Thursday, October 28, 2010

Do the Hebrew Scriptures Say anything about the Trinity?

Does Genesis 1:26 envision the Trinity: "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground?"

According to “Christian” evolutionist and Biologos Foundation fellow Peter Enns, it doesn’t. Here’s his one reason against this traditional Christian interpretation:

“The problem with this is that a three-in-one God would have meant nothing to ancient Israelites…”

In other words, Scripture couldn’t have intended a Trinitarian understanding of this verse because the Israelites would not have understood this verse in this manner. Instead, Enns argues that they would have understood it in terms of a “heavenly court” that God had convened in Job 1.

While I can’t say with certainty what the ancients would have understood – and they might have understood many different things – I can say that Enns is using a biased test, and by using biased tests, we derive biased conclusions.

Determining what the original audience understood, we can often get a good handle on the intended meaning of a passage, but not all the time, especially in the case of the Bible. The Bible tells us that there are many hidden meanings in Scripture (Proverbs 25:2; Psalm 25:14), and therefore, the present audience or even the writer of Scripture, will not get it:

• 1 Peter 1:10-12 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

Not only was the writer himself hard-pressed to understand what he had written, but even the angels were struggling with it! This means that when the skeptics throw out the hidden messages because the ancient audience wouldn’t have understood it, they are disregarding what Scripture says about itself.

Scripture is cryptic. God promised a Savior – a Seed of the woman – to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15). However, it seems that Eve failed to understand the prophecy. Instead, she believed that she would be bearing the God-appointed infant:

Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man." Genesis 4:1

Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, "God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him." Genesis 4:25

Mystery is a powerful theme in the Bible. God concealed certain things (Deut. 29:29). This is symbolized by the Cherubim spread above and concealing the mercy-seat (Exodus 37:9). The smoke of the incense also served to “conceal the atonement cover” (Lev. 16:12-14).

God also concealed His Messiah:

He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. (Isaiah 49:2; 51:16; 52:10; 53:1-3)

The New Testament confirms this Divine strategy:

No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor. 2:7-9).

In light of the above, by simply attempting to understand Scripture from a human point of view -- the point of view of the original audience – produces some severely skewed conclusions.


Encouraged by Enns’ skepticism, one respondent wrote that the Old Testament doesn’t teach the Trinity at all! However, there are an overwhelming number of verses – perhaps hundreds – that point in the direction of Trinity. However, first I must confess that, as is the case in the New Testament, the Old makes no mention of “Trinity” or that there are “three persons” in the Godhead. However, as in the New, there are many strands of evidence in the Old. It’s impossible to catalogue all of the evidence here – and I’m sure that a lot of it entirely escapes me – so I’ll restrict myself to those several verses regarded as Messianic by at least one Rabbinic source, verses which also indicate that Messiah is God.

• Psalm 2:7 "I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You…Psalm 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.” [Scripture tells us to place our trust in God only. The “Son” therefore must be God! NKJV]

• Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

• Jeremiah 23:5-6 "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD [YAHWEH] Our Righteousness.’”

• Micah 5:2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." [Only God is “everlasting,” NKJV]

In addition to these, there are numerous OT verses referring to “Yahweh” that the NT cites as referring to Jesus:

• Isaiah 40:3 A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD [“Yahweh”]; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. [See Matthew 3:3 where Jesus is referred to in place of “Yahweh!”]

• Isaiah 44:6 "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. [See Rev. 1:17 where this is applied to Jesus!]

Jesus went on the offensive using another Psalm widely regarded as Messianic. Psalm 110 envisions God addressing His Messiah, King David’s Son. Jesus therefore asked His tormentors, who believed that the Messiah will arise from David’s lineage, how Messiah could both be David’s son and the pre-existent “Lord” at the same time. Of course, they couldn’t answer. Their silence indicated that both were true, and that Messiah must be God (Matthew 22:41-46).

The above represents only a scratching of the surface – I hope enough scratching to demonstrate that the allegation that the Old Testament doesn’t point to the Trinity (in regards to the Son as God) is unfounded.

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