Judaism vs. Christianity
What are the Similarities Between Judaism and Christianity?
Answer: Of the major world religions, Christianity and Judaism are likely the most similar.
- Christianity and Judaism both believe in one God who is almighty, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, and infinite.
- Both religions believe in a God who is holy, righteous, and just, while at the same time loving, forgiving, and merciful.
- Christianity and Judaism share the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) as the authoritative Word of God, although Christianity includes the New Testament as well.
- Both Christianity and Judaism believe in the existence of heaven, the eternal dwelling place of the righteous, and hell, the eternal dwelling place of the wicked (although not all Christians and not all Jews believe in the eternality of hell).
- Christianity and Judaism have basically the same ethical code, commonly known today as Judeo-Christian.
- Both Judaism and Christianity teach that God has a special plan for the nation of Israel and the Jewish people.
Major Differences: Christianity vs Judaism
The all-important difference between Christianity and Judaism is the Person of Jesus Christ.
|Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of a coming Messiah / Savior (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7; Micah 5:2).||Judaism often recognizes Jesus as a good teacher, and perhaps even a prophet of God. Judaism does not believe that Jesus was the Messiah.|
|Christianity teaches that Jesus was God in the flesh (John 1:1,14; Hebrews 1:8). Christianity teaches that God became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ so He could lay down His life to pay the price for our sins (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21).||Judaism strongly denies that Jesus was God or that such a sacrifice was necessary.
Jesus is the All Important Distinction
Jesus Christ is the all-important distinction between Christianity and Judaism. The Person and work of Jesus Christ is the one primary issue that Christianity and Judaism cannot agree upon. The religious leaders of Israel in Jesus’ time asked Him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus replied, ‘I am,’ … And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:61-62). But they didn’t believe His words or accept Him as the Messiah.
Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Hebrew prophecies of a coming Messiah (see the list of important Messianic passages below). Psalm 22:14-18 describes an event undeniably similar to Jesus’ crucifixion,
“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
Clearly this messianic prophecy can be none other than Jesus Christ whose crucifixion fulfilled each of these details (Luke 23; John 19). There is no more accurate description of Jesus than Isaiah 53:3-6,
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
The Apostle Paul, a Jew and a strict adherent of Judaism, encountered Jesus Christ in a vision (Acts 9:1-9) and proceeded to become the greatest witness for Christ and the author of almost half of the New Testament. Paul understood the difference between Christianity and Judaism more than anyone else. What was Paul’s message? “I am not ashamed of the gospel (of Jesus Christ), because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16)
Comparing Key Characteristics: Christianity and Judaism
|Origin of the Name||From the Greek: christos, ‘Anointed’ – referring to Jesus Christ.||From the Hebrew: Yehudim, ‘Judah’.|
|Founder||Jesus Christ (c. 4 B.C. – 30 A.D.)||Abraham (First Patriarch, born c. 1800 B.C.)|
|Divisions||Three main groups: Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic.||Several divisions, including Hasidic, Conservative and Reform Judaism. Ethnic groupings include Ashkenazi (The majority) and Sephardi Jews.|
|Followers (2009 Estimates)2||2,200 Million (2.2 Billion)||14 Million|
|Nature of God||One God, who exists in three distinct persons (The Trinity): Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).||One God (known in English as ‘Yahweh’ or ‘Jehovah’) – “…Hear Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4).|
|Holy Book(s)||The Bible (from the Greek: Biblos, ‘books’), given by God to man. The Bible writers were inspired by God in their writings. Thus Christians refer to the Bible as the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16).||The Hebrew Tanakh, similar to the Christian Old Testament, comprised of the Torah (Hebrew: ‘Law’), Nevi’im (‘Prophets’) and Ketuvim (‘Writings’).|
|Jesus Christ||The second person of the Trinity and born of the Virgin Mary. “…true God from true God” (Nicene Creed)||An ordinary Jew, not the Messiah nor a divine person.|
|Jesus Christ, The Mission of||To reconcile Man to God, through his death as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.||As Judaism rejects the idea of Jesus as Messiah, his mission is of no relevance.|
|Jesus Christ, The Death of||“…For our sake he was crucified…he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again…he ascended into heaven…” (Nicene Creed)||Jesus was crucified for his claim to be divine.|
|Holy Spirit||The third person of the Trinity, truly divine: “….with the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.” (Nicene Creed)||Not a distinct person, but a divine power which for example, was given to the Prophets.|
|Other Traditions||The writings of the early church fathers and ecumenical councils, including the Creeds.||The Talmud, an oral tradition explaining and interpreting the Tanakh. It includes the Mishnah – a code of Jewish law.|
|Examples of Rituals||The Sacraments, including Baptism and Holy Communion (Eucharist). In Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, five more are added, viz: Confirmation (Chrismation), Marriage, Penance, Holy Orders and Anointing of the sick. Prayer is also an important part of the faith.||Rituals include the Circumcision of newly born Jewish males, Barmitzvah – a ceremony marking the ‘coming of age’ of Jewish Boys and observation of the Sabbath (Shabat). As in the other faiths, prayer is important. The Jewish prayer book is called the siddur.|
|Sin||We inherit a sinful nature through our common ancestor Adam, who rebelled against God. Jesus Christ atoned for our sins through his death on the Cross (Romans 5:12-17).||Judaism rejects the doctrine of original sin. Atonement for sins committed is made through seeking forgiveness from God in prayer and repentance. In addition, the day of atonement (Yom Kippur) is set aside specially for this purpose.|
|Salvation||By grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).3||Through good works, prayers and the grace of God. There is no parallel to the Christian view of substitutionary atonement.|
|Hell||A place of everlasting punishment for the unrighteous (Matthew 25:46). There is no crossover between Heaven and Hell.||Traditionally, there is the concept of Gehinnom or Gehenna – those who die in sin may suffer temporary punishment, but certain sins merit eternal punishment. However, Judaism’s ideas of the afterlife have varied widely among different groups and in different time periods. For the most part, Judaism does not emphasize the afterlife.|
Answering Common Jewish Objections to Christianity
Objection: “Jesus was not the Messiah”
Throughout the Bible the Messiah’s “I.D.” is given to us. Imagine looking up a friend by first locating his country. That would not be enough information, so you would need to ascertain his city, street, and specific number on that street. It would also help if you had a phone number and knew the time at which he would be home.
Similarly, the Bible tells us the “I.D.” of the Messiah. His ethnic background, place of birth, time frame of his arrival and other identifying characteristics are given. These “credentials” enable us to identify the Messiah, and to recognize imposters.
Of course it might be objected that if these “credentials” are so clear, why didn’t most Jewish people believe in Jesus, and why were they so taken in by false Messiahs like Bar Kochba and Shabbetai Zevi?
To understand this, one must realize that by the time of Jesus, the Messianic hope had become greatly politicized in the minds of the people. They were seeking deliverance from the tyranny of Rome. Although the Scripture spoke both of the sufferings and of the victories of the Messiah, the victorious aspect had become uppermost in the minds of the common people because of the Roman domination. This “lopsided” view of the Messiah has stuck with Jewish people, and the politicization of the Messianic hope has continued. Thus the hope of a political rather than a spiritual Messiah contributes to both the acceptance of people such as Bar Kochba, and the rejection of Jesus in his role as a Messiah.
This is not to say that all Jewish people rejected the claims of Jesus. Far from that being the case, all the first followers of Jesus were Jews. In fact, the rabbis of that time period and afterwards were well aware of the many Messianic prophecies which Christians claimed were fulfilled in Jesus. So for instance, although the Talmudic rabbis concurred that Isaiah 53 was a prediction of the Messiah, by medieval times the pressure from those who applied this prophecy to Jesus was so great that Rashi, that greatest medieval Biblical scholar, reinterpreted the chapter and said it referred to the nation of Israel. This interpretation is maintained today by many Jewish scholars, though it only dates back to the Middle Ages. Why believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah?
- Jesus has the credentials of the Messiah
Only a few can be listed below; there are many others. All of these passages were recognized by the early rabbis as referring to the Messiah:
- Messiah was to be born at Bethlehem: Micah 5:2(Micah 5:1 in Hebrew Bible)
- Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah: Genesis 49:10
- Messiah would present himself by riding on an ass: Zechariah 9:9
- Messiah would be tortured to death: Psalm 22:1-31
- Messiah would arrive before the destruction of the Second Temple: Daniel 9:24-27
- Messiah’s life would match a particular description, including suffering, silence at his arrest and trial, death and burial in a rich man’s tomb, and resurrection: Isaiah 52:13-53:12
In detail as to lineage, birthplace, time, and lifestyle, Jesus matched the Messianic expectations of the Hebrew Scriptures. The record of this fulfillment is to be found in the pages of the New Testament. But several other factors combine to further substantiate the Messiahship of Jesus.
In the first place, he claimed to be the Messiah! When a woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming.” he replied, “I who speak to you am he” (John 4:25-26). Naturally, that doesn’t prove anything one way or the other. But if Jesus had never made the claim to be the Messiah, why would we bother to try and prove that he was? His own claim lays the groundwork for the rest of the evidence.
>> Watch: The Messiahship of Jesus https://youtu.be/8KmMTRQ8w-0
- Jesus’ life is in sharp contrast to that of the false Messiahs, and it is a positive demonstration of what we would expect the Messiah to do.
Thus, Jesus worked many miracles of healing, bringing wholeness into people’s lives, forgiving sin and restoring relationships. In contrast with Shabbetai Zevi, for instance, Jesus carried out the Law of Moses as a devout Jew. And in contrast with Bar Kochba, although Jesus also died, he was resurrected!
The resurrection is a third piece of additional evidence, and it is perhaps the most convincing vindication of Jesus’ claims. It is interesting that an Israeli scholar, Pinchas Lapide, has written a book which has attracted no small amount of attention in the Jewish community. The reason is that Lapide has said that the resurrection of Jesus is well within the realm of possibility. After all, he reasoned, the Hebrew Scriptures give a number of accounts of people coming back to life. Why not Jesus as well? Regrettably, Lapide fails to note that the resurrection of Jesus is described in terms that go far beyond the resuscitations of the other stories; and, he fails to come to grips with the fact that Jesus predicted his own resurrection, which vindicated his claims to Messiahship.
When and where did Jesus predict His death and resurrection?
- In the Gospel of Mark,Jesus predicts his death three times. Jesus tells his followers that “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again”.
- The second warning appears in Mark 9:30–32 (and also in Matthew 17:22–23) as follows: He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.”
- The third prediction in the Matthew 20:17–19 specifically mentions crucifixion: Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”
Jesus knew His destiny, as He was fully God in the flesh. Yet He also “emptied Himself”, so that He could live a human life and undergo all of the hardships and temptations that each of us endure (yet He never sinned, so that He could be that spotless Lamb for us). How do you think He felt – going to Jerusalem, knowing He was destined for the cross?
- There is strong evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ
An assortment of explanations has been offered throughout history to explain away the resurrection as either non-historical (“It never happened.”) or as non-supernatural (“Here’s how it happened.”).
But these explanations have not been successful. Run down the possibilities for yourself and see which makes the best sense.
- Did the Roman authorities steal the body of Jesus from the tomb? Then why didn’t they produce it when the word started being spread that Jesus was risen?
- Or maybe the disciples stole it. But could such a fabrication on their part account for the change in their attitude?
- Three days earlier they were disillusioned, defeated idealists who had hoped that Jesus would bring in a new world order; could a lie which they knew to be a lie, now account for their hope, their boldness in the face of official persecution, and for the high ethical standards they set?
- Why wasn’t the body produced?
Perhaps Jesus never died: he just fainted on the cross and revived in the tomb.
- This idea was popularized in the book The Passover Plot by Hugh Schonfield. Unfortunately the author overlooked the fact that the Romans pierced Jesus’ side, which would have most certainly killed him.
- Also, there was a contingent of Roman soldiers guarding the tomb as well as a huge stone that blocked its entrance. There was no way that a resuscitated Jesus could have escaped and then convinced hundreds of skeptical eyewitnesses that he had conquered death forever! Or was it all a mass hallucination?
- It must have been quite a hallucination to be seen by vastly different kinds of people at different times of day in many different places. You might be able to fool one person, but can you fool five hundred who saw him at one time?
- And unlike the pattern of hallucinations, these appearances of the resurrected Jesus stopped as suddenly as they started, forty days after the resurrection took place.
The only satisfactory explanation is that the resurrection actually occurred, just as the record says. And if that’s the case, it’s a solid reason for accepting the Messiahship of Jesus.
- Jesus transforms people’s lives.
Because he provides atonement for sin and reconciliation with God, Jesus brings peace, joy, and purpose into people’s lives. Apart from faith in him, there is no basis for true peace or direction, for as the psalmist says, “Man is estranged from the womb.” That this estrangement is healed by the reconciling ministry of Jesus is the common experience of those who believe in him.
Between the objective evidence of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, and the subjective verification in our own lives–we think there’s ample evidence that Jesus was who he claimed to be!
>> Watch: A Testimony – Mottell Baleston (6 min): http://www.imetmessiah.com/index.php/testimonies/mordechai-baleston
Objection: Christians worship Three Gods while we worship One God!
Monotheism, an uncompromising belief in one God, is the hallmark of the Hebrew Bible, the unwavering affirmation of Judaism and the unshakable faith of the Jew.”
Whether Christians are accused of being polytheists or tritheists or whether it is admitted that the Christian concept of the Tri-unity is a form of monotheism, one element always appears: one cannot believe in the Trinity and be Jewish. Even if what Christians believe is monotheistic, it still does not seem to be monotheistic enough to qualify as true Jewishness. Rabbi Greenberg’s article tends to reflect that thinking. He went on to say,
“…under no circumstances can a concept of a plurality of the Godhead or a trinity of the Godhead ever be based upon the Hebrew Bible.”
It is perhaps best then to begin with the very source of Jewish theology and the only means of testing it: the Hebrew Scriptures. Since so much relies on Hebrew language usage, then to the Hebrew we should turn. Do the Hebrew scriptures teach that God is a Tri-Unity? Let’s see…
Biblical Support for God as a Plurality: The Name Elohim
It is generally agreed that Elohim is a plural noun having the masculine plural ending “im.” The very word Elohim used of the true God in the bible:
- Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” is also used in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods (Elohim) before Me,” and in
- Deuteronomy 13:2, “…Iet us go after other gods (Elohim)…”
While the use of the plural Elohim does not prove a Tri-unity, it certainly opens the door to a doctrine of plurality in the Godhead since it is the word that is used of the one true God as well as for the many false gods.
Plural Verbs used with Elohim
Virtually all Hebrew scholars do recognize that the word Elohim, as it stands by itself, is a plural noun. Nevertheless, they wish to deny that it allows for any plurality in the Godhead whatsoever. Their line of reasoning usually goes like this: When “Elohim” is used of the true God, it is followed by a singular verb; when it is used of false gods, it is followed by the plural verb. Rabbi Greenberg states it as follows:
“But, in fact, the verb used in the opening verse of Genesis is ‘bara’ which means ‘he created’—singular. One need not be too profound a student of Hebrew to understand that the opening verse of Genesis clearly speaks of a singular God.”
The point made, of course, is generally true because the Bible does teach that God is only one God and, therefore, the general pattern is to have the plural noun followed by the singular verb when it speaks of the one true God. However, there are places where the word is used of the true God and yet it is followed by a plural verb:
Genesis 20:13: “And it came to pass, when God (Elohim) caused me to wander [literally: They caused me to wander] from my father’s house…
Genesis 35:7: “…because there God (Elohim) appeared unto him…” [Literally: They appeared unto him.]
2 Samuel 7:23: “…God (Elohim) went…” [Literally: They went.]
Psalm 58:12: “Surely He is God (Elohim) who judges…[Literally: They judge.]
The Name Eloah
If the plural form Elohim was the only form available for a reference to God, then conceivably the argument might be made that the writers of the Hebrew Scriptures had no other alternative but to use the word Elohim for both the one true God and the many false gods. However, the singular form for Elohim (Eloah) exists and is used in such passages as Deuteronomy 32:15-17 and Habakkuk 3:3. This singular form could have easily been used consistently. Yet it is only used 250 times, while the plural form is used 2,500 times. The far greater use of the plural form again turns the argument in favor of plurality in the Godhead rather than against it.
Another case in point regarding Hebrew grammar is that often when God speaks of himself, he clearly uses the plural pronoun:
Genesis 1:26: Then God (Elohim) said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.…”
He could hardly have made reference to angels since man was created in the image of God and not of angels. The Midrash Rabbah on Genesis recognizes the strength of this passage end comments as follows:
“Rabbi Samuel Bar Hanman in the name of Rabbi Jonathan said, that at the time when Moses wrote the Torah, writing a portion of it daily, when he came to this verse which says, “And Elohim said, let us make man in our image after our likeness,” Moses said, “Master of the universe, why do you give herewith an excuse to the sectarians (who believe in the Tri-unity of God).” God answered Moses, “You write and whoever wants to err, let him err.”1
It is obvious that the Midrash Rabbah is trying to simply get around the problem and fails to answer adequately why God refers to Himself in the plural.
The use of the plural pronoun can also be seen in:
Genesis 3:22: Then the LORD God (YHVH Elohim) said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us…”
Genesis 11:7: “Come, let Us go down, and there confuse their language…”
Isaiah 6:8: Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”
This last passage would appear contradictory with the singular “I” and the plural “us” except as viewed as a plurality (us) in a unity (I).
Plural Descriptions of God
One point that also comes out of Hebrew is the fact that often nouns and adjectives used in speaking of God are plural. Some examples are as follows:
Ecclesiastes 12:1: “Remember now you creator…” [Literally: creators.]
Psalm 149:2: “Let Israel rejoice in their Maker.” [Literally: makers.]
Joshua 24:19: “…holy God…” [Literally: holy Gods.]
Isaiah 54:5: “For your Maker is your husband…” [Literally: makers, husbands.]
Everything we have said so far rests firmly on the Hebrew language of the Scriptures. If we are to base our theology on the Scriptures alone, we have to say that on the one hand they affirm God’s unity, while at the same time they tend towards the concept of a compound unity allowing for a plurality in the Godhead.
The Shema: Deuteronomy 6:4: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
Deuteronomy 6:4, known as the Shema, has always been Israel’s great confession. It is this verse more than any other that is used to affirm the fact that God is one and is often used to contradict the concept of plurality in the Godhead. But is it a valid use of this verse? On one hand, it should be noted that the very words “our God” are in the plural in the Hebrew text and literally mean “our Gods.” However, the main argument lies in the word “one,” which is a Hebrew word, echad. A glance through the Hebrew text where the word is used elsewhere can quickly show that the word echad does not mean an absolute “one” but a compound “one.” For instance,
- in Genesis 1:5, the combination of evening and morning comprise one (echad) day.
- In Genesis 2:24, a man and a woman come together in marriage and the two “shall become one (echad) flesh.”
- In Ezra 2:64, we are told that the whole assembly was as one (echad), though of course, it was composed of numerous people.
- Ezekiel 37:17provides a rather striking example where two sticks are combined to become one (echad). The use of the word echad in Scripture shows it to be a compound and not an absolute unity.
There is a Hebrew word that does mean an absolute unity and that is yachid, which is found in many Scripture passages, the emphasis being on the meaning of “only.” If Moses intended to teach God’s absolute oneness as over against a compound unity, this would have been a far more appropriate word. In fact, Maimonides noted the strength of “yachid” and chose to use that word in his “Thirteen Articles of Faith” in place of echad. However, Deuteronomy 6:4 (the Shema) does not use “yachid” in reference to God.
Biblical Evidence that God Is At Least Two
Elohim and YHVH Applied to Two Personalities
As if to even make the case for plurality stronger, there are situations in the Hebrew Scriptures where the term Elohim is applied to two personalities in the same verse. One example is Psalm 45:7-8:
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”
It should be noted that the first Elohim is being addressed and the second Elohim is the God of the first Elohim. And so God’s God has anointed Him with the oil of gladness.
A second example is Hosea 1:7: “Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah, will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword or battle, by horses or horsemen.”
The speaker is Elohim who says He will have mercy on the house of Judah and will save them by the instrumentality of YHVH, their Elohim. So Elohim number one will save Israel by means of Elohim number two.
Not only is Elohim applied to two personalities in the same verse, but so is the very name of God. One example is Genesis 19:24 which reads: “Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens.”
Clearly we have YHVH number one raining fire and brimstone from a second YHVH who is in heaven, the first one being on earth.
Another example is Zechariah 2:8-9: For thus says the LORD of Hosts: “He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he that touches you touches the apple of His eye. For surely I will shake My hand against them, and they shall become spoil for their servants. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me.”
Again, we have one YHVH sending another YHVH to perform a specific task.
The author of the Zohar sensed plurality in the Tetragrammaton and wrote:
“Come and see the mystery of the word YHVH: there are three steps, each existing by itself: nevertheless they are One, and so united that one cannot be separated from the other. The Ancient Holy One is revealed with three heads, which are united into one, and that head is three exalted. The Ancient One is described as being three: because the other lights emanating from him are included in the three. But how can three names be one? Are they really one because we call them one? How three can be one can only be known through the revelation of the Holy Spirit.”4
Biblical Evidence that God Is Three
How Many Persons Are There?
If the Hebrew Scriptures truly do point to plurality, the question arises, how many personalities in the Godhead exist? We have already seen the names of God applied to at least two different personalities. Going through the Hebrew Scriptures, we find that, in fact, three and only three distinct personalities are ever considered divine.
- First, there are the numerous times when there is a reference to the Lord YHVH. This usage is so frequent that there is no need to devote space to it.
- A second personality is referred to as the Angel of YHVH. This individual is always considered distinct from all other angels and is unique. In almost every passage where He is found He is referred to as both the Angel of YHVH and YHVH Himself. For instance,
- in Genesis 16:7He is referred to as the Angel of YHVH, but then in 16:13 as YHVH Himself.
- in Genesis 22:11He is the Angel of YHVH, but God Himself in 22:12.
- A very interesting passage is Exodus 23:20-23where this angel has the power to pardon sin because God’s own name YHVH is in him, and, therefore, he is to be obeyed without question. This can hardly be said of any ordinary angel. But the very fact that God’s own name is in this angel shows His divine status.
- A third major personality that comes through is the Spirit of God, often referred to as simply the Ruach Ha-kodesh. There are a good number of references to the Spirit of God among which are Genesis 1:2, 6:3; Job 33:4; Psalm 51:11;Psalm 139:7; Isaiah 11:2, etc. The Holy Spirit cannot be a mere emanation because He contains all the characteristics of personality (intellect, emotion and will) and is considered divine.
So then, from various sections of the Hebrew Scriptures there is a clear showing that three personalities are referred to as divine and as being God: the Lord YHVH, the Angel of YHVH and the Spirit of God.
The Three Personalities in the Same Passage
Because of the significance of the first passage, it will be quoted:
“Listen to Me, O Jacob, and Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last. Indeed My hand also has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has stretched out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand up together. All of you, assemble yourselves, and hear! Who among them has declared these things? The LORD has loved him; he shall do His pleasure on Babylon, and His arm shall be against the Chaldeans. I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called him, I have brought him, and his way will prosper. Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit have sent me.”
It should be noted that the speaker refers to himself as the one who is responsible for the creation of the heavens and the earth. It is clear that he cannot be speaking of anyone other than God. But then in verse 16, the speaker refers to himself using the pronouns of I and me and then distinguishes himself from two other personalities. He distinguishes himself from the Lord YHVH and then from the Spirit of God. Here is the Tri-unity as clearly defined as the Hebrew Scriptures make it.
In the second passage, there is a reflection back to the time of the Exodus where all three personalities were present and active. The Lord YHVH is referred to in verse 7, the Angel of YHVH in verse 9 and the Spirit of God in verses 10, 11 and 14. While often throughout the Hebrew Scriptures God refers to Himself as being the one solely responsible for Israel’s redemption from Egypt, in this passage three personalities are given credit for it. Yet, no contradiction is seen since all three comprise the unity of the one Godhead.
Conclusion: There is One God in Three Persons
The teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures, then, is that there is a plurality of the Godhead. The first person is consistently called YHVH while the second person is given the names of YHVH, the Angel of YHVH and the Servant of YHVH. Consistently and without fail, the second person is sent by the first person. The third person is referred to as the Spirit of YHVH or the Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit. He, too, is sent by the first person but is continually related to the ministry of the second person.
If the concept of the Tri-unity in the Godhead is not Jewish according to modern rabbis, then neither are the Hebrew Scriptures. Jewish Christians cannot be accused of having slipped into paganism when they hold to the fact that Jesus is the divine Son of God. He is the same one of whom Moses wrote when he said:
“Behold, I send an Angel before you, to keep you in the way, and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him. But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off.” —Exodus 23:20-23
New Testament Light
In keeping with the teachings of the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament clearly recognizes that there are three persons in the Godhead, although it becomes quite a bit more specific. The first person is called the Father while the second person is called the Son. The New Testament answers the question of Proverbs 30:4: “…What is His name, and what is his Son’s name, if you know?” His son’s name is Y’shua (Jesus). In accordance with the Hebrew Scriptures, he is sent by God to be the Messiah, but this time as a man instead of as an angel. Furthermore, He is sent for a specific purpose: to die for our sins. In essence, what happened is that God became a man (not that man became God) in order to accomplish the work of atonement.
The New Testament calls the third person of the Godhead the Holy Spirit. Throughout the New Testament he is related to the work of the second person, in keeping with the teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures. We see, then, that there is a continuous body of teaching in both the Old and New Testaments relating to the Tri-unity of God.
>> Watch: Three Gods in One?! https://youtu.be/63xmQVV1p34
How to Share Jesus with Jewish Friends
Everybody needs to hear the gospel. And God’s chosen people (the Jews) are certainly no exception. Y’shua came in fulfillment of the writings of Jewish prophets who were writing to Jewish people. So, if Jews don’t need Jesus, no one does! Yes, Jews and Gentiles both need salvation in Jesus and you don’t have to be Jewish to have an effective witness to Jewish people.
Jewish Identity and Belief
Virtually all Jews are proud of their identity as Jews, but this does not in itself make a statement about what they believe about God. Even religious Jews may have varying beliefs about God. It is more important to find out what your friend believes about God and the Bible than to find out what kind of synagogue they attend. For many Jews, their Jewish identity is more cultural than it is religious. But this doesn’t mean that their Jewishness is unimportant to them. Most Jews also think that the opposite of Jewish is Christian and so for them to consider Jesus is problematic because it means considering losing their Jewish identity. Therefore in witnessing to Jewish people about Jesus it is important to stress that they do not need to give up their identity as Jews in order to embrace Jesus as Messiah.
Myths vs. Facts
There are several popular myths which keep people from sharing with their Jewish friends. Some of them include:
- Myth:All Jews are well versed in the Old Testament. Fact: Most Jews have a strong cultural identity with a very limited knowledge of the Scriptures.
- Myth:I can just invite my Jewish friend to my church. Fact: Many Jewish people might be hesitant to attend church. There is no substitute for you personally sharing your faith.
- Myth:I may not be able to answer their questions. Fact: That’s true. But it does not change the truth of the gospel. Tell your friend you are happy to research the information. This gives you an opportunity to have further witnessing opportunities too.
- Myth:I need to wait for the Holy Spirit’s leading. I don’t want to lose my friendship. Fact: God has already told us we are to be his witnesses. (28:19-20) If you are friendly and forthright you will gain your friends respect for genuinely caring even if they don’t agree to discuss the matter at length.
- Myth:I will let my life be a testimony and wait until they ask me about Jesus. Fact: That will likely be a long wait. Most Jewish people feel that religion is a private matter and might be uncomfortable asking. Besides, the great commission commands us to go tell!
Practical Tips when Sharing Jesus with Jewish Friends
When witnessing to a Jewish person, remember:
- Make friends.Demonstrate that you really care about the person. Affirm the fact that you know they are Jewish and that you appreciate their Jewishness. Let your friendship serve as the foundation for your witness to them.
- Be up front.Declare yourself a follower of Jesus right away. You do not want to appear deceptive or coercive. Be yourself.
- Ask questions.Everyone likes to be asked their opinion. This can be a good way to steer the conversation towards spiritual matters. Questions about Israel, an upcoming Jewish holiday or even a Bible question from the Old Testament are a good place to start.
- Give a personal testimony.The reality of God in your life is a powerful witness. Many Jewish people think that you were born a Christian in the same way that they were born Jewish. Hearing how you became a follower of Jesus, how God answers your prayers can provoke your Jewish friend to jealousy. (11:11)
- Use Scripture.Don’t be afraid to answer questions with a verse from the Bible. Encourage your Jewish friend to read the New Testament. Most Jewish people have never read the New Testament and most Jews who have come to faith in Christ came as a result of reading the New Testament. After all, it is a very Jewish book!
- Be prayerfully persistent.Don’t be put off if you receive a negative reaction at first. In Fact, you should expect it. Keep looking for opportunities. Keep praying. Seek to introduce your friend to a Jewish believer or to one of us in Jews for Jesus. Lend books or other evangelistic literature.
- Ask for a decision and follow up.Don’t think that your Jewish friend will automatically understand they need to pray to receive Christ. If they are a willing listener then you should ask if they are willing to receive what you have said for themselves. Be diligent to follow up any decision. Contact Jews for Jesus for help with the new Jewish believer.
Important Messianic Passages to Share
|Topic||Old Testament||New Testament|
|Messiah to be the seed of the Woman||Genesis 3:15||Galatians 4:4|
|Messiah to be the seed of Abraham||Genesis 12:3;18:18||Luke 3:23,34 Matthew 1:1-2 Acts 3:25 Galatians 3:16|
|Messiah to be of the tribe of Judah||Genesis 49:10||Luke 3:33 Matthew 1:1-2|
|Messiah to be of the seed of Jacob||Numbers 24:17, 19||Matthew 1:1-2 Luke 3:34|
|Messiah to be of the seed of David||Psalm 132:11 Jeremiah 23:5;33:15 Isaiah 11:10||Matthew 1:6 Luke 1:32-33 Acts 2:29-30 Romans 1:3|
|Messiah to be a prophet like Moses||Deut. 18:15, 19||Matthew 21:11 John 6:14 John 1:45 Acts 3:22-23|
|Messiah to be the Son of God||Psalm 2:7 Proverbs 30:4||Luke 1:32 Matthew 3:17|
|Messiah to be raised from the dead||Psalm 16:10||Acts 13:35-37|
|Messiah to experience crucifixion||Psalm 22:1-31 Psalm 69:21||Matthew 27:34-50 John 19:28-30|
|Messiah to be betrayed by a friend||Psalm 41:9||John 13:18, 21|
|Messiah to ascend to heaven||Psalm 68:18||Luke 24:51 Acts 1:9|
|Homage and tribute paid to Messiah by great kings||Psalm 72:10-11||Matthew 2:1-11|
|Messiah to be a priest like Melchizedek||Psalm 110:4||Hebrews 5:5-6|
|Messiah to be at the right hand of God||Psalm 110:1||Matthew 26:64 Hebrews 1:3|
|Messiah, the stone which the builders rejected, to become the head cornerstone||Psalm 118:22-23 Isaiah 8:14-15 Isaiah 28:16||Matthew 21:42-43 Acts 4:11 Romans 9:32-33 Ephesians 2:20 1 Peter 2:6-8|
|Messiah to be born of a virgin Isaiah||Isaiah 7:14||Matthew 1:18-25 Luke 1:26-35|
|Galilee to be the first area of Messiah’s ministry||Isaiah 9:1-8||Matthew 4:12-16|
|Messiah will be meek and mild||Isaiah 42:2-3 Isaiah 53:7||Matthew 12:18-20 Matthew 26:62-63|
|Messiah will minister to the Gentiles||Isaiah 42:1 Isaiah 49:1-8||Matthew 12:21|
|Messiah will be smitten||Isaiah 50:6||Matthew 26:67 Matthew 27:26, 30|
|Messiah to suffer, die and rise again||Isaiah 52:13-53:12||The four gospels|
|The new and everlasting Covenant||Isaiah 55:3-4 Jeremiah 31:31-33||Matthew 26:28 Mark 14:24 Luke 22:20 Hebrews 8:6-13|
|Messiah as the right arm of God||Isaiah 59:16 Isaiah 53:1||John 12:38|
|Messiah as intercessor||Isaiah 59:16||Hebrews 9:15|
|Twofold mission of the Messiah||Isaiah 61:1-11||Luke 4:16-21|
|Messiah will perform miracles||Isaiah 35:5-6||John 11:47 Matthew 11:3-6|
|Messiah is called “The Lord”||Jeremiah 23:5-6||Acts 2:36|
|The time of Messiah’s coming prophesied||Daniel 9:24-26||Galatians 4:4 Ephesians 1:10|
|Bethlehem to be the place of Messiah’s birth||Micah 5:2||Matthew 2:1 Luke 2:4-6|
|Messiah will enter the Temple with authority||Malachi 3:1||Matthew 21:12|
|Messiah will enter Jerusalem on a donkey||Zechariah 9:9||Matthew 21:1-10|
|Messiah will be pierced||Zechariah 12:10 Psalm 22:16||John 19:34, 37|
|Messiah to be forsaken by his disciples||Zechariah 13:7||Matthew 26:31, 56|
|The coming of the Holy Spirit in the days of the Messiah||Joel 2:28-29||Acts 2:16-18|
|Opposition of the nations; Messiah’s final victory over death||Psalm 2:2 Isaiah 25:8||Revelation 19:19 1 Corinthians 15:54 Revelation 7:17;21:4|
|The glorious Messiah; Messiah as King||Isaiah 63:1 Psalm 2:6-9||Revelation 19:11-16 Revelation 19:15-16|
|Submission of all nations to Messiah’s rule||Isaiah 2:4 Micah 4:1-4||Revelation 12:5|
|The Gentiles shall seek the Messiah of Israel||Isaiah 11:10||Romans 11:25|
Go Questions.org: http://www.gotquestions.org/difference-Christianity-Judaism.html
Christianity in View: http://christianityinview.com/xncomparison.html
Jews for Jesus: http://jewsforjesus.org/
Chosen People Ministries: http://chosenpeople.com/main/index.php/evangelism/239-answering-jewish-objections-to-jesus
I Met Messiah: http://www.imetmessiah.com/index.php#tm-top-b
Article on Jewishness and the Trinity: http://www.jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/v01-n08/jewish