Last week we asked several questions in closing:
- The Hebrew Bible states that no one can see God, and yet at times it says that people saw him. Who was it that they saw?
- The Hebrew Bible speaks of God occasionally manifesting himself on the earth, apparently in human form. Yet, as God, he sits enthroned in the highest heavens. How can both of these things be true? [i]
We’ll now go into the second doctrinal statement to answer the question, “Who is Yeshua?”
Yeshua HaMashiach; Jesus is the Messiah; He is eternally pre-existent and is co-equal with G-d the Father, He took on Himself the nature of man through the virgin birth which was to be a sign to Israel of His Messiahship. (Isaiah 7:14-15[ii], Isaiah 9:5-6, John 1:1-14)
The Messiah lived and performed miracles yesterday and lives and performs His miracles today. He lived a sinless life with perfect obedience to the Law. He died at Passover as the Lamb of G-d with an Atoning death for all people. He was buried and rose three days later. He arose from the dead, ascended into heaven to become the eternal Great High Priest interceding for us. He will return for believers, both living and dead, and establish His worldwide rule from Jerusalem (Mathew 20:30-34; John 20; Mark 16:19; John 14:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Zechariah 8:3, 12:10, 13:1, Hebrews 8:1-2, Revelation 20:4)
1st Century Eyewitness Testimony
Matthew testified that Yeshua was born of a virgin by the power of the Ruach HaKodesh (Mat. 1:18-25) and that He was born to be King of the Jews (Mat. 2:1-11). Peter attested to His sinless life and his role as a priest (1 Pet. 2:22-25), that He was a prophet (Acts. 3:22-26), that He is the Son of David (Acts 3:29-31), and that He worked many mighty miracles in the midst of the people (Acts 2:22). John spoke of Yeshua being the eternal “Word [who] became flesh and tabernacled among us” (Jn. 1:14), and how He is the sinless intercessor who atoned for our sins (1 Jn. 2:1-2). But John also said, “No one has ever seen God; but the one and only God, in the Father’s embrace, has made Him known.” (John 1:18) How can this be?
Thomas, when speaking to Yeshua, declared, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn. 20:28), and Stephen, upon pain of death, exclaimed, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:56). Dr. Luke confirmed the virgin birth of Yeshua (Lk. 1:34-35), and quoted the heavenly messenger, Gabriel, saying that Yeshua would be the Son of the Most High, and would eternally reign over the throne of His father, David. (Lk. 1:31-33)
Yeshua’s Personal Testimony
A person’s testimony is only as good as their character, but I think that by rising from the dead, Yeshua has gained a little bit of credibility. ? Under oath before the Living God, Yeshua declared that He was indeed the Son of God (Lk. 22:70, Mk. 14:62) spoken of in Psalm 2, and that he was the Son of Man spoken of in Daniel 7. Previously Yeshua had declared that he was the I AM, who existed before Abraham (Jn. 8:58). Yeshua claimed a unique oneness and intimacy with God (Jn. 10:30) for which he was almost stoned. This was not something that Yeshua learned later in life, but rather He knew it His entire life (Lk. 2:49). But was this the first time that God had had manifested himself on the earth, in human form?
Divine Appearances in the Hebrew Scriptures
Last time we talked about Adonai appearing to Moses in the burning bush, and how Adonai spoke with Abraham and Sarah for an afternoon. But are the other times when the Living God came down to Earth? How about [Gen. 11:5-9]? Or what about the time when Jacob’s name was changed to Israel? [Gen. 32:25-33] Jacob wrestles with a man, who he then calls God. If this was just a vision, then how was he limping afterward?
We know that Adonai appeared to the Children of Israel in a pillar of cloud and fire, but what about the Angel that was to lead them? [Ex. 23:20-22] Here we have several things that are said of this angel that are usually only in God’s domain such as forgiveness of sin and speaking with the full authority of Adonai. Adonai said to Moses that, “My name is in Him.” What does that mean? How is the fullness of Adonai in someone? Does this remind us of Paul’s letter to the Colossians? (Col. 2:9)
What about the time when the commander of Adonai’s army demanded that Joshua worship him by taking off his sandals? (Josh. 5:13-15) Or how about the time that the angel of Adonai spoke with Manoah’s wife, and she went back and told her husband that a Man of God had spoken to her? (Jud. 13:3, 6, 16-23) Manoah declares, “We will surely die, for we have seen God.” Yet the Angel of Adonai had told Manoah to offer up a sacrifice to Adonai. Was Adonai in two places at once?
And what about every time that the prophets saw Adonai? If “no one has ever seen God” (Jn. 1:18) and we “saw no form” of Adonai at Sinai, then who did Isaiah see? (Isa. 6:1) Or how did Adonai “reach out His hand and touch [Jeremiah’s] mouth”? (Jer. 1:9) Or what about the one who had the “appearance of a man” but sat upon the throne of Adonai in (Eze. 1:26)?
Appearance of Adonai in Jewish Tradition
There are several Jewish traditions that provide incite into the very nature of Yeshua. These sources do not state that Yeshua is the Son of God, but rather ask the question of how Adonai has revealed Himself in physical form throughout history.
The concept of the Shekhina was developed by the Sages, the Jewish Scholars from just prior to Yeshua’s time. It is not a word that is found in Scripture but is a concept that refers to the glory cloud that lead Beni Yisrael through the wilderness and filled the Tabernacle and later the Temple. The question is how does the infinite God, who sits enthroned in heaven in unapproachable light, come down to earth and fill the Temple? Several different Jewish scholars including “R. Saadia Gaon, Maimonides, and even R. Judah ha-Levi – held the view that the Shekhina, which they identified with the Divine Glory, ‘is a form superior to the angels, mighty in its creation, radiant with majesty and light, and it is called “the glory of the Lord”’”[iii] One of the ways that the Sages explained the Shekhina is similar to the way that the Apostles explained the nature of Yeshua.
“To what could the Tent [or Temple] be likened? To a cave situated next to the sea. The sea was turbulent and flooded the cave; the cave was filled (with water), yet the se was in no way diminished. So too, was the Tent filled with the Shekhina. The splendour of the Shekhina is the same as the Shekhina, just as the water that flooded the cave is identical with the water of the sea.”[iv]
This is the same as when the Apostle Paul wrote to the congregation in Colossae, “For all the fullness of Deity lives bodily in Him, and in Him you have been filled to fullness.” (Col. 2:9-10a) Or when John wrote, “We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14b)
The concept of the Logos or “the Word” was fully developed prior to the time of Yeshua as well. Philo, a Jewish scholar who was a contemporary of Yeshua and lived down in Alexandria, spoke of the Logos more than fourteen hundred times.[v] He called the Logos “the second god” and states that “God” in who’s name Adam was created in Gen. 1:27 is actually the Logos, which the rational part of the soul resembles. It is impossible (according to Philo) to think of anything earthly being a direct image of God himself …[and] Philo also calls the Logos “mediator.[vi] The Jewish Targums, which were Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew Scriptures in the time of Yeshua, use the concept of the Logos, or Memra in Aramaic, extensively. Every time that Adonai would interact with the physical world, the Targums would instead insert “the Memra of Adonai”. For instance, when Jacob stated in (Gen. 28:20-21), “If God be with me…., then the Lord will be my God” the Targums stated, “If the Word of the Lord will be with me …. Then the Word of the Lord will be my God.” There are scores of examples like this, and these Targums were the Scriptures that were read in every Synagogue during the time of Yeshua.
This is why John writes in (Jn 1:1-5), “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through Him, and apart from Him nothing was made that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.” John was not coming up with a new concept to explain who Yeshua was, but rather demonstrating, that Yeshua was the Word of Adonai, who “became flesh” (John 1:14).
Dr. Brown rightly points out that, “It is one thing for Scripture to say that people ‘saw God’ and another thing to say that they “saw the glory of God.” The Bible makes a clear distinction. The problem arises when the Bible explicitly says that people saw God and the traditional translators and commentators tell us something different.”[vii]
The subject of who Yeshua (Jesus) is a massive topic. And again, I feel as though I have only scratched the surface. There are so many other passages that I had to skip over, and so many other stories and discussions that I ignored. John writes it this way, “This is the disciple who is an eyewitness of these things and wrote these things. We know that his testimony is true. There are also many other things that Yeshua did. If all of them were to be written one by one, I suppose that not even the world itself will have room for the books being written!” (John 21:24-25)
[i] Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 2, Michael L. Brown, pg. 12.
[ii] All Scripture quotations are taken from the Tree of Life (TLV) version unless otherwise noted.
[iii] The Sages Their Concepts and Beliefs, Ephraim E. Urbach, pg. 40.
[iv] Ibid, Urbach, pg. 46.
[v] Ibid, Brown, pg. 22.
[vi] One God, One Lord, Larry W. Hurtado, pg. 45, as quoted by Brown.
[vii] Ibid, Brown, pg. 31.