Latest draft of a PDF version - with relevant Hebrew words in Hebrew letters - of this website comming soon.



This site has enjoyed over 10,000 visits, none of which has disproved (though some have tried) its main point  -- that the Tanach does not foretell Jesus or a Christ.  Missionaries  who happen to read this -- you are welcome to make your own attempt.



(still in construction)


Various Topics


Textual Analyses


Every third Jew in cyberspace has a counter missionary page, so why add another one?  Because the more you explain something, the more people will understand it.  This page shows Jews who are wrestling with their spirituality how to look at the Tanach (Hebrew scriptures) on its own terms, instead of trying to force it into a prediction of Jesus or a Christ type of messiah.

Missionaries claim that "Jesus fulfilled 300 prophecies from the Old Testament."  The claims depend on verses that are either poorly translated, taken out of context, or both.  Most of the claims in the list of 300 are just fanciful.  Looking at the verse in context--which, more often than not, just means looking at an entire chapter instead of an individual verse--and examining the translation more carefully is usually enough to show what the verse is actually about.  Some verses do indeed refer to Messiah, but not to Jesus.

This site discusses details of sixteen of these verses (some of which are still under construction).  If your favorite verse is not included, send me e-mail and I'll put it in.  The discussions can't be complete because these arguments can go on forever.  If you think I have omitted an important point, tell me, and, if I agree, I'll put it in.  Also, e-mail me if you find any mistakes in the quotations, translations, or logic.

NOTE: you may think you have found a mistake, but if I don't have to agree with you.  This sounds obvious, but at least one pushy missionary got mad that I didn't accept his words as--ahem--"gospel".

A personal note: Until age 30, Judaism held little interest for me. Then my five year old son, influenced by neighbors, decided that he was Christian. That was an eye-opener. About then, a friend introduced me to Jewish spirituality, something Hebrew school had never taught me. I started reading voraciously. It was as if I had spent my whole life on a shabby porch, looking with envy at beautiful buildings all around, without realizing that I had only to walk through a door in the porch to find my own building at least as glorious as any other. For whatever reason, my teachers had never shown me that door.

My reading was also stimulated by a missionary who kept posing problems I couldn't answer from a Jewish viewpoint. From a scientific viewpoint, I could trash him, but, before I started the reading, I couldn't respond to him as a Jew. That bothered me.

With what I learned, I was able to teach my son who he was and also give to the missionary Jewish answers. Since then, I've been actively combating Christian distortions of the Hebrew Scriptures. This website seems to be effective in that goal, because missionaries complain bitterly about these pages.  However, they can't answer the basic challenge - to show where the Hebrew Scriptures speak of Jesus or a Christ-type messiah.  Missionaries are quite good at showing their interpretations of Jesus or a Christ type messiah, but that isn't the same as the text actually speaking of them.

I welcome suggestions for new topics corrections of errors, or anything else. Your input is always welcome.

This page is NOT intended to convert Christians away from their religion.  Though some Jews disagree, I think Christianity is fine for Christians.  It is not fine for Jews--the Bible clearly says that God wants different things from different peoples.  My hope for missionizing Christians who read this page is for them to understand some of these differences, and to learn that there are more interpretations of the Tanach than they have been taught, so they need not try to convert Jews. E-mail me if you think I'm wrong about what Christians believe--but remember that Christians often disagree among themselves.  Don't tell me that someone else's belief is not "really Christian"--instead, tell that someone.

The Christian Bible is only occasionally referred to.  Other countermissionary links such as the Jews for Judaism library and Drazin's "Their Hollow Inheritance" discuss the so called "New Testament" and Christianity in more detail.  Most of these sources are less tolerant of Christianity than I am.

A note on translation:  The Romans said that the translator is a traitor.  In truth, all translations are compromises -- some better, and some worse.  No translation can perfectly reproduce the original.  For one, words shift their meanings from one place to another.  Also, words have many meanings, but these vary from one language to another.  For a graphic example, the word "calba" in Hebrew literally means bitch (female dog), but the Hebrew "calba" rarely has the other bitchy meanings of the English word.

If you disagree with my translations (mostly derived from Chabad), tell me why.  If you are unsure about anything on this page, look it up yourself or ask a recognized expert (though if your expert is committed in his or her religious belief, you'll know beforehand what he or she will say.).

For Christian translations, I usually quote the King James Version (KJV) of the Hebrew Scriptures because it is quite popular, and because most missionaries accept it as valid. Bible Gateway has other English translations and versions in other languages.  Bible Gateway doesn't have the original Hebrew but this Bilingual Tanach does -- with nikud, and with the 1917 Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation.


Genesis 1:1 (KJV) "1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

Hebrew has several words for God.  A common one is the word used here in Genesis 1:1 -- Elohim.  The grammatical form of this word is plural, leading missionaries to say that God must therefore be plural.  What they don't realize is that many Hebrew words have a plural form but a singular meaning -- for example water (myim), heaven (shamyim), life (chaiim), and face (panim) to mention a few.  "Yesh l'yilda panim yafot" means the girl has a pretty face.  Using the missionary logic, one would say something like that the poor girl is two faced.

Genesis 1:26 (KJV) "26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion"

The assertion here is that because the verb is in plural form, it indicates that God is plural.  This reasoning seems extreme to me.  Rashi says that God is talking to the angels, and enlisting their cooperation in the creation of humans, which seems much simpler.

A detailed discussion of singular nouns having a plural form in Hebrew can be found here.

Personally I think this verse describes how royalty talks.  When the Queen of England says, "We are not amused," does anyone think she has a multiple personality disorder?  (See comments on Deuteronomy 6:4)

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Genesis 3:15  (KJV) "'And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel..'"


Genesis 12:7 (KJV) And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him,'"

Christians, apparently following the lead of Paul, say that because the word "seed" (Hebrew "zera") is singular, that the verses refer to just one person, who must be Jesus.  Paul does not explain why it would have to refer to Jesus, but even so, his basic premise is wrong.  The Tanach uses the word "zera" to indicate many descendants just like the English word "seed" can refer to many.

Missionaries reply that this plural meaning holds only with the "seed" of a man (though why this should be so they do not explain.)  They say that because the Genesis 3 verse refers to the seed of a woman, it must be singular and refer to Jesus.  But this is not correct either -- in Genesis 16:10, the many descendants of Hagar (who was not in the line leading to the messiah), are also referred to as her "seed."

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Genesis 18:1-3  1 And the LORD appeared unto him by the terebinths of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2 and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood over against him; and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed down to the earth, 3 and said: 'My lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant.

Christians like to say that the three men represent the three aspects of their trinity.  To do this, they have to take the verse out of context with the rest of the chapter and the following chapter.  The short answer to them is that the three men are identified in chapter 19 as angels -messengers, each with a specific mission.

Here's the long answer:

Note that the use of the word 'Lord' in verse 1 refers to Hashem, but when Abram says 'My Lord' in verse 3, he is using the word for 'sir,' a difference that is obvious in the Hebrew.  So Abram does not initially recognize these three people as being God.

Only in verse 14 is there explicit identification of God as being the speaker.

14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD.

'Lord' there is 'Hashem,' not 'Sir.' Only then does Abraham start talking to God with the knowledge of who he is talking to.  So, the first assumption Christians must make is that Abram, the beloved of God, didn't recognize God right away.

Verse 22 is interesting:  22 And the men turned from thence, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.

These men can not be God, because they had left (at least some of them), and yet Abraham is still talking to HaShem.

In chapter 19, these men are identified explicitly:

1 And the two angels came to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom;

So these two men are not God himself, but are angels of God.  In Hebrew, the word for angel (malach -sounds similar to the word for king but spelled differently) also means messenger. These three men are, according to the text, messengers from God, and God talks to Abraham through the first messenger just like one person talks to another on the telephone.

Just as people say, "My friend called me today and said that...," instead of, "My friend called me today and my telephone told me his words that...," Scripture uses similar terms.  26 And the LORD said: 'If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will forgive all the place for their sake.'

Scripture doesn't say: And the angel spoke the words of the Lord and said ...

Now, one could object to this explanation because of the first phrase, "HaShem appeared to him" but I think this phrase is like the telephone phrase "I called him."

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Leviticus 17:11 is often cited to "prove" that blood atonement is needed to atone for sins.  The KJV translates it like this: For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

This interpretation has problems.  First, the passage does not say that blood is the only means to atone for souls, and, in fact, Torah lists several other means -- e.g. flour (Lev 5:11), money (Exodus 30:15-16), jewelry (Numbers 31:50) or putting fire from the altar in a censure (Numbers 17:11).  In addition, Hosea 14:3 says that our lips  (i.e. prayers from our lips) can substitute for bulls (i,.e. blood sacrifice), Micah (6:6-8) says God wants a good heart rather than blood sacrifices, and the both Isaiah (1:11) and the Psalmist (40 and 50) say that God does not need or care about blood sacrifices.  Blood is just one of many means for atonement.  (See "Verses Missionaries Ignore" for details.)

Secondly, Leviticus 17:11 speaks of atonement ("kapare" in Hebrew) for our souls, but not for 'sin' -- i.e. an act of intentional wickedness.  What else could atonement be for?  The Bible evidently has additional uses for the word, because the Bible speaks of atonement for acts committed by mistake (which we do not usually consider sins), and also speaks of making atonement for the altar (Exodus 29:36).  The word here may have the implication of making durably holy by applying a coating (see the story of Noah's ark), but whatever the meaning, one cannot impute deliberate wrongdoing to an altar.

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 clearly what is referred to.

Finally, the verse is taken out of context.  Verses 10 to 14 say (KJV):

In other words, the verse has nothing to do with salvation.  It is about the dietary laws -- specifically, the comments about the life being in the blood are an explanation for the prohibition against eating blood.

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Deuteronomy 6:4 (KJV) "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one"

One is surprised any missionary would use this, since it states the oneness of God.  However, some, (I don't know how many) retranslate it to: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is a compound unity."   This sounds sort of funny, but they are literally trying to change the meaning of the word "ehad" from "one" to "compound unity".

By this logic, three minus two would equal a compound unity, and dance instructors would give their students the beat by counting "compound unity, two three."  The number 21 (esreem v ehad) would be twenty plus a compound unity.

Biblical Hebrew is the same.  For example:

If you ask these missionaries what is the Hebrew word for 'one', they will either say "yachid" (which means "individual", not "one") or they will not have an answer.

(See comments on Genesis 1)

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Isaiah 9:6  (KJV). "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.'"  Christians say this refers to Jesus and indicates that Jesus will be born a child who is, at the same time, God.

Mistranslation: The two letter word "is", is usually not stated in Hebrew.  Rather,"is" is understood.  For example, the words "hakelev" (the dog) and "gadol" (big), when joined into a sentence -- hakelev gadol -- means "the dog IS big," even though no Hebrew word in that sentence represents the word "is."  A more accurate translation of the name of that child, then, would be "A wonderful counselor is the mighty God, the everlasting father ..."  Like the name "Emanuel," this name describes God, not the person who carries the name.

Context: Biblical names often describe God, and no one thinks to apply the description to the people with these names. The name Isaiah itself means "God is salvation," and not that the prophet himself is God in a human body.  Were we to use the same logic that Christians use on the names in Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6, we would say that the people named "Tuviya" (God is good), "Yedaya" (God knows), and "Ya-el" (HaShem is God) also are all God.

The same applies to Jeremiah 23:5-6 (KJV) "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.  6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS."  The correct translation is "HaShem is our righteousness" and the name describes God, not the person with the name.

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 Micah 5:1 (Or 5:2, depending on the edition.)  (KJV)  "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."  Christians say that since Jesus came from Bethlehem, the verse refers to him.

Historical Context is the problem with this interpretation.  Even if Jesus was born in Bethlehem (which is uncertain), he did not fulfill the second part of the verse -- Jesus was never a ruler ("moshel") in Israel.

Christians answer that he was some kind of virtual or spiritual ruler, but the word "moshel," in the 13 places I find it in the Bible, always refers to visible physical power.  Without at least one other use of the word to indicate non-visible authority, this answer is weak.

Christians also answer that Jesus will be the ruler when he returns.  But with that claim, they apparently agree that in fact he has not fulfilled the prophecy at this time, but that they think he will in the future.  As the Tanach does not speak of any second coming of Messiah, even that hope has little basis.

"If the verse does not refer to Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, who does it refer to?"  Frankly, asking that question reveals unfamiliarity with the Hebrew Scripture or Jewish history.  From Bethlehem comes one of the greatest and most famous rulers of Israel -- King David.  The verse may indeed be messianic, refering to Messiah through his ancestor David (similar to Isaiah's reference to David's father, Jesse, to indicate the Davidic line).  Or the prophet may be referring to David himself.

But, since it talks about an obvious ruler, the verse really cannot refer to Jesus.

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Jeremiah 31 verses 30-33 (or 31-34, depending on the edition) is often cited by Christians who identify the new covenant mentioned there with Jesus or with their "New Testament".  The problem is, they don't read far enough; they seem to read only the first two verses.

The KJV says:

The third verse is quite specific -- this is the covenant: my "law," (actually "Torah" in Hebrew, which is better rendered as 'teaching' than as 'law'), will be in everyone's heart, and (fourth verse) no one will teach anyone else about God, because all will know God.  Since Jesus didn't bring this about, he can't be this new covenant.

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Zechariah 12:10 (KJV) "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn."

The missionary argument here seems to be that the verse speaks of someone who has been pierced, and Jesus was pierced (by nails and by a spear) so the verse must refer to Jesus.  The main problem with this idea is that it doesn't fit the context.  This verse is part of description of events to happen at the beginning of the Messianic age.  Verses 2 to nine describe some of these events (in the New Living Translation because it is much easier to understand than the KJV):

2. I will make Jerusalem and Judah like an intoxicating drink to all the nearby nations that send their armies to besiege Jerusalem. 3 On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone, a burden for the world. None of the nations who try to lift it will escape unscathed. 4 "On that day, says the LORD, I will cause every horse to panic and every rider to lose his nerve. I will watch over the people of Judah, but I will blind the horses of her enemies. 5 And the clans of Judah will say to themselves, `The people of Jerusalem have found strength in the LORD Almighty, their God.' 6 "On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a brazier that sets a woodpile ablaze or like a burning torch among sheaves of grain. They will burn up all the neighboring nations right and left, while the people living in Jerusalem remain secure. 7 The LORD will give victory to the rest of Judah first, before Jerusalem, so that the people of Jerusalem and the royal line of David will not have greater honor than the rest of Judah. 8 On that day the LORD will defend the people of Jerusalem; the weakest among them will be as mighty as King David! And the royal descendants will be like God, like the angel of the LORD who goes before them! 9 For my plan is to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.

One needs only open the newspaper to see that none of these events, which are listed before this "piercing" has happened yet.  So how could the "piercing" refer to  a historical event.

There is also a problem of translation.  The Hebrew word rendered as "pierced" is "dakar", which usually has the implication of stab or run through with a sword, not pierce with a spear or nail.  And, in fact, both the NLT and the KJV render that same word, dakar, as "stab" or "thrust through" in the very next chapter, Zechariah 13:

  1. (KJV) In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.

  2. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.

  3. And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the LORD: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.

  4. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive:

  5. But he shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman; for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.

  6. And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.

Note, by the way, the reference to the false prophet with wounds in his hands in verse 6.

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Psalm 2 is about a king, who is anointed, against whom other kings plot, and who has just been declared God's son. This hits so many key words that Christians use, one can hardly blame them for trying to apply it to Jesus, even though there was a much better candidate.

The KJV renders it like this:

This Psalm, written (according to tradition) by King David, is about David.  Among David's other accomplishments, he was a military leader who expanded Israel's borders far beyond the rule of the previous king, Saul.  "The Kings of the earth" are in areas conquered by David and want to break away from David's rule.  According to the Psalmist (David), God laughs at them, and will empower David to crush them.  Therefore these kings should "be wise" -- i.e. accept David's authority over them.

This king says he is God's son.  Christians say Jesus was God's only son, but the Bible identifies Israel as God's first born son (Exodus 4:22), which indicates others.  That David would be called another of God's sons is consistent with the immense role he plays in Jewish history, a role which Christians may not fully appreciate.  And, of course, David, like any lawful king, is indeed God's "moshaic" (the Hebrew word translated as 'anointed" or as 'messiah') as was Saul (Sam 1 12:3; 24:7), and even Cyrus, a king who was not Jewish (Is 45:1).

To say that the king in this verse is Jesus raises problems.  For one, the chapter fits David so well that no other explanation is needed.  More to the point, if you say Jesus is this king and is also God, then you have to explain why the Psalm so explicitly refers to God and to this king as different entities ("against the LORD, and against his anointed," "Yet have I set my king," "Ask of me, and I shall give thee.")  Moreover, the phrase "this day have I begotten thee" is problematic, because Christianity does not teach that Jesus was begotten during David's reign, when the Psalm is traditionally said to have been written.

The imagery ("kiss the Son') in last verse does not fit the context, and is almost certainly mistranslated .   "Nashku bar" is the Hebrew.  "Bar" means "son" (more accurately, "son of") in Aramaic, not in Hebrew, and the Psalms are written entirely in Hebrew without Aramaic loan words.  Moreover, "nashku bar" even if Aramiac, would be bad grammar for "kiss the son."  "Arm yourselves with (or embrace) purity lest He become angry" fits the rest of the passage better and is more consistent with the Hebrew text.  Note also that the KJV translates Psalm 24:4 "'bar levav" (same word) as "a pure heart", not "son of the heart."

Here is the full passage (KJV):

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Psalm 110 (KJV) is of interest to missionaries mainly because of two verses:

This translation makes it seem as if the Lord is talking to my Lord -- as if the same word, "Lord", is used twice.  Missionaries thus decide that the first LORD is the father part of their trinity, and the second Lord is Jesus.  In fact, the KJV renders two different Hebrew words with different meanings as if they were the same English word, Lord.  The first word is the tetragramaton, The Name (HaShem.)  The second word is adoni, which means master, or lord with a small "l" (e.g. like in landlord).  Obviously, when correctly translated, the Christological reference disappears.

Here is my translation:

  1. Of David a psalm. The word of HaShem to my master; "Wait for My right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool at your feet."
  2. The staff of your might HaShem will send from Zion.  Rule in the midst of your enemies.
  3. Your people will volunteer on a day of your army at a glorious holy place.  The dew of your youth shone from the womb.
  4. HaShem swore and will not repent; you are a priest forever because of the words of Malchizedek.
  5. My master, on your right hand, has crushed kings on the day of his anger.
  6. He will judge nations [into] a heap of corpses; He crushed the head on a great land.
  7. From the stream on the way he would drink; therefore, he raised his head.

Who is this "master" (the individual called "Lord" by the KJV)?  If we assume the psalm's words are David's words, it could be anyone greater than David -- e.g. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Moses. In fact, Rashi interpretes it as being Abraham.  If we assume the words are written by one of David's courtiers, then the master is obviously King David himself, and the psalm is praising his military successes.

Jesus, who did none of the things described in the Psalm, doesn't fit.

Here is the KJV translation of the Psalm:

  1. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
  2. The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
  3. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.
  4. The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
  5. The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.
  6. He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries.
  7. He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.

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Proverbs 30:  (KJV) 2 Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. 3 I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.  4 Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?

Christians seize on the word "son," saying that since the fourth verse describes things only God can do, this 'son' must be Jesus.

The full context is different.  The writer, modestly proclaiming his own ignorance, asks who can do all of these wonderful things.  In effect, he says, "I am ignorant and do not know what man can do this.  Can you identify him for me?  Can you identify his family?"  Of course, no one can do these things except God.  Asking for the name of a family member is somewhat comparable to the modern phrase "You and what army?" to indicate something which someone cannot do.  The writer is emphasizing that humans can not match the abilities of the divine.  It is a rhetorical question, sarcastic in nature, and has no answer.  That is the point.

Note just two verses later: "6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar."  To say the chapter refers to Jesus is an addition.

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Psalm 22 has a page of its own.  In brief, some of the verses sound like Jesus' crucifixion, especially when mistranslated, but the Psalm as a whole sounds nothing like Jesus or his crucifixion.  Read the whole Psalm.  What it sounds like is King David in the middle of a depression (probably caused by Saul's trying to kill him) and finding relief from depression by means of his faith in God.

Isaiah 7: 14 also has a page of its own.  In brief, it's a comment on the politics of Isaiah's era, and has nothing to do with virgins or The Messiah.

Isaiah 53 also has a page of its own.  In brief, it cannot refer to Jesus because the subject of Isaiah 53, was sick, was buried with the wicked (plural) and had children and long life.  Jesus does not fit any of these.

Daniel 9 also has a page of its own.  In brief, though Christians claim it exactly predicts Jesus's crucifixion, the starting date they use is incorrect, the ending date is incorrect, the intervals of time are incorrect, and the verses do not even talk abut The Messiah.

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Tips for Debating with Missionaries
1) DON'T BE BLUFFED.  If a missionary's Biblical quote sounds unreal, ask for the specific chapter and verse of that quote, and check it yourself using a Jewish translation (the JPS 1917 Tanach has the advantage of being on line -- this particular website also has the Hebrew with nikud next to the translation).  Also, read several verses before and after the verse cited by the missionary.  This will usually clarify the verse, but if you have questions, ask someone you respect or even write me.  By the way, don't be surprised if, when you look it up, the verse sounds nothing at all like the way the missionary represented it. 2) DON'T BLUFF.  If you don't know or don't understand a verse which the missionary cites and you try to wing it, you stand a good chance of being driven into a corner and knocked psychologically off balance, a position which missionaries are quick to exploit.  Better to admit you do not know the verse, look it up either in these pages, the Jews for Judaism webpage, or somewhere else, and then get back to the missionary.  Again, you can always write me.
3) DON'T BE DIVERTED.  When the discussion is not going their way, missionaries often change the subject.  You find yourself refuting claims on one verse, then another, then a third without the missionary ever acknowledging a transition, leaving you to wonder why you cannot make a point.  Actually, you ARE making your points -- the missionary is just ignoring them.  It's fun to say "You've changed the subject -- does that mean you agree with what I said earlier?" 4) MAINTAIN YOUR BOUNDARIES.  Only your spiritual advisor should tell you of your sinfulness and your relationship with God.  No one has the right to approach you and appoint themselves as your spiritual advisor even if you do not have such an advisor.  If, in the middle of Bible discussion or elsewhere, a missionary starts asking if you have ever sinned-- you do not have to answer.  To ask how Jews atone for sin is a reasonable question (answer -- by repentance, which is not as easy as it sounds).  To ask how you personally atone for sins is presumptuous.
5) RECOGNIZE "UNIVERSAL REPLIES".  Universal replies are "arguments" that can apply to almost any point, and so, because they are so broad, cannot really answer any. For example:
  • "God can do anything" (also phrased as "you are trying to limit God"). The missionary might say that God can do anything, even become a human being. God could also become a toadstool, but do you honestly think that he would? Why, abilities notwithstanding, God would chose to do something the Tanach says he won't do?  At this point ask if God can forgive sins without bloodshed.  Strangely enough, this question throws them into a tizzy.
  • "You can't understand it unless the Holy Spirit shows it to you."  This is an interesting Calvinistic answer.  If God wants you to be "saved", you'll understand the verse and be home free.  If not, too bad.
  • "Verses can have double meanings."  "Even though Isaiah 7 has a political meaning, it could also have a second meaning about Messiah."  But if the text does not support their second meaning, why should we accept it?.
  • "The verse is about Jesus."  Missionaries seem to define the Hebrew text as being about Jesus.  They even say (literally) that Jesus was the Torah, claiming that this is obvious because Jesus is all over the Hebrew scripture.  They seem not to realize how this is a circular argument.
  • "That's what the devil would say" -- or even "You are an agent of the devil."  This is obviously a retort of desperation.  The missionary cannot answer you at all, so resorts to this kind of insult.

Regrettably, most American Jews do not have a spiritual advisor.  To find one takes some effort but, IMHO, the effort is worth while in and of itself, regardless of whether you debate with missionaries.  There are several places to look:

  1. Check out your own rabbi if you belong to a congregation, or any rabbi you happen to know and respect, or even a rabbi who a friend of yours knows and respects.    Any of these rabbis could turn out to be jerks, but a personal contact is the best way to start.

  2. If you are a college student, contact your local Hillel (if the college has one).

  3. If the above doesn't work, get on the phone and call local synagogues, talk to people, and consider joining if one feels comfortable to you.  Or find the nearest Reconstructionist or Chabad group in your area (yes -- I said "Reconstructionist or Chabad".  IMHO these two are the most dedicated to their spiritual principles and least concerned about pretty buildings or active brotherhoods.)

  4. Doctors and teachers come from the same root as do priests.  A wise and concerned psychologist (and occasionally a medical doctor, though they tend to be too busy and -- alas -- not interested enough in spirituality) can give excellent guidance, as can a teacher (generally in the humanities, not the hard sciences or applied professions).

  5. The contact does not have to be professional.  A wise aunt or uncle or friend (generally older than you are) can at times be an excellent source of spiritual guidance.

  6. The sponsors in 12 step programs such as AA or al-anon are often spiritually attuned to a high degree.

The main requirement is that your spiritual advisor be someone who you like and respect in general, and respect in particular their own spiritual development.

CAUTION: Financial, emotional, and sexual exploitation are all too common in the advisor-seeker relationship.  In general, it is best to have the two people of the same gender (unless, of course, both are gay.)  Be careful who you pick.  Rule of thumb -- if you like someone more than his or her ideas or spirituality, then that person is probably not a good choice to be your advisor.

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Revised Feb 2018

* The original post has the Hebrew letters rendered in a uni-code system that is supposed to show the actual letters on all platforms, but which is very bulky.

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