Several months ago, I asked a trinitarian family member why he believed in the trinity, since no “trinity” or “triune God” or “God the Son” or “God the Holy Spirit” are in the bible. He then asserted that God is triune, Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God. My follow-up was to ask for scripture references that confirm his assertions. He provided my with a short list with brief comments, and I also gave my response, which was more lengthy. Unfortunately the dialog didn’t get too far as my response was met with dismissal, and I was told that I was “splitting hairs to prove a point”. Thinking about it, I thought it might be beneficial to share my responses on my blog. Will others think my reasoning is unworthy of consideration or valuable for understanding the truth? Let opposing opinions be heard.
Genesis 1:1 and Elohim
Elohim is a plural noun and occurs over 2600 times. However, when referring to God, it is almost always used with a singular verb. Even in Genesis 1:1, “Elohim” is a plural noun, but “created” is the third person singular verb. So, it refers to a singular person. This is further supported by thousands of singular personal pronouns and verb tenses used of God in the Old Testament. In addition to this, Elohim is referred to as “the plural of majesty” when referencing God.
Genesis 1:26 and US/OUR
Genesis 1:26 does indeed say “Then God [Elohim] said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness”, but in the very next verse, we read, “So God [Elohim] created man in his image, in the image of God [Elohim] created he him, male and female created he them.” So, we clearly see that once again when referring to God he is singular. He created man by himself. Verse 26 is one of only four verses in the entire Old testament where “us” in used in reference to “Elohim” speaking. There are over 20,000 times where singular personal pronouns are used otherwise. Although many trinitarian theologians may use this to speak of God being plural, other theologians have said that this could refer to God speaking to his heavenly hosts/court, like in 1 Kings 22:19-20 and Job 1 & 2. Either way, there is no mention of “trinity” or “three” or anything specific of that sort that can be used as reference to the trinity doctrine.
The Father is God [ONLY]
As a matter of fact, Deuteronomy 6:4 states, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD (YHVH) our God [Elohim] is one LORD (YHVH)”. Jesus re-affirms this in Mark 12:29. 1 Corinthians 8:6 says, “But to us there is one God, the Father…”. Galatians 3:20 says, “Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.” In addition, when Jesus was speaking to the Father in John 17, he said in verse 3, “and this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God”. So, the Father is God, the only true God.
Isaiah 9:6-7 and Jesus
We understand Isaiah 9:6 as prophetically referring to Jesus because Matthew 1:23 partially quotes it. It says he will be called “The mighty God”, which is “El Gibor” in the Hebrew. In Ezekiel 32:21, there is a plural construct of this very expression, “Ele Giborim” that referred to mighty men who died, but the translators didn’t translate it as ‘Mighty Gods’ instead KJV translates it as “The strong among the mighty” and more modern translators translate it as “the mighty leaders”. It is an obvious translation bias towards supporting the trinity doctrine. It is interesting to note that Nebuchadnezzar was called “El” in Ezekiel 31:11, yet they translated it “the mighty one”. In general though, the text says, “his name shall be called”, which does not automatically define him as being what he is called. For example, it also says, “The everlasting Father”, which does not mean Jesus is the Father. Even the angel name “Gabriel” is actually “Gibor-el”, or “El Gibor” backwards. That doesn’t make the angel Gabriel to be God. Just in the same way, the verse is not saying Jesus is the Father, it is also not saying he is God.
Hebrews 1:8 and Jesus
Hebrews 1:8 is a quote of Psalm 45:6. It is a messianic psalm, which says, “Thy throne, O God [Elohim], is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.” This “O God” is really Elohim. interestingly enough, Elohim is sometimes used for angels, judges and kings. Even Jesus attested to this in John 10:34, where he references Psalm 82:6. In Psalm 45:6, Elohim is used to reference the Messianic King of Israel. It is not declaring the king (or Jesus) to be God.
John 1:1-2 and Jesus
John 1:1-2 is often used in combination with John 1:14 to equate the “word” [logos] to Jesus. But the scriptures said that Jesus spoke the “logos” (John 2:22) and that the “logos” he spoke is the Father’s, not his (John 14:24). Numerous times, the gospel of John said that things happened so that the “logos” might be fulfilled, but the translators translated “logos” as “sayings” instead of “word”. In john 1:1, it says that the logos “was” God, but did not say that the logos “is” God. Why “was” and not “is”? In general, logos is used over 330 times in the new testament, and 947 times in the old testament, and it has a wide range of usage including word, sayings, reason, plan, order, speech, etc. There are a lot of theological explanations that attempt to prove that John 1:1-2;14 is a claim to Jesus being God, but why is all that necessary? The apostles had ample opportunity to just clearly say “Jesus is God”. Even at the end of the gospel of John, the apostle told us the reason why he wrote the Gospel. It was the perfect opportunity just say, “Jesus is God”, but instead he says, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31). If the purpose of the gospel of John was to prove Jesus is God, like how we are taught today, then why didn’t John just say that when he gave his own reason for writing the gospel? Theologians are going through an awful amount of effort to prove something that is never ever said directly and could be easily said.
John 20:28 and Jesus
John 20:28 is one of the most used verses to say that Jesus is called “God” by Thomas. I don’t agree with this for several reasons, but the main reason is that just before this, in verse 17, Jesus said “go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God”. Jesus said that the Father was his God and the disciples’ God. Jesus already defined who Thomas’ God was. This is further supported in John 14:5-11 when he explains to Thomas, Phillip and the other disciples that the Father is in him, and if you see him you see the Father, and that his words and his actions are not of himself, but of the Father. In addition to this, in almost every epistle from Romans to 2 John, we see Paul and Peter consistently making a distinction between “God the Father” and the “Lord Jesus Christ”. Why would Thomas be any different from them?
Acts 5:3-4 and Holy Spirit
Acts 5:3-4 is a very interesting reference to use as a proof that the Holy Spirit is called God. It doesn’t really say the Holy Spirit is God, it says that they lied to the Holy Ghost when they tried to deceive Peter and all the apostles, and that in doing that they didn’t lie to men, but lied to God. To me, this is just like when Joseph was tempted to commit adultery by Potifer’s wife, and he replied, “how can I do this great wickedness and sin against God”. He was not saying that Potifer was God. But sinning against Potifer was going against God’s will and statutes, and thus sinning against God. Likewise, in Acts 4:31-32 the apostles and believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and they all agreed with the idea of selling their property to use the money to maintain their entire community. So, trying to deceive the apostles and the entire community was in direct contradiction to the will of God expressed through the Spirit, and thus they were really trying to deceive God without realizing it. 1 Corinthians 2:9-12 give us insight into God and his Spirit. We notice a distinction between “God” and the “Spirit of God”, not “Father” and the “Spirit of God”. As verse 10 says, it is the Spirit that reveals God’s will to us.
I think it is difficult to accept that persons close to you reject your opinions and beliefs quicker and easier than strangers. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Religion is a thing that ultimately divides along arbitrary lines of belief and conviction. I guess the same can be said for politics. So, how do we reconcile this? What about facts and truth? Coming to the truth of a matter is different and more difficult than establishing the facts in a matter. Facts need to be interpreted or understood in the light of context and circumstance. When it comes to faith and religion, most people believe what they were told or taught. Religious leaders have a way of demonizing anyone who disagrees with them, or the established teachings. So, what will happen to those who scrutinized well established beliefs?
What makes a belief right or wrong, true or false? Over the centuries of teaching, traditions have been established that fortify and maintain certain beliefs. In Christianity, these traditions are especially strong, through indoctrination from birth and persecution of persons who disagree. Do these traditions line up with the scriptures, with the Bible. Many believe they do, but when pressed to prove it, are unable to find or articulate this. What should be our foundation or source of truth and understanding? Traditions? Doctrines? Scriptures? Some combination?
Is what was said by Jesus and his apostles in the scriptures not enough? If a doctrine is not explicitly stated in the scriptures, should it be followed or forced upon others? Why does a doctrine have to be inferred from pulling numerous verses out of context, instead of just being clearly stated? When God inspired the writers of the scriptures, was his inspiration not enough for them to say something clearly? Does God need the help of “church fathers” and ecclesiastical councils centuries after the scriptures were written to tell us who he is?
I am asking a lot of rhetorical questions. The intended purpose is to encourage anyone reading this to evaluate why you believe what you believe. You are free to believe what you want, but you should at least have an honest understanding of the source of your belief. I personally think that every belief should be verified by scripture alone. I believe this because Acts 17:11 says “These [Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so”.
In my journey to figure out the truth about God in scripture, I am faced with the fact that I will be dismissed, misunderstood, rejected, or labeled as a “backslider” or even a “heretic” if my conclusions differ from established orthodox doctrine. Should I care? I probably shouldn’t, but life is rarely ever simple or easy. Should I kill my conscience for the dictates of tradition or orthodoxy or acceptance? What are my convictions worth? Some men have died for their convictions. Maybe the answer is obvious. I hope what I have written here will be a blessing to someone. My belief is that the Spirit of God will guide us to all truth (John 16:13). Amen.
- Footnotes for Genesis 1:26 NET – Biblegateway.com – Site: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=genesis%201%3A26&version=KJV;NET#en-NET-26
@Rodney Brown. Thanks for posting a scripture. It would have been nice to get a comment along with that to understand your thoughts. However, I will make the modest assumption that you have posted this verse as your main source of refutation of my post (To be honest, I was not presented with this verse in the original interaction with my family member). With that in mind, I would just like to first make the point that 1 John 5:7 has been shown to be an addition to the Textus Receptus from the Roman Catholic’s Latin Vulgate and did not exist in any Greek manuscript prior to the 16th century nor in any quotation from any “church fathers”. Regardless of this fact, even if one would like to take it as authentic, I would like to highlight a few points regarding that verse:
In addition to these plain facts, the truth is that when taken in context with the rest of the verses, you actually get the sense (even without the textual evidence that bible scholars provide us) that this verse is out of place. The context starts with talking about the love of God and leading to that fact that we need to believe that Jesus is “the Christ” (verse 1), the “Son of God” (verse 5), and that Jesus is verified to us as such by “water and blood” (verse 6) and the “Spirit bears witness” (verse 6). Then we have verse 7 regarding three that bear witness in heaven, and then in verse 8 three that bear witness on earth. They are bearing witness to the fact that Jesus is the Christ (or Messiah), the Son of God.
What I find most interesting is how the translators of the KJV use different English words to translate the same Greek words that are in verses 7 and 8. For example, it is the same Greek word for “beareth record” in verse 7 and “beareth witness” in verse 8. It is also the same Greek word for “are” in the expression “three are one” in verse 7 and for “agree” in the expression “three agree in one” in verse 8. Why do you think that is? Why would they translate it differently… same word, same context. hmmm… they were experts. They knew what they were doing. At the very least, they knew that verse 7 is NOT making an ontological statement, but rather a statement of agreement about who Jesus is (the Christ, the Son of God), just like in verse 8. Yet, they chose to translate it differently so that it can be easily referenced to support their trinity doctrine, if one is not paying attention to the details.