A Review of J.K. McKee’s book “Confronting Yeshua’s Divinity and Messiahship”
Several years ago I tried to catch up with a Messianic friend of mine on Facebook. Seeing that he’d integrated into a Hasidic community, I asked him if he still believed in Yeshua. His response: I should visit an anti-missionary website to learn why Yeshua should be rejected as a false teacher.
Why was my friend taken in by the arguments against Yeshua’s Divinity and Messiahship?
I believe that (1) as a non-Jew he had a great need to feel included in the Jewish community and (2) the anti-missionaries found ways to exploit this, as well as my friend’s ignorance of Scripture.
If only I had seen the warning signs. If only I had known how to respond to the systematic attacks on Yeshua’s Divinity and Messiahship.
McKee addresses this sort of problem specifically in his book, Confronting Yeshua’s Divinity and Messiahship. His solution is to review all the attacks against Yeshua and respond to each with Biblically-based answers. Because, as McKee writes, the answer to the question “Is Yeshua G-d or just a man?” is really a salvation issue:
“Most critical to recognize is that Yeshua the Messiah is specifically referred to as ‘Lord,’ and that ‘if you confess with your mouth Yeshua as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved,’ (Romans 10:9). This is not just some recognition of Yeshua as ‘Master’ or ‘Leader,’ for as C.E.B. Cranfield concludes, ‘The usage of [Kurios] more than six thousand times in the LXX to represent the Tegragrammaton [i.e. the Divine Name of G-d]…must surely be regarded of decisive importance here.’ This indeed indicates that acknowledging Yeshua the Messiah as God Incarnate…is required for salvation,” (pg. 21)
Whilst McKee methodologically divides the book into point-by-point responses to false claims, this review, for practical reasons, will survey three of the primary Christological topics covered in the book:
(1) Evidence for a Plural G-dhead in the Shema;
(2) First-Century Jewish Reactions to Yeshua’s Assertions of His Own Divinity.
(3) Yeshua’s Pre-Existence as Evidence of Divinity
Evidence for a Plural G-dhead in the Shema
“…there can be a wide difference of approach between how the Shema is viewed in Jewish theology and Christian theology–particularly when it comes to the statement ‘the LORD is one.’ In historical Judaism, the Lord being ‘one’ means that God is a single entity. In historical Christianity, being ‘one’ means that God is surely a prime entity, but that He may be composed of multiple elements like Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” pg. 60.
So does the Shema allow for a plural G-dhead? To answer this question, McKee reviews the terms “Elohim” and “Echad” as well as the “Messianic Shema” of 1 Corinthians.
“From the Creation account, it is often debated whether or not Elohim or God is an absolute one or a composite one. We read in narrative, ‘Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image….’ (Genesis 1:26). Christians have widely viewed this as a conversation that God is having with Himself, indicative of a plural Godhead. Jewish readers, in contrast, have largely interpreted the ‘Us’ as a Heavenly court or celestial host, representing the Supreme Being and His angels. This second interpretation can run into a potential problem, as Genesis 1:27 further says, ‘God created man in His own image […]’ The subject of this sentence is clearly Elohim or God, with human beings created b’tzelem Elohim…or in the image of God. Human beings were not made in the image of the angels, requiring that the ‘Us’ of Genesis 1:26 to be God,” pg. 69.
“…Biblical Hebrew has several terms for ‘one.’ The Hebrew word used in the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4 is echad […]; it is to be differentiated from the word yachid….A notable usage of echad appears in Genesis 2:24: ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.’ This speaks of a husband and wife becoming basar echad…This is two people, or two distinct entities, becoming one,” pg. 70.
“The Hebrew term yachid…in contrast to echad…is something that…concerns…’only one’….In Genesis 22:2, God tells Abraham to take his only son to be sacrificed…[et-binekha et-yechidekha…]…” pg. 71 McKee concludes: “The statement [in the Shema] that Elohim is echad, does very much seem to allow for a plural Godhead…” pg. 72
The Messianic Shema:
“In various theological circles, it has been witnessed that 1 Corinthians 8:6 has been known as a kind of ‘Christian Shema,’ in that the One God of Israel and the One Lord Yeshua the Messiah are identified side by side with one another….[Yeshua] is identified in 1 Corinthians 8:6 as the One Lord, heis Kurios…What makes this important, of course, is how the title Kurios was employed in the Greek Septuagint for rendering the Divine Name…” pg. 80. This idea is then corroborated with quotations from Gordon D. Fee and Bauckham.
First-Century Jewish Reactions to Yeshua’s Assertions of His Own Divinity
Yeshua Incorporating Himself into the Shema:
“In John 10:30, Yeshua told those assembled at the portico of Solomon, celebrating Chanukah, that ‘I and the Father are on.’ In oral Hebrew dialogue, He would have said something like ani v’avi echad anachnu…or v’ani v’ha’av echad…there is a correlation made with the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4…[Yeshua] did not just claim that He and the Father were of one accord. Surely, many of the Jewish religious leaders of the day thought that they and God were of one heart and mind, in agreement and in one accord, in terms of how people were to live and conduct themselves. The reaction seen to Yeshua’s claim that ‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10:30) is, ‘The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him’ (John 10:31),” pg. 20.
Yeshua Accused of Blasphemy By the Entire Sanhedrin:
“But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, ‘Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ And Yeshua said ‘I am [ego eimi]; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER [Psalm 110:1], and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN [Daniel 7:23]. Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, ‘What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?’ And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death’ (Mark 14:61-64).
“…before Abraham was born, I am”:
“The dialogue between Yeshua and these Jews [in John 8] reveals something quite startling: ‘So the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Yeshua said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’ Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Yeshua hid Himself and went out of the temple’…. Yeshua did not say, ‘Before Abraham was born, I was’ in the past tense,” pg. 51
Yeshua’s Pre-Existence as Evidence of his Divinity
Here’s a sampling of an extensive survey of such passages:
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity…” [Micah 5:2]
“Just as Genesis 1:1 says, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,’ John 1:1-3 says, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him…’ Further in John 1:14 we see that ‘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 1:1-3 certainly testifies that Yeshua pre-existed the creation of the universe as God…” pg. 31
“In the hymn of Colossians 1:15-20, the testimony given about Yeshua also affirms His pre-existence of the universe. ‘For in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth….(Colossians 1:16-17, RSV),” pg. 32
After citing numerous such evidences, McKee concludes, “Yeshua the Messiah did not have to be born to exist, because there is ample testimony in the Apostolic Scriptures that He not only pre-existed the Creation of the universe–but that He indeed created the universe!” pg. 34
If you’re Messianic then you’ll eventually be confronted with questions about Yeshua’s Divinity and Messiahship. The question is: will you (or your friends and family) be blindsided? or will you know how to respond?
My vote: this book is a must-read for Yeshua-followers (whether Messianic or Christian)!