Hallo dear brothers and sisters. In this topic I would like to introduce you one Judeo-Christian debate that took place in the University of Manhattan New York between rabbi Yosef Mizrachi and a Christian (Protestant) teacher from the New-York School of the Bible. I was interested in this debate because the rabbi raised difficult question for Christians that I could'n answer myself. After a little bit of study in the past couple of mounts I came up with answers to the most of his questions. I would like to show you how I answered them. The text of my answers is from the YouTube page of that debate, where I posted them. In this topic I would like to hear from you whether you add something more to the work that I did or may be even correct me. Or if you are on the side of the rabbi you can debate with me here.
Link to the debate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO76MWmKXpc
Hallo rabbi Yosef. I am Daniel, layman from the Eastern Orthodox Church (also known as the Greek OC). I would like to try give you answers for your questions that you raised for Christians.
First you asked: Why Christians do not listen to the man whom they consider most important in their history? Thereby you referred to the following verses from the New Testament:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 5:17-19);
The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not (Mt. 23:3).
Answer: Yeshua ha Mashiah indeed fulfilled the Old Testament law perfectly because he
- has not violated any of its commandments (as it is written by the prophet about the coming of the Messiah that he 'had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth' (Isaiah 53: 9).
- taught people to perform not just the letter of the law, but also live according to the spirit of it.
This performance keeps intact all that had a strong value and importance in the Old Testament religion. But the performance of the Law under the Messiah involves the abolition of the Old Testament religion itself, because it could not continue its existence outside the New Testament established by the Messiah. Only in the light of New Testament no one tittle or a jot of the Old Testament does not pass away until the end of the world.
Verse Mt. 23:3 can not be understood in an absolutely literal sense, because much of what the scribes and Pharisees taught to observe, Yeshua violated and taught his students thus. For example, the controversy over the proper observance of the Sabbath, importance of the ablutions before eating, strict enforcement of the death penalty and other controversies. The existence of the New Testament itself established by Yeshua would be impossible if his disciples were to observe that commandment literally, because the Pharisees taught that Yeshua was a deceiver, blasphemer, who performed miracles by the power of the devil and others accusations.
It is obvious that in this verse Yeshua encourages people to recognize and submit to the authorities, even if they are unworthy of their honorable positions; and to act according to their teaching, as far as it is not contrary to the commandments of God and the conscience. If we look at the whole context of the New Testament, we can understand it in this way. Furthermore Yeshua gave this authority to some of his disciples to teach and instruct the people in the way of God. And they said to the scribes and Pharisees:
Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard (Acts 4).
Questions about the ancestry of Jesus Christ. You said:
It is clear that if someone comes with a sort of book and say that it is from God, then in this book should not be any human error, because God does not make mistakes. If there is at least one human error, then this book is not credible; because how then can you rely on the rest of the content of the book, if you have already found one mistake in it?
a. In the two genealogies of Jesus (see Matthew 1 and Luke 3) there are 25 discrepancies. How do you explain the existence of such errors in the divine books?
b. Why do we need these genealogies, if Jesus did not even descended from Joseph, but from God?
Answers: a) There is an explanation which says that Jacob and Heli were uterine brothers, but they had different fathers. After Heli's death, Jacob took his wife to make children for his brother Heli and therefore Joseph is called Jacob's son by nature and the son of Eli according to the law. For the law commanded that the wife of the deceased childless man would marry his brother and that the child born of this union was considered a child of the deceased childless brother (If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not be married abroad unto one not of his kin; her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother unto her. And it shall be, that the first-born that she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother that is dead, that his name be not blotted out of Israel. (Deut. 25, 5-6). Therefore the evangelists provide correct genealogies and do not contradict each other. Matthew has recorded the genealogy of the natural father of Joseph and Luke had recorded the genealogy of Joseph's father according to the Law, that is Heli.
b) The genealogies are needed to confirm that Yeshua, who is the promised Messiah, descends indeed from the lineage of David. Yes, Yeshua is not descendant of Joseph, but of Mary. But Joseph and Mary were relatives from the same tribe of Judah, because according to the Law of God a woman could not marry a man from another tribe (And every daughter, that possesseth an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the children of Israel may possess every man the inheritance of his fathers (Numbers 36:
). From this it follows that Joseph and Mary had common ancestors, including King David.
Question on the subject of the prophecy by Isaiah (in Isaiah 7:14). "Behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." The word translated here as "virgin" in the sacred language sounds like "alma", which means a young woman, girl, whether she is a virgin or not. Why do you translate this word as "virgin"?
Furthermore you said: The prophet Isaiah lived 600 years before Jesus. He told King Ahaz that 'now I will give you a sign that you will win the war. Your wife or daughter (it is obviously your interpretation, the Bible doesn't say so) will born Emmanuel child who will eat the royal food, milk and honey, although at that time the city was besieged, there was a famine and death in the country. For before the child will distinguish the good from the evil, the country will be saved from the enemy' (in the Bible it is written differently). So how does this sign has at least some slightest relation to Jesus 600 years later?
In the first translation of the Tanakh into Greek (Septuagint, first translation into a foreign language ever) Jewish translators translated the word "alma" as "virgin". Sure, they knew perfectly well aware of what they were doing. It is clear that a sign can not be in a true sense a sign when one of the married (or unmarried) women become pregnant from her husband by natural copulation. Because it is an event of everyday life. And therefore there will be also no sign in his name "Emmanuel, God with us." Yes, a person can always give it to their child, or give some other beautiful name in the memory of a great event, but it does not have a sign. So this woman should be a virgin or, if it is a married woman, a sign must consist in something else wonderful, extraordinary. But what is it then? It is known that in 2-3 years (the period of time from birth, when babies usually do not show signs of moral consciousness) after this prophecy and the supposed birth of Emmanuel neither Syria nor Israel were abandoned by anyone (as it is prophesied by Isaiah in this case), neither by the people nor by their kings. So this “alma” should be a virgin, not only a young woman. By the way, in the sacred Scripture it is written "הָעַלְמ”, that is "alma" with an article ha. Not just a virgin, but the concrete virgin. That is to say the prophet means one certain and unique Virgin. Talmudic Judaism in their interpretations does not acknowledge virgin birth of Yeshua or anyone else; on the other hand, the followers of Brit Hadasha (New Testament) do know about the virgin birth of Yeshua ha Mashiah. In the 8th century B.C., this prophesy predicted a future event – the birth of the Messiah (Emmanuel) from the royal house of David – that should serve as proof for Ahaz and his family that even in his present time the house of David will not be exterminated. It's a kind of sign, when the predicted major event serve as a confirmation to the truth of the prophesy about the minor events proceeding before the major event. In this case the prophet Isaiah confirms his prophesy about the survival of Judah and the house of king David by foretelling the virgin birth of Yeshua by Virgin Mary. There are other such examples in the Bible (And this shall be the sign unto thee: ye shall eat this year that which groweth of itself, and in the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof (Isaiah 37: 30); And He said: 'Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be the token unto thee, that I have sent thee: when thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain' (Exodus 3:12)).
But Ahaz seems not to have a strong faith, so this sign would be difficult for him to believe in it.
You asked: “If we look at all the prophecies about the Messiah, they say that the Messiah during his lifetime will gather the Jews from all over the world and that in his days all the Gentiles will love Israel, there will be no wars on the earth, all will live in peace. None of the prophecies describing the days of the Messiah are fulfilled in Jesus' lifetime. So how is he the Messiah?
Christians do not claim that all the Old Testamental prophecies are fulfilled by now. Not all the prophecies about the Messiah are fulfilled on Yeshua by now, because he promised that he would return for the second time in his glory. Some of the prophecies are fulfilled already, and the fulfillment of others is to be expected. Between Christians and Jews there is a difference in the understanding and interpretation of each one of these prophecies. The Apostle Shaul (Paul) in his letter to the Galatians uses the phrase "Israel of God." The "the Israel of God" is most probably Christians from the Jews, who succeed old Israel as God's people. Elsewhere apostle Paul clearly gives the literal understanding of the Old Testamental prophesies about Israel: "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Romans 11:25-29). This prophesy will be fulfilled before the second coming of Yeshua the Messiah of Israel.
Question: Why in the New Testament it is written that Jacob came to Egypt with 75 people with him (Acts. 7:14), when the Torah says that there were only 70 people?
This information is from the above mentioned Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Bible. The number of people that came with Jacob into Egypt is 66 (Gen. 46:26). By adding Joseph with his two sons and Jacob himself (ibid, 27) it will be 70 people. In Septuagint grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Joseph are probably included, so that's why it says 75. And seeing that he speaks in that chapter to the Jews of his time, it seems they did not reject the dignity of this translation.
Your next question is about the fig tree which Jesus cursed (Mark 11:13.). "And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it." Why if Jesus is God, he curses a fig tree that he created and that bears fruit only at the certain time of the year? What was then the guilt of the tree? Why would God curse what he created?
Answer: Firstly, there is no reason to believe that Yeshua cursed the fig tree because he was beside himself because of hunger and fatigue. Curse of the fig tree has only a symbolic meaning. It was not a punishment of an innocent fig tree. Yeshua used the fig tree as an example to show his disciples that he has the power not only to do wonders for the benefit of the people, but as God he can curse whom and what he wants, including his enemies and crucifiers. In this way he shows that he goes to his close martyric dead willingly, not under duress. It was to strengthen in this way the faith of his disciples in him. And after his resurrection they will remember everything that Yeshua did and said, and it will strengthen their faith in him as the Messiah. 'When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said' (Jn. 2:22).
Your question about signs and wonders, as the signs of the Messiah. "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matthew 24: 23-24); while in the other place he said: "When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. (Luke 7: 20-23; see also John 4: 47-54). He tells the disciples that they should not believe the people who make signs and wonders, but at the same time he brings forward his own signs and wonders as the proof of his Messiahship. Could God make such a mistake?
Firstly, it must be said that those miracles of Yeshua that he referred to are fulfillment of the prophecy by the prophet Isaiah (Chapter 35), which says that God will come and save Israel. Yeshua said it clearly to let the people know that this prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled in him. At the same time it is also clear that the Jews considered it as a messianic prophecy, because Yohanan (John the Baptist) asks, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?" In response to it Yeshua mentions this prophecy of Isaiah that he fullfilled, declaring thus himself as the promised Messiah, the one who is to come. Interestingly, the very name Yeshua means salvation.
Regarding the miracles of the false prophets and false christs it can be said that they will not be of full value and similar to the wonders of Yahweh (God) and his Messiah. We can recall how the magicians of Egypt repeated the same miracles that Moses worked. At first apparently they could do it, but then, after the second punishment of Egypt they couldn't repeat them (And the magicians did so with their secret arts to bring forth gnats, but they could not; and there were gnats upon man, and upon beast. Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh: 'This is the finger of God'; and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken (Exodus 8: 14-15)). In addition, Yeshua himself said: If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father (John 15:24.). And Nicodemus, one of the teachers of the Jews, on the basis of his religious belief system said: Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him (John 3: 2). It is clear that God can not be with false prophets and false messiahs, and therefore they can never do wonders of God. I think that Jews themselves will not argue with the fact that the false prophet will never be able to raise the dead, for example. Signs and wonders of the false messiahs and false prophets will be false, but, nevertheless, they can produce an impressive impact on ordinary people. In this sense Yeshua says that they will be great.
Your question about the passage from Matthew 5:43. “You have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy”. But the Torah never said so. How can one and the same God make such a mistake?
Answer: Yeshua doesn’t say the that Tora said so. He doesn't even mention the Tora. In this case he may refer to the traditions of elders that he condemned elsewhere (Matthew 15).