I know … not the sort of “academic” title you’re used to seeing here. It’s prompted by some recent feedback I’ve gotten for my post “Can We Please Stop Appealing to Rabbis for Biblical and Ancient Text Interpretation?” You guessed it. There’s fear that my words (in the minds of some) could suggest anti-Semitism.
I know what you’re thinking, “Mike, that accusation is just stupid.” Yes, truth be told, it is. And it’s also insulting. For me, “anti-Semite” is a synonym for words like “moron” or “evil.” I have no patience or tolerance for it. But, alas, this is the state of our culture. We seem unable to think clearly about the most transparently clear things. Just because I point out the obvious – that speaking / reading Hebrew doesn’t make you a biblical scholar any more than speaking / reading English makes you a biblical scholar – that translates to being anti-Semitic. I suppose, since my original post said the same thing about Christian pastors (namely, just because they can read their Bible with fluency doesn’t mean they interpret it well or correctly) I’m also anti-Christian! Sure. Good thinking there.
Despite the silliness of it all, it seems that I ought to say something about this (again, declare the obvious). As much of a head-scratcher as this is, I’ve been told there may be persons out there in Christian Middle Earth who might use something I’ve blogged or said in an interview to defend anti-Semitism. I’m not sure precisely how that would be done (especially given my profile below), but I suppose it’s possible. After all, my material has been used to promote the idea of a flat earth. Some readers will recall that (in a now infamous post), I asked whether there was anything dumber than modern belief in a flat earth. I presumed the answer was no, but I may have been wrong. Anti-Semitism has to be right up there. Maybe I should poll the audience. But I digress. . . .
Those of you who know me are already having a good laugh. But for those out there in the wacky world of the internet and fake news, I wanted to show you how really absurd (and hard) it would be to make me a defender of the idiocy known as anti-Semitism. Here’s my “profile”…
First, I’m on YouTube videos in probably a thousand places saying that, when it comes to the Bible, “I want the Old Testament Israelite and the first century Jew living in your head” so that you understand Scripture the way it was meant to be understood. I’m serious about that. It’s obviously not something an anti-Semite would say. The statement really isn’t intended to be anti-anything. What it really says is that I’m pro-ancient context – the context that produced Scripture, the one that was around long before the rabbinic (and early Christian) periods. If you understand what chronology is or what a calendar is used for that ought to be perfectly comprehensible.
Second, I’ve blogged about the absurdity of anti-Semitism – specifically how anti-Semitism is ungodly and (sadly) can creep into biblical studies:
- Anti-Semitic Bible Study (I got ambushed by an anti-Semite on a podcast – it didn’t go well for him)
- The Bias of 19th Century German Biblical and Assyriological Scholarship (this one is about the anti-Semitic beliefs that, in part, steered Panbabylonianism of the 19th and early 20th century)
- The Serpent and Eve Nonsense: Where The Idea Comes From and Does Not Come From (This one is about the ugly “Jews are the seed of the serpent” crap)
Third, back in September of 2016 I publicly announced to this audience that I would not appear again on a particular podcast because the host had said anti-Semitic things. I’ve not linked to that post because the host came around and apologized. He did the right thing, which was a blessing.
Fourth, there’s my Twitter feed (@msheiser). You’ll find me re-tweeting all sorts of rebuttals and criticisms to anti-Semites and leftist defenders of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc. Honestly, it’s fun to remind people that evil is, well, evil.
Fifth, there’s the the podcast episode I did with Gerald McDermott. In the second half of that episode we talk about a book he edited on the national Israel question in the New Testament. While I believe (Galatians 3 is crystal clear) that the Church is the new Israel, as I say on the Naked Bible Podcast (episode 165), the conclusions of supercessionism go too far. I don’t think Israel is a separate people of God, so I’m not a traditional dispensationalist, either (As I’ve said many times, I don’t like any of the systems). But I certainly believe national Israel has a prophetic future. Israel as a people has not had her identity erased. Paul’s goal was for them to be saved through Jesus, the messiah, and prophecies about reclaiming the nations and eschatological warfare centered on Israel are still in operation. To be even more explicit: Israel has a right to exist and terrorist anti-Semitic groups (and those who are complicit with them) are evil. They should be defunded and opposed in every legal way. It’s an easy call as to with whom I stand: Israel.
That of course doesn’t mean Israel is sacrosanct, as though it can do no wrong, or ought never to be criticized. (The same goes for the Church). Israel wasn’t sacrosanct in the Bible. Just like Christian believers are not sacrosanct now (by “sacrosanct” I mean that neither Israel, Jews, or Christians have some sort of special status that makes them immune from judgment when they do wrong). Being the people of God doesn’t give us (Jew or Gentile follower of Christ) the right to say “don’t judge me for anything I do.” The opposite is true. Being the people of God means we should live in a way that is above reproach. This is simple, clear biblical theology, and I won’t amend that theology for someone’s hermeneutical sensitivities.
Think about how the Bible approaches the people of God. Just because Israel was elect did not mean they (or her people) could sin whenever they wanted. When they did wrong, God himself judged their behavior. The Bible is filled with that principle. Goodness, that’s what the biblical prophets were for – it was their job to hold the people to true worship. When Israel does what’s wrong today, they should be called out. Being a Jews doesn’t mean never having to be accountable. When Christians do wrong today, they should be likewise called out. The standard is the same. To deny this is to say God’s own behavior toward sin in the life of his people was wrong (i.e., you’re saying God was wrong to judge, which is blasphemous, so good luck with that).
But I’ll grant (against all hope) there may be a theologically-illiterate person out there on the web somewhere that thinks not agreeing with either Darby, Scofield, Walvoord, or Ryrie means you hate Israel and Jews, or that thinking Israel and Jews are capable of moral transgression might indicate anti-Semitism. If you know one such person (or are one) don’t tell me. There’s still a little of my soul that hasn’t been crushed by Middle Earth, and I’d like to keep that intact. Thanks.
But wait … there’s still more to my profile …
I speak at messianic congregations that are (hold your breath) attended by Jews and people who love Israel and Jews. That’s not a secret, as it’s been online for years. (Hint: If you want to hide your anti-Semitism, don’t speak at messianic congregations and put it on YouTube).
And let’s not forget that I worked full-time while going to school full-time for fifteen years just so I could get degrees in HEBREW BIBLE.
So let me be candid. When it comes to this anti-Semitic thing. I’m totally incompetent. I really suck at it. So if you want to defend that evil, you’ll have to go elsewhere. Maybe you could summon Cthulhu or something else from the pit of hell for that.
I don’t want to believe that someone would think my insistence that people utilize the tools of biblical scholarship for Bible interpretation instead of just going with what a rabbi says is anti-Semitic. But it seems you can find at least one person for almost any flawed idea. If that’s you, get help. Please.