This basic guide is not just for Jews. It is for anyone who would like to counter the arguments used by Evangelical Christians. As most of these debates do focus on the Jewish texts, however, this article will be especially relevant to Jews.
Most Missionaries will try and engage Jews in debate about Scripture. Beware: unless you know some basics about the Jewish Tanakh, it's easy to be taken in by the so-called 'proofs' that Missionaries will offer you.
Here are some basics about Jewish scriptures, and also some responses to use when the Missionaries come calling...!
The Jewish holy text is the Torah. This comprises the five books of Moses:
In every Synagogue across the world, the Torah appears in scroll form. For Jews, it is the direct word of G-d. Traditional Jewish belief is that G-d spoke to a huge gathering of Jews at Mount Sinai, and all present heard his voice. G-d dictated the Torah to Moses, who wrote it down.
This is the view of Orthodox Jews. Less religious Jews, members of Conservative and Reform Judaism, may not agree that the Torah comes from G-d, literally. Rather, they may argue that the Torah was compiled over a long period of time, with several authors. Some support for this idea comes from the different writing styles apparent throughout the five books.
Either way, all Jews recognise the Torah as their holy text, and all Jewish boys, and many Jewish girls, learn a portion of the Torah, in Hebrew, for their bar/bat mitzvahs.
The Torah is not something which can be taken literally, nor understood at face value. Jews believe that every single letter is full of meaning. In short, we view the Torah as a message written by G-d to us as Jews. The word ‘Torah’ means ‘instruction’. Thus the Torah is G-d’s instructions to us, for Within the Torah are the commandments and teachings of Judaism.
But the Torah is also a history book. It contains within it the earliest history of the Jews. So although we might not always take it literally, we hold that much of the Torah is essentially true.
The Talmud - The Oral Torah
The actual word ‘Torah’ refers also to the Oral Torah, which was given along with the written Torah to Moses at Mount Sinai.
The Oral Torah comprises explanations of the written Torah, as well as extra bits of advice and wisdom offered by Moses.
Originally, Jews did not commit the Oral Torah to written form. Instead, it was taught by fathers to their sons, generation after generation. But eventually, the Jewish leaders realised that there was a risk of all the knowledge being lost, because Jews were being attacked and killed with increasing frequency.
So in the second century CE, the Jewish leader at that time, Judah HaNasi, wrote down a basic outline of the fundamental aspects of Oral Torah. This was then divided into six parts – known as the Mishnah (’repetition’). This ratified the Oral tradition.
After this, over several generations, Rabbis and sages met to discuss and debate the Mishnah, to clarify its principles and to add other oral teachings that had been part of Judaism since Mount Sinai. These additions are known as the Gemara (’completion’).
Together, the Mishnah and Gemara make up the TALMUD.
The Talmud, then, illuminates and clarifies the written Torah, the five books of Moses. The Talmud comprises a series of volumes, full of discussions and debates, rulings and proverbs, with some folklore and humour in addition. Almost every topic under the sun is covered, for the Talmud shows us how to apply Torah to life.
As one Jewish author puts it: ‘The Torah is G-d speaking to us. The Talmud is us answering!’
Frequently asked questions about Jewish texts:
Q: Is it true that there are insultings things written about Gentiles in the Talmud?
Answer: Sadly, this rumour appears to be a popular one. There is no truth whatsoever to it. The Talmud is primarily concerned with Jewish religious law and how to apply it. Where non Jews are mentioned, it is certainly not in a negative light at all. Judaism holds all humans as being equal. It makes no difference which faith a person follows. ‘Love thy neighbour’ is a Jewish teaching, found in the Torah thousands of years before Christianity also began using it.
Q: Is the ‘old testament’ the same thing as the Tanakh?
Answer: No. The ‘old testament’ is a purely Christian text. It was produced by the Church, thousands of years after the Tanakh. Some versions of the OT are very accurate and reliable. But some are not, and in these we find significant mistranslations and misinterpretations of the original Hebrew. In addition, the OT is organised differently to the Tanakh, with ‘chapter breaks’ inserted that do not appear in the original Jewish text.
Jews don’t study the OT at all. In fact, the very name ‘old’ testament illustrates it is a Christian document. Why would Judaism label its OWN scriptures as ‘old’?!
It is rather frustrating for Jews; our scriptures have been taken on by another faith, changed, and then, historically, used by Christianity to ‘prove’ that Jews are ‘wrong’ and that Jesus is ‘foreshadowed’ in the Jewish scriptures!
*Some* Christians argue that they understand the Jewish texts better than Jews themselves. Yet Jews study the Tanakh, for the most part, in the original Hebrew. Most (not all) Christians study the OT, which is a translation OF a translation OF the Tanakh.
Q:But what about the Septuagint?
The Septuagint refers to the Greek version of the Tanakh. But what many people don’t realise is that only the Torah part (five books of Moses) was actually translated by Jews. All the rest was translated by non Jews. And if we compare, for example, Isaiah in the Tanakh, with Isaiah in the Septuagint, it is clear that the Septuagint does not reflect the original Hebrew at all.
Ultimately, the entire Septuagint was revised by the Church, and ceased to have any link to Judaism.
Here is a particularly interesting comment on the Septuagint, by Rabbi Tovia Singer, from the excellent website Outreach Judaism.
“… the Septuagint in our hands is not a Jewish document, but rather a Christian one. The original Septuagint, created 2,200 years ago by 72 Jewish translators, was a Greek translation of the Five Books of Moses alone.
It therefore did not contain prophetic Books of the Bible such as Isaiah. The Septuagint as we have it today, which includes the Prophets and Writings as well, is a product of the Church, not the Jewish people. In fact, the Septuagint remains the official Old Testament of the Greek Orthodox Church, and the manuscripts that consist of our Septuagint today date to the third century C.E.
The fact that additional books known as the Apocrypha, which are uniquely sacred to the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church, are found in the Septuagint should raise a red flag to those inquiring into the Jewishness of the Septuagint.
Christians such as Origin and Lucian (third and fourth century C.E.) had an enormous impact on creating and shaping the Septuagint that missionaries use to advance their untenable arguments against Judaism. In essence, the present Septuagint is largely a post-second century Christian translation of the Bible, used zealously by the Church throughout the centuries as an indispensable apologetic instrument to defend and sustain Christological alterations of the Jewish scriptures.
The fact that the original Septuagint translated by rabbis more than 22 centuries ago was only of the Pentateuch and not of prophetic books of the Bible such as Isaiah is confirmed by countless sources including the ancient Letter of Aristeas, which is the earliest attestation to the existence of the Septuagint. The Talmud also states this explicitly in Tractate Megillah (9a), and Josephus as well affirms that the Septuagint was a translation only of the Law of Moses in his preface to Antiquities of the Jews.
Moreover, Jerome, a church father and Bible translator who could hardly be construed as friendly to Judaism, affirms Josephus’ statement regarding the authorship of the Septuagint in his preface to The Book of Hebrew Questions.2 Likewise, the Anchor Bible Dictionary reports precisely this point in the opening sentence of its article on the Septuagint which states, “The word ‘Septuagint,’ (from Lat septuaginta = 70; hence the abbreviation LXX) derives from a story that 72 elders translated the Pentateuch into Greek; the term therefore applied originally only to those five books.”
In fact, Dr. F.F. Bruce, the preeminent professor of Biblical exegesis, keenly points out that, strictly speaking, the Septuagint deals only with the Pentateuch and not the whole Old Testament. Bruce writes, “The Jews might have gone on at a later time to authorize a standard text of the rest of the Septuagint, but . . . lost interest in the Septuagint altogether. With but few exceptions, every manuscript of the Septuagint which has come down to our day was copied and preserved in Christian, not Jewish, circles.“
Q: What are some of the specific differences between the Christian Old Testament, and the Jewish Tanakh?
Answer: Below I provide a partial list. I’d like to first reiterate: some versions of the OT have been revised and are pretty accurate and reliable. Others are not. Below are some of the discrepancies which appear in some versions of the OT:
1. Zechariah 12:10 − The Hebrew Tanakh: “and they shall look upon me whom they have stabbed/ thrust through [with swords”)
The King James Version of Zechariah changes one word [stabbed] to “pierced.”
BUT John 19:37 (New Testament) misquotes Zechariah to change the entire meaning by saying, “They shall look on him (instead of ME) whom they pierced.”
2. Isaiah 7:14 − The Hebrew Tanakh says “Therefore, the Lord, of His own, shall give you a sign; behold, the young woman (alma) is with child, and she will bear a son and she shall call his name Immanuel.”
**Take note, this was written in the present tense.
But the Greek Septuagint changed “alma,” saying “Behold, a virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (Matthew 1:22-23). The church changed the entire verse from present to FUTURE tense and then went further to change the Hebrew alma, meaning a young woman to virgin.
3. Isaiah 53:10 − The Hebrew Tanakh says “And the Lord wished to crush him, He made him ill; if his soul makes itself restitution (acknowledge guilt) he shall see children, he shall prolong his days and God’s purpose shall prosper in his hand.”
But the KJV says:: “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he had put him to grief: when thou shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand”..
4. Psalm 16:9-10 − (KJV) “Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. (10) For thou will not leave my soul in hell, neither will you suffer thine Holy One to see corruption”. Why not continue to the next verse? Christians can not because David wasn’t talking about Jesus; David was talking about himself. (Psalm 16:11) “You will show me the path of life, in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”
Psalm 16:9-10 in the Hebrew Tanakh says “Therefore, my heart rejoiced and my soul was glad; even my flesh shall dwell in safety. (10) For You shall not forsake my soul to the grave; You shall not allow Your pious one to see the pit.”
Where is ‘Hell’, and ‘Corruption’ as the New Testament stated? It did not exist! .
The Hebrew translation of Psalm 16:10 tells of David again talking to God, rejoicing that God will not forsake his soul to the grave. While David is alive he will dwell in safety because God will protect his flesh from injury, and G-d will show him the way. Does verse 11 relate to Jesus? If Jesus is part of the godhead, as Christians say, how can G-d show him the way?
5. Isaiah 9:5 − The Hebrew Tanakh reads: “For a child has been born to us, a son has been given us and authority has settled on his shoulders. He has been named “The Mighty G-d” Isaiah was referring to King Hezekiah, son of Ahaz.
Again, in an attempt to insert a Jesus prophecy, the KJV changed the tense from the present to the future, making it, “A child is born, a son is given and the government shall be upon his shoulder and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty G-d”. [In Hebrew Hezekiah means “the mighty G-d.”]
6. In John, the New Testament author tries to make Jesus as the perfect sacrificial lamb of God (who then supposedly takes away the sins of the world) and relate this to the Jewish Passover. [John’s writings have Jesus die on Passover, while the other Gospel authors say he died the day after.] John 19:32-36 tells of soldiers breaking the legs of the crucifixion victims to hasten their deaths, yet sparing Jesus because he was already dead. To this end the author of John supposedly quotes Hebrew Scripture saying, “For these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, a bone of him shall not be broken.” The New Testament “fulfilled prophecy” supposedly refers to Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12 and to Psalms 34:20.
Notice how conveniently John changed the entire meaning by simply changing of Exodus 12:46 by changing one word: “it” to “him.” Exodus 12:46 refers to the PASSOVER-offering, “…and you shall not break a bone in it (the animal).”
Numbers 9:12 again refer to the PASSOVER-offering, “…nor shall they break a bone of it”. Again, by changing one word, the original message is lost.
Psalms 34:20 refers to David saying no one becomes truly righteous and great without his share of mishaps,
CONTINUATION:He guards all his bones, even one of them was not broken.” Nothing ever shows that this Psalm was intended as prophetic, certainly not applying to the future fictitious character of Jesus.
(NOTE: Jesus would have been disqualified as a Passover ’sacrifice’ because the female lamb had to be “without blemish.” Jesus was wounded, whipped and mutilated.)
7. Psalm 2: 11-12. By simply leaving off one Aramaic word, Christians altered the entire verse. The KJV reads, “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you perish from the way”
The original Hebrew Tanakh records the verses as “Do homage in purity (nash-ku bar) lest He be angry and you perish”. The meaning of the Hebrew word “bar” is pure or clear. Yes, in Aramaic, the word “bar” does mean son, but it is used only as a combination of two words – SON OF. If in Aramaic, the author wanted to mean just the son, he would have used the phrase “ber’a with the letter alef at the end. (Psalm 2:11-12).
8. Matthew 2:23 − “And he (Jesus) came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets”
Which prophets said that?
According to scholars, rabbis and historians, the city of Nazareth did not exist during the writings of Hebrew Scriptures.
The word “Nazareth” does not appear anywhere in Hebrew Scriptures. This is even verified by the New Testament Concordance!
Therefore, Nazareth and Nazarene are Christian words, not Hebrew words. Nazareth is not mentioned in non-Christian sources until the third or fourth century.
Nazarites are not a sect. but rather it is an individual oath taken by a person to be in effect for a time period. During this time the person is not allowed to cut their hair, go near a corpse, eat grapes or drink wine. Afterward he must bring special offerings to the Beith Hamikdash and shave his hair.
9. Psalm 22:16 from the Hebrew Tanakh when correctly translated reads “They surrounded my hands and feet like a lion” (the word “ka’ari clearly means like a lion, as evident from its use in Isaiah 38:13 and other writings, even in the KJV).
David was pursued by his enemies and often referred to them as “lions” (see Psalms 7 & 17).
Yet, when read out of context the KJV dmistranslates: “They pierced my hands and feet.” The passage was altered to indicate Jesus.
10. Using Isaiah 59:20, Christians again misquote Hebrew Scripture. The New Testament in Romans 11:26, has Paul supposedly saying, “And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written. There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”
The Tanakh recorded a different event. Isaiah:“A redeemer will come to Zion, and to those of Jacob who repent from willful sin. Is it in or out of Jerusalem? Just change “to Zion” to “out of Zion.”
11. Hosea 6:2 − The Christian Bible has the authoress of Luke (24:46-47) telling that Jesus rose on the Third Day: “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” This could have only been designed to satisfy a prophecy in Hosea 6:2. The New Testament has Paul writing in I Corinthians, “and Jesus was buried and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” Further 1 Corinthians 15:4.says “After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up and we shall live in his sight.” Which Hebrew Scriptures are these authors talking about?
As usual, the source documents, The Hebrew Scriptures, say something entirely different:
Hosea 6:1-2 “They will say, Come let us return to God for He (God) has mangled us and He (God) will heal us; He (God) has smitten and He (God) will bandage us. He (God) will heal us after two days; on the third day He (God) will raise us up and we will live before Him. ‘We’ refers to the nation of Israel.
The last verse in Chapter 5 sets the scene and explains the situation very clearly: “I (God) will go, I will return to My place until they will acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; in their distress they will seek Me (Hosea 5:15). Hosea explains in verse 5 that God sent a clear-cut message to Israel through My prophets; you heard and refused to repent, so My offer resulted in your death sentence. How could I vindicate you after such defiance? Then Hosea explains: “Come let us return to God”!
Does this refer to Jesus?
And a few more…
Psalm 2:11-12. This passage is cited often by Christians seeking to prove the Trinity. In the King James Bible, it reads:
“Serve the L-rd with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
But the verse is mistranslated. The word rendered “the Son” is “bar”. In Hebrew, the word means “pure” and is correctly translated in Psalm 24 (”clean hands and a pure heart”). The Hebrew word for “son” is “ben”.
Confusion results from the fact that the word does mean “son” in Aramaic; but there is no Aramaic in any of the Psalms. In fact, verse 2:7, just a few verses before this passage, reads, “I will declare the decree: the L-rd hath said unto me, Thou art my Son [beni]; this day have I begotten thee”, proving that the word “ben” was known and used by the composer of Psalm 2. Verses 11 and 12 should read, “Serve the L-rd with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Desire what is pure, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
This rendering makes it clear that the pronouns in verse 12 all refer to the L-rd, with no hint of a Trinity.
Even if we assume that “bar” means “son” here, that still doesn’t give us a Trinity. G-d has many sons. Israel is G-d’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22; see also Hosea 11:1). The sons of G-d took wives from among the daughters of men (Genesis 6:1-2). The sons of G-d appeared before His throne, and Satan was among them (Job 1:6; 2:1).
Even Jesus says, “Blessed [are] the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of G-d” (Matthew 5:9). There is nothing in Psalm 2 which makes the “bar” any more G-d’s son than the sons mentioned above.
Isaiah 53:8 in the Christian bible reads “…for the transgression of my people he was stricken.”
Is this the correct translation from the Hebrew bible?
No. The correct translation of Isaiah 53:8 (from the Hebrew bible) is: “as a result of the transgression of my people, they were afflicted.”
The correct translation is THEY, not He! This Hebrew word for “they” appears over 40 times in the Hebrew bible – always translated as “they”!
As all of my fellow Jews will no doubt agree, if there is one part of the Tanakh that many Christians use to ‘prove’ to us that Jesus is mentioned/referenced, it is this!
The problem is, they are not only mistranslating but also misinterpreting it.
Isaiah 53 actually starts with Chapter 52:13. In Hebrew, the scripture portions are divided by “stumas.” A space of several letters can be found at the closing of a passage before the next passage begins.
This can ***only*** be found in a Hebrew Bible. A Torah scribe has to strictly follow these rules. By reading the passage in its entirety, you learn that God is speaking to his servant and that the servant shall prosper and be exalted and be very high (Isaiah 52:13).
And who is the ’suffering servant’?
Christianity claims it is Jesus.
But in fact, it is Israel, as clearly shown in Isaiah 41:8 & 44:1-2 & 45:4. These verses continue to describe the amazement of the world when they see the Jewish people redeemed. In particular, they are written in an exclamatory fashion to describe how the nations “despised” the Jewish people and gave “no regard” for them. The reason it is written in the singular is because the Jews are regarded as one body, called “Israel.” There are many instances of the Jewish people being referred to with a singular pronoun throughout the Torah.
It’s also interesting to compare what is said in the Christian bible, *about* the Tanakh, to what is actually written in the Tanakh.
We find things that contradict the Tanakh:
Matthew 1:2-15 – His list of generations does not agree with Torah l Chronicles Ch. 1-3
Matthew 1:16 – he forgot Jewish law. The Jewish Scriptures state that a person’s genealogy and tribal membership is transmitted exclusively through the **biological** father (Numbers 1:18 Jeremiah 33:17)
Matthew 5:43 – Jesus says: “thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy which You have heard that it hath been said”.
But in the Tanakh, Leviticus 19:18 does not mention any ‘enemy’.
Matthew 1511 – ‘Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.’ Contradicted by all the dietary laws in the Tanakh.
Matthew on Isaiah:
Matt 1:23 – Mistakenly uses the Septuagint word for virgin instead of Hebrew “Almah” (young woman)
Matthew 1:23 – Misquotes Isaiah 7:14, “they” will call Jesus Immanuel, whereas Isaiah wrote “his mother” would call him Immanuel – not “they”.
Matthew 3:3 – Misinterprets and alters Isaiah 40:3 – “Prepare the way of the Lord”. Not so.
Matt 4:15 – Added “Galilee of the Gentiles” to Isaiah 9:1-2. Not in the Hebrew Tanakh.
Matt 8:17 – Took Isaiah 53:4 out of context – Isaiah was relating to a leper (nagua).
Matt 12:17-21 – Taking Isaiah 42:1-4 out of context – the Servant was Israel 4 times
Matt. 13.14-15 – Took out of context Isaiah 6:9-10 of people being “blind”
Matthew also misinterprets the Jewish Prophets:
Matthew 2:5-6 – Misinterprets Micah 5:2 – the Messiah coming from Bethlehem. It was David a Bethlemite, born in Bethlehem and from his seed would come the messiah.
Matthew 2:15 –Taking Hosea 11:1 out of context, Jesus being called out of Egypt
Matthew 2:17-18 – Distorts meaning of Jeremiah 31:1-17 of Rachel weeping.
Matthew 11.10: By changing the pronoun in Malachi 3.1 “before me” or “before you”?
Matthew 13:35 – The Christ will speak in parables – distorting Psalm 78:2
Matthew 21:1-7 – Jesus riding on two donkeys at the same time – ???????? – (Zechariah 9:9)
Matthew 22:43-44 – Capitalizes the second lord – altering the meaning of Psalm 110:1
Matthew 23:35 Mistakenly gave Zechariah’ father the wrong son. Zechariah was the son of Jehoiada, not Barachiah. II Chronicles 24:20–21
Matthew 27:9 – Quoted the wrong prophet – was not Jeremiah but Zechariah
Matthew 27:9 – Book of Zechariah was never about any “potter’s field”
————————————–… Are the ‘covenant’ and the ‘testament’ synonymous? Remember that Jeremiah wrote in Hebrew. So when Greeks–not fully understanding the correct Hebrew definition of the word “Bereeth–interpreted the Hebrew word “Bereeth”, they interpreted it as Covenant and also Testament,” They failed to realize that “Bereeth” also means a “promise.”
The Hebrew word “BEREETH” or covenant signifies a promise between God and the Jewish people. It may be made official by any number of symbolic acts such as circumcision (bris), offerings (sacrifice), etc. Bereeth binds living persons to certain behaviour. In the case of the ‘new’ Contract (Covenant), the parties involved were God, Israel, and Judah. The New Covenant is to be made with both Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 31:31).
‘Bereeth’ is a promise from God that he will never abandon the Jews as is revealed over and over again in His Torah and Tanakh.
Christianity statesJeremiah says that God replaced the old covenant with a new one. “Behold the days are coming says the Lord when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the House of Judah”.(Jer 31:30-31 quoted in Heb 8:8-12, 10:16).
Christians claim this clearly proves that the old covenant will be abolished for the new one of Jesus. Well, maybe, if you stop right there with verse 32. But continue: The very next verse 33 says,
“I will put my Torah within them.”
It does not say new Torah – instead, it is the same Torah which will become a permanent part and will not be forgotten as in the past. Verse 32 in the Jewish Bible says;
“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord, I will put My Torah in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”