Is the “Trinity” Biblical?
See also What does the Star of David Mean?
Dear Ari Levitt,
I have been a "church of England," Methodist, and Pentecostal member in the past. However, I am now suspicious of certain areas of their doctrine. Homosexuality is quite common in these churches.
No doubt you are aware the denominational churches insist on belief of the Trinity.
I read in the Lion Encyclopaedia of the Bible that the early Messanianics never believed in the Trinity.
The book "The Two Babylons" regards the concept of the Trinity as heretic largely because of it pagan connections.
Therefore I will be grateful if you would comment on this concept.
Thank you so very much for that intriguing question.
Before we go any farther, let me simply state an observation on the complexity of the subject. When I was teaching Systematic Theology in seminary, the subject of Theology Proper, or the “Doctrine of God,” was a three-unit course. That means that it was given three hours of classroom time each week for thirteen weeks, for a total of 39 hours of classroom instruction. Students were expected to spend a minimum of two additional hours of outside study for each hour of classroom time, bringing the minimum total time dedicated to the subject to 117 hours for the academic quarter.
And that was just the class to study only the basic nature of God and those Scriptures which specifically speak of HaAbba (“God the Father”). The class in Christology (the “Doctrine of Christ,” in which the both the deity and humanity of Yeshua HaMashiach [HaBen — “God the Son”] is studied), and the class in Pneumatology (the “Doctrine of the Holy Spirit,” in which the deity of Ruach HaKodesh [“God the Holy Spirit”] is studied) were each an additional 117 hours, as was a separate class on the study of the Trinity, for a total of 468 hours of basic study on the subject of the triune nature of HaShem.
Obviously I am not going to write something that takes you 468 hours to read, so we are not going to even barely scratch the surface of what the Scriptures teach about the triune nature of HaShem in this brief discussion, but I hope that it will help get you pointed in the right direction for further personal research.
Most Messianic Believers that I personally know avoid the use of the term “Trinity” for four primary reasons (though I am sure there are many other reasons, including that of non-belief in the tri-unity of HaShem).
First, there are many Jewish people to whom the use of the word “Trinity” is an obstacle to effective witness to them because it is a decidedly “Christian” term and it would imply (to a Jewish person) that the Messianic witness is attempting to convert the Jewish person to the “Christian religion” instead of simply teaching them about Israel’s King Messiah.
Second, many object to the use of the term “Trinity” simply because the word itself it is not explicitly used in the Scriptures.
Third, use of the term “Trinity” requires the speaker to
then provide a working definition of the term, and very few Believers that
I have ever met have been able to provide an adequate and accurate
Biblical definition. In fact, most of the Christians that I have ever met
do not rightly understand the nature of the triune
Fourth, many hold to concepts of HaShem that simply can not be adequately supported by the Scriptures.
One of the most common misunderstandings of the nature of HaShem is called “Modalism” or “Modality,” which holds that HaShem “manifests” Himself in multiple “modes” of existence, just as H2O exists sometimes as a solid (ice), sometimes as a liquid (water), and sometimes as a gas (steam or vapor).
A second misunderstanding is that HaShem sometimes “projects” Himself in an “avatar” which humanity has historically perceived as theophanies — “the Angel of Adonai,” a burning bush, a pillar of cloud, a pillar of fire, the man Yeshua, and even (some believe) Melchisideck — and that Ruach HaKodesh (literally, the Holy Breath) is an impersonal influence similar to “The Force” in the Star Wars saga. This concept is deeply rooted in Hindu philosophy.
Within these two erroneous concepts it is impossible to explain how Yeshua HaMashiach is deity and how He now “sits at the right hand of the Father.” They also fail to explain how HaShem appeared simultaneously in three different modes or avatars at Yeshua’s mikvah (immersion) by Yochanan (John the Immerser).
A third concept, called Unitarianism, is that HaShem is an absolute unity (Hebrew yachid, in spite of the fact that the Scriptures use the word echad, which is a compound unity, like echad bunch of grapes or that a married man and woman become echad flesh), and that Ruach HaKodesh is an impersonal force or emanation from HaShem. This concept specifically precludes the deity both of Messiah and of Ruach HaKodesh. If HaShem is an absolute unity, Messiah cannot possibly be HaShem, in spite of the fact that both the Tanakh and the Apostolic Writings clearly teach His divinity. None of these concepts incorporates all that the Scriptures teach about the nature of HaShem.
If one delves deeply into the understanding of the nature of HaShem as held by most Gentile Christians, what one discovers is indeed an erroneous tri-theistic rather than a triune concept of HaShem. Many (or perhaps even most) of these individuals think of “God the Father” as the fierce desert God of the so-called “Old Testament” Who gave Moses a set of laws so complex and unreasonable that nobody could ever obey them, Who provided the death penalty for something so trivial as sassing one’s parents, and Who was anxiously awaiting the opportunity to slay the transgressors. They conceive of “God the Son” as the baby Who began His existence in a manger in Bethlehem, surrounded by sheep, cattle, shepherds, and wise men, and maybe even an angel or two; Who is somehow both God and man (though they are not sure when or how He became God); Who created a new religion called “Christianity” to replace the error of Judaism; and Who taught that the Torah was abolished in favor of a new set of laws that were “written on the heart” and which pretty much allow one to do whatever one wants as long as one believes that “Jesus” died for their sins and was resurrected and will some day return to earth to reign as King for a thousand years and then take them all to heaven for eternity. And when it comes to “The Holy Spirit” there are so many different concepts that there is no clear consensus of opinion within “Christianity.” For some, the Holy Spirit is a force or power of God that somehow “inhabits” or “possesses” Christians and gives them special supernatural powers or gifts; many believe that this particular function of the Spirit was only for the spread of the Gospel until the so-called “New Testament” was completed and then that function ceased. When I was a young child I once had a pastor who had a Doctor of Divinity degree and who, when questioned about the Holy Spirit, generally replied with something akin to, “Well, we really don't know much about it so we just avoid the subject.”
All of the above concepts are clearly not what the Scriptures actually teach about the nature of God. What the Scriptures do teach about the nature of God is not nearly as easy to clearly define in less then a thousand or so pages.
Do the Scriptures teach the absolute unity of God, or do they teach something else?
I believe that the Scriptures teach that there is only one living and true God, known as HaShem (literally “the Name” because His true name is to sacred to be pronounced), an infinite, intelligent, and indivisible Spirit Who is the source of all being and meaning; a compound unity Who eternally exists in three Divine Persons: HaAbba (HaShem the Father), HaBen (HaShem the Son), and Ruach HaKodesh (HaShem the Holy Spirit), one in essence and attributes, yet three in distinct Person, work, and purpose; each of Whom possess all the attributes of absolute Deity and is infinite, eternal, unchangeable, indivisible, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, personal, and perfect in wisdom, power, holiness, righteousness, justice, goodness, truth, mercy, and love. I believe that
How can that statement be proven from the Scriptures? There are four steps; four things must be demonstrated from the Scriptures to demonstrate the triune nature of HaShem:
1. It must be shown from the Scriptures that there is one, and only one God — the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
2. It must be shown from the Scriptures that HaShem refers to Himself as “Father” or “Abba” (the Hebrew diminutive for Father; or Papa, Daddy). It must also be shows from the Scriptures that no man has ever seen God the Father at any time.
3. It must be shown from the Scriptures that HaShem the Father has a Son, and that HaShem the Son is Himself fully Deity.
4. It must be shown from the Scriptures that Ruach HaKodesh (also referred to as the Spirit of HaShem, the Spirit of Messiah, or the Holy Spirit) is not just a force or an influence, but that He is in fact a Person, having intellect, volition, and sensibility.
If there is in fact only one God, and if the Father is HaShem, and if the Son is also HaShem, and if the Spirit is also HaShem, and yet there is in fact only one HaShem, then the unavoidable conclusion is that there is only one living and true HaShem, an infinite and intelligent Spirit Who is the source of all being and meaning; a compound unity Who eternally exists in three Divine Persons: HaAbba (HaShem the Father), HaBen (or HaShem the Son), and Ruach HaKodesh (HaShem the Holy Spirit), one in essence and attributes, yet three in distinct Person, work, and purpose; each of Whom possess all the attributes of absolute Deity.
1. Can it be shown from the Scriptures that there is one, and only one HaShem—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
To begin with, the nature of HaShem as understood by Judaism since the days of Moshe is that over and above anything else that may be true about God, one thing is of paramount importance as stated in the Shema: “Sh'ma, Yisra'el! ADONAI Eloheinu, ADONAI echad [Hear, Isra'el! ADONAI our God, ADONAI is one]!” (Deuteronomy 6:4, CJB ) This is the foundation of Judaism, and therefore also the very foundation of Christianity.
In Hebrew, the word “one” used in the Shema is echad, a term that is often (though not exclusively) used to represent a “compound unity of oneness.” For example, echad is used to describe:
There is a completely different Hebrew word that is used to denote an absolute unity: yachid. This is the term used to denote loneliness (Psalms 25:16; 22:20; 68:6), the psalmist’s “only” life (Psalm 35:17), and an “only” child (Genesis 22:2; 22:12; 22:16; Judges 11:34; Proverbs 4:3; Jeremiah 6:26; Amos 8:10; Zechariah 12:10).
The Jewish Rabbis will insist, and I completely agree, that to use the word echad to “prove” the doctrine of the Trinity simply won’t fly! However, the Scripture’s use of echad instead of yachid to describe HaShem certainly allows for the concept of a compound unity for the nature of HaShem. As Rich Deem so adequately puts it, “If the Shema had intended to express absolute oneness, it would have used the Hebrew word yachid instead of echad. However, the word yachid is never used in reference to God (Elohim)!” [Internet article “The Triunity (Trinity) of HaShem in The Old Testament” www.godandscience.org/apologetics/triunity.html, his emphasis.]
For extensive information and discussion on the use of the Hebrew word echad, try a Google search of the keywords “Hebrew echad” [www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=hebrew+echad&btnG=Google+Search].
Another linguistic evidence for the “plural” nature of HaShem is that the Hebrew word which is translated as “God” is the word El or Elohim. Elohim is the plural form of El. The plural form is used 2607 out of the 2845 times the word “God” is used in the Tanakh. The word Elohim is also used in the plural form and translated “gods” 235 times when referring to idols. It is exactly the same word that is translated “God,” referring to ADONAI (hwhy, HaShem). Not only is the word for God usually used in the plural form, frequently HaShem refers to Himself as “Us.”
But is there, in fact, only one God? What do the Scriptures say?
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:4,5)
“O Lord GOD, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as Yours?” (Deuteronomy 3:24)
“To you it was shown that you might know that the LORD, He is God; there is no other besides Him.” (Deuteronomy 4:35)
“Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below ; there is no other” — (Deuteronomy 4:39)
“See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; …” (Deuteronomy 32:39)
“so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God ; there is no one else.” (1Kings 8:60)
“Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any other Rock? I know of none.” (Isaiah 44:8)
“I am the LORD, and there is no other ; Besides Me there is no God. …” (Isaiah 45:5)
“… Surely, God is with you, and there is none else, No other God” (Isaiah 45:14)
“For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited ), "I am the LORD, and there is none else.” (Isaiah 45:18)
“Declare and set forth your case; Indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:21,22)
“Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me.” (Isaiah 46:9)
“Yet I have been the LORD your God Since the land of Egypt; And you were not to know any god except Me, For there is no savior besides Me.” (Hosea 13:4)
“Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, And that I am the LORD your God, And there is no other …” (Joel 2:27)
2. Can it be shown from the Scriptures that God is referred to as “Father,” and that no man has ever seen God the Father at any time?
“A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation.” (Psalm 68:5)
“He will cry to Me, ‘You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.’” (Psalm 89:26)
“Do we not all have one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?” (Malachi 2:10)
“No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” (John 1:18)
“Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.” (John 6:46)
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15)
“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1Timothy 1:17)
“No one has seen God at any time …” (1John 4:12)
3. Can it be shown from the Scriptures that God the Father has a Son, and that the Son is Himself Deity?
God has a Son:
“Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His Son’s name? Surely you know!” (Proverbs 30:4)
Is Yeshua the Messiah, and is Messiah deity?
“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders ; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor [Pele-Yo'etz], Mighty God [El Gibbor], Eternal Father [Avi-'Ad], Prince of Peace [Sar-Shalom].” (Isaiah 9:6)
At the name of ADONAI [hwhy] every knee will bow:
“… Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the LORD [hwhy, YHWH, the sacred Personal Name of HaShem that is to holy to be pronounced]? And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. They will say of Me, ‘Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.’ …” (Isaiah 45:21-24)
At the name of Yeshua, every knee will bow:
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus [Yeshua] EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ [Yeshua HaMashiach] is Lord [hwhy, YHWH, the sacred Personal Name of HaShem that is to holy to be pronounced], to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)
Who can miss it? Messiah Yeshua is ADONAI!!!
As far as I am concerned, from a purely logical standpoint the argument for the deity of Yeshua is best summarized by C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”
Yeshua is ADONAI; yet Yeshua continually prayed to His Father, ADONAI!! If HaShem is yachid, then Yeshua was praying to Himself. The only possible conclusion is that both Yeshua and His Father are ADONAI, that they are not the same Person, yet ADONAI clearly is One — echad!
4. Can it be shown from the Scriptures that Ruach HaKodesh is in fact a Person, having intellect, volition, and sensibility?
Ruach HaKodesh is to be sent by the Father:
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, Whom [not “it”] the Father will send in My [Yeshua’s] name, He [not “it”] will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (John 14:26)
Ruach HaKodesh is to be sent by Yeshua:
Helper comes, Whom [not “it”] I [Yeshua] will send to you from the Father, that is the
Spirit of Truth
[not “it”] proceeds from the Father, He [not “it”] will testify
about Me,” (John
Only HaShem can be blasphemed; an inanimate force or object cannot be blasphemed:
“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:31, 32)
An inanimate force or object cannot be lied to; lying to Ruach HaKodesh is lying to ADONAI:
“But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’” (Acts 5:1-4)
HaShem the Father, HaShem the Son, and HaShem Ruach HaKodesh have only one single Name between Them:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name [singular] of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, …” (Matthew 28:19)
“Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.’” (Luke 3:21-22)
Here in this single event we have all three Persons of ADONAI appearing together in the same place at the same time. ADONAI Yeshua is being immersed and is praying to ADONAI His Father. ADONAI Ruach HaKodesh descends in physical form. ADONAI the Father speaks from heaven. One [echad] ADONAI Elohim appearing in three separate and distinct Persons at the same time.
While this evidence may not “prove” the doctrine of the “Trinity” to one’s complete satisfaction, it does demonstrate four things about the nature of HaShem:
1. There is one, and only one,
2. The Scriptures refer to HaShem as “Father.” No man has ever seen Father HaShem at any time. Yet Adam, Cheva (Eve), Avraham, Yitzhak, Ya'akov, and Moshe all saw Adonai face-to-face.
3. Father HaShem has a Son, and the Son is Himself Deity.
4. Ruach HaKodesh is not just a “force” or an “influence” — He is in fact a Person, having intellect, volition, and sensibility, and He is called HaShem in the Scriptures.
The Father is HaShem, the Son is HaShem, Ruach HaKodesh is HaShem, and HaShem is echad, one in essence and attributes, yet three in distinct Person, work, and purpose.
I hope this gives you a place to start in your personal study. For an illustration, see What does the Star of David Mean?
This page was last revised Friday February 22, 2013 06:22 AM
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*Ari Levitt is the shem kodesh of Messianic Pastor Dr. Rickard (Ari) Levitt-Sawyer. As the free expression of my religious beliefs, the content of this website is protected under the provisions of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Except where otherwise specifically indicated, the opinions expressed on this website are my own, are sometimes highly speculative in nature and subject to differing interpretations, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of any other organization or individual. If you disagree with my opinions, please CLICK HERE before contacting me.