Messianic Jewish Debate: Is Jesus God?

“When I share the gospel with someone in Israel they often ask, ‘Can you prove that Jesus is God?’”

By David Lazarus | | Topics: Messianic Jewish Theology
Young religious Jews being taught in yeshiva in Jerusalem. Photo: Flash90

“Does the Bible specify that Jesus is God?” “What verse can I use to explain?”

This question came up during an online debate among Israeli Messianic Jewish believers over the hot button issue, “Is Jesus God?”

For Jews, who for thousands of years in their daily prayers have recited “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One,” the concept of a trinity is foreign and anathema. “How can a man, even Jesus, be God? This goes  against everything the Jewish people and faith in one God represents?” they say.

Most Messianic Jews in Israel adhere to the conservative Christian belief in the trinity. Anything less than saying “Jesus is God” is considered grounds for excommunication in many Messianic Jewish congregations in Israel.

One Messianic Jewish leader wading into the debate pointed to Hebrews 1:8 as evidence that Jesus is God:

“To the Son He says, Your throne O God is forever.”

However, Messianic Jews who are looking for a position on the divine nature of Messiah that is more recognizable to Jewish people note that the sentence “Jesus is God” is immediately and correctly misunderstood by Jewish people to mean that God is a man. One Messianic believer reminded everyone of what Jesus asked Peter in Matthew 16: “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” For this individual, no more explanation was necessary: “If Simon Peter’s answer was good enough for Jesus, then it is good enough for me,” he said.

Other Israeli Messianic Jewish believers pointed to the fact that “the word trinity cannot be found in Scripture.”

One response from Dr. Halvor Ronning, Co-founder and Co-director of the Jerusalem Center for Bible Translators, grabbed attention.

“When one exalts one’s own mental powers, as rationalist theologians tend to do, you have only two alternatives: 1. Jesus is God and is not fully man; 2. Jesus is man, and divine son, but not God. Looks to me like the Bible requires a humbler view of the value of our intellects. The Bible does not suppose that we ‘understand’ Him, but that we are challenged to respect and trust and adore Him.

“We are praying that the narrow rationalism of extreme conservative theologies and their boxes of intellectually-manageable ideas will not bring down our colleagues in ministry. We are praying that they will return to a humble biblical adoration of God’s identity and His ways as Creator and Redeemer and Sanctifier – without getting hung up on the fact that the later word ‘trinity’ does not occur in the Bible.”

I was reminded of the answer God gave to Moses when he asked Him “Who shall I say sent me? What is your name?” God responded with, “I am who I am.” God defines Himself. He chooses to reveal to us what we can know. It is a mistake to think we can define God or squeeze the Almighty to fit in our manmade categories. We end up worshipping our own image of Him who cannot and will not be described.

Perhaps a better question might be “Who am I to Him? To the One who has redeemed me with the blood of His son?”


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11 responses to “Messianic Jewish Debate: Is Jesus God?”

  1. Disciple 1978 says:

    You’ve also got to reconcile messianic Jewishness with Shiloh, Immanuel, Morning star, Lion of Judah, the Son of David and other messianic titles that are relevant to Jews but are largely ignored by Christians. The richness of the messianic title is lost on Christians but the Jewish mind is not content until it has reconciled every aspect of Messiah’s identity.
    God has a plurality of image “Let US make man in our image” Gen 1:26, and as we were made in God’s image it is reasonable that God can be a Father, a Son and a unique Spirit all at the same time. A man who is a father never stops being someone’s son, and he has his own unique personality that makes him different from every other man.
    Jesus made clear that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and bears witness of the Son, Jn 15:26. He made clear that He was the fulfilment of the Sh’ma when He stated that He and the Father were one, perhaps echad. “I and the Father are one.” Jn 10:30. So Yeshua and HaShem are One.

  2. Robert's World says:

    Dr. Halvor Ronning had a great response; worth following!

    Another interesting note is about the “Shema” of Deuteronomy6:4; the word for “One” is “echad”, the same word describing Adam and Eve coming together in Genesis 2:24. There is some kind mystery about the “oneness” of God.

  3. Gershon Nerel says:

    The Lord Yeshua is the Son of God, NOT ‘God the Son’.
    The wrong invention about ‘God the Son’ is NOT biblical.
    The Lord Yeshua is NOT the “eternal twin brother” of the Father. Before the creation of the universe the Father beget/created the Son from the Father Himself.
    The Lord Yeshua could NOT have had human DNA which automatically is sinful and mortal.

    • Disciple 1978 says:

      Adam’s DNA wasn’t initially sinful, he made it sinful by his disobedience and rebellion. After making Adam the only perfect DNA He had left was Himself. Jesus came as a last Adam, 1 Cor 15:45. Again born with perfect DNA but He not only never sinned, Heb 4:15, He also glorified the Father in everything He said and did. Thus, as last Adam He undid all that was lost by first Adam. This made Him the Redeemer for mankind, first the Jew then the Greek, Rom 1:16. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, 2 Cor 5:19. God was manifest in the flesh, 1 Tim 3:16.

  4. Gershon Nerel says:

    While the Father who is in heaven does NOT pray to the Son, and the Father is NOT dependent on the Son in any way – it is just the opposite – the Father did give the Son the divine ability to create the world, to atone and to forgive sins.
    Only pagan mythology mixes humanity and divinity together.
    The confusing and misleading slogan/dogma is: ‘the Messiah is 100% God and 100% Man’.
    Messianic Jewish Yeshua-believers must freely shape their Christological understanding – sovereignly independent of the historic churches.
    The 16th century Reformation did NOT revisit the doctrines/dogmas of the Hellenistic Church Fathers.

  5. Masami Cobley says:

    The scripture for Jesus as God in the OT seems Psalm 110:1, in which King David who was also a prophet saw: ‘The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” This “lord”, Jesus, was in heaven with the LORD God, which seems sufficient to believe that He is God. Also, Isaiah 63:10 reads, ‘Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit.’ So, even in the OT three Gods in heaven were described.

  6. Taylor Sealy says:

    Yeshua/Jesus certainly wasn’t the entirety of God, but a part of God. I imagine that God can exist simultaneously in each of his created realms without a problem, the spiritual and the physical. Gershon Norel, above, says that Lord Yeshua could not have had human DNA which he says is automatically sinful and mortal. Flesh is mortal, as I believe it was designed to be, but I would say not inherently sinful or evil. God says in the Bible that his physical creation is good and we now know that it is incredibly complex with only the surface appearance of simplicity. I think it is important to remember why God had to come to earth in limited physical form. God gave the earth to humans, and Adam and Eve, in their free will, gave legal control of it to Satan. God was able to get back legal control of earth by becoming, in part, a human being with limited awareness and understanding.

  7. Elizabeth Turfus says:

    Isn’t it true that the sentence beginning with “Hear of Israel” does not contain the verb IS in Hebrew and that the word ECHAD can also mean FIRST or ALONE or ONLY (one)?
    If so, the sentence could read: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God Alone or First or Only One. That doesn’t need to imply trinitarian belief but doesn’t exclude
    accepting that In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

  8. Jake Wilson says:

    Of course, Yeshua is not God; that’s utter idolatry.

    Arnold Fruchtenbaum seems to be the Aharon of this age who lures his own people into worshipping the Golden Calf of mainstream Christianity, thereby embracing the central doctrine and the abominable idol of Rome Papal (they link the messenger of the covenant to the burning bush, which is utter rubbish).

    Btw., the Hebrew of Heb 1:8, found in Sebastian Münster’s version from 1557, reads translated thus:

    “Behold, mighty one: your throne is everlasting.”

  9. psalm100al says:

    Exodus 3/14 corresponds with Mark. 61-62. Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? (not Mary)
    62. And Jesus said, I am:
    1 John. 5/7-13
    For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. Ref. Revelation. 19/11-13. And he was clothed with a venture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. (Jesus Christ)
    9. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.
    10. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself (and we do) he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.
    11. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son
    12. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not theSon of God hath not life.
    God bless you all.

  10. David Shishkoff says:

    To my human way of thinking, the Messiah has to be more than a “son” in today’s familial sense.

    Why? I am not willing to sacrifice my son*. If I want to sacrifice, I will sacrifice my own life. Therefore, in my human reasoning, the Messiah must be God more than my son is “me” for the Messiah’s sacrifice to be God sacrificing Himself.

    “And they shall look upon Me, whom they have pierced…” (Zechariah 12:10 acc to the basic likely plain sense translation)

    *(For that reason I also do not actively encourage my sons to serve in a combat role in the IDF. If they want to, I support them.)

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