When did we split God up into three separate beings…and why?
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I suppose it was only a matter of time before this subject was raised. Readers of my previous commentaries have already seen hints as to my beliefs regarding the Trinity, but I haven’t as yet done a commentary specific to the topic until now. The reasons are many, but foremost are that this particular doctrine is regarded as the bedrock of Christianity and one must tread carefully and make certain of their facts. Those who have dared question the Trinity are usually dismissed as not being Christian by those who do hold to the orthodox doctrinal belief. This is a shame because to always tag those who question the rudiments of the Christian faith as not being Christian is to remain ignorant. God is big enough to undergo even the most rigorous scrutiny even if His “defenders” are not. However before I continue, I suppose I should explain just what the Trinity is and why it has been so eagerly embraced by Christians.
I’ll begin this commentary by explaining that it is not meant to answer every question with respect to the Trinity. The amount of work necessary to follow every lead and compile all of the evidence is better suited to a Doctoral dissertation. While this commentary could be an adequate partial framework for just that purpose, in its present incarnation it is but a faint overview of the information regarding this doctrine. My main point presently is to bring awareness to people of the doctrine’s origins and why I believe that rather than being a construct of God Almighty, it is really a means by which the enemy divides us so as to make it easier to conquer. Heretical? Read and then you can be the judge.
The Trinity put very simply is a doctrine which explains that there is one God who eternally exists as three distinct persons—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Each are regarded as God, each is regarded as existing eternally and each is regarded as equal to the other. This consortium is referred to as the Trinity or the Triune Godhead. This definition is the one which the Council at Nicaea agreed upon in 325 AD:
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth]; Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost.
By the time of the Second Ecumenical Council fifty-six years later, some revisions had to be made based upon changing needs. The Council of Constantinople in 381 AD expanded upon the creed, making it more specific and giving broader identity to the Holy Spirit, which was less clearly understood as part of the over-all Triune Godhead at the time of the first council. This ambiguity regarding the church’s position on the Holy Spirit led to the Macedonian or Pneumatomachian “heresy,” which denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. The latter revision is the one which was disseminated most widely throughout the church. Called the "Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed" or the "Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed”, it was later simply referred to as the “Nicene Creed” completely overshadowing its former incarnation. The revised creed reads thus:
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God,
eternally begotten from the Father, God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God, begotten, not made, of the same substance as the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered, died, and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father (and the Son).
With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The question which may come to mind respecting this configuration is: “If there are three distinct persons, how can there be one God?” This is a question which has vexed just as many within the faith as it has to those outside of the faith. To assert the position of worshipping only one God, but then introducing a grouping of three is confusing to even the most pious Christian. This is perfectly understandable as it stands as an absolute incongruity.
The question then is asked: “Is the Trinity just God showing three different aspects of Himself?” The answer by orthodoxy is a resounding NO. The rationale is that the Bible shows that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three distinct persons. Advocates of this rationale point first to passages such as John 3:16, John 16:10, John 14:26 and Acts 2:33.
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.
For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes Him is not condemned,
- John 3:13-18
That passage is pregnant with so much that orthodoxy either misses or ignores that I am almost inclined to write on that instead, but as it is necessary for this present topic, I will continue. When one considers the wording in that passage as well as the passage near the end of the Gospel of Matthew, it is easy to come away with the impression that we’re dealing with three distinct persons.
“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
The words used in the Greek to denote Father, Son and Holy Spirit are thus:
Father: Pater πατήρ Strong’s #3962 ("father") is used of our heavenly Father. He imparts life, from physical birth to the gift of eternal life through the second birth (regeneration, being born again). Through ongoing sanctification, the believer more and more resembles their heavenly Father – i.e. each time they receive faith from Him and obey it, which results in their unique glorification.
Son: Huios υἱός Strong’s #5207 properly, a son (by birth or adoption); (figuratively) anyone sharing the same nature as their Father. For the believer, becoming a son of God begins with being reborn (adopted) by the heavenly Father – through Christ (the work of the eternal Son). In the NT, 5207 /hyiós ("son") equally refers to female believers (Gal 3:28).
Holy Spirit: Pneuma πνεῦμα Strong’s #4151 properly, spirit (Spirit), wind, or breath. The most frequent meaning (translation) of 4151 (pneúma) in the NT is "spirit" ("Spirit"). Only the context however determines which sense(s) is meant.
[Any of the above renderings (spirit-Spirit, wind, breath) of 4151 (pneúma) is always theoretically possible (spirit, Spirit, wind, breath). But when the attributive adjective ("holy") is used, it always refers to the Holy Spirit. "Spirit" ("spirit") is by far the most common translation (application) of 4151 (pneúma).
In the 21st Century, we have the benefit of two thousand years of rumination and contemplation over just what the application of these terms mean respecting God Almighty. For the most part, the Trinity as it stands today was molded by the time of the Arian Controversy during the formative years right after the convening of the first of the Ecumenical Councils convened by Constantine the Great between 325 – 381 AD. This controversy was sparked by the Alexandrian presbyter Arius ( 256–336) that a critical mass of bishops rallied around what eventually became standard language about the Trinity. This from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
This controversy was complex, and has been much illuminated by recent historians (Ayres 2004; Freeman 2008; Hanson 1988; Pelikan 1971; Rubenstein 1999; Williams 2001). It can be briefly summarized as follows. Arius taught, in accordance with an earlier subordinationist theological tradition, that the Son of God was a creature, made by God from nothing a finite time ago. Sometime around 318–21AD a controversy broke out, with Arius' teaching opposed initially by his bishop Alexander of Alexandria (d. 326). Alexander examined and excommunicated Arius. Numerous churchmen, adhering to subordinationist traditions about the Son rallied to Arius' side, while others, favoring theologies holding to the eternal existence of the Son and his (in some sense) ontological equality with the Father, joined his opponents. The dispute threatened to split the church, and a series of councils ensued, variously excommunicating and vindicating Arius and his defenders, or their opponents. Each side successively tried to win the favor of the then-current emperor, trying to manipulate imperial power to crush its opposition.
Unified thought on just what was the Trinity, was difficult to achieve at best. The reasons for this are actually quite simple: No Trinitarian doctrine is explicitly taught in the scriptures. That may seem like a provocative assertion, but it is never-the-less a fact. Scripture is used to buttress a presumption of a Trinity, but no such structure explicitly exists within scripture, rather we interpret based upon presumption. Needless to say for a host of reasons, this is dangerous to do.
What may be unknown to a great number of Christians, who hold to a Trinitarian view of God, is that the concept is not unique within religion world-wide. The concept of hypostasis as the shared existence of spiritual or corporal entities has been used in a number of religious and intellectual settings. The word hypostasis means underlying state or underlying substance, and is the fundamental reality that supports all else. This from Wikipedia:
In Christian usage, the Greek word hypostasis (ὑπόστᾰσις) means beneath-standing or underpinning and, by extension, the existence of something. It can also mean manifestation.
In Early Christian writings it is used to denote "being" or "substantive reality" and is not always distinguished in meaning from ousia 'essence' or 'substance'; it was used in this way by Tatian and Origen, and also in the anathemas appended to the Nicene Creed of 325. See also: Hypostatic union, where the term is used to describe the union of Christ's humanity and divinity. The term has also been used and is still used in modern Greek (not just Koine Greek or common ancient Greek) to mean "existence" along with the Greek word hýparxis (ὕπαρξις) and tropos hypárxeos (τρόπος ὑπάρξεως), which is individual existence.
It was mainly under the influence of the Cappadocian Fathers that the terminology was clarified and standardized, so that the formula "Three Hypostases in one Ousia" came to be accepted as an epitome of the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Specifically, Basil of Caesarea argues that the two terms are not synonymous and that they therefore are not to be used indistinctly in referring to the Godhead. He writes, "The distinction between ousia and hypostases' is the same as that between the general and the particular; as, for instance, between the animal and the particular man. Wherefore, in the in the case of the Godhead, we confess one essence or substance so as not to give variant definition of existence, but we confess a particular hypostasis, in order that our conception of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit may be without confusion and clear."This consensus, however, was not achieved without some confusion at first in the minds of "Western" theologians, who had translated hypo-stasis as "sub-stantia" (substance. See also Consubstantiality) and understood the "Eastern" Christians, when speaking of three "Hypostases" in the Godhead, to mean three "Substances," i.e. they suspected them of Tritheism. From the middle of the fourth century onwards the word came to be contrasted with ousia and used to mean "individual reality," especially in the Trinitarian and Christological contexts. The Christian view of the Trinity is often described as a view of one God existing in three distinct hypostases/personae/persons.The Latin "persona" is not the same as the English "person" but is a broader term that includes the meaning of the English "persona."
The early church was a group of very courageous people who were literally on the run for their very lives. The persecutions of Nero were only the first volley of terrors which were to be visited upon these people as they sought only to follow through with Christ’s command for them to, “Go and make disciples of all nations…”
Beyond having to dodge the overt persecutions from their government (Rome), they soon found themselves having to battle against deliberate error being disseminated in their name which began to twist and pervert the very nature of Christ. The authors of these works remained largely anonymous, but variously ascribed their works to the known Apostles to assure validity. For too many people, these works were read and believed. The situation became so dire that an early church father named Irenaeus, Bishop of Smyrna, wrote a five volume work titled, “Adversus Haereses” or “Against Hereies” to answer these errors. Irenaeus was a student of an early church father named Polycarp of Smyrna. Polycarp, in turn, was a student of the Apostle John. This pedigree lends considerable weight to Irenaeus’ writings. In fact no less that of a later church father under Constantine named Eusebius of Caesarea regarded Irenaeus’ work so important that he used them as a framework for his own writings to lend validity to the Universal Church.
Irenaeus wrote his work approximately 180 – 186 AD. In his work, he describes several schools of Gnosticism and contrasts their beliefs with that of the purity of Christianity. The influx of the Gnostics into true Christianity was confusing for too many people. As the populous was largely illiterate, none had the knowledge and skill to refute the errant writings. Part of what the Gnostics postulated was the concept of a muti-person Aion (Αἰών) into sets of fours or eights (Irenaeus, Against Hereisies, 1.1.1–3; 1.8.5; 1.11.1; 1.12.3; 1.15.1–2.) (Aions were Hellenistic deities)
The most well known of these early Gnostics was Valentinus (100 – 160 AD) According to a later Church father critical of the Gnostic’s works Named Tertullian, Valentinus was initially a candidate for the position as Bishop of Rome, but he started his own group when he was passed over. (As a point of edification, prior to the time of Constantine and the legitimizing of Christianity, church leaders in specific areas were referred to as bishops. Bishop, ἐπίσκοπος, epískopos in Greek, simply means “overseer” or “guardian.”)
There is much about Valentinus which is lost to history, but a Coptic version of his work, “Gospel of Truth” which was mentioned by both Irenaeus and Tertullian, was discovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945 lending credence to the veracity of the claims against him.
Consider the differing points of view the early church fathers prior to the first of the Ecumenical Councils held with respect to the Trinity. When one sees the gross error introduced by these councils, how is it that like a cafeteria, we Christians continue to “pick and choose” that which we like or dislike when it come to “truth?” I can only imagine the talks Irenaeus must have had with Polycarp regarding points of theology. One would think that if the Apostle John believed in three distinct persons as the makeup of the Triune Godhead, he would have passed that information on to his student, regarding it as an important fundamental. Further, it would be logical to assume that Polycarp would have passed that teaching onto Irenaeus. However, the written record does not reflect this belief.
Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (69 – 155 AD) recognized no Trinitarian concept of God. Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John. Based upon this excerpt, it could best be said that Polycarp regarded the Trinity as aspects of God rather than three distinct persons:
Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High-priest Himself, the [Son of] God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth, and in all gentleness and in all avoidance of wrath and in forbearance and long suffering and in patient endurance and in purity; and may He grant unto you a lot and portion among His saints, and to us with you, and to all that are under heaven, who shall believe on our Lord and God Jesus Christ and on His Father (The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians in APOSTOLIC FATHERS (as translated by J.B. LIGHTFOOT) 12:6,7).
Irenaeus, Bishop of Smyrna (130 – 202 AD) was not as clear respecting the Triune Godhead as is orthodoxy. He acknowledges the divine incarnation of the Son and the Spirit, but does not expressly designate them God. Rather he takes a position that both are aspects of God.
Justin Martyr (100 -165 AD) takes a subordinationist approach where God and Christ are concerned. (No mention of the Spirit appears) To explain, the subordinationist believes that Jesus is subordinate to that of God the Father, thus there is no equality of any sort of Duality or Trinity.
Origen of Alexandria (184 – 153) Conceptualized a quasi-triune Godhead, but was also subordinationist in his eventual belief, conceding that the Father alone was God.
When Constantine legitimized the Christian faith, he did not allow for the freedom in Christ which was the central point of Christianity. One will recall Galatians 5:22:
But the fruits of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.
I believe it is reasonable to ask why Constantine, if he was truly sincere about being a Christian, needed to convene a council at all, let alone six others over the course of following centuries between 325 AD and 787 AD. Could one not regard the scriptures as they stood as adequate enough? When we regard the Bible as inerrant, is that not what we’re essentially stating? This is where orthodoxy hides much of its origins. The true thought they all share is that the Bible does not stand alone; the Bible must be supported by doctrine and dogma. Orthodoxy asserts that NO ONE can simply pick up a Bible, read it and glean the truth. If orthodoxy truly supported such a notion, the plethora of doctrines and dogmas unique to a multitude of Christian faiths would be wholly unnecessary.
But such doctrine was necessary from the standpoint of the Roman Emperor. Constantine had a larger problem to face than his eternal destination; he had an empire to knit together—and to keep together. A necessity of order must exist in a proper structure. Structure avoids chaos. Whether for good or for ill, a single thought avoids confusion. Constantine was intelligent enough to see that adhering to the strict teachings of Jesus Christ would necessitate his removal as the Roman Emperor. The world as Christ envisioned it within the Gospels—as the Apostles wrote in their epistles—was not mirrored in the structure of the Roman Empire, or in Constantine’s goals.
Creating “heaven on Earth” was not what Constantine had in mind; ensuring the survival of the Empire under one leader was. As stated before, this necessitated control thus, the Ecumenical Councils. It was within those councils in which rules were written for application to the Christian “religion” to ensure the continuation of the Roman Empire. It was in these rules the concept of the Holy Trinity became a useful tool. Just as there was a “Heavenly hierarchy” manifest in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, so too could there be an earthly hierarchy manifest in the Emperor, the Pope and Holy Doctrine. Nothing would proceed from the mouth of the Pope and be set forth in Holy Doctrine which had not first been approved by the Emperor, thus the Pope did the Emperor’s will in much the same fashion as the Son did the Father’s will. This was a mindset which was emphasized most stridently throughout the new church. The writings of Augustine, Tertullian, Eusebius, and John Chrysostom buttressed and set down in the minds of the people this new view of the teachings of Christ. The strict flow of information mitigated the possibility of error. Since the Empire had control of most all the known original writings, there was little defense for those who saw the gross usurpation of the truth. As time went on, most simply forgot and no longer knew the truth from the carefully constructed and now ubiquitous lie.
The fall of the Roman Empire in approximately 480 AD further complicated matters by putting what few works there were out of the hands of most the populous. The early church had no structure as did the Jews, so without the direction of the Emperor, the people were left with nothing. Centuries passed with most people adopting various prevailing beliefs which came about through their conquerors, or beliefs simply made up. What was left of the Catholic Church was bunkered in various monasteries sprinkled about the former empire. This was the condition until Frankish King Charlemagne was crowned as Emperor in the year 800 AD by Pope Leo III.
The revived empires existed on uneven ground until 962 AD when Otto I was crowned Emperor. It was to him the true founding of the Holy Roman Empire is ascribed during his reign as the German King from 936 AD until his death in 973 AD. In between the dissolution of the Roman Empire in 480 and Otto I in 962 (and later, William the Conqueror in 1066), most of Europe was ruled by growing feudal kingdoms. People who could take and hold land, defending it from marauders, soon found others willing to trade their services for protection upon that land. From these tiny feudal kingdoms came the Charlemagne’s, the Otto’s and the William the Conqueror’s.
Otto I followed the same essential path as had Constantine over five hundred years before him, using the church as a means to solidify rule over the people. Otto’s victory over the Asiatic people to the East called the Magyars in 955 AD (most likely people displaced after the fall of the Roman Empire in 480 AD who mixed with the Huns, Goths and Vandals) helped to create an aura about him as the “Savior of Christianity. The Magyars were regarded as pagans, respecting nothing of the rules and regulations known to the Catholic Church.
So if the Holy Trinity is not three distinct persons, then just what is it? The question remains: How can God be talking to Jesus? How can Jesus talk about the Holy Spirit as something separate from Himself? These are all legitimate questions and their answer lies not in creating rules and regulations which have come out of our dearth of human understanding, but from the very Spirit we struggle to know.
God is not human. I realize that should be axiomatic, but even a cursory look at the voluminous theological history we have shows it is not. From portrayals of God as a grizzled old, stern-faced man with a white beard and long white hair, to modern imagery where a faceless God is seated on a huge throne with the much smaller Christ seated (or standing) beside Him, we have this image of a “human-like” God fixed in our consciousness. This anthropomorphism of God Almighty creates finite limitations not a part of God Almighty’s essential makeup.
Here is a surprisingly uncomfortable truth of which most Christians are ignorant: No one has ever seen God Almighty except for the Christ. Not Adam and Eve, not Enoch, not Noah, not Abraham, not Elijah … not even Moses. None of these great people of the Old Testament had ever laid eyes upon Almighty God in the flesh—ever. Why do I assert such a claim? To be fair, it is not my claim, but rather Christ’s. Consider:
For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and only who was at the Father’s side has made Him known
- John 1:17-18 (emphasis mine)
Paul speaks on this same situation in his letter to Timothy:
I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in His own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in an unapproachable light whom no one has seen or can see.
- 1st Timothy 6:14-16 (emphasis mine)
As does the Apostle John in his epistle:
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us
- 1st John 4:11-12 (emphasis mine)
So why is it that so many of these great people of the New Testament including Jesus Christ claim no one has ever seen God if in fact many people of the Old Testament have not only seen God, but actually sat down and had lunch with him. Consider this passage from Genesis:
The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my Lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”
“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”
So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”
Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.
– Genesis 18:1-8 (emphasis mine)
– Genesis 18:1-8 (emphasis mine)
Despite the blatant anthropomorphism here, it is a situation which makes either Moses (or his father-in-law, Jethro who taught him these stories) out to be a liar. Or perhaps Jesus Christ is the liar. What is clear is that both assertions cannot be truth. Yet this is but one instance of a face to face meeting between God and His people. Moses also met face to face with God on numerous occasions in the Tent of Meeting. Consider this passage from Exodus:
The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. - Exodus 33:11(emphasis mine)
Theologians who have struggled with this clear dichotomy came up with the novel approach of a “Pre-incarnate Christ” who is the “God” we see so often throughout the Old Testament. This is more formally, but generically called a Theophany (Greek θεοφάνεια), a spiritual manifestation of a deity. Despite the assertion from the author of Hebrews who claims that Christ had never been to earth prior to His earthly incarnation ( Hebrews 9:26), the Theophany presumption remains because in orthodoxy, there no other explanation as to who is representing God in these Old Testament instances. I’ll further add that the God of the Old Testament cannot be the Christ because that entity—especially if thought a pre-incarnate Christ—acts NOTHING like Jesus Christ. When people focus so much on Doctrine and Dogma that they cannot separate error from truth, we are in serious trouble. As a Christian, we are supposed to be able to see the Character of Christ clearly. It is a character of love and forgiveness and gentleness. Without belaboring this point (I’ve outlined my position on this particular argument many times in previous commentaries), I will simply say that the presupposition created by the Councils predominates any thinking on the part of orthodox theology. So certain are these adherents of orthodox theology of the belief that these men who were called together by the Emperor of the Roman Empire would allow nothing but absolute truth to be codified in their orthodox belief, they will stake their academic integrity on it. I’ll hasten to had that everything which was codified in the first council had to be approved by this same Roman Emperor, a believer in the pagan sun god, Amun Ra.
There are a couple of issues I would like to highlight before I continue, the first of which deals with the legitimacy of the position that the Old Testament god is in fact God Almighty. Christian theologians take much of their information (if not all) from the position held by the Jews. Little of the Jewish traditions are challenged by Christian theology, perhaps because of such earlier actions by leaders such as Otto I—I really do not know.
The Hebrew people denoted their god by the usage of the word, “EL” or possibly “ELOAH.” This rendered in the Hebrew as: אֵל. This is an interesting word pregnant with much tradition, but not much in the way of specifics. Many ancient Semitic tribes used EL as a generic word to denote a deity. This from Wikipedia:
Cognate forms are found throughout the Semitic languages. They include Ugaritic ʾil, pl. ʾlm; Phoenician ʾl pl. ʾlm; Hebrew ʾēl, pl. ʾēlîm; Aramaic ʾl; Akkadian ilu, pl. ilānu.
In Northwest Semitic usage El was both a generic word for any "god" and the special name or title of a particular God who was distinguished from other gods as being "the god", or in the monotheistic sense, God. El is listed at the head of many pantheons. El is the Father God among the Canaanites.
However, because the word sometimes refers to a god other than the great god Ēl, it is frequently ambiguous as to whether Ēl followed by another name means the great god Ēl with a particular epithet applied or refers to another god entirely. For example, in the Ugaritic texts ʾil mlk is understood to mean "Ēl the King" but ʾil hd as "the god Hadad".
The Semitic root ʾlh (Arabic ʾilāh, Aramaic ʾAlāh, ʾElāh, Hebrew ʾelōah) may be ʾl with a parasitic h, and ʾl may be an abbreviated form of ʾlh. In Ugaritic the plural form meaning "Gods" is ʾilhm, equivalent to Hebrew ʾelōhîm "Gods". But in Hebrew this word is also regularly used for semantically singular "god" or "God".
The stem ʾl is found prominently in the earliest strata of east Semitic, northwest Semitic, and south Semitic groups. Personal names including the stem ʾl are found with similar patterns both in Amorite and South Arabic which indicates that probably already in Proto-Semitic ʾl was both a generic term for "god" and the common name or title of a single particular "god" or "God".
In our English language, we can denote a proper pronoun by capitalization of the word. “God” would be capitalized to denote God Almighty, indicating a particular singular entity as opposed to a general entity. This would give the reader the clear understanding we talking about a particular God as opposed to just a god in the general sense. In Hebrew, there is no capitalization, thus context and usage is the only means by which to convey intent.
The Greek Septuagint is a translation of the Hebrew Bible (Torah) and some related texts into the Koine Greek which took place under the direction of Greek King of Egypt, Ptolemy II Philadelphus approximately 325 – 350 BC for its inclusion in the Library of Alexandria. The name “Septuagint takes its name from the seventy Jewish scholars who completed the translation.
Jerome was later commissioned to translate the old Greek texts into Latin as Greek was no longer the recognized state language. Jerome utilized copies of the Septuagint which had been revised earlier by Origen Adamantius, an early church father. Jerome also found and used certain ancient Hebrew texts to augment his translation much later on.
It should be noted that we have no extant copies of any of the original texts. We have copies of copies of copies. Through every translation and incarnation, cultural idioms have seeped in along with adherence to principles native to the translated language. (e.g. Hebrew has no capital letters, but English does. Thus, a presumption has to be made as to what would be regarded as a proper pronoun.) Given the circuitous route taken to get the ancient Hebrew scriptures penned by Moses in a Semitic language older than ancient Hebrew script into English, it is a fact that changes were made. This doesn’t dilute the essential story, but it could do much to change the intended meaning. “el” or “EL” אֵל simply means god. A presumption and a belief have to be attached to this term in order to make it mean, “Creator God Almighty.” Again if one holds that these various mentions in the Old Testament were in reference to God Almighty, one has declared Jesus Christ a liar because He directly refutes that assertion. (John 1:18) The indication is that the ancient Hebrews certainly regarded EL as Creator God Almighty, but those same Hebrews also did not recognize the deity of the Christ. Their position may be seen as in error by Christians, but at least it is congruent.
I would challenge scholars and others who desire to be true to the meaning of these texts to exercise their God-given intellect and reason and take a fresh look at the naked evidence of the scriptures, divested of any presupposition. I would venture to guess that God would begin to reveal much heretofore hidden from them by virtue of their own pride.
So again, the question is asked: What is the Trinity if not three distinct persons working in perfect harmony and consort with one another? This is my conclusion based upon my studies. This conclusion represents roughly thirty years of study, research, contemplation and prayer. One is certainly free to dismiss my conclusions; I only ask that they be given consideration.
I began by explaining that God is not a human being. I reiterate that here because it is vitally important the nature of God be kept forefront in one’s mind. What God is in His original construct is so vast, so encompassing, that a human mind cannot begin to conceptualize Him. In short, God is everything. There is nothing you can see, touch, taste, hear or smell which is not God. I like the image which Paul used in describing God as living in an unapproachable light as white light is a combination of all colors within the spectrum. Refraction gives us an image of these different colors, but under normal conditions one sees only white light. I regard God in His “normal” state as just such white light. Evidently, so does the Apostle Paul.
How does such a being present Himself to His creation, especially a creation so limited as are human beings existing in a temporal realm in a corporeal state? Initially, He utilized spiritual entities specifically designed to traverse the two states of being as His special ambassadors. These spiritual entities could interact with God on a level that I do not completely understand and then interact with humanity on basic, relatable level. Through this exchange, God Almighty could direct His spiritual ambassadors to take charge of human agency. He didn’t specifically tell them how to go about administering over us, but rather allowed them to administer as they saw fit. In this way, God Almighty was able to teach His spiritual ambassadors more about Him while teaching human beings more about Him. It is akin to a classroom filled with two groups of students learning the same subject in two different ways.
To directly interface with the human creation without violating the covenant He had with His spiritual ambassadors, God Almighty could do only one thing: Come to earth as a man. This is what He did in the personage of the Christ. I will reiterate: God Almighty is NOT a human being in His “normal” construct. Do not get sidetracked from that thought. God Almighty CAN be in two places at the same time given that one of those locations is a temporal “bubble” created within Him.
In this way, two parts of the Holy Trinity are realized; the essential “God” which is all about us, and His personage amongst us in the guise of the Christ. That leaves us with the last part of the Trinity which is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is that power which is imparted to believers as a result of relationship. One cannot possess (or harness, if you will) the power of the Spirit absent a relationship with God.
Here is a simplistic way that I have conceived to explain the Holy Spirit. If one has family member to whom they are close, a spouse or even a close friend, one develops a relationship with that person. This relationship can be extraordinarily powerful. Through such a relationship, much can be conveyed. You will learn skills and glean information either directly or indirectly as a result of the power of that relationship. We all have relationships with others to a greater or lesser degree. Think of a teacher or some mentor who was prominent in your life and the power that relationship has had in your life. That (in a very small way) is akin to the Holy Spirit in a Christ-centered relationship. I call it “Relational Causality.”
When Christ gave believers the “Great Commission” related to us at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, he told us to baptize others giving special note of the meaning by which Creator God wishes us to know Him; His “normal” or “Essential Construct,” His “Empathetic Humanity” and the incredibly strong and everlasting “Relational Causality.” In understanding the breadth and totality of His being, we would come to better understand our own. Consider that human beings are essentially spirit in construct. While we exist here in this temporal realm, we are encased in a finite human body. I’ve already used the analogy of the power of relationship. So in this way, God has given us an example of the true construct of the “Trinity” just by looking at ourselves: Spirit, flesh and relationship.
Orthodoxy is essentially tradition. Traditions come about for a number of reasons as I have hopefully been able to illustrate adequately enough in this commentary. In the 21st Century, we have access to information on a scale not ever seen in the history of humanity. In the face of this information (which is not new, just rediscovered), it is incumbent upon our teachers, leaders and pastors to break from the traditions which have been proven to be false and look once again towards God for the truth. This means that many of them will lose all their worldly goods because their world was built upon the sand to begin with. While from an earthly perspective this seems like too much to ask of any one person, the reality is that if one were to win the whole world, it would not be a fair exchange for one’s soul. The choice as to which to follow is up to the individual. Truth or tradition? It will take courage to decide, especially to those seduced already by the world.
I will leave with this prescient quote from Joshua:
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
- Joshua 24:14-15 (emphasis mine)