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Jesus as Messiah-but-not-God doesn’t work, leads to apostasy

Is it kosher to believe Jesus is the Messiah, but not God?

Messianic Jewish 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 response:


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.


  1. You guys are all wrong about the reason believers discard Yeshua and move into mainstream Judaism.

    Gene, the flame thrower that he is, blaming the Hebrew root teaching when the fact show that the majority of the people who leave MJ and reject Yeshua comes from MJ UMJC and BE style.

    If I was a none-Jew in these places being shunned and treated like second class citizen, not allowed to participate in what they call "Exclusive Jewish rituals," I too will opt to make the switch. If the so-called "Jews" who are supposed to be a light to me and teach me God's Torah are telling me I cannot participate because I am not Jewish, i will tell them, "forget you...." I am Switching to Judaism where I am allowed to do these things.

    They could of course do what Derek did, have a so-called conversion by 3 1/2 rabbis and poof..he is Jewish...

    The Hebrew root movement does not encourage this. Instead of looking into his own closet, Gene, as usual, pits the blame somewhere else, but, then, if he would not do this he would not be Gene, or would he?

  2. If you eat His flesh (a human sacrifice?...) and drink His blood (blood? what a sin!) as said in John 6, than you are definitely the greatest idolater on earth. Or Jesus is THE FINAL MESSIAH and God, although (if you like) a mystery.

  3. Judah:

    Good post. I have not read Gene's post yet. I do believe in being patient with people working out the difficulties of understand that Messiah is divinity having taken on humanity. I don't think we should throw people out or ostracize them if they get tripped up. And the study of theology is of so little interest to so many people, I wonder how many who read your blog and mine even know why the divinity of Messiah is so important.

    I wrote about it in a few places, I have a category about it at the Yeshua in Context blog, and it will feature largely in my upcoming book, Yeshua Our Atonement. Here is one place where I explain the divinity of Messiah and its importance:

  4. Loved this post!! It's the biggest question anyone can answer, and hasn't lost any potency or controversy since Acts. Our community has really worked through this one, being exposed to other viewpoints over the last couple years. Crux, core, essential, linch-pin.

  5. Fantastic statement! The fact that the majority of the important controversies in the early centuries pertained to the issues related to the nature of Yeshua Messiah shows how central/foundational He was & is. The fact that these controversies are reemerging is evidence that the ground is being prepared for His return. Either He is Everything, or, he is nothing!

  6. Judah, I understand the point you're trying to make, but you're attacking a straw man while doing your best to avoid answering the main topic of my post: say a Jewish (as in my example) person believes that Yeshua is Messiah and Redeemer, Son of G-d, that Messiah has G-d's spirit within him, but doesn't accept the position that Jesus=G-d for whatever theological or scriptural reasons - does G-d require one to believe or understand Messiah's exact nature in order to attain salvation through Yeshua?

    So far, the best answers you've come up makes believing Yeshua=G-d, while absolutely essential to proper understanding of who he is and what he has done, not an absolute requirement for salvation. Frankly, I expected something far stronger from you. All of the items below make it seem that you present not believing Jesus=G-d is merely a strong risk factor for something worse to happen down the line (denying Yeshua and leaving th faith), but not the actual outright apostasy or forfeiting of salvation.

    Here are the points you've made:

    1) "From that position, it’s not too far a leap to say Yeshua is optional."
    2) "And once optional, the option to discard Messiah is on the table."
    3) "This woman’s husband has abandoned a central crux of the New Testament and may well be on the path to denying the Yeshua altogether."
    4) "It would not surprise me to see this man reject Yeshua completely within two years."
    5) "Throwing Yeshua’s divinity, which is by all certainty a central crux of the New Testament, is a sign of a deeper problem: a love of Judaism more than a love of Yeshua."
    6) "That person is on the path to leaving the faith, if he hasn’t left it already."

    Do you see my point about your answers?

    Good Shabbos.

    1. It is possible to believe Yeshua is Messiah but not God. Can that person be redeemed by God? Yes.


      Problem is, that view so readily contradicts the thrust of the Scriptures, the people who hold such a belief tend not to hang around long. It's a view that has historically led to apostasy. It's like asking whether a Jew who rejects divine inspiration for the Torah can live as a righteous Jew and be accepted by God: technically in theory, yes. In practice, he's probably none too devoted.

    2. "It is possible to believe Yeshua is Messiah but not God. Can that person be redeemed by God? Yes. "

      Thanks, Judah,very clear.

    3. Not very clear...One can believe anything they want, the final Judgment is God's.

    4. "Clarity over agreement. +1"

      Judah, you seem to be presuming, wrongly, that I don't uphold divinity of Yeshua or somehow view it us unimportant. I ask questions that some religious folks are too fearful to even contemplate, lest they are viewed by their coreligionists as getting out of the proverbial line. But, yes, it's good that we agree on requirements for salvation!

    5. "Not very clear...One can believe anything they want, the final Judgment is God's."

      Don't despair, Dan, someday it will be clear for you too, my friend!

      Have a good Shabbos.

  7. "say a Jewish (as in my example) "

    By which I meant the example of the man in my post, no me personally.

  8. "But, yes, it's good that we agree on requirements for salvation!"

    None of us knows what are the requirements for salvation. Only God knows. We all are doing our best...

    "Don't despair, Dan, someday it will be clear for you too, my friend!"

    See above, and tell me that it is not clear for me......

    1. Oh, Dan- How can you say that we don't know the requirments for salvation? To love God is to obey him. To obey him is to bear good fruit. Repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit, baptism by fire. Love God with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself.Present your faith by your good works. You don't get to "believe whatever you want" and be saved. We do need to eventually understand who Yeshua is was and will be- and everyone goes at their own pace. God will strengthen the faith of those who are sincerely seeking and haven't already made up their minds intellectually.

  9. I wrote my book "Leaving Jesus" to show the reasons that I left Messianic Judaism... it is available at

  10. The Spirit and the Bride say 'Come!'

    Thank you, Judah, for writing on a touchy subject. I had this discussion with a Believer who was massaging the divinity of Yeshua. We cannot massage it. It is plain, as you said, in the gospels and particularly in Revelation (which is only echoing Isaiah and the other prophets).

    Shabbat shalom.

  11. It’s too bad that Isaiah 53 is never read in the Torah readings throughout the year, the rabbi’s have made sure that it is not. However there are other scriptures that deal with the divinity of Messiah’s nature. Here is Isaiah 53 and just a couple of other verses that declare the divinity of His nature:

    Isaiah 53:1 Who believes our report? To whom is the arm of ADONAI revealed? 2 For before him he grew up like a young plant, like a root out of dry ground. He was not well-formed or especially handsome; we saw him, but his appearance did not attract us. 3 People despised and avoided him, a man of pains, well acquainted with illness. Like someone from whom people turn their faces, he was despised; we did not value him.
    4 In fact, it was our diseases he bore, our pains from which he suffered; yet we regarded him as punished, stricken and afflicted by God. 5 But he was wounded because of our crimes, crushed because of our sins; the disciplining that makes us whole fell on him, and by his bruises we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, went astray; we turned, each one, to his own way; yet ADONAI laid on him the guilt of all of us. Or: and in fellowship with him 7 Though mistreated, he was submissive - he did not open his mouth. Like a lamb led to be slaughtered, like a sheep silent before its shearers, he did not open his mouth.
    8 After forcible arrest and sentencing, he was taken away; and none of his generation protested his being cut off from the land of the living for the crimes of my people, who deserved the punishment themselves. 9 He was given a grave among the wicked; in his death he was with a rich man. Although he had done no violence and had said nothing deceptive, 10 yet it pleased ADONAI to crush him with illness, to see if he would present himself as a guilt offering. If he does, he will see his offspring; and he will prolong his days; and at his hand ADONAI's desire will be accomplished.
    11 After this ordeal, he will see satisfaction. "By his knowing [pain and sacrifice], my righteous servant makes many righteous; it is for their sins that he suffers. 12 Therefore I will assign him a share with the great, he will divide the spoil with the mighty, for having exposed himself to death and being counted among the sinners, while actually bearing the sin of many and interceding for the offenders."

    Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

    Micah 5: 2 "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity."


    1. Isaiah 9 is a great argument for Messiah's divine status: Yeshua is called Prince of Peace without any argument. But Mighty God? Eternal Father? This is a point of contention for many people, and as you know well, C.F., the rejection of this Biblical truth has led many into apostasy.

  12. Hi Judah,

    Firstly, by "apostasy," I'm assuming you are referring to when a person leaves faith in Jesus altogether. If that's the case, then the title of this post presents a logical fallacy. It is true that believing Jesus is Messiah but not God COULD lead to apostasy but that isn't always the case. It could just mean that you've embraced the biblical unitarian understanding of God and Jesus. The biblical unitarian perspective is not widely known, so perhaps that's why you didn't consider it in your post. In a nutshell, only the Father is God. Jesus was brought into existence in the womb of his mother and that's why he's the Son of God (cf. Luke 1:35). Check out, which has tons of resources explaining and defending this position. You can also check out the audio studies on my website: (download "Recovering True Monotheism" to start).

    It is true that the Apostolic Scriptures describe Jesus as now seated at the right hand of God with all power and authority given to him, waiting for the day when all will bow before him. But your distinction is a false dilemma. You said believing in Jesus' exalted position means you are either engaging in idolatry or you believe Jesus is God. Actually, there is a third option: God has exalted Jesus (who is fully human) and has authorized His Son to function as His ultimate representative.

    From a biblical unitarian perspective, we affirm everything the Scripture says about Jesus. We don't believe the Scripture teaches that Jesus is God but rather Jesus is God's Son.

    Actually, I think that if the Messianic movement embraced the biblical unitarian perspective, something amazing would happen between us and the wider Jewish world: followers of Jesus would be able to remove a major stumbling block that holds Jewish people back from believing Jesus is Messiah without rejecting any part of Scripture.

    1. At least according to Apostle Paul divinity of Jesus was not the major issue he had to deal with. For some reason Paul never directly deals with this nor do any critics confront him about it. This was either because having a divine Messiah was an acceptable and common belief in first century Judaism or may be because the issue of Messiah's divinity was not formulated in the Greek/Trinitarian way that came after Nicea, that is in a way offensive to Jews. Instead, the reason for Jewish stumbling, per Paul, is the fact that Messiah could be killed/crucified in the first place, instead of coming as triumphant King and liberator of Israel from the Roman oppression.

      "but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" (1 Corinthians 1:23)

    2. Hi Daniel,

      I'm casually familiar with Biblical Unitarian/Monotheist ideas about God and Jesus. Do you guys differ from the Oneness doctrine folks?

      You claim I'm putting out a false dilemma by presenting 2 options, when really there is a 3rd option.

      To recap, the two options I present are:
      -Jesus is God, and we should worship Him. (Opponents are blasphemers.)
      -Jesus is not God, and we should not worship Him. (Opponents are idolaters.)

      You say this is a false dilemma, and that really there is a 3rd option: God has exalted Jesus as God's ultimate representative.

      I tell you that's not a viable third option. Here's why: you will inevitably be presented with a true dilemma: do you, or do you not, worship Jesus? If I understand your position, you're going to say "yes." And by saying yes, and worshiping Messiah, you're worshiping Him as God; worship of any entity besides God (even his ultimate representative!) is idolatry.

    3. Hi Gene. Sorry to say but you're presenting a false dilemma too. You said that Paul didn't have to directly deal with this issue because either believing in a divine Messiah was acceptable or Messiah's divinity wasn't yet formulated in a Greek way. There is a third option: the Apostles believed and taught that Messiah was a highly exalted human being but not divine. Believing that God exalted Jesus to His right hand is controversial and the Apostles dealt with that but I would argue that thinking that Jesus was literally God didn't even enter their minds.

      It is true that the crucifixion of the Messiah was and is a stumbling block to Jewish people but believers have since added additional stumbling blocks. My point is that understanding the Apostolic Scriptures from a biblical unitarian perspective will allow us to remove an unnecessary stumbling block.

    4. Judah,

      The Biblical Unitarian perspective does definitely differ with Oneness theology. Oneness theology holds that God is one person and has manifested Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit whereas the Biblical Unitarian perspective holds that only the Father is God. Jesus is the fully human Son of God who began his existence in Mary. The Holy Spirit is the presence of God the Father but not another person. I would encourage you to look into the Biblical Unitarian perspective. Once I came to grasp what the perspective taught and how it deals with all of the pertinent passages, it was very illuminating, on par with what I experienced when I learned of the validity of the Torah (and all that entails).

      The third option IS viable because it is the one the Scripture presents. Paul said in Philippians that God has highly exalted Jesus and gave him the name above all names, so that everyone will confess Jesus is lord and will bow their knee to him. This worship of Jesus gives glory to God. However, this is not worship of Jesus as if Jesus was God but rather worship of Jesus as our lord, the one God exalted and authorized to receive worship (again, worship as our king).

      I think we all need to seriously take a look at the biblical evidence. I think we’ll notice that the Apostles never confuse Jesus with God and always make a real distinction between the two.

    5. so that everyone will confess Jesus is lord and will bow their knee to him...and worship Jesus as our lord

      Worship of any entity besides God is idolatry. Always has been. Jews and Christians actually agree on this.

      Your opinion is that bowing the knee to Jesus, worshiping Jesus as master is OK, but worshiping Jesus as God is not OK. That's Scriptural acrobatics if I've ever seen it.

      At least it's clear where you stand: you believe it's OK to worship Jesus as master, but not as God. We believe worship is only fit for God, and that worship of any other entity is idolatry.

    6. It is true that worship of any entity besides God is idolatry but if God Himself authorizes worship of the Messiah as lord, then it's not idolatry.

      What you call Scriptural acrobatics, I call harmonizing the Scripture. On the one hand, the Scripture proclaims that God is one single person, the Father (John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6), but also proclaims that Jesus has been exalted to God's right hand and is worthy of our worship as king. So, in order for both to be true, and yet not fall into idolatry, it is best to understand that God is pleased when people bow before His Son, Jesus, since it is all for His own glory anyway.

      Please examine Psalm 110:1, especially in the Hebrew. In that verse, HaShem speaks to David's lord (David calls him "my lord" [adoni]) and tells him to sit at His right hand. This is not God speaking to God but rather God speaking to the Messiah, who is an exalted human being. This is the same distinction the Apostles make all throughout their writings.

    7. "It is true that worship of any entity besides God is idolatry but if God Himself authorizes worship of the Messiah as lord, then it's not idolatry."

      Sure, but that would contradict Scripture and the commandment to worship God alone.

      Likewise, calling Jesus an exalted human being who began his life in Mary's womb contradicts the Scripture where Jesus is called First and Last, and again where John says, "He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."

      And a bigger problem for you yet is how a human's blood can atone for the sin of the whole world. If Messiah is not divine, his sacrifice can't atone for sin.

  13. I feel like we're kind of arguing past the basic point: that God is one person and Jesus is a different person from God. For example, God said "‘I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me" (Isaiah 44:6). The singular pronouns "I" and "Me" mean that God is one person. So, Jesus, who is a second person, is not God. That being said, Jesus is God's Son, the human being who was brought into existence by God, lived a sinless life, died and rose and is now exalted to God's right hand.

    Either those singular personal pronouns for God are inaccurate or God is one person. I believe God is one person, which means I then have to take passages where Jesus is worshipped to be worship as our king, a secondary kind of worship (since it is not worship of him as God).

    Jesus being called the First and the Last doesn't prove anything one way or the other since any title that belongs to God (such as First and Last) can be ascribed to Jesus since Jesus is God's ultimate representative. Jesus is even called HaShem in the Bible, such as in Zechariah when it says HaShem's feet will touch the Mount of Olives.

    With regard to John, your quote is a reference to the Word. In John 1, the Word of God is being personified just as Proverbs 8 personified Wisdom.

    Your last argument is a really head scratcher. What exactly are you basing your argument on? The blood of a human can't atone for the world? What was Jesus then, a non-human? Where does it say in the Bible that only a Messiah who is divine can atone for sin? Furthermore, the Bible clearly says God cannot die in any sense (1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16), so in what way did the divine Messiah die? Even from your own perspective, wouldn't it be the human part of the Messiah that died on the cross?

  14. Hi ya’ll Hebrews: as a gentile I wanna say “Thanks!” because through the Jews Salvation has come to the world! I want to somehow show those who doubt that Jesus is God, through Scripture that Jesus is God. Before presenting Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews, I’d like to say: 1) You have thoughts. Which come out in words. Then you take action, via your spirit, to (sometimes) put your thoughts into action, or they become animated. And they appear on an internet blog. This is like God in the beginning. God Thinks (all good). His Word (Jesus) speaks it into existence (all good). His Spirit animates it. You cannot separate your word from your being, nor can you separate your spirit from yourself. Because you are finite. And not everything you (or I ) think is good. And not everything we make is good, due to our sinful nature. God is not finite, He is infinite (He is Jesus, had to throw that in). He can do what we can not yet understand.

    Hebrews 1: “1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; … 8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. … 10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12 ….

    Hebrews 2: “1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. 2 For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; 3 ... 10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (You know, Jesus fought against His sinless nature, sweating great drops of His sinless blood to resist the temptation to walk-a-way from becoming sin for us. We in contrast resist our sinful nature only to the point where we are uncomfortable, then we give into it. Let‘s be more like our Captain…) …14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; (explains why God/Jesus had to come as a human man: the first human man sinned. Every person born of the male sperm has that nature. Jesus was not born of the male sperm, the chromosome from which makes blood form in a fertilized ovum. Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit...) that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.

    Note also from the book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ that He is seen by John in His many “missions”/”personae” in the very midst of the Throne of God. John doesn’t describe what God looks like. He describes what Jesus--who is God--looks like.


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