Sample clip of my debate with an
atheist on the issue of morality.
Find the whole debate at this link
Jewish / Judaism : Reinterpretation of Ancient Teachings, part 1 of 4
With regards to the interpretation of the scriptures some of the conflicts amongst Jews and Christians are due to the fact that the Jewish understanding of the scripture has been, and is being, redefined and reinterpreted.
Some Rabbis, Torah teachers, Jewish scholars and particularly anti-missionaries are now claiming that Jews have always believed in things that Jews have actually not always believed and they claim that Jews have never believed things that Jews actually have believed.
Parts of scripture are practically hidden from the general public and in order to attempt to prove Christianity wrong all sorts of bad information is being put out. I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist but a small sample of this will be seen in the quotes below.
We often find that modern Rabbinic Judaism disagrees with ancient Rabbinic writings such as the Targum, Talmud, Midrash as well as more recent interpretations from Rashi, Maimonides and others. We also often find that Christianity agrees with ancient Rabbinic writings. Modern Rabbinic Judaism is often willing to disregard the teachings of the ancient sages in order to argue with Christianity. This is done, of course, without admitting, or hinting at the fact, that Christianity often agrees with the Rabbis of old.
In the following quotes we will see that interpretations began to change in order to prove Christianity wrong. Forgoing the Peshat, Derash and other methods of interpretation some of the Rabbis (some of them being the most respected) initiate a new form of interpretation; a method which seeks to disprove the teachings of Christianity. They go as far as ignoring portions of their own scripture and change rituals in order to attempt to discredit Christianity.
In all the issues with which we will deal I labor to demonstrate from Rabbinic writings the sorts of differences there are between the opinions of the ancient Rabbis as opposed to those of the modern Rabbis. There is an odd contradiction when it comes to Christian claims that Rabbinic writing often favor Christian interpretations. When we invoke the ancient interpretation of the Old Testament-the Tanakh-as found in the Rabbinic writings the anti-missionaries charge that we do not understand those writings due to the various methods of interpretation employed by the ancient sages. On the other hand, when anti-missionaries read the New Testament they claim that its writers are taking the Old Testament out of context or even claiming that certain texts are treated as prophecy when in reality they are not. The contradiction is that when considering the New Testament use of the Old Testament it is the anti-missionaries who do not consider the various ancient methods of interpretation that, quite naturally, the writers of the New Testament would have employed.
One reason that may be a factor in determining why certain ancient doctrines, as well as interpretations, have been changed is the authority which is given to certain religious leaders. A case in point if offered in the following example:
...the rabbi, or Zaddik-the man who was, in the words of Martin Buber, the 'just of perfect man in whom_found mortal incarnation.' The words of the Zaddikwere beyond question, his actions beyond criticism. He had an absolute measure of authority no rabbibical scholar could achieve, an authority based on the conviction of his followers that he had direct contact with God, and was able to perform miracles. The Zaddikserved as a model of Jewish religious perfection. His personality, his habits, his idiosyncrasies-all became the object of unswerving adoration on the part of his followers, who often devoted greater attention to the Zaddik'slife than to his teachings.1
Examples of Reinterpretations: Rabbi Samuel ben Nahum,
According to the strict law one ought to recite the Ten Commandments every day. And why do we not recite them? Because of the claims of the minim lest they should say, 'these alone were given to Moses on Sinai.'
Minim means sectarian and is generally, certainly here, a reference to Christians.
Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzhak (or, Yitzhaki) aka Rashi, wrote:
The Church, it is well known, transformed chiefly the Psalms into predictions of Christianity. In order to ward off such an interpretation and not to expose themselves to criticism, many Jewish exegetes gave up that explanation of the Psalms by which they are held to be proclamations of the Messianic era, and would see in them allusions only to historic facts. Rashi followed this tendency_For instance, he formally states: 'Our masters apply this passage to the Messiah; but in order to refute the Minim, it is better to apply it to David.'2 [emphasis added]
For context: Rashi was commenting on Psalm 21. Clearly, aware of ancient tradition Rashi, and those who follow his lead, purposefully change the interpretation solely in order to refute Christians.
Professor Gershom Scholem; Professor Emeritus of Jewish Mysticism at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem,
'since the day that the Temple was destroyed and the Torah burned, its mysteries and secrets have been delivered up to the demons. And this is called the exile of the Torah.'(1) This may be an allusion to the Christian exegesis of the Bible.3
Footnotes: (1) Hayyim Vital, Sha'ar ha-Kawwanoth (Jerusalem, 1873), fol. 58a, and Sefer ha-Gilgulim (Frankfurt, 1684), fol. 34a
Lurianic kabbalism hinges on the idea of redemption. It expected the primarily mystical reality of a redeemed cosmos to translate itself ultimately into outward reality and to become manifest. But in this process the messiah himself plays a pale and insignificant role. Except for the highly developed and firmly established tradition of the messiah, perhaps the kabbalists would have dispensed with him altogether.
Their imaginative originality, greatly in evidence when a subject is close to their hearts, fails them completely where the messiah is concerned. Where he is mentioned at all, it is in the standard and somewhat hackneyed phrases of the traditional texts. By transferring to Israel, the historical nation, much of the redemptive task formerly considered as the messiah's, many of his distinctive personal traits, as drawn in apocalyptic literature, were now obliterated.
On the other hand, the kabbalists left the traditional descriptions of the messianic woes and of subsequent redemption much as they found them. Two strands, therefore, coexisted side by side in kabbalistic eschatology: the old apocalyptic tradition, not yet transformed in the crucible of mystical reinterpretation, and the new kabbalistic conception of tiqqun.4
1. Abba Eban, My People-The Story of the Jews (New York: Behrman House Inc. and Random House, 1984), pp. 240-241
2. Maurice Liber, trans. from French by Adele Szold, Rashi (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1906), p. 119 also see J. J. Stewart Perowne, D.D., The Book of Psalms, A New Translation with Introductions and Notes Explanatory and Critical (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) p. 232 and Arthur W. Kac, M.D., The Messianic Hope (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) p. 75
3. Gershom Scholem, Sabbatai Sevi - The Mystical Messiah 1626-1676 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973), pp. 51-52
It may be republished in part or in its entirety on websites, blogs, or any
print media for whatever purpose (in agreement or in order to criticize it) only as
long as the following conditions are met: