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How Is God One?

Updated on March 21, 2014
Own this classic debate. Just click on the link at the end of this article.
Own this classic debate. Just click on the link at the end of this article.

Monotheism

In a study of the Godhead, there must first be a clear definition of the terms being used. This becomes especially important in any kind of discussion, but particularly when the biblical view of the deity is concerned. A classic example of this is found in the understanding, or I should say the different understandings of the term, MONOTHEISM. Monotheism is defined as the doctrine, or belief, that there is but one God. Of all world religions only three profess themselves monotheistic: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, respectively. For the purpose of our study we will exclude Islam and consider only the first and the second, namely, Judaism and Christianity.

Since the Christian faith sprang from the cradle of the Hebrew faith, it would only seem logical that Christianity would maintain the monotheistic teachings of her spiritual Hebrew forefathers. While we hold this to be the fact in true Christianity, we must recognize a mutated form of monotheism that has appeared and spread through the ranks of Christendom to the point that it is today considered by the majority as being orthodox. This corrupted form of monotheism, unlike the true monotheism of the Hebrew prophets, declares God to be a compound One. By "compound" is meant: composed of, or resulting from union of separate elements, ingredients, of parts. This teaching, called the Trinity, confesses to believe in One God made up of three separate and distinct elements; namely, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These different elements are freely termed by the Trinitarian as Persons. The Trinity laity would even say, Beings. Here the term ONE has been redefined to no longer refer to the cardinal numeral, but instead to a compound one.

A Compound One?

Trinitarianism was a late comer to the Christian landscape (3rd to 5th century). Reaching final codification in the Athanasian Creed (between 5th and 7th century). This late arrival is a compromise between Christianity's original orthodoxy of Modalism and the Arian challenger in the third and fourth centuries. Finding a place between the radical monotheism of Modalism and the subordinationism of Origin, Justin Martyr, and Arius, is Trinitarianism which confesses a semi-monotheism of three God-persons who are co-equal, and co-eternal. The oneness here is a compound one. A one God comprised of three units/elements/components - called persons. Each person being fully God. Each person is totally independent from the other two, yet completely united in purpose and will. Therefore, when this view speaks of its monotheism, it is not speaking of one sentient Being; but, instead it means to say that God is a compound one - not a solitary one.

Thus, any discussion on the subject of the Godhead, in order to be fruitful, must include an investigation into the legality of the definition one uses for the word: 'ONE.' Thus, the CRUX of the mater: Do the Scriptures which teach that God is One mean to say God is One in a SOLITARY sense? Or, do the scriptures which teach that God is One intend to teach God is One in a COMPOUND sense?

The First Commandment: The Hebrew concept of God is clearly seen in the Shema Israel, “HEAR, O ISRAEL: THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD.” (Deuteronomy 6:4). The ONE, here referred to, is a Solitary, not a Compound, One. We do see this beyond question in Deuteronomy 32:39. Let us look closely at this scripture.

Deuteronomy 32:39 See now that I, even I, am he, and there is not God with me, I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.

Here the spokesman is Yahweh (Deuteronomy 32:19), Who alone is the Most High (Psalms 83:18). Who speaks of Himself as a single Being.

  1. “I” (Hebrew: aniy) first person singular personal pronoun.
  2. “He” (Hebrew: huw) third person masculine singular personal pronoun.
  3. “With me” (Hebrew immade) it is the preposition ‘immad’ suffixed with the first person singular personal pronoun. The personal pronouns in an abbreviated form are affixed to nouns, prepositions, etc, to express the genitive and objective cases. THEREFORE, THE OBJECT OF THE PREPOSITION IS A SINGLE PERSON.
  4. “My hand” (Hebrew: meyade) it is the noun “yad” suffixed with the first person singular possessive pronoun. THE HAND WAS THE POSSESSION OF ONE PERSON.
  5. All the verbs of this verse are the first person singular form. In Hebrew the verb must agree with its subject in number and gender.

Thus, the Divine person, in this verse, spoke of Himself as a single person and stated that no other person of deity existed.

It is abundantly clear that Hebrew Monotheism was a believe in one solitary God. It was not an understanding of “one” in a compound sense. To believe in God as a solitary being is of so much importance that Jesus taught it to be the first of all commandments. When Jesus was asked, by a young man, which of the Commandments was the first of all, he was told by Christ that the first commandment was “Here O, Israel the Lord Our God Is One Lord.” (Mark 12:29).

A Solitary "One!"

Heis, The Masculine "One"

Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. (Mark 12:29)

In Mark 12:29 the Greek word John used, to put Jesus’ statement concerning God’s number into Greek, is the Greek masculine word for “one.” This word is “heis.”

The use of this particular word is very important in our study of the true meaning for the term “one,” as this term relates to God.

The interest here lies in the fact that this word, “heis,” did not have to be used. Other Greek words for “one” could have been employed, such as “hen” “tis,” or even “mia.” There are reasons why the particular word “heis,” and not any other words for one, is used to describe the number of God. For example, “mia” could not have been used because it is of the feminine gender. If the word “mia’” was used it would mean that God was feminine. The word “hen” could not have been used because it is of the neuter gender; if “hen” would have been used it would mean that God was a compound one (Trinitarians really need this word to be in Mark 12:29 - it is not!). The choice of the masculine “heis” is descriptive of just how God is one. The following is a list of scholars and their comments on the Greek masculine “one.”

Joseph Henry Thayer: “Heis” means the cardinal numeral ONE. Where the word “heis” takes the place of a predicate it means one person. (Page 186. A Greek, English Lexicon of the New Testament.)

Mr. A. T. Robertson: “One,” when masculine (heis) sets forth the idea of the cardinal numeral “one.” When referring to people or beings, ALWAYS the numeral “one” is implied. (Page 186 vol 5; pages 526 and 527, vol 4; page 299 vol 4. Word Pictures of the Greek New Testament.)

Bauer: The masculine “one” (heis) means, A single; only one. (Page 230 Bauer’s Greek Lexicon.)

Gingrich: The masculine “one,” (heis), is equivalent to ‘protos’ which means ‘first’. Only one; single. (Page 57, Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament).

The amazing truth is that “heis” is found 93+ times in the New Testament relating only to people, and never is this word used for more that one person, Never!

The importance of the Greek masculine “ONE” being used by John for the words of Jesus (Mark 12:29) is this: The LORD God of Israel is said to be One Person.


Hen - The Neuter “One”

As has already been stated, the neuter “one’ (hen) is the word used when a compound “one” is in view. It would seem that this word would be very important to the Trinitarian doctrine of the compound one. It is this Greek word that is used when a number of things, or beings are said to be one, such as a husband and wife, etc. Let us look to the scholars of the Greek language for a better understanding of this word:

Robert Young: “One’ when neuter means “one thing.” (Page 719 Young’s Analytical Concordance of the Bible.)

Joseph Henry Thayer: “One” when neuter means, to be UNITED in one will or spirit. (Page 186 and 187, A Greek-english Lexicon of the New Testament.)

Archibald Thomas Robertson: “One” when neuter shows a unity; a oneness of identity. (Page 526, vol. 4; page 186 vol 5, Word Pictures of the Greek New Testament.)

William Edwy Vine: “One” when neuter may be used to show a numeral one of a thing, or it may be used to show UNITY of more than someone or thing.

The form of the numeral used when two or more persons are said to exist as “one” is the nominative neuter form “hen.” This is very pronounced in the following scriptures:

John 11:52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather unto one (hen) the children of God that were scattered broad.” ∼ In this text we are told that many people are to be made ONE. Therefore, it is the nominative neuter from of the word “one” which is used. “HEN” would have been the only proper word in this case.

1 Corinthians 3:6-8 “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he that planteth is anything, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase. Now He that planteth and he that watereth are one (hen).” ∼ In this passage, the word “one” is “hen,” because two people are said to be one in the sense of UNITY.

Ephesians 2:14 “For he is our peace, who hath made both one (hen) and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” Here, “both” means Jews and Gentiles. These two groups of people are made “one.” Becasue it is UNION of more that ONE person or group, the neuter word hen is required to describe the oneness.

The importance of all this to our question, How is God One, Compound or Solitary? is that the oneness of God is NEVER referred to with the neuter word (which must be the case, if a plurality of persons is in view). The oneness of God is, however, ALWAYS referred to with the masculine word “heis” (which must be the case if the oneness means a solitary one in number).

Conclusion: The monotheism of the bible is such that demands the existence of One Only Sentient Being as God. Further, that this One Sentient Being must alone be worshipped. The worship of any God-person beyond the number "one" is unbiblical, unChristian, even blasphemy.

Apostolically Speaking

☩ Jerry Hayes

Click on the link here to own the Jesus Debate.

the Jesus Debate: A Debate On The Person of Jesus, Between Modalism/Oneness and Arianism/Unitarianism
the Jesus Debate: A Debate On The Person of Jesus, Between Modalism/Oneness and Arianism/Unitarianism

The Jesus debate is a formal discussion on the person of Jesus Christ between the Modalist and Unitarian theologies. Modalism holds that God has manifested Himself in the economy of One triune being. The One Being existing in the different modes of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. While the Unitarian view holds that God is but one being Who is limited to the Father; that the Son is separate and distinct Being from the Father Who is not God, but the Son of God. Modalism (called Oneness in the twenty-first century) teaches the full deity of Jesus and His full humanity as well. the Arian view of Unitarianism represented by Willy Olmo in this book affirms the Father to be the only person of God and Jesus to be His Son.

 

Monotheism of the Modalist and Trinitarian Positions

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    • Judah's Daughter profile image

      Judah's Daughter 3 years ago from Roseville, CA

      I would love to see 'mia' included in this hub, too ~ but, with that said, OUTSTANDING! The LORD our God is ONE (heis), which comes from Deut 6:4 ~ and if people need to know the application of 'echad', it is the primary Hebrew number 1, as is used when God took "one of his ribs" in reference to Adam's ribs, to create Eve (Gen 2:21).

    • Bishop J L Hayes profile image
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      Jerry Lynn Hayes Sr 3 years ago from Texas City, Texas

      JD, I did mention "mia": "The interest here lies in the fact that this word, “heis,” did not have to be used. Other Greek words for “one” could have been employed, such as “hen” “tis,” or even “mia.” There are reasons why the particular word “heis,” and not any other words for one, is used to describe the number of God. For example, “mia” could not have been used because it is of the feminine gender. If the word “mia’” was used it would mean that God was feminine. The word “hen” could not have been used because it is of the neuter gender; if “hen” would have been used it would mean that God was a compound one (Trinitarians really need this word to be in Mark 12:29 - it is not!). The choice of the masculine “heis” is descriptive of just how God is one."

      Thanks for the mention of the Hebrew echad. Though echad is used to defend the Trinity by laity, it is unlikely that any informed Trinitarian would do so.

      Always enjoy your comments.

    • uzma shaheen profile image

      Uzma Shaheen Bhatti 3 years ago from Lahore,Pakistan

      scriptures are so clear about oneness of GOD in solitary, I wonder why trinity is so widely observed faith? our GOD is only one GOD and He must be alone worshipped.

      very informative hub. sharing it.

    • panpan1972 profile image

      Panagiotis Tsarouchakis 3 years ago from Greece

      Dear Bishop,

      Very interesting article in did! Coming from a different background I was always curious as to how other Christians are viewing the Eastern Orthodox Church. Could you give me your opinion? Also, do you believe that neo-platonic or other philosophical ideas of the late antiquity have affected the eastern dogma?

      Speaking a little about myself, I would like to say that when I was a kid I was attending something similar to “Sunday schools”. I was so fed up with our priests, because they were always mixing Christianity with the Byzantine Empire and medieval policy and some kind of nationalism was always present. I certainly love my country, but Christianity is far bigger than my country or the Byzantine Empire. I guess! I abandoned them at the age of 13 or 14 and took my distances from my church, ever since. That’s my story!

      Thank you for your time!

    • Bishop J L Hayes profile image
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      Jerry Lynn Hayes Sr 3 years ago from Texas City, Texas

      Uzma,

      Greetings in the lovely name of Jesus. Thank you for your kind words. The Shema: "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God in one Lord" is the truth that must be protected and proclaimed throughout the earth.

      Peace to your house.

    • Bishop J L Hayes profile image
      Author

      Jerry Lynn Hayes Sr 3 years ago from Texas City, Texas

      PanPan,

      Thank you for reading and commenting on this article. I have good friends that are Greek Orthodox priests. My holy orders are from the Antioch Orthodox Succession, Western Rite.

      You are correct in that Christianity is much more than one nationality. Many ethnic Christian groups use their faith to keep alive their national ethnicity. Here, in America, there are Orthodox groups that are really nothing more than cultural centers for their national culture. I am not saying that is bab, just not what Christ intended, I think.

      The Lord's church own a lot to you Greeks, that is for sure. But the Church is much bigger than the Greek of the Antiochian Orthodox.

      Peace to your house.

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