The Concept of the "Trinity"
Although the word "Trinity" (Ha-shilush Ha-kadosh) does not directly appear in the Scriptures, it is an entirely Jewish concept, derived from both the Tanakh and the Brit Chadashah. Scripturally, God is revealed as "triune" in some of the following ways:
- The Omniscient Voice - The Scriptures speak from an omniscient, "third person" perspective. When we read, "In the beginning, God (אֱלהִים) created the heavens and the earth," we must ask who exactly is speaking? Who is the narrator of the Torah? The very next verse states that the Spirit of God (רוּחַ אֱלהִים) was hovering over the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2), followed by the first direct quote of the word of God Himself: "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3). The creative activity of Elohim (God) and the presence of Ruach Elohim (the Spirit of God) are narrated by an omniscient Voice or Word of God. Obviously the Spirit of God is God Himself (who else?) just as the Word of God is likewise God Himself, and therefore in the first three verses of the Torah the Triune nature of the Godhead is presented.
- The Mysterious use of Aleph-Tav - In Or Torah, Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch, explained first words of Torah: Bereshit Bara Elohim Et - "In the beginning God created et (אֵת)" (Gen 1:1). Note that et is an untranslatable word used to indicate that "a definite direct object is next" (thus there needs to be an et before the heavens and the earth). But Dov Ber points out that et is spelled - Aleph-Tav, an abbreviation for the Aleph-Bet. Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and Tav the last, though the grammar of the verse may indicate that Elohim is not the subject of the verb, but rather Aleph-Bet. Creation begins and ends with the redemptive love of God as manifested in the Person of Yeshua our Mashiach... He is the Center of Creation - it's beginning and end. As it is written: אָנכִי אָלֶף וְתָו רִאשׁוֹן וְאַחֲרוֹן ראשׁ וָסוֹף / "I am the 'Aleph' and the 'Tav,' the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" (Rev. 22:13). Indeed, Yeshua is מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים / Melech Malchei Hamelachim: The "King of kings of kings." He is LORD of all possible worlds -- from the highest celestial glory to the dust of death upon a cross... יְהִי שֵׁם יהוה מְברָךְ / yehi shem Adonai mevorakh: "Let the Name of the LORD be blessed" forever and ever (Psalm 113:2).
- Plural Names - Elohim (אֱלהִים), the third word in the Tanakh, is a plural form. This Name is often associated with singular verbs. For example, the first occurrence of the word Elohim occurs with a masculine singular verb bara (בָּרָא), meaning "he (singular) created," though in other places Elohim takes verbs with plural endings. For example, in Genesis 35:7, says, "there God (אֱלהִים) revealed himself (נִגְלוּ) to him." Note that the verb (גָּלָה) is third person plural form. We see the same grammar in Psalm 58:11 where it is written that "there is a God who judges (pl.) in the earth (יֵשׁ־אֱלֹהִים שׁפְטִים בָּאָרֶץ).
- Plural Pronouns - The LORD God, speaking in Genesis 1:26, says "Let us make man in our image and in our likeness" / נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ (see also Genesis 3:22, 11:7, Isaiah 6:8). Some have suggested the plural verb (נַעֲשֶׂה) indicates majesty, but the "plural of majesty" is not used with verbs. Jewish tradition interprets the plural personal pronoun to refer to angels, but there is no evidence that God created the world - and human beings, in particular - through angelic intermediaries (see Gen. 1:29), and angels themselves are created beings (Psalm 148:2, 5).
- "Creators" - In Ecclesiastes 12:1 it is written, "Remember your Creators (בּוֹרְאֶיךָ, a masc. pl. noun with 2ms ending) in the days of your youth," and in Psalm 149:2 Israel is commanded to rejoice in his Makers (בְּעשָׂיו, a masc. pl. noun with 3ms ending). As mentioned above, in Genesis 1:1-3, God (Elohim), the Spirit of God (Ruach Elohim), and the Word of God (and God said...), are all involved in the creation of the universe.
- "Makers" - In Isaiah 54:5 plural constructions are used in conjunction with three separate Names of God. "For your Maker (pl.) is your husband (pl.), the LORD of hosts (יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת) is his Name; the Holy One of Israel (קדוֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל) is your Redeemer (גאֲלֵךְ), the God of all the earth (אֱלהֵי כָל־הָאָרֶץ) He is called." Note that Maker, the LORD of Hosts, and the Redeemer are all referred to as "The God of all the earth," suggesting a "plural transcendental unity."
- Plurality within the Godhead - King David writes: "The LORD (YHVH) says to my Lord (Adonai): sit at my right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet (Psalm 110:1), and Psalm 45:6-7 says "Your throne, O God (Elohim), is forever and ever....therefore God, Your God (Elohim), has anointed You with the oil of joy more than Your fellows."
- The Great Torah Blessing - The great blessing of the Torah, called Birkat Kohanim (the blessing of the priests) is a threefold blessing that includes the Sacred Name three separate times: The LORD (יְהוָה) bless you and keep you; the LORD (יְהוָה) make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD (יְהוָה) lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace (Num. 6:24-26). Notice that God then tells Moses, "So shall they put my Name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them." This is similar to the prophet Isaiah's vision of the seraphim crying out, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD of Hosts..." (Isa. 6:3).
- The Shema and Oneness (Achdut) - In the Shema we read, "Shema Yisrael (Hear, 0 Israel): Adonai Eloheinu (the Lord our Gods), Adonai Echad (the Lord is one)." Notice that the Name of God appears three names in the six primary words, and that the Shema and its blessings is composed of three separate portions (i.e., the Shema, the Vehayah, and the Vayomer sections). In addition, the Shema is recited three times in one day: in the morning, evening, and before going to bed.
Interestingly, the word echad in Hebrew can imply a unity in diversity, not absolute numerical identity (the word for one and only one, i.e., "unique," is yachid). For example, in Exodus 26:6 the parts of the Tabernacle (mishkan) are to be constructed so that "it shall be one (echad) tabernacle," and Ezekiel spoke of two "sticks" (representing fragmented Israel) as being reunited into one: "and they shall be one (echad) stick in My hand" (Ezekiel 37:19). Moses also uses echad in Genesis 2:24 when he says: "And they (husband and wife) will become one flesh (basar echad)." There is no contradiction implied in the "oneness" (אַחְדוּת) of God and His multiplicity, and indeed, the idea of the triune nature of the Godhead answers the age-old metaphysical problem of the "one and the many" (i.e., to find a unifying aspect behind everything to have a coherent notion of the "uni-verse").
The idea of the triunity of God does not impugn the Oneness of God, but it transcends rabbinical Judaism and Islam's idea of "absolute monism" by understanding oneness in reference to an eternality of intra-personal community. In other words, Ultimate Reality is multidimensional, personal and loving, and that is part of the very essence of God. There is no such thing as a "Person" - either human or Divine - that exists in an absolute vacuum, outside of relationship. Aristotle's "Unmoved Mover" is a solipsistic illusion and logical absurdity....
- Isaiah 48:12-16 - In this passage, the God of Israel calls Himself the first and the last (אֲנִי רִאשׁוֹן אַף אֲנִי אַחֲרוֹן). The "First and the Last," declares that "the Lord God (אֲדנָי יְהוִה) has sent Me and His Spirit (וְרוּחוֹ). The Creator (אֱלהִים) who is speaking claims to have been sent by the Lord God (YHVH) and His Spirit (Ruach).
- The Angel of the LORD - This mysterious King of Angels was treated as God Himself, exercising divine prerogatives and receiving worship. He is first mentioned in Genesis 16:7-13 where He is clearly called God. After he spoke with Hagar in the desert, she called him "the LORD" (יהוה) and identified Him as El-Roi (אֵל ראִי) - the "God who sees me" (Gen. 16:13). He later appeared to Abraham in the grove at Mamre (Gen. 18:1-ff) to reaffirm the promise of a coming heir, and later still, during the most terrifying moment of the sacrifice of Isaac, he cried out to stop Abraham from bringing down the knife on his son (Gen. 22:11, see also Gen. 22:15-ff). And note especially that it was the "Angel of the LORD" who appeared to Moses in the "burning bush" and identified himself as YHVH, the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (see Exod. 3:2-ff). For more on this subject, click here.
- The Confession of Eve - The very first prophecy of the Torah concerns the promise of the coming "seed of the woman" who would vanquish the serpent (nachash) that had originally tempted and deceived Eve (Gen. 3:15). This prophecy is sometimes called the proto-euangelion ("first gospel"), since it is the starting point of all subsequent prophecy and redemptive history revealed in the Scriptures.
It is likely that Eve initially believed that her firstborn son Cain (קַיִן) was the promised Seed himself. When she called her son "Cain" (wordplay from the verb kana (קָנָה), "to get"), she was expressing her faith in God's promise: קָנִיתִי אִישׁ אֶת־יהוה / kaniti ish et-Adonai, "I have gotten a man - namely, the LORD" (Gen. 4:1). Eve's faith was obscured by the translators, however, who rendered the Hebrew as "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD" (i.e., they inserted the idea of "help" and translated the particle et (את) as "with" rather than as the direct object marker for the verb). The ancient Jewish targums, however, agree with the original Hebrew. For example, Targum Yonatan reads: "I have gotten a man - the Angel of YHVH." The straightforward reading of Eve's words, then, expressed her hope that the LORD Himself would be made a man.... For more on this subject, see the article "The Gospel in the Garden."
- The Tevilah (Baptism) of Yeshua - At the baptism of Yeshua we see the Holy Spirit (Ruach Ha-Kodesh) descending as a Dove as the Father proclaims, "You are my well-beloved Son; in You I am well pleased" (Luke 3:21). The Prince of God was promised by the prophet to be God's Son, the anointed King of Israel Himself: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his Name shall be called 'Wonderful One,' 'Counselor of the Mighty God,' 'the Father of Eternity,' 'the Prince of Peace'" (Isa. 9:5[h]).
- Yeshua Revealed the Trinity - Yeshua the Mashiach plainly spoke of the Trinity by commanding His disciples to baptize others in the Name (singular) of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). He also equated Himself with the Father (John 8:58; 10:30; 14:8-9). He further told His disciples that he had asked the Father to send the Parakete (παράκλητος), the Holy Spirit, to help them serve God in a new way after His resurrection (John 14:16-17; 15:26).
- The Father is God - Isaiah 64:8; Malachi 2:10; John 8:54; etc.
- Yeshua is God - 1 Tim. 3:16; John 1:1-14; 9:38; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8,9, 5:6; John 5:18; Rom. 9:5; Phil. 2:5-11; etc. The Apostle John also identifies Yeshua with YHVH, the "First and the Last" of whom there is no other god (Isa. 44:6; Rev. 22:13, etc.). The very idea that Jesus is Melekh ha-Mashiach, the King of Israel, implies that He is none other than God, since only YHVH is the true King of Israel (Isa. 44:6).
- The Holy Spirit is God - Acts 5:3-4; John 4:24; Luke 12:10; 2 Cor. 3:17;
cp. 1 Cor. 3:16 and 6:19; Acts 13:2; Heb. 3:7-11; etc.
- Yeshua's Followers Taught the Trinity - Yeshua's followers ascribed to Him divine status as coequal with the Father. Many "triadic" formulas also appear in the Brit Chadashah, such as 1 Cor. 12:4-6, 2 Cor. 13:14, 1 Peter 1:2, Eph 4:4-6, Matt. 28:19.
- Philosophical Justification - Though a mystery, the Trinity is itself a coherent concept once you consider that there are various "tri-unities" in our own experience as human beings. For example, we experience the world around us as a triunity of space, time, and matter. Space is also three dimensional (width, height, and depth); and time is composed of past, present, and future. Matter itself is composed of proton, electron, and neutron. We also experience ourselves as a triunity of body, soul, and spirit. Theoretical Kabbalah likewise understands the sefirot of God's attributes to be composed of various "trinitarian" relationships (e.g., keter-chokhma-binah, etc.).
- The Marriage Union is a picture of the Trinity - When a man and woman are joined in the bonds of holy marriage, they are said to be basar echad - "one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). This union itself, however, constitutes the spirit of the love that itself is creative and life-giving, and therefore pictures a transcendental trinity.
- Jots and Tittles - If we put the first letter of Torah (i.e., the Bet in the word "Bereshit") together with the last letter of the New Testament (i.e., the Nun in the word "Amen"), the word בּן ("Son") is formed. The Scriptures are given by means of the Holy Spirit, who records the One true God expressing Himself in different Persons. God the Son is "First and Last" (Isa. 48:12, 44:6, Rev. 1:17, 2:8; 22:13).
- The Letter Aleph - The Hebrew letter Aleph (א), in both the Ashurit and First Temple scripts, represents YHVH (יהוה), since it is the very first letter of the divine alphabet. The basic gematria for Aleph is one, indicating the One and only God who is the Master of the universe. Note, however, that the gematria for the three parts of the letter Aleph add up to 26 (Yod+Yod+Vav). This is the same number as the sacred Name YHVH (Yod+Hey+Vav+Hey), also indicating a link between the Aleph and God Himself. And just as there are three parts to Aleph, but Aleph is One (echad), so there are three Persons to the Godhead, yet God is absolutely One. Interestingly, gematria of the word Aleph (אלף) is 111 (Aleph=1, Lamed=30, and Pey=80).
אנכִי אָנכִי יְהוָה וְאֵין מִבַּלְעָדַי מוֹשִׁיעַ
anokhi anokhi Adonai, v'ein mi-baladai moshia
"I, even I am the LORD, and besides me there is no Savior"
"May the grace of the Lord Yeshua our Messiah and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2 Cor. 13:14).
The Supremacy of the Messiah
During Rosh Hashanah we remember that God is our Creator and Judge, and both of these attributes refer to Yeshua our Savior. The New Testament identifies the Voice of the Creator as the all-powerful Word of God: בְּרֵאשִׁית הָיָה הַדָּבָר / "in the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1,14). Yeshua is the Source of all life in the universe: כָּל־הַמַּעֲשִׂים נִהְיוּ עַל־יָדוֹ / "All things were made by Him (John 1:3). The "Word made flesh" is the "image of the invisible God" and the "radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint (χαρακτήρ, 'character') of his nature" (John 1:14, Col. 1:15). All of creation is being constantly upheld by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3): "All things were created by Him (i.e., Yeshua), and for Him" and in Him all things consist (συνεστηκεν, lit. "stick together") (Col. 1:16-17). Creation begins and ends with the redemptive love of God as manifested in the Person of Yeshua our Mashiach... He is the Center of Creation - it's beginning and end. As it is written: אָנכִי אָלֶף וְתָו רִאשׁוֹן וְאַחֲרוֹן ראשׁ וָסוֹף / "I am the 'Aleph' and the 'Tav,' the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" (Rev. 22:13). Indeed, Yeshua is מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים / Melech Malchei Hamelachim: The "King of kings of kings." He is LORD of all possible worlds -- from the highest celestial glory to the dust of death upon a cross... יְהִי שֵׁם יהוה מְברָךְ / yehi shem Adonai mevorakh: "Let the Name of the LORD be blessed" forever and ever (Psalm 113:2).
Consider, then, how Yeshua the Messiah is greater than:
- The first Jew, Abraham (John 8:53-58)
- Israel and his children (John 4:12-14)
- Moses the lawgiver (Heb. 3:1-6; Matt. 17:1-8; John 1:17; Acts 13:38-39, etc.)
- All the angels of God (Matt. 13:41-42; Heb. 2)
- The Levitical priesthood (Heb. 7; 13:10)
- The Temple itself (Matt. 12:6, cp. Mark 11:16);
- All the sacrifices offered at the Temple (Heb. 8-10)
- King David, Israel's first great king (Matt. 22:41-46)
- Solomon, the greatest king of Israel (Luke 11:31)
- Jonah, one of the greatest Jewish prophets (Matt. 12:41)
- Elijah, one of the greatest Jewish prophets (Matt. 17:1-8)
- The Sabbath (John 5:17-18; Matt. 12:8)
Indeed, Yeshua is called the very Creator Himself (Col. 1:16-19, John 1:1,14, Heb. 1:3, 3:3-4) who sits upon the throne of God Himself (Psalm 45:6-7; Heb. 1:8). He is both the Judge and the Savior of the world (Matt. 16:27, Rom. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 John 4:14, Acts 4:12). As the Supreme Lawgiver Himself, "the Voice of the Living God speaking from the midst of the fire," Yeshua is both the LORD of the Sabbath (אֲדוֹן הַשַּׁבָּת) and the LORD of the Torah of Moses... He is the "Son of Man," a Messianic Title that denotes the promised King of the World (Dan. 7:13-14; Matt. 12:8, 16:27; Mark 8:38, 13:26; Luke 22:69, etc.). Simply put, Moses stands in relation to Yeshua as the creature stands before the Creator and is accountable to Him (Heb. 3:3; Matt. 17:1-3). The Name of Yeshua is the only name given for salvation (Isa. 45:21, Acts 4:12). Every knee shall bow to Him. Yeshua = YHVH (compare Isa. 45:21-23, Rom. 14:10-11, Phil. 2:9-11).
The Stumbling Block of Human Wisdom
The idea that God is "supra-personal" has always been a stumbling block to those who rely on carnal reason (i.e., human logic to understand the divine), since the mystery of the "triune" nature of God is only known through direct revelation (i.e., what the Scriptures reveal). Despite the hardship this might pose for supposed human rationality, God "destroys the wisdom of the wise" and makes foolish the sophisticated views of mankind (1 Cor. 1:19). Yeshua Himself is the "Absolute Paradox," the intersection of the eternal and finite - God in Messiah; God on the Cross. Monotheistic systems that attempt to reduce God to absolute monism are not unlike the ancient Greek pagan philosophers who said things like, "Everything is Water" or "Everything is Number." These systems attempt to be "rational" but end up limiting the power of God Himself... God is LORD over all possible worlds - the great cosmos as well as the subatomic realms - and He can surely do whatever He wills with creation. The triune nature of the Godhead implies that what is most real and true about ultimate reality is community and love. God is love - but love is not self-absorbed, like Aristotle's "Unmoved Mover."
Various "scandals" surrounding the identity and authority of Yeshua are found in the New Testament, such as innuendos raised regarding his miraculous birth, his claim to be "Lord of the Sabbath," his statement to be able to forgive other people's sins, his restatement of the true the intent of the Torah (the Voice of YHVH on the mountain), his claim that he is the Judge of the world and to be honored as God, the Savior of the world, the Redeemer of Israel, the Holy One of God, the Good Shepherd, the Way and the Truth and the Life, the First and the Last, the true Light, the Great I AM, the LORD of Glory, and on and on... "Who has ascended to heaven and come down? What is his name, and what is his son's name? Surely you know! / מַה־שְּׁמוֹ וּמַה־שֶּׁם־בְּנוֹ כִּי תֵדָע (Prov. 30:4).