3 Reasons Why Messianic Jews Believe The Scriptures (Pt 1)
By Rabbi Barney Kasdan
Messianic Jews also see many other references in the New Covenant that clearly claim that the Bible is a supernatural revelation from God. Shaul/Paul made it clear that he, as a traditional Jew, believed in the complete inspiration of the Tenach when he wrote: â€œAll Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right livingâ€ (II Timothy 3:16). Although Shaul would be considered out of step with many modern theories, he held to the historical view that the Hebrew Scriptures were in fact â€œtruthâ€ because they found their source in God himself. Shimon/Peter also believed this very strongly as he states in his letter:
â€œFirst of all, understand this: no prophecy of Scripture is to be interpreted by an individual on his own; for never has a prophecy come as a result of human willâ€”on the contrary, people moved by the Ruach HaKodesh/Holy Spirit spoke a message from Godâ€ (II Peter 1:20-21).
These verses, among many others, clearly substantiate biblical claims of divine inspiration of the Tenach. But a vital question for Messianic Jews (as well as others) is what about the New Covenant itself? The fact is that the Jewish writers of the New Covenant claim similar divine inspiration for their first century message. Yeshua, as well as the writer of the Gospels and the letters at many points claim to speak a word from the God of Israel (cf. John 8:38; Romans 1:1-4; I Peter 1:23-25). These first century Jewish believers understood that God was using them to communicate the divine New Covenant to our people and to all the nations. Shimon even confirms that, while Shaulâ€™s writings are not always easy to understand, his letters were to be considered on equal authority with â€œthe other Scripturesâ€ (italics mine, II Peter 3:15-16). So the point is clearly made within the Scriptures themselves that they claim not to be the mere word of man but the divine word of God.
For some people, of course, these claims are less than convincing. After all, couldnâ€™t the Bible be fallible in some details, for example, in science or history? Yet how can we trust a book on spiritual matters that is filled with mistakes on others issues? Some may suggest that maybe it is only the concepts of the Scriptures and not the actually words which are inspired. Of course this would call into question the traditional high view of Scripture, which Yeshua summarized, that every letter is vital. Or maybe we only need to hold to the position of partial inspiration. But if that is so, who is going to decide which words are valid and which are false and on what basis? And how do we dissect the words which are so intricately entwined? Admittedly, these questions are not to be taken lightly, yet even liberal Bible scholars struggle with the loopholes in many of these theories, as exemplified in the words of JEPD proponent Dr. Richard Elliott Friedman:
â€œStill, the simple fact is that, in large part, the puzzle remains unsolved. And the elusiveness of the solution continues to frustrate our work on a variety of other questions about the Bibleâ€ (Who Wrote The Bible? P.29).
Nonetheless, the Bibleâ€™s self-claims of inspiration cannot be brushed off lightly. The logical implications are vast. Simply put, either the Bible is the word of man, the word of God or a mixture of both. The internal claims of inspiration are one big reason why Messianic Jews believe that the Bible is the undiluted message from God.
#2 Diligence In Preservation
Beyond the amazing claims of the Scripture about inspiration, there is another strong reason why Messianic Jews believe the Bible. Many of us have certainly been awestruck by the meticulous preservation of the writings, especially by generations of our own people. Of course this seems to follow logically the first stated reason why we believe. After all, if the claims of the Tenach are taken seriously, then it understandable why Israel took such great precautions to accurately preserve the Holy Text. Indeed, this vital task of copying the Scriptures led to the development of a special class of scholars known as the soferim (scribes). So important was there job to the Jewish community that a whole tractate of the Talmud is dedicated to the specific job description of the copyist (cf. Tractate Megillot). To perform their sacred task, the soferim followed these highly structured procedures, much of which is still implemented to this day. The sofer, at the start of his work day, was required to take the mikveh (water immersion) as a symbol of his spiritual cleansing. Then, equipped with a feather quill and a special ink mixture, the scribe would mark out the straight lines on the kosher parchment. Because he was not allowed to rely on his memory, the sofer would consult a reliable copy of the Scriptures as his model (Tractate Megillot 18b). From there, the scribe was to first read the sentence aloud then to write what was said. Every column, every word, every letter, indeed every space was (and is) vitally important and checked with the utmost diligence. In fact, the word sofer in Hebrew can be understood as more that just a copyist. The Talmud calls them â€œcountersâ€ because they would check their work by actually counting the letters (Tractate Kiddushin 30.1). That is the reason, by the way, that the letter vav in the word â€œgachonâ€ is enlarged in the text of Leviticus 11:42. That vav turns out to be the middle letter of the entire Torah. Such was the precise accuracy incumbent upon these scholars. If a question developed as to a scroll being kosher or not, there was a sure-fire test. A young child would be brought in to read the passage. If the child could read it accurately, then the scroll was deemed kosher for religious purposes. If, by some chance, there was found an error (e.g., chipped or smudged letter) within a parchment, the scroll was to be buried in a cemetery with the utmost respect as it still contained the holy name of God within it.
More detail could be elaborated here but we should all get the point. Such attention and concern for the preservation of the Holy Scriptures should be a strong reason for trusting in the message of the Bible. Our people historically not only believed that the Scriptures were a message from God, but they also paid the price (sometimes in blood) to insure the accurate transmission of that message. But, the skeptic may ask, are there no errors in the manuscripts? A good question to which we must answer, of course there are some. As mentioned above, even the soferim realized that they too were human and had ways of dealing with scribal errors. Out of the thousands of ancient manuscripts, we should not be surprised to discover that there are a few such errors and textual variations. Scholars in the field of textual criticism take a close look at these issues and seek logical answers. Viable answers are there if we desire them. In fact, it is a testimony to the veracity of the Scriptures that, despite the salvos of modern attacks, the Bible still stands as the rock for any seekers of truth. It is therefore not merely a “leap of faith” for those who want to be religious but there is concrete evidence for faith for those who sincerely seek the Giver of the Torah. As we pray every Torah service, “it is a Tree of Life to all who uphold it”.