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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Maimonides 13 Principles of Faith: 4. God as Creator

4. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, is the first and the last.

This principle states that God is before all things, and that he created all that is not God, and not from anything.

Abraham Ibn Ezra said that the creation account only refers to the sublunar world, since the heavenly bodies are eternal in his commentary on Genesis, as well as in his commentary on Daniel. In the latter Ibn Ezra states that the heavenly bodies do not begin or end. Many of the rabbis interpret this as a denial of creation ex nihilo, such as Levi ben Abraham, R. Nissim ben Moses, R. Joseph ben Eliezer Bonfils, R. Ezra Gatigno, R. Isaac Abarbanel, R. David Arama, dn R. Joseph Solomon Delmedigo.

According to R. Samuel Ibn Tibbon, the four elements are eternal. Gersonides said that the world was made from formless pre-existing matter. Gersonides even said that cration ex nihilo is imposible.

R. Shem Tov Falaquera also believed taht creation was from pre-existing eternal matter.

R. Abraham Abulafia, R. Hasdai Crescas, and R. Joseph ibn Kaspi argued that God continually creates the world, holding it in existence, from eternity past.

Even Maimonides himself seemed to hold two different views on the matter. In Hilchot Yesodai Hatorah, Maimonides argued taht God is the First Existent, and is the being upon which all else depends. There is no mention of creation ex nihilo.

The Guide of the Perplexed discusses the Platonic position, and Maimonides concludes that both the creation ex nihilo, and the Platonic view of an eternal world are both viable. Maimonides states that there is no religious reason to reject the Platonic view.

According to the Maimonidean scholar Warren Zev Harvey, the Mishneh Torah reveals that the Aristotelian view that the world is eternal is required for the fulfillment of the divine commands to know God that that he is one, and that Abraham had come to know this view based on the premise that the world is eternal.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Curse of Jeconiah

J.P. Holding has an excellent response to the accusation that Jesus cannot be Messiah because Jeconiah's line was cursed:

Maimonides 13 Principles of Faith: 3. Divine Incorporeality

3. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, has no body, and that He is free from all the properties of matter, and that there can be no (physical) comparison to Him whatsoever.
In Rabbinic Judaism
In hopes of securing dhimmi status for Jews in Muslim lands, Maimonides contradicted much of Talmudic tradition by insisting that God not only has no physical form, but that God is incapable of entering into his own creation in physical form.

Marc Shapiro writes that in the Bible, God is described as a corporeal being, with a back, head, and hands. Nowhere in Tanakh is God described as incorporeal or invisible. Even Isaiah 40 can be interpreted (and has been in Jewish tradition) as affirming that God does have a form, but that it is unlike anything else. Deuteronomy 4 also does not explicitly deny that God has a form, but only that his form was not seen.

Adam walked with God in the garden, and hid from him after Adam had sinned. God appeared to Abraham near the oaks of Mamre. Moses and the 70 elders saw God with white hair and sapphire under his feet. Moses hid his face from God. Isaiah said that he saw God sitting on the throne, and was undone, since no one can see God and live.

The targumim tried to shy away from athropomorphism, but still included some of it. The Talmudic and midrashic literature of the rabbis was filled with anthropomorphism.

Indeed, rabbinic scholars such as Alon Goshen-Gottstein and Yair Lorberbaum state that there is not a single statement in all of rabbinic literature that categorically denies that God has a body or form. The rabbinic literature has many examples of God being described as corporeal, which are very difficult to interpret as mere metaphor.

Meir Bar-Ilan said that "In the first centuries Jews in the Land of Israel and in Babylon believed in an anthropomorphic God."

In the Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 6a, God is described as wearing tefillin.

In Leviticus Rabbah 34:3, Hillel tells his students that just as gentiles are ordered to take care of the images of kings, from which they receive their livelihood, so too was Hillel required to bathe and take care of the image of God.

In Avot d'Rabbi Natan, a prooftext is brought forth for why Adam was born circumcised, "because he was born in the image of God."

In Rosh Hashannan 24b and Avodah Zara 43b, a prooftext is brought forth for why it is illegal to make a portrait of a human face, because to do so would be to make a portrait of God's face.

Even R. Ishmael, who was known for de-emphasizing divine corporeality, still taught that God had five fingers in his right hand, and each had a purpose. One showed Noah what to do, another smote the Egyptians, another wrote the tablets, another showed Moses what to do, and the whole hand God used to ruin the children of Esau.

Midrash tanchuma states that the appearance of God was like devouring fire, but God turned away and hid from them, and therefore the people of Israel saw no manner of form.

In Genesis Rabbah, Rabbi Hoshaya said: When the Holy One, blessed be he, created Adam, the ministering angels mistook him for God." God then resolves the event by causing sleep to fall upon Adam, showing the angels that he was a mere mortal.

In Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Shimon said "When Isaac was bound to the altar, he lifted his eyes and saw the divine presence. But it is written that man may not see God and live. In lieu of death his eyes dimmed when he got older. From here you learn that blindness is considered as death."

R. Abraham ben David about Maimonides: "Why has he called such a person a heretic? There are many people greater and superior to him who adhere to such a belief on the basis of what they have seen inverses of Scripture, and even more in the words of those agadot which corrupt right opinion about religious matters."

R. Moses ben Hasdai Taku rejected Maimonides' third principle, and viewed God as being able to take on corporeal form at will. He stated that God sits on the throne literally, and that it is blasphemous to deny that this is the case. Taku interprets Isaiah 40:18 as stating nothing can be compared to God's greatness and splendor, not that nothing can be compared to God's physical form.

R. Solomon Simchah of Troyes said that God was described in human form in prophetic visions, and that this is not to be taken as metaphor. Rather, God actually assumed such a form.

There is good evidence that Rashi himself was a corporealist. He states that the heavenly Torah, measured to be 3,200 times the size of the universe, was measured by the tefach (or cubit) of God himself. Rashi interpret's God's hand in Exodus 7:5 as an actual, literal hand. He also states that for man to be created in God's image is to be created in God's physical form. Rashi then interprets likeness to be man's intellectual understanding. In other words, to be created in God's image and likeness is to be created in God's physical and non-physical aspects.

According to Rashi's grandson known as the Rashbam, might also have been a corporealist. He argues that in Genesis 48:8, Israel both saw God and did not see God, because it is possible to see a person's shape without recognizing the features on his face.

R. Abraham ibn Daud says taht masses of Jews believed God to be a material being.

Saadiah Gaon also said that many people beleived God to be a body. Even Maimonides himself said that the majority of the ignorant Jews held an anthropomorphic idea of God.

R. Yedaiah Bedershi writes that it is well-known that in previous generations that belief in God's corporeality was spread throughout virtually all of Israel.

Nachmanides wrote a famous letter to the French sages, who banned Maimonides' teachings on God's corporeality because they contradicted what the majority of French Torah scholars believed.

R. Samuel David Luzzatto openly rejected Maimonides on the issue of corporeality. He argued that the idea of an incorporeal God is what leads to heresy, and that Jews should return to the traditional belief that God is corporeal.

Maimonides is therefore forced to engage in hermeneutical waterboarding, which is to force the text to tell him what he wants to hear. He has to start with the dogma that God is incorporeal and read it into the text. He interprets the interaction with the 70 elders of Israel as the elders having a marred apprehension of God.

So what does one make of the corporealist passages in the Bible? Maimonides argues that the Bible does teach God's corporeality, since the masses need to be instructed in God's existence, and they could only do so on the idea that God is corporeal. The Torah has no choice but to compromise with reality in order to educate the people effectively.

On Maimonides' view, the Torah does not just mislead the people, it actually teaches a heretical doctrine because it is an improvement over the earlier state in which people did not believe in God.

This is absolutely fascinating. Maimonides is so desperate to defend his view, that he would accuse God of not being able to teach his people the truth in a way that they would believe it. Instead, God himself has to openly teach heresy, and one which denies people a share in the world to come because even that is better than atheism.

By implication, this means that belief in Jesus as God, even on Maimonides' view, cannot be worse than atheism, and therefore a Jew is better off in being a Christian than an atheist.

In Christian Theology
John 4:24 says that God is spirit. The definition of spirit by New Testament writers excludes the possibility of God being corporeal. After Jesus was resurrected, the disciples wondered if he was a spirit, and Jesus said that a spirit does not have flesh and bones as he does. 1 Timothy 1:17 also describes God as invisible.

In Contra Brown, Yisroel Blumenthal takes a position which is more at home with Christian theology than with Orthodox Jewish theology.
"In order to establish His relationship with the Jewish people God introduced Himself to the nation as a whole with the words “I am the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:2). This revelation gave the people to understand that there is no power aside from God (Deuteronomy 4:35). This revelation was God’s way of teaching us whom to worship, and through the process of elimination – who we cannot worship. If the being in question was not present at Sinai, then it does not deserve our devotion (Exodus 20:19, Deuteronomy 4:15). Scripture consistently warns against worshipping - “gods that neither you nor your fathers have known” (Deuteronomy 11:28, 13:3,7,14, 28:65, 29:25, 32:17, Jeremiah 7:9, 19:4) – or “that which I have not commanded” (Deuteronomy 17:3). The clear message of scripture precludes worship of a being that was not revealed to us at Sinai. It is on this basis that the Jewish people cannot accept a teaching which deifies a human being."
It is true that if the being was not present on Sinai, it does not deserve our devotion. Since the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one being (but not the same person), then any time that one is present, all three are present. To say that the Son was not present at Sinai is just to beg the question against the Trinity.

Jews will often argue that God is not a man, therefore Jesus cannot be God. This is like arguing that blue is not made of metal, therefore my car cannot be blue. It's a fallacy of predication.

A better way to understand the Incarnation is to think of the Shekinah. This is the glory of God which filled the Holy of Holies. it was visible and located in space and time, and yet it was worthy of worship.

One could say that God created a human body, or even a body-soul composite, and then indwelt that body with the Shekinah. Since the Sheknah is part of that person, then that person would be worthy of worship, in the same way that the temple itself was not worthy of worship, but the temple-Shekinah composite was worthy of such worship.

This position is far less extreme than what has been accepted in Orthodox Rabbinic Judaism, and so it has no grounds to dismiss the traditional Christian understanding of the Incarnation as a violation of Maimonides' Third Principle.

For further reading

Friday, January 8, 2016

Maimonides 13 Principles of Faith: 2. Unity of God

2. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, is One, and that there is no unity in any manner like His, and that He alone is our God, who was, and is, and will be.

In Orthodox Judaism
No Jewish teacher has openly disputed that God is one and unified. The system of kabbalah, however, does speak of God as having a complex unity. At the heart is the Ein Sof, the divine essence which is unknown to us. Through the 10 sefirot, the Ein Sof is manifested to us.

R. Isaac ben Sheshet said that Christians believe in three, but kabbalists believe in ten, in the same sense. R. Abraham Abulafia said that the system of sefirot in kabbalah said that they multiply God into ten in exactly the same way that Trinitarianism multiplies God into three. Therefore if kabbalah is acceptable in Orthodox Jewish theology, then so must Trinitarian monotheism be as well.

Many of the kabbalists argued that the sefirot are part of God's essence. R. Moses Cordovero said that God "emanated ten Sefirot, which are from his essence, are one with him and are all one complete unity."

Kabbalists have never regarded the doctrine of the sefirot as a violation of divine unity, just as Christian theologians have never regarded the persons as a violation of divine unity.

R. Isaac Lopes of Aleppo believed taht the God of Israel is not the First Cause, but the first created being, similar to the Demiurge of ancient Greek thought.

The anonymously written kabbalistic work Ma'arekhet ha'elohut, written in the vicinity of the 14th century, identifies the God of Scripture not with the Ein Sof, but with the first or second of the sefirot. Even if there are not two Gods in this view, there are two different supreme powers, which can at least be described as to persons.

In line with this, R. Isaac ibn Latif described the God of the Bible as the First Created Being and the creator of all else, very similar to the Arian view of Jesus.

R. Jacob the Nazirite directed the first three and last three benedictions of his amidah prayer to the sefirah called binah, and the others toward tiferet. In other words, he directed his prayers to specific sefirot, just as many Christians pray to the Father or to the Son or to the Holy Spirit.

R. Abraham ben David of Posquieres directed the first and last three benedictions to the Ein Sof, and the rest to the Creator, which he distinguises from the Ein Sof.

According to R. Joseph ben Shalom of Barcelona, the sefirot themselves pray to the Ein Sof. According to R. Azriel of Gerona, all sefirot except for the first one had a beginning in time, while the Ein Sof and the keter sefirah are eternal.

R. Isaac Pilitz argued that while the Ein Sof knows the future, the sefirot, which run the world, do not.

Some kabbalists, such as R. Abraham Epstein, also pray to the "unique cherub" which is an anthropomorphic entity which emanates from God.

In Christian Theology
In Christian theology, the Triune God is one, and there is no unity like his unity. This is why analogies break down.

Trinitarianism states that there is one God, and from this one God are manifest three divine persons. There are two main schools regarding this idea. Social trinitarianism emphasizes the distinction between the persons, and Latin trinitarianism, which emphasizes divine unity.

William Lane Craig has an excellent video series on the different views of the Trinity. His own view is that God is one mind with multiple centers of self-consciousness. After all, there are times when you are unconscious, and have no center of self-consciousness, and therefore the "self" is not identical to the mind.

Thomas Aquinas took a different view. On his view, God's oneness (echad) and unity (yachid), and immutability, are so extreme that God not only lacks parts, but also lacks properties. This view is called divine simplicity, and is a form of divine unity far more extreme than most Orthodox Jewish theologians held. Yet, he still had a fully developed view of both the Trinity and the Incarnation, which were compatible with this extreme view of both unity and immutability.

Again, the rabbis have no basis for rejecting a view like that of Aquinas, or even Craig, as heretical. Orthodox Jewish theologians have held to much more extreme views of God's multiplicity than has been held in Christian theology.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Rabbis Come Around

Mesora magazine brought two videos and an article to my attention regarding the rabbinic view of Jesus and Christianity.

Orthodox Rabbinic Statement on Christianity

Here is an excerpt of the most imporant section:
  1. As did Maimonides and Yehudah Halevi,[1] we acknowledge that Christianity is neither an accident nor an error, but the willed divine outcome and gift to the nations. In separating Judaism and Christianity, G-d willed a separation between partners with significant theological differences, not a separation between enemies. Rabbi Jacob Emden wrote that “Jesus brought a double goodness to the world. On the one hand he strengthened the Torah of Moses majestically… and not one of our Sages spoke out more emphatically concerning the immutability of the Torah. On the other hand he removed idols from the nations and obligated them in the seven commandments of Noah so that they would not behave like animals of the field, and instilled them firmly with moral traits…..Christians are congregations that work for the sake of heaven who are destined to endure, whose intent is for the sake of heaven and whose reward will not denied.”[2] Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch taught us that Christians “have accepted the Jewish Bible of the Old Testament as a book of Divine revelation. They profess their belief in the G-d of Heaven and Earth as proclaimed in the Bible and they acknowledge the sovereignty of Divine Providence.”[3] Now that the Catholic Church has acknowledged the eternal Covenant between G-d and Israel, we Jews can acknowledge the ongoing constructive validity of Christianity as our partner in world redemption, without any fear that this will be exploited for missionary purposes. As stated by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel’s Bilateral Commission with the Holy See under the leadership of Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, “We are no longer enemies, but unequivocal partners in articulating the essential moral values for the survival and welfare of humanity”.[4] Neither of us can achieve G-d’s mission in this world alone.
  1. Both Jews and Christians have a common covenantal mission to perfect the world under the sovereignty of the Almighty, so that all humanity will call on His name and abominations will be removed from the earth. We understand the hesitation of both sides to affirm this truth and we call on our communities to overcome these fears in order to establish a relationship of trust and respect. Rabbi Hirsch also taught that the Talmud puts Christians “with regard to the duties between man and man on exactly the same level as Jews. They have a claim to the benefit of all the duties not only of justice but also of active human brotherly love.” In the past relations between Christians and Jews were often seen through the adversarial relationship of Esau and Jacob, yet Rabbi Naftali Zvi Berliner (Netziv) already understood at the end of the 19th century that Jews and Christians are destined by G-d to be loving partners: “In the future when the children of Esau are moved by pure spirit to recognize the people of Israel and their virtues, then we will also be moved to recognize that Esau is our brother.”[5]
  1. We Jews and Christians have more in common than what divides us: the ethical monotheism of Abraham; the relationship with the One Creator of Heaven and Earth, Who loves and cares for all of us; Jewish Sacred Scriptures; a belief in a binding tradition; and the values of life, family, compassionate righteousness, justice, inalienable freedom, universal love and ultimate world peace. Rabbi Moses Rivkis (Be’er Hagoleh) confirms this and wrote that “the Sages made reference only to the idolator of their day who did not believe in the creation of the world, the Exodus, G-d’s miraculous deeds and the divinely given law. In contrast, the people among whom we are scattered believe in all these essentials of religion.”[6]
 The article sounds like a good start. The rabbinic view of Christianity in this statement is more positive than it has been in the past. I appreciate how Rabbi Cohen says that he considers the church to be partners and not enemies.

One of the terms is a bit anachronistic. Rabbinic literature uses Esau as a symbol for the Roman Empire, and as a result as a symbol for Christianity. This term should have been updated to reflect the fact that Protestant Christianity, and even Eastern Orthodox Christianity, is not a product of the Roman Empire in the way that Roman Catholicism is.

Point 5 has a lot of theological weight, and it a bit misleading. According to this statement, the true crime of idolatry is to rob God of his supremacy in creating the world. This makes atheism a much worse crime than any sort of polytheism or henotheism. Trinitarianism, under this view, should be a much, much lesser crime for a Jew than atheism. You would think that this means it is more acceptable for a Jew to be a Christian than an atheist, but you would be wrong.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin himself states that any Jew who believes in Jesus is automatically excommunicated as  a heretic. Worldwide, Jews who believe in Jesus are treated as worse outcasts than Jews who oppose Israel or even militant Jewish atheists.

This whole statement has one glaring, unstated assumption. That is; to be a Christian is to be a gentile. Not all Christians are gentiles. A few hundred thousand are Jews. What about Christians born to a Jewish mother? Are such people to be embraced, at least to the extent that secular Jews are? I doubt it.

This is a good start, but we are not finished until the rabbis of Israel come around the way Asher Meza did, and accept that Messianic Jews are not heretics, and are to be embraced as full-fledged Jews in every sense.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Maimonides 13 Principles of Faith: 1. Existence of God

1. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, is the Creator and Guide of everything that has been created; He alone has made, does make, and will make all things.

In Rabbinic Judaism
Orthodox Rabbinic Judaism has universally held to the existence of God. The question is not so much whether God exists as it is what God is like.

Many Orthodox Jewish thinkers believed that God is capable of doing the logically impossible. They argued that our idea of what is logically possible is a human limit, not a limit on God.

R. Moses Taku wrote "They are issuing a decree to the Creator as how he must be. By oding so they are degrading themselves."

R. Nachman of Bratslav also argued that God can do the logically impossible. On his view, God can make a triangular rectangle, or a square circle. Faith is to exist even in the face of logical absurdity.

The second part of this principle of faith is that God exists a se, or by himself, not being dependent upon anything.

In Christian Theology
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3)
The earliest creeds also affirm that God is the creator of all things, both visible and invisible. The audience of the book of John was well aware of Platonism and the theories of abstract objects. Therefore if abstract objects exist, then they too are the work of divine creation. Dr. Craig has a video on this:

If Orthodox Rabbinic Judaism allows for God to do the logically impossible, then there can be no grounds for rejecting any of the beliefs associated with Christianity. If God can do the logically impossible, then one can say that Christian theology fits completely within what Orthodox Judaism allows, because God can do the logically impossible. God can be tri-personal and also be not tri-personal. God can be essentially unembodied and be embodied. God can be a man and still not be a man.

In short, if God can do the impossible, one can affirm everything that Evangelical Christian theology teaches about God without denying anything that Orthodox Judaism teaches about God.

If this "universal possibilism" is an acceptable part of Orthodox Jewish theology, then it follows that one can hold to a full Christian theology and fit fully within Orthodox Judaism. I'm tempted to just mic drop right now, since this alone would prove that Christian theology isn't heretical by Orthodox Jewish standards.

So the rest of my posts will assume that this argument fails for some reason, and that even if it does, Christian theology still fits within the parameters of Orthodox Jewish theology.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Maimonides 13 Principles of Faith: Introduction

Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith are often considered to be the official creed of Orthodox Judaism. Technically, no creed ever received such universal recognition in Judaism as the Nicene Creed did in Christianity. This series will explore the limits of Orthodox Jewish theology, and also show that none of Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith ever received universal acceptance.

More interestingly, I will be comparing these 13 principles to what is taught in Evangelical Christian theology.

Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith:
  1. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, is the Creator and Guide of everything that has been created; He alone has made, does make, and will make all things.
  2. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, is One, and that there is no unity in any manner like His, and that He alone is our God, who was, and is, and will be.
  3. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, has no body, and that He is free from all the properties of matter, and that there can be no (physical) comparison to Him whatsoever.
  4. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, is the first and the last.
  5. I believe with perfect faith that to the Creator, Blessed be His Name, and to Him alone, it is right to pray, and that it is not right to pray to any being besides Him.
  6. I believe with perfect faith that all the words of the prophets are true.
  7. I believe with perfect faith that the prophecy of Moses our teacher, peace be upon him, was true, and that he was the chief of the prophets, both those who preceded him and those who followed him.
  8. I believe with perfect faith that the entire Torah that is now in our possession is the same that was given to Moses our teacher, peace be upon him.
  9. I believe with perfect faith that this Torah will not be exchanged, and that there will never be any other Torah from the Creator, Blessed be His Name.
  10. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, knows all the deeds of human beings and all their thoughts, as it is written, "Who fashioned the hearts of them all, Who comprehends all their actions" (Psalms 33:15).
  11. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, rewards those who keep His commandments and punishes those that transgress them.
  12. I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah; and even though he may tarry, nonetheless, I wait every day for his coming.
  13. I believe with perfect faith that there will be a revival of the dead at the time when it shall please the Creator, Blessed be His name, and His mention shall be exalted for ever and ever.
Compare this to the Nicene Creed:
We believe in one God,
      the Father almighty,
      maker of heaven and earth,
      of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
      the only Son of God,
      begotten from the Father before all ages,
           God from God,
           Light from Light,
           true God from true God,
      begotten, not made;
      of the same essence as the Father.
      Through him all things were made.
      For us and for our salvation
           he came down from heaven;
           he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
           and was made human.
           He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
           he suffered and was buried.
           The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
           He ascended to heaven
           and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
           He will come again with glory
           to judge the living and the dead.
           His kingdom will never end.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the Lord, the giver of life.
      He proceeds from the Father and the Son,
      and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
      He spoke through the prophets.
      We believe in one holy universal and apostolic church.
      We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
      We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
      and to life in the world to come. Amen.
These two creeds have much in common. The Nicene Creed affirms most of what is in Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith. What I intend to show is that the range of interpretation of these 13 Principles in Orthodox Jewish theology, is so wide that the entire system of Evangelical Christian theology fits neatly within it. My chief source will be Marc Shapiro's book The Limits of Orthodox Theology:

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At the very least, Evangelical Christian theology affirms 11 out of 13 principles in almost the same sense that Maimonides intended, while Reform Judaism rejects some principles and takes such creative liberties with the rest that it is a stretch to say that it really affirms any of them.

This is another reason why it is the height of hypocrisy for Orthodox Jews to prefer that their fellow Jews be Reform Jews rather than Messianic Jews. Even Orthodox Jewish theology is broad enough to have room for Messianic Judaism, an expanded definition of Judaism even more so.