The Shema Comparison – is Jesus God?

Deut 6:4 – “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” 

Mark 12:29 – “Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD” 

I am not sure Jesus would claim such things (to be God) being a firm believer in the Shema (One God idea – Mark 12:29-31 – also in Luke 10 and Matt 22).  

I have a tough time not thinking this was mistakenly interpreted by the people of the time period of Jesus – namely within the Greco-Roman perspective – concerning the idea of ’son of God or Christ’ and what that means. Nowhere in Matthew/Mark/Luke do we see Jesus making this claim to godhood – this is totally factual. With John we get into dicey territory about the idea of Jesus and God being ‘one’ and what that means – but this book seems to be where the idea ‘Jesus is God’ came from (and I’ll even debate people from within that very book that Jesus does not claim god-hood from in it’s pages also – but it is more questionable). 

I think ideas and terms are added to Jesus from a un-Jewish perspective over time – to the point – Jesus no longer even so much as reflects his Jewish roots. If you truly think about it you will know this is true – how does Jesus look in most churches? Usually like the congregants and has the same ideas they do most of the time. Now that’s sad in one way – but also tragic as it means Jesus becomes whoever to whomever (a virtual shape-shifter). Today he is a Republican tomorrow he is a democrat.  

 I might be wrong on my claims that Jesus is not God – but it’s a mistake I can live with (if it is a mistake)…since Jesus in Mark clearly does not disavow the Shema. Also – if we are wrong about the Jesus = God idea this has less consequence than believing it – because by believing it we break the 1st commandment willfully (maybe even boastfully – most do it ignorantly I am guessing). Since I like the 10 commandments I have a tough time brushing aside the 1st one and then having the audacity the next 9 mean something. 

Why does Jesus have to be God?

Advertisements

15 thoughts on “The Shema Comparison – is Jesus God?

  1. For me, it always comes down to what did Jesus ask us to do. And I read in the Gospels a Jesus who tells us to follow him, not worship him.

    Yes, there are sections in the Gospels where the word ‘worship’ is used in connection to Jesus. But it seems that how that word gets translated depends greatly on the object. The word literally means to bow down or prostrate oneself. If Jesus was the son of God and the Messiah, wouldn’t people who believed that have done both? We see instances in the Tanakh where people bowed to the prophets.
    There are also instances in the NT where the word is translated as ‘worship’ in connection to Jesus, and ‘bow down/prostrate’ in connection to a non-Jesus.

    It would depend, in those instances, whether they simply bowed out of reverence for the Messiah/son of God, or were worshiping Jesus as God.

  2. I think the idea of trinity is one that just gets a pass for the most part in the Christian community. It’s a “given”.

    As I studied Paul’s writings though, I became less convinced. There definitely seems to be a hierarchy.

    1 Corinthians 15:27
    For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ.

    For the most part, I just put Jesus in the category of “other”. I am not convinced he was just a man, but I find the trinity argument to be fairly weak, and you get multiple views of how it might work anyway.

    I sometimes wonder if some of the other religions might be on to something with the minor deities. Revelation talks about the seven spirits of God, Genesis has God referring to himself in the plural, and there is this freaky verse from 2 Peter:

    “Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord.”

    So who are these celestial beings that God will not tolerate bad talk about? Why might angels dis them? Do angels bring slanderous accusations against such beings when the Lord ISN’T around? WTF?

    So to answer your final question: “I” don’t think he has to be God (tho, if he is, fine). I think the necessities are loving God and loving neighbor. All the other stuff is just fun to toss around while having a brewski with friends.

  3. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1,2,14

    I also believe that Jesus was not God… yet I can see how it can be understood that way, especially in John 1: 1-14. But as you point out, though there are some reasons to believe in Jesus as God there are more to not believe so. The method of mainstream Christianity to answer to “the shema” is often something like; well we are just not able to understand how there can be three persons in one God. That actually might be the case but there is no real declaration from Christ that He is God. Some will point to John 14:7-11also but that does not do it for me either.

    The question then remains; if Jesus was not God how does that reflect on Him as the Savior and prophesied Messiah? If Jesus was “just the Son of God” does that take anything away from His forle in our relationship to the one and only God?

  4. If Jesus was “just the Son of God” does that take anything away from His role in our relationship to the one and only God?

  5. The complication I have with John 1:1 is that I know it gets translated as ‘the word was divine’ or ‘what God was, the word was’ in some Bibles.

    The thing I find very interesting about this, and I know I did a blog post touching on this, was what to the words ‘God’ mean in that sentence? We have that in the beginning, the Word was with God. Then we have, depending on the translation, the Word was God, also. Clearly, these two ‘Gods’ don’t mean the same thing. Does this type of change occur anywhere else in the Bible, where ‘God’ no longer has a set meaning?

    Not only that, but we often see in Christian circles that Jesus is God made flesh. Yet John seems pretty careful to keep the two seperate, in saying that the Word was made flesh. We get to that from God was the Word, the Word was made flesh, so God was made flesh. But that’s an inference, as opposed to ‘the Word made flesh.’

    To answer Ken’s question — given what the son of God represented, can Jesus be “just” anything? 🙂 I think it would reflect better on the Savior/Messiah idea, given what Judaism held as the Messiah, who was not God made flesh.

    But I would say that it doesn’t reduce the role at all. I think it makes the Adam comparison flow better, in that one man brought sin into the world, so another man can have the power to destroy it/overcome it.

  6. “there is no real declaration from Christ that He is God” (Ken)

    Truer words were never spoken…but the book of John is where all the inferences come from about Jesus being God – that much I am aware of.

    “if Jesus was not God how does that reflect on Him as the Savior and prophesied Messiah? If Jesus was “just the Son of God” does that take anything away from His role in our relationship to the one and only God?” (Ken)

    I don’t think Jesus being a person takes away at all – like OSS – I think it adds much more to reality of the event and the human significance. The savior idea was never a literal ‘son of God’ idea back in those days – however – if we do look to the more Greek/Roman religions of the time – that idea is squarely in place (just doen not come from Judaism at all).

    I read an article one time how Jesus related to like 17 of 19 mythical characteristics of the time based on current interpretation of the figure of Jesus – and I have to tell ya – they were onto something with that comparison. If anything, it does show how strong a hold Greco-Roman interpretation became so prevelant in Christian circles and started to outweight the more Jewish theologies of the writers. But maybe the mythic interpretations have meaning also – but we need to understand the myths for that route. I am more about discarding the mythic altogether than trying to understand it and trying to pry into the Jewish-ness of the writers and see where that takes me.

    “I think it makes the Adam comparison flow better, in that one man brought sin into the world, so another man can have the power to destroy it/overcome it.” (OSS)

    This level of humanity also brings alive our role in this event – maybe we also have been given the same power to conquer evil and our own sinful desires – we are both Adam/Eve and the salvation process in some sense. I think the point of the gospels was to put the responsibility square on our shoulders – even if it has another hanging for it – but it does give us a great example, a way if you will, to follow to see this change.

  7. Society,

    In John 8:58 Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.” That’s about as Jewish a way of saying “I am God” as there can be. Also, I’m not getting how Jesus claiming to be God would violate His own belief in the Shema. His claim to be God would only enforce His belief in the Shema.

  8. “In John 8:58 Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.” That’s about as Jewish a way of saying “I am God” as there can be” (Steve)

    That’s kind of why I mention the book of John as the book that does seem to allow this view – namely that sentence. However, this is in a bigger context within the chapter – I would also mention Jesus does use phrasing within the gospel of John that directly contradicts this claim – one need only read John 15 and the idea of the Jesus as ‘the vine’ to see what I am getting at. Big question – does Jesus mean to be part of God and not part of God at the same time? Something doesn’t add up here – unless the John 8 passage means something else.

    “Also, I’m not getting how Jesus claiming to be God would violate His own belief in the Shema. His claim to be God would only enforce His belief in the Shema.” (Steve)

    Jesus would not need be a mathmetician for this simple exercise – 1 =1; 2 does not = 1; 3 does not = 1, and so on. God says he is ‘One’ – and we can take the term to mean simply ‘the only real God’ and Christianity has toyed with this idea and made it seem plausible – maybe God can be more than one person but still contain ‘one-ness’ (thus the trinity).

    However, if Jesus is God – then we really cannot quite explain the intricacies of this relationship or essence of God splitting into 2 places at once – one in another realm and one in human form at the same time – and thus God killing Himself and resurrecting Himself (can God die?)? At some point, this all gets way too confusing and we start just calling Jesus God and forgive the rest.

    See, I have no problem with the Jesus is God debate – if it is so then it will bear itself out from within the scriptures – I am pretty sure. However, in 3 of the 4 gospels Jesus makes no such claim – what are we supposed to do – forget them because John has this claim and he was ‘right’? That’s the real problem here I think – one gospel has this idea (and even then I am not sure this is what John is saying) and 3 others do not – and by rule of doctrine – shouldn’t we wonder the simple ‘why’? Maybe John is being used the wrong way or if John is being used the right way – then all the other gospels should contain this Jesus = God idea also…I ask ‘do they’?

    There is a real funny thing these writers do with Jesus – they do give him a prominent role as the Christ – however they also seem to keep him in ‘oneness’ with God but not as the same person.

    John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” – that’s 2 different subjects with 2 different roles – the vine is not a vinedresser – the vinedresser takes care of the vine and is responsible for it’s upkeep.

    Eph 1:2-3 “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” – God and Jesus are seperated in nature here also – namely in that 2nd verse.

    1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” – again we see this.

    Revelations 1:5-6 “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood–and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father–to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – John even has Jesus and God seperated and not once mentions Jesus as God in his accolades of him here.

    To me, there seems to be more evidence that the writer’s considered them seperate in essence (not equals) but one in purpose – and the Christ is given a special place in God’s kingdom – I am guessing a rulership of sorts. These are 3 simple examples but one can likely find many if they so wanted.

  9. Deut 6:4 – “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”

    Mark 12:29 – “Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD”

    It seems to me that there are couple of things to consider concerning this topic.

    1. The question of whether or not Jesus is God. I don’t think you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt one way or the other. I prefer to believe that Jesus is God, just as I believe that Jesus is the Christ/Messiah/Son of God. In the case regarding Jesus being Christ, he did not make the claim that he was the Christ which is similar to the fact that he does not claim to be God.

    However, I also don’t see how it is a violation of the shema for Jesus to be God.

    But, here are three scriptures to support the Jesus is God idea.
    Matthew 1:23. They call him Emmanuel – God with us
    John 14:9. Jesus says “He that has seen me has seen the Father”
    John 20:28. Thomas answered and said to Jesus, My Lord and my God

    2. A question that we are not considering. Why is it necessary in Judaism for this statement to be even made in the first place? Were early believers having a problem with multiple gods or are they making some deeper statement about the nature of God?

  10. **In the case regarding Jesus being Christ, he did not make the claim that he was the Christ which is similar to the fact that he does not claim to be God. **

    But didn’t many identify Jesus as the Christ, and Jesus told them not to tell anyone? Wouldn’t that be the same as Jesus confirming the claim that he was the Christ?

    I think, out of the three listed, the trickiest one is John 20:28. Jesus’ name is never officially ‘Emmanuel.’ And does it literally mean God with them as God in the flesh, or is the name suppose to be more symbolic as a sign that God is with them? I guess for an example, the idea that God is with them by God sending a prophet, or a sword, or something. The person could raise the sword aloft and shout, “God is with us!” That doesn’t mean that God is literally the sword. So couldn’t the same principle apply to calling Jesus ‘God with us?”

    For John 14:9, Jesus expands on that and says that he is in the Father, and the Father is in him. I tend to read that more of if we see a child, we also see who the parent is. For Jesus, that’s a more exact example, given that he was an exact image of the Father. Yet the two are also kept seperate. Or the verse could be that if you see Jesus, you see the Father, because the Father is in him. Thus, to see Jesus is to see the Father in him.

    **John 20:28. Thomas answered and said to Jesus, My Lord and my God**

    I feel this verse is the hardest to explain for any non-Trinitarian. I always feel the thing to consider is in what way would Thomas have meant God? The God of Israel? God the Father? Christ the God as 1/3rd of the Trinity? Is he actually directing the ‘my God’ to Jesus himself, or including God the Father in this statement of his surprise over the resurrection? We do have Thomas saying to Jesus “My Lord and My God.” Yet if someone showed me a limb previously amputed, and now re-attached, I could say to them, “My God.” That doesn’t mean I’m saying that person is God.

    It would depend on how the concept of God was always used, because I’ve seen references where it didn’t always mean ‘God’ in a strict sense, such as Jacob wrestling with God, and yet Hosea referring to the divine figure as an angel. I think it was that people could use God in a more fluid sense, since as those who had God’s authority, but no one quote me on that.

    **Why is it necessary in Judaism for this statement to be even made in the first place? Were early believers having a problem with multiple gods or are they making some deeper statement about the nature of God?**

    I want to say that it had to do with the surrounding cultures of the time, with their multiple Gods. It’s possible that polytheistic concepts even bleed into the Bible itself, such as Psalms 95:3 or Psalms 82. However, I think Psalms 82 is also referring to human rulers as “gods.” Isn’t that what Jesus uses as justification for saying “I and my Father are one?”

  11. “I prefer to believe that Jesus is God, just as I believe that Jesus is the Christ/Messiah/Son of God” (Just1)

    It is true we cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is/isn’t God – that much we know is true. I would state the writer’s are from a Jewish faith where monotheism is a fairly well known belief – even one of the first things a Jewish child would be taught – this Shema idea (and re-ittirated throughout their life). I am not sure there is a confusion in Judaism about One God – Christianity is the one that brings this new addition into the fray (based on interpretation).

    I would also state the believing something does not make it true…and this belief is based on the hard and fast rules of orthodoxy passed on from generation to generation…so your belief does come from a tradition of sorts. I am challenging that tradition with it’s own valid writings (these gospels and letters) and looking at the history of the times – and I see another alternative – from a more Monetheistic view.

    For anyone to claim the Trinity is not polytheistc in nature is for that same person to claim it’s more mystery than explainable – because they cannot truly explain how 3 = One. Every single time I look at the Trinity, as explained in Orthodoxy, I see a clear cut hierarchy within the mix – Father – Son – Spirit – and to claim those 3 are 1 is kind of funny (unless we me in purpose/intent). Pull any scripture that even so much as looks into the Trinity and we see this confusion over and over again – 3 seperate people in one place. That is not monotheism anymore – that is polytheism.

    EX: Matt 3:16-17 “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

    We see 3 seperate things happening – a Voice of God, a son being baptized, and a Spirit like a dove – all seperate in this passage and unique. This is not 3=1 and if they are 1 – it is in purpose and not in essence. I don’t know about anyone else but I see 3 seperate entites doing 3 seperate things here.

    “However, I also don’t see how it is a violation of the shema for Jesus to be God.” (Just1)

    I would say this simply – this Shema is a Jewish passage and belief – what is it they believe about God from the Shema? If they see a One God concept then we have a real problem and probably Christian orthodoxy has missed the mark here somewhere – because Jesus believes the Shema also in Mark – and he is Jewish and knew exactly what that meant. That’s where the violation comes in – are we making Jesus mean something he didn’t even intend?

    “Why is it necessary in Judaism for this statement to be even made in the first place? Were early believers having a problem with multiple gods or are they making some deeper statement about the nature of God?” (Just1)

    Well that’s easy – God revealed it to them in the Exodus (Deuteronomy) – and the belief that God is alone/one was a contrast to the nations surrounding them (havig plural deities and beliefs). God is also making this statement to prove He is alone as God and that isn’t going to change…then Christianity happened and tried to change this very statement.

    New Version (Christian Shema)

    “Hear, O nations, The Lord your God is three in one – there is a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit, and these alone are God’.

    Problem is…Jesus never says this – he says the Shema!

  12. If you think about it – here is the crux of the problem that needs to be addressed:

    Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Commandment #1

    Are we breaking the first commandment? These are the commandments, according to the story, typed up by God into rock and given to Moses as the statutes to guide the Judaic community – which Jesus was a part of later on down the line. Do you truly believe Jesus would ask us to break this – the very first commandment – not the 3rd or 7th – the very 1st one!

    Is it just me or does anyone else see this obvious logic?

  13. Wow! Thank you, my friend. This is the very same issue (and the whole idea of Shema) that I struggle with. My pastor said unequivocally this weekend that the structure we are a part of exerts the diety of Jesus …. no questions asked, no more discussion. Wow. The very first, most important part of his vision was to make that clear. Nevermind the need to reach out into the community (another thing Jesus clearly said), taking care of the poor and widows .. ahhh! Anyway, I have a blog for you to check out — just don’t link it, OK? http://www.wordpress.hippylostintime.com. See you in the funnies!

  14. BTW … If Jesus isn’t God, he still definately pointed toward God, you know? In the John passage, isn’t the original text more related to the conversation of saying, “I am so much like God that if you see me, you see all the things that he is wanting us to be here on earth”? Crazy … how can God be “one” and yet (like you said) subject himself to a divided, hierarchy that Christianity so easily dismisses as “normal”? No wonder they divorce themselves from the “old testament” and the jewishness of it all…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s