Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Refuting Islam’s Favorite Rabbi Pt. 1a

Sam Shamoun

I am going to be tackling noted anti-Christian and Muslim darling rabbi Tovia Singer’s article, “Did the Authors of the New Testament Believe in the Doctrine of the Trinity?”. Singer cites specific NT passages that he thinks undermine the doctrine of the blessed Trinity and refute the perfect Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

I begin with his discussion of Hebrews 4:15 where he says the following: 

Consider how the temptation of Jesus is portrayed throughout the Gospels. The New Testament emphatically states “Jesus was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” But the Church’s claim that Jesus is God creates insurmountable contradictions: Temptation without the possibility of falling to sin is meaningless. If Jesus is God, it was impossible for him to sin, and it makes no sense to say he was tempted.

Moreover, James 1:13 states that God cannot be tempted! 

If Singer’s reasoning were valid then he has no choice but to conclude that Jehovah himself cannot be God, since all throughout the Hebrew Bible we find examples of Jehovah being tempted: 

“Because all those men seeing My glory and My signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted Me now these ten times, and have not listened to My voice,” Numbers 14:22 

Note the following comments made by renowned rabbinic authority Rashi: 

have tested Me: This is to be understood LITERALLY.                

these ten times: Twice at the [Red] sea, twice with the manna, twice with the quails…, as is stated in Tractate Arachin (15a). (The Complete Jewish Bible With Rashi Commentary; capital emphasis ours) 

There is more: 

“You shall not tempt the Lord your God, as you tempted Him in Massah.” Deuteronomy 6:16 

“How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel… Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies:” Psalm 78:40-41, 56 Authorized King James Version (AV) 

“but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.” Psalm 106:14 AV 

It must be kept in mind that all of the above texts employ the very same Hebrew word, which at times is rendered as either tempt or test. 

It gets a whole lot worse for Singer since the Hebrew Scriptures depict Satan as having the audacity to go before God’s heavenly presence and incite Jehovah Almighty to strike out at his righteous servant Job!  

“Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘From where do you come?’ Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.’ Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.’” Job 2:1-3 New King James Version (NKJV) 

Here, again, is Rashi’s explanation of this passage: 

“And the Lord said to the Adversary, ‘Have you paid attention to My servant Job? For there is none like him in the earth, a sincere and upright man, God-fearing and shunning evil, and he still maintains his sincerity. Yet you ENTICED Me against him.’”… 

Yet you enticed Me against him: You ENTICED Me to destroy him. Every expression of הֲסָתָה is only an expression of attracting a person to his counsel. (The Complete Jewish Bible With Rashi Commentary; capital and underline emphasis ours) 

What makes this specific case all the more interesting is that the same Hebrew word translated as incited/enticed, is used elsewhere in connection with Satan enticing David the king to sin against God! 

“Now Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.” 1 Chronicles 21:1

Now let’s see how Singer’s objection ends up backfiring against him by proving that Jehovah can’t be God either.  

A. Temptation without the possibility of falling to sin is meaningless.

B. Both Satan and Israel tempted Jehovah.

C. This, therefore, shows that Jehovah can sin; otherwise tempting him would be meaningless.

D. However, it is impossible for God to sin.

E. Therefore, Jehovah cannot be God. 

There is obviously something wrong with this form of argumentation since the same Scriptures that testify that Jehovah can and has been repeatedly tempted, also bear witness to Jehovah being the one and only true God of all: 

“O Lord of Hosts, God of Israel, who dwells above the cherubim, You are the God, even You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth… Now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, Lord, are God.” Isaiah 37:16, 20 

“There is no one like You, O Lord. You are great, and Your name is great in might… But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and an everlasting King. At His wrath the earth trembles, and the nations cannot endure His indignation.” Jeremiah 10:6, 10 

The inspired writers obviously didn’t share Singer’s viewpoint since they saw no problem with Jehovah being the true God and with his being tempted by both mankind and Satan. Nor did they assume that temptation is meaningless if the party being tempted could not sin, since none of God’s inspired emissaries believed for a moment that Jehovah could ever sin. Rather, all of the biblical authors proclaimed that it is impossible for Jehovah to sin, since he is perfect in all his ways and can never change in relation to his essential divine attributes:   

“He is the Rock; His work is perfect; for all His ways are just. He is a God of faithfulness and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.” Deuteronomy 32:4   

As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him.” 2 Samuel 22:31 

“to show that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” Psalm 92:15 

“From before You have laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They shall perish, but You shall endure; indeed, all of them shall wear out like a garment; like a robe You shall change them, and they shall pass away, but You are the same, and Your years shall have no end.” Psalm 102:25-27 

For You are not a God who has pleasure in wickedness, nor will evil dwell with You. Those who boast will not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. You will destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” Psalm 5:4-6 

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, and You cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours the man who is more righteous than he?” Habakkuk 1:13 

“Therefore be perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 

“So God, wanting to show more abundantly the immutability of His counsel to the heirs of promise, confirmed it by an oath. So that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.” Hebrews 6:17-18 

In view of the foregoing, why should Jesus’ temptations call into question his Deity? After all, since Jehovah could be tempted while seated on his glorious throne in heaven and yet still be God, then surely Jesus can still be God in the flesh even though he was tempted like all human beings are, even though he was/is without sin. 

In fact, we would expect that Jesus would experience temptations while he was on earth, seeing that he chose to become a flesh and blood human being who took on genuine human limitations, for the express purpose of identifying with all those who came to redeem: 

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels to suffer death, crowned with glory and honor, so that He, by the grace of God, should experience death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Author of their salvation perfect through suffering. For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all of One. For this reason He is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying: ‘I will declare Your name to My brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing praise to You.’ And again: ‘I will put My trust in Him.’ And again: ‘Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.’ So then, as the children share in flesh and blood, He likewise took part in these, so that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver those who through fear of death were throughout their lives subject to bondage. For surely He does not help the angels, but He helps the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things it was necessary for Him to be made like His brothers, so that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in the things pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For since He Himself suffered while being tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:9-18 

However, we would not expect this to be the case with Jehovah while he is seated on his throne in the fullness of his heavenly glory, especially during the OT period when Jehovah would not have possessed a physical body since he hadn’t taken on a human nature yet. 

Therefore, Singer cannot have his cake and eat it too. If he is to be consistent then he is going to have to accept that according to his own reasoning, Jehovah cannot be God seeing that he can be tempted, which therefore means that he can also sin. 

With that out of the way we can now proceed to our discussion of the contexts of Hebrews 4:15 and James 1:13 in order to show how even these very same writings, which Singer quoted from, proclaim that Jesus Christ is God Almighty in the flesh.