Jewish Argument: "Christians Distort Jewish Scriptures"

Salvete, omnes!

(First, I hope I have placed this topic in the right forum. Please feel free to move, if not.)

How do we answer thefollowing argument from many Jews: “Christians distort the Jewish scriptures.”

Now, I know that this is a very broad question (and probably the shortest one I’ve posted here to date), but, please, feel free to attack this from any angle you would like.

I am particularly interested in your responses as they related to so-called messianic prophesies in both the Major/Minor Prophets as well as the Psalms.

One instance (but certainly not the only one) you might consider is the notion that, in Hebrew, the word for “virgin” can apparently simply mean “young woman” and that the passage that contains this apparent prophesy of Jesus’ birth through Mary is actually referring to a particular battle at a particular time and to nothing in the far-out future such as Jesus’ birth would have been at the time.

Now, mind you, I don’t wish necessarily only to focus on this particular passage (though it may come up in discussion on this thread). I wish to focus more, though, on the question as it applies to a variety of passages (you choose) which Jews have claimed that Christians distort.

I am also more interested in any direction you all might have to more detailed books/commentaries addressing this issue either online or of-.

(Indeed, some Jews might be more charitable and believe that we simply “misinterpret” these scriptures, but, either way, my questions above still stand.)

Gratias multas.

The so-called “virgin controversy” consists of truckloads of argumentation back and forth, which can make one’s head spin. On YouTube, there are the Dr. Michael Brown and Rabbi Tovia Singer debates which explore this and many other controversies. A lot hinges on specific Hebrew words that mean “young woman,” as well as the literary and historical, cultural context of the verses. The debate itself is rather endless.

But here is the kicker… The Virgin Mary was a “young woman” :smiley:

This should be no surprise whatever.

After all, if our understanding of the Hebrew Bible dovetailed perfectly with the Rabbinic interpretation, there would be not two faiths but only one.


If she was fourteen, as some claim, then she was only a girl!


No. According to a Jewish law she was a woman. She already had her Bat Mitzvah.

Lets not place modern views on the past. For example my great grand mother was married at 14, then widowed and married again by 18 or 19. And she was in America.

Yes, by Jewish law, a girl is a woman at the age of 12 and can take on such responsibilities and blessings as lighting the Sabbath candles and fasting on holy days. For a boy, the age is 13. However, there was no formal celebration of a girl’s Bat Mitzvah until 1922 in the U.S. The Bar Mitzvah ritual began in the 6th century C.E.

Although the Bible does not mention bat mitzvah, or for that matter, the BVM’s age; remember that even in the mid 1900s, Church law allowed for valid marriage by “girls” of fourteen, and “boys” of sixteen (at least in the sense that those **under **those ages could not marry validly.)

We should not try to transpose our postmodern sensitivities onto an earlier historic time.


The definitive answer to Is.7:14 is that in the LXX , the rabbis actually used the Greek word." parthenos" which can only mean an untouched virgin. This was two hundred years before Christ.

That is only the beginning of the dispute. Having read extensively on this issue, I can definitively state that there is no definitive answer.

What is your opinion on this explanation:

This Septuagint version, used by the Catholic Church ever since there was a Christian Bible, was made over two centuries before the Christian era. It was “greeted with enthusiasm by the Jews everywhere,” as Vallentine’s Jewish Encyclopedia says (p. 593). Truly, as you say, the enthusiasm of the Jews was due to the fact “that their Book was now available to the Greek-reading public.” Yet it is reasonable to assume that the 72 translators would not have agreed, unanimously, to transcribe the word almah into parthenos for the Greek-reading public, unless they believed, as do Christians, that a virgin was foretold by Isaiah to conceive of the Emmanuel, God with us. And it is also reasonable to assume that High Priest Eleazar, who appointed the 72, and gave them his most valuable manuscript to translate, said to have been written in gold, would have allowed the word “parthenos” (virgin) to remain in the translated Isaiah 7:14 if it were not warranted by the Isaiahian thought in the text.

Objection on the part of the Jews to the Septuagint version of Holy Writ, which you echo, did not manifest until Old Testament Judaism, with its priesthood, sacrifices and altar, ceased to function, having blossomed forth into Catholic Christianity, thanks to “the Emmanuel,” the God with us, Who came into the world as Isaiah predicted. This objection was due to hostility on the part of the Jews to Christ and His Church. Vallentine’s Jewish Encyclopedia says:—“The appearance of the Septuagint was greeted with enthusiasm by the Jews everywhere, but with the rise of the Christian sect and its adoption of this version of the Bible, the Jews began to denounce it vehemently, accusing the Christians of falsifying the texts here and there” (p. 593).

The opposition began with Rabbi Akiba, to whom the Jews attribute the canon of Scripture used by them during the Christian ages. This is acknowledged by the Jewish Encyclopedia thus:—“The motive underlying his (Akiba’s) antagonism to the apocrypha, namely the desire to disarm Christians—especially Jewish Christians—who drew their ‘proofs’ (therefrom), to emancipate the Jews of the dispora (Jews outside of Palestine) from the domination of the Septuagint … which was used as arguments against the Jews by the Christians” (Vol. 1, p. 306).

Here’s a book I can recommend: *Why the Jews Rejected Jesus *by David Klinghoffer, published by Doubleday in 2005. The chapter called The New Religion is particularly interesting. Here Klinghoffer (who is a rabbi) makes the point that Christians read and understand the Old Testament through a certain philosophical lens – they bring to it the premise that Jesus is the savior, that salvation is from him. They read the OT from the perspective of the NT. They prioritize the New over the old, while Jews who believe as Jews do just the reverse. They prioritize the OId over the New. They begin with the premise that God speaks through the Hebrew Bible. If they then go on to read the New Testament, they find that it does not arise naturally or logically from the foundation document, the Old Testament. Seen from the Jewish perspective, there is an awkward fit between the OT and the NT.

Three important issues are omitted from this argument. One is that the original Septuagint, constructed over 2200 years ago (before Christianity) was a Greek translation ONLY of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible: that is, the Torah Law. It did NOT include the Prophets. That portion of the Hebrew Bible was not fashioned, that is, translated until about the third century A.D., and not by Jews but by the Church. Second, the word “parthenos” in Greek does not mean ONLY virgin, but also young woman, dependent on the context in which the word is used. In Genesis, for example, the word is used to mean the latter rather than the former. Finally, the notion that Isaiah refers to the Messiah in his prophecy has always been contested by Hebrew scholars. These proof-texts have been argued ever since Christians used them to confirm that Jesus is the Messiah according to the meaning of Isaiah’s text. The changes in the Hebrew text here, no doubt by the Church in the third century A.D., are the mainstay of dispute. Upon these changes, many misinterpretations follow.

Being a Catholic with a bit of Jewish heritage on one side of the family and a love of the Jewish people i have spent a lot of time watching debates between Jews and Christians and can only second what my Jewish friend here says that the debate is simply endless, and after awhile it pretty much starts to do your head in. I am of the opinion that in the end you pick a side and stick with it while maintaining a deep respect for the other. I have never believed that salvation is dependent on whether you get it right in your interpretation of scripture. I am a Catholic but every day i pray for the deliverance from oppression of the Jewish people.

My thoughts exactly.

I am in a similar situation and agree with what you say here.

In our family this is never brought up - our Jewish family likes to “discuss” political and social issues.

I agree. After about two decades of observation and prayer over these issues and arguments, I’m in the “pick a side and stick with it” camp with deep respect and humility towards the other. Things are not as clear cut on either side as Christian and Jewish apologists and polemicists make them out to be.

And well, at the end of the day, “He has told you, o man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: To do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” is more than clear enough to keep a person walking forward while waiting for further enlightenment which may not come till Judgment Day.

Not by the majority of Jews at the time–who neither spoke nor read Greek. That’s a pretty obvious error.

“meltzerboy locuta est, causa finita est!" :smiley:

I’ll take that as a compliment.

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