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Choose Life! Do Good! But How?

Choose life! Do good! Be a mensch! Tikkun olam! These are some of the rallying cries of Jewish people throughout the world. Judaism is the religion of the deed. Jewish people are doers. They are the righteous ones (tzaddikim), the pious ones (hasidim), and the ones who pursue goodness by means of observing the Torah and doing justice. As God commanded all Israel in the Torah,

I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days… (Deut 30:19-20)

This is Israel’s charge. Choose life, choose blessing, choose God, and nothing else. This is the essence of the Torah and Judaism itself.

Problem: I Don’t Always Choose Life, Even When I Want To

Have you ever had the following experience? I read the Torah and I see its beauty everywhere. I read about the glories of God and the goodness of his character and the good mitzvot he requires of me. I read the mitzvot about children honoring their parents, and I respond, “Yes, God, that is right and proper and good. Thank you for your Torah.” I sit in awe at God’s love for the downtrodden when I read his mitzvot that I must assist the widow and give charity to the poor. His care for justice is overflowing, so I align my life with the mitzvot of justice. His care for truth abounds, so I must align my life with the mitzvot of truth-telling.

The Torah is beautiful! So then why don’t I carry it out?

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Before Discarding the New Testament, Read This (Part 3 of 3)

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Part I, Part II

Who Wrote the New Testament?

If we are investigating the trustworthiness of the New Testament, then the authorship of its books is an essential consideration. Quite simply, if the books of the New Testament were not written by followers of Yeshua or by those closely associated with them, then it is most likely that the New Testament is a forgery. On the other hand, if the books were written by those closely associated with Yeshua, then we have firsthand accounts about his life, death, and resurrection.

Internal Evidence for Authorship

As with dates, we also need to consider internal and external evidence for the authorship of New Testament books. Here are some examples of internal evidence:

Books with Explicit Claims of Authorship

Some books in the New Testament actually include the name of the author in their text. This doesn’t mean we should automatically trust the claim of authorship, but it does mean that there shouldn’t be any confusion about who the leading candidate should be. Books that include the author’s name are:

  • Paul: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon
  • James: James
  • Peter: 1 Peter, 2 Peter
  • Jude: Jude
  • John: Revelation

The reason these works contain the name of the author is because they are mostly letters (epistles) which include traditional greetings at the beginning of the letter.

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Before Discarding the New Testament, Read This (Part 2 of 3)

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Part I available here

When Was the New Testament Written?

One of the principles we discussed previously was the importance of “independent, early attestation” in identifying a credible account of an event. This means that we should seek out the earliest, oldest account of an event, since the earliest accounts do not have enough time to accumulate legendary or exaggeratory features.

This is difficult to do with much Jewish tradition, including the Mishnah and the Talmud. The conversations recorded in the Talmud were sometimes recorded centuries after the people talking lived. The books of the New Testament must also deal with this issue, but the problems are less pronounced, because the New Testament was completed within one or two generations of the life of Yeshua. Eyewitnesses to Yeshua’s life were still alive during the time of writing, providing a defense against legend that the Talmud never had.

So when were the 27 books of the New Testament written? This is a question that must be asked carefully and with a full awareness of the problem of bias. Skeptics, in general, often date books late (to allow time for embellishments and fabrications), whereas believers often date books early (to remove time for embellishments and fabrications). Have you ever heard the claim that the New Testament wasn’t complete until Emperor Constantine in 325 CE? That is a classic example of skeptical bias run amok. No credible historian who knows the evidence would say such a thing. We shall look at some of the evidence to the contrary soon.

Other factors are at play in the dating of New Testament books, including whether or not Yeshua’s prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem were actually said by him, or were written after the event occurred in 70 CE. But in any case, there are two main camps in this debate: scholars with early dates, and scholars with late dates. Read more

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Before Discarding the New Testament, Read This! (Part 1 of 3)

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Soon, we will be opening up the New Testament to investigate the evidence for Yeshua’s resurrection from the dead. The 27 books of the New Testament are the best sources for information about what really happened around 32 CE at Passover. But there’s something we need to deal with before we start looking for the evidence. Is the New Testament a forgery? Or something even worse?[1]

By the End of this Article…

  • You will learn why modern Jewish scholars do not discard the New Testament
  • You will read about the significant amount of manuscript evidence for the New Testament in comparison with other ancient works
  • You will learn about internal and external evidences that help us determine the dates and authorship of New Testament books
  • You will see how this evidence helps get rid of naïve and uninformed conspiracy theories

The Problem with Ignoring the New Testament

So you may be thinking to yourself, “I see where this whole series is going. These people are going to start looking at the New Testament as if it is a credible source for the resurrection of Jesus. But it’s not. It’s unreliable and contradictory. It wasn’t even finalized until some church council in the 4th century. Besides, everybody knows that the Gospels are irreconcilable. In fact, the New Testament is so unreliable that it is irrelevant to this whole discussion. We might as well throw out the whole New Testament because we can’t trust it.”

Perhaps your thought process is even simpler than that: “I don’t care what the New Testament says. I’m a Jew. Jews don’t read the New Testament.”

That is too bad. It’s unfortunate that you are so willing to discard one of the greatest sources of 1st century Jewish history. Beyond this, it is unfortunate that you seem to remain ignorant of one of the foundational documents of Western civilization.

Countless Jewish scholars would be aghast that anyone would discard the New Testament so quickly. Why? Because it is a treasure trove for uncovering 1st century Judaism. Take, for instance, the dozens of Jewish scholars who participated in The Jewish Annotated New Testament, edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler:

This one-of-a-kind work from 2011 (2nd edition released in 2017) represents the culmination of a century of Jewish scholarship that has attempted to recover the Jewishness of the New Testament. None of the contributors to the project believes that Yeshua was the Messiah, but they still believe that the New Testament is an important witness of Jewish history. These Jewish scholars have uncovered historical details in the New Testament about ancient Jewish customs, halakhic disputes, migration patterns, parallels to the Mishnah, and much more. Without the pages of the New Testament, these historical details about real Jewish people would have been lost forever.

These scholars want us to realize that the New Testament was written by Jewish people who continued to live amongst Jewish people. The Jewish authors of the New Testament reported about their travels and their experiences and the beliefs and customs of 1st century Jews. Are you so sure that you want to discard this important Jewish source?

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Objection: Jesus Never Existed

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Yeshua of Nazareth
Used with permission: www.LumoProject.com

The Claim:

Jesus of Nazareth never existed. The story of his life is a fabrication by later followers. The New Testament accounts are not trustworthy, since they were written by biased authors we can’t even identify. Jesus is a legendary myth like the Greek gods. There may have been some historical “Jesus” person, but he has been lost to the sands of time through the fabrications of his later followers. It’s just as absurd to believe in Jesus as it is to believe in unicorns and tooth fairies.

What’s at Stake:

If Jesus never existed,

  • Christianity and Messianic Judaism are a sham
  • Christians and Messianic Jews are fools
  • Christians and Messianic Jews lose all credibility and should be ignored

If Jesus did actually exist,

  • Denying his teachings must be justified on grounds other than his nonexistence
  • The crucial question asked by Jesus still remains: “Who do you say that I am?”

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Welcome to the Preview Site for Chosen People Answers!

Jesus Preaching at Capernaum by Maurycy Gottlieb

“They came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,  explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Yeshua, whom I proclaim to you, is the Messiah.” And some of them were persuaded.”

– Acts 17:1–4

Messianic Apologetics – a reasoned defense of Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah to a Jewish audience – used to be the primary message of the followers of Yeshua. Peter, the apostle to the Jewish people (Gal 2:8), was focused on sharing the Gospel of the resurrected Messiah with his own people (1 Pe. 1:1-2), addressing their objections along the way. One might think that Paul, the apostle to the nations (Rom 11:13), would not spend much time addressing Jewish objections to believing in Yeshua the Messiah. However, as we read the Book of Acts, we find that Paul made it a priority to reason with his fellow Jewish people, leading them step-by-step through the Scriptures so they may believe in Yeshua as the resurrected Lord of Israel.

Both the apostle to the Jewish people, and the apostle to the nations were passionate about the salvation of their own people: Israel! At Chosen People Answers, we endeavor to continue in this ancient tradition and passion which composes the fabric of the New Testament.

However, this site is not Chosen People Answers as it will be – this is a preview site. Active work on Chosen People Answers continues in both apologetics writing and web development. You can learn more about the vision and the features of the Version 1.0 site here. In the meantime, this current preview site, and this blog in particular, serve as a taste of the digital apologetics ministry that is to come.

So, how is this site only a preview of what is to come? Here are some differences and similarities:

Differences between this site and Chosen People Answers 1.0

  • This site:
    • Is vanilla WordPress – a boring blog. There is nothing exciting about the web design of this site.
    • Has limited interactivity – using only the current status-quo of a vanilla WordPress installation
    • Has no active evangelism presence by digital missionaries. You are a content consumer, and all you are reading is text on a server.
    • Contains non-finalized versions of apologetics content that need further revision, editing, and sharpening.
    • Does not include any of the following features: Jewish and Christian texts library, gamification, opinion statistics, content navigation system, etc.

Similarities between this site and Chosen People Answers 1.0

  • Content, content, content! We are currently sitting on several hundred thousand words of article drafts that cover a broad spectrum of issues related to Messianic Apologetics. This blog is the first place that Brian Crawford’s apologetics work will be made available publicly, albeit in non-finalized form. The content here should be reflective of the tone, depth, perspective, and strategy of the final articles that will eventually be published to Chosen People Answers 1.0.

So, with these disclaimers out of the way, we hope that you are encouraged and challenged by the content you read on this blog. If you are a believer, may this strengthen your faith in your Messiah. If you are not yet a believer in Jesus, may the articles and arguments here open up new thoughts and new possibilities as you investigate the person of Yeshua of Nazareth.

Shalom from Brooklyn,

Brian Crawford
Project Director, Chosen People Answers
January 1, 2018