Did Jesus bring knowledge of God to the world?

In his book, ‘Twenty-six reasons why Jews don’t believe in Jesus’, Asher Norman suggests that Jesus did not meet any of six authentic Jewish messianic criteria.

This is the last of a series of responses to Norman’s objections, dealing with the last of his six criteria.


Jesus did not bring knowledge of the Jewish God to the world. The Christian Bible directly contradicts the Jewish definition of God and directly contradicts all fundamental Jewish teachings about God. Most of the world still does not know God. Ironically, whenever a Christian missionary proselytizes a non-believer he proves that the Messiah ben David has not yet come. His act of proselytising is a graphic demonstration that the world is not yet filled with the knowledge of God.

ISAIAH: “The glory of Hashem will be revealed, and all flesh together will see that the mouth of Hashem has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:5)

ZEPHANIAH: “For then I will change the nations [to speak] a pure language, so that they will proclaim the Name of Hashem, to worship Him with united resolve.” (Zephaniah 3:9)

JEREMIAH: “They will no longer teach – each man his fellow, each man his brother – saying, “Know Hashem! For all of them will know Me, from their smallest to their greatest – the word of Hashem – when I will forgive their iniquity and will no longer recall their sin.” (Jeremiah 31:33)


Jesus failed to bring knowledge of God to the world and is therefore eliminated from messianic consideration …”


While Asher Norman presumes that Jews know God (i.e. that the rabbinical understanding of God is true and correct), God warned through the prophets that this is not necessarily the case. E.g. “The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Isaiah 1:3).

The further presumption that knowledge of Torah equates to knowledge of God is also questionable. God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah: “Those who deal with the Torah do not know Me.” “My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding” (Jeremiah 2:8 and 4:22).

The true “Jewish God” is the God revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures. Yet the rabbis profess that Jews do not take these Scriptures literally:

“The Jewish People are frequently called ‘the People of the Book’; yet  … the Jewish People do not now follow the literal word of the Written Law, nor have they ever done so. They have been fashioned and ruled by the verbal interpretation of the written word … ” [1]

By the “Jewish definition of God” and “fundamental Jewish teachings about God,” Norman means these rabbinic interpretations contained in the Talmud.

According to Talmudic teachings, God can be defiled and needs to cleanse himself (Sanhedrin 39a, Bab.), can be outwitted by the rabbis (Baba Mezia 59b), spends His days studying the Torah (Avodah Zarah 3b, Bab.), and wears a prayer shawl and phylacteries (Rosh ha’Shana 17b, Bab., Berakoth 7a, Bab.).

The prophets also warned that Israel would follow man-made religion in place of God’s word:

“The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men'” (Isaiah 29:13).

“‘How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the Law of the LORD,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely? The wise (חכמים) will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped.  Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have?” (Jeremiah 8:8-9).

This is certainly not the wisdom and knowledge that Messiah would bring to the world!

What is the knowledge of God?

If neither Jewishness nor Talmudic opinions equate to the knowledge of God, what then is the true knowledge of God?

The Hebrew term for ‘knowledge’ means “to establish by seeing”, i.e. to know by personal observation or experience. Adam did not know good and evil until he disobeyed God by eating of the tree. The same word is used to describe intimacy between spouses. “And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived … “.

Job was perfectly righteous in his worship of God, but did not know God until God spoke to him in his suffering. After this Job could say: “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5).

There is clearly a difference between knowing about God and knowing God.

The nation Israel did not know God until He intervened in her history, which He did by redeeming her from bondage and appearing on Mount Sinai. Moses explains:

“Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides Him there is no other” (Deuteronomy 4:33-35).

The way in which the other nations would come to know God, would surely not differ from the way that Israel came to know Him. At the given time, God would again intervene in history and this time make Himself visible to the whole world (as He had done for Israel at Sinai). The nations would hear His voice, as Israel had; would see His miracles and be redeemed, as Israel was by His might hand. Those who had only heard of God would nowsee Him. I.e. they would know Him by experience.

A closer look at the prophecies cited by Norman

ISAIAH 40:5. The “glory of YHVH” that Isaiah saw revealed to all flesh, is hinted at in Exodus 34. God first appeared on Sinai with fire, smoke and earthquakes (Exodus 21). But this is the only way that primitive, unspiritual people can see Him. It is not His glory. Later Moses prayed to God, “show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18-19), and God agreed to do this, and then showed Moses His NATURE – i.e. the essence of His character and being (Exodus 34:5-7). It is this nature and character of God that Messiah would reveal to the world. And this is His glory!

Jesus did not come in the smoke and fire of Sinai, and bluntly refused to perform any ‘signs’ that would appeal to the basic senses (Mark 8:12). He came rather as the “image of the invisible God” and “the exact representation of His being.” In him, it is written, “all God’s fullness dwelt in bodily form.” [2]  Jesus revealed God’s love, mercy, truth and long suffering, as well as his justice and righteousness (i.e. His glory as described in Exodus 34:5-7).

ZEPHANIAH 3:9. Norman quotes Zephaniah 3:9 without mentioning that the conversion of the Gentiles “to a pure worship of YHVH” will occur at the time that Israel itself comes under God’s judgment:

“Who to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled … the priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the Torah …

I convert the nations [to speak] a pure language, that they all will proclaim the Name of YHVH, to serve Him in one accord [the verse quoted by Norman] …

On that day you [Israel] will be put to shame for all the wrongs that you have done to Me, because I will remove from this city those who rejoice in their pride … but I leave with you [as a remnant] the meek and the humble”

(Zephaniah 3:1-11).

God converts the Gentiles and Israel is put to shame! Zephaniah confirms that it is only a small portion of Israel (the meek and the humble) which holds to the true knowledge of God, the knowledge to which the nations would be converted at this time.

JEREMIAH 31:33.  Norman reminds us by referring to this verse that the extension of the knowledge of God comes through the New Covenant:

“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-40).

God’s revelation at Mount Sinai was superseded by His revelation in Messiah; and the Covenant that Israel broke, with the New Covenant in Messiah’s blood. Israel’s redemption from bondage in Egypt prefigured the universal redemption from the bondage of sin – for all who truly believe.

The ‘knowledge of God’ spreads out as people “from every nation, tribe and tongue” see and experience God’s forgiveness for themselves and in this way come to know and love Him personally.

It is this intimate knowledge of God through an experience of His love and mercy that no man can ever teach his brother or neighbour – that all those who participate in the New Covenant have acquired by their own experience.

Postscript on proselytising

God ordained that the faithful remnant of Israel should be an instrument by which the knowledge of Him would spread out to the world. “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). This happened as the Jewish apostles of Jesus spread the Gospel and made converts of all nations (i.e. proselytising the Gentiles). In this way they also fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham, that through his descendants all nations on earth would be blessed!

As the Gentiles were converted to a true knowledge of God, they in turn become an agent of salvation to the lost children of Israel. (Zephaniah 3:9-10 predicted that this would happen; see also the Keil and Delitzsch commentary on these verses.)

This also requires proselytising. I.e. Gentiles who have been converted to faith in Messiah, must now bring that knowledge to unbelieving Jews.

What Norman claims as a proof that Messiah did not bring the knowledge of God to the world, is rather the proof of the continuing fulfilment of these prophecies – in the manner that God ordained.

[1] H. Chaim Schimmel, ‘The Oral Law – The Rabbinic Contribution to the Torah sheBe’al Pe’, Third Revised edition, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem & New York, 2006, p.3.

[2] Col. 1:21; Heb. 1:3.