Anyone who reads this blog knows that I’ve critiqued Rabbi Tovia Singer in the past. A search on this blog will bring up some posts about him. On Rabbi Singer’s website, he has an article called Why do Christians Become Enraged When Fellow Parishioners Choose to be Chosen? He brings up something interesting in this article. He writes:
To make matters worse, except for a few famous stories here and there, a handful of prayers from the book of Psalms, and Isaiah 53, almost no Christian has read the Jewish Bible in its entirety. And the few that are somewhat conversant in the Jewish Prophets, read only selected parts of the Hebrew Scriptures. A very tinny number of Christians have ever thoroughly read the entire Jewish Scriptures. And with the exception of a studious few, the tinny number of churchgoers who read the entire Book of Jeremiah only did it once in their lives. Few pastors ever read the Book of Amos or Chronicles; and they rarely can tell you a thing about the book of Habakkuk. Of course, Christians believe these timeless works are holy; they are just not motivated to study them. And, to make matters worse, except for some professor in college, no Christian can read Tanach in its original Hebrew. They are all slaves to the all-important Christian translator who happily leads them by the cross dangling on their necklace.
Before I delve into the passage more deeply, I want to discuss the last two sentences. First of all, I want to say that we aren’t as hopeless on the Hebrew as Singer might believe. Many clergymen are educated in Hebrew. Are they as educated as a Rabbi like Singer? With exceptions, no. The greatest Biblical scholar of the ancient world and who translated the Latin Vulgate which is still used today-St. Jerome, was an expert in Hebrew. Other examples can be given.
How about Christian translations of the Hebrew Bible? The Christians who translate the OT know Hebrew probably as good as an average Rabbi. Do they have biases? We all have biases and that includes Rabbis. Jewish translations of the Hebrew Bible have errors as well.
Getting to the heart of this quotation, Rabbi Singer makes a fair point. He observes that most Christians don’t have much familiarity with the Old Testament. Little does Singer know, the same can be said about Christians regarding the New Testament. The average person sitting in the pews has not even cracked the New or Old Testament. It’s pretty sad and something that I’d like to see changed.
He probably exaggerates in terms of what pastors know, but the laity are certainly guilty. There are exceptions of course. I have some close friends who are into apologetics and they aren’t as hopeless as Singer makes it out to be.
At the same time, I’ll return the question to Rabbi Singer. How many Jews know the Hebrew Bible well? I’ve talked to Jews my age who don’t know the Bible at all. Some attend a synagogue and some don’t. The charge can be thrown around to many people.
Regardless, Rabbi Singer is correct. The average Christian doesn’t know the OT well. Heck, we don’t even know the NT well. To all my Christian friends, make it your goal to study two chapters of the Bible every day. One from the NT and one from the OT. It’s a good place to start. Thank you Rabbi Singer for pointing this out.