I finally found the time to read this excellent book and I, quite naturally, have a few comments. First and foremost that I would recommend it to anyone. It is an excellent read. I have long held, with much criticism in Rabbinic circles, that Yeshua was a Jewish revolutionary who sought to weaken the corrupt power of the Pharisees and that of the Romans in favor of an independent (or semi-autonomous) Jewish state. Bear in mind that Judea was ruled at the time by a Roman procurator not even by a Jewish King as in the case of Herod the Great.
Nehemia Gordon demonstrates his excellent scholarly skill in this work translating the Hebrew version of the christian book of Matthew. He points to the ample evidence that Yeshua believed in the total and strict adherence to the written Torah and ancient Jewish laws and rejected Pharisaical teachings.
Any Jew reading this book should avoid the Preface, Forward, and Introduction and skip through to the first chapter. A Christian reading this book should read the Forward and then go on to Chapter 1.
I am particularly excited by the clear delineation of the five iniquities of the Pharisees (Rabbis) in Chapter 3. These are a clear and concise way to establish specifically the ways in which Karaism disagrees with Rabbinic Judaism.
All together the book is excellent. I, while not intending to be disagreeable, have a few differences with Nehemia that are worth mentioning for the purposes of scholarly discussion. I want to state clearly that Nehemia has been a teacher of mine and that I appreciate what he has taught me. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him personally and wish these points to reflect only professional disagreements. The fact that I have so few disagreements should be read as a ringing endorsement of this work and of Nehemia as a scholar.
1. The book fails to add a sixth iniquity off Rabbinic Judaism that is shared by all forms of Judaism at present (unfortunately including Karaism): the influence of Zoroastrianism. While it is clear that Jews did believe is some limited form of afterlife or some concoction of it (sheol, for example), the Torah explicitly places death and anything that may follow it in the category of uncleanliness. We cannot truly believe in an afterlife because the Torah teaches us to focus on life. Zoroasrtrianism is also responsible for the belief in an end times, a magical Meshiach (Messiah) character (as opposed to the restoration of the Davidic Monarchy), and similar magical, cosmic nonsense that actually contradicts the Torah. If YHVH wanted us to believe in these things they would have been included in the Torah and Zoroaster would have been a Jewish prophet. I do not wish in any way to disparage Zoroastiranism, a perfectly legitimate religion, I am simply stating that its beliefs are incompatible with those of Judaism and the Torah, much the same way that many of the beliefs of Islam and Christianity are incompatible.
2. Yerem’Yahu (Jeremiah) 12:16 is referred to as an end times prophecy. I have already discussed this in the series on the misinterpretation of the Tanakh which can be found under the “scriptures” label.
3. The scriptural evidence of support for an afterlife (Daniel 12:2 and Psalms 133:3) is a little dubious. The Book of Daniel, outside of the first chapter, is the bane of any biblical scholar as it is the only book that is outrageously historically inaccurate, is partially written in Aramaic, and actually engages in idolatry by rendering a physical description of G-d in the form of the Canaanite false deity El (Babylonian Marduk). Psalms 133:1-3 reads:
1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
3 As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.
The third paragraph is supposed to refer to an afterlife but could just as easily be understood as eternal life for the Nation of Israel, YHVH’s first son among the nations.
Now that the disagreements are out of the way I would like to take the opportunity to add something. I do not wish to be presumtuous or arrogant, I simply feel I have an area of study in which I have developed interesting insights that the book does not include:
While the book does not misportray the Tzadukim (Sadducees) it does misunderstand them. This is an error that is derived from the failure to acknowledge the influence of Zoroastrianism on Judaism. The Tzadukim are often portrayed by the Rabbinics as virtual apostates who went after Greek philosophies and the Greek way of life. Recent archaeological discoveries have cast serious doubt on this theory because the sadducee homes were as “Jewish” as those of the Pharisees, if not more so. Nehemia accurately points out that like any religio-political movement, the Pharisees included, there were several permutations of Sadducees. One faction (I prefer to call the Deist Sadducees) did not believe in angels (except as they appear in the Torah that is, as holy men), did not believe in any afterlife, and did not subscribe to ideas about magical messianic figures. A second faction (I prefer to call Theist Sadducees) believed in an afterlife, angels, and perhaps the Meshiach only to the extent that they were referenced in the scriptures. The Sadducees were thus united not in that they simply opposed the commandments of men that were put forward by the Pharisees but by universal opposition to the Zoroastrian ideological infiltration of Judaism. I cannot blame anyone for this error because it took me several years of research to arrive at this conclusion. I will write more on the Sadducees elsewhere. The Deist/Theist reference is courtesy Arthur C. Clark.
I hope everyone will read and enjoy this book.