Messianic Judaism and deity of Jesus Christ

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monoergon

Puritan Board Freshman
Someone in my family no longer believes Jesus Christ is God because of their recent belief of Messianic Judaism. According to my family member, Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and is the Son of God, but isn't God.

Well, I believe there are different variations of Messianic Jews, but the Messianic Jewish community, in the USA, which my family member has been learning from and attending does seem to deny the deity of Jesus Christ.

Does anyone have any advice on how I can proceed to help that person? I'm already praying for this issue, but I guess I can further help by theologically explaining key texts which these Messianic groups misinterpret to deny Christ's deity.

Every time I appeal to New Testament texts, my family member always says Rome corrupted the New Testament. Obviously, I disagree, even though I never studied textual criticism.
 

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
You might begin by asking when Rome corrupted the New Testament and who precisely it was who did so. I have found that people never have a good answer to that question.
 

Stolarczyk

Puritan Board Freshman
I agree, usually when somebody makes a claim about Rome corrupting the text, it is simply something they have heard repeated and accepted rather than it being something based on facts or conviction. In essence it would be the same claim that somebody in Mormonism would make in order to get around the clear passages of Scripture. Really, it's the only way groups like this can deny things like the deity of Christ, or justify their unbiblical doctrines; the first thing you need to do is undermine Scripture itself. So, not surprisingly I believe this is where you will need to spend the majority of your time, because then when you can establish the authority and accuracy of the biblical text you hold in your hand, then it is easy to show where in Scripture it is clear from Jesus and the Apostles that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man.
 

Stope

Puritan Board Sophomore
Im sorry for the sorry that this has introduced.

I would perhaps suggest the following approach:
1. First just say "ok lets pretend for a moment that indeed the texts are corrupt, and, then would you say yes that according to these corrupted texts they do indeed teach the divinity of Christ?". I assume they will unequivocally say yes, then after that all you need to do is show objective reliability of the canon and translations as have been handed down
2. Then, as folks above mentioned, have them validate their claims of the text being corrupted, and then I assume they will not have much to say so be one step ahead of them and pull out some quotes/thesis from his/her religious website or articles (this way you can no his/her position better than him/her), then succinctly respond to the qualms (I would suggest resources from Michael J. Kruger for basics , and then Daniel Wallace and his work with The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts for actual images of text (this will really put your money where your mouth is).

May the Lord bless your research and dialogue and "every good resolve" by the power of the Lord!
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
It really breaks my heart, to see folks today basically do... exactly what the Pharisees were doing, and leading the people of God of the Old Covenant away from the truth--using the Scriptures in their hand.

Jn.5:39-40, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life." He means: come to him on his terms, not theirs.

Reinventing Jesus--in this case, trying to turn him back into just a superior Pharisee, a better man than they--is just another way of getting to heaven without him having to carry you there. They need Jesus: to give them a helping hand.

They don't need a divine Jesus. If you really understood that it has. to. be. GOD. who saves you--saves you all the way, minus all your filthy-rag contributions--then you could not see Jesus as anything less than divine. Thank the Son of God he's also the Son of Man, because we needed one of US to die for us.

The name "Israel" means: God strives. God WORKS for our salvation. He does it, and he doesn't need our help. He tells the children of Israel, "Stand still, and see the salvation of your God!" The history of Israel is a long lesson in human failure, but God's success in spite of us. Half the time, he's not striving against our external foes, as much as against US, who don't even seem to want to get out of Egypt, free from living death (slavery) and the land of death.

If Jesus is not Emmanuel, God-with-us (Is.7:14; Mt.1:23); if Isaiah did not see Jesus' in glory (Jn.12:41) in the Temple (Is.6:5); then God has not come and saved us.
 

monoergon

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you all for the advice. I pray that God will remove the spiritual veil from my relative's comprehension.
 

monoergon

Puritan Board Freshman
By the way, what are some of the best works which refute unitarianism and defends the deity of Jesus Christ?

Also, I found Dr. Michael Brown's website. It seems he wrote more than two books refuting common Jewish and Messianic Jewish objections to the New Testament, Jesus etc. It's worth taking a look: http://realmessiah.com/index.php/en/
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
"Hear O Israel the Lord our God is one Lord." A direct approach is to go straight to the confession that Jesus is "Lord."
Doesn't the structure of the Hebrew itself for that though allow for a plurality, for there being but one God, but more than just one Person?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The Hebrew Deut. 6:4 is a powerful assertion of the numerical singularity of God. The "Persons" of the Godhead are a revelation of and through the NT fulfillment. It is possible to look back at the OT, and see that there is no contradiction to the revelation of God in former times and the full revelation we have in the present time. But it is anachronistic, and an imposition on the Hebrew construction to say that it contains "cracks" that the Trinity fills in.

The wonder of the Christian faith is that fundamentally monotheistic Jews, who earnestly and faithfully recited the Shema probably daily, who understood Deut. 6:4 as a profoundly exclusive declaration, could do nothing besides worship Jesus as divine. Getting to grips with Jesus is necessary for reconciling the sure knowledge of two seemingly incompatible things. First, that there is only one God, Jehovah. Second, that Jesus is God, and that he brings us to God.

As NT believers, we can look at an OT word for God, Elohim, and take its plural form for more than an OT believer would be able to. For us, we see in that "fullness" of description, plural noun form but singular in action (verbs) what no OT saint would have conceived, in just fear of blasphemy. Speculation from revealed things is still invention, and prohibited. They had to wait for Messiah's arrival to understand him.

This post http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2017/03/Jesus-is-one-yahweh.html contains halfway through exegetical analysis of 2Cor.8:6 as NT expansion of Deut. 6:4.
Let's compare these two passages:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one (Deut 6:4).
yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Cor 8:6).​
..........
ii) Because Paul is writing in Greek, he uses Greek synonyms for Hebrew words. And we're using English words. But if we were to retrotranslate Paul's statement in light of the background text, this would capture the true force of the usage:
Hear, O Israel: Yahweh is our Elohim, Yahweh is one (Deut 6:4).
yet for us there is one Elohim, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Yahweh, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Cor 8:6).​

iii) Elohim doesn't necessarily denote the one true Deity. But in Deut 6:4, the one true Deity is the intended referent. To my knowledge, Yahweh is a distinctive designation for the one true Deity in OT usage. So that's actually the stronger term.
Using the Shema as his framework, Paul assigns Elohim to the Father and Yahweh to the Son:
The Father is the one Elohim
while
The Son is the one Yahweh​
That's what Paul is saying. He is taking the nutshell confession of OT monotheism, but apportioning the two divine titles to the Father and the Son respectively.
And notice the symmetry. This isn't working the Son into the Shema, as if the Father was the baseline. It isn't making room for the Son, but making room for Father and Son alike. Including both Father and Son in the Shema.
My point is that Deut. 6:4 doesn't have a "structure" that implies multiple Persons. It takes NT revelation to show that there is more there, and all over the OT, than could be seen if not for the revelation of God in Christ, and the pouring out of Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
The Hebrew Deut. 6:4 is a powerful assertion of the numerical singularity of God. The "Persons" of the Godhead are a revelation of and through the NT fulfillment. It is possible to look back at the OT, and see that there is no contradiction to the revelation of God in former times and the full revelation we have in the present time. But it is anachronistic, and an imposition on the Hebrew construction to say that it contains "cracks" that the Trinity fills in.

The wonder of the Christian faith is that fundamentally monotheistic Jews, who earnestly and faithfully recited the Shema probably daily, who understood Deut. 6:4 as a profoundly exclusive declaration, could do nothing besides worship Jesus as divine. Getting to grips with Jesus is necessary for reconciling the sure knowledge of two seemingly incompatible things. First, that there is only one God, Jehovah. Second, that Jesus is God, and that he brings us to God.

As NT believers, we can look at an OT word for God, Elohim, and take its plural form for more than an OT believer would be able to. For us, we see in that "fullness" of description, plural noun form but singular in action (verbs) what no OT saint would have conceived, in just fear of blasphemy. Speculation from revealed things is still invention, and prohibited. They had to wait for Messiah's arrival to understand him.

This post http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2017/03/Jesus-is-one-yahweh.html contains halfway through exegetical analysis of 2Cor.8:6 as NT expansion of Deut. 6:4.
My point is that Deut. 6:4 doesn't have a "structure" that implies multiple Persons. It takes NT revelation to show that there is more there, and all over the OT, than could be seen if not for the revelation of God in Christ, and the pouring out of Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father.
So you are saying here that there there is no evidence in the Hebrew scriptures for there being a Trinity within the Godhead? Or is it that this verse would not support that, but the term such as Elohim might?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
David,
My comments were perfectly clear, if you would just take the time to read them at face value. Don't eliminate terms, don't add any ideas that aren't there. I can't figure out why my first reply would lead to your second question. What in my answer could be taken to mean: there can be no evidence for a Trinitarian God anywhere in the OT, if Deut. 6:4 doesn't give a clear indication of it?

It feels like being challenged for not answering a question that wasn't asked. You didn't ask in the first place such a question as I will now proceed to answer below. You made a statement, wrapped in a question (does it not say...?) about implications in the structure of a particular passage, namely Deut. 6:4. I have no idea where the idea originated, which you had maybe heard someplace; but certainly in the form you gave it, it was erroneous.

There is ample evidence for the Trinity to be found in the Hebrew Scriptures latent in the text, not patent. This is due to the progressive nature of revelation. It was not essential to the OT Israelite understanding of the divine Being to clutter their monotheistic training regimen with Personal distinctions. It was, however, vital for them to be disciplined for 1500yrs and more to adhere to the One True God, while the rest of the world sank into idolatry and polytheism.

There is Trinitarian divine character to be found in Gen.1:1-3, the first words of the Bible. But that's not really going to be apparent apart from Jn.1:1-3 (and v32) inclusive. The OT refers directly to the Holy Spirit (e.g. Ps.51:11). It identifies the Angel of the Lord as a manifestation of the invisible Jehovah (cf. Deut. 4:12,15) so palpable as to be worthy of worship in himself (Ex.3:2-6; 34:5-8), not simply as some "avatar" of God. We understand from the NT that the Son is the only one who so made God known, Jn.6:46.

But all that is set in the framework of strict Israelite monotheism. As an OT saint, one could have come up with a list of interpretive permutations all which purported to explain the mystery of the expressions chosen. And it is doubtful that any of them would have been perfectly accurate until new revelation was delivered. OT saints were content with the limits of knowledge that were imposed on them.

"Elohim" is, rendered most literalistically, "gods." If used of polytheistic notions, as in Ex.32:4, it is rendered with a plural verb form, "These be thy gods, O Israel, which [they] brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." But when the God of Israel speaks, it is a singular verb, as in, "I Jehovah your God [Elohim] brought you out of the land of Egypt," Ex.20:2. Grammatically speaking, the Heb. verb form (which is variable) is adjusted appropriately to the noun.

Ordinarily, a singular noun is paired with a singular verb form, and likewise with the plural. This makes the references the One True God of Israel unique in the frequent pairing of the plural noun and singular verb. All of itself, apart from NT revelation, there isn't much there to persuade the reader that something significant (i.e. Trinitarian) about the divine Being is conveyed in the word, Elohim. Something is there, but it is mysterious and not completely revelatory.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Doesn't the structure of the Hebrew itself for that though allow for a plurality, for there being but one God, but more than just one Person?

There is no plurality in the Hebrew. It is possible to render it slightly different on a syntactical level, -- i.e., the Lord He is one, -- but the sense remains the same so far as the numerical oneness of the Lord is concerned. On the other hand there is nothing in the text which requires us to think of the Godhead in terms of a single person. Within the Old Testament there are manifestations of the Godhead which suggest diversity of personal properties and relations; and it only awaited the advents of the Saviour and of the Spirit to fill out these manifestations in order to show us the fulness (as it were) of the Godhead.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Your Jewish friend may not want to hear this but Judaism in the 2nd Century pretty much encoded the Pharisaism that rejected Christ. It proceeded thereafter along un-Biblical lines. Many would be surprised at how un-knowable God Himself is in orthodox Jewish religion as a monad.

The convert from Judaism needs to recognize that the tradition he has come from is not a Biblical lens with which to view Christianity.

Christianity was the fulfillment of the Scriptures (Old and New Testaments) and the Church from the first century onward learned a great deal and struggled a great deal to come to grips with the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It has wrestled with heresies and challenges for 2000 years.

Judaism needs to learn from Christian orthodoxy and not the other way around.
 
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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
“Matters go deeper than that,” declared the “Perplexed Rabbi”. “What is really involved”, he continued, “is belief—belief in the Divine origin of the Torah . . . I have more than twenty years of experience in the practical rabbinate and I have learned that what the average Jew wants is not theorizing and philosophizing but – certainty. If I could really convince my people that God appeared to Moses and gave him the Torah for Israel, I would have no trouble at all turning my congregation into shomrey mitzvoth [observers of the commandments]. But I can’t convince them—in fact, I myself am not convinced . . .” Recalling his experiences as a chaplain in World War Two, he said: “My colleagues, the Protestant and the Catholic chaplains, had it easy. At before-zero-hour services they told the men that Jesus would walk alongside them, protecting them in battle or carrying them to Paradise should death strike them down. The Christian boys went into battle utterly certain that if evening would not find them back with their buddies, it would mark their entry into Paradise. I could not speak to the Jewish boys in this fashion. It would have been incompatible with my Jewish philosophy cast into an intellectualist-rational pattern . . . . I always dreaded that a dying soldier might ask me, ‘What is beyond the grave?’ I knew I could not answer the question. Luckily, I was never faced with this situation. But it may arise tomorrow—what shall I say when one of my people ask me, ‘Rabbi, what lies beyond the grave?’” When asked whether he did not think that Psalms could “convey this consolation and certainty” he replied: “You have to be in the practical ministry to know the problems a spiritual leader faces. When a person is dying, the poetic metaphors of the Psalms mean precious little to him. He wants to cry to a God who assures him, him personally, that He hears his cry. We Jews have no such God to offer and this is why we are losing out.” The problem facing religious Judaism is not how to make the Jew conform to the existing Religious Code, or whether to revise the present Code, or to create a new religious code more suitable to changed conditions. The real problem is how to help the Jew find his way back to God.”

Arthur W. Kac, M.D., The Rebirth of the State of Israel: Is It of God or of Men? Moody Press, Chicago, IL., 1958, pp. 144-145.

Your friend, in denying the divinity of Christ, actually cuts himself off from knowing God. The Church understood early on that the Incarnation was central not only for our salvation but for our ability to even know God.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
There is no plurality in the Hebrew. It is possible to render it slightly different on a syntactical level, -- i.e., the Lord He is one, -- but the sense remains the same so far as the numerical oneness of the Lord is concerned. On the other hand there is nothing in the text which requires us to think of the Godhead in terms of a single person. Within the Old Testament there are manifestations of the Godhead which suggest diversity of personal properties and relations; and it only awaited the advents of the Saviour and of the Spirit to fill out these manifestations in order to show us the fulness (as it were) of the Godhead.
So then we can see throughout the Old testament the hints of God being more than just One Person, as in the way the Spirit is described and operating, as well as say the Angel of the Lord, but needed to see it fully fleshed out to accept when Jesus Himself came to reveal God unto us?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
So then we can see throughout the Old testament the hints of God being more than just One Person, as in the way the Spirit is described and operating, as well as say the Angel of the Lord, but needed to see it fully fleshed out to accept when Jesus Himself came to reveal God unto us?

That comes out in the episode with Manoah. Judges 13:17-18, "And Manoah said unto the angel of the Lord, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honour? And the angel of the Lord said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?"
 
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