Dialoguing About Messiah’s Deity

I met a young man in Israel, though he is from another country. We shared a late night conversation in Jerusalem. It was a planned meeting because we knew each other from our respective blogs.

This young man is a Christian, but recently spent a period of his life living as a Jew. Actually he was part of a movement that confuses the boundary between Jews and non-Jews. He believed for a while that being a follower of Yeshua made him, in essence, a Jew.

This remarkable young man, and I don’t give praise lightly, rapidly grew in knowledge and understanding of Judaism. But he eventually found the lifestyle, of a Christian living as though a Jew, to be a lie. He realized not only that this was not in line with New Testament teaching, but that this was harmful to his spiritual life, since he was not called by God to convert and join with Israel. In short, he was attempting to be what he was not.

He has emerged from this odyssey with several changes. For one thing, he is a devoted fan of the commentary of Rashi, the 11th century French Jewish sage. Though a Christian, he is now a regular reader of intense Jewish commentary on the books of Moses.

Yet he has also emerged with doubts about the deity of Yeshua. In the aftermath of his sojourn in the realms of this Gentile Torah movement, my young friend went through a re-evaluation of his beliefs. He encountered arguments that rocked his childhood faith in the idea that Yeshua is God who became man.

We have been having a dialogue about all this on his blog. And I have been having my tuches handed to me on a platter by some bright and wonderful young thinkers. I will give a link to the discussion at the bottom.

I have learned a few things already from this dialogue. First, I have never really gotten into defending the concept of Yeshua’s deity with intelligent objectors who share my faith in Yeshua as Messiah. And in discussions of Messiah’s deity in the past, I realize I have settled for weak arguments and easy answers.

You see, the faithful talking amongst themselves are all too often willing to be comforted by arguments that would not stand muster when reviewed by an intelligent objector. This is one reason why, after going to a conservative Christian undergraduate school to learn the Bible and Theology, I then went on the Emory University. At Emory, very little of my faith was shared by my “Christian” professors. And I had to learn how to talk about faith with incredibly intelligent people who would challenge virtually every line of everything I wrote.

The second thing I have learned from my dialogue thus far, is that Yeshua really is God who became man. Even though I am far from “winning” the debate, I have begun to see the preponderance of evidence in the New Testament.

I hope to bring some of that dialogue here in a series of short posts (I won’t bore anyone with a long treatise) considering some of the most pertinent observations and interpretations. I hope we will get some dialogue here at Messianic Jewish Musings on this topic as well. All Christian and Jewish viewpoints are welcome here (Muslims, please talk on your own sites). If you do not accept the idea that God would become man, feel free to say so and explain your position. If you are unsure and simply wish to join the discussion, do not be embarrassed to argue a position even if you end up adhering to a different one by the end.

In the meantime, I find that it would be lovely to own a certain volume that is out of print. I wonder if anyone has a copy and would sell it to me at a reasonable price: Murray Harris, Jesus as God. This volume is an exegesis of the theos texts of the New Testament by one of the finest exegetes of the 20th century. Good used editions run about $55 plus shipping.

Help! Anybody have a copy collecting dust on their shelf and want to sell it to me?

Here is where I have been getting bloodied and bruised in a dialogue with some great thinkers:


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christian, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, The Messiah, Theology, Yeshua. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Dialoguing About Messiah’s Deity

  1. Nick Norelli says:

    Would that I could sell you my copy of Harris’ book, but I waited ages to obtain a copy and I can assure you that once I did I was not disappointed! Here’s my story.

    BTW, wasn’t Rashi French?

  2. Christian for Moses says:

    Derek I feel honored by your words, and am thankful for your willingness to participate in the dialogue. Some minor points that need correction:

    You wrote:

    He believed for a while that being a follower of Yeshua made him, in essence, a Jew

    I never entertained this belief and am trying to think of how you may have gotten the impression that I did:S I did however believe, as a non-Jewish believer in Jesus, I was obligated to follow the Torah’s commandments that were specifically for Jews. And this led to the complex of living as a Jew, though not being one:P

    Furthermore, you wrote:

    Yet he has also emerged with doubts about the deity of Yeshua. During his sojourn in the realms of this Gentile Torah movement (often called the One-Law movement), my young friend encountered arguments that rocked his childhood faith in the idea that Yeshua is God who became man.

    I did not encounter these arguments during my period in the One-Law movement, but after that, some 8 months ago.



  3. graspingmashiach says:

    Perhaps you could also address or include ideas pertaining to “the complete lack of unity in Jewish sources about the nature of G-d” and/or proofs that the divinity of Yeshua is not anti-thetical to Judaism as expressed on your previous post “The Israel Journey and Thoughts on MJ” (December 17, 2008). I have yet to see a Trinitarian scholar successfully or convincingly address this.



  4. warland52 says:

    Derek – I don’t own that book. If you have trouble getting, I highly recommend as an alternative what is considered the most recent authoritative scholarship on the matter by Larry Hurtado. Two books – I have read the first one (well 70% done- its massive. I’m already convinced).

    1. Lord Jesus Christ – Devotion to Jesus in earliest Christianity. 2003. Over 500 pages. Great book and shows the “Messiah-Devotion” practices of early Christianity. Shows these practices arose early- nearly immediately- in the “Jewish” church and clearly treated Jesus as divine in some fashion. Remember he is only showing the ” devotional practices”, not per se tracing the evolution of christology. His next book would do that.

    2. How on earth did Jesus become God? By Larry Hurtado again. Once I finish#1, I will read this slimmer volume but it should be the knock out punch. I suppose for your purpose you could skip right to this book and go back to the other one for a deeper dive into the underlying data.


  5. Yochai says:

    I will follow very close this dialogue. I know that everyone could extract very remarkable points from that and I will not lose it. I also know the Christian for Moses blog and like it a lot. Now a day I am having such debate with a christian here in Brazil, he have doubts about Yeshua´s deity. In my particular case, I do believe that Yeshua is Hashem himself.

  6. Nick Norelli says:

    Todd: Lord Jesus Christ is one of my two favorite books. Hurtado is definitely my favorite scholar so I second your recommendation. I just got the other book you mentioned for Christmas and was flipping through it today. The second half is republished essays that Hurtado had published elsewhere (most of which I’ve read), but it’s still well worth the read.

  7. warland52 says:

    Nick – thanks for the quick summary- sounds good. I also recommend “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” by Richard Bauckham. What is it about these Scottish scholars! They’re great!


  8. Nick Norelli says:

    Todd: I got four chapters into Jesus and the Eyewitnesses but haven’t finished it. Have you read any of Bauckham’s other writings? He’s right up there with Hurtado for me. I’d recommend his essay: “Paul’s Christology of Divine Identity”, it’s great! He’s got a new book coming out that I’ve been waiting on for over a year! Eerdmans needs to hurry up and publish the thing already. If you’re ever interested, I did a multi-part review of his book The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple: Narrative, History, and Theology in the Gospel of John. The index is available here.

  9. mchuey says:

    The new book Putting Jesus in His Place is a recommended read, and it has received some valuable reviews across the spectrum.

    Hurtado’s books are both very good. Also a useful read is his article “Lord” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters.

    I read a book a while back that detailed all of the achievements of Scottish ancestry in the world. Basically, if a Jewish person didn’t discover it, a Scot probably did!

    As a member of the Scottish Diaspora, just remember that if it hadn’t been for Scotland, there would have been no Arthur James Balfour, no Balfour Declaration, and hence no Israel.


  10. Nick Norelli says:

    While my other comment awaits moderation I’d also like to point out that Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ is thoroughly excellent in almost every respect. I have also done a multi-part review of that one that can be accessed here.

    Oh, and as far as I know Hurtado is an American who lives and teaches in Scottland. I also think that Bauckham is English (at least he sounds English from his accent) although he lived and taught in Scottland.

  11. Nate says:

    “Yet he has also emerged with doubts about the deity of Yeshua. During his sojourn in the realms of this Gentile Torah movement (often called the One-Law movement), my young friend encountered arguments that rocked his childhood faith in the idea that Yeshua is God who became man.”

    Derek, that’s below the belt, friend, and inaccurate to boot. Besides, the young man involved states it isn’t accurate in his particular case either. I think it warrants removal of the parenthetical mis-statement.

    Who has fought harder for the deity of Yeshua than FFOZ, the quintessential purveyor of “One-Law” thinking? In fact, I know of no one who “officially” represents the One-Law movement that disputes the deity of Yeshua.

    Besides, the over-whelming preponderance of historic church position has been that there is one Law. Note, for example, Article VII of the 39 Articles of Religion:

    “The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet, notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.”

  12. Nate:

    I will consider some rewording, but don’t over-react. I didn’t say anything to the effect that the One-Law movement as a whole rejects Messiah’s deity. The fact is, the broad spectrum of Torah-observant groups that believe in Jesus includes many theological positions. Many groups use the label Messianic Jewish and many identify with One-Law and other movements despite radically divergent theologies.

    Bottom line: I wasn’t implying that One-Law denies Messiah’s deity.


  13. Nate:

    All edited and fixed.


  14. Nate says:

    Thanks, Derek. I really appreciate it. I think the One-Law movement is getting a bad rap these days, and I’m keen to combat that.

    I’ll be the first to admit that among the movement are folks who are off-target, judgmental, etc., but from a theological standpoint I believe the Scriptures are clear that there is One Book, One People and One Law. Wide and varying applications of that Law; so nuanced in fact as to demand grace for any contemplation of pursuing holiness. But as I once heard a devout brother say, “Blameless doesn’t mean perfectly sinless, but perfectly confessed.” and perfectly justified, I would add.

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