What are the primary differences theologically between Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and Christianity regarding the Deity of Yeshua Ha'Nazaret.?
This week we continue to delve deeper into each on the categories we discussed at a high level 4 weeks ago.
Before we begin a brief disclaimer - We do not believe everyone has to believe exactly as we do to have a relationship with G-D, and for that relationship to result in that person spending eternity with G-D. We also believe strongly in the promise that Rabbi Sha'ul (Paul) stated that "all Israel will be saved." We do not want to be dogmatic about exactly what that means, as views differ. We also believe scripture clearly teaches that Jews, Christians, and Messianic Jews will make up the Kingdom. As for our Sunday brothers and sisters, whether Protestant or Catholic, many truly love G-D and will inherit the Kingdom.
Theologically, Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and Christianity began on a common road that split into 3 separate paths. One of the key areas involved in this split was the Deity of Yeshua Ha'Nazaret.
In traditional Judaism neither Yeshua nor the Messiah in general is seen as divine (G-d). It is believed that the Messiah will be only a man, like King David, or Moshe (Moses). This is THE KEY POINT OF DISPUTE related to Jewish understanding and willingness to consider Yeshua as the Messiah. While Yeshua's (as claimed by traditional Judaism) failure to bring world-wide peace (see last weeks teaching), is an often claimed point of dispute, in fact it is the claim to Deity that is theologically the main issue.
To a Jew, the idea of there being another G-d goes directly against the Shema ("Hear oh Israel, the L-rd is G-d, the L-rd is one!") stated in the Torah. This is a very important point and has led many Jews to consider Christianity to be idolatrous. Thus even today, when most Jews are willing to concede that Christian belief in the Trinity is not idolatry, many of the most orthodox sects still believe it is. Some ultra orthodox Rabbi's even go so far as to say Christians will not have a place in the world to come due to this supposed belief in three g-ds.
The traditional Christian belief concerning Messiah recognizes Yeshua as G-d. However, there is much confusion on what this means. The concept of the Trinity, while that word itself is not used in Scripture, is implied by several key verses. These verses are not, as some claim, an invention of Rabbi Sha'ul (Paul), but are spread through the Gospels and other books of the Renewed Covenant. We will look into the sections concerning Yeshua's Divine nature in a future article. For now let's concentrate on the popular concept of the Trinity and the misunderstandings that have arisen due to poor teaching on the subject.
The Trinity is often misunderstood by both Moslems and Jews as belief in 3 g-ds. In Islam, it is the Father, Son and Mary who are stated to be the Trinity. Many others, even professing Christians, do not understand the principle. Often the Father is pitted against the Son (from Gnosticism, Marcionism, and other similar beliefs), with the Father portrayed as mean, vengeful and judgmental, while Yeshua is seen as only mercy and grace (one only has to read Revelation to see that this is an incorrect view). This point of view ranges from subtle to blatant depending on the denomination. This separation is a complete distortion and invalidates the Shema (stated above). Yeshua Himself says, "If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me, but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father" (John 10:37-38).
Thus we see by Yeshua's own words that He walks in total oneness with the Father and does not act a separate "god." Yeshua makes a point to tell us to pray to the Father, not to Him. The Emissaries (Apostles) likewise teach us to Pray to the Father, in Yeshua's name. Is praying to Yeshua improper? What we can say for sure is there is no place where we are instructed to!
Messianic Jewish theology varies; some groups are strict Trinitarians, while others do not believe in the Deity of Yeshua. Denying the Deity of Yeshua has many problems, and ignores the fact that He receives Worship, and says that He and the Father are one! Messianics often can fall into the same problems as described above, seemingly making G-d into 3 "gods". Messianics often follow certain Denominational leanings, elevating one part of G-d over the other. For example, those having a Pentecostal leaning may stress the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Breath or Spirit).
So where do we as a congregation fit? We totally agree that Yeshua is G-d, and that the Ruach HaKodesh is G-d. We however strongly deny any hint of 3 "gods." To do otherwise is to violate the Shema which is absolute! So how is it possible Yeshua is both G-d and man? The key is an understanding of the Shechinah - The visible resting place of G-d. The Shechinah is a Chaldee (Babylonian) word used to describe the point where G-d's presence rests on the Earth: specifically, in the Tabernacle and Temple. The ancient Rabbis teach us that the Shechinah (Glory) of G-d departed the Temple before it was destroyed in the 6th century. This view of the Shechinah departing is confirmed in Ezekiel chapter 10. Thus the Shechinah is G-d visible in time and space. This in no way diminishes our G-d and King, who still ruled from His throne in Heaven.
What about the Ruach HaKodesh? The Rabbi's tell us the Ruach had departed Israel in the 5th century thus that is why prophecy ceased. The Rabbi's clearly identify the Rauch as being part of G-d, not a separate god.
We believe that Yeshua is the G-d man. His body was physical, having been born of Miriam (Mary). His Spirit was fully G-d, making Him the Shechinah (the visible resting place of G-d on earth). Part of G-d, fully G-d, but in no way separate or independent of the Father. Likewise the Holy Breath is Part of G-d, fully G-d, but in no way separate or independent of the Father.
In order to convey this in a cohesive manner, without using confusing terms; we teach The Will (Father), Word (Yeshua) and Breath (Holy Breath or Spirit) of G-d. This has the same meaning as the Trinity, but stresses the oneness seen in the Shema - Hear oh Israel, the L-rd is G-d, the L-rd is one.
Next week we will address in detail the other Theological differences.
Shalom - Rabbi Gavri'el