Did Jesus Believe Himself to be HaShem?
What follows is the logical outcome of the scenario if we were to take the Christian perspective on the life of this Jewish man all have come to see as named Jesus, or Y’hoshua bar Yosef (aka Yeshua). Do I think Jesus thought he was G-d? I really don’t know, however if he was a typical first Century Jew living in Eretz Israel, it is highly unlikely he thought it or even dared contemplate it. For him it would have been heretical on the highest order betraying the number one foundation of Judaism - “Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai Echad” - “Hear Israel, the L-RD is G-d, the L-RD is One” - (Devarim - Deuteronomy 6:4). However, Christians do believe he thought that of himself and they go about using verses (inappropriately) in the Tanakh as a proof text. Therefore, using our Jewish Bible and their Christian Bible I have set out the argument that in order for Christians to be able to make such a claim for their god then they must mis-appropriate the Jewish texts.
Within scholarship it is a well known fact and forgone conclusion that Paul, not Jesus, is the author and creator of the religion of Christianity. However, this is not the reason for my writing this today. I wish to address a few statements that the Christian writers claim Jesus made that, within the context of which he said them, would reveal volumes as to what he thought of himself and of whom he thought himself to actually be.
[Please keep in mind that throughout this entire writing these are the beliefs of Christianity and not necessarily those of a Jew named Jesus].
Before I do this I must contrast it by stating two of the most basic of Jewish teachings as they are found in the foundation of all three major religions that have come from the Middle East: (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). The Torah (first 5 books of Moshe) are that foundation stone. If you reject these then you have no foundation as a Jew, Christian or Muslim because all three stand on this foundation. That is why if you only read the prophets and writings (Nevi'im and ketuvim), the Christian Bible (New Testament) or Koran (Quran) without first knowing and understanding the teachings of the Torah (on which all three stand) then you will wander off into the desert of fanaticism and unsound doctrinal understanding.
In the Torah we find two statements, one of which I have already stated: "Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheynu Adonai Echad," and the other is, "G-d is not a man, as such it is not His nature to lie; nor is He the son of man, therefore, it is not His practice to change His mind: if He said it He will do it; if He spoke it then He will make it so.” (Numbers 23:19)
There has been so much already written within Jewish scholarship about the Shema and its true meaning that I need not elaborate here. However, I do wish to comment about the contextual Hebrew meaning of the second statement which can be found in Numbers 23:19. This verse is in the perfect tense. In Hebrew the perfect tense can be seen as having the quality of past, present and future tense. It is the context in which the perfect tense is used that determines which is being referred to or if possibly all three are in force. In the case here it means several things: One, Moshe is speaking very literally. He states quite matter-of-factly that G-d is not a man nor is He the (not a) son of man. Second, since it is in the perfect tense it also means that G-d revealed a great mystery to Moshe (and to us through him) that up until that time was not known to most of mankind, with the possible exception of our fathers Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov - and even they may not have had a total grasp on its significance in their own minds. Which is this: G-d is not a man, has never been a man, and will never be a man or in the colloquial, a son of man. There are then, four things we can conclude from this statement:
1. G-d is not a human being (a man or any other kind of created being - human or otherwise).
2. G-d is not the child of a human being (son of man).
3. Human beings (man) have the capacity to lie, G-d does not.
4. A child of a human being (son of man) makes it a habit to change his mind and his plans, G-d does not make this His normal practice.
This naturally leads to these conclusions concerning Jesus (a human being, son of man born of a human woman):
1. Jesus was a man and therefore probably lied at least once in his life.
2. He claimed himself to be the son of man so, more than likely, he went back on his word or plans at least once (in fact we have a case in the gospels where Jesus lied, or at least misled, his own blood brothers by telling them he wasn't going to Jerusalem and then after they had left he went up anyway which was his plan all along).
One of the basic tenets of the Christian religion is that Jesus is both fully G-d and fully man, and that he was so while in human flesh. We know that Paul (as stated earlier, the actual creator of what is known as the Christian religion) made statements to such effect throughout his writings but the question of importance is, did Jesus believe himself to be G-d in the flesh? (A totally foreign concept to the Jewish mind but one well entrenched in the mind of the Goyim). And, as Jews who follow Torah, then we know that if he did, this will automatically disqualify him as a great man or Messiah and place him in the ranks of a liar, deceiver of the people, breaker of Torah, idolator, or a fanatical madman.
Jesus, if you believe the Christian interpretation, made it perfectly clear to the listeners of his day that he believed himself to be G-d. In fact, it was when he started publicly declaring himself to be G-d, according to the gospel accounts, that he started losing his credibility with the common people. Up until that time most of his problems arose from the religious and political leadership because they were aware of what he was implying in his parables. But, when he began proclaiming publicly what he was really about and whom he thought himself to be (namely the G-d of Israel and all creation) then even his support among the grassroots began slipping away.
The following statements made by Jesus (in Hebrew and Aramaic), when taken out of context, don't seem so harmful, but when taken in the context of the times, places and events that surround his words we can see plainly that they were catch-phrases for the Person of G-d. The people knew exactly what he was saying and realized that this mere human being had stepped far beyond sound teaching and the Torah of Moshe. Keep in mind these may not be the actual words or actions of the historical Jew named Jesus, but were written by those who later wrote about him starting between 50 and 200 years after his death and who were most likely greatly influenced by the teachings and doctrines of the Apostle Paul in the late first Century and early Second Century whose infamous letters were penned by him years before the gospel writings came into existence.
Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me." (John 14:6) - John, not the Apostle John, wrote his gospel between 100 to 150 years after the death of Jesus and was greatly influenced by Greco-Roman philosophy as indicated by the textual evidence in his writings.
As Jews and (this includes Muslims as well) we know that only G-d is The Way, only G-d is The Truth, and only G-d is The Life, for all life emanates from G-d. Therefore, Jesus was (in his human state) declaring that he and he alone is G-d. This is a direct violation of the very first of HaShem’s Commandments and a contradiction to Adonai’s statement found in Numbers 23:19.
Jesus said: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he die, he shall live." (John 11:25) Again, in a public setting, the grave site and shiva at the death of an old friend named Lazarus, Jesus states that he, not HaShem, "is the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me (not HaShem), though he die, he shall live." So we see here too, for his Jewish audience, who understood the meaning clearly, he is declaring from his mere human flesh that he is G-d.
One of the most cryptic statements (at least in English translation) but easily understood by his first Century audience was "I and my Father are one." (John 10:30, and throughout the gospels). Most Western mindsets have an unclear idea about what this means. That is why, in Christian writings down through the ages so many different thoughts and ideas have arisen as to what Jesus really meant by it. However, to the Jew it has always been understood. The phrase "I and my Father are one" is a play on the words of the Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4 "Hear, Israel: Adonai is G-d, Adonai is One." Jesus was saying unequivocally that HaShem and he were one and the same person.
If that wasn't plain enough, he stated right before this statement that he gives his followers eternal life and they shall never perish. Only HaShem, most Sovereign can give "eternal life" because it is only His to give, for only Adonai possesses eternal life. So, once again Jesus, in his human state, breaks the commandment by declaring that he, a mortal man, is G-d.
Just two more comments from Jesus about his supposed deity and then I will stop beating this dead horse (no pun intended):
In John Chapter 8 starting in verse 48 Jesus is having a discussion with some folks. Someone in the crowd wise to what Jesus is really saying basically accuses Jesus of lying. The old Jewish idiom of Abraham's seed and the Deceiver's seed is used by them both. Finally, Jesus shouts back at them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." (John 8:58)
At that point it was all down hill for Jesus. His grassroots following responded by picking up rocks to stone him to death. Jesus was able to run and hide away from them. Of course, John embellishes the story and takes poetic license by having Jesus mysteriously pass through the midst of the crowd slipping past them unharmed. Truth be told, Jesus ran like hell.
The more important point however is this: Here before his faithful, in a heated moment, he blurts out that he is G-d by identifying himself with the most Holy Name. What is the Torah requirement for one who dare do such a blasphemous abomination? Death by stoning. It would appear that the crowd were certainly far more Torah observant Jews than this idolator.
Finally, at the Festival of Lights (Chanukah) Jesus is speaking to a crowd saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." (John 8:12) The lights of Chanukah are related to the Menorah in the Holy Place of the Temple. It is the only source of light in the Holy Place and is representative of Adonai’s revelation, His Shekinah. In the Temple His representative presence was found in two places HaKodesh and Kodesh HaKodashim (the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies). In the Holy Place the Menorah was visible to the kohanim, while in the Holy of Holies the actual Shekinah was present from the Seat of Mercy of the Ark of the Covenant to no person except the Kohain HaGadol (High Priest) once a year on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement).
Why is this important? Because when Jesus took this holiday to say what he said, he was telling all people, and especially the religious leadership, in no uncertain terms that he is that light that we attribute as coming from HaShem and that he is therefore, Adonai their G-d.
None of these implications were lost to the Jews of his day (they eventually even became clear to the Romans and they saw the political threat so they - not the Jews - had him killed by crucifixion - along with thousands of other Jews during the Roman occupation of Israel).
These implications of Jesus should not be lost on us Jews today in the 21st Century. If the real Jesus did believe himself to be HaShem or if these sayings have been placed in his mouth by later writers and preachers, it matters little because the fact remains it is why Jesus has been, is, and will sternly be rejected by Jews who know their Torah and Tanakh.
If we remain faithful to the one true G-d, the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who separated us out from the nations to be His beloved servant son, his nation of royal priests, his light to the Gentiles, alive for the purpose of tikkun olam, then we have no choice but to reject Jesus as a false god and pretender to the Messianic throne of David.