Judaism has a very rich history of using stories (called midrash aggadah) to make a moral point. These stories are not meant to be taken as “fact” – but missionaries quote them time and time again as if they are reality and Jewish theology.
Legends presented as truth.
To complicate matters these stories are also often mistranslated.
Pesikta Rabbati is one that missionaries love to reference. It is a collection of Aggadic Midrash (homilies), but missionaries often quote it to “prove” some error they have about Judaism or the T’nach (bible) – stories are not proof of anything.
Pesikta Rabbati is not ancient, either. It dates to the 8th century of the common era. The stories are about Jewish festivals throughout the year.
Why do missionaries like this particular set of tales? There is one which missionaries claim is about moshiach ben Yosef suffering, tying it to T’hillim / Psalm 22. Moshiach ben Yosef is not “the” messiah. There is a possibility that a messiah from the house of Yosef (Ephraim) will be a soldier who lives at the same time as the messiah, and who will die in battle. Dying in battle is no doubt painful, but it does not “fit” the suffering of Y’shayahu / Isaiah 53’s servant who is said to have suffered for a very long time (as if from lengthy illness).
There is another claim that one story is about satan or angels being hurled into "hell." FYI, hell does not exist in Jewish theology. That reference is wrong. It seems to be given from a big mistake in the early 20th century publication called The Jewish Encyclopedia.
To add insult to injury (using stories as if they make a point) so many of the references are mistranslated to the point where meanings are often reversed. Continuing with Pesikta Rabbati here is a picture of the actual text http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/vl/psiktarabati/psiktarabati06.pdf Comparing it to the mistranslations here are just a few:
Mistranslation "put away His Messiah"
Correct translation "put IT (light) away FOR His Messiah"
Mistranslation "G-d replied, "For him who will turn you back and put them to utter shame."
Correct translation "G-d replied, "For him who will turn you back and put YOU to utter shame."
Mistranslation ""Surely this is the Messiah who will cause me and all the counterparts in heaven of the princes of the earth's nations to be swallowed up in Gehinnom,"
Correct translation "Surely this [is] the Messiah who will CAUSE MY DECENT and all the counterparts in heaven of the princes of the earth's nations in TO Gehinnom, "
"Counterparts" refers to a managing angel – every nation on earth has a managing angel except for Israel. They are referred to as the nations "counterpart" in heaven.
Mistranslation "In that hour, all princely counterparts of the nations, in agitation, will say to Him,"
Correct translation "In that hour, all of the nations, in agitation, will say to Him, "
Mistranslation "Master of the universe, who is this through whose power we are to be swallowed up? What is his name? What kind of being is he?"
Correct translation ""Master of the universe, who is this that we will fall into his hand? What is his name? What is his character?"
So far we’ve identified three big problems with this ONE missionary source which is misused:
There is a 4th:
Many missionaries leave things out. For example, Michael Brown references Pesikta Rabbati 36:2 in one of his books. The reference is wrong (it is really 36:3, not 2). Brown relied on the text at the "Chazak" messianic site which supposedly copied these from "Pesikta Rabbati: Homiletical Discourses for Festal Days and Special Sabbaths" by William G. Braude.
In other words the missionary website Chazak didn't use the original source, and Brown compounded the error by relying on Chazak's source -- no one went to the original.
In Brown's book (Answering Jewish Objections, vol 3, 4:24) he has the source listed as 37:1, -- another typo. His referenced quote is lengthy and is joined with a few others, and speaks of the author's point of view that the false and fallen Moshiach ben Yosef will be redeemed as well and come to terms with the fact that he was wrong.
You have the Chazak/Brown version ending with "At these words, the Messiah will reply: 'Now I am reconciled. The servant is content to be like his Master'" But here is the actual next line..."[HaShem responds] "Since the day that the evil Nebuchadnezzar came forth and he destroyed My house and burnt my palace and exiled My children". .. "
In fact, there are three sentences that he doesn't translate that is between "your distress is now like my distress" -- adding insult to injury it says "say" (amar) and not "answer", and in the context of the other three sentences, it changes the flavor from that Brown / Chazak (missionaries) would like to sway the reader to believe.
Bottom line: beware when missionaries begin to reference Jewish sources other than the T'nach (bible). Odds are they are quoting a story as if it is "fact", it may well not exist at all -- or it may be so badly mistranslated (including gaping holes between sentences) to fit their narrative. . .
Sophiee Saguy has been countering false missionary claims about Judaism and the T'nach (Jewish bible) for nearly twenty years. You may find her on FaceBook and at the Messiah Truth forum.