A Few Thoughts on Christianity

Rabbi Shlomo Cohen

www.HIQJEW.com

This article was originally meant as an approach to Christianity to be read by Jews. Jews who have questions, Jews who are searching in the wrong places for their answers, Jews who know others that need an intellectual, rather than emotional, approach to a particularly Jewish understanding of Christianity. Since it’s on the Internet, I cannot control who may read the article. In fact, a Protestant woman found the original article and sent me a lengthy e-mail taking me to task for attacking her lord. She took the article as a personal attack and responded accordingly. While calling me a foolish man, a vile person, ignorant, malicious, despicable, and worse, she managed to completely miss the idea behind my approach. Her refutations amounted to making a series of unsubstantiated claims about the historical record of early Christianity; she was guilty of tautologies and circular reasoning. She not only attacked me personally, but her understanding of Judaism was far below abysmal. Statements like, “The Jews don’t understand their own Torah.”; “G-d wrote nothing in the Tanach.” ”Nothing is more natural and popular than obsessional legalism. It gives people the feeling that they are accomplishing something. True spirituality is something else altogether.” abounded. 

Based on her comments I have seriously expanded the material contained herein. 

As Jews, and as part of Judaism, we learn to deal with ideas. Intelligent people do not view an idea as a personal attack. An idea, or opinion, should be understood and evaluated on its own merit without confusing the message with the messenger. 

I would also like to make clear that I am not attacking individuals. I have known, and worked with, many, many Catholics and Christians. As with any group of people, I found all types. Many were, and are, really nice, fine upstanding individuals. The thoughts I present in this article are directed at the CONCEPT of Jesus as a god, the veracity of the NT, the Catholic dogma and the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church 

I did not set out to write a fully annotated article with hundreds of quoted sources. This was to be a thought provoking article. The interested reader, I felt, would naturally understand my position and realize that we, as Jews, see Christianity through a rather dark lens. It is both an opinion paper as well as a position paper. The Christian who reads it will have a radically different take. In effect, I’m calling into question everything he or she has been taught. I can only hope that they either skip the article or, at least, try to view the article through unjaundiced eyes. It may be instructive to see the flip side of your particular coin. 

I would ask non-Jews to consider carefully prior to reading this article. There is little doubt that it will make you uncomfortable if not downright angry. Your religion frowns on open questioning. You accept, without reservation, the teachings of your church. You simply believe. Jews don’t have a dogma or catechism. We are taught, early on, not to accept anything just because someone said it or wrote it. We are taught to question, to probe and analyze. This requires confidence in who you are; assured of the immutability of your religion and a high degree of intellectual honesty. 

Let me state at the very outset that the Torah would maintain that every person who is not a Jew needs to follow the seven Noachide laws. As such Christianity is a step closer to the ideal than paganism. Nonetheless, many Poskim feel that some forms of Christianity are Avoda Zora, paganism [see Noda B’Yehuda, Mahdura Tnina Simen 148]. Even in the watered down versions practiced in America today, and even though many Rabbis ultimately decide that it is not Avoda Zora, it is a far cry from what the Torah expects of Umos HaOlam, the nations of the world.

Remarkably, while Jews consider themselves contentious, there are only four or five basic approaches to our religion; Orthodox and Chassidic, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist. More accurately, there are two: Traditional and non-traditional [which is, in effect, not really acceptable from a Torah perspective]. Note that each Jewish “sect” retains the Torah and even breakaways pay at least lip service to tradition.

Christianity has 22,000!!!

[See U.S. News &World Report}

The World Christian Encyclopedia tells us that, from 30CE to the present, there have been or are 34,000 separate Christian groups in the world. “Over one-half are independent churches that are not interested in linking with the big denominations”.  The differences are so great that the only useful way to think of them is as separate religions with different practices and beliefs who share the name “Christian”, the text of the Christian Bible and not much else”.

Protestant lady suggested that I check out a website by a Protestant apologist. I did so. The article was fascinating in that it not only failed to disprove my point, her intent, but strengthened my argument immeasurably. I’ve included several paragraphs I culled from the original here.

About Those 28,000 Protestant Denominations

…..the less-able RCC spokesmen draw upon to prove the superiority of their religion. I’m talking about the claim that, while Roman Catholicism is a monolithic religion, we foolish ‘Protestants’ are so hung up on personally interpreting the Bible that we are splintered into 25,000, or 28,000. or 32,000 or whatever thousand distinct denominations.

Is it true? Are there tens of thousands of so-called Protestant denominations while Catholicism is completely unified?

That source is David A. Barrett’s World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World A.D. 1900-2000 (ed. David A. Barrett; New York: Oxford University Press, 1982). This work is both comprehensive and painstakingly detailed; and its contents are quite enlightening. However, the reader who turns to this work for validation of the Roman Catholic 25,000-Protestant-denomination argument will be sadly disappointed. What follows is a synopsis of what Barrett’s work in this area really says.

First, Barrett, writing in 1982, does indeed cite a figure of 20,780 denominations in 1980,

Barrett identifies seven major ecclesiastical “blocs” under which these 22,190 distinct denominations fall (Barrett, 14-15): (1) Roman Catholicism, which accounts for 223 denominations; (2) Protestant, which accounts for 8,196 denominations; (3) Orthodox, which accounts for 580 denominations; (4) Non-White Indigenous, which accounts for 10,956 denominations; (5) Anglican, which accounts for 240 denominations; (6) Marginal Protestant, which includes Jehovah s Witnesses, Mormons, New Age groups, and all cults (Barrett, 14), and which accounts for 1,490 denominations; and (7) Catholic (Non-Roman), which accounts for 504 denominations.

Moreover, Barrett indicates in the case of Roman Catholicism that even this number can be broken down further to produce 2,942 separate “denominations” and that was only in 1970! In that same year there were only 3,294 Protestant denominations

Barrett breaks down each of these traditions into smaller units that might have significant differences (what he calls “major ecclesiastical traditions,” and what we might normally call a true denomination) .Referring again to our seven major ecclesiastical “blocs” (mentioned above, but this time in reverse order): For (1) Catholic (Non-Roman), there are four traditions, including Catholic Apostolic, Reformed Catholic, Old Catholic, and Conservative Catholic; for (2) Marginal Protestants, there are six traditions; for (3) Anglican, there are six traditions; for (4) Non-White Indigenous, which encompasses third-world peoples (among whom can be found traces of Christianity mixed with the major tenets of their indigenous pagan religions), there are twenty traditions, including a branch of Reformed Catholic and a branch of Conservative Catholic; for (5) Orthodox, there are nineteen traditions; for (6) Protestant, there are twenty-one traditions; and for (7) Roman Catholic, there are sixteen traditions, including Latin-rite local, Latin-rite catholic, Latin/Eastern-rite local, Latin/Eastern-rite catholic, Syro-Malabarese, Ukrainian, Romanian, Maronite, Melkite, Chaldean, Ruthenian, Hungarian, plural Oriental rites, Syro-Malankarese, Slovak, and Coptic

In other words, the true count of real denominations within Protestantism is twenty-one, whereas the true count of real denominations within Roman Catholic is sixteen. Combined with the other major ecclesiastical blocs, that puts the total number of actual denominations in the world at ninety-two Barrett goes on to note that this figure includes all denominations with a membership of over 100,000. There are an additional sixty-four denominations worldwide, distributed among the seven major ecclesiastical blocs.

Interestingly, when discussing Evangelicals Barrett provides no breakdown, but rather treats them as one homogeneous group. However, when he addresses Roman Catholics on the very same page, he breaks them down into four major groups: (1) Catholic Pentecostals (Roman Catholics involved in the organized Catholic Charismatic Renewal); (2) Christo-Pagans (Latin American Roman Catholics who combine folk-Catholicism with traditional Amerindian paganism); (3) Evangelical Catholics (Roman Catholics who also regard themselves as Evangelicals); and (4) Spiritist Catholics (Roman Catholics who are active in organized high or low spiritism, including syncretistic spirit-possession cults). And of course, we all know that this list can be supplemented by distinctions between moderate Roman Catholics (represented by almost all Roman Catholic scholars), Conservative Roman Catholics (represented by Scott Hahn and most Roman Catholic apologists), Traditionalist Roman Catholics (represented by apologist Gerry Matatics), and Sedevacantist Roman Catholics (those who believe the chair of Peter is currently vacant).

Obviously, If the Roman Catholic apologist wants instead to cite 8,196 idiosyncrasies within Protestantism, then he must be willing to compare that figure to at least 2,942 idiosyncrasies within Roman Catholicism.

There is much about Roman Catholicism that has resulted in the spilling of untold quantities of Jewish blood, however, that is not the thrust of this paper although most of what we will discuss centers specifically around the Roman Catholic Church. Note: From a Jewish perspective, the Roman Catholic Church or the Egyptian Coptic Church may have a claim on being the original approach. Every other sect of Christianity came about, long after the fact, as a result of a schism. Somebody decided they did not like what was going on and formed a breakaway church. All the changes made were merely one person’s opinion of how “Truth” was to be perceived. Thus, Luther, Calvin, Henry VIII and others took upon themselves the responsibility for the salvation of millions of souls. Shakers, Quakers and Mormons have all tried.  With no directive from G-d, Jesus, the holy-ghost or the official leaders of their church they simply usurped the right to decide what G-d wants. We would view these break-aways as upstarts with no basis in reality, no right to determine correct practices and no claim to authentic religion. Even Roman Catholicism developed slowly over several centuries after Jesus and may have no more claim than any other church. There is no textual proof that Jesus would have desired a church or that he would approve of anything done in his name for the past 2,000 years. One recorded break with the Pharisiic Rabbis was over which foods needed tithing. Hardly an earth-shattering argument, nor one that would create enmity between him and the Rabbis. In fact, it is a very legalistic point of Jewish law. Were he to return today, all things being equal, he would scorn going into a church. Most likely, he would feel most comfortable in an Orthodox synagogue. He would eat only kosher, wear Talis and Tefilin, observe all the Jewish holidays and keep all the Mitzvos scrupulously. 

All too often Jews become somewhat enamored of Christianity. Some who merely think that Christianity is a reasonable alternative, others who dabble in it, many who intermarry, still others who actually “convert” or become Jews for Jesus. While it might be fine for non-Jews, a Jew must recognize that the other religion leaves much to be desired if measured against the yardstick of the source of their beliefs — our Torah!

First they usurped it, then they perverted its teachings and then they held us accountable for not buying into their perversion. [Note that Catholic bible scholars virtually ignore any and all Jewish commentaries on the Torah. This is not from ignorance, nor by accident. It is by design. Judaism has no need to define itself vis-à-vis Christianity whereas Christianity must define itself through its Jewish origins. This has been a bitter pill for them to swallow. Let me reiterate that many, but by no means all, of my statements are directed mostly to Roman Catholicism. Many schismatic churches take a different tack.] 

Were I to offer you a choice between a genuine Rembrandt, an unknown artist’s forgery of that Rembrandt or a photograph of the forgery there is simply no real choice. We will show that their beliefs are but a faint semblance of the real item.

HISTORICAL EVIDENCE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF JESUS

Perhaps the most telling issue is a simple historical problem. There are exceedingly few independent historical sources for the very existence of Jesus. One is the Talmud! The Church actually censored these passages out of those editions printed in Christian countries. Of course, the Talmud has something very different to say about Jesus. For one thing, in one reference, he is called Yeshua ben Penterra. It appears that Penterra was a Roman soldier who, according to Jewish tradition, was the biological father of Jesus.  The only independent source, even that is some six hundred years after his death, and they wish to cover it up. Why? They are not at all interested in veracity, only dogma. By comparison, our Tanach makes it perfectly clear that the most illustrious Jewish lineage, that of King David, stems from Ruth, a Moabite convert. Moab was a people resulting from the incestuous relations between Lot and his daughters. From this union we will see our salvation. Why couldn’t the censors clean up King David’s family tree? Why not a virgin birth? The Christians didn’t invent that story. Or, perhaps a descendency from the sun god, or some other wondrous past. Simply put, the Torah is interested only in truth.

Elsewhere, Sanhedrin (43A), there is an interesting reference to Jesus.

“It has been taught on the eve of the Passover they hanged Yeshu. [In the Gemora the three letters of his name are written as an abbreviation, Ysh”v. V’ha’meivin Yavin] And an announcer went out in front of him for forty days saying, ‘He is going to be stoned because He practiced sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray. Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and plead in his behalf.’ But, not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the eve of the Passover.” “ Ulah said “He was a sorcerer…” “Yeshu was different as he was near to the King.” “He had five students Masai, Nikei, Netur, Buni and Toda.” The Gemora continues by utilizing verses associated with these names to show why they were not put to death.

There are several interesting things about this Gemora that raise questions about the Christian version. Remember that at the time of the writing of the Talmud, the Rabbis were familiar with what the Christians had to say. Nonetheless, their account differs in a number of striking ways. Firstly, The Gemora has it that Jesus was under arrest for at least 40 days prior to his execution. Secondly, any trial had to precede those forty days. Thirdly the charges are rather different. Fourth, he was sentenced to be stoned but was hanged instead. Hanging was not a method of execution used by the Jews. It could mean that his body was hung after stoning as was the custom.

However, the Romans would not have allowed this.  Since no dating is possible on this Gemora, it is possible that it, too, refers to a different person. Fifth, Jesus was not “near to the king”. Sixth, the number of students, as well as their names, are strikingly different.

ROMAN SOURCES

Carius Cornelius Tacitus  – The first Roman historian to mention Christ is Tacitus, who wrote his last significant work, the Annals, around A.D. 115. In this treatise, Tacitus describes the great fire of Rome during the reign of Nero and the emperor’s subsequent persecution of the Christians there. He wrote about the rumors circulating in Rome in 64CE that the Emperor Nero had started the Great Fire to make room for a new palace. He then writes:

”To dispel the rumor, Nero substituted as culprits, and treated with the most extreme punishments, some people, popularly known as Christians, whose disgraceful activities were notorious., and were commonly known by the name of Christians. They had their denomination from Christus, who in the reign of Tibertius was put to death as a criminal by the procurator Pontius Pilatus ….At first they were only apprehended who confessed themselves of that sect; afterwards a vast multitude discovered by them, all of which were condemned, not so much for the crime of burning the city, as for their enmity to mankind. Their executions were so contrived as to expose them to derision and contempt. Some were covered with the skins of wild beasts, and torn to pieces by dogs; some were crucified; others having been daubed over with combustible materials, were set up as lights in the night time, and thus burned to death. But the deadly cult, though checked for a time, was breaking out again, not only in Judea, the birthplace of this evil, but throughout Rome, where all the nasty and disgusting ideas from all over the world pour in and find a ready following.” …” (Tacitus, Annals, 15, 44).

Notice that while Tacitus had no regard for the Christians of whom he wrote, he does mention Christ as being the founder of their belief.

It seems obvious that he was not quoting an official Roman document from the period because, as scholars are quick to point out, he mistakenly calls Pilate a procurator when he was actually a prefect.

Perhaps Tacitus received it from his close friend Pliny the Younger, who may well have shared the knowledge he had acquired from contact with Christians in Asia Minor. But even if this is the case, the most we can say is that Tacitus is simply repeating what Christians of his day were saying about their origins. There is not much basis here for concluding that he was presenting independent testimony about the historical figure of Jesus.

Suetonius, in his biography of the emperor Claudius, written around  120CE, writes about the expulsion of the Jews from Rome in 49CE. He states: “Since the Jews were constantly causing disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from Rome” (Claudius 25:4).

Also, writing about the life of Nero whose reign began in 54 and ended in 68 CE Suetonius tells us:     “Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief” (Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, pg. 197).

While Suetonius does not mention Christ by name, he does refer to Christianity. Was Chrestus a popular misspelling of the Greek Christos (Christ) or a reference to another person entirely? Some scholars believe that Suetonius may have used a source that understood “Chrestus” to be Jesus. But it is possible that he could have understood the police records to mean  that “Chrestus” was the name of some Jewish slave who became a ringleader during the riots of 49CE. Suetonius’ account is far from being an independent witness to the historical Jesus. We also see that as early as 120CE Suetonious’ two reports show a pretty clear distinction between Jews and Christians.

Pliny the Younger was born in 61CE. Pliny was sent by the Emperor Trajan as proconsul of Bythinia, in Asia Minor, between A.D. 111 and 113. Pliny wrote a letter to the Emperor Trajan asking for advice on how to deal with the rapid growth of the Christian community in his area. Among other things, he describes the Christian custom of holding weekly meetings to sing praises “to Christ as to a god” (Letter 10. 96).

“It is my rule, Sire, to refer to you in matters where I am uncertain. For who can better direct my hesitation or instruct my ignorance? I was never present at any trial of Christians; therefore I do not know what are the customary penalties or investigations, and what limits are observed….”

In item number five of his letter, Pliny wrote: “…All who denied that they were or had been Christians I considered should be discharged, because they called upon the gods at my dictation and did reverence, with incense and wine, to your image which I had ordered to be brought forward for this purpose, together with the statutes of the deities; and especially because they cursed Christ, a thing which, it is said, genuine Christians cannot be induced to do….”

Under item number six, he continued:

“…Others named by the informer first said that they were Christians and then denied it; declaring that they had been but were so no longer, some having recanted three years or more before and one or two as long as twenty years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods and cursed Christ….”

This passage is significant, because it is the only non-Christian source that tells us that Christians treated Christ as a “god.”. But Pliny is merely describing an element of Christian worship. His comments say nothing about the historicity of Jesus. The passages also inform us that many early converts to Christianity were quick to recant. It also tells us that Pliny recognized each of these people solely as Christians and non-as Jews who accepted Christianity.

Thus, we see that the only real evidence stems from Josephus and even his writings about Jesus are suspected church forgeries.

Lucian of Samosata lived from A.D. 115-200. In The Passing of Perigrinus, Lucian mocks the Christian life, describing Christians as those who worship “that crucified sophist [Jesus] himself,” and live “under his laws.” Again, we learn only what some educated people from the second century may have heard about Jesus. Lucian is definitely not an independent source of historical knowledge concerning Jesus.

Thus the Roman sources show a vague awareness that Jesus was a historical figure as well as the object of a cult and that’s about it.

 Joseph ben Matthias, better known as Flavius Josephus (named after his patrons, the Flavian emperors Vespasian, Titus and Domitian lived from 37 to 100CE. When he was 26 years old he began writing his two famous works: The Jewish War, (seven different books) which was initially drafted in Aramaic, and then translated into Greek five to ten years after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70CE. He was held in such high regard that he was allowed to accompany Titus when Titus led the Romans Army against Jerusalem (70 CE). His second work, Jewish Antiquities, was completed more than a decade later. This work was much longer, and recounts Jewish history from creation to the Jewish revolt against Rome in 66-70CE.

Contrary to what many people may think, Josephus does not give us much information about Jesus. In his 28 volumes of Jewish history, there are only two possible passages that mention Jesus. And even these references are difficult to assess. The trouble is that Josephus’ writings were preserved for posterity by Christians (we disowned him as a traitor). The texts available to us today clearly contain statements that were added later by Christian editors. There are only three Greek manuscripts of Book 18 of The Antiquities – the earliest dating only to the 11th century – and the text of these is often in doubt.

The Christian additions are clearly seen in the famous Testimonium Flavianum, “the testimony of Josephus,” found in Antiquities 18:63-64. It reads as follows:

“At that time lived Jesus, a wise man, if he may be called a man; for he performed many wonderful works. He was a teacher of such men as received the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. He was the Messiah. And when Pilate, at the instigation of the chief men among us, had condemned him to the cross, they who before had conceived an affection for him did not cease to adhere to him. For on the third day he appeared to them alive again, the divine prophets having foretold these and many other wonderful things concerning him. And the sect of the Christians, so called from him, subsists at this time” (Antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 3, Section 1).

This passage is found in the context of references to sedition, before and after leaving the passage about Jesus very much out of place. Josephus, as an orthodox Jew would never have referred to anyone in these terms himself.

Another passage in which Josephus mentions Jesus is found in Antiquities, Book 20, Chapter 9, and Section 1. This second reference has received comparatively little rejection. The famous fourth-century church historian Eusebius also quotes this second passage in his Ecclesiastical History (2.23.22). Astoundingly, Eusebius does not quote the Testimonium Flavianum at all which argues for its complete absence in 315CE when he wrote.

Thus, the Talmudic evidence is doubly remarkable firstly, because of the overt hostility between Jews and Christians at the time of the Talmud and secondly, it would have been easy for the Jewish side to not even mention, or at least question, the existence of Jesus, but this we never did and thus, the church relies on Jewish testimony whether it likes it or not.

DATING JESUS

Interestingly, “the Talmud refers to an incident with Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Perachya and an apostate student of his named Yeshu. The incident under discussion occurred under the reign of King Yannai, or, according to some, under the even earlier reign of Yochanan Hyrkanus. Thus, it took place between 120 and 140 years before the time of the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate, whom Christianity identifies as Yeshu’s executioner.” (History of the Jewish People- The Second Temple Era, Art Scroll pg.152). The Tzemach David dates his birth at 100 BCE while the Seder HaDoros puts it at 90 BCE. Both bring other sources for their dating. In any event, what remains clear is that there is no agreed upon date. The Church’s source is a matter of an external process of dating occurring even after the writing of their bible.

The Gospel of Matthew claims Jesus was born in the time of Herod the great. Herod died in 4BCE meaning that Jesus had to be born at least by 4BCE. Other Gospels indicate dates ranging from 7BCE to 7CE. There is general agreement that Dionysius Exiguous, on whose say so this is 2004, got his date wrong and this isn’t 2004 years after the birth of Jesus at all. He erred first in figuring Augustus’ reign incorrectly and secondly in his calculation of the year of the foundation of Rome. The actual year might better be written as 2004 +/- 7. The monk, Abbo of Fleury [945-1004], proposed changes in Exiguous’ calendar including a year 0 between 1BC and 1AD. But this was ignored as well as his calculation for Jesus’ death. He felt that Exiguous was off by twenty or more years.

THE DIVINITY OF JESUS

In fact, the new testament never refers to Jesus as a god.

Some Christians claimed that Jesus was the son of G-d (Mark 14:61-64). “We have a law,” the Jewish leaders said to Pilate, “and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of G-d” (John 19:7).

When did this transformation occur? Actually, there was considerable disagreement over Jesus’ status. Some considered him only a mortal prophet. A major dispute occurred over the views of Arius and his followers who, in 318CE, rejected the doctrine that the three figures of the Trinity were equal and denied that Jesus was completely divine. This was known as Arianism. {Thus, that favorite word which everybody knows but can’t spell and have no idea what it means – antidisestablishmentarianism] This state of affairs continued until the Council of Nicene in the year 325CE when Constantine raised the issue and called for a vote on the divinity of Jesus. Arianism was declared heresy but a close vote it was and several centuries were to pass before all traces of Arianism were wiped out.

Other “heresies” concerning the ‘divinity’ of Jesus kept the early Church quite busy.

  • Docetists: Followers of Marcion who believed that the human body of Jesus was a phantom.
  • Nestorianism: Followers of Nestor believed that G-d dwelt in the body of Jesus like a temple.
  • Monophysites: Believed the nature of Jesus was wholly divine.
  • Arianism: Followers of Arius, Bishop of Hippo (256-336) believed Jesus was similar to an angel, not human, but not quite god-like.
  • Gnosticism: Believed that the Holy Spirit was superior to either Jesus or G-d. Very mystic sect leading eventually to the monastic movement.

It took until about 1100 for the church to just about achieve a monopoly of faith in Europe although evidence of widespread paganism through the 1600’s has been found in Russia, for one. Thus, the influences on Church thinking seeped in from innumerable sources over the course of over 14 centuries. From 1100 to 1300 other new ideas began seeping in from discoveries in science and astronomy and the major dilemma of church scholars was accounting for knowledge which contravened church teaching. The Church has, then, always been besieged by outside influences. For all its history, the church has had to determine what it considered heretical, and what not. Even so, many new innovations entered. At some point, the leadership chose to stop allowing new ideas from entering the Church. The result was a fierce backlash against anything new. That this occurred at the beginning of the Renaissance was truly unfortunate. The Church’s obstinacy was a terribly negative force preventing the spread of knowledge across all of Christendom. Whether it was technology to make life easier, medicine to prevent or cure diseases or straightforward facts in astronomy or mathematics, real knowledge was denigrated to the point that scholarship was forced underground for centuries.

The Council of Nicea was called, in 325, to settle the question of the nature of Christ. It is highly likely that Constantine and the Eastern Bishops, who made up the council, used the trinity as a compromise position to include as many of these positions as possible. As with any compromise position, it was meant to keep people happy, not reflect the Truth. I guess you could say that Jesus has the unique distinction of being the only person ever to be democratically elected to godhood.

The Church’s claim that Jesus refers to himself as the son of G-d (remember, Jesus didn’t write a word of the new testament) could very well be a spin off from the common usage that we Jews utilize to this day. Untold times in the Siddur we refer to Avinu She’ba’Shamayim – Our Father in Heaven. Each of us is, then, a son or daughter of G-d. Our claim is just as valid as Jesus’. We just don’t let it go to our heads. The pagans may very well have misunderstood the reference and thought that the preachers were claiming a divine patriarchal lineage for Jesus.

TESTIMONY OF THE NT

How is it possible that they cannot even prove that their “god” ever even lived? To understand this sophistry one must first recognize several little known facts. All their information comes from the “new testament”. Their bible states that Jesus lived, ergo; he did, which simply amounts to circular reasoning, nothing more.  But, what exactly is the provenance of these books? They do admit, albeit grudgingly, that the books were named in order that we believe the books were authored by people who knew Jesus. This is, in fact, not so.  Not one word in the “new testament” was ever written by anyone who was even alive when Jesus was supposed to have lived, other than Paul who, by his own admission, never met or spoke with him. So, for starters, they try to fool us with a lie.

Let us digress for a moment to compare the Torah’s claim. Can the same statement, “Their bible states that he lived, ergo, he did”, be made about Moses? G-d dictated the Torah to Moses, Moses wrote it and it was delivered to about 3 million people in his own lifetime. Any false claim would have been immediately recognized. Judaism is the only religion which can lay claim to a National Revelation- G-d spoke to everybody. No other religion even dares try to make the claim because it is too easy to prove it a lie.

Furthermore, one might assume that, although the books weren’t written by the disciples themselves, at least the authors were prominent theologians with reputable credibility. If you assume that, you’re wrong. The plain fact is the authors are all totally unknown. All that is known is the books were written in ancient Greek anywhere from 50 to 150 years (this too is a matter of tremendous conjecture even among Christian scholars) after Jesus was supposed to have lived, in areas far removed from the original scene, with each successive writer using the earlier as source material. The writers show a progressive lack of understanding of the fundamentals of the Jewish life Jesus would have had to have led. For centuries the Church has totally disregarded Jesus the Jew and has poorly transmitted the socio-political climate of the time and place. Yet it is only within this context that he or his teachings can be understood. Yet we know virtually nothing of him or his teachings. In any event, his total “ministry” lasted a scant three years beginning to end. First, why would Jesus leave any traces on the pages of secular history? He was virtually unknown – a traveling teacher who enjoyed limited popularity within a small community in a remote province on the eastern edge of the Roman empire. In the words of John P. Meier, professor of New Testament at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C.: “Jesus was a marginal Jew leading a marginal movement in a marginal province of a vast Roman empire. The wonder is that any learned Jew or pagan would have known or referred to him at all in the first or second centuries” (A Marginal Jew, p. 56).

There were perhaps 3 million Jews living in Palestine [so named by the Romans] at this time. Certainly a bare minority were even aware of his existence. There was no media available to spread the word. In three years there are 162 Shabbosim and perhaps 30 Yom Tovim. This gave Jesus about 200 preaching days. Even if he hit 2 Shuls a day, granting an average congregation of 50 people, only 20,000 people would have ever heard him speak, and they only heard him one time. How many of them were convinced?  [The Protestant lady informed me that the NT makes a reference to 30,000 followers of Jesus. I’m not sure of how this figure was reached. It is unlikely anybody did a head-count. In any event, even if accurate, this number represents, at best, only 0.6% of the population]

There are dissident Christian groups today who, themselves, claim that Jesus is probably responsible for only about 18% of the sayings attributed to him. 82% of the quotes are sheer fabrication. Dissident or not – there is logic to their claim. Furthermore, to say that even 1% are not truly Jesus’ words calls everything else into question. This is a really serious charge. Christians are truly left with only belief to rely on.

Protestant lady claims the same can be said of Tanach. Number one –she apparently has no understanding of the divisions of Tanach. Only the Torah was written by G-d, dictated to Moses and given to the Jewish people. The Prophets were written later on and we know who these people were. The Writings also came about later on and again we know who the authors were. Number two – every Jew heard G-d speaking directly to them at Sinai. As much as other religions would like to make this claim they cannot as it would immediately be recognized as a lie.

Every ‘new testament’ is published in a certain order to further confuse the unwary. The books of the ‘new testament’ always precede the writings of Paul. The reality is that Paul wrote first, almost 1/3 of the books of the NT are ascribed to him and the others used him as source material. The deception is necessary since Paul writes that he never met Jesus. That being the case, admitting he wrote first is tantamount to admitting that there is simply no bona-fide original source material. Any college sophomore who pulled a stunt like this would receive an F. A professional writer would be guilty of a hoax. The Church calls it gospel, a word meaning truth.

Jesus wrote nothing and his disciples wrote nothing.

He left no record and his disciples left no record.

His place in history is ridiculously out of proportion to his minimal accomplishments; presenting a message that he probably never taught and would most likely repudiate if it were presented to him.

PAUL

It would seem that Paul, whose own origins and history are somewhat shady, was the greatest PR man in the world. {Paul may have been a convert to Judaism from paganism to begin with, he was first a Sadducee who hated Pharisees and then became a Pharisee himself. Afterwards he had his visions on the road to Damascus and became a Christian. If you met someone today who did anything like this you would probably assume he is a very unstable person.} He managed to package, and sell, a bill of goods to a large percent of the world’s population. But, who were his original customers? In Israel, at that time, those who called themselves Christian were all Orthodox, believing Jews. They were also all lower class, relatively uneducated and very few in number (unlike Hollywood’s version of Ben-Hur with its cast of thousands). We have no reason to believe they ever numbered more than a handful. Paul broke with James over the issue of requiring a convert to be an orthodox Jew first and a believer in Jesus as the messiah second. Paul knew this simply wouldn’t pass in Peoria. Orthodox Judaism, particularly then with additional Temple requirements, was too restrictive to be sold as a popular religion. He dropped the entrance requirements, went to open enrollment and the rest is history. His original customers were pagans, living outside Israel, having no knowledge of Judaism. [Note that he couldn’t sell the idea to very many Jews in Israel or outside of Israel.] They also were the poor, uneducated and perfectly willing to add Jesus to their pantheon of gods. Paul made it easy to convert and allowed the new converts to import much of what they already believed into his new religion. In other words, when a Christian says to a Jew, “I’m proud to be a Christian” what he’s actually saying is “My Great-great-great-great-grandfather was a pagan and he realized he was wrong and so changed to become more like you.”

(Protestant lady’s comment here after calling me a ”foul liar” was “The Tanach is the word of G-d. But its current followers…have lost track of its truth and substituted their own false practices.” Protestant lady forgets that the TRUTH is Sabbath is on Saturday, New Years is in Tishrei, bacon ain’t kosher, bowing down to idols is forbidden and about 600 other TRUTHS.)

For many years I had heard a seemingly well known report that Paul was, in fact, a leading Jewish sage of his time who gave up his Judaism in order to save other Jews from being taken in by Christianity. Unfortunately, I had never seen a source for this. Recently someone pointed out just this source. The Dikdukei Sofrim [Masechta Avoda Zara 10a in Hagaos 9] brings a censored Rashi. [Guess who did the censoring]. Rashi states, “John, Paul and Peter were Jews who took it upon themselves to change the language in which the priests taught and they removed the teachings from Yisroel. Not that they were apostates but their intentions were for the sake of Israel. They saw the troubles and pain of the Jews and made themselves as if they belonged with Jesus.” [If this is true, then far from the Jews losing sight of truth and substituting false practices, it was Jews who pulled the wool over your eyes in the first place, substituting false practices for the Christians!]

CONSTANTINE

What eventually became church dogma started as pagan ritual grafted onto several fundamental pieces borrowed from Judaism. I’m told that Gregorian Chant was patterned after the Choir of Levites in the Temple. Certainly, much of the Mass, incense, altars, use of wine, the wafer in lieu of meat, are copied, with changes of course, from the Temple service. Priests replace the Cohain, the Pope in place of the Cohain Gadol. Many of the services are reminiscent of Jewish customs; baptism, a day of rest, Palm Sunday, confirmation, ordination of priests, last rites. Each of these has been skewed from the original. Again, whose practices are false?

So how did Christianity go from a small, persecuted sect to world dominance? The first major step was a boost given by a pagan Roman Emperor named Constantine. It really only made it as a world religion because of an Imperial Edict. Without this shot in the arm it is likely that Christianity would have died out slowly as did every other religion practiced in the western world at that time other than Judaism.

Constantine, on the night of October 26, 312CE, on the eve of battle, dreamed he heard a voice telling him that if he were to mark his standard with an X cut through with a line and curled around the top [the cross symbol of Jesus] he would be victorious. At dawn he gave the order to do so and won the battle [itself an interesting story]. Constantine gave credit for the win to the Christian god, amongst others, and thus changed Western history.

Even the court historian recording the events expressed his doubts about Constantine’s supposed visions. An astute politician, Constantine recognized that the Roman Empire would no longer be recognizable to Julius Caesar. A century of civil war, massive economic decline, an unwieldy bureaucracy, plagues and assassinations had virtually cracked the Empire apart. Aurelian, ruling from 270-275, had begun a process by starting a cult of a monotheistic sun god in Rome. He announced that the sun had made him emperor not the Senate. Diocletian [284-305] continued this process furthering himself from the trappings of a Roman emperor into the role of eastern potentate. All of this paved the way for Constantine.

He decided to use a unifying religion to complete the process. His problem was which religion to choose. At the time Romans embraced any number of religions: Mithraism or some other form of sun worship, neo-Platonism, Stoicism, Christianity, Judaism. Over the course of several years Christianity won out. Several reasons are cited for this although the truth will never be known. Constantine may have chosen Christianity simply because it offered a more effective power base or because he found the organizational structure of the church easier to co-opt to his own ends. On a more basic level, Constantine’s mother, Helena, a former barmaid, a longtime Christian convert and a mistress and possibly first wife to Constantine’s father, pushed hard for the Christian god and built dozens of churches including the still standing Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Whatever the reason, Constantine enforced his choice of Christianity on the entire Roman Empire by imperial edict although, personally, he hedged his bets, only converting on his deathbed in 337, when he was finally baptized. This, even though his own mother was a devout Christian and even though he forced everybody else to embrace Christianity.

Constantine was responsible for another interesting innovation. Within the very early church the seven day week was accepted from the Jewish devotees of Jesus. They continued to observe the Sabbath on Saturday. Paul preferred a change to observing Sunday, the day of the resurrection as the official christian sabbath. It became known as the “Lord’s day” and apparently early christians may have observed both. As the religion spread into the Roman Empire it vied with another religion, Mithraism, an outgrowth of Persian Zoroastrianism revering Mithra the sun god.  When christianity eventually won out it was rather convenient to retain the sun day as the day of worship. Somewhat later, as christian purists were attempting to weed out pagan practices there rose some confusion as the proper day of worship. The bible clearly calls for a rest on the Seventh day, Saturday, yet the “Lord’s day” was Sunday. This problem wasn’t solved until 321CE by an edict of Constantine establishing Sunday as a day of rest for city dwellers. It wasn’t for an additional 80 years that the edict was extended to include country dwellers as well. Seventh day adventists have reverted to the original day of rest required by the Torah. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS – CHURCH DATES

The two most important holidays they celebrate are Xmas and Easter. There is exactly zero knowledge of Jesus’ birth date. [Easter has its own problems not the least of which is the fact that different sects celebrate it on very different days.]

As it happens, this same date, Dec.25, was claimed as the birth-date of several pagan gods, the Romans knew it as Saturnalia. Mithras was known as the ’son of god’ and the ‘light of the world’. He too was born on December 25, was buried in a rock chamber and was resurrected on the third day. December 25 was also the birthdays of Dionysus, Adonis and Osiris. Krishna was presented with gold, frankincense and myrrh at birth. Does this all sound familiar?

Apparently, the pagans, including the NT writers, co-opted familiar legends of the pagan gods and simply ascribed them to Jesus. All these similarities go far beyond coincidence. In fact, the halo above the heads of Christian saints was borrowed, intact, from depictions of Mithras with the sun behind his head.

Why so many pagan similarities? Rome’s official religion was pagan sun worship [Mithraism]. The Roman Empire also had populations of Jews, Stoics and Neo-Platonists. As Christianity began to become more popular, there was almost open warfare between the Christians and pagans. The Emperor Constantine, who was also the high priest of the sun god, sought to unify Rome. He did so in 325CE, at the Nicene Council, by declaring Christianity the official state religion. This council was convened by Constantine. Many fundamental decisions were made in this meeting. As mentioned before. Jesus was elected as god. They also voted on the date of Easter (historical revisionism never bothered the church), as well as the role of bishops.

As we said, Constantine, himself, remained pagan and was only baptized on his deathbed. By combining pagan symbolism with Christian ritual, he was able to make both sides comfortable enough to achieve compromise. Constantine was the one who changed the Christian day of worship from Saturday, a holdover from Judaism, to Sunday. Note that Sun Day was the day of worship of the pagans.

Let’s see now – a pagan calls a conclave of Christian bishops. The conclave follows the lead of the pagan and adopts pagan practices as part of their religion. Keep in mind that Napoleon convened a Sanhedrin. Had he forced any decisions, the Rabbis involved would likely have chosen death rather than follow along. Certainly no self-respecting Jew would have put any of Napoleon’s decisions into practice.

CHRONOLOGY – WAS THE LAST SUPPER A PESACH SEDER?

Christian theologians have spilt a great deal of ink on this question. Because of the confusing details and chronology offered by the gospels it is unclear whether the “last supper” was a Pesach Seder or not. Verses are cited on both sides to prove it was or was not. Ultimately, the question is not decided any more than any other dates of the trial and crucifixion. Much is made of the difference between the sunset calendar of the Jews, that day begins in the previous evening, or the sunrise calendar used by the Romans. The NT gives so few details of the meal that it is unclear whether any elements of the Seder are there. Again, the discussion centers on the conflicting information given by John, on the one hand, and Mark, Matthew and Luke on the other.

Paul takes the cake on this one. He claims that “Christ, our Passover, also has been sacrificed.” (1 Cor. 5:7) Therefore, according to Paul’s Christian typology, Jesus was the Passover Lamb.

CHRONOLOGY – THE CRUCIFIXION

Furthermore, the very date of the crucifixion is called into question. All the gospel writers agree that Jesus was crucified when Pontius Pilate was the Roman prelate between 27CE to 37CE. Three of the gospels also agree that the crucifixion occurred on the Eve of Pesach. [John maintains that it occurred before]. They all agree that it occurred on a Friday. It is easy to check a Jewish calendar and determine in which years the 14th of Nisan occurred on a Friday in the 10 year span of Pilate’s rule. The two dates preferred by Christian theologians are April 3, 33CE or April 7, 30CE.

The synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew & Luke) place it on Pesach whereas John puts it a day earlier, on the eve of Pesach. As it happens, John’s placement is in accord with the Jewish tradition on this point.

(Protestant lady’s comment; “This is simply a matter of differences of wording, not an actual discrepancy.” Nice try!) 

Here is a chronology from a Christian website. I have edited it down to the information pertinent to our discussion. 

Nisan 10,

Jesus enters Jerusalem

Nisan 11,

Jesus curses the fig tree and cleanses Temple courts of trading (Mk.11).

Nisan 12,

Jesus’ last public ministry, prophesies Temple destruction. He returns to Bethany, His head is anointed by a questionable woman at SIMON the Pharisee’s supper, and disciples are indignant at the waste, JUDAS slips away to offer His betrayal to the chief priests (Mat.26:8; Mk.14:3-11).

Nisan 13,

Quiet day at Bethany.

Nisan 14,

Passover preparation, the Meal (Pesach) and teaching. JUDAS leaves to betray for 30 silver pieces. First day of Unleavened Bread (matza) (Mat.26:17).

Nisan 15

After midnight they proceed to Gethsemane to keep Passover Vigil as God had commanded(Ex.12:42). Jesus’ arrest and trials.

 9 AM: Crucified;

12 noon: Darkness over all Judea;

3 PM: JESUS dies.

Nisan 16,

His mother MARY, SALOME, MARY MAGDALENE, and others, prepare spices to complete His burial on Sabbath evening.

 Nisan 17,
 

Jesus’ Resurrection, an earthquake, and His appearance to –

Mary Magdalene and then the other women early Sunday morning (Jn.20:1417; Mat.28:9).

 

Then, an appearance to Peter (Lk.24:34).

 

Then, to Cleopas and friend near Ammaus (Lk.24:13-32)

 

Then to the ten apostles, Matthias, Cleopas and others in the upper room and commissions them (Lk.24:33-36; Jn.20:21-23; Ac.1:22-23).

Nisan 24,

JESUS appears to His 11 apostles in the upper room.

 May 18

JESUS’ Ascension from the Mount of Olives after forty days.

The Choice of Dates

The day of the crucifixion could have been a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. The Jewish day of the month was either Nisan 14 or Nisan 15, depending on whether the Last Supper was not, or was, the Passover Seder. The day might be measured as beginning at sunrise or sunset, or both, depending on the calendars in use. A comparison of these variables with the astronomical calculations of Nisan 1, and the following Passover, yields the following possible dates, according to a Christian source, for consideration:

Date Day Jewish Day Calendar
30 CE, April 6 Thursday Nisan 14 Sunrise
30 CE, April 7 Friday Nisan 14 Sunset
30 CE, April 7 Friday Nisan 15 Sunrise
31 CE, March 28 Wednesday Nisan 15 Sunset
33 CE, April 3 Friday Nisan 14 Sunrise
33 CE, April 3 Friday Nisan 14 Sunset

Other, prior, years, could very well be looked at. Nothing can be looked at after 33CE since that would leave Jesus’ birth after the reign of Herod during which he was supposed to have been born.

CHRONOLOGY

THE RESURRECTION

The resurrection itself presents several interesting logistical problems.

Crucifixion was a manner of execution used frequently by the Romans. It was slow torture, pure and simple. They had an excellent understanding of how long it took for death to occur. Generally, a person hung on the cross for two or three days before dying, mostly from exposure and dehydration. Jesus was on the cross for a matter of hours. I am not the first to suggest that he never died on the cross but was removed, perhaps in a coma or faint. This idea reduces any idea of resurrection from the dead to nonsense.

Three days and three nights???

The only source we have for resurrection is that of the NT. Let us reiterate that the information in NT is third or fourth hand AT BEST. There were no eyewitnesses to the event, merely several people who found an empty cave. The story line then breaks down as we get only glimpses of a post-resurrection Jesus.

Jesus died and, supposedly, was resurrected on the third day. This was according to Jewish reckoning that counted a part of a day as a whole day, and counted inclusively. How do the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday crucifixions fit this requirement?

1. With a Wednesday afternoon death of Jesus, His resurrection is said to have been in the late afternoon on Saturday. This is four days by either sunrise or sunset reckoning. It was determined that the term, “three days and three nights,” (Matt. 12:30-40) was a figure of speech with no requirement that the interpretation must be seventy-two hours. The Wednesday crucifixion reverses the order of the days and nights, ignores the interval between Jesus’ death and burial, and then its supporters claim it to be a literal fulfillment. The Wednesday crucifixion is a difficult choice.

2. The Thursday crucifixion literally fulfills the expression, “three days and three nights,” according to Jewish reckoning. It also fulfills three days according to sunrise reckoning, if Jesus arose before sunrise on Sunday. This is an attractive choice.

3. The Friday crucifixion must treat the “three days and three nights” as not literal, as the time was only a little over twenty-seven hours. With Jesus rising a little after sunrise Sunday, it was three days by either sunrise or sunset reckoning. Friday is the generally selected day, as it was also known as the day of preparation.

The Preparation Day

Jesus was crucified on the “preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath.” (Mark 15:42; also Luke 23:54; Ant. XVI 6:2) Therefore, one may conclude that Jesus was crucified on a Friday.

But, festivals, such as the Passover, were also observed as a Shabbos rest (Lev. 23). The day before these festival might also be called “preparation days,” then Wednesday and Thursday again enter consideration. With a Wednesday crucifixion, Thursday would have been a Sabbath, Friday a regular day, with Jesus arising on the Saturday Sabbath. However, this scenario has the fatal flaw that the women could not have come to anoint the body of Jesus until the fourth day, Sunday as it would have been prohibited according to Jewish law on Shabbos. This would have been an unacceptable delay (John 11:39), as the women would have bought spices to anoint Jesus’ body on the intervening day between the Sabbaths, Friday. They would not have waited until Sunday, as the Scriptures demand. Again, the Wednesday crucifixion is a difficult choice.

If there was no intervening day between Sabbaths with a Thursday or Friday crucifixion, then both remain possible. However, only the Friday crucifixion in 30 CE [see above chart] does not have some Scriptural or astronomical difficulty, and all the Scriptures are satisfied.

  • THE seminal event in their religion and they don’t even have an agreed upon date.
  • THE seminal event and each of the Gospel writers quote Jesus’ words on the cross differently.
  • THE seminal event and they disagree on chronology and sequence of events. 

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH EASTER?

Easter is the day celebrated by Christians as the anniversary of the resurrection. You would think it would be no great matter to have a date for the holiday. Guess again!

“By the unanimous judgment of all, it has been decided that the most holy festival of Easter should be everywhere celebrated on one and the same day”

Constantine the Great 325CE.

The very name “easter” derives from Eostre, the ancient northern god of spring. Many European languages use a different term, paschal, a derivative from the Hebrew Pesach. The christian bible makes no mention of any celebration of what is now called easter. Obviously, the early Jewish christians continued to observe Pesach. Other pagan christians may have retained a vernal festival celebrated at that time of year. It wasn’t until well into the second century that some form of official holiday was established.

As for Easter, a sixth century error in computation introduced about the year 527 by Dionysius Exiguous, a Scythian monk resident at Rome, who fixed Christianity’s starting point in the year 753 from the foundation of Rome, in which year, according to his calculation, the birth of Christ occurred, has left the year of Jesus’ death wrongly placed plus or minus up to seven years according to secular scholars, and by up to 50 years or more according to Jewish sources. Additionally, the Church goes to great lengths to make all sorts of calendrical adjustments to avoid the reality of placing Easter in relation to Passover which, after all is when they claim the story occurred. There are a number of examples in which the Church goes out of its way to cover up the semblance of any Jewish influence on their theology as we will see below.

A further complication arose as some folks chose to observe the day of the month, 14 Nisan. They were called Quartodecimans. Others observed the day of the week and held their holiday on the Sunday following the 14th of Nisan. They were called Quintadecimans. There followed a whole series of popes who attempted to resolve the issue to no avail. Finally, as the christians were becoming a laughingstock of their pagan neighbors, the Council of Arles, in 314, decided that everyone should celebrate Easter on the same day. Alas, the council gave no instruction on how this was to be done so the various factions continued on their merry way. Constantine finally decided the issue in the Nicene creed. Nonetheless, despite excommunication, the Quartodeciman “heresy” lingered on for several centuries.

The proper date for the holiest day in the Christian calendar is complicated by the fact that Jesus’ ‘resurrection’ occurred during Pesach. The date of Pesach is the result of a luni-solar calendar, which means the date of Pesach varies in the solar calendar from year to year. The christians were using a solar calendar in which all their other holidays had fixed dates whereas Easter needed to wander.

The problem was further exacerbated by the fact that there were no eyewitnesses who wrote down a date for the crucifixion or resurrection [or anything else]. Some maintain the crucifixion occurred on Wednesday, others Thursday and still others Friday. The only point of agreement was that he ‘rose’ on the first day of the Jewish week, Sunday. Three of the gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke write that it was the Sunday after the Seder. John, however, reports a different date entirely. By the time the problem became critical, even the exact year of the crucifixion was already in question.

By the time of the Council of Niceae in 325CE the only agreement was that the day should be preceded by a fast and it should have some relationship to the full moon of the Jewish month of Nisan. Beyond that, individual churches argued about whether it always needed to be on a Sunday or was it better to hold Easter on the correct day of the month, amongst other issues.

By the third century, a growing anti-semitism added to the problem as christians became increasingly loathe to use dates dependent on the Jewish calendar. In a letter addressed to the Bishops at the council, Constantine wrote, “We ought not to have anything in common with the Jews, as the savior has shown another way.” In fact the bishops of Niceae dictated to the calendar makers that Easter may never fall on the day Pesach begins. Their equation stated that Easter should fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. If their calculations indicated that Easter fell on 14 Nisan they were ordered to move Easter to the following Sunday.

The council’s solution ended up being way off base. They arbitrarily fixed the date of the vernal equinox on March 21. Since the original flaw in the Julian calendar had not yet been fixed, the calendar continued to lose 11 minutes a year losing a full day every 128 years. By 325 the Julian calendar was already 3 days behind where Caesar placed it in 45BCE. Thus the equinox continued drifting backward in the calendar. In 387CE Augustine noted that the Alexandrians were celebrating Easter on April 25, the Romans on April 18 and the Arian churches on March 21. Before it was fixed by Gregory the true equinox had dropped back to March 14 while the church rigidly adhered to fixing Easter according to a March 21 equinox.

Constantine’s solution failed in another respect. The rift between East and West was already forming. These different churches celebrate Easter on a different date right up to the present. The churches in Jerusalem, Russia, Serbia and the monasteries on Mt.Athos in Greece continue to use Julius Caesar’s calendar. I unfortunately do not recall the source of this quote but there was a well known saying that the church preferred to be, “Wrong with the sun rather than right with the Jews.” 

THEIR CANON

Their canon, that is, which books would be included in the “new testament”, was decided at the Council of Carthage in the year 397CE.

THE CANONS OF THE 217 PRIESTS WHO ASSEMBLED AT CARTHAGE IN 345-419CE

This council published the list of books compiled by Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria in 367 as the accepted N.T. canon.

The Third Council of Carthage was not a general council but a regional council of African bishops, much under the influence of Augustine.

“Canon 24. Besides the canonical Scriptures, nothing shall be read in church under the name of divine Scriptures. Moreover, the canonical Scriptures are these: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, the four books of the Kings, the two books of Chronicles, Job, the Psalms of David, five books of Solomon, the book of the Twelve [minor] Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Tobias, Judith, Esther, the two books of Ezra, and the two books of the Maccabees. The books of the New Testament: the Gospels, four books; the Acts of the Apostles, one book; the epistles of the apostle Paul, thirteen; of the same to the Hebrews, one epistle; of Peter, two; of John the apostle, three; of James, one; of Jude, one; the Revelation of John. Concerning the confirmation of this canon, the Church across the sea shall be consulted. On the anniversaries of martyrs, their acts shall also be read.

(The four Books of the Kings are Shmuel 1 and Shmuel 2 , Melachim 1 and Melachim 2. The two books of Ezra are Ezra and Nechemia. We count 3 books of Shlomo HaMelech – Mishle, Shir HaSirim and Koheles. I don’t know what the other two are. Eichah [Lamentations] is omitted from this list but is in the Gideon Bible] )

Note that they accepted every book of Tanach and several from the Hebrew Apocrypha.

It is unclear what else the Church fathers had to actually choose from, in terms of the NT, although there seems to have been over eighty different gospels available to them. Some, such as 46 early Coptic manuscripts, have subsequently resurfaced [Nag Hamadi in 1945] or the Dead Sea Scrolls in the early 1950’s. You’ve probably never heard of the Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Truth, the Gospel of Peter or the Gospel of Phillip. The Church has worked very hard to suppress these finds. Why? Because the theology and facts presented are quite different.

It is clear that there are marked discrepancies even in the manuscripts of the accepted canon, both from book to book as well as within the text of each individual author. From book to book, not only does the story line differ, but, “direct quotes” of Jesus are given in several different versions. The Church suppressed not only the books, [the Church invented book-burning,] but their followers as well, usually bloodily, which is why we don’t have any Ebionites, Marcionites, Thomasines or Gnostics around today.

Compare Judaism where Sadducees, Essenes, Hellenists, Kairites, Maskilim etc. have all come and gone with only an intellectual battle being fought.

TEXTUAL ACCURACY OF THE NT

The books they do use, themselves are replete with tens of thousands of copy errors. One Christian scholar “concluded that “only” 400 of the 150,000 variant readings caused doubt about the textual meaning, and “only” 50 of these were of great significance” (quoted in McDowell vol. 1. Pg 44). {Compare to nine letter differences in the Torah which is twice as long and twice as old, none of which change the meaning at all}. Christian theologians and bible scholars are called upon to decide which version should be used. It follows then, that there is simply no such thing as an accurate text of the “new testament” particularly since many of the variations have theological significance. (It is for this reason that Christians cannot work the ‘codes’)

We must also keep in mind that very few Catholics, even Catholic scholars, are able to read the text in its original ancient Greek. Hence, much of their theology is based on Latin translations of both the “old” and “new” testaments or, what’s worse, English or other language, translations of the Latin Vulgate. Translation clearly obfuscates meaning even when the translator attempts to be accurate. Double translations; and we must always remember that the original languages Jesus would have spoken were Aramaic and Greek, are clearly inferior paths to a true understanding of the original intent of the author. All too often, the translators purposely twisted the translation to meet their own ends even when they knew the real meaning. Thus, the infamous mistranslation of “young girl” to “virgin” to provide a prophecy from Isaiah that never existed.

Once, I happened to find myself in the company of a rather high ranking member of the J’s Witnesses. The conversation took a decidedly odd turn and he began explaining to me his church’s rationale for prohibiting blood transfusions. Basically, he told me that Witness bible scholars had learned from the verse that one may not eat blood. Since a patient receives sustenance from the transfusion it is tantamount to eating and, hence, forbidden. I literally bit my tongue to refrain from asking how they explained, “And you shall live by them [the words of Torah] and you shall not die by them.” I didn’t even bother with the next question, “And what about the verses prohibiting {take your pick} pork, shellfish, mixtures of wool & linen etc.etc.etc.” So they haphazardly pick and choose their way through the Bible. 

 Aramaic to Greek to Latin to English. Compare the Jewish view of the tragedy we consider the Torah’s translation into Greek, the Septuagint, ordered by Ptolemy even though it was accompanied by overt miracles. Or consider Targum, the Aramaic translation of the Torah, which has the status of a commentary and is always used in conjunction with the original Hebrew text still very much in use.

I have heard it said that the contents of their bible are both novel and true, however, that which is novel is not true and that which is true is not novel. Assuming Jesus lived and preached; he lived and preached as an orthodox Jew. His material was then culled from Tanach, Midrash and Mishna. In fact, much of new testament material is vaguely familiar to a student of Judaism for good reason. It was plagiarized, perverted and printed. Were one to bother sitting down with their bible and document Jewish sources for their material it would cover a large percent of their text.

(Protestant lady. “Of course Jesus was a Jew. He was not a Pharisee, however.” And she has the nerve to accuse me of making unsubstantiated statements. Does she even know what a Pharisee is or what the differences between Pharisees and Sadducees were? The Church’s teachings on this are wildly skewed to support John’s views of deicide.)

NT PROHECIES

Josh McDowell, a spokesman for the Campus Crusade for Christ, wrote a series of books. (Protestant Lady did correct me on the title of the book and McDowell’s position. As a believer of truth and accuracy, I thank her for this and stand corrected.) Two of them are entitled “Evidence That Demands a Verdict — Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith”. McDowell marshals every argument he can and puts Christianity’s best foot forward. In the first volume, in a chapter called “Prophecy fulfilled in history”, Mr. McDowell uses twelve prophecies as examples. Eleven from the old, one from the new. At the end of this chapter he uses probability to determine the veracity of the bible. What is the likelihood of someone making such a prediction that actually is fulfilled? How many of the cited miracles does he use in the probability study? Only eleven! He is only able to find one fulfilled new testament prophecy stating that it is “unique”, one of a kind! Even that fulfilled prophecy has such a high degree of probable fulfillment that it requires a real stretch to place it in the same category of the others he cites, so he conveniently leaves it out and does not even inform the reader that he is doing so. Only one fulfilled prophecy in 2,000 years seems to be a pretty poor showing. (Keep in mind that from a Jewish perspective the age of prophecy had ended several hundred years earlier. Any claim of prophecy would surely strike a sour note to any Jewish audience, then or now.)

The Church’s use of our Torah is instructive. To validate their position, Church fathers borrowed prophecies, [McDowell lists 239 old testament prophecies (Vol. I Chap.9) which he claims foretell Jesus,] took them out of context, purposefully mistranslated them and forced the text into a twisted version to suit their needs. Only recently has the Church admitted actually doing this in a few cases. That belated admission had, in the meantime, cost untold Jewish blood and lives. Are we to thank them for the admission or hold them accountable for what they have wrought in the name of the “prince of peace”? After all, he was the one who preached peace, love, tolerance and turning the other cheek.

This is a time when various European countries are being sued to return property stolen during the holocaust and pay wages for slave labor The Church is being sued for tens of millions, and is paying, for sexual deviancy of many priests. Pedophilia, among other deviancies, going back decades [that we know of], done with the full knowledge of superiors, is casually overlooked. Cover-ups, moving priests to other parishes where they were set free on a new set of unsuspecting victims, all business as usual and hardly isolated cases.

THE CHURCH’S MESSAGE

Were we to sue the Church the bill would run into multi-trillions of dollars collected against: homicide, manslaughter, aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy, willful injury, destruction of property, incitement to riot, unlawful confiscation of funds, special heavy taxation, usurpation of property, forced conversions, ghettoization, unlawful confinement, rape, kidnap, torture, mutilation, arson, extortion, robbery, discrimination, unfair hiring practices, banning from public office, prohibiting to practice most professions, felonies and misdemeanors beyond calculation. All this in the name of the “Prince of Peace”! Yet, ask them what are the proudest moments in Church history and you will be told the Crusades or the Inquisition, events that were abhorrent tragedies for the Jews.  Can we begin to tally the cost of pogroms, forced conversions, blood libels or being thrown out of whole countries for decades or centuries and being forced to leave everything behind for the Church (or the government which was essentially church run). Has any Catholic ever asked him or herself, “Is this what Jesus would have done?” or, in retrospect, “Would Jesus have approved of this?” 

As a measure of the success of their program of Jew-hating consider the following: Shakespeare, in “The Merchant of Venice” develops an ugly, stereotypical, thoroughly despicable Jewish character named Shylock. However, every last Jew, there were only about 16,000, had been banished from England by King Edward I in 1290, some 274 years before Shakespeare was even born and were not permitted to return until Oliver Cromwell petitioned for their return in 1655, 39 years after William was dead and gone. He never met a Jew in his life yet was able to depict one that fit perfectly with what he had to have heard in church.

So thoroughly has the message soaked in that only a few years ago one of the biggest best-selling books in Japan, a country with no history of Jews and virtually no Jewish population was that infamous Czarist Russian forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders Of Zion.”

As of this writing, the media have just reported that the Pope has declared that Catholics must repent for the excesses of the past two millennia. Note that he did not say the Church was guilty of wrongdoing, only that individual Catholics should repent. (This ‘apology’ was not legislated, only suggested.) While this is very nice, historically we must keep in mind that the Roman Church published over 100 official anti-Semitic documents through the centuries. It wasn’t until 1959 that Pope John XXIII showed a modicum of regard for Jews. The big question is what this will mean 25, 50 or 100 years from now. Will future popes follow this as party line or will they revert to the way things were? Only time will tell, of course, yet we Jews have learned the hard way not to begin rejoicing prematurely.

What reason do we have for being pessimistic?

Anti-Semitism has its roots in the early Church. The early Church fathers had a problem with the continued existence of the Jews. After all, if the Christians were correct and the Messiah had come, why hadn’t the Jews accepted him? The very people he had sprung from categorically rejected him and the church! This was intolerable. The Church thus decided to persecute the non-believers. Over the centuries this took on different forms but has always been present in one guise or another.

JEWISH REJECTION

The question, then, is why did the Jews originally reject him and why have we continued to reject him to the present day? From a Jewish perspective the Messiah has a very unique set of prerequisites to fulfill. (See Rambam, Sefer Shoftim, Hilchos Melachim, Chap.11). Having filled these conditions he is the Moshiach. Without doing so he is not. There is no leeway, no alternatives. Jesus simply did not fill any of the conditions in the job description. NOT ONE! Furthermore, there is simply zero evidence that he made this claim for himself. Post mortem claims to the contrary could not possibly convince the Jews of the time that the claim had any merit. So they borrowed our concept and then twisted the rules to fit the situation and then held us accountable to their twisted rules. Pagans had no problem swallowing the claim. Compared to what they already believed this was almost sane.

Moreover, the very notion that all the prophecies in Tanach could refer to the same individual simply cannot be supported by a simple reading. Many such prophecies are simply not referring to a Messiah. In addition, there are multiple messiahs spoken of in the Prophets. Every king and priest in ancient Israel was a messiah. The Hebrew word moschiach, from which the English word messiah is transliterated, means simply the anointed one, from the practice of anointing with oil one who is chosen.

A LITTLE GENEALOGY

The book of Matthew begins by counting the generations from Abraham to Jesus. By verse 16 he recounts the birth of “Joseph, the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus who is called christ.” Verse 23 speaks of the supposed prophecy of the ‘virgin birth’. Verse 25 states “And he knew her not till she brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.” Why count the Joseph’s birthright to the House of David, necessary to any claim of Messiahship, and then, within a few verses, baldly state that this birthright cannot be claimed by the son whose paternal lineage was not from the House of David? No wonder the Church considered reading the bible injurious to the faith. No Jew will accept a Messiah other than one who comes from the House of David. While a virgin birth certainly sounds impressive it manages to also irrevocably preclude any possibility of his being the Messiah!!! 

The Jews continued to reject him for other reasons. Some time after his death other claims beyond the messiahship were made. The concepts of Moshiach and miracles are ours and require no stretch of the Jews’ credibility to accept. The Church proceeded to go far beyond this claim: First, resurrection from the dead, and eventually virgin birth conceived from the holy- ghost, and finally the foreign concept of trinity, that God is one yet three (this complex theology was not fully worked out until sometime in the fourth century. I’ve attempted several times to read Christian explanations of the trinity. Not a single explanation has ever made the least bit of sense to me, try as I might to understand.) Some early christians believed in one G-d, some in two, others in 3 and still others in as many as 30. As their theology developed, other foreign concepts pop up: original sin, the Christian view of hell, papal infallibility, celibate clergy, it is better to marry than burn, the wine and wafer representing the body and blood of their god (transubstantiation), bowing in front of an idol or even a picture of the idol’s mother as well as a host of other ideas made it impossible for the Jew to even begin to take them seriously.

While the original concept of Messiah was Jewish in origin and the Jews rejected the man, at least there was nothing radically wrong with the idea. Many others before and since have made the same claim, our history is replete with false messiahs, – with the same results, — he’s not our man. When the Church began grafting alien ideas onto that of messiah, the Jews had to more then decide that this person is not messiah within the framework of Judaism. They had to utterly spurn the notions being claimed post-facto by those whose origins and philosophies were anathema to monotheism in general and Judaism in particular. By far, the greatest departure occurred when the early church began toying with the possibility of Jesus’ divinity. This was not borrowed from Judaism nor did Jesus make the claim. Amazingly, while the new testament shows a progression from earlier to later writers in his being messiah, there is no emphasis whatever on his divinity. It is a clearly pagan concept grafted onto the Church’s thinking by pagans who were brought into the fold but whose thinking was still attuned to idol worship and polytheism.

Far from being a compliant child following in the parents’ footsteps, this was a rebellious daughter who wooed pagan sons; left her parents’ fold, and then dared attempt to annihilate them for refusing to follow her evil ways.

THE POLITICAL STRUCTURE OF JUDEA

Let’s look at the political and judicial structure of Judea, around 30 AD, specifically focused on Jerusalem.

Judea, including Jerusalem, had been under Roman rule since Pompey conquered the area around 67 BC. Judea and Galilee were remote outposts, of minimal concern to Rome. Rome ruled indirectly through client (puppet) kings like Herod, and then through resident governors who, in turn, utilized local aristocrats, especially the high priest.

The resident governor was called a “prefect” from about 6 AD to about 41 AD, and later called a “procurator”. He was appointed from the equestrian class (lower aristocracy) and lived in Caesarea, on the Mediterranean coast, in one of the luxurious palaces built by Herod the Great. The prefect commanded roughly 3,000 troops, a small police force rather than a major presence. There were also some small Roman garrisons at several fortresses around the country.

The prefect reported to the legate of Syria, who did have large military forces at his command to control any significant disturbances in the region. The main goals of Roman rule in the boonies seem to have been to collect taxes and to put down revolts.

Except during major festivals the prefect stayed away from Jerusalem, because the Jews were very sensitive about offenses against their religion in their holy city. At festival time the prefect usually brought additional troops to Jerusalem to control the crowds. Festivals in Jerusalem were considered risky and the Romans kept a close eye on them. In the century or so before Jesus’ death, we know of at least four major riots that began during a festival, even though both Jewish and Roman rulers were prepared for trouble.

The Jews were frequently at odds with their Roman overseers, although most protests were non-violent. We have already noted the letters of Philo to Rome, complaining about Pilate’s brutality. One other story may be indicative. When Pilate marched Roman standards through Jerusalem, the Jews considered this an offensive display of “graven images.” A large number of people went to Caesarea to protest. Pilate ordered his troops to surround them. The Jews reportedly bared their necks and said they preferred death to a violation of God’s Law. Pilate backed down.

Very little of the famous Roman “justice” made its way to Judea. The prefect had the exclusive and absolute right to sentence anyone to death. (ASIDE: There was one minor exception to this: the priests could summarily execute anyone who transgressed Temple grounds, in violation of posted warnings.) He could even execute a Roman citizen, without regard for the formal charges that would have been needed in a court in Rome.

Most prefects were reasonably judicious and did not wantonly sentence people to death. However, if a prefect condemned you, there was little means of appeal. You could beg the prefect for lenience. You could petition the Roman legate in Syria, who could intervene and send the prefect to Rome to answer for his actions. Or you could send a delegation directly to Rome, probably with the legate’s permission, as a sort of grievance committee.

Complaining to Rome was surprisingly effective. The Roman emperors wanted peace and quiet and the unimpeded collection of taxes, not riots or rebellions. The emperors (well, the sane ones anyway) knew unrest was the consequence of overly harsh local rulers. During the forty years or so under discussion, Rome dismissed two native rulers (Archelaus and Antipas) and two Roman governors, including Pilate, after popular delegations complained about them.

Which brings us to Pontius Pilate. The New Testament describes him as prefect over Judea at the time of Jesus’ death, and we have outside corroboration for this from several sources. As noted, Tacitus mentions Pilate but only incidentally, saying nothing about his character. However, the major Jewish historians of the period, Josephus and Philo, discuss Pilate at length. Philo, who was Pilate’s contemporary, wrote an appeal to the emperor Caligula that included a description of Pilate. Philo wrote of “the briberies, the insults, the robberies, the outrages and wanton injustices, the executions without trial constantly repeated, the endless and supremely grievous cruelty” of Pilate’s rule. Pilate was eventually dismissed from office because of complaints of his widespread and injudicious executions. We’ll return to Pilate’s role later.

Although the prefect was responsible for the region, the towns and villages were run as they had been for centuries, by small groups of elders. Religious leaders played an important and often dominant role. In Jerusalem, local government was headed by the Jewish high priest and his council, sometimes consulting with “the powerful” or “the elders”–that is, the local Jewish elite. Rome relied heavily on the high priest, because the Jews respected the office.

There was also a Jewish governing council (called the Sanhedrin).

THE HIGH PRIEST

The high priest in Jesus’ time was Joseph Caiaphas. He ruled for 17 years, longer than any other high priest under Roman rule. Most scholars take this as an indication that he was capable and acceptable to both Rome and the Jews. For ten of those years, Pilate was prefect, so presumably the two worked well together, co-operating in the interest of preserving the peace.

The high priest had a delicate task. He was responsible for keeping order in Jerusalem. If he failed, the Roman prefect would intervene militarily. Riots and revolts were dealt with harshly by Roman authorities.  To keep his job and protect his people, the high priest had to keep things under control.  He also needed to represent the Jews before the prefect, and to stand up for Jewish customs and traditions. He was the man in the middle.

The Temple guards, acting on the high priest’s orders, arrested troublemakers. The high priest judged their cases, although he could not sentence them to death. His goal was to see that traditional Jewish law was followed, at least superficially, to keep the population happy.

SO WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED?

Around 30 AD, Jesus and his followers came to Jerusalem for Passover. This was the biggest holiday of the year, when Jewish families traveled to Jerusalem from all around the country to celebrate. As usual, the Roman prefect also came to Jerusalem with extra troops to keep a lid on the crowds.

The bare bones story, according to the gospels, goes like this: Jesus entered Jerusalem and was welcomed by his followers as “son of David” or “king.” In the course of his preaching he prophesied that the Temple would be destroyed. He went to the Temple and scourged the moneychangers. The high priest Caiaphas ordered Jesus’ arrest. Witnesses accused Jesus of having threatened to destroy the Temple, but their testimony did not agree, and he was not convicted. Caiaphas questioned Jesus and sent him to Pilate, who interrogated him and ordered that he be crucified for claiming to be “king of the Jews.”

A number of questions need to be answered:

1. Why did the high priest have Jesus arrested? 

We don’t know exactly; we can only speculate. First, let’s deal with two common theories.

a) The high priest thought Jesus was preaching armed revolt against the Romans. This view derives from John 18:33-38, a discussion about what kind of “king” Jesus claimed to be.  From a historical perspective, however, it seems unlikely. If Caiaphas and Pilate thought that Jesus was trying to lead an armed revolt, they would also have arrested and executed all his followers and co-conspirators. We have evidence that they did this with at least two other threatened armed rebellions, those of Theudas and “the Egyptian,” mentioned in both Josephus and Acts. Since Jesus’ followers were not executed, it is unlikely that the high priest thought Jesus was urging armed rebellion.

(b) Jesus had theological differences with the Pharisees. This popular view is based on a misunderstanding of the beliefs of the Pharisees. Without going into the Pharisaic sect, however, the very notion of a theological dispute leading to execution is silly. Jews certainly did sometimes kill each other, but not over legalistic disagreements. The disputes between Jesus and the Pharisees were within the bounds of normal debates, such as happened frequently during Talmudic and rabbinic times. Jesus opposed the Pharisees’ views of what foods should be tithed. Such criticisms are not matters of life and death.

An additional indication is that the last chapters of the gospels do not even mention the Pharisees. They are conspicuously absent from the stories of Jesus’ arrest and trial. If the reason for Jesus’ arrest was the dispute with the Pharisees, surely they would have appeared at the trial. The conclusion of most scholars is that the Pharisees had nothing to do with Jesus’ arrest and execution.

Now that we’ve excluded the most commonly held rationales for Jesus’ arrest, what’s left?

Remember, an important part of the high priest’s job was to keep the peace. Passover was a prime time for troublemakers to incite the crowds, and both the high priest and Roman prefect were alert to any sign of danger. From the perspective of the high priest, then:

1. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, there was a crowd who called him “king.” The high priest would have viewed this as politically inflammatory.

In support of this idea, Mark, Matthew, and Luke all record that, at the trial, Caiaphas asked Jesus whether he was the Messiah. The three gospels each report a different response by Jesus. Regardless of Jesus’ response, the fact that Caiaphas asked the question in the first place indicates he knew claims or at least of the shouts of his followers as he entered the city.

Solomon Zeitlin remarks, “It is quite clear that Jesus was arrested and brought before Pilate as a political offender against the Roman state. The accusation made against him was that he claimed himself king of the Jews.”

2. Jesus threatened the Temple, both by his words and by his actions against the moneychangers.

The gospels imply that this was a false accusation; that Jesus had merely predicted that sometime or other God would destroy the Temple, and that Jesus’ enemies swore falsely about what Jesus said. These enemies thus agreed to lie about Jesus’ words, but didn’t agree on what lie they would tell. This seems pretty stupid of them. A more likely interpretation is that Jesus said something that onlookers honestly perceived to be a threat, and were genuinely alarmed. A prophet or preacher saying that God would overthrow the Temple could certainly be viewed, by many listeners, as threatening. They reported it to the authorities, but when they were examined in court, they gave slightly different accounts, like eyewitnesses even today.

Regardless of his exact words, certainly Jesus’ actions in the Temple would have aroused suspicion on the part of the high priest.

Let’s look at this from the point of view of the high priest. It’s Passover, a time when he is particularly concerned that there be no riots or disruptions. Onto the scene comes a man hailed by his followers as “king” who threatens the Temple–ample grounds, in light of the times, for the high priest to take action.

For comparison, we can find a few other examples of justice in Josephus. About the year 62 AD, Jeshua the son of Ananias went to the Temple and began to shout that destruction was at hand. He was arrested by the Jewish authorities and taken before the Roman procurator. During interrogation, he kept repeating the same mantra over and over. He was finally flogged and released as a madman.

The comparison is telling. Jeshua stood alone, while Jesus had a following–a small one, but a following nonetheless. Jeshua merely shouted in the Temple, while Jesus had attacked the money changers. Jeshua was a madman, who responded incoherently under interrogation, while Jesus was not mad and responded calmly to questions. Jesus would have thus been viewed as politically far more dangerous than Jeshua. If Jeshua was arrested for merely shouting, surely Jesus would have been arrested for overturning the tables. And if Jeshua were flogged, more severe action would have been needed for Jesus.

In summary, the gospels’ descriptions of the actions of the high priest and his council in arresting Jesus agree with Josephus’ description of how Jerusalem was governed at the time. The evidence is consistent with the interpretation that Caiaphas had Jesus arrested because he was a troublemaker. Jesus alarmed some people because of his attack on the Temple and his remark about its pending destruction. Caiaphas was concerned that Jesus would incite a riot, and so sent armed guards to arrest him, gave him a hearing, and then recommended execution to Pilate, who promptly complied. This is the way the synoptic gospels describe the event, and this is the way things happened in other cases, as several stories by Josephus show.

Caiaphas’ actions were political. He had the official and moral responsibility to preserve the peace and to prevent riots and bloodshed. If he even thought about it as a choice, he was obliged to choose between having Jesus killed or letting Jesus live and preach, inciting riot and leading to massacre of the population and of Jesus’ followers by Roman troops. So he decided that the best political move was to preserve the peace by arresting Jesus and having him executed.

But Caiaphas could not order the execution himself. The high priest could recommend executions but could not order them. Only the prefect could do that.

Crucifixion was not a punishment permitted under Jewish law. Jewish law permitted capital punishment, but the legal requirements were extremely stringent, so that the death penalty was very rarely (if ever) enforced during SecondTemple times. Jewish Law allowed only four kinds of execution, and none involved anything as lingering and tortuous as crucifixion. On the other hand, the Romans executed people for minor infractions, and crucifixion as a method of execution was a popular Roman entertainment.

So Caiaphas followed the rules of the Roman governmental system, and the requirements of his position, and sent Jesus to Pilate.

PONTIUS PILATE

The gospels’ portrayal of Pilate as wishy-washy, reluctant, and weak-willed is incompatible with the descriptions of him in Josephus and Philo. He had served as prefect of Judea for over a decade; he would not have survived long in that political climate if he were as indecisive as the gospels depict. We can probably best explain this as Christian propaganda a few decades later–an excuse for Pilate’s action to reduce tension between the growing Christian movement and Roman authority.

Weddig Fricke says, “Despite all the efforts to make the Jews look primarily responsible and to cast the Roman procurator in the role of an unwitting instrument. The biblical accounts make it quite clear that Pontius Pilate pronounced the death sentence, which was carried out by his legionnaires.”

The most likely story is that Jesus was sent to Pilate by Caiaphas, flogged and briefly interrogated. Then, when Jesus’ answers were not completely satisfactory, Pilate had him crucified without a second thought.

2. Why did Pilate order Jesus’ execution? 

This is pretty straightforward. First, because the high priest recommended it, and second, because the accusation was serious. Jesus was being called king of the Jews, an intolerable political offense. Pilate presumably understood that Jesus was a would-be king with no army, and therefore made no effort to arrest and execute Jesus’ followers. He may have regarded Jesus as a religious fanatic, a dangerous extremist, but the title “king” he understood in a political context as a threat to the Roman state. The notion of freedom of speech was still 1700-some years in the future.

The gospels, especially Matthew and John, want Jesus to have been condemned by Jewish mobs, against Pilate’s better judgment. These gospels were being written at a time when the early Christians were trying to get along with Rome, so we find a little whitewashing of Roman authorities. Thus, the gospels report that Pilate was worried, that his wife told him to take no action, that he consulted the (mostly Jewish) mob and pleaded on Jesus’ behalf, and finally, that he caved in to public pressure and ordered Jesus’ execution.

In summary, Jesus was killed because the Roman Empire mercilessly put down any possible source of rebellion or riot. The empire’s agents included the Roman prefect Pilate who ordered the execution, and the Jewish high priest Caiaphus and his council who initiated the process.

DEICIDE?

Deicide, that the Jews killed “god” rather than a man, does not enter Christian literature until the second century writer, Melito of Sardis, in “Peri Pascha” (Concerning Passover). The earlier gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke clearly indicate that the Jewish multitude had nothing to do with the death of Jesus. It isn’t until the fourth gospel, John, writing from a hostile perspective outside the Jewish world, that the phrase Jews is used over and over in place of scribes, elders and priests. Melito apparently had little influence on church thinking but this charge was subsequently resurrected (pun intended) in 200 by Origen who charged the Jews collectively with deicide. (Origen wrote extensively and had a marked influence on Church thinking even though he was later excommunicated. In fact, the Church excommunicated a number of early prolific Christian writers.)

In the fourth century, Saint John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople and a leading church father, sermonized repeatedly that “The Jews sacrifice their children to Satan. “;”They are worse the wild beasts. “, “..lower than the vilest animals.”. “Their religion is a sickness. G-d always hated the Jews.” “The synagogue is worse than a brothel and a criminal assembly of Jews…a den of thieves…a house of ill fame…a dwelling of iniquity…the refuge of devils”.  “The Jews only know to satisfy their stomachs, to get drunk, to kill,,,”. He admonished Christians to never associate with these “lustful, rapacious, greedy, perfidious robbers… this nation of assassins and hangmen.” This was quickly to become a central theme of Christian relations to Jews.         (Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! There is some projection going on here.)

By the way, this same Chrysostom has been described by Christian writers as,” the most eloquent of preachers who has brought tidings of truth and love.” “…a bright cheerful gentle soul with an emotional temperament elevated, refined and transformed by the touch of heaven.” Certainly a glowing tribute to a raving bigot.

Along the same line:

Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, declared that, “the fate of the Jew is to be downtrodden and dispersed and that the true image of the Hebrew is Judas Iscariot who sells the lord for silver.” “The Jew can never understand the scriptures and forever will bear the guilt for the death of Jesus.”

Saint Jerome preached that,” Jews are congenital liars who lure Christians to heresy. They should, therefore, be punished until they confess.”

Saint Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria incited a Christian mob to expel the Jews from the city and seize their property.

Saint Thomas Aquinas considered it lawful and desirable, “according to custom, to hold Jews, because of their crime, in perpetual servitude.”

What sweethearts! And these are the SAINTS!!!

It is even more instructive to study the Catholic procedure for the beatification of a saint. Included in the process is the required proof that the person had done miracles after death when a supplicant had prayed to him or her. These miracles must be ‘proven’ to the satisfaction of a religious tribunal who meet for this purpose. The term “devil’s advocate” comes from this process. To the Jewish mind this process is unbelievable as well as unacceptable.

Another factor in the charge of deicide must be explored. It not only reared its ugly head long after the event, but a great many facts are simply overlooked by Christian writers.

  • The Romans had long before removed the Sanhedrin’s right, as they did with every conquered nation, to decide on capitol punishment crimes. It is unlikely, given the Romans’ arrogance, that they even took into account any Jewish input other than that of the High Priest in regard to Temple matters.
  • There is a very clear Jewish prohibition against handing over a Jew to the secular authorities particularly if the secular government would consider fining the Jew, putting him in jail let alone killing the Jew.
  • It is impossible to find a charge leveled against Jesus, which makes any sense in Jewish law. There is simply no law against treason. Anybody can declare himself Messiah without contravening Jewish Law. Preaching was hardly against the Law. The only possible charge for which there would have been a death penalty in Jewish law is that of false prophet. Interestingly, though the NT makes the claim of prophecy for Jesus, no such charges are brought by any tribunal.
  • Though the time frames are all confused within the NT, it is quite clear that the Sanhedrin could not have convened on Passover nor would they have petitioned Pontius Pilate on the holiday.
  • There were plenty of parties espousing alternate approaches to Judaism at that time. Nobody else was put to death with the participation of the Sanhedrin. 

Within a very short period of time most of the original band of founding Christians is killed. Even the Church makes no case for the fact that they are all killed, or turned in, by Jews. What was it about these folks that caused several respective societies to view them as dangerous? Could it not be that the same reasons applied to Jesus and the Romans having nothing to do with the Jews? Judaism was clearly tolerated by the Romans, as well as every other culture, at the time. Jesus was a Jew. What was it about him that was intolerable to the Jews or the Romans? It would seem obvious that something is missing from this picture.

On the other hand:

  • The Romans had every reason to get rid of someone they perceived to be a rabble-rouser.
  • The Romans were far too haughty in their governing a foreign population to have any reason to do what they asked by their conquered population.
  • Crucifixion was certainly not a Jewish method of torture or dearth. It was a peculiarly Roman institution and was used liberally for the least reason.
  • Even the inscription supposedly placed on the cross, “IMRI” King of the Jews, describing Jesus’ crime, would have contravened no Jewish Law but would have been high treason against the Emperor under Roman law.
  • Passover was a time when hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions as Josephus & the letter of a Roman soldier attest, of pilgrims flocked to Jerusalem. In a period of political unrest, the Romans would have been understandably disturbed by any Jew creating problems.         

There is another factor we must consider. Every government has a responsibility to protect its citizens. Sedition is always considered a high crime. There was something about early Christianity that caused the Romans, not the Jews, to view it a dangerous. Not only was Jesus crucified as a common criminal but many of his disciples were likewise killed. This occurred over a wide geographical area under a number of different governments. Consider:

v  Andrew was crucified in Greece

v  Bartholomew was skinned alive One of the twelve apostles, also called Nathaniel by John – Bar Tholemew means “son of Tolmai.” Nothing is included of his life in scriptures, some say that he preached in India but it is more widely held that he was preaching in Armenia and was skinned alive at Albanopolis (now Derbent) on the Caspian Sea.

v  Simon Peter was crucified, upside down at his own request, in Rome, under Nero Peter was executed because he induced prominent Roman ladies to leave the religion of Rome, an action which quite often caused family rifts and breakup

v  James the Just had his throat cut by Herod Agrippa

v  John was beheaded at Ephesus

v  Matthew was crucified in Greece

v  Thomas was killed in India Meliapour, extended the knowledge of the faith so widely as to excite the envy and hatred of the Brahmins. Two of them watching an opportunity, stirred up the people against him; they fell on him and stoned him. One of the Brahmins remarking some signs of life in the apostle, pierced him with a lance,

v  James, Jesus’ brother was stoned to death

Clearly, this was not simply a matter of the Jews killing Jesus. The message of the early Christians must have been far more seditious than we now realize. At a guess, I would have to think that Paul changed the storyline somewhat to make it more palatable to both Jews and Romans. The Jews never did buy in and it took the Romans about three hundred years.

We need to make two important points:

First, who killed Jesus is irrelevant. If you’re a devout Christian, Jesus would tell you not to blame but to forgive. If Jesus hadn’t died on the cross, you’d have no route to salvation. So in a way you should be thanking those who executed him, not blaming them.

Second, there is no historical record of the condemnation of Jesus other than the New Testament. The different books of the New Testament give five slightly different accounts. The authors of the gospels weren’t writing objective history; they were trying to convert a particular audience, and their words reflect that.

The first Christians were Jews who appealed to other Jews to accept Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, laying most of the blame on the Romans. When the Jews rejected conversion, many early Christians turned against the Jews and looked for converts in the vast Roman Empire outside Judea. Their preaching therefore was careful not to condemn the Romans too harshly, but it was OK to blame Jews.

For example, John’s Gospel, which was written around 60 years after the death of Jesus, primarily addressed a Gentile community in Asia Minor. His audience almost certainly had no idea of the theological differences between Pharisees and Sadducees, or of the political tensions between the Hasmonean kings and the priests of the Temple. Therefore, John’s Gospel often refers to those who were involved with the death of Jesus as simply “the Jews”–an expression that was to have tragic consequences as later Christians took that phrase as “gospel” and began to refer to Jews as “Christ-killers.”

John Dominic Crossan wrote, “As long as Christians were the marginalized and disenfranchised ones, such passion fiction about Jewish responsibility and Roman innocence did nobody much harm. But once the Roman Empire became Christian, that fiction turned lethal.”

EXTERNAL SOURCES

Jesus looms so large in world history that it may come as a shock to realize his unimportance during his lifetime.

Assigning responsibility to an entire group of people, whether the Jews or the Romans, is stereotyping, oversimplifying, and false.

There is only very sketchy information of what happened after the ressurection. Let’s face it, if he had come back from the dead, what better time to go spread the word. A resurrected man who goes preaching is surely going to attract a massive following. This did not happen. What we are told is that he appeared to several women with a message. Why not appear to his disciples? Why wouldn’t he confront Pontius Pilate or the Sanhedrin to show that they were unable to prevent him from spreading his message? Why not give another sermon on the mount in front of multitudes? There are simply too many unanswerable questions to satisfy any intellectually honest person.

THE SACRAMENTS

Traditional Jewish life consisted, and continues to consist, of a life devoted to Torah study as well as performing the commandments. When Paul and Peter dropped the requirements, they left the Christian with virtually nothing to do in the way of daily practice. Of the seven sacraments a Catholic is baptized at birth, has a confirmation as a young adult, should take Holy Communion once a year, should marry (although it is preferable to take holy orders, ordination, and remain celibate), penance and to receive Extreme Unction from a priest prior to death.

From a Jewish standpoint Christianity has no content. Examine the vast difference between the “born again” Christian, who merely has to say “I believe” with the Ba’al Tshuva who may have to spend months studying before he can be even nominally familiar with Judaism. There is little to distinguish a practicing from a lapsed Catholic. There is a world of difference between Jews.

We joke about ‘Jewish time’. Jokes are funny because of the connection to truth. The only connection a Christian has to real time is midnight, December 31(new years) and midnight April 15 (taxes) although the priests and monks prayed 5 times a day. The idea that striking a match is permitted now and totally forbidden one minute from now or that reciting Shema is a Mitzva until a certain time only is Jewish. To the Jew’s way of thinking, a life with no time references would be chaotic and formless, a life unrooted in a temporal reality. Time, for a Jew, is measured in daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, seven-year and fifty year cycles each of which has very real ramifications in life.

The Jew communes directly with HaShem. His repentance, his requests, his praise knows no intermediary. The Catholic notion of requiring a middleman strikes the Jew as … well, Catholic. Confession and absolution of sins in the hands of priests repulses the Jew. (One need only research the sale of “indulgences” by the Catholic clergy to see how dangerous this idea became.)

Even other Christians found this too much and dropped it to return to a more “Jewish” approach. Martin Luther included this idea in his ‘modified’ version of Christianity. He felt that his version would be readily accepted by the Jews and was furious to discover otherwise. Upon realizing that his attempt to convert the Jews had failed he turned the full force of his poisonous pen and tongue in ordering that their synagogues and homes be destroyed and they be driven out of the country.  His venomous rhetoric provided the Nazis with made-to-order scripts rife with bigotry and hatred.

JUDEO-CHRISTIAN ETHICS

References to a Judeo-Christian ethic abound. The idea of using the word christian and ethic together is almost laughable. Roman Catholicism simply cannot make any claim to ethics whatever. The track record of the Church on ethical issues is abysmal. Marx’s statement that religion is the opiate of the masses was a reference to the Church. The “Enlightenment” was a movement away from the Church. The Protestant Reformation, through Luther, Calvin et.al. rebelled against the excesses of the Church (unfortunately, the Church’s anti-Semitic indoctrination took firm root and was not considered one of the excesses). Why would any Jew profess even mild admiration for a group that has had a thoroughly consistent track record of centuries of preaching hatred, passing off venal lies as truth and spreading the worst sort of venom with the brass nerve to do so in the name of love!? The supremacy of science in the 1700’s, 1800’s and 1900’s was seen as a triumph over the Church. Philosophers of the same era fought against the Church. Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche and their ilk all fought the Church’s dogmatic approach. Darwin’s theory was seen as a blow to the Church.

What was so bad about the Church?

The church has always gone to great lengths to actively, and often bloodily, suppress any and all opposition. Even a cursory examination of history makes this patently clear. They have been so dogmatic that they have continued in their opposition long after their stance was shown to be diametrically opposed to truth and reason. The apology to Galileo, 500 years too late, is one well-known example.

For generations the Church fathers had made a conscious decision to keep the masses illiterate. Until Vatican II in the 1960’s the Church maintained a list of books that were proscribed reading for good Catholics. Number one on that list, it was called Indexus Prohibitus, was the new testament. Reading the bible was considered injurious to the faith of the people. More to the point, they had things to hide. Those who would study the text would have too many unanswerable questions. Compare this to the Jewish view of universal education, where questioning is the sine qua non of learning.

In fact, it was the Church that invented the idea of book burning. Anybody who attempts to investigate non-Christian or pagan critiques of early Christianity will find that this literature exists only in fragments buried in the works of Christian scholars looking to refute. The works themselves were systematically destroyed by the Church. They destroyed any and all works, including scores of alternative christian gospels, which did not agree with their agenda. Often as not, the authors, or even the owners of the books were killed as well. We, of course, are well aware of the burning of Jewish books time and again. On Tisha B’Av we mourn for, perhaps, the most famous Jewish book burning of the Talmud in Paris in 1242. From the 13th to the 15th centuries wagonloads of the Talmud were burnt in Aragon, Castile, Toulouse and other places by our lovely friends in the church.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that Ernst Van Der Haag in “The Jewish Mystique” points out a fascinating reason for Jewish intelligence. Whether you subscribe to the ‘nature’ (genes) or ‘nurture’ (environment) theory, he points out that the Jews should come out on top. For generations the dream of every Jewish mother was to find a Talmud Chacham to marry her daughter. Every Rosh Yeshiva would choose the top student as a son-in-law. This interbreeding of intelligence compares to the Church’s policy of removing the cream of their intelligentsia, male and female, and making them celibate, removing the best from the gene pool for 1700 years. So much for nature. As for nurture, as we pointed out above, the Catholics were purposefully kept ignorant while the Jews enjoyed the highest literacy rate in the world. Even in secular America Jewish parents expected their children to get a good education and become a professional.

ETHICAL ISSUES

Examine the Church’s stance on issues. Homosexuality in the priesthood has always been a thorn in the side of the Church as have liaisons between priests and female parishioners as has pedophilia (look at the recent furor in the news at the numbers of priests being accused) as has alcoholism.[A recent, Jan.30, 2000, front page article in the Rockland Journal news quotes a study stating that “6 out of ten Roman Catholic priests in the US know at least one priest who died of an AIDS related illness and 1/3 know a priest living with AIDS. These figures are well above the figures for the general population.” Do you know of a single Rabbi who has AIDS?Prior to the legalization of abortion, Christian women would seek out Jewish obstetricians because the Church required saving the child, not the mother, should a choice need to be made at birth, the antithesis of the Jewish view. Jewish law views abortion as a viable alternative if the situation warrants. Catholicism prohibits it under all circumstances. They also prohibit divorce. We make much of the Aguna situation in Judaism yet every Catholic woman is “chained” to her husband no matter what. For centuries it was possible, for sufficient cash, to get a church marriage annulled, but no divorce. 

The Churches stance on women has been abysmal. Treated as chattel, unable to divorce or own property, the church viewed them as accessory to sin. Untold tens of thousands of women were burnt at the stake as witches [a church invention] or for the pettiest of perceived sins. In Geneva, in 1513, five hundred women were burnt at the stake in three months, 800 at Wurzburg and 1,500 at Bamberg.

Let’s examine what the Church’s record is in regard to individual freedom and individual rights.

Once in the clutches of the Church the individual stood no chance. While the pagan Romans were a bloodthirsty lot, note the “games” in the Coliseum, at least there was a relatively fair system of trial by judges. The Church did away with that and devised a system of trial by torture. Ordeal by torture, the rack, the wheel, the stake, the spiked collar, spiked bed, the “Iron Maiden”, thumbscrews, branding irons, scalding vats, and hot pincers, replaced the trial. All of this preceded the Inquisition. Once the Inquisition took hold all barriers were gone. The Inquisitors had unlimited power to do as they pleased. Everyone was suspect, with guilt assumed a priori. No rapacity was spared in forcing any ‘confession’ they wished to hear. Death could follow whether the accused confessed or not. And the Inquisitors themselves waxed rich on the stolen wealth of their victims.

Interestingly, burning at the stake was introduced by the Inquisition as a means of circumventing the sin of murder. Since no blood is let and no person actually murders the poor soul tied to the stake nobody sins. How does that strike you for sophistry? Of course the tribunal could be nice, if you confessed, by promising to kill you before the flames reached your body. I guess the act of ‘love’ superseded the sin of murder.

Historical revisionism and intellectual dishonesty have been the hallmarks of the Church’s approach since its very inception. Look carefully at any charge made by the Church and you will find lies and deception.

Consider The Church’s charge of the Jew as usurer. In almost every time and place that this issue comes up it is because the Church has forced the Jew into money-lending by outlawing other professions. At the same time you are not told that the interest rates charged by the Jew are almost always far lower than those charged by Christian money-lenders. Some of these “rapacious” Christian money-lenders were financed by bishops and church princes who then shared in the profits.

Dare we forget blood libels? The Torah forbids eating blood. Meat must be washed and salted to draw out any blood. An egg with a blood spot was thrown out no matter how hungry you were. Yet the church claimed that Jews killed Christian children (which is already a sin) in order to bake the blood into the Passover Matza (another sin).

So what has the Church actually contributed to the betterment of society?

The Greeks and Romans produced a rich literature. The Romans had libraries numbering up 500,000 volumes. The largest monastic libraries in Medieval Europe numbered a mere 200 to 600 volumes. Aside from their bible there is scarcely a book written by a christian from 500 to 1100 that is read today. The number of important works even after 1100 remains rather scanty.

One of the greatest catastrophes in scholarship occurred in Alexandria, Egypt in 391CE. There were two major libraries in Alexandria said to house over 500,000 volumes, an irreplaceable collection of almost 4,000 years of knowledge and culture. The smaller was destroyed by fire accidentally by Julius Caesar when he gave orders to burn the Alexandrian navy and the flames spread to the docks and the nearby library. The real destruction was done on purpose in 391CE when Christian monks ruled in the name of the Roman Emperor. They were encouraged to destroy the pagan temples. The patriarch Theophilus burnt the Temple of Serapis in Canopus which housed the library. A later christian author, Albufargus, tried to place the blame on the Arabs after they took Alexandria in 642, but the truth was already known. 

View the issue of charity. Jews have always been known to take care of their own. Yet the Church was committed to building huge edifices filled with the finest art, stained glass, gold and expensive vestments. While the peasants starved, the priests often lived very well indeed. So much for the vow of poverty.

(Protestant lady’s comments here are instructive. Following all the above she writes; ”You pick and choose…and ignore the overall record of Christianity which is illustrious and glorious… Christianity established every kind of humane institution for the relief of the poor…Every great achievement that the West is known for originated with those following Jesus Christ and the Bible.” I’ll let the readers draw conclusions on their own,) 

Note that the Church supported serfdom. The church sanctioned slavery in its worst manifestations. The gap between the have’s and have-not’s widened immeasurably in countries where the Church wielded power.

Popes have fathered illegitimate children, one even becoming a later Pope. (So much for the vow of chastity which leaves only the vow of obedience and we’ve seen firsthand what a calamity that has wrought). Can you even imagine a Cohen Gadol who is a Mamzer. The Jewish people would not stand for such a massive slight to the office. There has never been a whisper of scandal associated with any of our greatest leaders. In fact, were you to compare the two peoples you would find an interesting thing. The media always plays up any Jewish wrongdoing. Society then compares our worst to their best. By comparing our best to their best, our average to their average and our worst to their worst a startling realization results. The comparison totally breaks down. Their greatest scholars or saints [see above] cannot begin to measure to the Tzadikim and Talmidei Chachomim. Our worst cannot even be compared to the dregs of humanity who call themselves Christians. View the situation objectively and draw your own conclusions about the average Jew compared to the average Christian.

Examine how they go about choosing their leaders. The internal mechanism rewards those who play power politics to their own advantage. Thus, Catholic leaders, like politicians everywhere, tend to be those who pursue power rather than those who deserve it or, indeed, know how to wield it properly. Once again, the Jewish paradigm for choosing leaders has proven itself to be far superior. Our leaders don’t self-select. After a lifetime of study, those who achieve recognition are usually those who don’t want that recognition. Their popularity stems from their grass roots appeal coupled with a solid knowledge of Jewish law and tradition as well as a finely developed set of personality traits. The archetype is described in Pirkei Avos, Chapter six, Mishna six.

As an aside – Bridges had religious significance to the ancient Romans. There was a special college of officials in charge of the bridges called pontifices headed by a Pontifex Maximus. Pontifex means a bridge maker which is where the pope got the title “pontiff”.

Even the title “father” used by priests was a term not used in the early church. In fact, their bible apparently abjures this title in Matthew 23:9, “And call no man your father upon earth for one is your father in heaven.” [Note the number of gods Matthew uses.]

The Roman Catholic pressure to convert the Jews has abated over time. However, there are other Christian sects which spend millions of dollars annually to just that end. Many Christian fundamentalist groups fall into this category. Interestingly, these groups also tend to be pro-Israel. What they don’t tell is their reason. They believe that their lord cannot appear again until all Jews are converted or dead. Grouping them together is one confined spot will make either of these tasks easier to accomplish. How nice of them!

Jews are accused of being “elitist” after all; we call ourselves the “chosen people”. The accusation breaks down when it is understood, by reading the Torah that we have been chosen for responsibility, not privilege. Contrast their view that anyone who has not received the sacraments is eternally damned!!!

Not content is simply stealing the Torah, they stole Heaven as well.

That’s elitism.

This was the result of a Shiur I gave. It dramatically points up a major difference between Judaism and Christianity. Almost everyone who has heard the Shiur immediately identified with the central concept. Someone asked me to type it up. It was pretty light-hearted effort, so I chose to do it as a poem    Enjoy.

 

A Tree is Not Just a Tree  –  Poetree by Shlomo Cohen

Just about a week before Xmas

When the goyim celebrate JC

They go to any old parking lot

And buy just any old tree.

 

Had the Torah told us to get one

That’s enough of a reason you see,

Because then it would  be a Mitzva

Then a tree is not just a tree.

 

The Torah with myriad details

As Mesora was given to me,

When passed from parent to child

A tree becomes really a tree.

 

We would have a Maseches               Mishnayos

With Gemora as deep as the sea

Ten Simonim in our Shulchan Aruch

For this is to be a Mitzva tree.

 

We’re accused of being pedantic

Nitpicking as can be,

But we couldn’t possibly settle

For less than a perfect tree.

 

If we buy it with care and devotion

As each Mitzva, done carefully

It could bring Geula Shleima

Perhaps because of a tree.

 

Twenty Amos too tall

Ten Tefachim too wee

The search is on for perfection

For a tree is not just a tree.

 

The trunk may not be bent over

We’d count needles in clusters of three

The top would have to be perfect

‘cause this isn’t any ole tree.

 

It can’t be fashioned from plastic

On this the Rishonim agree

For then it couldn’t be kosher

And that is hardly a tree.

 

You may not save it from last year

Even if you got it for free

For that would surely be Yoshon

We can’t settle for just any tree.

 

Pine, fir spruce and then hemlock

We must search diligently

To get the species in preferred    order

When we set out to buy our tree.

 

It would have to come from a Pardes

With a Hechsher, a known pedigree

The grower a Yorei Shomayim

This has to be quite a tree.

 

The chopper would be Shomer Shabbos

His axe as sharp as can be

Only eighteen minutes to fell it

For a tree to be more than a tree.

 

Of course we must say a Bracha

Maybe two, perhaps even three

Which we say when doing a Mitzva

Since this is a Mitzva tree.

 

Place an angel on top of the crown

There’s no such Hiddur for me

The top must remain whole and perfect

To be a Halachic tree.

 

 

 

Every evening a new light is lit

But we don’t use electricity

Little lamps of olive oil only

On our tree that is really a tree.

 

I think there’s a Chasidische Minhag

Regarding “Etz Chaim Hee”

The Mishpacha could gather together

To sing ‘round the beautiful tree.

 

Too many gifts raise up the branches

Decorations hanging too heavily

Either way would render it Posul

‘cause this isn’t any old tree

 

When the Yom Tov is over and finished

Trashing it can’t possibly be

We’d save it to burn with the Chometz

For this was a Mitzva tree.

 

If we would have such a Mitzva

We’d surely do differently

Halacha would certainly tell us

That this tree is more than a tree

 

I thank Hashem in my Brachos

For the difference ‘tween a non-Jew

and me

I’d rather stick with my Torah

And not worry about some old tree

 

For that would be 614 Commandments

One too many for me

So therefor we have no such Mitzva

  And therefor we have no tree.

 

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