Saturday, September 22, 2012

Did Jesus Believe Himself To Be God?

What follows is the logical outcome of the scenario if we were to take the prevalent Christian belief concerning the life of Jesus. Do I think Jesus thought he was God? No, I do not. However, most Christians do and they use the Jewish Bible (incorrectly referred to as The Old Testament) as a proof text. Therefore, using the Jewish Bible in contrast to the Christian Bible (again, wrongly referred to as The New Testament), I have set out the argument that in order for Christians to be able to make such a claim for their god then they must misappropriate the Jewish texts.

Within theological scholarship it is a well-known fact and forgone conclusion that Paul, not Jesus (a.k.a. Yeshua), is the author and creator of the religion of Christianity. However, this is not the reason for this posting. I wish to address a few statements that the Christian writers claim Jesus made that, within the context of which he supposedly said, would reveal volumes as to what he thought of himself and of whom he thought himself to actually be. Please keep in mind that throughout this entire writing these are the beliefs of Paul and the early founding Fathers of Christianity and not necessarily those of an Israeli Jew named Jesus.

Before I do this I must contrast it by stating two of the most basic of Jewish teachings as they are found in the foundation of all three major religions that have come from the Middle East: (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). The Torah, the first 5 books of Moses which consist of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, is that foundation stone. If the Torah is rejected then there is no foundation as a Jew, Christian or Muslim because all three stand on this foundation. If one only reads the prophets and writings of the Jewish Bible, or just the Christian Bible and Koran without first knowing and understanding the teachings of the Torah, upon which all three stand, then one is apt to wander off into the desert of fanaticism or unsound understanding of the textual context.

In the Torah we find two statements:

"Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one." (Deuteronomy 6:4)

"God is not a man, as such it is not His nature to lie; nor is He the son of man, therefore, it is not His practice to change His mind: if He said it He will do it; if He spoke it then He will make it so." (Numbers 23:19)

There has been so much already written within Jewish scholarship about the Oneness of God as expressed in the Shema and its true meaning that I need not elaborate here. However, I do wish to comment about the contextual Hebrew meaning of the second statement which can be found in Numbers 23:19. This verse is in the present perfect tense, which means several things: One, Moses is speaking very literally. He states quite matter-of-factly that God is not a man neither is It the son of man. Second, since it is in the present perfect tense it also means that God revealed a great mystery to Moses that up until that time was not known to humankind. Which is this: God is not a man, has never been a man, and will never be a man or son of man. There are then, four things we can conclude from this statement:

1. God is not a human being (a man).

2. God is not the child of a human being (son of man).

3. Human beings (man) have the capacity to lie - God does not.

4. A child of a human being (a son of man) makes it a habit to change his mind and his plans; God does not make this Its practice.

This naturally leads to these conclusions concerning Jesus (a human being, a son of man):

1. Jesus was a man and therefore probably lied at least once in his life.

2. He claimed himself to be the son of man so, more than likely, he went back on his word or plans at least once. The Gospels do indicate that Jesus lied to, or at least misled, his own blood brothers by telling them he wasn't going to Jerusalem and then after they had left he went up anyway by a different route so as to avoid them.

One of the basic tenets of the Christian religion is that Jesus is both fully God and fully man, and that he was so while in human flesh. We know that Paul (as stated earlier, the actual creator of what we know as the Christian religion) made statements to such effect throughout his writings but the question of importance is, did this Christian Jesus believe himself to be God in the flesh? And, as Jews who follow Torah, then we know that if he did, then this will automatically disqualify him as a great man or Messiah and place him in the ranks of liar, a deceiver of the people, breaker of Torah or a fanatical madman.

Jesus, if you believe the Christian interpretation, made it perfectly clear to the listeners of his day that he believed himself to be God. In fact, it was when he started publicly declaring himself to be God that he started losing his credibility with the common people. Up until that time most of his problems arose from the religious and political leadership because they were aware of what he was implying in his parables. But, when he began proclaiming publicly what he was really about and whom he thought himself to be (namely the God of Israel) then even his support among many within the grassroots began slipping away. By the time of his arrest he had but a handful of faithful with him and even most of those fled for their lives or denied their connection to him when questioned.

The following statements made by Jesus (in Hebrew and Aramaic), when taken out of context, don't seem so harmful, but when taken in the context of the times, places and events that surround his words we can see plainly that they were catch-phrases for the Person of God. The people in first century Israel knew exactly what he was saying and realized that this mere human being had stepped far beyond sound teaching and the Law of God as expressed in Torah:

Jesus reportedly said: "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me." (John 14:6)

As Jews and (this includes Muslims as well) we know that only God is The Way, only God is The Truth, and only God is The Life, for all life emanates from God. Therefore, Jesus was (in his human state) declaring that he and he alone is God. This is a direct violation of the very first of the Ten Commandments and a contradiction to God's statement found in Numbers 23:19.

Jesus said: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he die, he shall live." (John 11:25)

Again, in a public setting, the gravesite and shiva three days after the death of an old friend named Lazarus, Jesus states that he, not God, "is the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me (not God), though he die, he shall live." So we see here too, for his Jewish audience, who understood the meaning clearly, he is declaring from his mere human flesh that he is God.

One of the most cryptic statements (in English) but easily understood by his first Century audience was "I and my Father are one." (John 10:30, and throughout the gospels). Most Western mindsets have an unclear idea about what this means. That is why, in Christian writings down through the ages so many different thoughts and ideas have arisen as to what Jesus really meant by it. However, to the Jew it has always been understood. The phrase "I and my Father are one" is a play on the words of the Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4 "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one." Jesus was saying unequivocally that God and he were one and the same person. If it wasn't plain enough, he stated right before this statement that he gives his followers eternal life and they shall never perish. Only God, most Sovereign can give "eternal life" because it is only His to give, for only He possesses eternal life. So, once again Jesus, in his human state, breaks the commandment by declaring that he, a mortal man, is God.

Just two more comments from Jesus about his supposed deity and then I will stop beating this dead horse (no pun intended):

In John Chapter 8 starting in verse 48 Jesus is having a discussion with some folks. Someone in the crowd wise to what Jesus is really saying basically accuses Jesus of lying. They both spar back and forth using the old Jewish idiom of Abraham’s seed and the Deceiver’s seed. Finally out of frustration, Jesus shouts back at them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." (John 8:58) At that point it was all down hill for Jesus. His grassroots following responded by picking up stones to stone him to death. Jesus was able to run and hide away from them. Of course, John embellishes the story and takes poetic license by having Jesus mysteriously pass through the midst of the crowd slipping past them unharmed. Truth be told Jesus ran like hell. The more important point however is this: Here before his faithful, in a heated moment, he blurts out that he is God by identifying himself with the most holy Name. What is the Torah requirement for one who dare do such an abomination? Death by stoning. It would appear that the crowds were certainly far more Law abiding Jews than this blasphemer.

Finally, at the Festival of Lights (also called Chanukah) Jesus is speaking to a crowd saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." (John 8:12)

The lights of Chanukah are related to the Menorah in the Holy Place of the Temple. It is the only source of light in the Holy Place and is representative of God's revelation, God's light (God Himself). In the Temple God's representative presence was found in two places, the HaKodesh and Kodesh HaKodeshim (the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies). In the Holy Place the Menorah was visible to the priests, while in the Holy of Holies the actual Shekinah (God’s manifest presence) was present to no person except the Cohen HaGadol (The High Priest) once a year on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). Why is this important? Because when Jesus took this holiday to say what he said, he was telling all people, and especially the religious leadership that were in power at the time, in no uncertain terms that he is that light that we attribute as coming from God and that he is therefore, God.

None of these implications were lost to the Jews of his day. They eventually even became clear to the Romans too as they began seeing the political threat he posed to Caesar's control of the region so they - not the Jews - had him killed by the Roman law of death called crucifixion. Neither should these implications of Jesus be lost on those of us who are Jews living today some 2000 years later. Jesus, according to Christian doctrine found in the Christian Bible did believe himself to be God. That is why this particular Christian portrayal of Jesus has been, is, and will continue to be sternly rejected by Jews who know the Bible. If we remain faithful to the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who separated the Jewish people out from the nations to be Its beloved son, Its nation of royal priests, Its light to the Gentiles, then we have no choice but to reject the Christian Jesus as a false god and pretender to the Messianic throne of David.

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