Did the Tanach Promise a Divine Messiah?
Gang nach Emmaus (On the Road to Emmaus)
Did You Watch the Debate?
In his debate with Dr. Craig Evans, Rabbi Tovia Singer argued that Jesus Christ cannot be the Messiah foretold by the Hebrew Scriptures because Christianity believes Jesus is God, but according to the Hebrew Scriptures (1) there is only one God and (2) the Messiah is only human.
If you haven't watched the 2014 debate between Dr. Craig Evans and Rabbi Tovia Singer on YouTube, you should: it is a fascinating debate with compelling arguments by both speakers. On one side, Dr. Craig Evans approaches the topic from an archeological and historical perspective; on the other side, Rabbi Tovia Singer approaches the topic from a personal, practical, and theological perspective.
After watching the debate and giving it thought, I have decided to explore the reasons why I believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah foretold by the Hebrew Scriptures. On this post, however, I will simply write about how the God of the Tanach is one complex being and how the Messiah of the Tanach is a Divine Messiah.
How Many Gods do Christians Worship?
"I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.Thou shalt have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:2-3, KJV)
"Hear O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD." (Deuteronomy 6:4)
It is clear that Rabbi Singer believes Christians worship more than one god. Nevertheless, consistent with Judaism, we Christians believe in only one God. We believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; we believe in the God of Moses; we believe in the God of David; we believe in the God of Elijah and Elisha; we believe in the God of Israel; we believe in the God of the Tanach; and we affirm that He is the only true God.
What we understand about the nature of this one God, however, is that He is one being composed of three persons who are intrinsically part of each other. Just as we would not worship only God's head, but also his hands and his feet; just as we would not worship only God's justice, but also his mercy and his grace; we do not worship only the Father, but also His Holy Spirit and His Word (Psalm 33:6; Isaiah 55:11).
However, we do not view the Holy Spirit as the power of God and the Word as God's utterance; instead, we see the Holy Spirit and the Word of God as fully conscious persons that are a part of the Father Himself. It is because they are parts of the Father Himself that we worship them, for we seek to worship all that God is.
Thus, Christians are not worshipping three gods, but one God. When God says, "I am the Lord thy God" (Exodus 20:2), God is not referring to only a part of Himself, but to the whole of Himself. He is saying that all of Him, everything He is, is God. To us Christians, this includes the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
In fact, when Deuteronomy 6:4 (the Shema) proclaims that God is one, Moses uses the word echad. Bible scholars have already pointed out that echad refers to unity, not number. It is the word yachid that refers to number. The point of the Shema then is not that God is a simple being, but that He is a unified and unique being. It rejects polytheism, yet it allows for complexity within God.
Another important passage that demonstrates this complexity is Isaiah 48:16. God identifies Himself as The First and the Last on verse 12; then He declares Himself to be the Creator on verse 13. On verses 14 and 15, He declares He will free His people from Babylon. Finally, on verse 16, He declares that He has been commissioned by God and by God’s Spirit. Thus, what we see in Isaiah 48:16 is a person who is God and who also has a relationship with God and with God’s Spirit. The God of the Tanach is a complex being.
Therefore, although Rabbi Tovia Singer argues that Christians have another god apart from the God of Moses, this is not really the case. The real case is that Christians are worshipping everything that God is, including the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (who Christians believe incarnated and was known to humanity as Jesus of Nazareth).
Did Rabbi Singer Prove the Messiah Cannot Be Divine?
"And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord...." (Isaiah 11:2, KJV)
"God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" (Numbers 23:19, KJV)
Rabbi Tovia Singer also argues that the Messiah prophesied by the Tanach is a man, only a human being. His argument is based mainly on two passages: Isaiah 11:2 and Numbers 23:19, although later he also makes reference to Ezekiel.
Regarding Isaiah 11:2, Rabbi Singer asks, "Why would God fear Himself?" His point is that the Messiah cannot be God because the Messiah is supposed to have the Spirit of the fear of the LORD on him, so thus he must be a man to fear the Lord. But this argument overlooks the doctrines of the Trinity and the Hypostatic Union. A Messiah who is a part of God can still fear God the Father and God the Holy Spirit without necessarily fearing Himself; and in his humanity, this Messiah can still demonstrate how to live with devotion and respect to God.
The next point Rabbi Singer makes is that if the Messiah is a human being (a man), he cannot be God, because God states in Deuteronomy 23:19 that He is not a man. But this argument is also insufficient for the two following reasons: (1) By the time God makes this statement, He had already manifested Himself to Abraham in human form (Genesis 18:1-5); this clearly demonstrates that Deuteronomy 23:19 does not mean God cannot adopt a human form (look at my previous article for more on this); (2) the point of Deuteronomy 23:19 is not to argue against God adopting a human form, but against the idea that God might need to go back on his word because He can be surprised by unforeseen circumstances.
Thus, Rabbi Singer presents two arguments that do not effectively argue against the Christian doctrine of a human yet divine Messiah. He has overlooked how the doctrine of the Trinity allows one ego in the Godhead to relate to another, and he has overlooked the point being made by the Scriptures he provides as evidence. I do not think that there is any Scripture in the Tanach that teaches that God must have only one ego, and that He cannot take a human form.
Does the Tanach Foretell a Divine Messiah?
I believe that when we look at what the Tanach has to say about the Messiah, we see evidence that the Messiah foretold by the prophets is a Divine Messiah, one who is God.
First of all, the Messiah proceeds from Heaven. The Prophet Daniel identifies the Messiah as human by calling Him Son of man, but he also tells us that the Messiah "came with the clouds of heaven." (Daniel 7:13, KJV) Thus, the Messiah is a human who descends to Earth from Heaven by riding the clouds (according to Psalm 104:3, God is the One who rides the clouds).
Daniel also tells us that the Messiah is the focus of humanity's service: "And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him." (Daniel 7:14) Clearly the Messiah is not the Ancient of Days, but why does the Ancient of Days make the him the focus of the world’s service? Why does HaShem glorify the Messiah to such an extent that he, not the Ancient of Days Himself, is the focus of humanity’s service? Even David recognized the Messiah to be greater than him: "The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." (Psalm 110:1,KJV)
In fact, the Tanach boldly calls the king Messiah God: "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right scepter. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." (Psalm 45:6-7, KJV) This passage is very similar to Isaiah 48:16, where someone else other than God is also God.
Finally, the Prophet Isaiah gives the Messiah Divine names: “For a child has been born for us; a son has been given to us. And the dominion will be on his shoulder, and his name is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His dominion will grow continually, and to peace there will be no end on the throne of David and over[j] his kingdom, to establish it and sustain it with justice and righteousness now and forever. The zeal of Yahweh of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7, LEB)
In a debate with Evangelist Jim Cantelon, Rabbi Singer seems to argue Isaiah 9:6-7 does not refer to the Messiah, but to king Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1-20:21). Rabbi Singer argues that Isaiah 9:6-7 is written in the context of Hezekiah, and that the passage is written in the past tense, thus clearly making reference to Hezekiah and not to a future Messiah. Rabbi singer also pointed out that the name Hezekiah means Mighty God. Finally, Rabbi Singer explained that the mere use of a name with meaning does not imply divinity (for example, Elijah’s name means Jehovah is God, but that does not make Elijah a god).
Nevertheless, Isaiah 9:6-7 cannot be referring to Hezekiah. Isaiah 9:6-7 looks forward to a kingdom whose government and peace will be eternal and unending, whereas Hezekiah was warned about the destruction of his kingdom and later died (2 Kings 20:16-21). Moreover, the mere use of a past tense in Isaiah 9:6-7 does not rule out that the entire passage is talking about future events (Isaiah 9:1).
In regards to Hezekiah’s name, although Hezekiah means Mighty God, it does not mean Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, or Prince of Peace. In order to apply these titles to Hezekiah, one must accept that these titles are not names, but actual descriptions of either the kingdom, the character, or the nature of the ruler announced by Isaiah 9:6-7.
In regards to the Messiah, Jeremiah clearly tells us what his title will be: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness." (Jeremiah 23:5-6, KJV).
Thus, the Messiah foretold by the Tanach is a human being that proceeds from Heaven, is called God, and bears Divine Titles to point out something about his kingdom, character, or nature. These, then, make a strong case for a Divine Messiah.
In this article, which I have written in response to statements made by Rabbi Tovia Singer, I did not mean to defend the doctrine that Jesus is God; instead, I meant to defend a closely related doctrine: that the Messiah foretold by the Tanach is Divine.
I argued from the Tanach that the God of the Bible is a complex being composed by more than one person, yet He is unique. I also argued that there are plenty of Scriptures that seem to indicate that the Messiah is Divine, which is entirely possible if we accept the notion that God is a complex being composed by more than one person.
The Tanach calls the Messiah God, and it also gives Him Divine titles. There is therefore plenty of reason for us Christians to believe in a Divine Messiah.
Rabbia Tovia Singer Debates Dr. Craig Evans: Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah?
Rabbi Tovia Singer and Reverend Jim Cantelon Debate
© 2017 Marcelo Carcach