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Archive for April 7th, 2013

did-JESUS-exist-bookA few days ago we saw some of Bart Erhman’s fallacious argument in his book Did Jesus Exist?   Apparently there’s plenty of obvious problems in Ehrman’s book to make a blog series on them.  Tonight I want to look specifically at a claim he made concerning First-Century Judaism.  On page 272 Ehrman describes the beliefs of “Jews in the days of Jesus,” saying:

Among the first commandments given to the Jews by this God was “You shall have no other gods before me.’  Jews by and large did not deny that other gods existed, but they were not to be worshipped by the Jews themselves.” (Page 272; emphasis not in original).

An unusual statement.  In the sentence before, Ehrman acknowledges the role of the Jewish Scripture (what Christians call the Old Testament) in shaping first century Jewish theology.  Ehrman extrapolates from the first commandment that Jews are to worship one God but felt that this does not mean first century Judiasm would have to subscribe to the belief that there’s only one God and not any other.  Two criticisms need to be made.

Point 1: I wish Ehrman would have demonstrated his case that the Jews of Second Temple Judaism were open to the idea that other gods might exist.  At a minimum he should have given a footnote of studies supporting this view or better yet Ehrman should have made the case himself using direct primary sources.

Point 2: Ehrman’s chief error here is his omission of what the rest of the Jewish Scripture has to say.

For instance, consider these passages from the Book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 44:6-8 declares,

“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last,

And there is no God besides Me.
‘Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it;
Yes, let him recount it to Me in order,
[a]From the time that I established the ancient [b]nation.
And let them declare to them the things that are coming
And the events that are going to take place.
‘Do not tremble and do not be afraid;
Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it?
And you are My witnesses.
Is there any God besides Me,
Or is there any other Rock?
I know of none.’”

Then in Isaiah 45 there’s a cluster of similar teachings.  Note in verse 5:

“I am the Lord, and there is no other;
Besides Me there is no God.
I will [a]gird you, though you have not known Me;

Isaiah 45:14:

 Thus says the Lord,

“The [a]products of Egypt and the merchandise of [b]Cush
And the Sabeans, men of stature,
Will come over to you and will be yours;
They will walk behind you, they will come over in chains
And will bow down to you;
They will make supplication to you:
[c]Surely, God is [d]with you, and there is none else,
No other God.’”

Isaiah 45:21-22:

“Declare and set forth your case;
Indeed, let them consult together.
Who has announced this from of old?
Who has long since declared it?
Is it not I, the Lord?
And there is no other God besides Me,
A righteous God and a Savior;
There is none except Me.
22 “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
For I am God, and there is no other.

Finally Isaiah 46:9:

“Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,

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