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With the introductory article before us, I want to offer a few words of reflection. I think it is reasonable and responsible for a Christian, especially a preacher, to consider what an unbeliever offers and to counter his ideas, if the idea proffered cannot be sustained. The apostle Paul would go into the synagogue each Sabbath day and reason with the Jews (Acts 17:2-3). Before I started to work on this project I am not so sure I would have had much success in reasoning with a Jew; as a matter of fact, I think I would have done poorly. Because I saw myself failing, I took a different route in studying the Scriptures. The route was not different per se, but only different with an emphasis on Jewish thinking.

It is my intention to give thorough attention to the words of Asher Norman, and to offer a critique of his book. The format I will follow is simple. I will, with bold letters, incorporate the objections. Following these objections I will systematically answer the substance of the objection with whatever explanation Mr. Norman offers.

 REASON 1: Christianity is not ‘completed’ Judaism, and the two religions are not theologically compatible.

First, the nature of salvation for the Jew and then for the world (pp. 3-4).  “…the Jewish Bible has no concept that the Messiah ben David is coming to die for our sins, to ‘save’ us, or to do any of the things that Christians attribute to Jesus” (p. 4). In connection with this, “According to the Jewish Bible, God judges Jews by the 10 categories of 613 laws of the Torah and God judges Gentiles by the 7 laws of Noah” (p. 3). Michael Brown identifies these laws of Noah as the laws found in Genesis 9:1-6. They are the forbiddance of blasphemy, idolatry, sexual immorality, murder, robbery, eating a portion of a living animal, and, in a more positive vein, the establishment of the courts of justice.[1] I did not find this information in the Rabbinic commentary Chumash. I wish Mr. Norman would have given this information in text rather than assert it without support. It was in another book that I found what these “7 laws” are. In any case, the 7 laws, we are told, are for those who are not Jewish.

This sub-point offered as a buttress fails in two areas. First, the Scripture passage referenced by Michael Brown speaks nothing of the “laws of Noah” given to non-Jewish people. Brown writes, “[t]hese laws, derived from the rabbis from Genesis 9:1-6 in particular are considered to be universal in nature” and forbidding (p. 17). In fact, notice what the Chumash says with regard to Genesis 9:7-18, “God established a covenant with Noah and his descendents, and all living beings, until the end of time…After a rainstorm, which could have been a harbinger of another deluge like that in Noah’s time, the appearance of the rainbow will be a reminder of God’s pledge never again to wash away all of mankind in a flood” (Chumash 41-42).

It would seem to me to be reasonable for the Chumash to have said something relative to the Gentiles and the so-called 7-Laws, yet I was able to locate nothing in that particular section of Scripture and thoughts relative to it. This is not to deny that Jewish theology teaches such, but it is to deny that one does not find it within the text of Genesis.

Second, giving thought to Messiah ben David “coming to die for our sins,” note the words of the prophet Isaiah from the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation:

Isa 53:1 ‘Who would have believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of the LORD been revealed? Isa 53:2  For he shot up right forth as a sapling, and as a root out of a dry ground; he had no form nor comeliness, that we should look upon him, nor beauty that we should delight in him. Isa 53:3  He was despised, and forsaken of men, a man of pains, and acquainted with disease, and as one from whom men hide their face: he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Isa 53:4  Surely our diseases he did bear, and our pains he carried; whereas we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. Isa 53:5  But he was wounded because of our transgressions, he was crushed because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our welfare was upon him, and with his stripes we were healed. Isa 53:6  All we like sheep did go astray, we turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath made to light on him the iniquity of us all. Isa 53:7  He was oppressed, though he humbled himself and opened not his mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before her shearers is dumb; yea, he opened not his mouth. Isa 53:8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away, and with his generation who did reason? for he was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due. Isa 53:9  And they made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich his tomb; although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.’ Isa 53:10  Yet it pleased the LORD to crush him by disease; to see if his soul would offer itself in restitution, that he might see his seed, prolong his days, and that the purpose of the LORD might prosper by his hand: Isa 53:11  Of the travail of his soul he shall see to the full, even My servant, who by his knowledge did justify the Righteous One to the many, and their iniquities he did bear. Isa 53:12  Therefore will I divide him a portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the mighty; because he bared his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

I offer Isaiah 53 from the JPS to make a hermeneutical point. Note the masculine pronouns above. These pronouns refer to a person, a male. This is not without significance. The rabbis, however, do not interpret the pronouns that way. How do the rabbis interpret them? “Isaiah continues his prophecy of Chapter 52, describing the surprise of the nations when they see how Israel will be exalted in the End of the Days.” (Artscroll 401).[2] Thus, “he” is interpreted to refer to “Israel.”[3]

This will not stand, however. The effort to justify this hermeneutic is based on Isaiah 41:16 where “Jacob” clearly and contextually refers to the nation (cf. 41:14-16). There is nothing in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 corresponding to 41:14-16 that supports this same interpretative maneuver.[4]

Not only does the language of Isaiah 53 give clear indication of the suffering servant referring to a man (a specified “suffering servant,” not a nation), the wording of Isaiah 53 also gives clear indication that “suffering servant-man” takes upon himself much of the anguish that belongs to “every man.” He has born our griefs, carried our sorrows, wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, by his stripes we are healed, and the iniquity of each is laid upon him (53:4-6).

While the language of Isaiah 53 might allow for the interpretation of the suffering servant to forgive sins, even with regard to the interpretation of “nation,” Jewish theology does not so interpret it.

The perspective of Jewish theology and forgiveness for sin is achieved in that “God Himself gave His Torah to the Jewish People which provides for atonement for sin and the means to achieve the World to come” (p. 4). In other words, forgiveness is achieved when one turns his (her) attention to a study of the Torah and reforms his own life. Within this answer is God’s plan for atonement – all without the blood of the Messiah.

A key term here is the phrase the “Jewish Bible.” We know that in the Torah one can learn how to have sins atoned – this is through blood of animal sacrifices (cf. Leviticus 1:4). Jewish theology believes in man’s free-will, and with this free-will he is inclined to do evil or do good. If in his inclination to do evil he wants to change, it is through Torah study that he learns what change (or changes) to make. In this light, the atonement gained under the teaching of the Mosaic Law is in animal sacrifices and the Day of Atonement (Yon Kipper) – which is another animal sacrificed. Blood of particular animals must be used in conjunction with one’s obedience for atonement to be “procured.” However,

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; (Hebrews 10:1-5, ESV)

Article (2) in this series


[1] Michael Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: General and Historical Objections, volume 1, p. 17, Baker, 2000.

[2] The Later Prophets: Isaiah. The Artscroll Series. Edited by Rabbi Nosson Scherman. Mersorah Publications, Ltd. 2013.

[3] Rabbi Shimon Schwab comments, “According to most commentaries, this reference to a single person is a composite prototype of the totality of all tsaddikim throughout the galus…The Jewish nation is referred to as a single person, and all reference to it are in the singular” (585).

[4] In Isaiah 41, the Holy Spirit clearly makes use of the masculine pronoun to refer to a plurality of people. “But thou, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed [descendents; NKJV] of Abraham My friend” (Isaiah 41:8, JPS). “Ye are My witnesses, saith the LORD, and My servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He; before Me there was no God formed, neither shall any be after Me” (Isaiah 43:10). In 43:8, a plurality is in view, the same with verse 9, and thus verse 10. Again, the context makes this clear. In the passages referenced to support this hermeneutic (the two above; 44:1, 21; 49:3), the language of those contexts do not correspond to the language of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52:13-53:12.