Unequal Weights And Measures



To Michael L. Brown,

Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus:

Vol. 5: Traditional Jewish Objections

(Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010)



(Originally written for the UMJC Theology Forum, 1991)

The biblical injunction against false weights and measures is repeated throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, elaborated in the Talmud, treated under three separate headings in the rabbinic literature on the 613 commandments, and codified by Maimonides in his Mishneh Torah (taking up two whole chapters), by Yaakov Ben Asher in his Arba‘ah Turim and by Yoseph Karo in his Shulhan Arukh (the entry in Hoshen Mishpat including 28 subdivisions).1

The first occurrence of this important command is at the close of the holiness precepts in Lev. 19 (vv. 35-37): “You shall not falsify measures of length, weight, or capacity. You shall have an honest balance, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin. I the Lord am your God who freed you from the land of Egypt. You shall faithfully observe My laws and all My rules: I am the Lord” (NJV). The fact that these words follow vv. 33-34, which enjoin the people of Israel to love the stranger who resides among them as they love themselves, was not missed by the rabbis.2 More fully, the injunction is repeated in Deut. 25:13-16: “You shall not have in your pouch alternate weights, larger and smaller. You shall not have in your house alternate measures, a larger and a smaller. You must have completely honest weights and completely honest measures, if you are to endure long on the soil that the Lord your God is giving you. For everyone who does those things, everyone who deals dishonestly, is abhorrent to the Lord your God.”

The principle of this prohibition is clear: It is forbidden to use a short weight/measure when weighing out the produce sold, while using a large weight/measure when weighing out the money received in payment. It is deceitful, unjust, and unfair. That’s why the Scripture promises the people of Israel long life on their native soil if they would be obedient to this rule. As expressed by Abraham Ibn Ezra: “It is a known fact that every kingdom based on justice will stand. Justice is like a building. Injustice is like the cracks in that building, which cause it to fall without a moment’s warning.”3

In light of this, and remembering the Lord’s hatred for injustice, it is only natural that prophets like Amos, Micah and Ezekiel abhorred the practice of false scales and measures, and the words of Proverbs make perfect sense: “False scales are an abomination to the Lord; an honest weight pleases Him” (11:1); “Honest scales and balances are the Lord’s; all the weights in the bag are His work” (16:11); “False weights and false measures, both are an abomination to the Lord” (20:10); and “False weights are an abomination to the Lord; dishonest scales are not right” (20:23).

Of course, these verses deal almost entirely with principles of economic and commercial fairness, and later rabbinic discussion deals almost exclusively with these areas. But Rabbi Chaim Ibn Attar, author of the standard Torah commentary Or HaChaim, makes an important observation on the key words in Deut: 25:16 -- kol ‘oseh ’elleh kol ‘oseh ‘awel, “everyone who does those things, everyone who deals dishonestly.” He explains that the words “those things” refer to weights and measures, but that the more general words, “everyone who deals dishonestly” are there so that no one would think of restricting the injunction against dishonest practices to just these areas. Rather, the Torah is against all who deal dishonestly. In fact, even in the realm of economic dishonesty alone, Yaakov Ben Asher, the Ba‘al HaTurim, notes: “He who violates the law of just weights is considered to be in rebellion against the entire body of mitzvot. One cannot pretend to serve God and, at the same time, deceive one’s fellow man.”4 Thus, according to both the Scriptures and the rabbinic writings, this is a weighty issue (no pun intended)!

But what has all this got to do with the anti-missionaries? Simply everything. Their whole practice of using one canon of criticism when treating the New Testament, while using an entirely different canon of criticism when treating the Tanakh and the Talmud, smacks of the practice of false weights and measures. It is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, and it can only bring disgrace to the anti-missionaries.

Let me explain. When attacking the New Testament -- that is exactly what the anti-missionaries do -- they often use a three-pronged approach: hyper-literality, alleged contradictions, and alleged misquotations.

In terms of hyper-literality, they will ask: “Do you literally believe what Jesus said? Then, if your right eye is causing you to sin, you should gouge it out and throw it away!” Or, “Didn’t Jesus say, ‘Give to him who asks you?’ Then give me your wallet, your shirt, and the keys to your car!” Or, in abusing the concept of the incarnation (I doubt that many of our opponents actually try to understand the incarnation in any serious way) they will use coarse quips such as, “Does your God wear diapers?”5 The overall effect of their hyper-literality is to try and make our faith seem idiotic and absurd.

In terms of alleged contradictions, these can be divided into two categories: historical problems and apparent contradictions within the New Testament sources themselves. A favorite passage of the anti-missionaries is Stephen’s speech in Acts 7, a speech supposedly brimming with error. And, if we would object that, even if there were errors (I do not believe there are) it would be no problem, since inspiration only means that Luke accurately recorded what Stephen said, the hyper-literal anti-missionaries are quick to point out that Stephen was “filled with the Spirit” when he spoke. Thus, according to them, if he really had spoken in the Spirit, he could not have made an error! As for apparent contradictions within the sources, the Gospel accounts of Yeshua’s betrayal, crucifixion, and resurrection, or the accounts of Saul’s Damascus road experience in Acts are singled out as being hopelessly at odds with themselves.6 The overall effect of these accusations is to try and make our Scriptures appear utterly untrustworthy.

In terms of alleged misquotations, we are generally pointed to verses like Mat. 2:23, “He will be called a Nazarene” -- supposedly an entirely fabricated verse; and Heb. 10:5, “A body you have prepared for me” -- supposedly a blatant alteration of the Hebrew of Psa. 40:6; or, verses allegedly wrenched from their original context, like Hos. 11:1b, “I called My son out of Egypt,” quoted in Mat. 2:15; and Isa. 7:14, the Immanuel prophecy, quoted in Mat. 1:23.7 The overall effect of these accusations is especially serious. It tries to give the impression that the authors of the New Testament were not only idiotic and untrustworthy; according to the anti-missionaries, they were actually devious and deceitful.8

The plain truth is this: It is the anti-missionaries who are often being devious and deceitful. For if they would be honest with themselves, they would have to admit that, using the same canon of criticism on their own sacred texts, they would utterly shipwreck their own faith. In other words, if the New Testament would be disqualified by anti-missionary arguments in one hour, using those same arguments, the Tanakh would be disqualified in a matter of minutes and the Talmud in a matter of seconds! The anti-missionaries will readily accept the views of critical, nihilistic New Testament scholars, while following only rigidly conservative (generally, traditional Jewish) scholars of the Old Testament.9

Stop and think for a moment. What if the shoe were on the other foot? What if the anti-missionaries believed in the New Testament and we were left to defend the Tanakh and the rabbinic writings? What would the anti-missionaries do then? Just imagine what their unsympathetic and shallow hyper-literality would do with passages like Gen. 2:18-20, where the Lord apparently brought giraffes, monkeys, elephants, and armadillos to Adam, only to find that none of them would make a good wife for him;10 or, Exod. 4:24-26, where the Lord sent Moses to Egypt to deliver His people, but tried to kill him on the way -- because he failed to circumcise his son. And I’m sure they would also have plenty of comments to make about God’s bow that appears in the sky after the showers (Gen. 9:12ff.), or about the “windows of heaven” that are opened to allow the rain that is above the expanse to fall to earth (Gen. 7:11).

What would the anti-missionaries do with the moving story of the ‘aqedah? Would they ridicule a God Who tests the obedience of His faithful servant by asking him to slaughter his own son? (Of course, they would also point out that according to the text, He is hardly omniscient -- see Gen. 22:12). Would they contrast the goodness of the Heavenly Father in the New Testament with the cruelty of Yahweh in the Old -- a Yahweh Whose incessant hardening of Pharaoh caused him to lead Egypt to disaster, even when Pharaoh was ready to let Israel go? Just picture how the anti-missionaries would glory in the mercy of the Son of God, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” while denigrating the Lord’s command to exterminate totally the Canaanites -- men, women, children, and babies. And would they be sympathetic to the fact that the Torah legislated slavery (Exod. 21:1-11), or that when the Israelites went to war, the Torah permitted them to spare good looking virgins for possible future wives (Deut. 21:10-14)? And have the anti-missionaries forgotten that, historically speaking, the great problem has been that the God of the Old Testament seems to be a less compassionate, gracious, and universal God than the God of the New Testament? This has always been an issue for New Testament theologians, as well as for destructive Gnostic critics like Marcion, or less radically, like Adolph Harnack. One need only think of the vicious work of Friederich Delitzsch -- son of the brilliant Franz Delitzsch, a true friend of Israel -- attacking the Old Testament as dangerous, and recommending that it be dropped from seminary curriculum.11 Remember, it is Psalm 137 -- not the New Testament -- that pronounces a blessing on those who smash Babylon’s babes on the rocks.12 What if the anti-missionaries were attacking this?!

As for the God of the Talmud and Midrash, He could not possibly fare much better. What would the anti-missionaries say of a God who asked for prayer for Himself? Yet, in a famous Talmudic account, the Lord asks the high priest to pray for Him!13 Doubtless, the anti-missionaries would also have great fun with a God Who wore tallis and tefillin, studied Torah, and weaved ornamental crowns for its letters,14 or a God whose decrees could be nullified by a tsaddik.15 As for the sensational tales and exploits of the sages, if taken at face value they would make the stories in the National Enquirer look sober and reliable.16 And there is no doubt that Talmudic dialectology would receive the derision of the mocking anti-missionaries. To give just one example, consider the Talmudic phenomenon called teyku (Aramaic for, “It remains standing”), used in cases where there is no possible way to arrive at a definitive answer to the halakhic problem presented.17 A classic case of teyku occurs with reference to the search for leaven on Passover.18 The problem, as summarized by Prof. Louis Jacobs, is presented by Rava, a fourth century Babylonian Amora: “Supposing, asks Rava, a mouse is seen entering a house that has been searched and found to be clean of leaven. The mouse has a morsel of bread in its mouth, and is later seen coming out of the house with a morsel of bread in its mouth. Are we to conclude that it is the same mouse and the same morsel (i.e., and, consequently, the house does not require to be searched again) or are we to be apprehensive that it might be a different mouse and morsel (so that the house must be searched again)? Supposing, continues Rava, we say that it is the same mouse, then what would be the law where a white mouse having leaven in its mouth is seen entering the house and then a black mouse with leaven in its mouth is seen coming out of the house? Here, since it is a different mouse, it must be assumed that it is a different piece of leaven, or, possibly, it can be argued, it is the same piece of leaven which the black mouse has taken from the white mouse (and the house requires no further search). If we argue that mice do not snatch food from one another, what is the law if a mouse is seen to enter the house with leaven in its mouth and then a weasel comes out of the house with leaven in its mouth? Weasels certainly take food from mice and it can therefore be assumed that it is the same piece of leaven, or it may be assumed to be a different piece of leaven, otherwise it would have been the mouse, not the leaven, that was in the weasel’s mouth. And, further, what is the law where the weasel comes out with both the mouse and the leaven in its mouth? The Talmud concludes, as it invariably does when faced with an insoluble problem of this type, teyku . . .”19

Would the anti-missionaries find this to be sublime, inspired, and edifying? I can almost hear them contrasting such Talmudic dialectics with the awesome power and simplicity of 1 Corinthians 13 or the spiritual heights of Romans 8. Let’s be honest: If the anti-missionaries disparage the Sermon on the Mount, what would they do with the Talmud’s 39 sub-divisions of prohibited Shabbat labor? How they would they take refuge in Yeshua’s authoritative word from heaven, standing as it does in such stark contrast to the opinions and traditions of men!

Continuing for another moment on the subject of hyper-literality, what would the anti-missionaries do with the lex talionis -- the eye for eye, tooth for tooth law of retribution -- especially in light of the Torah’s emphasis “to show no pity”?20 They certainly would not accept the claim of the oral tradition that these statutes always and only referred to monetary compensation! Or consider the law in Deut. 25:11-12, ordering the Israelites to cut off the hand of a woman who grabbed the genitals of a man fighting with her husband. Think how they would ridicule no less a luminary than the Rambam -- Moses Maimonides -- since he taught that even if a proven prophet urged literal obedience to this Torah law21 (as opposed to following the sages’ interpretation of monetary compensation here also), then that prophet should be strangled as a false prophet!22 Thus, a proven prophet following the plain sense of the Scripture carries less weight than the oral tradition. I can almost see the young ba‘al teshuvah dropping his head in despair as the anti-missionary gently points out to him that following the rabbis is cult-like. Yes, the anti-missionary would doubtless recommend serious deprogramming, especially for those poor souls who had spent years learning in a Yeshivah!

More seriously, have the anti-missionaries chosen to ignore the fact that to this day, it is the Talmud that is ridiculed and scorned for allegedly sanctioning such horrible sins as murder, pederasty, and bestiality? There is no religious text on earth more liable to misinterpretation and abuse than the Talmud -- consider the notorious writings of Johann A. Eisenmenger, August Rohling, and more recently, Theodore Winston Pike and even James McKeever and Gary North23 -- yet, the anti-missionaries are willing to attack the New Testament writings in the basest ways, freely utilizing the findings of the most radical, negative New Testament critics.24 Of course, the anti-missionaries know full well that as Messianic Jews we will not retaliate in kind: First, because we are Jews, we will give no fuel to the anti-Semitic fire of those who viciously attack the Talmud; second, we all have some degree of appreciation for at least some parts of the Talmud, even though we differ with its presuppositions; and third, since most of us know very little about the Talmud, we could not criticize it even if we wanted to! And who among us would ever dream of attacking the Tanakh -- our own sacred Scriptures? Yet it is easy for the anti-missionaries to take pot-shots at the New Testament because of its limited size as well as its wide accessibility. Once again, the anti-missionaries are guilty of unethical practices -- hitting below the belt because they know we won’t “counter punch.”

Moving on to the subject of historical problems,25 consider how the anti-missionaries would contrast Luke’s excellent reputation as a historian26 -- remember, for the sake of this paper, the shoe is still on the other foot! -- with the apparent historical problems in the Torah. First and foremost would be the literal six-day creation with a six thousand year-old earth. How unscientific! Then there would be the problem of the apparently anachronistic appearance of the Philistines in the patriarchal narratives, or the lack of any clear Egyptian historical evidence for the exodus.27 And what would they do with the Talmudic chronology, a chronology that makes Zerubbabel, Malachi, Ezra, and Simeon the Just into contemporaries, reduces the Persian period (from the rebuilding of the Temple under Zerubbabel in 516 B.C.E. to Alexander’s conquest) to 34 years, incorrectly tallies the duration of the First and Second Temples,28 and (apparently) places Yeshua with sages who lived in both the second century B.C.E. as well as the second century C.E.?29

As for alleged contradictions, the anti-missionaries would go wild here, especially in the Five Books of Moses. After highlighting the apparent discrepancies in the creation accounts of Genesis 1 and 2, and pointing out that the Torah sometimes provides different etiologies for the same event --e.g., the naming of Beersheva30 -- they could simply move to the Ten Commandments. After all, these are the very words of God, and Moses is the key mediatorial figure in the Hebrew Scriptures. Yet there are several key contradictions between the commandments as given at Mount Sinai (according to Exod. 20:1-17) and the repetition of the commandments as given by Moses (according to Deut. 5:6-21). Most noteworthy are the numerous differences in the wording of the Sabbath commandment, beginning with the first word: Did God say remember (zakhor) the Sabbath, or did He say keep (shamor) the Sabbath? Just think of how the anti-missionaries would howl when we sheepishly stated, shamor wezakhor bedibbur ’ekhad hishmi‘anu ’el hameyukhad: “At Mount Sinai, the One God simultaneously caused us to hear the words keep and remember.”31 I don’t imagine the anti-missionaries would be any happier with our answers to the other differences occurring in the two Sabbath commandments, or with our explanations for the variations in the two versions of the command not to covet.32 And undoubtedly, they would question Moses’ trustworthiness as a transmitter of divine information: If he changed the wording of the very statements that all the people of Israel heard for themselves, how could he possibly be trusted with a totally secret, oral tradition, heard by no Israelites? The anti-missionaries would also be quick to point out that in Exod. 34:10-26, a completely different decalogue seems to be given, even stating in v. 28 that it was apparently Moses -- not the Lord -- who inscribed the words in the stone tablets. And speaking of Moses, the anti-missionaries would probably pick on his father-in-law too: Was his name Jethro, Reuel, or Hobab son of Reuel?33 Before departing from the Torah, they would throw some parting shots: Jacob, the elders of Israel, and Moses are credited with seeing God (Moses spoke with Him face to face),34 yet we are told elsewhere (Exod. 33:20) that no one can see Him and live. A straightforward reading of Exod. 6:3 states that God’s covenant name, Yahweh, was unknown to the patriarchs.35 What would the anti-missionaries do with this?

Having completed their demolition job on the Torah -- there are dozens of apparent discrepancies they would gleefully cite -- they could move to the Talmudic harmonization of these discrepancies, harmonizations that more often than not violate the peshat.36 After making us dizzy with Talmudic “explanations,” taking time to point out instances where the interpretation of the sages is said to “uproot Scripture,”37 they could say: “Remember, we haven’t even touched on the parallel accounts in the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. You’re really in trouble there!”38

As for internal contradictions within the Talmud itself, the classic story of the martyrdom of Rabbi Akiva appears in various accounts no less difficult to harmonize than the Gospel accounts of Yeshua’s betrayal.39 Nor would the zealous anti-missionaries fail to emphasize that, in a sense, Talmudic methodology is actually built on endless, often forced, “reconciliations” of conflicting opinions and interpretations (there is always the ever present makhloket/makhloikes), including differences in interpretations of both Scripture and Mishnah, along with conflicts between Tanna and Tanna, Tanna and Amora, and Amora and Amora.40 I doubt the anti-missionaries would even let us try to explain that, “The two mutually contradictory positions are both the words of the living God!”41

Last but not least, the anti-missionaries would set upon the subject of misquotation and/or misinterpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures within the rabbinic literature, and even within the Tanakh itself. The anti-missionaries would confront us with the fact that Deut. 24:16, a rare Torah verse quoted in its entirety in the historical books, appears in 2 Kin. 14:6 as well as in 2 Chr. 25:4, yet both times the wording is different! There is even a variation of the verbal forms in 2 Chr. 25:4 yamutu, “they will die,” vs. the original yumatu, “they will be put to death.” Wasn’t every word of the Torah dictated to Moses? Yet the other biblical writers couldn’t even copy one verse accurately! Ezra also makes reference in prayer to the “commandments which You gave us through Your servants the prophets when You said . . .” (Ezra 9:10-12), but the words quoted are not found in that exact form elsewhere in the Scriptures.42

As for Talmudic usage of Scripture, the anti-missionaries would have a field day. They would ridicule the interpretation of Exod. 34:27, where “Write down these commandments, for in accordance with these commandments I make a covenant with you and with Israel” is quoted to demonstrate the supremacy of the oral (!) Torah.43 They would certainly question the moral integrity of the sages who interpreted the end of Exod. 23:2 to say, “Follow the majority,” whereas the verse is universally understood by both Jewish and Christian exegetes and translators to mean, “Don’t follow the majority”!44 Then, after some digging, the anti-missionaries would come up with some surprising -- and potentially damaging -- information: In addition to apparent misinterpretations, the actual Talmudic citations of the Hebrew Scriptures sometimes vary from the Masoretic tradition,45 and there is at least one instance in which part of a verse not found in any Masoretic biblical manuscript is quoted by the fourth century sage Rav Nahman Bar Isaac -- to the consternation of the later Talmudic commentators.46

Of course, we have only scratched the surface of what the anti-missionaries might say and do should the shoes be on the other feet. But our contention concerning the anti-missionaries practice of using unequal weights and measures is clear. Yet there are some very positive and constructive points that can be made as a result of this discussion, and it is with these points that we conclude.

First, there are answers! -- but only for the sympathetic and open. The very same methodology that can provide answers for the Old Testament and rabbinic problems referred to in the bulk of this paper can provide answers for the New Testament problems raised by the anti-missionaries. For example, the question of the apparent misquotation of the Tanakh in the Talmud points to valid textual traditions outside of the Masoretic textual traditions.47 Only when the ancient texts and versions are carefully sifted can we arrive at an understanding of precisely why a given New Testament author chose to quote (or, adapt) an Old Testament verse in a particular form.48 Note also that, compared with the biblical interpretation at Qumran and rabbinic literature, the New Testament’s usages of the Old Testament are remarkably sober and well thought out.49

Second, seemingly strange interpretations should be seen in the light of larger contextual themes, sometimes even reflecting Targumic or possibly, on occasion, Midrashic liberties.50 Also, just as the Torah is greatly exalted in rabbinic literature -- and hence the sages find allusions to the Torah throughout the Tanakh -- the New Testament writers saw Yeshua as absolutely central, reading the Tanakh in light of Him.51

Third, we can gain insight into how best to deal with the Talmud (or even the Koran, albeit to a much lesser degree). We must be fair to the text, seeking to understand it through the eyes of its transmitters and/or interpreters. We must seek to be scientific and honest; then, we can freely contrast its differences, critique its misinterpretations, and even cut down its errors -- in fairness and with a spirit of love.52

Finally, we must adopt a totally non-defensive posture when dealing with the anti-missionaries. The truth is with us, and unethical practices are doomed to fail. As Yeshua said, “Every plant that My heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots” (Mat. 15:13).53 Indeed, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away” (Mat. 24:35). Let us boldly proclaim those eternally valid words!54

1 See Lev. 19:35f; Deut.25:13-16; Ezek. 45:9-12; Hos. 12:7; Amos 8:5; Mic. 6:10f.; Prov. 11:1, 16:11, 20:10, 20:23; b. Bava Batra 88b, 89a; b. Bava Mesia 49b, 61b; Sifre Ki Tetze; j. Bava Batra, Chap. 5, Halakha 11; Yad, Hilkhot Genevah 7:8; Sefer HaMitzvot (Aseh) 208, (Lo Ta’aseh) 271, 272; Sefer Mitzvot Gadol (Aseh) 72, (Lav) 151, 152; Sefer Mitzvot Katan 264; Tur and Shulhan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat 231; Sefer HaHinnukh, Mitzvot 258, 259, 602. Cf. also Abraham Chill, The Mitzvot: The Commandments and Their Rationale (Jerusalem: Keter Books, 1974), 250-252; Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb: A Philosophy of Jewish Laws and Observances (Eng. trans., Dayan Dr. I. Grunfeld; London: Soncino, 1981), 240-242; “Eyphah and Eyphah,” in Rabbi Meyer Berlin, et al., eds., Talmudic Encyclopedia (Eng. trans., Jerusalem: Talmudic Encyclopedia Institute, 1982), 2:168ff.

2 See especially Abravanel (cited by Chill, Mitzvot, 252).

3 See Dr. J. H. Hertz, Pentateuch and Haftorahs (London: Soncino, 1975), 856.

4 See Chill, Miztvot, 251f.

5 Cf., e.g., Samuel Levine, You Take Jesus, I’ll Take God: How to Refute Christian Missionaries (2nd. ed., Los Angeles: Hamoroh Press, 1980), 93, Question B16: “Is it true that your god wore diapers?”

6 For a classic statement of these objections, see Isaac Troki, Faith Strengthened (Hizzuk Emunah): The Jewish Answer to Christianity (repr., Brooklyn: Sepher Hermon, 1970), esp. 227-280.

7 Cf., e.g., Michoel Drazin, Their Hollow Inheritance: A Comprehensive Refutation of the New Testament and Its Missionaries (Jerusalem: Gefen, 1990), 41.

8 Drazin, Hollow Inheritance, 15-24, accuses the New Testament and Christianity as a whole of “Pious Fraud.”

9 Gerald Sigal, The Jew and the Christian Missionary: A Jewish Response to Missionary Christianity (New York: Ktav, 1981), xviii, states in his Preface that he did “not utilize the works of those Christian scholars who, using the scientific approach to the New Testament, have, for more than a century, dismissed as unhistorical many of the traditional episodes in Jesus’ life.” Needless to say, Sigal does not mention the fact that like minded “scientific” scholars -- both Jewish and Christian -- have come to the same negative conclusions regarding the unhistorical nature of many of the traditional episodes recounted in the Hebrew Scriptures! Sigal’s methodology, which seeks to dismantle the literal truthfulness of the New Testament, would have disastrous effects if used against his own sacred Scriptures.

10 And what would the anti-missionaries do with the rabbinic comment that indicates that Adam had sexual relations with the animals before determining that none of them was suitable? See b. Yebamot 63a, and cf. below, n. 23, for references to attacks against the Talmud which rabbinic remarks like this have sparked.

11 See John Bright, The Authority of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975), esp. 58-109.

12 I actually heard a pro-abortion activist (and self-proclaimed biblical scholar) on a call-in radio show use this verse to argue that those who claimed to be true Bible believers had no right to oppose abortion, since, after all, the Scriptures sanction child killing!

13 b. Berakhot 7a.

14 See conveniently A. Cohen, Everyman’s Talmud (New York: Schocken, 1975), 7 (with reference to b. Berakhot 61; b. Rosh Hashanah 17b; and b. Avodah Zarah 3b); and C. G. Montefiore and H. Loewe, A Rabbinic Theology (New York: Schocken, 1974), 24 (with reference to b. Shabbat 89a).

15 For references, see Robert Gordis, The Book of Job: Commentary, New Translation, and Special Studies (New York City: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1978), 251.

16 Cf. Z. H. Chajes, The Student’s Guide through the Talmud, trans. and ed. by Jacob Shachter (New York: Philipp Feldheim, 1960), 195-200, “Aggadoth Aimed at Inspiring and Stirring the Curiosity of the People.” The issue, of course, is not whether these fabulous accounts actually occurred; rather, it is an issue of methodology: How would the anti-missionaries use (or, abuse) such narratives?

17 For complete discussion, see Louis Jacobs, TEYKU: The Unsolved Problem in the Babylonian Talmud (London: 1981).

18 b. Pesachim 10b.

19 See Louis Jacobs, A Tree of Life: Diversity, Flexibility and Creativity in Jewish Law (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1984), 28f.

20 Deut. 19:21; cf. also 7:2, 16, 13:8, 19:13, 25:12.

21 As cited in the previous note, the Torah (Deut. 25:12) here enjoins that no pity be shown in the treatment of the woman.

22 Cf. Zvi Lampel, trans., Maimonides’ Introduction to the Talmud: A Translation of the Rambam’s Introduction to His Commentary on the Mishna (New York: Judaica Press, 1987), 50: “Altering the Oral Law in any way is . . . a manifestation of false prophecy, even if the prophet is ostensibly supported by a literal interpretation of a verse, as opposed to its actual meaning.” With regard to Deut. 25:12, Maimonides states (ibid.): “If a prophet would claim that this verse is referring to a literal amputation of the hand . . . and if he supports such an assertion by the phenomenon of prophecy, saying, ‘The-Holy-One-Blessed-be-He has told me that this commandment, “. . . and chop her palm,” is to be understood literally’ -- he . . . is to be executed by strangulation . . . .”

23 For the references, see Michael L. Brown, Our Hands Are Stained With Blood: The Tragic Story of the “Church” and the Jewish People (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 1992), 68f., 199f., 236.

24 Cf. above, n. 9.

25 For those with questions regarding the factual trustworthiness of the Gospels, Craig L. Blomberg’s The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1987) is recommended.

26 Cf. the conclusions of W. Ward Gasque, A History of the Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1989).

27 The classic work on Israelite history by the German scholar Martin Noth, The History of Israel (Eng. trans., New York: Harper & Row, 1960), begins with the period of the Judges (as if nothing that can be considered verifiable history took place before then!); the more conservative work of the French scholar, Roland De Vaux, The Early History of Israel (Eng. trans., Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978), is still extremely skeptical of the ancient biblical accounts.

28 Cf. Judah M. Rosenthal, “Seder Olam,” Encyclopedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Keter, 1972), 14:1091f.

29 The sages in question are Yehoshuah Ben Perachiah (2nd cent. B.C.E.) and Rabbi Akiva (2nd cent. C.E.). For a concise polemical treatment, cf. Ben Netzach (pseudonym), “The Historical Jesus According to the Talmud: FACT or FABLE?” (Orangeburg, NJ: Chosen People Ministries, n.d.). Of course, modern scholars who do not affirm the infallibility of the Talmud put little or no stock in the historicity of the Talmud’s apparent references to Jesus; cf. John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus. Volume One: The Roots of the Problem and the Person (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1991), 93ff., and note esp. 95: “scholars of rabbinic literature do not agree among themselves on whether even a single text from the Mishna, Tosefta, or Talmud really refers to Jesus of Nazareth.”

30 Cf. Gen. 21:22-31 and 26:19-33.

31 As rendered poetically in Lecho Dodi, “‘Keep and Remember!’ -- in One divine Word, He that is One, made His will heard” (see Dr. Joseph H. Hertz, The Authorised Daily Prayer Book [New York: Bloch Publishing Company, 1975], 356f.)

32 See conveniently Abba Ben David, Parallels in the Bible (Heb., Jerusalem: Carta, 1972), 170f.

33 Cf. Exod. 2:18, 3:1; Numbers 10:29.

34 Cf. Gen. 32:30; Exod. 24:9-11, 33:11; Num. 12:8.

35 Cf. the standard rabbinic commentaries for traditional discussion of this apparent contradiction.

36 Cf. Chajes, Student’s Guide, 6f.

37 Cf. Eliezer Berkovitz, Not In Heaven: The Nature and Function of Halakha (New York: Ktav, 1983), 57-64.

38 Abba Ben David’s Parallels in the Bible, 14-164, makes this abundantly clear. See also James Barr, Fundamentalism (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978), 309f., where reference is made to the utilization of these apparent discrepancies in the polemical writings of Henry Preserved Smith. Also note the better than two-to-one proportion of Old Testament difficulties as compared with New Testament difficulties in Gleason L. Archer’s Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982; the Old Testament section spans 45-306, and the New Testament section 307-434). While the Old Testament itself is three times as long as the New Testament, Archer’s treatment of New Testament difficulties is often more complete than his treatment of Old Testament difficulties; also, some of the alleged New Testament discrepancies involve problems with Old Testament texts and versions. Thus, an equal number of problem passages are to be found in both Testaments.

39 Montefiore and Loewe, Rabbinic Anthology, 269f., suggest that j. Berakhot 9:5 (14b, line 59) contains, “The shortest, and perhaps oldest, version of R. Akiba’s martyrdom.” Cf. also Gershom Bader, The Encyclopedia of Talmudic Sages (Eng. trans., Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1988), 277ff. The most important accounts are found in b. Berakhot 61b and j. Sotah 4:5 (the reference to j. Berakhot 9:5 in Montefiore and Loewe is incorrectly given as 9:7).

40 For representative studies on Talmudic methodology, see Rabbenu Moshe Chaim Luzzato, The Ways of Reason (Eng. trans., Jerusalsem: Diaspora Yeshiva/Feldheim Publishers, 1989); Louis Jacobs, The Talmudic Argument: A study in Talmudic reasoning and methodology (New York: Cambridge, 1984).

41 For discussion of this classic Talmudic formulation, see Berkovitz, Not in Heaven, 50-53.

42 For the underlying sources of the Ezra quote, see H. G. M. Williamson, Ezra-Nehemiah (WBC;Waco, TX: Word, 1985), 137.

43 For the references see Chajes, Student’s Guide, 4, n. 1, where this is quoted with approval.

44 Or, “Don’t follow the mighty . . .” The classic Talmudic discussion is found in Bava Mesia’ 59b; cf. also Targ. Onkelos and Rashi ad loc.

45 Rabbi Akiva Eiger provided a list of these variants in his Gilyon HaShas to the Tosafot on b. Shabbat 55b; cf. also David Weiss Halivni, Peshat and Derash: Plain and Applied Meaning in Rabbinic Exegesis (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1991), 208f., n. 30.

46 b. Berakhot 61a; see Harry M. Orlinsky, Prolegomenon to Christian D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Masoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible (New York, Ktav, 1966), XXII; Orlinsky’s entire Prolegomenon, “The Masoretic Text: A Critical Evaluation,” I-XLV, is relevant.

47 See the work of Orlinksy, cited immediately above, n. 46.

48 Cf. Robert Horton Gundry, The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel: With Special Reference to the Messianic Hope (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1975).

49 See Gundry, Ibid., 205-234, and note esp. 205: “Both Qumran hermeneutics and rabbinical hermeneutics are supremely oblivious to contextual exegesis.” With regard to New Testament hermeneutics, most specifically Matthean hermeneutics, Gundry demonstrates that the reverse is true. Anti-missionaries able to handle Greek and Hebrew could learn much from Gundry’s study. Cf. also Richard N. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975).

50 In addition to the works cited in the previous two notes, cf., e.g., J. T. Forestell, C.S.B., Targumic Traditions and the New Testament. An Annotated Bibliography with a New Testament Index (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1979); R. T. France and David Wenham, eds., Gospel Perspectives, Vol. III: Studies in Midrash and Historiography (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1983); Rainer Riesner, Jesu als Lehrer: Eine Untersuchung zum Ursprung der Evangelien-Uberlieferung, (WUNT, 2nd Series, 7; Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1988)

51 For example, when Moses cried out to the Lord regarding the undrinkable condition of the waters of Marah, the Lord showed him (yorehu) a tree which he then threw into the waters, making them drinkable (Exod. 15:23ff.) The rabbis saw in the verb yoreh a reference to the healing powers of the Torah; the early Christian expositors saw in the tree a reference to the healing powers of the cross. For New Testament statements regarding the prophetic anticipation of Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures, cf., e.g., Luke 24:25-27; Acts 3:18, 24; for the development of the Old Testament hope in the New Testament, cf. F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Development of Old Testament Themes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970).

52 I have sought to use this approach in my audio tape, “Are the Rabbis Right?” And remember also the wisdom of Prov. 15:1!

53 Both the context of this verse (Mat. 15:1ff.), as well as its closing words (“Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”) should be noted.

54 In an attempt to refute the present article (which was written in 1991), counter-missionary rabbi Moshe Shulman wrote an article in 1993 entitled “Just Weights and Measures” in which he sought to justify the use of different weights and measures by claiming that: 1) “a simple reading of history shows that Christianity appeared later than Judaism. Even Rabbinic Judaism has been shown to predate Christianity thanks to the research of scholars on the Dead Sea Scrolls”; and 2) “much more importantly the theory behind Christian Scriptural interpretation is different than that of Judaism.” (For the most recent edition of this article, dated to 2003, see http://messiahtruth.com/weights.html.) Aside from the rather astonishing claim that it is right to use different weights and measures when comparing the Messianic Jewish faith and the Rabbinic Jewish faith, Rabbi Shulman’s arguments are easily refuted.

With regard to the alleged greater antiquity of Rabbinic Judaism to “Christianity,” it can be stated in response that: 1) The vast majority of what today is called Rabbinic Judaism postdates the New Testament writings by centuries; 2) What Rabbi Shulman refers to as “Christianity” contains many ancient, Jewish apocalyptic elements that predate the time of Jesus and were not incorporated into Rabbinic Judaism; and 3) Even if elements of Rabbinic Judaism are more ancient than elements of the Messianic Jewish faith, that does not mean that both are not to be judged by the same historical-critical methodology – in other words, equal weights and measures are required for evaluating both.

With regard to his second claim, namely, that “Christianity” relies on the principle of sola scriptura -- that is the principle of using the Bible alone for faith and life (this applies, of course, only to Protestant Christianity) – whereas Rabbinic Judaism relies on the rabbinic traditions, it can be said in response that: 1) The claim to having a chain of tradition does not exempt one from having to prove the validity of that tradition (note that much of this present volume has been devoted to refuting the alleged Mosaic antiquity of that oral tradition); 2) The authors of the New Testament writings were, with only one exception, Jews who interpreted the Tanakh in keeping with Jewish hermeneutical principles of the day, and so their interpretations should, in fact, be compared and contrasted with Rabbinic Jewish interpretations of the Tanakh; and 3) The Tanakh itself does not allow its plain meaning to be ignored or twisted, and so the Jewish Scriptures themselves call for equal weights and measures when evaluating varied interpretations of the text. I should also point out for the record that Rabbi Shulman’s understanding of sola scriptura is so caricatured as to be unrecognizable, actually claiming that “Again the problem is for Dr. Brown to explain according to SCRIPTURE alone. Judaism has traditions that answer these questions, but he can’t use it.” To the contrary, the principle of sola scriptura simply means that the Bible alone is sufficient for the foundations of faith and doctrine, not that sources external to the Bible – such as archeological or linguistic discoveries or Jewish or Christian traditions or societal customs – cannot be used to interpret the text. That being said, just because Rabbi Shulman provides a traditional Jewish interpretation that allegedly answers a textual problem does not mean that that tradition is accurate and true. To the contrary, it could well expose that tradition as a later creation invented for the sole purpose of providing a solution to a problem.

Rabbi Shulman claims that, “Dr. Brown’s whole method here [meaning in this present article] is to delegitimize any questioning of Christian beliefs, by ad homonym [sic] assaults on those raising questions that are serious and deserving of serious answers.” The fact that I have now provided more than 1,500 pages serious answers to serious Jewish questions, not to mention holding numerous debates with rabbis on almost every conceivably relevant subject, makes Rabbi Shulman’s statement utterly ludicrous, not to mention laughable. What is true, however, is that the arguments of the counter-missionaries, when subjected to the same scrutiny which they apply to the Messianic Jewish faith, implode on themselves. Suffice it to say that when someone writes an article defending the use of unequal weights and measures, they have already shot themselves in the foot.