“False is False”
Polytheism – Prohibited for Mankind, not Just Jews
Reader: Dear Rabbi Ben-Chaim, I understand from your article, “Christianity: OK for Christians?” (http://www.mesora.org/christianity2.html) that shittuf, or polytheism (plural gods) is forbidden for Gentiles, not just for Jews. This makes sense to me. Therefore, I'm confused by the argument proposed by some who use the Talmud (Chullin 13b) to say that “Gentiles who practice Christianity outside Eretz Yisrael are not idolaters - that they only continue the customs of their ancestors”. Would you please clarify this Talmudic reference?
Also, I'm told that Rabbeinu Tam (Rashi's grandson) holds that Christianity is okay for Gentiles. Is this an accurate reflection of his position? If yes, then would you please explain his reasoning?
Mesora: The Talmudic portion quoted does not isolate “Christians”, but “necharim”, translated as “strangers”, or gentiles. What the Talmud recorded 2000 years ago concerning gentiles of that era, can not accurately be equated to current-day Christians: these are two distinct groups. Of essential importance to Talmud study, is the “study” and not cursory reading. I will highlight the significant points of this portion of Talmud in Chullin 13b.
The Talmud characterizes gentiles outside Israel, at that time, as not idolatrous, but simply “following in the paths of their fathers”. Meaning, they were not diligent about the underlying fundamentals of their religion, and therefore, did not carry the prohibitions connected with true idolaters. We then wonder why they are distinguished from gentiles living “inside” Israel proper, who, by deduction, would in fact be considered true idolaters.
I would suggest that gentiles ‘closer to the truth’ (i.e., gentiles living next door to Jews) would show greater opposition to Judaism, via their true, idolatrous practice. Thus, gentiles inside Israel would be rendered idolatrous, while those outside of Israel would not be viewed as true idolaters. We learn a new idea: idolatry, or any formal code, opposes one’s freedom of expression. Thus, most people would rather be unrestrained in all activities. However, when confronted with the reality of the Jew’s great gift of Torah, in such close quarters, a gentile will then seek alien religion as a denial of his jealousy for the “chosen Jew” and the truth of Torah.
The Talmud in another section supports this idea: prior to his acceptance of religious life, Rabbi Akiva possessed such hatred for the Torah scholars; he said he would bite them like a donkey, which bites through the bone. Thus, prior to Rabbi Akiva’s conversion to an observant lifestyle, his close proximity to Torah scholars stirred his suppressed recognition that he was missing the true good in life. This deeply disturbed him, to the point that he, like Christians, possessed animosity towards Torah and observant Jews. Another Talmudic portion states as follows: “One who learns Torah before an ignorant Jew (am ha’aretz) is akin to having intercourse with his fiancée.” Again we are taught that just as the groom views his fiancée as “his”, and is outraged if another man sleeps with his fiancée, so too, a non-observant Jew feels outraged when another Jew learns Torah in his sight: he knows the Torah is equally his, like a fiancée, and is enraged with jealousy when another person has what he feels is his. In our Talmudic portion, the necharim (gentiles) living in Israel proper are no different. Their true attachment to idolatry may be explained as their method of denial of Torah, and they need to deny it, since down deep, they know Torah is true.
Having been raised with little or no moral instruction and certainly, no Talmudic training, we cannot be surprised at another lifestyle, the idol worshipper. Aside from above where man’s free wheeling emotions seek no code at all, and not in contradiction to it, man also seeks other emotional satisfaction, such as security. With no moral training, a human being remains anchored in psychological infancy, seeking security, with no ability or demand for intelligent explanation. Thus, many gentiles are attracted to idolatry and alien religions, which were created by other infantile minds, and appeal to like-minded individuals.
Christianity is idolatry, as it maintains the view that God inseminated a mortal with “Himself” and other nonsense. Originators concocted amazing stories about this Jesus character, “supporting” these fables with distorted, Biblical nuances, they re-write the Bible adding numerous, false books – the Gospels, which contradict each other. Then Jesus takes over God’s role, and they pray to this man-god and worship him. Jesus is then killed. Since this is a failure of their “god”, they concoct a “Second Coming” theory to patch over their religion’s gaping hole. To accept this, one cannot be further from reality. Many Christians also realized the contradictory and nonsensical nature of Christianity, which explains their doctrine of “Blind Faith”. So some Christians live a blind life, while many others have become Noachides, or Jewish, having seen the rational ideas God gifted to mankind.
Christians were not the population discussed in the Talmud, “necharim” were. Christianity is heresy, and could not have been condoned by any wise mind, for any person, including Christians and gentiles, for they too must follow God’s Torah, i.e., “reason”, albeit 7 laws at the minimum. But before anything, all members of mankind must, by definition of their receipt of intelligence, acknowledge truth; the true concept of God, which Christianity obscures and replaces with nonsense and heresy. Rabbeinu Tam would not condone idolatry or Christianity, for any man. The bottom line is that if something is false, and this is why as Jews we do not accept it, then no intelligent mind would say such fallacy is permitted for others.
There is no debate among Rabbis whether Christianity (idolatry) is ‘permitted’ for anyone. Reason demands that all notions denying truth must be avoided. What is false is false, for everyone.