- Hardcover: 311 pages
- Publisher: Ktav Pub & Distributors Inc; First Edition edition (June 1, 1981)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0870688863
- ISBN-13: 978-0870688867
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,026,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Jew and the Christian Missionary: A Jewish Response to Missionary Christianity First Edition Edition
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He wrote in the Introduction to this 1981 book, "Few Jews are equipped with sufficient knowledge of their own Bible, let alone with that of Christian theology, to be able to discriminate between correct and incorrect interpretations of a biblical verse... To meet these needs, this book is designed to analyze, from a Jewish standpoint, the way the Hebrew Bible is used, and misused, by today's missionary movement... to demonstrate that the scriptural evidence does not substantiate the missionary claim that Christianity is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy."
Here are some quotations from the book:
"The phrase 'her seed' (in Gen 3:15) has nothing to do with the determination of the Messiah's lineage... Since God was not addressing a man... (it would not) have been grammatically correct for Him to have said, 'I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and HIS seed.'" (Pg. 3)
"It is a Christian missionary claim that the Temple was destroyed and the sacrificial system abolished only after Jesus offered himself as the supreme sacrifice. If that is so, what of the generations living in Babylonia during the first exile? Did God write them off... with no means of atonement and forgiveness?" (Pg. 13)
"There is nothing in this verse (Isa 7:14) which indicates that 'the young woman,' if she is assumed to be a virgin, is going to give birth while in that physical state." (Pg. 22-23)
"Christian missionaries who believe that the Septuagint's translation of the word 'almah' as 'parthenos' ('virgin') conclusively proves that an untouched virgin is spoken of, will have great difficulty explaining ... Genesis 34:3 ... (Dinah) was definitely not a virgin, yet the Greek word for 'virgin' ('parthenos') is used." (Pg. 24)
"The question is not whether God could bring about a virgin birth, but rather ... Would God have sexual relations with a betrothed woman, thereby causing her to violate one of His commandments...?" (Pg. 27)
"The two most crucial New Testament witnesses of the final disposition of the body, Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus (the latter only mentioned by John) are never mentioned again once the initial burial was complete." (Pg. 246)
Though he brings with him with a healthy dose of righteous indignation at the way Christian missionaries have expropriated and distorted Jewish symbols and concepts, Sigal writes with great warmth and considerable wit.
All in all, this is the best book in English on the subject
This is probably the most comprehensive work seeking to refute Messianic interpretations of the TaNaKh. He runs through all the Bible verses he can muster in his attempt to disprove a possible Christian interpretation but, unlike other writers in this vein, Sigal has actually tried to take into account the arguments of Christian rebuttals of Isaac of Troki's "Hizzuk Emunah".
Sigal posts two disclaimers in his introduction, the first being this: "The basic theological differences involved in the dispute between Judaism and the missionaries are examined in detail, not in order to refute the beliefs of pious Christians but to demonstrate that the scriptural evidence does not substantiate the missionary claim that Christianity is the fulfilment of biblical prophecy" (p.xvi). This statement is, however, disingenuous simply because the very raison d'être of Christianity is precisely that it is the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy!
The second is this: "Since the main purpose of this work is to reply to the claims of the Christian missionary movement, it carries as a necessary concomitant a disputation of commonly held Christian beliefs. It is not, however, the aim of this book to direct criticism at Christians who do not seek to convert Jewish people ... . This book has been written neither with malice nor with intent to insult either Christians or Christianity, but with the purpose of setting right those Jews who are being deluded into joining Christianity by out-and-out distortions of the Hebrew Bible" (pp.xvii-xviii). Inevitably, such an approach will insult both Christians and Christianity, since true Christianity is a "missionary religion" which transcends ethnic boundaries, just like Buddhism and Islam. Jesus commanded His followers, initially Jews, to spread the Gospel message throughout the world and to proclaim it to everyone, starting with the Jewish people (Acts 1:8). Professing "Christians" who disagree with this vision are living in disobedience to God's will.
The late Dr Louis S. Goldberg (1923-2002), a famous Jewish Christian, wrote a booklet analyzing Sigal's book, in which, despite Sigal's apparent orthodoxy, he noted that Sigal "handles the Scriptures from a liberal, and oftentimes rationalistic, exegesis. ... . Sigal's treatment of basic Scripture passages includes only what modern rationalistic Judaism teaches. He never considers the fact that a distinct shift has occurred in modern Judaism from what the ancient Jewish sages taught." (A Jewish Response, pp.3, 4)
It is extraordinary indeed that Sigal writes as if he has forgotten that the first "Christians", including Saul (Paul the apostle) were all Jews and that the New Testament penmen (with the possible exception of Luke) were also Jews. Wishing to place as great a barrier between himself and Christians, he writes as if they were all Gentiles! However, there is no question that virtually none of the key New Testament doctrines could possibly have arisen out of a Gentile milieu. Gentiles were taught them by Jews, just as the TaNaKh predicts.
Furthermore, throughout this work, Sigal fails to take account of the full range of Jewish interpretations of the TaNaKh throughout Jewish history. He completely ignores the record of earlier Jewish exegetes who accepted a full-bodied Messianic application of key passages like Isaiah 9:6-7 and Isaiah 53.
All of this raises the question as to why Sigal finds the Christian Faith so alien. Could it be that Judaism took a reactionary turn at the Council of Yavneh (70-80 CE) after the destruction of the Second Temple? If so, then Sigal and his Jews for Judaism colleagues are adherents of a Judaism revised in reaction to the Christian Faith.
Thus his stated aim of "setting right those Jews who are being deluded into joining Christianity" is somewhat bizarre. What could be more natural than for Jews to follow a doctrine which had its origins within the Jewish fold?
Dr Goldberg also wrote that, "There is enough research in Sigal's book to satisfy the *uncritical* reader. The scholarly language will give those who intend not to believe in Jesus a false sense of security. However, readers who are not committed to a foregone conclusion might well feel uncomfortable with the twists and turns Sigal makes to `prove' his points. Ironically, Sigal might have outdone the missionaries in presenting a case for the messiahship of Jesus. By depersonalizing and generalizing so many of God's promises to the Jewish people, he has inadvertently suggested that if Jesus isn't the Messiah, neither is anyone else" (p.16 - my emphasis).
It would seem that Sigal has gone just one step too far. Wanting to show that Jesus is not the Messiah foretold in the TaNaKh, he has made his criteria so tight that in the end no-one could ever hope to qualify as Messiah.
An interesting anecdote is my knowledge of a Jewish man in north London whose reading of Sigal's book started him on a sympathetic examination of the Christian faith. It would seem that in reading this book he underwent some form of aversion therapy. Having faced the worst that a modern Jewish scholar could throw at him, he become open to the possibility that Jesus might after all be God's longed-for Messiah! Life is full of these ironies. Thank you, Gerald Sigal!