The Triunity (Trinity) of God in The Old Testament
by Rich Deem

Introduction

God is One?

Does the Old Testament contradict the doctrine of the Trinity? Contrary to the claims of some, the Old Testament teaches both the oneness and plurality of God.

Rich Deem

Jews say that the Shema (pronounced "Shmah"), "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord"1 contradicts the Christian doctrine that Jesus is God. In addition the Shema, there are a number of other Old and New Testament verses that proclaim that God is one (see God is One). However, the triunity of God is taught throughout the Old Testament, even in the Shema!

Oneness implies plurality

How can a statement of oneness imply plurality? In the Shema, the word translated "one" from the Hebrew is echad, which demonstrates compound unity of oneness. Specific examples of how echad demonstrates compound unity are found below:

Absolute oneness

These are a few of the many examples of how echad is used to show the unity of oneness. How would the Hebrew be different if God had wanted to express absolute oneness? There is another Hebrew word, yachid, that is used to express the idea of absolute oneness. Examples of it are shown below:

Of course, the last verse is a famous messianic prophecy proclaiming how the Messiah would be killed (see Jesus Christ - Messiah of the Rabbinical Writers). If the Shema had intended to express absolute oneness, it would have used the Hebrew word yachid instead of echad. However, the word yachid is never used in reference to God (Elohim)!

Elohim—God's plurality

The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything The Hebrew word translated "God" is the word El or Elohim. Elohim is the plural form of El. The plural form is used 2607 of the 2845 times the word "God" is used in the Old Testament. Not only is the word for God usually used in the plural form, but several verses refer to God as "Us":

An example of how the Hebrew word Elohim is used in the plural is that it is translated "gods" (referring to idols) 235 times in the Old Testament. It is exactly the same word that is translated "God," referring to the Almighty. An example is given below:

"I am the LORD your God [Elohim], who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. "You shall have no other gods [Elohim] before Me. (Exodus 20:2-3)

God the Father

Not only is the plurality of God found in the Old Testament, but the members of the triunity are also defined. Several Old Testament verses tell us that God is our Father:

God the Son

The Son is also found in the Old Testament:

God the Holy Spirit

The third member of the triunity of God, The Holy Spirit, is also found extensively in the Old Testament:

Genesis 1:2 1 Samuel 11:6 Psalm 106:33 Ezekiel 3:24
Genesis 6:3 1 Samuel 16:13 Psalm 139:7 Ezekiel 8:3
Exodus 31:3 1 Samuel 16:14 Psalm 143:10 Ezekiel 11:1
Exodus 35:31 1 Samuel 19:20 Isaiah 11:2 Ezekiel 11:5
Numbers 11:17 1 Samuel 19:23 Isaiah 30:1 Ezekiel 11:24
Numbers 11:25 2 Samuel 23:2 Isaiah 32:15 Ezekiel 36:27
Numbers 11:26 1 Kings 18:12 Isaiah 34:16 Ezekiel 37:1
Numbers 11:29 1 Kings 22:24 Isaiah 40:13 Ezekiel 37:14
Numbers 24:2 2 Kings 2:16 Isaiah 42:1 Ezekiel 39:29
Numbers 27:18 1 Chronicles 12:18 Isaiah 44:3 Ezekiel 43:5
Judges 3:10 2 Chronicles 15:1 Isaiah 48:16 Joel 2:28
Judges 6:34 2 Chronicles 18:23 Isaiah 59:21 Joel 2:29
Judges 11:29 2 Chronicles 20:14 Isaiah 61:1 Micah 2:7
Judges 13:25 2 Chronicles 24:20 Isaiah 63:10 Micah 3:8
Judges 14:6 Nehemiah 9:20 Isaiah 63:11 Haggai 2:5
Judges 14:19 Nehemiah 9:30 Isaiah 63:14 Zechariah 4:6
Judges 15:14 Job 33:4 Ezekiel 2:2 Zechariah 7:12
1 Samuel 10:6 Psalm 51:11 Ezekiel 3:12 Zechariah 12:10
1 Samuel 10:10 Psalm 104:30 Ezekiel 3:14 Malachi 2:15

Triunity of God in the Old Testament

Finally, there are a number of verses in the Old Testament in which the triunity of God is directly expressed:

Conclusion Top of page

Some of the verses above include all members of the triunity (Isaiah 42:1, Isaiah 48:16, and Isaiah 61:1). Therefore, the Old Testament does reveal the Christian concept of the Godhead, with God being one God, consisting of three persons. How can God simultaneously exist as both singular and plural? It is a logical impossibility if God were restricted to the three dimensions of space and one dimension of time of our physical universe. However, the attributes of God, given by the Bible, provide a reasonable explanation of how this paradox can be resolved. For more information, see The Extradimensional Nature of God.



References Top of page

  1. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
  2. YHVH is the name of Jesus Christ as God preincarnate. It is He, who would be pierced for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:1, 5)

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Last Modified October 24, 2011

 

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