Trinity/ Triune-ness of God - Part 1
By Rev. Allan Moorhead
Most of this research comes from a very complete book on the Trinity written by Robert Morey called 'The Trinity'. I would recommend this book to anyone who desires to learn more about the Trinity. He spent years studying the books written on the subject over the last several hundred years and it is an exhausted manual. Many thanks are given to Robert Morey and his scholarly research.
In these days the triune-ness or Echad of God is under serious attack. It is important that believers understand this Biblical doctrine and be ready to defend it to those who attack the doctrine. This doctrine has been around since the beginning of the church. Many will say that the concept of the Trinity did not begin until the Nicean council in 325 C.E. This is not true. The Apostles understood the concept and most of the early church fathers believed in it. The very word "Trinity" was used by one of the church fathers called Tertullian in approximately 200 C.E. The Council of Nicea finally made a stand to support the Trinity concept because of fierce opposition to the doctrine by a teacher called Arius who started the Arian's belief system that opposes that Yeshua was divine. This group also does not believe that the Holy Spirit was divine also.
This was the first real challenge to the Trinity concept. The Arians continued to fight this doctrine and eventually evolved into the Unitarian churches of today. The Jehovah Witnesses are also followers of the Arius doctrine.
This heresy was not the first the church had to contend with. Other than Saul's fight with those who tried to demand that circumcision was an element of salvation, John tells us of the first heresy the church had to face.
Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: but he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also (1John 22:22-23).
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world (1John 4:3).
This statement by John had to do with the Docetian Heresy. This heresy was one in which Gnostics were beginning to say that Yeshua was only a theophany of God and really didn't come in the flesh. It is interesting that they did not deny the divinity of Yeshua but only that he really wasn't in the flesh. The Gnostics had a real hard time believing that God came in the flesh. The interesting thing here is that John does not deny that Yeshua was God but reiterating that he was God and man.
What does the concept of 'Trinity' mean? Unfortunately, there has arose many concepts of 'Trinity' and thus has confused the issue. Many different religions have their own slant on what 'Trinity' means. The basic church doctrine of the 'Trinity' means God is one but he consists of three.
A good definition of the Trinity would be:
"A word not found in Scripture but used to express the doctrine of the unity of God as subsisting in three distinct persons. The propositions involved in the doctrine are these:
Within the unity of the One God there are three distinct Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three share the same nature and attributes (essence). In effect then, the three Persons are the One God" (www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/7831/trinity.html page one).
The Trinity is not three separate Gods doing their own thing, which was a pagan belief. Nor is it three Gods in one God or three persons in one person. Nor is it one God who changes himself into one of three personalities as he sees fit.
Besides the Apostles, many of the early Church Fathers believed in the Godhead:
Justin Martyr in 130 C.E. when arguing the trinity concept said this speaking of the Son, "But this Offspring, which was truly brought forth from the Father, was with the Father before all the creatures…" (Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 62).
Irenaus in approximately 177 C.E. in speaking against heresies said, "For with Him (God) were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, "Let Us make man after Our image and likeness;""(Irenaus Against Heresies, Book IV, ch. 20, section 1).
Clement who died in 100 C.E. said this, "My brethren we must look on Christ as God" (An Ancient Homily of Clement 1:1).
Ignatius in the early 2nd Century said, "By the will of the Father and of Jesus Christ our God" (The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians, 1:1, Apostolic Fathers, Part II, 2:544).
Ignatius also said, "The blood of God" in the same writing.
Novatian in 250 C.E supported the Trinity in his writings, as so did Hippolytus in 200 C.E. Origen also spoke in favor of the Trinity in the early 3rd Century. There are many writings by the early church fathers that back this doctrine because they saw through the scriptures that this is true.
Our first approach to the subject will begin with the Old Covenant. If God is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow, then, we should see evidence of the Trinity in the Old Covenant as well as in the New Covenant. There should be ample evidence to show that God exists in three persons in both covenants.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 tells us that although we can't fully understand God, we can know him and get a good understanding of him.
Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.
Daniel 11:32 also tells us that we can know God:
But the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many.
John 17:3 also tells us that we can know God:
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
Although the Trinity concept is somewhat of a mystery, we can get a good understanding of it by seeking the word of God. God can be understood although never completely. We can't reduce God to the level of man and put him in a box that can be completely explainable. Yet He will reveal himself to us if we let him and believe his word. God is unsearchable yet we should search for him.
I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause: Which doeth great things and unsearchable; marvelous things without number, (Job 5:8-9)
We can find God and know him but we just can never fully understand him. Many will say, "God works in mysterious ways". There is some truth to this, but most of the time this is a cop out for not knowing or searching out God and his word.
Certainly, God is unsearchable, unfathomable, and inscrutable. Ephesians 3:19 and Philippians 4:7 tells us that the love of Messiah surpasses all knowledge and the peace of God surpasses all comprehension. However, God has given us enough information to get a good limited knowledge of him and his ways.
To believe in a Trinity doctrine, there must be lots of evidence in the Bible to support it or else those opposed to the Trinity may easily dismiss the evidence. As we move forward, I believe the evidence shown will be overwhelming and to dismiss it would require a lot more faith to deny than to believe in this doctrine. Nonetheless, you will have those who will still deny the doctrine because they have made up their minds and don't want to be confused with the facts.
Oneness of God
As we begin our journey there are some things to clear up to help those reading the Bible. In the Old Covenant, whenever the word LORD is used, this is the four- letter (YHWH) name of God called the Tetragrammon. We don't know how it is pronounced but generally it is pronounce as Yahweh.
The word 'God' is Elohim. The word 'Lord' is Adonai. It is important to know these words as one studies the Trinity in the Old Covenant.
Deuteronomy 6:4 tells us that the LORD (YHWH) our God (Elohim) is one LORD (YHWH). The word 'one' is the Hebrew word 'Echad'. How is this word 'Echad' used in other places?
Genesis 1:5 talks about the first (Echad) day, which was a combination of evening and morning.
Genesis 2:24 talks about man and woman becoming as one (Echad) flesh.
Genesis 3:22 talks about how man (Adam and Eve) has become as one (Echad) of us (God).
Genesis 11:6 tells us that the people were one (Echad) at the tower of Babel.
Genesis 34:16 and 22 tells us that the people (Hebrews) will become as one (Echad) people if they got circumcised.
2Chronicles 30:12 and Jeremiah 32:39 tells us that the people had one (Echad) heart.
There are numerous examples where one (Echad) means a plural oneness whether it be 'one heart' of many, 'one flesh' of husband and wife, 'one people' of many, and so on.
Since God refers to himself as 'Echad', there is already a sense that God is one but yet plural. The Hebrew word for a solitary one is Yachad or Yachid. Examples would be in the phrase "only (Yachad) son". In this case the intent is to say there is only one solitary one. When God is referred to as one, Yachad is never used.
Non-Trinitarians would never use Echad for 'one' in reference to God because it can imply a multiple or a compound oneness. It is interesting to note that Jewish Rabbis use to refer to the oneness of God as Echad. Later Moses Maimonides began to change Echad to Yachad in his writings. So today many Jewish scholars who study Maimonides writings assume that the oneness of God is the solitary concept instead of the plural concept in the Bible. However, 'Echad' is use in several instances in the Bible where the word could be implied as a solitary one. As a matter of fact 'Echad' is use for 'one' more than any other word for 'one'. So, further evidence is needed to show that God consists of multiple persons other than using the term 'Echad' itself.
'Elohim' is a term used for God in the Bible. Out of 2606 times that 'Elohim' is used in the Bible, it is referenced to God 2347 times. In the 244 other examples it is translated as gods. 'Elohim' is the plural of the word "El". Majority of the time, 'Elohim' is referring to God himself. The other times with very few exceptions it is translated as gods as in pagan gods or in reference that man sometimes think of themselves as gods. Nonetheless, it is a plural term. 'Elohim' would not normally be used to indicate a solitary term. The Hebrew word 'El' would be used.
In many cases when the word Elohim (God) is used, the verbage used is also plural. For example:
Genesis 35:7 the word 'appeared' is plural.
In Deuteronomy 4:7 the word 'nigh' or drawing near is plural.
Psalms 58:11 the word 'judges' is plural.
Others words in reference to Elohim (God) are also plural:
Joshua 24:19 the word 'holy' is plural.
Job 35:10 and Psalms 149:2 the word 'maker' is plural.
Ecclesiastes 12:1 the word 'Creator' is plural.
Perhaps we can look at Deuteronomy 6:4 a little differently:
Hear, O Israel: YHWH (singular) our Elohim (plural) is Echad (plural) YHWH.
Looking at the Shema in this light certainly begs a question of the nature of God.
Plural Pronouns of God
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
The words 'us' and 'our' indicate plural. The word 'make' is also a plural verb. The words 'image' and 'likeness' are singular nouns. A plural God made man in a singular image. This cannot mean angels since image is in singular text. There is but one image man will be made in and a plural God does it.
In Genesis 3:22 we find that the LORD God (YHWH Elohim) is saying that man in now like one of us:
And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
In both of these texts the person speaking is the LORD (Yahweh). What does he mean by 'us'? Again it refers to the plurality of God. Some may say that God is speaking to the angels. There is no evidence of this.
There are many examples where the nouns and verbs are plural when referring to God to show that there is a multiple or compound concept of God. This is just the beginning of the evidence.
In Genesis 19:24, we have something very revealing:
Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven.
This part of scripture begins with a visit to Abraham by the LORD (Yahweh) himself in human form. The LORD tells Abraham that he is going to visit Sodom and Gomorrah and see for himself if their sin is as great as he has heard (Genesis 18:20-21). The LORD apparently went to Sodom and Gomorrah and confirmed what he suspected. Then Genesis 19:24 tells us that the LORD called for fire and brimstone from the LORD in heaven. Here we have the LORD calling to the LORD in heaven. There are two different people here both called LORD or Yahweh. The Yahweh visiting Abraham was the Theophany of God or better known as the Angel of the LORD. More will be spoken on this subject later but basically the Angel of the LORD is that part of the Godhead that takes on human form. It is the part of the Godhead that God uses most of the time to directly communicate with man. The LORD in heaven in this case was the Father God. So in this case we have an example to two personalities of God.
Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
This scripture is indeed interesting. The entire scripture is about God or better the Messiah and his bride. God is projected as a king with a kingdom but notice the last sentence. "Therefore God, thy God hath anointed thee". The person spoken of here is God (Elohim), but yet, his God (Elohim) will anoint him. God will anoint God. Elohim will anoint Elohim. This again confirms that there are at least two personalities of God.
In these scripture we find that in verse 12 the speaker calls himself " I am, I am the first and I am the last". In verse 17 he confirms that he is the LORD (Yahweh) thy God. Throughout these scriptures the speaker mentions how he is the creator and redeemer and how he lover Jacob and Israel. Now let's look at verse 16.
Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me.
Notice how the speaker says "the Lord God and his Spirit hath sent me". The speaker is the LORD and yet he says that the LORD God and his Spirit has sent him. We have YHWH being sent by YHWH Elohim and his Spirit, This time we have all three Godheads mentioned in one chapter.
In this chapter of Hosea, the LORD (Yahweh) is speaking. Note what he says in verse 17:
But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, nor by horses, nor by horsemen.
The LORD says he will have mercy on the house of Judah and will save them by the LORD (Yahweh) their God. Yahweh will have mercy and save them by Yahweh. Of course we know that Yeshua is the deliverer here. Again there are two different Yahwehs mentioned here. One God but two personalities are manifested.
This concludes Part 1. In Part 2 we will continue with the Old Covenant examples of the Godhead including the Theophanies of God.
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