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Testing the Trinitarian 'hypothesis'...in the Old Testament

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  • Testing the Trinitarian 'hypothesis'...in the Old Testament

    http://www.christian-thinktank.com/trin02.html
    Christian Distinctives:

    The Trinity (II)

    Testing the Trinitarian 'hypothesis'...in the Old Testament

    http://www.christian-thinktank.com/trin02.html

    Below are three 'kinds' of data that would support a trinitarian hypothesis. If we can find reasonably clear data (hopefully in a wide range of settings) in EACH of
    these, and IF that data is NOT easily subject to alternate interpretations, then we can conclude that the Scripture teaches the basic doctrine of the plurality of
    personalities within the One God (not Athanasian trinitarian yet, but definitely the 'core' of the problem!).

    Let's assemble the data:

    Criterion One: The statements and creedal formulae that there is only ONE God, will have enough specificity to eliminate false gods, but enough
    ambiguity to 'allow' for multiple personalities within the ONE God. Obviously, the best place to look for this data will be in the arguments of the Unitarians
    (Christian, Jewish, Muslim).




    Data element One: The use of the "composite unity" word for 'one' in the Shema of Deut 6.4-5.

    This is the famous Shema: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one." There are two words for 'one' in Biblical Hebrew: 'ehad (composite
    unity--one made up of parts) and yahidh (uniqueness-only one of its kind). This verse is sometimes used by groups within the Jewish tradition to assert the numerical
    unity of God, over against what they perceive as a 'Christian' notion of plurality-in-unity. But this verse actually does the opposite. Instead of using YAHIDH, which
    MIGHT be of some support to their position, it uses 'EHAD, which lends itself to the plurality position. Consider some other passages in which 'EHAD is used:

    Gen 2.24--the man and his wife will be one (ehad) flesh--clearly a composite unity.
    Ex 26:6, 11--the fifty gold clasps are used to hold the curtains together so that the tent would be a unit (ehad).
    2 Samuel 2:25--many soldiers made themselves into 'one group' (ehad)
    Gen 34:16 --the men of Shechem suggest intermarriage with Jacob's children in order to become 'one(ehad) people'.
    Joshua 9.2 -- the western kings agree to fight Joshua as "one (ehad) force"
    Josh 10.42-- "And Joshua captured all these kings and their lands at one (ehad) time" (NAS) or "All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one
    (ehad) campaign" (NIV)
    Ex 24.3 --"Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one (ehad)
    voice, and said"
    2 Chr 5.12--"and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their sons and kinsmen, clothed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, standing
    east of the altar, and with them one hundred and twenty priests blowing trumpets 13 in unison when the trumpeters and the singers were to make themselves
    heard with one (ehad) voice to praise and to glorify the Lord"
    Gen 11.6--"And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one (ehad) people, and they all have the same language."

    The point here is that IF a strict UniTx was intended, THEN this passage would not use such a misleading word for 'one'. (cf. TWOT: s.v. "It stresses unity while
    recognizing diversity within that oneness.")

    Data element Two: the use of the plural 'Elohim' for God, INSTEAD of 'El' (the singular form)--WITH singular verbs and pronouns.

    This has been generally explained as a 'plural of majesty' or 'singular of intensity' . But all the related ANE cultures use the singular form "El" without a single case of
    'Elohim'--there are no ANE parallels to support this usage. If this incipient plurality-in-unity was either an implication of religious experience (e.g. "we experience Him
    as multiple-agents in One God") or simply a revelation, THEN there would be no better way to 'say it' in the text than Elohim(plural)+verb(singular)! (see TWOT,
    s.v. 'Elohim').

    [Two additional notes on the Shema: (1)I personally find it VERY suggestive that the Shema uses the plural Elohim in it, giving a rough structure like this: "Hear O
    Israel: YHWH (sg) [is] ELOHIM(pl) of us; YHWH(sg) [is] a UNITY(composite sg)." This might have been a subtle corrective to popular tendencies to make
    YHWH, the Angel of YHWH, and the Spirit of YHWH into SEPARATE deities, instead of a united-Godhead. (2) I personally think the passage is about the
    UNIQUENESS/Distinctiveness of God, instead of His unity--rendering the sense of the passage more along the lines of "the LORD is OUR God; the Lord is our
    ONLY God." 'Ehad means this in a number of passages such as I Chr 29.1; II Sam 7.23; Ezk 33.24.]

    But although this might be suggestive, I cannot give it too much weight. The standard Hebrew grammars point out that plural nouns with singular verbs, in honorific
    contexts, can also be applied to humans [BHS:122f, 7.4.3b-d]:

    "Humans may be referred to with honorific plurals, chiefly 'master' (not 'husband') and 'lord':

    q"The ox knows its owner, the donkey its master's manger" (Is 1.3)

    q"Wisdom preserves the life of its possessor." (Ecc 7.12)

    q"Our lord, King David, has made Solomon king." (1 Kgs 1.43)

    But it still remains suggestive, because of its "odd" use relative to other deities:

    "Most honorific plurals in the Bible involve the God of Israel, and the most common of these is elohim, used about twenty-five hundred times. When used of
    the God of Israel, this term usually takes singular agreement; when used of various gods, it takes plural agreement."

    Again, this is HIGHLY ambiguous and SOMEWHAT suggestive, in favor of a 'Pluri-tarian' view.

    Data element Three: the strange 'us' passages in Gen 1.26, 3:22, 11.7; Is 6.8.

    Gen 1.26: Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,
    Gen 3.22: And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us,
    Gen 11.7: Come, let us go down and confuse their language
    Is 6.8: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"

    These passages have been the subject of TONS of writings and analysis. The standard non-plurality understandings of these passages use the angelic 'hosts of
    heaven' as the 'us'. God includes the angelic court in His use of the word 'us' (perhaps like the 1 Kgs 22 passage--which DOESN'T USE the 'us' word though!)--cf.
    Oswalt, NICOT in loc.

    The main reason I reject this view is that God nowhere 'shares' this work with others. So Grogran (EBC, Is 6.8):
    There are, of course, many biblical passages that picture God surrounded by the heavenly hosts. Not one of these, however (unless the present
    passage is an exception), suggest that he, the omniscient and all-wise God, called on them for advice or even identified them with him in some way in
    his utterance...In a context that speaks both of waters and mountains (and so of nature) and of nations (and so, by implication, of history), the Lord
    refutes the notion that he consulted others (Is 40:13-14). The plural, therefore, suggests either the divine majesty or that fullness of his being that was
    to find its ultimate theological expression in the doctrine of the Trinity.
    It is interesting that even the Rabbi's recognized that Gen 1.26 was support for the triunity of God. In the Midrash Rabbah on Genesis:
    Rabbi Samuel bar Nahman in the name of Rabbi Jonathan said, that at the time when Moses wrote the Torah; writing a portion of it daily, when he
    came to this verse which says, "And Elohim said let us make man in our image after our likeness," Moses said, Master of the Universe why do you
    give herewith an excuse to the sectarians (who believe in the triunity of God)? God answered Moses, You write and whoever wants to err let him
    err.
    Also, there is a long passage in the Talmud (Jers., Ber. 12d, 13a) dealing with the problems of the singular-plural combinations in single texts; most explanations of
    which are really non-answers. The participants in the discussion point out several such verses, including Josh 24.19--"for He is a holy (plural) God"!

    Summary: The three data elements above show that there ARE passages in which the UNITY of God is affirmed BUT WITH the requisite ambiguity to suggest
    plurality-in-unity. In other words, the character of the data--making word and grammatical choices suggestive of plurality--indicates a probability of the trinitarian
    'hypothesis".

    more @ the site... http://www.christian-thinktank.com/trin02.html

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