Speaks for itself.

Jews for Jesus Vandal Pleads Guilty

A Jewish student who vandalized a Jews for Jesus branch in Sydney pleaded guilty.

Jaron Hoffenberg, 19, a graduate of Moriah College, was required to post a one-year good behavior bond after pleading guilty to malicious damage to property for throwing a brick through the window of the missionary center in Bondi on Jan. 29, according to a report in the Australian Jewish News.

Hoffenberg, a university engineering student, also urinated on the property during the offense, which was caught on closed circuit television.

Terence Abrams, Hoffenberg’s friend, also 19, also was charged with malicious damage to property and will appear in court on March 18.

Magistrate William Brydon said in court on Feb. 20, “There’s no doubt [Hoffenberg] is remorseful and contrite for his behavior. I accept that alcohol was a part of this, but people have to be responsible for themselves.”

Hoffenberg has apologized for his behavior and paid for damage to the property.

Jews for Jesus national director Bob Mendelsohn said he accepted Hoffenberg’s apology.

“I’m not vindictive. He’s sorry. No need to keep shaming him,” Mendelsohn was reported as saying.

The Jews for Jesus branch, which opened in 2004, had been vandalized previously several times.

About the author

Rabbi Yonah


  • You know i think he went about expressing his anger the wrong way.But i feel your pain brother.I can’nt stand J4Js.These people are worse then the mormons.

  • These people are no worse than Aish Kiruvniks, one fanatic extremist cult is no different from the other.

  • Is this really a proper way to respond? Is this really okay?

    Would you sanction me breaking one of Big Aish’s window? How about I take a piss on Rabbi Yitz Greenman? Would that be okay with you, Rabbi Yonah?

  • NO I wouldn’t sanction it, it is not correct behavior.

    Further, if someone had done this to Hoffenberg’s and Abrams’s place of worship or dorm room you can be sure that you would be screaming for a bigger charge than “malicious damage to property”. You would want “terroristic threats” and “hate crime” charges which carry with them much greater penalties than a one-year bond.

    I’d offer to piss on Yitz Greenman but he’d probably enjoy it…I know how kinky these Rabbis can be.

  • Instant exmatriculation. This would have been the response to such an offence towards any group over here. Somebody who acts like that is not an adult mentally.

  • But here’s the nonexistant, erroneously dichotomous question! Was Mendelsohn being more Jewish or more Christian by turning the other cheek?

  • DK

    I do not advocate violence against people.

    I understand that this person might have been driven by alcohol, but perhaps this person has been harassed by these cultists for months. We don’t know.

  • but perhaps this person has been harassed by these cultists for months

    What, they tried to hand him a flyer? Puhlease. The J for J’s are often annoying as all hell, but none of that really constitutes “harassment.”

  • Damn.

    From the headline, I thought this was going to be a story about vandalism by a J4J hoodlum.

    Pretty stupid, as well as illegal, so he’ll have to take his lumps, but I fell his pain. J4J makes me so mad I can hardly see straight.

  • Instead of getting mad at Jews for Jesus, how about doing some biblical investigation to see why they believe what they believe? “Cult” is a strong word people apply to organizations when they don’t want to actually think about the statements. In other words keep the rhetoric lower key. It’s better for everyone everywhere all the time in understanding any group’s beliefs.

  • Tom, agreed, particularly since Jewish Orthodoxy’s only a slip of interpration away from J4J as outlined in Pinchas Lapide’s “Auferstehung als jüdische Glaubenserfahrung” (= resurrection as a Jewish experience of faith).

  • Did you ever drink a FOSTER’S, the Australian Beer?

    It drives you to do crazy things. If he had a good lawyer, they could have used the “Foster’s Beer Defense” (or Defence down under). These were extenuating circumstances!

    Obviously Aussie beer drives Jewish people to do crazy stuff.

  • No surprise here, best get all the malice out in the open rather than continue to be psuedo about your intolerable hatred of all Christianity.

  • P. Weller, J4J are NOT Christian by their own understanding nor by the requirements of any Christian denominations. They don’t get baptized “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost”, and they also don’t believe in Trinity. They believe Jesus of Nazareth to be messiah.

  • Excuse me? Do you mean to say that because resurrection of the dead is an accepted idea in Judaism that Orthodox Jews are this close to being the same as J4J?

    If so, I don’t think I have ever heard scuh an absurd, asinine, and insulting statement.

    Whether or not the J-man was resurrected is not the point. The point is what his resurrection is supposed to mean from a theological point of view.

    I don’t hate J4J because of their theological beliefs. I hate them for their underhanded proselytization tactics, the fact that they pretend to be Jews when they’re realy just Christians in drag, and how they try to trick ignorant Jews into believeing that they can be Jews and Christians at the same time.

    I have no beef with honest Christians who are up front about who and what they are. I may disagree with their religious views, but I have no particular animosity towards them.

    But, yes, I hate J4J. So sue me.

  • Which is crazier? That Jesus is the Jewish Messiah or that God will be strike you dead for taking two steps without a kipah on? C’mon now…

    But let’s draw a line between Messianic Jews and Jews 4 Jesus. One is a system of believes, one is a Kiruv operation paid and operated tandemly with Evangelical prostelytizers. I know Messianic Jews who really believe in Jesus’ redemption, so Ephriam, hate them you may, they’re not pretending. It’s a belief. They’re really quite stellar people.

    J4J is another matter. But we shouldn’t conflate the two.

  • KFJ, please show me where it says that G-d will strike you dead if you don’t wear a kippah. Surely you can come up with a better strawman than that to make your incredibly lame point, whatever it is.

    I’m quite aware of the difference between J4J and Messianic Jews. Did I mention Messianic Jews in my post? No, I only was talking about J4J. I think Messianic Jews have some exceedingly strange ideas, but I know they’re not J4J. But since I wasn’t talking about them, I’m not sure why you brought them up.

    And please don’t dignify J4J by calling it a “kiruv” organization. They’re soul-stealers, plain and simple, just like any other missionary organization.

    How nice Messianic Jews may or may not be is not the point. I’ve met plenty of nice people with whom I disagree on quite a number of things.

  • It might be absurd, asinine, and insulting to you, but it’s theologically true. As explained above, J4J are not Christians. The only theological difference between them and Jewish Orthodoxy is the answer to the question of who is messiah, not the question of whether there is / will be anything like a messiah. (Which brings them even closer to those that claim to know who Moshiach is.)

  • No, the issue is not about the identity of the Messiah, the issue is what theological purpose the Messiah serves and what he is supposed to accomplish. That is the real difference between Judaism and Christianity.

    I believe J4J are Christians, for the most part. They might differ from some groups of Messianic Jews, perhaps.

    J4J are, so far as I know, Christological in their beliefs about the Messiah. As such, whether or not such-and-such a person is/was the Messiah is just not that relevant.

    The Jewish Messiah is supposed to free Eretz Israel from foreign occupation, re-establish Jewish independence, gather in the exiles to Israel, rebuild the Temple, and usher in aworld-wide reign of peace and obedience to the Torah. (Or these things are supposed to happen on his watch, anyway.)

    The Christian Messiah acts as a vicarious sacrifice that protects his worhsippers from the wrath of G-d and cleanses them from Original Sin when they believe in the efficacy of his vicarious death and partake of his blood and flesh through the Eucharist (symbolically for Protestants, literally for Catholics).

    Now, if you want to say that just a slight difference in belief about the Messaih separates Orthodox Jews from certain Chabadniks, that is a different kettle of fish.

  • Kiruv organizations are missionary organizations and therefore “soul-stealers” as well.

    Jewish Orthodoxy is practiced with cult-like fanaticism by it’s newly religious and can not be distinguished from a “cult”.

  • Oh, yeah: I assume that everything that these covert “Jewish” missionary groups say in public about what they believe are lies to fool ignorant Jews into falling into their clutches. Once the hook is good and set, I assume their true nature as covers for Christian missionizing is revealed.

  • The messiah’s supposed to bring about salvation, both in Judaism and Christianity. The Jewish messiah is also supposed to bring about “justice for all” just as the Christian messiah is supposed to bring about the “new city, the heavenly Jerusalem” as it says in the Revelation. The concepts are identical, just the emphasis is a different one. Christianity doesn’t believe in a wrathful god. There are Christian denominations that believe in immediate resurrection, others that believe in common resurrection on Judgement Day. The Christian concept of a messiah would be unthinkable without Judaism and the possibility of divine revelation, but there was no messiah terminology let along messianic theology. The current Jewish concept of a messiah has largely been influenced by the spiritually / eschatologically transfigured Christian concepts that evolved strongly during the Middle Ages.
    Maimonides believed the messiah would be a human, worldly ruler. At the time of Jesus of Nazareth, the concept of a messiah had not been strongly developed or widely spread in Judaism (cf. Jakob Neusner, Messiah in Context). Neusner, who, like other scholars, analysed rabbinical writings up to the 7th century CE, came to the conclusion that a developed concept / theology of messianism did not exist in Judaism back then. Werblowsky (HUJI) compared messianic concepts in various cultures / religions and came to the conclusions that their common idea was that the world could perfect itself (= messianic idea). So there can be a “messianic idea” without actual messianism, and Werblowsky notes the first appearance of messianism (as tied to a person) in Judaism shortly before the time of Jesus of Nazareth.

  • But J4J DO believe that Jesus is the Messiah, their whole ploy is to convince/convert Jews to that very same belief. Hence their ridiculous tagline, “believing in Jesus IS Jewish!” and their obnoxious flyers wih the stupid cartoons depicting Jews (always in traditional Orthodox garb, ’cause y’know, that’s what all Jews look like) as too sheeplike and narrowminded to acknowledge Jesus as the One True Messiah. Therefore, J4J ARE Christians, and it’s disingenuous for them (or anyone else for that matter) to pretend otherwise. That’s pretty much the reason so many Jews have a (legitimate, IMO) beef with them. I don’t mind Christians trying to convert me, as long as they’re up front about what they’re trying to do. I always politely point out that while I’m glad they found something that obviously works so well for them and means a great deal to them, I already have my own set of beliefs that work for me. As for the Messainic Jews, they’ve pretty much written me off as a goy anyway (ok, shiksa, if we’re being pernickity) but again, they’re pretty honest and up-front about it.

  • Christianity doesn’t believe in a wrathful god

    What? Where do you get that? Jesus exists for the sole purpose of acting as the mediator between man and G-d precisely so G-d’s hatred of sin will not be visited upon humans, and to give them a way to be reconciled with G-d by vicarious belief in him. And the idea that the worshipper has to consume the blood and flesh of the Messiah to make the magic work has no counterpart in Jewish belief. It is pagan through and through.

    What is “taking upon the sins of the whole world” if not absorbing all of the punishments that would be visited upon man if Jesus wasn’t there to protect them? That’s precisely what he’s there for.

    It’s a typical Good Cop/Bad Cop ploy: you better believe in me if you don’t want me to turn you over to that guy. I always envision a scene in a pub: G-d is all pissed off at the guy at the end of the bar and is all “Let me at him! I’m going to kick his ass!” and Jesus is all “Calm down, Dad, let me handle this”.

    And doesn’t Christianity say that G-d will condemn you to everlasting hellfire if you don’t belive in Jesus? G-d of love, my ass. If Christians didn’t believe G-d was out to get them, Jesus wouldn’t have a job.

    And I can’t believe that you think the superficial similarities between Jewish and Christian messianic beliefs mean they’re the same. You remind me of the woman who thought Passover and Mass were the same because they both involved wine and crackers.

    The Devil, as they say, is in the details. Every people has some sort of belief in the advent of a perfect world. How that will come about and what it actually means are where the differences come in.

  • Ephraim, maybe I got that from a university degree in religious studies. Christianity does not believe in a wrathful god (try reading Breuning, Metz, Kasper, Ratzinger or any other of the renowned dogmatists out there). The explanation you make up for the Christian idea of a messiah and salvation doesn’t hold true. Jesus is thought to be an act of love of god towards his creation. He’s not thought to be protecting anybody, let alone interfere with god’s plans as in Christian understanding, god consists out of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – there’s no dualism and definitely no mediating. There’s no scriptural evidence for the existence of hell, that’s why the Catholic Church banned the teaching of hell in the 1960s.

    The similarities between the Jewish and Christian messianic ideas aren’t superficial; we’re talking about the very same concepts (that also exist in other cultures), and, as the (Jewish BTW) religion researchers above among many others duefully noted, without the Christian concept of a messianic person as it eventually manifested itself, there wouldn’t be one in Judaism. In a nutshell, there would be no “Moshiach now!” without Jesus. Any other reading is revisionist and unscholarly wishful thinking. Judaism and Christianity have influenced each other to a great extent.

  • Uhhh, froylein:

    We’ve done this before:

    Christians believe that the Messiah was/became a godhead. Jesus was superhuman in life – and is now god in death. Kinda like Buddha’s elevation to divinity.

    This runs contrary to Judaism, which strongly opposes such pagan notions as a god who takes material form.

    The Jewish messiah will be a military/political leader WHO REMAINS AT ALL TIMES HUMAN. That person will not ever be elevated to godhood.

    That’s a big difference.

    … and the “Christianity does not believe in a wrathful G-d” is longstanding Xtian anti-Jewish rhetoric. The “old covenant” with its laws is promulgated by the “vengeful G-d” of the Jews – while hope-n-changey Jesus ushers in a new era of “grace” and vicarious atonement.

    None of which has stopped Christians through the ages from visiting the “wrath of god” on infidels and Xtians not up to their standards.

    So you have a degree in religious studies, eh? I know the intellectual climate in Europe has been distorted by PC multi-culti thinking – but now I see from your “expert” opinion just how bad it is.

    Maybe you should stick to discussion of global warming – ooops! That’s another area where “expert” opinion is being dismantled by reality…

  • Time to send in a battalion of Swiss Guards to break this up.

  • Want to hear a good tune on the subject.Go to itunes and put in”What i like about Jews” go to “unorthodox” and buy jews for jesus

  • B-D, maybe you should acquire some profound knowledge of religions outside the sphere of your own private little box. Read up on Christology and theodicy; Christianity does so little believe in a wrathful god that its dogmatists have trouble explaining where evil and suffering stem from as the Christian idea of god is that of an omniscient, omnipotent, all-loving creator.
    My “expert” opinion is backed by about any piece of quality literature (as in written by a serious scholar as opposed to some inspired religious instructor) you will find. A little reading couldn’t hurt.
    The scholars mentioned above are Jewish in case this has escaped your attention.

    There also no elevation of Buddha to divinity; Buddhism is a philosophy that from the start outruled the existence of deities.

    And since you still don’t understand the nuanced issues of global warming (just one of many issues of environmental research), I dare say your understanding of the (Orthodox!) Jewish concept of conservation of creation also has escaped your attention.

    FYI, PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment, has repeatedly shown that US and UK private schoolers score at about the same level as German special schoolers.

    Gladly enough, education here has adopted the principles of the Enlightment.

  • Oooh, trotting out the degree and arguing from authority, are we? Nice.

    I do not see a purpose for Jesus at all unless he is there to rectify some problem that G-d can’t solve on his own.

    You say Jesus is some sort of “act of love” by G-d towards man. In what exactly does this act consist? What is Jesus’ purpose? I realize that Christians have to say there is no mediation so they can say that they are worshipping G-d directly when they are actually worshipping G-d through an intdermediary (“no one comes to the father except through me”, etc.); that’s why Jesus has all of these conflicting and irreconcilable natures, and precisely why the Trinity has to be accepted on faith, since there is no way to explain it rationally.

    Tom, can you explain this while I’m standing on one foot? I’m asking this as a sincere question, and I mean no disprespect. From what I have read, according to Christianity, sin separates man from G-d and G-d hates sin so much that there is no way for man and G-d to interact directly. Therefore, Jesus’ sacrifical death acts as a mediation between man and G-d, and reconciles them with one another, with Jesus taking on all of mankind’s sins, and the punishment for them, so mankind doesn’t have to suffer the consequences of its sins. The corollary, of course, is that if Jesus were not there, man would indeed suffer the consequences of his sins, and there would be no way for man to relate to, or be reconciled with, G-d. This presupposes a G-d who indeed does punish sin, that is, a “wrathful” G-d. His “love”, then, consists of giving man a way out of the mess by offering his son as a sacrifice. Again, the implication being that without that sacrifice, there will be hell to pay.

    Is this not so? If not, and if Christians no longer believe in hell, and, by implication, that people who arent Christians aren’t going there (since the place doesn’t exist anymore), then what is the point of the whole exercise?

    froylein, are you a Christian or a Jew? I’m beginning to wonder.

    As far as the Enlightenment is concerned, it has been one long attempt to erase and dilute the influence of religion and to explain it away. This can be seen as good or bad, depending on one’s point of view. It sounds as though the Christianity you have been studying has been defanged and neutered. Modern-day Christians may indeed feel uncomfortable with, and not want to worship, a “wrathful” G-d. But from all accounts in Europe they aren’t interested in worshipping any god, really. You can’t take everything out of the religion that makes it meaningful and have anyone remain interested in it, as seems to be the case in your neck of the woods.

  • Rather to mention my degree than talk out of my derriere… And it doesn’t take to be Christian to take a closer look at how certain concepts in Judaism came about. It doesn’t take to be a Christian to say that Christians believe in a god that is “Father”, “Son”, and “Holy Spirit” (to them) just as little as it takes to be a US American to note that the US political system is coined by the concept of checks-and-balances. This is called academic relativization; I can outline somebody’s point of view without agreeing with that somebody on it. Curiously enough, you also conveniently ignore that the scholars on Jewish messianism I mentioned above are Jewish. And since an obvious misconception of Jewish messianism lies at the core of J4J’s beliefs, it is indeed worth looking into how the Jewish concept of messianism developed, and it is indeed important to understand that neither Judaism nor Christianity from their respective inceptions have existed in hermetically sealed cultural bubbles.

    As for the Enlightment, if you care to do some reading on it, it wasn’t all anti-religion (Kant, notoriously, wasn’t; and I wouldn’t consider Nietzsche enlighted to say the least – he tried to replace religion / god by the myth of an Ãœbermensch). It hasn’t diluted anything but sharpened the approach to acquiring and evaluating knowledge. And while Europeans on average are more secular than US Americans, they’re also on average by far better educated on matters of religion, partly because religious education respectively ethics are part of the curricula of many states here. You cannot take a lack of meaning and elevate it to alleged meaningfulness.

  • I never said that Jewish and Christian concepts of messianism developed independently. That they influenced each other is plain; many, many things, if not most things, in Christianity are derived from Judaism.

    That does not mean that they are the same.

    And the religious affiliation of scholars of this that and the other is not particularly relevant. I can easily see a certain type of Jew doing his best to participate in apologetics about Christianity so as to try to lessen the obvious differences between the religions and somehow explain things away. Scholars of religion are not necessarily religious people; you youself are an excellent example of this. You study religion; you do not believe in it.

    I will always take what a believeing Christian tells me about his religion rather than listen to a secular person who studies religion simply as some other subject of study. I think it is plain that as an observable phenomenon Judaism and Christianity have influenced one another. Inded, without judaism Christianity (and Islam, for that matter) would not exist. That doesn’t mean that “messiah” measn the same thing in Christianity as it does in Judaism.

    I hope Tom can explain what Catholics believe, rather than what scholars think about these beliefs.

    Finally, knowledge about something is not the same as understanding of something. I’m sure you must have learned that in school somewhere.

  • It requires knowledge as a first step though to make for understanding. You cannot base understanding on assumptions; a matter I also make my students understand.

    BTW, scholars can also be religious. It requires more faith to be a scholar than to wear blinkers. But I suppose Maimonides’ level of religiousness should be doubted based on your concept, or that of Rabbi Akiva, who believed Bar Kochba to be messiah.
    Like me, those scholars have got no reason to lessen anything but are certainly interested in straightening out common misconceptions (which certain groups maintain on purpose, e.g. “The Protocols” still are required classroom reading material in Saudi Arabia).

    The dogmatists I mentioned are religious; furthermore, their writings to a large extent define what Catholics are supposed to believe. I know Tom well enough to have an idea of his beliefs, but an individual person’s beliefs aren’t normative for a religious body just as J4J’s beliefs aren’t normative for Judaism.

    • HI fro, i like, is not it something that 2000 years + ago a little place on the map of world ( see map ) that the GOD of abraham known to this little place only . then comes jesus back to them to bring in line the sons of judah . a tough job. takes time, can not force, they must come to the realization of there appointed work they are to work for the life of this world they are to be the messiah of life for GOD. Jesus aman brought to them the way . look now at the map the GOD of that little place is known of by the whole world now . those of judah must needs to find the way. nows the time, you and i will work a work the key of jesus is with judah they know yet do not say who ,
      he was to them and of his way they have covered as also . the world see’s him not fully at this time , there is a way … interested ? to see clearly not new this is rather of the oldest of time is this see fearlessly good , truth…the way of jesus hero of all time to me. JESUS AMAN. … [email protected]

  • As someone who very regrettably fell prey to Orthodox Kiruv in my youth during a vunerable point in my life, I can tell you that the indoctrination process is very subtle and slow, but the end result is not much different than techniques used by other cults. Orthodox kiruv is done by not telling you all the things orthodoxy involves until “you are READY to hear it”.

    First it’s “well, it’s preferable that you don’t use the hot water from the tap on Shabbos, but if it makes you uncomfortable, it’s ok” and “well, it’s preferable that you don’t use a tooth brush and toothpaste on shabbos, but it makes you uncomfortable, it’s ok” . Then it’s “well, it’s preferable if you cover your elbows and ankles, but not everyone does” and the next thing you know it’s “no one will eat in your house if you wear a hat instead of a wig” and “don’t pass the baby or the salt shaker when you are a niddah.”

    Any religion that dictates every action from what color toilet paper you use to every minute detail of your vaginal secretions before you can have sex is a cult.

    They recruit new members by inviting them into a circle of friends and allowing them to participate only to the degree they feel comfortable, however, if they want to marry and be part of the crowd as a “fully functioning Orthodox community member”, they can no longer “pick and choose” or people “will talk” saying “Shosana Smendrik doesn’t use tea essense on shabbat and she opens her soda bottles AND , oy, she tapes the dirty diaper back together …she’s sooo moycal (lienent) I don’t know if we can trust her kashrus…”

    No one told me you can’t have sex in the bathroom until I was already engaged and taking “Kallah classes”. Only cults require classes to tell you the “do’s and don’ts” of sex. I should have called it off then, the shower is my one of my favorite locations. We had to get “permission” to do it in the bathtub and then the Rav gives you the “ba’al tsuvah heter” which you then feel like a weakling and a cheater for taking.

    Then there’s the “ba’al tshuvah” heter for getting a pet dog..”well, we prefer to have babies and it’s better not to have a dog around holy books, but if you really need one, (inuendo: weakling) here are the 5oo rules for what you can and can’t do on shabbos with your pet …”

    Basically, you need a heter for everything including using birth control Any religion that requires it’s members to ask a leader permission to do the most basic everyday things is a cult.

  • I dare any kiruv Rabbi to tell a newcomer “your husband can’t touch you at all, including a hug and mazel tov kiss, from the minute you see blood during labor until at least six weeks or longer afterwards” and see how many new souls they steal.

  • …Nothing more grimly amusing than the combination of bookish pseudo-expertise and the combined arrogances of youth and yekke-hood…

    Christianity does so little believe in a wrathful god that its dogmatists have trouble explaining where evil and suffering stem from as the Christian idea of god is that of an omniscient, omnipotent, all-loving creator.
    – – – – – – – – – – –
    … and how exactly do the Kabbalah, Midrash, and Talmud describe G-d if not in this way?

    Both Lurianic Kabbalah on one hand and Maimonidean rationalism on the other talk about G-d’s creation of this world as an act of love, out of desire to bestow His good upon us.

    Again – the dichotomy between the “wrathful, vengeful” G-d of the Jews and the new Christian era of Grace are well-documented Christian rhetorical inventions. They date back to the initial grudge match as the gentile church broke with Judaism, and re-wrote the story of Jesus’ messiahood into something non-Jewish.

    Further Froylein Fumbling:
    There also no elevation of Buddha to divinity; Buddhism is a philosophy that from the start outruled the existence of deities.
    – – – – – – – – – –
    … which explains those enormous gold-plated statues throughout Asia, and the people prostrating themselves before them – or just offering incense and fruit to streetside mini-shrines.

    Yeah, sure…

    So when you write:
    B-D, maybe you should acquire some profound knowledge of religions outside the sphere of your own private little box.
    – – – – – – – – – –
    It seems that Ephraim and I know quite a bit more than you are willing to admit. Could you please relate to our repeated citing of the well-documented, obvious-to-all-but-“experts” difference between the Jewish and Christian messianic ideals – a difference that was the doctrinal deal-breaker between these 2 faiths?

    … and when you write:
    Rather to mention my degree than talk out of my derriere
    – – – – – – – –
    Who says the 2 are mutually exclusive?

  • Well, B-D, you’ve just demonstrated a large share of ignorance towards the matter.

    First of all, Siddharta Gautama (Buddha) despised religions and their concepts of deities. The statues depicts him, but they’re not supposed to depict a deity. There have been mixed forms of “observance”, e.g. in Cambodia, when people combined elements of Buddhism and Hinduism including Hindu deities.

    I’ve never said that the Jewish concept of god was not that of an omniscient, omni-potent, and all-loving creator. I’ve simply pointed out that this also is the perception Christians have. I’m aware Judaism respectively the Torah has been ascribed a vengeful, so to speak, deity in the course of history, but this has always been cheap polemics (mostly from the Protestant end BTW starting with Luther himself) and not theology.
    Christianity has a hard time struggling with “theodicy” though (so do several Jewish scholars e.g. Maybaum).

    There’s no difference between the Jewish and the Christian messianic idea (and that of other cultures / religions); in a nutshell it goes as follows: the world was perfect, man transgressed and disturbed perfection, a higher power can / will restore the perfect state.

    As for the difference re: the messianic person, it is worth noting that at the time of Jesus of Nazareth, the concept of a messiah person had just become popular, and people spotted messiahs all over the place as they feared the end of the world to be near. (There’s more historicity to “The Life of Brian” than most people think.) Now, Jesus of Nazareth initially had a comparatively tiny following. (Curiously enough, he did not label himself “messiah”, “redeemer” or “saviour”; that terminology was coined by his followers.) They made up just one of many tiny splinter groups of Judaism at that time, so overall not too much attention was paid to them. Since the idea of a messianic person in Judaism at that time was closely linked to the end of days, and the end of the world just wouldn’t come about, Jesus did not make a plausible messiah to many Jews. Now, Jesus’ followers also had a huge time grappling with the realization that the one who they believed would save them was gone and – nada – no end of days. They still believed his teachings though, so that’s how the concept of Jesus’ return came about. The actual Christian religion and the Church developed around that time; the earliest followers were Jews and later also Pagans (there is actually a debate between Paulus and Peter related in the Acts IIRC in which they argue whether Pagans had to get circumcised first to become Christians). Now, J4J also believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the messiah that’ll return at the end of days, but they don’t go through with what is mandatory of people to be Christians, e.g. baptism and participating in the Eucharist / Final Supper. They don’t believe in trinity. Just like Christians, they understand the Prophetic books written in what is called “prophetic view”, i.e. in a manner that only reports “huge” events and does not mention the things happening in between or tell how much time passes in between. I once asked a professor of ST exegesis about it, and he likened it to a person standing on top of a mountain looking at a mountain range and only seeing the tops of the other mountains. Judaism does not read prophetic scriptures that way, therefore any Christology that was based on this “prophetic view” reading is off-base to Judaism or at least the Judaism as it developed, struggled and survived in predominantly Christian medieval environments, but that is also when the Jewish concept of a messianic person became more definite (and naturally responsive to the Christian concept) as Jacob Neusner documented after having done extensive research on rabbinical writings from the 1st to the 7th century CE.

    Off-topic, does either of you know whether there’s a difference in taste to Egyptian and Moroccan saffron?

  • You’re still avoiding the question: what constitutes a perfected world? Judaism and Christianity do not agree on this at all.

    By saying that his kingdom was not of this earth, Jesus essentially abdicated. His “messiahship” evolved into something quite different than it was originally thought to be, precisely because he died without fulfilling his mission. He became the “perfect sacrifice” that was supposed to reconcile man and G-d and rid man of the stain of original sin which condemned them to be cut off from G-d and suffer the consequences if they didn’t believe.

    It may very well be that modern Christianity has done away with the teachings of hell and damnation. My guess is that is all for public consumption. All you have to do is look at one of those medieval frescoes on church walls that show an unconcerned Jesus looking on impassively as terror-stricken souls fall shrieking into the fires of Hell, clawing at their fellow damned trying to escape, to know what is being taught: if you don’t believe in Jesus you’re going to suffer torment in Hell for eternity, and when your time comes, your “loving savior” isn’t going to do a thing about it because, you know, you had your chance but you blew it, man. Man up and take what’s coming to you.

    Christians may believe that their god is a “loving god” because he gave them a way out of this dilemma. But what god would set up the world like that to begin with? A vengeful, wrathful god, that’s who.

    It is true that G-d as depicted in our Torah has his wrathful side. No one can deny that. Sin is severely punished. But there is nothing anywhere that I can see that compares to the threat of an eternity being burned alive if you don’t do what G-d says.

    Please direct me to an official Vatican statement that says that there is no Hell and that people who aren’t Christians aren’t going to go there. This amounts, pretty much, to the Vatican more or less stating that you don’t need to be a Christian to be saved and that one religion is as good as another. I find it hard to believe that a church that claims to be catholic, that is, universal, would pull the rug out from under itself and essentially say “it’s all good”.

    Yes, the Buddha didn’t believe in gods. But he has turned into one, depending on the kind of Buddhism you’re talking about. I visited Todaiji in Nara, a temple of the esoteric Kegon school of Buddhism, which has the largest cast bronze Buddhist statue in the world. It represents Dainichi Nyorai, the Great Cosmic Buddha and the Japanese version of Vairocana. It’s an impressive statue, but as I looked at it and saw the dust floating in the air illuminated by the sunbeams, I wondered how they cleaned it. So I asked the priest, and he said that once a year he does a ceremony to remove the spirit of the Cosmic Buddha from the statue so the young trainee priests can climb on the statue to clean it. After it’s clean, he does his magic and reintroduces the spirit back into to statue to revivify it. In short, it is not a statue at all, it is the living Dainichi Nyorai. Sorry, but that’s a god.

    In other words, mamish avodah zara.

  • The perfect world was / is Gan Eden, both for Jews and for Christians, with the concepts it implies (being fully taken care of, being able to see god and see magnificence in god / god’s glory only).

    The issue with crucification being an act of sacrifice was nothing Jesus’ contemporaries had an issue with – afterall, all but his followers just believed him to be one of many criminals that was crucified by the Romans after a Roman trial. Also, the ban on sacrifices came only about after the destruction of the Second Temple. The notion of Jesus as “the lamb of god” (agnus dei) existed from pretty early on, but its reception had not always been equally strong, so it got strongly developed and emphasized during the Middle Ages. Naturally, rabbis of those era had to respond to this metaphor. A council not received by the West tried to ban the image of the agnus dei in the late 7th century CE, and in turn (out of spite?) not only the depiction of the lamb but also the focus on the sacrifice became stronger in the aftermaths, and that’s also when rabbis started to fully develop the concept of a messianic person.
    [Culinary note, over here, there still are traditional lamb-shaped Easter cakes, and – unlike the medieval depiction of a cross / cross with a banner leaning against the lamb’s shoulder, the cakes often have bamboo skewer with a piece of paper representing the banner poked right through it, which reflects not only how people misunderstood those depictions in churches, but also makes me think of impalement. You get the same kind of baking tins for Easter bunnies BTW; they’re usually sold in a set of two.]

    Also, do not confuse medieval frescoes / paintings with Catholic theology since the 1960s. I’m just contemplating directing you to one of the more notorious documents, but it is vital that you understand that the ban on the teaching of hell does not imply that the Church does not believe it / Jesus is the right path. Whether other religions will receive salvation is also noted in Nostra Aetate.
    Protestantism, BTW, still believes in and preaches hell.

    What you described about the Buddha statue doesn’t make it a god but an idol. 🙂

  • No, it makes him a god, just not G-d. The idea that a person can become a spirit or deity after death, and can then be worshiped, is a common idea in Japan. Buddhism is filled with all sorts of spirits and demigods that are worshiped through idols. Nobody worships an idol if they think it is just a piece of wood or stone. They worship it because they believe it represents a deity.

    Well, glad to see you admit that Protestants still believe in Hell, which is where, I assume, they believe their wrathful and vengeful god will, out of his infinite love for them, send unbelievers, and where they know they would also go if they didn’t toe the theological line. No?

    Is it really necessary to state the blazingly obvious? Of course Catholics are going to think Catholicism is the right path. But without the threat of going to Hell if you don’t believe, I can’t see why anyone would find it necessary to become, or stay, a Catholic. It really might go a long way towards explaining why, in spite of their vastly superior religious education and sophistication regarding religion compared to us simple-minded Americans, Europeans just don’t go to church.

    Also, all of your explanations as to why Christianity developed the way it did are all just explanations of how the development of Christianity is a history of Christians getting their own religion all wrong. More lectures about how Christians themselves are too dumb to understand their own religion. How unsophisticated of them.

    The issue with crucification (sic) being an act of sacrifice was nothing Jesus’ contemporaries had an issue with

    What is that supposed to mean? Do you mean to say that the Jews of Jesus’ time believed in human sacrifice? This statement makes no sense whatsoever.

  • That still doesn’t make the figurines gods, neither in Buddhist nor in Western perspectives. Just that their “adoration” (not sure whether “worship” is quite the right term here) compares to how Westerners view non-Abrahamite religions to worship deities doesn’t mean that the “worshippers” themselves feel that way. Then again, as I noted before, there are places like e.g. Cambodia, where Buddhism has been mixed with Hinduism.

    Protestants also believe that they themselves can go to hell – for about anything. Jehova’s Witnnesses believe that anybody but 144,000 of them are in for eternal condemnation.

    It doesn’t take much to explain why people remain Catholic. It takes as little explaining as to why people remain Jewish. Most are born into it and stick with it. They assume it’s right because that is what they’re accustomed to and it works for them. I haven’t met many believers of either faith that have ever experienced a serious crisis of faith or have seriously entertained the thought of conversion (partly also because they feared alienation and stigmatisation).

    And it doesn’t matter so much if Americans go to church if they don’t understand what is going on and is being said there. (Protestant denominations usually only read from the gospels, possibly the Acts and Apocalypse, so their knowledge of the Torah is anything but strong.) 80% polled believed that the wife of Noah was Jean d’Arc.

    I’d like to add for your consideration that many developments in Judaism would be / could be considered wrong from the Ancient sages’ perspective. They are even considered wrong from many a today’s rabbi’s perspective, but Chasidishe rabbis told me the changes of the early rabbinical period could not be made undone anymore as no rabbi possessed the authority to (which, in itself, is a blasphemous concept as the premise is to be able to know god’s plans). Both religions have developed and adopted concepts triggered by the needs of their respective times and cultural spheres. Even the self-acclaimed Torah-true Judaism in many regards differs from the Torah and has adopted new ideas and also conveniences for itself. Just consider that if not for that, you wouldn’t be able to eat potatoes, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, rice, much of poultry etc. if Judaism hadn’t make them fit for their purpose. The list could be continued: technology / electricity, medical treatments, toiletries, non-organic cosmetics, chinaware etc. All those changes came about with a large dose of debates among Jewish scholars whether they were acceptable or not. Eventually, somebody’s opinion prevailed (this also happened a lot in Christianity, most prominently in matters of trinity, transubstantiation, grace is rewarded for faith only (sola fide) vs. being virtuous, and whether tradition and the teachings also constitute as part of the religious identity – Catholicism agrees with Conservative and Orthodox Judaism on that while Protestantism believes only the book alone (sola scriptura) is what matters). The Ancient sages might have disagreed. Genesis only mentions that humans were permitted to eat fruit / plants. Many religious people I know therefore choose to be vegetarians, but sometime down the line, people made being omnivores fit for them. (I’m not a vegetarian, just saying.) Theologically, consuming animal products remains debatable.

    What I said is not supposed to mean that Jews of Jesus’ time believed in human sacrifice (the pericope of Abraham not sacrificing Isaac is considered the mark of when human sacrifice was replaced by object sacrifice). They didn’t believe it was any form of sacrifice. They believed it was a verdict being carried out. They didn’t believe Jesus to be anything special.

  • Froylein:
    There’s no difference between the Jewish and the Christian messianic idea (and that of other cultures / religions); in a nutshell it goes as follows: the world was perfect, man transgressed and disturbed perfection, a higher power can / will restore the perfect state.
    – – – – – – – – –

    Your uneven historical precis leaves out the reasons for the schism between Judaism and Christianity.

    As Jews relinquished their notion of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah – a flesh-and-blood political leader who would liberate the Jews – a process accelerated by his failure to “get it right the first time” or “come back” OR stop the Roman destruction of the Temple, and violent dispersion of Israel – the gentile church, increasingly made up of non-Jews with no living connection to Israel or Jewish tradition, began grafting extremely non-Jewish tropes and legends onto the Jesus story.

    Front and center is the recasting of Jesus as god – that’s why it’s called “Christianity”. Its central differentiator from Judaism is the assertion that Christ is HEAVENLY King – in a way foreign to the Jewish notion of the Messiah.

    Thus Jesus’ biography is jiggered to make it fit the model – taken from the pagan cult of Dionysis – of a god who is reborn in the spring.

    Thus Jesus’ new demigod status is bolstered with the story of the virgin birth – a rewritten version of the old Greco-Roman staple by which Zeus/Jupiter swoops down and knocks up a nymph, giving birth to a supernatural hero. And the Jewish Bible is knowingly mistranslated to make the newly minted story fit.

    Et cetera.

    You cut your historical precis short at exactly this point. I wonder why?

    I could go further – pointing out that the Jewish notion of Tikkun Olam does not involve an imposed deux-et-machina, but is dependent upon human free will, justice, and lovingkindness. Again, this nobler – but more demanding – ideal was cast over by Christianity in favor of the drive-thru-window approach to salvation.

    And I don’t use saffron, it’s too expensive to waste on my ketchup-is-tomato-sauce wife and children.

  • B-D, read more closely; I was talking about the messianic idea as outlined by Werblowsky and not a messianic person.

    I also explained why the majority Jews of back then did not accept Jesus as a messiah in some more detail, and, for all accounts we’ve got, Jesus deliberately stayed out of politics. Later persecutions of Christians based on their refusal to worship the Roman Emperor as a deity took place about 150 years after the destruction of the Temple.

    Judaism resp. Israelism (the older term) do not imply either that Juda or Israel / Jacob are heavenly kings. Just as little as there’s a deity called Hindu, Cathol, Protestant, etc.

    Luther did a bad translation of the Torah, which reflected his anti-Jewish bias, but there have been many more before and ever since (Septuagint anybody?) that have done translations, Jewish scholars at that. There isn’t just one translation of the Jewish bible as little as there is only one translation of the Christian one.

    The term “virgin birth” is a colloquialism to describe “immaculate conception”; it describes the idea that Mary was conceived without original sin, but that concept has been highly debated in Catholicism, too, and is not received in Protestantism.

    There was a Jewish concept of “virgin birth” back when, which referred to any woman bearing her firstborn.

  • Your problem is that you insist on defining G-d by Western monotheistic standards. So, if a “god” didn’t create the universe, offer the path to salvation, or have the power of judgment, you just say, “nope, not a god”. But Buddhism most certainly ascribes certain powers to its various supernatural beings such as devas and bodhisattvas, and people pray to them as though they are gods. So even if you insist they are not gods according to your Eurocentric beliefs, they function as gods/deities for the people who worship them through idols in the sense that they have powers and can be supplicated or asked for things.

    See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_in_Buddhism.

    The fact that Buddhism doesn’t concern itself with who or what created the world doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a vast and complex array of supernatural beings that, as the focus of worship, function as gods.

    Again: who else but a vengeful and wrathful god would condemn all but 144,000 people to Hell?

    Your understanding of how halacha works seems astonishingly shallow for someone who passes herself off as an expert in religion. The categ,orization of any new thing, like a potato or electricity is determined to be kosher or not kosher by the sages of whatever period the new thing is discovered. That’s how Judaism has always worked. Are you not aware of that?

    And as far as meat eating is concerned, have you not read the Bible? G-d specifically gives Noach permission to eat meat.

    Clearly, you have studied the Torah like a scientist dissecting a dead frog. You see what it’s made of and define it according to a pre-determined theory about what it should and shouldn’t be and decide that any development since Gan Eden, essentially, is a foreign interpolation. The Torah was meant to be expounded upon and adapted to new situations. The ability to define everything according to the Torah is built into it. The fact that you seem to think the arguments between the sages about various new things, and the fact that the acceptability or lack thereof is decided by the majority is somehow a perversion of the essential purity of the Torah exhibits such a profound misunderstanding of what the Torah is I just don’t know what to say.

    • how many covenants ( or covering over an certain sin ) have there been that have not been changed into a more symbolic representation. how many times has one thing been clearly related not to do , yet been later found of some only way to survive.(first born dedication, do not cross over here for it is given to your brother, destroy not anothers belief in their idea of god for you know not that it may have been for them by our GOD for their benefit in an earlier time . as noah then clearly told ( now clouded over by new trans.) only know that for mans requiring the the life of the creature so also mans life then required shall be .No cover for this shall be long lasting as truth will not be kept hidden for ever.so there is what has been freely given and there is what has been given at a cost … this cost very high , not profitable , for what even if you were to gain all the world yet lose your own soul ( life ) would you have … 0 … all would be lost,,,so make the ,,right ,, choice,, then you gain equity , and more is soon.

  • I just don’t know what to say myself as you seem to even be incapable of reading what I have written.

    Buddhism says, “There are no gods.” You ascribe the quality of deities to their religious practice based on linking it to Western religious practice, but I’m Eurocentric? The focus of Buddhism are “the eight truths”.

    Also, I explained that Judaism – just as Christianity – has always adopted itself to new times and cultural spheres, which goes beyond what the Torah says. The Torah introduces its laws with the notion that if kept, the Israelites will keep living in the land they’ve been promised. Furthermore, exegetes of standing argue that the “thou shall not” at the time of its origin was understood as “thou will not”, which confines the observance of laws to the times when the Israelites live in the Promised Land.

    And, have you not read what I wrote? I wrote that Genesis (as in the stories of creation as that is what genesis literally means) permitted the eating of fruit / plants and that somewhere along the line Jews made being omnivores fit for themselves, but that still, religious people I know choose to be vegetarians.

    It seems a perversion and a great deal of hubris to me that you deny Christians or J4J their selective reading and interpretation of the bible while you grant yourself the right to read it just as selectively by retrospectively adopting the later interpretations that prevailed to your own understanding of the religion. If you had cared to read how some of the halachic decision making had come about, you’d have noticed that often enough the rabbis were inable to stop trends / fashions / fads that eventually have manifested themselves in Orthodox Judaism to this day. Your reading is a travesty of history and does not do the sages of the rabbinical times justice.
    From a standpoint of differentiating between a religion (“believing”) and a cult (“[claim of] knowing”), Christians’ and J4J’s interpretations might be just as valid as those of any branch of Judaism.

  • froylein, I lived in Japan for 11 years. People worship statues there and Buddhism has all sorts of supernatural beings that take the form of various Buddhist incarnations and that people worship as we would worship gods. There is always a difference between how the religion is understood by the elite and how it is practiced by most people. If you want to say that the common people don’t understand their own religion, that’s OK, but there are certain kinds of Buddhism where these divinities are looked upon as just that. Perhaps Buddha did not intend for that to happen but that’s indeed what did happen. But, then, there are all sorts of Buddhism. Some are definitely not theistic, such as Zen, and some very much seem to be, such as Pure Land.

    Judaism is, essentially, what the rabbis say it is, and it was structured to be that way. People outside the tradition, such as Christians, are welcome to their interpretation of the Bible, but that does no mean that I have to agree that it is a correct interpretation.

    I did indeed read what you wrote. You say that “somewhere along the line Jews made being omnivores fit for themselves”, making it sound as though they decided that they wanted to eat meat, but had a problem since the Torah said that they were supposed to be vegetarians, and so they basically took it upon themselves to eat meat and make up a justification for it later. Is this what you are saying? So G-d telling Noach that he could eat meat, and all of the laws in Leviticus that says what meat can and cannot be eaten are just something the Jews pulled out of their collective hat because they didn’t want to do what G-d said?

    And it’s the “Four Noble Truths” and the “Eightfold Path”. Get it right.

  • It’s translated as “the eight truths” into German, I’m sorry.

    The rabbis haven’t always agreed nor have they always agreed with what adherents made out of it (e.g. wearing wigs – rabbis opposed it when the fashion came up in the 18th century CE). Not all rabbis agreed on permitting candles instead of oil flasks as candles symbolically denote Jesus. The list is long. What prevailed with the people is what stuck, not what made a consensus among the rabbis.

    Noah is “tradition literature” merging two pre-existing stories into one (hence the differences in numbers of animals). We should beware to apply a Western, literal reading to biblical scriptures, which have an Oriental background. Oriental narration has it that a story is considered “true” if it emphasizes an intention or a morale, but that has got nothing whatsoever to do with the literal, Western approach. Earlier Judaism even before the edification and codification of the Torah in the second century BCE therefore understood the various stories and legends as “true”, but they didn’t take them literally.

  • OK, well, if your point is that the whole Torah is just made up, there’s really no point in discussing this any further.

    I mean, seriously. If you start out from the assumption that people just made this stuff up as they went along, what’s the point?

    If you believe that the Torah is nothing but a pastiche of this and that, you can’t say on one hand that the Torah tells Jews they should be vegetarians and then they later decided it should say something else and so they stuck all that other stuff in. Once you start down that road there’s no stopping. How do you know that the story of humans being vegetarian in Gan Eden wasn’t made up later for some reason?

    But even if we accept that Noach is “Oriental tradition literature” and is “true” not because it actually happened but because it expresses some intention or moral, it is still accepted within that tradition as true, and the outcome is still the same: eating meat is perfectly OK. It’s not a contravention of anything, in spite of what religious Jewish vegetarians say.

    The same thing happened in Buddhism. Buddha did not want to be worshiped as a deity, but he eventually came to be in certain Buddhist traditions. Is this not “true” since as “Oriental tradition literature” it expresses an “intention” and a “moral”? You can’t have it both ways.

  • Well, well – it seems that Ephraim knows a bit more about other faiths than you thought, Froyeleh.

    B-D, read more closely; I was talking about the messianic idea as outlined by Werblowsky
    – – – – – – – –
    And the rest of us are talking about the centuries-long reality outside your little world of academic “expertise”.

    In which Jews view the messiah as another mortal human – and Christians view him as a superhero who ascended to godhood.

    for all accounts we’ve got, Jesus deliberately stayed out of politics.
    – – – – – – –
    Nope, he was perceived by the Romans as one in a series of “liberation front” agitators. Pontius executed many such “political activists”.

    Again – that reality dovetails with the original belief of some Jews that Jesus – or several other actors at the time, such as Bar Kochba – was the POLITICAL/MILITARY LEADER who would liberate them, as per the JEWISH notion of the Messiah.

    Nothing about a godhead until the story gets being rewritten by gentiles in the 2nd and 3rd century.

    This is a pattern that most scholars of the New Testament agree to – it jibes with archeology of the various gospels, and explains their sometimes contradictory description. The more historically accurate – and Jewish in orientation – are the earliest, and texts are found in the Middle East in Aramaic. Later gospels appeared later, further away – and espouse Gnostic and pagan ideas.

    The term “virgin birth” is a colloquialism to describe “immaculate conception”; it describes the idea that Mary was conceived without original sin, but that concept has been highly debated in Catholicism, too, and is not received in Protestantism.

    There was a Jewish concept of “virgin birth” back when, which referred to any woman bearing her firstborn.
    – – – – – – – – – –
    You know as well as I that this is NOT what Christians mean by “virgin birth” – they mean that Jesus was conceived by G-d supplanting Joseph and impregnating Mary. Just like Zeus and the nymph of the moment.

  • Ben-David wrote,

    In which Jews view the messiah as another mortal human – and Christians view him as a superhero who ascended to godhood.

    There is nothing in the Torah about the Messiah. Doesn’t that make you wonder about how essential this concept really is? I know, I know, Rambam’s 13.

    Never the less…it does seem a later add-on.

  • My little world of expertise is bigger than the world of assumptions, allegations, deliberately misunderstanding, and arbitrarily interpreting.

    For your consideration, Abel kept cattle just for fun.

  • I think Ephraim had a question about Jesus waaaay back when, but I assume froylein has answered it at some point during these exchanges. It seems, however, that we can’t even agree about Buddhism. Islam, anyone?

    One can fully honor the distinctions between Judaism and Christianity and still find amusement in Ben-David’s strenuousness in making them. He ridicules a God who authors supernatural events and intervenes directly in human affairs. And we all got that notion from– yes, you guessed it…..

    I think froylein’s correct about Jesus and politics, unless, of course, one joins Ben-David’s deference to the judgment of his ancestors’ former colonial masters.

  • Actually, Tom, no, she didn’t. She insists that 1) I don’t understand what role Jesus really plays in the Christian idea of salvation, and 2) that Catholics no longer believe in Hell, by which I assume she means non-Christians are no longer damned. I am not particularly interested in Jesus’ politics. I want to know what he means theologically.

    Also, if we’re talking about G-d here, he must, pretty much by definition, be able to intervene in human affairs and cause supernatural events (I mean, come on: the Ten Plagues? Splitting the Red Sea?. etc.) What I want to know is WHY Christians believe that G-d had to intervene in precisely the way they believe he did, that is, by impregnating a human woman so she could birth to a god/man whose whole purpose was to be sacrificed so that those who believed in him could be “saved”.

    Anyway, I would prefer to get the skinny about Catholicism from a believing Catholic rather than from a secular Jewish school teacher.

  • College teacher actually; not that it matters. Academic standards are universal. And even primary school teachers here must take what compares to American post-graduate degrees.

    BTW, the splitting of the Red Sea is Priestal Code.

  • Good grief. Priestly Code, Deuteronomist, J, whatever. You are this close to validating all of the stereotypes I hear about Germans.

    Sorry our US educational standards are so shockingly slack compared to yours. I guess that’s why we’re so stupid.

    I’ll continue this discussion if and when Tom answers my question, if it’s all the same to you.

  • Ah, cheap polemics has always made a great argument.

    Tom may be a believer but he is not a cultist; Pentateuch editorial history is part of what even Catholic priests must study and is taught at priestal seminaries / faculties teaching prospective priests (due to a decree by Bismarck, priests in Prussian, now, by the Catholic Church’s order, all German-speaking territories must obtain a degree in religious studies from a secular university) .

  • That’s not my point, froylein. I’m rolling my eyes and being sarcastic and snarky because bringing in scholarly arguments about who may or may not have written this or that part of the Bible is not germane to my question and only serves as another way for you to show off what you learned at university, something in which I am not particularly interested at this point.

    I’m asking Tom what he believes as a Catholic. You may be very well educated and have encyclopedic knowledge about many things, but I don’t think you can answer that question.

  • Actually, I can and I did. You are just making me my eyes roll with your limited understanding of what is at the core of this whole thread, namely the distinction between what is a religion and what is a cult and how much social legitimization therefore either possesses.

  • No, only Tom can tell me what his personal beliefs are. Thinking you can answer for him is appallingly arrogant.

  • Claiming it’s not possible to know what a) the official teaching of the Catholic Church is (on a matter that has either been defined through scripture, dogmas or council constitutions, which makes observance for any adherent compulsory), b) what a friend, which Tom happens to be, believes in is appallingly ignorant.

  • This is a link to the entry on Hell from The Catholic Encyclopedia. Tom can tell me whether it accurately describes Catholic beliefs on Hell or not. Sounds like a pretty bad place.


    Of course, if it is inaccurate, someone should bring it to the Pope’s attention.

  • I think Ben-David’s mostly right to distinguish between the ‘reality’ of belief and what theologians and others say about it. Without any intention to differ from church teaching, what one believes is a distillation of experience and temperament, as well as what’s taught.

    Jesus is a curious character, puzzling and elusive. Here’s a guy who’s already changed water into wine, cured lepers etc., who asks his closest followers/ eyewitesses, ‘who do people say I am?’ and ‘you, who do you say I am’?, whose birth couldn’t have been more abject or his death more humiliating.

    For me, God’s engagement with the world amounts to a narrative, what the church sometimes refers to as His ‘plan for salvation’. He enters history with the revelations made to, and covenant formed with, the Jewish people. On the simplest level, Jesus (and his legatees) made God known to gentiles and made them co-heirs with the Jews, as Paul put it. (Even here, it’s not a clear picture, because Jesus never straightforwardly pronounced himself to this effect, and the apostles heatedly debated this issue after his death.) This is the least, but most important, thing to be said about him. That’s what I believe to be redemptive about him. He set forth a pathway to salvation for non-Jews.

    The questions to which Jesus is an answer are how and who questions, not what questions– how we believe and who engages the duties and rewards of faith, not what we believe. Jesus insisted that he didn’t seek to undermine, but rather advance, the law of Moses. He did not portray himself as a revolutionary, or even non-mainstream, figure.

    What he seems to have done is depart in some measure from the forms of observance of his time (no stoning of adulteresses; ‘the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath’, etc.) and (arguably), as stated above, treat Jews and non-Jews similarly.

    But the content, love your neighbor as yourself, etc., is not, obviously, a departure from what’s there in the Torah. Jesus essentially simplified the message so that even people like me can understand it. But I’m not sure Christian morality materially differs at all from Judaism. Perhaps relative to forgiveness, I’m not sure.

    The Church teaches that God can’t be understood to have broken his convenant with the Jewish people, so Jesus can’t be viewed to have somehow delegitimized Judaism. The Church also teaches, as the current pope has said, that there have been saints in every time and every place. Paul wrote that love is more important than faith. So everyone can be saved, at least as I understand the teaching. Jesus was an inclusive figure, so this makes sense to me.

    (Of course, my evangelical brethren loudly quote John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Meaning…. what, exactly?)

    Now, the Church thinks it’s got a fuller and truer understanding, via Jesus, of God and His plan for salvation. That’s very different from saying, ‘we’re right and you’re hopelessly beyond the pale’– i.e., ‘no salvation outside the Church’, the teaching until a couple of generations ago. It’s not ‘my way or the highway’, but it isn’t syncretism, either.

    No doubt God isn’t finished with us– the narrative isn’t over– and I suspect He’ll eventually supplement our understanding in such a way as to render our current viewpoint primitive. Jesus was an event and a step in that process, but in the meantime, we Catholics should always err on the side of humility rather than judgment, even about our own beliefs.

  • The current pope’s trying to help hell make a comeback. From 3/07:

    “Addressing a parish gathering in a northern suburb of Rome, the Pope said that in the modern world many people, including some believers, had forgotten that if they failed to ‘admit blame and promise to sin no more’, they risked ‘eternal damnation – the inferno’.

    Hell ‘really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much any more’, he said.”

  • Thanks, Tom.

    Still, what the Pope said about Hell, is, basically, not that it doesn’t exist and that the damned won’t go there, just that we don’t talk about it much. That is entirely different than what froylein seemed to be saying, so far as I can tell.

    My argument with her was primarily about her statement that “Christians don’t believe in a wrathful god”. As a non-Christian, I simply do not see how the belief in the actual existence of a place of eternal damnation and hellfire, to which the damned are condemned throughout eternity, can be squared with a “loving” god. A god who was all love simply would not create such a place, nor would he condemn anyone to it.

    Now, if one wants to say that G-d, in the Christian conception, has both loving and wrathful sides, that’s different. We believe the same thing. But that’s not what froylein said. Christians may not go around obsessing about G-d’s wrathfulness any more than most Jews I know do, but the threat of eternal damnation is ever present, so far as I, an outsider, can see.

    Now, I understand that Christians believe that by offering his son as a sacrifice, G-d gave people a way out and that this is proof of his love for them. Fine, I accept that Christians believe this. It still doesn’t answer WHY this was necessary, or do away with the corollary that should this path not have been made available, salvation would not be possible. Without salvation, people are condemned to Hell for eternity, or that’s what the Catholic Encyclopedia seems to be saying. Again, as a non-believer, I can’t see why a loving god would set up the world like this.

    Be all that as it may, thanks for your thoughtful answer. It’s refreshing not to be lectured about how stupid I am.

  • The Catholic Encyclopedia’s notoriously run by hardliners. There’s a big issue with personal beliefs in Catholicism, cause if yours differ from the three most compulsory types of teaching (scripture, dogma, council constitution), you’re technically not a member of the Catholic Church anymore.
    BTW, the translation into English says “hell”, but people that I know that are fluent in Italian told me there’s also a distinction a la gehenna and sheol.
    Search vatican.va for the English version of “Iesus Dominus”; it was written by Ratzinger when still head of the Congregation of Faith, and it was highly disputed, particularly by such notorious people as Cardinal Walter Kaspar, who said it did a lot of damage to interfaith dialogue (not because of its message, which is pure Christian eschatology, but because of its bluntness).

  • Bzzzzz, I asked professors of Catholic dogmatics, and they said a dualistic deity (uniting good and evil) or an omnipotent, all-loving, omniscient creator deity creating evil is unthinkable in Christian doctrine and begs the question of theodicy. It is an explanation, but one that does not correspond with Christian theology.

  • I don’t care if the Catholic Encyclopedia is run by hardliners, softliners, or flatliners, froylein.

    Have they been excommunicated and have the teachings in the encyclopedia been disavowed by the Vatican?

    If not, I assume they are accurate.

    And Tom didn’t say “The Catholic Encyclopedia? WTF are you reading, man?”, so I assume he’s OK with my quoting it.

  • OK. Get them to explain the existence of Hell and get back to me then.

  • It doesn’t have an “Imprimatur”, which means it does not reflect / go in line with official Roman teaching and hasn’t been approved by Rome either. Whether contributors to the site have been excommunicated or whatnot is not necessarily a matter of public knowledge. I asked a few Catholic profs (some progressives, others conservatives) I know a while back about the quality of the site as a quick online look-up tool, and they all adviced to stay away from that site as it’s too hardline and not a scholarly piece of reference. At the bottom of the page is a dedication to the “Immaculate Heart of Mary”; that’s a religious orientation you’ll largely find among the Pious Brotherhood; it started in the 19th century as a popular anti-Prussian movement. Bismarck struggled with the Pope of his time (which brought about a few great social benefits actually; look up “Syllabus Errorum” for a good laugh – an edict later popes quickly put away with), so in turn there was a large reactionary movement of German Catholics particularly in those parts under Prussian occupation. That movement was called “Ultramontanism” as Catholics turned “beyond the mountains” (i.e. turned to Rome south of the Alps) to be instructed on matters of everyday life, e.g. whether Catholics were permitted to ride bicycles. The “Immaculate Heart of Mary / Jesus”-groups are seen as fanatics these days.
    My Yiddish-cursing, yet adorably wise great-grandma was given a “Immaculate Heart of Jesus” statue as a gift someday – hands spread as if blessing, so she used it to keep her hairnet from tangling up at night.

  • Whatever.

    Tom just said that the Pope reaffirmed the existence of Hell. Good enough for me.

    If the Pope is misrepresenting Catholic dogma, I think someone should let him know so he doesn’t get excommunicated.

  • Tom quoted a news message that, for all that’s been verified to me by people that speak Italian fluently, has been a mistranslation. If anyone or anything had been misrepresenting anything, then it is the language the interpreter had to interpret into, which doesn’t know the more nuanced distinction. Such things happen. When after WW2, Germans asked their American relatives to send “Korn” (= crops like wheat, rye etc.), they didn’t think they’d end up with huge loads of maize.

  • As far as Hell, I think Norman Greenbaum summarized Christian philosophy nicely when he wrote “you gotta have a friend in Jesus so you know that when you die, he’s gonna recommend you to the spirit in the sky.”

    When I die and they lay me to rest, I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best. I hope to go to Rock ‘N Roll Heaven, they play on Shabbat so there are no Orthodox Jews there. They are located with other fundamentalist cultists.

  • Well, that’s my point, Chutzpah. Without the J-man’s recommendation, you go to The Other Place.

    Wrathful god, etc.

    Like I said, froylein, please direct me to a statement by the Vatican that says “The official position of the Catholic Church is that Hell does not exist, people who are not Christians are not damned for eternity, and you don’t need to believe in Jesus in order to be saved”.

  • Told you, Ephraim: “Nostra Aetate”, “Iesus Dominus” just to mention two documents. “Iesus Dominus” is a tough read though and requires some concentrated reading and not jumping to conclusions on stumbling upon a keyword or a catch phrase.

    In addition, I suggest you obtain a copy of each, the full texts of the documents by Vaticanum II and the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”. It would only be fair considering they teach Talmud classes at priestal seminaries.

  • If those documents are too long for you, please consider that observant Catholics recite psalm 23 upon death.