I recently finished reading the Kindle edition of Refuting Rabbinic Objections to Christianity & Messianic Prophecies by Eitan Bar. It’s a fascinating look at rabbinic objections to Christianity and their refutations. The Amazon short description of the book is:
For us, Jews who grew up in Israel, Jesus and His word were never part of the conversation. Not in our school system, not in our synagogues, and not in our media. Nor do we have easy access to the New Testament. Jesus has been studiously avoided, and hidden from our people. Today in Israel, 99.7% of the Jewish population, reject Jesus as the Messiah. How did our country, where the gospel first took place, come to be so adamantly against it?
At the time of this writing, it is free for the Kindle version. Each chapter deals directly with common rabbinic objections to Jesus and Christianity. This book is an enlightening and enjoyable read. I’ve previously blogged about chapter 17 of this book, Refuting Rabbinic Claims of Contradictions in the New Testament
In chapter 40, entitled “8 Ways Jesus Changed the World for You!”, Eitan presents “eight ways that illustrate how the advanced enlightenment of the modern era originated in Jesus.”
He starts off the chapter with:
Most people take the Western culture into which they were born for granted, without questioning where it came from, or how it developed…
Look at any positive human activity in today’s culture and with few exceptions its roots were developed by the disciples of the most famous rabbi in the world, Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and his teachings from the Bible. All throughout history, bad people have taken God’s words out of context, twisting their meaning and using them to serve their own selfish agendas – the horrific slave trade in America is an example. But it would be wrong of us to blame such things on the Bible itself. Why? Since Western culture was established on Biblical principles, without the Bible, today’s culture wouldn’t exist.
In their book “Literature Through the Eyes of Faith”, researchers Gallagher and Lundin, write concerning the New Testament that:
“The Bible is one of the most important documents in the history of civilization, not only because of its status as holy inspired Scripture, but also because of its pervasive influence on Western thought. As the predominant world view for at least fourteen centuries, Christianity and its great central text played a major role in the formation of Western culture. Consequently, many literary texts, even those in our post-Christian era, frequently draw on the Bible.”
Let’s look at a few of the categories that Eitan mentions in his chapter:
In ancient times, art was used mainly to praise and glorify kings and rulers. But since the time of Jesus, art became public property. In fact, since the beginning of history, no book has inspired so many pieces of art as the Bible has, from classical music compositions to the most famous paintings in any museum in the world. It cannot be denied that there is no competition to the literary influence of Jesus’ words and the New Testament, whether in paintings, in songs, in drama and all areas of art.
Professor Fish from Bar-Ilan University says that the New Testament writings gave authors since the Middle Ages onwards, “many symbols, ideas, and a unique perspective on reality, more than any other composition, whether ancient or from our time. This influence expressed itself not only in compositions directly related to characters or subjects from the Holy Scriptures, but also in countless compositions, songs and theater productions that are not dealing directly with the Bible, but support its views on civilization and the world.”
2. MEDICINE, RESEARCH & SCIENCE.
During the time of Jesus, under the rule of the Roman Empire, Greek philosophy reigned supreme. They believed that there was no real value to our bodies, or to matter in general, and that only ideas and thoughts held real value. In contrast, Jesus taught (based on the Hebrew Scriptures) that our physical body is important, because it was created in the image of God, and that the quality of our individual lives matters. Thanks to that viewpoint, the fields of medicine and science flourished wherever his followers went. In fact, most of the first scientists in history were spiritual people who believed the Bible to be the Word of God and Jesus to be the Messiah. It was on their shoulders that modern science was raised.
Here are a few examples: Founder of the Big Bang Theory, Professor Georges Lemaître; founder of the Scientific Method, Francis Bacon; founder of Modern Rationalism, René Descartes; renowned physicist, Galileo Galilei; formulator of the Laws of Attraction, Sir Isaac Newton; one of the founders of the Theory of Astronomy, Nicolaus Copernicus; founder of Kepler’s Laws, Johannes Kepler; Blaise Pascal, who laid out foundations for geometry; among the founders of Electromagnetic Theory, Michael Faraday; Father of modern genetics, Gregor Mendel; among the fathers of Quantum Theory, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, Max Planck; and Father of Microbiology, Louis Pasteur.
5. THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF OPINION AND EXPRESSION
At the time of Jesus, both Greek philosophy and the religious leaders of Israel claimed that only society, state, or tribe were important, suppressing the individual’s opinion and voice. Jesus, social justice warrior of his time, taught that it was not only the voices of high-powered and influential men that should count, but that each and every person is important in God’s eyes. He treated the opinions and feelings of the sinner, the weak, the needy and the rejected as equally important and deserving of respect. Jesus did not allow the religious leaders of his time to crush the weak. He demonstrated this in action by sitting down and dining with the sinners and outcasts of society. Based on Jesus’ example, what is known today as Human Rights was developed, including freedom of speech. The democracy of the Western countries are based on Jesus’ teachings. Look at the difference between the Western Christian countries and the Muslim countries and it’s clear how far-reaching was Jesus’ influence on freedom of speech (even when, at times, it is taken advantage of).
6. MODERN JUSTICE
Greek Philosophy taught that there was no real value to a person’s choices or actions since everything was in the hands of fate, which ultimately decides every outcome. In complete contrast, Jesus taught from the Bible that our choices matter and that every decision or every thought, including the smallest ones, may have far-reaching consequences. We have the ability to build or to be useful, or to hurt, destroy or to annihilate. Every person carries on his or her shoulders the full responsibility for his/her actions, and one day we will be required to give an account to God for everything we have done. This is what the modern justice system is based upon. And this is undeniably the reason why in courtrooms and in movies the well-known expression is displayed: “In God we trust”.
While both the rabbis and Greek Philosophy taught that feelings and emotions should be suppressed, Jesus taught that mankind was created in the likeness of God and therefore human feelings do not exist by mistake – rather, they are healthy, essential, positive and important and they need to be guided and understood. Based on this teaching by Jesus, what is known today as “psychology” was developed. Entire concepts in psychology can be traced to verses in the New Testament. For example, in ancient days, crying was considered shameful and looked at as a weakness, but in the New Testament, Jesus is not only described as crying several times, but He even commands his followers: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” The better way is to identify not only with those who are joyful, but also with those who suffer, and to suffer with them, in order to comfort them. This way of thinking is so basic that, thanks to Jesus, most people today take it for granted.
8. THE STATUS OF WOMEN
The shameful status of women in rabbinic Judaism was detailed a few chapters earlier. More could have been said on that with quotes from established historians but it doesn’t take a great historian to know the degradation women have suffered in religion and in ancient times in general. When the Pharisees (rabbis of Jesus’ time) caught a woman in an act of adultery they wanted to stone her to death at Jesus’ feet. But Jesus demonstrated God’s grace and love in an extraordinary way. In that chapter, the rabbis brought the adulterous woman to Jesus in order to test him and to see if he would agree to have her killed according to the law. Jesus urged the one without any sin in his life to throw the first stone. He defused the situation peacefully, and in the process, taught them a lesson about God’s love and forgiveness.
This is the love of God that appeared to us in the image of the Messiah, so that we might have a perfect role model and source of inspiration in every aspect of life – for our physical needs as well as our spiritual needs. Jesus changed the lives of those who chose to follow him: he gave them a hope and a future and renewed their hearts, minds and spirits, so that they can be a blessing to those around them, and he changes hearts today. He gave up his majesty and honor – even his own life – for us imperfect people, so that we can join him in giving, building, encouraging and creating within the society in which we live.
He concludes the chapter with:
Jesus the Messiah is the example, the role model and the perfection for our entire human experience.