Review: John MacArthur on Judaism, Part 2

Now, I’ve entitled this portion, beginning in chapter 18 verse 18 through chapter 19 verse 7, we’ve entitle (sic) it From Judaism to Jesus because it does portray for us a transition. We have made the mention in past studies that the Book of Acts records for us transitions and we see the fading out of Judaism and the coming in of Christianity. In understanding this, we have to understand that it sometimes was a slow transition. Salvation is not a transition; it’s a momentary miracle. But losing all of the trappings of Judaism came a little slower. People would get saved and then find it hard to let go over everything, and so there was a certain amount of difficulty in making the transition from Judaism to Jesus. And as I said last week, we find that true very often today, even with Jews who come to Jesus Christ and find it difficult to break with patterns that were so much a part of Judaism.

Now, I think part of this is due to the fact, maybe most of it is due to the fact that Judaism in itself is such a distinct kind of life. Now, we could talk for a long time about the distinctions of Judaism and I don’t mean to do that, but in some generality to point out to you the distinctness of Judaism, in order that you might understand how difficult the transition comes about.

-John MacArthur
“From Judaism to Jesus, Part 2,” January 20, 1974
Commentary on Acts 18:24-28

I reviewed part one of this series last week and I can’t say I’ve received Pastor MacArthur’s rendering of ancient or modern Judaism with any sort of enthusiasm. MacArthur characterizes the Book of Acts as a chronicle of transition, literally “from Judaism to Jesus.” I couldn’t disagree more, but to give him a fair shake (to the best of my admittedly waning ability), I’ll continue to read the sermons of this series and offer my comments.

MacArthur says that the transition away from Judaism was really difficult for the Jewish people because of this:

For example, a Jewish town or a Jewish city or township or village, no matter whether it was centered right in the midst of a Pagan country or whether it was butted up against a Pagan society in another city, still maintained an amazing uniqueness, and no matter how much interrelation and intercourse economically and culturally and all it happened to have with Pagans, it seemed never to be tainted by Paganism. There was just such a unique identity and this was particularly around the time of Christ and the time of the New Testament.

You couldn’t even enter a Jewish town or enter a Jewish village without feeling like you had almost stepped into another world. You get that feeling today when you go to Jerusalem, not so much when you see the hustle and bustle of a modern city, but when you happen to be isolated with a group, say, of Orthodox Jews who are doing what only Orthodox Jews do, you feel that somehow something’s wrong. You’re out of whack or they’re out of whack with the world.

Interestingly enough, even among modern observant Jews, the sense of distinctiveness between the Jewish community and the surrounding peoples is considered not only normal but necessary in order to fulfill the requirements of God for the Jewish people.

MacArthur distinguishes Christianity and Judaism in a number of ways during his sermon, but I found this paragraph rather telling.

I think that, for most of us, we tend to look at religion in this frame. But Judaism was not such an isolated creed of theology. You see, it was a whole way of life. It pervaded every single human relationship. It pervaded every single attitude toward eating and drinking and clothing and all kinds of things in terms of economy, not just a set of observances, not just a creed, but a way of life and you could never just suck Jewish theology out and remove Judaism. No, because Judaism was a way of life.

Although, at least in theory, being a Christian should also be a way of life, in fact, MacArthur seems to say that Judaism is more of a way of life than Christianity. He says this is why the Jewish people had so difficult a time in giving up Judaism, because it completely defined every aspect of Jewish living. Really, MacArthur. You say all that and you still don’t see a problem with requiring that Jewish people surrender everything that defines them, makes them unique, and enables them to continue forward through history without being destroyed on the altar of assimilation?

To his credit, MacArthur does say that there was faith, grace, and salvation in the Old Testament, but he blows past that part very quickly and “starts in” on the Rabbis.

…throughout the history of Israel, there have always been rabbis, which means teacher or master. And all of these rabbis were teaching and interpreting and adding to Scripture. And, of course, the esteem of a rabbi was so great that what the rabbi said was often written down. And all of these things were gathered and gathered and accumulated until today, you have this monstrous set of volumes known as the Talmud. And the Talmud is all of these rabbinical statements added onto the Biblical, and you will find that if you visit any rabbi who was at all involved in what he ought to be involved in as a rabbi, you would find that he has not only prescribed his life around the Old Testament, but perhaps even more so around the Talmud where he is following up all of the interpretations and suggestions of all the rabbis, some of which, most of which are unnecessary and unbiblical.

ancient_rabbisThis is MacArthur’s conceptualization of Rabbinic Judaism, the body of religious and cultural Judaism that enabled the continuation of the Jewish people after the destruction of the Temple and after most of collective human Israel had been exiled from their Land. In the world according to MacArthur, the Rabbis were just a bunch of guys who added unnecessary stuff to the Bible.

He briefly makes some sort of commentary on the “Shimah.” I’ll take it for granted that whoever transcribed MacArthur’s sermon didn’t know the accepted English spelling of “Shema” and that MacArthur didn’t find it necessary to proofread the text. On the other hand, his sermons could have been transcribed years or decades after the fact.

But then there’s this story:

There was a rabbi by the name of Rabbi Jacanon Van Saccai (sic). It was written of him that he said this at his death. And it was interesting because he was called The Light of Israel. He lived at the time of the destruction of the temple. He was a very famous man, highly esteemed. And he was the president of the San Hedron (sic) or the ruling body of Israel. So he was not a small-time rabbi, but a very important man. On his deathbed, he began to weep just bitterly and profusely, and some of his students who had studied under him and sat at his feet couldn’t believe this.

Just to clarify, MacArthur is referring to Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai who I’ll discuss a bit later, and the “San Hedron” is the Sanhedrin, which is not a ruling body but the highest religious court assembly in ancient Israel.

And they asked him how such a man who had lived as he could have such fear of death, and this was his reply and I quote, “If I were now to be brought before an Earthly kind who lives today and dies tomorrow, whose wrath and whose bonds are not everlasting and whose sentence of death even is not that to everlasting death, who can be assuaged by arguments or perhaps bought off by money, I should still tremble and weep. How much more reason have I for it when about to be led before the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed by (sic) He who liveth and abideth forever, whose chains are chains forevermore, whose sentence of death kills forever, whom I cannot assuage with words nor bride (sic) with money and not only so, but there are before me two ways: one’s a paradise and the other one to hell. And I know not which of the two ways I shall have to go. How then shall I not shed tears?” End quote. The man believed that there was only one (way) to enter into heaven and that was to keep the law and he knew in his conscious (conscience?) that he hadn’t done it, and he had a fear of spending forever in hell. You see, he had no concept of faith, no concept of grace. He was in a system that bound him and if he didn’t do what the system wanted him to do, he believed he’d go to hell forever.

This is a fairly well-known story, but my memory of it didn’t match MacArthur’s description which seems to contain blatant assumptions about why the revered sage was so fearful. I did a bit of research and found more about the rather tragic deathbed scene as recorded by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld at

In spite of it all, R. Yochanan was plagued with doubts for the rest of his life. The Talmud records that on his deathbed, he tearfully told his students that he has two paths before him — to Heaven and to Hell — and he was literally unsure along which one he would be led (Brachos 28b). He took it upon himself to change the course of Jewish history, and to his dying moments was never truly sure he had chosen right. (I heard this explanation of the Talmud from R. Berel Wein.)

jewish-traditionBut according to Rabbi Rosenfeld, R. Yochanan was not terrified of “going to Hell” because he relied on an unreliable Torah and lacked the grace of Jesus Christ, he was deeply troubled that he had not made the correct decision in preserving the Jewish people and the Torah.

According to the Talmud (Gittin 56), when the Romans had surrounded Jerusalem in the final siege that heralded the destruction of the Temple, many Jewish people wanted to fight and die rather than give in to the Romans, but R. Yochanan was concerned that this would only result in total extermination of the Jews and elimination of the Torah from all the earth.

As the story goes, R. Yochanan had himself smuggled out of Jerusalem in a coffin and eventually made an arrangement with the Roman general Vespasian to establish a center of learning in Yavneh, along with its sages, so that the study and observance of Torah could continue.

This agreement wasn’t incredibly popular with a lot of Jewish people as you might imagine, and even to the end of his days, R. Yochanan was tortured with whether or not he made the right decision to hand Jerusalem and the Temple over to the enemy, even to preserve Jewish lives and ensure the continuation of Torah study.

Sorry to occupy so much space on what seems to be a minor portion of MacArthur’s sermon, but I felt it necessary to set the record straight and present the Jewish point of view (to the best of my ability) on the life and death of Yochanan ben Zakkai.

MacArthur tends to play fast and loose with Jewish history, Jewish concepts, and Jewish people (see his comments on “sloppy” below), and since he’s made the decision to eliminate Judaism at Acts 2 and to declare that it was going through a slow and agonizing death, I have some concerns that MacArthur, for all of his apparent education, may not truly understand some of the things and people he’s talking about.

Now that we have MacArthur’s opinion on R. Yochanan, this is how he sees the apostle Paul:

Well, now watch. Into this system comes a man by the name of Paul and he’s running around say(ing), “Grace. Grace. Forget all the laws.” And the Jews are having culture shock. There’s no way they can handle that. That’s why when he went into the synagogue the reaction was so violent. See?

Never mind a more scholarly approach that does not present Paul as rather gleefully “Law-free,” such as what I’ve been studying in the Mark Nanos books The Mystery of Romans and The Irony of Galatians. According to MacArthur, Paul just made Judaism go away and proceeded to enter the various synagogues in the diaspora claiming, “Grace. Grace. Forget all the laws.” This isn’t a description of a real to life, complicated, intelligent human being with a very difficult task as the Jewish emissary of Messiah to the Gentiles. MacArthur seems to be describing Paul as a cartoon. Who’s adding to scripture now?

And what about Peter and Acts 10?

“And which were all matter of four-footed beasts of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things,” that’s snakes and reptiles and birds, fowls of the air. “And there came a voice to him, ‘Rise, Peter. Kill and eat.'” Now, that sounds like a simple thing. He sees in his vision all these animals and the voice says, “Go ahead, Peter, just kill them all and eat.”

Now what’s he saying? Well, in effect, he’s saying there’s no distinction because in the Old Testament there were certain things a Jew couldn’t eat, right? And Peter had lived all his life that way. And now in the New Covenant, Jew and Gentile were going to be one in the church, and God didn’t want any difference anymore. There is no difference.

You think Peter could’ve gone, “Oh, fine Lord. Sure. Just pass the plate. I’ll eat whatever’s there.” No. Couldn’t handle it.

Verse 14. “And Peter said, ‘Not so Lord.'” Peter actually said, “No, Lord.” That’s pretty flagrant disobedience. This can’t be. Are you kidding me? “For I’ve never eaten anything that is common or unclean in my life, I’ve never done that. Salvation or no salvation, I can’t handle it.” See.

jewish-t-shirtMaybe what’s rubbing me the wrong way is MacArthur’s casual and even disrespectful manner in talking about Yochanan ben Zakkai, Paul, and Peter. He seems to be making fun of them because they couldn’t “let go” of this “Jewish stuff.” Maybe it’s because my wife and kids are Jewish. I just get the feeling MacArthur wants to laugh at them or to discount them. I hope I’m not being too personal in my review.

It also seems like MacArthur is reading a lot into the text (adding to scripture?), as if God really expected Peter to start shoveling a sheet load of “trief” down without so much as a by your leave. In fact, the vision of Peter in Acts 10 had nothing to do with unclean food:

And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. (emph. mine)

Acts 10:28

There’s also a difference between unkosher animals and unclean foods, but for the sake of time, I’ll refer you to the First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) television episode All Foods Clean or my review of the program for the details.

Of the lives of the apostles, MacArthur said:

Now, we want to live by biblical doctrine, but I’m not interested in going back there. I’m not interested in having trouble over what I eat like Peter did. I’m not interested in going over to the temple in Jerusalem and making vows like Paul did and having to take a Nazarite vow and cut all my hair and haul my hair half way across the world so I can burn it properly in Jerusalem. I’m not interested in all the trappings of Judaism.

I suppose I don’t blame him for saying that since he believes Judaism was horribly burdensome and became extinct after Acts 2, but he really shouldn’t worry since, not being Jewish, he wouldn’t have been required to observe Torah in the manner of believing (or unbelieving) Jews (see the Acts 15 legal decision). Besides, a Nazarite vow was totally voluntary and most Jews likely never took that particular vow.

But what does any of this have to do with Acts 18:24-28? Not much. Apparently it takes MacArthur quite a while to set the stage for what he’s actually going to talk about.

And you see, here’s Paul. You say, “He’s a Christian. What’s he doing?” Sure, he’s a Christian, but as a Christian, he’s also a Jew. He’s been a Christian a little while. He’s been a Jew all his life. And he’s saying to himself, “I’m grateful to God for what He did, and the way that I know best how to show Him how grateful I am is to do what all good Jews do.” And the high point of their thanks is to take a Nazarite vow, and so he did what a Jew would do. Because that was his life, that was the way he thought.

This is part of what was taught during the sermon and at Sunday school last week at the church I attend. I didn’t go last week, but I did do the homework for class, which is based in part on MacArthur’s opinion of Paul and Nazarite vows. I didn’t find anything in Numbers 6 that mapped to why MacArthur believes one takes such a vow out of gratitude for what God has done. My understanding is that one took a Nazarite vow in order to temporarily experience a heightened state of ritual purity.

Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

Acts 18:24-28 (NASB)

I didn’t really think much about all this. It made sense in those days that because information traveled rather slowly throughout the then-civilized world, different bodies of believers might have inconsistent knowledge of the teachings of the Master and the experience of disciples in other places.

But MacArthur interprets this portion of scripture in a unique way:

Now, Apollos is a Jew and he is from the city of Alexandria.

He was a powerful man in terms of teaching. And let me just say at this point that his power at this point was the natural. He was not a Christian at this point, so consequently, did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit.

I believe that Apollos was not a Christian but that he was a student of John the Baptist.

Now, see, here is a man who accepted all the way of the Lord in the Old Testament, accepted the ministry of John the Baptist, saw that John pointed to Jesus and said, Behold the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world,” and he believed that Jesus was the Messiah. You say then, “Why wasn’t he a Christian?” Because he didn’t know what happened in the death, resurrection and Pentecost that followed the life of Jesus. He was pre-cross.

On the wrong side of the cross? Oh gee. Is that concept even in scripture as applied to the apostolic age? And Apollos didn’t have the Spirit?  What about verse 25 where it says, “and being fervent in spirit?” In reading MacArthur’s sermons, I get the impression the man is always shooting from the hip. Anyway…

No, he wasn’t a Christian. But technically, neither were any of the apostles, including Paul, or any of the Jewish (and arguably Gentile) disciples. You can’t anachronistically force the concept of Christianity as we understand it today back into the apostolic era. Apollos was a Jew and he practiced Judaism as a disciple of Moshiach (Messiah).

And just to wrap things up:

Now, there’s another angle in this word. It’s used one other time in Ephesians 5:15, which would be helpful. Paul says “See that you walk acrabos, with exactness.” The Christian should live his life with the same kind of preciseness that we interpret the Scripture, with the same kind of preciseness that God wrote it. God didn’t give us a sloppy revelation, did he? And God doesn’t want us to slop up his revelation and God doesn’t want us to slop up our lives either. Same word in all three areas.

Well, there you meet two in transition, Paul and Apollos. And how exciting it is to see what God is doing in their lives and how grateful we are that the Spirit of God brought about the transition that they might have influence on us.

MacArthur in churchSee what I mean about “sloppy?”

What really scares me is the thought that, back in January 1974 (and no doubt today), the people listening to MacArthur’s sermon probably lapped it up. How many of them would have decided to look up his references and examine his sources, especially about Jewish Biblical and Rabbinic history? After all, the entire thrust of this sermon series is to declare the elimination of Judaism in any form in the pages of Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. But I don’t find MacArthur’s presentation on Judaism to be either serious or accurate.

It’s like he’s saying, “Gee, look how dumb these Jews were. They had Jesus and grace and still couldn’t give up that nasty, ol’ law. Thank the Lord we’re nothing like them. I’m so glad God doesn’t care about what food I eat or what day of the week I worship, or any of that terrible stuff.”

OK, I made that last bit up, but it certainly seems to fit the tone of what MacArthur was preaching.

I can’t do this. I can’t think like he does. I can’t believe like he does. How am I supposed to participate in the rebuilding of the Tent of David in the Christian church when men like MacArthur and sermons such as this one are expending no small effort in cheerfully burning that tent down to the ground?

See Part 3 of my review on this series to see how it turns out.


26 thoughts on “Review: John MacArthur on Judaism, Part 2”

  1. You can’t do any thing with attitudes like that. They have it all sown up in in a nice neat bundle that explains away Acts completely, undermining it entirely. Ironically this the absolute opposite of Sola Scriptura, since his commentary is necessary to explain Paul’s motive for bringing sacrifices was the opposite of what the text seems to say.

  2. The real tragedy Sean, is that who knows how many hundreds of thousands or millions (or more) Christians listen to a sermon like this one and just assume that it’s all factual and indeed, God’s truth.

  3. Romans11:18 – do not be arrogant toward the branches… (Unless you believe you have really good reasons, in which case, knock yourself out… the more arrogance the better)

    Dr. MacArthur’s words are oral Torah to a subset of evangelicals. That subset engages in the same shortcoming he accuses Jews of: there’s no need to be Bereans and study the text for yourself, Dr. MacArthur’s words are authoritative.

    Dr. MacArthur does the same thing to Charismatic Christians. He emphasizes the negative and gives no recognition to the positive. He rightly observes that Charismatics are over represented in scandals involving church leaders while giving no, based on what I have read about his recent conference, visibility to the fact that a very high percentage of church growth outside of North America is traceable to Charismatic work and theology.

    Dr. MacArthur works for and answers to Heaven, not me.

    I wonder if when he strides into heaven so certain of himself He will be surprised to be greeted by Yeshua who lived, died, and will return a Jew.

    Must see TV.

  4. “How am I supposed to participate in the rebuilding of the Tent of David in the Christian church when men like MacArthur and sermons such as this one are expending no small effort in cheerfully burning that tent down to the ground?”

    I used to listen to him daily on the radio way back in the early 80’s. This sermon predates that, but his attitude points out why I had so much struggle sorting through the scriptures and issues of how to understand the Jewishness of Jesus, the centrality of Jews in the Bible, the overall plan of God, and so on, once I became forever “invested”. That happened after marrying a Jew, but I’ve since realized it should have happened when I first united with the Jewish messiah.

    It’s sermons and attitudes like JM’s that block Christians from that realization.

    The exposé is gut wrenching on multiple levels, but thank you for suffering through it James. This will not always be the prevailing “wisdom” so hang in there and trust that He will do the sifting and sorting.

  5. “The real tragedy Sean..”

    Amen, James.

    Even more tragic to me, as you touched upon, is the sad fact that many, many Christians seem to embrace that snarky, holier than Jew, attitude. A great number of Christians in the modern church actually enjoy hearing someone, like MacArthur, talk in a demeaning, character defacing way about the Jewish people; taking an intellectual pleasure in being “better” than those “ignorant Jews.”

    It’s painful to witness..

  6. @Steve: Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that Messianic Judaism, in it’s ideal expression is a Judaism, but it also has much in common with the core of Yeshua-faith we find in the Church. There are many good Christian people who observe much of the Torah (feeding the hungry, visiting the sick) whether they realize it or not.

    @Daniel: Good to hear from you again, my friend. I agree that MacArthur seems to be preaching “Christianity according to MacArthur” rather than preaching the Bible, but to be fair, I don’t doubt he actually believes everything he says. He’s not trying to trick people, he’s just locked into a system that is designed to deny the Judaism of Jews worshiping Moshiach, and that requires Jews to leave Judaism and assimilate into Gentile Christianity, more’s the pity.

    @Sojourning: There’s nothing like having a Jewish spouse to give a believing Gentile perspective. 😀

    @justyiddin: Thanks. I agree that the Tent of David will be restored within Israel, but the Gentiles who come alongside of Israel have a role, according to Amos 9.

    @Nate: Agreed.

    @Esther: Well, I can hardly say “I have no words” since I seem to have an ample supply, but they are all words of dismay.

    By the way, J’ve already written next Sunday’s review of the third and final sermon in MacArthur’s series, which is based on Acts 19:1-7. I was at church earlier and Pastor preached on Acts 19:1-22 and drew some rather interesting parallels to MacArthur’s observations. I’ll have to write another meditation to do a comparison. Fortunately, my Pastor is very pro-Israel and pro-Jewish people, but he did delve into some of the same waters today that MacArthur did forty years ago.

  7. It’s so good that you’re bringing this to light and creating awareness that Replacement Theology is alive and “well” within Christianity. The “us vs. them” mentality, that Jews were “the other,” makes up a big part of how it was possible for European Christianity to turn their head the other way last century when the Third Reich rose up, allowing the Final Solution to be efficiently carried out without real, on-the-ground resistance of any significant force from “the church.”

    But seeing “the Jews” as “the other” has a deeply detrimental affect upon the people of the Church, as well. As I see it, this form of “passive” anti-Judaism — the assertion that Judaism is considered an obsolete, “dead” religion — can, I think, in a certain way, perhaps be thought of as a form of anti-self, if you will, a kind of self-hatred, if looked at in a certain way; and self-hatred cannot but help make one behave in a disturbed way, acting out of confusion and anger, such as Christianity has done for two millennia (while accomplishing many good mitzvot, as well, simultaneously, of course).

    I kind of thinking out loud here, stretching my thought a bit as this is such a disturbing, frustrating subject. I think John McArthur and those who look down upon the Jewish people in this way are damaging themselves spiritually, of course, but also in emotional ways they do not realize, somewhat like a person with a debilitating psychological disorder, going against a foundational aspect of themselves without knowing it. How terrible to revile that which brought you life. On another level, it is quite “Cain-ish” if you think about it; one brother damaging, even killing, a brother: what are the psychological-emotional effects of hurting one’s self or a loved one through the carrying out of your own, rigid, personal “beliefs,” if not in some way significantly detrimental to one’s own self?

    Just thinking out loud… wondering what it must be like for all those poor souls who live this way due to their agreement with this teaching…

  8. I know this is a minority opinion in Christianity, but in the Messianic age, I wonder if how we’ll be worshiping will be more a Judaism than “the Church?”

  9. “And all of these rabbis were teaching and interpreting and adding to Scripture” (John MacArthur)

    And MacArthur isn’t guilty of this himself?
    Maybe he should take another look at the “study bible
    he sells and consider why it was necessary to have 1/3 page scripture and 2/3 page of his own notes.

  10. I don’t think many Christian Pastors realize that their process is more or less the same as the Jewish sages. Rabbinic commentary and rulings are all based on interpretations of Torah. MacArthur’s commentaries are all based on his interpretations of the Bible. They’re just called different things and “marketed” in different ways. Also, the nature of interpretation probably differs significantly but as you say Tim, the result, at least in this case, can be considered quite similar.

  11. I’m privileged to know some in our local church who value scholarship and use it in their study and teaching. Their personal system for interpretation is very diverse, using scholarship and a lot of commentary. I’ve found this to be very unique and encouraging, but even with scholarship and commentaries being held in high esteem, applications tend to be shallow, hyper-personalized (if that’s even a word) and focused on you receiving something from God. I’m comfortable with saying that because that is also the conclusion of the church leadership as well. Unfortunately they see that as typical behavior in their own as well as most other churches.

  12. James, I had a look at MacArthur’s study bible on the weekend, particularly his comments on 1 Cor 12-14 in which Paul teaches on the nature and usage of Spiritual gifts.
    Paul tells his readers: “desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” and also “desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues.”.
    MacArthur’s notes claim that the context makes it clear that Paul did not mean that we should desire spiritual gifts.
    Sorry again Mr Mac, but you are promoting the context of your own theology in your notes and you are not addressing the actual biblical text itself. Sadly I suspect many owners of his study bible would read (and heed) MacArthur’s notes more than they read the text of scripture.

    1. @Onesimus — Your comment takes me back to a memory from more than four decades ago, when I heard a parody of an old hymn. I’ll leave it to your own memory or research to identify the correct hymn lyric, but the parody seems apt in reference to the MacArthur Study Bible notes you describe, as it once applied to an older Fundamentalist study bible:

      “Our hope is built on nothing less
      than Schofield notes and Scripture Press.
      We dare not trust the thinking game,
      but wholly lean on Schofield’s fame”.

      As you might imagine, in the social circle in which I heard this, intellectual investigation of the scriptures was held in rather high regard, along with analysis of the many ways in which they had been mis-rendered historically (or, perhaps, anti-historically); and pat fundamentalist answers were rather less so.

      @James — A good study bible (i.e., one with a built-in commentary that truly enlightens by providing background for the adjacent passages) is a valuable tool for a beginning reader, for whom the challenge of sifting through the variety of available commentaries would be far too daunting. The essential problem is to find one that does so accurately and without the wrong kinds of theological baggage. This is, of course, difficult because even the mere translation itself conveys theological viewpoints; and the resulting commentary cannot help but do more of the same. Another problem is the bulk that commentary must add to the scriptural text.

      For example, there is a great deal of wonderful explanation in Alfred Edersheim’s “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, but it is already by itself bulker than most entire bibles, let alone the gospels that it illuminates. It also suffers from its origin within a Jewish Christian milieu a century and a half ago, not so far removed from when Franz Delitsch and Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein pursued a Jewish perspective on Rav Yeshua. One could envision an updated treatment of the same material with additional perspective developed in response to tremendous events since then such as the re-establishment of Israel and popular use of Hebrew language, the discovery and study of DSS material, and the spread of a messianic Jewish movement that includes and elaborates Rabbi Lichtenstein’s perspective. However, the bulk of material does present a problem if one were trying to select an appropriate subset to include in a study bible. And I haven’t even touched on sources of material for the remainder of the apostolic writings and for the entire Tenakh. Thankfully, modern PC tablet and internet technology can place an entire library of scriptural texts and information about them at the disposal of even the most elementary student. Of course, a good deal of work remains to be done to formulate improved translations, explanations and commentary worth accessing.

  13. MacArthur reminds me of Martin Luther, who at first thought the Jews of his day would welcome the proclamation of sola fidei. When they did not, he wrote horrible diatribes against them, which the Nazis later used to bolster their own anti-Semitism. What a sad state of affairs that that theology has never been refuted all across Protestantism! I don’t believe that MacArthur is anti-Semitic, but his views sound too close to those of theologians who are.

  14. James said “I know this is a minority opinion in Christianity, but in the Messianic age, I wonder if how we’ll be worshiping will be more a Judaism than “the Church?”

    I would suggest it will be how the Jews worship with the likes of Isaiah 56(Sabbath), Zech 14(feast of tabernacles).

    What is majority Christian view on the Messianic Age?

  15. From what I understand Macher, the Church is raptured up to Heaven with Jesus for seven years and after the Tribulation is over the Church returns with Jesus as his “bride” and the Church rules with Jesus for a thousand years. It’s more complicated than that according to my Pastor, but that’s the gist of it.

  16. James and Macher,
    I understand the dispensationalists believe that the church will rule with Christ from heaven, while the Jews remain on earth, after surviving the great tribulation (which the church has avoided thanks to “the rapture”).
    The majority of Christians wouldn’t have a clue about what the bible says about the Messianic Age (Millennium) because of ignorance of the OT prophets. I confess I was among that ignorant group even long after I’d abandoned the dispensationalist ideas I’d been taught for years.
    I was surprised to see how much was actually revealed about that period in scripture when I finally spent time reading the prophets. Previously I’d though the only reference was found in Revelation where it mentions the 1000 years.

  17. Pete Rambo said: “I can’t even read his drivel. It makes me physically ill! Seriously!”

    Pete, I’m sure some may see your comment as hyperbole – but I get a similar, very uncomfortable physical reaction.

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