A popular song during the past month was the carol “What Child is This?” But to answer the question, we’ll need to look in the Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament).
Within Judaism, there is no official creed like we find in traditional churches. However, if Judaism did have a creed, it would be Deuteronomy 6:4-5.
Verse 4 begins with the Hebrew word “Shema,” which means “listen” with the intent of obeying what you hear. Since the Hebrew Scriptures were the only Bible Yeshua (Jesus) knew and read, it would make sense He would declare His identity through the Shema — and, in fact, He did.
Deuteronomy 6:4 is generally translated, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy G-d is One G-d.”
For our purposes, let’s focus on the word “One” used in this verse.
The Hebrew word for “One” in Deuteronomy 6:4 is “Echad,” which can be translated “one,” but in many instances within the Hebrew Scripture, it refers to multiple items or things that function as “one.”
For instance, an evening and morning are one day, even though there are two parts to a day. Also, a husband and wife are, according to Genesis 2:24, “one flesh.”
So the word “echad” most often refers to one thing that has multiple parts.
Most Hebrew words consist of three letters with variant vowels placed under and over the consonants. The three letters that make the word “echad” are the aleph, chet and the dalet.
This short lesson on Biblical Hebrew is necessary to understand something Yeshua says in the Gospel of John.
In John 14, Yeshua is talking with His disciples about the future and what they can expect from Him.
In John 14:6, Yeshua says He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” This statement is radical to those who understand its implications, so let’s take another look at it.
By saying He (Yeshua) is the way, the truth, and the life, He has made at least three bold declarations about himself.
First, anyone who reads the Hebrew Scripture would have known that the words “way,” “truth” and “life” were descriptions of the Torah commandments.
Deuteronomy 31:29 says the Torah is the “way;” Psalm 119:142 says the Torah is “truth;” and Deuteronomy 32:47 says the Torah is “life.”
For Yeshua to claim He is the way, the truth and the life is for Him to equate himself with Torah.
That’s no small claim as Yeshua is asserting everything written in the Hebrew Scripture is wrapped up in His identity.
Second, by claiming He is the way, the truth and the life, Yeshua equated Himself with YHVH, the G-d of Israel.
In Psalm 18:30, YHVH is the way; in Exodus 34:6, YHVH is the truth; and in Genesis 2:7, YHVH is life. By saying He is the way, the truth and the life, Yeshua has claimed He is YHVH in flesh.
No, Yeshua did not go around making bold assertions for multiple reasons, but to those willing to listen carefully to His teaching, He did lay claim to equality with YHVH.
We could have listed many texts in the Hebrew Scripture that tell us that both the Torah and YHVH are the way, the truth and the life. Anyone who hears Yeshua make the claim that He is the way, the truth and the life has just heard Him lay claim to equality with the Torah and YHVH.
For the third claim in John 14:6, we’ll go back to the earlier paragraph that dealt with the Hebrew word “echad.”
While the Apostolic Scriptures come to us in Greek language, it is clear that Yeshua knew both Hebrew and Aramaic languages as well. If we put the three words for “way, truth and life” back into Hebrew, we have three words that all start with one letter of the word “echad”.
The Hebrew word way is “derek;” the Hebrew for truth is “emet;” and the word for life is “chayim.” The initial letter for the three Hebrew words for “way, truth and life” are the three letters that make the word “echad.”
By saying He is the way, the truth and the life, Yeshua is claiming He is part of the “echad” in Deuteronomy 6:4.
To confirm our understanding of Yeshua’s claim in John 14:6 is correct, take a look at the verses that follow.
In John 14:9, Yeshua says anyone who has seen Him has seen the Father.
In verse 10, Yeshua says the Father is living in Him. In verse 11, He states, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.” The Father, in this text, is none other than YHVH.
By the declaration that He is the way, the truth and the life, Yeshua has equated Himself with Torah, YHVH and the “echad” of Deuteronomy 6:4.
The song many sing in December asks, “What Child is This?” so let’s answer the question by saying the child is the in-flesh reality of Torah, YHVH and the “echad” oneness of G-d.
I believe traditional understandings of Yeshua’s identity need to be revamped and overhauled to bring them in alliance with the Hebrew Scripture and the claims that Yeshua makes about himself in light of those texts.On Faith columnist Brent Emery can be reached by email at email@example.com.