Can You Pass This Bible Test?
In the recent debate with my good friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, I argued that the New Testament is no more antisemitic than the Old Testament. In other words, both sets of books reflect inner-Jewish tensions, both contain strong rebukes of our Jewish people (especially our leaders), and both contain words of promise and hope for Israel.
As I asked in my opening statement, “Is the New Testament antisemitic? That would be like asking, ‘Is the Torah antisemitic?’ Or, ‘Were the Hebrew prophets antisemitic?’ The answer is obviously not. The New Testament is a deeply Jewish book about the Messiah of Israel, it follows on the heels of the writings of Moses and Isaiah and Jeremiah and the prophets of Israel, and the polemics it contains are those of an inner-Jewish conflict.”
Let’s See How You Score
I can illustrate this in the form of a 10-question, multiple choice test. Let’s see how you score.
I’ll list a series of quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, and you have to identify the speaker. Is it: A) Moses; B) Jesus; C) Jeremiah; D) Isaiah; E) Ezekiel? (Don’t cheat and skip down to the answers! Take an educated guess for each one.)
- The LORD saw this and rejected them because he was angered by his sons and daughters. “I will hide my face from them,” he said, “and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful.”
- Say to the Israelite people, “You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you.”
- “Now, go, write it down on a tablet and inscribe it in a record, that it may be with them for future days, a witness forever. For it is a rebellious people, faithless children, children who refused to heed the instruction of the LORD.”
- “For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So, you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
- “Well I know how defiant and stiff-necked you are: even now, while I am still alive in your midst, you have been defiant toward the LORD; how much more, then, when I am dead!”
- “… I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn … the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate.”
- “Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.”
- “Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me,” declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.
- “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men. … You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!”
- And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.”
Are You Ready for the Answers? Here You Go:
- Spoken by Moses at the end of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness (Deut. 32:19-20)
- Also spoken by Moses — claiming to be speaking God’s very words — after the children of Israel made the golden calf idol at Mount Sinai (meaning, just days after receiving the Ten Commandments; Exodus 33:5)
- Spoken by Isaiah (yes, God told him to write down these words about our people; Isaiah 30:8-9)
- Spoken by Jesus, rebuking the religious hypocrites (Matt. 23:27-28)
- Spoken by Moses, shortly before he death (Deut. 31:27)
- Spoken by Ezekiel, when God sent him on his prophetic mission (Ezekiel 2:3-4; 3:7; God even told him that if he sent him to the Gentiles, they would listen to him, but the Jewish would not, because they were too rebellious; Ezekiel 3:5-6)
- Spoken by Isaiah (Isaiah 1:4)
- Spoken by Jeremiah (Jer. 2:19)
- Spoken by Jesus, rebuking the superficial worship of our people (Mark 7:8-9)
- Spoken by Isaiah, also rebuking the superficial worship of our people (Isaiah 29:13). In fact, before Jesus gave the word of rebuke in #9, he quoted these very words from Isaiah (see Mark 7:6-8; Jesus began by saying, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites”).
The purpose of this little exercise should be clear by now: Jesus spoke as a prophet to our nation. And if you are going to reject his words as antisemitic or un-Jewish, then you have to do the same with the words of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Moses, and even God himself. It is only when we wrongly see Jesus as a hostile outsider rather than a loyal insider that we can so badly misread his words, as recorded in the Gospels.
Once we see him as a loyal insider — as Israel’s Messiah — we can take comfort in his promises that there will be a future restoration for the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 19:28).
Excerpted and adapted from The Real Kosher Jesus: Revealing the Mystery of Israel’s Hidden Messiah. For the very real issue of antisemitism in Church history, see here.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Jezebel’s War With America: The Plot to Destroy Our Country and What We Can Do to Turn the Tide. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.