Answering Jewish Objections: “Jewish People Don’t Believe in a Suffering/Atoning Messiah”: Part One

Introduction

Over the years, I have had the chance to talk to several Jewish people about spiritual issues. A common Jewish objection that I continue to hear is that Jewish people don’t believe that a human can be sacrificed for sins. In other words, a human can’t atone for the sins of the Jewish people.

First, let me give some background to the idea of atonement in Judaism. For Jewish people Yom Kippur, which is also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. When the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D, the religious and social life changed forever for the Jewish people. The Jewish people no longer had a sacrificial system in the Temple. Therefore, the atonement structure was changed to repentance which entails prayer, fasting, and doing mitzvah (good deeds).

The Importance of Atonement

One of the  Bible’s central messages is atonement. Hence, God has provision for humankind to come back into harmonious relation with him is one of the central themes in Scripture. The Hebrew word called “Shalom” which means peace, completeness, can refer to either peace between two entities (especially between man and God) or peace between two countries. Why do we lack this wholeness? Sadly, sin causes us to be fragmented. The Hebrew verb ‘to atone’ (kaphar) means ‘cover.’ In other words, we need a covering for our sins. [Read more...]

Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 17

“And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord.” 1 Kings 6:1

Moses Parting Red SeaAs an atheist, I thought the Bible was a bunch of fairy tales. I grew up learning stories in the Bible about Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, Moses parting the water, Joshua knocking down the wall of Jericho, Samson and his super strength, David killing Goliath, Solomon and his wisdom; but that’s all they were to me – just stories. I didn’t think any of it was true, not even stories about Jesus of Nazareth dying and rising.

It was during my investigation into the truth claims of the Bible and Christianity in 1971 that I came face to face with a mountain of historical and archaeological evidence that challenged my long-held belief that there was ‘zero’ evidence supporting any of the claims of the Bible.

As I read through the Old Testament in early 1971 and asked Christians questions about what I was reading, I saw that the Bible included hundreds of names, numbers and events that could be verified or falsified. I found that interesting for a document that was supposedly written by unknown writers centuries after it was reputed to have been written. If the goal of writing the Bible was to ‘fool’ people into believing it was the ‘Word of God,’ why write anything that could be investigated? Why indeed!

[Read more...]

Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 10)

Opposition to Paul’s apostleship did not end at his death. The same group of Judaizers Paul warned about in his epistles continued to oppose the freedom Paul had preached to Gentiles.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:1-4

The Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the deaths of the Jewish apostles led to a decline in the numbers of Jewish followers of Christ in Israel who held to circumcision and obedience to the Mosaic Law. However, that did not mean the opposition to Paul’s message to Gentiles disappeared. Even though the decision of the apostles at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) should have ended the opposition to Paul’s apostleship and ministry to the Gentiles, Jewish followers of Christ continued to make trouble for Paul and the Gospel he preached “among the Gentiles (Galatians 2:2).

[Read more...]

Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 16

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh. For with a strong hand he will let them go, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.” Exodus 6:1

Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Show a miracle for yourselves,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod and cast it before Pharaoh, and let it become a serpent.’ So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, just as the Lord commanded. And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent.” Exodus 7:8-10

Moses Parting Red SeaMiracles. What’s an atheist going to do with miracles? I didn’t believe in the supernatural, so miracles were impossible. That’s what I believed, so how could I as an atheist deal with all of the supposed miracles Moses and Aaron performed in Egypt? Was my investigation into theism and Christianity going to end in that ancient land because of my disbelief in the supernatural?

I was an atheist, but also a journalist. So, I used my journalistic training and experience to compartmentalize my investigation. Journalists have to do that with every investigation, every story, so they can be objective and fair in their reporting. Otherwise, how could citizens ever believe anything a reporter reported?

It’s not fair for a journalist to allow personal beliefs to affect a professional investigation. I knew that if I was ever going to come to the truth about theism, I needed to put my preconceived beliefs as an atheist to the side while I combed carefully through any evidence that might exist for the existence of God. [Read more...]

What Christians Should Know About Paul

By Eric Chabot

Given that historians look to those who are contemporaries of the events, Paul is an important resource for what historians can know about Jesus of Nazareth. Furthermore, the earliest documents we have for the life of Jesus are Paul’s letters. Paul was a very competent rabbi who was trained at the rabbinic academy called the House of Hillel by ‘Gamaliel,’ a key rabbinic leader and member of the Sanhedrin.  Both Christian and non-Christian scholars have come to have great respect Paul.

Allow me to list some of the basics every Christian should know about Paul:

1. Paul was educated

In this case, I have adapted much of this material from A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Galatians (The Jewish Roots of the New Testament) by Joseph Shulam and Hilary Le Cornu. I have taken most of these points from their section called Paul: A Biography, pgs, 435-469.

1. Paul studied under the famous teacher Gamaliel (Acts 22: 3), the grandson of Hillel.

2. Hillel the Elder was nicknamed “the Babylonian” because he was descended from a family of Babylon.

3. Beit Hillel ended up having three successors, Rabban Gamaliel, the Elder being the first Sage esteemed with the honorific title of Rabban—“our master.”

4. The house of Hillel was unique in that it was an example of a family of who originated from the diaspora, with no priestly connections, which attained the position of hereditary leaders of the nation until, in the time of Rabbi Judah ha Nasi (170-200 C.E.), its members were officially recognized as by the Roman government as Patriarchs. [Read more...]