The Trinity IS NOT Found in the Old Testament

After the ‘success‘ of her last post, ‘proving’ that Jesus is the angel of the Lord by providing precisely 0 quotes to support her case, SJ Thomason tries her hand at exegesis again by trying to claim that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is found in the Jewish Scriptures. So let’s see what she has to say to support the view that the Trinity is found in the Bible:

“The Trinity of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is not explicitly revealed as a “Trinity” in the Bible…”

Ah… That’s not a great start! But at least she is being honest and something I actually agree with: the Trinity is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible. It was not until the end of the 2nd century that the word Trinity was even uttered [1] and at this time, the majority of believers in his day found issue with his doctrine. As Theophilus, the Patriarch of Antioch claims: “the majority of believers, are startled at the dispensation (of the Three in One)”[2]. And it was not until centuries after the writings of New Testament was written that the doctrine of the Trinity was crystalised into what we would recognise today. As The New Encyclopedia Britannica[3] explains it, “[t[he doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies…. By the end of the 4th century the doctrine of the Trinity took substantially the form it has maintained ever since.”

But that’s enough history for now, because this is not an issue of what the Church Fathers said about the Trinity, but whether there is any evidence of the Trinity in the (Jewish) Bible. So, let’s continue with what she claims supports the doctrine of the Trinity:

Numerous Bible verses imply a Trinity. 2 Corinthians 14 states, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

So obviously, because the Bible does not talk explicitly about the Trinity, Christians have to reply upon verses which simply imply a Trinity, rather than spell it out. However, a careful examination of each of the passages she cites (and I will do a blog about each example which is cited by other Trinitarians) show that they do not constitute evidence for the Trinity, contrary to what is often claimed.

To begin, she claims she is citing 2 Corinthians 14 but for clarification, the passage she cites is actually 2 Corinthians 13:14. While a full analysis of the purpose and historical context of this Epistle will be provided later on in another blog, all that needs to be said for now, is that this is the closing remark of his second letter to the church he established in the Greek city of Corinth. So now we need to carefully read this in the context of Paul’s letter.

The first problem with interpreting this to support of the doctrine of the Trinity, is that if this was a foundational part of Paul’s theological beliefs, one might question why it appears out of nowhere and right at the end of the letter [4] given that is literally the last words in this Epistle. One would imagine that if Paul believed in the Trinity, there would be number of references to the Trinity, explaining it to the Corinthians and he would provide a clear explanation of it in his letters [5]. While instead, we see the opposite. We see Paul clearly claiming that Jesus was distinguished as a different entity from God, and as his subordinate in his other letter to the Corinthians (e.g. 1 Corinthians 3:23; 11:3; 15:28) and that’s even before we consider any of Paul’s other letters! The consequence of this, is that if Paul was trying to write a letter to the Corinthians to affirm the doctrine of the Trinity, he certainly didn’t do a great job communicating it!

 

Beyond this, the main problem with this interpretation, is that while it talks about Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit, there is no indication that they are co-existent, or that each are part of one God in three Divine Persons, which is what the Trinity is predicated on. Let’s not forget, the doctrine of the Trinity is that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three individual “Persons” but part of one triune God and literally nothing in this passage even hints that this is the case. Instead, all Paul mentions here, is three different entities in a list, without making any form of affirmation that they are in any way connected to each other, as the doctrine of the Trinity requires.

The obvious problem with this therefore, is that just because three entities are spoken about in the same verse, this does not mean that it should be taken to mean that they are one single entity. For instance; Matthew 17:1, Mark 5:37, Luke 6:14, Acts 1:13 and Galatians 2:9 all talk about Peter, James and John in the same verse, but that does not mean they are one entity! Equally, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are spoken about together in; Acts 7:32, Luke 13:28, Exodus 2:24, Deuteronomy 9:27, 2 Kings 13:23, Matthew 8:11, Jeremiah 33:26 and Genesis 50:24 but again, are we therefore to assume that these authors thought of them in the same sense as the Trinity? While I am being a little tongue in cheek, the point I’m referring to here should be obvious. When all you have is a passage which simply talks about Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit with no explanation or description that they form part of the Trinity, it is only people trying to infuse the message with their own Trinitarian assumptions which render this passage to even appear on the radar. If one were to just read this, without holding to the assumption of the Trinity, one would imagine that they would just read this as referring to three separate entities, just as we do with Peter, James and John or Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

In response to this, one could certainly point out there is no verse in the Bible which says that Peter, James and John or Abraham, Isaac and Jacob should be viewed as one single entity, so of course just because they are talked about together, that doesn’t mean they are one single entity. However, if one admits this, they must equally accept that the same reasoning cuts both ways, given that the same is true that there is no verse in the entire Bible that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one entity in a single Godhead, as Thomason has already admitted. Thus, at best this passage could only be cited as part of a cumulative case in favour of the doctrine of the Trinity if we have other passages which spell out the Trinity in detail. However, given that all cited verses are equally lacking an explicit exposition of the Trinity, this would not just be a house build on the sand, but the house itself is a sandcastle!

Moving onto the second quote she cites comes from the Gospel of Matthew:

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)

Now this is probably the most cited passage in favour of the Trinity. However, the first thing to mention about this passage, is that is a highly disputed passage, as to whether it was actually part of the original Gospel or whether it was a later interpolation. But before we analyse this passage in detail, we first need to consider an incredibly important point about the New Testament.

It is important to note, that the New Testament that you read today, is the result of scholars compiling thousands of Greek manuscripts in order to make the closest facsimile of the original text, not a directly preserved manuscript direct from the authors in the first centuries of the common era. As this relates to the Gospel of Matthew, there is not a single manuscript in existence prior to the fourth century of the entire Gospel [6]. By which time, the doctrine of the Trinity had already being discussed, debated and was formalised by Christians. Thus, even though all New Testaments after the fourth century include this passage, before that time, there are a number of pieces of evidence which suggest that Matthew 28:19 was not part of the original Gospel and thus, there is considerable doubt as to whether this was part of Matthew’s original Gospel.

For instance, Justin Martyr in his First Apology [7] gives instructions for baptism, whereby he only quotes John 3:3 and Isaiah 1:18 as his Scriptural authority for baptism. In other words, he does not quote Matthew 28:19 which suggests that this was not part of the original Gospel. When we also consider that in his collection Dialogue with Trypho, he does not include any reference to the Father or Holy Spirit, but merely:

“God has not yet inflicted nor inflicts judgment, as knowing of some that still even today are being made disciples in the name of his Christ” (Chapter 39 [8])

As Arthur McGiffert [9] summarises:

“There is no reference to the triune formula in the literature of the apostolic or sub-apostolic age, except in Matthew 28:19, and in the Didache, chap. 7. While the formula seems to have been in use by the end of the second century, but there were many Christians even as late as the middle of the third up to the very end of the fourth who refused to use it and insisted on baptizing in the name of Christ alone, and their attitude is difficult to explain unless they were following an earlier custom which the church at large had outgrown.”

Now McGiffert mentions The Didache. If you’ve never heard of it, I’m not surprised, it is not a well-known Christian document. The reason being, it was never intended to, as Kurt Niederwimmer notes: “regulate the behavior of the entire church” but was rather written with a local situation in view [10]. Furthermore, in the 9th chapter [11] it simply refers to those baptized that they “have been baptized in the name of the Lord….” which again, does not contain any form of Trinitarian formula. Beyond this, many Church Fathers were not supportive of the Didache at all, Eusebius of Caesarea, one of the most well-respected Christian historians, places The Didache in a category [12] he calls “bastard” or “spurious!” Thus, using this as evidence to support the Trinity is not without serious considerations which cannot be avoided.

Beyond this, if we consider Eusebius in more detail, he cites the Gospel of Matthew 47 times in his work and he never quotes Matthew 28:19 as it appears today in modern Bibles, but always finishes the verse with the words “in my name.” For instance, in his History [13] he says:

“But the rest of the apostles, who had been incessantly plotted against with a view to their destruction, and had been driven out of the land of Judea, went unto all nations to preach the Gospel, relying upon the power of Christ, who had said to them, “Go ye and make disciples of all the nations in my name.””

Which is notable for the lack of any mention of “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” as our modern version Matthew reports. This is further compounded when we consider in his Oration in Praise of Emperor Constantine [14] where we read the same thing:

“Surely none save our only Savior has done this, when, after his victory over death, he spoke the word to his followers, and fulfilled it by the event, saying to them, “Go ye and make disciples of all nations in my name.”

Therefore, the earliest evidence we have seems to strongly suggest that this passage was originally merely “in my name.” This not only makes sense from external evidence, but there is also internal evidence from the New Testament itself. The reason being, this passage would seem to contradict the what the book of Acts reports whereby:

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ’” (Acts 2:38)

“they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:16)

Peter “ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:48)

Paul had them “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5)

And given that Paul is also reported as saying that:

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)

We must therefore conclude, that the author of Luke-Acts, knew only of baptizing in Jesus’ name and does not include any reference to the Father and Holy Spirit in any of these passages. This would make theological sense given that the baptism is a symbol of Jesus‘ death, burial and ultimate resurrection and is perfectly consistent with the extra-biblical evidence. This is further supported by what Paul rhetorically asks in his letter to the Corinthians:

“Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:13)

The obvious answer to this rhetorical question is, ‘No. You were baptized in the name of Christ because He was crucified for you.’ Therefore, as Edmund Schlink [16] puts it:

“The baptismal command in its Matthew 28:19 form can not be the historical origin of Christian baptism. At the very least, it must be assumed that the text has been transmitted in a form expanded by the church.”

Or as The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge [17] concludes:

“Jesus, however, cannot have given His disciples this Trinitarian order of baptism after His resurrection; for the New Testament knows only one baptism in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:43; 19:5; Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 1:13-15), which still occurs even in the second and third centuries, while the Trinitarian formula occurs only in Matt. 28:19, and then only again (in the) Didache 7:1 and Justin, Apol. 1:61…Finally, the distinctly liturgical character of the formula…is strange; it was not the way of Jesus to make such formulas… the formal authenticity of Matt. 28:19 must be disputed…”

Just to note, this cites Justin Martyr’s First Apology, however, this is the same quote mentioned above which only quotes John 3:3 and Isaiah 1:18 as his Scriptural authority for baptism, so he does not quote the Gospel of Matthew at all.

We could also challenge the Trinitarian interpretation of this verse based on the context of the passage. As G.R. Beasley-Murray [18] notes:

“A whole group of exegetes and critics have recognized that the opening declaration of Mt. 28:18 demands a Christological statement to follow it: ‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me’ leads us to expect as a consequence, ‘Go and make disciples unto Me among all the nations, baptizing them in My name, teaching them to observe all I commanded you’. In fact, the first and third clauses have that significance: it looks as though the second clause has been modified from a Christological to a trinitarian formula in the interest of the liturgical practice in the Evangelist’s day.”

Given the above, if these are the two best pieces of evidence for the Trinity in the New Testament (trust me, they don’t get much better!) then this doctrine is on incredibly shaky ground, and that’s even before we consider the Jewish Bible. So if her case is so weak for the Trinity in the New Testament, can she redeem herself with providing ample quotes to support the notion that the Trinity appears in the Hebrew Bible?

Well the answer is… no, but before I begin with her assessment of the Hebrew Scriptures, I need to stress something which is incredibly important. As I mentioned in my last post, the notion that there is a Trinitarian nature to the God of Judaism is not only an alien concept, but it is hard to imagine a doctrine which is more opposed to fundamentals of the Jewish religion than the Trinity. Not only is this one of the primary expressions of Jewish faith, recited twice daily in prayer, is the Shema, which begins “Hear, Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4) and one of the 13 Principles of Faith, there are over two dozen quotes from various authors in the Hebrew Bible which speak with a unified voice, that the God of the Jewish Bible is one, alone and singular. Beyond this, the notion that there is a Trinity, as Christians believe, particularly with a part-human nature, is clearly not consistent with what is reported in the Jewish Scriptures (e.g. Exodus 20:2-3, Numbers 23:19, Deuteronomy 4:11-12, Deuteronomy 4:35, Deuteronomy 4:39, Deuteronomy 6:4, Deuteronomy 6:14, Deuteronomy 32:39, I Samuel 2:2, I Samuel 15:29, I Kings 8:27, I Kings 8:60, II Kings 19:19, Isaiah 40:18, Isaiah 40:25, Isaiah 42:8, Isaiah 43:10-11, Isaiah 44:6-8, Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 45:5-6, Isaiah 45:18-19, Isaiah 45:21-22, Isaiah 46:5, Isaiah 46:9, Isaiah 48:11, Hosea 13:4, Joel 2:27, Malachi 2:10, Psalm 73:25, Psalm 81:8-9, Psalm 146:3, Nehemiah 9:6 and I Chronicles 17:20).

But hold the presses, maybe all of these authors in the Hebrew Bible and Jewish people everywhere are wrong! There’s only one way to find out. Let’s hear what she has to say:

“Even at its inception, the Old Testament points to God in a plural form. Genesis 1 states, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrew word used for God is Elohim, which is a plural word. Genesis continues, “Let us make mankind in our image, according to our likeness.” The word “us” underscores the plurality of God.”

Again, this is a common claim made by Christians. However, this is perhaps one of the weakest arguments to support the Trinity in the Jewish Bible. So let us consider this in more detail.

So the claim here, is that because the term God in the Hebrew Bible here is Elohim (אֱלֹהִים) and that this is the plural form of El, this therefore must mean that God must form part of a Trinity. Obviously the first problem with this, is that even if we grant that this word should be read as plural, there is nothing within this passage which indicates that this should be thought of composed of three parts, as the doctrine of the Trinity suggests. Thus, even just on a prima facie basis, this passage once again does not support the notion of a Trinity. But that is not the biggest problem with this line of reasoning.

Perhaps the main problem with this argument, is that it is predicated on a profound misunderstanding of the Hebrew language. So the obvious place to begin, is to point out the fact that, like most other words Elohim has more than one definition [19]. While it can be used in the plural sense, to mean  “gods” or “men with authority” for example, Genesis 35:2 reads, “Get rid of all the foreign gods you have with you,” and Exodus 18:11 says, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods.” It is translated “judges” in Exodus 21:6; 22:8 and 9. It is translated “angels” (KJV) or “heavenly beings” (NIV) in Psalm 8:5 this is not the only definition of the word.

Beyond this, it can also be used in a singular sense for “God,” “god,” or “a man with authority, such as a judge.” This can be seen in Exodus 22:20, which reads, “Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the lord must be destroyed.” Another example is Judges 6:31: “If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.” In Exodus 7:1, God says that He has made Moses a “god” (Elohim) to Pharaoh. Again, in Judges 11:24, the pagan god Chemosh is called Elohim, and in 1 Samuel 5:7, the pagan god Dagon is called Elohim. So if it can have all of these different meanings, which one should be preferred for Genesis 1:1?

Well before we can answer that, it is essential to note, that when the word Elohim is used to refer to a single person, this should be interpreted, as linguists call it a “plural intensive” or “plural of majesty” which denote greatness. As The New International Version Study Bible [20] states:

“The Hebrew noun Elohim is plural but the verb is singular, a normal usage in the OT when reference is to the one true God. This use of the plural expresses intensification rather than number and has been called the plural of majesty, or of potentiality.”

A sentiment echoed by The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament [21] which explains:

“This word [elohim], which is generally viewed as the plural of eloah [Strong’s #433], is found far more frequently in Scripture than either el or eloah for the true God. The plural ending is usually described as a plural of majesty and not intended as a true plural when used of God. This is seen in the fact that the noun elohim is consistently used with singular verb forms and with adjectives and pronouns in the singular.”

This can be seen throughout the Hebrew Bible, for instance in Exodus 11:3 it reports that: “the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people.” Thus, when we read Exodus 7:1 states that: “the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made you a god [Elohim] to Pharaoh” this should be read that God would make Moses appear great in the eyes of Pharaoh, not as a literal God.

To support this view, when we read in the New Testament, Jesus quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4 in Mark 12:28-29 that:

“Now one of the scribes had come up and heard their debate. Noticing how well Jesus had answered them, he asked Him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus replied, “This is the most important: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God [Theos] is One Lord.” 

The Greek word used is Theos (Θεὸς) which is singular, not plural while the plural form is used eight times in the New Testament referring to men or false gods. (John 10:34-35; Acts 7:40, 14:11, 19:26; 1 Corinthians 8:5; Galatians 4:8). Therefore, even the authors of the New Testament did not refer to this passage as an proof-text to support the Trinity.

Thomason tries to argue from another passage in Genesis to support the notion of the Trinity:

“Genesis continues, “Let us make mankind in our image, according to our likeness.” The word “us” underscores the plurality of God.”

As with the Gospel of Matthew above, one of the most popular verses used by as proof in support of the doctrine of the Trinity is Genesis 1:26. However, the notion that this implies a Trinity has been challenged by numerous Christian scholars. The explanation which has been offered is that

For instance, the New International Version of the Bible [22] says this about the passage:

“Us… Our… Our. God speaks as the Creator-king, announcing His crowning work to the members of His heavenly court (see 3:22; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8; I Kings 22:19-23; Job 15:8; Jeremiah 23:18).”

Thus, this is consistent with what is reported later on in Genesis and elsewhere in the Jewish Bible in which God speaks of “us” or “our” when God is addressing ministering angels. When we add this to the fact that Job 38:7 states that angels were present at creation, this is perfectly consistent with what the Hebrew Bible reports. However, Thomason disagrees, given that she later notes:

“People sometimes argue that God is referring to His angels in Genesis 1, yet it should be noted that angels do not create.”

Such a response shows clear ignorance of the context of the passage, as it becomes clear in the very next verse that:

God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.” (Genesis 1:27)

Which is a sentiment echoed in Genesis 5:1-2, Malachi 2:10, 1 Kings 22:19-23. Therefore, as Gordon J. Wenham [23] notes:

“Christians have traditionally seen [Genesis 1:26] as adumbrating [foreshadowing] the Trinity. It is now universally admitted that this was not what the plural meant to the original author.”

A sentiment echoed by The NIV Study Bible which reports [24]:

“God speaks as the Creator-king, announcing His crowning work to the members of His heavenly court.” The verses cited are: Genesis 3:22, 11:7, Isaiah 6:8, I Kings 22:19-23, Job 15:8, and Jeremiah 23:18. These verses convey to the attentive Bible reader that the heavenly abode of the Creator is filled with the ministering angels who attend the Almighty and to whom He repeatedly refers when using the plural pronoun “Us.”

Now we have considered the above, it is now necessary to critically examine the next passage she cites in support of the Trinity. She claims:

The three persons of God can be found in the rituals surrounding the Ark of the Covenant. The Lord gave very specific instructions to Moses in the construction of the Ark of the Covenant, which is a gold-covered wooden chest that housed the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments (c.f., Joshua 3:11 and Exodus 25: 10-30; 37; 38; 39) or God’s Word. The Ark of the Covenant was placed in a sanctuary with a candlestick that contained seven oil lamps, which the priests were instructed to continually keep lit with olive oil. The candlestick, or “Menorah,” was the sole source of light for a 30 foot long, 15 foot wide, and 15 foot high room. The sanctuary further included a golden pot of “lechem panim,” which is literally translated as “face bread,” or the bread of the presence. The bread was to be accompanied by wine. 

You might be thinking… right… but what has this got to do with the Trinity? Well luckily (and I do mean luckily because I didn’t have a clue what she was on about!) she clarifies:

When these passages are considered in the context of the Gospels, one can assume that the Ark of the Covenant signifies the Father and His Word and promise to His children. The candlestick (or Menorah) represents the Holy Spirit of fire and ever-burning light. The bread of the presence represents Jesus, the Bread of Life (e.g., John 6.35). The bread and the wine together form a communion, which represents the body and blood of Jesus Christ

Before I go any further, I highly recommend, The Amateur Exegete’s post about this, which explains the problems with this in more detail. But to simplify the main problems:

The first problem with this, is that she claims that there were three items found in the Tabernacle, the the ark of the covenant, the golden lampstand, and the bread of the Presence. However, as The Amateur Exegete rightly points out: there weren’t three items found in the Tabernacle; there were four, in the Most Holy Place: the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:10-22), just outside the curtain separating the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place, the altar of incense (Exodus 30:1-10), in the Holy Place both the golden lampstand (Exodus 25:31-40) and the table for the bread of the Presence (Exodus 25:23-30).

 

So let’s just say that’s not a great start in trying to argue in favour of the Trinity! But anyway, let’s continue with this to see the next issue.

Well, is with the first part of the sentence, that this can only be understood when these passages are considered in the context of the Gospels. But as already noted, the Gospels do not exactly paint a clear, harmonious picture of the Trinity.

Beyond this, there is a severe lack of references to support such conclusions. For instance, the inference that candlestick (or Menorah) represents the Holy Spirit of fire and ever-burning light is not found in the Bible. Again, as The Amateur Exegete points out:

The word used in the LXX to describe the golden lampstand of the Tabernacle is luchnia and it is also the word the New Testament uses for it. In twenty-seven books, luchnia appears only twelve times: four times in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 5:15; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16, 11:33), once in the Catholic Epistles (Hebrews 9:2), and seven times in the book of Revelation (1:12-13, 1:20 [2x], 2:1, 2:5, 11:4). The author of Hebrews makes a clear reference to the lampstand of the Tabernacle but beyond that there is no explicit mention of the lampstand of the Tabernacle. And in twelve instances of the word, there is no connection between a lampstand and the Holy Spirit.

While in contrast, God is often illustrated as “a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29), so it is not surprising that fire often appears as a symbol of God’s presence. Examples include the burning bush (Exodus 3:2), the Shekinah glory (Exodus 14:19; Numbers 9:15-16), and Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 1:4). Fire has many times been an instrument of God’s judgment (Numbers 11:1, 3; 2 Kings 1:10, 12) and a sign of His power (Judges 13:20; 1 Kings 18:38). What’s more, the fire on the altar of burnt offering was a divine gift, having been lit originally by God Himself (Leviticus 9:24). God charged the priests with keeping His fire lit (Leviticus 6:13) and made it clear that fire from any other source was unacceptable (Leviticus 10:1-2). In other words, the notion that the Holy Spirit is symbolised by fire seems to be strange, when it is God which is most often depicted as fire.

Beyond this, there are no clear connections between the Holy Spirit and fire in the New Testament. In fact there are only possibly three passages which even hint at such a notion. The first is when John the Baptist predicts that Jesus will be the One to “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11, echoed in Luke 3:16-17) which indicates that the Holy Spirit is separate from any form of fire. While the second and perhaps closest passage which hints at a connection between the Holy Spirit and fire Acts 2:3-4 which reports that when Holy Spirit arrived it appeared as tongues or flicks of fire. However, as H. A. Ironside [23] notes:

“What looked like fire, however, was not fire; it was the visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit”

Therefore, given that the golden lampstand is literal fire (e.g. Exodus 27:20–21) which was placed in the tabernacle to give light in the Holy Place (see Exodus 25, 1 Kings 7 and Zechariah 4), it seems difficult to see why the Holy Spirit should be viewed as fire [25].

What’s more, other Christians have claimed that the lampstand, as it is the only source of light, points directly to Jesus as being the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5). They content that Jesus is the “true light that gives light to everyone” (John 1:9) and the only way anyone can come to the Father (John 14:6) and that given the lampstand was made of one piece, as Christ is one with His church (Colossians 1:8); the six branches (6 being the number of man) plus the main shaft equals seven lights (7 being the number of completion), man is only complete in Christ (John 15:5). Given the above, both God and Jesus would seem to be more likely candidates to the title of being symbolically related to the Golden Lampstand. This is further compounded when we consider the connection between the bread of the Presence and Jesus’ claim that he was “the bread of life” (John 6:35)

The trouble with this, is there are only four references to the bread of the Presence in the New Testament, none of which support this assertion. Three of the mentions are reported in the Gospels of Matthew (12:2-4), Mark (2:26) and Luke (6:4) which occur in a story whereby Jesus is picking grain on the sabbath. To just look at the account in Matthew, it reports that:

When the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” Jesus replied, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for them to eat, but only for the priests. (Matthew 12:2-4)

Therefore, it seems difficult to see how this lends any credence to the view that there is a connection between the bread of the Presence and Jesus. While the final mention of this is in the book of Hebrews chapter 9 whereby the author simply records what makes up the Earthly Tabernacle:

A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. (Hebrews 9:2-5)

So it seems incredibly difficult to see any connection between the bread of the Presence and Jesus. Even in the specific case she reports, the author of John does not even make this connection! Instead, Jesus is comparing himself to the manna (see Exodus 16:1–36) that God provided to the wandering Israelites during the Exodus (John 6:30-35). Therefore, as Amateur Exegete concludes:

Is Thomason suggesting that because the phrases “bread of the Presence” and “bread of life” share the word “bread” that this means there is a connection? Is that all she has? If Jesus is signified by the bread of the Presence, why is there not a single New Testament text that makes that connection?

Finally, we can now critically examine the alleged connection between the ark of the covenant and God the Father, which has a grand total of two verses which refer to the ark of the covenant in the New Testament. The first is the same as the above, in Hebrews 9 which again simply a list of the furnishings found in the Tabernacle (see above). While the second reference appears, not in the Gospels, but in Revelation 11:19 which reports:

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.

Which again, makes no connection to God the Father, but is simply reporting that the ark of the covenant is in heaven. Beyond this, as with the above, it can be more reasonably be argued that if there is any form of symbolisim, many Catholic scholars conend that this verse connections with the Woman of the Apocalypse (Revelation 12:1) and thus, Catholics hold the Virgin Mary is identified as the “Ark of the New Covenant.” For instance, The Catholic Church teaches this in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the Ark of the Covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells” [26].

While this is in some ways a secondary point, I must also point out that she seems to be completely happy to misrepresent the Bible for her own theological gains. However, she is in good company, given this is what the authors of the New Testament did! For instance, she claims that:

During the Last Supper, Jesus, who became the Passover Lamb and blemish-free sacrifice, “took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, this is my body which is given for you: do this in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” (Luke 22: 19-20).”

So she claims that during the Last Supper, Jesus became the Passover Lamb, but then goes on to describe the breaking of the bread found in the Gospel of Luke. However, what she is doing here is conflating two very different traditions. 

While the Synoptic Gospels report that Jesus was crucified on the day of Passover (on the 15th of Nissan) the Gospel of John, unlike the Synoptic Gospels claims that Jesus was crucified on the eve of Passover, which would be the 14th of Nissan not Passover itself. This is likely due to the motif which is not found in the Synoptic Gospels, which has Jesus playing the role of the Passover Lamb (John 1:29, 36). This tradition dates back to the Exodus (see Exodus 12:3-13 and Leviticus 22) whereby when the Jewish people were preparing themselves for their escape from Egypt, they received a command from God to kill a year-old sheep or goat and place its blood on the doorposts of their homes. The reason for this, is because the last of the ten plagues was the death of the Egyptian first-born and so, the Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a slaughtered spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord knew to pass over the first-born in these homes (see Exodus 11:4–6). Therefore, after this, every year Jews would celebrate Passover on the 14th of Nissan, thanking God for their deliverance from Egyptian slavery. Thus, building upon this tradition, the author of the Gospel of John describes that Jesus was crucified a day earlier than the Synoptic Gospels report on the day of preparation, just as the Paschal lamb was slaughtered on the 14th of Nissan.

The consequence of this, was that John also needed to change a number of details that the Synoptic Gospels report relating to the Last Supper. For instance, there is no mention of any form of Passover meal being consumed. This means there was no mention of Jesus or the disciples eating of matzo or drinking of wine during his version of the Last Supper. Instead, all John reports is the washing of the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). Beyond this, when Judas Iscariot leaves, the Gospel of John reports that he was taking the money to purchase food for the festive meal (John 13:29), which would only make sense if they had not yet eaten the Passover meal. In addition, when Jesus was handed over to Pilate to be crucified, John claims that the Jewish members of the party did not enter to avoid ritual defilement and not to be able to eat the Passover meal (John 18:28). Each of these details in John’s Gospel paint the clear picture that Jesus was crucified on the 14th of Nissan, just as the Passover sacrifice was. The consequence of this, is that she is trying to conflate two separate traditions which clearly do not mesh together, as if they are one seamless story. 

But the biggest problem with her blog, is how she does not actually demonstrate her case, but merely brings up another issue. As she claims:

Through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins, the Ark of the Covenant gave way to the New Covenant, which is the everlasting covenant of love between God and humanity. Through Jesus’ actions on Calvary, God’s perfect mercy (forgiveness for sins), justice (punishment for sins), and love were reconciled, opening the gates to heaven to those who choose to listen.

Now I will do a specific post about the New Covenant and how it is not what Christians think it is, but the bottom line is this. Literally none of what she offers support for the original contention, that the Jewish Bible supports the notion of the Trinity. Instead, what she attempts to offer, is poorly-executed typological exegesis. When we add that, to the clear and consistent theme throughout the Jewish Bible, that God is one, alone and singular and thus, the notion that there is a Trinity, as Christians believe, particularly with a part-human nature, is clearly not consistent with what is reported in the Jewish Scriptures.

Sources:

  1. Theophilus, Apologia ad Autolycum, Book II, Chapter 15
  2. Chapter III.—Sundry Popular Fears and Prejudices. The Doctrine of the Trinity in Unity Rescued from These Misapprehensions.
  3. The New Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 10, Micropedia Ready Reference, c.1976, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago
  4. While some Trinitarians claim 2 Corinthians 5:19 and 2 Corinthians 12:19 are examples in this letter, but both are equally controversial and contested, even by other Trinitarians!
  5. Equally, as with the two examples from above, Trinitarians also believe 1 Corinthians 8:6, 1 Corinthians 10:4, 1 Corinthians 10:9 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 allude to the Trinity. However, there is no mention in any of these which even come close to representing the Christian conception of the Trinity.
  6. The earliest complete Bibles are Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus which both date to the middle of the 300s CE
  7. Chapter 61, paragraph 1
  8. See http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/01283.htm (Chapter 39. The Jews hate the Christians who believe this. How great the distinction is between both!)
  9. Arthur Cushman McGiffert, The Apostles Creed. (p. 180)
  10. Kurt Niederwimmer, The Didache (p. 3)
  11. The Didache 9:5 (see http://www.sofiatopia.org/equiaeon/didache.htm)
  12. Peake’s Bible Commentary, (p. 596) there is a listing of books Eusebius feels to be canonical. Eusebius divides them into four classes. First those universally accepted, then those disputed books that were winning their way to general acceptance, and “in the third class comes books which he calls rather oddly ‘bastard’ or ‘spurious.'”
  13. History, Chapter 5, Section 2
  14. Chapter 16, Section 8
  15. Chapter 16, Section 8
  16. The Doctrine of Baptism (p. 28)
  17. Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (p. 435)
  18. Baptism in the New Testament. 1963. (p. 83-84)
  19. See http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/0430.html
  20. New International Version Study Bible, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985 (p. 6)
  21. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol. 1, 1980 (p. 44)
  22. NIV Study Bible, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985 (p. 7)
  23. H. A. Ironside. Acts. An Ironside Expository Commentary. Kregel. 2007 (p. 25)
  24. Gerald Bray, “God,” in Alister E. McGrath and James I. Packer, editors, Zondervan Handbook of Christian Beliefs (Zondervan, 2005) (p. 101)
  25. While they may be an allusion to the Holy Spirit in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, I will leave it up to you reading as to whether you believe the Holy Spirit is a symbol of fire and ever-burning light.
  26. See http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p4s1c2a2.htm (2676)
  27. Gerald Bray, “God,” in Alister E. McGrath and James I. Packer, editors, Zondervan Handbook of Christian Beliefs (Zondervan, 2005) (p. 101)

One thought on “The Trinity IS NOT Found in the Old Testament

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