Wrapping Hashivenu and Answering Judah Gabriel

Today I am traveling home from the Hashivenu Forum in L.A. It has been an intense experience, both in terms of the theological papers and discussion on the one hand and the late night conversation on the other.

I am encouraged to see the depth and quality of our small movement. Scholars and leaders of outstanding ability are being followed by a promising young generation of thinkers and leaders. As many as are here at Hashivenu, there are at least as many more who could be here (I say that based on attending for five years in a row and seeing those who come some years and not others). That tells me our movement is well equipped with leaders, doers, and thinkers.

In the brief time I have to write this morning, I want to cover two things: (1) an inadequate summary of Carl Kinbar’s excellent paper reflecting on the Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) Midrash and the place of Messianic Judaism between the worlds of Christianity and Judaism and (2) answering a strong objection posted by blogger Judah Gabriel to one of Mark Kinzer’s ideas.

Carl Kinbar’s “Israel, Interpretation, and the Knowledge of God”
Rabbi Carl Kinbar is the first Messianic Jewish leader I am aware of getting a doctorate focused on rabbinic literature (anyone know someone else?). It is vital, of course, that we have more as MJ progresses.

Kinbar’s paper does many things — explaining the essence of midrash, exploring the type of thought found in it, and more. But what I most appreciate is his discussion of the Messianic Jewish way of thinking about Bible, Torah, halakha, and theology. We are a community in tension between Judaism and Christianity, what Mark Kinzer calls “dialectic ecclesial continuity.”

There is an irony to our position in relation to Judaism and Christianity. Although we identify with Judaism and the Jewish people, we find more acceptance within Christianity. Synagogues often eject us when we seek to be part of the Torah learning process from within. Churches, in spite of red flags about our Torah observance and in spite of their supersessionist assumptions, are less likely to eject us.

Torah learning is the lifestyle inculcated in Jewish tradition. It is a communal thing. Reading Rashi at home is great, but engaging study together, of Torah, Talmud, midrash, and so on, is vital. This internal learning is part of being with klal Yisrael.

Yet, in many cases, we are limited to external engagement, not allowed inside. MJ in many cases is going to have to develop Torah learning within our own circles, not being allowed to join the larger community.

This means we are going to have to develop our own internal Torah learning, fostering a culture of learning alongside the rest of Judaism, while not giving up on joining the larger community when possible. The sad reality is intolerance and the people who usually eject us are not the educated leaders and rabbis, but board members reacting out of ignorance and fear of boundaries being blurred.

It will be harder to sort of go it alone, but we have to build up our Torah learning culture in spite of the difficulties.

Answering Judah Gabriel
Over at the Kineti l’Tziyon blog, Judah Gabriel picked up on my summary of Mark Kinzer’s paper and he objected to one line in particular that I wrote: “If MJ is never credited as a Judaism, but is always regarded as avodah zara [idolatry], then we will likely fade away in time.”

Gabriel reacts as follows:

Kinzer is saying if Messianic Judaism is never credited as an authentic Judaism by the mainstream Jewish world, the Messianic movement will perish. To put it another way, our survival depends on approval of Jewish religious leadership.

You can read his full response to me here.

Gabriel’s stance is that MJ should not desire to be recognized by the wider Jewish community as a Judaism.

What are the underlying assumptions? That Jews who do not follow Yeshua have no legitimacy before God? That Klal Yisrael does not matter? That the Messianic movement replaces Israel?

It matters that MJ finds acceptance by Christianity and Judaism. Our identity is wrapped up completely in one community, the Jewish people, and we are in relationship with the other, Christianity, for mutual blessing.

What will happen in MJ continues to be rejected as idolatry? We will never be part of the internal life of Israel, always pushed out to the margins. We will find it hard as a small movement to keep going generation to generation. Our movement is insular already, in need of broader engagement. We will likely dissipate in a few generations.

Gabriel objects that God would not let this happen. He already has let it happen in past history, as Jewish followers of Yeshua fizzled out by the sixth century. Arguments that we don’t need to think about such things but simply trust in God are insufficient. The work of God and people are both important.

But if we do gain wider acceptance in Judaism, what will happen? We will be able to engage internally as part of Klal Yisrael. We will be known not as heretics, but by our love, by our goodness, and by our fervor for Yeshua.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Christian, Judaism, Mark Kinzer, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

59 Responses to Wrapping Hashivenu and Answering Judah Gabriel

  1. judahgabriel says:

    Hi Derek,

    Thanks for answering. My stance is, it’d be a great thing to be recognized in the Jewish world. It’s a noble goal. But, unless we compromise on Yeshua, it’s an unachievable goal.

    I have said for a very long time, the diving line between Messianics and the mainstream Jewish world is Yeshua-as-Lord. Everything else is a smokescreen. As long as Yeshua is Lord, the Jewish world will not accept us. Barring some supernatural event, the Jewish religious leaders will always look at us with disdain.

    Bottom line: To say our very survival depends on the Jewish world accepting us is misguided, and a poor choice of priority for the Messianic movement.

  2. “But if we do gain wider acceptance in Judaism, what will happen? We will be able to engage internally as part of Klal Yisrael. We will be known not as heretics, but by our love, by our goodness, and by our fervor for Yeshua.”

    Indeed. It makes me think that it’s indeed possible for Jewish followers of Messiah to eventualy REGAIN some measure of acceptance of many Jews (certainly not all) just by being faithful Jews who love G-d and fellow Jews. I think that it will happen eventually, just is it will happen that all Israel will embrace Yeshua as Messiah. It will only be a compromise if we deny Yeshua as divine Messiah. Let us remove the many stumbling blocks that have been put up for our people coming to their Messiah.

    “Every day they (Jewish followers of Messiah) continued to meet together in the TEMPLE COURTS (i.e. they continued to live as devout Jews). They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and ENJOYING THE FAVOR OF ALL THE PEOPLE. (of ALL, i.e. apparently even those Jews who did not follow Yeshua appreciated the fruit of the followers of Messiah.)” (Acts 2:46-47)

    Did the first Jewish disciples compromise too to gain this favor of “ALL people”?

  3. yeze says:

    I concur with Judah that it’s a noble goal.

    But if Yeshua didn’t gain acceptance within Judaism, how can we?

    Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.


  4. daviddom says:

    “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”

    That should not be taken as a dictim, decreeing a perpetual status quo.

    Nothing is too hard for God. MJs don’t need to compromise; they need to concentrate on proclaiming truth.

  5. Let’s not overlook the second part of Yeshua’s statement:

    “If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”

    Sure, some within Israel will persecute us, but some will also embrace both us and what we stand for.

  6. I love how happy people are to hop on the Kinzer-bashing bandwagon based on a second-hand paraphrase of a twenty page paper they’ve yet to read. It’s utterly impressive.

    • judahgabriel says:

      I did no such thing. I’m not interested in mud-slinging, and if you followed the comments to that post, you’d know I stood up for UMJC, MJTI, and the leadership there.

      I am concerned about a statement reportedly made at the Hashivenu forum, as reported by Derek Leman. I challenged that statement.

      If it turns out Kinzer didn’t say that, or didn’t mean that, I’ll be happy to hop the Kinzer-love wagon. Fair enough for you? :-)

    • judahgabriel says:

      Also, for the record, I will be blogging the results when we read Kinzer’s paper first-hand. I am hoping my concern is unfounded.

  7. Joseph says:

    (formerly Yeze):

    If X = X, it doesn’t matter how Y perceives it, as X is defined by Truth.

    If X = X only if Y thinks X = X, then X is defined by Y.

    X here is Messianic Judaism and Y is rabbinical Judaism.

    Is X defined by Y or Truth?

    • bography says:

      is it possible within Judaism to separate the written Torah from the oral Torah? If not, then you can have “Messianic Jew” (ethnic Jews who believe in Yeghsua/Jesus) but not Messianic Judaism. As for Gentiles becoming Messianic “Jews”, this, I find, even more problematic.

  8. Pingback: Scattered Thoughts « Just Jewish.

  9. Joseph:

    No one said X = X only if Y so perceives it. Please read again. When you make points that misrepresent what someone has said, you are not being helpful. I said that MJ will find it difficult to survive as an insular little movement without being able, long term, to participate in broader Judaism. This is a sociological issue, not a theological one. As was abundantly clear, our christology is very high and not compromised in the slightest in order to make acceptance by broader Judaism easier.


  10. Joseph says:

    Hi Derek, I’m reading it as I perceived it, not misrepresenting anyone!

    I’m not saying I’m right or wrong, just trying to understand the comment.

    I said that MJ will find it difficult to survive as an insular little movement without being able, long term, to participate in broader Judaism.

    How do you see this working out – e.g. do you want the Rabbinic Council of America to renounce its rejection of Messianic Judaism and become more inclusive?

    I’d wholly back you on this.

  11. Joseph:

    There will not be a formal move like the one you describe, or at least not likely. But we pray for a change in which Messianic Jews are welcomed into Torah learning environments and not asked to leave. We pray for the increased acceptance of the idea that worshipping Yeshua is not avodah zara. Already there has been much progress in this area. One experience that is growing is acceptance by rabbis but rejection by synagogue board members. Often laypeople are a generation behind their leaders in assimilating new ideas.

    While we wait for the ability to live and move more readily in broader Jewish communal life, we will work on building our own internal Torah learning environments. They are inadequate at present and much improvement is needed. But if engagement with Torah is always and only internal for our community, if we cannot participate beyond our narrow community, then in a generation or two we may find that MJ is gone. It happened before, around the fifth or sixth century.


    • Joseph says:

      One experience that is growing is acceptance by rabbis but rejection by synagogue board members. Often laypeople are a generation behind their leaders in assimilating new ideas.

      Yeh I feel sorry for rabbis who genuinely like Messianic Jews, but are constrained by the politics of the wider Jewish world, which as we saw in Tropper-gate is a massive, horrendous thing. There’s a lot of social pressure for establishment figures to reject Messianic Jews.

      Saying that, a rabbi I knew once wanted me to talk to his students to prove that Messianic Jews don’t actually have horns on their heads and a red pointy tail. I never got the chance, but it would have been interesting.

  12. seismicshock says:

    Derek, you might like this:

    Click to access khm-jewish-denominations-and-sects-iii-4r.pdf

    Some articles perhaps relevant to this discussion.

  13. mlkmeister says:

    Until Messianic Judaism goes back to the roots of Judaism and deals with the Jewish
    rejection of Yeshua,which centers around deity of Yeshua,it will continue to be a
    fringe group within Christianity.To be part of the Jewish community a complete
    separation from the Christian community is necessary.I don’t see that happening anytime soon.The MJ movement will continue to add Jewish trappings to a faith that has been grounded in non-Jewish doctrine since Emperor Constantine.You can put kosher meat into a non-kosher dish.It still makes the dish treif(non-kosher).

  14. “complete separation from the Christian community is necessary”

    mlkmeister, can you further define your statement above? How complete of a separation are you advocating? Also, do you believe in Mosaic Torah observance for Gentiles?

    • mlkmeister says:

      Without a complete separation we will always be looked at as a denomination
      of Christianity,not Judaism. A gentile has 2 choices;either he/She can follow the Noahide Laws or make a complete conversion(Orthodox).

      • Would you also advocate that Gentiles leave Christianity, or are you OK with them being there (just that they should also follow the “Noahide Laws”)? Do you consider Gentile Christians your brothers or pagans?

  15. mlkmeister:

    You are saying that as long as Messianic Jews believe in the deity of Yeshua, there is no hope of our ability to integrate communally in Jewish settings. It appears your call, then, is for us to abandon our belief in the deity of Yeshua. Further, it seems you claim the idea of Yeshua’s divinity is “Gentile” and “not kosher.”

    Well, we laid out our reasons for believing Yeshua’s deity (see yesterday’s post). You have not given any reasons other than your opinion that the idea of a divine Messiah is unkosher and Gentile. I’m sorry, but you’ll need more than that.

    You did not engage at all with the evidence we presented about the immanence of God requiring some kind of mediating forms. In Jewish literature this has manifested in many theories about the Shekhinah, the angel of Hashem, the Kavod, the dibur, the memra, the sefirot, and so on. None of these are “unkosher, Gentile” ideas. If Yeshua claimed to be the dibur, and I think he did, then you will have to engage that argument, not simply denounce it as goyish.

    So, come back and try again if you’d like — unless you find that you didn’t really know what you were talking about to begin with but were simply stating an uninformed opinion.

    Derek Leman

  16. mlkmeister says:

    I know you are an avid reader.You need to pick up a copy of Barrie A.Wilson’s
    book “How Jesus Became Christian” .To ignore church history including the
    authenticity of many of the Apolstolic Writings is to continue to follow
    many untruths..Throwing around many Jewish concepts in literature does not hide the fact of centuries of misinformation regarding the writing of the NT writings,which are finally coming to light.Because of the access and technology,today,
    there are things available now that were not available 20 years ago.
    I believe Yeshua is Moshiach and will be coming back.I do not believe He is YHVH.
    I believe also there were two major groups followers of Yeshua.One was Torah-observant and the other was not.The non-torah group followed the Apostle Paul.
    Their”message” and religion eventually won the battle.With no Torah to follow and an easy way to obtain membership ,it was a slam dunk for many of Paul’s major followers(mostly gentiles) to accept Jesus as the “Christ”.

  17. mlkmeister says:

    Gene Shlomovich :Would you also advocate that Gentiles leave Christianity, or are you OK with them being there (just that they should also follow the “Noahide Laws”)? Do you consider Gentile Christians your brothers or pagans?

    There are many Gentiles who remain in Christianity and have a different mindset(They are non-trinitarian or what is called uni-tarian/mono-theistic)
    I may disagree with some of their beliefs,but from where I sit,at least they have Yeshua’s identity right !
    Any Gentile christian is my brother,as long as we can civily agree to disagree.When name calling is instituted by them ,they obviously don’t want to be my brother,and I would be a masochist to continue to endure their slander,anger and vitriol. It is said”Let Us Reason Together”Not beat us up.There are many out there who share my views,but remain in hiding for fear of being ostracised and called names such as heretic.I am not ashamed of my Messiah Yeshua and His teachings,I am ashamed of the marginalization Yeshua’s views have received versus Paul.

  18. mlkmeister:

    You still have not really said anything except to recommend one book (I guess you are saying the book will make your argument for you).

    You use a common style of argument, rejecting any evidence I suggest by saying I am “throwing around many Jewish concepts.” This implies that I do not really understand these concepts but that you do understand them. It’s not really an argument, but a veiled insult (as if you are saying, “don’t toy with ideas too complex for you”).

    I only bother to specify your argument in this way to demonstrate that you have said nothing of substance, other than to point to a book which will allegedly clear up everything. A top 1000 reviewer on amazon bashes the book pretty thoroughly, giving it the award for most historical blunders per page.

    We do find out from your comments that in order to follow Yeshua the way you propose, we will need to reject Paul as an apostle. So we cannot point to 1 Cor 8:5-6 or Phil 2:5-11. I suppose we can’t use Hebrews 1:1-3 either (maybe you will either say it is Pauline or of the school of Paul).

    I’d guess we need to discard the Fourth Gospel and Revelation as well.

    How far do we need to go to present an apostolic canon which is devoid of references to Yeshua’s divinity?

    Hmm, even the synoptics might be a problem. I was just reading in Mark 9 about how Yeshua said this kind of demon comes out only by prayer. Only he doesn’t pray when he casts out the demon. I was just thinking this might be part of Mark’s messianic secret theme, in which he reveals Yeshua’s secret identity through coded signs. Who can command demons that only come out through prayer?

    To summarize: it looks from your comment as though you reject the deity of Yeshua in spite of the teaching of the New Testament. You do so by rejecting any part of the canon which declares his deity. Then you ask us to consider Barrie Wilson’s conspiracy theory. And all this we should do because the idea of a divine messiah is Gentile (in spite of the fact that divine mediaries show up all over Jewish literature in many periods).

    Derek Leman

  19. judahgabriel says:

    When you look at Judaism and say, “we must integrate, and be accepted, or perish”, the temptation to deny or minimize Yeshua is exceedingly great.

    MLKMeister denies the deity of Yeshua, and even though he likely has no association with MJTI, his view is the end result of this “legit Judiasm or die” idea: we must become a pure Judaism, which inevitably means compromising on Yeshua.

    That is one reason I believe this “become a legit Judaism or die” stance is a harmful idea, and is why I’ve challenged it.

  20. judahgabriel says:

    So, MLK, what you believe is that:

    -Jesus is divine, but isn’t God.
    -The Scriptures that say Jesus is God are not inspired, or not authentic.

    Is that a fair summary?

  21. mlkmeister says:

    Someone apparently took down my last post with an article ‘Divinity vs. Deity’ .
    hmmmm……… Yes there is divinity in Yeshua,that does NOT make him the Father (YHVH). I consider the Tenach inspired.From Genesis to Malachi. The Apostolic Writings are important to be studied and read but have too many problems and several agendas which go contrary to Yeshua’s teachings.I consider it midrash.
    Too many mis-translations and rewritings to call it “scripture”.

    • judahgabriel says:


      Hooray! Clarity over agreement. I’m glad we understand each other.

      The reason I reject your “New Testament isn’t Scripture” view is because it is self-defeating. If the NT isn’t reliable, then you can’t reliably say that Yeshua is even divine. After all, those parts about Yeshua being divine may also be mistranslated and redacted. From there, you’re not too far from saying what some Orthodox Jews and atheists say: that the historical figure Jesus Christ never existed at all.

      I described this problem here.

      • bography says:

        “you’re not too far from saying what some Orthodox Jews…say” should read “you’re not too far from saying what MOST Orthodox Jews..say.”

        When it comes to the Jesus of history, Torah Jews, in general, have less historical sense than Muslims. Although the latter deny that Jesus died on a cross, the former even deny that there even existed a Jesus to NOT die (speaking as a Muslim) on a cross. Which makes me very —–!

        The less the historia, the more the hysteria.

  22. mlkmeister:

    I did remove your comment as it was a long essay arguing for your christology.

    Who said Yeshua was the Father? If that is your objection then please read the post, “The Nicene Creed and MJ.” I make a rather big deal that Nicaea and those of us at Hashivenu are not saying Yeshua is the Father (or the Ein Sof, as it were). Yeshua is the radiance of the Father, emanating from him and carrying out his work in the world.

    Derek Leman

    • bography says:


      when you speak of Yeshua as “the radiance of the Father, emanating from him,” you might be understood to mean that Yeshua is generated (is born, is derived) from the Father, which I’m sure you don’t mean. Jesus is the radiance of GOD (DEITY, the GODHEAD) seems more appropriate. What do you think?

      He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3)
      For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form (Collosians 2:9)

  23. mlkmeister:

    When you use historical critical scholarship to narrow the canon and call parts of it illegitimate (and the comment of yours I deleted did reference Bart Ehrman as a great authority on the matter), you shoot yourself.

    The exact same critiques apply to the Torah and the Hebrew Bible as a whole. You can’t pick and choose your evidence. If historical critical difficulties delegitimize the New Testament in part or whole, the Hebrew Bible has even more problems.

    Derek Leman

  24. mlkmeister says:

    “Yeshua is the radiance of the Father, emanating from him and
    carrying out his work in the world “.
    Carry out the Father’s work does not make Yeshua equal to G-D.Being the Shaliach
    to YHVH(the Father) makes Yeshua the most important Tzzaddik
    Derek,I am not denieing Yeshua’s messiahship or his imminent return.I cannot see
    worshipping Yeshua as deity, as anything less than idolatry.
    Why can one not see clearly that before Paul was on the scene there was very little
    talk about a human/G-D messiah?
    I have been in the MJ movement for 24 years before this paradignm shift that
    has changed my views.
    If the MJ movement is going to be a primarily Jewish movement it is going to have to take a serious look at “jewish” concerns and ideas,such as deity,kabbalah and moshiach. The UMJC,Hashivenu and the MJTI can lead this awakening or remain
    closed to be buried in Christian ideas which still tend to influence what we are as a movement today,in spite of efforts to sprinkle “yiddishkeit”,to appear more jewish.
    a look

    • bography says:


      You say:

      “Why can one not see clearly that before Paul was on the scene there was very little talk about a human/G-D messiah?

      MLK, what do you make of these verses in John’s Gospel?

      John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, andthe Word was with God, and the word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made…1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1).

      John 10:30-33 – Jesus answered them, “I and My Father are one.” Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”

  25. mlkmeister:

    Thanks, but we are not making the paradigm change with you. Characterizing what we are doing as sprinkling Yiddishkeit is nothing more than an insult disguised as an argument. As I have said, and you have not responded with a cogent argument, Jewish sources are open to a divine messiah and to emanations from God.

    OTOH, it is not Jewish to reject the sacred text because of historical critical scholarship and then to do so selectively so as to keep the parts you want and jettison the ones that don’t. If that were a Jewish trait, the Torah would have been thrown out long ago due to its repetitions, internal contradictions, and so on, as anyone who reads historical critical commentaries is aware of.

    Finally, we prefer to keep Paul in our canon. Thus, statements like 1 Cor 8:6 will remain in our belief and practice:

    “…for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

    Amen. I rejoice with Paul that through Yeshua are all things (Creation, being, existence).

    Derek Leman

  26. mlkmeister:

    Also, it seems you keep the synoptic gospels and the Fourth Gospel. You have a lot to deal with there as well if you want to reject Yeshua’s equality with the Father. You did not answer how Yeshua can cast out demons by his command which can only come out by prayer (Mark 9). You have not explained the numerous references in the Fourth Gospel and Revelation to Yeshua’s deity.

    Just what part of the New Testament do you accept as sacred?

    Derek Leman

  27. mlkmeister:

    One thing I forgot to mention: Paul’s letters are the earliest writings in the New Testament. He died c. 65 C.E. Thessalonians and Galatians are especially early. If there was little talk of Yeshua’s deity before Paul, it might be because Paul’s letters are the earliest documents we have from the New Testament (James is also thought early). So, please tell me what documents earlier than Paul reflect Yeshua faith minus the deity.

    Your whole argument evaporates it seems to me. But tell me if I am wrong.

    Derek Leman

  28. mlkmeister says:

    The book of James comes to mind.Are you aware there were opposing factions who followed Yeshua? Do you think Paul who never met Yeshua in the flesh can be so high as a follower,where James,Yeshua’s half-brother is minimalized?
    Where is there a valid test on Paul’s claims ?Are we testing Paul’s word’s with more NT or with Yeshua’s teachings and Torah?

  29. mlkmeister:

    The James vs. Paul idea is at least as old as F.C. Bauer in the 1800’s. It has been mostly passed up in New Testament scholarship. There is a New Perspective on Paul now. I think you would enjoy academic study through a university and to see what scholarship is saying about Paul now. Reading books without some academic supervision is usually not as helpful as having open-minded professors guiding you and to be able to bounce ideas off of. I hope you will consider it. I might even suggest some coursework at MJTI (mjti.com). But if not, a local university is good. No need to go to a Christian seminary for this (though I am not saying they are bad either).

    Derek Leman

  30. warland52 says:

    mlkmeister you wrote: Are we testing Paul’s word’s with more NT or with Yeshua’s teachings…

    Seems like a circular argument ..where do we find “Yeshua’s teachings” other than the NT? If you are saying yeshua’s teaching as found only in the “NT edited by the new paradigm”, then then this is just a circular argument. Why should we accept this edited NT and the authority of these new editors?

    By the way, plain old historical orthodox Christianity never said Jesus is the Father. They are two different “persons” who both totally share the one Divine Nature/Essence. That of course raises questions itself. All christological heresies have in common the (understandable) desire to explain the relationship of yeshua-father-spirit such that there are no unanswered questions.


  31. masmid says:

    Trinitarian Christianity believes that Jesus is God in the flesh, both fully God and fully man at the same time. The Pauline Epistle to the Colossians (2:9) states, “For in Him (Jesus) all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” This is a representative and rather lucid proof-text commonly cited by Trinitarians in favor of their belief in Jesus as God-Man. If Jesus and God were of the same essence, than how can Jesus possibly cry out as he is being crucified “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” If Jesus and God are of the same essence and nature, than how can it be that Jesus directly states that only YHVH (not “The Son”) can know of the Day and Hour unknown to all others, including Jesus himself(Mark 13:32). If there are clear ontological differences between Jesus and God, than how can they be of the same essence? If two beings are ontologically different, than they do not share the same essence or nature. This is a simple fact that cannot be debated. While HaShem does endow humans with some degree of divinity, humans are not the same as God. While we may say that a moral and righteous individual is godly and is like the One whose precepts and ways are imitated in their everyday lives, he is certianly not God. Yeshua, I believe, happened to be the godliest individual who ever lived on earth, and as such, He is our Rebbe, the one whose teachings and example we seek to follow in our everyday walk with God and one another, and I also believe he fulfilled the prophetic criteria as far as the character and identity of the Messiah are concerned.

    This is precisely how the Early Believers in Yeshua, who were not at variance with the mainstream Jewish community, viewed their Messiah. Jews never claimed anywhere that the Messiah would be God. The Messiah would be God’s agent in the world, who would advance His will, which is a quality that all humans share to one extent or another. We are all made in God’s image, as God’s children, endowed with a spark of Divinity, and are granted the ability to either choose good or evil. Judaism does recognize that there are tzaddikim, who are fully human and not of the same essence as God, but who nonetheless, are able to elevate their humanity to a level of service to the Almighty,and are endowed with the ability to align their wills completely with God’s will. As a result of their character, these individuals are able to serve as intermediaries between heaven and earth, similar to the Church’s belief on saints. Jews believe that the Moshiach will be a tzaddik, but obviously not all tzaddikim can be Moshiach, for the simple reason that only one tzaddik can be the Messiah, by the will of God. These tzaddikim are indeed saintly and holy individuals, and are godly in their conduct and disposition, but are still not of the same essence as the One God. It is obvious that the first (Jewish) followers of Yeshua viewed their Messiah as a Rebbe and a tzaddik, one called and chosen by God to fulfill a prophetic mission in the here-and-now of drawing people closer to God, Torah, and Tikkun Olam, but who would return when God so chose as Melech in the End Days to ultimately preside over the Heavenly Kingdom on earth. They sought to live out and follow the religion OF Yeshua, and in turn, lived their lives in accordance with the precepts of Yeshua, as His talmidim/students. There was no preoccupation with these fine theological points until the Paul movement and the subsequent gentile ecclesiastical authorites and competing schools chose to create conflicts that previously never existed, in order to energize their political bases. God sees who the tzaddikim are, and those who comport their lives as perfectly as they can in accordance with the will of God are endowed with spiritual and intermediary power. Yeshua, however, was the tzaddik of tzaddikim, the Melech HaMoshiach, and the one whose mesiras nefesh brings atonement. However, he is my Rebbe. He was the only perfect tzaddik whoas a result, is none other than Adam Kadmon, God’s son and “right hand man.” I do not pray to him, but I pray to the One he came and showed us how to pray to and serve.

  32. masmid:

    That’s an interesting explanation, but why should we believe it? You simply state your view as if either we should give up our theology and accept yours based on your authority or as if you said something persuasive in your long comment. Neither is the case.

    Here’s my point: when you are discussing ideas with people you know will disagree, why not use language that is a little more humble and persuasive? Why not say, this is what I think and this is why I think it? Instead you use phrases like Judaism says this and Judaism says that. Actually, Judaism says a lot of different things, many contradictory, since there are many opinions and schools of thought.

    You may actually have something to contribute, but no one wants to listen to someone who speaks on self-appointed authority.

    Derek Leman

    • mlkmeister says:

      “You may actually have something to contribute, but no one wants to listen to someone who speaks on self-appointed authority.”
      Aren’t you accusing Masmid of the same thing I am accusing Paul of?(self-appointed authority)

  33. mlkmeister says:

    I never said Yeshua was the father.I was explaining that I see YHVH(the Father) as the one I pray to.I see HIM and HIM only as G-D.Yeshua I see as Tzaddik and The Messiah.
    The record of Yeshua’s teachings can be found in the NT.That does not mean I must swallow ALL the NT as the insired word of G-D.
    By the way…one of the founding fathers of our country agrees with me.Have you heard of the “Jefferson Bible”All it is are the sayings of Yeshua’ Nothing else.

  34. amiel4messiah says:

    Shabbat Shalom everyone. Isaiah 9:5-7 comes to mind: wonderful counselor, might G-d, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace…

  35. mlkmeister:

    You misunderstood Todd. He did not think you said Yeshua was the Father. He was pointing out to you that the Church differentiates between Yeshua and the Father as well and that there is nothing unique about your stand on Yeshua not being the Father. The Nicene Creed teaches that Yeshua is without beginning or end, equal in being to the Father, subordinate to the Father, radiating from the Father. In kabbalistic terms, Yeshua is the sum of the sefirot, but is not the Ein Sof. This is traditional church doctrine.

    No, Paul was not like Masmid. Masmid came on to a blog post upholding the deity of the Son and made some arguments against my post which are presented not as his beliefs and not in persuasive tone, but as final truth which we should accept on his authority. Paul, OTOH, wrote letters to congregations which already accepted his authority as an apostle answering their questions and addressing their issues. If Paul were to comment on my blog, I would accept his correction gladly. :-)

    Derek Leman

  36. christian4moses says:


    Admittedly Im not greatly familiar with Kabbalah, but here are some questions I have:

    If the sefirot are the modes and stages through which God (the Father) manifests himself, and Yeshua (the Son) is the sum of these emanations, how is he equal in being/substance to the Father? Furthermore, how does the Holy Spirit function in this framework, is it one of the sefirot or also the sum? And if only one of the sefirot how it is equal to the Son? If the sum, whats the difference between it and the Son? Im wondering whether this line of thought, of Yeshua being the sum of emanations of the Father does not lead to some form of Modalism because the sum of the sefirot seems to be close to saying none other than the Ein Sof itself.

  37. christian4moses:

    First, I admit that I am not learned in kabbalah. My field is Hebrew Bible.

    Second, if I understand the idea of sefirot correctly and if it is analogous to the idea of the Glory in Hebrew Bible (or Shekhinah in rabbinic lit), then the sefirot are really the nature of God manifested in forms gradually less intense so that they can be in the world. The lower forms can be seen by people and the people will not die. The higher forms increase in transcendence and the lower forms increase in immanence.

    It is like the glory all the people could see in Leviticus 9, the higher glory only Moses could see, the yet higher glory (the backside of God) Moses could see only while hiding behind a rock, and the higher glory which forced Moses out of the tent (Exod 40), and so on. There are higher and lower forms of the Kavod. In much of the literature, these emanations (or the Shekhinah) act with their own personality (angel of the Lord is another example, or Metatron). Thus, they share God’s nature as equals but are separate in other ways.

    As for the Holy Spirit, I believe as well that the Spirit is personal and divine. I have a good friend who does not (he thinks the Spirit is God’s Spirit like we have spirits and it is not separate from the Father). If the Spirit is on earth (as scripture says he is) then he must be an immanent form and not a fully transcendent form. The Ein Sof/Sefirot analogy would also work for Father and Spirit (that is, to show equality and distinction).

    My understanding of the Spirit is that he joins us to the Son and that the Son is the source of our existence and brings us to the Father and that the Father wills all and oversees all. I think the Eastern churches have some great understanding of this (look up perichoresis on wikipedia). The Father, Son, and Spirit had mutual indwelling fellowship from eternity past and differentiation is the way God made us as well (man/woman, individual/community, Jew/Gentile) all for mutual blessing.

    Derek Leman

  38. warland52 says:

    My ouwn “catholic” reaction here is that Derek’s analogies from jewish mysticism are useful and beneficial exactly to the extent he interprets them in a way compatible with orthodox christology- which as far as I can tell that is exactly what he has done. That is useful to me as a Catholic. It would surely be useful to jewish believers. That may not be his motivatio or his criteria (he doesn’t answer to me or the Catholic Church or any other historical Christian stream),but I do think that is the result of his speculations so far.

    Christian4moses- whether this could be understood as modalism ultimtately depends on intrepretation of what Derek means by his words. Quite frankly, it may be that the best that can be done is to simply say: “No when I say those words I don’t mean to assert the idea of modalism”. That is not a just a way of fudging the issue. Part of the reason is that human language is insufficient to describe the workings of the “inner life” of God. Thus, language regarding the Trinity will always be an “outside description” and appear to have contradictions (we have finite minds and language with finite limitations describing the infinite). So also langauge describing the mystery of God via the Jewish tradition will have some of the same problems. So the langauge has limits (at some point) to its precision and will yield varying interpretations and understanding. That is why you can attempt to reconcile jewish mystical language with christian understandings of the Trinity – the language is necessarily elastic. It may be offensive to normative Jewish tradition (or to some Christians as well)- it isn’t to me.

    So we have Derek (and others) trying to describe the “trinity” without using the historical theological terms, but compatible with historical christian understandings. Another attempt to do this from a completely different perpsective was by Frank Sheed in “Theolgoy and Sanity”. He tried to do it largely using ordinary language and not resorting to terms like “hypostatic union”. He was amazingly successful. I highly recommend this book – it might be useful to Derek and his friends as it goes to foundational concepts. I also recommend the audio series “the mystery of the trinity” by Benedict Groeschel on http://www.ewtn.com. These are both Catholic sources but I think Derek and his friends could agree with most of the ideas in them and would find them useful.


  39. warland52 says:

    oops typo- that was “Theology and Sanity” by Frank Sheed.


  40. masmid says:


    I never said anybody has to accept what I say as gospel truth. I could care less whether or not you think I am being persuasive; you are obviously entrenched in what people here call “Orthodox Christian” theology. Your mind is obviously made up, since you seem unwilling to consider arguments or beliefs that do not conform to what you were taught to believe in the Church. No matter how much you and your comrades in the Messianic movement may wish to believe that Rabbinic Judaism has textual support for the Christian notion of the Messiah as God-Man, this is not the case.

    While the Torah does often provide anthropomorphic allegories in its description of the Eibeshter, and while we do have the Shiur Komah, these texts are not literal; they are allegories which provide humans with tangible, direct means and mechanisms by which we can understand and relate to God. Saadia Gaon, in his Emunot ve Deot, explains that there are 10 anthropomorphisms most commonly used in Scripture to refer to different attributes of God (such as hand, heart, face and lip, referring, respectively and logically, to power, insight, favor, and instruction). Yehuda HaLevi, the author of the Sefer HaKuzari, explains the matter even further, and I think that his explanation is very germane to this discussion, as he utilizes reason and exegesis in his magnum opus against the errors of Islam, Christianity, and other perceived paganisms. He explains that the Shiur Komah texts should not convey to the reader somehow that God can be limited to physical dimensions, but rather, the stupendous dimensions used to describe God within this text serve to fill the soul with a sense of awe of God’s greatness and majesty. Thus, attempting to employ classic Jewish philosophy in the defense of Christian/Messianic God-Man doctrine not only reflects a lackof understanding and appreciation for these texts, but is also evocative of the failed disputations of the medieval era, in which apostates and ecclesiastical leaders attempted to convince Jews to accept Christian theology on the basis of their understanding of Jewish texts.

  41. masmid:

    Maybe you misunderstand the purpose of the discussion on this blog. It is not to have people come on and argue. It is to discuss. Please read the Ethics of Discussion page (see tabs at top of blog home page). The fact is, you come here to get publicity for your eccentric views. I have no doubt that your views get very little interest anywhere else. So, if you have a blog, please post them there.

    You would, of course, be perfectly fine sharing your theories as part of a conversation and without being preachy, obnoxious, and above all criticism. But being that you are immune to correction, that you can pick and choose when people should believe skeptical scholarship and when they should be uncritical in accepting traditional views, we’re not interested.

    I’m through letting you publicize your views in such a way on my blog. Good luck with your own blog.

    Derek Leman

  42. Everyone:

    Please don’t think that I wish to exclude people who do not adhere to ideas like the Trinity or deity of Messiah. There are some, I don’t want to call them out, who do not accept these ideas and who have shared in the comments. I’d be fine with them giving some reasons and books and authors as long as they are part of the conversation. I’m just saying, I do not limit my blog comments area to people who mirror my own views. But I do expect some give and take, humility, and desire for conversation — not preaching.

    Derek Leman

  43. masmid says:


    What do you make of the above-cited Jewish texts on anthropomorphism?

  44. masmid:

    Saadiah Gaon was reacting the criticisms of the Karaites who poked fun at rabbinic anthropomorphisms (such as God wearing tefillin). His reaction was, IMO, an over-reaction. He turned to the philosophical God, absolutely transcendent.

    Mysticism increased and could be seen as a reaction to the sterile, philosophical God of Saadiah and Maimonides. Ideas like the sefirot are a reclaiming of the immanence of God.

    This is all in Mark Kinzer’s full paper, BTW. It will be available in a few weeks on Hashivenu.org

    Derek Leman

  45. masmid says:

    Saadia Gaon wrote in the way he did about anthropomorphism not necessarily solely out of polemical purposes, but out of a logic consistent with the exegetical themes seen in the Targumim. Logically, would anyone think that God actually has a face, heart, mouths, lips, and hands, like the Italian Renaissance paintings showing God as an old man with a beard and a staff? God is a spirit and transcendentsl Force not confined by the limits of the physical realm (God is of the spiritual realm). Therefore, logically, one cannot claim that God has actual body parts, as God does not possess a body. Saadia is using logic that I think all rational people would agree with; these Biblical uses are allegorical, and “convey certain sublime and exalted ideas” on the nature of God and His dealings with His children, as one can relate to the mouth as the source of instruction, and the hand as the source of rebuke, and so on (Emunos ve Deos II:3). Does anyone here actually think that God has a mouth like we do, or hands that we do? Or does the interpretation of Saadia seem logical and consistent with a belief that God is not a man with a person’s body? I think this is logic at work, not necessarily polemics or attacks against Christianity.

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