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GENERAL COMMENTS

Someone with the pen name of 'Wildcat' has taken me up on the challenge I  made for anyone to try to refute me.  I'm flattered that he made such an effort, though it would have been nice had his attempts been a little more pertinent.

Also, it would have been nice if he had told me of his project beforehand so I could answer some of his points.  I wrote him, trying to suggest in my usual diplomatic way, that his efforts are not quite successful, and got an answer (May 21, 2005). (1)

Wildcat's page is http://www.tektonics.org/guest/antianti.html, and is part of something called Tekton, an 'apologetics ministry.'

Note to Wildcat -- if I have paraphrased your words incorrectly or misrepresented your ideas, let me know and I'll address the issue.

First a disclaimer: Wildcat's screed is over 100 pages long.  There is a link to a 'stripped down copy', but it's also more than 100 pages.  I have not read all 100+ pages and I don't plan to; it isn't worth the time it would take.  This page is just to give you a taste of his mistakes. If anyone has questions, just ask.

Wildcat's page does have some positives.  He is honest enough to give the link to my page, he gives internal links to help wade through the morass, he quotes me extensively and seems to quote me in context, and he seems to understand several of the points I make, though he has missed some biggies.

The biggest problem with Wildcat's refutation is that there isn't enough refutation.  He explains in great detail the Christian point of view, apparently thinking that his explanations invalidates my ideas, as if his beliefs somehow take precedence.  He quotes his bible and Christian theologians a lot, but insofar as as giving specific reasons why he disagrees with what I say -- there isn't much that I saw.

At the risk of stating the obvious, if I have one interpretation of the meaning, and you have a different interpretation, then we have two interpretations.  The text itself may say suggest one, or the other, or a third.  You might prefer one interpretation over another, but the text still stands as it is.  For example, if the text says "God is not a man and lies," you may interpret it to mean, "God could still be a man, Jesus, who was perfect and did not lie," but that isn't what the text says.  Wildcat's attempts to dance around this (2) are, well, interesting.

A second complaint I have is that Wildcat frequently cites Talmud and other Jewish sources (or gives Christian apologetic citations of Jewish literature), but even if his citations are accurate, Talmud and the sages make up a huge, complex body of knowledge that compares to the medical literature in its vastness.  Talmud isn't for beginners. Anyone who wants to interpret it for me should tell me their own educational and training qualifications (not someone elses) to do so.  Giving spiritual advice on the basis of a random Talmudic quote is like telling someone how to manage diabetes after reading a page in a medical book.

Besides, this website is to talk about the Tanach only, not orthodox Jewish interpretations of it.  Wildcat may want to ask someone like Moishe Shulman what he thinks of Wildcat's citations.

Also, I think there is something vaguely dishonest in trying to prove the meaning of a scripture by quoting people whose authority you don't accept.

Third, unless my memory is worse than I think, Wildcat has misquoted me.  For example, he writes, "The author (Zvi) claims that sacrifices only atoned for unintentional sins."  Hey -- if I said that, show me where and I'll fix it.  And if you can't show me, then be more careful.

 


SPECIFIC COMMENTS

(A) Leviticus 5::11 says (JPS 1917) "But if his means suffice not for two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, then he shall bring his offering for that wherein he hath sinned, the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin-offering; he shall put no oil upon it, neither shall he put any frankincense thereon; for it is a sin-offering."  Wildcat says, in effect, I am taking out of context because I don't quote the following verse 12: "And he shall bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take his handful of it as the memorial-part thereof, and make it smoke on the altar, upon the offerings of the LORD made by fire; it is a sin-offering."  Quoting an apologist named Brown, Wildcat says, "Without the atoning altar and its sacrifices, the flour had no power at all."

Good try.  He adds an additional, contiguous verse, and says that changes the meaning.  I wish he would do more of this.

However, the second verse doesn't help him, and for several reasons.  First, "upon the offerings of the LORD made by fire" isn't what the text says.  The Hebrew 'al eshay HaShem' literally means 'on the fires of Hashem.'  I can't fault Brown too harshly for this since the 1917 JPS uses his version, though the 1962 JPS translation, A.J. Rosenberg , and Koren Publishers, do not.  So, although Brown/Wildcat say "The answer is really quite simple," they have started with a disputed translation.

But even if 'offerings of the LORD' was the Biblical writer's intention, these other offerings could refer to more flour offerings.  To say the other offerings must have been blood is an assumption not confirmed by the text.  Moreover, since the next verse, 5:13, says "...the remnant shall be the priest's, as the meal-offering," the flour could not have been mixed with blood because that would mean the priests would eat blood, something expressly forbidden.  (If you don't know enough Torah to understand that what goes to the priests is for the priests to eat, then I can't help you.)

Brown/Wildcat's statement that "Without the atoning altar and its sacrifices, the flour had no power at all," is an interpretation.  The text doesn't say that.  The text says the flour "is a sin-offering."  If W/B want to say that a sin offering does not atone for sins, they should give a definition of just what they think a sin offering is.

Another problem for W/B is the implications of their interpretation.  If - for the sake of argument only - all the above is wrong and the atonement was actually effected by the blood sacrifice of someone who had left an earlier offering, sort of a vicarious atonement, then this would mean that the sacrifice works even if neither the giver of the sacrifice or the person who benefits from the sacrifice knows about or acknowledges the other.  If they want to say this is the model for Jesus, then the idea of 'accepting' Jesus to get the benefit of the sacrifice is unnecessary.  All you need do is burn some bread sometime.

From what I skimmed, this was Wildcat's best shot.  Let me go to some of his other points for comparison.

(B) Wildcat/Brown quote Exodus 30:16 as "It (the half sheckel tax) will be a memorial for the Israelites before the Lord, making atonement for your lives," and say this was not to atone for their souls, "but rather protection from God's wrath."  Apparently they see G-d as some kind of Mafioso demanding protection money from people.  Unfortunately for their point of view, the text uses the word naphshtechem (from nephesh), which means 'your souls.'  Now, they can claim that the verse means life, but that isn't what it says.

(C) One of W/B's mistakes is sort of embarrassing.  Speaking of the incense burned after Korah's rebellion, Wildcat/Brown say, "One pushback in this case, however, is that the word for atone, "kipper," is used here whereas it was not in the cases of the money and jewelry," I don't know where W/B get their information, but Numbers 31: 50 is clear "And we have brought the LORD'S offering, what every man hath gotten, of jewels of gold, armlets, and bracelets, signet-rings, ear-rings, and girdles, to make atonement for our souls before the LORD."  The Hebrew is 'l'capare al naphshtenu.'  Perhaps W/B are so ignorant of Hebrew, they don't recognize that the English transliterations 'kipper' and 'capare' refer to the same Hebrew word - kaph-peh-raish.

To repeat, if Wildcat or anyone else wants me to respond to a point in his webpage that I have not covered, just let me know.  However, these three should give some idea of Wildcat's reliability.

 


IN THE BOX

When I wrote: "One cannot apply this verse to Jesus' blood in any event, because it specifies blood on the altar, and Jesus did not die on any altar, let alone the altar in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem which is what Leviticus is referring to," Wildcat answers, "This appears to be an objection based on "thinking inside the box." Christians maintain that the whole sacrificial system was established by God to foreshadow the ultimate sacrifice that was to come, that of Jesus Christ. The altar, and that of the temple furniture, etc. symbolized the New Covenant that was to be instituted by the Messiah and His sacrifice. Since these were mere symbols of the reality to come, this objection misses the point."

To put it mildly, this is interesting and sort of fun.  Would Wildcat agree that to think Genesis 1 refers only to a six day creation is 'thinking inside the box,' and that the details of specific creation refer to the broad picture of evolution?  Wildcat in effect agrees that the text doesn't support his beliefs, and so denies the plain meaning of the text, which he evidently sees as less reliable than his own ideas.  When you take it on yourself to interpret various details are representing something else, you get tremendous freedom, enough, in fact, to support an entirely different religion.  Which is what Wildcat does.

More later (especially if someone nags me.)

 

 


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(1) "...The reason the original article was so long, just FYI, was because ...I tried to be thorough in order to provide a wide range of information to the reader, serving as both a primary source of information more than just a rebuttal.

I ...will mill it over your response when I have time, and make relevant changes if I feel you were successful in rebutting any of my arguments. If I do so, I will let you know via e-mail. I will also let you know when and if I respond to your response." (back)

(2) "...technically, it would be most accurate regarding Christian theology to say that the eternal Word (or Wisdom, or Logos) of God entered human flesh and dwelt among men (cf. John 1:1-3, 16) rather than to simply spout the less informative phrase, "God became man." As to the text itself, regardless of the translation, this text does not present a problem. Indeed, God is not a man. Men lie and commit acts for which he should repent. God does not. This seems to be the interpretation demanded by the context. It does not negate the concept that God cannot enter human flesh. While Christians believe that Jesus is God Incarnate, we also believe that He retained His divine essence, and indeed, it is for this reason that we believe that Jesus was able to remain sinless whereas other men cannot...." (back)

 

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