Genesis 18 – Exodus 24
Jews consider the Christian veneration of Jesus to be idolatrous. After everything is said and done, Christians are pointing to one who was born like a human, breathed like a human, and suffered like a human – and call this one “divine”. If this is not idolatry, then what is?
A common Christian counter-argument points to passages such as Genesis 18 and Exodus 24 as a Scriptural support for the concept of an incarnation. Christians understand that these passages describe God coming to earth in human form.
The Jewish response is multi-faceted (there are many ways to explain that black is not white). Jews will point out that not one of the passages that Christians quote in support of their doctrine is presented by the Author of Scripture as a directive relating to worship. Jews will point out that the Christian understanding of these texts wrenches the Scriptures out of its covenantal context. And Jews will point out that according to the Christian reading of these texts, the prohibition against idolatry becomes meaningless. According to the Christian understanding of these texts, anyone and anything can be “God incarnate”. It is this last argument that I will focus on in this brief article.
Christians respond to this last Jewish argument with the contention that it is only Jesus who filled all of the prophetic criteria required of the Messiah predicted by the Jewish prophets and therefore it is only Jesus who can lay claim to being an incarnation of the divine.
Instead of pointing to the fact that Jesus fulfilled NOT ONE of the prophetic criteria described by the Jewish prophets (I articulate this point in my critique of Dr. Brown’s 3rd volume – https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/dr-brown-volume-3/), I will point out that the Christian contention is irrelevant to the discussion.
The Jewish people were presented with the books of Genesis and Exodus many centuries before Isaiah, Daniel and Micah were born. Let us take a Jew who lived in the times of the judges, or in the times of David and Solomon. He never read Isaiah 53, Micah 5 or Daniel 9. Now someone comes to him and claims to be “God incarnate”. This claimant points to Genesis 18 and Exodus 24 as a “Scriptural support” for his preposterous claim. How should this claim be treated?
I would think, that in this setting (pre-Isaiah), even a Christian could acknowledge that this claim would be have been an abuse of the text. If the purpose of the text would be to support “incarnation claims”, then the prohibition against idolatry would fall by the wayside. One could worship any person (or any number of people) and claim that the object of their veneration is an incarnation of the divine as per Genesis 18 and Exodus 24.
When we bring the text back to its original context (before the rest of the books of Scripture were authored) it becomes clear that these texts were not written in order to lend support to the worship of men. That is not the role that they are assigned by the Divine Author of Scripture. There is no reason to think that the purpose and the function of these texts ever changed.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal