Jewish Roots Apologetics
By Ed Vasicek, Midrash Detective
In 2012, a (presumably young) man was asking a difficult question on an internet forum in which I participate. It is a forum for conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, so all participants have expressed agreement with a pretty solid doctrinal statement.
[Note: “Sola Scriptura” is Latin for “Scripture Alone” as the infallible authority; here, by “Sola Scriptura,” the questioner is really talking about the truth of Scripture]
He asked the following question:
Here is my conundrum: I was raised in a Christian home, and have discovered that I have never dealt with the most fundamental premise of my faith. My starting point has always been Sola Scriptura. How do I come to Sola Scriptura? What authority tells me that Sola Scriptura is correct? I agree to the testimony of Creation that there is a Creator (does not address our canon). I see in my life how that when I follow biblical principles, I generally do well (but Ben Franklin’s saying would produce similar results). I see the claims that certain assertions, prophecies, laws, and books within the Bible are the Word of God (Other books do as well). But what authority grants these particular 66 books authority over my reason?
This man had been raised with a method of defending his faith sometimes called “Presuppositionalism,” a method of defending the faith (apologetics) popular among some (not all) believers who identify themselves as Reformed. Critics of this approach (myself included) suggest Presuppositionalism (on a practical level) boils down to “shout louder.”
Interestingly, those within the forum who advocated the Presuppositional approach had nothing of substance to offer this man. Because I believe God can use reason, I offered this man a brief defense I call “Jewish Roots Apologetics (Defense).” The man thanked me and said I had given him something to think about. Five months later, he is still struggling but hanging in there.
Shortly after I posted my response, I converted my answer into an article for my Midrash Key website. The slightly edited article is below.
Jewish Root Apologetics
When it comes to looking at the Bible from a Jewish Roots perspective, some people think such an approach is “interesting at best, novel at worst.” In reality, however, a Jewish Roots perspective is a great way to defend the conservative approach to our faith and beliefs; it also provides a simple, hands on, “in your face” apologetic (defense) of evangelical belief.
Since evangelical belief is derived from the Scriptures, how do you demonstrate the reasonableness of accepting the Scriptures? Here is a broad outline that is obviously crying for expansion, but is useful even in its simple state.
- The universe exists and so do I; complexity of engineered creation and human instinct/conscience both argue simply for a creator. It is natural to believe in the supernatural.
- One nation (and only one nation) stands out as God’s special nation, Israel. From it not only flow 3 of the world’s great religions, but it has continued to exist for nearly 1900 years without a homeland. Its people were the subject of attempts at genocide — and by all reason — should not have survived. Events occurring on the 9th of Av [see below] are logically more than merely coincidental, displaying God’s wrath –but continued interest — in this people. As a matter of fact, Israel is one coincidence after another.
- Israel came back into being in 1948. The Soviet dictator, Stalin, who was anti-Semitic, could have blocked the UN resolution. He was either on a manic high (it is postulated) at the time and let it ride or, some suggest, he thought that Israel’s existence would drive the Arabs to ally themselves with the USSR. For one reason (or non-reason), he did not block U.N recognition, which he could have. President Truman’s advisors and cabinet were against allowing the UN resolution, but Truman was for Israel, standing alone.
- Israel was significantly outnumbered time and time again, but kept gaining more ground every time they were attacked. Israel won all wars waged against them: in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, and 2008. And they were outnumbered as much as 20-1 in terms of size of army, number of tanks, planes, and equipment.
- This survival of Israel must occur if the Biblical end time prophecies are to be fulfilled as promised. Thus if the Bible were true, we would expect Israel to survive.
- If Israel is God’s special nation, then the Hebrew Scriptures are therefore likely supernatural, or at least the most significant in terms of revealing God. The same First (Old) Testament evangelical protestants use is the Tannakh (Law/ Prophets/ Writings) of Judaism.
The Second (New) Testament writers quote from the vast majority of those books as Scripture, but quote none of the Apocryphal books as Scripture. At the time of Yeshua (Jesus), every OT book was recognized with the exception of Song of Solomon which was finally decided for inclusion at Yavneh (Jamnia) by the end of the first century CE.
- The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) predict a Messiah who would atone for sin (Isaiah 53) and reign (Isaiah 2). This Messiah had to be cut off before Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD (Daniel 9:25-27). Yeshua (Jesus) is the only viable candidate for Messiah previous to 70 AD. The details of his birth, life, and death are predicted in the Old Testament.
- Jesus founded the church and trained his authoritative emissaries (apostles) to lay the ground work, and thus their teachings were authoritative (Ephesians 2:20). There is no question that Jesus left behind a group of followers.
- Although we cannot be sure that every book belongs in the New Testament canon (except by faith in God’s providence), strong evidence exists for most of the canon. Most New Testament books were authored by apostles, and the rest by close associates of the apostles; thus it is reasonable to believe that they do belong. A few books have been questioned as canonical (esp. 2 Peter and Jude), but the bulk are clearly authoritative and present a thorough Christian belief system.
- Christianity is best understood as Trans-cultural Messianic Judaism. Much of Christianity today has a European slant and has been mixed with elements from paganism, but we need to remember that Christianity is actually a Jewish faith and is best interpreted from the Jewish perspective and a return to Scripture over accumulated traditions.
Conclusion: All of the above could be explained as remote and remarkable coincidence. Yet one can see that the a person truly seeking God is not without a clear, logical path to faith in Jesus.
Appendix: The 9th of Av
Here is a list of disasters that the Jewish people experienced ALL on the 9th of Av (occurs sometimes in July, sometimes in August in our calendar; the events listed below happened on the very day of the 9th of Av):
586 BC- First Temple destroyed by the Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar.
587BC – Judeans sent to Babylonian exile
70 AD —Second Temple is destroyed by the Romans, led by Titus.
135 AD- The Romans defeat Bar Kochba’s last fortress, Betar, and destroy his army. Bar Kochba himself is killed along with more than 100,000 other Jews. The Roman Emperor Hadrian turns Jerusalem into a Roman city.
1290 AD–King Edward I of England signs an edict expelling all Jews from England.
1306AD—The Jews were expelled from France
1492 AD – The Alhambra Decree takes effect, expelling the Jews from Spain and from all Spanish territories.
1914 AD – World War I begins when Germany declares war on Russia, setting the stage for World War II and the Holocaust.
1940 AD – Himmler presents his plan for the “Final Solution” to the Jewish problem to the Nazi Party.
1942 AD – Nazis begin deporting Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto. [source: http://judaism.about.com and Wikipedia.org, edited]