Lies Damned Lies and What the Missionaries Claim the Rabbis say
We find in numerous materials, produced by missionaries, quotes from the Rabbis being falsely used to support their false beliefs. What I will bring here are a few special examples of these sources. These sources are from people who claim to be scholarly and to be writing scholarly works.
If a scholar claims a primary text says something, has a certain meaning, he is putting his reputation on the line. If the truth were that it doesn't say what he claims, or that the person edited the text to make it appear to conform to a false claim when it does not, we would challenge not only his honesty but also all the information he quotes in other places would be suspect. Similarly, if a scholar claims that a text has a certain meaning that is not true to the text, or that has been edited to make it appear there, when it is not, he is involved in deception, and dishonest scholarship. Even if it came from a secondary source, if the primary source is easily available, or he does not cite this secondary source as his source, then he is being deceptive.
Here we are going to deal with people who are or claim to be knowledgeable and approach their subject matter as a scholar does. They claim to be quoting from direct sources or translations of them. They claim to have the skills and/or resources to make these statements. For that reason the distortions I am going to point out have more significance.
The particular points I have chosen to expose here are not simple editing mistakes, or minor ones. When dealing with various languages, one can err in translation, or use words in an imprecise manner. They do not involve errors in citation or a lack of knowledge of some obscure Rabbinic source that would counter their argument. Every book has them, and these works are no exceptions. I hope to deal with these types of errors in other articles, but it would not be fair to be so hard on these authors for such errors, even though they are also serious. Here I will deal with errors that make any unbiased and honest person think again as to the integrity of the authors. I will explain how the errors here are so serious that even should they be changed later (one in fact has been changed) it does not change how we should view the other works of this author, because they damaged his reputation as a ‘scholar’ of the subject.
What makes this issue of especial importance is that if the Rabbis do not agree with Christian claims; the Christian arguments do not lose anything. They do not need support from the Rabbis. They already claim the Rabbis are wrong. If someone is not interested in the truth when it regards an issue that has no logical effect on their belief system, then how can we believe what they say when dealing with issues that do? There is a lesson to be learned, not just for these texts, but it should be applied to ALL interpretations they make. If they are lying and being deceptive about what the Rabbis say, which is of little value to them and their beliefs, then we should be even more doubtful of what they say on issues that DO have value.
1. Rachmiel Frydland and what the Ralbag says about the prophet in Deuteronomy 18.
In 'What the Rabbis Know about he Messiah by Rachmiel Frydland p. 21-22 we read the following:
"'The Lord they God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall harken.' ... Most Jewish commentators believe that Joshua and other prophets fulfilled the scriptural reference to the Prophet. However, Rabbi Levi Ben Gershon (RALBAG), of the 14th century, identified the Prophet as Messiah: '"A Prophet from the midst of thee." In fact, the Messiah is such a Prophet as it is stated in the Midrash of the verse, "Behold my Servant shall prosper" (Is. 52.13).... Moses, by the miracles which he wrought, brought a single nation to the worship of God, but the Messiah will draw all peoples to the worship of God.'... "
Acts 3.22-23, among other sources, makes the point that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Moses, in Deuteronomy 18, that there would be a Prophet like Moses. Here we see, that according to this author, ON THE VERY SAME VERSE an important Jewish commentator agrees!! Unfortuinatly, Mr. Frydland does not tell us where he got this quote.
That shouldn’t be a problem. We need only get a copy of the commentary of the Ralbag and look up Deut. 18.15, and see what it says:
"'A Prophet from the midst of you, from your brethren, like me': He means to say that I am from the midst of you and from your brethren. He does not mean that he will be on a greater level than Moses, since the verse says 'there will not arise a prophet anymore in Israel like Moses.' (Deut. 34.10) Because of that it says after that 'I will put my words in his mouth.' (18.18), and it doesn't say that I will be known to him face to face."
In the next few verses he mentions various prophets like Samuel, Elijah, and Gideon who are example of this prophecy. This certainly shows that the author is wrong. The RALBAG does not associate this verse to the Messiah, but to all of the Jewish prophets that would come in the future.
The only question is where is his source? Does it exist? Since there is a mention of a verse in Isaiah 53, maybe he saw it in ‘Isaiah 53 According to the Rabbinic Commentators’. This source does NOT have the discussion based on Deut. 18.15, but on a totally different verse Deut. 34.10! They are somewhat similar, but far from exact. It looks like Frydland did some editing from there, and assigned it as a commentary on Deuteronomy 18:18. Since that work doesn't say its source, I looked in the RALBAG on Deut. 34.10. Not there. However we are getting somewhere. The Ralbag makes a few important points.
1. He discusses the Rabbinic idea that while among the Jews there will not be a prophet like Moses among the gentiles there was, and that was Baalam.
2. There are three things that make the prophecy of Moses different.
a. G-d spoke to Moses face to face, while not with other prophets.
b. Moses performed miracles that were seen by hundreds of thousands.
c. They did not make continuous miracles, like the manna falling for 40 years. He says that no prophet to the Jews alone would perform greater miracles, BUT that Messiah would perform miracles seen by both Jews and gentiles. Which makes him similar and in fact greater in this one area.
3. He states that the subject is discussed in the section dealing with Baalam.
What does he say there? In his second lesson (that we learn from the verses) the passage quoted here appears. BUT it is not what we see here. After a discussion of the prophecy of Baalam and his lower level of prophecy he states:
"'There will not arise a prophet like Moses' (Deut. 34.10) who was a prophet in Israel only, but there will be a prophet from this people for the nations and this is the King Messiah, as it says in the Midrash, "Behold my servant will prosper" that he will be greater than Moses. And it is explained that the miracles he will do will be greater than Moses. Moses only brought Israel alone to the service of G-d may he be blessed with new miracles, and he (Messiah) will bring all the nations to serve G-d blessed is he. As it says, 'Then will all the nations be turned to a pure speech, they will all call on the name of G-d.' (Zeph. 3.9) This faith will come about due to the wondrous miracles that will be seen to all ends of the world by all the nations, and this is the resurrection of the dead"
There is nothing new and interesting here (except maybe the association with Deut. 34.10. That Messiah will bring the entire world to serve G-d is well known. And that this should be by miracles, like the resurrection of the dead is likewise known. The main thing is that Frydland mistranslated and misused this commentary to make it appear that he viewed Deut 18.15 as the New Testament does, while the facts are that he didn't.
2. Risto Santala and Psalm 110.
This next selection has a story to it. On an Internet email list there was a discussion of Psalms 110, and some claims were made about what some Rabbis and Rabbinic sources said. The person making this claim quoted from a book by Risto Santala who he claimed to be an authority on the subject. This is the text I have discussed below.
The work from which I am quoting is called "The Messiah in the Old Testament in the Light of the Rabbinical Writings.' To establish his credentials as a legitimate scholar he makes the following claim in the introduction:
'This ROOTS study is based upon two books of mine, originally written in Hebrew, "Christ in the Old Testament" and "Christ in the New Testament -- In the light of the Rabbinic Literature". They are the result of a special interest of over 35 years, born amidst practical work while in contact with Jewish scholars. This being so, one can rest assured that they will not contain mere armchair theology. In addition to the specialized Hebrew sources, approximately 300 works -- according to my files - in various languages, concerned solely with the Messianic idea, have left their mark on the creation of the background.'
Here he clearly states that he is using primary sources and claims to be a serious scholar.
Here is the text from page 124-125. My comments on each numbered issue is brought following the text so that you can read the text and draw your conclusions before I reveal the truth.
"The best known expositions which we have been following are comparatively late expressions of the Rabbinic perspective. To take two examples; RaSHI, Solomon Yarchi, died in 1105 AD and Ibn Ezra, the son of Abraham Meir died towards the end of the same century. If in them, despite all their opposition to Christianity, we still find some mention of the Messianic character of a certain passage, it will have particular weight as a witness to our case. (1) Psalm 110, they say, refers primarily to Abraham. RaSHI says of the psalm that it is right to interpret it as touching Abraham, "but there is a difficulty in the fact that it speaks of Zion, which was the city of David". (2)
The Midrash on the Psalms says of the verse 'Sit at my right hand', that "he says this to the Messiah; and his throne is prepared in grace and he will sit upon it". (3) The Talmud refers to psalm 110 when discussing Zechariah 4:14 -- "These are the two who are anointed to serve the LORD of all the earth" -- and states:
"By this meant Aaron and the Messiah, and I do not know which of them I should prefer. When it is written, 'The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest for ever', we know that the Messiah-King is more agreeable than the Priest of Righteousness." (4)
Right up to the Middle Ages the Rabbis continued this discussion. Rabbi Shimon the Preacher (ha-Darshan), who lived towards the end of the 12th century and collected together the Talmud's old legends and preaching, summarizes the traditional understanding of the status of the Messiah as follows:
"Rabbi Yodan says in Rabbi Ahan Bar Haninan's name that 'The Holy One will set the coming Messiah-King at his right hand and Abraham at his left'; and so Abraham's face will become white with envy, and he will say, 'The son of my son sits on your right and I must sit on your left?' Then the Holy One will appease him by saying, 'Your son is on your right and I am on your right.' " (5) (Note #18 says that this is from Yalkut Shimoni Ps. 110, Nedarim 32b (6) and Sanhedrin 108b (7))
The Rabbis say in their discussions that, according to psalm 72:17, the Messiah was granted this position before the creation." (8)
1. 'If in them, despite all their opposition to Christianity, we still find some mention of the Messianic character of a certain passage, it will have particular weight as a witness to our case. ' The implication here is that they are saying things to aid his case: affirming the messianic meaning of the Psalm. Neither Rashi nor Ibn Ezra say that Psalm 110 refers to the Messiah. Rashi applies it to Avraham and Ibn Ezra to King David.
2. 'RaSHI says of the psalm that it is right to interpret it as touching Abraham, "but there is a difficulty in the fact that it speaks of Zion, which was the city of David".' Rashi does not say that. Here is what Rashi says: 'Our Rabbis interpret this Midrashically as applying to Avraham our father, and I will explain it according to their words.' And that is what he does. Not one word of a difficulty at all. With regards to 'Zion' Rashi says that refers to when Avraham came back from the war with the kings, and met MalkiTzedek who was king in Jerusalem, which is Zion. The question was actually asked by the Ibn Ezra, who explains the Psalm as referring to King David, there is no messianic discussion here at all.
3. 'The Midrash on the Psalms says of the verse 'Sit at my right hand', "he says this to the Messiah; and his throne is prepared in grace and he will sit upon it".' It would appear from here that the Midrash on Psalms is applying the verse of sitting on G-d's right hand to the Messiah. Let me translate directly from the Midrash on Psalms. (There are two versions. His source is probably the first, however there is a second one, by Buber, which is based on 6 handwritten copies. There are some minor differences, which in this case make little difference, but I will include the extra words from them between . I have added some short notes to help between (). This translation is from the standard version on Psalm 110 page 155b. The Buber version is from the same Psalm page 466 - 233b.) 'Who made all those wars? (I.e. the wars Avraham had with the kings) Is it possible for 318 men to fight against all of them? Rabbi Yochanan the son of Rabbi Yosi said, "Is it not the case that only his servant Eliezer was with him?" It is the case that (his name) has that same value. (I.e. the name Eliezer in Hebrew has the numerical value of 318) Who made all the wars? The Holy One Blessed is He, who said to him (Avraham) sit by my right side. Sit by my right side and I will make for you the war. Even though it was not written there (in Genesis) David explained it, as it says: "The words of HaShem to my master, sit at My right side." And also He says to the Messiah, "He prepares with chesed a throne, and he sits on it with truth [in the tent of David.]" (Isaiah 16:5) The Holy One Blessed is He says, "He (the Messiah) will sit and I will make war." Therefore and he sits on it with truth [in the tent of David.] And what is for us [for him] to do? To read and to study in the Torah that is called Truth. [As it says, "The judgments of HaShem are true" (Psalm 19:10) and it says] "Purchase truth and don't sell it."' (Proverbs 23:23) Does this Midrash apply Psalm 110 to the Messiah? NO, that is a false. It explicitly applies the verse of Psalm 110 to Avraham. Another verse applies to the Messiah sitting, but not next to G-d. If he had looked up the verse that the Buber edition completes, he would have seen that the verse clearly applies to someone sitting in this world. In fact both the teachings are brought together here because they refer to G-d telling someone to do nothing and He will fight a war for him. This is a clear case of editing a text in order to mislead.
4. '"By this meant Aaron and the Messiah, and I do not know which of them I should prefer. When it is written, 'The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest for ever', we know that the Messiah-King is more agreeable than the Priest of Righteousness."' There is nothing here that says that the verse applies to the Messiah. In fact, the proof here is that the verse applies to Avraham who, being a king, was superior to the priest, Malkitzedek. And since the Messiah is his superior, we see that the King/Messiah is superior to the High Priest who will be in his time. (That Avraham is a king is explicitly stated in the Midrash Tanchuma on parshas Lech #13, where Psalm 110 is referenced.)
5. 'Your son is on your right and I am on your right.' The author here has left out a few things. The text in the Yalkut is based on the Midrash on Psalms, (Psalm 18 p. 58a) which adds a few words. These words are 'The son of your son is on my right side, and I am on your right side so to speak. "Hashem is at your right side." (Psalm 110:5) It is Avraham who is meant, according to the Midrash, by the verse Psalm 110:5.
6. Nedarim 32b does not have this particular passage, but there is a discussion about Avraham that quotes from Psalms 110. The issue there is that the priesthood of MalkiTzedek was taken from him and given to Avraham.
7. Sanhedrin 108b does not have this particular passage, however it associates Psalm 110 with Avraham and how G-d helped him in his wars. (The idea there is similar to what appears in the Midrash on Psalms in note 3)
8. 'The Rabbis say in their discussions that, according to psalm 72:17, the Messiah was granted this position before the creation.' This is actually false. The verse is used in various places by the Rabbis to indicate that the NAME of the Messiah 'Yanin', or the concept of the Messiah was known to G-d before he created the world. This has nothing to do with the Messiah sitting anywhere, nor do they say that it refers to a physical Messiah, as opposed to the idea of one. Here is what appears in the Talmud, Pesachim 54a 'Seven things where created before the world. And these are, Torah, repentance, Gan Eden (heaven), Gehenom (hell), the throne of glory, the holy temple, and the name of the Messiah.' The proof for the last is from the verse in Psalms that he has cited. The Midrash in Psalms has it slightly differently (but with the same idea.) It refers to these as the seven things that were in G-d's thought before he created the world. There it says the King Messiah instead of the 'name'. Both places mean the same thing, and certainly NOT what the author here would like them to.
I think this is enough to show that this author has no knowledge of what he is writing, nor an interest in the truth of the passages he quotes.
3 Dr. David Stern and what Rashi says on Isaiah 7:14.
On page 6 of his work Jewish New Testament Commentary it says:
The most famous medieval Jewish Bible commentator, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki ("Rashi," 1040-1105), who determinedly opposed Christological interpretation of the Tanakh, nevertheless wrote on Isaiah 7:14:
"Behold, the 'almah shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanu'el.' This means that our creator will be with us. And this is the sign: the one who will conceive is a girl (na'arah) who never in her life has had intercourse with any man. Upon this one shall the Holy Spirit have power." (Mikra'ot G'dolot, ad loc.)
What does Rashi in Mikroas Gadolos really say there? Here is my translation of it:
EMMANUEL: That is to say, our Rock will be with us. And this is the sign, that behold she is a young girl and never prophesied in all her days, and in this there will rest a spirit of prophecy on her….
Compare the two phrases in bold type. They are the translations of the same words. Stern’s translation is just wrong. This became the source of some debate on an Internet newsgroup and one of the Christian members there actually contacted Dr. Stern. The following email message was the response:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Randolph Parrish)
Subject: Dr. David Stern
Date: 22 Feb 1996 08:57:01 -0700
X-Newsreader: Forte Free Agent 1.0.82
A while ago I posted a notation that Rashi, in his comments on Isaiah 7:14, had said that the word 'almah' used in that passage meant 'virgin'. This was taken from Dr. David Stern's Jewish New Testament Commentary. It was immediately challenged, and I said that I would write to Dr. Stern for clarification. I have finally received his answer:
'The problem with my citation of Rashi in my note to Matthew 1:23. ... was pointed out to me by another reader some months ago. I explained to him that I had not looked up Mikra'ot G'dolot myself but had quoted the commentary on the book of Isaiah written by Victor Buksbazen (Spearhead Press, Collingswood, NJ, 1971) In his comment on Isaiah 7:14 Buksbazen cites Rashi as I did on his page 150 and gives the footnote reference to Mikra'ot G'dolot on page 156.
'To deal with this reader's letter, I asked a friend to check Mikra'ot G'dolot and he could not find that Rashi said what Buksbazen (and I) had said he said. But I also asked another friend, one who has spent more time than I with Rashi and other Jewish sources, and he said that he feels sure that Rashi did say what I said he said somewhere, if not in Mikra'ot G'dolot. I asked him to follow up this speculation, but till now I haven't gotten an answer.
'Meanwhile, the 4th printing of the Jewish New Testament Commentary has come out; in it I removed the reference to Mikra'ot G'dolot but let the citation itself and its attribution to Rashi stand. I am as aware as you of the potential here for lowering the credibility of my work, but I am moving slowly. If Rashi did say somewhere that the almah of Isaiah 7:14 is a virgin, there is no point in rushing in with mea culpas. On the other hand, the matter can't wait forever.
'If nothing leads me to a genuine Rashi with the ideas I cited on page 7, I will certainly apologize both in a preface and in the text itself. ..
David H. Stern
Dr. Stern is not only admitting to never have looked up the primary source, but that either he cannot or refuses to look it up!! This is absolutely phenomenal. Rashi’s commentary on Tenach appears in every Jewish edition of the Tenach. It is VERY easily available. Any scholar doing work on Jewish commentary on the Tenach, who does not look up Rashi, is putting his credentials in question. In his later editions he has made changes to this error, and I have seen him defended by missionaries for his honesty in making the change. But this does not change the problem of his scholarship.
There are a few problems that we still must have with him. In his letter he shows that even with his being told that the quote is wrong, he still does not want to accept it, even though he had never seen the primary source. While relying on a secondary source may not be a problem, but to not take the time to look up what Rashi said, when it is so easily available is unacceptable for a scholar who is writing such a commentary. After seeing this issue and how he approached it how much can we trust his statements on what Rabbis teach or say after this? How reliable is anything he says. We have no way to know what his sources are, whether from his own research in the primary sources, or a reliance other sources that may be dubious, like the one used here.
4. Dr. Michael Brown and Jewish dating.
In Volume 1 p.70-73 of his work ‘Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus’ we see a discussion of the famous teaching in the Talmud that the world exists for 6000 years. There Dr. Brown claims that due to an error of the Rabbis calculation of the dates, they had it wrong and the correct dating places the Messianic age in the time of Jesus. He then brings a teaching of the famous Vilna Gaon, and says that based on it
“When you make the adjustment for his error (sic) in chronology (as pointed out above with regards to Rashi’s calculation) he is telling us in effect that the Messianic age began at the time of Jesus.”
How does he get to this result? This teaching says that the world exists for 6000 years, 2000 years of emptiness, 2000 years of Torah and 2000 years of the Messiah. Now on page 71 he gives his calculations. Based on Rashi’s calculations (i.e. Seder Olom)
“the expected time of the Messiah’s arrival is roughly 200 C.E.”
He claims this is a miscalculation of “almost 200 years”, which he later revises to around 180 years based on the calculation that the temple ‘really’ stood for about 600 years, while the Rabbis claim it was only 420 years. By taking 180 from 200 you get to the time of Jesus. As he says:
“we find ourselves right in the middle of the time of Yeshua. He was the one who came at the time the Messiah was expected to come, and this according to a Rabbinic tradition.”
Now this sounds convincing. We should certainly expect a scholar of the caliber of Dr. Brown to be familiar with the dating issues, and Jewish history. Does Dr. Brown tell the facts? Let’s examine it. This year (2003) is the Jewish year 5763. It is an easy calculation to make in order to find out when the year 4000 was. 5763 – 4000 = 1763. So 1763 years ago was the year 4000 on the Jewish calander. So when was the year 4000? If we look back 1763 years ago we get to 240 CE. That is quite a few years after 200. In fact if we take 180 from 240 it is 60! Certainly is it not in the time of Jesus, it is actually quite a few years after the dates assigned for his death. Now Dr. Brown certainly knows what the Jewish year is and can make this calculation.
There is more to this. According to the figures given in Jewish sources the second temple was built in 351 BCE and the first temple was destroyed 70 years earlier 421 BCE. Now as Dr. Brown knows the scholars chronology disagree with the Jewish chronology and they say the destruction occurred 586 BCE. That is a difference of 165 years. So if we make this ‘correction’ we get to 75 CE. (240-165) That is well after the death of Jesus. That is after the destruction of the second temple. Certainly not ‘at the time of Jesus’ as Dr. Brown falsely claims. Significantly this places the date after the destruction of the temple!
How can we believe anything someone, who writes such distortions, says about Judaism, Jewish history, Rabbinic writings or anything else? These dates appear in any secular scholarly source, and are not even up to question. I am just astonished at this lack of scholarship.
These are just four examples of serious errors, and I know that many more exist. In addition to this, we find many outright misstatements by missionaries with regards to Rabbinic works. These are based on not wanting to understand the nature of Rabbinic commentary, and just simply wanting a text to confirm their beliefs, even if that is not the case.
© Moshe Shulman 2003 http://www.judaismsanswer.com
For more information, questions answered, or help with missionaries you can reach Moshe Shulman at email@example.com.
 The question of existence is important as many of them do not exist
 It is common for missionaries to leave the impression of using primary sources when they are actually using a secondary one like this.
 Page 12.
 This is a VERY unusual way to refer to Rashi. The usual way is to call him Rabbi Shlomoh Yitzchoki because his father’s name was Yitzchok.
 Good try, but not correct. His name was Avraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra. Ibn Ezra was the family name. This is clearly stated in the small poem he writes in his introduction to his commentary on the Torah. 'Please G-d of my father Avraham, do chesed to Your servant Avraham. It should be that Your words that shine (Heb. Meir) should be opened, to Your servant the son of Your servant Meir. And the salvation of Your face should bring help (Heb Ezra), to the son of Your maidservant who is called the son of Ezra (Ibn Ezra is Arabic for the son of Ezra).'
 The work here referred to is the Yalkut Shimoni and it is a collection of Midrashim organized by the verses in the Tenach. It is NOT a summary. Nor does it reflect years of disagreement and argument.
 The translation should read 'The son of your son is on your right side.'
 1st edition 1992.
 There are other minor errors in the text.
 Page 73.
 Now the correct understanding of this teaching is NOT that the Messiah comes in the year 4000, just like the Torah was not given in the year 2000 which was when Avraham lived. It means, just as the Vilna Goan indicates, that this is when the time leading to the coming of the Messiah starts. Similarly the year 2000, when Avraham was alive, was the start of the period leading up to the giving of the Torah.
 Page 71.