Is it kosher to believe Jesus is the Messiah, but not God?
trouble-maker blogger Gene Shlomovich asks the question over at Daily Minyan, relaying a story of a woman who’s troubled by her husband’s belief that Yeshua is Messiah but not God:
You see, my Jewish husband (who is from Israel) believes that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel through whom God redeems and saves, but he refuses to believe that Jesus is God too. My husband is adamant that he will not accept this belief. I don’t know what to do – I don’t want him to be lost.
My younger brother went down this exact path. He has now denied Yeshua and converted to Orthodox Judaism and lives in an Orthodox community in Israel. He now sends me Jews For Judaism material which attempts to persuade listeners to abandon their silly beliefs in Jesus.
Look. The gospels and the epistles and Revelation set Yeshua’s place as divine son of God, glorified, sitting on the throne in Heaven, one with the Father, all power given to Him, all creation bows and worships Him. Any student of Torah will know either that’s idolatry, or Yeshua is God.
Throw away that crux, and there’s very little to keep you following Yeshua. Throw away that central truth of the gospels, and there’s little that can’t be thrown out. From this position, it’s not too far a leap to say Yeshua is optional. And once optional, the option to discard Messiah is on the table. It becomes very attractive to say, “Let’s just be quiet about that Yeshua stuff and join with the greater Jewish world.”
As one Messianic Jewish blogger wrote last year in his final post, “Judaism is more important to me than Yeshua”, announcing he no longer believed Yeshua was God or Messiah, and that he was leaving the faith.
This woman’s husband has abandoned a central crux of the New Testament – the divinity of Yeshua – and may well be on the path to denying Yeshua altogether. It would not surprise me to see this man leave the faith within two years.
Yeshua’s divine status has long been the stumbling block, especially for Jewish people. (Heck, Isaiah prophesied as much, so it shouldn’t be a surprise.)
I wrote back in 2009 that as long as Yeshua is Lord, the Jewish world won’t accept Messianics. The divinity of Yeshua is the ultimate point of tension between Jewish and Christian worlds, and 2012 has seen at least | 3 | books on the topic from both sides. I predict we’ll see an increase in this tension in the next few years, as this modern mending of Jewish-Christian relations continues to grow fruit.
(By the way, I think it’s God at work, it’s a marvelous thing, and I can’t wait to see where this ends up.)
But even today, with the great move God is doing in Jewish-Christian relations, with Christians alone supporting Israel and loving Zion when Zionism has become a dirty word, and on the other side with Jews beginning to ease suspicions of Christians, the stumbling block of Yeshua’s divinity remains.
You see it in R. Shmuley Boteach’s book, Kosher Jesus. In that book, Boteach argues Jesus was a great Jew, and a righteous teacher, a Jewish revolutionary, and all these wonderful things, everything…except divine. Boteach can’t say Jesus was divine, because it would mean that Shmuley would have to, with the rest of creation, bow to Yeshua and worship him. Someday, maybe, but not in Kosher Jesus.
Likewise for the recent books by Jewish scholars like Daniel Boyarin and others – great statements about Yeshua, or even closer, the authentic Jewishness of the idea of a divine Messiah. But today, if a Jewish person says Yeshua is divine, well, they have crossed the line into Christianity. If Jesus is God, you’re a Christian. That’s something both Jews and Christians agree on.
Naturally, some Messianics will try to smooth over that stumbling block. Some of us will find nice ways to say Jesus was something less than what the gospels make him out to be. We’ll “explore” his divinity, we’ll come up with elaborate and mystical ways to muck up the clear statements in the New Testament regarding Yeshua’s identity. We’ll cite respected sages and extra-biblical writings and give lip service to Yeshua as an agent of God, but not God himself. We’ll say he’s Savior, King, Messiah, First, Last…but not God. We’ll intellectualize away the Word Made Flesh, and we’ll study ourselves out of belief in Yeshua as divine Messiah and Son of God. That will happen, but it’s going to be done by people who seek acceptance by men rather than God. A lot of them will realize that you can’t really have 2 Kings, 2 saviors, 2 firsts and lasts, 2 creators, 2 gods. A lot of them will lose faith and take others with them.
Don’t be disturbed by it. God is going to roll over all that junk, and something big and grand will result.
And I think that’s where we Messianics – Messianic Judaism folks, Jewish Christians, and even Hebrew Roots folks – that’s where God is going to use us. I’m excited for what God’s going to do! I’m excited to see how this is all going to play out. It’s already getting interesting, even now, in 2012. And it might be a long ways away, but sooner or later, it’s going to end with Yeshua reigning in Jerusalem, the new city descended from heaven, and its King, Yeshua, shining like the sun.
That’s what I’m looking forward to, friends.
To the Kingdom and its eternal King.
Until then, folks, let’s hold on tight to Yeshua and the commandments, and I think we’ll be alright.