Category Archives: Christianity

So you Think You Know What Isaiah 53 Is Really About?

jew-near-wall

Coming out of Christianity has made me more aware of the stereotypes and the propaganda that are perpetuated about Jews within the confines of some forms of Christianity…here is one common misconception that is perpetuated by well meaning Christians:

From a pastor responding to learning that one of his congregants was listening to the teachings of a Rabbi about the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:

“You know the Rabbi’s will do every thing they can to point you away from seeing Jesus in those passages. They don’t want to see Jesus in these passages.”

Really, they categorically don’t want to see the messiah in those passages? Why not? That statement/concept suggests Christian’s are judging themselves to be more sincere in heart than Jews…is it not?

The above is a very common misconception about “Jews” in general fueled by Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 3:

But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

 

So all Jews are put into the same box. Not one of them really loves God or else they would see Jesus, right? But this verse states essentially, one can’t see Jesus until one turns to Jesus…hmmmm…that presents a conundrum doesn’t it?

There are 2 points to this conundrum:

  1. I mean, how would the Jews, who read, study and follow the Tanakh (OT) as their holy Bible be able to recognize Jesus as the Messiah unless God had shown them who to look for and how to recognize him in the Tanakh?
  2. How can I put all Jews in the same box, when I’ve not even spoken to one of them nor listened to their understanding of those same presumably “Christological” scriptures?

Many conservative Christians claim that God did show everyone very clearly from the Tanakh that Jesus is the Messiah. In fact I use to read all the christological OT scriptures and think “how could the Jews have missed Jesus so badly. I mean, even the scriptures that pointed to Jesus were capitalized and had little stars next to them.” Of course I had never, until recently, listen to a learned Rabbi speak about Isaiah 53 and other christological scriptures.

Proverbs 18:17 states:

 “In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.”

Consider the video teachings below as a second witness to the Christian teaching of Isaiah 53. Then you be the judge…

One final thought, do you have a thorough understanding of the book of Isaiah? Do you know what chapters 1-66 are about, specifically? If not, how can you be so confident that you understand Isaiah 53?

 

 

What About Animal Sacrifices And How Are Jews Forgiven?

It is a common teaching in Christianity that it was animal sacrifices performed in the temple that was the mode and method for “Jews” to be forgiven of their sins. As Christians, we would often ponder, “how do Jews think they are forgiven since they don’t have a temple anymore?” ” Have you ever subscribed to this belief? Is this really what is taught about forgiveness in the Old Testament or Tanakh (Hebrew scriptures)?

To my shame the answer was always as plain as the words on the page of the “Old Testament.” Here are just a few of the passages that declare YHVH’s plan for forgiveness of sins:

  • 2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people who are called by my name (YHVH) will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.
  • Psalm 51 You do not delight in sacrifices or I would bring it, you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God you will not despise.
  • Isaiah 1 – “I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats…stop doing wrong, learn to do right!…though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow…”

Notice that the only mention of sacrifices in the above passages is in the context that, it is not the animal sacrifice that God takes pleasure in, but that God “hears” or takes pleasure in the soul who truly repents and seeks after Him.

Question to contemplate: If YHVH takes no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats…how could he take pleasure in the blood of his only begotten son Jesus? Christian, how do you explain that? Let me caution you not to regurgitate what you have been told, but to seek after OT scriptural validation.

But what About the Need for Justification?

If God says he will forgive on the basis of repentance – defined as turning away from our wicked ways and following his ways of humility, justice and mercy (Micah 6) – then is the doctrine of justification fact or opinion? The doctrine of justification, at least as I learned it from reformed teachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, requires that God’s just wrath be satisfied by the pouring out of the blood of His only son. I was taught that only the blood of a God/man would do, because it had to be a totally unblemished sacrifice in everyway.

But, do the Hebrew scriptures support a need for legal justification to occur in the way the reformers teach it? Many would point back to the “legalism” of the sacrificial system. However, who said this was a “legal” system? Who planted that concept into the minds of Christians? Just as the mode and method of forgiveness of sin was as plain as the words on the pages of the Tanakh, so is the answer to the sacrificial system, what it is and what it is not.

Take some time and read and study Leviticus, not through “Jesus” eyes, but through the context and time in which it was written. Even a brief study concludes that it was not only animal sacrifices that God instituted with the Israelites…but there were fine flour offerings that were also accepted as sin offerings for those who could not afford one of the animals (Leviticus 5:11).

Question to contemplate: If fine flour could be used as a sin offering (i.e. no blood required for the forgiveness of sin) why would YHVH sacrifice His only son in a cruel punishment and death like Roman crucifixion?

So what was the sacrificial system all about? The video below explains more on the meaning and purpose of the temple sacrifices from a Jewish perspective.

Which leads me to my final question: How do YOU know which or who’s perspective is the correct perspective when it comes to Bible interpretation?

Creationism and Genesis 1 – More Than 1 View

Was all of creation  made in 6 literal, 24 hour days? What does Genesis really say in this regard and more interestingly how have the Hebrew scholars interpreted the creation account? What did the ancient Israelites believe about the story of creation? Did they understand it as an account that should be taken “literally.” And, speaking of “literally” what does “literally” mean in the first place? Michael Heiser, in the video below, injects some much needed intellectual honesty into the discussion of Genesis 1 and the creation.

Questions that Challenge Conventional Christian Doctrine

jokerIf individual souls are saved by making a confession of faith in Jesus Christ at what point in time did that transpire?

Some reformers teach that people who were born on “old testament” times are saved by the same faith in Christ as those born in “new testament” times. If that is true, and clearly those born between the time of Adam and Christ had varying degrees of understanding of the Messiah and His purpose. Most, if not all believing that He was to be the King in the line of David who would rule and reign in righteousness and peace according to Zechariah 14 and all nations would stream to Jerusalem to worship Him. Question, WHO exactly were they (OT believers) placing their trust in for salvation?

The reason the time is important is that most Christian Churches teach that salvation is found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If you invite Jesus into your heart then you will be saved. My question is…

At what point in time did God flip the switch and require people to “invite Jesus into their hearts” to be saved?

Does anyone else see a slight problem with that? Think world wide. Think Israelites scattered to the 4 corners of the earth by the time of Christ. Think how many people in the time of Christ and say the next 30 years after his ascension had even the opportunity to “know” Jesus…most I submit had never even heard of this God man who was crucified.

So here’s the scenario: Let’s assume there were some righteous, god fearing Israelites (aka Jews) living in the nether parts during the 1st century AD. They are cruising along, acting justly, living humbly, loving mercy etc. They worship the one true and living God YHWH. They are caring for the poor, using accurate weights and measures, giving their tithes and offerings, etc. In other words loving YHWH with all their heart soul mind and strength and also depending on YHWH for their righteousness and salvation.

They think they are accepted by God because this is what the Word of God has taught them all along. But unbeknownst to them a messiah, the heir to David’s throne, has come, died, was resurrected and ascended to the right hand of God the Father. He was crucified and many people who knew him say He is YHWH in the flesh (the Son of God that Daniel prophesied about and Isaiah spoke about). And, by the way, now that he has come you have to believe and understand that this young man (who was crucified, raised from the dead and ascended in to heaven) born of Mary, is fully God and fully man.

You thought you were good with God, and you die and discover that low and behold you had no idea about this Jesus and you are now relegated to an eternity in hell. What kind of a cosmic pulling out the rug from under you, joke would that be?

 

When Was Jesus Born?

Much speculation has been put out there about when Jesus was born. Most scholars (as well as the general public) agree that he was not born in December let alone on December 25th. But can we really know when Christ was born? Although the star of Bethlehem plays a front and center part in the so called “Christmas Story” it had never come to my attention that YHWH may have actually written a prophecy in the heavens proclaiming the birth of His Son until I saw these videos below. Here are a couple videos which demonstrate the possibility and perhaps the probability that YHWH did just that. Interestingly they come to 2 different conclusions.

Michael Heiser once again sheds some light on the matter (no pun intended).

This one by Rick Larson one has a bit of a commercial, rather than  academic feel, but still is worth the time to watch.

One of the conundrums for both theories presented by Heiser and Lawson in these videos is that the conventional dating of King Herod the Great’s death is 4BC.  That’s one of the reason that Reasons to Believe (Astrophysicist, Hugh Ross’s organization) casts skepticism on Larson’s theory. But not so fast Hugh…

Not everyone is in agreement about the date of Herod the Greats death. The Catholic Register explains some of the problems with the 4BC date and comes up with a theory of their own in this article.

Do your own research into the matter, don’t depend on one source – be a Berean.

The Lord’s Supper aka Communion

There are many rules, traditions and doctrines surrounding “The Lord’s Supper” – but the question is are they scriptural? Dr. Michael Heiser explores and challenges some commonly held beliefs concerning this church ritual in his Naked Bible Podcast series – The Lord’s Supper

Not all of my questions about the Lord’s supper are addressed by Heiser, questions like:

  • Was the last supper which Jesus held with His disciples “The” Passover dinner commanded by YHWH in Exodus?
  • Was the last supper Jesus had with His disciples actually a traditional dinner (Seudah Maphseket) which was unique to Galalians as Tom Bradford of the Torah Class states in His article The Passover Problem Solved
  • In other words, is “the” Passover meal replaced by this “Lord’s Supper” or did Yeshua/Jesus simply mean to mind us that the bread and wine served at fellowship dinners should be a reminder of His death and thus we should “give thanks” for all He did and remember Him when we gather together.

Heiser does address some great questions in this podcast:

  • What is the warning Paul gives really about?
  • Should unregenerate children be fenced from the table?
  • What does eating meat sacrificed to idols have to do with the Lord’s supper?
  • Is there a special means of grace attached to the Lord’s Supper?
  • Are the bread and the wine Yeshua’s real body and blood?

How to Study the Bible

Michael Heiser’s Naked Bible Blog provides the serious bible student with excellent material on how to really dig in to the scriptures. Reading someone else’s paraphrase or interpretation of scripture is not where its at for me anymore. Of course digging in for ones self takes handwork and discipline…but its the best way to get the word and it’s proper understanding into your heart.

Dr. Michael Heiser, a scholar in the areas of ancient languages, generously shares his resources on his website and podcast…Some of the topics he covers are:

Jesus and the Virgin Birth

In chapter 1 of the Gospel of Matthew, Isaiah 7 is quoted:

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:22-23

Here is the Isaiah 7 prophecy given to King Ahaz of Judah by Isaiah by YHWH’s command:

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”

12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”

13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you[c] a sign: The virgin[d] will conceive and give birth to a son, and[e] will call him Immanuel.[f]15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.”

This is the primary scripture/prophecy used to create the doctrine of the virgin birth. After actually reading and studying the prophecy in Isaiah 7 IMO there are some troubling aspects of using the Isaiah 7 prophecy in relation to Jesus:

  • The prophecy was about an event that was fulfilled several hundred years earlier
  • The prophecy was focused not on “the virgin” but on the events that would occur before the child was old enough to know right fro wrong.
  • In other words the “sign” God gave Israel to prove “Immanuel” God is with us, was the destruction of Ahaz’s enemies (King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel who had marched up to fight against Jerusalem (King Ahaz) but they did not overpower it. See Isaiah 7)
  • The sign that “God is with us” was not that “a virgin will conceive and give birth to a son named Immanuel”

Of course this also begs the question how are prophecies to be understood in the first place? Do they repeat them selves? Do they have double meanings that are unfolded later in history?

Here are a couple views on the virgin birth of Jesus as it relates to the Isaiah 7 prophecy.

Tovia Singer a Jewish Scholar (who for obvious reasons is not too popular with evangelical Christians) who has a ministry, particularly Messianic Jews, to bring them out of Christianity and back to Judaism.


Dr. Michale Heiser, a Biblical Scholar in Ancient near east studies and biblical Hebrew also addresses the prophecy of Isaiah 7 as it pertains to the virgin birth of Jesus.

Majestic 12 Papers (aka MJ-12)

The Majestic 12 is an alleged secret committee formed by President Harry Truman in 1947 to investigate the Roswell UFO Incident. The papers remain somewhat of a mystery with lots of speculation surrounding their authenticity. Dr. Michael Heiser is a scholar in the field of Biblical studies and ancient near east and is also an expert in Biblical Hebrew and Semitic languages. What makes him even more interesting is his interest in ufology. Heiser undertook, with his own money, linguistic research to verify and validate the authorship of the MJ-12 papers. He has published a summary his findings here . Actually the findings are of computational linguistic specialist Carol Chaski whom Heiser employed to do the research using her state-of-the-art computational linguistic methods of authorship attribution.

Here is a video of Heiser discussing the findings at the Ancient of Days Conference:

The Sabbath or Sunday

Why do we (mainline protestant Christians) gather together on  Sunday for worship? We who say that we live by Sola Scriptura, how do we understand the Sabbath commandment? There are as many different views on the Sabbath as their are flavors of jelly beans in a jar and yet most followers of Christ cannot reason from the scriptures as to why, if they observe the Sabbath at all, why they think they should do so on Sunday, the first day of the week. Does it matter you ask? Isn’t it a bit legalistic to worry about? My only concern is what does YHWH have to say about it? Would you agree, that’s all that counts?

The following are a list of resources, that address both sides of the argument – Some who argue for a continuation of the 7th day Sabbath and others who argue for “The Lord’s day”, and so on. Just ask yourself as you follow each person’s reasoning, “What does God say?”

An Examination of the Sabbath – this paper examines every scripture in the Bible that has anything to do with the Sabbath and the Lord’s day as well as many resources from men like Jonathan Edwards, Samuele Bacchiocchi and others.

The Sabbath Under Cross Fire – In this video, Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, who spent several years pursuing his doctorate degree at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, searches out the answer to the Sabbath or Sunday. He examines the scriptures, the church history as well as Roman Catholic History on the matter. Here is a PDF document of a paper he wrote with much of the same information: From Sabbath to Sunday

Perpetuity and Change of the Sabbath by Jonathan Edwards – In depth examination of the topic. Bear in mind as you read Edwards or anyone else for that matter, that frequently authors use the term Sabbath but are actually referring to a Sunday/first day of the week observance.

Recent Entries »