• books,  Judaism

    Mashiach ben David

    I’ve been reading this very informative (and often humorous) Q&A about Judaism, Jew Got Questions. It’s like sitting down with a rabbi and asking all the questions, from the purpose of keeping kosher to if it’s okay to get a tattoo (short answer, no). But I braced myself when I got to the chapter on the Messiah.

    It’s interesting to learn who exactly the Jews are waiting for. Mashiach ben David, a.k.a. “the Anointed One, the descendent of King David.” Who apparently is not Jesus, because he must be born of human parents. And be something of royalty. And rebuild the Temple. It all just made me sad, but then I got to the part where they actively debate Jesus. Then I got mad over misinformation.

    Let’s review!

    1. Jesus was not a prophet
    “prophecy ended upon the death of the last prophets—Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Jesus appeared on the scene approximately 350 years after prophecy had ended.”
    Who says? Besides, if the Messiah is supposed to be a prophet, and prophecy is supposedly dead, then this argument is invalid.

    2. Jesus was not a descendent of King David
    Well, Joseph was a descendent of King David. Since Mary married into his family, this is a valid royal line. There are several woman present in Jewish genealogy for various reasons, so there’s no reason why this one wouldn’t count.

    3. Jesus was not Torah observant
    “Throughout the New Testament, Jesus contradicts the Torah and states that its commandments are no longer applicable.”
    Quite the opposite! Jesus frequently urges the importance of the Commandments, and challenges people to not just follow the Law, but to follow it wholeheartedly. “I have come not to abolish [the Law] but to fulfill [it].” (Matthew 5:17)

    4. Mistranslation of virgin birth

    Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
    —Isaiah 7:14

    The claim is “virgin” here really means “young woman,” rather than one who hasn’t had sex. I don’t argue that. But many prophecies have a double meaning, so both interpretations are correct. The unnamed young woman bears a child (there are many interpretations as to who this is), but its other meaning is literally a virgin—i.e., Mary.

    5. God as Three
    I admit that the Trinity is hard to grasp for non-Christians. But it’s not polytheism.

    6. Man as God
    “God is incorporeal… He assumes no physical form. God is Eternal, above time. He is Infinite, beyond space. He cannot be born and cannot die.”
    This is all true. This point also argues that the Messiah will not be a demi-god, of which Jesus is not. He’s fully God, even in human form. He is eternal, for he’s still alive. If God is Eternal and Infinite, and He’s in everything, it’s not much of a stretch to suggest He can infiltrate humanity, His greatest creation.

    There are other examples, but I spent this chapter saying to myself, “No, no, and… nope.” It truly makes me sad. It’s a very literal interpretation of prophecy, one that doesn’t allow for any leeway in what God may have said. This is the same God who demonstrated to Abram that human sacrifice isn’t necessary; He guided Moses into the unknown; He chose a scrawny shepherd to be Israel’s greatest king. Why not come to Earth as a human being? Why can’t there still be prophecy and miracles, when the whole of Israel’s faith is based on just that?

    In this, I see how the Sanhedrin opposed Jesus. They were so dependent on their own knowledge that they allowed little room for faith.

  • Judaism,  studies

    Genesis 1:1

    I registered for a class on the Old Testament, and didn’t know when class started, so I missed the first couple weeks. I’ve been trying desperately to catch up with my reading and weekly assignments, hence my absence here (and neglect of all my other books). But even though I’ve read the Old Testament before, I’ve learned a lot more this time around. God doesn’t just establish a Law and a covenant, He lives by it. It’s constantly taken away (through man’s wickedness) and rebuilt (though His mercy). So here’s a summary of my first assignment, cut down to suitable blog length, on the first two books of the Bible.

    The overarching theme of Genesis is creation. Most obviously of the world and humanity itself, but also in God’s covenants with His people: Noah; Abraham; Jacob, who becomes Israel. God continues to break down and recreate after the initial seven days of the first chapters, creating these covenants with His people. Even more than creation, though, it’s a record of God’s love for those made “in His image.”

    That love can only be of God, because throughout Genesis we see continued evidence of humanity’s flaws. It begins with Adam and Eve eating of the forbidden fruit, and these flaws are most obvious in the great Flood. But through Noah, God’s great love is seen even in this mass destruction. Noah and his family are saved from the waters, and once they recede receives the same commandment as Adam: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1)

    If God’s promises are slowed down or halted, it is humanity’s own fault. God desires to be in union with mankind, despite its continued tendency to betray Him. Even the flood failed to erase these faults, for Noah himself is shown succumbing to drunkenness. But this doesn’t stop God from creating a great nation. Abram is promised this “great nation” (12:2), blessed with a child at an advanced age. And later, Jacob’s descendants become the twelve tribes of this very nation—despite his sons selling the youngest, Joseph, into slavery. The God of the Old Testament is often viewed as one of wrath and punishment, but Genesis shows otherwise: The patriarchs fall again and again, but God continually renews His covenants with them. It’s not a story of wrath, but of love.

    In Exodus, God—and His divine love—seem absent at first glance. The Hebrews now live in slavery and oppression in Egypt. But despite this initial perspective, Exodus’s main theme is still a covenant, and one greater than before. This is shown not only in the Israelite’s eventual freedom, but how they are established as the chosen people with great responsibility.

    Moses bears the weight of this responsibility at first, being a prime example of both man’s faults and his loyalty to God. Though Moses accepted his divine calling, he never ceased complaining: of a speech impediment, his inability to lead, and of Pharaoh’s stubbornness, to name a few. But God continues to guide him (sometimes sternly) and is unchanging in His promises.
    But God also provides more than the Hebrews think they need—a moral code to live by, beginning with the Ten Commandments. Here, God’s promises are accelerated in this culmination of a covenant that builds the foundation of modern society. Now, the people are expected to live by God’s expectations in this new Law.

    But with great responsibility comes greater judgement for disobeying. Though God is patient, He remains a God of justice. While Moses receives the divine Law, the people grow impatient and create their own god in the golden calf. God’s answer to this is similar to that of a wicked earth prior to the Flood—the calf (the people’s sin) is destroyed, and those that worshipped it (the wicked) are put to death. His promises continue to be put “on hold” as He cleans up mankind’s mess.

    But the remaining loyal are blessed. They have a greater responsibility in building the tabernacle and the establishment of the priesthood. Here, their journey toward a settled land can begin with God as their guide.

  • books,  Judaism

    Jewish-Christian Sacred Scriptures

    The full title, The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, doesn’t fit nicely in the subject line. So I improvised. This deceptively little book caught my eye when I visited Rome, at the same time my Jewish boyfriend traversed Israel. Being an intimidating subject to tackle, the book sat on my “to read” shelf since. But I finally picked it up.

    It’s divided into three parts: The Sacred Scriptures of the Jewish People are a Fundamental Part of the Christian Bible; Fundamental Themes in the Jewish Scriptures and their Reception into Faith in Christ; Jews in the New Testament. Part I is mostly introduction, sharing information that I hope is already understood when picking up this book—that the Old Testament is still true and relevant. So the meat of it is Part II, which digs into Scripture itself.

    I like the format: it explores a specific theme, discussing its appearance in both the Old and New Testaments. We hear about such things as the goodness and wickedness of humanity; God as Savior; prayer; and the Law. Perhaps needless to say, we mostly only differ on the last one. (It’s a big one, but Jewish-Christian differences aren’t as much as we tend to think.)

    The New Testament never says that Israel has been rejected… [The Church] understands her own existence as a participation in the election of Israel and in a vocation that belongs, in the first place, to Israel.

    The salvation of the Jews comes up frequently, even across topics. I’ve been meaning to delve more into the subject, and took notes to help further my understanding of how this works (a future blog post, perhaps). But it always piqued my interest—God made a promise that His chosen people be saved, but you also need Jesus Christ to be saved. How does that work? The more I think about it, the more my mind boggles.

    Part III explores Judaism within the New Testament itself, pointing out the distinctly Jewish parts of the Gospels and Paul’s letters. Paul talks a lot of Judaism, being a Pharisee himself, so is a great reference for both sides of the argument. But the apostles were also Jews, which is easy to forget in their travels with Jesus. The book takes each New Testament writer and picks out the parts relevant to the Hebrew Scriptures, helping to create each of their Jewish identities. It doesn’t shy away from Revelation, either.

    Though I’ve finished this book, I’m not quite done with it. It’s a good reference while reading the Bible, especially the New Testament. It explores the depths of Judaism in all of Scripture, a theme we shouldn’t forget even through Jesus’s ministry.