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The question posed by the title, “Is YHWH’s servant, YHWH Himself?” should make you pause and think. But don’t struggle with it for too long though,Cheap Jerseys china because the question posed is nonsensical. It is impossible for a person to be their own servant, for a servant is “a person in the service of another.”[1] Yet for many Christians, the belief that YHWH’s servant, Jesus, is actually YHWH Himself, is surprisingly quite prevalent. However, this understanding of the relationship between God the Father and Jesus defies not only logic and language, but also Scripture. A much simpler solution is to be found within the Biblical text, coming from the lips of Jesus himself. In his prayer to the Father in John 17:3, Jesus says: “This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent–Jesus Christ.” Jesus is not YHWH, the Father and the only true God; he is YHWH’s anointed and appointed human agent, the Messiah.

However, there are many different reasons why people believe that Jesus is YHWH. For instance some note, that some of the same names and titles that are applied to God are also applied to Jesus. Others will turn to the classic “I AM” statement in John 8:58, or to Jesus’ statement in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one,” as proof that Jesus claimed to be YHWH. John 1 is also a common text used to argue that Jesus is YHWH, God incarnate: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…” (John 1:1-2, 14). One might also contend that since Jesus did the works of God–he performed miracles, healed the sick, raised the dead, forgave sinners, and cast out demons–that he must have been God. Surely, it is a closed case: no ordinary human could be called by the titles of God, perform the works of God, and claim to be one with God, so the only possible conclusion is that Jesus is truly YHWH incarnate, the Almighty God made flesh.

Those that believe Jesus is YHWH were right about one thing – no ordinary human could do the things that Jesus did, but then again, Jesus was no ordinary human! However, to understand how Jesus could be called by the titles of the only true God, perform the works of God, and claim to be one with the Father, one must understand Jesus’ role as the servant of YHWH.

Traditionally, Jewish rabbis have believed the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 to be the promised Redeemer, the Messiah. The Babylonian Talmud, a collection of Jewish teachings based on the Hebrew Bible, demonstrates this connection: “‘The Messiah – what is his name?’… And our Rabbis said, ‘the pale one… is his name,’ as it is written ‘Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows – yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted’” (b. Sanh. 98b). Though these Jews did not know the identity of the promised Messiah, it has now become evident that Jesus is the Messiah, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, confirmed this fact when he quoted Isaiah 53:9, as a reference to Jesus, writing: “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth” (1 Pet 2:21-22). He most certainly recognized that Jesus was YHWH’s servant.

Though Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is perhaps the most familiar reference to the Suffering Servant, there are several other “Suffering Servant Songs” which are found in Isaiah, particularly Isaiah 42, 49, and 50. These Suffering Servant Songs are of immeasurable consequence for those who believe that Jesus is YHWH, for they clearly demonstrate that YHWH’s Servant is a separate person from YHWH Himself. In the Songs, YHWH’s Servant says of himself that “Yahweh…formed me in the womb to be his servant…” and “…called me when I was in the womb” (Is 49:1,5) Furthermore, YHWH has empowered His Servant by His spirit and declares that through His Servant He will manifest His glory (Is 42:1, 49:3).  This Servant is addressed by YHWH, given tasks to accomplish by YHWH, and is upheld and helped by YHWH (Is 42:5-7, 49:7, 50:7,9). He was given a “disciple’s tongue” by YHWH and He “opened” his ear (Is 50:4-5). Isaiah writes that YHWH’s Servant was thought to be “struck with affliction by God,” for “Yahweh brought the acts of rebellion of all of us to bear on him” for “it was Yahweh’s good pleasure to crush him with pain” so that “through him Yahweh’s good pleasure will be done” (Is 53:4,6,10). These verses demonstrate that YHWH’s servant is not YHWH Himself, but rather “Yahweh’s arm” – His agent through which He is accomplishing His will (Is 53:1).

Not only is it revealed that YHWH’s Servant is a separate individual from YHWH Himself, but also that YHWH’s servant has a God – a fact which strikes a devastating blow to the belief that Jesus, the Suffering Servant, is God, YHWH incarnate. In Isaiah 49:4-5, the Servant relates his frustration over the seeming futility of his work, but expresses his trust in his God, YHWH:

“…Yet all the while my cause was with Yahweh and my reward with my God. And now Yahweh has spoken, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him and to re-unite Israel to him;-I shall be honoured in Yahweh’s eyes, and my God has been my strength…” (Is 49:4-5).

The facts are inescapable: this Servant, who been identified as Jesus the Messiah, has a God whose name is YHWH. Therefore, Jesus is certainly not God, and he is certainly not YHWH! It cannot be made anymore plain: The one sent is not the sender, and if the sender is YHWH, the one sent is not YHWH.

These conclusions are consistent with New Testament evidence as well, in particular the words of Jesus. Jesus makes a distinction between the person of YHWH, his Father, and himself in his prayer in John 17:3, where he says: “This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent–Jesus Christ.” In this verse, Jesus acknowledges the Father, YHWH, as the only true God and Jesus as the one whom He has sent. Furthermore, Jesus affirms that he has a God, not once but several times in the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation. He says that he has the same God and Father as the Jewish woman, Mary Magdalene: “‘Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’” (John 20:17). This evidence presents a solid case against the belief that Jesus is YHWH, the Lord God Almighty.

But how then, if Jesus was not YHWH, was he able to speak as God, be called by the same titles as YHWH, and perform the works of God? To understand this, one must also be familiar with the Hebraic concept of agency. The Encyclopedia of Jewish Religion says the following about the law of agency:

“Agent (Heb. Shaliah): The main point of the Jewish law of agency is expressed in the dictum, ‘a person’s agent is regarded as the person himself’ (Ned. 72B; Kidd, 41b). Therefore any act committed by a duly appointed agent is regarded as having been committed by the principal, who therefore bears full responsibility for it with consequent complete absence of liability.”[2]

Therefore, an agent sent in the name of his master was to be received as the master himself, as though it were the master himself who was speaking and acting. Aubrey Johnson, author of The One and Many in the Israelite Conception of God, clarifies this concept:

“In Hebrew thought a patriarch’s personality extended through his entire household to his wives, his sons and their wives, his daughters, servants in his household and even in some sense his property…In a specialized sense when the patriarch as lord of his household deputized his trusted servant as his malak (his messenger or angel) the man was endowed with the authority and resources of his lord to represent him fully and transact business in his name. In Semitic thought this messenger-representative was conceived of as being personally – and in his very words – the presence of the sender.”[3]

It is from this Jewish perspective that one must understand Jesus, the man who “comes in the name of the LORD” whom God sent to accomplish His works.

As God’s agent, Jesus is authorized to share some of the same titles as YHWH, though not all. In Isaiah 45:21, YHWH says “…there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me.” Without an understanding of the law of agency, it is easy to see why one might be tempted to believe that Jesus is YHWH. Both Isaiah and many of the New Testament writers refer to God as the only Savior. Jesus Christ is also frequently referred to as our Savior in the New Testament. Therefore it is reasoned that since there is only one Savior, it is Jesus Christ and he is God. However, Acts 13:23 clarifies the whole matter, for it declares that “…according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus.” So clearly it may be seen that Jesus is given the title “Savior,” not because he is the Almighty God, YHWH, but rather because he is the agent through whom God is accomplishing His salvation. It is in this light, that the names and titles that are shared by both Jesus and YHWH must be understood.

Jesus’ authoritative words and miraculous works must also be understood in light of the Jewish concept of agency. As the agent or servant of YHWH, Jesus was given the authority and power of his Father, YHWH, to speak and act in His name. This is in accordance with the prophecy given to Moses in Deuteronomy 18:18, where YHWH says to Moses: “I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” Jesus is identified as this prophet in Acts 3:22. Jesus himself claims “…I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak” and “…the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish — the very works that I do –testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me” (John 12:49, 5:36). He also admits that “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). This is why Jesus’ statement “…He who has seen Me has seen the Father…” was not a claim to be YHWH incarnate. Instead, it showed that Jesus clearly understood his role YHWH’s Servant, by speaking and acting as God as His representative, just like Moses was God’s agent and acted “as God” to Pharaoh in Exodus 7:1 (John 14:19). It is for this reason that Jesus could claim that “I and the Father are one,” for he was one with the Father in the sense that both he and the Father worked as a unit with the same purposes and goals in mind.[4]

The Scriptures are unmistakably clear: YHWH is the only true God and Jesus Christ is YHWH’s Servant, the Messiah. If one is to acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah, it is impossible to then say that Jesus is YHWH, for the two are mutually exclusive. According to its biblical usage, one may use the title messiah, literally meaning “anointed one,” to refer to a prophet, a priest or a king who was consecrated for service to God.[5] As author Greg Deuble notes, “The Hebrews believed that when God anointed that person, he or she was equipped to do God’s work because he/she received a measure of the Holy Spirit…There is no hint that the title messiah designates the Deity. To be messiah is to be an agent of the one God.”[6] Therefore, since Jesus is identified as the Messiah, the Servant of YHWH, Jesus is not YHWH. YHWH, who is recognized by Isaiah as “our Father,” definitively says of Himself: “I am Yahweh, and there is no other; there is no God but Me” (Is 63:16, 45:5). It is time that we return to this simple truth.

[1] servant. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/servant (accessed: May 07, 2013).

[2] R.J.Z Werblowsky, G Wigoder, New York: Adama Books, 1986, p. 15.

[3] Aubrey Johnson, “The One and the Many in the Israelite Conception of God,” quoted by Juan Baixeras, “The Blasphemy of Jesus of Nazareth.”

[4] Benner, Jeff A. “Unity.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/ (accessed May 11, 2013).

[5] Deuble, Greg S. They Never Told Me THIS in Church!: A Call to Read the Bible with New Eyes, p. 144.

[6] Ibid


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