In my recent debate with Rabbi Asher Meza, he made at least four factual errors. I pointed these errors out to him at the time, although, in some cases, he said I would have to show him that. Therefore here is the documentation on these four factual errors:
Greek Translations Before and After the Septuagint
In my debate with Rabbi Asher Meza I made the point that there were Greek translations of the Torah before the Septuagint and Greek Translations of Tanak after the Septuagint.
Aristoblus (to whom Judas Maccabee writes in 2Maccabees 1:10) states that Plato had access to a Greek translation of the Torah before the Septuagint was translated:
"It is evident that Plato imitated our legislation and that he had investigated thoroughly each of the elements in it. For it had been translated by others before before Demetrius Phalereus, before the conquests of Alexander and the Persians."
(Aristoblus; Fragment 3; quoted in Eusebius 12:12:1f)
Singer, and other anti-missionaries, claim that the Greek Septuagint translation of the Tanak was created by Christians and that it supposedly contains many places where passages were altered by Christians.
In fact he origin of the Septuagint is well known. Flavious Josephus records that Ptolemy Philadelphus (around 250 B.C.E.), entered into negotiations with the Jewish High Priest, to obtain a Greek translation of the Torah for the Library of Alexandria. Ptolemy agreed to release many Jewish prisoners in exchange for the book. The Jewish authorities chose seventy two translators, to produce a Greek translator of the Torah. (Josephus; Antiquities 12:2). Although the Greek Septuagint (named after the Greek for "seventy") was initially only a translation of the Torah, by no later than 150 B.C.E. the rest of the Tanak had been included as well, since at that time the grandson of Ben Sirach, in his prologue to his Greek translation of his grandfather's "Wisdom of Ben Sirach", briefly compares the Hebrew and Greek versions of "the law itself, the prophecies, and the rest of the books".
The Greek Septuagint is actually very important because it is the earliest known translation of the Tanak into another language, and preserves a Greek translation of a Hebrew text of the Tanak, that existed in the third century C.E. (in the case of the Torah; the second century in the case of the Prophets and the Writings). It was not composed by Christians.
While Singer generally accuses Christians of having created the Septuagint in order to alter the text and embed altered verses to support their arguments into it, in fact exactly the opposite is true.
As we read in Old Testament Textual Criticism: A Practical Introduction, By Ellis R Brotzman:
"In time the Septuagint came to be adopted by the Christians churches. Since it was often used in debates between Christians and Jews, it came to be viewed with suspicion by the latter. This led, in the course of the second century A.D., to the production of three rival Greek versions that each bore a different relationship to the original Septuagint.
The earliest of these rival versions (ca. A.D. 150) was produced by Aquila, a Jewish proselyte and disciple of Akiva…
The second rival version of the second century A.D. was produced by Theodotion…
The last of the rival second-century A.D. versions was produced by Symmachus…"
(Old Testament Textual Criticism: A Practical Introduction, By Ellis R Brotzman; pp. 74-75-76)
So while the anti-missionaries accuse believers in Yeshua as Messiah of having altered the text and fabricated the Septuagint as a Greek text made to agree with their claims, the truth is much to the contrary. It was in fact the Scribes of the Masoretic Text that admittedly made over 100 alterations to the original Hebrew text, and Rabbinic Jews who fabricated revised Greek versions intentionally revised to counter Septuagint based arguments being made by believers in Yeshua in their ongoing debates with them.
Rabbi Asher Meza argued that there was only one Great Sanhedrin, and that any mention of another Sanhedrin by Josephus must come from some other time period than that of Yeshua.
There were at least two Sanhedrins (Great Assemblies) in the first century.
One of these was a political body which had become an instrument of Rome. This body is that often mentioned by Josephus and in the New Testament. It was headed by the High Priest (a Sadducee) (Josephus Ant. 20:9:1; Mt. 26:57-27:1;Mk. 14:53-15:1; Lk. 22:66-23:1; Jn. 18:12-28; Acts 4:5-23; 5:22-42; 23:6) and was made up of both Pharisees and Sadducees (Acts 5:22-42; 23:6) . (This may have been the remnants of the original "Great Assembly").
By contrast the Pharisee Sanhedrin was made up of Pharisee scholars only. It had seventy Elders plus the Nasi (m.San. 1:6). This is the body spoken of in the Mishna, Tosefta and Talmuds in tractate Sanhedrin. It was headed by Zuggot (pairs) made up of a Nasi and an Av Beit Din (m.Hag. 2:2). Hillel and his descendants served as Nasi of this Sanhedrin (m.Hag. 2:2; b.Pes. 66a; b.Shab. 15a; t.San. 2:6; b.San. 11b) who were descendants of King David (b.Ket. 62b; Gen. Rabba 98). Whereas Gamliel was Nasi of the Pharisee Sanhedrin (t.San. 2:6; b.San. 11b) he was only a member of the Political Sanhedrin (Acts 5:22-42).
The reference by Josephus (Ant. 20:9:1) does indeed (contrary to what Rabbi Asher Meza claimed) take place during Josephus' own lifetime, around 62 CE at the death of Porcius Festus was procurator of Judea.
Real Variances in Dead Dea Scrolls Torah
Rabbi Asher Meza claimed that the only real variances in the Torah in the Dead Sea Scrolls were just minor differences of single letters and now whole words or significant to meaning,
One good example is Exodus 1:5
Anti missionaries have pointed to seventy-five in Acts 7:14 as an error (Gen. 46:27; Ex. 1:5) the Masoretic Text has seventy but the Septuagint has seventy-five. A Qumran text of Ex. 1:5 (4QGen-Exod. agrees with the Septuagint and Acts 7:14. So the OLDEST Hebrew text has seventy-five (Gen. 46:27 has not survived in the Scrolls).
Another good example is Deut. 32:8 where the Dead Sea Scroll text 4QDeut agrees with the Septuagint in reading "Sons of God" where the Masoretic Text has "Sons of Israel".
I could give literally dozens of examples, but these two will do nicely. As I pointed out to Rabbi Asher Meza, these are not just mistakes thrown into a Geniza as discarded scrolls, because these differences made their way into the Septuagint.
Targum Onkelos not a Literal Translation
In our debate, Rabbi Asher Meza attempted to argue that Targum Onkelos differed from Targum Jonathan in being a literal translation rather than a paraphrase.
The following are just a few examples that back up my point that Onkelos is very much a paraphrase of the Torah, not a literal translation.
In Deut. 18:19 the Torah says of those who do not give heed to this Messiah "I [Elohim] will require it of him." But the Targum Onkelos paraphrases this saying "My Word shall take vengeance upon him"
Targum Onkelos to Gen. 2:7 adds a phrase at the end of the verse "and man became a spirit with speech".
"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be."
The Targums (Onkelos, Pseudo-Jonathan and Yerushalmi) all have "until Messiah comes" in place of "until Shiloh comes".
On many occasions the Targums paraphrase YHWH with the phase "Word of YHWH" and on some occasions the Word (MEMRA) is mentioned in the paraphrase where YHWH is not mentioned. The term is applied to YHWH in Targum Onkelos 179 times, the Jerusalem Targum 99 times and Targum Pseudo-Jonathan 321 times. Here are just a few interesting examples in Onkelos:
It was, according to Targum Onkelos, this Word of YHWH that Abraham trusted in:
And Abraham trusted in the Word [Memra] of YHWH,
and He counted it to him for righteousness.
(Targum Onkelos Gen. 15:6)
The Word was also the covenant maker. For example the Noachdic covenant was between the Word and all mankind:
And YHWH said to Noah,
"This is the token of the covenant
which I have established between My Word [Memra]
and between all flesh that is upon the earth.
(Targum Onkelos Gen. 9:17)
The Word also made the Abrahamic covenant as Targum Onkelos also paraphrases:
And I will establish my covenant
between My Word [Memra] and between you…
(Targum Onkelos Gen. 17:7)
These are just a few examples.
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