The real difficulty I have taking Shmuely Boteach seriously is that he is intellectually dishonest and uses a variety of questionable assumptions regarding the authenticity of the Biblical texts. Boteach argues (a priori) that Jesus was little more than an exceptional man of his time and culture, but that we should not regard him as divine or the Savior of the world. In effect, Boteach is rabbinical Judaism’s new spokeman for the “form critical” studies first developed by German theologians of the early 20th century who sought to “demythologize” the Scriptures.
What do I mean?
Well, Boteach assumes certain “higher critical” methods to interpret the New Testament which, if he consistently used pertaining the study of texts of the Torah and the “Old Testament,” would likewise cast doubt on their authenticity and reliability. For example, using such methods leads to the conclusion that there were multiple authors for the Torah (i.e., the JEDP documentary hypothesis), that there is no extra-biblical evidence that Abraham and the patriarchs ever lived; that Moses and the story of the Exodus was a fantasy; that the revelation at Sinai is at best a cultic myth, and so on… Indeed, if Boteach was honest in his research, he would have to quit calling himself a Jew, since the word “Jew” derives from Abraham’s son Judah of whom we have no evidence ever truly existed….
Do you see my point? Boteach doesn’t blink when he reads that Moses split the sea and that manna rained down from heaven to feed millions of people for 40 years in the desert, but he balks when he reads about Jesus walking on water, feeding the 5,000, or dying as the LORD and Savior of the world on a cross.
Even more damning to Boteach’s position is that we have far better evidence for the life of Jesus and his ministry than we do for ALL of the Torah. We have thousands of manuscripts of the New Testament dating very close to the time of the events themselves, whereas we have NO such evidence for the written Torah. True, the Torah is well-attested and textually confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls, but these scrolls date from the time of Jesus – NOT from the time of Moses. In fact, the ostraca (pottery fragments, coin imprints, etc.) we find dating to pre-exilic Israel reveal a different Hebrew script and no written records attesting to the Torah AT ALL. Ironically, we believe the that the text of Torah is reliable (even after Ezra altered the script of Moses after the Babylonian exile) because Jesus attested to its reliability (Matt. 5:17-19), not because the rabbis think its kosher…
Let’s face it – if you impugn or question the textual reliability and message of the New Testament, you will have an even rougher time retaining your faith in the Torah of Moses and the Old Testament. Hey Shmuley, two can play your game…
Fugetaboutit! Don’t waste your money on this book!