The Greek reading of this verse (NASB) is: “Who did not regard equality with Elohim a thing to be grasped.” But why the difference? The answer is with what Catholic and Protestant churches would later call, “the mystery of the Trinity.” Greek almost seems to say: “I really can’t speak for Godhead issues.” Aramaic clearly says it is “not blasphemous” to grasp this truth.
In reality, the divine component of Messiah must be understood in the context of the Tanakh. Paul is not “robbing” anything from the Truth which was in place long before his arrival; he declares the Truth which is from the beginning.
By the revelation given him and diligent study of the Tanakh, Paul knows well that Messiah is the “coequal of Elohim.” A very Torah-based concept. Some may counter: “You make a man out to be Elohim,” which is not “Jewish” – which is one of the very reasons Paul is considered apostate from Torah.
But who are his critics? Obviously they are the Pharisees of old and their direct spiritual descendants this day, who deny Y’shua Messiah in the first place. It’s not the followers of Y’shua who made him out to be Elohim, but YHWH Who put the Spirit of Messiah into a human body.
It is the omnipotence of the Almighty YHWH which is under attack by those who reject Y’shua as Messiah. Critics posture that the Father YHWH, who is ein sof (without end) cannot indwell a human being, but these critics are simply plying theological limitations upon YHWH’s omnipotence.
The issue shifts to not if YHWH could do this, but would He do this? In 134 places in the Tanakh, the Scribes (Masoretes) working under authority of the rabbinate removed the Name of YHWH and inserted “Adonai” in many places where the Name YHWH was directly pointing to Messiah! Rabbinical tradition was very “inconvenienced” by this very fact (in places like Psalm 110), so they rewrote many verses to suit their own religious traditions.
Aramaic and Greek both state that Y’shua came “in the image/appearance of the sons of men” (Phil. 2:7). This is a key point, as it shows that while Messiah appears as a man, he is not wholly like other men in all respects. Aramaic reads: “And He humbled himself and became obedient up to the point of death - the death of the stake. For this reason also Elohim exalted Him...” (verse 9).
If that sounds familiar it should: “Of the travail of his soul he shall see to the full, even My servant who by his knowledge did justify the Righteous One to the many, and their iniquities he did bear. Therefore I (YHWH) will divide him a portion among the great, And he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he bared his soul unto death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:11-12 1955).
Several Hebrew and Aramaic words, each with precise, discreet and subtly different shades of meaning, are uniformly translated into the generic English words “soul” and “spirit”. In this case Isaiah tells of the nefesh/naphshah (life force) that Messiah lays down. Obviously the divine attributes in Messiah (Isaiah 11:1-2) cannot die. This is important because Elohim can neither bleed nor perish, and yet a portion of Messiah is equivalent to YHWH.
Another important Scriptural guide is found here: “And they shall look upon Me (et) whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son” (Zechariah 12:10).
However, the JPS renders this verse, “they shall look upon Me because they have thrust him through,” which does violence to the Hebrew, so as to shore up their own traditional religious orthodoxy. Usage of “et”, as in “B’resheet bara Elohim hashamayim v’et ha’aretz; In the beginning Elohim created (et) the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
The key word “et”, acts as a direct object pointer; its purpose is to point to the part of the sentence that receives the action from another. In this case, the heavens and earth receive the action of their creation from YHWH. This is such a basic and consistent rule that in every other place et appears, the direct object is always pointing to the phrase after it as the receptor. Granted though in Genesis 1:1 et appears after heavens but before earth, because it is a compound structure (heavens and earth) and the pointer must in this case appear before the appearance of the latter term.
Still, that minor oddity does not prevent JPS translators from telling us rightly where the heavens and earth are receiving their action from, nor does this difficulty arise in any of the several hundred other places in Scripture; however, this passage in Zechariah 12:10 is very controversial in their own eyes.
In Zechariah’s case, the placement of et leaves no doubt whatsoever that it is YHWH receiving the action of piercing, and yet they mourn for him (Messiah) as an only son! This fact alone clearly proves that YHWH is somehow pierced and yet He does not die, but it also shows that His son does! But then if the son can die how is he “equal” with YHWH who can never die?
The answer lies in understanding the difference between “equal” in Aramaic and English. When we say “equal” we mean a sense of equivalence, such as 2 + 2 = 4. However, to say “equal with YHWH” in this context does NOT mean identical but rather “of the same substance as Elohim.” Water and ice have the same substance but they are not identical; neither does each one do the exact things of the other.
Messiah is made up of the same “divine” nature as YHWH, but is given a subservient function by the very nature of the fact that he had become human. That is also why he can say “I am nothing without my Father” because without the divine component he is just as another man. This of course brings us back to Paul’s description of Y’shua having the “likeness of men and was found in fashion as a man” (Philippians 2:7).