Holiday Greetings in Messiah,
The Divinity of Yeshua
As we sought the Lord for this month’s newsletter topic, we kept hearing “Isaiah 9:6-7.” These
verses, made popular by Handel’s Messiah, are a prophetic declaration in the Hebrew Scriptures of a
Messiah who would be both human and divine, man and deity.
“For to us a child is born, a son will be given to us, and the government will be upon His shoulder.
His Name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, My Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace. Of
the increase of His government and shalom there will be no end—on the throne of David and over His
Kingdom—to establish it and uphold it through justice and righteousness from now and forevermore.
The zeal of Adonai-Tzva’ot will accomplish this” (TLV Version).
Dr. Michael Brown, in Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Volume Two, mentions that according to the Hebrew Bible, the Davidic king was called God’s son and firstborn. He was to be praised, extolled, and served. The above verses from Isaiah are speaking about the “Supreme” Davidic King, the Messiah, the ultimate Son of God. He would be called Pele Yoetz (Peh-LAY Yo-ETZ), El Gibor (El Gee-BORE), Avi Ad (Ah-vee AHD), Sar Shalom (Sar Shah-LOME). A human child, born of woman, would also be El Gibor, Mighty God, a title reserved elsewhere for Yahweh alone (See Isaiah 10:21.). Deity in human flesh.
We are in agreement with Dr. Brown: “We believe that the Son of God is truly divine, eternal, and not created. When he came down to earth, he took on human form, and from that point on, we have known him as Jesus the Messiah. The eternal Son of God made himself known to us as Yeshua, the Jewish carpenter, rabbi, Messiah, and Savior of the world.”
Israel’s Historical Expectations
In traditional Jewish thinking, belief that Yeshua (Jesus) is God is considered idol worship and a violation of the first commandment, “thou shall have no other gods before me” (Exo. 20:3). First century Jews staunchly rejected “apotheosis,” the elevation of a person to the rank of God. This was considered a departure from the worship of the One True God. Man becoming God.
What about God becoming man? Could a man also be Divine? If so, was there room in a monotheistic position to still affirm the Oneness of God? Yeshua’s first century followers thought so. James wrote, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble!” (James 2:19).
An excellent article by Elliot Klayman in The Messianic Outreach (Vol. 29:4) sheds much light on the question of Yeshua’s Deity. According to Dr. Klayman, the evidence is overwhelming that the early Jewish believers recognized Yeshua as Deity, as opposed to the opinion of some that the councils of the 4th century promoted this belief. There were a few reasons why the early talmidim (tahl-me-DEEM) of Yeshua were able to accept Him as Deity, given their belief in monotheism. One of these is the ancient Jewish concept of Memra (MEM-rah), that predates the first century. Memra is actually an Aramaic word. The Greek equivalent is Logos. Memra referred to a Word that was an instrument of service emanating from the Holy One, an incarnate Word. The Word was in some way a mediator between God and man. The Memra was with God at creation. In fact, God made all things through this Word. The Word was an extension of His nature, an expression of His will. This Word was understood to be a “him,” not an “it,” in the Aramaic Targums, the translations of the Hebrew Scriptures that were read in synagogues before, during, and after the time of Yeshua.
Now read John 1:1-4 as if you were a first century Jew. Try substituting the word “Memra” for “Word” and “him.” A personified Word would not be shocking, given the early Memra understanding. There could be a Word that was in one sense God and in another sense with God. Yeshua (Jesus) was that Word.
“In the beginning was the Memra, and the Memra was with God; and the Memra was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through [the Memra] all things were made and without [the Memra] nothing was made that has been made. In [the Memra] was life and that life was the light of man.”
The Brit Hadasha makes it clear that Yeshua, the Messiah, is the Word, and that He was with God at the creation of the world. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16).
The Targums, as the official translations used in the First Century synagogues, are filled with references to a Word who was a “him.” Consider Genesis 28:20-21 and Jacob’s vow that ends with, “…then the Lord will be my God.” The Targum says, “If the Word of the Lord will be with me…then the Word of the Lord will be my God.” The Word as God. “A walking, talking, creating, serving, delivering Word was understood by Jewish worshippers for decades, if not centuries” (M. Brown. Objections).
The Rabbinic Concept of Shekhina
The Shekhina (She-khee-NAH) is the visible manifestation of the presence or the glory of God (k’vod Adonai, k’VODE Ah-doe-NYE). The root of the word Shekhina is shachan (shah-KHAN) which means “dwelling.” It appears in the Hebrew Bible in the form of light, fire, and cloud. The Shekhina departed from Israel, as recorded in the Book of Ezekiel (10:18-19, 11:23), and the cloud of His Presence left the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies, waited at the threshold of the temple (9:3) to see if Israel would repent, then left the temple altogether. The ancient rabbis considered this Shekhina or Divine Presence to be the feminine, motherly aspect of God.
Did the Shekhina, the Glory of God, ever return to Israel? Yes, when Yeshua came to earth.”… the glory of the Lord shone around” the Shepherds in Bethlehem (Luke 2:8-9). The Shekhina also appeared at the Mount of Transfiguration when God spoke from a cloud and said, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Mark 9:7). The glory that had been missing from the Second Temple (Haggai 2:3) returned as an even greater glory as prophesied (Haggai 2:9). Dr. Klayman says that the disciples
recognized the Shekhina abiding upon Yeshua, “They realized that this was the return of the Shekhina of the Hebrew Bible, signaling that there was something new and something Divine about Yeshua.”
The writer of Hebrews, commenting on the Son of God, says, “…who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power…” (Heb. 1:3). He is the Son of God, while at the same time manifesting the Shekhina of the Father. Yeshua Himself said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father…” (Jn. 14:9). God dwelling with man through Yeshua: Shekhina found.
Angel of the Lord
Theophanies are manifestations of an appearance of God to humans. There are many of these recorded in the Hebrew Bible. Yet, according to Exodus 33:20, no one can see God or His face and live. Who then did Moses and a select group of Israelites see on the Mount in Exodus 24:9-11 when “they saw the God of Israel?” Who did Jacob see when he said, “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Gen. 32:30)? Who did Gideon (Judges 6:22) and Manoah see? (Judges 13:18) Who did Moses see in the burning bush? (Ex. 3:1-6). The Bible calls Him the “Angel of יהוה “the “Angel of the LORD” Malach Adonai (Ma-LACH Ah-doe-NYE). The rabbis have long been confounded by this Angel. How is seeing this Angel, who is no ordinary angel, the same as seeing God?
The clearest example in the entire Hebrew Bible of this Angel and His true identity is found in Genesis 18:1-2, “Then the LORD (יהוה (appeared to him [Abraham] by the terebinth trees of Mamre… so he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him…” Two of the men leave and go to Sodom, while one, who is called the Lord, stays with Abraham and negotiates over the destruction of Sodom. Dr. Michael Brown comments on this portion of Scripture, “To be faithful to the
Scriptures, we must say that the Lord, with two angels, appeared to Abraham, and all three appeared as human beings who spoke, ate, and drank with Abraham and Sarah.”
Our conclusion concerning the Malach Adonai is the same as Dr. Brown’s: It was always the Son whom they saw, “It is Jesus the Messiah—the divine Son, the image of the invisible God, the Word made flesh, the exact representation of the Father’s being—who solves the riddle and explains how someone could really see God, even through God cannot be seen. The Messiah is the visible representation of the invisible, the living manifestation of the glory of God.” A pre-incarnate Yeshua. (See John 1:18.)
Genesis 18 clearly teaches us that God can come to earth in human form for a period of time if He so desires. This was the case with Yeshua. God came down to earth as a man in the person of His Son (the incarnation). He did not cease to be the Lord in heaven when this occurred, just as He was still the Lord in heaven when God visited Abraham in his tent.
One God, Not Three
We, as Messianic Jews, believe in One God. We recite the Shema (Deut. 6:4) at our services, and we are monotheists, not polytheists. We recognize that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is complex in nature and beyond our finite understanding. While One, He reveals Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Like man, He is two parts invisible, and one part visible. Man: Spirit. Soul. Body (visible). God: Father, Holy Spirit, Son (visible). Yeshua, the Messiah, is “…the image of the invisible
God, the firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15).
Ancient Torah teachers such as Rabbi Simeon ben Jochai spoke of three substantive beings united in one Godhead. These beings are said to have created the world using the Hebrew letter ה) hey), made up of three parts and signifying Yehovah or יהוה .The Memra, the essential and uncreated Word, is one of the three. The Ruach HaKodesh is another of the substantive beings in the Godhead. The Heavenly Father is the other. Rabbi ben Jochai called them, “Upper Spirit” (Father), “Middle Spirit” (Word), and “Lower Spirit” (Ruach). The three beings are considered as co-eternal and co-equal with one will and one purpose.
There is a progressive revelation, from Genesis to Revelation of the Godhead and of God’s mystery nature. Consider the following verses from the Prophet Isaiah: “Listen to Me, O Jacob, and Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last. Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth…Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit have sent Me” (Isa. 48:12-13, 16).
Complex. The Lord God is יהוה .The Spirit is the Ruach. The First and the Last, the One speaking is other than the Almighty or His Spirit. It must be Yeshua. Isaiah 44:6 is even more fascinating. “Thus says the LORD (יהוה ,(the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD (יהוה (of hosts: I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God.” The King of Israel and His Redeemer both have the same sacred name of God (יהוה .(Both are God. Both are the First and the Last.
Skipping all the way to the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, we read, “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads” (Rev. 22:3-4). Note: One, not two, thrones for God and the Lamb. His servants, not their servants. Him, not them. They shall see His face, not their faces. As Dr. Brown says: “One throne, one God, and one face. This is profound, glorious, monotheistic truth at its best. Our God is complex and unique.”
Evidence of Yeshua’s Deity: A Partial List
Micah 5:2—He was born in Bethlehem as prophesied, a Ruler in Israel with no beginning and no end, having existed eternally.
Isaiah 7:14—Born of a virgin, entering our world as a “divine human”
Hebrews 1:6—Worshipped by angels
John 5:23—Honored just as the Father is honored
Ephesians 6:24—Loved as God the Father is loved
Hebrews 1:3—The exact image of God
Hebrews 13:8—Immutable, unchanging
Titus 2:13—Referred to repeatedly as God
Revelation 1:7-8—Referred to as the Alpha and Omega
1 Corinthians 8:6—Named in various places as Lord
2 Peter 1:11—Called “Savior”
John 1:3—Recognized as Creator
Matthew 8:26-27—Had control over the forces of nature
Mark 7:37—Abundant healings and miracles
John 8:11—Forgave sins
John 5:21—Imparted life
2 Corinthians 5:10—The final judge
John 20:27-28—Resurrected from the dead
“It was the behavior of the early disciples from the time that their ‘Man’ had died on the crucifixion stake to the three days later when he rose, that moved Pinchas Lapide, a twentieth century Orthodox Jewish scholar, to change his mind and accept the facticity of the resurrection.” (Dr. Klayman) When Yeshua rose from the dead, His disciples finally understood His Divine identity and proceeded to turn the world upside down because of this revelation. This caused at least one Orthodox Jew to reconsider the possibility of the incarnation, of the Memra becoming flesh.
What did Yeshua say?
Yeshua claimed that He would sit at the right hand of God. When the high priest asked Him if He was the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed, Yeshua answered, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62). Deity. He also claimed to be All-Powerful. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). He proclaimed HImself to be One with God, saying, “I and My Father are one” (Jn. 10:30). When they accused Him of blaspheming, Yeshua said, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, through you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (Jn. 10:37-38) On another occasion, they took up stones again to throw at Yeshua when He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (Jn 8:58).
Blessings in Yeshua, the Word made Flesh, Love,