Answering Trinitarian Objections I
Old Testament Plurals
The friction between the theologies of Modalism and Trinitarianism is both historical and legendary. The latter admits to a doctrine that is at once contradictory and necessary for salvation. This writer was told in his youth that the Trinity was impossible to understand; that, if I tried to understand it I would lose my mind, but if I did not believe it I would lose my soul. Lest one would think this an anomaly among the Trinitarian faithful, I would reference the Athanasian Creed:
“Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith; Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; ... The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible. ... He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.”
This creed accounts for so much coming from the Trinitarian camp, especially the rejection of all other Godhead views as heresy, and the denying any but Trinitarians the title of Christian.
Since the Trinitarians do not pretend to be able to fully explain their faith, their only apologetic is to attack the faith of others. These attacks require that a defense be made. Such a defense is the purpose of this paper. The Trinity theology objects to Modalism (the belief of one God-person manifested in three modes) by putting forward the Old Testament plural references to God as a proof of a plurality of persons within the Godhead. What follows is the Modalist Monarchian/Oneness response to this objection.
The Trinitarian Objection to the Monarchian Faith
The Trinitarian feels that in the plural pronouns of the Old Testament (Genesis 1:26; 11:7; and, Isaiah 6:8) he has found an indication of a plurality of persons within the Godhead. In this chapter I will deal with each of these three passages in turn.
I. Genesis 1: 26: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
According to the teaching of the Trinity the plural pronouns “us” and “our” in this text proves that God is more than one person. According to this line of reasoning it is Father God who is speaking to the other two persons of the Godhead. So, God the Father says to God the Son, and to God the Holy Spirit “Let Us make man in Our image, and after Our likeness.”
The Oneness Response: The Trinitarian Dilemmas
Since we know that: Nothing suffers from examination except error, let us begin in earnest to examine the Pluralists' charge.
There are many problems created by this line of reasoning, the least of which is not the very next verse in the passage.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
In verse 27 God is referenced by the single pronouns “his” and “he.” So, then, the same argument which would make God a plurality of persons in verse 26, because of the plural pronouns, would make him a single person in verse 27, by virtue of the single pronouns. Consistency is a virtue that the Trinitarian dogma cannot afford. To remain consistent with the evidence of the gender of pronouns there is a stalemate produced between verses 26 and 27. One cannot argue that the plural pronouns of verse 26 prove a plurality of persons, if one is not prepared to argue that the single pronouns of verse 27 prove a single solitary person. Since Trinitarianism is not prepared to be consistent with its “plural pronoun” argument, the deviousness of its position becomes apparent.
A more serious dilemma is created by the Trinitarian interpretation of Genesis 1:26 in that God the Father is given accomplices in creation. We see the predicament created by this when Isaiah 44:24 is presented:
Isaiah 44:24 “I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself.”
Here Yahweh (LORD in all caps) states clearly that He alone made the heavens and the earth. Now, according to Trinitarian dogma He did not do it alone but the “Us” were present to assist Him. If there were an “Us” participating in the act of creation then Isaiah must be misquoting Yahweh. Or, Yahweh is taking credit for work that He did not do alone; in which case He would be lying. Of course we know the truth: Yahweh created all things by Himself without the aid or assistance of anyone else. Therefore, the Trinitarianʼs interpretation of Genesis 1:26 is in error and another understanding must be sought.
The Solution: Plurality of Majesty. According to Isaiah 44:24 (given above) there is one single creator of all things in heaven and earth. Notice the words in Isaiah 44:24 “I,” “alone,” and “myself.” There are no accomplices recognized here. The quandary presented by Genesis 1:26 and Isaiah 44:24 is solved when one considers Ephesians 1:11:
Ephesians 1:11 “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: ...”
From Paulʼs letter to the Ephesians we are told that God “works all things” after counseling with His own will. In the Genesis 1:26 text Yahweh is counseling with someone, this is true. The question is: Who? Whom ever Yahweh is counseling with took part in the creation of mankind. Since we have a clear testimony from Yahweh Himself (Isaiah 44:24) that He alone created, we must conclude that: if Yahweh counseled with anyone concerning creation it would have been Himself. Interestingly enough this is exactly the Apostle Paulʼs understanding; for he wrote to the Ephesians that God created after taking counsel with Himself. So then the question: To whom was God speaking in Genesis 1:26 when he said “let us make man?” would be answered by Ephesians 1:11 where it is stated that He was counseling with His own will.
The plural pronouns employed by Yahweh is a common usage of speech among monarchs and rulers. This is called the Plurality Of Majesty. The majestic status of a king is far above that of his subjects, so much so that a king may commonly speak of himself in the plural; thus, the Plurality of Majesty.
Examples of the Plurality of Majesty may be seen in many places throughout Scripture; but, especially in Ezra 4:11ff and Daniel 2:36. In the book of Ezra 4:11-18 we read the story of a letter being sent to King Artaxerxes. In v11 the prophet Ezra writes the following: “This is the copy of the letter that they sent unto him, even unto Artaxerxes the king.” Then in verse 18 the King is speaking concerning the letter and states: “the letter which ye sent unto us...” in this case the Plurality of Majesty is demonstrated in that the king refers to himself in the plural. Another example is Daniel 2:36. In this passage Daniel refers to himself in the plural when he comes before Nebuchadnezzar to tell the king of the dream and its interpretation. Daniel said, “This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation before the king.” Notice that Daniel says: “WE will tell...” In this place Daniel employs the Plurality of Majesty in reference to himself.
As we return to the passage in question (Genesis 1:26 and 27), an interesting point should be made; namely, in verse 26 God is speaking of Himself, while in verse 27 God is being spoken about. In other words, in verse 26 God speaks in the first person in the Plurality of Majesty; while in verse 27 God is spoken of in the third person singular. This would be quite natural if the Plurality Majesty is the correct understanding.
Although Moses recorded the words of Yahweh with the plural pronouns he did not have the understanding that these plural pronouns indicated plural persons; for when he gave commentary on the words of Yahweh he used single pronouns for God. Moses understood the Plurality of Majesty; so that when he gave commentary on the words of Yahweh he wrote, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them.” The important point to note here is that God is never referenced with plural second or third person pronouns such as“Ye” (You all) or “Their.” When plural pronouns are used for God it is always when He is referencing Himself; thus, the Plurality of Majesty.
Let Us Go Down
II. The second plural pronoun argument comes to us from Genesis 11:7. Here Moses records the words of Yahweh: “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one anotherʼs speech.” (Genesis 11:8)
According to Trinitarians, and other pluralists, the LORD ( Yahweh) is speaking to the other two persons of the Trinity (or if Arian [those who believe in two persons]: to the Son).
The Oneness Response: The pluralists, whether they be Trinitarians or Arians, defeat themselves with this line of reasoning. And this is how: The word “LORD” from v6 is in all capital letters; which means it is the tetragramaton (the four letters YHWH which stand for the name of God).
Notice, then, that Yahweh says; “Let Us...” If the pluralists are correct, Yahweh is speaking to OTHERS. Since the Trinitarian believes Yahweh is the group name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he defeats his own argument. We say that the Trinitarian defeats his own argument in this line of reasoning because those spoken to would of necessity not be Yahweh; because, the preceding verse says “And the LORD (Yahweh) said,...” So the LORD (Yahweh) said to others, who are not themselves Yahweh, “ Let us go down...”
Depending upon the school of Trinitarianism of the participant in this discussion, Yahweh is either the group name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit or the name of God the Father. Either way the argument of plurality of persons within the Godhead being proven by the plural pronouns defeats itself. Either Yahweh (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is speaking to the Angels (or a multitude of other ideas) who are not Yahweh, or Yahweh, the Father, is speaking to the Son and/or the Holy Spirit, who are not Yahweh. The weight of this is felt when we discover that if one is not Yahweh - then not God. This is made clear from the following texts:
And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty; but by my name JEHOVAH (Yahweh) was I not known to them.
Hear, O Israel; The LORD our God is one LORD: (Hebrew: The Yahweh our Elohim is one Yahweh.)
Either way, whether Yahweh is speaking to angels or speaking to the Son and/or the Holy Spirit (who are not Yahweh) Trinitarianism (and like minded doctrines) is defeated by its own argument in that “other persons” of the Godhead are not found here.
The plain truth of this narrative is that: only one came down to see the work of manʼs hands (Genesis 11:8). The one that did come and scatter man upon the face of the earth was Yahweh Himself. Where were the “Us?” The answer is: they were never there. God counsels with His own will, according to Ephesians 1:11. From whom would the God of all the universe seek counsel? Who would be His equal that He would value his, or her, opinion? Here is another example of Yahweh speaking of Himself in the plural to show power and majesty. This use of language is called the Plurality of Majesty and is seen in Genesis 1: 26; Daniel 2:36; Ezra 4: 11, 18.
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III. Yet another plural pronoun argument is presented: Isaiah 6:8 “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
Again, those who wish to find “persons” in the Godhead point to this passage as a proof text. Here, they hope to find their persons of the Trinity.
The Oneness Response: This passage from Isaiah is of a different nature than the plural pronoun passages from Genesis 1:26 and 11:7 which we have reviewed in our preceding comments. We say that this passage from Isaiah is different because in Genesis 1:26 and 11:7 God speaks of Himself in the plural; however, here in Isaiah 6:8, God speaks of Himself in the singular sense and uses the word “I.” Notice that when Isaiah quotes the words of the Lord he says that the Lord said “Whom shall I send, ...”
When one observes the law of context (which one must) we discover the following things from this passage: 1. there is one speaker; 2. the terms “I,” “us,” are in the same statement; 3. the “us” must mean the LORD and others. By looking at the context of the Scripture under consideration we must ask, “Who are the ʻUs?ʼ”
Of course the Bible is clear in giving the answer to our question: “Who are the ʻusʼ?” The solution is found in Isaiah 6:1-2, which is the introduction to our narrative.
“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.” (Isaiah 6:1-2).
In these two verses the “Us” are identified as: 1. the LORD 2. His train (His following), and 3. the Seraphim.
I might be so bold at this point to venture an explanation as to why such a statement, or such a question would be asked by Yahweh. Just why did Yahweh ask “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? The answer, I believe, is twofold: First, to show the benefactor as Yahweh Himself; for He asked, “Whom shall I send...”. Only one is sending in power and might (Psalms 62:11; 65:6; 121:1-8). Second, to show the beneficiary; for Yahweh asked “who will go for us?” Therefore the benefactor sends the sent in behalf of all of heaven: the “Us.” (1 Corinthians 6:3; 1 Peter 1:12; Hebrews 12:22.)
Therefore, in Isaiah 6:8 Yahweh (LORD) sent Isaiah the prophet to preach to the world in behalf of the “Us” (those who inhabit heaven, i.e. the train [those who follow the King] and the Seraphim.)
There are no Trinity of persons seen in this passage or in any other plurals of the Old Testament. The smoke and mirrors that have been used for centuries by Trinitarian theologians are but tools of religious prevaricators to lead astray those who do not care enough to search out the matter.
“And this is eternal life, that they might know thee the only true God, …” (Jn 17:3)
☩ J L Hayes
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