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HOW ANCIENT IS THE TRINITY DOCTRINE?

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by Wesley P. Walters

As different as para-Christian groups or cults are from each other, most have one thing in common: they hate the biblical teaching of the Trinity. They want their God to be simplistic, uncomplicated, and less complex than the world He created. They want a God reduced to terms they can get their finite minds around.

Modern advances in science have shown that the created world is an extremely complex mechanism. Those who work in nuclear physics or molecular biology are continually discovering the complexity of the world God has created.

In fact, some complex, seemingly contradictory data has yet to be fitted into a rational system that explains the relationships. A simple thing like “light” is known to move like “waves” yet strike like “particles.” Atomic physicists are still struggling to put together a theory that can fully explain this apparent contradiction.

Those who work in the complex mathematical equations of quantum mechanics are told by their instructors that “If you think that you really understand quantum mechanics and how it applies to reality, that proves you do not understand it.” One of the basic theorems is that if the speed of a particle is known, then its location can not be known, and the more accurately you know its location, the less accurately you know its speed. This does not seem very logical to the average person, but it works very well in atomic physics, in which scientists get very close to the essence of matter.

Thus, while scientists are continually learning more about how complex and even apparently contradictory the world of created reality is, cults that reject the complexity of the God who made this reality are proliferating. They, along with Moslems and modern Jews, taunt Christians, saying: “How can there be just one God, and yet the Father be God, the Son be God and the Holy Spirit be God? Is He the Son of Himself and the Father of both?”

Even though Christ Himself taught that the name [singular] of God in which we baptize is Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19), all cults falsely assert that the doctrine of the Trinity is a teaching that grew out of fourth century paganism. So unified are the cults in this assertion that they appear to be using the same erroneous Church history book and parroting one another.

The truth is that by the time of Christ, the first century A.D., the Jews themselves, on the basis of the Old Testament, were coming to an understanding of the complexity of Yahweh.

The Teachings of The Targums

When the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity 450 years before the birth of Jesus, they had adopted Aramaic as their native language. Although it is a dialect of ancient Hebrew, Aramaic is about as different from it as modern Italian is from its classical Latin ancestor. Consequently, during the first and early second centuries A.D., Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Old Testament were made.

These translations, called Targums, were The Living Bibles of their day, an interpretive paraphrase of Scripture. They help us see how these first-century Jews understood their Old Testament.

One of the striking things these Targums show is that first century Jews had come to understand the phrase “the Word of God” as referring to a divine entity within God Himself, yet distinguishable at times from God. J.W. Etheridge, in the introduction to his translations of the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan, has given us a number of examples of this Jewish understanding of the term, “the Word” (Aramaic: Memra).

In Genesis 18:1, where the Hebrew Bible says Yahweh (Jehovah) appeared to Abraham, the Targum says, “The Word of the Lord appeared to Abraham.” Further on, where the Hebrew reports “Yahweh rained down upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Yahweh out of heaven,” the Targum states that “the Word of the Lord sent down upon them sulphur and fire from the presence of the Lord out of heaven.” (Genesis 19:24)

In Genesis 16, when Hagar sees “the Angel of the Lord,” the Targum says she saw “the Word of the Lord.” After seeing this “Word” (Memra) she says, “Here has been revealed the glory of the Shekineh of the Lord.” Then, according to the Jerusalem Targum, “Hagar returned thanks and prayed in the name of the Word of the Lord, who had appeared to her.” Thus the Word not only is regard- ed as the presence of deity, but is in some manner personally distinguishable from the Lord.

In Genesis 28:20 the Targum of Onkelos paraphrases Jacob’s vow, “If God will be with me… then Yahweh will be my God” with the words, “If the Word of the Lord will be my help… the Word of the Lord shall be my God.” Again, the Angel of Yahweh who spoke to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14) is designated by the Jerusalem Targum as “the Word of the Lord.”

The distinct personality of this Divine Word is seen pointedly in Jonathan’s Targum of Isaiah 63:7-10. There, where the Hebrew text speaks of Yahweh being their Savior, the Targum reads, “the Word (Memra) was their Redeemer.” (vs. 8) When the Israelites continued to disobey, then “His Word (Memra) became their enemy, and fought against them” — an action ascribed to Yahweh in the Hebrew text. Again in Isaiah 45:22 the Targum of Jonathan exhorts, “Look unto My Word and be saved.”

While this personalizing of the Word was being expressed in Palestine in the Targums of Jesus’ day, Philo, an Egyptian Jew and contemporary of Jesus, was expressing similar thoughts in even more distinct words. In his essay “On the Creation,” Philo states that man was not made in the image of some creature, but in the image of God’s own uncreated Word. He wrote: “for the Creator, we know, employed for its making no pattern taken from among created things, but solely, as I have said, His own Word.”

Philo continues: “Man was made a likeness and imitation of the Word, when the Divine Breath was breathed into his face. (“On the Creation,” XLVIII: 139, Loeb Edition I, pp. 110-111)

In his work on Noah, Philo again expresses the teaching that man is made by “the First Cause” (that is, God) in the image of “the Eternal Word:” “Our great Moses likened the fashion of the rea- sonable soul to no created thing, but averred it to be a genuine coinage of that dread Spirit, the Divine and Invisible One, signed and impressed by the seal of God, the stamp of which is the Eternal Word.”

He continues: “…man has been made after the Image of God (Genesis 1:27), not however after the image of anything created… man’s soul having been made after the image of the Archetype, the Word of the First Cause.” (“Noah’s Work as a Planter,” I:18-20, Loeb III, pp. 222-223)

Thus, the eternal Word is in some sense distinguishable from God, and yet at the same time is, like God, uncreated, rational and the bearer of the divine image. This comes very close to the teaching of the New Testament that the Word was distinguishable from God, and yet was God. As John 1:1 expresses it, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It also appears similar to Paul’s teaching that the Son is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15); and the writer of Hebrews statement that the Son “is the exact representation of His being.” (Hebrews 1:3)

Philo, however, goes further. He says that God is the king and shepherd of all creation, but rules and controls it through his eternally existing Word, whom Philo calls God’s “First-born Son.”

His “hallowed flock” of created things God directs by his divine laws, setting over it His true Word and first-born son, who shall take upon Him its government like some viceroy of a great king. (“On Husbandry,” I:51, Loeb III, pp. 134-135)

Philo has God expressing Himself in this manner: “I alone… sustained the Universe to rest firm and sure upon the Mighty Word, who is My viceroy.” (“On Dreams,” I:241, Loeb V, pp. 424- 425)

Therefore this eternal Word, God’s first-born Son, is the upholder of the whole creation, “the everlasting Word of the eternal God is the very sure and staunch prop of the Whole. He it is, who extending Himself from the midst to its utmost bounds… keeps up through all its length Nature’s unvanquished course, combining and compacting all its parts. For the Father who begat Him constituted His Word such a Bond of the Universe as nothing can break.” (“Noah’s Work as a Planter,” I:8-9, Loeb III, pp. 216-217)

This reflects the same thought that Paul expressed about the Son as being the one “in whom all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17) It also reminds also reminds us of Hebrews 1:3, which depicts the Son as “sustaining all things by his powerful Word.”

Philo continues his discussion of the Word by maintaining that to those incapable of seeing the supreme cause, God Himself, He appears to them in the form of His Angel, the Word: “For just as those who are unable to see the sun itself, see the gleam of the parahelion and take it for the sun, and take the halo round the moon for that luminary itself, so some regard the image of God, His Angel, the Word, as His very self.” (“On Dreams,” I:239, Loeb V, pp. 422-423) This sounds very similar to the teaching tha t the Son is “the radiance (or outshining) of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3), the only part of God’s nature that people are allowed to see. This is true because “no one has ever seen God,” but “the only begotten God… He has made Him known.” (John 1:18) Thus, Jesus, the Son, can say, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

Philo further explained that God, being light, is “the archetype of every other light.” As such He is “prior to and high above every archetype.” Thus He holds the position of “a model of a model,” that is, He is the model for His Word, which Word becomes the model for creation. The Word, therefore, contains all the qualities of God. As Philo expressed it, “the model or pattern was the Word which contained all His fullness — light, in fact.” (“On Dreams,” I:75, Loeb V, pp. 336-337) Paul expressed a similar thought when he wrote that in the Son all God’s fullness dwells. (Colossians 1:19; 2:9)

To Philo, therefore, the Word of God is the eternal, uncreated Word containing all the fullness of God and bearing His image. That divine image which the Word bears is the image in which man was created. The Word is further the sustainer, upholder and ruler of the world, carrying on the governing of all things, as God’s viceroy, and containing all God’s fullness.

While the Word is not a created thing and carries on all the functions of God, Philo is clear that there are not two gods — although he does not attempt to explain how this can be. Philo’s teaching is, therefore, very close to the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. Philo reached his conclusions without the aid of the New Testament and certainly without deriving his ideas from pagan notions of deity. The Old Testament teaching that the Angel of Yahweh is really the presence of Yahweh Himself seems to have strongly influenced Philo’s ideas.

To relegate the doctrine of the Trinity, therefore, to a fourth- century adaptation of paganism is to ignore the conclusions that several Jewish theologians and teachers had reached four centuries earlier, from God’s revelations given to Israel before the time of the coming of Christ. At the very time that the Word was becoming flesh (John 1:1, 14), Jewish writers were already beginning to see that God’s Word could in some way be distinguished from God the Father Himself, yet have all the fullness of God contained in Him.

http://www.barr-family.com/godsword/trinity.htm

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IS THE TRINITY PAGAN? Is the Holy Trinity Pagan?

Some groups (including Jehovah’s Witnesses) claim that the Holy Trinity comes from paganism; Is there really any truth, or hard evidence in this claim?

My purpose in this article and in the graph which follows it, is to show that this claim is a nonsense because, as a matter of fact, the Trinity is a very distinctively Christian belief. Following this brief article you will find a graph showing how The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit are all biblically revealed to be God. If you do not read the article at least scroll down to the Godhead graph so you will know the Scriptures to quote in any future controversy.

So What is the Trinity?

It is the Christian belief that there are Three Persons in One God. These Three Persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – are distinct from one another yet they share the same Divine Nature. Thus they are not three distinct gods, but one God; so God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit ALL (according to the Holy Bible) bear the character and attributes of God.

Some cults and sects claim that the early Christians copied the Holy Trinity from surrounding pagan religions. They are a mile from the truth. So just what is the truth? Why did the ‘Church Fathers’ find it necessary to set out this doctrine? Far from what the sects and cults teach (and they are often woefully ignorant of the facts of church history), the concept actually came from a very careful reading and inspired interpretation of the Bible, which refers to three distinct Persons as “God” yet insists that there is but one God. The ‘fathers’ were concerned that some early groups were coming to an understanding of God which did not do full justice to ALL the Scriptures about God so they found it necessary to set these things out doctrinally in order to avoid error and heresy. Many of these things were set out in doctrinal, creedal fashion in the 4th century. Much (though not all) of this was in order to refute Arius who was guilty of perverting the Scriptures which refer to God. This man, of course, came to give his name to the well-recognized heresy of Arianism – very much ‘alive and kicking’ in today’s Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Evidence of an Egyptian “Trinity”?

Before Christianity, no religion ever believed in a single Deity consisting of three persons. Detractors sometimes say that the Osirus-Isis-Horus family of ancient Egyptian mythology was a “model” for the Christian Trinity. Yet this is clearly a triad of distinct pagan deities, not a trinity in the Christian sense. The Egyptians never considered them to be three persons in one God, but as two separate gods and a goddess – among numerous other divinities such as Hathor, Ptah, Neith, Set, Nut, Geb, and Basht, to name a few. The highest deity in their pantheon was the sun god Ra, so they didn’t even consider the Osirus-Isis-Horus triad to be supreme among the gods!

A Triune Goddess Among the Celts?

Some point to “triple goddesses” worshipped by the pagan Celts as forerunners of the Christian Trinity. Yet these were either triads of mother goddesses or a single goddess with three “aspects” or “modes of being”. The Holy Trinity isn’t one Divine Person with three “aspects” or “modes”, for the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are personally distinct from one another. Thus the “triple goddess” is merely a threefold deity, not a true trinity in the Christian sense, thus could not be the origin of the Holy Trinity.

The problem is that when people go looking for pagan ‘divine triads’ they might well find them, but so would they find ‘divine quartets’, ‘divine septets’ or almost anything else! It depends what the researcher is looking for! We must realize that in India alone it is claimed that over 1,000,000 deities are worshipped (according to the region and the particular strain of religiosity one prefers)!! – in such a huge number we might find almost anything! However, if it could indeed be shown that there are many pagan divine triads (probably highly dubious), is it not possible that Satan himself could have fashioned this on his knowledge of God as the former Lucifer? It would “prove” nothing.

Hindu Trimurti = Trinity?

Other critics within the cults claim that the Hindu “trimurti” – Brahma, Vishnu and Siva – was another model for the Christian Trinity. Yet scholars tell us that this “trimurti” only appears in Hinduism during the 4th-7th centuries AD. By that time the Christian understanding of the Holy Trinity was becoming fairly well-established! If the Holy Trinity concept predates the Hindu trimurti (which certainly appears to be the case), the former could not have been copied from the latter. In fact, given Hinduism’s tendency to absorb concepts from other religions, and the fact that Christianity reached India in the first century, it is very likely that the Hindu teachers developed the trimurti along the lines of the Trinity-concept professed by Indian Christians!

Yet the former is not an exact copy of the latter. Hindus do not consider Brahma, Vishnu and Siva to be three persons in one God, but three distinct gods who each manifest part of Brahman, the impersonal Absolute. Some even add a fourth god, Ishvara, to this group, and claim that he is the first – antecedent to the other three! This demolishes the threeness which might seem to parallel the Trinity.

Moreover, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva each have a goddess consort – Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Sakti respectively. That would make not three but six. Add Ishvara and his consort, Maheshvari, and you now have eight primary manifestations of Brahman! Yet these are only eight among millions of divinities in the Hindu tradition, all of which are considered various manifestations of the Absolute.

Thus any alleged Hindu parallel with the Trinity quickly dissolves into a modalistic polytheism and finally a monistic pantheism, in which all diversity in the universe merely manifests an underlying spiritual Unity (a concept which has no place at all in orthodox Christianity, although it certainly appears in New Ageism).

CONCLUSION
(But please check out the graph AT THE ARTICLES SITE before you leave this article!)

It is only too clear that those cults and sects which reject the Trinity do not even correctly understand it so it should not surprise us that they think they can find the Trinity in polytheism or modalism when those concepts are absolutely anathema to the doctrine of The Holy Trinity. So the Christian concept of the Trinity is quite unique to world religions, not copied from another faith but progressively revealed by God in Holy Scripture. Undoubtedly some Christians believe that various pagan triads and threefold deities may have originated in a primitive revelation of – or memory of – the Triunity of the One True God. This is also quite possible. Perhaps the memory traces back to our first parents, who walked with God at the dawn of humanity. Or maybe God revealed something of the Divinity to “righteous pagans”, Gentiles of centuries past who genuinely sought the Most High God (the Bible certainly appears to suggest that such people have existed). These memories or revelations may have seeped into the legends of the human race, and soon became myths of divine triads and deities with three “aspects”. For every religion has an element of truth in it; perhaps this is one such element. This may show that God has not left the human race in complete ignorance of Divine Truth throughout the ages. But many other Christians, including myself, are somewhat sceptical that divine triads can be found in paganism any more than any other shape or number of “divinities”.

Thus if we do locate pagan religious notions which might bear a slight resemblance to biblical truth, they would frankly prove nothing, and most certainly they would not prove that early Christians copied these concepts. Why would the early Christians do such a thing when we have a record which shows how determined they were in their fight against paganism? In fact, we have a very clear record from church history which tells us why ‘the fathers’ were concerned to outline the Trinity: It was a concern that biblical truth about God should be carefully preserved.

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/robin.brace/1THEGODHEAD.html

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Dr. Pyuwarmer flipped the chart closed, took off his reading glasses, and let out a long sigh. “John, there is a procedure that can save your life. I’d like you to consider it.

John Skeptich rubbed his temples and looked up. “Well, is it an invasive procedure?”

“Well, that’s hard to answer, John. Yes and no.”

“You call that an answer, doc?” John’s frustration was beginning to show. “Either it is or it isn’t.”

“Well, it’s kind of both. I’m sorry, but it’s hard to describe. It’s a very advanced procedure, and I don’t really understand it fully myself. However, I think you should have it done.”

“Do you have any literature that can explain it?”

“Well, yes, but it’s not very clearly spelled out. You kind of have to read between the lines. It’s all in there though.”

John could no longer hide his frustration. He stood up, grabbed his coat, and fixed Dr. Pyuwarmer with a hard look. “Look doctor. You’re asking me to submit to a procedure you don’t understand and can’t explain. With all due respect, I’ll take my chances!” With that, John swept out the door, slamming it so hard that Dr. Pyuwarmer’s medical school diploma fell from the wall.

Putting yourself in John’s shoes, it’s easy to see how hard it would be to put your faith in something that your doctor didn’t even understand. Just as in this analogy, Christians must be prepared to explain our faith with nonbelievers. There are few things more important for Christians to understand than the nature of God. Many of the differences between biblical Christianity and cults occur within the context of variant understandings of the nature of God. If we are to worship God in truth (John 4:24) and share the truth with others, it is vitally important that we have an understanding of what the Bible says about God.

Perhaps the single most misunderstood doctrine regarding the nature of God is the doctrine of the Trinity. Believers and nonbelievers alike have a difficult time comprehending God’s triune nature, and those that do understand have a difficult time explaining it. As critics of the Trinity are quick to point out, the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, and no single verse provides a summary of the Trinitarian doctrine. In an email we received, LDS apologist D.L. Barksdale said, “The homoousion Trinitarian dogma is heretical to anyone who cherishes the Bible. It is an unbiblical doctrine…”

Complicating the issue are various misconceptions about the Trinity within Christianity as well as from without. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons disregard the Trinity, believing that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct gods, with the Father being a greater God than the other two. Jehovah’s Witnesses especially emphasize the subordination of the Godhead, believing Jesus to be Michael the Archangel – a created being, and a lesser “god” than Jehovah. Mormon doctrine is polytheistic (worship of multiple gods), though some Mormons will stress that their belief is henotheistic (belief in multiple gods, but worship of only one). Mohammad’s misunderstanding of the Trinity was apparently affected by the hyperdulia veneration of Mary seen in the Eastern and Roman Catholic churches, as the Qur’an accuses Christians of believing the Trinity to be composed of God the Father, Jesus, and Mary. Indeed, the doctrine of the Trinity can pose a stumbling block for some people. A Jehovah’s Witness sent us an email that included the following (the English is poor, but you’ll see the point): “And when I can not find in any Bible that I read that there is a 3 headed god that will resurrect anyone on this earth, both now or ever. If this 3 headed god is your belief? I have never read about such a god in any Christian Bible that I have ever read!” As I told this man, we agree that the Bible does not teach of a three-headed god. That sounds more akin to the hydra of Greek mythology. Yet this illustrates the extent of the misunderstandings. Even Christian churches have been victimized by erroneous doctrines such as modalism, particularly Oneness theology.

We may never fully understand the nature of God until we get into heaven. God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and eternal. Our finite created minds are unable to fully grasp these characteristics of God. However, it is possible to have a basic understanding of the triune nature of God, and to be able to defend this doctrine with the Word of God. In this article, we’ll assess the Scriptural evidence and put the pieces together until they form a full picture. A triune God will be the only possible verdict based on an objective analysis of the Scriptural evidence.

The doctrine of the Trinity can be summed up as follows: Within the one Being that is God, there exist eternally three coequal and coeternal Persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.[1] In order to prove this doctrine we must prove the following:

There is only one God

The Father is God

Jesus is God

The Holy Spirit is God

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct Persons.

Each point above is very important, and we will clearly illustrate each. Heresy arises when these distinctions are blurred. For instance, modalism (also known as Oneness theology) would agree with items one through four, but item five is where modalism fails. However, as James White said in regards to the doctrine of the Trinity, “For some reason many feel that there is a hierarchy of ‘error’ when it comes to the Trinity…. We are to worship God in spirit and in truth, and two-thirds of the truth is not a valid substitute, no matter which one-third of His truth we choose to reject.”[2]

There is a treasure trove of Scriptures to support each of the points we’ll be studying. To keep this article at a reasonable length, where there are several relevant verses, I’ll limit the full verse quotation to two verses (in NIV, unless stated otherwise), and give the Scripture references for the rest.

1. There is only one God:

Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are known as the big three monotheistic religions. You won’t find many arguments among Muslims, Jews, and Christians that there is more than one God, except perhaps among some aberrant sects. Nevertheless, let us establish this Scripturally before we move on to areas where disagreements will arise.

A. There is only one God:

“You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.” – Deuteronomy 4:35

“This is what the LORD says- Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.” – Isaiah 44:6

Other Old Testament Verses: Deut. 4:39; 32:39; 2 Sam. 22:32; Isa. 37:20; 43:10; 44:6-8; 45:5, 14, 21-22; 46:9.

“How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” – John 5:44

“…since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.” Romans 3:30

Other New Testament Verses: Rom. 16:27; 1 Cor. 8:4-6; Gal. 3:20; Eph. 4:6, 1 Tim. 1:17; 2:5; James 2:19; Jude 25.

B. There is only one true God:

“But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath.” – Jeremiah 10:10

“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true–even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” – 1 John 5:20.

Other verses: 2 Chron. 15:3; John 17:3; 1 Thess. 1:9.

C. All other so-called “gods” are false gods.

“For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.” – Psalm 96:5

“So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.” – 1 Corinthians 8:4

Other verses: Deut. 32:21; 1 Sam. 12:21; Isa. 37:19; 41:23-24, 29; Jer. 2:11; 5:7; 16:20; 1 Cor. 10:19-20.

The verses above are clear evidence that there is only one God. This is known as monotheism. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are known as the three great monotheistic religions. However, Islam and Judaism will fall off as we continue our support of the Trinity.

2. There is a plurality to God.

The Hebrew word for God is el in its singular form. The most common form used for God is elohim, which is plural in form. How can there be plural form used for only one God? Some suggest that the answer is found in the three persons of the Trinity. Others contend that the plural construct denotes a fullness of deity as opposed to plurality. I submit that both interpretations are correct. I’m getting ahead of myself now though. Rather than look at all the verses that use the plural elohim, let’s look at other verses that point to a plurality within the one God.

“Let us make man in our image” – Genesis 1:26, emphasis added.

“God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us…’” – Genesis 3:22, emphasis added.

Some would say that God could be speaking to the angels in these verses, but that’s simply not correct. God was speaking to co-creator(s) in these verses (“Let us make man…”). Who could be a co-creator? Not the angels. The answer is found later in this article.

3. The Father is God.

This isn’t really an item that is in question. While God the Father is only known as the Father in the New Testament, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and pseudo-Christian cults understand that the Father in the New Testament is the Yahweh of the Old Testament, though some disagree with the characterization of “Father”. However, it is important to establish that the Father of the New Testament is the true God referred to in the Old Testament, known often as Yahweh, or “Jehovah”.[3]

A. The Father is God.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,” – 2 Corinthians 1:3

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” – Ephesians 1:3

Other verses: John 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; 1 Peter 1:3; (Note: Some verses seem to indicate that Jesus is not God at first glance. These will be explained later).

B. The God of the Old Testament is known as Yahweh/Jehovah (“The LORD”).

“You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other…. Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.” – Deuteronomy 4:35, 39.[4]

“Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” – Psalm 100:3

Other verses: Gen. 9:26; 24; Exo. 3:14-18; 4:5; 2 Sam. 7:22, 25.

From the verses above, it is clear that Yahweh/Jehovah in the Old Testament is the one God. It is also clear that the Father in the New Testament is that one God. Now, let’s look at whether Jesus Christ is God. Remember, there is only one God. There is also a mysterious plurality to this one God. We have established that the Father is Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament. We now explore the plurality in the one true God.

4. Jesus is God.

There is a great deal of Scriptural evidence that Jesus Christ is God. The evidence is comprised not only of specific statements, but also in prophecy fulfillment and his attributes. Let’s first look at some of explicit Scriptural evidence. In this section, we won’t limit ourselves to only giving the text of two verses.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” – John 1:1

“Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” – John 20:28

I want to pause just a moment to discuss the verses above. The Greek word for God is theos. In John 1:1, we read that the Word (Jesus) was with theos and was indeed theos. Jesus was (and is) God! This is a very powerful statement! The word theos is used not only in John 1:1, but also in verse 18 and in John 20:28. Theos is used in the New Testament in reference to Jehovah/Yahweh God. Theos is also used in reference to Jesus. We’re beginning to see the plurality found within the one God.

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” – Revelation 4:11 (the words of the 24 elders to Jesus).

“…Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” – Acts 20:28

Once again, in the verses above Jesus is referred to as theos. In Acts 20:28, we know that Jesus shed His blood for the church, and as one person of the triune God, this action is the action of God. Now let’s look at some common compound references to Jesus:

“…the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” – Titus 2:13

“…To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours” – 2 Peter 1:1

In the passages above, both “God” and “Savior” are used in reference to Jesus Christ. There is no division of the clause. Scholar Robert Reymond writes, “The two nouns [‘God’ and ‘Savior’] both stand under the regimen of the single definitive article preceding ‘God,’ indicating…that they are to be construed corporately, not separately, or that they have a single referent.”[5] In other words, attempts to divide this clause into a reference to God and a separate reference to Jesus as Savior flies against the Greek grammatical construct. These verses provide additional powerful and clear evidence that Jesus is Jehovah/Yahweh God. Let’s now turn our attention to more verses that reveal Jesus to be Jehovah/Yahweh.

“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…. for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” – Romans 10:9,13. Note: Paul reveals Jesus to be the same “Lord” referred to in Joel 2:32, which he quotes. In Joel 2:32, “LORD” is Jehovah/Yahweh.

“…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:10-11. Note: “Lord” = Jehovah/Yahweh.

“…now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” – 1 Peter 2:3. This verse is taken almost identically from Psalms 34:8, where “Lord” is Jehovah/Yahweh. From the verses that follow verse 3, it is clear this is a reference to Jesus.

Another way we know that Jesus is Jehovah/Yahweh comes from the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy. Zechariah 12:10 says, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” This verse is part of an oracle given by Jehovah/Yahweh. This passage starts off in verse 1, “This is the word of the LORD concerning Israel. The LORD, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him, declares…” Jehovah/Yahweh prophesies that He will be pierced. It is widely accepted among scholarly circles that this was fulfilled in the crucifixion and spearing of Jesus Christ. This is confirmed in Revelation 1:7 wherein we read concerning Jesus, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.” This is important enough to go over again. In Zechariah 12:10, Jehovah/Yahweh prophesies that He (Jehovah/Yahweh) will be pierced, and people will mourn for Him. Jesus Christ is pierced through his hands and feet at his crucifixion, and pierced through the side with a spear while on the cross. Revelation 1:7 confirms this fulfillment of prophecy. Conclusion? Jesus Christ is Jehovah/Yahweh!

Another evidence that Jesus is Jehovah/Yahweh comes from His role as Savior. Isaiah 43:11 says, “I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.” Yet Jesus is referred to many times in the New Testament as our Savior (Luke 2:11; John 4:42; Acts 13:23; Eph. 5:23; Phi. 3:20; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:10; Tit 1:4; 2:13; 3:6; 2 Pet. 1:1,11; 2:20; 3:2,18; 1 John 4:14).

Jesus caused no small uproar among the Jews of the day because He accepted praise and worship – blasphemous if He were not God! As we have seen, only God is the savior of men. Matthew 21:1-11 describes Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He came riding in on a donkey, in fulfillment of an Old Testament messianic prophecy (Zec. 9:9). As Jesus rode in, we find the crowds that surrounded him shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” Webster’s 1913 dictionary defined Hosanna as “A Hebrew exclamation of praise to the Lord.” The word is derived from a Hebrew word that meant “Save us,” in a prayer directed to God. This shows that the crowd viewed Jesus as God and Savior. It is important to note that Jesus did not rebuke the crowd for this praise. In verse 15, we find that the chief priests and Pharisees were outraged and indignant at this (because, as we said, this would be blasphemy for a mere man). Children had followed Jesus in to the temple are and were still shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” In verse 16, they asked Jesus if He could hear what the children were saying. No doubt they were shocked that he would not have straightened out the blasphemy of these little urchins. But Jesus did not rebuke the children. Instead, He answered, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” Additionally, in John 9:35-39 we read the following exchange:

35Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36″Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
37Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
38Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. [emphasis added]
39Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

Jesus accepted worship. This is not adoration of a mere prophet, but praise and worship due only to God. Jesus was either God or He was crazy, and there is ample evidence against the latter and in support of the former. Further evidence comes from the fact that Jesus has many of the attributes of God:

Creator (John 1:3, 1 Cor. 8:6; Col 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2; Rev. 3:14)

Unchanging (Heb. 1:10-12; 13:8)

Eternal (John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:2)

Omniscient (John 16:30)

Omnipresent (Matt. 18:20; 28:20; John 3:13; Eph. 1:23; 4:10; Col. 3:11)

It is clear from the Scriptural evidence above that Jesus is God. He is the LORD (Jehovah/Yahweh) of the Old Testament, and therefore is the one true elohim or theos. He shares this role as God with the Father. As we are about to see, He also shares this role with the Holy Spirit.

5. The Holy Spirit is God

Less Scripture is dedicated to the Holy Spirit, but there is enough to conclude that He too is God. In Acts 5:3-4, we see the Holy Spirit being equated with God:

“Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.’” [emphasis added]

Paul clearly and explicitly equated the Holy Spirit with God:

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” – 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Additional evidence of the deity of the Holy Spirit comes from the shared attributes of the deity. The Holy Spirit is:

Eternal (Heb. 9:14)

Omniscient (1 Cor. 2:10-11)

Omnipresent (Psa. 139:7)

Savior (Rom. 8:1-27)

In addition to the attributes above, we find the Holy Spirit was involved in creation (Gen. 1:2; Psa. 104:30), the incarnation (Matt. 1:18,20; Luke 1:35), and the resurrection (Rom. 1:4; 8:11). This is ample evidence to show that the Holy Spirit is God. We have now proven Scripturally that there is only one God. We have also proven that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can each lay claim to being God. However, one can believe in all this, and still subscribe to the erroneous belief of modalism.

Modalists believe that there is only one God, but believe God to be comprised of one Person who simply manifests Himself at different times through Father, Son, or Holy Spirit. In other words, modalists believe that God is one in substance as well as essence – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not distinct persons. As we shall see, modalism fails because the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are indeed three distinct persons.

6. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct persons.

A. Jesus is not the Father: First, let’s turn our attention to Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. The grammatical construction of this verse is very revealing with regards to Trinitarian doctrine. First, each person of the Trinity is identified individually with use of the definite article preceding each (the Father…the Son…the Holy Spirit). The use of the definite article for each person of the Trinity identifies each as unique and distinct from the others. Yet at the same time, this verse groups each into a singular entity by use of the singular form “the name of”. What is this name? The singular name of God is Yahweh/Jehovah, and the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit share that name. Other verses identify the Father and the Son as two separate persons (John 3:17, 35; 5:22-23, 31-32; 8:16-18; 11:41-42; 12:28; 14:31; 17:1-26; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 15:24-28; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; 4:4; Eph. 1:2; 6:23; Phil. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1-2; 1 Tim. 1:1-2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Tit. 1:4; Phm. 3; James 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:2; 1 John 4:10; 2 John 3).

B. Jesus is not the Holy Spirit: The first evidence of this is discussed in detail in the preceding paragraph – Matthew 28:19 identifies the Son and the Holy Spirit as separate persons, using definite articles preceding each. Next, Jesus tells us that He would send the Holy Spirit (“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.” – John 15:26). This verse is revealing in that each person of the Trinity is mentioned as separate individual persons. Key elements in this verse include 1) Jesus will send the Holy Spirit, 2) from the Father, 3) the Holy Spirit will go out from the Father, 4) and will testify about Jesus. Another verse that identifies Jesus and the Holy Spirit separately is John 16:7, “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” Here we have two important elements: 1) Jesus will go away, and 2) send the Holy Spirit. Since Jesus arose and ascended in his physical human body, the Spirit He sends is not Jesus Himself. Another important verse is John 14:16, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever” (emphasis added). Once again, the elements are here to show that Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are separate. Jesus said He would ask the Father. If Jesus were simply a manifestation of the Father, then He would be asking Himself, which sounds neurotic rather than orthodox. The verse also refers to the Holy Spirit as “another Counselor” separate from Jesus.

C. The Father is not the Holy Spirit: Once again, the first bit of evidence is given in Matthew 28:19 as discussed before. John 14:16, and 15:26 also remain as evidence that the Father and Holy Spirit are distinct persons. As we delved into each verse in the preceding paragraph, we won’t do so again. We also find Paul describing in Romans 8:26-27 that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with the Father. If the Holy Spirit were the same person as the Father, he would not need to intercede with himself.

Now let’s address another Scripture that makes it clear that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three different persons. Luke 3:21-22 covers the baptism of Jesus Christ, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” Each person is described separately here. First, note that Jesus was praying. If Oneness theology were correct, Jesus would be praying to Himself. Once again, that smacks of neurosis. Instead, Jesus was praying to the Father. As He did, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in a physical manifestation like a dove. The voice of the Father was then heard from Heaven, speaking to the Son. This highlights that each person of the Trinity is unique and separate.

7. Conclusion:

It is clear from a reading of the Bible that there is only one God, known in the Old Testament as Yahweh/Jehovah. It is clear that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each God (Yahweh). It is also clear, in contrast to Oneness theology (Unitarian modalism), that each person is separate and distinct from the other. One God in three persons – the Biblical Trinity.

Ontology is important in understanding the Trinity. Ontology is the study of “being.” As James White said, “It is vitally important that we recognize the difference between the words Being and Person…. Being is what makes something what it is. Person is what makes someone who he or she is…. when speaking of the Trinity, we speak of one what (the Being of God) and three whos (the three divine Persons). Most cultic rejections of the Trinity focus on blurring the distinction.”[6]

Are you still having a difficult time comprehending the triune nature of God? That’s understandable. The laws to which we are bound define our comprehension. God’s nature transcends these laws. If we could fully comprehend God’s nature, he would cease to be Almighty God. He would be lesser than He truly is. I am a devotee of analogies. One analogy I like to use with regards to the Trinity is my computer. My computer consists of input devices (mouse and keyboard), output devices (monitor, printer, speakers), and the central processing unit. These different components form my one computer. This analogy fails to capture the full complexity of the substance of God, but it can help someone to grasp the basic relationship.

It is true, as so many Mormons, Muslims, and Jehovah’s Witness are inclined to point out, that there is no concise, clear teaching of the Trinity in the New Testament or Old Testament. However, by such reasoning, there is also no clear teaching regarding smoking or illicit drug use. Yet by examining Scripture in its greater context, it is clear that our body is the temple of God (1 Cor. 6:19) and Paul urges us to purify ourselves from things which contaminate the body (2 Cor. 7:1). Similarly, by examining the sum of Scripture in immediate and greater context, it is clear that God is triune. He is one God, eternally existent in three divine persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We must be able to defend this biblical doctrine if we are to effectively contend for the truth of the gospel.

 

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HOW ANCIENT IS THE TRINITY DOCTRINE? by Wesley P. Walters

As different as para-Christian groups or cults are from each other, most have one thing in common: they hate the biblical teaching of the Trinity. They want their God to be simplistic, uncomplicated, and less complex than the world He created. They want a God reduced to terms they can get their finite minds around.

Modern advances in science have shown that the created world is an extremely complex mechanism. Those who work in nuclear physics or molecular biology are continually discovering the complexity of the world God has created.

In fact, some complex, seemingly contradictory data has yet to be fitted into a rational system that explains the relationships. A simple thing like “light” is known to move like “waves” yet strike like “particles.” Atomic physicists are still struggling to put together a theory that can fully explain this apparent contradiction.

Those who work in the complex mathematical equations of quantum mechanics are told by their instructors that “If you think that you really understand quantum mechanics and how it applies to reality, that proves you do not understand it.” One of the basic theorems is that if the speed of a particle is known, then its location can not be known, and the more accurately you know its location, the less accurately you know its speed. This does not seem very logical to the average person, but it works very well in atomic physics, in which scientists get very close to the essence of matter.

Thus, while scientists are continually learning more about how complex and even apparently contradictory the world of created reality is, cults that reject the complexity of the God who made this reality are proliferating. They, along with Moslems and modern Jews, taunt Christians, saying: “How can there be just one God, and yet the Father be God, the Son be God and the Holy Spirit be God? Is He the Son of Himself and the Father of both?”

Even though Christ Himself taught that the name [singular] of God in which we baptize is Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19), all cults falsely assert that the doctrine of the Trinity is a teaching that grew out of fourth century paganism. So unified are the cults in this assertion that they appear to be using the same erroneous Church history book and parroting one another.

The truth is that by the time of Christ, the first century A.D., the Jews themselves, on the basis of the Old Testament, were coming to an understanding of the complexity of Yahweh.

The Teachings of The Targums

When the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity 450 years before the birth of Jesus, they had adopted Aramaic as their native language. Although it is a dialect of ancient Hebrew, Aramaic is about as different from it as modern Italian is from its classical Latin ancestor. Consequently, during the first and early second centuries A.D., Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Old Testament were made.

These translations, called Targums, were The Living Bibles of their day, an interpretive paraphrase of Scripture. They help us see how these first-century Jews understood their Old Testament.

One of the striking things these Targums show is that first century Jews had come to understand the phrase “the Word of God” as referring to a divine entity within God Himself, yet distinguishable at times from God. J.W. Etheridge, in the introduction to his translations of the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan, has given us a number of examples of this Jewish understanding of the term, “the Word” (Aramaic: Memra).

In Genesis 18:1, where the Hebrew Bible says Yahweh (Jehovah) appeared to Abraham, the Targum says, “The Word of the Lord appeared to Abraham.” Further on, where the Hebrew reports “Yahweh rained down upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Yahweh out of heaven,” the Targum states that “the Word of the Lord sent down upon them sulphur and fire from the presence of the Lord out of heaven.” (Genesis 19:24)

In Genesis 16, when Hagar sees “the Angel of the Lord,” the Targum says she saw “the Word of the Lord.” After seeing this “Word” (Memra) she says, “Here has been revealed the glory of the Shekineh of the Lord.” Then, according to the Jerusalem Targum, “Hagar returned thanks and prayed in the name of the Word of the Lord, who had appeared to her.” Thus the Word not only is regard- ed as the presence of deity, but is in some manner personally distinguishable from the Lord.

In Genesis 28:20 the Targum of Onkelos paraphrases Jacob’s vow, “If God will be with me… then Yahweh will be my God” with the words, “If the Word of the Lord will be my help… the Word of the Lord shall be my God.” Again, the Angel of Yahweh who spoke to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14) is designated by the Jerusalem Targum as “the Word of the Lord.”

The distinct personality of this Divine Word is seen pointedly in Jonathan’s Targum of Isaiah 63:7-10. There, where the Hebrew text speaks of Yahweh being their Savior, the Targum reads, “the Word (Memra) was their Redeemer.” (vs. 8) When the Israelites continued to disobey, then “His Word (Memra) became their enemy, and fought against them” — an action ascribed to Yahweh in the Hebrew text. Again in Isaiah 45:22 the Targum of Jonathan exhorts, “Look unto My Word and be saved.”

While this personalizing of the Word was being expressed in Palestine in the Targums of Jesus’ day, Philo, an Egyptian Jew and contemporary of Jesus, was expressing similar thoughts in even more distinct words. In his essay “On the Creation,” Philo states that man was not made in the image of some creature, but in the image of God’s own uncreated Word. He wrote: “for the Creator, we know, employed for its making no pattern taken from among created things, but solely, as I have said, His own Word.”

Philo continues: “Man was made a likeness and imitation of the Word, when the Divine Breath was breathed into his face. (“On the Creation,” XLVIII: 139, Loeb Edition I, pp. 110-111)

In his work on Noah, Philo again expresses the teaching that man is made by “the First Cause” (that is, God) in the image of “the Eternal Word:” “Our great Moses likened the fashion of the rea- sonable soul to no created thing, but averred it to be a genuine coinage of that dread Spirit, the Divine and Invisible One, signed and impressed by the seal of God, the stamp of which is the Eternal Word.”

He continues: “…man has been made after the Image of God (Genesis 1:27), not however after the image of anything created… man’s soul having been made after the image of the Archetype, the Word of the First Cause.” (“Noah’s Work as a Planter,” I:18-20, Loeb III, pp. 222-223)

Thus, the eternal Word is in some sense distinguishable from God, and yet at the same time is, like God, uncreated, rational and the bearer of the divine image. This comes very close to the teaching of the New Testament that the Word was distinguishable from God, and yet was God. As John 1:1 expresses it, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It also appears similar to Paul’s teaching that the Son is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15); and the writer of Hebrews statement that the Son “is the exact representation of His being.” (Hebrews 1:3)

Philo, however, goes further. He says that God is the king and shepherd of all creation, but rules and controls it through his eternally existing Word, whom Philo calls God’s “First-born Son.”

His “hallowed flock” of created things God directs by his divine laws, setting over it His true Word and first-born son, who shall take upon Him its government like some viceroy of a great king. (“On Husbandry,” I:51, Loeb III, pp. 134-135)

Philo has God expressing Himself in this manner: “I alone… sustained the Universe to rest firm and sure upon the Mighty Word, who is My viceroy.” (“On Dreams,” I:241, Loeb V, pp. 424- 425)

Therefore this eternal Word, God’s first-born Son, is the upholder of the whole creation, “the everlasting Word of the eternal God is the very sure and staunch prop of the Whole. He it is, who extending Himself from the midst to its utmost bounds… keeps up through all its length Nature’s unvanquished course, combining and compacting all its parts. For the Father who begat Him constituted His Word such a Bond of the Universe as nothing can break.” (“Noah’s Work as a Planter,” I:8-9, Loeb III, pp. 216-217)

This reflects the same thought that Paul expressed about the Son as being the one “in whom all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17) It also reminds also reminds us of Hebrews 1:3, which depicts the Son as “sustaining all things by his powerful Word.”

Philo continues his discussion of the Word by maintaining that to those incapable of seeing the supreme cause, God Himself, He appears to them in the form of His Angel, the Word: “For just as those who are unable to see the sun itself, see the gleam of the parahelion and take it for the sun, and take the halo round the moon for that luminary itself, so some regard the image of God, His Angel, the Word, as His very self.” (“On Dreams,” I:239, Loeb V, pp. 422-423) This sounds very similar to the teaching tha t the Son is “the radiance (or outshining) of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3), the only part of God’s nature that people are allowed to see. This is true because “no one has ever seen God,” but “the only begotten God… He has made Him known.” (John 1:18) Thus, Jesus, the Son, can say, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

Philo further explained that God, being light, is “the archetype of every other light.” As such He is “prior to and high above every archetype.” Thus He holds the position of “a model of a model,” that is, He is the model for His Word, which Word becomes the model for creation. The Word, therefore, contains all the qualities of God. As Philo expressed it, “the model or pattern was the Word which contained all His fullness — light, in fact.” (“On Dreams,” I:75, Loeb V, pp. 336-337) Paul expressed a similar thought when he wrote that in the Son all God’s fullness dwells. (Colossians 1:19; 2:9)

To Philo, therefore, the Word of God is the eternal, uncreated Word containing all the fullness of God and bearing His image. That divine image which the Word bears is the image in which man was created. The Word is further the sustainer, upholder and ruler of the world, carrying on the governing of all things, as God’s viceroy, and containing all God’s fullness.

While the Word is not a created thing and carries on all the functions of God, Philo is clear that there are not two gods — although he does not attempt to explain how this can be. Philo’s teaching is, therefore, very close to the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. Philo reached his conclusions without the aid of the New Testament and certainly without deriving his ideas from pagan notions of deity. The Old Testament teaching that the Angel of Yahweh is really the presence of Yahweh Himself seems to have strongly influenced Philo’s ideas.

To relegate the doctrine of the Trinity, therefore, to a fourth- century adaptation of paganism is to ignore the conclusions that several Jewish theologians and teachers had reached four centuries earlier, from God’s revelations given to Israel before the time of the coming of Christ. At the very time that the Word was becoming flesh (John 1:1, 14), Jewish writers were already beginning to see that God’s Word could in some way be distinguished from God the Father Himself, yet have all the fullness of God contained in Him.

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