Sunday, July 30, 2006

the Blessedness That Comes Through Faith

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

What then shall we say was gained by[a] Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin."

Romans 3:21-4:8

Saturday, July 29, 2006

More on Superman and Jesus

So I decided to treat myself to a showing of the IMAX 3D version of Superman Returns.

Here's another connection to the message of Jesus you may have not thought about.

Paul, in Romans 1, speaks of how mankind suppresses the truth of God in unrighteousness. In other words, deep inside were are made with knowledge of God.

Maybe a parallel, albeit and unintentional and probably weak one, is how people don't recognize Clark Kent is Superman.

I mean it should obvious, right?

Well, Paul says:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish heart were darkened. (Romans 1:20-21)

And I thought not recognizing someone due to a pair of glasses was foolish.

Those Controversial MTA Ads

The New York Post picture that everyone has seen couldn't do them justice. Actually, this one doesn't either.

It was a beautiful sight to behold.

Undoing the Death of God: Tackling Unbelief in the Wake of the Holocaust

Radical Jewish theologians such as Rubenstein are not alone as they wrestle with the loving God of traditional Judaism and the sickening horror of shocking evil. As even Orthodox rabbi Irving Greenberg writes, “To talk of love and of a God who cares in the presence of the burning children is obscene and incredible; to lean in and pull a child out of a pit, to clean its face and heal its body, is to make…the only statement that counts.”

Jewish theologian Seymour Cain adds that the Holocaust is a “stumbling block,” and “whatever may be the case with Christian theologians, for whom it seems to play no significant generative or transformative role, the Jewish religious thinker is forced to confront full face that horror, the uttermost evil in Jewish history.”

Messianic believer and theologian Jakob Jocz notes, “Auschwitz casts a black pall upon the civilized world. Not only…man’s humanity…but God himself stands accused. Jews are asking insistently: Where was God when our brothers and sisters were dragged to the gas ovens?…Faith in the God of Israel… is…a challenge, but after Auschwitz it is an agonizing venture for every thinking Jew.”
Many Jews believe that evil won out and that God died in the Holocaust. That settles the quandary for them, but it didn’t settle it for Wiesel. His bitter experiences during those horrific years of the Holocaust did not deprive him of belief in God once-and-for-all. Wiesel’s progression of thought on this issue may provide valuable insight for those Jews who suffer the same kinds of existential confusion as he did over their own religious atheism.

It appears that further reflection and the passage of time forced Wiesel to adjust some of his perspectives on the Holocaust. He recorded this shift in his lesser-known and more-reflective pieces. We shall note only three examples from these writings, although there are several that bear similar testimony.

In a journal article, Wiesel affirmed that any genuine protest against God—such as those of Abraham (Gen. 18), Moses and Aaron (Exod. 5, 32; Num. 16), Job (Job 13, etc.), David (Pss. 10, 13, etc.), Jeremiah (Jer. 12; Lam. 3, etc.), and Habakkuk (Hab. 1)—must come from within the covenant context, not from without. Specifically, he stated, “The Jew…may rise against God, provided that he remains within God.”10

Later, in a television interview, Wiesel propounded the following thought: “For a Jew to believe in God is good. For a Jew to protest against God is still good. But to simply ignore God, that is not good. Anger, yes. Protest, yes. Affirmation, yes. But indifference to God, no. You can be a Jew with God; you can be a Jew against God; but not without God.”11

Finally, Wiesel testified to his own ongoing struggle with God when he declared, “To be a Jew is to have all the reasons in the world not to have faith…in God, but to go on telling the tale…and [having your] own silent…quarrels with God.”12 The emotional Wiesel refuses to embrace the painful reality of the God of his tradition; the rational Wiesel, like Jacob of old, grapples with God as a living Being, seeking blessing for himself and his people.
It is likely that Wiesel ultimately refused to abandon God altogether because he was able to envision the logical consequences of his Holocaust-induced religious atheism. To begin our case for God’s existence during and since the Holocaust, we must lovingly nudge our Jewish friends toward those same logical conclusions. In other words, we must ask, What would be some of the inevitable consequences of persisting in the belief that there is no God or that God really did die in the Holocaust? A rational exploration of these consequences may cause our Jewish friends to reevaluate their atheism.

Consequence no. 1: Illegitimate Law

Laws do not come from nowhere. They must come from lawmakers or lawgivers. If there is no God, laws must come from humans; that is, they must be derived from the best and worst proposals of humankind. To embrace atheism is to embrace a world without any transcendent Lawgiver.

Without a transcendent moral Lawgiver there can be no transcendent moral laws, and the people who govern or control therefore will be the elite who are in power, either the consenting majority or the empowered minority or individual (e.g., Hitler and the Nazis). As Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881) observed in his novel The Brothers Karamazov, if there is no transcendent rule or reign of law, that is, “if there is no God, all things are permissible.”

So it was in the dark days of the Judges, when “there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 17:6; 21:25). Evidence of this in our own day is clearly manifest: public opinion reigns supreme. Gallup and his polls have replaced Moses and his laws!
Like laws, morals and ethics do not come from nowhere; they come from moral and ethical determiners. Any set of morals that is not transcendently based, that is, determined from outside the human frame of reference, of necessity must be determined from within the human context. This means that any moral or ethical system derived from such a godless world must be relative to its very core. We, accordingly, could not talk about “morals” (i.e., prescriptive norms: what people ought to do), but only about “mores” (descriptive norms: what people actually do).

Philosopher Norman Geisler states this dilemma as follows: “How would you know that the Holocaust is ultimately wrong [or evil] unless you knew what was ultimately right? If you don’t have an absolute standard for right, you can’t say that [the Holocaust] is absolutely wrong. That’s just your opinion, and somebody else’s opinion could be, the Holocaust was the best thing in the history of mankind.”
When our Jewish friend or colleague protests in a vehement moral outrage that there has been no God since the Holocaust, it is imperative that we lovingly remind him or her that such a moral outrage, if it is to be valid, must be grounded in the very existence of God, His transcendent law, and His absolute morality. Otherwise, it is ultimately groundless emotional ranting.

We must help our Jewish friend recognize, along with Elie Wiesel, that the consequences of denying God’s existence are far worse than accepting it, even after the Holocaust. In fact, if there were no God, the Nazis could not have been held accountable for their evil deeds, for there only would have been deeds, not evil deeds. There can be public opinions and private viewpoints, but without God, there can be no legal or moral accountability for one’s actions.

Friday, July 28, 2006

God's Strange Angel V: Looking for Evidence of the Trinity in the Tanakh

The Angel in Zechariah

In our last passage in this series for your consideration, the house of David "shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD."

Zechariah 12:7-10

7"And the LORD will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not surpass that of Judah. 8On that day the LORD will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD, going before them. 9And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.

10"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

With the LORD speaking, He says that He will be pierced while at the same time saying "they will morn for him."

If the Messiah Came, Why Isn't There Peace?

Good question.

Let me quote Michael Brown:
“According to the biblical timetable, things are right on schedule, and Jesus is doing everything the Messiah was to expected to do up until this point. The problem is that you have an incomplete understanding of the biblical picture of the Messiah. According to the prophet Malachi, the Messiah would bring purification and purging before he brought peace. He would execute judgment before he established justice. Many would not be able to endure the consequences of his coming. This is written in our Hebrew Bible! For many of our people, his coming would be bad news, not good news. Our Scriptures also teach that the Messiah was to be a priestly King, like David. As a royal Priest, he came to make atonement for sins and offer forgiveness and reconciliation to Israel and the nations. As King, his dominion expands every day, as he rules over those who embrace him as Messiah. Soon he will return and establish his kingdom on the earth, destroying the wicked and bringing world wide peace. So, what you expected to be the first act of the play will be actually be the final act!” (See Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 69-88.)

I posted in one of the comments section, that for the Messiah to establish peace right away, the Messiah would have to wipe both you and I off the face of the earth and blot our names out from the Book of Life.

The first coming of the Messiah was so we can be written into the Book of Life.

"Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place." (Daniel 9:24)

As Isaiah wrote: "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)

Paul writes: "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus [the Messiah]." (Romans 5:1)

Jesus is coming again. The next time to establish peace everywhere.

Those with faith in the Messiah can say with David:
Blessed is he whose transgression is gorgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceipt. (Psalm 32:1-2)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

God's Strange Angel IV: Looking for Evidence of the Trinity in the Tanakh

The Angel and the Book of Judges

In the following passage, the angel of the LORD says he brought Israel out of Egypt and he mentions
his covenant with Israel.

Judges 2:1-4
1Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, "I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore
to give to your fathers. I said, 'I will never break my covenant with you,
2and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land;
you shall break down their altars.' But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? 3So now I say, I will not drive them out
before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you." 4As soon as the angel of the LORD spoke
these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept.

In the following text, the angel of the LORD appears to Gideon. When Gideon realizes the person who appeared to him is the angel of the LORD, he is afraid for his life. Why? He has seen the angel's face.

It seems there is something more in Gideon's mind.

You cannot see God's face and live. (Exodus 33:20) Gideon equates seeing the angel with seeing God Himself.

Judges 6:11-24

11Now the angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating
out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. 12And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, "The LORD is with
you, O mighty man of valor." 13And Gideon said to him, "Please, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where
are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, 'Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?' But now the LORD has
forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian." 14And the LORD turned to him and said, "Go in this might of yours and save Israel from
the hand of Midian; do not I send you?" 15And he said to him, "Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in
Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house." 16And the LORD said to him, "But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as
one man." 17And he said to him, "If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speaks with me. 18Please
do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you." And he said, "I will stay till you return."

19So Gideon went into his house and prepared a young goat and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the terebinth and presented them. 20And the angel of God said to him, "Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them." And he did so. 21Then the angel of the LORD reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes. And fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. And the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight. 22Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the LORD. And Gideon said, "Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face." 23But the LORD said to him, "Peace
be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die."
24Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and called it, The LORD is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.

Again, when the angel of the LORD appears to Manoah and his wife, they identify the
angel as God Himself.

Judges 13:15-23

15Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, "Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you." 16And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, "If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD." (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.) 17And Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, "What is your name, so that, when your words come
true, we may honor you?" 18And the angel of the LORD said to him, "Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?" 19So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the LORD, to the one who works[a] wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. 20And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground.

21The angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD. 22And Manoah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, for we have seen God." 23But his wife said to him, "If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such
things as these."

Evidence for the Resurrection of Y'shua

In Romans chapter 1 Paul wrote the following:
Paul, a servant of [Messiah] Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus [the Messiah] our Lord,

Jesus is declared to to be the Son of God by being raised from the dead (again, for folks reading this blog re-read previous posts to understand what we mean by "Son of God").

So what's the evidence for the Resurrection?

1)Jesus died on the cross and was buried. His earliest enemies knew this to be true. And no one, until Mohammed, doubted that he died on the cross.

Justin Martyr, circa 150, refers the Roman emperor to the works of Pontius Pile in his archive for the reports of Jesus' death and miracles. His death is mentioned by Cornelius Tactitus around 112-124 A.D. Lucian of Samosata, Josephus, and the Letter of Samosata all mention Jesus' death. Jewish Talmudic writings also corroborate this fact.

I have already mentioned I Corinthians 15, written by the apostle Paul. Versus 3 through 5 are believed to be an early Christian creed dated to the first 5 years after Jesus' death. Mark, the earliest gospel at around 40 A.D., records Jesus' death. These report Jesus' death very early.

While some skeptics have doubted the existence of Jesus, let alone his death, there is no basis for this. The earliest Christian record, the secular record, and even the enemies of Christianity all knew the fact of Jesus' death.

2)The tomb was empty the first Easter morning. While this is a more controversial piece of evidence, it is backed by solid historical evidence.

The Christian movement started in Jerusalem. If the tomb was occupied, this would be the last place to start. Produce Jesus' body or point to the tomb and the movement would have been over.

This is also part of the earliest Christian testimony. It is implicit in the early creed from I Corinthians 15. It is mentioned in Mark, the early gospel, and all the other gospels.

Despite these good reasons, there is one reason that shows the empty tomb to be a fact, while showing God's sense of irony at the same time. From the gospel of Matthew (chapter 28) to Justin Martyr to Teretullian to Toledot Yeshu (a Jewish medieval work based off of earlier sources) the counter-argument to the Resurrection was that the disciples stole the body. The disciples then countered that there were guards at the tomb. The Jewish authorities then argued that the guards fell asleep.

Stop for a second. What are the opponents of Jesus admitting? The empty tomb. We have positive evidence from a hostile source that Jesus' grave was empty.

Here is a good article which establishes the fact of the empty tomb in more detail.

3) The third piece of evidence, which is clearly shown from the New Testament, is that the disciples claimed to have post-resurrection experiences with Jesus.

4) The last piece of evidence is that these same disciples went out and suffered for this message.

Christian historian Eusebius records deaths of Peter, Paul, James the brother of Jesus and James the brother of John. Acts 12:2 records the death of James, the brother of John. Josephus records the death of James, the brother of Jesus. Clement of Rome (d. 100) mentions the deaths of Peter and Paul. Oral tradition of the early church records many of the martyrdoms of the apostles. When I was watching the History Channel, a historian on a show about the apostles said (and she didn't appear to be a believer) that these extra-biblical traditions show us accurately where the apostles went and how they died.

Paul and James claimed to have seen Jesus post-Resurrection and they weren't part of the pre-Resurrection followers of Jesus.

Whatever doubts arise about whether certain apostles were martyred, the testimony of second and third generation believers indicates most of the apostles died for their testimony. Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Justin Martyr are examples of these believers who also died for what they believed. If the student is willing to die, how much more so the master?

Now, dying for a cause in and of itself doesn't make something true. But this piece of evidence shows us they were sincere.

My contention is that the only thing that can explain all of the above is the Resurrection of Y'shua, the Messiah.

Now, there have been a variety of counter-arguments. Feel free to posit them in the comments section, and we can hash this out. You should try to account for all 4. Jesus died. His tomb was empty. His followers claimed to have seen him and then went out and suffered and died for that testimony.

I've discussed this many times and have run into many different arguments. Here is my article which goes over the above and then tries to go over counter-arguments as well, so you may want to check those out first before responding.

I think someone once tried to posit UFOs as an alternative explanation. I have yet to respond to that line of argumenation.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

the Trinity in Isaiah

Isaiah 48:12-16
12 “ Listen to Me, O Jacob,
And Israel, My called:
I am He, I am the First,
I am also the Last.
13 Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth,
And My right hand has stretched out the heavens;
When I call to them,
They stand up together.
14 “ All of you, assemble yourselves, and hear!
Who among them has declared these things?
The LORD loves him;
He shall do His pleasure on Babylon,
And His arm shall be against the Chaldeans.
15 I, even I, have spoken;
Yes, I have called him,
I have brought him, and his way will prosper.
16 “ Come near to Me, hear this:
I have not spoken in secret from the beginning;
From the time that it was, I was there.
And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit
Have sent Me.

17 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer,
The Holy One of Israel:

“ I am the LORD your God,
Who teaches you to profit,
Who leads you by the way you should go.
18 Oh, that you had heeded My commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

Who's speaking? "I am the first, I am also the last." That's obviously God.

"From the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit Have[a] sent Me.”

The revelation that underlies our understanding we label "the Trinity" didn't originate in the 1st century.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

God's Strange Angel III: Looking for Evidence of the Trinity in the Tanakh

The Angel in Genesis

Genesis 16:7-14

In the book of Genesis, we continue to see the angel of the LORD.

7The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the
spring on the way to Shur. 8And he said, "Hagar, servant of Sarai,
where have you come from and where are you going?" She said, "I am
fleeing from my mistress Sarai." 9The angel of the LORD said to her,
"Return to your mistress and submit to her." 10The angel of the LORD
also said to her, "I will surely multiply your offspring so that they
cannot be numbered for multitude." 11And the angel of the LORD said to

"Behold, you are pregnant
and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
because the LORD has listened to your affliction.
12He shall be a wild donkey of a man,
his hand against everyone
and everyone's hand against him,
and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen."

13So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, "You are a
God of seeing," for she said, "Truly here I have seen him who looks
after me." 14Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies
between Kadesh and Bered.

The angel of the LORD who spoke to Hagar in verse 9 is simply "the LORD who spoke to her" in verse 13.

Later, Hagar has another encounter with an angel, described as "the angel of God."

Genesis 20:15-20

15When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. 16Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about
the distance of a bowshot, for she said, "Let me not look on the death of the child." And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and
wept. 17And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What troubles you, Hagar? Fear
not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. 18Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a
great nation.
" 19Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.
20And God was with the boy, and he grew up. He lived in the wilderness and became an expert with the bow.

This angel promises to make Ishamael into a great nation, which is the promise given to Abraham in chapter 12.

Compare with Genesis 12:1-2
1 The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.
 2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

When Abraham sacrifices Isaac, we see the angel of the LORD speaking on behalf of God with promises to bless Abraham's offspring.

Genesis 22:11-18

11But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." 12He said, "Do not lay
your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from
me." 13And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and
took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14So Abraham called the name of that place, "The LORD will provide";
as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided."

15And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16and said, "By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17I will surely bless you, and I will
surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of
his enemies, 18and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice."

They've Got the Right Key, Baby, but the Wrong Keyhole

Over on a blog which extols Menachem Schneerson as the Messiah, they apply the Divine Name to the late Rebbe.

Their justification? He is the Messiah and the Talmud (quoting Jeremiah) and other rabbinic sources say the Messiah will be called HaShem Tzidkenu, the LORD Our Righteousness.:
Gemara Talmud Bava Bathra 75b English Translation: And Rava said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan in the future the Tzadkim(Righteous) will be called by the name of the Holy One Blessed Be He as it is said "All that are called by My Name and for My Honor have I created them, I have formed them and I have even made them"(Isaiah 43:7) and Rabbi Shmuel Bar Nachmani said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan 3 have the Name of the Holy One Blessed Be He called upon them and these are them, Tzadikim, Moshiach and Yerushalaiim Tzadikim as already stated; Moshiach as it is written "And this is My Name that they will call him HaShem Tzidkeinu"(Jeremiah 23:6) and Yerushalaiim as it is written "surrounding 18 000 and the name of the city since the day, HaShem is its name"(Ezekiel 48:35?)… (Talmud Baba Batra 75b

As Aerosmith's lead singer says, "you've got the right key, baby, but the wrong...key...hole."

Jeremiah does indeed point out that the Lord's Name would be used of the Messiah. But that's not the only piece of the puzzle.

The prophet Micah wrote:
But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, Which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, Out of thee shall one come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; Whose goings forth are from of old, from ancient days. Micah 5:1 JPS

Isaiah wrote:
Isaiah 9:6 (=9:5 in JPS version) NIV*
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

To which the Midrash comments:
Midrash Mishle, S. Buber edition
The Messiah is called by eight names: Yinnon, Tzemah, Pele ["Miracle"], Yo'etz ["Counselor"], Mashiah ["Messiah"], El ["God"], Gibbor ["Hero"], and Avi 'Ad Shalom ["Eternal Father of Peace"]

So why is Menachem Schneerson, to borrow from Steven Tyler again, the wrong keyhole?

First, he wan't born in Bethlehem. The one who fulfilled these and other Messianic prophecies is Y'shua, Jesus.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Da Vinci vs. Jewish Responses to Jesus

I've noticed a strange occurance.

On many blogs, including this one, I've read from some Jewish people that the message of Y'shua was originally very monotheistic (read Unitarian). Then the Roman emperor, Constantine, or some other Roman group got involved. Then, all of sudden believers who were willing to suffer for their message rolled over and then made the message very pagan (which I think they mean Trinitarian).

Now, the Da Vinci Code types take a completely different route. They say the original message was pretty pantheistic/pagan/gnostic/divine feminine/etc. Then Constantine got involved and made it monotheistic.

So many contradictory conspiracy theories with no support, what are you going to believe?

The people who knew the apostles, known as the apostolic fathers (makes sense), quote extensively from the New Testament. Read this or this if you want to read more on how they used the New Testament.

But if the people who knew the apostles are quoting the New Testament extremely early on, how can we claim corruption?

If you want to say Trinitarian conceptions are a divergence from monotheism, you would be wrong to say that since believers in Y'shua are strictly monotheists.

And as my posts about the Angel of the LORD have shown Trinitarian concepts about the nature of God were revealed in the Torah and in the Tanakh in general well before the 1st century CE.

As Al Gore likes to say, the testimony of the apostles and its support in the Tanakh is an inconvenient truth.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

How can Jesus be the Messiah given all the bad things that have been done in his name?

Given the fact that Christians have tried to force conversions, used torture, incited pogroms and done all sorts of bad things on behalf of their faith, does this rule out Jesus as being the Messiah?

Of course he can still be the Messiah.

First, let us recognize that the truth of the message of Jesus does not rely on bad behavior of his followers. Those claims must stand and be tested on their own.

If a Christian does something bad, that is a bad thing. Even worse since it dishonors the name of the Messiah. But we must ask an important question: Is a bad act done by a Christian consistent or inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus?

Now, anyone who know anything about Jesus and the gospel writings should tell you the same thing: it is very much not consistent. Even those who do not believe in Jesus are familiar with "turn the other cheek."

And Paul echos those beliefs: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (Romans 12:14)

Now, many people who claim to follow Jesus do not follow Jesus. And just saying you are a believer in Jesus doesn't mean you are one. Y'shua said:
On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' Matthew 7:22-23

Also, many things we deem religious conflicts aren't. Problems between the Protestant and Roman Catholic Irish aren't over papal infallibility. They are ethnic in nature.

When the church and the state were tied, not following the right religion or sect became tantamount to rebelling against the king or emperor. And that brought in a lot of people into the Christian church for social, political and, later-on, ethnic motivations. I can speak from my personal experience.

Being raised in a church or in a family that believes in Jesus doesn't make you a believer. Does sitting in a garage make you a car?

But let's put that aside for a second. How does this affect the claims of Jesus? The message of Y'shua tells us that we all have sin. Jeremiah says the heart is desperately wicked. Isaiah says all our righteousness is like filthy rags. We all have sinful natures, both believers and unbelievers.

Anything good can be twisted.

Paul was an Orthodox Jew (prior to that term being used). He persecuted believers of Y'shua in the name of traditional Judaism, before becoming seeing the Messiah and becoming an apostle.

I read the following on wikipedia:
During the famous Bar Kochba Rebellion of AD 135, Christians refused to fight, as a result of which, according to Justin Martyr, they were "commanded to be punished severely, if they did not deny Jesus as the Messiah and blaspheme him."

In pre-Islamic Yemen, a Jewish king called Dhu Nuwas came to power and persecuted Christians in his realm, and massacred Christian communities in Najran in about 524; apparently this was intended as retaliation for Christian Byzantine persecutions of the Jews. According to Muslim tradition, he was the person cursed in the Quran for burning believers alive (Quran 85:4-8.)

In the early sixth century, Khosrau II, King of Persia from 590 to 628, 'invaded Asia Minor and Syria at the head of a large army. The Jews joined the Persians in great numbers under the leadership of Benjamin of Tiberias, a man of immense wealth, by whom they were enlisted and armed. The Tiberian Jews, with those of Nazareth and the mountain cities of Galilee, marched on Jerusalem with the Persian division commanded by Shahrbaraz. Later they were joined by the Jews of southern Palestine; and supported by a band of Arabs, the united forces took Jerusalem by storm (July, 614). Ninety thousand Christians are said to have perished.

Does any of this mean traditional Judaism is not true? If you claim that Jesus isn't the Messiah because some of his followers (real or otherwise) did horrible things, you would have to say "yes." I would say "no."

The question of whether the message of Jesus is true or not has to be answered by looking to Jesus. The one who said "my yoke is easy and my burden is light." The one who told us to love our enemies.

May he have mercy on us for not living up to his standard. And none of us can live up to that standard. Which is why Y'shua gave up his life:
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53

Saturday, July 22, 2006

God's Strange Angel II: Looking for Evidence of the Trinity in the Tanakh

The Angel and God's Name

In the book of Exodus, we notice an angel that has a special relationship with God's name.

Exodus 23:20-22

20"Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him.

22"But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.

Judaism 101 states: "In Jewish thought, a name is not merely an arbitrary designation, a random combination of sounds. The name conveys the nature and essence of the thing named. It represents the history and reputation of the being named."

The Talmud notes about the angel: "It was Metatron [who said that], he replied, whose name is similar to that of his Master, for it is written, For my name is in him." (Sanhedrin 38b)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Entering God's Rest

As we approach Shabbat, let us remember the deeper meaning of rest. Namely, God's rest. And how God links His rest with His mercy.
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, "They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways." Therefore I swore in my wrath, "They shall not enter my rest."
Psalm 95:7-11

The author of the book of Hebrews comments:
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

Y'shua is our peace. He is our rest. We find our rest in the Messiah, who takes away our sin and allows us to enter into the rest prepared for us.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Big Baptist Conspiracy: Jews for Jesus's Founder Gives an Interview

I keep hearing that Jews for Jesus is a front group for the Baptists. Given that structure of Baptist churches is congregational (i.e. each church is independent) with multiple associations, this must have been one heck of a trick.

So who better to ask than Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus, who graciously answered some questions I posed to him.

Me: Could you please explain how the Baptists founded
Jews for Jesus?

Moishe: If they founded Jews for Jesus then we should be on the budget of some Baptist denomination. But the truth is that Jews for Jesus is too big for one denomination to support. We need 17 million dollars next year and no one group can afford that much.

Me: On a serious note, how did Jews for Jesus came to be?

Moishe: The story is well told in a book by Ruth Tucker, "Still Not Ashamed" published by Multnomah Press. But basically, I realized that most evangelistic efforts among the Jews was carried out by well meaning but easily ignored Christians. I studied the approaches of the Prophets and Apostles and realized the missing Dimension was confrontation. By nature most Christians are too polite and politically correct so that their proclamation is but a whisper when a shout is more appropriate.

Me: How did the conspiracy theory that Jews for Jesus is a front-group for Baptist churches come about?

Moishe: If it was started by a Baptist Denomination, why would it be a conspiracy? Some people who can't accept the message try to impugn the messenger. But if we were a Baptist group what would be wrong with that? Those who want to put us in an evil light will do so anyhow. When I look at the history of the Baptist Denominations I don't see anything which makes me to be ashamed.

Me: What do you make of conspiracy theories in general?

Moishe: The greatest conspiracy is between the Devil, the World, and the Flesh or human nature. But Jesus is the light that banishes that darkness.

As a side note, I have to include something Moishe wrote in his email before he started to answer my questions:
I guess that some think that John the Baptist founded Jews for Jesus. But he was martyred in 29 A.D. and we weren't founded till 32 A.D.

It's good to keep a sense of humor about conspiracy theories.

WCBS Airs Segment on Jews for Jesus

I assume the above link is the transcript.
"I think they should be proselytizing on the street," one woman complained.

One Jewish man practically flew into a rage.

"You've never heard about the Spanish Inquisition?" he asks. "You heard about the many times we have been killed, prosecuted, executed because of Jesus?" he asked.

The street volunteers are undeterred. They sell themselves not a converts, but as fulfilled Jews who have accepted Jesus as the messiah.

The group recently mailed 80,000 DVDs in Yiddish to Orthodox Jews. Its label shows a picture of a Jewish figure blowing the shofar, the traditional Jewish ram's horn that summons the faithful to prayer. It's titled "Days of Moshiach."

Viewing it, you see what appears to be a depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The words are Yiddish, but the images are from a production by the Campus Crusade for Christ. Mainstream Jewish leaders are unanimous in their condemnation of the recruitment technique.

"It's deceptive," complained Michael Miller of the Jewish Community Relations Council. "It's wrong, and it's offensive. You can't be two religions at once."

Miller said it's like a case of false advertising. "Hebrew Christianity" would be a better term, he suggested. The fact that their chapels have no crosses and the ceremonies borrow from Jewish tradition doesn't change the core break with Judaism.

"Say you're evangelical, and we'll shut up," he said. "To say that you're Jewish, that in fact you are more Jewish because you believe in Jesus is offensive."

The Jews for Jesus, though, see it differently.

"You can be a Jew and an agnostic," she observed. "Or a Jew who believes Menachem Schneerson is the messiah, but if you're a Jew for Jesus suddenly that's no good."

It's worth mentioning, though, that not everyone in Jews for Jesus is actually a Jew. Non-Jews are common behind the scenes helping with the logistics of the well-financed street campaign. At the group's Manhattan headquarters, CBS 2 saw rooms filled with stacks of pamphlets, New Testament Bibles in Yiddish, Russian language pamphlets featuring Holocaust survivors who've found Jesus, and rooms of volunteers waiting to take to the streets.

Trash bags filled with the pamphlet of the day are lined up in the hallway leading to the front door. Volunteers hit the streets in four shifts daily -- in the boroughs and the suburbs.

Many are the children of original Jews for Jesus members from the '60s and '70s. Others are more recent converts.

Dan Sered said he is an Israeli citizen. "Born and raised in Israel," he offered. "100 percent Jewish and 100 percent Christian."

The guy who mentioned the Inquisitions and stuff. Good question. We'll deal with it later on this blog.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Figuring Out Jewish Identity When Attacking Jews for Jesus

The Canonist is a Jewish blog which has a very interesting take on the Jewishness of Jewish believers. Bold highlights are mine.

The general argument is about religious deception, the idea being that these missionaries are spreading a fundamentally false notion that Judaism can cohere with a belief in Jesus, and that therefore these proselytizing efforts are more flawed than others. And that’s a very interesting thing, because, as readers here will find time and time again, the thing you can find the most Jews to agree on is that they don’t like Christianity.

Take, for instance, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, which is responding to the effort with its own advertising and its own proselytizers. It is representing 60 member groups that can’t agree on whether the Bible was written by God (and they don’t even all agree whether God exists) at Sinai or compiled by various powerful Jews over a 500-year span, whether homosexuality is to be embraced with marriage or condemned with death, whether the State of Israel is the beginning of the messianic period or the death knell for the Jewish people. And so on. But the faith question they feel equipped to answer is whether Jews can believe in Jesus. This creates a lot of interesting conflicts.

Most simply, a great many of those missionizing are considered Jews in virtually every respect that is traditionally known: they were born and raised Jewish, and the only element of Judaism they can be known to have violated is belief in Jesus as the messiah. Does the Jewish community now see these Jews as outcasts who are no longer Jewish? If it’s impossible for a Jew to believe in Jesus, it’d seem that the organized Jewish community in its entirety is willing to abandon these Jews to their fates, whatever they may be. That’s pretty fascinating. Perhaps one reason for this specific exclusion of these Jews is the understanding that sooner or later, they’ll be stepping up to the communal till.

Belief in Jesus as the messiah was never the main divider between Jews and non-Jewish Christians and wasn’t considered good enough reason to expel Jews in classical times [1, 2], so the choice of belief in Jesus as the messiah as the premier dividing line seems not only arbitrary, but false.

And on its most basic level, what’s driving the anti-missionary effort is the hope of keeping around Jews who just don’t believe in their nominal religion as stated. If they did, missionaries wouldn’t be successful with them. What’s the point in keeping people in something they don’t believe, and away from something they do?

While I might quibble with some minor points, this is exactly correct when it comes to the historical criteria for Jewish identity.

It comes down to: What is your authority? Are you consistent? Is your criteria arbitrary?

If God set apart the Jewish people, He gets to define who is and is not Jewish.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What's Your Authority?

Erica is very sure that being Jewish and believing in Jesus does not go together.

A guy on the street told me that he was very sure that when we die we all go back to God.

An Israeli lady a friend in Jews for Jesus and I talked to was very sure that it really didn't matter what you believe, the important thing is that you do good things. What happens when we don't do good things? And why is doing good things important?

What's the point of this? Why am I asking so many questions?

My questions point to a common thread that runs between all opinions you run into. Actually, it points to another question. Ok, you probably guessed it by now.

What's your authority?

I can have all kinds of opinions regarding God, but are they based on truth? Are they based on God describing Himself? Does it have evidence behind it? Is it consistent? Am I consistent?

I can believe all sorts of things about Jesus being the Messiah or not. But is it based on the Scriptures, God's revealed and sure Word to us?

I can believe all kinds of things about the Resurrection. But do my beliefs have any historical evidence behind it?

We all have our authorities. Sometimes we have authorities which are simply assumed, but they are indeed there. Sometimes we have beliefs hanging in mid-air, so to speak.

Sometimes it is best to be like a 3 year old.

Jews can't be for Jesus. How do you know that?

Jesus doesn't affect my life. How do you know that?

Jesus isn't the Messiah. How do you know that?

Well, you get to the point. Look for consistency, lack of arbitrariness, and evidence.

Frankly, look to Jesus.

Is the New Testament Anti-Semitic?

Short answer: no.

The Episcopal Church recently said so.

But you really can only make that comment if you ignore the fact that the New Testament is a collection of books written by Jews who had a Jewish worldview.

But an anti-semite does not need to misuse the words of the New Testament. The Tanakh, the traditional Jewish Scriptures, can be and has been used by snti-semites as well.

Jacob as deceiver? Moses calling the people of Israel a "stiff-necked and rebellious people"?

Should anyone conclude that Moses and the Torah were anti-semitic? Of course not.

The Bible records the behavior of Israel and of the early church, warts and all. Why? Because it is the Word of God and it is truthful.

The common mistake, from my perspective, is that when anti-semites read about Jewish people behaving badly, they fail to recognize that all of humanity is liable to sin. Jewish people are no worse than Gentiles. And there are plenty of examples of Gentiles behaving very, very badly (Pharoah, Haman, Babylon, etc., etc.) which get overlooked.

The apostle Paul wrote concerning Jews and Gentiles: "For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."

That's the bad news. But Paul isn't finished: "and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in [Messiah] Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith."

Paul is saying we are declared righteous by faith in the Messiah, and that applies to both Jew and Gentile.

That is truly good news.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Faith, Reason, and Atheism

David (a fellow volunteering with Jews for Jesus) and I were chatting with some atheists yesterday. As best I can paraphrase and remember, this was a portion of one discussion.

Us: As atheists, you believe that all our thoughts are simply atoms bouncing around, constrained by the laws of physics. Right?

Atheists: Yes. In psych I learned that our beliefs are the result of conditioning.

Us: Do you believe that because it is true or because the laws of physics give you no other choice?
Atheists: It's science.

Us: Do you believe in science because it is true or because you have no other choice?

What this episode helped illustrate is that a lot of our beliefs, everyone's beliefs, is grounded in theism.

The apostle Paul wrote about this when he said:
For what can be known about God is plain to them...

Faith is not opposed to reason. It is the foundation which gives rise to reason.

Recommended reading: C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Things Heard on New York City Streets II: God Doesn't Have a Son

I heard from one of the Jews for Jesus campaigners that this comment is coming up a lot. While much can be said, I found a nice and succinct expert from an article which can be found here.

From the article:
You might protest, "But don't Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God? But if Jesus is God, how can he be the Son of God? Look, you're making a man into God, and on top of that, God doesn't have a son!"

Again, not true! In Exodus 4:22-23, Israel is called God's "son."15 The King of Israel is referred to as God's "son" in I Chronicles 17:13.16 That the Messiah would also be God's son is stated in the Talmud:

'Our Rabbis taught, The Holy One, blessed be He, will say to the Messiah, the son of David (May he reveal himself speedily in our days),'Ask of me anything and I will give it to thee, as it is said [Ps. 2:7,8]. I will tell of the decree: [The Lord hath said unto me, "Thou art my son;] this day have I begotten thee, ask of me and I will give the nations for thy inheritance."'

The idea in the Scriptures is not that a man became God--God forbid--but that the Messiah would himself be God coming as a man. Isaiah 9:6 portrays the coming of the Messiah in these terms: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." But if God is indeed a "tri-unity," then it is possible for the Messiah both to be called God and also to exist in a relationship characterized as "son of God." This is the conclusion we Jews who believe in Jesus are driven to as we study the Scriptures. With our fellow Jews, we affirm that "the Lord our God, the Lord is one"--a oneness characterized by a "tri-unity."

Is Original Sin Jewish?

The New Testament teaches that all men have been born fallen, tainted with sin, and that we all have a nature that is sinful, hostile to God.

Is this a new and novel teaching?

I was reading through the Torah today, when I ran upon the commandment to wear tzitzit.
Numbers 15:37-41

Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God.”

As this translation reads, "the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined."

We are all inclined to evil. Each and every one of us. Both Jew and Gentile.

The world is full of testimony to this. The Torah, the Prophets, the Writings, and the New Testament testify to this. Original sin, properly understood, is a completely Jewish teaching.

This creates a dilemma. How can a good God simply forgive people who do evil? As Paul says:
For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in [Messiah] Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation (note: 'propitiation' means something that turns aside wrath and judgement) by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Only Hope for Peace was Born in the Middle East

The above article was written by David Brickner in 1996 on this topic. Obviously, I found it timely.

The broadside shown above can be found here.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
"May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!"
For my brothers and companions' sake
I will say, "Peace be within you!"
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good.

Psalm 122

I Don't Agree With Them, So They Must Be Dishonest

Lenore Skenazy has written an article in the New York Daily News about her rage at Jews for Jesus. Ok, maybe not rage. But she seems upset.
Usually I take any piece of paper some poor soul is handing out, be it breakfast menu or psychic healer special. I even take the Jehovah's Witness magazines, when they're in English. So why do my hands clench into don't-get-that-thing-NEAR-me fists when someone tries to hand me a pamphlet from Jews for Jesus?

Ok, I'm hooked. Why?
I honestly didn't know - until I started talking with the Christians and Jews who have studied the group's tactics.

"They're not like anybody else," says Ruth Guggenheim, spokeswoman for the anti-cult group Jews for Judaism. "Most evangelical Christians are straightforward, they come to the door and say they want you to become a Christian. They're honest."

The problem is that the Jews for Jesus - in town this month with their biggest mission ever - say nothing of the sort. While they, too, want Jews to embrace Christ, they only call this becoming a more "fulfilled" or "completed" Jew. And to make it look, well, kosher, they dress it up with Jewish symbols.

So they are upfront that people should believe in Jesus as the Messiah. But because they don't believe that Jews cease being Jews when they believe in the Jewish Messiah, they are being dishonest.

Actually, if you believe the New Testament, you should believe you can be Jewish and believe in Jesus. First, Jesus is the Messiah. Secondly, almost 2000 years ago the question was whether people can believe in Jesus without becoming Jewish. Somewhere and somehow that got turned on its head.
"Acknowledge what you're doing! Acknowledge that you're asking people to convert to Christianity!" says Michael Miller, executive vice president at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. Like me, Miller has nothing against people with religious convictions trying to share them, so long as they don't stoop to deception. And this group is trying to look as Jewish as Jackie Mason.

"Jews for Jesus". They are upfront with Jesus. But Lenore Skenazy sincerely believes that you can't believe in Jesus and be Jewish. So she equates "joining Christianity" with "not being Jewish anymore."

She cannot conceive of that not being the case. So it appears she cannot understand that someone can actually believe you can believe Jesus is the Jewish Messiah (he's everyone's Messiah) and be truthful about remaining Jewish.
This week, the pamphlets themselves feature Jewish jokes. "Good news should make people smile," says Susan Pearlman, a spokeswoman for the group, which is capping a five-year, 65-city tour with its mission here. The jokes are all used as parables to explain why Jews should accept Christ.

Sorry. Jews can't. That was decided 2,000 years ago.

On whose authority? Doesn't God, who set apart the Jewish people, get to define who is Jewish? Even the Talmud agrees that one can't stop being Jewish.
But beyond even the evil of deception, there is one more thing that hits me in the gut when a Jew for Jesus tries to convert me. It's a soul-deep sense of insult.

"Someone is trying to get you to betray not just your religion, but your parents and your grandparents," says Prof. Berger. "And these people are using Jewish symbols."

That's it! It is an invitation to betrayal dressed up as a celebration of my roots.

No wonder I don't take the pamphlets.

Let's assume for a moment that Jesus is the Messiah. Let's assume for a moment (and indeed it is the case) that Jesus is risen from the dead. Would it be wrong to believe in Jesus?

I can't help Lenore Skenazy that she feels it is a betrayal. It's a common feeling, as Stan Telchin famously (in Messianic Jewish circles) wrote about his experience to faith in Jesus as Messiah.

But I would ask this first: is it true?

If it is true, not believing in Jesus would be a denial of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

If it is true, there is life in the Messiah. There is forgiveness. There is peace.

No wonder the Psalmist wrote:
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Man Starts With Paperclip, Ends Up With House

I couldn't help thinking about Y'shua's parable of the talents when I heard about this.
One year ago, the 26-year-old blogger from Montreal set out to barter one red paper clip for something and that thing for something else, over and over again until he had a house.

On Wednesday the quest is ending as envisioned: MacDonald is due to become the proud owner of a three-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot home provided by the town of Kipling, Saskatchewan. MacDonald and his girlfriend, Dominique Dupuis, expect to move there in early September.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

You Mean the Person Handing Me a Tract Isn't a J-F-J Subway Stop?

Jews for Jesus is in the news again. They had t-shirts with the J and F MTA train symbols on them.

The MTA felt it was a violation of their trademarks and so the t-shirts were changed.
Leaders of the organization said they understood using MTA logos was forbidden in the $1.4 million advertising campaign, which has drawn the ire of the city's Jewish organizations. But they thought their Web site and pamphlets were a different matter.

If you look carefully, you'll see the Hebrew phrase "Y'shua lives" on the shirt of the lady in the picture. That's my favorite shirt I've seen so far.
Jews for Jesus responded by converting the circular logos into brown and orange Stars of David. Initially, not even that appeased the agency, Perlman said.

"Our lawyer was told that still might be an infringement," she said.

In fact, MTA officials agreed they own no rights to the letter F inside a Star of David. "They altered the logo, and as far as we're concerned, it's now resolved," MTA spokesman Timothy O'Brien said.

Perlman said she and the Jews for Jesus faithful were glad to hear it, because they had already begun the process of altering the circles on hundreds of T-shirts using black markers.

You don't want to have to put up with marker fumes more than once.

But it seems that transit advocates have Jews for Jesus' back (at least on this topic):
Transit advocates say that while they understand the need to protect the trademarks from profiteers, they are troubled by nonprofit organizations being threatened.

"We use subway imagery all the time," said Gene Russianoff, of the Straphangers Campaign.

"Frankly, it's hard to believe a Jews for Jesus brochure will be mistaken for MTA-sponsored materials."

I'm no expert in trademark law and fair-use, but I think Mr. Russianoff's point is that non-profits have a right to use the public symbol as long as people aren't being tricked into thinking the use of a symbol is a MTA-related thing. At least, I think that's his point.

Things Heard on New York City Streets I

I had the pleasure of going out on the streets of Manhattan with Jews for Jesus this past Saturday.

Some gentleman inquired of me: Are you from Utah?

Thanks for asking. I'm from South Jersey.

Monday, July 10, 2006

God's Strange Angel: Looking in the Tanakh for Evidence of the Trinity

Believers in Jesus hold to the view that there is one God, while also maintaining that God is a Trinity. Dr. James White defines the Trinity as follows:
Within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and coeternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Is this some crazy doctrine that pagan Christians thought up? Or are there hints of this teaching in the Tanakh, the Jewish Scriptures, which predate any 1st century follower of Jesus.

In one of the most famous passages in the Bible, when God calls Moses, we find the angel of the LORD.
Exodus 3:1-6

1Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3And Moses said, "I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned." 4When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." 5Then he said, "Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." 6And he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

We see that the angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in the Bush. Later in verse 4, the text reads that God calls to Moses out of the Bush. Now, one might say that although the angel appeared to Moses the voice coming from the bush is not the angel's.

But let's keep reading...

Exodus 4:1-5

1Then Moses answered, "But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, 'The LORD did not appear to you.'" 2The LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" He said, "A staff." 3And he said, "Throw it on the ground." So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. 4But the LORD said to Moses, "Put out your hand and catch it by the tail"--so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand-- 5"that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you."

In Exodus 3:2, it was the angel of the LORD that appeared to Moses. In this section, the text reads that the LORD Himself appeared to Moses.

Compare this episode with the visitation of the commander of the LORD's army to Joshua.
Joshua 5:13-15

13When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us, or for our adversaries?" 14And he said, "No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, "What does my lord say to his servant?" 15And the commander of the LORD's army said to Joshua, "Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.

In the presence of the burning bush and the angel of the LORD, the LORD commanded Moses to take off his sandals. In the presence of the commander of the LORD's army, Joshua receives the same command.

For more examples of this strange angel, go here.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Looking for the Original Famous Ray's Pizza vs. Looking for the Messiah

All over Manhattan, you will see pizza joints called "Famous Ray's" or "the Original Famous Ray's".

Ray's pizza became very famous in the 1980's when a group of London students sent a few people over to London by plane to pick up some pies from one of the Ray's. But which one? And which is the original?

That's a bit harder to figure out.

We could use the movie Elf as our guide, where Santa says "there are, like, thirty Ray's Pizzas. They all claim to be the original. But the real one's on 11th.".

Wikipedia gives a history of Ray's that sheds some light on the issue:
According to "Pizza Wars: New York vs. Chicago,", a Travel Channel documentary, the first "Ray" opened his establishment on Prince Street in 1929. He was in fact a "Ralph", Ralph Como of Little Italy. "Ray's Pizza" shops eventually spread to almost every street corner in Manhattan, although competition and legal action between each other have since reduced the number to 47 (according to the telephone directory).

Although the definition of "Ray's Pizza" is contentious, "Famous Ray's of Greenwich Village" at 465 6th Avenue, is in fact the restaurant which, in the 1980s made the network news by being the shop from which a group of students in London ordered some pies. They raised money, sent 2 people to New York (they were from New York, actually) and ordered several dozen pies which were reheated and enjoyed. The article is posted at the restaurant and probably available online. Although the name is the same, the restaurant was sold to a new owner in the early 1990s.

There are really two histories when it comes to "Ray's Pizza". It may be that the name had resonance because of Ralph Como's early use and reputation. But the spur for a "Ray's on every corner" was the rise, during the 1970s, of the aforementioned Ray's on 6th Avenue and 11th St. Owned by two brothers who immigrated from a town named Roio del Sangro in the Abruzzi region of Italy. it innovated the thick "eat it with a fork" slice which overtook New York in the ensuing years, for a time making a classic thin-crusted New York street slice difficult to find.

This was the Ray's most of the others were pretending to be during the Ray's avalanche of the '80s. Many believe the 6th Av. original (which at one point had a second branch on the Upper West Side) is not what it once was. And the thick slice it was famous for (with toppings under the top layer of cheese) - neither Chicago deep dish nor Travolta-style walking slice - is no longer ubiquitous. Both the standard New York slice and other pizzeria names have slowly regained their place in the city's streetscape.

So there are 47 candidate for Ray's pizza. Which ones are authentic? I don't know.

And if you do find the original one, will the pizza be any good?

One is left in a state of confusion.

Fortunately, that isn't the case with trying to determine who the Messiah is.
  • Messiah was to be born at Bethlehem: Micah 5:1

  • Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah: Genesis 49:10

  • Messiah would present himself by riding on an ass: Zechariah 9:9

  • Messiah would be tortured to death: Psalm 22

  • Messiah would arrive before the destruction of the Second Temple: Daniel 9:24-27

  • Messiah's life would match a particular description, including suffering, silence at his arrest and trial, death and burial in a rich man's tomb, and resurrection: Isaiah 52:13-53:12

There's only one candidate that fulfills all that. The Messiah, Y'shua.

And Y'shua said that those who believe in him will have life and have it abundantly.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Why Do Jews Believe in Jesus?

Jew School, which is a good name for a blog, wrote the following:
It seems noteworthy that according to the NY Times, Jews for Jesus are specifically running campaigns “aimed at Russian-speaking Jews, Israelis and Hasidic Jews.”

This would make sense if they are doing so because they perceive these communities to be particularly vulnerable to their message.

Usually, you'll hear that a Jew won't believe in Jesus if they know their Judaism. But when counter-examples arise alternative theories arise, fault must still be placed on the Jewish person who believes.
And which ”Hasidic Jews” are J4J targeting, and why? Do we really think they are going to be spending most of their energy on the side locked yeshiva bochrim of Belz? Or are they targeting a specific group that has already–-to a shocking extent–-allowed crossover from Christianity to subsist within its midst? Chabad contains a real point of entry for those seeking to mix Judaism and Christianity with Rebbe worship. And the Jewish community frequently continues to shrug it off, and generally downplay its significance.

As for the Israelis, it is quite clear that Zionism has not proven a satisfying replacement for Judaism. But the Haredim, with their fundamentalism and their antics and bile have successfully partnered with the Labor-Zionists to convince many secular Israelis that Judaism is not for them. Jews for J shrewdly assesses that maybe they are willing to consider something different.

So it seems Jew School's blogger is flying around in circular logic. If someone believes, they must have a problem. I mean it couldn't be true...could it?

It could.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Words of the Prophets are Written on the Subway Walls

The New York Post has taken notice of Jews for Jesus' advertisements with the MTA and the reaction to them.
Walking by the 42 illuminated panels, which read "Jews for Jesus" and "Jesus for Jews," many subway passengers said yesterday the posters were inappropriate.

Jesus for Jews? Now, that's true and good news. As Isaiah wrote about the Messiah:
And now the LORD says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him...(Isaiah 49:5)

Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest

Or things to see in New York City when you aren't visiting the Guggenheim.
A 160-pound wonder from Japan set a new record by devouring a sickening 53¾ frankfurters in 12 minutes to win the annual Independence Day hotdog eating competition on Coney Island.

The feat earned Takeru Kobayashi, 27, his sixth straight title in the event, held at the original Nathan's Famous hotdog stand on Brooklyn's seashore. His prize: the coveted Yellow Mustard Belt.

Kobayashi broke his own record of 53½ hotdogs, set at the same competition two years ago.

Thousands of raucous spectators jammed the streets in front of the hotdog stand, a block from the famed Coney Island boardwalk, to watch the competition and Kobayashi—a top-ranked eater who once ate 17.7 pounds of pan-seared cow brains to win $25,000.

His strongest competition was Joey Chestnut, a 220-pound civil engineering student from San Jose, Calif., who set a U.S. record by eating 50 hotdogs during a qualifying tournament in Las Vegas.

Chestnut jumped out to an early lead in the competition, sometimes jamming franks into his mouth with two hands as the crowd roared.

But Chestnut struggled, red-faced, with veins bulging in his forehead, as the Japanese star methodically chomped dog after dog, often dipping them in a soft drink before cramming them into his mouth. Kobayashi passed Chestnut with about three minutes left in the contest.

When the clock expired, Chestnut had swallowed 52 Nathan's franks—not quite enough.

"I hit a wall. I just felt tired," he told an interviewer from ESPN, which broadcast the competition live.

Joey Chestnut won the Wing Bowl earlier in the year.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Interview with Bob Mendelsohn

Bob Mendelsohn is the leader of Jews for Jesus Australia (you can find his blog here. He was kind enough to sit down and answer some of our questions. While I was helping with Philadelphia Behold Your God, he was kind enought to do an interview with me via email.

At least, I assume he was sitting down when he was answering our questions via email.

Q: Could you tell us what life was like before you believed in Y'shua?

Bob Mendelsohn (BM): I enjoyed a suburban Jewish life in Kansas City. We were Orthodox, at least I was and my parents were, at least on the holidays. We kept a kosher home and I was very involved in NCSY (Orthodox Jewish youth group). Academia was important and I went to Washington University in St Louis. I sang in the Chamber choir in my high school and loved being in drama productions, both at school and in our youth group.

Q: How did you come to believe in Y'shua?

BM: I wasn't looking for another religion, thank you very much. Some Christian young people approached me in many venues, offering salvation and Christianity. I wasn't interested. They surrounded me on the streets and preached their version of religion.I resisted and in fact ridiculed them. I was Jewish after all, automatically related to God.

But another time in Kansas City, in May 1971, some religionists were out on the steets near the Art Gallery. They were young, about 21 years old. And they knew God personally. They offered him to me...but again I replied "I'm Jewish" Of course, I'd never read the New Testament. Why would I? It was a goyishe fairy tale, invented by the church to keep Jews in exile or without jobs. It was a domination book.

Until I read it for myself.

There I saw the consummate Jew. He was the man of peace and love. He was the universal hippie. He was everything I ever wanted to follow.

And he offered forgiveness. The greatest thing I wanted, the thing I longed for, was release from all my sins. Sure, on Yom Kippur I heard it discussed, but never realized [its reality].

Now, in Jesus, the offer was given and in receiving him as Savior, forgiveness was transacted. Awesome!

Q: What was the reaction of your friends and family?

BM: Most of them repelled me. My parents threw me out of the house. We eventually got in good relationship again, but initially they tossed me out. Friends couldn't understand and wouldn't return phone calls.

Q: We hear that people who are properly educated in Judaism don't believe in Y'shua. What would you say to comments like that?

BM: I had a very good Jewish education. I had my Bar Mitzvah in the Orthodox synagogue after over a year of specialized training just for that. I graduated Hebrew school two years later. Then I continued to learn with rabbis in KC and then at St Louis' Tiferes Israel Chevra Kadisha synagogue with Rabbi Polin.

Those who knock us back about our Jewish education are showing their own ignorance. A man can learn and can make up his own mind. At least that's what I've always been taught.

Q: What brought you to Australia?

BM: I moved from New York City with my wife and kids in 1998. We had visited Sydney before and loved it. Jews for Jesus was opening a new office there and the "fit" for my going was timely. I think God was leading me to come here. And the country is great, the people are top drawer, the scenery is awesome, the opportunities for sharing Messiah virtually unlimited.

Q: What do you miss most about the United States?

BM: Choices. You get colors and sizes and options on everything there, whereas here...well, let's just say it's limited. Also the media bias is very visible in both and I'm more comfortable with American bias. Also the American response to the Gospel is clear, but here there is reluctance to offend and that makes for more "silence" in answer to my offer of Jesus.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers who are considering the claims of Y'shua?

BM: On the judgment day we will not be standing alongside others. We will individually be responsible for what we know and what we did with what we knew. No rabbi will be there behind whom we can hide. No parents will cover for you. No community affiliation will stand in your place. You alone with the Almighty. I think believing in Jesus our messiah is the only reasonable response to who he is, and the only offer of salvation that God has ever given regarding our eternal life.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Jews for Jesus Hits the New York Times

The New York City Behold Your God campaign has taken the notice of the New York Times, which did a very good and fair job of presenting Jews for Jesus' views and those of their opponents.

There was actually a lot to chew on in a relatively short article.

First, the New York Times confirms that the Messiah is not just for Jews, but he is also for Gentiles:
Most of the people who pray with Jews for Jesus missionaries to accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior are, in fact, non-Jews, according to the organization's statistics. But the group, which sends its monthly newsletter to 100,000 households, is most interested in engaging Jews with the Gospel.

As Isaiah wrote about the Messiah, Israel, and Goyim (that's Hebrew for "Gentiles"):
It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations (goyim), that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

Craig Miller, of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, says Jews for Jesus is deceptive, which is a frequent charge, so it deserves a quick rebuttal here. "It's about deception pure and simple. The groups that are coming are bringing a deceptive message that one can be both Christian and part of the Jewish community."

Mr. Miller, it is only deceptive if my friends at Jews for Jesus don't believe what they are saying. And I can assure you that isn't the case unless you have access to information I don't. Deceptive would be "Jews for Somebody Who Isn't Jesus But Secretly We're For Jesus".

The article continues:
At the heart of the debate between Jewish leaders and members of Jews for Jesus is what it means to be Jewish, which involves not only faith but also ethnicity and culture.

Many Jewish leaders argue that because members of Jews for Jesus have adopted the central tenet of another faith, they have become apostates and are no longer members of the community. "We don't believe you can be a carnivorous vegetarian," said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis.

But Mr. Brickner of Jews for Jesus said a Jew is defined in the Bible and in society by being born of Jewish parents. Jews today have a variety of views toward religion, including not believing in God, he said, yet are considered Jewish. "You may become a bad Jew, but you can't become a non-Jew," he said.

Now, the first part is almost right. Whether you can be Jewish and believe in Y'shua is an important question to ask. But the real debate is over whether Y'shua is the Messiah and whether the Tanakh supports his claims. And was he really resurrected from the dead?

If that's the case, the answer to the question is a slam dunk.

Now, notice Mr. Brickner's rebuttal. Assume for the sake of argument that Jesus isn't the Messiah. You can't become a non-Jew.

Who does the Talmud back? David Brickner or Rabbi Potasnik? David Brickner. Read from Sanhedrin 44a:
Israel hath sinned. R. Abba b. Zabda said: Even though [the people] have sinned, they are still [called] 'Israel'. R. Abba said: Thus people say, A myrtle, though it stands among reeds, is still a myrtle, and it is so called.

An unnamed Jewish person asks a good question:
"I don't understand how you become a Jew for Jesus," said a Jewish man in a skullcap in Herald Square on Thursday afternoon, furrowing his brow in disdain at Jeffrey B. Cohen, 47, a vice president of marketing at a major pharmaceutical company in Atlanta, who was distributing literature for the group. "How does that happen?"

That's a question that has an unique answer for each person, but still a good question. Soon, I will publish one such answer.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Superman as Jesus-Figure

Rich has a post about Superman as a Jesus-figure.

Not wanting to be left out of a discussion about my pre-kindergarden hero, I read the following in Wired magazine while working out at the gym today:
Everyone knows the Superman story: rocketed to Earth from the distant planet Krypton just before it explodes, raised by a loving Kansas couple, possessing powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, defends the city of Metropolis – and the world – from evil. His real-world origin is more humble: Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Jewish kids from Cleveland, created him as a character in a newspaper comic strip. But the strip didn’t sell, so they reformatted it and flipped it to a publisher hungry to buy content for one of the first comic books. When the story appeared in the premiere issue of the anthology Action Comics, kids went crazy for it, as if there had always been a Superman-shaped hole in the world and it now was filled.

And that quote should remind of Blaise Pascal's famous quote regarding a God-shaped hole in the human heart:
There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.

I also found this on the Internet from Blaise Pascal which may explain why see parallels in comics to the Messiah:
What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Why Would a Gentile Be Interested in Jewish Evangelism?

To start the ball rolling on this blog, let's answer a common and reasonable question. Why would a Gentile be interested in sharing the message of the Messiah to the Jewish people?

One common reason I've heard given on my behalf, and not by Gentile believers, is that we need Jewish people to believe in Jesus in order to validate our beliefs. While I can only talk for this Gentile, let me say that the amount of people who believe something or who believes something doesn't make something true.

I'm kind of old-fashioned that way. I believe something is true because I think it is true. I believe the claims of Jesus being the Messiah are validated by his resurrection from the dead.

I've heard people tell me that I want people to think like me. If they mean I want people to place their trust in the Messiah, so they can receive life and have it abundantly...guilty as charged. So it would be the case for you, whether you be Jewish or Gentile.

So why am I interested in spreading the good news of the Messiah to Jewish people?

Gratitude. The earliest followers of Jesus spread the message of the Jewish Messiah to the world, both to Jews and to Gentiles, at great cost to themselves. It would be the height of arrogance to withhold the message of the Messiah from Jewish people.

The gift of life has been given to me via the Jewish people. As Paul wrote,
They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Messiah who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

In the coming days, we will be discussing the Messiah. We will look into the Tanakh to examine those claims to see if they hold up to close examination. We may do some interviews. We will even look at news stories and articles that pop up from time to time.

And all of this will be done from a perspective of a Gentile who is eternally grateful to the Jewish people.