Home » Judaism’s Greatest Objection to Christanity

Judaism’s Greatest Objection to Christanity

by Dr. Eitan Bar
14 minutes read

My 2019 book, “Refuting Rabbinic Objections to Christianity,”  addressed Judaism’s most common objections to Christianity. Therefore, I will only briefly address Judaism’s two most significant objections to Christ in this book. The first objection concerns the triune God and the divinity of Christ, while the second is the claim that Jesus failed to bring about world peace.

The Trinity and Christ’s Divinity

Judaism is a strictly monotheistic faith that emphasizes the oneness and indivisibility of God. Jewish theology maintains that God is unique, incomparable, and indivisible. According to Judaism, God is transcendent (existing beyond time and space) and immanent (present within His creation), yet He has no parts or personalities. This understanding differs significantly from the concept of a triune God in Christianity, where God is depicted as one God who eternally exists as three distinct Persons.

In Judaism, the unity of God is a fundamental tenet that distinguishes it from other religions, particularly polytheistic ones. The belief in the oneness of God is essential to the Jewish faith, and this concept is rooted in the teachings of the Bible and the Talmud. Jewish people often point Christians to verses such as Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!”

The unity of God in Judaism has several significant implications for understanding the nature of God.

One important aspect is that God’s attributes and actions are understood to be part of His one unified being rather than distinct persons or entities. For instance, in Jewish thought, God is both just and merciful, encompassing both qualities in a unified existence. This belief has shaped the course of Jewish history, rituals, and ethics, reinforcing that there is only one God to whom all worship and allegiance is due.

Some portrayals of the Godhead by Christian fundamentalists often reveal an apparent dichotomy, where the Father is depicted as angry, hateful, wrathful, and judgmental, while the Son is painted as gentle, kind, and loving. This perception may suggest a lack of unity within the Godhead.

In contrast, the emphasis on God’s oneness in Judaism stresses the concept of a single-minded deity. This starkly contrasts the interpretations of some Christian fundamentalist preachers, who depict God as if he possesses conflicting personality traits, akin to a split personality or bipolar disorder, which implies an internal conflict within the Trinity.

Again, the Father is portrayed as harsh, angry, and legalistic, while the Son is forgiving, gentle, and merciful. As if the Father represents a merciless rigid judge seeking cruel punishment, while the Son represents a compassionate arbiter looking to peacefully resolve any conflict. Some popular descriptions suggest that the Son’s sole purpose was to save us from the Father by allowing the Father to abuse and torture him so he may be appeased and spare us.

Allow me to share a couple of examples.

Nick Batzig, a senior pastor and writer for the popular Calvinistic-fundamentalist websites “The Gospel Coalition” and “Ligonier Ministries” with several million followers online, wrote:

Is it right, in any sense whatsoever, to say that the Father was angry with the Son when He punished the Son in our place…He made the Son the object of His just displeasure and anger…[i]

 Another example is from the founder of Mars Hill Mega Church, reformed-Baptist pastor Mark Driscoll:

See, at the cross of Jesus, there is hatred for Jesus and love for us…[ii]

Likewise, reformed-Baptist pastor and member of “The Gospel Coalition,” Thabiti Anyabwile, explains that:

Spiritual wrath from the Father occurs deep down in the very godhead itself…something was torn in the very fabric of the relationship between Father and Son…the ancient, eternal fellowship between Father and Son was broken as divine wrath rained down like a million Soddoms and Gomorrah’s.”[iii]

 And the last example, a Christian magazine wrote, “God tortured His son and Himself to release the bondage and grip of sin on His creation.”[iv]

To the Jewish mind, these descriptions of God sound foreign, pagan, unacceptable, and blasphemous. The concept of God in Judaism is fundamentally different. The Jewish faith emphasizes that all of God’s attributes and actions are part of a single, unified being, unable to detach from Himself, hate itself, or be angry with Himself. This belief distinguishes Judaism from other religious traditions and shapes its core teachings and practices.

As a Jew, I always felt uncomfortable with some of the fundamentalist Christians who portrayed God in this way to Jewish friends of mine, having to undo and reexplain my own views later.[1]

The doctrine of the Trinity is arguably the most challenging Christian concept for Jews to comprehend. It can often appear as if Christians are endeavoring to articulate a concept that, by its nature, may exceed human understanding or perhaps even be beyond what is intended for full human comprehension. I have read books, taken seminary courses, watched debates on the doctrine of the Trinity, and even spent many hours trying to convey the idea to my Jewish friends. However, if we are honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge that while the church fathers did their best to describe what they believed God is like, the concept remains vague and debatable, with most attempts to illustrate the Trinity through analogies being all the more confusing (For example, you must have heard before how the Trinity is like water in three different forms: liquid, ice, and vapor. This, however, describes Modalism, not Trinitarianism.)

Many Christians view the Nicene Creed as determining Christian theology just as much as the Bible. While I appreciate and respect what the church fathers had to contribute, I don’t believe their views were divinely inspired, perfect, and without error. Plus, we know that some early Church Fathers tried to reconcile Christian thought with Greek philosophy in their theology, while few others were anti-Semitic and rejected anything that sounded Jewish and, in some cases, gave little to no weight even to the Hebrew Scriptures.

But as another Jewish-Christian scholar friend said, “They got it as close as you can in the Greek language,” referring to their attempt to explain the nature of the triune God.

Our human brains may be ill-equipped to fully comprehend the nature of God. Or, as another friend and professor of theology at DTS stated, “If we could really figure God out, we wouldn’t be able to worship Him.” I concur with that statement. While I find Trinitarianism to be the most compelling explanation of the Godhead, I can also appreciate various other attempts to explain God (such as Modalism and Unitarianism) and have friends with differing beliefs, all of whom I consider sincere in their faith. So as you can tell, I am not as dogmatic about this issue as some fundamentalists might be.[2]

In this discussion, however, I will attempt to demonstrate that the concepts of both the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ, as complex and complicated as they are, may not be as foreign to Judaism as they initially appear.

The Jewish Trinity

While Christianity posits that Jesus is the divine Son of God and a part of the Holy Trinity – consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – Judaism firmly upholds the belief in a singular, indivisible God. This fundamental difference creates a theological divide between the two faiths, as the notion of God taking human form and the idea of a triune deity directly contradict the principle of monotheism held by modern Judaism. Consequently, the doctrines of Christ’s divinity and the Trinity are significant stumbling blocks in the theological dialogue and understanding between Christians and Jews.

But in fact, just like some Christians, Jews often misunderstand the Christian concept of the Trinity. For instance, thinking that Christians believe in a group of three separate gods rather than one, as worded by rabbi Daniel Ballas:

According to the Christian belief, the creator of the universe is three gods, whom they call the ‘Holy Trinity.’ The ‘Trinity’ is the name given to their group of gods.[v]

Evidently, the notion of the New Testament teaching a belief in three gods or a group of gods is either a misunderstanding or a straw man argument. In fact, the New Testament consistently teaches that God is one:

One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:6)

We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.”
(1 Corinthians 8:4)

Of course, the term “Trinity” is not found in the Bible. Instead, it is a traditional name for a theo/logical argument seeking to best explain the nature of a God who is three persons in one essence. This can also be argued from the Torah itself.

The Hebrew Bible opens up with the first two verses of Genesis, revealing the Creator as more than one distinct person or manifestation; “God” and “the Spirit of God.” Genesis 1:1-2 states,

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

A few verses later, it is written:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26).

In this instance, we read about God and the Spirit of God, and then God refers to himself in the plural. Despite Judaism’s belief,[3] it is not likely that God counseled with the angels — or anyone else — during the creation process of mankind, as evident in Isaiah 44:24 and Nehemiah 9:6.

Other books in the Bible, such as the Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, and Daniel, describe a third figure, “the Son,” in addition to God and the Spirit of God. In the book of Isaiah, for example, God refers to the Messiah as His child and son, attributing His own divine attributes to the Messiah:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

This child is no ordinary one, for he is not only destined to inherit David’s throne, signifying his lineage as the Messiah son of David, but he also embodies the divine titles, such as “Mighty God, Everlasting Father,” reserved solely for God. Jewish sages have also interpreted this passage as a prophecy foretelling the divine nature of God’s Messiah.

Prof. Ruth Kaniel, a Jewish scholar with a doctorate in Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism, discusses the concept of the Messiah in ancient Judaism. According to her research, the belief in a divine Messiah is not at all foreign to ancient Jewish thought, and various ancient Jewish sources point to a figure that is God-like:

The ‘Messiah’ was regarded as the ‘Son of God,’ a notion subtly alluded to in the Bible, the accounts of the prophets, and the Book of Psalms.[vi]

Even beyond the Bible, ancient pre-Christ Jewish writings demonstrate that at least some in ancient Judaism believed that the Messiah would be the Son of God. For example, in the Dead Sea Scrolls, document 4Q246, known as the “Son of God Scroll, ” dating back to the third century BCE, the Jewish expectation for the Messiah is described. This particular scroll interprets Daniel 7:13, asserting that the Messiah to come would be the ‘Son of God.’

Many might be surprised to learn that the concept of the Trinity is not entirely alien, even to rabbinic Judaism, albeit under a different name: “Razei Deshlosha” or “The Secret of Three.” For example, rabbi Tzvi Nassi explains that in the book of Zohar (Jewish mysticism):

The same Holy and Ancient One is revealed in three heads that are included in one head, and he is the head that is exalted three times. The Holy Ancient One is described as three, and even the other lights that are exalted from its source are included in the three.[vii]

This statement, which could easily be mistaken for a Christian quote, is, in fact, a quintessential Jewish thought about the God who manifests himself in three distinct ways.

Yet, the most compelling revelation comes from a prominent Jewish scholar, Prof. Benjamin Sommer (Jewish Theological Seminary), who openly acknowledges that the Trinity is very Jewish. Below are a few quotes from his book “The Bodies of God”:

For all the trouble that Jewish and Muslim philosophers have had with this notion, the trinity emerges as a fairly typical example of the fragmentation  of a single deity into seemingly distinct manifestations that do not quite undermine that deity’s coherence. It is appropriate, then, that Christian biblical commentators connect the trinity with Genesis 18, the story of the three visitors who came to Abraham’s tent, because that passage presents a banner example of the fluidity of Yhwh’s selfhood (p. 132).

Classic language of trinitarian theology, such as μια οὐσία, τρεῖς ὑπόστασις [sic] (one nature, three persons, or one substance, three manifestations), applies perfectly well to examples of Yhwh’s fluidity in the Hebrew Bible and to the fluidity traditions in Canaan and Mesopotamia (p. 133).

The presence of God and of God-as-Jesus on earth is nothing more than a particular form of this old idea of multiple embodiment, and hence no more offensive to a monotheistic theology than J and E sections of the Pentateuch (p. 133).

Some Jews regard Christianity’s claim to be a monotheistic religion with grave suspicion, both because of the doctrine of the trinity (how can three equal one?) and because of Christianity’s core belief that God took bodily form. What I have attempted to point out here is that biblical Israel knew very similar doctrines, and these doctrines did not disappear from Judaism after the biblical period. (p. 135).

To conclude, Judaism has long recognized God, the Spirit of God, and the Son of God as persons or manifestations through which the one God reveals himself. The Trinity was and is one of the explanations theologians came up with when reading scriptures. This, apparently, includes at least some Jewish theologians as well.

The Jew who became God

A rabbi goes to see his Catholic friend, a bishop. “Listen,” says the rabbi, “There’s something I’ve never quite understood about the Catholic church. It’s hierarchical, right?”

“True!” says the bishop.

“So,” says the rabbi, “if you do a fantastic job as a bishop, you might become…what?”

“Well,” says the bishop, “if I’m fortunate, I might become an archbishop!”

“And if you do a great job as an archbishop?” asks the rabbi.

“I suppose I could even become a cardinal someday!” answers the bishop.

“And if you do an outstanding job as a cardinal?” asks the rabbi.

Starting to get slightly annoyed, the Bishop answered, “I guess after that, I could, theoretically, become the Pope.”

“And if you do a really great job as the Pope? Then what?” asked the rabbi again.

The upset bishop answered, “What would you expect me to become after the Pope?! God Himself?!”

The rabbi shrugs. “Well, one of our boys made it!”

Jokes aside, the argument that Christianity advocates for the idolatrous idea of a human being evolving into a god is, unfortunately, a misrepresentation. For example, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner states: “Turning a person into a god – by what name shall we call it if not idolatry?”[viii]

First, let’s acknowledge that we all concur – the pagan notion of a human being evolving into a god is unmistakably idolatrous! However, this argument stems from a misunderstanding of Christian beliefs and constitutes a “straw man argument.” The New Testament never taught that a human became God. On the contrary, the New Testament presents Jewish theology at its finest and a self-evident concept to Jews until about a thousand years ago. It asserts that the Messiah is the ultimate embodiment of God in human form.

We witness the fathers, prophets, and kings longing for God to reveal and manifest himself throughout the Bible. This hope is fulfilled in Christ. In Jesus, God approaches us, demonstrating that he is not a cold, distant, or unapproachable deity but one who loves His creation and seeks to reveal himself to it just as any loving parent would. In other words, God is not a theoretical concept on paper, far removed and disconnected from humanity. Instead, he is a God of love who desires to reveal himself to his children, to be close and accessible, and to live and walk among us, just like he once did with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8). This idea, as prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures and fulfilled in the New Testament, was actualized in the person Jesus – the pinnacle of God’s revelation to humanity.

Now, if you are a Jewish reader and the notion of “God revealing himself to mankind through the Messiah” seems unfamiliar to you or if you suspect that it is not an authentically Jewish concept, consider what  Rabbi Abba Bar-Kahana, an Amora (great sage) and a priest who lived before the Talmud was completed, wrote:

What is the name of the messianic king? Rabbi Abba bar Kahana said: The Lord is his name, as it is stated: “This is his name that they will call him: The Lord is our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6).[ix]

A more modern example comes from Jewish Prof. Ora Limor, who discusses the perception of the divine Messiah in Judaism in the early Middle Ages:

During the days of Isidore of Seville, the beginning of the seventh century,…the Jews largely gave up the view that the Messiah would be God himself…here, too, the polemic [against Christianity] can be asserted outwardly as shaping attitudes inwardly. The current [in Judaism] who believed in the divinity of the Messiah was pushed aside, or at least spoke in a softer language, even if did not disappear completely, while the current that saw in the Messiah only a king of flesh and blood prevailed.[x]

 Likewise, Daniel Boyarin, a Jewish Professor of Talmud at UC Berkeley, explains:

Many Jews believed that redemption was going to be effected by a human being, an actual hidden scion of the house of David—an Anastasia—who at a certain point would take up the scepter and the sword, defeat Israel’s enemies, and return her to her former glory. Others believed that the redemption was going to be effected by that same second divine figure mentioned above and not a human being at all. And still others believed that these two were one and the same, that the Messiah of David would be the divine Redeemer.[xi]

Many Israelites at the time of Jesus were expecting a Messiah who would be divine and come to earth in the form of a human. Thus the basic underlying thoughts from which both the Trinity and the incarnation grew are there in the very world into which Jesus was born and in which he was first written about in the Gospels of Mark and John.[xii]

To conclude, Jewish scholars acknowledge that ancient Judaism once believed that the Messiah would be some sort of an incarnation of God. However, during the Middle Ages, the rabbis, in opposition to the biblical prophets, decided to make a theological U-turn to distance Jewish theology as far as possible from anything resembling “Christian” theology. This shift, however, stands in stark contrast to ancient biblical Judaism, which did indeed teach and believe in the divinity of their Messiah!

This article was taken from my book, “Why Don’t Jews Believe in Jesus.

For more Jewish objections to Jesus and my answers, get my book, “Refuting Rabbinic Objections to Christianity.”

[1] In fact, In early 2023, I published a book precisely on that: “The “Gospel” of Divine Abuse: Redeeming the Gospel from Gruesome Popular Preaching of an Abusive and Violent God.

[2] This might be due to my Jewishness. In Judaism, there is often an acceptance of diverse beliefs or doctrines, allowing for the possibility that one’s understanding may not be entirely set in stone and open to multiple perspectives. In contrast, Christianity, especially in its fundamentalist version, can sometimes seem more dogmatic, requiring individuals to pledge allegiance to a particular view while outright rejecting alternative perspectives. Considering that the Bible itself never uses the word “Trinity” nor it offers a systematic teaching of God’s nature, it’s hard for me to be dogmatic about it myself, but respect those who do.

[3] According to Rashi’s commentary on Genesis 1:26, God created man “in ‘our’ image” (plural form) to signify that God consulted with the angels: “Since man was in the image of the angels and they would [hence] be jealous of him, therefore He took counsel with them.”

[i] “Love and Anger at the Cross?” reformation21, January 6, 2019

[ii] Driscoll, “Jesus Sweats Blood,” realfaith, July 4, 2016

[iii] Anyabwile, What Does It Mean for the Father to Forsake the Son?

[iv] Living Better 50 Magazine, April 14, 2021 devotional

[v] https://www.hidabroot.org/article/78994

[vi] Kaniel, “Sacredness and Sanctity”, pg. 43.

[vii] Zohar Part 3:1; in Hebrew by Rabbi Zvi Nashi, “Harez Desholsha”.

[viii] https://meirtv.com/alon-1500/

[ix] Eikhah Rabbah 3

[x] Limor, Between Jews and Christians, pg. 83.

[xi] Daniel Boyarin, The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ (2011), pg. 5

[xii] Daniel Boyarin, The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ (2011), pg. 6

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Dr. Eitan Bar
Author, Theologian, Activist