Jewish Professor speaks about the Incarnation of Jesus: Is it really a non Jewish concept?

Dr. Benjamin D. Sommer, Jewish Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary, a non-Messianic Jew, stated the following in one of his lectures concerning the book he wrote called ‘The Bodies of God and The World of Ancient Israel’:

“When the New Testament talks about Jesus as being some sort of small scale human manifestation of God, it sounds to Jews so utterly pagan, but what I’m suggesting is perhaps the radical idea for us Jews that in fact, it’s not so pagan. That in fact, there was a monotheistic version of this that existed already in the Tanakh. And that the Christian idea, that Jesus, or ‘The Logos’, The Word, as the Gospel of John describes it in it’s opening verses, that the presence of The Word or Jesus in fleshly form – in a human body on the planet earth – is actually God making God self accessible to humanity in a kind of avatar. This is what we were seeing in the ‘J’ and ‘E’ texts [differing Hebrew manuscripts]. This is much less radical than it sounds. Or when the Gospel of John describes God’s Self as coming down and overlapping with Jesus – which is a famous passage early in the Gospel of John – that is actually a fairly old ancient near eastern idea of the reality, or self, of one deity overlapping with some other being. So, this is not just Greek paganism sort of just smoothed on to a Jewish mold, which is a way that a lot of Jews tend to view Christianity. This is actually an old ancient near eastern idea, that is an old semitic idea, that is popping up again among those Jews who were the founders of Christianity. We Jews have always tended to sort of make fun of the trinity. ‘Oh how can there be three that is one? If they’ve got this three part God, even if they call it a triune God, a God that is three yet one, really, really, they are pagans. They are not really monotheists like we Jews are or like the Muslims are. Those Christians are really pagan.’ But I think what we are seeing in the idea of the trinity that there is this one God who manifests Itself in three different ways, that’s actually an old ancient near eastern idea that could function in a polytheistic context as it did for the Babylonians and Canaanites, but it can also function in a monotheistic context as it does I think in the ‘J’ and ‘E’ texts. In fact, to say that three is one, heck, Kabbala [Jewish mysticism] is going to go further than that. They say ten is one. The Zohar says ten is one. Actually certain parts of Kabbala say that within each of the ten spherote has ten spherote within them so that there is a hundred spherote, we are taking this much further than the Christians did. One of the conclusions that I came to, to my shock, when I finished this book [The Bodies of God and The World of Ancient Israel], is that we Jews have no theological objection to the trinity. We Jews for centuries have objected to the trinity, have labeled it pagan, have said: ‘Well, that’s clear. There you can see that the core of Christianity doesn’t come out of the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, what they call the Old Testament. Really, they are being disloyal to the monotheism of the Old Testament.’ Actually, I think that’s not true. To my surprise, I came to the conclusion, somewhat to my dismay, I came to the conclusion that we Jews have no theological right to object to the trinity. Theologically, I think that the model of the trinity is an old ancient near eastern idea that shows up in the Tanakh and in a different way shows up in Jewish mysticism as well.”

You can listen to the lectures here:



2 thoughts on “Jewish Professor speaks about the Incarnation of Jesus: Is it really a non Jewish concept?

  1. Antipas ForYshua July 15, 2014 / 9:00 pm

    The idea of a man / Elohim to a Jew is a double oxymoron. It confuses the Sh’ma of Israel and “Echad” (this is confusing enough ie it means “united” and numerical value of “1”).
    The double contradiction is noted in IS 7:14 &
    “Therefore the YHVH himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”
    Thus the double contradiction:
    – a virgin shall conceive
    – man & Elohim (whoa !!!).
    All the Jews expected YHVH to be “with them” as “Elohim” but not as “man & Elohim”.
    It is even a bigger mystery as S’haul noted in Col 1:26-27 as the Elohim/man “abiding in” the disciple and the end result is a “new creation” and “like the angels” for those who are worthy to attain to order of the first resurrection.
    Truly, great is the mystery of “eusebeia/godliness” per 1 Tim 3;16

  2. Antipas ForYshua July 15, 2014 / 9:32 pm

    Btw, not all the early “Christians” were united regarding the “trinity”. This schism in in the early councils was hotly debated. Those who didn’t go with “The Trinity” were more exegetically sound and Hebraically accurate as debated by Arius of Alexander Egypt.
    After reviewing the scriptures both OT/NT – I am bit more in line with Arius of Alexander Egypt on this.

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