Recently I did another post about one of these “Answering the Rabbis” videos. In that one, he claimed Rabbi Singer unfairly maligned Paul for saying “the third day according to the Scriptures”. He then took us on a tour of at least a half dozen Tanakh texts that mention the 3rd day, but none of them said the Messiah would rise on the 3rd day. Thus, I concluded that his defense was ineffective. Here Dr. Brown defends Matthew from Rabbi Singer. Let’s see if he does any better.
Now first off, I want to point out the abject silliness of Dr. Brown’s absurd argument about Abel. Quite frankly, my opinion of him went down a little when I saw he even tried this. He tries to argue that Jesus was giving an “A to Z” listing of prophets that were killed. However, in Hebrew Zechariah’s name starts with the letter “Zayin”. It’s pronounced “ts”, like the “zz” in “pizza”. Moreover, it’s the 7th letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The last letter in Hebrew is “Tav”, pronounced “t”. The same is true for Aramaic, as they share characters. Furthermore, Matthew is written in Greek. The last letter in Greek is Omega. Therefore, there is no scenario where Jesus could have possibly been giving a first to last letter list. Unless, of course, he broke into King James English for this particular discourse.
That aside, let’s look at the problem. There are 2 different Zechariah’s in Tanakh. One of them was murdered, the other one was not. In Matthew 23:35 Matthew says that Jesus referenced this murder, and gave the name of the wrong Zechariah. It reads as follows.
so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.Matthew 23:35
In the video, Dr. Brown again goes scripture hunting in Tanakh and ends up establishing that indeed, Matthew got it wrong. He then points out where several Rabbis have gotten it wrong too, as if this is somehow comparable. There’s even an instance of the Talmud getting it wrong apparently. This is more significant as the Orthodox Jewish believe is that the Talmud is the Word of God. However, as discussed in a recent article, Rabbi Taylor explained that it is a lower level word than Tanakh. Moreover, as I understand it, the Orthodox belief is that only Torah is the Christian equivalent of “breathed out” by Hashem.
Why does Dr. Michael Brown continue to make these videos?
Once again, we have Dr. Brown answering the Rabbis only to confirm that Rabbi Tovia Singer is correct. Matthew got it wrong. And once again, he offers a terrible defense. He claims that Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, a claim he has one source for. However, textual critics roundly reject this claim. They say there is no evidence that this is a translated text. And since we conveniently no longer have the Hebrew copy that Jerome saw, we can’t investigate that to see if it was possibly a translation from the Greek. Therefore, I am sadly once again left to clean up Dr. Brown’s mess here. I am far from a Christian apologist, but I’ll take a crack at it.
I am highly critical of the book of Matthew. So trust me when I say that as far as errors go, this is the least of the problems in Matthew. He mistranslates the birth sign from Isaiah in both language and tense. His claim that it was prophesied by Hosea that Jesus would come out of Egypt is is completely false. In his claim that it was prophesied that Herod would murder the innocents, he uses a text about Rachel crying for her children where in Tanakh, she is crying for captive children who would return, not deceased children. Both his genealogy and his birth narrative are contradicted by Luke in almost every place. And yes, he also gets the wrong Zechariah. And this is what we wish to argue over?
No, the error is not a big deal even to myself, a critic of Matthew. Ironically, Dr. Brown raised a defense that is a big deal to me. He said it was likely placed in there by a scribe in error. On this point I am in agreement with him. And this is a massive problem for the New Testament. Even if I were inclined to believe that the original manuscripts of the New Testament were inspired by Hashem, which I’m not, what are we to make of the fact that scribes have altered it so much that this is an excuse used by those who defend inspiration to explain away errors? To be more succinct, of what use was it for God to inspire a document if he had no intentions of preserving it? Certainly he is capable.
There are roughly 184,600 words in the New Testament. We have roughly 5,800 Greek New Testament manuscripts, although some of them are very small fragments. Yet in less than 6,000 copies, we have over 300,000 textual variants in a document that has less than 200,000 words. We know with good authority that the last 12 verses of Mark and the 12 verse story of the woman taken in adultery in John were added in. Moreover, there’s the Johannine Comma, two verses added into 1st John to establish the conspicuously absent Trinity, and a verse and a half added in to Luke’s story of the Last Supper. But we’re worried about Matthew getting the wrong Zachariah?
Take it from me. Tovia Singer is right on this one, but it’s really not a big deal. Furthermore, many Christians don’t believe in Biblical inspiration anyway. Moreover, some of those who do believe it only applies to the autograph copies, none of which are in existence anymore. About the only point this error makes is that those quirky fringe KJB only people who believe the translators were inspired by God are completely wrong, but I think that 99% of us were already aware of that.