In this fourth installment of the Answering questions from Christians series of posts, I am again answering actual questions that I received through email from Christians. For previous installments, see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
Question 1: “Did only Jesus ascend to heaven, as per John 3:13? What about the cases in the Old Testament of people who ascended, like Elijah and Enoch, they seem to contradict John’s statement, as does Eph. 4:8, when Paul talks about ascending into 3rd heaven?” Continue reading this post
Aleinu is a prayer that marks the closing of the morning, afternoon and evening service in a synagogue. Today it is found in many Jewish prayer books, but at many points of our long and painful history it would be censored by the Church, and Jews would risk and sometimes lose their lives because of it. The Hebrew word aleinu means “it is our duty”, as in “it us our duty to praise (leshabei’ach) [G-d]“. The prayer is alternately attributed to Joshua of the Exodus fame after the conquest of Jericho or to Tanna Rav in 3rd century Babylonia who may have composed it for Rosh Hashanah services. Regardless of its origin, the prayer proved to be quite controversial wherever Jews lived among Christians. It would frequently raise ire of the Christian Church, since ecclesiastical authorities considered the prayer an insult to Christians and Jesus, even though it mentions neither. Continue reading this post
Question 1: “How can Christianity be false, when Paul and Peter and most other apostles gave their lives for the things they preached. They had real experiences.”
Answer: The sole accounts we have of their deaths come from the Roman Catholic church tradition (the same tradition that teaches that Peter, the unlettered Jewish fisherman, was the first Pope of the Catholic Church). The gospels themselves or the NT letters say nothing about how or when they died. However they died, people die for their beliefs all the time, including beliefs which originated directly with them. These individuals may even sincerely believe in their own teachings, visions and experiences. Should we believe their claims? History teaches us to be quite skeptical. Continue reading this post
I thought it would be of interest to my readers to share this on my blog. Below are some questions that were emailed to me by Christians and my replies to them.
Question 1: “What do Jews believe in regards to heaven and hell? Are these real?”
Answer: Jews believe that G-d is the one who lives in heaven with His angels (and other supernatural creatures), although G-d is present everywhere and is not limited to heaven. Some Jews hold that souls of human beings also reside with G-d until He sends them to live in a body. However, the permanent place for human beings is on this earth, which G-d will renew at some point, both before and after resurrection. Hell (Gehinnom), in Judaism, is not the place for eternal, never-ending punishment or of fire and brimstone (although some medieval Jewish commentators referred to it as such, perhaps reflecting the Christian understanding), but rather a place where the dead sleep, awaiting their resurrection and judgement. Some Jews hold that souls return (in some fashion) to G-d upon one’s death, until the Resurrection and reunion with the body. Some Jewish sages viewed Gehinnom as a place 0f refinement and purification. Ultimately, Jews do not speculate much about the afterlife or put so much emphasis on the hereafter the way Christianity, Islam and most other religions do (the ancient Egyptians are a great example), but rather hold that some things will be revealed to us later: “The secret things belong to the L-rd our G-d, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this Torah.” (Deuteronomy 29:29) Continue reading this post
Question 1: “Without Jesus, how do Jews become right with G-d and obtain eternal life with G-d?”
A clue that will help us answer this question is how did Jews become right with G-d and obtain eternal life before Jesus? Continue reading this post
The New Testament presents the Jewish leaders and the Jewish people as a bloodthirsty mob out to get Jesus, mercilessly calling for his blood, without any regard for justice. This is the lens through which Christendom would come to view the whole of Jewish people for the next two thousand years. At the same time, the ruthless murderer Roman procurator of Judea Pontius Pilate, a man who would often slaughter people indiscriminately and without trial, a foreign ruler who crucified hundreds if not thousands of Jews and Samaritans under his charge, is portrayed as going out of his way to spare Jesus’ life. He is even shown as almost pleading and trying to reason with Jews in Jesus’ defense, acting not as a vicious executioner who hated Jews with every fiber of his being, but as a defense attorney for a Jewish messianic candidate. (Note: it was the Roman policy to execute all messianic pretenders to the Davidic throne in order to prevent a Jewish rebellion. In the light of the fact that Jesus’ own followers proclaimed him as the Messiah and NT records Jesus as not only not denying it but even acknowledging it on occasion, it is hard to fathom that Pilate would seek to let a would-be messiah go, to save the “King of the Jews” from his own countrymen). To show his disapproval of the injustice that Jews were committing, the New Testament authors even have Pilate, the murderer who had no regard for human life, especially a Jewish one, actually wash his hands, a Jewish custom (Psalms 26:6), in a show of innocence. Billions of Christians have been led to believe in this fictional “good” Pilate to such a degree, he and his wife are to this day venerated as saints in Ethiopian (Pilate and wife, with a feast day on June 25) and Greek / Eastern Orthodox (wife, honored on October 27) churches. Augustine saw Pilate as a prophet of the Kingdom of God (cf. sermon 201), and Tertullian thought that he was a Christian at heart (Apologeticum). His image, along that of his wife, was displayed in Christian art for generations of Christians to admire. However, this is not the man of history.
Over 750 years ago, a Jewish convert to Christianity Pablo Christiani (this is his adopted Christian name), wanted his fellow Jews to see the same “light” that he once did. Prior to his conversion, Pablo has studied under Rabbi Eliezer of Tarascon and was well versed in Talmud and rabbinic literature. Once he became a believer in Jesus, joining the Dominican friars, Christiani followed the lead of another Jewish convert, Nicholas Donin, in trying to evangelize the Jews by all methods and knowledge at his disposal. As a Christian, he began to see the Talmud as the chief reason behind Jewish obstinacy and rejection of Jesus as their divine messiah and savior. Although a former student of Talmud, like Donin before him, he now wanted to do away with it and destroy it. However, Christiani also saw Talmud’s value as an evangelistic tool among Jews. Continue reading this post