When it comes to the Divinity of Yeshua, the stakes are really high. The Scriptures affirm that not only was a perfect sacrifice needed to take away sin but also that this perfect Sacrifice had to be G-d Himself, the One who is able to withstand the power of death (otherwise the covenant with Israel would’ve been a failure, resulting in the destruction of one of the parties and the dissolution of the familial bond). So if you deny the Divinity of Yeshua then you deny the power of His forgiveness and you deny HaShem Himself. Furthermore, if you affirm Jewish Law (which rightly prohibits worship of created beings) and you affirm that Yeshua is not HaShem but merely a created being then this is what happens: worship of Yeshua is outlawed!
So the stakes couldn’t be higher for our existence as Messianics.
And yesterday David Negley attacked Messianic Judaism on an existential level–attacked the very heart of our faith–by claiming that believing in Yeshua as HaShem is a lie of Christianity. So the following contains both David’s assertion and my response.
David Negley to me:
It seems to me that deifying the Messiah is only a priority if one carries such a doctrine over from church theosophy. Judaism has always had room for a variety of expression regarding the nature and character of Mashiach. Christianity, on the other hand, has made trinitarian doctrine a watershed, a definition for whether one is inside or outside of “the camp”.
I believe Tehillim/Psalms 89 contains the key to understanding the nature of Mashiach. Everything in that psalm applies equally to David, to Solomon, and also to Yeshua. Once we wrap our heads around that idea, we are on our way to a Biblical perspective.
Me to David Negley:
First, you’ll notice by surveying all the 1st Century Jewish literature that one thing was universal: Jews believed, based on Torah, that Creatorship was unique to HaShem (see notes below). Second, the Apostolic writers not only attributed Creatorship to Yeshua (see notes below) but they believed salvation was impossible unless G-d Himself was providing the atonement. Third, the Torah itself says that the Messiah is Divine and therefore to reject the nature of the Messiah is to reject HaShem (see notes below).
NOTES 1: CREATORSHIP UNIQUE TO HASHEM
G-d says He made all things in the universe alone–by Himself (“I am the Lord maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself” Isaiah 44:24).
The Apostolic Writings affirm that Yeshua made all things (“…there is one Lord, Yeshua HaMoshiach, through whom all things were created” 1 Corinthians 8:6 and “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made,” John 1:3. Moreover, the text says that Yeshua is G-d (“…the Word was God,” John 1:1).
Here’s Bauckham on how strict monotheism of 1st Century Judaism was identifiable based on the criteria that HaShem was the sole Creator of all things:
“In my view high Christology was possible within a Jewish monotheistic context, not by applying to Jesus a Jewish category of semi-divine intermediary status, but by identifying Jesus directly with the one God of Israel, including Jesus in the unique identity of this one God. I use the term ‘unique identity’ as the best way of speaking of the uniqueness of God as generally conceived in early Judaism.”
“The one God of Second Temple Jewish belief was identifiable as unique by two kinds of identifying features. The first concerns his covenant relationship with Israel. He is the God of Israel, known from the recital of his acts in Israel’s history and from the revelation of his character to Israel (Exod 34:6). He has revealed to Israel his name [Adonai], which was of great importance to Jews of the Second Temple period because it names precisely the unique identity of their God.”
“…this God was also characterized as unique by his relationships to the whole of reality: especially that he is the only Creator of all things and that he is the sole sovereign Ruler of all things. Such identifications of [Adonai] are extremely common in Second Temple Jewish literature. Such identifications of [Adonai] are extremely common in Second Temple Jewish literature. They were the simplest and clearest way of answering the question: What distinguishes [Adonai], the only true God, from all other reality? In what does his uniqueness consist? These characteristics make a clear and absolute distinction between the true God and all other reality. God alone created all things; all other things, including beings worshipped as gods by Gentiles, are created by him….However diverse Judaism may have been in many other respects, this was common: only the God of Israel is worthy of worship because he is the sole Creator of all things and sole Ruler of all things. Other beings who might otherwise be thought divine are by these criteria God’s creatures and subjects. (Thus so-called intermediary figures either belong to the unique identity of God or else were created by and remain subject to the one God, as his worshippers and servants, however exalted.)”
And here Bauckham provides references from 1st Century Jewish literature that show this strict monotheism based on HaShem’s unique Creatorship was the predominant belief:
“However diverse Judaism may have been in many other respects, this was common: only the God of Israel is worthy of worship because he is sole Creator of all things and sole Ruler of all things. Other beings who might otherwise be thought divine are by these criteria God’s creatures and subjects,” Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, pg. 9. And he writes, “…again and again, in a wide variety of Second Temple Jewish literature, [it is written that Adonai] is sole Creator of all things…”
He’s talking not just about numerous passages in Torah but also extra-biblical Jewish sources such as 2 Macc. 1:24; Sir. 43:33; Bel 5; Jub. 12:3-5; sib. Or. 3:20-35; 8:375-76; Sib. Or. frg. 1:5-6; Sib. Or. frg. 3; Sib. Or. frg. 5; 2 En. 47:3-4; 66:4 Apoc. Ab. 7:10; Ps-Sophocles; Jos. Asen. 12:1-2; T. Job 2:4.
NOTES 2: THE APOSTOLIC WRITERS EQUATED YESHUA WITH HASHEM
Here are some places where Paul applies HaShem passages to Yeshua:
“(1) [Adonai] texts with Jesus Christ as referent:
(1a) Five quotations including kurio
Rom 10:13—–Joel 2:32
1 Cor 1:31——Jer 9:24
1 Cor 2:16——Isa 40:13
1 Cor 10:26—-Ps 23(24):1
2 Cor 10:17—-Jer 9:24
(1b) One quotation to which Paul adds legei kurio
Rom 14:11—-Isa 45:23
(1c) One quotation not including kurio
Rom 9:33—-Isa 8:14
(1d) Nine allusions including kurio
1 Cor 8:6—-Deut 6:4
1 Cor 10:22—-Deut 32:21
2 Cor 8:21—-Prov 3:4
Phil 2:10-11—-Isa 45:23
1 Thes 3:13—-Zech 14:5
2 Thes 1:7—-Isa 66:15
2 Thes 1:9—-Isa 2:10, 19, 21
2 Thes 1:12—-Isa 66:5
2 Thes 3:16—-Num 6:26
(1e) Six stereotyped OT phrases including kurio
‘to call on the name of the Lord’
1 Cor 1:2 (cf. Rom 10:13)—-Joel 2:23; Zeph 3:9; Zech 13:9; Jer 10:25 etc.
‘the day of the Lord’
1 Cor 1:8; 5:5; 2 Cor 1:14; 1 Thes 5:2; 2 Thes 2:2 Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; Amos 5:18; Isa 13:6, 9 etc.
‘to serve the Lord’ Rom 12:11; 16:18 1 Kdms 12:20; Pss 2:11; 99(100):2; 101(102):22 etc.
‘the word of the Lord’ 1 Thes 1:8; 2 Thes 3:1 Isa 2:3 etc.
‘the Lord be with you’ 2 Thes 3:16 Ruth 2:4; 1 Kdms 17:37; 20:13 etc.
‘the fear of the Lord’ 2 Cor 5:11 Isa 2:10, 19, 21 etc.
(2) YHWH texts with God as referent:
(2a) Nine quotations including kurio”
Rom 4:7-8—-Ps 31(32):1-2
Rom 9:27-28—-Hos 2:1 + Isa 10:22-2316
Rom 9:29—-Isa 1:9 (kuvrio” sabawvq)
Rom 10:16—-Isa 53:1 (kuvrio” in LXX, no equivalent in MT)17 Rom 11:3 3—-Kdms 19:10 (kuvrio” not in LXX, no equivalent in MT)
Rom 11:34—-Isa 40:13
Rom 15:11—-Ps 116(117):1
1 Cor 3:20—-Ps 93(94):11
2 Cor 6:18 2—-Kdms 7:14, 8 (kuvrio” pantokravtwr)
(2b) Three quotations to which Paul adds legei kurio”
Rom 12:1919—-Deut 32:35
1 Cor 14:21—-Isa 28:11-12
2 Cor 6:17—-Isa 52:11 + Ezek 20:34
(2c) Twelve quotations in which the speaker (‘I’) is identified as YHWH in the OT context
Rom 4:17—-Gen 17:5
Rom 9:9—-Gen 18:14
Rom 9:13—-Mal 1:2-3
Rom 9:14—-Exod 33:19
Rom 9:17—–Exod 9:16
Rom 9:25—-Hos 2:25
Rom 9:33—–Isa 28:16
Rom 10:19—–Deut 32:2120
Rom 10:20—–Isa 65:1
Rom 10:21—–Isa 65:2
Rom 11:26-27—-Isa 59:20-21
2 Cor 6:2—– Isa 49:8″
NOTES 3: THE TORAH SAYS THE MESSIAH IS DIVINE
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn,” Zechariah 12:10
Non-Messianic Jews, when they read Zechariah 12:10, are faced with a problem: here is a passage where G-d is the speaker and He seems to be saying that He was rejected and pierced by His own People.
Zech. 12:10 says that they will look unto “me”—the one who was [previously, at some other time] slain. The passage literally says they will accept the Messiah that they had previously rejected! It’s talking not about 2 different Messiahs but about a single Messiah!
By the way, the grammar in this passage is not contested by the Talmudic Rabbis nor is it contested by Jewish scholars:
“…the translation ‘look to Me whom they have pierced’ is correct. The relative clause ‘whom they have pierced’ in in apposition to ‘Me,’ the spokesman of the passage. ‘Et, the Hebrew word introducing the clause marks it as the object of the verb ‘look to’; the Hebrew word ‘asher is always a relative pronoun in that context, and never the conjunction ‘because.’ It should also be noted that in the Hebrew clause ‘they have pierced’ lacks the pronominal suffix ‘him,'” Gerald Sigal, Trinity Doctrine Error: A Jewish Analysis.
NOTES 4: YESHUA HIMSELF STATED THAT HE WAS HASHEM AND HIS FIRST-CENTURY JEWISH AUDIENCE UNDERSTOOD WHAT HE WAS SAYING
“56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”[d] 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple,” John 8:56-59
Here we see Yeshua referring to Himself as HaShem in such a way that leaves no doubt. Even the Jews listening to Him say it perfectly understood that He was identifying as HaShem. And, not believing that He was HaShem, they picked up stones to stone Him for what they believed to be blasphemy. Here’s a note about the unmistakable way Yeshua identified Himself:
“Jesus uses the ego eimi formula in three different ways in the Fourth Gospel: (1) With a predicate….(2) With an implied predicate….(3) As an absolute…certainly in 8:58: ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ The last of these uses needs furhter comment, for in this case ego eimi represents the divine name. In Exodus 3:14 God says to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ The ‘I AM WHO I AM’ is translated as ego eimi ho on in the LXX. In Isaiah 43:25; 51:12 ego eimi on its own functions as the divine name. Thus when Jesus said to ‘the Jews’, ‘before Abraham was born, I am’, he was identifying himself with God. He was not only pronouncing the name of God…he was claiming to be God,” Colin Kruse, The Gospel According to John, pg. 138