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 have not 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.
The First Commandment
"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)
How Many Gods Do Christians Worship?
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; and we believe in the God of Israel. Thus, 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 Spirit and His Son, who we believe are parts of God Himself
"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." (1 John 5:7, KJV)
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 Son of God.
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 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 other 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.
The Tanach Foretells 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 partakes of God's essence.
The Tanach boldly calls the 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)
In this Psalm, the author (David) writes about a beautiful individual (verse 2) who battles for righteousness (verse 3-4) and defeats the enemies of the king, David (verse 5). David calls this individual God (verse 6), but David also says that this individual has been anointed by God (verse 7).
The point of the Psalm is that David's throne will be defended by a conqueror who is God and who is also anointed by God.
The Prophet Isaiah gives the Messiah Divine names: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." (Isaiah 9:6-7, KJV)
In a debate with Evangelist Jim Cantelon, Rabbi Singer argues Isaiah 9:6-7 does not refer to the Messiah, but to King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1-20:21). His point is that the titles in Isaiah 9:6-7 do not imply divinity. He gives Elijah's name as an example. Elijah means Jehovah is God, but that does not make Elijah divine.
Rabbi Singer reasons 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 a past figure instead of a future Messiah. Since Hezekiah's name means Mighty God, Rabbi Singer sees Isaiah 9:6-7 as a direct reference to Hezekiah's name
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 died, and he was also warned about the destruction of his kingdom (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). The past tense could be used to refer to a future event to establish that the future event is sure to happen.
In regards to Hezekiah’s name, although Hezekiah means Mighty God, it does not mean Wonderful, it does not mean Counselor, it does not mean Everlasting Father, nor does it mean Prince of Peace. If Rabbi Singer wants to apply these titles to Hezekiah, he must accept that these titles are not names, but descriptions of either the kingdom, the character, or the nature of Hezekiah. But if the titles are not names, then Mighty God is not a reference to Hezekiah's name, but a reference to the character or nature of the child to be born and to rule on David's throne forever.
It is reasonable, therefore, that the titles Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, and The Prince of Peace are not names point back to Hezekiah, but descriptions of the one who is to sit on David's throne to rule David's kingdom forever. These are descriptions of the Messiah, therefore the Messiah is Divine.
In fact, the Prophet Jeremiah clearly tells us that the Messiah will bear a Divine Title.
“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).
Whether The Lord Our Righteousness is a reference to the Messiah's name or to the title of the Messiah, The Lord Our Righteousness is still making reference to the character and nature of the Messiah, for He will usher judgment, justice, salvation, and safety.
Finally, the Prophet Daniel tells us that the Messiah proceeds from Heaven and is accompanied by clouds. 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). According to Psalm 104:3, it is God who rides the clouds; and throughout the Bible, we see that God's glory is manifested with clouds (Exodus 16:10, 19:9, 33:9, 40:34-35).
Morever, 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?
The fact that the Messiah proceeds from Heaven, that he comes with clouds, and that he is the focus of humanity's service supports the identity of Divine Messiah, one who is human, but one whose origin is also in Heaven.
Thus, there are several Scriptures in the Tanach that promise a Messiah who is Divine. The Messiah is called God, He is given Divine titles, He proceeds from Heaven, He is surrounded by clouds (something only God does), and He is the focus of humanity's service. These aspects make a strong case for a Divine Messiah.
Dr. Michael Brown explains Psalm 45
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
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Marcelo Carcach