Who really is the God of Genesis? (R)
Great article, the best treatment of the Trinity I have come across, and uncompromising in its stand on Who is the true and only God. So often people try to look for “common ground” between Christianity and other religions. There isn’t any, and we need to plainly say so. Thanks Russell.
It is good that you qualified that Genesis ch. 1 does not specifically nominate a Trinity, nor does Scripture refer to the deity as “persons”, except in job 13;8 where there is a reproof if one is to secretly accept persons. Whenever “person” is used in reference to deity, the Greek renders this word as “Substance”. If God is not a numerical “One”, why is it declared in Isaiah "thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel” or “Iam God and there is no God beside me”. If it had been possible to know the Son apart from the Father when Phillip asked Jesus, “Lord show us the Father and it sufficeth us,” Jesus would have done so. On the contrary he reproofed Phillip by stating “Have I been so long time with you,and yet has though not known me.” …
[Replied after some of those below]
Here, as below, I will confine myself mainly to Tertullian’s Against Praxeas and Gerald Bray’s Creeds, Councils, and Christ.
You assert that the oneness of God must be understood in an absolute unity rather than a composite unity (see The Hebrew language and Messianic prophecies). And Tom Wright pointed out, “there is no suggestion that “monotheism” or praying the Shema, had anything to do with the numerical analysis of the inner being of Israel’s god himself,” (more at The Incarnation: Why did God become Man?). In fact, to show that “there is nothing new under the sun”, Tertullian also noted the dogmatism of those who thought that belief in one God entailed belief in one Person in the Godhead:
this heresy, which supposes itself to possess the pure truth, in thinking that one cannot believe in One Only God in any other way than by saying that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the very selfsame Person. As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. How they are susceptible of number without division, will be shown as our treatise proceeds.
Your other claim is based on something lost in the translations between Greek and Latin. Tertullian defined the Trinity as three Personae and one Substantia. As pointed out below, persona in Roman Law was a party to a legal contract. But a hyper-literal translation to Greek results in πρόσωπον prosōpon, which means “mask”. Thus the Greek church misunderstood the Latin usage, and originally thought that the Latin Church taught modalism. And the Greek Church formulated the Trinity as three hypostases (singular hypostasis ὑπόστᾰσις) and one oὐσία ousia. But a hyper-literal translation to Latin results in substantia—both sub and hypo mean “below”. Yet this is a misunderstanding, because in Greek theological usage, hypostasis meant a quasi-personification of attributes proper to a deity. Indeed, as you inadvertently note, it was used in the Greek New Testament to mean “person”.
Thus as Bray notes, in the 4th century, Basil (a noted creationist theologian) realized that what the Greek church meant by hypostasis, the Latin church meant by persona, so they really believed the same thing.
Thanks for explaining such a difficult concept in simple terms. The ‘space’ analogy worked for me and I never heard (read) it before.
There is an important aspect which you haven’t made clear—that is that in Hebrew, a noun can have 3 forms—singular, dual, and plural (with plural being more than 2—unlike English where plural is 2 or more) and that elohim is plural implying that “God” involves a minimum of 3.
I believe I heard somewhere that Genesis 3:8 also is a clue that Jesus was there in the Garden. They heard the sound of the Lord God... The word for that is "voice". They heard the voice of God walking in the garden. How do you hear a voice walking? Doesn't make a whole lot of sense unless they heard the "Word" of God walking, which would be Jesus.
Thank you for including the analogy about space. I find that it has expanded my understanding of the triune diety, and I hope to share it with others. Thank you for your work! God Bless You!
This is a good read, very informative. It would be good to include who originated the concept of Trinity, Tertullian, and why. The church father wanted to illustrate the unique (and complex) relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each maintaining their individuality but each distinct in function. This would assist the reader further understand this concept. Once more it is a good read.
We are glad you liked the article. We can’t cover everything, but indeed, the originator of the Trinity is usually considered to be Tertullian (AD c. 160 – c. 225).
An instructive work is Creeds, Councils and Christ: Did the early Christians misrepresent Jesus? (updated 2009) by Gerald Bray, professor at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He explains that Tertullian, a lawyer and Christian apologist, realized that the Bible taught that God made a covenant with Israel. And on God’s side, there were actually three signatories: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Now in Roman law, the word for party to a legal action was persona. From this, Tertullian summarized the biblical teaching as tres Personae, una Substantia (three Persons, one Substance).
Tertullian explained the Trinity at length using copious biblical passages as proof that there was one God in three distinct Persons in Against Praxeas newadvent.org/fathers/0317.htm:
Bear always in mind that this is the rule of faith which I profess; by it I testify that the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit are inseparable from each other, and so will you know in what sense this is said. Now, observe, my assertion is that the Father is one, and the Son one, and the Spirit one, and that They are distinct from Each Other.
Praxeas was a heretic who taught a modalistic view like that of modern ‘Oneness’ groups: that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were all the same Person in different modes. Tertullian convincingly demonstrates the error with Scripture, while Praxeas’ few Scriptures alleged to support that view are shown to do the opposite.
Actually, a little before Tertullian, Theophilus of Antioch (AD 115–181) wrote in an apologetic work to the learned pagan magistrate Autolycus. In a commentary on the fourth day of creation, Theophilus asserted that the previous three days were literal days before the sun, and “types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom.” (To Autolycus 2:15, AD 181 newadvent.org/fathers/02042.htm).
If the Holy Spirit is actually a “third” party in the God Family instead of the power emanating from the Father and the Word, then the Holy Spirit is the Father of Jesus Christ. Jesus must have been mistaken in calling God his father!
Also, why does Paul extend greetings of "“grace and peace” to the Romans, Corinthians, etc. from the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ but not the Holy Spirit? Paul would be showing contempt for the Holy Spirit by failing to include it in the greeting if it were.
The trinity is just another example of paganism in the Christian religion.
The first statement is false: the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary so she would conceive Jesus. As shown in The Incarnation: Why did God become Man?, this meant adding human nature to the divine nature that the Son already possessed from eternity. As Tertullian pointed out in Against Praxeas (see above):
Besides, the flesh is not God, so that it could not have been said concerning it, That Holy Thing shall be called the Son of God, but only that Divine Being who was born in the flesh, of whom the psalm also says, Since God became man in the midst of it, and established it by the will of the Father. Now what Divine Person was born in it? The Word, and the Spirit which became incarnate with the Word by the will of the Father. The Word, therefore, is incarnate; and this must be the point of our inquiry: How the Word became flesh—whether it was by having been transfigured, as it were, in the flesh, or by having really clothed Himself in flesh. Certainly it was by a real clothing of Himself in flesh. …
Of them Jesus consists—Man, of the flesh; of the Spirit, God—and the angel designated Him as the Son of God, Luke 1:35 in respect of that nature, in which He was Spirit, reserving for the flesh the appellation Son of Man. In like manner, again, the apostle calls Him the Mediator between God and Men, 1 Timothy 2:5 and so affirmed His participation of both substances.
Your second argument is just an argument from silence. The role of the Holy Spirit is largely to point people to Christ, not to Himself. It is folly to use such arguments and ignore the clear teachings of the personality of the Holy Spirit. For example, “the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them,’” (Acts 13:2), which shows the Holy Spirit referring to Himself in the first person.
Your third argument is the reverse of the truth. The early church was adamant that the true teachings must be derived from the Bible; we can see this copiously demonstrated by Tertullian, for example. And they fought strongly against pagan philosophies. Indeed, as Gerald Bray noted in Creeds, Councils and Christ (see above), “it looks strongly as if Platonism was refashioned to meet the challenge of Christianity, not the other way round.”
I learned a great deal by reading this! I enjoy learning and gaining knowledge. I loved learning the Hebrew meaning of Elohim, as I was taught that it was one of Daddy's names. I also like the space analogy, great job!! I also loved how you showed, again, how HE is the GOD of Christianity and of Genesis, and NOT the god of any other religion or organization!!! THANK YOU. Sincerely Al.