The Exalted Servant – Part 1February 8, 2017
This is part one of a six-part study. This series is focussed on the topic of the deity of Yeshua, but from a particular angle. I want to look specifically at how the book of Isaiah formed the Apostles’ view on the subject. I hope to demonstrate how the book of Isaiah laid some of the foundation for understanding the Messiah as divine.
It should go without saying that the earliest followers of Yeshua were immersed in the Tanakh (the “Old Testament” Scriptures). Before the Gospels and the epistles were written, the Tanakh was the full extent of their Bible. It dictated their theology and their entire worldview. It also informed their understanding of Yeshua’s identity and purpose. Continuously throughout the Apostolic Scriptures (or “New Testament”), we see the Apostles basing their teaching on the words of the Tanakh. This included their understanding of Messiah’s divine nature.
Why is this topic important?
In our world today, the deity of Yeshua is under attack. Many are rejecting a “high Christology” (that affirms Yeshua’s divine nature) in favour of a “low Christology.” The idea that the Apostles taught Yeshua to be God is being brought into question.
This is true in academic circles: For years secular or liberal scholars have argued that the fourth-century church made up the theology of a divine Christ and imposed that on the Scriptures. They argue that these later church doctrines corrupted the original writings of the Apostles. In their view, the Apostles began with a low Christology (Yeshua was just a man), and slowly over time Christians began attributing to Yeshua a higher and higher Christology until eventually full deity was ascribed to Him.
Unfortunately these ideas are also gaining ground among believers, even within our Messianic Torah movement. These views are bolstered by the notion that it is “less Jewish and more Greek” to consider Yeshua to be divine. Modern Judaism repudiates the notion of a divine Messiah, and some Messianic believers are drawn to this outlook. Tragically, the pull of conventional Judaism has been too strong for more than a few within our ranks.
I disagree very strongly with these positions. It is my conviction that the Apostles clearly understood Yeshua to be divine, and that they based this understanding on the Tanakh itself. They understood the Tanakh to clearly portray the highest possible Christology. And I believe that an open reading of the pertinent passages in the Tanakh and the Apostolic interaction with those passages will demonstrate this.
This topic is important because it is the identity of our Saviour that is at stake. Ultimately it boils down to this: Is Yeshua worthy of glory or not? Is He creature or Creator? I contend that the Scriptures clearly portray Him as worthy, and that he was acknowledged as such by the earliest community of Yeshua-followers.
The scope of this study
In these posts I want to focus on the book of Isaiah, and specifically the latter section of Isaiah. This is the section that is sometimes referred to as “Second Isaiah” (or Deutero-Isaiah). As we will see, this section played a foundational role in the Apostles’ understanding of who Yeshua is.
Obviously this is a topic that could fill volumes. And in fact it has. It is impossible to cover everything relevant to this topic in these short posts. But hopefully this will serve as an introduction to this important topic, and perhaps spark more study.
In the rest of this series, I want to examine two ways in particular in which Second Isaiah laid the foundation for the Apostolic expression of understanding Messiah and His divinity. We will do so by comparing Isaiah with two other texts, one from Deuteronomy and one from the Psalms, which illustrate for us the concept of Biblical monotheism and the inclusion of Messiah in the identity of the One God of Israel. We will conclude with just a few examples of the ways in which Second Isaiah is quoted or alluded to in the Apostolic Scriptures.