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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Faith Strengthened (Pt 2) Under the Microscope: Chapter 50

John 10:30, "I [Jesus] and my Father are one." According to the opinion prevailing among the Christians, Jesus declared in these words his perfect identity with the Godhead; but we have already noticed a passage which completely refutes this view. For we find in Mark 13:32, "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the son, but the Father." Every attempt to reconcile the two contradictory verses, only leads to new perplexities. The more we examine into the purport of the New Testament, the more clearly we perceive its general tenor is not to deify Jesus; and that the doctrines which assign to him the title of God, have arisen from want of due investigation, and are not upheld by the force of sound argument. 

So now, Troki quotes a New Testament verse and doesn't even criticize it. He goes to Mark 13, which I already discussed in Chapter 31.

But let's not waste the post. A. Lukyn Williams has some interesting commentary on this.
He brings forward a more serious argument by saying, on the authority of a Socinian writer, Martin Czechowitz, who died in 1608, that Jesus' words do not necessarily mean that the Father and the Son are of one essence, for St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:8: "Now he that planteth [St. Paul] and he that watereth [Apollos] are one," which does not mean that St. Paul and Apollos were one man, but only that they worked together with the same aim and purpose. What have we Christians to say in reply? This, that no one ever supposed that our Lord's words in themselves necessarily conveyed the usual Christian interpretation of them, but that when they are considered in their context they do necessarily convey it. For read the passage. In verse 28 Jesus said: "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one is able to snatch them out of my hand." Then in verse 29: "My Father, which hath given them unto me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." There we have similarity, and, as it would seem, equality of infinite power, predicated of both the Father and the Son. Can beings possess equality of infinite power and yet be distinct in essence?
Further, how did they who listened to our Lord understand Him? This at least is certain. For the Jews were so furious with Him that they took up stones to cast at Him, and when He asked the reason, they replied, "For blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God." To them His meaning was quite clear; by saying "I and the Father are one "He claimed to be God, in the highest possible sense of the term. Yet, as the words are recorded for us in the Greek, there are two points which ought not to be overlooked. First, the word "one" is in the neuter gender, not the masculine. Our Lord does not, that is to say, mean that He is identical in personality (for want of a better term) with the Father, but that He is one in essence with Him. Secondly, that along with this unity He and the Father remain distinct; He says "are," not "am." He claims, while remaining other than the Father, to be of one essence with Him. 
James White said it well when he interpreted this verse as, "Jesus and the Father are one in their mission to redeem humanity." The opponents of Jesus were right to accuse him of claiming a divine prerogative. Williams goes a little far in stating that Jesus is claiming a divine essence, when he is really claiming a divine function, and one that God does not delegate to any creature, no matter how exalted.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Faith Strengthened (Pt 2) Under the Microscope: Chapter 49

John 10:16, "And other sheep I [Jesus] have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd."

The truth which is contained in this passage has no reference to himself, for the union of faith was not accomplished by him, and will only take place at a future period, when the proper time shall arrive. This is testified by the following passages of Scripture. Isaiah, in chapter 45:23, says, "Thus I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return. For unto me every knee, shall bow, and every tongue shall swear." Zephaniah 3:9, "For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent." The predominance of Judaism over all the religions of the Gentiles is dwelt on in the following extracts from the prophets: Isaiah 52:1, "Awake, awake, put on thy strength, Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, Jerusalem, the Holy City; for henceforth there shall no more come unto thee, the uncircumcised and the unclean." Ibid. chapter 66:23, "And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord." Zechariah 14:16, "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles." As to the attribution of the sovereignty of empires to the future King Messiah, we find in Daniel 2:44, "And in the days of these kings shall the God of Heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all those kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever."

Ibid. 7:27, "And the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of dominion under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions shall serve and obey Him." Numbers 24:17, "I see it [it will not happen] now, I behold it, but not nigh; there shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Judah, and he shall smite the corners of Moab, and overthrow the children of Sheth." 
 Again, it's hard to pick out an actual argument in this chapter. If Troki is arguing that we are still waiting for the prophecies at the end of the world to be fulfilled, I would agree with him that this is the case. Israel is not yet in a position of dominance. One has to twist and even waterboard the Scriptures to support the desperate position that these prophecies have already been fulfilled.

What follows from this? That Jesus is not Messiah? Troki's argument seems to go like the following:

1. If Jesus did not fulfill the Messianic prophecies, then he is not Messiah
2. Jesus did not fulfill the prophecies
3. Therefore, Jesus is not Messiah

What support is there for premise 1? In order to keep the argument from appearing ad hoc, one would need to generalize the premise into:

1'. For any person x, if x did not fulfill the Messianic prophecies, then x is not Messiah

(1') has immediately obvious difficulties. Since the Messianic prophecies are not fulfilled (1') would disqualify everyone alive today from being Messiah. In fact, it would mean that no one could be Messiah until after the prophecies are fulfilled. But that's certainly wrong. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai said "If you are holding a sapling in your hand and someone tells you, ‘Come quickly, the messiah is here!’, first finish planting the tree and then go to greet the Messiah.’" This implies that Messiah will be here before the prophecies are finished. Otherwise, there wouldn't be the surprise.

So we will need to change the premise to:
1''. For any person x, if x died before the Messianic prophecies were fulfilled, then x is not Messiah

The problem is that rabbinic tradition does not agree with this, either. The rabbis of the Talmud discuss the two different pictures of Messiah as presented in the Bible. One picture features a triumphant leader, while the other presents a suffering servant who will die for the sake of Israel. The Talmud claims that this is because there are two different people called Messiah, and at least one of them will die.

So we then need to change the premise to:

1'''. For any person x, if x died before the Messianic prophecies were fulfilled, then x is not Messiah son of David

This is more defensible, yet Maimonedes believed that Isaiah 53 referred to Messiah son of David, which includes the passage "he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. And they made his grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in his death."

So rabbinic tradition itself does not substantiate any of these claims. We have no reason to accept (1), and plenty of good reasons to reject it.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Faith Strengthened (Pt 2) Under the Microscope: Chapter 48

John 8:40, "But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth which I have heard of God." If he had been identical with God, he would not have told the Jews that he had received his revelation from God. The truth proceeds from his own mouth, that he was not a Deity incarnate. What the opinion of his disciples was regarding this Divinity subsequently attributed to him, is sufficiently manifest, in spite of the many obscure expressions that occur in the New Testament; for instance, Paul says plainly, in his epistle to the Romans, chapter 5:15, "The gift of grace which is by One Man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many." In every part of the New Testament where Jesus speaks of himself, he represents himself as the Son of Man, and not as God.

Again, Troki betrays his ignorance of how the Greek Bible uses the terms of Lord and God. The Septuagint, which was written around 250 B.C.E. had translations for the terms which were borrowed by the New Testament writers.

A refresher:

(LORD or Lord or Yahweh = κυριος = יהוה)
(God = ο θεος = אלהים)

This can be seen in the translations of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4)
שְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יְהוָ֥ה אֶחָֽד

ἄκουε Ισραηλ κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν κύριος εἷς ἐστιν

Hear, Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh one.

When reading the English, or even the Greek New Testament, one might think that the term "God" was the more exalted term while the term "Lord" was one of less exaltation. Once we realize how the Septuagint translators selected from the Greek language, the picture changes. The term "God" is equivalent to the term "Elohim" which can mean God, gods, spirits, or even mighty human judges. The term Lord, on the other hand, is equivalent to the four-letter name of God, and is used only of the Creator of the Universe.

Of course the New Testament authors never denied that Jesus was man as well as God, or that Jesus was distinct from the Father.

For further reading:
Jesus as God: Clearing the Ground
Jesus as God: A Biblical Case

Friday, February 13, 2015

Faith Strengthened (Pt 2) Under the Microscope: Chapter 47

John 8:3-5, 7, "And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they said unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what sayest thou? And he said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." And he said to the woman (verse 11), "Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more." The laxity of this sentence is not only opposed to the Mosaic injunction, (Deut 22:22) "Thou shalt remove the evil from the midst of thee": but it is also practically disavowed by the Christian legislation, according to which, the adulteress is subjected to the severest rigour of the law, on account of the injury it would necessarily occasion to the happiness of society. 

In this section, Troki is quoting a part of the Bible that does not appear in the earliest manuscripts. The event may be historical and added in as a marginal note. Troki's argument in this section is that Jesus made a lax legal decision and one that opposes Jewish law.

The problem with Troki's argument is that it assumes Jesus was in fact making a legal decision, and it does not seem obvious that he was. In several cases, the opponents of Jesus wanted to trap him in a double bind. Consider when they asked him whether or not it was legal to pay taxes to Caesar. If he said that it was, then he is a traitor to the Jewish people, who did not believe in having an image on their money. If he said that it was not, then he could be labeled a traitor to the Roman Empire.

According to the Talmud, the Jewish authorities lost the right to capital punishment around the year 30. According to Josephus in book 20 of his Antiquities, the Roman procurator was needed to conduct capital punishment, meaning that the right of the Jewish courts to execute people was severely curbed around the year 6, when Judea became a Roman province.

It would have been very dangerous for any Jewish court to execute someone. If the Romans found out and took offense, they could retaliate. This passage is another example of a situation where the Jewish law and Roman law came into conflict, and someone who made a definite decision was in a double bind. As usual, Jesus noticed that this was not a legal accusation, since under Jewish law, one needs two witnesses who are interrogated separately. Jesus, being as clever as he was, found a way to escape the situation.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Faith Strengthened (Pt 2) Under the Microscope: Chapter 46

John 7:15, "And the Jews marvelled, saying. How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?"

Talmudical tradition informs us that he had a teacher, who was named R. Joshua Ben Perachiah, and that master and scholar had fled into Egypt to escape the persecution of King Janai.

There is a bit of irony that Troki, a Karaite, would quote rabbinic tradition to argue against the reliability of the book of John. Troki quotes a tradition found in two places in the Talmud, Sotah 47a and Sanhedrin 107b, but only in the uncensored edition.

Here is the text of Sotah:
What was the incident with R. Joshua b. Perahiah? — When King Jannaeus put the Rabbis to death, Simeon b. Shetah was hid by his sister, whilst R. Joshua b. Perahiah fled to Alexandria in Egypt. When there was peace, Simeon b. Shetah sent [this message to him]: 'From me, Jerusalem, the Holy city, to thee Alexandria in Egypt. O my sister, my husband dwelleth in thy midst and I abide desolate'. [R. Joshua] arose and came back and found himself in a certain inn where they paid him great respect. He said: 'How beautiful is this 'aksania'! One of his disciples said to him, 'My master, her eyes are narrow!' He replied to him, 'Wicked person! Is it with such thoughts that thou occupiest thyself!' He sent forth four hundred horns and excommunicated him. [The disciple] came before him on many occasions, saying 'Receive me'; but he refused to notice him. One day while [R. Joshua] was reciting the Shema, he came before him. His intention was to receive him and he made a sign to him with his hand, but the disciple thought he was repelling him. So he went and set up a brick and worshipped it. [R. Joshua] said to him, 'Repent'; but he answered him, 'Thus have I received from thee that whoever sinned and caused others to sin is deprived of the power of doing penitence'. A Master has said: The disciple practised magic and led Israel astray. 
The text of Sanhedrin is as follows:
What of R. Joshua b. Perahjah? — When King Jannai slew our Rabbis, R. Joshua b. Perahjah (and Jesus) fled to Alexandria of Egypt. On the resumption of peace, Simeon b. Shetach sent to him: 'From me, (Jerusalem) the holy city, to thee, Alexandria of Egypt (my sister). My husband dwelleth within thee and I am desolate.' He arose, went, and found himself in a certain inn, where great honour was shewn him. 'How beautiful is this Acsania!' (The word denotes both inn and innkeeper. R. Joshua used it in the first sense; the answer assumes the second to be meant.) Thereupon (Jesus) observed, 'Rabbi, her eyes are narrow.' 'Wretch,' he rebuked him, 'dost thou thus engage thyself.' He sounded four hundred trumpets and excommunicated him. He (Jesus) came before him many times pleading, 'Receive me!' But he would pay no heed to him. One day he (R. Joshua) was reciting the Shema', when Jesus came before him. He intended to receive him and made a sign to him. He (Jesus) thinking that it was to repel him, went, put up a brick, and worshipped it. 'Repent,' said he (R. Joshua) to him. He replied, 'I have thus learned from thee: He who sins and causes others to sin is not afforded the means of repentance.' And a Master has said, 'Jesus the Nazarene practised magic and led Israel astray.'
 It's more or less the same oral tradition, and is probably the source for the medieval story Toledot Jesu. One obvious point in the story is that Jesus is dated to the reign of Alexander Jannaeus, who lived from around 126 to 76 BCE. One might object that this passage cannot be about Jesus since the dating is about 100 years off. The problem is that the Gemara has other references to this oddly specific name "Jesus of Nazareth."

Consider Sanhedrin 43a
On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, 'He is going forth to be stoned because he has practised sorcery and enticed Israel to apostacy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.' But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover! — Ulla retorted: 'Do you suppose that he was one for whom a defence could be made? Was he not a Mesith [enticer], concerning whom Scripture says, Neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him? With Yeshu however it was different, for he was connected with the government [or royalty, i.e., influential].'

Our Rabbis taught: Yeshu had five disciples, Matthai, Nakai, Nezer, Buni and Todah. When Matthai was brought [before the court] he said to them [the judges], Shall Matthai be executed? Is it not written, Matthai [when] shall I come and appear before God. Thereupon they retorted; Yes, Matthai shall be executed, since it is written, When Matthai [when] shall [he] die and his name perish. When Nakai was brought in he said to them; Shall Nakai be executed? It is not written, Naki [the innocent] and the righteous slay thou not? Yes, was the answer, Nakai shall be executed, since it is written, in secret places does Naki [the innocent] slay. When Nezer was brought in, he said; Shall Nezer be executed? Is it not written, And Nezer [a twig] shall grow forth out of his roots. Yes, they said, Nezer shall be executed, since it is written, But thou art cast forth away from thy grave like Nezer [an abhorred offshoot]. When Buni was brought in, he said: Shall Buni be executed? Is it not written, Beni [my son], my first born? Yes, they said, Buni shall be executed, since it is written, Behold I will slay Bine-ka [thy son] thy first born. And when Todah was brought in, he said to them; Shall Todah be executed? Is it not written, A psalm for Todah [thanksgiving]? Yes, they answered, Todah shall be executed, since it is written, Whoso offereth the sacrifice of Todah [thanksgiving] honoured me.
Or Consider Gittin 57a from the uncensored Talmud.
He then went and raised Jesus the Nazarene by incantations. He asked them: Who is in repute in the other world? He replied: Israel. What about joining them? He replied: Seek their welfare, seek not their harm. Whoever touches them touches the apple of his eye. He said: What is your punishment? He replied: With boiling hot excrement, since a Master has said: Whoever mocks at the words of the Sages is punished with boiling hot excrement.
The censored version of the Talmud has "sinners of Israel" in place of Jesus. The Talmud does get the name right, and the description that this Jesus is of Nazareth is strong evidence that this is the same Jesus they are talking about. When someone includes a description with such oddly specific details but gets some of the information wrong, you don't conclude that they are talking about a different subject, but that their information is wrong in some of the details.

Jesus is included in much the same way that Moses is included in the Koran. The information is very late, and has all sorts of theological embellishment and errors. Nobody argues that because the Koran gets details about Moses wrong that therefore he is talking about a different Moses.

The problem with Troki's argument is that the book of John is demonstrably a very early source compared to books like the Gnostic Gospels and the Talmud.

The earliest fragment of John that exists to this day is called P52, a papyrus that dates no later than the year 120, and is from a translated copy of the book of John. This means that the book was widely distributed and translated by this time. Troki is asking us not to believe a source written less than 100 years after the events because of what is written in a source over 500 years after the events. That is simply not good historiography.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Zionism on Wikipedia

For those of you who have been following my Wikipedia posts, you should be aware that Wikipedia is far from a neutral source of information, especially on controversial issues. Still, the public believes in Wikipedia as a neutral source of knowledge. This may be in part because most people do not have the time to read all of the pro and con arguments for every issue, and Wikipedia is both at the top of Google searches, and tends to give relevant information about a topic.

Ideologues have taken note about how Wikipedia sways public opinion, and have resorted to tactics on how to take it over. Susan Gerbic and her Guerilla Skeptics have been especially skilled at this, but they have not been the only group.
The nation of Israel has also noticed that Wikipedia sways public opinion, and has dedicated considerable time, effort, energy, and money toward helping Wikipedia reflect a pro-Zionist point of view. This effort has been overwhelmingly successful, as Wikipediocracy notes, despite that Zionism is a small minority view in the world.

Sam Lee of Wikipediocracy gives the following links in the article:
The right’s latest weapon: ‘Zionist editing’ on Wikipedia, Haaretz
Wikipedia Editing for Zionists, New York Times
Wikipedia editing courses launched by Zionist groups, The Guardian
Zionist Internet Struggle to Hit Wikipedia, Israel National News,
Wikipedia: A New Battleground in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, The Daily Beast
West Bank Settlers Take To Wikipedia, Haaretz
Aligning text to the right: Is a political organization editing Wikipedia to suit its interests? Haaretz

The effort has been so successful, that every single person in the Wikipedia category of Israeli Murdered Children is someone murdered by a Palestinian. But this isn't the only way that Zionist editors dominate the topic.
Besides creating articles about “Hamas people saying something stupid”, propagandists are also very active in every AfD (Article for Deletion) debate, making sure that articles about killed Palestinians get deleted. So we have Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Rania Siam (T-H-L) (deleted); Rania Iyad Aram (T-H-L) (deleted); Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Jihad Shaar (T-H-L) (deleted); and Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Ghadeer Jaber Mkheemar (T-H-L) (deleted). Killed Palestinian children should remain faceless and nameless, and Wikipedia editors are here just continuing the censorship from elsewhere; see this Guardian article: Israel bans radio advert listing names of children killed in Gaza (and here is a link to the B’Tselem press release.)

The co-founder of Wikipedia claims that ”every Wikipedia editor has a responsibility to try to be neutral”, and that “the community” enforces this. Anyone with a familiarity with the Israel/Palestine area on Wikipedia knows that this is complete rubbish. Over at Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Enforcement (T-H-L) it is taken for granted that editors are there to promote their POV (point of view), rather than to seek neutrality.

Jimmy Wales has an almost religious conviction that “crowd-sourcing” works, even for contentious subjects. The reality on the ground shows he might just as well believe in magic pixies, spreading their magic pixie dust all over Wikipedia, making it an objective reflection of the world.
The New York Times mentions:
The Yesha Council also announced a prize for the “Best Zionist Editor” — the person who over the next four years incorporates the most “Zionist” changes in the encyclopedia. That lucky encyclopedist will receive a trip in a hot-air balloon over Israel.
This is impressive. Unlike many people who cover these events, I am in full support of what they are doing. Naftali Bennett and the Yesha Council seem to have a clear view of the situation. They recognize that people form their opinions on issues based on the information that they receive. Control the information channels (which include education, news, and entertainment) used by the mainstream, general public (rather than just your internal group), and you control what the public believes. Bennett is willing to accept and embrace that fact. Christian Evangelicals take note: This is how you win a culture war.

I encourage Messianic Jews and Christian Zionists to help out with this effort. Wikipedia is mob-sourced, so if you get a bigger mob on an article, you can take control of that article. Israel is still beleaguered and needs your help to cut through the Palestinian propaganda. I noticed this when I visited England. Anti-Zionist activists were present at many of the tourist areas, engaging people and handing out their literature. Zionists were nowhere to be found. For the sake of Israel, we need to fix this.

I also hope that if you are a Messianic Jew, or even a Christian sympathetic toward Messianic Judaism, that you consider registering for a Wikipedia account, and take the time to learn how to edit. Google is tremendously helpful in this regard. The easiest articles for you to improve are the ones related to key Messianic Jewish figures and organizations. There is a lot of room for more information, and very little resistance. As your ranks build, you can then take on articles such as the article on Messianic Judaism proper, and help give that a more positive slant.

I also forgot to mention one of  the key factors to remember: Wikipedia editing is an activity for marathoners, not for sprinters. I can recall three pages off the top of my head (Theodore Beale, Burzynski Clinic, and Rupert Sheldrake) where someone called for their readers to fix a biased Wikipedia page. What happened is that a whole bunch of new editors and editors without Wikipedia accounts rushed in and made changes. The experienced editors called in the administrators and locked the page down in its previous state. Within a couple of weeks, the administrator unlocked the page, at which time the torrent of editors had faded away.

If you want to make a difference, you need to be in it for the long haul. Get an account and build some credibility by editing a variety of pages. Once you get 50 edits or so, on a variety of pages (no matter how trivial the edits), your voice will actually be counted in determining consensus on a page. It generally takes a while to make lasting edits, because controversial edits need to be discussed on the talk page first. Consensus is determined by which position has the majority of people arguing for it. But to get counted, you usually need to have some sort of a track record.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Faith Strengthened (Pt 2) Under the Microscope: Chapter 45

John 7:5, "For neither did his brethren believe in him." If his own brothers, men of the same flesh and blood, and the nearest judges of the powers attributed to him, felt no inducement to admit his pretensions; surely we Jews may be excused for discrediting what his own contemporaries and brothers rejected as incredible. 
 I have dealt with this objection earlier. The mother and brothers of Jesus did have their doubts about him. As Troki points out, this information is embarrassing to those who preached the name of Jesus, since opponents of the movement undoubtedly used this fact to argue against them. This gives us even more reason to believe that such information was not invented by the followers of Jesus, but is historically accurate.

James, who was Jesus' own brother, did not believe until after the resurrection, until Jesus appeared to him. The church marks James the brother of Jesus as the early bishop of Jerusalem, and his death during a lapse in the Roman government is corroborated by the writings of Josephus. James went to his death proclaiming the supremacy of his own brother as God incarnate. Many of us have brothers. What kind of evidence would it take for you to believe that your own brother is God in the flesh? That is the kind of evidence that James and Paul received.