Guest Dave Burke gives often missed insight to biblical story found in the Book of Ruth, and suggests that we may be focusing on the wrong person.
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Guest Jonathan Burke discusses the evidence of whether adherents of faith or atheism have better life outcomes. What does science tell us about faith and atheism? Find out who has the better argument!
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The climate in England during Newton’s time prevented him from speaking too openly about his faith. Isaac Newton rejected Trinitarianism (the belief that God existed as three persons in one being), a stance England punished by death. Isaac Newton’s religious writings were unknown for a very long time because England’s repressive religious laws prevented him from publically disseminating these religious writings. His secret essentially died with him until a famous economist purchased a trunk full of Newton’s writings. John Maynard Keynes purchased the papers that were thought to consist primarily of Newton’s writing on the subject of Alchemy, one of Newton’s most passionate subjects, second only to the Bible. Keynes donated these papers to Kings College Cambridge, where scholars soon discovered the real Isaac Newton. The world’s leading scholar of Isaac Newton’s religious writings is Dr. Stephen Snobelen, who happens to be a Christadelphian.
Newton strongly disagreed with the Trinity, believing the Father was God, Jesus was a human that was the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit was a personification of God’s power. The evidence often cited by the Catholic Church was 1 John 5:7-8, which adds, “these three are one.” However, this is only found within the Textus Receptus, which the King James Version was translated from. Newton believed “these three are one” was an addition and forgery to the text. Textual scholars, who dubbed the forgery the “Johannine Comma”, would later vindicate Newton. Newton also believed that the Trinity was not originally the Christian doctrine of the Godhead, a position later vindicated by scholars. The method Newton used in determining the authenticity of the Johannine Comma, or the lack thereof, was to compare texts and writings of some early Catholic Church Fathers. None of the text mentioned the phrase, including those trying to prove the Trinity. Accordingly, Newton concluded it was not authentic.
Religious Learning now has a page called ‘Sources and Books‘ that contains the sources used in all of our blog posts (and other future projects!). These will be both Jewish and Christians sources. Each time there is a new blog post, this page will also be updated. This page centralizes all the resources so readers will not have to trek through all the posts to find these great sources of knowledge. These are must have study materials for the serious Bible student.
Rambam, or Maimonides, was a Jewish philosopher and educator, and fierce defender of Jewish doctrines. Rambam did not write extensively on the Trinity since this was not a subject in Judaism, but he did have a few things to say about it in his letter on the resurrection:
“It is not rare that a person aims to expound the intent of some conclusions clearly and explicitly, makes an effort to reject doubts and eliminate far-fetched interpretations, and yet the unbalanced will draw the reverse judgment of the conclusion he sought to clarify. Some such thing occured even to one of God’s declarations. When the chief of the prophets wished by order of God to teach us that He is One, without associates, and to remove from our hearts those wrong doctrines that the Dualists propound, he proclaimed this fundamental: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone [Deut. 6:4]. But the Christians utilized this verse to prove that God is one of three, teaching that Lord, our God, the Lord makes three names, all followed by one, which indicates that they are three and that the three are one. Far be God from what they say in their ignorance. If this is what happened to God’s proclamation, it is much more likely and to be expected to happen to statements by humans.”
Rambam resented the fact Christians were “finding” the Trinity in places that made no grammatical sense. For this reason, Rambam replaced the word “echad,” meaning “one,” with “yachid,” meaning “alone”; thus, his translation “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone” (most translate as “the Lord is One“). His hope was to clearly convey the true meaning of the text, and not impose some esoteric message that is simply not in the text.
The source used can be purchased here:
Epistles of Maimonides: Crisis and Leadership
There have been many attempts to find the Trinity in the Old Testament. One of the most cited is the “Us” language used in Genesis. However, this was disproven hundreds of years ago by the rabbis.
“Let us make man: From here we learn the humility of the Holy One, blessed be He. Since man was created in the likeness of the angels, and they would envy him, He consulted them. And when He judges kings, He consults with His Heavenly household, for so we find regarding Ahab, that Micah said to him, (I Kings 22:19): “I saw the Lord seated on His throne, and all the host of heaven were standing by Him, on His right and on His left.” Now do “left” or “right” apply to Him?! But rather, [the passage means that] these [angels] were standing on the right to defend, and these [angels] were standing on the left to prosecute. Likewise, (Dan. 4:14): “By the decree of the destructive angels is the matter, and by the word of the holy ones is the edict.” Here too, He took counsel with His heavenly household. He said to them, “Among the heavenly beings, there are some in My likeness. If there are none in My likeness among the earthly beings, there will be envy among the creatures of the Creation. ” – [from Tanchuma, Shemoth 18; Gen. Rabbah 8:11, 14:13]. Let us make man: Even though they [the angels] did not assist Him in His creation, and there is an opportunity for the heretics to rebel (to misconstrue the plural as a basis for their heresies), Scripture did not hesitate to teach proper conduct and the trait of humility, that a great person should consult with and receive permission from a smaller one. Had it been written: “I shall make man,” we would not have learned that He was speaking with His tribunal, but to Himself. And the refutation to the heretics is written alongside it [i. e., in the following verse:]“And God created (וַיִּבְרָא) ,” and it does not say, “and they created וַיִּבְרְאוּ.” – [from Gen. Rabbah 8:9].”
These sources can be purchased here:
Sapirstein Edition Rashi: The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated and Elucidated, Vol. 1 [Student Size], Genesis [Bereishis]
The Mishnah, Tosefta, and Talmud have been a treasure trove of information for both Judaism and Christianity. The order of compilation in time is Mishnah, Tosefta, and Talmud. The Mishnah is a codification of Oral Law. The Mishnah was redacted by Judah the Prince (Yehudah haNasi) around 189 CE. The information in the Mishnah had been around for a long time (Jesus quotes it quite a bit!), but Judah the Prince was the first to organize it in a written, systematic form. The Tosefta was made about 40-75 years later as a supplement to the Mishnah. The redactors were students of Judah the Prince. The Tosefta attributes quotes from the Mishnah to certain Rabbis and adds some commentary. The Babylonian Talmud was made to explain the Mishnah and Tosefta. Babylonian Talmud is more comprehensive than the Jerusalem Talmud, and deals more with doctrinal issues. The Babylonian Talmud was written about 200 years after the Jerusalem Talmud. The Jerusalem Talmud isn’t comprehensive because the Jews were expelled from Israel, significantly reducing the number of Rabbis that contributed to it. It differs from the Babylonian Talmud because a significant portion of the Jerusalem Talmud deals with laws that can only be performed in Israel, which was a major reason most Jews never studied it. Now that Jews have a homeland in Israel, the Jerusalem Talmud is becoming popular again.
These texts can be purchased here:
The Jerusalem Talmud: A Translation and Commentary
This part of the Sermon on the Mount deals with a controversial topic in the time of Jesus. In addition, it shows the continuation of Jewish theology in Jesus’s teachings. Words were very important, and considered binding. Words were so important, some rabbis recommended restrictions on certain phrases. To understand this, one has to look at the background to this topic and why it was controversial. Most legal systems would not find a “promise” binding unless there was something else given by another party. This could be either an exchange for a promise, or compensation paid for a promise of a future performance. Under Biblical Law, simply promising was legally binding. These promises, or oaths as they are translated, are called shevuah. During the time of Jesus, there were two schools of thought in Pharisaism: House of Hillel and House of Shammai. Within these houses there were differing ideas, but generally only minor differences. Jesus either paraphrases or quotes the House of Hillel throughout his Sermon on the Mount. In fact, much of his ministry draws from the ideas the House of Hillel put forth, with the exception of Divorces, which he quotes Rabbi Shammai (Matthew 19:9). Some rabbis in the House of Hillel believed that a person should not invoke a shevuah when that person makes a promise. Rabbi Yose ben Rabbi Yehudah said, “[Y]our ‘yes’ should be just a yes, and your ‘no’ should just be a no.” Baba Mesi’a 49A. The statement comes from the belief that the person making this statement should feel as if his word was binding without using the proper oath to make it legally binding by a court order. These Jews believed that we should start with the source of the problem: not feeling obligated to do something we promised without someone (like the court) forcing us. Therefore, as Paul points out, faithful people should follow the purpose and spirit of the law (or circumcised of heart Romans 2:29). Jesus’s teachings were very much in continuation of the Jewish faith.