An academic understanding of scripture falls short with this and other important doctrines.
by Marty Smithhart—
When I became a Christian in my 30s, one of the questions I used to ask myself was this: Is the Bible really that confusing? There is no doubt that there are all kinds of views on Christianity, who God is, Islam’s view of God (Allah) and Judaism’s view of Hashem, etc.
Martin Luther once said that the Bible is perspicuous. He meant the Bible is clear in many things. Therefore, those that do not know the Bible may have problems trying to understand, relate or explain the Bible, and that is why Jesus is called the master Rabbi and we are not. We are also to understand that God is the one who grants faith and understanding and not something we can grasp on our own. Except to say that someone may know the meaning of a verse but not trust it (the verse or the meaning). Those are two different things, i.e. knowing scripture from a godly perspective vs. knowing scripture from a man-centered perspective. For instance, Professor Bart Ehrman is a noted scholar but you cannot trust him to explain the scripture. What he would be good for is to explain things in a theoretical sense but not in a true, edifying, godly scriptural sense—although, a broken clock is right twice a day but it is still broken. Ehrmans’ theoretical teachings will lead someone into agnosticism or worse atheism. Ehrman is what Jesus calls a “blind guide”. And if we are trying to seek God with all our heart, mind and strength we should believe that God has provided us with a collection of books (commonly called the Bible) for us to know Him.
Admittedly the New Testament was canonized gradually (i.e. not immediately, all at once, or by a central authority) over a period of decades and centuries from when the four gospels were first written. Yet each of the them was always recognized as an authoritative gospel, and all 27 books and letters of the New Testament were in circulation among churches by 100 AD. God used both them and the children of God in the early centuries to guide later teachers and the whole church.
Also admittedly, when I was trying to understand the Bible I was interested in knowing the Bible mostly from an academic sense. It was not until later that I realized my sin was something God used for a good purpose. A pastor once said that God can use a crooked stick to strike a straight blow, and God certainly did that with me. God humbled me to realize I did not learn all this stuff without His guidance. And I do recall (past tense) asking God (if there was one) to help me learn the things about Him so that I could convey the message. For me it was a mixed bag. Obviously, God is in control. He let me learn some of the early languages and then he let me know scripture while my mind was being exercised as it was not until later when my heart began to be burdened with the cause for Christ. What do I mean?
And not to be arrogant, but when I went from being a regular, nice unbeliever to a guy who started to read the Bible and books about theology, it was a surprise to many people, even family members. The reason for this is everyone sees I am a smart guy, learned all this stuff, well-educated and now I’m learning theology. There is a stigma in the US culture that Christians are not smart or not that smart. When I began to find smart Christians it set me back too. I had that negative perception and now I was in the midst of a revolutionary change in heart and mind.
When I mentioned a moment ago I was burdened with the cause for Christ, it is sort of related to the question I asked earlier: Is the Bible really that confusing? The answer is emphatically “NO!” It is so “NO!” that it’s like vantablack “NO!” If anyone says the Trinity is nonsensical, then what they are truly saying is that they don’t understand it. And because they don’t understand they are trying to teach something is nonsensical when in reality God has not revealed it to them. There is something called epistemology (study of knowledge) and based on God’s point of view, you will know something if God allows it to be known. Remember Jesus (a person in scripture) said that he would send the Holy Spirit (another person in scripture) to reveal all things to His people. So, the issue you must face if you are indeed in the midst of an ocean of doubt and confusion is what to do with some of the passages of the Old Testament. Seriously, this is the issue.
And before we begin getting into the Old Testament. Let me say a few things about being informed. I believe this goes all the way back to my college days: I recall someone said that there are good questions, bad questions and some questions that are not even questions. It is sort of like that with being informed. If you are informed, you are a Christian. If you are ill-informed, you don’t know much. If you are misinformed you have a false view of things. If you are uninformed you have no awareness of the facts. Only Christians are truly informed and they may not be perfectly informed but they are informed enough to know who God is: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The first passage that comes to mind is from the Prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament. Isaiah says that a child will be born and be Mighty God. It cannot be any plainer or perspicuous (clear) than that. If you try to say, well what about passage X, it says this. Well, stop right there and ask yourself why are you arguing with scripture? Stop. Do not try to cause scripture to conform to your views but let God change you to the correct (informed) view that He has prescribed. You are not God. God is God and you are not. What is plainly revealed, accept it and move on.
I once had a Muslim Imam tell me that “Jews don’t believe that.” You cannot rely on Jews to teach you what is right. I mean, it is perfectly clear in the scripture, Jesus did not rely on the Jewish leaders of his time to teach him the truth. It was ALWAYS Jesus teaching the truth. In fact, you may have a Christian say something that is completely off the wall. The truth is found in the scripture, Old (Tanakh) and New Testament. If you find that a Christian has told you something wrong, please be respectful and loving and say that you cannot find that in scripture because it could be you who is in error.
The question that comes to mind is this: Why don’t the Jews believe this passage? The answer is clear from Jesus. In Matthew chapter 23, Jesus asserts in verse 23, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” Here again is the reference to blind guides. The Jewish leaders (scribes, Pharisees, etc) knew the law but failed to obey it instead they substituted their own traditions (Matt. 15:6). Not only did they fail to follow the law they failed to believe Jesus the Messiah who is the greater and superior teacher (John 3).
When Isaiah said that a child will be born and be Mighty God, the question ought to arise as, why don’t the Jews believe this? Well, remember what I mentioned earlier, God has not allowed it to be revealed to them. It may be simple for us to understand since it is so plain and clear, by the Holy Spirit’s guidance, but for the Jews they have cluttered up their theology with questions and philosophical gibberish. The Jewish sages of the past have added to the law such a condition that Jesus calls it (the made-up garbage) an unbearable yoke. For Jesus said, “My yoke is easy.” Jesus stripped the theological garbage from the Law and spoke of the Law of God in a good and edifying way, not something that would cause a burden too heavy for one to carry.
Eitan Bar wrote in his book, “Within Judaism over the past two millennia, any kind of spiritual message had to go through the ‘gatekeepers’, the Orthodox Jewish Rabbis.” Talk about sad! If a Christian tells an Orthodox Jewish person anything about the right interpretation of scripture, Orthodox Jews will immediately say something like, do you know Hebrew? Do you know Aramaic? Do you know Jewish history? Do you know X or Y or Z? And if you do not know Hebrew, Jewish History, Aramaic, etc. and you do not know the right pronunciation is not Abraham but Avraham, then you do not know anything - nothing! I actually knew someone who had a Rabbi tell him that. Talk about intellectual garbage from a Jewish Rabbi.,
The issue is not do you know these things, pronouncing Abraham vs. Avraham. The issue is do you know the Bible? The Tanakh and the Old Testament of the Christians are virtually the same, except some Christians accept the Apocryphal books as canon.
Let us review an English-verse translation of Isaiah chapter 9 from the JPS 1917 Tanakh. Here is how Jews translated the verse:
“For a child is born unto us, a son is given unto us; and the government is upon his shoulder; and his name is called Pele-joez-el-gibbor-Abi-ad-sar-shalom;”
How do Christians translate this same verse? Here it is:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”, KJV
From the Orthodox Jewish (and the like) point of view, the true issue isn’t what did Isaiah teach but what did the Talmudic Jewish sages teach in the Babylonian Talmud post (after) New Testament. For the Christians, the true issue is what to do with the Prophecy of Isaiah—a child will be born and be Mighty God. Job, which may be the oldest book of the Old Testament, says that he will see his savior. Who is Job’s savior? God.
So, it seems it depends on point of view and what I mean by that is philosophical point of view versus the theological point of view. Paul in the New Testament wrote to believers to be aware of vain philosophies. That is not to say philosophy is bad because everybody has a philosophy but it is a warning to those who would put their views above the scriptural teachings. For the Modern Jews (Orthodox Jews, et al) the great teachers come from the Talmud, they are the fathers of the faith. For the Christians, the Old and New Testament teaches the faith. I am NOT saying Modern Jews disregard the Tanakh (the Old Testament) but I am saying Modern Jews use the Talmud as a filter—a lense—to view scripture. Why? Because they highly esteem the teachings of the fathers (Talmudic Jewish writers) to show the light of scripture. And to a point, they are right. However, there is still something amiss.
The problem is Jews today do not believe in the Prophecy of Isaiah. They have run amok. Maimonides, one of the great Jewish teachers of the past, wrote a very famous book titled “The Guide for the Perplexed”. Maimonides wrote that God cannot be corporeal (bodily),. But then again, how do you or Maimonides deal with Isaiah: A child (a human being) will be born and be Mighty God? Is Maimonides denying Isaiah? Who is master and who is subject? God or Maimonides? The subject is most definitely Maimonides.
Maimonides, as great as he was, should have humbled himself and submitted himself to the teaching of the Bible and not to the Tamudic fathers. But the problem was probably two-fold. One, being born of Jewish lineage, he felt compelled to pronounce Jewish theology, not Biblical theology. Two, being revered, he accepted the life challenge and hardship that all Jews had felt in pronouncing Jewish theology. Because while he was in Fez, Morroco, he led a dual life, on the exterior, he appeared to be a Muslim, but while he was at home, he was a devout Jew.
Further, I shall be remiss if I do not share this. Someone may say X makes no sense. Or someone may say that is not what Jews believe. What you will need to understand is that someone had to create a defense (apologetic), like a vaccine, against Christian teaching. Judaism and Islam should have died out long ago because neither is a good or valid view of the scriptures. Neither Judaism or Islam is logical from a Biblical view. Islam uses some of the Talmudic views to continue its teachings and Muslims probably don’t even know it. And Judaism uses the Talmudic fathers to continue its teachings but they know it. And neither is valid and both are mis-informed. Why? Because they hold to traditions that are wrong. Why? Because that’s what they are taught to do. Why? Because God has allowed it to be so.
Someone may respond and ask how can the Jews be saved? As it was in the Old Testament as it is today, salvation is of the Lord. Scripture is replete with this statement. It is always God who saved - no one else. Thus, if Jews really want to know God, then they need to find a Christian, someone who is informed and ask for their help in knowing scripture. But first, repent of your sins and look to Jesus as your savior. Paul the Benjamite Jewish apostle said that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” It does not say, you “may be saved”. It is definitive. You will be saved. From what? From the condemnation of God? God must act righteously and condemn all unrighteousness in unbelief.
A critic may pound the gavel and rebuke fomenting, using a single verse to formulate a position is too far-fetched! I agree that could be the case, but the problem with that view is that there is no verse in scripture that says God cannot become a man - it does not exist - but the idea or philosophy exists in the theology of Talmudic Judaism which is in serious error. So, the issue remains, do I listen to the clear text of the Prophet Isaiah in the Tanakh (Old Testament) given by God or do I listen to the philosophy or theologies of later sages?
Let me make it worse for the dissenters: Isaiah also wrote in chapter 7 a young woman or virgin would have a child and that child’s name is “God with us.” For a child to be born and be “Mighty God” then that child would have to be born of a woman, ipso facto, Isaiah 7 is another prophecy of the coming of Immanuel (God with us).
The Gospel gives us a view of the Isaiah 7 prophecy:
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”, Matt. 1:23, KJV
One thing that really captivated me when I first began to compare and contrast Christianity (the scriptures) with modern Judaism is this point: The scriptures, both Old and New Testament, were written before the Talmudic sages wrote. The Christian texts were written before Talmudic Judaism began codification. Therefore, if you want to know what the Bible says from its earliest point of view before Talmudic Judaism and its sages, you must use the Christian New Testament. All other views came after the Christian New Testament except to say the New Testament speaks of the darkness which had consumed the nation of Israel in Jesus’ earthly minister and that is visible in the New Testament. Talmudic Judaism, I fondly call Judaism 2.0 and Islam is Judaism 3.0. It is Christianity that is 1.0 - the original scriptures. And Jesus is the master teacher, greater than any Talmudic sage or the Prophet Muhammad. As Matthew wrote in the Gospel, someone greater has come and Matthew speaks of Jesus—the greater teacher. And with the Spirit, as Jesus says, he (the Spirit) will teach us all things. Praise the Lord!
Lastly, because I want to make this as short and simple paper to read - and I may expound on it more later - what is imperative to understand is that God is personal. He displays His personhood in the Father, Son and the Spirit (read Matthew 28). When someone writes that “he” did this or “he” did that, they are speaking of a person. Even though some liberals are trying to remove the idea of personal pronouns and gender specific personal pronouns, the Bible uses gender specific personal pronouns to describe God. Thus, God can be spoken of in a personal way. That is why Christians will sometimes say something like “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” If you answer yes, then you are an informed Christian. You know that Jesus has sent the Spirit (person) and that Jesus said the Spirit will teach you all things. A blind force (something some people acknowledge is not personal) is just a command to execute. But the Holy Spirit is personal and relational, like family. I encourage you to read scripture, the New Testament, to discover the personal nature of God with His people. You will begin to fall in love with your Savior, Jesus, your elder brother, as well as your Father, who calls you His child, and the Spirit, who guides you into the right knowledge of God (trinitarian).
 Bar, Eitan. Refuting Rabbinic Objections to Christianity & Messianic Prophecies (p. 11). ONE FOR ISRAEL Ministry. Kindle Edition.
 A friend was telling me about an encounter with a Rabbi: The Christian guy was a delivery boy. The Christian guy said he was delivering packages one day and took one package to a Rabbi at a local synagogue. The Christian guy said he was aware of the Old Testament, Abraham, Isaac, etc. and the Rabbi said he had never heard of that, Abraham, Isaac and that sort of thing. Why did he say that? Because he does not say “Abraham” but Avraham and he does not pronounce it Isaac but another way. The Rabbi was persnikitty. If there is anything to be seriously steadfast in, it is who God is. Not how do you pronounce Abraham or Isaac or what is the Old Testament! Oddly enough, I told my friend that the Rabbi was making fun of the Christian guy. According to the Rabbi, the Christian guy was a dolt. The Rabbi wasn’t admitting his ignorance - which is what the Christian guy thought. The Rabbi was making fun of the Christian guy because the Christian guy did not say the words correctly. On top of that, not everyone knows that the Hebrew language was reborn in the 19th century. Thus, not everything can be pronounced as it was when it was originally written thousands of year ago because Hebrew had been a dead language until the 19th century when Jewish Zionism was born.
 Most people are unaware Hebrew was a dead language until Ben Yehudah brought the language back from the dead (except in academic circles) in the 19th century. This also spawned Zionism and the quest to have a new state, Israel.
 The Apocrypha is another subject altogether which we will not deal with in any depth.
 JPS - Jewish Publication Society.
 Maimonides wrote a list of thirteen principles of Judaism and one of them was God cannot be Corporeal (bodily). “Maimonides”, pg 65, David Yellin and Israel Abraham, 1972.
 Please note God is Spirit (immaterial) and Jesus is the only human in history to have a dual nature, human (body [material] and soul [immaterial]) and divine [immaterial]. Jesus is called the “Divine Person”. His dual nature is not mixed and Jesus is not a “part of God” as some claim, namely Maimonides and Islamic thinkers. Jesus is fully God and fully man as the scripture mentions (Phil 2 et al).
 “Maimonides”, pg 27, David Yellin and Israel Abraham, 1972: “The double life of the ordinary Jew of Fez was not, however, without its dangers.”
 I emailed a Chabadi Jew and he actually said that God could have been seen by some Old Testament individuals but the Chabad movement is another new Jewish movement. If you like, review “theophanies in the Old Testament.”