Prayer to Yeshua, Part Deus

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...
Yeshua teaches His disciples to pray, "Our Father, Who art in Heaven . . ."

Apparently, I “took umbrage to the suggestion that we can pray directly to Jesus,” at least according to Nick Norelli’s latest post on the subject.  Actually, I think that’s far too strong a word, since I don’t have enough emotional involvement in this subject to warrant it.  I just happen to disagree with Norelli’s prooftexts, that’s all.

I do take a bit of exception to Fr. Robert’s suggestion that my issue with praying to Yeshua somehow diminishes my view of Messiah’s Diety.  While I have problems with some Trinitarian terminology (e.g., using “Son of God” to refer to Yeshua’s uncreated God-nature rather than His created Human nature, or body), the overemphasis of “Tri” over Echad (“One”), and the general ignorance of what Trinitarian theology actually teaches among Christians, I agree fully that Messiah is Divine in nature, as is the Holy Spirit.

But as I explained to Fr. Robert, none of that says to pray to Jesus Christ, which is the issue at hand. If we accept that the Father, Son, and Spirit have different roles and even a heirarchy of authority (“I do only what My Father shows Me”) and existence (the Father generates the Son, not the other way around), we must also accept at least the possibility that our relationship with each is slightly different. For example, the Father was not poured out on Pentecost, nor do we pray to the Spirit in the Father’s Name or cast out demons in the Name of the Spirit.

I am not challenging Yeshua’s Diety by my belief that it is inappropriate to pray to Him (or else I wouldn’t be capitalizing His pronouns); I am merely endeavoring to, “Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence” (pardon the bad grammar to preserve the quote from the Athanasian Creed).

In any case, let’s get into the meat of Norelli’s counter-counter-arguments:

There’s a slight bit of confusion in this paraphrase since on the one hand it seems that Bugg understands Jesus to be saying that he’s not a mediator and on the other hand that he is. In other words, I’m trying to discern the functional difference between praying to Jesus and praying to the Father in Jesus’ name as Bugg presents it.

Let’s look at the question within the context of the Temple service.  A sinner had to go through the priest in order to sacrifice to be restored to right relationship with the Holy One, but he did not then pray to the priest in place of the Holy One.  The sinner was restored through the agency of the Temple, which even contained the very Presence (Sh’khinah) of the Holy One Himself within it, but he did not direct his prayers to the physical structure of the Temple, but to the God of the Temple.  Both are intercessors that enable a sinner to pray to the Most High, but neither replace the Most High as the object of the prayer.

So yes, I believe that Yeshua is our Intercessor and Mediator–and even the very Temple of Hashem Himself.  But that doesn’t require the conclusion that prayer to Yeshua instead of to His Father and our Father is appropriate.

But the point from John 14:14 if one accepts the variant with με in it is not that we pray to Jesus and then Jesus carries those prayers to the Father; it’s that we pray to Jesus and then Jesus responds.

“If.”  That’s why we don’t base our theology on disputed passages or minor variants.  If the variant coincides with a theology developed from other passages or the Scripture as a whole, wonderful.  If not, then we’re building a house of cards.

But again, the real problem is this directly contradicts John 16:26f: “I do not say that I will pray for you . . .”  It’s a very plain statement, which to my mind overrides suppositions drawn from a textual variant.

He says that while Jesus is equated with YHWH, we’re simply calling on his name and not on him. He acknowledges my point about this language being taken up from the OT cultic setting, so one wonders, if calling on the name of the LORD isn’t the same as calling on the LORD, who were they praying to in the OT or were they praying at all?

If to “call upon the name of the LORD” simply means to pray to Him, then it must follow that everyone who has ever prayed to the God of Israel even once in his life must be saved:  “It will happen that whoever will call on the name of the LORD shall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the LORD has said” (Joel 2:32, cf. Rom. 10:12f).  And yet Yeshua Himself says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 7:21).

Secondly, I did a word search for the Heb. word palal (“pray,” from which we get t’philah, “prayer”) and the phrase “call upon.”  I found only one instance, in Jer. 29:12, which reads in the NASB:  “‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.”  The word “upon” is actually a translator’s interpolation, as the Hebrew, uqratem ati, literally means simply “call Me.”  There were no instances where calling upon the Name of Hashem and prayer were equated.

Obviously, to “call upon the Name” means something far deeper and more fundamental than prayer; exploring exactly what deserves a whole post of its own, so I’ll come back to this issue at a future date.  For now, I will note that in Hebrew, one’s name (shem) does not refer siimply to the sound of the syllables, but to the person’s honor, reputation, authority, and even character.  Ergo, what is needed for salvation is not prayer per se, but to call upon the totality of the Holy One’s true character, reputation (the Covenant-Keeper, as when Moses interceded in Exo. 32:12f), and authority, all of which have been fully revealed in the Messiah Yeshua.

None of the above, however, prove that we should pray to Yeshua rather than directly to His Father as He Himself continually instructed us.

I corrected my typo and left a comment on Bugg’s blog explaining why 1 Corinthians 16:22 is significant. Maranatha (Come! Lord!) was directed to Jesus, not the Father, and it was a prayer for his return (cf. Rev. 22:20).

“Maranatha” is a Greek translation of the Aramaic Marana Atah, “Our Lord Comes/Will Come.”  How does this constitute prayer to Yeshua?

He recognizes that Stephen prays. How else can we understand his taking up Jesus’ (prayer) language from the cross?

Pictured: Dave prays to Bob

I already explained this in detail in my first post, and I don’t see that Norelli actually provides a counter-argument to the substance of my argument:  Speaking to Yeshua when one is beholding Him face-to-face no more proves that one should pray to Him as a matter of course than Mr. Norelli’s conversation with me here proves that people ought to pray to me as a matter of course.  After all, Paul spoke to Yeshua on the Damascus road, but didn’t yet know Him as God With Us–this Pharisee of the Pharisees certainly didn’t view that conversation as prayer in any true sense at that moment any more than Nicodemus regarded his nighttime conversation with Yeshua as prayer.

Claiming that I’m begging the question in this case is unwarranted and cuts both ways, as I explained in my reply in the original thread.  It also, in the absence of an argument that disproves my own simply commits the Genetic Fallacy: Assuming that because you can explain a possible origin for a belief that this disproves the belief.  Yes, I am inclined to interpret Stephen’s final words in light of Yeshua’s own injunction to pray directly to the Father.  So what?  Isn’t that just comparing Scripture to Scripture?

I’ll note that Bugg didn’t address my reference to Acts 1.

To be honest, I didn’t notice it, but the answer is pretty simple:  There’s no actual evidence that they’re praying to Yeshua.  The prayer simply says, “Lord,” which has long been the Jewish way of addressing our Father in prayer.

So to sum up:

  1. Yeshua Himself taught us consistently to pray to the Father in His Name.  Norelli himself admits that’s true and the preferred method of prayer.  Ergo, it falls to him to prove that the Scriptures also allow for prayer to Yeshua, not to me to disprove it.
  2. Norelli is depending heavily on a variant in the text which is not held as the true rendering by most scholars (see the link in my previous post).
  3. Since we pray to God rather than the priests or the Temple, even though they are intercessors, having Yeshua as our intercessor does not necessarily mean that we should pray to Him instead of to the Person He Himself called “My God.”
  4. To “call upon the Name of the LORD” and prayer are nowhere equated in the Tanakh (OT for my Sunday-brethren), and there’s good reason to recognize them as separate, though connected, activities.  Therefore, the equating of Yeshua with Hashem in passages referring to calling on His Name cannot be taken to refer to praying to Yeshua.
  5. “Maranatha” means simply “Our Lord Comes”.  Where is the prayer to Yeshua in that?
  6. Speaking to a person face-to-face does not constitute prayer.
  7. One cannot assume that just because a disciple of Yeshua opens a prayer with “Lord,” it means he’s praying to Yeshua.
  8. Dismissing my arguments because I am allegedly begging the question cuts both ways:  Having determined, for whatever reason, that people should pray to Yeshua, Mr. Norelli is equally prone to question-begging the issue.  More to the point, questions of motivations are irrelevant; only what the Scriptures actually say matters, and Norelli himself admits that they teach us to pray to the Father in the Name of the Son.

It’s been fun, and if Mr. Norelli would like to present any new arguments, I’m more than open to continuing.



6 Replies to “Prayer to Yeshua, Part Deus”

  1. Michael: Thanks for the response. I’ll probably write something in the next couple of days replying. One thing I’ll say is that I don’t think the question begging charge really does cut both ways. I haven’t assumed the truth of my conclusion beforehand. In other words, my conclusion that people can pray to Jesus isn’t guided by an assumption that they should pray to Jesus. As I’ve said, it’s not my practice, so I don’t have anything vested in it. Like I recently said to Fr. Robert on my blog, I’m approaching the question from a historical/phenomenological perspective and noting that in the NT people have done it (it’s actually a pretty uncontroversial claim among NT scholars but I’ll save that for when I write something up). In any event, I look forward to the continued discussion.


    1. Nick, you act as if I just, out of the blue, decided for myself that one shouldn’t pray to Yeshua. I didn’t. I came to the conclusion after my own Scriptural study in which I realized that there is no Scriptural justification or call to do so. You’ve done the same and come to a different conclusion, but you can’t claim to be any more neutral in this than I. Having put your opinions to print, so to speak, you’re just as prone as the next man to have the urge to defend your view, even if that defense results from question begging. So seriously, leave the ad hominems and genetic fallacies behind and focus on proving your point from the Scriptures, which are the only truly unbiased source we know.

      So far, you’ve provided very weak arguments, in my opinion of course. All you have to do is show a legitimate example of the Apostles praying to the Messiah that isn’t dependent on the special circumstance of Him visibly being there conversing with them, or a place in the NT where it says flat out, “Pray to Jesus Christ.”

      Shalom from a brother in the Messiah


  2. Excellent posts both, Michael. You’ve certainly tied up the topic to my satisfaction (and very well). I’d highlight specific points you made that were particularly compelling, but there were far too many. Really, very well done. I very much look forward to reading your post on what it truly means to “call upon the Name”. Thank you for investing so much time in this important, and widely misunderstood, truth.

    Dave prays to Bob. Absolutely hilarious!


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