This is the first time I’ve written an article like this: with a specific person in mind to address a specific question. But I feel a nudging at my heart that I’m thinking is the prompting of the Holy Spirit to write this. Another first: Yeshua is the Jewish way to say Jesus, and when I’m not quoting someone, since this is directed to a Jewish audience, I’ll be using Yeshua.
My wife, a loyal listener to Jack Hibbs, wanted me to listen to a particular message: “Ask a Jew, Ask a Gentile with Dennis Prager and Jack Hibbs.” I have great respect for both of these men. And I’m thankful for all the work Dennis has done with PragerU to “influence”, as he says, particularly young people toward a Judeo-Christian worldview.
During the interview Dennis was asked, “Dennis does, to my knowledge, does not believe that Jesus, fits the prophetic word from the Old Testament that Jesus is not who that Old Testament is painting as the messiah. My question to both of you, one is to Dennis – different question, same topic, is: Dennis why do you not believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of those prophecies that were painted?”
“This may come to a surprise to you. The dividing line between Judaism and Christianity theologically is not with regard to whether Jesus was the messiah. It’s whether Jesus was God.”
“The issue is the Trinity and Jesus being regarded as God or the son of God. That was the dividing line.”
In this he has nailed it precisely on the head, for this is what the New Testament records as the essence of the issue for the Jews of Yeshua’s day. Why did the first century Jews have Yeshua killed? Scripture is clear:
“but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
The Jews Replied:
“We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
That is the issue. Is Yeshua – God? Is he the Son of God – God come in human flesh? But though Dennis points out the problem, what Dennis doesn’t do (which I often find to be the case among the learned) is answer the problem and particularly address the why – why he does not believe Yeshua is God?
Speaking of why, why am I responding to this when Dennis has great men like Jack Hibbs and other to discuss with? A number of reasons. In addition to the prompting and the great respect for Dennis I already mentioned, and the cc: I will send to Ben Shapiro (another one I greatly respect who I think also needs to hear this), I feel like there is a poetic appropriateness in me responding. Though we move in circles worlds apart: I feel we have a common approach in a number of areas:
- Dennis attended Yeshiva, I attended Seminary.
- Denis authored the Rational Bible; I author Rational Faith
- Dennis says he uses rationality to bring people to God. I do likewise.
- Dennis conducts orchestras; I played in a school orchestra and a number of church bands
- From his remark that gentiles respond 1,000 to 1 compared to Jews, I think gentiles have grown on Dennis. And I have a great fondness for Jews – the people through whom the word of God came. (Rom 3.2) When I first became a Christian, I attended a Messianic Jewish congregation. Dennis mentioned Jews for Jesus – I used to attend a Jews for Jesus Bible study, led by the late, great Jhan Moskowitz. I was so edified by his teachings I asked to record them, and still have a number of them in my possession to this day.
So I feel we’re simpatico, so it’s appropriate that I respond to Dennis. So let me get to it.
What God are you talking about?
The first question to clarify is what God are you talking about? The first thing cults and false teachers do to lead people astray is to, in some way, deceive people regarding who the true God is. So what God am I claiming that Yeshua is? My claim is that Yeshua is the creator God of Genesis, the God of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and in fact the God of the souls of all mankind. (Num 27.16) Jack pointed out,
“I would have no idea if the New Testament is true unless I’ve read the Old Testament.”… “Everything that Moses and the prophets said and wrote about is in the Old Testament.” … “So how do you know it’s true? You’ll never know it’s true unless you read the Jewish scriptures.”
So we’ll start by identifying the God about whom I’m making these claims by referencing the Jewish, Hebrew scriptures. The following is presented as they do in the messianic Jewish congregation I attended: the Hebrew followed by an English transliteration, followed by the English translation.
The Torah begins:
בְּרֵאשֶׁית בָּרָא אֱלֺחִים אֵת הַשָּמַיׅם וְאֵת חׇאׇרֶץ׃
B’reshit bara elohim hashamayim v’et haaretz.
In the beginning God, created the heavens and the earth.
Yeshua is that God (John 1.1-4)
The Shema (Deut 6.4 plus blessing) was recited every Shabbat in the messianic synagogue I mentioned:
שְׁמַע יִשְֹרָאֵל יְיָ אֱלֺהֵינוּ יְיָ אֶחָד׃
בָרוּך שֵׁם כְבוֺד מַלְכוּתוֺ לְעוֺלָם וָעֶד׃
Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai echad.
Baruch Shem kevod malchuto le olam va-ed.
Hear, O Israel: The L-rd is our God, the L-rd alone.
Blessed be His name whose glorious kingdom is forever and ever.
Yeshua is the image (Col 1.15), the divine expression (John 1.1) and the exact representation (Heb 1.3) of Eloheynu – our God. For in Messiah, the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. (Col 2.9)
Now how do we know that to be true? Before I can answer that question, we first have to identify the person that is referenced in Yeshua’s preferred way to refer to himself: the “Son of Man.” So let’s take a look at the Old Testament prophetic scriptures.
Who is the “Son of Man”
The “Son of Man” is a clear reference to the divine Messiah revealed in Dan 7.13
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.”
How do we know this “son of man” is divine? My seminary Hebrew teacher John Sailhammer put it well:
“The clearest indication that an individual divine figure is in view in v.14 is the fact that the one to whom the kingdom is given will be worshiped by ‘all people, nations and men of every language’ (v.14). It is unlikely that Daniel would envision this for the people of the kingdom.”
So the title “The Son of Man” is clearly understood as a reference to the heavenly figure, who, in the presence of the Ancient of Days will be given all the kingdoms of the world to rule over for all eternity. He is the long expected, messiah. He is also divine, coming from above – on the clouds of heaven, not from the lower, earthly realms.
Evidence that Yeshua is the Divine Messiah
Following are a few of the many evidences that Yeshua is who he said he is, the divine Son of Man.
- The Title “Son of Man”
Above we established that the title “The Son of Man” is a title referring to the Messiah who is clearly divine based on Daniel 7:13-14. The title occurs more than 80 times in the gospels, mostly on the lips of Yeshua referring to himself. It appears to be his favorite title for himself. Why would Yeshua so consistently use this title referring to himself, if he were not in fact, the Son of Man, which people familiar with the Jewish prophetic scriptures, would readily recognize from Daniel’s vision?
- The Ability to Forgive Sins
(Matt 9.6, Mark 2.9-11) Yeshua claimed the ability to forgive sins. Whether sins are actually forgiven, we obviously can’t see – that’s in the exclusive purview of God. But Yeshua demonstrated by something only God can do, but that we can see – a miraculous healing – that he has the power to do both. Though we can’t see forgiveness, since Yeshua exercised the power of God in healing, it is clear he has the power and authority of God to also grant forgiveness.
- The Claim to be Greater than the Temple
Who, besides God, is greater than the temple? When Yeshua said, “I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.” he was clearly referring to himself.
- Accepting Worship
(Matt 14.33, 28.9, 28.17) The Torah is clear – we must worship God alone. (Ex 20.5) It is equally clear that false prophets must be put to death. (Deut 18.20) If Yeshua is not God, yet falsely allowed, even encouraged people to worship him, he is a false prophet who was rightly put to death. On the other hand, if he is the prophet God promised to raise up like Moses, (Deut 18.15) God said he himself will call anyone to account for not listening to the prophet like Moses to come. (Deut 18.19).
- His Claim to be Lord of the Sabbath
Yeshua said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
(Mark 2.27-28) Who has authority over God’s day of rest apart from the creator of the sabbath, God himself?
- His Claim to be without Sin
Yeshua said, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?”
If Yeshua is not guilty of sin, that means he never lied, since to lie is to sin. That means Yeshua always tells the truth. If Yeshua is telling the truth, and he is the divine “Son of Man” and has, as he said:
- the testimony of John the Baptizer,
- the testimony of scripture which testifies about him,
- the testimony of the miracles he performed,
- the testimony of God the father
- in addition to his own testimony to that truth, (John 5.31-40)
Why don’t you believe him?
- His confession under oath to the High Priest Matt 26.63-64
Consider Yeshua’s testimony to the High Priest:
“The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Once again Yeshua makes reference to imagery in Dan 7.13 when he testifies under oath to the high priest of being the Messiah, the Son God.
How do we know his claims are true?
The ultimate proof of the claims of Yeshua is his resurrection from the dead into a new body designed for eternal life. (1 Cor 15.42-45) As the apostle said:
“and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The resurrection is something that has never happened before, and no other religion or spiritual teacher can claim it, making Yeshua and Christianity unique, and offering the ultimate and best proof of the veracity of the claims of Yeshua.
Lunatic, Liar or Lord
C.S. Lewis has correctly assessed the claims of Yeshua in what is typically described as the Lunatic, Liar or Lord trilemma. I’m sure you’ve heard it. And it’s as true now as when he first put in in Mere Christianity. These claims of Yeshua are astounding. If you do not believe they are true, what are you left with? You’re left with believing Yeshua is either a madman or liar. And he doesn’t appear to be a madman. (What madman performs miracles and exorcisms?) If you’ve already excluded Lord, that leaves liar. Thus you cannot hold him up as a good moral teacher if he’s an unrepentant, blatant, deceiving liar. As Lewis said:
“But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
–C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity
Let me take it a step further. If Yeshua is not the son of God then the same consequences apply to Christians as those the apostle Paul enumerates if the messiah did not rise from the dead, namely:
- Christians are false witnesses for God, lying about who the divine messiah is (1 Cor 15.15)
- Christian faith is futile, there is no forgiveness of sins (1 Cor 15.17)
- Christians are to be pitied more than all men (1 Cor 15.19)
Whether deceived or outright liars, Christians are doing a grave disservice to God by claiming Yeshua is the divine messiah, if in fact, he is not. Why are you not as passionate about telling people your perception of Christian misdirection as you are about all the other lies you expose if you are convinced Yeshua is a fraud?
This is an important point because Christians claim:
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
(Acts 4.12 referring to the Name of Yeshua)
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”
Indeed these are a large part of the reason for writing this because I want to see you welcomed into the kingdom and not cast out into darkness where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 8.12). But if Christians are wrong about Yeshua, not only are those statements not true, but we’re causing unnecessary anxiety to many who hear that message. Why are you not using your huge influence to stop it, or at least counter it?
I suspect you’ll appeal to religious tolerance among other things. But I also suspect in your heart you know the claims of Messiah Yeshua are true. But like C.S. Lewis who had to come kicking and screaming into the kingdom, could it be perhaps you are trying to avoid and escape what you know in your heart to be true?
Proverbs tells us:
A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed–without remedy.
I pray you are not that man. Worship leader Graham Kendrick has beautifully put Dan 7.13-14 to music here. It speaks of Yeshua’s people worshiping him and reigning with him. I pray you are among them – among the people proclaiming to Yeshua, “Baruch ha ba b’shem Adonai.” (Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. – Ps 118.26)
1. “Ask a Jew, Ask a Gentile with Dennis Prager and Jack Hibbs“, YouTube, Pub Mar 18, 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nAyyTeD1ZM
2.John H. Sailhammer, NIV Compact Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994, p. 408
3. “Son of Man” – clearly understood as messiah, and divine:
See Gleason Archer:
“Nothing could be clearer than that Jesus himself regarded Daniel 7.13 as predictive of himself and that the two elements “like a son of man” and “with the clouds of heaven” combined to constitute a messianic title.” and “The final outcome of human history will be a return of Adam’s race under the rule of the divine Son of Man…”
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, “Daniel” pp. 90, 91
See Also Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham:
“The phrase Son of Man [emphasis his] is used of the Messiah because He will fulfill the destiny of humanity (Ps 8; Heb 2:5-18) while at the same time being deity.”
The Moody Bible Commentary, Kindle version loc 52295
4. For evidence of the truth of the resurrection, see these Rational Faith Articles:
AD Apologetics – Part 1: Jesus’ death and the Empty Tomb
AD Apologetics – Part 2: Jesus’ Triumphant Resurrection
5. Graham Kendrick, from Crown Him, track 21 “And He Shall Reign” starting at 37 seconds
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