Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:19

The Trinity  -  God in three persons

vine leaves in Jerusalem  -  each leaf is in three parts

Vine leaves in Jerusalem - one leaf in three parts

This Christian doctrine is difficult for the Christian as well as being a sticking point for Jews and Muslims, who hold very strongly to the ONE GOD.

Do we Christians sufficiently understand this doctrine and put it across to others?

How do we understand the three person nature of one God?   Why should we expect to be able to understand it?   Our God is the infinite creator of the universe and we are his creations.  We are created in his likeness, it's true, but so much smaller and so finite in our understanding.   What we can do is to grasp the revelation he has provided and trust Him, rather than trying to put Him under the microscope.

What does the Bible really say ?

God is one and is the only one.   Deuteronomy 6 v4 sums it up . . . . .    In Hebrew this passage is referred to as the Shema,  "Sh'ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad"

Hear, O Israel:   The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.   These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.   Impress them on your children.   Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.   Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.   Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

This instruction is a major part of Jewish prayer and is the origin of the Tfillim used in prayer and the Mezzuzah fitted to doorframes in Jewish homes and other buildings  (they contain these words).

The important thing to know about this scripture is that the word one - echad is a composite unity, like a husband and wife being one.  The word for a singular unity  ( yachid ) is not used here.

One of the names for the God of Israel is Elohim.  Elohim is a plural word.   (Plural is denoted in Hebrew by ending a word with im or ot where English adds an s)  ( Eloheinu means Our God) (Remember, where the word LORD is used above, the Jews say ADONAI but the actual word is spelled Yod Heh Vav Heh, but it is not pronounced)

In Genesis chapter 1 we read,  

"Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth,  and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image,  in the image of God he created him;  male and female he created them."
Notice the "us"  and "our".   Reading through Genesis, and elsewhere, there are appearances of mysterious messengers from God who are more important than angels but are not God in the form of which he said to Moses, "  But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."  (Exodus 33 v20).   These appearances are called theophanies and are believed to be pre-incarnation appearances of Jesus.

Jesus / Yeshua was clear about his relationship with The Father in his dispute with the religious leaders, recorded in John 8 v54,    "Jesus replied,

"If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.   Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word.   Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."    "You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!"    "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"   At this, they picked up stones to stone him,    "
I am" is the meaning of the most holy name of God (YHVH) which God revealed to Moses in Exodus 7 v13,  Moses said to God,
"Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, `The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, `What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"   God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: `I AM has sent me to you.' "

Jesus' / Yeshua's relationship to God the Father / Elohim is a source of difficulty for both Jews and Muslims.   However, it helps to remember that the term, "Son of God" in Hebrew means "having the essence of God" rather than the relationship we understand as the normal biological father - son relationship.  Perhaps we get into difficulty when we anthropormophose God into our likeness.

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to his followers in John 14 v26, 

All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
It only confuses people if we speak of Jesus living in us - it is his Holy Spirit that lives in us.

The Holy Spirit is not mentioned, by name, in the Old Testament but "the Spirit of God" often is.  (see Genesis 1 v2 and note the capital letters of a proper name.)   The Ruach ha Kodesh   (Breath/wind the Holy) as a person appears in the writings of Medieval Jewish scholars.   Also, The Holy Spirit  appears as, "the finger of God" appears more than once.  It was the finger of God that inscribed the commandments on the two tablets of stone and it is the same finger of God that writes His law on our hearts.   (Exodus 31 v18 Deut 9 v10 and Jeremiah 31 v30-33)

The "Trinity" is not a New Testament word, but the grouping of the Godhead appears in "the great commission" Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew 28 v18.

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing (immersing)  them in  the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." 

The three persons in their roles are detailed in 1 Peter 1 v1-2 (CJB),  

"To: God's chosen people . . . . . . chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and set apart by the Spirit for obeying Yeshua the Messiah and for sprinkling with his blood."

Although we accept Jesus is one with the Father, he was still able to be separated from God as he became sin for us on the cross.   Matthew 27,

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

What a mystery!   Indeed, as Paul said (1 Corinthians 13 v12), 

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

And finally, in Revelation 1:4, the letter is addressed to.....
. . . The seven Messianic communities in the province of Asia: Grace and shalom to you from the One who is, who was and who is coming; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne; and from Yeshua the Messiah, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the earth's kings.

Note - "the One who is, who was and who is coming" is a reference to God's Name as given to Moses.

The Composite Unity / trinity is not just New Testament

Asher Intrater explored the identity of the mysterious man or angel or himself in his book, "WHO ATE LUNCH WITH ABRAHAM?"

We would recommend reading his (Jewish) perspective on this individual as he appears various times through the scriptures.


What is the proper status of Mary?

We have considered why the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is a problem to Jews and Muslims because of their great concern to observe the first and second of the Ten Commandments,   (Exodus 20 v3 and 4).    The problems they experience may have more to do with Christian practice and its apparent similarity to pagan religions.   Many pagan religions have family deities, with father, mother and child gods.   Undue reverence for Mary, such as is evident in all the pictures and statues on sale in the streets of Old Jerusalem must look pagan to pious Jews and Muslims.   How many think that the Christian Trinity includes Mary?   

Mary, from all we know of her, was very humble about her position (See Luke chapter 1 where Mary was told of her role in God's gift of the Saviour.    

v 28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."   

v 38   "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said."

46And Mary said:    My soul glorifies the Lord  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,  for he has been mindful  of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed,   for the Mighty One has done great things for me--  holy is his name.    His mercy extends to those who fear him,  from generation to generation.  He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;  he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.  He has brought down rulers from their thrones   but has lifted up the humble.  He has filled the hungry with good things   but has sent the rich away empty.  He has helped his servant Israel,  remembering to be merciful  to Abraham and his descendants forever,  even as he said to our fathers."

Mary was indeed highly favoured and we would call her blessed by God, but she rejoiced in her position as the Lord's servant and was not elevated to deity.


Updated 11/04/19

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