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G-d can do anything, can’t he?

February 9, 2015

4_lord-jesus-christWhen Christians argue that Jews limit G-d by their stubborn insistence on strict monotheism, by being so certain that He would never become one of us by becoming a man, they accuse Jews of putting G-d in a box. If G-d is so powerful, they ask, what would stop Him from taking on flesh to dwell among men as one of us, doing all the normal things we mere mortal do and even dying at the hands of His own creatures? As one popular messianic blogger put it recently, it’s a non-starter to even think that something is “impossible” when it comes to the Almighty. G-d can do anything, can’t he?

There are actually many things that even G-d can’t do either because they are indeed impossible or because they go against His very nature. What are some of those things? Here are a few examples:

He can’t contradict Himself, G-d cannot make another god like Himself, nor G-d can make one of his own creatures into a god comparable or equal to Him. He just can’t do it! But I can go on. G-d cannot stop existing, even for a short while, and He cannot die or commit suicide – He’s eternal. Still think that the “impossible” is a “non-starter with G-d? G-d doesn’t think or act like a human being – His ways and thoughts are high above ours. G-d cannot divide Himself into multiple persons a la Christianity; that He is One and there’s no one besides Him is part of monotheism 101 of the Hebrew Bible. G-d cannot get tired. G-d cannot be tempted to sin. And yet Christianity claims that by becoming a man G-d did all of these things and then some.

So, to say that there are absolutely no limits to G-d, it’s just not the case. His limits are all things that go against His very nature or things that are simply absurdities originating out of human minds.

Christianity and G-d becoming one of us

New Testament calls Jesus “an image of G-d” (Colossians 1:15). This is an image which Christianity has made of G-d, to worship the G-d of Israel through something they thought was far more tangible and relatable – a human being like themselves, but also a deity, a demigod. Some Christians retort that since Jesus was not an image like an ancient idol made of stone or metal, he cannot be called an idol. However, they forget that not all idols (and false gods) need to made by hands. Indeed, the Bible explicitly warns us not to worship any of G-d’s creation, be it the sun, moon, stars, angels, men. Jesus was indeed an image of G-d. But all human beings are made in G-d’s image. You and I, we are images of G-d too, but to worship us would be idolatry. Idolatry begins when human beings worship images made to represent G-d or some powerful aspect of G-d’s creation. For many, it begins when they glorify other human beings like themselves, as G-d, be they mythical heroes, demigods born of union between gods and men, deified kings and mystical gurus.

Christians, who insist that G-d could not possibly have been totally against worship of physical imagery of Him (like Jesus), often remind Jews that there were physical objects and even images (cherubs and bulls) in the Temple of G-d. If G-d allowed those, how could G-d be averse to imagery, they ask? But they argument is completely false and devoid of reason. True, Israel had used physical objects in their devotion to G-d, but the objects themselves even prayed to – they were mere decorations. The Ark, the holiest object in the Temple, was never worshiped, it didn’t contain G-d within it, and even though its construction was commanded by G-d Himself and blessings even came to those who cared for it, it was never exalted to a divine status. On the other hand, Jesus was and is worshiped and prayed to and is viewed as the “second person of G-d”. There’s a world of difference and its incomparable between physical objects the facilitated service before G-d and imagining G-d as a divine man. If the Ark was ever worshiped, it would be rightly called an idol. The brazen serpent (to which, ironically, Jesus compared himself in John 3:14) became an idol and was destroyed (2 Kings 18:4), even though it was once a holy object through which G-d healed. The brazen serpent is a good lesson to those who today make excuses for idolatry.

Most of Christianity has used images to worship Jesus and G-d for the last two thousand years, until the Reformation. Why did they do this? The answer is simple: with humanity proclaiming a mortal man as deity in the flesh, G-d, who once warned that there was no physical form to Him, could finally be represented as a physical image! Exactly as G-d warned, it didn’t take long for people to make images of their fleshly deity, both in literature (the New Testament and countless Church writings) as well as in the form of actual physical statues and icons. And yet, the Christians believe that it is the Jews who are in the wrong for being obedient to G-d’s stern warning!

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. February 9, 2015 7:55 am

    Gene,

    I think I understand where you’re coming from. You would apparently agree with Chasidic rabbi Noson Gurary:

    “13. It may be pointed out that in terms of God’s omnipotence, He could have chosen to have a body of some sort too (not necessarily in the purely physical sense). However, the Torah testifies to the fact that He did not choose to do this (cf. Exodus 20:4; Deuteronomy 4:16-19),” The Thirteen Principles of Faith: A Chasidic Viewpoint.

    And he cites to the above passages as evidence that G-d would refrain from taking a body. Those passages prohibit making an idol in the form of…well, just about anything:

    “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.”

    Of course, when one points out that G-d has taken the form of things which are in earth and heaven (e.g. a cloud, a fire, etc), it should be evident that G-d does not consider taking on such forms as idolatry.

    My point is this: if He can appear as a cloud or a fire, why not also a body? What’s the difference?

    I’ll check back with you later today. I’m looking forward to understanding your position.

    Shalom,

    Peter

  2. February 9, 2015 12:53 pm

    @Peter

    “My point is this: if He can appear as a cloud or a fire, why not also a body? What’s the difference?”

    I think that the key to this seeming riddle is the fact that G-d didn’t actually become either cloud or fire, but that He (or rather His glory) was merely temporarily veiled behind those phenomena. Nor did G-d take on a new physical nature, the way we clearly see with Christianity’s god, permanently becoming something that He was not. Also, I do not believe that either the “cloud” or the “fire” were a literal physical cloud (water vapor) or an actual fire (a chemical reaction). They merely resembled them to the observers. We have a hint of this:

    To the Israelites the glory of HaShem looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.” (from Exodus 24:13-18)

    But why did G-d choose to appear from within what appeared to the Israelites as a “cloud” or “fire”, why was His glory veiled in a visible way, even if this veil was formless? How was this different than taking on a form and how would this thwart idolatry? One explanation that I’ve once read is that they shared something in common – both the “cloud” and the “fire” were observable and yet impenetrable to human gaze or grasp; they were intangible, lacking physicality, they appeared and disappeared, ethereal and without clearly defined borders. It follows, therefore, that G-d must’ve thought it to be really, really important that He was not to be imagined in more concrete ways.

  3. ברוס permalink
    February 9, 2015 2:00 pm

    @Peter

    I tried to post on your blog but I doubt it went through. I tried the anonymous tab but to no avail……. Here’s what I was going to post on your blog:

    How long has it been since Gene left the Messianic movement by renouncing Yeshua as Messiah?

    Why do christians say things like this? You say it as if Gene stop worshipping the G-d of Israel.

    Have you ever noticed that the Messiah in the Jewish bible comes once, ends all war and conflicts, makes peace and is even saved by G-d according to the Psalmist in 20:6-7?. The christian/messianic premise on jesus is based on circular reasoning.

    I will paste the entire conversation here (doing this so that Gene won’t delete or modify my comments).

    LOL Gene has probably the most liberal comments policy I’ve ever been on… Unlike messianic christians (minus of the rosh pina crowd) other messianic’s shut down their own comments sections or threaten to ban people based off scriptural proof refuting there beloved lord and savior, or outright delete comments and then proceed to “call out” the individual who says “bad” or “unloving” things about jesus. Mind you no one is disrespectful or rude though.

    The “judgement” christians exude to Jews who aren’t messianic or non-jews who don’t share the belief of the messianic christian hebrew root church father theology is very interesting. All this over a man. That’s no different then how muslims defend there man religious leader.

    Critical thinking is a requirement in Judaism… christianity (meaning messianic) promotes a non critical thinking and examination.

    Nice blog redesign peter btw :-)

    ברוס

  4. February 9, 2015 2:05 pm

    “Critical thinking is a requirement in Judaism… christianity (meaning messianic) promotes a non critical thinking and examination. ”

    Bruce, I think that Peter is asking honest questions, and is not afraid to “question the party line”, from what I can see on his blog, even if that means being ridiculed and attacked by his own.

    “Gene has probably the most liberal comments policy I’ve ever been on”

    As far as I can remember, only two commenters have ever been blocked or had their comments altered by me since I started my blog many years ago: one was a rabid antisemite who happened to stumble unto my blog and another one was a man by name Dan Benzvi (who can still comment if only he can control his “yetzer hara”). Both for getting exceedingly nasty and personal.

  5. ברוס permalink
    February 9, 2015 3:50 pm

    You know him better then myself.

    @Pete I wasn’t trying to antagonize you, I would just say have you ever considered just reading the Tanach like the Greek NT never existed:

    For example, For example 1st Kings 8:46-50, solomons statements described how sins will be forgiven when the temple no longer exist doesn’t hint or allude to jesus. Solomon if he knew about christianity could have easily said “hey guys, don’t worry about your sins cause G-d will be sending His son to take care of these sins of ares”. I mean c’mon seriously? lol

    Why would G-d through the prophets makes many speeches on prayer and repentance for sins to be forgiven when the temple isn’t standing, to later redact his statements for His “son”.

    That’s why I mentioned the circular reasoning in regards to the christian belief about jesus as the messiah…

    Again pete I’m not trying to go down your throat or start a confrontation, just trying to see how you reason your belief from a orthodox messianic judaism perspective.

    Much love to you man :-)

  6. February 10, 2015 12:21 am

    Gene,

    I’m trying to understand your contradictory use of “physicality.” By definition physical things are observable. You acknowledge that the cloud and fire were observable. Yet you say they were “lacking physicality.” This is a contradiction, is it not? But no matter.

    Let’s focus on some common ground.

    You agree that G-d “veils” Himself in observable things (e.g. cloud, fire). You would also agree that He has veiled Himself in the Tabernacle. He seems to have no problems with dwelling in what was essentially a house. So why not a body? After all, what is a body but a type of house for the soul.

    Indeed, do not the Chasidic Masters say that the Divine incarnates into bodies all the time?

    “[Menahem Mendel:] ‘This [impotence] is also true of love and fear. Who is the beloved if it isn’t the divinity that God causes to descend into the human soul? And who would love the soul [without that divinity]? What is [the origin of this] love? Love is mined from the essence of divinity that descends in the human soul and becomes rooted in the material world, becoming compacted [mit’zamzem’ in the ‘small world’ [olam katan], that is the human being. Every moment of one’s existence is in the midst of God, because God is the ‘place of the world/humankind,’ the One who surrounds and fills all worlds,” Shaul Magid, Hasidism Incarnate, pg. 56.

    On a personal note, I would like to thank you for your kindness via email. You have been a better friend than I have been.

    Shalom,

    Peter

  7. February 10, 2015 12:30 am

    Bruce,

    Thank you for your kind words. By the way, I’m very concerned that your comments did not post. I switched to the disqus commenting system to ensure that all comments could get through. Now it seems I may have to switch to another platform if this problem persists.

    Please understand that I do in fact welcome all comments.

    Thanks again for your kindness.

    Shalom,

    Peter

  8. February 10, 2015 1:08 am

    “You agree that G-d “veils” Himself in observable things (e.g. cloud, fire). You would also agree that He has veiled Himself in the Tabernacle. He seems to have no problems with dwelling in what was essentially a house. So why not a body? After all, what is a body but a type of house for the soul.”

    Peter, I think the core issue is the changing of G-d’s nature and Him taking on a tangible form through incarnation, not merely hiding behind a veil yet remaining unchanged in form.

    This is exactly where Christianity has made its fateful leap into the abyss of idolatry and man-worship when it tried to claim that the two are somehow analogous. From G-d’s presence dwelling in a Temple to G-d becoming a man lies a deep gulf that G-d Himself warned shouldn’t be crossed. He explicitly said that Israelite saw no form to Him, and specifically of a man or a woman, that can be shaped into an idol. Christianity, as I wrote in my post, gave form to G-d and it assigned that form to a mortal man (with a backup story of how that happened).

    Of course, there’s a whole lot more to Christianity’s incarnation theology than just G-d veiling Himself with a bodily form. As you know, Christianity goes far beyond that, with pre-existent multiple divine persons, who possess connected yet still distinctly separate personalities, who talk to each other, who have different levels of knowledge, and who have a family-like relationship with each other, etc.

    “Indeed, do not the Chasidic Masters say that the Divine incarnates into bodies all the time?”

    I rather not get into sectarian mysticism and kabbalah. Mysticism often takes flights of fancy and it’s so easy to selectively cull from mystical books support for this or that idea. At the same time even Chasidic masters wouldn’t cross the line which Christianity has crossed. I had long discussions on the subject with chasidic rabbis. Instead, I seek to understand G-d, first and foremost, as He already revealed Himself to the Israelites in the Torah and the prophets. So, let’s try to focus on the Hebrew Bible and the NT, if we can.

    “On a personal note, I would like to thank you for your kindness via email. You have been a better friend than I have been.”

    I appreciate your sentiment, Peter. Thank you.

  9. February 10, 2015 7:50 am

    Gene,

    RE: “I rather not get into sectarian mysticism and kabbalah. Mysticism often takes flights of fancy…let’s try to focus on the Hebrew Bible and the NT, if we can.”

    It strikes me as odd that you would introduce the topic of Judaism’s position on mystical incarnation yet request that no one refer to any mystical traditions within Judaism.

    Nevertheless, I have enjoyed the conversation, old friend.

    Shalom,

    Peter

  10. February 10, 2015 9:21 am

    “It strikes me as odd that you would introduce the topic of Judaism’s position on mystical incarnation yet request that no one refer to any mystical traditions within Judaism. ”

    Peter, but Christianity has actually crossed into physical and away from mystical by claiming that G-d took on physical flesh. (Just because something is absurd doesn’t make it automatically “mystical”). Mystical in Judaism attempts to describe spiritual, otherworldly, the things of G-d that are hidden from us. Midrash and mysticism can’t either prove or go against pshat, the plain meaning of biblical text.

    The other reason I do not wish to get into discussing Jewish mysticism and midrash is because trying to harness works of Jewish authors who vehemently opposed Christianity and its idea of G-d becoming a man to prove the very opposite of what they believed strikes me as disingenuous – it ignores their true position on the subject by selectively quoting their works into submission. (To make an analogy, imagine Muslim apologists selectively quoting Christian authors to prove that the latter actually believed that another (and final) prophet is coming after Jesus (hint: Muhammad).)

    “Nevertheless, I have enjoyed the conversation, old friend.”

    Me too – stop by and comment anytime.

  11. February 10, 2015 11:24 am

    Peter, you are essentially challenging traditional Judaism with the question of “Could G-d take on the form of a man?”

    To demonstrate the irrelevance of your question, I will ask you this question:

    COULD G-d take on the form of a golden calf? Why or why not?

    See the problem?

    The question you need to be asking is WOULD G-d take on the form of a man…That answer is no. How do I know this? G-d explicitly tells us so!

    Deut 4:9. But beware and watch yourself very well, lest you forget the things that your eyes saw, and lest these things depart from your heart, all the days of your life, and you shall make them known to your children and to your children’s children,

    Here we see that G-d is commanding Israel to teach these things throughout their generations. G-d is directly telling Israel to teach their children about the things they saw and the things on their hearts. What are these things you ask? Lets continue reading:

    Deut 4:10. the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, “Assemble the people for Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.

    Deut 4:11. And you approached and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire up to the midst of the heavens, with darkness, a cloud, and opaque darkness.

    Deut 4:12. The Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of the words, but saw no image, just a voice.

    Here we have G-d explaining to the children of Israel what they “saw.” Notice that what they “saw” was no image according to G-d Himself! Moving on…

    Deut 4:13. And He told you His covenant, which He commanded you to do, the Ten Commandments, and He inscribed them on two stone tablets.

    Deut 4:14. And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances, so that you should do them in the land to which you are crossing, to possess.

    This verse is important to read in context with the next few verses because it reiterates the fact that these commands are not just a “one time deal.” Rather, G-d is commanding Israel not to worship Him in any form throughout all our generations! With this in mind, lets continue reading:

    Deut 4:15. And you shall watch yourselves very well, for you did not see any image on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire.

    Deut 4:16. Lest you become corrupt and make for yourselves a graven image, the representation of ANY FORM, the likeness of MALE or female,

    Deut 4:17. the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the heaven,

    Deut 4:18. the likeness of anything that crawls on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters, beneath the earth.

    Deut 4:19. And lest you lift up your eyes to heaven, and see the sun, and the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, which the Lord your God assigned to all peoples under the entire heaven, and be drawn away to prostrate yourselves before them and worship them.

    Peter, from this passage, we see two explicit themes:

    1. G-d is explicitly commanding Israel not to worship Him in any form. (Deut 4:16)

    2. G-d is explicitly commanding Israel to teach this to their children and their children’s children, even after they come to the land of Israel. (Deut 4:9-14)

    I would like to reiterate that this prohibition includes more than just “man made” images. Did man “make” the moon the sun and the stars? Did man “make” Adam, the first man? No! But we both agree that G-d would never manifest Himself in the form of the sun.

    We know that G-d would never do such things because G-d extends this prohibition to any form in Deut 4:16. You can’t get any more explicit than that!

    So Peter…The question you should be asking me is “WOULD G-d take on the form of a man?”

    To which the appropriate response is, WOULD G-d take on the form of a golden calf?

    We know that G-d would never manifest Himself in the form of a golden calf us. By these same token, He made it clear that He will not appear in the form of a man to us. Deut 4:15-19 was not a “one time deal.” It was a commandment for all generations! It was also not limited to “man made forms.” It extends to “any form,” including the form of a man.

    G-d’s explicit commands to Israel concerning how we are to worship Him override any eisegetical assumptions you make about G-d supposedly taking on “forms” for us to worship.

    It is obvious that you worship jesus…Do you also worship the “fire” that you are arguing that G-d supposedly “took the form of”? Do you worship “the cloud”?

    I’m not sure if you’re a trinitarian or not, but by the looks of it, there are a few more “persons” in the “godhead” according to understanding! Maybe you can clarify for us…

  12. February 10, 2015 11:39 am

    “COULD G-d take on the form of a golden calf? Why or why not?”

    Yehuda, that’s a great point. In fact, it seems that from the Biblical account, the idolaters who participated in the Golden Calf incident actually convinced themselves to believe that the calf they just made was actually the very G-d who lead them out of Egypt:

    “He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “This is your god, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:4)

    In other words, they conflated the G-d of Israel with their idol, which is what Christianity has done. Why couldn’t G-d take a form of a golden calf (or also of a man), to dwell in it like He did in a Temple?

  13. February 10, 2015 1:07 pm

    Deut 4:15. And you shall watch yourselves very well, for you did not see any image on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire.

    Why would G-d, who was so resolute about Israel watching themselves ever so carefully so as not to imagine G-d as being in a physical body or having some form to prevent idolatry, considering that there was such a severe danger in doing so, do a 180 and descend to earth as a man? Why would the G-d of Israel who is described as exceedingly jealous when it comes to idolatry, descend as a demigod (a mix of god and human) at the time when the world was populated by various other demigod and deified emperors? Why would such a G-d be then OK with a mortal man being worshiped (and the worshipers of this mortal deified man rejecting the Jewish people and considering them “blind”)? There’s no logic to this. The already revealed knowledge about what the G-d of Israel is like and reason itself must be suspended to embrace such thinking.

  14. remi4321 permalink
    February 10, 2015 4:38 pm

    Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and you turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them! Devarim 11:17

    The only reasonable conclusion; deception. When I was still a xtian, and read those words, the thought always came to my mind “What if I am wrong and am deceived, He said he is one, and not to be deceived”, then came the explanations in my mind “But I need the Blood, Jesus is The angel of the L-rd, He came into flesh, Without blood, there is no remission, he died for my sins, etc, etc.”

  15. February 10, 2015 4:46 pm

    Remi…. I recently came across a most curious defense on one messianic website against the Jewish accusation that Jesus the man-god is a “god of others”, meaning a foreign deity (that Israel knew not). It went like this: how can Jews say that Jesus is a foreign deity – wasn’t he a Jew!? (facepalm)

  16. remi4321 permalink
    February 10, 2015 4:53 pm

    Gene “It make sense”, according to Judaism, each Jew was at mount Sinai… So Jesus was THERE! I’m going back to xtianity! lol (I’m better than Dr Brown in my reasoning!)

  17. February 10, 2015 5:05 pm

    More reasoning: according to Hasidic philosophy every Jew has a divine spark within him (or her). So, one could say that perhaps Jesus had a really BIG spark, so big, in fact, that he’s god or close to it. One can make use of such things to infinity, and many Christians do just that by making use of select quotes from Jewish mysticism or midrash, but only if one chooses to ignore all the grave warnings in the Torah that expose such reasoning as idolatrous.

  18. remi4321 permalink
    February 10, 2015 7:58 pm

    Peter

    Hi Peter, I would like to add a comment on “The Angel of the L-rd”. In Xtian bible, the word The is capitalized to show that the angel is special, someone more than just an angel. Nevertheless, it is not there in the original Hebrew. The word “the” is missing in almost all the cases…

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