Monday, June 1, 2009

One God, Three Persons?

I titled this as a question as a way of expressing the Oneness, Jesus-only mentality of the UPCI and other organisations that share the same modalist viewpoint. There is a complete air of disbelief that comes over them when you mention the word "Trinity" and they are most likely going to challenge you with the scriptures they claim prove that the concept of a Triune God is Biblically impossible. The fact that I was raised in the UPCI and taught the modalist viewpoint from birth has allowed me to understand it completely. The scriptures most commonly used to support the Oneness position are: Genesis 1:1, 26; Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 28:19 in combination with Acts 2:38; and John 1:1. I am going to examine the actual statements in these scriptures, and show that they do not, in fact, deny the concept of three persons in One God. Quite the contrary, they all infer, and even state, a distinct plurality. The concept of singular plurality DOES exist in the Hebrew language, and the scriptures show that the original Hebrew supports the belief that a plurality in the Godhead existed in the OT, and even before the Creation itself. The Oneness belief is based on plays on words that only exist in the English language. These do not occur in the original language.

We begin with Genesis 1:1 as the beginning seems like the logical place to search for clues. Genesis 1:1 in the KJV is rendered: "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth."
In Young's Literal: "In the beginning of God's preparing the heavens and the earth" (It is important grammatically to note that the "s" in "God's" is to denote possessive action not the plural "Gods"). The word translated "God" in the KJV rendering and "God's" in the YLT is from the Hebrew word "Elohim". Elohim is the plural form of the word "Eloah". Modalists attack this verse by stating that the KJV says "God" in the singular form. The problem with this statement is that they then accept Ezekiel 20:3 in the KJV which states "Thou shalt have no other gods before me.." where the word "gods" is translated from the exact same Hebrew word "Elohim" to mean a plurality OR a singularity. Specifically, they accept it to refer to anything or things that any person or group of persons might worship other than the One True God. Makes you wonder how modalists or Oneness churches can use a scripture to justify a belief when they must accept that it contains a word that denies what they state.

Genesis 1:26 in the KJV: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea.." in YLT: And God saith, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness, and let them rule...' ". We see in the KJV that God refers to Himself in the plural. We know that He wasn't referring to the angels, because if we were in the image of angels we would have wings (SWEET!!! :D). As well, the Bible says we are created a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5). It is clear from the text that the Psalmist is referring to man as a whole, not the Messiah, as Man was given dominion over the earth in the beginning...not as a messianic prophecy. Therefore, God was referring to someone other than the angels, and, unless you theorize there is another group as yet unrevealed to us, He must have been speaking to Himself in the plural. I have heard the very shallow argument that God was speaking in the "plurality of majesties" the same as many earthly monarchs do. The problem with this is that the concept of a "plurality of majesties" can not be shown to exist in any language or culture before the monarchies of what we now call Europe. It certainly cannot be shown to exist in Hebrew culture and language (Robert Morey, The Trinity: Evidence and Issues, (Grand Rapids: Word Publishing, 1996), p. 528) .

Deuteronomy 6:4 in the KJV: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:" in the YLT: "Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God [is] one Jehovah". There is quite a difference here in the translations. The KJV is stating that the Lord of Israel is one Lord. The YLT is stating that Jehovah the God of Israel is one Jehovah. The word Jehovah in the Hebrew is YHVH and refers to the nature of God. Even modalists believe this and I will prove it: modalists and/or Oneness Pentecostals state that Jesus was the name of God finally revealed in the NT when He came to earth to purchase our Salvation. Anything God was called before that was a description of His nature, and not His actual complete name. Therefore, in the YLT (proven to be more accurate than the KJV as far as translation), we see that the NATURE of God is ONE NATURE. In the original manuscripts you will find the Tetragrammaton, which denies the word play of the Oneness movement. This concept does not deny the possibility of a plurality in One God. The use of Deuteronomy 6:4 by the UPCI and others to deny the Trinity doesn't hold up to their own definitions or the meaning of the original Hebrew. The other thing I have heard them ask is: "Why didn't the Hebrews worship God in plurality?". The answer is pretty simple: The Hebrews didn't have the scriptures we now have by consequence of the NT. As well, (I am NOT racist against Jews; I believe them to be the chosen people of God according to the Old Covenant...please do not take my next statement in that context. As well, I understand that most Jews disagree with my belief in Jesus Christ being the Messiah) the Hebrews didn't follow the Messiah as they should have as He was the fulfillment of the prophecies they had been given. Yet the UPCI argue that they had a complete understanding of God? The UPCI position is untenable in this regard.

Isaiah 9:6 KJV: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." YLT: "For a Child hath been born to us, A Son hath been given to us, And the princely power is on his shoulder, And He doth call his name Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace." Once again, Young's Literal comes through with a completely different perspective than the KJV. The KJV says the Child's name shall be called, but Young's says "He (God) doth call his name...". This obviously requires two separate entities in the scripture. One is the Son, the other is God. Now, we all agree (Trinitarians and Modalists alike) that Jesus IS God. Therefore, we have to accept that something ELSE is God as well to be calling the Son the "Mighty God". The major point that Oneness Pentecostals use is that the Son is called the Everlasting Father in the KJV. This again is a play on words in the English. Young's makes it very clear that the Son would be called the Father of Eternity. The word translated as Father in this verse is the Hebrew word "Ab". This word does not expressly mean "Father in Creation", but can mean father, principal (as in foremost), or even chief. So according to the proper translation of the verse, Jesus is the Father of Eternity in that He bought Salvation for the world. This doesn't deny His role and participation in the Creation, but it removes the UPCI wordplay used to deny the beautiful, majestic, completeness of the Triune God. (On a side note, if baptism is ONLY to be done in the name of the Son of God, then why doesn't the UPCI baptize in the name "Wonderful", or even "Counsellor"? Silly perhaps, but no sillier than their absolute requirement to "Jesus" name only.)

Mathew 28:19 KJV: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:" YLT: "having gone, then, disciple all the nations, (baptizing them -- to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," Acts 2:38 KJV "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." YLT: "and Peter said unto them, `Reform, and be baptized each of you on the name of Jesus Christ, to remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,". There are several glaring discrepancies between the scripture and what the UPCI teaches. First, we have the fact that in greek and hebrew, there is no distinction between a name and a title. This distinction doesn't technically exist in english either, but we accept it as a fact of life. An example is someone named Mister Dave Jones. If he gets a PhD he becomes Doctor Dave Jones. Those are names, yet we accept that Mister and Doctor are titles. In greek though (the language of the NT), the UPCI play doesn't work; they say that in Matthew 28:19 we read titles referring to God, and that the "name" of those titles is revealed in Acts 2:38 by Peter. However, we come back the fact that a title IS a name. Now, they will ask: "Why does it state "in the name (singular please note) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost? It says "name" singular! Therefore it can only be one name!!!" The word translated to "name" is the greek word "onomah". It can be interpreted to mean authority, CHARACTER, or even a surname. So, according to the wording of the greek, we can read Matthew 28:19 to mean that baptism is to be done "in the authority of", or, in contrast, "to the character of". Therefore, to state that Acts 2:38 says that Matthew 28:19 describes a modalist understanding of God is to ignore the original greek, and base everything on an english translation. Matthew 28:19 can be equally understood to mean that the disciples were to baptize people into the character of God as it can be understood to mean that they were to baptize people using a formal, rigid adherence to a strict formula.

John 1:1 KJV: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." YLT: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God;". Well, identical translations remove the burden of trying to show that there is a play on words. Very refreshing. However, the UPCI still uses this verse to show that the Word (Jesus) was God. Period. Their explanation of this scripture is that the Word existed in the mind of God, and came to fruition when Jesus came to earth. Where they go wrong is that the word translated to "with" is the greek word "pros" which translates as "in opposition to". So the verse is better translated using the understanding of the word with in it's form of "face to face" rather than the abstract sense. The word is to be understood literally rather than as an abstract as you cannot be face to face with an abstract, idea, or concept. So now we have two separate entities present at the same time. "The preposition [pros], as distinct from [en], [para], and [sun], is of the greatest importance . . . . The idea is that of presence and communion with a strong note of reciprocity. The Logos, then, is not an attribute inhering in God, or a power emanating from him, but a person in the presence of God and turned in loving, inseparable communion toward God and God turned equally toward him." (R. C. H. Lenski, St. John’s Gospel, (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1943) pp. 32-33).

This has been just a brief examination of the main scriptures used to support the Oneness or Modalist viewpoint. I intend to do some studies of the scriptures used to show the Trinity view. I hope this has helped your understanding. As well, there is a wealth of info available on the internet that deal with this. A Google search will help you get started.

God Bless you

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