Water, Words and Respect
Our sages directed attention to the Bible’s detailed description of Abraham’s servant’s fulfillment of his mission to find a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24). Our teachers taught that “the small talk of the servants of the patriarchs is more beautiful than the Torah of their descendants” (Rashi 24:42). Each and every element of this passage is brimming with insight into those qualities for which God chose the patriarchs. In the space of this brief article let us attempt to draw some lessons from one facet of this episode.
When the servant speaks to God he describes the bride whom he is seeking for Isaac as the one who will respond to his request for water with the words, “Drink, and I will also give your camels to drink” (verse 14). Yet when Rebecca actually meets the servant she does not respond exactly as the servant expected. Rebecca responds to the servant’s request with two words, “Drink, my master” (verse 18). Only after the servant has finished drinking does she tells him that she will also draw water for his camels (verse 19).
We can perhaps understand Rebecca’s terse response with the principle of “the righteous say little but do a lot). There was no need for Rebecca to announce her righteous intentions before she was ready to fulfill them.
There may be another factor that also influenced Rebecca’s decision to limit her words when she spoke to the servant.
When someone asks you for a drink, you never know how thirsty they are. This is not the time to say an extra word. Rebecca understood that when someone asks for water you give it to them as quickly as possible. If she would have spoken to him about her intentions to give water to his camels she would have prolonged his thirst for an extra few seconds.
This explanation still does not fully explain the verse in question. After everything is said and done Rebecca did add a seemingly unnecessary word into her speech before she actually gave the servant to drink. She said “Drink, my master”. Isn’t the word “adoni,” “my master”, superfluous? If the servant was suffering from thirst she could have saved a bit of his suffering by limiting her speech to one word, “sh’tei”, “drink”.
Perhaps we can see from here that people need respect more than they need water. The respect for one who is created in the image of God that is inherent in the words “my master” satisfied a more important need than the body’s need for water. By entitling the servant with the words “my master” Rebecca gave a different connotation to the act of kindness. This was not merely an act of satisfying a physical need. By honoring the servant with that one word Rebecca turned her act into an act of respect toward one who is created in the image of God.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal
Speaking of respect, why can’t the Jewish community treat Jews who believe in Jesus with full respect as fellow Jews? Instead they are treated as pariahs.
What would constitute what you consider “respectful” treatment?
Respectful treatment would be treated as full Jews just as any Jew should be treated.
You are operating under misconceptions.
A person who is born a Jew or who converts to Judaism in accordance with Jewish Law remains a full Jew for life – just as any other jew – regardless of his/her beliefs. That is a simple fact. It applies to Jews who are atheists as well as Jews who worship Jesus. Both are heretical Jews, but Jews nonetheless.
You are going to have to be more specific. Let’s try this the other way. What kind of treatement are you refering to that you consider disrespectful?
In the synagogue that I attend, 40 percent of the members don’t believe in G-d. There are members there that are homosexual. Those people are fully accepted members. They are allowed to make an aliyah to the Torah. Because I believe in Jesus, I am not allowed to become a member or allowed any Torah honors. I feel so hurt. Judaism is my heritage. Because I am treated as an outsider, I have been attending synagogue less and less. It is not the missionaries who are driving me away from Judaism. It is the Jewish community. If the Jewish community wants to keep Jews in the fold, they shouldn’t drive Jews who believe in Jesus away.
Respectfully, individuals who believe in Jesus cannot be considered Jews.
How come atheists who deny G-d can be considered as Jews? According to the Torah, homosexuality is a form of sexual perversion(Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13). How come homosexuals can be considered as Jews? The fact that the Jewish community rejects Jews who believe in Jesus is discrimination.
Marilyn, after Yehuda’s and Rabbi Blumenthal’s comments I have little to add, just that it gives us no joy to write off Jews who have strayed from the covenant of the God of our fathers. No glee. Only great sorrow.
The greatest punishment in the Torah is “that soul shall be cut off from the midst of its people.” God doesn’t even have to put this punishment into effect; it happens naturally as a consequence of rejecting traditional Judaism. We see this throughout history. Every single group that splintered off, including the first Christians who were Jewish, did not survive as a Jewish group. The general path of extinction is through assimilation.
We see this happening today as well. Within three to five generations, the descendants of all Jews outside of traditional (Orthodox Judaism)–including Messianic Jews–either do not do not know that they are Jewish or no longer identify themselves as such.
This knowledge does not make me happy. It breaks my heart.
My prayer is that all Jews unite in the worship of the one true God of Israel and the observance of His Torah.
Peace and blessings,
Your comments are poignant and deserve some a clear response.
I want to divide my response to you into two parts
I think you are getting hung up on semantics.
If a traditional Jew tells messianic Jews that they are not real Jews, while not casting the same aspersions on say atheist Jews or other Jewish transgressors it is not because the traditional Jew actually believes that the messianic has somehow lost his biological Jewishness in a way that the atheist has not.
The reason for the different treatment is because, generally speaking, the atheist or other non-observant Jew makes no claim that their behavior or beliefs represents authentic Judaism. Thus the traditional Jew has no reason to defend authentic Judaism against the practices of such Jews. The messianic Jew by contrast generally IS making the claim that HIS belief IS the true Judaism. The traditional Jew is therefore obliged to counter that claim and make clear that “messianic Judaism” is not actually Judaism but an antithetical religion. In the process of making that point, the belief system and the person are sometimes interchanged and perhaps that is not the best way to make the point. But make no mistake, no one who is committed to a particular belief system can possibly be expected to acknowledge the validity of an irreconcilably opposing belief system in the name of “respect”.
You may not like what I am about to explain, and you may consider it a further example of “disrespect”, but what you describe in your experience in your synagogue is indeed hypocritical and is a byproduct of the fact that the synagogue you attend is clearly not an Orthodox one. Now that may sound like me as an Orthodox Jew being disrespectful of other denominations, but I again urge you to read again what I wrote above and consider the following.
If you as a messianic, or any of your atheist of homosexual synagogue co-members approached my orthodox Rabbi about membership in my synagogue, you would all be given a consistent response which would be more or less as follows:
“Your belief/behavior is inconsistent with Jewish law and tradition. As such I can not in good faith extend membership to you if you would expect that to include open acceptance of your belief/behavior. However you are a Jew and always will be one. As a rabbi I am here to help you if you want to consider pursuing a lifestyle that is consistent with Jewish Law and tradition. I am also here to help you if you need assistance with any pressing personal needs or want someone to talk to and it is my prayer that you find your way back to authentic Judaism”
If this appeals to you, seek out an orthodox Rabbi. You have my best wishes.
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to me. Your response was very kind and respectful. I can understand a rabbi limiting membership and bema honors to those whose beliefs and practices are consistent with what he considers authentic Judaism. My problem is with those who make judgments on the basis of political power. All but Orthodox denominations now consider same sex marriage a part of authentic Judaism. I do not mean to be disrespectful of homosexuals in pointing this out, but I am simply giving this as example of how many non-Orthodox congregations discriminate against Messianic Jews more on the basis of political power than on the basis of a true zeal to preserve authentic Judaism.
You are very welcome. And I thank you for the immense implicit endorsement you gave to the integrity of Orthodox Judaism by describing it as defending “what [it] believes to be authentic Judaism” as compared with other denominations which you described as “making judgments on the basis of political power”.
You have my sincere best wishes and my prayers that you might one day consider looking more carefully at the integrity of the Orthodox..
Yehuda and Marilyn
I want to thank the two of you for having a respectful, enlightening and articulate discussion about issues that are very sensitive.
I would like to add my two cents to the discussion. Before I do so I will state that I am in the same camp as Yehuda. The community of which I am a part sees its responsibility to pass on to our children the same Judaism we received from the previous generation. It is not ours to water down or to change. An individual that insists on a specific belief or behavior as a matter of principle (such as atheism, homosexuality or belief in Jesus) cannot expect his/her beliefs to be considered the Judaism of my community because this is not the Judaism we received from our parents. As Yehuda affirmed – these people will still be respected as human beings – but their beliefs will not be tolerated as representative of authentic Judaism.
When we see a Jewish community allowing atheism and homosexuality but not belief in Jesus it is clear that this community does not feel the need to preserve the same Judaism of the previous generations.
The question then arises why do they discriminate and allow some deviations from the Judaism they received but not others? Marilyn suggested that power is an issue in this matter. In other words at this point in time it is not politically correct to discriminate against homosexuals or atheists and this political correctness doesn’t seem to extend to believers in Jesus (who are seen as right-wing fanatics by the liberal society and thus fair game for discrimination).
In some cases I would agree with Marilyn’s assessment as cynical as it is, but I would think that in some situations there are other factors at work.
There are certain strong negative emotions in the psyche of the larger Jewish community associated with belief in Jesus and these same negative emotions are not present when it comes to other deviations from Judaism. First you have all of the atrocities towards our people that were committed in the name of Jesus. The negative association between the persecution and the name of Jesus is a strong factor that cannot be ignored.
Then you have the simple fact that atheism and homosexuality are not “religions” (even though I would argue that technically atheism is indeed a religion – but it is not identified as such). Thus Jews who see themselves as a religious entity find it more difficult to tolerate an entity that is seen as a competition.
Another relevant factor is the fact that so many Jews throughout history have given their lives to testify that Judaism is not Christianity – this makes it more difficult for their descendants, even the wayward ones, to accept belief in Jesus as something that is tolerated within Judaism.
Finally there is a religious issue as well. Our relationship with God is compared to a marriage. Both atheism and homosexuality would be crimes against our marriage with God. After God made it clear that homosexual behavior is an abomination to him – if someone honors such behavior in the context of our relationship with God – well we could compare that to a spouse who serves her husband the most rotten and foul-smelling food on a regular basis. We would compare atheism in the context of our relationship with God to a woman who walks around the house pretending that her husband doesn’t exist.
Both of these are violations of the relationship of marriage – but they still don’t go to the core of the relationship as does worship of Jesus. Devotion to Jesus in the context of our relationship with God is like a woman who enters into a deep and intimate relationship with another man – the most direct violation of the marriage relationship. Hence a stronger recoil from belief in Jesus on the part of Jews.
I understand that the people that are engaged in these activities (atheism, homosexuality, and devotion to Jesus) don’t see things in the way I do – and I am not judging anyone on a personal level here. What I am trying to do is that I am trying to present how these activities are seen from the perspective of the Judaism that my community inherited from our ancestors.
The charge of idolatry seems to be a major point in explaining why Jews practicing various major forms of deviation from Torah are tolerated much more than Messianic Jews. Therefore, I will try to address the idolatry issue here.
Torah does use quite powerful language to condemn idolatry. Toleration of idolatry throughout the history of Israel has had devastating consequences for the people of Israel. If belief in Jesus were truly idolatrous, then taking radical measures to oppose such belief would be highly justified. However, idolatry is the worship of any god other than the G-d of Israel. Messianic Jews, and Christians in general, who hold to orthodox Christian doctrine, do not view Jesus as another god, either in addition to or in competition with the G-d of Israel. The doctrinally orthodox Christian position is that the one true G-d consists of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is no idolatry in believing that our own works are nowhere near sufficient to purchase our redemption, but that G-d Himself bought us at a price far greater than we can possibly imagine.
The mistreatment of Jews by those claiming loyalty to Jesus has made matters very difficult for Messianic Jews. Forced conversions are mandated in the Koran. However, forced conversions and persecution of Jews are highly antithetical to everything taught in the New Testament. Paul issued a severe warning against those who would boast of replacing the Jewish people. Just as G-d should not be blamed for the sins of men who He created, neither should Jesus be blamed for the sins of those who call themselves Christians.
It doesn’t matter what Christians claim about Jesus. Deuteronomy says not to listen to a prophet that says to worship gods you did not know (chapter 13). Now, nobody had any experience of Jesus as God at Sinai. Rather the opposite. Read the beginning of Deuteronomy, and you will read a warning from Moses not to commit idolatry. He reminds their experience with divine revelation, and it was no human they experienced. (See also Exodus 20). Clearly, anybody can come and say that the man they worship is really the same god that Israel worships. But this is folly. Words are nothing. Israel experienced God. They don’t just accept anybody who says, “No, our god is yours.”
Would any Christian accept it if I told them I was Jesus? And what if I told them I had a whole separate practice from theirs, but this was a natural development of the system? Should they really accept my words, just because I claim to be Jesus? Or would they not refute that what I say is true? Of course they would refute me. They would argue that there is an objective truth, and my equating myself to their god would not make it so. Likewise, there is an objective truth about the Creator, and not one of his creations claiming to be him would make it true. May I recommend R’ Blumenthal’s article “Contra Green” regarding this point? You can find it here: https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/contra-green/ .
Cliff, you mentioned that Christians don’t see Jesus as a “new god” — and that is true enough — but that is only part of what the Torah tells us in Deuteronomy 13. It also says that idolatry is having — “A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN BY YOU OR YOUR FATHER.”
Praying to or “through” Jesus was not a spiritual experience known to our ancestors at Mount Sinai – hence it is obviously idolatry as defined by the Jewish bible itself.
Jim and Sophie,
The concept of G-d dwelling in a particular place is not at all strange or foreign to the Jewish people. Whilst the existence of all things that exists depends on G-d’s omnipresence and absolutely nothing in all of reality escapes G-d’s full conscious awareness and power, there are many passages in Tanakh that present G-d as going to a certain place or dwelling in a particular place. The Ark of the Covenant was a habitation for G-d’s presence beginning in the time of Moses in the wilderness. Solomon’s temple later became the place for G-d’s presence. Solomon spoke of people near and far praying toward the temple. Even today, synagogues face eastward so that Jews can be looking toward G-d’s place when they pray. It was never implied that the temple itself was G-d, but it was well understood that it was the specific dwelling place for G-d. If the Ark of the Covenant, Solomon’s temple, and the second temple, which were made from ordinary materials by the hands of men, were a place in which G-d dwelt, how much more appropriate would it be for G-d to dwell in a biological system just like the biological system He created for the creatures that he made in His image?
I do not believe that Jesus’s biological system was composed of G-d atoms in place of the kinds of atoms that compose all creatures and non-living things as well. I believe that Jesus’s biological system was composed of the same kind of atoms that compose everything else in the universe.
Those who hold to a physicalist or materialist philosophy would consider the idea of a non-material soul ridiculous, because in their view the biological system IS the person. Their view is contrary to the biblical view of the soul. It is fully consistent with the biblical view of the soul to view the biological system as the intimate dwelling place for a person’s soul but not as actually being the person. Just as I do not believe that the Ark of the Covenant, Solomon’s temple, or the second temple was G-d, I do not believe that Jesus’s biological system was G-d. However, I certainly do believe that Jesus’s biological system was the intimate dwelling place for the Creator of all things. The souls of men are invisible. Scientists have come a very long way in comprehending and exploiting the properties of material things, but no scientist has ever been able to detect or measure the soul. In the world to come, I do not expect the original atoms that composed a person to be brought back together in the exact arrangement they were in at some point in the person’s life, but I would expect each person’s soul to be intimately associated with a new biological system, the nature of which is a mystery to us.
The sacrificial system was a major and essential part of the Israelite SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE in ancient times. This spiritual experience has been absent from Judaism for nearly two thousand years. It makes total sense to me that the sacrifice of animals was a precursor to the sacrifice that truly accomplishes redemption. Becoming intimately associated with a biological system just like ours would enable G-d to fulfill all the required righteousness and experience the great suffering of the penalty due to us in order to accomplish the redemption of those who He created in His image. Exodus 13 identifies G-d by His work of redemption (verses 6 and11). How could the work of redemption I have described here be foreign to who G-d truly is.
Cliff, you not only did not respond AT ALL to Jim’s and Sophie’s arguments; you presented a faulty one yourself.
Here’s the problem with your logic: if God could choose to dwell inside the biological system of Jesus, Hindus could argue that He chose to dwell inside the biological system of Krishna. The ancient Egyptians could have argued that He chose to dwell inside the sun. This argument can be used to justify all sorts of idol worship.
Regarding the sacrificial system, please find scriptural support for the teaching that sacrifice brings redemption. Also cite scriptural support for the concept that human sacrifice is acceptable. Finally, use scripture to show that God chooses to dwell inside biological systems as a physical manifestation of His presence (remember: even in the Temple, His presence was invisible), this despite the emphatic declarations of Numbers 23:19 that God is not a man and of Exodus 33:20 that no man shall see God and live.
I have a question for you: if God chose to dwell inside Jesus’s biological system, but Jesus’s body had nothing to do with it, why do Christians worship Jesus as Jews never worshipped the Temple or the Ark of the Covenant?
Finally, I encourage you to reread Jim’s and Sophie’s comments to understand that you did not address their points in any way, shape, or form. Then I challenge you to directly rebut their positions.
I hardly feel the need to reply after Dina’s excellent (as always) response. But I don’t want you to think I’m ignoring your response, so I’ll try to add something.
Anybody and anyone right now could claim to be a god or even the God. If some man named Fredbert from Minnesota were to announce today that he is divine, and not only divine but the same God that spoke at Sinai, would you believe him? I don’t want to answer for you, but I am guessing that you would reject his claim. And if his followers told you he walked on water and that he fed thousands from a can of tuna and a loaf of Wonderbread? I doubt that you’d believe him still.
Now imagine they said as you do: “He’s not claiming to be another god. I can understand why you’d reject that. No, he’s the God, the God who announced Himself at Sinai.” Would you then believe him? Probably not.
And if you did, you would be wrong. That would be idolatry. Worshipping a man as God is idolatry. It doesn’t matter if he says he’s the same as God! It only matters that he isn’t God. Whatever his delusion or deception, worshipping him is not worshipping God.
And by the way, if we accept Fredbert, will we also accept Ryan? And Bob? And Susan? And when they all disagree with one another? Even if they claim that they are not new gods but all of them different manifestations or different persons within the Godhead?
And so, I cannot accept Jesus either.
One other point. In Isaiah, God calls Israel His witnesses. They are witnesses to the God who revealed Himself at Sinai. Only by their testimony, can we find reliable knowledge of His revelation. Now along comes a man either claiming to be god, or having followers who claim he was god. And the witnesses do not testify to him. Then you can I can be assured that his claim (or their claim) is invalid. He is not divine.
I recognize that this is really a repetition of what I said above, but as Dina pointed out, you did not address this. Your arguments are irrelevant to my post.
I imagine a young lady, maybe about twenty years old, serving a stranger like that. But much more interesting to me seems that she is going to give water to the – camels! Did you know that a single camel can drink 200 litres within 15 minutes? In Gen 4:10 we read that Abraham’s servant had ten camels, well computed this means that she had to bring with her vessel 2000 litres within 15 mins from the well. This is another aspect of humility.
Dina and Jim,
In the fourth through seventh chapter of Leviticus are a whole series of cases for which the priest makes atonement for the people by sacrifice of animals so that they may be forgiven of their sins. In the thirteenth chapter of Exodus, all the first born are to be redeemed by means of animal sacrifice.
Torah prohibits the foreign practice of sacrificing children. God did command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. There is no mention of Abraham protesting that this is unacceptable, but God provided a ram as a substitute for Isaac once Abraham demonstrated that he loved G-d above everything. God did not command anyone to sacrifice Jesus. Those who sacrificed him did so as an ignorant act of rebellion rather than as obedience to any command. G-d did not command Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery. Their intentions were evil, but G-d’s purpose in what they did was to keep many alive.
Although the Israelites did not see any form at all at Mt Sinai, Ezekiel, in the first chapter of Ezekiel, describes seeing the likeness of the appearance of the glory of G-d as a likeness like the appearance of a man above the likeness of a throne. In Exodus 33, G-d mentions His face, hand, and back. Moses was permitted to see G-d’s back but not His face. I do not know precisely what is meant here, but coupled with the fact that G-d created man in His image, I see no difficulty with the invisible G-d having the power to become intimately associated with the same biological system that He created for those who He created in His image.
The Israelites in the wilderness personally witnessed G-d’s presence at Mount Sinai. This is why it is a marvel that they would quickly turn around and declare some golden calf to be the gods that brought them out of Egypt. Torah clearly warns against worshiping images of metal, wood or stone. There are also warnings against worshiping astronomical entities. I can find no warnings in Tanakh at all against the possibility that some might claim that G-d has the power to become intimately associated with a biological system just like the biological system He created for those whom he created in His image. Given the great influence of Jesus, I would think that G-d would have the omniscience to anticipate the need for such a warning if it were necessary. Please let me know precisely where I may have missed such a warning.
Regarding Dina’s charge that I failed to address Jim and Sophie’s points in any way, shape, or form, what I did present is an essential foundation for any further discussion of any of those points. If the Tanakh truly teaches that G-d cannot become intimately associated with a biological system just like the biological system He created for those whom He created in His image, then it would be useless to discuss any of the points, because no man at all could then possibly qualify as G-d incarnate. As an analogy, suppose you were trying to convince an atheist that Tanakh is the authentic book of G-d rather than the Quran. If the atheist is fully convinced that science proves G-d cannot exist, then there is no use arguing whether the Tanakh or the Quran is G-d’s authentic book. You would first need to deal with the issue of whether science truly does prove that G-d does not exist. If G-d does not exist, then neither the Tanakh nor the Quran would be G-d’s authentic book, because there would be no G-d for whom any book could be the authentic one. Likewise, I think we really need to clear up the foundational point of biology before attempting to proceed any further on any points. This is not to minimize the importance of your points. Every point needs to be carefully addressed. However, I cannot do this in one quick stroke of the keyboard. The Tanakh is not a one page essay written in the space of a few hours. Besides this, both Jews and Christians find a need for volumes of literature to clarify it. I would be happy to address each point, but one at a time due to my limited time availability and slow speed of comprehension. My initial post was put in this thread to question the way that Messianic Jews are treated as pariahs whereas many Jews who are in radical violation of Torah are fully accepted. Some of the points really belong in a different thread. The point about believing in Jesus rather than someone else, like maybe Friedrich Nietzsche or Charlie Manson, would go better in the Contra Green thread. Each point could take several weeks to argue, as you may find some fault in my argument which I would then need to clarify or correct on a weekly basis. I am willing to give this a try if you are interested in doing so.
You did not actually address my challenges directly. Since you want to focus on just one issue, here’s just one of my challenges again:
Here’s the problem with your logic: if God could choose to dwell inside the biological system of Jesus, Hindus could argue that He chose to dwell inside the biological system of Krishna. The ancient Egyptians could have argued that He chose to dwell inside the sun. This argument can be used to justify all sorts of idol worship.
Why Jesus over Krishna or Ra?
You brought the standard “proofs” that God appears in human form. You brought these proofs from passages that do not directly teach us whom we are to worship. Therefore, you need to reconcile these “proofs” with the very clear teachings about God having no physical form or likeness.
Exodus 20:3-5; Exodus 33:20; Deuteronomy 4:12, 15
Why would God take the trouble to emphatically declare His incorporeality if He fully intended to appear as a human in a millennia and a half? This would make Him into a liar, God forbid!
Since idol worship is the greatest sin mentioned in the Bible, you do understand that a high standard of proof is required? Find me a clear teaching that it’s okay to worship an incarnation of a divine being.
Sorry, little mistake, I meant to write a millennium and a half.
Sorry for this very long delay in responding. I lost a full day to a family medical emergency and am still struggling to catch up on everything. Thank you for your patience in enduring my generally slow pace of response. I will begin with the three verses that you presented. Let us see whether anything in these three verses rule out the possibility of G-d entering into the world as a man. Before doing so, I need to mention again that the idea of G-d entering into the world as a man does not mean that G-d is at any moment anything less than omnipresent and sovereign over all events in this universe, any other universes, or any other kinds of realms that may exist. I mentioned that G-d has the power to simultaneously be in a particular place and yet be absolutely everywhere.
In Exodus 20:3 is the prohibition to worship any other god besides the true G-d. In chapter 32 of Second Chronicles, Sennacherib speaks of the impotence of the gods of other lands and then makes the foolish claim that the G-d of Israel is no more effective against him than those other gods. Messianic Jews, and Christians in general, whose doctrine is consistent with the New Testament, do not claim loyalty to a god of some other land. They identify Jesus exclusively with the G-d of Israel, the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the G-d that brought the nation of Israel out of the land of Egypt.
Exodus 20:4-5 is the prohibition against making an image of anything in creation and worshiping it. Although the Israelites in the wilderness proclaimed the golden calf to be the gods that brought them out of Egypt rather than some other god or gods, it was an image of their own creation. The golden calf had a mouth that could not speak, eyes that could not see, ears that could not hear, and a nose that could not smell. These two verses do not cover the problem of worshiping astronomical entities, but this is not what Jesus is anyway. Since G-d created man in His image, the only way I see He could enter into the world to be physically present with us is through becoming intimately associated with the same biological system He created for our souls. I do not see any violation of Exodus 20:3-5 in G-d doing this. It is important to note here that the New Testament claim is not one of some man becoming G-d, but rather one of G-d entering into our lives as a man at some point in history.
In Exodus 33:20, G-d warns Moses that no man can see His face and live. There is a very good reason for this, which points to the need for redemption. When Isaiah saw the L-rd sitting on a throne, he was terrified because he was a man of unclean lips. A seraph touched a burning coal to his lips to take away his guilt and atone for his sin. Those who are without sin can see G-d’s face and live, but since there is no one who does not sin (as King Solomon mentioned in his prayer of dedicating the house of G-d), no one is able to see the face of G-d and live. People were able to see the face of Jesus, because in entering the world in the form of a man, G-d was now doing the work of reconciling men to Himself so that they could see stand in His presence and live.
In Deuteronomy 4:12, 15, Moses reminds the people that they saw no form on Horeb. He follows this with a warning to never make a carved image of any creature or astronomical entity. However, there are numerous places in the Tanakh where a prophet did see G-d in some form, such as in Isaiah 6:1, Exodus 33:23, and Ezekiel 1:26-28. There have been various statues, icons, and paintings of Jesus, but the New Testament never suggests that anyone should make such images. Although there was some excitement about the shroud of Turin being a photograph of Jesus, the lack of any mention of such an image in the New Testament casts doubt on its authenticity. The common portrayals of Jesus are likely much different from the way Jesus actually appeared. Paul confirms the invisibility of G-d (1 Timothy 1:17) whilst affirming the divinity of Jesus. This is consistent with what I mentioned about the ability of G-d to be simultaneously omnipresent in an invisible way and yet be present in a specific place in a visible way.
I do not see where any of the verses you offered emphatically declare the incorporeality of G-d in the sense that G-d has no ability to become intimately present with us in the form of a man. A more challenging verse would be Numbers 23:19. Yet even this verse does not rule out the ability of G-d to enter into the world as a man to redeem men. No man is able to be simultaneously omnipresent and yet be present in a specific place. Jesus being in a specific place does not reduce G-d’s omnipresence in any way, shape, or form. Another important thing to observe is the implication in the verse that men are deceitful. This clearly points to the need for a Redeemer to set men free from a fallen state so that they would no longer be deceitful. As G-d entering into the world in the form of a man, Jesus, unlike all created men, was not deceitful.
In addition to presenting the incorporeality issue, you began by again presenting a challenge similar to the one presented in the Contra-Green post. I mentioned that the incorporeality issue needed to be addressed as a prerequisite to this challenge, but I will now briefly discuss it here. Two challenge examples you presented equate the claim of G-d being present with us in Jesus with Hindus claiming G-d to be present with us in Krishna or Egyptians claiming G-d to be present with us in the sun. These two claims would be quickly eliminated by the Tanakh. Hindus never identify Krishna with the G-d of Israel. Neither did the Egyptians ever identify the sun with the G-d of Israel. However, you could have mentioned the problem of Israelites identifying a golden calf in the wilderness or one golden calf in Beth-el and another golden calf in Dan as the gods that brought them up from the land of Egypt. In this case, the golden calves were metallic idols fabricated by men. No man fabricated the biological system of Jesus. Immediately after exposing the folly of those who fabricate and worship idols, G-d reminds Israel, “I formed y0u; you are my servant.” Of course, you could say that G-d also formed the sun, moon, and stars, but these things were not made in G-d’s image as was man. This now leaves us with the specific challenge presented in the Contra-Green article. Although I have eliminated man-made idols and astronomical entities as possible places for G-d’s intimate presence with us, you would still ask why G-d would be intimately present with us in the biological system of Jesus rather than in the biological system of some other man? This is a question of great importance, which I will need to address separately from the question of whether G-d is able to be intimately present with us in the form of any man at all. Would you want to have me discuss this particular issue as a reply to this article or as a reply to the Contra-Green article?
Worship of anything or anyone other than G-d truly is an abomination against which there is the strongest of warning in Tanakh. Your requirement for a higher standard of proof reminds me of the skeptics’ demand that an extraordinary claim must be supported by extraordinary evidence. It is true that the Tanakh does not explicitly state that on a certain date in history that G-d would become intimately present with us in the form of a man, although there is a good deal of implicit evidence that this was necessary. Paul describes G-d’s plan of redemption in Jesus as a mystery hidden for ages and generations, but now revealed to the saints. One might think that matters radically significant as eternal life and the world to come would receive extensive treatment in the Tanakh, but very little is actually mentioned. There is provision in Torah for man slaughterers to find refuge in certain cities until the high priest dies. There are laws in Torah about purification of women. There are sacrifices for various sins. However, there is no mention in Torah of any time when there will no longer be a cycle or birth and death. There is no mention of a time when sin will end. Nothing is mentioned about the world to come. It is not until Isaiah and Daniel that we get a peek at these things. Jeremiah speaks of a new covenant in which G-d puts it in the heart of Israel and Judah to know Him and keep His mitzvoth without the need for any instruction. The price G-d pays to make this new covenant is expressed in Isaiah 53. Some claim that Isaiah 53 is a story about how the righteous remnant of Israel will transform the nations. However, I would think it idolatry to ascribe such a great transforming power to Israel rather than to G-d. If it costs G-d nothing to put His law in our hearts and eternally forgive our sins, then one would wonder why did He not do this from the creation of Adam? The long history of sin and rebellion preceding the miracle of G-d putting His law in the hearts of the people makes far more sense when considering that the cost to G-d of doing this was extraordinarily great.
I hope all is well now regarding your medical emergency. Thanks for taking the time to formulate a considered and thoughtful response to my challenge. Why do the British (your spelling betrays you, of course) always sound so intelligent? 🙂 (I’m a serious Anglophile, by the way.)
Nevertheless, I do not see anything in your response that answers my challenge directly, so I will put it to you another way:
The Torah (by which I mean all of Hebrew Scripture) presents a comprehensive teaching on monotheism. This teaching comprises four elements: one, God is not a man and is incorporeal; two, God is alone and there is no savior beside Him; three, we are to worship God and God alone; four, we are to make no physical representation of God, whether male or female, whether the celestial or earthly bodies, etc.
The Torah makes clear, bold, emphatic, and unequivocal statements regarding this teaching.
For element one, see Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 16:29; Psalms 146:3; Exodus 33:20; Hosea 11:9; Deuteronomy 4:12-16, 23-25.
For element two, see Deuteronomy 4:35,39; Deuteronomy 6:4; Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 42:8; Isaiah 43:10-11; Isaiah 44:6; Hosea 13:4; Isaiah 46:9; Isaiah 45:5-6, 18, 20-22; 1 Chronicles 17:20.
For element three, see Exodus 34:14; Jeremiah 25:6,7; Deuteronomy 31:16-18.
For element four, see Exodus 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 4:16, 23; Deuteronomy 7:25.
(I presented Charles with this challenge and am currently reading his response, but I am curious to see how you would answer this.)
Now here are my direct questions to you:
1. Why would God take the trouble to declare clearly, boldly, emphatically, and unequivocally that He is not a man, that He is incorporeal, that there is no savior aside from Him, that He shares His glory with no one, and so on and so forth, when He planned to appear as such in the future? Was He deliberately trying to mislead His firstborn son, Israel?
2. If God physically manifests from time to time, why can other idol worshipers not use this argument? To your answer that they do not identify their gods with the God of Israel, I say, so what? You have to make an argument that no one else can make, and any other idol-worshiping entity can use this argument as justification if they should so desire.
You made a lot of points in your response, so I shall present one more argument.
First point: Moses transmitted an entire body of law to the people of Israel. This was so major that in order to establish his credibility as a prophet, God spoke to him in front of the entire nation of Israel. Moses sealed the law with the commandment not to add or detract from it (Deuteronomy 4:2).
Second point: The Torah declares Moses to be the greatest prophet who ever lived (Deuteronomy 34:10).
Third point: Idolatry is the greatest sin in the Bible that can be committed against God.
Fourth point: Jesus, believed by Christians to be superior to Moses, changed, added, and subtracted from the Mosaic Law. Later, Paul completely overturned the Law, at the same time adding Jesus to Christian worship.
Conclusion: To establish Jesus’s credibility and his superiority over the greatest prophet who ever lived, one would imagine that God would speak to him in front of the whole nation of Israel. It is too dangerous to rely on hints in Hebrew Scripture (as opposed to the clear teachings I have shown) when it comes to committing the greatest sin against God.
Extraordinary evidence for an extraordinary claim? I don’t think so. It is fair to ask for at least the same level of evidence we have for the credibility of Moses. And I’m not even asking for that. I would even be satisfied with a clear and direct prophecy about Jesus–something at least as clear as the verses I cited.
Like I always say, good luck!
Looking forward to hearing your response,
I apologise (apologize) for causing confusion. I am actually a lifelong U.S. citizen, but I picked up some British language and customs during a series of business trips to England. I like to use British spellings whenever I can get away with it, such as in international forums, but I did not mean to mislead anyone about my nationality. However, I am happy to hear that you are a fellow Anglophile. Sorry also for the very long delay in responding. There was no emergency this time, only my very slow pace of study and comprehension with a lot of elements, questions, points, and passages to cover. I respond to these below in the order of the four elements first, the two questions second and the four points last.
Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29 and Hosea 11:9 are often cited as statements of G-d’s incorporeality. Ironically, the same word for relent (or reconsider) found in the first two of these verses also appear in 1 Samuel 15:11 and Jonah 3:10, but I will not digress any further on this. One thing to keep in mind is that Jesus had not yet entered into the world when these verses were written. Another crucial point is that G-d’s incorporeal omnipresence did not cease when Jesus entered into the world. G-d was, is, and always be present everywhere in an incorporeal way. In Jesus, G-d became physically present with us in a particular place.
According to Psalm 146:3, there is no salvation in nobles or a man and we must not rely on them. If Jesus were simply a man that G-d appointed to redeem us, then there certainly would be a fundamental problem of salvation in someone other than G-d. The divinity of Jesus eliminates this problem, because salvation in Jesus is salvation from G-d rather than from anyone else. You might say we shouldn’t rely on Jesus, because we should not rely on any man. However, this would mean we should reject the Torah, because we received the Torah through Moses, who is a man in whom we should not rely. Why should we take Moses’ word that he received Torah from G-d? We rely on Torah, not because we received it through Moses, but because we are confident that Moses received Torah from G-d. Likewise, the New Testament teaches salvation in Jesus as the work of none other than the G-d of Israel.
Exodus 33:20-23 presents a difficulty not because it declares the incorporeality of G-d, but ironically because it has G-d speaking about His face, hand, and back before Jesus entered into the world. I do not know how to interpret this, but perhaps Moses was given a preview of Jesus in a vision. These verses are not about G-d’s incorporeality at all, but are about sinful men not being able to see G-d and live. Paul declares the invisibility and singularity of G-d in 1 Timothy 1:17. As I mentioned in my previous response, the New Testament does not teach that there is any god whatsoever other than the G-d of Israel. However, it does teach that G-d’s plan of redemption required Him to enter into our lives in a physically intimate way.
In Deuteronomy 4:12-16, Moses warns the people not to make idols, reminding them that they saw no form on Horeb. This does not rule out G-d from ever becoming physically present with us in any form, but just warns us against idolatry. Moses, in fact, was permitted to see G-d’s back, but the people were not given any such privilege. The people did not want to get as close to G-d as Moses did for fear of death.
The New Testament never teaches that there is any god other than the G-d of Israel. Jesus is not presented as another god, but as the intimate and physical presence with us of the invisible and omnipresent Creator of all things. There are some heretical teachings that run contrary to New Testament doctrine. Mormons teach that the Father and the Son are two distinct human beings. Such a doctrine is nowhere to be found in the New Testament. Jehovah’s witnesses teach that Jesus is saviour, but is not divine. This presents a most serious problem of there being someone other than G-d with such a great saving power. The New Testament does not ascribe such a saving power to anyone at all other than the G-d of Israel.
Having established in element 2 that there is no other god or saviour other than the G-d of Israel, it is quite clear that no other god or saviour other than the G-d of Israel should ever be worshiped. My contention throughout has been that Jesus is not any other god or saviour, but is the physical and intimate presence with us of the invisible and omnipresent G-d of Israel, the Creator of all things.
The New Testament never calls for anyone to make any kind of representation of G-d or any other god. However, you might contend that claiming Jesus is the physical presence of G-d with us is worship of some physical image. First, I do not believe that the biological system of Jesus was composed of a physical G-d substance, but I believe that G-d became intimately associated with a human biological system in the same manner as the souls of all people become intimately associated with the same kind of biological system. After ascending into heaven, Jesus was no longer physically present on earth, but empowered disciples for the work of G-d’s kingdom with the gift of G-d’s Holy Spirit. There is no suggestion or implication anywhere in the New Testament that anyone should make a statue or icon of Jesus to worship.
See my comments on element one about G-d not being a man and being incorporeal. See my comments on element two about there being no saviour aside from G-d. G-d alone receives all the glory for paying a price beyond all comprehension to buy our redemption. The New Testament never teaches that Torah should ever be changed or ignored to call for worshiping or trusting anyone or anything other than the G-d of Israel.
The New Testament does not indicate that G-d is physically manifest from time to time, but rather that He entered into the world in a physical way at one point in history. However, there are various places in Tanakh that would seem to indicate a physical manifestation, such as Genesis 18:1 to 19:1, Exodus 33:23, Joshua 5:13-15, Isaiah 6:1, and Ezekiel 1:26-28. There are many things about G-d described in Tanakh that some idol worshipers claim about their gods. The most infamous such claim was that a golden calf was the god that brought the Israelites up from the land of Egypt. Their claims do nothing to make their gods true or to make G-d false. The fact that some idol worshipers sacrificed animals to their gods does not detract from the sacrifices performed by the descendants of Aaron. The fact that G-d’s covenant with Israel has a form similar to a Hittite covenant does not make it a Hittite covenant. Therefore, if some idol worshipers make claims about their gods that are similar to New Testament claims about Jesus, such as a virgin birth, this does not disprove the validity of Jesus. However, I am not aware of any idol worshiping religion that claims its god paid an exceedingly great price to redeem its people.
We know G-d spoke to Moses in front of the entire nation of Israel not because we saw and heard it ourselves, but because we read this in Torah. The credibility of Jesus is established through powerful works done during the presence of Jesus on the earth and in the giving of G-d’s Holy Spirit to the disciples of Jesus after this. Although there has been much corruption of the faith, as Paul warned in Acts 20:29-30, there have always been faithful disciples of Jesus who, by the power of G-d’s Holy Spirit, taught pure worship and trust in G-d’s saving power.
In Deuteronomy 34: 10, the fact that no prophet has arisen since in Israel like Moses is true as of the time of writing. The same thing is true of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18:5 until Josiah in 2 Kings 23:25. In Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses explicitly states that G-d will raise up a prophet like him.
I agree that idolatry is a radically serious sin. In Romans 1:23, Paul strongly condemns those who exchange the glory of the immortal G-d for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Trusting in the great work of redemption that G-d accomplished in Jesus is an understanding that G-d paid the greatest price for our redemption. This is radically different from putting confidence in any other god.
Jesus did not write a new torah to replace the existing Torah. He did not ask that anything in it be altered. Jesus never told anyone to rebel against the Law of Moses. Jesus did not come to abolish the law or prophets but came to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). Paul is often accused of being antinomian, but such a charge is not justified. Paul was incensed against those who insisted that Gentiles had to convert to Judaism before they could be Christians, but he never told Jews to stop being observant. Paul stated that Gentiles who converted to Judaism would be obligated to keep the whole law. This is consistent with the position of many traditional rabbis, who approve of Gentiles keeping seven laws but do not approve of Gentiles observing a portion of specifically Jewish laws without fully converting to Orthodox Judaism.
As for a clear and direct prophecy about Jesus in Tanakh, I mentioned in a previous post that the evidence for Jesus is mostly implicit rather than explicit. Paul describes G-d’s plan of redemption in Jesus as a mystery hidden for ages and generations, but now revealed to the saints. There is no place in Tanakh where G-d gathered all the Israelites to a mountain to announce the Jesus would enter into the world at a certain point in history. However, there was no previous announcement about Moses either. G-d did reveal to Abraham that his descendants would be slaves in a foreign land for four hundred years and would inherit the land he was in afterwards. However, there is no mention in Tanakh about G-d giving an advanced revelation to Abraham about Moses and the giving of the written law through him. Just as all Israel observed G-d’s presence on Mount Sinai, so did Jesus publicly teach and perform powerful works throughout the land of Israel. The crucifixion of Jesus was highly public, with the leaders of Israel being involved in it. Jesus gave the gift of G-d’s Holy Spirit to the disciples as a witness after the resurrection.
That’s funny; I never met an American who deliberately uses British spellings. Glad to meet a fellow Anglophile too! Anyway, these days I have very little time to engage in a sustained debate with a newborn to attend to, so I’m going to keep this very brief.
Suppose that I am right and you are wrong–just suppose for argument’s sake–and that you are worshiping a man whose claims to divinity are false. Would you agree that such a worship constitutes the greatest sin against God?
I haven’t heard from you, so I’m going to assume that you agree with me that such worship does indeed constitute the greatest sin against God.
Therefore, if a man comes along and claims to be God, it behooves us to exercise great caution in accepting his claims.
You wrote, “Why should we take Moses’ word that he received Torah from G-d?” The fact is, we don’t take his word for it. You see, my ancestors stood at Sinai and heard God speaking to Moses (Exodus 19 and 20, Deuteronomy 4). Before we ever read a word of Scripture, Moses’s credibility as a prophet was established by God Himself to the eyes of the entire nation. This is such a big deal that Moses informs us that no one else will make such a claim of national revelation. Addressing the last, future generation of Jews, Moses tells them to look back into the past and ask if such a thing has ever happened, that a nation heard God speak from the fire and survived (Deuteronomy 4).
And what do you know, no other religion has ever made such a claim.
Furthermore, no one today claims to be descended from anyone who allegedly witnessed the (comparatively puny) miracles of Jesus, the fact that we don’t place our faith in miracles notwithstanding (Deuteronomy 13:2-5).
If Jesus was a prophet equal to or greater than Moses, and moreover, a divine being deserving worship, then we would expect his credibility to be established as Moses’s was, by God Himself in front of the entire people.
Well said, Dina.
I realize that you addressed this to Dina – but I will take the liberty of responding on her behalf. First let me thank you for your respectful tone and for the thought and the energy you invested in formulating your response. I will respond by using your numbering system. Please forgive me for making reference to articles that I have written – but I feel that they directly address your points.
Element 1 – Is God’s incorporeality an essential definition of God or is it a peripheral aspect of His reality? https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/foundation-of-worship-iii/
Element 2 – By telling us that Jesus is one and the same as the God of Israel – you have redefined the concept of God and the concept of man. https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/incarnation-and-definition-of-marriage/
Element 3 – see Element 2
Element 4 – If God can tie Himself to a human body in the same way a human soul is tied to its body – then why can’t He tie Himself to an animal in the same way? Do you believe it would have been appropriate to bow down toward Jesus while He was alive with the intent of worshiping the soul that was attached to this body? Do you realize that most idol worshipers do not believe that the statue towards which they bow is divine – but that the spirit which the statue represents or the spirit which tied itself to the statue is divine?
Question 1 – However you slice it – before Jesus came along no one worshiped a soul that was tied to human body. All worship was directed to the One Creator of heaven and earth who is above and beyond all finite existence. Before Jesus came along I imagine you would agree that it would have been idolatrous to worship a soul that was tied to a human body (or any soul for that matter) – How could this change? https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2010/11/10/knock-knock/ https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/foundation-of-worship-ii/
Question 2 – The mockery that the Bible makes of idolatry is relevant to Christianity. How could a man who needs to turn around in order to find out what is happening behind him be worthy of our worship? https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/isaiah-44/
First Point – We Know that God spoke to Moses because we our ancestors saw and experienced this – we know it today because our ancestors testified to us that this is what they saw – Exodus 19:9; Deuteronomy 4:9 https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/belief-system/
Second Point – If it was only true at the time of the writing it would be meaningless – it was written at the time of Moses – you need to see why the Scriptures say that Moses was the greatest prophet – it was because of the credibility of his miracles
Third Point – Directing worship toward the spirit that is tied into the body of a man is idolatry – you agree that this would be true if the worship was directed toward the spirit of any other man aside from Jesus. You can’t redefine idolatry and then say – I am not an idolater.
Fourth Point – But directing worship to the spirit which inhabited a man is the greatest abrogation of the Torah.
As for clear and direct – The point is that the book was given to guide us – not to confuse us. According to the simple reading of the book – directing worship to a spirit that is tied to human body is the greatest rebellion against God. The book goes out of its way to make this clear in a very direct way (see Deuteronomy 4). How could an implicit message – which is only seen by those already committed in devotion to Jesus completely overturn clear and explicit commandments? https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/forms-of-communication/
Pharisee Friend- Thank you for responding on Dina’s behalf. I can appreciate her inability to fully respond at this time, as a newborn child, whilst a very great joy to have, requires an enormous amount of attention day and night. Thank you for taking the time to carefully formulate a comprehensive reply on her behalf. I will continue to use the same numbering system for purposes of referencing back to previous posts.
G-d’s incorporeality is not peripheral but is essential to His nature. G-d never changed from being infinite to being finite. When becoming physically present with us in Jesus, G-d’s incorporeal nature did not end, but G-d remained omniscient and omnipresent in an incorporeal way. The paradox of omniscience and omnipresence is not something new introduced by the New Testament. There are places in Tanakh where G-d speaks of going to a particular place to learn something, and yet we know that G-d is always everywhere and always knows everything in the past, present, and future.
Both the souls and the biological systems of all men are created by G-d. G-d also created the biological system of Jesus, but the spirit intimately associated with that biological system was not a created soul but the spirit of G-d. Although being G-d’s presence with us, Jesus, as a man, was subject to G-d as all men are. Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38) He also said, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) Paul writes, “When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that G-d may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:28). Concerning who we should worship, Jesus said, “But the hour is coming, and now is here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. G-d is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)
Element 2 and Element 3:
The New Testament does claim that Jesus is one and the same as the G-d of Israel. This would be like claiming that G-d’s anger is one and the same as G-d’s mercy. This would also be like claiming that the future is one and the same as the past. Time consists of past, present, and future, but this does not mean that time, past, present, and future are all one and the same.
A person is not an incarnation of a man or woman. People were created with male or female biological systems, but not with male or female souls. Jesus said, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:30)
A highly significant revelation in Genesis is that G-d created man in His image. G-d gave man the biology of a man, not the biology of a calf or a fish. Therefore, the idea of G-d’s spirit becoming intimately associated with anything other than the biology of a man would be ruled out. A statue could be made to look like a man, but it is absolutely incapable of being intimately associated with the spirit of a man. Likewise, G-d’s spirit could never become intimately associated with any kind of statue, no matter how much those devoted to it may convince themselves otherwise.
As discussed above, the New Testament does not teach that people should change their object of worship from the infinite invisible G-d to a finite, created man. G-d did not change from being the omniscient and omnipresent Creator of all things to being a created being when Jesus entered the world. What did happen is that G-d’s spirit became intimately associated with a created, human biological system in order to fulfill His work as Redeemer and Saviour. This does not mean that G-d’s spirit now became limited to a biological system. G-d eternally was, is, and always be the invisible and omnipresent Creator of all things.
The law of Moses requires the use of physical symbols for G-d’s forgiveness. Many animals were sacrificed for the purpose of atonement. This practice did not make the animals idols. When G-d identifies Himself as the One who took the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, this did not limit G-d to nothing but the role of rescuer of the people from Egypt. Likewise, the revelation that G-d has paid such a great price to redeem sinners does in any way diminish the fact that G-d is Creator and Master of all things. The New Testament fully acknowledges G-d as Creator of all things and universally sovereign.
The fact the Jesus would need to turn around to see behind does not diminish the divinity of Jesus. The paradox of being omniscient and yet needing to go somewhere to investigate something is seen even in Torah. In Genesis 18:21, G-d speaks of descending to see Sodom and Gomorrah in order to make a determination as to whether or not the cities are acting according to the horrid report He heard about them. Whilst demonstrating the divinity of Jesus, the New Testament does not limit G-d to being nothing but Jesus, but continues to present G-d as the eternal and omniscient Master and Creator of all things.
The New Testament does not deny the experience of G-d’s signs and His communication with Moses and our ancestors, but it fully affirms these things. Jesus did to come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. (Matthew 5:17) The Church did not replace the Jewish Scriptures, as trusted by G-d to be preserved by Israel, but regards it in its entirety as G-d’s word. Paul did not teach that Jews should abandon Torah, but was against requiring Gentiles to convert to Judaism. Whilst commanding the Israelites to remember the Sinai and exodus experience and remain faithful to G-d, Moses also anticipates catastrophic failure (Deuteronomy 32:15-35). Catastrophic failures to remain loyal to G-d occurred again and again throughout the history of Israel, as recorded in Tanakh. These repeated failures could not be resolved simply by the people just becoming better with time, but would require a powerful work on the part of G-d to turn the hearts of the people to truly love Him and remain loyal to Him eternally.
A crucial element of worship that was practiced before a single word of Scripture was written and to which a great deal of Torah is devoted is the sacrifice of animals. Since the destruction of the second temple, this major element of Israel’s worship has been replaced in traditional Judaism by prayer. In the New Testament view, prayer is an essential element of worship, but it does not suffice to substitute for the sacrifice of animals. Rather, one major purpose in the sacrifice of animals to teach about the great cost of redemption and atonement from sin. The sacrifice of animals was never sufficient to bring and end to sin. The price G-d paid in redeeming sinners through Jesus is the only means by which an eternal purification can be accomplished. G-d’s eternal plan was not that animals should eternally be slaughtered to cleanse the people in an eternal cycle of sin and payment, but to make a payment in full, once and for all in Jesus.
The miracles that G-d performed through Moses do demonstrate the authority of Moses as a prophet. Moses also met the additional requirement of directing the people to worship the G-d of Israel rather than any other god. The authority of Jesus was also demonstrated by many miraculous works. Jesus also taught worship of the G-d of Israel rather than any other god. What is new is that Jesus revealed how great a price G-d paid to redeem the lost.
It is true that directing worship to a spirit associated with a body would be idolatry, unless that spirit is the spirit of G-d. If the spirit associated with the biological system of Jesus were not the spirit of G-d, then it would be idolatrous to proclaim Jesus as saviour and redeemer. If the spirit associated with the biological system of Jesus truly is the spirit of G-d, then it is not idolatrous to proclaim Jesus as saviour and redeemer, because this would be in full agreement with the principle that there is no saviour or redeemer aside from the G-d of Israel. Whether the spirit associated with the biological system of Jesus is the spirit of G-d or a created spirit is not a matter of definition but a matter of what is fundamentally true.
For the past two thousand years, a great volume of clear and direct commandments in the Torah about the offering of sacrifices have been replaced in traditional Judaism by various prayers that are claimed to fulfill the same purpose. According to New Testament teaching, even the original sacrifices were not sufficient to fulfill G-d’s ultimate purpose in them, as this purpose could not be fulfilled by anyone or anything other then G-d Himself. The New Testament does not direct anyone to worship any created spirit, but directs us to worship the Spirit of G-d alone.
It would seem to make life much simpler if G-d did things the way skeptics demand, by providing physical evidence accessible to scientists in the present time rather than the written testimony of ancient witnesses. However, G-d does not always do things the way we would want Him to. Paul explains that G-d’s plan of salvation is not explicitly stated in Tanakh, as it was hidden for ages and generations (Colossians 1:26). This is not the only matter of profound importance that was hidden for ages and generations. The Torah offers no explicit explanation about the world to come. Genesis 3:22 is the only place in the Torah I am presently aware of that explicitly mentions something about people living forever. In this verse, people are prohibited from living forever, by being denied access to the tree of life, and I am not presently aware of anything explicit in Torah that offers a remedy for this problem. The New Testament reveals the long hidden remedy for the problem of being denied access to the tree of life, in explaining how great a price G-d paid to redeem the lost.
The New Testament does not abrogate the prohibition against idolatry. This prohibition remains in full force (Romans 1:22-25). The New Testament view of Jesus is not one of changing the object of worship from the invisible Creator of all things to a man (1 Timothy 1:17, 1 Corinthians 15:28). Rather, it directs us to worship the invisible Creator of all things with the knowledge that He paid such a great price to redeem the lost.
It’s obvious you put a lot of thought into what you wrote, but my question is, can you find support for any of this in Hebrew scripture? Can you find support for placing faith in an individual in order to achieve eternal salvation?
Let’s say for argument’s sake that God’s spirit became connected with Jesus’s biological system (I feel a little sick even typing those words). How could you possibly know? You have to accept it on faith. “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.”
You do not see hints of the immortal soul and afterlife in Scripture. What do you think of the following: Psalms 16:10, Ecclesiastes 12:7, Genesis 25:8, and 1 Samuel Chapter 28 (especially verse 19)?
For the biblical view on atonement, see: 1 Kings 8:46-53; Hosea 14:1-2; Psalms 141:2; 2 Chronicles 7:14; 2 Chronicles 6:21; Proverbs 15:8; 2 Samuel 12:13; Psalms 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; Ezekiel 18:21-23; Ezekiel 33:14-16; Jeremiah 36:3; Isaiah 55:6-7; Jonah 3:6-10; Daniel 4:27; Job 22:22; Proverbs 16:6; Isaiah 1:18-19; Isaiah 27:9; Isaiah 1:11-16; Amos 5:22-24; Psalms 51:15-17; Jeremiah 7:1-7; Micah 6:6-8; Proverbs 21:3; Hosea 6:6; 1 Samuel 15:22,30-31; Psalms 78:35-39; Micah 7:18-20; Joel 2:12-13; Psalms 86:5-6; Isaiah 43:22-25; Nehemiah 9:16-17; Jonah 4:2
I’m pasting my challenge to Eric from another thread here:
Please show me where in Hebrew scripture we are promised that the messiah will be recognized in his first appearance by suffering and dying and then he will come back another time to finish the job.
The facts are these:
Not once in Hebrew scripture does it say that faith in an individual is necessary for salvation.
Not once in Hebrew scripture does it say that repentance is impossible without blood sacrifice.
Not once in Hebrew scripture does it say that the Jews will come to the gentiles for the truth.
Not once in Hebrew Scripture does it say that we need a mediator to get to God.
Instead, Hebrew scripture tells us not to place our faith in the son of man (Psalms 146:3), that prayer and repentance and turning away from evil are all that is needed to obtain God’s forgiveness (Ezekiel Chapters 18 and 33), that at the end of days the gentiles will come to the Jews to learn the truth (Zechariah 8:23), that God is close to all who call to him (Psalms 145:18) and that He shares His glory with no one and that He alone is our Savior (Isaiah 42:8, 43:11).
Can you refute this?
Finally, I recommend “The Charolite Trilogy” on this blog (it’s under “The Charolite Faith” in Categories, to the right). It’s a great way for Christians to see what their arguments sound like to Jews.
I appreciate your taking the time (and I love the British-isms; I liked that “whilst” early on in your comment 🙂 ).
I again apologise for taking a long time to respond to your well prepared comments. There was more territory to cover than I thought at first glance.
[q]Let’s say for argument’s sake that God’s spirit became connected with Jesus’s biological system (I feel a little sick even typing those words). How could you possibly know? You have to accept it on faith. “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.”[/q]
There are many things in Tanakh that we cannot verify scientifically, but we trust that G-d has ensured its truth value. I was surprised to learn that some respected scholars claim there is no physical evidence for the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt or that the Israelites were ever slaves in Egypt. The accounts of the flood in the time of Noah and Joshua’s long day have long been the targets of skeptics’ ridicule. However, we trust the integrity of witnesses who recorded the events, so that we believe they were not deceived or lying. The New Testament provides the testimony of witnesses to the words Jesus spoke and to the miraculous works Jesus performed. We cannot perform a scientific analysis to verify that it is G-d who is intimately associated with biological system of Jesus rather than a created spirit of man. We have to rely on the integrity of witnesses to the words and works of Jesus.
[q]You do not see hints of the immortal soul and afterlife in Scripture. What do you think of the following: Psalms 16:10, Ecclesiastes 12:7, Genesis 25:8, and 1 Samuel Chapter 28 (especially verse 19)?[/q]
I do see plenty of hints about an immortal soul and afterlife in Tanakh, with a very direct reference to it in Daniel. What I did not see was an explicit explanation of the world to come in Torah, except in Genesis 3:22. The Genesis 25:8 verse you mentioned is not explicit about the world to come, although one could infer from it that Abraham was gathered to a resurrected people, rather than a people sleeping through an eternal oblivion. Although the reference in Torah is not explicit, Jesus refers to G-d as being the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:6) as evidence of the resurrection, as G-d is not the G-d of the dead but of the living (Matthew 22:32).
[q]For the biblical view on atonement, see: 1 Kings 8:46-53; Hosea 14:1-2; Psalms 141:2; 2 Chronicles 7:14; 2 Chronicles 6:21; Proverbs 15:8; 2 Samuel 12:13; Psalms 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; Ezekiel 18:21-23; Ezekiel 33:14-16; Jeremiah 36:3; Isaiah 55:6-7; Jonah 3:6-10; Daniel 4:27; Job 22:22; Proverbs 16:6; Isaiah 1:18-19; Isaiah 27:9; Isaiah 1:11-16; Amos 5:22-24; Psalms 51:15-17; Jeremiah 7:1-7; Micah 6:6-8; Proverbs 21:3; Hosea 6:6; 1 Samuel 15:22,30-31; Psalms 78:35-39; Micah 7:18-20; Joel 2:12-13; Psalms 86:5-6; Isaiah 43:22-25; Nehemiah 9:16-17; Jonah 4:2[/q]
G-d does call people to repent and obey Him that they may be forgiven. However, the ability to repent and obey G-d is by G-d’s grace and power rather than by anyone’s inherent righteousness. The Israelites thought they had the power within themselves to obey G-d, but Joshua informed them otherwise, as we read in Joshua 24:19. From Jeremiah 31:31-33 we see that the ability of Israel to repent and obey G-d is not by the power and determination of the people but by a new creation work of G-d.
The sacrifice of animals was never the thing that actually accomplished atonement, but they were commanded for a very good purpose. They were a sign that G-d’s mercy and forgiveness were never a simple matter of G-d just letting sins slide, but a great price had to be paid. The sacrifices were also a way that the people being forgiven expressed thanks to G-d for His mercy and forgiveness. When these principles were forgotten, the sacrifices meant nothing.
[q]I’m pasting my challenge to Eric from another thread here:
Please show me where in Hebrew scripture we are promised that the messiah will be recognized in his first appearance by suffering and dying and then he will come back another time to finish the job.[/q]
The Isaiah 53 chapter directly refers to an individual suffering for the iniquity of us all. The death of the one who suffered for our iniquities is stated in verses 8, 9, and 12. His return is stated in verses 10 and 12. I am quite aware of claims that Isaiah is referring to the persecution of the Jewish people, through which the nations will be brought to a true knowledge of G-d. However, to ascribe such a great saving power to anyone other than G-d would seem to be a clear violation of the principle that G-d alone is Saviour and Redeemer.
[q]The facts are these:
Not once in Hebrew scripture does it say that faith in an individual is necessary for salvation.[/q]
A command seen throughout Tanakh is to give thanks to G-d for all the He has done. If G-d paid the greatest price to be Saviour and Redeemer, how could those who benefit from His salvation and redemption fail to give Him the highest of thanks and praise for such a great and costly work? Would G-d be satisfied with being Saviour and Redeemer without being acknowledged as such by those who He saved and redeemed?
[q]Not once in Hebrew scripture does it say that repentance is impossible without blood sacrifice.[/q]
It is stated in Leviticus 17:11 that it is the blood that atones for the soul. This does not mean that animals truly had the power of atonement within them, but the blood sacrifices were a sign of the ultimate shedding of blood by which sins are forgiven. It is that ultimate shedding of blood that makes repentance possible rather than the sacrifice of animals, which were simply a sign of the ultimate sacrifice. This is why repentance was possible even in times of deportation, where the sacrificial system was not available.
[q]Not once in Hebrew scripture does it say that the Jews will come to the gentiles for the truth.[/q]
Neither does the New Testament suggest that Jews will come to the Gentiles for the truth. The original disciples and apostles were Jews.
[q]Not once in Hebrew Scripture does it say that we need a mediator to get to God.[/q]
The function of the high priest as a mediator between the assembly and G-d to obtain forgiveness and atone for the people is seen in Leviticus 10:17. In Exodus 32:10-14, Moses interceded for the people when G-d had determined to destroy them. The people would have been annihilated had not Moses interceded for them.
[q]Instead, Hebrew scripture tells us not to place our faith in the son of man (Psalms 146:3)[/q]
It is quite true that we must place our faith in G-d alone. I am sure you would want to point out the “Son of Man” title as cause not to place faith in Jesus. This psalm could be misused to claim that it might be acceptable to put our faith in Adam or in women but that we should not trust the word of Moses. It is not for being the son of Joseph and Mary that anyone should place faith in Jesus, but for reasons of divinity.
[q]that prayer and repentance and turning away from evil are all that is needed to obtain God’s forgiveness (Ezekiel Chapters 18 and 33)[/q]
Prayer, repentance, and turning away from evil are certainly a necessary and proper response to G-d’s mercy. This does not mean that the power of forgiveness is in man’s proper response to G-d’s mercy. The power to forgive is totally within G-d, who paid the greatest price to redeem sinners.
[q]that at the end of days the gentiles will come to the Jews to learn the truth (Zechariah 8:23),[/q]
In chapters 9 through 11 in the book of Romans, Paul makes it quite clear that the Jews are of great importance to G-d’s purpose and will be so to the end of days. As the original disciples and apostles were Jews, Gentiles were already coming to Jews to learn the truth in their time. Paul’s emphasis on the importance of the Jews and his assurance of the restoration of Israel gives good cause to believe this would be true at the end of days also.
[q]that God is close to all who call to him (Psalms 145:18)[/q]
Being omniscient, omnipresent and merciful, G-d has both the desire and ability to forgive sins. The power to forgive sins is not a trivial thing, but it was bought at the greatest price. Psalm 145:18 does not mean that G-d’s forgiveness is unconditional, as can be seen in Psalm 18:42 and 1 Samuel 28:6.
[q]and that He shares His glory with no one and that He alone is our Savior (Isaiah 42:8, 43:11).
Can you refute this?[/q]
I cannot refute this and certainly have no desire to do so. The fact that G-d alone is Saviour is powerful cause to reject the idea that the Gentile nations can be saved by the suffering of a righteous remnant of Israel. This is why I would have to say that the one suffering for the salvation of sinners according to Isaiah 53 would have to be divine.
Cliff, thanks for taking the time, and for your lengthy and considered response. I will try to respond sometime within the next week.
Please forgive my bluntness in the following comment. I mean no disrespect and certainly do not wish to offend.
You wrote about witnesses. How did those witnesses know that Jesus is God? How could they tell by just looking at him? Also, why should I trust their testimony? I can show you that they are unreliable witnesses, starting with the Book of Matthew. Please let me know if you’d like to take the discussion in that direction.
You have still failed to provide Scriptural support for your assertion that we need to believe in a suffering, dying messiah to atone for our sins. Genesis 4:7, Deuteronomy 30, Ezekiel Chapters 18 and 33, and the rest of the citations I provided tell us clearly and explicitly that we shape our own spiritual destiny through our own free will and our own actions. There is no hint that “the ability to repent and obey G-d is by G-d’s grace and power rather than by anyone’s inherent righteousness.” Indeed, righteousness is not inherent; Ezekiel warns us that a righteous man can become wicked and assures us that a wicked man can become righteous.
I’m amazed by the reference you provided from Joshuah. You quoted one verse out of context. Did you read the whole chapter? It says exactly the opposite of what you claim. I do not see the relevance of the citation from Jeremiah to our particular discussion.
Regarding Isaiah 53, further study of the Jewish understanding of this chapter would be beneficial. Since much has been written on this topic here and elsewhere, I refer you to a video lecture by Rabbi Michael Skobac. It is very long, and I know people don’t want to be sent links. But it will save me a lot of time :)!
Your response to my “not once” statements are inadequate.
To my statement that not once in Hebrew scripture does it say that faith in an individual is necessary for salvation, you responded with a statement of faith and did not produce evidence from Scripture.
To my statement that not once in Hebrew scripture does it say that repentance is impossible without blood sacrifice, you cited Leviticus 17:11, which says nothing of the sort. Here’s an explanation by Rabbi Blumenthal:
To my statement that not once in Hebrew scripture does it say that the Jews will come to the gentiles for the truth, you asserted that the gentiles came to the early Jewish Christians to learn the truth. But Hebrew scripture tells us that at the end of days the gentiles will come to the Jews for the truth (I cited the relevant Scripture above), when the first Jewish Christians (who did not survive as a Jewish group–where are their descendants today?) have been long dead. Furthermore, what is the difference between learning about Jesus from a Michael Brown or a John Hagee?
To my statement that not once in Hebrew Scripture does it say that we need a mediator to get to God, you cited instances of intercession–but that still does not teach us clearly that we can ONLY approach God through a mediator. You are lumping prophets and priests into the same box. Rabbi Blumenthal wrote about mediators in his latest post, “Facing Scripture.”
To my statement that Hebrew scripture tells us not to place our faith in the son of man, you asserted that Jesus is God. Well, you’ll need to provide evidence from Hebrew scripture for that. Thus far, you have not.
To my statement that prayer and repentance and turning away from evil are all that are needed to obtain God’s forgiveness (Ezekiel Chapters 18 and 33), you did not cite from Scripture any evidence that this is not enough. You merely asserted it. And so on for the rest.
Scripture warns us that we did not see an image at Sinai, only heard a voice, and that we should beware greatly for our souls lest me worship anything else (Deuteronomy 4:12-20). Idolatry is described as worship of a god that was unknown to our fathers (Deuteronomy 13:6). Jesus was unknown to our fathers.
I saw in your response to Rabbi Blumenthal a comparison to Charlie with a left and a right brain. No one refers to Charlie as the Left Charlie and the Right Charlie. He’s just Charlie. When you start talking about a father and a son, you are talking about two entities, not one.
Looking forward to your response,
After doing some work on responding to your points, I saw that the large number of issues being covered are resulting in excessive delays in responding. Each issue you present is quite important and should not receive a hasty response but should be treated with care. My time for preparing responses is limited mostly to a 27 minute morning train commute to work. Temporarily, I have two other projects (a professional engineering course and responding to feedback on a published peer-reviewed paper) going on during that same time period. Rather than continue trying to cover so many issues in this response, I see a need to list all the issues presented in our conversation. We could then proceed to cover those issues one at a time, rather than try to cover them all in a single response. I think that trying to cover too many issues in a single response would give nothing but very lengthy and unsatisfactory results. Even covering one issue at a time, it will likely be necessary to go back and forth several times for clarification and correction. So, here is a list of issues I have found in our conversation. You may see a need to rephrase some of my descriptions of each point to more accurately represent what you have in mind. You could begin with whatever point you wish for me to address first.
1. How could witnesses see the divinity of Jesus when Jesus appeared the same as any man?
2. Are the New Testament writers reliable witnesses?
3. Does it say anywhere in Hebrew Scripture that we need to believe in a suffering, dying messiah to atone for our sins?
4. Does Isaiah 53 refer to a suffering, dying Messiah or to the righteous remnant of Israel?
5. Does it say anywhere in Hebrew Scripture that faith in an individual is necessary for salvation?
6. Does it say anywhere in Hebrew Scripture that repentance is impossible without blood sacrifice?
7. Does it say anywhere in Hebrew Scripture that the Jews will come to the Gentiles for the truth?
8. Does it say anywhere in Hebrew Scripture that we need a mediator to get to G-d?
9. Does Hebrew Scripture telling us not to place our faith in the son of man mean we should not put our faith in Jesus?
10. Are prayer and repentance and turning away from evil all that are needed to obtain God’s forgiveness?
11. Does Zechariah 8:23 mean that Christians will eventually see that they were wrong and will become Noahites or convert to Orthodox Judaism?
12. Does Psalm 145:18 mean that G-d is unconditionally close to all who call to Him?
13. Does the New Testament proclaim a saviour other than G-d? Does it call for glorifying any god other than G-d?
14. Does the New Testament present Jesus as a god unknown to our fathers?
15. Does the new Testament imply that the Father and Son are two separate gods?
I hear you about debating too many issue at once, yes indeed! I’m happy for you to pick the issue on this list that is near and dear to your heart. And congratulations on getting your paper published! My husband is also an engineer.
Looking forward to hearing back from you,
Thank you much for your willingness to accommodate my limitations. I think the best thing to work on at this point is a particular question about idolatry. To be more specific, does the concept of the divinity of Jesus in itself constitute an idolatrous doctrine? In an effort to simplify the immediate discussion, I will mention some tangential issues that will have to wait along with clarifying and discussing the central point.
The question of whether the New Testament proposes a god unknown to our fathers is highly relevant to the issue of idolatry, but is a tangential issue for the following reasons. If some religion proposes a unitary, incorporeal god that created all things but denied that this god brought Israel out of Egypt, then this would be a god unknown to our fathers. Any theology that proclaims a god unknown to our fathers would be idolatrous. However, we could argue whether New Testament theology really does proclaim a god unknown to our fathers. Just because the New Testament reveals a new and greater work of G-d that was hidden from our fathers does not necessarily mean that it is proclaiming a god unknown to our fathers. This would be a good topic for future discussion, but working on it now would complicate the immediate question.
The immediate question concerns whether or not it is possible for G-d to become intimately associated with a human biological system. Although very much related to it, this is separate from the question of whether such an association was necessary for redemption. However, the fact that G-d is one is most essential to this question and cannot be regarded as a separate or tangential issue. Also, the incorporeal nature of G-d must also be taken into consideration when discussing this point.
Jesus declared the incorporeal nature of the G-d in saying that the G-d is spirit (John 4:24). Paul also declared G-d to be immortal and invisible (1 Timothy 1:17). These declarations are very much contrary to the Mormon view that the Father and Son are two distinct human beings. The central point I am addressing is that of whether it is possible for the Son to be both divine and human without this being prohibited by Hebrew Scriptures.
There is a modalistic theology which claims that G-d has a Father mode, a Son mode, and a Holy Spirit mode. This may have the appearance of avoiding multiple gods by having one god be different things at different times. The problem with this is that the Father would not exist when G-d is in the Son mode. During those times, G-d would not be immortal, invisible, or omnipresent. For this reason, modalistic theology must be rejected.
The view that G-d is always Father, Son and Holy Spirit may seem to violate the fundamental principle of G-d being one, but this is not necessarily so. Consider the statement, “I am 62 years old.” If this statement is true, then the statement, “I am 61 years old” would be false. This does not mean that I was 62 years old a year ago. Neither does it mean that I did not exist a year ago and it must have been some other entity that was 61 years old then. I am the same entity today as I was a year ago, although a statement about me that was true a year ago is not true about me today. Although modalistic theology would benefit from this analogy, this is a collateral effect that was not intended. Modalistic theology is rejected for other reasons given above. The analogy is simply intended to show how a statement could be true about the Father and not be true about Jesus without there being multiple entities.
The death of Jesus may seem to violate the principle of G-d being immortal, but this is not necessarily so. Although the biological system of Jesus was created, the existence of Jesus is timeless. Through intimate association with a biological system like ours, Jesus was able live as one of us and endure the penalty that was due to us. Death meant a separation between the spirit and the biological system. Unlike our spirits, which although created in the image of G-d, are created spirits, the spirit of Jesus is timeless. I know some of my argument may seem like a statement of faith rather than something taken directly from Jewish Scripture, but the point here is to simply demonstrate that the concept of G-d as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit does not necessarily violate the fundamental principle of G-d being one.
The principle that G-d is not a man does not necessarily exclude the divinity of Jesus. However, it does give very good cause to reject modalistic theology. If G-d were in a Jesus mode, then G-d truly would be a man and would be in violation of the fundamental principle. With G-d always being Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it would not be correct to say that G-d is a man, because G-d is not limited at any time to being nothing but Jesus. Again, this paragraph may appear to be a statement of faith, but it does show that the concept of G-d as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit does not necessarily violate the fundamental principle that G-d is not a man.
It’s good to hear from you again! I hope you are well.
First I will address the tangential issue you raised in your first few paragraphs. There is no question that Christianity introduced a type of worship unknown to our fathers. Jesus was unknown to our fathers. According to the Torah’s definition of idolatry, worshiping Jesus is idolatry no matter how you explain it away.
Yes, worshiping a unitary, incorporeal god that is not the God Who brought us out of Egypt is idolatrous. It is a different god who was not known to our fathers.
You ask if it is possible for God to manifest in a human body. That is asking the wrong question. The question is, *would* God manifest in a human body? The answer, of course, is no. Yehuda Yisrael wrote an excellent comment on this very question today. I have nothing to add to what he wrote, so I’m posting the link here:
In addition to what Yehuda Yisrael wrote, I ask you: if Hashem took on the form of a man, how could you possibly know that Hashem resides within that form? How could the first-century Jews who beheld Jesus know that he was God,when all they could see was a man?
If someone comes along and says he is the incarnation of Hashem, and uses lots of Biblical verses to prove it–and even performs a few cool miracles to boot–how will you know he is lying or telling the truth?
The essential point about Jesus is not at all about worshiping a form but is all about the cost of redemption. This is where I have a problem with the view that Isaiah 53 is about a persecuted, righteous remnant of Israel redeeming the nations. If such a view were correct, then Israel would be in the place of being the redeemer of the nations, which is a place reserved for G-d alone. To ascribe a power belonging to G-d alone to anyone or anything other than G-d would constitute idolatry.
Certainly, the idea of Jesus as a visible man to worship in place of worshiping the invisible G-d is unacceptable. However, I do not see this idea being presented in the New Testament. Rather, I see the emphasis being on how great a price G-d paid to redeem us. It was necessary for G-d to enter into the world in a way that He would live according to His law as one of us and pay the price for our redemption through suffering and death. However, the focus on worship was never intended to be on the form of a man, but on how great a price that the immortal and invisible G-d paid for the redemption of those who He created in His image.
Here is an important point to keep in mind when evaluating whether Jesus was lying or telling the truth. If Jesus were asking the people to worship a form in place of the invisible G-d, then of course this would be a sure sign of a liar and deceiver. However, I do not see Jesus doing this at all. In John 4:24, Jesus is quoted as saying “But the hour is coming, and now is here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” In John 4:34, Jesus is quoted as saying, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” In Luke 22:42, Jesus is quoted as saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Jesus did quote scripture and did perform amazing miracles, but Jesus did not teach the people to worship any form in place of the eternal, immortal, and invisible G-d of Israel.
To answer the question about how anyone could tell that it was G-d dwelling with us in Jesus rather than a created spirit of man, we should consider earlier events in biblical history. Just as G-d demonstrated the divine authority given to Moses through miraculous signs, so did Jesus perform miraculous signs to demonstrate a power and authority that is from G-d. In addition, the teachings of Jesus are essential to take into account. The message of Jesus was never one of exchanging worship of G-d for any image, star, sun, moon, or creature, but is a message of how great a price G-d paid to redeem sinners from disobedience and alienation to reconciliation and a right relationship with G-d.
Your Christian view of redemption confuses you on the Jewish interpretation of Isaiah 53. Rabbi Blumenthal has explained this well here: https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/armor-bearers-isaiah-5211/. The relevant text is under the heading “5. The Servant of Chapter 52:13 – 53:12.”
You wrote that Jesus did not encourage worship of any sort of form. But he did proclaim that “I am the way, the truth, and the light, and no one comes to the Father except through me.” The Torah defines idolatry as any type of worship that was unknown to our fathers. Jesus was unknown to our fathers; therefore, including him in worship is idolatry. It’s really that simple.
You wrote: “It was necessary for G-d to enter into the world in a way that He would live according to His law as one of us and pay the price for our redemption through suffering and death.” Where do you see this idea in Tanach? Rather, Ezekiel 18 and 33 teach us the very opposite, how simple (not necessarily easy, but simple) it is to control our own spiritual destiny. It is entirely in our hands (Genesis 4:7). That’s the definition of free will, isn’t it? God does not need to experience being a human in order to understand us, for he created and He knows us better than we know ourselves.
The notion that God is the one who must pay the price for our sins has no source in Tanach. None at all. Do you dispute this?
Furthermore, Christians pray to Jesus. Their churches boast images of him. So although Jesus may not have intended to be worshiped in this way, he has been. This is an ancient and respected Christian tradition. Tell me, are you comfortable praying in a church that directs its prayers to Jesus and shows images of Jesus? If not, are you more comfortable praying in such a church than in an Orthodox synagogue? Why or why not?
Your last point was to compare Moses to Jesus. Just as Moses’s authority was established through miracles, so was Jesus’s.
Allow me to point out the flaws in this comparison.
Number one: no one ever claimed that God used Moses’s body in which to dwell. No one every prayed to Moses or believed that only through belief in Moses will his sins be forgiven.
Number two: God established Moses’s credibility by speaking to him in front of the whole entire nation (Exodus 19:9). God did not speak to Jesus in front of all of Israel. Jesus performed his miracles in front of those who already believed in him. Furthermore, he said that it is better to believe without seeing (John 20:29).
Number three: Moses’s miracles impacted two whole nations: the entire land of Egypt, and the whole nation of Israel. Jesus’s miracles (if indeed he performed them) impacted but a handful of people.
Number four: Jesus gave a sign to the Pharisees that he did not fulfill. He promised them the sign that he would rise from the dead, but did not appear to them–not on the third day and not ever afterward (in other words, he failed the true prophet test; see Deuteronomy 18:22).
Number five: performing miracles proves nothing. See Deuteronomy 13.
Have a happy, healthy new year! May this year be one in which we draw ever closer to God and to following Him in the light of His truth.
Thanks for your careful and thought out response. I appreciate the time and effort that you invested in this discussion.
Your response raises several questions. If I understood you correctly you are saying that Jesus was human in body but anything beyond his body was the omniscient and omnipresent Creator of all. Yet you still say that Jesus was subject to God. Which part of him was subject to God? Was it only his body? Also can you perhaps explain who it was that died and came back to life after three days. Was it only a body? Do you accept the common Christian phraseology describing Jesus as 100 percent God and 100 percent human?
Furthermore – all of this is complete speculation. Those who saw Jesus saw a man like any other – no intrinsic difference. So what came first the understanding that this man is somehow God or the affinity which produced this understanding?
I just discovered your post a short time ago, although it came in two days ahead of a reply from yourphariseefriend, which was accompanied by an email copy. I will need to watch the posts frequently rather than rely on email, so I do not miss anything again. I’ll respond to the yourphariseefriend post here, since I have already worked on it for several days, and then make every effort to reply to your post in a week or two. I apologise for this delay in responding to your post.
Thank you providing an email copy of your reply. I should check the posts more often, as I missed a post by Dina, which I plan to answer within a week or two. For now, here is my response to your post.
G-d is an indivisible unity, as stated in Deuteronomy 6:4. However, there is a complex of relationships within the One G-d. There is the paradox presented in Genesis 18:21, where G-d needs to go down to Sodom and Gomorrah to determine whether the cities must be destroyed. Jesus, the Father, and G-d’s Holy Spirit are not three separate gods, and none are created beings, but all are eternally essential to the nature of who the One G-d is. Omniscience and omnipresence are attributes of the Father rather than attributes of Jesus. Unlike all of us, there was no point in time when Jesus came into existence, as the existence of Jesus is without beginning or end. Jesus is quoted in John 8:58 as saying, “before Abraham was, I am.” However, like all of us, there was a point in time when Jesus became intimately associated with a human biological system.
During the three day period following the crucifixion, there was a separation between the spirit and biological system of Jesus, as Jesus was taking on the penalty due to sinners. A creed states that Jesus descended into Hell between being crucified and resurrected, but the only clue given in the New Testament about that time period is in 1 Peter 3:18-20, which states that Jesus preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly disobeyed G-d in the days when Noah prepared the Ark.
It is not just the biological system of Jesus that is subject to the Father, but the entirety of Jesus. This was true even before Jesus became intimately associated with a human biological system. Although within the same One G-d, the Father, Jesus, and G-d’s Holy Spirit are distinct with G-d. A possible analogy in physics would be a proton consisting of three quarks, but it is not possible to split the proton into separate quarks. Contrary to Mormon doctrine, Jesus and the Father are not two distinct human beings. The Father is an omniscient and omnipresent spirit, consistent with John 4:24. It was Jesus rather than the Father who was crucified, buried, and resurrected. On the cross, Jesus experienced the wrath of the Father that was due to sinners for whom Jesus died to redeem.
Jesus was always divine, but humanity was an attribute acquired upon becoming intimately associated with a human biological system, and which continued with the resurrection of Jesus. Such is not the case for created humans. Contrary to Mormon doctrine, created humans never acquire divinity, although they are created in the image of G-d and do acquire immortality and perfect holiness in the resurrection.
Although those who saw Jesus saw a man similar in appearance to all other men, Jesus did perform a multitude of miraculous works, such as giving sight to the blind, healing of lepers and the crippled, giving hearing to the deaf, and raising the dead. It was works on this order that demonstrated the credibility of Moses as the greatest of prophets. Today, many scoffers fail to see how the land of Israel is an inheritance from G-d to the children of Israel, but see it as nothing but an Arab land that was wrongly seized by alien settlers who have no right to occupy it. This appearance and the propaganda of a militant opposition do not negate the biblical truth of G-d’s promise of the land to the Israelites. Similarly, claims that Jesus is just an ordinary man do not negate the truth about who Jesus is as presented in the New Testament.
Consider the following statements made during the time of Jesus’ earthly presence.
Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:5-7)
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28-30)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
I know you would disagree with most of the above statements. However, would you agree that if they were true then they would clearly establish the divinity of Jesus?
Thanks again for the time that you invest in this conversation – but I think that you can see how your position is unraveling. If Jesus is not omniscient, not omnipresent and is subject to another entity (the Father) then in what way is he “divine”?
Wouldn’t it be easier to accept that Genesis 18:21 is a figure of speech as is Psalm 18:10; 44:24 and 80:15 rather than accept all these absurdities about God? As for the miracles of Jesus – how do you understand Deuteronomy 13 which presents a situation of a false prophet preforming miracles that we are to disregard? Don’t you see that miracles in and of themselves do not establish the veracity of a prophet?
Thank you for taking the time and care you continue to invest in our conversation. The fact that the Father has some attributes that Jesus does not have neither contradicts the divinity of Jesus nor would it make Jesus a separate divinity. Consider the case of King Joash. During the lifetime of Jehoiadah there was a Torah observant Joash. Following the death of Jehoiadah, there was an idolatrous Joash. Does this mean that there will be one Joash who will have a part in the world to come and another Joash who will not? According to Ezekiel 18:21-24, there is just one Joash, who either will or will not have a part in the world to come, depending on his final state.
Consider the case of Charlie, whose brain has a left half and a right half. If Charlie’s corpus callosum is severed, then the two halves of his brain can act on conflicting intentions. Charlie’s left half brain may be taken by surprise by the actions of his left arm, which is controlled by his right half brain. Medical experts currently believed that the two half brains are two distinct centres of consciousness. Also, the two half brains have differing attributes. Does this mean that Charlie is a fiction, and there are really two Charlies?
Unlike King Joash, G-d never sins, and unlike us, G-d does not have a left and right half brain. However, the two cases above serve as an analogy to illustrate how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit can be a single divinity and yet each has certain attributes of their own.
We truly are warned to reject any prophet who does miraculous signs only to lure the people into serving other gods. Jesus did perform miraculous signs, but did call anyone to serve other gods. Jesus consistently called for worship of the G-d of Israel alone. I know you would say that the claim of Jesus to divinity would make Jesus an idol and foreign god. However, the New Testament does not teach Jesus as another god, but teaches that the G-d of Israel visited us in the form of a servant to redeem sinners and turn their hearts to serve no one or anything other than G-d.
As for figures of speech, it is true that these are frequently present in Scripture. However, it is most significant that G-d created man in His image. In one way, this is a figure of speech, as G-d is incorporeal, unlike us. However, it does mean that G-d did create us in such a powerful way that it is not unreasonable to believe that the spirit of G-d is able to become intimately associated with a biological system like that which He created for us to live in.
“Jesus, the Father, and G-d’s Holy Spirit are not three separate gods, and none are created beings, but all are eternally essential to the nature of who the One G-d is. Omniscience and omnipresence are attributes of the Father rather than attributes of Jesus. ”
jesus lacks what the father has? does this mean the father is not coequal to jesus? jesus does not have attributes which define the divine nature and he is leser than the father. if the fathers has attributes the son doesnt have , then does the son have attributes the father doesnt have?
Having different attributes and being in subjection is not a matter of inequality but is a matter of relationships and differing roles within G-d. Jesus gained the attribute of being intimately associated with a biological system like ours, which is an attribute that the Father will never have.
so if the 3 persons entered into a boxing ring or had a race, then something within the son’ nature would cause him to come second and the father first, right?
“It was Jesus rather than the Father who was crucified, buried, and resurrected. On the cross, Jesus experienced the wrath of the Father that was due to sinners for whom Jesus died to redeem.”
jesus lacks attributes the father has, who applied the fathers wrath on jesus? father +spirit – jesus? or all 3?
It is the Father who applied the Father’s wrath on Jesus.
did the father apply his wrath on the flesh? on the human spirit? on the divine spirit of the 2nd person? god applied wrath on god the spirit or god the flesh?
god the father who uses a singular he for himself and who is bodiless watches another who and he take on flesh?
is the father a singular he OR 3 he’s applying his punishment on HIMSELF /3 he’s
are 3 he’s punishing the son or 2 he’s?
jesus , according to your belief is coequal with the father so jesus applies his wrath on himself
he can’t apply his wrath on himself because he is co equal with the father?
“Jesus was always divine, but humanity was an attribute acquired upon becoming intimately associated with a human biological system, and which continued with the resurrection of Jesus”
was divine being in NEED of place/body/location ? if yes then the divine being in the body would be lesser than pre incarnate divine being, father and spirit, right?
“During the three day period following the crucifixion, there was a separation between the spirit and biological system of Jesus, as Jesus was taking on the penalty due to sinners”
it the flesh taking the penalty? the human soul or the divine bodiless spirit?
[q]was divine being in NEED of place/body/location ? if yes then the divine being in the body would be lesser than pre incarnate divine being, father and spirit, right?[/q]
The need is far different from our need for a biological system, without which we cannot live. Jesus was not intimately associated with a biological system until entering into our world to redeem sinners. The purpose of the incarnation was not to make it possible for Jesus to live, but to make it possible for Jesus to redeem sinners.
[q]Was it the flesh taking the penalty? the human soul or the divine bodiless spirit?[/q]
Consider our own case. When a person suffers, is it the person’s biological system or spirit that suffers? It is by means of the person’s biological system that person’s spirit experiences suffering.
when a being from the trinity reduces himself that enters into time and CREATES actions for himself, does that mean that it is LESSER than it’s dad/father? does TIME and space have ANY AFFECT on infinite being when it walks into FINITE creation?
“Consider our own case. When a person suffers, is it the person’s biological system or spirit that suffers? It is by means of the person’s biological system that person’s spirit experiences suffering.”
so the DIVINE being suffered loss and pain through his flesh being? flesh and divine spirit were intertwined?
was it your god’s flesh that experience and felt pain/suffering or was it the divine spirit?
was it your god’s mind /spirit / soul that suffered from psychological depression or was it the flesh?
“When a person suffers, is it the person’s biological system or spirit that suffers? It is by means of the person’s biological system that person’s spirit experiences suffering.”
let me ask my questions again
the divine being did not EXPERIENCE pain and suffering ?
the divine being, when it enters TIME and space , is LESSER than the other god who is called the father?
time and space affect the divine being when it enters time and space?
divine being experinces suffering of the flesh and suffering psychologically when it enters time and space?
let me ask my questions again
the divine being did not EXPERIENCE pain and suffering ?
the divine being, when it enters TIME and space , is LESSER than the other god who is called the father?
time and space affect the divine being when it enters time and space?
divine being experinces suffering of the flesh and suffering psychologically when it enters time and space?
The Son and the Father are not two different gods but are one God. However, this does not mean that the Son is the same thing as the Father. Although the Father transcends time and space, He is also present in time and space. The Son, unlike the Father, became intimately associated with a biological system like ours. It is through this intimate association that the Son acquired the ability to experience suffering.
did the father apply his wrath on the flesh? on the human spirit? on the divine spirit of the 2nd person? god applied wrath on god the spirit or god the flesh?
The wrath of the Father was applied to Jesus through physical means. The spiritual suffering is a consequence of the intimate association of the spirit with the biological system.
[Q]so if the 3 persons entered into a boxing ring or had a race, then something within the son’ nature would cause him to come second and the father first, right?[Q]
Jesus could enter a boxing ring or a race. The Father and Holy Spirit are incorporeal and so could not physically enter a boxing ring or race. However, Father, Son and Holy Spirit would all be present there.-Cliff G
Distinction in the trinity is not an essential division in G-d’s being, but a very distinct relational description of that one being. If there were separate essences in G-d, he could not be the sole source of all else that is. I am one human BEING. What my human nature/being (experientially and intrinsically speaking) is, is knowable only to myself internally, and nobody else. In other words, even in the case of human beings we do not know all there is to know about our nature. I do however, have a personality that others are capable of interacting with, coming to know, etc. This is my own Ego/Logos/wisdom. It is a distinct relation, but not a distinct being or will. How I present myself to others in action, may well yet again be distinct from either my intrinsic nature, or my expressed nature, but I am still only one being, with one will. When you ask who suffered on the cross, G-d or a man, the answer is that G-d suffers in the same way that he said he regretted that he made man on earth. (Genesis 6:6) Does the omnipotent have regrets? This is language of description of an infinite being, as a concession to man! G-d suffers with us, though we may not know exactly how, scripture isn’t lying is it?
Cliff, you know the Son is also incorporeal from all eternity, and only took on human nature (in all ways but sin) in Jesus. The word became flesh, flesh did not become the word, but was vilified by it, as the hypo static union teaches.
To rabbi B, Rav Saadia Gaon maintained that all direct experiences of G-d outlined in Tanakh by the prophets were not experiences of G-d directly, but of a created glory (Kavod Nivra) that he gave man access to in order to know his will. Does that mean that we don’t know G-d directly, but only through a created intermediary? Off course that’s not what it means. G-d transcending all things, does not mean he loses communion with all things, or that he is locked out of his own creation. if that were the case, in what meaningful way would we call him creator? This is why people are trinitiarian, to clarify what we mean by oneness of G-d.
If your tradition can consistently hold a doctrine of the active intellect (Maimonides), Memra/metatron (Targums and Hekaloth literature & Philo’s Logos) as well as Kavod Nivra (Saadia Gaon,) whilst still being considered fully monotheistic, how can Christianity not be monotheistic when it stresses so highly the uncreated and unified nature of the distinct personalities of one being?
The Torah was not given to philosophers. Every man woman and child received the Torah. The way you complicate things – you could talk your way out of or into anything in the name of whatever. The simple facts remain – we worship the God who revealed Himself to our ancestors as our ancestors preserved that revelation. This God is above and beyond all nature but He interacts with every facet of nature. He hears us when we pray and He desires that we follow a certain path within nature.
Taking a man and directing worship to him is idolatry – simple.
Rabbi, I’m sorry if you find the information and questions I raise complicated, but I’m asking reasonable questions about how you know what you say you know. Judaism asks this of Christianity and the claims it makes, so I’m asking the same of your tradition. If Judaism is not making philosophical claims, you could have fooled me based on your tradition’s major theologians. In what way am I twisting anything? I have made it abundantly clear that I do not take issue with Torah, observance, or the commitment of people to your faith. I have questioned some assumptions, but I have backed my statements with sources and scholarship. Questioning the human ability to act impartially, or asking for supporting evidence independent of your testimony is not a statement for or against the existence of Hashem, or absolute truth, nor should it be seen as strange, but it is me giving due weight to what is arguably the greatest question ever. Pardon my bluntness, but I was raised to accept a tradition based on the words of teachers, (an error which Judaism has helped me to learn from,) but now you seem to be asking that I accept, or give more weight to, a more correct version of the same proposition with less independent evidence. I’m sorry if my questions have been too many, or unwelcome.
Your questions are not to many nor are they unwelcome but you don’t seem to get what I am trying to do on this blog. I am trying to simplify, to bring things back to the terms that the Torah itself uses. The Jewish philosophers were trying to define things for sophisticated audiences – I am trying to simplify things for people who got lost in sophistication. And sophistication has been used and is still being used as a smokescreen for error.
I can see what you mean there rabbi, but at the same time, the scripture is a document that reaches the lives and circumstances of all diverse generations, so that even some fundamentals are open to much development and interpretation. I agree that much later development was meant for sophisticated audiences, but they also had important reasons for being that way. I have no problem agreeing with you that the Tanach teaches uncompromising divine unity, but it also makes provision for Gentiles, and also conveys an idea of G-d beyond abstract unity. I’m not trying to paint the trinity in to the Bible, my contention is that this doctrine serves as a clarification of what we mean by G-d, when surrounding cultural ideas do not do the Biblical account justice. The problem is as I’ve outlined before. The statement G-d is one, May well be accepted by a culture, but without a belief in the will of G-d contained in scripture. When we talk about G-d, we have a historic experience of G-d’s will revealed to humans in mind. G-d is more than an abstract oneness. I’m not trying to make trouble for your purposes, but trying to clear the air of a great many misconceptions. I’ve only mentioned later authorities because the parallels struck me as quite significant, and it seems that people should know. I wouldn’t dream of drawing one to one connections on our traditions that have been so long in developing and growing.
I appreciate your pointing out that Christianity contains some Biblical elements of truth that are absent in polytheistic belief systems and that are absent in some philosophical circles of belief. I accept the point that you are making. But what you don’t seem to realize is that the trinity was not developed as a philosophical explanation of the worship of God – but it was developed to justify a worship of Jesus – and this worship is very popular in the world today – and it is the error of this worship that I am trying to expose.
We can see clearly that some early Christians did not view Jesus as G-d rabbi, I agree completely, but the vast majority did, and I respectfully disagree that it is a mere justification for the following reasons.
1) positing Jesus’ divinity in the way Christians have always done does not detract from the sovereignty of G-d, as Jesus has always been seen by Christians as subordinate functionally, as opposed to ontologically to the father.
2) all accepted Christian authorities regard as heretical a position which ignores the father in favor of Jesus alone. This means that Christians can agree with your position that some worship as regards Jesus can be idolatrous.
3) The need to express G-d in personal active providential terms in the way scripture does necessitates (according to both traditions) some created emissary to get the full sense of who G-d is according to the biblical view. In other words, for Judaism, Moses and Sinai are essential aspects of a properly Torah and G-d centered view of G-d. While Abraham. May have rationally come to know the unity of G-d and some Torah ethics, scripture holds that G-d was known uniquely only through Moses. It is true that we have a conflation of a Sinai like manifestation of G-d, with a prophet in the case of Jesus, but the proper understanding of that relationship has been maintained by the Church throughout its history. What we mean, and don’t mean when we talk doctrine has been preserved.
4) if it’s true that a justification was the driving reason for Jesus’ divinity, there would be no need for such detailed exposition, and no polytheistic tradition expends such effort in deification of a creature. In other words, worship based in emotion would not need to state that Jesus was in any way affiliated with Hashem. Lots of people worship men for no other reason than that they are men. Christians state emphatically that it is what Jesus said and did (which only G-d could do) which prompted them to make their declarations.
Thanks again for your respectful tone and for the insights that you share
1) positing Jesus’ divinity as Christians have always done certainly distracts from God’s sovereignty – The Christian gives his/her heart to Jesus when God’s absolute sovereignty demands that it be given to God
2) It makes little difference what Christian “authorities” say – what is going on in the hearts of Christians all over the world? As one former Christian put it to me – Jesus gets 80% of the attention the Father 15% and the Holy Ghost 5% – this is averaging out the Churches that this fellow attended over the years
3) If the point you are making here is that Christianity preserves the idea that God could interact with nature – I agree with you
4) But the worship of Jesus claims that it is a fulfillment of the worship described in the Jewish Bible (which it is clearly not) hence the need for justification
I could not find a reply link for your 30 September post, so I hope replying here at the end of the page will not cause a discontinuity in the thread.
There being something new that our fathers did not witness does not make a god unknown to our fathers, provided that the new thing is consistent with the character of God as revealed to our fathers. How can viewing God as having paid such a great price for our redemption, that no one other than God could possibly pay it, be called an idolatrous view of God? It is written in Psalms 115:1, “Not for our sake, HAHEM, not for our sake, but for Your Name’s sake give glory, for Your kindness and for Your truth!” Does the view that it is Israel rather than God who pays the price for the redemption of the nations give greater glory to God or to Israel?
Although Jesus did not appear in the same way to Israel in the wilderness as to the people in the New Testament time, Jesus was present all along and known to our fathers in various ways. In John 8:56, Jesus is quoted as saying, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”
The divine nature of Jesus is essential to the question of whether the proclamation of “I am the way, the truth, and the light” is idolatrous or not. Without the divine nature, this would certainly be idolatrous, but the divine nature of Jesus makes this not idolatrous at all. The divinity of Jesus does not necessitate there being another god aside from the God of Israel, but would be in full agreement with there being no other god if the God of Israel becomes physically present in Jesus.
You wrote that our spiritual destiny is entirely in our own hands. The call to repentance is not limited to Tanach, but it is very much present in the New Testament also. Repentance is a willful act on the part of a person, but this does not mean that the ability to repent originates from the person. This ability is a gift from God, as clearly stated in Ezekiel 36:26-27.
You wrote that God does not need to experience being a human in order to understand us, for he created and He knows us better than we know ourselves. This is true, but this is not the reason for Jesus entering into our world. The need being fulfilled is not one of God gaining any knowledge He did not have before, but one of accomplishing all that is entailed in being Saviour and Redeemer.
You wrote that the notion that God is the one who must pay the price for our sins has no source in Tanach. When David sinned with regard to a census, many lives were lost. The plague was ended by payment with the lives of sacrificial animals. Turning God’s wrath away from Job’s friends was not accomplished with Job’s prayer alone but also required payment with the lives of sacrificial animals. These things show that a definite cost is involved in redemption from sin. If this cost could be paid–in the ultimate sense–by anyone other than God, then someone other than God would be saviour and redeemer, which is highly contrary to biblical principles. As for the whole story of how God paid the price for redemption, God does not always make known profoundly significant developments in advance. When directing Samuel to anoint Saul as king of Israel, He did not inform him that David would later replace him. The Tanach gives no indication whatever that Samuel knew anything about the future rejection of Saul and the eternal promise to David when he anointed Saul as king. God’s selection of Saul as king of Israel left open the question of why would He choose a king from the tribe of Benjamin rather than from the tribe of Judah? This open question was resolved by the rejection of Saul and by the anointing of and eternal promise to David. The Tanach leaves open the question of how the problem of sin and death will be finally resolved. You may disagree that this question is resolved by redemption through Jesus, but this is a definite answer to that open question.
There is no evidence in the New Testament of any images of Jesus being made. These came much later than New Testament times. Although there are many churches that display images of Jesus, there are also many that do not. Jesus did not pose for any photographer, painter, or sculptor, so the images of Jesus are probably not really a likeness of Jesus. Concerning directing prayer to Jesus, there is no New Testament directive to do this. Most of those who direct prayer to Jesus likely have in mind the divinity of Jesus but do not limit God to being Jesus alone. Modalists actually do see God as being limited to Jesus alone at this time in history, but their doctrine is seen as heretical in a majority of conservative churches.
You wrote that my comparison of Moses to Jesus is flawed. Here are my comments on your five points concerning this.
When I mentioned miraculous signs as being in common between Jesus and Moses, I was not implying that everything about Jesus is true of Moses also. If sins could be forgiven through Moses then Moses would be accomplishing something that only God can do.
Jesus did not perform miracles only in front of those who already believed, but in front of many who did not. Those who were critical of Jesus for healing a man on the Shabbos were not likely amongst those who believed. The Israelites who were present in the time of Moses personally witnessed his miracles, but all the generations after the time of Moses have to believe without seeing. There are many skeptics today, both Gentile and Jewish, who affirm the reality and horror of the Holocaust, on the basis of a great wealth of physical evidence, but claim there is no physical evidence of Israel’s presence in and exodus from Egypt.
Since Israel was not in the wilderness but was settled in the land at the time of Jesus, it was more appropriate for Jesus to travel throughout Israel than to address the whole nation assembled in one place.
The absence of Jesus from the tomb created a crisis for those who ordered that the tomb be guarded. This was the reason those opposing Jesus started a rumor that the disciples stole Jesus from the tomb, despite the presence of a Roman guard.
Performing miracles is not sufficient to prove something is from God, but it is something God found necessary to establish the credibility of Moses as His prophet. The only things that would invalidate performance of miracles are a failure of a prophecy to come true or a call to worship foreign gods. I have argued previously that Jesus called for worship of the God of Israel alone. I also answered your point about the resurrection prophecy in number four.
Here are my comments on the Armour Bearers post:
Concerning Isaiah 59:21, this was certainly fulfilled in the history of Israel. We have Isaiah’s words today because the people of Israel faithfully propagated his words from one generation to the next. Paul affirms this in stating, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.” (Romans 9:4)
I do not see how the bearing of iniquity in Numbers 18:1 is the same thing as the guilt incurred in Ezekiel 3:17–20). There is no mention of any failure on the part of the priests in Numbers 18:1, but there is very definite reference to consequences of a prophet’s failure in the Ezekiel passage.
It is true that the prophets, teachers and rulers of Israel have the greater responsibility for teaching God’s commandments to the people and so have a greater accountability if they fail in the mission God gave them. However, I do not see how this principle fits the context in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Isaiah 52:13-53:12 presents the servant as being righteous and yet bearing the iniquity of many. There is no hint in the passage of any failure at all on the part of the servant involved in bearing such iniquity. In Ezekiel 3:19, the prophet is not charged with any iniquity despite the wicked not repenting. There are servant passages elsewhere in which the servant certainly was guilty. Even Nebuchadnezzar was identified as God’s servant.
Thanks for writing! Also thanks for your courteous tone. I am rather more pugnacious, I’m afraid, so I hope you’ll forgive me when I get too blunt.
I think we are trying to tackle too many topics at once, so I hope it’s okay with you that I respond just to the first couple of paragraphs.
You wrote, “There being something new that our fathers did not witness does not make a god unknown to our fathers, provided that the new thing is consistent with the character of God as revealed to our fathers. How can viewing God as having paid such a great price for our redemption, that no one other than God could possibly pay it, be called an idolatrous view of God?”
The problem with your view is that Scripture refutes it outright. Deuteronomy 4:12, 15-16: “The Lord spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you *were hearing the sound of words, but you were not seeing a likeness,* only a sound. [Moses is reminding the nation of Israel that they did not see anything. No Jesus, no trinity, nothing.] But you shall greatly beware for your souls, *for you did not see any likeness* on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb, from the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image, a likeness of any shape; *a form of a male or a female.*”
Moses is warning us that God is to be worshiped ONLY according to the knowledge of Him that He imparted to us at Sinai. Furthermore, the Torah forbids as idolatry any type of worship that was unknown to our fathers (Deuteronomy 13). Worship of Jesus or a trinity is a type of worship unknown to our fathers and is thus idolatry. I do not know how you can say that our ancestors knew of Jesus and worshiped him before his advent. How can you support such a statement, other than with wishful thinking?
You ask how it can be idolatrous to believe that God sacrificed Jesus (himself in the Christian view, a notion from which reason recoils–you can’t sacrifice yourself to yourself, it’s not a sacrifice). The answer is not only because the Torah defines it as such, being a type of knowledge that was not taught at Sinai and a type of worship that was unknown to our fathers. The answer is also because the Torah categorically rejects such a notion of sacrifice and atonement. Here are some Scriptural passages for your review:
ONE: God rejects substitutionary punishment (this is beside the point that God rejects human sacrifice period, if you call it sacrifice; furthermore, a sacrifice has to be without blemish, burned on the altar, etc.):
Exodus 32:32-33; Deuteronomy 24:16; Ezekiel 18:20
TWO: We have complete power over our spiritual fate, and we can achieve atonement without sacrifice. Obviously this is a gift from God; I agree with you there, but that is irrelevant to the point I am making, which is that we certainly don’t need Jesus–as the following Scriptural passages attest:
Genesis 4:7; Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Proverbs 24:16; Isaiah 59:20; 1 Kings 8:46-53; 7 Chronicles 7:14; Ezekiel 18:21-23; Jeremiah 36:3; Isaiah 55:6-7; Psalms 145:18; Daniel 4:24; Jonah 3:6-10; Proverbs 15:8; Isaiah 1:11,16; Amos 5:22-24; Micah 6:6-8; Psalms 51:15-17; Jeremiah 7:3-7; 1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6:6; Proverbs 21:3; Hosea 14:2
Furthermore, two questions: how did people achieve atonement before Jesus? If Jesus is the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, what is the purpose of reinstating the sacrificial system when the Third Temple will be rebuilt (Ezekiel 44)?
You wrote, “Jesus was present all along and known to our fathers in various ways.” Your only support for this comes from Christian scripture, which was written after Jesus’s lifetime. Can you provide support from the Hebrew Bible and/or history for this astonishing statement?
Okay, I think that will do for now! I’m looking forward to your reply.
Happy Purim and Happy Passover!
Thank you for keeping the number of points manageable, although my pace of thinking about the things you wrote and then responding is still glacial.
Deuteronomy 4:12, 15-16 is a warning against creating images to worship. The people truly did not see any form at Mount Sinai, and this served as an illustration about not representing God or any god at all with images. However, there were times of God’s presence when something was seen. When Joshua encountered the commander of HASHEM’s legion (Joshua 5:13-15) he prostrated himself before the commander. Then, the commander of HASHEM’s legion made the same request of Joshua that God made of Moses at the burning bush, that he remove his shoe from his foot because the ground he is standing on is holy. Why did Joshua see this command come from a man rather than from a burning bush? In chapter 18 of Genesis, three men visit Abraham when HASHEM was present with him. It is mentioned in verse 22 that the men went to Sodom as Abraham was still standing before HASHEM, but only two angels were mentioned as going there in the first verse of chapter 19.
Deuteronomy 13 warns against worship of any god other than HASHEM. I do not see where it addresses the question of forms of worship beyond this matter. Since the destruction of the second temple, traditional Jewish worship has been different from that which is specified in Torah, as a whole complex of sacrificial practices has been discontinued.
The crucifixion of Jesus is not presented in the New Testament as being a sacrifice done according to the sacrificial laws specified in the Tanakh. Some of the animal sacrifices were for the purpose of atonement, as was the crucifixion of Jesus, but the sacrificial laws apply to how animals are to be sacrificed, not to how God would pay the price once and for all for redemption from sin. One major difference between the crucifixion of Jesus and the sacrifice of animals is that the sacrifice of animals was to be done continually whereas the crucifixion of Jesus was a one-time event that is effective for all time. Another major difference is that God commanded the priests to sacrifice animals but did not command anyone to sacrifice Jesus. In a similar way, the selling of Joseph into slavery ultimately resulted in many lives being saved, and this event was a provision from God, but God never commanded Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery.
In Exodus 32:32-33: Moses was not proposing to pay for the redemptions of others. Paul did actually write that he would be willing to give up his hope in exchange for the salvation of fellow Jews, but he also indicated that he knew this was not possible. No one but God can pay the price for anyone’s redemption.
Deuteronomy 24:16 and Ezekiel 18:2-20 are not about one person redeeming another but is about not holding one family member guilty for the crimes of another family member.
Between Genesis 4:7 and Joshua 24:19 we have a paradox of ability and inability. In Genesis 4:7, God truly does appear to be informing Cain that he has the ability to do what is right. In Joshua 24:19, Joshua insists that the people do not have the ability to serve God. In both cases, failure followed.
Many of the verses you listed are about God forgiving those who sin against Him but later repent of their evil ways. These verses demonstrate that repentance is essential to the process of receiving God’s grace. However, this does not mean that a person’s repentance is the cause of God’s grace being received. The verses also show that sacrifices are not adequate for redemption. Rather, they are a sign and reminder that redemption comes at a great cost.
From 1 Kings 8:46-53 we can see the problem of no one being without sin and that the sins of the people have such serious consequences as to result in exile from the promised land. This demonstrates a need for a permanent solution to the endless cycle of sin, exile, and restoration to the land. Presently in Israel there is no temple and there is a constant threat of war and terrorism.
Concerning Ezekiel 44, the price God paid for redemption was paid at a specific time in history but is effective for all time, present, past, and future. One of the purposes served by the sacrificing animals was to be a sign of the cost of redemption. The sacrifices of animals did not themselves accomplish redemption themselves, but they were a sign of what truly did. If Ezekiel 44 is correctly interpreted as being about a third temple in our future, then sacrifice of animals would be for the same purposes as they were in the time of the first and second temples.
Concerning my astonishing statement that Jesus was known to our fathers in various ways, I provided the NT reference of John 8:56. Another reference I had in mind was John 6:51. However, you require any support for this to be from the Hebrew Bible and/or history rather than the NT. Unlike the man of God’s astonishing prophecy about Josiah and Isaiah’s astonishing prophecy about Cyrus, Jesus is not introduced in the Tanakh so explicitly. We have already discussed the passage in Isaiah about the suffering servant on whom HASHEM inflicted the iniquity of us all and who bore the sins of the multitudes. I heard an argument that this is about Israel suffering such a great persecution that many in the nations will repent and serve God. This view is somewhat similar to the NT view that persecution suffered by followers of Jesus will ultimately result in many turning to God. However, the great transforming power seen in the passage would indicate something far more; as such a power must be from a Saviour and Redeemer that can be God alone. If such a transforming power came through great suffering on the part of righteous men and women, without God enduring a far greater suffering, then the glory of redemption would go to the men and women rather than to God. The suffering of righteous men and women through persecution is a means of participation in the work of God, but must not be viewed in any way that makes the participants anywhere near equal to God. So, the work of Jesus was announced to Israel in the time of Isaiah.
I tried to narrow down the topics but once again I feel like we are veering all over the place :). Nevertheless, b’ezras Hashem I will show you why your interpretation is incorrect.
I cited Deuteronomy 4 to show you that we are to worship Hashem only according to the knowledge He imparted to us at Sinai. You countered by saying that this passage simply instructs us not to make an image.
This raises a lot of questions. May one worship anyone or anything as long as he doesn’t create an image of the object of his worship?
Since God appeared to Moses in a burning bush, would it be okay to worship God in the name of the Bush and the Fire, so long as an image of the Bush and the Fire are not created? Why or why not?
If we are to follow your logic, then the Third Commandment only means not to make a graven image or likeness of anything in the heavens, earth, and waters and prostrate ourselves before them–but it would be permitted to worship something on the earth, like Jesus or Bastet or Isis or Apollo, so long as one doesn’t make an image of them and bow to them. Am I understanding you correctly?
Another question this raises is that Christianity has a time-honored tradition of doing just that: creating graven images and likenesses and prostrating before them. This tradition is popular today as well. Are these Christians violating the Third Commandment, or are they right with God because they accept Jesus as their lord and savior?
You cited several instances of “theophanies” in Scripture. Your interpretation is incorrect, but let us say for argument’s sake that God really did appear in human form. Then why did no one name these forms and worship them as Christians have done to Jesus? Furthermore, were these additional persons in the godhead? How do you know all these appearances were Jesus, since they are never identified as son of God? Was Jesus an angel or a human or both (thus adding yet another person to the godhead)? Christians are trying to have it several ways.
Because Deuteronomy 4 is so clear, as are so many passages in the Torah that warn us that God is alone and that He and only He must be worshipped (such as, for example Isaiah 43:11 and 45:5), it wouldn’t matter if God appeared in human form a million times. Even if He had, He clearly does not want to be worshiped as such.
To show you why your interpretation of theophany is incorrect to begin with, here is an example of the Jewish position from this website:
To address your answer to my question about substitutionary sacrifice, the Torah teaches nowhere that mankind could not be redeemed without God sacrificing himself to himself (I have yet to see a Christian defend this logic-defying concept). I showed you that the Torah teaches us the opposite. You countered by giving examples where people failed, as if that proves that God was wrong somehow and needed to die to save them. Well, this is pretty selective on your part, because you ignored those instances in the Bible where people are forgiven without any atoning sacrifices whatsoever. The people of Nineveh, for example, were forgiven simply by repenting and turning away from their wickedness. When Nathan rebuked King David, God instantly forgave him when he expressed remorse.
You took the examples I gave you of the Bible teaching us that we can achieve atonement without sacrifice and speculated on what it might mean instead of accepting its plain meaning. The Torah teaches us that we are in charge of our own spiritual destiny, that we can choose, and that it is not too hard. Who are you to say any different?
Regarding my challenge about the purpose of the sacrificial system, you did not answer the challenge at all. You redefined the purpose of sacrifices and said they would mean the same thing in the future. But if we don’t need them now, why would we need them in the future? Why would we need that sign then if we don’t need it now?
I still don’t see how you can say with a straight face that our forefathers worshiped Jesus. Your only support for this outside your Christian bible is Isaiah 53, which only Christians have ever seen as referring to Jesus. This is beside the fact that Isaiah came long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Cliff, let’s be honest: Jesus was not the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God forbid!
Your post asks many good questions. I will try to cover them here as much as I can without making my post excessively long.
Although Deuteronomy 4 specifically warns against making any image to worship it, this does make it permissible to worship something other than a man-made image. Idolatry is the worship of anything other than God. In one case, God actually commanded Moses to make an image of a creature, but not for the purpose of worshiping it. A long time later, Hezekiah found it necessary to destroy that image, because it was being misused as something to worship. Although there may have been an extensive church history of making images to which worshippers knelt and prayed, there is absolutely no suggestion anywhere in the NT that any such thing should ever be done. There was also a long history in Israel of worshiping man-made images, despite strong warnings against such things in the Tanakh.
The atoning sacrifices were not the actual means by which sins were forgiven, but they were a sign that there is a great cost associated with the redemption from sin. God did not always require that such signs be present when sinners sought Him for forgiveness. However, this does not mean that the real cost of their redemption was any less. The question about atoning sacrifices in the future is of very real interest, but is very difficult to answer in these times. As in the past, such atoning sacrifices would not be the actual means by which sins are forgiven, but would be a sign of the great cost associated with the redemption from sin. It would be of great interest to know when in future history a third temple would be built and how long it would exist. What do the rabbinic sources have to say about whether the third temple would be built in this present world or in the world to come? What do they have to say about whether it will exist for a finite or infinite period of time?
Here are some comments on your link about angels. In Exodus 23:20-22, God does mention that the angel has His name in him, but does not say that the angel is called by His name. Perhaps, in a similar way, David was said to have God’s spirit in him, but it was never said that David’s own spirit was the Spirit of God. In passages where an angel or a prophet speaks God’s word, the angel or prophet is never identified as “the Lord” as was done in Genesis 18:22. However, for argument purposes, let us suppose that when Abraham stood before the Lord in Genesis 18-19 that he was actually standing before an angel who is called by God’s name. This still would show that Deuteronomy 4:15 does not rule out seeing any form when in the presence of God.
Since you continue to press the point about the claim that Jesus was known to Israel in its early history, I will examine the two verses from the NT associated with this claim. The first verse is John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” I gather from this verse that Abraham had a significant understanding of the redemption that Jesus would accomplish. It would also appear that Abraham actually witnessed the entry of Jesus into the world. However, Abraham may not have witnessed the entry of Jesus in the world during his time on earth, but may have done so in a way similar to the way Moses and Elijah did when they met with Jesus on a mountain. The second verse is John 6:51, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven …” Here, Jesus appears to be claiming to have been present in some way with Israel in the wilderness. This does not mean that the Israelites actually saw Jesus or understood who Jesus is, but simply indicates the presence of Jesus.
Concerning your comment that Deuteronomy 4 is so clear, as are so many passages in the Torah that warn us that God is alone and that He and only He must be worshipped, I am in agreement with this. The divinity of Jesus does not mean that the Father is one god, Jesus is a second god, and the Holy Spirit is a third god. Rather, it means that the One God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This does not contradict the fact that God is God alone and there is no other. I have a problem the common term “co-equal”, because this wording could lead some to see Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three separate but equal gods.
I think you’re missing the point of Deuteronomy 4. The passages I cited are not merely about the making of images. In the strongest and clearest terms, Moses warns us not to associate God with any form. He reminds us that we saw no form, that we are to worship God only as he appeared on Mount Sinai, for we were “shown in order to know that the Lord, He is the God; there is none other beside Him” (4:35).
God revealed Himself to the entire people of Israel in order to teach us Whom to worship–and by the process of elimination whom not to worship.
Therefore, if an entity did not appear at Sinai we must not worship him. Jesus did not appear at Sinai. There is simply no way to get around that fact. Therefore it is forbidden to worship him as God.
Cliff, if you were God, and you wanted to make sure your followers didn’t add anything else into the mix, what language would you employ in the relevant passages in Deuteronomy 4? The text could not be more clear.
I argued that per Deuteronomy 13, Jesus is a false prophet because he introduced a new type of worship. Your counterargument is circular. You say that our fathers did know of Jesus, and how do you know this? Because Jesus said so! There is not a shred of evidence neither in the Hebrew Bible nor in extra-Biblical historical sources to support this ludicrous notion.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the light, and no one comes to the Father but through me.” This was a completely new type of worship. No Jewish prophet or leader ever said anything remotely resembling such a statement.
The Jesus movement introduced a type of worship that was unknown to the Jewish people and was perforce rejected by them. Only among gentiles, therefore, could it find traction.
Your comment about angels is similarly in error. Just because an angel represents God does not mean God is associated with a form, God forbid. It is analogous to a herald reading a message from the king and beginning the proclamation with the words, “I, King George the Third, do hereby blah blah.” No one would confuse the herald with the king. An angel is like the herald; in fact, the literal meaning of the Hebrew word is “messenger.”
The purpose of the revelation at Mount Sinai was to teach us Who God is. Therefore, everything in Scripture must be understood in light of Deuteronomy 4 and not the other way around. This includes the examples you cited with the angels.
As I close, it is worth pondering the fact that God appointed the Jews to be His witnesses (Isaiah 43:10). But which Jews? God enjoined the Jewish people to keep the Sabbath as an eternal sign (Exodus 31:17). Which community of Jews kept the sign of the Sabbath, observing it faithfully from generation to generation? Certainly not the early Jewish followers of Jesus, who left behind not a single Jewish descendant. God promised that His word would not depart from our mouths and our generations mouths forever (Isaiah 59:21). Which community of Jews preserved God’s words through hell, fire, and water under centuries of Christian and Muslim persecution? Certainly not the early Jewish followers of Jesus, who left behind not a single Jewish descendant. God reassured us that though we stray we would still bear His testimony. Which community of Jews still bears God’s testimony? Certainly not the early Jewish followers of Jesus, who left behind not a single Jewish descendant.
I agree with your post to cliff here but I have a question about the worship of Idols of gentiles. The jewish virtual library writes concerning the 7 noahide laws, “The prohibition of idolatry provides that the non-Jew does not have to “know God” but must disregard false gods. This law refers only to actual idolatrous acts but, unlike Jews, Noachides are not required to suffer martyrdom rather than break this law.” Then at the end of the article it says, “Since the later Middle Ages, however, Christianity too has come to be regarded as Noachide, on the ground that Trinitarianism is not forbidden to non-Jews.” Most christians who come here are constantly trying to shove jezer where he doens’t belong but do you agree basically with the quotes I gave, if not why?
I’m not that familiar with the discussion, but I think there is disagreement among the rabbis whether worshiping God through an intermediary is forbidden to gentiles.
Now I will give you my opinion, so this is not halachic. Perhaps Rabbi Blumenthal can shed some light on this topic. It seems to me that a gentile who sincerely believes he is worshiping God appropriately through whatever intermediary (in the case of Christians, Jesus) that it would be fair to consider him a gentile who keeps the Seven Laws of Noach (assuming he’s keeping the rest of them).
However, Christians who have heard the Jewish argument don’t really have much of an excuse to continue worshiping a fabrication. Most Christians do not ever encounter the Jewish argument, but Christians like the ones who visit this blog have a responsibility to give us a fair hearing. They rarely do so.
Instead of starting at Isaiah 52:13, start at 52:1.
Reblogged this on 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources.
Cliff, and others.
Judaism and Christianity on the question of Avodah Zerah (strange service/idolatry)
I often find that well meaning Christians, and well meaning Jews talk past and over each other on the question of idolatry, its proper definition, and whether or not a given person is engaged in the service of idols in their tradition or not.
From the perspective of Judaism Deuteronomy 4 and Deuteronomy 13 clearly emphasize that G-d is not to be likened to or worshipped in any form, nor is the “whole host of heaven” to be worshipped ie G-d’s entourage is not to be served, (even though they work for him) and G-d is to be known to Israel as he revealed himself at Sinai.
In this post, I would like to tackle this whole discussion from another, (and I believe very neglected) angle. Where does the NT and the Christian tradition itself stand (in terms of its own teachings and definitions) concerning these important messages of Duteronomy 4 &13? Does the Christian text contain similar warnings?
1. You saw no form on the day the lord spoke to you at horeb out of the midst of the fire. (Deuternomy 4:15)
Concerning the incorporeal and ineffable nature of G-d that cannot be pictured, wholly grasped, or contained.
-John 4:24, Romans 1:20-26 Luke 24:39 Acts 7:42 Acts 15:20, and many others
(from the tradition)
Tatian the Syrian
“Our God has no introduction in time. He alone is without beginning, and is himself the beginning of all things. God is a spirit, not attending upon matter, but the maker of material spirits and of the appearances which are in matter. He is invisible, being himself the Father of both sensible and invisible things” (Address to the Greeks 4 [A.D. 170]).
“I have sufficiently demonstrated that we are not atheists, since we acknowledge one God, unbegotten, eternal, invisible, incapable of being acted upon, incomprehensible, unbounded, who is known only by understanding and reason, who is encompassed by light and beauty and spirit and indescribable power, by whom all things, through his Word, have been produced and set in order and are kept in existence” (Plea for the Christians 10 [A.D. 177]).
“Far removed is the Father of all from those things which operate among men, the affections and passions. He is simple, not composed of parts, without structure, altogether like and equal to himself alone. He is all mind, all spirit, all thought, all intelligence, all reason . . . all light, all fountain of every good, and this is the manner in which the religious and the pious are accustomed to speak of God” (Against Heresies 2:13:3 [A.D. 189]).
Clement of Alexandria
“The first substance is everything which subsists by itself, as a stone is called a substance. The second is a substance capable of increase, as a plant grows and decays. The third is animated and sentient substance, as animal, horse. The fourth is animate, sentient, rational substance, as man. Wherefore each one of us is made as consisting of all, having an immaterial soul and a mind, which is the image of God” (Fragment from On Providence [A.D. 200]).
“Being is in God. God is divine being, eternal and without beginning, incorporeal and illimitable, and the cause of what exists. Being is that which wholly subsists. Nature is the truth of things, or the inner reality of them. According to others, it is the production of what has come to existence; and according to others, again, it is the providence of God, causing the being, and the manner of being, in the things which are produced” (ibid.).
“What is God? ‘God,’ as the Lord says, ‘is a spirit.’ Now spirit is properly substance, incorporeal, and uncircumscribed. And that is incorporeal which does not consist of a body, or whose existence is not according to breadth, length, and depth. And that is uncircumscribed which has no place, which is wholly in all, and in each entire, and the same in itself” (ibid.).
“No one can rightly express him wholly. For on account of his greatness he is ranked as the All, and is the Father of the universe. Nor are any parts to be predicated of him. For the One is indivisible; wherefore also it is infinite, not considered with reference to inscrutability, but with reference to its being without dimensions, and not having a limit. And therefore it is without form” (Miscellanies 5:12 [A.D. 208]).
“Since our mind is in itself unable to behold God as he is, it knows the Father of the universe from the beauty of his works and from the elegance of his creatures. God, therefore, is not to be thought of as being either a body or as existing in a body, but as a simple intellectual being, admitting within himself no addition of any kind” (Fundamental Doctrines 1:1:6 [A.D. 225]).
“John says in the gospel, ‘No one has AT ANY TIME seen God,’ clearly declaring to all who are able to understand, that there is no nature to which God is visible, not as if he were indeed visible by nature, and merely escaped or baffled the view of a frailer creature, but because he is by nature impossible to be seen” (ibid. 1:1:8).
“God, however, being without parts, is Father of the Son without division and without being acted upon. For neither is there an effluence from that which is incorporeal, nor is there anything flowering into him from without, as in the case of men. Being simple in nature, he is Father of one only Son” (Letter on the Council of Nicaea 11 [A.D. 350]).
Didymus the Blind
“God is simple and of an incomposite and spiritual nature, having neither ears nor organs of speech. A solitary essence and illimitable, he is composed of no numbers and parts” (The Holy Spirit 35 [A.D. 362]).
Hilary of Poitiers
“First it must be remembered that God is incorporeal. He does not consist of certain parts and distinct members, making up one body. For we read in the gospel that God is a spirit: invisible, therefore, and an eternal nature, immeasurable and self-sufficient. It is also written that a spirit does not have flesh and bones. For of these the members of a body consist, and of these the substance of God has no need. God, however, who is everywhere and in all things, is all-hearing, all-seeing, all-doing, and all-assisting” (Commentary on the Psalms 129:3 [A.D. 365]).
Basil the Great
“The operations of God are various, but his essence is simple” (Letters 234:1 [A.D. 367]).
Ambrose of Milan
“God is of a simple nature, not conjoined nor composite. Nothing can be added to him. He has in his nature only what is divine, filling up everything, never himself confused with anything, penetrating everything, never himself being penetrated, everywhere complete, and present at the same time in heaven, on earth, and in the farthest reaches of the sea, incomprehensible to the sight” (The Faith 1:16:106 [A.D. 379]).
Evagrius of Pontus
“To those who accuse us of a doctrine of three gods, let it be stated that we confess one God, not in number but in nature. For all that is said to be one numerically is not one absolutely, nor is it simple in nature. It is universally confessed, however, that God is simple and not composite” (Dogmatic Letter on the Trinity 8:2 [A.D. 381]).
Gregory of Nyssa
“But there is neither nor ever shall be such a dogma in the Church of God that would prove the simple and incomposite [God] to be not only manifold and variegated, but even constructed from opposites. The simplicity of the dogmas of the truth proposes God as he is” (Against Eunomius1:1:222 [A.D. 382]).
“[Paul] knows [God] in part. But he says, ‘in part,’ not because he knows God’s essence while something else of his essence he does not know; for God is simple. Rather, he says ‘in part’ because he knows that God exists, but what God is in his essence he does not know” (Against the Anomoians 1:5 [A.D. 386]).
“Why does John say, ‘No one has ever seen God’ [John 1:18]? So that you might learn that he is speaking about the perfect comprehension of God and about the precise knowledge of him. For that all those incidents [where people saw a vision of God] were condescensions and that none of those persons saw the pure essence of God is clear enough from the differences of what each did see. For God is simple and non-composite and without shape; but they all saw different shapes” (ibid., 4:3).
“In created and changeable things what is not said according to substance can only be said according to accident. . . . In God, however, certainly there is nothing that is said according to accident, because in him there is nothing that is changeable, but neither is everything that is said of him according to substance” (The Trinity 5:5:6 [A.D. 408]).
Cyril of Alexandria
“We are not by nature simple; but the divine nature, perfectly simple and incomposite, has in itself the abundance of all perfection and is in need of nothing” (Dialogues on the Trinity 1 [A.D. 420]).
“The nature of the Godhead, which is simple and not composite, is never to be divided into two” (Treasury of the Holy Trinity 11 [A.D. 424]).
The Christian bible and tradition (as can be seen above) also teaches the incorporeality and ineffibility of G-d. He has no parts, he has no introduction in time, he has not been seen at any time.
Do not Worship the whole host of heaven Deuteronomy 4:19 (physical entities of any shape, the servants of G-d, nor the angels of G-d.)
Romans 1:20-26 Acts 7:42 Revelation 19:9-10 Revelation 22:8-9 Collosians 2:18 (pay special special attention to Acts 14:11-15, because the gentiles therein want to worship Paul as a god in human form, read his reaction.)
Given all the above information, Christians should not be at all surprised at the Jewish interpretation of proper divine service, or the Jewish reaction to common christian services, because your own texts and your own teachers teach you the clear warnings that the Jewish people are trying to teach you, and your teachers reacted similarly when they saw deviation.
The problem is, your incarnational devotion to Jesus, his cross, and his blood, often crosses this clearly defined line of proper behavior. Even the institutional Church itself admited throughout its doctrine in the Church councils and history that the idolatry line is crossed in your worship of Jesus, if you do some of the following:
1. If you act with worshipful devotion, or do homage to Jesus of Nazareth believing him to be only a mortal human teacher, you are guilty of idolatry. (arianism)
2. If you believe in “Jesus only” to the exclusion of the father and his commandments, you are likewise guilty of idolatry. (oneness pentacostalism/modalism, and gnosticism)
3. If you worship as divine any other being who claims he is Jesus, or claims he is like Jesus, (and even if this person is cured from a deadly wound,) the Church also says you are guilty of idolatry. (revelation 13)
4. If you believe the trinity to be a corporeal reality, you are likewise deemed an idolater by the orthodox and guilty of tritheism. (Mormonism.)
In what sense then would there supposedly be a meaningful incanration? The logos (speech/word) of G-d was allegedly revealed in Jesus. Dear Christian friends, you do not need a cross, a communion wafer, a 2,000 year old man’s blood, a Church building, or an organization, in order to ebrace the ethical logion (words) of Jesus.
If Jesus’ word is the word of G-d, then his actualteaching should matter to you far more than the trinitarian or incarnational theological formulae about his alleged nature. EVEN THE CHURCH KNOWS ITS A SLIPPERY SLOPE.
Also if the word of G-d is in Jesus, this word shouldn’t contradict G-d’s already clealry stated instructions from the Torah. Look at common Christian devotions to Jesus, and tell me with a straight face that you blame the Jewish people for levelling an idolatry charge.
When Joshua encountered the commander of HASHEM’s legion (Joshua 5:13-15) he prostrated himself before the commander. Then, the commander of HASHEM’s legion made the same request of Joshua that God made of Moses at the burning bush, that he remove his shoe from his foot because the ground he is standing on is holy. Why did Joshua see this command come from a man rather than from a burning bush?
Cliff, I’m glad you mentioned the captain of G-d’s host, because this episode illustrates the Jewish view quite well. Deuteronomy 4:19 explicitly has G-d telling Israel not to worship the “WHOLE HOST OF HEAVEN.” The Hebrew word for host is צְבָ֣א Seba, and this word occurs in both Deuteronomy and in the verses from Joshua that you mention about the captain of the host. G-d says “do not worship the host of heaven.” This commandment applies to the captain of the host whom you mentioned. You are not supposed to pray to the host, including that captain.
In the Hebrew bible, an angel can act as an agent of G-d, and bear his name, (Just as Moses was once called an Elohim before Pharaoh.) This title did not in any way mean that this agent Moses was G-d himself. You mentioned the burning bush. Is it OK to pray to a bush in your estimation?
The problem for Jews is that an incarnation is like putting G-d in a box. The idea that G-d takes on flesh is ripe for abuse by men of power, (which we have seen very clear examples of in Church history.) G-d says associating him with a form breeds corruption, because it gives humans an illusion of control. It lets them play G-d’s best friend. That is a dangerous idea.
Dina and Concerned Reader,
Some of the controversy may have to do with the acceptability of worshiping a physical form. We are created spiritual beings made in the image of God, but we are dependent on our physical, biological system to live and function. The atoms that compose people once composed many other things and may compose many other things after they die.
Jesus is not a created being, but took on a physical form, made from ordinary, natural materials, at a point in our history. It is not this physical form that is to be worshipped. Rather, we are to understand that God entered into our world in this way to accomplish a great work of redemption. In the case of any theophany, it is not the physical form that is to be worshipped, but the God who is present with the person observing the form. God mentions the unique privilege Moses had in seeing God’s image (Numbers 12:8).
The concept of God having a dwelling place on earth is not a NT fabrication, but it was imparted to Moses on Mount Sinai. The Ark of the Covenant, along with the Temple was God’s dwelling place on earth. This is why Jews pray toward the site of the Temple. These things were made of ordinary, natural materials, but were chosen by God as His place of residence on earth. Likewise, the biological system of Jesus was made from ordinary, natural materials, but was the place in which God’s spirit dwelt and accomplished the greatest work of redemption.
God’s spirit can operate in conjunction with the spirits of created beings, as in the case of the prophets. Like all other biological systems, the biological system of Jesus was made from ordinary, natural materials. However, unlike any other biological system, the biological system of Jesus was not the dwelling place for any created spirit whatever, but for the spirit of God alone. Just as the Ark of the Covenant was not an object to be worshipped, neither is the biological system of Jesus something to be worshipped. Rather, it is God, whose spirit dwelt in the biological system of Jesus, who is to be worshipped.
There is a fundamental problem with the doctrine of transubstantiation. It is a well-meaning but misguided attempt to understand John 6:51-58. The problem with the doctrine of transubstantiation is that it involves divine materialism. There would be physical material having the property of divinity, and as such would be worthy of worship. Jesus counters the doctrine of transubstantiation by clarifying these verses in John 6:63.
I am responding to your comment responding to my comment, which is here:
I posted the link because I don’t see anything in your comment that addresses any of the issues I raised. I would like to request, if I may be so bold, that you reread that comment and respond to my points.
In the meantime, I must point out the flaw in your comparison of Jesus to the so-called theophanies and the Temple.
Christians do not worship the spirit of God that dwelt in Jesus (an unknowable and unverifiable assertion) but Jesus himself. Why do I say this? Because Christians believe that they cannot access God without Jesus. They pray to God in the name of Jesus. Jews do not believe that we need the Temple or the burning bush or whatever to access God. We do not pray to God in anyone’s name.
That’s the difference.
Also, your argument can be used to justify any form of idolatry. One can say that one worships the spirit of God that dwells within the sun, or the tree, or whatever takes his fancy. He can assert, just as you do, that the sun, or a particularly majestic tree, while being made of physical materials, nevertheless differs from all of God’s created beings because God’s spirit dwelt within it.
The fact is, God said we are not worship any created being or to associate Him with one in any way, shape, or form (for more on that please see the comment I linked to above).
My last post was actually a response to Concerned Reader, but I thought it had relevance to your post, although it was not a direct response to any point in it.
Because there is much controversy about the theophany verses, as to whether an angel or God is being seen, I will limit any further discussion about this to three things. First, the language in Genesis 18 would seem to indicate that Abraham saw HaShem along with two angels. Second, in Numbers 12:8, it is mentioned that Moses gazes at the image of HaShem. Third, Exodus 33:18-23 would definitely appear to indicate that Moses was shown a form, as hand, face, and back are mentioned. The context and language are not consistent with these things being a figure of speech. If you wanted the reader to understand the hand, face, and back to be a figure of speech, would you have employed the same language in those verses? I think that the people were not shown any form on Mount Sinai, because, with their idolatrous tendencies, they would have made an image of it, and horrible consequences would have followed. Abraham and Moses did not have any idolatrous tendencies, so they were privileged to see a form associated with God. As God (the Father) is invisible, omnipresent, and nonphysical, it would make sense that Moses was seeing the form of Jesus. Moving on to the NT, the disciples were told that it was necessary for Jesus to go away so that the Helper could come to them (John 16:7). From this, it would appear that the work of the disciples would have to be done without benefit of showing any visible form of Jesus. Depictions of Jesus were started too long after Jesus departed to be based on any eyewitness accounts. The shroud of Turin is thought by some to contain a photographic image of Jesus, but there is much uncertainty about this, as carbon dating places the age of the cloth near the thirteenth century, which is the time of the shroud’s first known location.
If I wanted to make the meaning of Deuteronomy 4 clear, I would provide specific examples of what errors to avoid. God actually does this in Deuteronomy 4 and in many other places. I do not see where any of these specific examples rule out God fulfilling His role as Saviour and Redeemer by dwelling on earth for a time, like one of us, who He made in His image.
No other prophet claimed to be The Way, The Truth and The Light, because, unlike Jesus, their spirits were created spirits. Given the divinity of Jesus, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light, and no one comes to the Father but through me” is a fully appropriate statement. For any other Jewish prophet or leader ever to say anything remotely resembling such a statement would be absolutely inappropriate.
My argument cannot be used to justify all forms of idolatry. Neither the sun nor a particular majestic tree were made in the image of God. Of course, my argument would not exclude someone from claiming that the spirit of a particular man is the spirit of God when this is not true, but someone could also claim that some invisible, nonphysical entity other than God is the true supreme being and creator of all things.
You comment for pondering about the community of Jews is partly consistent with things that Paul wrote. According to Romans 9:4-5, the community of Jews of which you wrote have been chosen by God to bear the testimony. From Romans 11:25, it appears that most Jews will not be followers of Jesus until the full number of Gentiles have been brought into God’s kingdom. About the early Jewish followers of Jesus not leaving behind a single Jewish descendant, here are some things to keep in mind. Only a small minority of Jews today have a complete record of their lineage. Even for this small minority, it may be difficult to prove the accuracy of their records, although DNA analysis may prove useful today and in the future. How many Jews can legally claim inheritance to a particular parcel of land in Israel according to their lineage? Given that the Jewish followers of Jesus were always a minority of the total Jewish community, it would be difficult to determine whether or not the earliest Jewish followers of Jesus have Jewish descendants today.
Concerning introduction of a new kind of worship, the NT does not call for establishment of a different order of priests, celebration of different festivals, or worship of images, as Jeroboam son of Nebat did. However, traditional Judaism introduces many departures from the system specified in Torah to adapt to problems introduced by the loss of the Temple and the Ark of the Covenant.
Followers of Jesus pray to God in the name of Jesus to acknowledge the great price of redemption that God paid. There is great emphasis in Torah on redemption from Egypt. In Jewish tradition, it is regarded as a mitzvah to retell the story of redemption from Egypt every Passover. How much more should followers of Jesus acknowledge the great price God paid for redemption from sin? You would deny that God paid such a price, but if He really did pay such a great price, would it not be most appropriate to acknowledge it as followers of Jesus do?
Concerning Deuteronomy 13, all but the first and last verse deal with the issue of worshiping foreign gods. As I have already argued, trusting in the work of redemption God accomplished in Jesus is not a worship of any foreign god. Concerning the first verse, the NT does not call for altering a single word in Torah, Writings, or Prophets. The last verse of Deuteronomy is about observing all of God’s commandments. Paul has been accused of antinomianism. However, he never told Jews to abandon Torah, but he strongly warned against demanding that Gentile followers of Jesus become Torah observant, except for laws that apply to Gentiles.
Nice to meet you. If you don’t mind I’d like to comment on something you wrote:
“Because Christians believe that they cannot access God without Jesus.”
Could I be so bold to ask if you think that perhaps access to God just might be proportional to the amount of love one has for God and how much one feels God loves them?
What about you personally, do you feel you have more access to a person whom you know unequivocally loves you?
Isn’t this the kind of love Abraham modeled for us before God in his willingness to sacrifice Isaac?
What about Isaac? He was no mere toddler, he is estimated at 25 years old and Abraham over a hundred at the time. Would you agree Isaac modeled true love and trust for his father and his God by submitting to death?
How is this any different than Jesus modeling complete love, trust and submission to his God and Father unto death?
Christians see in the death of Jesus perfect love exemplified by both Father and son. They see a example of the kind of love God desires from them and they see God himself modeling the same love for us as Abraham had for God.
This is why Christians believe Jesus gives them access to God, they feel this is proof God loves them.
Now before you get all crazy on atonement issues and the blood of Jesus allow me to ask you a question.
Do you think if you were there 2000 years ago and were able to collect some of Jesus’s spilt blood in a vial, that you could sprinkle it on a unrepentant person and their sins would be magically forgiven? I hear you laughing, and you should be because this is ludicrous!
However if this same blood causes a person to realize the great love God has for them which leads them to repentance.
Even Torah teaches repentance gives access to God!
(PS: I personally feel that 2000 years of “smart Christian theologians’ who have strayed from Torah, Prophets and Writings have mudded the waters and most poor Christians just drink what is given them)
CP, it’s nice to meet you to. We already met, but I’m happy to acknowledge the niceness of it.
You missed the point of my comment. Christian scripture teaches that the only way to God is through Jesus. Hebrew scripture teaches that “God is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely” (Psalms 145:18). God is our Father. Why on earth would I need an intermediary to talk to my Father?
From my many conversations with Christians over the years, I have observed that Christian love for Jesus is overwhelming, and God is an afterthought, a cold and distant Father. They are not coming to God through Jesus, mostly. Jesus is the center and focus of their worship. How sad.
Having said that, many Christians sincerely believe they are doing the right thing and try to lead moral lives. I have no problem with that. I wish everyone would know God “like the water covers the sea,” but I have to wait for the Messiah to come for that to happen.
In the meantime, everyone must undertake his own personal quest for the truth. Far be it from me to judge anyone on the results. That’s God’s job.
How it works is that if the Christian can find a place where someone “bows” or “prostrates” to anyone or anything without correction or punishment, then that is legal justification for the worship of Jesus, and over rides any direct command against such. Falling on one’s face before an angel out of fear is tantamount to “worship” in the Christian mind.
The ironic thing is that most protestants don’t bow to the cross, or prostrate themselves before it or other objects because it makes them feel uncomfortable. I barely ever saw anyone even kiss a cross before. Most Christians I know just mention Jesus in their prayers with “in Jesus’ name,” very few that I know actually feel comfortable with such ceremonial gestures as bowing or prostration, yet they see these verses as examples of a theophany. I can see why they view the angel here as a theophany, (or why they feel it has to be one,) but Deuteronomy 4 says whatever happened in Joshua 5, it couldn’t have been worship of the captain of G-d’s host, because it says don’t worship the whole host of heaven.
Falling on one’s face before an angel out of fear is tantamount to “worship” in the Christian mind.
Well Fred, (not that I’m legitimizing their views,) but I don’t blame them at all for having that opinion. Bowing and prostrating may be nothing special to one culture, but may be everything to another one. Think about it a second. In a near eastern context, bowing is not a big deal. However, The Christians go all over the world to preach to nations of different cultures who have no remote concept of a biblical notion of G-d. What do these Christians always see the native polytheist populations doing in their services?
Bowing and prostrating before an image, a book, a person, etc. If they ask the polytheist, “hey what is the significance of your prostrating?” Oftentimes the polytheist will just answer “I’m just being introspective.” “Do you believe in a god?” “No not really.”
Oftentimes gentile polytheism has no notion of G-d or a notion of divine intercession through prayer as the Bible defines it. So, when asking the Question, “what is idolatry?” the Christians tend to base their definitions on what they actually see a native polytheist population doing within a given context, and not just based on the principle or category defined by the Bible in the biblical context. Granted, Its not the Jewish way of approaching scripture, but sometimes, their approach makes sense. In other words, a biblical definition is only really effective in an environment where that definition is accepted as true or likely true by the populace you are judging, does that make sense?
Take for example when someone prays at the graves of the patriarchs in Israel.
In a biblical or rabbinic context, there is a proper understanding of what you are doing, v.s. what you are not doing. There is a proper protocol.
However, if you brought in an African Shaman, or a Buddhist monk and showed him a Jew praying at the grave of a patriarch, they would think, “hey, this is what I do at home all the time,” Their frame of reference would be their idolatry, the Jewish person’s actions would be understood through that filter regardless of how a Jew defines what he is doing. That would be all they know. A Buddhist monk for instance doesn’t pray because he has no notion of a deity, unless he is a Mahayana Buddhist. As I said, bowing in one context may carry one meaning, in another, something different. Christian literature and religion factors that in because it is a proselytizing religion with a command to interact with all other nations.
“Most Christians I know just mention Jesus in their prayers with “in Jesus’ name,”
Except they teach their children to begin every prayer with “Dear Jesus”, and Jesus is the only god taught to Christian children these days. I have seen over the last 20 years Jesus replacing God the Father. And even SDAs, some of the most conservative Protestants, are now being taught to pray directly to the holy spirit. When the antitrinitarian movement began in earnest in that denomination, the denominational leadership turned even harder in the direction of the trinity… to the extent of saying “the Catholics got it right on the godhead”. Now, Protestants are following the lead of popular charismatics and adopting whatever it is that will bring people in the door.
Except they teach their children to begin every prayer with “Dear Jesus”, (I never had that happen to me,) and Jesus is the only god taught to Christian children these days. I have seen over the last 20 years Jesus replacing God the Father.
Well, Fred, we both know those aren’t orthodox Christians, that’s for sure, if that’s the case. “Jesus only” is classically defined as heresy in all classic Christian authors/sources. “New prophecy” movements focusing on Charisma ie “praying to the holy ghost” or Pentecostalism are also classically defined as heresy. Protestants who believe in a social trinity with three separate corporeal entities with only a unity of purpose are also not Orthodox in their theology. (ie like Mormons.)
I know that so many Christians have zero knowledge of their own history, doctrine, development, etc. and that all this stuff is inevitable as a result. Its amazing how little emphasis there is on education. Its all song and dance in the Churches these days (quite literally.) Though I’m young, I guess I had a much more old school Christian upbringing. Its weird because I wasn’t raised Trinitarian, though I learned the doctrine. I guess I had a more classical protestant emphasis with exposure to other varieties of Christianity.
I know it must seem odd to some people here on the blog that I’m not very hostile to Christianity, or hostile to Jesus. I’m sure many people think “why does he mention Christianity, or Jesus in a positive light, this is an anti-missionary website!” I think its important to realize that a lot of people who leave the Churches don’t leave because they hate the Nazarene. They leave because the Nazarene’s stated intent doesn’t jive with Christian theology or “spirit filled” devotions. Most people who go to Church notice how hollow the “praises” are. J’s person is adored, but his message is lost. He has every memorial of marble, but few of words and deeds. One minute you are being told to love your neighbor, the next minute, someone is hurling insults at you outside of the Church.
I can tell from reading the Hebrew Bible that a refusal to accept Christian theological notions is not a matter of malice or hard hardheartedness. Its a biblical defense mechanism against corruption, it has a purpose to defend scripture’s mission statement. Be Godly, believe in one G-d.
If any person, be it Moses, Aaron, Miriam, or any Rebbe was given the devotion as deity that Christians give to Jesus, Jews would have to reject them no matter how good their message was. Why? Because the messenger becomes a hollow badge and the message gets trampled by humans who think themselves special.
The scripture says “be careful lest you corrupt yourselves.” A messenger of G-d is not useful intrinsically, but is useful only if a godly message propagates itself from his or her teaching.
You notice often when Christians say “as a Christian,” as if this saying means anything. Just saying that doesn’t mean anything, any more than saying “as a Jew” would mean anything. When Paul says “clothe yourself with Christ” this can only mean be like Jesus with your deeds, not with your hollow words. What does it mean to be like Jesus? Ideally? Follow the ethics first, not theology.
It amazes me that Christians don’t notice clear points being made. Remember when Paul said “by the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified?” let’s unpack that statement a bit. What did it mean?
Paul lives in a time where there are different sects of Jews. Sadducee’s, Pharisees, Torah observant Jewish Jesus followers, etc. What did they all have in common? Observance of The law! They all observed it, in line with their group’s interpretations. However, one group would still say to the other, “hey, you don’t get it, you are not doing it right.” What is being lost in that situation? The content and point of the law despite its observance. The point of it was to unify the Jewish people and enlighten the world. Sinat Hinam (often occurring while debating the law) ended up dividing the people, (defeating the point of the Torah.) With that knowledge in mind, do you see how Paul’s rhetoric against Torah observance changes tone?
I remember where Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 “Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.
See what he’s saying? “Are you Jewish? Stay Jewish! Not Jewish? Stay not Jewish!”
21Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 23You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 24Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.” Remain wherein you were called, serve G-d from that position.
Christians see Torah observance and Oral Torah as terrible because they apply Paul’s rhetoric in dealing with one question ( the question of non Jews and conversion to Judaism,) and then applying it as a general principle. Big mistake. Christians today do this with Jesus too. Believing Jesus is G-d is made a central principle, while his ethics are tread under foot. The point of Jesus is defeated by the over zealousness of his own followers. His message is made useless by devotions.
Personally, I don’t think that Jesus himself should be given a free pass when criticizing Christianity – at least not the person as presented in the New Testament. His own teachings, whether authentic or created out of whole cloth by later church scribes, should be examined and contrasted with the Hebrew Bible.
CR wrote: “Well, Fred, we both know those aren’t orthodox Christians, that’s for sure, if that’s the case. “Jesus only” is classically defined as heresy in all classic Christian authors/sources.”
When I said they teach their kids “Jesus only” I was not speaking of Seballianism/modalism, but the idea that parents do not want to confuse their children with trinitarian conundrums, so they teach them that their relationship with God is with Jesus, and Jesus is the source of all ( as the NT says), the hearer of their prayers and the one they are seeking relationship with. These parents are trinitarians and accept every doctrine of Christian orthodoxy.
But whether modalism, trinitarianism or arianism, they all teach that Jesus is fully divine. Your quotes from the various church fathers do not equate to their overall view of the deity of Jesus, even though they may at the same time say that God is incorporeal.That has always been the contradictory nature of trinitarians. When they say God is incorporeal, they really mean “God the Father, the first person of the trinity” is incorporeal. Jesus and his own deity is not in view when they make these statements ( I speak of pre- U of A teachers). They say that God is incorporeal, but then say the one God is made up of two incorporeal and one corporeal person.
“Personally, I don’t think that Jesus himself should be given a free pass when criticizing Christianity – at least not the person as presented in the New Testament. His own teachings, whether authentic or created out of whole cloth by later church scribes, should be examined and contrasted with the Hebrew Bible.”
I agree. While I believe that Jesus is a “layered” or “evolving” person within the NT, it is difficult to tell exactly where the Orthodox Jewish Jesus stops and the heretical/blasphemous Jesus starts. For example, it is easy to see an Orthodox Jewish Jesus when he says, “Listen to the Pharisees and do as they say, for they sit in Moses’ seat”. But it is more difficult when he himself does not take his own advice but defies, accuses and disrespects the Pharisees on every level.
While I believe that Jesus is a “layered” or “evolving” person within the NT, it is difficult to tell exactly where the Orthodox Jewish Jesus stops and the heretical/blasphemous Jesus starts.
It starts in the same places that it recurs with any other heretical would be messiah since Jesus. The guy dies, that’s one. He ultimately gets deified, that’s 2, (even if it never reaches an ontological identification with G-d, the claimant still becomes superman enough to highlight a conflict of interest to outsiders. It is true that many of these heretical ideas have some embryonic non heretical roots, that are in potential heretical (if understood too literally) within certain aggadah, and even in certain scriptures.
For example, when We have in scripture certain times when an agent (such as Moses or an angel,) bears G-d’s name, or speaks with his authority, (such as in Deuteronomy and Joshua,) it becomes an easy notion to misconstrue. Its never described as an ontological connection to G-d, but the idea of agency can still be very problematic.
Take the notion of the Shaliach, combine it with the notion that a person’s soul can have a spark of holiness, or an intrinsic prophetic connection, and the potential risk already exists to blossom into heresy, especially when some human figures get described in angelic terms. You can call it allegory, but its very hard to keep those things within that context. It doesn’t surprise me that deification occurred with Jesus, because many early Christians (who didn’t worship him,) still viewed him as superman like, and many would be messiahs are given a superman like description. That’s why Maimonides had to address that issue in his epistle to Yemen.
FYI I don’t give Jesus a free pass. Saying “take those who would not have me to be king over them and kill them in front of me” is not something spoken by a rational mind. Calling people pigs and dogs is also not a godly thing. Far from a free pass. I just feel that it is advantageous to be as historically accurate and honest with the sources as we can. I’m not going to give scribes who pioneered replacement theology the satisfaction of granting their premises, especially since I believe there are no grounds to do so.