A Rabbi Confirms: Jesus Claimed to be God!

The following citations quote a third-fourth century rabbi typically referred to as Abbahu whose statements are remarkably reminiscent of what the Lord Jesus claimed for himself:

“This Gemara contains also a remarkable saying of R. Abbahu, which is evidently directed against Christianity: ‘If a man say, “I am God,” he lieth; and if he say, “I am the son of man,” he will have to repent; and if he say, “I shall go up to heaven,” he will not do it, nor achieve what he promises’ (ii. 65b)…” (Jewish Encyclopedia, TA’ANIT (“Fasts”) http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14183-ta-anit; bold and underline emphasis mine) 

“When does your Messiah come?” a Christian (Minaah) once asked Abbahu in a tone of mockery; whereupon he replied: “When you will be wrapped in darkness, for it says, ‘Behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the nations; then shall the Lord rise upon thee and His glory shall be seen on thee’ [Isa. lx. 2],” (Sanh. 99a). A Christian came to Abbahu with the quibbling question: “How could your God in His priestly holiness bury Moses without providing for purificatory rites, yet oceans are declared insufficient?” (Isa. xl. 12). “Why,” said Abbahu, “does it not say, ‘The Lord cometh with fire’?” (Isa. lxvi. 15). “Fire is the true element of purification, according to Num. xxi. 23,” was his answer (Sanh. 39a). Another question of the same character: “Why the boastful claim: ‘What nation on earth is like Thy people Israel’ (II Sam. vii. 23), since we read, ‘All the nations are as nothing before Him’?” (Isa. xl. 17), to which Abbahu replied: “Do we not read of Israel, he ‘shall not be reckoned among the nations’?” (Num. xxiii. 9, Sanh. as above). Abbahu made a notable exception with reference to the Tosefta’s statement that the Gilionim (Evangels) and other books of the Mineans are not to be saved from a conflagration on Sabbath: “the books of those at Abidan may be saved” (Shab. 116a). Of special historical interest is the observation of Abbahu in regard to the benediction “Baruk Shem Kebod Malkuto” (Blessed be the Name of His glorious Kingdom) after the “Shema’ Yisrael,” that in Palestine, where the Christians look for points of controversy, the words should be recited aloud (lest the Jews be accused of tampering with the unity of God proclaimed in the Shema’), whereas in the Babylonian city of Nehardea, where there are no Christians, the words are recited with a low voice (Pes. 56a). Preaching directly against the Christian dogma, Abbahu says: “A king of flesh and blood may have a father, a brother, or a son to share in or dispute his sovereignty, but the Lord saith, ‘I am the Lord thy God! I am the first; that is, I have no father, and I am the last; that is, I have no brother, and besides me there is no God; that is, I have no son'” (Isa. xliv. 6; Ex. R. 29). His comment on Num. xxiii. 19 has a still more polemical tone: “God is not a man that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent. If a man say, ‘I am God,’ he lieth, and if he say, ‘I am the son of man,’ he will have to repent, and if he say, ‘I shall go up to heaven,’ he will not do it, nor achieve what he promises” (Yer. Ta’anit, ii. 65b). (Ibid., ABBAHU http://jewishencyclopedia.herokuapp.com/articles/164-abbahu; bold and underline emphasis mine)

הי, תָּהָא, תָּהָה (cmp. שָׁהָא) [to stand still,] 1) to gaze, be astonished; to be confounded, be waste. Gen. R. s. 2, beg., v. בָּהָא. Ib., end כבר … יושב ותוֹהֵא once R. S. b. Z. sat gazing (deep in thought, absent-minded). Taan. 6ᵇ (play on ת̇מ̇ט̇ר̇, Am. IV, 7) ת̇הא מקום מ̇ט̇ר̇ the place where the rain fell became waste (through destructive showers); a. e. —2) to pause, bethink one’s self, regret. Y. Taan. III, 66ᶜ bot. שלשה … ות׳ שבראן three things God created, and regretted that he had created them. Ib. I, 65ᵇ bot. (ref. to Num. XXIII, 19) אם יאמר לך אדם … בן אדם אני סופו לִתְהוֹת בו וכ׳ if a man says to thee, I am a God, he lies; (if he says,) I am the son of man, he shall regret it; (and if he says,) I will rise to heaven, he says, but he shall not fulfill it. Y. Ned. I, 36ᵈ bot. [read:] מכיון שנודר … סופו לתהות מכיון שהוא תוהא וכ׳ when one vows in rashness, he will finally regret it, and when he does regret, his sacrifices are like slaughtering profane beasts in the Temple court. Kidd. 40ᵇ בתוהא על הראשונות when he is sorry for his good deeds in the past; Y. Peah I, 16ᵇ top. Num. R. s. 10, beg. בתוהא על הראשונות (not הרשע; ed. Wil. בתוֹהֶה) when he (the wicked) regrets his doings in the past. Ex. R. s. 202 התחיל המוכר תוהא the seller was sorry; a. fr. (Jastrow, London, Luzac https://www.sefaria.org/Jastrow%2C_%D7%AA%D7%94%D7%99.1?ven=London,_Luzac,_1903&lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en; bold and underline emphasis mine)

It is highly likely that Abbahu was referring to Christ’s statements found throughout the Gospels:

“But he kept silent and didn’t answer at all. The high priest asked him again, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said, “I AM, and “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power” and “coming with the clouds of heaven.”’” Mark 14:61-62 International Standard Version (ISV)

“No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” John 3:13 ISV

“Jesus told them, ‘Truly, I tell all of you emphatically, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. The bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ Then they told him, ‘Sir, give us this bread all the time.’ Jesus told them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never become hungry, and whoever believes in me will never become thirsty. I told you that you have seen me, yet you don’t believe. Everything the Father gives me will come to me, and I’ll never turn away the one who comes to me. I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the one who sent me.’… Then the Jewish leaders began grumbling about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They kept saying, ‘This is Jesus, the son of Joseph, isn’t it, whose father and mother we know? So how can he say, “I have come down from heaven”?’… ‘What if you saw the Son of Man going up to the place where he was before?’” John 6:32-38, 41-42, 62 ISV

“‘I have said these things to you in figurative language. The time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly about the Father. At that time, you will make your requests in my name, so that I will have no need to ask the Father on your behalf, because the Father himself loves you, and because you have loved me and believed that I came from God. I left the Father and came into the world. Now I’m leaving the world and going back to the Father.’ Jesus’ disciples said, ‘Well, now you’re speaking plainly and not using figurative language. Now we know that you know everything and don’t need to have anyone ask you any questions. Because of this, we believe that you have come from God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe?’” John 16:25-31 ISV

“‘That is why I told you that you will die in your sins, for unless you believe that I AM, you’ll die in your sins.’… So Jesus told them, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own authority. Instead, I speak only what the Father has taught me. Moreover, the one who sent me is with me. He has never left me alone, because I always do what pleases him.’” John 8:24, 28-29 ISV

“‘Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day, and he saw it and was glad.’ Then the Jewish leaders asked him, ‘You are not even 50 years old, yet you have seen Abraham?’ Jesus told them, ‘Truly, I tell all of you emphatically, before there was an Abraham, I AM!’ At this, they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the Temple.” John 8:56-59 ISV

In light of this, it seems reasonably certain that the rabbi took Jesus’ I AM sayings as an explicit claim to being God.

If so, this provides extra-biblical rabbinic support that Jesus’ statements about himself were explicit claims to being God in the flesh, just as Christ’s Jewish contemporaries attest:

“So the Jewish leaders began persecuting Jesus, because he kept doing such things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father has been working until now, and I, too, am working.’ So the Jewish leaders were trying all the harder to kill him, because he was not only breaking the Sabbath but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.” John 5:16-18 ISV

“‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, they’ll never be lost, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is more important than anything, and no one can snatch it from the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.’ Again the Jewish leaders picked up stones to stone him to death. Jesus replied to them, ‘I’ve shown you many good actions from my Father. For which of them are you going to stone me?’ The Jewish leaders answered him, ‘We are not going to stone you for a good action, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, are making yourself God!’” John 10:27-33 ISV

“The Jewish leaders answered Pilate, ‘We have a law, and according to that Law he must die because he made himself out to be the Son of God.’” John 19:7 ISV

Jesus backed up those assertions by his glorious physical, bodily resurrection from the dead.

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