There are a lot of spiritually and scripturally ignorant people who view the doctrine of the Trinity as a problem. The doctrine of the Trinity is not a problem at all; rather, it is an OBVIOUS ANSWER to the “problem” of the biblical data which assure us that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God.
Question: Does the Old Testament allow for the doctrine of the Trinity?
Answer: You betcha it does.
I. Uniqueness, Unity, and Diversity: a brief study on the nature of the God who would send the Messiah and give us the Bible.
A. God’s Uniqueness and Unity presented in the midst of a pagan world.
1. The fundamental point of OT theology is the uniqueness and unity of Israel’s God as opposed to the polytheism of Israel’s neighbors.
a. All the religions of the nations surrounding Israel were basically nature cults, designed to enlist the aid of the pantheon and ensure the fertility of the land.
b. Humans were basically created because the gods were lazy and needed someone to do the work so they could play and stay drunk.
c. In contrast, Duet 6:4 claims, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.” Yahweh alone is the true and living God. He is unique and it is therefore humanity’s obligation to worship Him alone. We also find that, unlike the pantheons (e.g. the Baal pantheon) God is not divided. In Num 6:27, God’s “name” is singular in number (“put My name upon the people”).
2. But the above emphasis on the unity of God’s being seems to be supplemented by a kind of mulitiplicity suggesting distinct centers of consciousness, as we are about to see.
3. And further, Israel knew that the “Lord is one,” but it also became aware of one called “Seed,” “Branch,” “Wisdom,” “Prophet,” and “King” (as well as [another?] one called “Spirit of God” and “Holy Spirit.”).
B. The diversity of the one true God revealed in the Pentateuch.
1. A study of “the Lord is one” (‘ehad /echad. Strong’s #259) in Deut 6:4.
a. “’Ehad” is closely identified with “yahad” (“to be united”) and “ro’sh (“first, head).” It stresses unity while also recognizing the potential for diversity within that oneness. A good translation for this sense would be “a compound unity/oneness.” The word “compound” is defined as being “composed of two or more parts, elements or ingredients.” Read Num 13:23 and Gen 1:5 for illustration.
b. Here are a FEW of the MANY times when ‘ehad/echad is used in this manner:
1) Gen. 1:5: The yom echad (first day) is a combination of two things – the evening and the morning as a compound unity.
2) Gen. 2:24: Adam and Eve became l-visar echad (one flesh). They were one, but two and they were two, but one.
3) Gen. 3:22: Adam and Eve became “one” (echad) with God. But they did not lose their personhood when they became “one” with God.
4) Gen. 11:6: The people were one (echad). They were, thus, “one” and “many” at the same time.
5) Gen. 34:16, 22: The Shechemites wanted to become “one people” (l-`am echad) with the Jews.
6) Ex 24:3 describes all the people as speaking “with one voice.”
7) In Ex 26:6,11; 36:13 the NIV translates “‘ehad” as “a unit.” The tabernacle curtains were fastened together to form one unit.
7) II Chron. 30:12: God gave the people “one heart” (lev echad). Obviously, the thousands of individual hearts were “one” in a compound or composite sense.
7) Ezra 2:64: The “congregation” (kol-haqahal) of forty two thousand, three hundred and sixty persons was described as “one” (k-echad). Similarly, in Jud 20:8 and 1 Sam 11:7 the word “’ehad” is used in the phrase “as one man” (all the people arose as one man).
8) Jer. 32:39: Under the New Covenant, God will give His people “one heart” (lev echad).
c. There ARE times where the word ‘ehad/echad is used as “one” in the sense affirmed by strict Unitarian monotheists (such as Deut 17:6 (“only one witness” as opposed to “two or three witnesses”) and Ex 9:6 (“but not one animal”). But all Christians need to demonstrate here is that there is a powerful sense of ‘ehad/echad as a compound oneness throughout the Bible. Thus the Trinity is in the door EVEN in the Shema of Deut 6:4, the monotheistic Jews’ most powerful claim of strict monotheism. It is simply intellectually dishonest not to recognize that fact. And NOTE that when we speak of human witnesses and animals, we are speaking of one AMONG MANY. We are merely speaking about one particular human or animal among many others. So this is hardly the strongest case for ‘ehad being used in a strict Unitarian sense.
d. By contrast, there IS another Hebrew word – “yachid” (Strong’s #3173) – which means an absolute or solitary oneness. It is even translated “solitary” in Psalm 68:6 and refers to someone who is absolutely alone. This is its general meaning throughout Scripture. Unitarians should naturally expect to find that the word yachid applied to God in the Bible. On the other hand, Trinitarians would not expect to find yachid used of God because they believe that there are three Persons within the Godhead. So who is right? When we turn to the Bible, what do we find? The authors of Scripture NEVER applied yachid to God. They never described God as a solitary person. This is simply devastating to the Unitarian position of strict monotheism.
e. “The Lord is one” of Deut 6:4 is a powerful contrast with the polytheism that surrounded Israel. It is clear that God is one in some profound sense, and that, as one, He is unique and worship is to be accorded to Him alone. But it does NOT in any way rule out the doctrine of the Trinity. Quite the contrary: it allows for it as much as “one team” allows for 11 or even 53 49er football players to be on the field.
2. A study of “In the beginning God created” (Elohim).
a. The 3rd word in the Hebrew Bible (‘In the beginning God’) conveys a clear sense of plurality in God.
b. “Im” (in “Elohim”) is a masculine plural suffix, which clearly allows – if not demands – for a plurality of persons.
c. This plural form (the singular is “’Eloah”) occurs ONLY in Hebrew and is not found in any other Semitic language (including Aramaic). THERE IS NO PLURAL FORM OF GOD IN ARAMAIC, ONLY IN HEBREW. You seriously have to wonder why ONLY the Jews used the plural form if they were supposed to be strict Unitarian monotheists.
d. The singular form “Eloah” IS used in the Old Testament, but why is the plural form “Elohim” used FAR, FAR more??? Note that the singular form does NOT damage Trinitarian doctrine because Trinitarians AGREE that “God is ONE in His nature; we hold that God is ONE in Nature and THREE in Person. The question here is why the plural form of God “Elohim” is used at ALL if God is the strict Unitarian entity of the radical strict monotheism of Islam and Judaism???
e. It is simply a fact that Israel, in distinction from all the nations, had a unique sense of plurality in the one true God whom they worshipped in addition to the fact that God is One.
3. A study of the use of plural pronouns and verbs.
a. Plural pronouns are used to describe the actions of God (Gen 1:26; 3:22; 11:7).
- This phenomenon of plural pronouns points to a plurality of persons within the Godhead.
- Religious liberals who like to call this a “plural of majesty” fail to be properly disappointed by the fact that there is NO example of a “plural of majesty” in the Ancient Near East. (And no Hebrew king ever uses “we” or “us” to describe himself). The very earliest usage of such a plural of majesty is in 4th century AD Byzantine – some 800 years AFTER the OT was written.
b. The OT occasionally uses plural verbs when God is the subject and a singular form of the verb would be expected.
- wooden literal translation of Gen 35:7 is “because there the gods they had revealed themselves to him [Jacob].”
- Liberals don’t want to acknowledge the deity of Jesus Christ, and they therefore refuse to acknowledge any grounds for the doctrine of the Trinity in the OT. If the facts get in the way, so much the worse for the facts!
4. A study of the enigmatic figure called the angel of the Lord (Gen 16:7-14). The angel of the Lord is apparently distinguished from “Yahweh” (v. 11b) and then identified with Yahweh, El, and Elohim (v. 13).
- Note that in Gen 16:10 the Angel of the Lord says, “I will multiply your offspring.” Contrast that with appearances of angels who are NOT “the Angel of the Lord,” such as Gabriel in announcing to Mary.
- In Luke 1:28 Gabriel says, “The Lord is with you.” In Luke 1:30 Gabriel says, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive…” And when Mary asked, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” Gabriel responded in Luke 1:35, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”
- Contrast Gabriel’s “God will do these things” with the Angel of the Lord who said “I will do these things.”
- Who is this Angel of the Lord? He is the Preincarnate Christ
5. A study of the three “mystery men” who appeared to Abraham. Yahweh appeared to Abraham (18:1); when he lifted up his eyes he saw three men (v. 2).
- Notice in Gen 18:1 “the LORD” (Yahweh) appeared to Abraham. How does “the LORD” appear? In the form of three men standing before him.
- Why three men? Because God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If you think you’ve got a response that somehow rules out the doctrine of the Trinity, let’s hear it.
- The doctrine of the Trinity is MORE than allowed in the Old Testament. And as we continue to study the Person of Messiah as revealed in Old Testament prophecy, the fact that God is three Persons will scream louder and louder and louder.
- Just as God progressively revealed His sacrificial system and His law and His Messiah in the Old Testament prophecy, He similarly progressively revealed His Triune nature.
6. A study of the three-fold repetition of divine blessing with the three-fold repetition of the divine name. Paul saw in Num 6:24-26 a foreshadowing of the Trinity (2 Cor 13:14).
- Numbers 6:24-26 says, “‘”The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”‘
- 2 Corinthians 13:14 says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”
THIS is the language of the Bible that revealed the coming of the Person – the DIVINE Person, the Second Person of the Trinity – of the coming Messiah.
Tags: 'ehad, Angel of the LORD, Doctrine of the Trinity, Echad, Eloah, Elohim, father, Holy Spirit, messiah, Old Testament, plural of majesty, plural pronouns, son, Trinity, Trinity in the Old Testament, U.S., Yahweh