The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Hebrew Scriptures and Ancient Rabbis
Trinity Grace Fellowship, 1 December 1989
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§I. Passages and /or titles in the Law and the Prophets teaching a plurality of Persons in the Godhead and identifying the number and roles of three Persons.
A. Elohim. Used throughout the OT. It is the tri-plural form of a word meaning "god, authority, etc." Several references make our point.
Gen 1:1. By the Beginning [One] created (singular) the Gods (plural) ...
The preposition bet is either locative "in" or instrumental "by," but "in" is not possible it makes the verse tautologous since the creation is the beginning of time; so this is the instrumental case "by" [cf. Augustine, Confessions, XIII.5 and Prov. 8:22-36, Rev. 3:14]. Is "Gods" the "plural of majesty" only and not God-Persons?
(1) No, because even the unitarian rabbis in Talmud conceded that Elohim indicates three persons. See II.G. below.
(2) No, because Moses had at his disposal singular words which can only refer to Absolute Deity: Jehovah, Eloah, Adoni, El Shaddai, etc. What was Moses's point in not using them?
(3) No, because the grammar in several other passages forbids such a view, which passages we now consider.
Job 40:15-24. Behold now Beasts (plural) which I made with thee ... his (singular personal pronoun) strength ... his (singular personal pronoun) force ... He (singular personal pronoun) is chief of the way of God ... [throughout the passage].
Beasts is the plural of majesty indicating the largest animal made on the sixth day of creation. This passage and other (cf. Gen 1:25 2:20 6:20 7:14 (cattle translates beasts)) establish: mere plurals of majesty cannot take plural pronouns they must take singular pronouns. Plural nouns taking plural personal pronouns must refer to plural persons.
Gen. 1:26-7. And the Gods (plural) said (singular), "Let us make (singular) ran in our (plural) image (singular), after our (plural) likeness (singular) ... And the Gods (plural) created (singular) the man in His (singular) image (singular), in the image (singular) of the Gods (plural) created (singular) Be (singular) him ...
Note: angels cannot create de novo; man is not made in the image of angels (but land animals are made in the images of various ranks of cherubim Verse 27 expressly excludes the angels (made in His image) and us/our cannot refer to Adam and/or Eve, since we then have the sin of tautology. Therefore make, image, likeness, etc. refer exclusively to Deity; and so the grammatical rules for the plural of majesty apply to say that God is truly tri-plural in Person since the tri-plural Elohim is the antecedent of tri-plural personal pronouns.
Gen. 3:22 11:7 Isaiah 6:8, etc. As above.
Conclusion for A. God is tri-plural as to Person; this is proved by the use of the tri-plural in conjunction with tri-plural personal pronouns, and two of these Persons are identified - the Beginning One Who is the Word (Who speaks in Gen. 1:3,26, etc), and the Spirit of God (Gen. 1:2). And God is singular in Being and Substance as proved by the singularity of image, likeness, created, make. The grammar of plural of majesty, the mere creaturehood of angels, and the ban against tautology completely refute the careless rebuttals of the unitarian rabbis [scrutinize Sanhedrin 244-6 Midrashim I. 59-60].
B. HaShema - Deut. 6:4. Hear, O Israel: Jehovah (singular) our Gods (plural) [is] a unioned/unified Jehovah (singular).
There are two Hebrew words for one: achad, used here and meaning a "collection or union of diverse objects"; and yachid, meaning "absolute singularity" (yachid also meant originally "a collection or union ...", but by the time the Hebrew Scriptures were written its meaning had changed). We give below the Biblical references supporting our claims; first note the following.
(1) Moses had available a word indicating "absolute singularity", but eschewed it in favor of the word which implies plurality within unity.
(2) This adds to,confirms the plural-of-majesty grammatical argument given above that Elohim indicates the Three Persons of the Godhead.
(3) This verse is an explicit statement of the Doctrine of the Trinity - it teaches the plurality of the Persons and Their unity as One Being. Jehovah indicates the unity of Substance and Elohim indicates tri-plurality of Persons. Thus Jehovah Elohim, or "LORD God" in the KJV NAS etc is the Hebraic way of saying "Trinity."
(4) This is the first fundamental tenet of the Mosaic faith. Moses is explicitly denying the unitarian, impersonal, Absolute Oneness and pantheism of the pagans on one hand, and the chaotic polytheism of the pagans on the other. Furthermore, the Trinity is fundamental to law, and hence it is appropriate that the Trinity be emphatically stated at the beginning of the giving of the Second Law, as Israel is about to enter the land and function as a society: community, community laws, love, mercy, justice, etc are all social issues implying a plurality of persons; and the God Who regulates them understands these issues perfectly since He is a "community" of Persons in the Divine Essence. [See Shedd, Dogmatic Theology I. 244-5]
Ached: Representative Usage
Gen. 1:5 2:24 29:20 32:8 34:16,22 41:5,25-6 48:22 Ex. 12:46,49 16:22 24:3 26:6,8,10,11,16-17,19,21, 25 Num. 10:4 13:23 14:15 Josh 3:13,16 6:3,11,14 Jud. 6:16, etc.
Yachid: Complete Concordance
Gen. 22:2,12,16 Judges 11:34 Ps. 22: 20(21) 25:16 35:17 68:6(7) Prov. 4:3 Jer. 6:26 Amos 8:10 Zech. 12:10.
In most of C - I below, the form of the argument is the same: the Person with the title under consideration is identified in a given passage as Deity, and yet that Person is distinguished in that passage from another Person also identified as Deity. This argument is obvious in most passages cited under each heading, so we simply list the passages and only occasionally comment.
C. The Angel Jehovah / Angel of His Presence / Sent Jehovah. Each passage which asserts the Deity of a Person called the Angel of Jehovah (or equivalent terminology) a fortiori implies Personal Distinction within the Godhead: Angel (Malak) means Sent One; the genitive of Jehovah is the genitive of source indicating the One doing the sending; hence Angel of Jehovah indicates a person being sent - Angel - who is distinct from another person - Jehovah - who does the sending; and if the text in question identifies Angel as Deity, then the text implies One Person of Deity is sending Another Person of Deity. Not every occurrence of an angel or of the phrase "angel of Jehovah" is Deity or a reference to Deity, respectively; but the Scriptures frequently describe a Person as Angel of Jehovah (or the equivalent) Who in context is given the Divine Name or Divine Titles (recall Isa. 42:8;48:11), Who is worshiped, sacrificed to, described as doing that which only God can do (redeeming, saving, ...), etc, and such passages unanswerably imply the Doctrine of the Trinity, We now list many such passages.
Gen. 16:7-14 18:1-33 21:17-21 22:11-12 32:24-32 35:3,9-15 48:15-16 Ex. 3:1-18/4:1-13 13:21/14:19 19:18-20/24:9-12 23:20-23 Num. 22:22-35 Josh. 5:13-6:5, Jud. 2:1-5 6:11-24 13:23 (note In Jud. 13:18, secret should be translated wonderful, a Hebrew word occurring 71 times, all of which refer to Deity, and occurs as a name only here and in Isa. 9:6 (!)) Isa. 48:12-17 (Verse 16 reads in the original and now Adoni Jehovah has sent We and His Spirit), Isa.63:9-10 (all Three Persons explicitly mentioned). Zech. 3:1-4 (cf. Isa. 61:10) Mal. 3:1.
Angel Jehovah is identified with the Man of Sorrows: Isa. 52:10;53:1-12 and note the Hebraism - "baring/revealing the arm" is the mark of the messenger (Angel) of Jehovah.
D. The Word of Jehovah. Implicitly, the Jehovah Angel is the One Who speaks for God and is His Personal Word. But to the passages of C above we add a few more that actually use the terminology Word of Jehovah (or the equivalent). The Word (Memra) of Jehovah in Targumim is taken up in II.A.
Gen. 3:8. The Voice of Jehovah = the Word of Jehovah.
I Sam. 3:1,3,6-8,10. The Word appeared to Samuel.
E. The Son of Jehovah. These are explicit.
II Sam. 7:14. From the standpoint of the long-term, a Messianic prophecy.
Ps. 2:7-12. Verse 12 should read Kiss the Son's feet ... The parallelism between Verse 11 (Serve Jehovah) and Verse 12 (Kiss the Son's feet) identifies the two. Verse 12 ascribes attributes, of Deity to the Son.
Prov. 30:4. Does the Spirit record facetious questions about nothing? If not, then the Son is a Person within the Divine Essence.
Isa. 9:6. The Son is expressly called Eloah (singular), the title of God used frequently in Scripture, and the Everlasting Creator, a title only usable of Deity.
F. The King of God. Ps. 45:2,6-7. The title God is used of two distinct Persons of Deity, One of Whom is the King.
G. The Wisdom of Jehovah. Prov. 8:12-36. In this passage, Wisdom is described as a person, and hence as a Person of Deity in a certain relationship with another Person of Deity. Time is part of Creation and therefore precisely co-extensive with Creation; hence that which happens before creation is timeless, and so has happened from eternity and continues to happens. With this in mind, we make a few comments.
Verse 22. Before His works of old implies the possession of one Person by the other Person is timeless always has been and always will be.
Verse 23. Set-up is a mistranslation. The Hebrew verb is used almost universally in Scripture (and translated) as POURED-OUT. Since this is a timeless pouring out, He is saying I am being poured-out from everlasting. What plainer language is needed?: Wisdom is the eternally begotten and generated Son of Jehovah.
Verse 24. Brought forth is literally twisted-out or twirled-out. Now twisted-out is here translated travail (of labor) in [J. Green, The Interlinear Bible] and is paralleled in the Hebrew text with beget in Isa. 45:10. This explicitly confirms the teaching above: I am being born when there were no depths.
Verses 25-6. Same verb used in Verse 24, with same ramifications.
Verse 27. Was is not in the Hebrew text there is no verb to be in Hebrew; the proper verb must be supplied from the context, which is the timelessness of eternity past. The idea is: I was already there in eternity, i.e. I AM there.
Verse 30. With Him is literally at His Side, i.e. as a full and equal Joint-Participant and Agent. Brought-up translates a Hebrew word different from that used in Verses 24-6: the word here means parented / fostered; so the Brought-up One is literally the Parented One, i.e. SON.
There is no equal to this passage in the N. T. or even any systematic theology for the precise theological statement of the eternal begetting and generating of the Son by the Father.
H. Immanuel. The name means "God personally among us which implies "God as one of us : see Isa. 7:14 in the extended prophetic context of 8:8 9:6.
I. Branch of Jehovah. Jer. 23:5-6; cf. Isa. 42:8 48:11; and note that the Branch is distinguished from Jehovah. I
J. Adonim. Mal. 1:6. Master is plural: Adonim or Lords - If I am Lords; cf. Ps. 110:1. Adon means "personal master"; this strengthens the notion of Personal Plurality in the Godhead.
K. The Spirit of Jehovah / The Holy Spirit. Many passages use "Spirit of Jehovah" of an angel working as an invisible spirit. But many others refer to Deity in a personal way, and/or as distinct from other Persons of Deity. See the references of L below; to these are added Gen. 1:2 6:3 II Sam. 23:2-3 II Chron. 18:23 Neh. 9:20, Ps. 33:6 104:30 139:7-8 Isa. 40:13- 4 63:10 Ezek. 37:9-14.
L. Other important passages.
(1) Passages specifying or implying the Three Persons.
Isa. 48:16 (see corrected translation given in C above).
Haggai 2:4-5. The particle et indicates either accusative or with. The context clearly favors with the Word for several reasons: the point is not the covenant but the presence of God among them; this is the sense of et at the end of Verse 4 (with you); this passage refers to and fits beautifully with Ex. 23:20- 3. Hence Verses 4b-5 should be translated:
For I am with you, says Jehovah of hosts, with the Word [by] Whom I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, and My Spirit abides among you: fear not.
This is precisely the rendering in the Targum Onkelos of Num. 14:30 - you shall [not] come into the land in which I: covenanted by My Word to cause you to dwell.
Ex. 3:2 4:23:20 32:34 (God and the Angel of God bring Israel out of Egypt), Isa. 63:7-14 (The Spirit of God brought Israel out).
Num. 6:24-6 Isa. 6:3. Further proof that Elohim was to be understood as precisely Three.
(2) Passages specifying or implying distinct Persons in the Godhead.
Gen. 19:24. Unavoidable distinction between Two Persons of Jehovah.
Isa. 41:21-3 In context Jehovah refers to Himself as we and us. Note the argument given in A above on the use of plural pronouns.
Isa. 44:6 Jehovah ... and His redeemer Jehovah of Hosts.
II. Rabbinical Citations. The most ancient scribes and rabbis taught the Trinity; these generally predate 200 C. E.. The less ancient rabbis, those generally associated with post-Christian compilation of Talmud (ending 400 C. E. for the Palestinian, 500 C. E. for Babylonian) and Midrashim (from 200 C.E. to 900 C. E.) are unitarian. The shift, in my opinion, is based on factors including the following: the abandonment of the normative hermeneutic or grammatico-historical method in interpreting Scripture in favor of the allegorical method governed by Oral Tradition, and the debates with the Church; i.e., the abandonment of Scriptura Sola coupled with the desire to defend the Pharasaic tradition.
A. The Targumim. These are the translations of the Hebrew Scriptures into Chaldee (or Aramaic or Syriac), and these, when compared with the Hebrew, give us crystal clear indication of what many ancient rabbis taught concerning the doctrine of the Trinity. Especially clear is their perception of the Word of Jehovah called The Memra of Jehovah as a distinctive Person of Deity Who personally articulates and manifests the Father to His People. They understood this Person to be the same as Angel Jehovah. The weight of historical evidence clearly places these works prior to the "Christian" era; this proves that ancient rabbis understood the Trinity on the basis of the Hebrew Scriptures, thus verifying what has See [J. W. Etheridge, The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan ben Uzziel ...; A. Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Appendices II, IX]. Frequently in the following references, the Hebrew reading is converted to the Chaldee reading by replacing Jehovah by Word of Jehovah, and in such a way as to teach the personal Deity of the Word; and any passage teaching the Deity of the Memra of Jehovah teaches that the Memra is a Person of Deity distinct from the Person denominated Jehovah the proof of this assertion is analogous to that given in the introduction in I.C. above. Finally, Memra is the Chaldee equivalent of the Greek Logos.
(1) Targum of Onkelos. In over 79 undisputed passages in the Penteteuch alone (!), Memra of Jehovah is used of Deity and hence a Person in the Godhead distinct from another Person called Jehovah. We give a few representative passages. These must be compared with the Hebrew text.
Gen 3:8,10. And they heard the voice of the Memra of Jehovah Elohim walking in the garden ... The voice of Thy Memra heard I in the garden, and I was afraid.
Gen 6:6-7.And it repented Jehovah in His Memra that He had made man upon the earth. And He said in His Memra that He would break their strength according to His pleasure.
Gen 15:6. And he believed in the Memra of Jehovah, and He reckoned it to him unto justification.
Gen 17:2,7,10. And I will set a covenant between My Memra and thee, ... And I will establish My covenant between My Memra and thee, and thy sons ... This is My covenant which you shall keep between My Memra and you ... And you shall circumcise ... for the sign of the covenant between My Memra and you.
Gen 28:20-1. And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If the Memra of Jehovah will be my help, and will keep me in that way in which I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to wear, and bring me in peace to my father's house, the Memra of Jehovah shall be my God.
Gen 31:49-50. ... The Memra of Jehovah will observe between me and thee ... see the Memra of Jehovah is witness between me and thee.
Ex 3:12. Because My Memra shall be thy helper ...
Lev 20:23. ... and My Memra hath abhored them.
Num 14:9. Only be not rebellious against the Memra of Jehovah, ... and the Memra of Jehovah is our helper.
Deut 33:27. The habitation of Eloha is from eternity, and the world was made by His Memra; ...
(2) Targum of Palestine / "Jonathan ben Uzziel". In over 212 undisputed passages in the Penteteuch alone (!), Memra of Jehovah is used of Deity and hence a Person in the Godhead distinct from another Person called Jehovah. We give a few representative passages. These must be compared with the Hebrew text.
Gen 2:8. And a garden from the Eden of the just was planted by the Memra of Jehovah Elohim ...
Gen 4:26 5:2 That was the generation in whose days they began to err, and to make themselves idols, and surnamed their idols by the Name of the Memra of Jehovah. Male and female created He them, and blessed them in the Name of His Memra, ...
Gen 22:16. By My Memra have I sworn ...
Ex 33:16-21. ... and by Thy speaking by the Holy Spirit to me and to Thy people. that we may be distinguished from all the peoples on the face of the earth? And Jehovah said to Mosheh, This thing will ... I also do ... And he said, Show now unto me Thy glory: but He said, Behold, I will make all the measure of My goodness pass before thee, and I will give utterance in the Name of the Memra of Jehovah before thee; and I will have compassion And He said, Thou canst not see the visage of My face; for no one can see Me and abide alive. And Jehovah said, Behold a place is prepared before Me, and thou shalt stand upon the rock. And it shall be that when the glory of My Shekhinah passeth before thee, I will put thee in the cavern of the rock, and will overshadow thee with My Memra until I have passed by.
Ex 34:5. And Jehovah revealed Himself in the cloud of the glory of His Shekhinah, and Mosheh stood with Him there; and Mosheh called upon the Name of the Memra of Jehovah.
Lev 1:1. ... and the Memra of Jehovah spake with him from the tabernacle of ordinance
Num 23:20. Behold, from the mouth of the Holy Memra I have received this benediction.
Deut 1:10. The Memra of Jehovah our Elohim hath multiplied you; and behold ...
(3) Jerusalem Targum. In over 70 undisputed passages in the Penteteuch alone (!), Memra of Jehovah is used of Deity and hence a Person in the Godhead distinct from another Person called Jehovah. We give a few representative passages. These must be compared with the Hebrew text.
Gen. 1:27. And the Memra of Jehovah created man in His likeness, ...
Gen. 16:13. And Hagar gave thanks, and prayed in the Name of the Memra of Jehovah Who had been manifested to her, saying, Blessed be Thou, Eloha, the Living One of all Ages, Who has looked upon affliction.
Ex 3:14 And the Memra of Jehovah said to Mosheh, He Who spake to the world, Be, and it was; and Who will speak to it, Be, and it will be. And He said, Thus shalt thou speak to the sons Israel EHEYEB [I will be] hath sent me unto you.
Comment. Many examples are common to the various Targumim. This proves that the doctrine of the Trinity was commonly believed amongst the Jews before the time of Christ. I cannot overemphasize the abundance of all the pertinent examples.
B. LXX (Septuagint). This is the translation by the seventy-two rabbis in Alexandria of the Hebrew Scriptures and Apocrypha into Greek; this work was carried from approximately 250 B.C.E. to 100 B.C.E. Here the word for the Second Person used by these rabbis is Logos (just as in the N. T.).
Book of Wisdom 18:14-6. For while all things were in quiet silence, and that night [of the first Passover] was in the midst of her swift course, Thine Almighty Logos leaped from heaven out of Thy Royal Throne, as a fierce Man of War into a land of destruction, and brought Thine unfeigned commandment as a sharp sword, and standing up filled all things with death,
C. Philo of Judaeus Alexandria. Born circa 25 B.C.E. and died circa 50 C.E., this Hellenistic Jewish rabbi took the concept of the Logos from Platonic philosophy, and refashioned it along the lines of the traditional Jewish understanding. Philo's concept of the Logos may be viewed then as another indication of the Trinitarian views of the most ancient rabbis. We give a sampling of descriptions from Philo. (See [J. W. Etheridge, op. cit., Volume I, 20-23] for full quotes; see also [H. A. Wolfson, Philo, Volume I, 200-94] for a thorough discussion, apparently written on the assumption that the most ancient Judaism was unitarian, which runs counter to Etheridge's views. After looking at many Philonic scholars who would disagree with Etheridge, it is my view their documentation is more easily explained by Etheridge's thesis especially scrutinize [Wolfson, op. cit., 291, lines 8-25] which makes Philo very self-contradictory unless a Personal distinction within the Divine Essence be assumed (and this is only one of many incongruities I found).)
(1) Philo describes the Logos in the following terms: "the Eternal Logos of the Everlasting God is the strongest and steadfast support of the universe", "Image of God", "Creator", man is "His copied image", "His [God's] Angel" who sits over the Cherubim, "the Father begat Him [Logos], "His [God's] First-Begotten Son", "Second God", "advocate the Son" for the high priest before the Father, "holds and directs the universe", "Mediator" Who "should determine between the creature and Creator", "receives the charge of the sacred flock", we should "regard the Image of God, Who is His Angel, the Logos, as God Himself" and "pledge our faith by the Begotten [Logos] and ... invoke the Divine Logos to witness", etc., etc., etc.
(2) Philo, in his interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures, views the Logos as the Person of Deity Who called to Adam in the garden, spoke to Hagar, wrestled with Jacob, and spoke to Moses in the bush; and he thereby identifies the Logos with Jehovah, Angel Jehovah, Memra of Jehovah, and the Man. We can further say that almost every distinctive phrase used of Christ in the NT is not historically original with the NT, but can be found, usually lock-stock-and-barrel, in the writings of Philo. My readings of Philo and his scholars force me to agree with Etheridge: first, Philo's Logos is much more than the impersonal sum or totality of God's ideas; and second, Philo confirms that the most ancient Jewish community was Trinitarian and looked to the Second Person for salvation.
D. New Testament (as a historical document recording rabbinical teachings)
(1) The New Testament never records the following kind of question or argument from the opponents of Christ: "there is no such thing as a 'Son of God', ipso facto you are not the Son of God". There are two possible explanations for this: first, Christ' s opponents were Trinitarian, or at least included many Trinitarians, who simply denied that He was the Son; or second, the NT totally misrepresents His opponents. That the second possibility is implausible is seen from the following typical and positive statements by the priests and rabbis; so our argument is much more than an "argument from silence", even though it is a most remarkable silence.
Matt 26:63. ... I adjure thee by the Living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.
Mark 14:61. Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed [One]?
Luke 22:66-70. Art thou the Christ? Art thou then the Son of God?
(2) Let me comment on the Mark passage. First, Mark was a disciple and secretary to Peter, being called a son of Peter (I Pet. 5:13). Second, the phrase the Blessed One is absolutely rabbinical - one constantly sees the following phraseology amongst the rabbis "the Holy One, Blessed be He". Third, it stretches the imagination to conceive of Peter dictating to Mark and accurately relating the terminology of the rabbis in all parts of the sentence the Christ, the Blessed One save the phrase Son of. Fourth, it cannot be maintained that the priests and rabbis are being sarcastic in the Matthew and Mark passages since it is (on the basis of the three reasons just given) their description of the Messiah as the incarnation of the Son of Jehovah would they blaspheme just to "twit Christ's nose"? Fifth, the rabbis label Christ's answer as blasphemy the Greek here does not mean profanity, but slander and how could Christ's answer be slander against God if Messiah is a mere man?
(3) The conclusion seems unavoidable: the rabbis generally recognized the existence of the Second Person, called the Son of God or Son of the Blessed One; they recognized that Messiah would be the incarnation of the Second Person; and they most definitely did not acknowledge Jesus as that Messiah.
(4) The above argument and supporting examples can be multiplied many times over with respect to the Son, and it and they have its and their respective counterparts which show the Holy Spirit to have been recognized as the Third Person (e.g. where is rabbi Nicodemus' protest in John 3:1-8 to the Personhood of the Spirit, presented by Christ as the Personal Regenerator of the saints there can be no protest since Ezek. 37:1-14 so teaches, as Christ implicitly reminds him in John 3:10, and why do the disciples not similarly protest in Jn 16:7,13, etc.)
E. Zohar. These are the rabbinical creeds, whose compilation has been done by unitarians, who mock those they call "mystics"; the mystics were the leftover Biblicists and Trinitarian rabbis of a dying age. Consider the following terminology of these "mystics", followed by a few citations translated in [Etheridge, op. cit., Volume II, 6-7], written long before the Council of Nicea. Emphases are mine.
(1) Terminology. Ab, Ben, veRuach hakadosh - Father, Son, and Spirit the Holy. Shilosh / Talithutho - Trinity.
(2) Exegesis of Scriptural texts.
Deut. 6:4. "Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah. By the first name in this sentence, Jehovah, is signified God the Father, the Head of all things. By the next words, our God, is signified God the Son, the fountain of all knowledge; and the by second Jehovah is signified God the Holy Ghost, proceeding of Them both. To all which is added the word One, to signify that these Three are Indivisible. But this mystery shall not be revealed until the coming of Messiah."
I do not agree with this exegesis of the text (see I.B above), but it is emphatically clear that they were Trinitarians, even expressing themselves in the very language later to be used at Nicea and later Councils.
Isa. 6:3. "Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth. Isaiah, by repeating Holy three times, does as much as if he had said, Holy Father, Holy Son, and Holy Spirit; which Three Holies do make One and Only Lord God of Sabaoth."
(3) Doctrinal Statement of the Trinity. "Come and see the mystery. There are Three Degrees [in Elohim]; and each Degree is by Itself [balchudi]; nevertheless [aph albag] All are One; all united in unity, and this inseparable from that."
F. The Midrashim. These were compiled generally long after the rabbinical desertion of Scriptura Sola. Nonetheless, a few glimpses of truth can be seen.
Gen. 1:1. "In the Beginning God created, Beginning referring to Torah, as in the verse, The Lord made me in the beginning of His way (Prov. 8:22)" - [Midrashim, Genesis I, 1]. By connecting Beginning with the Prov. 8 passage, we see the glimmer of the truth that Wisdom as a Person of Deity is the Beginning One by means of which God created; see I.A above.
Gen. 1:2. "The Spirit of God hovered: this alludes to the Spirit of Messiah" [Midrashim, Genesis I, 17]. There is a dim glimmer of the truth that the Father through His Logos spirates out the Spirit.
Gen. 4:25. "And she called his name Seth: For God hath appointed me another seed, etc. R. Tankhuma said in the name of Samuel Kozith: that seed which would arise from another source, King Messiah"- [Midrashim, Genesis I, 196]. This is a faint echo of the virgin birth (concerning the proof of which from the Hebrew Scripture see our outline).
G. Talmud (Gemara). The Talmuds were compiled by the unitarian descendants of the Pharisees. Nonetheless, there is the tacit admission, when the rabbis were not rebutting the "min" (heretics) concerning Gen. 1:26-7 (see LA), that elohim indicates three persons. Emphases are mine.
Berakoth 24 (Folio 6a). ... And how do you know that if three are sitting as a court of judges the Divine Presence is with them? For it is said: In the midst of elohim He judges [Ps. 82:1].
This clearly shows that apart from debate against Christians, the unitarians understood elohim as indicating three authorities; hence their courts consisted of three judges. This is further confirmed by the next passage.
Yebamoth 307 (Folio 46b). ... R. Khiyya b. Abba stated in the name of R. Jokhanan: The initiation of a proselyte requires the presence of three men; for law has been written in his case.
III. Concluding Comments.
A. Root cause of the rabbinical apostasy.
(1) The Root Symptom.
(a) The rabbis forsook the Scripture, as interpreted by the proper hermeneutic, as the sole inspired authority. The proper hermeneutic is "normative" in both senses of that word: it requires words, grammar, syntax, figures of speech, etc. be assigned the normal or customary meaning in accordance with the language and customs of the original audience, unless the context, or the context of parallel passages, require otherwise; and the hermeneutic defined in the previous clause is to be the standard or norm. The normative hermeneutic, when applied faithfully, recovers the meaning which a thoughtful member of the original audience would assign a passage, which must be the meaning intended by the Holy Spirit - for He wrote the Scriptures to be understood by the original audience; from this standpoint this hermeneutic is seen to be what is commonly called the grammatico-historical method. This hermeneutic lets the Scriptures say forth the Author's intended meaning unhindered.
(b) The rabbis substituted for the proper hermeneutic the hermeneutic of Oral Tradition: Written Torah could only be understood as interpreted by Oral Torah / Tradition, the latter being the province of the rabbis vis-a-vis the nation Israel. In this way the Scriptures were usurped by Oral Tradition, which means the Scriptures were usurped by the rabbis, who therefore needed to insure their own preservation within the nation as the keepers of the all-important Tradition. When modern writers say that modern Judaism is the religion of Talmud, they are correct; it has been millennia since Judaism was the religion of the Book. The only role left for the Book is to have the scrolls be objects of physical and cultural veneration, i.e., serve as idols.
(c) The rabbis claimed they were the continuation of the scribal and midrashic tradition inaugurated by Ezra and Nehemiah upon the return from captivity. If Neh. 8:1-12 be interpreted by the normative hermeneutic, then the rabbis' claim is seen as tragically false. As a scribe fluent in ancient Hebrew usage, Ezra read the law in the original Hebrew, translated it piece by piece into Chaldee, and caused the people to understand it as did the original audience; i.e., applying the normative hermeneutic to this passage yields the conclusion that this hermeneutic is exactly what Ezra was doing; he was not overlaying the text with centuries of orally transmitted Tradition and allegorical methods as the passage makes painfully clear. The following is a representative list of Scriptures setting aside Oral Tradition.
Neh. 8:1-12. Verse especially makes the point that Ezra did a verse-by-verse translation with comments (midrash) aimed at making the audience have the original sense of the written text.
Ps. 119:97-104. David has more understanding than his rabbis because he meditates on and heeds the Scriptures for himself. If the Oral Torah be included in testimonies, then how can these testimonies be so superior to the very teachers that would be transmitting Torah; this would be the sin of tautology.
Ps. 138:2. Jehovah magnifies His Word even above His Name! In this case the KJV accurately renders the Hebrew text. Just where does one fit Oral Tradition into this ranking?
As seen above in the case of the doctrine of the Trinity, Oral Tradition was adhered to and the Scriptures forsaken; for nothing did Isaiah (Isa. 29:13) and Christ (Mark 7:6-13) take the scribes to task. The remarkable story in [Shabbath 139-40 (Folio 31a)] demonstrates that Hillel and Shammai refused to tutor proselytes in Written Torah unless it was done in light of Oral Torah indeed Hillel originated the label "Oral Torah"
(2) The root cause of the root symptom. Adamic depravity is the only Biblical answer; those whom God regenerates, seek to know Him honestly in His Word. See Ps. 14:1-4 53:1-4 51:10,16-7 1:1-3 119:1-176 etc.
B. Applications to the Body of Christ.
(a) It is our prayer that this study promotes a right attitude and approach toward Holy Scripture.
(b) More specifically, I hope the issues dealt with in this study drive home the following: the importance and necessity of understanding the Hebrew Scriptures as did their original audience; that the Hebrew Scriptures are understandable and clear in their own right; the necessity of understanding the Hebrew Scriptures before understanding the Greek Scriptures; more generally, the necessity of understanding older revelation before understanding newer, and the latter in light of the former when its clear that subject areas of the two overlap. For example, we must understand Daniel before Revelation, and the latter in light of the former. These comments are implications of the hermeneutic which says in effect that the original audience could and did understand, and we need that understanding.
(2) Apostasy in the professing church. Paul prophesies great apostasy for the professing church during the latter times of the Body (I Tim. 4:1-4) - I believe these have been fulfilled and even more so during the last days of the Body (I Tim. 3:1-10). The apostasy of the professing church during the last days will easily overshadow that of the rabbis and scribes, and it will have the same root: Paul's description of the last days follows his exhortation to Timothy to straightly plow the Scriptures (2:15) - to have a high view of Scriptures, especially Paul's gospel, and approach them as did Ezra by s the proper hermeneutic - and so demonstrate himself to be a vessel of honor and not of dishonor. (Cf. the outline The End times of the Body of Christ.)
(3) Absolute necessity and exclusivity of Paul's gospel. This study confirms the view that Paul's gospel is true and that it alone describes God's dealings with His Elect today. More to the point, this study does this by its very existence. Please bear with me.
(a) It is universally taught outside Pauline Scripture that Jews minister to Gentiles, including the ministry of the Word. This is not because Gentiles are not smart enough or spiritual enough to learn the Word for themselves, but because the faith wrought in them by the Spirit compels them to learn the Scripture in no other way, and the faith wrought in the Jews compels them to teach the Gentiles the Word. And, relating to previous remarks, the Jews will teach them the Word only and not any Oral Tradition (cf. with [Shabbath 139-40, (Folio 31a)] cited in A(l)(c) above). The following is a brief list of non-Pauline Scriptures to that effect.
Isa. 2:1-5. The nations are ministered to through Jerusalem.
Isa. 14:1-4. The righteous Gentiles are personal slaves of righteous Jews.
Isa. 60:1-61:6. Righteous Gentiles are slaves of righteous Jews, provide for Israel's sustenance at every level, and in return righteous Jews minister spiritually as priests and ministers to righteous Gentiles.
Amos 9:9-12. The righteous Jews own the righteous Gentiles
Zech. 8:22-3. Righteous Gentiles must be taught by righteous Jews - the Gentiles will have it no other way.
Matt. 15:21-8. Christ explicitly confirms these prophets in the strongest possible language: Gentiles cannot and must not be blessed directly; they must and can only be blessed through their Jewish masters.
Acts 8:26-40. The righteous Gentile cannot understand the Scripture by himself; a righteous Jew must explain it to him.
Rev. 21:24. The saved Gentiles must come to Jerusalem forever and ever to be blessed.
(b) This study was prepared by a non-Jew without any personal assistance whatever from any Jewish Rav or tutor. If God deals with us today in accordance with non-Pauline Scriptures, then either those Scriptures are false or this study does not exist; but both possibilities are false, and by contraposition so is the prior assumption. The mere existence of this study, and of many other studies by many other non-Jews, can only be explained by Paul' s epistles; e.g., in the language of the olive tree allegory, today only the unnatural branches are blessed directly from the Root which is Christ - see Rom. 11:11-29 (and also I Cor. 12:13 Gal. 6:15 Eph. 3:6 4:4, etc). Thus the physical existence of this study validates the very man (Paul) many rabbis most love to hate. I urge true believers to cling to Christ as He is revealed in Paul's gospel as the glorified Head of the Body.
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