Trinity in the Old Testament

As I had said before, the trinity cannot be defined as tightly in the Old Testament as it can in the New Testament. Instead, we find allusions to it. The revelation of the triune God was not something that came as heresy in the first century. Actually, we find in the book of Acts that the declaration of the apostles that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God were accepted by many religious Jews. On some occasions, it is said that these things were proven. Of course, by proven I assume that they mean from the Scripture. Yet, at that time, the Scripture consisted of the Old Testament. What texts might have been used to prove the trinity?

In Genesis 1:1-3, we find that all three persons of the trinity are expressed. God creates the heaven and the earth, the Ruach Elohim hovers over the waters, and we also find the Light. John 1:1 tells us that the word of God is Christ Jesus. That Word that has been with God from the beginning – the Word that declared, “Let there be Light” – became flesh and dwelt among us. We find later in Genesis 1:26-27 that God says, “Let us make man in our image.” While it has been argued that maybe this is God speaking to the angels, that falls terribly short of any true representation of the text. First, if we want to continue to press that God is Spirit and has no form, then why would we say that God is saying “Let us make man in our image”? Why wouldn’t God say, “Let me make man in your image”? While it is also true that angels take on the form of a man in visions, it is not true that this is always the case. I think of the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah who saw beings that don’t resemble humans at all. God speaking about this “us” is found once again only a couple chapters later. In Genesis 3:22, God says, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” The point of not knowing good and evil was that when Adam were to eat of that tree, he would be like God. Satan cannot say in one instance that Adam would be like God, and then in the next instance it is no longer God that Adam resembles, but the angels. Instead, God affirmed that humanity had become like Him, and we find in this declaration that God seems to be a plurality instead of a singularity.

Some have taken Genesis 18, when Abram is visited by the three men, as being an example of the trinity. In Genesis 18:1, it specifies that it is the Lord that visited Abram. Now, this is debatable that the other two were not angels. They are specifically called angels in Genesis 19:1. We have in Genesis 18:22 that two of the men continued onward, but the Lord stayed behind. We know that it was only two that continued onward because in Genesis 19:1 it is mentioned that only two angels entered Sodom. I personally do not use this text to validate the trinity in the Old Testament; however, I know that many scholars do use it. If one desires to explain how it might be that the other two men that spoke with Abram are angels in the 19th chapter, then by all means I would encourage you to use this text. Otherwise, I would hesitate in using this as a proof text until it has been wrestled a little more precisely.

In Isaiah 6:8, we have another instance where God asks Isaiah, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” The distinction between the ‘I’ and the ‘us’ should be noted. Just like in Genesis 1 and 3, and later in Genesis 11:4, God seems to be speaking to self. There are also many verses that seem to speak of the Father, Son, and Spirit separately though. It is not necessarily from “proof texts”, but rather from the overwhelming culmination of texts that we build a case for the trinity. For example, we find in Deuteronomy 32:6 the words, “Is this the way you repay the Lord, O foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?” Here we find God being called the Father. We also find this in Psalm 89:26-27, “He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, the rock my Savior.’ I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.” This latter verse is interesting because Exodus 4:22 mentions that Israel is the firstborn of God – His firstborn Son. Thus, the messiah is not simply a firstborn of God, but represents the people of Israel in His messianic call.

We find in Isaiah 63:16 the words, “But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.” A similar statement is made in the next chapter of Isaiah: “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are the work of your hand.” Jeremiah 3:4 also calls God the Father, and we read God’s own words in verse 19, “How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation. I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away from following me.” The concept of the Father is not foreign to the Old Testament. Instead, it is quite present.

Similarly, we find God speaking of some sort of a ‘son’ figure in Psalm 89:27. The Messiah is prophesied as being God’s Son, and we even find that the Messiah will be eternal according to Daniel 7:14. How do these two things come together? I can only think of one way: Christ Jesus being the Son of God from eternity past. Psalm 2:7 reads, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” Again in verse 12 we read, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way…” In Proverbs 30:4, we read a passage that seems like it cannot be translated any way other than speaking of Jesus: “Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know!” This one that has gone up to heaven and come down is obviously God. And who is His Son? Is it not Christ our Lord?

We find the eternal Spirit from the very second verse of the Bible. The Spirit hovers over the waters. Again in Genesis 6:3 we find the Spirit contending with man. Jesus had even said that one of the purposes of the Spirit is to bring conviction of sin. Exodus 31:3 speaks of Bazalel being filled with the Spirit of God. This is reiterated again in Exodus 35:31. Numbers 11:17-29 declares that God took of the Spirit that was upon Moses and put it upon the elders of the people. Numbers 24:2 tells us that the Spirit of God came upon Balaam the prophet. Joshua was called “a man in whom is the Spirit” (footnote reference Numbers 27:18). Othniel, the judge, had the Spirit of the Lord come upon him (Judges 3:10). The same was said of Gideon (Judges 6:34), Jephthah (Judges 11:29), Samson (Judges 13:25), Saul (1 Samuel 10:6), David (1 Samuel 16:13), Amazai (1 Chronicles 12:18), Azariah (2 Chronicles 15:1), Jahaziel (2 Chronicles 20:14), and Zechariah son of Jeroiada (2 Chronicles 24:20).

In 2 Samuel 23:2, we find that the Holy Spirit speaks. 1 Kings 18:12, the Spirit of God leads Elijah much like Jesus explained that the Spirit carries a man in John 3:8. In 1 Kings 22:24, as well as 2 Chronicles 18:23, the prophet Macaiah got slapped in the face while being asked the question, “Which way did the Spirit of the Lord go when he went from me to speak to you?” Nehemiah 9:20 and 30 declare that God led Israel by His Spirit. Job 33:4 equates that the Holy Spirit is the breath that gave him life (footnote explaining connection to Genesis 2:7). David prays in Psalm 51:11 that God would not cast him from His presence or take His Holy Spirit from him. Israel’s rebellion in Psalm 106:33 is called rebellion against the Spirit of God. The Spirit is considered omnipresent in Psalm 139:7. David claims to walk by the Spirit in Psalm 143:10. The Spirit is referenced throughout the Old Testament prophets.

When these things are put together, they help to make a cumulative case for the trinity. Many Jewish scholars debate with these passages to disprove the trinity. In all sobriety, I cannot understand how to take these Scriptures as simple verbiage or vocabulary. If they only imply various aspects of God, but never the triune nature of God, then I’m not sure that we can truly say we believe the Bible. While some of the men that renounce the trinity are very intelligent, intelligence does not save you from deception. To claim that these many texts only speak of different manifestations of God without a triune nature seems to me a neutered interpretation. I feel all the more strongly in regard to those that claim to be Christian and still don’t believe in a triune God. With the full revelation given, let us now seek to understand each person.

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