Chapter 9
What is Messiah?


Jewish Messiah or Christian God?

Many Christians do not understand that the major difference between Christian and Jew is not a question of WHO Messiah is, rather it is a question of WHAT Messiah is. When a Jew is asked to “accept Jesus”, it is not a request to accept the Jewish Messiah, rather it is asking him to accept the Christian God.

Aime Palliere in his book The Unknown Sanctuary quotes M. Loyson as saying:

The chief reason why the Jews do not accept Christianity is that the latter departed from its origins in creating a God of secondary importance, as Justin Martyr said. And little by little after having made Jesus equal to the Heavenly Father, have we not practically substituted him for the Heavenly Father?

How can believing that Jesus is God be “departing from our origins?” Isn’t that what the founders of Christianity believed?

In his book This Hebrew Lord, John Shelby Spong writes:

The simplistic suggestion that Jesus is God is nowhere made in the biblical story. Nowhere!

How can THAT be? If the first followers of Yeshua (who were all Jewish) did not believe that the Messiah was God, what DID they believe? And why is it that Christian and Jew have such different views on WHAT Messiah is?  If this is the fundamental difference between us, it would make sense to explore the Jewish concept of Messiah, and discover WHEN and WHY the view of the divinity of the Messiah became different in Christianity. Again, we must ask the question: did the original believers have the same concept of the Messiah as do modern Christians?

The Jewish Perspective

The Shema is sometimes called the “Jewish Profession of Faith” because it begins with the most basic of Jewish concepts: “Hear O Israel, The LORD our God the LORD is One.” In Judaism, Messiah is never confused with God, and is NEVER believed to be God.

In the New Testament accounts of the first believers, you will find much disagreement over the question of the association and conversion of Gentiles. You will find discussion of and disagreements over many other issues. However, there is no debate over the deity of Yeshua. Why?

The reason for this obvious absence of discussion on the topic, is this was not yet the view held by early believers. Had the belief of the early followers included the deity of Yeshua, the pages of the New Testament would be filled with the stories of conflict over such beliefs. The early followers historically did not take the position that the Messiah was God. If that is the case, WHAT is Messiah?

The Meaning of “Messiah”

The Hebrew word "Mashiach" means "anointed one" (or chosen one).

Mashiach (Messiah) Christos (Christ) Anointed

This title applies to the High Priest, to the Kings of Israel, and even to Israel itself.

In his book Early Judaism, Martin Jaffee writes:

The English word “Messiah” renders the Hebrew “mashiakh.” In it’s simplest meaning, it denotes “one who is anointed with oil.” More expansively, it identifies a person consecrated to a divinely appointed task. In the Torah of Moses, particularly in the book of Leviticus, this term is used frequently to describe Aaron, the officiating priest charged with conducting the sacrificial service in the Tent of Meeting.

In the priestly sense, the Messiah is the priest whose sacrificial service in accordance with Torah sustains the covenantal relationship between God and Israel. Messiah also refers to one anointed to serve as king over the Israelite people in its Land. The original anointee was Saul, the first man appointed as king over Israel.

1 Samuel 24:5

5 And it came to pass afterward, that David's heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul's skirt.
6 And he said unto his men, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD'S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD.
7 So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. But Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way.

Here we read of David referring to Saul as למשיח יהוה (or the "Messiah of the LORD"). So, there can be a number of different individuals identified throughout history as a messiah (anointed). However, when you talk of THE Messiah you  would be referring to Messiah ben David, the ruler at the end of the age at the time of the Third Temple.

The Divine Connection

When answering the question WHO or WHAT is the Messiah, it is helpful to read what God tells Moses about the divine connection to Messiah.

In Deuteronomy 18:18 God tells Moses:

18 I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And it shall come about that whosoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.

As we can see, the Messiah was to be “from among their countrymen” like Moses. The connection to the divine is that God’s WORDS are put in Messiah’s mouth. It is important to realize that at no time in history did Judaism ever assign deity to the Messiah himself.

James D.G. Dunn in his book Christology in the Making writes:

…there is little or no good evidence from the period prior to Christianity’s beginnings that the Ancient Near East seriously entertained the idea of a god or son of god descending from heaven to become a human being in order to bring men salvation, except perhaps at the level of popular pagan superstition. [p22]

Why then did Christianity view Messiah as God?

The Gentile Factor

Remember that after 70CE (AD) the leadership within the “Christian” movement became dominated by Gentiles, who had formerly worshiped other gods. 

Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia (vol.6 / Christianity)

The Beginnings of the Church

An important source of the alienation of Christianity from its Jewish roots was the change in the membership of the church that took place by the end of the 2nd century (just when, and how, is uncertain). At some point, Christians with Gentile backgrounds began to outnumber Jewish Christians.

The Gentile or Greek culture was centered around philosophy and mythology. Their entire perspective was that of having multiple gods. To them the most natural assumption was that messiah was a god.  This, however, was NOT the perspective that the first century JEWISH population had (which included ALL of Yeshua's disciples).

But what about all of the passages like John 1 that also say Jesus is God?  Remember, that much of our interpretation of scripture is from the perspective of those early “church fathers” who by the 2nd century were comprised of mostly Gentiles well educated in Greek philosophy.

In A History of God, Karen Armstrong writes:

Like the divine Wisdom, the “Word” symbolized God’s original plan for creation. When Paul and John spoke about Jesus as though he had some kind of preexistent life, they were not suggesting that he was a second divine “person” in the later Trinitarian sense. They were indicating that Jesus had transcended temporal and individual modes of existence. Because the “power” and “wisdom” that he represented were activities that derived from God, he had in some way expressed “what was there from the beginning.” These ideas were comprehensible in a strictly Jewish context, though later Christians with Greek background would interpret them differently. In the Acts of the Apostles, written as late as 100 CE, we can see that the first Christians still had an entirely Jewish conception of God.

Again, Martin Jaffee writes:

The canonical book of Proverbs portrays wisdom as being God’s companion from the beginning of time. The image was refracted throughout the worlds of ancient Judaism. It informed many of Philo’s descriptions of Torah as a divine logos (word, principle) through which Being conceived the world into existence. All that exists is as it should be because the world’s structure is undergirded by divine thought, Torah.

By the second century the leadership of Christianity had shifted from a Jewish majority (well educated in the Torah), to a Greek majority (well educated in Greek culture, philosophy and mythology).

As the Jewish sect began to be more dominated by a Greek membership, however, the Greek polytheistic perspective of God also became a more accepted view.

The Encyclopedia Britannica says:

The Trinitarians and the Unitarians continued to confront each other, the latter at the beginning of the third century still forming the large majority.

In the course of time, those who believed that Messiah was God changed the intentions of it's original founders and alienated all Jewish participation.  As Rabbi Yakov Fogelman writes:

Had the followers of Christ not insisted on his divinity, then the Jews might indeed have embraced Jesus as a Jewish revolutionary, who fought to remove Rome's oppressive hand from his people, and was murdered by Pontius Pilate for his act of rebellion against the mighty and intolerant authority of Rome. Jews might have embraced Jesus as another learned teacher who offered beautiful and stirring ethical lessons. They might have embraced Jesus as the man, who not only did not abrogate the Torah, but, said in Matthew, that anyone that gives up even a single letter of the law of Moses would be the least in the kingdom of heaven. But what the Jews could not, dare not, and indeed never will, accept is that Jesus was anything more than a mortal man.

A Change of Text

If we look at how the text of John 1:1 has changed over the years we can get a sense of how "clarifying" the text has helped to institutionalize the orthodox Christian doctrines.

First let's take a look at the Tyndale Bible of 1525

"In the beginnynge was that worde, and that worde was with God: and God was that worde. The same was in the beginnynge with God. All thinges were made by it, and without it, was made nothinge, that made was.  In it was lyfe; And lyfe was the lyght of men ..."

As you can see, the Tyndale Bible of 1525 translates the word not as a person, but as God's speaking the world into existence.  The word "word" (or worde) is not capitalized and it is referred to as an "it" and not a "he".  Within a hundred years, however, the standard interpretation had changed.

We read the same passage in the King James Version (originally translated in 1611)

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life; and the life was the light of men."

This version of the Christian Bible "clarified" John 1:1.  "Word" is now capitalized and referred to as a "he" instead of an "it".  As future versions were written, more "clarifications" were made. 

The 1971 Living Bible reads as follows:

"Before anything else existed, there was Christ with God.  He has always been alive and is himself God.  He created everything there is -- nothing exists that he didn't make.  Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind."  (40 million sold by 1997)

Corruption of Scripture

The altering of texts did not begin, however, in the 1500's. 
St. Faustus, a 5th century Bishop writes:

"Many things have been inserted by our ancestors into the speeches of our Lord which, though put forth under his name, agree not with his faith; especially since, as already it has been often proved - these things were written not by Christ, nor [by] his apostles, but a long while after their deaths"

As church orthodoxy began to develop through the second and third centuries the documents which would make up the New Testament were revised in order to establish the orthodox view. It was the Christological debates of the second and third centuries that finally led to the formation of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Bart Ehrman documents many of these revisions in his book "The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture".

Ehrman writes:

Orthodox scribes not infrequently altered texts that might be taken to suggest that Jesus became the Son of God only at his baptism (Luke 3:22; Acts 10:37, 38; John 1:34), or at his resurrection (Rom 1:4), or at some unspecified moment (e.g., Luke 9:35; 1John 5:18). Correspondingly they changed other passages so as to highlight their view that Jesus was already the Son of God before his baptism (Mark 1:1) or even before his coming into the world (Matt 1:18).

By far the most common anti-adoptionist corruptions simply designate Christ as "God."

Here are a few examples of changes that were made to the text:

Corrupt Text Original Text
Matthew 1:18
Now the
birth of Jesus Christ happened this way:
Matthew 1:18
Now the
beginning of Jesus Christ happened this way:
Luke 2:33
Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him.
Luke 2:33
his father and mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him.
Luke 9:35
And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying,
This is my beloved Son: hear him.
Luke 9:35
And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying,
This is my son, the one who is chosen: hear him.
John 1:34
And I saw, and bare record that this is the
Son of God.
John 1:34
And I saw, and bare record that this is the
chosen of God.
1 Timothy 3:16
And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifest in the flesh,
1 Timothy 3:16
And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness:
Who was manifest in the flesh,

Ehrman goes on to say:

Finally, the orthodox emphasis on Jesus' divinity occasionally led to a de-emphasis on his humanity. So far as we can judge, scribes never eliminated the notion that Jesus was fully human. This would have embroiled them in a different set of problems, for then the text could be taken to support docetic Christologies that the proto-orthodox opposed on another front.

But scribes did modify texts that could implicate Christ in human weaknesses and frailties that were not appropriate to one understood to be divine, occasionally changing passages that suggest that Christ was not all-knowing (Matt 24:36) or spiritually perfect (Luke 2:40), and passages that suggest that he was purely mortal (John 19:5) or susceptible to human temptations and sin (Heb 2:18; 10:29).

The "Antichrist"

As time went on, the leadership of "the Way" became almost entirely Greek.  Those who were Jewish or Hebraic were marginalized and labeled as heretics. As opposition to the Greek viewpoint diminished, there was a tremendous effort by the early Gentile “church fathers” to establish Jesus as God, and by the time his last living disciple, John, was in his old age (around 90CE) the idea of Yeshua as a divine being had already begun to become accepted among many Greek "Christians".

This is a doctrine that John calls "not messiah" or "Antichrist".

1 John 4:1

1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
2 Hereby know you the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
3 And every spirit that confesses not that Yeshua Messiah is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that [spirit] of antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

By making messiah into a god, the Greeks were effectively making messiah into the opposite of what he was suppose to be.

John warned the people of his time not to turn from their Jewish roots. Not to make Yeshua into God.

2 John 1:6

6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.
7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.

The role of messiah is one who brings Israel OUT of idolatry and back to the worship of the One God.  In essence, the belief in “Jesus” (the mainstream Christian view of who and what he was) is a belief that goes AGAINST what the role of messiah is. It is an anti-messiah (or antichrist) belief.

Yet John saw this belief grow stronger

1 John 2:18

18 Little children, it is the last time: and as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time...
21 I have not written to you because you know not the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

In Jewish belief, the “son of God” is NOT “God the son”.  Messiah has never been confused with God.  He has NEVER been considered a deity.

John believed that Jesus was the messiah. 

22 Who is a liar but he that denies that Jesus is the Messiah?  

However, he believed that by making Jesus into a god (and not distinguishing between God and Messiah), those who did such a thing were proposing a belief that was an insult to Jewish concept and tradition of what messiah was to be.

He is antichrist, that denies the Father and the Son.
23 Whosoever denies the Son, the same has not the Father:
[(but) he that acknowledges the Son has the Father also].

John then appeals to his followers to abide by the Jewish traditions that they had heard “from the beginning”.

24 Let that therefore abide in you, which you have heard from the beginning. If that which you have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, you also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.
25 And this is the promise that he has promised us, [even] eternal life. 

John anticipated the messianic age, the resurrection of the dead, and the “world to come” were all at the doorstep. He was unaware that there was to be two thousand years to follow.  

In time, what had been the majority view became the minority view. Eventually, through creeds, various church councils, and the formation of Christianity as a state religion, the divinity of Messiah became the official church doctrine.

Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia (vol.6 / Christianity)

Councils and Creeds

Early creeds began the process of specifying the divine in Christ, both in relation to the divine in the Father and in relation to the human in Christ. The definitive formulations of these relations came in a series of official church councils during the 4th and 5th centuries – notably the one at Nicaea in 325 and the one at Chalcedon in 451 – which stated the doctrines of the Trinity and of the two natures of Christ in the form still accepted by most Christians.

To arrive at these formulations, Christianity had to refine its thought and language, creating in the process a philosophical theology, both in Greek and in Latin, that was to be the dominant intellectual system of Europe for more than a thousand years.

Belief in a triune Godhead became the only accepted view of the nature of God. Anyone who believed otherwise would be put to death. Although there have been those throughout history that have not viewed the orthodox Trinitarian position as correct. In his article Cosmic Codebreaker, Pious Heretic, about Sir Isaac Newton (for Christian History Magazine), Karl Giberson writes:

Newton began a sustained reflection on the Christian doctrines and decided that the Anglican status quo was a thorough corruption of the true, original Christianity. These considerations led him to write over a million words on theology and biblical studies – more than he wrote on any other subject.

Newton’s theological investigations convinced him that the doctrine of the Trinity was bogus, a successful deception by St. Athanasius in the fourth century. Newton argued that the Scriptures had been altered and early Christian writers had been misquoted to make it appear that Trinitarianism had been the original faith.

Newton believed that the scriptures had been altered. This was not just a statement of desperation. Rather, there was substance to his claims.

Giberson continues:

He [Newton] became repelled by what he perceived as the false religion that surrounded him – an idolatrous faith that worshiped Christ as God, when he was but a mediator between God and man.

Newton was forced to keep his views at least partially veiled. The Unitarian position, (belief in the One God), however, began to make certain advances in the American colonies. Such notable people as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were Unitarian. Jefferson, himself, refers to Trinity as:

“…an unintelligible proposition of Platonic mysticism that three are one, and one is three; and yet one is not three and three are not one.” “I never had sense enough to comprehend the Trinity, and it appeared to me that comprehension must precede assent.”

Jefferson further believes that the “One God” movement would sweep the nation if it was given the religious freedom the founding fathers envisioned. In a letter written to James Smith, December 8, 1822 he says:

The pure and simple unity of the Creator of the universe, is now all but ascendant in the Eastern States; it is dawning in the West and advancing toward the South; and I confidently expect that the present generation will see Unitarianism become the general religion of the United States.

The doctrine of the trinity, however, was much too entrenched to be easily dismissed, and those who did not accept the belief were labeled as non-Christian.

The Early Concepts

In Exploring Church History, Howard Vos writes:

One of the earliest errors was Ebionism. Appearing in fully developed form in the second century, it was in reality only a continuation of the Judaistic opposition to the apostle Paul. Some groups seem to have been quite clear on the essentials of salvation but insisted on law keeping as a way of life. Most appear to have denied the deity of Christ. These views they held in an effort to retain a true monotheism. They put much stress on the law in general and on circumcision and Sabbath keeping in particular. Ebionism practically disappeared by the fifth century. It had little if any lasting effect on the church.

Who were these Ebionites?

The Encyclopedia Britannica (11th edition) states:

Epiphanius with his customary confusion makes two separate sects, Ebionites and Nazarenes. Both names, however, refer to the same people, the latter going back to the designation of apostolic times (Acts 24:5)

5 For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.

And the former being the term usually applied to them in the ecclesiastical literature of the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The origin of the Nazarenes or Ebionites as a distinct sect is very obscure, but may be dated with much

likelihood from the edict of Hadrian which in 135 finally scattered the old church of Jerusalem.

As mentioned earlier, there was a distinct disagreement between Paul and these believers from Jerusalem who are often referred to in the New Testament as “of the circumcision” or “Judaizers.” It is important, however, to note that the dispute was over the application of the law. It was NEVER over the deity of Yeshua. Why? Because Paul’s perspective on the subject did not differ from theirs. Most of the dispute over the deity of Yeshua came long after Paul’s death.

If these early followers did not believe that Yeshua was God, what did they believe?

In The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Bart Ehrman writes:

According to orthodox sources, the Ebionites self-consciously traced their lineage back to the apostolic times, and like the earliest followers of Jesus worked to preserve their Jewish identity and customs, including the practices of circumcision and kashrut.

They are most commonly portrayed as adoptionists who reject both the notion of Jesus’ pre-existence and the doctrine of his virgin birth, maintaining instead that Jesus was a “normal” human being, born of natural generation. God chose him to be his Son at his baptism and gave him his messianic mission. This he fulfilled by dying on the cross, after which God raised him from the dead and exalted him to heaven.

Sources agree that the Ebionites accepted the binding authority of the Old Testament (and therefore the continuing validity of the Law) but rejected the authority of the apostate apostle, Paul.

The sources do not agree about the character and contours of the gospel used by the Ebionites. Most of  the fathers from the early second century (Papias) to the late fourth (Jerome) claim that it comprised a truncated form of Matthew (outwardly the most Jewish of the four) written in Hebrew, one that lacked it’s opening chapters, that is, the narrative of Jesus’ miraculous birth.

Why was this early Hebrew text different from the Greek?  The natural assumption is that the Ebionites simply deleted the text that they disagreed with. However, there is no historic evidence that this group was in the practice of altering or deleting text to conform to their particular beliefs.

The evidence, however, is overwhelming that those who espoused the doctrine concerning the deity of Jesus not only altered and added to the text, they did so frequently and as a matter of course.

This was not generally done to mislead or deceive, but in a sincere effort to “clarify” the text. The result, however, is thousands of verifiably corrupted documents that were used in the compiling of various texts we now call the New Testament.

The Development of “Christology”

Additional “clarification” efforts brought about the formation of various “Christologies” which were a natural progression of attempts to justify the Hebraic scriptures through a Greek philosophy perspective.

In time four Christologies developed.

Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia (vol.6/ Christology)

In the New Testament

The earliest Christians expressed their explicit Christology with titles and mythological patterns borrowed from the religious environment of 1st century Palestine, where both Hebraic and Hellenistic Greek conceptions of God, history, and destiny were at work. Especially important in a consideration of New Testament Christology is the pervasive eschatological consciousness of the period; many modern scholars think that Jesus himself shared in this consciousness of living at the end of time.

Four early patterns of christological thinking can be discerned within the New Testament. The earliest of these has two focuses – looking backward to Jesus’ earthly life as that of an eschatological prophet and servant of God and forward to Christ’s coming again as the Messiah, the Son of man.

In a second two-stage christological formulation the earthly Jesus was also seen as the prophet-servant of the last days, but at the same time he was declared to have become Lord, Christ, and Son of God at his resurrection and exaltation.

In the third pattern, these post resurrection titles were applied retrospectively to Jesus in his earthy period in order to articulate the intrinsic connection between Jesus’ earthy ministry and his role as savior. A “sending formula” developed, with God as subject, his Son as object, and a statement of saving purpose, as in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not parish but have eternal life” (also Gal. 4:4).

... In the fourth pattern, expressed in the christological hymns of the Hellenistic-Jewish church, Jesus was identified with the Divine Wisdom, or Logos. Philosophical Hellenistic Judaism had conceived of the Logos as the personified agent of the divine being, the agent of creation, revelation, and redemptive action.

The earthy Jesus was now seen as the incarnation of this preexistent wisdom or Logos.

... Consequently, “Son of God” and “Son,” which were originally terms expressive of Jesus’ role in salvation history, acquire a metaphysical import and come to denote his divine being.

The Son of God

Many of the Hebraic phrases and abstract concepts were foreign to the new Gentile leaders. Much of the confusion over the divinity of Yeshua began with the first century messianic title, “Son of God.” The Gentiles understood this phrase to mean, “God the Son.” Again, this was not an effort to deceive anyone. It was simply the most natural interpretation for someone in the Greek culture to have.

In The Doctrine of the Trinity Sir Anthony Buzzard and Charles Hunting write:

Responsible historians, both secular and religious, agree that the Jews of Jesus’ time held firmly to a faith in a unipersonal God.

Church history shows that the concept of even two equal persons in the Godhead – the Father and Son – did not receive formal approval in the Christian community until three hundred years after the ministry of Jesus, at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.

This is not to ignore the controversy that came about as a result of Jesus’ claim to be the “Son of God.” But that claim should not be confused with the much later assertion by the Church that he was “God, the Son.” [pp 29, 6, 37]

The first century was a time of expectation.  There were many people who were "looking" for the Messiah.

John 1:40

40 One of the two, which heard John, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
41 He, first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, We have found the Messiah.
42 And he brought him to Yeshua. And when Yeshua saw him, he said, You are Simon, the son of Jona: you shall be called Cephas, which means: a stone.
43 The following day, Yeshua went to Galilee, and found Philip, and said to him, Follow me.
44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
45 Philip finds Nathanael and says to him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets wrote. Yeshua of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
46 And Nathanael said to him, Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Philip said to him, Come and see.
47 Yeshua saw Nathanael coming to him, and said, Look an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
48 Nathanael said to him, How do you know me? Yeshua answered and said to him, Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.
49 Nathanael answered, and said to him, Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the king of Israel.

Were John and Nathanael proclaiming that Yeshua was God?

No, the title, “Son of God,” is a Messianic title. They WERE claiming that they believed that Yeshua was the Messiah, they were NOT saying that he was God.

Let’s explore other places where we see references to the son(s) of God. In the book of Exodus we see the children of Israel called God’s son.

Exodus 4:22

22 And you shall say to Pharaoh, Thus says the LORD, Israel is my son, my firstborn.
23 And I say to you, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if you refuse to let him go, I will slay your son, your firstborn

The phrase, “son of God,” is found 46 times in the Bible (only once in the Tanakh / Old Testament). The phrase “sons of God” (plural) is found 11 times in the Bible (five times in the Tanakh / Old Testament)

The one place in the Old Testament where the phrase, “son of God,” is used is in Daniel 3:25. This is often used as a “proof” of Yeshua’s pre-existence. Since Yeshua is called the “Son of God” in the New Testament, it is reasoned that this Old Testament reference must refer to him also. Is that what is being talked about here?

Daniel 3:25

25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the son of God.

In Jewish tradition this fourth man walking in the fire is an angel of God. The places in the Old Testament where the phrase “sons of God” is found, especially those in the book of Job (1:16, 2:1, and 38:7), are also thought to be a reference to angelic beings. The phrase, however, can also mean followers

or chosen of God. Certainly most all of the places you see in the New Testament would be read this way.

John 1:12

12 But as many as receive him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, to them that believe on his name.

Romans 8:14

14 For as many as are lead by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Philippians 2:15

15 That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

1 John 3:1,2

1 Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not.
2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Paul tells us (Romans 8:14) that anyone who is led by the spirit is a “son of God”; and John tells us (1 John 3:1-2) that “we” are “now” the “sons of God.” Paul and John were certainly not suggesting that WE are God.

Who Am I?

Sometimes it is helpful to look at more than one testimony of the same event to fully see what is being said. When Yeshua asked his talmidim (disciples) who they believed he was, we see that Mark, Luke, and Matthew each have a slightly different version of the event.

Mark 8:29

29 And he said to them, But whom do you say I am? And Peter answered and said to him, You are the Messiah.

Luke 9:20

20 And he said to them, But whom do you say I am? Peter answering said, The Messiah (or the anointed) of God.

Matthew 16:15

15 He said to them, But Whom do you say I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.

Here Peter is proclaiming that he believes Yeshua is the Messiah; However, what does he mean by saying that he was the "son of the living God"?

The Return of the Exiles

There in one other place in scripture where we find the phrase, “son(s) of the living God”. It is found in the first chapter of the book of Hosea. Hosea was a prophet to Israel (the northern kingdom) during the time of the divided kingdom.

Hosea 1:10

10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered; and it shall come to pass, in the place where it was said to them, You are not my people, there it shall be said to them, you are the sons of the living God.
11 Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land; for great shall be the day of Jezreel.

In this passage we see the northern kingdom (the House of Israel), who lost their identity because they would not follow God’s instructions, brought back from exile at the end of the age, and will be reunited with the southern kingdom (Judah).

The redemption of the northern kingdom of Israel is a pivotal point in future prophetic events.  After this happens is when the messianic age is ushered in.   Paul refers to this Romans 8.

Romans 8:19

19 For the earnest expectation of the creation waits for the manifestation of the sons of God.

But what does THAT have to do with Jesus (Yeshua)?


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