Abstract Here it is proposed -with reference to Isaac Newton- that the apparent conflict between the strictly monotheistic Jewish and the Trinitarian Christian view of Jesus if Nazareth is based on a misunderstanding, a misunderstanding arising from the fact that G-d is outside of time and space, while any incarnate soul is ensconced within it.
As a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, Isaac Newton was required to take holy orders, and to become of minister in the Church of England. This involved taking a vow of celibacy, and recognizing the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. Apparently Newton was desperate to avoid this -and ultimately did avoid it- in no small part because of his disbelief in one of the most fundamental doctrines of Christianity, the doctrine of the Trinity. Like a Christian, Newton held that Jesus of Nazareth was the son of G-d, but that like a Jew, he held G-d to be a solitary, indivisible being, and thus that Jesus was less than G-d. Newton’s views on this subject are summarized in an unpublished document from 1673 (1):
1. The word G-d is nowhere in the scriptures used to signify more than one of the three persons at once.
2. The word G-d put absolutely without restriction to the Son or Holy Ghost doth always signify the Father from one end of the scriptures to the other.
3.Whenever it is said in the scriptures that there is but one G-d, it is meant the Father.
4. When, after some heretics had taken Christ for a mere man and others for the supreme G-d, St John in his Gospel endeavoured to state his nature so that men might have from thence a right apprehension of him and avoid those heresies and to that end calls him the word or logos: we must suppose that he intended that term in the sense that it was taken in the world before he used it when in like manner applied to an intelligent being. For if the Apostles had not used words as they found them how could they expect to have been rightly understood. Now the term logos before St John wrote, was generally used in the sense of the Platonists, when applied to an intelligent being and the Arians understood it in the same sense, and therefore theirs is the true sense of St John.
5. The Son in several places confesseth his dependence on the will of the Father.
6. The Son confesseth the Father greater, then calls him his G-d etc.
7. The Son acknowledgeth the original prescience of all future things to be in the Father only.
8. There is nowhere mention of a human soul in our Saviour besides the word, by the meditation of which the word should be incarnate. But the word itself was made flesh and took upon him the form of a servant.
9. It was the son of G-d which He sent into the world and not a human soul that suffered for us. If there had been such a human soul in our Saviour, it would have been a thing of too great consequence to have been wholly omitted by the Apostles.
10. It is a proper epithet of the Father to be called almighty. For by G-d almighty we always understand the Father. Yet this is not to limit the power of the Son. For he doth whatsoever he seeth the Father do; but to acknowledge that all power is originally in the Father and that the Son hath power in him but what he derives fro the Father, for he professes that of himself he can do nothing.
11. The Son in all things submits his will to the will of the Father, which could be unreasonable if he were equal to the Father.
12 The union between him and the Father he interprets to be like that of the saints with one another. That is in agreement of will and counsel.
As a biblical scholar Newton was second to none, but there is a subtly here of which he was -because of his insufficiently sophisticated view of view of time and space- unaware. This can be best expressed by reference to the form of Jewish mysticism known as “Kabbalah” (2). In Kabbalah there are 5 levels of awareness or G-d-Consciousness – from bottom to top, Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya and yechida. Kabbalah Online:
Regarding these levels of soul, the Zohar states that when a person is born, he is given a Nefesh from the world of Asiya, the lowest world, representing the greatest concealment of G‑d. If, through his divine service and proper action, he makes himself worthy, he is then given Ruach on the plane of Yetzira. With greater effort, he can earn the revelation of Neshama, paralleling the world of Beriya. If he purifies himself greatly, he may be able to attain the level of Chaya paralleling Atzilut, and even yechida – the G‑d consciousness of the level of Adam Kadmon and beyond. (“Beyond,” because the level of soul called yechida in essence transcends all the worlds, since it is never separated from G‑d. It is described as being “truly part of G‑d above,” and as “a spark of the Creator enclothed within a spark of the created”).
When a soul has ascended to the level of yechida, it is no longer separate from G-d. Kabbalah takes the Mans’s-Eye-View, from which the fallen, disgraced soul, aspires to ascend to the level of G-d, but there is another G-d’s Eye View from which the perfect soul knowingly descends to the level of man. Whilst he was incarnated in a human body, it is inevitable that Jesus soul lacked the state of yechida, but he could recollect possessing this state and declared himself to be returning to such a state (John 16:28: “”I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.)” Was/is Jesus G-d? No and yes. Incarnated in a human body, he was as Newton shows in his twelve points, distinct from G-d and subordinate to him. This is the only way to make sense of his desire not to be crucified and his plea to G-d to save him from it (Mathew 26: 39 “…he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”). But he possesses another existence in which he is one with G-d. This approach does not not conflict with the Jewish idea of the singular nature of G-d, a conflict that drove Newton to Arianism (Arianism = a Christological concept – attributed to Arius (c. AD 256 – 336), a Christian presbyter in Alexandria, Egypt- which asserts the belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of G-d who was begotten by G-d the Father at a point in time, and is distinct from the Father and is therefore subordinate to the Father), and nor does it conflict with the Trinitarian idea that the soul of Jesus alone has the capacity to be both incarnated and one G-d. The trick is to realize -as the Kabbalists do- that the same soul can inhabit distinct domains, the finite, limited domain of man, and the eternal, unlimited domain of G-d, known in Kabbaha as Ein Sof. Of course, every soul incarnated in the former domain is distinct from G-d and subordinate to him, but this is not to say that a soul that is incarnated in former situation cannot in principle be one with G-d in the latter, and thus not subordinate to him. But for the possibility of such a dual identity, the finite world cannot be -as it is- an emanation of the infinite.
(1) Yahuda Ms.14, f.25, from the Yahuda Manuscript Collection, Jewish National Library, Jerusalem.
(2) Matt, D (2002) Zohar: Annotated and Explained