Oh yeah, Decemberween, when I recommend a bunch of free, online content that I find enjoyable so you can partake of it in this period of Everything Being Busy, what kind of fun cool interesting media are we talking about today? Well, extremely deep Tanakh scholarship from what amounts to the internet version of a conservative Jewish call-in show.
Look, when I recommend media, you know I’m not recommending media veganism. I don’t think that Rabbi Singer is in any way going to line up with me on almost any front. I tolerate a pretty high level of what I’d call ‘coot factor’ when it comes to religious scholarship. I imagine, I assume, that say, an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi who lives In Israel probably has some pretty cruddy views about oh, you know, maybe that country they’re living in called Palestine, and I’m not asking you to make exception to that.
Still, I have been listening to a lot of this guy this year, because of a specific area of scholarship where he’s been working very hard since the 1980s. Singer is an aggressive and constant opponent to the idea of Messianic Judaism.
Messianic Judaism is the idea of Christians trying to convert Jews. This is typically done by claiming that Christianity is compatible with Judaism, or that Judaism has been Christianity all along. There’s also a lot of imagery nonsense, like trying to use The Wordless Book style storytelling over the Seder to show that hey, doesn’t this bread remind you of Jesus?
What I’ve known for a long time is that the gospels are inconsistent, and this should be a problem for people who claim that the gospels represent divine literal truth. What I didn’t know is how much the New Testament is inconsistent with the Old Testament, where phrases that I knew didn’t line up are demonstrated changes in the text, rather than what I, an English language speaker thought growing up, that they were just translated differently.
Anyway, Rabbi Singer defends his position and his faith and his values, and provides a perspective on Christianity from the position of someone who knows it very well and who knows the faith it claims to own. I find these talks and these long form textual conversations about specific wording changes in the two components of the Christian Bible super interesting. What’s more, they’re just going to come at things on a different footing. Me, an atheist, pointing out how Christianity does feature ritual cannibalism and a human sacrifice, get eyerolls because of course I’d just ‘not get it’ because I’m not religious. But when someone who is religious brings those same ideas to task, that position looks very different.
It’s interesting to me, and Rabbi Singer seems to have an extraordinarily strong grasp of all the concepts. When he talks about Dispensationalism and Evangelical Christianity, his mastery of the topic aligns with what I know, and he justifies what he knows from texts that I can go look up (even if I have to trust others translating Hebrew). Some of it is still Preacher dialogue, and I’m familiar with that, but it’s still really damn interesting to me.