Rabbi Tovia revisionism

Rabbi Tovia Singer has written a book titled, “Let’s Get Biblical.” I find this title to be ironic because you can’t be biblical if you’re not being honest! Let me explain. Rabbi Tovia likes to engage in an intellectually dishonest practice called historical revisionism in order to try and persuade people to his position. Such methods are far from being in keeping with the ethics which Scripture and Torah demand. Let’s examine some ways in which he commits this intellectual error.

One of the biggest and most grievous examples of his use of historical revisionism occurs in his refusal to acknowledge that Christianity was not a distinctly different religion than, but rather began its life as a sect of Judaism and, more importantly, that its first followers were Torah-honoring Jews. This information is easily accessible in the Jewish encyclopedia (which is hardly a Christian document). It states, “For a long time Christianity regarded itself as part of Judaism. It had its center in Jerusalem (Irenæus, “Adversus Hæreses, i. 26); its first fifteen bishops were circumcised Jews, they observed the Law and were rather unfriendly to heathenism (Sulpicius Severus, “Historia Sacra,” ii. 31; Eusebius, “Hist. Eccl.” 4:5; compare Matt. 15:26), while they held friendly intercourse with the leaders of the synagogue (see Grätz, “Gesch. der Juden,” iv. 373 et seq.; and EBIONITES, MINIM, and NAZARENES). Many a halakhic and haggadic discussion is recorded in the Talmud as having taken place between the Christians and the Rabbis (see JACOB THE GNOSTIC).”[1]

In fact, the Jewish followers of Jesus did not leave their Jewish identity nor did they voluntarily discontinue practicing the customs of their people, such as worshiping in the synagogue, but rather were forced out by a capricious act of the rabbinical leadership. They were fully regarded as a sect of Judaism, as noted by the Orthodox Jewish prayer book which says, “The blessing was composed in response to the threat of heretical Jewish sects such as the Sadducees, Boethusians, Essenes, and the early Christians…”[2]

The second piece of fiction which Rabbi Tovia so often engages in is the portrayal of rabbinical Judaism as being Torah Judaism. Sound Jewish scholarship acknowledges a distinction between the Judaism of the Second Temple Era and the Judaism which existed post-Sinai. As Talmud professor Eliezer Diamond states:

  In the history of the Jewish people, the period of Rabbinic Judaism was one of incredible transformation. If an Israelite of the First Temple period (c. 1000–586 B.C.E.) were to be transported to the late second century C.E., he would find a form of Judaism almost unrecognizable to him. In place of the Temple, he would find the court and study house of Rabbi Judah the Patriarch, editor of the Mishnah; he would find scholars rather than priests assuming leadership roles in the community; instead of sacrifices, he would find a religious life centered around prayer and study; he would find a focus on the obligations of the individual, as opposed to the First Temple emphasis on the collective fate of the community; and he would learn, to his surprise, that the revelation of Moses at Sinai comprised an Oral Torah as well as a written one. [3] 

Furthermore, Rabbi Tovia ignores the fact that many Jews saw the atonement of Messiah as the solution to a problem which Judaism could not adequately solve after the destruction of the temple. This idea is also noted in the Jewish encyclopedia: “This view, however, did not solve satisfactorily for all the problem of sin—the evil rooted in man from the very beginning, from the fall of Adam (4 Esd. 3:20, 8:118). Hence a large number of Jews accepted the Christian faith in the Atonement by the blood ‘shed for many for the remission of sins.’”[4]

In summary, I would suggest that if Rabbi Tovia really wants to be biblical he needs to get real and stop the practice of historical revisionism. I have no problem with Jews making the personal, informed choice to be rabbinical rather than follow Messiah Jesus. However, I have a real problem with dishonesty and playing a shell game in which sources that clearly state considerable information are deliberately ignored. To be biblical one needs to be intellectually honest - Rabbi Tovia Singer should practice this Torah virtue.

[1] •Isidore Singer, ed., The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, 12 Volumes (New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1901–1906), 53.

[2] Davis, Menachem, Nosson Scherman, Meir Zlotowitz, and Yaakov Blinder. Sidur Śimḥat Yehoshuaʻ Li-Yemot Ha-ḥol = Siddur for Weekdays: with an Interlinear Translation. Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah publications, 2002.142

[3] Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Traditional Jewish Objections, vol. 5 (San Francisco, CA: Purple Pomegranate Productions, 2009), 5. quoting Eliezer Diamond, “The World of the Talmud,” in Barry W. Holtz, ed., The Schocken Guide to Jewish Books (New York: Schocken, 1992), 47.

[4] Isidore Singer, ed., The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, 12 Volumes (New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1901–1906), 278.