God Says, “This is Who I AM.”
By Kirt. A Schneider
God From the Jewish Perspective
In words that are familiar to many, Jesus tells us in John 3:16 that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” This foundational text may sound simple to many people, but as a Jewish person, I can tell you the idea that God has a Son is very difficult for us to comprehend.
For centuries, Jewish people have been raised hearing and reciting this declaration from the Torah: “Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad. Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the Lord is one!” This proclamation, called the Shema, is what set Israel apart from all the other nations from the beginning. Found in Deuteronomy 6:4, this pronouncement is the very cornerstone of Jewish belief. Unlike their neighbors, who worshipped many rivaling deities, the people of Israel worshipped only one God. In Judaism, every time we recite the Shema, we
reemphasize this distinction—that there is only one God.
The claim, then, that God has a Son seems scandalous to the Jewish mind because it can be interpreted as suggesting there are multiple gods. Using language that refers to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sounds to the conventional Jew like polytheism (the belief in many gods) and raises some questions: Which One? Are you worshipping three gods? Is God divided? This
has been a massive source of theological tension between the traditional Jewish community and the Christian community. When someone has been brought up in a traditional Jewish community that emphasizes the oneness of God, the Christian teaching on the Trinity—God as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—seems to conflict with what they have been taught about God their whole lives.
Beyond Human Logic
How, then, do we understand that God is one—as the Hebrew Scriptures revealed from the beginning—and yet God is Father, Son, and Spirit? This is not an irrational concept; rather, it is a transrational idea—meaning it is beyond our capacity to grasp through reason.
We cannot conceive the fullness of God’s nature and how He has always existed by relying on logic alone. Consider this: We can ask, “Where did God come from? How did He get here?” But how do we grasp that God came from nothing? Didn’t He have to come from somewhere? How do we comprehend that God is self-existent? It makes no sense to us. The questions are utterly beyond our comprehension. We cannot even come close to grasping by intellectual capacity
alone the wonderful, supernatural reality of a loving God who simply is—who didn’t come from anywhere or anything but has just always existed.
Our finite, human minds cannot apprehend the realm of a self-existent God who came from nowhere but has always been. But the fact is, God is the first cause. Nothing “caused” Him. He has always been. For this same reason, we should not insist on being able to logically understand that God is one and yet within Himself exist a multiplicity of personalities He can display. When we say God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are not saying there are three gods. Rather, we
are saying God is multi-dimensional. There is one God, one essence, and He exists in three persons. He reveals and has manifested Himself as Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
What God Says About Himself
Consider again the words of Psalm 2:7, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” God the Father has a Son who is Himself also God. This amazing revelation of the glory of God is displayed at Yeshua’s baptism: “Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased’” (Mark 1:10–11). Father God calls Yeshua His Son!
The beauty of this mystery is that within Himself there is relationship. This is why in the very beginning, the Scriptures say, “Let Us make man in Our image” (Gen. 1:26, emphasis added). Why do the Hebrew Scriptures use the plural “Us” to speak of God while fiercely maintaining that God is one? Because there is relationship and a multidimensional aspect within the Godhead.
In the bosom of the Father is the Son. He has been forever in the Father and with the Father, and the Father’s love is focused on His Son. It is this Son who was made manifest in the world and died for our sin, as the following scriptures attest.
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
—John 1:18, emphasis added
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.…And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
—John 1:1, 14
Our human limitations prevent us from fully comprehending the realm of the Spirit. We are the created. The created cannot fully understand his Creator. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isa. 55:8–9).