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Is Jesus G-d? Removing Obstacles

Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, a baptist church in Jessup, MD. B.A. in Bible, B.S. English Ed., M.S. in Educational Leadership.

What do Christians Believe?

When sharing Christianity with a Jew, there are several obstacles, two of them being that we, Christians, believe Jesus is the Messiah and that Jesus is somehow G-d. If we believed that Jesus was only a prophet, the obstacle would not be so great. If we even believed that Jesus is the Messiah, Jews have also believed in different Messiahs at different times, for example: Shimon Bar-Kokhba and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

But mainstream Christianity teaches that Jesus is one with G-d (by mainstream Christianity, I mean Catholics and Protestants), and this one point is perhaps the most divisive point. It's even divisive among Christians (I am using the word Christians in a general sense), for not all Christians believe Jesus is one with G-d.

JW's and unitarian christians, for example, do not believe Jesus is in any way divine. On the other hand, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints thinks that Jesus is a different g-d than G-d (and they also believe that G-d was once a human who, through elightenment, became G-d). Also, oneness pentecostals believe that G-d revelas Himself as Jesus and Holy Spirit: so G-d, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are different names for the same being.

My encouragement to Jews exploring Christianity is simple: read the New Testament, find out what it says about Jesus, and see if there's anything in it that makes sense to you in light of the Tanach. That doesn't necessarily mean you'll believe in him, but at least you'll have a better understanding of what the ancient writers meant.

Keep in mind, though, that the New Testament was written in Greek because its Jewish authors were, in general, trying to explain to gentiles that Jesus is the Messiah.

Also, be sensitive to the fact that these Jews who wrote the New Testament did not always interpret Tanach exactly the same way you and I interpret it today. Sometimes they did, but sometimes they interpreted things in this other way: they used typology, because they saw in their lifetime events that reminded them of events in the Tanach; —and they believed they were being divinely inspired to do this.

Here's a a simple example of how this works at times:

In Numbers 21:8 (Bamidbar 21:8), Moses set a sepent of bronze on a pole:

8 And HaShem said unto Moses: 'Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he seeth it, shall live.' (Bamidbar 21:8, JPS)

In the New Testament, Jesus used this passage to explain to Nicodemus how one can be born of the Spirit:

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:14-15, KJV)

The serpent being lifted on the pole was used as a symbol of Jesus being resurrected by HaShem so people could believe in him (see him) and be saved (healed).

Now, you may say that, as far as Tanach goes, the serpent on the pole has nothing to do with Jesus. Of course! No one reading that portion in the Tanach would have thought oh, this is talking about Jesus. My only point with this example is that we should try to understand how these ancienty people were interpreting the Tanach so we can at least understand their arguments.

Monotheism and Idolatry

The kind of monotheism proposed by Judaism, a monotheism in which the deity is a single mind or self, appears at first glance to contradict mainstream Christianity's claim that Jesus is somehow G-d. However, I think there are some points that Judaism should consider and discuss with Christianity, even if the conclusion to which Judaism arrives is not the same conclusion to which mainstream Christianity has arrived. Here, I would like to submit those points for your consideration.

But first, let me affirm that I agree with judaism in that Christians should not bow down to icons, crucifixes, paintings, or statues that represent any of the saints, angels, Mary, Jesus, or even HaShem. Crafting such things and bowing down to them is forbidden:

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments." (Exodus 20:2-5, ESV)

Those practices are idolatry that HaShem and the Messiah want us to flee. Our only concern should be in understanding and obeying what HaShem has said about Himself and about His Messiah, His Son.

What Have Jews Believed?

The Angel of Hashem

The Angel of HaShem in the Tanach presents a very interesting situation. He speaks as if he is HaShem, yet he clearly is not HaShem.

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"And the angel of HaShem said unto her: 'I will greatly multiply thy seed, that it shall not be numbered for multitude." (Bereishit 16:10, PJS)

Now, Jews for Judaism argues that the Angel of HaShem is not HaShem, but maybe we should reconsider this because Moses wrote HaShem spoke to her:

"And she called the name of HaShem that spoke unto her, Thou art a G-d of seeing; for she said: 'Have I even here seen Him that seeth Me?'" (Bereishit 16:13, PJS).

The text even appears to imply that she had seen HaShem.

Nevertheless, you may say, "Yes, HaShem spoke to her through the Angel—but, that doesn't mean the Angel is Hashem." Okay, fine—let's leave it at that, and let's take a look at what Jesus said:

"Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works." (John 14:10, KJV)

Is there a difference between HaShem and Jesus? Yes, there is. Jesus calls HaShem the Father (a title given to Hashem in Yeshayahu 63:16).

Paul also made a difference between HaShem and Jesus:

"To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:19, KJV).

Could it be that, just as He spoke through the Angel, HaShem also spoke through Jesus? According to some Christians, that is all the New Testament authors meant (although, I personally believe they meant more).

Warning: HaShem's Name Is Said Aloud

Metatron

Metatron presents readers with a similar situation. In Jewish literature outside of Tanach, Metatron is an angel who bears the name of HaShem, and who was mistaken for a second power (authority) in heaven by a rabbi.

This idea that an angel bears the name of HaShem is found in the Torah, as this second article points out, but can be confusing, and it appears to suggest that the second power in heaven was a concept that was somehow included in the Tanach.

The Word

The Word (Memra) is actually another fascinating concept. In its most basic sense, the Word (the Memra) is HaShem's power through speech. However, the Word was eventually personaified to the extent it became distinct from HaShem.

The Memra actually came to be known as a mediator and as the Logos, which stands for HaShem's wisdom and Hashem's glroy.

The interesting thing is that the New Testament calls Jesus all these things: the Word (Logos), the power of HaShem, the Wisdom of HaShem, the Mediator:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1, KJV)

"But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:24, KJV)

"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;" (1 Timothy 1:5, KJV)

"Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:" (Hebrews 1:3, KJV)

Now, the Word is also found in the Tanach: HaShem created through His Word and His Breath/Spirit (Psalm 33:6); HaShem spoke to Abram through the Word (Genesis 15:1-2), and HaShem spoke to Elijah about HaShem through the Word (1 Kings 19:9-10).

Moreover, in Isaiah 55:10-11, although the Word is not personified, it is said to leave HaShem, do HaShem's will, and return to HaShem. Once again, as a Christian, I see a similarity with what the New Testament says Jesus did: He left the Father, did the Father's will, and returned to the Father.

Jesus leaves the Father: "No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." (John 1:18, KJV)

Jesus does the will of the Father: "Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." (John 4:34, KJV)

Jesus returns to the Father: "Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I." (John 14:28, KJV)

Wisdom

We also see in the Tanach a very particular relationship between HaShem and His Wisdom (Book of Mishlei 1:20-29):

Wisdom calls people to repentance, has a spirit, and pours its spirit on those who repent: "Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you" (Book of Mishlei 1:23, JPS).

Wisdom also judges those who refuse to listen to it: "1:24 Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; 1:25 But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: 1:26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;" (Book of Mishlei 1:24-26, JPS)

Now, when you consider that wisdom is found in the streets, in the places where people gather, and at the gates of the city (Book of Mishlei 1:20-21), and that it points people to HaShem (Book of Mishlei 1:29), you can easily imagine how the New Testament came to the conclusion that Jesus is the Wisdom fo HaShem.

I know it's all poetry, but poetry in the Tanach can be quite significant.

Moreover, wisdom is also portrayed as having an interpersonal relationship with HaShem from eternity (Book of Mishlei 8:22-30).

The Apple Didn't Land Too Far from The Tree

I think the apple didn't fall too far from its tree: what Jews saw in the Angel of HaShem, Metatron, the Word, and Wisdom is what Christians applied to Jesus.

At the very least, I hope I have demonstrated, that the writers of the New Testament were applying Jewish and biblical concepts to Jesus.

Once again, my encouragement to Jews is that they should read the New Testament for themselves and arrive to their own conclusions about what they think it means in light of Tanach and Jewish theology.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Marcelo Carcach

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