Does Biblical Christianity Promote Idolatry?

 

This posting will include my attempt to respond to the assertions of Orthodox Rabbis concerning the nature of God and His Messiah. My responses will come from the Jewish Bible, the Tenakh. Orthodox Rabbis, including their ancestors, the Pharisees, have claimed that they know the will of their God and since they have it right they can and have, with authority, dictated what is proper and not proper for contemporary Jews to believe. They also believe that the Christian deity is not the same deity that they worship insisting that modern day Christians are idolaters. I have included excerpts from various Jews for Judaism websites and will address them through the Jewish Bible.

1.    Worship of any three-part god by a Jew is nothing less than a form of idolatry. The three-part God of Christianity is not the G-d of Judaism. Therefore, in the Jewish view, Christianity may very well be a variation of idolatry. G-d is the infinite One, Creator of all things. Anyone who worships anything else is guilty of idolatry. Christianity for a Jew is a form of idolatry, and must be repented as such.

Answer: Genesis 1:1-2 “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”  In the very beginning God reveals His nature. God created …and the spirit of God moved.  I think the rabbi’s would agree that God is spirit.  How then can we distinguish between God who is spirit and the spirit of God moving? It does not say that God moved upon the face of the waters but rather the spirit of God moved. In these opening verses the scripture distinguishes between God and the spirit of God.

Genesis 1:26, 3:22, 11:6-7 “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us…And the Lord God said…let us go down, and there confound their language.” In these passages God speaks and the Lord God speaks. The question becomes, who is God speaking to? Is God speaking with angels? If God was speaking to angels in verse 26 then angels have the power to create since the scripture says, “Let us make man in our image”. There is no evidence in the Tenakh that angels create.  If they did create man would we be addressing them as God also? The key is found in the Hebrew word for God. The word used is not the Hebrew word Eloh rather the uni-plural Elohim.  If Eloh was used then the articles “us” and “our” would have been replaced with “me”, and “my”.  Instead the word Elohim is used which allows for one God as the Shema affirms “Shema Yisrael, Adonai Elohaynu Adonai Echud”, but allows for a multiple expression of this one God as we see in God, Lord God, and Spirit of God. Still does this completely describe this mystery?  To get conclusive proof we must venture to the Prophet Isaiah.

In Isaiah 48:16-17 “Come ye near to me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God and his spirit, hath sent me. Thus says the Lord, thy redeemer, the Holy one of Israel…”  In this passage, we have the Lord speaking and identifying himself as the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel. He extols his people that what he is about to reveal he has not kept it secret from the beginning. This God was there in the beginning and states that the Lord God and spirit have sent me (Lord, redeemer, Holy One of Israel). In this the Lord, who is also the Redeemer and Holy one of Israel, was sent by the Lord God and his spirit. Since the nature of this one God is obviously triune according to the Tenakh how can the worship of a “three-part God and Christianity be idolatrous since the Hebrew Scriptures support it?

The rabbis miss the point. Biblical Christianity is radical in that it asserts that only revealed law from a perfect God matters, not rules made by imperfect men. Even so, all divine Law does is to reveal how imperfect and imperfectible we are by human effort.  It takes a personal, redemptive relationship between God and individual people, mediated by the God-Man Yeshua, to genuinely improve and eventually sanctify human beings. As for the rabbis, they do not quote Torah or Tenakh — they cite Judaism and the Jewish view.  This is a syllogistic argument.  The clearest definition of the G-d of Judaism is that He is whatever the Orthodox Rabbis says He is, provided it in no way is acknowledged to be the God of the Christians. For instance, Rabbinical Judaism treats the Ruakh HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), literally the Holy Breath [and so rendered in the Greek of the Septuagint and the Brit Hadassah], as the presence of God in the world, and not as a separate personality or aspect of a triune God.  Without reference to the New Covenant, it is reasonable to look upon the Holy Spirit as just being part of God, the expression of God, because His personhood is not clearly defined until the New Covenant.

2.    According to the Orthodox rabbis, The Bible says (Numbers 23:19), “G-d is not a mortal that He should lie, nor a man, that He should change His mind.” G-d does not suddenly decide to visit the earth in a human body. A G-d who fills and sustains all creation does not have to visit our planet in human form.

Genesis 3:8; 18:1-4, 8, 13, 17, 22-23, 33 “And they (Adam and Eve) heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…The Lord appeared unto him (Abraham )in the plains of Mamre…lo three men stood by him (Abraham)…when he saw them he ran…and bowed himself toward the ground…and said My Lord…And he (Abraham) took butter and milk, and the calf which he had dressed and set it before them……and they(the three men) did eat…And the Lord said unto Abraham…And the men rose up…and Abraham went with them…And the men turned their faces from there and went towards Sodom;  but Abraham stood yet before the Lord and Abraham drew near…And the Lord went his way as soon as he had left communing with Abraham…”

For the Lord God to be walking in the Garden he had to take on human form. The Lord appeared to Abraham where Abraham bowed and addressed him as My Lord.  They ate and Abraham walked with the Lord. Two of the men went towards Sodom, but Abraham stood before the Lord and then the Lord went his way. Here, the Lord obviously took on human form. The rabbis are either blinded by their zeal or purposely concealing this scriptural analysis from Jews to make it as hard as possible for them to accept their messiah.

CS Lewis addressed this very same issue years ago.  Of course God didn’t have to visit our planet in human form.  He didn’t have to create us or the planet at all? Would the rabbis deny that God could visit the world of men in human form? Would they deny that God created mankind because He wants a relationship with people? Would they deny that it was very rare for God to find a man who could even partially grasp His holy and unique nature and enter into, much less maintain, that relationship? Would the God who created the world and created mankind be willing to take on human form to make Himself more understandable by His creatures?  How would the rabbis answer these questions?

From the rabbinical point of view, most Orthodox Rabbis consider the events occurring in the Garden of Eden to be a parable, even a poetic allegory, not an actual account of real events concerning real individuals.  They would deny that God really was walking in the garden — they would assert that was “poetic license,” a “figure of speech” indicating His presence was manifest to Adam and Eve. As to the account in Gen 18, Orthodox Rabbinical sources generally considered the “three visitors” to be angels, in contrast to that which is stated in the text.

3.    The Jerusalem Talmud flatly states the Jewish view, “If a man claims to be G-d, he is a liar!”

This certainly appears to be a slam dunk but it is not. If a mere man claims to be God he is a liar. True!. Yes, if a man claims to be God without proofs or basis for the claim, he is a liar — or, more likely, insane.  It does not say if God chooses to put on human form he is a liar. If he has performed dozens of widely witnessed miracles in God’s Name, and claims based upon those miracles that He is the Son of God, of the very nature of God, the I AM, then either the miracles were all conjuring tricks and the people who EXPERIENCED them [including ones raised from the dead or cured of “permanent” disabilities] as well as the witnesses were amazingly conned, or He is more than just a man — He is who He says He is. Yeshua’s claims about His nature were so clear that they tried twice to stone Him, and then, failing at that, coerced Pilate into crucifying Him.  In all three cases, it was clear they were seeking to kill him, i.e., the LAW as a blaspheming false prophet falsely claiming to be God. In all three cases, they had witnessed His miracles done in God’s Name. Who’s lying?

From the book of Exodus until the End of the Babylonian captivity the Jews were continually guilty of Idolatry. After this captivity they kept a strict monotheism that was reinforced by the tradition of the elders which eventually was codified as the Talmud. So Israel embraced a strict works based legalism that elevated the Talmud as containing Oral Torah which was necessary to interpret the Written Torah.  This reliance on Oral Torah to interpret the written Torah was NEVER mentioned in the written Torah nor does God bestow on the rabbis or sages the designation as Prophets or those who possess the true interpretation of the Tenakh. Even Biblical Judaism was a works-based religion from the start.  After the Israelites, despite having seen the Plagues [which spared them], the miraculous parting of the Red Sea [which was dry for them and drowned the pagans], and miraculous provision in the desert, betrayed God by worshipping the Golden Calf [and by twice revolting against God’s prophet Moses even before getting to the Jordan], God had to established a strict, demanding, works-based religion to beat the slave mentality out of the Israelites and make them into a separate, distinct people who would be focused upon Him.  Even with that, it took centuries, the destruction of the Northern kingdom, and the Babylonian captivity, to get the Jewish remnant to finally be done with overt pagan idolatry [more subtle forms continue to this day].

4.    Even if a Jew worships the highest angel, it is also a form of idolatry.

Joshua 5:13-15 “And it came to pass when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked and behold,  there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand; and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, art thou for us or our adversaries? And he said, Nay but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship and said unto him, what saith my lord unto his servant? And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.”

If the Orthodox rabbis insist that the captain of the Lord’s army is an angel despite the evidence presented then Joshua was guilty of idolatry. If this person in human form is God, the ground where he stands is holy and He accepts worship, then the Lord indeed put on the form of a man. Joshua fell down in worship not because he was an angel, or to worship the angel, but before the Lord of Hosts — that is, God Almighty.

Despite rabbinical claims Biblical Christianity does not condone an idolatrous faith. The Jewish religious leadership has never been able to accept this. As Christians we can appreciate the rabbinical argument and in doing so explain the Biblical Christian interpretation from the Jewish Bible. Always continuing in love in the hope that some may come to their promised Messiah.

 

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