14 August, 2020

Messianic Apologetics

Addressing the Theological and Spiritual Issues of the Broad Messianic Movement

John 17:3: Yeshua Declares the Father to be “the Only God” – Blogcast

In His high priestly prayer of John 17, Yeshua prays, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Yeshua the Messiah whom You have sent” (NASU). Advocates of a low Christology, of Yeshua the Messiah being a supernatural yet created agent, strongly conclude that this proves that Yeshua the Messiah cannot be God. What is the actual context of the statements of John 17:3?

In His high priestly prayer of John 17, Yeshua prays, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Yeshua the Messiah whom You have sent” (NASU). Advocates of a low Christology, of Yeshua the Messiah being a supernatural yet created agent, strongly conclude that this proves that Yeshua the Messiah cannot be God.

What is the actual context of the statements of John 17:3?


During His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, Yeshua the Messiah prayed to His Heavenly Father, “And eternal life is this: to know you, the one true God, and him whom you sent, Yeshua the Messiah” (John 17:3, CJB/CJSB).[1] Too frequently in analyses involving Christology or the nature of the Messiah, John 17:3 has been glossed over by those who hold to a high Christology. Yet, given the significance that John 17:3 has to those who deny Yeshua as God—and most especially how this verse can be witnessed to being quoted affluently across social media—those who believe in a high Christology of Yeshua being God, have to demonstrate that they have indeed taken it into consideration.

Does John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (NRSV), decisively rule against Yeshua being integrated into the Divine Identity? No. And the reason for this is because of the context of Yeshua’s High Priestly prayer in John ch. 17, and how what is being anticipated from it needs to be considered. Yeshua has just stated in John 17:2 that His Heavenly Father has granted Him authority over “all flesh” (RSV), “all people” (NRSV), or “all mankind” (NASB). Yeshua has authority over the whole human race, but the whole human race needs to recognize the One God of Israel, and Yeshua as the Messiah whom He has sent.

Too many of us, as Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Bible readers—often in a Western society dominated by a Judeo-Christian religious tradition—take for granted the reality of monotheism. Even though more conscious for some than others, both Judaism and Christianity look to the One God of Israel as their only source of spiritual veneration. This was not the case for many of the first, non-Jewish recipients of the good news. There were non-Jewish people in the First Century, mainly Greeks and Romans, who had to first recognize the God of Israel as the only Supreme Deity, and then second could in turn recognize that He had promised a Deliverer or Messiah to come, who would restore both the Kingdom to Israel and welcome in the righteous from the nations (cf. Isaiah 49:6).

A survey of the Book of Acts, encountering the spread of the good news or gospel out into the Mediterranean basin, demonstrates how figures like the Apostle Paul had a far easier time declaring the good news to Greeks and Romans who had already been God-fearers associated with a local Jewish synagogue, than to Greeks and Romans directly. God-fearers had already, to a wide degree, recognized the One God of Israel, having turned away from dead idols, and in various degrees were familiar with the Messianic expectations of the Tanach, having been exposed to them in Synagogue teaching. However, there would be many people—as anticipated by John 17:3—who would turn to Israel’s Messiah directly from paganism (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Many of these people had difficulties recognizing the One God of Israel (Acts 14:8-19; 17:16-34), and in not still feeling a pull to the gods and goddesses of the Greco-Roman pantheon (1 Corinthians 8:7). As Paul would communicate to non-Jewish Believers in Asia Minor, they once experienced a prior condition of estrangement from Israel’s God, and hence knowledge of the covenants of promise and the expectation of a Messiah to come:

“Therefore remember, that once you, the nations in the flesh…remember that you were at that time separate from Messiah, alienated from the Commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who were once far off, have been brought near in the blood of Messiah” (Ephesians 2:11-13, PME).

In his Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: General and Historical Objections, having referenced John 17:3, Michael L. Brown draws the appropriate conclusion,

“[O]ne of the central reasons why God sent his Son into the world, [was] that through Jesus the Messiah people in every nation and land would forsake their idols and dead religious traditions and turn to the living and true God. The New Testament is most definitely monotheistic, and it further clarifies the monotheism of the Hebrew Bible. The only true God is one, and yet his oneness is complex, unique, and beyond human understanding.”[2]

J. Ramsey Michaels offers the concurring thought, “the definition of eternal life here upholds Jewish monotheism as the writer understands it, while at the same time reinforcing for the reader the Gospel’s opening line, that ‘in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (1:1).”[3] Yeshua’s prayer, “that they may know You, the only true God, and Yeshua the Messiah whom You have sent” (John 17:3, PME), involves (a) a broad worldwide recognition of monotheism, and (b) a broad worldwide recognition of the promised Messiah of Israel. Those of us who affirm a high Christology see no issue here, as most frequently our conviction of Yeshua the Messiah being God, integrated into the Divine Identity, is predicated on investigating what it fully means for Yeshua the Son to be sent by the Heavenly Father.

For a further discussion of this issue, I highly recommend that you consider purchasing a copy of our ministry’s publication, Salvation on the Line, Volume I: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity—Gospels and Acts.

NOTES

[1] This material has been adapted from J.K. McKee, Salvation on the Line, Volume I: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity—Gospels and Acts (Richardson, TX: Messianic Apologetics, 2017).

[2] Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3: Messianic Prophecy Objections (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003), 12.

[3] J. Ramsey Michaels, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 860.


FEATURED PUBLICATION

Salvation on the Line, Volume I: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity–Gospels and Acts

In the past, the big issue which has faced the Messianic movement has understandably been the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth, widely connected to the purposes of Jewish evangelism. For the present, the big issue which is staring right at the broad Messianic movement—to which no congregation, fellowship, family, or individual is entirely immune—is how to approach the nature of Yeshua (Jesus). Is Yeshua the Messiah God, or is He a created being? While many affirm Yeshua of Nazareth to be the eternal, uncreated Son of God who is indeed God—there are many others who express various levels of doubt about this, and then others who think that Yeshua is a created being and not God. There are those who will affirm that Yeshua is a supernatural being to be sure—perhaps even the first created being in the cosmic order, pre-existent of our known universe—but nevertheless created and not God.

This publication, Salvation on the Line: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity, affirms a high Christology. Not only does it affirm a high Christology of Yeshua being God, it very much defends the view that while understanding all of the intricacies of Yeshua being God is not required for salvation, recognizing Yeshua as the Lord (YHWH/YHVH) of the Tanach Scriptures (Old Testament) most certainly is required for salvation (Romans 10:9, 13; cf. Joel 2:32).

This resource has consulted and engaged with a wide array of resources and perspectives across the Messianic movement, into the more independent sectors of the Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement, the views expressed by various Christians labeling themselves “Biblical Unitarians,” and even those few theologians of note who hold to a low Christology. This involves an array of articles, books, commentaries, and even a few Bible versions. Most important, would be some of the excellent, thorough, and readable resources defending a high Christology, seen within the realm of broadly evangelical Christian theology.

The considerable bulk of Salvation on the Line, while defending a high Christology, is necessarily spent going to the text of the Holy Scriptures (Genesis-Revelation). This is not only because the Holy Scriptures are to be decisively regarded by God’s people to be the Word of Life, but also because this is the venue where the rise and fall of theological concepts are to be found. None of us wants to be found holding to a view of Yeshua being God simply because of some kind of fundamentalist dogma—where if we hold to a different view our name will somehow end up on a list or in a white paper as being stigmatized as some kind of “cultists.” We want to be found holding to a view of Yeshua being God, precisely because that is where the witness of Scripture directs us, it is the genuine testimony of the Messiah and His early followers, and because it is required for our redemption from sins as fallen human beings. The author firmly believes that such a principled case can be made in going to the text of Scripture, and that those who hold to a low Christology are decisively lacking in many areas.

available in both paperback ($27.99) and eBook for Amazon Kindle ($9.99)