Number 72. The Divinity of Yeshua our Lord in Biblical Context
Joseph Shulam


The problem of understanding the relationship of God and the Messiah has plagued the Christian world since the second century. And, I personally have suffered greatly as a result of controversy around this subject. I have been accused by some leaders in the Christian community of not believing that Yeshua is divine. However, all my believing life, since September 2nd 1962, I have always believed in the divinity of Yeshua, Son of God, and my Lord. I have always wanted to understand the Biblical truths that are in the New Testament from the Jewish point of view in the first century. It is apparent to me that a lot of the arguments in Christianity about the Trinity and Deity and Divinity are artificial. They started from a period when the Church had to fight against heresy that was coming up as a result of political aspirations in the context of the Church and the Roman Empire. The Church councils hold no authority with me, both as a Jew and as a follower of Yeshua. The only authority for me is the whole Bible as it was seen, to the best of my knowledge, in the context of the first century A. D. I do not feel any obligation to Christian tradition. As for the Jewish tradition, which includes the Rabbibnical sources, I also feel no obligation as an authoritative source from God. However, I do feel that if it was a question of choice between two traditions, I would choose my own (Jewish) tradition every time.

Some hermeneutic and exegetical principles which have guided me through my study and understanding of the Word of God:

a. The clear statements of God's word take precedence over passages which are hard to understand, or passages which require extensive manipulation to explain.

b. The teaching of the majority of the passages takes precedence over teachings reported in some obscure passages.

c. The position of the Torah takes precedence over the latter teachings.

d. The narrative flow of passages in the New Testament is more revealing than human explanations of what these passages would mean within the Christian world and traditions.

Here are some excerpts from a statement of Faith that I wrote for myself on October 24th 1988:

2. Yeshua is the Son of God, eternally begotten of the FATHER. (Luke 3:22, Proverbs 30:4, Acts 8:37...)

a. He was borne by Mary who conceived Him from the Holy Spirit.

b. Yeshua was in God before the beginning of the world. (John 8:58, Colossians 1:17, John 1:10). In the course of Christian history a great debate, on the issue of the nature of the Messiah before the creation of the world, has rent the camp. I believe that the Messiah has always been the LORD, and there was never a time in which the concept of God has not included the concept of a messianic saviour for all mankind.

c. Yeshua in His divine nature was not created, and was from eternity a manifestation in the nature and character of the Father. (It should be noted that throughout this document I will use the convention of "LORD" to denote the Hebrew Tetragramaton).

d. Yeshua is One with the "LORD" and equal to Him in character, in Mission, in Nature, in Purpose, in Intention and Authority. This is so because of the Nature of God as the Sender and Yeshua as the "Sent one". There is total equality between the "LORD" and Yeshua and at the same time there is also a hierarchy in that the "LORD" is called "Father", and Yeshua is called "Son". (Please see, John 14:28) The same hierarchy is seen in the fact that Yeshua voluntarily put on flesh. "God is a Spirit" and Yeshua has to be acknowledged as Flesh. (See Philippians 2:6-11, 1 John 4:1-2) This hierarchy is clear from the mission of Yeshua as it is described in John 6:38, "For I came down from Heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the Father who sent me." From the above verse we see that Yeshua and the Father must have a relationship of "Sender" - "Sent", and Yeshua is not both the "sender" and the "sent" at the same time.

e. Even in the Flesh Yeshua retained that special relationship with the "LORD" which made him equal to God (Colossians 2:9). However, that Equality does not in any way change the Oneness of the "LORD", and does not alter the "UNITY" of God. The "ONE LORD" is such a cardinal teaching of the TANAACH and of Judaism that I can not ever see myself teaching or even hinting at any more than one God. The New Testament writers all re-affirm in their writings the "ONE LORD" who is God of both the Jews and the Gentiles. This "ONE LORD" has chosen to reveal Himself to the world through Yeshua "his only begotten son" (Hebrews 1:1). This Son is the picture of his Father, the equal of his Father. The Son is also called the "Word of God" which is God. This passage of Scripture from John 1:1 is to be understood in the light of the Targum which is the agency through which the Father created the whole world, and therefore identified with the Messiah.

f. When all of the above is taken into account it ought to be evident that the Father and the Son and the Spirit of God are all included in the Biblical concept of God. The particular relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit are hard to define at times, and at times their role and function interchange. What the Father does is attributed to the Son, and at times to the Spirit, and all possible combinations are to be found in the Scriptures. The reason for what seems to be "confusion" is embedded in the very nature of the LORD who is "all" in "all":

SOME NOTES

1. The word "Elohim" and its use in the Old Testament: There is a general use of Elohim in reference to God Himself (Exodus 18:11, Psalm 82:6). Both Angels and men are called "Elohim" in special circumstances (Exodus 4:16, Exodus 7:1, Judges 13:22, Psalm 8:5). We see that the word "Elohim can have a rather broad semantic field: that under some circumstances it can refer to men, angels, or tasks which are filled by men of God. That is to say, from a Torah point of view it would not be wrong to call a person to whom the LORD gave His authority, "Elohim"

2. Yeshua is "Elohim" on these bases:

a. Yeshua has the power to forgive sins (Luke 7:47-49, Mark 2:5,7, Luke 5:20-24, John 5:20-26).

b. Yeshua has the power to control powers of nature (Mark 4:35-41).

c. Yeshua can see into people's hearts and know things that have not been known to others (John 4:29).

d. Isaiah alludes to the Messiah, giving him one of His titles "a mighty God" (Isaiah 9:6).

e. Thomas exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28).

f. There are numerous places in the New Testament and in Jewish literature which quote Old Testament passages which in their context refer to God. These passages have a Messianic context and are attributed to Yeshua (Jeremiah 23:5-6, Psalms 45:6, 97:7, 102:25,26, these passages from Psalms being quoted in Hebrews 1).

3. The divinity of the Messiah is attested in Jewish sources:

a. "R. Sh'muel bar Nahmani said in the name of R. Yohanan: "Three are called by the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, and they are: the righteous, the Messiah, and Jerusalem..." (B.Bab.Bath.75b)

b. "What is the name of King Messiah? R. Abba bar Kahana said: 'Lord is his name, for it is written, I will raise unto David a righteous Shoot... In his days Judah shall be saved... And this is the name whereby he shall be called: The Lord our righteousness... In the house of R.Yannai they said: 'Yinnon is his name, for it is written: 'May his name be continued (yinon) as long as the sun' (Psalm 72:17)." Lam.Raba 1:51, p.36, ad Lam. 1:16.

c. "R. Shim'on ben Laqish explained: 'and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the water (Genesis 1:2) - this is the spirit of King Messiah, as it is written, 'And the spirit of the Lord will rest upon him' Isaiah 11:2." Gen.Raba 2:4.

d. In Gen.Raba ch.8, we hear that the Arch-Angels could not distinguish between the original Adam, who was the Messiah, and God himself and they got mixed up and fell down on their faces worshiping the Messiah.

4. The divinity of Yeshua the Messiah is not contradictory to the Oneness of God. A messenger is equal to the sender. A part can be equal to the whole (consider a cup of sea water and the whole ocean). Midrash Mekilta on Exodus 14:31 says: "And they believed in God and Moses His servant."

5. The New Testament teaches that there is One God (Mark 12:32, Romans 3:30, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Galatians 3:20, Ephesians 4:6, 1 Timothy 2:5, James 2:19).

6. Yeshua is never called "our Father" in the New Testament although he is called "Everlasting father" in Isaiah 9:6. In the New Testament, Yeshua always appears beside the Father or with the Father. This does not compromise the dual truth that Yeshua is divine, having the nature, character, mission and capacity of God in every respect, and Yeshua is God manifested in human form. Paul constantly demonstrates this principle (Romans 1:7, 2 Thessalonians 1:1, 2:16, Philemon 1:3).

7. There is both equality and hierarchy between Yeshua and the Father. (John 10:24, 14:28, 1 Corinthians 11:3). The subordination of a faithful messenger has a major part in the role of the Messiah and his Father. In the Book of Revelation Yeshua will finally hand the kingdom back to the Father.

8. There are unique characteristics of God which appear in Yeshua and which make Him equal to God and a part of the very nature of God and man (Phillipians 2:6-11, Hebrews 5:8, Colossians 1:19, 2:9).

9. Therefore, the Scriptures say the following about Yeshua:

a. Yeshua was preexistent to the creation of the world, and in fact took part in this creation as the Word of God. "Before Abraham I was...

b. Yeshua was with then Father before he became man (Philippians 2:6-11).

c. There is no name in heaven or on earth by which men might be saved except that of Yeshua our Lord (Acts 4:12, John 14:6).

d. Yeshua's sacrifice is the only way available from God for the atonement of sins for both Jews and Gentiles.

e. In an indirect way, and through heavy Greek philosophical terms, John 1:1 does allude to Yeshua as the Word of God which is God, indicating that Yeshua is God (Elohim) in a similar sense as this term is used in the Old Testament. 10. The practical applications of this teaching are:

a. We must make it clear to all, by emphasis and teaching that we believe in One God, the only God (Isaiah 45:5-7). This is the Biblical emphasis throughout both Old and New Testament. No other emphasis needs to be imported and anything less than the teaching on the oneness of God will be confusing and disruptive to our witness.

b. We must make it clear through Jewish literature and the prayer book that Yeshua is the Messiah and Son of God, equal in his task and nature to the full will and council of God Himself. This on the basis of "a messenger who is equal to his sender".

c. Let us put Yeshua as our Lord and general over our daily life and keep His commandments in place of a lot of platitudes about our faith and saved status.

d. Let us strive to understand more of God's nature and give attention to the teachings of Yeshua about Himself and His relationship to the Father and the whole Church.

Yeshua is the Divine Son of God and the Lord of my life whom I strive to serve every day in every way because only in Him do I find eternal life now.

(Reprinted from Tishrei Vol 4 No 2, Son of Man/Son of God, Spring 1996)