The God Squad: Who was Jesus?

By Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

I occasionally take time in this column to consider the deep mysteries each of the major faiths of the world holds at its heart.

These mysteries are core beliefs and quite often they are so profound and so recondite that people who are not in the faith but who want to learn more about it are cut off from understanding.

I want to understand everything I can possibly understand and learn everything I can possibly learn.

This week I want to try to understand the Christian understanding of the nature of Jesus.

The question at the heart of the mystery is the question of whether Jesus was divine or human or both. A few weeks ago, in answer to a question about gender-neutral language in reference to God, I suggested that Jesus was essentially divine for Christians but appeared on earth in human form. I wrote,

“Christianity does have that issue that Jesus was a man, but that is complicated by the Christian belief that Jesus is not really a human male but the child of God who appeared on Earth in a gendered form of a man. Jesus is part of the Trinity, meaning Jesus’ essence is primarily divine not human.”


This was incorrect and false to the self understanding of Christians. If Fr. Tom Hartman were still with me, he would have slapped me around and prevented me from including this ignorant passage, but he is not so I did and I apologize.

Meanwhile many of you, dear readers who are Christians, wrote to me in varying degrees of frustration to help correct my misunderstanding of the Christian understanding of the nature of Jesus. This note from a seminary professor was particularly kind and helpful:

Dear Rabbi Gellman,

I always enjoy your column, syndicated in the BUFFALO NEWS. I have a question about your column of July 11, 2020. You write that Christianity holds that "Jesus is not really a human male" and that "Jesus' essence is primarily divine not human." However, all mainline Christian denominations believe that Jesus was (and is) truly divine and truly human.


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