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Particulars of Christianity:
302 The Trinity

The Trinity: Introductions

The Angel of YHWH as YHWH God
The Angel of YHWH as Distinct from YHWH God
Immediate Interactive Dialogue
A Consistent Expectation about Seeing God's Face
Survey Examining Eternal Past Existence
Establishing Eternal Past Existence
Distinction of the Spirit of YHWH
Ancient Jewish Recognition of Trinitarian Facts
The Trinity in the New Testament
Addendum 1 & 2
Addendum 3

Introduction to the Issues

To avoid confusion, at the start of this article we would like to state that we are wholly Trinitarian in our doctrine. This is stated under Point No. 1 of our “Just So You Know” page, which declares our views on foundational Christian doctrines. And to avoid any equivocation, when we say that we affirm the orthodox definition of the Trinity, we mean that we affirm that the Father, the Word (Son), and the Holy Spirit are three eternally distinct and co-equal persons, yet one God – Jehovah (or YHWH). As will be discussed throughout this article, we believe that the concept of the Trinity is monotheistic, not polytheistic, and specifically that it is the monotheism articulated by the Old Testament (and then continued in the New Testament). Furthermore, we believe that the evidence in the Old Testament (as well as the New Testament) rules out any form of Modalism or Arianism.

Modalism essentially teaches that there is only one person within the Godhead although he interacts with men in different modes, forms, or roles. 

Trinity – An alternative solution was to interpret Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three modes of the self-disclosure of the one God but not as distinct within the being of God itself…came to terms with their unity, but at the cost of their distinctness as “persons” (modalism).” – Encyclopaedia Britannica

And Arianism teaches that the Word and the Spirit were created, sub-deities who worked in concert with the Supreme Being.

Semi-Arianism – Arius held that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were three separate essences (ousiai) or substances (hypostaseis) and that the Son and Spirit derived their divinity from the Father, were created in time, and were inferior to the Godhead.” – Encyclopaedia Britannica

As we approach the nature of the Godhead, it is important to first understand why any questions come up at all regarding the number of persons within the Godhead and what the nature of those persons might be. For example, are the different persons really one person acting in different roles or forms? Or, are some of the different persons actually created sub-deities? And what evidence is it that raises such questions in the first place? These are the questions that this study will address. And we begin with a question of terminology.

Introduction to the Terms

When it comes to terminology, perhaps the place to start is the name of God itself. Throughout this study we will be using the four-letter designation “YHWH” for “Yahweh” or “Jehovah,” the proper name of God, revealed and used throughout the Old Testament. (Yahweh and Jehovah are simply two alternate pronunciations of the same name.)

YHWH – yahweh — compare tetragrammaton.” – Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

Tetragrammaton – the four Hebrew letters usually transliterated YHWH or JHVH that form a biblical proper name of God — compare yahweh.” – Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

Typically, English translations of the Bible use the all capitalized word “LORD” in place of YHWH or JHVH. While completely acceptable for normal usage, the use of a common term such as “Lord” in place of “YHWH” tends to down play the fact that this Hebrew word is the proper name for God. As such, the four letter designation YHWH has identity value. For example, in English, there are many individuals that might be deemed lords. So, if a text were to refer to the angel of God simply as “the LORD,” it would not carry the same connotation as reading the same sentence referring to the angel of God by the actual proper name Yahweh or Jehovah. The use of the proper name conveys a specific identity where as the English term “lord,” even if capitalized, loses the attachment to a specific identity, namely in this case the identity of God.

In addition, we should also make note that discussions of the Godhead often use terms like “Trinity” and phrases like “plurality of persons” and assume a sort of familiar or colloquial understanding of such concepts. However, common perception is often filled with misconception, vagueness and ambiguity, or simply a general lack of thoughtful consideration. So, as we press further into this study, it is important to be more specific about such central terms and concepts.

First, it is important to state the widely acknowledged fact that the term “Trinity” does not appear anywhere in either the Old or the New Testament. This is indicated in the quote below from Britannica Encyclopedia. But this is not and never has been the issue. Trinitarians have never claimed that this term is found in scripture. Instead, the term “Trinity” is simply a term that has been coined to collectively refer to facts that are presented in the Old and New Testament scripture about God. And from New Testament to the earliest Christian writings outside the New Testament, Christian authors have always stubbornly asserted the same group of Old Testament (and New Testament) facts, which by modern times have come to be collectively summed up in the term “Trinity.” Consequently, any critical analysis of the Trinitarian model will necessarily require investigating, validating, or invalidating those facts, which come together to comprise the model known summarily as “the Trinity.”

TrinityNeither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Old Testament: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4).” – Encyclopaedia Britannica

As indicated in the second half of the quote above, the followers of Jesus have always considered themselves monotheists, adhering to the Old Testament teaching that there is only one God, not many Gods, and not even just three Gods. Nevertheless, Trinitarian Christians simultaneously assert that while there is only one God, within that single Being there are three eternally distinct persons.

Admittedly, however, this side by side usage of terms like “one being” and “three persons” does little to clarify the issue or the Trinitarian position. After all, “person” and “being” are most commonly considered to be synonyms for one another. Yet, the Trinitarian seems to use “being” and “person” as though we all automatically distinguish clearly between those two terms. Consequently, to the average ear, the phrase “three persons in one being” makes about as much sense as saying, “three beings in one being” or “three persons in one person.” Needless to say, there is further need to define exactly what is meant by such critical terms, particularly the term “person” as it is used by Trinitarians. And, more specifically, it is important to define the term “person” in terms of the Old Testament (and New Testament) facts that the term is intended to reflect.

Perhaps the most comprehendible definition of a “person” is a “consciousness,” a “center of consciousness,” or a “self-consciousness.” Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines “self-consciousness” as follows.

Self-conscious1a: conscious of one's own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself: aware of oneself as an individual. – self-consciousness, noun.” – Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

The Trinitarian model is a recognition of the following facts about God presented in both the Old Testament and New Testament. First, throughout the Old Testament God identifies himself by different terms or identities, such as YHWH/the LORD, the Word of YHWH, the Spirit of YHWH, or even the angel of YHWH. In the New Testament, these identities and terms are respectively identified with additional terms such as the Son and the Holy Spirit. The actions of God under these respective titles fall into definable categories or trends, indicating that these titles signify roles or identities of God, not merely different, superficial names or nicknames. And, as indicated earlier, if this first fact was all that there was, then some form of Modalism might suffice as the conclusion.

Second, there are instances that are both prominent and very early in the Old Testament where there is communication between two of those identities of God. We find this trend continued in the New Testament as well. The trend itself demonstrates to key facts. First, it demonstrates that the two identities exist simultaneously rather than transitioning from one another at different times. And second, it also demonstrates that each identity is aware of himself and the other identities as distinct from one another. For example, YHWH may talk to the angel of YHWH, or the Father may speak to the Word, or the Word may talk about asking the Father to send the Holy Spirit after the Word himself returns to the Father. And these are just a few examples.

Fundamentally, it is the intercommunicating nature of these multiple identities for God and the distinction from one another inherent in their communication that defines the concept of multiple consciousnesses within the Godhead (three to be exact, when all the analysis is complete.) And, in order to disprove the Trinitarian model, at least one of two main components has to be disproved. Either it would have to be disproved that there are multiple identities for God in the Old and New Testaments or it would have to be disproved that those multiple identities intercommunicate with one another. In the first case, if there aren’t multiple figures identified as God, but the suggested additional figures are shown to be created beings, then the additional consciousnesses (beyond one) are shown to be outside the Godhead. (In this case, at least a basic Arian view would be correct.) In the second case, if there is no actual intercommunication between the various identities of God, then there is no basis for suggesting anything more than one consciousness for the Godhead that interacts with man in different forms, different identities, different roles at different times. (In this case, at least a basic Modalist view would be correct).

The concept that multiple figures are identified as God is generally critiqued on two grounds.

First, it is argued that particular figures are not really the Supreme God, but instead are created beings, albeit possibly the first-created, highest-ranking, or closest-replica of God among all creation. In other words, the eternality or uncreated status of a particular identity is questioned.

Second, it is argued that particular figures are not really the Supreme God because they lack the defining attributes of God, most often omniscience or omnipotence for example. If the facts of scripture indeed present some of the identities as lacking in one trait or another, the Trinitarian model will have to be able to point to some scriptural facts explaining how or why this can be the case if those identities are truly God. Otherwise, the Trinitarian model will be shown to incomplete at best or incomprehensible and in error at worst. Since it is largely a topic for another study, we will briefly describe the Trinitarian answer to this second criticism now. In short, certain passages in the Old and New Testaments (such as Philippians 2:5-11 and Exodus 33-34, which will be discussed in detail later on) explicitly describe a voluntary diminishing of access or utilization of divine attributes on the part of some of the Persons of the Godhead. This voluntary diminishing is described in such passages as a necessary facilitator for certain kinds of interaction, mediation, and even redemption. Consequently, in light of such explicit explanations within the text of scripture itself, particular instances in which a particular figure of YHWH exhibits less than total omnipotence or omniscience, for example, do not constitute evidence that the figure is not God since the lacking attribute is not the result of any inherent natural deficiency but of voluntary restraint. In this way, Trinitarianism survives this second criticism.

Conversely, we can also understand this topic in terms of what is required to disprove the alternative views. Arianism in generic form simply denies that there the “multiple” figures are within the Godhead, instead relegating these additional figures to status of created beings. Consequently, Arianism requires the denial of any instances in which the additional figures are identified directly as YHWH God. But, as we will see, the statements themselves are so explicit that Arianism’s only resort is to categorize them as “figures of speech.” This is a purely convenient claim. Its departure from the normal, plain meaning cannot be substantiated. It cannot explain why otherwise seemingly normal, plain statements should be converted to loose, inaccurate statements. The hope is that by mere suggestion we will simply discard the plain and undeniable implications of God’s own words about himself as strange, nonsensical artifacts of an ancient language.

However, when the concept of multiple identities of God is accepted but the idea of multiple consciousness is denied, the result is Modalism, which as indicated earlier, teaches that there is one consciousness to God although he interacts with man in different modes or roles. Because intercommunication involves the simultaneous existence of the identities and their self-awareness of distinction from one another as indicated by their statements, Modalism requires the denial of any actual intercommunication between the identities of God. And again, as we will see, the statements themselves are so explicit that Modalism’s only resort is to categorize them as illusionary in the hopes that we will simply discard the plain and undeniable implications of God’s own words about himself.

In addition, the Trinitarian concept is also criticized on the grounds that it is logically absurd or impossible. Specifically, how can there be three distinct consciousnesses in a single being? Or, in other words, if there were in fact three distinct consciousnesses, what basis would we have for regarding them as one being rather than three beings? Thus, this criticism takes focus on what possible unity or oneness there might be between multiple consciousnesses. And, on this point as well, Trinitarians must point to scriptural facts, not abstract or vague appeals, in order to satisfactorily describe how these three consciousnesses are united as one being.

Ultimately, these issues come down to what defines the Supreme Being and distinguishes him from all other beings. Those defining traits for the Godhead are as follows. First, having never been created but always having existed from eternity past. And second, the possession of such traits as omniscience and omnipotence. Summarily, the Trinitarian concept requires that scripture presents the eternal (uncreated) existence of multiple, intercommunicating identities of God and an explanation for any potential differentiation in abilities, such as omniscience or omnipotence, among those identities. (And we have already indicated above the explanation Trinitarianism provides for any lacking abilities among divine Persons in particular passages.)

But, before we move ahead, there is one other definitional point concerning “consciousness” that can be covered now. One peripheral critique that arises with regard to the Trinitarian assertion of multiple consciousnesses within the Godhead is whether or not, in order to divide one consciousness from the next, such consciousnesses would have to be limited in their knowledge of one another? In other words, if one consciousness is completely aware of another, shouldn’t they really be considered the same consciousness?

In a word, the answer is no. Awareness of another consciousness does not have to be limited or incomplete in order to be a separate consciousness. This is most plainly seen in God’s knowledge of us as human beings. God has complete, intimate knowledge of all our thoughts, feelings, memories, etc. – of everything about us – and yet despite the total awareness that God’s consciousness has of our consciousnesses, his consciousness is not one with our own. While pantheistic or other mystical worldviews may hold to such a doctrine of a universal consciousness which we are all a part of, neither ancient Judaism, nor rabbinical Judaism, nor Trinitarian Christianity or non-Trinitarian Christianity holds to such an idea. Regardless of whether or not they accept or reject the concept of the Trinity, Jews and professed-Christians of all sects reject the idea that our consciousnesses are one with God’s consciousness. And consequently, the fact that God’s complete conscious awareness of everything about us does not mean we are one consciousness with God. Similarly, if God has multiple consciousnesses, their total awareness of one another would not necessitate that they are ultimately one consciousness.

Introduction to the Approach

Over the course of this study, we will be emphasizing the presence of Trinitarian facts in the Old Testament, often adding the New Testament afterward in parenthesis. This is intentional. The reason for this practice stems from the fact that the Trinitarian concept is often perceived as being a unique and new doctrine initiated by the New Testament when, in reality, the facts of the Old Testament very clearly present the opposite conclusion. Our intention has been to emphasize the facts of the Trinity as an Old Testament phenomenon that the New Testament merely continues with a natural increase in detail but not with a jolting and drastic new direction. This we will demonstrate in the sections ahead as we analyze scriptures’ facts about God, starting with the Old Testament and ultimately continuing to track those facts into the New Testament as well.

Nevertheless, since the critical question of the Trinity seems to be whether or not it is a unique and new teaching of the New Testament, and therefore whether it is a Mosaic Jewish concept or a Gentile pagan concept, we will start by analyzing the Trinity solely as an issue of Old Testament Judaism. Only afterward will we address the Trinity in terms of arguments and views that arise among Christians examining New Testament issues.

However, as a lead-in to our Old Testament examination, we might at least offer the following thought-provoking question. If the Trinitarian concept is unique and novel to the New Testament and is not presented or raised at all in the Old Testament, then why are the “members” of the Trinity identified with terms used frequently throughout the Old Testament? The terms Father, Word of God, or Spirit of God serve as the more prominent examples. And we don’t want the thrust of this question to be missed. Our point is why such terms are even present in the Old Testament in the first place and available for the New Testament to make use of if the New Testament view is so unique and new. What are such terms doing in the Old Testament? Does the Old Testament provide a clear explanation for these terms that is entirely different from the New Testament’s explanation of them? Does the Old Testament give some explicit facts but without fully defining or explaining them, perhaps leaving open the need for further explanation? Or, are the Old Testament facts about God themselves rather clear, even though an outright, explicit dissertation explaining the meaning of those facts might be missing? In other words, is the Old Testament simply less explicit (providing no outright explanations) while the shear facts it presents about these titles for God are themselves identical to the Trinitarian model? (Is this true at least concerning the Father and the Word of YHWH, even if perhaps less complete concerning the third identity, the Spirit of YHWH?) For now, we offer this strictly as food for thought as we move forward to analyze the facts about God as he is presented throughout the Old Testament.

The most significant thing to keep in mind as we begin to review Old Testament statements about God is how early and how prominent some of these passages are. The most controversial and critical statements come at very early, defining points in the history of God’s revelation of himself to the Jewish people, including in the life of the patriarchs, such as Abraham, Jacob, and Moses. This is extremely significant for three related reasons.

First, the concepts found in these passages cannot be regarded as divergent concepts of later developments within Judaism but must be regarded as foundational and original Judaism.

Second, the concepts found in these passages cannot be regarded as resulting from pagan influence, since these patriarchs and the events involved are regarded by the Jewish people as the very foundations that define Judaism in distinction from other religions and philosophies.

And third, the concepts found in these earlier and prominent passages must be regarded as providing defining precedent that informs all later passages, which describe similar or related events. In other words, it should be assumed that the authors of later Jewish scriptures were familiar with and faithful followers of earlier Jewish instruction and history. Consequently, they not only understood their own experiences in relation to that earlier history but when they wrote their accounts, they intended their words to be understood in terms of continuity with those earlier Jewish records. As a result, later passages of Jewish scripture will build on previous scripture and will assume their audiences will let the details of earlier and prominent passages inform their interpretation of later records. In light of this, we too will build our understanding of the Godhead assuming that similar or related events, which occur later, should be interpreted in terms of events recorded earlier, rather than in a vacuum from them.

Introduction to Primary Objections

The first Old Testament issue concerning a plurality of consciousnesses within the Godhead concerns Deuteronomy 6:4, a very prominent Old Testament passage that is commonly known to the Jews as the Shema.

Trinity – Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Old Testament: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4).” – Encyclopaedia Britannica

Modern Judaism, which is admittedly the product of rabbinical teaching down through the centuries, interprets this verse as though it were a statement about the nature of the Godhead itself and, therefore, a prohibition against any suggestion of a plurality of consciousness within the Godhead. And while modern rabbinical Judaism is quite clear about its interpretation of Deuteronomy 6:4, two questions remain. First, is modern Judaism’s insistence that Deuteronomy 6:4 is about the nature of the Godhead itself (the number of persons within the Godhead) actually a relatively recent development in Jewish theology that has arisen as a reaction against and an attempt to repudiate Christianity as a sect of Judaism? And second, did ancient Jews likewise interpret Deuteronomy 6:4 as a declaration that YHWH must be understood as a being comprised of solely one person, identity, or consciousness?

These are important questions. And answering this second question will actually answer the first question as well. For if ancient Jews interpreted Deuteronomy in such a way that allowed them to consider multiple persons within the Godhead of YHWH, then rabbinical Judaism’s interpretation of Deuteronomy 6:4 is shown to be an overreaching reaction against Christianity that deviates from its own theological roots. So, fundamentally we need to understand how Jews who predate modern rabbinical Judaism interpreted Deuteronomy 6:4. We can make this determination by looking at two sources of ancient Jewish teaching: first, the Old Testament writing itself and second, rabbinical writing from the first few centuries before and after Jesus Christ, which predates modern Judaism. Since our focus is currently on establishing the Jewish understanding from the earliest sources, namely the Old Testament, we will set aside the examinations of the earlier rabbinical writings until a later part of the study. For now, we will continue by examining the meaning of Deuteronomy 6:4 strictly in terms of the Old Testament.

There are three issues demonstrating that Deuteronomy 6:4 cannot properly be interpreted as a statement about the nature of the Godhead itself.

First, Deuteronomy 6:4 is a very short statement. It does not include any longer explanation, neither in the surrounding context or the preceding chapters. To demonstrate this fact, the extended context is provided below.

Deuteronomy 6:1 Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: 2 That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey. 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

As we look at the surrounding verses in Deuteronomy 6, we see that there is no commentary regarding the possibility of multiple persons within the Godhead. And we will see this point proven more extensively as we examine even more of the surrounding context of Deuteronomy 6 ahead. But, the point here is this. Since the surrounding context of Deuteronomy 6 makes absolutely no comments about the plurality of persons within the Godhead and does not set up verse 4 as a statement about that issue, we are left in the following situation. Effectively, to admit that Deuteronomy is meant to address (and deny) the possibility of a plurality within the Godhead is to admit that the possibility of a plurality within the Godhead of YHWH was already under consideration in the minds of the Jewish people. In fact, not only would this indicate that the possibility of plurality was a conclusion the Jews were toying with but it was one so familiar to them that it did not need introduction or an explanation in the surrounding commentary. But, if the Jewish people were already considering the potential of a plurality of persons within the God YHWH, we have to ask where they got such an idea. This quandary, in and of itself, would imply that there are elements suggesting multiple Persons in the Jewish scriptures that come before the Shema.

It might be convenient to point to instances of pagan groupings of gods, in which three individual gods are in closely related association with one another. However, we’d have to consider whether or not the pagan views themselves were perversions borrowed from the Jewish Old Testament. In other words, it is historically possible that the Trinity originates in Old Testament Judaism and is borrowed and twisted by the pagans rather than the other way around, in which the Trinity begins among the pagans and is borrowed by the Christians. Consequently, in order to resolve these possibilities, we would need to consider if the Jewish people might have the idea of a plurality within YHWH in their minds already as a result of their own experiences and the experiences from their ancestors prior to this passage in Deuteronomy. After all, Deuteronomy is the fifth and last of the books of Moses. This means that all of the interactions between Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all of Moses’ interactions, and all of their own interactions with God during the Exodus would very directly influence their perceptions of the nature of YHWH. This will become important in a short while when we consider the explicit statements about the relationship between YHWH and the angel of YHWH as described from Genesis through Exodus and Numbers. All of those incidents precede Deuteronomy and would have informed the Israelites’ understanding of the nature of YHWH by the time of Deuteronomy 6.

Nevertheless, the first point here is simple. Since Deuteronomy 6:4 is itself very short and concise and is accompanied by no extended explanatory commentary, to assert that Deuteronomy 6:4 was intended to address the possibility of a plurality within the Godhead of YHWH is to admit that the Jews of that day had reason to think there might have been such a plurality of persons in the being known as YHWH. And that admission itself opens up the possibility that earlier interactions and revelations by YHWH previously recorded for the Jews before Deuteronomy raised the potential for multiple persons to exist within the Godhead of YHWH.

Second, while the context surrounding Deuteronomy 6:4 is entirely absent of any discussion regarding the nature of the Godhead or the issue of a plurality of persons within the Godhead, what we do find in the surrounding context points to an altogether different interpretation of Deuteronomy 6:4, one that has nothing to do with the nature of the Godhead or the plurality of consciousnesses within YHWH whatsoever. Instead of being a statement about internal issues within the Godhead, within the nature of YHWH himself, Deuteronomy 6:4 was intended to be a statement to the Jews about external issues. Instead of commenting on the number of consciousnesses within YHWH, Deuteronomy 6:4 was clearly intended to contrast YHWH to the possibility of other gods outside of YHWH. In short, this verse is about YHWH versus other competing deities. It is not about YHWH’s own nature or issues within YHWH himself. And this is very clear from the surrounding context. If we look again at Deuteronomy 6:4, we find the following.

Deuteronomy 6:1 Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: 2 That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey. 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Verse 1 of Deuteronomy 6 is a reference back to God’s earlier revelation of his commandments. Verse 5, the verse that immediately follows the Shema in verse 4, is about loving YHWH with all of one’s heart, soul, and strength. Both of these nearby comments bring up a similarity between the Shema and the Ten Commandments, which were originally given in Exodus 20:1-17 and which prohibit worship other gods apart from YHWH. In fact, all of Deuteronomy 5, the preceding chapter and surrounding context for the Shema in chapter 6:4 is a restating of the Ten Commandments.

Deuteronomy 5:1 And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them. 2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day. 4 The LORD talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire, 5 (I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to shew you the word of the LORD: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount;) saying, 6 I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. 7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me. 8 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: 9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, 10 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments. 11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. 12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. 13 Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: 14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. 15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day. 16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. 17 Thou shalt not kill. 18 Neither shalt thou commit adultery. 19 Neither shalt thou steal. 20 Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour. 21 Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s. 22 These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me.

As we can see, the preceding chapter before the Shema is all about YHWH versus other gods. Verses 6-9 are explicit in this regard. Moreover, after the Shema, Deuteronomy 6 goes on to reiterate this issue of serving YHWH rather than other gods apart from YHWH.

Deuteronomy 6:6  And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. 10 And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, 11 And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; 12 Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. 13 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. 14 Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; 15 (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.

Verses 12-14 are again very explicit. The focus of both chapter 5 and chapter 6 is worshipping YHWH versus worshipping other gods apart from YHWH. The context reveals that the Shema (“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD”) has to do with Israel worshipping YHWH only. Deuteronomy 6:4 is about the Israelites having no other gods beside YHWH, apart from YHWH. It is identical in meaning to Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 32, Isaiah 44, and Isaiah 45, all of which are about other gods “besides” YHWH, not about the number or consciousnesses within YHWH himself. 

Exodus 20:2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Deuteronomy 32:31 For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges…36 For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left. 37 And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, 38 Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection. 39 See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no 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. 40 For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.

Isaiah 44:8 Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.

Isaiah 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: 6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.

Isaiah 45:16 They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols. 17 But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end. 18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. 19 I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right. 20 Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. 21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. 22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

The meaning of Deuteronomy 6:4 is clear. It is a statement about issues external to the Godhead, a contrast between YHWH and other so-called gods. It is about YHWH being superior and unique among all the other beings that are called gods. It is an external contrast between YHWH and his “competitors” and Israel owing allegiance to him alone rather than to his “competitors.” It is not a statement about issues internal to the Godhead, what the nature of YHWH himself is or the number of persons within the Godhead of YHWH. There could be ten or one hundred different consciousnesses within the being of YHWH and Deuteronomy 6:4 would still only be about worshipping YHWH (with all his multiple consciousnesses) rather than other beings that have been falsely deemed “gods” by men. In other words, the concept of the Trinity raises a distinctly different issue from the issue commented upon in the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4. Deuteronomy 6 addresses whether or not there is more than one god, whether or not there are other gods in addition to YHWH. The Trinity, however, discusses a different issue: how many consciousnesses there are within YHWH, the one and only God. As we have seen and will continue to demonstrate, Deuteronomy 6 makes no claims concerning this second issue, only the first.

Effectively, in interpreting Deuteronomy 6:4 as a statement about the nature of the Godhead itself, as a statement about the plurality of persons within the Godhead rather than as a statement comparing YHWH externally to the possibility of other deities apart from him, modern rabbinical Judaism is guilty of revisionism. They are rewriting history merely as a reaction to repudiate Christianity.

Third, not only does the context of the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 reveal that it is not a statement about the nature of the Godhead but about issues external to the Godhead, but the wording of the Shema itself doesn’t in any way prohibit the idea of multiple persons within the Godhead of YHWH. Often the perception is that the word “one” in the phrase “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD” is intended to mean that God is entirely singular in nature rather than having distinguishable “parts” or “aspects” such as a plurality of persons or consciousnesses. However, the occurrence of the Hebrew word for “one” in Deuteronomy 6:4 makes no such claims whatsoever. There are two reasons for this.

First, as we have already seen, the clear intent of the passage is revealed in the surrounding context. The declaration to Israel that YHWH is “one” is meant to mean that YHWH is unique among all the so-called gods of men. He is alone and none of the other gods are like him. And, as such, the Israelites owe their allegiance to him alone. That is the meaning of “one” as revealed by its surrounding context. It means “only” in the sense of being “unique.” And, in point of fact, the Hebrew word here for “one” here is “echad” (Strong’s No. 0259) and it does include the connotation of “only” in the sense of “unique.” For example, in the Song of Solomon “echad” is used to describe the beloved woman as the only daughter of her mother. She was unique in this regard.

Song of Solomon 6:9 My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one 0259 of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.

“Echad” is also used with this meaning in Ezekiel 7, where it refers to “an only evil.”  It should be noted that the Hebrew word for “evil” can also mean “calamity.” Consequently, the text is clearly not declaring that this is the only evil or calamity, but merely that it is a unique and even paramount calamity.

Ezekiel 7:5 Thus saith the Lord GOD; An evil, an only 0259 evil, behold, is come. 6 An end is come, the end is come: it watcheth for thee; behold, it is come.

Likewise, when speaking of a most unusual day, which will neither be clearly light nor clearly dark, having neither day nor night time. After all, when God created the days in Genesis 1, he established that each would follow the pattern of darkness and then light (Genesis 1:5). The dark is called evening (Strong’s No. 06153) and the light is called day. But on this day, it will be light at evening (Strong’s No. 06153). Among all the days since the beginning of time, this day is one of a kind. And on this basis, this day is described as “echad,” meaning “unique” among all days.

Zechariah 14:6 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: 7 But it shall be one 0259 day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.

Consequently, the context of Deuteronomy 6 implies “echad” is being used to indicate “one” in the sense of “only” or “uniqueness” among all that are called gods. YHWH God is unique. He is the only God, even though others are falsely called by that term. And since the context implies “unique” among potential competitors, it is not accurate to demand that “echad” refers to “one” consciousness within YHWH’s own being.

And this is understanding that “echad” in Deuteronomy 6:4 is intended to mean “unique” is not a merely Christian concept. Jewish Christian Dr. Michael L. Brown explains this fact in volume 2 of this work Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus.

“For this reason, the NJPSV [New Jewish Publication Society Version] translates Deuteronomy 6:4 as, ‘Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.’ In fact, the footnote in the NJPSV reminds us that this is also the understanding of the revered, medieval commentators Abraham Ibn Ezra and Rashbam (Rabbi Shmuel Ben Meir). Therefore, it is not just a ‘later Christian’ argument that Deuteronomy 6:4 does not specifically teach that God is an absolute unity.” – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 6

Christians and prominent orthodox Jews are agreed that Deuteronomy 6:4 is about YHWH alone being the God of Israel, not other deities apart from him. It is not a statement addressing the internal nature of number of consciousness or persons within YHWH himself.

Second, the Hebrew “echad” simply does not in any way rule out the possibility of multiple “parts” or “aspects” within a single overarching whole. The idea of a larger whole that has multiple “parts” or “aspects” is often referred to as a “compound unity.” “Echad” does not exclude “compound unity.” Rather, many times that “echad” is used it refers specifically to a concept or item that has compound unity. A simple word study of the usage of “echad” in the Old Testament reveals this obvious fact. For example, Genesis 2:24 states that a married man and woman become “one flesh” using the word “echad” for “one” in that statement.

Genesis 2:23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one (0259) flesh.

Genesis 1:5 likewise refers to the day and the night as together comprising “one/echad” day.

Genesis 1:5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first (0259) day.

Genesis 11:6 refers to the multitude of people at the tower of Babel as “one/echad” people.

Genesis 11:6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one (0259), and they have all one (0259) language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

And when the sanctuary of the tabernacle was built by Moses in the wilderness, it has many parts but Moses is told to put all those parts together so that it will be “one/echad” or “united” tabernacle.

Exodus 25:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering…8 And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it…26:6 And thou shalt make fifty taches of gold, and couple the curtains together with the taches: and it shall be one (0259) tabernacle…11 And thou shalt make fifty taches of brass, and put the taches into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one (0259).

Exodus 36:13 And he made fifty taches of gold, and coupled the curtains one unto another with the taches: so it became one (0259) tabernacle…18 And he made fifty taches of brass to couple the tent together, that it might be one (0259).

If Adam and Eve (and all married men and women) can be called “echad” flesh even though they are clearly distinguishable in body and as persons, then why does the statement that YHWH is echad YHWH in Deuteronomy 6:4 rule out that YHWH has multiple and distinguishable “parts,” such as consciousnesses or persons? If all the great many people at the tower of Babel can be described as “echad,” then why couldn’t multiple consciousnesses with YHWH be considered “echad”? If things as distinct as the light of day and the dark of night can be considered “echad,” then why does the use of “echad” in Deuteronomy 6:4 rule out all distinctions of any kind within the Godhead of YHWH? If the holy tabernacle with all its multitude of parts can be joined together by mere human means so that it can be considered “echad” or “united,” then why couldn’t multiple consciousnesses within the Godhead be joined as “echad” and perfectly “united as one” by some spiritual means? (The spiritual means of unity is not left vague or undefined. Instead, Trinitarian doctrine holds that the three consciousnesses of God are one being because they are all eternally united due to the fact that they are all composed from the same indivisible, eternal substance, known as “spirit.” We will discuss this in more detail later on in our study.)  

Clearly nothing about either the context or the vocabulary of Deuteronomy 6:4 is contrary to the Trinitarian conclusion that within the Godhead of YHWH there is a plurality of distinct consciousnesses. And with the alleged prohibitions of a plurality within the Godhead dispelled, we can now move on to consider the Old Testament texts that raise the issue of plurality.

Introduction to the Evidence

Perhaps one of the most prominent contributing factors responsible for raising questions about the nature and number of persons in the Godhead is the figure known in the Old Testament as the angel of YHWH. And this is where our examination of the evidence begins.

There are 63 verses in the Old Testament where the words “YHWH” (Strong’s No. 03068) and “angel” occur together. These 63 verses occur in 24 passages. Of those 24 passages, 4 passages do not couple those words together in the phrase “angel of YHWH” and, consequently, it is not clear whether or not the passage is specifically referring to “the angel of YHWH” (Genesis 24, Numbers 20, 2 Samuel 14, and 1 Kings 13). Another 2 of the 24 passages (Psalms 34 and 35) appear to be a hypothetical or a prayer involving the angel of YHWH but not an event that actually occurred with that figure. In addition, the content of these passages brings nothing new to the issues under examination, nothing that is not already present explicitly in the other passages. This removes 6 passages from the list of 24, resulting in only 18 passages that actually describe events involving the angel of YHWH.

Furthermore, 1 of the 24 passages (Zechariah 12) is likewise not a description of actual events or interactions with the angel of YHWH but a comparison involving the angel of YHWH. However, the text of the comparison is significant and so it will be included in the examination. This leaves only 17 passages where actual events involving the angel of YHWH are recorded.

Within these remaining 17 passages, there are 2 sets of parallel accounts found in different books including 5 total passages. Set 1 includes 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 and Set 2 includes 1 Kings 19, 2 Chronicles 32, and Isaiah 37. Since those 5 passages really only record 2 events with the angel of YHWH rather than 5, there are really only 14 separate events involving the angel of YHWH in the Old Testament (Genesis 16, Genesis 22, Exodus 3, Numbers 22, Judges 2, Judges 5, Judges 6, Judges 13, 2 Samuel 24/1 Chronicles 21, 1 Kings 19, 2 Kings 1, 2 Kings 19/2 Chronicles 32/Isaiah 37, Zechariah 1, and Zechariah 3).

Of these 14 actual events involving the angel of YHWH, 3 of these passages do not contain any explicit statements that are relevant to the issues under examination. Judges 2 would seem to be the angel of YHWH speaking to the people of Israel similar to during the days of Moses, but the text does not present any new or relevant data to the issues under examination. 1 Kings 19 and 2 Kings 1 record 2 separate interactions between Elijah and the angel of YHWH. In 1 Kings 19:7-15 there is the possible interchangeable usage of “angel of YHWH” and “Word of YHWH” (similar to Zechariah 1, which is explicit). And in 1 Kings 19 there is also the potential that the angel of YHWH is referred to as YHWH (assuming that it is the angel of YHWH who passes by Elijah on the mount). 2 Kings 1 simply records the angel of YHWH speaking a message to Elijah. But, the text in these passages presents no explicit data that is relevant to the issues under examination.

This leaves only 11 events involving the angel of YHWH where the text of the accounts presents explicit, relevant data that raises significant issues concerning the nature of the Godhead. And, as mentioned earlier, Zechariah 12 is also relevant, providing a twelfth case study, although it does not describe an event but only a comparison involving the angel of YHWH. So, in all there are 12 instances that are relevant to this study and those 12 instances are recorded in 12 primary passages plus 3 parallel passages.

These 14 instances can be divided into 2 categories reflecting the significant issues they raise concerning the nature of the Godhead: A) instances where YHWH God and the angel of YHWH are distinct from one another and B) instances where the angel of YHWH is himself explicitly referred to as YHWH or God.

As mentioned earlier, this list of 12 instances was comprised by doing an exhaustive search for the terms “YHWH” and “angel” in the Old Testament. If we add to this list a second search for the terms “God” and “angel” in the Old Testament, we find some 21 verses where the terms “angel” and “God” occur.

Out of those 21, 4 use the terms “angel” and “God” separately so that the key phrase “the angel of God” does not occur. An additional 4 verses are comparisons to the angel of God and provide no explicit information that pertains to the issue of multiple persons within the Godhead. Furthermore, 10 of these verses overlap with the passages already counted in the previous search for “the angel of YHWH.” Consequently, there are only a total of 3 new passages involving the “angel of God,” that are relevant to the issues under investigation (Genesis 21, Genesis 31, and Exodus 14). This brings us to a total of 15 instances. However, although the events of Genesis 31 might be categorized in category B (an instance where the angel of God is identified as God), the text is not explicit enough on that point. In Genesis 31, the angel of God visits Jacob in a dream and the angel says, “I am the God of Bethel.” However, in contrast to the other instances on this list, this instance in Genesis 31 can simply be interpreted as the angel speaking on God’s behalf. Consequently, since it is not explicit enough, it will be left off the list of instances under study, bringing the total number of instances under examination to 14.

Since we are combining two separate surveys involving the phrases “angel of YHWH” and “angel of God,” the next important step is to establish that these two phrases are indeed synonyms for one another as dictated by the Old Testament itself. We are not simply combining them for convenience or external reasons. This fact is demonstrated by the interchangeable usage of these phrases within individual Old Testament passages. For example, verses 11-12 and 21-22 of Judges 6 use the phrase “angel of YHWH” while verse 20 refers to the same figure as “the angel of God.”

Judges 6:11 And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour…20  And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so. 21 Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight. 22 And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face.

Similarly, verses 3, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, and 21 of Judges 13 all use the phrase “the angel of YHWH,” however verse 9 uses the phrase “the angel of God” in reference to the same figure.

Judges 13:3 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son…9 And God hearkened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again unto the woman as she sat in the field: but Manoah her husband was not with her. 10  And the woman made haste, and ran, and shewed her husband, and said unto him, Behold, the man hath appeared unto me, that came unto me the other day…13 And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware. 14 She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe. 15 And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, I pray thee, let us detain thee, until we shall have made ready a kid for thee. 16 And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the LORD. 17 And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honour? 18 And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret? 19 So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the LORD: and the angel did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on. 20 For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground. 21 But the angel of the LORD did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the LORD.

Consequently, it is clear from these two passages that the titles “angel of YHWH” and “angel of God” are synonyms. And this should come as no surprise since, after all, YHWH is God and the terms “YHWH” and “God” are very frequently used interchangeably as well. As stated previously, this leaves us with 14 instances involving the figure known as “the angel of YHWH” and “the angel of God” in the Old Testament.

From this combined survey of 14 instances, we find that there are 5 instances that fall solely into category A: Genesis 21, Judges 5, 2 Samuel 24 (with a parallel in 1 Chronicles 21), 2 Kings 19 (with parallels in 2 Chronicles 32 and Isaiah 37), and Zechariah 1. Likewise, there are 6 instances that fall solely into category B: Genesis 16, Exodus 3, Exodus 14, Judges 6, Judges 13, and Zechariah 12. And finally, there are 3 instances containing statements that fall into both categories: Genesis 22, Numbers 22, and Zechariah 3.

Obviously, on its own category A is far from raising questions of a plurality of persons within the Godhead. If the sum total of the Old Testament accounts concerning the angel of YHWH were of category A, we would be left with the simple conclusion that there is only one “person” within the Godhead and that a creation of his, known as the angel of YHWH, acts as his messenger. Consequently, it is of course those instances that fall into category B, which raise the initial questions about a plurality of “persons” within the Godhead.

Now, by way of illustration, it is certainly one thing to think of a messenger arriving on behalf of a king and, after the message is read, either the audience or the messenger declares, “thus saith the king.” There would be nothing in such accounts that would identify the messenger as the king himself. All parties would quickly agree that such accounts would merely reflect that the messenger is speaking for the king while himself remaining a mere messenger. And, if the sum total of the Old Testament accounts concerning the angel of YHWH were of this nature (specifically those of category B), there would indeed be nothing at all to raise the question of plurality of “persons” within he Godhead.

But suppose instead that in this hypothetical kingdom there is an understanding that anyone who looks upon the face of the king will die. And suppose that on one occasion, as the messenger comes to the people, upon seeing the face of the messenger one person in the crowd cries out, “Woe is me, for now we have seen the king and must die!” Or, what if that same person bows down before the messenger and calls the messenger by the title “king”? In such accounts, we would have only 2 options. Either this particular member of the crowd is foolish and in error because he is mistaking the messenger for the king himself. Or, if this particular member of the crowd were considered reliable and in a position to know the king, we would have to conclude that the messenger was the king in disguise and that the crowd had indeed seen the king. The nature of this metaphor is limited because it utilizes the human king as a representation of God and, therefore, implies Modalism, the view in which one person puts on different disguises or roles from time to time, sometimes appearing as a messenger and other times in royal garments of a king. And if the sum total of the Old Testament accounts concerning the angel of YHWH were of the category B, then we might indeed be left to reach some form of Modalism as our conclusion. If all the accounts concerning the angel of YHWH were of category B, then we might be left with the conclusion that there is only one person in the Godhead but he interacts with men in different forms or roles at different times. This is where instances of category A themselves become problematic.

Suppose we take this illustration one step further. Suppose there are occasions where the messenger is identified as the king and there are other occasions where the same messenger is standing in the presence of someone else who is identified as the king. Or, to make the illustration even more applicable, not only are they identified as king but both are identified by the king’s proper name. On these second occasions, we would actually have two persons that have been identified as the king. If the accounts ruled out the idea of an “imposter,” and assuming that the accounts are explicit in their identifications and that we have not made any mistakes in our interpretation of the accounts, what would we be left to conclude? Since both persons stand distinct from one another side by side, it can no longer simply be the case that the messenger is the king in disguise, at one time appearing as a messenger and another time in royal attire as the king. Modalism is no longer an option. While the illustration is limited because it uses a human being as a representative substitute, in the case of God himself, we might conclude that, at least according to the written accounts, there are at least two persons known as YHWH God, and not that YHWH God is simply switching from one form or role to another at different times.

This illustrates the dilemma created by the presence of instances of both category A and category B in the Old Testament. It is the explicit nature of these instances that raises the unavoidable question of a plurality of “persons” within the Godhead.

Of course, as noted earlier, one of the most critical issues in this study is whether or not all of the figures identified as YHWH God are actually uncreated and in possession of the defining attributes of God, such as omniscience and omnipotence. But, before we address such questions about each of the suggested identities of God, we first have to establish that there are in fact multiple, intercommunicating identities of God in the Old Testament. Only then can we move forward to ask whether or not all of those identities are uncreated or whether or not some of those identities lack traits like omniscience or omnipotence. To demonstrate that the Old Testament does establish intercommunicating identities for God, we return to our two categories of passages in the Old Testament concerning the angel of YHWH or angel of God.