Jesus (Matthew?) and Anti-Pharisaism

In “The Pharisee, the Potion, and the Poison of Anti-Semitism,” I examined further the fallibility of man contrasted with the perfection of the LORD Jesus Christ with reference to the question whether Christianity has caused more harm than good. I was asked by “YourPhariseeFriend,” Rabbi Yisroel Blumenthal: “Why do you consider only the nice things that Jesus said. To quote the Rabbi: “he (Jesus) said pretty nasty things as well – presenting them to an audience hostile to Jews and to Judaism – you have to be blind to deny Jesus’ evil influence on the history of Europe…”

In this post, I present Rabbi Blumenthal’s response to “The Pharisee, the Potion and the Poison of Anti-semitism” followed by my response to him.

September 26, 2010

I do not see much material worthy of a response – you make assumptions about what I believe that have no basis in reality – you are responding to points that I made without trying to understand what I meant – but in any case – I will try to help you understand the point I was making about the negative influence of the Christian Scriptures.

You focus on the question: “Did Jesus actually say this” – I think that your question is irrelevant – I am focusing on the book of Matthew – in that book there is a character called Jesus – the Jesus of Matthew’s book will change according to the readership of the book – perhaps the readers will envision a character that is similar to the historical Jesus – and perhaps not – but that question is also irrelevant – the question that is important is:”What Jesus did the vast majority of Matthew’s readers envision?” – “How did the vast majority of readers understand the message of Matthew 23?” – “Did the writer of Matthew have the foresight to understand how his book will be read and understood?”

What do you think the answers to these questions are?

Your Pharisee Friend

I replied:

As far as I understand the strict Orthodox Jewish view, the Torah is breathed out by God. The Torah, therefore, is a direct revelation from God. It was, therefore, not for Moses to decide the effect this revelation would have on the people, and only then write it down accordingly.

A similar situation obtains in the Christian scriptures, which many Christians to be God-breathed. So, when Matthew wrote his Chapter 23, it was not his job to consider the possible attitudes his readers, or he, himself, might have had to the Pharisees. In other words, it was not Matthew’s (or Moses’) job to foresee what the effect on readers would be. I don’t mean, of course, that Matthew, or any of the other NT writers, or Moses, or David, or the Prophets went into a trance-like state of automatic writing.

Ultimately, it is important whether God is “speaking” through Moses or through Matthew. So, the issue in Matthew’s Gospel is two-fold: 1. did Matthew faithfully record what Jesus said, and 2. did Jesus have divine authority to say what he said? The two-fold issue in the Torah is: 1. did God really speak to Moses, and 2. did Moses faithfully record what God said.

For me, the answer to both sets of these respective questions is yes. For you the answer to the second set of questions is yes. If God didn’t speak, and if scripture (as we both understand the term) is not an accurate rendering of what God said, then I see nothing wrong with trashing Moses, and I would do the same to Matthew.

Consequently, it wouldn’t be wrong to accuse those who believe the Jewish and Christian scriptures to be God’s revelation as, at best, deluded, at worst, miscreant.

Here’s a thing: Rabbi Paulus Elkana of Prague converted to Christianity after reading Matthew’s Gospel in Hebrew.

(In the traditional Orthodox Jewish view, the Torah is the only part of the Jewish Bible (Tanakh) that is breathed out by God. In other words, the Torah is the direct revelation – and only direct revelation – from the Ruakh HaKodesh; the Holy Spirit. See “Thus says the Lord in the Torah. And in the Prophets?” for authoritative Jewish references on this view of Torah).


8 thoughts on “Jesus (Matthew?) and Anti-Pharisaism

  1. My response to this is – that you are not merely defending the proposition that the Christian Scriptures were written with divine inspiration – but rather the original post I was responding to was trying to establish the authenticity of the Christian Scriptures on the basis of its effect on humanity – to this I say – you have to count the bad as well as the good – I actually posted this response a while back – what happened? it didn’t register? do you have a response? – I already put in a request that if you have a response to a point that I make that you notify me about it – is there a reason you refuse to do this?
    In any case – I do believe that it is the responsibility of a writer or a speaker to measure the effect of his words – after all speaking or writing are done for the purpose of getting certain ideas accross to a particular target audience – in the case of the Jewish Scriptures – the target audience is Eternal Israel (see the Council of My Nation at Jews for Judaism’s website) – the overall effect of the Jewish Scriptures on this target audience has been positive – could you compare the effect of the Christian Scriptures on its target audience?
    Your Pharisee Friend

  2. Bography
    There is a difference between “respond to” and “reply” . The former means that one digested what has been written and formulates something intelligible that directly addresses the points brought up – the latter means that one piece of writing followed another with some loose relationship to the first article
    Now to make it simple – do you or do you not believe that the positive contributions of Christianity should serve as a basis for Christian faith? if you say yes – then my question to you is – do you not recognize that one must consider the negative contributions as well – if your answer is no – so then we are in agreement on this point
    In any case – is it too difficult for you to update me of new blogs that you create attacking my words? Are you interested in a serious dialogue?
    Your Pharisee friend

    • Yisroel you say I must notify you of posts that touch on you. I try to do this in future.

      To answer your “do you or do you not believe that the positive contributions of Christianity should serve as a basis for Christian faith?”

      Here is an extract that explains the effects as a basis for Christian faith:

      I. The influence of religion is not to be sought for in the councils of princes, in the debates or resolutions of popular assemblies, in the conduct of governments towards their subjects, of states and sovereigns towards one another; of conquerors at the head of their armies, or of parties intriguing for power at home (topics which alone almost occupy the attention, and fill the pages of history); but must be perceived, if perceived at all, in the silent course of private and domestic life. Nay, even there its influence may not be very obvious to observation. If it check, in some degree, personal dissoluteness, if it beget general probity in the transaction of business, if it produce soft and humane manners in the mass of the community, and occasional exertions of laborious or expensive benevolence in a individuals, it is all the effect which can offer itself to external notice. The kingdom of heaven is within us. That which the substance of the religion, its hopes and consolation, its intermixture with the thoughts by day and by night, the devotion of the heart, the control of appetite, the steady direction of will to the commands of God, is necessarily invisible. Yet these depend the virtue and the happiness of millions. This cause renders the representations of history, with respect to religion, defect and fallacious in a greater degree than they are upon any other subject. Religion operates most upon those of whom history knows the least; upon fathers and mothers their families, upon men-servants and maid-servants, upon orderly tradesman, the quiet villager, the manufacturer at his loom, the husbandman in his fields. Amongst such, its collectively may be of inestimable value, yet its effects, in mean time, little upon those who figure upon the stage of world. They may know nothing of it; they may believe nothing of it; they may be actuated by motives more impetuous than those which religion is able to excite. It cannot, be thought strange that this influence should elude the grasp and touch of public history; for what is public history but register of the successes and disappointments, the vices, the follies, and the quarrels, of those who engage in contentions power?

  3. Hi Bography
    I am amazed at your ability to misquote/misunderstand the most basic ideas. I never “commanded” that you “must” notify me of your posts that quote my articles – I put it to you as a request – that should be self-understood for someone who is interested in a real dialogue
    As for your quote about the effects of Christianity – if I understood you correctly – your point is that we look into the hearts of people to see its effect – not in the headlines of newspapers – I agree to this premise wholeheartedly – and is exactly there – in the hearts of people – that I see Christianity has done the most damage – who infected the heart of Europe with an abysmal hatred for God’s firstborn son?
    Your Pharisee friend

  4. Yisroel

    You said in your penultimate reply:
    “is it too difficult for you to update me of new blogs that you create attacking my words?”

    I responded:

    “Yisroel you say I must notify you of posts that touch on you. I (shall) try to do this in future.”

    Please forgive me if I my response came across as if you had “commanded” me. I understood that you were reprimanding me (justly), and I was interpreting you to mean that I should (must) notify
    you when I “attack” you. I assume that if I were to agree with you, I would not need to contact you. Let’s not dwell on this.

    Your other point:

    For you (Judaism), God’s “first born son” is Yisroel. For me (Christianity), your “first born son” is a typology of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The NT, which I consider history, records in John 1, that the Messiah came to his “own” but His own received Him not. I think that much of the suffering of the Jewish people is a result of this rejection. The human beings who caused this suffering, however, are not exonerated, just as Assyria was not exonerated for destroying the Northern Kingdom, which was ordained by God.

  5. Hi Bography
    As it pertains to God’s firstborn son – Exodus 4:22 and Jeremiah 31:8 identify Israel/Yisroel as God’s firstborn son. The Jeremiah quote is partciularly pertinent because it refers to Ephraim in the end-times – so in no way can replacement theologians hijack this appelation for Jesus – (in my dictionary “replacement” includes those who steal Israel’s promises for the “Church” as well as those who steal them for Jesus).
    In any case – why would rejection of what Jews understand to be idolatry bring suffering upon themselves?
    Your Pharisee friend

    • Yisroel, here is a partial answer (which is part of my latest post). I still need to say much more on the matter, which I shall try to finish soon. So, wait until I have posted more on the matter before you respond.

      Here is my partial answer:

      The LORD Almighty says in Zachariah (8:23):

      “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.'”

      Does that mean that followers of Jesus are going to be hanging on to the skirts of Ephraim? Yes, it means exactly that; with this difference: this is no “purely” Jewish Ephraim; it’s a grieving first born son Ephraim saved by the first born Son he has pierced:

      10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit [a] of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. 11 On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12 The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, 13 the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, 14 and all the rest of the clans and their wives (Zacharia, 12; see also John 19:37).

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