God, Jesus, and Judaism: An Old Testament Bridge to Faith

Michael HeiserJudaism and Christianity disagree in a number of ways. The most fundamental impasse is obviously Jesus. Christians embrace Jesus as the God of Israel incarnate, the messiah who came to earth to offer himself as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of humanity. One can find a spectrum of opinions about Jesus within Judaism, but not that one. For a Jew serious about their faith, accepting Jesus as God feels polytheistic—like a violation of the creed of Judaism in the Shema: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4; JPS Tanakh). You can’t have more than one God in heaven.

It wasn’t always that way in Judaism.

The Jewish Godhead

Twenty-five years ago, rabbinical scholar Alan Segal produced what is still the major work on the idea of two powers in heaven in Jewish thought. Segal demonstrated that the two-powers idea was not deemed heretical in Jewish theology until the second century CE. He carefully traced the roots of the teaching back into the Second Temple (“Intertestamental”) era (ca. 200 BCE). Segal was able to establish that the idea’s antecedents were in the Hebrew Bible. Several passages became subjects of rabbinic discussion. For example, is there anything that strikes you as odd in Gen. 19:24?

“Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.”

If you noticed that the divine name (Yahweh)—translated “Lord”—occurs twice, creating the impression of two divine actors, you saw what many Jewish thinkers saw in ancient times. The Hebrew Bible contains similar passages, in which the Lord is speaking and then refers to God in the third person (e.g., Amos 4:11).

Other passages became core focus points in the idea of two powers in heaven. Exodus 15:3 describes Yahweh as a “man of war.” That phrase might take our minds back to the captain of Yahweh’s host whom Joshua encountered (Josh. 5:13–15). Jews were certainly aware of that passage, but rabbis instead tied it to Exod. 23:20–23. In that text, God sends an angel to lead the people into the Promised Land. This angel was unique among all others not only because he could forgive sins (or not), but because God’s “name” was in him. The “name” is a Hebrew expression used as a substitute reference for God himself—his very presence or essence (e.g., Isa. 30:27–28). Even today, conservative Jews who will not say the divine name use ha-Shem (“the name”) to refer to God.

The idea of God in human form made Dan. 7:9–13 crucially important. In this famous vision scene, the Ancient of Days (God) sees “a human one” (“son of man”) coming to him with the clouds. It is to this figure that God gives everlasting dominion. This is the passage Jesus quotes to Caiaphas when the high priest demands to know who he is. Caiaphas’ reaction tells us immediately that he knew Jesus was claiming to be the God of Israel in human form—the second power. Caiaphas tears his clothes and charges Jesus with blasphemy (Matt. 26:63–68).

Early Judaism understood this portrayal and its rationale. There was no sense of a violation of monotheism, since either figure was indeed Yahweh. There was no second distinct god running the affairs of the cosmos. During the Second Temple period, Jewish theologians and writers speculated on an identity for the second Yahweh. Guesses ranged from divinized humans from the stories of the Hebrew Bible to exalted angels. These speculations were not considered unorthodox. That acceptance changed when certain Jews, the early Christians, connected Jesus with this orthodox Jewish idea. This explains why these Jews, the first converts to following Jesus the Christ, could simultaneously worship the God of Israel and Jesus, and yet refuse to acknowledge any other god. Jesus was the incarnate second Yahweh, the second power in heaven.

logos-mobile-education-ot291-the-jewish-trinity-how-the-old-testament-reveals-the-christian-godheadLogos Mobile Ed: The Jewish Trinity

My Jewish Trinity course for Logos Mobile Education takes students through the Old Testament basis for the Godhead and Judaism’s two-powers idea. Once the verses and motifs for the second power become clear, I also introduce students to how the same ideas get applied to the Holy Spirit. The Trinitarian teaching of the New Testament was not new to the Jewish apostles who lived with Jesus and inherited his message. They, along with Paul, knew the Old Testament well. How they write about Jesus and the Spirit reveals deliberate connections to teachings familiar to Jews.

Jewish Trinity is therefore an ideal course for conversations with Jewish friends and Jewish evangelism. It’s also a powerful resource for learning to deal with the doctrinal error of denying the deity of Jesus, perpetuated by groups like Jehovah’s witnesses and even “oneness” movements within Christianity.

Pre-order the Jewish Trinity course today for 40% off!

Study the Old Testament with Logos Mobile Education

Knox Logos

Earlier this year, the era of Logos Mobile Education began with the Pre-Pub release of the Bible and Doctrine Foundations bundle. Mobile Ed brings the professors, the library, the visual demonstrations of software features, and the online classroom community directly to you—on your desktop, laptop, or mobile device. It’s education where you are.

The Bible and Doctrine Foundations bundle includes nine courses, several of which acquaint you with how the Bible presents a strategic, epic story in an intelligent, deliberate way. One of these courses is OT101: Introducing Old Testament; Its Structure and Story.

What will I learn in OT101?

OT101 traces the epic history of God’s activity with humanity through his people, Israel, by focusing on the major themes of those Old Testament books that narrate Israel’s history from the call of the patriarch Abraham through the return from exile. Genesis through 2 Kings, 1–2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah were originally written to capture this history and tell the theological story behind the events. The content of OT101 is not verse-by-verse exposition, but instead the important topics and threads that run throughout Israel’s story, showing how each book contributes to the Old Testament’s presentation of God’s plan to establish a people and kingdom.

Scholars divide this biblical history and its literary presentation into two sections: the Primary History (Genesis through 2 Kings, minus Ruth) and the Chronicler’s History (1–2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah). Consequently, OT101 proceeds as follows:

I. Understanding Narrative Structures

II. The Primary History

  • The Concept
  • Genesis: Blessing for the Nations
  • Exodus: Rescue and Relationship
  • Leviticus: Holiness
  • Numbers: Human Failings and Divine Faithfulness
  • Deuteronomy: Loyalty and Love
  • Joshua: Inheriting the Promise
  • Judges: The Need for a King
  • Samuel: The Rise of the Kingdom
  • Kings: The Demise of the Kingdom

III. The Chronicler’s History

  • The Concept
  • Chronicles: Experiencing Restoration
  • Ezra/Nehemiah: Building God’s House

Take the next step—or get started—on your journey to greater biblical and theological knowledge today with the Bible and Doctrine Foundations bundle.

Logos Mobile Education Faculty Profile: Dr. Carl Sanders

Logos Bible Software recently announced an exciting opportunity for formal training in biblical and theological studies: Logos Mobile Education. Mobile Ed brings the professors, the library, the visual demonstrations of software features, and the online classroom community directly to you—on your desktop, laptop, or mobile device. It’s education where you are.

Introducing Dr. Carl Sanders

Logos Mobile Education launched with the Bible and Doctrine Foundations bundle. The curriculum includes four Introducing Bible Doctrine courses (TH101–104), and all four share a professor: Dr. Carl Sanders.

Dr. Sanders has taught at the college and seminary level since 1999 at several schools: Bethel University (St. Paul, MN), Northwestern College (St. Paul), and Washington Bible College (Washington, DC), where he also served as chair of the Bible and Theology Department (2003–12). He’s an associate professor of theology at Lancaster Bible College’s Capital Bible Seminary (Lancaster, PA). Dr. Sanders earned his bachelor’s degree from Pillsbury Baptist Bible College (Owatonna, MN), and his MDiv from Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis. He also holds both a Master of Sacred Theology and a PhD in theological studies from Dallas Theological Seminary.

Sanders is well liked by his students for his down-to-earth presentation of Bible doctrine—students quickly learn that he loves talking about theology and has a quick wit. Among his strengths as a lecturer are his ability to distill information down to essential elements and his good-natured, fair way of explaining differences in theological positions. Sanders has a keen interest in urban ministry and has served for many years in racially diverse urban congregations. His interest in local church experience helps him practice theology in ways that reflect the diversity present in the body of Christ. He strives to make theology interesting and practical.

Start learning from Dr. Sanders and other leading scholars. Take the next step—or get started—on your journey to greater biblical and theological knowledge today with the Bible and Doctrine Foundations bundle.

Logos Mobile Education—it’s where you are.

Study Bible Doctrine with Logos Mobile Education

A few months ago, the era of Logos Mobile Education began with the Pre-Pub release of the Bible and Doctrine Foundations bundle. Mobile Ed brings the professors, the library, the visual demonstrations of software features, and the online classroom community directly to you—on your desktop, laptop, or mobile device. It’s education where you are.

The Bible and Doctrine Foundations bundle includes nine courses, several of which acquaint students with how the Bible presents a strategic, epic story in an intelligent, deliberate way. One of these courses is BI201: The Story of the Bible.

What will I learn in BI201?

BI201 builds on OT101 (Introducing the Old Testament: Its Structure and Story) and NT101 (Introducing the New Testament: Its Structure and Story). OT101 and NT101 present the epic history of God’s activity with humanity through his people, Israel, and the history of the incarnation of Jesus on earth and the birth of a new, global people of God. BI201 focuses on specific connections between the two stories, demonstrating the unity of the Bible’s narrative by tracing theological themes across the Old and New Testaments.

The course begins with the dawning of the kingdom of God on earth and humanity’s rebellion against that rule at the Fall. The remainder of the Old Testament tells the story of God’s attempt to reestablish his kingship on earth through Israel. The failure of Israel precipitates the New Testament and its story of the coming of the incarnate King (Jesus), the spreading of his kingdom message, and his return at the end of days. BI201 presents the dramatic storyline as follows:

  • Act One: God Establishes His Kingdom
  • Act Two: Rebellion in the Kingdom
  • Act Three: The King Chooses Israel
  • Act Four: The Coming of the King
  • Act Five: Spreading the News of the King
  • Act Six: Return of the King

Take the next step—or get started—on your journey to greater biblical and theological knowledge today with the Bible and Doctrine Foundations bundle.

Logos Mobile Education—it’s where you are.

Logos Mobile Education: Focus on Faculty

LME-LogoA few months ago, the era of Logos Mobile Education began with the Pre-Pub release of the Bible and Doctrine Foundations bundle. Mobile Ed brings the professors, the library, the visual demonstrations of software features, and the online classroom community directly to you—on your desktop, laptop, or mobile device. It’s education where you are.

A distinguishing feature of Mobile Ed is its faculty. Mobile Ed professors are seasoned classroom teachers, each with a minimum of 10 years’ experience. They’re also dedicated scholars and clear thinkers with considerable experience teaching in the local church. Many are well known as authors of books in the Logos Digital Library.

Experience, scholarship, and engagement

Faculty participation in Logos Mobile Ed was driven not only by experience and scholarship, but also by each professor’s ability to engage the audience in a conversational style. Mobile Ed lectures aren’t recorded with a video camera in the back of the room. The professors speak directly to you, one on one, in brief lecture segments.

The Mobile Ed format allows us to include professors from institutions all over the world. This enables us to present curricula offering specific interpretive and theological viewpoints from professors committed to those perspectives, while also allowing you to explore alternative positions if you so desire. The result is a unique faculty of scholar-communicators whose assembly would be impossible in a traditional educational experience.

Take the next step—or get started—on your journey to greater biblical and theological knowledge today with the Bible and Doctrine Foundations bundle

Logos Mobile Education: Value and Pricing

logos-mobile-education-bible-and-doctrine-foundations-bundleSince the announcement of Logos Mobile Education and my own subsequent posts on our plans for the Mobile Ed curriculum and how the Logos digital library ecosystem distinguishes Mobile Ed from all other distance education models, response has been steady. We appreciate the interest and enthusiasm! We’re moving ahead at full speed, and the feedback is valuable.

One recurring question has been the matter of pricing. Logos Mobile Ed launched with the Bible and Doctrine Foundations bundle at a Pre-Pub price of $995.95. At nearly $1,000, that price sounds high. In reality, it’s a tremendous value.

In my earlier post about the Logos digital library’s role in Mobile Ed courseware, I pointed out that video is only the starting point in a Mobile Ed course. There’s a lot more to Mobile Ed than video. But since people are familiar with video content in today’s world, the flawed assumption that we’re reinventing that wheel is understandable. Mobile Ed courses give you a lot more value than video. They’re worth the expense, especially as a Pre-Pub bundle.

The cost of seminary is rising

The brutal, unfortunate reality is that seminary education is very expensive. Daniel Aleshire, the executive director of The Association of Theological Schools (ATS), a national accrediting body for seminaries, recently observed that the average cost for a three-year Master of Divinity degree has risen to $100,000 in North America. [Read more...]

Logos Mobile Education: Registration Is Open!

LME LogoA few weeks ago, Logos announced a new division: Logos Mobile Education. The purpose of Mobile Ed is to go beyond our historical goal of equipping people to do Bible study; now we’re going to provide academic-quality biblical and theological instruction. Mobile Ed is about experiencing  education where you are. There’s no reason to uproot your family, quit your job, and say goodbye to your church to prepare for ministry and grow in biblical knowledge. Logos Mobile Ed removes those obstacles and keeps the focus where it ought to be—on your schedule, your family, and your ministry goals.

Mobile Ed courses are designed to match the content of courses you would take in Bible college and seminary. The curriculum includes courses on Bible, theology, interpretation, church history, original language tools, counseling, and ministry.

[Read more...]

Logos Mobile Education: The Digital Library Difference

LME LogoNext year will mark my 10th year of online seminary teaching. While my full-time job is with Logos as its academic editor, I’ve never completely said goodbye to being a professor, the job that I had while finishing graduate school. My transition to Logos gave me the chance to see what distance education (DE) was like, so I jumped in—I took some DE courses through the local community college to view the experience from a student perspective. My familiarity with both sides of the DE enterprise has helped shape the goals and strategy for Logos Mobile Education (Mobile Ed).

I’ve noticed an unfortunate trend in DE, particularly in seminary education: many DE seminary students do not have access to high-quality theological content appropriate to the level at which they are enrolled. That may surprise you, but it’s true. And it’s a key factor in explaining why the Logos library sets Mobile Ed apart from any other DE experience.

“I hope you live near a library”

One of the fundamental necessities for a quality, content-driven education in biblical studies is access to standard reference material. That’s why seminaries have libraries. Classroom lectures and required textbooks are where learning begins, not where it should end. Part of the discipline of doing genuine academic biblical study is learning to access scholarly material on your study topic. Traditionally, brick-and-mortar libraries have been the repositories for that material. This has largely changed in the DE model, in which accessible library resources are scarce. [Read more...]

Logos Mobile Education: Our Plan for Biblical Content Instruction

LME LogoLogos recently announced a new division: Logos Mobile Education (Mobile Ed). With Mobile Ed, we’re going beyond simply equipping users to do Bible study. Now we’re also providing instruction in biblical content. That announcement has generated a lot of discussion. How will we make this new goal a reality? What’s the plan?

What Mobile Ed is—and isn’t

We’re raising the bar for biblical instruction for the layperson who simply wants to learn more about the Bible and its world. Our programs will provide solid biblical training for anyone interested in local church ministry. The goal is not to create new digital books or more video tutorials for learning Logos Bible Software—Mobile Ed courseware presumes that students already have a working knowledge of Logos. Morris Proctor’s Logos Academic Training (LAT) is therefore highly recommended as a prerequisite to Mobile Ed courses.

The Mobile Ed curriculum

The focus of Mobile Ed courseware is first and foremost academic. Courses are not aimed at devotional study or small group discussion; course content extends beyond what you would encounter in adult Sunday School classes. In most cases, the content level ranges from undergraduate to seminary. [Read more...]

Why Use the Septuagint?

Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Michael Heiser, Academic Editor at Logos.
Logos recently announced the creation of the Lexham Greek-English Interlinear Septuagint on the Pre-Pub page. Many pastors, seminary students, and lay people devoted to Bible study might wonder about the value of the Septuagint for Bible study. The Septuagint, of course, is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. The Septuagint was the Old Testament of the early Greek-speaking church, and it is by far the version of the Old Testament most frequently quoted by Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament. Rather than try to persuade you of the value of the Septuagint by means of these kinds of arguments, I thought it might be helpful to provide a practical example where the Septuagint explains what seems to be a New Testament theological blunder. I’m betting most of us are interested in that sort of thing!
Below is Deuteronomy 33:1-2 side-by-side in two translations. On the left is my literal rendering of the traditional Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the Masoretic text. On the right is an English translation of the Septuagint at this passage. I have boldfaced significant differences for some discussion.


Traditional Masoretic Hebrew Text
Septuagint
1 This is the blessing with which Moses, the man of God, blessed the Israelites before his death.
2 He said: Yahweh came from Sinai, and He shone upon them from Seir. He appeared in radiance from Mount Paran, and approached from Ribeboth-Kodesh, from his right lightning flashed at them.
3 Indeed, he loved the people, all his holy ones at your hand. And they followed at your feet; he bears your words,
4 the law which Moses commanded us, an inheritance for the assembly of Jacob.
1 This is the blessing with which Moses, the man of God, blessed the Israelites before his death.
2 He said: The LORD came from Sinai, and He shone to us from Seir; He made haste from Mount Paran with ten thousands of Kadesh, his angels with him.
3 And He had pity on his people, and all the holy ones were under your hands; and they were under you; and he received his words,
4 the law which Moses charged us, an inheritance to the assemblies of Jacob.


What Are We Looking At?
Some English translations (ESV, NIV, NASB) are close to the Septuagint or sound like a mixture of the two choices. As the traditional Hebrew text goes, the Hebrew phrase in verse 2 underlying “Ribeboth-Kodesh” is the same (except for spelling) as what occurs at Deut. 32:51 (“Meribath Kadesh”). This is why most scholars today consider the phrase to be a geographical place name, and I agree. The Septuagint, however, obviously has something else going on! While it is possible to get “ten thousands of Kadesh” from the Hebrew consonants of the traditional Masoretic text, the very common Hebrew word for angels (mal’akim) does not appear in the traditional Masoretic text. The Septuagint translation (aggeloi) came from a different Hebrew text.
One more observation: In verse 3 the Masoretic Text seems to equate “the people” with “all his holy ones.” Yahweh’s people, his holy people, are under his authority (“under your hand”). They follow at the LORD’s feet and receive the Law. Note that the singular pronoun “he” in “he bears your words” likely refers to Israel collectively (i.e., ISRAEL bears your words). Israel is often referred to as a singular entity in the Bible (“my son,” Exod. 4:21-23; “my servant,” Isa. 44:1). The Septuagint, however, gives the reader the feel that “his people” and “all the holy ones” are different groups. In the Septuagint, God pities his people and his holy ones–the angels referred to in the previous verse–are under his authority. Israel, of course, receives the law.
So What?
So who cares? Well, the Septuagint here helps us understand an oddity mentioned in several places in the New Testament-the idea that the Mosaic Law, given at Sinai, was actually given by angels. Check out these New Testament passages:

Acts 7:52-53
52 Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
Hebrews 2:1-2a
1 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
Galatians 3:19
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.

Simply put, if you stick to the traditional Masoretic Hebrew text for your Old Testament, there is no place that the New Testament writers could have drawn such an idea. The closest you come to that is in Psalm 68:17. While that verse has a multitude of angelic beings at Sinai, it says zilch about the Law.
The point is that the New Testament references have provided fodder for biblical critics who want the New Testament to be guilty of either an outright error in thought, or just contriving a doctrinal point out of thin air. The Septuagint shows us that those perspectives are just simply incorrect. The New Testament writers weren’t nitwits or dishonest. They were using the Septuagint.