A Global Association of Orthodox Jewish Believers in Messiah Yeshua
Messanic Apologetics 101
I was asked once to define Apologetics from a Messianic perspective.
It is this and this alone:
One must reduce every argument to a Torah argument alone.
For example, if one can’t reduce an argument concerning Mashiach to one made from the Torah alone, nor support any point taken from the Prophets or Writings (including the Latter Writings of the disciples of Yeshua) from the Torah, then one really doesn’t have an argument to stand upon at all – and this is true for anyone, including Messianics, Christians and non believing Jews!
This is Messianic Apologetics in a nutshell (and of course basic Jewish hermeneutics 101).
This is based on the premise that one can not add to nor take away from the Torah, as Deut 13:1 in your Jewish bible (and one verse before in your Protestant bible) says:
את כל-הדבר אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם אתו תשמרו לעשות לא-תסף עליו ולא תגרע ממנו
Deuteronomy 12:32 (13-1)
And all The Word which I command you, you shall fence about and serve; you shall not add to it, nor diminish from it.
In fact, this foundation is the basis for determining a false prophet since immediately it is written:
Deuteronomy 12:32-13:5 (13:1-6)
א את כל-הדבר, אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם–אתו תשמרו, לעשות: לא-תסף עליו, ולא תגרע ממנו.
ב כי-יקום בקרבך נביא, או חלם חלום; ונתן אליך אות, או מופת. ג ובא האות והמופת, אשר-דבר אליך לאמר: נלכה אחרי אלהים אחרים, אשר לא-ידעתם–ונעבדם. ד לא תשמע, אל-דברי הנביא ההוא, או אל-חולם החלום, ההוא: כי מנסה יהוה אלהיכם, אתכם, לדעת הישכם אהבים את-יהוה אלהיכם, בכל-לבבכם ובכל-נפשכם. ה אחרי יהוה אלהיכם תלכו, ואתו תיראו; ואת-מצותיו תשמרו ובקלו תשמעו, ואתו תעבדו ובו תדבקון. ו והנביא ההוא או חלם החלום ההוא יומת, כי דבר-סרה על-יהוה אלהיכם המוציא אתכם מארץ מצרים והפדך מבית עבדים–להדיחך מן-הדרך, אשר צוך יהוה אלהיך ללכת בה; ובערת הרע, מקרבך.
Deuteronomy 12:32-13:5 (13:1-6)
1 (12:32) All this word which I command you, that shall ye observe to do; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
If there arise in the midst of thee a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams—and he give thee a sign or a wonder,
2 (13-3) and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke unto thee—saying: ‘Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them’;
3 (13-4) thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or unto that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your G-d putteth you to proof, to know whether ye do love the LORD your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul.
4 (13-5) After the LORD your G-d shall ye walk, and Him shall ye fear, and His commandments shall ye keep, and unto His voice shall ye hearken, and Him shall ye serve, and unto Him shall ye cleave.
5 (13-6) And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken perversion against the LORD your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of bondage, to draw thee aside out of The Way which the LORD thy G-d commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put away the evil from the midst of thee.
The one who speaks perversion against HaShem, is one who adds to or subtracts from The Word which HaShem commands us, and it doesn’t matter if he performs signs and wonders that come to pass!
The challenge for Messianics (and everyone for that matter, including non-believing Jews) has always been and will continue to be to reduce their arguments to an argument from Torah only. This is because the Prophets and Writings can not add to nor subtract from from what the Torah says concerning the matters of which they write, either!
For the Messianic, this is all the more true concerning teaching about Messiah Yeshua from the Torah. If the Messiah and his disciples could do it, we should be able to as well:
For if ye believed Moses, ye would believe me; for he wrote of me.
And he said unto them, These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me.
Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
But this I confess unto thee, that after the Way which they call a sect, so serve I the G-d of our fathers, believing all things which are according to the law, and which are written in the prophets;
And when they had appointed him a day, they came to him into his lodging in great number; to whom he expounded the matter,testifying the kingdom of G-d, and persuading them concerning Jesus, both from the law of Moses and from the prophets, from morning till evening.
But now apart from the law a righteousness of G-d hath been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets
If one can’t justify an argument they are making from the Torah itself, then one may not really even have an argument upon which to stand, and could very well be holding on to a falsifiable argument! The apostle Paul knew this as he approached the Bereans, and even recognized them as “noble” for searching out the Scriptures (the Torah, Prophets, and Writings) to see if what Paul said was true:
Acts 17:11 Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received The Word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so.
Since we know the Bereans accepted what Paul taught them, and because he calls them “noble” for searching out the Scriptures (The Torah, Prophets, and Writings) to see if what Paul taught was in them, then they must have found all of what Paul taught in the very Scriptures they searched out – which are the not just the Prophets and Writings, but also the Torah upon which they can not add or subtract! This means they could have and most likely did find everything that Paul taught them from the Torah itself! In other words, everything that Paul taught the Bereans (and arguably everything he teaches in his writings), if we don’t hold Paul to be a false prophet according to Deut 13, is found in the Torah. Everything.
In Acts 28:23 above, there was so much material concerning Mashiach from the Torah, Prophets, and Writings, that Paul spent literally the entire day from “morning till evening” showing these things, yet in my experience, it appears he may have only hit a drop in the bucket since John also writes concerning this topic:
John 21:25 And there are also many other things which Yeshua did, the which if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.
Since we know Yeshua walked perfectly according to the Torah, he could neither add to nor subtract from the Torah, and neither could he walk a lifestyle outside its bounds. This means he could only teach from the Torah since he could neither add to it nor subtract from it, and like the rest of us, could only use the Prophets and Writings as divinely revealed confirmation of what he taught from the Torah. It should come as no surprise then to understand that the entire Torah stands as the very test, source, and description of what Messiah himself teaches and does.
It is the walk of Messiah, his halacha, that John writes that “the world itself would not contain the books that should be written.” Since even his walk, including his teaching, is in accordance within the boundary of the Torah, it becomes clear then that the total commentary on the Torah concerning Mashiach is that which “the world itself would not contain the books that should be written!”
We see from this (and we also see this from the Torah, see the article titled What is the Torah?, that every single book of the Torah, every single paragraph, sentence, word, letter, jot, and tittle, has everything to do with who Messiah is, what he taught, and how he walked as a role model for the rest of us. The red letter edition of your bible should begin by highlighting the first word in your bible in Gen 1:1. That the Messiah engaged in his ministry here on the earth for just three and half years, and of which time John writes “the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” is a testimony to the depth and richness of the Torah when it comes to describing Mashiach and all that he taught and all that he did.
Only when the Torah is consulted is there any clarification as to what the Prophets and Writers meant, or of understanding what HaShem meant as they wrote. If we don’t believe this, then we must hold the Prophets and Writers as adding to the Torah, and thus if we are true to Deut 13, we must tear their writings out of our bibles.
However in my experience, anytime someone thinks a writer of Prophecy or a Writing (including a Latter Writing of the disciples of Yeshua) is contradicting Torah, it’s not because the writing is contradicting Torah, but rather one’s understanding of that writing, or even of Torah, or both, is at fault and thus causing the conflict. For an example of this, please see Messianic Apologetics & The Virgin Birth (Conception) .
Upside-down exegesis is really eisegesis, since one does not understand the Torah from the Prophets and Writings, but rather one understands the Prophets and Writings (and the Latter Writings) from the Torah.
Only when one stays within the boundaries of Torah can one then inquire of the Torah that which the Torah presents, rather than to eisegete into it one’s understanding of the Prophets and Writings.
All other arguments which are argued solely on the writings and Prophets themselves and not from Torah, are simply arguments made in ignorance of the Torah text from which the Prophet or Writing is writing from, and possibly such an argument can be misleading at best, and very false at worst!
The writings of the Prophets and the Writers are only divinely inspired commentary on the Torah that too can neither add to nor take away from the Torah, and when one realizes this, one is therefore challenged to make all their arguments first from Torah, and then only use the Prophets and Writings for confirmation of their argument, and not the other way around!
This is why proving the inspiration of the Latter Writings of the disciples of Yeshua as being divine in origin is not possible from the Prophets and Writings alone, but rather they can and should be tested by the words of the Torah itself, and so too anything we think we get from them! Messianics claim the Latter Writings passes the test of Torah (just as the Prophets and other Writings pass the test).
This is also why one’s beliefs about Mashiach can not rest on one’s understanding of the Prophets and Writings alone (or any tradition derived therefrom), apart from the Torah!
Ultimately for the Messianic Jew, everything written about Yeshua; and ultimately even for the unbelieving Jew, everything about what the Prophets and Writers said HaShem said concerning the Mashiach; has to be found in the Torah, or else the argument one makes from them apart from the Torah is one that is potentially false as it is being argued out of ignorance of what the Torah truly says concerning the matter.
To that end I challenge anyone who has an argument concerning Mashiach – about what he is and isn’t, and who he is and isn’t – to make all their arguments from the Torah – alone. To the Messianics I say: if Yeshua and his disciples could do it, we can too. To the unbelieving Jew I say: if one can not make their argument concerning Mashiach from the Torah, then one’s argument can not stand, as one can make the Prophets and Writings say anything they want to.
What then prevents one from making the Torah say anything they want to and so provide a basis for justification of any potential eisegesis? Simple: Jewish hermeneutics. No verse loses its peshat, and anything derived from Remez, Drash, and Sod can not contradict the peshat.
I urge all those involved in apologetics to learn the Hebrew language, and Jewish hermeneutics. Then take what I’ve said here, and apply it with your learning to the study of Torah and what the Torah says of Mashiach. Only then will you find the answer and the arguments upon which to stand.
To get started in Messianic Apologetics, the first question one needs to ask is always, “Where is this found in the Torah?” Once one lets the Torah speak concerning a matter, one will have a solid foundation upon which to stand. Bear in mind that this question is direct inverse of “What does this Torah passage have to do with the Messiah?” which is itself an equally valid question, and is the number one question of Messianic Bible Study 101, yet the answer, like all answers, is always found in the Torah.
Some reading this article have asked, what about the role of the Holy Spirit? Are we ignoring the role of the Holy Spirit in leading us to the truth of scripture? Not at all! The Holy Spirit plays the most vital role of illuminating passages and arguments in the Torah for us that we otherwise would not have seen. HaShem guides our study of the scriptures by revealing to us personally what we should be seeing in His Word. He becomes our Tutor, and never contradicts His textbook, the Torah. In fact, the majority of these articles and studies presented on this site are the result of letting HaShem be the tour guide in the wonderful world of Torah-based Messianic apologetics.