repeated my questions to you but you never answer them. Weren’t you the one who said one should deal with the main argument and not nitpick things about the Bible? How about dealing with the main arguments I have presented above, or my latest comments in response to you personally?

  109. Greg – so between last night and this afternoon you actually read those books I mentioned, thought carefully about what they said, and dismissed them? (on what credible expertise?)

  110. And by the way, you say “Another sweeping statement that has no basis.”

    Most of my statements have a solid basis. For example, the statement you cited by me is a repetition of the statement of Nachmanides in the disputation of Barcelona, on this exact topic. Nachmanides the world’s foremost authority on Judaism and the Halakha in his time, and was extremely familiar with Jewish writings, having dedicated his life to it, being brought up in the Jewish tradition from birth, studying and later interacting with the foremost Judaic scholars of his time, and so was capable of understanding the content of Jewish thought on the matter of Isaiah 53 as well as the Messiah and whether or not he was prophesied to be killed. Perhaps you having taken your university courses should paste your quote to him.

  111. Greg – I told you why I respond as I do – you want to know if Christianity is true, and I told you where to start: Jesus of Nazareth – His death and resurrection. If that is not true, then Christianity is both pointless and untrue – Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

    15:12 Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, 9 how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 15:13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. 15:15 Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised. 15:16 For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. 15:18 Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep 10 in Christ have also perished. 15:19 For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.

  112. Greg,

    For my part, I’m going to leave this discussion of the OT to you and anyone else who wants to continue it with you. In the near future I’m going to bring my focus to the questions Neil has been asking, and to the person of Jesus Christ. If his claims can be substantiated, then other problems must be seen in an entirely new light.

    I do not see any ad hominems directed at you in recent comments–neither in the technical sense or the informal sense of a personal insult. Observations concerning your style of interaction are appropriate if not short on courtesy–even if they are negative in content.

    I’ll always accept the same from you or anyone else I can learn from it personally, and it can also lead to improved processes of discussion here.

  113. Mike Anthony:

    In fact the laundery list of things in the Bible that were claimed to have been mythical but are now accepted as having basis in fact because of archaeology would give any truly honest person considerable pause in making that accusation. Mythical kingdoms of david and Solomon are just the latest to be debunked———————.

    I haven’t said that the kingdoms of david and solomon didn’t exist. I said that there is strong evidence to think that the stories in the Bible are legends and did not actually literally happen. See my comment 115 for a more thorough explanation of them. I am prepared to discuss the flood and the exodus as much as you want. I am not an expert on the kingdom of Solomon.

    I wish I had some sort of threaded forum we could set up, although that is a bit of a selfish desire, because maybe I am the only one who wants to find out how Christians handle these serious problems (at least I consider potentially falsifiable information to be serious).

    My main perspective this whole time is, on the one hand we have tons of evidence against the (literal interpretations) of the stories which are supposed to be inerrant, but on the other hand we have a “historicity of the NT” argument which to me is not as compelling. I know I am simplifying it and probably caricaturing a bit, but that’s the gist of my attitude toward it. So to simply stop asking about the tons of evidence against, seems to be wrong to me.

    I affirm your search for truth. I suggest you focus your time more where you can get better answers than we’ve been able to give you. And I suggest you see this as a place to discuss some of that reading (one topic at a time) with a few people of the Christian persuasion. It will do you a lot more good in the long run.

    I’ll look forward to any single issue post in the future that I can particpate in. I have debated on Internet forums, blogs and webistes for many years and I have never seen this kind of an approach lead to anything substantive . Its been universally a waste of time.

    I agree! I also want to have single issue posts in the future.

    Tom, if I gave you the impression that I wanted many of my points to on different issues be put into one post, I apologize. I think this post HAS been helpful, to ME, for reasons I explained in comment 113. But I still think it would have been even more helpful to focus on one topic at a time.

    I apologize if I contributed to there being many topics on this post in the first place. It was not my intention. I do intend to back up what I say with 3-4 illustrations or links to further references in a comment sometimes. But, and I want to stress this, *that does not mean I am looking to make a single thread about several of my contentions on different topics!* If we can make one thread about a single topic sometime, that would be awesome.

    Here are the questions that I am genuinely interested in finding the answers to.

    You could answer all the points raised and the person will blink and the without much more pause move on to another issue because the end conclusion in truth has been drawn and the person no matter how they profess otherwise is just looking for a path to get there.

    I think the accusation could be made to many people on both sides. I personally am open to changing my mind, but not on the basis of ad hominem attacks or saying “stop looking at those questions and look at the important question — the NT is historically reliable, so do you believe in Jesus or not?” I don’t have enough information yet to know why you consider the NT historically reliable, but still, I don’t accept this idea that “NT is historically reliable” means it trumps everything else when I have been pointing out problems with the very reliability of the Bible.

  114. I do not see any ad hominems directed at you in recent comments–neither in the technical sense or the informal sense of a personal insult. Observations concerning your style of interaction are appropriate if not short on courtesy–even if they are negative in content.

    I’ll always accept the same from you or anyone else I can learn from it personally, and it can also lead to improved processes of discussion here.

    Tom, I agree and that is why lately I have been participating in the discussion and responding appropriately.

    Here is what I want to stress:

    I do not consider bringing multiple examples or illustrations and references to back up my points in a single comment to be a bad thing. However, I do consider combining things I’ve said on several topics presenting them in a single blog *post* to be counterproductive. I think we both agree. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I had the discussion for the first 50 comments!

    I don’t know if I said things a bit too strongly to you and if I did, I am sorry — I was probably equally at fault for giving you the impression that I wanted *this* type of discussion. However, if you were flooded with all kinds of vitriolic comments each on a different topic, you may have also become a bit frustrated. Those comments written to you were out of my frustration.

    I joined this blog because you graciously decided to post something I had written outlining my position. The first time you posted something of mine on the blog, you focused on just the flood question, and I was very grateful and I hope a lot of visitors to the blog got a lot of use out of it. I think that is the best format.

    Earlier in this thread, I said something I want to stress:

    PS: if you like, just ask me, and I can do the work for you and take some time to combine my own ideas into a cohesive post on a topic I am interested in, like I did with the flood. You might then want to post that.

    I have offered to compose a post single topic that I *am* interested in, and in fact I have emailed you such a topic, that I think would be very worthwhile to discuss. If you don’t think it’s good for publishing, or want to hold off on it, let me know.

    I will participate in this thread as long as is practical for me, in order to engage with people on it. However, I really believe that the next post that involves me should be on one of the questions in Christianity I actually care about answering. I have sent you an email with a complete post, and if you want to publish it sometime, I will definitely be grateful. It would be much more productive than what we did here. 🙂

  115. Greg,

    I have not had a chance to look over what you emailed me yet, not on a real screen, that is. Know, however, that I am inclined now to do as I said last time and turn to discussion of Jesus Christ.

  116. Melissa: I am enjoying the format of our discussion.

    I have collected below the summary of what I think are your main points and my summarised responses. Feel free to respond to each of these numbered points. If you think I have missed anything add it as another number.

    Cool. Let me just restate my main point.

    What I am saying can roughly be divided into two parts.

    1) Skepticism vs Judaeo-Christian Framework : I think there are strong reasons to believe the Bible contains legends, and therefore is not inerrant.

    2) Judaic framework on which Christianity rests vs Christianity.

    My discussion with you is about the second one. Even if we assume the framework of Judaism on which Christianity is based it seems more likely to me that Jesus was not who Christians claim he is, and I explain the reasons why.

    A) First, I think it’s clear that God gave the Israelites a law and commanded them to follow it for all generations, telling them not to abandon it or follow prophets or dreamers who try to take them away from those ways. God warned Jews all the time that if they abandon the law, they will be punished and cast out of Israel. God also said to consult with their leaders when it came to matters of dispute. Therefore, it seems unlikely to me that God would make the old covenant obsolete, send his only son to die for everyone’s sins and create a new covenant, and then spread the message using former tax collectors, fishermen, etc. The Jewish people were convinced the first time by God Himself appearing to them on Sinai. God kept telling them to follow the law. In order to tell them that the rules have changed, I find it unlikely that God would employ such a dubious way of spreading the message which indeed didn’t convince more than 1% of Jews that it was from God.

    B) Secondly, Jesus himself says he came to save the lost sheep of Israel. But out of the children of Israel ultimately less than 1% converted to Christianity. However, Paul, a mere man who never saw Jesus, was able start a viral movement (like Mohammad was able to do later) and Pauline theology (granted, also reinforced by interplay with the other churches) is now followed by over a billion people. So, why was Jesus’ stated aim not fulfilled to more than 1%, while throughout various times in history and in various places Christianity enjoyed a 95% or higher believer base? I believe the answer — for both Christianity and Islam — comes from simple social network analysis. Christianity as a religion had less barriers to “member signup” in places where people didn’t reject Jesus’ message. The vast majority Jews did. Therefore, this calls into question for me the entire veracity of Christian claims about Jesus, his resurrection and his stated goals. Do you believe Mohammad flew away on a winged horse or split the moon? If not, tell me, would you believe Jesus’ message if you thought his resurrection didn’t happen?

    1. Christians are ignorant of Judaism.

    Jews have an additional oral tradition that helps them understand the law in the Torah, which the Christians simply lack and for the most part do not wish to study.

    Your constant insinuation that Christian scholarship occurs in some kind of vacuum without reference to the knowledge of other disciplines is frankly insulting. There is a huge amount of work done in studying the cultural context that the early Christian writings grew out of, including much research into second temple Judaism.

    I do not insinuate that Christian scholarship occurs in “some kind” of vacuum, but I keep pointing out that things like “The Bible” or “Christian Scholarship” are not one atomic thing.

    There are many scholars, some Christian, some not, studying all kinds of things. Lots of ideas about Christianity are spread by preachers — and from the representative sample I have seen (from my vantage point of being in the USA), I can tell you that few are conversant with original Hebrew, the oral tradition, and Jewish interpretations of their own scriptures. They (the vast majority of preachers) read the Bible in English, do not know Hebrew, have never read the Talmud, and most Christians are not even aware there is an oral tradition.

    Now, as to the academics tucked away in universities, once again you must acknowledge that this scholarship differed throughout the centuries. As one example, the Catholic church engaged in book burnings for books like the Talmud. I don’t think this is consistent with a believing they calmly and rationally engaged with Jews to better understand the meaning of their scriptures. So when you speak of “some kind of vacuum”, you cannot simultaneously point to the willingness of modern scholars to engage with the Jews about their own writings, and use it to make a sweeping statement about ALL Christian scholarship at ALL times.

    And anyway, my point was mostly about the Jewish beliefs about Judaism in Jesus’ time, and not about Christian understanding of Jewish beliefs throughout the ages. My point was not to disparage the latter, but to point you to more resources about the oral torah, its existence and importance in understanding interpretations of the law. And therefore, it is not *your* or *my* interpretation that is important to my main point, but the interpretation of the Jews in Jesus’ time. I have just been saying that the oral torah was present, and it’s a factor I don’t see hardly any Christians mention when talking about the NT. It changes a lot.

    2. Orthodox Jewish belief is the correct interpretation of the old testament and in Jesus time the only people authorised to interpret God’s will were the official Jewish authorities.

    We established that the Nation of Israel was set up in such a way that each individual Jew, if he indeed desired to follow what God commanded, would turn to the leaders, judges and priests, and abide by their decisions. Turn neither to the left, nor to the right!

    Firstly to assume that today’s orthodox Judaism is the correct interpretation of the Jewish scriptures is just begging the question against Christianity. Secondly I have already addressed your “don’t turn to the left or the right” quote, with examples in the old testament where the official Jewish leaders were corrupt and had turned away from God. You ignored that and just continued to quote “turn not to the right or left”. Don’t those situations cause you to pause and consider that maybe it’s not quite so clear cut as you are making out. Also the situation around the time of Jesus was that there were diverse interpretations of the law.

    By saying that it’s begging the question, I think you are admitting that orthodox Judaism leaves absolutely no room for Christianity to be true. Current orthodox Judaism *is* based on both the written torah, found in the bible, and the oral tradition, found in the Talmud (Mishnah, Gemorrah, etc.) So do you agree with me on this point?

    Do you agree that in order for Christianity to be true, orthodox Judaism and the Talmud must be wrong?

    Second, your point that Jewish leaders became corrupt may be a good one. Can you tell me the specific examples you are referring to? (I like examples. 🙂

    Do you mean the corruption that is described in the Bible under king Jeroboam?

    3. Jews have the oral tradition to help interpret the written Torah and Christians don’t so have interpreted the old testament wrong.
    Once again Jesus was interacting with the oral tradition in Matt 5. Christians consider Jesus interpretation of the law as authoritative therefore we follow His and His followers interpretation rather than the orthodox Jewish interpretation.

    First of all, once again there are many kinds of Christians. There is a slight chance that one of the denominations interprets all the scriptures exactly right. But it is extremely unlikely. I don’t know of any group of Christians that simultaneously studies the whole TaNaKh in Hebrew, understands all the nuances (including possibly Gematria) cross references with the hundreds of man years of Torah analysis encoded in the Talmud and subsequent analysis by Maimonides, Nachmanides, and Rashi, just to name a few of the more famous people who dedicated their lives to engaging with the Jewish tradition.

    You have a version of this in Christianity, by the way. Catholics believe there is more than just the Bible — there is the apostolic tradition. I don’t think Protestants really engage with this tradition.

    In fact, almost all Jews in Jesus’ time knew the Jewish traditions… as is evidenced by NT references to “work on the sabbath day” and “sabbath day’s journey”. (They knew exactly what this referred to. Do you? I myself have to look up the various things considered work on Sabbath, because I am not an orthodox Jew. I can’t imagine many Christians know any of this.)

    Now, to address your main point: I do not dispute that Jesus was an learned Jew and knew a lot about Judaism. I don’t dispute that Jesus knew about the oral Torah — in fact almost all Jews at the time knew the Jewish traditions. I say (see my Argument #1) that had Jesus’ *disciples* really intended to convince everyone of this new covenant, it was unlikely at the outset that they would be successful. God being God would have known this! And therefore if God wanted to the people of Israel to know that a new covenant is upon them, and the old one is obsolete, God would not have chosen fishermen and tax collectors to spread the message.

    4. Jesus can’t be God because God is one.
    Ans: The Trinity

    Due to all the following reasons and more:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nontrinitarianism#Points_of_dissent

    it is reasonable to assume that many Jews would have not believed this message, especially coming from some former fishermen and tax collectors. The list above is just points that Christians themselves bring. For the Jews, the problem is much bigger:

    http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/jewsandjesus/

    I suggest you read the link above to realize it is not at all obvious to Jews that the new covenant has been established.

    (It is also covered here but someone here said they don’t like aish: http://www.aish.com/jw/s/48892792.html also talks about it)

    Therefore, this relates to my arguments #1 and #2 as shown in the arguments. It also explains why Jews have been so reluctant to accept Jesus as their messiah for 2000 years!

    5. No Jew would accept Christianity just because someone said they had the right interpretation.

    Christians are fooling themselves if they think they can get real orthodox Jews to skirt so close to transgressing the biggest commandments in their faith, on the basis of some guys saying “don’t worry, my interpretation is correct! We are dead to the law! etc.”

    You’re right they believe Jesus had authority to interpret the scripture because of the resurrection. The conversion of Jews throughout history since Jesus death shows that in fact Jews do convert.

    Who is “they”?
    Jews do convert, but I think it is an undeniable fact that the percentage of Jews who converted to Christianity is pitifully small, even in the lats 2000 years. Why do you think that is?

    The fact that a tiny proportion of Jews accepted Jesus as the messiah is not a good argument that Christianity is therefore compatible with the mainstream Jewish framework on which it is based. Some people could have made mistakes — not many of them were the sages. As far as I recall, there is no evidence that ANY of the sages converted to this religion, although there is a claim made 40 years later that a wealthy Jew who sat on the council was secretly Jesus’ follower. I will grant that one.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_messiah_claimants — many people believed in these guys. In fact, Shabbatai Zevi seems to have gotten many more Jews to believe in him than all of Jesus’ disciples combined ever did in their lifetimes. But does that make Shabbatai Zevi the messiah in your view? Probably not.

    In addition, Alister McGrath, former Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Oxford (who seems like an interesting guy btw), claims that the 1st century Jewish Christians were totally faithful religious Jews. They differed from other contemporary Jews only in their acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah. Of course, this is just a claim. But certainly it calls into question the authority of Paul’s ideas about how the old covenant is obsolete, we are dead to the law, and his rebuke of “Cephas” for following Jewish customs. Sure these early Jewish Christians thought Jesus was the messiah, but did they follow Paul’s ideas?

    6. FOLLOW YOUR JUDGES AND PRIESTS !!!

    So what have we established? We established that the Nation of Israel was set up in such a way that each individual Jew, if he indeed desired to follow what God commanded, would turn to the leaders, judges and priests, and abide by their decisions. Turn neither to the left, nor to the right!

    The passage you’re using to support begins by referring to cases of bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults that are too difficult to judge in the villages and you have continued to ignore the times when the Jewish authorities were corrupt and it was the prophets who spoke God’s will. In your own words:
    The point here is not to make *your* own interpretation

    I will grant you one thing here: I also noticed the specific mention of civil and criminal disputes in Deuteronomy 17, before the command to appear before judges and a priest, and follow what they say to the left and to the right.

    From just a literal reading of the written Torah, and no knowledge of te oral tradition, one can definitely propose the following interpretation:

    “Jews did not have to consult any authorities when it came to matters of Halakha, that is, the religious law. If a fisherman came to them and told them there was a new covenant, they would be able to stop following the old laws and do something else, because Deuteronomy 17 only talks about civil and criminal cases.”

    I don’t consider this interpretation to be convincing, but notice that you will have to hang your hat on it if you will want to address my arguments #1 and #2. Because if Jesus’ disciples had any hope of convincing real, orthodox Jews who wanted to follow God’s law and read the prophets about what happens if they don’t, it was only if the Jews *didn’t* have to ask their leaders and priests about how to follow the law. However, one then wonders if every religious Jew in Israel had the freedom to interpret the law and God’s word however they wanted, which I think is a poorly supported position and there are a lot of good reasons to think this was not the case (see for example the book of Ezra).

    7. God told the Jews not to listen to people like Jesus (insert passage here but make sure you don’t quote the section that explicitly states that they are prophets who teach the Jews to turn to OTHER gods.)

    Jesus was not teaching the Jews to follow other gods so the passage is not relevant.

    Once again, your interpretation is that the entire paragraph I quoted does not apply to people who simply try to “turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. ” but in fact make you follow other gods.

    First of all, see again my response to your point #4. Jesus’ followers, and/or later Christians, skirt close to making Jews transgress against the 1st and 2nd commandments by believing Jesus is God. Catholics definitely go quite a bit further by having churches with figurines of Jesus, pictures of God as a man in the sky, and beginning prayers with invoking the names of “Mother mary…” and the saints.

    Secondly, I am not quite sure that “merely” trying to turn [Israelites] from the way the LORD your God commanded them to follow [in the Torah given to Moses] is not something that is “OK”. If I am right, then what Paul was doing therefore was not “OK”, and neither would anyone who says “the old covenant is obsolete” and “we are no longer under the law”.

    If you would like, I can bring many more verses where God specifically mentions punishment for *not following the laws He gave to their forefathers*. Are you taking the position that there are no such verses? If there are, then how do you address my point #7? By the way, replace “people like Jesus” with “people like Jesus’ disciples”.

    Let me add a 7.5 because I think we would otherwise be missing an important point:

    7.5

    A lot of the ideas which Jews have a problem accepting are mainly based in the writings of Paul. Paul in some places seems to indicate that Jesus is God. In many places he seems to indicate that Mosaic law was not necessary to be followed anymore, and that a new covenant had arrived. Paul himself describes that he was at odds with “Cephas” from the jewish church, and rebuked him for acting too Jewish.

    I can elaborate on this point, but I will just bring one example:
    Paul says (KJV Romans 3:28): “a man is JUSTIFIED by FAITH apart from WORKS of the law.”
    James says (KJV James 2:24): “by WORKS a man is JUSTIFIED, and not by FAITH only.”
    Jesus says: (NIV Matthew 5:18-19): “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

    Note that Jesus’ words were about the people already in the Kingdom of Heaven — the saved. And yet they should follow the law, lest they will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. If we are to take Jesus’ words literally, it would sem Paul will be called least in the kingdom of heaven for what he was teaching.

    Therefore, I would like to ask 7, but with “Jesus” replaced by “Paul”. Where does his authority to teach his seemingly different doctrine derive from?

    8. I know more than you because I’ve read some stuff on the internet.

    I have done university level biblical studies including study of the origins and writing of the old testament.

    I don’t say that! I completely don’t rely on those kinds of arguments and point you to actual information at every turn. In fact my very point is that people should think for themselves. The fact that you have taken biblical study courses means we can have a more meaningful discussion. So I would probably suggest that we strike this one off the list.

    Feel free to respond. It will help if you respond to each point separately and number

    Done 🙂

  117. To anyone who wants to weigh in on the discussion Melissa and I are having, I would also ask that they use our numbering scheme, so we can track what is being talked about. Thanks!

  118. Greg,

    1.

    So when you speak of “some kind of vacuum”, you cannot simultaneously point to the willingness of modern scholars to engage with the Jews about their own writings, and use it to make a sweeping statement about ALL Christian scholarship at ALL times.

    I made no such sweeping statement.

    And therefore, it is not *your* or *my* interpretation that is important to my main point, but the interpretation of the Jews in Jesus’ time.

    Which is why you should read some NT Wright as Tom suggested. He has done a lot of study into both Jewish thought of this time and other ancient religious beliefs floating around at the time. His books will also cite further reading if you want to check what he writes about for yourself.

    2.

    Do you agree that in order for Christianity to be true, orthodox Judaism and the Talmud must be wrong?

    I agree that orthodox Judaism and the Talmud are wrong about the Messiah.

    Second, your point that Jewish leaders became corrupt may be a good one. Can you tell me the specific examples you are referring to? (I like examples.

    I’m not saying necessarily that the Jewish leaders were corrupt but that prophets were often depicted rebuking the “official” leaders and were in fact persecuted by those leaders. The prophets are littered with rebukes of Jerusalem and the leaders. In the same way Jesus rebukes the official leaders of his time, of course they’re not going to like that.

    3.

    And therefore if God wanted to the people of Israel to know that a new covenant is upon them, and the old one is obsolete, God would not have chosen fishermen and tax collectors to spread the message.

    Well that’s just elitist. If you understood the message Jesus brought then you would know that is exactly what God would do, in fact God has a track record of using people we wouldn’t expect.

    4. Your original point was that Christians follow a different God. The Jews may believe that but once again to assume that interpretation is correct is to once again beg the question against Christianity. The reason given by the early Jewish converts to Christianity is that they had an encounter with the risen Christ. Obviously was enough to convince them that God was 3-in-1 even if they did not understand how.

    5.

    Who is “they”?

    Oh yes, the no true scotsman fallacy, I was wondering when this would make an appearance.

    But certainly it calls into question the authority of Paul’s ideas about how the old covenant is obsolete, we are dead to the law, and his rebuke of “Cephas” for following Jewish customs. Sure these early Jewish Christians thought Jesus was the messiah, but did they follow Paul’s ideas?

    Actually the passage in Gal 2 rebukes Cephas for hypocrisy. “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; 12for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. 13And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.”

    and earlier talks about Paul’s visit to Jerusalem:
    “and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was* eager to do.”

    6. Much of your issues would be non-issues if you stopped thinking of the bible as some kind of magic book dictated by God. You are reading it as if every passage must be some kind of universally binding command. You’ll never make any sense of it like that. That’s not necessarily your fault as it seems to be a prevalent tendency of both atheists and fundamentalists. Each part is written by particular people, into a particular situation, addressing that particular context. Of course there are timeless principles but first we must understand what was happening at the time of writing, before we try to apply it to our lives today. If you read those early parts of the bible you’ll see the Israelites were wild, they needed taming. Just from the types of laws specified you can see the kinds of problems the community faced. Of course they needed a strong direction and forceful language if they were going to survive as a nation.

    7.5 Once again you’re taking a magic book approach to the bible.

    A lot of the ideas which Jews have a problem accepting are mainly based in the writings of Paul. Paul in some places seems to indicate that Jesus is God. In many places he seems to indicate that Mosaic law was not necessary to be followed anymore, and that a new covenant had arrived. Paul himself describes that he was at odds with “Cephas” from the jewish church, and rebuked him for acting too Jewish.

    See my response in point 5 above. Now you said you don’t like people taking texts out of context. Matt 5:17 (ie. one verse before your quote) says this “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.”

    In instigating the Lord’s supper in Luke 22:20 Jesus says “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

    In the letters we see the early church working through some of the issues of what it means to faithfully follow Jesus.

    The teaching of Paul is not at odds with Peter or Jesus he may have been at odds in some respects with James but he never says you’re saved by faith now go and do whatever you want which seems to what you are implying. In fact he is constantly imploring the brothers and sisters to use their freedom for good, to be dead to sin. James also in the passage you quote uses as examples the works of people who were not under the law so it doesn’t support your point.

  119. I haven’t said that the kingdoms of david and solomon didn’t exist. I said that there is strong evidence to think that the stories in the Bible are legends and did not actually literally happen

    Yes I am of course aware of that but my point was that the consensus was wrong even a few years ago because many of the same scholars you would fall back to now would have told you that a Davidic kingdom was entirely mythical. This has happened quite frequently enough that it should give great pause to your position. As I see from some of your last posts you rely greatly on scholars consensus . I don’t opt for that and not as you allege merely because believing christianity is important to me but because I don’t allow anyone to do my thinking for me. My faith would hardly be important to me if it were mythical but I cannot agree that citing any group of authorities is a short cut to individual study and research. Perhaps because I’ve read some things , done my own research and have been baffled that this or that “scholar” missed obvious points. Thats particularly why this multiple scattered subject matter makes really for nothing substantive. Can we really get into the research and data behind the various archaeological find related to say the issue of the Davidic kingdom? Of course not. That would take a thread of its own but then to add to that would be all the other issues that you have raised.

    this is what is forcing you to take the short cut of citing a few references and then running on to another issue and it ends up doing no justice to any of them.

    I know I am simplifying it and probably caricaturing a bit, but that’s the gist of my attitude toward it. So to simply stop asking about the tons of evidence against, seems to be wrong to me.

    Well you see here you are attempting to have it both ways. Admitting caricatures isn’t really indicative of a serious approach. Caricatures by definition are shallow So you are admitting then a lack of depth and full perspective. I’m hardly surprised that you would admit to that because its pretty indicative of moving from one issue to the next. And of course you are free to ask questions but not really to make claims about tons of evidence because that requires a much more judicial scholarly approach not one that even begins to lend itself to caricature.

    This is why I wrote what I wrote before. In my experience when people REALLY want to come to the truth about something they site down and the go through the data and weigh each piece. the don’t rely on authority or consensus and they certainly don’t move from one issue to the next. Whenever I have seen someone dance from issue to issue its always because they felt they already had a conclusion and didnt really need to go in to the nitty gritty work of cataloging the evidence, cross examining the perspectives,double checking their biases and then methodically weighing the points.

    Like I said you make a broad reference to evidences and then when they fail miserably under scrutiny you dont question your assumptions and your process you just move on to another point.

    I think the accusation could be made to many people on both sides. I personally am open to changing my mind, but not on the basis of ad hominem attacks or saying “stop looking at those questions and look at the important question — the NT is historically reliable, so do you believe in Jesus or not?”

    Well although I was not the one to say that I do think you that either you are being obtuse or unfair. I see that question as really responding to the ongoing failure to pick a single issue and stick with it. Was it tom that asked it? I don’t know but regardless it is a question trying to get focus and no I really haven’t seen anyone be proven so throughly wrong as you were On the NT not supporting Isaiah 53 applying to christ and you sated it as a compelling point which simply did not exist and then moved on to the next issue without batting an eye.

  120. 3. And therefore if God wanted to the people of Israel to know that a new covenant is upon them, and the old one is obsolete, God would not have chosen fishermen and tax collectors to spread the message.

    What did Moses do for a living for his second forty years? What did David do for a living before he was anointed king? How about Amos? Micah?

  121. Greg, I’m going to lift out several quotes from you for you to review and help me understand:

    June 3:

    Charlie: correction, fishermen and a former pharisee. Happy? No one on the NT writing staff was part of the Sanhedrin, so my point stands. Your latest argument is strictly ad hominem.

    June 5, 1:46 pm:

    I ask you guys if you can to please cool it a little on the ad hominem attacks though, because I am telling you that nothing productive can come of it. I already know I must do further research.”

    June 5, 2:37 pm:

    I think the accusation could be made to many people on both sides. I personally am open to changing my mind, but not on the basis of ad hominem attacks

    June 5: 2:48 pm, first quoting from my 2:29 pm comment:

    [Tom] I do not see any ad hominems directed at you in recent comments–neither in the technical sense or the informal sense of a personal insult. Observations concerning your style of interaction are appropriate if not short on courtesy–even if they are negative in content.

    I’ll always accept the same from you or anyone else I can learn from it personally, and it can also lead to improved processes of discussion here.

    [Greg] Tom, I agree and that is why lately I have been participating in the discussion and responding appropriately.

    I’m confused. If you agree these are not ad hominems, why did you call them that so often?

  122. Tom: I would rather not get derailed on “he said, she said” once again. But I will just address the first one.

    Charlie said:

    Very little of the NT was written by fishermen, including only a few of the Epistles.

    Charlie says:June 3rd, 2011 at 3:32 am
    And so, to quote:

    But at the very least, the fact that you make such claims ought to cause you to question the veratcity of your beliefs on some of these issues.

    -Neil

    I responded that “fishermen” wasn’t supposed to be a 100% precise statement that they were ALL fishermen, but rather, to show that none of them was any sort of authority that Jews were commanded to respect and consult regarding matters of Halakha in Deuteronomy.

    The second part, by quoting Neil, Charlie was saying that the fact I make such claims (they were “fishermen”, when they weren’t *all* fishermen) shows that therefore ought to cause me (and presumably anyone) to question the veracity of my beliefs on the other Christian issues I am talking about. I pointed out that it is an ad hominem argument.

    An ad hominem (Latin: “to the man”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an attempt to link the truth of a claim to a negative characteristic or belief of the person advocating it.

  123. I’ll remain confused then as to why you said you were being subjected to ad hominems today.

    I suggest you cease using the term “ad hominem” for that which (as you have agreed) is not ad hominem. For you to falsely accuse others of using the ad hominem on you is to commit a kind of ad hominem of your own.

    Meanwhile, a lesson in logic for you. (It’s off topic but I’ll send it your way at no charge regardless.) Neil and Charlie made no ad hominem argument against you. You were representing yourself as having the authority of knowledge on a topic, and they showed evidence that you did not have the knowledge you represented yourself to have. Sure, you were able to answer and show that the evidence did not necessarily mean what they thought it meant; but that did not make their argument ad hominem.

    Had they said, “You misunderstand the proportion of fishermen writing the NT, therefore you are ignorant, therefore your argument is false,” that would have been fallacious. But they said (in an expanded form here), “Your confidently stated beliefs concerning the proportion of fishermen in the NT was incorrect. This is evidence that you can be wrong concerning NT facts even when you think you are right. Therefore you might have reason to wonder whether other beliefs you hold equally confidently about the NT might be equally incorrect.” That’s not fallacious, so it’s not an instance of the ad hominem fallacy.

    It’s not even ad hominem in the informal sense I referred to earlier today. The term is sometimes used in casual language to mean any personally denigrating or insulting language applied to an interlocutor in the course of debate or argument, whether or not that language is linked to the truth of the person’s argument. What you experienced today, and also a couple days ago, was neither a true ad hominem nor one of the casual, informal variety.

  124. Tom:

    3. And therefore if God wanted to the people of Israel to know that a new covenant is upon them, and the old one is obsolete, God would not have chosen fishermen and tax collectors to spread the message.

    What did Moses do for a living for his second forty years? What did David do for a living before he was anointed king? How about Amos? Micah?

    That’s just the thing. In the absence of God’s direct speaking to them, the Jewish people didn’t just believe and follow Moses when he brought the message.

    Even when he was part of the pharaoh’s house, and they were slaves, they didn’t listen to him

    The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”
    The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? …”

    The Jewish people didn’t jut believe Moses when he brought the message, even when he showed them miracles. They whined and bickered. They questioned Moses’ authority and said he took them out into the wilderness to die. *Not even miracles* were enough, for Pharaoh’s magicians also did miracles.

    Until God spoke to them directly, and then they said, “go, Moses, and receive the law from God”. They trusted him completely.

    For the Jewish people, this is crucial. Anyone can claim anything. Mohammad claimed he had just seen a vision and God spoke the Koran to him through the angel Gabriel. Paul claimed he saw Jesus in a vision while he was on the road to Damascus. All these religions started with a group of people claiming something. Judaism is the only religion that claims to have begun God speaking to all 3 million people of Israel. No other religion does.

    Imagine the immensity of that: the whole nation heard God speak.

    God said: here are my commandments. Never stray from them. They are for all generations. If you don’t follow my commandments, you will be cast out of your land.

    In Jesus’ time, Jews were very well aware of all this, and of God’s repeated message: observe my laws and commandments that I gave to Israel. Even in the last chapter of the last book of the last prophet, we find:

    “22. Keep in remembrance the teaching of Moses, My servant-the laws and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.”

    Therefore, if God repeatedly tells the Jewish people that they are not to stray from the law, don’t you think that God would make a clear sign if a new convenant will happen, so people aren’t confused? The first time, the entire nation was brought out of egypt, ate manna for 40 years, heard God speak to them directly on Mount Sinai. The second time, a fisherman, tax collector and former pharisee wrote letters. And that was supposed to get Jews to abandon everything they were ever taught about following the law?

    Do you see the difference? But it seems to actually be worse than that.

    Jesus was teaching to follow the law, too. He was a practicing Jew. As for what we know of his teaching,

    For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

    Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until Heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven

    On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

    26“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
    27He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’c; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’d”
    28“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

    it is useful to note that this is from Deuteronomy 6, which says:

    1Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it:

    2That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.

    3Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey.

    4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

    5And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

    6And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

    7And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

    8And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.

    9And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

    10And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not,

    11And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full;

    12Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

    13Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.

    14Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you;

    15(For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.

    Look how beautiful this verse. And so clear – this is addressed to every generation. That is why it says “your fathers”.

    But along comes Paul, and his antinomianism
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antinomianism

    “All things are clean, kosher laws are optional”
    “The sabbath day is optional”
    “The old covenant is obsolete … and will soon disappear”
    “Is a man justified by works? No.”
    “A man is justified by faith apart from works.”

    (paraphrasing the content)

    And maybe other people, I confess I don’t know the finer details of who among the disciples shared Paul’s ideas. Regardless, these people go against everything the Jews stood for and everything they were Commanded to do By God!

    Sure, you today think they don’t. But I have already told you that the stuff above cuts right to the heart of what Jews received from God himself.

    If you were a Jew who did not see Jesus teach, and let’s say Paul came up to you and said these things, what would YOU do?

  125. Sure, you were able to answer and show that the evidence did not necessarily mean what they thought it meant; but that did not make their argument ad hominem.

    That is not why I called it an “ad hominem”. I referred directly to Charlie’s comment. I explained to you:

    The second part, by quoting Neil, Charlie was saying that the fact I make such claims (they were “fishermen”, when they weren’t *all* fishermen) shows that therefore ought to cause me (and presumably anyone) to question the veracity of my beliefs on the other Christian issues I am talking about. I pointed out that it is an ad hominem argument.

    I make claims A, B, C, D, E, F. Charlie points out that I was careless in part of my claim “A”, saying “a bunch of fishermen” instead of “a fisherman, a tax collector, a former pharisee, etc.” . If he just stopped there it would not be an ad hominem at all. But then he said that this calls into question the veracity of my beliefs on B, C, D, E, F. That is by definition an ad hominem argument.

    This is a minor point, Tom. And by the way, ad hominem is not always a fallacy. The character and tendencies of the person saying something may be important to the argument and how carefully we must approach it. If the person is careless once, we should watch out for other issues of carelessness. If the person is malicious once, maybe we can see if they have been malicious again, or establish a pattern of maliciousness. But just because it is not always a fallacy does not mean it is not an ad hominem argument.

  126. Therefore, if God repeatedly tells the Jewish people that they are not to stray from the law, don’t you think that God would make a clear sign if a new convenant will happen, so people aren’t confused?

    How about raising Jesus from the dead? That seems to be exactly the kind of clear sign you’re asking for — the kind of sign that would authenticate Jesus’s claim to be God, and give him the authority to inaugurate a new relationship between Israel (along with the rest of mankind) and God. You talk as if God expected the Jews to listen to some fishermen’s claims about Jesus, based on no particular authority at all. Wrong. God expected the Jews to listen to Jesus, His Son, who was God Himself, based on the authority of the greatest miracle ever performed in redemptive history.

    So I ask you, Greg: will you deal with the Resurrection? Remember back in the thread on the Flood, when I gave you exactly what you asked for and wrote a bulleted post summarizing the evidence for the Resurrection? Did you respond (I can’t find it if you did).

    Hint: if you can’t escape the Resurrection, then all your arguments are in shambles, because you have to either admit that i) Jesus has power over death and is, therefore, God, or ii) God at least raised Jesus from the dead and, therefore, wanted people (especially the Jews) to listen to him and follow him.

  127. I make claims A, B, C, D, E, F. Charlie points out that I was careless in part of my claim “A”, saying “a bunch of fishermen” instead of “a fisherman, a tax collector, a former pharisee, etc.” .

    Ah, poor representation here. The fishermen statement (false by miles, as shown) had very little to do with my quoting to state that Greg was making egregious errors over and over again. Follow the thread.
    In a span of under four hours, from 11:33 – 3:06 a.m. I had made 13 comments in response to Gregory’s claims. Almost every one of them was a substantial refutation of his positions, some repetitions of previous posts Gregory had made but for which he was still asking for answers.
    These included answers to his charges about Hosea being quoted out of context, his position on the death of the Suffering Servant, the individual person of the Servant, the despising of the Servant, the Servant’s “seed”, the Prophets and Jerusalem, etc.

    As a summation, looking over all my comments from that period, and their factual rebuttals of Greg’s claims, I used the “you should question your claims” quote>

    So Gregory’s most recent claim and defence … false. Plainly, obviously and demonstrably false. Greg’s veracity on claims A, B, C,… ad infinitum, was called into question when each one of those claims was rebutted. The “careless” fisherman claim (“careless”ly repeated time after time after time (talk about ad hominem), and plainly false) was only one of the many, many, failed claims.

    So, I guess I get to talk about the early part of the thread afterall, don’t I, Greg?

  128. Greg, you wrote:

    The Jewish people didn’t jut believe Moses when he brought the message, even when he showed them miracles. They whined and bickered. They questioned Moses’ authority and said he took them out into the wilderness to die. *Not even miracles* were enough, for Pharaoh’s magicians also did miracles.

    Until God spoke to them directly, and then they said, “go, Moses, and receive the law from God”. They trusted him completely.

    Perhaps I’m mistaken, but isn’t your OT history out of order? The Israeites did trust Moses based on the miracles God gave Moses to perform and based on his proclamation of God’s concern for his people (see Ex. 4:29-31). They then continued to alternate trust of Moses with mistrust of him both before and after the giving of the law at Sinai. The rebellion of Miriam and Aaron (Numbers 12), and Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 17) both occurred after Sinai.

    I think I agree and disagree with Bill R.’s assessment. The Jews were not asked to believe on the basis of their first-hand observation of the Resurrection, because the Resurrection was not witnessed by all the Jews. But I would agree with Bill R’s first statement. The Jews were asked to believe on the basis of seeing God himself and hearing his words in the person of Jesus Christ. In this way, they had precisely the same opportunity as the Jews at Sinai.

    Additionally, not only did the Scriptures predict the coming of the Messiah, but God attested to Jesus’ identity by numerous miracles, to which the apostles later appealed. Interestingly, the Jewish leaders rejected the signs they were given and demanded precisely what Greg is asking for: a sign from heaven. Greg might object that God ought to have done something more spectacularly public to announce the coming of the Messiah. But what’s interesting is that I don’t see any prophecy in the OT which says that the Messiah will be attested by a voice in the clouds or a sign from heaven. Istead, we read that the Messiah will come doing precisely the works that Jesus did: healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, and preaching the good news to the poor. Greg, have orthodox Jews historically believed that the Messiah would be authenticated by another Sinai-like public display? If not, then why would you expect Jesus to be authenticated in this way?

    -Neil

  129. Hi Neil,

    Perhaps I’m mistaken, but isn’t your OT history out of order?

    Indeed, and after hearing God’s voice and His Commandments the Hebrews then proceeded to make the Golden Calf.

  130. Neil, that’s just it. By the way I carefully avoided saying that if God really had switched over to a new covenant with Israel, He should have given the Jews a clearer sign that there is a new covenant. I actually want to say that, but I realize that I am no one to tell God what to do.

    Still that is my argument. Even if Judaism (as understood in Jesus’ time, and on which Christianity is based) is true, I don’t think it’s likely that God would first tell the Jews not to listen to guys like Jesus’ disciples, then make exactly those kinds of guys spread the message that a new covenant is here. I think that’s a pretty reasonable point.

    The Jews were asked to believe on the basis of seeing God himself and hearing his words in the person of Jesus Christ. In this way, they had precisely the same opportunity as the Jews at Sinai.

    Maybe Jesus’ own disciples and people who saw him perform miracles had some better evidence. But if you weren’t around and then some guy who used to be a fisherman but now is in Jesus’ church comes to your door one day and says “The Lord has raised Jesus from the dead! Jesus is fully God of fully God! You can eat pork now! You don’t have to keep shabbat anymore! Accept Jesus as your lord and savior and pray to him, for my friend Bob has seen him raised from the dead!” you would be like … “umm…. okay do you WANT to get stoned? Stop this right now. Who is Jesus?”

    I seriously don’t even understand why it’s not obvious. If God said specifically to not leave his commandments, and you as a a Jew have never seen Jesus or heard anything, why would you trust some guy and his message?

    I would go a little further and say that just because someone can do miracles doesn’t mean they have the truth about God. Balaam had a talking donkey. Egyptian magicians could do stuff. So what. Jews aren’t convinced by miracles, not even the 10 plagues got them to accept God. They only got the covenant when God Himself spoke to everyone. Therefore fine I will say it, if God wanted to change the covenant, He would have probably appeared to everyone.

    When Moschiach comes in the next 200 years (Jews have a deadline) then it will be obvious to all! No one will wonder. Jesus said so himself. Don’t listen to someone who said “I saw him in the desert” or “in the inner rooms.” When Moschiach comes on the clouds of heaven the whole world will know. These are Jewish ideas!

  131. Bill R, my difficulties roughly divide into two parts:

    1) Skepticism vs Judaeo-Christian Framework : I think there are strong reasons to believe the Bible contains legends, and therefore is not inerrant. I think these reasons collectively are far stronger than the christological argument and the kuzari argument. This causes me to think that although Judeo-Christian theology is far more sophisticated than e.g. Greek mythology, nevertheless the religion itself is based on legends and nothing supernatural really happened.

    2) Judaic framework on which Christianity rests vs Christianity : Even if we do grant that Judaism (as understood at the time of Jesus, not the exactly the rabinnical Judaism of today) is completely true, there are perhaps even greater problems with believing Christianity is true. For instead of simply fallible human endeavors (archaeology, history etc.) saying that something is not true, we now have the inerrant Torah and the words of the prophets contradicting what Paul and Jesus’ disciples say.

    My conversations with Melissa, Victoria and Neil were along the lines of 2. However, I must admit that I personally strongly leaning towards 1 as what is in fact the case. Because like I said and illustrated in comment 115, the multiple independent scientific arguments against the historicity of the flood and exodus story seem to me to be a far stronger argument than either the christological or even kuzari arguments.

  132. Bill R: God raising Jesus from the dead cannot be used as first-hand evidence, otherwise it would be quite strong obviously.

    If I knew for sure that
    1. Jesus was raised from the dead
    2. It was done specifically by God

    In fact, if I knew for sure exactly what Jesus said, and knew for sure his message was authorized by God, then obviously I would follow it.

    The thing is, we did not see Jesus preaching, Jesus doing miracles, or Jesus being raised from the dead. We just have to take the writers’ word for it. Paul says 500 people saw Jesus appear, some of whom were still alive as he wrote the letter. Well whoop de doo, people claimed Mohammad split the moon and many people saw it. THat doesn’t mean it actually happened.

  133. God raising Jesus from the dead cannot be used as first-hand evidence

    What do you mean by “first-hand evidence”? Do you mean something you yourself have seen with your eyes? Then clearly, the Resurrection is not “first-hand” for you or me. But then God’s appearance at Sinai was not first-hand evidence for any of the Jews, except those in the Exodus generation. None of the evidence you bring against the Flood is first-hand, etc., etc. The question is not whether you were a witness to the Resurrection, but whether there is good, solid evidence for the Resurrection.

    The thing is, we did not see Jesus preaching, Jesus doing miracles, or Jesus being raised from the dead. We just have to take the writers’ word for it.

    Greg, did you even read the post I wrote? The whole point of using only those pieces of evidence that even skeptical, non-Christian scholars agree on to argue for the Resurrection means we don’t just have to take the disciples’ word for it. Their actions, and the actions of their enemies, speak louder than words. Can you give me some indication that you have actually read my bulleted post from earlier?

    You bringing up Mohammed’s moon-splitting shows that you haven’t grasped the argument. Did Mohammed’s followers stake the entire credibility of Islam on historicity of Mohammed splitting the moon? Were they willing to die for the specific belief that Mohammed split the moon, and not just for the sake of Mohammed in general? Did any hostile skeptics see Mohammed split the moon and then become evangelists for Islam? Did the opponents of Mohammed have ample opportunity to stamp out his new religion by pointing to an intact moon and yet fail to do so? Because all these things happened with Christians and the Resurrection, so if you can’t answer yes to all these questions (I doubt even one of them), then there is no equivalence between the two claims. Do you see why you are making an apples-to-oranges comparison here?

  134. Neil, that’s just it. By the way I carefully avoided saying that if God really had switched over to a new covenant with Israel, He should have given the Jews a clearer sign that there is a new covenant. I actually want to say that, but I realize that I am no one to tell God what to do.

    Still that is my argument.

    Yes, Greg realises he is no one to tell God what to do but he will anyway.

  135. Melissa,

    So you think that Orthodox Judaism and the Talmud are wrong, and Fundamentalist Christians are wrong, not to mention that Muslims are wrong. That’s a lot of really intelligent, thoughtful people who have looked at the same evidence that you have, and came to a different conclusion. How do you know that *you* are right? How would I know that?

    A lot of what you said this time around doesn’t really resolve my two arguments, #1 and #2, so I repeat them basically.

    1.

    So when you speak of “some kind of vacuum”, you cannot simultaneously point to the willingness of modern scholars to engage with the Jews about their own writings, and use it to make a sweeping statement about ALL Christian scholarship at ALL times.

    I made no such sweeping statement.

    You said I insinuated that Christian scholarship occurs in “some kind of vacuum,” and even called it insulting. I have explained that there is no monolithic thing called “Christian scholarship”, and one cannot make a sweeping statement that says “Christian scholarship has always occurred with thoughtful collaboration with Jews and consideration of Jewish ideas about their own religion”. Perhaps it does now, but it didn’t always (such as during the talmud book burnings and persecutions). Anyway this is beside the main point.

    And therefore, it is not *your* or *my* interpretation that is important to my main point, but the interpretation of the Jews in Jesus’ time.

    Which is why you should read some NT Wright as Tom suggested. He has done a lot of study into both Jewish thought of this time and other ancient religious beliefs floating around at the time. His books will also cite further reading if you want to check what he writes about for yourself.

    I will definitely take such a recommendation seriously. I just need to find the time.

    2.
    Do you agree that in order for Christianity to be true, orthodox Judaism and the Talmud must be wrong?

    I agree that orthodox Judaism and the Talmud are wrong about the Messiah.

    The oral tradition and orthodox Judaism isn’t a sort of pick and choose kind of thing. You can say that the Jews were wrong about their own Messiah prophecies, but you’d have to back up that statement. Are you insinuating that Jews made their Talmud in some kind of vacuum?

    Second, your point that Jewish leaders became corrupt may be a good one. Can you tell me the specific examples you are referring to? (I like examples.

    I’m not saying necessarily that the Jewish leaders were corrupt but that prophets were often depicted rebuking the “official” leaders and were in fact persecuted by those leaders. The prophets are littered with rebukes of Jerusalem and the leaders. In the same way Jesus rebukes the official leaders of his time, of course they’re not going to like that.

    I really thought you had some specific situation or example in mind. Because a lot of the time the ruling families behaved badly and were rebuked by prophets. I don’t particularly remember levite priests of the temple being rebuked by prophets.

    I think your attempts to undermine the idea that in Jesus’ time, Jewish people had judges and levite priests that they can go to is ambitious, but unsuccessful

    http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Matt/Religious-Leaders-Versus-Jesus

    http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/dictionaries/dict_meaning.php?source=3&wid=S10253

    3.
    And therefore if God wanted to the people of Israel to know that a new covenant is upon them, and the old one is obsolete, God would not have chosen fishermen and tax collectors to spread the message.

    Well that’s just elitist. If you understood the message Jesus brought then you would know that is exactly what God would do, in fact God has a track record of using people we wouldn’t expect.

    It has nothing to do with elitism. As I said, Deuteronomy 17 applies and would make most Jews reject Jesus’ disciples on the grounds that they are trying to turn people away from God’s commandments and are proclaiming a new covenant. They would ask their leaders and their leaders as you can plainly see rejected the message.

    In fact most Jews did reject the message of Jesus’ disciples and Church. Yeah, you say they’re wrong and the Talmud is wrong about the Messiah. But that’s just he said she said. What if you’re wrong. The point is, Jews didn’t accept the disciples message precisely because it was not authoritative to them.

    Someone comes to your house in 33 AD and says something about some guy Jesus who you have never seen or met. They say he rose from the dead and their friend saw him. And now you must follow him and believe he is God and let’s go celebrate with some pork and light some fires on shabbat. Why should you believe them? A religious Jew who knows his Deuteronomy would probably tell them to stop talking nonsense before they invite some major stoning to occur.

    Jesus’ own disciples seem to have continued observing all the law, by the way. So whatever the message is today, it probably changed since then.

    4. Your original point was that Christians follow a different God. The Jews may believe that but once again to assume that interpretation is correct is to once again beg the question against Christianity. The reason given by the early Jewish converts to Christianity is that they had an encounter with the risen Christ. Obviously was enough to convince them that God was 3-in-1 even if they did not understand how.

    Aha so you are talking about only the people who saw Jesus personally after the resurrection. Aren’t those people all in the following categories:

    1) Original disciples, with vested interest in the story
    2) Paul, in a vision
    3) 500 people that paul claims are somewhere (just like the 5k people Jesus fed, or the multitudes of dead people who came out of graves and “appeared to many”)

    Maybe there’s one other category I missed. But that isn’t the same as the entire nation of Israel with 3 million people hearing God speak. Is it!

    The rest just believed someone because they were friends with them for many years, or maybe they were just gullible. The fact is, even Paul couldn’t convert the Jews and then later he left to see if he could do a better job with the Gentiles (who had a way higher conversion rate due to less barriers for signing up)

    Please, read this and tell me what you think of it. Doesn’t it describe pretty much what I am saying?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_the_Apostle_and_Judaism#Proselytizing_among_Jews

    By the way during his life, there were lots of Jews who saw Jesus personally and didn’t convert. As an example I can think of all the sanhedrin, priests and everyone in power basically. 40 years later someone claimed that a “counselor” may have been secretly Jesus’ student. Whoop de doo one guy.

    I thought you were talking about Jesus’ disciples and whoever they got into their church to join them. There’s hardly any evidence by the way that these disciples ever thought Jesus was God or abandoned the law. They continued going to the temple. I am pretty sure they thought Jesus was the messiah and the world was going to end soon. They turned out to be wrong though, and the world is still here.

    Some Jews converted to Islam, does that make Islam correct?

    Once again, this doesn’t satisfy my arguments #1 or #2 at all.

    5.

    Who is “they”?

    Oh yes, the no true scotsman fallacy, I was wondering when this would make an appearance.

    Once again you misrepresent what I said. What no true scotsman fallacy? I was simply asking who you meant when you said “they”. It was ambiguous. Christians? Jews? I didn’t get your point there because I don’t know who it was even about.

    You didn’t address the fact that less than 1% of Jews ever converted to Christianity — i.e. to follow Jesus the way his disciples would have liked them to. This fact is pretty impressive and significant, is it not? Especially considering my arguments #1 and #2 above.

    But certainly it calls into question the authority of Paul’s ideas about how the old covenant is obsolete, we are dead to the law, and his rebuke of “Cephas” for following Jewish customs. Sure these early Jewish Christians thought Jesus was the messiah, but did they follow Paul’s ideas?

    Actually the passage in Gal 2 rebukes Cephas for hypocrisy. “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; 12for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. 13And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.”

    Yeah, the hypocrisy of acting Gentile before the rest of his church came, and and then acting Jewish after they came. The “circumcision faction” was apparently not pleased with this behavior. Paul is shocked that the Jews are actually doing their own Jewish thing. Maybe he should have hung out with them more instead of going to arabia for 3 years and making up his own ideas out of his “visions”. I see no evidence that Paul and James’ church even had the same approach or views.

    Jesus taught an Israel-centric viewpoint and respected the law. Paul taught his own thing and then went to see the disciples. Paul doesn’t say how things ended, does he? I imagine he probably had a falling out and left persona non grata. His letters read like he has a chip on his shoulder. “Am I not an apostle?” “Yeah go, preach to the gentiles” — sounds like they wanted to get rid of him lol.

    I’m being a little cavalier here and maybe that’s not what happened. Or maybe it was. The truth is we just don’t know for sure, since the other author who writes about these things — Luke — was a disciple of the apostle… PAUL. So he got a lot of his stuff from Paul, including his point of view on what transpired.

    and earlier talks about Paul’s visit to Jerusalem:
    “and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was* eager to do.”

    Says Paul. And we trust him 100% because…? Oh right, Jesus appeared to him in a vision, as he told everyone himself. And his companions heard a voice but didn’t understand, or maybe they heard nothing. Depends on which inerrant gospel chapter you read.

    6. Much of your issues would be non-issues if you stopped thinking of the bible as some kind of magic book dictated by God. You are reading it as if every passage must be some kind of universally binding command. You’ll never make any sense of it like that. That’s not necessarily your fault as it seems to be a prevalent tendency of both atheists and fundamentalists. Each part is written by particular people, into a particular situation, addressing that particular context. Of course there are timeless principles but first we must understand what was happening at the time of writing, before we try to apply it to our lives today. If you read those early parts of the bible you’ll see the Israelites were wild, they needed taming. Just from the types of laws specified you can see the kinds of problems the community faced. Of course they needed a strong direction and forceful language if they were going to survive as a nation.

    That’s just it. I understand the Bible as either inerrant, or not. What do you understand as “a magic book”? You think all the fundamentalists are wrong? Okay, so what is your coherent claim about what the Bible says? When it says in Genesis 11 that Shem begat Arphaxad at 100, and
    then Arphaxad begat Shelah at 35, you say the genealogies can’t be added up because something isn’t literally true. But when Paul says something that implies maybe Jesus is God, *that* is literally true? What if what you think is literally true, also isn’t literally true?

    If you are going to reject the “magic book” approach (as you call it), can you present a clear and unambiguous approach to reading and understanding the Bible? If you can’t then why do you think Christianity’s message is correct, or even clear?

    Frankly I don’t find anything very clear about “You are a sinner, but I’m not exactly sure what sin is. You can be saved, but no one really agrees what the necessary and sufficient conditions for that are. So accept Jesus, but I’m not really sure how accepting Jesus is different from believing Jesus died for your sins.” It sounds like there is way more than one interpretation. What’s yours?

    Clearly it’s different than the fundamentalist one.

    Each part is written by particular people, into a particular situation, addressing that particular context, and therefore, what? Does that make my arguments #1 and #2 irrelevant, or answer them satisfactorily? I don’t see how.

    7.5 Once again you’re taking a magic book approach to the bible.

    A lot of the ideas which Jews have a problem accepting are mainly based in the writings of Paul. Paul in some places seems to indicate that Jesus is God. In many places he seems to indicate that Mosaic law was not necessary to be followed anymore, and that a new covenant had arrived. Paul himself describes that he was at odds with “Cephas” from the jewish church, and rebuked him for acting too Jewish.

    See my response in point 5 above. Now you said you don’t like people taking texts out of context. Matt 5:17 (ie. one verse before your quote) says this “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.”

    Yes, so how does this context change anything? I feel like my entire question 7.5 needs to be brought again

    Paul says (KJV Romans 3:28): “a man is JUSTIFIED by FAITH apart from WORKS of the law.”
    James says (KJV James 2:24): “by WORKS a man is JUSTIFIED, and not by FAITH only.”

    How do you reconcile these using the non magic book approach? Does non magic book still mean the Bible is inerrant? It seems that two people writing what seems to be directly contradicting messages would not both be inerrant. If they are, then that kind of robs the word “inerrant” of its power to actually mean anything we can rely on.

    Jesus says: (NIV Matthew 5:18-19): “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

    Note that Jesus’ words were about the people already in the Kingdom of Heaven — the saved. And yet they should follow the law, lest they will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. If we are to take Jesus’ words literally, it would sem Paul will be called least in the kingdom of heaven for what he was teaching.

    I think this is self explanatory and applies. Even in the context. I am usually careful to see if the context changes the meaning and point of my argument.

    Therefore, I would like to ask 7, but with “Jesus” replaced by “Paul”. Where does his authority to teach his seemingly different doctrine derive from?

    So yeah, what exactly gives Paul authority to be in the Bible and for you to think he is inerrant, and his message is correct?

    I think I am doing your “magic book” thinking, but I am not sure what your alternative approach is. I would like you to explain what YOU would propose as the alternative, and describe it so that I actually understand the method and can apply it myself.

    In instigating the Lord’s supper in Luke 22:20 Jesus says “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

    Maybe he said that, maybe he didn’t (it’s like the whole virgin birth thing — if you weren’t there, you won’t know for sure). Let’s say he did. And that implies… what?

    In the letters we see the early church working through some of the issues of what it means to faithfully follow Jesus.

    That sounds like they were fallible and not inerrant. Oh, I kind of assumed you believed the Bible is inerrant — if you don’t, I’m sorry. As I said, I encounter so many different viewpoints I sometimes assume things that maybe I shouldn’t have. Do you think the Bible is the inerrant, self-authenticating Word of God? If you don’t then we have an interesting discussion beacuse I’m not sure what you believe. But if you do, then my comments above all apply.

    The teaching of Paul is not at odds with Peter or Jesus he may have been at odds in some respects with James

    Okay I will assume from now until the end of the comment that you don’t think the Bible is inerrant

    but he never says you’re saved by faith now go and do whatever you want which seems to what you are implying. In fact he is constantly imploring the brothers and sisters to use their freedom for good, to be dead to sin. James also in the passage you quote uses as examples the works of people who were not under the law so it doesn’t support your point.

    You’re right. In other places Paul seems to say the Mosaic law is awesome. For whatever reason, he seems to kind of had different ideas at different times. In his epistle to the Romans he insisted on the positive value of the Law, but usually he argued that Gentile converts didn’t need to follow Jewish customs. He also wasn’t a fan of circumcision, but he personally circumcised Timothy.

    but what gives Paul authority anyway?

  136. Greg,

    Let’s look at where we’re at.

    1. Christians are ignorant of Judaism

    I have explained that there is no monolithic thing called “Christian scholarship”, and one cannot make a sweeping statement that says “Christian scholarship has always occurred with thoughtful collaboration with Jews and consideration of Jewish ideas about their own religion”. Perhaps it does now, but it didn’t always (such as during the talmud book burnings and persecutions). Anyway this is beside the main point.

    Again I made no sweeping statement. If you are looking for the truth you should read those who are thoughtfully engaging with other viewpoints not think that by dealing with the low-hanging fruit you have successfully shown Christianity to be false. You have shown no evidence that you have done that.

    2. Orthodox Jewish belief is the correct interpretation of the old testament and in Jesus time the only people authorised to interpret God’s will were the official Jewish authorities.

    You can say that the Jews were wrong about their own Messiah prophecies, but you’d have to back up that statement. Are you insinuating that Jews made their Talmud in some kind of vacuum?

    If the resurrection occurred the Jews were wrong, it’s that simple.

    I really thought you had some specific situation or example in mind. Because a lot of the time the ruling families behaved badly and were rebuked by prophets. I don’t particularly remember levite priests of the temple being rebuked by prophets.

    Jer 2:8 The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’
   Those who handle the law did not know me;
the rulers transgressed against me;
   the prophets prophesied by Baal,
   and went after things that do not profit.

    I think your attempts to undermine the idea that in Jesus’ time, Jewish people had judges and levite priests that they can go to is ambitious, but unsuccessful

    I’m disputing their authority to interpret God’s will not their existence.

    We can conclude that there is indeed precedence in the old testament for the authority of the official Jewish leaders to be questioned.

    3. Jews have the oral tradition to help interpret the written Torah and Christians don’t so have interpreted the old testament wrong.

    You’ve gone off topic on this point with this:

    The point is, Jews didn’t accept the disciples message precisely because it was not authoritative to them.

    Jews did accept the message. Jews still accept the message today. I have a friend who is a Mesianic Jew. You can keep flogging this dead horse but it’s not going to run.

    Jesus’ own disciples seem to have continued observing all the law, by the way. So whatever the message is today, it probably changed since then.

    They ate with the uncircumcised which was not allowed so apparently not quite. Converts from Islam today often keep their cultural distinctive and call themselves muslim followers of Jesus. It’s a similar situation. Textural criticism shows that the biblical text has not been changed in it’s message.

    4. Jesus can’t be God because God is one.

    Once again you’ve moved away from the original point so we agree that Christianity does not preach more than one God and if Jews think otherwise they are mistaken. Now without acknowledging the point you have moved onto questioning the resurrection. Tom has multiple posts on this very question somewhere. Maybe have a look for them.

    Original disciples, with vested interest in the story

    Yes it was to their advantage not to go back to fishing and instead preach the resurrected Christ, resulting in persecution, imprisonment and death. Great career move.

    5. No Jew would accept Christianity just because someone said they had the right interpretation.

    See my response at point 3. It seems that this is your default position for any challenge. As numerous other commenters have pointed out until you deal with the resurrection the rest of this conversation is pointless and basically irrelevant. Except possibly the inerrancy questions.

    7.5 A lot of the ideas which Jews have a problem accepting are mainly based in the writings of Paul.

    I think you are manufacturing contradiction where there are none. Yes Paul has a different focus, he is addressing mainly gentile churches.

    Okay I will assume from now until the end of the comment that you don’t think the Bible is inerrant

    Please do. As Tom mentioned much earlier on the question of inerrancy is very complex. In fact I think the confusion leads to misunderstandings. I prefer to describe the bible as authoritative.

    You’re right. In other places Paul seems to say the Mosaic law is awesome. For whatever reason, he seems to kind of had different ideas at different times.

    Exactly he is addressing different people in different situations.

    He also wasn’t a fan of circumcision, but he personally circumcised Timothy.
    but what gives Paul authority anyway?

    The community of believers.

    I think I am doing your “magic book” thinking, but I am not sure what your alternative approach is. I would like you to explain what YOU would propose as the alternative, and describe it so that I actually understand the method and can apply it myself

    To understand the context the passage is written into. What problems are being addressed? What are the concerns of the community? You do realise that many stories in the bible are described multiple times with different emphasises that reflect the interests of the authors and the community they are writing into. This multiple viewpoint gives us a much clearer view of what is happening than if we had to rely on just one viewpoint.

    A good entry level book on reading the bible is How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth by Gorden Fee and Douglas Stuart.

  137. Greg,

    Here are four determinative questions for you.

    First, a statement: you have a distinctly strong impression of what you think Christianity is according to the Bible.

    Question One: Do you realize that the Christianity you think you know is not the Christianity of the Bible?

    Question Two: Do you realize that the questions you ask about biblical Christianity have been asked and answered before?

    Question Three: Do you or do you not want to know those answers?

  138. Unfortunately, nothing like this story is found in Egyptian history. Egyptian history of the 2nd millennium BCE is very well documented, yet no papyrus, no stone pillar, and no inscription mentions the Israelites’ enslavement in Egypt

    From what we know of the egyptians it is highly dubious that they would have recorded such a series of events that would have been extremely embarassing to the Pharoahs so unfortunately any argument from silense will not suffice

    Historical documents of other peoples and kingdoms of that time (who would surely have paid attention to great cataclysms that devastated the powerful Egyptian empire) also remain completely silent

    This is pure bluster not substance. How many documents of other people and kingdoms do we have stretching back to that time period? We had nothing for years on the hittites – an entire empire – outside of the biblical references. Truth be told outside of the bible there are very few other sources stretching back to any mosaic period. Claiming silence based on us not having much records is a bit hollow. Later you talk of books as if you can go down to your local library and pull several ones written in that time period. The same argument you are making was used to question several biblical narratives that are now not considered mythical and would be used to this day if finally some references were not found. I’ve tried to point that out to you – the long history of assuming mythical events that were found not to be – but you continue to purposefully ignore them. At any rate our abscence of records for this time period do not stand as sound evidence for or against the narrative.

    Were the Egyptian army indeed to drown in the Red Sea waters and were the Egyptian economy totally destroyed by the Ten Plagues, Egypt would not have been able to withstand such a war, especially as, according to the Torah, the Egyptian army was not able to recover for at least 40 years (see Deuteronomy 11:4 and Nachmanides’s commentary there) – the same years that the army waged campaign after campaign against the Hittites and supplied 20,000 warriors for the battle of Kadesh.

    There i s no universal date accepted for the exodus. Theres considerable differences. You are assuming a date and claiming the assumed date does not fit.

    The archaeological evidence of the largely indigenous origins of Israel is “overwhelming,” and leaves “no room for an Exodus from Egypt or a 40-year pilgrimage through the Sinai wilderness.” (What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?.)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Exodus#Historicity_debate

    You really should go beyond linking to wikipedia or at least take a look at the discussion area where contributors debate issues. There is no universal agreement even on wikipedia regarding that issue. Click the discussion area and particularly historicity for objections to arguments from silence and the alleged total inability of fitting the exodus into history. Seriously if the extent of your scholarship on these issues is reading an encyclopedia like you would for a high school book report you are not going to get far. In addition to that you are under an illusion if you think wikipedia is a unbiased third party. Wikipedia is well known as a community that is not balanced on religious issues.

    But the picture produced by historians is that the kingdom of Solomon was nowhere near being the richest kingdom on the earth and certainly it’s worrying that external accounts of Solomon’s riches are missing, considering such a famous king should have left some traces in world history through books of other nations than just the Jews.

    Kingdoms of Solomon and David,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon#Archaeological_evidence
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_ancient_Israel_and_Judah#Religion

    Are you hoping that no one will read the link? What it relates is disagreement between scholars as to the extent of the empire. It also admits pointedly that a significant amount of the evidence that may exist for Solomon’s kingdom is unreachable due to access rights (since jerusalem is very much occupied and not a tell. As for your three points –

    1) They make grand claims, which would imply that we should find evidence

    Implies no such thing. there is no implication for the preservation of evidence merely because its grand.

    2) We look for the evidence and we are able to find lots of evidence for OTHER things

    For that time period. No thats absolutley false. A great deal of that time is unknown due relative scarcity of records. You are fudging the true state of our records to get to where you want to. The same basic argument has been used for the mythical stature of the hittites, the entire existence of the Davidic kingdom and on and on.

    But when it comes to things that MUST have left traces, it is utterly lacking in the places we should expect to find it

    Scholarship at its shoddiest. Even a cursory investigation of your own links would have indicated that the grandeur of Solomon’s kindom or the lack of it lies underneath Jerusalem where we cannot yet explore it and the exodus rather than MUST having left traces most certainly would not have any more than any nomadic culture ever has. So your three points are bluster and hand waving

    I don’t know Greg I am not sensing any great rigor in this pursuit of truth you claim. It certainly shouldn’t begin and end with wikipedia links you haven’t completley read. Furthermore you are dancing again between claiming to know the truth and still looking for it. You use the langauge of someone who has already come to a conclusion and is only pretending to be open.

  139. “An ancient Egyptian text, The Admonitions of Ipuwer, states, “Lo the Nile overflows yet none plough for it .. lo, the river is blood.”The Miracles Of Exodus Colin J. Humphreys

    “And since this Canaan scarab dates contextually to around 1750 BC, whereas its equivalents found in Egypt seem to be from around a century later, the strong inference is that Jacob started a dynasty that continued into Egypt”. page 35
    The Bible As History, Ian Wilson

    “Incontrovertible archaeological evidence has come to light that Asiatics from the Canaan region infiltrated the Nile Delta between the 18th and 16th centuries BC. They dislodged the native Egyptians, took over political power throughout northern Egypt …
    In the same site’s environs, he found evidence of occupation by other Asiatic peoples whom he specifically termed ‘nomads’, that is, tent-dwellers owning flocks of grazing animals.” page 39
    “Just as there had earlier been large infiltrations of Canaanitic Asiatics into Egypt, now its reversal occurred, a similarly-sized exodus.This raises the thought: what happened to those nomadic shepherds who had accompanied, if not preceded the Canaanites into Egypt …? For if, as we can now be sure, something resembling the Biblically-described settlement of “Jacob’s brood” in Egypt really happened, might their even more famous ‘Exodus’ form Egypt have been a real event also?”
    page 41
    Plagues:
    “But is there any Egyptian documentation of such a catastrophe?Although this period os so poorly documented, ….
    ‘The striking resemblance between this catastrophic storm and some of the traditional [Biblical] plagues seems more than fortuitous.” ”

    We learn, unsurprisingly, that this fortification platform was made of mud-brick . …
    There is good reason, therefore, for believing that Ahmose rounded up all the Asiatic Nile Delta residents, including Jacob’s descendants, who had been unable to make a quick escape with the Canaanite warlords. He forced them into the work necessary to make Avaris, the future Ramesses, an Egyptian capital and ‘garrison’ city.””
    page 51
    “But whatever happened out there, some time around the middle of the 2nd millennium BC, a massive exodus of Asiatics from the NIle Delta did undoubtedly take place. It is also a matter of fact that that at least one group proceeded northwards, ultimately dislodging some of the Canaanitic peoples they had previously feared so much.”
    page 63

  140. Greg,
    So you agree with my point about the historical order of the events in the OT? In other words, even after hearing the audible voice of God, the Jews continued to doubt and mistrust Moses. It’s almost as if the real problem was not the evidence, but their hearts. Perhaps they, like we, need not more evidence but transformed hearts to accept the evidence we have.

    Second, you write:

    Neil, that’s just it. By the way I carefully avoided saying that if God really had switched over to a new covenant with Israel, He should have given the Jews a clearer sign that there is a new covenant. I actually want to say that, but I realize that I am no one to tell God what to do.

    Still that is my argument. Even if Judaism (as understood in Jesus’ time, and on which Christianity is based) is true, I don’t think it’s likely that God would first tell the Jews not to listen to guys like Jesus’ disciples, then make exactly those kinds of guys spread the message that a new covenant is here. I think that’s a pretty reasonable point.

    So you do recognize that your argument are based on your expectations and assumptions about how God ought to work, right? Namely, he ought to have provided a sign from heaven for the Messiah rather than the many signs he gave in the OT which he indicated would validate the Messiah’s identity. And he ought not to have appointed witnesses from people like fishermen, or tax collectors, or a Pharisee studying under one of the leading 1st century Jewish rabbis, Gamaliel. He ought to have appointed witnesses from the Sanhedrin, even though his pattern throughout the OT was to send prophets from both within and outside the priestly class. Right? I just want to make sure that you agree that all your objections are based on these assumptions.

    Finally, I am very confused about your own position. When we explain Christian doctrines, you often object to them based on rabbinic sources like the Mishnah, the Talmud, etc… Yet you later say that your own beliefs tends towards skepticism of the OT rather than belief in Judaism. Isn’t this inconsistent? Imagine if you made some objection to the Christian doctrine of judgement and I responded: “Yes, but Hindus don’t even believe in judgment. They believe in reincarnation. Look at all the clear teaching of Hindu sages throughout the milennia.” Wouldn’t this objection be disingenuous, to say the least? How can I respond to objections by appealiong to beliefs which I don’t even think are true? If you believe that rabbinic Judaism is true, then it makes sense for you to appeal to the authority of the Mishnah or Talmud. But if you personally don’t believe that these sources are true or authoritative, then why are you appealing to them?

    -Neil

  141. To learn about the relationship between Paul and Torah, or early Christians and the supposition that they expected the world to end , one could read N.T. Wright.
    Here he discusses some of this, including what was demonstrated above – that God was always extending salvation to the nations, that Jesus is Israel.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngBjjZNUkfw&NR=1

  142. For the Jewish people, this is crucial. Anyone can claim anything. Mohammad claimed he had just seen a vision and God spoke the Koran to him through the angel Gabriel. Paul claimed he saw Jesus in a vision while he was on the road to Damascus. All these religions started with a group of people claiming something. Judaism is the only religion that claims to have begun God speaking to all 3 million people of Israel. No other religion does.

    This is totally and utterly false. By the time the jews hear the voice of God they are out of Egypt, goods are in tow, their lives are in upheaval, their families are on the line and they are standing in the wilderness. Why? because they believe Moses that God has told them to be there. Why? because they had seen miracles. Precisely the same as in the NT.

    Furthermore Judaism did not start at Mount Sinai. it started with Abraham. God’s relationship with the Jews starts because they are descendants of Abraham and he had a covenant with God. If you are looking for some shared collective miraculous phenemenon then fine the NT has pentecost.

    Now why not another experience like Sinai for another covenant? Because the Jews didn’t like that experience the first time around and now Torah absolutely forbids there to ever be another sinai experience.

    Deut 18:16

    according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’

    17 “And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good.

    18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him

    See from that day forward there can never again be another sinai specifically because Israel REQUESTED that there never be one and yet God would continue to talk through prophets and Jeremiah promises a new covenant. So a major part of your argument AGAIN just vanishes once you realize what Torah actually teaches on the subject of future revelations and covenants.

    this is why when we get to the Moshiach (messiah) there is no such requirement for his covenant. There cannot be if Torah is correct. So Isiaih 11 states tht he does might works

    But along comes Paul, and his antinomianism
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antinomianism

    “All things are clean, kosher laws are optional”
    “The sabbath day is optional”
    “The old covenant is obsolete … and will soon disappear”
    “Is a man justified by works? No.”
    “A man is justified by faith apart from works.”

    (paraphrasing the content)

    Paraphrasing, caricatures and frankly links to Wikipedia on a christian blog as reference to Christian issues are all signs of not truly being serious about getting to the truth. IF you read acts you would realize tht Paul was in fact observant and he makes no NEW argument that a man is justified by faith but instead makes a masterful argument that even from Abraham men have ALWAYS been justified by faith. His reference in Hebrew to the old covenant being done away with is spot on because he was specifically referring to temple related practices and since AD 70 those have been gone with not a single day of atonement sacrifice required by the law in approaching 2,000 years.

  143. Mike,
    Wow, great points. Ah, how I wish I knew the Bible better. Let that be an admonition for all Christians to search the Scriptures!
    -Neil

  144. God authenticated Joshua before Israel by the use of miracles – as He would later with Elijah and Elisha in the battle with the Baals.

    Joshua 4: 7 And the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”

  145. @ Neil, 158

    Too right. In the same way Paul (Shaul, since we are getting into Hebraic pronunciations now) proved to the Jews, (including the more-noble Bereans) in the synagogues, from the Scriptures that Y’shua was Moshiach.
    (looks impressive with the faux-Hebrew, right?)

  146. Referring to point 7.5 (the comparision of Paul and James discussing faith and works)

    Greg, you are committing the error of putting two verses together, collapsing the contexts, and ignoring both the immediate context of each, and the larger context of the NT. Christian scholars and biblically literate Christians have known about this for centuries – it has been asked and answered, as Tom said.

    How do we resolve this in the light of the doctrine of inspiration by the Holy Spirit?
    Well, if both James and Paul are writing under inspiration, then both statements are considered true. Well, we ask, how can two apparently conflicting statements both be true? If they are referring to different aspects of the same concept. If you take the time to read the contexts: Paul is talking about our standing before God: on what basis does He declare us righteous? Through our faith in Christ’s death and resurrection as the just and complete payment for our sins. Paul is saying that we can’t earn this justification by working for it and demanding that God pay up.

    Paul is looking at our basis for being justified by God. James is looking at the fruit that this justification by faith should be producing, and asking “If the fruit isn’t there, is the faith genuine?”

    It’s rather simple, really, when one considers the larger context. That’s how we Christians apply the doctrine of inspiration. As Tom said earlier, your idea of Christianity is not what ours is – perhaps we know it better than you do.

  147. Melissa, I am kind of tired of writing long detailed answers to each of your points and then notice that in the subsequent answer you just ignore what I said and attack straw men. I have dealt with everything and I would encourage you to go back and actually *quote* my words on point #4 when you are answering point #4

    I will just give one example.

    Please, read this and tell me what you think of it. Doesn’t it describe pretty much what I am saying?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_the_Apostle_and_Judaism#Proselytizing_among_Jews

    By the way during his life, there were lots of Jews who saw Jesus personally and didn’t convert. As an example I can think of all the sanhedrin, priests and everyone in power basically. 40 years later someone claimed that a “counselor” may have been secretly Jesus’ student. Whoop de doo one guy.

    You keep using the fact that a tiny fraction of Jews converted, so somehow this proves that Christianity is consistent with Judaism in which it is based. Most Jews didn’t convert and this is a significant fact considering that Jesus came to “save the lost sheep of Israel”. I have written this already dozens of times. (sigh) I even asked

    Some Jews converted to Islam, does that make Islam correct?

    I am sorry to say that I have put so much effort into my answers and you haven’t even addressed the *main points* of what I said. Instead of addressing the fact that less than 1% of Jews ever became Christians, and chose to be persecuted by Christians for 2000 years (great career move) just like they didn’t become Muslim when living among muslims, should tell you that this religion is incompatible with their beliefs. They wanted the Messiah to come very badly but they did not accept Jesus.

    In addition, even out of the tiny minority of Jews who converted to Christianity and Islam when they were in power, many did it to avoid persecution or under pain of death. Spanish “Murannos” for example cannot even be used as support for your case, not that you have addressed mine.

    You’ve gone off topic on this point with this:

    “The point is, Jews didn’t accept the disciples message precisely because it was not authoritative to them.”

    The fact that you can label this off-topic shows that you are either not following anything I am saying (I will assume you’re reading it but it just doesn’t register as being the central point) or just interested in talking *at* me.

    “You can say that the Jews were wrong about their own Messiah prophecies, but you’d have to back up that statement. Are you insinuating that Jews made their Talmud in some kind of vacuum?”

    If the resurrection occurred the Jews were wrong, it’s that simple.

    So that is called backing up your statement? Okay, watch this:

    If Jesus was not the Messiah or divine, then Christianity is wrong, it’s that simple.

    Wow, that was easy. Turns out it’s just about belief for some people. Indeed you kind of indicate that here:

    “but what gives Paul authority anyway?”

    The community of believers.

    I see. Well, at least you’re being honest. This fits well in my framework of sharing beliefs and forming new ones among those who already accept the previous beliefs.

    But you gotta admit that if this is the main thing that gives Paul authority, then it’s pretty much wishful thinking. Just because there’s a community of believers thinking Paul is authoritative, or Mohammad is authoritative, doesn’t make it in fact true. I can make a community of believers and prove scientology and leprechauns this way. Many people did.

    “Okay I will assume from now until the end of the comment that you don’t think the Bible is inerrant”

    Please do

    Okay so this is an example of what I meant by whack a mole, but I am okay with it. In my discussion with you, I will assume that Fundamentalists are wrong, and Orthodox Jews are wrong, and Muslims are wrong. Because otherwise there is no way you can be right.

    I look forward to your [revised?] response after you thoughtfully considered my comment 150 addressing you. I would appreciate if you quoted what you are responding to and responded point by point, as I have. I think that otherwise, as you say, this discussion might be pointless.

  148. Mike Anthony:

    For the Jewish people, this is crucial. Anyone can claim anything. Mohammad claimed he had just seen a vision and God spoke the Koran to him through the angel Gabriel. Paul claimed he saw Jesus in a vision while he was on the road to Damascus. All these religions started with a group of people claiming something. Judaism is the only religion that claims to have begun God speaking to all 3 million people of Israel. No other religion does.

    This is totally and utterly false. By the time the jews hear the voice of God they are out of Egypt, goods are in tow, their lives are in upheaval, their families are on the line and they are standing in the wilderness. Why? because they believe Moses that God has told them to be there. Why? because they had seen miracles. Precisely the same as in the NT.

    My apologies, I was using “Jewishese” much like Steve Drake was using “Christianese” with me. To Jews, the beginning of their main and latest Covenant is when they stood at the foot of mount Sinai and God gave them the Torah.

    Let me phrase it in a way you will (hopefully) not disagree with. It is true that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are shown as having a covenant with God, and speaking with God and knowing Him. However this is exactly the type of situation found all over the world with false religions and myths: one guy or a couple guys “hear something” and then convince everyone that it happened. Jews do not believe in Judaism because of these events. When the Jews went into Egypt, 400 years later few of them seemed to remember or care about what happened.

    The Jewish religion is the only one that claims that ALL THEIR ANCESTORS — the entire nation — stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and heard God Himself speak. They journeyed for 40 years in the desert and ate manna. Do you understand how a belief like this is much harder to get started if it didn’t actually happen, than a belief that openly admits one guy saying “I heard the angel of the Lord speak to me”?

    Christianity – started with Jesus and his followers, so less than 100 people.
    Islam – started with Mohammad and his followers
    Heaven’s gate cult – didn’t really take off, killed themselves for what they believed in
    “Drink the cool aid” guys – didn’t really take off, killed themselves for what they believed in

    Judaism – the only religion that openly claims to have started with 3 million people simultaneously, the entire ancestors of the Jews today. And continues the tradition in a living chain from the time of Sinai and Moses to this day — surviving persecutions, spread all around the world, and much more, for 3000 years. Even in the remotest places of the world.

    What is truly remarkable and even kind of eerie is that Deuteronomy 4:32 calls this out and makes a prediction that you will never see another claim like this.

    The Lord Is God

    32Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created man on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? 33Has any other people heard the voice of Goda speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? 34Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?

    35You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other. 36From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. 37Because he loved your forefathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, 38to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today.

    39Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. 40Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time.

    It is one of the most remarkable proofs that makes me think the Bible could be true! If not for this kind of stuff I would dismiss it all as the scientific and historical evidence against the flood, babel and exodus stories is pretty extensive.

    If Christians, Muslims, and others would have started a religion that claims to have begun by witnessing a mass revelation of the whole nation. it would have given them a lot of credibility. But no one can do that because the nation will just say “um, no my dad didn’t witness this. How come none of our ancestors remember this but you, Mohammad, do?”

    Do you appreciate how this is important?

    If Jews heard God give them the Covenant on mount Sinai, and as it says

    Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time.”

    do you think they should listen to Paul who says

    “the old covenant is obsolete”

    What gives Paul authority? (Melissa said: the community of believers [in Christianity]) That authority is not nearly enough to overrule the Word of God directly to our ancestors.

    The message continued with the prophets, to return to the land of Israel and keep the laws of God for ever! For ever and ever and ever… until heaven and earth pass away.

    Furthermore Judaism did not start at Mount Sinai. it started with Abraham. God’s relationship with the Jews starts because they are descendants of Abraham and he had a covenant with God. If you are looking for some shared collective miraculous phenemenon then fine the NT has pentecost.

    Did the whole nation stand before their God and receive the law?
    Did God appear to say “The New Covenant Has Now Begun!”
    Or did Paul write a letter to some people?

    Please, read this and tell me what you think of it.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_the_Apostle_and_Judaism#Proselytizing_among_Jews

    Now why not another experience like Sinai for another covenant? Because the Jews didn’t like that experience the first time around and now Torah absolutely forbids there to ever be another sinai experience.

    Funny interpretation. Do you think it’s convenient for the Jews to abstain from eating foods, abstain from sex within 7 days of a woman’s period, abstain from making a fire on shabbat, give at least 10% of their earnings to tzedaka, and hundreds of other things not to mention to be persecuted by the surrounding Christians for over 1000 years?

    No.

    They do it because God told their ancestors and they continue the tradition to this day. Romans are gone. Greeks are gone. Great nations have risen and fallen. But the Jewish nation is eternal – it is carrying God’s message into the world, and when the Messiah comes on the clouds of heaven to fulfill what has been prophesied, everyone will know – there will be no doubt – as Isaiah 53 says.

    Then our debates will be completely unnecessary! 🙂

  149. Deut 18:16

    according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’

    Those people were afraid. I thought you were the one who said “don’t read the Bible too literally”. Many times people who didn’t want to do something (Jonah, anyone?) eventually did it anyway if God wanted them to.

    Besides, it was just that generation. I would love to see he Jewish Messiah come and the whole world to see. Many orthodox Jews have a refrain, “We Want Moschiach Now!” — they can’t wait to see him! They also say, “Next year in Jerusalem!”

    Look to the Jews to see how they interpret their own scriptures. The commentary of Rashi for example is freely available on the internet.

    17 “And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good.

    18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him

    See from that day forward there can never again be another sinai specifically because Israel REQUESTED that there never be one and yet God would continue to talk through prophets and Jeremiah promises a new covenant. So a major part of your argument AGAIN just vanishes once you realize what Torah actually teaches on the subject of future revelations and covenants.

    God said there will never be another flood again.
    But Christians believe the world will be destroyed by fire after the rapture.

    God will always find a way to get things done when He knows it’s time.

    You do believe that the Messiah will come on the clouds of heaven, don’t you? This is a shared belief between Jews and Christians. So wouldn’t the whole world see this? Would they not hear the trumpets of angels?

    That is when everyone will know. Not when Paul writes a letter!! 2000 years have passed, and “soon” has lost all meaning. They thought the world would end, they were wrong. You could call them false prophets, except they weren’t prophets. They were messengers of Jesus (well, Paul liked to think of himself as one).

    “All things are clean, kosher laws are optional”
    “The sabbath day is optional”
    “The old covenant is obsolete … and will soon disappear”
    “Is a man justified by works? No.”
    “A man is justified by faith apart from works.”

    (paraphrasing the content)

    Paraphrasing, caricatures and frankly links to Wikipedia on a christian blog as reference to Christian issues are all signs of not truly being serious about getting to the truth. IF you read acts you would realize tht Paul was in fact observant and he makes no NEW argument that a man is justified by faith but instead makes a masterful argument that even from Abraham men have ALWAYS been justified by faith. His reference in Hebrew to the old covenant being done away with is spot on because he was specifically referring to temple related practices and since AD 70 those have been gone with not a single day of atonement sacrifice required by the law in approaching 2,000 years.

    This is not fair, because I have taken the time to find and quote exactly the words and scriptures and also their explanations, earlier. I just got tired of repeating them without them being addressed, so I paraphrased them in order to reference them. If you want to see the actual references, you can either A) look at my previous comments, or B) look them up yourself. Are you saying that as a Christian you don’t know to what I am referring to in any one of the above quotes? I am sure you do. So why bring up this point.

    I will grant you this: righteousness is different from strict observance of the law. It can be with strict observance or without. Jews can atone to God directly. There is no need for an intermediator.

    Now let me ask you a question:
    How do you think the vast majority of Christians interpret Jesus’ words,

    “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me?”

    I believe that Luke, a student of Paul and his theology of antinomialism and salvation simply through faith and not works, wrote the history, he decided to write

    “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”

    because that is how he understood it.

    But in that case, if Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon and all the righteous Jews who are called Righteous by God Himself … how did they get saved, if

    1) They were under original sin
    2) They never heard that you have to get saved “through Jesus”

    How do the Christians explain the salvation of these people?

    And one more question. Let’s say Christians explain that these people are actually saved just as believers in Christ, and because of some reason X

    Then why can’t we be saved by reason X, why do we need to believe in Jesus today?

  150. Mike (153) wrote:

    I don’t know Greg I am not sensing any great rigor in this pursuit of truth you claim. It certainly shouldn’t begin and end with wikipedia links you haven’t completley read. Furthermore you are dancing again between claiming to know the truth and still looking for it. You use the langauge of someone who has already come to a conclusion and is only pretending to be open.

    Earlier I wrote (#111) that I thought that Greg was “being very disingenuous. It seems to me that more than rationalizing his unbelief he is actually trying to promote it.”

    I found this exchange between Greg and Victoria to be quite ironic:

    Victoria says: (#117)
    Greg – so between last night and this afternoon you actually read those books I mentioned, thought carefully about what they said, and dismissed them? (on what credible expertise?)

    Greg replies: (#119)
    Victoria: you have not so much as responded to my questions. I find your comment 117 to be facetious and disingenuous.

    Does Greg really bother to read other peoples responses or does he simply cherry pick items to further his own agenda? I said on another thread that I thought “that honest questions deserve honest answers.” But when a person shows evidence that he is operating off a rigid template of preconceptions and biases, then I have a hard time believing that his questions are really honest.

  151. Greg,

    There’s no denying the fact that the Jews were God’s chosen people to bring his revelation to earth. They were to be the people through whom all nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:3).

    There’s also no denying the fact that throughout most of their history, the Hebrews were a “stiff-necked people” who failed to heed God’s commands. That’s why God sent the prophets. Jeremiah and Ezekiel in particular told of days coming when God would do a new thing on earth, when a new inward relationship between God and man would be instituted, a religion not just of laws but of heart.

    The Jews looked for a Messiah who would be another leader of external religion and national salvation. God had something else in mind; something far deeper, more intimately connected to him. He had something in mind that would fulfill all the sacrificial and ceremonial law. (Have you read the NT book of Hebrews?) He had something in mind that would change men’s and women’s hearts. And he had something in mind that would truly and finally address our deepest need, which has always been to be freed from sin and reconciled to God in a state of forgiveness forever.

    This new work of God was by no means the same as rabbinical Judaism, for the teachers had not anticipated it. Yet it was certainly on a consistent trajectory with all that God had done through the prophets to prepare for it. And that’s the key that you seem to miss. Jesus came to fulfill the prophets, but he opposed treating men’s teachings as if they were commandments of God. In other words, he regarded the Hebrew Scriptures as authoritative, but not the traditions surrounding those Scriptures.

    Well, so what? Suppose that was what Jesus said. What difference does his opinion make?

    I come back to what I asked you this morning:

    Here are four determinative questions for you.

    First, a statement: you have a distinctly strong impression of what you think Christianity is according to the Bible.

    Question One: Do you realize that the Christianity you think you know is not the Christianity of the Bible?

    Question Two: Do you realize that the questions you ask about biblical Christianity have been asked and answered before?

    Question Three: Do you or do you not want to know those answers?

    If you’re interested I can continue. If not, then please let us all know.

  152. Do you want to know?

    But in that case, if Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon and all the righteous Jews who are called Righteous by God Himself … how did they get saved, if

    1) They were under original sin
    2) They never heard that you have to get saved “through Jesus”

    How do the Christians explain the salvation of these people?

    Do you know this has been specifically addressed in the New Testament? Do you want to know what it says?

  153. Tom,
    I think this has gone on long enough. I don’t think I’m in the minority. I came to your website, ‘Thinking Christian’, with the hopes that the debate would be just that, discussing and debating issues that pertain to the Christian faith. I was under no illusion that there wouldn’t be non-Christians who would also be part of the discussions. Yet what I have seen in the past couple weeks is dialog centered around one individual, asking and answering this one individual and making his questions and prerogative the cornerstone of most of the dialog. There comes a point where the dust must be shaken off the feet, and a ‘moving on’. Please, for the sake of the elect.

  154. – Christians do not expect the destruction of the Earth, either by fire or flood.

    They thought the world would end, they were wrong.

    This is anachronistic thinking.

    In this ,ore historically justifiable sense [the term ‘apoclyptic’] did indeed apply to both first-century Judaism and early Christianity. The work of such scholars as Christopher Rowland and John Collins has challenged head-on the assumption that so-called ‘apocalyptic’ literature, and the so-called ‘apocalyptic’ worldview itself, was straightforwardly dualistic, expecting the end of history, the end of the space-time universe itself.

    thought in Paul , [was] dependent upon second-Temple Judaism.

    Paul believed firmly that Jesus would come again as judge.

    the language of ‘coming’ is at least potentially misleading. The word ‘parousia’, often rendered ‘coming’ within Christian scholarship, actually means ‘presence’ as opposed to ‘absence’.

    What matters is not Jesus’ coming as though from a great distance, but His ‘personal presence’, or, indeed, ‘royal presence’.

    There are some passages in Paul which are often taken to refer to this final apocalyose, but which Paul probably did not intend that way. When he speaks of God’s wrath coming ‘at last’ upon the inhabitants of Judea his is probably …thinking …of an interim judgment, warned of by Jesus himself, on the city and the people that had rejected their Messiah.

    Here again I thiknk Paul is aware – and his allusions to what we know as Matthew 24 and parallels may bear this out – that early tradition included solemn warnings from Jesus himself about the immenent destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

    N.T. Wright, Paul, chapter 3

    I believe that Luke, a student of Paul and his theology of antinomialism and salvation simply through faith and not works, wrote the history, he decided to write

    Paul was not an antinomialist. Nor an antinomian.
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/januaryweb-only/heresyisheresy.html?start=2

  155. I know how you feel, Steve, but I will mention that without the ‘skeptics’ like Gregory there often is no discussion. Many times, after several years of interaction with one of these skeptics I have said “you obviously are not interested in what this blog offers, or the answers it has given you many times to that same question,so why don’t you quit reading this opposing opinion and go away? Nobody cares to hear once again that you have a different opinion”.
    On the other hand, we can often learn a lot about the subject matter by researching our answers and, honestly, without the skeptic there is often very little discussion whatsoever.

  156. Hi Charlie,
    Thanks for your encouraging words. I pray for Greg each time I log into this blog. But I think Mike Anthony is correct:

    from #153 above:
    I don’t know Greg I am not sensing any great rigor in this pursuit of truth you claim. It certainly shouldn’t begin and end with wikipedia links you haven’t completley read. Furthermore you are dancing again between claiming to know the truth and still looking for it. You use the langauge of someone who has already come to a conclusion and is only pretending to be open.

  157. Hi Steve,
    I agree as well with Mike. And JAD, and Tom, and Neil, and Virginia, and Melissa and you (and anyone else I’ve missed).
    I don’t see any evidence that Gregory is really inquiring or has any desire to learn. I have seen this dance too many times, on too many blogs. That’s why I not-so-subtly said to him on his first comment, when he was seeming to want to say that he was gathering information so he could answer skeptics, that he should not worry about them. They are like whack-a-moles; they don’t care what you say or how you answer them but will just lodge one more objection. And if one gives up there is always the next one.
    On the other hand, as time permits, I enjoy sharing the information I have accumulated to demonstrate this very fact, and to provide possible encouragement to my brothers. It gets me back into books that have been only read once, and even forces me into a few sitting on the “to read pile”. I particularly enjoy reading informed Christians such as yourself defending the faith and giving me new things to look at.

    At times I feel this exercise is faith-enhancing for a season, and at others I feel it is counter-productive. Already it has cost me valuable time actually reading God’s Word and spending time with Him. Maybe there is a balance, and maybe it just has to be seasonal.

    But I agree that while we must be prepared with an answer we do not have to keep giving the dissenter a chance to stand at our pulpits. After a time I think it is entirely appropriate to say, ‘okay, now you have had your say and it is time for you to leave my house. I have answered you already’.

  158. I have to agree with Steve, Tom, at least until Greg does his assigned homework and is prepared to come to class having studied our recommended references

  159. I found this exchange between Greg and Victoria to be quite ironic:

    Victoria says: (#117)
    Greg – so between last night and this afternoon you actually read those books I mentioned, thought carefully about what they said, and dismissed them? (on what credible expertise?)

    Greg replies: (#119)
    Victoria: you have not so much as responded to my questions. I find your comment 117 to be facetious and disingenuous.

    Does Greg really bother to read other peoples responses or does he simply cherry pick items to further his own agenda? I said on another thread that I thought “that honest questions deserve honest answers.” But when a person shows evidence that he is operating off a rigid template of preconceptions and biases, then I have a hard time believing that his questions are really honest.

    Too bad you found it ironic, for had you looked at our exchange, it was something like this:

    Victoria comes out of lurking and addresses me
    I am glad for her post and address her point by point
    She writes something new and doesn’t address my questions
    I write to her and repeat my questions
    She writes something new and quotes some books
    I tell Tom that it will take me time to read all the books
    I respond to some people and elaborate my points
    Victoria then says “what, you’ve already read the books?”
    That is when I told her that I find her Victoria: you have not so much as responded to my questions. I find your comment 117 to be facetious and disingenuous.

    I admit that I currently have certain beliefs, but I they aren’t “preconceptions” — I have arrived at them by logical thinking and evidence. Believe it or not I started as a Jew reading the Bible when I was a kid, then listened to FamilyRadio and became a believer in Christianity until I was about 20. That is when I realized there are a lot of problems with the old testament stories. I started investigating and found lots of good reasons to think that the Bible is full of legends, and so far see no good reasons to think the Christological argument is sound (I believe the part about crucifixion which I think has ample historical evidence, not the resurrection.) I present this evidence constantly to you. In turn I am ridiculed for writing “too many points” at once. All *you* have to do is once in a while click a link to wikipedia or chabad.org or simpletoremember.com that I post. Go ahead, search for that text in this very document. When you find one of these domains, click the link. I would suggest the simpletoremember.com one for example.

    That is, unless you have a rigid template of preconceived ideas and biases. Which a religious person very well should, otherwise your creed wouldn’t really be a creed, would it.

  160. Hi Charlie,
    On the other hand, as time permits, I enjoy sharing the information I have accumulated to demonstrate this very fact, and to provide possible encouragement to my brothers.

    You like I, Charlie, are charged with sanctifying Christ as Lord in our hearts, being always ready to give a defense (apologia) to anyone who asks for the hope that is within us, yet with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15). Everyone here has endeavored to do just that with Greg. He has his answers in full, yet as Mike Anthony has noted, as I have noted, as Neil and Tom have noted, as Victoria and Melissa have noted, nothing is ever sufficient. It’s time to shake the dust off our feet and move on.

  161. The Jewish religion is the only one that claims that ALL THEIR ANCESTORS — the entire nation — stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and heard God Himself speak. They journeyed for 40 years in the desert and ate manna. Do you understand how a belief like this is much harder to get started if it didn’t actually happen, than a belief that openly admits one guy saying “I heard the angel of the Lord speak to me”?

    Wow. You really haven’t thought it through have you. Lets see I sit down and write a book that states that ever since this man Jesus came there has been an institution called the church and it now has branches in several different cities around the world and yet no such institution exists. That would go over really really well.

    No doubt the sinai experience has its uniqueness but it has its down point as well and the birth of Christianity in full site of the world has its positives as well. For one Christianity was scrutinized by people hostile to it (Jewish and Roman) whereas the events of Sinai happened in a remote area and were not witnessed by anyone else but people with a vested interest in their own culture and existing religion. Of course as a Christian I don’t argue that it never happened but if you think an atheist is impressed by the fact that you believe in a remote area at the beginning of nation a bunch of people had a vision you are fooling yourself.

    Christianity – started with Jesus and his followers, so less than 100 people.

    Wow you actually had me chuckling on that one. 100 people? Really Greg. the entire nation (sound familiar?) saw him for three years doing miracles, the church on day one of its existence had 5,000 added at pentecost and you come with this 100 number? So no MILLIONS saw him across all of Israel and even visitors from out of the country. Totally pathetic and I can now conclude that you are trolling. NO ONE who has done any research would make the claims you do. Sorry I don’t need to read anymore wikipedia links. You really have no grasp of the issues.

    Funny interpretation. Do you think it’s convenient for the Jews to abstain from eating foods, abstain from sex within 7 days of a woman’s period,

    at this point we now have dodging. i said nothing about the law I stated that they did not like the experience of God talking to them. It scared them and I gave you the verse in your own torah that says so point blank. If you can’t read that doesn’t make it funny. its actually sad.

    Meanwhile don’t think its gone unnoticed that you haven’t addressed the key point that the torah forbids there ever being again a Sinai experience. Thats what makes your claims fall flat. Your Torah itself indicates that because the people did not like that experience God would talk to them through Prophets and in particular one like Moses (who was a lawgiver, administered miracles and spoke directly for God.)

    Its a fact that completely destroys your premise on that issue and you just ducked and weaved.

  162. Greg,

    I started investigating and found lots of good reasons to think that the Bible is full of legends, and so far see no good reasons to think the Christological argument is sound (I believe the part about crucifixion which I think has ample historical evidence, not the resurrection.)

    You say this, but you haven’t even given one good reason for rejecting the Resurrection, nor have you dealt seriously with the historical argument for the Resurrection that I and others have outlined. You have either ignored the argument or blown it off with faulty comparisons. You’ve done this despite having just now advanced an argument for the historicity of God’s self-revelation at Sinai that is very similar in form and substance to the argument for the historicity of the Resurrection. I agree with your Sinai argument; I just don’t understand why you can’t see the parallel to the Resurrection argument.

    What is your refutation of the Christological argument? I have not seen anything even remotely convincing from you in this department. Maybe you don’t have time to write it down? I would understand that, for I don’t have much time these days myself. If that’s it, let me know — I can be patient — but just don’t claim that you have evaluated the Christological argument without giving any indication that you have actually done so. It comes off as evasive.

  163. The problem with the interactiions with Greg is that he really doesn’t have enough backgroud to engage in a productive manner. Essentially, his questions add up to “Please educate me in Christian theology and apologetics.” A forum like this isn’t the place to do that. I made a poor analogy on a prior post but I think this is closer. It’s like having a conversation about Shakespeare with someone who has only read Milton. Greg “knows” lots of stuff about religion but it’s so far out of the mainstrean that it affords little room for interaction. It’s been suggested many times that Greg do some research and come back with specific questions but that hasn’t happened yet.

  164. Tom, thanks – there’s a lot of good stuff here.

    There’s no denying the fact that the Jews were God’s chosen people to bring his revelation to earth. They were to be the people through whom all nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:3).

    I agree.

    There’s also no denying the fact that throughout most of their history, the Hebrews were a “stiff-necked people” who failed to heed God’s commands. That’s why God sent the prophets.

    Yep, definitely agree. I should point out that a lot of the “stiff necked” part was about not following the law, and serving other gods. Deuteronomy specifically says that Jews will be cast out and live among other nations if they don’t follow the law.

    (An atheist would say that that Deuteronomy was probably not written by Moses but by someone who had already experienced the assyrian or babylonian conquest and subsequent exile. That is why, they would say, Deuteronomy focuses on the things it does. It says that if the Jews return to God, and follow his Law, they will come back to Israel and live there and be his people.)

    Jeremiah and Ezekiel in particular told of days coming when God would do a new thing on earth, when a new inward relationship between God and man would be instituted, a religion not just of laws but of heart.

    Yes, except let’s look at the verses in context. This is often used by Christians to suggest a new covenant is coming.

    31“The time is coming,” declares the LORD,
    “when I will make a new covenant
    with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah.
    32It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their forefathers
    when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
    because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband tod them,e”
    declares the LORD.
    33“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
    after that time,” declares the LORD.
    “I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
    I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
    34No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
    or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’
    because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
    declares the LORD.
    “For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”

    I agree, it is coming, but it hasn’t come yet. The verse continues:

    35This is what the LORD says,

    he who appoints the sun
    to shine by day,
    who decrees the moon and stars
    to shine by night,
    who stirs up the sea
    so that its waves roar—
    the LORD Almighty is his name:
    36“Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,”
    declares the LORD,
    “will the descendants of Israel ever cease
    to be a nation before me.”
    37This is what the LORD says:

    “Only if the heavens above can be measured
    and the foundations of the earth below be searched out
    will I reject all the descendants of Israel
    because of all they have done,”
    declares the LORD.

    38“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when this city will be rebuilt for me from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. 39The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah. 40The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown, and all the terraces out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far as the corner of the Horse Gate, will be holy to the LORD. The city will never again be uprooted or demolished.”

    In fact, if you read Jeremiah 31 from beginning to end, you will find

    1. Jews will be gathered back into Israel
    2. A new covenant will be given where everyone will know the law intuitively
    3. The physical city will be rebuilt, and physical locations are given
    4. The city will never be destroyed

    Yeah, when you quote only part of it, you may think that Jesus started the new covenant. But then you think, was the physical city destroyed after Jesus? Yes, it was, after the Bar Kokhbar rebellion and Judaic wars. Well, I guess the time of the new covenant *hasn’t* come yet.

    I think both Christians and Jews agree that the prophecies where people wil turn their swords into ploughshares, etc. didn’t come about yet. The Messiah, when he *COMES*, will:

    1) Gather all the Jews back into Israel
    2) Rebuild a physical 3rd temple
    3) Usher in an era of world peace until the end of the world!

    You won’t be able to miss #3, don’t worry 🙂
    I think we are all agreed it’s not here yet. Jesus could be the potential Messiah. Jews had lots of potential Messiahs. But until he comes back and these things happen, we won’t know for sure. When Messiah comes, EVERYONE will know. We won’t be having these debates.

    The Jews looked for a Messiah who would be another leader of external religion and national salvation.

    What do you mean by this “external religion” or whatever?

    The Jewish idea of Messiah is a complex and spiritual one. What we do know is that the Messiah will

    * come from the davidic line through solomon
    * do 1-3 above

    Please, read this as a good overview to understand Jewish views of the Messiah:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_messianism#Views_of_Maimonides

    By the way, Bar Kokhba and Sabbatai Zvi were two messiah claimants who enjoyed much more success with Jews. And yet they probably are not the messiah either.

    God had something else in mind; something far deeper, more intimately connected to him.

    Let’s face it, this is just conjecture and interpretation. We don’t know what God had in mind. If you want to be an expert at interpreting scripture, you should also engage with the Jewish tradition of 2000 years of Torah study, at the very least read the commentary of Rashi, the “Guide to the Perplexed” and the Mishnah Torah by Maimonides. Then you can make your own interpretations being aware of the bigger conversation. That is why I am on a Christian blog discussing instead of just spouting atheist verses out of context 🙂 I want to make sure my ideas aren’t too off the wall and missed something obvious that Christians know. Likewise, you should read the authentic Jewish analysis of their own writings.

    He had something in mind that would fulfill all the sacrificial and ceremonial law. (Have you read the NT book of Hebrews?) He had something in mind that would change men’s and women’s hearts. And he had something in mind that would truly and finally address our deepest need, which has always been to be freed from sin and reconciled to God in a state of forgiveness forever.

    As an aside, I would like to say that Hebrews was written by someone somewhere between 60-65. We don’t know who wrote Hebrews, and the Church has traditionally ascribed it to Paul, but today this is generally rejected.

    I understand that you and Neil may feel some sort of thing that you are “sinners” and failing to live up to your own standards. Personally I think of myself as a pretty good person and if not for Christianity and Judaism I would have never thought I was someone depraved or hopelessly degenerate. I wonder what the term “sinner” means for you. To the Jews it means that you transgress God’s commandments. The atonement is also spelled out — go to the temple, do animal sacrifice. Do you know about the days of Yom Kippur and Rosh HaShanah? These are days of God’s judgment every year, and mercy. Do you know about Jewish ideas of gehennom? It is a purgatory where the soul is purified before going into heaven. Some Jews also believe in reincarnation, although it’s mostly Kabbalistic knowledge. You don’t have to learn much about that, in order to understand orthodox Jewish understanding of “teschuva” meaning atonement. And no you don’t need an intercessor. Jews dont believe God is an angry parent that is best dealt with by having his son take all the blame for you — they believe that God is loving and merciful. Tell me, God is merciful in this life, why would He not be merciful in every life? Why would He say after you died, “sorry, you didn’t believe in Jesus correctly like the Christians said you should … I guess you can’t be in my presence now and have to gnash your teeth for ever” … this is not the Jewish view at all. Original Judaism was all about rewards in this life. The 6th year would bring a treble harvest so you wouldn’t have to plant the 7th year, in THIS life. God gave you the gift before you even did anything!

    This new work of God was by no means the same as rabbinical Judaism, for the teachers had not anticipated it. Yet it was certainly on a consistent trajectory with all that God had done through the prophets to prepare for it. And that’s the key that you seem to miss. Jesus came to fulfill the prophets, but he opposed treating men’s teachings as if they were commandments of God. In other words, he regarded the Hebrew Scriptures as authoritative, but not the traditions surrounding those Scriptures.

    I don’t miss this key. I am saying it just *seems* consistent if you take the apostles’ word for it that Jesus rose from the dead, healed people, fed 5k people at a time, etc. Then people look back into the OT naturally, to find support for it. Did you know that even some of the greatest Jewish sages thought Bar Kokhba (who lived shortly after Jesus) was the actual Messiah? Rabbi Akiba, the greatest rabbi of his generation, thought Bar Kohkhba (name means: “Son of a Star”) was the Messiah, looking at verses such as Numbers 24:17 .

    15+ centuries later, Sabbateans ascribed lots of miracles to Shabbatai Zevi. Apparently this guy could call down fire from heaven. He won many believers from Jews and his kabbalistic teachings (which contradicted orthodox jewish understanding) were widely taught and followed. But then under threat of death he converted to Islam. For the next 200 years many Sabbateans still existed, persecuted by the Jews (sound familiar?) and some still exist to this day.

    The movement was defeated within the Jewish community. If Paul and other disciples of Jesus didn’t go to the other nations (the ones who had never heard about any of this, and who didn’t have God’s prophets telling them to never stray from the law), who knows if Christianity would have ever had a serious following, let alone 1 billion people.

    Please, read this and tell me what you think of it
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_the_Apostle_and_Judaism#Proselytizing_among_Jews

    Paul admits himself that he couldn’t really make much progress with the Jews, the very people Jesus expressly stated he came to save. What really happened was that the gentile nations of the world got Christianity, and when the Jews lived among them in exile, they constantly tried to get the Jews to accept “the truth”. They often persecuted them, sometimes burned their talmud, etc. But for 2000 years Jews wouldn’t do it. If Jesus is spiritually so powerful and sits at the right hand of God, how come his expressly stated mission about coming “only to the lost sheep of Israel” ultimately had less than a 1% success rate? This is not what the Messiah is supposed to do. I think this is a strong argument that what Christian ideas were not something that was intended for Jews by God’s Son.

    What happens is that after Jesus was crucified, the Nazarene sect kept meeting each other and never gave up hope. The claims evolved and Jesus eventually becomes more than the Messiah, he becomes claimed to be God himself, and people look back into the old testament and try to find support for it. We can see parallels today, with a sect within Chabad — they believe that the great Rabbi Menachem Shneerson, of blessed memory, is the true Messiah. As to be expected, they believe he will come back from the dead and finish everything. Some believe that he is just “hidden” right now. They make interesting arguments, such as that the United Nations was headquartered exactly in New York because that is where the Rebbe lived.

    Well, so what? Suppose that was what Jesus said. What difference does his opinion make?

    If Jesus was a man who mistakenly believed himself to be the Messiah, just as Sabbatai Zvi 1600 years later, then what he believes is not nearly as important as if he is who the Christians say he is. But realize that what today’s Christians think he is, is based on what was written about him later! Jesus wrote nothing himself. There is scant evidence of his life and ministry outside of the scriptures, all of whom were written by people with a vested interest in the idea that Jesus is the Messiah.

    I come back to what I asked you this morning:

    Here are four determinative questions for you.

    I will try to give some preliminary answers to them.

    First, a statement: you have a distinctly strong impression of what you think Christianity is according to the Bible.

    Depends on what you mean. I prefer to say that I think there are many versions of Christianity, but they share something in common. One of those things is that the first five books of the Bible were God’s Word to Israel on Mount Sinai. Certainly Genesis was. But since I think there are extremely good reasons to think that Genesis contains legends (flood, exodus) which the majority of scientists and historians think never literally happened, therefore I think it is unlikely that the Bible is the Word of God.

    Question One: Do you realize that the Christianity you think you know is not the Christianity of the Bible?

    There are many versions of Christianity. Do you realize that there are non trinitarians? There were also many sects that aren’t around anymore. So there is no one version that “I think I know”. I am open to all sorts of interpretations. Totally literal / fundamentalist on the one hand, and “Jesus was just a great moral teacher and nothing supernatural occurred” on the other. The first one at least has no slippery slope. They don’t back down — either the Bible is literally true or we are hopelessly lost as to what is meant by its contents.

    (As an aside, there was rampant persecution and execution due to religious beliefs, and it is important to note this because it shows that people weren’t free for hundreds of years to intellectually decide for themselves. The protestant Christianity you likely follow today might have been considered heretical somewhere else. I would have liked to see you espouse your views in that kind of environment.)

    Question Two: Do you realize that the questions you ask about biblical Christianity have been asked and answered before?

    Yes. But sadly I don’t see them being answered anywhere. If I saw atheists asking the questions I am (about the flood, exodus, etc.) and making the argument I am, I wouldn’t be debating so much. I would just watch videos. There should be a Quora for religion. But sadly there isn’t at the moment, so I have to discuss for myself.

    My argument is simple, as I said. I consider that the scientific and historical evidence against the flood, babel and exodus to be so strong, that it trumps the Christological argument which you keep mentioning, as well as even the Kuzari argument (check out my blog if you are interested, I think it’s an extremely strong argument for the Torah being given by God).

    Question Three: Do you or do you not want to know those answers?

    Yes!

    If you’re interested I can continue. If not, then please let us all know.

    Very interested. But please, if you have 5 minutes,

    1) Please follow the two links where I said “please look at this” and tell me what you think after reading them.

    2) Please quote what I said just like I did. I think this will get us somewhere rapidly 🙂

    Greg

  165. Greg, you wrote:

    I understand that you and Neil may feel some sort of thing that you are “sinners” and failing to live up to your own standards. Personally I think of myself as a pretty good person and if not for Christianity and Judaism I would have never thought I was someone depraved or hopelessly degenerate. I wonder what the term “sinner” means for you. To the Jews it means that you transgress God’s commandments.

    What do you mean that you “think of yourself as a pretty good person” and yet “if not for Christianity or Judaism [you] would never have thought [you were] someone hopelessly depraved or degenerate”? Which do you think is true about yourself?

    By the way, Christians also believe that the essence of sin is transgressing God’s commandments, the greatest of which -according to Jesus- is “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind” and the second is: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” At the root, all sin violates these two commandments.

    -Neil

  166. I started investigating and found lots of good reasons to think that the Bible is full of legends, and so far see no good reasons to think the Christological argument is sound (I believe the part about crucifixion which I think has ample historical evidence, not the resurrection.)

    You say this, but you haven’t even given one good reason for rejecting the Resurrection, nor have you dealt seriously with the historical argument for the Resurrection that I and others have outlined. You have either ignored the argument or blown it off with faulty comparisons. You’ve done this despite having just now advanced an argument for the historicity of God’s self-revelation at Sinai that is very similar in form and substance to the argument for the historicity of the Resurrection. I agree with your Sinai argument; I just don’t understand why you can’t see the parallel to the Resurrection argument.

    I think the “kuzari argument” is a strong argument, and yet I still think there must be something wrong with it, because I think the scientific and historical evidence against the flood, tower of babel and exodus stories is so strong, that we can conclude Genesis contains fictional stories.

    At this point I would ask you: why does the Word of God to Israel (which contains the law) also contain fictional stories?

    This is the argument that propels me in my mind to debate the way I do. I will tell you another thing: WLC doesn’t believe in Islam, and he argues the same way.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h51YwIMxtrQ

    Watch this debate between William Lane Craig and Jamal Badawi. WLC says that he will show

    1) there are good reasons to believe Christianity,
    2) but no good reasons to believe Islam.

    However, what he actually does largely talk about is that

    1) there are good reasons to believe Christianity,
    2B) there are reasons to believe Islam is false

    Notice the difference in (2). This style of argumentation is normal and to be expected. And this is my point regarding atheists and Christians.

    It would be very hard to prove a universal negative: there is no ball in this giant room, unless you search the whole room.

    Similarly, it is extremely hard to show that there are no good reasons to believe Islam, or Christianity, or anything else. Perhaps there is a good reason that people haven’t found or realized yet. Perhaps there was one long ago, but was forgotten because those who argued it were suppressed. Who knows.

    However, when you think something is the case (as WLC thinks Christianity is true), you give good reasons FOR it, and when you think something is not the case (as WLC thinks Islam is not entirely true), you give good reasons AGAINST it.

    Notice though how these reasons against X are formed. The steps are:

    1) Take part of what X says, call it Y
    2) Demonstrate why you don’t believe Y is true
    3) Therefore, you don’t believe X is wholly true.

    Often there is an additional step:

    4) Everyone who thinks X is infallible should now realize it’s not, and this is a slippery slope. Why do you believe the rest of X?

    However, believers in X, in this case Islam, will come up with apologetics:

    1) Sure, we agree that a literal reading of Y is not true.
    2) But what makes you think that Y should be read literally?
    3) Here are recent alternative interpretations of Y, which are at least possible.
    4) Therefore, we believe that, with more subtle understanding, X is completely true and fits well with reality, and there is no slippery slope at all.

    A committed and well-read Muslim could easily apply this argument against WLC’s arguments. That is the point of apologetics. In this case, a Muslim could say that William Lane Craig is not understanding the *real* meaning of the statements he cites as Islam’s contentions

    My contention is that this happens in normal human debate, whether it’s Christianity vs Islam, or Atheism vs Christianity.

    That is why I say that although atheists often get mired in long and entertaining discourses about stuff like, “is Christianity necessary for objective morality?” or the question of predestination, the central question they should be debating with a Christian is, “Is Christianity True?” And to debate this question, they should not say:

    “there are no good reasons to believe Christianity” — because they not really show that

    they should focus on the same things WLC focuses on when debating islam, which I called 2B: there are good reasons to believe Christianity is false.

    So in light of that, it won’t be easy for me to go on your turf and address the Christological argument. You would first have to make it in premise form so I can then address the premises. Can we do that?

    What is your refutation of the Christological argument? I have not seen anything even remotely convincing from you in this department. Maybe you don’t have time to write it down? I would understand that, for I don’t have much time these days myself. If that’s it, let me know — I can be patient — but just don’t claim that you have evaluated the Christological argument without giving any indication that you have actually done so. It comes off as evasive.

    yeah, let me take some time to address this in a way that I think will be more complete. But please put it in an easy to address form.

  167. Bill T:
    Essentially, his questions add up to “Please educate me in Christian theology and apologetics.” A forum like this isn’t the place to do that.

    Not just that, but if his questions were truly searching for ‘truth’, there might be some merit, but like the ole’ Jim Croce song, ‘you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask off the ole’ Lone Ranger’, and you don’t mess around with “trying to convince Greg” of the merits of the Christian faith since he’s already shown that he’s not interested!!!!!

  168. Neil – because it’s pretty obvious to me that I am a good person by my own understanding. I care about people. I try to help homeless people. I don’t do something to others which I wouldn’t want them to do to me. I try to be reasonable and fair (I hope you can see it in my discussions here, in the face of some conflict… maybe I can do more but I have limited time and knowledge about how to address heated debates).

    So no, there is nothing that would make me think I am not a good person. I read your article almost in its entirety. You say you feel that way and I can respect that. I don’t.

    I actually as a Jew took a long time to figure out whether I can have premarital sex, while everyone else (including many churchgoing Christians) who were just doing it. I try to follow the commandments — not to work on the sabbath day, not to light a fire on it. I took “do not cover your neighbor’s wife” to imply that I should do research on a porn star to make sure she wasn’t married when she was photographed, if I was to use her picture for certain things 🙂

    Why do I mention this? Because without Judaism, I wouldn’t even worry about these things. Many Christians don’t, despite Jesus saying, “go and sin no more”. They don’t seem to care about transgressing OT law. I have to care, because I am Jewish, and I think that if you accept Jesus and are Jewish that doesn’t mean you can ignore Jewish law. So Paul’s rebuke to Peter strikes me as wrong.

    I am getting off topic. My answer to you is that if I never knew about Judeo-Christian ideas, I wouldnt think *ANYTHING* I did was really horrendous, let alone that I myself am super degenerate and hopelessly fallen. By Jesus’ two commandments I am doing very well. In another place, Jesus cited several of the 10 commandments — what about those? Do you light a fire or do work on the 7th day? WHY??? If you tell me that you are concerned about being a sinner, then stop sinning (against OT law).

    Personally I think that is only important to you because you a Christian. I actually think if the Jews are right you have absolutely no obligation regarding the 10 commandments or the other 613, you just have to do the 7 noahide laws.

    I happen to agree with R. Emden,who in a remarkable apology for Christianity contained in his appendix to “Seder ‘Olam” [53] gives it as his opinion that the original intention of Jesus, and especially of Paul, was to convert only the Gentiles to the seven moral laws of Noah and to let the Jews follow the Mosaic law — which explains the apparent contradictions in the New Testament regarding the laws of Moses and the Sabbath.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_the_Apostle_and_Judaism#Proselytizing_among_Jews

  169. Steve,

    I believe you are right about that, too.

    And case in point for both of us. “…the original intention of Jesus, and especially of Paul, was to convert only the Gentiles to the seven moral laws of Noah and to let the Jews follow the Mosaic law…”

  170. Greg,

    Several people have concluded that discussion with you is unproductive. I’m starting a new topic on a new thread. I’m not going to shut anyone down here, because no one has done anything that calls for that to happen to them. The discussion may continue as it continues. Don’t be surprised, though, if a number of people just decide to back out of it, for reasons they have indicated above.

    I find that you are quick to jump to conclusions, such as for example, that there is a necessary chronological connection between Jeremiah 31:34 and 31:35; and that something about that connection disproves what God intended to do through his Messiah’s appearing. With that, you sweep aside everything that you might have come to understand about Christianity as a fulfillment of 31:31-34. That’s a premature and hasty way of cutting off discussion, in my view.

    I find it very confusing, too, that you take the side of a believing Jew and of an agnostic/atheist at the same time. You come across less as one searching for truth and more as one who likes to debate and will grab any handy point within reach to refute the other person, even if he doesn’t believe that point himself.

    What do I mean by “external” religion? Actions without accompanying heart. Hypocrisy. Legalism.

    I am not so ignorant of the proselytizing of the Jews as you seem to think I am. I am also (I assure you!) not ignorant of Jewish views of Messiah. I have already told you that if you read Wright, you’ll understand how these Jewish views actually function to validate the truth of Jesus’ claims. I’m not the only here to have said the same.

    It’s like what you’ve done with the Flood issue. You have a position that you put forward for debate: The Flood/The Jewish view of Messiah is inconsistent with the truth of Christianity. Everyone responds. We explain how it is consistent with Christian belief. You continue the debate by saying The Flood/The Jewish view of Messiah is inconsistent with the truth of Christianity. Everyone responds. We explain how it is consistent with Christian belief. You continue the debate by saying The Flood/The Jewish view of Messiah is inconsistent with the truth of Christianity. Everyone responds. We explain how it is consistent with Christian belief. You continue the debate by saying …

    It gets boring.

    Your aside on the authorship of Hebrews was old news to any student of the Bible. At the same time it sounds suspiciously like a paraphrase of the first few paragraphs of the article on Hebrews in your beloved Wikipedia. And also at the same time it is completely irrelevant. I asked if you had read Hebrews, and you answered by telling me something about who wrote it. What about the content??

    You say,

    I don’t miss this. I am saying it just *seems* consistent if you take the apostles’ word for it that Jesus rose from the dead, healed people, fed 5k people at a time, etc.

    I think you do miss it. You had said that Christianity was inconsistent with Judaism in the sense under discussion there. I wrote and showed that it was not. You wrote back and said in essence, “I don’t miss that Christianity is consistent with Judaism as you have explained it. But I am saying that Christianity just *seems* consistent with Judaism.” That is to say, Christianity just is the belief that Jesus rose from the dead, healed, did other miracles, and etc. and etc. beyond what you wrote. If that is consistent with Judaism, then your charge that Christianity is inconsistent with Judaism is wrong, and you ought to acknowledge it as such.

    It’s like this: I believe A is consistent with B. You believe A is inconsistent with B. I demonstrate that A is consistent with B; and you answer, “I don’t miss this. I am saying that it just *seems* consistent if you believe A.” No. If A is consistent with B, then it is consistent with B.

    What on earth difference does it make that other men were thought to be Messiah? (Read Wright!)

    The movement was defeated within the Jewish community. If Paul and other disciples of Jesus didn’t go to the other nations (the ones who had never heard about any of this, and who didn’t have God’s prophets telling them to never stray from the law), who knows if Christianity would have ever had a serious following, let alone 1 billion people.

    Do you stray from the law?

    I asked if you wanted to know the answer to how the OT saints were saved through Christ. I note that you didn’t answer. It is specifically dealt with in the Bible, but I’m not giving you the reference if you don’t want to know.

    Now you ask,

    If Jesus is spiritually so powerful and sits at the right hand of God, how come his expressly stated mission about coming “only to the lost sheep of Israel” ultimately had less than a 1% success rate?

    That is also quite specifically explained in the NT. Do you want to know what it says?

    I am not quite believing you when you say you want to learn. You say you do, but then you have this habit of reaching for the nearest handy refutation whether you believe it or not. You parry away my recommendation that you read Hebrews. You express no interest in finding out where your question about OT saints is answered. You repeat your allegations (the Flood, the Jewish view of Messiah) as if you held all authority on the subject, not interacting with our responses to those issues. You tell me how I ought to interact with you (quoting you so we can “get somewhere … rapidly”), but you pay no heed to really substantive things like what I have just listed.

    I have allowed your questions to direct my blog posting here for a couple of weeks. I’m no longer doing that, because I have lost confidence of making progress, rapidly or otherwise.

  171. Greg,
    You wrote:

    because it’s pretty obvious to me that I am a good person by my own understanding. I care about people. I try to help homeless people. I don’t do something to others which I wouldn’t want them to do to me. I try to be reasonable and fair (I hope you can see it in my discussions here, in the face of some conflict… maybe I can do more but I have limited time and knowledge about how to address heated debates).

    First, I’m sure that you think you try to keep the law, but isn’t trying to keep the law a very different thing than keeping it? For instance, if a child molester protested in court that he had truly “tried” to not molest children, would he be convicted? Of course. In fact, all of the commandments are very clear and direct statements: “You shall X” or “You shall not X”. Where in the Torah does God say that trying is the same thing as keeping? Indeed, he seems to say everywhere precisely the opposite: “Keep my laws and my judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them” (Lev. 18:5). Or read Deut 28:15-68 of which this is a sample:

    However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you: You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.

    I see no reference at all in the Torah to the idea that trying to obey the law is the same as obeying it. Do you? If not, then are you not under God’s curse, as specified in Deuteronomy 28 and throughout the Old Testament?

    Second, I question whether you (or any of us) actually does try to obey the law. For instance, you say

    I try to follow the commandments — not to work on the sabbath day, not to light a fire on it.

    Now this is almost silly. How is it possible to “try” to do something that is so easy to do or not do? For instance, if I offered you $100,000 to do no work at all on some particular Sabbath, would you do any work at all? Of course not! What about for $10,000? Or $1000? I think I might even refrain from work for $100. So what does it mean when you work on the Sabbath despite your belief that God commands you not to? It means that you value obeying God less than $100. $100. That is apparently how little you (and I) value the commands of the God of the universe. Why do you (and I) love God so little? And what makes you think that if we love God so little that we are keeping the greatest commandment to “Love him with your wohle heart, mind, and strength”, let alone the other lesser commandments?

    -Neil

  172. To sum up:

    Several people in addition to myself have concluded that these discussions are going nowhere. I want to make it clear that whoever decides at this point to drop out of conversation with you, Greg, does so without taint of fault for failing to answer any questions or objections you might raise. They are not doing it on account of inability to answer your questions. They are doing it because they believe it’s time finally to stop.

    Anyone who wants to remain in conversation is of course welcome to do so.

  173. Tom, that’s fine. It’s always been the case – I am not forcing anyone to do anything. You know exactly what conflicts I want to resolve and what I am driven by, but it doesn’t mean anyone in particular has to stick around and help me with it.

    I hope I answered your questions:

    Question Three: Do you or do you not want to know those answers?

    Yes!

    If you’re interested I can continue. If not, then please let us all know.

    Very interested. But please, if you have 5 minutes,

    1) Please follow the two links where I said “please look at this” and tell me what you think after reading them.

    2) Please quote what I said just like I did. I think this will get us somewhere rapidly

    Greg

    You asked if I wanted to know what it says. That was buried in 10 other comments, to which I responded. First of all, YES, I do want to know. Secondly, why would you think I didn’t? You again seem to think that I am lying about my motives or being disingenuous, despite my clearly telling you my intentions over and over, including in the thread where we both got on the same page, I thought.

    To summarize:
    1) I explained that I *was* a Christian
    2) But then, at 20, found problems and decided to continue investigating
    3) The problems included the strong evidence that stories in the OT were legends (flood, exodus), as many scientists and historians have consensus on
    4) To a lesser extent, the problems arose because I studied Judaism more. To me these problems are smaller because I *am* aware that Christians think things are consistent. Jews emphatically do not, and most of them are shocked when a Jew converts to Christianity. In the last 2000 years, very few converted despite lots of worldly reasons to do so. That should tell you something — it certainly tells me something.
    5) I am aware of the Christological argument. I am also aware that there are LOTS of different arguments, interpretations, points of view.
    6) What I am doing is no different than you would do with Islam, save for one thing — you quickly withdraw and go back to your Christian community. I am staying and trying to get as much info as I can for how people deal with 3 and 4.
    7) People seem to be quite adept at dealing with 4, mainly by the usual technique, which is to say to any problematic verse: “well, how do YOU know that is the right interpretation? I can take some here and take some there and spin my own story, and it makes Judaism and Christianity consistent.” I’m sorry but your method of interpretation does not appear consistent, but rather appears biased towards a particular view. This is to be expected, and doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. But cutting out parts of chapters immediately before & after to show that the messianic age is already here, while being unwilling to consider a 20 verse from God Himself that says “never abandon My decrees and ordinances”, “My law is for ever”, “that prophet or dreamer tried to turn you away from the LAWS of God, he should be stoned” … is not consistent.
    8) I have not seen good rebuttals to problems of type 3 at all, and considering this the main motivating factor for my engaging with Christians, that is not encouraging. With the flood, I think our takeaway was “Genesis 11 genealogies must not have been literal.” Do you see any other way to have Genesis remain wholly true? I happen to think that Genesis 11 genealogies are in a format that is intended not to be taken any other way than literally true. The “telescoping genealogy” thing is a nice try to reconcile Luke with it, but it’s clear as day what they are saying, to me. I can respect that you don’t think so, but don’t tell me there are “lots” of ways Genesis could still be true. There is just one that you will accept: Genesis 11 genealogy section is false. Correct me if I am wrong.
    9) I have not seen any rebuttals to problems of type 3 about the exodus. There is no outside evidence of the 10 plagues, Egypt’s army being decimated in the red sea, 3 million people leaving egypt, walking in the desert for 40 years, engaging in lots of fights, and then all dying in the desert while their children enter Israel. The Bible claims that all nations heard about this, and respected it. In fact, Egyptian history contains no corroboration of this account, while containing much smaller things like a few slaves running away. Furthermore, Egypt was fighting the hittites and was able to continue fighting them to a standstill despite supposedly having practically no army, having lost 3 million people as slaves (keep in mind they hardly were that big to begin with), and no one ever noticed anything. I have seen one attempt at sort of producing some proof: the Ipuwer papyrus. It’s sort of kind of similar to what happened. Egyptian history, Babylonian, Hittite is all silent about these MAJOR events, about Egypt one of the greatest kingdoms of the time.

    In short when I am faced with arguments like the above I find them convincing, and that undermines the whole Judaeo-Christian framework for me. That is why I am interested to know how Christians deal with these issues.

    But perhaps it’s better for me to just leave people alone on this blog and realize I’m not probably going to find definitive answers here. I have already learned a lot about how to conduct a proper discourse, now I just need the discipline to do it. If anyone does have answers to the above, please let me know.

  174. Steve K.:
    I’ve been away…did I miss anything?

    Hi Steve,
    Just almost the whole thread. I was away for about a week myself.

  175. Neil:

    Now this is almost silly. How is it possible to “try” to do something that is so easy to do or not do? For instance, if I offered you $100,000 to do no work at all on some particular Sabbath, would you do any work at all? Of course not! What about for $10,000? Or $1000? I think I might even refrain from work for $100. So what does it mean when you work on the Sabbath despite your belief that God commands you not to? It means that you value obeying God less than $100. $100. That is apparently how little you (and I) value the commands of the God of the universe. Why do you (and I) love God so little? And what makes you think that if we love God so little that we are keeping the greatest commandment to “Love him with your wohle heart, mind, and strength”, let alone the other lesser commandments?

    That is a twisted analogy. If you paid me $1,000,000,000,000 to blaspheme against God I wouldn’t do it, and if you paid me this money to work on the sabbath I most likely wouldn’t do it.

    It is your Christian doctrine of original sin that causes you to believe in Christianity. But this is completely different than Jewish ideas. I really suggest you look at them, I already outlined them to Tom.

    “Teschuva” – atonement
    “Yom Kippur” – day of mercy actually!
    “Rosh HaShanah” – when judgment is given

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom_Kippur

    You are correct in saying that pretty much everyone sins. Yet in your own Bible some people are described as sinless and blameless, who lived before Jesus (such as the parents of Zachariah). How could that be?

    Because Jewish law teaches us that people can be cleansed. As I said, God is not an angry parent that is best not dealt with except through his son. If God is merciful in this life why do you think He is not merciful in the next? What is mercy to you?

    In short, Jews don’t need an intercessor, never have. If you think they do, then how do you think all the “righteous” Jews of the past got saved without knowing anything about Jesus? How about all the righteous sons of Noah, and Noah himself? This idea that we are *all* fallen from Adam and therefore we all sin is actually not that easy to match with reality. Think of 1 babies who unfortunately died at 1 week. Are they degenerate sinners who need Jesus? You tell me. How does your “we are all under sin” factor into that?

  176. Gregory Magarshak:

    If anyone does have answers to the above, please let me know.

    C’mon, man. This is what I’m talking about Tom, Neil, Bill T., Bill R., Victoria, Charlie, Melisssa, JAD, Steve K. and all others. What will it take to satisfy?

  177. Greg, you write:

    That is a twisted analogy. If you paid me $1,000,000,000,000 to blaspheme against God I wouldn’t do it, and if you paid me this money to work on the sabbath I most likely wouldn’t do it.

    When you said that you “tried” to not work on the Sabbath or light a fire on the Sabbath, I assumed that occasionally, you did do these things, even thought you believe they violate God’s commands. I’m assuming that no one is paying you for breaking God’s commands, so why exactly do you do it? What do you want more than to obey God? If you really loved him with your whole haert, soul, and strength, what would you desire more than to please him?

    It is your Christian doctrine of original sin that causes you to believe in Christianity. But this is completely different than Jewish ideas. I really suggest you look at them, I already outlined them to Tom.

    No actually, I’m not at all interested in original sin here. I’m interested in your own personal behavior and whether you keep God’s commands.

    In short, Jews don’t need an intercessor, never have.

    What does Moses do in Exodus 32:9-14, where we read:

    “I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “O LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

    or in Numbers 14:11-20?

    The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.” Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it….Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: ‘The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.” The LORD replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked.”

    As to how Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the Old Testament believers were saved, here is a passage from Romans 4 that might interest you:

    What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

    The entire chapter of Romans 4 (or Galatians 3) are worth reading since they deal with precisely this issue you raised. But I am more interested in your personally? Do you keep God’s commandments or not? And if you do not, to what extent do you violate them? Are you under the curse that Deuteronomy (and the entire OT) describes for breaking God’s commandments? If not, why not?\

    -Neil

  178. In fact, if you read Jeremiah 31 from beginning to end, you will find

    1. Jews will be gathered back into Israel
    2. A new covenant will be given where everyone will know the law intuitively
    3. The physical city will be rebuilt, and physical locations are given
    4. The city will never be destroyed

    Yeah, when you quote only part of it, you may think that Jesus started the new covenant. But then you think, was the physical city destroyed after Jesus? Yes, it was, after the Bar Kokhbar rebellion and Judaic wars. Well, I guess the time of the new covenant *hasn’t* come yet.

    Now we have the ultimate test of whether you will accept the errors or your ways or complain again. You remind me of my good old days debating anti -missionaries over Messiah “truth”. Lets just use the very verse you used to prove to you that your teachers are wrong. Observe and this is from a JEWISH translation.

    Yes – you are right – when you quote part of it you don’t get the truth. Heres what you left out

    29. But each man shall die for his iniquity; whoever eats the unripe grapes- his teeth shall be set on edge.

    So what does The Lord say? men shall die for their iniquity. But wait a minute didn’t you just quote this passage and say it was the same time period?

    33. And no longer shall one teach his neighbor or [shall] one [teach] his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know Me from their smallest to their greatest, says the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will no longer remember.

    Now kindly tell us how God is going to forgive “all” from the greatest to the smallest of their iniquities and sin and at the same time “every man shall die for his iniquity”?

    Which verse is lying?………………

    Answer? None because you are wrong. the first time period relates to the return BY THE REMNANT (verse 6) from captivity of jeremiah’s time and the second looks to the full redemption of Israel

    Problem for you? at that first return the passage states

    For this is the covenant that I will form with the house of Israel AFTER THOSE DAYS,

    Whats that? The covenant will be delivered after the return from the captivity of Jeremiah’s day when those who sin will die for their iniquity but BEFORE the ultimate return at the end where their iniquities will no longer be remembered.

    Its the only logical reading of the text. the covenant is delivered and when it is accepted (since a covenant is NEVER a one way offer)
    it ushers in the future condition of no one dying for their sins because they are all forgiven and forgotten.

    and go figure – a new covenant that makes Gentiles seek after the ensign “whose rest shall be glorious” appears at that fulness of time.

    You see the one most consistent sign of Messiah is the one anti missionary Jews always leave out -The worldwide seeking of an ensign to a Jewish man. No one fits the bill but the carpenter from Galilee.

    but if not then you can kindly explain to us all how God forgives iniquity, remembers it no more but you die from it at the same time.

  179. Greg,

    You keep complaining that no one is addressing your points but we are and you just keep ignoring us. Take for instance your comment to Neil.

    If you think they do, then how do you think all the “righteous” Jews of the past got saved without knowing anything about Jesus? How about all the righteous sons of Noah, and Noah himself?

    and with Tom here:

    But in that case, if Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon and all the righteous Jews who are called Righteous by God Himself … how did they get saved, if

    1) They were under original sin
    2) They never heard that you have to get saved “through Jesus”

    How do the Christians explain the salvation of these people?

    When asked by Tom if you wanted to know the answers you ignored him.

    and yet in in comment #70 we had this interaction:

    How do Christians believe that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon and all other the righteous Jews living before Jesus were saved if “there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved” and “no one comes to the Father except through me?” Clearly not every Jew knew the name of Jesus. Even after Jesus’ death on the cross, people lived all over the world who never heard about Jesus. So either 1) they were saved somehow, in which case I want to know why we can’t have that deal today, or 2) they weren’t saved, in which case I would ask about how King David and the patriarchs got saved.

    This whole point is dealt with in Romans 4 and Hebrews 11. Everyone is saved through faith in God even those who lived before the incarnation. Faith in God is trusting who He is, what He has done and what He will do. You are forgetting that if Jesus really is God you are rejecting God. You are thinking of just a man on the cross but think about what it means for God to be on the cross. Then the effect of the cross reverberates through the whole of space and time.

    You did not respond. That tells me that you are not acting in good faith. If you had questions about what I wrote you should have asked them, instead of ignoring what I wrote and then bringing the question up later as if no one has ever offered an answer.

  180. but if not then you can kindly explain to us all how God forgives iniquity, remembers it no more but you die from it at the same time.

    First of all, if you showed me that the Bible contains two verses which in their intended meaning are absolutely contradictory to one another, regarding the same time period, or whatever, then I would consider that evidence for atheism (that the Bible is just people writing stuff).

    So I don’t see why you are equating me to anti-missionary jews lol. And what’s with this hatred of anti-missionary Jews telling you how their own verses have been interpreted for 3000 years? How would you like it if Islam came to you and said that Jesus wasn’t really killed on the cross, that only a likeness of it was shown to you, and tried to convert Christians to Islam? So stop the hate 🙂

    Now, lets deal with it. Although keep the above point in mind.

    Yes – you are right – when you quote part of it you don’t get the truth. Heres what you left out

    29. But each man shall die for his iniquity; whoever eats the unripe grapes- his teeth shall be set on edge.

    So what does The Lord say? men shall die for their iniquity. But wait a minute didn’t you just quote this passage and say it was the same time period?

    33. And no longer shall one teach his neighbor or [shall] one [teach] his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know Me from their smallest to their greatest, says the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will no longer remember.

    Now kindly tell us how God is going to forgive “all” from the greatest to the smallest of their iniquities and sin and at the same time “every man shall die for his iniquity”?

    Gee you consider that addition of verse 29 “including the whole context”? Let’s include the WHOLE relevant context then, a little further back, like, say, the BEGINNING of the thought that INCLUDES verse 29

    23 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “When I bring them back from captivity,[c] the people in the land of Judah and in its towns will once again use these words: ‘The LORD bless you, you prosperous city, you sacred mountain.’

    People are in captivity. The prophet said that God will bring them back to the land of Judah and people in its towns will once again bless the city in God’s name.

    24 People will live together in Judah and all its towns—farmers and those who move about with their flocks. 25 I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”

    Yay!

    26 At this I awoke and looked around. My sleep had been pleasant to me.

    This is Jeremiah speaking presumably. That sure is a nice dream, especially when you are in captivity isn’t it?

    27 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals.

    Offspring. I guess we are talking about a generation that is coming soon. In any case, offspring implies distinction from ancestors.

    28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the LORD.

    People did bad things, God brought nations to overthrow them. So in the future, God will watch over Israel and the people living there, so that they will prosper.

    29 “In those days people will no longer say,

    ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes,
    and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’

    I WONDER WHY YOU LEFT THIS PART OUT.

    People in Babylonian captivity were saying, “our parents sinned, and now we are paying the price.” As is said in Deuteronomy will happen if … guess what … Israel *DOESN’T* follow the law.

    The children are currently being punished for the parents’ sins.

    30 Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge.

    This is clearly in contrast to the PREVIOUS verse (the one you left out). In the previous verse, the children’s teeth are set on edge for the parents have eaten sour grapes. So in this one, children will NOT anymore pay for their parents’ sins. If the parents eat sour grapes, their own teeth will be set on edge.

    I agree that the use of the word “everyone” seems (in a super literal interpretation) to be extreme. But if you had included the very previous verse it would make sense. If those who don’t return to Israel continue to sin, their own teeth may be set on edge.

    That was easy, wasn’t it? In fact, the whole chapter is about Israel returning to their land.

    Using your super literal interpretation, then, how can Jesus be God’s firstborn son if the same Jeremiah chapter 31 says:

    because I am Israel’s father,
    and Ephraim is my firstborn son.

    Clearly your attempt with the “anti missionary jews” failed. But even if it didn’t, if the atheists are right this is kind of like people arguing about the matrix 2 vs matrix 1 discontinuities. If the matrix trilogy is fictional, who cares? Trying to show contradictions in Judaism isn’t going to help you prove Christianity.

  181. Greg,

    You wrote this earlier and I think it may be a major source of your troubles especially re your points 3, 7.

    Depends on what you mean. I prefer to say that I think there are many versions of Christianity, but they share something in common. One of those things is that the first five books of the Bible were God’s Word to Israel on Mount Sinai.

    Why must we believe that the first five books of the Bible were God’s Word to Israel on Mount Sinai. The bible doesn’t say that.

    Your point 9 has been answered repeatedly.

  182. Melissa: i did not ignore him. See comment 188.

    It is not easy to talk to 10 people at once. Once you started numbering your points I think I have addressed every single one of them, and have asked you to look at some links (I was pointed at entire books, all I asked is that you look at a couple paragraphs on simpletoremember and wikipedia). I think it’s fair to expect you to likewise respond to me by quoting what I said and addressing it. Otherwise what is the point of me writing it, and sending you links to information backing up what I say, if you don’t care?

    How is responding to you point by point, including detailed explanations, illustrations and references, and LINKING YOU to pages which I specifically ASK YOU to read, and asking you a specific question to resolve our point of contention, not arguing in good faith? When you therefore do not mention my link or my question, and only quote me on something and attack a straw man and something I didn’t say, I think I am entitled to say

    Melissa, I am kind of tired of writing long detailed answers to each of your points and then notice that in the subsequent answer you just ignore what I said and attack straw men. I have dealt with everything and I would encourage you to go back and actually *quote* my words on point #4 when you are answering point #4

  183. Greg,

    You wrote this earlier and I think it may be a major source of your troubles especially re your points 3, 7 and 9.

    Depends on what you mean. I prefer to say that I think there are many versions of Christianity, but they share something in common. One of those things is that the first five books of the Bible were God’s Word to Israel on Mount Sinai.

    Why must we believe that the first five books of the Bible were God’s Word to Israel on Mount Sinai. The bible doesn’t say that.

    Aha, great. Now we are talking.

    So you do not believe that the first five books of the Bible were God’s word to Israel on Mount Sinai? Do you mean that part of it could have been written when they were away from Mount Sinai? Okay, how about God’s word to Israel which was all authoritative and written down before they entered the land of Israel?

    Most Christians do. You are a Christian. Therefore I assumed that you did.

  184. Greg,

    In reference to your point 7.

    I’m sorry but your method of interpretation does not appear consistent, but rather appears biased towards a particular view. This is to be expected, and doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. But cutting out parts of chapters immediately before & after to show that the messianic age is already here, while being unwilling to consider a 20 verse from God Himself that says “never abandon My decrees and ordinances”, “My law is for ever”, “that prophet or dreamer tried to turn you away from the LAWS of God, he should be stoned” … is not consistent.

    I’m presuming you’re still referring to Deuteronomy 13 here and I have dealt with this passage over, and over and over again. Just because you don’t like the answer doesn’t change that. Deuteronomy 13:

    If prophets or those who divine by dreams appear among you and promise you omens or portents, and the omens or the portents declared by them take place, and they say, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (whom you have not known) ‘and let us serve them’, you must not heed the words of those prophets or those who divine by dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you indeed love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. The Lord your God you shall follow, him alone you shall fear, his commandments you shall keep, his voice you shall obey, him you shall serve, and to him you shall hold fast. But those prophets or those who divine by dreams shall be put to death for having spoken treason against the Lord your God—who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery—to turn you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

    Christians believe that Jesus was God so I’m still not sure why you think this passage is an issue. Also Jesus said he came to fulfil the law.

    If Jews are supposed to be living according to the decrees and statutes exactly as stated in the pentateuch they are in trouble. Even they don’t think that, they believe they need to follow the law in a way that is consistent with their context don’t they?

  185. Greg,

    Okay, how about God’s word to Israel which was all authoritative and written down before they entered the land of Israel?

    What do you mean by God’s word? That he dictated it to Moses?

  186. Neil, I’m glad we’re still on topic with our thing 🙂

    I will answer your questions in a different order, because I think it will highlight my reasons better.

    “It is your Christian doctrine of original sin that causes you to believe in Christianity. But this is completely different than Jewish ideas. I really suggest you look at them, I already outlined them to Tom.”

    No actually, I’m not at all interested in original sin here. I’m interested in your own personal behavior and whether you keep God’s commands.

    I was referring to your essay. The main motivation for you saying we are desperate sinners, etc. is related to the doctrine of original sin, isn’t it? Imagine if there was no such doctrine. Would you still say EVERYONE is a desperate deranged individual? Maybe you would not be happy with your own behavior somehow, but to say this about everyone including people you never met? Desperately wicked, really? Do you really believe everyone is radically terrible? I wouldn’t think that about humanity.

    Without Judaism and Christianity, I doubt most people would.

    Greg, you write:

    “That is a twisted analogy. If you paid me $1,000,000,000,000 to blaspheme against God I wouldn’t do it, and if you paid me this money to work on the sabbath I most likely wouldn’t do it.”

    When you said that you “tried” to not work on the Sabbath or light a fire on the Sabbath, I assumed that occasionally, you did do these things, even thought you believe they violate God’s commands. I’m assuming that no one is paying you for breaking God’s commands, so why exactly do you do it? What do you want more than to obey God? If you really loved him with your whole haert, soul, and strength, what would you desire more than to please him?

    That is correct. This is because, as I have explained to Steve Drake in the previous thread, I don’t know what God expects from me. If I knew 100% that God appeared to my ancestors on mount sinai, and made a covenant with us which included me, then I would become an extremely observant religious Jew. If God appeared to me personally and told me to do something, and I knew 100% that this was God, then I would do it.

    But since I don’t, I just do it because Judaism *might* be true. I put in effort to not transgress the commandments too much so I don’t have to spend as much time purifying myself in the afterlife. But I am not perfect.

    If Christianity is right, then the situation really sucks for 99.9999% of people. The ones who never knew Jesus or his message … one little sin and byebye? Or is there atonement for those sins apart from Jesus? If yes, then bingo, welcome to the non christian conception of atonement. Why do people need to become Christian? Basically, which is it? Are all the people who never heard of Christianity out of luck? Or is there another way to be cleansed of sins?

    In short, Jews don’t need an intercessor, never have.

    What does Moses do in Exodus 32:9-14, where we read:

    This is a completely different passage. As I said, you should ask rabbis these questions and engage with Jewish thought. I could point you to Rashi’s commentary on this verse and all other verses. My response would be like the Christian response when they aren’t an authority on a particular area.

    My *guess* would be that Moses argued with God similarly to how Abraham argued with the angels who were going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. “Far be it for you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

    14 Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

    Also read the reason that God brings the flood

    6:5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
    6:6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
    6:7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

    but then God says he will never bring the flood again after realizing that yeah people are evil, but that’s because people are young

    8:21 And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth ; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

    As to how Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the Old Testament believers were saved, here is a passage from Romans 4 that might interest you:

    What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

    I don’t get it, I’m sorry. Can you tell me briefly what happens to people who lived before Jesus was born? If there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved, then how did they get saved? It seems to me that the idea of being saved through Jesus raises a serious question about the fate of the unevangelized. If they have a chance to be saved apart from knowing about Jesus, and enter the Kingdom of Heaven, can’t we have the same chance? I just don’t get it.

    The entire chapter of Romans 4 (or Galatians 3) are worth reading since they deal with precisely this issue you raised. But I am more interested in your personally? Do you keep God’s commandments or not? And if you do not, to what extent do you violate them? Are you under the curse that Deuteronomy (and the entire OT) describes for breaking God’s commandments? If not, why not?\

    The curse was a collective blessing and curse on the nation. I already told you regarding the commandments thing. I hope that explains it to you.

    Just out of curiosity, why do you think you were so radically deranged before you discovered Christianity?

  187. Melissa: I mean that God meant it to be a revelation to all of Israel, God dictated it to Moses, Moses wrote it down, put it in the ark of the covenant so the Levites would read it every 7 years to Israel. It contains the truth about how the world came about, about their ancestors, and the previous covenants with Noah and Abraham. And it contains the details of the covenant with Israel, including laws that they should follow forever, and many other things. In particular includes the book of Genesis, which contains the flood story, and exodus story.

  188. First of all, if you showed me that the Bible contains two verses which in their intended meaning are absolutely contradictory to one another, regarding the same time period, or whatever, then I would consider that evidence for atheism (that the Bible is just people writing stuff).

    and I would consider it evidence that your assumptions on time are incorrect but then that would be an intellectually honest approach that you haven’t shown much stomach for.

    So I don’t see why you are equating me to anti-missionary jews lol. And what’s with this hatred of anti-missionary Jews telling you how their own verses have been interpreted for 3000 years?

    That won’t work. I saw that coming which is why I used a jewish translation. So its theirs not mine. I have no hatred of anti-missionaries. I merely said they and you were DEMONSTRABLY were wrong. You are doing that hand waving thing you do when you are a caught with one of your points being blown sky high.

    I WONDER WHY YOU LEFT THIS PART OUT.

    People in Babylonian captivity were saying, “our parents sinned, and now we are paying the price.” As is said in Deuteronomy will happen if … guess what … Israel *DOESN’T* follow the law.

    I guess I should now ask why you didn’t quote Jeremiah 30 because chapters didn’t exist. You are being quite silly now. Do you really think people here are so stupid that they can’t see that the verse you included does absolutely nada – nothing – zip – to change the fact that the verse plainly states that people would die for their iniquity? You are flailing helplessly and everyone reading this can see it.

    I agree that the use of the word “everyone” seems (in a super literal interpretation) to be extreme. But if you had included the very previous verse it would make sense. If those who don’t return to Israel continue to sin, their own teeth may be set on edge.

    That was easy, wasn’t it? In fact, the whole chapter is about Israel returning to their land.

    well of course it was about Israel returning. Now are you done playing strawman and again do you think the readers here are so daft that they won’t see you are trying distract from the point that nails you to the floor on this.

    And of course it was easy because not answering a question always is.

    Has nothing to do with being hyper literal . In one verse God says he will forgive and remember no more their iniquities and sins and in the other its says they would die for their iniquity.

    It s not just the word all but the greatest to the smallest that leaves you overwhelmed to logically answer the question. The passage quite obviously is referring to two different time periods. One immediately coming as the return of the jews to their land after the captivity of Jeremiah’s time and a future redemption. Of course that leaves you with a truth that as the movie would say – you just can’t handle. That is – a new covenant offered in the second temple period. Wonder what covenant that could be?

    Clearly your attempt with the “anti missionary jews” failed.

    Clearly you are upset and making emotional comments because you can’t answer the clear meaning of the text. You have no knowledge whatsoever of my other discussions outside of this blog. No more running around to other issues. Answer the question.

    How can this be the same period in time if in one states Jews will die in israel for their iniquities and the other states that they will all obey and their sins and iniquites will be remembered no more.

    Again no more running around. We have answered many of your questions its time you stop using this blog for your own diatribes and start doing some answering. Tom has it as a policy not to close any discussion but the participants here can shut it down themselves and insist that you stop dancing and answer the questions put to you. We share part of this community.

  189. Greg,

    It is not easy to talk to 10 people at once. Once you started numbering your points I think I have addressed every single one of them, and have asked you to look at some links (I was pointed at entire books, all I asked is that you look at a couple paragraphs on simpletoremember and wikipedia).

    No, you have not addressed the points. You have continued to fork off into tangents which is what you will see if you look at the original points. Most of you arguments rest on a couple main points which I have shown are false and yet you have ignored that and continued with your arguments as if they are still valid.

    Most of your points rely on assuming that the Jewish authorities at the time of Jesus were correct in their interpretation Jewish scripture. You have rested this on the foundation that only the official Jewish leaders have the authority to interpret the Hebrew scripture. I have shown where that is called into question in the old testament. Therefore unless you have something else to base that belief on, as far as I’m concerned all your points that rely on this have been dealt with.

    If you have other points that do not rely on this that I have not addressed please set them out clearly.

  190. Melissa: When I was talking to you, I used Deuteronomy 13 to illustrate that Jews were supposed to follow God’s law for ever, and not listen to Paul’s or any other dreamer’s interpretation of it.

    Here let me give a fuller case that the law is for ever, and the Jews knew this at the time of Jesus:

    Exodus 31:16
    Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.
    Exodus 31:17
    It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.

    Are Christians children of Israel, or not? Anyway, Jews are. So even if they turn Christian, they have to keep the sabbath don’t they. No lighting the stove! Sorry paul.

    Leviticus 16:29
    And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:

    Leviticus 16:31
    It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.

    What part of for ever means we don’t have to do it anymore

    Also in leviticus:

    Leviticus 23:31
    Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

    No work.

    Exodus 12:14
    And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.

    Exodus 12:17
    And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.

    Passover should be celebrated for ever.

    Deuteronomy 11:1
    Therefore thou shalt love the LORD thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway.

    Okay let’s just use this one. How would you respond if you were a Jew and disciples of Jesus came to you and said,

    “the old covenant is now obsolete, and will soon disappear”
    “circumcision is now unnecessary”
    “we now are dead to the law”
    “eating pork is fine, all things are clean now”
    “The sabbath day is unnecessary”
    “accept Jesus as your lord and savior”
    “Jesus is God”

    “don’t worry guys, we have the right interpretation. A man is justified by faith, apart from works of the law. The old covenant is obsolete. Yeah, I know you haven’t met Jesus yourself, but we’re telling you now. Yup, and don’t bother asking your sages because God has hidden the truth from them and revealed it to babes.” – Signed paul

  191. Greg,

    I mean that God meant it to be a revelation to all of Israel, God dictated it to Moses, Moses wrote it down, put it in the ark of the covenant so the Levites would read it every 7 years to Israel. It contains the truth about how the world came about, about their ancestors, and the previous covenants with Noah and Abraham. And it contains the details of the covenant with Israel, including laws that they should follow forever, and many other things. In particular includes the book of Genesis, which contains the flood story, and exodus story.

    No I don’t believe God dictated it to Moses, Moses wrote it down and Moses put it in the ark. The bible is quite specific about what was on the tablets that God dictated to Moses and that Moses put in the ark.

  192. If you have other points that do not rely on this that I have not addressed please set them out clearly.

    I have above. Additionally, and this is a separate point, I’ve clarified my question in respond to your comment 203. See comment 205.

    By the way, let me clarify, I mean Deuteronomy 31, towards the end.

    Verses 9 – 13

    And Verses 24-30

    Do you believe Genesis is authoritatively given by God to Israel or not? Is it God’s Word to Israel?

  193. NOTE TO ALL

    Melissa, Neil, Charlie Steve and everyone else. I think its obvious to everyone that Greg has been shown MANY points that he refuses to answer directly without creating more side issues or hand waving. Tom has basically stated that its our call whether to continue responding. I know some may still wish to so may I propose a perfectly legitimate ground rule. Hold him to some points and if he brings up others or tries to skirt to other issues you merely respond that he needs to answer ADEQUATELY the questions put to him before you go on to any other issue. its is your discussion now and you have the power collectively to control it and your own time.

    Just my suggestion. Until I get answers rather than dances to my points I will merely engage (if I choose to do so at all) by telling him we are staying to one issue before us. We’ve allowed him to control the conversation (and even then he’s lost ground) because we thought he was being genuine in wanting to explore the truth. Its now time as a community to put our own foot down.

  194. Mike Anthony: you seem to have completely derailed. What are you talking about? I went verse by verse and showed you what it means. I don’t see your point in your last two comments. Can you please be clear?

    Also, I am fine with staying in this topic with you, but other people have other topics that they are talking to me about. You chose to talk about this and I am answering you, WHEN I understand your question. Perhaps you should stop with ad hominems about my intellectual honesty.

  195. If you have other points that do not rely on this that I have not addressed please set them out clearly.

    Melissa may i suggest that if he has not answered your points that you not really leave the door open to make anymore of his own. Its perfectly legitimate to refuse an ongoing discussion when he will not address your issues and its actually good for him to be held to that standard

  196. What are you talking about? I went verse by verse and showed you what it means.

    Never asked you what it meant. post 206 indicates quite clearly that you did not answer the question. time for your games here to stop and as a community we can do just . No more points until you answer the issue put before you in our discussion.

  197. Of course Mike Anthony you have comments 208 and 210 which directly address that.

    Negative none of those answered my question repeated in 206. As for me its the only thing we will discuss moving forward. I hope others will take the same stance in their discussions with you. we’ve danced out last dance 😉

  198. Sigh, how trite. My comment 214 addressed your comment 213.

    I think your departure will not cause us too many problems, so feel free. I am sorry if I don’t understand what your points were at the end.

  199. I think your departure will not cause us too many problems

    Sorry to disappoint you greg but I didn’t say I was going anywhere. I was laying my ground rules for staying and will be actively encouraging others to do the same should they stick around.

    Post 206 and the second to last paragraph in particular . Get to it. see you soon.

  200. Melissa, I will put it another way: Do you think it is possible that Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch was written at a much later time, as most secular scholars believe, and certainly not by Moses? Is that what you are suggesting in your approach to understanding the Bible in its historical context? I am trying to get what YOUR position regarding Genesis.

    Feel free to answer comment 210, or this one or both hopefully 🙂

  201. Greg,

    Do you think it is possible that Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch was written at a much later time, as most secular scholars believe, and certainly not by Moses? Is that what you are suggesting in your approach to understanding the Bible in its historical context? I am trying to get what YOUR position regarding Genesis.

    Written down at a much later time. Yes, it is entirely possible. Many, many Christians accept that. The culture at the time of the Israelites was an oral culture as such oral tradition was a much more stable form of transmission than written tradition as evidenced by the fact that the Israelites kept misplacing their books. The idea that God’s word implies divine dictation is neither biblical nor required for Christianity to be true.

  202. Greg, you wrote:

    I was referring to your essay. The main motivation for you saying we are desperate sinners, etc. is related to the doctrine of original sin, isn’t it?

    No. I’m not interested in original sin right now, a term originally introduced by Augustine, I think. Let’s completely set aside for the moment the issue of whether we are in any way implicated in Adam’s sin. Let’s just focus on our own behavior, our own deeds, our own motivations, our own hearts.

    Imagine if there was no such doctrine. Would you still say EVERYONE is a desperate deranged individual? Maybe you would not be happy with your own behavior somehow, but to say this about everyone including people you never met? Desperately wicked, really? Do you really believe everyone is radically terrible?

    I am also not interested in everyone else. I am interested in you and me. I know experientially that I am desperately wicked and in need of radical forgiveness. We are trying to determine whether you are as well.

    Without Judaism and Christianity, I doubt most people would.

    That is an interesting statement. Perhaps, without the Bible, we would not believe that we are desperately wicked. But the question remains as to whether we aredesperately wicked. I would hold that God’s law does not create our sin, but it does reveal our sin. In the same way, an MRI machine does not give you cancer, but it reveals and diagnoses your cancer.

    But since I don’t [know for certain what God wants], I just do it because Judaism *might* be true. I put in effort to not transgress the commandments too much so I don’t have to spend as much time purifying myself in the afterlife. But I am not perfect.

    I think here is where you make a fundamental mistake. The God of the Israel calls for your complete, 100% obedience. Now you may truly only be 10% certain that Judaism is true. But it is silly to think that, as a result, you are justified in rendering God 10% obedience (or even 95% obedience). That would be like saying that because I am only 99% sure that my wife is the right woman for me, therefore it is reasonable for me to be 99% faithful to her. Given the nature of marriage, 99% fidelity is 100% infidelity!

    If you can show me where -in the Torah- God allows Israel to follow other gods as long as they are mostly committed to him, then I will withdraw my case. In fact, the God of Israel demands complete obedience as is stated over and over in the Torah. As Joshua tells the Israelites:
    “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

    So here’s my suggestion. Why don’t we examine whether you are keeping the commandments of the God of Israel? I understand that you don’t know if this God exists. But if He does exist, then He expects 100% adherence to his Law. So we can ask, if the Torah is true, to what extent you keep His law. And we can also ask, if the Torah is true, what your deeds deserve. Right?

    The questions of Noah’s flood, the fate of the unevangelized, the nature of the atonement, and indeed anything at all to do with Christianity is still completely irrelevant at this point. I’d like to hold you (and myself) both up to the standard of the God of Israel and see how we both fare. Sound good?

    -Neil

  203. Greg,

    Melissa: When I was talking to you, I used Deuteronomy 13 to illustrate that Jews were supposed to follow God’s law for ever, and not listen to Paul’s or any other dreamer’s interpretation of it.

    Here let me give a fuller case that the law is for ever, and the Jews knew this at the time of Jesus:

    So if you look at the passage you will see that it doesn’t support your position.

    As to your quotes about the law, until you deal with the fact that Jesus said He came to fulfil the law, the addition of more verses from leviticus does nothing. Let me remind you that you are trying to show that Christians are inconsistent in the way they interpret the bible.

  204. Melissa: re your comment 220… so invalidating Genesis stories would not really invalidate Christianity as you understand it, even if we showed that the flood and exodus stories are just legends and didn’t really happen as they were described?

  205. Neil, since you said everything else is irrelevant for now, I just quoted the part that is relevant:

    So here’s my suggestion. Why don’t we examine whether you are keeping the commandments of the God of Israel? I understand that you don’t know if this God exists. But if He does exist, then He expects 100% adherence to his Law. So we can ask, if the Torah is true, to what extent you keep His law. And we can also ask, if the Torah is true, what your deeds deserve. Right?

    The questions of Noah’s flood, the fate of the unevangelized, the nature of the atonement, and indeed anything at all to do with Christianity is still completely irrelevant at this point. I’d like to hold you (and myself) both up to the standard of the God of Israel and see how we both fare. Sound good?

    If the Torah is true, then I keep the major commandments that contain punishments, and don’t keep the other ones (non kosher food, etc.) I would say I’m about 80-90%.

    As far as Jesus’ two commandments, I am like 99%.

    Since I am a Jew, I am not doing as well as orthodox Jews who spend their lives keeping every commandment as much as they possibly can.

    As far as you, let’s talk about you for a second… are you Jewish (you are if your mother was Jewish, otherwise you are not unless you specifically converted to Judaism and accepted the responsibilities).

    If not, why do you think you have to follow God’s law for the Israelites, and not simply the seven Noahide laws?

    Those 7 laws are quite a lot easier to follow and I think many non Jewish people in the world follow them perfectly. Even the non christian ones.

  206. Greg,

    Melissa: re your comment 220… so invalidating Genesis stories would not really invalidate Christianity as you understand it, even if we showed that the flood and exodus stories are just legends and didn’t really happen as they were described?

    I’m not sure why you persist in trying to read ancient literature as if it is a modern science or history textbook. I don’t think the flood and exodus are “just legends”. I think they were real events described in a particular way not to satisfy our idle curiosity about mundane details of history, but to tell us who God is and how He acts in the world. Divine dictation and “just legends” do not exhaust the ways of understanding the bible.

  207. Mike Anthony @ 211,
    I have stopped dialoging with Greg for over a week now. I see he has done the same with me. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression on other blogs: “Don’t Feed the Trolls”. I think it’s way past time to do that here.

  208. @Melissa: Comment #226
    Very well put. In fact, this is the view that (most) professional scientists, who are Christians would take (see the American Scientific Affiliation web site http://www.asa3.org, for example)

  209. Re comment #220
    Actually, it is not necessary to postulate that the first 5 books of Moses were written down at a much later date than the events they describe, with the possible exception of Genesis 1-11, perhaps). We know from ANE archaeology that the art of writing goes back to at least the time of the Patriarchs, if not farther ( at least ~3000BCE or earlier). When Moses (alledgedly) wrote ( circa 1400BCE or 1200BCE, depending on how the Exodus is dated), the writing of massive books was a well-developed skill.
    One of the original reasons for the so-called Documentary Hypothesis of the 5 books was that, in the 1800’s, it was supposed that writing did not originate until ~1000BCE, so of course Moses could not have written such books (the opinion of our Lord Jesus Christ notwithstanding). Well, surprise, surprise, surprise! By the time the facts about the development of writing were discovered, the Documentary Hypothesis was so entrenched in 19th century scholarship (at least the hyper-critical kind) that they just ignored any new data of this kind. If physicists did physics the way these scholars did their studies, we’d all be out of work.

  210. Melissa:

    Melissa: re your comment 220… so invalidating Genesis stories would not really invalidate Christianity as you understand it, even if we showed that the flood and exodus stories are just legends and didn’t really happen as they were described?

    I’m not sure why you persist in trying to read ancient literature as if it is a modern science or history textbook. I don’t think the flood and exodus are “just legends”. I think they were real events described in a particular way not to satisfy our idle curiosity about mundane details of history, but to tell us who God is and how He acts in the world. Divine dictation and “just legends” do not exhaust the ways of understanding the bible.

    I am not insisting on anything right now, I’m trying to understand how YOU approach it. Maybe I’m wrong to think that “divine dictation” and “just legends” are the two alternatives. That is why I asked, can you please tell me more specifically what your approach is — i.e. a positive formulation, instead of simply saying that mine is wrong.

    Can you answer my question, about whether invalidating the flood story (in the sense that we prove the major features which were definitely intended to be in the story, could not have happened) would invalidate the truth of Christianity? Or you are fine with accepting the documentary hypothesis for example, but the Christological argument would still show that Christianity is true and Jesus is God?

    I am just wondering because I never really understood this viewpoint, so any information about how to take the flood and exodus stories in the light of scientific evidence *and* Christianity is important.

  211. Tom Gilson: I love God very strongly. I just have strong reasons to believe that He never appeared to humans and gave them any directions [EDIT: Well, I mean in the Judeo Christian framework, directions that would be binding to me.]. I also follow the golden rule as formulated by Hillel – I don’t do onto others what I wouldn’t want them to do onto me. I have consistent standards for myself and for others.

    If I see someone in trouble and it costs me less to help them than my help would profit them, I help them. Of course, I don’t go to the radical degree of selling all my possessions and giving it all to charity. I actually believe that I can earn money at a faster rate and help more people if I don’t do that. And I also have Jewish ideas about helping your family first — if I gave everything away to people once then I’d lose my ability to help everyone. My goal is to make billions of dollars and help the world. 🙂

    I don’t believe Jesus meant everything literally about hating your parents or about turning the other cheek or giving robbers more than they need. These things are not 100% literal and therefore I don’t think there is a strict standard that I can calculate how well I am performing. I would say 99% is a pretty good “vague” indication in the same way as if I asked you, “how much do you hate your parents on a scale from 1 to 100”?

  212. Melissa @ 226 wrote:

    Greg…

    I’m not sure why you persist in trying to read ancient literature as if it is a modern science or history textbook. I don’t think the flood and exodus are “just legends”. I think they were real events described in a particular way not to satisfy our idle curiosity about mundane details of history, but to tell us who God is and how He acts in the world. Divine dictation and “just legends” do not exhaust the ways of understanding the bible.

    Appears to me that Greg thinks and believes that the Christian faith is a house of cards. For example, remove one of the cards the historicity the flood and exodus and the whole thing collapses. Consider the following:

    (Greg @ #179)
    I prefer to say that I think there are many versions of Christianity, but they share something in common. One of those things is that the first five books of the Bible were God’s Word to Israel on Mount Sinai. Certainly Genesis was. But since I think there are extremely good reasons to think that Genesis contains legends (flood, exodus) which the majority of scientists and historians think never literally happened, therefore I think it is unlikely that the Bible is the Word of God…

    My argument is simple, as I said. I consider that the scientific and historical evidence against the flood, babel and exodus to be so strong, that it trumps the Christological argument which you keep mentioning, as well as even the Kuzari argument (check out my blog if you are interested, I think it’s an extremely strong argument for the Torah being given by God).

    It sounds to me like Greg showed up here with his mind already made up. Was he up front and honest about that?

    And if that wasn‘t clear enough he repeats himself a couple of posts later:

    (Greg @ #181)
    I think the “kuzari argument” is a strong argument, and yet I still think there must be something wrong with it, because I think the scientific and historical evidence against the flood, tower of babel and exodus stories is so strong, that we can conclude Genesis contains fictional stories.

    At this point I would ask you: why does the Word of God to Israel (which contains the law) also contain fictional stories?

    Notice there is no question at all in Greg’s mind. These accounts (“flood, tower of babel and exodus stories”) are unhistorical.

    What honest person would come to a site feign sincerity and spend weeks wasting peoples time when his mind was already made up? Why wasn’t Greg up front with everyone?

    The truth is Greg is not honest seeker here to have an open and honest discussion about the Christian faith he is here to convert people. Greg may think he is a good person. But good people do not behave like that.

    However, ironically, while Greg has been a waste of time, I don’t think this thread has been a total waste of time. A number of you have cited numerous sources that is going some time for me to sift through, so I am going to book mark this thread and come back to it for that reason.

    It is too bad that Greg has dismissed all your hard work with an airy wave of the hand. It is also kind of sad.

  213. JAD, Melissa, Victoria:

    I am not claiming anything at this moment. I am *listening* — saying hey maybe my approach is wrong, can you please describe what YOUR approach is.

    Appears to me that Greg thinks and believes that the Christian faith is a house of cards. For example, remove one of the cards the historicity the flood and exodus and the whole thing collapses. Consider the following:

    Yes, that is the way I currently believe. If you invalidate the truth of the flood story (as having happened literally in the way intended to be understood by the chapters Genesis 9 – 11) then you invalidate the truth of Christianity. That is why I have such a strong position currently, and maybe the reason it pisses you off is because you don’t think this way.

    So tell me: does invalidating the flood story (by proving a flood never happened which wiped out all humans except those on the ark) invalidate the truth of Christianity? I thought it does.

    As you can see my mind is not made up and I am open to you telling me, but if you don’t tell me but simply say MY approach sucks, then you can’t accuse me of not hearing you out.

    It sounds to me like Greg showed up here with his mind already made up. Was he up front and honest about that?

    And if that wasn‘t clear enough he repeats himself a couple of posts later:

    That’s right, I am honestly telling you what my position currently is right now and WHY. I actually don’t think you’re calling that dishonest because it *IS* in fact, honest. I am *telling* you what I think. However, I am *open* to a counter argument or different point of view that would directly address the reasons I don’t believe, and possibly change my mind. That is why I am here!

    However, ironically, while Greg has been a waste of time, I don’t think this thread has been a total waste of time. A number of you have cited numerous sources that is going some time for me to sift through, so I am going to book mark this thread and come back to it for that reason.

    It is too bad that Greg has dismissed all your hard work with an airy wave of the hand. It is also kind of sad.

    I think this thread has many immensely useful points of information, on both sides. It certainly hasn’t been useless to me in terms of learning.

    And as for “dismissing” — wow. Have you not seen my responses to almost every comment Melissa writes? They are point by point, detailed and try to explain exactly how I address what she says, where I stand and even provide links to a few paragraphs (unlike telling someone to go read a book) in a source I consider very highly. A source composed of people dedicating a million man hours to their work. So no, I don’t think I am “dismissing” anything. It’s hard to respond to 10 people at once, but when it comes to Melissa’s posts at least, this is definitely unjustified.

    I on the other hand am asking one simple question. You tell ME what YOUR approach is. Don’t just say my approach sucks. Fine, maybe that is the problem. Tell me, doesn’t invalidating the flood or exodus story completely invalidate Christianity?

  214. (JAD speaking) Appears to me that Greg thinks and believes that the Christian faith is a house of cards. For example, remove one of the cards the historicity the flood and exodus and the whole thing collapses.

    (Greg speaking) Yes, that is the way I currently believe. If you invalidate the truth of the flood story (as having happened literally in the way intended to be understood by the chapters Genesis 9 – 11) then you invalidate the truth of Christianity. That is why I have such a strong position currently, and maybe the reason it pisses you off is because you don’t think this way.

    Ah!!! Greg, you are on the cusp of an absolutely key, foundational, watershed realization here: your concept of Christianity and our (well, at least my) concept of Christianity are vastly different! This is what Tom was getting at with his four questions above. Let’s stick with the house analogy.

    Your position: you think Christianity is like a house of cards, in which every card is just as structurally important as every other card. Therefore, if you show that the Flood account in Genesis is not literally true, that’s just as damaging to Christianity as if you show that Jesus never rose from the dead. Remove one card, and the whole house falls. If we were talking about a scientific theory, rather than Christianity, you would be called a “naive falsificationist”, because you hold that the theory can be falsified by a single counterexample. Might I point out that, not only is this not the approach taken by most Christians to Christianity, it is definitely not the approach taken by the scientific community to any scientific theory.

    My position (which is, I think, shared by most creedal Christians): Christianity is a house that consists of many different components that come in two categories.

    1) Load-bearing components that need to be there, otherwise the house would fall, e.g. the foundation and beams. If you can disprove one of the “load-bearing” beliefs of Christianity, then you will cause the Christian house to collapse (more below).

    2) non-load-bearing componenets, like the roof, door, and windows. It’s not that these components are unnecessary, it’s just that their purpose is different from that of the load-bearing components, and often there is a lot of flexibility in terms of where they can go and what they look like. Disproving one of these “non-load-bearing” beliefs is like saying “hey, that window is broken!” or “the door isn’t where I thought it was!”. Those things may change how we use the house, but they say nothing about the structural soundness of the house. Disproving one of these beliefs does not necessarily disprove Christianity.

    So how can you tell which components are load-bearing, and which are not? Look at the historic Christian creeds, to which all of the three major denominations of Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant) adhere: the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. I think it’s fair to say that any belief expressed in these creeds is “load-bearing”, inflexible, and non-negotiable. If you disprove one, Christianity comes crashing down.

    For instance, the Virgin Birth, the Crucifixion, and the bodily Resurrection of Jesus are part of these creeds. That’s why I keep harping on the Resurrection, because I assumed that if you wanted to settle the truth or falsehood of Christianity, you would want to start with one of the “load-bearing” beliefs. I didn’t understand just how different your concept of Christianity was from mine.

    Notice that neither the Flood, nor the Exodus, appears in either of the creeds. Nowhere do these creeds speak of believing in the inerrancy of the literal interpretation of the Bible. In fact, the only place that Scripture is even mentioned is in the Nicene creed: “And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life… who spoke by the prophets”. So one could argue that the creeds mandate belief in divine inspiration, in the sense that the words of the prophets are not just the words of men, but of God also. However, the creeds do not require biblical literalism.

    The point is: when you bring in evidence against the literal interpretation of parts of Genesis, you are attacking a non-load-bearing component of the Christian faith. Not that Genesis is an unimportant component — it is very important, but its importance may have nothing to do with being a historical or scientific textbook. So even if you succeed in showing that parts of Genesis are not literal historical events, you will not have disproved Christianity. Plenty of Christians (myself included) have struggled with various interpretations of the events in Genesis, and have decided on a non-literal view of some events, while growing stronger in our Christian faith and our relationship with God. Even though the walls may be a different color, the house has had the same foundation for 2000 years.

  215. Excellent, Bill R., very insightful. Greg, if you’re interested in learning what Christianity is, you might drop your naive straw-man version of it, and look at it for what it really is. Bill R. has explained it very clearly from a certain angle that is quite relevant to you.

  216. And here’s another thing you really have to drop if you’re going to live life in the real world:

    If you invalidate the truth of the flood story (as having happened literally in the way intended to be understood by the chapters Genesis 9 – 11) then you invalidate the truth of Christianity. That is why I have such a strong position currently, and maybe the reason it pisses you off is because you don’t think this way.

    I don’t mean your crude language. I mean your unyielding, stone-hard, proud and really quite ridiculous insistence on having a lock on “the way [Genesis 9-11 is] intended to be understood.”

    I showed you quite some time ago, with rigorous logic, that your position on the Flood and its relation to Christianity succeeds only if there is no possibility that you are wrong. For you to keep pounding that theme leads me to believe you have a hammer where your brain should be. You’re acting as if you are absolutely certain that nothing in all of ANE scholarship, nothing in literary analysis, nothing in archaeology, nothing in all the world has ever sufficed even to put a dent of doubt in your position.

    It has moved beyond a point of debate, Greg, to a point of obvious stubborn stupidity on your part. I mean that in all love and care; for it has become impossible to regard it as anything more benign than that, and it’s time to identify it for what it is.

    You are wrong, obviously wrong, persistently wrong, and stubbornly proud in your wrongness. You think you can’t be wrong, and that is what is so obviously, stubbornly, pridefully wrong.

    Now, if I haven’t made myself clear enough to you that you will consider changing your mind, at least consider this: if you have any desire to persuade anyone other than yourself concerning your knowledge of Bible, Christianity, and history, know that when you pull that line out on us we all know that you’re wrong.

    If you’re not mentally aware enough to change your mind, at least be mentally aware enough to know that using this obviously wrong point of intended persuasion is a huge strategic error on your part, because it’s not working, and it’s never going to work. Because, you see, for all your conviction that you can’t possibly for all the scholarship in the world be wrong on this point, we still know it’s quite possible that you are.

    And as I have shown you previously, that’s all we need to know in order for Christianity and the Bible to withstand this particular attack that you’re making upon it.

    If you know what’s good for your own mind, Greg, you’ll drop it; and if you know what’s good for your strategic persuasive position here you’ll drop it even if you don’t know what’s good for your own mind.

    [I used the word “wrong” ten times above. I hope the point is not lost on you.]

  217. Pride—putting self in the place of God—is the cardinal sin, Greg. Your claim of omniscience on this point puts a huge dent in your 99% estimate of loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

  218. 99% love for God from a guy who is on the fence about whether or not to be an atheist? Interesting.

  219. 99% love for God from a guy who is on the fence about whether or not to be an atheist?

    🙂 Charlie you are my kind of no fluff to the point kind of guy. When something just doesn’t hold together it just doesn’t hold together. If Greg is at the point of a watershed realization I will be gratified but seriously Tom has been very clear at other points to be made about the Flood and Greg has had none of that.

    Meanwhile have you noticed the duality regarding these issues? Greg is quick in insisting that his view of the the flood invalidates Christianity but yet he still clearly holds Judaism in very high regard.

    Judaism that elevates Torah above any other part of the Tanach – and where is the flood narrative located? In the first book of the Torah.

    Greg has gone on at length of how persuasive the Mount Sinai experience is, how hard it would be to falsify and how compelling it is as an evidence.

    So is Greg capable of separating even stories within the Torah from each other and giving credit to one part while being skeptical of the other. Of course. Is he on here pushing that Judaism should be thrown out with the bath water. Of course not.

    Consider the mental gymnastics being employed to claim that a series of events occurring several thousand years later (the church and Christianity) is invalidated by the flood but the mount sinai experience is still found as compelling. It just doesn’t hold water.

  220. Greg, you write:

    If the Torah is true, then I keep the major commandments that contain punishments, and don’t keep the other ones (non kosher food, etc.) I would say I’m about 80-90%. As far as Jesus’ two commandments, I am like 99%. Since I am a Jew, I am not doing as well as orthodox Jews who spend their lives keeping every commandment as much as they possibly can.

    I’m confused here. Over the last several hundred messaged, you have repeatedly pointed out that God commanded Israel to keep all of his commandments. Indeed, in the cursing section of Deuteronomy that I quoted, God is very clear that his curses apply to everyone who does not continue to obey all the commands given by Moses in the Torah: “However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you” (Deut. 28:15). But let’s even set that aside.

    You claim to keep the two commandments which Jesus referred to as the greatest commandments to a level of 99%. But Jesus said that the greatest commandment is “Love the Lord with all [i.e. 100% of] your heart, mind, soul, and strength.” So what does it even mean to keep this commandment 99%? If my wife says, “Be 100% faithful to me in marriage”, does it make any sense for me to say “I keep this command 99%”?

    More than that, you recognize that you “are not doing as well as orthodox Jews” in keeping God’s commandments. But why not? If you loved God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength (or even 99% of them), wouldn’t you at least desire to become an orthodox Jew to boost your percentage? What do you love more than keeping God’s commandments? And if you love something more than keeping God’s commandments, then in what sense do you love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength?

    As far as you, let’s talk about you for a second… are you Jewish (you are if your mother was Jewish, otherwise you are not unless you specifically converted to Judaism and accepted the responsibilities). If not, why do you think you have to follow God’s law for the Israelites, and not simply the seven Noahide laws?

    No I’m not Jewish. Recall that the questions we are trying to answer are: “Are you a sinner? To what extent are you a sinner?” I am trying to show you that by almost any standard of behavior, we are both desperately wicked. I was thinking of starting with the Ten Commandments to see if we keep them. We could also appeal to the two great commandments identified by Jesus as the essence of the Torah. Or if you’d like to examine our behavior according to the Noahide laws, we can do that too. My contention is that, by any of these standards, we are both desperate sinners living under God’s righteous curse and in need of radical salvation. I think that the two great commandments which Jesus quoted from the Pentateuch would be a good place to start, but I’ll leave it up to you.

    -Neil

  221. Anyone who can say that he or she isn’t so bad after all, a relative standard of comparison with other people, just hasn’t encountered the real Living God, who is the Judge of all the earth, El Shaddai, El Elyon, the sovereign King of all Creation….it can be so overwhelming – there is no doubt in my mind that I am so unlike God and so imperfect, and yet as His adopted daughter He is Abba (Daddy) and I am welcomed into His presence, because I stand justified by Jesus’ atoning and perfect sacrifice.
    In the OT, Isaiah cried “Woe is me, for I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips, from a people of unclean lips, and I have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts” Isaiah 6:5-6:7, and also in Isaiah 64:6: “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away”(NASB).
    In encounters with the LORD or His angel, OT people were terrified to the point where He would have to tell them to ‘fear not’.

    Reminds me of a molecular absorption spectroscopy experiment I worked on in my PostDoctoral days; we were looking for the very faint molecular absorption lines of a particular molecular species – to even have a hope of seeing the lines, we used an Osram white light source generating about 20,000Watts of radiant energy – one could not even look at it. Well, that amount of light is so intense, that even optically perfect lenses (to collimate the beam and focus it on a spectrograph’s entrance slit) would show every speck of dust, and every microscopic flaw (invisible to the naked eye) in the glass as little pinpoints of light. We could not run the experiment continuously for more than 1/2hour or so, because the lenses would overheat and shatter otherwise – how much more so can we stand in front of God in all His glory and pure, infinite light, and not have all our hidden flaws exposed – how could we survive without being clothed in Christ’s righteousness?

  222. And yet amazingly what we find on Romans 2 is that those who do not have the Law are without excuse–on the basis of their not meeting their own standards. Greg, do you always live up to your own standards? How much less do you suppose you meet God’s?

  223. Greg,

    I’ve covered how I approach the bible before – as the record of a community’s experience of God and what that means in their lives. I believe God’s spirit has worked through the whole process. I am in agreement with what Bill #236, Tom #238 and Charlie #241 have said on this topic. For a Christian the resurrection authenticates the written experience of the Israelites as being real encounters with the living God. Science, history and the bible, all 3 correctly interpreted, will not contradict each other.

    I am still waiting for a response from you re #223. I think we have adequately addressed the concerns you have raised in your points 3 and 4.

    While you continue to believe that you are meeting 99% of God’s expectations you are lost. I didn’t start going to church and become a Christian until I was in my 20’s. Before then I felt the same as you, that I was a pretty good person. Now I know I was wrong and each day I see more clearly just how wrong I was. We are experts at excusing our own bad behaviour.

    I see you testing Christian beliefs, that is good but for your own good test your own assumptions in just the same way you test ours. I think you’ll find that you are not standing on quite the firm foundation that you thought you were. I don’t know whether you’ve read anything by Tim Keller but he writes that you should doubt your doubts. His point is that when you doubt something you are actually putting your trust in something else.

    This article picks up on the same point:

    http://wonderingfair.com/2011/05/04/adventures-in-doubt/

    Are you putting your trust in something (or someone) that is trustworthy?

    Victoria,

    Actually, it is not necessary to postulate that the first 5 books of Moses were written down at a much later date than the events they describe, with the possible exception of Genesis 1-11, perhaps). We know from ANE archaeology that the art of writing goes back to at least the time of the Patriarchs, if not farther ( at least ~3000BCE or earlier). When Moses (alledgedly) wrote ( circa 1400BCE or 1200BCE, depending on how the Exodus is dated), the writing of massive books was a well-developed skill.

    I agree. The bible says that Moses wrote “this law” which is then referred to as the Book of the Law so I think there was definitely something written by Moses but equating that book with the Pentateuch goes beyond what can be determined by the text.

  224. Ah!!! Greg, you are on the cusp of an absolutely key, foundational, watershed realization here: your concept of Christianity and our (well, at least my) concept of Christianity are vastly different! This is what Tom was getting at with his four questions above. Let’s stick with the house analogy.

    Yes, Bill. I feel I am, also. I’m on my way to understanding how many of you approach Christianity.

    Let me just set one thing straight. I am *not* saying that Christianity is a house of cards where removing *ANY* card makes it fall. For example, when God says “honor your father and mother” and Jesus said “unless one hates his father and mother … he cannot follow me” does NOT mean no one can follow God’s commandment and at the same time follow Jesus. I am open to subtlety.

    But I am of the opinion that since the flood story — which unambiguously described a flood as killing all the humans save those on Noah’s ark — is found in several chapters of Genesis, which are devoted to it, and since

    1) Genesis is part of the Jewish tradition since like forever, that Moses received it from God directly, and it contains truth

    2) Jesus seems to have believed in this tradition. And if we assume he is the son of God, then certainly he should have known if it is true or not, and he quoted from it to give a parallel to what his second coming will be like, which he very much intended to be real

    3) Until Jesus, the very law that the Jews had was written in the Torah, which was attributed to Moses, and included Genesis

    It seemed to me that the flood story was not a mere card, but a structural card. And that to invalidate the flood story (as describing a flood that never actually killed all the humans in reality) is to invalidate Judaism and Christianity. Meaning: Jews said God gave the first five books to the Bible to Moses, before during and after Jesus time. Jesus agreed. But the book contains entire chapters describing events that *never* happened, and specifically saying (not metaphorically) that *all* humans were destroyed except the ones on the ark, etc. So therefore, I considered that since scientific and historical evidence overwhelmingly shows that no such flood ever took place (at least in the last 50,000 years) therefore Torah couldn’t have been given by God, and therefore the entire basis of Judaism and Christianity is based on legends. If that is so it didn’t seem to me that the Son of God — the same God of the Israelites, who they thought gave the torah to Moses — would endorse this kind of mythology. He spent a lot of time denouncing how the Pharisees practiced the law, but never once did he say anything about the Torah containing mythological stories about events that never happened.

    So I thought that since it is the scientific consensus from across many disciplines — geology, genetics, anthropology, etc. — as well as history and language studies — that the flood and babel stories did not actually occur in reality, therefore the Judeo-Christian framework is completely undermined. That is mainly why I feel so strongly skeptical about Christianity.

    TOM SAYS:

    You are wrong, obviously wrong, persistently wrong, and stubbornly proud in your wrongness. You think you can’t be wrong, and that is what is so obviously, stubbornly, pridefully wrong.

    On the contrary, I think I *can* be wrong, that is why I keep debating. It is not to change YOUR minds. It is to get an alternative explanation that actually *addresses* the issue I raise. (I am willing to get it at the risk of putting maybe some doubt in someone’s mind about their faith, although it is not my intention.) I press hard for actual, *coherent* alternatives. It’s not that I stubbornly want mine, it’s that I don’t understand the alternative as a coherent one. I said it over and over in the recent comments: don’t just say my point of view sucks, or is wrong.

    A) Say what ALTERNATIVE point of view YOU have regarding the flood story. HOW is it to be understood?

    B) Or if you can’t do that, at least, tell me what general approach you take that lets you decide how to view this story or that story.

    I would VERY MUCH prefer if someone did both A and B. I would REALLY LOVE IT if anyone reading this could just answer A and B, and not just see that someone else answered it, because in my experience, everyone has a different approach and belief. I want to know what they are, so that *I* can edify *myself*, and through debate figure out maybe something I am not seeing. But telling me my approach sucks (which I think is the only reasonable approach until I am exposed to coherent answers to A and B) is not gonna do it.

    And as I have shown you previously, that’s all we need to know in order for Christianity and the Bible to withstand this particular attack that you’re making upon it.

    I get it. You say I am wrong. But I have repeatedly asked what is the approach you ARE advocating in the place of what I said above? I am asking for *coherent* alternatives to my approach. You clearly have them, so share! Don’t think I am merely making an attack on the Bible. I am simply trying to reason together, side by side, about how something that contains fictional stories can be true.

    If you know what’s good for your own mind, Greg, you’ll drop it; and if you know what’s good for your strategic persuasive position here you’ll drop it even if you don’t know what’s good for your own mind.

    Right I might consider dropping it if I could replace it with something else. Simply shutting down my critical thinking isn’t the answer, and I don’t think you are advocating that. You are advocating openness to subtlety and interpretation. I am saying, cool!

    The best thing you all can do for me is tell me how YOU handle the issues I have described in this comment. I leave you with A and B, and the question

    “Does invalidating the flood story — as describing a flood that never in reality killed all the humans outside the ark — invalidate Christianity”?

    I ask this to Melissa (with whom this question originally came up in the discussion), Tom and everyone else.

  225. Mike Anthony: very perceptive. But once again, your claims of my inconsistency or double standards are unfounded.

    If Genesis is not true, then I would think (the way I currently understand it) that would disprove Christianity AND Judaism. That is in essence what the atheist position is, with respect to these two religions.

    And if atheists are right, Neil, then your question would be irrelevant, wouldn’t they? By my own standards I feel I am good.

    Real orthodox Jews don’t back down, they say science and history must be wrong about the flood and exodus. The end. If you want to find out how I feel regarding Atheism vs Judaism, just read http://magarshak.com/blog

    So your assertions that I somehow favor Judaism are unfounded. This is a Christian blog so guess what I will be asking about — Christianity. I want to know how Christianity can be true, even if Genesis is not entirely true.

    Amazingly, this may be possible. Christianity is based on Judaism, but it also rests on Jesus. There is no such thing for Judaism.

    Greg

  226. Greg,

    In the case of the Flood, what’s wrong with:

    1. The Flood was a long time ago.
    2. There are competing and confusing sets of information relating to the Flood.
    3. Because of the distance of time, culture, language, literary styles, etc. between then and now, coming to an accurate interpretation requires a great deal of scholarship, and may also rest on information that is yet to come to light.
    4. Not being an ANE scholar, and not knowing what information may yet come to light, for now I don’t know what is correct.
    5. The truth of Christianity does not depend on my knowing what is correct.
    6. Therefore I will suspend judgment on the Flood, and set that question aside while I explore other, more “load-bearing” questions.

  227. Neil – if you believe you are bound by the 10 commandments, by all means begin. I will follow.

    As I said, since I doubt the historicity of exodus, I doubt whether God gave people any commandments at all. And therefore I don’t see why I can’t use my own common sense on who is a good person. You said we don’t live to our own standards — but many of us do live up to OUR own standards.

    But by all means let’s go through the 10 commandments. Explain to me what your attitude towards them is and do you feel you should follow them now? Of course, you love God. I am very glad about that! Now tell me about the commandments you observe.

  228. And if atheists are right, Neil, then your question would be irrelevant, wouldn’t they? By my own standards I feel I am good.

    I thought there was still some possibility in your mind that Judaism (or even Christianity) was true? Indeed, you said that you keep 80-90% of the important parts of the Law and 99% of the two great commandments. You told Tom that you have a great love for God and that you would gladly do anything he commanded you.

    If you are a good person, who loves God, then what’s wrong with looking at God’s commands in the Torah and asking to what extent you keep them? I’m only asking you to consider whether you are a “good person” not by your own admittedly subjective and personal standards, but by the standards of the God of Israel.
    In fact, you are free to pick the standard yourself: the Ten Commandments, Christ’s commandments, or the Noahide law.

    What I am trying to show you is that you are utterly morally bankrupt by any of these standards. And deep down inside you know it. You are afraid to practice even the slightest amount of introspection in light of God’s Law because deep down inside, you know exactly what you will find. You will find that you are a despearately wicked sinner in need of radical forgiveness, just like all of us.

    -Neil

  229. And Tom, I will specifically emphasize my questions that I have in my response to you. I really look forward to answers to them, from everyone according to their own perspective and understanding / approach to the Bible.

    A) Say what ALTERNATIVE point of view YOU have regarding the flood story. HOW is it to be understood?

    B) Tell me what general approach you take with the Bible that lets you decide how to view this story or that story.

    C) “Does invalidating the flood story — as describing a flood that never in reality killed all the humans outside the ark — invalidate Christianity”?

    I think, Tom, you may have answered me how NOT to understand the flood story. But can you please address A, B, and C specifically? I think this is the main point of misunderstanding of Christianity between me, and the rest of the people here.

    I would VERY MUCH prefer if someone did [answer these questions]. I would REALLY LOVE IT if anyone reading this could just answer [them], and not just see that someone else answered it, because in my experience, everyone has a different approach and belief. I want to know what they are, so that *I* can edify *myself*, and through debate figure out maybe something I am not seeing.

  230. Greg,

    Direct question: have you read my ebook on the Essentials of Christianity? Especially the section on what Christ does for us?

  231. Greg,
    I can answer your three question, although I agree with Tom that I am not sure if my understanding of the Bible is correct in this area.

    A) Say what ALTERNATIVE point of view YOU have regarding the flood story. HOW is it to be understood?

    I answered this (I believe, to your satisfaction) in the last thread. I think that it is entirely possible that there was indeed a historic flood at some early point in human history which was not global but was universal in that it did kill all human beings, except those in the Ark. Interestingly, Neoatheist Christopher Hitchens makes an off-hand remark in his book God is not great that he believes there may mave been a catastrophic flood of the kind mentioned in Genesis. In a recent debate with Frank Turek Hitchens again says that some enormous ecological disaster probably destroyed almost all human beings early in human history. He makes this comment in passing and doesn’t bring it up again. But I am guessing that Hitchens does not bring a strong pro-biblical bias to the table when thinking about these issues.

    B) Tell me what general approach you take with the Bible that lets you decide how to view this story or that story.

    Evangelicals have always understood that biblical passages need to be understood according to their genre. In other words, we read poetry as poetry, history as history, letters as letters, etc… In addition, there is also an issue of cultural context, authorial intent, and intended recipient. In other words, we always ask “What did the author intend?” and “how would the original hearers have understood this?” This is the method we apply to all text in the Bible; the Flood narrative is no different.

    C) “Does invalidating the flood story — as describing a flood that never in reality killed all the humans outside the ark — invalidate Christianity”?

    No. As Tom said, the flood story in itself has never been a major point of Christian dotrine. Although its historicity does indeed impact on the inerrancy of Scripture, it does so no more or less than the historicity of anything else we read in the Bible (the exodus, the Sinai covenant, the Babylonian exile, etc…). So although all of these issues are important indirectly, I would point to the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ as the very core of Chrisitanity. Indeed, I believe that the Bible is inerrant because I am a disciple of Jesus and he clearly believed it was inerrant. That’s why I point people to Jesus. Inerrancy flows out of trust in Jesus.

    -Neil

  232. (I am willing to get it at the risk of putting maybe some doubt in someone’s mind about their faith, although it is not my intention.)

    How selfish. This doesn’t seem very loving.

  233. Tom: Yes, I read it a couple weeks ago. Could you please answer my direct questions A, B, C?

    You did write an earlier comment, addressing how one could possibly believe in the flood:

    Greg,

    In the case of the Flood, what’s wrong with:

    1. The Flood was a long time ago.
    2. There are competing and confusing sets of information relating to the Flood.
    3. Because of the distance of time, culture, language, literary styles, etc. between then and now, coming to an accurate interpretation requires a great deal of scholarship, and may also rest on information that is yet to come to light.
    4. Not being an ANE scholar, and not knowing what information may yet come to light, for now I don’t know what is correct.
    5. The truth of Christianity does not depend on my knowing what is correct.
    6. Therefore I will suspend judgment on the Flood, and set that question aside while I explore other, more “load-bearing” questions.

    You asked what is wrong with that. Let me stop putting many reasons at a time because you don’t like that. I will just say one reason at a time. How about:
    1. The genetic makeup of the human population doesn’t show a bottleneck in the last 50,000 years. The “flood story” if it was a scientific hypothesis would make a necessary prediction: we should see a bottleneck since we are all descended from 8 people. In reality, our genetic diversity (as well as that of the animals) indicates that many of the species in question, including us, did NOT have a bottleneck, much less at the same time. Therefore, there could not have been a flood which killed everyone except those in the ark, at any point at all. How do you interpret the flood story in light of this?

    I noticed that so far only Neil answered A, B, C (and admitted that he’s not an expert in this area — I can respect that. At least you answered and told me about your approach). I would have liked to hear if everyone has the exact same approach as Neil to understanding the Bible, or perhaps a different one.

    I had said earlier:

    On the contrary, I think I *can* be wrong, that is why I keep debating. It is not to change YOUR minds. It is to get an alternative explanation that actually *addresses* the issue I raise.

    Charlie says:

    (I am willing to get it at the risk of putting maybe some doubt in someone’s mind about their faith, although it is not my intention.)

    How selfish. This doesn’t seem very loving.

    I wonder Charlie, how you envision people seeking after God. Does it go something like this?

    “Hey, I heard about the gospels, and I have significant trouble believing them, for reason X. I’d like to hear how you deal with that.”
    “Don’t worry about it. Christianity is true. Look at Jesus’ life and don’t worry about X.”
    “Okay but I think X is super strong, how do you deal with reason X?”
    “How selfish of you to cast doubt in my faith. Why don’t you love me?”
    “Okay I instantly believe you! I won’t let X get in the way anymore, all I have to do is never talk about it again, and we can both be happy.”

    I am saying here,
    “Hey, I think it’s been proven that flood story is not true in the sense that a flood that killed all humans never happened. Doesn’t that mean Genesis wasn’t given by God directly to Moses and the Israelites? And in turn, doesn’t this seriously undermine the whole Judaeo-Christian framework?”

  234. Nice little skit there. But it seems a person who, himself, would wish to believe in Christianity if he could , and who says he loves others as himself, would not be so willing to cause them to lose their faith. Especially since he knows this might have eternal consequences.

    edit p.s.
    Your players aren’t asking the right questions. Whiner Faithington should actually be saying “why do you claim to love me when you don’t really?”
    And Earnest McFoolsNoOne should realize he wasn’t offered an apologetic and should also realize his questions would be more readily answered if he actually did his own research rather than endangering others.

  235. I didn’t know “risking someone to have doubts” is the same thing as what you said. Secondly, loving others as yourself still means you love yourself, right? Were the roles reversed, would I want someone to ask me a question regarding the truth? Why, yes I would. Perhaps if something was false, I would actually WANT to have doubts it, thanks to this guy asking questions. Gee, I guess that guy loves people after all!

    So what was your point again?

  236. I didn’t know “risking someone to have doubts” is the same thing as what you said.

    Thats because you don’t love others as yourself and, therefore, do not look at it from their perspective.

    econdly, loving others as yourself still means you love yourself, right?

    Not necessarily. The saying does not mean “love them in the same way as you love yourself”.

    Perhaps if something was false, I would actually WANT to have doubts it, thanks to this guy asking questions. Gee, I guess that guy loves people after all!

    But you don’t know whether Christianity is false or not. You are not convinced. You are open-minded and are only leaning toward atheism. So Christianity could be true, But here you are, to satisfy your own curiosity, risking the faith of other people who might abandon what could very well be true,
    As I said, quite clearly, this doesn’t seem very loving.

    Were the roles reversed, would I want someone to ask me a question regarding the truth? Why, yes I would.

    Not believable. You would not want to lose your salvific faith because you were caused to doubt.

  237. Greg, in light of your latest answer concerning the Flood, I give up. I’ve answered a hundred times. How do I interpret what you have mentioned again? Let me make it as clear as possible:

    I DON’T KNOW!!!!

    Was that visible? Was that hard to understand? I wrote a whole post a while ago detailing that, adding nuance, showing how my not-knowing fit into my belief structure and why I’m okay with not knowing, and we discussed it at great length in the comments; but apparently it was too long and too complex for you. So I have shortened it to three words.

    Do not mistake my emphasis for anything but what it is. I’m not terribly upset that I don’t know. I just put things in highlights so that you might actually see it for a change.

    Now, contrast that with your position:

    “I KNOW!!!! I know that the Flood was said to have taken place in 2104 BC. Any other interpretation of the dating scheme is necessarily wrong, and I’m RIGHT. I know that genetic diversity disproves the Flood, and I’m RIGHT. I know that this is PROOF that Jesus didn’t rise from the grave, and that Sidon isn’t between Tyre and the Decapolis. I know and I’m RIGHT! But I’ll keep on acting as if I have questions about it!”

  238. Lest you think I was unfair, you really have said that the Flood “errors” disprove Christianity, Greg; which entails that the Flood “errors” prove that Jesus didn’t rise from the grave.

    I’ll admit that the Tyre-Sidon thing was gratuitous, but I had my reasons for including it here. It’s another matter of perspective that you seem to be lacking.

  239. Greg,
    I think Tom has answered all of your questions repeatedly, although not in bullet points. He has said A) He doesn’t know which reading of the flood narrative is correct. If you think there are no passages in the Bible for which there is no clear, obvious, consensus reading, ask us about “baptism for the dead” or “Christ’s descent into hell”. B) He has said that biblical texts need to always be read in their historical contexts, which in the case of the flood narrative is the ancient Near East (ANE). C) he has repeatedly said that the flood has no bearing whatsover on central issues of Christianity like the the Incarnation, the Atonement, or the Resurrection. So hopefully my summary of Tom’s positions helps to answer your questions.

    Incidentally, I’m curious to know what you make of Hitchens’ statements about an environmental catastrophe and genetic bottleneck. Also, since I would put the flood very early in humanity’s history, I see no reason at all that it couldn’t have happened around 50,000 B.C. Why did you select that date?

    But all this is besides the point. I would like to go back to the question of sin and guilt, so I’ll start writing up a discussion about the first commandments. We can go through all of them and decide whether we are both good people by God’s standards.

    -Neil

  240. Ok, Greg. So let’s start with the first commandment. We’re asking two questions: “Are we sinners?” and “to what extent are we sinners?”

    Here’s the first commandment: “You shall have no other God’s before me” (Ex. 20:2). What does this commandment mean? Does it mean that we can have other gods as long as the Lord is our #1 God? And what does it mean that the Lord is our God? Fortunately, God elaborates on this commandment (and all ten commandments) in the entire book of Deuteronomy, which I’d highly reomment that you read over the next few days. In it, Moses gives a farewell sermon(s) to Israel explaining the law and what it means to keep the commandments of God. The sixth chapter of Deuteronomy expounds on this first commandment, which Jesus pointed to as the essence of our duty towards God:

    “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut. 6:4-7)

    In light of this passage, let ask some questions of ourselves:

    1. Do we believe in the Lord? That is, we are not asking “do we believe that some generic, nameless creator exists?” but “do we believe that the Lord God of Israel exists?” The first commandment is that the God of Israel is to be our God and none other.

    2. Do we love God with all our heart? That is, are all of our motivations, goals, and affections centered on pleasing God, serving him, and obeying him? Practically speaking, what are our goals in life? What brings us the most pleasure? What do we dream about?

    3. Do we love God with all our strength? Is there not even a possibility that we could do anything more to serve or love God? Are our physical resources, our money, and our time completely expended in service to God? Practically speaking, how much of our money is given to God? How much of our time is spent serving God?

    4. Do we love God with all of our mind? Do we spend a large portion of each day meditating on all God’s commands, reading Scripture, thinking about his deliverances of us, thinking about his promises to us? Do we constantly meditate on his commands, whether we are going in or coming out, talking to our children, sitting at home, lying down or getting up? Pratically speaking, how much time do we spend reading the Torah? How much time do we spend talking about it with others? Is it easier for us to recite passages from the Torah, or the latest Lady Gaga lyrics?

    So let’s start with this first commandment. What do you think? Do you keeping it? To what extent?

    -Neil

  241. Greg wrote:

    On the contrary, I think I *can* be wrong, that is why I keep debating. It is not to change YOUR minds. It is to get an alternative explanation that actually *addresses* the issue I raise. (I am willing to get it at the risk of putting maybe some doubt in someone’s mind about their faith, although it is not my intention.) I press hard for actual, *coherent* alternatives. It’s not that I stubbornly want mine, it’s that I don’t understand the alternative as a coherent one.

    Way back when we first started this discussion (May 13th) I stated my position.

    Personally, I hold a (small a) agnostic position on exactly how (therefore, where and when it happened) to explain the flood geologically. There are number of different hypotheses. However, I do find the YEC interpretation to be geologically untenable, if not far fetched.

    On the other hand, I think the fact that the flood legend is so widespread is by itself very compelling evidence. Here is a sampling of some of the other flood legends. I have concentrated here on legends prevalent among North American Indians, which show very little Near Eastern or European influence…

    Of course, none of this proves the accuracy of the Biblical narrative, however, it does suggest that there was a real historical catastrophic flood that was the cause of these legends. In other words, it’s a place to start.
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2011/05/questions-from-a-reader-the-flood/#comment-26243

    Is that a coherent view? I think so. Admitting that one does not know enough to form a complete picture is not only a coherent but it’s an honest perspective. That’s true in science, in “secular” history, in every pursuit of human knowledge. However, Greg as he has done time and time again blew right by my comment as if it didn’t exist. I sensed then he was making no genuine effort to understand anybody else’s position, but that he was here just to advance his own. Now he is arrogantly insinuating that no one but he has a coherent position.

    So why is Greg really here? I think what he said in the parenthesis is quite revealing:

    (I am willing to get it at the risk of putting maybe some doubt in someone’s mind about their faith, although it is not my intention.)

    I for one am skeptical that when he says that “it is not my intention…of putting… some doubt in someone’s mind about their faith” he is being truthful. I think that has been his intention all along.

  242. Mike Anthony: very perceptive. But once again, your claims of my inconsistency or double standards are unfounded.

    Greg – Once again they are proven founded.

    I’ve made it clear there will be no continuing debate with you until you answer 206 second to last paragraph. I may comment on what others have said but I will not engage you on a debate of any other issue until you can show some intellectual honesty and address the issues put before you instead of pretending like you answered it.

    I am also not going to entertain the idea that you think Judaism has been invalidated by the flood. Sorry we have you in this very thread talking about how powerful an evidence the Jews have in the revelation the wilderness at the giving of the law.

    You don’t need to refer to /promote your blog again.. Its all here in this thread

    So you ARE capable of seeing the merits of one part of the torah and not having the entire thing being invalidated by the flood and your arguments to dance around that won’t be entertained by me or your poor assertion that because the NT is based on Torah every story in the torah is a “structural card”

    Now if you want to answer that point AFTER you address 206 that you have refused to for days then feel free but if you choose to respond once again dodging the question then it will be answered with just another reminder that you have dodged yet again.

  243. JAD:
    However, I do find the YEC interpretation to be geologically untenable, if not far fetched.

    Hi JAD,
    Not to distract from your excellent discussion with Greg, but ‘far fetched’ is a pretty big category. I would be happy to discuss this with you brother at a more opportune time. Blessings.

  244. Steve Drake @ #266,
    Here is something that I posted over on the “Questions From a Reader: The Flood” thread:

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2011/05/questions-from-a-reader-the-flood/#comment-27780

    I think a catastrophic flooding of the Mediterranean basin after the last ice age is more viable model than that of a global flood. While far from perfect Morton’s model, in my opinion, does fit the Biblical account much better than some other local flood models.

    Maybe Tom should start a “Local vs Global Flood” thread. That would be the venue in which I would prefer to discuss a topic like this.

  245. Hi JAD,
    I think a catastrophic flooding of the Mediterranean basin after the last ice age is more viable model than that of a global flood. While far from perfect Morton’s model, in my opinion, does fit the Biblical account much better than some other local flood models.

    Thanks for your opinion JAD. As I said, I don’t want to distract from your excellent discussion with Greg, and take away from what is really at the heart of the matter with Greg, so I will refrain from commenting until a more suitable venue. Blessings.

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