Messiah: Man, God or Both?

The Divinity of the Messiah

It is commonly thought that the crux of the division between Jews and Christians is whether or not the Messiah has come: while Christians believe that He has already appeared in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, Jews (or at least those who still believe in the concept of the Messiah) are still expecting him to come in the future.  But although this difference is real and considerable, it is not really the center of the matter. THE greatest point of contention between traditional Judaism and Christianity is, rather, the Messiah's very nature. Is the promised Messiah of Israel to be a mere man, albeit endowed with special powers, but nonetheless merely human, or is the Messiah no less than God Himself who has deigned to take on human nature and become one of us?

In another article we have examined the Messianic prophecies in light of rabbinical writings to determine the identity of the Messiah of Israel, the time and place of his coming, and the circumstances surrounding his life and death. In this article we will focus on the very nature of the Messiah. Is he man, God, or both?

Christ PantocratorThe idea that God, the Creator of the universe, so passionately loves us that he deigned to humble Himself to the point of taking on our frail humanity - living, suffering, and dying with and for us - is an astounding one. This idea has always been a tremendous stumbling block particularly for Jews and Muslims, in the way of them accepting the claims of the Christian faith.

It is particularly emphasized within mainstream Judaism that under no circumstance can God be portrayed as a man. Every morning, Jews pray in the synagogue: "[God] has no semblance of a body nor is He corporeal." And the third of Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith tells us: "I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, is not physical and is not affected by physical phenomena, and that there is no comparison whatsoever to Him."  Muslims would agree: The Koran tells us that "Jesus son of Mary, was no more than God's apostle and His Word which He cast to Mary... God is but one God. God forbid that He should have a son!" (4:171).

Yet this difficulty is by no means limited to Jews and Muslims. Even many Christians in the past and present have had and are still having great difficulties in accepting the fact that Jesus is God. No wonder: The divinity of the Messiah, along with the concept of the Trinity, has always been the deepest and most unfathomable mystery of the economy of salvation and of God's relationship with man. This is so shocking that many, including some who call themselves believers in Jesus, sometimes assert that the concepts of the Incarnation and Trinity do not stem from divine revelation but rather are deviations from the sacred texts that find their roots in ancient pagan mythical religions.

The goal of this article will be to examine this claim and to determine whether or not belief in the divinity of the Messiah was prevalent in the early Church, and whether it can be defended from the Sacred Scriptures. We will proceed in reverse chronological order: In the first part, we will examine a number of selected patristic writings to determine what the first Christians believed about the identity of Jesus. In the second part, we will consider whether these beliefs can be justified from the New Testament by examining Jesus' own claims about himself and the claims of the other NT authors about him. In the third part, we will consider whether those claims are "Christian innovations" derived from paganism that contradict the Hebrew Scriptures and the Jewish concept of the Messiah, as is sometimes claimed, or whether they are, in fact, in continuity with the Old Testament and with Second Temple and later Judaism.

It should be noted that we shall not try here to explain the rationale for the Incarnation, or "why God became man," but only to demonstrate the sources of this belief in the Patristic writings and in Scripture.


Part I: The Divinity of Messiah in Patristic Writings

Source for this section: Catholic Answers

The following quotes show that the Church Fathers unquestionably believed that Jesus of Nazareth is God, with testimonies dating as early as the beginning of the second century.  This material may be useful to counter the fantasies and myths propagated by novels such as Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, which claim that the Catholic Church voted to make Jesus divine at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. in order to gain power over the people.  As we will see, Christians immediately believed in the divinity of Jesus from the very first days of the rise of Christianity.

Ignatius of Antioch

"Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church at Ephesus in Asia . . . predestined from eternity for a glory that is lasting and unchanging, united and chosen through true suffering by the will of the Father in Jesus Christ our God" (Letter to the Ephesians 1 [A.D. 110]).
"For our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary in accord with God’s plan: of the seed of David, it is true, but also of the Holy Spirit" (ibid., 18:2).
"[T]o the Church beloved and enlightened after the love of Jesus Christ, our God, by the will of him that has willed everything which is" (Letter to the Romans 1 [A.D. 110]).

Aristides

"[Christians] are they who, above every people of the earth, have found the truth, for they acknowledge God, the Creator and maker of all things, in the only-begotten Son and in the Holy Spirit" (Apology 16 [A.D. 140]).

Tatian the Syrian

"We are not playing the fool, you Greeks, nor do we talk nonsense, when we report that God was born in the form of a man" (Address to the Greeks 21 [A.D. 170]).

Melito of Sardis

"It is no way necessary in dealing with persons of intelligence to adduce the actions of Christ after his baptism as proof that his soul and his body, his human nature, were like ours, real and not phantasmal. The activities of Christ after his baptism, and especially his miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the deity hidden in his flesh. Being God and likewise perfect man, he gave positive indications of his two natures: of his deity, by the miracles during the three years following after his baptism, of his humanity, in the thirty years which came before his baptism, during which, by reason of his condition according to the flesh, he concealed the signs of his deity, although he was the true God existing before the ages" (Fragment in Anastasius of Sinai’s The Guide 13 [A.D. 177]).

Irenaeus

"...to Jesus Christ our Lord and God and Savior and King, in accord with the approval of the invisible Father, every knee shall bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth . . . " (Against Heresies 1:10:1 [A.D. 189]).

Clement of Alexandria

"The Word, then, the Christ, is the cause both of our ancient beginning—for he was in God—and of our well-being. And now this same Word has appeared as man. He alone is both God and man, and the source of all our good things" (Exhortation to the Greeks 1:7:1 [A.D. 190]).
"Despised as to appearance but in reality adored, [Jesus is] the expiator, the Savior, the soother, the divine Word, he that is quite evidently true God, he that is put on a level with the Lord of the universe because he was his Son" (ibid., 10:110:1).

Tertullian

"The origins of both his substances display him as man and as God: from the one, born, and from the other, not born" (The Flesh of Christ 5:6–7 [A.D. 210]).
"That there are two gods and two Lords, however, is a statement which we will never allow to issue from our mouth; not as if the Father and the Son were not God, nor the Spirit God, and each of them God; but formerly two were spoken of as gods and two as Lords, so that when Christ would come, he might both be acknowledged as God and be called Lord, because he is the Son of him who is both God and Lord" (Against Praxeas 13:6 [A.D. 216]).

Origen

"Although he was God, he took flesh; and having been made man, he remained what he was: God" (The Fundamental Doctrines 1:0:4 [A.D. 225]).

Hippolytus of Rome

"Only [God’s] Word is from himself and is therefore also God, becoming the substance of God" (Refutation of All Heresies 10:33 [A.D. 228]).
"For Christ is the God over all, who has arranged to wash away sin from mankind, rendering the old man new" (ibid., 10:34).

Novatian

"If Christ was only man, why did he lay down for us such a rule of believing as that in which he said, ‘And this is life eternal, that they should know you, the only and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent?’ [John 17:3]. Had he not wished that he also should be understood to be God, why did he add, ‘And Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent,’ except because he wished to be received as God also? Because if he had not wished to be understood to be God, he would have added, ‘And the man Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent;’ but, in fact, he neither added this, nor did Christ deliver himself to us as man only, but associated himself with God, as he wished to be understood by this conjunction to be God also, as he is. We must therefore believe, according to the rule prescribed, on the Lord, the one true God, and consequently on him whom he has sent, Jesus Christ, who by no means, as we have said, would have linked himself to the Father had he not wished to be understood to be God also. For he would have separated himself from him had he not wished to be understood to be God" (Treatise on the Trinity 16 [A.D. 235]).

Cyprian of Carthage

"One who denies that Christ is God cannot become his temple [of the Holy Spirit] . . . " (Letters 73:12 [A.D. 253]).

Gregory the Wonderworker

"There is one God, the Father of the living Word, who is his subsistent wisdom and power and eternal image: perfect begetter of the perfect begotten, Father of the only-begotten Son. There is one Lord, only of the only, God of God, image and likeness of deity, efficient Word, wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all things, and power formative of the whole creation, true Son of true Father, invisible of invisible, and incorruptible of incorruptible, and immortal of immortal and eternal of eternal. . . . And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides ever" (Declaration of Faith [A.D. 265]).

Arnobius

"‘Well, then,’ some raging, angry, and excited man will say, ‘is that Christ your God?’ ‘God indeed,’ we shall answer, ‘and God of the hidden powers’" (Against the Pagans 1:42 [A.D. 305]).

Lactantius

"He was made both Son of God in the spirit and Son of man in the flesh, that is, both God and man" (Divine Institutes 4:13:5 [A.D. 307]).
"We, on the other hand, are [truly] religious, who make our supplications to the one true God. Someone may perhaps ask how, when we say that we worship one God only, we nevertheless assert that there are two, God the Father and God the Son—which assertion has driven many into the greatest error . . . [thinking] that we confess that there is another God, and that he is mortal. . . . [But w]hen we speak of God the Father and God the Son, we do not speak of them as different, nor do we separate each, because the Father cannot exist without the Son, nor can the Son be separated from the Father" (ibid., 4:28–29).

Council of Nicaea I

"We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father. Through him all things were made" (Creed of Nicaea [A.D. 325]).
"But those who say, ‘There was a time when he [the Son] did not exist,’ and ‘Before he was born, he did not exist,’ and ‘Because he was made from non-existing matter, he is either of another substance or essence,’ and those who call ‘God the Son of God changeable and mutable,’ these the Catholic Church anathematizes" (Appendix to the Creed of Nicaea [A.D. 325]).

Part II: The Divinity of Messiah in the New Testament

The early Church Fathers clearly believed that Jesus is God. But perhaps they got this idea from their pagan background and environment rather than from the Scriptures? This section will show that this was not the case; rather, the New Testament quite clearly proclaims the divinity of Christ.

Jesus' Claims about Himself

It is true that Jesus never openly said that He is God. Quite clearly, he was well aware that had he openly made such a claim, not only would no one have believed him, but he quickly would have lost his credibility among his followers and raised many questions about his mental sanity. On the other hand, he seems to have been quite intent on gradually revealing this stunning fact to his followers through his words and deeds, and most especially by his resurrection. Moreover, Jesus did claim at least a few times that he was equal with God, which provoked the anger of his opponents who clearly understood that he was making claims to divinity:

"If you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins... I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." (Jn 8:24, 58, cf. Ex 3:14)

"I and My Father are one." Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him... saying, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God." (Jn 10:30-33)

"He who has seen Me has seen the Father... Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?" (Jn 14:9-10)

"And Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God.'" (Jn 20:28)

Divine Attributes

The New Testament authors present Jesus as having all the attributes that usually pertain to the divinity alone. He is presented as being:

  • Self-existent and possessing eternal life: In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (Jn 1:4, also 14:6, 1 Jn 5:11)
  • Omnipresent: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them" (Mt 18:20).  "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Mt 28:20)
  • Omniscient: "Lord, You know all things." (Jn 21:17, also Jn 4:16, 6:64, 16:30, Mt 16:22-27)
  • Omnipotent: "All authority is given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Mt 28:18, also Jn 5:19).  Jesus raised the dead (Lk 7:14-15) and showed mastery over nature by calming the wind and sea (Mt 8:26-27).
  • Forgiving sins: "Son, your sins are forgiven you." And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, "Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Mar 2:6-7)
  • Receiving worship as God: Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, "Truly You are the Son of God." (Mt 14:33, also 28:9)
  • Eternal:  "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." (Heb 13:8, also Heb. 1:12)

Direct Claims by the NT Authors

In addition, the New Testament authors make a number of direct and clear claims that Jesus is, in fact, God:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (Jn 1:1)

"No one has ever seen God, but the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." (Jn 1:18) (some manuscripts have "only begotten Son")

"Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He…also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God." (John 5:18)

"Therefore take heed… to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." (Acts 20:28)     [God has purchased the church with His own blood]

"...from [the Israelites], according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God." (Rom 9:5)

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form [morphe] of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God." (Phil 2:5-6)

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth…All things were created through Him and for Him.  And he is before all things, and in Him all things consist." (Col. 1:15-17)

"For in [Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Col. 2:9)

"God was manifested in the flesh." (1 Tim 3:16)

"...looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." (Tit. 2:13)

"But to the Son, [God] says: Your throne, O God, is forever and ever." (Heb. 1:8, cf. Ps. 45:6)

"To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Pet. 1:1)

"And we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ.  This is the true God and eternal life." (1 John 5:20)

"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!"  (Rev 5:12)

Indirect Claims by the NT Authors referring to the OT

Should these direct claims not be enough, we also find a number of indirect claims that show that the New Testament authors believed that Jesus was God. In these examples, some divine traits that were exclusively attributed to God in the Old Testament are also attributed to Jesus in the New Testament.

God is the only Redeemer and Savior...

"God will come and save you." (Isa. 35:4-5)

"Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel." (Isa. 43:14, also 41:14, 44:22-24, 47:4, 48:17)

"A just God and a Savior; there is none besides Me." ( Isa. 45:21, also 45:15)

"I have redeemed you; I am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior." (Isa. 43:1,11, comp. Isa. 44:6, also Hos. 13:4)

…But Christ is also Savior

"Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer the Lord of Hosts" - who is this Redeemer who is 'the Lord of Hosts' yet distinct from 'the Lord, the King of Israel'? (Isa. 44:6)

"And you shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins." (Mat 1:21)

"We know that this is indeed the Messiah, the Savior of the world." (John 4:42, also John 12:47, Acts 4:12, Heb. 7:25)

God is the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega...

"I am the First, I am also the Last. (Isa. 48:12, also Isa. 44:6)

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, says the Lord…the Almighty." (Rev. 1:8)

…but Jesus is also the First and the Last, the Alpha and Omega:

The Son of Man said: "I am the First and the Last" (Rev. 1:13,17, also Rev. 2:8).

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last." (Rev. 22:12)

Only God is the Creator...

"I am the Lord who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone, who spreads abroad the earth by Myself." (Isa. 44:24)

"You alone are the Lord, You have made heaven…the earth and everything on it, the seas…" (Neh. 9:6)

…but all things were made by and through Jesus:

"Let Us make man in our image, according to our likeness." - who is God speaking to? (Gen. 1:26)

"All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." (John 1:3)

"By [Christ] all things were created…through Him and for Him." (Col. 1:16)

Only God can be worshiped...

"You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve." ( Deut. 6:13, also Luke 4:8)

…but Jesus is also worshiped:

"[The Magi] saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him." ( Matt 2:11, also Matt. 14:33, 28:17, Luke 24:52, John 9:38)

"But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him.’" (Heb. 1:6)

God does not share His glory...

"My glory I will not give to another."  (Isa. 42:8)

"You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power…" (Rev. 4:11)

…yet Jesus receives the same glory as God:

"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing." (Rev. 5:12)

"Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." (Rev. 5:13)

Jesus fulfills OT prophecies that refer to God

Through his words and actions, Jesus fulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament that referred to God.  Compare the passage from the Tanakh with its fulfillment in the New Testament.  The Tanakh passage refers to God while the New Testament passage refers to Jesus, making them One.

Healing the blind and deaf

"[God] will come and save you.  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.  Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing." (Isa. 35:4-5)

[John the Baptist asked:] "Are you the coming One? Jesus answered and said to them, ‘…The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them." (Matt. 11:3-5)

Isaiah's prophecy of a blind and deaf people

"Woe is me…for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." And [God] said, ‘Go, and tell this people: …make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed." (Isa. 6:5,10)

"But although [Jesus] had done so many signs before them…they could not believe, because Isaiah said: ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them." These things Isaiah said when he saw His [Jesus’] glory and spoke of Him [of Jesus]." (John 12:37-41)

Laying the foundations of the earth

"Of old You [God] laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands…" (Ps. 102:25-28)

"...to the Son He says: …You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands…" (Heb. 1:8,10)

The good Shepherd

"The Lord is my Shepherd." (Ps. 23:1)

"I am the good shepherd." (John 10:11)

A stone of stumbling and rock of offense

"The Lord of hosts…will be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense." (Isa. 8:13-14)

Jesus is "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense."  (1 Pet. 2:8)

The King of Israel

"The King of Israel, the Lord [YHWH], is in your midst." (Zeph. 3:15)

"Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" (John 1:49)

Infants praising God

"Out of the mouth of babes and infants You [God] have ordained strength." (Ps. 8:2)

Jesus applies this verse to Himself. (Matt. 21:16)

The Lord's feet on the Mount of Olives

"The Lord will go forth…and in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives." (Zech. 14:3-4)

"This same Jesus…will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven. Then they returned from the mount called Olivet." (Acts 1:11-12)

Part III: The Divinity of Messiah in the Old Testament and in Jewish Writings

The Angel of the Lord

The divinity of Messiah was still veiled in the Old Testament. Yet we do find several occurrences where God appears either in the form of a man or angel, usually called "the Angel of the Lord."

In Genesis 16:7, the Angel of the Lord appears to Hagar and speaks with her; yet in verse 13 the text tells us that this was "the Lord who spoke to her."

In Genesis 18:1-2, the Lord appears to Abraham in the form of 3 men.  Notice the very unusual dialogue of this whole chapter between Abraham and God/the three men. At times it seems like Abraham is speaking to the Lord (in the singular), and at times to the three men (in the plural) (the singular/plural is partly lost in the English translation):

In verse 3, Abraham calls his interlocutor "My Lord" (אֲדונָי, Adonai) and speaks in the singular. He then switches to the plural in verses 4-9 ("wash your feet," "they ate," "they said..."). Then, in verses 10-15, it is again God who speaks in the singular ("He said," "I will return"). In verse 16, "the men rose" but "the Lord said" to Abraham. In verse 22 "the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord." Abraham then continues to dialogue with the Lord in verses 23-33. With whom does Abraham speak in this chapter? God in the form of three men/angels? God accompanied by three men/angels? God and two men/angels? We find the answer in 19:1 "Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening...".  Suddenly there are only two angels. This means that when "the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord" the text is saying that only two of them left and the third one was the Lord himself!

In Genesis 22:11-12, after Isaac's near-sacrifice, we see again the Angel of the Lord saying to Abraham "now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me" - the angel is speaking as if he were God.  Also in verses 15-16: "Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: "By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD..."

In Genesis 32:24, we see "a man wrestling with [Jacob] until the breaking of day." Yet in verse 30 Jacob tells us: "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."

In Judges 6:12, the Angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and engages in a dialogue with. But the angel suddenly turns out to be the Lord Himself:  "Then the Lord turned to him and said…" (v. 14; see also v.16, 20-22). 

We see a similar occurrence in Judges 13 when the Angel of the Lord appears to Manoah and his wife (13:3-18).  But "when the Angel of the Lord appeared no more to Manoah and his wife, then Manoah knew that He was the Angel of the Lord.  And Manoah said to his wife, ‘We shall surely die, because we have seen God!’" (Jud. 13:21-22). Again, the angel of the Lord is God Himself.

Turning to some rabbinical sources, we find confirmation of the existence of a "redeeming angel" or "angel of God" who mediated the Ten Commandments to Israel and is the Shekhinah, the divine presence, and indeed God himself:

"The Ten Commandments did not come to Israel in the simple way of writings. And the angel who gave them… he is the redeeming angel, and it is he of whom it is written 'and the angel of God went.'  This angel is God, and it is He who announces the commandments to Israel, as it is written: "and God said all these things." (Rabbi Meir Bei Gabai, sefer Avodat Kodesh)
"'And the angel of God went' this angel is the house of judgment of the Holy One, blessed be He… this angel is the Shekhinah and is called ‘the angel prince of the world’ because the guidance of the world is carried out by him. (Rabbi Menahem of Rekanati, "BiShlach" portion, Ex 14:19)

The prophet Malachi also mentions the Angel of the Lord. Rabbi David Kimchi, commenting on this passage, tells us that this Angel is "the Lord" and "the Messiah-King."

"Behold, I send My messenger [מלאך - angel], and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger [angel] of the covenant, in whom you delight… (Mal 3:1)

"The Lord, He is the Messiah-King, and He is the Angel of the Covenant." (Rabbi David Kimchi on Mal 3:1)

The Angel Metatron

In the article on the Trinity, we have seen that there are several passages in the OT which indicate that the One God reveals Himself as a communion of (three) persons.  The medieval Zohar and other mystical writers speak even more explicitly of this "mystery of three" in the godhead, where the "Middle Spirit" is the eternal Word of God who already existed before creation, the Angel of God and mediator between heaven and earth called "Metatron," who emanated from God - yet is none other than YHWH Himself!

"The middle pillar is 'Metatron.'" (Zohar, vol. 3, p. 227)

"The great and exalted name speaks to Moses and tells him to come up to YHWH, He is Metatron, sometimes called by the name YHWH." (Rabbi Menahem of Rekanati, p. 145)

"Who is the way to the tree of life? It is Metatron… Metatron is called "the Angel of God"… every petition and plea brought before the King must go through Metatron… Metatron is the emissary responsible for everything that is sent from heaven to this world, or from this world to heaven…"  (Tamtsit haZohar, vol. 2, Ex., col. 51)

The garment of El Shaddai is Metatron. (Zohar, vol. 3, p. 231)

"There is a man who is angel and Metatron.  He is a man in the image of the Holy One, blessed be He.  And He is the emanation from Him, for He is YHWH, and about Him it cannot be said that He was created, formed, or made, but that He emanated from God."  (Tikunei haZohar, chap. 67, p. 130)

The Son of God

The kabbalists called the second sphere by the name 'Metatron,' who is the name down below of the Son of YHWH. (Sefer Yetsirah, p. 85). This reminds us Psalm 2, which explicitly speaks of God's Son who is the Lord's "Anointed One" or Messiah:

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Messiah... I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession..." Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.  Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Ps 2:7-9, 12)

As seen in the article on the Messiah in the Tanakh, the midrash, Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and the Talmud (Sukka 52a) associate this "Son" with the Messiah:

"Serve the Lord, about the Lord… and kiss the Son, about the Messiah." (Ibn Ezra on Ps 2)

The Zohar even appends to the description of the Son ("bar") a trinitarian statement mentioning the Holy One, His Son, and the Divine Presence (the Shekhinah):

"You are the good shepherd; of you it is said, 'Kiss the Son.' You are great here below, the teacher of Israel, the Lord of the serving angels, the son of the Most High, the son of the Holy One, blessed is He, and his Shekhinah." (Zohar, part III, p. 307, Amsterdam edition)

"For He is the middle pillar in the Godhead, and He is the Son of God."  (Zohar, Genesis, p. 16)

God said: "Faithful shepherd! You are truly my Son, the Shekhinah.  Great dignitaries and angels, kiss the Son! Rise, all of you, kiss Him and welcome Him as King and Lord!" (Zohar, vol. 3, p. 281)

A God-Man?

A few OT passages also tell us about "Immanuel" (God is with us) - a child who will be born and will be called "mighty God" and "Everlasting Father."

"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isa 7:14)

"Unto us a child is born…and His name will be called…mighty God, Everlasting Father." (Isa 9:6)

Jeremiah adds that the branch of David who will be King - the Messiah - will be called by the name of God, YHWH:

"I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.  In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: The Lord our Righteousness." (YHWH Tzidkeinu) (Jer 23:6; also Jer 33:16).

The prophet Micah and his commentator Rabbi David Qimhi tell us that the Messiah, born in Bethlehem, will be of eternal origins and therefore is El - God:

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." (Mic 5:2)

"It will be said in the Messianic age that his 'origins are from old, from ancient time;' 'from Bethlehem' means that he will be of the house of David, because there is a long period of time between David and the Messiah-King; and he is El (God), which is how he is 'from old, from ancient times.'" (Qimhi on Mic 5:2) 

In addition, God Himself, speaking through Zechariah, tells us that the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will "look on Me whom they have pierced." How can one "pierce God" - unless He were of flesh and blood?

"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced.  Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn." (Zech. 12:10, cf. Jn 19:37)

The book of Daniel reveals "one like a son of man" who reigns over the whole world and whom all people serve.

"…behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed." (Dan 7:13-14)

The apocryphal book of Enoch also presents the Messiah and Son of Man as pre-existent before the creation of the world:

And at that hour that Son of Man was named In the presence of the Lord of Spirits, and his name before the Head of Days. Yea, before the sun and the signs were created, before the stars of the heaven were made, His name was named before the Lord of Spirits.  He shall be a staff to the righteous whereon to stay themselves and not fall, and he shall be the light of the Gentiles, and the hope of those who are troubled of heart.  All who dwell on earth shall fall down and worship before him, and will praise and bless and celebrate with song the Lord of Spirits. And for this reason hath he been chosen and hidden before Him, before the creation of the world and for evermore.  (1 Enoch 48:2-6)   

Finally, consider Ezekiel's terrifying vision of the glory of the Lord - appearing as a man seated on a throne:

And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around... This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. (Ezek 1:26-28)

In conclusion, we can see that the Old Testament and Jewish literature are replete with imagery where God indeed appears as man and where the Messiah is portrayed as divine Son of God. The New Testament authors and Church Fathers, therefore, did not innovate this concept but drew from an established tradition that already existed in previous Jewish sources and continued to develop in some streams of Judaism well into the Middle Ages.