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Would the disciples of Jesus die for a lie?

April 7, 2015

Christian-MartyrsWould someone die for a lie? Would someone willingly give up their life on account of falsehood? Would an act of martyrdom prove the veracity of a religious claim? A common Christian apologetic goes something like this: the apostles and the first Christians died for their belief in Jesus and his resurrection. This proves that Christianity was based on truth, since no one, the proponents of this argument insist, would be willing to die for what they know to be a lie. Is such reasoning sound?

Let us first consider the following:

  1. The New Testament records no deaths of any of the apostles or any of the original witnesses to the resurrected Jesus. Only later church tradition (the same tradition that has Peter as the first Pope of the Catholic Church) ascribes voluntary martyrdom to about half of the apostles, with the rest dying either a natural death or are supposedly murdered under various circumstances that did not require recanting of their beliefs. (There are various conflicting traditions, most put together long after the original disciples of Jesus were long dead one way or another.)
  2. The few people who actually did die for their faith in Jesus in the New Testament never witnessed Jesus’ resurrection themselves but came to believe through evangelistic efforts at a much later time. Stephen is one such example.
  3. Later generations of Christians became Jesus worshipers as a result of proselytism. When Romans made Christianity illegal, Christians were persecuted and sometimes executed by the Romans. However, they died not for what they themselves have witnessed but because they believed things they were taught by others and accepted them as truth.

Did they die for truth or did they die hoping that what they believed was true? A true believer does not ask such questions – he has all the answers, or so he thinks, in his holy scriptures. However, and it may come as a surprise to most Christians, the New Testament itself doesn’t give us a clear picture of Jesus’ claimed resurrection and who actually witnessed the events surrounding it. In fact, the New Testament’s account is incredibly muddied and conflicting between the different gospels. Mark, the earliest gospel in the New Testament, simply says that a young man at the empty grave announced to the visiting women that Jesus is “risen”, commanding them to go tell his disciples about it. Mark’s account stops at that, adding that the women fled, “said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” Did Jesus appear to someone later? The earliest manuscripts of Mark are silent about what happened next. Not to worry – the later Church scribes filled in the rest of the events (as can be seen in any NIV version of the NT, to the dismay of some Christians), adding interesting flourishes such as believers being given the power to handle of snakes and drinking poisons, and even the “Great Commission” for a good measure. Not to be outdone, the Church writers who penned and edited the other three gospels, Matthew, Luke and John, filled in even more of the details of post-resurrection appearances.

But let’s assume for a moment that Jesus was seen alive after his supposed resurrection. How did he appear to his close circle of disciples? Did he appear in a supposedly “resurrected body” as the gospel of John written many decades after Mark went on to claim? Or, perhaps Jesus appeared only as a ghost and not in a physical body. Did he appear to the group of 500 at the same time as Paul claims in 1 Corinthians 15:6  and was it only in a vision just like Paul’s (who, just a few verses later, also claimed to have seen Jesus, even though Jesus already left for heaven!) and is to each one individually? Did they all claim to see him during a mass apparition like the millions of modern Catholic Mary-devotees claim?

Which brings me to my original question – would people die for a lie that originated with themselves? Yes, if they have become convinced that the lie is true. Such a thing is certainly not unheard of and in fact quite common in a religious world. Consider the following examples from modern history:

  1. David Koresh, a self-proclaimed prophet of G-d and “son of G-d, the Lamb” and cult leader, was killed in a fire (probably started by either him or some members of his cult) after refusing to surrender to the authorities. He preferred to die a martyr’s death. Many of this followers died with him.
  2. Jim Jones, another Jesus Christ claimant, was a cult leader who led his whole congregation into murder-suicide. Jim Jones was reputed to perform many miracles, some of which were recorded on video.
  3. Marshall Applewhite, who referred to himself “I, Jesus—Son of God”, committed suicide along with the rest of this followers while waiting for a rendezvous with what they thought was a spaceship.

The individuals listed above created their own delusions and died in the process of living them out, firmly believing in their own ideas to the very end, taking many others along with them to destruction. They died for a lie that originated with themselves, somewhere in the process re-imagining their delusions as truth, unwilling to give them up even in the face of death. In fact, some of them welcomed death and martyrdom, enduring ridicule and persecution. None of these things made their convictions any more true, expect in their own minds. Countless people died for what they strongly believed to be true because others have convinced them. Millions of Germans died because they were convinced that they were a superior race and the millions of Japanese died to defend their demigod Emperor. History is replete with many other such examples, with time and space not permitting me to list them all here. Throughout humanity’s existence countless people had died for all sorts of reasons and causes – false, true and somewhere in between. Clearly then, dying for a belief, whether true or not, does not prove that a particular claim is true.

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60 Comments leave one →
  1. Keith permalink
    April 7, 2015 11:02 am

    Excellent post, Gene. Hope you don’t mind, but I linked to this post in a comment that I just made on Derek Leman’s post here: http://www.derekleman.com/2015/04/02/passover-and-the-last-supper/

  2. April 7, 2015 11:10 am

    Thanks, Keith. No, I don’t mind. Although it looks like he lost little time expunging both your comment and the link to my blog.

  3. April 7, 2015 1:08 pm

    Gene, Dude,

    On the subject of archaeology and Jesus, I’ve just read this interesting article :

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3028617/Was-Jesus-buried-wife-son-Chemical-signature-links-James-Ossuary-Jesus-Family-tomb-geologist-claims.html

  4. April 7, 2015 1:15 pm

    Sam, yeah, I’ve seen these articles. Whether they reflect what actually happened or a conjecture, Jesus’ dead bones, or whatever is left of them, are buried somewhere.

  5. Keith permalink
    April 7, 2015 1:25 pm

    Bad news, Gene. Derek Leman deleted my link to your post. He called what I did unethical. He also accused me of trying to hijack his blog to serve the purpose of counter-missionaries. I wasn’t “link spamming”, as he claimed. I had been thinking about replying to Melissa and when you wrote your article, I thought it would be a relevant answer to her. I could have tried to condense it down into my own words, but I thought that it would be easier just to link her to your article. Oh well. Hopefully it was up long enough to send some traffic your way because Derek believes that it is unlikely you will gain a lot of MJ readers.

  6. April 7, 2015 1:53 pm

    No worries, Keith.

    “He also accused me of trying to hijack his blog to serve the purpose of counter-missionaries.”

    All Torah-faithful Jews are “counter-missionaries”, since all Jews who care about the truths of Judaism oppose promotion of idolatry, especially under a “Jewish” guise. Same goes for Gentiles who rejected idolatry.

    “Derek believes that it is unlikely you will gain a lot of MJ readers.”

    I am not too concerned about gaining readership – I just post what’s on my mind and whoever reads it reads it. (And I am not working for any “counter-missionaries”, either for free or for payment). And while I don’t know if many of my readers are “MJ” (or Jews, or Christians, or atheists or whoever), I do know that each of my posts is read hundreds of times, many are shared by readers through social media and I’ve received hundreds of thousands of individual page views – without doing any promotion. I believe that my perspective can be useful to someone (and I’ve seen lives transformed) – that’s why I go on writing.

  7. Keith permalink
    April 7, 2015 2:05 pm

    That’s a good way to look at it, Gene. I really enjoy reading your posts. Keep up the great work!

  8. April 7, 2015 3:54 pm

    Thanks, Keith, I appreciate it. In the past few years I’ve gotten to know MANY former Christians/messianics who have rejected the idolatry of man-worship of Christianity, embracing the Jewish understanding of G-d. Instead of bowing to a dead man, the “divine man”, as their forefathers have done, they have finally gained a relationship with the G-d of Israel, becoming true monotheists, the righteous among the nations. For many of them it’s really the first time they can truly relate to the Jewish people and their Torah-life on Jewish terms, unfiltered through two thousand years of Christian dogma. Ironically, to continuing Christians/messianics this is a damnable “apostasy”.

  9. April 8, 2015 1:39 am

    What do you think of ‘The Jewish Gospels’ by Daniel Boyarin?
    He shows that Christianity came from Jewish sources.

  10. April 8, 2015 7:27 am

    I thought the book is sensationalist, of little substance and a lot of conjecture – in other words, it was designed to sell. Besides, of course Christianity came from “Jewish sources”. The question is which parts of it did and were they normative to Judaism or already a departure from it?

  11. April 8, 2015 8:18 am

    I got that book and Segal’s ‘Two Powers in Heaven’ just a week ago. I started reading Segal’s book and decided to read Boyarin’s first as it (the Jewish Gospels) is much easier to read.
    What do you think of Segal’s book? I haven’t read it yet.

  12. April 8, 2015 9:13 am

    “What do you think of Segal’s book? I haven’t read it yet.”

    I only read parts of it, although I was already familiar with the “two powers” heresy (e.g. archangel Metatron being thought of as a second deity by rabbi Elishah ben Abuyah) – an idea that Babylonian Talmud describes and condemns.

    Leonard, when you are done reading both of these books, you are welcome to share your thoughts – email them to me.

  13. April 8, 2015 1:53 pm

    Thanks. I will.
    Your comment that “of course, Christianity came from ‘Jewish sources'” made me realize how brainwashed I’ve been by the blithe statements to the effect that Christianity is pagan- you know, Easter egg hunts/Winter solstice birthday for baby JC/Ishtar/Easter, which ‘we’ve’ recently celebrated, etc.
    But then, didn’t Rashi say that he who will err will find a way to err (or something like that)?

  14. April 8, 2015 2:07 pm

    Leonard, while Christianity after Paul has incorporated within itself many “pagan” elements, such as a mystery salvation (common in many Roman era cults), a demigod savior born to a union between a god and a human virgin, the eucharist (ritually partaking of one’s deity), the duality between Good G-d and Evil god (Satan), etc, the multiplicity within a godhead (there are many examples of other trinities), the idea of a messiah coming to Israel (although completely reformulated by the later strata of the New Testament into an otherworldly divine figure who saves from damnation) is an originally Jewish idea. (Things you mentioned, Easter, bunnies, etc., are all very minor, secondary things compared to the far bigger issues pointing to something not very kosher at the very core of the Christian religion).

    Basically, Christianity to Judaism is like an inverted pyramid – the tip is Jewish (and partially buried in the ground from all of the weight above it), while all the bulk built up on the top is not.

    Pyramid

  15. April 8, 2015 5:02 pm

    To me, I never gave “the Messiah” any thought whatsoever growing up.
    To me, it was “Messianic Days” that captured/captures my imagination (peace on earth).
    Call me a bad Jew, but to me, it was/is so clear that it’s about Hashem that this “Messiah!, Messiah!” (from the movie The Chosen, and Chabad) mishegoss just reminds me of the people of Israel turning their backs on Hashem and asking for a king, which Hashem allows, but…

  16. April 8, 2015 5:08 pm

    Leonard, you are right. To make too much of a Davidic king (who will be reinstated in the messianic era, and will even have his own children, as the prophets tell us), to make any man the focus instead of the consequence, is to take one’s eyes off of the one true King of Israel – Hashem.

  17. Concerned Reader permalink
    April 8, 2015 5:38 pm

    I was just about to write an article about the prophet Samuel’s chiding of Israel when the people first asked for a king. Moreover, when David’s sons split the kingdom, the righteous of both kingdoms were always regarded as the ones who came down to Jerusalem to observe the Torah’s commands (often against the wishes of the Kings in the northern kingdom.) IE more important than any King, any son of David, was faithfulness to the commands of G-d.

    Leonard, here is a good lecture about the development of the idea of a “divine” son of man originating from Jewish sources.

    Borderlines: the partition of Judeo Christianity is another good book by Boyarin, but there is a lot of conjecture in his writings, but scholars do that a lot.

    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/810990/_Ari_Lamm/Like_a_Son_of_Man_-_Sefer_Daniel,_the_Gospels_and_the_Bookshelf_of_Bayit_Sheni

    The lecture talks about the evolution of the usage of the term “son of Man” throughout Tanakh. It starts as referring to just people, then righteous people, and It’s only in 1 Enoch where it takes on the more mystical angelic “divine” mediator meaning that we find with Jesus, Acher, etc. I’ve always found it interesting that the links are so traceable.

    Gene, I love that pyramid picture, it says it all very well.

  18. April 9, 2015 6:52 am

    Thanks. I’m listening to it right now.
    For what it’s worth, I’ve held that the term ‘the Son of Man’ as used by Christians like Paul and John meant/means something like the being of light that is seen by near death experiencers.
    Many Christians (Paul?) experienced this phenomenon of being encountered by a being of light who exudes love (the perfect Form–ala Plato–of Man), and are therefore convicted by this of joining a religion that comes closest to promoting/encouraging getting closer/exploring this life-changing phenomenon (i.e. usually Christianity for Westerners).

    I was/am influenced by Carlos Castaneda’s ‘take’ on this phenomenon in his [probably fiction] book ‘The Fire From Within’. He calls it ‘The Mold of Man’. It’s an interesting chapter.

  19. Keith permalink
    April 9, 2015 11:39 am

    Gene, that’s so basic, but I’ve never seen it that way before. 30 years in Christianity will do that to you, I guess. It’s much more about G-d and less about the Davidic king.

  20. April 9, 2015 12:53 pm

    Keith, the question is – what in Christianity that is NOT a distortion of the very basics of the Hebrew Bible, starting with G-d Himself?

  21. Concerned Reader permalink
    April 9, 2015 3:00 pm

    Keith, even the Christian bible itself indicates that miracles and claims to be G-d are not really trustworthy berometers for truth in its own roundabout way.

    The NT has its whole tradition about Jesus, but it also has the “anti Christ” tradition. The anti Christ in the Christian bible claims to be god as per 2 Thessalonians, and revelation, (Scholars even believe that the emperor Nero is the one that 666 referred to originally, he was the only emperor who required divine honors be paid to him while he was alive.)

    We are told that anti Christ does miracles, leading even the “elect” astray if possible. This whole strain of Christian tradition showed me that the only berometer that is sturdy and trustworthy according to the texts is the commandments, because any Tom, dick, and Harry can (and has) claimed to be god in some way or other at one point in time. It’s just not a trustworthy (testable) claim.

  22. Concerned Reader permalink
    April 9, 2015 3:07 pm

    Christian tradition itself indicates that people like Simon Magus (Simon the magician) claimed to be the great power of G-d, aka the logos. People like Apolonius of Tayana is another prominent example of a “sage like” figure who did supposed miracles. The strength of the Christian bible, (the ethics of Jesus) are the very thing that’s not unique to the NT. Jesus’ ethics were grounded in the Judaism of his day.

  23. April 9, 2015 3:17 pm

    Some of the Roman Emperors (“sons of god” and demigods that they were) were also reputed to have powers to heal, raise from the dead and do all sorts of “miracles”. Or at least so the common folk was asked to believe.

  24. Concerned Reader permalink
    April 9, 2015 7:36 pm

    Yep.

  25. Troy permalink
    December 29, 2015 10:44 pm

    Gene:

    You referred me here from this comment so I figured I’d comment here to be on topic rather than on the newer article.

    I don’t think the Koresh/Jones/Applewhite portion of this argument holds much water. These are cases of single individuals who are probably a little crazy and/or mentally disturbed. To make it equivalent you would need to take 6-12 of your closest friends, conspire with them to tell a ridiculous lie, one that will have them suffer persecution and death, and then see how long this group maintains the lie once the killing starts.

    Of course, that does require one to believe the traditions regarding the apostles’ deaths. If they all in truth lived long lives and died of natural causes, well … end of discussion. I haven’t spent a lot of time investigating those validity of those traditions, but probably should do so.

    If we stick to just the NT writings, we have James the brother of John being martyred by Herod, and then Peter being arrested, and various and sundry persecutions that were withstood. I suppose if one disregards the authenticity of the entire NT writings, one can explain it all away.

    When it comes down to it, one can pick apart the Tanakh in the same sort of way. I believe academic biblical criticism site thetorah.com is the work of one or more Orthodox Jews (just can’t remember where I read that and was introduced to the site right now.) What if they have enough believable criticism of the Tanakh that you end up throwing it out the window as well?

  26. December 29, 2015 11:58 pm

    “To make it equivalent you would need to take 6-12 of your closest friends, conspire with them to tell a ridiculous lie, one that will have them suffer persecution and death, and then see how long this group maintains the lie once the killing starts.”

    Troy, actually, those cases are extremely similar. And one doesn’t have to conspire with their friends – a leader of a cult simply needs to convince his followers that he (or she) possess some otherworldly knowledge or powers. (The books about the supposed miracles can wait to be written by the later followers.) This pattern has been repeated with false religions throughout history over and over.

    “If they all in truth lived long lives and died of natural causes, well … end of discussion.”

    That’s the thing – we only have church traditions to tell us. And many church traditions about martyrdom are exaggerations, pious frauds – Christianity’s early history is filled with claims that Jews tortured and murdered the earliest Christian saints, even going so far as claiming that Jews, on occasion, supposedly recreated Jesus’ mockery and crucifixion by the Romans by doing the same to the “Christian martyrs”.

    “When it comes down to it, one can pick apart the Tanakh in the same sort of way.”

    On this blog we have a name for such an argument by Christians who point out to Jews that perhaps the Hebrew Bible is wrong too. We call it a “suicide bomb argument” – trying to defend Christian faith by questioning the very foundation – the Jewish scriptures – on which Christianity claims that it solidly rests. This argument may work for agnostics, but not for those who already believe that the Jewish Bible is truth. Do you, Troy, believe that the G-d of the Jews is the true G-d? If you do, let’s not wade into the “agnostic” waters, but let’s judge Christianity – and not just the NT – through the lens of the Hebrew Bible. Does Christianity actually conform with what the Torah and the rest of the Hebrew Bible teach us?

  27. Troy permalink
    December 30, 2015 10:00 am

    Gene:

    If one accepts that the 12 lived with Yeshua, ministered with Yeshua, watched Yeshua die, and then either did or did not all witness him in resurrected form, then it’s not a cult. It’s 12 (or more) disciples who are all relating the same experiences of resurrection, which they either all know is false or all know is true. Your examples were single individuals who convinced followers of something they hadn’t actually witnessed themselves. There is no direct comparison. If you do not believe that Yeshua appeared in resurrected form, then to duplicate the circumstances, you would indeed have to engage a number of people in a ridiculous conspiracy with nothing to gain and see how long they can hold out as they are killed, one by one. That would be the direct equivalent, and you know as well as I that recantations would be forthcoming rather quickly if the conspiracy centers around a lie.

    Now, it’s another thing to question the validity of the traditions of the deaths of Yeshua’s followers, and I don’t have an answer for that (yet). It’s something I’ll have to dig into at some point.

    I just don’t think the examples of individuals you provided have really anything to add to this topic because they just aren’t similar at all.

    Regarding your “suicide bomb argument” I am in complete agreement. I was simply pointing out that we do have the deaths of some of the disciples in the NT writings, as well as plenty of persecution, yet we are not aware of any recantations generated by it. So while many of the deaths are traditions written outside of the NT writings, not all of them are.

    So do the occurrences in the NT writings carry any more weight, are we fairly convinced that at least those occurred and know that a good bit of persecution was served as a side item too? If so how much is enough to show that Yeshua’s followers kept their conspiracy going in the face of quite a lot of persecution and even death?

    This is where the slippery slope begins, and why I pointed out to you that even Orthodox Jews themselves have in cases embraced biblical criticism and no longer believe the historical or spiritual accuracy of the Tanakh, as witnessed by TheTorah.com. (And by the way I found the article that introduced me to TheTorah.com here at tabletmag.com.)

    I would never advanced that argument myself, I was simply pointing out that you can question the accuracy and truth of *everything* to the point where nothing is left to stand on. For myself, where I am now, if I couldn’t count on the Tanakh being the Word of Hashem preserved well enough for me to completely trust in, then what is the point?

    So, while I know that I have to question everything I have ever been taught by Christianity, I’m not always willing to simply throw the baby out with the bathwater just because traditions of the disciples’ deaths were handed down in some cases through people involved with early Christianity.

  28. December 30, 2015 10:19 am

    “That would be the direct equivalent, and you know as well as I that recantations would be forthcoming rather quickly if the conspiracy centers around a lie.”

    But that’s not what one sees in history of religions. Take Mormonism, for example. The Mormon Church claims numerous sworn witnesses to the events around the revelation of the book of Mormon to Joseph Smith. There are the so called “Three Witnesses” who “were a group of three early leaders of the Latter Day Saint movement who wrote in a statement of 1830 that an angel had shown them the golden plates from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon and that they had heard God’s voice testifying that the book had been translated by the power of God.” And even after the three had a falling out with Joseph Smith, “in later years, all three testified to the divine origin of the Book of Mormon and, at least near the end of their lives, all were members of one denomination or another of the Latter Day Saint movement.”

    Of course, there also a possibility that may be the Mormon witnesses didn’t lie (since they went to their graves without recanting and some were persecuted and killed for their religion – including Joseph Smith himself) and that Mormonism is a legitimate G-d-revealed religion as well, even superseding the “corrupt” Christianity! As the joke goes, the reason G-d created Mormons is so that Christians would know how Jews feel!

  29. Troy permalink
    December 30, 2015 12:59 pm

    Gene:

    Interesting argument–I’ll look into it. Where would I find information suggesting these three witnesses were severely persecuted or faced death for their stated belief that they had witnessed an angel show them the golden plates?

  30. December 30, 2015 1:08 pm

    You can read some info here on the “witnesses”.

    And here as well:

    “Although Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris struggled against persecution and self-doubt throughout their lives, even leaving the Church for some time, they never denied the witness they had received.”

    And here in this book, saying that the three witnesses were “severely persecuted”.

    And, of course, Joseph Smith himself was jailed and then murdered by a mob. Which probably meant that to be his follower wasn’t very safe either.

  31. Troy permalink
    December 30, 2015 2:16 pm

    Thanks, I’ll investigate further. First thing I did was look at your first link, and it has info about two people. The first one is one of the “three” but it doesn’t indicate there was any persecution. The second one Hyrum Smith looks to be the brother of Joseph Smith and was one of a group of eight who claim to have seen the plates, but I don’t see anything about witnessing anything supernatural, so he would have been convinced on just seeing plates it would appear, not having experienced first hand an angel showing said plates as the “three” claimed.

    To me there is a clear difference between dying for something one accepts by faith alone, and dying for something one absolutely knows to be false. To have 6-12 people do the latter seems fairly impossible to me without someone recanting. I unstable person could be deluded into believing his own fantastic testimony of some supernatural experience and be persecuted or die for it, but after years spent with Yeshua I doubt that his disciples could all be deluded to believe he had risen from the dead and suffer for it without someone admitting he really hadn’t somewhere along the line, which if early enough should have collapsed the entire belief structure.

    But, if it can be demonstrated that something very similar happened here, it certainly has to be considered. The “Skeptical criticism” has some interesting information as well about their mindset and also the leader after Joseph smith producing his own set of buried plates and witnesses.

    It seems these people were all involved in witchcraft according to the wikipedia page, which is forbidden by Torah. Perhaps they did witness something supernatural but not of Hashem. Yeshua’s disciples on the other hand were Jews in Israel with a Torah lifestyle. I think I might give them more credit on that basis alone.

    Nevertheless I will examine this more closely to see if/how it parallels.

  32. December 30, 2015 2:28 pm

    “Perhaps they did witness something supernatural but not of Hashem. Yeshua’s disciples on the other hand were Jews in Israel with a Torah lifestyle. I think I might give them more credit on that basis alone.”

    Troy, the Torah warns Jews that even if someone does supernatural miracles and yet teaches something contrary to Torah (e.g. allowing himself to be worshiped or be thought of as divine), the Torah calls it test from G-d:

    If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The L-rd your G-d is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the L-rd your G-d you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the L-rd your G-d, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the L-rd your G-d commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)

    That is to say that G-d of the Bible says that it is possible for people to witness even genuine miracles, signs, wonders, and even prophecies that came to pass, etc, but if one is lead away by the “prophet” from the true G-d, the prophet is to be rejected (as Jesus clearly was by the Jewish people). This is could be a test from G-d himself. We know that Christianity lead humanity to focus on and worship a man as god – the seeds of this can be clearly seen in the NT, unless one wishes to selectively believe or disbelieve various parts of the Christian scriptures.

    As Rambam wrote:

    Can there be a greater stumbling block than [Christianity]? All the prophets spoke of Moshiach as the redeemer of Israel and their savior, who would gather their dispersed ones and strengthen their [observance of] the mitzvos. In contrast [the founder of Christianity] caused the Jews to be slain by the sword, their remnants to be scattered and humiliated, the Torah to be altered, and the majority of the world to err and serve a god other than the L-rd.

  33. Troy permalink
    December 30, 2015 2:41 pm

    I agree and have read Deuteronomy 13 a number of times recently :-) (And 12 too especially as I try to explain to my family that Christmas is wrong because Hashem doesn’t approve of unauthorized worship of him using practices drawn from paganism.)

    But as I said elsewhere my view of Yeshua, if I believe he was Messiah ben Josef, must align with Torah. To that end I do not believe he was deity. I see him as human and more like Moses’ burning bush–a vessel through which Hashem acted. If Yeshua was truly Messiah, and Rome later turned him into a man god to help Roman pagans adhere to the new official religion of the state, that wouldn’t overturn the truth.

    Now I’m not saying I’m stubbornly clinging to that belief and will not let go if it’s not true, but that where I am now, I haven’t abandoned that belief. I’ve left it alone or intact until I have completely and thoroughly examined it, which is going to take time.

    In a sense, where I am currently is perhaps similar to Jews of Chabad who still believe Rebbe Sneerson is Messiah.

  34. December 30, 2015 2:53 pm

    OK, Troy, fair enough. Let’s try this angle then:

    Do you consider yourself part of the “Ekklesia” as described in the NT and do you view all of the “genuine” (i.e. “born again”, you know what I mean) Christians/messianics (those who, unlike you, worship Yeshua as god) as your spiritual brothers and sisters in Yeshua and part of his “body”?

  35. December 30, 2015 3:12 pm

    Hi Troy. for me the resurrection account is bogus and looks like they hardly can be possible. Of course there is an explanation (http://www.gotquestions.org/resurrection-accounts.html) but it is hard fetched…

    Let’s come back to the disciples who died that were actual witness of his resurrection. We only have James. What a better witness of the “gospel” than having one of Jesus close disciple dying for his faith anyway… Do we have anybody else that actually died for Jesus? Can we actually be sure of Luke account when it was actually written 80-90 CE?

  36. December 30, 2015 3:25 pm

    “Let’s come back to the disciples who died that were actual witness of his resurrection. We only have James. ”

    I don’t think James, Jesus’ brother, saw anything. He supposedly wasn’t even part of the Jesus group – even John 7:5 says that “his own brothers did not believe in him.” He seems to have become a believer later.

    In fact, NOBODY in the NT saw the actual resurrection itself. Jesus “appeared” to them all later. (And wasn’t even recognized and his appearances were doubted by the witnesses themselves, according to the NT! – what a mess!) Paul said that Jesus appeared to him after he did to all the others – and since we know that Jesus was already in “heaven”, Paul was clearly talking about a vision he had on the road. So, may be they all saw some visions (if they saw anything – we are going by NT’s claims here). Perhaps they were like the mass Marian apparitions, which are common among Catholics.

  37. Troy permalink
    December 30, 2015 3:26 pm

    I’m not quite sure how to answer that question.

    I believe Christianity to be in serious error. Some of the concepts you list (body of Christ for example) are probably Pauline concepts that I would reject. I believe the disciples were suspicious of Paul all along, and Paul showed himself to be a false apostle, and thus I tend now to disregard anything that is sourced from him. I believe the disciples were completely Jewish and remained so.

    Yeshua stated that he came only to the lost sheep of Israel, which I equate with the Northern kingdom in diaspora, not gentiles of non-Israelite descent. He even sent his disciples initially only to the lost sheep of Israel.

    I believe there may be some descendants of the Northern kingdom in the church today, who will hopefully be drawn to truth at some point. I also think there are plenty of gentiles in the church who are perfectly happy with Romish paganism and don’t want to see the truth. Perhaps there are some gentiles capable of seeing the error and seeking the truth as well. What their place in everything is I haven’t quite figured out, although Yeshua does seem to have eventually sent the 12 to make disciples of all nations.

    Ekklesia means called out, which fits perfectly with Yeshua’s mission to the lost sheep of Israel, calling them out from among the gentile nations.

    That’s about where I am currently :-) I do recognize that there are a few statements attributed to Yeshua in the NT writings, such as “No man comes to the Father but through me” which I have to wrestle with, but by and large to date I haven’t yet encountered the “gotchya” thing that tells me Yeshua could absolutely not have been the suffering Messiah ben Yosef.

  38. December 30, 2015 3:34 pm

    “Yeshua stated that he came only to the lost sheep of Israel, which I equate with the Northern kingdom in diaspora, not gentiles of non-Israelite descent. He even sent his disciples initially only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

    That doesn’t make sense – there’s no evidence of that at all, even in the NT, much less historically speaking that the apostles or the disciples sought Northern kingdom “lost tribes”. If Jesus came for the “northern kingdom”, it’s odd that he didn’t set foot outside of the Judea. Don’t take it wrong way, but you must have picked it up somewhere from the Two House people, Troy:)

    “I haven’t yet encountered the “gotchya” thing that tells me Yeshua could absolutely not have been the suffering Messiah ben Yosef.”

    Then you should read my post “Is Jesus “Messiah ben Joseph” of Jewish mysticism?

  39. December 30, 2015 3:39 pm

    Hi Gene, I was actually talking about the brother of John…

    It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.

  40. remi4321 permalink
    December 30, 2015 3:44 pm

    “Perhaps there are some gentiles capable of seeing the error and seeking the truth as well.”

    Gentiles are as capable as Jewish people… I guess it has something to do with the NT and the holy spirit. That we are all blind without the HS and we cannot see the truth without the “helper”. The fact that one sees the truth has little to do with the fact that he is Jewish or Gentile. The advantage of the Jewish is that they have been thought to worship the true G-d. But everybody can read the Bible for what it is… and those who do so often convert to Judaism.

  41. remi4321 permalink
    December 30, 2015 3:45 pm

    “Then you should read my post”

    You have a post on everything!!!

  42. Troy permalink
    December 30, 2015 3:47 pm

    That last response of mine was to Gene asking “Do you consider yourself part of the ‘Ekklesia’ . . .”

    Remi, you could add Judas Iscariot, who committed suicide after betraying Yeshua. He was a disciple after all, and apparently regretted what he did. I suppose he wasn’t killed for his faith, but what he did to Yeshua was enough to cause him to take his own life. John the Baptist could possibly make the list although he wasn’t witness to the resurrected Yeshua.

    Gene is right concerning Yeshua’s brother James, he apparently didn’t believe, was not a disciple, but must have believed at some point to eventually become the leader of the believers in Jerusalem. Perhaps the resurrection did it? Hard to think of what else might have caused him to change his mind if he didn’t believe until after Yeshua’s crucifixion. We know this James was martyred from Josephus, who I would consider a reliable source.

    This is a Christian source, but the article seems to be pretty fair in describing which traditions may or may not be reliable: article.

  43. December 30, 2015 3:49 pm

    “Hi Gene, I was actually talking about the brother of John… ”

    Ah, got it. But I don’t think that this other James witnessed the resurrection itself either. Paul claimed that Jesus appeared to James (1 Corinthians 15:7) But since Paul claims that Jesus appeared to him too (the last person Paul says he appeared to), and since we know Jesus was already ascended to Heaven to sit on his thrown, Paul must have seen only a vision (yet still claimed “appearance”!!).

  44. December 30, 2015 3:55 pm

    “You have a post on everything!!!”

    Haha, Remi:) Well, almost – there are still a lot of topics which beg to be addressed – in the new year!

  45. remi4321 permalink
    December 30, 2015 3:59 pm

    “you could add Judas Iscariot, who committed suicide after betraying Yeshua. ”

    Well, not according to Paul. How could Judah be part of the 12 disciple that saw Jesus resurrected if he killed himself?

    For what I received I passed on to you as of first importancea : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.

    Paul should have write “11” disciples, not twelve…

  46. Troy permalink
    December 30, 2015 4:04 pm

    Wow these comments are getting so many and jumbled–wish it could be hierarchical so it was easier to see which are responding to which.

    Anyway Gene I do subscribe to a sort of two house view, due to many scriptures in the Tanakh alluding to eventual re-unification of the house of Israel/Joseph/Ephraim with the house of Judah. I don’t believe the church is Ephraim, but I don’t have a problem believing some of the lost sheep are in the church.

    I actually have wondered myself why Yeshua remained in Judea, but he did instruct his disciples to go to the lost sheep of Israel and avoid the gentiles:

    [Mat 10:5-6 NET] [5] Jesus sent out these twelve, instructing them as follows: “Do not go to Gentile regions and do not enter any Samaritan town. [6] Go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

    The Tanakh uses “house of Israel” and “house of Judah” at times referring to the Northern and Southern kingdoms, and several passages suggest the kingdoms will be reunited during the Messianic age, or do you not interpret them as such?

  47. remi4321 permalink
    December 30, 2015 4:06 pm

    “Paul claimed that Jesus appeared to Jame”

    and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.

    another contradiction?

  48. December 30, 2015 4:08 pm

    “Paul should have write “11” disciples, not twelve…”

    Well, that’s true, since Jesus already went up BEFORE they chose a replacement for Judas. But may be Jesus appeared to Matthias later, separately, in a “custom” more personalized apparition (like he did for Paul). Seems like Paul doesn’t distinguish between visions and actual physical appearances.

  49. December 30, 2015 4:16 pm

    “The Tanakh uses “house of Israel” and “house of Judah” at times referring to the Northern and Southern kingdoms, and several passages suggest the kingdoms will be reunited during the Messianic age, or do you not interpret them as such?”

    Troy, I believe that they have already been all re-united. The “lost tribes” are a myth – even according to the Bible representatives of the exiled Northern Tribes returned and joined other Israelites in Judea. (Even the NT claims Anna in Luke 2:36 was from the tribe of Asher – a supposedly “lost tribe”!!!). We already know who are “Israelites” – Jewish communities were preserved miraculously. After all, until the rebirth of Israel, Jews have been scattered literally to EVERY country on the planet. It was the Jews who suffered as the Bible predicted for the whole of Israel, and not any Gentiles who supposedly were descended from “lost tribes” and lived alongside exiled Jews (and may be even persecuted them due to antisemitism, their own “brothers”).

  50. December 30, 2015 4:17 pm

    I think Paul had no ideas about Judas and that this story had been invented by the author of John. (see “The fourth gospel, tales of a Jewish mystic”). I don’t think Paul was speaking figuratively there, because this is the argument that proves Jesus super-human power and the reason for him to be the messiah. Without a proof of the resurrection, they worship a dead man after all.

    But again, the whole ship is full of holes!

  51. December 30, 2015 4:20 pm

    “I think Paul had no ideas about Judas and that this story had been invented by the author of John. ”

    I think he did know of Judas, unless it was the church scribes who added the following later to Paul’s writings to create the rite of Eucharist: “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,” (1 Corinthians 11:23)

  52. remi4321 permalink
    December 30, 2015 4:24 pm

    but it does not say by whom… if not it would have been written “11”. I think it has been added after, that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that ate bread with me has lifted up his heel against me.

  53. Troy permalink
    December 30, 2015 4:36 pm

    Gene:

    When the northern kingdom was carried off, I’m sure there were representatives of all tribes in the southern kingdom at the time. The presence of a few doesn’t negate, in my view, the large numbers that were carried off into captivity.

    Here’s a part of the two sticks prophecy from Ezekiel:

    [Eze 37:21-28 NET] [21] Then tell them, ‘This is what the sovereign LORD says: Look, I am about to take the Israelites from among the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from round about and bring them to their land. [22] I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will rule over them all. They will never again be two nations and never again be divided into two kingdoms. [23] They will not defile themselves with their idols, their detestable things, and all their rebellious deeds. I will save them from all their unfaithfulness by which they sinned. I will purify them; they will become my people and I will become their God. [24] “‘My servant David will be king over them; there will be one shepherd for all of them. They will follow my regulations and carefully observe my statutes. [25] They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, in which your fathers lived; they will live in it – they and their children and their grandchildren forever. David my servant will be prince over them forever. [26] I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be a perpetual covenant with them. I will establish them, increase their numbers, and place my sanctuary among them forever. [27] My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. [28] Then, when my sanctuary is among them forever, the nations will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel.‘”

    How can this have already happened?

  54. December 30, 2015 4:43 pm

    Troy, it’s in stages – first G-d gathers Israel back to the land, then G-d cleanses them spiritually, THEN there will be a Davidic king over them, and THEN the New Temple. As predicted, Israelites (Jews) are today no longer divided into two kingdoms as they were in the past – they are one people now. And more Jews are being regathered still as we speak.

  55. December 30, 2015 4:57 pm

    Unfortunately, if someone was a Jew from Ephraim and was sent away to another nation, they are not Jewish any more. They are totally mixed with that other nation and became that nation. The same way than Jews who converted to Christianity are not Jewish after a few generation. It has been lost. Could G-d decide to check all generation past and see all those who have a Jewish mother as descendant until the time of exile? Sure, why not, but I don’t think it makes any sense nor think it will actually happen.

  56. December 30, 2015 5:09 pm

    The Bible says “Though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel, only a remnant will return.” (Isaiah 10:22)

    Only a remnant. This doesn’t bode well for the Two House Christians and other proponents of the “lost tribes are still around” myths. Since the 10 Northern Tribes represented the majority of Israel at one point, one would think that all those “lost tribes” should by now multiply into hundreds of millions of people. Especially considering that one wouldn’t care about assimilation or intermarriage among the “lost tribers” the way we do about such problems among Jews – as long as we can establish any sort of descent, the “lost triber” is a bona fide lost Israelite. Not exactly “only a remnant”.

  57. Troy permalink
    December 30, 2015 5:26 pm

    Interesting perspective. In searching a bit it would seem that it’s actually an unresolved question with Rabbi Akiva saying there are no more lost tribes to return, and Rabbi Eliezer (his teacher) saying there are, while Rabbi Shimon ben Yehudah saying it depends on their deeds. Three different opinions from sages. (Got this from chabad.)

  58. Troy permalink
    December 30, 2015 5:33 pm

    (I should follow up and mention that I didn’t mean any disrespect to the sages by pointing out the differing opinions–didn’t want it to come across that way. There are differing opinions on plenty of peripheral issues so I want to be clear that wasn’t a critical comment.)

  59. December 30, 2015 5:53 pm

    Troy, no worries at all – disagree all you want, I don’t take it personally:)

  60. Troy permalink
    December 30, 2015 6:00 pm

    I was just making sure that my comment about three different opinions on this from the sages didn’t sound like it was made negatively. I’m not even disagreeing with you–I just went looking for a Jewish statement on the topic to see if your position was something universally accepted within Judaism. Seems it’s maybe an open question. I can see it both ways and will have to ponder it.

    Thanks for all the discussion Gene and Remi (and Jim on the other article). I’ll probably take a bit of a break because I can get too caught up in comments and not get any work done, but I’m sure I will be back soon.

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