Does the New Testament turn a mere man into God? This is what New Testament critic Rabbi Daniel Asor thinks:
“The Bible rejects pagan idolatry that revolves around human-like gods, men as gods.”
Correct. In the pagan cultures of the East, gurus climb up a religious ladder until they get to the highest step of becoming a god. This is idolatry without a doubt.
But is that what the Bible and the New Testament teach? Of course not! But the rabbis want you to think it is.
According to the OT, God is not human. Rather, God is spirit. However as we’ve already mentioned in another video, God can choose to reveal himself in whatever form he pleases. This is what he did throughout the whole Bible. The NT doesn’t dream up something new. It clarifies what the OT has presented already in its entirety. Namely that God will reveal himself to us in the person of the Messiah.
Rabbi Tovia Singer mocks this idea:
“Whoever thinks that God came down to us, manifested as anything, whether as cottage cheese or Jesus, such a person is going to the eternal fire of hell.”
Let’s put the rabbis aside for a minute, take a deep breath, and with unbiased eyes look at the what the OT itself teaches, what Judaism during the time of the second temple believed, and even what the Sages believed regarding the deity of the Messiah.
Did you know that according to the book of the Zohar and the writings of the Sages, Metatron, described as the prince of the world and power of God, has the characteristics of God himself? He is the highest being in the celestial hierarchy. Just like God himself, he too sits on God’s throne of glory. And on his head he wears the crown through which the universe was created. His attire is God’s light and is called “the little God”. Professor Idel, head of the department in Jewish thought at Hebrew University describes Metatron’s nature and position as “Half man, half God… he fixes the problem of human sin and fulfills humans actual purpose.”
The book of the Zohar continues describing the character and nature of Metatron as one carrying the image of God, representing God to his creation. He’s described as the angel of the covenant, as the son of God. As the small God, as God’s firstborn. As mediator to God. As overseer to the tree of life, as the King’s representative, responsible for the whole creation, and more.
It’s interesting enough, that whoever reads the NT will discover that Jesus the Messiah is defined in the exact same way. But the NT was written a long time before the Zohar and the rest of the Sages’ literature was written.
Even though the Sages did understand that God does reveal himself to humanity, they chose not to recognize Jesus, the God-sent Messiah. And therefore, they made for themselves a substitute for him: Metatron.
The idea that God reveals himself to humanity in the likeness of men is based on the Jewish Scriptures
The OT is full of examples and prophecies that the promised Messiah will be God himself. In his love he’ll reveal himself to us, suffer with and for us. He will die and bring a perfect sacrifice for our sins. We’ve created videos on the topic of the suffering Messiah.
Now we’d like to go through some examples to show that the God of the OT does reveal himself in the likeness of men, coming as the Messiah.Let’s start with Genesis 3.
“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
This means that Adam and Eve are talking to and are physically with God who’s walking in the Garden.
In Genesis 18 we read about Abraham our father.
“And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant.” Genesis 18:1-3
Further into the chapter, in verse 22, the text says explicitly:
“So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD.”
While the angels are leaving God stayed with Abraham.
“YHWH”, the LORD, He is the one who appeared to Abraham.
And Abraham indeed identifies one of the angels as God. For this reason he bows before him and invites him to eat with him. The Talmud acknowledges this too. In the tractate Bava Metzia 76 God himself comes to visit Abraham. Rabbi Steinsaltz interprets the passage:
“He came out and saw the Lord, stand in the entrance. He who said: “Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant.” Let’s continue to read: In verse 13 God, who is eating with Abraham, asks him a question: “The LORD said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh…'”
These verses cannot be understood in a different way: One of the three is identified as God himself. And he promises Abraham to come back in a year after a son has been born to Sarah. Sarah hears that and laughs and God answers her. There is no other way in which this chapter can be understood. Abraham, Sarah and God took part in this dinner and conversation, being physically present.
This chapter is pretty amazing. It states explicitly that Abraham and Sarah met God and spoke with him face to face. God appeared to them in human likeness with dust on his feet and all that.
And after Abraham served him butter and milk and beef for sure some of it got caught in his beard, like it happens to Moti. No doubt, if these verses were written in the NT instead of in the OT the rabbis would mock us and call these verses idolatry. And for sure they would laugh and ask us if God gained weight after the dinner. For these are the typical claims with which the rabbis attack the idea that God revealed himself in Jesus the Messiah when he took on flesh. If God appears to Abraham in flesh and blood for several hours what would stop him from taking on flesh in the person of the Messiah for several years?
Did you ever hear the term “Messiah King”? The prophecy about the Messiah King is found in Jeremiah 23:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)
“Branch” is a common term for the Messiah. Jeremiah prophesies that this branch from the line of David will bring salvation to Israel.
And what will be his name? The LORD our righteousness.
In the OT no one except for God himself is called YHWH, (LORD) but here the Messiah receives the name “the LORD our righteousness”. As opposed to names like Daniel (the LORD is my judge) or Elinadav (My LORD is gracious) here, the explicit name of God is mentioned. Y-H-W-H.
To make sure you can’t accuse us of using a missionary-christian interpretation let’s see how the Sages interpreted this passage.
In the Midrash Proverbs section 19 it says:
“Rav Huna says: the 7 names of the Messiah are Ynon, the Lord our righteousness, Branch, Consoler, David, Shilo and Elijah.”
And in Midrash Lamentations 1 the passage is interpreted:
“What is the name of the Messiah King? Rabbi Abba Bar Kahana says: ‘The Lord’ is his name, and this is what they will call him: ‘The Lord our Righteousness’.”
According to Rabbi Johanan bar Nappaha the Messiah will be called by the name of God.
“Rabbi Johanan said: ‘Those three will be called by God’s name: The righteous ones, the Messiah and Jerusalem… the Messiah, as it is written (Jeremiah 23) and this is the name that they will call him: The Lord our Righteousness.
Minor tractate, Soferim 13, Halakha 12:
“We … God our Lord in Elijah the prophet, your servant and in the kingdom of David your Messiah soon he will come and appear to his sons and on his throne will sit no one else and he will give his glory to no other. Because by your holy name you promised him that his lamp will not be put out forever. ‘In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell securely, and this is the name he will be called: the Lord our Righteousness.’ Blessed be you, o Lord, who raises up a horn of salvation for his people Israel.”
Also here, the Messiah is being identified with “The Lord our Righteousness,” referring to Jeremiah 23.
“When they both confessed their deeds Judah was side by side with Ruben. Since: to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God Judah confessed and therefore inherited the kingdom and from him will come the Messiah that will save Israel as it is written: ‘In his days Judah will be saved.'” (Tzror Hamor, Genesis Vayechi)
The commentator explains that Judah acted rightly since from him the Messiah will come. He bases this on Jeremiah 23, verse 6. In other words, he too sees in this verse a messianic prophecy that predicts that the Messiah will be God.
In ‘Midrash Tehillim’ it says that God calls the Messiah by his name. And what is his name? The answer is “the Lord of Hosts” and the Messiah we will call “and this is the name he will be called: The Lord our righteousness.”
Therefore, the messianic prophecy found in Jeremiah 23 teaches us that the Messiah will be God himself. The Sages themselves understood and taught this passage in the same way.
By the way, some within the Chabad movement claim that Rabbi Schneerson was the King Messiah, God taking on flesh, based on this passage. Let’s continue.
From everlasting, Ancient of Days
This time we look at Micah who prophesied that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem and that his origins are from everlasting.
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” (Micah 5:2)
Rabbi David Kimhi interprets the passage.
“His origins are from old, everlasting. In his time they will say that he is from everlasting… and this is God who is from old, from everlasting.” (RaDaK on Micah 5:2)
This means, that the Messiah always existed.
He is God.
Let’s go to the book of Zechariah. We actually made a video on Zechariah chapter 12.
But in brief, in Zechariah 12 God tells the house of David that one day in the future “they will look upon me, whom they have pierced.”
How can God be pierced? Only if he came to us in flesh and blood.
See how even the Babylonian Talmud connects this passage with the Messiah.
“It is said about the Messiah, Son of Joseph, that he will be killed, as it is written in Zechariah 12: ‘They looked on me, whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as for an only child.'” Tractate Sukkah, ch. 5
Let’s continue, our last example: Daniel.
The Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven
Here, God comes down in the clouds and appears before us as a man. To him the nations bring sacrifices, him they worship.
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14)
The most interesting conclusions about this passage can be drawn from old writings. Scroll 4Q246, one of the Qumran scrolls, found at the Dead Sea, is dated back to the 3rd century BC. Long before Jesus and the NT. In this scroll, the messianic expectations of the Jews of that time are described. Back then, according to the prophecy of Daniel 7 the Messiah was expected to be the son of God. That means, that according to early Judaism the Messiah was God. And those Jews cannot be labeled as “christian missionaries.”
Only God can save
If seen from a philosophical and theological point of view the Messiah has to be God himself. Since it is the Messiah’s main purpose to bring salvation, the OT tells us that God alone can save.
“I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.” Isaiah 43:11
“And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me.” Isaiah 45:21
“But I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior.” Hosea 13:4
Hence, God alone can save. And if salvation is the purpose of the Messiah there is either a contradiction here or the Messiah indeed is God himself, the savior. We could go on and quote endless examples on how God reveals himself to us in the form of a man and especially in the person of the Messiah. These quotes are in the OT but also in the writings of the Sages. But for sure, you’ve already got the idea.
This is not some pagan, idol worshiping concept… it’s not even ‘Christian’.
You’ve got to admit to the idea that (according to God himself) the Creator of the universe loves us so much that he willingly humbled himself and appeared to us as a human, that He lived, suffered and died for us – is simply an amazing thought. It should make us grateful on one hand, and humble us in how we interact with others on the other hand.
If God is perfect and gave his life for us imperfect beings, then how much more should we, imperfect people, be willing to make sacrifices for others?
Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh
“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:58
“I and the father are one.” John 10:30
Also the rest of the NT carries that idea when describing the life of Jesus. Paul, for example, writes in his letter to the Colossians:
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17
“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily…” Colossians 2:9
When it comes to Jesus’ claim that he is God coming in the flesh, there are only two possibilities: It is either true, or a lie.
If he told the truth the prophecies of the OT were fulfilled and God revealed himself to us in the flesh, in the person of the Messiah. And all that we need to do is to receive him and his authority. Or to reject him. If his claim is not true we are confronted with two possibilities.
Either he knew that he was lying, and therefore was a cheater, or he was crazy.
If Jesus was a liar, a selfish and corrupt cheater, how could he pretend to be the most pure and noble character that humanity ever knew from the beginning of his life until the end?
It would be hard to explain his morally profound teachings, the high standards, that he taught and the fact that he always based his words on the law and the prophets. An interesting reaction to all this comes, believe it or not, from the atheists.
John Stuart Mill, a well-known philosopher, admits:
“Jesus’ life and teachings carry a seal of personal authenticity, and give a uniquely deep insight. He stood in the first row next to some of the greatest people that the human race could look up to. His incredible genius is mixed with the virtues of a man who as it seems is the moral ideal and the holiest of all that ever walked on this earth. And therefore, it is not a mistake to see in this man the ideal representative and leader of humanity. Even those who don’t believe in him will have a hard time finding a better way than that of Jesus, a way that will enable to put in practice moral principles from words to actions.” John Stuart Mill
So was Jesus a lunatic thinking that he is God?
A person who thinks that he is God within a Jewish, monotheistic society like the one Jesus was living in, and dares to tell others that their eternal destiny depends on their faith in him? This would be more than a weird fantasy – it would be thoughts of a person who has gone completely insane. But does Jesus’ life and ministry fit into the description of such a person?
The famous Napoleon said:
“I know people. And I tell you that Jesus is not a mere man. Everything about Jesus amazes me. His spirit instills fear in me and his will astonishes me. One cannot compare him to anyone else in this world. He is truly one of a kind. It is impossible to explain his ideas and opinions, the truth that he taught, his ability to convict others… The more I draw closer, the more carefully I examine things. All this is way over my head, it remains something huge, enormous and supernatural. His faith is a revelation whose origin lays in reason whose source is undoubtedly not in men. It is impossible to find anything like his life, apart from him. I searched in history for someone who comes close to Jesus, to no avail. Or something comparable to the Gospel. But neither history, nor humanity, neither seasons nor nature, could offer something that could compare to Jesus. Neither could they explain him. Everything about him is simply extraordinary.”
Also the author of the “Narnia” books, Prof. C.S. Lewis, wrote:
“The historical challenge to explain Jesus’ life, words and influence is exceedingly great. The contradiction between the depth, clarity and sharpness of his moral teaching and between the madness of grandeur that has to be hidden somewhere in his theological teachings. Unless he truly is God, his teaching has not been explained yet satisfactorily.” (C.S. Lewis)
One of the most convincing claims for the deity of Jesus which humanity has faced for 2,000 years now is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
To summarize, the answer you give to the question “who is Jesus?” will be taken very seriously. You cannot put Jesus on the shelf with all the others as if he’s some kind of Guru. There are only three options:
He’s either a liar, crazy or God’s glorious revelation to human kind as written by John:
“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).