Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Oneness of God

The Trinitarian doctrine has been a cornerstone of Christendom since the 4th century AD, when the Council of Constantinople occurred. It didn't simply drop out of thin air, as it had been developing since the 2nd century AD with the Greek apologist Justin Martyr being the first to propose a plurality of the Godhead. Justin's view though, was not Orthodox Trinitarianism. Justin believed that the Logos was inferior to God the Father and was the same Person as the Holy Spirit. Several of the Greek philosophers who converted to Christianity held a Binitarian view of the Godhead (that Jesus and the Father were the two Persons of the Godhead). Tertullian (who admitted that the majority, or "the unlearned", did not accept his doctrine) was the first to use the term "Trinity" to describe God as three co-equal and co-eternal Persons. The question is this: was this ever a part of Apostolic theology, or is it a product of Hellenistic thinking?

The cornerstone of monotheism for the Jewish people has always been Deuteronomy 6:4 (The Shema)- "Shema Yisra'el! Yahveh Elohinu,Yahveh echad."  (Hear, O Israel: Yahweh, is our God,---Yahweh alone.) For nearly 3,000 years, this has been the Scripture Jews have pointed to in order to show the Oneness and uniqueness of Yahweh in contradistinction to the false gods of the Gentiles. The first commandment of the Decalogue (The Ten Commandments from Exodus 20:1-17) is, "Thou shalt not have other gods, besides me." Isaiah the prophet stressed the Oneness of the God of Israel in many of his prophecies (Isaiah 40:25, 44:6, 45:5-6) and he probably did it more than any other Old Testament prophet. In Mark 12:29, Jesus stated His belief that the Shema was the most important commandment. Every day when devout Jewish men and women wake up, they recite the greatest commandment as a reminder of the God that delivered their forefathers from the land of Egypt.

Many Trinitarians state that the Hebrew word echad ("One") is not a strict unity, but is open to interpretation as speaking of plurality. It is true that echad sometimes has a compound plurality to it (Genesis 2:24), it is almost always used as speaking of singular objects and beings (Genesis 2:21). The word that Trinitarians say Moses would have used if God was singular would be yachid. This word is very rare in the Hebrew Scriptures, only being used 12 times. It also doesn't necessarily speak of oneness, but it always speaks of uniqueness. Zechariah 12:10 uses yachid to prophetically describe the coming Messiah as an "only begotten Son". Echad is the best word that Moses could have used in the Hebrew language to show that there is only one God, and God's Holy Spirit directed him to use that word.

Another famous verse that Trinitarians draw attention to is Genesis 1:26-

And God said—Let us make man in our image, after our likeness—and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the bird of the heavens, and over the tame-beast—and over all the land, and over every creeping thing, that creepeth on the land.

The Jewish people were never perplexed about this verse. Here is what one of their Targums (Aramaic paraphrases of the Old Testament, which I took from Artscroll's Tanach: The Stone Edition) say:

"And God said to the ministering angels who had been created on the second day of Creation of the world, 'Let us make Man.'" 

This conclusion is supported by several other passages in which God consults the heavenly court like a wise king:

Then he said, Therefore, hear thou the word of Yahweh,—I saw Yahweh, sitting upon his throne, and all the host of the heavens, standing by him, on his right hand, and on his left. And Yahweh said, Who will persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall, at Ramoth-gilead? And, one, said in this manner, and, another, said in that manner. Then came forth a spirit, and stood before Yahweh, and said—I, will persuade him. And Yahweh said unto him—Wherewith? And he said—I will go forth, and become a spirit of falsehood in the mouth of all his prophets,—So he said,—Thou mayest persuade, yea and prevail, go forth, and do so.- I Kings 22:19-22

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw My Lord, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and, his skirts, did fill the temple. Seraphim, were standing above him; six wings severally, had each one,—With twain, he covered his face, And, with twain, he covered his feet, And, with twain, he did fly. And they continued crying out one to another, and said, Holy—holy—holy, is Yahweh of hosts,—the fulness of the whole earth, is his glory. And the foundations of the porch, were moved, at the voice of him that cried,—and, the house, was filled with smoke. Then said I—Woe to me!—for I am undone, Because, a man of unclean lips, am, I, And, in the midst of a people of unclean lips, do, I, dwell,—For, the King, Yahweh of hosts, have mine eyes seen! Then flew unto me, one of the seraphim, And, in his hand, a live coal,—With tongs, had he taken it from off the altar. Then touched he my mouth, and said—Lo! this hath touched thy lips,—Thus shall be taken away, thine iniquity, And, thy sin, by propitiation be covered. Then heard I the voice of My Lord, saying, Whom, shall I send? And who, will go for us? And I said—Here am I,—send me.- Isaiah 6:1-8

Trinitarians also frequently draw from the most common Hebrew word for God: Elohim. This is a plural pronoun for God, but most scholars agree that this is a majestic plural. Jewish people frequently use plural words to describe great things (like chayim for life). Elohim is also always used with singular verbs when referring to Yahweh, which gives more evidence of Yahweh being one Person.

The Hebrew Bible in one places seems to make distinction between God and His Spirit (Isaiah 48:16), but in context, it speaks of the Holy Spirit (Ruach haKodesh) as the Spirit of Yahweh and not as another Person:

Now, the earth, had become waste and wild, and, darkness, was on the face of the roaring deep, ---but, the Spirit of God, was brooding on the face of the waters.- Genesis 1:2

Do not cast me away from the presence, and, thy Holy Spirit, do not take from me...- Psalm 51:11

But, they, rebelled, and grieved his Holy Spirit,---And so he turned against them as an enemy, He himself, fought against them.- Isaiah 63:10

The Old Covenant writings also speak prophetically about God's Son Jesus: the coming Messiah.These verses usually speak of the Son as a man who is anointed by God, sometimes they refer to His deity, and sometimes even both at the same time. None of these verses speak of the Son as a distinct Person from Yahweh, they merely confirm Jesus's identity as the Messiah and affirm that He is God in the flesh.

The kings of earth take their station, and grave men, have met by appointment together,---against Yahweh, and against his Anointed One [saying]...Let me tell of a decree,---Yahweh, hath said unto me, My son, thou art, I, today, have begotten thee...Kiss the son, lest he be angry, and ye perish by the way, for soon might be kindled his anger,----How happy are all who seek refuge in him!- Psalm 2:2,7,11

Thy throne, O God, is to times age-abiding, and beyond, a sceptre of equity is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated lawlessness,---For this cause, hath God, thine own God, anointed thee, with the oil of gladness, beyond thy partners.- Psalms 45:6-7

[[David's. A Melody.]] The declaration of Yahweh to my Lord—Sit thou at my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Thy sceptre of strength, will Yahweh extend out of Zion, Tread thou down, in the midst of thy foes.Thy people, will freely offer themselves, in the day of thine army,—in the splendours of holiness, out of the womb of the dawn, To thee, [shall spring forth] the dew of thy youth. Yahweh, hath sworn—and will not repent, Thou, [shalt be] a priest unto times age-abiding, after the manner of Melchizedek.My Lord, on thy right hand,—hath shattered—in the day of his anger—kings; He will judge among the nations—full of dead bodies! He hath shattered the head over a land far extended: Of the torrent in the way, will he drink;—For this cause, will he lift up [his] head.- Psalm 110

Wherefore, let My Lord Himself give, give you a sign,---Lo! a Virgin, being with child and giving birth to a son, thou wilt call his name Immanuel [translated: "God with us"].- Isaiah 7:14

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.- Isaiah 9:6, New American Standard Bible

In order to understand the Oneness of God, you have to begin where we did in this article: the Tanakh. We must understand the New Covenant view of God from what was revealed in the Old Covenant. This might be difficult at points because when Jesus was born, the greatest miracle in history had occurred.

In the beginning was the Miltha. And that Miltha was with Elohim. And Elohim was that Miltha. This was with Elohim in the beginning...And the Miltha became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw his glory, the glory as the Only-Begotten who is from the Father who is full of grace and truth.- John 1:1-2, 14

Miltha is an Aramaic word that has many meanings, including "Word", "Substance", "Manifestation, "Instance", and others. The first three definitions are the most fitting. Jesus is the Word (Expression) of God, He is the Substance of God (Hebrews 1:3), and the very Manifestation of God in the flesh (John 1:14). The Miltha is with God in the beginning like our word is with us. Our expressive abilities are a part of who we are and not a distinct person from us. Genesis 1 records the creation and God speaking things into existence; this is the first appearance of the Miltha. This clearly is not a different Person from Yahweh. The Miltha is the eternal God's Manifestation and Word.

The deity of Christ is presented more fully in John's Gospel than in any other Book of the New Testament. The Synoptic Gospels did not deny the deity of Christ nor state it outright, but they did heavily imply it. The Gospel of John also portrays Jesus the Messiah as a genuine human being. Jesus is said to get tired when going to Samaria (John 4:6) and even gets troubled and afraid (John 12:27, 13:21), Jesus also mourns the death of His friend Lazarus (John 11:35). On the other hand, Jesus is accused of blasphemy several times in John's Gospel. He claims that He was in existence before Abraham (John 8:58) and also claims Oneness with the Father (John 10:30). Jesus even more boldly claims that to see Him is to see the Father (John 14:8-9). In John 20:28, Thomas refers to the risen Jesus as, "Mari w'Alahi", which is Aramaic for "My Lord and my God!"

In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus reveals that He has authority to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6; Mark 2:10; Luke 5:24). He also says that the Messiah is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5). Only God should be the Lord of the Sabbath since He established it! Jesus also implies that the Messiah has to be more than just a man if He can be the Lord of His ancestor (Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44).

All four of the Gospels make distinction between the Father and the Son. The fact that Jesus prayed to the Father (Matthew 9:10-14; Mark 14:35-39; Luke 6:12; John 17) makes a good example of the distinction made between the Father and the Son. Jesus also reveals that there is knowledge that He doesn't have but the Father does (Mark 13:32). Many Trinitarians point to these distinctions as evidence that the Father and the Son are two Persons, but this is not faithful to the Biblical record.

Let's consider a few things:

1. Why does the Old Testament not make mention of a Son of God besides in prophecy?
2. Why are there no distinctions made between the Father and the Son before the New Testament?
3. Why is the Holy Spirit frequently left out of these distinctions?

I believe that the distinction between the Father and the Son is rooted in the incarnation of the Miltha. Paul explains what happened during the incarnation:

And think you so in yourselves, as Y'shua the Mashiyach also thought; who, as he was in the likeness of Elohim, did not regard it sinful to be the coequal of Elohim; yet disinherited himself and assumed the likeness of a servant, and was in the likeness of men and was found in fashion as a man; and he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even the death of the stake. Wherefore, also, Elohim has highly exalted him and given him a name that is more excellent than all names; that at the name of Y'shua ever knee should bow, of (beings) in heaven and on earth and under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Master YHWH is Y'shua Mashiyach to the glory of Elohim his Father.- Philippians 2:5-11

This tells us that Jesus is God made flesh. This also tells us that this incarnation had an effect on how the Messiah functioned on earth. Jesus is God, but He operates as a servant to God. Jesus is a genuine man, so He thinks and reasons as a man. His mind is the mind of a Man, He is limited in consciousness and in knowledge. This, I think, shows us why distinction is made between Jesus and the Father.

Luke 2:52 tells us that Jesus even grew intellectually like we all do. This does not take away from Jesus's deity, it just shows us His genuine humanity. The incarnation was not a charade, it was 100% real. The Word did not merely wrap Himself in flesh or dwell in flesh; the Word became flesh. There is a big difference there. In order to put it simply: the distinction between the Father and the Son is not a distinction between two co-existing and co-equal Persons, but between the modes in which God is existing. The Son describes God within the incarnation, while the Father is God beyond the incarnation. When God became flesh, it is obvious that He did not cease to exist anywhere else.

Mashiyach, Meshikha, and Christos are the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words for "The Anointed". Jesus is the Anointed One. Jesus was Anointed to heal us of our diseases, to cast out demons, and to preach the Gospel. Several verses of the New Testament declare that Jesus did not heal people because of His own divinity (even though He is God), but because of the anointing of the Holy Spirit of Yahweh that is upon Him:

Matthew 12:28- And if by the Spirit of Elohim I cast out demons, the Kingdom of Elohim has come near to you.

Luke 4:18- The Spirit of Master YHWH is upon me and because of this, He has anointed me to declare hope to the poor. And He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted and to preach release to the captives and sight to the blind. And to free those with the power of forgiveness who are oppressed. And to preach the acceptable year of Master YHWH.

John 14:10-11- Don't you believe that I am in my Father and my Father is in me? These words that I speak, I do not speak of myself but He who dwells in me, my Father does these works. Believe that I am in my Father and my Father is in me; otherwise believe even because of the works.

Acts 10:37-38- And also (you) know about the word that was in all of Yehud that went out from Galeela after the immersion that Yochanan preached concerning Y'shua who was from Nasrath, that Elohim anointed with the Ruach haKodesh and with power. And this is he who traveled around and healed those who were oppressed by evil, because Elohim was with him.

Let's also keep in mind that Jesus is not just distinguished from the Father, but also God altogether. Look at these verses:

Matthew 27:46- And about the ninth hour, Y'shua cried out with a loud voice and said, "My El! My El! [Lemana shabakthani] Why have you spared me?"

John 20:17- Y'shua said to her, "Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I ascend to my Father and your Father and my Elohim and your Elohim."

I Corinthians 11:3- And I desire that you know that the head of every man is the Mashiyach, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of the Mashiyach is Elohim.

Ephesians 1:17- That the Elohim of our Master Y'shua the Mashiyach, the Father of glory, may give to you the Spirit of Wisdom and of revelation in the recognition of him.

Why are Trinitarians willing to agree that the incarnation is why Jesus is distinguished from God but they aren't willing to use these same distinctions to show why Jesus is distinguished from God the Father? I believe that if we take the whole counsel of God, that you will realize that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are simply titles that describe the different manifestations of Yahweh, the one true God that are related to our salvation (Matthew 28:19; II Corinthians 13:14).

Unless stated otherwise, all Scripture quotations are taken from:
Rotherham's Emphasized Bible by Joseph Bryant Rotherham
Aramaic English New Testament by Andrew Gabriel Roth