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Archive for the ‘Jews’ Category

For today’s post we will tackle the question the Skeptic Annotated Bible asked: Will there be many Jews?

Here are the two answers which the skeptic believes shows a Bible contradiction:

Yes

“indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.””” (Genesis 22:17-18)

“I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed;” (Genesis 26:4)

No

“The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord drives you.” (Deuteronomy 4:27)

(All Scriptural quotation comes from the New American Standard Bible)

Here’s a closer look at whether or not there is a contradiction:

(more…)

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Note: We review this book in light of the rising anti-Semitism in some part of the World in our day and age.  Also, it is part of our .The Plot The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion Will Eisner

Will Eisner. The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  New York, NY:
W.W Norton & Company, Inc., 2005. 142 pp.

This is the last work of the famous cartoonist Will Eisner.  What this work is about is no laughing matter and is more a tragedy than a comic, as the forward mentioned.  This graphic novel is about an alleged secret document that supposedly proved a secret agenda and plan by Jewish leaders to take over the world.  This document, called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, has been perpetuated for decades by various group of people with varying agendas but whom all unite under the banner of anti-Semitism.  Although repeatedly proven as a fraud in scholarly sources unfortunately a lot of these evidences against the document have been as accessible for most common people.  This Graphic Novel is Eisner’s contribution to combat against the propaganda.  I think Eisner understood the power of the medium in reaching the masses through Graphic Novel which is more mainstream for our society than academic works.  And yet as the Graphic Novel approaches the end Eisner himself shows his awareness that some will be convinced no matter what the evidence is because they have already made up their mind as to what to believe.

Through this book I learned that Mathieu Golovinski was the source of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  Golovinski was a Russian forger and plagiarizer working for the Russian Secret Police.  He has spent a portion of his childhood in France and was thus an asset for the Russians to use to try to doctor a false document that allegedly showed a plot of Jews wanting to take over the world.  This was originally planted in French newspaper and then used by Golovinski handlers to pressure the Tsar of Russia against modernizing policies.  Unfortunately The Protocols went on to have a larger life of its own.

Golovniski plagiarized heavily from a French writer name Marcie Joly who wrote a book titled The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu that was originally a literary piece critical of Napoleon.   I appreciate that though this is a Graphic Novel it was serious enough of a topic that Eisner presented a side by side comparision between the works for the readers to come to their own conclusion that The Protocols was plagerized.  I appreciated the fact that this Graphic Novel had “end notes” to show where one can find the original source of the quotation!

This Graphic Novel tells the story of how a Russian séances name Sergius Nilus who was a competitor to Rasputin published in his books The Protocol to attack the Jews. This helped spread the malicious use of The Protocol.  The book also show how the Nazis, the Soviets, the Klu Klux Klan, Marxists and Islamists also published the Protocol as being true even though it has been continuously refuted.  In terms of the history of the document being debunked it began with a British foreign correspondent name Philip Graves when he was working at Constantinople in 1921 for “The Times” of London.  Graves was sold a copy of The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu by a Russian Émigré who pointed out to him that The Protocol was a plagiary.  Graves published his finding in the newspaper and also had the book authenticated and compared to other copies.  As decades went on more problems were pointed out by others concerning the document.  The Graphic Novel also show the author Will Eisner going about researching on The Protocol.

I enjoyed the graphic novel very much and found the introduction and afterwards helpful.  The introduction was written by Umberto Eco who have written as a scholar exposing The Protocol, specifically with how it has stolen ideas from Eugene Sue’s Le Juif Errant that tells of the Jesuits plans and agenda.  Stephen Eric Bronner, a political scientist at Rutgers also wrote the afterwards.  It was helpful to see that the book also have a bibliography for further research; and I plan to study more on this topic in the near future.

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From the Maccabees to the Mishnah

Shaye J.D. Cohen.  From the Maccabees to the Mishnah (Third Edition).
Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014. 328 pp.

This book covers the history of the Second Temple period that began with the rise of the Maccabees around 160 BC to the destruction of the Temple in 70 and a bit beyond.  As the author noted in the beginning of the book this was a time of a diverse group of sects, groups and social/cultural dynamic within Judaism and interaction with those on the outside such as Hellenistic and Roman culture.  The author himself is not a Christian but a Jew though this book is published by the publishing arm of a mainline Protestant denomination (specifically the PCUSA); his perspective at times goes against what evangelical Christians would believe but it also goes against the very denomination of the publishers such as the authors preface protesting the PCUSA’s stance against Israel.  Yet this book has managed to be in print for decades and it is on its third edition.  In reading this book there were some great takeaways while there were also some parts of the book that raised some concerns.

Good:

  • The book convincingly made the argument that the Jews tend to pursue the political stance of accommodation with Gentile rulers rather than rebellion with only four exceptional instances.
  • The author had a good discussion about the term Hellenistic Judaism because it is not as if there is a Judaism that was non-Hellenistic versus that which was Hellenistic during the Post-Persian period; rather the Hellenism of the Judaism of those period was one of degrees; Cohen sees the term better used as a chronological indicator of the religion after Alexander the Great.
  • Cohen shares with the reader that conversion to Judaism entail three elements: monotheism, circumcision and integration into the Jewish community.  He also note the distinction that a “Judaized” Gentile might not necessarily adopt all of the theology of Judaism since practice is more determinative than theology for most Jews during this era.
  • The discussion on the synagogue is excellent.  Second Temple Judaism supplemented the temple with the synagogue and the priest with scribes who were learned teachers.
  • The discussion about sects was also very insightful.  Cohen define sect as a small group which separate itself from the majority and sees itself as the sole group that understand God’s will.  Sectarian grounds in Judaism often clash on three points: the law, temple and interpretation of God’s Word.  He also caution that sectarianism is not the same thing as mere diversity.
  • This books gives a good introduction to the Talmud and other Jewish religious writing such as commentaries and paraphrase.
  • The end of the book had a helpful “Further reading” section in which the author introduces to the reader scholarly editions of primary sources and also important secondary sources.  These are helpful pointers for further study!

Problems:

  • There is an interesting secular/sacred, faith/fact divide that the author assumes that colors his perspective.  For instance on location 261 the author does not think history can answer the question of whether or not Christianity is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.  Why not? If Christianity is a religion with historical claims and the Old Testament also makes future historical claims the authors claim is problematic.
  • In location 3509 Cohen claims divine origin isn’t necessary for biblical status which to me is hard to prove.
  • The author takes a liberal dating of the bible that reflect the perspective of the historical critical perspective.  For instance in location 1804 Cohen assumes Ecclesiastes was a product of the Hellenistic period rather than Solomonic in origins.  Cohen also assume the existence of more than one Isaiah.  Moments like these in the book took away from the books strength.
  • The chapter on the Canon is the most disagreeable chaper of the book for me.  I suppose if there is any value in it, it is a concise summary of a liberal perspective on the Canon.

Conclusion

I do recommend this book but also caution it be read with Christian discernment and maturity.

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by Westminster John Knox Press and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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