The Distinction Between Elohim And Yahweh
Some commentators make a lot out of the distinction between the name Elohim and the name Yahweh. Right at the very beginning of Genesis, you have two different ways of talking about God during the act of creation.
A lot of older theologies ask, What is the ultimate reason why two names are given to us right at the beginning of Scripture? Within that question is an analysisone that relies on an assumption. That assumption can be summarized in this question: Why is the one God called both Elohim and Yahweh? These older theologies keep working at that question until getting to a trinitarian distinction.
Its hard to summarize exactly what that distinction is because its never stated as simply as the Father is Elohim and the son is Yahweh. Instead, its a witness to a diversity of naming that establishes whats going on within one God.
It could be that the use of multiple names for God points to his trinitarian nature.
Is God Really One God In Three Persons Or Is He Three Gods Does The Bible Teach The Doctrine Of The Trinity/godhead
Does God exist in three Persons? If so, does that mean that Christians worship three Gods? The term Trinity does not appear in the Bible, but the word Godhead appears three times in the King James Bible modern Bibles, unfortunately, either omit or water down this term. What is the Trinity? Is it a biblical doctrine? We want to answer these questions using the Bible, not some denominational handbook.
One of the strongest claims in the Bible for God existing in three Persons is the famous Trinitarian proof of 1 John 5:7, which reads: For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. Obviously, this verse speaks of three Persons all being God, all three being one. Notice, the Godhead is not three Gods but three Persons in one Godhead. We have God the Father, God the Son , and God the Holy Ghost. Notice how the verse says the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one: this is reminiscent of what Jesus said in John 10:30, I and my Father are one.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth . By noting the wording, we learn that Jesus Christ, the Word , is God. According to John 1:14, the Word became flesh: unquestionably, that refers to Jesus Christ . In the beginning Jesus Christ was with God , and Jesus Christ was God .
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Reading The Words And Extracting The Meaning
Our theological formulation translates and exegetes the text. And this means, for example, that it makes use of other concepts besides those in the original. The result is that it does not just repeat what is there. To explain what is there, it sets something new against what is there.
Barth always treated the work of theology as honest labor in the field of the humanities. As such, it requires creativity and innovation and is subject to assessment and peer review. None of that is denied when we take the further step of noting theologys peculiar character as a response to divine revelation.
Theology, therefore, does not do its work by simply repeating the words of Scripture. It answers back with what it hears there, and in giving its answer, theology may be heard making any number of noises not found in the text.
This answering back is crucial to the theological task. It is what shows that something more than memorization of syllables is happening. It is what shows that one theologian has understood rightly and another has not. Anyone who is not willing to take the risks of translation, paraphrase, metaphrase, summary, and explanation has not yet crossed the threshold of theological speech.
It is one thing, said Francis Turretin, for a doctrine to be in Scripture according to sound and syllables, or formally and in the abstract and another to be in Scripture according to meaning and according to the thing signified, or materially and in the concrete.
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We See Evidence Of The Trinity Throughout Scripture
In Genesis, we see the Bible opens with the first verse In the beginning God The Hebrew word for God is Elohim. This is a plural word for El. We can see the concept of the Trinity in this word.
1 Peter 1:2 According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
Essential And Economic Trinity
Some of the problems of the Trinity arise from confusion between the internal life and nature of the Trinity itself and the external life or “self-revelation” of God. The only thing humankind can directly know of God is his external life.
There are two ways of looking at God in Trinitarian terms:
- The Essential Trinity looks at the essence or substance of God at what God is actually like in himself as he stands outside the created universe. It’s how God appears to God.
- Warning: This is an unusual use of the word immanent, which Christians often use to refer to God’s actions in the world.
The Economic and Essential Trinities are not two separate entities – just two ways of looking at God.
Are these two the same? Victor Shepherd put the question like this:
Is God’s revelation merely the “face” God wears as he turns to us, or is it who God is in himself?
Is his face something he merely displays, or does his face unambiguously disclose his heart?
The Western Churches believe that they are pretty much the same and that human beings meet God fully and completely as he is through his actions.
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Revealed In Creation And History
Nonetheless, even in such demythologization, the biblical witness to God overwhelmingly operates within the frame of the creation and history. While not imprisoning God within his creation, Scripture does not reflect much upon his transcendent being in himself. This is especially true of the Old Testament, but also of the New, and must be remembered when we seek to discover the Trinity in the Old Testament. There is a perennial danger of retrojecting a developed philosophical doctrine of the Trinity into texts operating within a very different horizon.
For instance, from the early church, Christian thinkers have seen a shadowy witness to the Trinity in the let us of Genesis 1:26. However, it is considerably more likely that the plurality seen in this text relates, first and foremost, to the Divine Council a monotheist form of the assembly of the gods one encounters in various ancient Near Eastern cosmologies. Even in the book of Revelation, this remains the chief context in which God is revealed: not in his eternal, invisible, uncreated transcendence, but in variegated theophanic manifestations in the created realm of a heavenly throne room and assembly the throne, the Lamb, and the sevenfold Spirit, surrounded by four living creatures, twenty-four elders, seraphim, cherubim, various angelic ministers, and redeemed human beings. These theophanic manifestations reveal God, while not being directly identified as God.
Not Defined Anywhere In The Bible
The nature of God is undoubtedly the most fundamental aspect of a religion. Scripture should provide a clear picture of who our Creator is, otherwise how can we be expected to properly worship that which we dont understand?
If God wanted humanity to believe in His Triune nature, then why isnt it clearly and explicitly defined anywhere in Scripture? There is no statement to be found anywhere in the Bible where God is described as being three co-equal persons, Father Son and Holy Ghost. This is in spite of the fact that there were numerous opportunities that were presented to Jesus where he could have spelled this out in detail:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, Of all the commandments, which is the most important?
The most important one, answered Jesus, is this: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.
Well said, teacher, the man replied. You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.
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Difficulties With The Trinity Considered And Answered
The Meaning of Only-begotten
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:18 No man has seen God at any time the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
In John 1:18, the King James Version has huios, Son, in place of theos, God, and reads, No man hath seen God at any time the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
Because to our mind the words only begotten suggest birth or beginning, some have tried to take the use of this designation of Jesus Christ to mean that Christ had a beginning, that He only became the Son of God. Such an understanding denies His eternality and also the concept of the trinity. So what does John mean by the term only begotten?
Vine has an excellent summary of the use of monogenes in John 1:14 and 18:
We can only rightly understand the term the only begotten when used of the Son, in the sense of unoriginated relationship. The begetting is not an event of time, however remote, but a fact irrespective of time. The Christ did not become, but necessarily and eternally is the Son. He, a Person, possesses every attribute of pure Godhood. This necessitates eternity, absolute being in this respect He is not after the Father .
The Meaning of First-born
Errors To Avoid Concerning The Trinity
Tri-theism. This is the teaching that there are three Gods who are sometimes related, but only in a loose association. Such an approach, abandons the biblical oneness of God and the unity within the Trinity.
Sabellianism or Modalism. Sabellius , the originator of this viewpoint, spoke of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but he understood all three as no more than three manifestations of one God. This teaching came to be known as modalism because it views one God who variously manifests Himself in three modes of existence: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Arianism. This doctrine had it roots in Tertullian, who made the Son subordinate to the Father. Origen took this further by teaching that the Son was subordinate to the Father in respect to essence. The result was ultimately Arianism which denied the deity of Christ. Arius taught that only God was the uncreated One because Christ was begotten of the Father it meant Christ was created by the Father. Arius believed there was a time when Christ did not exist. Arius and his teaching was condemned at the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325.17
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Jesus Affirms The Pure Monotheism Of The Old Testament
There is an interesting incident according to the New Testament where a Jewish teacher of the law approaches Jesus and asks him which of the commandments is the most important:
The most important one, answered Jesus, is this: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one
Well said, teacher, the man replied. You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, You are not far from the kingdom of God
This incident was the perfect opportunity for Jesus to correct Jewish misconceptions about Gods nature and give a Trinitarian understanding. As you can see the exact opposite is the case, by quoting the Old Testament commandment about God being One and agreeing with the Jewish teachers interpretation, Jesus is affirming a Jewish understanding of God that is purely monotheistic and rejects all notion of God being a Trinity. Not only is the Jewish teachers wisdom about God acknowledged, but Jesus goes so far as to complement him, saying that he is close to the kingdom of God.
The Role Of The Trinity In Creation: All Three Were Involved In Creation
All of the Trinity was involved in creation. We can see that in Genesis 1. God said Let there be light and in John 1, Jesus is described as the Word, and also as the Light. All of which can also be seen in Colossians 1.
Genesis 1:1-2 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Colossians 1:15-17 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authoritiesall things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
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The Trinitarian Baptismal Formula Was Subsequently Inserted Into The Bible By The Catholic Church
The only verse in the Bible that could indicate that a Trinity exists is this one:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
But the problem is that this Bible verse was actually added deliberately to the Bible by the Catholic Church. This Bible verse does not exist in the original Hebrew text of the Gospel of Matthew. This means: The Catholic Church has falsified the Bible to support its own interests. The Trinity is therefore not a biblical teaching, but merely invented by the Church. You dont have to believe me, you can examine it yourself. Here is the original version of the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew and also translated to English:
The Concept Of The Lords Word Personified
There are points in the Old Testament where Gods very word is personified as it would be if Gods Word referenced Jesus.
- For the word of the Lord is right and true he is faithful in all he does.Psalm 33:4
- The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.Isaiah 40:8
In his gospel, John describes Jesus as the Word of God. This sheds new light on the on many of the Old Testament references to Gods Word.
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Where Is The Trinity In The Old Testament
Arising out of the crucible of christological and theological debates in the early centuries of the church, the Christian doctrine of the Trinity expresses the mystery of God that is the heart of all revelation. The philosophical cast and categories of these later disputes transposed the biblical material into very different idioms and discourses animated by rather different concerns. While they were concerned faithfully and fully to articulate the material truth of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, the philosophical vantage points from which they did so were not, for the most part, native to or at least typical of the Scriptures themselves.
The result is a doctrine that speaks to deep realities that are often only penumbral to the revelation of Scripture itself, within which the sort of philosophical concerns regarding being that would exercise later theological minds emerge only sporadically and tangentially. Although the truth of the Trinity is materially present within Scripture, it requires a sort of discourse that proceeds according to different and largely extra-scriptural principles of investigation for that truth to come into crisp doctrinal focus.
When Christians see Christ and the Trinity in the Old Testament, we are following the New Testaments own lead.
Is The Trinity Sound Or Sense
Though the nature of theology itself is at stake here, the term we are asking about is not theology but Trinity. Is it biblical to speak of the Trinity? When we use this word, are we speaking sound or sense? While the truth of Scripture is Scripture, so are the words.
Theological usage must make the leap from direct biblical language to its own helpful vocabulary. It must move from the language of Canaan to another tongue. But the leap from one vocabulary to the other ought to be a short one, and the latter vocabulary ought to signal its dependence on the former with enough clarity to keep the next generations language-learners from forgetting what all these terms indicate.
Theology, with its terminological specifying, consistent systematizing, and logical sequencing, does not make an improvement on Scripture, as if perfecting it somehow, or succeeding in saying what Scripture was unsuccessfully trying to say. It is dependent on the words of Scripture and ought to make this evident. In the way it speaks, theology as a whole and Trinitarian theology in particular occupies a place between sound and sense, in regular contact with both.
Trinitarian theology cultivates both the sound of Scriptures own language and the sense of those words, given new articulation by new interpreters. As a result, it ought to be compounded of both, making use of Scriptures own infallible language, as well as the fallible language of our best attempts to analyze what Scripture says.
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