Mordochai ben-Tziyyon Refuted

There is no sign that "Prof. Mordochai ben-Tziyyon, Universitah Ha'ivrit, Y'rushalayim" actually exists as a person. His name appears nowhere else online (like, say, over a peer-reviewed bibliographic credit). His work titled "The Christianity Cult and Its Deceptions" appears also not in a peer-reviewed journal, but on one of those free "tripod" pages (peculiar for a university professor).

The "professor" (hereafter MBT for short) gives no evidence of having interacted with serious Christian scholarship, and some few of his alleged arguments taken from Christians appear to have been made up out of thin air. Let us get to the heart of the matter, passing by MBT's odd claims that serious sources like Vine's lexicon are "published for the sole purpose of misleading, rather than enlightening" and get to the points:

  • ...[S]o many christians are firmly convinced that the reference to "the Son of God" in the "King James's Per-Version" rendering of Daniel 3:25 (which is even printed with the word "son" capitalised) is a reference to their idol-man! But the person speaking in that verse is the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II, who reigned ca.604-561 BCE. He was a heathen who didn't even believe in God-so is it rational to have him talking about God's "son", and to insist that he was referring to a man who wasn't even born until more than five centuries later? Or are they claiming that Nebuchadnezzar was a prophet??

    No, rather we'd claim that "God" here is elohim, and that Nebuchadnezzar is merely saying that the personage looks divine. A pre-incarnate Jesus? Possibly, but it would neither break the leg nor pick the pocket of our soteriology to say it was an angel.

  • First, the claim that Yéshu was a "messiah". This issue hinges on what a "messiah" is; it's absurd to even try to talk about who "is" (or "was") a "messiah" unless you know what the word means! I have frequently heard christians say things like "The Jews didn't recognise 'their messiah' because they were waiting for a human king"-well, of course they were, because that's what a messiah is!

    This is one of those things MBT likely made up as heard from Christians; perhaps he has this confused with some primitive statement that the Jews were not expecting a merely human king, which is wrong anyway. Jewish messianic expectations were so varied that they did include a god-man figure -- see here, which also refutes MBT's idea that "messiah" is "a very specific meaning in Hebrew culture and in Hebrew writings". If it does, one wonders of the variability of expectations to the point where some Hebrew-speaking Jews expected two messiahs. Or is MBT going to say that the Jews of the first century were also "downright dishonest"?

    That said, MBT rightly deduces that the word does mean someone who has been "anointed" but jumps the gun to take this to mean, it HAD to be someone anointed specifically with oil as in Ex. 30:22-33. Where the word "messiah" includes the linguistic domain for "oil" is not specified.

    Not that it matters, for as Horseley is quoted in the above linked article:

    It is inappropriate to speak of a Jewish expectation of "the Messiah" at this point because few of the extant late prophecies that shaped Jewish hopes even use the term anointed. The focus on the new David or a descendant of David, moreover, was by no means the only image of Jewish hopes for a revived or eschatological kingship. Some of the scriptural texts most important to the hopes of later generations of Judeans contained no explicit language of "anointed" or "branch (shoot, horn, son) of David." There was rather, for example, a focus on "the scepter" or "a star," as in Gen. 49.10 and Num 24.17 respectively.

    And another scholar says:

    Although "messiah" (i.e. "anointed one," from Heb. masah/Gk. chriein) is often understood in terms of the royal "son of David," in reality messianic concepts in late antiquity were quite diverse. If we understand "messiah" to mean one who believes himself to be anointed by God in order to play a leading role in the restoration of Israel, a restoration which may or may not involve the Davidic monarchy, then it is correct to speak of anointed kings, anointed prophets, and anointed priests. ...All of these categories are rooted in biblical and historical precedents.

    Critically enough, the messianic figure is anointed not by men, but by God, such that expecting him to undergo such a ritual is unreasonable in the first place, unless MBT wishes to join Mormons in thinking God a flesh and blood human or else crassly making oil appear deus ex machina in the air above Jesus' head.

    But it remains that there is nothing in the word "anoint" that includes "oil" as part of the meaning. One may be "anointed" with water, with oil, or oil and vinegar, or even a nice bleu cheese; it is the authority conferred and not the substance beholden that is what is important. (For example, Ruth 3:3 has instructions for Ruth to "anoint" herself, so presumably MBT thinks she was being told to undergo a priesthood initiation ceremony?) We hold that Jesus was anointed rather with the Holy Spirit at his baptism; we are not "silent" about it as MBT claims.

    Claimed as well is that the Scriptures also don't say anywhere that a "messiah" is a divine (or semi-divine) being, but perhaps MBT is wiser than Jews of the Biblical period who thought otherwise, as summed up by Neusner from the article above:

    We focus upon how the system laid out in the Mishnah takes up and disposes of those critical issues of teleology worked out through messianic eschatology in other, earlier versions of Judaism. These earlier systems resorted to the myth of the Messiah as savior and redeemer of Israel, a supernatural figure engaged in political-historical tasks as king of the Jews, even a God-man facing the crucial historical questions of Israel's life and resolving them: the Christ as king of the world, of the ages, of death itself.

  • Next up, the not-unexpected claim that NT writers absued OT texts; to that we as usual point here -- such "deceptions" MBT claims are and were entirely norms of Jewish (not peculiarly Christian) use of Scripture, thus:
    • the words "quoted" are actually only the first part of a much longer series of linked statements (Isaiah 7:14-16), of which the deceitful Matthew-writer cunningly gives only the first few words -- the answer to that is: Midrashic exegesis ostensibly takes its point of departure from the biblical text itself (though psychologically it may have been motivated by other factors) and seeks to explicate the hidden meanings contained therein by means of agreed-upon hermeneutical rules (e.g., Rabbi Hillel's seven Middoth; Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha's later set of thirteen; Rabbi Eliezer ben Jose ha-Galili's thirty-two). The purpose of midrash exegesis is to contemporize the revelation of God given earlier for the people of God living later in a different situation. What results may be characterized by the maxim: "That has relevance for This"--that is, what is written in Scripture has relevance for our present situation. In so doing, early Judaism developed what George Foote Moore once aptly defined as "an atomistic exegesis, which interprets sentences, clauses, phrases, and even single words, independently of the context or the historical occasion, as divine oracles; combines them with other similar detached utterances; and makes large use of analogy of expression often by purely verbal association" (Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era, 1.248).
    • he doesn't quote it accurately, but makes several changes to what Isaiah in fact said -- MBT doesn't list specific changes, but that too reflects a norm as part of the above midrashic process. Bruce in his commentary on Romans [243] notes an example from the Aramaic Targums Is. 11:1 not "properly" as "to him shall the nations seek," but as, "to him shall kings render obedience."
    • he quotes the words completely out of their proper context, giving a totally false impression of what the prophet was talking about. -- So likewise the Jews of Jesus' day, which is something his "honoured late uncle, Rav Yosef Barzillai zecher tzaddik liv'rachah," apparently forgot to tell him (see same quote above, "independently of the context or the historical occasion"
  • Then we have this: Does God even have a "son"? Well, this is a question of semantics ("semantics" is the branch of linguistics that deals with the meanings of words). Be very clear: when christians refer to God's "son", they mean a "begotten son"... this phrase is taken from one of their favourite verses in the new testament, which talks about God "giving" His "only begotten son" (John 3:16). The phrase "begotten son" means a biological son, because "begetting" refers to the physical process of impregnation that leads to biological reproduction. But God is not a biological entity, and He does not reproduce Himself biologically.

    True enough, unless we are Mormons; but this is again wrong, at least as far as MBT's own Jewish forebears (?) believed, for there is a clear uses of "begotten" in a non-biological way in the OT: Job 38:28 Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew? And the NT shows that the word was used in more than a biological sense as well in this time: Philemon 1:10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds. (cf. 1 Cor. 4:15)

    Therefore it is clear that "begotten" represnted not biological relationship alone, but whatever other formal relationship existed in an ingroup-familial way. And if MBT wishes to argue that God must be biological to "beget" anything, then how is it that the angels are "sons of God" in the OT? And what of Wisdom, which God "brought forth" (Prov. 8)? MBT undercuts his own Scriptures with his "refutations".

  • There is nothing anywhere in the Scriptures that says, implies, suggests or even hints that God has a "biological son", or was ever intending to have one. On the contrary, Deut. 4:35 & 4:39, and 1 Kings 8:60, all say that "Adonai is the ONE AND ONLY GOD… there is NO-ONE else"

    True enough. And perhaps MBT will one say appreciate the idea of hypostatic Wisdom, a figure considered part of the "one God". MBT tries his hand at addressing Trinitarian concepts after this, but since his view of this doctrine came not from Christian scholarship (all the three idols-papa, junior, and casper "the friendly ghost"-are "actually" all one and the same "person" -- this is modalism, not Trinitarianism) we need not say much.

    So Yéshu, who actually "was God", fell on his face and prayed..... TO HIMSELF??? Yisrael's God does not bow to anyone, and He doesn't "pray to Himself" either. The whole idea is preposterous!

    This is resolved not with retorts that God "didn't reveal the 'full truth' about Himself at first" but by seeing that the truth was revealed in the OT, developed in the intertestamental period by Jews (not Christians), and assumed naturally by Christians -- who recognized that principles of three divine persons, two functionally subordinate to one, was part of their Jewish theological heritage of expression.

  • We skip MBT's "proofs" of God having a son from Psalms 2:7, Prov. 30:4, Is. 9:6, and Hos. 11:1 (use of these could be typological at best -- and that would be something else in common with Jewish hermeneutics of the early Christian era) and go to:

    Finally, "God in the flesh"? A "messiah" is not a "god", and certainly not God Himself. Scripture makes it very clear that God is not a human being (1 Sam. 15:29)

    One may as well have cited Num. 23:19 as well; but the obvious answer is that Jesus isn't "human" but a human-divine composite -- thus these verses (even if not speaking of the specific time they were spoken, c. 1440 and 1000 BC) would be of no relevance, and even so, as the Neusner quote shows, Sam. 15:29 didn't seem to bother Jews of the NT era from thinking of a messianic God-man.

  • Next up: About the geneaologies of Matt and Luke, disposed of here with or without recourse to adoption. Oddly enough, MBT regards an idea of Marian ancestry for Davidic rights as "utter boloney" [sic] on the grounds that:
    • ...the mother's ancestry is totally irrelevant when we are considering heirdom to the throne....because a woman cannot be "king" in Hebrew law, and a king's daughter does not have "royal blood".

      What "Hebrew law" says this is not specificed (it is not found in the OT, certainly) but someone ought to have informed Queen Athaliah (2 Kin. 11).

    • It is said, There is no instance of an adoped child ever being called the "son" or "daughter" of the adoptive father but that is hardly necessary; the legal rights are of more import than the word, and on that account, as the linked item explains, through levirate marriage.
    • ...the lineage given in Luke 3:23ff is not Mary's, however much christians pretend that it "really" is.

      I wonder if we also "pretend" that institutions like levirate marriage (which makes this effectively Joseph's genealogy, even if Mary's blood ancestors) existed.

    • We are told that Matthew could not possibly be abbreviating the lineage he gives (even as MBT admits that it is "common in Scripture for lineages to be abbreviated") but insists Matthew had no such intent, simply because he counts the generations.

      How that means there was no intent to abbreviate is not explained. Leaving aside the ghostly explanations MBT has heard from somewhere, it is doubtful that Matthew is saying any more than, "there are fourteen generations in this list I give from A to Z..." as opposed to, "there are 14 generations in history...."

    • In fact, the "gospels" never call Yéshu "the son of David". The Hebrew name David is spelt (delta, alpha, upsilon, iota, alpha-"DAUID") in the pseudo-septuagint, but the name of Yéshu's alleged ancestor is consistently given as (delta, alpha, beta, iota, alpha-"DABID") throughout the Textus Receptus of the "gospels". I have no clue who "Dabid" was, but being a "son of Dabid" gives him no claim to messiahship.

      It is true that this spelling oddity is found in the TR, but what of it? If MBT is disturbed by such an obvious copying error, the Old Testament is riddled with them -- and he can't use any of my defenses of it on that basis.

  • Then we have the idea that use of Micah 5:2 by Christians is "warped"; for those answers see here and here -- note please, that a messiah born in Bethlehem occurred to Jews as well, independent of Christians.
  • Them a large section against the idea of atonement; our answers to all presented found here and here. MBT also calls on the unusual example of the Ninevites "repenting" without sacrifice; yet is he going to argue that Jews of Jonah's day could have gotten away with just dressing in sackcloth and not performing the ordered sacrifices? Nineveh is clearly a special case scenario; but beyond this, they were not clearly "saved" (their "reward" was the withholding of judgment on their city, not eternal salvation) by their repentance, and for MBT to claim that this shows "works-salvation" indicates that he himself has no perception of the integrations of belief and works in Jewish thought.

    The Ninevites were spared because they believed that they were wicked and needed to change -- and their works did not save them from destruction, but followed as a natural result of their belief. Though oddly, MBT even admits as much: Sadly, christians have a tendency to sneer at the idea that fasting can get forgiveness (although, of course, just fasting by itself, and nothing else, indeed does not accomplish atonement: fasting is only an outward demonstration, and it is effective only if it is accompanied by sincere repentance and heart-felt prayer); but it was God who ordained fasting as a sign of repentance on Yom Kippur, so when they scoff at fasting, it is God Himself they are ridiculing.

    Yes indeed. And God also ordained the Yom Kippuer sacrifice. Or is MBT greater than the rabbis would said, "All must be performed as God had directed"?

  • Appeal is also made wrongly to Deut. 24:16; see here for the background of that verse, which does not have anything to do with "the individual bearing personal responsibility for his own actions" at all. But note please that Christian atonement requires us to indeed take responsibility for our actions -- confess them -- and then becomes slaves of Christ in exchange for his taking our just punishment. Despite MBT, the Christian system is rife with accountability.
  • MBT delivers an assessment of Jesus as "false prophet" on the familiar grounds that the Wailing Wall disproves the "not one stone was left upon another, that was not thrown down" prophecy. We have addressed this once before: The Western Wall is part of the foundation structure of the courts, not the Temple itself.

    As two secular sites say: "The Western Wall in the midst of the Old City in Jerusalem is the section of the Western supporting wall of the Temple Mount which has remained intact since the destruction of the Second Jerusalem Temple (70 C.E.)." "When Rome destroyed the Second Temple in 70 C.E., only one outer wall remained standing. The Romans probably would have destroyed that wall as well, but it must have seemed too insignificant to them; it was not even part of the Temple itself, just an outer wall surrounding the Temple Mount."

    Now MBT knows this, but still tries to wrench and error out of Jesus with the claim that in the Mark version of the prediciton, "Yéshu is referring to the entire Temple complex"; but no, there Jesus clearly says, "Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Not "walls" or "whole complex".

    Then MBT tries to wrestle more out of Luke 19:41-44:

    41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, 42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. 43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.

    It is said that this "finally removes all ambiguity, because there it is beyond doubt that he is talking about the whole city of Jerusalem..." which "certainly includes the portion of wall shown" in a photograph MBT has up. But Jesus does not say in Luke that the whole city will have all stones thrown down; he says the whole city will be attacked and warred against. That is not the same level of detail.

  • It is said Jesus "did not even follow the Torah" because of Matthew 12:46-50:
    46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. 47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. 48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!

    The analysis begs two key questions: Is the Gospel message true, or did Jesus believe it to be true? If the answer is yes in either case, then this is not disrespect, it is the urgent truth. MBT begs the question and naturally assumes the message to be untrue.

    Second: What was the relationship of Jesus to his family before this incident? The data would suggest that the "disrespect" was coming from the other direction. Mark's report of this incident, which MBT ignores in this context and does not connect to this narrative, says that the family came because "went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself." (Mark 3:21) The word "lay hold" is krateo and signifies taking hold fast (as in taking by the hand), or seizing by strength -- it is the same word used of those who came to arrest Jesus (Matt. 26:57).

    "Relatives normally sought to conceal other relatives' behavior that would shame the family" in ancient times, even as today [Keener commentary on Matthew, 370]. Jesus' mother and brothers (but not his sisters -- this was no "friendly family outing" but the head of the household arriving with the "goon squad" to pick up the wayward brother) showing up and declaring openly that he was mad, and wanting to seize and hide him, sounds like the "disrespect" had its origins in another place.

    So much for MBT's evaluation of Jesus as "a thoroughly despicable person".

  • Then MBT claims that he "saved the best for last":
    The poor woman came to him begging for help, and he at first ignored her and then, when his followers begged him to do something for her just to get rid of her, he called her and her sick daughter dogs! This disgusting, appalling show of racism against a Canaanitish woman who was from that region is in stark contrast to what the Torah teaches, which is that the "foreigner who lives among us" is to be treated with exactly the same respect, and love, as any native Yisraelite (Lev. 19:34). As always, christians try to "explain away" this glaring character-flaw in their hero, but the facts speak for themselves: he was a narrow-minded, cruel bigoted racist.

    Funny thing, since the Jews of Jesus' day were also "narrow-minded, cruel bigoted racists" by the same token. But in fact they were not, and Jesus treated the woman as an equal: See here, especially:

    In the district of Tyre and Sidon, Jesus encounters a woman who requests a favor from him (Matt 15:21-28). It is important to notice that she is a woman. In public, women and men were not to engage in any discussions or exchanges. More than that, this woman is not a fellow-Israelite but rather a Canaanite. Only equals can play in the game of exchanging insults, the game of challenge and riposte. Since Jesus and this woman are not equals, the dynamic of the story is heightened....Jesus ignores her. By the cultural rules, he is behaving quite properly. But she persists in her petition, and the disciples ask Jesus to dismiss her because she is creating a scene. Jesus' comment is typically ethnocentric: She's not one of us, I owe her nothing. I came to serve the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then the woman pays homage to Jesus, which means she physically blocks his path with her body. He has to either jump over her, walk around her or deal with her.

    She begs him once more with a respectful title: "Lord, help me!" In reply, he refers to her with a "dog" word, a cruel and piercing insult. Perhaps another person in this embarrassing situation might have fled from the shameful scene. Remarkably, the woman remains unmoved but uses the insult in her reply: "Lord, even the dogs get to eat the scraps!" For the first time in his public ministry and the only time until his arrest, Jesus has been beaten in this game. His insults did not repel the outsider and her petition. Jesus' reply? "Touché, woman. You can give as good as you get. God grants your favor!" And her daughter was healed instantly.

    See as well here.

    So it is. If MBT is a real person, it is doubtful he is a scholar of anything to do with the Biblical world.

    -JPH