I have noticed over the years that there is more misunderstanding about the doctrine of the Deity of Messiah than just about any other doctrine, so I thought I would write this article to help people understand what the truth is, and is not concerning this doctrine.
The Messiah is Not Ayn Sof
What is “Ayn Sof”? Ayn Sof (variously spelled Ain Sof; Ein Sof; Ein Soph, etc.) is a Hebrew term meaning “Without End” or “Infinite”. When we speak of “Eyn Sof” we are speaking of “The Infinite One”. The term “Ayn Sof” itself never appears in the Scriptures, but other terms and phrases are used to tell us that YHWH is in fact “Ayn Sof”. Perhaps the best example is found in the Wisdom of Yeshua ben Sira who writes a lengthy description of all of the beauty of the creation (Sira 42:15-43:33) and concludes with this:
25 Therein are wonderful things, the marvels of his work.
Variety of all living; and the mighty ones of Rahab.
26 For his own sake, he makes his messenger to prosper--
And by his Word is his work fashioned.
27 There are many more things like these,
and we cannot exhaust them;
And the end of the matter is: He is the All.
Let us still magnify Him, for He is unserachable,
And He is greater than all His works.
29 He is Exceedingly wonderful.
And marvelous are His works.
30 You that magnify YHWH, raise your voice.
As much as you are able, for there is still more;
You that exalt him, renew strength.
And faint not, for you have not searched him out.
32 There is a multitude of hidden things beyond these,
[But] a few of his works I have truly seen;
33 All things has YHWH done,
And to his Set-Apart-Ones has He given knowledge.
(Ben Sira 43:26-33 HRV)
Notice verse 27 says “He is the All” in Hebrew he is “HaKal” the “everything”.
Now at first it may seem a simple matter to accept that YHWH is Ayn Sof (infinite), but this almost immediately leads to a philosophical dilemma.
If Elohim is infinite then he is “All,” He is “Everything.” If Elohim has no borders, then there is no border between what is Elohim and what is not Elohim, and that results in a sort of pantheism (the famous Jewish Philosopher Baruch Spinoza drew this conclusion).
Judaism resolves this dilemma with the act of tzimtzum. This was an initial act by which Ayn Sof contracted back onto Ayn Sof from all directions, creating a spherical emptiness of emptiness in which to create the universe. Elohim then emanated from within Ayn Sof an emanation into the emptiness.
Ayn Sof, being beyond definition (definition being another word for border) is beyond human comprehension. Ayn Sof is therefore unknowable. In Judaism the unknowable Ayn Sof is contrasted with the Image of Elohim, which emanates from Ayn Sof and through which we can relate.
The Zohar says of Ayn Sof:
Before He gave any shape to the world, before He produced any form, He was alone, without form and without resemblance to anything else. Who then can comprehend how He was before the Creation? Hence it is forbidden to lend Him any form or similitude, or even to call Him by His sacred name, or to indicate Him by a single letter or a single point... But after He created the form of the Heavenly Man, He used him as a chariot wherein to descend, and He wishes to be called after His form, which is the sacred name "YHWH"
Aryeh Kaplan writes concerning this distinction:
"In general none of the names of God refer to … Ayn Sof, which means the Infinite Being, or simply, the Infinite. The names used in scripture and elsewhere merely refer to the various ways through which God manifests Himself in creation. The name Elohim, which is used throughout the first chapter of Genesis, refers to the manifestation of delineation and definition…. This is the significance to the Torah’s statement that God formed man “In the image of God” (Genesis 1:27). Note that the word “God” here is Elohim. This is because man parallels the delineating forces that define creation.
(Sefer Yetzirah; p. 7-8)
The First Century Jewish writer Philo also wrote of this distinction. On the one hand, he saw Elohim as beyond man and far removed from the finiteness of this universe. He refers to this concept in Greek as TO ON (that which exists) and TO ONTOS ON “that which alone truly exists”. This concept of Elohim is conceived as virtually outside this universe with no real contact with it. This unknowable Elohim appeared from Ex. 20:21.
At times this can create some miscommunication, because terms like YHWH and Elohim can be used to refer either to Ayn Sof, or to the Image of Elohim.
Likewise we use the same type of language in our own lives. Two men may be standing in a room. One may point at a picture on the wall of George Washington and say “That is George Washington.” And he would be completely correct. On the other hand the man next to him may say “No, that is not George Washington, that is only the image of George Washington.”
The Zohar (Zohar 1:22a) understands “US” and “OUR” to be reflected in the “male and female” image of Elohim mentioned in Gen. 1:27 and these are here referred to as “the Father” and “the Mother” just as YHWH is expressed as a Father (Mal. 1:6; Is. 63:16; 64:7) and as a Mother (Is. 66:13) in the Tanak. (YHWH as a “Mother” is the “Comforter in Is. 66:13 which is the Holy Spirit in Jn. 14:16-17, 27; 15:26; 16:7).
Whenever the Scriptures define Elohim with terms like “Father” (a Father is not infinite because a father is not a mother) or “Mother” (likewise a Mother is not infinite because a mother is not a father), it does not actually refer to Ayn Sof but to the Image of Ayn Sof.
The Image of Elohim
In Judaism the Image of Elohim consists of ten emanations called Sefirot. These sefirot consist of the very substance of Elohim:
The Holy One, blessed be He, has produced ten holy crowns above wherewith He crowns and invests Himself, and He is they and they are He, being linked together like the flame and the coal.
Gershom Scholem writes:
"Most of the early kabbalists were more inclined to accept the view that the Sefirot were actually identical with God’s substance or essence. This is stated in many documents from the 13th century, and stressed later in the school of R. Solomon b. Adret, and particularly in the Ma’arekhet ha-Elohut, which was followed in the 16th century by David Messer Leon, Meir ibn Gabbai, and Joseph Caro. According to this view, the Sefirot do not constitute "intermediary beings" but are God Himself. "The Emanation is the Divinity," while Ein-Sof cannot be subject to religious investigation, which can conceive of God only in His external aspect. The main part of the Zohar also tends largely toward this opinion, expressing it emphatically in the interchangeable identity of God with His Names or His Powers: "He is They, and They are He" (Zohar, 3, 11b, 70a)."
(Kabbalah; Gersom Scholem; p. 101)
This image of Elohim made up of the ten sefirot ia also known as the Adam Kadmon.
Each of these ten sefirot correspond with ten Names of the Creator which fall into three columns known as the Three Pillars of the Godhead. These three columns correspond to three "Supernal Lights" also known as the three Tzachtzachot. The Encyclopedia Judaica explains these three supernal lights this way:
…above all emanated powers, there exist in "the root of all roots" three hidden lights which have no beginning, "for they are the name and essence of the root of all roots... It is stressed that these three lights constitute one essence and one root which is "infinitely hidden" (ne'lam ad le-ein sof) [literally: hidden until Eyn-Sof], forming a kind of kabbalistic trinity that precedes the emanation of the ten Sefirot.... In the terminology of the Kabbalah these three lights are called tzachtzachot (splendors)… Christians later found an allusion to their own doctrine of the trinity in this theory.
(KABBALAH by Gershom Scholem p. 95)
The Zohar describes the Three Pillars of the Godhead as follows:
Then Elohim said, “Let thee be light; and there was light.
And Elohim saw that the light was good…
Why, it may be asked, was it necessary to repeat the word “light” in this verse? The answer is that the first “light” refers to the primordial light which is of the Right Hand, and it is destined for the “end of days”; while the second “light” refers to the Left Hand, which issues from the Right.
The next words, “And God saw the light that it was good” (Gen. 1:4), refer to the pillar which, standing midway between them, unites both sides, and therefore when the unity of the three, right, left, and middle, was complete, “it was good”, since there could be no completion until the third had appeared to remove the strife between Right and Left, as it is written, “And God separated between the light and between the darkness.”…
This is the Middle Pillar: Ki Tov (that it was good) threw light above and below and on all other sides, in virtue of YHWH, the name which embraces all sides.
According to the Zohar, the Middle Pillar of the Godhead is also known as the “Son of Yah”:
Better is a neighbor that is near, than a brother far off.
This neighbor is the Middle Pillar in the godhead,
which is the Son of Yah.
The Middle Pillar of the Godhead is also known as the Memra (the Word) which reconciles the two outer pillars, and thus includes both outer pillars within.
When we speak of the Deity of Messiah, we are not saying that the Messiah is Ayn Sof, (in fact, as pointed out above, neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit/Mother are Ayn Sof as well) we are saying that as the Middle Pillar of the Godhead he is incarnation of the Image Elohim and the fullness of the Godhead.
However in reconciling the opposite finite pillars known as Father and Mother, the Memra (Word) presents the most complete knowable finite representation of Ayn Sof man can know.
Thus the Messiah is not Ayn Sof, but He is Elohim and He is the only mediator between man and Ayn Sof.
However within the body of the Messiah, 'Atzmus Ein Sof baruch Hu' [the essence of the Infinite One] resides.
NazareneSpace is reaching THOUSANDS with the truth of Torah and Messiah every month!
Is the work we are doing worthy of your support? What other ministry provides this kind of teaching? What other ministry is doing this kind of work?
Help us keep the vision alive!
Please help us bring the message of Torah and Messiah to a lost world and create Scripture study materials for believers. Folks we REALLY need you to step up to the plate now more than ever!
Do not count on someone else to do your part, you do your part.
What other ministry is reaching the Jewish people with Messiah like this ministry is?
Now is time to step up to the plate!
You can donate by going to the pay-pal counter at http://www.nazarenespace.com or donations can be sent by paypal to email@example.com.
Donations can also be made out to “Nazarene Judaism” and sent to:
PO Box 471
Hurst, TX 76053