home     about us      doctrinal statement      seminars      products     contact us

 

 

 

The Trinity in the Old Testament

 


 

It is usually alleged by unitarian/unipersonal (i.e., groups that believe God exists as one sole Person, thus denying the Trinity[1]) that the OT is entirely unconscious to the idea that God is multi-personal—the one God. Remember, that the divine truth and the way in which God unfolded that truth in the history of redemption has been progressive. Thus, as it has been asserted that the OT is the NT concealed, whereas the NT is in fact, the OT revealed.

 

So while such truths as the incarnation, the substitutionary atonement of the Redeemer exist primarily in the shadows of OT narrative, poetry, prophecy and their fulfillment in the fuller revelation of the NT, is perfectly consistent in the singular theme of God’s purpose among men: His work of salvation in Christ, to the praise and glory of His grace (cf. Heb. 1:1-2). The doctrine of the Trinity as defined in the fourth and fifth century creeds is not contained in the OT, in terms of the specific doctrinal language. But, it does not follow to assert that because the OT utilizes different language than that of post-Nicene language, that this somehow militates against the notion that the Jews did, in fact, envisage God as multi-personal.

 

 

Monotheism & the Word “One”

 

As stated, groups such as Jews, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and of course, Oneness believers are functionally defined as unitarian, for their commitment to absolute unipersonalism/unitarianism, which maintains the notion that God is unipersonal (i.e., one divine Person). This is, of course, why these groups flatly reject the doctrine of the Trinity—thinking that the Trinity is three separate Gods. However, in Hebrew there were various words that could be translated as “one” and the word that speaks of God being “one” (in the OT), every time, is echad (אחר, e.g., Deut. 6:4).

 

As many have pointed out, the term echad can indicate compound or composite unity—not necessarily absolute solitary oneness, as in Genesis 2:24, for example: “Adam and Eve became one [echad] flesh” (also see Gen. 11:6; 2 Chron. 30:12). Further, the word in the OT lingua franca, which does strictly signify absolute solitary oneness, is yachiyd (cf. Ps. 68:6), but this term is never once applied to God. If God were an absolute lone unipersonal Deity, as anti-Trinitarians assume, surely the biblical authors would have used the term yachiyd to say that God is “one,” but they did not, they exclusively used echad.

 

 

The Plurality of Persons Expressed

 

Aside from the first person plural verbs, nouns, and prepositions used of God in the OT (i.e., “Let Us,” “Make Our,” "[One] of Us," et al; cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 3:22; 11:7-9; Isa. 6:8) to underscore the multi-personality of God as well as Jesus’ usage of first person plural verbs (eleusometha, “We will come,” and poiēsometha, “We will make”) to both Himself and His Father, clearly distinguishing Himself from His Father), the OT clearly presents Yahweh as multi-personal. Note both Gen. 1:26 (LXX) and John 14:23 contain the same plural verb, poieō ("to make"). 

The idea that God is an undifferentiated unipersonal Being is simply foreign to the OT message itself. Note some examples below:
poieō

poieō

 

 

 

Yahweh to Yahweh

 

In Genesis 19:24, we read of the LORD’s wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah:

 

The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the LORD [Yahweh] He rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD [Yahweh] out of heaven (vv. 23-24; emphasis added).

 

Notice that it was the Yahweh, who rained brimstone and fire from the Yahweh out of heaven. Two distinct divine Persons called “Yahweh,” nothing more nothing less, if of course, you take Scripture on its own merit. But unitarians cannot do so; their allegiance to their prior assumption that “God is unipersonal precludes even the possibility that such evidence might be considered objectively.

 

 

Psalm 45:6-7: Elohim to Elohim

 

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows.

 

Not only do we have a clear multi-personal reference of Elohim (“God”) speaking to Elohim in direct address, but, the writer to the Hebrews applies this very text to the “Son” (not the Father), who Oneness teachers say is not God—only the Father is God:

 

But of the Son He says, “YOUR THRONE, O GOD [ho theos, “the God”], IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, [ho theos, ho theos sou] HAS ANOINTED YOU WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.”

 

The author of Hebrews quotes the Father directly addressing the “Son” as ho theos, “the God.” For God (the Father) speaking to God (the Son) is consistent with the doctrine of the Trinity; two divine Persons differentiated from one another, yet each equally identified as “God.” God the Father speaking to God the Son.

 

Along with the multi-personal descriptions of God, the OT authors used plural descriptions (viz. plural verbs, nouns, adjectives, and prepositions) to describe God. For example, the LORD is said to be the Maker (singular) of all things in Isaiah 45:9. But since God is tri-personal, God is also said to be the “Makers” in Isaiah 54:5 (plural in Heb.; also “Maker” is plural in Ps. 149:2). The same can be said in Ecclesiastes 12:1, where the Hebrew literally reads, “Remember also your Creators.” Thus, because God is tri-personal He can be described as both “Maker” and “Makers” and as “Creator” and “Creators.” He is one Being, not one Person—a point that is repeatedly demonstrated by the OT authors.

 

 

Also see Daniel 7:9-14

 

 

 

The Angel of the LORD

 

We also see clear multi-personal references of God as we read of “the angel of the LORD [Yahweh]”. This angel was not some indefinite angel, one among many. This angel, who was called “the angel of the LORD,” claimed that He was the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exod. 3:6). When Hager encountered the angel of the LORD (cf. Gen. 16:7ff.) being frightfully responsive (due to of Exod. 20:19: “for no man can see Me and live”), said to Him, “You are a God who sees . . . Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” (16:13). There are many “angel of the LORD” references (e.g., Gen. 22:9-14; Exod. 23:20-21; Num. 22:21-35; Judg. 2:1-5; 6:11-22; etc.). Most significant is the account recorded in Judges 13:1-25 where Manoah and his wife (Samson’s parents) dialogued with this angel. And when Manoah discovered that it was “the angel of the LORD” he declared to his wife, “We will surly die, for we have seen God” (v. 22).

 

So, who was this “angel of the LORD,” which the OT presents as the LORD Almighty Himself? In all probability, as agreed by many early church Fathers and most biblical commentators, “the angel of the LORD” was indeed the pre-incarnate Christ. Consider the following:

 

1. Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:16 that no one can or has seen the Father (also cf. John 1:18), as with the Holy Spirit, the Father is invisible (cf. Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 1:17), so it would be unlikely that the angel of the LORD would be the Father or the Holy Spirit. Note that the NT passages cited above specifically denote the Father, not Jesus.

 

2. This angel of the LORD from Genesis onward had been proclaiming that He was, in fact, Yahweh.

 

3. In Zechariah 1:12, however, we find the angel of the LORD (who claimed to be Yahweh throughout the OT) praying to the “LORD [Yahweh] of hosts,”—Yahweh praying to Yahweh.

 

4. One more note, “the angel of the LORD” completely disappears in the NT, when Christ arrives. Thus, the Apostle John can say of the divine Mediator of the Old and New Testament:

 

No one has seen God [the Father] at any time; the only begotten [monogenēs] God [the Son] who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him (John 1:18; emphasis added).

 

It is my contention that no­­­­­ one can properly understand this text outside of a Trinitarian context, given the fact that many did see “God” in the OT. As in the NT, if God were unipersonal, then why did the authors use plural references of Him? And why would the biblical authors, who were “carried along by the Holy Spirit,” not use the Hebrew word yachiyd, denoting absolute solitary oneness, when referring to the oneness of God? For God in the OT revealed Himself as a multi-personal Being who can be called “Makers,” or even “Creators,” and had dialogue with “another” called Yahweh.

 

The biblical doctrine of the Trinity is arguably the pinnacle of God’s self-disclosure to mankind. From the multi-personal references of God in the OT to the personal distinctions between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit expressed in the NT (cf. Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14), the triune nature of God has been well established. Despite this evidence, however, it seems that the preaching and teaching of the truth of the Trinity is largely absent from many Christian pulpits. Moreover, though some notable scholars have produced worthy contributions on the subject (e.g., Warfield, Reymond, White, etc.), there appears to be a definite lack of ecclesiastical material, apologetic literature and other resources affirming and defending the doctrine of the Trinity.

 

The biblical conclusion: God in three Persons

 

When we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ we must proclaim the truth of God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. When the Person of the Son is detached from the Trinity, the very Being of God is confounded. To deny the Trinity denies the Person of the Son, and thus, the very essence of God.


 

[1] E.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, Jews, Muslims, etc. etc.